Monte, do you already have an answer in mind and you're trying to get us to thik it through to see if we come to a convergent conclusion? Or are you starting with no answer in mind and trying to get us to go at it until we come up with something we'll all recognize is viable?
Whoever it was who suggested "walking away from civilization": That's neoprimitivism, see also Jason Godesky at www.anthropik.com
, who makes some very intelligent arguements for that position. Problem is, unless everyone does it, all you get are some tribes that can easily be treated in the same manner as other nonindustrial tribes, which is to say, wiped out; with the exception of tribes that are sufficiently militarily skillful as to be able to successfully defend themselves from outside invasion. Lengthy digression omitted here to save space....
I tend to side with "relocalization" and "deliberate inflation."
The deliberate inflation strategy has an important practical limitation, which is that it requires an entity with suffcient wealth to engage in diachronic (across-time) competition on behalf of the future.
Also the fact that the resources are running down, so even with increased conservation in the conventional sense, if someone else "tries" to use up the surplus, it won't matter because every year there is less and less to use up. The conservers end up ahead of the wasters because the conservers have become progressively more resilient (learning how to make do with less: adapting in the darwinian sense) whereas the wasters have become progressively less resilient (failing to gain practice at adapting).
Also climate change is going to put a lid on it for us whether we like it or not, speaking of demand destruction, a near-extinction event will do a darn good job of that.
Re. Escher's visual paradox: However, the illusion of growth still feeds the idea that growth is possible and even good.
Whereas, in reality, growthism is the cancer that has to be killed off mercilessly.
In the end there are only limited resources, so all of economics ultimately reduces to the question of distributing slices of a pie that is of fixed size. What you end up with is zero overall growth, but shifts in the relative size of different elements or individuals or sectors within the economy. This year X grows by "n" amount, but Y and Z each contract by "1/2n + q" where "q" is entropic loss. Or X contracts by n, and Y and Z each grow by 1/2n - q. So long as you can prevent accumulations of heredetary wealth to the point where they jam the system, you can keep this going.
"There are no free markets" only means, there are no physical systems of interaction among humans that are as frictionless (lacking entropy) as the process of thought itself.
All markets operate within rule-sets, and all rule-sets limit the "freedom" of a subset of the potential actors within the market. After all, Ford and GM don't compete by blowing up each others' factories.
Thus, the practical extent of a free market is one that is based on a Kantian rule-set: rules that are established as universals, rather than as arbitrary expedients selectively applied on behalf of interest groups or subsets of the whole.
At its core, a (Kantian) free market only requires that producers have freedom of enterprise (the freedom to start business entities and manage them by their own principles for their own goals), and that consumers have the freedom to buy from the producers of their choice.
Nowhere is there a requirement that any given producer or consumer must be able to derive a net advantage or net gain: merely that they have the opportunity
to do so based on their smarts, strengths, and so on. That is, you have the right to engage in cooperation, competition, and symbioses, but you are not guaranteed a successful outcome.
That's all I have time to go into at the moment, I'll be back later (this evening).