Tags: growth*

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  1. an endlessly growing population is not sustainable, even if they live like peasants.

    That said, overpopulation is not, in my view, the main driver of planetary collapse today. The main driver is capitalism. The human population has roughly tripled since WWII. But our consumption of resources has multiplied many many times greater than population growth: We use something like 6 times as much steel as in 1950, 15 times as much aluminum, thousands of times more plastic and on and on. That ravenous overconsumption of resources, and its associated pollution, is overwhelmingly driven by the requirements of capitalist reproduction, the ceaseless invention of new needs and so on, not by human reproduction. Yes we need to reduce the human population, if only to give other life forms some space and resources. But there are easy ways to do so without using force like the Chinese government. Instead of building grandiose blingfrastructure and space shots to glorify the Communist Party, China’s so-called communists could have prevented their current overpopulation problem if they had spent that money on providing adequate old age pensions and social security so that peasant farmers don’t have to raise multiple kids in the hopes that one or two will live to support them in their old age. Amazingly, this is still the “social security sytem” for hundreds of millions of Chinese.

    So overpopulation is a real problem. But if we don’t overthrow capitalism, Mother Nature is going to solve the overpopulation problem in a hurry, but in a most unpleasant manner. That’s why I don’t concern myself much with the population problem. I don’t mean to ignore it. But I think its very much a secondary driver compared to capitalism.
    http://www.resilience.org/stories/201...talist-overdevelopment-bigger-problem
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  2. In 2007, the greatest financial crisis of of the modern age hit like a tsunami. What was the response from the UK? Well, it was to bail out the banks with public money. Of course, that raised levels of debt. Now, that was no big deal: governments can always print money, and during times of extreme crisis, whether famine or financial, they should. Furthermore, national debt is not the sum of your debt and my debt, and it has no real bearing on our live whatsoever: just as you can happily carry a credit card balance forever, and many people do, so prosperous nations can bear debt, and the strength of a nation is precisely to be able to do so.

    But the average person was tricked into believing the very opposite. They came to think, through sophistry masquerading as economics and punditry disguising itself as analysis and sheer propaganda that there was no way out of this mess except to rip the heart out of public life, to pay off the debt incurred by bailing out the banks by cutting public goods and services. Thus public goods — the NHS, BBC, transport, education, and so on — were eviscerated to pay off private debts, and even that is an understatement: the moneys spent went of course to lavish compensation packages and grand accoutrements, not really to “paying off debt”, which is still high, and still doesn’t matter a whit to the average person.

    Perma austerity killed the UK economy, by producing perma stagnation. And then came Brexit. Brexit was another misguided, maleducated response: since the UK needed to “save money” to “pay off its debt” the average Brit was again conned into believing that the next great cost, after public goods, was EU membership. “You’ll save millions a week!” the propaganda went. But who was “saving” and what precisely was being “saved?” Nothing at all, as it turns out, because now the economy is well and truly dead, stagnant into forever.

    So: this logic, that one must “save money” to “pay off the national debt” or else — who knows? Just like a mafia intimidation tactics, the threat is never really fully stated, is it? — has been proven to be wrong. It has killed the British economy dead.

    And it’s also precisely how the American economy died, too. Where do you think Britain learned this illogic from? From the American fringe. There, starting in the 1980s, American extremists championed a strange new set of concepts: “fiscal responsibility,” “personal responsibility,” “balanced budgets,” and so on, all of which really meant the above: “pay off the debt” by “saving money” — perma austerity, which also means that we can never invest in anything at a social level, because, of course, that would add debt for a few years. Why? Because cities and towns and countries don’t pay for things in cash or gold, they issue bonds, and that is how finance has always worked since the beginning of time. Do you think any society in human history has paid for a subway system or healthcare system in cash or gold? How? By sending supertankers of notes across the world? Perhaps you see the absurdity of perma austerity now.

    So. “Paying off the debt” to “save money,” “personal responsibility” and “fiscal responsibility” — these aren’t economic ideas: they are to economics what ancient aliens are to biology. They have no empirical basis, no factual reality, and no evidential proof. Indeed, the opposite is true.
    https://eand.co/econocide-a6ab1c808874
    Tags: , , , , by M. Fioretti (2017-11-23)
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  3. Economic development and growth theory have long grappled with the consequences of cross-border flows of goods, services, ideas, and people. But the most significant growth in cross-border flows now comes in the form of data. Like other flows, data flows can demonstrate imbalances among exports and imports. Some of these flows represent ‘raw’ data while others represent high-value-added data products. Does any of this make a difference in national economic development trajectories? This paper argues that the answer is yes. After reviewing the core logic of ‘high development theories’ from the twentieth century, I analyze the sometimes implicit applications of these arguments to data as they are evolving in the existing literature. I then put forward a different argument which takes better account of unique characteristics of the political economy that emerges at the intersection of data, machine learning, and the platform firms that use them. I explore the implications of this new argument for some policy choices that governments face with regard to data localization, import substitution, and other decisions relevant to growth in both advanced and emerging economies.
    https://www.cambridge.org/core/journa...owth/DC04765FB73157C8AB76AB1742ECD38A
    Tags: , by M. Fioretti (2017-05-10)
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  4. There’s a problem, however. De-growth solves the sustainability challenge by shifting the burden onto a much more challenging issue, which is to design and implement a de-growth economy. Nobody has the slightest hint as to how to render viable a world economy that would be structurally de-growing while ensuring social balance, individual and collective satisfaction, and peace between the large states. Even the slow-growing economy (at a less-than-1% growth rate) that results from my earlier demonstration remains an unsolved challenge, since we still don’t know how to ensure employment, innovation, useful investments, and even democracy at such a low pace of economic growth. Just think back to the social structures and the kinds of international relations that prevailed across the world before industrialization.
    https://arnsperger-perma-circular.com...uture-of-recycling-by-francois-grosse
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  5. Today’s mainstream proponents of the circular growth economy are mostly (and, let’s assume, with very laudable intentions) contributing to the denial of this conundrum. Somehow, they suggest, businesses and industries will be able to still divert their engineers’ efficiency-seeking talents into making more profit (what else could they want to do?) — but now they’ll finally start being able to do so while at the same time consuming fewer and fewer resources not only per unit produced, but overall. That, at least, is the claim. It flies in the face, however, of the reverse phenomenon that economists seem to be uncovering at present: namely, that the only way for environmental impacts to decrease over time in a capitalist market economy such as ours is for the “engine of growth” to slow down and stop working.

    This is not an insight that business consultants and industry-financed think tanks on circular growth economics will welcome. Nor is it good news for most engineers: Their present or prospective employers may no longer be so enthusiastic about hiring bright minds to design efficiency-boosting technologies if the possibility of producing and selling more doesn’t follow. After all, businesses frankly don’t care about efficiency as a way of securing lower environmental impact — they care about it only as a way of economizing on unit costs in hopes of boosting total sales and total profits, as well as total output (lest all monetary gains be due to mere price inflation rather than higher sales volumes).
    https://carnsperger.wordpress.com/201...scovery-of-the-perma-circular-mindset
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  6. “Material growth must be less, or even considerably less, than 1% per annum (growth rate of global production of each raw material, primary + recycled). The recycling efficiency rate must be greater than 60%, or even 80% (proportion of material contained in waste which is actually recycled). The rate of addition to stocks must be less than 20%, meaning that the economy must discharge as waste at least 80% of the quantities of each material it consumes. The path is narrow and challenging, demanding a strict balance between three fundamental parameters, failing which it would simply become impossible to find a solution to the problem of sustainable management of non-renewable resources.

    … The richer countries therefore, as regards resource management, can and should consider and implement a ‘quasicircular’ growth: an economy with a very low level of material growth, accumulating as little as possible, and therefore proportionally generating a large quantity of waste which is largely recycled.

    … a ‘permanently sustainable’ economy cannot, to be perfectly honest, rely essentially on material growth. … our analysis acknowledges the need » to work on a transition towards a sustainable economy and to set environmental limits on human activity, in the shape not of theoretical criteria, but of criteria related to the economy’s statistical values.”
    https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/circul...ts-work-one-percent-growth/2016/07/13
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  7. The visceral nature of the referendum campaign showed just how many voters felt the effects of an economic system that doesn’t work for them. But if the leave campaigners were right about how many felt about life and work in Britain today, they were wrong about the causes, and wrong about the solutions. Blaming the EU was a category error. In truth, the blame lies closer to home.

    Austerity – which has affected the living standards of many working people – was not imposed by the EU, but was a choice by the current government. When public finances are tight, the economic contribution made by migrants ought to be welcomed. But the climate of cuts allowed migrants to be blamed and Britain’s contribution to the EU – at £8bn, just 1.2% of public expenditure and outweighed by our economic gains from membership – to take on disproportionate significance.

    Without investment, productivity is low; jobs are insecure. Where is the leadership for green growth, for example, which can provide new opportunities for the entire economy? And where was the positive story on the benefits the EU has brought, with the UK the fastest-growing economy in the G7 since it became a member?

    These problems will now be harder, not easier, to solve outside the EU. Let me give three examples.

    First, research. Collaboration across the continent has made Europe a powerhouse for science. Britain gained disproportionately from EU research funding. The loss of this funding will creates a real gap, making our low productivity even harder to resolve.

    Second, insecurity and equality. As Frances O’Grady, the head of the TUC, has said, the EU has been good for workers, securing rights to paid holidays, maternity entitlements and equal rights for part-time workers. When it was claimed that Brexit would make us free, we should understand who this freedom is for. We would be free from many of the checks and balances on the power of capital over labour, and on other areas such as environmental damage. To build a healthier, more inclusive capitalism and address the economic insecurity that many feel, a post-Brexit Britain will need to strengthen, not weaken, the rights won by unions.

    The third challenge is green growth. EU legislation has improved the quality of British beaches and the air we breathe. But green policies will also form the next industrial wave that will lead to future prosperity. Today green spending is an option for governments and businesses; soon it will be a necessity. Those who have chosen to invest will be in a strong position. The EU has led on green energy, and Britain could have played a big role. An Imperial College study estimates the benefits of a fully integrated European energy system at around £100bn a year by 2030. This was surely a prize worth working together to achieve, and one that would have rewarded rather than penalised future generations. Outside the EU, Britain must find new ways to build alliances and cooperate across borders to avoid being left behind.
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentis...ty-economic-woes-eu-referendum-brexit
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  8. Of every dollar of wealth created, 93 cents goes to the top one percent since 1998. You can see why we're told that the only model for any social change is more economic growth, more foreign direct investment, more GDP increase. Very few people benefit from that, but those are the same people who dictate what economic policy and theory is.

    Understanding that every dollar of wealth creates inequality, and every dollar of wealth heats up our planet—because we have a fossil fuels extractive-based system—you realize that there's no way that reforming this current system is going to change the quality of life for the majority of humanity. Quite the opposite. The more we improve the system, the more we're keeping in a vampiric system whose logical outcome will be the destruction of the planet.

    when we start recovering the root causes—we keep on going back, and we say, "The root causes of inequality and poverty and climate change is this brand of capitalism called neoliberalism." Well, what's the root of neoliberalism? The root of neoliberalism is this idea of debt-based currency, and the market determining all aspects of our life. Where does that come from? That comes from our separation from nature, when we became sedentary during the neolithic revolution and stopped trusting the earth to provide for us.

    It also comes from Enlightenment rationalism, the idea that the human mind is the pinnacle of all of evolution, and that we can, using a certain type of Western axiomatic logic, understand everything. The entire world is reduced to the atom, the atom is reduced to the proton, neutron, and electron, and we've figured it all out. What's interesting, when you start looking, is: the root causes are always psychological and spiritual and psychosocial. They're not just economic—of course they're not.

    Economic problems, political problems have roots in a deep-seated humanity. In order to change the world we have to understand where that separation comes from. We also have to find that within ourselves, which is why the anarchist path is essentially the same as the mystical path, whether we want to believe that or not.

    To me, that's the second major lesson in the work. It's related to the third, which is: There's a one percenter in all of us.As the left, as an anarchist, as a revolutionary, as soon as we think that we are somehow holier than our "enemies," I think what happens is we become hubristic, we become moralistic.

    That is a huge blinder for the social justice movement. The benefit of seeing that there's a one percenter in all of us is we understand the primacy of context, we know that in any context we can reproduce this behavior. All the social science points to this, that we're highly contextual beings, whether that's the Good Samaritan studies, or the famous Stanley Milgram experiment where people in a white lab coat tell us to shock someone to death and we will, simply because they appear as an authority figure.

    When we understand the primacy of context, we can organize better. We know what kind of context to argue for, to create, to build, and we can empathize.
    http://www.shareable.net/blog/intervi...nd-perils-of-global-economic-activism
    Tags: , , , , by M. Fioretti (2016-03-20)
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  9. Unless some enterprising fracking promoter figures out how to elbow his way to the government feed trough, it’s pretty much a given that fracking will shortly turn back into what it was before the current boom: one of several humdrum technologies used to scrape a little extra oil out from mostly depleted oil fields. That, in turn, leaves the field clear for the next overblown “energy revolution” to be rolled out—and my working ghess is that the focus of this upcoming round of energy hype will be renewable energy resources: specifically, attempts to power the electrical grid with sun and wind.

    In a way, that’s convenient, because we don’t have to wonder whether the two little problems with biofuels and fracking also apply to this application of solar and wind power. That’s already been settled; the research was done quite a while ago, and the answer is yes.

    To begin with, the numbers are just as problematic for solar and wind power as they were for biofuels and fracking. Examples abound: real world experience with large-scale solar electrical generation systems, for example, show dismal net energy returns; the calculations of how much energy can be extracted from wind that have been used to prop up windpower are up to two orders of magnitude too high; more generally, those researchers who have taken the time to crunch the numbers—I’m thinking here especially, though not only, of Tom Murphy’s excellent site Do The Math—have shown over and over again that for reasons rooted in the hardest of hard physics, renewable energy as a source of grid power can’t live up to the sweeping promises made on its behalf.

    Equally, renewables are by no means as environmentally benign as their more enthusiastic promoters claim. It’s true that they don’t dump as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as burning fossil fuels do—and my more perceptive readers may already have noted, by the way, the extent to which talk about the very broad range of environmental blowbacks from modern industrial technologies has been supplanted by a much narrower focus on greenhouse gas-induced anthropogenic global warming, as though this is the only issue that matters—but the technologies needed to turn sun and wind into grid electricity involve very large volumes of rare metals, solvents, plastics, and other industrial products that have substantial carbon footprints of their own.

    And of course there are other problems of the same kind.

    It probably also needs to be pointed out that I’m actually very much in favor of renewable energy technologies, and have discussed their importance repeatedly on this blog. The question I’ve been trying to raise, here and elsewhere, isn’t whether or not sun and wind are useful power sources; the question is whether it’s possible to power industrial civilization with them, and the answer is no.

    That doesn’t mean, in turn, that we’ll just keep powering industrial civilization with fossil fuels, or nuclear power, or what have you. Fossil fuels are running short—as oilmen like to say, depletion never sleeps—and nuclear power is a hopelessly uneconomical white-elephant technology that has never been viable anywhere in the world without massive ongoing government subsidies. Other options? They’ve all been tried, and they don’t work either.

    The point that nearly everyone in the debate is trying to evade is that the collection of extravagant energy-wasting habits that pass for a normal middle class lifestyle these days is, in James Howard Kunstler’s useful phrase, an arrangement without a future. Those habits only became possible in the first place because our species broke into the planet’s supply of stored carbon and burnt through half a billion years of fossil sunlight in a wild three-century-long joyride. Now the needle on the gas gauge is moving inexorably toward that threatening letter E, and the joyride is over. It really is as simple as that.
    http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.it/2016/02/renewables-next-fracking.html
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  10. It could end well or it could end badly, depending on how we act now.

    To understand the argument, the first thing we need is a bit of context. So before the robots take over, let’s look at how we got to where we are.

    The material conditions of what we in a country like Australia, (or the US, or Iceland) think of as a normal, decent life, are largely an artefact of a particular set of social and economic circumstances that arose in the West from about the end of World War II. The hours we work, the money we earn, the things we can do with that money, the age at which we retire — the very notion of ‘retirement’ — the services that we expect from our government, were, by and large, formed within this period.

    Broadly, those circumstances are: a manufacturing-based economy that directly and indirectly employed large numbers of skilled and unskilled people in such a way that they were able to enjoy a reasonable level of financial security and had the means to afford a given standard of material comfort.

    All of this was underpinned by a welfare state in which government managed the major risks and needs associated with an economy based on capitalist growth. Health and education, financial support when you were unable to get work, and an income when you retired were its major pillars, and these were not “entitlements” as it is now fashionable to label them, but the material expression of what most citizens saw as the whole point of government.

    This had nothing to do with any particular affection for government per se, let alone with a national commitment to collectivism. It was rather the practical realisation of a belief in positive personal freedom. It held that there is such a thing as society and we are all better off, and freer, when the state aims at some basic level of equality of opportunity and outcome.
    ...

    Growing prosperity brought with it challenges to key social institutions and practices. As the writer Ellen Willis has said, the sixties were mythical but they were also consequential. They launched genuine changes to notions of family, religion, women’s role, race, and recreation, (especially as the latter related to drug taking). Willis notes:

    The expansion of the American economy after World War II produced two decades of unprecedented prosperity, which allowed masses of people unprecedented latitude in making choices about how to live….

    As a result a growing minority — particularly among the children of the upper middle class — felt free to question the dominant social arrangements, to experiment and take risks, to extend student life with its essentially bohemian values into adulthood rather than graduate to professional jobs, nuclear families, and the suburbs….

    What most counterculture opposition to capitalism amounted to was this minority’s anger at the majority for refusing to make the same choice.

    This “liberation” was always contested, especially by those who had the most to lose from the new, freer social arrangements. But it took a halt in the growth of economic prosperity to allow the forces of conservatism to push back with any force. That is to say, the backlash against “the sixties” and the liberation it represented were in part driven by the sort of white, male privilege that drives much of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s current social agenda, but it was also tied to the retreat of prosperity.

    As ever, as economic circumstances changed, so too did social relations. As industry globalised, a professional layer of managers and technocrats arose, a group Milovan Dijas and others have called “the new class”, and they insinuated themselves into the heart of these industries. This prosperous strata of managers, because of their professional, international focus, started to weaken, or even break the bonds of commitment between themselves and their countries of origin. Why, they asked, should I pay taxes for services I don’t use (health education, transport et al) in a country where my roots are shallow?


    By the time of Reagan and Thatcher, and in Australia, of Hawke and Keating, government itself was being redefined as the problem. We were being told there was no such thing as society and that freedom equated to choice in a marketplace. Industry regulations, unionisation, government ownership and the services government provided were recast as dead weights upon the alleged entrepreneurial hand of business and the alleged aspirational values of the middle class. A narrative was born — or more accurately, reanimated — and it was powerful, sweeping up not just the conservative parties of the world, but those of the centre-left too. Indeed, for those on the left who had eschewed the notion of living in or raising traditional families, and who had abandoned religion as any sort of unifying social force, work itself became the lingua franca of middle-class acceptability. The obvious ties between the centre-left of politics and the labour movement reinforced the tendency to latch onto work and employment as a unifying mantra. In recent times, this was particularly noticeable in the person of former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard, who, along with education, elevated work to the top of her list of personal values:

    …I believe in the importance of hard work; the obligation that we all owe to ourselves and others, to earn our keep and do our best.

    Life is given direction and purpose by work. Without work there is corrosive aimlessness. With the loss of work comes a loss of dignity.

    Market, market uber alles became the chant. With it came a rebirth of the sixties counter-culture, but this time it was firmly lodged within a market and consumption framework.

    What we have been living through since about the seventies, then, is a massive realignment of the philosophical and material conditions of Western civilisation. To call this a transition period is to presume that there is some sort of end in sight, that there is some sort of rest point looming, a settlement where the questions posed by the present are answered. I doubt very much that it makes sense to think in those terms. It is transition all the way down.

    And the nature of the transition is structural; that is, the changes that are happening are built into the very fabric of how wealth is created and how work is done, and it is this fact that we have to get through our heads.

    This is why what is to come is different to what has happened before. The worldwide economic stagnation flowing from the 2007 global financial crisis is not simply another trough in the usual economic cycle, but a break from what has gone before, from what we think of as “normal”. The essence of the way we construct work — the sort of paying work that underpins all our discussions and presumptions about “standards of living” — is fundamentally changing. In part this is to do with the shift in wealth creation from manufacturing-type industries to finance and technology — neither of which need much in the way of paid labour.

    given what we are about to go through in terms of automation, robotics and artificial intelligence, the elevation of work to the centre of the centre-left’s philosophy is likely to cause something of an existential crisis.
    https://medium.com/@timdunlop/busted-...e-near-future-c646def9432d#.kuo3frd31
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