Friday, July 27, 2012

Economics is Backwards

Our economic thought is backwards. For hundreds of years we’ve developed and advanced a method of thought that, in the aggregate, results in overshoot, overpopulation, overthrow.

How could such fundamental errors have occurred? Easy, when formulating a hypothesis as to how the world works, the context of the history is extremely important. The environment on which the modelling is performed is not static, thus the model should not be static either.

The context is the cultural/social milieu, and the period, a time when the riches of the new world have been virtually untouched. You can make egregious errors in concepts and logic without suffering from the impact of that error as it is not apparent and will not be apparent for hundreds of years. It seems like the system works until it doesn’t. What is then is prescribed is more of the same, because that is, after all, what has worked in the past.

So what was the error? The classical economic system has as its foundation, labour, land, and capital. With me so far? The neoclassical economic system is structured thus; labour and capital with land as a subset of capital.

See the problem? No? The economy is presented as a closed system that encompasses land. Mill, Smith, and Malthus thought of land as a pile of free resources. Henry Hazlitt confirms the same thinking in his book Economics in One Lesson. Yet for a closed, encompassing system, economics requires a concept of “externalities”, actions and events that happen outside the system.

Where does these externalities and resource come from if not from the environment? If the economy collapsed as a system, what would be left? Not labour, not capital, nothing but land. If the environment collapses what would be left? Nothing. Without the environment (land) you cannot have an economy, thus it is the economy that is a subsystem of the environment, not the other way around. The environment doesn’t need labour, capital or the economy.

We had it backwards.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Objective vs Subjective Value or Why Genocide is Never a Good Idea

Update: Divine Femitheist has abandoned her blog as she has realized the error of her ways. I'm going to keep this up as no doubt some other internet denizen will come along advocating Utopia, as long as the right group of people die. And I put some thought into writing this so I am going to post it, dammit!

Divine Femitheist (there after referred to as DFT) makes an argument that life intrinsically has no objective value at all other than what has been assigned to it by humans. Which is to say there is no such thing as objective value at all, as define as a concept/reality that is true regardless of an individuals cognitive ability/subjective leanings. Ergo, she says men are worth nothing, then men are worth nothing and the removal of half the human species doesn't really mean anything in the grand scheme of things.

Derrick Jensen makes a good case for objective truths; I have a hammer, it is objectively true that to avoid getting hit on the thumb by that hammer is a good thing that is independent of a cognitive view.

Clean drinking water and clean air are more objective values that are independent of subjective views. How exactly? We can say that clean air and clean water don't matter to us, and indeed we do when we intentionally or unintentionally pollute these sources of life, but the objective fact is, dirty air and dirty water kill us, it is irrespective of whether our actions are in line with preserving life.

On the subject of genocide, every tyrant in history has made the claim that their cause is just, noble, right and necessary. Regardless of this claim it has always turned out the same way, a horror-show. I would ask how DFT’s version of genocide will be any different than any other genocide perpetrated in history? How is her status any different than any other tyrant in history?

If she could get us to agree to her view, if it was remotely palatable, then we’d be piling on this new(old) ideology. As soon as you say some people have to die, especially group X, then this is no longer persuasion, this is force and it never ends well for group X.

DFT seems to be reasonably intelligent, she writes well, if a tad bit zealous, but her youth shows. She sees the world in black and white, thus her binary thinking taints her choice of solutions. To follow her nihilistic ideology to its inevitable conclusion an even better solution would be to eliminate human beings altogether, wipe the slate clean and start over. As it is her advocation of gendercide, eugenics, restrictions of rights for particular identifiable groups, and establishing a second class citizenry is nothing new, just revolting.

Western Civilization: Only as Crazy as its Memes

I’ve been reading many books by Derrick Jensen lately and listening to the Extraenvironmentalist podcast and it has lead me to a strange synthesis of ideas that those of us who are part of the dominant culture (i.e. Western Civilization) are, in fact, insane and just do not recognize it as such.

Not insane, you say? Then how else do we explain, climate change, debt bubbles, wars of aggression, peak oil, famine, poverty, inequality, Ayn Rand, libertarianism, species extinction, deforestation, fishery collapse, pollution, overpopulation?

We are crazy and I can trace the root of it. It starts with the bible where in God gives us dominion over the earth and everything on it. With that carte blanche he also told us to go be fruitful and multiply. It can’t be said we didn’t listen, we really took both instructions to heart. I am positive though, the end result is not what the big G had in mind. I’m sure when he gave us dominion it was in a more stewardship type role, like a parent would say to an older sibling “Your mom and I are going out for awhile. Don’t burn the house down while we are gone.”

Where it really got ugly for us we can lay at the feet of one Rene Descartes, when he made his famous statement cogito ergo sum, I think, therefore I am. It was through this reductionist concept (meme) that lead to the adoption of the mechanistic view of nature, that one can figure out natural systems in isolation, by isolating it’s component parts. Descartes and his students were famous for their vivisections, downplaying the obvious distress of their animal patients as nothing but mechanical reflexes.

Another side effect of Descartes work was the primacy put upon thinking, upon intelligence. It became the primary way we distinguished our species from any other, intelligence being seen as conferring some sort of special status on us, separating us from animals, and from nature. This was the start of the slippery slope, for if intelligence was what made us human, then what could be inferred about some humans that appeared less intelligent then others? That they were perhaps less human?

Intelligence became the justification of the supremacy of western culture in comparison to all others, for when western nations came into contact with indigenous people’s invariably the intelligence of the natives was deemed inferior compared to their own. Based on what measuring stick may you ask? Well the measuring stick of western culture of course! For example, an immediate black mark for an indigenous culture was not knowing who Jesus was. Silly right? No, this was a means use to measure the worthiness of a culture, and if you didn’t know who Jesus was, well your culture didn’t quite measure up. And commonly what happened to indigenous people who didn’t measure up was they were enslaved or wiped out, sometimes both in proper chronological sequence (after all you can’t enslave a wiped out people).

So here is where the strange synthesis comes in, I was listening to a podcast with Dennis McKenna talk about his deceased brother about indigenous use of hallucinogens in rituals and another podcast with Stephen Buhner where he says that most living beings like to get drunk or high (even apparently, and most fascinatingly, apple trees). I wondered about western civilizations hostility to native rituals and drug use in general, not all drug use (the dominant culture loves drugs that enhance productivity and those that numb our reactions), but drugs that specifically make us stop and marvel at the wonder of creation. It is my contention that these types of drugs act as a pressure release valve, rejuvenating our perspective and re-engaging ourselves with our fellow human beings and nature. Preventing access to these is like preventing a person from drifting into REM sleep. The sleep they do have is not sustaining and eventually it leads to ugly consequences. I think it can be argued we are seeing the results of these ugly consequences in world events.

So thank you Rene Descartes for imprinting on our memory DNA the blueprint for racism, classism, and other lesser prejudices. And thank you Big G for not being a better lawyer, less wiggle room in the language from the start could have save a heap of trouble a couple of thousands years on.