Major reform of capitalism

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Seanchaidh:

Leisure is the absence of labor. It's not really consumption at all, except of time. Leisure is when people are actually free.

Leisure without consumption is merely meditation. Some might call that golden, I call it personal misery. I can't stand not being able to do something. Just like I'm chewing up valuable power typing to you, while listening to my MP3 playlist, while in the university pub, drinking a beer, and eating a handful of salt and vinegar hot chips on break from writing up a paper.

Meditation might cut it dfor some, and there is strong evidence that it provides helpful benefits to dealing with numerable psychological aspects or problems... But it's poison to me, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that.

As for soulless monstrosities, this is why we radically reorganize the economy-- its power dynamics-- so that everyone gets a say in what it looks like, not a dictatorial capitalist.

Then you need to control resources. Make sure you do not give the 'beneficent wealthy' licence to tell the rest of society just how it should be spent.

Addendum_Forthcoming:

Seanchaidh:

Leisure is the absence of labor. It's not really consumption at all, except of time. Leisure is when people are actually free.

Leisure without consumption is merely meditation. Some might call that golden, I call it personal misery. I can't stand not being able to do something. Just like I'm chewing up valuable power typing to you, while listening to my MP3 player, while in the university pub, drinking a beer, and eating a handful of salt and vinegar hot chips on break from writing up a paper.

Meditation might cut it dfor some, and there is strong evidence that it provides helpful benefits to dealing with numerable psychological aspects or problems... But it's poison to me, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that.

OK. But we've got plenty of extremely cheap and perfectly engaging ways to consume free time already. That's not really a problem so long as we keep making various media devices.

Addendum_Forthcoming:

As for soulless monstrosities, this is why we radically reorganize the economy-- its power dynamics-- so that everyone gets a say in what it looks like, not a dictatorial capitalist.

Then you need to control resources. Make sure you do not give the 'beneficent wealthy' licence to tell the rest of society just how it should be spent.

Yes.

Seanchaidh:

OK. But we've got plenty of extremely cheap and perfectly engaging ways to consume free time already. That's not really a problem so long as we keep making various media devices.

This is kind of the problem I have, and I don't know how rare or abundant a problem it is, but I think it should be noted. I'm independently wealthy, but I continue to research, and I want to contnue research, and I want to eventually get into the CSIRO as a fully fledged research associate earning next to fuck all, precisely becuse I get to work alongside the greatest minds in Australia.

Work is not simply labour ... and for that you need comprehensive universities. I don't go to university to get a job. I hate working. Working is for people that need to work, but I don't see my 'job' and my 'studies' as either a job or studies.

Giving everybody a cheap laptop to play games is ridiculously affordable for a developed economy if 'entertainment' was enough. Providing research funding to keep people like me entertained (while reaping rewards longterm, yes) ... that takes serious resources.

It makes up 70% of my social activities. Hell, it probably gives me 70% of my ice breakers to meet new people and connect with them.

I'm 100% certain that is a big bag of neuroses, but they're my neuroses...

I love boardgaming, which is relatively affordable for the number of hours I get out of it. But boardgaming alone won't do it. I want to go hiking, orienteering, free climbing, motorcycling, research that involves hundreds of people on average....!

If you don't give me a country that will give me that, I'll move.

Yes.

So really, the only question how to get that is determining 'reasonable cost'. How much of a Salvador Dali housing estate do you want to have, and how much public control over resources will allow it.

As you can't automate a Salvador Dali paradise. The wealthy will tell you; "Here's a state of the art super apartment that we have graciously constructed for you and your entire neighbourhood and ten thousand other people to live in!"

That's wonderful and all, but a cement block is a cement block, and that's basically what a robot is going to be exceptional at providing. More over it's precisely the type of 'generotsity' the rich are liable to be in a world of automation. And we know enough of psychology that said cement blocks that the poor have to live in do little to improve human happiness.

You need chaos, spontaneity, flaws of grandeur. All three things you won't get with a highly automated world.

And that's the key ... work need not simply be labour. Work should be educational, self-improving, provide agency and direction to find new solutions. The wealthy keep telling us that automation provides that opportunity by doing all the busywork.

Which is a lie. Like, we can see it's a lie. Taylorism has been the biggest con job by big industry for the last 120 years. Communist or capitalist markets, Taylorism has been the biggest scam in history. If that were the case they'd have no problem at all of mnaking what remaining human labour more creative, or with bigger paycheques, or with better services ... no, you have groups like the Bank of America downgrading Chipotle's performance grade simply because it pays slightly higher than the industrial average and provides a more flexible working environment in the fast food-chain industry.

So either you give people total control over total resource output so that they can set the terms of its consumption by automated industries in order to fund creative labour outlets. Or it's cement boxes for everyone but the 1%.

And we've seen that reality for the past 80 years. Communist or capitalist marketplace, cement boxes for all. Is it any wonder depression seems to be spiralling out of control?

Automation is a dead end previsely because it removes humans from a sense of their own industriousness. Next the super-wealthy will be telling me I should have to pay more for riding my motorcycle, because statistically I'm more likely of hurting myself than in a driverless car.

Is that the world we want to live in? Divorced of human agency? Paying or living simply by the safety of the system? What happens if people realize they need an element of ugliness, if only to realize they have the power to change it or own it? It's fun to take that corner and really get the bike screaming into that turn. Flesh and metal as one, where every gram of body weight correlates to total handling and with practiced grace and elegance, and a taste for danger push myself and my latent fears into the back of my mind to perform the perfect turn at speed through that S-bend.

It's the artistry of motion I live for. And automation lives to *kill it all*.

If we surrender the capacity of understanding leisure cannot simply be free time you doom the besuty of having it in the first place.

Addendum_Forthcoming:

Seanchaidh:

OK. But we've got plenty of extremely cheap and perfectly engaging ways to consume free time already. That's not really a problem so long as we keep making various media devices.

This is kind of the problem I have, and I don't know how rare or abundant a problem it is, but I think it should be noted. I'm independently wealthy, but I continue to research, and I want to contnue research, and I want to eventually get into the CSIRO as a fully fledged research associate earning next to fuck all, precisely becuse I get to work alongside the greatest minds in Australia.

What the world doens't have any lack of is people with a science degree who actually want to do research and science.

What the world does have a lack of is people who want to do boring and repititive work which still requires a lot of expert knowledge and thus can't be automated.

There is a reason so many physicists or mathematicians end up as programmers. And that is certainly not because they find coding boring application software centered about management and office needs to be totally inspiring.

Satinavian:

What the world doens't have any lack of is people with a science degree who actually want to do research and science.

What the world does have a lack of is people who want to do boring and repititive work which still requires a lot of expert knowledge and thus can't be automated.

There is a reason so many physicists or mathematicians end up as programmers. And that is certainly not because they find coding boring application software centered about management and office needs to be totally inspiring.

People don't want to do boring, repetitive work in general. But automation and Taylorism have neither removed it of being a thing, nor reduced our exposure to it. It just seems to recreate boring, repetitive work elsewhere. Often with less purchasing power, greater labour competition for the least boring of it, and merely pricing people out of at least doing boring, repetitive work to receive a greater sum of their productivity through owning their own business comprising boring, repetitive work.

The point is automation is not a quickfix to boring, repetitive work ... just merely creating new avenues to being cornered by the necessity of doing other boring, repetitive work.

No one becomesa scientist for the pay, or even the work itself, but the company they get to keep and the knowledge everybody who persists in that job is there because they want to be rather than need to be.

Addendum_Forthcoming:
People don't want to do boring, repetitive work in general. But automation and Taylorism have neither removed it of being a thing, nor reduced our exposure to it. It just seems to recreate boring, repetitive work elsewhere. Often with less purchasing power, greater labour competition for the least boring of it, and merely pricing people out of at least doing boring, repetitive work to receive a greater sum of their productivity through owning their own business comprising boring, repetitive work.

The point is automation is not a quickfix to boring, repetitive work ... just merely creating new avenues to being cornered by the necessity of doing other boring, repetitive work.

Automation did indeed get rid of lots of boring repititive jobs. What do you think happened with the "worker" class that existed a century ago ? And that trend will continue.

It is different for Taylorism. But Taylor lived half a century before computers became a useful tool. Taylorism is pretty much dead anyway. Every place where it could work and create profits is a place where automation would be better than using people. Its newest and at the same time last bastion is service industry (restaurants, fast food, delivery, retail,...) and that is exactly where ais will take over next, with full automated stores, self driving cars etc. It is dead, it is a thing of the past.

No, the boring, repititive jobs of the future will not come out of Taylors ideas. Because of the needed expert knowledge of the workers basically requiring that they far better know their work than people higher up in the hirarchy. You can't really micromanage an expert successfully if you lack equivalent knowledge. You need to trust their judgement.

Doens't make it any less boring.

No one becomesa scientist for the pay, or even the work itself, but the company they get to keep and the knowledge everybody who persists in that job is there because they want to be rather than need to be.

I know very well that no one becomes a sientist for the pay. But i do know at least some who did it more for the work than for the company, but that doesn't really matter.

How does this help getting the boring stuff done ? Who is supposed to do it if everyone can do fullfilling work ?

Satinavian:
Automation did indeed get rid of lots of boring repititive jobs. What do you think happened with the "worker" class that existed a century ago ? And that trend will continue.

Yep, I keep forgetting how that boring job of being a brick firer got replaced by the thoroughly less boring job of being abused by the grand number of people you contact working at a call centre. Riveting stuff.

It is different for Taylorism. But Taylor lived half a century before computers became a useful tool. Taylorism is pretty much dead anyway. Every place where it could work and create profits is a place where automation would be better than using people. Its newest and at the same time last bastion is service industry (restaurants, fast food, delivery, retail,...) and that is exactly where ais will take over next, with full automated stores, self driving cars etc. It is dead, it is a thing of the past.

I see automation as being kind of the logical endpoint of Taylorism. In the same way he would have looked at relatively complex looms in the textile industry replacing human weavers using dated wood reams and presses, I think one can make a comparable examination of looking at advanced robotics and computer systems. After all, it's the same process of mechanization with the same underlying principles of scientific management.

I'm not saying all of that was bad, but at the sametime we've been here before. With every revolution of growing mechanization, it hasn't led us to lead 'funner lives', only if one looks at how much relative consumption it has allowed us in return.

Mechanization allows us to consume more, and redirect more labour to someplace else... I mean the most important person in the world was farmers. Arguably no one is as important nowadays to that 15th century farmer that went out with a ploughshare and trained the beasts of burden well enough to accept their hard labour of digging up rock and tree roots from cleared land. The farmer who knew when andhow to sow crops and tend orchards, knew if it would be a bad harvest months in advance, and knew from a glance whether a plot of land was going to be fruitful or not if cultivated and where the best lands for the best crops could be grown and when.

And that's a pretty exciting job when your survival depends on it.

No, the boring, repititive jobs of the future will not come out of Taylors ideas. Because of the needed expert knowledge of the workers basically requiring that they far better know their work than people higher up in the hirarchy. You can't really micromanage an expert successfully if you lack equivalent knowledge. You need to trust their judgement.

People micromanage experts all the time. Funding constraints, eclectic orders from 'up high' that sees your team go from 8 members down to 5 or 6. I guess calling it 'micromanaging' is the wrong word, more budget managing.

Doens't make it any less boring.

Isn't that my point? Sorry if I didn't make that clear, but the point I was making is the argument itself that automation somehow lets humans do more fun stuff is obviously wrong. You only need to look at the labour market or look at the classifieds to see that it's the furthest thing from the case. As being a 19th century kiln worker firing bricks all day is arguably a more mentally exciting job now done largely by machines, than serving coffees and pretending to smile at people all day.

I know very well that no one becomes a sientist for the pay. But i do know at least some who did it more for the work than for the company, but that doesn't really matter.

How does this help getting the boring stuff done ? Who is supposed to do it if everyone can do fullfilling work ?

It .... absolutely doesn't ... I'm pretty sure you'll find that was exactly my point I made to seanchaidh. That automation leading to 'aristocratic lives' is a dangerous assumption.

If you want the public to lead 'aristocratic lives', or at least more whimsical lives, all it looks like is greater underemployment and lower market participation rates unless you control the primary resources of an economy. Directly manage the means of the super wealthy to curtail the expressive, creative and industrious spirit of each person that will lead to more whimsical, aristocratic lives.

More leisure and less relative consumption is merely more poverty and unhappiness. It's merely one step up from less leisure and less relative consumption.

You have to create expressive outlets if you also increase more 'leisure' time, which means more resources. You can't do that when you have the super wealthy who make a living off constraining the access to those resources in the first place. A lot of mothers and fathers are happy going back to work and putting their young children in affordable daycare or through preschool for a reason. Sitting at home with a smaller paycheque (or less relative self consumption) is not much fun for anyone.

Introduction of government funded maternal or paternal leave hasn't made birthrates explode, for example.

The number of people I know doing more labour simply to cover the explosive growth of land prices and the cost of electricity and gas is simply ridiculous. Different story if a society said electricity is free and wh're going to introduce government measures against banks overfinancing people of lower credit scores.

Suddenly you will see that downward correction of land prices, less refinancing, and less competition for ever more exploited labour that is, as always, the pursuit of diminishing returns for those that suffer ever greater thefts of their total productivity.

Hell, the economic activity alone of making electricity free and cutting retail space leasing by 30-odd% would do a lot to shore up small business staying afloat, to actually being rewarded and viable enterprise. It would also create ever more niche ideas of consumption as stores can run on tighter budgets with technically lower incoming revenue.

And in the end, that's what any discerning customer would like to see. More choice, more niche means to consume, more tailored experiences that tickles their fancies. Moreover it's what any store owner wants to see as well ... having more ideas for new businesses suddenly be affordable and viable options to build a livelihood out of.

You won't get that if the economic resources and their private control create the systems of constraining access to consumption in the first place. Electricity should be free, and banks should be on a government leash. Liquidity and electricity is the lifeblood of nations and surrendering both to private interests has consistently been found to be disastrous.

It leads to things like the dot coms, the GFCs and the Black Tuesdays in the first place that just end up increasing the control the super wealthy have over the reins of consumption.

RiseOfTheWhiteWolf:

Bit of an anti-globalist stance there mate. But yes, you're right about that obviously - trying to draw the same lines everywhere is pure ideology.

Globalism, like everything else I've mentioned, is probably broadly a good idea. But it might not be for individual countries in certain ways under certain circumstances.

I very, very much disagree with the first sentence though. Private ownerships with generous or no limits and the profit motive are the causes of our current crises, everything just builds on those two principles. If you hit the reset button we'd be right back where we started before long. Its not like this is the first time capitalism has slid slowly into disaster, and its not like we haven't tried all sorts of things to make it work over a longer time period, all of which have failed. No, I think its time we said enough is enough and just dropped this system which unfortunately seems to be inherently flawed and well past its best-before date.

We can say capitalism slides into disaster... but what doesn't?

I don't believe there's any such thing as a perfect economic system that doesn't go wrong. What all economic systems require are close oversight and adaptation to deal with the needs of society. Chiefly, one of the main things to go wrong is likely to be that an economic system is "captured" by the most powerful elements of society and bent to the primary benefit of the powerful rather than the whole. Relevant to this is the idea that economic problems may relate to an unhealthy political system, because necessary reforms are blocked by sclerotic political processes.

Agema:
Globalism, like everything else I've mentioned, is probably broadly a good idea. But it might not be for individual countries in certain ways under certain circumstances.

Much like a lot of foundational classical liberal economic ideas (and social ideas, come to think of it), the utility of free trade seems to fall apart as inequality and the ability of the wealthy to relocate increases. If everyone has enough of their own resources, obviously gains from trade and specialization are great (unless and until they start resulting in problematic levels of inequality). But when some people are working with "$50 = a crucial component of making life possible" and others "$500 is a nearly insignificant sum of money, I have so much", then you get problems. The second of those has all the power in any transaction, since for her the stakes are insignificant sums of money, while for the first person it's a matter of making life possible.

Agema:

RiseOfTheWhiteWolf:

Bit of an anti-globalist stance there mate. But yes, you're right about that obviously - trying to draw the same lines everywhere is pure ideology.

Globalism, like everything else I've mentioned, is probably broadly a good idea. But it might not be for individual countries in certain ways under certain circumstances.

I very, very much disagree with the first sentence though. Private ownerships with generous or no limits and the profit motive are the causes of our current crises, everything just builds on those two principles. If you hit the reset button we'd be right back where we started before long. Its not like this is the first time capitalism has slid slowly into disaster, and its not like we haven't tried all sorts of things to make it work over a longer time period, all of which have failed. No, I think its time we said enough is enough and just dropped this system which unfortunately seems to be inherently flawed and well past its best-before date.

We can say capitalism slides into disaster... but what doesn't?

I don't believe there's any such thing as a perfect economic system that doesn't go wrong. What all economic systems require are close oversight and adaptation to deal with the needs of society. Chiefly, one of the main things to go wrong is likely to be that an economic system is "captured" by the most powerful elements of society and bent to the primary benefit of the powerful rather than the whole. Relevant to this is the idea that economic problems may relate to an unhealthy political system, because necessary reforms are blocked by sclerotic political processes.

Right, but increasingly I feel thats a huge cop-out, a frustrated attempt to avoid admitting what we all know already deep down: that an extremely radical and violent change is coming. There is a kind of hopelessness because no one has any idea of whats going to follow so the kneejerk reaction is - and I don't mean this personally - this kind of "capitalism isn't all bad", "do you have a better idea?", "theres no such thing as perfect so lets stick to what we know!" attitude. My personal opinion (and I will happily debate anyone on this) is that capitalism isn't lovely enough to bother holding onto, and never was for that matter.

Really the biggest problem in coming up with alternatives is this combination of pleasing everybody and overpopulation mixed together. If we had less people we could probably hold our living standard and bring everyone else up to speed (given the right technological advancements) but thats not an option. Neither unfortunately is just dropping them. Even if some idealogue showed up and quickly changed core values in Europe and the US overnight, you'd still have the problem of a few billion people in Asia and Africa pining after our insanely high standard of living. (Which in a way is completely understandable - large parts of these continents have been slaving away to make our way of life possible for centuries. Thanks to the way the flow of information has changed they know all about it too. Try convincing these people they have no right to spend a little time in the sun now, I wish you good luck.) Just look at the way world income growth has developed over the last 30 years. Its an insanely sharp, explosive rise for everyone except the bottom 10% and our developed middle class, both of which are basically frozen. How are you going to tell 70% of the worlds population who are enjoying this rise in prosperity "Sorry guys, we need to step on the breaks again, no flat screen TVs or twinkies or Crocs for you".

The overpopulation problem comes down to this: given technological advancements etc etc our planet can sustain current population numbers, but not at current living standards and definitely not if they keep rising. So its a need vs greed thing and oh my fucking God, when greed is the problem, can you imagine anything worse than capitalism, no matter how watered down? Within this context the profit motive which you advocated in the OP is completely suicidal.

RiseOfTheWhiteWolf:

The overpopulation problem comes down to this: given technological advancements etc etc our planet can sustain current population numbers, but not at current living standards and definitely not if they keep rising. So its a need vs greed thing and oh my fucking God, when greed is the problem, can you imagine anything worse than capitalism, no matter how watered down? Within this context the profit motive which you advocated in the OP is completely suicidal.

By UN estimates the population will begin contracting by the second half of the 21st century.

The global total fertility rate is stagnating, and the only way to see the same 1950s-70 population bubble is, precisely, the rising living standards in places like various African states. That's what we want to see, however. If people are living longer and population growth is measured predominantly by people living past 55 as a regular occurrence that is precisely the type of population growth we want to see.

Humans are already doing a pretty good job of cutting back on population growth.

All the scaremongering nonsense of continually explosive population growth assumes as if all of us will be living forever.

By 2055 I'll be in my 70s, and I was very late product of the Baby Boomers. Your average product of the Baby Boomers will be in their mid 80s.

People look at China and the one child policy sas if responsible for curbing their populatio growth. Decidedly untrue. What caused their explosive population growth pre-One Child, was the fact that Maoist public healthcare, in a single generation, lead a group of people with a life expectancy of 35 to their mid 70s. That was singlehandedly the biggest reason for China's population growth, and the One Child policy was merely a way of curbing replacement as these Maoist-era Chinese, now, are slowly giving way to old age and passing away much later than their parents likely did.

Essentially, the One Child policy was enforced because even the Chinese weren't expecting the degree of success of theor social policies... and the degree of raw productivity that their workers now displayed over a even better than Western average life span (at the time). Chinese political revisionists like Deng Xiaoping sought to transform the country from government heavy industry, to self-consuming, semi-private/private services-based in a generation. That requires wealth consolidation, not distribution... so having one child per family was a fantastic way of achieving wealth concentration in a relatively short amount of time.

Now that you'vd had an entire generation of wealth concentration, only recently did they relax the OCP, as it has largely achieved its directive as the Chinese now are producing wealth through foreign investment and pursuing free trade to find outlets of market participation elsewhere... Which is biting them in the arse, partially. As Australia is currently the most popular destination for residency and citizenship for all the world's nouveau-riche millionaires and so many of them just leave and take their wealth with them. So arguably we're getting the fatter stacks of that deal.

You can effectively just buy Australian visas now. Willing to dump 2 million into the domestic economy? Here is your lifelong visa, enjoy... In true capitalist fashion, we throw all the paupers into processing centres. Because just like Victorian Britain, being poor is a crime.

Regardless, that's good population growth. The alternative is simply letting people die far younger... I'd rather see a hypothetical 9.5~10 billion human peak by keeping healthcare initiatives and cheaper medicine in Africa and India, than simply pretend letting people die young is good economic sense.

It's not. No economic or social good comes from inflicting such misery. Getting to live a solid 80-90 years is not somehow a curse. Getting to live till 90 with most of your marbles is a pretty miraculous, wonderful feat of the modern world. It's a social feat that goes beyond medicine, and is a comprehensive list of social and economic achievements that, imho, is one of the best signifiers there's hope abundant in our species of the capacity to respect life and its dignity.

Addendum_Forthcoming:
-snip-

You're ignoring what happens in the meantime. Yes, theoretically if living standards in the third and second world keep rising to push down their birth rate while living standards in Europe remain stable, and we somehow just froze every other development in place for another 50 years, we'd be fine. But thats not the case. In order to keep living standards here stable and keep living standards in other parts of the world trending upwards you have to cause massive environmental damage and keep quiet the bottom 10% which are necessitated by that aspiration, plus appease an influental and easy to manipulate developed middle class in the developed world which is being fucked left right and center, among other things. Your evaluation is shallow in the sense that it ignores what will happen in the meantime and how it will influence what the world looks like in 50, 60, 70 years time.

Beyond that I don't really feel that your reply addresses my points at all, since you are arguing against someone who is worried about continually explosive population growth when right there in the mini snippet you quoted from me I talk about current population numbers and current living standards.

RiseOfTheWhiteWolf:

You're ignoring what happens in the meantime. Yes, theoretically if living standards in the third and second world keep rising to push down their birth rate while living standards in Europe remain stable, and we somehow just froze every other development in place for another 50 years, we'd be fine. But thats not the case. In order to keep living standards here stable and keep living standards in other parts of the world trending upwards you have to cause massive environmental damage and keep quiet the bottom 10% which are necessitated by that aspiration, plus appease an influental and easy to manipulate developed middle class in the developed world which is being fucked left right and center, among other things. Your evaluation is shallow in the sense that it ignores what will happen in the meantime and how it will influence what the world looks like in 50, 60, 70 years time.

Beyond that I don't really feel that your reply addresses my points at all, since you are arguing against someone who is worried about continually explosive population growth when right there in the mini snippet you quoted from me I talk about current population numbers and current living standards.

Am I? Over the last 40 years the human population went up 3.3 billion people. And yet no doom and gloom. If you want to understand what population increase does to resource consumption, quite simply it magnifies it. But I guarantee you that your daily rice will be same price between now and 2050 (barring inflation). How do I know this? Because the market self regulates as to people's projections ... people do not willingly suffer gluts of any kind and because we've seen this play out over the 20th century.

50 years ago, solar power was an ongoing experiment ... hell, it the basis of a James Bond story if only to advertise how sci-fi esque a concept it was to people.

A country like the Netherlands is an agricultural leader of Europe through intelligent use of land and multistacking farms.

Australia is toying with the idea of the 'upside-down weir' to create the world's largest underground aquifer project and to transform vast stretches of wastelands into gardens, to ensure fresh water and good farmland for as long as they are maintained.

The solutions to tomorrow's problems are already here, it's just whether we have the political will to realize them and whether corporate interests will allow us to. The real cost of consumption is, as always, whether the problems of consumption are not dealt with with an eye to future projections, all for the sake of short-term profits.

The oil industry idid not create the toxic wastes of the formerly prosperous Niger Delta simply because it was the oil industry. It created that toxic wastes of a formerly prosperous region of the Earth because of political corruption and the greed of the megarich. It could have been any other type of multinational that royally fucked up that pristine, wild wonderland and sentenced millions of its dependents to a life riddled with cancers, political intrigues and other manmade horrors of the flesh and mind.

It will be a better day when we take Royal Dutch Shell's corporate officers and board members and have them arrested. For what should be the crime of allowing the largest environmental disaster that is currently spilling over, and will do so for 30 years even if they shuttered operations tomorrow.

The Niger Delta is singularly the worst environmental crisis event this world will (hopefully) ever see, and yet these people walk free. Rob a bank, get 15 years. Kill and injure an estimated 40 million people over the next 30 years, get a fucking bonus. Yes, the world will be a darker, bleaker place if we allow people like this to do this to innocent people. To get away with it. To let them profit from doing it in the first place. But then again, we don't need to live in that world.

We could have the people responsible arrested tomorrow. The point is not to put it off.

Addendum_Forthcoming:

RiseOfTheWhiteWolf:

You're ignoring what happens in the meantime. Yes, theoretically if living standards in the third and second world keep rising to push down their birth rate while living standards in Europe remain stable, and we somehow just froze every other development in place for another 50 years, we'd be fine. But thats not the case. In order to keep living standards here stable and keep living standards in other parts of the world trending upwards you have to cause massive environmental damage and keep quiet the bottom 10% which are necessitated by that aspiration, plus appease an influental and easy to manipulate developed middle class in the developed world which is being fucked left right and center, among other things. Your evaluation is shallow in the sense that it ignores what will happen in the meantime and how it will influence what the world looks like in 50, 60, 70 years time.

Beyond that I don't really feel that your reply addresses my points at all, since you are arguing against someone who is worried about continually explosive population growth when right there in the mini snippet you quoted from me I talk about current population numbers and current living standards.

Am I? Over the last 40 years the human population went up 3.3 billion people. And yet no doom and gloom. If you want to understand what population increase does to resource consumption, quite simply it magnifies it. But I guarantee you that your daily rice will be same price between now and 2050 (barring inflation). How do I know this? Because the market self regulates as to people's projections ... people do not willingly suffer gluts of any kind and because we've seen this play out over the 20th century.

50 years ago, solar power was an ongoing experiment ... hell, it the basis of a James Bond story if only to advertise how sci-fi esque a concept it was to people.

A country like the Netherlands is an agricultural leader of Europe through intelligent use of land and multistacking farms.

Australia is toying with the idea of the 'upside-down weir' to create the world's largest underground aquifer project and to transform vast stretches of wastelands into gardens, to ensure fresh water and good farmland for as long as they are maintained.

The solutions to tomorrow's problems are already here, it's just whether we have the political will to realize them and whether corporate interests will allow us to. The real cost of consumption is, as always, whether the problems of consumption are not dealt with with an eye to future projections, all for the sake of short-term profits.

The oil industry idid not create the toxic wastes of the formerly prosperous Niger Delta simply because it was the oil industry. It created that toxic wastes of a formerly prosperous region of the Earth because of political corruption and the greed of the megarich. It could have been any other type of multinational that royally fucked up that pristine, wild wonderland and sentenced millions of its dependents to a life riddled with cancers, political intrigues and other manmade horrors of the flesh and mind.

It will be a better day when we take Royal Dutch Shell's corporate officers and board members and have them arrested. For what should be the crime of allowing the largest environmental disaster that is currently spilling over, and will do so for 30 years even if they shuttered operations tomorrow.

The Niger Delta is singularly the worst environmental crisis event this world will (hopefully) ever see, and yet these people walk free. Rob a bank, get 15 years. Kill and injure an estimated 40 million people over the next 30 years, get a fucking bonus. Yes, the world will be a darker, bleaker place if we allow people like this to do this to innocent people. To get away with it. To let them profit from doing it in the first place. But then again, we don't need to live in that world.

We could have the people responsible arrested tomorrow. The point is not to put it off.

That's really all there is to it.

The technology and capacity to create more sustainable means on procuring food, water, and other essentials to make sure almost everyone, if not literally everyone alive is provided for, while minimizing environmental damage and ultimately human life in the process, already exists. This is all potentially feasible in this current generation, if not the foundations at the bare minimum. It's just that these models would ultimately impede capital for a lot of companies, as well as be very expensive. Hopefully nations like the Netherlands, Australia, and others like Spain and Germany with their solar programs can somehow lead the way.

NemotheElvenPanda:
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That's really all there is to it.

The technology and capacity to create more sustainable means on procuring food, water, and other essentials to make sure almost everyone, if not literally everyone alive is provided for, while minimizing environmental damage and ultimately human life in the process, already exists. This is all potentially feasible in this current generation, if not the foundations at the bare minimum. It's just that these models would ultimately impede capital for a lot of companies, as well as be very expensive. Hopefully nations like the Netherlands, Australia, and others like Spain and Germany with their solar programs can somehow lead the way.

Not with a Liberal/National Party government. I am excited by the aquifer recharge project, however. I met a researcher that worked on the first project and she was thoroughly excited by the promising results she saw from the local bores. The best thing about 'leaky weirs' is the lack of evaporation and the fact that they do not radically alter river topography ... that fish can still travel them, and even boats assuming the appropriate depth necessary.

Fresh water is one of the biggest dilemma of the 21st century in terms of natural resources. We can look to algae cultivaion for fuel, but you can't exactly just make fresh water. Not without ridiculous power consumption and a multitude of other environmental problems related to increasing desal plants.

But the 'leaky weir' is a uniquely non-obstructive, low power consuming means of meeting the future water crisis.

We're about 25 years away from algae based fuel products being commercially viable, but the real bitter pill of that is that with some tax credit offsetting we could of had impressive infrastructure development for its cultivation ready to slowly take our edge off for the need of oil. Unfortunately because various governments, not just the U.S., shut down any possibility of that happening and the algae biofuel projects that were planned back in 2009 have largely been scuttled.

Because ... you know ... apparently incredibly wasteful and polluting attempts of shale oil extraction are apparently better than carbon capturing algae that helps not only reduce total exhaust pollution but also can be grown anywhere. Helping us break off directly supporting certain dictatorships, tyrants, and religious zealots in a few places of the world from bankrolling themselves on the basis of a limited supply, fungible commodity.

Hell, even DARPA of all groups gave the thumbs up to projected usage of algal biofuels as a strategic resource potential of consistent, long-term sustainability for jet fuel in terms of managing and cheaply refuelling a large air force capacity. $3 a gallon of jetfuel, and estimated $2 a gallon after sufficient industrialization of algal biofuel production. That's already pretty fucking competitive.

And the best thing of all is that you could easily build up a strategic reserve of it anywhere on the globe. You've taken a fungible commodity that has limited major extraction sites, and could transform it into a strategic resource any nation on Earth could mass produce ... Relieving the sensitivity of various critical strategic waterways on the planet and reducing the costs of war and destabilisation in the Middle East on the world market.

That's win-win-win.

So the solutions are there, it's just vested interests have things they want to protect by stopping such projects going ahead. So instead of throwing money into algal bloom cultivation projects, we'll attempt more deepwater oil boring attempts, risking more oil spills, and giving power to two-bit dictators who epitomize what the "resource curse" looks like.

Addendum_Forthcoming:
Am I? Over the last 40 years the human population went up 3.3 billion people. And yet no doom and gloom. If you want to understand what population increase does to resource consumption, quite simply it magnifies it. But I guarantee you that your daily rice will be same price between now and 2050 (barring inflation). How do I know this? Because the market self regulates as to people's projections ... people do not willingly suffer gluts of any kind and because we've seen this play out over the 20th century.

Mein Gott this paragraph is a nightmare, I almost don't to read the rest. No doom and gloom over the last 40 years? Madam, sir, whatever, that is a very ignorant statement unless only world war 3 would qualify as doom and gloom and everything else is just peachy. If you want to put everything in a measurable, neat statistic like for example a death toll, take a look at this:

Now the author of this post tries to pin all of these deaths directly on capitalism which I think is very wobbly - unless you're the sort of person who links the death count of the Soviet Union directly to communism or the holocaust directly to national socialism, in which case it would be very inconsequential to not do the same in this case and link the above list directly to capitalism - but my point is saying you must have a very strange definition of doom to claim it hasn't been very present over the last 40 years. Just because you looked away doesn't mean it didn't happen, just because it wasn't in another war between Germany and France doesn't mean it didn't happen.

Your sentence about rice and that you went out of your way to put the bit about inflation in there is funny because I literally just got done reading an article by the Berliner Zeitung (penned in 2014) which was about how the real wage and spending power for German workers has been sinking for 20 years. If I'm not completely mistaken that trend wasn't overturned by the minimum wage and is ongoing - so perhaps, considering inflation, I won't be able to afford my rice in 50 years time after all!

But even if that wasn't the case your argument is preposterous because nobody is talking about rice here. When we talk about living standards, we're not talking about being able to afford low value carbs, or even meat for that matter, that hasn't been our baseline for quite a few decades now. Thats not the case for people in China either, nor even in many parts of Africa, the bar is set much higher. If everyone was just happy with having enough to eat our headache would be much lighter. Need vs greed.

RiseOfTheWhiteWolf:

Mein Gott this paragraph is a nightmare, I almost don't to read the rest.

This much is clear, read it ... then get back to me.

No doom and gloom over the last 40 years? Madam, sir, whatever, that is a very ignorant statement unless only world war 3 would qualify as doom and gloom and everything else is just peachy. If you want to put everything in a measurable, neat statistic like for example a death toll, take a look at this:

And yet, last 40 years of human history has seen the least conflict deaths by capita since the Middle Ages. Currently there are only 12 countries that can be said to be truly 'at war'. Famines the like of the Bengal of the 40s, or in Ukraine, or in China are a thing of the past. Food rioting by capita is down. Western terrorist activity is down from its highpoint in the 60s and 70s, despite almost double the population. We've never had it so good. Which is fucking depressing but nonetheless true, though it could have been a hell of a lot better without colonialism.

As awful as parts of capitalism can be, I'll take capitalism over mercantilism anyday. I'll take it over traditional concepts of empire, of which is responsible for the worst acts of capitalist exploitation there is in the world.

The legacy of the British Empire still echoes with BP paid mercenaries shooting up pissed off natives because apparently not wanting foreigners to poison their kids and steal their land is so unreasonable a taboo.

Your sentence about rice and that you went out of your way to put the bit about inflation in there is funny because I literally just got done reading an article by the Berliner Zeitung (penned in 2014) which was about how the real wage and spending power for German workers has been sinking for 20 years. If I'm not completely mistaken that trend wasn't overturned by the minimum wage and is ongoing - so perhaps, considering inflation, I won't be able to afford my rice in 50 years time after all!

But even if that wasn't the case your argument is preposterous because nobody is talking about rice here. When we talk about living standards, we're not talking about being able to afford low value carbs, or even meat for that matter, that hasn't been our baseline for quite a few decades now. Thats not the case for people in China either, nor even in many parts of Africa, the bar is set much higher. If everyone was just happy with having enough to eat our headache would be much lighter. Need vs greed.

Yes, that's all well and good, but how about you address the points I made? Wage stagnation of Europeans has little to do with foreigners buying nice things. That's not how money works, nor is it how basic supply and demand works. It's not like Africans getting more food to eat and more affordable medical options means magically that Europeans are eating less. If anything, the inverse is true ... because as greater market stresses to relieve higher consumption, have created the market forces to transform the Netherlands, a country the size of a tin can, into an agricultural power of Europe.

It's more accurate to say technology has been accelerating, and greater understanding and more peaceable trade negotiations between fewer countries suffering open conflict has meant that shipping is far less constrained by the potential hostilities of individual states. The last fifty years, the first time since the First Age of Sail, has seen a marked decrease by capita in piracy and we dedicate the resources of powerful militaries often solely for the defence of civilian shipping traffic alone ...

To make that point more plain to see. The single biggest cost expenditure increases on Australian's grocery budgets has been government taxation ala the GST. Food costs by relative purchasing power of Australians has gone down over the last 40 years. A Western country, that ranks second in the UN HDI.

https://tradingeconomics.com/australia/food-inflation

Despite having a general inflation rate almost twice as high as the average Western European state...

And that's with dealing with increased droughts, increased water prices, increased fuel prices, and so on.

The cost of manufacturing has gone down, the improvements to logistics has brought costs down, imrpovements in animal husbandry and mechanization has decreased costs, improved understanding of horticulture and scientific systems of land management have also curbed costs, and the increases in population have created competitive domestic markets for a greater diversity of food stocks.

The Chinese eating more of our mangoes hasn't meant our food prices have gone up. Wage stagnation and regressive taxation policies of governments not willing to go after the megarich and corporations have been the problem of finding sufficient revenues to bolster public works project spending that actually build a more diverse labour market.

But you can't blame Chinese eating Australian mangoes for that.

We can all have the 'good life' of meaningful human dignity ... 7.3B or no.

But let's try and focus on the people that hide about 10% of the entire world's wealth in unnamed bank accounts, alone.

It's almost as if with that money that should have been taxed, we could pay people to build publicly owned solar plants, upside-down weirs, high speed rail networks to relieve road congestion, and algal bloom biofuel plants to promote energy self-reliance and cut energy costs to those that otherwise bear the burdens of all yhose cunts who pay none of their fair tax responsibilities. It's akmost as if these industries would provide good jobs and relieve high worker competition elsewhere...

You know.... the things we'll need to build *anyways* but only when the problems become unavoidable.

RiseOfTheWhiteWolf:
Right, but increasingly I feel thats a huge cop-out, a frustrated attempt to avoid admitting what we all know already deep down: that an extremely radical and violent change is coming.

Radical and violent change is far from inevitable, even under a system highly recognisable to today's.

There is a kind of hopelessness because no one has any idea of whats going to follow so the kneejerk reaction is - and I don't mean this personally - this kind of "capitalism isn't all bad", "do you have a better idea?", "theres no such thing as perfect so lets stick to what we know!" attitude. My personal opinion (and I will happily debate anyone on this) is that capitalism isn't lovely enough to bother holding onto, and never was for that matter.

I don't really have any particular loyalty to a system just for the sake of it. I am, ultimately, very much a pragmatist. But it seems to me that - broadly - capitalism has served society more successfully than the alternatives (although I'm using a very broad definition of capitalism.) Socialism has mostly sucked. Mercantalism was a sort of underperforming pre-capitalism, god help us but let's never do Feudalism again, and in the ancient world, I don't even know if we have a word for that, but as it was based heavily on slavery we probably need to give it a pass.

Systems must be adaptable to change with times and circumstance. But they also need proper oversight. One of the things I feel libertarians have strongly appreciated is the tendency of the state to be captured by the economically powerful and bent to their will and benefit. (On the other hand, I part ways with them on the grounds that I think the state is also the most effective way to restrain domination by the economically powerful).

The problem re. my initial post is that I think we have entered a phase where, for about 30-40 years, the state has been heavily captured by the economic elites, and consequently the benefits of society have flowed disproportionately to them. Compare this to the postwar period up to the 70s, which is probably the greatest period of mass empowerment and enrichment for the general populace ever seen. We might of course not be able to just install those policies again, because the wider global circumstances are not conducive for them. But it is the idea that some level of "equalisation" occurs that increasingly spreads wealth, opportunities and dignity across the whole population. This does not need to fundamentally overturn capitalism itself. It might entail re-evaluation of what societal success is; if it entails lower overall economic growth short or long-term... so be it. But that gets a bit into your next paragraph.

Really the biggest problem in coming up with alternatives is this combination of pleasing everybody and overpopulation mixed together. If we had less people we could probably hold our living standard and bring everyone else up to speed (given the right technological advancements) but thats not an option. Neither unfortunately is just dropping them. Even if some idealogue showed up and quickly changed core values in Europe and the US overnight, you'd still have the problem of a few billion people in Asia and Africa pining after our insanely high standard of living. (Which in a way is completely understandable - large parts of these continents have been slaving away to make our way of life possible for centuries. Thanks to the way the flow of information has changed they know all about it too. Try convincing these people they have no right to spend a little time in the sun now, I wish you good luck.) Just look at the way world income growth has developed over the last 30 years. Its an insanely sharp, explosive rise for everyone except the bottom 10% and our developed middle class, both of which are basically frozen. How are you going to tell 70% of the worlds population who are enjoying this rise in prosperity "Sorry guys, we need to step on the breaks again, no flat screen TVs or twinkies or Crocs for you".

The overpopulation problem comes down to this: given technological advancements etc etc our planet can sustain current population numbers, but not at current living standards and definitely not if they keep rising. So its a need vs greed thing and oh my fucking God, when greed is the problem, can you imagine anything worse than capitalism, no matter how watered down? Within this context the profit motive which you advocated in the OP is completely suicidal.

Firstly, advancing the progress of developing nations should deal with overpopulation, because it will decrease a lot of the drive to have children (part of high birth rates is economic, part of it is bad education and contraception access). Also, the richer they get, the richer we get: because if Ethiopia is ten times richer, that means Ethiopia can import ten times as much stuff we make. It also means they are less likely to be able to undercut our workers with cheap labour. It will also decrease the likelihood of resentment and conflict.

You are talking to an extent about environmental concerns, and this is a major issue. The obvious considerations are a) recycling and b) clean(er) power. I agree greed is a problem, because too few people want to be the people who lose $10 now to have $100 later. Such is the short-term nature of human mindsets. A period of consolidation rather than utmost growth-grasping to better prepare the planet for future challenges would be super-useful. But that's the sort of thing major reform should consider.

But I imagine a major part of economic reform is shifting us away from this notion that overall GDP growth is everything. I fear that the totemic nature of overall GDP growth as a measure of success is used to cover up a disturbing number of underlying problems such as wealth inequality, social unrest, environmental damage and so on.

Agema:

I don't really have any particular loyalty to a system just for the sake of it. I am, ultimately, very much a pragmatist. But it seems to me that - broadly - capitalism has served society more successfully than the alternatives (although I'm using a very broad definition of capitalism.) Socialism has mostly sucked. Mercantalism was a sort of underperforming pre-capitalism, god help us but let's never do Feudalism again, and in the ancient world, I don't even know if we have a word for that, but as it was based heavily on slavery we probably need to give it a pass.

Okay, mercantilism wasn't just capitalism-lite. Mercantilism was the foundational aspects of imperialistic use of land, entrenched poverty, and also singlehandedly drove the mechanisms of war and what statecraft should look like for European colonisers for centuries. Mercantilism is best viewed as the antithesis of capitalism, and the reason for its birth. In the same way people looked to socialism to protect from the ills of capitalism, so did early capitalists look to capitalism to protect from the flagrantly illiberal, dangerously violent systems of mercantilism that transformed merchant companies into military powers in their own right.

The systems that saw the East India Company become singlehandedly the most powerful European cohesive military element in the Far East and Indian Ocean. It had a private army, alone, just in India ... that was over twice the size of all of Microsoft's employees across the globe now.

Mercantilism was a top-down structural approach to how Empires should manage their debts through the singular control of commodities and trade goods to the exclusion of other nation's capacities to enter that market. Capitalism, on the flipside, is about managing a nation's books through the fostering of private interests without government intervention.

If you were a rice farmer in Malaya, if you were a wool shearer in Australia, if you were a sugar boiler in the Caribbean, if you were a cotton grower in North America, if you were a poppy grower in Bangladesh, if you were a silver miner in Argentina, if you were a spice trader in India, if you were a whale oil labourer in Johannesburg, if you were a silk dyer in Shanghai, if you were a silkworm worker outside now modern Nagasaki ... you were, in part or whole, in business with the East India Company.

If you want to see what Shadowrun-esque cyberpunk megacorporations fucking look like, just get the East India Company ... give the private security forces machine guns and battle rifles and exchange the ships with corporate owned mass-transit logistics networks ... and it fucking works.

Mercantilism, whether now or then, would look none other than overt autocracy and nepotism in today's world. Orders by a permanently powerful class of elites, usually royals, noblesand incredibly wealthy gentry, having the power of war and death and could sign away the lives of millions with a penstroke. The most brutal, and rampantly violent imagery of early-modern European imperialists? That's mercantilism in a nutshell.

Why did British imperialists send Saxon Merinos to Australia and New Zealand? Because Britain wanted good wool that could otherwise only be grown in drier climates that they did not have access to, but the Spanish had. Australian colonials didn't want to grow wool stock ... they wanted something to fucking eat ... the indigenous population didn't want wool stock, they just wanted land to hunt and cultivate themselves ...

No, Britain wanted good wool. And so Britain got good wool. Which lead to hilariously unfunny situations where Australian soldiers unused to cold and wet European climes in the trenches of France were wearing jumpers made of the discarded parts of otherwise high-grade fleeces and the British staff officers were wearing the best stuff that many of these Australian soldiers likely had a part in shearing themselves for a foreign market before enlisting.

Australia, still selling its entire wool clips to Britain under international price due to the War Precautions Act of 1916 ... whereby the government could confiscate any and all sheep and wheat products for the prosecution of Australia's war effort and her allies... had to make do with cast off sheepskins, making them look something a bit like this. Despite sending 35% of all males aged 20-44 to fight on Britain's behalf.

A fucking vest... that was what was left of the strategic reserves of sheep products for the war effort and supplying our own soldiers. Australian confiscated wool products 'unfit' for a Briton's hide, apparently. In a war that had nothing to do with us, and yet saw a far greater percentile of the population actively enlist for in comparison ... all due to the ridiculously low living standards removing the average Australian from civilized work for civilized pay that made soldiering one of the few viable methods to feed one's family.

To almost nail down the true scale of the brutal Kafkaesque irony ... the major constituent ports for which the Australian Imperial Force detachments from NSW would embark from in Sydney were Federation-era wool logistics sheds ... like lambs to the fucking slaughter. In fact the megastructure is still standing, the Finger Wharf in Woolloomooloo. The irony does keep piling on when Woolloomooloo's namesake has nothing to do with wool, but it was an anglicization of what the local Aboriginal people called the lands surrounding the wharf ... right before they were forced off that land.

How's that for staring directly at thoroughly ingrained class divides and utterly unequal treatment in terms of consumption patterns and market participation due to mercantilism?

With capitalism, well guess who gets the lion's share of the best wool in the world? China! Because China offer fairer rates of exchange and trade, and Australians aren't expected to be paid in accepting a promise of aid or sold some idea of their national duties to prop up concepts of empire.

Mercantilism was the prime driver of not merely European colonials' most disgusting atrocities overseas, but also the most violent of wars the world would ever fucking see.

If anything, the globalism of modern capitalist systems while being no less a prominent aspect of entrenched poverty and political intrigue, at least has diminished the willingness of state agents to act in violence against neighbouring countries to achieve geostrategic goals ... primarily because other nations can buy into the world market of goods and trade. It is now cheaper to trade goods, than to take them by force ... a common feature of mercantilism whereby the state actively barred comnpetition on the world stage predominantly through threats of force.

All the worst aspects of feudalism were apparent in mercantilism. The difference is merely scope and territory, and the fact that the monarchies of Europe actively assisted in the conquer and colonisation of foreign people and the extension of ideas of 'manorialism'.

I know quite a few people in the expanded Southeast Asian region that would have been more than happy if Europeans stayed feudalistic and kept the wholesale slaughter of people merely toward their own rank and file system of vassalage. There is precisely no one that suffered European mercantilism firsthand and looked on it fondly with its departure.

It's the whole fucking reason why so many of the colonials and colonised rose up against Europeans in the first place...

In case you were wondering, we didn't like you very much.

These are relevant:

https://medium.com/@aeonmag/is-taxation-theft-26793eb92a1e
https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/04/tax-the-rich-capitalism-marx-socialism/
https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/10/trump-republicans-tax-plan-wealthy

Addendum_Forthcoming:

Agema:

I don't really have any particular loyalty to a system just for the sake of it. I am, ultimately, very much a pragmatist. But it seems to me that - broadly - capitalism has served society more successfully than the alternatives (although I'm using a very broad definition of capitalism.) Socialism has mostly sucked. Mercantalism was a sort of underperforming pre-capitalism, god help us but let's never do Feudalism again, and in the ancient world, I don't even know if we have a word for that, but as it was based heavily on slavery we probably need to give it a pass.

Okay, mercantilism wasn't just capitalism-lite. Mercantilism was the foundational aspects of imperialistic use of land, entrenched poverty, and also singlehandedly drove the mechanisms of war and what statecraft should look like for European colonisers for centuries.

Perhaps capitalism is mercantilism-lite, then.

"Capitalism" is not a very well defined word. In certain ways-- ways relevant to Marx-- mercantilism is very capitalist. The hierarchical organization of production mediated by property rights in which a few are employers and most people are wage-earning employees is the capitalism that Marx critiqued and that capitalism is quite present in mercantilism. What mercantilism is not is laissez-faire or overly flattering toward the idea of free trade. The disagreement between mercantilists and laissez-faire capitalists is narrow: about the role of government in shaping the conditions under which private individuals make their obscene profits at the expense of workers. Neither challenges the capitalist understanding of property rights or the organization of production; most often it boils down to a disagreement about tariffs or enforced monopolization. Indeed, I think it's fair to say that mercantilism exists directly between laissez-faire capitalism and state capitalism. And if it's between two kinds of capitalism, wouldn't that make it also a kind of capitalism?

For some people, though, if it's not described in Anarchy, State, and Utopia, then it's not capitalist. That's a very different notion of what capitalism is, centered on ideas which reside in the ideological superstructure of capitalism more than they can be found in any real economy. Capitalists like to make allies of the state (they like to buy the state), so activities that look like mercantilism have been an ever present part of capitalism. The capitalist class hardly cares whether their privileges are justified by property rights or by divine right and blood; property rights are just an easier sell these days. Where discourse is less powerful, they are perfectly happy to use force of arms or contract that out to some local government. The great strength of capitalism is that it leaves a paper trail full of putatively voluntary transactions even while creating conditions which make those "voluntary" transactions compulsory.

Seanchaidh:

Perhaps capitalism is mercantilism-lite, then.

"Capitalism" is not a very well defined word. In certain ways-- ways relevant to Marx-- mercantilism is very capitalist. The hierarchical organization of production mediated by property rights in which a few are employers and most people are wage-earning employees is the capitalism that Marx critiqued and that capitalism is quite present in mercantilism. What mercantilism is not is laissez-faire or overly flattering toward the idea of free trade. The disagreement between mercantilists and laissez-faire capitalists is narrow: about the role of government in shaping the conditions under which private individuals make their obscene profits at the expense of workers. Neither challenges the capitalist understanding of property rights or the organization of production; most often it boils down to a disagreement about tariffs or enforced monopolization. Indeed, I think it's fair to say that mercantilism exists directly between laissez-faire capitalism and state capitalism. And if it's between two kinds of capitalism, wouldn't that make it also a kind of capitalism?

For some people, though, if it's not described in Anarchy, State, and Utopia, then it's not capitalist. That's a very different notion of what capitalism is, centered on ideas which reside in the ideological superstructure of capitalism more than they can be found in any real economy. Capitalists like to make allies of the state (they like to buy the state), so activities that look like mercantilism have been an ever present part of capitalism. The capitalist class hardly cares whether their privileges are justified by property rights or by divine right and blood; property rights are just an easier sell these days. Where discourse is less powerful, they are perfectly happy to use force of arms or contract that out to some local government. The great strength of capitalism is that it leaves a paper trail full of putatively voluntary transactions even while creating conditions which make those "voluntary" transactions compulsory.

In a nutshell?

Well, capitalism is just that. And capital makes some very certain distinctions from mercantilism, namely how the nature of credit works. In a capitalist system, you're not bound by this idea that exports must exceed imports in terms of real value. As mercantilist nations had actual treasuries with actual rare commodities that were considered universally valuable, and had a relatively knowable scarcity or production quota from mines. Moreover this idea of static ideas of wealth and created the world's worst wars for a reason. By nations tying up the access to trade goods, and by guaranteeing the only way a mercantilist entity could survive importing them is through unceasingly high tariffs, suddenly you have impulses to start colonising and attacking your rivals or blockading their ports.

Which is why I think it is highly important, fundamentally crucial, to understand the relationship between mercantilism and the insane degrees of violence, slavery and general douchebaggery Europeans displayed, and their insane degree of colonisation, and why people fought such bitter conflicts ... and separate that from the seemingly peaceful days of late-stage capitalism in comparison.

Mercantilists didn't colonise countries for the sheer hell of it, they did so in order to access goods that would help them balance their books. No capitalist will tell you that wealth is static, it's not. A mercantilist however, they by definition will tell you that wealth is static and entirely dependent on the value of your exports exceeding your imports ...

That's not how credit markets work, and believing as such is precisely what causes corrections to begin with. There is a reason that Adam Smith, considered the father of capitalism, utterly despised mercantilism and U.S. history is the prime example people use when you start seeing the conflictbetween capitalism and European ideas of trade.

Put simply... anyone csn have a positive tradr balance, but that doesn't necessarily mean people are wealthier. Totsl productivity, not trade disparity, is key. Anf how can you have increased productivity without easier access to the material goods of the world?

Forcing everybody to work twoce as hard for twice the paycheque, in order to buy thr samr amount of equally ratio'd tariffs on goods you are not skilled at producing does not make a wealthier nation. In mercantilist theory it should, but the wealthiest nation is the one that focusses not on how much they consume in total... but what that consumption means in their total productivity. The nation that works hard, but tightens their belt, is not wealthy. The nation that consumes more, empowers productivity through consumption, is going to be far richer and happier... therefore nations shouldn't focus on tariffs, but what a nation's consumption *means*.

And lo and behold, capitalism was born. Capitalism pays no mind of the trade balance between individual nations, but rather analyzes the efficiency of domestic industry to fulfil that consumption for any cheaper. If not, who cares? If so? Why no industry?

To understand the fundamental differences, and the reasons Europoean powers went to such lengths, is the relative difference in economics between zero sum, and positive sum. For a mercantilist, a couyntry producing a metric fuckton of cost-effective tyres, but importing a lot cars is a losing proposition ... but if the cost of tariffs on imported vehicles, and inefficient systems of trying to fulfil domestic demand of vehicles ends up hurting a very profitable tyre industry in exchange for overpriced cars, underperforming tyres, and people having less money for other productive industries to get either ... a mercantilist would say; "Well that's proof ofzero sum" ... a capitalist will say; "That's fucking stupid, all you've done is hurt industrial growth and individual consumption for the sake of zero sum."

So the thing is while mercantilism can look like capitalism, it can't look like everything capitalism can be. They're two entirely different philosophies.

A capitalist can be quite pro-free trade where as a mercantilist by definition can't be free trade, but what they can be is free trade when trade is conducive to wealth generation. Which is problematic because then it relies on very definite systems of oppression, very rigid ideas of how a 'productive economy' (one that exceeds real value through importation of baser materials to rework into higher value/more efficient) exports, imperialism, violence, and basically the capacity of being the biggest jerk you can be.

Both believe in capitalism, only onevis coloured increasingly towards old European ideas of the projection of power being no less measurably interteined with thr projection of military power to police it. Kind of like how the East India Company had twice the standing army of the army proper.

The whole reason why you had the Opium Wars and the Unequal Treaties, is precisely because there was little room for the British Empire to ever break even their debts within mercantilist enterprise without enforcing that China buys an otherwise highly illicit, highly addictive drug that they could exclusively supply and create without domestic industrial capacity to fulfill demand in the Qing Empire itself.

The Empire was addicted to tea and silk, the Empire had nothing to fill ships with and give back that commanded a higher price.

This is actually one of the ways how we can quite categorically state the East India Company managed "half the world's wealth" quite simply by tallying up all the receipts, and all the writs, and all the double-entry bookkeeping details... precisely because in a mercantilist perspective, trade balance was the only true consideration of the capacity to generate credit and determine debts.

Now admittedly you see the same things with global shipping nowadays, ships can't regularly leave ports empty. But this has more to do about keeping shipping affordable. Hence why scrap metal is the U.S.'s second most important export good. It ... I mean ... you can fill ships up with it. It's important.

Ditto the slightly more lucrative refined iron ore in Australia ... and so on. Australia and the U.S. are fairly isolated which is beneficial for security, but doesn't do many wonders for maintaining cheap shipping. I mean North America has a total of 450 million people? Australasia is even in a worst spot, but at least we border what is now probably the most important waterway on the planet. It used to be the PC, but the Sunda and Malacca straits I think will seriously begin giving it a run for itsmoney ofver the coming decades...

To put it plainly, neither the U.S. nor Australia would survive now if it were a mercantilist state. No one in the Western world would. Quite simply put the idea that wealth was static, and the heavy government interference in trade, as well as the artificial scarcity problem of tying up trade goods into national economies necessitating violence to transfer direct supply created the fundamental problems that saw mercantilism's downfall.

Mercntilism is simply unsustainable, and while capitalist markets may suffer continual corrections and boom bust cycles, they at least do so (nowadays) without incessant warfare.

----------

Anyways...

Thus we start to see a problem. In a lot of ways you can compare mercantilism to a Keynesianesque trading clearance house model... where nations chip in exports to meet internationalized debts without direct trade, making base goods as fungible as possible (which has been incredibly successful)... only with mercantilism, it has to be direct physical trade, and it can't be fungible barring a select handful of presupposed 'indicators of weatlth' (like gold) ... smething that you can fill a treasury with and everyone just magically agrees: "Yeah, okay! You're doing pretty well!"

... and Hell or highwater, someone is going to get shot if you can't maintain a balance of trade, so you better make sure you're the one pulling the trigger...

The clearest examples of how many forms of capitalism must, by necessity, be different from mercantilist ideas of trade .... the lack of fungibility concerning precious metals depending where you were in the world. How the price of silver was persistently kept inflated in China, and demands for it met from mines in South America, across massive trade networks such as things like the infamous Manila Galleon traderoutes of the Spanish Crown.

Which traded abundant sources of cheap silver procured in the Americas, in exchange for spices, tea, and porcelain back into the Americas, into New Spain... from there transported by land to the Atlantic, and shipped from there back to Europe. Racking up quite the warchest the Spanish crown could use to fund its war effort and police its waterways on both sides of the New World. Also a principle reason why few could best the Spanish in open water navigation.

So the Spanish could implement near-slaves (or just slaves) ... retrieve cheap silver from untapped mines, transport it into Asia where they maintain a near monopoly on the quantities necessary to meet inflated demands, and make a fucking mint on luxuries and goods that would otherwise be bought with far more sweat by other European powers.

They go so good at it they had the best crews in the world off the back of some seriously notable feats of long distance sailing and logistical management.

Regardless, the growing fungibility of commodities would not have made such exploits profitable in today's world. Certainly, people buy and trade silver and gold ... but you cannot inflate one market to the exclusion of others. There is significant structural differences between old ideas of mercantilism and capitalism. And I don't think Marx would pprove of discounting these immense structural differences to explain why European imperialists did what they did.

Well, at the very least Engels would disapprove of ignoring historical ideas of trade...

I will agree that the negative effects of both capitalism and mercantilism inevitably lead to social discord and conflict... that the result is inevitably the same. But I think it's also important to analyze why the character of these conflicts looks different.

And keep in mind ... Marx and Engels grew up in a world where mercantilism was rife, and various capitalists adopted much of mercantilism's ideas of wealth ... just not all capitalist. And certainly not the capitalists in the late modern world.

You definitely need empire and cheap labour to make mercantilism work. Whereas you just need cheap labour to make capitalism work... so long as you don't have too many mercantilists limiting access to otherwise fungible commodities. Not that limited extraction necessarily stops something being fungible, but it rarely helps access... Ala the Energy Crisis of 1973.

Mercantilism is to capitalism the proof that sometimes something that looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, is in fact actually a monstrous policy of empire-building and its inherent brutality and disrespect for human life. Capitalism is merely a system that rationalizes greed, which can be no less monstrous but doesn't necessarily have the force of inevitability riding on its shoulders like mercantilism had.

Using my WW1-era Australian wool trade example, whereby both Australian farmers and Australian soldiers suffered solely to provide the 'mother country' a cheaper abundance of wool. That has its basis in the Navigation Act of 1663 and associated other future legilsation, whereby colonial trade goods could only be travelled by British merchant vessels (and thus guaranteeing a consolidated nature of inequal market participation and entrenched poverty for the colonies).

Comparing mercantilism to capitalism is like comparing fire and water. One is a ultimate expression of the command economy, the other is a ultimate expression of the market economy. Socialism and capitalism often have more overlap than capitalism and mercantilism ... as many socialist economies did not disinclude ideas of positive sum trading. If they did, they wouldn't have been keen pursuing international trade. Socialism, if anything, is an exercise in land use efficiency, and capitalists and socialists hold the same ideas of land use and production efficiency, leading to greater individual consumption and personal happiness ... though they believe that that can be achieved through different means.

For example, Cuba would have no problems if the U.S. bought up its sugar products, because for either Cubans or American capitalists, that results in a net positive for both nations regardless of their political natures. Cuba can produce fantastic amounts of sugar cane cheaply, and sugar cane is better source ofsugar than whatever fucking garbage Americans pretend to call 'sugar'. Yet the sugar lobby in the U.S., made up of representatives of various farming interests, block it at every turn.

Mercantilism and its assumptions maintains the idea of constant rivalry between states as a matter of economic inevitability, and the necessity of always having a favourable balance of trade. Which is effectively the foundation of the military industrial complex asa direct relation to economic power. Neither socialism, nor capitalism, makes those assumptions... both of them accommodate the idea that wealth is not static, and that positive sum is possible through less wasteful production techniques and greater access to consumption.

The only questions that socialism and capitalism make is cui bono? For capitalists they make the assumption the market economy requires no interference in terms of its consumption and from minimal interference comes the liberalism to promote individual happiness. For socialists they make the assumption of the need for interference to assume more equitable consumption and liberalism of individuals to achieve personal happiness.

Mercantilists cannot be aligned with either, because positive sum is impossible. For every winner there is a loser. For every degree of winning, there is a reciprocal degree of loss.

Which is why both socialists and capitalists the world over balked at Trump's specific brand of fucking stupid since his campaign trail to, well, now ... and foreseeably until the next election.

That being said with Trump and other collective idiots represent a disparaging idea of what I call; "Mercanticapitalists" ... whereby they associate ideas of old imperialist formations like the British Empire, and conflating it with whatever boons of capitalism they perceive, and thus then pretend both had some positives in existing.

It's not a 'liberal conspiracy' or 'communist agenda' of people looking at the collapse of European empires with a grin ... it's not even a racial issue, because native or colonist suffered in places like Australia... and most people with a brain cell here feel like slapping the people that pretend otherwise.

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