Sometimes I feel like I'm getting bits and pieces of everyone's college education on these peak oil sites! There appear to be many intelligent people in these groups. Paul sounds like one of them. Recently, on ROE3 (PO newbie forum), there has been a thread on economics, and everyone has been discussing how it seems that capitalism, socialism, and the idea of networking in business cannot work because all systems are based on infinite resources and exponential growth. That's been the conclusion from most posters so far.
In the exerpt Paul has written, he was responding to a comment made about different specific systems and why they don't work. I post his response not because I know and agree with all that he says, but because I thought it was very informative and it piqued my interest. My political and economic views have changed quite a bit in the last year since learning about peak oil. My thoughts often lead, as do with others, to what kind of system would work best in a post-industrial, decentralized world. Here is his reply:
"Interestingly, the critique of networking based on finite resources
applies equally to capitalism and socialism (at least, as practised
The underlying principles are nineteenth century positivism, especially
in the sciences - so our problems will be solved by a technical fix
'just in time', which is of course an invocation of magic and avoids
the issue of responsibility for actions. Both the major left and right
strands of thought (in European terms) favor industrialism and economic
growth. Marx's economics use the standard 'continuum' approach used
in right economics - it supposes, mathematically speaking, an infinite
continuum of producers / retailers / consumers, and works out the
inter-relations of each group in this experimental mental lab. This
simplifies things enough to produce results, but not results that reflect
the real world. The difference, of course, between the left and right
analysis of growth economics and industrialism is that the former
shares the proceeds equably and the latter does not.
The world in fact is a sphere floating in space, with accessible and
usable minerals, etc, existing in a thin onion skin on it's surface.
The resource are, therefore, by definition, finite. All growth models
lead to man overflowing and filling all the space with economic
parameters that exclude the fact that resources will run out - they
are thus fundamentally unsustainable. In medical terms, our behavior
is like that of a metastasizing cancer, and will inevitable kill the
host - our planet.
The Europeans have a strand of political thought called Anarchism. It
is rather different from our take on anarchy - it is less individualist
and instead incorporates not only respect for the individual but also
the community. This aids it in squaring the circle and resolving the
contradictions between capitalism and communism.
Since it's nineteenth century inception, European anarchism has also
had strands that reflect the real world ecologically speaking. These
are represented by, for example, Petr Kropotkin, who wrote the book
Mutual Aid, that posited a non-social Darwinist take on evolution -
one that emphasized co-operation as a factor in evolution, especially
human social evolution, over competition.
The rise of cybernetics in the early years of the twentieth century,
and ecology, in the sixties and seventies, has allowed this positive
aspect of anarchism (in the European mode) to evolve such that it is
now the political heart of the non-party political green movement.
Thus, groups such as Earth First!, in their European incarnations,
have a much more positive and humanistic approach than the US
variant has had (or has been perceived as having had, especially
during the dispute over comments by Dave Foreman).
However, in the US, there are also some seeds of anarchist philosophy
of the type that has positive contributions to make to our future
modes of living (ie; that make the balance between individualism
and rampant control). One of these strands is represented by Murray
Bookchin's social ecology movement, whose institute in Vermont runs
a very interesting looking summer school. Bookchin is an example of
someone who has been sufficiently embarassed by the associations the
word 'anarchy' has for most lay people to have rebadged it, and
'social ecology' is his alternative. This has also allowed him to
properly update the content of the political philosophy and to
make it relevant to today, as both the traditional left and the
traditional right have failed to do. He has also avoided the trap
of egoist libertarianism.
So, in my view, a sustainable future would adopt neither left nor
right, but social ecology as a political, social and economic
route through the time of fire to come. Concepts such as ecology;
libertarian municipalism; biomes; and many of the traditionally
'christian' values such as 'do unto others' help show the way
for us to live sustainably. Neither the traditional left or
right are far along this road, as they value too highly outmoded
and negative core beliefs that they have not found a way to dump.
Pretty good, huh? Thank you Paul.