ALMOST TIME TO LOOK TO THE POSITIVES


PofW & BBIntroduction

This post is the longest one I’ve written to date.  You might wish to make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, or pour something stronger before reading on.  Indeed, you might decide to wander off and find better things to do; if so, that’s fine by me.  If you’re sticking around, though, you’ll wish to know that this post is a “biggy” because I’m coming under increasing pressure from various quarters to deal with the upside of life, to look at the positives.  The purpose of this post is to explain why I think we’re living on the cusp of not merely the proverbial “interesting times”, but on the cusp of extraordinary times.  Only when I’ve got this off my chest will I be able to start looking more systematically at the positives, at the good life – because I need to construct my thoughts about the good life on the foundations of where I think we are today, and where I think the world is heading.  So, without further ado …

A Depressing Correspondent

The pressure is mounting.  Daughter Mary Moraymint is not amused with the recurring theme of this blog being preoccupied, as it is, with the downside; being focused on – well, let’s be honest – the apparent collapse of complex society (ho-hum).  For some of us the evidence suggests that – in terms of the shattering of economics orthodoxy and the consequences thereof – the world would appear to be going to hell in a handcart.  But for goodness’ sake when is Dad/Moraymint going to lighten up and balance the load?

EntertainerTo be fair, Mary and I recently spent a most enjoyable few days relaxing together in London (Mary might think differently, of course).  We went to my military Club in town for the annual ‘Fathers’ & Daughters’ Dinner’, along with 200 other members and their guests.  We had a good time in ‘The Smoke’ sharing a Sunday afternoon beer with a cyber-friend-turned-flesh-friend (you know who you are, Pongo) in a sunny pub garden by Clapham Common; having supper together on the Tattershall Castle, moored on the River Thames at Embankment, where we gazed up at Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster in the mellow evening sunlight; having breakfast at the Club with an old school friend of the other Daughter Moraymint (Victoria), who stopped by on her way to work at the offices of ‘The Mail on Sunday’; visiting Tate Britain’s ‘Walk Through British Art’; wandering around Covent Garden, observing the street performers, enjoying a bowl of paella and a cold beer for lunch, and buying a wee giftie for Mum Moraymint; all before the excellent formal dinner at the Club on Monday evening.

PaellaThen up pops my old friend Carlos with whom I’d lost touch for many years (probably the thick end of 30 years) before the wonders of Facebook drew us together again, much to my delight.  Carlos had been reading Moraymint Chatter from time to time without realising it was me; that is the real me, so to speak.  Occasionally, I post a link on my (real me) Facebook page that, if clicked, transports my Facebook friends to my alter ego over here at Moraymint Chatter.  Carlos sent me a personal message recently in which he said, “It took me a while to work out that you are in fact the Moraymint man …”.  Carlos went on to say, amongst other things, “but f**k you’re a depressing correspondent aren’tcha?  I may have to stop perusing your posts – they always bring me down.”  In the end Carlos said, “Well done on your blog, but it is terribly polemical.  I can’t help wishing it had a more balanced agenda, or at least a few suggestions for solutions that are realistic.”

Mary and Carlos are right, of course.  Mary wants me to lighten up; she knows I can; she sees me when I choose to look on the bright side of life; like when we went to London together; when we go shooting together; when we spend time in my favourite city, Edinburgh; when we walk the dogs on the beach, or in the woods; when I chuckle at the antics of my gundog puppy, Poppy; when I laugh time and again at Eddie Izzard recounting his ‘Death Star Canteen’ story, or whilst I’m reading the world’s best letter of complaint (from a Virgin Atlantic passenger to Sir Richard Branson); when we have friends to stay for the weekend; when we watch Michael McIntyre performing at the O2 Arena (well, on a DVD in the sitting room actually); when I deploy my own zany sense of humour over the dinner table.  Meantime, Carlos exhorts me to balance the agenda, or at least propose some realistic solutions – which I take to mean solutions for coping with the sorts of ructions that I argue our society faces during the coming generation.

The Industrial Revolution, Consumerism and Economics

My vision of the lives that my daughters will lead comprises a number of themes.  Perhaps the first and foremost theme is that my daughters’ lives, unlike mine, will not be defined by consumerism: that is to say, “the economic and social order that encourages the purchase of goods and services in ever-greater amounts, and the consumption of materials and resources in excess of basic needs”[1].  Put simply, consumerism might be thought of as the rampant accumulation of “stuff”.  Let’s be honest, Clan Moraymint is as guilty as the next family (certainly in the developed world) of accumulating stuff; our Victorian family home here on the Moray Firth, overlooking the sea and across to the mountains of Easter Ross, is stuffed to the gunwales.

Now, there’s nothing innately wrong or immoral about consumerism, per se, especially if you believe, as does my good friend Carlos, “that nothing can ever ‘run out’ because the market system exists precisely to stop that happening.”  We’ll come back to this issue of the infinite omnipotence of market forces later, but for now let’s keep looking at consumerism.

The consumer society, as we recognise it today, emerged in the late 17th century, intensified in the 18th century and largely coincided with the advent of the Industrial Revolution.  The Industrial Revolution was itself the manifestation of mankind’s discovery of techniques for unlocking 2 billion years’ worth of sunlight energy stored in fossil fuels buried in the earth.  Any physicist will tell you that energy is the ability to do work; what happened 250 years ago was that mankind discovered the ability to do work in ways which transcended human muscle power (one’s own and that of one’s servants or slaves, the latter being the time-honoured technique for getting work done at low/no cost) and the employment of beasts of burden.  The Industrial Revolution, by fuelling (literally) extraordinary rates of economic growth, slowly but surely allowed millions and then tens of millions and eventually hundreds of millions of people to, inter alia, accumulate stuff.

Finally, at just about the time the Industrial Revolution fermented consumerism, the Scottish philosopher, Adam Smith, emerged as the father of modern economics.  Now, the purpose of this particular post is not to offer a treatise on economics, sometimes referred to as “the dismal science”; Carlos is better qualified than me to do that, and indeed I’m minded to offer him a Guest Post on the subject.  However, it’s important to understand that the very essence of this blog, of my thesis about how my daughters’ lives will unfold compared to how mine unfolded, is that the dismal science as we have come to know and love it this past 250 years is on the rack.

Economic Growth

Specifically, the critically important phenomenon of economic growth is under the microscope. We’ve reached the stage in modern economics where the most widely held conviction is that economic growth is the be-all and end-all of society; economic growth is the answer to all the problems of mankind.  Indeed, the central theme of the theory and practice of economics today is the relentless search for economic growth.  Whether we like it or not, we’re addicted to doubling our wealth every quarter century or so, which is pretty much the stage we’ve reached today – at what is transpiring to be the fag-end of the industrial age.

However, all of a sudden, in case you hadn’t noticed, economic growth has become an unusually indistinct target; gripping and sustaining growth is becoming ever more elusive.  The general trend in forecasts for the coming years (from the likes of the UK’s Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the World Bank, the OECD, the IMF and so on) is one of lower rates of economic growth and in some cases – heaven forfend – of economic contraction.  Since the global financial crisis blew up, those organisations concerned with forecasting economic growth keep finding themselves revisiting and revising down their predictions as reality intrudes[2] and they’re forced to squint again into the future.

Mankind’s unprecedented consumption of energy over the past 250 years – and the economic growth it facilitated – has brought with it almost unimaginable societal advantages as well as enormous societal complexity.  The availability of vast amounts of ‘net energy’ (that is the excess energy available for consumption over and above what is needed to harvest that energy) has also led to the development of a profoundly integrated globalised economy and with it – for the first time in history – a globalised society.  Today Londoners are as intimately connected to, say, Afghan peasants, one way or another, as they are to New Yorkers, Tibetan Monks or the activities of the China Merchants Group.  Great civilisations have arisen and collapsed before, of course.  However, never before have so many diverse societies been so intertwined economically, technologically, environmentally and politically … to the extent that today we exist in what is, to all intents and purposes, a “world civilisation”[3].

That said, viewed against the span of human history, economic growth is a relatively new phenomenon, really only dating from the Industrial Revolution itself; in the centuries prior to that economic growth had been negligible[4].  Between 1300 and 1750 the UK economy hardly grew at all in per capita terms.  Between 1000 and 1820 global wealth per capita grew by a barely noticeable 0.04% per annum on average[5]; the wealth of all human beings on earth doubled every 1,750 years or so.

In this context, profound questions arise for us as citizens of a globally connected society, addicted as we are to economic growth: what happens if we cannot now go on doubling our wealth every quarter-century; what happens if economic growth falls back to pre-industrial age rates enhanced slightly, perhaps, by the technical skills and knowledge we’ve accrued over the past 250 years; how do we go on servicing the needs and meeting the inexorably rising costs of our complex societies if we cannot guarantee robust, industrial age rates of economic growth stretching indefinitely in to the future; from where do we obtain the truly breathtaking amounts of net energy (offering all of the facsimile benefits of fossil fuels, especially oil) required to double the size of the global economy every 25 years, indefinitely?

Prior to the releasing of 2 billion years’ worth of fossil fuel energy (which mankind has achieved in the blink of an eye in anthropological terms), the global economy grew at a rate ultimately determined by energy falling on the earth from the sun in real time.  The Industrial Revolution accelerated the doubling of the wealth of human beings by an extraordinary 70-fold in less than one-hundredth of one per cent of the time that modern humans have existed on earth.  Economic growth as we’ve come to know it, love it and exploit it for the past 250 years isn’t normal.  Orthodox economists, on the other hand, will tell you that industrial age rates of economic growth are indeed normal; they’ll tell you that the ‘market system’ will prevail and that there’s no reason at all why, any day now, the global economy will not be firing again on all cylinders (by which they mean growing again at industrial age rates).  Mainstream economists hold the view that anybody (like me) who thinks we’ve somehow reached the end of growth is naïve; is ill-informed; people like me (a physicist by university education, as it happens) really don’t know what we’re talking about.

Chris Martenson – who is not an orthodox economist (he’s also a physical scientist by university education) – sums up our situation today as follows[6]:

“Our [complex society] operates as if no physical limits exist.  I don’t mean growth is ‘required’ as if it’s written in a legal document somewhere, but it is ‘required’ in the sense that our economy only functions when it’s growing.  With growth, jobs are created and debts can be serviced.  Without growth, jobs, opportunities and the ability to repay past debts simply and mysteriously disappear, causing economic pain and confusion … Now, humanity as a species [is facing] a condition it has never faced before: less and less energy will be available each year.  In the past there was always another continent brimming with energy resources to tap; another well that could be drilled; more hydrocarbon wealth [to] be brought up from the depths.  We have had access to increased resources whenever we wanted them.  During [this relatively recent] run of history, we’ve fashioned an enormously complex society and global economic model around the idea that there would always be more.”

Peak Oil

Indeed, to reiterate my friend Carlos’s point, “nothing can ever ‘run out’ because the market system exists precisely to stop that happening.”  I agree with Carlos, up to a point.  We’ll never ‘run out’ of oil, for example.  However, what’s happening now is that the cost of extracting oil is rising steadily and is, therefore, inching up the price of oil to the point of it becoming prohibitively expensive.  As demand for oil collapses so, in theory, should the price fall.  In practice, the price of oil has fallen (since it hit $147 per barrel in 2008), but the cost of extracting oil remains as high as ever, getting higher over time (it’s a geological thing); so, even less oil gets extracted, the oil companies then lack the revenues to operate and invest, supply is further constrained and so the price of oil rises again, destroying demand still further, and so on (this particular phenomenon is a symptom of ‘peak oil’[7]).  So, we’re not running out of oil as such, we’re just struggling to afford it; the pricing mechanism is working, but metaphorically it’s killing us at the same time.

The paradox, in terms of orthodox economics, is that lowering the price of oil does not – and cannot – stimulate a concomitant uplift in the supply of oil (like I said, it’s a geological thing).  So, the ‘market system’ is forcing mankind to find other sources of net energy (substitutes for crude oil) like, for example, shale oil and shale gas.  Unfortunately, these shale-based sources of energy are simply nudging mankind’s energy problem forward in to the future a little; in the great scheme of things we still face an unprecedented and intractable energy problem[8].

An Energy Crisis

The root cause of our global economic woes and the reason why forecasters are being forced constantly to revise down future economic growth rates is that mankind is at the leading edge of an energy crisis.  Interestingly, orthodox economists generally do not accept this proposition.  For example people like Tim Worstall who is, inter alia, a Senior Fellow at the Adam Smith Institute – and whom my friend Carlos admires – asserts, “infinite growth on a finite planet [is] easy-peasy”[9].  Mr Worstall may be right, of course, insofar as infinite growth at a rate of, say, around 1% per annum might well be achievable.  However, the consequences for mankind of making the descent from energising a doubling of global prosperity every 25 years to energising a doubling of global prosperity every 70 years (which is what economic growth of 1% per annum means) hardly bears thinking about.  It means truly savage reductions in incomes and economic activity over the next two or three generations (or much quicker if some analysts are right) which, as Chris Martenson observes, mankind has never experienced before.

Incidentally, perhaps to make my point about the significance of oil in our lives today, I note as I write this post that Rupert Murdoch has just tweeted the following message: “Don’t look for early peace in Syria.  Putin determined to keep Middle East on boil to sustain oil prices essential for sick Russian economy.” [10]

The human species has never before had to cope with a sustained, globalised reduction in net energy and, therefore, in global wealth and all the consequences that flow from this.  I want my children to understand this profound challenge faced by humanity; I want them to understand that their generation, that is people living in the prime of their lives over the next 30 years, are going to find their existences being shaped by fundamental resource scarcity in ways that we’ve never experienced in history.  Before we look at what my children’s generation is supposed to do under these circumstances; before we look for the upside of potentially seismic civilisational change and for realistic solutions for coping with slowing economic growth, if not economic contraction, we need to look at two more characteristics of 250 years of abundant net energy: population growth and debt.

SunsetHuman Population

At the time of Jesus’s birth just over 2,000 years ago the human population is thought to have been around 150 – 200 million souls, which rose to about 300 million by the year 1000.  Incidentally, the population of the US today is just over 310 million people.  From 1000 for the subsequent seven or eight centuries the human population grew at an average rate of just 0.1% per annum.  Then, at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution the world population grew suddenly to 700 million; by 1800 the population was a billion.  Just over 100 years later, by 1927, the world population had grown by a further 100% to 2 billion people.  During the 20th century the human population grew exponentially and reached 6 billion; that’s a 400% increase in just one century.  Over the 250 years of the Industrial Revolution to the present day, the global population increased by 6 billion to 7 billion human beings.

We can think of the population situation like this.  Imagine you’d moved in to a house 10 years ago and there were 3 of you renting that space.  If the occupation of your house grew at the same rate as the population of human beings on earth has grown, 8 years later there would be 10 people sharing your house; more than one new tenant moving in every year.  Just one year later the number of occupants in your house would have doubled to 20 tenants; and just another year after that the number of occupants in your house would have tripled again to 60 people.  We shouldn’t be too surprised to learn, then, that since the period between the two World Wars, the population of the UK has grown by some 16 million citizens.  It’s also not surprising, perhaps, to observe the energy grid, the buildings, transport and water infrastructure, the food supplies, the public services and the cities and countryside of our small island nation all struggling to cope with the migration trends that inevitably accompany a burgeoning human population.

Finally in this section bear in mind that orthodox economists argue that economic growth (and what they really mean by that is industrial age rates of economic growth) is both normal and can extend to infinity.  In other words, by definition, there was nothing abnormal about the human population growing by 400% in one-hundredth of one per cent of the time modern humans have existed on earth.

The Marvels of Mainstream Economics

If the orthodox economists are right, there’s no reason at all (is there?) why over the next 250 years the global population shouldn’t keep growing; remember, “infinite growth on a finite planet is easy-peasy”; or, as Carlos says, “nothing can ever ‘run out’ because the market system exists precisely to stop that happening.”  Everything human beings will ever need – energy, water, food, minerals – is infinitely substitutable; nothing will ‘run out’ because everything can be substituted by something else offering the same benefits.  The fundamental question is, however, whether on the basis of economics orthodoxy, mankind can sustain that which it has created this past 250 years for the next 250 years, or dare I say even the next 25 years?

According to Jeremy Warner (Assistant Editor of the Daily Telegraph and one of Britain’s leading business and economics commentators) “what’s really driven growth over the past 250 years [are] capitalism, fractional reserve banking and free enterprise”[11].  No mention there of the critical role played by cheap net energy since the mid-18th century; just good old-fashioned mainstream economics – by and large devoid of any reference to the laws of physics – has got us where we are today and will no doubt get us to where we’ll be in another 250 years.  The dismal science trumps natural science.  The UN predicts that by 2050 the global population will reach almost 11 billion human beings.  I wonder what you’re take is on the likelihood of that prediction becoming reality?

There are days when I conclude that if you believe the workings and predictions of mainstream economics, you’ll believe pretty much anything.  Mainstream economists tell us that it’s only a matter of time before we’ll be back to economic growth rates that characterised the past 100 years or so (just look at the mid-term forecasts made by the OBR, the World Bank, the OECD, the IMF etc … that is before they keep revisiting their forecasts and revising them down).  Fear not, we can all double our wealth every 25 years if we keep faith with capitalism, fractional reserve banking and free enterprise.

Alt-Economics

Look, I’m not really bothered if mainstream economic theories are declared to be as sound as a pound (forgive the irony in that one); if the consensus is that orthodox economists know what they’re talking about; if the political class hangs on every word of the aforesaid economists; if the received wisdom is that the next 250 years stand every chance of being much like the last 250 years, if not better; indeed if economists and politicians believe that man’s ingenuity will prevail and technology will ensure the doubling of global prosperity every quarter-century or thereby despite the Second Law of Thermodynamics[12]; for me the prognostications of economists have become a little too fantastic to believe.

Richard Heinberg puts it like this[13]:

“The past 3 decades, and especially the past 3 years, have seen an explosion of discussion about alternative ways of thinking about economics.  There are now at least a score of think tanks, institutes and publications advocating fundamentally revising economic theory in view of ecological limits.  Many alt-economics theorists question either the possibility or advisability of endless growth.

The fraternity of conventional economists appears to be highly resistant to these challenging new ideas.  Governments everywhere accept unquestioningly the existing growth-based economic paradigm, and this confers on mainstream economists a sense of power and success that makes them highly averse to self-examination and change.

Nevertheless, alternative thinking is still useful because as growth ends the managers of the economy will sooner or later be forced to try other approaches and it will be extremely important to have conceptual tools lying around that, in a crisis, could be quickly grasped and put to use.”

Debt

The final characteristic of having had 250 years’ worth of surplus energy at our disposal is the recent explosion in indebtedness.  The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) pointed out just this month that “public [sector] debt in most advanced economies has reached unprecedented levels in peacetime.  Even worse, official debt statistics understate the true scale of fiscal problems. The belief that governments do not face a solvency constraint is a dangerous illusion.”[14]  In other words, short of printing money, most advanced nations are going bankrupt.  Remember that we exist in a system in which all money is created through bank loans.  At any given moment, there is never enough money in existence to pay back all debts with interest.  Our system only continues to function as long as it is growing.  So what happens to the existing debt mountain in the absence of economic growth?  Answer: a debt crisis; and that’s what we’re experiencing in advanced economies now, which – because we live in a “world civilisation” – is in reality a global debt crisis. 13

The story of economic growth that has shaped the past 40 years was heavily dependent on, and financed with debt.  Our experience of “normal” economic conditions (per the deliberations of orthodox economists) was actually an unsustainable illusion, albeit a very pleasant one (I’m looking around me at all the “stuff” here in Castle Moraymint).  The BIS also calculates that on current policies, by 2040, the UK’s national debt will exceed 500% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), higher than any other major economy they studied.

Meantime, the Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) recently calculated what it called the “real national debt” by looking at substantial liabilities in relation to unfunded public sector pensions, unfunded state pensions, the Private Finance Initiative, Network Rail, nuclear decommissioning and a number of other items, as well as the considerable additional liabilities arising from bailing out insolvent banks.

The TPA discovered that during the last decade the real national debt had tripled, soaring from 230% (£2.3 trillion) of GDP to 560% (£7.9 trillion) of GDP today (so, no need to wait until 2040 for the BIS’s prediction to manifest itself).  The official national debt – the one quoted by the Chancellor in his budget – hugely understates taxpayer liabilities; the declared national debt only constitutes one-tenth of our real national debt.[15]

I suspect you’re getting the message about the debt thing, and I could go on and on about it.  For example, we haven’t touched on the fact that, in the UK at least, private sector or household indebtedness is an even bigger problem than public sector indebtedness.  But we don’t want to go there for now.

Recently, MoneyWeek (“the UK’s best-selling financial magazine”) published a sobering analysis entitled, “The End of Britain” (sorry, Carlos, we’re almost there).  In it, the MoneyWeek team said that:

“The seeds of our current predicament – essentially a profound debt problem – can be traced back over 100 years (well, we know that don’t we).  The outcome of our debt problem is inevitable – and the recession, joblessness and instability we see right now is only the first stage of it.  Many people think the slump we’re in now is as bad as it will get.  But the truth is, it’s only the start.

In fact, you will see the consequences of this deep-rooted problem unfold across the cities, towns and villages of Britain.  No one will escape the fallout.  In all recorded history, no country has ever recovered from the financial position we find ourselves in today.  No government has ever been able to reverse this trend. No emergency action has ever come close to a solution.  This inescapable problem has only ever had one outcome: financial collapse.”[16]

So says MoneyWeek (but see my postscripts below).

PoppyWhere’s the Upside?

OK, OK, I’ve done it again.  I run the risk of Carlos heading off to top himself and Mary refusing all further interactions with Dad Moraymint.  However, I wanted to leave you in no doubt that – according to the evidence as I see it – we live in truly extraordinary times.  Neither the political class nor the BBC (which are pretty much one and the same thing, but that’s the subject of another post) will ever tell it like this, for fear of frightening the horses.  The mainstream media generally, within which I include the broadsheet and the tabloid newspapers, is also failing to join the dots as far as I can tell.  Either that, or there’s one almighty conspiracy in hand to prevent word getting out that we could be f****d.  Since I don’t do conspiracy theories (honest) then I suspect the reality is more prosaic.

Our complex society and the politicians who (purport to) run it has so much baggage, so much history, so much momentum, so many vested interests that any suggestion that we might be on the cusp of collapse – which itself could extend over decades, even centuries (according to John Michael Greer, for example[17]) – is deemed to be fantastic nonsense.

My conclusion is that we are indeed living at the leading edge of the collapse of our complex, global society.  Future posts will, I promise, look at how this could present marvellous opportunities for my children, even if it’s all getting bit a late for me and my own generation.  And talking of it getting late: it’s past 10.00 pm on a Tuesday evening and so I’m going to bed.  Here’s to the upside!  And thanks for hanging in with that post; normal (brief posts) service will be resumed shortly.

————————————-

PS  Here’s another interesting tweet, this time from Jeremy Warner this morning (26 June): “I perhaps shouldn’t give this rubbish the oxygen of publicity, but if you want a good “end of days” laugh, read this http://bit.ly/135HsCi ” … “this” being MoneyWeek’s ‘End of Britain’ article to which I referred in my post above.  I’m conscious that MoneyWeek has an angle in publishing its thoughts on the state of the UK economy (doesn’t any newspaper/magazine?), but it would be helpful and interesting to have Mr Warner take apart the MoneyWeek analysis and explain where they’ve got it hopelessly wrong, to the point of the report being, well, laughable rubbish.  In the physical sciences this would be referred to as ‘peer review’.

PPS  It’s all go today.  Ed Conway (Sky News’ Economics Editor) has just tweeted: “Paul Tucker of [the Bank of England] says rise in govt bond yields & recent market fluctuations are an “amber light” for the financial system”.  But I thought MoneyWeek’s reference to potential financial collapse was laughable rubbish according to Jeremy Warner?  Do these economists know what they’re talking about?


[1].          ‘Consumerism’, Wikipedia.

[2].          ‘Energy – Reality Intrudes’, Moraymint Chatter, 19 February 2013.

[3].          ‘The Collapse of Complex Societies’, Joseph Tainter, Cambridge University Press, 1988.

[4].          Ian MacFarlane (economist and Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia 1996 – 2006) in his Boyer Lecture (2006).

[5].                ‘Is US Economic Growth Over?’, Professor Robert J Gordon, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Policy Insight No 63, September 2012.

[6].          ‘The Crash Course: The Unsustainable Future of Our Economy, Energy and the Environment’, Chris Martenson, Wiley, 2011.

[7].          ‘Peak Oil Overview’, Gail Tverberg, ‘Our Finite World’, 19 June 2007: http://tinyurl.com/mmkj9me

[8].          ‘Shale gas won’t stop peak oil, but could create an economic crisis’, Nafeez Ahmed, The Guardian: http://tinyurl.com/o5rfqhe

[9].          ‘Infinite growth on a finite planet?  Easy-peasy!’: http://tinyurl.com/phvp69f

[10].         Rupert Murdoch, Tweet, 0917 hrs, 23 June 2013.

[11].         ‘Have we really seen the end of growth?’, Jeremy Warner, The Daily Telegraph, 28 November 2012: http://tinyurl.com/men6mfq

[12].        The Second Law of Thermodynamic states that entropy (that is, disorder) always increases or remains constant in a closed system.  The entropy of a closed system can never decrease within that system.  Since the universe can be modelled as a closed system the universe is considered to be entropic – that is, running down.

[13].        ‘The End of Growth’, Richard Heinberg, New Society Publishers, 2011.

[14].         83rd BIS Annual Report 2012/13, 23 June 2013.

[15].         ‘The Real National Debt: A Decade of Reckless Growth’, The Taxpayers’ Alliance, 19 October 2010.

[16].         ‘The End of Britain’, MoneyWeek, http://tinyurl.com/nm5qrbe

[17].         ‘The Long Descent’, John Michael Greer, New Society Publishers, 2008.

22 comments

  1. After reading the terrifying Money Week article, I had a look to see if there was a good counter argument. I found this:-

    http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/moneyweek-and-their-end-of-britain.html

    Which seems to do a good job. It seems as ever that selective information is used to serve a particular interest.

    The monetary system is so complex and with such vested interests, its hard to know who or what to believe.

    Like

    1. moraymint · ·

      Thanks DS … will take a look. I agree wholeheartedly that it is extremely difficult these days to discern signal from noise (economically, politically and environmentally) and equally difficult to discern fact from fiction when it comes to competing vested interests.

      Like

  2. Xabier · ·

    Carlos

    A fine essay from you, too. Really an excellent presentation of the opposing view to Moraymint’s.

    On the whole though – and with all due respect because I greatly enjoyed it – it’s more a matter of rhetorical flourishes and knocking down of convenient Aunt Sallys, – exaggerated theories of decline and kneejerk Leftism, Eco-lunacy, etc) – with a good dash of wishful thinking, than a reasoned argument.

    It exactly, perfectly even, expresses the mentality developed in the 19th century which we must put aside if we are to face reality with any hope.

    To go into the future with this antiquated mentality, is the equivalent of a infantry assault against entrenched machine guns in 1916. Such assaults worked splendidly in 1813, when the machine gun didn’t exist, but we know what happened in 1916: our ‘machine gun’ in this context, the factor that makes all the difference? Finite resources; over-population; environmental degradation on a shocking scale; complex but unbalanced systems that fail to deliver proportionate benefits and suck the life out of economies. No amount of hopeful bravado will make these daunting facts go away. Sometimes the bullet does indeed have your name on it.

    Going back to consumption as the be-all and end-all of human endeavour, I fully agree that subsistence farming is a truly miserable fate, even for those born to it, but that’s not a fair characterisation of all those who advocate a retreat from the insanities, yes, insanities! of our current consumer economy. (And I like a little consumption now and then myself, so I’m not preaching in this. )

    Malthus put it very well in his ‘Political Economy’. He asked: how do you get a sane and intelligent human being, who is already well-clothed, sheltered and has enough to eat, to consume more than he needs? The answer? to foster an irrational desire for excess goods and luxuries far beyond his real needs! And the 20th century answered ithe – unlike the 19th c which believed in quality and durability – get him to want goods which are consumed instantly, or only last a few years and have to be replaced. And above all, get him into debt to buy them.

    If Malthus was wrong-footed by the invention and application of steam engines and the release of immense quantities of coal-powered energy, he got one principal thing very right: there is a distinction between sane consumption in a natural human economy, (like Pepys) and insane consumerism in a morally perverted system obsessed with inducing ‘growth.’

    Like

    1. moraymint · ·

      An excellent reply Xabier … I must re-visit Carlos’s missive in the light of your own comments.

      Like

  3. Carlos · ·

    Some initial thoughts on Moraymint’s last extensive blog….Seem to have lost all me formatting so you’ll have to muddle through!

    The Consumer Society? What other kind is there?

    The Consumer Society always existed – at least for some lucky bastards. Think pf the pharaohs, roman emperors, Nebuchadnezzar, Louis Quinze. They loved consuming and they were extremely good at it.
    All the market revolution did was make it available to more people. Pepys, according to his journal, was constantly slipping out to buy a sheet of music, a silk ‘kershief, a jar of rose-water. The streets he frequented – Holborn, Poultry, were lined with prestigious shops selling ‘luxuries’. The stuff he ‘needed’ like food, was sold in the market or from barrows.
    Consumption always is, and always was, the whole point of the economy. The line between fripperies, that are the sign of a consumer society gone ma,d and ‘necessities’ ie: ‘good’ consumption is one that’s impossible to draw.
    That consumption is the whole point of an economy was the fundamental misapprehension of the Soviet Union, and the rest of the communist system.

    The commissars in the 60s and 70s were proud to be building a new steelworks in Magnitogorsk simply to make traktor cogs, locomotive boilers and T-62 tanks. It felt right that their Stakanovichian efforts were all about… well, serious stuff. They weren’t making decadent things like beachbuggy panels, ball-bearings for pinball machines or ice-buckets for Crimean champagne, like those decadent capitalists.
    But they failed to pursue the thought to its logical conclusion.
    The only point of any production is for it to be consumed or ultimately to make further consumption possible. The traktor cogs allow the collective farms to grow more crops for people to eat so they have enough energy to do silly, or even illegal, things like listen to smuggled Beatles records or print samizdat leaflets.

    The locomotives weren’t really built to carry coal and iron ore to the steelworks. That was their secondary function. Because the ultimate point of all that steel was to make things for consumption by people. The only rational purpose of the T-62s, when we pursue the point relentlessly, is to defend the Motherland so the consumers can keep on doing all that self-indulgent consumption without foreign interference.

    Population, yes, Problem, no.

    There’s nothing surprising about the exponential nature of economies or population its the nature of compounding. We all know the story of the king agreeing, as a reward to the man who invented chess, to give him one grain of rice in the first square, two on the next and so on, until square 64 – more grains of rice than molecules in the universe. That’s the beauty of the market economy. But is it also the challenge of population growth?
    To paraphrase Matt Ridley writing here, birth rates go down because of prosperity, not poverty. The fact is, the rates of population growth are plummeting everywhere, even in the poorest parts of Africa. We don’t even clearly know why, in these very poor countries, its just happening. Without claiming any expert knowledge, I’d be very surprised if we even reach 9 billion.
    There’s a clear correlation between lower fertility and economic development, thanks to a process we saw ourselves in Victorian England. The country gets richer: nutrition, public health (ie drains and drinking water) and medical care all improve so more babies survive beyond five.
    People move away from hidebound, traditional villages to liberal, anonymous cities. Women get more education and more control of the family size. QED: fewer children per woman. It takes a couple of generations to work through to stable population levels, but it always happens.

    Feeding 9 million. No problemmo

    If the poorest farmers in the world could reach UK levels of productivity, including GM, fertilizers, mechanisation (which of course means most of them would no longer be farmers) there will be plenty of food for all nine billion living in 2050.
    They would also need to adopted modern methods of food storage and distribution. Yes, that means integration into national and international markets, agribusiness, food miles, packaging, advanced distribution systems. Boo hiss say the lefties, eco-loons and sentimentalists.
    But there’s nothing more tragic than subsistence agriculture. Its an idiotic, heartbreaking, boring way of life. Believe me, I’ve seen it at first hand, in Mexico. That’s why people in China can’t wait to leave the farm and go to the city to make Nikes. Don’t feel sorry for them. Its a step up.
    The foundation of all economic growth is that farming has to raise its productivity to free up people to be more productive making other products and providing other services. The process has been sweeping through humanity since the Stone Age.
    With First World levels of productivity and by saving the 50% of food that is currently lost to bad storage, pests, transport delays and other third-worldishness, there’ll be more than enough food to go around, using less land.
    Doom-mongers have been predicting world famine at least since Malthus. Funny that the world is better-fed today than ever in history.

    What’s wrong with Economics?

    First of all, lets get this ‘Dismal Science’ thing (by the way, a rather tatty Ad Hominem argument against all economists) out of the way. Economics, as I have always understood it, is not a science. It’s more a branch of philosophy mixed with psychology. It’s certainly one of the humanities.
    Sure, humans can sometimes be dismal. But they can also be optimistic, ambitious, ingenious and energetic. Particularly when it comes to money, trade and resource allocation, which are, after all, the meat and two veg of economics.
    But, at the risk of being melodramatic, there has long been, a battle for the soul of economics. A battle that, against all odds, is still going on.
    In my days as a student, Economics was divided into two main areas. Economics and Econometrics. The latter being all about numbers, formulas, maths, predictions. This was a seriously false dichotomy – but not the only one that infested Nottingham’s Economics department.
    I distinctly remember being taught – and this was at a pretty reputable English Red Brick as recently as 1975 – that there were two possible economic systems, both of which merited serious study. Capitalism, on the one hand and Communism, on the other. Compare and contrast, we were instructed, they’re both valid. Indeed, it was even proposed that the latter was possibly better, especially by the econometrics profs who were also more left-inclined.
    Econometrics, (and recall, we were calculating with slide rules and logarithmic tables) was, amongst other things, the solution to the resource allocation problem. A bureaucrat in Moscow, even with the inadequate tools to hand, could calculate how many fridges, bath mats or high-heeled shoes to make this year. He could even offer two or three different styles.
    Fast forward 25 years and the same bizarrely faulty thinking resulted in Scholes and Merton winning the 1997 Nobel Prize for Economics for their fancy-ass derivatives algorithms. They went on to form Long Term Capital Management and we all know what happened to that. If you don’t check this out.
    Despite its countless failures, the strange appeal of Economics as a mathematical, predictive, rather than literary, descriptive, discipline still holds many very clever, highly qualified and powerful people in its sway. It was this same cognitive error that contributed to the 2008 world banking crisis we’re still enduring.
    So what have economists – especially the literary ones – got to say about the market system? Economists invented it, so they should know how to fix it, yes?
    No.
    My attitude is that the market system is not an invention of man. Its an instinct, like language is an instinct. Or its a force, like gravity is a force. Put people together, and you’ll get a market economy.
    My seven year old son didn’t need a seminar from his dad to start trading his Halo soldiers with his schoolmates. It just happens, and unless the teacher, or some other Leviathan or force majeure – and that includes monopolists and rent-seekers – prevents it. Sorry that should be try to prevent it.
    The market, the trading instinct, is like water. You can’t squeeze it or crush it. You can try, but it’ll leak out, under force, or destroy the container. That’s exactly what happened to the Soviet system, as a matter of historical fact.

    The End is Nigh? Err.. no.

    Its a common fallacy to view one’s own times as in some way ‘Special’ Every generation seems to succomb to the temptation. Sure its nice to be ‘special’. Charitably, you could call it proximity bias or, to be blunt, it’s almost a form of vanity.
    Hey, Morayboy, don’t get the ‘ump. It’s not personal vanity I mean, but generational vanity. Same as saying ‘In my day, pop music had tunes’ or ‘the clothes kids wear today look ridiculous’. I mean, do you remember Loons? Showaddywaddy?
    To conclude, one needs to be very careful about saying this time, THIS time, I mean THIS TIME its the big one, the breakdown of society, end of days. Frankly, its not helpful if one is hoping to conjure up useful plans to solve current problems. If it is THIS time. Then we need to start laying down a store of tinned food and buying a subscription to Guns and Ammo. Seriously. Another way to put it is: ‘Calm down dear, it’s only an economic crisis’

    So, what’s so wrong with complex?

    The ‘Complex Society, containing within itself the Seeds of its own Destruction’ trope is a favorite amongst lefties, back-to-the-landers and eco-freaks. There was a thread of the same complexity-fear running Adolf’s thinking (Blut und Boden) not to mention Pol Pot’s and Mao’s. Not appropriate company for Moraymint to be keeping, I say.
    Lets look at complexity for a minute.
    Complexity is what makes everything work better! Complexity is almost a synonym for better. We humans are the most complex animals to have evolved. Dinosaurs, for example, were much less complex.
    Worms are a further degree less complex than T-Rex. Or Showaddywaddy.
    Sexual reproduction, on the other hand, is complex. Its ludicrously complex. Bonkers complicated, sometimes goes wrong, and can be unpredictable in its outcomes.
    Wouldn’t it be much easier if we humans just kind of divided into two parts, and wiggled away? Well I guess so, and yet the world is dominated by organisms that reproduce using sexual reproduction. How do we explain that?
    OK, well just left click on an object on your computer screen. Chances are one of the choices will be ‘View page source’ Now click on that, I dare you. That’s daft complex. Reams of incomprehensible type. But the elegant, streamlined icon, screen object or whatever that is produced by that complexity would not be possible without all that html gubbins under the hood.
    Today’s motor cars are vastly more complex than they were when I was a lad. My dad used to whip out the carburetors or the water pump out of his Triumph every weekend, rain or shine. Partly for fun and partly because… OK, just for fun.
    The complexity of today’s cars would probably baffle most weekend car mechanics. But, more importantly, there’s really no longer any point being one because our complex modern cars so reliable they don’t weekly, even monthly, attention.
    Then there’s natural selection. F**k my old boots, what a palava. Why couldn’t the big guy in the sky have just stuck with Lamarkism as a system for evolving life? Much less complex.
    Trouble is, it’s the long-winded, eon-defying, ultra-complex, (and yet gobsmackingly, brutally, simple) process of natural selection that has created the splendour, diversity and joyous complexity of the world we live in. And, incidentally, provided us with brains capable of writing blogs.
    The complex business of natural selection involves enormous ‘waste’. (I heard Christopher Hitchens, may his name be praised, say that 99% of species that ever existed are now extinct.) Well the handmaiden of the ‘Our Modern World is Too Complex’ trope is that it is also too wasteful.

    What is ‘waste’ anyway?

    To me there’s waste and there’s waste. That sentence, for example, was a wasteful. Throwing away leftover mashed potato and old boiled cabbage is also, to my mind, wasteful.

    (Even after several days in the fridge those two ingredients are peerless, all mixed up with freshly ground pepper, a little powdered Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated garlic, pinch of Maldon, then fried in XV Olive Oil. A dash of thick cream in the mix is worth considering, too. The oil needs to be really hot. In fact, one might prefer to use a less noble oil – and I don’t mean Castrol GTX – to achieve a higher frying temperature. The result, if you can resist the temptation to turn the mouth watering mixture over too much, will be a delicious semi-burned crusty layer. You can turn over once you got one of those because that way you’ll more of them. Finally you tip it out on a plate, topped off with the two soft fried eggs that you’ve been supervising on the other ring. A dash of cream on top and more cheese sprinkled and you’re made in the shade, baby).

    That elaborate recipe for bubble and squeak is only there to exemplify once again the wonder of complexity. Admit it, Men who Cook. Aren’t you turned on by that level of intense detail especially about something so trivial? I would hazard that as well as being pattern-seeking mammals we are complexity-seeking as well.

    But that was a digression. We were talking about waste. Evolution is wasteful which is bad enough, but our complex modern world even more bloody wasteful, isn’t it? The theory seems to be: Complex & Wasteful = Bound-to-Collapse & Baaaaad.

    I beg to differ.

    The free-market system that prevails in our world has been criticised by Moraymint for being worryingly complex and implicit in that view is that its also wasteful. Why, oh why, oh why, do we need fifty different kinds of breakfast cereal? Why are there dozens of fridge manufacturers? Do we really need all this stuff? All this choice? WTF?

    Item: up in my neck of the woods, SE Cheshire, Derbyshire Peak, is the route of the Great Central Main Line Railway. Magnificent viaducts, awesomely-long platforms, steep plunging cuttings, heroic embankments, long, long tunnels. Even aqueducts to carry canals over the line.

    All now abandoned, derelict, and weed-infested – the Permanent Way given over walkers and mountain-bikers.

    This railway was the swan song of the Victorian railway boom, opening in 1899. The humongous investment involved is obvious. As the last of four lines built from London to the North of England, it never made any money or carried many passengers. We now have two lines from London to the North. The other two are cycleways.

    I personally quite like abandoned, anachronistic, superannuated buildings. Believe me, I’d love to spend a few days wandering around downtown Detroit, checking out this beauty, for example. But there’s an important point to be made here.

    The ‘waste’ of building the Great Central Main Line Railway is an essential part of the market system. What better way is there to find out which is the best route from London to God’s Own Country than to build several and try them out? And it encourages them all – no, forces them – to be as good as they can be.
    There’s a reason Boeing have been running around like blue-arsed flies trying to fix the batteries in the Dreamliner. And that’s because they know that Jean-Claude from Toulouse is already on the phone to airline chiefs worldwide inviting them over for a grande bouf followed by a tour of the A320 production line.
    Lefties, eco-crazies and others would say, well if people must bloody well fly, why on earth don’t we have just one major airliner manufacturer? Why do we need two – isn’t that a waste? Duplicating the research, testing, manufacturing plants, not to mention all that marketing expenditure. I mean, the planes are almost indistinguishable, especially on the inside, which is the part most of us only ever see.
    But it is the ‘waste’ of competition that pulls standards up, encourages technological advances, and keeps prices down. The time to be afraid is when there’s only one supplier of an important product or service. And even more afraid if that monopoly supplier is an apparatchik with an office overlooking Red Square. Or Whitehall.
    What is ‘waste’ in the larger context anyway? We are mammals, which means we are animals. Like ants, for example.
    We wouldn’t say: how wasteful are those ants moving all that soil from this side to that side. And then back again. And there we can see a couple of anthills very close to each other. Should we wish them to combine their two anthills to reap the benefits of economies of scale? Does that make sense? Well, we are just ants writ large.
    The Pyramids of Giza were by any measure, a complete waste of effort. But is it really a shame the pharaoh didn’t, instead, divert resources to building mud and wattle sure start centres and maternity clinics for the underprivileged farmers of the Nile Delta?
    The viaducts of the Great Central Main Line Railway can be viewed the same way. They now stand as testaments to folly, you might say. But they are also monuments not only to the market system, but also to human achievement. We need some wonder and awe in this life as well as the quotidian and mundane.
    There’s more coming down the line. Bit short of time today!

    Like

    1. moraymint · ·

      Thank you Carlos! I now need to read your reply several times to digest the details of your counter-argument …

      Like

      1. carlosgoldenhorde · ·

        Actually Moraymint, having knocked the damned thing off fairly quickly, there are clearly some additional points that remain unmade, unfinished arguments, non-sequiturs and other hems that need stitching, etc.

        Perhaps I can take you up on your very generous offer of a guest blog where I can format the thing properly as well, with reference links and so forth.

        What say you?

        CGH

        Like

        1. moraymint · ·

          Yes, please email me your text in, say, MS Word (to moraymint@millbank.myzen.co.uk) and I shall upload it as a Guest Post (unedited, of course).

          Like

          1. carlosgoldenhorde · ·

            OK Moraymint, leave that with me. It’ll take a couple of days max, hopefully fewer.

            Like

            1. moraymint · ·

              Perfecto! The cycle of this blog is weekly-ish …

              Like

              1. carlosgoldenhorde · ·

                Hi Moraymint

                Attached is my final ms.

                Been an interesting process, you know, thinking, expressing cohesive thoughts.

                My brain hurts!

                Cx

                Like

  4. Xabier · ·

    Fine essay.

    But may we have one on your splendid working dog who makes a guest appearance, presumably to cheer us all up? No day is a bad day that has a spaniel in it.

    Well, that’s a suggestion for a positive theme one day.

    Like

  5. Ernie · ·

    A thought provoking article questioning one of our fundamental foundations of human civilisation. Other than a “cheap” surge in nuclear generated electricity to extend our thirst for cheap energy to fuel mankind’s thrust for wealth then the reduction in fossil sunshine will not only dim our current visions for the future but questions our ability to accommodate the levels of population on our small, finite planet. Perhaps we need many more Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics graduates to work on this problem; far too many take up other careers and transfer their skills elsewhere (being a “Rock Ape” with a Physics degree seems to be a little too “random” for me to take in but I am warming to the idea.)

    So without a nuclear solution then:

    How can we even fight a war to secure the remaining, dwindling resources of fossil sunshine other than chucking megaton buckets of stardust generated sunshine around?

    Resorting to windmills will be Quixotic – waste of time.

    Conservation will only drag out the inevitable end result.

    Moraymint, did I miss the cheerful bit in your post?

    Like

    1. moraymint · ·

      Cheerful stuff to follow Ernie. I’ve been carrying that post around in my head for months now. Needed to document it before moving on to the ‘proposals’ phase of this blog!

      Like

  6. Bickers · ·

    Wow, that’s some blog. For me the two greatest problems/challenges we face are (i) getting Governments to stop confiscating the wealth created by the private sector and borrowing/spending unsustainably & (ii) killing the AGW/CO2 causes dangerous global warming myth.

    To achieve this in the UK we’ll need to vote in UKIP and have a system similar to the Swiss that enables the electorate to hold MP’s to account.

    Population growth will only continue to be a problem if we don’t sort out poverty and education. Whenever a country achieves median levels of prosperity and an educated population birth rates drop (often below sustainable levels e.g. Italy).

    Like

  7. Hello Moraymint. Another Opus Majus, I see.

    With regard to debt, this paper by Stretton and Upstone is worth perusing.

    http://e3policy.org/p/A-National-Savings-Bank.pdf

    But any discussion of debt cannot be divorced from a consideration of the value of the currency in which the debt is expressed. Below is a link to what the long-term value of the pound has been and where it is headed (down the pan). This paper is available in updated form via the parliament.uk website. To my eyes Chart 4, the value of the pound log scale, says it all. It must be remembered that a straight line on a log scale is an exponential. And the reciprocal of the value of the pound must be the general price level. Since the advent of Keynesianism prices have gone exponential.

    http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CDgQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.parliament.uk%2Fbriefing-papers%2Frp06-09.pdf&ei=B-fKUYGCKtDu0gW75oDgDQ&usg=AFQjCNEXeTLwtD8W8C3wJqb232FtJ4Fjag&bvm=bv.48340889,d.d2k

    You say: ‘Remember that we exist in a system in which all money is created through bank loans. At any given moment, there is never enough money in existence to pay back all debts with interest’.

    Indeed, so true. As an alternative to reading the turgid work of Frederick Soddy or the huge works of von Mises, I recommend Paul Grignon’s animated cartoons as a 40 minute introduction to the concepts and fraud inherent in fractional reserve banking, credit expansion and bank ‘loans’.

    Here’s a question: if banks do not lend money but rather extend credit that is turned into money when the credit is spent, why is the bank repaid for its credit service with real money based on a person’s production of goods or services? Why has the public paid hundreds of billions of pounds to banks that have suffered losses of money they didn’t have in the first place?

    All the best,

    Like

  8. bob hill · ·

    Another excellent article…you`ll have to forgive me for my lack of economic knowledge, but are all economies just resembling party “balloons?”…they`re inflated by economic expansion, and when that stalls (global downturn etc.) we let some of energy/expansion out by taking our finger off the neck?…I know that it must sound too simplistic, but all economies must the ability to expand & contract.

    Like

  9. mark deacon · ·

    As an article very good reckon I can give it 7 out of 10, two detracted for odd bits not covered
    and one because nobody is perfect. The last part is a pun to getting 100% in a theoretical pyhiscs exam at UNI. Dowgraded to 99% and they told me so.

    Like the article very much, my perspective also and as a gist what has transpired. If like me, I would never have thought 20 years ago my mind would be in such a place of scrutinizing the “extraordinary times” and the actions of supposedly far better people. Seem to have been here a long time yet still fathomed a way to exist the right way a poltician would never give the time of day. Not that radical to be honest neither and though people may feel they are cattle, under industrialisation inf fact you are! Purchases by volume count.

    For those closest to you.

    Look on it as a challenge, it is called survival and how those closest to you should regard you on this. I suffer the same, reality check though, have said this to family also “you will never go over a cliff while I keep going on at you” because you will refrain from leaping 🙂 That is how you should maybe consider yourself and if you do not speak out they will leap.

    For the article as a whole industrialisation.

    When mankind as a species crossed the thresh-hold so to speak, the productive capability and the increased consumption of energy crossed over funded by an old style economy. The economic system though we so lovingly hold dear is “mired in the past” where those with plenty can never allow it to change. This I speak no more of because powers that be will deny it to the bitter end wether you think it right or wrong does not matter,

    Maybe a better example, it is the economy “the article you wrote does imply this and forget houses”.

    To have all you want! 1 person 40 hour week, 2 people 20 hours, … 10 people 4 hours etc. What the economic system is pushing for is 1 has 40 hours, 9 have none and the 9 fall into poverty courtesy of the bankers / polticians. What those responsible and to keep industrializaion can’t figure out is you need 10 people buying goodies to keep the one on 40 hours a week in a job.
    By the way the one is at risk eventually through robotics soon to be < 1. (It never goes away).

    A prevention comment for the powerseekers.

    Before any radical nutter at the top like a president, prime minister or dictator starts wiping out vast populations the employment level is set at a % of the population so it is not relevant to the population number, "only to the efficiency of industrialisation".

    Good article, worth a read just to grasp the overview so many do not see.

    Like

  10. MoneyWeek upgraded that presentation into a video (but it’s hard to find the link by searching their site). Here’s a more memorable link I use to remember it easrier:- http://bit.ly/moneyweek-end-of-uk

    Worth watching, put the kettle on…

    Like

  11. scriptmonk3y · ·

    I’m happy that I just poured myself nice glass of 18yr old Talisker when I received the email, telling me that my ex boss has once again seen fit to share his wisdom with the troops. I sat down and digested your wall of text with enthusiasm and nodded in all the right places, taking care to keep my mouth hydrated frequently. As usual you’ve left us with plenty to think about and backed it all up with references.
    It still amazes me that there are still people around, who actually believe what we’re going through is just a blip and it will all settle. It reminds me of the poor Jehovas witness who came to visit last week. I was hell bent (pun intended) on converting him to some form of humanism, while he tried to convert me to his mysticism but even though he came armed with theories and his “just because we can’t be an accident” and I countered everything he said with peer re-viewable science he just could not get his head around it. He still believes his magical world exists simply because the alternative is just too scary.

    Just like the mainstream population are acting right now.

    A little note to Carlos, Mary and anyone else worried about your focussing on the downsides in here. Mr Mint is still enjoying life with family and friends (old and new) and I’m sure that this wordpress blog offers a form of therapy for him. Let him have his release. While you benefit from his love/friendship the rest of us benefit from his wisdom.

    🙂

    Like

  12. IdahoRecluse · ·

    “Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.” ― Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC)

    Like

    1. moraymint · ·

      Love it … what goes around, comes around …

      Like

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