Gardenworld Politics

Here is a  link to the  draft chapters of Gardenworld Politics:   link

The blog posts that follow are about the book, about news that pertains to the book. Gardenworld Politics  brings together the need for food and habitat with  humans engaged in the craftsmanship of  making new communities that meet needs and are attractive. The book  considers the major alternative, the technological acceleration scenario.

Blog below, newest post on top .

2161. Economy produces society

Amidst the texture of the day, hard to be provocative. Things are being said in mainstream press and by public intellectuals that would have been held back until now. Complaints about the US, from slavery to indigenous americans – fake wars (almost all since ww2 and those before WW1, about the political leadership of both paties, about economics.

What is clear – that always was but not spoken so much – is that the state of society is a product of economy. The plight of poverty – inequality, racism – redlining and poorer education ,  rents ,   military budget keynesianism – 

The task for  us is to integrate social understanding into economics, to make economists into historians, artists, sociologists, philosophers and sensate human beings. I have been wtching the Metropolitan Opera steaming most nights for a few weeks. All operas involve love affairs torn apart by social class differences.   The state of lived lives should be the baseline for judging economic thinking and the performance of the economy. Things like “per capita GDP” are instruments for serious lying. The rising cost of college education, with the dependency of the colleges on forign students to meet college budgets,  is a crime – did we not see it?

We must do better.

The task for  us is to integrate social understanding into economics, to make economists into historians, artists, sociologists, philosophers and sensate human beings. I have been wtching the Metropolitan Opera steaming most nights for a few weeks. All operas involve love affairs torn apart by social class differences.   The state of lived lives should be the baseline for judging economic thinking and the performance of the economy. Things like “per capita GDP” are instruments for serious lying. The rising cost of college education, with the dependency of the colleges on forign students to meet college budgets,  is a crime – did we not see it?

We must do better.

2160. Concepts change over time.

256 may 25. Things change

Economics tends to proceed as though ideas such as capital, interest, tax, land, ownership, labor  are fixed in the state of nature, not flowing as conditions change. God given for eternity, not man made and shifting. Here is a simple example of change in a concept, in this case the idea of quaint which shifts from knowledgeable to antiquated  and cute, from a compliment to deeply critical, which is, over time, a complete reversal. A good example in economies is political economy, which shifts from being a convservatue calculation perspective to a progressive humanism.

From etymology online (a great resource for any key word in economics).


c. 1200, cointe, “cunning, ingenious; proud,” from Old French cointe “knowledgeable, well-informed; clever; arrogant, proud; elegant, gracious,” from Latin cognitus “known, approved,” past participle of cognoscere “get or come to know well” (see cognizance). Modern spelling is from early 14c.

Later in English, “elaborate, skillfully made” (c. 1300); “strange and clever” (mid-14c.). Sense of “old-fashioned but charming” is first attested 1795, and could describe the word itself, which had become rare after c. 1700 (though it soon recovered popularity in this secondary sense). Related: Quaintly; quaintness.

2159. Can we actually make structural changes?


The Guardian among many others  published this op-ed signed by (Pistor, Cagé, Tcherneva, Piketty, Galbraith, Zucman and many others). The op-ed has been signed by more than 3,000 researchers as an urgent call to action that the lessons of the COVID-19 crisis include a need to rewrite the rules of our economic system in order to create a more democratic and sustainable society.

 The basic idea is that society is in trouble and needs changes. A few are mentioned in broad outline, but no discussion of the politics and conflicts that need to be engaged to actually make anything happen.  Since economics focuses on the formal and has pushed most politics anthropology history and more out of its consideration economics seems to not know how to engage in actual social change by discussing things that need to change and how to effect that change.  I quote the copy published in the Guardian.

How to avoid this unacceptable situation? By involving employees in decisions relating to their lives and futures in the workplace – by democratising firms. By decommodifying work – by collectively guaranteeing useful employment to all. As we face the monstrous risk of pandemic and environmental collapse, making these strategic changes would allow us to ensure the dignity of all citizens while marshalling the collective strength and effort we need to preserve our life together on this planet.”

The guardian writes “They are the core constituency of the firm, but are, nonetheless, mostly excluded from participating in the government of their workplaces – a right monopolised by capital investors.”

“ Let us fool ourselves no longer: left to their own devices, most capital investors will not care for the dignity of labour investors, nor will they lead the fight against environmental catastrophe. Another option is available. Democratise firms; decommodify work; stop treating human beings as resources so that we can focus together on sustaining life on this planet.”

OK, democratize. What does it mean? Do  we have any examples of democratizing existing bureaucracies? Who would resist? How to handle the resulting conflicts?

 Worker owned forms  (I used to consult for the US Cooperative bank) are very conservative and equilibrium seeking and then holding on to it). We would need a discussion of how democracy deals with policy, conflict, innovation.

Whatever the state within economics (and increasingly in other social sciences,  also opting for formal analysis and dropping the narrative side of their research efforts) we are in a mess but seem to have little capacity for any structural proposals, such as changes in the law,  of the institutions of  governance – the nation state, “representative democracy”,  and the way to achieve such proposed changes, if any would be proposed. . Roberto Unger at Havard law has an interesting new book, The Knowledge Economy which faces the question of the need for structural change ) but without much resolution. The rogressives do not have an agenda of change. Green new deal is stuck with growth an fullemplouyment bt no plan on how to get there,


In a friend’ company, a leading mid sized biotech firm,  the division between essential and non essential includes the CEO and the head of research in the non-essential category. The essentials have to come to work but the non-essentials can work from home.The company is reconsidering with great seriousness if it needs those who are considered non-essential.The essential includes the lab workers, the manufacturing people and the maintenance people. This kind of questioning seems widespread.And then there are computers and algorithms waiting to take on higher level jobs…..


2158. Political ecology and the three curves.

I met with a group of biologists, researchers in cell biology  and doctors, yesterday. The COVID-19 is powerful, stange. More complex in structure than previous COVIDS. Many unknowns. They were very pessimistic. Even if an antidote is created, manufacturing it at scale is very hard.  It  is a very demanding process requiring growth in eggs or animals. They think ten years before we have a global capacity antiviral capacity . If there is hope they, agree,  it is in the unknown. New antivirus, new zapping technology, new? But this is unknown, not to be counted on.

We are looking at a suppressed peak but waves of  COVID-19 recurrence long into the future.

At the same time the economy will not fully recover. New hotspots will curtail some businesses and missing employees who chose not to work will make the economy feel moth eaten, a crumbling bridge to the future. Desire to spend beyond necessities is down in a society dependent on consumer confidence. Supply chains are vulnerable and of course, as Martin Wolff wrote last week, you cannot order people to go to work. Musk’s behavior threatening to move out of California is costing him social capital. How long can the states keep up unemployment insurance? What about the large number who are undocumented and have no benefits and are hungry? It seems to me that state and major corporate bankruptcies are on the near horizon. Maybe this week?

So we have two curves above zero out into the future of measures of damage. But those two curves, two futures,  interact with each other. Now, add to that the rising curve of co2, increasing temperatures, rising seas, declining fish  and we now have three curves, all of large scale damage. We need to find a way to act.

Do we need a manhattan style project, really smart people given lots of resources, to deal with those three  curves simultaneously? Would this require a state with unlimited powers? We need economic and political and health innovations simultaneously. Political ecology.

Where might the leadership of such a mega approach arise? Or do we chose radical decentralization?

I highly recommend Pandemics and the shape of human history in the New Yorker


2156. Crisis and desire

Most people sense the need for moving toward a simpler world but many, reading between the lines, don’t want to go there and are resisting thinking about it.

We also have the problem that the world of elites are so i control – with surveillance and potential control of the police,

“it is as though a significant segment of the ruling classes (known today rather too loosely as “the elites”) had concluded that the earth no longer had room enough for them and for everyone else. Consequently, they decided that it was pointless to act as though history were going to continue to move toward a common horizon, toward a world in which all humans could prosper equally. From the 1980s on, the ruling classes stopped purporting to lead and began instead to shelter themselves from the world.”

Excerpt From: Bruno Latour. “Politics in the New Climatic Regime.” iBooks.

2155. Some side thoughts while COVID and Climate are central

Several thoughts

  • why do we have to have corporations? If we didn’t have a procedure for incorporations society would be simpler. Economics treats a corporation as a single person, a rational “agent”. Is it rational to seek monopoly or to trash the environment? Maybe without corporations we could avoid the super rich and have much more local innovation and interesting communities.


  • Speaking of whom…. It seems amazing that economics has not come up with a way of more fairly distributing the gross earnings of a corporation among capital, workers, managers, inventors and on to schools that educated the workers and customers so they could be exploited, and the streets and wires and land, even the earth itself? A distribution that measures their contribution. It is impossible to imagine that Tim Cook made that much of a contribution, or that Jeff Bezos alone is responsible for Amazon. Society provided him with the workers customers and market in which he became the major player. Someone had to be the largest, that is given by logic, and the product of society, not of Jeff.


  • I was zoomed into our country supervisors meeting last week. There was a report by an economist on the future of the county economy. His presentation was built around supply, demand, regulations, percentage unemployed, housing starts. The underlying logic was how to return those numbers to “normal”. There was no crack in the presentation where raising the question of trying something new could enter. There was no mention of the climate change issues nor of the plight of the bottom part of the county’s economy. It was pure econ 101 .


  • Background: during WW2 we had full employment, including for the first time many women who worked the factories as the men were drafted. With lots of constraints on consumption, saving went up, so at the end of the war, with Europe destroyed, the US was rich, employed and ready to spend. This rapid growth during the war and afterwards led to new orders of complexity (McNamara was head of the project to manage the one million parts in a B29 bomber – precomputer)The middle class grew as the communication links in the new complexity. Corporations made a deal with the Unions – keep production going with no strikes and we will pay well. The arrival of the computers quickly undermined that middle class function of communication. The result has been a reversion to the prewar condition of wealthy owners and poor workers with a little need for a middle class (which was mainly sole proprietor professionals and small shopkeepers)


  • The economy is part of society, not the other way around. Capitalism (where major decisions are made by money not votes) should be for the good of the larger society which supports business, rather than society being the hunting ground for the rich. Can this be done, or is it the nature of society that we stuck forever with a greedy elite and a revolutionary under class?

2154 Financial Times on lockdown and carbon


quoting financial times

The lockdowns have indeed suppressed carbon dioxide emissions, but less than we might hope. The climate science website Carbon Brief estimates that emissions in 2020 are likely to fall by about 5 or 6 per cent relative to emissions last year. That would be the largest fall on record. What might be a surprise is that it is not enough. If the cuts were compounded at that rate for the rest of the decade, we’d still fall short of what the UN Environment Programme estimates would be needed to restrict global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees. (A 2 degree target would be easier: five pandemics in the next decade would suffice.)

2153. story too complex?

In conversation with some biologists yesterday about the anniversary of the oil spill in the Gulf. Biologists found that species:  crabs, shrimp, fish INCREASED. Counter intuitive. And senior biologists told them not to publish the results “as it went against the established narrative, that spill was bad for gulf life”.  It looked like the spill led to an increase in Gulf life. 

So what happened? As a result of the spill fishing was stopped, but “fishing” meant sea bed dragging. Stopping the dragging led to a flourishing of life that had been dragged off the bottom and killed. Hence the spill led to more Gulf  life, but through an unrecognized intermediate step – stopping the dragging despite the presence of millions of gallons of spill.

Is that story too hard to tell?



2152. Gardenworld is urgent

Gardenworld is increasingly  urgent as the most plausible way of coping with  the global situation.  We need a vision of a livable world that we can guide our actions.

Gardenworld is the blend of gardening, habitat and craft.