post 2036. Operating the system at a loss

Provocation #217 Operating the system at a net loss.

Capitalism is a problem for society  because it  maximizes profit and money wealth, not the quality of the society or of lives. Instead of managing for ecological health and the benefits of tech for the elimination of labor, it manages the whole for the good of a part, destroying the environment and crippling the people.

Capitalism exploits what is created and taken as if free and charges for it: trees, minerals, plants all of which have some human input but the main value is produced by the earth and then taken, worked and charged for. A few acres of redwoods bought for X, cut and sold for many times X, perhaps a 20 cents aboard foot. But think of what it took nature to make that board foot.  What is sold in the market, or taken to the end of building a new house,  includes unpaid work, such as the raising of children that are then taken by the employer for wages. The result is the depletion of the earth and of society. The whole supports a part.

Moreover, everything that is sold is sold for less than the total costs of production.  Think of what you pay for  your morning coffee. That payment is distributed back down the chain to the importers, the ships, the plantation. But the chain keeps on going, through the earth, its minerals and organics,  to the rain and sun. These last steps are not paid for nearly what they are worth. The result is an overall depletion of the earth without renewal nor compensation. Thus capitalism can appear to be making a profit but it is actually operating at a loss. We have used up much of the topsoil and polluted the atmosphere and impoverished much of the population (if you think of what it takes to raise a child and then that child as an adult, on the coffee plantation, paid).  

Bad system management. One result is that we do not have the leverage to repair the system and we have too many people, too much output,  too many guns and we can’t see a way to keep it from collapsing. Is anything better possible? Is there an economics for ecological restoration where there is no product nor  service but general good? Is there a way to distribute the fruits of tech so that everyone benefits from “labor saving”?



2033. The Democrats have no path.

Democrats and much of the voters are stuck. The old Democratic party of workers evolved since the 60’s to representing the professional middle class represented by the Clinton’s. The problem now is, the Democrats can’t go back, because the labor they lost became the middle class that is now losing out, and those people don’t want to be labor, they want to be middle class and have salaries, not wages.. That group, the vulnerable middle class , is looking for a solution that will give them good salaried employment,  but  the context is climate change and the need to use no carbon fuel. Automation also is in the wings ready to compete for any new jobs.

There is no possibility of a vibrant middle class of consumer style living. The population will need to embrace agriculture to survive. No politician is yet ready to tell this truth. What the people want the Democrats cannot deliver and people in their frustration – in a huge game of musical chairs – are attracted to Trump’s disruptions, which going much further will lead to wars arrests, closings.



Post 2027. Strategy and climate – by whom? What?r

There are three obvious sets of actors

  • corporate
  • state
  • decentralized
  • Unknown  4th?

What will happen is likely to be a mix with one dominant.

Four obvious approaches/strategies

  • Stop co2 and shrink the economy
  • Stop co2 and innovate green like mad to expand the economy
  • Just invent new technologies
  • Do nothing

Those who prefer decentralization with its open society with equity  (guaranteed annual income) approach are hostile to  what a massive corporate initiative might be like. My sense is that we will not do the future without taking into account the momentum of the present.  Corporations and capital certain dominate now. It is hard to believe that they would just give up to serious climate change, especially when the alternative as they see it might be “green rush” for the gold, with increasing centralization of wealth, class, power, and, they would hope, quality of life as the Plant struggles.. They would mobilize rapidly This is a challenge to government and local initiatives because the corporate feudal system  would want to not be motivated by the negative of climate but seize the day, milk the society for all the cash it can to invent, organize and profit from the activity.

That is, corporations would have a three-fold  agenda.

  • Deal with climate heating
  •  Increase but at least maintain capital flow by going massive  green
  • Maintain security for themselves (the top 1% plus their support people  in law,  politics, education, health, lan, etc.).

One unknown is the Internet

  • Internet of social surveillance
  • Inernet or organizing grass roots, local initiatives into a full bore coping with climate realitiies.

Aso unknown is the character of a majority of the people at the top. Push comes to shove, prefer a more decentralized or clearly corporatist society?


The Green New Deal proposes

  • stop fossil fuel to zero,
  • deal wiht the resulting social chaos wiht guarnateed annual wage, training.

The problem is what if we get the first but not the second? This is the approach I think the corporatists will want to take.





Post 2027. The lawful and the unique. Economics avoids the unique.

Provocation 2013. The lawful and the unique. Economics avoids the unique.

Science has taken the view that things that can be made into “laws” are worthy of science. Unique events not so.

Mary is standing by herself on the livingroom floor. Newton’s F=MA tells us how much she weighs.

But Mary sees  Jane’s dropped handkerchief, which suggests a drama. 

Economics deals with things like the first but ignores (as unscientific) things like the second.  Bt real life, including economic life is vastly more made up of events  like the second. This is important for climate change discussions. Economics talks easily about shifting energy source from fossil to wind and solar but does not discuss how Harry will need to get rid of the family’s gas heater an replace it with electric. Who pays? How many such heaters have to be made? How long will it take?

If science was  interested in the world  it would explore both kinds of events. In that sense science is not scientific but ideological. 

Post # 2037.

Provocation  # 206 MonopolyEconomics prides itself on mathematical sophistication, yet..

Following up on the previous Post

The functioning of the market is toward monopoly because those with power and money can acquire more power and money at cheeper prices than those with less. We sort of know this, but do we imagine our way to the outcome? Mirowski’s Machine Dreams proposed that the aim of economics is to create s a single system of all interconnected computers. Because computers are based on 0-1 the impression is given that they are already commensurate and programming can create all the useful interconnections.  

The obvious example is the blending of the data of national security with that from  broad based consumerism. The tendency is to have consumers interact with producers ont through large computer networks, in this case,  so far,  Amazon. Who among government, Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft will be the first to buy one of the others? We are moving toward a time when in practice, if not law, only those transactions mediated by Amazon’s computers will be legitimate, and  all produces know that the only way to reach the customers is through the amazon network.   All malls and retail outlets are going out of business and mailed catalogues reach only a Few.  

The security perspective can already identify those who are the enemies of that emerging system. The only way monopolization fails is in places where the system is somehow locally broken. 

Economics is at the center of this emergent monopoly yet it seems not to be discussed much within economics, despite how obvious it is.  Yet its graduates go off to jobs to manage  its emergence, the final realization that all data is interconnected through a single monopoly owned business protected by the national security state.

Big data will emerge as the mangement and governance structure of society. No need to vote because Amazon knows your preferences. Google has photoed your street,  it is all put together.  Who you are is now more clearly represented in the amazon-google-gov nexus than you are known to yourself. “Relax”, they say, “you are taken cae of.” But the reality is they take care of themselves with cash flow through the nexus to themselves, the  few. This fact will be hidden from the press and the networks. 

The problem with big data is that it can ferret out some measurable element that is, however small, present in much of the population, but it misses entirely what is powerful and idiosyncratic to only a few. 

The trouble is that if something goes wrong, like a hyper-energized climate that threatens major players in the monopoly tending system, no action will be taken. 

Fred Hoyle, the cosmologist, proposed in his Ten Faces of the Universe (1977) that the reson we are not visited by other planets is because no civilization as solved the political problem of how to survive internal political civil wars while developing the technical sophistication that would allow them to arrive here.

Good background to this line of thinking is in the Youtube interview by Naomi Klein of Shoshana Zuboff about her book  The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. My view is that the interview is much better than the book but  the book is rich in detail. 

Why is it, that in politics and economics, the more penetrating and and humane books are being written by women, not men?  My understanding, which could be wrong, is that women, not given access to the standard career paths, had to find other ways, and this kept them on the sidelines from which a better perspective can be gained than for those in the mainstream. Not being in the spotlight they are left freer to think.

Post # 2025 Capitalism and economics as plumbing

Provocation # 196

Economics can be seen as a kind if systems maintenance manual, plumbing for the flow of dollars in the economy. If economics were more seriously interested in science it would raise questions like: what is capitalism, what is socialism and if we understand these, is there a third possibility?


The financial times has a challenging article on when economic good is driven at a strategic level so that it becomes a huge force in society,  by pulling and pushing millions out of their villages, breaking up their lives and communities, in the effort to make their lives better. 

But the reality is the land goes to weeds attended by the old and sick who have been left behind. Then the economy slows and those who went to the cities are struggling, losing hope. How do we struggle to help the billions while sensitive to their lived lives?

The fight for survival in China’s abandoned rural towns

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Four very serious and difficult readings on global heating. I would very much appreciate reactions to these, each saying the climate problem is more difficult than the previous.

Andreas Malm Fossil Capital

The problem is not human nature but capitalism and capitalists. Society seems to lack the leverage to do anything

Naomi Klein This Changes Everything

Capitalism is the problem but there are things we can do

Roger Annis

Real socialism and a different regime needed

Alexander Dunlop

True socialism won’t work because green energy still costs lots of environmental damage. The energy and materials cots for producing a single wind turbine are shockingly high. No way out.

Post # 2023. No plan for the societal side of climate change

Provocation # 174.

So far as I am aware, there is no plan proposed by anybody that deals with the social disruption of climate breakdown and the social disruption of trying to prevent that disruption in anything like implementable detail. If you know of any please let me know.’

The Green New Deal proposed by Cortez and supported by Naomi Kline still suggests that we can get sufficiently more green while growing the economy into fuller employment with increased equity and avert the collapse. But there are few details.

At best, if we are to attempt to mitigate global heating, many jobs will have to cease because they use so much fossil fuel. Is anyone planning for such a transition with its disruptions?

Serious mitigation probably means stopping lots of economic activity. Even if new economic activity arises at the same time, it will not be in the same space, which means millions moving. The disruption would be intense and the time lags devastating. We have no serious analysis of what jobs must continue or we get catastrophes, such as maintaining nuclear reactors. Left alone they will explode.

Not discussing these and making plans means that we support muddling through the next few years. But at some point, public reaction to our being stupid about the inevitable will stir up serious anger.

The new factor might be a youth movement, already developing, demanding radical changes. But there is no plan for what those radical changes would have to be (not just technological but political and institutional). How do you take back the core wealth of the 1%without civil war?

Post # 2011. How do we get to a more inclusive economics?

Provocation 164. Beyond economics.


Economics fails to look at key social phenomena: capitalism, ownership, quality of life, preferences, political power. In the few cases that reach outside to social consequences, the symptoms are discussed by not core consequences.

A few examples: Steve Keen’s revising economic models feels bloodless, absent people, or Stiglitz/ Ocasio-Cortez who raise key issues but do not discus core causes. As if we can fix inequality or climate within the framework of normal econ speak.

Core causes not discussed: capitalism, class structure: A few own the leading edge of society’s innovation, and they hold on to ownership for their own benefit. Society can create innovation and create new wealth but society is organized so only a few really benefit. The rest are asked to put in labor in order o survive , and are now being replaced by automation and algorithms, and are expected to spend their dwindling income on things sold by the few.

Economics does not look at the most important phenomena. There are things we need to be thinking about, does economics encourage, or at least support such thinking, or does it dull us? Is economics so ideologically model bound , sealed away from social phenomena, that it can’t discuss them? Because of this avoidance it also acts as a barrier to inquiry. And society, absent serious economic inquiry. A simple example.a carpenter working on a house here gets a ticket for sliding ing through a stop sign, not having come to a “complete stop.”. The cost is $350. He doesn’t have it. It is almost a week’s pay. Rob the poor to keep taxes low. He loses his license fr failure to pay, can’t show up on the job and immediately is given eviction on his house. The policeman giving the ticket is on a quota incentive system, his salary needs to be paid. Income to the county means keeping taxes on property lower. Isn’t this an aspect of economy we need to understand ?
Highly recommend Roberto Unger’s last lecture of the spring quarter at Harvard Law. He opens to a discussion with the class, gets off to a slow start but very worth the time.


His view includes that we are in a counterrevolutionary period and progressives have no program, having dropped the ball after the New Deal.

Post #2002. Why can they get so rich?

Provocation #149 Why can they get so rich?

In the spirit of provocations..

Cook, Bezos and Musk all want to use money pulled from society and blow it off into outer space, abandoning earth and humanity. As Bezos has said, basically there is nothing on earth worth investing in. Some jobs are created by their space orgasm. But no Parthenon, no Museum of Modern Art, no university, no rising wages are carried into the future.

What rationale for marginal value can locate such wealth in such people? Why does such concentration not lead to a serious examination of the regulations and tax policies of ownership logistics, such value concentrating justifications, not get more serious examination? There is no way that their billions represent a well thought out return on effort. A german real-estate developer, asked if the income gap between him and one of his employees, was reasonable, answered

“I work 20 hours, the employee only 8, so of course its fair. ( a factor 2.5 in time resulting in a factor of 10,000 (10 to the 9th / 10 to the 5th ) in income? “ (Paraphrase from

Do economists admire this so much they can’t make the critique?

Hard to image that it is a an income difference based on skills. Their management expertise doesn’t seem that unusual., but it might have been a kind of tenacity, bull headedness, even meanness, that got them to their position.

Tim Cook couldn’t make a dime at Apple if there were not customers. And customers are an essential part of the cycle and the customer is expensive paid for by society that does not get a return because it all goes to the top: lots of education, social position, all from of a larger society that has paid for those customers to be able to buy, but who do not share in the profit. I don’t see any literature about why Cook is such a great manager.

Increase in stock price? f the increase were distributed proportioned to the actual contributions of society and workers the result would be very different. Obviously a high evaluation of stock depends on lots of customers, and they are created by many other factors that are not being compensated but taxed.

It might be that the top positions in largest corporations have to be filled by somebody and the logic of size yields such high benefits to those who, like a winning run in a pinball machine, got there. If this is so, where is economics exploring the cause and the awkward consequences of such concentration?