Economics, economia, in ancient Greece from where the word comes, meant estate management. Classical Greece and the old mediterranean empire were organized as a loose federation of cattle ranches (see James Mcinerney, The Cattle of the Sun)This provides a perspective on what we must do — treat the earth as the home and the management takes on the whole earth. Think about it: to adequately merge human lives with the sustaining earth under the new conditions of a warming planet.. We can do this. With multiple crises at the same time, we want to make sure we are seeing the way things fit together. A good society should provide security and meaningful livability for each person. But we can’t do it unless we are clearer about what the problems are. The problems taken together are more complicated than proposed solutions which usually struggle with one problem at a time. Because we lack an integrated approach with a clear goal of a better society people remain confused, sullen and passive. We are at that edge where denial turns into giving up without an intermediate stage of trying our best to make sense of the whole. Social unrest and the collapse of governance worldwide are spreading fast and we need a view of where we could go, a goal that is plausible even in the face of the anarchy of events. Gardenworld is that view and is meant to be robust across scenarios.
What could economics be? Manage the earth for the good of the people.
Need to understand
ome physics, chemistry, biology, literature
In converstion with Andew Sheng, we have the tech to solve the climate and covid crises, but we do not have the management to put it together.
At the present time the solution looks more dire in three ways
- The attempt to take over went beyond disruption, toward takeover, and that appears to be continuing to be organized for Jan 20.
- The government, while it can hold, is less integrated and more weakly led than than we had understood.
- The degree to which the delay in deploying supporting police groups looks criminal and somewhat of an inside coordination. Very serious if true.
- When history is writtenn the whole Trump episode will be sen as a very unfortunate distraction from climate chnage.
Good from this? As in Covid, the real shape of affairs is being clarified. We realize big things can happen, and we can more for less respond. Society can change rapidly/
All governments are now more vulnerable because the actions in Washington suggest the possibility of a successful takeover by merely walking through security with maybe a little violence. We realize that any existing government is fragile and depends on a feeling shared in the population for its inviolability. Getting that back will not be easy. Under any circumstances. But with covid and climate heating it will be much harder as necessary actions. – Cutting co 2 – Will be felt as a threat o the whole population. Our thinking for years has centered on the economy and personal wealth and we have not kept up with politics, the facts nor the ideas.
Moving toward civility, fairness and system plausibility should be a major focus in coming months.
It is clear that the economy is broken. Climate change induced by economic activity, inequality as a result of economic activity, and weak government due to the rise of corporations, are all obvious causes of this complex situation. One can argue about the complicity of economics in creating this complex failure, since economics in so many ways works to enhance the economy for the rich. but the argument is stronger that economics at least allowed it to happen, standing by..
So, assuming that the economy is broken what can happen? We can either drift, allowing anger and climate temperature to increase, or try to repair it, possibly keeping basics in place, or perhaps not.
There are several obvious directions for the future.
We can either move to greater fragmentation and localization as people try to cope with their experience of the breakdown and its impact on their lives in communities. With localization we can expect some mix of democracy and mafia led organization, but millions of local solutions may not scale to counter large system forces, especially climate and land deterioration and perhaps we would include institutional deterioration.
But the same people might find themselves uniting in the idea that the center can, with money and technology and leadership, hold together. This technocratic future w;il probably be highly authoritarian – to get the job done.
These two directions might be happening simultaneously. The question for us is what might be the role of economics as we move from the old system through the breakdown to a new system? Obviously there is a lot of risk with any possible path Such breakdowns in the past were slow to happen and slow to repair. But certainly something will happen.
In other words. We have an existing economy but it appears – climate, governance, inequality – to be seriously broken. There are many writers stressing that this is an opportunity and necessity, to build new and better.
How to get from plan A to plan B, and what might B look like.?
This seems to me to be an important and obvious task that new economic thinking cannot avoid.
A major reason for the current failure is that economics pushed social concern out of consideration. People were teated as identical units. Thier real needs and interests were ignored but festered. This had the advantage that class issues were treated as externalities, outside the perspective of economics and the economy could proceed creating great wealth and great poverty, exploiting people while exploiting the environment.
In its defense, elites are necessary in a complex, society but we are at the point where complexity is beyond the possibility of management. Jospeh Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Society argued that complexity increases faster than population till collapse. But wise, that elites, who always one the key infrastructures, when the system is in trouble, instead of repairing, cut costs so they can take more money out of the system.
To think about the future it is a good strategy to think that key parts of the current system, a system in failure, is to question key concepts. Understanding of major changes in the past – the shift from feudalism to industry for example, always came along with new concepts – and unfortunately wars and huge losses to the population.
Take capital and private property , two key concepts. Capital comes from cap, head, a new head of cattle. The birth of a new calf was capital. It means that capital is the production and reproduction of the wealth of society. Strong men owned it and do so to this day. Not much magic, just power. Another key concept is private property. Property is simple. IT mean what is proper of a person of rank to show their status in society. “Dressed properly.” A social sign became with time a thing that could be bought and sold. Private comes from the latin privatus meaning to remove from the public.
We can expect, as the environment deteriorates further and covid runs its awkard socially destructive course, that the media – press-, scientific journals, YouTube videos and public demonstrations will become increasing strident while proliferating wiht analysis and proposals in multiple directions.
It is importune that we see this in its fullness and realize that excluding major rends, while make economic easier, has benefitted a few and that this is not good enough. The research approach that would understand how A transforms into B would require a better description of A, a butter understanding of transitions, and lots of hard work on understanding the possibilities of B. Lots to do.
Mann, Charles C. 1491: New revelations of the America before Columbus
Maccarraher Eugene The Enchantments of Mammon: how Economics became the Religion of Modernity
Malko, Jedrezj Economics adn its discontents
Scott, James C. Against the Grain: a deep history of the earliest states
Mcinerney Jeremy McInerney-The Cattle of the Sun_ Cows and Culture in the World of the Ancient Greeks-Princeton University Press (2010)
To start the new year.. A larger perspective.
We have an existing economy but it appears – climate, governance, inequality – to be seriously broken. There are many writers stressing that this is an opportunity and necessity, to build new and better.
How to get from plan A to plan B, and what might B look like.?
This seems to me to be an important and obvious task for new economic thinking.
Thinking about it.
279 Provocation. 279 bad assumptions. Rational man.
Tuesday, December 22, 2020
When a science starts with bad convenient assumptions the mistake is likely to overwhelm later. In economics we have the rational man. In a transaction two rational people with the same complete information engage in an exchange. What economics fails to explain is why one is selling and one is buying. The psychological state of the two are in fact radically different, often hope on one side and despair on the other.
Leaving out the psychology of real life means that economics cannot deal with politics, revolution, the use of wealth and the abuse of poverty, climate, nor the human cost of sequestering families for months. It raises the question, what is economics therefore good for? It helps bureaucracies with fake numbers like unemployment and GDP that serve the 1%.
Beyond that it serves a career structure, but for what?
One view is that it legitimates the running of society by experts by giving the appearance that all is well because the bridge of the Titanic is manned by people of wisdom. We have not developed a leadership capable of looking at major facts. The earth and the species go ungoverned.
The problem is, when we need wisdom we don’t have it. A recent book by Boris Frankel The Fictions of Sustainability, has –
This book is an attempt to overcome a pervasive ‘analytical apartheid’that characterises so much socio-economic policy on the one hand and
so many environmental analyses on the other. I was particularly struck by this in January 2014, when I read a draft copy of Wolfgang Streeck’s article, ‘Taking Crisis Seriously: Capitalism On Its Way Out’ What troubled me in particular was the complete absence of any mention of the greatest present-day crisis confronting us all, namely, the climate emergency threatening catastrophic
climate breakdown. Leaving aside a minority of critical political economists, Streeck’s omission of any discussion of environmental issues remains common for both mainstream economists and Left political economists. It is the widespread disregard of crucial ecological issues (or their token inclusion in the odd sentence or paragraph) that motivated me to write this book.
This could all be seen as an invitation to do more serious and less fig leaf economics. On to 2021.
“For Wiener, the malevolence of contemporary cybernetics resided in its deployment for labor discipline and capital accumulation”
Excerpt From: Eugene McCarraher. “How Capitalism Became the Religion of Modernity.” Apple Books.
Wildfires—heightened by climate change—threaten 234 Superfund sites across the country.
Production will be cut as temperatures rise.