2180. From policy to action or just to more policy.

In a conversation ijn Detroit many years ago a UAW leader said to me , “Policy is where the rubber meets the air.”  Intellectuals and academics tend to think that if they get the policy right the problem is solved.  With climate change we are stuck between policy proposals for cutting CO2 and the reality that there are no first steps – actions –  to be taken to actually cut fossil fuel use on the scale needed.  Understandable, but dangerous.

If we cut fossil fuel use fast enough to make a needed difference it will mean lost jobs, breaks in supply chains, unheated and uncooled residences. So what do we do? I think we need people with real power to shift not gears but cultures. From what’s good for me to what would be helpful to society and all humans.

2179. Democracy and capitalism

It is simple. Democracy and capitalism  are two parallel ways of making decisions for society.  Trouble is, capital,  through the use of money,  controls the media which controls the minds of the demos, , and controls the  representatives democracy is allowed to vote for. So capital ends up making the major decisions.

Are there alternative systems?   Localism with direct democracy and democracy as conversation, rather than voting, toward consensus?

2178.Competition and losers

provocation 262 Competition and losers

Why competitions? Why do we need competition?Competition makes winners. But it also makes losers. Can we afford losers? A large share of the population is being turned into marginalized losers. This seems very dangerous. Within the US the point zero one percent are treating themselves as though they own the country (they do) and the rest not as fellow citizens but just takers. And should be further marginalized. Maybe covid and climate will take them off the planet, so goes cocktail conversation in 15,000 sq ft homes. Competition is taking us into cyber war, where major events happen in nanoseconds, and there is not time to respond, as was the case in mutually assured destruction. Our brilliant computers will make those decisions for us. Eric Schmidt originally from Google gave an interview with the Center for Strategic International Studies in Washington, and he was all for more and more innovation and more competition – “otherwise the US will become a loser”. He wants more competition with China. Never raises the possibility of cooperation. Competition and growth, two rising exponential curves. Why does economics so much more frequently go along with this logic rather than propose alternatives? We are watching the fuse burn down to the stick. As the mystic says, “wake up my beloved, wake up!” How can economics help turn us from competition to cooperation – and in time?

Market dynamics leads to wealth concentration. Why did Keynes not see that in his “grandchildren” paper? He saw increased production leading to better lives for all. What can economics say about why this did not happen, what happened instead, and what we can do about it?

2176. Opening economics to history – an example

July 13 provocaion 261 opening economics to history

We talk about the integration of economics in its current form with the social thought that was stripped out of economic perspectives, especially by John Stuart Mill, our purpose to better think about current problems which blend economics with politics and  ethics and are served by historical understanding. Here is very interesting article by Dotan Lesham.


If you are short on time, just give a quick scan and feel the texture of what is possible,
and what is a part of the history of economics. There are wonderful passages such as

…..such as political and theoretical life. When a person is solely preoccupied with monetary gain that goes out of bounds, he or she will never cease to economize and will never rise above economic occupations into nobler ones such as politics  and philosophy, which Aristotle deems happy. As such, this preoccupation undermines the existence of the political community.


Mill describes the aspect of human action that governs the domain
of inquiry of political economy in the following manner:35
[Political economy] does not treat of the whole of man’s nature as
modified by the social state, nor of the whole conduct of man in
society. It is concerned with him solely as a being who desires to
possess wealth, and who is capable of judging of the comparative
efficacy of means for obtaining that end. It predicts only such of
the phenomena of the social state as take place in consequence
of the pursuit of wealth. It makes entire abstraction of every other
human passion or motive. . . . Political Economy considers mankind
as occupied solely in acquiring and consuming wealth; and aims at
showing what is the course of action into which mankind, living in a
state of society, would be impelled, if that motive . . . were absolute
ruler of all their actions.36


I fear there is another obstacle that arises for those who wish
to attain public happiness by economizing virtue rather than vice. Given
the current state of affairs, in order to rehabilitate virtuous life, politically,
economically, and philosophically, we must begin by reconstructing the distinction
between market and economy, and, not less important, denaturalizing
the market. Such denaturalization of thethe market requires tackling two
things: first, the boundless wants that arise in each and every one of us
when entering market relations; and second, the imminent threat posed
by the market to the stability of our political and economic communities.
As the recurring crises that are the hallmark of modern marketized economy
may have taught us, not much has changed in this respect since the
days of Aristotle. Then as now, the following words of Aristotle seem to
apply: that we, who “take for our special consideration the study of the form
of political community that is the best of all the forms for a people able to
pursue the best mode of life . . . may be thought to enter upon this inquiry
because these forms of constitution that already exist are not satisfactory”


footnote 33 contains a very interesting set of book references.

comments encouraged,

2175. The opportunity for a new Romanticism and the Arts and Crafts movement 1880-1910.

Gardenworld faces new possibilities. We start with the fact that there is no shared strategy for dealing with COVID-19 and many are coming to the conclusion that it will be with us for much longer, longer than a generation. At the same time discussion about climate has fallen way off. We have the following curve of emissions and their impact on global temperatures

Past and future carbon emissions

My view is that even 1.5 degrees is disastrous because of its uneven distribution onthe earth, maening thta the impact will be larger in some places. In fact, some agriculture has already been curtained or even devastated as of July 2020. It is clear and unfortunate that we have no shared strategy for dealing with Climate especially how to start now to cut CO2 use.

Looking at the larger context a few steps out , the first major reaction against mechanization and the deadening of the human was Romanticism and that led to the Arts and Crafts movement. These, and WW1 failed to stop, nor eve slow, the tsunami of industrialization. Basically enough people were rewarded or imagined a better life through mass produced products and mass producing jobs that the wave continued. But the success of  industrialization/consumerism/mass media has seriously slowed under the impact of the 2009 financial crises, and the new major blows to easy continuity, COVID and climate, are worse than just putting on the breaks. WE must add to this terrible picture the failure of governance, especially in the US but also in Russia, Brazil, the middle east, to develop a centralized empowered capacity to give meaningful guidance.

But this means that the conditions for helping each other and rethinking the romantic world view and the place of arts and crafts now faces a world that needs such an approach and is not mesmerized by stuff and money consciousness. It is a long term but promising project. May you do better than we did. Much better.

2174. Civilizational dynamics

Two propositions.(stimulated by  Daniel Schmachtenberger)

I used to say, when people asked me about my then library of about 4000 books, “They are moslty about culture and culture change, because if ours doesn’t we are in trouble.” I read Toynbee  and his disappearance of 28 civilizations and persisted in th human trick of declaring to myself that our civilization was different –  too diffuse, too locally coping, to seriously disappear.

Humans are inventive and creative. The combination is lethal as competition uses inventiveness for ever more destructuve weapons. Since changing our inventivess is impossible, perhaps we can crate a cooperative cultire.

The unit of analysis is the civilization – following Toynbee and the disappearance – of all previous civilizations, what can we do to prevent the disappearance of this one?

Can we, even if we believe it, hold on to this level of analysis?

Joseph Tainter proposes that

as a society (civilizations?) grows more complex, the cost of maintaining the system increases faster than the system’s surplus until the entire surplus is used up in maintenance and, because the system is in motion,   overshoots and collapses.

Moreover, elites are as they are because they own or manage the key infrastructures, and, as these get into trouble, instead of fixing them, they cut costs to get cashe out for themselves, hurrying the collapse.

We should ask, “OK, now what?”





2173. “More” in economics

More pollution, more population, more co2, more temperature, more debt, more stuff, more racial strife, more inequality of income, more prices on real estate rising faster than income, less topsoil thru more agribusiness, fewer fish in the ocean through more ocean bottom stripping with mile long nets, fewer birds in the sky?

“All our exponential curves lead to catastrophe”

Is there possibly something wrong with the more model?

Can economics intervene or only carry it out through the default assumption of growth as necessary?

2172. Policy without politics?

Most people think that policy is the way to cope with climate, and for many that policy means creating jobs.


  1.  This leaves out politics, th mobilization of force through voting,  reulations and initiatives, as if good ideas along will change our approach.
  2. it relies on creating jobs when it is not clar how to create jobs that themslves do not use nore energy.

From CSIS eewport.

the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis to lead the way. Now, after a year and a half of work, the committee released a comprehensive report Tuesday aiming to chart the U.S. course toward solving this existential problem.
The plan focuses on fusing climate solutions with economic growth and job creation, laying out 12 key pillars like investing in infrastructure, developing renewable energy, building resilience to climate impacts, and prioritizing environmental justice.
The chair of the committee, Representative Kathy Castor of Florida, told CBS News, “Climate solutions are economic solutions. Solving the climate crisis means putting Americans back to work in clean energy jobs that will grow our economy.”


2171. Gardenworld and community land trust

This articvle from Harpers is very suggestive and helpful. Many good quotes so I pick one

In 2013, South Bronx Unite asked local residents what they wanted in their neighborhood and found an overwhelming desire for arts spaces, recreation centers, and health services.

Ths challenges the idea that social innovation needs to be about the basics, food and housing . Perhaps the basics start  with  health and art. Blending food, habitat and arts seems like a winning combination.

Source at Harpers
Report] We Shall Not Be Moved, by Audrea Lim | Harper’s Magazine