The Only Non-Totalitarian Solution to Resource Scarcity: Decentralized Degrowth
The fantasy is that everything will soon be super-abundant and cheap again because creating money out of thin air creates demand out of thin air and supply will always magically appear if there is demand. The reality is super-abundant and cheap is gone for good. Demand doesn't create new supply by magic; if the supply is gone, then demand has no magical power to conjure supply out of thin air.
The other fantasy is that there will always be a cheap substitute for whatever's been depleted. If the oil is depleted in one place, there's still plenty to extract in Timbukthree. Or we'll replace oil with electricity generated by high-tech paint on our roofs, and we'll replace all those thousands of giant airliners using jet fuel with little, slow electric aircraft--nothing will change except we'll continue to have more of everything.
Including more waste, because the foundation of the global economy is waste is growth.
The reality is the current global economy is a Landfill Economy that glorifies waste as growth. The faster shoddy goods fail and are taken to the Landfill and replaced with a new one, the higher our "growth." The greater the waste, friction and fraud, the greater the "growth."
There is an sane alternative to this insanity. It's called degrowth. Degrowth is the English translation of decroissance, a French word coined in 1976 to describe a philosophy that has expanded into a global movement from 1977 to the present. The root meaning is decline, which refers to both the economy and the state. The core thesis of my new book and the degrowth movement is the global economy based on permanent expansion of consumption is unsustainable due to physical and cost limits: infinite growth on a finite planet is not possible.
The problem is the current global economic system is optimized for permanent expansion, as the consensus holds that without permanent expansion, the world will fall into the abyss of depression and the conflicts that arise from widespread economic hardship.
What the consensus conveniently ignores is the world has changed in the past 90 years of fast-rising consumption. The human population was much smaller in 1930 and per capita consumption was a fraction of current consumption of energy and resources. Recoverable resources are no longer abundant, and humanity's vast consumption of hydrocarbons has had planetary consequences.
The degrowth movement holds that this obsession with permanent growth is not just unrealistic, it is destructive to society, as every aspect of everyday life has been oriented to the goal of expanding consumption. This tyranny of growth has distilled all of human endeavor into measures of growth such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) while ignoring the costs and risks of this absurd tyranny of infinite growth or we all die.
In practical terms, degrowth means:
1) Doing more--much more--with much less by eliminating unproductive waste, friction, fraud and speculative skimming
2) Incentivizing radically improving efficiencies and productivity: doing more with less capital, resources and labor
3) Decentralizing capital and agency down to local levels of problem-solving and production of essentials
4) Eliminating the :Landfill Economy of shoddy goods and services and planned obsolescence
5) Deglobalizing and definancializing our economy and our daily lives to improve adaptability, flexibility and innovation in service not of highly concentrated wealth in the hands of the few but of the well-being of the many.
The billionaire's toadies in the World Economic Forum (WEF) have promoted a centralized, totalitarian version of degrowth that leaves the wealth and power in the hands of the few while imprisoning the rest of us in a new-fangled Gulag. It's called The Great Reset. The glossy The Great Reset PR is a packaged set of superficial happy stories about climate change, the 4th Industrial Revolution, blah blah blah which studiously avoids mentioning the most important feature of The Great Reset:
The billionaires will still get to enjoy their $100 million yachts, private jets and heavily guarded compounds while the rest of us toil as serfs on the plantations of the wealthiest few. The The Great Reset PR tagline is "You'll own nothing and be a happy serf!" or something like that.
As for serfs who try to escape the plantation--no bread for you. The core of The Great Reset is a system of social control and punishment that would make totalitarian dictators everywhere weep with envy.
Totalitarian imposed inequality is the only possible path of centralized degrowth: 10,000 for me, one for you, unless you disobey, and then you get zero.
The alternative is decentralized degrowth that resets the system's incentives from waste, friction, fraud and the dominance of centralized inequality to a locally controlled sustainability. I've prepared a roadmap to such a system. Maybe somebody else has a better one, but we have to start somewhere. Here's mine: Global Crisis, National Renewal: A (Revolutionary) Grand Strategy for the United States.
Decentralized degrowth is a solution that works for everyone except those with the $100 million yachts, jets and compounds and their WEF toadies. Maybe the billionaires will have to squander fewer resources and the WEF toadies will have to learn to do something other than kiss billionaire's derrieres. Oh, boo-hoo. How cruel and awful that the rest of us might actually have a say and some capital.
Decentralized degrowth requires localized production, agency and capital--what I call the community economy. Localized production, agency and capital require a currency that's within the control of the community, as I explain in The Community Economy Needs Its Own Money.
I invite you to read the first chapter (PDF) and the Introduction--they're free.
Global Crisis, National Renewal: A (Revolutionary) Grand Strategy for the United States
Copyright 2020 Charles Hugh Smith all rights reserved in all media. No reproduction in any media in any format without written permission of the author.