Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The shortsighted-plutocracy trap

I posted this to Brad DeLong's blog today:


The problem that causes unemployment is that there is insufficient demand. If the demand comes only from private sources, as conservatives claim to want it, there has to be profit potential. Profit potential means someone else's income not diverted to saving or necessities. If more and more people are just barely able to afford necessities, there's no profit in the other stuff.
We had and may be loosing a society based on meeting the needs of the majority of people and then creating new needs for them to have: the middle class society. A potential future society is one in which we are all the serfs of the very rich, polishing their boats and such. I'm not making this up, Paul Krugman said something like this, that such as society would be economically possible, not that most people would welcome it.
But as I see it, such a society would be at the end of a long and painful deflationary spiral. Mass consumption and mass production depend on a middle class. If it's only the elites being served, they don't want mass production, but rather relatively inefficient specialized production. So we become less and less efficient at doing just what the very richest people want, everyone else be damned.
Rising prices of energy, loss of fertile land through desertification and pollution, rising sea levels, etc., all these things will add to the downward spiral.
We don't have to go this way. We could put everyone to work building the renewable energy and sustainable transportation systems needed in the future. But current economic elites don't want to go that way now. They want to milk the current setup for all it's worth. They don't see the downside in that. And every year these reactionaries have gotten more powerful. And the cheap energy which would make possible the construction of new energy systems, etc., is being used up.
Maybe we'll escape from this shortsighted-plutocracy trap. But to me, it looks like extraction-based growth-capitalist-economics is over. We're headed straight back to, I'd say the middle ages, but it was never this bad before, because it used to be that there was unused fertile land over the next hill. Now, over the next hill, the land was ruined by ..., and there are 10 million people fighting for it.

I later continued this post with another:

I think both DeLong and Krugman are correct here. DeLong is correct that a singularity happened, and it worked out OK [so far]. Krugman is correct in saying if we want a better society, we just have to build it, technology won't make it happen, and the key thing is greater equality.
It's the lack of thinking about equality or even society as an issue that is the flaw in singularist thinking. Our need is not for greater intelligence, as such. We already have the intelligence and knowledge we need, but it isn't being listened to. Great intelligence doesn't necessarily destroy the myths (such as the zombie economic myths, or global warming denialism) that surround us and leading us down the deflationary spiral of the collapse of extraction based capitalism into global destruction. Those myths are preserved because they seem to suit the present needs of the plutocracy. Great intelligence can be used to prop up myths as well as destroy them. So giving the masters of the universe more intelligence means more arcane zombie economics and global warming denialism, not less. Even more than humans, machines can be purely instrumental and not concerned with the welfare of others, exactly what the plutocrats want.

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