Arctic Sea Ice : Forum

AGW in general => Policy and solutions => Topic started by: anotheramethyst on August 22, 2015, 08:21:13 PM

Title: Can We Save Capitalism?
Post by: anotheramethyst on August 22, 2015, 08:21:13 PM
there is another thread called "If not capitalism then what? and how?"

because it's so difficult to wrap your mind around replacing capitalism with another system, i wanted to make sure that thread stays focused.  debate in that thread raised an interesting question.  can capitalism and sustainability coexist?  this question could easily swamp that thread, so i thought we should start a new one.  it's an important question that many people here feel strongly about.

i think they can't, because capitalism is based on growing profits, and profits require growth.  and growth in a finite system is unsustainable.  but, i know there are a lot of people here more intelligent than me, and if there IS a way to save the world within the capitalist paradigm, well, that would certainly be easier!! so can we save capitalism?
Title: Re: Can We Save Capitalism?
Post by: Neven on August 22, 2015, 10:28:15 PM
Great question that I've often wondered about. Thanks for opening the topic, anotheramethyst.

Can we save capitalism? Not in the current shape I'd say. But what is capitalism? It's about capital being invested, right? Private capital. We are used to the old model of very rich individuals who have the capital and through their investments help all of society thrive.

I don't think capitalism is the problem per se. Our number one problem is that we refuse to respect limits. Not even the sky (or its chemical composition) is one. And so a relatively small group of people have amassed so much wealth and power that the system is geared toward increasing that wealth and power further and further. But it is no longer helping all of society thrive, quite the opposite.

That's why in the other topic I wrote that the cap needs to be put in capitalism. There needs to be a cap on how much a person can own. I've wanted to open a separate topic on this, but I don't want to open topics when I don't have the time to engage in a good discussion. Still, I believe that this is the number one prerequisite for all other solutions to work.

This isn't the end of capitalism. It would just mean that the capital is owned and invested by many more people, which would prevent concentration, centralisation and market distortion.

You already see it happening with things like crowdfunding. I think it would work.
Title: Re: Can We Save Capitalism?
Post by: wili on August 22, 2015, 11:28:19 PM
Why on earth would anybody (besides the capital class) want to 'save capitalism'?

As its name implies, it is a system intended to benefit capital and those who control it. Why does that sound like a good idea, except perhaps as an unpleasant but perhaps necessary step on the way to something better?
Title: Re: Can We Save Capitalism?
Post by: anotheramethyst on August 25, 2015, 08:38:24 AM
Why on earth would anybody (besides the capital class) want to 'save capitalism'?

As its name implies, it is a system intended to benefit capital and those who control it. Why does that sound like a good idea, except perhaps as an unpleasant but perhaps necessary step on the way to something better?

i don't particularly like capitalism either, particularly the endless growth paradigm.  BUT if we can work within capitalism to create a sustainable society, then we should , simply because tearing doen capitalism and building something else will take far longer.  we don't have a lot of time to save the world :)

neven is right about learning to respect limits, and not just limits on individuals but also limits on what governments can acquire and accumulate.  businesses need even more limits, corporate america has plundered its way through history.
Title: Re: Can We Save Capitalism?
Post by: wili on August 25, 2015, 09:53:40 AM
aa wrote: "work within capitalism"

Yeah, for now, we're mostly stuck with working within it. But that is very different from saying that ones goal is to save it.

I do think that the ultimate goals have to go far beyond traditional left-right lines.

It is not just individuals, businesses and governments who have to have limits.

With laser-like intensity, the focus of the entire society has to be on limiting the entire human enterprise--pretty much the opposite of what both left and right have seen as their over-arching goal. Up to now, both have seen the goal as expanding human 'potential' and power, and the main argument was who could do it better. That has to be turned essentially upside-down.

Few yet are talking in these terms, and those who do tend to get shouted down rather quickly (or just ignored).
Title: Re: Can We Save Capitalism?
Post by: SATire on August 25, 2015, 03:54:52 PM
Hm... Since I have the "ideological burn-out" syndrome and see no reason to seak for a cure for that syndrome I wish that your question was "Can We Make Capitalism Save?" instead of "Can We Save Capitalism?"

Why? Because there is so much "capitalism" in the world and because the "capitalist systems" produce most of the green house gases it is necessary that this is changed asap.

I do not think that transforming groups with capitalism to "communism" or "socialism" would help. It is evident, that such transformation would increase the emission of green hous gases instead. E.g. lots of the efficiency gains and CO2 reductions obtained in Germany since 1990 resulted from transformation of a the "socialism part" to capitalism. Capitalism is obviously quite good in avoiding waste of ressources in comparison. However, there are many "not so capitalistic" groups beeing much more efficient.   

Thus it should be feasible to make a "quite efficient" system more efficient e.g. to make capitalism save or sustainable.

I see large potential to make capitalism save by looking at the two big problems capitalism produces today and I think that must be changed. Actually that is only one problem: Capital is a means of production and thus it must create profit, which someone has to work for somewhere else. For the case that this "somewhere else" is meaning another person somewhere else Marx wrote a good piece about that which is still accepted to fit well with all the consequences.
But actually that is "climate neutral" in the sense, that wealth is just transfered from the poor to the rich wich does not result in more emission of e.g. CO2. Maybe it even results in less emission because e.g. 1 very rich cruising a big yacht would emitt less than 1000 people driving a middle class car. But anyway that emission is not related to capitalism directly. Instead you could make "CO2 content in atmosphere" a limited ressource with a fix limit and capitalism could make use of markets to efficiently "respect the natural limit" at least on average or in the sum of all people (with some kind of uneven distribution according to the specific set-up of the system).

But there is a second aspect for the case that the person who has to work for the profit of the capital is not apart in space but in time (so space was the first addressed above)! I think that is the major flaw ignored today. A lot of leverage tricks are used in "financial products" to steal money or employee's wages not only from people somewhere else but from people living in the future. So the rich man is not only stealing from the poor man but also from his own and other peoples children! Evidence for such things happening in reality are manifold: E.g. accumulation of "government debt" (future tax payer shall pay that), use of energy systems were electricity is produced and used today but wast storage must be maintained for 100.000 years (e.g. nuclear power), emission of CO2 by burning coal, which was stored savely in the ground and future generations shall get that out of atmosphere and store in safely again, use of antibiotics in farming to get cheap meat today but rendering medicine against infections useless in future (antibiotic resistant pathogenic organisms)...

To demonstrate the illness of todays exaggeration I want to refer to some discussions we had in the cars-thread recently: While cars got more and more efficient by adding complexity people decide to use the efficiency margin to get bigger and faster cars with the main objective to enhance the chance for reproduction (biological). At the same time (if succesfull) they reduce the chances of the results of that reproduction to survive... This problem is probably not inherent to capitalism but typical.
Title: Re: Can We Save Capitalism?
Post by: Neven on August 26, 2015, 12:06:45 AM
Coincidentally I discussed this subject with a friend two days ago. I told him about how I think capitalism could be saved if there's a cap on how much a person can own. He said that it has nothing to do with it, because capital simply can't grow indefinitely, whether it's owned by a few persons or by many. He says that the systemic problem lies within money itself, that grows because of interest, because of the need for profits, because of the need for capital growth for the privileged elite.

He was impressed by this Yale professor called Immanuel Wallerstein who maintains the end of capitalism is nigh. I have watched a few YouTube videos featuring interviews with him. I enjoyed the perspective because it's new to me, but somehow feel there's something missing. Here's Wallerstein on the end of capitalism and comes after that: (
Title: Re: Can We Save Capitalism?
Post by: Rubikscube on August 26, 2015, 01:36:11 AM
Can capitalism be saved? No, it can't, nor can we make capitalism save for that matter. The human nature simply does not permit that to happen under any circumstance, regardless of whether your definition of capitalism includes the softer, saner version which allows for some degree of central regulation or whether you insist of the hardcore, lunatic libertarian version, which is basically another way of describing an anarchy.

As soon as any land and any means of production become someone’s private property, the tumble down the rabbit hole begins; an upper class is born which will continuously keep using their accumulated wealth to press for more wealth and power, and somewhere along this path towards absolute totalitarianism the system will usually destroy itself (if it is not destroyed from outside), be it eco disasters, upper class power struggles, rebellions or a combination of all these and more.
Title: Re: Can We Save Capitalism?
Post by: Neven on August 26, 2015, 10:01:00 AM
But what if there's a cap on wealth and property? Wouldn't that take away the stimulus to strive for ever more wealth?
Title: Re: Can We Save Capitalism?
Post by: SATire on August 26, 2015, 01:08:12 PM
But what if there's a cap on wealth and property? Wouldn't that take away the stimulus to strive for ever more wealth?
Neven, I would love such kind of cap on wealth and property. However as things are usually done these days such thing would just be a stimulus to accumulate the property and wealth at a remote place with different law e.g. like London or Singapura or some caribbean islands. Even powerful "communist" were able to do such things...

I think capitalist systems with constitutional state law could prohibit "robbery from future people" and "robbery from people in other countries" in just the same way as they prohibit "robbery from people in same system" today. This kind of "human nature" can be regulated easily in any society and is not a problem specific to capitalism.
Title: Re: Can We Save Capitalism?
Post by: Martin Gisser on August 26, 2015, 01:15:24 PM
Here's Wallerstein on the end of capitalism and comes after that: (
This seems a pretty standard complex systems science perspective: When a complex system is near the point of breaking, it 1) gets unpredictable 2) offers opportunity to influence its reconfiguration (as Wallerstein says, there's opportunity for free will).

Watching the video I got a deja vu of an old slightly weird book in my library: Peter Henningsen, "Werkzeuge der Erkenntnis" who told exactly this stuff in 1989. (I bought that book because the foreword is by Paul Feyerabend).

The problem with "Capitalism" is that it is based on a deeply flawed mechanistic worldview: reifying human abstractions like "money" to being real-world stuff which can be treated like the stuff of Newtonian mechanics. This is classic Homo Sapiens psychopathology (Ian McGilchrist writes about Cartesian schizophrenia in "The Master and his emissary"). A great analysis by another German author is Karl-Heinz Brodbeck's classic "Die fragwürdigen Grundlagen der Ökonomie".
Title: Re: Can We Save Capitalism?
Post by: Martin Gisser on August 26, 2015, 01:22:08 PM
P.S.: So, the problem is how to find a more "organic" framework post capitalism. Organic as opposed to mechanistic. Something autopoetic and creative, not fit in a straightjecket of mechanistic rule thinking.
Title: Re: Can We Save Capitalism?
Post by: SATire on August 26, 2015, 03:33:37 PM
Loving to take the opportunity for free will (look at Martin above) please let me point to some major flaws of current economy in capitalism:

We need "return-on-invest", thus the "invested money" has to "earn its wage". Otherwise you do not want to invest that money but rather consume it just today and everything would be fine. This is not the flaw but the principle of capitalism (therefore, I do not even mind if I like that or not...).

Now to the first flaw of the concept: You all are aware that a local investment has global effects (e.g. CO2...). These effects are not acounted for in the bussines tables (RoI calculations) and thus are consequently ignored by the people with money and by the people with ideas. That tables have to be extended by including externalized costs. Laws could be made to convert that to internal costs directly. But a reasonable person should do the calculation anyway to recognize that extra profit the society gives him today for free - since he does not want to get default once that flaw is fixed.

The major flaw is the ignorance of the time scale. In "normal times" a healthy human person wants to build something for the children (and a king wants a pyramid or megalithic grave for "eternity"). So "human nature" would naturaly look at a time scale of the order of 100 years for such return-on-invest before he builds that new house or makes this new business.
Today people look at shorter time-scales like 5 years or even only a quarter of a year. Why? Under which situation is it "human nature" to look short term? Answer: In a crisis. If you do not know if you have enough to eat next winter then you are not looking at the future of your children anymore, since they would be dead if you failed to manage next winter.

So what is the second flaw? Somehow wealthy people in a capitalist system think that they are in a crisis situation and thus can not think for any later consequences. I would love to point my finger to the precise causes for this common misinterpretation. But I am just guessing possible causes: "unemployment" or potential competition looking so dangerous or putting it with Steve Jobs: "Only the paranoid survive". People feel existential risk even if it is actually not existential in any way und thus behave like psychopaths ... 

And what is missing? The "sustainable" look: Calculation of return-on-invest and risk management on a time-scale of >1000 years. You may say that no human ever would look at such time-scale and that by no means you can establish any laws to be valid that long. You are wrong: Quite a few people today are relying on rules written in a book more than 1000 years old and e.g. Aborigine people were able to lock an Uranium source on an even longer time. The "human nature" has well prooven tools for that time-scale: Culture, taboo, religion, saga...     

Those things are all not specific for capitalism. But here we have capitalism so we must transform the old prooven tools and put them in todays tools like business plans, return-on-invest calculations and risc accessment. Not a big deal actually.
Title: Re: Can We Save Capitalism?
Post by: Sigmetnow on August 26, 2015, 09:36:04 PM
Climate Change's Overlooked Sociological Side
A Q&A with Robert J. Brulle about a new book by members of the American Sociological Association on what they can contribute to the climate debate.

RJB: Let's focus on one of the big perspectives that sociology has always grappled with: capitalism. Can capitalism accommodate addressing climate change in a meaningful way?

There are many capitalisms. Capitalism in Norway is very different from capitalism in Russia, vs. very different than capitalism in the United States, but they all still hinge on the idea that you have to maximize return on investment on a constant basis as the dominating infrastructure investment cost. The question is, can you modify that kind of system enough to make it amenable to actually reduce our carbon emissions quickly enough?

Now this is a debate. Sociology can contribute to that question. I don't see that question being debated in the mainstream media or in the IPCC or even brought up. And in fact when you look at the National Research Council report, which I think we quote in there, they say 'Well sure, if you reduce economic growth or you change population, that would certainly have an impact on climate change, but we're not going to talk about that because we don't think that that's practical.' So they just say 'we're not going to go here.' Why? Well probably politically they're actually correct. But if you don't talk about it then it’s never going to become possible to even think about it. So sociology brings those kinds of issues to the fore.

Let me give you another one: consumption. The chapter on consumption details how people are socialized into what we call status consumption. That the fancier car you drive or the bigger house you live in somehow reflects on you as a person and your worth. Of course increased consumption drives carbon emissions. So the question is, how is that cultural belief system developed and maintained over time? (
Title: Re: Can We Save Capitalism?
Post by: Tom_Mazanec on August 29, 2019, 10:04:43 PM
If this is an example of a Capitalist, maybe the answer to the question is 'no'?
TWO BRAZILIAN FIRMS owned by a top donor to President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are significantly responsible for the ongoing destruction of the Amazon rainforest, carnage that has developed into raging fires that have captivated global attention.

The companies have wrested control of land, deforested it, and helped build a controversial highway to their new terminal in the one-time jungle, all to facilitate the cultivation and export of grain and soybeans. The shipping terminal at Miritituba, deep in the Amazon in the Brazilian state of Pará, allows growers to load soybeans on barges, which will then sail to a larger port before the cargo is shipped around the world.
Title: Re: Can We Save Capitalism?
Post by: TerryM on August 30, 2019, 01:23:40 AM
Can we Save Capitalism? :P  -> Can Capitalism Save Us? :-\  ->  Can we Kill Capitalism? 8)
Interesting Topics or of Topical Interest?

Capitalism brought us to where we're now at.
Do we need to leave with the jerk what brung us?