by Bob Leonard
Our current form of capitalism is a dead man walking. It will die for a number of reasons. A capitalist economic system is not inherently good or bad. It has a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde quality. There’s no better system for catalyzing innovation. But, when manipulated to rig the system, it causes a number of societal woes.
We’re transitioning to a radically different global economy, due to our increasingly unsustainable exploitation of the planet’s environmental resources. Climate change and species extinctions are accelerating even as societies are experiencing rising inequality, unemployment, underemployment, rising debt levels and impotent governments. Contrary to the way policymakers usually think about these problems, these issues are interconnected.
In a Mr. Hyde system that values only profit, all the efforts of capitalists are designed to maximize profits. That translates into ever growing production and, when you are powering that production with fossil fuels, the result is ever more greenhouse gas emissions. The advertising and marketing industries are devoted to persuading people to buy more stuff. Resulting in massive amounts of waste which are filling landfills, polluting our air, and choking our waterways with plastic.
At the heart of further change to come is information technology, new ways of working and the sharing economy. Taken together, these enable opportunities that are being hobbled by the legacy of predatory (Mr. Hyde) capitalism. Instead of rapidly automating work out of existence, we are reduced to creating bullshit jobs with low pay.
We measure the health of our economy with GDP. The Gross Domestic Product which tracks how much stuff we make. Our current paradigm is “the more the better”. It takes a lot of energy to feed our current capitalist system and it creates horrifying amounts of waste, much of it toxic.
I am here to posit that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
“Think of it. We are blessed with technology that would be indescribable to our forefathers. We have the wherewithal, the know-it-all to feed everybody, clothe everybody, and give every human on Earth a chance. We know now what we could never have known before – that we now have the option for all humanity to make it successfully on this planet in this lifetime. Whether it is to be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race right up to the final moment.” – R. Buckminster Fuller, Critical Path
Is it utopian to believe we’re on the verge of an evolution beyond capitalism?
The starting point is to put regulations back in place to bring us to the version of capitalism we used to have. These regulations will do nothing to reduce emissions or waste, but they can ensure that the rewards of capitalism are more fairly distributed… that the people who do the work can make a living wage and it puts safeguards in place to prevent economic meltdowns like the Great Depression and the Crash of 2008.
US GDP in 1960 was $542 billion. In 2019 it was $21 trillion 429 billion.
Clearly, GDP does not reflect the well-being of most people and it certainly doesn’t show how well nature is doing.
Our current form of capitalism is dying. We need a replacement. The Finite Earth Economy is a roadmap to follow away from the chaos that will surely occur if we do not get proactive and plan and deploy the replacement for our current dead man walking economic system. The Finite Earth Economy is a strategy to reregulate, remanage and reinvent capitalism. It is a roadmap that contains step by step instructions for how to get from our current economic system to a Finite Earth Economy while avoiding economic collapse.