Why does it feel like everything’s collapsing?

November 13, 2019 | FEE Content, FEE Posts, Finite Earth Economy Posts


by Bob Leonard


Because it is. I’m not going to list all the human institutions and ecosystems that are cracking at the seams. You know what they are. There seems to be a common cause for these societal woes.


In “Moving to a Finite Earth Economy” my co-author, David Houle, detailed a reinvention of capitalism to address the root cause of our climate crisis. What we didn’t address is that our current form of capitalism is a dead man walking. It will die for a number of reasons. 



“When even leading economists are questioning the very idea of capitalism, you know the system is in trouble. In a recent article, Nobel economics winner Angus Deaton reviewed two books by other distinguished economists – Raghuram Rajan and Paul Collier – that argue that capitalism is fundamentally flawed. Rajan laments the demise of local communities in the face of big government and mass markets, while Collier discusses the tendency of meritocracy to concentrate talent and money. Meanwhile, income and wealth inequality is at the center of the well-known critique of capitalism by economist Thomas Piketty. Some critics of capitalism argue that the problem is monopoly power, while others say that capitalism is the culprit behind climate change.”


“Less than two decades into the twenty-first century, it is evident that capitalism has failed as a social system. The world is mired in economic stagnation, financialization, and the most extreme inequality in human history, accompanied by mass unemployment and underemployment, precariousness, poverty, hunger, wasted output and lives, and what at this point can only be called a planetary ecological death spiral. The digital revolution, the greatest technological advance of our time, has rapidly mutated from a promise of free communication and liberated production into new means of surveillance, control, and displacement of the working population. The institutions of liberal democracy are at the point of collapse, while fascism, the rear guard of the capitalist system, is again on the march, along with patriarchy, racism, imperialism, and war.”


“Capitalism as we know it is over. So suggests a new report commissioned by a group of scientists appointed by the UN Secretary-General. The main reason? We’re transitioning rapidly 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, slow economic growth, rising debt levels, and impotent governments. Contrary to the way policymakers usually think about these problems, the new report says that these are not really separate crises at all.”


“It is broadly understood that capitalism as a social, political, and economic system is dead. Thirty years ago capitalism, in the form of market economies, was recognized as the weapon that had killed the USSR and it’s central planned, pseudo Marxist economy. Between those two political points capitalism as a system died. What caused its death in the wake of its greatest success? And what does that mean for the post capitalist world?”


“Without us noticing, we are entering the postcapitalist era. At the heart of further change to come is information technology, new ways of working and the sharing economy. Today, the thing that is corroding capitalism, barely rationalized by mainstream economics, is information. Most laws concerning information define the right of corporations to hoard it and the right of states to access it, regardless of the human rights of citizens. The equivalent of the printing press is information technology and its spillover into all other technologies, from genetics to healthcare to agriculture to the movies, where it is quickly reducing costs. Instead of rapidly automating work out of existence, we are reduced to creating bullshit jobs with low pay. And many economies are stagnating.” 


“The common thread running through all the world’s problems is predatory capitalism, my friends. It’s what links climate change, inequality, stagnation, mass extinction, and so on. Capitalism’s the global economic model that America exported around the globe, and built a global economy of and for. And now global capitalism is collapsing. Yes, really. Everywhere you look – into nationalism, extremism, fascism, from America itself, to China, to India, and beyond.”


I could list many more, but you get the point. The above constitute a quick and easy research effort… I Googled “demise of capitalism”. There were over five million links returned for that search.


I am not here to argue the point. I suggest you read the articles for yourselves.


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?


Our current form of capitalism is dying. We need a replacement. Plenty of those have been suggested (Clean Economy, Compassionate Capitalism, Conscious Capitalism, Creative Capitalism, Degrowth Economy, Donut Economy, Impact Economy, Inclusive Capitalism, Plan B, Purpose Economy, Shared Value Capitalism, Sustaining Capitalism, Well-Being Economy).


The Finite Earth Economy is the only one that has been described in detail. The book outlines what must be done at every level of society… from the UN down to the individual. It 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.






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