[p2p-research] The end of growth?

Ryan Lanham rlanham1963 at gmail.com
Sun Aug 9 19:22:38 CEST 2009

The question posed was simple: Can growth continue post peak oil?  The
essay's author say, probably not, and that explains much of the current
reality.  That IS highly relevant to the world we live in.  Explaining cause
for what is changing billions of lives is not a yawn for me.

Setting aside anyone's pet theories of the universe, economics, social
relations or the commons as separate questions from the question as to
whether global economic growth can continue, the answer to the growth
question seems to be...it depends on how much alternative energy comes on
line and how quickly...unless we are willing to radically alter the climate
even more than has been done to date.  If growth doesn't continue, then we
are in for something none of us understand or likely can theorize
accurately, because it will be largely new (for the modernized technological

That results in certain conjectures which are usually presented as
inevitable or obvious outcomes.  My own view is little is inevitable or
obvious from where we sit.  I don't believe we are at some tipping point
toward the commons, libertarianism, socialism or toward anything else.  In
fact, the best case can probably be made for global collapse without any
order rising from it outside of one based on sheer power--the world as
various shades of Somalia.

I am of a mind the US drifts toward a few decades of Japanese-like slow
techno-recession while oil declines and global warming accelerates.  What
happens beyond that, I think is impossible to forecast and even that much
could be wrong--there could be inflations or other forks in the road.  Lots
of theories are out there and some will be more right than others, but there
is no logic at present to any handicapping method.

The questions as to why we are where we are, to me, remain interesting and
far from obvious.

I suppose that agree with those who say that from a moral standpoint the
best one can do is frame what sort of world we want to live in and then try
through personal action and (especially) example to attain such a world.
For me, that is a world with real technological progress toward health and
well-being for most humans without massive loss of life, without radically
declining standards of living (given any reasonable assessment), and a
sustainable model of co-existence with the planet in some form.  All those
goals leave much open to question and hypothesis.

So, after that, I am for trial, assessment, more collaborative assessment,
and more trials and models.


On Sun, Aug 9, 2009 at 10:54 AM, Paul D. Fernhout <
pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com> wrote:

> Michel Bauwens wrote:
>> This is really a must-read essay!
>> and how prescient they were ... it took us 40 years to recognize their
>> truth, and climate change is the price we paid for not heeding the call of
>> material limits ...
>> But it is only a particular kind of growth that has become impossible, the
>> kind that neoliberalism and friedmanism promoted that refused to take into
>> account any externalities.
>> A steady state economy, that recognizes that any input has to recycled
>> back
>> into the system to the degree that it depletes physically limited
>> resources,
>> has tremendous 'alternative growth' potential.
>> This paragraph is key, it points out the the real cause was not the
>> subprime
>> trigger, but that the trigger itself was caused by the oil price crisis:
>> "Until recently, the Peak Oil argument has been framed as a forecast: the
>> inevitable decline in world petroleum production, whenever it occurs, will
>> kill growth. But here is where forecast becomes diagnosis: during the
>> period
>> from 2005 to 2008, energy stopped growing and oil prices rose to record
>> levels. By July of 2008, the price of a barrel of oil was nudging close to
>> $150—half again higher than any previous petroleum price in
>> inflation-adjusted terms—and the global economy was beginning to topple.
>> The
>> auto and airline industries shuddered; ordinary consumers had trouble for
>> buying gasoline for their commute to work while still paying their
>> mortgages. Consumer spending began to decline. By September the economic
>> crisis was also a financial crisis, as banks trembled and imploded."
>> Michel
>> On Sun, Aug 9, 2009 at 12:16 AM, Ryan Lanham <rlanham1963 at gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>>  This is terribly reminiscent of similar themes in the 1970s.
>>> http://www.theoildrum.com/node/5638
>>> Ryan
> Yawn. :-)
> Solar power. Wind power. Geothermal. Biofuels from algae and seawater.
> Passive solar homes. Etc. These are all ways to have abundance on Earth for
> even billions of more people right here and right now (if we wanted to
> grow).
> Self-replicating space habitats built from asteroidal ore and sunlight
> could support quadrillions of people around the Sun in space. How is that
> for growth potential for you? :-)
> The issue is, how do we get there from here in part (or whole) by using
> peer communities and a free commons? Or other sorts of peer-compatible
> technologies?
> And that stuff about banks and jobs, I don't think anyone can blame oil
> prices, sorry. Money as debt has serious boom-bust issues. Automation and
> better design destroys jobs if there is satiated demand. The USA has a
> history as an empire pushing a war racket for insiders, and that is all
> falling apart and suffering from blowback (it's a surprise it lasted this
> long). Market economies can not function once wealth is too concentrated (so
> small businesses can not form or function or hire). A fundamental weakness
> of the market is allowing systematic risk that privatizes gains and
> socializes costs (as Alan Greenspan recently acknowledge in front of
> Congress). Market also suffer from negative pollution externalities that are
> literally killing us with cancer, etc. etc.. The market also ignores
> encouraging positive externalities like community. Prussian-derived
> schooling is strangling creativity and initiative in the young. Accumulating
> general social stress levels from decades of neoliberalism have reached
> enormous proportions. Oil? What's oil? :-) We have hundreds of years of coal
> if we wanted to continue burning fossil fuels.
> Peak Oil is a convenient way to shift the blame from Milton Friedman and
> friends and all these other issues, isn't it?
>  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milton_Friedman
> But with that said, Milton Friedman supported a "negative income tax" that
> is related to a "basic income", so he had some good ideas, too. :-)
>  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_income_tax
> --Paul Fernhout
> http://www.pdfernhout.net/
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