When the Dollar Crumbles Like a Clump of Soil in Your Hand

Last week, Alan Kohler had an article, Four years on, the economy is failing once more, which got me thinking. I mentioned Jeremy Rifkin on The Empathic Civilization some time ago and the point he made more than two years ago is playing out.

The global economy has hit its upper limit. Growth just isn’t providing the dream it presented some forty years ago. Perhaps it can be thought of in a similar way as the natural planetary boundaries suggested by Rockström et al. (2009).

My posts last week criticised growth as a pipedream easily demonstrable with basic mathematics. Eventually growing pressure on resources will cause them to buckle in all cases except in the unrealistic case where the resource base is renewable, has infinite material for renewal, can match the same growth rate of the resource pressure and gets a running head start (ie. the resource base is initially exponentially larger than the resource pressure).

Growth is impractical and ultimately self-destructive.

Yet, political will to change this is non-existent. Business is in full swing and like an unstable washing machine, rather than stopping the spin cycle, it’s demanding to be exempt from all restrictions so that it can bounce merrily across the room, buckling and collapsing along the way.

I’ve questioned the will to tackle water management in Australia and highlighted the pathetic attempt by nations to address climate change. In the past, I’ve written, bewildered by the angry public backlash whenever restrictions on the table. Yes political will is pathetic. However, it is the result of private industry and the private person.

On subjects that in all honesty should be trivial – like smoking is bad for you, so people shouldn’t do it – Oreskes and Conway showed how invested interest blurred the logical path forward. Nowadays, it isn’t altogether rare to hear, “it’s my right to smoke.”

Well, no it isn’t. Firstly, cigarettes do not appear from some magic orifice in the body and we do not have an in-built lighter in our index finger. These things exist because we made them. The individual is about as free to smoke as they are to sit in an industrial oven or whistle happily as they stroll along a busy railway line. Some highly unethical individuals are making a truck load of cash on creating addiction to a toxic product. A seasoned smoker has a hard time quitting – there’s little freedom in that. The end result – that is, a very likely shortened life – is not the desired result of any healthy able-minded individual.

This whole argument is a myth.

Yet, even decades after the science was sound and even the producers of these deadly items acknowledged the reality of their product, people still get up in arms when “their right to smoke” is impacted.

Where this matter is trivial and only affects a small section of the community, the suburban dream, the SUV and fascination with the “haves” is in every home of every community. People born alongside the creation of neo-liberal markets are now finding grey hairs. By the time my baby daughter is an adult, it is unlikely that she will know anyone whom knew of anything before growth idolization.

We are trapped within communities where we feel these values are the only values that can bring about human well-being and prosperity (when, instead they do the very opposite). Resource governance is but a hobby for enthusiasts. Shoring up the future with sound reasoning does not win votes. Instead we are stuck with the expectation that extra money creation now will fund solutions to future problems. It is the Ben Ho approach I mentioned last week, which is hopelessly optimistic and naïve.

I do criticise politicians a lot. They certainly deserve it. I’m sick of the commercial brand wars and inflated peacock displays these characters provide in return for our tax dollars. Equally, we the majority, are guilty because our inaction, in the wise words of Billy Connolly, “only encourages the bastards!”

Change will not occur until societies shift, as communities, towards something better. I would also argue that no Golden Age will ever come on its own accord, but only because it is the world we choose and work hard to create and protect. We must be willing to think innovatively on how we live and make those in power follow it up. We must be willing to spend wisely, which forces business to shape up to follow the dollar.

If things are to improve, we must want it. Clearly, as it stands, the vast majority of us seem to want to leave the house as a dump for our children to take over when we’re gone.

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