FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Peak Capitalism?

by

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s recently released long-term predictions for the global economy through 2060 (Paul Mason, “The best of capitalism is over for rich countries – and for the poor ones it will be over by 2060,” The Guardian, July 7), economic growth will stagnate to something like two-thirds its present level and economic inequality will increase. But growth will continue at a higher level in the developing countries until mid-century, because there are still significant gains to be achieved through the diffusion of the West’s existing technological advantages to the rest of the world. Still, the price for even this level of economic growth — obviously, from the perspective of the neoliberal wonks at OECD — will be growing inequality.

We all know, or should know, the problem with indefinite extrapolations from present trends. They ignore negative feedback effects making those trends unsustainable. Remember those “America’s Energy Future” PSAs by the fossil fuels industries, where Brooke Alexander said growing demand would lead to 60 million new cars on the road in America by mid-century? Ain’t gonna happen. Industry numbers crunchers came up with that statistic by extrapolating from current trends, without considering that total output of petroleum has peaked and will steeply decline in the future (along with steeply rising in price). Those trends in auto use can’t continue. Instead, people will modify their behavior.

Another problem with OECD’s analysis is that it equates an increase in quality of life with “economic growth,” when in fact what the economic output statistics measure is the consumption of inputs and monetized activity. But the new technologies that show the most promise of increasing our quality of life — garage-scale micro-manufacturing with open-source CNC machinery, free and open-source informational goods, Permaculture, high-tech vernacular housing technology — will also result in the implosion of the monetized GDP, since they require less in the way of capital and labor inputs. The natural tendency of such technology is toward a world in which the capital required to meet our consumption needs can be raised by small cooperative groups of producers, those needs can be met with fifteen or twenty hours of labor a week, and the official GDP figures collapse because everything is so cheap.

The only way to prevent this collapse of official economic output metrics and maintain present levels of economic inequality is for the economic ruling class, the propertied elites, to act through their state to enclose technological progress as a source of rents. But the legal framework these enclosures depend on is untenable. We’ve already seen what Wikipedia has done to dead-tree encyclopedias and file-sharing to music and movie industry profits. The shift to micro-manufacturing of most goods in neighborhood shops, using pirated digital design files to produce knockoffs of patented goods or just producing better designs without built-in obsolescence, will do the same to the industrial corporations.

We’re headed for a world where the transaction costs of networking together are near zero, where ordinary people can associate to produce most consumption goods with capital outlays equivalent to a few months’ factory wages, and there’s nothing all the regulations, patents and copyrights on paper can do to stop us.

As the subtitle of the Guardian article cited above says, “Populations with access to technology and a sense of their human rights will not accept inequality.” The people of the world will simply not allow economic elites, with the help of the state, to maintain toll-gates between us and the technologies of abundance, skimming off most of the benefits in return for letting some of them trickle down.

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory.

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory. He is a mutualist and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online. 

Weekend Edition
May 06, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Dave Wagner
When Liberals Run Out of Patience: the Impolite Exile of Seymour Hersh
John Stauber
Strange Bedfellows: the Bizarre Coalition of Kochs, Neocons and Democrats Allied Against Trump and His #FUvoters
Rob Urie
Hillary Clinton and the End of the Democratic Party
Joshua Frank
Afghanistan: Bombing the Land of the Snow Leopard
Bill Martin
Fear of Trump: Annals of Parliamentary Cretinism
Doug Johnson Hatlem
NYC Board of Elections Suspends 2nd Official, Delays Hillary Clinton v. Bernie Sanders Results Certification
Carol Miller
Pretending the Democratic Party Platform Matters
Paul Street
Hey, Bernie, Leave Them Kids Alone
Tamara Pearson
Mexico Already Has a Giant Wall, and a Mining Company Helped to Build It
Paul Craig Roberts
Somnolent Europe, Russia, and China
Dave Lindorff
Bringing the Sanders ‘Revolution’ to Philly’s Streets
Margaret Kimberley
Obama’s Last Gasp Imperialism
Carmelo Ruiz
The New Wave of Repression in Puerto Rico
Jack Denton
Prison Labor Strike in Alabama: “We Will No Longer Contribute to Our Own Oppression”
Jeffrey St. Clair
David Bowie’s 100 Favorite Books, the CounterPunch Connection
David Rosen
Poverty in America: the Deepening Crisis
Pepe Escobar
NATO on Trade, in Europe and Asia, is Doomed
Pete Dolack
Another Goodbye to Democracy if Transatlantic Partnership is Passed
Carla Blank
Prince: Pain and Dance
Gabriel Rockhill
Media Blackout on Nuit Debout
Barry Lando
Welcome to the Machine World: the Perfect Technological Storm
Hilary Goodfriend
The Wall Street Journal is Playing Dirty in El Salvador, Again
Frank Stricker
Ready for the Coming Assault on Social Security? Five Things Paul Ryan and Friends Don’t Want You to Think About
Robert Gordon
Beyond the Wall: an In-Depth Look at U.S. Immigration Policy
Roger Annis
City at the Heart of the Alberta Tar Sands Burning to the Ground
Simon Jones
RISE: New Politics for a Tired Scotland
Rob Hager
After Indiana: Sanders Wins another Purple State, But Remains Lost in a Haze of Bad Strategy and Rigged Delegate Math
Howard Lisnoff
Father Daniel Berrigan, Anti-war Hero With a Huge Blindspot
Adam Bartley
Australia-China Relations and the Politics of Canberra’s Submarine Deal
Nyla Ali Khan
The Complexity of the Kashmir Issue: “Conflict Can and Should be Handled Constructively
Josh Hoxie
American Tax Havens: Elites Don’t Have to go to Panama to Hide Their Money–They’ve Got Delaware
Ramzy Baroud
The Spirit of Nelson Mandela in Palestine: Is His Real Legacy Being Upheld?
Alli McCracken - Raed Jarrar
#IsraelSaudi: A Match Made in Hell
George Wuerthner
Working Wilderness and Other Code Words
Robert Koehler
Cowardice and Exoneration in Kunduz
Ron Jacobs
Psychedelic Rangers Extraordinaire
Missy Comley Beattie
It’s a Shit Show!
David Macaray
Our Best Weapon Is Being Systematically Eliminated
Colin Todhunter
Future Options: From Militarism and Monsanto to Gandhi and Bhaskar Save
Binoy Kampmark
The Trump Train Chugs Along
John Laforge
Dan Berrigan, 1921 – 2016: “We Haven’t Lost, Because We Haven’t Given Up.”
Tadeu Bijos
The Wants of Others
Norman Trabulsy Jr
John Denver and My 40th High School Reunion
Charles R. Larson
Being Gay in China, Circa 1987
David Yearsley
Skepticism, Irony, and Doubt: Williams on Bach
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail