Saturday, 7 December 2013


The death of Nelson Mandela on 5 December 2013 has caused many to reflect on racial inequality. Racial inequality is too mild a term to use when discussing apartheid, which was not only separate development, but outright violence both - corporal and structural - against non whites, but in a reflection on inequality I will stay with the generic term.

In current UK law there are 9 protected characteristics:
  • age 
  • disability 
  • gender reassignment 
  • marriage and civil partnership 
  • pregnancy and maternity
  •  race 
  • religion and belief 
  • sex 
  • sexual orientation
When I was looking for a list of these, I happened upon the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service's website, which says the service has extended its commitment to include "reducing the inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage. The website also references the "public sector Equality Duty, which states that public bodies must have due regard to the need to:
  • Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation
  • Advance equality of opportunity
  • Foster good relations between different groups"
This conveniently leads me in to what I was going to say.

The most obvious and readily applied way of discriminating against someone is socio-economically; they don't get a job because of their race, say, or they don't receive as good a service as others because of their age. These are pretty clear cut, but disability is less so. It has a meaning within the act, but our abilities are relative. One might be more intelligent and/or physically stronger than another. Even if I am not considered to have a disability, your greater abilities can enable you to take a more advantaged position than me.

Surely the spirit of the legislation must be that there should be no discrimination against people who are less able (intelligent, physically strong) than others? Not that I am condoning it, but is there any less reason to rise up against socio-economic inequality than racial inequality?

In our current system the advantage of physical strength and/or intellect that someone has over another is expressed mainly in the monetary system, and our monetary system has - built in - the characteristic that money mainly flows from those who have less of it to those who have more. In an RBE, where there is no money, the system would naturally tend towards equality.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Drugs and money - patents or patients

Eric Merola is about to release his sequel to his 2010 Burzynski, the Movie entitled Burzynski: Cancer is Serious Business, Part II. I blogged about the issues raised by the first film longer ago than I care to check.

I sometimes think that the pharmaceutical industry is one of the most worrying components of our current economic system. I am not cynical enough to suggest that everyone in the business is simply out to make money and doesn't really care about the public and its diseases, but how does one reconcile the issues?

  • Ideally, drugs / treatments should cure or relieve the symptoms of as many people as possible per unit of physical resources consumed.
  • In our current system, a return on investment (of £/$) is required.
  • In our current system, people need jobs
If a pharma company has spent £/$ millions developing a drug, it has to be bought so that they get their RoI. If not, the £ is wasted, and people will be out of a job. So, if some cheap and cheerful alternative comes along, it would hardly be surprising if those in big pharma who stand to lose their livelihoods went out of their way to undermine, play down, or discredit it. One subtle way they (allegedly) do this is to say that a rival treatment is untested (true at least by the methods they accept) whilst going out if their way to stop it being tested. Commercial rivalry.

I don't claim that Burzynski is excluded from this problem. He wants to (or needs to) benefit from patents on his treatment and with the current system who can blame him?

Only a purely objective, scientific study of the effectiveness of a treatment per unit of physical resource is saisfactory.With £/$ in the equation, even if this is possible, how can we ever be sure that £/$ is not distorting the science?

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Yet more collaborative consumption aka the sharing economy

There was a brief item on the subject on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Saturday 12 October, headed "Ownership in 2013". There's a podcast at

Amongst the online resources mentioned were - "making sharing mainstream. We're on a mission to build a Sharing Economy and we love to help you discover that sharing is... fun, affordable, easy, accessible, mobile and of course social. We bring it all together on-line, on land and on-the-go."

They seem to be closely related to - "the world’s one-stop comparison marketplace of the Sharing Economy."

Then there was Find, Invest, Grow which "works with young entrepreneurs, typically undergraduates and graduates of the past five years, to see them crystallise their ideas, support them through the development of their business plans and introduce them to suitable investors".

Googling around for more information, I found an article entitled Sharing is caring  in The (London) Evening Standard. This site mentions to me very well-known resources such as airbnb, but also several currently USA only schemes, the most interesting of which - to me - was Postmate,  a crowd-sourced bicycle courier service.

Sorted - - was more UK relevant. It offers up people in your area who are willing to do gardening and chores for an hourly rate.

Monday, 30 September 2013

E-books; owning books

Prompted by buying a second hand book that will have to be transported from the USA to reach me, taking maybe several weeks, and another instance of a conversation with my anti e-book friend, I thought I would explore the attraction of owning physical books (p-books as I shall call them for brevity) alongside alternative views.

My friend spoke of how impressive a study full of p-books looks. It does, but the association of having shelves of p-books with being cultured, refined, educated, clever, was first made in a time when there were no e-books.The erudite of the future won't be identifiable by their shelves of p-books. If they want to display their eclat they will have to somehow graphically represent what texts are on their e-book reader. The fact that a person has  books doesn't mean they have read all or part of any of them. In fact we can safely say that everyone has books that they intend to read all of but have not. With e-books, of course, this is less of an issue, as they take up so little space.

The point of owning books on a more practical level was that you wanted them to hand. Exhortations to borrow them from the library were pointless when you wanted 24-7 access to the information. This has obviously diminished with the www where you can look "anything" up at any time. You can borrow an e-book from the library. You will have access to it for a limited time (like a p-book from the library), but I don't know if there's a limit on the number of copies available. It's not a technical limit, but the author's income stream will disappear if the e-book can be borrowed by everybody at any time, rendering "owning" it fairly pointless.

I'm sure you can see the train of thought into an RBE here. In the current system, the author of a book has to withold its text from you because he has to eat, meaning he must sell his labour, but you must also sell your labour to get money to buy the book. The logical thing to do is to share the text oif the book as widely as possible (step forward e-book) whilst ensuring that everyone is adequately nutrified as a birthright and not because they coerced to sell their labour.

This is 'structural violence' work or die - it's that simple. Would people still work if not threatened with this structural violence? Well there's only one way to find out for certain, though evidence from volunteering and charitable donations suggests people do want to help each other

Collaborative Consumption - some example enterprises

These were, I think, published in Metro (free newspaper). I am noting them here for reference. I have no knowledge of them other than their reported existence.

For a more comprehensive list of collaborative consumption enterprises, see There are lots if collcon enterprises about, many of them overlapping in the service they are sharing. I think a shakedown is needed.

I don't want to be naive or offensive, but it strikes me that some of these may be helpful to those facing "bedroom tax". - rent out loft/garage space to someone looking for storage space. - rooms to rent Monday - Friday for commuters - rent out tools and DIY items - rent out a private parking space - matches passengers with car drivers for journey cost sharing - search for odd jobs tradespeople.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Population - again

The issue has come again in my conversation, and I'd like to expatiate again.

The planet has a carrying capacity that cannot be exceeded. This is an undisputable point. The biosphere is a finite system, whether we like / ignore the fact or not.

We can only find out what that carrying capacity is, I suggest, empirically, by increasing the population. But we still have the problem of quantifying that carrying capacity. It has to be sustainable over time; if we sustained x billion for a month but then people started to die, would that have achieved our target?

Given that we know there is an upper limit, even if we can't quantify it, do we put the brakes on now? My opponent says it is better never to exist than to be born into starvation and curable disease, and that living on another planet is purely fantasy. But this involves speculation that the human population can't be sustained by technology as yet undiscovered and uncovers profound questions about the unborn which are perhaps the epitome of speculation.

If we should put the brakes on now, the problem I still have is with targetting those social groups that currently have the most children per woman. The idea that they can't afford them, or that someone else shouldn't have to bear the expense of them is really abhorrent to me. Is there another species that goes in for this kind of social engineering? Survival of the fittest may seem cruel intellectually, but it is unavoidable in practice.

Social engineering is aan abstraction. It is us imposing our will/morals on others when there are other options.

Friday, 9 August 2013


On the TV news (BBC I expect) recently, an economist was wheeled out to comment on whether the increase in population in the UK and especially London is good for the economy.

Yes, of course there is a need to match resource locations to population locations - a planning and logistical challenge, but what does being 'good for the economy' entail, exactly? How do we know if our ecnomy is doing what we want from it.

"The economy" is an abstract thing, yet it is so oftem mentioned it seems real. Something  good for the economy, is something good full-stop.

A good economy is a growing economy, you might say. Usually, economic growth is used to mean an increase in GDP. I have challenged this approach on this blog and elsewhere, as have others far more qualified and able than me to do so. GDP is - very roughly - how much money is spent on things. But money must be spent on things for a reason. What is that reason? What are we trying to get our economy to do?

Have people live longer? That increases  population, everything else being equal, yet it does seem to be what we are trying to do. Why do we want more people alive? I would say every species tries to increase its population, so why shouldn't we?

Quantifying the population that the planet can sustain can only really be done for definite by increasing population towards that limit. Te big questin for me is do we aim to have a sustainable population over time, or at any one time.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Will you take a punt?

I was conversing with a climate change sceptic today. His thesis was that the whole global warming thing is just another attempt to make money.

I can understand his cynicism. Unless we verify scientific research ourselves, how can we ever absolutely know to what extent it is purely objective, and how much of it arises from the fact that scientists have to eat and to eat the have to make money.

Yes - the oil companies may be on board with the climate change consensus to make money, but making money is what our current system idolises. It makes it very diffiicult to judge whether someone is being objective, given the temptation.

If man made climate change is really happening, and if it is catastrophic, and it is not too late to do something, then, logically, we have no choice but to act if we want to save humanity and the consquences of inaction are dire.

The consequences of action are not dire, At best we will be wasting time/effort in a misguided attempt save ourselves for something that it is not in fact a threat.

In a simple truth  table it looks like this:

DON'T ACT !!!!!! OK

Four possibilities. We cannot change whether man made climate change is true or false. We can only change whether we act on it or not. If we act on it, we save ourseles from it. If we don't, we gamble on whther it is true or not.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Manfred Max Neef

There's a playlist of videos of progressive economist Max Neef here:

It is worthy of your time. I found a transcript here

from which I want to extract a nugget:

"The principles ,... of an economics which should be[,] are based in five postulates and one fundamental value principle.

One, the economy is to serve the people and not the people to serve the economy [sic]
Two, development is about people and not about objects.

Three, growth is not the same as development, and development does not necessarily require growth.

Four, no economy is possible in the absence of ecosystem services.

Five, the economy is a subsystem of a larger finite system, the biosphere, hence permanent growth is impossible.

And the fundamental value to sustain a new economy should be that no economic interest, under no circumstance, can be above the reverence of life"

and in the interview, Max Neef clarifies / expands on two terms used:

"Nothing can be more important than life. And I say life, not human beings, because, for me, the center is the miracle of life in all its manifestations."

"Growth is a quantitative accumulation. Development is the liberation of creative possibilities. Every living system in nature grows up to a certain point and stops growing. You are not growing anymore, nor he nor me. But we continue developing ourselves. Otherwise we wouldn’t be dialoguing here now. So development has no limits. Growth has limits."

Monday, 15 July 2013

BBC compliant in "economic growth" lie

The BBC just broadcast a TV news item on the reducing rate of economic growth -  a widely deployed euphemism for increase in GDP - in China. The preamble stated as fact that getting economic growth is a worldwide problem. Thus the whole item was based on the false premise that an increase in GDP is entirely desirable.

The New Scientist reported on the Genuine Progress Indicator -  a measurement that removes negative elemts from GDP. As the article puts it:

"[GDP as a] measure of prosperity fails to account for social factors and environmental costs. Oil spills and crime, for example, increase GDP because money must be spent on clean-up and replacement of lost goods, yet few would claim that they increase the general well-being of a state."

Housing ladder

A BBC news item I just saw on TV lamented the lack of  affordable housing, particularly in London & the Southeast, but it still used the term "housing ladder". According to our crackpot system, housing has to be lower in price so that people can afford it, but once you've nought somewhere, the price is expected to go up - the housing ladder - as your "investment" pays off.

It's so self contradictory as to be laughable. Apart from anything else, your house is falling down - entropy - so how can it be increasing in value over time. OK you can improve an maintain it, to help it hold its true value, or lose it less quickly, but most house price rise is simply inflationary.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Smoking kills but let's not abolish it

I heard a BBC Radio 4 news item along similar lines. The quote that stands out:

"plain packaging legislation could cost jobs in manufacturing and in retail".

Yes - if people stop smoking fewer cigarettes will be sold and fewer cigarettes sold and smoked means fewer jobs in the related industries. Also, fewer cigarettes sold means less GDP.

Thus jobs and GDP are placed above health and human life in the  "ecomoronic" system we operate in.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Workers' Self-directed Enterprises

Some paths through the transition from our current economic lunacy to a sane and sustainable Resource Based Economy would entail refrorms to the world of work.

One possibility is the WSDE which you can read more about at WSDE's have overtones of Co-operatives, but are not completely similar. The Mondragon Corporation is a large international company built on this model.

I picked up these snippets from an interview of soneone from I didn't hear all of it, hence this partly digested blog entry; even so I wanted to denote the information.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher

Whilst one is not supposed to speak ill of the dead, it is also traditional to review someone's life when it ends. I thought I'd write on what other commentators have said about the late Mrs Thatcher.

She was a conviction politician - a person with convictions. This contrasts her with the archetypal grey suits. Admittedly someone being clear about what they belive in and following it up can be attractive but the benefits of following one's convictions rather depends on the effect they have on other people.

For me Thatcher's massive blind spot - to be kind, lie if not - was her claim that people fending for themselves as individuals is best and somehow universally applicable. She herself had considerable ability, and apparently worked hard too. But there are people who work hard and yet don't enjoy great success, and vice versa. Thatcher was content to jibe at those who used buses as being unsuccessful, but the subtext of unsuccessful was 'not hard working. It is a monumental fallacy to equate lack of success with lack of effort, and one that politicians try to disguise by constantly drawing attention to the feckless.

If she was right that it was unsustainable to support industry through taxes when it couldn't stand on its own two feet, and she may have been at least to some extent, she was nevertheless wrong to maintain that those deprived of their livelihoods when the industries closed would thrive if only they lived out her credo of hard work.

Her battle with the unions exhibited the fallacy further still. It is demonstrably untrue that hard work by itself will bring a fair share of the planet's resources to the worker, and history shows over and over again that the poor were downtrodden. The only power they really had was the power to withdraw their labour (the opposite of working hard) a power that can only be effectively exercised collectively, hence unions. It may be argued that unions had acquired too much power, but this has to be set alongside the power exercised by the rich and powerful in their own interest.

She won three general elections convincingly. This makes her good at being a politician, but again it is only what she did for other people that can be to her real credit, or debit.

And success as defined by our monetary economic system is relative. Not everyone can be a financier. Some people have to borrow money for the financier to be successful. Businesses need customers. As successful bookie wil offer good enough odds to draw in enough money from unsuccessful punters to pay out those who win bets and to keep a profit for him/herself. Success requires failure.Competition requires that there be losers as well as winners.

Thatcher's apparent inability or refusal to understand that not everyone can be successful is what I will remember her for.

Working hard

On the day that Margaret Thatcher died, I happened to be in Dulwich with a couple of hours to kill. Looking at the large houses and drives, and fancy shops, I reflected upon the idea of rewards for hard work that Thatcher preached, not unlike politicians before or since, though she was probably best known for it.

When we were children, my father worked 5 1/2 days a week to support his family. No-one can say he didn't work hard, and he was by no means the only one. Did we live in a large house in Dulwich? No, in fact my parents sold their east London 2 bedroomed terraced  house with outside toilet to the council and rented it back.

It is clear from the number of people who work hard and have very little that life's rewards are not allocated simply on the basis of hard work.

One element of the allocation "calculation" may be innate ability. Those most talented can accrue the greatest reward. This innate talent is bot something they worked for, yet the system rewards them for having it. The system, though, does not seem to allow even subsistence level of reward as everyone's birthright, as we know from the starving millions, many of whom may have remarkable talents that will never benefit anyone if the person given the talents never has an opportunity to use them, or worse still simply dies.

Those who have the most resources at their disposal must be held most responsible for those that have the least. Hard work alone is unlikely to gain you the privelege we see in the rich and powerful.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Zeitgeist Day 2013 - Random notes

I find it hard to believe that 2013's was my 5th Zeitgeist Day - over 4 years of involvement. Below is an attenpt to capture some of the miscelaneous notes I made during the day's talks in London. I hope they are of some use, but having made them, I want to capture them somewhere electronic and throw and recycle the scrap paper they are on.

David Wood. London Futurists. (share presentations on line), Golden-i headsets, Creative destruction of medicine, NBIC mega-convergence; Atoms, genes, bits, neurons; Negative singularity (S^ or was it ^S), singularity 1 on 1. Smart drugs. Shroomtech.

General Sematics. Toastmasters - organisation that teaches/fosters public speaking.

My Fair London - Sean Baine. Social Evaluative Threat.

Daren De Witt - Centre for Non Violent Communication -

Language of domination cultures. 'get to the core of what is alive in us'. Marshal Rosenburg's 10 areas of needs. Max-Neef: Himan Scale  Development. 9 needs/satisfiers. NVC in a nutshell - Feelings, Needs, Observations, Requests.

John Webster. Meet Your Straw Man. Nature of a cage.  Legal Fiction. Bills of Exchange Act 1882.

Freeconomy. Mark Boyle. Moneyless Manifesto. Jeremy Rifkin's idea that empathy motivates us, not competition.

"Schools of Thought - young people in education and how to fix it". Jolitics. Openideo, vocaleyes, Change The Future, Imagination For People, Luke Flegg and Charlie Shread. Myles Dyer connection.

Grant Dive. Team Humanity.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Creativity and growth

Refreshing to hear Tony Greenham of the New Economic Foundation in this discussion on BBC Radio 4s Today programme this morning separaing out GDP growth from the growth we actually want. I wish he'd had more time. Mariana Mazzucato had the lion's share, it seemed to me, but spoke about standard economic stuff without challenging the assumption that increase in GDP is unequivocally good.

Tony pointed out that crime and the destruction of rainforests contribute to GDP, he opined. I would disagree with him that growth in jobs is desirable. It's interesting that he should have that in his list alongside sustainability and equality.

Better institutions and organisations

This is a snippet from a talk I saw somewhere on Youtube. All credit to its author, whom I have forgotten the name of.

Traditional, established organisations/institutions are:
  • Centralised
  • Patriarchal
  • Top down (hierarchical)
  • Closed
  • Proprietary
Modern [sc: better] organisations/institutions are:
  • Distributive
  • Collaborative
  • Lateral
  • Open
  • Transparent

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Killer jobs

I just listened to an item on BBC Radio 4s 'PM' programme about a polluted river in China. A campaigner had offered the equivalent of £10,000 to acertain politician to swim in it, so far with no response.

A correspondent interviewed a woman who had lived alongside the river for twenty years. When she first lived there the river water was drinkable and the fish it produced delicious, but with all the industries, now it is an ugly, stinking, carcinogenic environmental disaster. The campaigner in question believes his health is being adversely affected.

The piece ended with someone (a politician) saying that previous priority was jobs, but now environmental protection is a priority.

Be very afraid. Politicians fequently prioritise jobs and economic growth over the preservation of the finite biosphere that maintains our lives. Yes that's it, they considered it more important to create things for people to do than to preserve human life directly, and some of the things the people were doing wer actively destroying the environment, which sustains life. It is literally more important in the eyes of these deranged people to kill people and animals than to keep them alive if the former creates jobs.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Social Secuity

What if we were really rewarded for efficiency, or safeguarded from its ill-effects?

Rewards for efficiency are expressed in the form of targets, but we all know they encourage game-playing, because anyone who's in work has to struggle to stay there, and therefore puts across a persona that's working hard in the face of reduced resources.

Efficiency means more output per unit of input, and the "units of input" include jobs. Those without jobs are not hailed as harbingers of efficiency and the vanguard of the new age of freedom from work, but as scroungers, spongers, good-for-nothings and so on. Better to play the game of staying in work than to face that ignominy. Perform only as well as you have to to keep your job. Keep your head down, stay under the radar.

Thus we dwindle away our lives - assuming we're mainly paid for the amount of time we give over to work, but what if we were assured of real social security. What if everyone could work to reduce work, safe in he knowlege that they wouldn't at worst starve and at best be stigmatised for indolence or sloth?

This is the challenge we face as technological unemployment and enviromental catastrophe face us. We have to stop consuming our planet's resources just to make work to get money to spend on consuming our planet's resources (cyclic consumption).

Let's abandon this mutually assured destruction now.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Planned economy

It occurs to me that the defence of the free-market system often includes disdain for a planned economy, but there are so many elements of society are planned, and the fact that they are is uncontroversial.

Who would argue for an unplanned rail system? Market driven policing? Who in their professional life does not work to a plan - a business plan or something similar? Who does not plan their holidays? Is town planning wrong in principle?

To support the market economy, the coffee shop seems to be paradigmatic, but which shop you buy a cup of coffee in is so trivial as to make a mockery of the argument.

It seems to me that we plan everything remortely serious in our lives, or at least accept that we ought to plan for those things, but for some reason we draw the line at planning how we sustainably live on this finite planet.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013


Voluntary charitable donations of time/goods or money don't make any sense. Our current economic system upholds work for income - for survival, yet people voluntaily give their time/money to those who need it more than they do.

Is there any reason why the money, or preferably the actual resources, should not go direct to those who need it, rather than via a donor, or do we like the feeling of control we get from choosing how much to give, and what causes are deserving?

Sponsored events oddly require someone to endure some ordeal or undertake some in itself pointless venture in order that others may give to charity. Perhaps this is the work ethic intruding again. I will save the life of a straving child in the third world if you wear a plastic red nose for the day.

Those who give to charity realise that the work for income system fails most markedly at the extreme poor end of society, where people have no real possibility of work, but where is the line to be drawn between those who for one reason or another really cannot work, and those who can (though of course the distinction is not so sharp as there are people who do lots of work and people who do little, and every shade between)?

Yet charitable donors are prepared to give something for no direct return, which demonstrates that they are not motivated by money, as our current economic system holds that they should be.

The logic of an RBE seems inevitable. Let everyone have what they need (or a fair share of what's available), and share out the work that needs doing amongst those that can and will do it.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Inelastic money

You will know if you have read the relevant posts that I take the view that the only reason there should be  more money in existence is if there is genuine growth. I don't mean growth in GDP,  because growth GDP can include things which are bad in themselves, or from putting right things that are wrong.

I concluded that only things that are good for humanity should count as growth. The thought process follows through that what is good for humanity is indicated by increased population. This is because increased health and happiness will lead to longer lives and therefore increased population, but also simply because twice as many equally healthy-happy people equals twice as much health-happiness.

But I have been itrigued by the idea in the essay linked to above - inelastic money. This is a money supply that never grows or shrinks and only varies in velocity. If the value (utility) of goods and services increases, then there is deflation as each unit of money represents more goods and services.

I am finding this intrigung and shaall certainly give it more thought, some of which I shall undoubtedly expatiate here.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

"Value" food

Now that the stream of very amusing jokes about horse meat in beef burgers has died down, perhaps some thought on the idea that some of it was found in products described as "value" burgers.

I am not singling out Tesco's here. I have no way of knowing whether their products are as good or as bad as anyone else's, but its quite clear that "value" and other such descriptors are designed to attract the poorer sections of society.

In a rational world "value" might refer to nutritional content per unit cost. If not everyone then many people would go for that, but in fact many people have the idea that "value" means low quality as well as low price. Those on benefits are under pressure to buy such products as they are living of the state, but if the products are typically high in fat and/or high in salt, say, or padded out with worthless fillers, as critics say they are, why shouild anyone be constrained to buy them just because the ticket price is low? And if these products are worse for the eater's  health than the higher priced versions, all the producers and retailers have done is passed on the consequences of these "value" foods to the health service who treat people for heart disease, high cholestorol, high blood pressure and other "lifestyle diseases".

But clearly we do not live in a rational world, and these products are not in fact good value to the eater. Of course that isn't what the "value"  tag claims. It just creates that impression.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Personal property

I've just been listening to Peter Joseph on Blogtalk radio, and one of the subjects he explored is psychology v logic. By way of example, he set up abolition of / deprivation from personal property as one of the straw men used against the RBE.

My thoughts here follow on from his, but are not what he said exactly; they combine some of the ideas expressed in his talk in a different way.

Personal property is sacrosanct in many people's views. Even in a work environment, with equipment allocated / issued by an employer, people can have a strong identification of something being theirs - can I borrow YOUR stapler.

It's quite hard to analyse; there's one element of identifing with a possession - a concept that car manufacturers like to play on, so that a possession is part of you or your personality, and the other element is securing access to the resource. (I'm settimg aside things of sentimental value, or yucky things like sharing a toothbrush).

Let's take a CD for example. Technologically, it's perfectly possible to listen to any piece of music (recording) anytime, anywhere. We don't technically need a CD. Somehow though, the desire to have instant access to a recording, plus the £ invested in it, plus the (at one time) technical need to physically have a CD, plus the emotional draw created by the packaging, plus the cultural norm of posessing / owning combine powerfully to make us defensive of our CD collection, and reluctant if not unable to boil this down to actually what we want (what service) from the CD.

Imagine this scaled up, though, to a motor vehicle or dwelling. Living in an RBE takes such a leap of imagination. It's hard to inagine a world where we can call up a pice of music on any device that's to hand, or find a sleeping place where we happen to be, or easily and comfortably get from where we are to wher we want to be without any hassle, so at the moment we tend to own (secure exclusive use of) devices / objects that render these services. Thus we have CDs we rarely play, cars that are mainly parked, and so on usque ad infinitem.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Classical Economics lunacy

This video has mainly Swedish dialogue and (retro-added) English subtitles, occasionally the reverse, and yet more occasionally dilogue in a third language with in vision Swedish subtitles superimposed with retro-added English subtitles. This can make it hard work if you don't know Swedish, and occasionally the English subtitles are obsured by the video content.

A main point I took away from this is that classical economic models do not include the banks and debt, and this is why economists mainly failed to see the latest financial crisis coming. You can take delight in watching various Nobel prize winning economists splutter and stammer when this point is put to them - unsurprising as (and the film points this out via other commentators) they have built careers and reputations over many years using the flawed model. One at least cogent retort is that banks and debt can be ignored becuse "for every loan there is a lender" (I think I quote correctly) , but this conveniently ignores the fact that debt carries interest, so debts are always greater than loans.

The film concludes that reducing the size of the financial sector in an economy - resetting it  - is the way forward, but this srikes me as either doing less of the wrong thing, or doing the wrong thing righhter, or just again in the hope that this time it will be OK.

The film stops short of really showing up the contradictions / fallacies in our GDP growth paradigm. It features a Spanish family who narrowly avoid eviction for mortgae arrears, and a vast unoccupiable housing development started before the bubble burst. The references to the 'value' of homes were in the common usage of the price they could be sold for, ignoring the fact of an underlying value of the home as an amenity. [Nature /  physics teaches us that there is entropy. So, untouched, a buiding will eventually crumble: its innate value is falling from the moment the builders leave the site - it is depreciating in real terms. Yet we are so indoctrinated by market orthodoxy that we tend to equate price and value.]

Vertical farms and birthrights

 I started watching this talk because it is about vertical farms, but the speaker, Dickson Despommier, spends a lot of time explaining what the problems we face as a planet are, leaving less for detail on vertical farms, which for him are part of the solution.

This doesn't detract from the talk overall, though if you're more interested in vertical farms in a technical way, you may need to look elsewhere, or follow up the sources used in the talk.

The main thing I took away from the talk is Despommier's bottom line, or sine qua non, or key aim that there should be adequate water and nutrition for every human being as a birthright (ie not something that you have to work for, nor something which is granted to you by a government or other person or institution). Also, he actually quantifies 'adequate' as being 2.3 litres of fresh water and 1500 calories in food per person per day. I have no means to challenge these quantities, nor reason to doubt them, but having even a working estimate enables calculations to be done and gives clarity for planning purposes over and above the more nebulous/subjective "adequate".