Sunday 22 July 2007

Why It Just Isn't Working Any More

Put simply, our current economic model has outlived it's usefulness.
It's just not taking us forward any more.
It is not up to the challenge of dealing with the real human problems of the twenty first century.

National governments have too narrow a frame of reference, multinational corporations stand in the way.

Once upon time, it worked. Human Progress was a fortunate dividend that came as a byproduct of the Capitalist Economic model. It wasn't bust, there was no need to fix it.

But let's look at the problems we face now.

Firstly, Africa's problems are the problems of all of us. The world is just too small to think otherwise. But aid concerts and famine relief won't deal with the real problems.
The real problems are to do with corruption, civil war and lack of infrastructure.
Those are not insurmountable problems.
But they are if short term self interest rules.
Long term self interest would have those of us with the advantage to be able to do so, to go into Africa and build the railways, road networks, airports, hospitals, schools, universities, everything that we have, so that the whole continent of Africa has everything that Europe and North America have.

It's about resources and Human Expertise.
How is the all wise market going to acheive this?
But when it's done the lives of all of us would be better, because human existence and life on earth will work better.

And what about our own countries?
They all now have a bottom rung, the rejects of the system, a whole class that wasn't there fifty years ago, surviving on the crumbs that fall from above.
Oh sure, we house them and feed them for free.
But we have no use for their energy.
How wasteful is that?
How can any way of life be said to work, that throws away human energy?
That creates a class of people who have nothing to gain from co-operation with the rest of society, that doesn't care if you send them to prison, because prison is no worse than their real lives, that is happy for an early death on heroin?

Working is it?

And what of our future?
We are blind to it.

The population of the Earth isn't going to go down.
And birth control can only ever be a short term solution.
It can slow the growth, it will never stop it.
And if we truly believed in ourselves, why would we want it to?

Practised on a large scale, it's very negative, certainly the way it's practised in the west.
It's foolish to pretend that many characteristics, health, intelligence, understanding, compassion, etc, are not often inherited.
Yet the people with the largest share of these traits to pass on are made the ones who pass on their traits least.

A progressive human society would see the problem, not as one of limiting the number of mouths, but of finding more space for humanity.

Yet the bright hopes of the sixties have faded.
We haven't been back to the Moon in over thirty years.
So little money is put into space research that we can't even send a probe to Mars that works.
This wonderful capitalist system will throw more money at Pokemon than Colin Pillinger.

Let me be clear here. I believe if we can't make it off this rock, if we can't make our neighbouring worlds into homes for our descendants, we are failing in our potential as a species.

We are failing in our potential now.
Because we are wasting our energy.
Most of the products of human energy consist of a pointless musical chairs of assets, the wasteful western game of buying and selling.
A game about short term individual self gratification.
A game we think we enjoy, because it somehow recreates the primtive hunting instincts in us.
Is that all we're good for? Subsitute hunting in suits?
But who are we hunting?

Time to move on.
Time to reach for the stars


Anonymous said...

I would venture to say, too that the energies of those on the upper rungs of the ladder are being wasted as well. For some reason we "reward" intelligience and creativity with work that with all due respect is mind and body-numbingly boring but can be quite lucrative.

Anonymous said...

Until we can check our materialistic ways, we will never have any progress! We value money and things over humanity.

Anonymous said...

Who "went in" and built our roads and railways? It wasn't some munificent benefactor.

There is nothing in Africa which can't be solved by Africans - to misquote Bill Clinton.

I don't know what you would put in capitalism's place but I do know you would have to force the system onto us, so how is that freedom?

Anonymous said...

CBI: how can you honestly say that there is a bottom rung that wasn't there 50 years ago?

Since the creation of cities there have always been 'rungs' and always a bottom one. Not too long ago there was a bottom rung that wasn't even free.

You keep saying the economic system isn't working, yet countries continue to prosper (including this one). It is not the system that is failing the bottom rung, it is the bottom rung that is failing. Everyone has a chance (some more than others) to make it in this world, some do, some don't. This 'failing' system seems to be the best one out there.

Africa would be much better off if the rest of the world stopped treating it like a welfare case. The more aid we give the less they will ever rely on themselves to supply their needs. It's much easier to put your hand out than to use the hand to make something.

Anonymous said...

Or perhaps CBI thinks that the Africans can't help themselves? I think it's a bit paternalist to say that we must go and sort other people out. Isn't that what the colonisers thought they were doing?

Anonymous said...

I have always wanted to go and live on the moon! It would be cool.

We live in a country where the gap between rich and poor is widening at an accelerating rate.... that can't be wise..

Anonymous said...

That's because the poor are prevented from working to improve their living standard by a system which was supposed to help them get off welfare.

Well done Gordon.

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of what you say, Crushed. But wasn't space exploration, from the outset, done in oprder to have another "theatre" from which we could wage war? And a "class that wasn't there 50 years ago" - I think they were always there, sadly.

Anonymous said...

Helen- I'd agree. Most of the work most of us do is socially unproductive. It's mainly a battle of wills to sell eachother stuff we all need to sell more stuff. As a said, a musical chairs of assets.

Jenny- And we could have both. The raw materials are there, the knowledge is there. But most of the energy is wasted in our anachronistic mode of distribution.

Ed- I'm not talking about force, quite the reverse. I'm talking about removing power from a clique and giving it to everyone.
Control over resources and human labour s power.
I'm on about a democratic system.
Africans can't help themselves because they don't have the tools. We do.
You say that's paternalistic, but their raw materials are owned by us.

Lord N- 50 years ago the bottom rung was part of the ladder, not a pit below it.
I think its increasingly irrelevant to see the world as 180 non related units of government. We interconnect too much.
Our way of life is becoming more similar by the day. Life in australia now is more like life in America, than life in Kent was like life in Lancashire in 1900.
In global terms, africa is the World's lumpenproleteriat, the world's social problem.
Whoever solves it makes OUR lives better, here.
And its easiest for us to solve it, because we can.
Most of it is created by us, after all.

Mutley- I'd like to think my grandchildren could be among the first Martians. The 'Go West, my Son' message of the 22nd century.
Where has our vision gone?

Sapped by satellite TV, I fear.

Welshcakes- A perfectly valid reason. It doesn't mean it wasn't progressive.
How amazing is it, we put men on the Moon!
We have pictures of Saturn!
What potential for our future and it is in our hands. It just frustrates me.

Yes, the underclass was there, but formed a part of society. There were poor parts of Birmingham then, but the people worked. They weren't written off, to be used us consumers, but not producers, like huge swathes of Inner Birmingham are now.

Anonymous said...


I'm not sure what you're getting at here.

Your comments on Africa seem Kipling-esque (The White Man's Burden) and the bottom section of society has always been with us.

Sure we might not be back on the moon (thank God) but we do now have the internet, fantastic advances in medical technology that has added ten years to life expectancy, no-one in England need go hungry, women have equal status to men for the first time ever, and if we dont like our ruling party we can boot them out.

And there's the Nintendo Wii..

Anonymous said...

CBI, couldn't decide all night which of the myriad of pictures in my mind I should choose. Finally I did.
A friend of mine, recently returned from Sudan where he had been heading a Red Cross station, told: "Not only the ordinary people are suffering from poverty, the soldiers do also, but there is enough money to arm the latter with ultra-modern weapons,satellite telephone and brand-new Toyotas."
Hm, and even within the past six lines one could find a good many - or should one say a bad many? - problems waiting to be solved.
Now let's add only the few other aspects you focused on: Seems we shall have a pretty busy week to create Arkadia.
Ah, trying to tame the snake Sarcasm darting in a deep cavern of my heart, I shall rather wish The Peace of the Night to you all. :)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, lets reach for those stars. Lets reach for them and when we grab hold of them, hold on for dear life because they will take us where we need to go anywhere in the universe.

Anonymous said...

And just remember I AM that F!$** ing star!:)

I live in England and I am often starving late at night if I am up on my pc too long.
Lord- That's not the case,really..WE get rich exploiting third world countries NOT through welfare aid but pawn broker type aid that makes them dependant on us and DISCOURAGES them from becoming self sufficient and even a competitor on the world market.

Anonymous said...

And all the cheese you could eat Mutley!

Anonymous said...

Pommy- Women don't have equal status to men over here.The only woman that ever had any status was Maggie ( and we did not definitively establish that she wasn't in fact,a man).Well, and Posh Spice but,come on.....look who she married?A sheep would have equal status to him.

Anonymous said...

Pommy- Women don't have equal status to men over here.The only woman that ever had any status was Maggie ( and we did not definitively establish that she wasn't in fact,a man).Well, and Posh Spice but,come on.....look who she married?A sheep would have equal status to him.

Anonymous said...

Pommy- Women don't have equal status to men over here.The only woman that ever had any status was Maggie ( and we did not definitively establish that she wasn't in fact,a man).Well, and Posh Spice but,come on.....look who she married?A sheep would have equal status to him.

Anonymous said...

Pommy- Women don't have equal status to men over here.The only woman that ever had any status was Maggie ( and we did not definitively establish that she wasn't in fact,a man).Well, and Posh Spice but,come on.....look who she married?A sheep would have equal status to him.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah,I guess I am a tad repetitive.

Anonymous said...

"We" don't have to own the resources. Chavez is taking state control of Venezuela's resources and so could the Congolese, Zimbabweans, etc. if they wanted. It's anyone's guess as to whether Venezuela's skill base and extraction know-how is strong enough to run it as efficiently though.

Being "nice" isn't the way to get the whole world rich, nor is telling the Chinese and the Indians that they shouldn't burn as much coal as we did when we were getting rich. The solution is to fix the problems with the capitalist model not to throw it away and somehow build some artificial structure as you suggest.

Africa is perfectly capable of being rich. To make a wild generalisation: the countries need to get a grip on their corrupt leaders, get their land to be more productive by increasing their use of technology.

The West needs to do its bit by stopping paying our farmers to not work, by removing trade barriers and by helping countries get a grip on their corrupt leaders.

Yes, and people need to stop mushing their brains by watching so much TV. Read a book it's much more enlightening.

Anonymous said...

Pommy- For reasons I have explained, I regard our failure to return to the Moon, as symptomatic of the stagnation our culture is in.
There has always been a bottom section, but not the way there is now.
People in England aren't hungry maybe, but I think we need to be more international in our thinking. The world is too small not to think global.
And I certainly don't think women have equal social status yet. The have the same rights as men in law, but are still subject to different social judgements, especially on matters sexual. There's a long way for women to go.

Sean- Indeed, this kind of shows the problem. It's not that we don't have the resources or the knowledge, just that they are wasted.
The thing is we have problems that affect the whole world, we have a global society, which means all problems are problems for all.

Alexys- I really think that we have that potential. But at the moment we are coasting, as a species.
Will we be remembered as the generation that gave nothing to the future?

Ubermouth- Your analysis of aid is true. Again, it's not payments they need. They need the infrastructure. Make that investment- and it would be huge- and it never needs making on that scale again.
Much cheaper in the long run, of course.

I agree with you on female equality. We're not there yet by a long way.

I agree with you on female equality. We're not there yet by a long way.

I agree with you on female equality. We're not there yet by a long way.

Ed- Africa isn't capable of being rich, because somebody else already owns the resources they need. How are they going to get them? To transforn Africa into a rich continent like ours would need Africans to build up Multinational corporations of their own. It would mean fricans increasing their share of the World's wealth.
How are they going to acheive that?

The corrupt governments you refer to are kept there by western vested interests. They only fall when they fail to ensure the raw materials we need go where we want them to.

I'm not an artificial structure, in fact the model I propose is far freer than the model I seek to replace, since it throws the decision making process wide open to all.

Anonymous said...

...our current economic model has outlived it's usefulness...

Ding, ding! Alarm bells! That old Marxist rhetoric so beloved by students.

Actually, the model is working just fine. It's the leadership, controlled like puppets by the cabals, who have ransacked the country so that people can turn round and say the SYSTEM isn't working.

Don't fall for this three card trick. It is socialist in concept and is the path being laid for totalitarian government.

Resist this woolly thnking with every fibre of your body.

Anonymous said...

Jenny - the reason for the materialism is the throwing out of the Christian code of conduct and regard for one's fellow humans. In its place people are worshipping shopping.

Anonymous said...

But don't you see, Crushed, that you would have to create this new order by force? There is no statute which set up the capitalist system it happened naturally - in spite of many attempts by wreckers to create a new utopia. The "system" is keeping people from getting onto the first rung not because of the evil businessmen but because the politicians make it very hard to get off welfare and into meaningful work. They also maintain this ludicrous education system which by trying to eradicate diversity and choice in the system just ensures that only the rich and middle class get decent schooling.

Shutting down Microsoft and Nokia won't make the world a better place.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, it's all about the money. Sure, everyone shakes their head and feel sorry for the unpreviliued, but when it comes to sharing the resource and to slimming your wallet, ppl draw back.

Nice in theory, but practically people are to greedy.

Kinda like the communism - great thought, but they forget one detail - the human nature.

Anonymous said...


My guess is that the significant infrustructure investments in Africa are concentrated in areas of economic wealth or sources of wealth such as mines or oil reserves. In those areas, the infrastructure is tied to the exploitation of the wealth of countries and the enrichment of African elites.

Anonymous said...

what Ed says, as usual.

CBI - you're starting to sound like a commie...

Anonymous said...

Lord SM- As I have said, I don't think socialism has succeeded in providing the answer.
The key is separation of power and accountability, something socialist systems never provided.
But let me try to suggest what I mean.
Take regional transport for the Midlands. Rather than have it run py private company, or by an unaccountable government official, I would have it run by an executive elected democratically by the people of the Midlands. If it failed to do its job, they would lose office. The principle can be extended to pretty much anything.

Myself, as a Catholic I can't help feeling that private property is the result of our fallen nature, but that we must aspire beyond it.

Ed- I believe it will happen naturally, as it happens. I don't think it will need forcing.
I think in about twenty years people will feel a lot different. Socialism failed because it was never democratic.
This is different. I wouldn't shut down anything- yet.
I think the whole thing is going to come apart at the seams sooner than people realise.

Crashie- This is always said. Of course it's true. People will follow self interest. However, when people see that SELF INTEREST is served better in the FUTURE, by a different way of doing things, that will be the turning point.

Colin- This is true. Do you know most of the railways in Africa lead from the interior to the coast?
the infrastructure, such as it is, is there mainly to get materials out.

Pommy- There are several major differences between me and A communist.
Firstly- I agree with Marx economic analysis of Capitalism. Unlike his followers, I think the idea of forcing it is counter productive. Marx described a model, he thought society would evolve into democratically once the capitalist mode came to its end naturally.
The model he envisage was very different to the reality of societ ussia, and that's not because he was a dreamer, but because the moment he was referring to, was nowhere near happning.

The model I am referring to is Democracy taken to its ultimate conclusion. But I mean REAL democracy here, not party political democracy.

Anonymous said...

We tend to stop thinking at the edge of out nose - like the world beyond a certain point is non existant and we don't need to care about it... yeah, right!


Good post!

And yeah, me and Crashy used to share a brain at the Uni, but a team of very skilled surgeons separated us post graduation, and now we even live in different cities! ;D

Anonymous said...

Crushed: I think your approach would work with certain public monopoly services like the police, urban transport, NHS etc. - indeed localism and direct democracy is already being proposed by the main parties. But would these organisations have the flexibility to produce commercial goods and services?

Would these democratic organisations be willing to take huge risks to create new industries? I doubt it. They might work in stable industries but I can't imagine they would be able to innovate like competitive companies can.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately the whole only the strong survive is not the way of the world. We all want to save the ones who cannot save themselves but in saving them they become dependent on others. So there will always be a lower rung of people. In this country we value entertainment over all else. The entertainers make the most money and people like me who actually do help others and the like are not on the higher rungs. This is the way of the world. Money... it's a hit. don't give me that do goody godd bullshit!

Anonymous said...

"Long term self interest would have those of us with the advantage to be able to do so, to go into Africa and build the railways, road networks, airports, hospitals, schools, universities, everything that we have, so that the whole continent of Africa has everything that Europe and North America have."

How would these things then be maintained? As Ed says, no one "went in" and built roads and railways in first-world countries.

Once upon a time, Liberia was a model to other African countries. It was more peaceful, successful and democratic than surrounding nations. Because of the way the government was set up-- because of the structures and provisions and methods that were set up for things like elections and succession, Liberia avoided many of the problems, specifically where bloody coups are involved, of its neighbors (until recently, of course).

Now I understand that something like half of the country's GNP is foreign aid. But the economy isn't taking off, for some reason.

Gallantly riding in with money and fresh infrastructure doesn't necessarily breed democracy, peace or stability. For example, hunger in third-world countries happens when economic and political rules and institutions have so constricted control over farmland and other basic resources that some people are left with no power at all, not even to satisfy their most basic human needs. It's not easily solved by simply shipping food in or by handing out money-- because the problems that prevent these people from growing/acquiring their own food will also prevent aid from being allocated in a responsible manner.

On an unrelated note, I think the space program is generally a colossal waste of money that could be better spent elsewhere, but that's just me.

I mostly agree with Ed on this one.

Anonymous said...

Heart- Your university friends are the ones you keep for life. It's when we go through the great life defining experiences.

Ed- I think it would work throughout. Innovation would always be there, just it would be pushed by a different dynamic.
I'm not sure innovation is exactly pushed at the moment, except in computer games and the like.

Poody- Yes, there will always be rungs. To talk of total human equality is futile, because the possible contributions are unequal, but the huge differentiation we have now is extremely damaging. The bottom rung live an appalling existence that we can't even consider.

Ruthie- Foreign Aid is like Welfare payments. It doesn't solve the problems, just feeds today.
An economy is dependent on its infrastructure.
So yes, I think there should be an international effort to harmonise the infrastructure and amenities available across the globe.
I have to disagree with you on space exploration.
It's the most important challenge we face.
Or do you see us never moving from here?
What sort of future do you hope for us?

Anonymous said...

I don't think Africa's problems are necessarily our problems. And the world hasn't got smaller. I'll give you a bucket of paint and brush and see how long it takes you.

Anonymous said...

"But aid concerts and famine relief won't deal with the real problems."
Thank you! Flooding Africa with billions of dollars every year is not solving any problems to be honest. I'm African. I know about the money being sent to africa every year, I can still see poverty,diseases,illiteracy and crumbling infrastructure. To be honest I believe that the answers to africa's problems lies in the hands of Africans.Others can help as well, experience is important. You can't give a man a fish and expect him to be ok for the rest of his life, the fish will finish and he will be hungry again. Teach him how to fish.
Dependancy is not a good thing. some african countries are dependant on aid. what will happen if the aid was cut off/reduced? The aid industry is a huge business now. People don't want to stop it because they make too much money of it.