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On the Dialogue Between Neil Kiernan (V-Radio, The Venus Project) & Stefan Molyneux (Freedomain Radio): Questions, Suggestions and Takeaways

February 8th, 2011 by Howard Ditkoff

I just finished listening to this discussion (embedded below) between:

Neil Kiernan - Host of V-Radio and a proponent of The Venus Project, which is discussed in Peter Joseph’s Zeitgeist series of films and seeks to implement a Resource-Based Economy (RBE)

and

Stefan Molyneux - Host of Freedomain Radio

Listen to internet radio with V RADIO on
Blog Talk Radio

I have to say it was one of the best and most important dialogues I’ve heard of late. This is exactly the kind of discussion we desperately need more of and I hope that they will continue it. While I don’t fit snugly into either of the Molyneux or the Zeitgeist/Venus Project camps, I’ve greatly enjoyed exploring the ideas put forth by both and I find that both make valuable contributions to the dialogue about how we bring about a healthier, more sustainable future for humanity and the rest of our ecosystem.

There were many issues and arguments that popped into my mind throughout this discussion and almost every one was addressed at some point during the talk, which gave me a great feeling. It’s very rewarding when, listening to a dialogue, you think “But wait. What about this?” and then, two minutes later, one of the participants mentions that very point and the topic is discussed rationally and thoughtfully.

There were only four main topics I was left wondering about or wanting to comment on, which perhaps can be addressed in future discussions.

The first two have to do with some unaddressed (at least in this particular interview) potential dangers of the type of free market economy that Stefan advocates. The third has to do with the potential inclusion of a wider range of anarchist thinkers into the discussion, especially a rational and articulate anarcho-primitivist. And the fourth has to do with the need for a clearer specification of the limits on defense of self and property rights in a paradigm based on the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP).

I will detail my thoughts and questions about each of these four issues below. After that I will detail what I think were the key takeaways from the dialogue.

Supply and Demand vs. Perceived Supply and Demand

In terms of the free market working on supply and demand, isn’t that to some extent inaccurate? It seems to me that part of the problem with a free market, even a true one, is that it can only operate on perceived supply and demand. So if people falsely believe, for whatever reasons, that there is more of a resource than there really is - for example if they are convinced there is a ton more oil to be had, even though they will later find that oil is more difficult to obtain than predicted - the price will reflect the false belief, not the true facts. This will then lead to an inordinately rapid depletion of the resource and a failure of the market to adequately incentivize alternatives in a timely fashion.

Considering this, I think there is a great point of collaboration between the Resource-Based Economy paradigm and Stefan’s view. RBE proponents seem to be advocating that we use the technology we have to get as absolutely accurate an inventory of resources and desires as possible. Even if we did have a price-based system, this can only improve its efficiency by bringing perceived supply and demand closer to actual supply and demand.

Disproportionate Incentivizing of Short-Term vs. Long-Term Efficiency

At one point, Stefan said that efficiency is driven in a market economy by where the most money can be made. So if an emerging market proves highly profitable, then more people will go into it, driving prices down, and so on. But isn’t it important to note that this is only taking into account short term efficiency? It doesn’t take into account what the costs may be to future generations of, for example, plundering a non-renewable resource to make those short-term profits. If more money can be made ignoring such long-term concerns, then they often will be ignored for the sake of short term efficiency paid for dearly by future generations. Also related to this point is the issue of the incentives for externalizing costs.

Potential Inclusion of an Articulate Anarcho-Primitivist in Future Dialogues

Many times during the discussion, the distinctions were raised between various types of anarchism - anarcho-capitalism (with which Stefan primarily identifies), anarcho-syndicalism and anarcho-communism (elements of which influence The Venus Project) and anarcho-primitivism, among others. This is part of what made the discussion so fascinating. It is a rare occurrence, indeed, in my experience, to hear perspectives from all of these different anarchist schools articulated intelligently within the context of a mature discussion that not only doesn’t devolve into hostility, but actually ends in a call for collaboration and further constructive dialogue.

Both Stefan and Neil, along with one of the callers, talked about anarcho-primitivism at points, but all dismissed it out of hand saying we wouldn’t want to go back to a primitivist way of life. My comment here is that, despite the apparent anti-primitivism consensus among this discussion’s participants, it might nonetheless be fascinating to bring a well-versed anarcho-primitivist (in the Derrick Jensen or Daniel Quinn mode) into some of the future discussions. Even if you don’t favor a return to a primitive way of life (or believe that such a return is inevitable) such a person still might add a valuable new angle to the discussion or raise questions that stimulate further clarification of relevant topics. Moreover, I think many anarcho-primitivists actually have a more nuanced view that isn’t based on returning to a past way of life, per se, but – in line with Quinn’s concept of going Beyond Civilization – advocates that we borrow what principles we can from those ways of life and weave them into a new synthesis that can help drive our current lifestyle toward a healthier, more sustainable one.

Is There a “Statute of Limitations” on Defense of Self and Property Rights in a Non-Aggression Principle Paradigm?

Both Stefan and Neil agreed that the Non-Aggression Principle is core. However, I recently raised a question with Stefan about the application of the Non-Aggression Principle and I’d still be interested to hear more about this. Here were the thoughts I shared with Stefan about this issue:

“I think one other major issue that’s been bugging me is this.

You use the NAP as a core argument in much of your work. Even if we were to agree it is the heart of ethics, it still allows for self-defense. The question is what we define as self-defense.

I once heard an expert on the Israeli-Palestinian issue say that your view on every issue there will depend on “when you start the clock.” If you start it today, then whatever one side does out of context will be seen as wrong. If you go back a year, you may find that that action was in self-defense to something that came before. And this chain can go back for thousands of years.

The same is true in our economic system. What one person sees as someone using aggression to take property rightfully owned, another may look back at historically and say “Yes but that person used aggression to take that property in the first place.” After all, all of our land was taken from the Natives. Do they have the right to self-defense in taking it back violently? If not why not? Is there a specific statute of limitations?

I think many of us who agree with a lot of your thinking come to different feelings about it because we see the current state of allocation of resources as itself having been set up by aggression and theft. And so to then wipe out history and say “OK we’re just starting right now in the current economic situation. Starting now, nobody can aggress against anyone else.” is highly arbitrary and would be counter to all your views, for example, on parents, who remain responsible for the consequences of their actions long into the future.

I think this issue also has something important to do with the gap between your views and the Zeitgeisters’ views. I’d love to hear more about this.”

Key Takeaways from The Neil Kiernan-Stefan Molyneux Discussion

  1. Both sides (Stefan and proponents of The Venus Project) agree that the current social and economic systems are immoral, unsustainable and destructive.
  2. Both sides make this assessment, at least to the best of their ability, through a rational and empirical analysis and value the use of rationality and empiricism in exploring healthier alternatives.
  3. These first two facts should form a basis for mutual respect and kinship that outweighs any potential hostility raised by differences in current speculations about various solutions.
  4. This mutual respect and kinship should also apply, and lead to attempts at inclusion in collaboration, to others who also value reason and empiricism and similarly question the merits of our current social and economic systems.
  5. As practitioners of science and reason, Stefan and his listeners, as well as supporters of the ideas of Zeitgeist, The Venus Project and the Resource-Based Economy ultimately realize that - regardless of the specific potential solutions anyone may have proposed - all speculation is trumped by results observed through actual experimentation.
  6. Therefore, ideally, to the extent possible, those involved in this discussion would adopt a non-dogmatic, non-ideological view of The Venus Project. It would be seen not as the solution, but as one very valuable potential experiment among others. Hopefully Stefan and his listeners - as well as many others - can propose additional experiments. And none of these experiments should be seen as an endpoint, but simply as the beginnings of a process of constant strategizing, testing, observing and tweaking that will lead to the emergence of new, currently unforeseeable experiments along the way.

    This spirit is captured nicely in the quote that graces the title page of Beyond Civilization: Humanity’s Next Great Adventure by Daniel Quinn (a book I recommend to anyone interested in applying the experimental method to the creation of healthier, more sustainable social structures, and which is concise enough to be read in one sitting):

    “What would happen if we intentionally forged our social solutions in the fires of creative chaos?” – John Briggs and F. David Peat

  7. Rather than foster hostility by identifying with and investing ego in any particular solution, these various groups should instead support and help each other in running the various experiments. After all, ultimately what we all want is not for “our” solution to work, but simply to find whatever solutions work well so that we can improve our experience, that of our descendants, and that of the rest of the community of life of which we are a part.
  8. It appears that the most important experiments being considered revolve around the creation of new structures and forms of communities. As such, we do not have to completely reinvent the wheel, as there is already a burgeoning Intentional Community movement to learn from and to plug into. What is called for, however, as I discussed with Stefan in a phone call he was kind enough to have with me, is the addition of some new types of experiments to that already existing movement.

    I am not an expert in the Intentional Community movement by any stretch of the imagination. I have not myself even lived in any such community, though I know some who have. But during my past perusal of such existing experiments, I found that many formed primarily on the basis of religious beliefs, sexual orientation or other factors not as centrally important to those of us interested in the types of ideas discussed by the Zeitgeist Movement or by Stefan Molyneux. It would be fantastic if more people from these movements started to strategize together and actually run experiments in creating some workable communities focused on the more fundamental principles that we care about.

    And, perhaps unsurprisingly, I have some thoughts on factors that might be worth testing out in any such experiment, which I’ve talked about with several people over the years. One involves the importance of including a balance of different personality types – for example Myers-Briggs or Enneagram types – when creating a workable and enjoyable community. Another involves the importance, as reflected in the concept of the occupational tribe championed in Beyond Civilization, of including in the community people with enough complementary skills to collaboratively make a living.

Kurt Vonnegut once said:

“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”

If we and the next several generations are able to succeed in finding the types of solutions being discussed in this wonderful exchange of ideas, hopefully we will cure – or at least alleviate – even more ills than just loneliness. I would love to see those of us interested in these pressing issues move from a phase of talking and debating into one of starting to run more experiments, however imperfect, and with the full knowledge that many rounds of observation and re-strategizing and re-testing will be required before anything lasting will likely be found.

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    53 Responses to “On the Dialogue Between Neil Kiernan (V-Radio, The Venus Project) & Stefan Molyneux (Freedomain Radio): Questions, Suggestions and Takeaways”

    1. VTV Says:

      A nice review. I shared it with Stefan as well. Let me know if you have any more questions concerning TVP/TZM.

    2. Keyser Soze Says:

      Ah, but resources are only limited by imagination, the idea that they can be statically inventoried hopelessly unimaginative, to the point of being Luddite. Every molecule in the universe is a resource. When someone suggests inventorying something scarce like oil, just imagine them 200 years ago suggesting that we inventory all the horseshoes, so that we can manage that rapidly depleting resource…

    3. Nathan T. Freeman Says:

      “Even if we did have a price-based system, this can only improve its efficiency by bringing perceived supply and demand closer to actual supply and demand.”

      So the idea here is that we should use technology to try to discover as accurately as possible how much of a resource there is, so that it’s possible to most accurate price that resource. And this is, in fact, exactly what happens in a free market system. Those who supply a resource are highly incentivized to get as much and as accurate information as possible in order to price correctly and, if possible, discover new reserves of any resource.

      But, of course, the discovery process itself takes time and resources. So market decisions are based on best current available information, rather than some platonic ideal of “true information.” For instance, discovering the exact amount of all oil reserves in the world, exhaustively, would be an enormously expensive undertaking, and would be unlikely to result in better informed decisions than those based on “known reserves.”

      Where the “perceived supply” questions really come into play is when markets are not permitted to act freely, and prices are held artificially low or high, and therefore resulting demand is based on false information.

      It’s VERY important to understand that prices in markets are INFORMATION. If you want to know how much of a limited resource is left in the world when you buy a gallon of gas, you don’t need to become an expert geologist and travel the world with ground penetrating radar. You just look at the price at the pump.

      “It doesn’t take into account what the costs may be to future generations of, for example, plundering a non-renewable resource to make those short-term profits. If more money can be made ignoring such long-term concerns, then they often will be ignored for the sake of short term efficiency paid for dearly by future generations.”

      All “short term” prices have long-term weighted expectations built in. If you have 1000 tons of oil in a well, and it’s $1000/ton today, but you think it will be worth $4000/ton in 5 years, you might not use all of it, depending on your time preference. But further, if *I* think it will be worth $4000/ton in 5 years, and I know you think your best bet is to pump it out, then I’m motivated to pay you the $1,000,000 you’d get by pumping it, and instead leave it in the ground.

      That’s how markets establish net present value based on future expectations.

      Of course, I could be wrong. It might turn out that 3 years from now, someone invents a motor that runs on sea water, and the only use for that 1000 tons is now plastics at $100/ton. That’s your risk and my risk to take. No amount of resource-based computer calculations can anticipate the market shift in resource value that comes with the new innovation of the saltwater combustion engine.

      “Also related to this point is the issue of the incentives for externalizing costs.”

      Exactly why property rights and the NAP are so vital. I can’t think of an externalization of costs that doesn’t stem from either violating someone else’s property or aggressing against them in a free market. If I dump toxic chemicals on your land, I’m stealing the land by depriving you of it’s use. If I dump toxic chemicals into your water supply, I’m poisoning you and that’s a form of assault (and possibly murder.)

      It’s only in the context of unowned resources (common lands, airspace, water tables) or zero-liability entities (corporations) that these externalizations can occur in a consequence-free fashion.

    4. SystemsThinker Says:

      “Keyser,”

      Wow, so you do exist after all. I had been cleverly convinced that you didn’t :)

      You’re absolutely correct that what is considered a fundamental resource changes as our technology enables us to work with more and more basic elements. This should be taken into account.

      I think you have to separate the idea of being a Luddite from the idea of being reasonably concerned with resource depletion. Even if you are fully aware that future technology may allow us to harness more basic elements in ways that render current problems obsolete, there is no guarantee in every particular potentially problematic case that it will. And even when it does, there is still a question of how long that will take. Will we run out of a resource we need before an alternative solution is created? There is a sort of constant race involved.

      This is exactly why I’m advising some balance of the viewpoints made in the discussion. I think both sides have merit to their arguments. The Zeitgeist folks are correct to be concerned that we could run out of an important resource or at least do so without a ready alternative yet prepared to replace it. The Freedomain folks are correct to be very skeptical of how these inventories and distribution mechanisms would work and to keep the possibility (though not certainty) of technological enhancements making certain issues obsolete on the table.

      This is why I think it’s great that a healthy dialogue be opened up between these groups - and a few other groups that have other relevant viewpoints to add.

    5. Keyser Soze Says:

      The history of mankind is the history of the fear of dwindling resources…it’s what drives competition and war…how likely is it that the universe will run out of molecules? What you and the Venusians really fear is their own ignorance staring back at them in the darkness…so they turn to an all knowing god of their own creation, a modern god made of silicon.

    6. SystemsThinker Says:

      Nathan,

      Important issues you raise that go to the heart of the matter.

      I agree that the practicalities of inventorying everything are quite challenging and problematic. The FDR folks are right to be skeptical.

      However, there is a funny kind of contradiction in that on one hand, those like “Keyser” above raise technological advancement as a seemingly guaranteed cure-all for every problem we might encounter, such as resource depletion. They seem to have total faith that technology will always come to the rescue. On the other hand, when the Zeitgeist folks propose that technology could inventory our resources, folks like “Keyser” suddenly are deeply skeptical and feverishly argue the limits of what we can accomplish with technology.

      So on one hand, they believe technology is a neverending fount of solutions that will allow us to dodge every serious threat from resource depletion. On the other, they believe technology is incapable of solving the problem of not knowing how many resources we really have.

      These two views seem somewhat at odds to me.

      >>For instance, discovering the exact amount of all oil reserves in the world, exhaustively, would be an enormously expensive undertaking, and would be unlikely to result in better informed decisions than those based on “known reserves.”

      Knowing exactly how much of a resource we have wouldn’t result in better informed decisions than going on estimates that may be far from accurate? I fail to see how that is the case. More knowledge would certainly be better. Whether it’s worth the cost is a valid question and that is something the Zeitgeist folks have to contend with.

      As for the price=information issue:

      You speak as if the price of something is the only and comprehensive indicator of how much of something exists. But again, if we think there is more of something or less of something than there is, we will price it incorrectly. The more we know about the true amount of supply, the more accurately an item can be priced.

      Prices do not reflect actual supply, they reflect known supply (or, better stated, our best guess at supply) and we can be quite incorrect in our estimation and that matters and has consequences - potentially very serious ones.

      The other major flaw I see in all of the logic about price and supply and demand here - and this is something Freedomainers should be very knowledgeable about and concerned with - is that many people are not rational. Many are self-destructive or destructive of others, even just for its own sake. There are indeed many who will plunder for short term money even if it might cost them down the road. We see such behavior in addicts all the time. And folks from FDR are well aware of the prevalence of addictions, personality disorders, and other self-destructive and abusive behavior.

      This is a key contradiction I see in the FDR community quite often. On economic issues, they act as if people are logical, rational and maximizing their happiness - or would be if only we had a free market. Yet when the discussion turns to just about any other topic, they are well versed in just how far from true that is. And that is not because of our lack of a free market, per se. It is because of a combination of things from abuse to genetics (this is a whole other debate I know goes on over at FDR and really is not to be had on this particular blog piece, but the evidence is quite strong that, for instance, there is a genetic basis for psychopathy).

      As for externalizing costs:

      There are two viewpoints on externalization - the typical Libertarian/anarcho-capitalist view that if everything was owned, it would be less likely to be aggressed upon and the more anti-capitalist view that nobody should own the land or that the land should belong to the indigenous groups that were there first. A debate about which of those is a superior view also deserves far more space than these comments allow. But the indigenous issue raises a serious challenge to those who favor the NAP but also seem to consistently defend current owners of property since the land you are protecting from aggression for its “rightful owner” was often taken by aggression long ago and only fell into the current owner’s hands much later. Who is really aggressing on whom? How long is the statute of limitations?

    7. SystemsThinker Says:

      “Keyser”,

      The issue isn’t whether the universe will run out of molecules. It’s whether we will figure out how to harness those molecules to sufficiently and ethically meet the needs of ourselves and our ecosystem in time.

      The universe can be full of molecules, but if we don’t know how to turn them into fresh drinkable water and there are more people (and other creatures) than water to meet their needs, people (not to mention other creatures) will be left without. And, again, it isn’t even a question of whether we ever figure that out, but whether we do so in time.

      Your comment leads me to believe you’ve misunderstood my viewpoint. I am not completely on the side of the Venusians or Stefan. I believe both are making excellent arguments that can hone the other’s. And I believe there should be some additional voices included in the dialogue, too.

      The combination of those viewpoints has the best chance of balancing the many factors involved.

      As for ignorance, it is indeed ignorant for anyone to think technology cannot advance to solve problems. It is equally ignorant to think that just because it sometimes has, it always will in every important case. That is just another form of faith. It literally is not a scientific or logical viewpoint. I’m sure someone could name the fallacy you’re committing by claiming that just because science has historically made progress, it is inevitable that it will continue to solve every crisis.

      I’m not that comfortable with either one of the pro- or anti-technology faiths, per se.

      Also, there is that curious contradiction I mentioned above where on one hand you’re arguing that technology will undoubtedly save us from enormous challenges and on the other, at the very same time, you’re practically mocking the Zeitgeisters who are basically saying the same thing, only placing their faith primarily in information technology. Somehow, in your view, it’s ludicrous to question technology’s capacity for infinite problem-solving in general, but also ludicrous to have faith in information technology’s ability to inventory resources.

      If someone wanted to turn your own viewpoint against you, they could easily mock you for not realizing that at every stage people questioned how much information could be processed by technology and that, in spite of the doubters, it has steadily progressed more and more rapidly. They could mock you - as you mock the Zeitgeisters - for having a defeatist attitude about the ability of our technology to inventory resources.

      I am not taking one side or the other here myself. But I’m trying to frame the debate and show how the sides relate to teach other.

    8. Josh Says:

      You’ve confused self defense with retribution.

      Additionally, and in all fairness, resource based economies have been tried in early Soviet Russia and China. Farms were collectivized, for example. Labor and agrarian production were calculated by the smartest people in the country: massive starvation was the result.

      Keep in mind, in a stateless society communities are free to practice any voluntary means of economic policy they want, but in a RBE people are ultimately coerced into participation because voluntary free market elements will exploit the RBE.

    9. Josh Says:

      Also, I dont understand the drive to NOT use resources only so someone else who isn’t born can use them.. I just can’t see what is driving the motor behind this environmental self-flagellation.

    10. SystemsThinker Says:

      Josh,

      For how long does your stuff have to remain stolen from you before attempts to recover it constitute retribution rather than self-defense (or defense of property rights)? Is there a specific number of years after which, if a thief manages to get away with the theft, he becomes a rightful owner? I ask not in a legal sense (in which case there may actually be an answer depending on which state or country you are in) but in the context of a person (you, and other FDR’ers) who believes the NAP is a core moral principle.

      Again, I am not an apologist for the Zeitgeisters. I think there are serious challenges that they have to contend with. Explaining how they would avoid the difficulties that plagued any previous attempts to carry out similar strategies - though I have a feeling they’d object to some of your comparisons - is certainly included among those challenges.

      I appreciate your thoughts. But my goal here isn’t really to have people debating me on the merits of Zeitgeist vs. Free Market. It’s to catalyze more discussion between the people in those camps along the lines of Neil and Stefan’s dialogue. As I mentioned, I don’t really fit neatly into either camp. And I don’t have a forum on this site with the capacity to catalyze that whole discussion - though I very much appreciate the intelligent comments on the issue that are coming in.

      As for your second comment, I think what you call “self-flagellation” others might call a healthy sense of limits and boundaries. Besides, I think most reasonable environmentalists are fine with us attempting to meet our needs. What upsets them is when some are using far more than they need and when we are creating so many people that the collective total of their needs becomes more and more extreme.

    11. bitbutter Says:

      “It seems to me that part of the problem with a free market, even a true one, is that it can only operate on perceived supply and demand”

      I don’t think so. Supply refers to the quantity of goods that suppliers are willing _and able_ to sell at various price points. Demand refers to the quantity of goods that buyers are willing _and able_ to buy are various price points.

      Whether you are able to supply X units at price Y is an empirical question, your potentially mistaken opinion about how much X is available is irrelevant to the actual supply.

    12. nickik Says:

      SystemsThinker,

      > This is a key contradiction I see in the FDR community quite often. On economic issues, they act as if people are logical, rational and maximizing their happiness - or would be if only we had a free market.

      This is acctually quite well adressed in Austrian Economics, the do NOT asume a Homo Economicus or anything like that. However to clame that humans are not rational at all is clearly false too, its called. See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bounded_rationality

      The real problem is defining happieness, but that is not possible. You either have to let people try to make the best of there lives based on the current information they have OR you have to go to them and force them do something diffrent that you think makes them happier in the long run.

      You might be right some of the times, for example if you put a drug addict on detox even if he doesn’t want to. Even in this example its a hard call but you can make the argument that this person can not possibly know whats best for him since his body is giving him false signals.

      The HUGE problem you run into is clearly observed in history. Everytime some ‘leader’ forced others for the ‘good of the people’ or something like that it ended in misery.

      First of all you probebly dont know what would really make them happy. You might take a guess but that guess is totally influnced by your own life history and biasas. Therefore I think it is highly unlikly that will guess right more often then not.

      Second, even if you guess right you will then have to make it happen and there you will most likly fail too.

      Third, History has consitently shown that people with power to not stay on the ‘right’ path for long. Power currupts and more power currupts more.

      And one other thing that just poped into my head: If you start with the assumsion that humans are not rational you, yourself are not rational and therefore everything you do shuld be questiond (witch is again not possible without rationality). If you think that you (or anybody) is rational and others are not you are an elitist that thinks himslef above the others, I hope I dont have to tell you that thougths like that are highly dangerous.

      If dont belive the market workes with this limited rationality I would urge you to stuy some Austrian Economics and only then make your jugment. Even if you disagree that it works, do you have an alternativ system that allows for the same execution of freedom?

    13. SystemsThinker Says:

      Bitbutter,

      Obviously it just comes down to different uses of the word “supply.” I’m talking about the supply available within the entire ecosystem. You’re talking about the supply already at the ready within our economy. It’s not worth debating the semantics as I’m just as happy to use another term.

      The point is that certain resources that we and other members of our ecosystem rely on are - unless technology changes this, as discussed in comments above - limited. The market does not know accurately just how limited they ultimately are. Therefore, the market’s price points cannot reflect the true amount of a resource that we can rely on.

      I think this whole debate ties into the difference between viewing the human economy as primary and viewing the ecological base on which all economics relies as primary. Everything in our economy is subsumed within the larger ecological system. Not the other way around. Mixing that up is, in my view, a serious blunder.

    14. nickik Says:

      > There are two viewpoints on externalization - the typical Libertarian/anarcho-capitalist view that if everything was owned, it would be less likely to be aggressed upon and the more anti-capitalist view that nobody should own the land or that the land should belong to the indigenous groups that were there first. A debate about which of those is a superior view also deserves far more space than these comments allow. But the indigenous issue raises a serious challenge to those who favor the NAP but also seem to consistently defend current owners of property since the land you are protecting from aggression for its “rightful owner” was often taken by aggression long ago and only fell into the current owner’s hands much later. Who is really aggressing on whom? How long is the statute of limitations?

      The ‘rightful owner’ problem is real but going down this road is usless. We simple cannot go back threw 10′000 years and more to unravel every violation of property. What we can to is exept the currently valid rights (too generall statment here) and do our best that it dosn’t keep happening. This will be a much more fruitful then going into and neverending battle about history.

    15. SystemsThinker Says:

      nickik,

      I didn’t say anything about Austrian Economics. I said this is a contradiction I see amongst some on FDR. I never said humans are not rational at all so that’s a straw man and everything you stated based on that is simply not representative of what I believe. I am saying there are enough self-destructive and destructive elements in the system that it is flawed to speak as if the economy will necessarily work based on assuming people do what benefits them. The contradiction I’m focusing on here is that when it comes to most topics I see discussed on FDR, the self-destructive/destructive factor is at the forefront of people’s minds (which is one of the reasons I’m impressed with the level of consciousness I often see there.) But then an economic discussion will come up and suddenly that factor and how it corrupts the economy - and could easily do so even in a free market - seems to be ignored.

      You’re right, the word “happiness” is a big confounding factor. I think health is as important as happiness and should be in that equation balanced with it. I’m also not nearly as individualistic as most in the FDR crowd as I am a systems thinker and see the inevitable ways elements within a system level affect each other and that each system level affects the other levels. That kind of awareness of interconnectedness deeply influences my thinking and leads me to believe that rather than looking at any one person’s happiness, there has to be some weighing of how to maximize happiness AND health within a system full of conflicts and interdependence.

      I disagree that every time some leader forced others to do things for the good of the public it ended in misery. Of course, the enormous examples where a deeply pathological person took over have led to that story time and again. Nobody is more aware of that than me, as you can tell from my huge series on the biological basis of evil, especially my page on ponerology. But what you don’t hear about are all the millions of much smaller and less sensational times on a daily basis that wise limits imposed for wise reasons keep people safer and healthier and probably happier.

      One thing I love on FDR is the understanding that views on authority are usually projections of views about parents. Corrupt parents impose unfair and unwise rules and limits. But healthy parents - and leaders (whether within a government structure or not) - help provide wise guidelines. I know Stefan and many of the people on FDR are big fans of the Internal Family Systems model. Well in that model, it isn’t only the individual that has a Self. Larger systems also have a Self.

      So yes when a system is taken over by what IFS would call an extreme manager or firefighter part, misery ensues. But when a system is led by a wise and mature leader - a healthy Self - limits are indeed imposed, but they are not extreme and arbitrary or based in corruption.

      I should also point out that IFS is explicitly defined by Richard Schwartz as the application of systems thinking to the multiplicity of mind. He is clear that elements within systems inevitably affect each other and that all levels of systems influence each other. Within such a framework, I think extreme individualism doesn’t make sense.

      >>Power currupts and more power currupts more.

      Look at the quote on top of my page on pathocracy. I think you’ll find it very interesting and relevant.

    16. SystemsThinker Says:

      nickik,

      Your response to the rightful owner issue strikes me as a bit of a copout. I’d expect such an answer from pure pragmatists. But again, I raised this as a problem in the context of the average FDR user I’ve come across. These are not pure pragmatists, but idealists. They are advocating for things that are deeply idealistic and highly impractical all the time. They want a stateless world, for example. What is more unlikely than that?

      To advocate a stateless society and then say “But it’s just impossible to do ANYTHING about land being taken hundreds of years ago.” seems to me a huge contradiction. In fact, I think it would be FAR easier to do something about the latter than to bring about a stateless society.

      You can’t be an idealistic dreamer on one issue and a hard-headed pragmatist on the other. That kind of inconsistency raises skepticism.

      (And yes, I understand that, depending on how you look at it, the FDR view may be considered the pragmatic view in terms of what may be necessary to achieve certain ends. I’m simply talking about pragmatism in terms of what is likely to be achievable.)

      It also strikes me as a huge contradiction to say, as FDR proponents would, that the US should be freed from its oppressive government, which took over a couple hundred years ago, but it’s unthinkable to fix the issue of land being taken from the natives merely another hundred or two hundred years before (and in many cases even AFTER the US government was established - ie: the Trail of Tears, Andrew Jackson, etc.). If you honestly think one is too long ago to even deal with, then the other one surely is too.

    17. bitbutter Says:

      Thanks for the reply.

      “The point is that certain resources that we and other members of our ecosystem rely on are - unless technology changes this, as discussed in comments above - limited. The market does not know accurately just how limited they ultimately are. Therefore, the market’s price points cannot reflect the true amount of a resource that we can rely on.”

      When resource use is governed by the (freed) market, there’s a tremendous incentive to try to accurately inventorise the resources available, because if you’re able to see a shortage coming before your competitors do, you can make a killing by being the first to have developed an alternative (and the converse is also true, financial ruin awaits if you fail to see such a shortage coming), or by deliberately holding onto supplies of the resource and awaiting the ‘emergency prices’ before selling.

      So while you’re completly right that the market doesn’t have perfect knowledge of future resource availability, I don’t think any other system could match the (freed) market in terms of providing a powerful and dependable incentive (the profit motive) to inventorise accurately.

    18. SystemsThinker Says:

      Bitbutter,

      I find it fascinating that some people see economics as so primary that they think a monetary incentive to see a disaster coming is going to save us when apparently the incentive for survival itself will not. If running out of a vital resource poses a potential threat to our lives themselves, is that not incentive enough to constantly improve our ability to accurately assess where the limits of our resources are?

    19. bitbutter Says:

      “If running out of a vital resource poses a potential threat to our lives themselves, is that not incentive enough to constantly improve our ability to accurately assess where the limits of our resources are?”

      Asteroid collisions also present a potential threat to life itself. Is this _incentive enough_ to bear the opportunity cost of personally dedicating a good chuck of your time/energy/wealth, on an ongoing basis, without any expectation of financial gain, while having others free-ride on your work, to improve earth’s preparedness for asteroid strikes? For most people, (including those who’ve formed firms) the answer is apparently no. Just as for most, it’s not worth this kind of ongoing and costly investment to inventorise natural resources.

      So it’s good news for us that there are, at least in principle, ways to get rich from accurately inventorising resource availability.

    20. SystemsThinker Says:

      The point I’m making is that if making money is now a stronger incentive than survival, we have gone so astray in our priorities that it can only be considered madness.

      Luckily, there are indeed many many people willing not only to go without making money from, but to INVEST money in, trying to stave off some of the threats we face. Every day activists work on all sorts of issues either through volunteer work or by donating. But such sacrifice does not fit into the model of the world where the human economy is primary rather than subservient to the ecosystem it is part of.

      More specifically to the point of your asteroid avoidance question, why yes, people will indeed invest in that without being paid.

      Amateur astronomers discover a near-Earth asteroid: Volunteer team excited by find; size and threat posed by space rock undetermined

    21. Nathan T. Freeman Says:

      “Luckily, there are indeed many many people willing not only to go without making money from, but to INVEST money in, trying to stave off some of the threats we face. Every day activists work on all sorts of issues either through volunteer work or by donating. But such sacrifice does not fit into the model of the world where the human economy is primary rather than subservient to the ecosystem it is part of.”

      What do you mean “does not fit into the model?” Voluntary action is absolutely part of the free market economy. The fact that someone supplies a good or service for a price of zero in no way conflicts with the notion of free trade, property rights and the NAP. Economically, these are simply acts of consumption with positive externalities.

      If I eat a bowl of chocolate ice cream, that is consumption with no externality. I enjoy the ice cream, I pay the cost of it (and suffer the calories) in exchange for the sensory pleasure involved in eating it.

      If I plant a beautiful rose garden in my front yard because I enjoy growing roses, that is consumption. I bear the cost of the materials and time needed to cultivate my flowers in exchange for the sensory pleasure of looking at it (and perhaps the exercise to burn off the ice cream.) But it ALSO has a positive externality on my neighbors, who enjoy gazing on my lovely roses. It’s possible that I might try to internalize this externality, whether by putting up a fence and making rose-viewings invite-only, or by putting out a donation box in front of my house, or by simply borrowing gardening tools from my neighbors to reduce my capital overhead. Which ever course I take, it’s all part of the market.

      Well, if instead of growing a rose garden, I write programs to study imagery of the night sky and radio telescope data to try to spot potentially harmful NEOs. Again, however I go about doing this, it’s a consumption choice just like the rose garden, with a potential positive externality that I may or may not choose to monetize.

      We see this type of free and voluntary shared consumption exploding since the rise of the internet. Your original post and the replies here are a perfect example of it. Copyleft, Creative Commons, and FOSS are all brilliant examples of non-monetized supply that still clearly provides enormous benefits to the suppliers. Such open contributions provide education, marketing, positive feedback loops and donations — all of which are perfectly consistent with the free market.

      If you’re thinking “well how come we couldn’t just make everything like that?” it’s a very good question. One key to understanding the implications of this type of personal consumption is to understand that the COST of such consumption is still measured by every participant. Just like the person eating a bowl of chocolate ice cream still bears the cost of the ice cream, so does the person writing open source software bear the cost of producing that code (electricity, connectivity, hardware, and most of all, labor.) When the consumption value of their effort drops below the cost, then they’ll stop (as they should economically) unless they can monetize their efforts enough to bring the value back up. (Think Stefan’s donation driven model at FDR, or an open source developer getting a job at RedHat, or a DeviantArt contributor landing a design contract with Saatchi & Saatchi.)

      Markets aren’t entirely about buying and selling. They are entirely about voluntary transactions, even if one side if volunteering to receive zero payment in exchange for their supply.

    22. SystemsThinker Says:

      Nathan,

      Your argument is not with me but with the person I was responding to who apparently does not believe people will sacrifice to stave off threats to our well-being unless they are paid to do so.

      I didn’t say that such sacrifice is incompatible with a free market. I said it doesn’t fit into a model where the human economy is seen as primary, rather than subservient to the ecosystem it is a part of.

      I’m sure there are people who believe both in a free market and that the economy is subsumed by the ecosystem. Such people would be motivated to sacrifice to protect the ecosystem when they feel its health - or at least its ability to support us or other valuable creatures - is threatened. They would understand that free market or no, the human economy is less important than the ecosystem itself and act accordingly.

      I’m also sure there are free marketeers who rarely consider our dependence on the rest of the ecosystem, consider us - whether consciously or unconsciously - somehow separate from or above the ecosystem, and who, therefore, would not make such sacrifices. Those people would only work on so called “environmental” issues if you paid them because they would see no other worthy incentive to do so.

    23. bitbutter Says:

      “Your argument is not with me but with the person I was responding to who apparently does not believe people will sacrifice to stave off threats to our well-being unless they are paid to do so.”

      That’s a straw man. Please be more careful.

      What I’m saying is that markets have in-built strong incentives for people to try to accurately inventorise natural resources. A fact that you seemed to be overlooking.

    24. Keyser Soze Says:

      I’ve understood your viewpoint, and it seems you have assumed that the “solution” I’m considering must include the complete assurance of the survival of the hairless ape. The fact is, we will most likely kill ourselves off long before we run out of creativity on our present path by competition and warring over resources. The idea that resources are limited is absurd, and you need to realize when you say these words what you really mean is that you believe human creativity is limited. If it is, we will die off, like 99.999999999999999999999999% of all the of the species that roamed this Earth before us. This is the natural course of things, adapt or perish. The Venusians are manager types, what they want effectively stops creativity, so that they can have meetings to have people explain what’s going on to them, so they can understand and inventory it, so they can effectively allocate yesterday’s resources. This is wasted effort at best, trying to maintain the past instead of focusing on the future. Human creativity has no limits, look around you at the dizzying rate of increase. If we cannot stop tribal fighting and competition and work together without a robotic god micromanaging us, then we don’t deserve to survive anyway. I will not be a slave to a machine.

    25. Kevin Tilsner Says:

      Michael Renyolds & Derrick Jensen both need to make it to, both of Stephen & Neil’s shows to each talk about their points of view. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/zmglobal Linked here is a show i did on “going low tech” & “Decentralization” merging Burning Man Principles & Earthship design to build an “Amish Venus Project” for lack of better terminology. Galt’s Gulch wouldn’t last, unless it was sustainable, never forget this.

    26. SystemsThinker Says:

      Bitbutter,

      I believe markets have mixed incentives. For the reasons mentioned above, accurately predicting shortages can be lucrative. On the other hand, there are also incentives to cover up shortages. If oil companies knew oil was running perilously low, do you think they’d disclose that? Or might they have an incentive to hide that so the public wouldn’t become fearful and demand that we conserve what oil is left rather than allow the current oil execs to pillage it for short term gain (which some of them may very well be willing to do no matter how disastrous the consequences later.)

      So it isn’t enough to say markets have incentives for something. You have to consider the balance of multiple, and sometimes contradictory, incentives.

      I think an awareness that the ecosystem is primary and the human economy subsumed by it provides a much clearer and less muddled set of incentives to be sustainable. Especially since, as I mentioned in my last comment, I’m sure there are people who believe in both that idea AND the free market. So even if you believe free markets incentivize sustainability, there is still no reason not to ALSO maintain awareness of the proper position of the human economy in the world, which would only enhance those healthy incentives.

    27. SystemsThinker Says:

      Keyser Spacey (j/k, I love that movie though),

      If you are not concerned with the survival of humanity - not forever, obviously, but for a considerable period into the future, then we simply have different values. That’s perfectly fine and if you are up front about those values, you are certainly entitled to them. But they are, of course, going to color our opinions and lead to some differences in our positions.

      >The idea that resources are limited is absurd, and you need to realize when you say these words what you really mean is that you believe human creativity is limited.

      Yes, I believe it’s a truism that human creativity is limited.

      >If it is, we will die off

      Of course we will eventually die off, as all creatures will. But just as it is tragic for a child to die before its time, it would be tragic for humanity to die before its time. I don’t think limited creativity has to lead to premature extinction. Cockroaches are doing quite well with far more limited creativity than we have. If anything, our creativity is often what does us in as we create recklessly without adequate precaution.

      >The Venusians are manager types

      I’m glad you made this comment because it actually opens up a way to frame this whole debate very clearly. I am sure that you’re right that SOME of the Venusians are just that - people with strong manager parts in charge. The Zeitgeist agenda, if driven by those people, would be very unhealthy. But I also think there are likely Venusians who are in Self and see a dangerous lack of healthy boundaries and limits on what we’re doing. The Zeitgeist agenda driven by people like that would be a worthy experiment, especially because the mark of Self is an ability to take in other viewpoints and balance them. Venusians coming from a position of Self will be able to have healthy dialogue - like the one I heard Neil and Stefan have - and adapt and develop their ideas.

      As I said in the blog piece, what’s needed is experimentation and the willingness to test things and adapt based on the results. Ideologues driven by extreme parts will not be able to do this. Those coming from a position of Self - whether they fall on the FDR side or the Zeitgeist side or any other side - will be great assets who can put theories to the test and be flexible enough to learn and admit when they are wrong and work toward solutions.

      >>Human creativity has no limits

      I disagree with that statement. It is a statement of faith. If I ask “How do you know there are no limits?” you couldn’t possibly answer. Your answer seems to be “Look around at the dizzying rate of increase.” For one thing, no matter how dizzying it is, that does not make it unlimited. Furthermore, as I mentioned, creativity is the cause of not only solutions, but often problems. In fact, they frequently come as a package deal. We develop nuclear technology and it solves some problems while introducing others. Creativity is a double edged sword.

    28. Nathan T. Freeman Says:

      Sadly, I’ve reached the conclusion that SystemsThinker isn’t actually reading and processing the replies here, since his responses continue to make the same mistakes they did originally.

      “If oil companies knew oil was running perilously low, do you think they’d disclose that? ”

      Absolutely not. If supplies are running low, then they are incentivized to let the price rise to what the market will bear. In fact, it’s a HUGE incentive to do so, since the marginal price would be expected to rise significantly while the costs would not have changed, thus reaping greater profits.

    29. bitbutter Says:

      “If oil companies knew oil was running perilously low, do you think they’d disclose that?”

      No. But they’d start stockpiling oil, holding it in reserve, expecting higher prices in the near future. As more firms started to do this the stockpiling itself would reduces the currently available supply to consumers, and would already start to drive up prices–price signals have the effect of ‘easing into’ the shock of depletion. Also, the higher the price of oil goes, the more lucrative potential alternatives start to become, creating a correspondingly higher push/pull for profit-seeking entrepreneurs to actually develop and bring those alternatives to market.

      “I think an awareness that the ecosystem is primary and the human economy subsumed by it provides a much clearer and less muddled set of incentives to be sustainable.”

      Human values are primary. Among the things that human’s value is a livable planet. The market economy is the best bet we have for the rational allocation of scarce resources to serve human values.

    30. SystemsThinker Says:

      Nathan,

      I feel the same about your replies as you are making the same mistake I just corrected. There are more incentives here than just the ability to raise the price. If the public knew that we were about to run out of oil, they would possibly demand intervention to stop the oil companies from using up what’s left at ANY price. They may not succeed. Oil would become extremely expensive. And I’m sure a black market would arise where people would still get it.

      But life could become tough for those companies in a position like that with the kind of public response that might come their way.

      It all goes back to my main point that for some reason, the average FDR person focuses so myopically on the economics that they forget the ecological which is primary, not secondary. When ecological concerns kick in, in situations where people truly understand what’s going on, that trumps the human economy. For many of us - though perhaps not for people as focused on pure economics as some - there is no way to put a price on things like human life or the extinction of a species.

      My usual feeling about FDR is not “Hey that’s wrong.” It’s “Hey that’s pretty right…but incomplete.”

      If I am still missing your point then I apologize but I assure you I’m sincerely trying to discuss things openly and honestly.

    31. Nathan T. Freeman Says:

      “Also, the higher the price of oil goes, the more lucrative potential alternatives start to become, creating a correspondingly higher push/pull for profit-seeking entrepreneurs to actually develop and bring those alternatives to market.”

      This is vital to understanding the process. When oil is $1000/barrel, the profitability of alternatives, even expensive ones, increases greatly, thus attracting supply.

      What is similarly vital is to understand that *what that alternative will be* is not something that can be centrally directed. It emerges from a plurality of experimental tests in the form of market offerings that succeed or fail. For instance, few people would have guessed 30 years ago that sand would be a resource substitute for oil, but it is. Using sand to fuse glass, which is then drawn into fiber and used to transmit massive amounts of data around has greatly reduced the need for in-person human interaction to coordinate goals, thus reducing marginal demand for oil used to transport humans. This has had the pleasant side-effect of wrecking the airline industry, as the miles traveled for business has dropped sharply.

      In a free market, many of the airlines would have simply gone out of business. In the tragic fascist regime of today, they are propped up with tax victim funding.

      One can make exactly the same observation about the interstate highway system, long-haul freight trucking, and railroads. Rail transport is substantially more carbon-efficient, but the government-provided free road system makes it cheaper to ship by truck, because the government extorts the costs of maintaining the track from the tax cattle. In a voluntaryist system, this would never happen.

    32. SystemsThinker Says:

      Bitbutter,

      This goes back to the “race” I mentioned long ago in the comments. If we knew that once some resource gets low the increased pull for entrepreneurs would definitely solve the problem, nobody would lose much sleep. The problem is that there is no guarantee. And that makes this a very risky and possibly reckless game. To deplete a crucial resource on the assumption that once it gets low and money is invested in research, we’ll definitely replace it or make it unnecessary in time to stave off disastrous consequences is a risky bet. I have a feeling that the typical FDR type is more of a risk taker and the Zeitgeist folks are more precautionary and careful. And I think a balance of those is healthy and just another framing of why the dialogue is great.

      Risk is necessary to an extent, precautioun is wise to an extent. Balance them and the results sound exciting.

      This also raises interesting questions about the roots of risk-aversion vs. risk-tolerance. I love how Stefan delves into the psychological sources of many traits and this is one that would be worth considering. My guess is that there is a very healthy reason that within humanity we have different levels of these and that both are needed in any human community to survive and thrive. But it seems difficult for risk-takers and the risk-averse to appreciate what each other bring to the table and work together rather than get frustrated at the discomfort the others provoke in them.

      Most humans, on some level, value a livable planet. But as we know, there are quite a lot of people with serious disorders that render them not only wasteful but even outright sadistic and destructive. Then there are a whole host more with various forms of trauma and abuse that render them quite destructive too. And so on.

      Most healthy humans would certainly value a livable planet and act accordingly. But as a result of all of the psychologically damaging events that take place, as well as the relevant genetically transmitted disorders, it’s not always so safe to assume humans will act in their own best interest. I think that is one place folks from FDR and Zeitgeist should actually agree.

    33. Nathan T. Freeman Says:

      “If the public knew that we were about to run out of oil, they would possibly demand intervention to stop the oil companies from using up what’s left at ANY price. ”

      What would be the point of stopping the use of what was left at any price? Oil left underground has no use to anyone if it’s never extracted. It’s not like trees in a park where there’s aesthetic or ecological value to be considered. Well, unless you’re saying that crude oil remaining in underground or undersea pockets has some ecological significance by virtue of simply being there.

      Anyway, putting that aside, you’re begging the question with “demand intervention to stop…” Demand of whom? In a voluntaryist society, there is no one but the current rights holder to make demands of. If you want Exxon for some reason to NOT drill in some spot, buy the drilling rights from them. If the demand is to not extract oil at *any* price, then surely some finite price would therefore be worth it.

    34. SystemsThinker Says:

      Nathan,

      All I can say - as I find myself saying constantly when I look at the discussion on FDR - is “Great points. You’ve stated very well one half of the story.”

      Now the other half of the story is that it’s possible we deplete something, pour billions into investment and we simply fail to come up with an alternative. Or that the only way to get that alternative is morally repugnant to some - such as killing off or destroying the landbase of indigenous peoples or treating animals inhumanely and so on.

      There is a certain level of faith in technology and science to solve our problems underlying your viewpoint. I share this to an extent. But I think what drives the Zeitgeist folks and many others is a very deep fear that those activities will not always come through for us and that we should slow down and be more careful instead of having blind faith in their ability to always bail us out of our messes at the last minute. I also share this to an extent.

      I think both views are valuable and should work together rather than be at odds with each other.

      And I really appreciate “Keyser”’s statement about how he feels Venusians are driven by managers becuase it perfectly exemplifies this point.

      FDR folks typically see Zeitgeisters as frustratingly pessimistic and afraid to forge ahead into the exciting unknown of endless discovery and creativity. Zeitgeisters see many FDR folks, I think, as dangerous and reckless in their blind faith that we can keep growing and using resources and will always be able to replace them.

      If the two groups could see that each holds the balance for the other, it could be powerful. And only those driven by extreme parts would be steadfastly against seeking that balance.

    35. SystemsThinker Says:

      Nathan,

      I didn’t say it would never be extracted. But just as a family that is running out of money, if they are wise, becomes very very judicious in spending what is left, the public might take on that same mindset about the oil remaining.

      Once again, I have the same reaction. The strategy of having all of the earth owned by someone who is responsible for it and with whom you can negotiate has some merits. It also has some shortcomings. It seems to me one half of the story. And it may indeed be the best possible strategy pragmatically speaking. Even many left wing environmental groups have accepted that, despite the fact they vehemently disagree that these companies have the right to do what they do in the first place, the only sure way to stop them is to buy the land. So that is what they do, though they might view it as paying ransom to a kidnapper because you simply decide it’s better to do that and have your loved one back regardless of the morality of the kidnapper’s actions.

      But let’s not confuse the fact that having everything kidnapped and then paying the kidnapper off “works” with this being a moral system.

      There are other strategies that other groups support which also might have merit. Experimentation is the only way to really know. Perhaps different strategies will work in different places or cultures.

      But this still fails to take into account the crucial role of destructive and self-destructive people. Sadly there really truly are people who will destroy things just to destroy them. We see it on the news every day. There really are people who will own some land, be offered a ton of money for it and destroy it anyway, perhaps even precisely in order to anger people. There are sadists in this world. There are deeply mentally ill people in this world. You cannot count on the logic of people or even the profit motive to always keep things protected and safe.

    36. Nathan T. Freeman Says:

      “You cannot count on the logic of people or even the profit motive to always keep things protected and safe.”

      So what are you counting on in any alternative approach besides the ‘logic of people?’”

    37. bitbutter Says:

      “You cannot count on the logic of people or even the profit motive to always keep things protected and safe.”

      Obviously. No system escapes this. Not the Venus project, not any other variety of statism, and not the freed market. This doesn’t advance the discussion.

    38. SystemsThinker Says:

      I always go back to balance. We need an alternative that accounts for the rationality and irrationality, the cooperation and the competition, the logic and the illogic, the healing and the destructiveness within humanity. And this is why I think the Zeitgiest folks and the FDR folks could do so much good if they could find a way to complement each other rather than antagonize each other.

      I heard a great modeling of that in Neil and Stefan’s call. And my primary purpose in this piece and in answering all these comments is to attempt to catalyze more discussions like that one.

      I almost see the Zeitgeist folks and FDR folks as a sort of Imago match that each contain the other’s shadow and, working cooperatively, could become more than the sum of their parts.

    39. Nathan T. Freeman Says:

      How does the Zeitgiest approach account for irrationality and illogic?

    40. SystemsThinker Says:

      Nathan,

      I hope by now it’s clear that I’m not saying the Venus project is the way to go and I’m all in with it. Far from it. I’m quite skeptical of that solution as well.

      What I am saying is simply that their general bent toward precaution and conservation is a nice balance for the free marketeers’ general bent toward risk taking.

      I see within the Zeitgeist movement a deep sense of fear about the recklessness of what humanity is doing. That recklessness, of course, ties into irrationality and illogic and destructiveness.

      Whether their particular solution would work is one issue. But I think they are wise to be apprehensive about excessive risk in our system. That is where I see a lot of value in their message. Theirs is a message of caution.

      But I also see value in the other side.

      I hope this answers your question adequately. And I hope overall you’re seeing my position now. Whether you agree or not, I hope I’ve explained it well enough that you know where I stand clearly.

      I would love to see more dialogues between Neil and Stefan and others who agree with them. I myself don’t fall into either camp, but I am happy to catalyze the interaction and perhaps moderate a bit between the two.

    41. SystemsThinker Says:

      Bitbutter,

      As I keep taking pains to point out, I’m not trying to advance a discussion with me. I’m trying to advance a discussion between the FDR folks and the Zeitgeist folks. All I’m doing here is explaining why I think that dialogue could be so fruitful and trying to to frame it in a clarifying way.

      The solutions are far more likely to come from THAT dialogue than this one. Like I just said, in this discussion I see myself in more of a catalyst/moderator role (metaphorically, if not literally) than a participant role, per se.

      In response to what you said, however, since no one system can account for the factors I mentioned, that is precisely why I think a balance or combination is likely to be most effective. Hence, the reason dialogue between these two groups - quite in opposition in many ways, yet both motivated by a recognition of the inadequacy of our current situation and a deep passion for improving the world - seems to me worthwhile (along with the inclusion of some others who also share those qualities).

    42. bitbutter Says:

      “We need an alternative that accounts for the rationality and irrationality, the cooperation and the competition, the logic and the illogic, the healing and the destructiveness within humanity. And this is why I think the Zeitgiest folks and the FDR folks could do so much good if they could find a way to complement each other rather than antagonize each other.”

      This sounds to me like the middle ground fallacy. If one option turns out to be helpful, and the other harmful, the optimum is not half way between the two.

      The zeitgeist project fails because it offeres no way to overcome the economic calculation problem. _Partial_ implementation of the zeitgeist ideas will simply create pockets of production that suffer from this, ‘islands of incalculability’ as Rothbard put it. The optimum number of these islands is zero.

    43. SystemsThinker Says:

      Bitbutter,

      >>This sounds to me like the middle ground fallacy. If one option turns out to be helpful, and the other harmful, the optimum is not half way between the two.

      I am not judging the Free Market vs. the Venus Project. I’m looking at the values of free marketeers and the values of Zeitgeisters and seeing a possibility for mutual catalysis, out of which would come new solutions that cannot be predicted. I’m not supporting something “between” free market and Venus project. I’m supporting a powwow between these groups to see what new ideas come out of it if they can understand and appreciate what each brings to the table. If I misspoke and made it sound otherwise then I hope this clarifies that.

      >>The zeitgeist project fails because it offeres no way to overcome the economic calculation problem. _Partial_ implementation of the zeitgeist ideas will simply create pockets of production that suffer from this, ‘islands of incalculability’ as Rothbard put it. The optimum number of these islands is zero.

      Again, I’m not supporting partial implementation of anything. I’m supporting dialogue in which issues like the one you just raised are discussed. This is just what started to happen between Neil and Stefan and I’d like to see more of it.

      The only thing I’d add is that I’d also like to see the discussion get into the root sources of each group’s concerns. Both the folks on FDR and TZP proponents care about and are conscious of the impact of our upbringing, our culture, abuse, trauma, addiction, genetics and so on. So both should be capable of and willing to consider what really underlies their different viewpoints - especially things like risk-tolerance vs. risk aversion - and how they can reconcile these not into a “middle ground” but into a synthesis.

      Or it’s possible, though perhaps not likely, that with enough dialogue that includes delving into the root sources of each group’s feelings, a significant cohort from one of them ultimately sees that the other’s proposed solution was optimal all along.

    44. Nathan T. Freeman Says:

      “I hope this answers your question adequately. And I hope overall you’re seeing my position now.”

      I’m sorry, but it doesn’t. You keep asserting that free markets are bent towards risk taking, and yet every example you’ve offered regarding risk has been identified as a misunderstanding of the market process. The only scenario you’ve been able to offer is “what about insane, destructive people getting hold of resources and destroying them for no purpose whatsoever?”

      To which the reply is: what would you propose from any other system to prevent that? Because every approach I’ve ever heard of that’s supposed to protect from such behavior instead simply grants irrational and illogical people the power to engage in such wanton destruction by giving them all the guns instead.

    45. SystemsThinker Says:

      Nathan,

      You’re misreading me (perhaps due to my own fault) in the same way as Bitbutter, confusing my comments about the group and its values relative to the other group for comments about a particular solution. I’m not saying the free market is necessarily bent toward risk (though many would argue it is, I’m not even engaging in that debate here). I’m saying I think most proponents of the free market are MORE risk-tolerant than Zeitgeisters.

      The FDR and Zeitgeist folks are both driven, in part, by fears. But their fears are in some ways opposite (or you could, perhaps ideally, see them as complementary).

      The Zeitgeisters’ primary fear (and I’m stereotyping here a bit so forgive me) seems to me to be a fear of reckless wastefulness. Your primary fear, like that of most Libertarians and anarcho-capitalists, seems to be of authoritarian oppression. Both are valid. Both are worth our concern. Both have historically proven to be problematic.

      When I raise the issue of insane, destructive people within the public at large doing damage, it is not to say that that concern is primary. Your concern about excessive authoritarianism (or you might just frame that as being about insane or destructive people in leadership) is equally valid.

      Both of these fears need to be addressed. And I think one of the better hopes for that happening is for these two groups - each of which passionately cares about and cogently articulates one of them - to somehow catalyze each other.

    46. Nathan T. Freeman Says:

      “I’m not saying the free market is necessarily bent toward risk…”

      “…is a nice balance for the free marketeers’ general bent toward risk taking.” from http://www.systemsthinker.com/blog/2011/02/kiernan-molyneux-dialogue/#comment-175077

      I really don’t know how that’s misreading you. You said exactly what I said you said.

    47. SystemsThinker Says:

      Nathan,

      I said the free marketeers’ general bent toward risk (referring to proponents of a free market). I did not say the free market’s general bent toward risk. Subtle difference, but important to what I’m getting at. Will continue this later!

    48. Nathan T. Freeman Says:

      Okay, then how are advocates free markets more risk-taking? Because don’t want to create institutions that violate the NAP? That’s because we are risk-AVERSE. The existence of such institution is incredibly risky, given the 100% consistent historical growth rate of such entities.

    49. SystemsThinker Says:

      Nathan,

      It’s funny because right after I left earlier I predicted that question would come up. I almost came back just to edit a post and clarify this.

      When I say free marketeers are more risk-taking I mean more risk-taking than the Zeitgeisters when it comes to certain economic risks.

      Perhaps I should put this in a better way. As I mentioned above each group seems to me to have a primary fear (granting this is a bit of stereotyping to make my point):

      Free marketeers’ primary fear = authoritarian oppression
      Zeitgeisters’ primary fear = reckless wastefulness

      Thus, each is more risk-taking in one way and less in the other.

      For example, free marketeers’ - as you can see in these comments - are willing to bet that when we need a solution to any resource depletion that might occur, technology will save us.

      Zeitgeisters are not as willing to make that bet.

      I fully agree that you could turn things around and frame it in a way where the Zeitgeisters look like the risk takers (ie: willing to bet that this massive inventory system is going to work and not be oppressive or destructive or wasteful in itself.)

      So you’ve helped me clarify. Let’s not say that free marketeers are more risk-taking and Zeitgeisters less so. Let’s just say they are risk-taking and risk-averse in different, often mirror-image ways. The way that their fears and, consequently, areas of risk-tolerance and risk-aversion sort of mirror each other is exactly why I feel there is a kind of Imago dynamic between them, which is why I can see so much benefit from the groups interacting in a healthy way.

      It’s not because, as someone worried above, I’m advocating a middle solution between their two main current proposals. It’s because I think the two groups would actually impact each other, leading both to become refined in some very beneficial ways and then out of that innovative ideas and solutions may emerge.

    50. Nathan T. Freeman Says:

      Okay, I understand you. But let’s put aside the “technology will save us from resource depletion” concept. I know where bitbutter is coming from, and I don’t disagree, but it’s not a necessary aspect in order to make the point.

      Let’s imagine that there is a fixed amount of oil in the world. We don’t happen to know what it is, but it’s 1,000,000 tons. What the collective knowledge of all the suppliers in the world *think* it is, is 750,000 tons.

      Now, let us suppose that our base price for oil is $1000/ton today. And at that price, the rate of consumption is 100 tons/day. So, at $1000/ton, there are 10,000 days of consumption left. (About 27 years.)

      After 1000 days, there are only 900,000 tons left. At current consumption rates, now we’re down to only 25 years left. Since that’s all the oil that will ever exist on earth, those who hold the supply know that there are only 9000 days left. Because they want to continue making money, they increase the price in anticipation of the reduced future supply. Instead of $1000/ton, the price rises to $1100/ton.

      As a consequence, buyers of oil conserve. Perhaps they forego that weekend trip to Chuck-E-Cheese. Perhaps they ship larger palettes to customers. Perhaps the out-of-state supplier is now more expensive than the local provider, so they spend local instead of covering increased transport costs. For whatever reason, let’s say that with a price of $1100/ton, consumption is reduced to 90 tons/day.

      Now fast forward another 100 days. The rate of diminishing supply has lessened, due to higher prices. Instead of 10,000 tons, only 9,000 tons were consumed. Which means our rate of depletion was slowed as well. We’re down to 810,000 tons remaining. And again, since the remaining known supply is reduced, suppliers value it more at the margin, and the price climbs to $1200/ton, and demand reduces accordingly.

      If there are no other discoveries, then this remains the pattern year after year, with the price asymptotically rising while the known supply drops. It never reaches zero, but as each additional ton is consumed, each remaining ton is more valuable.

      Of course, when oil goes from $1000/ton to $1500/ton, there is now a bit incentive for new market entrants. We don’t need to count on new technology, though. It may be old technology. After all, if gas rose to $20/gallon, how many people would seriously consider taking public transport, car pooling or taking a bike to work? These may be long-known technologies that were crowded out by cheap energy, but as energy prices are allowed to rise, then consumption behavior shifts accordingly.

      But with a 50% rise in prices, now things like solar or wind that were economic failures before become potentially profitable. After all, if it takes $1500 worth of oil to do something, but only $1400 worth of solar cells, then the most selfish, destructive asshole in the history of humanity is going to choose the solar cells. (short of being the kind of person that burns old tires in their yard out of spite.)

      Again, this works without new technology introducing a substitute good. Without a substitute, the consequence of the rising prices are more severe. But there’s nothing about any other systems that would better mitigate pain, as if the price is NOT allowed to rise, then the supply just vanishes more quickly (exactly the scenario that they want to avoid, right?)

      The key thing to remember is that it’s the PRICE that conveys the information about the dwindling supply. When the price is not allowed to change, there is no perception of shortage by the consumer. Suppliers want to raise the price as it becomes more scarce, yielding more profits, but if they are prevented from doing so, then the consumers base decisions on false information.

    51. Nathan T. Freeman Says:

      Crap, I got all the numbers wrong. :( if I could edit, I’d correct them. I meant to include the consequence of a discovery that increases known reserves by 25%.

      Anyway, just imagine that I started with 1,000,000 tons without the question of known vs. unknown reserves. We can come back to that later.

    52. MJ Says:

      “There is a certain level of faith in technology and science to solve our problems underlying your viewpoint. I share this to an extent. But I think what drives the Zeitgeist folks and many others is a very deep fear that those activities will not always come through for us”

      Cognitive Dissonance? Didn’t I just listen to two hours of you stating that new science and technology can run the human race better than it currently is?

    53. SystemsThinker Says:

      MJ (and others who might read this),

      I think for some reason there is confusion over who I am and what this particular blog post is about.

      I am neither a full blown anarcho-capitalist like those at FDR, nor a full blown Zeitgeist supporter. I simply have examined the ideas proposed in both places and was very impressed with the dialogue between Stefan and Neil. I myself have mixed feelings about both camps.

      My purpose in this blog was not to support or oppose either camp. It was simply to say that I believed the dialogue Stefan and Neil had was impressive and that I’d like to see more such dialogues take place - dialogues not between people from either of these camps and ME, but between people from each of these camps with EACH OTHER.

      My only role in this is to hopefully catalyze that conversation and perhaps give a little framing around it to try to make it more constructive.

      I think some interesting experiments and solutions could come out of a cooperative dialogue between supporters of these two interestingly related visions. It is THEY that I hope will discuss and debate more often and more constructively with each other.

      Hopefully, this will clarify things so I don’t keep having people writing trying to convince me of their viewpoint. I’m not trying - at least on this particular blog post - to engage in a debate on the merits of anarcho-capitalism vs. The Venus Project. I’m only trying to catalyze dialogue between those who ARE proponents of one or the other of these approaches.


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