WEEKLY RANT #6

This morning I watched a hugely insightful documentary: “Call of Life: Facing the mass extinction”. You can watch it for free on the link below:

I thought that I might use this documentary as the baseline for answering a comment by Mark Hubbard who writes the “Life Behind the Iron Drape” blog as part of my weekly rant. Both Mark and I have a mutual understanding that we are worlds apart in our thinking, but are happy to exchange ideas without feeling the need to attack the others position. After all, that is what freedom of expression is about, and it is a value that we both view as inherently important (albeit with some disagreement as to whether or not it incorporates the freedom to offend, but I digress!).

The suggestion made was that I might be better off voting for the Libertarianz Party and perhaps accept an economy principled on laissez-faire capitalism. I first have to make one point very clear. I dislike capitalism. Fullstop. I am pragmatic in understanding that we currently operate within a capitalist economy, but as has always been my position, and being enlightened even further this morning, we cannot have an economy if we no longer have the environment that produces the resources needed to satisfy our demands. Consumerism erodes our environment as long as capitalism lingers on.

Whilst watching the documentary,I had one of those moments where I thought: how could I not have organised my thoughts more coherently to see the fallacy of economic growth? The answer:consumerism teaches us to detach ourselves from dealing with the reality. For example, I particularly enjoyed a analogy made in the documentary that under consumerism humans are insane.  Insanity being “a state of mind which prevents normal perception…” (Online Oxford Dictionary). Analogously, as consumers we deny the realities of the effects on the environment in both the production and disposal of the things we buy.  

So returning to the point I was making, the government predicate their policies on economic growth.Every party in Parliament uses economic growth as a political tool for illustrating why one party is better or worse than the other. They are all wrong. A perfect summing up of economic growth in the documentary was that we cannot have infinite economic growth in a finite world, and as such capitalism is ecologically illiterate. So while the government marvel at all the prospects they have for our future and how this is dependent on economic growth,they are mistaken. Without biodiversity, we have no future. The current government have gone as far to vote against a bill that would protect endangered Maui Dolphins because of the impact it might have on commercial fishing and hence their economic growth plans. This is absolute lunacy.

So an answer to Mark (in a nutshell) while I appreciate that we both see ‘freedom’ as a core value in both our ideal societies, my view is that freedom must be regulated in order to protect the very thing that sustains life on this planet – the environment or more specifically, biodiversity. This is also why I disagree with a freemarket and deregulation, in my view these very concepts undermine ecological preservation. I understand that a criticism of regulating freedom is that it is not truly ‘freedom’; but my view is probably Kantian in that respect, insofar as we cannot as rational beings ever comprehend absolute freedom. Libertarianism holds everyone responsible for the choices that they make, but Libertarianism does not provide solutions to preventing degradation of our biosphere, because the regulation required cannot be reconciled with Libertarian principles. I accept that there may be a counter-argument and I am open to hearing it.

I am discovering that I am a mish-mash of ideologies, theories and principles, and am finding the labels less and less attractive. Like Mark states in his blog, ideas are more important and more interesting! 
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6 comments

  1. Nice retort :)Just a few thoughts going into the weekend.Again, my definition of capitalism is simply the market mechanism which allows voluntary transactions between individuals(with no coercive state). Does such a market have to be bound by infinite growth? No, why not steady state? It's just a mechanism for free trade. Add cheap credit, however, via the central banked, fiat money system of Keynesian socialism … then you'll get growth alright, in the form of malinvestments: that's precisely what went wrong in August 2008, from which Western economies are still imploding. But I dealt with monied systems in my previous comment below.Although, big rejoinder to that – capitalism not needing growth – because on two points, I don't want to misrepresent myself: I do believe in the ingenuity of man's mind, and that we are nowhere near peak oil, plus the solar system of minerals and resources is not many years away from us being able to harvest, thus, growth is not a huge issue in my mind (also note, alternatively, that population growth – perhaps the elephant in the comment here – using resources is found in third world, undeveloped countries, not so much in the west. Indeed, to really step out on a limb, and risk opprobrium, outside of Mormons, which of two the arbitrary groups in our society tend to have the bigger families: well-off or otherwise? I can't supply facts on that, but anecdotally feel pretty confident on saying there would be a trend to smaller families as wealth rises (and there's good reasons for that, but outside of this post). Thus to close my circle, those societies that have allowed the greatest measure of laissez faire tend to be the most prosperous, thus prosperity would seem to best way for the voluntary control of population growth. (As well as a good dose of reason over religion).The second point I need to be clear to not misrepresent myself on is that as well as my belief in the ingenuity of man, I believe that left to his own devices, self interest will pull man toward reason, that is, conservation, voluntarily (I 'hate' the cynical view that the Left hold about man [sorry for 'sexist' lexicon]). For instance, I have a holiday home in the Marlborough Sounds, and I love it: over the sea, the dolphins come visit August through September, and we're out in the bush – why would I ever want to disrupt that habitat? I wouldn't. Indeed, I take pride in looking after it. The best caretakers of land are owners of it, and you must have capitalist property rights for that. At my permanent home, though only a smallish section, I've planted in natives because I like the look, and I run a good vege garden because I love fresh food, and it makes me exercise. That is, I love nature, and my fingers in the dirt. BUT.But, but, but …Bottom line, I'm a freedom freak and do not want the State in my life, and certainly not be forced to fund a political philosophy I find destructive and abhorrent. Thus, I give you the possibility, that, say, in absence of regulated fisheries, man may well over-fish … well if that were the price of freedom (and I don't think it is), and I had to choose, then I'm willing to pay that price. Freedom has a price, I won't deny that: for me, it's way better than the alternative, the jail of state….

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  2. (continued …)Again, for me the Libertarian, it's the voluntary society versus the planned, coerced society. The worst thing you said in your post above was the contradiction:"freedom must be regulated"As an Objectivist I would say there is no such thing as a contradiction, so where you find one you must re-examine your premises. In my own blog I've come across the notion of bounded liberty before, and there, as here, I cite against your regulated freedom, those dreadful Orwellian slogans of the Police State created in the nightmare totalitarian society of the novel 1984: war is peace; freedom is slavery. I think that is where regulation always will lead: as Hayek said, our road to serfdom at the hands of Big Brother State. Referring back to Orwell, this time his novel Animal Farm, I would also ask who gets to regulate freedom, and are some more equal than others when it comes to regulating 'me'? (Answer yet, the tyranny of the majority renders my vote useless – democracy doesn't work).Anyway, to sum up, I'll put man's freedom vesus the environment, to fit myself, initially, into the duality you've constructed – an either/or – and say freedom must trump all. But my 'out' is I don't believe in the duality, and I know I'm right, because my freedom would be useless in an environment I had destroyed, so I don't think a free society would do that. And have some evidence to back me up: by far the world's biggest polluters have been the world's 100% regulated societies – the Soviets, North Korea, China, et al. In fact modern history shows, if you want a good environment, then the evidence says embrace laissez faire.So there you go, I reckon you just need to be not so hard on your fellow travelers: they probably had no intention of wrecking the environment 🙂 And I've just realised I've missed another whole issue here of the common law (including customary rights), as part of the rule of law, giving the appropriate venue for the answers to your issues vis a vis protecting the environment, and achieving what you think you can achieve via regulation, but through common law by supporting property rights, and thus freedom, rather than the abrogation of property rights via government imposed regulation. On the Seabed and Foreshore issue, a Labour government regulated Maori out of the courts; in a libertarian minarchy, there would have been no bullying on that, the courts were the correct place to test those issues. Out of time … have a good weekend 🙂

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  3. Actually a question. Remembering our's is a crony capitalist system, not capitalist, regardless, you say:"Consumerism erodes our environment as long as capitalism lingers on. What economic system do you advocate, if not capitalism, or socialism?

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  4. It's nothing new (ellip)Sister: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Limits_to_Growth——-Mark – Not socialism, but perhaps acceptance that laissez-faire capitalism is inadequate in creating an sustainable economy which exists in the here-and-now would be a start. If we accept that previously trialled methods like Communism are no better, perhaps we better regulate markets and use institutions to fully understand and then provide the best conditions for markets & trade (whether those conditions include intervention or not). Let's be pragmatic, we have a capitalist system that isn't too bad; we may as well implement internal mechanisms to improve those areas which are not satisfying the public good.

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  5. @Anonymous: slight misunderstanding, I wasn't suggesting that anything I wrote was new, only that I hadn't really fully appreciated some of the ideas that were in the documentary 🙂 However, I disagree that the capitalist system we have now isn't too bad. We have high unemployment, children inadequately fed and clothed, poor health outcomes, high student debt, high private debt, a high dollar affecting exports, not to mention the widening gap between the rich and the poor and persistent degradation of ecosystems and the environment on a global scale. @Mark: my view is that a political system should not formulate policies dependent on economic outcomes. So the kind of economy we have is less important to me than ensuring that policies are directed at preserving and protecting our environment and all the species which rely upon it, including human beings. Libertarianism and laissez faire doesn't work for me because I believe there are moral limits to what can be commodified in the market place. Additionally, I consider that in a socially just society there are justifiable limits on rights and freedoms and I am not against state intervention to regulate these but this does not amount to me accepting state intrusions. Additionally, I cant accept (personally) that individual freedom outweighs environmental concerns and in fact it horrifies me to think that we would use technology to go harvest minerals on other planets because we had depleted the earth's to critical levels. I suspect this is where our departure in thought begins: I am more sympathetic to socialism than capitalism.

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