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Old 07-29-2012, 11:57 PM
 
981 posts, read 2,200,726 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mysticaltyger View Post
I don't think your analogy between the body and economic growth applies. I'm not saying we can't overconsume resources. But humans can also innovate. They can learn to use resources differently or more efficiently or new ways of doing things that don't involve as many natural resources (email vs. snail mail).

Many see endless economic growth as a possibility because the human ability to innovate is endless and humanity is currently tapping only a small portion of that potential.
Those arguments echo Julian Simon's brand of optimism, debunked here decades ago. Such arguments either pretend that the Earth isn't truly finite, or pass the buck to future generations. Also, the destruction of nature via human overpopulation is usually ignored in anthropocentric "human potential" arguments. There's a lot more to this than just feeding and housing people.

Show me any (already modernized) metro area that's experiencing continual "economic growth" and invariably the population of that area is growing, which means "economic growth" in modern societies generally includes the accommodation of more people, not an improvement in per-capita quality of life. Some exceptions to that rule are things like computer technology, but I'm mainly referring to growth in bulk consumption and physical mass. Housing starts are a good example. The idea that we're "falling behind" if new houses aren't constantly built is clearly tied to population growth.

If the local population isn't growing much, "economic growth" is typically made possible by selling stuff to foreign nations which do have a growing population. Globalization relies heavily on that model. Part of it also involves grabbing natural resources in foreign lands when local ones have been depleted or get costlier. This gives the illusion of "growth" but it's really just a matter of long distance transport and depletion taking place elsewhere. The U.S. started doing that back in 1970 when our oil production peaked and we had to get cheap oil from foreign lands.

Last edited by ca_north; 07-30-2012 at 12:18 AM..
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Old 07-30-2012, 12:03 AM
 
981 posts, read 2,200,726 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cdelena View Post
With growth in population there has to be growth in the economy or there will be a decline in the standard of living. Are you suggesting that there is some organization wise enough and capable enough to manage population?
That's a classic cart before horse argument. My whole point was that population growth is unnatural if it never stops, and if it's destroying nature (the very thing that keeps life viable). Man is guilty on both counts when you look at the evidence.

We already have a technology that can manage the human population. It's called contraception. But it requires that people acknowledge limits to growth. Your answer was not unexpected, but it baffles me that people think endless growth is feasible.
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Old 07-30-2012, 08:20 AM
 
629 posts, read 1,549,798 times
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Because if countries (and the world in general) admit that they can't grow, grow, grow forever and ever then the whole system immediately becomes balance sheet insolvent. Here in the US, take Medicare and SS for example, they're projected to be something like 50 TRILLION in the hole over the next 70 years. Even worse, that gap assumes the economy will keep growing at 3 percent a year for the next 70 years (I don't know the exact number that they use for their assumption, but it assumes continual population growth and continued economic growth). If the economy and population remain steady then we suddenly have to admit that we cannot and will not ever be able to pay for all this 'stuff.'
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Old 07-30-2012, 08:52 AM
 
Location: The Triad (NC)
31,347 posts, read 69,575,546 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FL2MT View Post
Because if countries (and the world in general) admit that they can't grow, grow, grow forever and ever then the whole system immediately becomes balance sheet insolvent. ... If the economy and population remain steady then we suddenly have to admit that we cannot and will not ever be able to pay for all this 'stuff'...
... in the way (and perhaps to the degree) that has been done in the past.

But when the needs of a population is approximately equal to the production capacity and natural resources of that population -even by deliberately balancing that population level- well, no one really knows as it's never been done. It was described in Star Trek a few times but never actually done.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MUVGTdXkzk


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQQYbKT_rMg

Last edited by MrRational; 07-30-2012 at 09:49 AM.. Reason: found the ST-TNG videos
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Old 07-30-2012, 09:43 AM
 
23 posts, read 59,297 times
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People believe in growth to infinity largely because they want to believe in it; they don't want to believe in ceilings in what can be achieved, even if those ceilings could in fact be unavoidable. The feeling that it will be easier to live a better life as one ages is fundamentally a comforting antidote to the other ravages and deterioration of aging. The feeling of knowing that one's children have a chance to live a significantly higher quality of life gives people purpose and more likely to think about the future implications of their actions. There are so many times in human history where technological growth was really booming, and then institutions surrounding that growth collapsed and dramatic regression occurred. Dark Ages, anyone? Even if the ceiling is real, our trajectory and just how far we've come is very special. In the grand scheme of things, it is better to try to achieve the peak of quality of life, simply because we are in such a unique position among thousands of years of world history. You try to tie economic growth to population growth. While the economies of scale provided by the Industrial Revolution is intricately tied with the breaking of the "Malthusian trap" that allowed significant increases in quality of life to be experienced by the populace and not just put into feeding more mouths, I think it is very possible to increase economic growth (at least per capita) while keeping population growth stagnant or declining. In fact, as we approach the limits of what the planet will easily provide for us, economic growth may in fact be more easily achieved in stagnant or declining populations. People make a big deal of swelling populations of the elderly and rising dependency ratios, while conveniently ignoring that children also raise dependency ratios (much less flexibly, at that; a 70 year old can much more easily contribute significant value to the workforce than a 5 year old can in this day and age). In fact, there have been a number of cases made that China's booming success is due to a very unusually large percentage of its population being of working age, due to the one child policy but the high birth rates preceding it.
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Old 08-04-2012, 07:40 AM
 
8,232 posts, read 12,588,264 times
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ca_north I think you are on track, I have often wondered the same thing. We act like lemmings heading for the cliff. More growth means more people to use more stuff which depletes more natural resources which fills up oceans and earth with more trash, more and more and more till we just.......are out of everything but people Pretty stupid really. Just because it isn't going to happen tomorrow or next year is no reason not come up with a better idea.
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Old 08-04-2012, 09:28 AM
 
Location: The Triad (NC)
31,347 posts, read 69,575,546 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Badlands17 View Post
People believe in growth to infinity largely because they want to believe in it...
Meh. But it is the only model they (we) have ever known...
and **that** makes even considering an alternative perspective dam scary.
Quote:
There are so many times in human history where technological growth was really booming, and then institutions surrounding that growth collapsed and dramatic regression occurred. Dark Ages, anyone?
Even if the ceiling is real (it is), our trajectory and just how far we've come is very special.

In the grand scheme of things, it is better to try to achieve the peak of quality of life,
simply because we are in such a unique position among thousands of years of world history.
The peak of quality of life was reached about 40 years and 80-90,000,000 people ago.
We're on the back side of the curve now.
Quote:
You try to tie economic growth to population growth. ... I think it is very possible to increase economic growth (at least per capita) while keeping population growth stagnant or declining.

In fact, as we approach the limits of what the planet will easily provide for us, economic growth
may in fact be more easily achieved in stagnant or declining populations.
Striking that balance (or a range to called a balance) is the hard part.
Getting to that will bring change to virtually every aspect of life as we know it.
Many people will resist change with every fiber of their souls... even when they know it's good for them.
Quote:
It's not the "nice" guy who brings about real social change. "Nice" guys look nice because they're conforming. It's the "bad" guys, who only look nice a hundred years later, that are the real Dynamic force in social evolution.

Alice Cooper - No More Mr Nice Guy - YouTube
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Old 08-04-2012, 11:04 AM
 
19,337 posts, read 16,942,875 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by russiaonline View Post
Just something from history: in 1985 Gorbachev came to power in USSR, and used his huge public support to begin very questionable reforms. Almost all economists cried out loud. In 1991, following political and economic troubles, as well as massive brainwashing, the Union was dissolved. Then it's economy was unmade.

Too much power in too few hands may easily lead to disaster.


This recession is nothing more than a bubble bursting. American economy became way too virtual - and that's unsustainable.


Actually, for now there're no boundaries. It's just that growing, especially responsibly, becomes more and more expensive - hence the slowing growth rate.

In case of the 1st world, the problem with growth lies in recent tremendous overconsumption not backed by domestic production. Once the correction to the economies is done, growth can continue.

But beauty is in the eye of a beholder... Some people believe in things, that can't possibly be realized - like Gorbachev did. And sometimes such people gain power - like Gorbachev did.
Please, a little respect for Larry Summers. He was the one who showed Russia the way to impoverish itself with revisionist American history.
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Old 08-09-2012, 11:34 AM
 
Location: San Diego California
6,797 posts, read 6,628,664 times
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The public’s interpretation of the entire economy is for the most part a fantasy. They are programed to believe in myths such as hard work pays off and we live in a free market economy.
The truth of the matter is that if the majority of people were allowed to prosper at much more than the level of simple subsistence the entire system would collapse.
There must be exploitation of the working class in order to keep a working class working. If the average worker were to receive an equitable share of what they actually produced, it would not be long before they would be able to quit working and the labor force would be reduced which would result in higher wages enabling even earlier retirement.
This was the same paradox faced by Rome when they had to impress slaves to do their labor because the average citizen did not work.
The world has always functioned by slave labor and today is no exception. It has simply been refined and perfected over the centuries.
Today the people in America, despite all the evidence to the contrary will tell you they are free and are citizens with all the rights thereof.
They believe they choose their own masters through democracy. They believe that prices, wages and taxes are all controlled by factors of the free market economy. In fact those are simply the tools used to regulate their lives and their dependency on government and corporations.
In truth they are peasants and wage slaves working in a system where wage and wealth disparity is enormous, because in fact they do produce an huge amount of wealth, but to allow them to share in that wealth would deteriorate the system.
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Old 08-09-2012, 01:04 PM
 
Location: Londonderry, NH
41,478 posts, read 54,177,735 times
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All exponential growth leads to infinity. The only variable is how long it takes to reach the unreachable goal.

We are hooked on the idea of continuous growth because we have seen the opposite. We look at the post Plague Europe and are frightened witless by abandoned villages and reforested fields. We look at the places in our country and parts of the world with declining populations, particularly of young productive people, and are nearly as frightened. We, everyone from the farmer to the banker, cannot fathom how to keep production, productivity and profit growing when the population declines. The investor classes fear stagnation the most because they have the most to lose. I will know we are in trouble when the people in the McMansions plant their acre plus lawns to wheat because their investment income has dried up and blown away. Look what is happening in America's Red States as this year's crops wither and die. If the farmers are worried the bankers are terrified.

So how do we keep an economy growing without the population growing first? We do it with efficiency by requiring fewer workers to make things. The automobile industry has led the way with extensive automation and robotics. Unfortunately the profits derived from this production efficiency have not gone to either the displaced workers or their replacements. It has been squandered in building ever bigger real mansions or igniting speculative investment bubbles. If the productivity was shared in the form of very much higher wages for the decreasing number of employed people the economy could continue to grow as formerly subsistence level workers lived more affluent lives. The problem with this solution to economic growth with a stagnating or decreasing population is the exclusivity of the wealthy is decreased as more and more workers show up at the formerly exclusive hideaways for the very rich. From their point of view Aspen is destroyed by too much prosperity for the many.

I think the world could become a wonder land if the overall population slowly declined from its current value and the overall material prosperity increased throughout the entire population until the population reached a stead sustainable lever and everyone prosperity increased. Who knows but a steady population combined with physical prosperity and technological advances might just provide the surplus that would allow humans to develop a functioning space drive and take to the Star Road and perpetual prosperity.
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