January 2016. When I started this blog in 2009, I wanted a place to preserve my commentaries, so those that were not published would not just vanish into the aether. 183 blog posts later that need is no longer served very well. The old posts are there, but not easy to find.
Also, I have been posting less often the past year or so. It only seems to get harder to get pieces published in the mainstream media. A couple of places online readily accept my contributions, but I do feel like I’m preaching to the choir. My wish to reach a larger audience and to help shift the national conversation to more productive modes is still frustrated.
The problem applies to publishing books as well. My writing does not fit old categories. It is at once too analytical and too touchy-feely. If I shift the style to more mainstream, then who the hell am I, an obscure scientist and wannabe economist, when they have all their usual mainstream chatterers to pull an audience. The business model of book publishers, like newspaper publishers, is struggling and changing. Online publishing is emerging but still very much in flux. What to do? I confess to episodes of confusion and even despondency lately.
For these reasons I have been thinking lately of just writing what I want to write, in whatever style I need and as long or as short as the subject demands, rather than jamming ideas into the standard 800-word commentary or gathering them into a book. Actually I’ve already written a number of such pieces. They are known in the business as long-form journalism, or more simply as essays. Some might be technical, some not. Being more substantive, I want to make them more readily discoverable, and to present them in a more coherent context.
Therefore I am renovating the website to feature a menu of pages. The blog is still present, but not on the front page. I have also shifted the appearance to be simpler and cleaner.
Perhaps the greater freedom and longer time horizon will lead me to more fruitful conceptions that might gain greater traction.
Welcome to this blog. It is hard to get comments published that are not mainstream, nor even a recognised ideology. My perspective comes from examining the present and potential functioning of economies and societies from a quite different moral and intellectual grounding than any recognised branch of economics.
The moral basis is that we can choose to be driven by fear or to be motivated by love. We can cultivate self awareness and knowledge or we can be mired in unconsciousness and ignorance. Trying to live through competition alone is as dysfunctional as trying to live through cooperation alone. The living world is pervaded by competition and cooperation. Taoists long ago perceived that a fulfilling life requires that we balance such polarities: cooperation and competition, yin and yang. An economy is not separable from society. It is the way a society makes its living, and its values and structures are part of the society’s values and structures.. I take the purpose of an economy to be to support the kind of society we choose to live in.
An economy is required also to function according to the imperatives of the living world which, briefly, require living off energy income, recycling all materials, producing no persistent toxins and not taking a large proportion of resources for ourselves. If we lived that way, humanity could continue its adventure indefinitely, potentially growing in sophistication and quality of life, but not expanding its share of Earth’s bounty. If we lived that way the rest of the living world would thrive around us.
The intellectual basis of my perspective is that an economy is a far-from-equilibrium system. Its behaviour is therefore radically different from the sterile and static general equilibrium predicted by mainstream (neoclassical) free-market theory. It is a self-organising complex system, full of nonlinear effects and instabilities. It has many possible states, not just one global optimum. The new complexity economics is well summarised by Eric Beinhocker in The Origin of Wealth, although the book contains a lot of the detail of the intellectual foundation, but not the big implications that I draw out in Economia, and in my eBook The Nature of the Beast (see My Books tab).
I am a scientist who studies the Earth. I have four decades’ experience of judging theories and evidence about how the Earth works. The Earth is messy, and evidence is often incomplete and confusing, just as it is for global warming. I am alarmed that the global climate system may be tipping right now into irreversible runaway that could raise temperatures by six degrees or more, and cause catastrophe for humans and the extinction of half Earth’s species.
In have also learnt of many positive innovations that can allow us to live lightly on the Earth. We could be doing it right now, if only we would listen and learn from what is already being done by many scattered individuals and small groups.
So there’s a mixture of alarm and hope. We must find hope, no matter how dire the situation might seem, otherwise there is only despair.
From such a perspective the passing parade of “news” is mostly trivia, or blind folly. So I try to say a few things that might provide some more meaningful, useful and hopeful knowledge and perspective. Much of what I have been writing, or wanting to write, has vanished into the aether. Hence this blog.
I hope it provides something useful for you. And if you disagree, with me or other commenters, please debate but don’t abuse. Stan Dale said “There is either love or violence. There is either love or a cry for love.”