The above graph is adapted from Limits to Growth, Revisited. It is not a hard and fast prediction, but rather the product of a model with 40 years of high correspondence with developments. We are, at present, at the top of the growth curves, many of which have already begun to plateau. Slopes of decline do not factor in such worst-case scenarios as widespread urban- or domestic nuclear facilities collapse consequent to economic collapse.

I've added the shading and 'crossover' circle' (coincident with 'peak everything') to indicate my best guess as to the high probablility zone for global, economic collapse, triggering the onset of TEOTWAWKI.

I fear a hard landing... no 'reboot' or 'transition' to a lower functioning economy. I urge high priority preparation now.

I've got a short glossary of terms at the bottom of this page... if you come across an unfamiliar term, please scroll down and check it out.

Information I'm including or pointing to doesn't mean I necessarily agree with it. Rather, I've found it to be stimulating and worthy of consideration. I'm sure you'll exercise your own judgement... we're nothing if not independent! 8)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Belated Musings on Christmas vs. Predatory Capitalism

Mr. Potter, what makes you such a hard-skulled character? 
You have no family, no children. 
You can't begin to spend all the money you've got.

But you were always a good man of business, Jacob” faltered Scrooge.

Business!” cried the Ghost,,,. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy forbearance and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

-- From A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickins

Belated Musings on Christmas vs. Predatory Capitalism

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and the movie It's a Wonderful Life by Frank Capra are polemics against rampant Capitalism... that profit-before-all economic machine that commodifies everything it touches. Churns resources to garbage. Creates profit rather than wealth and moves that from the commons to the pockets of so very few.

In these classics, we see two poster-boys of Capitalism, neither of whom would seem the least reprehensible to today's 'Captains of Industry' and 'Financial Wizards'.

In Scrooge, we see a man possessing all the lauded virtues of entrepreneurial endeavor. His is thrifty, yet knows when to 'take risks'. Shrewd, but 'honest'. Punctual, and fulfilling his contracts. A 'good man of business'.

But not one whit more.

He cheats himself of love and companionship. Blinds himself to those impoverished – at least in part - by those systems of law and property which have enabled his enrichment. Scoffs at liberality (“...are there no Prisons?”). His employee – paid no more than what the market will bear – is barely scratching out a living for himself and family.

Still, his is a mere shortage of empathy and kindness; his indifference is, in a sense, passive.

The three Spirits who visit him show him a past, present and future in which his profits profit him not. Re-envisioning his role as a capitalist, he is redeemed, and the world better for it.

Potter, on the other hand, is an active perpetrator... a 'monopoly capitalist' or Robber Baron.

He is a slumlord who manipulates markets and his business environment, and undermines his competition. “Bearing down hard”, he uses financial leverage to coerce his “lazy, shiftless populace” of neighbors toward a “hard-working and thrifty working class”. Though a board member of Bailey Building and Loan, he literally steals $8,000 and frames George Bailey for malfeasance.

Yet, again with the aid of a spirit, we visit the dystopic Pottersville, a nightmare of heartless capitalism run amok. Alienation, desperation and the triumph of the market is the result of finance divorced from human values.

Both Scrooge and Potter are capitalist paragons. Intelligent, decisive, determined, and above all, successful. They issue credit by the numbers and foreclose to their own advantage, unencumbered by charitable weakness. Yet, neither – at least before his eyes are opened – is a paragon of mankind.

It's notable that, in neither story, are the Market nor even Capital themselves in question.

'Liberal' businessmen solicit Scrooge for charitable donations. The London markets are described in mouth-watering terms. The Bailey Savings and Loan (Potter's opposite) is capitalist to the core. Supply and demand are axiomatic in both.

Yet both were written to implore a return to Adam Smith's "enlightened self-interest" - the awareness that one benefits from the weal of one's neighbors, community and nation.

I've quoted the word 'liberal', here, and one might well introduce the term 'social(ist)', words much reviled at this apex of a long, bull run.

Year after year, we revisit these stories. Regardless of where we sit on the political spectrum, we empathize with the same protagonists. Fan, Belle, Fizziwig, the Crachitts. The Baileys and all of Bedford Falls. We react to the same antagonists. Scrooge, with hope and gladness for his redemption. Potter, our sympathy for his paraplegia tempered by the unrepentant smallness of his soul.

There is no argument about whether Scrooge and Potter are simply misunderstood. No one would prefer Pottersville to Bedford Falls. None think Tiny Tim earned an early demise, nor that his family earned one for him. None feel that George Bailey, in the end, wasted his life.

Can we agree, beyond the Christmas season, that there is more to life than profit? May we not strive  for more humane, inclusive systems of finance?



  1. Hi Dave,

    Your post and thoughts deserve responses far beyond and better than mine, but I’ll step in to the inexplicable vacuum in the meantime.

    Both of those movies impacted me significantly. ACC as a child, and IAWL later as an adult, while struggling to be grateful for what we’re told to be grateful for.

    So many related thoughts and questions. I'll send a few out into the cosmos in general:

    It is so often said that “most people are good”. If that’s the case, which I doubt, how do we rationally and simply explain all of the greed and abysmal lack of substantial effort to change it?

    Desperate for the occasional intelligent show on TV (yeah, oxymorons and all), I began watching “Fareed Zakaria GPS” on CNN a few years ago. Commentary and roundtable discussion on international events and situations. Intelligent, influential guests. Similar host. Seemed promising. However, over time, I noticed a few troubling patterns.

    First, he invites his buddies back again and again as guests versus finding new people who might introduce authentically fresh, and therefore risky, perspectives.

    Second, you said in your blog post, “It's notable that, in neither story, are the Market nor even Capital themselves in question.” Key observation. Not only is that analysis lacking in those movies, but in society in general, even today. I’ve waited for about 3 years to hear Fareed and Friends discuss the fallacies of economic growth; namely, that it is mandatory and beneficial. I’ll jump to the punchline: I’ve been disappointed. Not only have they never discussed it, when the topic comes up in passing, it is always given the stamp of approval as a bygone conclusion ... the very foundation of survival. Fareed now seems to me to be a shill for big business. And if not, at least for “big status quo”. I can hardly watch it now.

    So, what’s my point? In theory, those people are supposed to be the best of us. Intelligent, educated, informed, ostensibly caring. Despite that, they fail to see or at least fail to acknowledge, confront, or tackle the blindingly simple truth that infinite growth within a finite system is not only morally bankrupt, but factually impossible.

    The glaring questions:

    * How can they simultaneously be so smart and so stupid at the same time?

    * How can the larger “we” fail to substantially act in the face of it?

    You posed a very reasonable plea-question: “Can we agree, beyond the Christmas season, that there is more to life than profit? May we not strive for more humane, inclusive systems of finance?”

    The vast majority of the population, in addition to being engaged and distracted by non-stop, ADD-inducing screen flickers and voyeuristic fake “reality” shows, are still having primitive fight-or-flight reactions to Bernie Sanders calling himself a “socialist”. Mr. Sanders, as a statement of fact, is the obviously best of the current crop of candidates on both sides. Despite that, he is surely reviled by many for no reason other than mostly hollow, misinterpreted labels by people who have not the slightest inkling what the label means and does not mean.

    I am afraid to say that here in the U.S., if you mean “other than lip service,” the answer seems to be “No, we cannot”.

    I ran across a report a few years ago from the predictably European “New Economics Foundation” (NEF) titled “Growth Isn’t Possible” (2010). It was one of the only things I’ve seen of that quality that made any logical sense on the topic. Although the report is very long and detailed, the beefy introduction is certainly worth reading … especially the part about the giant hamster.


    1. Hi Yoda,

      I waffled about whether or not this post was on topic.

      In general, I feel that many features of our current landscape comprise squabbling in a canoe that's headed for the falls. Post collapse, these and related considerations are likely to become moot.


      RE Growth Isn't Possible... I've got to go read that report, but offhand, I'd substitute 'sustainable' for 'possible'. ENDLESS growth is certainly impossible. The banner for this blog is from "Limits to Growth", which awoke me to the falls ahead.

      RE “most people are good”. If that’s the case, which I doubt, how do we rationally and simply explain all of the greed and abysmal lack of substantial effort to change it?...

      I believe that most people are pretty good, most of the time. But subject to Skinner's intermittent reinforcements - both positive and negative - as complicated by short and long term consequences. Tends individuals toward short term gain, and 'the public' toward short term complacency. Neither much looking up and ahead, in general. Change only comes when desperation is pandemic. That's my best guess, anyway.

      RE 'socialism'... I find it startling who few realize that ANY non-private endeavor is 'social(ist)'. The US Military is the single largest social program on the planet. Interstates, fire and EMS departments, FCC, FAA, police, etc., etc..

      Law - the very foundation of private property and therefore private enterprise - is a social program.

      So could we please move on??? (He bleats plaintively at the spin corps).

      RE post-TEOTWAWKI... If we survive as a species, I'm sure we'll have all the same strengths and foibles. But my guess is these, in general, serve us much better in tribal, hunter-gatherer societies.

      In this respect, I consider collapse to be to our benefit. IF we can clear hurdles of our own making (especially nuclear pollutants).

      Dave Z

  2. Hi Dave,

    "I waffled about whether or not this post was on topic."

    Yours or mine? Could be either I guess.

    "In general, I feel that many features of our current landscape comprise squabbling in a canoe that's headed for the falls. Post collapse, these and related considerations are likely to become moot."

    Probably right, but it also gives rise to a question about the point of discussing it, or having a blog on the topic, etc. Maybe a combination of venting and preparing some portion of the species for the clean-up job. Both productive I guess.

    "I believe that most people are pretty good, most of the time. But subject to Skinner's intermittent reinforcements ... "

    Trying to discuss/analyze vs. be argumentative. Drastically reduced and paraphrased -- "we're good, but in very significant and collective ways, we don't act good". Theoretically, I wonder how far along that spectrum of "good but don't act good" a species would have to move before the premise would be logically forced to change ... from "we're good" to "we're not"? I want to be optimistic, but often the "we're good, but ..." position sounds a bit like the stereotypical mother of a serial killer who invariably says with conviction what a good boy he was. Maybe the more realistic interpretation is very simple -- we're animals ... and like all other animals, we're not good. We just are.

    Excellent short list of what activities are really "socialist". The fact is, if we removed every socialist part of American culture, two things would result: 1) We would no longer be recognizable, and 2) even the most conservative among us would revolt. It is this sort of truth that so badly needs to be discussed by the Fareeds of TV, the candidates during debates, and eventually, the rest of us. At least Bernie has long been and is still trying to do so. Earns my respect.

    "In this respect, I consider collapse to be to our benefit. IF we can clear hurdles of our own making (especially nuclear pollutants)."

    From the perspective of the standard mantra of "aren't we unique and wonderful", your statement seems shocking and unthinkable. From an objective, more scientific perspective, it seems to me simply to be the predictable result of a given, and all too familiar trajectory.


  3. Hi Yoda,

    "I waffled about whether or not this post was on topic."... I mean ME.

    While political and socio-economics sometimes overlap TEOTWAWKI issues, they're not the topic of the blog. They open onto an endless vistas of opinion which, while fun to banter back and forth, are only issues 'within the canoe'. So a post like this, on my part, is an indulgence I may come to regret. 8)

    For example, I love to discuss political theory over a glass of good cheer with any civil person, regardless of whether or not we agree. But I consider it irrelevant for much more pressing discussions of preparation, survival and thrival in the face of collapse.

    RE the 'goodness' of folk... I like Robbins' way of putting it:

    "There are two mantras in the world: YUM and YUK. I prefer YUM."

    In this term, I find most people to be pretty much YUM, most of the time. Animals strike me as living in a pretty pure state of YUM.

    But that's my inner Taoist showing. 8)

    RE shocking and unthinkable... I DO actually think that we are both unique and wonderful, though the ways I value are certainly fully expressed by tribal peoples without urbanization. If anything, I think that urbanization diminishes both for most people.

    Relevance of the 'goodness' question to TEOTWAWKI strikes me as a tendency division between the 'mow down the advancing horde of takers' approach, vs the 'link up the givers into mutually reinforcing groups' approach. Lots of overlap, but my guess is that basic view of people will influence responses to strangers. Jury's still out.

    Dave Z


Hey Folks... I'm not in a position to moderate comments. If discussion remains respectful and on topic, I welcome comments (passion okay). If it spins out of control, I'll have disallow them... I thank you for your civility.

I've opened comments to all 'Registered Users' (whatever that means!) to help weed out pesky spam.

- Dave Z