Sunday, April 13, 2014

Easily Unsustainable

In his April 9, 2014 comments to the Reinventing Bretton Woods Committee, The Hon Joe Hockey, MP, Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Australia stated that “accommodative monetary policy is an easy, but over the long term, unsustainable tool to promote growth.”  He focused a considerable volume of his speech to the aging population in Australia pointing out that the number of “working age” people available to support Australia’s senior citizens will halve between 2010 and 2050.  Like most of the Bretton Woods co-conspirators, the ‘developed’ economy plight of shrinking productive populations is looming while the ‘emerging’ markets are seeing a growth in producers and consumers. 

The Bretton Woods institutions of the World Bank and the IMF still ponderously lumber towards a dubious future in large part due to the flagging resolve of their creators to sustain them.  What started off as the U.S. hegemonic fiat monetary grab in the dark days of World War II – into which other nations were seduced with the promise of an America that had ‘values’ and a sense of ‘global prosperity’ – now founders as the U.S.-advocated 2010 recommendations are political non-starters in a Congress that cannot think beyond its own policy-by-Twitter cycle.  Out of one side of its mouth, the elite of the G-20 call for global 2% GDP growth while out of the other side, monetary policy alchemy is practiced in the Central Banks in Europe and the U.S. 

Few people seem to connect the G-20 anti-U.S. Congress rhetoric with the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report presented in Berlin today.  When Australia’s elderly populations is living way too long in 2050, they’re going to need to be doing so on less than 70% of the combustible fuels than are in use today if we’re to avoid forecasted climate catastrophe.  To put some pieces together for you: we’re supposed to reduce our present carbon footprint (largely consumed by transportation and industry) by over 70% while more than doubling the world’s GDP (from $84 trillion to $171 trillion) in the next 36 years.  Sound plausible?  Absolutely not.  Why?  Because we’re still using Bretton Woods (il)logic, monetary, business, governmental, and social models).  In short, our sustainability dictates a transformed view of the world but our tools and behaviors are still based on the same levers that were being pulled in 1944.

What’s killing our economic future is simple:

1.       Time illusions:  Our obsession with time shows up in some pretty insidious ways.  Time drives our view of productivity.  We assume a world in which a human being has effectively 35 years of “useful” life during which they can possibly add to the ecosystem some economic value.  Now, we’ve got over half our life expectancy during which we’re expecting others to be our provisioning.  Sustainable?  Absolutely not.  We think that the ‘work week’ is sacrosanct.  Thirty-five to forty hours is the ‘reasonable’ amount of time to work in any week.  Really?  So now we’re taking our 700,000 hours of life and assuming that we’ve got to have about 120,000 of those which are productive while the remaining 580,000 are consumptive.  Sustainable?  Not a chance!  And by the way, we’re operating in the ignorance of the fact that the ‘unproductive’ pension years are actually the more expensive ones – getting more expensive as a function of proportional GDP than the younger ones. 

2.       Social Order illusions:  We still seem to think that the State (or the Employer Corporation) is our benefactor.  It isn’t and it never has been.  We draw lines around people and then assume that their interests will naturally fall into alignment.  They don’t.  Whether it’s the Balkans in the 1990s or Crimea today, the geographic domestication of humanity is not, nor has it ever, worked.  This week, Cliven Bundy was the latest in a string of protagonists to dispute the claims that the Federal Government in the U.S. could restrict his cattle grazing on over 600,000 acres of scrub near Gold Butte, NV.  While Nevada and Federal law enforcement officers sought to protect the illusion of lines drawn on maps (and while environmentalists sought to protect the foraging desert tortoise), Cliven invoked the argument that his ancestors had use of the land long before the Bureau of Land Management was ever formed.  From Ukraine teargas to Nevada tasers, governments’ belief in the lines they or their progenitors drew is worth violence and death to reinforce the illusion of beneficent control.

3.       Value illusions:  When the G-20 meet, they’ll be stuck in the echo chamber of money.  Money imbalances create problems yet they are heralded as the solution for problems.  To save our planet from climate ruin, we’ll have to “spend 10% of our GDP” and we’ll have to spend another 13% to keep our elderly population from slipping into impoverished oblivion.  No one at the G-20 nor at the UN IPCC evidenced the creativity or the audacity to suggest that we’d be better served if we opened the conversation to values that did not come in the form of – or have an imagined solution through – dollars.  Approaching a multi-factorial challenge with a mono-factor solution is complete madness.  And having a utility-based economic model that requires conformity – not for efficient ease of use but rather for reinforcement of incumbent commercial and public power interests – further removes distributed, micro-scalable solutions from potential manifestation.

What’s unsustainable is our paradigms – not our earth.  We’re surrounded with heterogeneous power, sustenance and fellowship.  But we want it to come in 60Hz, dollar denominated Styrofoam wrappers.  Well, news flash!  Bretton Woods has Alzheimer’s.  It’s advocates and adherents are sipping mashed potatoes through a straw waxing nostalgic for a past that never was and blankly gazing into a cloudy future through cataract filled eyes.  And as long as we look to them for succor, we’re suckers.  It’s time that We The People look deeply into our collective abundance and start solving local and global challenges with tools that neither governments nor their minions apprehend or master.  Who knows, we might form a Geniocratic Timocracy and make Socrates proud after all. 

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Thank you for your comment. I look forward to considering this in the expanding dialogue. Dave