12 November 2016

We need a third thing

We need a third thing.

Fighting between authoritarianism and the status quo isn't ever going to get something good.  It can't.  (The choice of bad is not equivalent, and preferring the least-bad of the status quo is not wrong.)

The neo-liberal consensus has failed. (It can't respond to the existential threat of climate change.  Even if nothing else was wrong—and much else is wrong—this failure would condemn it.)

Authoritarianism is a rule that facts do not matter.  It doesn't work as an economic system.  (It doesn't matter if you get your justification from white supremacy or true communism or fascism or wanting to create Gilead; you can't run a successful economy while ignoring facts.)  It's even worse at dealing with climate change than the neo-liberal consensus status-quo.

We need food security.  (Climate change will drown the coastal cities and make deserts out of farmland, but it'll do that more slowly than it will break agriculture.  Our survival depends on six inches of dirt and predictable rainfall.)

That means we need another economy, one that isn't reliant on fossil carbon.

We need a general expectation of a better future available to all.  We cannot have that from either the status quo or an authoritarian reshaping of that status quo to reassure a part of the population by encouraging their overt oppression of everyone else because both systems are systems of concentration, not distribution.

The way you get ahead in a system of concentration is to capture more; the mechanism doesn't really matter, the system will tend over time to a small number of haves and a huge number of have-nots.  Systems of distribution take more conscious maintenance and aren't as conceptually elegant, but insisting that everyone has enough of everything (where "everything" includes autonomy) means the economy stops being motivated by a survival-driven struggle for control.  Since "success" and "control" are a strict binary choice in complex systems—if you could understand all of it, it wouldn't be complex; if you can't understand all of it, you can't control it, but you might be able to build a system that you can trust to work—removing a compulsion to seize control permits success.  It doesn't guarantee success, but "success is possible" is still better than "success is impossible".

The people of whatever nation, faced with a political leadership fighting for control of something they know perfectly well won't work—the great mass of people is collectively pretty smart—gets desperate, and does stupid things.  Some of those stupid things are trying to pick a saviour, whether person or solution; still more are an insistence on a fantastical past where nothing was wrong.

A politician effectively presenting that third thing, the genuinely distributive economy that's got off fossil carbon, is nigh-certain of eventual political success.  It might even come in time, because the end of agriculture is not far off.

No comments: