What does Corporate Social Responsibility in a developed country look like?

A2A. In my experience, there are really five distinct aspects to this topic that are generally considered in formulations and assessments:

1. The intent of CSR for a given organization.

2. Its ideological context of CSR for that organization.

3. The internal and external marketing spin.

4. The efficacy of a given company’s approach (with respect to its intent).

5. The impact of CSR on the bottom line.

Only when all five of these areas are carefully assessed can we know what CSR “looks like” from any perspective. Often only one or two of these areas are examined or emphasized, which is one way to quickly skew data to confirm a preexisting bias. Taken altogether, however, we can begin piecing together the objectives and effects of CSR in a holistic way. What makes this challenging is that, in many instances, the change agents involved (top execs, board members, activist shareholders, etc.) are not entirely transparent about one or more of these components, preferring to engineer outcomes that align with an undisclosed or deliberately clouded agenda. Needless to say, CSR can be used as cover to accomplish many objectives that are not — in any way — socially responsible.

That said, when there is transparency, genuinely prosocial intent and ideology, and a skillful approach, the result can be a measurable offset to negative externalities, an improved work environment for employees, a higher quality product or service for customers, and (potentially) an increase in brand and employee loyalty from those with shared values. However, none of this necessarily facilitates one of the two extremes promoted by proponents or critics: i.e. cumbersome business processes or improved profitability. Once systems, metrics and adjustment strategies are in place, it generally seems to be the case that CSR is not that difficult to implement, but also has little impact on the bottom line one way or the other.

So really, if the intent is genuine, the results can satisfy that intent without having much influence on business at all. Which is interesting, since, if the intent is not genuine and the efforts are superficial, this can actually backfire in a spectacular way once it is disclosed (see factor #3).

My 2 cents.

Was the busting of Standard Oil necessary and or was it already losing control of it's monoply?

I see this question has already received plenty of neoliberal propaganda in response, so I’ll try to balance the scales with some sanity.

Yes, absolutely Standard Oil’s monopoly needed to end. Adam Smith was perhaps the first to write passionately about the dangers of monopoly, and Standard Oil’s 90% marketshare could have been a poster child for Smith’s predictions. After all, it resulted in:

1. Ruthless and destructive anti-competitive practices involving spying, lying, deception, back room deals, bribes, threats, physical violence, etc.

2. Careful and deliberate amplification of political corruption that supported Standard Oil’s monopoly.

3. Extraordinary, near-absolute influence over markets (price controls, supply manipulations, etc.)

4. Widespread public distaste and mistrust in the resulting consumer conditions imposed by Standard Oil.

While it is true that Rockefeller’s initial success was fueled by increased efficiencies and clever cost recovery strategies and innovation, those advantages paled in comparison to the truly brutal market manipulation that Standard Oil imposed later, when it had finagled and coerced the power to do so.

My 2 cents.

What's the most unhealthy thing that society encourages us to do?

A lot of answers on Quora have touched on the symptoms that are unhealthy, without touching on the root cause. Nearly all of the most destructive “unhealthy things” that have been described so far are the product of one thing: a belief that capitalism is the most viable economic system, and our perpetuating and participating in that system unquestioningly. If we want to move away from conspicuous consumption, unhealthy diets, addictive products, self-destructive lifestyles, an obsession with accumulating “stuff,” wanton destruction of the planet and exhausting of its resources, etc., all that we really need to do is transition to a different political economy. One where corporations are not in charge, where we aren’t programmed to solve all our problems through purchasing decisions, and where people actually participate in self-governance through democracy. One where caring about our fellow human beings takes priority over exploiting them. One where wage-slavery, obscenely disparate concentrations of wealth, and fencing off the world into private property are abandoned in favor of a commons-centric, worker-managed, more directly democratic model. One where technologies, innovations and advances are designed primarily to improve the well-being of the greatest number for the greatest duration…instead of just making shareholders happy. One where civic responsibility is mainly about enhancing the public good, rather than just championing childish individualism. There are many ways we could do this, but the primary feature of any new system will be giving up on capitalism altogether. We need fundamental change, not a facelift to hide our mistaken trust in a broken concept.

To that end I have a work-in-progress, which you can view here: Level 7 Overview. This is intended to be a participatory effort, so please feel free to send me your thoughts. Just please take time to look over what’s there first. :-)

My 2 cents.

Open Letter: Apology from U.S. to the World for Electing Trump


Hi Folks. We’re sorry about Trump - for a number of reasons.

On the one hand, we’re sorry that nearly half the U.S. electorate:

• Is unable to think critically or separate fact from falsehood.

• Could not see Mr. Trump for the erratic, narcissistic, blowhard demagogue that he is.

• Is swayed by conspiracy theories, irrational fear-mongering, neoliberal propaganda, yellow journalism and false advertising.

• Confuses gambling of inherited wealth with business acumen.

• Has the mistaken impression that voting once every four years is the only political obligation necessary to support civil society.

• Allowed entertainment value to override wisdom and common sense.

• Actually believed that Trump would follow through on his campaign pledges.


You might wonder why so many people fell under the spell of this mass-hysteria. Here are some likely contributing conditions:

• Poor diets and insufficient exercise, which negatively impact brain development and function.

• Tribal conformance and groupthink brought on by insular and homogenous communities.

• Frustration, anger and mental illness, brought about in part by the multigenerational stresses of waning social status and economic immobility.

• The immaturity and entitlement induced by commercialistic habits, compulsions and dependencies.

• Economic insecurity resulting from globalization and the boom/bust cycles of growth-dependent capitalism, along with the ever-enlarging wealth inequality created by monopolization, cronyism and clientism.

• Rapid cultural and technological change, which were also accelerated by growth-dependent capitalism.

• Below-average analytical and emotional intelligence, which interfere with the capacity to comprehend or navigate complexity.

• Willful ignorance as a lazy, amoral choice.


We are sorry about these conditions, too, because they are a consequence of our ongoing committment as Americans to invest in conspicuous consumption, atomistic individualism and greedy materialism as our guiding lights, while at the same time decimating our public education system, news media integrity, and cultural truth metrics. We have also routinely abdicated our political obligations to corporations and individuals with huge concentrations of wealth, allowing them make more and more of our decisions for us – and take over more and more of our government and civic institutions – and we’re sorry for that, too.

On the other hand, those who appreciate complexity, want to champion progressive values, and believe in a more participatory, informed and egalitarian future are also sorry. Because we didn’t make our case to the American people, or effectively counter the ridiculous spectacle of Donald Trump…or in many cases even go out and vote. Shame on us.

So for all of this…and for the inevitable suffering of so many millions of people that will result from a morally and mentally crippled Trump administration…we are also truly and deeply contrite. In our confusion and pain, we the people of the United States of America have allowed an impulsive, feckless idiot to become our leader. Intuitively, most of us knew this was a bad idea, and that “making America great again” was really just a last-ditch attempt for poor and middle-class white people to feel like their penises mattered (or feel like their father's, husband's or son's penises mattered, as the case may be). But, like tantruming children, too few wanted to face the reality of that shrinking decline…or have much compassion for it...so a lot of folks lashed out.

Again, so sorry.


What is needed to improve the amount and quality of civic engagement in the United States?

I think there are several issues in play, and we will need to address all of them for civic engagement and a sense of responsibility to be fostered. This means removing barriers as well as inspiring participation - and also holding folks accountable to some degree. Mainly I think we need to return governance more directly to the people - and in a more distributed and localized way - so that citizens have “skin in the game” as it were. Currently, our elected officials and their work are too far abstracted from the day-to-day concerns of average citizens, and this creates a “consume and forget” model of electoral abdication.

To address this I think we first and foremost require more frequent and direct forms of democracy, and some of my ideas about that are discussed here: Direct Democracy. Also for the long term, I would offer proposals around community involvement (see: Community Engagement) that emphasize non-governmental as well as governmental institutions and processes - many of which are well-tested in the real world. I also envision a system of social credits for utilizing essential infrastructure and services that is tied directly to civic participation (see: Social Credits System).

At the same time, we will also need to remove substantive barriers to folks even wanting to be involved - and ensure they have enough accurate information to do so skillfully and meaningfully. Regarding the former, I discuss the some of the primary concerns here: The Spectacle; Commercialist Distortions; Neoliberalism; Oppression of Women; and The Tyranny of Private Ownership. Regarding the latter, I would promote major revisions to education, the press and public information management that depart from today’s coopted and corrupted practices (see: Education).

Of course not all of this can happen at once. But if we don’t address all of these issues to a radical degree, I just don’t see change happening. The systemic failures and opposing forces are just to great. In terms of first steps, I discuss some of those here: L7 Action

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/What-is-needed-to-improve-the-amount-and-quality-of-civic-engagement-in-the-United-States)

Why do the top 1% of people in the world have half of the world's wealth?

Setting the statistical details of your question aside, and focusing on the underlying observation of extraordinary wealth inequality, I believe there are a combination of factors. Here are the most significant ones (in no particular order):

1. Capitalism. It is the nature of capitalism to concentrate wealth by rewarding owner-shareholders while exploiting worker-consumers and capturing everyone and everything else (i.e. environments, governments, technologies, etc.) that can be placed in service to profit.

2. Consumer Mindset and Addiction. This is a bit more subtle, but essentially imagine a world where everyone is convinced (individually, socially, culturally) that happiness, well-being and success are all externally consumed, and that the self-actualization principle with the highest efficacy is conspicuous consumption. Further, imagine that the products and services being offered are habit forming in nature, so that the pressures to consume create a snowball effect, thereby infantilizing the public and making people perpetually dependent. Why perpetually? Well because those products and services don’t actually deliver happiness, well-being or success…so the cycle continues.

3. Cronyism and Clientism. Through regulatory capture, revolving door self-empowerment, corruption of democratic institutions (corporate personhood, SuperPACs, the Hastert rule, gerrymandering, etc.), authoring legislation (A.L.E.C., etc.), quid-pro-quo political dealings and so forth so that the wealthy maintain de facto control over any government that is supposed to counter their overreach…thus expanding plutocratic wealth and power.

4. Financialization and Speculation. A nasty runaway train that often involves socialization of risk, extensive leveraging, and huge amounts of debt…all in order to enrich the captains of banking and industry who are already wealthy enough to play such high stakes games.

5. Monopoly. Consolidation of production, assets and influence in every industry - and often across multiple sectors - that concentrates economic controls and wealth production in the hands of fewer and fewer people.

6. Clever Propaganda. I think Milton Friedman was the first to really champion neoliberal delusions for the common person, persuading them that government, taxes and “socialist” policies would sabotage their well-being and the American success story, and that all challenges could be solved by a “free” market. It was of course a fabricated narrative without any basis in fact, but it has sold well. So now we have everyone from the Tea Party to Trump supporters voting against their own best interests, and blindly throwing their energy into this perpetual hoodwink.

7. The Spectacle. This is a complex idea that I elaborate on in the link provided, but essentially think of an elaborate, self-perpetuating engine of panem et circenses, executed via mass media and mass consumption, that anesthetizes the masses into complacency. Just enough affluence and entertainment to make them forget that their votes don’t really count for much, their “freedom” is becoming much more limited, and their real wages have been stagnant or declining since 1968.

I explore many of these topics and more on this website: Level 7

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Why-do-the-top-1-of-people-in-the-world-have-half-of-the-worlds-wealth)

The Unseen Tragedy of a Trump Presidency…and Our Collective Responsibility

Between A Rock and A Hard Place


Like many other progressively-minded folks, I am in still in shock over what happened last night, and likely will be for some time. I have an image burned into my memory of a team of seasoned journalists finally conceding to what the voting results meant, sitting around the table in stunned silence, staring at their hands. Fifteen seconds of dead air said it all. And now those same pundits are attempting to explain away the errors in their predictions, pointing to a much deeper and larger pool of angry white folks than anyone imagined as a primary factor for Trump’s victory. So I wanted to speak to that group, along with my more like-minded progressive friends, in exploring exactly what this election means for the United States of America.

The real tragedy in this election will not be the thousands of young women who, once Roe v. Wade is overturned, are either forced to obtain illegal abortions, or to live in poverty without support as they struggle to raise an unwanted child. The real tragedy also won’t be the millions of Americans who lose their health insurance, are unable to obtain adequate coverage for chronic conditions, or can’t afford healthcare once the Affordable Care Act is repealed. It also won’t be the immigrants whose families are ripped apart by accelerated deportations, or the millions of businesses – including the farming backbone of America’s food supply – that close down because they can’t find workers for entry level jobs at subsistence wages. And it won't be a runaway train of "Trump effect" bullying against the LGBT community, people of color, nerds, disabled folks, social outcasts and the other traditional objects of fear and hatred by ignorant white people. The real tragedy will also not be those billions among our next generations who, because of the U.S. abandoning global climate agreements and strategies, will have to navigate a chaotic weather, rising sea levels and an explosion of tropical diseases. All of these may be predictable outcomes of a Republican majority under Trump’s leadership, and they might be very unpleasant for Americans to suffer through, but they are not the most extreme travesty now in the works.

What is really the most tragic and distressing consequence of this election actually pertains to all those angry white folks who voted for Trump. Why? Because he promised he could help them. But here’s the rub regarding that, folks: Trump can’t help you. The demographics of the U.S. are still going to shift to a white minority population, even if all immigration were to be cut off. All those people of color who are U.S. citizens are still going to have families, and the population trends will remain basically the same. Good jobs are still not going to be available to U.S. workers, because no industry can afford to pay U.S. workers a decent wage and still produce a profit for goods sold either in the U.S. or on the global market – it has been true for some time that U.S. companies depend on cheap labor and resources sourced outside of the U.S. to maintain the growth and affordability of their products. This is one reason real wages have been in decline for many decades. In fact, you could say that the economic isolationism championed by Trump is about the most effective way to destroy any chance of jobs or a living wage in the U.S. And because Trump’s tax policies will focus on benefiting the most wealthy Americans, and will do absolutely nothing beneficial for the middle and lower classes (possibly even raising taxes on those groups - see Batchelder), this whole combination of tactics is almost guaranteed to make the plight of most white, middle class, blue collar Americans already struggling to make ends meet a hell-of-a-lot worse. Trump’s strategies will also burden Americans with increasing amounts of debt, as we must of necessity plunge further and further down the rabbit hole of financialization. A ballooning national deficit will merely be the tip of this spear.

In terms of international relations, jihadi terrorism, friendliness with Russia and so forth, the prospects for improvement are equally dire. But of course the U.S. isn’t the only player on the world stage, so who knows: maybe these issues will resolve themselves despite any poor choices we make in terms of U.S. trade or foreign policy. But my main point – and the one that I hope will evoke some empathy and compassion for angry white America from my progressive friends – is that all those folks who voted for Trump are now truly and resoundingly fucked. Because of their blindness and resentment regarding the inexorable realities of the modern world, they have chosen a government that will make things much, much worse for themselves over the short and long term. Americans voting against their own best interests has happened before – most recently with the eight years of a Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz debacle – but this hard lesson hasn’t yet been fully learned by the American electorate. Perhaps it never will be. Perhaps we humans are just prone to making irrational choices when we are fearful and distressed, and the consistent Republican investment in amplifying such fear and distress in order to win elections is now reaping its just rewards.

But, for our dear angry white Americans: remember those “elite” you have blamed for taking away your liberties, eroding Christian values, creating terrorism, ruining the U.S. economy and threatening your way of life…? Well, you just elected more of them into office. Gingrich, Juliani, Trump, Pence and their ilk are not your champions or your friends, they are a potent team of self-obsessed, arrogant, power-hungry sociopaths who will take America deep out into the woods, bend her over a log of lies and delusion, and violently ravish her – economically, politically, socially and spiritually – very much against her will. All the while they can of course invoke Randian, Libertarian or neoliberal propaganda that rationalizes such actions as “American exceptionalism,” further empowering corporate oligarchy at the expense of U.S. citizens. But you will likely be too busy trying to survive to fully appreciate how you have been duped. This is what you’ve done…to yourselves. And so this is why I sincerely feel progressives should go beyond patience, beyond endurance and tolerance, beyond kindness and sympathy, and reach out to console and, yes, help Trump voters as best they can in the coming months and years. Those who understand what the outcome of this election really means must overcome our disappointment and grief, and arm ourselves with agape. Because when the Trump Administration is done raping and pillaging its very own supporters, those fellow Americans will not just feel doubly betrayed and doubly hurt, they will feel cold and alone in those haunting woods, with copious amounts of patriotic blood streaming endlessly from their…wherevers. And they will need our help.

So to explore longer term and more realistic solutions to our current dilemma – as well as what activism we can engage in to move us toward those solutions – I would encourage folks to visit my latest website: http://www.level-7.org, and in particular the Action Guide. What we are now facing may indeed be a chaotic transition of sorts (take a look at my friend David MacLeod’s thoughts on this topic at his Integral Permaculture blog), but if we can shift our focus away from damage control to a new, truly workable vision for tomorrow, we just might emerge from the next few years with a chance of healing and hope. This is our collective responsibility. We can no longer be passive consumers of domestic politics, trusting the advertising claims of the product we are being sold during the election season, then disengaging from civic responsibility the rest of the time. To fuel our optimism, we also know that left-leaning folks are the real majority in the U.S. - it's just that half of us didn't vote in this election. So we all need to be more conscious, informed and proactive purveyors of our democracy persistently and perpetually. Together, we must fully understand what is happening in our country and around the world, and make thoughtful decisions about how to proceed. And if we can care enough about each other to recognize the real pain we all share – and how to remedy the conditions that caused it through our own cooperative efforts – then our vision for a more harmonious and mutually supportive future could actually become real.

My 2 cents.

What is the long term effect of rent seeking on the economy?

Thanks for the A2A Joel.

IMO “rent-seeking” is just a smokescreen for the profit motive. Sure, Tullock’s conception of rent-seeking illustrates one of many “easier” ways to make a profit…but the issue is really that, regardless of the level of “government interference” in markets, unethical capitalists will still attempt to capture other people’s surplus with as little effort as possible. Here are some common examples brought to you by corporate America:

1. Engaging in high-risk speculative investments using other people’s money.

2. Perpetuating debt-slavery (among poor consumers using excessive interest and predatory lending, among developing countries using “structural adjustment policies,” etc.).

3. Exciting artificial demand (through blatantly false advertising, deceptive persuasion, etc.) for products that either do more harm than good, or don’t deliver on what was promised.

4. Using publicly funded discoveries (i.e. academic and government-funded research) to create products and services that enrich owner-shareholders (extremely common in pharmaceutical and high-tech).

5. Paying workers less than a living wage to perpetuate wage-slavery and tax-funded welfare subsidization (i.e. Walmart).

6. Relying on publicly funded infrastructure (roads, bridges, communications, utilities, etc.) to facilitate free enterprise while avoiding or evading paying taxes or otherwise funding that infrastructure.

7. Patent trolling.

8. Callous disregard for health and safety of workers and consumers - and/or environmental destruction - in order to maximize profits.

9. Anti-competitive practices (hostile takeovers, price fixing, corporate espionage, kickbacks, single-sourcing, etc.).

10. Crony capitalism (cronyism, clientism, regulatory capture, pork barrel projects, A.L.E.C. legislation, etc.).

11. War profiteering (i.e. Halliburton)

Please note that although only a few of these examples can technically be categorized as “rent-seeking,” all of them represent the same essential qualities of unethical behavior.

What are the negative long-term effects? Simply put, they contribute directly or indirectly to the vast and ever-compounding negative externalities of capitalism:

Endangerment of consumer health and well-being.

Exploitation and abuse of workers.

Corruption and capture of political institutions.

Increased infantilization and external dependencies of consumers.

Huge concentrations of wealth in a decreasing minority of owner-shareholders at the expense of an ever-deepening impoverishment of worker-consumers.

Monopolization and consequent lock-down on new innovations.

Dumbing down of the general populace in order to facilitate exploitation agendas.

Environmental destruction and resource depletion.

* Economic instability (boom/bust cycles).

So, in summary, the “long term effects” of rent-seeking and the many other expressions of the profit motive on a growth-dependent capitalist economy are, ultimately, self-destruction.

I would also recommend perusing these posts as well:

1) T Collins Logan's answer to What are some common misconceptions people have about capitalism? (https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-common-misconceptions-people-have-about-capitalism/answer/T-Collins-Logan)

2) T Collins Logan's answer to Is Capitalism morally justifiable? (https://www.quora.com/Is-Capitalism-morally-justifiable/answer/T-Collins-Logan)

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-long-term-effect-of-rent-seeking-on-the-economy)

What should we as a society do to end capitalism?

I’m going to sidestep the details of your post - I think I understand what you’re getting at so I will answer the main question instead.

To end capitalism, which I agree would be a very wise, important and increasingly pressing direction to take, will require a multi-pronged approach, and a different emphasis of approach in different parts of the world. Here are some possible components that could be combined into different transformative forces to bring about that change:

1. Disrupt the status quo. There are countless ways to do this, but essentially we need to make “business as usual” unprofitable for corporations and shareholders, while at the same time reducing access to commercialistic distractions that have medicated consumer-workers into a sort of reflexively compliant, self-gratifying infantilized state. The choices here are things likes hacktivism, boycotts, disruption of commercial transportation and communication, etc.

2. Educate the consumer-worker. The neoliberal propaganda you see reflected in many of the answers in this thread must be countered with both facts about our current reality (i.e. the consequences of capitalism that are destructive to civil society, nature, human health, etc.), as well as a new vision about how we can move forward.

3. Educate the owner-shareholder. There are plenty of wealthy people in the world who understand the problems inherent to our current form of capitalism, and who see the wisdom of moving away from it. We can provide them with resources, information, alternative proposals, etc. to allow them to help enable such a transition.

4. Empower the consumer-worker. We can return democracy to the people, removing it from the hands of corporations and their wealthy shareholders where it is now. One way to do this would be to follow Switzerland’s implementation of direct democracy to counterbalance our corrupted legislative processes. In the same way, all institutions and organizations can shift away from owner-shareholder control to consumer-worker control; this has already been successfully modeled around the world. Essentially, this is just implementing direct democracy in all enterprises and institutions, and can be accomplished via any number of mechanisms, from consumer-worker organizing to legislation to the philanthropic acts of the owner-shareholders themselves.

5. Decentralize political and economic institutions and controls. In the words of E.F. Schumacher, “Small is Beautiful.” Every business, institution, process, etc. can orbit around community-level decision-making. This reflects the principle of “subsidiarity” and is essential to preventing the inefficiencies and disconnected abstraction of decision-making that occur through larger central government controls - or via large corporate monopolies. This process of decentralization can also be accomplished voluntarily - once enough consumer-workers and owner-shareholders have awoken from their consumption-medicated sleep.

6. Make rational, world-tested choices about which services and products should be generated via not-for-profit mechanisms. For me this is a pretty long list, and includes things like healthcare, mass transit, energy production, public safety, education, water, roads, communications infrastructure, credit unions, etc. I call these “essential infrastructure and services,” and see them as falling under common ownership and management (i.e. all of society).

7. Institute a system of social credits that moves us away from a money-based economy. It will take time to accomplish this, and it could happen gradually in conjunction with an exchange economy, but the valuation of goods and services would be based on a more multifaceted assessment (inclusive of a more comprehensive array of externalities) via direct democracy. I call this “holistic value.” Ultimately, I also think the concept of private property also has to be relinquished for humanity to gain true freedom, but that process may take a few generations.

8. Encourage moral maturity, and hold everyone accountable. This is probably the most challenging aspect of transformative change. As individuals, as cultures, as a society - perhaps even as a species - we really need to grow up. The materialistic individualism that capitalism reinforces works mightily against this maturation process, keeping us fixated on lust for stimulation and stuff, childish power trips, competing with each other and so forth. So the dismantling of capitalism alone (if it is done in a compassionate, inclusively democratic and orderly manner) should help people nurture a sense of civic participation and communal identity that capitalism destroys. But we probably also need to encourage moral maturity - looking beyond I/Me/Mine - through various culturally encouraged practices. My own approach to this is Integral Lifework. In terms of accountability, social credits could be accumulated for actively participating in civil society, and earning those credits could at a minimum provide access to higher quantities or qualities of “essential infrastructure and services.” In the opposite direction, there could be social credit penalties (less access to services, lower quality services, social debits, etc.) for not participating in civil society or violating its agreements. But really direct democracy itself creates an excellent self-regulating means of accountability: when government is authentically by the people, the people come to recognize their own responsibility.

Unlike many revolutionary radicals of the past, I do not believe that forceful expropriation of property or persecution of the elite is a wise course; in fact I think violence begets violence, and the methods of any revolution will taint the new systems and institutions that follow from that revolution. I also disagree with those who would encourage the hastening of capitalism’s “natural conclusion,” or letting everything crash and burn to see what arises from the ashes. The problem with this approach is that humanity has become far too powerful - and its society and infrastructure far too complex - to permit a constructive catastrophic reset. Higher-order solutions require a solid foundation of civil society, technological stability and peace. Like any other form of suicide, our options become rather limited after we make a self-destructive decision. In the same way, we will want to move forward on all of the components discussed here, rather than just a few of them; all of the pieces are required for any transformation to sustain itself over time.

As to proposals of what a post-capitalist political economy could look like, I’ve written a few essays and a book on that topic.

My 2 cents.

(see https://www.quora.com/What-should-we-as-a-society-do-to-end-capitalism)

Of Pot, Guns & Trump: The Origins of Irrational, Destructively Conformist Groupthink

Obviously this short post won’t persuade anyone currently in the thrall of active lemming events, as these collective memes are highly resistant to contrary evidence. In fact we could say that one of the chief characteristics of such movements is their promotion of habitual confirmation bias and an extremely high tolerance for cognitive dissonance. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Probably the easiest way to appreciate parallels between the way pot fanatics, gun fanatics and Trump supporters think is to chart out some of their more exaggerated claims. And by “exaggerated” I simply mean without sufficient basis in fact to be embraced as accurate; that have too little supportive evidence to reveal any causal relationships; and that are essentially non-rational ideas living mainly in the imagination of their proponents. Some examples:



I could of course spend a few hundred pages documenting why the beliefs of each group are “inaccurate,” and perhaps I will expand this into an essay at a later time to do just that. However, there is a much easier approach, which is to challenge proponents of pot, guns and Trump to produce supportive evidence for their claims. I have done this on countless occasions, with invariably reliable results: they can’t. Instead, I will hear statements like these in response – often using exactly the same wording – from each group:

“Well the government suppresses all the good data about this. They don’t want anyone to know the truth.”

“I know there’s really good research that proves what I’m saying – I just can’t remember what it is right now.”

“I don’t trust those kinds of academic studies. They get proven wrong all the time.”

“If you’d seen what I have seen, you’d know what I’m saying is true.”

“You don’t understand what’s at stake here. This is much bigger than facts.”

“The proof is all over the Internet. You just have to look.”

“Everybody knows this is true. I’m surprised that you don’t.”


And so on. And even when a seemingly reasonable piece of favorable research surfaces (such as John Lott’s work on crime stats and gun ownership), it quickly turns out that the research methodology is flawed, and that countless other studies have come to different conclusions using the same data.

So what is happening here? From the perspective of Integral Lifework, explanations are fairly easy to hypothesize. Human beings want to have more personal agency; long for acceptance and community; are understandably overwhelmed by modern complexity and seemingly contradictory information all around them; are angered at being used and manipulated by forces beyond their control; feel out-of-sync with the rapid pace of change around them; and often make impulsive emotional decisions in reaction to all of these antagonistic variables. It’s perfectly understandable. In response to the many demands, pressures, stresses and inequities of the modern world, well-meaning folks will rely on purely emotional reasoning to react or choose a course, then seek solace and support in like-minded communities. And, thanks to mass media, the Internet, and a proliferation of propaganda fueled by both self-serving enterprises (gun manufacturers, pot growers or Trump himself) and fanatic adherents, it has become relatively easy to energize and maintain blindly conformist mass-movements…as long as you keep things emotionally charged and the facts a bit fuzzy.

I should interject here that it isn’t entirely fair to label this kind of reflexive-groupthink-adherence as “idiotic” or “ignorant.” This observation is an understandable one – and one I myself have sometimes slipped into out of exasperation - but it’s a bit unfair. Why? Because it is much more likely that the aversion to critical thinking among these groups issues from genuine insecurity, anxiety and ongoing suffering. As human beings, we need community, we need a purpose, we need to feel useful and connected and important. In fact, these are essential dimensions of nourishment in the Integral Lifework model. And when we suddenly find ourselves part of a movement that energizes our being in these dimensions (and perhaps for the first time), it is very difficult to step back, take a breath, and critically assess the validity of our trajectory. And this is especially true when our fundamental needs have not been met for years or decades – when we have been deprived, distracted and anesthetized away from taking good care of ourselves by a mainly consumerist, externalizing and infantilizing model of well-being.

What is the solution? Alas, in the short term, we’ll probably just have to ride each of these populist waves to their unpleasant conclusion. History seems to indicate that only when folks are allowed to obtain what they think they want, then realize it isn’t providing the expected result, will they become open to alternative approaches. And even then, we humans have a tendency to commit ourselves to one ill-considered path after another until we eventually find our way. Personally I believe we will have to move away from capitalist orientations entirely, with the consumerist model fully exhausted, before civil society can grapple with constructive alternatives to enduring human problems.

In the long term, I still believe there is hope…if we can survive into an era when reflexive groupthink fueled by fear and insecurity infects smaller and smaller numbers of people, until it passes away entirely. In the meantime, we can promote more nuanced and multidimensional avenues of healing for personal confusion, anxiety and suffering. In fact, as humans are meaning-making, self-justifying organisms that relish imitating each other and joining in communal activities, alternatives to more caustic memes must be perpetually generated. Something is required to fill the void. That’s what Integral Lifework practice tries to advocate, albeit one person at a time. But as long as capitalism prevails, lowest-common-denominator mass marketing will continue to promote self-serving, ultimately destructive habits of consumption, where large numbers of people will keep lavishing their personal power, money and passion on ineffective or counterproductive attempts to lessen their fear and pain – options like pot, guns and Trump.

My 2 cents.

What has Elon Musk failed at?

Answering the question: "What has Elon Musk failed at?"

1) Elon Musk has failed at the very thing others seem to believe he is good at: being an entrepreneur, innovator and business leader in a competitive market. His biggest “successes” (Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity) are almost entirely dependent on government subsidies, lobbying efforts and tax magic; they are not profitable in themselves and much of their business risk has been socialized. Rather than exemplifying the “American exceptionalism” Musk is always lauding, these enterprises are poster children for crony capitalism and taxpayer-funded ventures.

2) Musk advocated for migrating PayPal’s server architecture from Unix to Windows when he was CEO. That was exceptionally idiotic from both a business and technical standpoint (i.e. Windows has not only always been much less scalable, extensible and stable than Unix, it has also been much more expensive to deploy, license and maintain), and frankly brings his other technology choices into serious question.

3) Musk routinely sacrifices ethics on the altar of his personal vision. For example, SolarCity is probably the most unethical PV installation company in existence, using highly misleading sales tactics to persuade unknowledgeable consumers to commit to what is arguably the worst option available (in terms of bang-for-buck) for their residential solar power. Pro-capitalist folks might argue this is just “business as usual,” and that caveat emptor is the only relevant guideline where exploitation for profit is in play, but in my view ripping people off in the name of green energy is just a form of reprehensible carpet bagging.

My 2 cents.

Comment by Jared Croft: "SpaceX was funded by the government along with competitors, was given less funding than them, and has out competed ULA in price by over 50%. It isn’t a public company, so you are speculating when remarking on its profitability.

Tesla got a bail out in 2008 (along with many other car companies), which they paid back. It got tax breaks and some nearly worthless land in Nevada, but sunk in billions of dollars in exchange. All EVs are subsidized, not just Tesla cars.

Amazon has scarcely been profitable for 20 years. Tesla isn’t profitable because it is investing in rapid expansion rather than resting comfortably on its core revenue stream. If it were resting on its core revenue stream, its stock would immediately plunge because investors like it because they think it will expand. Why else would they value such a small company with a market cap above Chrysler?

So: SpaceX saves us money, government relative to Tesla is unbiased (everyone got a bailout; EV subsidies are general), and lack of profitability for a rapidly changing and expanding business is not an effective criticism (either for most “fanboys” or investors).

I think these criticisms are a reductionist view of the free market vs the government, not a “this is not the most effective way to make the world sustainable or humanity multiplanetary thing”. Engineers care about solving problems, not politics."


Jared 80% of SpaceX funding is from the government. That has been disclosed despite its not being a public company. Whether the American taxpayer will be getting value out of these military and NASA contracts is indeed a different question, but let’s not forget that NASA bailed out Musk in 2008…when SpaceX was, according to Musk himself, about to go under after three failed Falcon tests. The point is that the U.S. taxpayer effectively saved Musk in the midst his failure, just like we did for U.S. automakers, and it was via a contract for future, as yet unproven SpaceX services…so we haven’t been paid back yet. Well good for him; now he’s part of the crony capitalist club and was able to socialize his business risk. That’s simply a fact - not speculation.

As I’ve answered in another comment, the U.S. taxpayer received a 2.4% return on their DOE loan to Tesla - it was paid back early specifically to avoid having to provide Tesla shares which would have improved that return. So…not a noble gesture, but a money-saving one. DOE is estimated to have lost about $1.6 Billion by not structuring the deal the same way Musk did for his own $38 Million investment in Tesla. Could any of this be the result of Musk’s aggressive lobbying efforts in 2009, and his 12 flights to DC in his personal jet? As I also describe in that comment thread, there is also a difference between R&D investment (i.e. the DOE loan), consumer incentives to purchase EVs, and the Treasury bailouts…it is important to tease these differences out. To wit: the American taxpayer directly funded the success of the Model S, a Veblen luxury good - again that’s a fact. Toyota’s tremendous success with the Prius among more average consumers, by contrast, simply did not come about in the same way (yes it’s an apples to oranges comparison, but hopefully you’ll see the point I’m trying to make).

As for how the market values stocks…come on, after so many crazy, bursting bubbles (especially in the tech arena), can you really not appreciate that such valuation is all about hype and psychology, and not reality?

And, perhaps most importantly, throughout all of this Musk continues to trumpet that “the market will come up with the best solution,” and that government subsidies aren’t needed (and of course shouldn’t be given to his competitors). His fans likewise give Musk credit for all of these flashy, taxpayer-funded accomplishments. Really? Is the hypocrisy not glaringly obvious here…?

Comment from Dan Spawl: "Do you have references for the unethical PV business?"


Absolutely:

Solar panel company pocketing govt subsidy cash intended for homeowners

(see also SolarCity comes under more criticism for siphoning the subsidies of its small solar customers)

Surprised solar customers find themselves with liens - Watchdog.org (notice the references to SolarCity’s repeated denials to placing such liens)

Solar Panel Leasing Scheme Threatens Home Ownership

SolarCity (consumer complaints)

Solar Industry Under Fire

Why Treasury Is Investigating SolarCity and Solar Third-Party Funds

Elon Musk patent hypocrisy on display in growing SolarCity patent portfolio - IPWatchdog.com | Patents & Patent Law

Lots more…though it appears SolarCity may be scrubbing the Internet of its worst offenses. My own comments (on a PBS story that put SolarCity in a surprisingly favorable light) were…for some odd reason…deleted from every server around the country where I posted them. These were on both moderated AND unmoderated threads. Nothing I said was inflammatory or provocative - I just exposed the leasing vs. owning issues. I’ve been posting on those threads for years without incident…never had one thing deleted in over fifteen years. But the SolarCity comments (again, purely factual) were removed within six hours.

Comment from Larry Velez: "This week in Tesla’s shareholder meeting Tesla showed the negligible impact that the DOE loan had on Tesla and how they repaid it early with a penalty for doing so. I think the question is whether these companies would exist without any government incentives and the answer is yes - they all would because most of the reason they exist is because of investors. Toyota and Daimler specifically invested in a big way in Tesla. Those investments were life changing, the government incentives were. For that reason I think Point#1 is not valid."


Larry I would encourage you to read the other comments (unfortunately nested ad nauseum as they are - my apologies for that!) that discuss this point. Lots of pertinent info there that discuss SpaceX and SolarCity in addition to Tesla. Regarding your thoughts on Tesla - there actually was a substantial penalty for NOT paying the loan off early: Tesla would have had to begin paying part of the repayment with shares; this is how Treasury made money back on the bailouts, and DOE really missed out on this. Instead of the 2.4% return on their investment that they got, American taxpayers could have received closer to the 3,500% that Musk did on his investment in Tesla. And of course Daimler and Toyota made similarly sweet returns on the measly $50Million they each contributed (I think it totals something close to $1Billion). More to the point: this is why Musk went to the DOE in the first place…the loan was a LOT cheaper and a LOT bigger than standard VC terms. As for its impact, nearly everyone who has been watching Tesla agrees that the DOE loan was the main facilitator of the S Model development. Musk makes a big show of Daimler’s timing and public perception behind Toyota and Daimler’s contract for EV batteries, etc., but all of that is mostly for show. It’s just PR spin compared to the heavy lifting performed by the American taxpayer. Lots of articles on all of these points can be found via credible sources.

That said, this same pattern appears in SpaceX and SolarCity…in some ways much more dramatically. None of these companies would exist…at all…without the U.S. government and crony capitalism. Innovation simply doesn’t occur in the a marketplace of established, mostly monopolized industries, without serious incentives. This is mainly a consequence of price inelastic demand - there’s just no margin for R&D there, and angel investors still want some hope of success, not just impulsive, unsecured risk. Which is almost certainly why Musk focussed on luxury EVs, which are Veblen goods sitting comfortably within price elastic demand. In certain markets - especially high tech - innovation has almost always been instigated by public research. It’s almost humorous to hear the Chicago or Austrian school neoliberal types trumpet the superiority of a competitive market to produce, say, disruptive innovations…when so much that has occurred in the last fifty years was a consequence of public investment (academic research, government research and piloting, government incentives, etc.). Here’s a fun link on Silicon Valley, the pride of crony capitalism: Silicon Valley: Your Tax Dollars at Work

Comment by Kirk Bushell: "You couldn’t actually be more wrong. Space X and Tesla are not alive based on subsidies, though certainly Space X did get its initial business from government. However, so has many other private companies and tbh - government was the first natural business opportunity there.

As for Tesla - lol. No. For one, Tesla is profitable and very quickly paid back a loan from the government within a few years. The fact of the matter is that Musk with every business venture - from Zip 2 through to Space X, has seen an opportunity and worked toward it. The fact that Tesla has 400k preorders on their Model 3 which is yet to be released should tell you a thing or two about what they’re doing. Here’s a hint - people are interested. Very interested.

Now if we want to say what Musk has failed at - education would be one. He left a scholarship early to pursue business opportunities. He’s also not very good with people - he takes offense easily and will get quite defensive. But as far as business is concerned - he is yet to fail in any real way.

Your point about him being essentially a crony capitalist is absolute bullshit. Look at his comments he’s given regarding:

Lockheed Martin getting a 4.6 billion contract for the same work that Space X is doing for 1.6 billion.
His comments regarding General Motors and other companies seeking the production of EV.
Musk wants competition, for numerous reasons - but most importantly of all he simply wants to see the world go beyond fossil fuels and to the stars, and he sees every step in that right direction as the right one - regardless of whether it’s with him or not.

I will happily concede I am a fan of the guy - he’s taken massive risks (not many can say they’v risked 180 million on 2 businesses and nearly sent themselves bankrupt). He’s one of the few people who will put his money where his mouth is.

As for him advocating windows/unix.etc. - this is merely a subjective technological choice, and I don’t think is a reflection of his “failures” - though me personally, I’d say it’s a wrong decision also ;-)

I’d love to see references/information regarding Solar city’s sales tactics, because I am yet to hear or see anything. Imho this looks and sounds like rumourmongering simply because people don’t like the guy.

Musk has had his fair share of critics. So far he’s proven every single one wrong."


Kirk I appreciate the thoughtful reply, but I think you may have blinders on. :-). Here’s why: Musk is constantly contradicting himself in both word and deed. My take (after doing some research and trying to figure out why this is) is that he has a lot of passion directed in a lot of different directions (in the sense of ADHD), and consequently plays fast-and-loose with whatever facts/thoughts/people he has at hand in order to move his goals forward. I don’t know that this is the case, I’m just speculating. However, the evidence of such contradictions is abundant:

1) He’s spoken a lot about the restrictiveness of patents on competition, and moved several Tesla patents into the public domain. If you only look at that data, and combine it with what he did with Hyperloop, he looks like a champion of Open Source. Except…he did the exact opposite with SolarCity, which has dozens of patents in the pipeline and generates more applications every few months. In that enterprise, he has been doing exactly the opposite. There may be very good explanations for this difference, but my point is that you can’t take Musk at “face value” on what he himself has said…you need to look deeper into his enigmatic choices.

2) If he’s not into crony capitalism, then why has he allocated so much time and energy to lobbying and strategic campaign donations? Look into how he got the $ 20 Million in gift from Texas taxpayers for the SpaceX facility…as well as the public beach closing for the same. He greased the wheels for three years with state legislators to get that deal. And of course Texas taxpayers had little say in the matter. Classic crony capitalism. And this is only the tip of the iceberg…Tesla alone received $1.3 Billion in government subsidies for a company that, despite your assertions, has not been profitable at all (How Tesla Motors Could Be Profitable if It Wanted To -- The Motley Fool). Sure, there is consumer interest (heck, I’m interested in the new, much more affordable model myself!), but that doesn’t offset the realities of Musk’s socialization of risk with taxpayer funds. Musk has, of course, promised that Tesla will be profitable in 2016…we shall see (according to the Motley Fool article just linked, it doesn’t seem likely). But the point is that the taxpayers won’t see all of their initial investment refunded…except of course that $452 Million loan you mentioned; a nice gesture, but it doesn’t change the ongoing math.

3) I think you already found my SolarCity links in another comment thread here. Let me also reiterate that I myself will save roughly $67,000 (over 20 years) in comparison to a SolarCity leasing proposal for my 5kW PV system by installing it myself. It was actually quite easy and almost anyone could do this IMO. I received quotes from four other PV installers who were happy to direct me to HERO, PACE, credit union green loans, and a number other financing options to own my installation at a fraction of the cost (usually about a 50% savings) to the SolarCity option. Sure, I beat those numbers by doing the installation myself, but the point is that “the competition” was happy to help me “go green” and not rip me off in the process. Just sayin.

BTW, I’m really not a rumor-mongerer. Although I had direct negative experiences with SolarCity myself, I didn’t even start looking into Musk until I was asked about him in another Quora question. I have no axe to grind…I’m just looking at the facts. I happen to think Musk’s vision is pretty cool - green energy, electric cars, traveling to Mars, reusable rockets - the teenage SF fan inside me is cheering for him…absolutely. What I take issue with are his ethics and his tactics. Just because the status quo is corrupt doesn’t mean the status quo should be capitalized upon to line one’s own pockets and further one’s own personal vision. From my reading of Musk, he would do pretty much anything to make his dreams a reality - the ends justify the means. For me, the means are important. Perhaps essential. In fact, if we don’t learn to operate differently (as a species), then colonizing Mars isn’t going to help us in the long-term. Just my 2 cents.

Comment by Aayush Agrawal: "I don’t agree with you, but well said.

As for why i don’t agree with you, even though Musk has taken quite a bit of government and taxpayer money, quite a bit has come out of it too. Vertical landing in particular will already pay off. Once patents expire, NASA’s own savings would be gigantic enough to justify the money funneled into SpaceX so far.

Similarly Tesla’s push for electric is making ripples. Among other things, Musk has shown that it is indeed possible to create a great car that is fully electric."


I completely agree that Musk’s impact on technology is unquestionable - and I greatly admire some of what he’s done and much of his vision (going to Mars, etc.). My point is more about the “how” of it - how he has gone about this. If he had said “hey I’m a socialist and I believe that government has a key role in innovation and should fund my ideas,” I would be a lot less critical. But that is not the narrative in play: Musk is held up as an exemplary entrepreneur, a glory of American exceptionalism. I find that problematic…to the tune of about $5 Billion in state and federal subsidies. What could any number of bright folks achieved in a collaborative way with that kind of support? Something to think about. Essentially, it’s like someone who wins the lottery being viewed as a “successful entrepreneur.”

Comment by Chet Bel: "Clean energy is a scam, originally started by Al Gore and perpetuated by likes of Elon Musk who become heroes in the process. At the end every clean energy initiative is subsidized by carbon fuels and without carbon fuel no clean energy will be sustainable."


That is a patently false assertion Chet. Hydroelectric has been a relatively inexpensive and sustainable part of energy production all around the globe since long before Al Gore was born. Geothermal is likewise cheap and sustainable has been in use from the late 1800s - like hydroelectric, though, it’s not readily available everywhere. Right now concentrated solar tech holds the greatest promise for 24-hr solar availability (using molten salt for thermal storage), but this also will only work in certain parts of the globe. Wind farms are also surprisingly efficient, cheap and sustainable…but again are geographically limited. Thus the main problem with all of these relatively cheap, sustainable options is power distribution - though I believe the Norway’s hydropower is helping offset Germany’s over-reliance on coal after Merkel shut down several nuclear plants. Yes it’s a complex landscape but it would be unwise to oversimplify it as you have, especially since the oil and gas industry itself receives some of the largest government subsidies of any industry…ever.

[extended back-and-forth over benefits and costs of renewable energy...then the conclusion...]


Well Chet I do worry about folks like you. Misinformation is a real problem right now - too many people don’t filter propaganda, as you yourself seem to be concerned about. And yet you parrot propaganda…we are all hypocritical creatures, I can feely admit that. Cany you? Regarding “agenda-driven media” I tend to evolve my ideas from a different path than mass media or special interest media. I’m not really a participant in mainstream media memes, mainly because they are agenda-driven, just as you point out. Instead, I do my own research, and come to my own conclusions. I also have a good friend who has designed and executed very large renewable energy contracts, and probably understand the ugly side of renewables (politically, economically and environmentally) slightly better than most people do because of that.

However, to your point about global renewables, as of last year:

Costa Rica: 100% of energy production from renewables.

Uruguay: 85% from renewables.

Kenya: 60% from renewables.

Scotland: Exceeded 100% in renewable energy generation in total MWh.

Denmark: 40% from renewables overall.

Germany: 30% from renewables overall, 50% during peak periods.

Here is some historical data on a wider range of countries:

List of countries by electricity production from renewable sources

Now Chet, if you’d like to describe in detail how each of those countries has destroyed people’s lives - or the environment, or their economies, etc. - with renewable energy, then please feel free to do so. I am eager to learn what I don’t know. However, please use accurate data. For example, hydropower currently accounts for 51% of all renewable energy in the U.S., for 6.8% of total energy production in the U.S. (as compared with solar, which is only 0.2%). Note that 51% of renewables is a significant number, and that this predates Musk and Gore. You keep sidestepping that simple historical fact in your…er…excitement. China’s production via hydroelectric is around 17%, but it’s growing quickly. India’s is around 14%, and is also growing. Neither country produces “>20%”. Specifics matter.

You should probably also read this: Hydroelectricity.

‘Nough said.

Chet Bel's response: "The countries you cite are less than 10% of the world's population. I am saying that renewal energy is not sustainable when you decide to bring it mainstream, which is approximately serving more than 50% of the world's population. Also several of these countries have ideal geology for renewable power, not every country has massive tropical rainfall like Costa Rica to make Hydro Electric nor Geothermal. Also Costa Rica's 100% is more media hype, it was only for a few days and not sustainable. This is just one ref. on this:
http://www.theguardian.com/comme...

Please also understand damming of river has serious consequences, a fact not shown by mainstream media. This is just a ref:
http://blogs.worldwatch.org/revo...

Now tell me why are effects of damming rivers not studies as extensively as environment impact of fossil fuels. This is due to the likes of Al Gore, and people like you who drink the 'green' Kool-Aid, that environmental impact of renewable energy is not given that much attention. Its easy to hate one target and that target is fossil fuel. This is just one example !

I can keep giving you facts but you choose to ignore my argument, this is not a boxing match as your seem to think.

I will sum up that the world was not designed to sustain this high a human population. If the world population was < 1 billion, maybe renewable energy was sustainable at 100%. Infact our human ancestors survived purely on renewable energy. At our current population, fossil fuels are the only large scale alternative and demonizing them for the sake of renewable energy is a pipe dream and plain stupidity."


I stand corrected, Costa Rica is at 90% renewables, with peaks of 100%.

I also agree with you that this isn’t a boxing match. What I am trying to do is educate you about things you don’t seem to understand, and which you haven’t supported with any evidence. Wherever you got this idea that renewables are somehow more destructive or unsustainable or injurious than fossil fuels, you are simply mistaken, and in fact you haven’t provided any comparative evidence to support your view. So I am trying to remedy your ignorance on this matter, and you are resisting. At some point, I will throw in the towel, but your attitude is so extreme, unfounded and misdirected (in that you don’t appreciate what is causing the things you are upset about…i.e. crony capitalism), that I am giving it one last try….

Your position is much like being upset about some large scale epidemic of illness, and focusing your anger on the people trying to come up with a vaccination. “Those vaccinations cause horrible side effects! It’s wrong to spend so much money on them! It’s a scam! A conspiracy! We don’t need them!” Instead of focusing on the cause of the problem (i.e. the source of the epidemic), you are focusing on the ineffectiveness or externalities of some proposed solutions. You need some help understanding this disconnect, and that’s what I’m trying to provide.

Let me demonstrate what I mean by comparative evidence:

A1) Tehri Dam: 100K population displacement and resettlement conflict; societal disruption; sensitive and rare environmental destruction of 40+ sq miles; seismic risk; flooding risk (and consequent population displacement possibly >20K); major corruption issues; net quality of life benefits to (non-displacement-affected) surrounding population in energy production, improved infrastructure, jobs.

B1) Niger Delta: 30Million population toxic poisoning and premature death; societal disruption; ongoing sensitive and rare environmental destruction of 30,000+ sq miles (10Million gal spill each year; pollution; forest clearing); major corruption issues; net major degradation of quality-of-life issues to surrounding population in increased violence, illness, poverty, oppression, exploitation.

So to make this comparison “apples to apples,” lets use MWh of potential energy production:

Tehri Dam: 2175000 MWh/yr

Niger Delta: 3256000 MWh/yr (using BOE=1628kWh)

So according to your position, Chet, the Niger Delta oil operations should be far less destructive in every way than the Tehri Dam. Instead, they are more destructive by factors approaching 200 to 600 times the actual AND potential destruction caused by Tehri per MWh - using any metric (societal, health, environment, ecology, lifespan, corruption, violence, cultural disruption, etc.). And that’s being generous, because really if we include the stats for the entire Tehri Hydro Power Complex, the comparison would make the Niger Delta more than 500 to 1500 times worse per MWh. And that’s not factoring in the benefits that the Northern Region receive from the dam (as opposed to the tragic lack of any benefits the people of the Niger Delta receive).

And this is just one example! And I could easily provide dozens more. This is why people are “targeting” fossil fuel - not because it is a convenient scapegoat, but because oil and gas extraction are horrifically destructive…and getting more so as oil and gas become more scarce and challenging to extract. This is why this isn’t a boxing match, Chet: you are simply, utterly, completely and tragically mistaken. So I would strongly encourage you to consider what “Kool-Aid” others have been feeding you, rather than thrashing around Quora with more ill-informed accusations. Your theory simply isn’t supportable with facts.

To fully appreciate the impacts of fossil fuels in only the areas we’ve been discussing (local environment, culture, etc.), I recommend you research something called “the oil curse.” Here are some links:

Why Natural Resources Are a Curse on Developing Countries and How to Fix It

Dutch disease and What Dutch disease is, and why it's bad

Resource curse

Now regarding population, I completely agree with you there. Human beings are just an incredibly destructive species. But this has zero correlation with supporting global population with a combination of renewables and conservation (energy use reduction), which almost always go hand-in-hand where the ROI is clear.

As to your statement “Now tell me why are effects of damming rivers not studies as extensively as environment impact of fossil fuels.” This is again is completely ridiculous statement - an utterly false premise. Just Google “Tehri Dam” and “controversy” and see how may political and environmentalist articles show up that are critical of Tehri and the Indian government - do those petitions, protests, ecological studies, demonstrations, etc. compare in size and scope to, say, the petitions, demonstrations, studies and protests around tar sands in Canada…? I think so Chet. I think so.

‘Nough said.

Does capitalism marginalize the masses?

Answering the question: "Does capitalism marginalize the masses?"

Of course it does - but not directly. Both the ideal and the real-world manifestations of capitalism empower those who appropriate the most capital, and marginalize those who don’t - usually via exploitation, oppression or outright enslavement. The “freedom” so vaunted by pro-capitalist ideologues is - again both in theory and reality - restricted to those with the most capital. Everyone else receives a highly propagandized illusion of freedom, without the power to self-actualize. Because of this, the de facto outcome of capitalist systems is huge wealth disparity, with its concomitant property ownership disparity, political influence disparity, and continuous degrading of economic mobility. Ultimately, then, those at the bottom of this feeding frenzy are the increasingly impoverished masses, who often don’t realize just how impoverished they are (because they have been provided huge amounts of debt and endless stimulating distractions to shield them from this awareness). It’s a bit like the frog-in-a-pot-of-water slowly coming to boil phenomenon. There are moments (like 1929 or 2008) when the illusion is shattered, but that’s when government steps in to regulate, bail out and prop up the fundamental flaws of a capitalist system.

My 2 cents.

Can we fix capitalism so that wealth inequality no longer grows unboundedly by using the cooperative business model as a substitute for our current system of publicly traded stocks?

Answering the question: "Can we fix capitalism so that wealth inequality no longer grows unboundedly by using the cooperative business model as a substitute for our current system of publicly traded stocks?"

It would be an excellent start, but it wouldn’t “fix” capitalism.

Member-owned or worker-owned cooperatives function quite well in a competitive marketplace, and can even scale to large enterprises - as evidenced by Canadian credit unions, the Mondragon Corporation, etc. And this approach does eliminate some of the problems and disconnects that shareholder ownership has created in U.S. companies. But it doesn’t really address the runaway “finance economy” reliant on rents, capital gains and asset appreciation for what have often been high-risk speculative instruments. So I think you will also want to restructure the financial framework of the economy, and likely also the monetary system itself. Then there is the issue of private ownership vs. State ownership vs. collective management of resources. As long as resources belong to the State or private entities, there is ample opportunity for either exploitation or corruption. If, on the other hand, resources are viewed as not owned at all, but freely accessible to everyone via an agreed-upon, collective system of management, then corruption and exploitation (and depletion) can be averted. Finally you will also need to address the form of government, as concentrations of power nearly always have the same corrosive effect as concentrations of wealth. Some highly distributed system of direct democracy or consensus democracy will probably be your best bet here.

In any case, there are lots of existing and proposed political economies that address all of these issues in various ways - but you will want to address ALL of them to avoid the historical pitfalls of each of the systems that didn’t.

My 2 cents.

Does the term "the evil elite" have any true grounds, or otherwise, we blame others for our misguided actions?

In answer to Quora question "Does the term "the evil elite" have any true grounds, or otherwise, we blame others for our misguided actions?"

A2A.

As Kelly La Rue pointed out, the Pike letter is a hoax...and seems to be the grandchild of a much more pernicious hoax perpetrated by Leo Taxil (see Albert Pike to Mazzini, August 15, 1871: Three World Wars?). And whether Clarence Sherrick is correct about the purpose of such hoaxes, they do seem to provide an excellent smoke screen and distraction away from what is really going on.

So what is really going on? Well that's a lengthy topic. But here are some links for you to peruse:

On How Corporations Control U.S. Politics:

Exposing ALEC: How Conservative-Backed State Laws Are All Connected

ALEC's (Non)Disclosure Policy | BillMoyers.com


Video on Koch brothers taking over Tea Party

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zBOQL5lZuU


On how the U.S. and its companies use the IMF and World Bank to exploit developing countries:

Top Ten Reasons to Oppose the IMF

How the World Bank, IMF and WTO destroyed African agriculture

IMF's four steps to damnation


Regarding the Iraq War being engineered for profit:

Upworthy | War Contractors

Halliburton, KBR, and Iraq war contracting: A history so far

Tenet Details Efforts to Justify Invading Iraq


Regarding the Super-Entity & Concentrations of Economic Control

Revealed – the capitalist network that runs the world

Interlocking directorates

The Corporate Community

http://corpnet.uva.nl/pdf/sociologica2016.pdf


How All Of This Ties Together

http://www.globalresearch.ca/world-bank-whistleblower-reveals-how-the-global-elite-rule-the-world/5353130

Bilderberg Group

http://www.theyrule.net/


My Conclusions So Far:

I would recommend you dig into some of these links and arrive at your own conclusions. Try to find the common themes that connect all of these facts, events, people and outcomes.

For me, the unifying pattern is pretty clear: there are a few hundred people in the world who have a pronounced influence over both global trade and financial institutions, over any mechanisms of government that can impact these holdings, and consequently over how both international wars are waged and how laws are written all the way down to the municipal level. It's rather breathtaking. But having such power does not indicate a conspiracy, per se, but rather a kind of "natural selection" via exploitative capitalism, in which the plutocratic elite are protecting their influence and enlarging their wealth. Sure, it results in a modern form of feudalism, but the perceived "coordination" is, I think, just a result of universal practices that have proven effective in retaining power over time, rather than a carefully planned and executed manipulation. But I could be wrong.

What seems clear is that more folks should wake up to this reality and care about it. I once asked my grandmother, who lived through Nazi Germany, why the Germans didn't rise up against Hitler or at least challenge what he was doing. She looked at me calmly and smiled, then said "Well because they had bread to eat." We could expand that to bread-and-circuses, to spectacle, to a materialistic individualism that infantalizes consumers so that they become dependent on commodities in every dimension of life. Again, though, this need not be a conspiracy...it's just commercialistic capitalism at work.

So are the elite "evil?" I don't think so - they are just human, susceptible to human failings as we all are. But capitalism...well, that is evil IMO. It is the pernicious, systemic, excessively corrosive force that empowers the elite to enslave others, destroy entire cultures, and decimate the planet.

My 2 cents.

Why would an oil surge drive world stock prices higher when the price of oil is essentially a tax on most businesses?

In answer to Quora question: "Why would an oil surge drive world stock prices higher when the price of oil is essentially a tax on most businesses?"

Thanks for the A2A Joel.

Your instincts about what the relationship between oil prices and stock prices "should" logically be is shared by many - in fact a goodly number of market analysts seem to have been anticipating that lower oil prices would have a positive impact on stocks for the reason you point out (i.e. production and transportation costs on the supply side), and because consumers have more disposable income when oil prices remain low. Except...well, it hasn't played out that way.

Why? Frankly I don't think anyone really knows. Some of the opinions in other answers here are interesting, but they are primarily speculation. One theory that hasn't been discussed is that the correlation between oil and stocks is a result of investor risk aversion: investors are seeking safe havens in uncertain times, and both oil and stocks are perceived as volatile right now. At least this is one way to explain the correlation. Another is that "oil is driving sentiment;" that is, acute awareness of oil price fluctuations is having a psychological impact on the market. Again, though, nobody is sure why this is happening, as oil volatility doesn't correlate precisely with economic productivity or other predictive metrics.

Here is how one CNN Money article describes the psychological correlation (i.e. what investors are thinking low oil prices mean...even if they don't really mean those things):

"-- Falling prices often signal softness in demand that can foretell an economic slowdown. However, many experts believe this oil crash is mostly being caused by the epic supply glut, not weak demand.

-- Cheap oil is causing U.S. oil production to cool off, weighing on profits from energy companies and the economies of states like Texas and North Dakota.

-- The threat of billions of dollars of oil loans imploding raises the risk of trouble in the banking sector.

-- Chaos in the oil patch is causing junk bond yields to spike, especially in the energy sector.

-- Russia, Venezuela, Brazil and other countries that rely on oil exports are slumping badly, causing concern about a new emerging market debt crisis.

-- Falling energy prices and the global stock market reaction have cast fresh doubt on whether the Federal Reserve will be able to raise interest rates this year."

Still other folks speculate that the correlation is a predictable consequence of fluctuations in aggregate demand...but that doesn't fully explain things either.

As with many issues in our complexly interdependent modernity, no one really understands how the global economy functions - at least not in a way that can anticipate and explain correlations like this one. There are plenty of theories and grand generalizations, but even in hindsight it's extremely difficult to tease out all of the causal links - especially since many critical events are the result of undisclosed backroom deals, deceptive business practices, cronyiest manipulations, and unanticipated externalities.

My 2 cents.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of consumerism?

In answer to Quora question "What are the advantages and disadvantages of consumerism?"

Unfortunately what makes consumerism advantageous for producers and shareholders also makes it disadvantageous for workers, consumers, the environment and just about everything else. These factors include:

1. Cheap methods of mass production that facilitate consumerism appear to provide consumer choice, but of course actually do the opposite: they homogenize production. For example, most of the big pizza fast food chains in the U.S. obtain their pepperoni and pizza crusts from the same companies, creating the illusion of choice where there really is none. Great for production efficiencies and higher margins, but not so great for human welfare (in the case of fast food: monoculture sourcing and excessive processing undermines dietary diversity, food safety and security, nutritional value, etc.).

2. Along the same lines, "cheaper" always comes at a cost...somewhere. The consumer may bear the cost in reduced product quality or health risks; the workers may bear the cost in lower wages or exploitative practices; the environment may bear the cost in greater pollution or resource depletion. So consumers may enjoy a temporary increase in purchasing power, but eventually all those hidden costs catch up with the economy, increasing the cost of living and decreasing real wages. The producers don't bear any of these costs themselves - so again, great for them, not so great for everyone else.

3. Another advantage for producers is the habituation of consumers to externalized solutions - what I call "substitution nourishment" - so that consumers avoid taking responsibility for their own well-being, or ever become internally resourceful, but instead fixate on buying stuff to fulfill all whims, needs and desires (to find love, to be happy, to be healthy, to feel secure, to feel empowered, etc.). This habituation is great for corporate profits, but again not so great for human welfare.

4. Another psychological impact of consumerism is the internalization of highly destructive values. For example, a belief that pretty much everything in life is disposable, replaceable, easily accessible for immediate gratification, and not dependent on human relationships. This belief undermines social cohesion, creates the illusion of individual autonomy, and supplants all kinds of interpersonal trust with purely contractual or monetary relationships. The result is a dependence on acquisitiveness and consumption for society and many of its relationships to function at all. In fact such values have infected romantic and family dynamics as well (consider the expectations of most American children at Christmas time or on their birthdays, the expectations of material exchanges and consumption at the center of many dating and marital relationships, etc.). This trend is once again great for producers and shareholders, but not so great for human relationships.

I could go on, but hopefully you can see the pattern. About the only positive thing that consumerism has provided our society is accelerated innovation and convenience, but again this has created substantial negative impacts on worker wages and conditions, consumer health, and environmental destruction. If we were to include such negative externalities in the cost of production, all substantive advantages of consumerism are confined primarily to the wealthiest elite in society - corporate executives and shareholders, and the bankers who hold their assets and enlarge them through reckless speculation.

My 2 cents.

Does capitalism hurt underdeveloped countries?

In answer to Quora question "Does capitalism hurt underdeveloped countries?"

It depends on your values system and how you define "help" and "hurt." For some, increasing overall wealth is the only metric they care about, and both anticipated externalities and unintended consequences become fairly irrelevant. These folks tend to see the history of global capitalism as lifting many underdeveloped countries out of poverty. For others whose evaluation is more holistic, and who view quality of life as involving many more factors than just wealth, then that same history is viewed through a more refined, nuanced and multifaceted filter. For them, capitalism has created just as many problems as it has solved - and sometimes more serious problems than previously existed. And I think there is a cultural blindness in play as well - one that tends to project Western commercialistic and materialistic values and expectations onto other cultures who don't operate the same way.

So where we end up is that a pro-capitalist belief matrix will tend to make a very basic assessment of change after global capitalism has impacted a given culture: Are people now making money? Do they have running water? Sufficient food production? Electricity? Technology? Expanding infrastructure? Are they buying Western stuff? Are they fully engaged in trade? Are there jobs? Well then capitalism has worked and any "hurt" that occurs is their fault. And that's pretty much it. But the more holistic and nuanced evaluation will include other factors. Is the wealth production highly distributed or concentrated? Is the running water safe? Is the food causing a Type II Diabetes epidemic? Is a majority of the population benefiting from technological improvements, or just a few people? Is increased trade having an enduring positive impact on economic opportunity, education, health outcomes, etc.? Is the development sustainable? Are there increases in negative externalities (pollution, environmental destruction, health risks, resource depletion, etc.) that are offsetting positive benefits? What is the quality of work available - are people being exploited or enslaved? And so on.

I think the desire to simplify, to see things in black-and-white, is a normal human response to what can seem like frightening, ever-increasing complexity. But ignoring all but a handful of self-affirming (and often also self-aggrandizing) variables is a disastrous way to energize or organize an economy. It's like running through a forest with a blindfold. But our current form of State capitalism is driven by growth - and the pressure to keep growing is tremendous. Which is why, on an international scale, corporations are always searching for the next underdeveloped sweet spot for cheap resources, cheap labor, lower taxes, and just the right level of blindness, ignorance or greed to keep people running frantically through the woods in hopes of a brighter tomorrow.

(Along these lines I also like John Bailey's answer.)

Does capitalism answer our innate desires or subconsciously create desires that we didn't originally have?

In answer to Quora question "Does capitalism answer our innate desires or subconsciously create desires that we didn't originally have?"

Thank you for the A2A Karl.

A central challenge of a growth-dependent, commercialistic system like the form of capitalism widely employed today is that many "basic physical needs" (food, shelter, clothing, etc.) were widely met a long, long time ago in any advanced society - and are in fact quite easy to satisfy. So, in marketing terms, there is "market saturation" with respect to these needs. Which means that producers and advertisers must increasingly emphasize certain approaches in order to keep selling stuff to people, and we might summarize these approaches as follows:

1. Amplifying product differentiation. This is usually a matter of either adding value or lowering price - or both. The idea is to increase appeal and convince consumers that the product is more appealing or more satisfying in some way.

2. Creating an "externalizing" substitution dynamic. This simply means to convince people that needs that aren't actually getting met by the product are being met my it; it's s deliberate deception. For example, X product will make you happy, Y service will help you find love, Z subscription will keep you informed. These products and services won't actually fulfill those needs, but if a consumer is convinced to pay for them out of a belief that they will, then there can be a placebo effect that induces ongoing dependency. It's a bit like playing the lottery: perhaps, someday, if I just keep buying X, Y or Z, then all those advertising promises will come true...

3. Creating an addiction. Simply engineering a product that is highly addictive. Sometimes this is a physical addiction (nicotine), and sometimes this is an emotional addiction (reality TV shows), but the idea is to provide zero actual nourishment at very low cost, while keeping consumers "hooked."

4. Engineering social cachet and relying on the lemming effect. Veblen goods often fall into this category, but so do most products marketed to children, or that rely on current social trends. In rare cases, such as with Apple products, a company is able to create the social cachet rather than rely on an existing fad.

5. Capitalizing on fear and insecurity. This often entails creating a "bogeyman in the closet" that is imaginary, but amplifies some widely held suspicion or fearful tendency. This is used very effectively in marketing everything from pharmaceuticals to guns.

6. Sex. And of course anything that hints at sexuality can be "interesting" enough to purchase or pay attention to. Sometimes this is just another substitution dynamic...but sometimes it really is just about sex.

Now what's perhaps most interesting here is that the objective of this flavor of commercialism is to infantilize consumers or toddlerize them - that is, to make them unquestioningly dependent on the product or service being sold, so that they avoid considering other options, never realize they are being duped, and, most importantly, never begin to self-actualize so that they are less dependent and more self-sufficient (i.e more grown up). In order to accomplish this and to maximize marketing reach, the marketing emphasis will tend to hover around the lowest common denominators of human desire and impulse (whether those are being "met" or being "created"). What are infants concerned with? Pleasure, sustenance, safety, etc. What additional things are toddlers interested in? Testing limits, getting their way, being liked, etc. And if commercialized consumerism can barrage people with messaging and products that keep them anchored and fixated on those immature foci, then consumers will be less likely to search for more sophisticated nourishment or more mature stages of personal development. They will be less likely to "grow up."

In essence, if producers can keep people from growing up, it is a lot easier to sell them stuff.

My 2 cents.