By Joe Russo
While we all soberly ponder the outcome and ramifications of the weekend elections in Greece (more on this later), I wish to share a recent blog post from Mises.org, which as you may know, is a highly esteemed institute of free market thinkers embracing the Austrian school of economics, of which I am a student and subscriber.
Mises author David Gordon provided an insightful critique of a New York Times article titled “Let’s Be Less Productive” written by Tim Jackson, who is a professor of sustainable development at the University of Surrey.
Mr. Gordon titled his critique “Is Greater Productivity a Danger” on the Mises Daily blog.
A Challenge for the Austrian School of Economics
In small part as a plausible conduit to build a natural bridge to span the ever-growing chasm between dogmatic ideologies of every stripe, and in large part in endeavor to inspire enduring effectual solutions, I have presented an honest challenge to the Mises community that I wish to share for expanded global discourse.
In commenting on Mr. Gordon’s post under the pseudonym Man of Reason, I have proposed a challenge to the Mises community. It is my hope that the Mises community will rigorously debate the challenge and be able to provide a framework of rational free market solutions that might effectually address the challenge.
In kind, I present to you the same challenge here and now.
A Challenge for all Persons of Intellect and Reason
I am in search of rational argument/debate/solutions relative to the Greater Productivity issue:
Before presenting the specific challenge, I wish to state that I believe the principles of Austrian economics to be far superior to any other set of economic principles currently known.
I suspect the vast majority of students and professors of the Austrian school would agree that capitalism as has been practiced in the west for more than 100-years in no way resembles free market capitalism as defined by Mises, Rothbard, Hayek, and the like.
I suspect also that the vast majority of Austrian thinkers would concur that the apparatus created by the state over the past 200 years has from a western capitalistic viewpoint evolved into a leviathan requiring infinite exponential growth for its very survival.
In my view, this condition would not have come about had the politics, philosophy, and economics of the Austrian school been in force for the last two centuries. Making a bad situation worse, Brazil, Russia, India, and China have embraced western statist capitalists as model partners.
As misfortunate as this is, we are where we are and must now determine how best and least destructively to transition toward a more rational means of freely conducting our individual and collective interests both here in the US as well as abroad.
The Essential Resource Driver of Productivity
Though one may argue the amount of fossil fuels remaining and debate further as to when those non-renewable resources will likely drawdown to critical levels, one cannot argue the finite constraints of these resources relative to the parabolic explosion in population and technological advances that these magnificent resources have brought about.
Furthermore, the state, and by association the Global apparatus to which we now find ourselves wholly immersed, is completely dependent upon finite resources that in time, will not be sufficient to satiate the global populations unending human demands for the freedom to pursue their various and limitless definitions of happiness, liberty, and prosperity.
Given that all manufactured goods and services require a rather high percentage of fossil fuels for their production and delivery, at what point in the growing populations limitless demands relative to the finite resources needed to supply them will either war or the acceleration of economic collapse (or both) present themselves as unavoidable consequences void of practical solutions?
The Easy Solution
Obviously, a new renewable set of technologies to replace finite fossil fuels is the easy answer, but for the sake of argument, let us reasonably assume that such a technological revolution will not surface in time to supply the immediate and ongoing (irrational) demands for infinite growth.
It is very easy for me to understand how laissez-faire empowers, supports, and is able to sustain prosperously, and peacefully, a largely undeveloped world with excess resources.
However imbalanced as it may be, amid conditions of a largely developed world with scarce and diminishing resources, it becomes more difficult for me to understand the praxeological tenets that would regulate time preferences (immediate/medium-term/long-term) relative to potential distortions in effectual perception of productive vs. nonproductive development to fit the resource constraints faced in kind.
I arrive at a significant impasse when trying to identify and extract principles of human action beyond the mere animalistic survival-of-the-fittest that would incentivize individuals and populations throughout overdeveloped and undeveloped regions of the world to agree equitably in laissez-faire manner, the way to solve the existential problem of finite resources relative to the trajectory of the current population.
If you suspect my rationale in arriving at this challenge contains flaws, please bring them to my attention for enlightenment. Whether you agree or disagree with this quandary, please make your case and open the challenge for solutions to rigorous debate.
In fairness to all persons of practical reason with sound and legitimate arguments, I have also been a student of J.W. Smith, who is an independent economist with a PhD in Political Economics and founder of the Institute for Economic Democracy.
As presented in his book, Economic Democracy: The Political Struggle of the Twenty-First Century, although I am in agreement with many of Mr. Smith’s observational accounts of historical episodes that brought the world to its current state, I am not convinced of the efficacy in his blueprint prescriptions to rebalance global economies.
It is a rather long road to serfdom as well as to freedom. We must decide NOW which road to pursue, and make certain throughout the long and arduous process, that we collectively strive (or revolt if we must) to insist upon an effectual political and economic framework from which to steer our fate in the proper direction for current and future generations.