Exponential economic growth is rapidly destabilizing the biosphere. Among the many factors that stimulate such growth is the human tendency to consume goods and services far beyond what is required to meet basic needs. We have to grasp what drives this tendency in order to manage it. The brain’s core circuits were long believed to stimulate us to seek pleasure—greedily and selfishly—while higher cortical circuits try to rein us in. Neuroscience now shows that the core circuits serve not pleasure per se, but efficient learning. When we obtain a reward that our frontal cortex values highly, the core circuit delivers a chemical pulse that we experience as satisfaction—so we repeat the behavior. Satisfaction is brief and diminishes as a particular reward becomes predictable. This circuit design works well for pre-industrial societies in which rewards are varied and unpredictable. But capitalism shrinks the diversity of possible rewards, leaving the remainder less satisfying, and making stronger doses, i.e., more consumption, necessary. The path toward sustainability must, therefore, include re-expanding the diversity of satisfactions.
It will come as no surprise that a recent poll indicated that economists are among the least-trusted professionals. They’ve made blundering mistakes on everything from claiming financial crises can happen to not facing the most obvious recessions.
But all that pales into insignificance when inept economists get involved in modeling climate science. A recession we can recover from, but the breakdown of our planet, we cannot.
Host Ross Ashcroft travels to Kakanomics – the leading economics festival in Norway – to talk with the renegade economist Professor Steve Keen to understand the scale of the damage that blinkered ideology has done to the future of our planet.
Humanity, like all other species of Earth before and with us, is evolving — and evolution, for humans as for all species, is neither predictably linear nor solely Darwinian. Earth’s nearly four billion years of evolutionary experience reveals reliable patterns that give us hope, inspiration and valuable guidance for getting ourselves through the unprecedented confluence of enormous crises in which we humans quite suddenly find ourselves. Here we see the evolutionary Big Picture, including the amazingly complex lives of our remotest bacterial ancestors, who had Earth to themselves for fully half of evolution, and much of whose experience we seem to be mirroring now. They engaged in hostilities, generated global crises of hunger and pollution as great as ours today, and solved them without benefit of brain! Along the way they invented electric motors, atomic piles and the first World Wide Web of DNA exchange; then, in the greatest of all evolutionary ventures, formed cooperatives that became nucleated cells. These cooperatives were the basis for the evolution of our own hundred-trillion-celled human bodies, which role model amazingly sustainable economies. Learning from newly revealed problems and solutions in biological evolution, we too are finding out how to survive and even thrive into a better future despite — perhaps because of — our greatest challenges. That would indeed be cause for celebration.
There is a hidden war of value codes in the world today. On the one hand, there is the life code of value: Life → Means of Life → More Life (L → M of L→ L1). On the other hand, there is the money code of value: in its classical form, Money → Commodity → More Money ($ → C → $1). In its carcinogenic form, this sequence becomes: Money → More Money → More Money ($ → $1→ $2 → – $n). The latter money sequence of value is decoupled from any commitment to life function and is driven by the lending and investment cycles of banks. This paper demonstrates the carcinogenic properties of this sequence at the social level of life-organization.
The second part of the paper proposes a remedy. The first step consists in making the government-conferred privileges of banks – creating money by credit and lending others’ money stocks at compound interest – accountable to society’s life requirements. The second step consists in returning central banks to their constitutional mandate of lending to governments rather than alienating this function to private banks. The article concludes by arguing that the great obstacle to Canada’s and other countries’ economic well-being is the abdication by governments of their sovereign powers over society’s money supply, and the long cultivation of public ignorance on this ultimate issue of public policy and value decision.
Department of Philosophy
University of Guelph
Bank of Montreal Distinguished Visitor Lecture, Trent University, March 13, 1997. Read More
A standard critical view of the relationship between capitalism and religion is that religion is an ideological cover story for capitalism. Capitalism, it is contended, structures the real world. Religion conceals and sanctifies it in justifying illusions. Marx most famously pressed this view with an enlightenment epigram derived from Voltaire: “Religion is the opiate of the people.” He sought, in contrast, to scientifically lay bare the “real relations of society” underneath.
This paper will explore a deeper possibility – that the classical and neo-classical market doctrine is itself a religion, and that its “invisible hand” prescriptions regulate society’s economic relations themselves. Beneath the notice of the social sciences, I will argue, market theory and practice together depend on a core structure of presuppositions of a necessary and benevolent design which constitutes an unacknowledged religious metaphysic.
What prosperity is, where growth comes from, why markets work, and how we resolve the tension between a prosperous world and a moral one.
Published 2008-10-04 by John McMurtry
Science for Peace and University of Toronto Students Union Conference
Climate Catastrophe and Social Justice: Analysis and Action
October 4, Earth Sciences Building, University of Toronto
The destabilization of the world’s climate and hydrological cycles is a catastrophic effect of a more general disorder to which it is not connected — the failed global market experiment and its regulating money-value system which brings degradation and despoliation of human life and life support systems at virtually every level of life organization.
The following article was part of a Science for Peace Forum and Teach-In, about How Should Canada Respond to Terrorism and War on Sunday December 9, 2001. A speech was made there by Professor of Philosophy, John McMurtry. It looks at a wider and deeper issue of totalitarianism that is creeping in, or, as McMurtry suggests, continuing in more earnest.
Philosophical reflections by John McMurtry and Martha Nussbaum are presented in this article qua projections of the capabilities approach to life that has been developing in the humanities and social sciences over the past twenty-five years. In particular, it is shown how both McMurtry and Nussbaum reveal that human life is under attack not solely because of the eco-biological collapse denounced by the world’s scientific community at its highest levels, but also in many of those socially evolved civil commons that contribute to the flourishing of life’s capabilities and, in essence, make life worth living. What is more, a common causal root is found behind this ongoing two-pronged assault upon life capabilities, that is to say, the defining search for ever-increasing profits of the global free-market economy.
The world is experiencing a twofold crisis. On the one hand, the global, virtualised economy is collapsing and, in its fall, it is bringing down significant sections of the real economy. On the other hand, the environmental collapse of the planet is also marching on, and there is no clear sign that this may stop soon, for the most commonly discussed paths for economic recovery seem to rely upon further spoliation of the Earth’s life support systems. In this book chapter, the reader is to encounter an account of this twofold crisis in light of the deeper axiological grounds that are causing it. To this end, the present author refers extensively to the theory of value developed by Canadian scholar John McMurtry, according to whom: “[F]inancial crises always follow from money-value delinked from real value, which has many names but no understanding of the principle at its deepest levels.”