We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

He’ll still be around next year

There are all manner of idiots in the world. There are dangerous idiots, annoying idiots, (Lord help us) influential idiots and then there are some idiots who wallow in such specious gibberish that it requires a hard heart to look upon them as anything other than pitiful.

The Guardian (where else?) has a long record of providing a platform for pitiful idiots as illustrated by the column they insist on giving to George Monbiot:

“If we take into account such factors as pollution and the depletion of natural capital, we see that the quality of life peaked in the UK in 1974 and in the US in 1968, and has been falling ever since. We are going backwards.”

Perhaps it’s just you that is going backwards, George. Not sure about the rest of us. Mind you if you right, then perhaps the nutty 60’s has something to do with it.

“The reason should not be hard to grasp. Our economic system depends upon never-ending growth, yet we live in a world with finite resources. Our expectation of progress is, as a result, a delusion.”

Ah George, you haven’t been reading your Julian Simon like a good boy. You haven’t have you? Naughty.

“Speak this truth in public and you are dismissed as a crank, a prig, a lunatic.”

Which you clearly have been.

“The laws of thermodynamics impose inherent limits upon biological production.”

Er, care to explain that, George?

“Even the repayment of debt, the pre-requisite of capitalism, is mathematically possible only in the short-term. As Heinrich Haussmann has shown, a single pfennig invested at 5% compounded interest in the year AD 0 would, by 1990, have reaped a volume of gold 134bn times the weight of the planet. Capitalism seeks a value of production commensurate with the repayment of debt.”

I’d love to give this a Fisking but I must confess that I have no idea what the f*cking hell he is actually talking about. It sounds like the kind of marxoid tripe they teach at universities and which is so deliberately opaque that it must be very clever and authoratative and therefore beyond question.

“Now, despite the endless denials, it is clear that the wall towards which we are accelerating is not very far away. Within five or 10 years, the global consumption of oil is likely to outstrip supply. Every year, up to 75bn tonnes of topsoil are washed into the sea as a result of unsustainable farming, which equates to the loss of around 9m hectares of productive land.”

Time for a ‘Made-up-Statistics’ warning!

“Every national newspaper in Britain lamented the “disappointing” volume of sales before Christmas. Sky News devoted much of its Christmas Eve coverage to live reports from Brent Cross, relaying the terrifying intelligence that we were facing “the worst Christmas for shopping since 2000″.

Suppose that has nothing whatsoever to do with Gordon Brown’s tax increases which have deprived us of so much of our disposable income? No, course not. Silly me for even asking.

“The economist Bernard Lietaer has shown how a system based upon negative rates of interest would ensure that we accord greater economic value to future resources than to present ones. By shifting taxation from employment to environmental destruction, governments could tax over-consumption out of existence. But everyone who holds power today knows that her political survival depends upon stealing from the future to give to the present.”

‘Bernard Lietaer’? Never heard of him but I’ll wager that he’s the kind of smelly, dysfunctional political activist who haunts Labour Party fringe meetings with a shopping bag full of newspaper clipping and scribbled essays in the hope that he’ll get an opportunity to corner some hapless victim and bore them into the grave.

“Everything we thought was good – giving more exciting presents to our children, flying to a friend’s wedding, even buying newspapers – turns out also to be bad.”

Buying the Guardian is definitely bad. Otherwise that one sentence contains everything you need to know about Mr.Monbiot. He is a jealous, begrudging loser who has spun an ideological mask of deceit around himself in order to provide a fig-leaf for his po-faced, anti-human, defeatist miserabilism.

Pitiful. Just pitiful.

20 comments to He’ll still be around next year

  • What a dreadful load of nonsensical crap. Remind me not to read this guy in future.

    Ah yes, our old friend the “We want exponential economic growth from finite resources and we obviously will hit a wall when we do this” argument (or, in its slightly more sophisticated variant, resouces can be allowed to be constant over time, or growing at less than exponential rates).

    This argument seems logical, until you think about what the exponential growth in GDP actually means. It does not mean that we are buying exponentially larger amounts of the same things and that we therefore need exponentially larger amounts of oil, steel, etc, but instead it indicates that we are buying steadily more sophisticated and technologically complicated things, instead of older, less complicated products. Because these are more sophisticated and complicated, we assign them a higher value, and the GDP number becomes higher as a result. GDP growth at least partly then indicates a change in what we consume rather than an increase in the amount we consume. However, the higher value does not mean that a correspondingly larger amount of resources was used. Given that the resources used to increase the value of products are now often intellectual resources rather than physical resources (and products are thus more cleverly and efficiently designed), an increase in GDP can often now indicate a decrease in consumption of physical resources rather than an increase.

  • Actually I do have some idea what he is trying to get at in the “one pfennig invested” bit, and I could Fisk it, but I would need to clearly explain what he is trying to argue before explaining why it is full of logical fallacies, and I couldn’t be bothered.

    I do like this though

    >Within five or 10 years, the global
    >consumption of oil is likely to outstrip
    >supply.

    That would actually be a clever trick. Perhaps if consumption exceeds supply, we will all have perpetual motion machines, and that will solve our problems. I tend to think that if demand exceeds supply, then prices will rise to the point where supply and demand are equal again, but that may just be me. (Also, if that happens I would expect that lots of money will be spent on developing alternative energy sources to oil).

    Seriously, why do newspapers employ people who clearly do not understood even high school level economics.

  • “po-faced…miserabilism” – are you quoting me?

  • David Carr

    Steven,

    Probably. But I always say, if your going to steal then steal from the best.

  • Pete

    “a single pfennig invested at 5% compounded interest in the year AD 0 would, by 1990, have reaped a volume of gold 134bn times the weight of the planet.”

    If Jesus had only planned ahead and invested the allowance his “Father” gave him at the First Bank of Pax Romanus, he’d own the whole planet by now.

    I think they need to up his medication.

  • blabla

    The fixed-sum metacontext: Either we all “share” or we all die. There is no way we all benefit.

  • Geo

    Okay, I’ll bite. Using US currency…

    One penny, invested at 5% compound interest for 2000 years yields 2.39e+42 pennies or
    23,900,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 dollars.

    (Not counting deductions from bank fees, taxes and utter, bizarre absurdity).

    Anyway, dividing by $344 (the approximate current price of gold) = 6.95e+37 ounces of gold. Divided by 12 = approximately 6.0e+36 pounds of gold. Divide by 2.2 = 2.7e+36 kg of gold.

    Using the recently revised estimate for the weight of the earth as approximately 6.0e+21kg. Dividing the weight of the gold by the weight of the world, the mass of gold is 2.2e+15 times the mass of the earth. Or, in long notation, 2,200,000,000,000,000 — just over two quatrillion –times as massive.

    An interesting point.

    And now, extrapolating that point to absurdity as Monbiot so capably does, we should incarcerate everyone who invests money at compound interest, since these lousy capitalists are clearly jeopardizing the safety of the human race. How?

    Well, the mass of the sun is 2e+30 kg. Which, dividing the mass of gold by the mass of the sun, we see that the mass of gold returned from our initial investment has approximately 1e+6 (or one million) solar masses.

    And since our most recent theories suggest that it only requires two solar masses for a body to contract to a black hole, our initial investment would eventually cause us all to be destroyed in the massive radiation pouring off of the birth of a new singularity, and then our whole solar system would be swallowed up by this celestial menace.

    Lousy capitalists.

    So, it turns out the Emperor doesn’t need a Death Star to destroy planets. Monbiot has discovered a much more insidious and deadly weapons technology: sound investment strategy!

    “Now witness the firepower of this FULLY OPERATIONAL fiscal policy.”

    *evil capitalist sneer and fist-clenching optional*

    (Disclaimer: math errors are due to sun spots and not the fault of the author.)

  • Geo

    Of course, the monstrous supernova would destroy us all before the singularity would. But I claim my point is still valid.

  • Pherecydes

    Actually, Bernard Lietaer has an impressibe CV. Here’s a link to a short bio:

  • Pherecydes

    Here’s an interview with Lietaer. I was beginning to think the man was a space cadet then became sure of it when I read his etymology of the word “community”.

  • cydonia

    Looks as though Lietaer is in favour of private money so maybe he ain’t all bad
    :-)

  • Yes, Bernard Lietaer is a very interesting economist. George Monbiot has not understood him at all, of course.

    I quoted Lietaer in an article I wrote supporting private money here.

  • David Carr

    It appears that I have grievously maligned poor Mr.Lietaer. Hence, I withdraw my entirely spurious (though not serious) insinuations.

    More likely, Moonbat has taken something entirely out if its context and twisted it to suit his own warped world-view.

  • Gasp! The interest thing is amazing! We’re all doomed!

    Of course if there were 1,000 people with an annual population growth of 3% you would probably see some similar absurdity. The fact is that this sort of compounding is meaningless since circumstances will always interupt the compounding in some way.

    As for the exponential growth in GDP, he’s right. If nothing changed but population we will surely outstrip the production of the planet quickly. Of course that’s assuming no technological innovation of any kind. That doesn’t sound very likely to me…

  • Even us Guardian readers think Monbiot always writes total bollocks. Perhaps the Guardian prints his articles for pure entertainment value, a bit like those of Germaine Greer.

  • Paul Zrimsek

    Lietaer’s a monetary crank, and Moanbot’s summary of him is, mirabile dictu, accurate:

    The economist Bernard Lietaer has shown how a system based upon negative rates of interest would ensure that we accord greater economic value to future resources than to present ones.

    Note the reversal of cause and effect. Lietaer’s rapidly depreciating currency scheme has already been tried many times, under the name “hyperinflation”.

  • Gadzooks: some of you have already dealt with parts of my intended Fisk.

    However, for an explanation of why Lietaer’s currency doesn’t do what Monbiot says (a touch too long to fit here, visit: here

    (Summary: a) all that stuff about 5% compound interest ignores, e.g., why you get a return on investment, and b) if you’re incentivised to spend money as fast as you can, that encourages consumption. Lietaer does suggest otherwise, but his stance on the environmental consequences isn’t detailed in the articles I read).

    (PS: Paul, Lietaer’s list of examples in some of his articles includes a number of examples of the currency being introduced in hyperinflationary contexts. His solution to this is that the currency must be backed by a basket of commodities).

  • Paul Zrimsek

    The examples of Lietaer’s scheme that I’ve come across typically give as an example money that depreciates at 1% per day. When your money does that, it IS hyperinflationary no matter what it’s backed with (assuming the idea of commodity backing is even coherent in this context, which I doubt). One of the many gaping holes in the scheme is that having money lose value over time does not, in itself, give you negative interest rates. For that, you need to couple the inflation with some sort of effective usury law– which can be relied upon to produce the same result that price controls always produce.

    The Cowboy’s essay is fine as far as it goes, but I think it overlooks the real hole in the Moanbot’s compound-interest fantasy: namely, that the very reason why interest rates (net of inflationary and credit risk premia) are as high as they are in the first place is that human beings do NOT invest with a 2000-year time horizon. The fact that people prefer a hamburger today to a hamburger next Tuesday is the cause of positive interest rates, not their effect. The idea that bedrock facts of human psychology like this one can be changed by fiat dies hard at the Daily Wanker.

  • Paul: the articles I’d seen of Leitaer’s didn’t specify an ideal rate, but seemed to suggest single digit annual negative interest. Higher rates are crazy.

    THe hole you mention I think I touch on, but it’s so obvious that it can’t be the key to a fair rebuttal. The man’s such a loon, he won’t accept basic truths about human nature.