Heresy

11 posts / 0 new

Nobody picked up on it in my post on the Economics board, so I thought I would try it here.

For those who believe that all economic wealth is the product of human labor, then the more the people, the greater the wealth. Right?

Would 12 billion people make us twice as wealthy as we are now? Would 24 billion people make us four times as wealthy?

The usual objection to this line of argument is that earth is finite and we will run out of resources. That only makes sense, however, if resources are also a factor of production in addition to human labor. And if labor and resources are factors of production, can capital be far behind?

Anyway, I thought this might make an interesting discussion.

Ixtelan's picture
Ixtelan
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Comments

Wealth is not distributed evenly. More people working means more wealth for a few, not all. For every dollar a laboror earns for himself, he or she is earning x amount of money for persons not involved in the labor process.

Bush_Wacker's picture
Bush_Wacker
Joined:
Jun. 25, 2011 7:53 am
Quote Bush_Wacker:Wealth is not distributed evenly. More people working means more wealth for a few, not all. For every dollar a laboror earns for himself, he or she is earning x amount of money for persons not involved in the labor process.

I agree that there are vast disparities in the distribution of wealth, particularly among affluent and poor countries. I see little evidence that Americans are willing to make even the smallest sacrifice in order to help poor people abroad.

With respect to the question I posed, may I assume that by "persons not involved in the labor process," you mean the owners of resources and capital? If "wealth was distributed evenly," could planet earth support 12 billion or 24 billion or 48 billion people?

Ixtelan's picture
Ixtelan
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Oh boy, here we go again. Perhaps the reason nobody picked-up on it in the other disscussion was because it is overly simplistic and therefore not worth addressing. You seem to be more interested in arguing than having a constructive conversation. In another discussion you claimed that there is no such thing as altruism. The point is that your stances are narrow and rigid, the type of thinking found in stubborn young males with lots of testosterone and a shortage of sophisticated subtlety....I was the same way 30 years ago. That said I'll get more to the point(s)...

In The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight, Thom stated that the planet could support 1/2 - 1 billion people with the amount of sunlight that we receive. I see that that figure is now found on the Georgia Guidestones. Where did Hartmann get that figure anyway? Oh wait, it's explained here.

"resources are also a factor of production in addition to human labor. And if labor and resources are factors of production, can capital be far behind?" - Huh?

Energy resources are not created by production, we cannot create a sun. Water and air is not created by production, not human production.

Come on Ix, read the book, then discuss

MEJ's picture
MEJ
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Perhaps my post was not sufficiently clear, MEJ. I was not seeking a discussion about the carrying capacity of the earth. I have absolutely no idea of what the maximum population of earth might be.

Rather, I meant to challenge the "labor theory of value," which many of our friends on this board accept. I disagree with the labor theory of value and used earth population as an example of the theory's weakness. If you would like to discuss the labor theory of value, I would be very happy to have a thoughtful, respectful discussion with you about it in this thread.

With respect to my opinions about altruism, I believe that my reasoning is sound, that my writing was clear, and that my arguments were not effectively rebutted by other posters. If you would like to have a discussion about altruism, I am happy to have that, too.

In particular, I hope you could help me understand why posters here are so passionately insistent about the reality of altruism. Do posters believe that only altruism can engender compassion for the old, sick, and disenfranchised? I have compassion for those weary souls out of a simple sense of justice, not altruism. Altruism exists or it doesn’t. Either way, what is the big deal?

If you would like to discuss altruism, we should it in a another thread in order not to derail this one.

I also checked the website you suggested that presented Mr. Hartmann’s comments about “ancient sunlight.” As I understand his argument, and please correct me if I am mistaken, he claims that the dramatic increase in human population over the past several hundred (thousands?) of years has been made possible by utilizing “ancient sunlight” (coal, hydrocarbons) in addition to the daily sunlight reaching the earth.

Quote Mr. Hartmann:Once we learned how to use ancient sunlight, we didn't have to maintain reservoirs of current sunlight in the form of forests anymore.

While his premise seems intuitive, I don’t understand his point.

For example, is Mr. Hartmann claiming that the human population is out of control and wrecking the earth’s carrying capacity and or natural beauty? Or, is he claiming that human societies will collapse once we run out of “ancient sunlight?” Or is he saying both?

Quote Mr. Hartmann:… if all six billion people on the planet lived even at the U.S. poverty level of $16,000 for a family of four, we would still need four planet Earths to provide the necessary raw materials for them. It is simply not possible. The other reality is that there are countries with per capita incomes much higher than ours, such as some of the oil-rich countries, where the population is exploding.

I do not know how Mr. Hartmann arrived at this conclusion or the techniques that would permit such estimates. I have no idea how many humans the earth can carry. I certainly agree that the distribution of wealth and its consumption is unjustly concentrated in some countries at the expense of others. I also agree with Mr. Hartmann’s implicit acknowledgment that raw materials are a necessary factor of production in addition to labor (and, I would add, capital).

I also agree that resource limitations put constraints on the expansion of the human population, but energy is not one of those resources we need to worry about, at least not now. The most pressing resource problem in the world today is fresh water. Sources of potable water are mostly tapped out (no pun intended) and “water wars” are a real possibility in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

Sunlight, whether ancient or current, is not as pressing a matter as water because there are many sources of energy besides the sun but not so many sources of water. The argument that “all energy comes from the sun” is only true in the broadest sense of the word. Without the sun, there would be no earth. Without a massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, of course, there would be no sun. This argument ends with the Big Bang.

As I wrote elsewhere, all energy in the universe (setting aside for the moment the theoretical possibility of “dark energy”) derives from one of four physical forces: gravity, electromagnetism, the strong force and the weak force. These physical forces provide energy for human use in addition to sunlight, today's or yesterday's.

For instance, the mass of earth puts tremendous force on materials near the planet’s core (gravity). Earth's inner core is solid iron, its outer core is liquid iron mixed with other components, and its mantle is dense rock. The immense gravitational force upon the earth’s core not only produces thermal energy (volcanoes) and kinetic energy (earthquakes), but also a planetary electromagnetic field that protects the surface of the planet from solar radiation. Without this magnetic field, earth would be like Mars, its atmosphere mostly blown away and its surface pounded with deadly solar radiation.

The earth also has heavy metals that can be used for fission or fusion energy. These metals did not come from our sun but rather from the supernova of a star long dead.

To summarize, there is plenty of energy sources on the earth besides that which comes from our sun. Energy really isn’t a constraint to human expansion, at least not compared with water.

Ixtelan's picture
Ixtelan
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Our population is supported by use of fossil fuels (ancient sunlight) which we use to run farming equipment and for transportation of foods and as fertilizers and pesticides, etc. If we ran out of fossil fuels today, several billion humans would starve with a year. How much energy comes to the earth determines the planet's carrying capacity for life. Energy = food, or at least there is a direct proportion. So the answers are basicly yes to all of the above.

As for altruism...one can argue that there is no such thing as....aw, never mind, it was just an example of a silly argument. Then again maybe it matters in that we require the development of sympathy, empathy, compassion, etc. in order to build and maintain a healthy society. Intellect alone cannot do it because there are and will always be dumbies. Sociopaths and psychopaths can be perfectly logical, but lack capacities for sympathy and altruism. It really does matter. Maybe not to an intellect, but to creatures with limbic systems, yeah, it matters.

Try another example to make your point about the labor theory of value being incorrect or whatever. Maybe your premise is wrong or mis-stated.

"For those who believe that all economic wealth is the product of human labor, then the more the people, the greater the wealth. Right?" Wrong. Not all people will labor. Babies and toddlers and the infirmed cant labor. The more labor, the more wealth is closer to true, but not all labor is equal and shit happens...like natural disasters that destroy wealth.

"That only makes sense, however, if resources are also a factor of production in addition to human labor. And if labor and resources are factors of production, can capital be far behind?" I still can't make sense of that.

MEJ's picture
MEJ
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm
Quote MEJ:Our population is supported by use of fossil fuels (ancient sunlight) which we use to run farming equipment and for transportation of foods and as fertilizers and pesticides, etc. If we ran out of fossil fuels today, several billion humans would starve with a year. How much energy comes to the earth determines the planet's carrying capacity for life. Energy = food, or at least there is a direct proportion. So the answers are basicly yes to all of the above.

"If we ran out today..." But we aren't going to "run out" today. We need not support our population with fossil fuels. There are other sources of energy available to us besides the sun. The sun does not soley determine the carrying capacity of the earth. Potable water is a much bigger problem than energy. Your claim ignores physics.

As for altruism...one can argue that there is no such thing as....aw, never mind, it was just an example of a silly argument. Then again maybe it matters in that we require the development of sympathy, empathy, compassion, etc. in order to build and maintain a healthy society. Intellect alone cannot do it because there are and will always be dumbies. Sociopaths and psychopaths can be perfectly logical, but lack capacities for sympathy and altruism. It really does matter. Maybe not to an intellect, but to creatures with limbic systems, yeah, it matters.

Sympathy, empathy, compassion are different from altruism. People can and do have sympathy, empathy, and compassion without altruism. I was treated unjustly once and so I have sympathy, empathy, and compassion for other victims of injustice. My feelings are not altruistic, they are idealistic.

Try another example to make your point about the labor theory of value being incorrect or whatever. Maybe your premise is wrong or mis-stated.

"For those who believe that all economic wealth is the product of human labor, then the more the people, the greater the wealth. Right?" Wrong. Not all people will labor. Babies and toddlers and the infirmed cant labor. The more labor, the more wealth is closer to true, but not all labor is equal and shit happens...like natural disasters that destroy wealth.

You agree with me but are reluctant to acknowledge it.

I have offered this parable many times, but I don't mind repeating it.

You own a mine. Your workers use 1-ton front-end loaders to work a vein with 5 percent ore. If you hire more workers to load ore on 8-hour shifts around the clock, you produce more ore. If you replace the 1-ton loaders with 2-ton loaders, your produce more ore. If you purchase rights to a vein of 10 percent ore, you produce more ore. The loaders are capital; the drivers are labor; the quality of the vein is resources. If you increase one factor of production, you increase the productivity of the other two. How much simpler can I make it?

"That only makes sense, however, if resources are also a factor of production in addition to human labor. And if labor and resources are factors of production, can capital be far behind?" I still can't make sense of that.

If you increase any one of the three factors of production, you increase the productivity of the other two. Capital is an important factor of production. Prominent posters on this board disagree with this.

Ixtelan's picture
Ixtelan
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

It's not my claim. It's the thesis of The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight. I don't ignore physics and neither does Thom Hartmann, but you resist acknowledging the points of others. You can't even recognize a trait/behavior/attitude/word (altruism) that has existed for many centuries. Just because you lack any and all traces of altruism doesn't mean that it doesn't exist in others.

As for the question of capital....I do wish some others would chime in. Something is wrong with your parable and premise, but it's subtle and hard to define. Capital is a fiction that can represent labor or resource, but is neither.

It's a failure of imagination and because we have never known otherwise much like how religious people think that religion is the basis of all morality. Capital isn't really a thing, it's a symbolic thing.

Like the Cree sorta said, only when the last of the game is gone and the land denuded and the last fish caught, will those stupid white guys figure out that you cant eat capital.

MEJ's picture
MEJ
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm
Quote MEJ:It's not my claim. It's the thesis of The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight.

Point fairly taken.

I don't ignore physics and neither does Thom Hartmann, but you resist acknowledging the points of others.

I do not know who “others” are, but I am confident in my personal understanding of physics.

You can't even recognize a trait/behavior/attitude/word (altruism) that has existed for many centuries. Just because you lack any and all traces of altruism doesn't mean that it doesn't exist in others.

You and I disagree about the reality of “altruism.” What’s the big deal?

As for the question of capital....I do wish some others would chime in. Something is wrong with your parable and premise, but it's subtle and hard to define. Capital is a fiction that can represent labor or resource, but is neither.

I wish others would respond, too. Their silence is puzzling but points to a single explanation. Capital is not a fiction and you provide no explanation for your claim that is a fiction.

It's a failure of imagination and because we have never known otherwise much like how religious people think that religion is the basis of all morality. Capital isn't really a thing, it's a symbolic thing.

When I disagree with a statement, I provide a reason for my disagreement. You seem not to have any real evidence to back up your assertion about capital.

Like the Cree sorta said, only when the last of the game is gone and the land denuded and the last fish caught, will those stupid white guys figure out that you cant eat capital.

When may we expect that day to arrive?

Ixtelan's picture
Ixtelan
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

False viewpoint discussions should be ignored more often.

Your fake-leap from working people to people was clear enough to most readers.

In the ever-so-remote-event that you honestly could not follow the math. 2 + 2 is still 4 (for Base 5 and above counting systems) but 2+ q + I + d squared -17 may not be 4, especially when the variables are intentionally ambiguous, undefined or refer to a secret table of values.

Hope your being paid well enough to afford the $1000 tongue depressors waiting down that road.

Rodger97321's picture
Rodger97321
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm
Quote Rodger97321:

False viewpoint discussions should be ignored more often.

Your fake-leap from working people to people was clear enough to most readers.

In the ever-so-remote-event that you honestly could not follow the math. 2 + 2 is still 4 (for Base 5 and above counting systems) but 2+ q + I + d squared -17 may not be 4, especially when the variables are intentionally ambiguous, undefined or refer to a secret table of values.

Hope your being paid well enough to afford the $1000 tongue depressors waiting down that road.

I do not understand your message, but I remain able and willing to have a reasoned and respectful discussion about this issue if you so desire.

Ixtelan's picture
Ixtelan
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Currently Chatting

The Ferguson Effect On Our Great Grand Children

A few weeks ago, Congressman Paul Ryan released his latest proposal for tackling America’s poverty epidemic. Unfortunately, the plan does very little to combat poverty in our country, and instead, continues the devastating austerity policies that Ryan himself helped to create. Thanks to those policies, entire communities across America are underwater, and struggling to survive in tough economic times.

Powered by Pressflow, an open source content management system