Friday, October 20, 2017

A bit more on left theses

Back in July, Bruce Wilder wrote a comment in reply to the post below. I wrote an answer which promptly and discouragingly got lost, but I'll write a bit more now, as well as some replies to other comments.

First, on fatuousness. Ideology is supposed to be more or less fatuous. What we need now is a system of belief that is actually widely believed: I wrote it as an outline because I think that those are the major elements that are required. Going into too much justification doesn't help. The "predictably produces" bit wasn't meant to be a claim of historical inevitability, only an observation that whatever supposedly differing choices are being made in different places now are leading to the same outcome everywhere.

The main point I'd make in reply is that ecological value can't really be our gold, because it's not tradable or exchangeable. Human work can not replace or make up for ecological work. If the reports of 75% of insect biomass going away are accurate and represent a widespread rather than local effect, there's no way we can work to make up for that, no way we can say that we'll exchange lower insect biomass for greater something else. We can try to stop doing whatever we're doing that's causing that effect, but that isn't an exchange: it's us trying to get out of the way of a disaster. Even in less fraught circumstances, you can't do things like say that we'll make up for taking more from an ecosystem over here by taking less over there: ecosystems don't generally work that way.

Money does loosely coordinate over scale, but that mechanism is exactly one of the things we should give up. The coordination is not very loose, as evidenced by the observation that we're in a world-system that is producing the same results everywhere despite local differences.

What would coordinate? Culture, essentially. The post below has a heading for "Societal values" where I was going to write something about how you can't very well have an anarchistic system (which this would be) unless people widely believe in it. The chicken-and-egg problem of how this would come about is best handled elsewhere, but cultural values are coordination over large distances.

Lastly there was another comment about how the left is based on universalist grounds... I don't see what can be more universal than the fact that we all live on and depend on a single planet whose systems are increasingly stressed by all of us. That is why US style "libertarianism" -- not liberators socialism, but the right-wing version -- is so attracted to science fictional dreams. Elon Musk describes his position as "I'm somewhere in the middle, socially liberal and fiscally conservative" and so can be taken as a representative of a type, and he would like Mars colonies. Why? Because that really is the only way to separate oneself from the universal community at this point.

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