Consumptionomics

by Bryan Walker on May 1, 2012

Business pages don’t often carry articles about the need to forsake the growth model. I was somewhat startled to come across one prominent in the NZ Herald business supplement last week. Journalist Chris Barton wrote about the ideas of Chandran Nair, author of Consumptionomics and a speaker at this year’s Auckland Writers & Readers Festival There’s a Kindle edition of Consumptionomics so I was able to read it over the next couple of days, which I did with considerable interest.

Nair, a Malaysian of Indian descent, is founder and chief executive of the Asian think tank Global Institute for Tomorrow and writes for Asian audiences. His basic intent in Consumptionomics is to urge Asian countries not to follow the pattern of Western models of economic growth, consumption-driven and built on the exclusion of environmental and social costs.  While the West may have got thus far by leaving those costs out of account there is no way in which the much larger populations of Asia can aspire to the same kind of economic development. The economic model only more or less worked when a relatively small proportion of the world’s population was using it, and then only by excluding the long-term damage to the world’s environment which now confronts us. It is folly to think that consumption-driven capitalism can be realised across the vast populations of Asia. Instead he calls for sustainable ways of living which will pass on to future generations an environment with rainforests, with biodiversity, with adequate resources, with fish in the oceans, with cities that are a pleasure to live in and with a climate that is not running out of control.

Nair is not arguing for an end to capitalism, but rather for a strong state involvement and management which will prevent the excesses of consumption on which so many economies now depend. Indeed he sees Asia as well suited to freeing capitalism from its captivity to free market fundamentalists and ideologues. It is clearly impossible for all the inhabitants of Asia to live at affluent Western levels and maintain a liveable environment. As they embark on the task of lifting the standard of living of their citizens and banishing poverty they can take a path which will do this without destroying the natural resources on which human society depends.

Nair proposes three core tenets for Asian countries.

First is the recognition that resources are constrained, no matter how much Western economic models ignore that fact, and the corollary that economic activity must be subservient to maintaining the vitality of resources. Governments, not markets, should set the priorities.

Second, resource use must be equitable for current and future generations; collective welfare takes precedence over individual rights.

Third, resources must be repriced; productivity efforts should be focused on resources, not people. This means costs must be attached to emissions, and resources such as land and water must have prices that compel people to use them in sustainable fashion. Where necessary outright bans must be placed on the use of particular resources such as rainforests or fisheries threatened by depletion.

Nair sees broad-based carbon taxes as the first step. They would strongly encourage companies and individuals to use fewer resources and use them more efficiently. They would impact on transport costs, discouraging the production of goods flown in from around the world and encouraging manufacturing closer to its intended user. He favours at the same time the lowering of taxes on income or other labour charges, with the effect of encouraging the use of labour to enhance value and moving away from the emphasis on labour productivity that has dominated capitalism to date.

Reversing the industrialisation of agriculture figures high on his list of priorities. Taxes on water, chemicals, and emissions on the energy industrial agriculture requires, along with a proper pricing of the impact of run-offs and other pollutants would raise prices but would also encourage a greater use of labour to add value and reduce environmental damage.

On transport Nair writes of the need to provide people with mobility rather than the right to own and use private cars. So long as the external costs of car owning are not factored in, public transport is disadvantaged.

Under the kind of circumstances Nair outlines for Asian countries he envisages companies finding ways of extracting value from longer-lived goods, from services built around the performance of their goods rather than their sale, and from reselling and recycling their materials and components. It’s not an unfamiliar vision for those within Western societies who have challenged the notion of endless consumption-driven growth, but Nair’s sense of its strong relevance to the emerging economies of Asia brings freshness, and perhaps a touch of hope that is difficult to sustain living in the heart of Western economies where even the financial collapse of 2008 appears to have left the growth fetish unaffected.

Nair does not put much hope in global deals in the near future, and encourages Asian countries to act on their own account. He acknowledges the problems of unilateral action, but in the difficult years ahead considers it important for Asian countries that they not wait to put into effect policies that direct them away from the prevailing growth concepts. Nor is he too worried about democratic governance, noting that democracy in a weak state is no great advance if it is unable to provide the state management needed to restrain unfettered markets. Good governance can be delivered by means other than the package of beliefs advocated by Western liberal democracies. What is important in that Asian governments take hold of the task of putting a price on resource use in their own countries and educating their populations about the reasons for doing so.  He sees no reason to assume that turning away from unfettered markets will damage economic relations with other countries or mean an end to co-operation with other countries.

Yes, it means an interventionist state, though not nearly as interventionist as the state will be forced to become if the consequences of climate change and resource depletion are felt to their likely extent under the prevailing economic philosophy. Nair is careful to distinguish a strong state from an authoritarian state, and his support for state intervention comes with the stipulation that it is for the public good. He considers Western liberal democracy over-emphasises individual rights to the detriment of collective rights and is particularly critical of the pre-eminence of property rights on which Western capitalism is grounded.

Whether Asian countries will find a development path that eschews the market fundamentalism which holds the West in thrall remains to be seen, but it’s an intriguing prospect that Nair’s book points to, and one which he develops with satisfying complexity as his discussion proceeds. From a climate change perspective we have watched global forums stumble along for two decades making very little progress. Action by states independent enough to go ahead on their own account could open up possibilities which collectively we seem powerless to develop.

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

bill May 1, 2012 at 8:57 pm

Thanks Bryan – kindle edition duly snaffled! (Gotta love a format where books are cheaper than many magazines!)

pmagn May 1, 2012 at 11:58 pm

Omg… He’s an environmentalist!

Sounds interesting, Going to kingdle this book.

Gosman May 2, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Reads pretty much like the Socialist systems that failed over twenty years ago and which China and India abandoned for a version free market capitalism. That stated I do agree with his third point, although this currently can be managed within the current system. People can price the specific externalities and place a charge on the people who cause the issue.

I listened to him on Kim Hill last Saturday and he was very non-specific about how his system would actually work and also not entirely realististic of the problems his proposed solutions would have. For example if Asia decided to follow his presciptions it would be very easy for Western nations to offer the best and brightest, (much as it happens with Africa), inducements to leave and come live and work in the west. There would be a brain drain of talent and the West would benefit to the detriment of Asia.

In short there is nothing new in any of his ideas and it is highly unlikely that anybody would be foolish enough to try and implement these ideas on a mass scale.

Gosman May 2, 2012 at 3:19 pm

“Yes, it means an interventionist state, though not nearly as interventionist as the state will be forced to become if the consequences of climate change and resource depletion are felt to their likely extent under the prevailing economic philosophy. ”

This view is without foundation. There is nothing sugesting that a free market system cannot handle a resource depletion and transition. In fact it could be argued that it is one of the best approaches to take.

Bryan Walker May 2, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Gosman, thanks for drawing attention to the interview with Kim Hill which I was unaware of and have just enjoyed listening to. Here’s the link if any others are interested to listen – it’s 45 minutes long, but well worth the time.

I find your judgment of Nair’s position rather perverse. He specifically says he’s not advocating the abolition of capitalism or of markets. In reading the book and listening to the interview I certainly didn’t get the impression that he was wanting to return to central planning socialism. He’s arguing for a responsible role for the state in ensuring that markets don’t get away with using natural resources irresponsibly. There’s little sign to date that globalised free markets have the capacity within themselves to alter the disastrous course we are currently pursuing.

Gosman May 2, 2012 at 4:28 pm

He states he is not against the abolition of Capitalism, (I believe he mentions managed local markets), yet two of his three big ideas are essentially advocating this. The fact that is opposed to the Western liberal Democratic model and feels the State can play a more important role in allocating resources is evidence of this.

You should also have picked up in that interview that he was very evasive when Kim Hill pushed him on specifics. He didn’t seem to have much clue how his ‘hybrid’ system would work in practice. It is kind of ‘We’ll find out as we go along’ approach.

I will ask you are question though Bryan, I presume you are a lefty and like what say the Scandanavian countries are doing in relation to economics and the environment. Do you acknowledge that these countries qualify as liberal market democracies?

Bryan Walker May 2, 2012 at 5:45 pm

The Norwegian government’s refusal to interfere with Statoil’s heavy involvement in the Canadian tar sands venture is a good example of how a liberal market democracy, even one you no doubt regard as left-inclined, can fail to set proper limits to resource exploitation. As I understand it they defend their non-intervention on grounds that a company – even a 67%-owned state company – must be free to make its business decisions. Whether my own inclination is to the left or the right politically doesn’t seem to me to be very relevant to an issue as overwhelming as climate change.

Gosman May 2, 2012 at 6:29 pm

There’s the famous quote from Churchill which is appropriate here. Democracy is the worst system of Government other than all the other systems. What would you prefer to happen in Norway Bryan? People just do what is deemed to be in the ‘Common good’? Who determines this?

bill May 2, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Capitalism will have to either allow itself to be modified – in essence recreating much of the Keynesian interventionist program that the ‘great radical reaction’ from Reagan and Thatcher onwards has systematically demolished – or go under, at least in the relatively benign form you’d clearly prefer to imagine it wishes to exist. (i.e. in reality it will more-than-happily adapt to totalitarianism – see Chile, Argentina, China etc.)

And the longer it holds out the worse its going to be for all of us, Bryan’s point above.

Some tactical advice: if you’re going to join the Libertarian hysterics in reflexively labelling as ‘Social!sm’ any intervention in redressing the ills of the (alleged) Free Market you’re simply going to end up losing the debate. In this instance your tossing about casual defamations in order to dismiss ideas you don’t like the sound of out of hand is absurd – ‘reads pretty much like’ indeed!

In case you haven’t figured it out – and you apparently haven’t – most of the people you blithely label as Social!sts now generally agree with Žižek – ‘it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of Capitalism’*. Hence all the regulationist, interventionist, modified-market initiatives floating about, trying to take what flexibilities the system has and remould them to achieve goals somewhat greater than merely increasing shareholder value.

Labelling these programs as being identical to some Stalinist program’s ‘workers control of the means of production via an intellectual vanguard’s total dominance of a one party state’ is, simply, ridiculous, not to mention insulting to totalitarian Communism’s victims, and I’m tired of reading it from people who are actually bright enough to know better.

Becoming so wedded to an ideology that its survival as a ‘pure’ entity becomes more important to you than the welfare of the people it rides roughshod over is exactly the mistake the Communists made. Now it’s the Free Marketeers – or, at least, the idiot faction of them – who are doing it.

In fact, the idiots are now taking it one step further – the Market is Truth, it can cure all ills, and the biosphere is trivial, or easily fixed, or whatever. This is Stupid. As it gets.

In my view, Capitalism – particularly in its current hysteric, and, in the case of finance, more-or-less scam, phase – is the last of the great ‘isms’ that needs to be brought to heel in order to establish truly democratic and resilient societies. In the old Cold War zero-sum game this automatically made me ‘a Commie’. But that world is gone, and this is just more anachronistic Stupid.

*(The appalling reality is we may yet find out which is more likely!)

Gosman May 2, 2012 at 5:20 pm

I quite obviously disagree with this view. In my mind you don’t really understand, (same as Chandran Nair), what liberal market democracies are about and the great benefit of them over any Statist approach at dealing with problems. The fact that you state ‘Capitalism will have to either allow itself to be modified … or go under’ is evidence of this. What does that actually mean? Keynesian economics is just a minor variation on our current system and in fact much of the economic policy prescriptions followed by countries around the world would qualify as Keynesian in nature. Certainly the high levels of Government spending and quantitative easing followed by countries such as the US as a result of the GFC are more Keynesian in nature than Monatarist. So too was the Big Government policies pursued by the Bush administration.

Thomas May 2, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Gosman: Liberal capitalism is all about the right of the capital (those with the $$ you know) to do what they want in order to maximize their profit. It has worked a treat for them over the last decades as the wealth of the world has become in an unprecedented way concentrated in the hands of the chosen few and their offspring, borne with the gift of the golden spoon….
In the meanwhile we have ourselves a bit of a bother at our hands: The majority of people’s income has gone backwards despite working more than ever, for many work is a means of day to day survival, and as a civilization we staring at the hydra of environmental degradation and resource depletion, much of which is caused by our environmental liberalism towards allowing industries to externalize the cost of their actions (CO2 for example, many more to mention…) while walking away with the profits.
The existential issues we are facing this century are too big to be left to the “good will” of the rich kids to solve. They have to be addressed systematically and with – if necessary – enforced cooperation of all of us, especially those who have the means to direct things going into the right direction.
The old idea that somehow good tidings will trickle down from the heavens if we just allow a free for all market to reign is dead. The hysterical attempts by the right wing to justify their agenda is risible. The people in the age of the Internet will not be duped for ever.

Gosman May 2, 2012 at 6:43 pm

I disagree with you. People’s living standards have increased immensely over the past few decades in the West and in a growing number of countries around the world. Name me a significant proportion of society who doesn’t have access to mobile phone and the internet for example. Even the poorest in West do. My kids school have computers that even the richest families could only dream of when I was at school. China and to an extent India are dragging themselves out from the levels of absolute poverty they were mired in post WWII and before. We may be becoming more unequal that doesn’t mean people are becoming poorer in absolute terms.

Thomas May 2, 2012 at 7:42 pm

We see the world though different lenses then. I presume you Gosman are stuck with your vision behind the sheltered walls of you own privileged existence. There is another world out there though. If you dare to look….
http://www.stwr.org/poverty-inequality/global-inequality.html

Meanwhile those who sit at the top of the heap wonder if they should thicken the armor plating on the escape sub from their mega yacht or put some more walls around their 45,000 Ha survival plot in Paraguay for the times when the proverbial will hit the wall, guarded by some well paid ex special ops guys…
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/05/02/507485/-Bush-Buys-Ranch-in-Paraguay-Planning-Escape-

Gosman May 2, 2012 at 7:51 pm

You do acknowledge that human wealth and well being have increased dramatically since global free trade and free markets took off in the past 250 years don’t you? Do you acknowledge that even the poorest New Zealander has a living standard that the wealthiest landowner in England in the 18th Century could hope for? This is why I get sick of people bleating on about poverty in NZ and other places when if you compared it to real poverty, (such as in most of Sub-Saharan Africa), it is just not in the same ball park. Then you realise why Africa is so poor. It is largely outside the global free trade system.

Thomas May 2, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Gosman, of cause human living standards have increased of the last 250 years dramatically, especially in the privileged Western societies. That is NOT the question. The question is: Can we go on with the current model of a capitalist system?
The current model of the capitalist system is based on two unsustainable constructs: 1) Exponential growth, which is required to pay the interest on the capital made available by those who have it or those who generate it…
2) The availability of resources and sinks in the ecosystem to sustain that growth.
The last 250 years humanity expanded into the untapped resources of the planet. We have reached the end of that epoch. Many resources are close to depletion when compared to current rates of extraction – this includes resources of the biosphere was well as the ability of the biosphere to manage with the detritus of our actions.
Without 1) and 2) the profit driven march of the capitalist system morphs from an exponential growth fiesta (where even the little guys catch some yummy morsels dropping from above) to a game of musical chairs (another word for Ponzi scheme).
Humanity is in desperate need to come up with a more intelligent and cooperative system than what we had in the past centuries.
The question is NOT whether we should adopt another extreme as your much cited Stalinism straw-man, but if we can transform our societies into being responsible and forward looking and into valuing the quality of life of our descendants and the health of the planet that sustains us.
The old capitalist model is dead. Those who defend it blindly have become irrelevant.

Gosman May 2, 2012 at 10:49 pm

You are quite wrong on your view about what Capitalism is based on.

Capitalism doesn’t rely on growth. It simply encourages it. Our modern society probably relies on it but that is more of a factor of the fact that we have a growing amount of non-productive people that the productive have to support. Just think about the large numbers of elderly that are going to retire over the next few decades. If there is no growth then there is a reduced ability for the State to pay for them.

Growth is not dependent on availability of resources. Indeed scarcity of resources is often the best catalyst for innovation, which growth does rely on ultimately.

This whole section is meaningless gobbledegook:

“The question is NOT whether we should adopt another extreme as your much cited Stalinism straw-man, but if we can transform our societies into being responsible and forward looking and into valuing the quality of life of our descendants and the health of the planet that sustains us.”

What does that mean beyond your wish for some utopian world where everyon gets along? I could equally state that we need to build a base on the moon. While completely unrealistic it is at least a concrete goal.

There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of free market Economics from some people here. I highly recommend you read a commentry of Adam Smith’s works. The basic principles aren’t difficult to grasp.

Thomas May 3, 2012 at 8:00 am

Gosman, I think you need to start opening your eyes a bit wider…. Perhaps the blinkers will one day come off.

Gosman May 3, 2012 at 8:44 am

I could equally argue the same with you Thomas. You see I at least know a system that is practical. All I’m seeing so far as an alternative is pie in the sky Utopian visions with no specifics behind them.

Perhaps you would be so kind as to explain how aspects of it would work and what the differences is between what is being proposed and previous efforts at controlling the economy centrally.

That is what Kim Hill was getting frustrated with Chandran Nair during the interview. It is easy to point out flaws in something but much harder to articulate a practical alternatives which also do not have flaws, many of which could be much worse.

andyS May 3, 2012 at 8:55 am

Thomas, remind us again which economic model allowed you to trade yourself to wealth and move to a boutique lifestyle in NZ?

Would you prefer you be tilling the soil under a communist regime in East Germany?

Gosman May 3, 2012 at 9:10 am

The thing is AndyS, people like Thomas bemoan free market capitalism AND centralised State controlled Socialism but don’t realise that pretty much that is all there is. Sure you can have variations on a theme like strong regulations under capitalism or more decentralised decision making by worker councils under Socialism but the fundamentals remain the same.

bill May 2, 2012 at 9:12 pm

I’m actually relieved to hear you describing Keynesianism as ‘a minor variation on our current system’ for 2 reasons, Gosman.

One: this indicates that you are sane, and actually conservative. Solutions to problems can be found in negotiation with such people. There are far too many for whom, however – and we encounter them in this debate all the time – the hated New Deal was Stalinism and Barack Obama is a species of Commun!st. Extraordinarily, they seem to actually believe it…

Two: we can now wonder why Nair’s ideas are so offensive to you since they clearly are far closer to Keynes than Stalin. It would appear to me on the basis of the precis above that he really wants to bring all the ‘externalities’ in to account, an action you should approve of, surely? Can you really object to the notion that the interests of future generations must be accounted for in allocating resources?

Gosman May 2, 2012 at 9:26 pm

They aren’t closer to Keynes. Keynes was a traditional Western economist. The difference between Keynes and say Friedman was where they saw the optimal driving source of the Economy. Keynes was a demand side economist, i.e. he saw consumption as being important in maximising the economic potential. This flies in the face of Nair’s ideas where restrictions are placed on the economy to reduce it’s potential and consumption is to be positively discouraged via a strong centralised state.

Thomas May 3, 2012 at 8:07 am

You simply are mentally stuck Gosman: It is not Nair or anybody else who is artificially wanting to put “restrictions” on the economy. Its the laws of Physics! Its the simple fact that there are significant implications when you bump against the capacity of your underlying physical reality to provide resources and remove the detritus of civilization.

What Nair and many sane people are saying is that it is about time we wake up from our growth intoxicated daze and come to terms with reality. The dinosaur economic theories of the industrial revolution times are toast. The debate is rapidly moving on and those who don’t get it will become irrelevant as Nair clearly pointed out.

Gosman May 3, 2012 at 9:06 am

I am truly amazed at your lack of fundamental understanding about market economics. It disturbs me that someone as obviously bright as you cannot grasp it’s rather simple concepts.

Market economics is all about scarcity. The scarcer something is the more valuable it tends to get. It why there isn’t really a market for something which is in abundance like Air or Salt Water in the middle of the ocean. However if people go to the moon there will be a market for air even though none exists. There is also likely to be a market for Salt water in places that don’t have it.

I would strongly recommend you take the time to do some reading on the subject before you criticise it and recommend a different system.

Gosman May 3, 2012 at 8:47 am

It is quite obvious you really don’t understand economics at all. Have you read anything on ‘The wealth of nations’ by Adam Smith? Try and understand what a market actually is and work it from there.

Macro May 3, 2012 at 9:30 pm

As a matter of principal I no longer choose to discuss on this forum with the sophist Gosman, so I leave a general comment for the casual reader.
I notice Gosman has challenged others to read about Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations”.
It’s about time he and the others of his ilk started to read a little more widely! His past contributions on here display a complete lack of understanding of even the basic principles of physical reality (as noted by Thomas).
As for his pontifications regarding economic theory (actually failed neo-liberal economic theory) I suggest he take some time to read “The Wealth of Nations” himself – not some biased commentary, which he obviously has. And if by chance he has read the book in the original, then I suggest he read it a little more carefully this time. I think he might find, that it does not actually say what he think it does. Smith is a little more perceptive with regards to the limits of growth than he is, despite the fact that Smith lived in a time when there seemed no bounds to unfettered expansion. Gosman might also note, that Smith has something to say on the limitations of capital, and he might consider, compare, and contrast what Smith has to say with the conditions of the western economic system today, where increased capitalization results in declining returns as the limits of growth are approached.
Having said all that, the fundamental issue is that unfettered capitalism, based on human greed, (which over the past 50 years has been transformed into consumerism) has got us where we are today. Gosman takes the line that this is all to the good, because some of us are better housed etc than were were in the past.
Others with a wider perspective might see that a world in which large quantities of fossilized carbon are being released into the atmosphere at an ever increasing rate. They then look at the consequences:
species extinction at a rate never seen before,
the oceans more acidic than they have been in 25 million years, increasing extreme weather events,
sea levels rising at a rate not seen for 12000 years,
human habitats under threat from increasing drought,
to name but a few. They wonder if this is the world they want to pass on to their children and grandchildren. All for the sake of an economic theory that benefits the few, at the expense of the many.

Gosman May 3, 2012 at 11:01 pm

States the man using the tools granted to him by that same free market system he bemoans. Perhaps ypu would prefer to use tools more suited to the pre-industrial age such as letters, which take weeks to reach the intended recipients.

In case you missed the topic of this thread Macro, it is all about economics. The author of the book acknowledges the fact he isn’t an economist and it is quite obvious he doesn’t understand basic economic principles.

If you don’t wish to discuss the issues surrounding this then it is your choice but simply attacking me personally is hardly going to change those facts.

Gosman May 3, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Smith’s strengths was in his analysis of the economic situation he lived in. In that he correctly identified the benefits of free markets and individual choice.

As with most people trying to predict the future he seriously underestimated the power of innovation and failed to see that increased wealth would lead to steady or even falling populations. Poverty, on the other hand, leads to increased population pressure not wealth unless culled naturally by natue.

Good to see you picking and choosing the points to suit your arguments. Perhaps you would bother dealing with the central point about the lack of understanding of markets by people like Chandran Nair,

Gosman May 4, 2012 at 8:28 am

Macro’s unwillingness to engage in debate on this important issue raises a serious problem with the campaign to tackle AGM. What is happening is people from both sides are essentially preaching to the converted and to a diminishing middle ground of undecided. At which point views become solidified and unmoving. This is a perfect recipe for policy gridlock and is what you are currently seeing at the moment.

I am also perplexed by Macro’s position to not engage in serious discussion about alternative economic systems. When it comes down to it my view represents the mainstream position and his view is a minorit . His position seems to be ‘I’m right so I don’t need to bother trying to convince anybody I’m right even though most of you don’t agree with me I’m still right and will be eventually proved right’.

People sharing the majority dominant view can afford to ignore others and not engage. People with minority views trying to get them accepted by a wider audience who follow this path make slow progress indeed. Fascinating logic indeed.

andyS May 4, 2012 at 8:37 am

The problem for 99% of the world is that they are not wringing their hands over their consumption but just trying to make ends meet and put bread on the table. You will never win the argument by telling people they need to consume less.

We can solve our energy needs by investing in a rapid switch to Thorium or other promising nuclear technologies. This would put to bed the fossil fuel issue forever and provide humanity with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy and wealth.

There is a political resistance to this because wealth and independence is anathema to those who wish to control and regulate our lives.

Gosman May 4, 2012 at 8:50 am

The arguments put forward by people like Macro are variations of White middle class liberal guilt that Western society has suffered from for the past 30 or 40 years. While there are some benefits from acknowledging past wrongs and trying to right them it becomes almost ritualised self abuse after a while and is a big turn off to many. You aren’t going to convince a heck of a load of people to change by constantly telling them how bad they have been.

noelfuller May 2, 2012 at 7:09 pm

I have listened to Kim Hill’s interview. I was amused at the way she appeared to be struggling with his concepts causing Nair to remark that Asians understand what he is saying quite readily. Also in the above comments we have an example of a person who cannot stand aside from the straightjacket of the failed western model. Me I’ve been rebelling against consumerism since I became aware of it 50 years ago. I’m very happy Nair has given us something to think about. My current agro and symbol is the way supermarkets and their suppliers try to increase consumption with their strategies. I only buy vogels Very Thin sliced bread which used to be the normal thickness. I see other customers with the same views. Then there are the cordless tools that have to be completely replaced when the batteries fail …I’ll dismantle a battery and use it to plug in my solar PV power – no longer cordless :(. I wonder if Nair has considered that vegans by being vegans, probably with their own gardens, are failing to support consumptionomics? :)
Now to purchase that second water tank.

Noel

Gosman May 2, 2012 at 7:29 pm

Good for you. You are free (operative word here) to decide to opt out. It is when you attempt to stop others from following what they want to do that the problem arises. By all means try and convince them but as soon as you use force you lose your moral authority.

andyS May 3, 2012 at 7:47 am

Thin sliced bread will save the planet.
That man deserves a DB

CTG May 3, 2012 at 7:39 am

It must be so lonely for you up there on that moral high ground all by yourself, Gosman.

Tell me, who has the moral authority when individual actions are contrary to the common good? For example, say all the individuals of a society were free to purchase a particular commodity, but if every individual did actually buy that commodity, it would cause a catastrophic collapse of the society. One individual recognises the risk, and tells the others to stop buying the commodity. In your world, apparently this individual is an evil communist, whereas the other consumers heading their society towards oblivion have the moral authority.

Gosman May 3, 2012 at 9:18 am

I didn’t state that view at all. It is all about pricing externalities, which the market doesn’t do very well at all. I have no problem with mechanisms in place to manage externalities (e.g. via taxes or via education).

It is when people claim the costs of externalities are simply so great that we must forbid doing that thing entirely that I have a problem with. Forbidding something rarely stops it from happening.

There IS a case to be made to forbid, (or at least severly restrict), certain economic activities but generally the fewer activites this is done for the better. It is also a good idea if people take into account the negative consequences of doing so as well. No policy presciption is purely win-win.

noelfuller May 3, 2012 at 8:26 am

andyS How strange that you so completely missed the meaning of my comment. It must make communication difficult.

Noel

andyS May 3, 2012 at 8:27 am
Gosman May 3, 2012 at 8:51 am

Your comment just served to highlight how you don’t understand the problem very well. Noone is stopping you from expressing a preference for anything including thin sliced bread. If enough people thought the same way then someone will make and sell you what you want. However if you mandate that your preferences are the only ones that is where you cause problems.

Gosman May 3, 2012 at 10:23 am

To illustrate the problems with Chandran Nair,ideas let’s just look at one area that he states might be a policy for his system. He mentoned on Kim Hill about possibly banning the private ownership of motor vehicles in large areas of Asia. So how would that work in practice?

andyS May 3, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Given that a large percentage of cars are made in Asia this policy seems a little fanciful.

It does rather favour the city dwellers too.
In fact, I have lived in many cities (Oslo and London for example) where a car is unnecessary.

As soon as you get away from the main population centres, this becomes a major problem. The private vehicle is by far and away the most efficient way to transport yourself (even if it is a bicycle)

Gosman May 3, 2012 at 11:12 pm

There’s all sorts of distortions that this would cause. Just imagine the inflluence of those lucky few allowed access to motor vehicles under his system. It would be a recipe for corruption.

noelfuller May 3, 2012 at 11:24 pm

Thanks for that Macro. The connection between consumption and the
generation of greenhouse gasses is rather strikingly demonstrated
in a graph from the University of Michigan study
here
We’ve known this all along but still the plot is worth examination
with Nair’s ideas in mind.

Noel

Gosman May 4, 2012 at 5:31 am

Ummmm…. the article you linked did not mention consumption at all. It did mention economic growth, although it didn’t really go into detail about the type of economic activity contributing to the rise.in CO2. However you don’t seem to realise the implications of what you argue. Try and argue that people should become substantiatlly poorer to save the planet and see where that gets you. You think the moribund post Kyoto processs at trying to get a deal on dealing with climate change is slow and painful. Is this the best the AGW activist community can offer – We are all doomed unless we all adopt post apocolyptic survival strategies. I would like to think that people can be offered slightly more and better options than that.

Gosman May 4, 2012 at 8:58 am

Let’s postulate a theoretical political system to demonstrate why it is virtually impossible to implement ideas like this on a global scale.

Imagine a society that many people have decided it is important to redistribute wealth and resources so all people have a more equal share. Imagine that, instead of one man one vote for a central government, each significant income group, (poor, lower middle, middle, upper middle, wealthy), vote for their own government that looked after their own interests. The only way that the people wanting more equal income distribution would be to convince each group of the benefits of their ideas.

Can you see where the problem lies? Why would the wealthy and upper middle governments deliberately make the people under their care poorer? Do you think the only way is to scare them into doing this?

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