OECD predicts collapse of capitalism


As former CIBC economist and oil industry analyst Jeff Rubin argues, (and I think convincingly) in THE END OF GROWTH, that we are seeing low growth because of high peak oil prices (they are at least 4-5x what they were a decade ago). He also points out it is not necessarily a bad thing - in that it tends to make people focus on local economies, and while I think that so much of growth of the past 200 years has been about making stuff for other people to buy - and it has raised our living standards, we are seeing movement away from throw-away over-consumption, characterized by the rise of the slow-food and maker & crafts movements. Getting a car has been a right of passage for young people for decades but since 2007 when US auto sales peaked at 17 million and have since declined to (about 12million) at the same time we are seeing huge growth in club cars etc. I think things are slowly changing.


What gives you that idea?

The first thing I dug up about the OECD doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in your opinion…


Actually, it’s already happening.

As costs of production fall across numerous industries, consumer price inflation is fragmenting across the end product ranges that we buy.

It’s something that foxes economists, pundits and bankers. Precisely because it’s the very, very last thing they want to happen.

The concept of GDP and the associated indices and metrics were very prevalent in the wake of Adam Smith; yet they’re only suited to industrialised economies, and can only use money as a proxy for measuring what’s truly happening - the transfer of goods and services around the economy.

There is no realistic way to put a common denominator value on everything, so essentially, the whole thing’s an illusion - but an illusion that causes people to lose their houses and so on.


I’m confused. The article you linked to is about an OECD proposal to form a worldwide agreement between governments to favor particular corporations. In what way is that “pro-market”? A pro-market stance would argue for removing the existing trade restrictions - nothing more. You seem to be confusing crony capitalism with the market.


Like some folks confuse socialism with totalitarianism?

‘Pro-market’ is a term overwhelmingly used in the euphemistic sense I assumed you employed; for all the world it looked as if you were claiming the OECD aren’t a pack of neo-liberal scumbags.

I think it’s safe to consign ‘pro-market’ to the dirty words list.

Besides, at the end of the day there isn’t a lot of daylight between the two concepts; after all, r>g.


Of course, because so much of how the modern world runs is based on petroleum-- every product brought to market needs fuel to get there, and the fuel of choice is in limited supply (and will run out someday)-- this should be the big selling point for renewable energy.

I would like to think that one could sell renewable energy to conservatives on this idea of “it helps the economy” (clearly global warming, pollution and national security aren’t good enough reasons to ditch fossil fuels as far as they are concerned), but then I think they need to economy to be bad so they can pitch austerity and tax cuts as the only cure.


I haven’t read The End of Growth, but if I get a chance I’ll take a look. There’s always the question of which end is pushing the string and which is pulling, i.e., major price shocks of any kind will test whether an economy is ready for a correction.

Either way, it gives even more reasons to move away from oil .


In thirty years as James Burke predicts - we might have a solution that will turn worlds economy upside down. We will all have personal nano-factories which (as Richard Feynman postulated in ‘plenty of room at the bottom’) will be able to manufacture anything you want - gold, the Mona Lisa, a bottle of chardonnay etc. if it is made up of molecules (and what isnt?) it can be manufactured.
ANd Nano-technology is proceeding at a rapid scale.
(Just out of curiousity you can read papers (by serious scientists) right now that discuss the effect of personal nanofactories on the economy - what will it mean when you can manufacture your own food?
What effect will this have on the concept of work? We are so used to economies of scarcity rather than abundance.


The recessions are entirely predictable - they’re driven by liquidity crunches.

Oil price goes high too? That’ll be the oil-producing nations cashing in before the customers stop knocking at the door.


In the end everything comes down to energy. Since the price of oil is inelastic - unlike so many other resources if the price goes up we cannot just reduce our use because there really are no alternatives. At some point however there may be a tipping point say to electric cars if we can figure out the storage problem. And solar power in some areas such as Australia and the southwest US is actually more competitive than coal making the utilities antsy with people who are switching to solar.

Elon Musk, who is also co-founder of solar city is talking about building two giga-factories larger than any other factories in the world to make electric batteries. Note that this would also be useful not for electric car owners but solar power users.

Then again it might come from left field with synthetic biology - George Church in Regenesis writes about looking at the extra c02 (from fossil fuels in the atmosphere) and using it as a feedstock for e-coli that could generate bio-diesel - apparently it is supposed to be competitive with oil at $30? a barrel (I’m guessing) but I don’t think the oil industry should count on continuous growth. Even now
many coal mines are being shut down because China has started cracking down on coal power plants and the price of coal has plummeted. As a Canadian we are always hearing about the Alberta oil industry but it is also very expensive to extract and some big players are shutting down projects because so much of it depends on getting the world price - and yet there are few pipelines available (and much opposition rightfully) to take advantage of it.


Really? I’d love it if it were true.


A company was getting a patent for this a few years ago but then nothing seemed to come of it. I wonder if they didn’t really get it to work, if they were planning on just trolling with that patent, or if they were bought by a larger company that didn’t want the competition.

See Joule Unlimited - biodiesel from e-coli

Call me a traditionalist, but if you’re going to talk about the centerpiece of the French Revolution, let’s not use the 'Murican spelling, mkay? :wink:


The conservatives with money (and thus power) are heavily invested in oil and gas. Why would they want to help the long term economy of other people instead of the immediate economy of their own bank accounts?


I occasionally fantasize about some geeks at MIT, or some guy in his garage, coming up with a design for an electric motor and battery pack that could be fitted into lots of different makes of automobiles, and suddenly everyone is modding their cars to run on electricity for really cheap, the price of gas comes down (and then the oil companies create some “public interest” group to halt this due to some kind of invented public safety concern.)

I imagine something like this already exists, but isn’t cost-effective or efficient enough to make it worthwhile. The idea of everyone having a helio-electric array, or wind turbine that pumps energy back into the grid, or into you car (or generates H2 for fuel cells) is another idea like that. And it’s not so far-fetched, it just needs to spread like a virus, the kind of thing that takes off and can’t be stopped once enough people are doing it.


Yeah, biotech can be very alluring but I don’t know the details. I mean, if you could somehow engineer bacteria that eat CO2 and sunlight and poop out gasoline then couldn’t you just put them in a massive dish and they would grow all by themselves? It seems simple, but apparently when people came up with nuclear power they thought it would be so cheap to produce that they’d pretty much just be giving it away. Reality hits you hard sometimes.

Still, I fantasize that the problem is the patent system or wealthy suppression of inconvenient technologies. I mean it could be, right?


Yes! That is the whole purpose of humanity. This is why we use the colloquialism “what are you worth” when discussing someone’s assets. The extent to which life is a zero-sum game then necessitates cruelty to others, to better oneself. The purpose of a ‘successful’ life is to maximise profit, and thus success can only be achieved through the process of crushing other, less ‘successful’ people.


I am nursing a thought along these lines. Floating “green crude” factories. A master ship (or a few, in order to have backups) that houses separators, rudimentary refinery, bioplastic production using the refinery output as feedstock, and a 3D printer.

Sail to the high seas. Print large flat pontoons that float in an array around the master ship, possibly as shallow pools or as meanders of channels, and grow algae in them. Use a semipermeable bottom for exchange of nutrients with seawater.

And run autonomously for years, print new pontoons as needed to expand production or to replace damaged/broken ones, and print single-use transport minitankers to send the surplus production to shore where full-scale refineries are, preferably using natural currents or tugboats. If the green crude is biodegradable, eventual inevitable spills are pretty much inconsequential.

High-protein biomass is a byproduct that can be potentially used for feeding farmed fish. Alternatively, the algae can be gene-engineered to enhance or create selective phytoextraction traits, to bioaccumulate certain elements (gold, uranium, nickel…) from seawater (“mining” from seawater is possible), and then the byproduct contains preconcentrated metals and can be used as an ore, or the metals can be concentrated in the crude and then harvested in the on-shore refinery. (Or exclude or neutralize some known toxins, so the protein fish-feed can be used even from farms in contaminated areas.)

Not exactly a self-replicating system, but something on the way there.


In my opinion these facts are very true


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