Price System Death Spiral
- The Northwest Technocrat, Vol. 56, issue 335, 2nd quarter 1994
People never change their social system for light reasons. They must be convinced beyond any shadow of doubt that the system they currently have will not work and cannot be fixed. Quite possibly the number one motto of the human race is “if it isn't broke, don't fix it". This reasoning is an important human biological defense mechanism. Had the human race gone through its existence jumping from one thing to another because it seemed like a good idea at the time, chances are we would not be here now looking at these words.
The real question is "just how much pain is required to convince people that the system needs to be replaced?" By observation of such situations the answer seems to be - quite a bit. The demise of the bureaucratic socialist regimes of Eastern Europe has drawn many to the conclusion that the "free" enterprise system really is the best system after all. But many more sober observers can only conclude that the market system or more accurately, price system on North America cannot be far behind. For over sixty years Technocracy Inc. has been stating that the forces of applied technology and the energy that runs the technology would inevitably force the collapse of the price system on the North American continent.
The price system was designed some seven thousand years ago under very different conditions than those of today. Such a system works quite well in an agrarian society. In 1830 seventy percent of the U.S. population lived and worked in agriculture directly or indirectly. Life for the upper classes was pleasant enough while harsh and austere for those in the lower classes. The same system has been distorted in highly destructive directions by the forces of applied technology and energy.
As more technology is applied the errors generated by a social system out of control increase proportionally. The small fraction of the population that actually runs the society is concerned only with its own interest and it equates those interests with the interests of the whole society. The governing attitude is that as long as those with money are happy all is well with society. If statistics don't seem to bear this out then the statistics are simply changed or the facts are ignored.
Those who control the society are deeply afraid of any group offering a different point of view that contradicts their own view of society. They go to great lengths to ensure that the viewpoints they propound are the only ones heard. It is important to realize that these people are trapped in a prison of their own making. Ignoring the facts will not change them. The forces of social change are not driven by opinion but by the relentless force of applied technology. Enforcing ignorance of the direction our social system is moving only guarantees that social change will be more difficult and dangerous.
Those in charge of the system seem to have completely lost control of it. The national debt is expanding exponentially which will shortly financially destabilize the system, possibly destroying it once and for all. The savings and loan crisis is instructive. Despite ten years of warning and many valiant efforts by people who could see what was coming nothing was done to avert the collapse of these institutions. The cost to each U.S. citizen will be about two thousand dollars. This was a crisis that was generated out of simple incompetence on the part the governing bodies of the social system. One can rest assured that many of those same people who generated this giant fraud will also profit mightily from it.
Industries have now gone international. Automobiles are assembled from parts made all over the world. Personal computers have always been made this way. Industries migrate to where labor costs are lowest and environmental regulations unheard of or un-enforced if they do exist. The theory goes that people in these regions will be economically uplifted by the jobs provided and will increase their spending, raising everyone's standard of living. What actually occurs is that wages are so minimal that only the barest survival is possible and the work is so harsh that workers are quickly exhausted. The industries destroy the environment and the people of the region, take the profits, and move on.
A plague of locust has stood as a symbol for devastation throughout written history but it is certainly no worse than a plague of humans. Today soil is being destroyed or degraded at the fastest rate in history. It is hard to imagine any resource more important to human existence than soil with the exception of air and fresh water. Without soil there will be no food. With the human population of the earth heading toward the five billion mark it can be stated with certainty that if food production cannot be maintained, a disaster awaits.
Soil is being eroded the fastest in areas that have the highest population densities and where the people are poorest. The reason for this is that when people are that poor they have no time for the consideration of anything but the next meal. If the result of them getting their next meal is further degradation of the soil that produced the meal then that is too bad. Systems analysts like to call such a system positive feedback. The worse things become the more incentive there is for making them still worse. This is a self accelerating catastrophe.
The wealthy nations for years have been, and still are, pouring tons of pesticides on their crops to protect them from the ravages of insects, with typical shortsightedness, arrogantly assuming that the only enemy was the bugs. It is now known that one gram of ordinary agricultural soil contains: one hundred million individual bacteria, fifty to one hundred fifty meters of fungal material, ten thousand to one hundred thousand protozoa, and five to two thousand nematodes (Oregon Scientist Fall 1993). Pesticides and herbicides are making the soil sterile, while at the same time poisoning our water supplies.
Fresh water constitutes only three percent of the world's water. Most of the earth's fresh water rivers are used as open sewers. Reversing this is expensive and time consuming. Point sources of pollution such as industrial plants are easy to see. But run-off from polluted farm land is far more difficult to deal with.
Ground water that took centuries to accumulate is being drawn down at staggering rates. Vast tracts of land that now produce food will be forced out of production as that water dries up. Some sixty years ago Technocracy Inc. offered a Continental Hydrology plan that among many other benefits would help to recharge the ground water losses and preserve our fresh water resources. But the price system is not interested in plans that do not produce immediate profit for private enterprise. When the last well has run dry where will the profiteers go next?
Many negative environmental impacts have occurred from building dams, but none of these need have occurred with proper planning. The overriding criteria in the application of all technology is how can the most money be made, not how can this be put to the best use. When money is the governing criteria rather than people, a good outcome is just a lucky accident. That does not mean the technology is bad, it means that it was improperly applied.
Garbage has piled up into a national nuisance and new garbage dumps are only welcome in the poorest of communities where that is the only source of income. In Mexico City it sometimes "rains" dry snow consisting of human fecal matter (The Population Explosion by P. & A. Ehrlich). Garbage burners poorly designed and poorly controlled pollute the air with poisonous effluent.
There is the very real possibility that, as population pressures continue to mount, all negative environmental impacts could peak at nearly the same time, causing a sudden large reduction in the food supply across the entire world. The result would be similar to what is now occurring in sub-Saharan Africa: Millions of refugees pouring across borders to other countries that are no better off. The impact on the social fabric would be nearly immediate, massive, and drastic.
The impacts of social decay are reflected in a rapidly rising crime rate. Jails fill to overflowing on a regular basis and are forced to release criminals back into the street having served little or no time. In Portland, Oregon tickets are passed out for stealing a car. Virtually no police time is allotted to the matter. Citizens are instructed to deal with the problem themselves. Murder has become a commonplace event. Not only are the streets not safe, but people are not safe in their own homes. The United States has more people in prison than any other country in the world and the level of crime is higher than any other.
If there is one relationship that has been thoroughly explored, it is the relation between crime and economics. As economic pressures increase so does crime. Threatening people with harsh sentences is meaningless to someone who is hungry. Criminal activity is generated by hopelessness and despair.
Youth gangs now infiltrate every segment of society in every community. They can see no future for themselves in legitimate society and have given up even trying. Most have little or no education thus guaranteeing no future, assuming one was available. Many have consigned themselves to living short fast lives in the drug trade. In the U.S. twenty percent of all children go to bed hungry at night. The U.S. standard of prenatal care is the worst of all the industrialized countries. This guarantees a large number of people who will be dependent on society for the rest of their lives. Apparently the world’s richest country has no money for its children.
Slavery is increasing across the entire planet as the number of people increases beyond the ability of the society to absorb them. Slavery is now rapidly increasing in all nations. The value placed on human life is headed toward a new low. Life is so bad for some of these people that even the alternative of being sold into slavery doesn't seem so bad. One can't also help but wonder at what kind of people employ slaves. This is, of course, the end of the search for the ultimate in low cost labor for international business in labor intensive industries.
As economic conditions worsen tensions between different groups of people will rise. Racism and intolerance for others will increase. Hate groups will gain strength. This is fueled by ignorance, fear, and intolerance. But at the root of all such problems is economic insecurity.
Technocracy Inc. has pointed out for years that it doesn't have to be this way. The collapse of the price system is the greatest opportunity for human advancement in the last seven thousand years. Technocracy has done no more than state the obvious. If the price system is collapsing, then we will have to find a way to organize a society on a non price basis. Technocracy Inc. offers such a plan for the North American Continent. Technocracy is willing to bet that North Americans will not voluntarily starve to death in the middle of the world’s greatest supermarket.
It is important to understand that human freedom is not guaranteed by the words written on some piece of paper, no matter how wonderfully phrased or solemnly sworn to by any number of people. There is nothing wrong with such declarations as an indication of intent or of an ideal to be desired. The only real guarantee of human freedom that is at all meaningful is the lack of a reason to restrict it. As long as a price system exists people will be bought and sold just like any other commodity. People are not inherently evil but some of the rules that they are forced to operate under make it impossible to be otherwise. Change the rules and you change the people.
That small fraction of the population that controls our society has decided that it alone has the right to determine the direction of the whole society. Not too surprisingly, this consists of them continuing to do what they have been doing, only more of it. It is this mysterious "they" who decide what the whole society is to think and what ideas are fit for public consumption. Today, twenty six or fewer giant corporations control virtually all the mass media of communication in the U.S. (Who Will Tell The People by William Greider) this control is subtle but highly effective - anyone who doesn't have the "right" ideas has no access to the media.
It is the vain hope of such people that by ignoring ideas they dislike any social change can be prevented. (The Culture of Contentment by J.K. Galbraith) They are wrong of course. Many of the great philosophers have noted the value of freedom of speech and thought but one doesn't have to appeal to such. If it is possible for humanity to lay claim to superiority among the animals it is the use of the human brain. In order for that to be truly effective there must be a free flow of ideas available to be pondered, debated, and altered to fit new circumstance, examined and finally accepted or rejected for valid reasons. Without a free flow of ideas humanity is little better that a mammalian anthill following its leaders in whatever direction they choose. At the moment those leaders are orchestrating a massive collision with history.
Our civilization hangs by a very slender thread. It would not take a large disruption to destroy it. The major industries by which we live are operated by a rapidly decreasing number of highly skilled people with knowledge so specialized that it is rare. All that is necessary is to ask virtually anyone who they would call if the electric power in their area stopped. The most obvious answer is to call the power company. Now, suppose that there is no one to answer the phones? How many people are there in any given area who knows how to reconnect the power system? Who are they? Who knows? Without electricity our civilization would shortly cease to function. It is not difficult to multiply this same scenario by many other vital functions. Where does the food in the supermarkets come from? The frightening answer to questions such as this is exactly the reason why Technocracy Inc. was formed as an organization.
Technocracy Inc. offers the only next step possible to a new stage of human social development. Technocracy offers the greatest freedom the human race has ever known, by removing not only the reason to restrict it but by also removing the means (money) to restrict it. It has also been observed down through the centuries that the government that governs best is the one that governs least. Again the only function of the government proposed by Technocracy is to organize the means of production to provide the people of North American with the highest standard of living possible.
Americans are like a blind man standing on the edge of a precipice. We can descend into the world of violence, misery, hatred, and chaos from which there may be no returning or we can remove the blind folds, grab our courage, and move forward into the unending vistas presented by Technocracy.