The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The Role of Violence and Coercion in Saving the World

It will be impossible to save the world from climate change without coercion.  The problem of climate change is a problem of common sinks and limited resources: the atmosphere can only absorb so much carbon, the seas only have so many fish and can only withstand us dumping so much plastic and other pollutants into them.  The world has only so many forests, and so on.

These are genuinely limited resources.  Dumping into them, or chopping them down, or overfishing them is an advantage to whoever does it: they can burn dirty (cheap) fuels, they can use plastic packaging consumers like, they can have fish to eat now.

It is rational, in the sense that you receive a benefit, to destroy the world. It is especially rational to do so if you expect to be dead before the costs come to bear, or if you think you can use your money to avoid the worst of climate change.

We have an additional problem: no one has jurisdiction over all of the atmosphere, all of the seas, all of the forests.  If country A decides not to pollute or dump or cut down forests, someone else can do more of that and gain a short term benefit.  And by short term benefit I mean “some of the decision makers and their friends will personally get rich.  Filthy, stinking, rich.”  (This is also one  problem with refusing to have high marginal taxation, capital taxes, estate taxes and corporate taxes.  People are less interested in destroying the world when they’ll only make a little bit off it.  The calculus does change somewhat.)

So how do you ensure that Brazil doesn’t destroy the rest of the Amazon, that Japan doesn’t radically overfish, or that the US doesn’t dump obscene amounts of carbon into the air per capita?

There are three essential approaches.  The first is bribery: we’ll pay you not to do this.  Up to a certain point this is necessary: if Brazilians can make more money chopping down jungle than keeping it around, why wouldn’t they? But everyone has the ability to do destroy the world, everyone can hold you hostage, and once people start, they don’t stop.  Bribery only works if it is short term, if it becomes “we’ll pay for you to transition to a different economic model, but no more than that.”

The second is incentives.  Why are the Brazilians chopping down the jungle?  Because Americans want to eat beef.  If Americans change how they eat, much less reason for the jungles to be chopped down.  If we don’t want plastic to destroy the Oceans maybe we should just forbid most plastic packaging?  It can be done, I grew up with paper bags and glass bottles, for example.  I grew up in a culture where every food worker didn’t wear disposable plastic gloves.  I survived, I guarantee you will too, no  matter how much of a germphobe you are.

The third is coercion.  You will not do this, and if you do we will do bad things to you.  Lock you up, sink your ships, and if it comes to it, kill you.

Now let’s be clear, coercion underlies virtually all social relations.  You pay taxes because if you don’t, somebody with a gun will come along and throw you in jail.  You have property because men with guns enforce your property rights.  You go to school, because if you don’t… well, you get the picture.  No society has EVER existed that did not have some form of coercion available to it.  In many hunter-gatherer societies that coercion was the simplest of all: expulsion.  If you didn’t obey the rules, they kicked you out, and that meant death because no, most people cannot survive alone, and most people don’t want to.

Because there is an advantage to unilateral betrayal: to dumping your pollution on other people and letting them pay the cost, there will always be people who want to do it, and it’s not always worth trying to use incentives to get them not to: it swiftly becomes too expensive.  The best approach is often to unilaterally take certain actions off the table: none of us will unilaterally take each others stuff.  None of us will dump poisons into the air that kill other people we don’t know.  None of us will, on net, allow forests to decrease.  None of us will use plastic packaging.

This is the problem of collective action: if none of us do these things, we’re all better off.  But if one of us or a few of us do it, we have an advantage over other people, and if other people are doing it, we need to do it to keep up.

This brings us to my comment, in my 44 Points Post about needing an armed force to protect the Oceans, a comment which caused much screaming, since people thought it violated my point about not wanting large standing armies.

An army and a police force are not the same thing.  An international “Ocean Guard” is not a navy, it does not need destroyers with depth charges and nuclear submarines with missiles and Aircraft Carriers.  It needs ships capable of find trawlers and boarding them.  Police force.

But the key problem here is jurisdiction: no one has jurisdiction.  No one can say to the US or China or India or Japan, “you will not do this!”

We must create institutions which have the authority to say “you will not pollute, you will not destroy the environment.”  More than that, because we have gone too far, we are going to need institutions which can say “and you will also work to fix the environment.”  Again, countries will want to not contribute, because if someone else does it, and you don’t, you get most of the benefits without the costs.

Now we can create a world economy which is not harmful to the environment and in which everyone is fed, clothed, has shelter and has a meaningful life with a good chance at happiness.  We are going to have to, because people who are unhappy, who do not love, and are not loved, who are frightened, will do whatever they feel they must.  We must drain the swamp of true need, of hunger, of great fear.

But that’s the end point: that’s where we must commit to go.  Along the way, however, bad actors will have to be forced to stop what they are doing coercively.

Failure to do so means death and suffering.  More death and suffering than is caused by coercively, say, sinking Trawlers or trade embargoing countries which won’t stop using plastic containers.  We are in a situation where the median death estimate from climate change is probably a billion people.

We cannot entirely bribe and incentivize ourselves our way out of this problem, some coercion will be necessary.  How much money would you have to pay Wall Street, for example, to stop doing what they do?  As much, or more than they make doing what they do.  How much to stop Big Oil?  Same answer.  We can’t afford it, that money, those resources, must be spent fixing the problem and taking care of ordinary people.  So we must criminalize certain behaviour, on a world scale and then enforce it.

That is policing, if done right, not military action.

There are great big reasons to be scared of anything that looks like a world state.  I have a preference for nations, because a world state that turns totalitarian is a nightmare, and a world state is also likely to lead to stagnation.  My suggestion is to try federalization: specific bodies with specific enforcement, but they must have transnational police powers.  There is no reason these bodies can’t be run by democratic methods, no reasons the courts they run can’t be fair and open. Our current transnational bodies aren’t democratic, indeed are anti-democratic, precisely because our elites don’t want them to be, but that is, again, a social choice.

We figure this problem out, or we fry.  We need institutions for transnational action, institutions with police power, courts and which are democratically constituted.  This isn’t an insoluble problem, either in general, or specific, except that it challenges the people who currently have power and who are currently getting filthy rich by destroying the environment, and in so doing likely killing a billion or more people, and conceivably, risking the future existence of humanity entirely.

Given the stakes, we’d best grow up.  There is only one world, and until we get off it, it is a single point of failure. It must be dealt with as such.




What is an economy?


The Obamacare Fiasco


  1. Formerly T-Bear

    Ahh! The old desideratum (and dilemma) of the commons ploy! Nice connect with the requirements of social organization paradigm! Excellently done! Now to get ears into that forrest to hear the tree fall.

  2. Celsius 233

    I’ll ride T-Bear’s coat-tails and add; it’s not likely we have the time.
    We seem to follow the virus model; we kill our host…

  3. It’s probably too late to stop or reverse the CO2 increases even if it were possible to cease all contributory actions today. Global warming is now baked in; and the answer is apparently to to tell those in the way of climate change to move or perish.

    The human tendency toward environmental destruction rather than conservation and repair is a different issue, but I’ve seen in my lifetime some startling repair/conservation efforts undertaken and succeed. The problem is that there is always the counter-tendency to exploit and destroy, necessitating another round of repairing and conservation. Raping the seas, rainforests and tar sands for short term profit — which once was the case for raping the land, seas, rivers and forests of the United States on a practically unimaginable scale — reaches an end point where it isn’t believed to be “rational” any more — even when continuing can still be profitable. And it slows or stops. It may come too late, as history has shown in other circumstances, but there’s always a chance it will be in time.

    The risk of neo-colonialism is inherent, however, in trying to enforce one’s cultural demands and perspectives on others who may not share your particular beliefs and ways. What do you do about that? Do you make them accept your demands and ways — just as imperialists did before — because your ways are right and ordained by God (or whatever the excuse)? Doesn’t that just lead to a slightly different variety of destruction?

  4. zot23

    Just as some add-ons to a good roadmap, I would say this too:

    Population control HAS to enter the equation and be embraced by pretty much everyone. A “one child” policy like in China would be great, but at least a huge PR program worldwide to stem the expanse of humanity for a time while we weather this storm. The easiest way to pollute less is to have less people and never need to pollute more. Also less people means whomever is left can live on the better, safer, more arable lands. The biggest actor for this effort would be Pope Francis and the Catholic Church. If they could amend the canon to allow birth control and start pushing it via the Church, it could transform the debate overnight.

    Technology can help soften the blow of transition. I’m not talking about GMO algae or giant CO2 traps, I mean on a day to day level there are many easy advances to be made. Just start charging more for paper or plastic bags at the store so everyone uses their own cloth bags – that would make a huge impact. Start only making plastic that degrades quickly or use corn oil to make “green” cups (obviously, this needs to be incentivised as Ian describes above.) Heck, if you stop making wasteful Ethanol, there’s your corn to make bio-friendly plastic all ready to go. Is there a reason we can’t upgrade our rail system, discourage flying when not necessary, and offer massive rebates for electric vehicles? We just bought a set of silicon mats that you can bake on, they look to last forever and now there is zero need to ever grease a baking sheet. Small potatoes, but put enough of them together and you can end with a hearty meal.

    People growing food in their own gardens and in public places is a 3 foot put too, as well as a great way to start transforming our degraded modern nutritional diets.

    These are minutiae that fit within Ian’s framework above, but the impact would be fairly large on our culture and would definitely be a great start on handling this problem. Plus is there anything above that is outside our grasp as of today?

  5. markfromireland

    An international “Ocean Guard” is not a navy, it does not need destroyers with depth charges and nuclear submarines with missiles and Aircraft Carriers. It needs ships capable of find trawlers and boarding them. Police force.

    You need ships capable of finding a trawler, determining that it is where it shouldn’t be, and that its crew is doing what they’re forbidden from doing, transmitting that information to a duly constituted tribunal, removing the crew, and sinking it there and then. SPEED (sorry for shouting) is of the essence here it needs to hurt the owners by loss of their asset and it needs to hurt them now. Not tomorrow, not after however many years it takes a clever lawyer to draw out the process, NOW.

    That’s a navy not a police force. Navies have done it before* Ian and can do it again, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel and your opponents have every incentive to tie you up in political knots while you try to do it. Far better to get the admiralty on your side by offering them a role.

    Weber’s monopoly on legitimate violence — Gewaltmonopol des Staates, still seems to me to be useful. One of the problems with what you’re proposing is going to be that of legitimacy you are going to have to convince a sufficiently swinging majority of the world’s populace that what you propose is both necessary and legitimate.

    The other is the free rider problem and again the legitimacy issue will be vitally important. You’ll need to persuade a sufficiently swinging majority that activity X is not only a form of theft but that it is a particularly deleterious form of theft.

    A further problem with building this legitimacy is this: How do you answer the point from people in what is often called the ‘third world’ or the ‘developing world’ which runs something like this:

    “You northerners have benefited from industrialisation for generations. Now that we have a chance to materially improve our lives suddenly you tell us the party’s over”.

    I’ve been hearing this one in one form or another for a long time now.


    * European navies at any rate. Then there were the privateers …

  6. Ian Welsh

    I am not a fan of the one child policy, it does horrible things to your demographics and requires some really nasty enforcement. Increase people’s standards of living (in particular, the female standard of living and political rights) and the population rate of increase will drop.

    MFI: fair enough. Still, you don’t need a navy armed to take out other navies for it, and it is a policing mission, similiar to the way the Royal Navy largely wiped out slavery.

    The third world / south issue is a huge problem. It’s at the heart of a lot of the carbon issue: “we have to cut back, but you do most of it per capita! Why do we have to cut back?”

    I actually do think I have a solution, but more on that later or in the book. It is, however, one of the reasons why I keep saying that the West in general and the US in specific can’t keep this economic model: you can’t have burgs and so on, and keep carbon under control, at least not as currently constituted.

    This does cut to legitimacy: no one has the legitimacy right now. It is going to take some serious generosity and justice to gain that legitimacy, or a pile of fear at a too late date. (Start by cancelling virtually all their debt.)

  7. Yeah. I wrote about this three years ago, in a post titled “Going Green.” My concluding paragraph was:

    I have tried in these recommendations to hew to market and vote; they are still going to be terribly difficult to implement, amounting to the sudden imposition of a great many new taxes and regulations and establishing a whole new class of rights. Still, considering that the alternatives are the collapse of human civilization or globe-spanning tyranny, it is time to start.

    We are, I think, headed for global federalism, global empire, or global disaster. Despite the consistent failures of federalism—think how European fiscal policy has been hijacked by the very wealthy, in the same way that it has been in the USA—it is so far the best model we have.

    Perhaps, with the knowledge accumulated in the 20th century we can come up with a better model.

  8. markfromireland

    @ Ché Pasa November 9, 2013

    We seem to be arguing along much the same lines.

    @ zot23 November 9, 2013

    The biggest actor for this effort would be Pope Francis and the Catholic Church. If they could amend the canon to allow birth control and start pushing it via the Church, it could transform the debate overnight.

    Do you not think you’re being more than somewhat ethnocentric? It may transform the debate in those parts of the world where Catholicism is an important force. But most European and North American Catholics already ignore the Church’s dictates on pregnancy prevention. I’m told the same is true of urban Catholics in Argentina, Chile, and Brazil.

    It will have absolutely zero impact on those countries where Islam or Hinduism hold sway.

    I’ve spent most of my adult life in Muslim countries and they don’t give a damn what the Pope says. Why on earth would they?


  9. S Brennan

    Or…you could use tariffs and import/export restrictions to control behavior*, we used to do that, before that mephistophelian character, Friedman told us that was a no-no and we would prosper in a race to hell…er..ah..the bottom…oops to FREEdom.

    * just ask the Soviet Empire about that…oh that’s right, they’re not around anymore.

  10. markfromireland

    Ian yes the slavery example was the one I had in mind. Bringing religion on board is also going to help with legitimacy most of the major religions have some concept of stewardship of the earth there’s been a surprising amount of interest in this and I’m not just talking about the goings on at the recent Eurasian Economic Summit in Istanbul.


  11. peon

    Reductions in birth rates are strongly correlated with increasing gender equality and improvements in the status of women. This is a two-way causation. When birth rates fall, education levels go up, maternal mortality rates go down, etc. And when education levels go up, birth rates go down.
    Of course all the advantage of fewer people ends if they all consume more. But since Ian is designing our ideal society I agree with him that coercive policies like one child are not ideal, especially since gender equality accomplishes the same goal. One child policies without gender equality has several negative externalities, not the least of which is the killing of infant girls to have the desired son.
    If men would get behind this idea it could happen in our lifetime. Women have been ready for this change for some time.

    I am trying to think if the world community has ever gotten behind some big change in behavior and policed each other into compliance.

  12. markfromireland


    How much money would you have to pay Wall Street, for example, to stop doing what they do?

    You don’t. You expropriate the profits that came from breaking the law. You imprison for a very very long time the people who broke the law – and those who failed to report it.

    You also go hard after those banks that have been making rather a lot of money from money laundering. You imprison their directors and confiscate their assets. All of their assets. You ban them for life from ever working in the financial sector again. When they get out of prison the money they have is what they get from welfare if they can’t find a job.


  13. S Brennan

    Since birth rates correlate strongly to poverty [and education] of women, bribery would seem to be a cheap alternative for population control.

    Females who reach the age of 2x with a high school education [North-American/European, circa 1962]….and without having children, get $1x,000.00. This limited time offer applies to to targeted countries/populations, funds to be made available through the printing a basket of developed nations currencies.

    Suddenly, educated daughters who don’t have children have a monetary value equal, or greater than a lifetime of earnings. Will there be fraud, sure, but education can be tested for and I believe there are [or could be developed] markers to detect pregnancy.

  14. DupinTM

    I’d rather play DOTA!

  15. People don’t want to destroy the ecosystems of planet Earth per se. Che Pasa, there is no “the human tendency toward environmental destruction.” Human beings have been on this planet for 200,000 years, and if there was a “human tendency toward environmental destruction” we wouldn’t be here. Rather, human tendencies toward cultural invention created customs of property, empires, and social classes in the past two or three millenia, and out of those customs came the capitalist system. There’s a significant historians’ debate around the origins of these customs — Ellen Meiksins Wood and Perry Anderson have books out about it.

    From the capitalist system came investor classes which regarded planet Earth as a “free gift,” and a society in which the taking (and wasting) of that “free gift” was rewarded with investor class privileges. The key, then, to “saving the Earth” is to take away those privileges and change the rules so that Earth is no longer a “free gift.”

    Ian Welsh: “So how do you ensure that Brazil doesn’t destroy the rest of the Amazon, that Japan doesn’t radically overfish, or that the US doesn’t dump obscene amounts of carbon into the air per capita?” It isn’t the whole of Brazil or Japan or the US that wants it this way. Rather, fractions of the investor classes find advantage in these behaviors, and everyone else agrees to go along. There are your bad actors. Of course, if the bad actors can buy the services of all of your political classes, then you will have no government lever to force them to cease and desist. You can, I suppose, start your own political classes, or organize a new system.

  16. @ Cassiodorus

    I think you’re partially right in that capitalist ideology accelerated the human tendency to environmental destruction. It didn’t invent or create it out of whole cloth, otherwise Lebanon would still be forested, Greece would have far fewer rocky wastes and so on. And isn’t it interesting that some of the worst environmental catastrophes occurred in the former Soviet Union?

    The “free gift” notion regarding the environment has been around a long time. The question is not so much whether the environment and nature’s bounty isa free gift, the question is what you do with that gift. Many peoples have found ways to maintain and sustain an abundant living without degrading and destroying the environment. But many have not.

    One reason for the Euro-american tendency toward environmental destruction — both before and during the capitalist ascendency — is a reaction to the grinding poverty and lack of even basic material provisions for so many of the common people for so many generations under the rule of a predatory class of plunderers.

    The greatest freedom America had to offer to poor European immigrants was the freedom to despoil at will without let or hindrance, to take and destroy and to lay waste to their heart’s desire. This wasn’t capitalism, it was a reaction to being so poorly provided for, barely provided for at all, for generation upon generation, and suddenly immigrants could be in a place were none of the restrictions and oppressions they had always known were operative. In many cases, they had the freedom to behave like the plunderers who had ruled them in Europe and they took full advantage of it.

    Native peoples were (and are) appalled. That isn’t the way you behave if you want to sustain yourself and your society beyond the moment. It should be self-evident that destroying the environment — for profit or pleasure — is insane.

    But to far too many, it isn’t self-evident at all.

  17. lowfiron

    While these efforts are a good thing and need to be done (tried), I think it’s too late. Unless I’m delusional we have passed the tipping point.

    The world is not going to end, humanity is going to take a sudden dive in population. Maybe in sudden crashes, a big one here a small one there. The dystopian dream will be realized, government will change for the bad in most cases.

    There are many possible futures but if we, humanity, shrink in population significantly we may survive. I doubt we will disappear, at least too soon, we will be here, reduced and less comfortable, maybe a lot less comfortable. We could evolve into something new.

    In time the earth will ‘rebound’ like it has after many great extinctions and catastrophic crashes, worse than what we have accomplished. Sure, many species will and are going extinct but evolution will fill the changing niches with other organisms. Sort of the Gaia fix.

    We are ruining all the things that support us, we are too numerous anyway in my opinion. And yet we are truly insignificant in the timeline of earth’s history. C’est la vie.

  18. Bernard

    The system we live in , capitalism , is inherently amoral and criminal . Violence nor laws can make it behave in a moral way . So we must destroy this dragon in order to survive !

  19. Celsius 233

    November 10, 2013
    The system we live in , capitalism , is inherently amoral and criminal . Violence nor laws can make it behave in a moral way . So we must destroy this dragon in order to survive!
    Basically I agree with a possible caveat; isn’t it our form of capitalism that is the devil/dragon.
    We no longer have the luxury (never did really) of unregulated capitalism. The older I get the more of a socialist I become, especially when witnessing the human tragedy which is a direct result of our form of capitalism.
    I’m not an economist but rather a humanist. Maybe when all is said and done, there is no “good” capitalism
    So, yes. Capitalism must die…

  20. Gardenplot

    My proposal that the UN acquire cruise missiles in order to blow up Alberta’s ecocidal tar sand facilities has mostly fallen on deaf ears, so I am glad to see that you have taken up the cudgel. All the best!

  21. Celsius 233

    It does occur that all these names ending in ism’s and ist’s may be the real problem; because the names aren’t the things spoken of. But when we speak in the naming way, we do not really speak to the realities of what those “things” in fact have become.
    The name capitalism is not conjuring up pictures of the realities of the applied practices in the present moment. It’s an abstraction separated from it’s own reality of actual results.
    That kind of represents our lives as now lived, no?

  22. Celsius 233

    We hide behind those very abstractions to avoid facing our present realities.
    This must, necessarily, end badly…

  23. Compound F

    I’m proud to be human when Ian Welsh posts.

  24. EGrise

    @Ian: “It is going to take some serious generosity and justice to gain that legitimacy, or a pile of fear at a too late date. ”

    Which is what I fear will most likely happen. Disasters multiply, crops fail, “economies” collapse, and in fear people turn to demagogues, or cheer a military coup d’etat. While I could see the US electing a Huey Long type, I think politics and politicians are increasingly seen as a big part of the problem and so corrupt/compromised as to be useless in effecting a solution. Instead it seems sometimes as though the only group of elites (at least in the US) with any level of concern for the future of the country is the military officer corps. If conditions get bad enough I could see a general deposing a corrupt president to cheering of Democrats and Republicans alike and instituting massive societal change.

    Bruce Sterling used to call this “khaki green” for the recognition by the armed forces that global warming was serious and needed to be dealt with as part of their duty to protect society. Two example links:

  25. Che Pasa: It is indeed true that the capitalists did not invent the “free gift” out of whole cloth. If I remember it clearly, the 1494 Treaty of Torsedillas split up the “free gift” of the New World per instructions by the Pope, granting the Portuguese a portion of eastern South America and the Spanish the rest of the continent.

    The Greeks and Romans were originators of the concept of property that we use today, and the Romans had a rather structured set of class designations, subdivisions of the superior “honestiores” and the inferior “humiliores.”

    “Human nature” as such grew out of the interactions of earlier peoples with a natural world which obliged them to form societies as survival mechanisms. “All historical societies rely on some form of transcendent logic to legitimate their political-economic order and motivate people to abide by its routines,” Kees van der Pijl argues. Thus you have ideology, political economy, and ritual everywhere.

    My point is that we can’t just observe one or two behaviors and stamp “human nature” upon them, as the evolutionary psychology people do at their most ridiculous. Real human nature is versatile — and studies in primatology comparing human behavior with other primate behavior (Kathleen R. Gibson is the clearest advocate of this perspective) show this. The problem is that human versatility has to “go through channels” because human beings are bogged down in society.

  26. Celsius 233

    @ bob mcmanus
    November 10, 2013
    from Jodi Dean
    Thanks, it was a depressing, albeit excellent read.
    Nothing short of revolution will suffice; but with what’s in the pipeline already; it’s far too late.

  27. Everythings Jake

    French revolution style, I keep thinking it’s more and more necessary. Gotta take Dimon’s and Blankfein’s heads. No other way to send the message. Hunter gatherer clans expelled the sociopaths, those who took too much and endangered the survival of the tribe. University of Hawaii study says that the hottest day you experience now, will be cooler than the coolest day you experience in 2048. The system has to come down. Idealist/naive/stupid? Probably.

  28. Celsius 233

    @ Everythings Jake
    November 11, 2013
    French revolution style, I keep thinking it’s more and more necessary. Gotta take Dimon’s and Blankfein’s heads.
    I think I could build a very efficient, Madame la Guillotine.
    The galoots who caused, disaster earth, need to pay the ultimate price.
    But Gaia will ultimately take care of the problem in her own elegant way; but it will be very slow by our reckoning of time; but very fast in her time line.
    So, in conclusion; let Gaia deal with the galoots; I don’t, ultimately, want blood on my hands.
    As to revolution? Hell yes…it’s political and immediate.

  29. @Cassiodorus

    Real human nature is versatile

    Exactly. Which is why I’m a positivist despite all.

    However, as to your last point:

    human beings are bogged down in society

    Human nature is social, and there is no humanity apart from society. If some societies have gone off on destructive and self-destructive paths — which of course they have throughout history — their path might be changed given enough time and effort, but the challenge is mighty, and realistically may not succeed.

    I think Ian’s argument is that the “overall human collective” — if there were such a thing — cannot afford to allow the environmentally destructive cultures and societies and destructive social tendencies to continue. They must be stopped, violently if necessary.

    That’s an extraordinary challenge. Historically, meeting a challenge of that sort has meant extermination on an enormous scale, the elimination of entire societies or the enslavement of vast numbers of identified inferiors or the superposition of an Imperial power upon the lives of those deemed to be incapable of handling their own affairs “responsibly.”

    Is that what’s necessary? If so, who or what is to accomplish the task? “We must create institutions which have the authority… ” says Ian, and I would only observe this is an argument for Imperialism all over again.

    Further I would argue that the “overall human collective” is right now being reverted to Imperialism, through deception and coercion among other means, an Imperialism more thoroughgoing than anything ever imagined by Her Majesty’s Government in the heyday of the British Empire. It is a global corporate Imperialism such as never existed before, in which governments, whether Her Majesty’s or any other, are the servants and enforcers of Empire.

    Will this New Model Imperialism act to enforce “good behavior?” Of course it will; they all do, according to their own standards, don’t they?

    Whether that universal “good behavior” matches what’s really needed is another story perhaps to be told by the survivors — or never to be told at all.

  30. Beleck3

    we have brokent the web of life that sustains and holds all together. doing something now will prevent the further and more complete destruction of the web of life that hold our human world together.

    there is no escaping violence in our actions. we are, or our actions contain some amount of violence. the fear of being violent to overthrow the existing dead end society/value system is a canard. we can only diminish the amount of violence all will experience by a type of “preventive” actions.

    otherwise, the earth will finish off our existence much quicker than any actions we might dare to take. the web of life will collapse quicker by our inactions, the earth will treat us the irritant we have become in this version of capitalistism. if we want to survive longer we must act sooner. the longer we wait, the worse the resulting cataclysm will be.

    i doubt we can survive under a Big Brother society too long. the ecological disruption will not pay attention to all the cameras and imprisonment our Lords employ to keep the lesser compliant with.

    the destruction of our entire biological existence is impervious to Imperialism, Corporate Oligarchy or whoever controls what. unless we can respect the climate/ecological world, live within our own means, we are just fiddling with appearance. that we have destroyed our nest, the only earth we are dependant upon, is a testament to our foolishness.

    we have reaped what we have sown. illusions of power and control

  31. Generally speaking, the heads of dictatorships tend to focus obsessively upon the mechanisms by which the powerful maintain their hegemonic control over the powerless. Totalitarianism usually means a totalitarian structure — omnipresent spying, total militarization, and the domination of “groupthink” in communication. I don’t see why the groupthink of any future dictatorship would have to be centered around “let’s save the world from global warming” — rather, groupthink under dictatorship will tend to center upon “let’s save the dictatorship from the mess it has made of the world.”

    Elections can be used to strengthen dictatorial mechanisms. The Soviet Union used to require everyone to vote; even better are two-party systems, in which “voter choice” can be endlessly staged and re-staged without really amounting to anything. Our present-day pseudo-democracy is obsessed with finding ways in which Democrats can be distinguished from Republicans while at a policy level the same outcomes obtain.

    Capitalism is fundamentally undemocratic in that its basic workings dovetail with dictatorial mechanism — oh, sure, there are elections in capitalist democracy, but the labor-power of the political class turns out to be yet another commodity, and so the services of individual politicians (as well as all of the other dictatorial mechanisms) are almost always for sale.

    Generally, then, dictatorship is a waste of human versatility because it only further binds people to social mechanisms. I think you will find that in every society on Earth the people who care the most about abrupt climate change are those who have found the most freedom from these mechanisms. What the world needs, then, are what Peter McLaren (“Schooling as a Ritual Performance”) called “liminal servants” — individuals who can disturb the status structure and its continual ritual enactments to the extent necessary to free the masses to think about (and act upon) their real problems.

  32. zot23


    I can only speak from my perspective as an American Catholic, but I think it would have a great impact for the Church to embrace birth control. As you say, people take or leave what they like, for example I think a for good 85% of our church the ladies are on the pill (or some other form of BC.) Whether the archbishops like it or not, the choice for women has too much impact to not entertain it. The difference is that there is an unofficial DADT policy about BC due to the official word from above. If the official line was to change, these women could live in the open again and help transform the argument for women’s standing in the Church. In all the missions and places the Church helps in developing nations, it’s hard to estimate the impact of having your church and the aid groups pulling in the SAME direction on an issue. Remember Ian is talking about shifting our mindset here, not converting every mind (that’s impossible.) Much like racism or sexism, once you change the official laws (or canon) it reverses the argument and marginalizes the destructive element. Essentially, they get put in the DADT box, which is where they belong in the first place.

    I don’t exclude Muslims because they are not important, but because I don’t understand their system. I’m far enough outside their culture that I have no idea what change would help them embrace this concept the most. Best to let folks of the Muslim faith figure out what’s best for Muslims…

  33. Formerly T-Bear

    Complexity has grown global. Only until recent times the requirements of complexity were met through the structures of the major economic powers and their empires, their political structure placing limitations upon the workings of any greater complexity than the nation-state. The birth of transnational corporations have solved the political problems that limited the nation-state through authoritarian hierarchy, using and refining the same political technology as was used to found the nation-state but avoiding the necessity of constituency to support the authoritarian hierarchy. If any still believe the corporate stockholder has any power to influence transnational corporate policy or activity, it shows delusional belief at its clearest. As long as complacency of the public can be maintained, no threat can exist to the corporate power that cannot be diluted by some combination of political, psychological or propagandistic manipulation of the public. This approach will not suddenly fail, giving time for those controlling the governing powers to install, exercise and unleash militarized policing forces to quell public disturbances, using all available intelligence gathering potential to identify, isolate and eliminate any demonstrating leadership capabilities should the need arise. Decapitation of leadership may temporarily remove the threat the opposition poses, but it also eliminates the control of that opposition, eventually the greatly feared mob will indeed arise, the outcome, although unpredictable, poses the greatest risk to those exercising power, they are the ones with the most to loose. The one certainty of outcome will be that nothing will be the same again, a bankable forecast. The foregoing presupposes that transnational corporate avarice needed to survive in the world they’ve created does not turn upon and devour itself. Whatever happens, violence is central to whichever way the future takes, violence is not a bug, it’s a feature of the future.

  34. markfromireland

    @ zot23 November 12, 2013

    Thank you for acknowledging that you were speaking only of that minority of Catholics found in the USA.

    As for Muslims I’ve spent pretty much my entire life living and working amongst Muslims and I repeat they don’t give a damn what the Catholic Church says. They do give a damn about yet another bunch of westerners telling them how to live their lives. They care very deeply about that. “Best to let folks of the Muslim faith figure out what’s best for Muslims” as you put it I’ll add a rider that it’ll be even better for westerners to STFU while they’re doing it.


  35. markfromireland

    @ Formerly T-Bear November 14, 2013

    We’re a violent species and always have been. All of my children have been taught how to use violence efficiently and now all of my grandchildren are being taught taught the same using various techniques ranging from fighting using just the weapons nature provided them with to how to use various weapons. Does this mean my progeny will survive any future bouts of political violence? Not necessarily, but they have a hell of a better chance than most.

    As a side benefit nobody has ever tried to bully them more than once.


  36. Formerly T-Bear

    markfromireland November 16, 2013

    Just saw your reply. The human species is a large and strong animal, and can use its strength to further its ends. It is also sometimes an intelligent species that on occasion can use that intelligence to further its ends. It is probably wise to teach both, the use of and limits to violence as well as maintaining and using intelligence, its strengths, weaknesses and its powers over violence to achieve desired goals not achievable by violence. One of the best definitions of politics I’ve learned is politics is the art and skill to persuade, convince or exercise power over another to achieve one’s ends. It always helps having a good stout stick in one’s hands as well, one never knows when …

    However my comments above are not addressed to the exercise of violence should you care to re-read, rather to the eventual collapse of state powers, that collapse removes the established power that claims monopoly upon violence as a means of promoting social organization, at least by historical tradition. The remnants of state power will be suborned to the corporate authority and used to protect the corporate existence, with violence once persuasion fails, as it will. This eventuality will doubtlessly involve violence, wanted or not. I fail to see what this has to do with your remarks, at all. I do expect carelessness of comprehension out of most Duhmericans as a matter of course, I fear that condition may be catching.

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