Andrew Simms is an ignorant asshole. Again.

It\’s not as if this hasn\’t been explained enough times.

For one thing, the model used by the MIT scientists didn\’t make precise \”predictions\”, but projected what was likely to happen if certain trends continued, allowing for \”adjustable assumptions\” of resource use. Their real finding was not that collapse was likely to occur by a particular year, but that population and the global economy would contract rapidly after peaking. The only circumstances under which some kind of stabilisation, rather than collapse, was achieved, was constraining population and the scale of the economy.

Models and reality are not the same thing. But – strikingly given the relatively crude computer modelling available at the time – the MIT projections have proved remarkably accurate. Today they can be checked against decades of actual data. Population, industrial output, pollution and food consumption all track the lines in the model.

Quite true you ignorant tosspot. Except, of course, for one thing that hasn\’t come true: we\’ve not run out of resources, have we? For resources are not some fixed endowment with which we start. Resources are things that we create, manufacture, by inventing new technologies which do so.

I have yet to see any figures to illustrate how growth in rich countries can, in perpetuity, be compatible with environmental limits,

I have explained it to you several times. Are you thick or just not listening?

One thing is sure: advocates of growth need to be able to show not only that environmental impact can be cancelled out by efficiency and resource substitution, but that deep, absolute reductions in resource use can be achieved simultaneously, and that such gains can be made year, after year, after year, ad infinitum.

No, we don\’t. We need to be able to show that economic growth is compatible with whatever resource constraints that you specify.

There are many problematic issues to do with growth that can\’t be covered here. Clinging to growth, however, suffocates the imagination needed to devise more convivial ways to share a finite planet. At the very least, and with so much evidence to the contrary, the burden of proof now lies heavily on those who reject the original message of the Limits report, for them to demonstrate how, and under what circumstances, we could possibly enjoy \”growth forever\” in a finite world.

And here it is once again you miserable cretin.

So, let us imagine that steady state economy of Herman Daly. We abstract no new resources, at least no resources unsustainably, from nature. We recycle everything and use only renewable energy etc. We\’re stuck with just what we\’ve already dug out of the ground, we\’re not going to mine any new mountains etc.

Excellent, now, in this scenario can we have economic growth? Sure we can, for as long as technology allows us to make more with the same resources or use fewer resources to make the same things.

For example, gold plating on computer boards used to be 200 nm. Now it\’s more like 2 nm. So, out of that available stock of gold (and recall, something like 99.9% of all gold ever mined is still available for use, we\’re missing pretty much only grave goods and the stuff that weathers off onion domes) we can now make 200 times as many computer boards as we could only 30 years ago.

Or, if you prefer, we can make the same nuber of computer boards and we can still make more gold teeth for rap artists.

We have had economic growth, either way, because we now have either more computer boards or the same number plus gold teeth.

And this is without even thinking about the definition of economic growth, a rise in GDP. GDP is an increase in the value of goods and services as valued at market prices. Perhaps resource constraints do, or at some point will, mean that more goods cannot be produced. But why would that limit the value we can add through advancing technology?

And what\’s so intensely annoying about your and your bloviations Mr. Simms is that this is all explained in your Ur text, the works of Herman Daly as above. He says that a steady state economy must move from the consumption of more resources to a stable consumption, to a resource limited mode of production. But he also points out that we can still increase value add and we can thus still have economic growth. He calls the latter qualitative growth, the former quantitative growth.

Shrug, he\’s just using different names for absolutely standard economic thinking. Even in a resource constrained world economic growth will continue at the rate of technological advancement.

And you\’re just to dim to understand what your own fucking Bible is telling you.

Be Gone, sod off, trouble us no more!

19 comments on “Andrew Simms is an ignorant asshole. Again.

  1. Since when have “advocates of growth” been the ones who have to justify themselves?

    Why shouldn’t the advocates of stagnation instead justify how their massively expensive social welfare model and zero economic growth are compatible?

  2. Has Andrew Simms ever written anything sensible? And if not, why on earth does anyone take any notice of him?

    I quite fancy a new career though. I have two gold teeth. Maybe I could become a rap artist?

  3. Tim, you’re equivocating; playing a verbal trick. By “resources” he clearly means natural resources, whereas you mean capital of any kind.

    I’ve been thinking about this recently. How much of our current growth is due to factor productivity, and how much is due to increased factor use, increased use of “natural resources”? I.e. freshly dug-up stuff, rather than reclaimed stuff. From oil to iron ore.

    Once it’s all been dug up, we’ll be in Daly’s steady state economy. Of course perpetual growth will happen from then on. But before we get to Daly’s steady state economy, there could be a massive economic contraction. As we start to run out of stuff still in the ground, and commodity prices rise, the contraction could outweigh the growth from productivity, for a time. Nothing in economic theory that says this couldn’t happen.

    Tim adds: “How much of our current growth is due to factor productivity, and how much is due to increased factor use, increased use of “natural resources”?”

    Depends. For the Soviet Union there was, according to Bob Solow, zero tfp growth and all growth came from greater resource use. For the entire period of the SU that is.

    In contrast, same estimate, 80% of market economy growth came from tfp, 20% from resource use in 20 th cent.

    So, we could have a 6-8 fold growth of living standards per century quite happily, even in a resource constrained world.

    Also, interestingly, if you really believe in resource constraints that you should be arguing for a market (note, not necessarily capitalist) economy. Which none of the idiots are, are they?

  4. “Be Gone, sod off, trouble us no more” … he will not, therein lies the rub.

    You waste your time countering him, you should be training and preparing, it is the only logical conclusion given the facts.

  5. Hugo – how do you equate that with Tim’s solid example of gold. Which is clearly a natural resource.

  6. I don’t know why you bother Tim. These people don’t know what growth is, and neither do they want to know. You can’t correct somebody who is wilfully ignorant.

    Don’t get me wrong, I admire your persistence. But however eloquently you explain it, they will just stop their ears and continue to peddle the Big Lie that Growth is synonymous with increased resource extraction, because that is all they want it to be.

  7. Ian B:

    What do you want Tim to do–give up?

    There are plenty out there who are ignorant with little willfullness involved. And even many of the “willfull” are so merely on the basis of an unreasoning political partisanship, against which reason may prevail, in at least some cases.

    Tim isn’t even what you and I would recognize as of the “Austrian School” (though close) but deserves high credit for hewing so closely to Mises’ motto.

    Like the poor, the ignorant (and the willfully ignorant) will be always with us. That’s just the way it is.

  8. Grauniadista commentard of the day, someofusknowthetruth:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/feb/01/limits-to-economic-growth?commentpage=2#comment-14437007

    “Humanity lived very successfully as hunter-gatherers for 200,000 years.

    Humans have lived rather moderately succefully as farmers for 10,000 years.

    Humans have live extremely unsuccessfuly as slaves to machines and slaves of the industrial empire for approximately 200 years. Industrial living is ‘killing’ the life support systems we need to continue to inhabit this planet, and the Industrial system is now in terminal decline due to resource depletion.

    There is little else to say.”

    I mean, wow.

  9. Tim,

    Even if his logic holds, wouldn’t that mean that mining asteroids and such would be cost effective much earlier? Not all the possible usable resources are earth bound.

  10. Donavon Pfeiffer Jr.:

    I ask you, why go to all the energy expenditure of going into space to do such mining.

    Mightn’t we better find some way to coax some of those lovely-laden asteroids to land down here from time to time? Ever so much more efficient.

  11. Tim:

    “99.5 % of gold ever mined still available for use”

    I have no specific information on that piece of information except reading, over 50 years ago, that more than 90% of the gold ever contained in the earth’s crust was already in the form of the metal used as money, jewelry, and electronic plating or in the sea, either in finely dispersed form or in treasures lying on the bottom. The source was emphasizing the size of that portion sunk since 1500 and further, that the larger–by far–portion of that had sunk in the Pacific rather than on the Caribbean to Atlantic route (from which recovery was much easier).

    A most fascinating doctrines of Mises’ is that the quantity of money in existence is always quite sufficient to accomplish all those uses for which money might be required and that those uses are neither enhanced nor diminished by additions to nor diversions from the monetary stock. In his view, only the other–the “industrial” uses–will be affected by changes in the quantity of the monetary commodity. I think you’d appreciate his reasoning as well as his “regression theory” as to money’s value at a given time. In a nutshell, he finds that all goods except money derive their value in the present as discounted from their expected value in the future while money’s value is always a function of its value in the past. I think you’d be fascinated.

  12. Hi Tim,
    Yes, I’ve seen the story about Soviet TFP not increasing at all. Krugman mentions it twice, but doesn’t give a reference. I’ve been unable to back it up, but I do find it very plausible.

    Where did you get the estimate that 80% of market economy growth came from tfp, 20% from resource use in 20 th cent? Solow?

    Anyway, I quite agree that market economies are the best way of getting growth regardless of conditions.

    But that doesn’t answer my original question. Surely there *could* be a contraction if production relying on raw resource reduces? There could be a net contraction if this outweighs continuing growth from TFP.

    Net growth would then continue from a lower base.

    Even though growth would be possible in Herman Daly’s steady state economy, it would be from a much lower base. If we end up in a steady state economy, there could well be a large reduction in living standards while we get there, even if living standards start to improve again afterwards.

    So what you really need to do is demonstrate that this will not happen. (Actually, being a good Hayekian, I don’t think it’s possible to know either way.) Julian Simon was pretty lucky to win his bet. If the dates had been a little different he would have lost. And I’m unconvinced by Simon’s reasons for taking the bet.

    The libertarian argument at the moment seems to be “making better use of resources” (Simon’s “wealth and technology make more resources available” argument) could outweigh limits to natural resources.

    But “could” is not “will”. Is anyone trying to put numbers on it? Or who is the Julian Simon of today?

  13. Gene,

    “In a nutshell, [Mises] finds that all goods except money derive their value in the present as discounted from their expected value in the future while money’s value is always a function of its value in the past.”

    No he doesn’t. The value of money is also its expected value discounted. All goods have their own interest rates, and money is no different. In fact, Mises says that you should save in whatever good you think will have the highest interest rate, and this good will become money.

  14. Don’t know why it’s always presumed that the authors of this sort of nonsense believe any of it. You say yourself, the tome he bases his argument on contains the solution to continued growth from static resources. He’s supposedly read it.
    Ever been in one of those ‘alternative lifestyle’ shops with their aroma therapy oils & books on psychic healing & the mystic crystals & all the rest of it. Ask the shopkeeper about the effectiveness of any item & they’ll swear to it from firm personal conviction. But actually look around & you start realising the claims for half the stuff directly contradicts the claims for the other half. If the crystals direct the fields of cosmic force where do the bangles that harness the body’s energy flows come in? Why do you need to add lavender oil & incense candles? To pacify the ancient astronauts or encourage ley lines?
    There’s a lot of people don’t much like the modern world. They enjoy the benefits of it, like their mobile phones & their ability to fly off half way round the planet to visit Aztec temples. But they don’t understand any of it & it frightens them. Arthur Clarke said that any far enough advanced technology would look like magic. That’s what the world looks like to them. Magic. So they prefer a magik they don’t understand either but is a lot more touchy feely. That’s why it’s ‘alternative’. It’s in a perpetual future tense. The 100 months to save the planet is a well thought out time frame because 8 years is a lot of folk’s mental horizon. The wispy bearded sandal wearer in the comments bigging up the hunter gatherer thing. No doubt he could cope with scratching around for roots & berries with the women. He up to spearing, gutting & skinning an antelope? Like fuck he is. The concept of tipping a quart of live mussels into boiling water has him gibbering. But the ‘alternative’ planet friendly world isn’t going to happen to him, is it? It’s off over that mental horizon in someone else’s future.
    Isn’t it just as likely an assumption that this guy isn’t the twat you make him out to be & has just identified a lucrative market in crap. This is what I suspect Murph & a lot of others of. If people want to buy crap then suppliers of crap will fill the need. I’ve been paid to install little devices on pipes that are supposed to eliminate water hardness.Personally I think they’re nonsense. You can’t get the dissolved materials out of tapwater with magic rays. They precipitate out when you heat it. Simple chemistry. Doesn’t stop me buying & fitting the things though. Customer’s always right.

  15. blokeinspain:

    I’m in general agreement with your take on the various “alternative” treatment modes.

    But you’ve got me curious about the things you’re installing on pipes. Where in “simple chemistry” is it taught substances precipitate from water upon heating? My recollection of chemistry (and my experience) is that solubility
    increases with rise in temperature.

  16. Hugo:

    Actually, Mises says exactly what I said and what you said as well and entirely without contradiction. You’ll find the explanation in the chapter on Indirect Exchange in subchapter 4:
    The Determination of the Purchasing Power of Money.

  17. Where in “simple chemistry” is it taught substances precipitate from water upon heating? My recollection of chemistry (and my experience) is that solubility increases with rise in temperature.

    A good rule of thumb, if not universal. But precipitation (in its strict chemical sense) doesn’t have anything to do with soluble compounds. It is about insoluble ones. Therefore the rate of precipitation is proportional to the rate of reaction which is almost always (i.e. better than your solubility example but not perfect) proportional to temperature.

  18. “Where in “simple chemistry” is it taught substances precipitate from water upon heating? ”

    Mmmmm…..

    Well, the education I received a couple of weeks ago, trying to extract an immersion element from a hot water cylinder, with said element encased in 3 inches of scale would seem to indicate such. Never have these problems on the cold side.
    Exactly how the chemistry works….. If I remember rightly, from my school days, calcium carbonate is poorly soluble in pure water but the presence of CO2 causes a portion of it to change to the bi-carbonate ion which is. The level of CO2 dissolved in water falls as the temperature rises, driving the carbonate out of solution.
    The claim of the manufacturers of the scale preventing devices is that they increase the ionisation of the solution counteracting the temperature effect & preventing deposits forming.
    Do they work? Maybe. But. Heating water in a domestic system isn’t a laboratory process. In the storage tank the water temperature ranges from cold feed temperature up to boiling point, where it’s in contact with the heating source. And that’s the crucial area because that’s where any ionisation would have least effect. Once there’s any scale deposited on the heating element it starts to insulate the element from passing heat to the surrounding water. The temperature of the element rises resulting in more scale forming. Eventually you can get a mass of scale with the glowing, red hot, element visible at its heart. That’s usually the point where the material in the element distorts, the internal electrical insulation breaks up & the resistance wiring burns through.
    Exactly what temperature the carbonate comes out of solution depends on water pressure & concentration of dissolved CO2.
    Indirect systems. Those heated by a circuit of water heated by a boiler & passed through a heat exchanger in the tank, have less scaling problems. There aren’t the extremes of temperature. But they do, eventually, scale if the level of lime in the water is high.
    The gadgets? It’s a bit hard how they could work. They’re supposed to induce electrical currents in the pipework, presumably, but all metal pipework is ‘bonded’. Connected to a good earth by bonding wire. To prevent electrical currents in the pipework. Or magnetic fields? Or special pipe cleaning fairies? Who knows?

    Of course you could have saved the bother of the question & looked in your kettle.

  19. Surreptitious Evil

    :It’s about 60 years since I had any of that but I also think I remember a guy named Lavoisier
    having formulated some sort of rule about it (and, if I remember correctly, he was also a discoverer of Oxygen–separately from a guy who’s mentioned more often–Priestley, I think).

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