It’s not blasphemy but it is stupid

And also ignorant:

We have no hope of emerging from this full-spectrum crisis unless we dramatically reduce economic activity. Wealth must be distributed – a constrained world cannot afford the rich – but it must also be reduced. Sustaining our life-support systems means doing less of almost everything. But this notion – that should be central to a new, environmental ethics – is secular blasphemy.

Be poor peasants! is not actually a useful piece of guidance for the future.

The problem here being that Monbiot simply does not understand what economic activity, nor economic growth, is. It’s the addition of value. That’s what GDP, that incomplete measure, is. That’s also what the consumer surplus, that thing the modern world creates in ever larger proportion to GDP, is. We create value, we consume value, our incomes are the value we create in aggregate and consume individually.

There is absolutely no reason whatsoever that value creation is limited by the physical world around us. Rather, the limit is the knowledge of how to add value. Entirely agreed, there are physical limits on certain types of value creation – there’s some number of copper atoms on the planet, we cannot use more than that number. But using the copper for paperweights or telephone lines gives us different amounts of value creation.

The truth being that even in an entirely circular economy, one where no new resources are abstracted from nature, it is still possible to have economic growth. In fact, we would have economic growth even in such an economy. Therefore stopping economic growth is not the necessary solution to the abstraction of resources from nature, is it?

Monbiot’s failure to understand here is simply because he’s not grasped the most basic point about what the economy, or growth of it, is. Ignorance not being a notably good manner of divining what the problem is.

19 thoughts on “It’s not blasphemy but it is stupid”

  1. Monbiot must understand value creation . He is paid a lot of money to write drivel for the Guardian.

    Am I wrong?

  2. this full-spectrum crisis


    a constrained world cannot afford the rich

    Yes! Destroy the rich! Destroy the wealth! Bring on the Lions and let them share a tin of Cattomeat.

  3. It’s not that Monbiot doesn’t grasp value creation.
    He may, or he may not.
    To him, it’s all irrelevant.
    He has a religious view of the world – humanity is evil, uniquely among beasts, and so must be purged from the planet – and religion has no place for logic or alternative views.

  4. Move all government-sector workers into dormitory-like housing.

    Cap how much wealth they can have.

    Take away their cars and put them on no-fly lists.

    Take away their passports to make them stay in the UK.

    It’ll reduce activity, but somehow nobody ever has that in mind.

  5. Ted S., Catskill Mtns, NY, USA said:
    “Move all government-sector workers into dormitory-like housing”

    Nice idea, but let’s start with the politicians; they can set an example to us all.

  6. 100 years ago Monbiot would be a miserable evangelical Christian walking through the streets ranting about the evils of drink and prostitution and spending his evenings whipping his back to a bloody mess.

    It is just a different religion.

  7. I’d also note that it’s stupid to say the quiet part out loud. Every other Greenie, despite all their other failings, understands that you have to tell people that there won’t be sacrifices, we’ll have better jobs, wind & solar will be cheaper & dependable, we’ll get any money we need from the rich, etc.

    Very, very few people are going to sign up for this if you tell them they’ll be poorer upfront.

  8. Putting up lots of windmills that can’t generate electricity at more than 25% of rated capacity is a great way to evaporate wealth. But given the near 100% wrongness of all Green prescriptions (bio-diesel for example), it’s only a matter of time before it emerges that sucking wind energy out of the atmosphere is bad for plants/animals/The Great Barrier Reef/the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Caps/polar bears/walruses/wildfires/sea-level rise/inner-city air quality/the plight of ‘refugees’/…

  9. I did once read a very honest comment from a German politician on the issue of base load and renewable generation. He said the solution was simply to drop the base load requirement altogether. His position was that if the electricity was available then people could use it. Otherwise people would go without or use a back up source which they would have to arrange themselves. Assuming they could afford it.

    If you were poor, then your back up would be candles, blankets and a camping stove for a bowl of baked beans. Middle class people would probably have a wood burning stove and some wind up lamps. The rich would have their own mini-power station: Diesel generators, solar panels with batteries, air heat pumps, etc.

  10. @Salamander
    “His position was that if the electricity was available then people could use it. “
    I’m not disagreeing.

    But people like that German politician have never thought for a moment, the effect on the food production, delivery, retail and domestic situation without freezers.

    Truly, any city is 1 week from anarchy, 1 month from cannibalism.

    S.M.Stirling wrote a whole “Dies the Fire” series on a world where electricty (and vehicles, guns) just stop working. Very few survive the transition, no one within 300 miles of a city.

    I’d rather wish Boris wouild hold this experiment somewhere else, or not at all.

  11. Dennis, Pointing Out The Obvious

    The only proper response to anything George Monbiot says is “Fuck off.”

    The people Monbiot actually reaches are precisely the sort of folk who are willing to talk about whatever today’s “full spectrum crisis” happens to be and nothing more. Writing calls to action targeted at Britain’s Jerk-Off Class is probably not going to get the job done.

  12. Monbiot the cunt understands value is something the plebs have, which he should have, but being dim and talentless, means he does not get it or his natural place in the world which is being in charge.

    Fuck the worthless eco goon and laugh at him.

  13. How about the reduction of economic activity by closing down the Grauniad? Not only would it save the world, but would increase the wellbeing of all its inhabitants!

  14. In Monbiot’s future the past winter’s death rate for over-70s will be normal, even mild. No heating, food shortages, limited transport. Somehow these people have convinced the country they are ‘progressive’ and good people.

  15. @salamander – that politician was being stupid. People have a need for reasonably continuous power – for things like fridges, and reasonably reliable power averaged over even a short period for things like cooking their dinner if they have an electric cooker. Furthermore, if everyone makes a private arrangement to cope with power cuts, that is very inefficient. That’s why we have mains electricity in the first place!

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