As a matter of statistical likelihood, if you just get the sound track of the discussion, and it boils down to "too many people" being the root problem, chances are these are "Anglos" in the sense of "English speakers".

Parsing the world's problems that way inherits specifically from the East India Company and Thomas Malthus in particular.  Malthus pointed out that the amount of arable land is finite and if biological forms are allowed to keep doubling, they always overwhelm the food available. 

True enough:  a truly successful species tends to find an equilibrium with its environment and not over-grow, somewhat by definition.  We have some evidence that the human population is leveling, even as infant mortality drops, literacy increases, and child raising becomes less of a woman's only job opportunity.

In fairness, a branch of the English-speaking economists e.g. Paul Romer, have since embraced the "economics of abundance" as an alternative approach, and use the latest science to under-gird their arguments. 

I actually think Quaker writers such as Kenneth Boulding contributed to this school.  Friend Joe Havens helped us establish a Quaker Economics group in Portland before he died.  Were we to form that group today, the more trendy term "Quakernomics" might be chosen.

Rather than take sides directly, I prefer to begin with a terminological discussion.  What do we mean by "consumption"? 

Non-Anglos are more likely to stress inequity and over-consumption (Affluenza) by some, as the critical problem, not "overpopulation". 

When the problem is "overpopulation" then it's usually "those people", meaning relatively low on the consumer power scale (no credit cards) who are deemed to be "over-breeding". 

British snootiness and classism comes through loud and clear, and that's annoying to those freshly smarting from living under the heel of the British boot (that includes many in the Americas).

Consider the single human body, at rest or at work.  Actually, from a physics viewpoint, there's always energy expenditure and work is being done, if only respiration, cell division, and a modicum of eye tracking, leaving it to TV to supply the programming (thinking). 

Such a reclined, at rest animal is burning energy at a rate of about 200 watts.  A light bulb.  We have some billions of light bulbs, dimming and brightening, and that represents the sum total consumption of joules (calories) by the biomass we collectively call Humanity.  The total amount may be calculated. 

I would argue the energy supplied by the sun, a fusion reactor providing tera-watts for free, converted through photosynthesis to hydrocarbons, is in principle sufficient to sustain this sound and light show, of X billion people working (spending joules).

When economists zoom back from the actual animals and start measuring the energy used by said animals, to move heavy metal specific distances for example (cars, trucks, trains... airplanes) then the total ergs grows astronomically and the bean counters start shaking their heads.  "There's no way a billion Chinese can live at the living standards enjoyed by US Americans" say the English speakers, with their focus on "too many people for us to live how we want".

What those who study Quakernomics need to realize, is that energy consumption and output by the physical animal, and "resource use" by companies thereof, are separate measures.  That's basic.

I would suggest that in terms of simply feeding each human enough calories to sustain a 200-300W burn rate, there is no "calorie shortage". That's a myth, even at current population levels.

But in terms of feeding human egos, giving each of these a sense of autonomously controlling a vast estate, with servants, horses and motorcars, that's something else again.  We should talk about Affluenza, the Military-Industrial Complex (MIC) and other forms of mental illness in another forum, perhaps under the heading of psychology vs. economics.

J. Fletcher Prouty, who wrote some intelligent analysis for the US Air Force in his day, points out that the Malthusian bias in Anglo talk gives English speakers a sense of burden they call "a responsibility" to bring the world some Bad News:  that there are too many of you. 

This sense of responsibility and burden is what brings them to bomb the rest of the world, trying to get the numbers down, especially in the Orient as they call it, which includes the Middle East.

Then, I would quickly add, they right away mix this Bad News with their Good News, which is a religion known as Christianity, oft bent to justify one race's subservience to another.  In the lead-up to the US Civil War, blacks were always invited to white home-owner churches to hear the sermons on why they were slaves, and why God had ordained it.

"Now that we know there's not enough to go around" say the English speakers, "and therefore many of you non-English will have to die, lets hear the Good News, about why that's OK:  because Jesus loves us more than anyone, and put us in charge -- be more like us and you too will have a shot at being saved."

Of course this is satire.  Most Christians are not Anglo-speakers in the first place, and Catholicism, if not Protestantism, by this point in time has a reputation as a theology of Liberation, of Freeing people enslaved by rotted human institutions, obsolete and crumbling.

When blacks formed their own churches, they stopped preaching the Anglo gospel of white man's moral superiority and burdensome responsibility.  Christianity is anything but Malthusian today.

Indeed, I'd say such "Anglo Christianity" is about over and done with, actually, given the sun has long set on the British Empire being really an empire. 

The economics of abundance is more hopeful in any case and is making inroads in the Americas.  We have enough energy to keep our bodies alive, and no one really wants to live like a fat slob suburbanite with a garage full of junk anyway.  We have better things to do with our time and energy.

Views: 124

Comment by Kirby Urner on 9th mo. 26, 2015 at 8:19pm

Relevant quote:

By 1600 Queen Elizabeth had founded the East India Company, which was given charter rights to create proprietary colonies anywhere on Earth.  During those long years when the British fleet maintained the global British Empire, the East India Company was the structural mechanism of the most powerful men on Earth.
The East India Company founded Haileybury College in England to train its young employees in business, the military arts, and the special skill of religious missionaries. By 1800 it became necessary to initiate the task of making an Earth inventory, that is, to find out what was out there in the way of natural resources, population, land, and other tangible assets.  The first man assigned the official responsibility for this enormously vital job was the head of the Department of Economics of Haileybury College.

This man was Thomas Malthus, who, in 1805, postulated the idea that humanity is multiplying its numbers at a geometric rate while increasing its life-support at only an arithmetic rate.  As a result, it has been universally concluded by the power elite that only a relatively few humans are destined to survive successfully in generations to come.  The Malthusian theory thus provides a rationalization for the necessity of somehow getting rid of large numbers of people, any people, in any way -- even genocide.  With the Malthusian theory as the power elite's philosophical guide, this becomes an acceptable objective, because , they believe, Earth will never be able to support the progeny of so many anyhow.  From this point of view, genocide -- then as now -- is accepted as all but inevitable.  Who cares and why be concerned?

L. Fletcher Prouty, JFK: The CIA, Vietnam and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy (Birch Lane Press, New York, 1992), ISBN 1-55972-130-8, pp 3-4.


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