On the end of the world, which will happen in your lifetime if we don’t replace capitalism with socialism

Due to peak oil and peak everything else, the economy will never recover—it will only get worse and worse. We must all realize this.

If what I’m about to say sounds overly dramatic, it’s because the truth is so shocking. Within 10 years, the global economy will begin a steep decline—that is, a deep and ever-deepening recession. Virtually every aspect of the modern economy depends on the availability of cheap liquid fuel, cheap energy (from fossil fuels), and cheap other resources. Literally everything is about to get more and more and more expensive, and in certain parts of the world, many things are going to just plain run out. And it’s not just fossil fuels—there are dozens of resources (including water) that are about to become extremely scarce.

* * *

“In July 2008 oil prices spiked 50 percent higher than the previous inflation-adjusted record, set in the 1970s. As a result of that price spike, the global airline industry went into a tailspin, and the auto industry has been on life support ever since.
. . .
While the oil price run-up was hardly the sole cause of the ongoing world economic crisis, it has effectively imposed a limit to any possibility of “recovery”: as soon as economic activity advances, oil prices will again spike, causing yet another financial crunch.
. . .
Instead of being a continuation of the upward trajectory we have all grown accustomed to, the 21st century is destined to be one long downward glide punctuated by moments of financial, political and geopolitical panic. And in retrospect, we’ll all probably eventually agree that our descent began in 2008.”

Richard Heinberg, Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines

* * *

If you think there is some technological magic bullet to solve oil shortages (say, algae biofuel), think again. We’re way too short on the resources we would need to make it work—we’re way too short on all of it:

* * *

“It is no happenstance that so many [resource] peaks are occurring together. They are all causally related by the historic reality that, for the past 200 years, cheap, abundant energy from fossil fuels has driven technological invention, increases in total and per-capita resource extraction and consumption (including food production), and population growth. We are enmeshed in a classic self-reinforcing feedback loop:”

Feedback loop causing simultaneous resource peaks

Richard Heinberg, Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines

* * *

As you may well be aware, capitalism cannot solve this problem—only exacerbate it. And it’s not just a question of the greed of individuals, either. The system itself puts relentless pressure on anyone with decision-making power to promote short-term corporate profit at all costs. The corporations that make any attempt to conserve the world’s resources are outcompeted by those that willingly burn through them. Any CEOs who prioritize conservation tend to decrease a company’s profits and will soon be replaced by the board of directors with a CEO who keeps the greatest profits coming in, however short-lived they may be. The politicians and government officials who refuse to do what corporate shareholders want are replaced by those who will. Countries and regions with laws that don’t favor corporate profit are starved of investment capital in favor of more corporate-friendly areas. Under capitalism, wealth is power, and the corporate shareholders rule the planet. Those who won’t promote short-term profit for corporate shareholders are pushed out of power. Capitalism has no solution—can have no solution.

* * *

“Corporations tend to behave as if their sole—or, at least, primary—goal is to maximize profits. That is true not because corporations have dispositions, but because of . . . situational factors. … Firms participate in a number of market competitions. … These markets work to winnow out those firms and managers that do not effectively profit maximize. Firms have charters and bylaws . . . that typically set profit-maximization as the firm’s stated goal, and they operate within a legal environment that places, according to most corporate law scholars, fiduciary duties on managers to maximize profit.

Moreover, [those] who work within firms face strong cultural norms to maximize profits and are given extensive training in business schools or by the firms themselves. The American business culture promotes the idea that “business is business” and considerations other than profit are irrelevant to decisions.”

Hansont and Yosifon, “The Situation: An Introduction to the Situational Character, Critical Realism, Power Economics, and Deep Capture”

* * *

“The market does not respect the carrying capacity of natural systems. For example, if a fishery is being continuously overfished, the catch eventually will begin to shrink and prices will rise, encouraging even more investment in fishing trawlers. The inevitable result is a precipitous decline in the catch and the collapse of the fishery.”

Lester R. Brown, Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization

* * *

What the world needs, as soon as possible, are huge programs to fundamentally change the global economy. We need a bigger-than-wartime effort to create a new economy and culture that uses vastly less energy and resources, and to move the world to renewable energy and complete global sustainability. We need to train hundreds of millions of people how to set up organic and permaculture farms. Capitalism can’t do these things because they don’t provide the shareholders a short-term profit. But we could do them if we actually had a democracy.

Socialism—and the genuine democracy it will bring—is the only answer.

We should bring this idea into the public consciousness and hammer on it relentlessly and never let up. The longer people have been hearing that socialism can give us control over what capitalism necessarily keeps out of control—and the more deeply they understand how and why socialism will give us the true democracy we’ll need to guide the global economy in a coordinated, just, and rational manner through economic contraction toward complete sustainability—the easier it will be to make the change as the situation worsens.

Get serious about it. Tell the “communism through the coming automation economy” people that there won’t be enough liquid fuel to run all those driverless semi-trucks or enough plastic for the 3D printers. Make the universal basic income people understand that no reform can provide a solution because the problem lies with capitalism itself.

It is incredibly easy to put these facts out of your mind, but that is the one thing you must not do.

Tell everyone who will listen. Post about it on all your social media feeds. Write articles about it and submit them to newspapers and magazines. Get your organizations to focus on it. There is no solving this problem under any form of capitalism, however reformed. The world is going to hell in your lifetime if we don’t bring about global socialism.

Edit on January 20, 2015:

Questions or concerns about socialism? Check these out:

“Debunking anti-communism masterpost”
“/r/communism101’s Frequently Asked Questions”

Edit on February 21, 2015:

I recently wrote more on the closely linked subject of capitalism and the growing ecological disaster in another post, “The ecocide at the heart of capitalism.”