I don’t know man, your depiction of humans being, as a rule, insatiable, hyper-competitive strivers strikes me as a caricature. It’s doing an awful lot of work in your arguments

Anecdotally, amongst my acquaintances I know maybe 2 or 3 people who would match this description. (And they have been quite successful). But the rest fall along a range of ambitious to utterly indifferent to downright depressed. Most people I know seek out meaningful connections with their compatriots and have many interests outside of market driven imperatives.

I think the existence of hyper-competive, well capitalized, and ruthless actors can distort markets and force people into a Darwinian struggle for survival. That desperation is not the same thing as insatiable drive.

A ruthless capitalist interested not only in being rich and successful but to achieve these to the greatest degree possible can put downward pressure on wages by forcing workers to compete for the jobs and awarding them to those willing to work the cheapest.

Another arm of the pincer putting the squeeze on the average citizen of a modern capitalist state is the desire for cheap prices. I don’t think most people are insatiable in their need. However, given the choice to pay a lower price and keep more of their money most will gladly choose that option. This is the pressure firms feel to compete on price, which squeezes margins from below.

This results in a state where people who might otherwise be happy with a modest life are forced to compete as if their life depended on it, which it does.

This dynamic can then play out on a global scale with the global citizenry stuck in a system that doesn’t suit them.

This reminds me of how sociopathic leaders can induce sociopathic behavior in those the leaders who are actually quite normal, decent folks. We see this pattern play out with autocrats and despots over and over.

Channeling such people, if they are talented, into business leadership can be more productive than they might be in positions of political leadership.

But there needs to be mechanisms to ameliorate the negative effects of hyper-competition.

These aren’t that mysterious. My guess is that older structures of social cohesion like religion or nationalism are weakened because they either superficial or naive oversimplification that cannot be sustained in a global, ever more educated, and technological world.

To posit a world where older organizing principles of society have become obsolete, with attachment to them ‘mere romanticism’ and being left only with the outcome of market competition to structure our life is a bleak vision. It seems utterly out of touch with the breadth and depth of human experience.

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Thank you. A lot of confusion is caused by the absence of precise definitions of problems and terms like 'growth', and by a lack of fundamental understanding of how a complex system (such as our global economy, ecosystem, etc) maximizes its energy dissipation potential.

In highly complex systems the concentration-profile of 'wealth'/'capital'/'energy' is a function (a lagging indicator) of the level of technological/economic complexity: an increase in complexity will further skew the distribution of capital (roughly speaking).

In laymen terms this means that as long as there is technological progress, the economy cannot stop growing, and concentration of wealth will increase (until some exhaustion/saturation point etc, but that's still far away).

So I think we should look even beyond insatiability of needs and commodification because they are only enabled symptoms of a level of technological and economic complexity.

Since we cannot stop the progressing concentration of wealth in the current level of complexity (as it is the way the system optimizes), our only way out is a severe and intelligent reduction of the level of economic and technological complexity. Ditching 90% of technology in financial markets would be a great start, followed by economic localization (back from globalization). This should be doable on a scientific and empirical basis, to assess effectiveness.

All the rest is romanticism ;)

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Thanks Branko. Given these ‘animal spirits’ of capitalism, is there any hope of dealing with climate change? Or can we do growth and reduce emissions enough at the same time, right across the world? Cheers

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