Capitalism or a habitable planet. Choose one?

Our economic system is unsustainable by its very nature. The only response to climate chaos and peak oil is major social change.

This is from Robert Newman writing in The Guardian, and I agree completely. He says we need to break up corporate power, give power back to the people (both figuratively and literally), and create personal and national carbon rationing systems. Again, this sounds good. Capitalism left to its own devices probably can not find solutions to climate change and peak oil because it will always be overly focused on short term profit. Thus, something new is needed.

So, the question for Socialists and Left Greens is, how can these needed changes be accomplished? Socialism posits a strong central government, and all indications are the coming years will bring massive decentralization, countries breaking into fragments over battles for oil and water, with a continuing “hollowing out” of governments as John Robb puts it.

So in this brave new decentralized world, where are the central governments that can mandate change at global or even national levels? Answer. Nowhere. They won’t exist with anywhere near the power needed to create such change.

Capitalism sure isn’t working, but it’s difficult to see how socialism can exist in the coming years either.


  1. And socialism as practiced in the 20th and 21st century makes capitalism look like a bunch of extreme Greens. Eastern Europe makes New Jersey look positively viriginal, and China is polluting itself out of existence even faster than the ancient Greeks managed to foul their environment. Something way, WAY beyond socialism is needed, since it’s proven to be just as corruptible as capitalism.

  2. “Freedom of choice is what you’ve got; freedom from choice is what you want.” –Devo (1980)

    I don’t see returning power to the people happening anytime soon under the current circumstances: the people don’t want it. Rather, I see increased polarization with power concentrated in the hands of self-serving de facto dictators and self-serving militants, with the people increasingly caught in the middle. “Hollowing out” of the central state will continue, in the sense that it will provide less and less support for the people. But it will continue to accumulate power at the expense of the voters.

    There are two alternatives. The most likely is this: as peak oil and global warming create chaos in society, peoople will be forcibly shaken from their lethargy. When there IS no food, you grow your own. When there ARE no sports to watch on TV, you read a book.

    A second but less likely alternative is, a radical spiritual revolution that shakes people out of their lethargy, gets them looking at the consequences of their actions to themselves and others, and causes them to demand accountability from their leaders. If it happens, it will probably come from the Left. But most on the Left (with exceptions) do not appear to be exploring the intersection of community wellbeing with spirituality, so I don’t think such a revolution is likely.

  3. Under socialism, it’s real important central planners know what they’re doing.

    Right now, in Venezuela, maybe this isn’t so.

  4. “Under socialism, it’s real important central planners know what they’re doing.”

    That suggests a government chosen by some means other than direct vote of the people, since popularity and competence frequently do not intersect.

  5. Joe is concluding: And socialism as practiced in the 20th and 21st century makes capitalism look like a bunch of extreme Greens.

    A realistic point of view! The russian and
    chinese etc. kind of socialism was influented
    by some authortarian patterns: oeconomic
    growths, technologian naivity and strongly
    leadership of the state, party and the working class. The dualism beetween the
    Nature and the industrial society was the Achillus point of this kind of “socialism.”

  6. Let me state that i generally agree with some kind of “socialism,” but as we have debated are the marxism/leninism not the answer!

    As Rosa Luxembourg, Anton Pannekoek, Pe-
    ter Kropotkin and latere Simone Weil,Erich Fromm, Marcuse and the hole spirit in the revolt of the Youth in the 60thies concluded!

    The establish socialism stands for centrali-
    zation from the days of Biscmark and the idolitry of a strong State……

    In the last centuries we had seen Green par-
    ties upcoming in the political scene. A new
    way to definied a community in coorperation
    with the nature and mann. Mabye this ideo-
    logy is more pleasent ? an alternative? but
    which organisation is powerfull to stop the
    negative aspekts of the globalisation? ATTAC?

  7. If we want to change the world – we must
    begin with ourselves.
    Formulate a much simplere lifestyle as usual. A new way to build a ground of an e-
    conymy of care. A practice which view of point is ecology and challenging to a new philosophy about society, man, environmen and the poverty in the Third world.
    The rich countries must started this proces if
    we should convinced the poor countries…
    US. EU and WTO must be controlled much better. The big global market must be regu-
    lated by laws and international demokratic control, so the social justice in the world can
    be much larger. the undemocratic globaliza-
    tion must stopped.

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