Book review: Fiat Socialism by Carlos García Hernández

When I was in London recently, I caught up with my good friend Carlos García Hernández, who is a Spanish radical and has a book publishing business – Lola Books – in Berlin, which publishes in English, German, Spanish and Italian. He gave me a copy of his own recently published book (2023) – Fiat Socialism – to read on the way home. It carries the sub-title ‘Achieving the goals of socialism through modern monetary theory’. I promised him that I would write some comments about it once I had taken it all in, even though I had read and sent him comments on earlier drafts. So today that is what I am going to do. At the outset, it is an important book because it addresses many of the misconceptions that Marxists and socialist-leaning people have regularly demonstrated about Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). I am in accord with much of the content but depart critically from his endorsement of nuclear energy as a solution to the climate crisis.

The front cover features the twins!

Here is a video of Carlos presenting the book at a meeting in Berlin on September 11, 2023 and it gives you a good idea of what it is about.

As a result, I don’t intend to give chapter and verse here.

All forms of economic organisation and ownership will require a monetary system

The first important point that you glean from the book is that Carlos clearly understands that a different form of economic organisation and ownership will require a monetary system to function.

I exclude small community economies from this, even though I think one of the answers to the climate crisis is to build more local interactions between production and consumption.

I have regularly been confronted by Marxists, in particular, and progressives in general, who dismiss MMT because they claim it runs counter to their socialist ideals and only serves as a band-aid to maintain Capitalism.

Early on, I was criticised, for example, for advocating a Job Guarantee – apparently they saw it as a palliative – because they claimed it would prolong the system and preclude early revolution.

I used to be amused by these hardcore Marxists sitting in cosy seminar rooms with tenured and well-paid jobs, who had just come from their morning latte break where they were occupied with plotting the revolution.

And Mitchell, how dare he, suggest a policy that might actually help lessen the pain for the most disadvantaged workers and given them some income security.

Of course, until the revolution comes, I prefer workers and their families to have less pain that to become miserable pawns in the quest for revolution – that may never come!

I used to respond by suggesting these characters quit their jobs and join the ranks of the unemployed and start learning to use assault rifles.

With a tongue firmly in the cheek!

The point is that MMT is not peculiar or specific to Capitalism.

Large-scale economies, with complex systems of production and distribution require a coordinated monetary system.

There has to be a currency-issuing authority and some peak (national) fiscal authority that exploits that capacity.

There is scope to define different institutional structures – for example, how do we define the ‘government’ sector?

Will we have a separate central bank or should we (as is the preferred MMT position) just collapse it into the Treasury function?

So, questions like that are worth debating.

But the fact is that even if we socialise the material means of production – pure socialism – then we will have these monetary institutions.

And what MMT clearly tells us that operating under ‘fiat’ is much better than trying to fix exchange rates and tie the currency unit to some commodity like gold.

For better or worse, then, Marxists should get their heads around MMT as being the best framework for understanding how such a monetary system would operate and for understanding the capacities of the currency-issuing government and the consequences of using those capacities in one way or another.

How government is organised is not an MMT question.

How policy is developed – by elected officials, community consensus, worker cooperatives, etc – is not an MMT question.

MMT is about the way a modern fiat monetary system works overall and we can adjust the narrative to take into account the different institutions that might emerge in one nation or another.

What is fiat socialism?

In an Op Ed on the book (October 9, 2023) – The story behind Fiat Socialism – Carlos writes that his motivation for this book came, in part, from one of my blog posts – Stuart Chase – a visionary ahead of his time (June 13, 2017) – where I discussed the work of American economist – Stuart Chase.

His 55-page book published in 1942 – The Road We Are Traveling 1914-1942 – published in 1942, which carried the sub-title “Guide lines to America’s Future”, was the first in this series of six booklets written by Chase.

It is a masterpiece and outlined Chase’s vision for the future – one of full employment, “full and prudent use of material resources”, “guarantee of the five essentials to every citizen”, “social insurance”, and “labor standards”.

Chase also articulated an understanding that the only constraints on progress were the available real resources and utilising those resources fully – he argued that the ‘money’ to make all that happen would come from “the same place that the bombers, tanks and battleships are now coming from – out of the full employment of people.”

So not quite MMT but consistent with the view of many progressive thinkers of the day that if we could make it we could have it (paraphrased from Keynes “Anything We Can Do, We Can Afford”).

Carlos wrote that this resonated deeply with him, but, moreover “became an outcry” – and hence his quest began to define a socialist system that would deliver these goals (see above) within a modern context – that has to include an abiding concern for protecting the natural world.

The book Fiat Socialism recognises that socialism “will take different forms in different places”, which Carlos considers warrants calling his idea “flexible socialism”.

I am not sure he has convinced me of that point – as far as I recall in my reading the flexibility angle is not developed in any rigourous way.

Carlos defines fiat socialism in this way (Source):

Fiat socialism’ is my name for an open and prosperous society ruled by the principles of the modern monetary theory and functional finance. A society without unemployment or poverty, in which everybody has a decent job (either in the private sector, or in the public sector) which allows him to fulfil all his basic needs and coordinate his working and private life because of reasonable time schedules. A society in which public services, education and health access are of the highest quality, and in which the level of prices remains stable.

That is, a society that is diametrically at odds with the way in which late industrial capitalism has evolved.

The dynamics under capitalism have sought to exploit unemployment and poverty to ensure the elite owners of wealth accumulate even greater riches and actively suppresses the living standards of workers, within the obvious tension that they cannot starve everyone otherwise they could not realise the profits through sales.

Traditional socialism is based on “collective or state ownership and administration of the production means and of the distribution means of the goods”.

By way of distinction, fiat socialism applies to monetary systems based on fiat currencies (which have no intrinsic value and are demanded by the non-government sector because they are the only means that is recognised for extinguishing tax liabilities imposed by the state).

Carlos concedes that his vision of society maintains the ownership of the material means of production in the private hands and the tax liability imposed on these owners limits their capacity to accumulate wealth.

I am skeptical.

Carlos thinks that we can have socialism organised as – what we used to call – a mixed economy – where:

… beyond the existence or not of private entrepreneurship and beyond the economic decisions of the private sector, the government must always guarantee the five goals of socialism by means of sufficient public spending.

Somehow we will find the solution to the incompatible goals of society and capital that have shown up in bold over the last 50 years of neoliberalism.

In the post World War 2 period up until sometime in the 1970s, we sort of had such a mixed economy – where Stuart Chase’s ideals were being pursued with some success.

There was a long way to go with respect to gender issues, race issues, environmental issues etc but the state was occupying the position of mediator in the class conflict between labour and capital.

But in the 1960s and into the 1970s, capital used its financial wealth to wrest back control of the social democratic states.

We covered that topic in the book – Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World (Pluto Books, September 2017).

Capital and the financial elites reconfigured the state to ensure their agendas were pursued through the legislative means of the state.

Remember the Powell Manifesto, which I analysed in this blog post – The right-wing counter attack – 1971 (March 24, 2016).

This marked the beginning of the counterattack on social democracy and the ‘mixed economy’, which manifest in neoliberalism – the dominant ideology over the last 40 or so years.

The question is how we can avoid that while still maintaining private profit as the main motivate for resource allocation and decision-making.

Why will capital tolerate an interfering state?

Further, how much private ownership will there be in fiat socialism?

I went to the index to refresh my memory and remembered there was no index – which I an never enamoured by.

The book offers some advice (p.58):

The size of the public sector will vary from country to country. A country that wants the state to assume many responsibilities in providing goods and services will have a larger public sector than a country where the state does not assume so many responsibilities.

Which only takes us so far.

What mechanism will decide which means of production are in public and which are in private hands?

Later (p.87) we read that:

,.. the Kalecki profit equation explains the origin of corporate profits. This makes it possible to democratically decide the size of the private sector through public sector spending policies … the democratic decision of the size of the private sector is fundamental to fiat socialism. It is the use of the Kalecki profit equation as a rule of government economic policy that allows the citizenry to decide on the size of the private sector.

To understand this point, I refer readers to my blog post – Why fiscal deficits drive private profit (October 21, 2010).

Carlos was motivated by my writing on Kalecki to investigate the role that public deficits play in driving net corporate profits.

Ultimately, once private investment expenditure and capitalist consumption expenditure minus workers’ savings and the net external position are taken into account, it is government fiscal deficits which drive net profits.

Carlos wrote (Source):

Fiat Socialism states practical results as the goals of macroeconomic activities. Public deficits are at the center of it. Fiat Socialism proposes that, beyond the existence or not of private entrepreneurship and beyond the economic decisions of the private sector, the government must always guarantee the five goals of socialism by means of sufficient public spending.

While that provides some clarity, it begs the question of industrial structure and the praxis of determining fiscal policy decisions.

The neoliberal period has been marked by fiscal policy being corrupted to suit the elites.

Too big to fail leads to corporate welfare too weak (politically) to provide adequate social welfare support.

So will there be industry policy?

What form will competition policy take to prevent oligopoly?

What concept of public enterprise will be entertained and how will it be determined?

Will the so-called ‘natural monopolies’ – traditionally transport, utilities, telecommunications, postal, etc – remain public by dictate?

And all these sorts of questions are not dealt with in the vision laid down in the book.

That is not a criticism but an inquiry.

Further, I think back to Oscar Lange and the famous – Socialist calculation debate – which occurred between the two World Wars and pitted the Austrians (Von Mises and Hayek) against the Marxian and Keynesian economists (Oscar Lange, Fred Taylor, Abba Lerner, Maurice Dobb and Henry Dickinson).

The Austrians contended that socialism was unviable because value could not be determined in a non-market economy.

Further, the critique related to the quality of information in a planned economy.

Who would decide what and when to produce?

The critics argued that decentralised markets provided instantaneous information via price signals to producers to allow them to match supply with consumer preference.

A planned economy, they claimed would just produce millions of steel bolts that no one wanted and too few of other things that everyone desired.

I won’t go further into that debate – which occupied hours of my life when I was a student – fascinating hours – but much of the ‘free market’ critique fails in the modern era of networked computers, which would now provide the instantaneous signals to inventory managers and productions schedules of what people were buying and not buying.

The point is that by solving the calculation debate, there is no compelling reason why one should aspire to ‘too much’ private market activity.

State run enterprises could be ‘efficient’ now that computers have solved the information challenge.

Moreover, the more private sector ownership is permitted, the more likely one will encounter economic power to influence market outcomes and divert outcomes to profit enhancement and away from societal well-being.

So, where I question the fiat socialist concept (as opposed to more traditional socialist organisation) is that the pursuit of private profit remains a major factor in influencing motivation and outcomes.

One would need a massive regulative structure to bring a system motivated by profits into line with delivering outcomes that are unambiguously good for all.

Nuclear energy

The book is critical of existing renewable technologies (wind and solar) and advocates, like many progressives, the use of nuclear power to drive electricity supplies – specifically the use of thorium as a fuel.

For now, I will note I am opposed to this suggestion and believe the future is in better battery technologies, which are evolving quickly.

I don’t consider thorium to be the “great green hope’ of clean energy production” (Source).

Given its properties, it must be converted into isotope-uranium-233 which is actually more dangerous than the conventional nuclear reactors using uranium.

At the moment there are no commercially viable examples of thorium-based nuclear energy plants.

I refer readers to this research document – Near-Term and Promising Long-Term Options for the Deployment of Thorium-Based Nuclear Energy.

This article is also interesting – Should Australia consider thorium nuclear power?.

I will have more to say about energy options at a later date.

But I would not be basing a socialist vision on the use of nuclear energy.

Case studies

The book features an extended discussion of Spain and the Eurozone and sensibly advocates a breakup of the common currency and the restoration of national currencies.

They are very interesting and I fully support that conclusion.

As Carlos writes – “euro delendus est, the euro must be destroyed.”


Overall, the book is very interesting and an ambitious attempt by Carlos to change the way progressives think about future options.

His vision is big picture and the fact that the praxis is somewhat ignored is not a failing but a basis for more work (a second volume perhaps).

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2024 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Regardless of whether nuclear power is a ‘good’ option or not (I’m personally more for a mixed renewables/solar atleast for now).

    The main ‘criticism’ I see from British papers like Guardian against nuclear power is that its ‘expensive’. Not possible safety issues but that its not ‘economical’. The same ‘reason’ as to why nothing good can ever happen.

  2. What should be in our minds is not the fight against INDUSTRIAL CAPITALISM, but the fight against FINANCIAL CAPITALISM, and the plight to free society from EVERY KIND of rent.
    Our world was built by industrial capitalism, and we can´t destroy it, without destroying modern society itself.
    And let us be honest: even with all of its flaws, industrial capitalism is infinitely better than feudalism, that it replaced.
    Unlike feudalism and its the newer version – financial capitalism – industrial capitalism can be made a better system.
    What we need with urgency is to drop in the trash bin the fairy tales that keep us from evolving to a better system.

  3. Capitalism has been tamed in the past (1950s and 1960s) – a time when full employment was the norm, the gap between rich and poor was narrowing, the working week was shortening, and governments, through their spending, obtained and allocated huge quantities of resources to provide easily accessible public goods in education, health, transport, communications, and energy infrastructure. There is no reason why capitalism can’t be tamed again for the good of all people. Yes, profit-making and corporate mergers provide an opportunity for capitalists to acquire political power and influence to further their own interests at the expense of others. Thus, the need for a powerful and well-resourced trust-busting regulatory authority, a higher corporate profit tax rate, and the banning of political donations.

    The form of capitalism that existed in the 1950s and 1960s, while much better than the one we have at present (now based on neoliberalism), was far from perfect. It was premised on continuing GDP growth, which is ecologically destructive on a finite planet where physical transformation is subject to the first and second laws of thermodynamics. It was also based on an excessive reliance on coal (electricity) and oil (transportation). The latter caught the system out when oil prices spiked twice in the 1970s. The failure at the time to deal adequately with this structural deficiency (expressed in the form of a high rate of price inflation) is, in my opinion, one of the factors that allowed neoliberalism to take hold in the 1970s/early 1980s.

    I hate nuclear energy. I hate even more the prospect of an irrecoverably destroyed climate system. Because we have failed to do anything of significance to deal with climate change (which needed drastic action to start 50 years ago), we may, according to some observers (not my area of expertise), have to bump up nuclear energy for a period of time whilst we bump up renewables to the point where the latter can replace both non-renewables (fossil fuels) and nuclear energy. If so, that’s the price we will have to pay and a wicked decision we may be forced to make because of past inaction. The commercial viability of nuclear energy is an irrelevant factor. If it is technically possible, and the required real resources exist, a currency-issuing central government can make it happen. It is likely to require the withdrawal of real resources from very important things, not just to build capacity and generate nuclear energy, but to store the dangerous waste. So, it will come at a huge opportunity cost – again, a price that we may have to pay for past inaction. Whatever the magnitude of the opportunity cost, if nuclear energy is required (only temporarily), the opportunity cost of a destroyed climate system would be higher, since it poses an existential threat.

    One of the main conclusions of Kalecki’s Model flows automatically from its restrictive assumptions. In its most basic form, the model not only precludes saving by workers, but also borrowing by workers. It assumes that all borrowing is done by capitalists in order to finance investment spending. So, in Kalecki’s Model, only capitalists undertake spending financed by a financial injection. All spending, both initial and subsequent (expenditure multiplier), requires an initial financial injection. Thus, Kalecki’s restrictive assumption dictates that the capitalists’ profits can only be generated by the capitalists’ investment spending. It dictates that capitalists receive what they spend “that has been financed by a prior financial injection”. I could just as easily assume that workers can save (from current income) and borrow credit money to finance some of their consumption spending and preclude capitalists from borrowing so that all investment spending by capitalists is financed by retained earnings (from current income). In this case, workers can spend more than they earn, and capitalists receive the portion of what workers spend on consumption “financed by a prior financial injection”. All increases in financial injections, regardless of their origin, and provided there is spare productive capacity, boost spending on newly produced goods and therefore boost profits.

    I have long had a problem with the way financial injections and financial leakages are represented in macroeconomic models. It is usually signified by I + G + X (financial injections) = S + T + M (financial leakages). This assumes that financial injections are confined to the spending of credit money by capitalists on investment goods (I); the spending of base money by a government on domestically-produced goods (G); and the spending by foreigners on domestically-produced goods (X). As an undergraduate student, I asked my tutor why borrowing by households on consumption goods was not included as a financial injection. I was told that the portion of household consumption not financed by current income was not particularly relevant (not true!). Macroeconomic models treat this portion of consumption spending as irrelevant by including it in a class of spending referred to as ‘autonomous spending’. This trivialises this form of spending by assuming that it is automatic and, if not relatively constant, very stable over time. So-called autonomous spending is not trivial. It is not automatic. Nor is it stable. Prolonged rises in consumption spending financed by credit money to maintain consumption spending (people like to maintain accustomed spending levels) in the face of declines in spending by budget surplus obsessed governments is one of the main causes of unserviceable private sector debt levels and thus, eventually, private sector spending collapses and GDP recessions.

  4. Surely the sub-title of the book should be, Achieving the goals of socialism through an understanding of modern monetary theory. i.e. MMT shifts thinking, which then allows alternative practice.

  5. Many thanks for this, Bill. I am a lazy woman and haven’t finished reading, but I’m taking it with me on my journey to London this weekend to do so and complete my notes for Carlos.
    A couple of things here. I too was disappointed not to see an index, but a quick scan of the references brought up thorium reactors, which sparked my interest. My ex, a scientist, wrote a series of articles on Global Warming for the Morning Star in 2010. He studied the case for thorium, which he found compelling (he is like me a CND member). However, I’m inclined like you to believe that we will eventually work out how to harness solar for all our energy needs. He was writing (for many many years and apparently still is) a book on the expropriation of surplus labour (value) and I believe that MMT shows how that can be minimised, particularly through taxation. I should write a book about it…
    BTW I’m going to a Corbyn Project event this weekend where I intend to collar a few good people whom I haven’t seen for years, to enthuse them about learning MMT. If I get a chance I’ll let Jeremy know that I tried to send him a signed copy of Reclaiming the State, via Chris Williamson, but it never reached him. I’ve just booked another event in a couple of weeks for the same purpose. It’s young people we must tell. One in particular I’m looking for ways to speak to. She was on the same Labour Policy Forum as me but she now has such a high profile – just launched another book/appears on the telly – that there is little chance of getting near her now. I sent her an email but never received a reply. She was interviewed recently, I think it was on Sky News, saying why she had left the Labour Party. She said: “This (Gaza) is the defining moral issue of our age”. True.

  6. Replacing existing energy infrastructure is Gorz’s “reformist reform.” Degrowth requires decommissioning of existing energy infrastructure alongside the degrowth. Substituting new energy infrastructure for old will increase growth, not decrease growth.

  7. MMT and socialism – meaning an economy which works for all?

    First requirement: more government intervention into the free market.

    2nd requirement: a JG and a ZIRP (the latter because higher interest rates hurt borrowers).

    3rd requirement: methods of managing inflation which don’t involve raising taxes, because the public don’t like paying higher taxes, and politicians need to get elected.

    I can see price controls and even rationing when supply chains fail…..very un-freemarket…
    Poor Albo with his ‘Make in Oz’ policy is already being accused of ‘taking resources from the private sector – by Danielle Woods, no less. I wonder what she thinks of Biden’s IRA ….

  8. If replacing a largely fossil fuel-based energy infrastructure with a renewable resource-based energy infrastructure is going to involve a relatively long period of growth, we will simply end up destroying the planet in order to save to the planet. Climate change is not the only existential threat we face (ecologically) and virtually every ecological problem is the result of excessive scale (producing too much stuff and thus having to extract natural resources and generate wastes beyond the ecosphere’s regenerative and waste assimilative capacities) and not so much about how we produce stuff. At present, the global Ecological Footprint is 1.7 times global Biocapacity, which means to indefinitely extract resources and generate wastes at current levels we require 1.7 Earths. We have only one Earth. We manage to operate at the present scale by gnawing away at the stock of natural resources and damaging waste sinks by over-committing them with our wastes. We can’t keep doing that – it is unsustainable. Getting the global Ecological Footprint back within global Biocapacity will require degrowth in many countries, especially given that some countries need the benefits of some growth in GDP.

    Establishing a renewable resource-based energy infrastructure need not require further growth, although it will mean having to make great sacrifices, since it will require withdrawing real resources from very important things – a problem made all the more difficult and painful given that we have to bring the global Ecological Footprint within global Biocapacity. The dilemmas we now face are the result of using fossil fuels unwisely. We have built economic systems with fossil fuels as the ‘base’ energy source. We should have used fossil fuels as a ‘transition’ energy source – an energy source for humans to transition from an agrarian economy (reliant on renewable energy) to a post-industrial economy (reliant on renewable energy). The transition process should have been completed by now. Future generations of humans and the other species we share the Earth with will suffer as a consequence.

  9. Imagine if everyone could cast election votes with consideration of the 5 goals of rational government according to Stuart Chase, and an understanding of how MMT can enable their fulfillment, but in a true democracy free of propaganda, election funding, lobbying and so on by big business!

    People worry about what would be an appropriate level of capitalism, but if there was true democracy, couldn’t the balance be determined by voters? To think otherwise would surely signify distrust of democracy, which is a feature of both capitalist and totalitarian leadership.

    When we despair at the prospect of re-introducing progressive taxation of excessive income and wealth to reduce inequality it is worth noting that from 1932 to 1980 the top marginal tax rate in the US averaged 81%, compared to 37% today. This period covered the New Deal, World War II and a massive propaganda reaction by big business which completely overturned American support for socialism and communism.

    The end result was the McCarthy era and ultimately Vietnam. But before that the depression and the New Deal had precipitated a collapse in support for capitalism which the business community had earlier managed to engender.

    The lesson is that public opinion and hence government policy can change very quickly given the right circumstances and engagement by the population.

    Great comments from Phillip Lawn, to which I would only add that a massive reduction in inequality within wealthy countries would help reduce the Ecological Footprint, as would international co-operation instead of pointless conflict and military posturing. The alliances being built against China reminds me of how European countries sleep-walked into the First World War.

  10. Famous biologist, Paul Ehrlich, came up with his well-known I = P x A x T formula around fifty years ago (I = ecological impact; P = population; A = affluence; T = technology). Besides it being more of an identity than an equation, I prefer, for pedagogical and empirical reasons, F = P x A x R (F = Ecological Footprint; P = population; A = affluence = per capita GDP (GDP/P); R = resource-intensity or Footprint-intensity of GDP = F/GDP). The right-hand side of Ehrlich’s identity is not a true measure of impact (I) because impact depends on resource demands (footprint) relative to the capacity of the ecosphere to supply resources and assimilate wastes (Biocapacity). The impact of a given Ecological Footprint will be greater if Biocapacity is smaller.

    F = P x GDP/P x F/GDP, which is a true equation.

    At the global level, the following has happened over the past fifty years (approximately):
    * P has doubled (x2)
    * A has doubled (x2)
    * R has halved (x0.5)

    Consequently, F has doubled (2 = 2 x 2 x 0.5)). It is now 1.7 times global Biocapacity. It was around 0.85 times Biocapacity fifty years ago. That is, global economic activity was ecologically sustainable fifty years ago (ecological surplus) but is now exceedingly unsustainable (ecological deficit).

    Global economic activity could have remained ecological sustainable by doubling per capita GDP (A) and keeping population constant (P) or by keeping per capita GDP constant and doubling population, or by increasing both per capital GDP and population by around 40% (1 = 1.4 x 1.4 x 0.5).

    How much would a more equal distribution of global GDP have slowed the rise in global Ecological Footprint? It depends. It might have slowed the rate of population growth via the demographic transition (fertility rates fall as people get richer), which would have been desirable. Assuming population grew at the same rate as it did, for per capita GDP not to have risen, it would have required the narrowing of the gap between rich and poor to have involved the redistribution of global GDP (rich get less and poor get more). Had it involved the rich getting richer and the poor becoming less poor at a rate sufficient to narrow the gap between rich and poor, global per capita GDP would have grown even more, which would have been undesirable.

    It is important to understand that R can’t keep falling, and certainly not at the rate it fell over the past fifty years. GDP might be measured in ‘dollars’ (or whatever currency you want to measure it in), but GDP is dollars’ worth of ‘real stuff’. Real stuff embodies matter and energy. The quantity of matter and energy embodied in the natural resources transformed by labour and capital to produce the real stuff (GDP) must exceed the matter and energy embodied in GDP (first and second laws of thermodynamics). R has increased only by reducing some of the waste immediately generated by the transformation process. There is a limit to it, since, in terms of matter and energy, R must be greater than a value of one (R = F/GDP > 1). We have wasted the fifty years we have been able to reduce R by, in my opinion, not doing enough about global population growth. I think most people fifty years of age would agree with me if they were given the choice between being richer on a planet with the same number of people as in 1974 or being no richer on a planet with twice as many people as in 1974. You might say that the former would have meant fewer people currently alive and over the past fifty years to enjoy life. However, the damage we have inflicted on the planet has already reduced the number of people who will ever get the chance to enjoy life much more than having kept population numbers constant would have deprived people of life.

    We can do various things to reduce the global Ecological Footprint but one of those things must be a transition to a qualitatively improving steady-state (non-growing) economy with a heavy emphasis on distribution/full employment and away from a quantitatively expanding (growing) economy. As a subsystem of the greater ecosphere, the economy must eventually conform to the steady-state nature of the Earth. Growth of a subsystem (parasite) relative to a larger non-growing parent system (host) can only occur for a short time. We have already surpassed that length of time.

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