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Beyond the Empire of Chaos: Building Ecology into the Economy. Life Capital Value, Base and Measure

Apr 21 '16 | By La Afrique Media | Views: 194 | Comments: 0


Professor John McMurtry

Ecological and social science research increasingly demonstrate that ‘globalization’ is not what it seems. It does not produce more prosperity and reduce poverty for the world, but just the opposite. Ever more powerful transnational corporate money sequences multiply through organic, social and ecological life hosts looting and polluting them.   

But what can the social alternative be?

Philosophers across schools reject any ultimate common value, and no political party has any unifying solution. Meanwhile a Hobbesian imperative rules – that all must compete harder in this end-game to survive. The cumulative consequence is that common life capital bases are increasingly depredated and stripped to further enrich the corporate rich. Business statistics themselves show that the poorer half of the world has lost over 40% of its wealth in the last five years, while less than one-tenth of one percent of the world’s population has multiplied its private wealth. Yet the World Bank still claims ‘global poverty reduction’, elite voices blame ‘overpopulation’, and games spectacles capture most attention.

With even the opposition repeating masking slogans of “neo-liberal”, policy drivers to reclaim the life capital of humanity are not conceived. ‘Liberal’, ‘Conservative’, ‘Keynesian and ‘Marxist’ theories lack any life capital base or measure. All acceptable economic schools assume priced commodity-cycles as an end in themselves. So-called ‘neo-classical economics’ has no life coordinates, while political leaders assume this economics in a world of invisible-hand rule.

Even ecological economics remains confined to raw material replacements so that board-foot plantations and biodiverse forests are not distinguished in value. One welcomes counter-evidence to this profile across parties and schools, but none is shown. As in the past, few in favorable positions want to move out of the value system that rules. There is fiddling at the margins, but the ruling paradigm works ever more systemic oppression and ruin on the ground.

Keynesianism is the favorite alternative of progressive economists in the press, but it too is life-capital blind. Keynes himself only questioned the Supply = Demand equation, arguing it could also be the reverse with Demand leading the productive cycle (ie., by government spending, even if it were only “holes in the sand”). This is about as far as the ‘alternative’ goes, with military, PPP, green-wash schemes and bank handouts spending trillions of public wealth to keep the big corporate money-sequences going.

‘Growth’ is the panacea, that is more priced commodities. The life-coherent idea that the demand of the economy is ultimately the demand of life systems for life goods is completely repressed. Money-exchanges alone compute even if the ice-caps melt, more billions are malnourished and ever more species go extinct.

Life Capital, not Marxism is the Solution 

For Marx, productive forces are the ultimate driver of history and the base of human evolution, with the environment as instrumental value for human production re-creating the world to serve ever more empowered stages of productive development. In these respects Marx’s position and orthodox techno-economics today are alike in principle. They argue for opposite outcomes  – working-class revolution versus capitalist-system growth – but both are forms of technological determinism. Neither has a life capital base – the missing ground and link of received economic thought.

Close examination reveals that productive-force determinism is the ultimate driver of society for Marx with no grounding life-value base to control or direct it – Stalinist growth being an extreme example of the problem. My own long research through these issues has concluded that life capital is the underlying ground long eluding us – the ultimate base of human society and development, and the only concept which unifies across social, ecological and organic systems. It is the unseen foundation of the unifying alternative, and applies across domains.

Defining Life Capital as Universalizable and Objective Value through Time

Life capital is an objective and quantifiable process whose criterion is life wealth/capacity that produces more life wealth/capacity without loss and with cumulative gain through generational time (e.g., a society’s public hydro infrastructure, its literacy development, or an individual’s organic fitness through age stages).

Yet it is crucial to emphasize that life capital does not presuppose a private possessor of it. Nor does it require a private profit. But both these false presuppositions have become instituted as akin to physical laws in the reigning ‘economic’ paradigm.

At the most comprehensive level, life capital denotes the collective life bases of the planetary ecosystem and all the socially constructed conditions of humanity’s provision of life goods which are reproduced and gain through generations. In any form, macro or micro, life capital is always that which enables life capacities to reproduce and advance through time. Life capital, at any level, however, can be run down by a life-blind economic system such as ‘globalization’ today.  The collapse of the Easter Island culture is a paradigm example of this hollowing out of a society’s life capital bases in life-blind devotion to its system constructions as an end in self.  We follow this pattern on a global scale today.

 How Life Capital Applies to our Daily Lives 

Life capital is all that we continuously depend on to live and live well – breathable air, potable water, everyday knowledge, energy infrastructures, and life-protective laws and regulations. There is no good of our lives not dependent on it to stay alive and well, but the current ruling system increasingly despoils it across sectors. This is the essential problem of our world.

On the individual level, each one of us is a bearer of life capital which we manage better rather than worse by developing rather than wasting or depleting it. On the micro as well as the macro level, our life capital is far deeper in value than what can be sold in the market. Yet we lack the concept for what ultimately matters to us, that without which every life is reduced, malnourished and dies. This is especially true for social and ecological life capital on which we depend without knowing it – for example, effective societal norms and infrastructures ensuring clean air, water, stable climate, civil safety, electricity infrastructures, education, healthcare, income security.

All this becomes self-evident with testing inspection. But nothing is less comprehended in the reigning ‘Economics’. Its paradigm is decoupled from life means and substance in principle, with money demand for them as their only worth. If it is not priced for exchange and purchase, it has no value in this value system. There is no life-value in the calculus. If a natural resource or beauty does not make money, it is ‘wasted’. If a corporation kills people by its negligence, the value of their lives is the income to replace them.

It may seem that life capital has already entered into progressive economists’ vocabulary with concepts of ‘ natural capital’, ‘social capital’, ‘human capital’ and ‘knowledge capital’  which have become familiar in recent decades (beginning with ‘human capital’ from 1960’s onward applied to people who increase their own market value by earning university degrees). Yet these seeming forms of life capital reverse its meaning. They mean only what can be equated to a money value in the market, and so rule out life capital value itself – the value in itself and for life of nature, society, and knowledge. Life value, all real value on earth, cannot be conceived within the instituted blinkers.

Since only what increases revenues/reduces costs in money transactions and sequences is a “cost” or “benefit” to this value calculus, polluting, depleting and otherwise destroying life capital is built in as more “efficiency” because it reduces cost inputs. Thus a contradiction arises across the oceans and forests of the world. Life capital is perpetually despoiled as ‘natural capital’ to maximize money-value profit however natural life capital is in fact destroyed, moving from one site to the next as ‘globalization’. What is called ‘development’ and ‘growth’ cannot distinguish between this ‘investor value adding’ and the cumulative destruction of life systems.

What Has Gone Wrong at the Most Basic Level

As money becoming more money for transnational private possessors has become the ruling value system of the planet, the moral disorder is not examined or represented as it behaves. Rather it is auto-venerated in stock epithets of ‘freedom’, ‘prosperity’, and ‘new wealth’. In reality, a triad mechanism of media indoctrination, transnational treaty commands and armed force have imposed the system step by step. The global money-sequence system operates in accordance with three internal laws not discussed. It selects for more priced commodities without life standards, multiplies money demand to the richest, and – mot deeply – depredates life capital across social and ecological life support systems.

That this system cumulatively entails eco-genocidal effects is taboo to raise within official society. Most people have no idea of the inner logic of the reigning assumptions. Orthodox theory is instead devoted to perfecting the models of money-sequence ‘value adding’ with arcane mathematics leading devices for the rich to slip between the cracks of the law. Wall Street has in this mode modelled control of the buyable water and land in the world for future profit to its ‘investors’ with anything else that can be bought and sold to spike private money sequences.

While every plane of existence from which more money-value can be extracted is in the cross-hairs, no effectively binding protection for life capital bases has been allowed since the mildly successful Ozone Layer Protocol of 1988. The planet is systemically converted into private money sequences to the top depriving and destroying organic, economic and natural life support systems. The crowning irony is ‘austerity programs’ for society to keep the meta program going. At the same time, corporate-rights treaties are backed by severe punishments of taxpayers for any profit-reducing deviation by democratic laws – for example, to reduce neuro-toxins in the air, or stop toxic dumps, proscribe dolphin meat, or prohibit slave labour products. All is enforceable by financial and armed embargo in the last resort, and corporate state politicians are pervasively lobbied with electoral financing and post-office wealth to serve the new world order.

The emergence in the 2016 American presidential primaries of candidate policies to reverse these transnational corporate rights expresses a growing political resistance of the US population – even if the issues are obscured in the corporate media. It has been a long time coming. Thomas Berry long ago observed that “corporate profit is the deficit of the Earth”. Yet in the more exact words of Wall Street analysis: “With captive customers, the cash flows are virtually guaranteed. The only major variables are the initial prices paid, the amount of debt used for financing, and the pace and magnitude of price hikes – easy things for Wall Street to model.”

‘Freedom’ here consists in no recourse left for society to stop or limit the hollowing out of life capital to maximally profit transnational ‘investors’. In pretence of ‘free trade’, peoples are deprived of what ultimately matters to them without knowing what has happened. This is why in the end people feel increasingly helpless and meaningless in a world run out of control.

Primary Implications for Public Policy and Recovery

Re-grounding begins with a first principle. Real economic value is not created by the global market or by money exchanges. This ruling delusion has been promoted by neo-economics since the turn of the 20thcentury when it reduced economics to dyadic money exchanges with no life coordinates or bases – a system in which the best of possible worlds is a money-price gain for the exchangers. In life-capital understanding, the economic ground begins with reproduction of the planetary atmosphere itself, the oceans, hydrological cycles, soil cover, forests, fellow species, and all such life bases now erased from accounts by the reigning model.

Yet life capital includes far more than the planet’s physical resources on which life depends. It denotes all real goods that are reproduced and/or cumulatively advance through time, including scientific knowledge, life protective norms, and accessible energy sources. These are all measurable life capital formations along with the human-made bases of the real economy of producing goods otherwise in short supply.

Orthodox economics, in polar contrast, eliminates all life capital from view, and all commodities are ‘goods’ by definition. Only what can be privatized to yield more money counts as ‘economic’ or ‘competitive’. Thus a system of taking more than is put in every cycle with no limit becomes the supreme law of ‘value creation’ with all its profitable produces as ‘goods’, never bads.. Behind the scenes, the, the ‘masters of the universe’ create money by ever rising debt-issues and service charges which create nothing, but propel margin feeding in ever greater multiples.

No step is possible without the guarantee and force of corporate states. “My administration”, said President Obama to his Wall Street audience on April 3 2009, “is the only thing between you and the pitchforks”.  Governments’ servant economists and stacked committees, double-standard tax policies, escalating subsidies, armed force protections, privatization of public knowledge, and foreign wars are further dimensions of this transnational corporate system at work.

Life capital is opposite in nature. Whether our own lives or family, our bioregion or the planetary life-host – or the tree, garden or birdlife, vocation or vocabulary at hand – there is one underlying formula of life substance and flourishing across al of them. Life capital produces more life wealth/capacities without loss and with cumulative gain through time in all its variations, the law of true human evolution. Securing our life capital base to live by is its first moral axiom across cultures and tastes. This underlying first principle entails, in turn, policy and regulation to prevent any life capital being run down, wasted or destroyed – as almost all are now. Our collective and individual life capital of ecological, social and organic life hosts are all at risk.

Solution follows from recognising the problem. Moral and policy deciders collectively reclaim human purpose by binding life-capital standards to regulate production, trade and investment- as we already do now with water and sewer standards and enforced laws against criminal attacks.

How the Mass Media Paralyse Societies within the Life-Blind Money Mechanism 

The mass media are advertising vehicles which sell media spaces to the wealthiest corporations. They are operationally structured as a propaganda system for the corporations buying the spaces and the system they are embedded in. This is an analytic description confirmed by examining their electronic and hard-copy operations across formats.

It follows that the mass media promote and idealize the corporate operations and wealth sustaining them. But what is not recognised is that these corporations collectively depredate the life capital bases of societies with no connected media investigations. With no life capital standards governing, a global market race to the bottom forms without alternative.

All the while, trillions of dollars/Euros/pounds of public money go to big banks and corporations to keep them going. A staggering $5.3 trillion (U.S.) of public money by IMF calculation is given to fossil-fuel corporations alone, even as the climate destabilization they lead reaches cataclysmic proportions. Despite finally known emergency, even all ecological life support systems together do not receive a small fraction of what subsidizes the big banks and oil/motor industries propelling their collapse.

What is not seen is not responded to. The mass media are, in fact, structured to divert attention from the system’s degenerate trends to sell priced commodities as their law of motion. Endless images, gossip and tales of appetite, fear and projection hold populations in thrall disconnected from their common life-ground. The latest Enemy of the US/EU is then cast as the real threat to global life security – presented, for example, by intermittent hate messages on Vladimir Putin. What is actually occurring in tidal trends – the acidifying oceans, rising climate instability, species extinctions, and youth without meaningful life vocations –dissolve out of view.

The system remains auto-assumed as the best of possible worlds by the media, economists, formal economic models, and academic mainstreams. And why not?  Human slavery too was thought optimal for centuries – in fact, it was the first major commodity of ‘global free trade’.  Mass homicide by system starvation and ecocide are still called ‘costs of development’ with no challenge of the term. As knowledge and information themselves become proprietary monopolies, we come to see that the world’s deepest problem is the instituted mind-lock of the reigning paradigm beneath consciousness of it. its life blind logic 

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