The only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic. So if what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I have failed completely. Only if what I tell you appears absolutely unbelievable, have we any chance of visualizing the future as it really will happen.

- Arthur C. Clarke (h/t Brin)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Herman Daly

has a recent article on Oil Drum which is amazing reading. I had written off Daly and his followers for their misplaced attention to "entropy". I am still certain they have that wrong but I suspect I was too hasty about the rest of it.

Daly also has ten points, though his ten don't go up to eleven.

I don't fully understand this; I've only followed the article in detail about a third of the way through. So I'm not defending this list, at least yet, but for what it's worth, here it is:
1. Cap-auction-trade systems for basic resources. Cap limits to biophysical scale according to source or sink constraint, whichever is more stringent. Auction captures scarcity rents for equitable redistribution. Trade allows efficient allocation to highest uses.
2. Ecological tax reform—shift tax base from value added (labor and capital) and on to “that to which value is added”, namely the entropic throughput of resources extracted from nature (depletion), through the economy, and back to nature (pollution). Internalizes external costs as well as raises revenue more equitably. Prices the scarce but previously unpriced contribution of nature.
3. Limit the range of inequality in income distribution—a minimum income and a maximum income. Without aggregate growth poverty reduction requires redistribution. Complete equality is unfair; unlimited inequality is unfair. Seek fair limits to inequality.
4. Free up the length of the working day, week, and year—allow greater option for leisure or personal work. Full-time external employment for all is hard to provide without growth.
5. Re-regulate international commerce—move away from free trade, free capital mobility and globalization, adopt compensating tariffs to protect efficient national policies of cost internalization from standards-lowering competition from other countries.
6. Downgrade the IMF-WB-WTO to something like Keynes’ plan for a multilateral payments clearing union, charging penalty rates on surplus as well as deficit balances—seek balance on current account, avoid large capital transfers and foreign debts.
7. Move to 100% reserve requirements instead of fractional reserve banking. Put control of money supply and seigniorage in hands of the government rather than private banks.
8. Enclose the remaining commons of rival natural capital in public trusts, and price it, while freeing from private enclosure and prices the non rival commonwealth of knowledge and information. Stop treating the scarce as if it were non scarce, and the non scarce as if it were scarce.
9. Stabilize population. Work toward a balance in which births plus immigrants equals deaths plus out-migrants.
10. Reform national accounts—separate GDP into a cost account and a benefits account. Compare them at the margin, stop growing when marginal costs equal marginal benefits. Never add the two accounts.

Note: Comments are off here; this is a bit out of my league though it seems worthy of your consideration. Please reply to the original article.