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> they propose tearing it down, because they don’t see the use of it.

Speaking for just myself, it isn't as if I don't know the various points outline in the basics. It is that my current thinking is that the extractive-value paradigm of the industrial processes has done far more harm than good. Both people and land have been turned into resources by which value is extracted and capitalized. This has lead to a wide-spread devastation in our ecology, in our communities, and our human potential. It's a process that is moving towards degeneration, and we see many of those effects -- from growing equality gaps, to the radicalization of angry young people, and so forth.

Although I feel an antipathy towards all of this (in the sense of watching a dumpster fire), I have encountered some work that does not involving burning anything down (literally or metaphorically). It does require a change in paradigm and epistemology.

The work I am referring to comes from Carol Sandford. I'm still learning it and slowly applying them in my life. She has been at it for over 40 years now, and have worked with Fortune 500 companies ... though I don't know how much of a transformative effect she has. Nothing that made the news in a big way.

But take the idea of having to use synthetic fertilizers and pest control. There are better ways, but they eat at the profit margin if you were only to maximize on profit, yield, and market value. If the goal, however, is towards the well-being of the community and the land in which things are farmed, then there are many methods with which we can accomplish that while still feeding people without requiring a huge amount of labor. But it comes from a different way of seeing the world.




> But take the idea of having to use synthetic fertilizers and pest control.

The corresponding "industrial literacy" element is the statistic that half of the nitrogen in human bodies in the world was fixed from the atmosphere through the Haber-Bosch process. That doesn't mean that we should assume that there's no other way to get nitrogen fixation, but I imagine it means we should realize that changing that in order to do without synthetic fertilizers, or even reduce the use of them dramatically, is a really, really big undertaking.

(I've been vegan or vegetarian for the past 80% of my life, but my carbon footprint is still way above the global average because of my heavy use of airplanes. Well, not this year, maybe. Anyway, one way I notice that I'm lacking in industrial literacy in the sense of this article: I honestly don't know whether my diet puts me above or below the world average in ratio of Haber-Bosch-fixed nitrogen in my body! I think noticing my uncertainty about that makes me more sympathetic to the idea of the original article, though.)


> The corresponding "industrial literacy" element is the statistic that half of the nitrogen in human bodies in the world was fixed from the atmosphere through the Haber-Bosch process. That doesn't mean that we should assume that there's no other way to get nitrogen fixation, but I imagine it means we should realize that changing that in order to do without synthetic fertilizers, or even reduce the use of them dramatically, is a really, really big undertaking.

Some years ago, I read an American defence analyst claiming that USA is just 4 biggest fertilizer stockpiles away from starvation, if no imports are possible. And the globe as well is dangerously reliant on a dozen of so "megaplants."


I also think this understanding of vulnerability is a benefit of industrial literacy.


>It is that my current thinking is that the extractive-value paradigm of the industrial processes has done far more harm than good. Both people and land have been turned into resources by which value is extracted and capitalized.

Before industrial society, people and land were also resources from which value was extracted, often quite literally belonging to a small group of people.

I don't think that a purely extractive-value paradigm is the only way for an industrial society to run. For example, if we better priced the harm that comes from things like fertiliser run-off and emissions from fertiliser manufacturing, would we still use synthetic fertilisers? Almost definitely yes, we would just be more careful about using it only where really required.

>It's a process that is moving towards degeneration, and we see many of those effects -- from growing equality gaps, to the radicalization of angry young people, and so forth.

I think we need to be quite careful with our history here. The systems that were replaced by the early modern civilisation and then subsequently by industrial civilisation, were much more deeply unequal than our modern system, at least in NW Europe which is the history I know best. Those systems, often not quite accurately described as "feudalism" were much more sustainable but also not very pleasant for most people who lived in them.

I think the whole point of the OP was not that we shouldn't think carefully about how we want to run our society so that our descendants can still live happy lives on it 1,000 years from now, but that we shouldn't simply say, "Industrial civilisation? Feh, it's bad" without really understanding how it works.


> often quite literally belonging to a small group of people.

1. Almost all capital belongs to a small group of people today. Humans don't, but that doesn't go as long a way as you would hope.

2. For most of pre-industrial history of our species, it was not the case that a small minority owned most of everything. In many countries it was only relatively recently that village/tribe communal holdings or land use rights were abolished in favor of private property.


> Before industrial society, people and land were also resources from which value was extracted, often quite literally belonging to a small group of people.

Extractive value is the basis for most of civilizations, whether they are industrial or not. That's where we get the exploitation of labor (slavery, serfdoms, indentured servitude, etc.) and wars over resources (most of them) although the ecological footprint is much smaller compared to that of industrial societies. Many of those civilizations still devastated ecologies, communities, and human potential.

What I am asserting is that it is not the industrial practices themselves but the whole paradigm of value-extraction (and its offshoots) that is the core problem. Industrialization mainly scaled up the problem.

> I don't think that a purely extractive-value paradigm is the only way for an industrial society to run.

Carol Sandford with the regenerative paradigms and to some extent, permaculture, has offered up non-extractive-value paradigms.

> For example, if we better priced the harm that comes from things like fertiliser run-off and emissions from fertiliser manufacturing, would we still use synthetic fertilisers? Almost definitely yes, we would just be more careful about using it only where really required.

That's coming from a "Do Less Harm" paradigm that's a typical response to "Value Extraction". It doesn't really address the core issue. Usually, the response to "Do Less Harm" is "Do More Good", but that has its own problems.

At the core of extractive value is that some outside, externalizing process is controlling or regulating the behaviors of the people involved. Regenerative paradigms inverts that, where the intrinsic motivation of individuals are connected to some meaningful contribution. In other words, each individual looks for ways to contribute value to the society and whole, and their capabilities for doing so are developed so that they can.

> The systems that were replaced by the early modern civilisation and then subsequently by industrial civilisation, were much more deeply unequal than our modern system, at least in NW Europe which is the history I know best. Those systems, often not quite accurately described as "feudalism" were much more sustainable but also not very pleasant for most people who lived in them.

"Sustainability" is, I am sad to say, a "Do Less Harm" paradigm. Yeah, the not-quite-feudalism you speak of were sustainable as far as ecological footprint when compared to modern, industrial practices. They were still devastating to human potential, and to communities (all the various wars fought by various polities). Here, instead of trading houses that extracted value, the polity itself still exploited (extracted value) from their peasantry.

While not all polities used their surpluses of food for wars of conquests, many did. The Roman Empire, for example, expanded until it collapsed. Qin Dynasty Chinese used their agricultural surplus and standardization of weapons manufacture (let's call that proto-industrial) in wars of conquest.

Or look at the Hundred Years War in Europe -- conditions and incentives that lead to a period of brutality (to put it mildly).

> what we shouldn't simply say, "Industrial civilisation? Feh, it's bad" without really understanding how it works.

As I stated in my very first comment: It isn't as if I don't understand how it works. I make my statement because I understand how it works.


You seem like a smart person who writes well, and I’ve met a few such people with an interest in permaculture. What do you think about the claims that it’s pseudoscientific, and prescribes agricultural methods that couldn’t possibly feed the current global population? I’m not advancing these claims myself – I know very little about permaculture – but I have done a few searches to try to learn more and I’m really put off by the lack of a clear definition and the conspiratorial, anti-science views that many proponents of the concept (philosophy? theory? movement?) seem to express. I’m also thoroughly confused by the relationship between permaculture and agroecology, which seems like another word for the same thing to me.

I found an article in a permaculture publication [1] which acknowledges unscientific thinking as a major problem for permaculture, while defending the concept as something to be promoted and advanced in a scientific way. I’d be interested in reading more work like this, or preferably, something published in a mainstream science journal which permaculture advocates like you accept as fair comment. The author of the article I’ve mentioned seems to dismiss my preference for those sources as “fetishizing the outputs of big-money science” – do you agree with that?

[1] http://liberationecology.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Ferg...


I've been studying permaculture/regenerative agriculture for a couple years. I think part of the problem is that you will find a broad spectrum of practitioners. From hobbyists, that just apply a practice because somebody else had success with it. To professionals, like Joel Salatin and Richard Perkins, that record everything, perform experiments, and improve process. The professionals are less Mollison style permaculture design and more regenerative agriculture. The basic idea is the same. Work with nature instead of against.

Permaculture as a hobby is just another school of gardening with an eye to efficiency and permanence. You will find as many opinions of the "best" way as there are people. It doesn't help that some practices are very specific to local climate.

Papers on soil microbiome and rhizosphere interactions are the basis of regenerative agriculture practices. If you want to understand how these practices can feed the world I would start there.

PS Now that I have written this, I realize it doesn't really address your criticism. Look towards regenerative agriculture to feed the world over permaculture. While permaculture can be applied at large scale it is more of a homestead practice of planning your land use for efficiency of your own food production.

Agroecology and agroforestry are terms for building ecosystems that provide agricultural output. Something like a nut tree forest with berry understory and mushroom production on rotting logs with farm animals roaming about. An agricultural plot planned to perform as an ecosystem with as many niches producing output as possible.



I think you have very valid points on all of these.

@tastyfreeze's comment had said a lot of what I wanted to say. I'm going to add to that.

When we think about "feeding the world", what frame are we using to look at that? If we were to look at it in terms of total yield distributed for everyone, we'd probably fall short with permaculture.

That set of calculations can be done from a top-down, mechanistic view of the world, wheere all inputs, processes, and outputs can be adequately described. Implicit in this view is that the these living systems, ecologies, and communities can adequately modeled, predicted. And that it can be deployed in a way that can get the results that we want.

However, as James Scott had argued in his book Seeing Like a State, there is a tendency to force these systems into forms that makes it easier to observe, measure, and control, and in doing so, fail. (https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2010/07/26/a-big-little-idea-call...)

We can't actually know what happens when something falls outside of the model, and there's a bias to avoid considering how complex adaptive systems behave when you can no longer model or control it.

Permaculture design principles were developed from a different frame: it is a way to work with, cultivate, and evolve a complex adaptive system (the local ecology) such that human communities can thrive within the ecology it belongs to. That is why you see design principles as "Slow and Small Solutions". Permaculture is something that isn't just decentralized, it must be implemented in a decentralized, site-specific, community-specific way.

Even with this, it is true that getting to 100% food self-sufficiency for a single family is extremely difficult. There was someone who made the news in the permaculture circles who accomplished it for a year. He did it to prove a point, but it wasn't expected that everyone does this. Instead, what where we are talking about is slowly increasing the self-sufficiency of a family, and gradually including others in the neighborhood.

If you are looking for the academic core of permaculture, check out Bill Mollesin's and David Holmgren's works.

I don't know if there are published studies done when we start considering the whole, or studying these living systems as complex adaptive systems. If you come across something like that, I would be interested in checking it out.


> But take the idea of having to use synthetic fertilizers and pest control. There are better ways, but they eat at the profit margin if you were only to maximize on profit, yield, and market value.

Society relies on their being massive agricultural surplus so that only a few people need to be farmers and the rest of us can go and do other things.

If farm yields drop, more land (and people) need to be farmers. If profit margins shrink from changes in farming technique, then either either less is being produced (again, requiring more land & farmers) or more resources being consumed (requiring more raw materials being diverted away from producing comfort and towards producing food).

Profits and yields are not small matters, they are ratios in the equation of how many people we free up from being farmers. We have made enormous strides by freeing up people from toiling away as farmers. There is a long debate to be had about whether taking steps to wind that back is a good idea.


> There is a long debate to be had about whether taking steps to wind that back is a good idea.

It depends on what you exactly mean by "winding that back".

Putting ecological and global warming concerns on the table-of-consideration along with market imperatives is not only reasonable but responsible.

Ironically, the best example of profit/yield imperatives above all else is the corn/fructose industry. This industry is heavily subsidized because of decades of political finagling. They're bad for the environment and not really profitable without subsidies. The corn industry has "won" the race to the bottom and maximized yield at the expense of everything else.

Supply chain technologies are now starting to enable small farmers to provide sustainable goods and still make a living without being a cog in a huge corporation. Suppliers are increasingly doing that. Is it going to completely replace the corn/fructose industry? no, but it can move us in the right direction over time.


You seem to believe fewer farmers is better. There are people out who would like to be farmers but can't pull it off because the current system makes it hard to start small and build up.


Do you realize that if the price of food rises, some people on the low side of the income distribution will starve immediately? Some of them will happen to be the ones dreaming of becoming independent farmers.


And if existing farms become less productive, you need more land and more capital investment to start a farm. When GP talks about more labor being needed for food production, these are not more farmers, these are more field hands and laborers.


>>It is that my current thinking is that the extractive-value paradigm of the industrial processes has done far more harm than good.

Not for humanity. The rate of extreme poverty has declined at its fastest in human history over the last 30 years.

I don't know if you've ever had close contact with people living at or close to extreme poverty. It's hard for me to imagine anyone having such a familiarity, and not believing industrial civilization has done more good than harm, at least when measured in terms of the quality of life of people.


To nuance this once again by Jason Hickel:

"If we use $7.40 per day, we see a decline in the proportion of people living in poverty, but it’s not nearly as dramatic as your rosy narrative would have it. In 1981 a staggering 71% lived in poverty. Today it hovers at 58% (for 2013, the most recent data). Suddenly your grand story of progress seems tepid, mediocre, and – in a world that’s as fabulously rich as ours – completely obscene. There is nothing worth celebrating about a world where inequality is so extreme that 58% of people are in poverty, while a few dozen billionaires have more than all of their wealth combined."


He says the rate of progress seems tepid. But tepid compared to what?

This has been the fastest reduction in the poverty rate in human history. And this reduction in the poverty rate has occurred amidst a massive population explosion, unlike say the 14th century's poverty decline, which happened as 1/3rd of the population died from the Black Death, which raised the area of arable land per capita.

Also, to nuance your nuance, Hickel cites just the poverty rate. The rate of extreme poverty has dropped much more drastically:

"The World Bank Group’s goals are to end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity. This mission underpins all of our analytical, operational, and convening work in more than 145 client countries. There has been marked progress on reducing poverty – the first of the world’s Sustainable Development Goals – over the past decades. According to the most recent estimates, in 2015, 10 percent of the world’s population or 734 million people lived on less than $1.90 a day. That’s down from nearly 36 percent or 1.9 billion people in 1990."

No, the cynical outlook has no legs to stand on. Humanity is succeeding magnificently at improving its own condition, according to all direct indicators and historical standards.

My only major concern is the damage industrial civilization is doing to the larger ecosystem, as thousands of species are driven to extinction as human settlements and farms engulfs their natural habitats.


> But tepid compared to what?

Compared to the fact that this is not an issue of a lack of resources? Extreme poverty in the midst of an extremely rich world. That should be pretty humbling and not a cause for celebration. It's an embarrassment.

If China is removed this "Good News Narrative" falls flat. Should we be praising the CCP and authoritarian state-capitalism?

> The rate of extreme poverty has dropped much more drastically

The problem is that people with more than $1.90 a day are still living in extreme poverty. That figure simply doesn't work in reality.


>>Compared to the fact that this is not an issue of a lack of resources?

It is an issue of a lack of resources; places with fewer resources have more poverty.

Assuming the resources of humanity are collectively owned and should be equally shared is not realistic. The very resource expansion you allude to has depended on private property rights - people keeping what they earn. There is no realistic alternate history where wealth increases as fast as it did, and is equally distributed.

The private property ruleset has resulted in the massive increase in productivity and decrease in poverty that we have witnessed. The progress is more rapid than during any other period in history, and other periods of history are all we have to compare to.

>>Extreme poverty in the midst of an extremely rich world.

On a per capita basis, the world is not extremely rich..

>>If China is removed this "Good News Narrative" falls flat.

It doesn't: https://www.csmonitor.com/World/2016/0207/Progress-in-the-gl...

>>Should we be praising the CCP and authoritarian state-capitalism?

We should praise the CCP for emulating Hong Kong's private property ruleset:

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/07/the-pol...

>>The problem is that people with more than $1.90 a day are still living in extreme poverty.

That was a problem before too. Thanks to the economic development the world has experienced, that problem has gotten less severe, especially for the subset living in the most extreme state of poverty.


Sigh, I just can't understand why I keep trying to discuss anything with HN's resident Propertarians and their dogmatic private-property theology.

> private property rights - people keeping what they earn

Interesting rhetoric given that there are usually Socialists suggesting that the workers should keep what they produce. But I guess the most important part is that the owners get to keep what they "earn"?

> Assuming the resources of humanity are collectively owned and should be equally shared is not realistic.

But why not much much better than today?

> The private property ruleset has resulted in the massive increase in productivity

Just repeating your gospels time and time about doesn't make them more true.

> On a per capita basis, the world is not extremely rich..

It's rich in the sense of being able to provide the basic needs of people. But what incentive is that to your dear private property owners? To not have cheap labour with bad labour regulations?

> It doesn't: https://www.csmonitor.com/World/2016/0207/Progress-in-the-gl...

That's a long article, what part of it do you argue rejects that China doesn't represent a large part of the people raised from poverty?

> We should praise the CCP for emulating Hong Kong's private property ruleset: > https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/07/the-pol...

Once again a long article that seem to mostly be about some economist arguing for Charter Cities. Why don't you actually paste your point?

> That was a problem before too. Thanks to the economic development the world has experienced, that problem has gotten less severe, especially for the subset living in the most extreme state of poverty.

What is even your point with this world salad? The people are still in absolute poverty? Maybe that particular person has $2.30 per day instead, but so what if it doesn't cover basic expenses?


>>Interesting rhetoric given that there are usually Socialists suggesting that the workers should keep what they produce.

Workers have a right to what they produce under contract law.. that's why they're able to sell it under employment terms that guarantee them a wage for each hour they work.

>>But why not much much better than today?

Can you rephrase the question? I don't understand it.

>>Just repeating your gospels time and time about doesn't make them more true.

This according to economists who have studied development, like Nobel prize winner Paul Romer. The market reforms in numerous countries, including India and China, were followed by significant accelerations in their respective rates of economic development, and poverty eradication.

>>That's a long article, what part of it do you argue rejects that China doesn't represent a large part of the people raised from poverty?

Here:

>>By best estimates, the number was down to around 700 million in 2015, and falling. The change is widespread, going far beyond China and India to include countries as far-flung as Indonesia, Mozambique, Ghana, Brazil, El Salvador, and Mongolia. In all, more than 60 developing countries around the world have seen a decline in the number of extreme poor, despite continued population growth.

And the article says economists attribute this acceleration in development largely to the adoption of market institutions.

>>Why don't you actually paste your point?

Copy-pasting:

>>At a time when much of East Asia was ruled by nationalist or Communist strongmen, Hong Kong’s colonial authorities put in place low taxes, minimal regulation, and legal protections for property rights and contracts; between 1913 and 1980, the city’s inflation-adjusted output per person jumped more than eightfold, making the average Hong Kong resident 10 times as rich as the average mainland Chinese, and about four-fifths as rich as the average Briton. Then, beginning around 1980, Hong Kong’s example inspired the mainland’s rulers to create copycat enclaves. Starting in Shenzhen City, adjacent to Hong Kong, and then curling west and north around the Pacific shore, China created a series of special economic zones that followed Hong Kong’s model. Pretty soon, one of history’s greatest export booms was under way, and between 1987 and 1998, an estimated 100 million Chinese rose above the $1-a-day income that defines abject poverty. The success of the special economic zones eventually drove China’s rulers to embrace the export-driven, pro-business model for the whole country. “In a sense, Britain inadvertently, through its actions in Hong Kong, did more to reduce world poverty than all the aid programs that we’ve undertaken in the last century,” Romer observes drily.

This is hugely important, so I hope you don't retort with another dismissal.

>>What is even your point with this world salad? The people are still in absolute poverty? Maybe that particular person has $2.30 per day instead, but so what if it doesn't cover basic expenses?

My point is that the situation is better than it was before. Progress is being made. There's a difference in misery between living on $1 a day and living on $2.30 a day.


Can't you see that you're going in circles using the same flawed World Bank $1.90 number for all of your links and arguments?

People under e.g. $5/d have not been raised from extreme poverty if the $1.90 should be said $5 to properly represent reality.

> Can you rephrase the question? I don't understand it.

That there's a dogma here where the only way for the rich world to help the poorer world is if the world are allowed to exploit their cheap labour to produce more wealth and produce for the already wealthier populations of developed countries.

> going far beyond China and India to include countries as far-flung as

This doesn't say anything about their proportions?

> And the article says economists attribute this

You should not assume economists to be objective.


If a smaller percentage of the world is living on less than $1.90 a day than before, that means there's been an improvement. I don't see how you can even disagree with this, regardless of how you want to define 'extreme poverty'.

>>People under e.g. $5/d have not been raised from extreme poverty

What percentage of the world lives on less than $5 a day, and what was that percentage 30 years ago?

>>That there's a dogma here where the only way..

That doesn't help me understand what you were asking me. Can you rephrase the question itself?

>>This doesn't say anything about their proportions?

Yes it does. This part in particular makes an assertion about the proportion of people who are in extreme poverty:

>>In all, more than 60 developing countries around the world have seen a decline in the number of extreme poor, despite continued population growth.

Maybe you don't want the establishment to be right about what kind of economic system works, and that's why you're so determined to dismiss evidence that it's working..?

>>You should not assume economists to be objective.

This conspiratorial view of Economics is no different than the paranoid view of Medicine exhibited by anti-vaxxers.


> I don't see how you can even disagree with this, regardless of how you want to define 'extreme poverty'.

I don't disagree that this would be an improvement, neither did Hickel in my first quote. However it's very much not at the jubilant level that's being spouted about by you among others - hence the suggestion to be a bit more humble.

> Can you rephrase the question itself?

Why should we accept that the only way to lift people out of poverty is by exploiting their cheap labour for a century for our own benefit when the resources are already available, just locally scarce? This is a sociopathic "what's in it for me?" state of affairs.

> Yes it does. This part in particular makes an assertion about the proportion of people who are in extreme poverty:

What? No, it doesn't! That's just listing a number of countries, not the amount of people in each country.

> This conspiratorial view of Economics is no different than the paranoid view of Medicine exhibited by anti-vaxxers.

This is both incredibly naive and unsurprisingly dogmatic.


>>However it's very much not at the jubilant level that's being spouted about by you among others

Which goes back to my earlier point, that the cause for jubilance is not in the current state of poverty, but in the rate at which it has improved, which is excellent by the only objective measure we have, which is in reference to other periods in history.

>>Why should we accept that the only way to lift people out of poverty is by exploiting their cheap labour for a century for our own benefit when the resources are already available, just locally scarce?

It's not that we have to only accept this method. It's that it's the method that Economic scholarship has found works best.

And no, the resources are not available. If all wealth had been evenly divided in 1960, everyone would live on $451 a year, meaning everyone would be in extreme poverty.

Global per capita GDP has risen to $11,428, which while not evenly distributed, allows for a much higher proportion of the world population to not be in poverty.

source: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.CD

You're assuming that economists are lying when they say that the most effective means of raising per capita GDP and reducing poverty is to encourage profit-motivated investmemt, and that the most effective way to do that is to protect the right to own private property and freely contract with it, and you are not examining the evidence they are providing to that effect.

>>No, it doesn't! That's just listing a number of countries, not the amount of people in each country.

One more time!!

>>In all, more than 60 developing countries around the world have seen a decline in the number of extreme poor, despite continued population growth.

A decline in the number of people in extreme poverty with growing population means the proportion of the population that is in extreme poverty has declined.

I shouldn't have to spoonfeed this to you. Your treatment of what I'm presenting is being done in bad faith.

>>This is both incredibly naive and unsurprisingly dogmatic.

No different than what anti-vaxxers say about those who trust Medicine and the findings and conclusions of medical experts.


To assert that being skeptical towards economists bias amounts to the same thing as being an anti-vaxxer is just another level of free market fundamentalism. So your honest opinion is that every socialist alive is at the level of an anti-vaxxer, who wrongfully rejects the objective science of (free market) economics?

> And no, the resources are not available. If all wealth had been evenly divided in 1960, everyone would live on $451 a year, meaning everyone would be in extreme poverty.

Why on earth would you think that I mean something as stupid as just splitting everything by capita? The point would be to help people without requiring cheap labour or natural resources in return, or at least at much better conditions and without the profit motive incentivizing to milk it as long as possible.

> I shouldn't have to spoonfeed this to you. Your treatment of what I'm presenting is being done in bad faith.

Seriously? My assertion was that if China is taken away, the amount of people lifted out of poverty looks very different, since then you've been totally unable to figure out what I mean by "the amount of people per country" and just keep listing countries which has nothing to do with how many people each of those actually amounts to. (As a side note, those countries are most likely using the same flawed $1.90 number to measure their decline).

> It's not that we have to only accept this method. It's that it's the method that Economic scholarship has found works best.

This is not true, US foreign policy being the most obvious example. Countries have been coerced into it and isolated and/or invaded if refused.


You're being skeptical toward economists' bias to the extent that you are discounting the broad consensus among economists about what types of economic systems are most effective for raising productivity and reducing poverty.

This is tantamount to someone being skeptical toward medical professionals' bias to the extent that they discount the broad consensus among medical professionals about vaccines being effective and safe.

>>Why on earth would you think that I mean something as stupid as just splitting everything by capita?

I recommend you study some economics, instead of making comments like this, that belie ignorance of the factors that contribute to poverty and its alleviation.

Low per capita productivity results in people not being capable of meeting their needs, and thus being in poverty. Per capita GPD is the absolute maximum consumption that the poorest can possibly enjoy, assuming zero income inequality. A low per capita GDP is a low ceiling on quality of life, and that's irrespective of the legal status of property, the role of government and the dominant motive behind economic interactions.

>> The point would be to help people without requiring cheap labour or natural resources in return, or at least at much better conditions and without the profit motive incentivizing to milk it as long as possible.

I addressed your point, and you completely ignored what I wrote. One more time: if you take away the proven means of productivity growth, the people of the world will not see their means of reducing poverty and raising quality of life improve as quickly.

I gave you a thought experiment to show you what this can mean in the extreme: if a policy that is completely debilitating to GDP growth were instituted in 1960, and resulted in all income being evenly distributed, the entire world would be in extreme poverty to this day.

Due to the productivity gains since 1960, poverty could decline. Economic scholarship strongly suggests that protecting the right to private property, and thus allowing income inequality, is the most effective means to raise producitivity.

This productivity growth has far more benefit to humanity than evenly distributed income.

I'm arguing that the policy of spreading resources out evenly by government mandate, instead of allowing market forces (e.g. the profit motive) to allocate resources, as you advocate, would debilitate the ability of society to raise productivity, and that this would be a terrible trade-off, as the thought experiment shows most dramatically.

>>Seriously? My assertion was that if China is taken away, the amount of people lifted out of poverty looks very different,

I claimed that omitting China, the proportion of the world in poverty has declined. You're disingenuously moving the goalposts now that you see I've supported that claim with the excerpt from the article.

>>This is not true, US foreign policy being the most obvious example. Countries have been coerced into it and isolated and/or invaded if refused.

I don't understand what you're saying. Can you rephrase this statement, and explain how it addresses the point you quote?


This is pointless, you're just going around in circles and adding some "please learn [free market] economics" bullshit to it.

You think that economics (only the free market version ofc) is an objective science like vaccines and medicine. It's clearly not. And everything you spout about is solidly within the box of free market capitalism. Not a grain of ability to imagine a society outside its hegemony. You seem to think that the Free Market Economy is some deity controlling man rather than the other way around. Without the Free Market Economy, man simply loses all capability to produce and achieve progress.

There are other ways than profit-driven exploitation that's available to help people out of poverty. They're called cooperation, mutual aid and solidarity.

> You're disingenuously moving the goalposts

Moving the goal posts? Citing myself from start to finish:

> If China is removed this "Good News Narrative" falls flat

> that China doesn't represent a large part of the people raised from poverty?

> This doesn't say anything about their proportions?

> That's just listing a number of countries, not the amount of people in each country.

> My assertion was that if China is taken away, the amount of people lifted out of poverty looks very different


Economics is an objective science, every bit as scientific as medicine. Economists have by and large concluded that a market unencumbered by restrictions on mutually voluntary economic interactions and protective of people's right to their property is the most effective at raising productivity.

That the conclusions of economists strengthens the case for free markets does not suggest that economists are ideological, or biased. That assumption is simply your own biased and conspiratorial view of the world, that assumes a vast conspiracy by the capitalist elite to recruit the economics profession into its propaganda campaign.

Like I said, your conspiratorial view of economics/the-free-market is no different than anti-vaxxers' conspiratorial view of medicine/vaccines.

>>There are other ways than profit-driven exploitation that's available to help people out of poverty. They're called cooperation, mutual aid and solidarity.

No, the evidence suggest these other means are comparatively ineffective, as they can't sustain large-scale cooperation. Socialism has an absolutely terrible track record and the economic theory explains why.

>>Without the Free Market Economy, man simply loses all capability to produce and achieve progress.

The market is an emergent system of individuals, property and processes that people collectively create through distributed action, without centralized coordination. It's a phenomenon of unimaginable complexity and effectiveness, that is created by the aggregation of trillions of interlocking actions by billions of unique individuals.

Discarding the market based on an anti-free-market conspiracy theory is the height of folly.

>>If China is removed this "Good News Narrative" falls flat

I quoted you an excerpt from the article that asserts the opposite: that the good news narrative remains even when China is removed from the picture.

>>My assertion was that if China is taken away, the amount of people lifted out of poverty looks very different

Even removing China, which is a clear example of the benefits of protecting market rights, the global poverty rate has declined. Yes the picture is better when you include the world's most populous country, and the number 1 success story of pro-market reforms.

Is that the mental gymnatics you're resorting to to continue your stubborn insistence on dismissing the statistics and maintaining that the case made by economists for free markets is motivated by ideology instead of science?


> Economics is an objective science, every bit as scientific as medicine. Economists have by and large concluded that a market unencumbered by restrictions on mutually voluntary economic interactions and protective of people's right to their property is the most effective at raising productivity.

No one can do anything about this kind of fundamentalism. You're writing as if I'm a heretic questioning the holy scriptures. I give up.


Your insistence on dismissing a well established social science, that is based on centuries of rigorous scholarship in the top academic institutions in the world, as nothing more than an ideologically biased arm of capitalist propaganda, is the "fundamentalism" you accuse me of.

It's no different than the anti-science conspiracy-theory/quackery of anti-vaxxers.


Extremely glad to see your measured response to this article. Seeing the tacit approval of synthetic fertilizers in the article made me reel. It's a shame that farming methods like permaculture aren't a part of this conversation by default. For the reason they're not often discussed, I defer to your conclusion about needing to adopt a new perceptual framework and value system to effect certain kinds of change.

It's been several years since we last spoke Hosh, so I was very pleasantly surprised to find myself agreeing with your comment here. Hope you and your family are well!


Have you actually done any permaculture, and/or run the numbers on what it would take to move away from synthetic fertilizers? The reason permaculture isn't part of the default is because it's a pipe dream. A hobby for those interested in it, but not a real, scalable alternative for what we have now.


If we are trying to scale up permaculture practices to the kind of mega-farms we are talking about, I don't think that is practical either.

If we are talking about many smaller sites more evenly distributed to where people are living (and likely, not people not aggregating into large metropolitan areas), I think it can work.

A lot of stuff would have to change. Permaculture isn't just about farming. Other things like human waste would have to be made as part of the nutrient-cycle. We have a lot of compostable food wastes going into landfills generating methane. We have landscaping practices that eat up water, or get rid of what could be fed back into the ground. We have a ton of food that never makes it to the supermarket because they are not in standard sizes fit for the retail market. You have planting practices that makes it easier for machines to harvest, or to grow to standard types, but it generates a much greater need for synthetic fertalizers.

You can't just run the numbers the nitrogen input of the farms. You also have to look at where all that stuff is going, and a lot of where it is going never makes it back as input.


I just asked for some pro-permaculture sources in this comment [1], and would appreciate it if you could also point me in the direction of some further reading on the claim that permaculture is a pipe dream.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24648887


Organic agriculture has much lower yields than conventional agriculture for most crops [1]. I believe permaculture is more restrictive than US-Organic. It would take some big changes in our diet to absorb such a loss in productivity.

[1] https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2018/02/16/usda-data-conf...


There's also the little pickle that manure from an industrial feedlot is considered an organic fertilizer.

(I'm not suggesting it's directly a problem, the issue is that it's real hard to figure out the nitrogen budget society ends up with if all synthetic fertilizers go away)


Have you looked at this? https://www.architectural-review.com/essays/cubas-urban-farm...

During the economic sanctions, Cuba was forced to stop using synethetic fertilizers, pesticides, and even tractors. They could not import enough to be able use those at scale. The people there had to adapt and work out how to live.


So I typed a 10-paragraph post here arguing my case but ended up deciding there was too much identifying and non-public information in it for me to be comfortable posting it here. If you post an email address or add one to your profile, I can send it to you privately.


Hey man, glad to see you about! Hope things are going well. Send me some email sometime and let's catch up.


> There are better ways, but they eat at the profit margin if you were only to maximize on profit, yield, and market value. If the goal, however, is towards the well-being of the community and the land in which things are farmed, then there are many methods with which we can accomplish that while still feeding people without requiring a huge amount of labor. But it comes from a different way of seeing the world.

These goals are compatible. They require a government body, representing the well-being of the community, willing to tax externalities and use the funds to invest in revitalization.

However, expecting government to be economically responsible is about as likely as expecting profit-maximizing corporate entities to be socially responsible.


Those better ways I mentioned do not require a government body, or use of tax externalities.

A lot of the exciting things in permaculture are coming from people putting things into practice first and then lobbying for those results. Permaculture has a lot of design principles and practices that can be deployed in a decentralized way. They do not require collective action or policy-making at a large scale. Ordinary people can make enough impact in their local ecology and community, and they can do it in a way that makes sense for their locality that may not make sense elsewhere.

Furthermore, using Carol Sandford's method of deconstructing a frame, "requiring a government body" like you are talking about are:

1. The paradigm of behavioralism (rewards and incentives)

2. The idea that change requires heroic effort (something outside of you, such as the government, to make large scale changes)

3. Regulating these actions are a type of"Do Less Harm" or perhaps "Do More Good" paradigms. Those are reactions to "Value Extraction", and they don't really work, not enough to solve the fundamental problems of Value Extraction.


> Those better ways I mentioned do not require a government body, or use of tax externalities.

They do if the profit margins are meaningfully lower. All it takes is a few actors to ignore costs that have no financial incentive to outgrow and overtake all of the competitors.

Behaving better on your own is nice, but that’s not a societal solution because people throw away a lot of unnecessary niceties when the going gets tough.

A majority of the population wants to stop climate change but the lack of a carbon tax means people still burn massive amounts of fuel and pay nothing to offset it. Instead we are taking this path of carbon-shaming and “do your best to reduce emissions” and it’s failing spectacularly. Without pricing externalities, you end up with assholes flying on private jets thousands of miles to give a talk on the importance of dealing with climate change without ever even offsetting their own footprint.

People are consistently too stupid and too selfish across all populations to A) have even a rough grasp of their inputs/outputs from/to the environment and B) to make meaningful sacrifices if it actually requires a significant change in lifestyle. Just look how many people still buy gas cars that cost as much as electric cars because of “range anxiety”.

Carol Sandford’s methods are likely not having any meaningful impact because they ignore the hard realities of economics. Behaviors need incentives and not using the government to implement those incentives through taxation/credits/fines just means trying to do it through social pressure. Social pressure is slow and ineffective at scale.


> Both people and land have been turned into resources by which value is extracted and capitalized. This has lead to a wide-spread devastation in our ecology, in our communities, and our human potential. It's a process that is moving towards degeneration, and we see many of those effects -- from growing equality gaps, to the radicalization of angry young people, and so forth.

The problem with this kind of points of view like this one is that it never considers that the population are consumers too and are motivated to work and "extract capital" from themselves for themselves.

Once those who promote those ideas move from opposition to those who occupied it they are confronted to the exact same problems to solve but without the "evil" solutions.


> The problem with every this kind of points of view like this one is that it never considers that the population are consumers too and are motivated to work and "extract capital" from themselves for themselves.

Unless you are working for yourself, you're not really "extracting capital" from yourself. There was an article I recently read here on HN about negotiating salary as an engineer. I have been leaving a lot of money on the table. Depending on who you work for, the corporate organizations don't really care who you are. If you are able to frame your work in terms of how much revenue you can generate for them, you can negotiate terms that are much more favorable to you.

> Once those who promote those ideas move from opposition to those who occupied it they are confronted to the exact same problems to solve but without the "evil" solutions.

I have written elsewhere about a different way of viewing it. There are people who see "Value Extraction" and go on to "Do Less Harm" or "Do More Good", but those do not fundamentally address the problems with "Value Extraction".

One of the things that shift it completely out of value extraction is to invert it. Rather than being a consumer of value and regulated by extrinsic motivation, you as an individual find your intrinsic motivation to contribute meaningful value to the world.


> Unless you are working for yourself, you're not really "extracting capital" from yourself.

You are selling programming as a service to a company. That’s extracting capital in the same way that the company will when they sell a SaaS or even directly resell your programming.


So, I don't know that profit, extractive-value, market-value, capitalizing are really the right frame, here. Alternative systems like the Soviet Union had similar paradigms without necessarily relying on profit. These industrial processes are necessary for addressing quality of life (including quantity of labor required, lenghth of working day required, etc) regardless of whether that system is profit-seeking or not. The Soviet Union had cars, fertilizer, pesticides, plastic, lots of oil and gas, antibiotics, vaccines, sanitation, and appliances for the same reason they're profitable in the West: it actually helps people's quality of life.

That's why the essay is framed in terms of industry, not economic systems. Because that's somewhat orthogonal. (And I do think Chesterton's Fence would be a valuable point, here, too... Money and profit are tools for understanding and facilitating the efficiency of different activities, and to me the negative conditions of capitalism are a side effect of the efficiency it facilitates. If we're going to replace profit with something else, we must address how we're going to establish similar efficiencies. IMHO, a more established path than tearing down capitalism entirely would be to keep capitalism and profit, but just redistribute and rebalance, i.e. cut off the ends of the distribution to keep things from going crazy and eating itself.)


The Soviet economy borrowed technology from the market economies of the West, because it generally could not compete with the market-driven sectors of the Western economies in innovation. It had almost no ability to advance its own semiconductor sector for example.

Without a larger market-driven world to borrow from, it's doubtful it would have acquired fertilizer, factories, automobiles, etc.

The Soviet economy collapsed in the end, with millions dying in the early 1990s as the support network it administered broke down.

That it was able to last as long as it did is because it also did have a massive black market, that supplied people with much of their necessities:

https://blogs.commons.georgetown.edu/rees-577-fall2016/2016/...

The corruption in Russia today is a legacy of that Soviet-era black market.


> The corruption in Russia today is a legacy of that Soviet-era black market.

Not just of black market, the centrally-ran economy was corrupted to the core. Most decisions (who gets the job, who gets the apartment etc.) were routinely made based on bribes or favors.


Indeed, the latter corrupt ness is kind of a natural state of humanity in large enough groups that direct accountability isn’t feasible. Capitalism, including the rule of law that upholds it, is one fairly proven mechanism for addressing it (but it probably also relies on some culture of honesty to keep from collapsing back to corruption). Nonetheless, the Soviet Union lasted an extremely long time and I think people underestimate the effectiveness of industrialization. Industrialization meant the Soviet Union could last the better part of a century in spite of the problems you pointed out.

(Also, I think it’s a mistake to talk about the Soviet Union’s economy as purely parasitic on the market economies of the West... tons of science and engineering was done there and technology was developed. The Soviet Union’s system was super bad and shouldn’t be emulated but I think sometimes people go too far in saying how ineffective it was. It was effective enough to last a long time and provided a real scare to the West in terms of what system was more or less effective, at least for a decade or two... think the space race.)


The Soviet system was clearly inferior (say it was running at 10-30% efficiency of a market system), but wasn't completely dysfunctional.

Combine this with large population population of the Soviet block, the fact that that population was effectively used as slaves at many times and also had very little consumption goods available (most output went into building out further industrializationn to catch up to the West as well as into military and propaganda projects, such as space race) and you can see how it still managed to cough up some respectable output, at the cost of misery of the people working behind it. However, as industrial processes became more complex and reliant on specialized high-level skills (such as in semiconductors or software), it was clear that the system has reached its limits and just cannot do these things well at scale. The rampant incompetence and nepotism were just not incompatible with things like modern chip factory.


EDIT: I reread the comment above and realized I did not adequately address it and I had misunderstood some of what the commenter was saying. I revised my answer below:

I disagree that we necessarily need to have synthetic fertalizers, pest control, etc.

There are a number of methods from permaculture that does not require synthetic fertilizers, weed killers, and pest killers. The whole site is analyzed together and designed in a way there there is a cycling of nutrients back into the soil, or amendments such as biochar or mycological growth help with that. (Synthetic fertilizers actually deplete soil fertility in the long run, so you have to keep adding more and more with every cycle). Interplanting, plant guilds, and "integrated pest control" (chickens, duck, goats, and developing habitat for the pest's natural predators). The maximum yield may be lower, but designing a site this way accomplishes two things. First, it is far more resilient than the industrial agricultural method. Second, it puts fertility back into the land faster than it uses it up, and as such, it has the potential to restore the ecology. These are things people are already putting into practice around the world.

Furthermore, what the Soviet Union had was still essentially value-extraction. That value was distributed in a different way, but it is still value-extraction. It is still stuck in the same paradigm, and arguably worse -- too rigid, too unable to adapt to changing conditions.

A regenerative paradigm does not put profit first, but it doesn't necessarily dispense with it either. (In the permaculture community, that is the third permaculture ethic: Fair Share). It is as decentralized as a free-market, but is not centralized like the way capitalization tends towards aggregation of resources. One key difference between a regenerative paradigm and the value-extraction:

Free-market is driven from profit motive, the selfish actor.

Regenerative living is driven by individual's own sense of what value they can contribute to the greater whole, and developing their own personal capabilities in order to accomplish it.

So one is a value extraction and the other is a value generation or value adding (not to be confused with "value-added", which is something from the value-extraction paradigm).

Even if we were to say, ok, this regenerative paradigm works, and let's shift to that, it is not something that can be done through policy changes.


Responding to the guy who asked:

> What are you doing about it? Farming?

I started applying permaculture design to my backyard and front yard, slowly growing more food. It is not perfect and it is a work in progress. I am doing the shovel work on my landscaping to add rainwater harvesting. I am moving more towards drought-resistant white clover, or possibly developing a meadow. I am in the process of a long-term plan to develop a perennial food forest. We already have chickens. I am saving seeds and starting selective breeding for gardening varieties that will work in my local area.

I have been putting together what I experienced to help people who are interested in this stuff to get started.

I have not reached out to my neighbors and local community. I feel aversion to that, but I know at some point, it is something I should try.

I am currently deep diving Carol Sandford's work. Her podcasts, her blog posts, her books. She has been very influential in the permaculture community, but her work is mostly directed towards transforming business. Those very same principles that she has for developing employees and an organization also work for educating children. I have a son due for birth in December, and I will be trying to educate him with these things in mind.

I am trying to learn how Sandford teaches this stuff to ordinary people, so they can make a bigger impact even if it is in an non-heroic way. If I ever make the transition from an individual contributor role at work, I am going to try applying all of this.

I am putting the same kind of effort into transforming myself and how I view things as I have done with martial arts, training my body and my mind. Thank you for engaging. It is helping me articulate and organize these ideas with my own voice.


> Even if we were to say, ok, this regenerative paradigm works, and let's shift to that, it is not something that can be done through policy changes.

It doesn’t even sound like a paradigm change. Being focused on making land re-usable fits perfectly in with value-extraction. Investing in something now to get more out of it later is as old as business itself.

If it doesn’t make sense financially to take a regenerative farming approach, a policy change could very easily tax the fertilizer/pesticides/etc to a point where it does make sense.

Your broader notion about changing people to view what they can contribute instead of what value they can create/extract to personally profit is orthogonal to the entire discussion of regenerative farming because people make long-term investments over short term profits quite frequently for purely selfish reasons.

Quite to the contrary of your point, many who work on farms focused on short term maximum yield are driven by the value they are contributing to the greater whole. I know people who farm because they are “feeding society”, not because it pays well. Good luck telling some corn farmer with a few thousand acres that they are just selfish and not contributing to the greater whole because they use synthetics and deplete their soil.


> The work I am referring to comes from Carol Sandford...I don't know how much of a transformative effect she has.

Just want to correct a spelling error: it's Carol Sanford. Her website is https://carolsanford.com/ .

I'm very interested to know how much change Sanford and people like her are making to businesses. My sense is significant change comes only when there's pressure from without, and only when failing to respond to that pressure will affect the bottom line. Businesses are not altruistic, and that's by design.


> It is that my current thinking is that the extractive-value paradigm of the industrial processes has done far more harm than good.

Entropy can only be reduced locally. All life is mining.


Sure but how and what you mine matters. The sun is local and we are able to mine its energy directly rather than indirectly via a buffer (fossil fuels).




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