Emergy and Population in a Natural Economy

Thomas L Wayburn, PhD

The copyright has been removed from this essay in recognition of  the principles of the Ethical Use of the Public Domain, Open Source, and Copyleft philosophies.  I expect that decent people will not abuse the content to change the meaning or intent.

The Premise and a Few Definitions

Let us assume for the purposes of this essay that a community dedicated to sustainability and freedom is dedicated to Dematerialism.  (The community under consideration can be of any size from a few people living in a single residence to the population of the globe.)  The community has abandoned materialism or artificial economic contingency and adopted the notion of a Natural Economy.  It is important to understand the meanings attached to the italicized terms in the last sentence.  I shall assume, in particular, that the reader has read and understood the section Description of Natural Economy.  Finally, let us suppose that the community has adopted the following recommended reforms:

1. Workers own economic enterprises in the sense of custodianship.  Decisions are made by direct vote – one worker, one vote.  It is important that worker ownership not extend beyond the premises of the plant where the work is done.  (Decentralization not incorporation.)

2.  Residential property is apportioned equitably according to established principles of real estate evaluation that value location, terrain, fertility, scenery, and surface area properly.  Let us assume, for a moment, that a canonical procedure for doing this has been established and agreed upon.  The best waterfront property, for instance, and the most breathtaking views are reserved for common access by all members of the community.

3. A give-away economy with no monetary system is in place wherein each consumer notifies directly the enterprises that supply his genuine needs which in turn tell him when the item or items can be picked up or will be delivered, whichever consumes the least emergy.  These enterprises also report the emergy values of the item or items to each consumer and to a public servant if the community deems this necessary until people have learned the lesson of minimizing their consumption.  The emergy costs of delivery must be supplied by the manufacturer.  This is no more burdensome than adding a delivery charge to the cost of a product or basket of products.  Thus, the economy is consumer-planned subject only to the consumer's responsibility (a) to use no more than 1/Nth of the total sustainable dividend of the economy (measured in emergy units) where N is the number of consumers and (b) to reproduce himself only, to pass on his reproductive rights to another, or not to reproduce.

4. Each enterprise integrates the plans of its consumers into a total economic plan for the enterprise, which must notify its suppliers what things it has need of.  It will be presented with the emergy value of each item it receives.  The emergy costs of delivery are established at that time as well.

5. Public servants are chosen quasi-randomly, somewhat as jurors are chosen, for limited terms and are not permitted to parlay one such appointment into another.  Recall is by direct vote of all members of the community whom I call citizens for lack of a better term.  [Lately, I have adopted the term fractal government as a way of denoting small communities wherein every undiminished member belongs to the local parliament that is tied in a loose federation with other such communities in similar parliaments that are tied in loose federations to other parliaments of parliaments, etc., with similar structures at every level just as a fractal structure replicates itself in an infinite number of structures within structures - except that the federation of the world has only a finite number of levels as does every representation of a fractal in the real world.]  Notice that the only permanent members of the government are the people themselves at the community level who share political power in the sense of one-person-one-vote.  Naturally some people will have more influence than others if they are widely respected for example, but they cannot convert this influence to greater wealth.

6. The Fundamental Principle of Neighborliness is practiced regarding neighboring communities, namely, that wealth flows always from richer communities to poorer communities or not at all.  Defense is by citizen militias if necessary.  The decision to bear arms is up to the citizens.

Item 2, which is another partial description of the Natural Economy, raises two troublesome points that are the thrust of this essay.

Thesis

Dematerialism eliminates virtually every crime associated with property because thieves do not normally prey upon their economic equals.  Also, crimes associated with the profit motive do not occur.  Occasionally, sexual jealousy may give rise to a violent crime, even murder; and, undoubtedly, my critics will claim that the atavistic violent propensities of human beings will find outlets in the sexual arena.  However, I shall be able to argue that, in a society that provides the pre-conditions for happiness, which, in my writing, is defined technically to be happiness itself and where taboo morality that engenders sexual repression has been abandoned, one does not expect to find the more extreme manifestations of sexual jealousy.  Finally, in a dematerialistic society everyone deserves to know the truth; therefore, to obey Hemingway’s stricture to tell the truth to those who have a right to know the truth one need make no distinctions – nor will one be able to make excuses based upon distinctions.  Thus, the Truth Axiom of Chapter 3 is most likely to be violated only by those of us who, from time to time, lie to ourselves.  In a non-materialistic society, we can learn to manage this universal tendency.

Therefore, the two violations of the moral code I have outlined in Chapter 3 of On the Preservation of Species that are most likely to occur are Items 2a and 2b above, which I repeat here:  Item 2a.  Use no more than 1/Nth of the total sustainable dividend of the economy (measured in emergy units) where N is the number of consumers.  Item 2b.  Reproduce oneself only, pass on one’s reproductive rights to another, or do not reproduce.  Thus, the difficulty exists that these two strictures might be violated.  Since the notion of punishment of crime by incarceration has been abandoned except under the most extreme circumstances and, in an intentional community, might be replaced by exile, it will be necessary to prevent these crimes in some other way.  Corporal punishment is out of the question.

Emergy Accounting

Each manufacturer must necessarily account for emergy.  The emergy use of each participant in the enterprise charged to the product is easily evaluated, since all members of the community enjoy the same personal emergy budgets, which, of course, are the economic dividend of the community.  An essay entitled “On Designing Community Currencies” discusses some of these issues except that, in a Natural Economy, there is no need to account for the time people spend on their work, since work is a privilege and normally a pleasure.  The case of nasty jobs that must be done can be discussed later or in another essay.  Thus, emergy accounting is even simpler than cash accounting, which it replaces, because one need not account for interest or profit.

Since the extent of one’s residential property is limited by community standards of equality and the means of production cannot be owned by anyone other than the workers who use them, the only possible repository for hoarded wealth is one’s home, buried treasure aside.  Thus, obscene amounts of wealth are impossible even for people who wish to violate the emergy rule.  The proper place for valuable artifacts is public museums, therefore hoarded art and jewelry cannot be shown to decent people, which takes away the principal incentive to acquire such things.  People who accumulate excessive material wealth in the home become inconveniently constrained as to whom they may have as visitors.  No one should care if you have a microscope and others don’t, if your interest in biology is well-known.  Social pressure from neighbors and computer monitoring of emergy consumption by people who fall under suspicion should discourage all but a handful of reclusive misers who can expect no greater happiness from their socially impoverished lives than the contemplation of their booty.  While it is true that buried treasure might appeal to a few people who expect to emigrate or to be exiled to an unsustainable society in which an intentional community might be embedded, it is also true that the vigilance of the community is likely to defeat such schemes.  Only extremely stupid people would try to defeat rational efforts to achieve sustainability.

Population Control

It is assumed that the reader has read and understood the last three paragraphs (at least) of the section on population in “On the Conservation-within-Capitalism Scenario”.  Then, we need discuss only the residual cases of incorrigible violators of the community position on procreation.  This is a very serious crime because, in addition to jeopardizing the sustainability of the community, it skews the proportions in the next generation of people who may have inordinate propensities toward carelessness, selfishness, or foolishness, particularly if children are to be raised by their birth parents in a traditional nuclear family.  (Other arrangements are possible including arrangements that might be associated with a tolerance for sexual love between adults and children.  I am not interested to discuss this issue of so-called sex crimes at this time.)  Crime can be discouraged by economic sanction or enforced sterility or some other method, whichever is deemed best for the children.  The point is that it must be effectively suppressed.  Otherwise, although the parents will suffer, the children of such parents will enter the population.  In very rare cases, the most extreme penalty endorsed by society for the crime of murder, for example, might be indicated, e. g., exile.

Houston, Texas

January 29, 2007

Description of Natural Economy

The following is from A Natural Political Economy:

In Chapter 5 of On the Preservation of Species, I described a society that has abandoned materialism, that is, a society in which Dematerialism has already taken place.  This might be tested in an intentional community despite the obstacles presented by the materialistic society in which it is embedded or throughout which it is distributed.  The community would have the following features:

1.         A give-away economy with no monetary system.  Each economic actor* notifies directly the enterprises that supply his genuine needs, which, in turn, tell him when the item or items can be picked up or will be delivered depending upon which mode has the lower emergy costs.  Clearly, delivery syndicates will need to minimize emergy by solving optimization problems – possibly of combinatorial complexity – by computer, if computers are available in the wake of Peak Oil.  Otherwise, emergy consumption is not likely to be minimized, although it may be acceptably low.  Being too poor to afford a computer for each economic actor is another case of the poor communities getting poorer; but, even in the worst case, it will not be accompanied by the rich getting richer to exacerbate the situation.  These enterprises also report the emergy values of the item or items to each economic actor and to a public servant if the community deems this necessary until people have learned the lesson of minimizing their consumption.  Thus, the economy is consumer-planned subject only to the consumer's responsibility (a) to use no more than 1/Nth of the total sustainable dividend of the economy (measured in emergy units) where N is the number of consumers and (b) to reproduce only himself, to pass on his reproductive rights to another, or not to reproduce.  Life can be made discouragingly difficult for cheaters.

2.         Local economic enterprises owned by workers in the sense of custodianship.  Decisions are made by direct vote – one worker, one vote.  It is important that worker ownership not extend beyond the premises of the plant where the work is done or beyond the area where service is rendered.  Decentralization not incorporation!  Each enterprise integrates the plans of its consumers into a total economic plan for the enterprise and notifies its suppliers accordingly.  This must be achieved with negligible energy costs, probably with a computer.  The economic actor might organize his or her personal emergy budget well in advance, also with a computer.

3.         Public servants chosen quasi-randomly, somewhat as jurors are chosen, for limited terms that cannot be followed by another such appointment.  Recall is by direct vote of all members of the community whom I call citizens for lack of a better term.  The term fractal political structure denotes a system of small communities wherein every citizen belongs to a local parliament that is tied in a loose federation with other such communities in similar parliaments that are tied in loose federations to other parliaments of parliaments.

This is similar to fractal structures, except that a loose federation of the world can have only a finite number of sub-levels as does every representation of a fractal in the real world. Notice that the only permanent members of the government are the people themselves at the community level who share political power in the sense of one-person-one-vote.  Naturally some people will have more influence than others if they are widely respected, for example; but, they cannot convert this influence to greater wealth, as there are no institutions to make that possible.  In the figure below, only in Storyland are the town councils of the eleven small communities shown by black dots.  These send representatives to district parliaments represented by orange dots, which, in turn, send representatives to the county parliaments represented by red circles, which, in turn, send representatives to the state parliament where decisions are made as to the management of the entire ecosystem, which is bounded by the lines of demarcation between adjacent eco-regions.  Hopefully, the drawing helps make this conventional concept clear.

 

Figure.  Fractal Political Structure

4.         The practice of FPN in dealing with neighboring communities, so that the dependence of economic well-being on geography is minimized.  (Wealth flows always from richer communities to poorer communities or not at all.)

5.         Defense by citizen militias if necessary.  The decision to bear arms is up to the citizens.

6.         It is recognized that the federal government is likely to suppress any effort to form an intentional community (or reform an existing community) along egalitarian lines,  i. e., with a Natural Economy, as discussed in Energy in a Natural Economy, unless collapse has already commenced, in which case the federal government will no longer be able to function because the most powerful people in government will have given up in despair and will be trying to save themselves - at least Dmitry Orlov has made a good case for this in “Closing the Collapse Gap, which compares the collapse of the Soviet Empire with the very likely collapse of the United States American Empire.

I regret very much employing the expression ‘natural economy’ because, if you google ‘natural economy’, you get 136,000 hits, and most of them do not agree with my definition.  My paper “Energy in a Natural Economy” doesn't show up until the second page.  Fortunately, the first google hit is from the article in the Wikipedia where we read, “Natural economy refers to a type of economy in which money is not used in the transfer of resources among people” and “German economists have invented the term Naturalwirtschaft, natural economy, to describe the period prior to the invention of money.”  The definition by Karl Marx is included too, which argues against a modern capitalist interpretation – as does the article under discussion.

There is a slightly better description in Energy in a Natural Economy, which is listed  in the hyperlinked table of contents at http://dematerialism.net/demise.htm.  It just begins to describe the Earth as a Garden as I envision it in a post-industrial, decentralized, eco-community with a steady-state economy in the wake of Peak Oil.  Such an economy would not be based on buying and selling; and, although people might still compete for importance or the recognition of their own importance by the rest of the community, they would not compete for status.  I take “status” to refer to resource dominance or the acquisition of power over other people the purpose of which is to increase personal wealth.  One could convert fame to personal wealth too, but that needn’t be the case.  I take “importance” and “recognition” to refer to the sort of fame and influence over people that most of us would like – perhaps even seek, but we do not want them for the money.  I picture a community where one can compete in a hierarchy of personal importance but not in one of personal wealth or power.  This accounts for so-called human nature, which may or may not be universal and immutable.

In a Natural Economy good citizens are trying to minimize their personal consumption.  They might even take personal pride in doing so.  Ultimately, they might welcome the animal kingdom back into the Garden, which will have become much more hospitable to nearly every species.  Some readers might find The Parable of the Shipwrecked Brothers illuminating.

The Earth as a Garden should have a number of easily-identified necessary characteristics:

1)     As in Erewhon, Samuel Butler’s version of Utopia, the manufacture of energy intensive inventions of the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries should be excluded.  This does not apply to those which accomplish the same tasks as inventions of earlier centuries with the expenditure of much less energy and are immune to Jevon’s Paradox.  This follows from Item A of Addendum 2 of “On Capitalism”.  Remember.  “Every technological ‘improvement’ results in the exchange of one set of nuisances for another.”

2)     Banking, finance, fiduciary instrument of every sort including stocks, bonds, options, and money, in short monetary systems themselves must be rigorously excluded.  Otherwise, the economy will grow and will not be sustainable as shown in Items B and D.

3)     The necessity of reasonable equality in wealth in a steady-state economy follows from Item C.

Note

*          An economic actor is a member of a community who makes decisions regarding consumption for herself and any dependents.

Houston, Texas

July 6, 2007