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Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LV–Expediting ‘Collapse’: Financialisation of Our Economic System

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LV

Rome, Italy (1984). Photo by author.

Expediting ‘Collapse’: Financialisation of Our Economic System

A very short contemplation that deviates from the ‘series’ I’ve been writing on several psychological mechanisms that impact our cognitions regarding overshoot and collapse. This is a brief comment (with a slight edit) on an article by The Honest Sorcerer whose writing I discovered a few months ago and have found to be quite excellent (probably because I get positive, confirmatory ‘feedback’ in the sense that their philosophy/analysis aligns with a lot of my own thinking; in fact, some commenter has actually accused me of being The Honest Sorcerer) — I highly recommend reading their work.

Apart from the inevitability of diminishing returns on investments in resource extraction (particularly energy-related ones) that you highlight brilliantly, I have to wonder about the role of some other phenomena in our complex global industrial civilisation that are leading us quickly towards ‘collapse’ (to say nothing really about our fundamental predicament of ecological overshoot).

In particular, I look at the extreme financialisation of our economies — especially via interest-bearing credit/debt expansion — that has led to pulling resources from the future that necessitates the pursuit of the perpetual growth chalice (and, as you point out, this is a pointless endeavour given the harsh reality of physical limits on a finite planet).

The financial industry (central, private, and shadow banks particularly), along with the complicity of our political class, has allowed/cheerlead the explosion of debt instruments that I would contend does not only allow us to avoid reality for some time but also contributes to price inflation as we have gargantuan amounts of ‘wealth’ chasing decreasing resources.

The real kicker I agree is our bumping into physical limits that not just dampen our pursuit of growth — that is required to keep the gargantuan Ponzi scheme that is our economy from expanding — but very likely is the pin that has burst the biggest economic bubble in our relatively short history on this planet. Ponzi schemes have a tendency to collapse when they can no longer expand and physical limits on a finite planet ensure the one we’ve created to ‘sustain’ our global economy is on its way to implosion.

Of course, overshooting limits (be they biological in nature or economic) can carry on for some time before the actual ‘pain’ is felt — the human penchant to deny reality helps here in the extreme. This is perhaps why Black Swan events are the ones that create the greatest impact on us; in our denial (and our inability to assess risk very well), we fail to prepare for possibilities that increase our anxiety — like collapse. Better to live in a fantasy world of human ingenuity and technology always being there to rescue us than accept that we are simply walking, talking apes that don’t understand complex systems and how our tinkering with them always, eventually backfires.

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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