Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Economics as an ecosystem.

I have said before that capitalism is predatory system, an extension of our own predatory nature as opportunists. Well lets apply a ecosystem model to the american economic model. Granted, I understand biological principals better than I understand the economy, but this is my blog and since few seem to want to comment to correct me, I am going to take it as silent agreement.

First of all, an ecosystem isn't quite the closed loop everyone was taught in elementary school. There has to be a point source of energy. In the natural world this is the sun. The next level up are the plants that harvest this energy from the sun to create chemical energy that (with very few exceptions like extremaphiles living on deep ocean volcanic vents) all life is ultimately dependent on. After that comes (and I am grossly over simplifying this) are the organisms that feed on mostly or strictly on plant matter. Beyond that are carnivores up to apex predators.

So our base level is one in the same. According to Jared Diamond and his superbly researched "Guns, Germs, and Steel", human civilization didn't begin to develop until after the domestication of staple crops. Once we were able to generate a surplus of food and do it on the same land year in and year out, we were able to transition from hunter/gather groups into more complex social stratification. Ultimately, everything you own from the computer you are using to view this to the clothes you are wearing while reading this (and if you are not wearing clothes, er... well... this just got awkward) is all a result of the first human who figured out that planting seeds leads to regular harvests of food.

So farmers are our plankton if you will. Next up are the filter feeders, the shrimps and tiny organisms that live on what the plankton harvest from the sun. Now here is where it gets tricky, sunlight isn't all that is necessary for the subsection of the system to function. Money must flow back to the farmers (fertilizer, water, nutrients if you will) so they can use them to grow more crops. What good is having a half million brussel sprouts if you cannot exchange them for the goods and services you need. The next tier up and (this is important) all subsequent tiers after provide this to the farmer.

The role of the filter feeders is to transport and transmute the energy collected from the farmers to higher tiers. Laborers eat and work. Shrimp eat and get eaten. Money from labor earnings go back to the farmer. Effluent and decomposing bodies provide nutrients to plankton.

next time "the role of middlemen and how the bank bailouts probably will end up hurting the banks much more than it ever helped".

1 comment:

  1. In keeping within the bounds of your economic musings in this post and the next, I would like to offer a few comments. The word 'economy' derives from a latin word referring to the organization and running of a household, which in those times consisted of a group of several families arranged hierarchically in a unit. The master and wives and children, plus the free servants and slaves and their children all thrived or failed together. So there was actually what we would think of as a communal arrangement, and this model or versions of it persisted until the industrial revolution, especially in the rural environment. Within the manor, almost all the necessities of existence were produced and consumed 'in house.'
    Of course, it is obvious that the people who lived in the cities couldn't grow all their own crops for example, which is what necessitated the coining of money for a medium of exchange so that the craftsmen/artisans and other specialists could eat. This, in effect, formed a larger social unit of economy, which retained the vertical hierarchy, but dispensed with the mutual risk/reward aspect of sinking or swimming together. Thus was born the hereditary class structure seen to this day whereby we are expected to become specialists and find our place on the not by any rational rational measure of intrinsic worth, social contribution or need, but by some combination of social/economic status, inherited property/wealth, earned/lost wealth, good/bad fortune and just plain luck. The only methods where an individual can improve his status within the money based hierarchy are by joining with others in collective bargaining units such as the medieval guilds or modern unions, getting an education so as to gain entry into the forward curl of the moving wave of the economy or becoming a professional criminal such as the CEO's, banksters, hedge fund managers or the politicians who do their bidding.