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Jul 4, 2023·edited Jul 4, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

This is so beautiful, and so powerful!!!!! One of the best things I’ve read in a long time, truly!!!!!

There is one thought throughout all of this that continues to haunt me, and it’s why I cannot put pen to paper to solve it.

The Greeks and Celts may have believed that no one should own the earth. But another culture did so they claimed it.

The Tibetans were pacifists so they didn’t have a military. But China did so they took over.

There are many who don’t believe in Nukes, but the countries that have them will have all the power.

These ideals are good. We shouldn’t own the earth. We shouldn’t go to war. We shouldn’t have nukes. But how do we protect them? How do we make them a reality when there will always be bad actors who don’t care???

I guess what I’m asking is how do we stop the overreach?

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Elle, thank you for reading and for your feedback. I really appreciate your support and enthusiasm, it got me started and it keeps me going. 🥰

You're asking an excellent question and I think that learning from the past is essential so that the mistakes of the past won't be repeated. How can a peaceful society protect itself from a violent society? As you mentioned, there are so many examples of peaceful people who were conquered by external forces who didn't share their believes. I especially like that you mentioned China and Tibet, because China suffered the same faith in the early 19th century and it went downhill from there.

I don't know the solution for this problem, but after many discussions about this topic I think that we are finally unto something: How do you create a utopian society that is both peaceful and capable of protecting itself without having cold wars, without othering, without exclusion, without dictatorship, and slavery, and poverty and war and disease? It's a starting point. I wonder if there are any examples in history of such societies.

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Jul 4, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

Oof you’re right on the money... been wrestling with this one for a while. Guess it’s a race to see who has a solution first!

But really, while the problem on a large scale seems like a perfect catch-22, I think on a smaller scale the particular problems will suggest their own solutions.

For example, the US military is the strongest in the world -- but they lost in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iran, and would have lost against the First Nations if not for the help of disease. So I’m hopeful that in each instance, avenues of escape and resistance will open up.

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Hi Elle!

🙏

I will say that the Excessive Overreach, the All Consuming Hunger, will end for our People when a Critical Mass of Human Beings here on 🌎 achieve a Shift in Consciousness that views ALL LIFE as Precious and Sacred, that KNOWS absolutely in our Hearts, Minds, Souls, and Spirits that We Are All Connected and that to pollute, devour, and destroy, to exploit 🌍 for Material Gain and Profit, is an Affront to the entire Cosmos.

Soon we will view our current economic system as we know view the medical science of the medieval world: hopelessly brutal, crude, and ineffective.

Take Care, Elle!

TC

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Yes this is the quandary. So many examples in countries and corporations of those willing to reach over natural boundaries and just grab.

I’ve recently discovered an interesting way to think through this - the idea of Moloch; By perverse incentives we are all tempted to overreach and grab because if we don’t we know they will, so we better do it first to keep them from getting an upper hand.

Philosopher Schmachtenberger is where I’ve found entry to this idea, there’s a good video with him and Liv Boeree hashing it out.

I think where he’s at is that we don’t yet have a solution to this inherent human dilemma but they’re working on it.

It’s my hunch that since we can’t control what others will do the only path is to create enough healthy incentives for people to do the right things - slowly but surely increasing the number of individuals who will seek to benefit others over themselves - but what could possibly do this, to cause our own inner desires to somehow be lead into mutually beneficial directions?

That’s what I am exploring also.

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This is a beautiful discussion and one that should take place more often. I find it very stimulating that we're all looking at the issues at hand from different angles, I learn a lot every time. Controlling the fear of missing out on resources due to being passive is very relatable and it also has a historical basis. The people who chose to live peacefully in the past, as Elle pointed out, were conquered and exploited by those who weren't shy of expanding their power. Is there a middle ground? Will humanity be able to break through and achieve a higher consciousness?

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But isn’t the philanthropist’s ultimate goal to evade taxes? 🤔 Few would give away so much if not for the massive US tax benefits. It’s like laundering your own money.

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Their goal is definitely not to save the world. Tax evasion sounds more plausible.

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I’m sure some want both... but not if it means a stock market collapse for them.

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That’s the effective altruism. If I’m poor, I can’t donate anymore. So first, let’s make sure I’m not poor.

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Jul 4, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

Great article Claudia! Capitalism is definitely an excellent example of overreach. While it is also definitely an improvement over imperialism, it still has its problems. One of those problems is resource extraction. It is evident that resource extraction cannot be done without any harm, (It's kind of in the name), It is not always done with the least harm. As resources become more difficult to locate, and extract, and the drive for profit, as well as the vagaries of the market, causes some companies to disregard the rights and prior claims of both the environment and local people. Lithium is an excellent example. Up until about 5 years ago, we had more lithium than we could use. The rapid rise of batteries for both power generation, and electrical transportation, and the electrification of everything caused the demand to rise exponentially. Since the only method that was practiced at the time was evaporation similar to making salt, many companies rushed in and started pumping water from where it needed to be to where they wanted it causing all sorts of problems.

The main problem with capitalism at this time is still the concept that people and companies can own resources. Land and all the natural resources are Public Goods, and should be shared equally among the people of the world. The people and companies who currently occupy land and/or extract resources from it, should be charged with developing it with the least impact to the surrounding land and peoples. Part of the problem is the concept of, “I own it, therefore I can do what I want with it”. Instead it should be, “I have been entrusted with this resource, how can I use it best, with the least impact?”.

Getting rich never saved the world. The problem with getting rich is that it is a “positive” feedback cycle. The more successful you get the more power you hold. Also the more successful you get, the more you are likely to see yourself as being right. Since you are right more than other people (obviously) then you should use your power to direct other people to your will so they will be “right” to. Since there are always people who are willing to tell power it is right, even when it isn't this rarely goes well. Elon Musk and the current crop of billionaires are the best example. They are all doing great things, also very stupid things.

I am not against the rich, and I am not anti capitalism, as paraphrasing Winston Churchill, “it is the worst economic system except for all the others we have occasionally tried.” But I would like to figure out ways to limit the ownership of patents, intellectual property, land and natural resources, so they are shared more equally with all the people of the world. I would like to reverse the trend that is currently concentrating the power to the rich and corporations.

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Jul 4, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

Is there much difference between the Celts expanding and bringing their trees with them (with the elimination of non Celtic populations as they did so looking suspiciously genocidal) and the overreach of European colonialism? Is the urge to spread pine trees really that different from the urge to spread rubber trees? I'm sure there are lovely quotes about nature and sustainability written by employees of Kew in the 19th century.

The ancient Greeks were perfectly happy with individual wealth. Even if every Greek city state held all land communally between the male slave owning citizenry, which seems unlikely (there was really no tyrant who claimed ownership of the land of the polis?), is this better than the ownership of land by a voluntary association of individuals - a company?

Thank you for the essay, it's well written and thought provoking, but I'm not entirely convinced by some of your points.

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Hi Nick, thanks sharing your thoughts. I understand your points, it's difficult to find the perfect human society. Instead, we can find societies that did some things better than we do them today, and we can see things that we do today better than they did back in the day. It's a learning process. Looking at society with a critical eye doesn't mean obliterating it. It means just that, looking with a critical eye. What can be improved? What issues do we face today and what caused them?

The way we exploit nature for profit destroys the very planet on which we live. The Celts as a society are a good example of a society who lived with different values and attitude towards nature. We can learn from them. They didn't merely bring their trees, they helped regreen whole areas after the last ice age and left us a natural wealth with their worldview. What do we live to the generations to come?

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It's a good essay, but historically inaccurate. Modern capitalism was created out of the corpse of slavery, it wasn't founded upon it. How do we know this? Because long before the American Civil War, the Northern States, with their abolitionist zeal, had begun to copy the British, with their industrial revolution, and the incomes of their average citizens had begun to soar by comparison to the incredible poverty of the average White Southerner.

Few people realise the resistance William Wilberforce and his slavery reformers faced. Most in Britain believed that an end to slavery would impoverish Britain and leave it open to invasion and conquest by France. It took an enormous leap of faith to overcome this visceral fear, and the end of slavery brought about within the British Empire is an achievement only surpassed by the movement to end slavery globally, which again, the British pioneered.

Don't get me wrong. Climate change desperately needs to be tackled, but the only way to do it is through technological innovation and a more iterative approach. And we have to remember that, although capitalism has its downsides, but it also raised roughly 90% of the world's population out of the worst poverty imaginable.

Sure, modern medical advances played their role in this Our World in Data source showing life expectancy since 1770, but, as a factor, advances in medical science, don't account for the fact that, prior to agricultural innovations and industrialisation, most babies were born malnourished and emaciated, like their mothers.

And sure, capitalism causes a problem from the point of view of consumption- it's absolutely disgraceful that most Western consumers don't check their weekly shopping list for palm oil content, but the other side of the equation to the fact that there are now more trees in the Northern hemisphere than there were 100 years ago, whilst the Global South continues to be despoiled at pace, comes from the realisation that the world's global poor will do anything to escape the sheer desperation of gut-wrenching poverty. Put simply, wealth affords the North the luxury of being good custodians of their own lands, whilst turning a blind eye to the machinery that despoils the lands of others.

https://ourworldindata.org/life-expectancy

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Thank you for your feedback. I agree that we need technology, I am not thinking of adopting a Celtic way of life any time soon. But I need to point out that today we have poverty because we allow some people to grab more than they need.

You point out the tragedy of the commons, and this was exactly the point of my article. It is a construct. The examples of the Celts taking care of using the forests together and indigenous people growing the food that you and I eat today, show clearly that the commons are the best at administrating resources given the right conditions: no ownership of nature. I envision a beautiful future where technology and common access to natural resources based on a set of principle and values enable everyone to live a prosperous life. Why do we have to hang with our teeth on capitalism when we see that it doesn't work?

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Here is a link to the Mondragon website: https://www.mondragon-corporation.com/en/about-us/

As I stated, it's probably the most realistic version of the type of business which could work in a kinder form of capitalism, and I can't see any reason why it wouldn't work with agriculture. People are cynical about capitalism, and rightly so- the biggest problem is housing. There is a classical economic principle called Say's Law- it's probably more true of housing than any other sector of the economy.

The problem is that as demand grows for housing the scarcity cost of the building lands grows faster than the increase in the value of finished properties. What this means is that large firms bifurcate and the land speculation side of the business quickly generates far more profit than the virtuous side, the actual building of homes. This is the fundamental problem which is causing the West to destabilise.

It's also caused huge problems in China, as you may have recently heard about. At one point Chinese homebuyers were paying 35 times average Chinese earnings to buy a property! The families would club together, because it was the only way that young men could ever hope to get married. There are ways to fix it. A good book on the subject is Home Truths by Liam Halligan.

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Thanks a lot for the link and also for the book recommendation. Housing is a pressing issue. I live in Austria, a country where it's normal to rent instead of buy a home. Right now it's ridiculously expensive to buy an apartment where I live.

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He famously said about capitalism vs socialism "It doesn't matter whether a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice"- referring to the economic system which undergirds a society rather than the intentions behind those who run it- whether they work for vested interests or serve the people.

Probably the best example of what you are looking for in the real world is the Basque worker owner cooperative in Spain, Mondragon. Last time I checked they had something like 79,000 worker owners. They operate like any other business- they compete in the market and recognise that jobs get lost through improved processes- yes, they pay there wages from the revenue of the business, but also invest whatever is left in new ventures to keep the workforce gainfully employed. When they had to close their electrical goods business, because of fierce competition from overseas, most notably China, they lost 3,000 employees, but because of the community element of their capitalist model, they were eventually able to re-employee all but 60 of their former employees- most of whom had reached retirement age. The CEO and the most expert workers are paid only five times more than the average worker owner, in recognition of their outsize contribution to the venture. The do get paid in other ways, they are literally heroes to a people who history hasn't treated kindly.

I don't see any reason why the worker owner model couldn't be adapted to farming. It would require the recognition that those who already were unusually successful farmers were to best placed to run the community capitalist endeavour. It might even be popular in America, where a lot of farming has become a real estate business in which the farmers who supposedly own their own businesses spend most of the proceeds of their labour on servicing debt mechanisms designed to keep them hungry for more.

Farming does need modern farming equipments and industrialised process, though. Recently there has been an attempt to rebrand those fleeing subsistence farming for African and Latin cities as climate refugees. Sure, there is an element of truth to it. The World Food Programme report from 2022 showed that roughly 80% of the world's malnourishment was caused by war. 10% economic shocks. But the headline figure was that another 10% was through climate-related weather conditions- this is seriously up from the figures for the last couple of decades, and may point to bigger problems ahead.

Anyway, my point was that without the right equipment farming can be a backbreaking affair, and for decades many of the young in these areas have been heading to work in sweat shops, for the simple reason that the pay is higher and the work easier.

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I come from Romania and my grandparents (who have already passed away) lived in the countryside where I used to visit them as a child every summer. Until I was eight years old we live under communism and I still have glimpses of their lives in the countryside under a communist regime that owned all the lands and had them work the fields basically for free. The were 'allowed' to keep their private garden behind their house, which thankfully was quite large, raise a single cow, raise a single pig per year and slaughter it, and raise chicken, ducks, geese, etc. They also received little pocket money and some produce from working the state owned farms. My grandparents were diligent and despite the hard life, they still had the possibility to help us, city folk, with foodstuff and produce. The food rations allocated by the state for every citizen were not enough and even if you had money, there was nothing extra to buy. They sold in supermarkets only as much food as they calculated the surrounding population needed, the rest was exported.

After communism, my grandmother, who came from a wealthier family, got back part of the land that had been taken away from her parents (nationalised was the term). It was 5 hectares of farmland and a small vineyard. This was a lot of land because, even today, in Romania you don't have this huge farms that you have in the USA. But, of course, my grandparents didn't have the machines needed to work the land efficiently, most people didn't. If you needed something done on your land, you paid someone who had the machine you needed. It worked fine if you had enough land and money. But many people in that village of 5,000 people had no or very little land and had children that still lived with them. It was a hard life and many left to work on construction sites in Italy, or as seasonal farm workers in Spain or other West European countries.

Farm life is tough. Between the first and second world war, Romania was the granary of Europe. There's very good farmland in the south. But Romania never reached that status anymore because, as you mention, modern farming requires a lot of machinery and also efficient farming methods. If the land is split between thousands of small farmers you can't do much. But if those farmers would manage to work together...

There are so many issues. And I am honestly not in a position to give any solutions. I just observe and ask questions. I have a curiosity to get to the bottom of the problem and try to understand what is the one thing we could do that will bring us the highest benefit right now as a society, as humans sharing a planet and living on its resources. Just like with the Romanian farms, splitting the Earth into so many tiny private properties cannot be efficient. Everyone will try to squeeze as much as they can from their tiny piece of land in order to survive. Some don't even access to a tiny piece of land, they have to depend on a job.

I just think that there was a dignity to the Celts taking care of those forests. A sense of purpose. A craft that they learned and taught further. A sense of responsibility guided by ethics and values. A sense of ownership of their own faith. I like the example of the cooperative Mondragon and this is exactly the direction in which I'm thinking. Why should Elon Musk own Tesla when Tesla is the brain work of so many people? Microsoft is not Bill Gates, Apple is not Steve Jobs, Amazon is not Jeff Bezos. These companies exist because of the people who use their knowledge, education and brainpower to make them thrive and innovate every single day. How are the people working for these companies any different than the peasants working for the feudal lords? I know that it sounds exaggerated and it is as a comparison, but at the same it's also not.

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In general, the problem which you are actually talking about is one of scale. The larger any corporation or institution, the greater its proclivity to dehumanise. Most of the people I've known who have worked for small business have tended to be happier than those who are simply employee numbers for companies or government.

A part of it is the ability to feel as though your voice is being listened to, I've worked for a major bank where I was little better than a peasant and have also been fortunate enough to work for a company where my ideas were listened to and often implemented. There really is no comparison. The problem with larger businesses and institutions is sale, because a small or medium-sized business only ever has one degree of separation between you and the person who makes the decisions- this allows for a reciprocal feedback system where most employees feel as though they are valued beyond the mere recompense of a pay packet. In larger organisations one feels powerless and set adrift.

Maslow got it wrong by the way. Labour is unique in that it is a basic need, but also a basic need which can transcend to self-actualisation and beyond. It really is one of the main routes to personal meaning, with only family and friends coming close. But I guess we both know that being writers, heh? After all, although many seem to be cynical when it comes to self-aggrandizement, the true meaning to be found in writing is the pursuit of having worth and value to others....

PS The thing to really worry about in relation to capital is in relation to finance. Although I certainly don't agree that billionaires should be able to barter there wealth into political power, it really is better for the market to allocate about 50% of a societies resources, because the market is about 5 times more efficient than the more capable governments like Germany or Sweden.

Don't get me wrong, the world needs most of the financial systems which it has, but the problem is that with the computer age it's become a lot easier for people with capital to predict future downturns and market resets. This not only gives those with capital an inherent advantage over this with a little stored up in savings, but it also gears the market towards asset speculation, making money from small incremental price changes, and asset speculation has proven to be inherently unstable form of economic activity over time, one of the principle drivers of crashes. Hyman Minsky said 'Stability is destabilising' and this is far more true in the information age, because of the predictive power of data analysis.

Of 235 billionaires minted since the pandemic, almost all worked in finance. It's a process which inherently leads towards a New Gilded Age and the social instability which naturally follows. Whatever you may think of the tech billionaires, at least each of them had a vision for the types of goods and services which might make things a little better. The problem is that venture capital opportunities which operate in a similar way are pretty flat and finite- they have been since the early nineties. Unfortunately, one can't say the same thing about the ability to generate capital. There are all sorts of clever trick from private equity to land speculation which create spreadsheet value without creating real value for people. It's morally bankrupt system which ultimately only leads to higher prices, particularly for people who want to buy a home, or don't want to spend most of their monthly income on rent.

On a note which is both positive in the long run, and dark in the immediate future, it looks of like many of their methods of creating value through higher prices is about to fail. Remote working has changed everything. No longer is it necessary to be bound to the high rents of a city if you want access to economic opportunity, and many mothers for example, have greatly benefitted from the ability to do phone work from home, far from the dreaded office.

The commercial real estate bubble looks though it will be the first to be hit.

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Gates is an interesting character. I think he makes the mistake of thinking that his proven genius in one field will necessarily mean that he will succeed in others. It didn't work out too well in Africa, in relation to farming. It's about the land. Much of Europe ad Asia has somewhat similar soil qualities, so its easy to innovate across, but local environment and vast differences in the soil and its mineral qualities, means that it's far more difficult to make African agriculture super-abundant.

What can I say about Elon Musk? Most people have become incredibly polarised on him, seeing alternately as a saviour or the devil himself. What most people get wrong about him is that he really isn't a very good salesman. Instead, he is probably the single most capable engineer of our generation. Almost everyone who was worked with him in an engineering capacity says the same thing, he seems to have the capacity to equal specialised engineering experts in their own fields.

That being said, he is a complete idiot when it comes to politics and culture. Don't get me wrong, as a heterodox who doesn't really pay any loyalty to any political tribe, I am fully free speech, without being a free speech absolutist- but he seems to have fully committed to one side of a culture war that I see as incredibly destructive. I have friends on both the Left and the Right and I despair of the way the media landscape and social media has increasingly made them see each other as existential threats.

What Elon got wrong was picking a side, and in commercial terms he picked the wrong one- it's not as though conservatives are rushing out to buy EVs! Only someone with the social naivity of high functioning autism/Asperger's could be that socially stupid.

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I've worked in manufacturing and am fully versed in industrial engineering practices (time and motions, method study, rest allowances, etc). He does a lot of the things which gets the most out of workers, but where he fails is in staff welfare. Good morale, paired with health-based initiatives like subsided physio really can make a huge difference in terms of productivity, plus it's a lot more humane. In a fully human system (non-automated), work trials and method study can only get you so far- around 250% of total productivity, with the top end being 400%. One example that I looked at was a cleaning company- the workers did 400% of the work, but got paid twice as much as the normal market rate- plus, they were happy, healthy and derived a hell of a lot of value from being 'elite' workers even in something as mundane as cleaning.

Bezos is a genius in other respects. He was one of the first to spot that it was easier and cheaper to have semi-external specialist teams come in to squeeze out every possible drop of added productivity, rather than rely on in-house management for improvement. Again, his neglect f the human element of productivity is overly mechanistic.

Steve Jobs was probably the world's best salesman, who also had a talent for predicting what was next. Don't get me wrong, Apple was a lot more visionary when he was at the helm, but I've always been more of a Wozniak man- I like PCs and use android. Here in the UK, we are nowhere as near brand loyal to Apple- it doesn't really confer the same status that it does in America, with that stupid bloody blue bubble.

I am looking forward to the second season of Foundation, though.

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I too come from a farming community. Norfolk, UK is probably one of the most fertile parts of Europe, although obviously not as fertile as the Naples region. Between 14 and 18 I would work during the summers as a farm labourer on a local farm. It was bloody hard work- probably the worst job was pulling seedy beet- they used to use the young lads on that type of work, because anyone older probably would have caused themselves an injury.

I used to chat in a private forum with a Romanian communist who had immigrated to Canada, he filled me in on the types of shenanigans that happened in the post-Communist era in Eastern Europe- in many ways previously the old Warsaw Pact countries were spared much of the deprivations of those who lived in the actual Soviet Union, because the Soviets were conscious of the need to present the Warsaw Pact as allies, rather than subordinates, and they benefitted from the somewhat trading structure put in place, even though their dissidents suffered from the 'Lives of Others' state security which was common for the period.

In many ways, what happened after communism was similar to what happened in Russia with shock therapy. A far better approach would have been a Marshall Plan 2.0. One of the mistakes made by the West in Twentieth Century by the West was that, if freed of constraint, there was a presumption that societies could naturally evolve towards democracy and market systems by themselves without support. It's a mechanistic viewpoint which ignores the couple of hundred years worth of struggle to organically evolve an equilibrium which mitigates many of the flaws of capitalism and democracy. As an example, whilst there can no doubt that the British could be brutal in the colonial period, every single country which was a success in Africa after the colonial period, kept their colonial systems in place- most notably the courts and property rights- and generally those who had been under British Colonial rule fared better than those who had been under other European powers.

I understand your frustrations with the tech billionaires. Their rise has been as a result of a unique set of circumstances, namely technology and the ease with which its possible to create technologically based goods for global markets. Bezos was interesting because through his book business he realised that information had the potential to anticipate what a customer would want in the future. That being said, I don't like his approach to employees as disposable commodities.

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Thanks for getting back to me! I agree that capitalism is a deeply flawed system. Over time it tends to head towards monopoly through economies of scale. Many don't know this, but Adam Smith, the grandfather of economics, was actually quite an ardent critic of the East India Company. He didn't like its constant requirement for government bailouts and correctly predicted that its near monopoly on sea trade would lead to revolution in the American colonies. He version of capitalism, was the market, small scale, with people working reciprocally and negotiating towards mutual gain. If you've ever visited a souk then you will know that the market traders actually relish a good bargaining process more than they gulling customers- although they are not averse to taking advantage of gullible tourists.

Where most economies start to go wrong is with the over-financialisation of the economy. Us British moved to a more financialised economy in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and where we were once the world's industrial superpower, by 1890 Germany was outproducing Britain in industrial output by a factor of five. It's also what's increasingly been happening in America.

Farming is difficult though. FULL socialism has been tried around 42 times. It might be a lot more stable if it wasn't for the fact that central governments tend to try to redistribute the land. Venezuela is a good example of this. There is ample evidence that external pressures were brought to bear, through deliberate manipulations of factors like oil prices, but at the same time, their agricultural sector turned into a disaster within a decade.

Please note, I am not knocking indigenous farming. This is some pretty exciting stuff happening with certain species of corn, which indigenous farmers have been harvesting for years, which seem to have some miraculous properties when it comes to a microbiology which traps and utilises soil nitrogen. It's still early days, but it could be a game changer. The problem comes when government types try to insist themselves into the mix and arbitrarily try ideas which have no basis in empiricism. One example would be the Kulaks, where the commissars stirred resentment against an emergent class of small property holders. Another would be Lysenkoism. Finally, the man who really produced China's economic miracle was Deng Xiaoping

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What a Fascinating Essay, Claudia! I learned so much.

Indeed, Large Scale Corporate Capitalism, the Kraken🦑, is an All Devouring Force that is Consuming Everything in its Path. It has become an almost Demonic Entity.

Take Care!

🙏

TC

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Thank you for reading Trafton, I learned myself a lot while writing this article. Glad that I could pass the learnings onward.

Indeed, seeing the whole world as a resource to exploit and monetise for self-profit is demonic. And it's not only about the profit, this whole system doesn't allow people to live a life based on different values. I look at the indigenous people and the lands that they legally inhabit. How little rights they have over those lands and how easily manipulated and coerced by big powers once there's an interest in exploiting those lands.

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Of course, Claudia! I look forward to reading more of your work.

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Re "American capitalism was built on slavery," have you read The Empire of Cotton?

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I haven't, thank you so much for the recommendation. I was hoping that someone will recommend a good book on the 'American empire'. 🙏

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This is broader than the 'American empire'. The 'empire of cotton' was global…and founded, the author asserts, in 'war capitalism.' It's a provocative and disturbing read, with important insights for our time. I recommend it.

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I'm adding this to my reading list right away. I'll read it after I finish 'The Treeline'. Cotton reminds of a book I read last year about water 'When the rivers run dry' by Fred Pearce.

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Jul 4, 2023·edited Jul 4, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

I haven't read 'The Treeline.' (So many books, so little time…)

Have you read 'Overstory'?

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I haven't... Do you recommend it? What is it about?

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Jul 4, 2023·edited Jul 4, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

Oh yes OMG!

"The Overstory is a novel by Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Powers (his twelfth novel) — about nine Americans whose unique life experiences with trees bring them together to address the destruction of forests."

Masterful, absorbing, and deeply important.

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Jul 3, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

Excellent write-up and thoughts, Claudia. Appreciated the framing around the Dune quotes.

Lots of facts in here I didn't know about. Sounds like Treeline is well worth a read.

"It’s beautiful to learn that, once, humans were the stewards of the forests, re-greening the planet after an ice age."

I've always felt crushed by the beauty of this notion and the fact that in so many places it has been lost.

I haven't followed the mess and fallout of SBF's bankruptcy since it happened. It was somewhat ironic to have only just listened to his interview with Sam Harris (on effective altruism) in the days before his world collapsed.

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Jul 4, 2023·edited Jul 4, 2023Author

The notion that humans are capable of being both destructive and nurturing with their natural environment is nothing new. But in today's climate, it's good to dust up the history books and learn about all the good things humans have been doing for this planet through time. Especially for young people, many of whom are desolated by the current climate crisis, and lack a sense of meaning in life, having practical examples of how humans can contribute towards a healthy planet and a healthy and meaningful future it essential.

Ever since I decided to educate myself about climate change, with every book I read I'm learning so much. There is so much I don't know, so much that I can learn from the past, so much that I can learn about the present and about the future from these books. I have such deep respect and admiration for the writers who took the time to research and write them. I didn't even read so many thus far, I finished 5 I think and started other 5 that I'm currently reading based in parallel. But it's amazing how enriched I feel.

I think that at the end of the year I'll dedicate a whole newsletters to these books.

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Jul 4, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

That'll be good to read a bigger deep dive into the topic.

Is it still driving worldbuilding aspects for your fiction, or is this now moving beyond that?

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Yes, I read these books mainly for worldbuilding. I am of course interested in the topics beyond fiction, but the main driver right now is research. I started reading The Treeline as research for the third story in the collection. The Treeline is about the boreal forest and my story is placed in Siberia.

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Jul 6, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

Perfect! (And great to hear.)

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Jul 6, 2023·edited Jul 6, 2023Author

Did you think I was switching to communism? 😄

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Jul 6, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

😂😂

You know how much I want to read your fiction, so just checking more fiction would still be coming 😉

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A very interesting and thought-provoking read. I appreciate how you centred your piece around the three quotes. Very well done.

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Thanks a lot for reading and taking the time to write a feedback, really appreciated 🙏

I love Dune and I watched the new film about 6 times. The quotes were fresh in my mind so I made use of them. 😅

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Fascinating. Thanks for writing and sharing, Claudia.

I've been wanting to read Seeds of Resistance for a while now. And also Dune! I've seen the film but haven't ventured into the text yet. I shall add The Treeline to my list as well.

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Thank you for reading and for you feedback, Garrett. The first two books are excellent and I recommend them from all my heart. The Treeline I am currently still reading myself but so far I am beyond excited, a great read! On the same level with Seeds of Resistance and a book on water that also was huge for me: 'When the rivers run dry' by Fred Pierce.

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Aug 7, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

Wonderful, added that one to my list as well!

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thank god i rescued this from spam folder...read that book years ago and like Tolkien the author was full of allegory...whether it helps us or not depends on how many open themselves to newsletters like your own and how influential they are....so good!

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Oh no, the dreaded spam folder! I just started reading the book and I was inspired to write this. Let’s see what happens by the end of the book. It’s research for an upcoming short story.

I think that using the vehicle of fiction new ideas and ideals can be planted into people’s heads. But it will take a lot of time to change the fabric of today’s society.

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Jul 5, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

This is a wonderful and intriguing read. You touch on a lot of great ideas and have inspired me to do some more reading of my own!

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Thank you, Evelyn. It was a bit of everything in this article as I realised that I can't go into depth with anything in 2,000 words. I hope that you'll enjoy your reading. What books do you have in mind?

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Jul 5, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

The Treeline and Seeds of Resistance seem very interesting. And I've had people telling to read Dune for a long time so maybe this is a sign I should commit. Do you have any suggestions?

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Love all three books. I also recommend ‘When the rivers run dry’ by Fred Pearce, I’ll never forget this book, it left a deep impression.

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Jul 6, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll check it out!

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Jul 4, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

Excellent article Claudia!! Capitalism is definitely an excellent example of overreach. While it is also definitely an improvement over imperialism, it still has its problems. One of those problems is resource extraction. It is evident that resource extraction cannot be done without any harm, (It's kind of in the name), It is not always done with the least harm. As resources become more difficult to locate, and extract, and the drive for profit, as well as the vagaries of the market, causes some companies to disregard the rights and prior claims of both the environment and local people. Lithium is an excellent example. Up until about 5 years ago, we had more lithium than we could use. The rapid rise of batteries for both power generation, and electrical transportation, and the electrification of everything caused the demand to rise exponentially. Since the only method that was practiced at the time was evaporation similar to making salt, many companies rushed in and started pumping water from where it needed to be to where they wanted it causing all sorts of problems.

The main problem with capitalism at this time is still the concept that people and companies can own resources. Land and all the natural resources are Public Goods, and should be shared equally among the people of the world. The people and companies who currently occupy land and/or extract resources from it, should be charged with developing it with the least impact to the surrounding land and peoples. Part of the problem is the concept of, “I own it, therefore I can do what I want with it”. Instead it should be, “I have been entrusted with this resource, how can I use it best, with the least impact?”.

Getting rich never saved the world. The problem with getting rich is that it is a “positive” feedback cycle. The more successful you get the more power you hold. Also the more successful you get, the more you are likely to see yourself as being right. Since you are right more than other people (obviously) then you should use your power to direct other people to your will so they will be “right” to. Since there are always people who are willing to tell power it is right, even when it isn't this rarely goes well. Elon Musk and the current crop of billionaires are the best example. They are all doing great things, also very stupid things.

I am not against the rich, and I am not anti capitalism, as paraphrasing Winston Churchill, “it is the worst economic system except for all the others we have occasionally tried.” But I would like to figure out ways to limit the ownership of patents, intellectual property, land and natural resources, so they are shared more equally with all the people of the world. I would like to reverse the trend that is currently concentrating the power to the rich and corporations.

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Jul 4, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article! It delves into some profound philosophical angles that have been on my mind lately. You raise two crucial questions that have piqued my interest: First, are individuals who amass immense wealth truly capable of leading our society and determining the future of our planet? And second, does the charitable work, resource allocation, job creation, and health improvements done by these wealthy individuals offset the damages they have caused?

Michael Porter, a prominent Harvard business professor, puts forth an intriguing concept called Creating Shared Value (CSV) that aims to transform business practices by addressing genuine social and environmental issues. While CSV offers a legitimate framework for fostering responsible business behavior, it is not without its flaws. For instance, in certain African countries, mining companies have engaged in malpractices that have polluted the environment and caused widespread health issues due to toxic waste exposure. In an attempt to mitigate the consequences, these companies have built hospitals, schools, and infrastructure. While this may appear as a positive step towards improving the community, it raises uncertainties regarding the long-term effects and whether these communities will truly thrive and achieve a decent quality of life. This prompts us to question whether it would have been better to leave these communities untouched and unexploited in the first place.

I want to clarify that I am not here to denounce capitalism, as it undeniably has played a significant role in shaping our lives. However, I remain skeptical of self-proclaimed saviors who exploit our planet without restraint and then attempt to rectify their actions through grand gestures.

Overall, your article has prompted me to engage in critical reflection regarding the complexities surrounding wealth accumulation, responsible business practices, and the well-being of communities affected by corporate activities. It underscores the importance of considering multiple perspectives and conducting thorough evaluations of the societal and environmental impacts of business actions. Thank you for providing such thought-provoking article.

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Thank you, Misael for reading and for your feedback. And also for sharing such profound observations about the shortcomings of corporate activities.

Just like you, I am not here to denounce capitalism. But I think that it's healthy to look at the society in which we live and the economic system that runs it with a critical eye because something is obviously not working fine. And I love the examples that you mention in your feedback because they illustrate the issues very well.

I would love to read more about 'the importance of considering multiple perspectives and conducting thorough evaluations of the societal and environmental impacts of business actions.' Perhaps you'll write some articles.

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Jul 4, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

So glad to have discovered your Substack and thank you for this excellent essay. I love how you put ideas together here. So succinct and clear. Glad to learn about “Treeline” as well. Your point about indigenous people maintaining forests made me think of how the whole Atlantic coast of North America (Turtle Island) was cultivated, but the colonists, in their ignorance, thought it was a wilderness. 😳

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Thank you, Julie, for your kind feedback. I am also happy to have discovered you and I'm looking forward to read your articles. I didn't know about Turtle Island, I'm curious to learn more.

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Jul 5, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

Best place to start that would be w/ Robin Wall Kimmerer's "Braiding Sweetgrass." Years ago, National Geographic had a special issue about the cultivation of North America by tribes, and I think Charles Mann's "1491" also gets into it.

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Thank you so much for the recommendation, Julie. I need to prepare my reading list for next year. It's going to be loooong!

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Jul 4, 2023Liked by Claudia Befu Ibarra

Great Article, but ... I'm going to present another side of this man.

Bill Gates, one of the most active philanthropists, is not only busy spending his Microsoft fortune on noble causes, but he also became America’s leading farmland owner because he wants to teach everyone sustainable farming while owning the food supply.

Bill Gates is a thief who stole programs and peripherals from other creators and applied them solely to his Windows computers. Then, when he had gotten rich off of selling people Windows every year, he started this stupid subscription model and forces updates that can wreck computers. He doesn't care about anyone but himself.

From computers, he moved to pharmaceuticals, and through his eugenicist stupidity, has robbed about a million African women of the joys of motherhood by sterilizing them with his drugs.

After doing that, he got involved in the CoVid Clot shots and bought the governments of the world.

Now, he, a man who knows nothing about farming, will buy up good land and turn it into dross by over farming it and poisoning the environment around the farms.

He's not a nice man, he's a Ferengi who would make Quark blush.

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I honestly don't think that people who accumulate stupid amounts of wealth are nice people. While I appreciate Bill Gates and his philanthropic inclinations, I am well aware of his exploitative streak. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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