11 August 2011
Norman Pagett writes:
The European Central Bank’s acquisition of Italian and Spanish government bonds may be bringing a little calm to the troubled European economy. But the EU itself is in paralysis because no one acknowledges the origin or gravity of our situation. Economists examine recent history for parallels, or offer Keynesian nonsense about job creation, as if wishjobs can actually create real employment. There is little understanding of what employment is, in the context of our modern society.
Since the British engineer Richard Trevithick invented the steam engine in the early nineteenth century, we have been living off a store of buried treasure called fossil fuel. We have used it to grow our food, expand population, build cities and wartoys so that we could kill each other in millions. This has been our ‘employment’, but it has been entirely dependent on fossil fuel input; without it there is no employment.
That store of cheap energy has lasted about 200 years. We have got it out of the ground and deluded ourselves that it was Gross Domestic Product. But it wasn’t wealth, it was a once-only geological anomaly, 150 million years of stored sunshine which was supposed to last forever no matter how fast we burned it. So we used finite raw materials to build an economy based on infinite growth.
This is where the ‘developed world’ is today. Banks are collapsing and jobs are vanishing because the cheap energy that we’ve been using to stoke our economic boilers is no longer available. The infinite growth of the oil era is over, and with it all the comforts you took for granted.
European Economy: Infinite growth based on finite raw materials
11 August 2011