Jeff Rubin, in a book discussed in the previous post, actually does make a good case for a zero growth or steady state economy. Not that it’s desirable, but that rising energy costs will make it inevitable. And that may well be a good thing, for the sake of our environment at least. The nature of a steady state economy is that resources, and wealth, are finite, so if one person gets richer, another has to become more poor. Can’t be helped. That means the ultimate victory of the planned economy, or at least some kind of socialism, because all economic matters in the last instance will become political. Again, not because that kind of system works well, but because we are forced to have it. Rubin doesn’t say so, that’s my extrapolation. The art world is in a growth mode now, and presumably it can grow forever creatively—there are no necessary limits to what any artist can imagine—but money for art will be as political as any, managed by committees and bureaucrats. So along with socialism, conceptual art will likewise prevail. Despite decades of “critique,” it’s still hard to get art world denizens to think in economic terms. As in the broader economy, art’s challenge is over production. There are too many artists, partly due to the fact that art education has been in a growth mode for more than half a century, and still is. In the world of zero growth and finite wealth it’s not hard to imagine a strict limit on the number of artists allowed to practice professionally. And who will decide who they are?
I remember Sun Ra saying that with six billion people how could there be an energy shortage? Now there are seven. Or just step out side and look at the sky. The sun has lifted tons and tons of water up into the air, and the wind is moving them around. How much energy does that take? More than we could ever use. There is no lack of energy, it’s just a matter of whether it’s where we need it in a form we can use—purely a technical problem. But for Rubin, renewable energy is far off in the future. He may or may not be right, and his attitude may or may not be a good strategy. It’s good if it makes us more aware of how prices work, yet a real turn to solar and geothermal would allow infinite growth. Though I’m very critical of Silicon Valley type techno-optimism, that is a material fact.