A wise society would choose some short-term pain in exchange for much less future pain.
A wise society would understand that the foundation of the cliff it is climbing is crumbling and that it should start climbing down to reduce future harm.
A wise society would move slowly and deliberately as it climbed down to avoid falling.
A wise society would use some of the following techniques to climb down:
- Educate citizens on what is going on and why.
- The goal is to minimize responses like panic or blame that can cause a breakdown of law and order or war; and to increase social cohesion and cooperation.
- Implement population reduction policies.
- The goal is to achieve a humane population reduction before nature forces an inhumane population reduction. Given the severity of human overshoot we may not be able to out-race nature however, as Albert Bartlett said, every problem on earth improves with fewer people, so we should do what we can.
- Hold referendums to allow citizens to set priorities for reduced government spending.
- The goal is to engage and empower citizens in difficult decisions that will have to be made. We need to move away from traditional and divisive left vs. right politics into pragmatic resource husbandry.
- Reduce government spending until expenditures are a little less than tax revenues.
- The goal is to configure a government that can function effectively through a prolonged economic contraction punctuated with occasional shocks, and that offers services its citizens can afford.
- Model the availability of key resources taking into account the increasing cost of production caused by depletion, and declining demand (what people can afford) caused by falling incomes, declining debt, and decreasing government spending.
- The goal is to understand the shape of our Seneca curve which is needed for the next point.
- Implement policies to proactively reduce the consumption of key resources a little faster than the models predict will occur in a free market.
- The aim is to maintain social order by controlling the decline rather than being controlled by the decline.
- Prepare fair rationing policies and mechanisms.
- The goal is to be prepared for possible supply disruptions.
- Increase the interest rate enough to cause a steady decline in debt.
- The aim is to climb down to a lower and safer elevation.
- Hold a referendum to decide a maximum reasonable wealth gap between the average and the rich. Tax excess wealth from the rich to pay down public debt. There are 3 justifications for this policy:
- In a shrinking economy the wealth gap between rich and poor will naturally tend to widen through no fault of the poor or skill of the rich. This is already occurring and will accelerate as the economy contracts.
- A too wide wealth gap is unhealthy and dangerous for a society. Think French revolution.
- Paying down public debt with excess wealth benefits everyone, rich and poor, because it helps to stabilize the money system in a shrinking economy.
- Note that the excess wealth should not be redistributed to the poor because this will accelerate our problems by increasing inflation, resource depletion, and CO2 emissions.
- Implement an aggressive luxury consumption tax.
- In our new world, conservation is good and gluttony is bad.
- Place a tariff on imported food and use the funds to support small-scale local food production.
- The goal is to build resiliency to global food supply shocks that might result from a financial or energy crisis, or climate change damage to crop productivity.
- Prohibit the development of farm land or the sale of land to non-residents.
- This policy recognizes that in the long run the most valuable asset a country will have is its arable land.
- Encourage soil restoration.
- As fossil energy derived fertilizers become scarce we will once again have to rely on organic practices for soil fertility. We have depleted most soils. It will take time to rebuild them. We should start as soon as possible.
- Plant trees.
- Planting trees is one of the few things we can do to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. In addition, wood will be a very valuable future resource.
- Protect and restore watersheds.
- Water is the only thing more important to life than food.
- Encourage schools to teach skills required in a less complex society.
- Much of what is taught today will not be useful at our destination.
I realize that denial and other human behaviors make it highly unlikely we will do any of the above.
I also realize that some of the ideas require more thought to ensure a good balance between increased short-term pain vs. decreased long-term pain.
I wrote this to demonstrate that we are not without means to influence the future in a positive direction.