I would caution anyone who thinks we can solve the worlds problems on the backs of the rich. First there is not enough rich to matter. They may be energy hogs but there are so few rich in relation to the rest of the economy that their extra energy use is not that great. Their wealth is significantly digital and therefor ephemeral. In a collapse situation much of their wealth would vanish. Much of their toys would not operate. We also have to consider the economic impact of rich in the overall economy. If you want to have more equitable economics with less of a footprint you must be very careful how you impact the economy. A drastic change could actually make the economy overall less affluent. It is true many rich are part of the parasitic class of FIRE and sports and celebs. Yet, many rich are very successful and have taken risks and should be rewarded.
As the modern economy concentrates knowledge there is going to be divergence. This is another macro area that should be addressed. We have regions that have wealth concentrating and this becomes unfair at a certain point. Limitarianism is a new branch of thinking on redistribution. This subject is important going forward both from a social standpoint both within an economy and globally. It also should be addressed at the individual level. Individually we should have an upper limit of wealth accumulation. The problem with this will be loopholes and corruption but this is always the case. No way to get around the ingenuity of human nature. The wealthy can hire an army of consultants so this should be limited. The very wealthy especially those who gain wealth in the financial side of the economy need to be limited. Sports and the entertainment industry likewise need to be limited. These are industries that do not contribute to sustainability or resilience after a point.
On the regional level there needs to be limits but this is harder to control. A wealthy region is generally a productive region. The problem becomes once this region entrenches its wealth and privilege. Redistribution and limits are needed but harder to assess. This is currently being done at the federal level but increasingly it is falling short because of the nature of the modern economy. Money concentrates and with-it power and privilege so we are seeing entrenchment as affluence stalls. At the international level redistribution is even becoming harder especially as limits are reached to affluence. Affluence is under pressure everywhere. In a time of a shrinking economic pie less redistribution will be possible. Poor nations are getting poorer for many reasons’ redistribution will not solve. Overpopulation is overshoot making policies difficult to implement unless the underlying problem is addressed.
This is where some REAL Green might be of use. REAL Green is local based and decline based. A macro REAL Green look at the systematics of the global economy calls for a holistic approach to Limitarianism and planetary health. Let’s Place an upper limit on wealth but lets also move more people local with less affluence. These people moved to the less affluence of localism must be protected from the competitive condition of the wealthy and privileged individuals, regions, and nations. This needs to be incorporated with intermittency of renewables. Take people to localism. Give them security of medical and income. Provide them with energy but require them to live with intermittency. Have them focus on low carbon solar energy harvesting and gathering. Gardening and more animal husbandry is needed. More animal power which is plenty fine for a localized life.
While I call this less affluence in reality that is only in relation to a modern definition. The reality is spiritually and materially affluence can be relatively greater if we consider health and wellbeing. Consumerism and leisure can be adapted locally and with less of a footprint to offer more spiritual satisfaction. On the other end of the equation is the relatively richer individuals, regions, and nations. If we are going to maintain a modern way of life and attempt to avoid a cascading collapse then we will need a modern knowledge and producer class. There are aspects of production that are only efficient at the global level. Higher Knowledge can only be maintained with affluence and concentration of wealth and energy. The key is determining what and where. So, going forward REAL Green says we need a two-tier society. One that goes into a localism of less but with ample material and spiritual satisfaction protected from the competitive destructive nature of market-based capitalism. We then need a highly educated and productive class who produce those items that can only be produced at this level. These products and people are essential for maintaining modernity.
REAL Green acknowledges this is likely beyond our human capacity especially since market-based capitalism with its individualistic liberal democracy is not up to the task of controlling people. Yet, it is still important we offer this theoretical solution as a benchmark for current policies. Let’s be clear on what will work and what won’t. Unfortunately, we have control that is becoming more nefarious and Orwellian. This combined localism/globalism requires sacrifice at both ends but what we see now is nobody wants to sacrifice. REAL Green then says go local anyway and harness this global engine to improve your local. The fact that our current arrangement can’t change means it is now the case more than ever to find a strong local and invest in it. Leverage the power of globalism for your local. Use it to leave it.
“For the Sake of Life on Earth, We Must Put a Limit on Wealth”
“A series of research papers shows that income is by far the most important determinant of environmental impact. It doesn’t matter how green you think you are; if you have surplus money, you spend it. The only form of consumption that’s clearly and positively correlated with good environmental intentions is diet: people who see themselves as green tend to eat less meat and more organic vegetables. But attitudes have little bearing on the amount of transport fuel, home energy and other materials you consume. Money conquers all…There’s a name for this approach, coined by the Belgian philosopher Ingrid Robeyns: limitarianism. Robeyns argues that there should be an upper limit to the amount of income and wealth a person can amass. Just as we recognize a poverty line, below which no one should fall, we should recognize a riches line, above which no one should rise. This call for a levelling down is perhaps the most blasphemous idea in contemporary discourse. But her arguments are sound. Surplus money allows some people to exercise inordinate power over others: in the workplace; in politics; and above all in the capture, use and destruction of the planet’s natural wealth. If everyone is to flourish, we cannot afford the rich. Nor can we afford our own aspirations, which the culture of wealth maximization encourages. The grim truth is that the rich are able to live as they do only because others are poor: there is neither the physical nor ecological space for everyone to pursue private luxury. Instead we should strive for private sufficiency, public luxury. Life on Earth depends on moderation.”