A Potent Nostalgia: Foreword

by Patrick Noble

As the distance between energy supply and money supply expands and the collapse of monetary systems approaches, governments of the developed world struggle to stimulate money supply, increasing the distance between money and energy and so also the magnitude of the coming collapse.

Of course money supply must shrink to causal energy levels (in resource and labour value) to settle at an optimum, mutual stability. As spending has reduced in recent years, it is a tragedy that nation states have striven to increase it by controlling oil prices (which had naturally risen) and by lowering interest rates. Controlled inflation could have proved a useful tool to avoid the runaway inflation which will inevitably come. Rising oil prices may have been (eventually) accepted by electorates as forces of nature – and not as a failure of chanceries. The promises of economic growth and technology-driven prosperity by which politicians were elected, was a fantasy which they now fear to acknowledge. It was not technology which drove massively increasing money supply, but what drove those technologies: coal, oil and gas.

The relationship between man-made climate change and trans-substantial spending is a direct one. Those millions of years of photo synthesis released as CO2 from our power stations, car engines and holiday flights are too much for the balance sheet of Earth’s bio mass – which can only respire season by season.

It is a populist notion that economy and environment are in conflict, while the opposite is true. Economic & ecologic restraints are identical in a skilled and observant society. The fantasy that humanity is separate from the bio mass which feeds her has been created by the super-natural and over-whelming power of oil. Even more fantastical – oil hubris is stimulating oil-replacement fantasies – the narcissistic, trans-substantial dream that ideas can replace resources!

Northern governments are united in that psychosis and in wild, impossible promises that encourage both consumer-spending and likelihood of re-election. Green NGOs are similarly occupied with transcendent ideas for technologies such as bio char, carbon sumps and sequestrations and also with ethical/environmental labelling schemes which legitimize increased consumption.

It is my premise (and surmise) that “The skills had always run the kingdom but had never held the throne” – until oil power removed tools from the dexterity of the skilled and handed them to the unskilled powers – leading to the environmental/economic catastrophe which now faces us.

So! – No-one in power knows what to do, or what has been done, and moreover those in power have never known – in any period of history. Knowledge is not a function of power. Our post modern problem is that skill has been dispossessed by power so that “no-one is running the kingdom.” – The train has no driver and the oil track is not circular, like an innocent train set or the natural cycles of the world – but linear with ineffectual buffers and no track beyond.

Meanwhile political parties and NGOs are the haunts (for the most part) of advertising/media people who are careless of the natural world. They have also grown a culture which despises its limits. It is my proposition that the skilled should pick up their tools, stick power on the throne where she can do no more harm and occupy once more (& as always in history) the roles, which make and sustain cultures. Historically, power has not minded a bit, being happy with the spoils the skilled have created, while playing at hunting, feasting, jousting and war. We see politicians, media and moneymen in similar playgrounds today. Well let them stay there – leaving the trades to “run the kingdom” as they’d always done.

My nostalgia is for the archaeological strata which lie potently for re-occupation by those who know what is to be done (or who can learn by trial and error). If we are civilized it could be the best of times – not for the few but for the many, but if not….
Of course artisans have occasionally had the best times while under classes have simultaneously had the worst. So my nostalgia is a critical one.

Cromwell’s revolution deposed the frivolity of kings by the earnest probity of the trades, but power and probity cannot mix happily for long. Power soon behaved as power had always behaved! So I don’t propose an egalitarian revolution to depose the ignorance of Westminster, but an egalitarian revolution to ignore it. The epic work we face is not in any case a function of power, but of the pragmatism, curiosity, ingenuity and dexterity of the many millions necessary to create a modern culture. Power can play and feast as it chooses. The trades (farmers, millers, bakers, brewers, engineers, builders and so on) shall be too busy to attend. A successful tradesman (sexless term) will no longer enter the bourgeoise, but a pragmatic world of cause and effect: the effect being a future for her children, or if she likes a liquid symbiosis of quantum flows between human and humane settlements of a more settled world.

Featured image: medieval baker with apprentice.

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5 Replies to “A Potent Nostalgia: Foreword”

  1. Patrick…I’d like to know more about what you mean by ‘As the distance between energy supply and money supply expands ..’
    I am trying to educate myself on these matters!

    Please provide a layman’s explanation.

    Many Thanks

    John Hill

  2. John – As a layman myself, I’m following in the already well-laid paths of Richard Douthwaite who expresses the same idea beautifully in this web site & most-recently in print in Fleeing Vesuvius.

    Money supply exists in symbiosis with energy supply (with what we do). That is with labour, dexterity, ingenuity, but most extra-ordinarly with coal, gas and oil.

    Fossil fuels have extra-ordinary power which has driven the size of economies to well beyond that which could be achieved within natural laws of physics and biology.

    So as fossil resources diminish (or are prudently left to lie) so the money flow within economies must shrink back to a size which fits those natural laws.

    Governments are intent on the opposite – on resisting natural law and in projecting fantasies of technologies which will (in a messianic future) replace oil. Of course ideas cannot replace resources, but wild impossible dreams are also wildly attractive.

    While populations believe in the dream, spending and money flow can continue for a while because money is passed from hand to hand amongst fellow believers (most of us)!

    However the real economy can shrink invisibly to believers – crop yields fall, manufacturing slows…. suddenly there may be holes in the dream – a sold-out commodity on a super market shelf….. The trouble with failed dreams is that people abandon them in a flash and economies don’t slow, they crash.

    The sooner the money flow shrinks to the size of its true generators – soil, labour and so on, the less the pain of the descent will be.

    Instead, it’d be nice to have a planned descent – using controlled inflation, judicious taxation and a common sense for the necessity to descend.

    One delight from such a descent might be a common ressurgence in interest in those laws of physics and biology – I mean the beauty of them and in the natural, ordinary world from which we’ve no escape.

    Hope I’ve not banged on too much.

    Thanks for the interest,

  3. Love the comment that ideas cannot replace finite resources.We are being constantly encouraged to innovate ourselves out of this (economic collapse / resource loss) predicament, but, as you portend, this is unlikely to happen…

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