Sleepwalking to Catastrophe
“Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?”
Axel Gustafsson Oxenstierna af Södermöre
So wrote the great Swedish statesman to his son Johan in 1648. The young man was about to help negotiate the Peace of Westphalia and worried that he might be out of his depth among the high powered diplomats he’d be working with.
I have little doubt that Count Oxenstierner was correct and that, if anything, it’s been all downhill ever since. We have a tendency to greatly over-estimate the abilities of our great and good and this is especially true in politics and economics—two intertwined disciplines which are hell-bent on destroying the delicately balanced society we’ve evolved.
In the intervening centuries the problems have become more complex but the movers and shakers no wiser. Human knowledge has expanded exponentially, the problems facing us have become more complex, but the decision-makers have not kept pace. Four centuries ago it was possible for an educated person to have at least some understanding of all scientific and technical knowledge.
The late Carl Sagan put the problem in a nutshell:
“We’ve arranged a society based on science and technology, in which nobody understands anything about science and technology. And this combustible mixture of ignorance and power, sooner or later, is going to blow up in our faces…”
The good news is that it is possible for the average intelligent person to understand enough about science, technology, economics, politics and human behaviour and the connections between them to be able to make sense of our world and to understand when they’re being fed lies and led by the ignorant.
Debt is built into our economic system in such a way that continual growth is required to service that debt.
Unfortunately,growth in a finite world, even at very low rates, is ultimately unsustainable.
In most Western democracies special interests have a major say in politics. Although everyone can vote for whichever candidate they prefer, everyone does not get to choose who the candidates are. Who decides which candidates make it onto the ballot form?
The politicians in the major parties throughout the Western world are in thrall to special interest groups.
The corporate world is locked into including the finance sector, the fossil fuel industry,
the news media, and even the education system,