This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

Value of resources as capital

The very real deficiencies in the capitalist ideology become especially evident when considering creation itself. If we were to guess that there was one thing that capitalism could understand, it would be capital, but we find that even here it goes immediately astray. Natural resources, for example, are of two kinds: renewable and non-renewable. Non-renewable resources follow the laws of capital—and this is true even if we treat them, not like capital, but like income. What this means is that, just as any business enterprise requires a certain amount of capital in order to sustain itself, so does the operation of any industry presuppose the capital that is present in the earth. Now, any business would become immediately alarmed if their business plan itself called for a constant consumption of its capital, and did not contain any possible means of replenishing this capital. We would see immediately that such an enterprise was doomed to fail, because it was doomed to consume its own capital. We would see immediately that such a business model was “unsustainable.” And likewise, any economic theory that chooses not to acknowledge non-renewable resources as a form of capital, but rather chooses to treat them as income to be disposed of at will, is not sustainable either.

And yet the laws of the market place, particularly in the capitalist framework, cannot account for such a thing as non-renewable resources as capital. They are thus doomed to consume their own means until they go under: it is only a matter of time. This is because capitalism presupposes an infinite universe, or at least has no real way of imposing self-limitations required by a finite universe. Because of this inability to acknowledge reality as we find it—that is to say, limited—capitalism has no way of dealing with non-renewable resources, but treats all resources precisely the same: as fuel for production, to be used as heavily and as quickly as profit and efficiency allow. No limit enters into its calculus until it is imposed by reality. There is no such thing as foresight in such a mentality—there is no such thing as consideration for the future—there is only the law of the marketplace, and this law only works in the present, one transaction at a time. If it comes to a conflict between a non-economic consideration, such as the future well-being of a civilization, and present profit, the latter will always take priority. Thus, K.L. Kenrick once reflected, “We did not realize that Capitalism was prepared to destroy the human race in order to save itself.”

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