[lbo-talk] "Natural Capitalism"

Alan Rudy alan.rudy at gmail.com
Sat Apr 30 06:24:23 PDT 2011

On Sat, Apr 30, 2011 at 3:59 AM, Gar Lipow <gar.lipow at gmail.com> wrote:

> Yeah Lovins is actually good on the technical stuff to some extent -
> but you have to watch him. He tends to buy breakthroughs that are just
> around the corner and remain just around the corner for decades. And
> he tends to erase the distinction between stuff we know how to do now
> and stuff that is "just around the corner". Bottom line on his
> technical expertise: he knows a lot but also tends to push vaporware
> big time. ... SNIP ...

I think Gar nails it in the way his post resonates with part of what Michael says while emphasizing the limits of the technical side.

I read the book in the long ago and far away... and it is largely a celebration of the market opportunities for technical efficiency in production/services, often driven by replacing fixed capital with variable to increase efficiency and employment, and the cost-savings to consumers of all types of more efficient, long lasting and sustainable products. Of course, because it focuses on niche opportunities of the moment, thereby not dealing at all in what happens when those niches are saturated with producers/services, much less what the wage rates will be before or after saturation. In this way it runs quite parallel to the mainstream organic.fair trade movements problems - encouraging market niches where more work can be had but completely missing the whole existence of market competition - even in a manner that anticipates them, despite the pragmatic potential of efforts like this at the moment. There is also no sense of the downstream and reactive consequences of the companies who dominate markets in the present-day with respect to how the success of such innovative companies may produce increased labor exploitation, job cuts and/or the intensified use of inefficient capital stocks and non-renewable resources (or the unsustainable use of renewable resources.) And there is NO sense of how the success of "natural capitalism" in the North would resonate across the South. Last, there is absolutely no sense of the ways in which increased efficiencies can - under capitalism - allow lower cost production/service provisioning such that markets grow and gross production trumps net efficiency.

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