Economic Activity: An Obsession With An Illusion Of Prosperity.

Maximising economic activity by using wheelbarrows for freight.

Its the economy stupid. Voters want the best economic outcome, but by measuring the economy using ‘Economic Activity’, governments can effectively cheat the public. Governments can focus on their own share of the bottom line, as well as the share of prosperity enjoyed by major political donors, even without doing anything to increase or even maintain overall prosperity. This can a ‘growing economy’ where most people to get poorer, and total prosperity is reduced.

In many western societies, instead of maximum prosperity, governments pursue maximum economic activity, even when it is not only against the best social interests of society, but even against the economic interests of all society.

Economic activity can be such poor measure of productivity, that in fact an increase in economic activity, can even be detrimental to productivity and the economic standard of living.

  • Economic Activity Vs Productivity
    • What Is Economic Activity?
      • Concept, Strengths, Weaknesses,
    • Enemies of Economic Activity Can Be Socially Desirable: Good things can be bad for “the economy”.
      • eg. Unpaid Work, Efficiency Gains, DIY, Charity, Modernisation.
    • Boosts To Economic Activity Are Often No Productive And Can Be Counter Productive.
      • eg. 1: Paid Non-Work, 2: Increased Inefficiencies, 3: Outsourcing.
  • Covid-19 And Economic Activity: Highlighting Anomalies.
    • The Lost Output.
    • Without Loss Of Output: Continued Productivity, But Reduced Economic Activity..
    • A Jump To Our DIY Future.
  • Does It Matter? What Are The Alternatives?
    • What Is Measured Is What You Can Improve.
    • Stock Market Indexes Reflect Only “The Big End Of Town”.
    • Wellbeing Economies: A Metric For The People.
  • Conclusion: Good News, There Is Hope, and There IS A Better Measure For Prosperity.

Economic Activity Vs Alternative Productivity

Economic Activity: The Concept, The Strengths and Weaknesses.

The Concept.

There is a small change between the concept in theory and in practice, as highlighted by the first two explanations of the term I found online.

Economic activity is the activity of making, providing, purchasing, or selling goods or services. Any action that involves producing, distributing, or consuming products or services is an economic activity.

Market Business News.

Definition: Economic activity is a set of actions that produce, trade, sell or distribute goods or services with the involvement of monetary transactions. An economic activity groups similar endeavors that provide products or services to institutions or end consumers.

My Accounting Course.

The slight difference is the second specifically states the requirement for the involvement of a monetary transaction. While this is a requirement for ‘economic activity’, it is often overlooked that significant and important activity can occur without the involvement of a monetary transaction. The amount of economic activity is in fact the value of the monetary transaction.

The Strengths.

Measuring all economic activity totalling the monetary transactions values for all economic activity provides as simple metric that can measure and compare the value of economies. If all else is equal, then if the total economic activity doubles, it can be assumed the total value of the economy doubles.

Another strength, is employment opportunities are created. For example, if no parent is allowed to spend time with their own children between 8am and 6pm, then many childcare jobs would be created. Every economic activity creates employment, but on closer examination, not all employment is beneficial for society, and in some cases can even mean a lowering of the standard of living.

The Weaknesses.

A limitation is that requirement for a monetary transaction, and the use of the value of the monetary transaction to measure the value. Significant productivity can occur without any monetary transaction, and simply decreasing or increasing the size of the monetary transaction does not change the real value of the activity.

For example, if a power company raises prices, then the economic activity increases even if the same power is produced and consumed. While schemes to adjust for inflation can be used in some circumstances to try to compensate for changes in price alone, there is no solution to the reality that the monetary value has at best an imperfect correlation to the value of the activity to the society.

Enemies of Economic Activity Can Be Socially Desirable: Good things can be bad for the economy.

Enemy #1 Unpaid work: Over 43% of work is not counted.

From an economic activity point of view, unpaid work is of zero value.

From this perspective, if you drive your relatives to an activity it is of no value at all, but if you become and uber driver and drive some people the exact same route, it is then part of the economy and an activity that is now economically essential,

In the US, men spend 165.8 minutes per day on unpaid work, and 331.7 minutes on paid work. For women it is 271.3 unpaid vs 240 paid minutes. In total, 45% of all time worked is unpaid.

For governments seeking to grow the economy, and easy path is to simply have work done currently as unpaid work change over to paid work. This increases the economy with no additional work done, but does increase taxes and the chance for corporations to become involved and earn a profit from work currently out of their reach. Despite the bonus for government and shareholders, as there is no additional wealth so individuals are economically disadvantaged, and the impact can also be negative from a social perspective.

For example, if parents spend time with their own children that is of zero value, but when children are in before school care, after school care, or day care, that is economic activity. As an additional bonus, if parents are now with their children, they could work extra hours. Even if the parent is in an economically worse position as they earn less additional income than the cost of care, economic activity in increased!

Further, there if there was a rule that no-one could do their own gardening or cleaning, and was required instead to garden or clean for their neighbours for payment, then each person in the neighbourhood could then do the same amount of gardening and cleaning, but economic activity would significantly increase!

Enemy #2 Efficiency Gains.

Imagine a factory where a product originally requiring 100 hours of labour at $10 per hour to be produced where a new production technique allows the product to now be produced with 20 hours of labour, allowing paying workers $20 per hour. Production cost has fallen from $1,000 dollars to $400 and the company can now decrease prices to increase market share. But every efficiency gain decreases the economic activity! Even if twice as many products are produced and workers have an increase in pay, from and economic activity perspective, every step is a reduction in economic activity.

Enemy #3 DIY

Across the country, their are hardware stores providing people tools to ‘do it yourself’ in place of paying an outsider. The problem is, this often results in projects being completed at a lower cost. It does not matter if more projects are completed, because such projects are all unpaid work that does nothing at all for economic activity.

Enemy #4 Charity Work.

In many societies, people undertake volunteer work to assist charities. For maximum economic activity, this should be banned, with charities requiring only cash to be donated, and then all work could be paid work increasing economic activity.

Enemy #5 Automation and Modernisation.

A society where clothes must be sent to the laundromat will have increased economic activity over a society where people have access to washing machines they can use themselves. The invention of the domestic washing machine, and generally most other appliances, reduce economic activity. The modern refrigerator killed of an industry of producing and distributing ice.

The invention of the loom was a classic blow to economic activity that gave rise to the term ‘sabotage’.

Boosts To Economic Activity Are Often No Productive And Can Be Counter Productive.

Boost #1 Paid Non-Work.

An effect highlighting the potential incongruencies of using monetary transactions to determine real value, consider how replacing all free parking at railways stations with paid parking would deliver a boost to economic activity. Simply making people pay more for costs they already incur with no added benefit will increase economic activity.

Now consider if a rule was added requiring all commutes to and from work to travel a minimum distance. With this rule, if you live withing 10km of you place of work, then you are required to travel 10km to a point 10km from your place of work, end that journey, and then being a new commute to your work. Think of the increased economic activity! Those on public transport would have a longer, and more expensive journey, increasing economic activity. Those who drive would require more fuel and generally increase motor vehicle running costs, all driving up economic activity.

In both of these example, people now have to pay more for activities that may be required for work, but that will not increase their ability to get work done, but will increase their contribution to the economy.

Boost #2 Inefficiency.

Another way to boost economic activity is find a less efficient way to do things. Imagine a rule requiring all freight to be transported by wheelbarrow. There would be a boost to employment, and their could even be ancillary business such as production of ice to keep perishable goods cold for the far long period of time required for transport. Even better, some perishable goods would actually perish, raising the price of these goods, and the lower yield would increasing the cost of producing and getting the required amount of goods to market!

There are times when inefficiencies that generate employment can benefit society, but generally there are better ways to invent employment than either generation of artificial inefficiencies or forced conversion of unpaid work to paid work.

Boost #3 Outsourcing.

Companies moving to outsourcing boosts economic activity, as it turns what was previously an internal transaction, into a monetary transaction. The more monetary transaction steps in the chain from raw materials to finished goods, the greater the economic activity from the production of the finished goods. Take a car. A vertically integrated company such as Tesla would generate far less economic activity when producing the same car, than a company that outsources manufacturing, and ideally has the manufacturing plant use subassemblies that are again outsourced.

There is nothing inherently wrong with outsourcing, but does not mean it makes sense to consider operations more valuable solely because they use outsourcing.

Covid-19 And Economic Activity: Highlighting Anomalies.

The Lost Of Output: Lost Productivity.

Lockdowns hit not just the economy, but also hit real productivity the economy hard. Generally, when those who cannot work from home are forced to remain at home, the cost to society is very real, and highly problematic.

Without Loss Of Output: Continued Productivity, But Reduced Economic Activity.

Next is the double edged sword, where there is loss of economic activity, without loss of productivity. Consider the case when some people find they now can work from home. Working from home, even when work is of the same standard, reduces economic activity as:

  • There is less travel to and from work, consuming less fuel, and requiring less public transport.
  • Some people may make their own coffee and lunches instead of paying others to make coffee for them.

This raises some complex questions as to whether people who have discovered they can work from home, should be be permitted to work from home. On one hand, fuel supplies will lose revenues and some jobs, a percentage of baristas and lunch cafe staff would also lose their jobs, and any loss of jobs is undesirable. But on the other hand, does this mean we should be forcing people to travel even longer on their commutes, as this would increase fuel sales and jobs in transpoer, and result in more meals away from the home creating even more jobs?

Of course the problem with jobs that result from people being forced to spend unnecessary time travelling to and from work is that is simply unproductive, and is effectively taxing the people who are doing the extra travelling in order to transfer part of their money to those in the generated jobs. In reality, if we are going to tax those people who already do have the jobs more, it would be better to also not rob them of their time, and to use the money to fund jobs that are productive, so the wealth of society is actually increased. The problem with Covid-19 is it brough the change too quickly to properly adjust, rather than the change being undesirable in the longer term.

A Jump To Our DIY Future.

An enemy of economic activity is DIY activity, and technology and robotics is taking to the world further to DIY. With ever improving technology and ‘tools’, people can do more themselves.

If you Do It Yourself, then you don’t pay someone to do it. Lockdowns saw a huge increase in DIY. Everything from cleaning, gardening, cooking, making coffees and cakes through to baking bread. This results in loss of income for cleaning services, gardening services, restaurants and cafes, cakes shops and bakeries, but without necessarily anyone going with cleaning, gardening, meals, coffees, cakes or bread. There was in fact a boost in sales of household and cleaning appliances, gardening tools and equipment, cooking appliances, coffee machines, and home break making machines.

Unlike reducing unnecessary commuting, most of the lost economic activity was actually necessary, and simply that which was necessary still happened in moved from paid to unpaid. There is still the reality of lost employment, even if the ability of people to handle tasks on their own shows not all of that employment is really necessary. Some tasks becoming DIY is a genuine replacement, while for other such as food, the result is mixed. Fast food may be no better than what is made at home or simply stops being eat in fast food, but not many people can replicate fine dining.

Still, much of the lost employment that could be replicated by people doing it themselves is a preview of the future, as robotic vacuums, robotic mowers, better automated gardening tools, and every improving household appliances are all targeted at moving more and more tasks to do it yourself.

Does It Matter? What Are the Alternatives?

What Is Measured Is What You Can Improve.

Successful measurement is a cornerstone of successful improvement. How do you know if the changes you are making are leading to improvement? Simple: you measure. Measurement doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. The key is to pick the right measurements, so that you can see results quickly and adapt your interventions accordingly, putting less strain on resources and more focus on outcomes.

Institute For Healthcare Improvement

The same principle applies everywhere, improvement requires measuring what you want to improve. Improving economic activity is not a worthwhile goal for society.

Stock Market Indexes Reflect Only “The Big End Of Town”.

The main alternative measure of economic success is the stock market. Again, as with economic activity, if all else is equal if the stock market rises, things are going well. But as with economic activity, the metric can produce problematic distortions. As stock market indexes are all based on the a small number of the very largest companies results, driving small companies out of business to advantage the larger companies would also drive up the stock market.

It turns out, both these measures of the economy is open to indicating favourable conditions, when for the average person, things are headed in the wrong direction.

Both policies to maximise stock market indexes, and economic activity, benefit big business who are best positioned to make large political donations over the average citizen.

Wellbeing Economies: A Metric For The People.

Initially: Scotland, Finland, Iceland, Wales and New Zealand.

These countries have worked to finds a more worthy goal. Norway and Canada also have began come onboard.

Instead of metrics better aligned with major lobbyists, there is hope that at least some governments want what is best for the people. And not just hope, action has commenced.

Some societies have realised that chasing metrics in order to further privilege those who can afford to have influence is just not a fulfilling life.

Conclusion: Good News, There Is Hope, There IS A Better Measure For Prosperity

I am not aligned in any way with the wellbeing economy movement, and did not even know of the website prior to starting my exploration of the problems with current metrics and looking for alternatives.

When you do it right, “its the economy stupid” is not just about winning votes by fooling people, but by winning votes by helping people.

Australia: Climate Policy Fail? Or Democracy Fail?

Stockpiles of coal at the Newcastle Coal Terminal in the Australian state of New South Wales. (note 1)

Of all the developed countries, Australia has the poorest standing on climate.

Bas Eickhout: Dutch Parliament Delegation leader (via CNN) .
  • The ‘Standing’: Government Climate Denial.
  • The Politics: Coal Delivers Power.
  • Public Sentiment Doesn’t Match Government Policy.
  • Behind the Politics: The electorate has limited influence.
  • Democracy Fail For Australia, or a Problem with Global Reach?
Continue reading “Australia: Climate Policy Fail? Or Democracy Fail?”

Population on a Finite World: No Vacancy.

Every niche on Earth where live is possible is fully populated to maximum capacity, and has been that way since within less than 100,000 years after life was first possible. Since then, ‘moving in’ has meant displacing the current inhabitants, in process Darwin declared “survival of the fittest”.

Is it easy to overlook that environments not fully occupied by “us” are always already fully occupied by “others”.

This is an exploration of how all environments becomes fully populated, how humanity has our current population and what we have needed to displace to get this far, and need to display to continue to displace to continue population growth.

  • Rules of Population Constraints on our finite planet.
    1. 100 doublings of population is beyond the maximum possible on Earth.
    2. If even 60 doublings were possible, even pandas or humans, could from 2 individuals within 3,000 years produce a population that would completely cover the surface of the Earth.
    3. Every living organism has had more than ample time for 100 doublings, and is normally population constrained by the limitations of a finite environment.
    4. Every niche for life, is full to capacity, except following catastrophes or major disruptions.
    5. Population growth of any species, requires environmental changes, or evolution enabling the ‘invasion’ of environment previously populated by of other species .
    6. Continued Population growth is only possible through continued reduction in populations of other species.
    7. Every species must find population stability at some point while limited to one finite planet.
  • What about humans? Are We exempt from the rules?
    • Human Population Growth, how does it continue?
    • Alternating Times of Stability and Times of Population Growth Through Technical Evolution.
    • Ignorant Displacement: Those displaced go unseen.
    • History of human population: growth steps through colonisation.

Rules of Population Constraints on our finite planet

Rule 1: 100 doublings of population is beyond the maximum possible on Earth.

One million is 1,000 times 1,000. Which means that an organism which could double once in population every 1,000 years, can double 1,000 times in a million years. Humans can clearly double in population not only within 1,000 years, but as proven in the 20th century, can double population in significantly less that 100 years. Yet, doubling population even 100 times is more than enough for any species to totally overrun the Earth. So what have humans been doing all this time? How come it took humans so long to reach 1 billion? In fact, why is the Earth not just totally overrun?

Lets rewind and check these numbers.

The ‘wheat and chessboard problem‘ illustrates how large numbers grow by repeated doubling, also known as exponential growth.

The wheat and chessboard considers doubling 63 times, in 63 steps from step 1 to step 64, doubling each step. One grain of wheat on the first square (20=1)as the starting value, leads to 2 grains on the 2nd square (21=2), 4 on the 3rd (22=4), 8 on the 4th (23=8), all the way to 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 on the 64th and last square (263). So a single living organism would result in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 organisms after 63 doublings.

Given the total land and ocean surface area of the Earth 510,064,472 km2, and each square kilometre is 1 million square meters, the 63 steps results in 18,082 organisms per square metre of the entire surface of the Earth, which for those who do not speak metric, is over 180,000 organisms per square foot.

So starting from two humans, 62 doublings would result in 18,000 humans for every square metre of the Earth.

Not very comfortable for humans, but possible for something very small or perhaps microscopic. Allowing the 100 doubling steps would generate 2,485,275,234,437,872 organisms per square metre ( over 25 quadrillion per square foot) or 2,485,275,234 organisms per square millimetre of the entire surface of the Earth.

So 100 doublings would overrun the earth even with microscopic animals:

  • 2.5 billion organisms for every square millimetre of the entire surface of the Earth, as a result of doubling 100 times.
  • …or
  • So 25 quadrillion organisms for every square foot of the entire surface of the Earth, as a result of doubling 100 times.

For larger animals such as humans, even filling the ‘chessboard’ is not required, as just 60 doublings would mean over 1,000 individuals per square metre of the entire land and ocean surface.

Rule 2: 100 doublings need not take very long, even for humans.

Relative to length of time life has existed on Earth, 100 doublings of even slow population grown animals does not add up to very long time, relative to planet over 4 billion years old.

Every organism must have a mechanism to multiply, or they could never have reached their current population level, or recover population level in the event of catastrophe or disruption. Past population growth can be used to calculate a population doubling time. For example, pandas have been shown to be able to increase population 17% in a decade. A 17% increase means 117 pandas for every 100 after 10 years. Since 1.17 to the power 4.5 is greater than 2, then pandas at that rate would double in population in 4.5 decades, which is a similar to the population growth rate to humans between 1923 and 1972.

The population growth rate for humans makes sense. If every couple has 5 children, which is below the historic average prior to the 20th century, and if 4 of those 5 children live to have their own children, then humans would double in population every generation, or a doubling approximately every 30 years. Just one child above replacement rate would result in a doubling every 50 years.

But a but a doubling in population every 50 years would result in 60 doublings in just 3,000 years producing more than 1,000 individuals for every square metre of the earth, which with animals the size of either pandas or homo sapiens, would more than completely cover the surface.

For perspective, humans doubling at this rate, would have resulted in 100 doublings during the time of Ancient Egypt (over 5,000 years with almost 30 centuries as the leading civilization).

The takeaway is that every living organism, even us recently evolved homo sapiens, have had far more than enough time to double in population 100 times, and overrun the earth as a result.

Rule 3: Every living organism has had more than ample time for 100 doublings, and is normally population constrained by the limitations of a finite environment.

Every organism on Earth has had far more than sufficient time for 100 doublings of it population, but no organism has reached the incredible population number that would result if they kept doubling unconstrained.

Since, in a small time relative to how long species survive, exponential population growth can exceed the limits of the size of our finite environment on Earth, for almost the entire existence of any species, the population of the species will be at the limit possible given environmental constraints.

This means every organism has normally reached constraints that limit further population growth.

Rule 4: Excepting for shortly after catastrophes or major disruptions, every environmental niche is fully populated.

The times an organism would experience unconstrained or less constrained population growth are:

  • When a species first evolves, first reaches a new suitable environment, or evolves new traits overcoming prior constraints.
  • Following a major catastrophe or disruption that reduced the population below previous levels.
  • In the event of changes to the environment that alter constraints such as weather or climate events, or disruption of predators or competitors for resources.

As all similar environments are not necessarily connected, an organism can be new to an environment despite having existed for some time in similar environments.

When population changes are observed other a for a new species or species new to the environment, or following catastrophes or other major disruptions, the population change is as a result of changes to the constraints.

Changes to population constraints can be short term, such as weather events, long term such as ice ages and long term climate events, or the result of evolution as observed by Darwin, or evolution of technology such as stone tools, or farming.

Rule 5: Population growth of any species, requires environmental change or evolution enabling the ‘invasion’ of environment previously populated by of other species.

If every environment is fully populated, then the only way to increase population is to outcompete other species, or for the environment to expand.

Outcompeting other species requires some form of evolution, either of genetics or behaviours.

The first land plants and animals appeared about 400 million years ago, when land first became inhabitable due to the atmosphere finally having enough oxygen to block harmful radiation and provide for respiration.

Since that time, the land joined the oceans in seeing a succession of life has replaced previous forms of life, with each species that dominated a niche reaching, and then remaining at the capacity of that niche, before eventually being replaced by an improved species.

Rule 6: Continued Population growth is only possible through continued reduction in populations of other species.

The logical consequent of these rules is that growth beyond original constraints can only continue while a species can continue to partially or fully substitute for other species within their environmental niches.

Rule 7: Every species must find population stability at some point while limited to one finite planet.

Continuing to replace other species has a limit. Eventually there would be only one species.

Some species are automatically resource constrained from overpopulation. I suspect this applies to all plants, as a major resource, sunlight, cannot be ‘overconsumed’. However even a population of butterflies can reach a population level where their caterpillars consume all food in their environment, and as their food needs time to grow, this would leave no food for the next generation.

All organisms need to ensure they live sustainably, and for any organism that relies on existence of sufficient numbers of other organisms for food or coexistence, this means some mechanism to ensure they do not out compete the very organisms they rely upon.

What about humans? Are We exempt from these rules?

Human Population Growth, is it still in unconstrained growth?

It could appear that human population is still growing long after we should have reached our constraints.

With the pat t of humans can appear to have broken these rules. The theory says we humans should have reached a stable population close to 300,000 years ago, at which point population growth would stop unless humans continued to evolved to become ‘fitter’ for existing or new environments.

Yet human population growth still continues as was doubling every generation as recently as between in 1965-1972, and doubling every 50 years for half of the 20th century.

This would seem to suggest humans have never reached their limit, and our population is still growing unconstrained.

But further exploration reveals this recent growth follows pervious periods of population constraints. Homo Sapiens have existed for at least 300,000 years, which is sufficient for 6,000 doublings of population, yet if there were only 2 people 300,000 years ago, the population growth to 8 people billion now represents just 32 doublings in over 300,000 years. That would be a doubling at an average rate of less than once every 9,000 years.

To take 9,000 years to double the population requires an annual growth rate of around 0.008%. A rate so close to zero growth, that is far more likely the growth has mostly effectively zero, with occasional periods of real growth.

This means, most of the time, even the human population has had zero growth as been at a constrained level. But then, sometimes even populations that have reached a previous plateaux, experience additional growth.

In fact, looking at the history of human population growth, as far back as back as we have any data, we have never before seen population growth anywhere near the level that was seen in the 20th century.

But even excluding the recent population explosion, human population growth has extended far longer than the rules suggest, unless their has been an expansion of the environment, or evolution in some form.

Alternating Times of Stability and Times of Population Growth Through Technical Evolution.

Instead of a recent series of steps of biological evolution, humans have experienced technical evolution.

A list of some notable steps includes:

Note that even during periods of population stability, from 10,000BCE to 5,000BCE and from 200 BCE to 1600AD, there was still some population growth as humans managed to colonise more locations.

Ignorant Displacement: As Population Grows, The Displaced Go Unnoticed.

Our current society has evolved the technology to be ‘the fittest’ in almost any niches, that we can maintain a higher human population than ever before. We can also, per unit land, maintain a higher population of crops and livestock to feed us than ever before.

The downside is a history of not even seeing organisms displaced population increases are introduced.

In fact, historically even other humans displaced by humans have been repeatedly overlooked and/or underestimated. Despite that experts now believe between 10 and 16 million people lived above the Rio Grande in North America prior to Europeans arriving:

Few contemporaries agreed with Catlin’s lofty estimate [16 million] of the Indian population before contact with the white man. “Twaddle about imaginary millions,” scoffed one Smithsonian expert, reflecting the prevailing view that Indians were too incompetent to have ever reached large numbers. Alexis de Tocqueville’s cheery assertion that America before Columbus was an “empty continent… awaiting its inhabitants” was endorsed by no less than the U.S. Census Bureau, which in 1894 warned against accepting Indian “legends” as facts. “Investigation shows,” the bureau said, “that the aboriginal population within the present United States at the beginning of the Columbian period could not have exceeded much over 500,000.”

How Many People Were Here Before Columbus?

Even if there were only 500,000 people before Columbus, the nature of exponential population growth tell us, that as people had been in North America for around 30,000 years, the continent would have been populated up to the level of environmental constraints. Any land mass with even 3,000 years occupation will reach the maximum population possible for that society. Yet to people from Europe, America was ‘an empty continent’. Not only did the new arrivals not understand or see that the continent would be fully populated with the current population, they even failed to recognise the size of that population.

The new arrivals failed to recognise that this ‘new world’ continent was fully populated, and that their arrival must displace those living there already. In the 30,000 years since people first arrived in America, culture in free trading European/Middle Eastern/Asian society had managed to evolve 1,000 or perhaps even 2,000 years further in terms of dominating more of the environment, increasing population density and as a result displacing other organisms. The population of many species would need to decline in order to accommodate the influence of European/Middle Eastern/Asian evolution of society.

The spread to new territory and the impact on life before that spread highlights the changes humans had over time to the environment of Europe/Middle East/Asia, displacing other species as advances made humans the most ‘fit’ for ever more niches within the environment.

Delusions Shattered And Questions Raised.


Calculating these numbers, has shattered some illusions I had previously been misled by, but has also raised some interesting questions still to be answered.

  • Shattered Delusions:
    • Both North America and Australia were fully populated prior to the arrival of Europeans.
    • I had thought population levels have been growing because the Earth had never been populated to capacity.
      • The reality is, Earth has been populated to capacity for the hundreds of thousands of years. Population increases result from changes to society that allow humans and their food to displace other species of life on Earth.
      • The question that arises is, has the recent unprecedented population explosion stayed within the bounds of the population now supported by our changed society, or has the change to infant mortality created an ‘overshoot’ resulting in overpopulation and the environmental damage that follows.
  • Questions:
    • As already covered, has the population explosion resulted in overshoot?
    • What does natural population constraint look like?

What is the process constraining natural population?

Consider our close relatives in the wild, chimpanzees, bonobos and even gorillas. To our knowledge, none of these animals was experiencing significant population growth prior to recent population decline due to habit loss. What stopped their population expanding, given that, like all species, their birth rates can achieve population growth where the population is lower than the constraint limit? There seems no evidence that starvation is the mechanism of population control, as we do not see a percentage of chimpanzees, bonobos or gorillas starving. If starvation was the mechanism of population control it would be everywhere throughout nature.

This topic to be further explored.

Conclusion: If it isn’t already, one day the ‘farm’ will be overcrowded.

Long before the first human walked the Earth, there was already ‘no vacancy’. For humanity to even exist, we had to outcompete and displace other living things. But is it our mission to replace every living thing possible until it is just us and the food we farm?

If our mission is to perpetually deliver economic growth as opposed to wealth per person, then yes, continual population growth is the simplest path to that mission.

However it may be that at some point, it feels like humanity is being ‘farmed’ to generate wealth for a small subset of people, at some point our farm will start to feel crowded to the point of existing like battery hens, rather than having our free range.

Coffee: How many cups a day is ok, or even beneficial?

There is conventional wisdom: too many cups of coffee can be bad for you. There are also, a surprising number of of extremely rigorous reports confirming a certain number of cups of coffee per day may be a good thing.

What is most often missing is the definition of ‘a cup’. How big is ‘a cup’ and what type of coffee? Given that long ago I learnt that the amount of caffeine in a ‘cup of coffee’ can vary by over a factor of 10x. When assessing advice on how many cups are good or bad, it becomes importance to be able to compare the type of cup of coffee you drink with the advice.

Continue reading “Coffee: How many cups a day is ok, or even beneficial?”

Off Topic Surprise: Aslan Karatsev and how self- image can mask ability.

Tennis. Not something I normally bother to commit thoughts on, but there is a surprise in tennis sufficiently intriguing that I am creating a page to track. This a story of how someone of amazing ability, can exist in obscurity, most likely in this case due to hurdles created by their own mind.

Right now there is a story rocking the tennis world, being called ‘man of the hour‘ and even ‘Rocky Balboa of tennis‘.

Aslan Karatsev, a professional tennis player with the raw ability to be mixing it with Federer Nadal Djokovic etc, was in close to total obscurity for the first 10 years of his pro career (he has had a ranking since 2011), before a meteoric rise from nothing to being one of the most talked about players in 2021.

Continue reading “Off Topic Surprise: Aslan Karatsev and how self- image can mask ability.”

Dilemma: Should Facebook own the Internet (or world)?

From common dreams article. Facebook’s Isn’t the Internet, It’s Facebooknet

Since Facebook launched and entered the influence industry, they have been running what sounds like a deal almost ‘too good to be true’. Using Facebook, you can have your own place on the web, completely for free. While there are many, many, organisations that will host your web site for a price, Facebook will host a website for you, completely for free. An internet presence for all, with no charge!

Or is it?

I have always felt uneasy about how all this works, but have previously not given the question sufficient attention to pin down the exact problem. Is there such a thing as a free lunch aftercall?

This exploration is a work in progress on a journey to answer: Facebook, a problem, or not? Currently becoming relatively cohesive at update no 3 as of March 2, with a possible further update March 8.

Continue reading “Dilemma: Should Facebook own the Internet (or world)?”

Left Vs Right: Ideologies And Outrage

What are these competing ideologies, and why do they clash?

This page is the exploration of the what and the why of the left and the right. I expect to keep revisiting and updating this topic, as it seems too deep to fully analysis in one attempt.

In particular interest to me is the question: why are the things people champion grouped, when they can be so diverse? Why do people tend to choose almost all of the left policies, or all of the right policies, rather than varying mixes of each?

  • The Ideologies, and the Clash
    • Left Ideology: Everyone is equal
    • Right Ideology: Achievement must be rewarded
    • The conflict.
    • Juggling Ideologies
    • Balance
  • The Labels
  • Why Are People ‘left’ or ‘right’?
    • Indoctrination
    • Tribalism
    • The Echo Chamber
    • Social and Economic position
    • Adulation
  • Implementations and Extremes
    • Fascism
    • Communism
    • Democratic Socialism
    • Western Capitalism
  • Conclusion: Outrage
Continue reading “Left Vs Right: Ideologies And Outrage”

Biden vs Trump: A World Changing US Election?

The US has an election this November, with the possibility of the winner being decided by the US congress, and not by the election itself. I am even going to suggest this is the most likely of all outcomes. How this is even possible, as well as how each outcome would change the world is discussed below.

Continue reading “Biden vs Trump: A World Changing US Election?”

Trump: Conceding? Or Plotting?

The republicans in the senate have a clear motive for wanting a new supreme court judge appointed before the election, but with Donald Trump the motivation is not quite as clear. This page contemplates the possible motives of Donald Trump for his rush to appoint a new judge to the high court prior to the election.

Potential Motives:

  • Conceding defeat
    • To set the balance of the supreme court for the longer term
  • Preparation for an election that will ultimately be decided by the supreme court
  • Stacking the supreme court for future Trump/presidency cases

Conceding defeat?

Polls indicate the majority of voters, even republicans and even more strongly unaligned voters, favour the appointment of a judge to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg taking place after the 2020 election.

From all the data, it seems quite clear that their are no votes to be gained by making the judicial appointment prior to the election. It is hard to imaging anyone being motivated to vote for Trump on the basis he has already appointed a new judge. Even those who want the judge Trump will appoint, no longer have to vote for him to ensure the appointment.

In other words, Trump risks disaffecting potentially critical votes by pushing for the appointment prior to the election.


Clearly, since Trump could just as easily make such a appointment after the election if he is re-elected, the urgency of appointing a judge prior to the election reflects Trump conceding he may lose the election.

In fact, Trump is even risking damaging he chances at winning the election, to get another conservative judge on the supreme court.

For the senators who must support the appointment for the appointment to succeed, only 9 of 53 are facing any chance of failure to be re-elected. Almost the entire republican senate simply see it as putting them in a better position going forward. The 9 who are, like Trump, in an uncertain position, unlike Trump have to worry about doing what the party asks in order to retain the support of the party.

Trump alone is risking his position in a delicate election to ensure an ideology that he himself has wavered in supporting, is supported even more favourable by the high court.

“Mr. Trump doesn’t have a proven conservative record,” Bush said at a town hall in Merrimack, N.H., on Aug. 19, 2015. “He was a Democrat longer in the last decade than he was a Republican.”

Jeb Bush Jeb Bush on how Trump’s political party affiliation has changed numerous times.

It is possible that Trump simply values this as his legacy, and concedes the he is likely to lose the election. But them even Trump himself has given another motivation, as discussed below.

Preparation for an election that will ultimately be decided by the supreme court?

Trump himself has stated he feels the election may be decided by the supreme court. However, when I search for a reference for Trump suggesting the election could be decided by the supreme court, I did not expect to find that he even declared that as a motivation for having more of his own appointments on the supreme court. Surprise: he actually said it!

‘I think this will end up in the supreme court, and I think it’s very important that we have nine justices,’ Trump told reporters at a White House event.

Video of statement by Trump here.

Note: There the majority of Justices on the supreme court are already republican nominations. There are now 8 justices, with 5 of those having being nominated by republicans and are considered ‘conservative, being nominated by Donald Trump (Neil Gorsuch 54-45, Brett Kavanaugh 50-48), George W Bush (John Roberts 78-22, Samuel Alto 52-48) and George H Bush(Clarence Thomas 52-48). There are three ‘liberal’ justices, two appointed by Obama (Sonia Sotomayor 68-31, Elena Kagan 63-37) and one by Clinton(Stephen Breyer 87-9). The numbers following each name reflect the vote in the senate to confirm each judge, with some confirmed almost entirely along party lines, but others gaining bipartisan support.

This means Trump sees a simply majority of justices appointed by the republicans as insufficient for ‘justice’, at least as Trump sees justice in this case, to be done.

Granted, those nominated by the Bush presidencies had to be approved under a democrat controlled senate, as those appointed by Obama had to be approved by a republican senate. Perhaps this means those who required some support from both parties (three republican nominated justices and two democrat appointed justices), may be considered less strongly aligned to any specific party. Note that in some cases, any support from outside the nominating party was very minimal. However, like Bader Ginsburg, who was confirmed by a 96-3 vote, some of these appointees were strongly confirmed by senators from both sides of politics. The replacement for Bader Ginsburg is very unlikely to be supported by both parties, or even by all of the republican senators. The new nominee will mean, for perhaps the first time ever, their will be majority of supreme court judges not only nominated by the same party, but who were confirmed for that part by a divided senate voting almost entirely on party lines.

Note that:

With only a few exceptions, states run elections. By virtue of Article 1, Section 4 of the Constitution, state law governs almost every facet of the electoral process, including most aspects of voter eligibility, the location and hours of polling places, candidate access to the ballot and the members of the state’s Electoral College.

The guardian

Not only does Trump feel the result of the election will require intervention by the Supreme court, but that intervention will require a sufficient majority of ‘conservative’ appointments, as not even all conservative justices would support his desired outcome.

Trump has telegraphed he may appeal to prevent the counting of mailed in ballots, feeling that as precautions for Covid-19 are less likely to be taken by his supporters, removing these votes will give him a majority in key states.

‘Preparing’ the court for future Trump/presidency cases

Ok, so surprisingly Trump even announced the supreme court balance being a potential key factor in his rush. However, that may not be his only motive. US presidents do not have full immunity from prosecution.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the President is entitled to absolute immunity from liability for civil damages based on his official acts. The court emphasized that the President is not immune from criminal charges stemming from his official (or unofficial) acts while in office.


Note the 5-4 decision, and the decision being by the Supreme Court. Trump is currently under tax investigation, and given the number of Trump associates who have been investigated, Trump being investigated in future is certainly possible. Other questions may arise following his time in office, for example:

The majority of Trump campaign funds spent in August are not accountable

More than three-fourths – $46m out of $61m – of the funds spent by the Trump campaign in the month of August is not accounted for, according to nonprofit democracy advocacy group the Campaign Legal Center.

The money has been funneled through American Made, the LLC created and managed by senior Trump officials, making it essentially untraceable. The group also found Trump’s campaign had received $10m in donations from Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, which owns the Dakota Access Pipeline and is reportedly hoping for a multi-billion-dollar deal in Ukraine if Trump is reelected.

The revelations are just the latest in transparency concerns surrounding Donald Trump, who is the only president in US history to refuse to release his tax returns.

The Guardian

Illegal? Not necessarily, but certainly suspicious and open to investigation.

How many skeletons are there in the closet?

The issue of prosecution of a former president is complex, and would move into unprecedented areas. Certainly a sympathetic Supreme Court sounds like it could be helpful if you are Trump.

Wealth Tax: Good Idea? Bad Idea?

Yes, another post on finances…but the Democrat candidates debate gets one thinking….now to the point.

I do not like the idea of wealth tax. There is an enormous wealth inequality problem and while a wealth tax sounds like a direct solution, I feel there are problems with any implementation, such that there just must be a better solution. Let me explain:

  • The problem that needs a solution
  • Challenge & Distortion: Measuring Wealth
  • Is Existing Wealth Always The Problem?
  • Problems With A Wealth Tax As A Solution.
  • Beware of ‘Envy’
  • Conclusion: Is there another way?
Continue reading “Wealth Tax: Good Idea? Bad Idea?”

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