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Notes on Sustainability


History and Economic Forces

The philosophy of the free market denies the existence of time as a factor.  In reality, time is important in several ways.

The market may be slow to appreciate a scarcity, and unwilling to pay a higher price.

The supply chain works at a finite pace, and there may be significant stockholding of a product that can no longer be manufactured.

As a resource becomes scarcer, classical market economics says that the price will rise.  This does not of itself mean that demand will reduce – indeed the product may become ever more sought after.  As an extreme example, diamonds are only so sought after on account of their scarcity and high price.  Thus free market mechanisms do no provide protection against a resource running out – and during the process, the resource will be affordable by fewer and fewer people.

With living resources, the situation may be even more acute – the non-sustainability of the resource may only become apparent after it has fallen below critical mass, and is on an irretrievable downward spiral.  This may well be what happens to the food resources in our oceans.

Market economics says that as one resource becomes scarcer, there will be an incentive to find alternatives.  This may take time – and the alternatives may be less satisfactory.

Finally, there is the “Tragedy of the Commons”.  Each individual working in their own self-interest may not lead to the optimum solution for everyone.  Market economics is fundamentally about self-interest.

All too often, the technological brilliance of the global age of mass communication kills the past and breaks … older allegiances in just a few generations.  Michael Wood, The Story of India, p.65

We underestimate the people of the past at our peril.  Ibid, p.72.


George Santayana:

Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.  The Life of Reason (1905-1906) at Project Gutenberg



Microsoft only commits to support Windows versions for 10 years after launch, and perhaps not even that. http://www.techrepublic.com/article/windows-7-update-block-is-it-microsoft-forcing-windows-10-upgrades-or-just-protecting-users/?ftag=TREe331754&bhid=22445235596395322901323285929514


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