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Jay Hanson: Interview

June 21, 2003

Kona, Hawaii

by Scott Meredith (steelsabaka@yahoo.com)

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AlasBabylon/

 

“Like some bold seer in a trance,

 Seeing all his own mischance”

 

- Alfred Lord Tennyson

 

Introduction

 

The "Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come", in Charles Dickens’ classic story, leads Ebenezer Scrooge to his own future gravesite - the desolate, neglected and evidently disgraced outcome of his life. The scene is chilling:

“Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,” said Scrooge,” answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?”

Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood.

“Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me.”

The Spirit was immovable as ever.

Scrooge went on to redeem himself. But the fate of Industrial Civilization and the human species may not turn out so cheerily, according to the Internet Age’s ultimate Neo-Malthusian, super-tough and supremely net-savvy Jay Hanson. For more than an Internet age, Jay Hanson has commanded attention and respect playing “Ghost of Dieoff Yet to Come” to Industrial Civilization's Ebenezer.

 

            Through various venues, most notably his hard-hitting www.dieoff.org website (recently transferred to kinder and gentler management), which archives seminal papers (many authored by Jay himself) on energy, food, population, and economics; his “Brain Food” e-newsletters; and his ubiquitous presence on dozens of discussion forums, he has established - to his own satisfaction and that of many other astute observers - that humanity is unlikely to survive the 21st century in anything remotely approaching its present numbers and  (unevenly distributed)  prosperity.

 

Though Jay does not correlate specific dates and population targets with quantitative projections of human misery or well-being, he casually refers to starving survivors eking out a bare sustenance by scavenging through radioactive landfills - and that's his projection for the "developed" world!

 

            The key trigger event Jay has identified for precipitating the collapse of the Globalized Hypermart, and its political and social culture, is the looming certainty of Peak Oil. This idea traces back to the brilliant and prescient 20th century energy analyst M. King Hubbert, who was able to set out accurately the year of USA domestic oil production peak (implying rapid onset of decline thereafter) decades before it actually occurred. When Hubbert's attitudes and methodology are applied to the world oil scene, many analysts come up with a World peak either right now (2003/4), or a years from now, perhaps 2010 - but not much beyond. This is because the rate of discovery of very large fields of easily recovered, high quality petroleum has not kept pace with depletion.

 

With petroleum increasingly sequestered for special applications where it is considered vital (such as fueling gigantic Imperial Armies), the neo-liberal global economic order must falter, starve, collapse into genocidal resource wars, and ultimately "die off" - taking a large chunk of the world’s population, and certainly most of humanity's techno-utopian aspirations, down with it. The human numbers that swelled exponentially in lockstep with increasing hydrocarbon exploitation, will then track the fall of petroleum - all the way back down. The hydrocarbon age will be seen in retrospect as the ultimate "sugar in a Petri dish" story.

 

The idea of Peak Oil has recently begun to achieve, if not mainstream currency, then at least some respectable attention from pinstriped authority, as events like the recent 2nd convening of the conference of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (an organization that did not exist when Hanson began his writings) indicate. In no small measure, these stirrings are due to Hanson's tireless efforts to publicize and popularize the dry-as-dust analyses of a number of highly experienced and authoritative, but obscure, former oil industry professionals - those in the best position to understand the geological realities underlying our present ephemeral prosperity.

 

As the larger wheels have finally begun turning, and as a half-dozen years’ worth of his research, argumentation, and archiving efforts have begun to bear indirect fruit in the appearance of a number of mass-market books on Peak Oil authored by Hanson's intellectual soul-brothers, Jay has recently seemed less public in his presence on this topic.

 

            But Jay was never content to languish in the vital, but superficial, role of internet Paul Revere - he has also sought to identify the underlying cause of the self-generated disaster about to engulf our species. Beginning with tireless investigations and reading in "soft" fields such as philosophy, psychology, and sociology (most of which Hanson now views as unscientific) and extending to the history and practice of economics as an academic discipline, up to his present interest in genetics and evolutionary psychology, Hanson has concluded that human beings are biological robots - programmed for irrationality (i.e. not fitting the economists’ ideal Bayesian models) and possessing not so much as a snowball's chance in Hell of controlling or escaping their own self-conjured Doom.

 

            For all his preoccupation with this grim  and analytically eye-glazing subject matter, Jay has attracted his large Internet following in part due to his humorously mercurial, combative, edgy, and generally witty style (in cyberspace, as the Matrix series subliminally reminds us, Style Is All). Unlike the stodgy ruminations of the original Malthus, or the dull, dead hand of contemporary writers on ecology, economics, and population, Jay can make you laugh through your tears. Jay Hanson “Does Doom” better than anybody, masterfully shaping the discussion with a Faustian literary élan that helps the medicine go down. See the end notes of this interview for a list of links to Jay’s essays.

 

            I recently had a chance to chat with Jay near his home in a quietly remote corner of the vast American Imperium. In person, I find him gracious and much gentler than his internet persona would lead one to expect. He is, however, an intellectual Billy-the-Kid - combining  a  sparkling, mischievous wit with a tough-minded alertness for any slip of logic or articulation – whether his own or a visitor's.

 

            We sat comfortably, enjoying the local laid-back ambience - so blithely discordant with the Hansonian Zeitgeist. The discussion that follows ranges wide and digs deep – Jay Hanson is not really a suitable menu item for beginners. Some knowledge and background reading in genetics, economics, physics, evolutionary psychology, fundamentals of the hydrocarbon energy regime, and the political and military history of Europe and North America is assumed on the reader’s part.

 

Warning and disclaimer: Even brief exposure to Jay Hanson's ideas has been known to result in irreversible neuronal rewiring! You may never again feel at home in The Hive!

 

*  *  *

 

Q: What triggered your interest in issues of sustainability and energy? Can you give us some background in how your thinking on this subject originated and matured to this point?

 

A: I did it because it “felt good”, and it felt good because the meat between my ears concluded it would contribute to my inclusive fitness [genetic potential]. And then there’s a conscious or social rationalization, which was that to me, the natural world, the rural, small town world is beautiful, but the city of concrete, asphalt, and congestion, is ugly. I like small towns, I like farms, I like open spaces. For many years, I’d been running from “ugly”. In California, my whole life, I’d go to a place, a small, nice place to live and people would come in and it would become ugly –it would become a city, with lots of concrete, asphalt, automobiles, and traffic. Then I’d have to move again. Finally, I got here [Hawaii], and I found I had the time, I had the money, and I was bored with what I was working on. So I took society on as a problem to be solved – as a technical problem. I’m a problem solver - that’s what I do. I said to myself: Hell, I’ll take a shot at it. Maybe we don’t need to keep destroying nice places, maybe we can live in nice places. Unfortunately for all of us, I have failed. And I’m beginning to feel as though I’m going to have to move again.

 

Q: When did you consciously decide to take on this problem?

 

A: Maybe twelve or thirteen years ago. I said, I can’t believe anybody wants to screw up the places they live. I talked to a lot of people. Many people here are from California – they left California because they couldn’t stand it any more. I’d go up to people and say ‘How do you like it here?’ They’d answer ‘We love it!’ [So I asked them] ‘You don’t want to screw it up, do you?’ and they’d say ‘No, we don’t want to screw it up!’ Everybody said that. A lot of them came from California, they left because they couldn’t stand it anymore, and nobody wanted to screw it up here. So I said well, if everybody wants to fix the problem, then I ought to be able to figure out what’s wrong and we should be able to fix it. That was where I started.

 

Q: Rather a hopeful, almost naive mode? Positive thinking?

 

A: Yes! I was going to fix it. It was screwed up and I was going to fix it. Why not? I can fix everything else. I didn’t know any better.

 

Q: So if “You-Now” were to meet “You-Then” … ?

 

A: I’d tell him “Don’t waste your time”! [laughs]

 

Q: Where did you go from there?

 

A: I went into some activist stuff, I joined a lot of groups. Groups like the Sierra Club, also local activist groups opposed to development – those kinds of things. Then I realized that that wasn’t going to work, because you need to block these things before they start. What those groups did was work on problems after they’d already gotten started. The typical method was lawsuits.

 

Q: So, you saw their efforts as mere holding actions?

 

A: Yes, holding actions, just delaying actions. And I realized that it would just wear you out. You could only keep that up for so long. I realized that you need to keep the stuff from coming in to begin with. So I started to become pro-active with some kind of intelligent planning, specifically land-use planning. So that we’d preserve open spaces and we wouldn’t build too much stuff. Keep the place nice, keep the view planes nice. I started down that road, and I got into local politics. First I got on the local planning commission.

 

Q: In Kona?

 

A: It was island-wide. I was appointed by Mayor Yamashiro to replace someone else and I was on there for a few months, serving out somebody else’s term. By the time I got through with that, I realized that wasn’t going anywhere. Nobody ever discussed the things I wanted to talk about. Philosophical questions – What do we want to do here? Those are not the kind of people that are on the planning Commission.

 

Q: It was too narrow in focus?

 

A: Yes, it’s an engineering organization. How wide should the streets be? Do we need gutters here? Should we put up a traffic light there? I don’t care about that stuff. Those are civil engineering questions. That’s boring. But every time I’d try to go beyond those narrow boundaries, they’d say ‘Well, policy is up to the Council. You have to be on the Council if you want to make policy.’ So I thought OK, I’ll run for office. I ran for the County Council, and I lost. I tried to beat an incumbent Republican in a primary, and I lost by about 60 votes.

 

Q: This was the guy who was later arrested for child molestation?

 

A: Yes, [since then] he’s been convicted, he pleaded guilty and he’s a registered sex offender now. But it’s very difficult to beat an incumbent in a primary, unless he’s really hated. And this guy was popular. I came close, and I was pretty happy with that. But in the process, I was seeing a lot of stuff going on. I didn’t know what it was, but it really bothered me. I saw changes in myself.

 

Q: Yes, you’ve referred to that occasionally in your writings. You felt the political process was warping you?

 

A: Several things change in yourself when you get into politics. One of them is, you become part of the political tribe. You start seeing other politicians as not such bad guys or as good guys – they’re just like you. And you start compromising with them. That’s reciprocal altruism [genetic propensity to cooperate provisionally with others]. When you get across from somebody, you automatically start liking them. You can’t stop it. The only kind of person who could stop that would be a psychopath or a sociopath. Those are the only kind of people who could be good elected officials! They wouldn’t care about anybody around them. They’d be like computers, which is what you’d want. You’d need psychopaths as elected leaders; otherwise you are just going to get compromise and corruption. Because that’s what people naturally do.

 

Q: That’s what happens in any group right? Like with cops there’s a “blue wall” and so forth.

 

A: Yes. It is automatic, that’s what people do. That’s how they get along with each other. So there’s that, then there’s also the fact that you can’t tell people the truth. When you want to get elected you have a constituency. You start making speeches to them – I made a lot of speeches – and they start asking you questions. And you begin to give evasive answers, or change the subject, because you can’t tell them the truth.

 

Q: So as you were doing it, you felt that happening? That gap opening up?

 

A: I felt different inside. It was really weird. [I asked myself] What’s going on here!? That’s when I started doing all the research, after that. I felt really beat up intellectually, because I’d just been through running for office.

 

Q: I gather you felt you needed to understand something deeper at that point?

 

A: Yes. I wanted to find out what was going on in several areas. In economics, because I was still interested in solving the fundamental problem. But I was also interested in philosophy and I wanted to find out about moral theories, and all those kinds of things. What should we do? And why should we do it? How should we live? And all those deep questions which I had not given much thought to, in my life. All the things that most people do at much younger ages, I just got into ten years ago.

 

Q: Most people don’t get into those questions at all.

 

A: That’s when I started digging. I knew there was something terribly wrong somewhere. I wasn’t sure what it was. I knew that our political system wasn’t at all like it was supposed to be. I knew people were saying they wanted something that they really didn’t want. Everything was … phony. Everything was different from what it was supposed to be. I could see that just from running for office. That’s why I recommend everybody run for political office, and keep your eyes open. It will really change your mind about things.

 

Q: Either you’ll be thoroughly co-opted, or, maybe one in a million will wake up?

 

A: Right. I felt I’d gotten caught in a dryer and was spun for a while. Most bizarre.

 

Q: So it was after you lost the primary that you said to yourself ‘I’m going to stop this activist mode and become more exploratory’?

 

A: Yes. I got out of activist mode because that’s not going to solve anything. I didn’t want to run for office again. I’d been a public figure. You’re sitting in your car picking your nose and there are people standing on the corner pointing at you because they recognize you. I don’t want to be a public figure. I like to be private. I don’t want anybody to recognize me.

 

Q: So you went into reclusive, research mode. But, before we leave your activist phase, I wondered whether there’s a particular reason you went to the Republican side, rather than the Democrats, who are much more prevalent here in Hawaii?

 

A: Yes, very simple. Here, Democrats were seen as the corrupt, good old boy network. And I’m a reformer. So it was natural for me to go Republican. That’s all. It wasn’t based on principles – there are no principles! It was a tactical choice.

 

Q: Alright, please tell us more about the opening of your research phase.

 

A: I started out reading philosophy. I guess I thought of myself as a philosopher at that time, because I had all these questions. One of the most important books I began with is “The Story of Philosophy” [by Will Durant (1)]. That’s just a great little paperback. I read about Socrates, and he’s great. You read that and you say ‘Yes, he’s right. Socrates.’  Then you read about Aristotle and you say “Wait – he’s right, Socrates was wrong’ and you just keep going like that. You find that there were people who had ideas, but the people who followed them seemed to have good reasons for not believing what they asserted. There wasn’t any truth – who’s right when it comes to philosophy? Which is what I was really looking for. What’s right? I wasn’t looking for entertainment. I didn’t want a debate, I just wanted to know who was right. And I finally found it – David Hume. Experiment – that’s what’s right. David Hume was the best philosopher, or the earliest good one, that I’m aware of. He finally realized that it’s all empirical. If it works, it might be right. And that’s it, that’s as far as we can go. All the rest of it is just nonsense. You know, the Logical Positivists, all those guys. It’s nonsense, they’re playing games.

 

I went from Hume, and then there were a few philosophers who tried to refute Hume, such as Immanuel Kant and Bertrand Russell. They couldn’t find a good argument against him. Then Karl Popper finally took it on. He came up with the Falsifiability Principle, and that settled it. That answered the scientific question. But there’s a big problem with people distinguishing scientific stuff from abstractions, observations, and so on. People deal on the social level almost totally.

 

The first thing you need to do is find out what’s scientific and what’s [merely] a social statement. Look in any sociology textbook. You’ll find something on a given page: ‘So-and-so calls this such-and-such’. Two pages on, again, ‘So-and-so calls this such-and-such’. Somebody has named something, and then writes a book on it. It’s meaningless. It’s total noise, it means nothing. That’s fairly consistent, I think, throughout the social sciences. Especially in economics, which isn’t about anything real. Everything [in economics] is based on money, which itself is just [an arbitrary] creation. Sociology is terrible.

 

Q: What about psychology? There have been attempts to make that more experimental, including Behaviorist psychology, where no assumptions are made about consciousness or any other cognitive or introspective category.

 

A: You are talking about the work of B. F. Skinner? Skinner denied there was any [internal] nature at all, to anybody, he was like John Locke. A tabula rasa.

 

Q: Then, with that extreme empiricism, might you not think of Skinner as an intellectual cousin?

 

A: In a way, but he’s not really relevant because he didn’t believe in any genetics – there were no genetic biases. He believed everything was a blank slate. People could be anything, according to the utopian books he wrote. ‘Walden Two, ‘Beyond Freedom and Dignity’ – all that stuff. He thought people could be anything.

 

Q: So he had the right view of science, but he was ignorant, and ultimately wrong, because he didn’t bring genetics to the table?

 

A: Right. Psychology is mostly, or entirely, hanging labels on things, describing them, and pretending you know something about it. But if you don’t know the underlying mechanisms, the scientific mechanisms that underlie a phenomenon, you don’t know anything at all about it. It’s like ADD [Attention Deficit Disorder], there’s a psychologist saying ‘There’s a kid over there who can’t sit still, he’s got ADD’ Well, [we might ask] ‘What’s ADD?’ [The psychologist answers] ‘It’s a kid who can’t sit still’. What is that? It doesn’t mean anything. The psychologist says this kid has ADD, so he thinks he knows something, but he doesn’t.

 

Q: And even things in psychology which are supposedly better grounded, such as the definition of depression, aren’t really much better.

 

A: If you can’t measure something physically you don’t know anything – you need a physical connection there.

 

A good example is Tainter’s work, on the collapse of civilizations [The Collapse of Complex Societies, by Joseph Tainter (2)]. He said that when societies become too complex for their energy base, they collapse. But what’s that? What’s ‘too complex’? He’s got some good observations, but it doesn’t really mean anything. In order to make a meaningful statement at that level, you have to ask: when the available energy inside a society declines, what’s going on inside the people of that society, in the biological sense.

 

That’s where the gold is, in biology. The science of biology is the science of people. And that’s where Tainter missed the boat. Humans just weren’t designed to think about this problem that we’ve got today. We just don’t.  You need to be aware, realize when you are dealing in abstractions. [Analysts like Tainter] are mixing their metaphors. And we’re not geared up to detect that - I didn’t. Even though I think I’m pretty well wired in to these differences [between real knowledge and explanation vs. mere labels or empty abstractions] I’m still catching myself all the time, saying ‘Oh wait a minute, that’s not real’. It’s difficult. You have to stay on top of it all the time, because we don’t naturally think that way.

 

Q: So it’s like riding a unicycle, something that is humanly possible but unnatural to us, and we’d need to pretty well concentrate on it, very hard?

 

A: Maybe some people can do it easily, I can’t. I can only talk about my own experience, because I don’t know what being somebody else is like, obviously. For myself, I always stick to the issues. What matters is not what I think, but what’s true. That’s why I always give references. Because what I think is irrelevant. But if I can point them down the logic, and give them the references, they should be able to follow my tracks and find out for themselves.

 

Q: I haven’t observed many people able to keep that distinction in mind, as you seem to.

 

A: It’s hard. You just have to keep asking yourself ‘What are they talking about?’

 

Q: So you had your methodological focus clarified, but that was just background, and you needed a usable tool in your hand.  The working wrench turned out to be Evolutionary Psychology?

 

A: Yes, when I got to the people problem. But first I went through the energy analysis, because that seemed obvious and simple and in hindsight it really is obvious and simple.

 

Q: What led you specifically to the remarkably prescient geophysicist, M. King Hubbert [1903-1989]? I understand that he had been very prominent in some narrow professional circles, but I’d never heard of him until I read your website. Recently his name seems to be popping up all over, but when you began your investigation, how did you know to focus on him?

 

A: My first inkling about the oil issue came from a Ted Trainer article in Earth Island Institute [‘The Death of the Oil Economy: Running on Empty’ by Ted Trainer (3)]. He wrote about a Petroconsultants study, and he had a [depletion] graph in there. I love graphs, they really help. I really glommed onto that thing, and I started my research from there. I looked up Petroconsultants. I do computer searches all the time. Before I got on the internet, I used CompuServe, which got pretty expensive. But I’d do CompuServe searches for studies. You could spend an awful lot of money in a short period of time. But how else are you going to learn? You can’t go to a library here. There’s no university library worth a damn around here. I’m sitting out in the middle of nowhere.

 

Anyway, that’s where it came from. Starting with Tainter, then the Petroconsultants study, and then shortly thereafter, the Scientific American article came out [‘The End of Cheap Oil’ by Colin J. Campbell and Jean H. Laherrère (4)] I had it scanned by a professional, and put it on my website.

 

But even before that, I was starting to get into energy with the Ecol-Econ group [(5)]. The book ‘For the Common Good’ [by Herman Daly (6)], was a real breakthrough for trashing economists.

 

Q: But to stick to the oil and energy for a moment. Anybody could look at industrial civilization and identify many points from which it is fatally threatened. Somebody could look at food, water, over-population, global warming, and so on, any one of which could bring it all down. How did you come to focus so particularly on energy as the dying canary signaling the end of it all, which not all analysts, even the very astute ones, have been able to see?

 

A: I realized at some early point – but remember this is all stuff I’d learned in the last ten years – I realized that the only thing you really needed to keep things going is energy. Because if you have enough energy, you can make food, you can make oil, you can make everything else. You can desalinate sea-water, grow plants hydroponically, filter your air, and so on. Energy is the root of everything. That’s our Achilles Heel. I saw that early on, I don’t remember when, whether it was some Ecological Economics book I was reading or something else. But it was clear to me that everything else came from energy. If you don’t have energy you don’t have anything.

 

Then, you couple that with the oil depletion thing, and the net energy concept. The book [Beyond Oil: The Threat to Food and Fuel in the Coming Decades’ by Gever et al. (7)] - I read that the first time and I got something out of it. But I had to read it over and over, this stuff is not easy. I don’t want to give you the impression this stuff is easy for me, it isn’t – it’s hard. I need to read it over and over again. And I think about it. I need to stop talking to people and just contemplate it for two or three weeks, two or three months, or even years depending on how complicated it is. Or how difficult and how different it is. [I ask myself] where does it fit? Even now, I have some scraps of things, paragraphs really, floating loose in my head, that I can’t really place, waiting to be put in somewhere, but I don’t really know where they go.

 

Q: What motivated you to create your shocking website [www.dieoff.org]?

 

A: I wanted people to change!

 

Q: So you were still in the mode that you thought it might be possible to educate people, improve things, and so on?

 

A: Yes. Specifically here, in Hawaii. Hawaii wasn’t screwed up yet – then.

 

Q: OK. So you still had that initial idealism you began with.

 

A: Yes. I had that idea, of fixing the problem, up until a couple of years ago, when I pulled out of all the lists and stuff. Up until then I thought ‘Well I can’t see anything, but maybe somebody can tell me [a solution]’. A lot of the time I keep hammering on people because I want them to prove me wrong. I challenge them, challenge them, challenge them – but they never do [prove me wrong]. So, if they can’t, then I guess I’m right. Unfortunately. I wish I was wrong. I keep hoping I’m wrong.

 

Q: I have the impression that you are absolutely adamantine in your assertion that industrial civilization in anything like its current Neoliberal globalized form, cannot  possibly survive the 21st century. And further, that the downfall of Industrial Civilization implies a classic ecological overshoot-crash of human numbers. Is that an accurate summary of your main conclusions and your current thinking? Must it crash?

 

A: Yes. It must crash. It’s a scientific certainty.

 

Q: Hubbert himself, in one discussion, appeared to hold out some hope for a comfortable and sustainable future society, to be based on solar energy [(8)]. He outlined a scheme of birth-right energy credits, to be debited along an individual’s lifetime, and also the end of compulsory work, among other reforms. That’s only one example of many ameliorative proposals that have been put forward. What’s your view of these optimistic prescriptions? Are all such ideas for economic and social reforms utterly impossible, unthinkable, and uninteresting, in your view of the real world of the present day?

 

A: ‘Utopians’ – let’s just call them all that – for the most part are not net-energy aware. I believe Hubbert probably was. But even the ones that are net-energy aware are not operating with an accurate model of human beings. They use a ‘Bambi’ model of human nature. In reality, we are a third member of the chimp family – red in tooth and claw much like the common chimpanzee, unlike the more docile pygmy chimpanzee. Our large brains are optimized to take advantage of others, one way or another, in order to maximize our own ‘inclusive fitness’. Over millions of years, we were explicitly honed by nature, as of 10,000 years or so ago, to put as many copies of our genes as possible into the next generation. For all practical purposes, a person is nothing more than the genes’ way of making more genes.

 

So, it is human nature to assume away all the difficulties when you have a political agenda. When I talk about a political agenda, I use the term very broadly. It’s a normative statement. Everybody who has a normative program, who is basically saying we should do something, assumes away all the difficulties. In advocating our normative political programs, we act automatically, without thinking about it, because it worked for us in the past. We are genetically biased to think a certain way.

 

Q: What about people who say there’s so much coal, or there’s so much wind, these things could run the US economy for a long time, and so on?

 

A: There are two answers to that. Number one is the net energy question. Have they done the net energy work? The net energy work on coal in the US is not good. It’s something like forty years and it’s gone. It’s down to .5 [energy returned on energy invested]. The other half of that is what’s going to happen to people when you go over the energy curve. And that’s where most of the gold is. That’s what people don’t understand - what’s going to happen when the pie starts shrinking? When the pie starts shrinking, then you are going to see people taking pie from other people. That’s when the chaos begins.

 

When you are doing research on human nature, you need to look at people at their worst, not at their best. What are people capable of? What are ordinary, average, everyday people, you and I, or our neighbors, capable of?

 

Q: Sort of a Bosnia model?

 

A: Yes. When I look at books like Arendt's ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil’[(9). Or Borowski’s ‘This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen’[(10)], or Goldhagen’s ‘Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust’[(11)], it becomes pretty obvious that these were not specially trained SS goons that were shock-trained, beaten, or food-deprived to get them to be monstrous killers, these were just ordinary people. So what’s the common thread between shooting unarmed, naked women and children in ditches and playing golf?

 

Q: Hmm, what is that common thread?

 

A: They both tend to reduce the competition and increase your inclusive fitness. You play golf because it’s a status symbol.

 

Q: And you go along with these pogroms because that’s your place in the society too?

 

A: It’s all basically the same as far as your genes are concerned. Once you start seeing it from that point of view, it becomes really simple. It’s not all that complicated. But you have to be able to see it from the right angle. If you look at it from the other side, you don’t see the connections. It isn’t natural for us to see these connections. I’d never read a book that put human behavior really in context with the science. Even the scientists who study this stuff act as though they’re working with lab rats.

 

Q: Even scientists who do research in evolutionary psychology?

 

A: They don’t seem to connect [their professional research] with what they see in the mirror. The reason is that that would affect what you think about yourself and your family. You’ll start looking at everybody around you differently. What they’re saying is one thing, but what’s going on in the meat between their ears is something else again.

 

Q: It’s very interesting what you’ve brought together here. On the one hand the analysts who are writing about energy depletion – even the most forward-thinking of them, Colin Campbell or whoever, they have their numbers and charts, saying maybe we should do something, and they’re a million miles from evolutionary psychology. Meanwhile, the evolutionary psychologists - they aren’t thinking about oil depletion or the end of industrial civilization, not even remotely. So as I see it, nobody has brought these elements together before.

 

A: Nobody in the world, as far as I’m aware, except me. And I don’t know why, I guess it’s just that nobody gets paid to do that, and I had the money and the time. Since nobody gets paid to do it, it doesn’t contribute to inclusive fitness, and you’d have to be a little screwy to spend ten years on this.

 

Q: Some people will say humans didn’t always have this much energy, and though there have always been wars, still historically there has also been some degree of cooperation and cohesion. And even in primitive societies, there may have been wars, but they didn’t all just wantonly slaughter one another at the first opportunity either. Do you think the decline can be managed gradually, rewinding industrial civilization gently in reverse through earlier adaptive stages, or must it crash horrifically?

 

A: It will crash. We saw the same thing happen with World War I, World War II. It happens, it’s supported by history. When we placed an oil embargo on the Japanese, they didn’t say ‘OK, we understand your point. We’ll go along with that.’ They didn’t go back to rickshaws or whatever they had before. People can’t do that. It doesn’t run in reverse. It only goes one way – up. And the reason for that is that the act of getting stuff makes us feel good. It’s not having it, it’s getting it. That’s why it can’t run in reverse, because it’s getting it that feels good, not having it. That’s why we never feel we have enough. We  never get enough, because it is the act of getting it that feels good. That’s biology.

 

Q: The Utopians, as you call them, do seem to understand your points about energy and they do see all these ecological connections and so on. But they still have a huge blind spot, what I call their “We are the World” model – that everyone will just hold hands on a hilltop and sing and everything will be alright. It ignores political reality, as you’ve pointed out.

 

A: Yes. They say we’ll have a “paradigm shift” and everybody will love everybody.

 

Q: I’d like to ask you about morality and ethics. On the one hand, you seem to project a tough-minded, almost elitist version of social Darwinism, involving an exaltation of brains and competitive success.  A kick-ass, capitalistic “winner” figure like Larry Ellison or Bill Gates would seem to embody your ideal of a perfect natural aristocrat, and very likely your own successful high-tech career reflects those kinds of values and achievements as well. Many of your comments have a “Devil take the hindmost” quality about them, including your extreme positions on certain issues, i.e. the undesirability of conservation of resources, because, in your view, conservation would just delay the dieoff, resulting in ultimately greater numbers of dead. On the other hand, you also project a fierce moral outrage at the stupidity and greed of elites, and the toll their actions take on the “Proles” of the world - despite these elites’ admirable talent for personal aggrandizement. Sometimes you sound more like a Green Socialist than a Darwinian/Republican. Do you see any contradictions in your moral tenets and analyses?

 

A: I see both points of view, and I could play either side. I will play one side or the other to try to provoke people, and provoke thought. I actually have both those feelings inside of me. I have a lot of ambivalence. I can play all those parts because I understand them. But I don’t really have a moral philosophy. Moral philosophies change to fit the times. At one time it was moral to kill Jews. It could be anything. Everything comes from one side, from the physical side. At one point its killing Jews, at another time we could be hopping around on one foot waving our hands in the air. If you want good moral philosophy, then you have to provide good opportunity to increase fitness [which allows the luxury of that moral philosophy]. If the fitness pie is shrinking, then people will invent moral philosophies in order to eliminate competition for resources.

 

Q: And in ancient Afghanistan, they played polo using human heads.

 

A: Right, and [that might happen again and] it could be on TV and play to huge audiences. It’s arbitrary. What these things actually are [the content of a moral code] is irrelevant. It doesn’t make any difference, it’s all the same thing to the genes. Moral philosophy is irrelevant because it is nothing more than a rationalization of the act. The discussion about philosophy is based on the incorrect view that people consciously think about a subject, and then they act. But the reality is exactly the opposite - people act then rationalize. This is literally true. This also self-evidentially true. Where else could consciousness come from except that meat between your ears?

 

Q: But this elimination of moral philosophy still leaves us with the existential problem, of suffering – that we ourselves undergo and what we see mirrored in others. Otherwise, there’s nothing to discuss.

 

A: Yes. I don’t have a moral theory but I have morality. I don’t lie knowingly, I don’t cheat people, I don’t hurt anything. But I don’t need to rationalize it. It’s built in. And that’s where it all comes from, it’s built-in. People act in ways that make them feel good and then invent social rationalizations designed to increase social rankings and fitness, or bond them to their tribe, after the fact. These social rationalizations can be almost anything that increases fitness. The actions that make them feel good consist of a basic genetic set, plus others, which may also be one hundred percent genetic, selected by the environment when they were maturing. So from what we are when we’re born, and as we’re raised, these values or morals are instilled. Then when we grow up, we have to tell other people why we do that, so we can form tribes. I don’t join tribes. So, I don’t care. I don’t bother any more. Why bother? Hey I saw Jesus – so what? And Elvis isn’t dead either. [laughs]

 

Q: That leads into something you’ve written about just in passing, which is that when you thoroughly understand the implications of genetics and evolutionary psychology, you come to view people as absolute automata, as robots, thoroughly and completely conditioned.

 

A: Yes.

 

Q: Can you say anything about the personal experience of looking at things that way?

 

A: People literally make decisions, decide what they’re going to do, subconsciously. And the conscious [rationalization] follows some time later. It’s literally true. Consciousness is a meat by-product. Continued reflection and reading can alter those algorithms that are making those decisions, but it’s not an immediate kind of a thing. It’s organic, and we don’t have direct access to those algorithms. I could try to go in and say ‘I’m going to change the way I think about such-and-such, tomorrow’ – but I can’t do that. If it’s going to happen it will be by education, reading, critical thinking, and reflection, whatever – over time. You need to pay constant attention even after you understand, so you don’t revert. A lot of this stuff keeps trying to draw me back. It’s like you’re climbing out of a slippery pit here. And those genes want you back.

 

Q: Maybe if you suspended all your reading on these crises, and just spent your time sunning yourself all day, then maybe after a year you’d be thinking “Well, things aren’t so bad. Probably everything will work out alright!”

 

A: You could be right about that. Although I keep thinking all the time about it. It is consciously going through my mind all the time. And I’ve often wondered – this is one of those paragraphs sitting out by itself in my mind – what is consciousness for? If consciousness isn’t making the decisions, what do we need it for? It wouldn’t be there if we weren’t using it for something.

 

Q: There is a model that might explain that. Prof. Benjamin Libet (University of California San Francisco), who performed the classic experiment on Readiness Potential (which proves your point that our actions are not consciously initiated), has written as follows: “Freely voluntary acts [are] … initiated unconsciously. But the conscious function could still control the outcome; it can veto the act. Free will is therefore not excluded … [F]ree will … would not initiate a voluntary act but it could control performance of the act.” In other words, action potentials may bubble up from the genetically conditioned unconscious , and we have the conscious power to block some of them.

 

A: That’s plausible. My view of consciousness is that we use it to play back to ourselves the decisions and ideas that the meat has created unconsciously. We play it back through words - essentially we are talking to ourselves. And the reason we do that is that we want to see how it will seem to the people around us. Consciousness is used to clean up our communications. Consciousness is used to make our communications appear rational, consistent, and compatible with community values - for social reasons. I think the main reason for consciousness is for social communication. We play this stuff back and make sure it makes sense [in the light of community norms]. So the Libet thing fits in there, it agrees with that. If you couldn’t tell it to your neighbor [i.e. it would socially disgrace you], you’d come up with something else [laughs].

 

Q: I’m struck with the parallel between your statement that people are robots and the classical teachings of the Indian Advaita mystics, some of whom have said that all actions and thoughts are entirely conditioned and the most consciousness can hope to do is simply to cease to identify with the animal it is “riding”. Just as kids riding a carousel can come to understand that none of their actions while riding, or even their presence as riders, has any effect whatsoever on the motions, speed or progress of their wooden mounts.

 

A: That’s interesting. I don’t know. [laughs]

 

Q: Do you find it gratifying that people are more widely picking up the message that you promulgated much earlier? For example now we are seeing these conferences on Peak Oil coming up, new books on Hubbert and depletion are being published, many of which refer to your archive or credit that as an inspiration, such as Heinberg’s book [‘The Party’s Over by Richard Heinberg (12)] ?

 

A: Well it’s nice. But, every one of these guys [new programs, conferences, books, etc.] has come up with a normative message before they have all the data.

 

Q: But in a way they do have the data. Heinberg for example refers to your website as having helped to get his thinking kicked off. So he does seem to be aware of the facts, very much so.

 

A: He doesn’t have the data about brains. They assume away all the people problems.

 

Q: So in your view, they miss half the message?

 

A: The hardest half. That’s the tough one.

 

Q: And they do seem to present normative programs.

 

A: Some people have asked to interview me for their books and to use my name. But I don’t want to be part of anybody’s political program. If they want to know about me, fine. If they want to learn about the facts, fine. But I don’t want to be used to promote any political program.

 

Q: But it must be gratifying on some level that there’s now much more attention on this issue that had been completely ignored when you began.

 

A: I don’t know. It’s still disappointing. Why don’t they get the other half of the message? How come people can’t deal with people? They’re going to run off half-cocked, have another frantic energy program and it’s going to fail. They still won’t come to grips with reality. The real question they should be asking is, not where are we going to get more oil, but how can we control men when there’s no economic growth? That’s the question.

 

Q: If you personally acquired enormous political power, on the outrageous scale of, say, Joseph Stalin in the 1930’s, what actions would you take? Would you stock up a palace with a squadron of Praetorian Guards and a harem and then just enjoy the ride, or would you establish some Draconian program of absolute controls on human mobility, consumption, and reproduction, which are the three categories of required controls you’ve identified in your writings?  If you’d go for the authoritarian approach, can you share with us some details on how you might work that?

 

A: I’d take the Praetorian Guards and the harem [laughs]. If I wanted to be in politics I would be.

 

Q: Nothing at all could be done?

 

A: Well, you might get together the brightest people in the country and have them work on it. There’s nothing I can see that can be done. However, if they were to have a Manhattan Project, with all the best evolutionary biologists, microbiologists, etc., maybe they could come up with some kind of gene tweaker or something. Some kind of drug they could give people.

 

Q: It would have to be a model of total control? There’s no other way?

 

A: Exactly.

 

Q: So in the best case, we’re looking at something between ‘1984’ and ‘Brave New World’ - total lockdown. And that’s in the best case.

 

A: Absolutely. On some previous forums and discussion lists we tried to figure out if there’s any way we could make a sustainable society. But we couldn’t see any way. Because you have the problem of reproduction. How do you keep people from reproducing? Do you give them a shot when they’re born?

 

Q: Or a dog and cat model?

 

A: Here’s the problem. The problem is that people evolved specifically to overcome social constraints on inclusive fitness. That’s what we’re for, that’s what we’re good at. So no matter what kind of controls other people put on us, we’re going to sit down and figure out how to get around it.

 

Q: So it gets back to us being good at cheating.

 

A: We’re good at cheating. That’s why we’re here. Maybe Neanderthal man died out because he was too honest.

 

Q: But when you look at the Native Americans, the Indians, you don’t see them as any kind of model for sustainability?

 

A: No.

 

Q: Is that because they were not in fact sustainable, in your view, or rather because our modern conditions are too different to allow us to replicate their social structures?

 

A: Even if they had been sustainable, they wouldn’t be a model for us. My definition of ‘sustainable society’ - and you have to define these terms, people throw them around all over the place - a sustainable society would be one that intentionally limited its births and its consumption to stay within the carrying capacity of its territory. And I don’t know of anyone that’s ever done that. I searched the literature to the extent that I could and I couldn’t find any society that ever did that. Because you’d have to say ‘Sally got pregnant, that means we’re going to have to kill one of Joe’s kids’. Or get rid of Grandma. What are you going to do?

 

Q: What about the ancient Hawaiians? Their society seemed admirably ecological in some ways. Have you looked into that much?

 

A: Only partially, because it’s an oral culture. I have talked to people about that, but there isn’t enough data.

 

Q: They did have their wars, and slavery.

 

A: The main thing is you’d have to deal with the births, whose kid do you get rid of? As soon as you have a society like that, we are designed to get around those problems. You aren’t going to get rid of my kid, you know.

 

Q: Then there’ll be a political elite.

 

A: Then an overthrow, a revolution. It isn’t stable.

 

Q: It seems the one hope, the one thing you ever saw that was sensible was [one scientist’s] proposal for a fertility-reducing virus, to be indiscriminately released.

 

A: Yes. Make everybody sterile. There’s just nothing else you could do. It would have to be some kind of a biological control so it wouldn’t be up to people. Then it wouldn’t do any good to get mad at the guy who was telling you that you couldn’t have kids.

 

Q: I think that’s the only thing you’ve ever accepted as a so-called solution.

 

A: Yes, but you’d still have the problem of consumption. You’d still have these guys in Palm Beach, with the millions of acres, gondolas in the desert …

 

Q: Golf courses…

 

A: Oh yes, you know they pretend they’re in Venice in the Palm Desert.

 

Q: You seem very confident in predicting social decay and collapse as energy-intensive systems are starved out and cease to function. I am personally acquainted with some hard-core survivalists, whose idea is that they and their loved ones can, with superior skills, planning, stored necessities, and cold-blooded warrior mentality, ride out a total collapse of society. Observing what I can of your lifestyle and location, it is not obvious that you’ve embraced the hardcore survivalist mentality and practices. Is that an accurate observation about you, and if so, how would you explain it?

 

A: There are basically two things I’m doing. Number one, I’m trying to brush up on my skills in electronics and programming. And I’m trying to make myself more useful. For example, I have a number of tools. I have a small milling machine, so I can make things, do simple repairs. But most importantly, I’m making money again, with investments.

 

Q: Oh, even in this market?

 

A: Yes. I basically ignored ten years of that stuff. I spent 100% of my time on something else.

 

Q: And that was during the boom.

 

A: Yes, I could have really cleaned up. But when you are in doom and gloom mode, it’s very hard to invest in anything.

 

Q: But does this imply that you still believe in a crash, but with a longer horizon? So it might not affect your personally?

 

A: Well, you can get stuff in and out of the market really fast. You work through mutual funds, with a short window – a day, a week, a month. You can do it without being one of those really intense stock-pickers. I don’t want to be like that, it’s so boring. I don’t care about that. You go through one of the tools, like Morningstar, and you see which fund has done the best, and you put some money in. Then when it starts going down, you take it out. That’s not too difficult to do. I’ve done really well in the last six months, made a lot of money. Now I’m kind of bailing out, because I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next few months. But I’ll probably be back in around November, because we usually get a rally towards the end of the year.

 

But you asked, how do you prepare for the end. Money. That’s how you prepare for the end. Because the rich people always do better than the poor people. In the Irish potato famine, they had warehouses full of potatoes, and the army was shooting the poor people. So the rich people could get the potatoes. Money.

 

Q: Ok, but by hypothesis, if you push things far enough, even money …

 

A: Yes, but I’ll be dead by then.

 

Q: So in the beginning its money, and in the long run…

 

A: We’re all dead, yes.

 

Q: Can you project some likely population (reduction) numbers onto a 21st century timeline for us, and give us a more precise view of how you see the Dieoff progressing? Or is the data too sparse and the possibilities too various to allow for that?

 

A: Possibly a 50% dieoff by the end of the century. But I don’t have any idea. I don’t know how to find out. It sounds like a really complicated problem to try to find out where the numbers are and when the crunches come.

 

Q: There are books on that like ‘How many people can the earth support’ [by Joel E. Cohen (13)]. I read it but by the end I didn’t feel any wiser. It seems there are too many dials on that panel.

 

A: Well, the guy was comparing ecologists to economists and so on. It was just a rotten book. A stupid book – I think it was written by somebody who wanted to get everybody to stop worrying about it. There’s a lot of that going on, it’s like Julian Simon’s work. I have no respect for those guys at all. I mean, you can be a businessman without being a lying son of a bitch. Well, Simon was nuts, he wrote a book about it. He was crazy. This Lomberg guy [‘The Skeptical Environmentalist’ by Lomberg (14)] is probably just a sleaze – I don’t know him.

 

Q: It’s ironic that you go through all this study, research, and thinking, becoming aware of all these problems, and at the end of the day, you have to say ‘Well it makes absolutely no difference!’ There’s nothing that can be done. It may be outside my personal time horizon anyway, but whether it is or not doesn’t matter, because there’s nothing to be done.

 

A: Right, there’s nothing that anybody can do about it. And that’s kind of interesting. Why do all the work, and you come back to the same place you started? [laughs] But that’s basically what I did. I wish I had that time to live over.

 

Q: You spent ten years of your life on that, when you could have been taking it easy or boating in your outrigger canoe…

 

A: …and working on my harem! [laughs]

 

Q:  I guess it is a matter of taste, or aesthetics. Some people just have an interest in doom, or the future and so on. Some of us do like to speculate on that.

 

A: It is automatic for me, it just keeps working. Those tapes just keep playing themselves back. [For example] ‘What’s consciousness for? Every day, I get a little bit more. And I wake up in the middle of the night and I’ve got a solution to a C program that I’m working on. The computer is going all the time, even when we’re sleeping.

 

Q: Do you absolutely rule out the idea that some form of consciousness could survive, independent of the physical platform?

 

A: Yes.

 

Q: And when you look at research on the Near Death Experience?

 

A: The Near Death Experience, the Light, all that stuff – it’s just a problem with the brain. The brain’s got short circuits, or sparks flying around [while it shuts down]. I rule out all that stuff.

 

Q: So you’d be very surprised if, having got run over by a car tomorrow, you found yourself floating above your body and so on?

 

A: Yes, I really would be. You have to realize that it’s human nature to leap to those conclusions. Even famous physicists, such as Einstein or Heisenberg. [They had their mystical, irrational moments, with statements such as] ‘God doesn’t play dice with the universe’ - they became mystics. Or Fritjof Capra and such people. Well, just because they’re scientists doesn’t mean they’re not human. They still cling to the spirit in the gene.

 

Q: Have you thought about putting it all together, and writing your own book? If only just to clear your plate? Other people are picking up bits and pieces, they are cherry-picking your synthesis, and you could offer it yourself.

 

A: Part of the problem is that number one, I’m a programmer. And programmers condense things down. I was going to write a book at one time, and I got all the important stuff in about 15 pages.

 

Q: But you have written a lot. Look at ‘A Means of Control’ [(15)] that’s some 40 pages. You could expand that into a book, get it out, a one time deal, you’ve said your thing. I don’t know any current book that synthesizes things that completely. The closest thing would be ‘The Spirit in the Gene’ [by Reg Morrison (16)] but even he doesn’t hit as hard as you – he’s a welter-weight, you’re a heavy-weight puncher.

 

A: The other thing is I don’t want to be a public figure.

 

Q: You could do it like J. D. Salinger, be a recluse.

 

A: Yes, or maybe write under a pseudonym. But it doesn’t appeal to me, it doesn’t seem like fun. I like writing programs.

 

Q: But you’ve written these internet essays.

 

A: I haven’t written any in a long time.

 

Q: I guess ‘A Means of Control’ pretty well summarizes your message.

 

A: I don’t know why I don’t write more. I’m rationalizing. It just doesn’t feel good.

 

Q: I have often felt that people have misunderstood the structural essentials of the doom that you foresee. Many people seem to grasp a simple idea of “Depletion = Die off”, assuming you mean that we’ll simply freeze in the dark, and they react with approval or dismissal, depending on their politics, as usual. But what you say is more articulated than that. You actually posit a two-stage process. First, economic trainwreck triggered by, not the final stages of depletion, but by the Oil Peak itself, followed by, Second, horrendous wars fought by the great powers desperately hoping to secure the final precious reserves to themselves. This second stage would culminate in a horrific inversion, whereby “global elites” will decide to directly immolate the vast hordes of poor, ignorant, “useless eaters” of the world, via some kind of bio-weapon. In other words, not so much a “Die off” but rather a “Kill off”.  Is this sketch of your analysis roughly correct?

 

A: Your snapshot is essentially correct. But a great deal of death will occur because food and water supply lines will collapse. Food cannot be grown in anything like the quantities we need without oil and natural gas. Moreover, neither food nor water can be delivered without oil and gas. Cities like Las Vegas must become uninhabitable deserts again. The population of Southern California must fall to a few hundred thousand again. In Canada, water pipes will freeze in the winter without gas. It’s a very long list, I can’t guess how many will die from each.

 

Q: Do you buy into conspiracy theories that posit various organizational mechanisms as the likely planners and implementers of a big “Kill-off” (e.g. Illuminati, Skull & Bones, Masons, Bilderberg, etc.)? Or, do you assume that the existing governments, or the US government alone, would be sufficient to straight-forwardly implement the “Kill-off”?

 

A: I don’t think it matters. At any future point in time when people feel threatened, when the ruling elite is threatened, when the mob is at the gates, they’ll find a way to protect themselves. The details are not important. But that’s what I would do if I were them – get rid of them, kill them all. You have to remember, it’s like playing golf as far as the genes are concerned. It’s that easy. America is the best place to ride out the coming crash because it has the best “means of control” to keep public order and protect us from intruders.

 

Q: I take it you don’t share the concerns of certain “Deep Ecologists” for the Earth per se. These are people who would like to remove humanity, not for any practical reason but just because they find it deeply offensive that we’ve been so inharmonious with the rest of the biosphere.

 

A: No, my goal has been to minimize human suffering, because I could see this coming. And I’ve looked at Garrett Hardin’s work. He said the role of the gamekeeper is to minimize the suffering of the herd. And I thought that was a great statement of the way that government should look at its problem. Minimize suffering – that’s a great principle.

 

Q: So you aren’t a true misanthrope as some of the Deep Ecologists are, for example, the Finnish environmentalist  Pentti Linkola …

 

A: No, not at all. I like people! That’s why I wanted to help them. But unfortunately the data didn’t support that, the program didn’t work. [laughs]

 

Q: In Michael Ruppert’s recent report on the Second Conference on Peak Oil, which he attended in Paris [(17)], he writes that apparently the US government leaders, the inner circle, actually has good data on oil, from the CIA or wherever, and according to the speakers at that conference, they are very well aware of the impending Peak.

 

A: They have to be. That’s why the EIA [(18)] cooked the books. They admitted right in their document that they cooked the books, incorporating “non-technical” factors.

 

Q: But the real decision-makers apparently have the complete, accurate depletion data at their fingertips, and they are believers already.

 

A: That’s why the French and Germans were so pissed off at us invading Iraq. Because if that’s our MO, we’re going to do that from now on, including taking stuff they want. That’s what we need the ABM [various forms of National Missile Defense]for.

 

Q: That’s interesting because recently on the EnergyResources list [(19)], which you created a few years ago, they are talking about writing a letter to President Bush, informing him of Peak Oil. And I thought, well that’s useless. In the deeper sense, everything is useless, but even in the shallow sense, that seems pointless because if we can believe Michael Ruppert, the big powers are fully aware of Peak Oil and all its implications. So that kind of action is just normative stuff again.

 

A: That’s why they don’t publish [the transcript of] that meeting with Cheney, and Bush and the energy executives. They are keeping it secret, because they were talking about this stuff. They put it right on the table.

 

You know one of the things that just pisses me off is, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Sierra Club, Worldwatch - all those guys are so screwed up – none of them have any idea about this energy thing to begin with, let alone the people problem.

 

Q: Yes, why is it that people who seem to be ecologically aware, and they are sort of left-wing types, and they don’t like the establishment, - why are those kinds of people so utterly resistant to the idea and implications of depletion?

 

A: I think they are more interested in their political agendas. How do you get money to sell a bad message? You go up to somebody and you say ‘You know, your kids are going to be dying in the gutter in ten years’, they are going to turn around and go the other way. They won’t want to talk to you, won’t want anything to do with you. They’re mad at you, you’re bad… You can’t sell that kind of stuff.

 

Q: They want to perpetuate themselves just like any other organization.

 

A: They want a job. That’s why economics hasn’t changed. That’s why they are still using [models based on] rational utility maximizers. If they used real people they couldn’t model, because real people are not mathematical, they’re algorithmic. And they’d be out of a job, you can’t model that. It’s an idiosyncratic, algorithmic thing. There wouldn’t be any economists, if they told the truth.

 

Q: Is there anything we haven’t covered that you like our readers to know about?

 

A: American politics. Our Founding Fathers created a plutocracy, with all the trappings of democracy. And it was smart, it was a stroke of utter brilliance, and given the circumstances, the best possible political system. People who argue that democracy is a good political system simply haven’t tried it.

 

Q: So you are saying it was a scam, basically ?

 

A: It was a scam to begin with. It’s also true that plutocracies allocate resources based on ability to pay. So it’s painfully obvious that if you want to survive in America, you must make as much money as possible.

 

Q: It was a psy-op?

 

A: It was built as a psy-op, as a scam, for good reason. They were right. Anybody that advocates democracy hasn’t tried it. It doesn’t work, it couldn’t work. The book ‘Reaching for Heaven on Earth’ [ by Robert H. Nelson (20)] talks about how the capitalists were fulfilling the progressives’ agenda.

 

Q: That’s capitalism as a Christian heresy, essentially a variant version of Christianity.

 

A: Right. His point is that the progressives wanted scientific, not political, decisions. And that’s what they’re getting, because the corporations have taken over the functions that the civil servants were supposed to be providing. When you think about it, do you want somebody who’s been elected, who has no more qualifications than being popular, making decisions so complicated that you need thousands of people to analyze the data? So who have you got making the decisions? Corporate lobbyists. Because they’re the only ones that have the data. It couldn’t work any other way.

 

*  * *  THE END! *  *  *

 

References:

 

(1)   'Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World's

Greatest Philosophers' by Will Durant  (1991).

(2)   'The Collapse of Complex Societies' by Joseph Tainter (1990).

(3)   'The Death of the Oil Economy' by Ted Trainer (Earth Island Journal

Spring 1997 Vol. 12, No. 2; http://www.dieoff.com/page116.htm)

(4)   'The End Of Cheap Oil' by Colin J. Campbell and Jean H. Laherre

(Scientific American, March 1998; http://www.dieoff.com/page140.htm)

(5)   http://csf.colorado.edu/ecol-econ

(6)   'For the Common Good : Redirecting the Economy toward Community,

the Environment, and a Sustainable Future' by Herman E. Daly (1994)

(7)   'Beyond Oil: The Threat to Food and Fuel in the Coming Decades' by

John Gever, et al (1991)

(8)   'Hubbert's Prescription for Survival, A Steady State Economy' by

Robert L. Hickerson (1995;

http://www.hubbertpeak.com/hubbert/hubecon.htm)

(9)   'Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil' by Hannah

Arendt (1994)

(10)  'This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen' by Tadeusz Borowski,

et al (1992 reissue)

(11)  'Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the

Holocaust' by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen (1997)

(12)  'The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies'

by Richard Heinberg (2003)

(13)  'How Many People Can the Earth Support?' by Joel E. Cohen (1995)

(14)  'The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the

World' by Bjorn Lomborg (2001)

(15)  'A Means of Control' by Jay Hanson (2000;

http://www.dieoff.com/page185.htm)

(16)  'The Spirit in the Gene: Humanity's Proud Illusion and the Laws of

Nature' - by Reg Morrison (1999)

(17)  Association for the Study of Peak Oil conference report by Michael

Ruppert (2003;

http://www.fromthewilderness.com/free/ww3/041003_paris_oil.html)

(18)  http://www.eia.doe.gov

(19)  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/energyresources

(20)  'Reaching for Heaven on Earth' by Robert H. Nelson and Donald N.

McCloskey (1993)

 

Net Essays by Jay Hanson

 

FIVE FUNDAMENTAL ERRORS: The Short Version, by Jay Hanson, 11/13/2001

http://www.dieoff.com/page240.htm

 

FIVE FUNDAMENTAL ERRORS: The Long Version, by Jay Hanson, 11/13/2001

http://www.dieoff.com/page241.htm

 

ECONOMIC EFFICIENCY, by Jay Hanson, 11/13/2001

http://www.dieoff.com/page242.htm

 

A SECT WITH A CREED AND A POLITICAL PROGRAM, by Jay Hanson, 11/13/2001

http://www.dieoff.com/page243.htm

 

A MEANS OF CONTROL, The Last Scheduled BRAIN FOOD, by Jay Hanson,

01/01/00

http://www.dieoff.com/page185.htm

 

"The Foulest of Them All", by Jay Hanson, Jan, 1999

http://www.dieoff.com/page168.htm

 

MAXIMUM POWER, by Jay Hanson, 01/01/2001

http://www.dieoff.com/page193.htm

 

ENERGETIC LIMITS TO GROWTH Spring 1999

http://www.dieoff.com/page175.htm

 

Titanic Sinks June 24, 1998

http://www.dieoff.com/page143.htm

 

A Peak Under the Covers 11/11/97

http://www.dieoff.com/page128.htm

 

Los Sangre Es en Tus Manos, by Jay Hanson, April, 1999

http://www.dieoff.com/page169.htm

 

"The Market" is simply "Too Cheap to Meter" 11/01/98

http://www.dieoff.com/page166.htm

 

It's the Money, Stupid! August 10, 1998

http://www.dieoff.com/page149.htm

 

Lunatic Politics, by Jay Hanson, June 6, 1998

http://www.dieoff.com/page141.htm

 

Tragedy of the Commons Re-stated  6/14/97

http://www.dieoff.com/page109.htm

 

THE FATAL FREEDOM (the Tragedy of the Commons)  8/29/97

http://www.dieoff.com/page79.htm

 

KNOW THYSELF -- A Report of the Dominant Animal Life on the Third

Planet: Executive Summary, by Yaj, January 24, 1997.

http://www.dieoff.com/page89.htm

 

Requiem, by Jay Hanson, Feb, 20, 1998

http://www.dieoff.com/page89.htm

 

THERMODYNAMICS AND THE SUSTAINABILITY OF FOOD PRODUCTION November 4,

1996

http://www.dieoff.com/page65.htm

 

WHERE WILL IT END?

http://www.dieoff.com/page34.htm