Exploring Possible Economic Futures

In the interest of exploring possible economic futures, I have read books on Modern Monetary Theory, Zero Marginal Cost, The Job Guarantee, and several others. Add to the list the most recent book I finished, How Capitalism Ends. Viewed through the lens of property rights, wealth, and the transition from Feudalism to Capitalism, author Steve Paxton uses an effective method of storytelling: start with history and then explore possible futures. The book is setup by two thesis: the development and the primacy thesis. What he describes helps us understand the “why” behind the future that is emerging.

  • Humans are sufficiently intelligent to be able to improve their material situation, and sufficiently rational to be disposed to do so, given their historical situation of scarcity
  • As technology develops, different types of economic organization suit different levels of technological development. (A slave society might be suitable for building aqueducts or keeping the Picts at bay, but it’s not particularly conducive to the invention of spreadsheets or the development of ABS braking systems.)

Paxton, Steve. How Capitalism Ends (pp. 10-11). John Hunt Publishing

According to Paxton, implications are spawned from the thesis. He lists them as follows:

  • Historical change is driven by technological development
  • Various economic structures will arise and persist because they promote development at the then existing level
  • As technology develops, an economic structure that had previously promoted development may now hinder further development in such a case, the economic structure will (eventually) give way, and a new economic structure will (eventually) emerge which promotes further development. (If economic structures sometimes impede further development, and if rationality dictates that development cannot be subverted indefinitely – then economic structures must ‘rise and fall…as they enable or impede that growth’.)

Paxton, Steve. How Capitalism Ends (p. 11). John Hunt Publishing

The importance of understanding history is clear, as past transitions have followed this path. The application of that history in understanding possible futures should also be clear. Upon completing his look at history, Paxton describes the possible world beyond Capitalism. It is critical as we explore possible futures that we put our own personal biases aside. With that in mind, I recommend the book and have added it to my library.

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