Sign up ×
Philosophy Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for those interested in logical reasoning. It's 100% free, no registration required.

David Graeber's book on Debt: The First 5,000 Years emphasizes that it may be impossible to maintain an engine of perpetual economic growth forever on a finite planet. This bearish view of capitalism could perhaps be complemented by Hernando de Soto's bullish ideas on expanded property rights from the other end of the political spectrum.

I was wondering whether one could do a parody of de Soto's The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else by suggesting that not only the disadvantaged poor but also (some) animals should receive legal ownership of "their" property in a currently informal economy. For instance, a deer could be given property rights to a small share of its forest, and a zoo animal would receive part of the proceeds from my entrance ticket, but human labor costs for its keepers and its daily upkeep would be deducted duely from its "personal" account. Lots of new financial and economic activity, employment and economic growth could result, and everybody would be happy (give and take only the usual small matters) and perhaps treated justly.

Where does such a parody run into most substantial conflict with reality as we perceive it? The first thought that comes to mind is that you could not expect conscious economic decisions (as in accepting credit terms) from animals: but then give them (automatic) index funds, or let their "owners" stand in for them like parents currently stand in for their children or custodians for disabled persons. I'm quite sure the idea could and should not fly as a whole (and I've become impatient towards de Soto's single point of view), but it seems to be an interesting area to explore also as a reflection on our human situation.

share|improve this question
Off topic, but note that you can have a permanent illusion of growth if you value change, so that new A is more valuable than old B even though in truth each requires the same resources to make; if you don't cycle through trends within the lifetime of the objects or whatever you create, then you won't notice the inflation either. So although actual economic growth cannot meaningfully be sustained "forever" (lifetime of the planet, let's say), apparent growth can. Whether this is wise--instead of simply embracing a steady-state economy--is another matter. – Rex Kerr Dec 27 '12 at 15:37
©RexKerr thanks for this comment. Yes, I'm aware of this possible interpretation of growth, which some seem and others don't seem to subscribe to. Can you recommend a good source which lays out this view in clear language? – Drux Dec 27 '12 at 15:47
It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. – Ricardo Dec 27 '12 at 19:34
It's difficult to tell what is the scenario that the parody is about. David Graeber's book, de Soto's book, and "animals"(?) give and take only the "usual"(?) small matters and "perhaps" (?) treated justly? Is this a theory about the "Theatre of the Absurd" of Samuel Beckett or about Chaos theory? – Ricardo Dec 27 '12 at 20:39
I'm having a hard time figuring out what is being asked here. What do you mean "do a parody of"? – stoicfury Dec 29 '12 at 22:15

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.