Energy, Population, Socialism and Capitalism
Renewable Energy: energy generated from natural resources—such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal heat—which are renewable (naturally replenished). 2
Wealth: The value of one's total possessions and property rights. 3
Carrying Capacity: The number of individuals an environment can support without degradation. 4
Energy is the basis of everything. From energy we obtain wealth. It takes energy to make everything we see around. The more energy is invested into the creation of something, the more costly that something would be. 82% of our sources of energy are non-renewable and 18% are renewable5. As a consequence of this, wealth creation is limited. Even in an utopian 100% renewable energy world, the rate of energy conversion to wealth will always have to be less that the rate of energy availability. In a world with finite energy resources, the creation of wealth can occur at different rates. Wealth can be distributed amongst the world’s inhabitants in an egalitarian fashion or in a non-egalitarian one.
Capitalism creates wealth at a fast speed due to the natural human greed. In addition, it allows and promotes accumulations of wealth in a non-egalitarian manner. Individuals and corporations compete for wealth and obtain it from less effective individuals or corporations. So as the energy base is expanding, the system can be sustained in a more or less stable way if the masses are kept “happy” with the minimum necessary for happiness. This has been termed the trickle-down effect.
Socialism creates wealth from energy at a slower speed due to lack of incentive for individuals and corporations. Socialism does not allow unequal distributions of wealth within a population. In a world of an expanding energy base, the slow creation of wealth might generate impatient masses as they see other societies generating wealth in a faster manner. Socialist societies do not look rich in a world of growing energy availability.
If energy sources start to decrease, the creation of wealth will decrease. It would still have to be distributed between the current and future human beings.
In a capitalist society, the competition for the dwindling wealth would be fierce. Individuals and corporations will become more ruthless to the point of denying the masses of their acquired right to the minimum necessary happiness. Masses would revolt, the society would become unstable.
In a socialist society, everyone can have a share of the decreased wealth. Since wealth was not created at a fast speed, the decrease would not come at a fast speed either. Society would have time to adjust and take the necessary measures to increase efficiency and to survive.
All the prior paragraphs assume a constant or increasing total population, however, either system will have a better chance of surviving if population actually decreases. In a capitalist world, population decrease might be a consequence of social instability. War, famine, and disease could the means by which population decreases. A socialist, tightly regulated world might be able to plan population-stabilization-and-decrease policies that might lead us to a “soft landing” when we finally reach the point in which the Earth’s human population carrying capacity is achieved, together with a rational use of renewable and non-renewable energy sources.