Re: Communism vs Capitalism

From: Michael Lorrey (
Date: Fri Mar 09 2001 - 08:14:09 MST

Charlie Stross wrote:
> The point I'm trying to make ( ... pause to take deep breath ... ) is
> that there is a finite limit to food consumption. If we ignore weird
> alternative uses like bathing in asses' milk, we can take a stab
> at estimating the maximum food consumption our civilization can ever
> demand. (We can even estimate the maximum demand in event of massive,
> compulsory extravagence -- everyone bathes three times a day in cognac
> and stuffs themselves silly on steak, while taking skiing lessons on
> a butter mountain.)
> If we hit a point where supply outstrips demand, then prices are going
> to fall as suppliers fight each other for market share. But sooner or
> later the suppliers reach an equilibrium point where they can't afford
> to cut prices further (and remain in business).
> The logical end-point is that once we have saturated the market for food,
> and once prices have deflated at the lowest level that will support
> any producers, there is simply *no* scope for economic growth left in
> that field unless we manufacture more consumers.
> What part of "there is a limit to how much food I can eat and how cheaply
> it can be produced" don't you agree with?

No disagreement. What you are describing is a commodity market, which is
what milk and most other foods are because they are ubiquitous,
generally identical among producers, and almost identically priced.
Economic growth doesn't mean hiring more workers, it means producing the
most possible with the least workers possible with the given technology,
and advancing technology allows further reductions in labor or other

However, assuming that there is absolutely no potential for further
growth is rather ignorant. BGH, for example, shows that growth is
possible in the milk market. I posit that vat grown milk will hit the
markets within 5 years at a price at least half that of cow-produced
milk, if not less (it all depends on the relative efficiency of bacteria
versus cow udders). Lets, for example, imagine a photosynthetic algae
that produces milk from water, CO2, O2 and trace elements. Such a
development should make milk acceptable to vegans, and you should be
able also to produce tailor made milk for lactose intolerant

Achieve this and the inefficiencies of the intermediary (the cow), and
you will gain immense economic growth overall, not because of increasing
milk market size, (though you will get that, as there are billions of
people in the world who do not consume the recommended USRDA of milk,
mostly because it is too expensive where they live), but because money
that would have been spent by consumers on milk can be redirected toward
other things, and the standard of living of more people rises due to
their ability to afford enough milk for their kids and themselves.

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