Capitalism is Past Its Sell-By Date
From Incredible Success to Enabling Environmental and Resource Unsustainabiliy
Capitalism is Past Its Sell-By Date is a discussion of the current status and future of capitalism and on capitalism’s effects on sustainability. The discussion is based on facts and data, letting the chips fall where they may.
If the book were to be boiled down into two thoughts, they would be
capitalism is past its sell-by date;
sustainable growth is an oxymoron.
I have been a life-long, free-market capitalist and have held the positions of Chief Executive Officer, President and Chief Financial Officer in various privately- and publicly-held companies.
This book is not intended to be either a critique or defense of capitalism. The objective of this book is to examine the logical results and implications of capitalism as we have implemented it.
I have two objectives to achieve within this book. The first is a general discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of capitalism, leading to the conclusion that it is a trend that has been taken too far. The second is to establish that the primary result of capitalism, the loss of sustainability, is a part of our current reality and is an existential challenge.
THE underlying problem: capitalism has enabled too many people to consume too many resources, exhausting the Earth’s resources and nature’s ability to cleanse and renew itself. This underlying problem manifests itself in several symptoms, one of which is climate change.
If all energy were renewable tomorrow and the problem of climate change were solved tomorrow, we would still face the existential problem of the limits to human population and to the consumption and depletion of global resources. The associated crisis will likely begin within the next 40 years, if it has not already begun.
It is clear to me that capitalism, while having its challenges, provides the most efficient allocation of resources to, in turn, provide the highest standard of living for the most people. There are no words sufficient to describe capitalism’s ability to deploy savings, energy and natural resources to elevate the lives of many, and recently, the vast majority, of humans.
I will make a comprehensive case that sustainability is no less than the primary challenge facing humanity. Sustainability is a challenge primarily because capitalism enables the efficient taking, use and re-formation of the Earth’s resources.
Capitalism is Past Its Sell-By Date includes discussions of the status and implications of such topics as
Part I - Capitalism
What has it achieved?
What are its strengths and weaknesses?
What are its current structural and cultural headwinds?
What is the future of capitalism?
When did its actual sell-by date occur?
Part II – Unsustainability – the End Game
How many people can the Earth sustainably support?
The status and future of Earth’s resources, including water, food, materials and energy, and associated waste - what are we running out of and when will we run out of it?
Why is green or sustainable growth an oxymoron?
How does sustainability relate to climate change?
Why are a descent into dystopia and a no-growth economy the ways to bet?
What must be done to preserve the most of what we have achieved?
By the end of the book, you will have
an appreciation for capitalism’s accomplishments,
an understanding of its decline and the implications of its decline,
a comprehension of the current state and future of the Earth’s ecosystem and environment,
a picture of the dynamics of a no-growth economy, and
a description of actions you can take to improve your future and the future of the planet.
This book concludes:
My best estimate of carrying capacity from researching this book is that Earth’s current carrying capacity, with everyone at the same, relatively low standard of living, is between 7 and 7.5 billion people. We are probably in Overshoot and are denuding our field. We must quit generating more humans and we must consume less – much less - immediately. Additionally or alternatively, we have to rely on the technology cavalry to save us. Capitalism, wonderful capitalism, has been too successful and is past its sell-by date. It is the engine of growth, and we cannot grow anymore, either in population or in the size of the world economy.
The machinery that has created the incredibly exceptional previous 300 years will begin to inexorably go into reverse as layer after layer is removed until we return to a steady state, zero-growth economy, living off renewable and recyclable resources.
And recommends a path to sustainability:
prices must be adjusted to levels that reflect total impacts and depletion – no subsidies of any kind will be allowed; the Tragedy of the Commons must be abolished,
each woman must be restricted to no more than one child in her lifetime – population must decline, and
each human must be restricted in their consumption to no more than the present-day average citizen of Myanmar.
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Audio, narrated by the author - also available on Audible
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5.0 out of 5 stars @CallahansBooks Review
Reviewed in the United States on March 10, 2022
I really admire the author’s ambition in academically exploring a topic that’s bound to be bastardized by ideological noisemakers. A Texas-based CPA with C-suite experience and a masters in engineering, Webster is the furthest thing from a polemicist.
Not sheepish in extolling the success of the free market and its benefits over more restrictive alternatives, Webster is equally eloquent analyzing the unintended consequences which occur after a century or more of conspicuous consumption.
As populations grow and capitalism’s engine works overtime, we are consuming raw materials faster than the earth’s ability to produce them. His good-faith diagnosis for course correction seems pretty sound: he’s the expert, not me.
But as Webster concedes, a trip back from the brink would require a collective sacrifice that’s all-but-impossible to expect from societies with Godzilla economies and free will. Unless there is a way for self-governing populations to cut back on many of the modern luxuries we’ve come to rely on, “Capitalism is Past Its Sell-By Date” will be a masterly-researched story about the high cost of success.
"This book is not a subtle endorsement of socialism. It’s a well-researched explanation of what Capitalism is and all its effects, written by a brilliant mind who understands crucial concepts such as complex systems thinking, nuisance, trade-offs, and human nature." JT
Kit Webster revolutionizes his businessman’s perspective as he dives into the state of our world and dissects the dangers of pillaging and consuming resources. His diagnoses and prescriptions are explicit and daring. We need more business leaders like him if we are to create an economic system that serves us in the age of climate change and ecological overshoot."
Former Vice Chair, World Economic Forum Global Agenda, Climate Change
Author, Environmental Debt: The Hidden Costs of a Changing Global Economy
Every young person currently in Business Schools or already on their corporate ladder MUST read this book to understand the world they are entering and what their role needs to become. RG, London, England
"This book is challenging, insightful, alarming, and IMPORTANT." EP
"This book is incredibly important." RS, India