Diminishing returns and receding horizons

during the great advance up, every new machine, every new mine, every tree felled or lump of coal carried to the surface, every hour of labor in every factory, every turn of the wheels of the great machine, all were done because they yielded greater returns yet. This is why it grew; the more the machine ran, the more of its fodder it could heap onto its plate, whcih only allowed it to run even more. there was a positive net return for investments. there was something to exploit that those investments were making possible. on the way down, there is no such return. the best you get is that you might stay in the game longer. there will be no rebuilding of older technologies again. neither is the fuel left for their kind of fire, nor is the return there to warrant the expense- there is no virgin earth waiting to be raped in novel ways. the earth is gasping, tired, abused, and injured. in place of the glowing vista of limitless growth there is desperation just to keep the status quo. In such an environment there can be no investment. Not only does the system, stretched to make ends meet, lack the capital, the true resources of capital (not money, which can be printed at will) , to make such investments, there is fundamentaly no corresponding return. Each steam engine could beget many steam engines, in 1850- and did. Today? A steam engine is dreamed of only to replace a diesel engine or a turbine- merely one more step backwards to plug a hole in a failing dike. even if such an investment is miraculously executed- it cannot pay the bills the modern world demands of it. it is out of its element. that steam engine begat a bigger, more expensive, more powerful engine- one which could pay its bills and yet beget a diesel, which could pay _its_ bills and yet beget a jet or a rocket. Trying to squeeze a few more turns out of the diesel in order to scrape together a steam engine does not work the same way, there is no posiitve net return. there is no yield. and without yield, there is no investment. It's a long way down. This file and all other content on the VAXpower.org site copyright 2008 by G. Economou