The longer you leave it to solve a problem …

I don’t know if this is a popular saying or not, but it’s something that’s been with me since childhood:

” … the longer you leave it to solve a problem, the harder it becomes to solve … “

which speaks to the entrenchment of problems, the flow on effect – including the chain reaction & domino effect of additional problems being caused – and the backlog of unhandled consequences.

The problem is aptly described by the tale of the Dutch child who discovers a hole in a dyke, so he sticks his finger in it and stays there all night. The story is parodied by cartoons where another hole, then another & another suddenly spring forth with gushing water, and our would-be hero is left with fingers, toes & other appendages all occupied stopping up holes.

Fable of boy with finger in dyke.
Fable of boy with finger in dyke.

Perhaps a 2nd parody of the tale is needed, where on discovering the hole an economist, scientist and an engineer work to pump the water back over the other side, but never actually fixing the hole … so as the water continues to flow the hole gets bigger, and they have to keep replacing the pump with a bigger one, until eventually the dam wall is gone, and they’re burning whole forests to pump back the ocean. A satirical end would be that they still don’t notice the problem, because they’re all getting fabulously wealthy off it by charging the people to pump back the ocean.

Relevance to Capitalism:

Why do you think the original tale was retold so many times by so many authors? To teach people dyke maintenance? Of course not … there’s an underlying principle here which has social value, and was thus told in a relevant analogous story to the Dutch culture in order to demonstrate the value of the underlying principle being taught.

But as I pointed out in my own second parody – exaggerating & modifying the first parody – what capitalism does IS NOT generally fix problems, what it does is treat symptoms … because permanently fixing a problem makes the problem go away, which is less profitable than keeping the problem going.

The Underlying Problems:

Capitalists will – if they’re honest about it – admit they just treat the symptoms, and if they’re really honest they’ll admit they create new problems just to treat those symptoms … take for example the entire advertising and marketing industry, their job is to manufacture problems then convince the audience to buy the solution … but they don’t see why this is in itself a problem.

The underlying problems include such things as:

  • The social injustice created;
  • The ecological destruction caused, and;
  • The unintended consequence of chain reaction problem creation;

and it is this last category I want to focus on.

Thermodynamic Flow:

For any given system, there exists a theoretical maximum amount of thermodynamic flow possible … in other words, a maximum amount of energy and matter which can be moved about within that system without causing the breakdown of the system itself (or some part of it). That limiting system for us is the biosphere of Earth.

The manifestations of such system breakdown include:

  • Species extinction;
  • Ecosystem collapse.

In other words: you can modify the way you do things to try to prevent such breakdown by being more “sustainable”, but eventually, no matter your methods, thermodynamic flow reaches its maximum without consequences.


We are running an economic paradigm in which we keep doing the wrong thing to generate what we call “profit”, but such a term is misused to the point of being an oxymoron, as this is in no respect profitable, nor is it (in any form) sustainable.

As we expand and accelerate, we pass the theoretical maximum critical thresholds of thermodynamic flow – specific for this system (the property/trade/currency-based capitalist economic paradigm) – at which various things are still sustainable, and as we pass these points: another species goes extinct, another ecosystem collapses, another deleterious consequence befalls our civilisation and the planet’s other species.

Capitalism thinks technology will buy its way out of this problem … or it fails to acknowledge the problem at all … but the reality is that capitalism is stuck in an endless feedback loop of its own creation, and the only way out is either:

  1. Draconian measures of social injustice to limit human activity (nobody should want this);
  2. Absolute consensus of the entire human population to avoid the need for point 1 above;
  3. Extinction of many more species & likely eventually ourselves, or;
  4. Change the underlying paradigm.

The Solution:

If we run a system like Open Empire, we don’t do this ridiculous and wasteful thing of treating symptoms and manufacturing problems – we just solve problems … and this leaves vastly more resources for everyone and everything else. The main differences being as follows:

  • There’s neither need nor reward for manufacturing problems;
  • Manufacturing a problem is to the contrary disincentivised;
  • Causing unintended consequences is also disincentivised, so everyone is encouraged & supported to think & plan;
  • Discovering and identifying real problems is valuable & rewarded EVEN IF you don’t know how to solve them;
  • Someone else solving a problem you discovered is not a disadvantage to either of you, there’s no competition;
  • Multiple solutions to the same problem are more likely to merge when advantageous to the solution, or to remain independent where that is more advantageous, because again competition in this regard does not exist.

Ultimately, the greatest thing you can do within the Open Empire paradigm, is to identify a naturally occurring (not manufactured) large and continuous or periodic problem, and solve it so that it ceases occurring, or its occurrence is minimised, and such that any maintenance of the solution required (if any) requires the minimum thermodynamic input.

You couldn’t get a more diametrically opposed scenario to capitalism if you tried.

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