Harper's Finest — October 2, 2013, 5:14 pm

Wendell Berry’s “Faustian Economics” (2008)

Hell hath no limits

May 2008

We are not likely to be granted another world to plunder in compensation for our pillage of this one. Nor are we likely to believe much longer in our ability to outsmart, by means of science and technology, our economic stupidity. The hope that we can cure the ills of industrialism by the homeopathy of more technology seems at last to be losing status. We are, in short, coming under pressure to understand ourselves as limited creatures in a limited world.

— Wendell Berry

For the May 2008 issue of Harper’s Magazine, Wendell Berry authored “Faustian Economics,” in which he considered the impending oil shortage and our diminishing natural resources and reflected on limits, or the lack thereof, in America. Berry warned that Americans believe that we are endowed with the limitlessness of the gods, and that this can only lead to our downfall.

In Wendell Berry: Poet & Prophet, airing this weekend on Moyers & Company, journalist Bill Moyers profiles this influential writer, passionate advocate for the earth, and frequent contributor to Harper’s:


Read Berry’s Harper’s feature here, and get more information about the broadcast, which starts airing on Friday, October 4, at billmoyers.com.

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  • http://www.DNotice.org/ Dean Jackson

    Those who have no knowledge of the science of economics should first study the science before making foolish comments.

    Increases in productivity doesn’t depend on oil, it depends on capital accumulation…savings for investments. Whether the supply of oil this year is less than last year’s supply, has no relation on such savings for investments. However, there can’t be increases in long-term investments when the expected return on such long-term investments–interest–is so low, thanks to the Federal Reserve’s investment-soaking low interest rate policy.

    What do people do when interest rates rise? Do they tend to save more or spend more? Correct, they tend to save more in order to earn the lure that promotes greater savings..interest. Conversely, a low interest rate policy encourages consumption, since people don’t like to hold onto a depreciating currency. When a currency is seen to be appreciating, thanks to investments, people tend to consume less now so they can consume more with the same monetary unit (the dollar in the United States).

    In fact, concerning energy costs, increased investment (that higher interest rates facilitate) bring onto the market new energy-efficient products/technologies that INCREASE the relative supply of oil. If however, the supply of oil should one day become so critically low, the price of oil will out-pace the lower supply, leading to greater investments into a truly economic alternative to oil. However, until that day comes when supplies of oil are permanently critically low, the globe uses the least expensive form of energy…oil.



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