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I'm looking for a plausible scenario/story which may answer the question above. Such us this one:

Capitalism collapses or it's close to it because it is a system based on debt that is to say there is no enough money in the world to pay for the debt therefore a new debt must be issued again and again to pay for the old debt. This causes inflation which is mitigated by economic growth that is to say by newer, cheaper and better ways to produce goods and services. In this scenario as resources are limited on earth and technology keeps more people unemployed or forced to produce cheaper, a great in-satisfaction emerges which ultimately produces riots and chaos. As human population has not increased and resources are limited super-inflation becomes a reality and the only way to go on with capitalism is by starting to colonize new worlds.

Also comments on how plausible this story is as opposed to finding different economic systems based on sustainable economy or socialism would be appreciated.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Feb 3 '17 at 16:26
  • $\begingroup$ Keep in mind that Money as Debt - the documentary you're using as a basis for this story - is a really bad piece of economics. $\endgroup$ – T. Sar Feb 3 '17 at 16:29
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No, as long as people do not change their mindset

Common joke in socialist/communist Czechoslovakia was, that communism is really great idea, just the people are not getting it. Thats why the party in power renamed the system to "real socialism" in late 80s.

And then it failed completely in 1989

Share your toys, kids

And not just toys, but everything. Our monkey brains are not ready for it. So even if current capitalism system fails, the next system will be most probably capitalism-like, because deep down we like this scenario better:

I have 5 apples, you have 7 oranges. I will trade two apples for an orange

than this:

I have 5 apples, you have 7 oranges. It means that we both have enough fruit to feed ourselves together and it is irrelevant who eats apples and who eats oranges

Space colonization needs cooperation of loads people

Apple and orange sharing may work as long as we both know each other. But building space ships needs cooperation of loads of people who may not know each other. And almost everyone has to perform their job perfectly to have the mission be successful.

In current system, we solve it by paying these people money. And we also pay money to other people who check the work of the first group of people.

So although it is not impossible to accomplish, it is unthinkable under current mindset.

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    $\begingroup$ That depends on who "we both" are. On the whole we're quite happy to share apples and oranges with close friends and family, but it breaks down when we're asked to share them with that guy down the road who plays loud music late at night, and he smells, and parks in my space. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Feb 3 '17 at 9:41
  • $\begingroup$ Exactly. I will expand the answer a bit to demonstrate that $\endgroup$ – Pavel Janicek Feb 3 '17 at 9:42
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    $\begingroup$ You're thinking of a colony ship in civilian terms, it may be built by civilians but the actual operation is probably going to be military. People do their jobs because they're told to and disobeying orders is unthinkable. I think this is all the subject for a different question though. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Feb 3 '17 at 12:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Separatrix: Science fiction has covered this subject, and the consensus answer seems to be that there will be a thinning of the shallow end of the gene pool that will remove those who rely on others to keep them safe in an unsafe environment rather than check for problems themselves. See Larry Niven's stories re Flatlanders vs. Belters, or Robert Heinlein. Space is a classic case of the untamed frontier; the competent spacers will survive and the incompetent may either stay safe on non-frontier earth or die on the frontier. As space become civilized, idiots may survive in those places. $\endgroup$ – Mark Ripley Feb 4 '17 at 16:13
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Maybe

Chaos and unrest tend to cause backsliding, not forward thinking. Populism will rise (has risen) with a basis of "it's not like it was in the old days". The problems will be blamed on other people. There will be a rejection of anything that comes from 'the other' especially if that other is the group being blamed for the problems. The result will be isolationism and reduction in technological and economic growth.

If another cold war is sparked by the isolationist policies then it's possible that the result will be a new space race to be the first to have an off-world colony. Right now, that's probably the best hope for getting off this rock, but it's not going to be a comfortable ride.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm done too. We can both delete our comments. $\endgroup$ – a4android Feb 3 '17 at 10:05
  • $\begingroup$ i agree that another cold war is the most likely way to boost space colonization. Not comfortable or comforting. $\endgroup$ – a4android Feb 3 '17 at 10:13
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Some ideas that you might consider as causes for space colonization:

1) Space as the new 'offshore tax haven': All the on-earth tax haven loopholes have been plugged by the new world government, but they don't have enforcers/tax codes for asteroid based manufacturing yet. The rich pour money into these space ventures to avoid paying taxes on income.

2) Extremely progressive taxes, causing some ultra-rich to fund multi-generation starships in order to escape paying any taxes at all.

3) The Government decides (for whatever reason) to fund space colonization. The reasons might be to create an off planet prison or to develop off earth resources to help the economy (or both).

4) Another science fiction trope is space colonization as defense. Either some alien race has attacked and the government is trying to prevent a repeat, or the government is using the (real or not) off-world threat (aliens or those pesky non-tax-paying asteroid miners) as an excuse to beef up their armed space presence.

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It is probably best to not get bogged down in the technical details of what exactly happened come the fall. I don't think it matters either. Your question seems to be: can a capitalist fall lead to capitalist investment in space travel? But I'd like to discuss the broader theme; can a non-capitalist system do space exploration? I find the question ironic because space exploration was never a capitalist concern.

Space exploration has its origins in Cosmism, or the belief that human destiny is sown in the stars. This unique ideology originated in late Imperial Russia, and one of the most influential characters was Nikolai Fyodorov. He was inspired by the idea, as an orthodox Christian, that God would not grant mankind immortality or resurrection; man had to use science to achieve these things himself. But there was a problem. Where would all these resurrected immortals go? So, humanity had to devise a way to colonise and travel between the stars, as part of a strategy to realise Christian destiny. Incidentally the man who would become the father of theoretical rocketry, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, attended the same Moscow library as Fyodorov. He believed space colonisation would be a means to perfect humanity.

Most interestingly come the revolution these ideas were not discarded as fanciful bourgeoisies nonsense, but adopted as part of the new Bolshevik culture. They believed in the pursuit of a new rational man who could achieve anything with science and industry. The space race was started by the USSR, and for the most part it looked like they would win; achieving various milestones, like getting Sputnik and Yuri Gargarin into orbit first. Even after the USA landed on the moon, and then got bored of it, the USSR continued to invest in space exploration for its own sake, eventually creating things like the Mir space station.

The bottom line is this: not only did space exploration have origins in non-capitalist ideologies, but there's no reason it couldn't again. The idea that space exploration should be a private sector thing is a recent notion. Every society has to decide what to do with itself after the basic needs have been taken care of.

A society of new Bolsheviks might wish to return to Cosmism to bring them together, in the same way the ancient Egyptians made the pyramids. Both endeavours allowed individual and collective to express their common values through shared work. Both being ultimately a spiritual obligation to attempt to do something together which outlasts the individual. But let's look beyond the obvious capitalist-communist binary. Why not have an orthodox theocracy who dedicate themselves to Fyodorov's vision? Perhaps the poverty of the fall leads to an anti-materialist religious revival instead of a capitalist or socialist materialist one?

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting point. I disagree with the "space exploration was never a capitalist concern" though. The Apollo missions budget was approved because they wanted to beat the communists. $\endgroup$ – user31264 Feb 3 '17 at 15:15
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    $\begingroup$ @PbxMan The Space Race had way more to do with Nationalism than with Capitalism vs Communism. "Beating the communists" is a extreme oversimplification of the nature of the issue. $\endgroup$ – T. Sar Feb 3 '17 at 16:26
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    $\begingroup$ @PbxMan, NASA and the Apollo missions are a PERFECT example of a massive government program using public funding and run like a quasi-military organization. It was about as far from a "capitalist" venture as is possible to get inside the USA. Can you imagine if NASA had had shareholders they had to answer to about how they were going to turn a profit? Do you have ANY idea how much money we burned through with that effort with almost no accountability? $\endgroup$ – JBiggs Feb 3 '17 at 20:39
  • $\begingroup$ @PbxMan If NASA was private, you'd have a point. But space exploration has always been a top down public enterprise. SpaceX and their like are very recent, and even then they're at best supplying public sector enterprise, like trying to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. $\endgroup$ – inappropriateCode Feb 4 '17 at 0:07
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Let's look at the closest thing we have to space exploration, the era of colonization. It coincides with the rise of capitalism and not coincidentally. The East India Tea corporation which basically ruled India was a state run corporation. The State was in charge of it, but it paid out profit to private investors (in addition to putting money in the state treasury) -it was the definition of crony capitalism, because it was ensured a monopoly and run by the government itself. One could very easily imagine a corporation such as the East India Company subsidized by the government (or even un-subsidized) getting into space exploration for the mineral rights alone.

http://www.businessinsider.com/the-value-of-asteroid-mining-2016-11

Space exploration may be the magic bullet the Karl Marx didn't anticipate. Marx identified two major problems which made capitalism doomed in the long term. 1st that it's an inherently antagonistic system between the workers and those that control capital. Now all class systems are inherently antagonistic so I'm not sure why Marx believes this would doom capitalism. Well, to be fair all those other class systems did vanish around the world --to be replaced by capitalism. The second is more worrisome. A capitalist economy must grow faster than the population, it must expand, it must open up new markets or it will die slowly. It will return to that adversarial relationship and those with capital will use capital to create more capital by extracting wealth from those who have less. This happens when economic growth is slow, because capital, like power, naturally consolidates. When capital is growing the consolidation is offset by the growth. Picketty's great book elaborates, Capital in 21th Century. However, if space travel (and thus commerce) becomes a reality than economic growth is limitless as space itself. In your face Karl Marx.

Now, you suggested scenario of global debt would never happen. What would happen would be closer to the 2008 collapse, mass bankrupcies, the debt would be worthless and the capital would simply disappear.

http://www.businessinsider.com/2009/2/america-lost-102-trillion-of-wealth-in-2008

This would result in high poverty rates, possibly the collapse of the banking systems, maybe fall of governments themselves --not a space race.

I think the East India Tea Company scenario is more plausible. A government (Like the US) is debt riddled, but not yet bankrupt or collapsed just spending all their government budget on financial services to the point that in a few years they won't have enough to pay the interest rates and they know it, grants a private company exclusive rights to space, passing off the all the risk of capital to that company but in return enforcing a monopoly. That would be an example of a government leveraging it's power into capital (crony capitalism) which is as old time and much more believable. This way the the company makes money, and the government basically extorts them and their competition, basically the whole space sector, to pay off its debt. This is if you want the financial crisis leads us into space version. I think private companies taking the initiative to go into to space and competing with each other is more likely.

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