Follow by Email


Friday, September 16, 2011

Capitalism and the apple tree

Capitalism is very good at extraction, optimization and efficiency. Let’s use an apple tree as an example. Just for fun, let’s make it a big old heirloom variety mature tree.

If there’s a market for the heirloom apples, the capitalistic system can optimize the tree. Pesticides, and fertilizers make sure the tree produces as many apples as possible. Bird nets and fences make sure no apples are lost to birds or deer.

If there is a better market for apple wood, the tree is cut down and that’s the end of that.

Perhaps there’s no longer a market for heirloom apples, but the apple market in general is strong. Then the logical thing is cut down the tree and plant one that produces apples suitable for the market. The new tree will be optimized for quick growth, high production and ease of harvest. It’s all very logical.

It’s also soulless.

Take the same tree, but this time it’s owned by a person with different values.

He likes the heirloom apples for their unique qualities. Maybe they are good in pies, or cider, or maybe they store well and are tasty all winter long. He takes care of the tree, but is focused on keeping it healthy, not maximum production.

He keeps an eye on the deer. If they get a few apples off the ground he does’t worry about it. If they nibble the occasional low hanging branch, he lets it go. On the other hand, if too many deer come by too often, he harvest the occasional deer.

Branches that fall off the tree or are trimmed, are saved. He might cook his apple pie in a wood cook stove. The branches might heat his house in a rocket mass heater.

If there’s a bird nest in the tree, he may just enjoy watching the birds. Maybe they eat the insects around the tree. Some birds may eat a bit of fruit, but there are acceptable loses. The person may bring his kids and grandkids around to watch the birds lay their eggs and hatch their young. They can all enjoy the miracle of birth and the cycle of life.

The man’s house is situated to take advantage of the windbreak the tree offers. On a hot day, the man may lay down next to the tree in the shade. He may bring his lover with him to lay down on a blanket under that tree. Together they can watch the sun go down and moon come up. Birds serenade them from the branches.

In the eyes of capitalism, that man is inefficient. He doesn’t get the most money possible from the tree. He’s poor.

Capitalism is blind to the finer things.



  1. the man is happy, his family are happy, the birds are happy, hmmmm 1/2 the world take antidepressants and the rest have an apple tree.

  2. I agree with brendie and you. But, capitaliam is much better than communism or a dictatorship.

  3. Ditto what Dizzy-Dick said, but, let's keep those heirloom trees too. Good post.

  4. Capitalism know little or nothing about balance.

  5. As long as we understand the limitations, Capatalism has its place.

  6. The problem being that those limitations are not understood by most. My job is a testament to that fact. It began because commercial fishermen vacuumed up entire schools of redfish with gill nets and nearly wiped them out. Now we raise juvenile redfish in hatcheries and stock them into the bays to give mother nature a helping hand. That and an end to commercial harvest have allowed the population to recover nicely. And now we're stocking spotted sea trout and southern flounder as well. Trout are not commercially harvested. Flounder are, but I suspect that will change soon.

    The point being; greed almost always seems to take over. Too bad we never learned anything from those American Indians we ran off their land about living in harmony with nature. They had the right idea...

  7. Indeed they did. We can't blindly accept any "ism" if we want to thrive in the new world.