Dolgorukov

SE: Economics: Green Economics overrated?

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I don't know, maybe its just because I can't buy into the whole idea of environmentalism as being the way of the future, but somehow I feel that green economics in SMAC is way too overpowered. Specifically its the +2 Efficiency bonus that's bothering me. This little feature makes green economics the default choice for every elephant sized empire on the planet. In other words if your faction is big and sprawled out, green economics is a no brainer of a choice. In fact, green economics is the only viable choice really since inefficiency becomes a major headache for a world-sized empire.

 

So where am I at odds with the way the game handles this choice on a philosophical level? Right! Back to the +2 Efficiency bonus, for supposed "efficient" use of resources and the aim to integrate "sentient progress with the needs of the biosphere"

 

On the other side, we have Free Market Economics where the market forces are turned loose in the society.

 

"Unfettered market economics can produce great wealth quickly, but in the context of Planet's fragile (ecosystem), emerging economies can also lead to extremes of pollution and ecological damage"

 

Based on Lady Deirdre's aversion to Free Market Economics, I'm going to assume that Green economics is diametrically opposite of Free Market. That means where in FM we turn the market forces loose, in Green Economics we must regulate the market. Does this mean that Green Economic System is a not too distant cousin of Planned Economics? If so then there should be inherent inefficiencies that arise from meddling with the market's natural flow in Green Economics, much like we see in Planned.

 

Where I'm going with this is that I think that Green SE choice should perhaps exclude the Efficiency boost of +2. Now of course I'm not approaching this from the direction of game balance, but rather am more interested in the ideological and philosophical spin on these social engineering choices. Still I can't help but wonder what I'd have to add to Green to make it a practical option for a SMACer if I go through with cutting out its efficiency bonus. Or would it be still okay if left with just the +2 Planet, and -2 Growth?

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The efficiency modifier is a strange one anyway in the way it combines several ideas (if you haven't seen this already in the civilization descriptions, and cybernetic future society has some elements). (In setting terms, red tape and recycling, in gameplay terms, energy distribution and empire size).

 

If making the game over again, I'd likely split to concept in two, one modifier to represent recycling, and one to represent administration. I do have some ideas written up in some blog posts where "administration" represents the empire size and waste/corruption effects, and "efficiency" represents recycling and energy efficiency, and improves the productivity of otherwise bad terrain. (If you've played the planetfall civ 4 mod, my ideas had an effect similar to the biodomes civic improving food on flat dry and flat polar terrain, though effecting all resources, and with the increase dependent on the modifier.)

 

 

For the actual game, I suppose recycling could be represented by +1 to energy, industry, and perhaps the growth penalty reduced to -1, to represent the idea that fewer resources are needed to do things thanks to recycling. The efficiency's reduction of energy waste actually seems to work well at representing recycling as well, even though the empire size and energy distribution effects don't for the setting idea as well. A support bonus might work, using a vaguely similar idea to clean reactors.

 

In balance terms, the green economy efficiency improvement is also important for running more effective police states, in addition to handling large empires.

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For the actual game, I suppose recycling could be represented by +1 to energy, industry, and perhaps the growth penalty reduced to -1, to represent the idea that fewer resources are needed to do things thanks to recycling. The efficiency's reduction of energy waste actually seems to work well at representing recycling as well, even though the empire size and energy distribution effects don't for the setting idea as well. A support bonus might work, using a vaguely similar idea to clean reactors.

 

Another option might be an "engineer" citizen, similar to those in Civ-IV, with a special bonus under a green economy: either -1 pollution per engineer until the base isn't polluting any more, then +1 mineral per additional engineer.

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the funny thing is that efficiency does not necessarily go hand in hand with ecological harmony.

 

Green economics

I would tend to think that the aim of green economics should be to strike a balance with nature while still being able to exploit its resources.

 

A really conservative idea may be to strive for the preservation of an ecosystem's original natural state. Use of resources is only allowed to such an extent that prevents major deviations from original state of the ecosystem. I may be assuming here that a human colony cannot contribute positively to both its own growth and the productivity and stability of the ecosystem it is relying on.

 

 

I believe that the premise that Green Economics allows for more efficient use of resources is false. Free markets by their very nature reward the most efficient of producers. Hence Free Market is the system that makes the most efficient use of resources. It is the system where we are likely to see the most effective recycling strategies and the most drive for efficient technology.

 

When we are talking about Green vs. Free Market, efficiency is not at the heart of the struggle between the two models. Free markets tend to be short sighted and lead to fast growth and overuse. Increases in efficiency are an invitation to increase consumption. Free markets love efficiency, they reward it!

 

We may think that green models like efficiency as well, because we think that being green is synonymous with having lower impact on our surroundings. Of course an obvious way to decrease impact would be to decrease consumption, (by becoming more efficient, which is misleading, since efficiency only drives more consumption)

 

I'm tempted to say something that may sound contradictory to today's mantra on "greenness" by saying that Green by design is not efficient by design, but rather Green is something that has no negative effect on the surroundings. To be truly green is to integrate yourself so fully into the ecological system that you are no longer a burden but rather something that contributes to its growth or adds stability to the system. A bee goes about its work by flying from one flower to another, collecting nectar for its colony's use but at the same time contributes to the propagation of the plants that flower. Both types of organisms are able to increase their specie's biomass due to this interaction.

 

Now a farmer working his tractor to plow the fields where he is planting some crop could also be seen as beneficial. Both types of organisms, the crops and the human are in a relationship which allows for them to increase the biomass of their species. However this is often seen as a typical example of negative ecological impact. The farmer may be contributing to lower biodiversity in the region by allowing only one type of plant to grow and removing all others. The system as a whole is becoming more homogeneous and life's insurance against extinction brought about by great shocks is being stripped away with every specie that is removed.

 

A society that adopts the Green Model would then be one that can coexist with the other lifeforms and contribute to both growth and diversity of the ecosystem. The +2 Planet is well prescribed then, since negative Planet ratings tend to diminish your ability to make use of Planet's local ecosystem via penalties to nutrient production from fungus covered tiles. But there are no real substantial returns on having positive Planet Society ratings from an economic perspective, which is a little shallow I think. Maybe increase the nutrient, energy and mineral ouputs from fungus tiles for societies with positive Planet ratings?

 

A penalty of -2 to Growth also makes sense, since a Green society is either unable to or cautious not to outstrip the ecosystem's ability to support human existence.

 

The +2 increase in society efficiency really seems out of place. I would rather see a boost to production in fungus tiles as a way to reward the society for trying to coexist with the planet's native ecosystem instead of terraforming the planet to death.

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The way I see it, the green model represents (many) small decentraliced settlements with low population, living closer to nature. The extra efficency for the many settlements, the minus growth for the low pop per settlement, and the extra planet for the nature instead of industrialization. I think the big problem is that growth does not cap pop limit, and in general that the smac engine does not represent this model correctly.

 

This is not a model a big centraliced empire should be able to switch to easily, or at all (without losing population, income, etc). In fact, as much as I like the social engineering model in smac, it makes way too easy to change your society completely.

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..it makes way too easy to change your society completely.

let's assume we can modify the penalty for changing SE settings and allow it to go into negative numbers with the consequence of disbanded faclitities.

then make the penalty directly proportional with the size of the empire (don't know, some complicated formula) resulting in huge amounts of EC needed for such a

drastic change..

this is doable, i think, by someone with the necessary skills (e.g.scient).

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I disagree with what Dolgorukov wrote. One way to implement a green economy is to use a directed market economy, i.e impose steep taxes on ressource consumption but leave the rest up to the market. In this way the more efficiency -> more consumption problem is somewhat diminished, since ressource prices remain (artificially) high. Your economy will be less dynamic than a free market economy but its ressource (energy) efficiency is higher.

 

Moreover, I would contend that the effects of the SE settings should be defined according to game balance considerations. As long as they fit rougly with their themes it's fine.

Edited by civac
bad typo

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Free markets by their very nature reward the most efficient of producers. Hence Free Market is the system that makes the most efficient use of resources. It is the system where we are likely to see the most effective recycling strategies and the most drive for efficient technology.

 

No, free markets reward the cheapest producers. But just because something is cheaper doesn't mean it's more efficient. They're closely related, but not identical.

 

As an energy resource, oil is a lot cheaper than wind or solar (except in certain specific situations, like orbital satellites) however it is less resource-efficient because oil is a limited resource that has industrial applications other than power generation or transportation. It is used in the production of both plastics and fertilisers, for example.

 

By contrast, wind and solar energy are only limited in terms of how much is available at any one time. The actual supply of them is virtually limitless compared to the amount we could ever hope to use: you won't ever run out of either. However they're both more expensive to use as an energy source for most purposes, so fossil fuels continue to be used.

 

A green economy redresses that balance by placing a premium on the cost, or restriction on the use, of limited resources. A free-market economy doesn't account for ecological costs, or costs related to certain resources being limited, while a green economy does take these into account.

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Based on Lady Deirdre's aversion to Free Market Economics, I'm going to assume that Green economics is diametrically opposite of Free Market. That means where in FM we turn the market forces loose, in Green Economics we must regulate the market. Does this mean that Green Economic System is a not too distant cousin of Planned Economics? If so then there should be inherent inefficiencies that arise from meddling with the market's natural flow in Green Economics, much like we see in Planned.

 

 

Where I'm going with this is that I think that Green SE choice should perhaps exclude the Efficiency boost of +2. Now of course I'm not approaching this from the direction of game balance, but rather am more interested in the ideological and philosophical spin on these social engineering choices. Still I can't help but wonder what I'd have to add to Green to make it a practical option for a SMACer if I go through with cutting out its efficiency bonus. Or would it be still okay if left with just the +2 Planet, and -2 Growth?

 

The way I see Green Economics are basically government restrictions or taxes on practices that are harmful to the environment or wasteful of natural resources. Planned is complete or at least very close to 100% government control of the economy. Even free markets economies have government restriction on certain practices, but no one would consider them to be Planned in any way. If free markets didn't have any restrictions I would be willing to bet they would asspload due to greed and unethical practices. Take the current economic situation in most of the world if you need an example, now imagine that without any kind of government intervention to better the solution.

 

It depends completely on the governments that are imposing these restrictions and how well they are enforced. For this reason I don't buy into efficiency modifiers for any of the economic models. China for instance has an efficient economy and many people forget their economy is indeed run by the government(planned). Since the free trade agreement with the US look how they have boomed. Production costs are a part of efficiency as far as I am concerned, and china has most of the world beat there, whether you agree with there methods or not (Child labor, low employee wages etc...). Look how may foreign manufacturing job relocated to china to take advantage of that.

 

If we are looking at this from a game-balance standpoint though. I don't really see how to effectively maintain game balance while changing the social values without changing multiple SE choices or a major overhaul in the way some game mechanics work. If you change one of the SE models you will need to change another to balance it out. Then by doing that you will need to change another to balance the one out that you changed for balance in the first place. It would be hard to find a good balance if you start screwing around with the SE models. The current system is fairly well balanced as it is, not perfect but good enough.

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