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You make some very good points yourself, I have to say. But let's start from the beginning.
> But then, I suppose one could argue that those resources are only so scarce because we operate such an incredibly wasteful society. We could use far less fuel and I don't think that's really something that can be disagreed with, we just don't want to because it would be less convenient.
A lot of it is simply cost and profit comparison. If you've read the news in the last few days, there was (quite muted) outrage over the fact that Burberry was destroying millions of £ worth of unsold new old stock. Why would a company do that, you ask. Well, it's called price-based brand dilution. In short, Burberry was/is worried that its new old stock would be sold off cheaply on eBay and other places at a discount, thus damaging Burberry's profits from its currently selling, moderately to high priced lines of clothing and accessories. From a marketing perspective, this makes perfect sense. The loss that you will incur by destroying your unsold new old stock, which still has residual market value even if it's last season's, is seen as being smaller than the loss of profit from your current lines of products that you would suffer by letting it compete against last season's clothes that can be had for half. And then if your desired brand image is also that you want it to appear like more of a luxury brand, that only adds to it.
In the end, a loss is a loss, and if I remember correctly, Burberry said that it aims to reduce its volume of new unsold stock over the years. But still, nothing stopped them from destroying perfectly good clothes, which had to be produced, for which cotton had to be farmed, using loads of agricultural land, water, and pesticides, or synthetic fibres had to be made in a chemical factory. All of this consumed natural resources and cause pollution, and it was for nothing. And companies get away with it because it means more profit on the whole than selling the new old stock.
An idea would be to create penalties for companies who destroy their perfectly good stock. At some point, these penalties could be put so high that avoiding those penalties altogether is the cheapest way to operate your business. If put into action the right way, this would mean there would hardly any overstock be produced, and companies would have a very strong incentive to avoid waste.
Same with electronics. I'm the lad who said on here recently that he was proud as punch that he managed to change £25 worth of drum bearings on his age-old washing machine instead of buying a new one for 500 quid. This repair was only possible because the so-called "tub and drum assembly" was serviceable in that the tub hemispheres (which are the outer shell of the tub and drum assembly, if you will) were held together by a dozen bolts and a large O ring seal. This was the usual way of designing a washing machine for decades. But nowadays, washing machines tend to have tub and drum assemblies where the plastic tub's hemispheres are fused together. This means you have no more way of changing the drum bearings, because you cannot get to them by disassembling the tub anymore. Therefore, you will have to buy an entire new tub and drum assembly, which some upmarket brands will have on offer, but they will cost in excess of £350. So most people will naturally buy an all new washing machine, the production of which will consume natural resources, while the old washing machine will rot in a rubbish dump somewhere.
You see where I am going with this. I think penalties again would be the right answer. If you make producers of technical and electronic goods pay a considerable penalty if their products aren't serviceable, at least by trained persons, then they have an incentive to avoid hitting you with £350 for a tub and drum assembly.
>What say you will happen to us when traditionally large employment sectors like transport and manufacturing are simply no longer existent beyond a handful of robot caretakers?
That is indeed a very serious problem of economics for decades to come. You cannot simply put millions of those people on the dole, or in chip shops or behind newsagent counters. From a microeconomics standpoint, the consequences will be disastrous if private households no longer have disposable income to spend on goods and services. Because it is held that in the end, even business oriented goods and services that are as removed from the end consumer as far as ever thinkable ultimately depend on demand from that end consumer somewhere at the end of the profit chain. A consultant firm providing marketing strategy services for a supplier of electronic components that go into Samsung or Apple smartphones and tablets still depends on people like you and me buying and using phones and devices. If there are no longer end consumers who can afford to buy those phones, that consultant firm will suffer as well. And if entire industries put workers and employees out of a job by automating and digitising everything, then that is going to be felt disastrously on the demand side.
What's the solution? We need to get back to a culture of realising that employees and coworkers aren't a pesky cost factor. We need to keep remembering that they, too, need money to spend on goods and services. That, in turn, could stop the vicous circle of the public as a whole having ever decreasing disposable income, which means they have ever less money to spend on goods and services, which puts ever more pressure on the suppliers of these goods and services to cut costs and automatise ever more.
However, you will never find me agreeing that socialism is inevitable. Yes, as an economist, if you really paid attention in class at uni, you will see capitalism and socialism simply as competing economic systems which both have their pros and cons. And you will wisely leave it to showboating politicians to make a dog's dinner of sound economic theory. But still, I believe that the right answer is a sustainable market economy, with safeguards against overconcentration, and overexploitation both of natural resources and the human factor. With profits not only going to those who fuck others out of their fair share, but to those who duly deserve them.