A recent exchange between Jason Hickel (and here and here) and Dean Baker (and here) on whether humanity can have a viable future and still have ‘economic growth’, nicely highlights the way old concepts and words can trap us in unproductive debate and action.
The way forward is to recognise the need for a fundamental re-framing of the nature and purpose of our societies, and their economies. The terms growth, GDP, capital and capitalism are so ill-defined, confused or inappropriate they only hinder debate.
Score voting avoids the vagaries and gaming that are intrinsic to preference ranking systems. It is simpler and more reliably reflects the will of voters. You have probably used it if you have completed a survey. We should use it in political elections.
The 2018 Victorian election has turned up another result in which ‘preference whispering’ by minor parties has distorted the will of the people ($, William Bowe at Crikey), if we take the will of the people to be indicated by first-preference votes.
Minor parties scored 25% of upper house seats from 20% of first-preference votes, whereas the Greens scored only one seat with votes that exceeded almost all minor-party votes individually. In one case a primary vote of 1.3% beat a Greens primary vote of 13.5%.
The economic ‘reforms’ of the 1980s are supposed to have set Australia up for an unprecedented run of prosperity: 27 years, and counting, without a recession. The economy’s robustness is supposed to have saved us from the Global Financial Crisis. In fact our economy has been unstable, and its performance has been mediocre verging on anaemic. Any appearance of robust prosperity is due to a huge run-up of debt, some direct intervention, high immigration, overwork, selective blindness and over-active imaginations.
Many assertions are being made about Australia’s rates of immigration and population growth, but it’s hard to find a coherent discussion of the issue. There’s not just an elephant but a menagerie of ignored creatures lurking around the living room.
The elephant in the middle of the room is the cost to society of ‘durable assets’ for each new person, imported or home-grown. Durable assets include not just infrastructure like roads, trains, water and electricity but houses, shops and schools. That cost is sensibly estimated by sustainability researcher Jane O’Sullivan to be around $500,000 per person. Some of that cost is public, borne by governments, and some is borne by the private sector.
Lest we also forget the 1200 brave women from twelve nations, including combatant nations, who gathered at The Hague in April 1915 to consider how to stop the slaughter already well under way, though still to get much worse. Post-war they formed the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Their resolutions fed into the League of Nations and thence into the United Nations. Would that we had heeded the wisdom they distilled, in the face of derision, hostility and dismissal.
I attended the New Economy Network Australia conference in Melbourne recently (19-21 Oct). There I met in person Karl Fitzgerald who does a spot call Renegade Economists on radio 3CR , and with whom I’d done an interview a few years ago. We didn’t manage an interview at the conference, but did one by phone a couple of days later.
I found NENA to be a very diverse group very engaged with each other. They even listened to my pitch about The Little Green Economics Book and bought copies. There are so many people and groups doing good things, my impression is that NENA is likely to spread rapidly and link us into a more powerful movement. It was just their third annual conference.
[Couldn’t get any takers for this. Too long, not newsworthy, and The Monthly doesn’t contemplate responses, being in the business of glitterary packaging of its generally substantive pieces.]
The feature article in the September issue of The Monthly, The Fountain of Youth by Ceridwen Dovey, describes Professor David Sinclair of Harvard and UNSW and his biotechnological research into ageing mechanisms and how they might be slowed, stopped or even reversed.
The topic raises profound issues, but unfortunately Dovey’s account is more paean than critical evaluation. There are multiple and diverse concerns, and they are aggravated by academic competitiveness, a not-uncommon technocratic narrowness, the power of global finance, and the potent interaction of those forces.
[This was written ten days ago and I thought it was dead and gone. But lo, my reliable Independent Australia eventually got around to it. By the way it’s worth seeing the video of George Lakoff there, if you have 35 minutes to spare. He elaborates the ‘strict father’ and ‘nurturing parent’ world views that lie behind ‘conservative’ and ‘progressive’ attitudes.]
The ABC is pandering more and more flagrantly to the Far Right.
Monday 3rd of September was a good night for the Far Right on the ABC. There was a 45-minute exclusive platform for Steve Bannon, alt-Right champion and Trump booster, in an interview on the Four Corners program. Later Q&A, which regularly includes at least one Far Right panel member, had three out of five, including – spare us – radio shock jock Alan Jones, as if he needs another megaphone.
This while the ABC is re-running a version of “It’s your ABC” featuring nostalgic clips of the Bananas in Pajamas and the lovely Noni of Playschool. Only it’s not our ABC any more. It has been the Liberal Party’s ABC for some time.