The false nostrums of the pseudo-science of neoclassical economics have been used to create a system that promotes endlessly increasing consumption of resources and endless elaboration of technology. This system already operates far beyond the needs of people. Our survival requires that we rein in the machine and return to proven and durable, social and moral forms of organisation.
Growth has a fundamental place in the biological world, of which we humans are a part. Unchecked growth has no place, outside of the microbial world. Unchecked growth is called a plague, an epidemic or a cancer.
Growth, among mainstream economists, has become a reflexive, mindless goal, specifically growth of the Gross Domestic Product. Growth of the GDP is the dominant global criterion for allegedly successful management of an economy. GDP is an indiscriminate measure of what we spend money on: some things good, some useless, some bad and, increasingly, some attempting to repair damage from previous spending. GDP is not a useful measure of our quality of life, whose improvement should be the real goal, but it does correlate with resource use and resource waste, also known as pollution.
[This was written November 2017. I was in a dark mood and needed to unload some of it. Having done that, I felt better and left it. However the dark mood has been returning. Twice now I’ve been triggered by being taken back in time, as you’ll see in this and the next post. The previous post, To Armageddon on Automatic, was on a topic long brewing that I struggled to find words for. There may be more. These are not bright times.]
Reading a collection of essays by author Rosie Scott* has taken me back to the early nineties. Those times were far from idyllic, but how much lower we have sunk since then.
That was before we turned decisively to the dark side, before we learnt to stumble through the gritty, coal-dusted moral gloom, mocked by boofhead bully politicians, conditioned to fear others and to destroy innocent lives, cloyed by Big Brother in our pockets and purses, taunted by visions of robot workers, android dreams and a baking planet. That was before the colours faded.
The Australian Labor Party needs major reform, even leader Bill Shorten thinks so. But what constitutes “major” reform depends on who’s talking. To Shorten it reportedly means you don’t have to be a union member to join Labor, and perhaps unions and factions will have a little less say in preselections.
A few weeks ago I suggested Labor ought to disavow the market-fundamentalist neoliberalism that has dominated Labor and most of the world for the past three decades, because neoliberalism has been the major cause of rising economic and political inequality, and it directly caused the Great Recession that still grips much of the world. Not only does neoliberalism undermine Labor’s founding purpose, to stand up for ordinary people, but it is a baseless and discredited ideology, as I have explained in my book Sack the Economists, and it has brought the return of plutocracy and the new gilded age, as exhaustively documented by French economist Thomas Piketty.
Although I advocated reform of the ALP, I hold little hope it will happen. Even where they are not overtly corrupt, Labor and too many unions are dominated by careerists whose only goal seems to be to acquire power for power’s sake. Shorten’s incremental changes will not break the power of these people. Indeed there seem to be few left in Labor who have not accommodated to the betrayal of Labor’s purpose. (I hasten to add I am a supporter of unions in principle, but too many of them have also become ossified.)
Left to its own devices, the ALP is unlikely to fundamentally reform itself. It would take someone at least of the stature of Gough Whitlam, and no such reformer is in evidence. Therefore a different strategy is required.
For three decades, while Labor has focussed on being merely a slightly paler imitation of the Coalition, its membership has plummeted, inequality has risen, it has repeatedly capitulated to wealthy bullies and, it seems, there is no policy too degrading for it to adopt as it races the Coalition into the depths of fear and negativity.
An article by Bob Douglas on the dire need for real political leadership prominently features Sack the Economists, along with a new book by prominent Australian economist Ross Garnaut, Dog Days: Australia After the Boom, the latter launched by prominent Liberal politician Malcolm Turnbull. Tony Abbot deposed Turnbull as Leader of the Opposition in 2009, winning by one vote, otherwise Turnbull would probably now be Prime Minister.
See Bob Douglas’ article in the Sydney Morning Herald here. It also appears in the Melbourne Age and the Canberra Times.
Raw Discourse just started following Better Nature. I’m flattered because RD expresses first hand why I want to reform our dysfunctional economic systems – many people get trapped at the bottom of the heap through no particular fault of their own, and a more equitable and caring society would keep them from falling so low, and give them a real chance to climb back up.
In plain yet powerful language, Pope Francis is challenging the givens of our deeply unequal world — and helping inspire resistance to it.
A new exhortation from Pope Francis offers a wide-ranging condemnation of the economic gaps that divide us.
Sometimes you don’t have to say anything “new” to make news. Consider, for instance, the “apostolic exhortation” the Vatican released last Tuesday.
This statement from Pope Francis, observers note, didn’t really break any bold new theological ground. But the Pope’s exhortation, the first all his own since he stepped onto the world stage last March, still made front pages the world over — and fully merited all that attention.
What makes this new papal statement so significant? No global religious figure has likely ever before denounced economic inequality with as wide-ranging — and as accessible — an assault.
[I have been busy with other things, so not posting very much. It’s partly distraction, partly finding a different approach, wanting to give less power to the nonsense that passes for mainstream political and social commentary, and more power to important and sane things. I’ll probably post about it before too long. Also I have (yet) another idea on how to present my economics thoughts so they might attract some attention. I’ll share that at an appropriate time too.]
I realised, from reading and interacting with indigenous folk, that my recent Anthem words still lacked something important. Fortunately there was a line that could be readily modified to cover the need. Perhaps this version is ready to promote more widely. (You may share it freely, with attribution to me.)
[Another post from the Two Fires Festival , specifically here. I want to promote this more widely when I get a chance.]
Many people find the words of our national anthem, Advance Australia Fair, to be unsatisfactory, for various reasons, such as
• no mention of the First Australians
• too redolent of old British Empire attitudes (the original version was written in 1878).
• the land is to be owned and used, rather than being a wonder we preserve and a provider we care for and pass on
• the antiquated phrasing (and not just “girt”).