Newsletter No. 46 - April 2014
Links to other Newsletters can be found here.
A New Website Item
2. Work - In Industrial Civilisation and After
3. Corporations Must Experience Austerity
4. Glimpses of a Possible Future
5. Money: Signs of Progress
6. More Good Sense
7. Two Recommended Blogs
8. Future Events in 2014
A NEW WEBSITE ITEM
My 1997 Footnote for Historians on Harold Macmillan's 1960 prime ministerial Wind of Change tour of Africa is now on the website. Please click here to read the background and access the document.
A theme of my Newsletter No 43 was that the business-as-usual world of today shows symptoms of "madness". The theme of this newsletter is similar, but for a change we can think of them as "short-sightedness".
The background is that a reliable new study has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution . See www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/mar/14/nasa-civilisation-irreversible-collapse-study-scientists.
Another report, from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), says that the effects of global warming are now being felt everywhere, fuelling potential food shortages, natural disasters and raising the risk of wars - see www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/31/us-climate-ipcc-idUSBREA2U00E20140331. This must be taken very seriously too, but without concentrating so narrowly on the problems of climate change that other threats to the future of civilisation, such as increasing economic and political inequality and injustice within and between nations, are ignored.
A third recent warning is that that non-renewable resources essential to our present ways of life are running out, and will lead by mid-century to stressful and far-reaching adjustments to our present unsustainable "industrial paradigm." See www.npg.org/library/press-releases/new-npg-paper-foresees-rising-scarcity-costs-non-renewable-natural-resources.html.
How is our short-sighted business-as-usual world facing up to these devastatingly serious threats?
And how can we turn it around?
2. WORK - IN INDUSTRIAL CIVILISATION AND AFTER
On 1st April George Osborne, the UK's Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, committed himself to fighting for full employment, and the Labour Opposition replied that he should have done so long ago - www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-26814423.
Without realising it they were making April fools of us - and also fools of themselves! They are not yet aware that, to meet coming worldwide conditions, radical changes will be needed in the future of work, as they are in the future of money and other important features of our present ways of life.
The fact is that many more people than now will have to be allowed to choose to work more freely in their own premises on the right things in the right ways for themselves and one another. That will greatly reduce the present overhead costs of organising work as employment - for example, the costs of the daily rush hour and the duplication of services and facilities in people's "work-places" as well as in their homes. And that will reduce the waste of the ecologically important resources our present way of working now consumes.
So there is fresh wisdom in my 1985 book Future Work. The book has the following four parts:
1. What Comes After the Employment Age?
2. Changing Perceptions of Work
3. The End of the Employment Empire
4. The Practicalities of the Transition.
See www.jamesrobertson.com/books.htm for more information about it and to download a pdf copy of the book.
Replacing much of the existing benefits system with a citizen's basic income will support this shift in the nature of work. See www.binews.org. Also see the Re-democratizing the Economy conference under Future Events (Item 8) below.
This liberation of work will have the further advantage of reducing the danger of violent social unrest from the increasingly unequal distribution of wealth and loss of freedom now imposed by the economy on people through no fault of their own.
Without a liberation of work, that danger could easily grow, especially when "the middle classes are being squeezed and stripped - of jobs, income and security - like never before".
See www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/recession/10633708/Downward-mobility-Lucy-Mangan-on-the-fall-of-the-middle-class.html and also David Boyle's blog at www.davidboyle.blogspot.co.uk.
An extreme example of what is wrong with the present way of organising work is reported at www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/business/industries/ banking/article4052893.ece.
At the other end of the spectrum, an extreme example is proposed at www.lifewithoutmoney.info. For details click on "CONTENTS", "AUTHORS", "FAQ", etc under the picture.
3. CORPORATIONS MUST EXPERIENCE AUSTERITY
(1) We Can't Afford Corporate Welfare
"A kind of reverse socialism has been created where the state transfers wealth to the well-off and punishes ordinary people. ... This welfare programme needs to be rolled-back." Prem Sikka gives some examples. See www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/prem-sikka/budget-2014-corporate-welfare_b_4986497.html.
(2) Grossly Unequal Economies
"In the grossly unequal British and American economies, where 1% own a large proportion of the national wealth, the 99% should also worry about their 1% democracy". See www. politicalcleanup.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/american-british-democracies-fit-only-for-the-1.
(3) Stop the Corporate Takeover of Africa's Food
The UK government is helping corporations to take over Africa's food. Under the guise of tackling hunger, initiatives like the G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition will help corporations to take control over Africa's land, seeds and markets - at the expense of small farmers. The World Development Movement (WDM) opposes the 21st century corporate scramble for Africa.
(4) Independence or Vested Interest of GM Scientists?
Despite its presentation as the work of 'independent' scientists, all the academics who produced a study calling for GM crops to be fast-tracked into Britain's farms and kitchens have links to the industry.
(5) "Corporations Hover over Greece"
"The UK arms industry, underwritten by the taxpayer via the Exports Credit Guarantee Department has - with other European exporters - saddled the Greek people with debts for military hardware. Greece will now be required to hand over the country's airports, ports, motorways, water and sewage systems to enrich the corporate world and its political allies" - www.politicalcleanup.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/in-a-world-tailored-for-the-few-corporations-hover-over-greece-held-captive-by-odious-debt.
4. GLIMPSES OF A POSSIBLE FUTURE
(1) A Greener Way: The Ethos of "Enoughness"
"Tragically, most organisations and indeed large sections of the general public are living in a fantasy world. They behave as if it were possible for society to continue on its present course without disaster. Even radical critics of the status quo focus too much on what, in the big picture, are comparatively minor matters. The overriding and all-embracing issue today is that the foundations of life on Earth are crumbling. The only truly realistic politics is one that primarily addresses that reality."
"The troublesome word 'sustainability' must be seen in holistic terms - spiritually, psychologically, culturally, economically and, of course, environmentally - and must embrace all the Earth's 'stakeholders', both its humans and non-human dependents."
The website www.agreenerway.info/wordpress/?page_id=45 reflects the thinking of a number of Green activists on Tyneside in the NE of England. They support the Green Party, though their views should not be taken as its official 'line'.
(2) The Commons as a Template for Transformation
"A robust transnational movement of commoners now consists of such diverse commons as seed-sharing cooperatives; communities of open source software programmers; localities that use alternative currencies to invigorate their economies; subsistence commons based on forests, fisheries, arable land, and wild game; and local food initiatives such as community-supported agriculture, Slow Food, and permaculture." See David Bollier's essay at www.greattransition.org/document/the-commons-as-a-template-for-transformation.
(3) Resilient Local Communities
"Community Land Trusts are powerful examples of people taking control and transforming the nature of their community. They are non-profit, community-based organisations run by volunteers that develop housing, workspaces, community facilities or other assets that meet the needs of the community, are owned and controlled by the community and are made available at permanently affordable levels." - www.communitylandtrusts.org.uk
5. MONEY: SIGNS OF PROGRESS
(1) "The truth is out: money is just an IOU, and the banks are rolling in it" -www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/18/truth-money-iou-bank-of-england-austerity.
(2) The relevant article from the Bank of England was published in the Bank's Quarterly Bulletin 2014 Q1 - www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/Documents/ quarterlybulletin/2014/qb14q1prereleasemoneycreation.pdf.
Also see www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvRAqR2pAgw.
(3) "There will be many people who don't care, there will be many more who don't understand, and there will be boatloads who refuse to believe it's true, but it still is."
"The Bank of England, in one single document, discredited, just at first count,
1) the majority of economics textbooks,
2) vast swaths of the entire field of economics, run as it is by economists educated by those same textbooks,
3) most governments' economic policies, designed by these economists,
4) much of its own work, also designed by the same economists,
5) Paul Krugman and
6) the 'committee' that hands Krugman and his ilk their Not-So-Nobel Prizes."
It does indeed discredit many importantly influential people. We must make sure they accept it.
(4) Positive Money reported on the Bank of England article at www.positivemoney.org/2014/03/bank-england-money-money-creation-modern-economy.
Positive Money now has a fast-growing, enthusiastic supporter-base. It is now recruiting a Network Coordinator.
6. MORE GOOD SENSE
(1) Green Budget Europe
Some wise quotations from 2013. See www.foes.de/media/GBE-News/GBE-News-32.htm.
(2) Eradicating Ecocide Global Initiative
"Ecocide law is known as a 'law for life'- a law that puts people and planet first, a law that says 'enough, no more mass damage and destruction."
"When we do that, humanity places the health and well-being of all beings both now and in the future at the forefront of our decision-making. It is a law that affirms humanity's right to life, nature's right to life and future generations right to life." See www.eradicatingecocide.com.
(3) Why are NGOs afraid to talk about the direct link between rising population and environmental disasters?
"Given that about 80% of people here in the UK believe population growth to be an important issue, you do wonder what the problem with today's NGO leaders might be - apart from collective blindness and an understandable but gutless desire to avoid controversy."
See Jonathon Porritt's important discussion at www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2014/ mar/07/environment-groups-problem-population.
7. TWO RECOMMENDED BLOGS
David Boyle -
www.davidboyle.blogspot.co.uk (also see www.newweather.org/projects/how-to-re-bank-the-uk-effectively).
Charles Bazlinton - www.the-free-lunch.blogspot.co.uk.
8. FUTURE EVENTS IN 2014
8-11 May, Budapest. Simpol at Integral Europe Conference - www.neweranetwork.info/2014/03/22/news-from-john-bunzl-4.
22-23 May, Hamburg. International Conference on Financial Services, 2014. Theme: "Perverse incentives in financial services?" Details at www.iff-hamburg.de/index.php.
6 June, Central London. Citizen's Income Conference: a solid foundation for tomorrow's benefits system. For details, see www.citizensincome.org.
26-29 June, Montreal. BIEN (Basic Income Earth Network) Congress - Re-democratizing the Economy. Details at www.biencanada.ca/congress/re-democratizing-the-economy.
9-11 July, Oxford University. 9th Annual Green Economics Institute, Green Economics Conference. See www.greeneconomics.org.uk/events2014/ oxfordflyer14sided28nopics12.pdf .
2-5 October, Chicago. Annual American Monetary Institute Reform Conference. See www.monetary.org/2014schedule.html.
10 April 2014