Newsletter No. 48 - August 2014
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1. Why Can't We Recognise The Future We Are Creating?
2. Violent Competition Could Destroy Humanity's Future
3. Will Scotland Become An Independent Nation?
4. Corrupt Corporate Power And Responses To It
5. Money and Banking
6. Good Work?
Item 1 draws attention to the urgent need to think about the future we are making for our civilisation, and the threat to the survival of our species. Item 2 points to some aspects of unrestrained international competition that could result in our self-destruction.
Item 3 notes some potentially progressive changes for its people and people elsewhere if Scotland achieves independence. Item 4 is about the worldwide disease of corrupt corporate power and the need to do something about it. Item 5 is about reforming money and banking.
Item 6 ends the newsletter with a hope for Good Work.
Many people around the world are trying to develop more co-operative and ecological ways of living and working that could be better for us and the planet. Those will be essential for human survival.
But it is also an essential condition that we change the present worldwide ways of organising our activities which prevent most people taking up those more caring ways of living and working.
1. WHY CAN'T WE RECOGNISE THE FUTURE WE ARE CREATING?
As George Monbiot concludes in Common Dreams, May 28, 2014 - www.commondreams.org/views/2014/05/28/impossibility-growth-demands-new-economic-system:
"The inescapable failure of a society built upon growth and its destruction of the Earth's living systems are the overwhelming facts of our existence. As a result they are mentioned almost nowhere. They are the 21st Century's great taboo, the subjects guaranteed to alienate your friends and neighbours. We live as if trapped inside a Sunday supplement: obsessed with fame, fashion and the three dreary staples of middle class conversation: recipes, renovations and resorts. Anything but the topic that demands our attention.
Statements of the bleeding obvious, the outcomes of basic arithmetic, are treated as exotic and unpardonable distractions, while the impossible proposition by which we live is regarded as so sane and normal and unremarkable that it isn't worthy of mention. That's how you measure the depth of this problem: by our inability even to discuss it."
Richard Heinberg presents the same problem less aggressively at www.postcarbon.org/article/2322907-two-realities.
We must overcome the present self-destructive escapism in leaders in almost all our walks of life. But how?
2. VIOLENT COMPETITION COULD DESTROY HUMANITY'S FUTURE
The centenary of The Great War (a.k.a. World War One) that broke out in August 1914 has prompted discussion of how it started, and whether the situation existing today could develop into World War Three. That is clearly a possibility.
However, the nature of this war could be very different. It would not only be a war between nations. It would probably also be a breakdown of law and order within nations, by individuals and groups with much easier access to modern firearms and other weapons now than a hundred years ago. That's how the Arab Spring appears to have resulted, except perhaps with a successful outcome in Tunisia, and except in Egypt where one dictatorial government has been replaced by another - see, for example, www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12813859.
Another World War could result from today's competitive relations between nations. A present example is the worsening relation between Russia and the European Union. One explanation for this is the attempt of the West to get Ukraine to join NATO and the European Union - see www.politicalcleanup.wordpress.com/2014/08/10/media-37-the-most-misrepresented-major-story-of-2014-the-gathering-crisis-between-russia-and-the-west.
The result is welcomed by the military industrial complex on both sides. The damage done by it to our human future extends very widely - see, for example, www.canadiandimension.com/articles/5890.
An important opportunity for international co-operation on behalf of our species will come up at COP21 (the 21st Conference of Parties) in Paris in December 2015. The need to prepare for a positive outcome is presented by the Campaign against Climate Change - www.campaigncc.org/COP21Paris - and by the Green Alliance - www.greenallianceblog.org.uk/2014/08/08/flaming-june-we-need-leadership-at-the-paris-climate-summit.
3. WILL SCOTLAND BE AN INDEPENDENT NATION?
Scotland will hold a referendum on 18 September. It will decide whether the outcome will be "Yes, Scotland will be independent" or "No, Better Together". Two debates have now been held between the leaders of both causes, leaving further argument to decide the outcome in just over three weeks' time.
If the result is independence for Scotland, two particular questions will be especially interesting: they are about money and nuclear weapons.
(1) Money. It hasn't been decided what currency an independent Scotland should use. My own suggestion about what a Scottish government should do is in my last newsletter - www.jamesrobertson.com/news-may14.htm#scotland.
(2) Nuclear Weapons. If Scotland becomes independent, its present government says it will stop providing a base for UK nuclear weapons. In the rest of the UK there are also serious doubts whether our future defence and foreign policies any longer justify the social and economic costs of nuclear weapons to ourselves.
4. CORRUPT CORPORATE POWER AND RESPONSES TO IT
(1) "Capitalistic and traditional societies are just not desirous of universal progress. This outright rejection of people by the wider berth of society is the root cause of almost all our problems. In India it is caste, and abroad it is class, isn't it?!" That is what the late outstanding Indian journalist Jehangir Pocha thought.
See www.politicalcleanup.wordpress.com/2014/07/13/the-root-cause-of-almost-all-our-problems-todays-contemptible-establishment-arrogance and also see
He was a fine person, and it is a great loss. I am truly grateful for having been in correspondence with him.
(2) "In the spin cycle that dominates our democracy, journalists and politicians are way too close."
and also see
(3) Does the Gates Foundation promote corporate power?
(4) "Scientists and economists no longer seek the truth". Has science become dishonourable? See www.politicalcleanup.wordpress.com/2014/08/06/has-science-has-become-a-dishonourable-profession.
(5) The political elite appears self-serving or serving vested interests: decisions are based on ideology, vested interest and the power of the lobby, not on the interests of the people affected.
Should Members of Parliament swear to serve the common good? A petition is proposed. See www.politicalcleanup.wordpress.com/2014/08/20/politics-has-been-brought-into-disrepute-mps-should-swear-to-serve-the-common-good.
(6) Local people can preserve the environment better than governments do:
"Research now seems to show that community forests have a significant role to play both in protecting biodiversity and in locking away carbon that could cause climate change ..... The trouble is that only a minority of forest dwellers get a chance to show how well they can manage their lands. Such communities have legal control of just an eighth of the world's forests."
5. MONEY AND BANKING
(1) The power to create money should only be used in the public interest, in a democratic, transparent and accountable way. A Petition to the UK Prime Minister to that effect will be found at www.positivemoney.org/?mailing=1.
(2) Quantitative Easing has been a misguided practice by the Bank of England (and other central banks). See HOW TO WASTE £375 BILLION at www.positivemoney.org/2014/06/waste-375-billion-failure-quantitative-easing-video.
(3) Thoughts from Stephen Zarlenga of the American Monetary Institute are at www.thomasattwood.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/a-conference-invitation-from-stephen-zarlenga.
For details of the AMI's 2014 Annual Conference (Oct 2-5 2014) see www.monetary.org/2014-conference.
(4) In an important lecture covering a wide range of issues relating to the banking industry, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, recently called on banks to take a broader approach to social values.
(I notice that the Archbishop has not so far referred to the recommendation made by his predecessor William Temple in 1942. It will be found at the end of Item 1 in my Newsletter No 47 of May this year - www.jamesrobertson.com/news-may14.htm#monetaryreform.)
6. GOOD WORK?
It is reported by the Archbishop of York's Living Wage Commission that more than 1 million people can be lifted out of low pay by 2020, with research showing this will have no adverse economic consequences. See more at www.archbishopofyork.org/articles.php/3109/living-wage-commission-reveals-blueprint-for-lifting-1m-out-of-low-pay.
On the other hand Paul Mason suggests that the young, skint and self-employed need a radical new labour market, and that will not be at all easy to achieve. See www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/20/young-skint-self-employed-new-labour-market.
Thirdly, John Endersby (Quaker Socialist Society) has written about common ownership companies - large and small - thriving all over the world:
The fact is that a Citizen's Income will help to solve all the problems that the three items above may suggest. In fact, together with two other reforms, a Citzen's Income would - as near as is humanly possible - solve all the major injustices and inefficiencies that modern economies systematically now inflict on their citizens in times of peace.
The following summary of those reforms is taken from page 140 of my book Future Money. (A pdf version of the book is available free to newsletter subscribers. If you are not already a subscriber, you can sign up here - www.jamesrobertson.com/subscribe.htm.)
"1. Provide the national money supply as a public service.
Stop the creation of money by commercial banks as profit-making debt and transfer responsibility to the central bank for creating money debt-free and giving it as public revenue to the elected government.
2. Develop other sources of revenue; shift taxes off 'goods' onto 'bads'.
(a) Reduce and eventually abolish taxes on value added, incomes and profits, which penalise useful work and enterprise.
(b) Replace those with taxes or charges on things and activities that subtract value from common resources. These will include taxes or charges on land-rent values and on the use or right to use other common (mainly environmental) resources and take into account the capacity of the environment to absorb pollution and waste.
3. Create a people-centred shift in public spending.
Introduce a Citizen's Income - a tax-free income paid to every man, woman and child as a right of citizenship. The additional costs will be met by reducing the costs of interest on government debt, of perverse subsidies, of contracting out the provision of public infrastructure and services to the commercial business and financial sector, and of public sector inefficiency and waste."
27 August 2014