Newsletter No. 42 - July 2013
Links to other Newsletters can be found here.
2. Manifestos for the UK General Election In May 2015
3. Money and Banking
4. Taxes and Basic Income
5. Food, Farming, Energy & Resilient Regional Economies
6. The Revolving Door
7. Some Upcoming Events
8. A Book Recommendation
9. Additions to the Website
10. A Cautionary Technical Note
For the electorate in the UK, it is now less than two years away from the next General Election and the foundations of the parties' manifestos are beginning to be laid down.
However the current political dogmas of capitalism and socialism are out of date. In today's one-world society we could destroy one another; and we threaten to destroy the natural environment and resources on which our survival depends. Neither capitalism nor socialism can tell us what to do now and how we should do it.
Changes in all our countries are needed that will reflect:
the aim of giving greater freedom, justice and responsibility - social and economic - to all citizens at personal, household, local and national levels; and
the aim of helping other countries to do the same, as co-operative rather than competitive members of our one-world society.
All the items in this newsletter should be understood as relevant to these changes.
2. MANIFESTOS FOR THE UK GENERAL ELECTION IN MAY 2015
Precisely 35 years ago, on 3rd July 1978, The Guardian published an extensive paper by Harford Thomas and myself. (Harford edited an "Alternatives" column for The Guardian at that time. He was a supportive colleague and a good friend of ours.)
The message of the paper was as follows:
"The manifestos for the general election need a new agenda.... Political parties suffer from institutional lag. They fall behind the pace of events. They fall back on old dogma. Yesterday's dogma is irrelevant today, and still more so for tomorrow. The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to suggest some necessary new directions for political thinking.... The old orthodoxies of growth economics are being questioned.... And new approaches to more satisfying ways of life are being explored. We think it urgent to get this new thinking into the mainstream of political debate."
The full text of that paper will be found at: www.jamesrobertson.com/article/alternativesarticle-guardian1978.pdf
Its message is still relevant today. The manifestos of political parties in the UK's May 2015 General Election must reflect new agendas; their party conferences must start preparing for them in September 2013.
The last few years of worldwide "Occupy" and "Spring" movements against undemocratic, corrupt, austerity policies have failed to result in positive change. Here are some reactions.
An optimistic outlook is expressed by a coalition of more than 30 groups in 13 European countries : see http://corporateeurope.org/blog/even-police-can-t-stop-first-signs-european-spring.
Leading Green UK politician Natalie Bennett takes what may be a more realistic view: see www.compassonline.org.uk/its-simple-our-current-economic-system-cant-be-repaired-it-must-be-replaced.
Grandparents for the Future are among many others who see the need to develop an ecological consciousness that will shape our lives and policies. See http://grandparentsforthefuture.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/ecology-developing-ecological-consciousness.
"Imagine it is 2030. Imagine we now live in a world where the transition to a just and resilient post carbon society has occurred so there is now real hope that catastrophic climate change will be avoided. How did this happen?" See www.theconversation.com/looking-back-from-2030-how-the-climate-war-was-won-14052. But isn't this just escapism?
Through NGOs such as Christian Aid, Publish What You Pay (PWYP), War on Want, Tax Justice Network, Oxfam and many others, can Civil Society develop the power needed to change the political agenda? Possibly. See http://localisewestmidlands.org.uk/2013/civil-society-chalks-up-its-first-success-in-the-twitter-age-shades-of-things-to-come.
But how can the unworkable basic assumptions of modern economies - such as the permanent need for "economic growth" (of what?) and "jobs for all" (doing what) - be replaced by up-to-date 21st-century insights? See "Working for a sane alternative" (26 June 2013) at www.ethicaleconomics.org.uk.
Finally, in preparing for the UK general election in 2015, Neal Lawson asks:
"Must politics disappoint? This is the public affairs question of our age. While our economy is still in crisis, and those who contributed least are paying the highest price, and more crucially, our environment is heading towards monumental disaster, how is anything ever going to change? ... The problem is that no one believes the desirable is feasible."
See www.compassonline.org.uk/the-failure-of-politics-wont-be-solved-by-single-issue-campaigners for his "new politics of hope - where formal and informal politics meet to make the impossible become possible once again and a good society more than a slogan".
3. MONEY AND BANKING
The world's political leaders must do much more to make the money and banking systems work in the interest of people and the planet.
(1) Mark Carney from Canada has just taken over from Mervyn King as Governor of the Bank of England amid speculation about what the change will mean.
In the past Mervyn King has recognised the failings of the banks as creators of the national money supply. But in practice he hasn't managed to cure the problem, and has been criticised for that.
For example, he has not used 'quantitative easing' to restructure the UK economy or start new industries.
Commenting on this, Prof Prem Sikka writes - www.theconversation.com/mervyn-kings-rosy-recovery-prediction-means-little-for-a-shattered-nation-14321 - "This money has been added to national debt - the only thing that citizens seem to own these days ... It has been mainly given to the banks and they have used it to bolster their balance sheets and pay high executive salaries . . . Wealth has been sucked upwards with the aid of state policies.... Equitable distribution of income and wealth is a key requirement for any sustained economic recovery, but it is not on the agenda of any major political party."
Meanwhile, "Mark Carney is facing his first problem" - see www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23137744. But how much will that matter remains to be seen.
(2) More Money for Banks from Taxpayers
A fees bonanza for Investment Banks is expected as preparation proceeds for the privatisation (sales to members of the public) of the shares in Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland that are now nationalised. Those sales are likely to be arranged with an eye to the 2015 General Election.
The Government will also be paying generous fees for privatising the publicly owned Royal Mail and selling it to members of the public. See www.efinancialnews.com/story/2013-05-23/royal-mail-ipo-investment-banking-bonanza.
(3) More Complex Regulation is proposed in a massive report on "Changing banking for good", published on 13th June 2013 by the Banking Standards Commission of the UK Parliament.
(a) Will their proposals ever be implemented?
(b) If they are, will they work successfuly?
The answer to both is probably No.
(4) After billions of public money have been spent unnecessarily and millions of people's lives worldwide have been badly damaged, our leaders will have to accept the obvious solution as inevitable: remove the privilege of creating the money supply as debt to themselves from commercial banks.
That proposal from Positive Money - www.positivemoney.org/our-proposals - is now getting increasing public attention as, for example, at www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/jeremy-warner/10107375/The-banking-revolution-that-would-wipe-out-Britains-debts.html.
4. TAXES AND BASIC INCOME
(1) Land Value and Other Property Taxes
"Economic rent refers to the societal surplus that flows to monopoly held assets like land, resources (oil, trees, water), the privilege to pollute, billboards, the stock market, the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum, agricultural quotas, taxi medallions, etc.
Though this wealth rightfully belongs to the community, it presently flows to private asset owners, forcing governments to damage the economy by taxing incomes and sales."
(2) Tax Justice
(2a) How Canada's banks help money to move in and out of tax havens - "Dirty money often goes through big banks". See www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2013/06/24/tax-havens-big-banks.html.
(2b) "Curbing corporate power and realigning political institutions to the needs and concerns of ordinary people should be on the agenda of G8, but regrettably it will not be and tax avoidance is likely to remain rampant." See www.political-cleanup.org/?p=7369.
(2c) "Following brilliant work from Jubilee coalition members ActionAid, Christian Aid and War on Want, among others, plus direct action campaigning from the likes of UK Uncut, tax was a major item on the G8's agenda. But while the declaration shows that tax is now a high-profile global justice issue, the G8 failed to pledge significant steps to tackle tax dodging."
For Christian Aid, also see www.christianaid.org.uk/ActNow/blog/june-2013/progress-but-theres-a-long-way-to-go-on-tax.aspx?.
(2d) Basic Income News - see http://binews.org.
5. FOOD, FARMING, ENERGY & RESILIENT REGIONAL ECONOMIES
(1) A convergence point between an increasingly self-defeating industrial food system, and an inexorably expanding global population is rapidly approaching, accelerated by the catastrophic decline in honeybees. See www.guardian.co.uk/environment/earth-insight/2013/jun/07/peak-soil-industrial-civilisation-eating-itself.
(2) For the dangers of factory farming, see http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?u=62434df9a66146b4fb4f8b14e&id =bf428693b9&e=8806806e68.
(3) Beware the schemes of GM farming - see www.political-cleanup.org/?p=7356 and www.political-cleanup.org/?p=7426.
(4) "Public, state and taxpayers' money is now being channelled the world over toward private equity funds seeking turbo-charged profits from the construction of substantial new infrastructure. The adverse political and economic consequences for the public good are profound and urgently need challenging." See www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/resources/results.
(5) The hidden dangers of fracking - see www.political-cleanup.org/?p=7340.
(6) Building strong regional economies - see www.localisewestmidlands.org.uk/2013/building-strong-regional-economies-schumacher-style.
6. THE REVOLVING DOOR
"Corporate power has turned Britain into a corrupt state.
Westminster lobbying is the least of it. Revolving-door colonisation of public life is a corrosive threat to democracy."
The practice of the revolving door between departments of government and big business naturally tends to distort the outcomes of government policy in an undemocratic direction.
7. SOME UPCOMING EVENTS
(1) 8 July, central London: Alternative Mansion House Speech, organised by nef (the new economics foundation). Two guest speakers:
John Ashton, former Special Representative for Climate Change (FCO)
Frances O'Grady, General Secretary, Trades Union Congress (TUC)
Book here - http://nef-mansionhousespeech.eventbrite.co.uk.
(I gave the first Alternative Mansion House Speech in 2000. See www. jamesrobertson.com/ne/alternativemansionhousespeech-2000.pdf.)
(2) 18-20th July, at Worcester College, Oxford: The Green Economics Institute Conference on Balancing the Global Economy! Greening the Global Economy! Healing the Global Economy! Reclaiming the Commons! Details at www.greeneconomics.org.uk/events2013/JulyGEIox20137.pdf.
(3) 24-28th July, central London: IU (International Union for Land Value Taxation) Conference 2013 - Economics for Conscious Evolution.
A wide range of topics about Land Value Tax (LVT) and global economic justice going beyond left and right to meet the needs of individual people and the community. They will include:
Land and Geo-Justice,
Critique of Current Financial Policies,
Climate Change and New Economics, and
Inequality: Cause and Cure.
Details at www.theiu.org/news/iu-conference-2013-economics-conscious-evolution-registration-open.html.
19-22 September, University Center, Chicago: 9th Annual AMI Monetary Reform Conference. Main theme: Implementing Monetary Reform now!
Details at www.monetary.org/2013schedule.html.
8. A BOOK RECOMMENDATION
Peter Reason & Melanie Newman, STORIES of the GREAT TURNING with a foreword by Joanna Macy, Vala Publishing Cooperative, 2013.
Sixteen stories are told by grass-roots activists about their experiences of transformations in their lives. Those are sandwiched between an "Introduction to the Story of the Book" and "Drawing Out Some Threads" by the editors. The book is then very interestingly rounded off by photos and summary biographies (fifteen lines or so) of the sixteen story tellers and five other contributors.
The book describes itself as
"a book of stories written by people who decided to act, in their own lives, in response to the challenges of our time, and found their own way to make a difference. They are not stories about celebrities or gurus of the environmental movement but honest accounts from people who share a concern for the world we live in and who, in the words of one of the contributors, "just got on with it"."
More information about the book will be found at www.valapublishers.coop/storiesofthegreatturning.
I recommend it whole-heartedly. In the context of this newsletter , it makes one think about the need for public policies that will encourage people to think " I can help to make the world a better place".
9. ADDITIONS TO THE WEBSITE
I've now had my three earliest books scanned - Reform of British Central Government (1971), Profit or People? The New Social Role of Money (1974) and Power, Money and Sex: Towards a New Social Balance (1976).
They are available as free pdf downloads from the Books page - www.jamesrobertson.com/books.htm - or by clicking the links below:
10. A CAUTIONARY TECHNICAL NOTE
Finally, a Cautionary Technical Note on emails addressed to me.
If you send messages to me at an address that includes the words 'website form' or 'sent by email@example.com', my system seems to divert them into a quarantine in case they may be spam.
That will mean they reach me a day late, and risk me not recognising them as genuine.
So, if you can, please make sure that you send your messages to me at the plain address james (at) jamesrobertson.com.
3 July 2013