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Newsletter No. 49 - December 2014

Links to previous Newsletters can be found here.

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CONTENTS

Editorial

1. Does The UK Need A Constitution?

2. Growing Support For Money System Reform

3. A Sensible View Of The UK Election In May

4. Private And Public Relations

5. Some Extras

6. A Future Event

PS. Plebgate

 

 

EDITORIAL

In recent months we have been learning more about space. We have seen - how the Rosetta spacecraft soft-landed Philae, its lander, on the Comet 7P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko after a ten-year journey through space - www.sci.esa.int/rosetta - and that it has been sending scientific information back to us. We have also heard - e.g. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141201100329.htm - that we are expanding our knowledge of the even wider cosmos.

At the same time we are being warned that the next 15 years may be critical for our own planet : "Without urgent action, global warming could exceed 4°C by the end of the century, with extreme and potentially irreversible impacts" - see www.newclimateeconomy.report.

In the UK we are reminded that the year 2015 will be the 800th Anniversary of Magna Carta, the document in which the English King John accepted constitutional rights and freedoms for his people. It has been suggested that we should adopt a new "magna carta" in tune with the present time.

There are also growing signs of recognition that our corrupt money system motivates and compels us to live and work in ways that will hasten our suicide as a species, and that its reform is urgent.

All those are part of the background in which, in the UK, we face the prospect of a national general election in May 2015. If we were a reasonably intelligent people, the outcome of that election would help us to co-operate with the other people on the planet to shift to the peaceful, more equal, ecological ways of living and working that are essential to human survival. Unfortunately that is unlikely to happen.

 

1. DOES THE UK NEED A CONSTITUTION?

At first sight this sounds a good idea but it involves questions like the following:

(1) The Political and Constitutional Reform Parliamentary Committee has launched a consultation on “A new Magna Carta?” - See www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/political-and-constitutional-reform-committee and www.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/projects/magna-carta. At present the UK has no codified constitution setting out the principles by which we are governed. Should we have a written constitution?

(2) The Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life is a quite separate enquiry - www.corab.org.uk/national.php. It has been set up to enquire into a wide range of questions like "Are the current systems of civil and criminal law in the UK satisfactory in relation to issues of religion and belief, and to the overlap between these and issues of race and ethnicity?".

So what should a written constitution say about religions?

(3) What should a democratic constitution specify?

For example:

(4) The UK Constitution is Changing

(a) Internal

The Scottish Referendum in September decided that Scotland would not become a fully independent nation but would remain part of the UK, at least for the time being. However, further devolution of power had to be granted to the Scottish government and parliament.

That has prompted discussion whether increased devolution of power should also be given to the national assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland, and also to parts of England such as Greater Manchester, Cornwall, and Yorkshire. See www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-29925105 and www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-29349919.

A constitution in the process of devolution will be difficult to define clearly.

(b) In Europe

If the Conservatives win the election in May, our present Prime Minister, David Cameron, has pledged that we will hold a referendum on whether we should stay in the European Union (EU). For background see www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/11231558/Britain-has-to-be-prepared-to-walk-away-from-the-EU.html and www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-26515129.

Again, this makes a written constitution for the UK difficult to define.

All these four points suggest that a written constitution may not be workable. Perhaps we need more practical proposals.

 

2. GROWING SUPPORT FOR MONEY SYSTEM REFORM

Under this heading, there are three different aspects to report. The first is about the routine way of creating the national money supply. The second is about the emergency way of creating new money (quantitative easing), which has grown up in recent years. The third is not about any specific money function but about reorganising the government department responsible for managing the national money system.

(1) How money is created

"Privileges of the private banking sector distort the economy" - see www.thomasattwood.wordpress.com/2014/10/21/privileges-of-the-private-banking-sector-distort-the-economy. (I suggest you read the text of this important letter in an influential international newspaper, without trying to download the link with the newspaper itself at the beginning. But the two links at the end of the item are worth looking at.)

"Martin Wolf, Financial Times: Stop Banks from Creating Money" - see www.positivemoney.org/2014/10/martin-wolf-financial-times-stop-banks-creating-money-video/?mc_cid=bbb672de8e&mc_eid=bf36e50636.

"A different economic model: 1 – money creation, a long-neglected question'" - see www.thomasattwood.wordpress.com/2014/11/26/a-different-economic-model-1-money-creation-a-long-neglected-question.

"UK parliament debated Money Creation and Society for first time in 170 years" - see www.positivemoney.org/2014/11/press-release-uk-parliament-debated-money-creation-first-time-170-years.

(2) A new way of using quantitative easing

"A green infrastructure initiative for jobs" (when creating new money) - see www.politicalcleanup.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/qe-for-environmental-technology-a-political-imperative-in-the-run-up-to-the-next-election.

(3) Breaking up the Treasury

"Break up the Treasury to tackle our major environmental challenges" - see www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/oct/06/break-up-the-treasury-to-tackle-our-major-environmental-challenges.

"The End of the Treasury: How breaking up the UK's most powerful department could change government for the better" - see www.nesta.org.uk/sites/default/files/end_of_treasury.pdf.

These are two interesting ideas. But I don't think splitting up the Treasury in one way or another would do the trick. It should concentrate on combining its practical functions more intelligently:

(1) in a reformed, democratically scaled down national money system,

(2) that will enable localities and individual people to take more charge of their own lives and work than today, and

(3) with both national and local money systems operating within a more democratically developed international money system that will serve all the people of the world more fairly than today.

In practice that would mean a combination on the following lines:

(1) providing 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) developing other sources of public revenue; shifting taxes off 'goods' onto 'bads'.

(a) reducing and eventually abolishing taxes on value added, incomes and profits, which penalise useful work and enterprise.

(b) replacing 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) creating a people-centred shift in public spending.

(a) introducing a Citizen's Income, a tax-free income paid to every man, woman and child as a right of citizenship.

(b) the additional cost will be met by reducing some of the costs of existing welfare, 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.

 

3. A SENSIBLE VIEW OF THE UK ELECTION IN MAY

I am not an active member of any political party. More and more people are becoming fed up with them all. For our coming election in six months time, it seems unlikely that any of the main parties will go in the right direction, either by themselves or in coalition.

(1) For an example of our future policy on energy, see two recent blogs from Jonathon Porritt. In September he wrote on "Pity the Prime Minister in his Energy Confusion"; one quote is that "the entire system has been rigged to ensure that only the highest-cost nuclear producers get a guaranteed, pretty much unlimited subsidy for decades, right royally screwing the consumer all the way down the line." See www.jonathonporritt.com/blog/pity-prime-minister-his-energy-confusion

In November Porritt was blogging again on "The UK's Ongoing Nuclear Fiasco" - www.jonathonporritt.com/blog/uk's-ongoing-nuclear-fiasco.

He ends his blog this time with "I sincerely hope that all those who did buy into that nuclear poke, however regretfully, will get punished at the General Election, by former Lib Dem voters casting their vote for the one party – the Green Party – that has remained steadfast in its principled, intelligent, forward-looking opposition to this nuclear nightmare".

Perhaps I shall find myself voting that way!

(2) “Voters are desperate for alternatives to the three business-as-usual parties. They understand our current model is broken, our economy and society are failing to meet our needs. The coalition has governed for those who think prestige and personal wealth is more important than fairness and a decent life for everyone. This government has allowed giant, tax-dodging, low-paying, exploitative multinational companies to act at the direct expense of individual workers and communities” - www.politicalcleanup.wordpress.com/2014/12/04/time-for-real-labour-to-stand-up-another-new-small-party.

(3) A Challenge to all UK Parties to make Britain Greener

Ten prominent environment and conservation organisations are calling on all political parties to adopt practical proposals for a greener Britain. They hope this will "serve to mark out the next parliament as a period where we have moved beyond the crisis, to a time when passing a better environment onto the next generation becomes a priority". See www.greenallianceblog.org.uk/2014/09/01/a-challenge-to-all-uk-parties-to-plan-for-a-greener-britain.

(4) "The Green Party is the only mainstream party committed to transforming our economy for the benefit of all". So says the Green Party itself - see www.politicalcleanup.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/why-the-furore-about-a-ukip-mp-and-not-the-equally-noteworthy-news-of-a-green-mp.

You must judge for yourself!

 

4. PRIVATE AND PUBLIC RELATIONS

(1) Britain's Pension System is falling apart

Britain's pension system used to be considered a model for others to follow. We had a strong retirement savings ethic, generous employer pension schemes and thriving private pensions. In fact, we had more being paid into pensions than the rest of Europe put together. But the system is now falling apart. See - www.politicalcleanup.wordpress.com/2014/11/28/britains-pension-system-is-falling-apart-failed-by-successive-governments-the-casino-stock-market-and-regulatory-bodies.

(2) Public and Private Partnerships

(a) Financing development or developing finance? The public sector tends to carry all the financial risks of a project, providing cash subsidies or guarantees of payment or revenue – 99% of the money paid to build the new hospital can be “public” money – while the financial profits extracted invariably go to the private sector - www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/resource/PPPs-extraction-wealth-gap.

(b) The People vs PFI: conference & campaign launch. It's time to stop private profit at public expense - www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/resource/people-vs-pfi-conference.

(3) We are in desperate need of honest politicians, dedicated only to the service of their constituents - www.politicalcleanup.wordpress.com/2014/10/04/boot-the-money-fixated-out-of-the-temple.

A full list of MPs with links to private healthcare firms - www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/selling-nhs-profit-full-list-4646154.

(4) Plutocratic Britain

www.politicalcleanup.wordpress.com/2014/10/13/plutocratic-britain-health-service-floor-staff-are-denied-a-1-rise-but-well-paid-mps-are-offered-9

(5) The tightening corporate grip on the British government

www.politicalcleanup.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/updating-our-special-friends-revolving-door-and-the-tightening-corporate-grip-on-the-british-government

 

5. SOME EXTRAS

(1) Climate Change Is Not The Whole Story

www.marketwatch.com/story/climate-change-isnt-the-problem-a-population-bomb-is-killing-us-2014-09-23

(2) Land Reform in Scotland

www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21099 and www.monbiot.com/2014/12/02/breaking-the-silence

(3) Localism Can Be Faked

www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/20894

 

6. A FUTURE EVENT

The European Society for Ecological Economics are holding their biennial conference in Leeds from 30 June to 3 July 2015.

The conference themes include:

•  post-growth economics

•  development, consumption and well-being

•  new business models and understandings of human behaviour.

More information here - www.esee2015.org/page/7/home.

 

PS. My postcript to Newsletter No.43 suggested that the absurd Plebgate story was likely to run and run. It has done - see www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24548645.

When will we hear how much it is costing the Taxpayer?

 

With my best wishes for the season and for 2015,

 

James Robertson

9 December 2014