Since 2001, UK consumption seems to have fallen in spite of rising economic growth. If true, this ‘decoupling’ of consumption from growth offers hope to a world running low on natural resources. Eating less, buying digital products and re-use may have something to do with this.
It is unlikely, however, that many other countries can follow this path. Better, then, to remind all that economic growth does not lead to happiness. Once this is accepted, we can downsize without getting down in the mouth. We need only ensure those workers reliant on our consumption are safeguarded: even if we pay them to write poetry, it would be better than paying them to produce things we do not truly want or need.
The calorific intake of Britons has been falling for around 40 years.
The UK is expected to block a proposed EU-wide tax on financial transactions, unless it is applied worldwide (which it won’t be, due to US politicians serving business interests and not the interests of their people).
Most of these transactions are nothing to do with wealth creation but are transfer payments from poor to rich and from worker to owner. They are a drag on the real economy and hugely destabilising.
Even though a transactions tax may help divert capitalism from its self-destructive path, those addicted to gambling and greed seem hell-bent on going down with the ship.
The tax would hit the City of London hard, but it would still help Britain as a whole.
What of the tribute lights over Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where 80 men, women and children have been killed for every victim of 9/11?
Illuminating: the site of the Twin Towers in Lower Manhattan.
If we are to run a system of global free trade (and I’m not certain that we should), then it make sense that the various factors of production – land, labour, capital and enterprise – should be as mobile as possible. Okay, land is pretty much fixed, but the other three, right? According to capitalist economic theory, the answer is yes. But ‘capitalism’ is run by the capitalists, and for them it makes no sense.
Rich people want to be able to send their money around the world to find the cheapest labour to exploit – one country at a time. If labour were allowed to move freely, wages would begin to equalise and the game would be up for the rich. Hence they convince us to support closed borders by drumming up fear and using the sense of nationalism they created at the dawn of the industrial revolution. And we let them.
Border controls: keeping the world poor and the rich rich.
Carbon pricing forces the worst polluters to reform and generates revenue for green projects. This win-win measure has already come to Costa Rica, Denmark and Sweden. If Australia is next, will it eventually become a mainstream global environmental policy?
Our choice for the new generation: a green future or a dim future.
Adam Smith’s invisible hand does not drive the market toward optimal solutions – it drives capitalists to invest close to home where they can keep an eye on their money. Along with Keynes and just about every other economist, Smith is frequently misunderstood and misrepresented by those with a policy to sell.
Useful reminders of a bygone age…
On 21 January 2009, President Barack Obama signed an executive order ‘requiring that the Guantanamo Bay detention facility be closed within a year.’ No ifs, no buts, just closed. CNN called it ‘a clean break from the Bush administration.’ On the same day he hailed a ‘new era of openness’: ‘every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information, but those who seek to make it known,’ said he. Then along came Wikileaks.
Nope. Obama campaign poster, from Anthony Baker on Flickr.