Economics

What’s it all about, Oxfam?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/02/2018 - 8:11am in

We
should seize this opportunity to re-examine the future of foreign aid.

Haiti:
Oxfam latrines and sanitation facilities. Credit: Flickr/ Kateryna Perus/Oxfam.
CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

The public heat generated by Oxfam’s scandal is focused on
three issues. First, the absolute importance of protecting vulnerable people—project
beneficiaries and collaborators, staff and volunteers; second, accusations of
hubris, arrogance and self-serving behaviour by aid agencies; and third, the
bigger questions of whether and how aid makes a difference. How are these issues connected?

The mechanisms required to protect
vulnerable people from being preyed on by staff who abuse their positions of
power (in any sector) are well-known: more care and better vetting in
recruitment, including a mandatory phone call to previous employers; more open
whistle-blowing policies; better induction and training of staff; an emphasis on
clearly articulated and modelled ethics; and a commitment by managers to act
swiftly and decisively, and steer away from impunity.

Although the aid sector can and should
work collectively on an informal basis to strengthen these mechanisms and
attributes, I think it’s a mistake to establish global regulations or a
mandatory database of international development workers, because the sector isn’t
really a single entity in the way that (perhaps) medicine is, and because of
the messy, unpredictable, international nature of aid. How, for example, is a
young woman in the Philippines supposed to register as an aid worker before the
disaster which leads to her recruitment even happens? I also fear that external
regulations can be the enemy of the proper internalisation and ownership of
ethics.

On the second issue of self-serving corporate
behaviour and hubris, there is clearly a problem, but it isn’t quite as simple
as portrayed in the media. Aid agencies have long backed themselves into a
corner by claiming in their marketing and fundraising that they have ‘the
solution’ to poverty, and the public, despite being far too intelligent to
think that poverty can be so easily ‘solved,’ have willingly gone along with
this narrative.  

When a willing buyer (the donor) and a
willing seller (the charity) are both intentionally vague about the product they’re
trading, they create a problem of accountability. So a flawed accountability
loop has developed: you give me your money and I’ll take care of the problem while
you continue to live your privileged lives. The seller is thus encouraged to
create and sustain a narrative in which those who give money are making a
difference through the charity’s actions—and to go to enormous lengths to protect this
narrative when the real world threatens to undermine it.

Hence, a narrative has emerged of
western charities ‘saving’ and even ‘transforming’ non-western lives. The
narrative is an integral part of the model, so it can only be changed by
disrupting that model. The interest generated by the current Oxfam story gives
us an opportunity to do so, but that means looking at the third question:
whether and how aid makes a difference.

Let’s divide aid into two categories for
the sake of simple analysis: emergency aid and development aid. If providing
help in natural or man-made emergencies is by no means easy, the task is
relatively simple to define. There is a need to mobilise quickly, save and
stabilise lives, and provide basic services to sustain and restore those who
have been affected so that they can rebuild their lives.

This should, of course, be carried out
with all due care and attention so as to avoid the kinds of unintended negative
consequences illustrated by the Oxfam scandal and described by Matthew Green in
an excellent article in the Financial
Times
. It is also increasingly understood that conceptualising and
preparing for post-disaster reconstruction should start as soon as possible,
with the idea of “building
back better
” to create a new, more resilient baseline in terms of
disaster-prevention and -preparedness, human rights fulfilment, fairness, empowerment
and governance. This takes us into the realm of development aid.

Here, we have a real problem. To explore
it we first need to separate development from development aid. The word ‘development’
is thrown around as if we all know and agree on what it means; all too often it
is used as shorthand for aid. Orwell was right
that jargon inhibits clear-eyed analysis, so let’s replace ‘development’ with
‘progress.’

As soon as we do this, the problem becomes
clearer. Perhaps with the exception of ‘religion’, ‘progress’ is the most
disputed concept in the world. It’s what politics seldom agrees on, whether
ideologically (left and right) or on an issue by issue basis, as in how best to
provide health care, for example, or whether to subsidise farming, or if it’s
worth destroying hundreds of acres of forest to mine potash, iron or gold; or perhaps
even whether to leave the European Union. So questions of development are
political questions.

Should a country like Uganda use its
limited fiscal resources to provide a mediocre quality of primary schooling to
all children free of charge, or should it focus on shepherding a smaller number
of brighter children through a better education system so they can play a
leading role in politics, business and public service, and thus build a
platform for further progress? How should a poor rural community allocate its
farming land—only to those of the dominant language group or also to those who
have migrated there from other districts? Should daughters as well as sons inherit
land? Is stability more likely to improve children’s prospects, or should communities
opt for a more risky process of transformative change?

These are not primarily questions about
aid. They are typical, political questions about progress. And like most
political questions they don’t have simple, normative answers. Nevertheless,
they are important questions that do need answers, and which the political
system in a country like Uganda may choose to answer in ways that people in other
countries might disagree with, absent as they are from Ugandan politics and
social dynamics.

The challenge for outsiders therefore—whether
the UN, western governments or foreign NGOs —is how to play a legitimate political
role without overstepping the boundaries of interference. This is probably hardest
for western governments, who at one time, for example, were funding half the Ugandan
Government’s budget.

Legitimacy is perhaps a little simpler
for foreign NGOs, at least in principle, because they operate on a much smaller
scale and with less power to abuse. Nevertheless, it’s a critical challenge they
must contend with. It’s hard to see how most Haitians would view Oxfam—and  by extension other foreign NGOs—as having much
legitimacy after what has come out in the past two weeks.

But legitimacy is a subtle and complex
notion; it’s not just about interpersonal behaviour and respect. What’s welcomed
from foreign NGOs by local activists might be condemned as interference by their
government—as current
debates in Russia demonstrate
. I once asked a Ugandan activist if the
international organisation I represented could legitimately engage in political
advocacy there. His answer was simple: pick the right issues and be effective,
and you’ll be legitimate. So, for him at least, relevance and effectiveness confer
legitimacy.

The more foreign NGOs see themselves as
activist agents of specific, contextually relevant change (and not just as service
deliverers), the more they’ll need to recruit leaders—preferably  citizens of the country concerned—who see themselves as activists too, within the
fabric of indigenous civil society and politics. But they should go further. Challenging
the status quo implies an element of risk, so to increase their legitimacy
foreign NGOs also need to be ready to take risks, including the risk they will
be closed down by the authorities even if this disrupts their organisational
interests.

Historians dispute the process of
development or progress just as much as planners and politicians. So even from
a vantage point in the future, it will be hard to know how and why change
happened in a country like Uganda, and even harder to know how change will happen —and therefore how best foreign
NGOs might contribute. So the Oxfams of the world must take an active part in,
and support local groups to take part in, debates about these matters within civil
society, holding up their own ideas and plans to scrutiny, and sharing lessons
learned to further enrich the conversation. This can have the added benefit of
helping to expand the scope of public debate and politics from questions of
representation to questions of participation—to the policies governments should
follow and the visions of the future around which societies might cohere.

One way donors can help in this process is
by moving away from models of funding which assume that cause and effect can be
predetermined with confidence, and that consultation and political engagement
can be carried out on the cheap. The same applies to Oxfam and its public
narratives: by creating and sustaining the pretence that it knows what is needed, how to provide it, and how its interventions
will work without unintended consequences, the aid sector risks denying itself
the posture and resources—and perhaps even the legitimacy—to contribute to
progress where it can.

Thus, Michael
Edwards is right
that it isn’t gratuitous to link the Oxfam story to wider
questions about aid. Indeed, surely we should seize this opportunity to do so.

Sideboxes
Related stories: 

What’s to be done with Oxfam, part 2?

What’s to be done with Oxfam?

Peace writ large: peacebuilding works, but we may need to shout about it more

Rights: 

CC by NC 4.0

Science and the quest for truth

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/02/2018 - 5:01am in

Tags 

Economics

In my view, scientific theories are not to be considered ‘true’ or ‘false.’ In constructing such a theory, we are not trying to get at the truth, or even to approximate to it: rather, we are trying to organize our thoughts and observations in a useful manner. Robert Aumann   What a handy view of […]

Master Mo and Pareto Improvement

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/02/2018 - 1:41am in

Tags 

Economics

When people first came into being and before there were governments or laws, each person followed their own norm [yi; or righteousness] for deciding what was right and wrong…Within families, there was resentment and hatred between fathers and sons…Throughout the world, people used water, fire, and poison to harm and injure one another, to the point where if they had strength to spare, they would not use it to help each other, if they had excess goods, they would leave them to rot away rather than distribute to another, and if they had helpful teachings, they would hide them away rather than teach them to one another…The chaos that ruled in the world was like what one finds among the birds and beasts.” Mozi, Chapter 11, p. 65 (translated Ivanhoe)

I would like to return (recall) to Master Mo's description of the state of nature. Because in teaching the passage (quoted above), I noted a nice feature about it that had escaped my notice before. (I get to that in a moment.) For Master Mo the state of nature is characterized by thoroughgoing normative disagreement that also generates a nasty war against all (including within the family) that he takes to be characteristic of animal behavior.

One of the illustrations of the chaos that ensues absent thee norm-unification that is a consequence of polities and law is the claim that in the state of nature people are willing to see their excess goods go to waste rather than "distribute it to another." This amount to the claim that in the state of nature people will reject so-called Pareto improvements. For "a Pareto improvement occurs when a change in allocation harms no one and helps at least one person, given an initial allocation of goods for a set of persons."

A Pareto improvement is often treated as an obvious principle, maybe even a minimal principle of (social) rationality. (To be sure, Pareto efficiency/optimality is not treated as so obvious.) And it has intuitive attraction for recognizing that a state of affairs is better than another when at least one person is better off and nobody is harmed (regardless of the criterion).

What Master Mo here discerns is that Pareto improvements are only no-brainers if one assumes shared norms in the background. Shared norms are absent in his version of the state of nature. Master Mo's point can be made plausible if we recognize that absent agreement over what counts as 'better' or 'worse,' the claim that there is a Pareto improvement is (to use a different register) merely formal. In fact, in practice, often there is an element of stipulation in what is counted in an distributional exercise in which Pareto improvements are appealed to.The Mozi argument makes clear that the very fact of such stipulation means that some meta-coordination problem about norms has already been solved. 
 
One may suspect that Master Mo's argument relies on unduly pessimistic view of human nature. But all Master Mo needs is that people have an intrinsic disposition toward moral reflection or reactive attitudes without that being sufficient for generating agreement over norms/morality. That strikes me as rather  minimal commitment. He does not require that people get pleasure out of,say, seeing harvests going to waste (and folk dying in misery).
 
Of course, it also seems to follow that Master Mo thinks that inside political life, Pareto improvements can be uncontroversial. And this fact explains their seeming obviousness. So, in virtue of the fact that a meta-coordination problem has been solved -- that is, a legitimate political order which is is constitutive of norms --, Pareto improvements are self-evident.

Mental Health & Neoliberalism event video

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/02/2018 - 9:29pm in

Can today’s crisis in mental health be seen as the result of neoliberalism? We asked the panelists to reflect on the aftermath of the 2007/08 financial crisis and the austerity policies which followed, but then to engage with how the slashing of expenditure on public services and increase in private debt has been met with questions around whether these factors are exacerbating mental health problems.

This event titled, ‘Mental Health and Neoliberalism’, sought to situate the growing awareness of psychological distress in relation to such exogenous cultural and economic structures of oppression, but also examine how new technologies may be amplifying certain self-obsessive psychological states, such as attention and feedback addiction from social media and mobile devices.

Each speaker gave a presentation of their research on this topic, before engaging in a Q&A with the audience.

Event chair: Lucy Crimmens

Panel: Dr William Davies Co-director of Political Economy Research Centre, Goldsmiths University, Author of The Happiness Industry: How the Government sold us well-being

Dr Ruth Cain Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Kent Medical Ethics and Law, Mental Health Law

Dr Jay Watts Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Psychotherapist, Writer and Activist

Video director & editor: Conor Hinds Flyer & graphic design: Tyler Parry

The post Mental Health & Neoliberalism event video appeared first on Political Economy Research Centre.

Annals of commerce: product downgrades

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/02/2018 - 3:26pm in

Not everything you buy is getting better. Here are a couple of pet peeves:

I. Unfinished cast iron cookware

Cast iron skillets have been popular for decades. Properly seasoned and cared for, they last pretty much forever, are easy to clean, and are especially good at browning meat owing to the Maillard reaction that is catalyzed by iron. They used to be made with two well established technologies. The first is sand casting, and it’s the same way the engine block of your car is made. First, a wood pattern is made in the shape of the desired pan, but larger by about 1/8″ per foot because the pan will shrink as it cools. This pattern is embedded in damp sand in a mold with two parts, removed without disturbing the sand, and molten iron is run into the space it leaves.

The result of this process is a (1) rough casting with a very scrabbly surface of mill scale, ready to machine to the required dimensions and finish (the second technology). Back in the day, the skillet was (2) put on a lathe and  the inside turned to a perfectly flat inner bottom and smooth sides. This removes the hard, sandy layer on top and exposes the cast iron. You can find these pans at garage sales and on Ebay, and if they’re not too old and used, you can still see the spiral track of the lathe tool on the pan.

The skillet you will find today at your hardware store is probably Lodge, a company that used to make its wares correctly, but they have discovered a wonderful way to cut corners: just skip step (2), give the rough casting a coat of black paint, and call it “pre-seasoned”!  Here is what a new skillet made this way looks like.

You might make this smooth trying to get your fried eggs off it with metal spatulas–after a century or so.   

There is a workaround, but most people aren’t equipped to execute it. My lathe isn’t big enough to chuck a 12″ pan even with the gap bed open, so I broke out the angle grinder with a coarse flap wheel and cleaned it up the hard way.

Wear eye protection!  A second pass with a finer grit wheel left this finish:

The fine scratches are not a problem, and all the exposed surface is clean cast iron:

Here’s what such a pan looks like after a couple of months’ use:

Now you just have to season it for real, which is not a big mystery,simply a matter of heating it up with a generous coating of cooking oil to frying temperature and letting it cool. Never wash it with detergent, just hot water and the least aggressive scrubbing pad that works, first choice plastic.  If it gets rust spots, just sand it and do the hot oil thing again, and keep cooking (always with an oil coating).

If you can get an old one used, and Ebay has lots, that’s probably the best move. If it isn’t seriously pitted, all it needs is a light sanding to be ready for another century.

These guys seem to have it right (haven’t seen one up close, but the pictures look OK) however at a very hefty price, and “lighter” is not necessarily a virtue for cast iron, whose mass and thermal inertia is a feature, not a bug.

II. Men’s trousers…

properly made, as they have been since I’ve been wearing them, have a zipper about eight inches long. My favorite haberdasher (Costco, of course) now seems to stock chinos with only 6″ zippers, which are really awkward for their intended use. 8″ zippers cost a little more than a dime; how many pennies per pair can this sleazy trick save?

 

التونسيون يعترضون على قرارات صندوق النقد الدولي

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/02/2018 - 12:11pm in

يبرز
نضال الطبقة العاملة التونسية ضدّ الفقر
والفساد والبطالة الآن أكثر من أيّ وقت مضى. English

Tunis. January 2018. Ines Mahmoud. All rights reserved. Tunis. January 2018. Ines Mahmoud. All rights reserved.ها هي شوارع تونس تضجّ من جديد بالمطالب الداعية إلى الحرية والكرامة والعدالة، وهي المطالب نفسها التي أدّت إلى إسقاط
حكم بن علي المستبدّ منذ سبعة أعوام.

طفح
كيل الناس من إجراءات التقشف التي فُرضت حديثاً وخرجوا بسخطهم إلى الشوارع لبعث رسالة واضحة إلى الحكومة. وسط
التحضير لتظاهرة وطنية حاشدة في ٢٦ كانون الثاني/يناير، لم يسبق لنضال الطبقة
العاملة التونسية ضدّ الفقر والفساد والبطالة أن كان بهذا العزم.

انطلقت حملة جديدة واسعة بعنوان "فاش نستناو؟" (ما الذي ننتظره؟) على مواقع التواصل الاجتماعي
للاحتجاج على سياسات الحكومات الليبرالية الجديدة. 

تشمل المطالب تخفيض أسعار السلع الأساسية ووضع حدّ
لخصخصة المؤسسات الرسمية وتشجيع التعليم المجاني وتقديم الرعاية الصحية والاجتماعية
للعاطلين عن العمل وتأمين الرعاية الاجتماعية والسكن للأُسر ذات الدخل المنخفض.

خلال الأسابيع الأولى، حشد التحرّك أعداداً كبيرة في
جميع أنحاء البلاد وعمّت التظاهرات كافّة شوارع تونس. لكنّها قوبلت بالقمع الشديد،
فاعتُقل حوالي ٨٠٠ متظاهر وناشط وقُتل
متظاهر واحد.

في ١ كانون الثاني/يناير٢٠١٨، دخل قانون المالية الجديد حيّز التنفيذ وشمل ارتفاعاً في أسعار السلع الأساسية
مثل الطعام والكهرباء والغاز وتقليصاً للتوظيف في القطاع العام وزيادة للضريبة على
القيمة المضافة.

غالباً ما يُشاد بتونس باعتبارها المثال الساطع
للـ"الثورات العربية". لكن، في الواقع، قلّما تغيّر الوضع منذ عام ٢٠١١،
خصوصاً على الصعيد الاقتصادي.

لا تزال معدّلات البطالة كما كانت قبل الثورة (١٥،٢% بين الرجال و٢٢،٨% بين
النساء). تراجع اقتصاد البلاد المتهاوي أصلاً والذي يعتمد بشكل كبير على السياحة بعد
الهجمات الإرهابية عام ٢٠١٥. استمرّ ارتفاع التضخم وسجّل سعر تداول الدينار التونسي
انخفاضاً قياسياً في ٨ كانون الثاني/يناير ٢٠١٨، فبلغ ٣،٠١١ مقابل
اليورو.

لتحقيق النموّ الاقتصادي، تعتمد الحكومة الليبرالية
الجديدة التي يقودها حزب النهضة الإسلامي ونظيره نداء تونس، وهما حزبان يضمّان
إجمالاً النخب السياسية من نظام بن علي الدكتاتوري، بشكل كبير على الاستثمارات
الأجنبية والخصخصة.

في كانون الأول/ديسمبر ٢٠١٧، عندما أُدرجت تونس على قائمة الاتحاد الأوروبي السوداء للملاذات الضريبية التي تضمّ ١٧ دولة
أخرى، قرّرت الحكومة الامتثال كلياً لشروط صندوق النقد الدولي وتطبيق إجراءات تقشف صارمة
للحصول على القسط الثاني من قرض بقيمة ٢،٩ مليار دولار تمّت الموافقة عليه عام ٢٠١٦. بالتالي، اقترح الاتحاد الأوروبي منذ فترة وجيزة شطب
تونس من القائمة السوداء.

Tunis. January 2018. Manich Msamah. Public Domain. Tunis. January 2018. Manich Msamah. Public Domain.انتقد نشطاء من الجبهة الشعبية والاتحاد العام لطلبة
تونس والمجتمع المدني وحركات اجتماعية مختلفة إجراءات التقشف التي فرضتها الحكومة
وشروط قرض صندوق النقد الدولي في بيانهم الصحفي الأول المشترك الذي جاء فيه ما يلي:

"كافة الحكومات
المتعاقبة على تونس بعد ١٤ كانون الثاني/يناير لم تقُم إلّا بتكريس الخيارات
الاقتصادية والاجتماعية نفسها لنظام بن علي، ما زال الأغنياء يزدادون ثراء
والفقراء يزدادون فقراً (...) لقد سئمنا الوعود الكاذبة ولم يعُد بإمكاننا
الانتظار، لم يعُد بإمكاننا العيش من دون تغطية اجتماعية ومن دون رعاية صحية مجانية
وتعليم مجاني وسكن اجتماعي. لم يعُد بإمكاننا العيش من دون أمل في التغيير".

قالت وردة عتيق، طالبة وناشطة من الاتحاد العام لطلبة تونس وإحدى
مؤسسي تحرّك "فاش نستناو؟"، إنّ تاريخ إطلاق
الحملة اختير بسبب رمزيته السياسية. منذ ٣٤ عاماً، في ٣ كانون الثاني/يناير ١٩٨٤،
بلغت انتفاضات الخبز أوجها في تونس.

حتى
آنذاك، كان ارتفاع سعر الخبز والسلع الأساسية الأخرى ناجماً عن إجراءات التقشف
التي تسبّبت بها شروط قرض من صندوق النقد الدولي كانت حكومة الدكتاتور السابق
الحبيب بورقيبة قد أخذته.

قالت:
"ما زلنا نسدّد ديون بن علي لصندوق النقد الدولي". برأيها، لم تستفد
الطبقة العاملة في تونس من هذا القرض بل على العكس، "ساءت الأوضاع  الاجتماعية في أعقابه".

يرفض
الطالب والناشط المستقلّ في تحرّك "فاش
نستناو؟" وفي حملة محاربة الفساد "منيش مسامح" حمزة عبيدي قرض
صندوق النقد الدولي ويقول: "بمجرّد النظر إلى تجارب الدول التي اتّبعت
إملاءات صندوق النقد الدولي مثل اليونان، نجد أنّ اقتصاداتها عانَت".

بعد إصدار البيان، أُنشئت مجموعات على فيسبوك لتنظيم
تظاهرات في جميع أنحاء البلاد. لكنّ ردّ الفعل العنيف على الحملة حدث بالتزامن
معها.

أفاد وائل نوعر من تحرّك
"فاش نستناو؟": "عندما بدأ
نشطاؤنا بتوزيع البيان في مناطقهم وبرسم شعارنا بالغرافيتي في الشوارع، واجهوا
مضايقات كثيرة من الشرطة وحصلت أكثر من ٥٠ عملية اعتقال في أقلّ من ٤٨ ساعة".

Tunis. January 2018. Ines Mahmoud. All rights reserved. Tunis. January 2018. Ines Mahmoud. All rights reserved.في ٤ كانون الثاني/يناير، اندلعت التظاهرات في القيروان
وتونس وصفاقس وبن عروس وسوسة. منذ ذلك الحين، امتدّت إلى مناطق القصرين وأريانة
ومنوبة والكاف وتالا وسيدي بوزيد والقفصة والقابس ونابل والكاف والكبيلي وسيليانة
المنستير والمهدية وباجة. حصلت التظاهرات الأكبر في المناطق الأكثر تضرراً من
الفقر مثل سيدي بوزيد.

أدّت تظاهرات كثيرة إلى مواجهة مع الشرطة وحُطّمت سيارات
الطبقة الوسطى واقتُحمت السوبرماركات. منذ ذلك الحين، تُقابل التظاهرات بعنف من الشرطة
والغاز المسيل للدموع واعتقالات عديدة.

في
ليلة ٨ كانون الثاني/يناير في مدينة طبربة، قُتل
المتظاهر خمسي يفرني، وتأزّم الوضع عندها. وفق الحكومة، توفّي من جرّاء مشاكل في
التنفّس أثارها الغاز المسيل للدموع. لكنّ الصور التي تداولتها وسائل التواصل الاجتماعي تظهر دهس سيارة شرطة لخمسي. مع ذلك
لا يزال تقرير التشريح غير متاح للشعب.

مع انتشار أخبار الشهيد الأوّل، دعا النشطاء من تحرّك "فاش
نستناو؟" وحملة "منيش مسامح" إلى تظاهرة في العاصمة في اليوم
التالي.

"منيش مسامح" تحرّك يحارب الفساد ويناضل ضدّ
مشروع قانون المصالحة الذي منح العفو للبيروقراطيين الذين استفادوا بشكل ممنهج من الفساد تحت نظام بن علي
الدكتاتوري.

قال هيثم جواسمي من تحرّك "منيش مسامح":
"تظاهرنا في الشوارع ضدّ عنف الشرطة"، مضيفاً: "سنعود إلى الشارع
للاحتجاج ضدّ إفلات قتلة الشهداء من العقاب خلال ثورة ٢٠١٠ - ٢٠١١".

سارع مسؤولون في الحكومة وفي الإعلام الشعبي إلى نشر
الغضب ضدّ الثورات التي حصلت ليلة ٨ كانون الثاني/يناير. في اليوم التالي، أعلن
رئيس الوزراء يوسف شاهد أنّ "ما حصل اليوم الماضي لم يكُن مظاهرة وإنّما
تخريب وتهجّم". يضمن القانون حقّ التظاهر، ولكن "في الدول
الديمقراطية"، يجب ألّا يتظاهر الناس في الليل.

أدان حسين
الجزيري من حزب النهضة التظاهرات ولقّب النشطاء اليساريين المسؤولين عن الحركة بـ"الطبقة
البورجوازية الحقيرة" التي يجب أن توقف "دعايتها الإيديولوجية".

في بيان علني، أدان نور الدين طبوبي، الأمين العام للاتحاد العام لطلبة تونس، تدمير
الممتلكات بهذه الشراسة. لكنّ الأحزاب السياسية اليسارية مثل الجبهة الشعبية
والتيار نشرت
بيانات داعمة للحملة السياسية وداعيةً المتظاهرين إلى الامتناع عن ارتكاب أعمال
العنف. ناهيك عن التعبئة في الشوارع، يركّز تحرّك
"فاش نستناو؟" على الحملة الإعلامية.
بالإضافة إلى إيصال مطالب أعضائه عبر وسائل الإعلام البديلة، يدافع التحرّك عن
مواقفهم ضدّ أعضاء الحكومة في مواجهات مباشرة في البرامج التلفيزيونية.

Tunis. January 2018. Ines Mahmoud. All rights reserved. Tunis. January 2018. Ines Mahmoud. All rights reserved.شدّد عبيدي الذي دافع مؤخراً عن مواقف تحرّك "فاش
نستناو؟" في نقاش مُتلفز مع مهدي بن غربية على أهمية المواجهات العلنية مع
الحكومة على التلفيزيون الوطني.

يختلف الوضع اليوم عمّا كان عليه خلال انتفاضة ٢٠١١ إذ
أنّ التونسيين يتمتّعون بحقوق ديمقراطية أكثر على الصعيد السياسي. أضافت عتيق:
"يمكننا اليوم الظهور على التلفيزيون والتعبير عن آرائنا والتظاهر في الشوارع
وعقد اجتماعات سياسية".

برأي النشطاء، تظلّل محاولة تجريم المتظاهرين عبر
التركيز العلني على االشغب والتخريب في ساعات الليل التحرّكات المسالمة التي تجري خلال
النهار. 

أمّا نوعر، فيعتقد أنّه ثمة مسلسل من إستراتيجيات تشويه
سمعة الثورة التي كان ينتهجها نظام بن علي المستبدّ. أضاف عبيدي: "استناداً
إلى بعض الأحداث، تحاول الحكومة تجريم التظاهرات وتُواجه كلّ حملة ينظّمها الشباب
في تونس باستمرار باتهامات زائفة بالتدمير والتخريب".

 في ١٠ كانون الثاني/يناير، بعد أن أحرق المتظاهرون مبنى أمني في تالة قرب الحدود مع الجزائر، نشرت الحكومة
جنودها في كيبيلي وبيزرت وسوسة لحماية المباني الحكومية. بعدها، وقعت اشتباكات عنيفة وعدّة اعتقالات واستمرّت
في الليل. اعتُقل أحمد ساسي، خرّيج في الفلسفة وناشط مشهور في الاتحاد العام لطلبة
تونس، من أمام منزله. فطالب نشطاء من "فاش نستناو؟" بإطلاق سراحه
ونظّموا تظاهرة أمام المحكمة في العاصمة تونس حيث كان يواجه تُهمة "إثارة
الشغب". لحسن الحظّ، أُطلق سراحه بعد يومين.

Tunis. January 2018. Ines Mahmoud. All rights reserved. Tunis. January 2018. Ines Mahmoud. All rights reserved.في ١٢ كانون الثاني/يناير، نظّمت الحملة التظاهرة
الوطنية الرسمية الأولى. في العاصمة، رفع المتظاهرون بطاقات صفراء للتحذير من
الحكومة، منادين بشعارات مثل "أيتها الحكومة الاستعمارية، نحن نتظاهر في وضح
النهار!"
و"الشعب يريد إسقاط الفساد!"
و"الشعب يريد إنهاء التقشف!"

في الأعوام الماضية، كانت الحكومة التونسية تتّبع خطاب
"المنطق الاقتصادي" لتمرير القوانين مثل مشروع قانون العفو، مبرّرة ذلك
بتقوية الاقتصاد الوطني وتشجيع الاستثمارات الأجنبية. لكنّ التظاهرات الأخيرة
أثبتت أنّ هذه الحجّة لم تعُد كافية ولا ترضي الشعب.

تظهر عمليات الحشد الأخيرة أنّ تأثير التنظيم السياسي
يتخطّى الأحزاب البرلمانية وأنّ التقليل من شأن مثل هذه التحرّكات غير صائب.

قال الناشط جواسمي: "يمثّل تحرّك "منيش
مسامح" استمرارية التحركات الاجتماعية في تونس. أُنشئت تحرّكات كثيرة قبلنا
وستُنشأ غيرها بعدنا".

أضاف عبيدي: "حشد تحرّك "منيش مسامح" ١٥ ألف شخص في الشوارع ونبني خبرة كنشطاء ونتعرّف على بعضنا أكثر ونطوّر أفكاراً
واستراتيجيات ونكبر معاً".

Tunis. January 2018. Ines Mahmoud. All rights reserved. Tunis. January 2018. Ines Mahmoud. All rights reserved.بدأ التحرّك بجمع معلومات
عن مئات المتظاهرين الذين سجنتهم الحكومة مؤخراً ويجري تنظيم حملة للمعتقلين مع تحرّك "حاسبهم" الذي يعارض القانون البوليسي في تونس منذ عام ٢٠١٥.

حتى اليوم، تخطّى عدد
المعتقلين السياسيين ٨٠٠ امرأة ورجل تتراوح أعمارهم بين ١٥ و ٢٥ عاماً. يُجمع
النشطاء على أنّ التظاهرات ترمي إلى تحقيق المطالب الاقتصادية والاجتماعية التي
ذكروها في بيانهم الأوّلي.

يتوقّع نوعر ثلاثة
سيناريوهات محتملة:

قد تكون الحكومة مستعدّة
للحوار مع الشعب ولإعادة النظر في قوانين التقشف الجديدة أو قد تلجأ إلى قمع
التظاهرات عبر فرض حظر التجوّل والقيام بالمزيد من الاعتقالات، ما قد يعيق المسار
الديمقراطي للبلاد بشكل خطير. أمّا السيناريو الثالث، فهو تظاهر الحكومة بأنّها
غير دارية بالمطالب، ما قد يدفع الشعب إلى المطالبة بالإطاحة بالحكومة من جديد.

أضافت
عتيق أنّ عدم إدراك الحكومة بأنّ التظاهرات الأخيرة ليست مجرّد اضطرابات يمكن
بلسمتها عبر تغيير السياسة الاقتصادية من دون تحسين وضع الطبقة العاملة سيحوّل
شعار "الخبز والماء وبن علي لا!" الذي نادى به الشعب عام٢٠١١ إلى
"الخبز والماء والنهضة ونداء تونس لا!"

Sideboxes
Related stories: 

من جمال باشا إلى عفرين: سرديّات متصارعة على شاشة التلفاز

ما بقي لي من حلب

مصر: جريمة مسجد الروضة قد تتكرر

هل سيتوقف الانتظار يوماً ما؟

كيف سيحذف الطفل السوري صورة فقره من محركات البحث؟

عن تعدد الوقائع، والعبث الدامي بالحقيقة

بين الفقدان وآثار الحرب.. حكايا الأيتام السوريين في تركيا

ذكوريتي التي غلبت إنسانيتي

Country or region: 

Tunisia

Topics: 

Civil society

Conflict

Democracy and government

Economics

Rights: 

CC by NC 4.0

South Australian power: pay most to buy, or most to supply. Why?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/02/2018 - 9:40am in

Tags 

Economics

If so, by 'squeezing' any generators into even more intermittent supply, are they making the whole SA power supply system more expensive.

So, How is the World Ruled?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/02/2018 - 4:45am in

Well, judge by yourself.

Sep. 28, 2017.

Billionaire Donald Trump promises to cut his own taxes:

(source)
Dec. 21, 2017.

Not to be outdone, Australian Treasurer announces corporate tax cuts to the richest Australian companies:

(source)
Last Wednesday Feb. 14, Emma Alberici, ABC chief economics correspondent, pens this article:

(source)
Go ahead, click the link. Let me guess: it didn't work, did it? :-)

Never mind. The smiling guy in the photo is Alan Joyce, Qantas CEO. Even before the Morrison announcement, he had plenty reasons to smile, wrote Alberici: his company has paid no taxes (no taxes as in nada, nothing, zilch, zero) in 10 years, as they cut wages to their staff, but give him pay rises willy-nilly. Alberici thinks the tax cuts won’t bring any real benefits to the nation: “Tax rates don't matter if you're not paying tax”.

The same day, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (reputedly Australia’s richest politician and a former Goldman Sachs partner) has a tantrum during question time:

(source)
Later Turnbull and his minions complain to Alberici’s employer about her article.

The ABC, a property of the Australian State, dependent on federal funding which Morrison allocates through the federal budget, denies they removed the article because some CEOs of the wealthiest corporations operating in Australia and the richest Australian politician were not happy with it. The ABC managing director, Michelle Guthrie, is a former high flying corporate lawyer.

Lefty columnists wrote in support of Alberici. Unlike her article, theirs remained online: their employers do not depend on federal funding.

----------
But you can still read Alberici’s article here (do read it, if for no other reason, to make Turnbull mad).

So, how is the world ruled? By vested interests or through an honest contest of ideas?

Australian Unions complement Alberici's report (go there):

(source)

Marx and Keynes on the contradictions of capitalism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/02/2018 - 12:56am in

Tags 

Economics

Each capitalist, Marx noted, has an ambiguous relation to the workers. On the one hand, she wants the workers she employs to have low wages, since that makes for high profits. On the other hand, she wants all other workers to have high wages, since that makes for high demand for her products. Although it is […]

Sacrifice zones in rural and non-metro USA: fertile soil for authoritarian populism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/02/2018 - 7:36pm in

Sacrifice zones –
abandoned, economically shattered places – are spreading in historically white
rural areas and small towns across the United States. Rural decline fosters
regressive authoritarian politics. 

lead Mississippi in 2010. Photograph taken by the author. All rights reserved. This
is the fourth article in a series on ‘confronting authoritarian populism and
the rural world’, linked to the Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative (
ERPI). The article opening the series can be read here.

‘The United States is
coming to resemble two separate countries, one rural and one urban,’ political
analyst David Graham proclaimed in a 2017 article in The Atlantic. Viewing the map of 2016 presidential election
results, it is hard to avoid a similar conclusion. Donald Trump carried over
2,500 largely rural counties and Hillary Clinton, who won the popular vote, less
than 500 mostly urban ones.

The ‘two countries’
thesis echoes scholars of uneven development going back decades, from Michael
Lipton’s study of ‘urban bias’ to Cynthia Duncan’s Worlds Apart and – more recently – Katherine Cramer’s The Politics of Resentment. Too often now, though, ‘rural’ has become a
synecdoche for ‘Trump voters,’ ‘working-class’ or ‘white’ – misrepresentations that
Samantha Bee demolished in hilarious video interviews with small-town
minority voters. In fact, Trump voters had a higher median
income
than
Clinton voters, reflecting backing among affluent whites without university
degrees, many of them business owners in suburban counties. In fact, Trump voters had a higher median
income than Clinton voters.

Multiple studies point
to racial resentment as the strongest predictor of voting for
Trump’s brand of bigotry, faux populism and economic nationalism. Racial anger
intensified in the lead-up to 2016 not just because the US had an African
American president, but also from an accelerated decomposition of community
life and livelihoods that many whites worried could reduce them to what they
imagined as the level of Blacks and other minorities.

It drew on a deep
historical well of entrenched racism and anti-Native and anti-Black violence. These whites feared that the hopelessness and
decay of the country’s rural and urban ‘sacrifice zones’ was spreading. Chris Hedges described ‘sacrifice zones’ as places where ‘the
marketplace rules without constraints, where human beings and the natural world
are used and then discarded to maximize profit’.

Economic and political transformations

White
privilege
had many dimensions  –  decent wages in largely industrial employment,
defined-benefits pensions, seemingly permanent jobs  – but these began to unravel in the neoliberal
1980s and imploded during the Great Recession of 2008.

The punditry and media
didn’t grasp the enormity of these transformations because so many analyses
were piecemeal, examining home foreclosures but not the opioid epidemic, or
deindustrialization and unemployment, but not the disappearance of
locally-owned financial institutions.

They also failed to
place US decline
in global and historical perspective
, rarely asking why in one of the richest
nations people did not enjoy the right to health or a dignified retirement.

After the mid-1970s wages decoupled
from productivity

gains and stagnated. Internationally, the key factor was the mid-1970s collapse
of the Bretton Woods framework, which since 1944 had promoted protected
national economies, and the subsequent ‘opening up’ of international finance
and trade. Domestically, attacks on unions, particularly once Ronald Reagan
became president in 1981, further eroded workers’ bargaining power.

Income and wealth
inequality soared. By 2016, 63 percent of
Americans
didn’t
have enough savings to cover a $500 emergency. Today, nine million have zero cash income. The divide had a pronounced racial dimension.
In 2014, the median earnings gap between black and white men, which narrowed sharply
in 1940-1970, was larger than in 1950. In 2014, the
median earnings gap between black and white men was larger than in 1950.

One striking finding
of Cramer’s Politics of Resentment was that rural Wisconsinites viewed the 2008
Great Recession as ‘unremarkable’. They had been living in a recession for
decades. The economic precarity of low-income Americans is such that the cost of a car repair may initiate a downward spiral that culminates
in job loss and even homelessness. Nationally, residential foreclosures – 383,037 in 2006 – climbed rapidly, with
around one million each year in 2009-2012. The cumulative impact was devastating,
as families doubled up with relatives, went on the road, or moved to shelters.

Rural sacrifice zones

Some features of US
sacrifice zones are specifically rural. The 1980s saw the worst farm crisis since the 1930s depression. Petroleum and
fertilizer costs skyrocketed, grain prices plummeted, and interest rates climbed,
as monetary policies sought to dampen inflation and loans were called in. The
rapid consolidation of input and machinery suppliers, and in the processing,
brokering and exporting of key commodities, allowed a handful of giant corporations to garner a rising share of the total
value-added between the farm gate and the consumer.

Survivors of the 1980s
suffered a second crisis in the past five years, following the end of
the commodities boom of the 2000s. In 2013-2016 US farmers and ranchers
experienced a 52 percent drop in real net farm income, the largest
three-year decline since the 1930s depression. Over
half
of farm households now lose money on farming. As farmers again go bankrupt, the multiplier
effects further destabilize local economies.

Populist demagogues like Trump blame job
loss exclusively on free trade and factory flight:  their liberal critics also cite automation.
But financialization has clearly been a central factor. In the 1980s leveraged
buyout specialists loaded companies with debt, dismembered them, slashed wages
and pensions, and cashed out. One small-town Ohio manufacturer even ordered
executives to live elsewhere
, ‘so they wouldn’t be troubled by requests for
civic involvement or charitable contributions’. Buyout
specialists loaded companies with debt, dismembered them, slashed wages and
pensions, and cashed out.

Big investors also
targeted mutually-owned banks
, which long powered small-town economies.
Directors often donated to local institutions and sometimes made loans based on
trust rather than credit scores. As giant financial institutions took over,
they sucked wealth out of communities, instituting stricter lending criteria, undermining
small businesses, creating ‘banking deserts’, and forcing the newly un-banked into
high-cost check cashing outlets and payday lenders, themselves frequently financed by large banks. During 2008-2016, rural areas, which have
less access to broadband and Internet banking, saw 86 new banking
deserts
.

Like mutual banks, cooperatives and credit unions that reinvested locally the
wealth communities produced had constituted a bulwark against rapacious
corporations and financial institutions. Of the 3,346 agricultural cooperatives – grain elevators and packing houses, among
others – that existed in 2000, 1,350 closed by 2015. Of the more than 8,000 credit unions in 2007, over two thousand closed by 2017.

Family-owned stores
and diners on small-town Main Streets were sites of human contact, invested
profits locally, and provided income and employment for farm and other rural
households. As malls and chain stores proliferated, such businesses withered from
relentless competition. Fewer small businesses means less ad revenue for local
newspapers, thousands of which closed in recent decades, some succumbing to the
Internet and others to the same financialization that was strangling industries and banks.

More recently,
low-wage retail and service jobs in chains and malls began to disappear because of e-commerce.
Empty storefronts and malls and vanished newspapers are not just signs of job
loss and economic precarity. Inhabitants of sacrifice zones read them as stark,
painful reminders of abandonment and a shredded social fabric.

The human toll

In recent decades, federal
and state governments have removed funding from social services of all kinds. Rural hospital closures doubled between 2011-12
and 2013-14. Post offices are closing too. They have long been lifelines for
rural people, serving as meeting places, delivering essential medicines,
information, and human contact.

Because
property taxes are a main source of education funding, when tax bases and
populations decline, schools – typically centers of small-town sociality –
close, cut back or consolidate with
adjacent districts. Thirty percent of all school closures nationwide in 2011-12
were in rural areas. Most recently, the Trump administration let funding lapse
for community health centers used by 26 million
Americans.

As once vital
communities and neighbourhoods hollowed out, losing their institutions and the
capacity to appropriate the wealth that they produce, despair and anxiety
triggered violence and addiction. Economist Umair Haque, in a trenchant essay on the ‘social
pathologies of collapse’ – school shootings, the opioid epidemic, ‘nomadic retirees’ who live in their cars and work low-wage jobs, and the normalization of indifference – concludes
that ‘we are grossly underestimating what pundits call the “human toll”’.

The scale of the
opioid problem – and of the physical and emotional pain behind it – is
staggering. In 2015, some 92 million or
38 percent

of US adults used prescription opioids, with 11.5 million (4.7 percent)
reporting misuse. In 2008-2017 drug companies shipped 20.8 million opioid pills to just two pharmacies in one
town – population 2,900 – in largely rural West Virginia. Drug overdoses now kill more people than gun violence and
auto accidents combined. Drug overdoses now kill
more people than gun violence and auto accidents combined.

Angry politics in shattered communities and
white suburbs

In the 2016 election Trump performed
best
in counties
with the highest drug, alcohol and suicide mortality rates. In 2017, for the
second year in a row, life expectancy in the US fell, in significant part because of
opioid overdoses and other ‘deaths of despair’. Farmers, in particular, are killing themselves in record numbers.

Trump discerned the
anger, fear and alienation in the sacrifice zones, but directed his racist,
anti-immigrant harangues only at their white inhabitants. His country-club racism, off-hand authoritarianism, simple-minded
nationalism, overblown promises, and claims to be a ‘strong leader’ resonate in shattered communities, as well as among nouveau-riche entrepreneurs and well-to-do
white suburbanites, many of whom bought Republican claims about ‘burdensome’
regulation of business and were uneasy that their heretofore monochromatic
communities were being ‘invaded’ by affluent immigrants and people of colour.

Trump repeatedly
pathologised non-white inhabitants of the sacrifice zones, deploying age-old
right-wing tropes about ‘undeserving’ minorities that in turn served to justify
the traditional conservative agenda of shrinking government and protecting the
interests of the super-rich. Governments appeared unable or unwilling to
address the convergence of multiple crises –employment, housing, education, health,
decaying communities – and this revived memories of past broken promises,
including those of neoliberal Democratic administrations. This feeling of
abandonment, along with downward mobility, made white rural Americans receptive
to a candidate who cast
himself as an ‘outsider’
.

Challenging questions

In
the Emancipatory Rural
Politics Initiative
, activists and researchers are debating pressing
questions.

Should
the resistance in the US try to win over Trump supporters, or is it better to work
on combatting voter suppression, particularly of minorities, fighting for
campaign finance reform, and mobilizing the vast numbers that abstain from electoral
participation? In the #MeToo-Stormy Daniels moment, will white evangelical and white women voters drop their support for
the crude, misogynist, philandering president? Or does having a pliable, if
mercurial, conservative, racist ally in the White House trump all other
considerations?

To
what degree is global and US authoritarian populism a façade for a state-led project
that invokes ‘family values’, retrograde forms of masculinity and
heteronormativity, and an exclusionary vision of the nation in order to exacerbate
social divisions, roll back social conquests, and intensify exploitation of
human beings and the environment? Is it possible to re-legitimize the public
sphere and public investment, funded by progressive taxation, to create a stable
and more just society that provides opportunities for all? Are they taking shape as a global authoritarian populist
axis?

To
what extent are the world’s autocrats – Trump, Duterte, Erdoğan, Modi, Orbán, Putin,
among others – simply a mutually reinforcing collection of erratic rulers? Or are they taking
shape as a global
authoritarian populist axis
? And finally, can movements in different
countries learn from each other to resist the authoritarian wave?

Sideboxes
'Read On' Sidebox: 

The Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative (ERPI) was launched during 2017 as a response to the rise of authoritarian populism
in different parts of the world. Our focus is on the rural origins and
consequences of authoritarian populism, as well as the forms of
resistance and variety of alternatives that are emerging.
 
In March 2018, a major ERPI event will
be held in The Hague, the Netherlands, bringing together around 300
researchers and activists from across five continents. ERPI small grant
holders will present research insights and debates will focus on
mobilizing alternatives, generating new research-activist networks
across the world.   
 
You can also follow updates from ERPI on Twitter and Facebook.

Related stories: 

Confronting authoritarian populism: the rural dimension

Hindu authoritarianism and agrarian distress

Why #DefendAfrin? Confronting authoritarian populism with radical democracy

Country or region: 

United States

Topics: 

Civil society

Conflict

Culture

Democracy and government

Economics

Equality

International politics

Rights: 

CC by NC 4.0

Pages