neoliberalism

Which way from here? That depends on where we want to go. Our choices now will determine our future.

Sign on a fence with and arrow logo and the word votePhoto via PxHere

We are in the last few days of the election campaign. An election which, without doubt, will be a defining one for the future of this country and possibly even the planet. It will determine whether we carry on with the economic and political status quo or whether we choose a different path towards a socially just and fairer economic system which also addresses as a matter of priority the challenges posed to the future survival of our species.  Growing political unrest caused by the last forty years of market-driven dogma has created huge wealth inequalities and is driving dangerous right-wing populism worldwide.

This might be just a national election, but the world is watching. Where we put our X in the voting booth this time around will be crucial. It matters as never before.

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote:

“For the duty of the truly democratic politician is just to see that people are not destitute; for destitution is the cause of deterioration of democracy’

Of course, he lived in a time very different to our own, but he believed that the best form of democracy was one with a more equal income distribution and that greater economic equality would increase the stability of the state and thus that of citizens.

The State has a crucial role to play in serving the public purpose or in other words creating the fundamental frameworks for a healthy society and economy which benefits everyone.  However, for the last forty and more years, economic power has become increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few people. This has been facilitated by successive governments whose policies have been informed by an ideologically based dogma of privatisation, deregulation and an emphasis on ‘sound finance’ which, over the last nine years, has been at the heart of Conservative austerity.

It has also been enabled by politicians who have acted less in the service of the nation and more in the interests of corporations and excessively wealthy people who have influenced government policies in their favour through a network of lobbying and special advisors. Democracy has been undermined by those with the power and wealth to influence politicians and a media which continues to play a huge role in that subversion.

The ideological premise of trickle-down has been that the rich are the wealth creators, that tax cuts encourage investment in the economy and jobs which benefit working people and then, in their turn, brings in taxes to pay for our public services. We have been deceived with the lie trotted out over the years and even during this election campaign by Conservative ministers and even some on the progressive left that our public services are dependent on bringing in tax revenue. When in fact it is quite the reverse.

A healthy economy and all that means, from citizens having access to good education, quality healthcare and a protective welfare system, (not to mention other vital public services or businesses which rely on access to an educated and healthy workforce and the physical infrastructure for their businesses to flourish) depends on a government which has made a political decision to invest sufficiently in that public and social infrastructure to benefit both today’s and tomorrow’s citizens. It does not depend on a government checking on whether there is enough in the public purse to do so.

For well over a year now, GIMMS has charted the consequences of austerity in its MMT blogs. Yet, now we are now witnessing on a daily basis, like never before, its damaging effects on the very foundations of economic and social life.

Economic data published last month showed that the services sector slowed in the last quarter and the manufacturing and construction sectors contracted in November. The economy just avoided recession, with the weakest growth in a decade.  Whilst clearly the uncertainty over Brexit will have played a part, cuts in government spending over the last 9 years will have also played a significant role as businesses lose investment confidence and households tighten their belts due to rising household debt.

A study published by the Office for National Statistics on 5th December 2019 found that whilst Britain’s total wealth grew by 13% between 2016 and 2018, the wealth of the richest 10% increased four times faster than those of the poorest 10%. It also found that the poorest 10% of households had debts three times larger than their assets, compared with the richest 10% who have accumulated a stash of wealth which was 35 times larger than their total debts. The Wealth and Assets Survey carried out by the ONS also showed that in 2018 the top 10% finished up with 45% of national wealth while the poorest 10% held just 2%.

The shocking data underlines the growing wealth divide. A divide between those at the top who barely noticed the 2008 Global Financial Crash (or indeed profited from it) and those on low incomes whose real earnings have barely risen since the crash and who have seen their economic share of productivity decrease over decades. The very people who have paid the real price for austerity have, in fact, suffered a double whammy.  They not only are facing an enormous and increasing burden of household debt (putting huge stress on their finances exacerbated for those on low incomes and in precarious employment), but they are also reaping the consequences of brutal cuts to the public service sector.

Huge inequalities that have arisen as a result of the pursuit of this pernicious market-focused ideology along with a deceitful balanced public accounts narrative have not only driven a steam roller through our public services and vital welfare systems but have also impoverished millions leaving them floundering in insecure and low paid employment.

In the week that the Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson apologised for backing the Coalition’s austerity policies during the Coalition years and whose economic spokesman claimed in a speech very recently that they are the only party of ‘sound finance’ (which sounds very much like more of the same), the news has been ever more damning about its consequences for the lives of working people, families, children and the elderly and our public infrastructure.

Shelter’s ‘Generational Homeless’ report found that a child becomes homeless every eight minutes; that’s 183 children losing their homes every day. It found that at least 135,000 children will be living in temporary accommodation on Christmas day.

‘Life in a B&B is horrible. There’s no room to do anything. I’ve been told off … for running in the small corridor. You can’t do much, you can’t play much. I don’t get to play that much. Sometimes me and my little brother Harry fight for the one chair because we both want to sit at the table. I find it really hard to do my homework’ says Will whose family was made homeless and now lives in a single room in a bed and breakfast in Ilford.

A leading charity Action for Children warned this week that some of the youngest children are facing a childhood crisis as almost one million under 10s from low-income families face a bleak Christmas lacking basics such as a heated home, warm winter coat or fresh food.

Research from the charity shows that after a decade of austerity and ongoing problems with universal credit, parents below the breadline are able to spend just £2 a day per child on food and struggle to afford nutritious food which is vital for their health and development.

The Dispatches programme ‘Growing up Poor; Britain’s breadline kids’ which aired on Channel 4 earlier this week exemplified the shocking poverty that exists in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Children sleeping in their coats in the middle of winter because they can’t afford heating; parents counting the pennies to see if there is enough money to feed the meter; a family living in Cambridge surviving on £5 a day in a wealthy city that houses eight of the 2000 food banks that have been set up across the UK in the last decade to alleviate hunger; and a teenager Danielle who is studying for her GCEs and self-harming housed with her family in a bedsit, with no savings and relying on a local soup kitchen and food bank to survive.

This is happening in 21st century Britain and yet it feels like we are being transported in Dr Who’s Tardis back to the streets of Dickensian times.  Our children are being denied a future by a government which has put balancing the public accounts above the health of the nation, its children who represent the future and the environment upon which they will depend for their survival.

At a hustings last week, the Conservative MP John Whittingdale was applauded by the audience when he claimed that Labour had left the economy in a perilous state and close to bankruptcy. Perpetuating the lie that austerity had been necessary to get the public finances in order, he said that careful economic management by the Conservatives meant that they could now spend on the NHS, policing and education. No acknowledgement was made about the damage that austerity had caused to our public services; those on low incomes and in insecure working; the huge rise in homelessness or the 73% increase in supplies being distributed in the 2000 food banks across the UK; the increasing numbers of hospital admissions for scurvy, vitamin D deficiency and other maladies associated with economy inequality and child food poverty; and no mention of the systemic problems with welfare reforms and the introduction of Universal Credit, along with a punitive assessment system which have led to many deaths.

We must continue to challenge the false assumptions about how modern monetary systems operate and demonstrate to the public that contrary to common belief government spending is not constrained by monetary resources.

Tackling existing and future inequality and saving the planet will not be constrained by the state of the public accounts or the national debt or whether government can raise sufficient tax or borrow on the markets but rather how it will manage the finite resources it has at its disposal to create the public frameworks and infrastructure to sustain a healthy economy and environment.

It is both a moral question about how a civilised nation should behave towards its neighbours near or far and how we organise our societies to create the optimum environment for all to live with dignity and without fear.

It is regrettable that creating fear and hate has been the modus operandi of governments, extreme political movements and the press. Without a fundamental shift in our attitudes we cannot hope to make the radical changes we need to create a fairer society and more importantly to survive.  A challenge to the political and economic status quo is vital if we care about our children’s future and that of many others around the world.

To reiterate the final paragraph in last week’s MMT Lens:

What are we so afraid of? A better future for our children? A more sustainable and fairer economy for all? Indeed, a planet for us to live and breathe on? What is not to like?

 

Join our mailing list

If you would like GIMMS to let you know about news and events, please click to sign up here

Share

Tweet

Whatsapp

Messenger

Share

Email

reddit

Viber icon
Viber

The post Which way from here? That depends on where we want to go. Our choices now will determine our future. appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

Fresh audio product

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 06/12/2019 - 9:47am in

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

December 5, 2019 Leslie Salzinger, a contributor to Mutant Neoliberalism, on gendering Homo economicus • Forrest Hylton on the coup in Bolivia and popular rebellions against neoliberalism in Chile and Colombia (Jacobin and LRB articles)

Buy Prints of the Comic Strips of Neoliberalism!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 04/12/2019 - 2:57am in

Tags 

neoliberalism

neolibtitle--165x188

To celebrate D&S‘s 45th anniversary, former D&S art director Nick Thorkelson has made full-color prints of his amazing “Comic Strip of Neoliberalism” series published in the magazine in the early 2000s.  The series was a collaboration with former D&S co-editor Alejandro Reuss.  (For more info on the series, click here.)

There are three paired sets of 13” x 17” prints: “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “Neoliberalism vs. History,” and “Megadreams of Hyperdevelopment.” (Scroll down to see all three sets. Click to enlarge.)

We are offering signed prints for $45 per set or $100 for all three sets. (Prices include shipping within the United States.)  To place orders, visit this page.

You can also support Dollars & Sense with a donation.  Contact us by email (dollars at dollarsandsense.org) about how to contribute to our 45th-Anniversary Sustainability Fund.

emperor thumbnail for d&s

megadreams thumbnail for d&s

neolibvhistory thumbnail for d&s

Buy Prints of the Comic Strips of Neoliberalism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 04/12/2019 - 2:57am in

neolibtitle--165x188

To celebrate the 45th anniversary of Dollars & Sense, the organization that maintains Triple Crisis blog, former D&S art director Nick Thorkelson has made full-color prints of his amazing “Comic Strip of Neoliberalism” series published in the magazine in the early 2000s.  The series was a collaboration with former D&S co-editor Alejandro Reuss.  (For more info on the series, click here.)

There are three paired sets of 13” x 17” prints: “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “Neoliberalism vs. History,” and “Megadreams of Hyperdevelopment.” (Scroll down to see all three sets. Click to enlarge.)

We are offering signed prints for $45 per set or $100 for all three sets. (Prices include shipping within the United States.)  To place orders, visit this page.

You can also support Dollars & Sense and Triple Crisis with a donation.  Contact us by email (dollars at dollarsandsense.org) about how to contribute to our 45th-Anniversary Sustainability Fund.

emperor thumbnail for d&s

megadreams thumbnail for d&s

neolibvhistory thumbnail for d&s

Boris Johnson Declared Islamophobia ‘Natural Reaction’ to Islam

Mike also put up another excellent piece, pointing out that while the Tories are misdirecting people to look for massively over-exaggerated anti-Semitism in the Labour party, they have been actively promoting hatred against Muslims. According to the magazine Business Insider, in 2005 our comedy prime minister wrote in the Spectator that

To any non-Muslim reader of the Koran, Islamophobia — fear of Islam — seems a natural reaction, and, indeed, exactly what that text is intended to provoke. Judged purely on its scripture — to say nothing of what is preached in the mosques — it is the most viciously sectarian of all religions in its heartlessness towards unbelievers.

This was in the wake of the 7/7 London bombings, and Johnson questioned the loyalty of British Muslims and said that the country must realise that ‘Islam is the problem’.

Mike concludes ‘He’s not my prime minister. He is racist filth.’

Boris Johnson believes Islamophobia is a ‘natural reaction’ to Muslims. Let’s vote this racist OUT

No argument there from me, especially after Mates Jacobs has released a dossier of rabidly islamophobic, racist and anti-Semitic comments from the supporters of Jacob Rees-Mogg and our buffoonish Prime Minister. Not after Sayeeda Warsi has repeatedly demanding investigations into islamophobia in her party, and been condescendingly told that there’s little to worry about. Not when an inquiry into it has been pushed back after the General Election – presumably so that it won’t embarrass Johnson when it uncovers massive prejudice and hatred.

Now let’s put Johnson’s comments into their context. Many Brits understandably were worried about the possible danger from Islam after the 7/7 bombings on the London Underground and on buses. This was also a period when alienated Muslim youths marched through the street waving placards against the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions, proclaiming that Islam would dominate the West and promising more violence and terrorism. But it is a mistake to claim that this alienation and rage represents true Islam, or comes from the pages of the Qu’ran.

In fact Islamism is the product of a distinct set of social and political circumstances. This includes the economic and political stagnation of Islamic societies, rising poverty and the bewilderment and dislocation felt by many Muslims to rapid modernisation. Some of the problems are due to the adoption of neoliberal economic programmes by secular Arab and Middle Eastern states, like Algeria, which have massively increased poverty. Some of it is a reaction to western colonialism and cultural and economic hegemony. And some of it is a response to real oppression by non-Muslim states around the world. Like there is massive discrimination and organised violence against Muslims, as well as Sikhs and Christians, by Hindu ultra-nationalists in India.

I studied Islam as part of my religious studies minor degree at College. Yes, Islam has expanded through violence and conquest, just as Christianity has. But it has also spread through peaceful contact and conversion. And the problems Islam is experiencing as it modernises aren’t unique to it. Christianity and the West experienced the same process in the 19th and 20th centuries. There were reactionaries in the Anglican Church in the 19th century, who were frightened of the extension of the franchise and political rights to Protestant Dissenters, Roman Catholics, and other religions. In the middle of the century the Papacy placed on its index of forbidden doctrines the idea that Roman Catholic countries should allow freedom of religion and conscience to non-Catholics. But now the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches as a whole very definitely are not anti-democratic, despite the attempts of General Franco and Roman Catholic clerico-Fascists during the Second World War. And aggressively atheist states like the Soviet Union have their own bloody history of intolerance. Religion was viciously persecuted in the USSR, and millions of people of faith, whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist or shamanist, were killed or imprisoned in the gulags for simply holding their beliefs. Nathan Johnson, surveying the vicious intolerance across secular, atheist as well as religious societies in his books on the mythology of New Atheism, has suggested that such intolerance may be part of human nature, rather than just unique to religion or a specific religion.

Islam also has a tolerant side. Christianity survived in the Balkans after the Turkish conquest because, when the Ottoman emperor wanted to force the Christian peoples to convert to Islam, the majlis, the assembly of Muslims scholars and jurists, told him it was specifically forbidden, for example. And even after the conquest, there were many areas in which Christian and Muslim lived side by side in peace. When Mike visited Bosnia after the war in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, he saw areas where churches and mosques had been built next to each other. Not the mark of an intolerant society, at least, not at that time.

Boris Johnson is, as Mike and so many others have repeatedly pointed out, a vicious racist. This is in sharp contrast to the Labour leader, who is a determined opponent of all forms of racism. Don’t believe him when he smears Labour as anti-Semitic.

And don’t let him get away with smearing Muslims. This is what the Tories are doing and have always done: manufacture hate against an out-group in order to gain power. They are doing it against the poor. They are doing it to the unemployed, to the disabled, to anybody, even working people, who claim benefits. And in the early part of the 20th century they did it to Jews. Now they’re doing it to Blacks, Asians and particularly Muslims.

A better world is possible. Reject the Tories and their prejudice and bigory, and vote for Corbyn and his anti-racism instead.

 

 

Managerialism reminds us that security is at the heart of neoliberalism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/11/2019 - 6:00am in

If our contemporary managerial obsession
with all things numerical and quantitative has its roots in military planning
in the 1950s rather than in neoliberal economic policy in the 1980s, then
surely we need to pay more attention to the idea of security in political
economy.

For all of the rich and important insights
that the editors behind this blog
series bring to the table, the question of security is virtually absent.
Instead, the central conclusions that they draw focus primarily on the need to
rethink neoliberal theory and the implications of this analysis for the growing
influence of the managerial class. These are both hugely important insights,
and promise to transform current debates in political economy in significant
ways.

Yet they only skirt around the other
compelling implication of their findings: attempts to define and govern our
security have been at the very core of the proliferation of practices that so
many scholars have defined as central aspects of neoliberalism.

In this short intervention, I want to
explore why we might want to bring the concept of security into this important
conversation about the history and contemporary character of neoliberalism.

Neoliberalism is an addictive concept, as
the editors of this blog series make clear: as scholars, once we start to use
the concept, it is very hard not to see it everywhere, even if it conceals as
much as it reveals about contemporary governance practices.

A case in point: I went to the UK as a
Leverhulme Visiting Professor at SPERI to pursue a project exploring the idea
of “post-neoliberalism.” I arrived in Sheffield highly skeptical of the
relevance of the concept of neoliberalism, based not only on my archival research into
the very messy early days of the Thatcher and Reagan governments, but also on
my fundamental exhaustion with it as an idea.

Yet, after four months of living in the
UK—as both a professor during a REF year and as a mother of two children in
Year 1—I began seeing neoliberalism everywhere, particularly in the elementary
school. Back in Canada, my children were in senior kindergarten, learning
through play. In the UK, they were in a group of children who had already spent
a year and a half in exhausting reading, writing and handwriting drills, as
their wonderful teachers tried to respond to a series of perverse external
targets and metrics designed to ensure the school’s (and the children’s)
competitiveness. Two days before we headed back to Canada, we received an
“amber warning” letter (with the words in orange, no less) indicating that our
children’s attendance level had dropped to 95.2% (because they spent two days
home with nasty colds), which was below the school’s target of 97%.

As sad as I was to leave the UK and its
dynamic intellectual community after our four months there, I also felt
relieved to be escaping a life in which a kind of self-governing,
performance-driven neoliberal subjectivity had taken over everyday life to such
an extraordinary extent.

Of course, the question that Dutta, Knafo,
Lovering, Lane and Wyn-Jones would ask is whether this obsession with
competition, quantification and performance evaluation is in fact an example of
neoliberalism on steroids, or the product of a very different kind of
systems-planning, with its roots in military planning in the 1950s, rather than
in neoliberal economic policy in the 1980s.

This is a brilliant question to be
asking—and their asking it here and in Knafo’s fantastic recent article
in RIPE has definitely caused me to
reassess the way that I think about neoliberalism. And yet, at the end of the
day, I’m not sure that this project goes quite far enough—in challenging the
imperialism of the concept of neoliberalism, in forcing us to reconceptualize
it in very significant ways, and in breaking down the boundaries between
security and economy.

After all, why should we have to choose
between neoliberalism and managerialist military planning as the key forces
behind the will to govern performance? Isn’t neoliberalism at least in part a
logic of governing that helps to define and manage both “the economy” and “the
military” through a particular preoccupation with the problem of security? 

In my own recent
research
, I have found it enormously useful to draw on some of the insights
of critical security studies to help make sense of the many complex ways that
states have used claims of exceptionalism and emergency to respond to economic
crises.

At the risk of being labeled a
“Foucauldian” (I am a fan, but not a true believer), it’s worth remembering how
he links neoliberalism and liberalism to the problem of security. In both Security, Territory, Population and The Birth of Biopolitics, Foucault
traces the rise of a new logic of governance, beginning in the eighteenth
century, which is preoccupied with the health—and security—of a population.
This is a form of governance that uses the emerging science of statistics to
track and guide the well-being of people, things and money.

He points to the emergence of a new form of power that has the population as its target, political economy as its major form of knowledge, and apparatuses of security as its essential technical instrument.

Political economic knowledge, combined with
the new power of statistical measurement, provided a way of governing at a
distance: tracing the flows of supply and demand, the circulation of diseases,
the rise and fall of mortality, and the possibilities and risks of conflict. Of
course, this logic shifts once more in interesting ways as liberalism is reborn
as neoliberalism, and the logic of governing becomes more interventionist as
key figures seek to construct market-like mechanisms in all kinds of unexpected
places. But the central logic remains that of managing the population’s
security (at least as it is defined by some) through the rationality of
political economy.

What might this brief foray into French
philosophy tells us about the rise of the kind of managerialism that this
forum’s editors have so effectively linked to military planning—not to mention
about my children’s introduction to the British education system?

If nothing else, it reminds us that
security and political economy are far more deeply linked to each other than is
suggested by our conventional categories of “military” and “economy.”[1]
Even if we trace the influence of a particular kind of governing through
quantification to a set of military planners and think tanks, these practices
of planning are themselves always already implicated in a particular form of
knowledge that seeks to manage the security of a population through political
economic rationality.[2]

That does not mean that there is some kind
of coherent economic logic that permeates all of these various security
practices—instead, it should make us more aware of the messiness and
incoherence of all attempts to govern through numbers. The problems of
sovereignty, economy and security have always been linked in complex and often
inconsistent ways.

What might these insights into the
centrality of security bring to the rich and original work that the editors of
this blog series on the central and unacknowledged role of managerialism and
its links with military planning? How might they help us reconceptualize
neoliberalism in ways that overcome some of the limits of contemporary
political economic scholarship?

Rather than providing any definitive
answers at this stage, I want to suggest that these insights might enable us to
ask different questions. When we see security, population, and economy as
linked, we are able to recognize the mobility of certain governance
rationalities and practices. Rather than assuming that a new variation in
neoliberal practice can be traced back to certain economic thinkers,
policymakers or politicians, we can instead look beyond conventional economic
categories and actors to trace a wider network of governance practices.

In my last
book
on governing international development, for example, I sought to
understand shifting strategies of governance in the 1990s which were connected
to a preoccupation with managing risk, measuring results, fostering new standards
and mitigating the possibility of failure—all strategies that have clear
affinities with the forms of managerialism that the editors of this blog
discuss. Although I didn’t dig deeply enough into the possible role of military
thinking in this analysis (I realize in retrospect!), it became very clear to
me that it is impossible to study contemporary changes in development theory
and practice without realizing that security in all of its many meanings is a
central preoccupation (and there is a large literature on the securitization of
development that makes this clear). Yet we rarely see these linkages when we
study the Global North’s political economy.

Why should we assume that this kind of
complex multi-layered set of techniques for governing a population is only
applicable in the Global South? Clearly, it is not. Which means that we
shouldn’t be too surprised to find security, economy and sovereignty linked up
in new and seemingly irrational forms today (think Brexit and neoliberalism,
Trump’s capitalist nationalism, or Thatcher’s strong state and free economy).

Perhaps the kinds of metrics that my children
and British colleagues were being trained to meet were the product of a strong
state seeking manage an unruly population (6 year-olds and academics being both
especially unruly subjects) using the techniques developed to fight wars and
maintain an empire. Perhaps they were about fostering forms of neoliberal
self-governance and enterprise in a globalizing economy. Perhaps they were
both—and in ways that cannot ever be fully separated but that we urgently need
to spend more time trying to understand.

[1]   I owe many of these insights into the limits
of these conventional categories to conversations with Liam Stanley during my
time at SPERI.

[2]   Louise Amoore beautifully illustrates these dynamics in her book, The Politics of Possibility, which includes a discussion of how the British government hired the accounting firm, Price Waterhouse, during the Second World War to develop metrics for the rationing system that would be necessary for the war effort. Amoore, The Politics of Possibility: Risk and Security Beyond Probability. Durham: Duke University Press, 2013, Chapter 1.

The post Managerialism reminds us that security is at the heart of neoliberalism appeared first on Progress in Political Economy (PPE).

Neoliberalism and Climate Change

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 27/11/2019 - 1:02am in

By Juliet Schor (guest post)

This is the text of a speech that Juliet Schor, professor of sociology at Boston College, gave at the 45th anniversary celebration for Dollars & Sense, which maintains Triple Crisis blog, on November 14 at the Nonprofit Center in Boston, Mass. Schor was a D&S collective member in its early years.  This is the first in a series of posts on neoliberalism that we’ll be posting at Triple Crisis. 

We are in the midst of a terrifying climate emergency. Whether it’s the record-challenging cold of this week, devastating wildfires, Category 5 hurricanes, flooding on Morrissey Boulevard in Dorchester, Mass., when it’s not raining, the permanent disappearance of glaciers, intensifying drought and climate migration, or the relentless upward march of average temperatures, signs of climate disruption are all around us. This is partly due to the power of neoliberal economics.  Naomi Klein has made an interesting observation about the relation between the two, which is that it was bad luck that neoliberalism surged just as we figured out the need to do something about greenhouse gas emissions. I’m not convinced that the fossil fuel industry wouldn’t have done just what it did and been as successful even if we were still, in the famous words of Richard Nixon, “all Keynesians now” but that’s something we’ll never know. In any case, evidence of the ability of a now discredited economic approach (neoliberalism) to hang on long past its sell-by date is all around us.

One sign is last year’s Nobel Prize—starting with the exclusion from the prize of Martin Weitzman, whose work on fat tails (i.e., catastrophic climate impacts) was a truly pioneering contribution in a subfield that has lagged far behind on incorporating theoretical innovation from elsewhere in the discipline. I should add that this approach formed the basis of Frank Ackerman’s last, excellent book, Worst Case Economics: Extreme Events in Climate and Finance (Anthem Press, 2017). The omission of Weitzman contrasts with the awarding of the prize to William Nordhaus. Nordhaus’ work has been central in stalling effective climate progress. His position was epitomized by his Nobel lecture. One of his slides labeled 4° Celsius of warming as “optimal,” rather than the truly devastating increase scientists have determined it will be. The levels of ecosystem and human disruption that will prevail with a  4° increase are massive, and whether humans would even be able to “adapt” to that level of increase is questionable. Furthermore, the likelihood of tipping points that lead the climate system to spiral out of control are much greater with an increase of 4°. Only a truly deranged economic paradigm could label such a pathway as “optimal.”

What accounts for such a result? The ostensible rationale for go-slow climate policy is that income today is worth more than income in the future. But aside from the patent immorality of that view, it doesn’t even make sense on its own terms. That’s because growth today is mainly yielding increases in the incomes and wealth of the already wealthy. While the standard models such as Nordhaus’s Dynamic Integrated Climate-Economy (DICE) model, don’t incorporate this distortion of the growth process, it is now well-documented that business-as-usual growth is yielding increased concentration of wealth at the very top. So the neoliberal approach to the climate crisis essentially says that we should destroy the planet to further enrich a tiny sliver of humanity that already has an obscene amount of wealth.

Years ago a group of French graduate students in economics started a movement called “post-autistic” economics. They were rightly criticized for their use of the term autistic, and the contributions of Greta Thunberg show how wrong they were about neuro-atypical people—and their ability to see what’s really going on. They changed the name of their journal from Post-Autistic Economics Review to Real-World Economics Review. In that they also faltered, failing to acknowledge that Dollars & Sense already had that franchise. Perhaps they should have called their movement “post-sociopathic” or “post-ecopathic” economics.

So what would an alternative approach, embodied so well in 45 years of analysis from D&S, suggest as a response to the climate crisis?

First, carbon taxes in the range that have been suggested ($40–$50 a ton) are inadequate. It’s too late for the market-based, go-slow approach. Indeed, roughly a decade ago Frank Ackerman and his co-author Elizabeth A. Stanton did estimates of how high a carbon tax might need to be under various assumptions, including lower discount rates than mainstream economists assumed at the time, and Weitzman-like analysis aimed at avoiding catastrophe. These assumptions all yielded far higher estimates than the “politically feasible” carbon tax range, and even went as high as $1,500 a ton under the most stringent assumptions. It’s notable that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is now also coming up with top-end estimates broadly in that range. A key thing about a tax in that vicinity is that it is so disruptive of the market that it has to be accompanied by a robust and comprehensive role for the state. And that of course is the point of the galvanizing, if still not fully elaborated, Green New Deal. Furthermore, the current Green New Deal, unlike those that have been proposed by progressive economists for decades now, is notable in putting equity and justice at its core. Although there is plenty of debate about the wisdom of this approach in the climate community (with a fair amount of skepticism coming from privileged participants), there’s little doubt that this Green New Deal has mobilized people in an unprecedented way.

This brings me to a related point. In order to fully confront climate change, we need to address other structures of the economy than just the price of carbon. In my own research I’ve worked on two key drivers of carbon emissions, both of which are very much in the spirit of D&S’s approach to economics. The first is hours of work. In a series of papers at both the national and subnational scale, my colleagues and I find that average hours of work are strongly correlated with emissions. Countries with long hours are high emission countries, holding other factors constant. The same is true for states. And short hour countries have low emissions. We find that this is true for two reasons. First, longer hours result in more output, which has associated emissions. But even controlling for this effect, higher hours are still associated with more emissions. We suspect this is an affect at the household level—more work correlates with more commuting, and more carbon-intensive lifestyles.

A second area of work is domestic income and wealth concentration. While most of the research on climate and inequality focuses on North-South inequities, or disproportionate impact on vulnerable populations wherever they live, my colleagues and I have been analyzing another dimension of inequality. We look at how the concentration of income and wealth at the top of the distribution (the top 10%, 5% and 1%) is associated with higher emissions. We believe this is due to two factors—the very high carbon footprints of people at the top and a political economy effect, in which the wealthy have outsized political impact and are able to forestall effective climate responses.

I want to end with a few reflections about my experience with D&S. I had the great privilege to work there (not for pay, but for many hours per week) back in 1976. I was just 20 years old, had left my first graduate program because it didn’t offer a critical perspective, and I was waiting to matriculate at UMass. Arthur, Frank, and others were extremely welcoming as I showed up on their doorstep with nothing more than eagerness and eight months to spare before the fall semester began. For me, it was the beginning of a lifetime of popular writing.

In those days, articles were fully collectively written, which included wrangling over every word. It was a great learning experience, both about economics, but also about collective process, political commitment, and real world politics. This was a time when racial tensions were high and the fight to desegregate Boston was raging. The collective volunteered to help protect a black family who had moved onto a “white” block in Dorchester and was being threatened and attacked by white vigilantes. I remember sitting on that family’s porch, baseball bat in hand, with others from the group. I’m not sure what I could or would have done with that bat had an attack come, but it was a powerful experience. And as much as I learned about economics in those eight months, I suspect that I learned even more about solidarity and political commitment. Congratulations to D&S on a brilliant nearly half century.

Juliet Schor is a former D&S collective member, a professor of sociology at Boston College, and author of numerous books, including The Overworked American (1991), The Overspent American (1997), and True Wealth (2011).

Dollars & Sense, which maintains Triple Crisis blog, is celebrating its 45th anniversary.  Please consider making a donation to support our work. 

Triple Crisis welcomes your comments. Please share your thoughts below.

Triple Crisis is published by

We don’t need a perfect world; we need a fairer and more equitable one. Understanding how money works is the first step.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 24/11/2019 - 12:02am in

Person at the bottom of stairs climbing from darkness into the lightPhoto by Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash

As the election campaign rolls on and party leaders battle it out on our television screens, the Liberal Democrats commit themselves to more austerity and Paul Mason, left-wing journalist and former music teacher, indulges in some fantasy explanations of how money works. More on that later….

In yet another indication of how the austerity has not only done grave damage to those who least deserve it, but also to the economy, two more reports have been published to add to the already long list exposing the consequences of cuts to public spending.

The Scottish based Poverty Alliance organisation which published its report Righting the Wrongs: A manifesto to tackle poverty is urging the next Government to ‘put solving poverty at the heart of all that it does, including by creating a more compassionate social security system, [and] building a labour market that works for everyone….’

When confronted with the realities of people’s lives through their stories we can see the real tragedy behind the policy decisions and cuts to public spending of the current Conservative government.

Jamie from Glasgow struggling to raise a family on a low income described it as ‘like being stuck in the middle of a spider’s web with no escape route’ and Jackie, a community activist commenting for the Poverty Alliance report, said that ‘more and more people are being locked into poverty by jobs that are low paid and insecure. When people can barely afford to put food on the table and when parents working full-time are struggling to cope, there is something very wrong that we have to put right.

An analysis published by the TUC, also this week, has revealed that the number of children growing up in poverty in working households has risen by 38% over the last decade, bringing it to 800,000 since 2010.

The study also showed that government policies account for the majority of rises in child poverty, with more than 485,000 children (in working households) having been pushed below the breadline, not only as a direct result of the government’s in-work benefit cuts but also as a consequence of other major factors which include weak wage growth and insecure work. The report also noted that over the past decade workers have suffered the most severe wage squeeze in two centuries and although wages have just started to grow, weekly wages are still £14 below pre-crisis levels.

Frances O’Grady, the TUC General Secretary, commented about the report that no child in Britain should be growing up in poverty and cuts to in-work benefits have come at a terrible human cost.

Overall the poverty figures are shocking. As GIMMS reported earlier this year following a report by the Social Metrics Commission, there are now around 14.3 million people living in poverty, of which 8.3 million are working-age adults, 4.6 million children (of which around 2.9 million are in working households as identified in the later TUC report) and 1.3 million pension age adults.

Aside from these shocking statistics which represent avoidable and unnecessary human degradation, the combined effects of government policies and cuts to spending on public services have had a damaging effect not only on the lives of those caught in the austerity crossfire but also on the economy as a whole. A decaying public and social infrastructure and toxic welfare reforms have had a significant impact on poverty and inequality and show clearly in whose interests the government has been acting. The promotion of individualism and self-reliance, along with decreasing state intervention to replace our public infrastructure with private, profit-motivated services has been a long-standing agenda of successive neoliberally inspired governments.

Access to high-quality health and social care, education and training, well-paid secure work and good quality, affordable housing all play a vital role in the health of the nation and its economy. When people are denied those basic support systems it can only, in the end, lead to more deprivation, ill health, hunger, homelessness and increased crime, the consequences of which ripple into every part of society burdening it with both additional financial costs and societal breakdown.

As was reported by the BBC only this week more than 2 million adults are unable to see a dentist either because they can’t afford treatment, find an NHS dentist or get care where they live as a result of underfunding and recruitment problems. It is claimed that many people are being reduced to practising self-dentistry to alleviate the pain of rotten teeth which can cause all sorts of other problems like periodontal disease which can, in turn, lead to an increased risk of heart disease.

After nine years of cutting NHS spending in real terms, creating a pressured working environment for staff, capping their pay, stopping nursing bursaries and driving people away because of stress, senior NHS leaders are warning this week that hospitals are so understaffed lacking sufficient doctors, nurses and other health professionals to provide services that the ‘safety and quality of care are under threat.’ The latest figures show that the performance against key waiting times for A&E, cancer treatment and planned operations have fallen to their worst-ever level and that this could deteriorate even further as winter approaches.

NHS mental health services which have borne the brunt of cuts have become little more than a firefighting service to deal with the ever-growing numbers of people needing support.

Earlier this month the organisation State of Hunger published its report, drawn up in conjunction with Heriot-Watt University and the Trussell Trust. It revealed that more than half of households referred to foodbanks were affected by poor mental health, predominantly anxiety or depression, while 23% of people referred to foodbanks were homeless. The report gives a voice to those people who have paid the price for austerity and welfare reform – the worry about paying bills, keeping a roof over one’s head or having a job which pays enough.

“If I don’t pay my bills, then I’ll get the house taken off me. After paying arrears, I’ve got £8 a fortnight and that’s to pay for gas, electric, water. It’s just impossible, it really is. I go to bed at night wishing I won’t wake up in the morning.”

 

“I’ve used the food bank because I was on such a low income before I got my disability benefit… I had a mental breakdown because basically the amount they give me doesn’t cover the costs of my rent.”

 

Education joins health in forming the backbone of a functioning economy and societal well-being and yet, it too has suffered from crippling cuts to spending. Kevin Courtney, the joint general secretary of the NEU said this week that ‘The future of education hangs in the balance’.  Despite government promises of more money, the School Cuts Coalition made it clear only last week that four in five state schools will be financially worse off next year than they were in 2015 and this will affect schools in areas where there are already high levels of deprivation.

Even with the additional funding promised by government, there will still be a shortfall of £2.5bn in the year ahead after years of already damaging cuts. The consequences for schools are grim. More pupils per class, fewer teachers and support staff and reduced curriculums with subjects like music, language, art and design being cut as a result of the pressure, not to mention the reduction in capital expenditure on schools’ estate which has left it in a bad state of repair and not fit for purpose.

Our children represent the future and yet they are the ones that will bear the brunt of lack of adequate government spending and planning for an education and training system to meet the challenges they will face in the future.

A healthy economy demands a healthy and educated nation as a prerequisite. It demands quality housing, good secure jobs and pay. The last nine years of austerity and forty years of the pursuit of neoliberal dogma have pulled that rug from under people’s feet, leaving them in a world of increasing uncertainty.

It is regrettable in this respect that the notion that the state has a responsibility to ensure the health and well-being of all its citizens through the provision of universal services and other state-provided interventions is being mistaken for a ‘nanny state’ rather than acknowledging the value of such investment in society and its economy.

Whilst government has pursued its handbag economic strategy and ignored monetary realities for the lie of balanced budgets, it has failed in its duty as an elected body to serve the interests of citizens and the economy as a whole.

Whilst pursuing austerity, it has ignored the fundamentals of macroeconomics which it won’t hurt to repeat. Spending, wherever it comes from, creates income for someone else, whether that’s government which starts the ball rolling by creating the money into existence to pay for its needs which flows in turn right down to businesses, working people or even those having the misfortune to be involuntarily unemployed or coping with a disability or illness which prevents them from working. Through its obsession with austerity and lowering deficits at a time when it should have been spending more, it has weakened the economy and wilfully left people without the means to provide themselves with sufficient income to meet their daily needs.

As data from last year shows, it has left British households collectively supporting their spending through reducing savings (if indeed they had any) and taking on more debt. Quite simply government austerity has transferred the burden onto households which as private debt levels rise will prove unsustainable.

The fragile house of cards which represents the economy after nine years of government folly will either stagger on or fall into another recession unless the next government deficit spends sufficiently to promote full employment and serve the public purpose.

In the light of this, it is all the more incredible to note that after Ed Davey, deputy leader of the Lib Dems said earlier this month that Labour and the Tories were ‘writing promises on cheques that will bounce’ they have decided to make austerity their USP (unique selling point) for their election campaign. Yes, you read that right!

In his recent speech he positioned the Liberal Democrats as the ‘party of fiscal rectitude’ and the Conservatives and Labour as the ‘parties of fiscal incontinence’. Davey is proposing to adopt a fiscal rule for day to day spending aiming for current account surpluses in every year of their five-year costings.

With yet more household budget accounting and to meet its objective will require tax rises and yet more spending cuts. Furthermore, on the basis that achieving a surplus is not a saving and removes money from the economy and if our trading partners don’t spend all they earn thus taking even more out of our economy the net result will be a severe recession (as if we weren’t already heading in that direction). A bit of an own goal and a very foolish one at that!

And yet depressingly it has to be said another own goal was scored this week by the journalist and self-styled economist Paul Mason who presented a short promotional video for Novara Media explaining the deficit and debt in the language narrative of overdrafts, loans and mortgages along with that old ‘canard’ about paying for public services by taxing the very rich.

This is indeed ‘fantasy economics’ of the most damaging kind.

In response, the economist Professor Bill Mitchell explains it very succinctly and it is worth printing it here in its entirety:

‘This is the classic ‘soft’ mainstream macroeconomics that assumes the government is financially constrained and is thus not dissimilar to a household.

It is ‘soft’ because, unlike the hard-mainstream positions, it allows for deficits (‘funded’ by debt) to occur in a non-government downturn but proposes them to be offset by surpluses in an upturn, irrespective of the overall saving position of the non-government sector.

None of this framing or language is what I would call ‘progressive’.

It has the hallmarks of the way neoliberals construct the concepts and the narrative.

The inferences are also plainly false when applied to the British government.

  1. It is not financially constrained in its spending.

The constraints relate to real resource availability.

In terms of restaffing the NHS, for example, are there qualified labour resources available? What training would be required? Would this mean that British Labour is also going to be advocating open borders to ensure the staffing is available? [….]

  1. There is no meaningful knowledge that be gained by comparing a household with a home mortgage and a currency-issuing government spending its own currency.

The household is the currency user and the government is the currency issuer.

Totally different constraints apply.

  1. It is false to claim that it is virtuous to ‘tax the rich’ in order to fund essential health and welfare services.

This is one of the worst frames that the progressives now deploy.

The British government might want to tax the rich to reduce their power and influence (exercised via their spending habits) but it never has to do that in order to fund essential services.

The only constraint that exercise involves is the availability of real resources.’

  1. The British government does not have to issue debt to ‘fund’ its deficits. The capacity of the non-government sector to purchase the debt derives from past deficits that have not been taxed away yet.

Even if the government issues debt to match its investment in essential infrastructure to deliver better housing, transport health care, and engage in climate action etc, this investment is not linked at all to the current interest rates in place.

 

There is no meaning to the term “cheap” finance, when the spending does not need to be financed (in the currency the government issues).

The issuing of risk-free debt from a currency-issuing government really amounts to the provision of corporate welfare and no progressive should advocate its continuance.

  1. There is no meaning in saying the recurrent deficit is like an overdraft or the capital deficit is like a mortgage. Those terms gain meaning when applied to units that are financially constrained.

While left-wing progressive parties continue to frame their election campaigns in neoliberal terms and thus erect unnecessary financial barriers to spending that will prevent them from achieving their goals, the public will also remain in the dark about a subject which is of vital importance; how to answer the question about how government really spends, how its policies can be paid for and what  the real constraints are.

That said and despite the deliberate misleading of the public by Paul Mason, the UK needs a progressive government prepared to act in the public interest through investment in our public and social infrastructure and ready to take action to tackle social injustice, ensure a more equitable distribution of wealth and address the biggest challenge we face – climate change.

 

Join our mailing list

If you would like GIMMS to let you know about news and events, please click to sign up here

Share

Tweet

Whatsapp

Messenger

Share

Email

reddit

Viber icon
Viber

The post We don’t need a perfect world; we need a fairer and more equitable one. Understanding how money works is the first step. appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

Is the United States the Champion of Global Finance or its Victim? A New Look at the Fed’s Low-inflation Policy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 23/11/2019 - 3:52am in

By Arie Krampf* My article “Monetary Power Reconsidered: The Struggle between the Bundesbank and the Fed over Monetary Leadership”, recently published in International Studies Quarterly, contributes to the burgeoning literature that challenges the US-hegemony hypothesis in the global financial sub-order. It … Continue reading →

Bernie Sanders in 1998 on the Global Crisis and the IMF role in it

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/11/2019 - 1:22am in

Old clip from C-SPAN. It's still worth watching. Strong critique of the failures of the IMF and neoliberal policies in leading to the crisis. We know now that the subsequent bubble pushed the major crisis for another 10 years.

Pages