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Cheating: The Harvard Culture

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 27/05/2021 - 3:03am in

Academic misconduct, or what the rest of the world calls student cheating, is enjoying a renaissance thanks to the iron logic of capitalism.

We thought we had them when software programs such as Turnitin were licensed two decades ago at considerable cost to university budgets. These online detectives not only revealed collusion and plagiarism among the student body but also confirmed the stupidity of offenders who, despite ubiquitous warnings on assessment instructions, continued to roll the dice, undeterred by threats of exclusion for recidivists.

Soon the laws of supply and demand found an ingenious way around the risk of detection: contract cheating, more benignly called assignment outsourcing.

For a fee, students upload their assignment task to a website that within a matter of hours returns to them an original, high-quality answer that is undetectable to anti-plagiarism software. It isn’t the student’s work, but that is difficult and time-consuming to prove.

Invigilated examinations, good for little else, are a partial antidote to the problem because they can reveal inexplicable discrepancies between the quality of home-based essays and supervised examinations by the same student.

Interviews can also expose disparities between the quality of the submitted assignment and the student’s actual knowledge of the subject. However, conducting these investigations requires a stomach for confrontation and eats into the time of already overextended staff.

A solution remains elusive, and I blame ‘the Harvard culture’.

A decade ago, between infusions of Fat Kid and Morrocan Tbizla in one of Amsterdam’s less salubrious brown cafes, the problem was explained to me by my late friend, the historian Gabriel Kolko.

Kolko wrote the definitive history of the Vietnam War and completed his PhD at Harvard around the same time Henry Kissinger submitted his. He told me Kissinger was universally disliked in Cambridge and had no firm political beliefs of any kind; he was simply an opportunist with a magnetic attraction to power.

Amid the smoky hash, Kolko regaled me with an anecdote about the great Keynesian economist John Kenneth Galbraith, a veteran of Kennedy’s Camelot and a pillar of the liberal establishment in Boston.

One night at a cocktail party not far from his office off Harvard Square, Galbraith was the guest of honour and introduced to his audience in the following way:

Tonight it is a great pleasure to welcome the distinguished economist John Kenneth Galbraith to our soirée. All of you will know Professor Galbraith from his frequent appearances in the media over the years. Many of you will have read his seminal textbooks in the field of economics. Some of you will have written them.

I can’t recall what Gabriel said about Galbraith’s response because my memory was impaired by the atmosphere and the incoherent ramblings coming from stoners at an adjacent table. However, I do recall his saying the story was unremarkably true because few of the Harvard professoriate appeared to have authored the books that carried their names on the spines.

To find out who actually wrote the books, you headed to the acknowledgements page, where low-paid postgraduates were begrudgingly thanked for their ‘help’ with and ‘contributions’ to the publication of the book. According to Kolko, this cottage industry of senior academics putting their names on work undertaken by postgrads was an open secret at Harvard: it was formalised plagiarism and particularly widespread among celebrity academics.

One Saturday morning after I returned to Australia, my  university asked me to interview Galbraith by satellite for a public seminar on globalisation. This was pre-Zoom and the great Keynesian was already in his nineties. I was thinking of a polite way to ask him about the Harvard culture, but he got stuck in a Massachusetts blizzard and for most of our allotted time we could only broadcast the image of an empty chair to the audience, much as 7.30 does these days when Prime Minister Morrison refuses to appear. The interview almost broke the faculty’s budget for what was ultimately ten minutes of bromides—enough time for Galbraith to complain about the weather but little else.

I was reminded of the Harvard culture a couple of years later when Norman Finkelstein, a scholar of the Israel-Palestine conflict, accused high-profile lawyer and Harvard academic Alan Dershowitz of plagiarism. In his book Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, Finkelstein claimed that Dershowitz had included, without attribution, significant portions of a discredited work by Joan Peters called From Time Immemorial in Dershowitz’s book The Case for Israel—including the reproduction of incorrect citations and footnotes.

Ultimately, the charge was not sustained in an independent investigation. Dershowitz got his revenge when Finkelstein was later denied tenure at DePaul University in Chicago.

Beyond the merits of the charge, which readers can judge for themselves, Gabriel would not have been surprised in any way by the scandal, except for the fact that it became one.

Structural plagiarism in the United States has become conventional practice for many senior academics with large research budgets. It enables them to meet their research output targets and produce monographs at an alarming rate, though the final product is often anything but their own work. Just prior to publication they personalise the manuscript with a few signature phrases or some idiosyncratic punctuation and voila! From memory, this was the metod publikatsii also favoured by Stalin.

The commodification of almost everything, including university degrees, is one of the least attractive features of late capitalism. It is not easy to explain to today’s students, tempted by commercial solutions to looming assignment deadlines, that they cannot purchase their intellectual production until they have reached the lofty heights of a Harvard professor. But, as I tell them in their very first university lecture, at that point it may have become de rigueur.


Casualisation: Abuse by another name

Paul Gardner, 3 May 2021

Whole sections of departments in our universities are now staffed by temporary workers. The casualisation of the workforce by university managers means that the lives of these women and men are held in suspension…

Poverty and homelessness are failures of government, not individuals

Elderly man in poor housing sitting by a windowPhoto by Harun Tan from Pexels

‘People who don’t understand the capacities of a currency-issuing govt telling us we have no choice but to accept deaths in the community for the sake of the economy. Tell me again how understanding economics is “obscure” and “academic.”’

Tweeted by Jason Restante

 

In this week’s news, ITV exposed the shocking examples of poor housing which are seriously affecting people’s health and costing the NHS an estimated £1.4bn each year. Matt Hancock, the Secretary of Health, responding to the investigation said that what he wanted to do with the whole health system was to ‘focus much more on what causes ill health, not just picking up the pieces afterwards.’ You couldn’t make it up, could you? After 10 years of cuts to government spending on public services, local government, and the social security system, as a result of ideologically driven economic dogma which suggested that the fundamentals of a good society were no longer affordable, the government seems to have no idea that the system is failing due to its own policies.

After having spent years deferring to the dogma that the market is king, whilst at the same time overseeing the decay of vital public infrastructure in the name of balanced public accounts, one might be forgiven for thinking that the social determinants of health are distinct and external to government policies and spending decisions. Although, of course, neoliberal dogma has informed the policies of successive governments since the mid-70s and has skewed the power relations between capital and working people, over the last ten years we have witnessed an entrenchment in wealth inequality as a result of cuts to public spending and legislation which has favoured capital, with government washing its hands of its responsibilities towards those that have elected them. It is staggering that now it is feigning concern for something it alone is responsible for.

A report published by Shelter in 2014 indicated that a third of private sector accommodation failed to meet the government’s Decent Homes Standard, with over six in ten renters (61%) experiencing problems such as damp, mould, leaking roofs or windows, electrical hazards, animal infestation and gas leaks. Despite laws introduced in 2018 which enabled local authorities to ban landlords from renting out properties that were unfit for human habitation, seven years on from Shelter’s report this ITV broadcast shows that the problem of poor housing is still continuing to have a significant impact on the health and well-being of those affected, with all the related economic costs that derive from poor living conditions. It is clear that professional standards in the private rented sector remain low and are insufficiently regulated. A situation made worse by cuts to local government grants which have also left local authorities under-resourced and less able to prosecute offenders.

When the Secretary of Health says it is up to landlords to respond to inadequate homes, has he forgotten that it is the role of the government to legislate to ensure that they cannot flout the law? And, whilst he confirms that it is the responsibility of government to ‘make sure… there is enough good quality housing’, its own record is deplorable. Social housing has not been at the top of its agenda, affordable housing is not affordable for many people, and a reliance on the private sector has put housing out of the reach of many whose incomes simply cannot extend to private home ownership and who then often find themselves at the mercy of bad landlords in the private rented sector.

Government policies, or lack of them, are increasingly revealing the cracks in a system which is broken for many people and yet which continues to serve those whose wealth and power has continued to set them apart as an entitled elite.

This week a new government initiative was announced to tackle homelessness. The ‘Rough Sleeping’ Initiative will allocate an additional £203 million so that 281 local authorities can provide support for people ‘living on the street’ as it is euphemistically referred to, as if somehow those who have the misfortune to be made homeless have chosen to be so. The Maldon MP John Whittingdale commented that the last year had been hard on those sleeping rough and welcomed the additional funding.  Whittingdale clearly has no shame and ought to ask himself why there has been an increase in homelessness. Could it be anything to do with his government’s policies over the last 10 years, perhaps?

The facts on homelessness are stark. Between 2010 and 2019 there was a 165% increase in so-called ‘rough sleeping’ according to official figures, and homelessness charities commenting said that the number was likely much higher. Add to this the fact that rent arrears may put further thousands at risk of homelessness as the end of the eviction ban approaches at the end of the month, and the grandstanding by the government clearly does not match the realities in terms of the government policies and spending decisions that have led us here.

Whittingdale, who graduated with a 2.2 in economics in 1982, continues to cling to the neoliberal economic orthodoxy which has done so much damage, and yet when confronted with the reality of that position prefers to mitigate for it rather than ask questions about how we got here. He, like many others, has perpetuated the myth that austerity was necessary to restore the public finances, claiming at the same time that good fiscal management by the Tories would enable them to spend on the NHS, policing and education. This was always a deceit, and we are now paying the price for it. The classic household budget narrative of the public accounts has done a huge amount of damage through the imposition of austerity, and now those chickens are coming home to roost as the nation tries to pick up the pieces after a terrible year of suffering and death, which in actual fact preceded the arrival of Covid-19.

It seems that not a week goes by when the media does not have a report on child poverty. The End Child Poverty Coalition reported this week that 4.3m children were living in poverty in 2019/20, with the North East of England suffering the largest increase. The figures showed that numbers were up 200,000 over the previous year, and up 500,000 over the past five years. Loughborough University, which was commissioned by the Coalition to carry out the study, said that ‘stagnating wages and high housing costs were pushing people to the brink.’ The coalition called on the government to recognise the scale of the problem and its impact on the lives of children, and to invest in a credible plan to end child poverty.

Anna Feuchtwang, Chair of the End Child Poverty Coalition said:

The figures speak for themselves – the situation for children couldn’t be starker. We all want to live in a society where children are supported to be the best they can be, but the reality is very different for too many.

 

“The UK Government can be in no doubt about the challenge it faces if it is serious about ‘levelling up’ parts of the country hardest hit by poverty. After the year we have all had, they owe it to our children to come up with a plan to tackle child poverty that includes a boost to children’s benefits. And they need to scrap plans to cut Universal Credit given parents and children are having a tough enough time as it is.”

Again, this week, the Local Government Association raised the alarm over schools which are set to lose £118 million in funding for providing academic support for poorer pupils. If the government is committed to its levelling up agenda, it is vital that schools under threat of cuts get what they need to ensure that no children are left behind. While the gnomes in the bowels of the Treasury count their beans, children are being denied the support they need to live healthy and enriched lives.

Poverty, homelessness, hunger, and inequality are not accidents, or the result of individual human failings. They are the creations of a government which has failed and continues to fail to serve its citizens; whose duty is to make adequate legislation and spending policies designed to create a stable, functioning public and social infrastructure, when instead, we see employment policies which leave people on low incomes often in insecure, precarious work. Moreover, this suffering is also the creation of a government that has chosen to serve another estate – the wealthy global elites, and usually for their own personal benefit too, either monetary or through the revolving door.

This week, the National Audit Office published its report ‘Initial learning from the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic’. In this report it indicated that the crisis has ‘laid bare existing fault lines within society and has exacerbated inequalities’, which it suggested has been aggravated, amongst other things, by failure to reform the adult social care system (yet again swept into the long grass by the Queen’s speech last week) and workforce shortages; all of which needed addressing to find long term solutions.

Whilst ministers feign caring and employ empty rhetoric in an attempt to get the public on side, the blame for both the poor response and the ‘fault lines’ lies fairly and squarely at the government’s door.

In the same context, the NAO also mentioned the financial pressures felt by central and local government in being able to deal with these pressing issues. Of course, it is true to say that the spending of local government is constrained by the amount of government funding it receives, how much it might borrow from the financial markets and the local taxes it can impose, but central government has none of those constraints. The real constraints to national government spending are related not to how much tax can be collected or how much money can be borrowed, but to the real resources that will be needed to enact government policies. The long terms solutions to the ‘existing fault lines within society’ and the entrenched ‘inequalities’ which deny people sufficient income and access to real resources, including public infrastructure, lie in the hands of the government itself. The financing is a red herring when you understand how government really spends.

The nation is now standing at a crossroads, with so many challenges related to the climate emergency and dealing with the existing deep-rooted wealth inequalities, not just in the UK but worldwide, it should be noted.

The Resolution Foundation and the London School of Economics warned in a report published this week that the political decisions taken in the next 10 years will be critical to the nation’s economic health. One cannot help but concur. It suggested that without radical change the economy could resemble that of Italy (which for decades has slipped into economic decline) and could without action lead to further plummeting of living standards in the UK. Sir Clive Cowdery, the founder of the Resolution Foundation and co-chair of the Economy 2030 inquiry said that:

“The UK’s recent record of weak productivity, stagnant living standards and high inequality makes a new economic approach desirable. What makes a new approach essential is the scale of coming change.

Indeed, we are facing a moment of great change which requires decisive action, but in no way can we be compared to Italy, whose spending has been constrained by conceding its economic sovereignty through its membership of the Eurozone and the rules imposed by the EU through its Stability and Growth Pact. The UK government has no such constraints as a currency issuer with a floating currency and no foreign debt. It could, tomorrow if it chose to do so, address weak productivity, stagnant living standards and high inequality levels through its policies and spending, and the implementation of a publicly managed and paid for Job Guarantee.

If the post-war governments could be radical in their economic approach, during a time when governments were not afraid to deficit spend and committed to full employment, created a substantial public infrastructure including the NHS and set up a social security system which supported people from cradle to grave, then so can a future government with the political desire to do so. The deficit is not the bogeyman. And nor is the national debt. They are deliberately created figments of the imagination designed to keep people in their place. The real bogeyman is a government which fails to act in the interests of its citizens and for public and planetary purpose.

Whilst the smoke and mirrors of the public accounts continues to pretend that the government needs tax to spend or to borrow to cover its deficit, we might on that basis have to question how we will be able to create a sustainable, fairer, and more stable society using such a crock narrative. For the media and politicians alike, such narratives are the bread and butter of their reporting. From tax rises to pay for Covid-19 to more cuts to public services to get the public accounts back into balance, these ‘household budget’ references reinforce the lie of monetary scarcity, either because politicians actually believe it, or because it forms a useful part of their ideological agenda. As Patricia Pinot, GIMMS’ Associate Member and one of the hosts of the MMT Podcast, tweeted recently:

‘The reason why neoliberals dislike MMT is precisely because it exposes the true capacity of the state and thus exposes previous constraints and optimisation exercises as political choices.’

This is the moment to reimagine our world, not fall back into our comfort zone. MMT offers us a mechanism to do just that.

 

 

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The post Poverty and homelessness are failures of government, not individuals appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

Dealing with crucial issues must triumph over the bogus ‘need’ to balance the books.

“Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

Kneeling statues of two humans holding up the Earth in spaceImage by Gerhard G. from Pixabay

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

 

 

Whilst faith in the ideologically driven orthodoxy, expressed as supreme trust in the market to provide economic stability, might appear to be on the rocks as capitalism’s global structures start to wobble in the growing uncertainty, it still has the power to dictate its orthodoxy as economists grapple, not only with this vastly different world in which we find ourselves, but also challenges to the destructive economic narratives which have been hitherto their bread and butter.

The high levels of public spending, whilst vital to the economy, have created a world full of cognitive dissonance for those still stuck in the old neoliberal narratives of ‘free markets’ and ‘balanced budgets’, even if the discourse has shifted ever so slightly. Whilst vast sums of public money find their way into private profit with no public accountability, our public and social infrastructure have fallen into decay and the scourge of poverty grows; driven by decades of neoliberally inspired policy, focused on financial affordability, the consequences of which continue to exact a heavy toll.

Even as the media pundits, politicians and other experts spin the headlines on the future prospects for economic growth, they increasingly cannot ignore that we are living in very uncertain times.  That the consequences of decades of market-oriented policies and the spending decisions that reflect them, and which have been highlighted over the past year, are coming to a head.

Whilst there is recognition that the huge level of public spending was essential to see the economy through the pandemic, this is still being repetitively framed with concerns about rising public debt. And over recent weeks the spectre of inflation, or even hyperinflation, has been hanging in the air like a bad smell; always erroneously linked to governments spending too much.

The world is such an uncertain place, and the behaviour of consumers so unpredictable, that even on the subject of inflation, members of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee cannot agree about what will happen next.  This week, the Governor Andrew Bailey rejected the outgoing Chief Economist Andy Haldane’s warning that they might have to take action to prevent the ‘inflation genie’ from wreaking havoc on the economy. Haldane had suggested that the economy could overheat as a result of businesses struggling to hire enough staff, that consumers with large amounts of cash to spare could inflict price pressures on goods and services as a result. Therefore, he said, the Central Bank should rein in its plans to inject cash into the economy at the end of the year.  The Governor, on the other hand, suggested that such price increases were more likely to be of a temporary nature and manageable.

Yes, inflationary pressure as a result of price rises caused by such supply issues is a possibility, but this will be determined by how consumers react in the coming months as we break out of lockdown. It will also be influenced by the economic conditions which preceded the pandemic, which have continued to affect the economy as a result of decades of neoliberal economic policies. The very policies which have kept the economy suppressed in recent years compared to pre-GFC levels (which were built on private debt) and caused unemployment, underemployment, and allowed insecure working practices to become normal.

The world of prediction is not a hard and fast science, as the Global Financial Crash attests to. Combining this with the unpredictable nature of human behaviour, the future seems less certain than ever, as government financial support dries up, potentially driving further increases in unemployment and leading to more economic instability. Indeed, as Professor Bill Mitchell was clear in a blog in April, ‘There will be no core inflationary pressures until wages growth starts to outstrip productivity growth and that doesn’t look like happening anytime soon.’

The economy is a bit like the weather recently, predictable in its unpredictability. Human beings are not the ‘homo economicus’ of mainstream economic literature.

Even if some individuals are sitting on piles of cash, that does not necessarily translate into higher levels of private spending; and whether people will spend or not will depend on many variables, including the confidence to do so.  That confidence can only be led by, and is dependent on, government, which can invest in the public purpose by creating the public and social infrastructure for a healthy economy, assuming it has the political will to do so.

At the other end of the wealth scale, many have been left behind over decades, plunging them into deprivation and poverty which has been accentuated over the last year.  Economic growth driven by private spending has its limitations – even large pots of money run out in the end. And to rely on private spending as a mechanism to stimulate the economy would be misplaced, indeed disastrous, at a moment of existential crisis; a moment of questioning the rationality of continuing as we are.

A sustainable economic cycle relies on a government which is responsive to changing economic conditions and spending sufficiently to keep the economy functioning in both good and bad economic times. A government that recognises the real resource limitations, which both force it to define its spending priorities to keep expenditure within the productive capacity of the nation to avoid inflationary pressures, and to ensure that its spending delivers its agenda, which of course will differ according to its political objectives. From the perspective of a currency-issuing country like the UK, the question of whether it can afford to deliver its agenda is a red herring. If nothing else the last year has proved the point.

Furthermore, and as the economist John T Harvey suggested in an article in Forbes this week, let us not get inflation out of perspective. In an article entitled ‘Four Reasons to stop panicking over inflation’, he was clear that it isn’t always the bad phenomenon we are led to believe, and concerns about it are based on the poor understanding engendered by decades of mainstream economic orthodoxy, which has claimed essentially that it is driven by excessive levels of government spending (Zimbabwe and the Weimar Republic being the poster examples normally used to frighten the pants off people).

And yet, even in the midst of the biggest challenge the planet has faced in 250 million years, the old paradigms seem comforting to some, as we saw this week when the newly appointed Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves began a speech saying that the party needed to rebuild its reputation for economic competence, and that the key test for her would be whether taxpayers trusted her to look after their money.  What has changed in 9 years?

One cannot help being reminded of Liam Byrne’s damaging note left in the Treasury in 2010, claiming that there was no money left, and upon which the Conservatives have dined out ever since.  One might have to conclude that dealing with the truly crucial issues, i.e., the climate emergency which threatens the planet’s life support systems, the entrenched wealth inequalities, and unequal access to real resources, will always take a back seat to balancing the public accounts. Unless something gives.

In 2012, in a speech to the IPPR Reeves said, ‘Sound public finances will always be the indispensable platform for delivering better jobs, better services and a strong, growing economy’ suggesting that ‘the nation’s finances, and building a stronger, fairer Britain, are imperatives that are not only compatible; they are also inseparable.’

Reeves was as right to suggest this week that a future government should introduce measures to tackle low pay, the gig economy, and remove the ability of companies to fire workers and then rehire, as she was to point out that the current government had left the public sector underfunded and unprepared for the pandemic. But to suggest that one was dependent on the other demonstrated either a depressing ignorance of monetary reality or an unwillingness to challenge the damaging orthodoxy which prevails.

By hitching herself once again to the notion that government actions are limited by fiscal concerns, and that the public finances can be compared to a household budget, Reeves shows that such entrenched thinking will limit the capacity of not only this government, but governments in the future around the world, to address the climate and resource crisis, the shadow of which menaces existence.

As the build-up to COP26 begins to play out in the public arena, without a complete reversal of economic ideas the political will to act will always be hampered by budgetary concerns, when, for the sake of us all, politicians must really face up to the very real threat that the climate and real resource use pose.

One has to ask how long it will be before Reeves is parroting her words from 2012, when she suggested that fiscal prudence, balanced budgets, and a lower national debt were vital components of the nation’s economic health. If she were to choose that route, Labour would be committing to repeat the same mistakes of the last but one Shadow Chancellor, who being guided by his orthodox economic advisers, determined to put fiscal competence over real economic health and the lives of citizens.

On such a basis, a progressive agenda, if there were one, would be reduced to taxing the rich to pay for it, as if somehow public well-being were dependent on some sort of philanthropic gestures by those with vast amounts of wealth.  Taxing the rich? Why not? But let us not kid ourselves that it is paying for anything, least of all our public and social infrastructure or indeed addressing the climate emergency. Taxing the rich should be about equity and redistribution of real resources and not least to remove the vast influence and power they wield in the corridors of power.

Whilst the media continues to witter on about high public debt and the threat of inflation, the very real consequences of government policies and spending cuts continue to play out.

This week, the Trussell Trust published its report, ‘State of Hunger: Building the Evidence of Poverty, Destitution and Food Insecurity in the UK.’  The Executive Summary makes for a depressing read. Its recommendations are that government should commit to ending the need for food banks, and measures should include ‘ensuring our UK Social Security System provides everyone with enough to afford the essentials’.

 Whilst we do indeed need a commitment to end the need for food banks through increased social security payments for those who need it, the solution starts with the government, which has regrettably bowed down to the neoliberal tenets of faith, as have governments for decades. Tenets which focus on deregulation and employment policies that allow businesses to compete on the backs of employees, through driving down wages. This has miserably failed working people and given huge power to big business to dictate the terms of employment. In turn, this has created employment insecurity, left people struggling on low incomes or consigned them to the scrap heap of unemployment, with all the waste of human potential that that incurs.

This could be addressed easily by the introduction of a government-backed Job Guarantee, which would set the price for labour and ensure that businesses could no longer use low wages and poor terms and conditions as means to compete in global or domestic markets.  Increasing social security payments, essential as it is, without addressing the core problems of low pay and insecure employment, would only prove to be yet another sticking plaster for a rotten, toxic economic system. A system based on exploitation to keep profits flowing, and the endless cycle of growth going.

Whatever one’s politics, surely employment security and good wages, along with a functioning public infrastructure, are vital foundations for a healthy, sustainable economy in which citizens can flourish?

And once one knows the facts about how governments spend, it brings home starkly that poverty, inequality, hunger, and homelessness are political choices, for which there can be no excuse.

The content of the Trussell Trust Report was illustrated on Thursday by a truly shocking Channel 4 News Report on poverty, hunger, and homelessness in Cornwall.  The distress experienced by those who had the misfortune to find themselves unemployed or homeless was unmistakable. People who had never imagined that they could find themselves without work or somewhere to live, struggling just to provide the basics, or completely overwhelmed by the hardship they were experiencing, with no hope for a better future.

An idyllic postcard environment it might be, but it masks the huge suffering which has resulted from a decade of government policies, including spending cuts and the loss of EU economic grants, which have as yet to be replaced even though, as the currency issuer, the government could have ensured sufficient funding to all those regions that needed it. It alone can act to undo the ideologically driven poverty and deprivation which has hitherto been justified on the back of the false premise of getting the public accounts in balance.

Cornwall, like other regions in the UK, has suffered high levels of poverty and homelessness, with many people working in already poorly paid hospitality or other service-led jobs linked to tourism, a sector that has been hugely affected over the past year. Houses are in short supply as second homeowners, in normal times, rent out their properties in the summer, thus reducing housing stock. And this has now been compounded by wealthier professionals moving out of cities into Cornwall to escape Covid-19.

The solution to rising poverty and homelessness is not private business investment as the first port of call, as was suggested at the end of the Trussell Trust’s report, but instead a government-directed strategic plan to make the words ‘levelling up’ a reality, rather than just handy rhetoric to keep the public on side but which goes nowhere and ends up filling the pockets of big business. Not only do we need adequate public spending, investing in public infrastructure, housing, and public sector employment, which in turn drives confidence for businesses to invest in their local communities and people to spend, we also need a vast stimulus to drive a just transition towards a sustainable, steady-state economy.

Since the launch of GIMMS in 2018, climate change has regularly featured in GIMMS’ blogs. The climate ‘fire’ is still burning, and the warnings should by now be resonating and driving a public conversation, as the UK prepares to open up after a difficult year, with still no certainties on any front.

We can no longer ignore the warnings. We have to grapple with them in the knowledge that no matter what we are told by self-serving politicians or those economists advising them, it is never money that constrains action, whether it is tackling climate change or the vast inequalities that exist in the rotten economic system in which we live, a system that has created the climate ‘inferno’. The only constraints are political will and those created by the finite resources which the planet gifts us, and which we have sorely misused and abused.

This week, Alok Sharma, the president of the COP26 climate summit, gave an urgent plea: that coal should be ‘consigned to history’ as the world faces its ‘last hope’ of preventing further climate breakdown.

In April, scientists reported that the climate crisis had shifted the Earth’s axis as melting glaciers redistribute weight across the globe. And a new study published this week demonstrated that the huge amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted as a result of human activity are shrinking the stratosphere, which has already decreased by 400 metres since the 1980s, and could contract by a further kilometre by 2080; potentially affecting satellite operations, GPS systems and radio communications.

Another report also published this week in the One Earth journal, indicates that climate change risks pushing one-third of global food production outside the safe climatic space. According to the study, the most vulnerable areas are South and Southeast Asia and Africa’s Sudano-Sahelian Zone, which have low resilience to cope with the changes. The results underpin the rising importance of delivering the low-emissions targets to avoid facing food shortages, starvation, and vast human migrations.  There is only one world.

At the same time, while the US President Joe Biden is promising huge investment in addressing climate change, his plans to reduce emissions through agricultural carbon markets will benefit large scale agribusiness, potentially locking in harmful monoculture crop systems and the industrial-scale animal operations that damage the environment, and will make it harder for the smaller farms which employ regenerative practices in food production to compete. Once again, climate action seems to be about favouring big business and its destructive environmental practices over the smaller businesses that are aiming to farm in tune with nature.

Whilst the political greenwashing continues to promise much, but so far has delivered little in terms of real climate action, and technological solutions propose that we can continue to grow our economies whilst we offset our carbon emissions by, for example, growing more trees to absorb them, the reality is that we are blindly fooling ourselves into believing that we are indestructible gods. In terms of understanding the complexity of the planet which sustains us, we are still in the beginner’s class.

Bonnie Waring, who is a Senior Lecturer in Climate Change and Environment at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, wrote an article entitled ‘There aren’t enough trees in the world to offset carbon emissions and there never will be’, in which she said:

‘supporting natural ecosystems is an important tool in the arsenal of strategies we will need to combat climate change. But land ecosystems will never be able to absorb the quantity of carbon released by fossil fuel burning. Rather than be lulled into false complacency by tree planting schemes we need to cut off emissions at their source and search for additional strategies to remove the carbon that has already accumulated in the atmosphere.

Does this mean that current campaigns to protect and expand forest are a poor idea? Emphatically not. The protection and expansion of natural habitat, particularly forests, is absolutely vital to ensure the health of our planet.

Forests are so much more than just carbon stores. They are the unknowably complex green webs that bind together the fates of millions of known species, with millions more still waiting to be discovered. To survive and thrive in a future of dramatic global change, we will have to respect that tangled web and our place in it.

This is our challenge: to learn to live and flourish within the boundaries set by the planet’s finite resources. We can make a start by understanding how we can deliver that through the lens of MMT.

 

 

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The post Dealing with crucial issues must triumph over the bogus ‘need’ to balance the books. appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

It is not the working class that Labour needs to engage with – but simply the ‘overworking’ class

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 15/05/2021 - 6:50am in

In my efforts to think about Labour’s failure to connect with what the media calls the ‘working class’ – whereas the Tories are supposed to have found that connection, I have discovered that the working class that the Tories have connected with are mostly retirees who own their own homes… But I have come across... Read more

Four reasons slow scholarship will not change academia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 11/05/2021 - 8:00pm in

For several years the slow scholarship movement has gathered an international following in advocating for a more conscientious slower form of academic work. Arguing against this blanket rejection of acceleration in academia, Filip Vostal puts forward that the concept of slow scholarship is to an extent misguided and has thus far proven to be an … Continued

The working and shirking classes…

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/05/2021 - 8:20pm in

I thought this ‘i’ article well observed: Rather, it is symptomatic of a much more deep-rooted change in Britain, with rising numbers of home-owning aspirational voters in originally industrial areas. It is symptomatic of the detoxification of the Conservatives, with the passing decades reducing the number of people who remember the depth of hatred of... Read more

The Backward-Looking Cult of Beatle Worship

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/05/2021 - 3:00am in

Around the time the Beatles first emerged out of the Merseyside gloom, rock music had conservative critics grinding their dentures in despair. Most infamous was Paul Johnson’s spiteful 1964 New Statesman rant entitled ‘The Menace of Beatlism’, where he railed against the new youth ‘anti-culture’ as a ‘bottomless chasm of vacuity’.

Curious, then, that today Beatle worship has itself morphed into a backward-looking cult whereby a certain breed of Boomer and their acolytes—associates of the same gang that bequeathed us rabid consumerism, environmental devastation and the war on drugs—repeatedly cock a snook at contemporary culture. Sure, the Beatles were great—a ‘force of historical consequence’, as Richard Poirier declared back in 1967. Alas, Lesley-Ann Jones, the author of Who Killed John Lennon? falls in with a long line of commentators who eschew great for greatest and imply there have been no forces of historical consequence in music since.

Brimming with unbridled enthusiasm, Jones’s book is part ’60s survivor group-hug, part instance of what Douglas Coupland calls legislated nostalgia: the drive to ‘force a body of people to have memories they do not possess’. Within the first dozen pages the Beatles are consecrated as ‘the greatest cultural and social phenomenon ever’—obliterating such fellow period icons as Bob Dylan, John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King—and given credit for ‘the birth of the female sexual revolution’. As for John Lennon, irrefutable genius, peacemonger, provocateur, narcissist and all-round cad that he was, Jones calls him the icing on the Beatles cake—the greatest of the greatest.

Jones’s prose has its charms, and parts of the book (the pre-Beatles parts, mostly) are absorbing. But Beatles adulation is evidently death for one’s writerly restraint, as when it spawns the idea that Lennon’s family ‘long danced the length of fantasy beaches’ or sees him diagnosed with ‘devil imposter syndrome’. The author also gives in to the Beatles-doter trait of yoking their lyrics to key events: Brian Epstein’s suicide gives rise to a tawdry ‘He heard the news today, oh boy’.

In the rush to gush, Jones can’t help falling over herself. When she describes the Rolling Stones as ‘still roaming the globe like rusty tanks without a war to go to’, it’s a deft line and an apt one. Yet she quickly spoils it by making the tiresome Beatles-adorer claim that their 1970 break-up means they alone among rock’s founding idols remain eternally young. Her idea that just before Lennon died everyone was listening to his ‘(Just like) Starting Over’ or Paul McCartney’s flimsy ‘Coming Up’ may ring true for those who acquiesced to the sordid neoliberalism of the Thatcher-Reagan years. It never crosses Jones’s mainstream-mired mind that anyone with their finger anywhere near the zeitgeist might by then have moved on to the Clash (‘phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust’) or Gang of Four, or perhaps to the rap or mbaqanga scenes emerging out of New York and Soweto, respectively. Strangely, Beatles addicts tend to be as aesthetically timid as their beloved group was innovative.

And what of the title’s question? We’ve long presumed the culprit to be one Mark Chapman, loner with a .38 revolver in one hand (this was America, after all) and Catcher in the Rye in the other. Best I can tell, Jones thinks Lennon killed himself or else that we all killed him. ‘We already know there was more than one John’, she helpfully submits, ‘so what killed the original’? Jones quotes from some hack who infers Yoko Ono profited from Lennon’s murder before he demeans her (this was always coming) as ‘an average Japanese artist who wrecked the greatest band Britain ever produced’. Another interviewee says that when Lennon died an entire era was murdered. By now I was looking for a grassy knoll to hide behind.

In 1990, British band House of Love composed a delightful paean to the counterculture in which they sang: ‘The Beatles and the Stones / sucked the marrow out of bone / put the “V” in Vietnam / made it good to be alone’. Actually, neither group sucked the marrow out of anything. As aesthetic landmarks from the frayed end of the 1960s ‘A Day in the Life’ and ‘Gimme Shelter’ still hold remarkable power, while Lennon’s ‘God’ and Mick Jagger et al.’s ‘Moonlight Mile’ are as spine-tinglingly harrowing as the early-’70s got.

But it’s the 2020s now. What’s really sucking the life out of things is this traditionalist drive to be borne ceaselessly backwards, a program that diminishes the dozens of equally transcendent recording artists—from Brian Eno, Prince and King Sunny Adé to Sonic Youth, Fiona Apple and Hildur Guðnadóttir—who’ve roamed the fallout zone since punk detonated the Beatles-led classic-rock hegemony circa 1976.

For British scholar Gerry Hassan, Beatles zealots are enacting a ‘faux rebelliousness’ that is in truth a new orthodoxy. Who Killed John Lennon? is but another splash of petrol on the interminable bonfire of sentimentalist vanity.

Casualisation: Abuse by an other name

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 03/05/2021 - 3:00am in

The replacement of permanent staff by further increasing the number of hourly paid, causal colleagues is a consequence of post-COVID-19 strategies implemented by our universities. Initially, it was argued, the ‘COVID response’ was necessary to meet the economic shortfall caused by the loss of international students. However, these strategies are now perceived to be the enactment of intended fiscal rationalisation, introduced under the guise of post-COVID-19 expediency. My university department, where 81 per cent (N=151) of staff are casual teachers, typifies this general trend. Permanent staff are now positioned as unit administrators and human resource managers, as teaching is subjugated to the economic priorities of neoliberal bureaucracy. Alongside these structural changes is an emerging, obfuscating discourse. Indeed, the term ‘casual’, which derives from the Latin for ‘chance occurrence’, is an ironic euphemism for the deliberate reconfiguration of the workforce.

The language we use to name and describe human behaviour, social processes and institutional structures frames our perceptions; it influences how we think and how we interact with one another, as well as impacting on how we relate to the physical and social world. Behaviours and social attitudes are normalised through, and by, language. For example, feminists have drawn attention to how expressions such as ‘boys will be boys’ implicitly construct a dichotomised view of gender in which girls and boys are subliminally positioned as distinct, separate and contrasting entities. Additionally, boys’ behaviour is tacitly accepted. As long as such language remains normalised the behaviour it sanctions is perpetuated. It takes linguistic disruption to begin the process of changing perceptions and behaviour.

Challenges to the status quo have often precipitated new ways of speaking about the world. The radical Latin American educationalist Paulo Friere famously stated: ‘to read the word is to read the world’. Once we are conscious of this, we are more able to see the workings of power in, and through, language. Authorship involves linguistic decisions taken from specific stand points that can never be devoid of social positioning. Given that ‘voice’ is more often than not conferred on the most affluent, most institutionally powerful and most privileged sections of society, their social frames of experience implicitly influence their language, and so they establish the perceptual frame for others—the relatively powerless. That is, they will do this unless the relatively powerless, seize the chance to read the world differently and change the focal depth for others. 

It is possible to change decades of accepted practice by describing that practice differently. In workplaces across the country, employers and managers are filling once-permanent posts with casual workers. The term ‘gig economy’ is a descriptor of such a normative practice. Once associated with the music industry, ‘gig’ has been appropriated to describe a state, a condition, and as such it obfuscates by rendering invisible the lives of people beholden to temporary, precarious work for their livelihoods. Hence, the structural exploitation inherent in the new vernacular is masked by the word ‘gig’. This process of casualisation is under way in the university sector just  as it is in any other sector of the occupational ‘marketplace’. The fact that casualisation is now the prime influencer of employment practices in academia shows how thoroughly the neoliberal mindset has infiltrated our academic institutions.

What has been the net effect of such practices on the lives of casualised workers, who are often doing work that is ongoing and fundamental to the core business of academia? These are workers who are employed on temporary contracts that are continually rolled over to cover the work once undertaken by permanent staff. An increasing number of casual workers occupy the same post for two, three, four or more years. Many of them are women. Whole sections of departments in our universities are now staffed by temporary workers. The casualisation of the workforce by university managers means that the lives of these women and men are held in suspension; management dangles their futures  on a string. They do not know if in three months’ time they will still have a job. Their precarity means they cannot do not have access to economic facilities such as bank loans and mortgages that are often commonplace for fully employed workers.

In the workplace, they dare not make a mistake or speak up for fear that their contract will not be renewed. They become a mass of workers who are quiet, compliant and malleable in the workplace and anxious, unsettled and tearful at home. Their lives become tense and uncertain.

Universities were once the domain of academic freedom of expression, but a byproduct of increasing casualisation is silence: the containment of thought and the intellectual dialogue that is so often essential to the creation of new ideas, new paradigms and new ways of seeing.  

On the surface, ‘casualisation’ describes an employment practice, and as such it is dissociated from the people who occupy casualised positions; it is emotionally and psychologically neutral. However, if we humanise the process—if we describe it for what it is in terms of its impact on the lives of real people—we change the perceptual ‘frame’. If a dyadic relationship positioned two people inequitably, giving one total power and rendering the other totally powerless, we would say that was an abusive relationship. If the behaviour of one player in the relationship caused the other to feel continually uncertain, stressed and anxious, we would call it an abusive relationship. If the security of the powerless player depended upon their obedience and compliance, we would protest that it was an abusive relationship.

So let us call out casualisation for what it is: the corporate abuse of workers on a mass scale. As suggested at the outset of this article, ‘the language we use to name and describe human behaviour, social processes and institutional structures frames our perceptions; it influences how we think and how we interact with one another’. Nothing has changed for these workers in years. Maybe by changing the language we use to describe the employer–employee relationship we will initiate the paradigm shift necessary to give people security and peace of mind. 


Casual Wage Theft in the Corporate University

Ellyse Fenton, Liam Kane, 18 Mar 2021

Our challenge is to see our predicament for what it is: the displacement of class conflict between staff and senior management into the day-to-day interactions and inequities among different groups of staff—a divide-and-conquer strategy that keeps us all under the thumb.

Is the forecast growth in consumer spending actually good news?

Shop"EWe're Open" sign with shopper wearing face mask in bagroundPhoto by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future.

Thomas Sankara

Quote from ‘The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions’ by Jason Hickel

 

 

Read all about it! It’s the feel-good factor! According to experts, Britain’s economy is forecast to grow at its fastest rate since the second world war, as retail sales jump in response to the partial opening up of the economy. Ian Stuart, the Chief Economist at Deloitte, suggested that the UK was on track for a significant recovery in consumer spending, as the huge savings put aside by wealthy households during the lockdowns enabled higher private consumption.

Reading the media headlines recently you could be forgiven for thinking that we are returning to some sort of normality, even though huge uncertainty and risk remain both domestically and globally. Unemployment may have fallen but many millions remain on furlough, with no certainty as to the future if, as expected, the scheme starts to wind down starting in July. Furthermore, we are not immune from the global economic consequences of the pandemic, which are far from over.

Without wishing to be the spoiler of what might be seen as good news, and goodness knows we need some, welcoming a potential return to growth in the form of consumer spending masks the fact that we are facing some of the greatest environmental challenges ever. It should be a moment to take stock and think about where we are going. Is our behaviour sustainable, and if not, how can we change things for the better?

Growth that serves the sole purpose of profit realisation must be challenged as an objective, given both its real human and planetary cost. There are serious questions we must start asking, even as the UK hosts the COP26:

  • Whether such excessive consumption designed to keep the economy going is ecologically sustainable?
  • On whose backs has the wealth of developed countries been built?
  • What are the consequences of that exploitation? Consequences such as the enormous global inequalities that have created such huge differentials in living standards between the Global North and South, the tremendous damage our reliance on fossil burning fuels is continuing to cause globally, and the devastation both in human and land terms of resource extraction to fuel our way of life.

Domestic considerations can no longer be viewed as distinct from global ones. They are interconnected by two issues; from a negative perspective, a toxic economic system which drives public policy globally and is directed by economists in major institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank; and from a more positive one, the clear interconnected nature of our ecosystems upon which the health of the planet depends, showing, if nothing else, our global interdependency, and of which we must take account when deciding the next course of action.

At the same time as the media lauds the return to growth and consumer spending (after all, good news is better than bad, regardless of whether uncertainty still reigns and whether it might be a short-lived phenomenon) it publishes, in seeming contradiction, headlines which equally clearly show the consequences of hitherto unchecked consumption on the planet, as if somehow the two are distinct from one another.

Week in, week out, there are always yet more indications of the effects of human behaviour on the environment, or evidence-based studies detailing the consequences of our overconsumption and reliance on carbon-based energy sources.

This week, California declared yet another drought following hot on the heels of the last one (2011-2017) which destroyed millions of trees and fuelled extensive wildfires. As the drought has intensified, officials have made moves to stop the global corporation Nestlé from extracting millions of litres of water from California’s San Bernardino Forest. The company bottles and sells its branded water products disregarding, as usual, the environmental damage it causes in resource-stricken areas, and not just in the US.

In the same week, a comprehensive new study by French scientists assessing the behaviour of planetary ice streams has shown that the planet would still lose 10% of glacier ice, even if we sought now to aggressively cut emissions to hit our climate targets. As a result, we face multiple consequences in the next few decades as sea levels rise along coasts, with risk of flooding and inundation as well as a decrease in the stability of river systems which could cause water shortages.

The study backs up one published by Leeds University at the beginning of the year. Andy Shepherd, a professor at Leeds, said that ‘Glacier melting accounts for a quarter of Earth’s ice loss over the satellite era, and the changes taking place are disrupting water supplies for billions of people downstream – especially in years of drought when meltwater becomes a critical source. […] Although the rate of glacier melting has increased steadily, the pace has been dwarfed by the accelerating ice losses from Antarctica and Greenland, and they remain our primary concern for future sea-level rise.”

Also, this week, whilst much concern has been expressed about overfishing, according to experts insufficient attention has been paid to the plastic and chemical pollution which is threatening disaster in our seas and oceans. We will pay an eventual heavy price for our poor planetary stewardship, if David Attenborough’s salutary warnings along with a huge body of scientific evidence backing up the realities of climate change and over-exploitation of resources, are ignored for much longer.

The bottom line is that what we decide to do now will determine what the world will look like in two or three generations’ time. And yet every indication is that politicians hooked on consumer growth and the GDP measure are going to fail to address the challenges we face in terms of reducing carbon emissions, managing vital resources more equably and addressing global inequality. Any proposals, regardless of grand promises, are likely to be watered down if they affect corporate profitability or will be limited by the imaginary boundaries of financial cost.

As the media repeated the IFS’s warning last week that public borrowing had soared to a ‘peacetime record’, an article in the Telegraph suggested that instead of increasing corporation tax (which apparently would only raise £14bn, described as a ‘drop in the ocean’ in terms of paying down the huge public debt) or implementing a wealth tax to raise revenue, all the Chancellor really has to do is ‘sit on his hands and let the growing signs of a surging economy do the hard work as consumers unleash £150bn of lockdown savings’.

Once again, we have the suggestion that private sector spending, rather than public, can get us out of the economic hole we are in, with complete disregard to the effects of such excessive consumption.

Reliance on private spending would, however, only give a short-term economic respite, should government fail to continue to spend sufficiently into the economy, not only to oil its wheels but drive the move towards sustainability and a more equable division of real resources and wealth. The real question should now revolve, not around private consumption to sustain an ailing economy, but around investment in public goods such as healthcare, education and training, research and development and sustainable transport systems, along with a vision for a kinder more sustainable future.

Whether it is President Biden’s idea to raise income and capital taxes to pay for the pandemic and fund his huge spending plans, the prospect of ‘hard choices’ having to be made by the UK Chancellor in the form of more austerity and cuts to public spending to balance the books, or The Telegraph’s solution of getting back to work to get the economy going again and thus increase tax revenues to pay down public debt, wherever you look, the recipe for public and global well-being is always founded on a false analogy of how governments spend. The public perception that public debt is bad and will have to be paid for in the future through higher taxes or that spending will have to be cut on essential public goods to balance the books, is a narrative that does not match reality and yet daily it features in the public discourse.

Indeed, this week, once again the cuts to the foreign aid budget figured heavily in the media as the government announced where the cuts would fall. The former Conservative Foreign Office Minister Liz Sugg described them as ‘difficult to comprehend’ given the global pandemic emergency and the impact of climate change on some of the world’s poorest countries. Experts and NGOs opposing the severe cuts which will affect women and girls’ education, polio eradication, clean water, and sanitation as well as vital research have described them as ‘savage’ and ‘a national shame.’ And so they are.

On the one hand, as hosts of this year’s COP 26, the government claims commitment to addressing climate issues and inequality, but then on the other, removes the very building blocks for change both domestically and internationally. The state of the public finances is never very far away from the discussion and will surely be used as a justification for future cuts to domestic public spending, as they have been already for those planned for International Aid.

The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office defended its actions saying the ‘tough but necessary decisions’ had to be made because of the fiscal impact of Covid-19. And Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell, whilst opposing the cuts saying that they were ‘balancing the books on the backs of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world’, was still content to uphold the notion that the state finances resembled a household budget.

Whilst one might have some reservations about the notion of ‘building back better’ in terms of who is likely to benefit in this so-called ‘brave new world’, it might seem to have hit a brick wall if the government continues to fall back on the ingrained perception that its spending policies are constrained by monetary scarcity and that at some point in time tough decisions will have to be taken to rein in expenditure.

Indeed, shockingly some politicians have already expressed concerns about the affordability of saving the planet from environmental chaos and addressing wealth distribution. “Where will the money come from” they opine? If we allow such discourse to continue, we will find ourselves stuck between a rock and a hard place and the concept of steady finances will become an obstacle for change.

This week, MPs from the Public Accounts Committee expressed concerns that the Treasury had yet to explain how the tax system would help the UK to meet its emissions targets and still were to clarify how it would manage the reductions in tax revenues worth £37bn from fossil fuels as the UK shifts towards a clean economy. Whilst of course the tax system can play a vital role in behavioural change, once again we have the false ‘household budget’ analogy taking precedence by asking how the government would fund its spending if its tax revenues declined.

Meg Hillier MP, the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, emphasising the scale of the challenge said:

“The economic revolution required to abandon fossil fuels and reach net zero must be the greatest co-ordinated ask, of governments around the globe, in history. But the UK government has been blithely issuing ever more ambitious climate targets for years now, with no sign of a roadmap to reach any of them. The departments in charge seem stuck in a bygone era, with little sign of the innovative thinking needed to achieve all this.

 

Every week brings reports of some climate record disturbingly broken – the hottest year, the hottest decade, warming seas rising faster than we feared, carbon emissions raging back even as the economy takes more faltering steps. Now we are six months from hosting the next major global climate summit and the climate storm is breaking all around us. HMRC and HMT need to catch up fast.”

Her critical words reflect the endless rhetoric emanating from government ministers, who have yet to commit to a strategy for reaching net-zero, and yet they still reiterate the story that government spending is always constrained by tax revenues or market confidence in terms of financing the deficit. It does not bode well.

Whilst of course the realities we face are extraordinarily complex, and the solutions not always clear, there is no financial excuse for not acting. The key surely to effecting change is to start by acknowledging how the government really spends. We have seen the proof over the last year in shovelfuls! But what perhaps until now has gone unnoticed and scarcely recognised on the public radar is that over the last few decades public money has been leaching into private corporations, reaching vast sums over the last year with little transparency or accountability. The NHS, social care and the education system as examples have been sublet to the private sector on the back of public money.

The anathema of state intervention indicated by neoliberal dogma has been more about shifting public funds into corporations and driving privatisation, outsourcing and deregulation to serve corporate interests and the revolving door, rather than the public interest.

Only this week, Professor Eileen Munro, Emeritus Professor at the London School of Economics, commenting on the review of children’s services in England, has stated that the government seemed to be ignoring the role of poverty, poor housing and job insecurity in children’s well-being and development suggesting that it was ‘limiting responsibility to parents instead of how we function as a society.’ She is concerned, along with many others, that it will be used to cap the escalating costs of tackling children’s care (caused by government austerity policies) whilst at the same time will be yet a further step in introducing market-style structures and privatisation to what is a seriously underfunded but still a local authority run system.

Ray Jones, Emeritus Professor of Social Work at Kingston University has commented; ‘After more than 10 years of austerity creating poverty for children and families, it is crucial that this review rises to the challenge of confronting the impact of government policies which have caused so much harm’.

We can see thus how the government has used the idea of monetary scarcity to shift monetary resources from public sector goods into privately run, profit-motivated companies in a sleight of hand way and using the excuse that the private sector is more efficient.

If we care for the future, then we should be shouting from the rooftops that it will not be defined by a budget or monetary affordability, but by the political decisions taken by governments to deliver public purpose objectives, environmental sustainability and wealth and resource equity, or not as the case may be. The only thing that will necessarily check government spending will relate to inflationary pressures resulting from real resource constraints.

Hitherto, the game has been played to the advantage of global, profit-oriented corporations. But there is an alternative, and it starts with rejecting the economic orthodoxy which prevails and gaining an understanding of how government really spends and what possibilities that could offer for a better world.

 

 

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Unmaking socio-economic cohesion Part 2

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 01/05/2021 - 8:16pm in

Tags 

neoliberalism

Unmaking socio-economic cohesion Part 2 Evan Jones The neoliberalist ethos has been a long time in gestation and cultivation. Society, social order and the role…

The post Unmaking socio-economic cohesion Part 2 first appeared on Economic Reform Australia.

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