Archive for ‘Economy’

February 8, 2016

Medway Greens urge local MPs to back basic income research

Medway Green Party is calling on Medway MPs to back a parliamentary motion for government research into the introduction of a universal basic income.

The  concept of replacing much of the current social security system (with the exception of housing and disability benefits) with an unconditional, non-withdrawable basic income, paid to all individuals, is currently been investigated by think-tank Compass, innovation charity Nesta, and the Royal Society of Arts, among others; it is also undergoing practical experiments in Finland and The Netherlands.

The motion [1] calling for further research into “the possibilities offered by the various Basic Income models, their feasibility, their potential to guarantee additional help for those who need it most, and how the complex economic and social challenges of introducing a Basic Income might be met” has been placed by Caroline Lucas,  Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, but Medway Greens are keen to  point out that  the Basic income concept has had  support from across the political spectrum, including from Conservatives, hence the call on local MPs to sign the motion.

Clive Gregory, Medway Green Party co-ordinator comments:

“The universal basic income concept (which has been a long term Green policy) was supported by no other than Friedrich Hayek, Margaret Thatcher’s favourite intellectual guru. Similar schemes have been backed by right wing thinkers Milton Friedman and Charles Murray. The attraction for these thinkers is that it would remove state interference in the day to day lives of individuals, simplify and reduce the costs of administering the welfare system and give everyone a secure foundation.

“In our current times of casual low paid labour, which offers little in terms of predictable hours or long term security ,and the growth of food banks, the need for a basic floor under which no one can fall has become more important than ever.  A universal basic income could also revolutionalise the labour market, allowing people more choice in how they balance their work and caring responsibilities, as well as provide a boost to entrepreneurialism and the creation of small businesses”.

A range of different ways of financing a universal basic income have been suggested, from a cost neutral reorganisation of the tax and welfare system e.g. that suggested for consultation by the Green Party [2] with its 2015 manifesto (or similar reorganisations of the tax and welfare system, but with additional funds e.g. the RSA model [3]) to full monetary reform [4]; in the latter model, interest-free money created by the state instead of by banks, as currently happens, could go directly to individuals rather than into financial markets and property bubbles.

Clive says:

“We are at a point when the idea of introducing a basic income is gaining traction and we hope that  MPs  across the political spectrum, both locally and in other parts of the country, will support research and debate into the potential it could have of providing a better and more secure future for us all.”

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Ends

NOTES:

[1] http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2015-16/974

[2] https://policy.greenparty.org.uk/assets/files/Policy%20files/Basic%20Income%20Consultation%20Paper.pdf

[3] https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/rsa-blogs/2015/12/in-support-of-a-universal-basic-income–introducing-the-rsa-basic-income-model/

[4] http://positivemoney.org/our-proposals/

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June 13, 2015

End Austerity Now Demo 20th June 2015 by Trish Marchant

20_June_demo_web_flyer_2Saturday the 20th of June is a national day of campaign and action against the ideological austerity measures of this wholly Conservative government. It’s our time to stand up for the rights of the vulnerable and ignored, for workers and non-workers, for the disabled and the elderly, for those reliant on our welfare system and those struggling to find a secure job.
The Tories are planning even more cuts to public services and yet seem oblivious to the tax avoiders and the negative affect their cuts will have on the majority. Cuts on council budgets reduces social care provision. That puts pressure on local hospitals.  Pressure on hospitals means additional spending on agency nurses. Agency nurses cost more and put pressure on hospital budgets that have already been stretched due to reducing tariff payments (the money hospitals receive for work done). Hospitals end up in special measures so government regulators bring in highly paid “trouble shooters”. Its bonkers and yet this is happening now across all public services. Ask yourself why HS2, the high speed rail link that will save most of us no time, but cost £50 billion at least, is going ahead at that huge cost when your local library is closing.Why are the rich getting richer when your council can’t even afford to replant a tree after a storm? Why is there so much tax unpaid by large corporations?

And your Tory councillors are complicit in this as much as they might protest against budget cuts.

So true socialist Labour members fly your flag,  Lib dem supporters come out into the light you are free again, fellow Greens show them how its done. To everyone.  If you go you can say “I was there because I care”.
Find out more:
http://www.thepeoplesassembly.org.uk/end_austerity_now_national_demonstration_saturday_20th_june

Trish Marchant
Medway Green Party Member

May 23, 2015

Is money at the root of our big social and economic problems?

November 19, 2014

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett urges Rochester and Strood voters to vote for hope not fear

On the eve of the Rochester and Strood by-election, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett has today urged Rochester and Strood voters to vote for the positive choice of Green Party candidate Clive Gregory.

Bennett said:

“Clive has been saying clearly to the voters that he understands they are struggling in our economy of low wages and insecure employment, with high housing costs and NHS facilities that are struggling to cope.

“But while other parties have been scapegoating immigrants and immigration, Clive has been identifying the reasons why so many are struggling: the failure to curb our fraud-ridden, risk-taking, overly large financial sector, the loss of council homes to Right to Buy and failure to build the affordable housing we need, the underfunding of the NHS and the disruption caused to it by this government’s privatisation agenda.

“And I know from my visit to the constituency how many voters have valued Clive and the Green Party’s consistent resistance to the Lodge Hill development.”

Commenting on recent campaign events, Bennett added:

“It was frankly hypocritical of Yvette Cooper to complain about the ‘arms race of rhetoric’ on immigration yesterday, while making a speech focused on tightening up control of borders.

“A couple of days before the Rochester and Strood by-election, the Labour party could have been announcing plans to make the minimum wage a Living Wage, or to end ‘right to buy’ to stop the bleeding away of the public resource of social housing. Or they could have been announcing their abandonment of the Work Capability Assessment that has plagued the lives of so many disabled and ill people.

“Instead, like the Tory candidate in Rochester and Strood by-election, who listed ‘immigration’ as her top issue, Ms Cooper has chosen to chase after Ukip and try to out-do it, rather than tackle the real causes of the struggle and insecurity faced by so many millions of households in Britain today.

“Only the Green Party candidate, Clive Gregory, with the ballot paper strap line ‘say no to racism’, is taking on Ukip head-on, exposing its damaging, dangerous misinformation.”

November 11, 2014

#GreenSurge: Did you know that the Green Party is growing rapidly? Let me tell you why by Natalie Bennett

It is not simply young people who are making up the surge in Green Party membership, but with our national membership soaring by nearly 75% since the beginning of the year,  and lots of interest locally in the Greens as well, I thought Natalie’s comments in this article in the Independent worth blogging.

Carrie

***

It’s not just our environmental policies that has led to a surge in our support.

“I’m sorry.” That was a message I delivered on Sunday to the students of Lancaster University, speaking as as a representative of my generation (I’m 48). “We’ve made a right mess of things.” In Britain, and around the globe, we’ve got three crises all coming together at the same time: our economic, social, environmental systems are all failing.

It’s clear that young people are increasingly understanding this – and that this timing isn’t coincidental, but the result of the failure of decades of free-market politics and economics, which saw greed as good and the natural world as a storehouse to be plundered. The coming together of these crises makes the need for genuine change in our economy and society apparent, and that understanding was evident in Lancaster — with more than 100 students giving up their weekend to talk politics.

We were talking about exciting ideas like the idea of an unconditional basic income for everyone, about cooperative business models, about the need to stop the proposed US-EU free trade deal (TTIP), and much more. This change, although it needs to start now, isn’t the work of a year or two, but of decades. It is the responsibility of young people today — and a huge opportunity for them .

I think it would be fair to say that the Green Party message went down well in Lancaster: making sure rich individuals and multinational companies pay their fair share of taxes and giving their workers a living wage, ending and reversing the privatisation of public services (particularly our NHS and bringing the railways back into public hands), defending the free movement of people in the EU and stopping the divisive, dangerous and damaging race to the bottom on immigration rhetoric. The response was a demonstration in person of the way politics is moving quickly — and one result of that is what’s known on Twitter as the #greensurge.

Membership of the Green Party has been growing steadily for a while, but in the past couple of months it has leapt, growing by around 1,000 a week, with numbers now over 80 per cent up on 1 January this year, having just past 25,000. That’s just England and Wales; the (separate) Scottish Green Party has seen an explosion – with membership numbers up by more than 450 per cent since the Scottish referendum.

The referendum has certainly been one factor behind this sea change. The idea that politics should be something that you do, not something that is done to you, is catching on fast, helped by the Scottish example of near-total political engagement.

And the idea that your vote can genuinely make a difference was also buoyed by the Scottish referendum, with just the threat of a “yes” vote drawing the “Devo-Max” promise from the political establishment. That feeling is what is also driving, I believe, the surge in the Green Party’s poll ratings, which have reached record levels, rivalling and sometimes exceeding the Lib Dem count.

The message I’m hearing with increasing frequency is: “I’ve been voting tactically for years, but no more.” Voters see no point in voting for the party or person they dislike the second-most, in the hope of stopping the party or person they really hate getting in. One reason is that it is increasingly hard to distinguish between those two options – the rhetoric of Labour and Tory might sounds a little different, but the policies are Identikit. When Labour says it will be tougher on welfare than the Tories, and will follow the same failed policy of austerity, what’s the point? Our political class is just continuing business-as-usual politics.

Just look at the past days: the Government has trumpeted its plans for building new roads, despite all the evidence about this being a massive, counterproductive waste of money. They should be investing in walking and cycling, local buses and local trains – helping local economies and communities to thrive.

We also know that new roads will inevitably put us on track to massively overshoot our legally-binding carbon emissions targets. No government can credibly claim to be tackling climate change whilst investing in exactly the kind of high carbon infrastructure that has driven us so close to the point of no return. The good news is that voters are increasingly recognising that it is within their hands to deliver change. Imagine a turnout of 85 per cent next May, with people voting for what they believe in: the Vote for Policies websitegives an idea of what a peaceful revolution that could produce.

So it’s simple, really: we have to entirely redesign the system. We have to make the same kind of leap that saw Thatcherism replace social democracy. We haven’t yet got a name for this system change – if I were being cheeky I might suggest “green political philosophy” – but rather than focusing on the label, I think it’s more useful to think about the basic criteria.

I’d suggest these are two: that the new system should provide everyone – in Britain to start with and eventually around the world – with a basic, decent, humane standard of living, and to provide that securely, removing fear. And the total system has to operate within the environmental limits of our one planet. We have to offer a new and inspiring vision of the future to young people. I’m convinced they’re up to, and up for, the challenge.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/greensurge-did-you-know-that-the-green-party-is-growing-rapidly-let-me-tell-you-why-9852207.html

October 10, 2014

Press Release: Selected Green Party By-Election Candidate on Corporate Takeover

The Green Party’s candidate for the expected by-election in Rochester and Strood has been selected. The candidate, Clive Gregory, has lived in Stoke on the Hoo peninsular for 22 years, and is a freelance musician and sound engineer by trade. Clive also runs the local PA hire business, Clive Sound.  Clive joined the Green Party because of disillusionment with the other political parties and worry about the direction of the country.

Clive says:

“Like many, I’ve gradually become disillusioned with mainstream politics.  The takeover of politics and politicians by “too big to fail” banks and corporations has got to stop.

“I believe that the current structure of the financial system lies at the root of most of the world’s problems as it drives the relentless ‘more, more, more’ machine, which in turn produces unsustainable demand for materials and goods. It is nothing short of a suicide mission for the planet to continue in this way.

“It is a suicide mission which is taking the rest of the natural world with us, with 60% of UK species in decline and a 50% decline in wildlife globally in the last 40 years. This feels very prominent locally right now with the potential loss of the Lodge Hill nightingales and all the other rare species the area supports.

“Additionally this rollercoaster of boom and bust, driven by our politicians’ dependence on economic growth, does not in reality make us any better off.  The Green Party promises to put our future security first with a minimum wage that is enough to build a life on; affordable homes; accessible local shops; a fully funded, nationally run health service we can be proud of; and a parliament which is answerable to us.

“The Green Party has policies to improve our lives massively in all these areas and many more; all within the context of protecting the natural ecosystems that support us.  All it requires is joined up thinking and the political will.

“The Medway Greens are a genuine local grassroots party making the best use of minimal funds to effect change.  The national Green Party is funded solely by its growing number of members which hit 20,000 this week. This contrasts with the huge corporate funding for UKIP and the Tories.  While UKIP love to portray themselves as outside the current political elite, they are in fact at the heart of the establishment. Only the Green Party can be trusted to bring about the changes we need”.

Clive will be out on the streets talking to voters over the coming weeks.

May 29, 2014

It’s simple. If we can’t change our economic system, our number’s up by George Monbiot

'The mother narrative to all this is carbon-fuelled expansion. Our ideologies are mere subplots.'

Let us imagine that in 3030BC the total possessions of the people of Egypt filled one cubic metre. Let us propose that these possessions grew by 4.5% a year. How big would that stash have been by the Battle of Actium in 30BC? This is the calculation performed by the investment banker Jeremy Grantham.

Go on, take a guess. Ten times the size of the pyramids? All the sand in the Sahara? The Atlantic ocean? The volume of the planet? A little more? It’s 2.5 billion billion solar systems. It does not take you long, pondering this outcome, to reach the paradoxical position that salvation lies in collapse.

To succeed is to destroy ourselves. To fail is to destroy ourselves. That is the bind we have created. Ignore if you must climate change, biodiversity collapse, the depletion of water, soil, minerals, oil; even if all these issues miraculously vanished, the mathematics of compound growth make continuity impossible.

Economic growth is an artefact of the use of fossil fuels. Before large amounts of coal were extracted, every upswing in industrial production would be met with a downswing in agricultural production, as the charcoal or horse power required by industry reduced the land available for growing food. Every prior industrial revolution collapsed, as growth could not be sustained. But coal broke this cycle and enabled – for a few hundred years – the phenomenon we now call sustained growth.

It was neither capitalism nor communism that made possible the progress and pathologies (total war, the unprecedented concentration of global wealth, planetary destruction) of the modern age. It was coal, followed by oil and gas. The meta-trend, the mother narrative, is carbon-fuelled expansion. Our ideologies are mere subplots. Now, with the accessible reserves exhausted, we must ransack the hidden corners of the planet to sustain our impossible proposition.

On Friday, a few days after scientists announced that the collapse of the west Antarctic ice sheet is now inevitable, the Ecuadorean government decided toallow oil drilling in the heart of the Yasuni national park. It had made an offer to other governments: if they gave it half the value of the oil in that part of the park, it would leave the stuff in the ground. You could see this as either blackmail or fair trade. Ecuador is poor, its oil deposits are rich. Why, the government argued, should it leave them untouched without compensation when everyone else is drilling down to the inner circle of hell? It asked for $3.6bn and received $13m. The result is that Petroamazonas, a company with a colourful record of destruction and spills, will now enter one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, in which a hectare of rainforest is said to contain more species than exist in the entire continent of North America.

Almost 45% of the Yasuni national park is overlapped by oil concessions.
 Yasuni national park. Murray Cooper/Minden Pictures/Corbis
The UK oil firm Soco is now hoping to penetrate Africa’s oldest national park, Virunga, in the Democratic Republic of Congo; one of the last strongholds of the mountain gorilla and the okapi, of chimpanzees and forest elephants. In Britain, where a possible 4.4 billion barrels of shale oil has just been identified in the south-east, the government fantasises about turning the leafy suburbs into a new Niger delta. To this end it’s changing the trespass laws to enable drilling without consent and offering lavish bribes to local people. These new reserves solve nothing. They do not end our hunger for resources; they exacerbate it.

The trajectory of compound growth shows that the scouring of the planet has only just begun. As the volume of the global economy expands, everywhere that contains something concentrated, unusual, precious, will be sought out and exploited, its resources extracted and dispersed, the world’s diverse and differentiated marvels reduced to the same grey stubble.

Some people try to solve the impossible equation with the myth of dematerialisation: the claim that as processes become more efficient and gadgets are miniaturised, we use, in aggregate, fewer materials. There is no sign that this is happening. Iron ore production has risen 180% in 10 years. The trade bodyForest Industries tells us that “global paper consumption is at a record high level and it will continue to grow”. If, in the digital age, we won’t reduce even our consumption of paper, what hope is there for other commodities?

Look at the lives of the super-rich, who set the pace for global consumption. Are their yachts getting smaller? Their houses? Their artworks? Their purchase of rare woods, rare fish, rare stone? Those with the means buy ever bigger houses to store the growing stash of stuff they will not live long enough to use. By unremarked accretions, ever more of the surface of the planet is used to extract, manufacture and store things we don’t need. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that fantasies about colonising space – which tell us we can export our problems instead of solving them – have resurfaced.

As the philosopher Michael Rowan points out, the inevitabilities of compound growth mean that if last year’s predicted global growth rate for 2014 (3.1%) is sustained, even if we miraculously reduced the consumption of raw materials by 90%, we delay the inevitable by just 75 years. Efficiency solves nothing while growth continues.

The inescapable failure of a society built upon growth and its destruction of the Earth’s living systems are the overwhelming facts of our existence. As a result, they are mentioned almost nowhere. They are the 21st century’s great taboo, the subjects guaranteed to alienate your friends and neighbours. We live as if trapped inside a Sunday supplement: obsessed with fame, fashion and the three dreary staples of middle-class conversation: recipes, renovations and resorts. Anything but the topic that demands our attention.

Statements of the bleeding obvious, the outcomes of basic arithmetic, are treated as exotic and unpardonable distractions, while the impossible proposition by which we live is regarded as so sane and normal and unremarkable that it isn’t worthy of mention. That’s how you measure the depth of this problem: by our inability even to discuss it.

Twitter: @georgemonbiot. A fully referenced version of this article can be found at Monbiot.com

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Some solutions:

Given the political will, and the will of the people, one solution provided by the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT)  is in reducing our demand for energy in the West (by 60% in the UK) alongside the elimination of fossil fuel use. A model of how this would look in the UK is illustrated  in their ZeroCarbonBritain2030 report which demonstrates that it CAN be done without going back to the Stone Age, or “the lights going out”.

A change in our economic system could involve the  transition to a steady state economy. This could be supported by citizen’s income or basic income, which would protect us from the the effects of zero growth, provide security, and enough to cover basic needs. It would also remove the stigma associated with claiming benefits, as well as removing obstacles to work. Citizen’s income is part of Green Party economic policy and will be included in the Green Party 2015 manifesto. We also have policies to reform the monetary system and the banks, explanation of which I will leave to a future contributor in an upcoming blog.

At a global level, many of these solutions acknowledge our need to be fair to poorer people and poorer countries; the CAT model takes into account our historical responsibility as an industrial nation; estimating an energy budget which would allow greater flexibility to poorer countries who have been left behind.  The Green Party has a policy called “contraction and convergence” which basically means that rich countries would be encouraged to consume less, and be given a smaller budget for CO2, allowing poor countries to develop and consume more, until everyone is at a similar level.  However we need not fear that we will ourselves be reduced to poverty.  In the context of  reaching a sustainable level globally, Patrick Curry, author of “Ecological Ethics” says:

“In principle, there would be no need to choose between social injustice and ecological suicide if the wealthy minority [those in the West, other than people living in poverty or on lower  incomesmy words] were to reduce their consumption – and only to a level which would still enable a reasonably comfortable “European lifestyle” (at the modest end of the spectrum) while the majority increase theirs enough to permit the same”.

However, as George Monbiot argues, we need to start by recognising the problem. Until we do, little progress will be made in discussing solutions and avoiding devastating actions of Ecocide, as described in the article, with consequences on humanity as well.

 

March 28, 2014

The fate of the Lodge Hill nightingales is in our hands

***Thoughts  of a Medway Green Party member***

We have the power to decide their fate.  That in itself is perhaps too much power. What happens to the Lodge Hill nightingales is in our hands, or, more correctly, in the hands of those who decide for us – the local Council. The local Council have the power to make decisions for those who have no power in the political process at all – the wildlife themselves. They can, if they wish, decide to obliterate the homes of other species, and contribute to that species dying out, as they have nowhere to live anymore, or, at least, they lack the capacity to move to another site 30 miles away.

Notwithstanding that national processes might get in the way, being as the Lodge Hill site has been designated as having special scientific interest (even that suggests that these birds, and the site that they make their home is deemed of consequence only if we find it interesting enough).

We tend to look for concrete arguments to reject the development, and there are plenty, but somehow they don’t go quite far enough to express what is really at stake. Perhaps what is really at stake can only be expressed by poets, though Chris Sams went some way to doing it in his excellent article here.

Thus we currently have the RSPB  arguing, quite rightly, that a decision to go ahead with the development would be in conflict with the government’s “flagship” National Planning Policy Framework.  This policy, the RSPB points out, contains “important tests” to ensure that special places are only damaged where there really is no alternative, and the need for development clearly outweighs the impact on the SSSI and on the national network of SSSIs”.  This argument is well made as Medway Council have, indeed, identified alternative sites for the development, though it is unclear where these sites are.

However, this only goes some way to deflecting the problem, without dealing with the crux of the issue. The phrase “clearly outweighs” is vague; “clearly outweighs” in whose opinion and on what basis? The phrase “no alternative” can also be called into question.  In this context it is more likely to mean “no alternative site for us to concrete over”, rather than “no alternative way to live”.  We can definitely assume that it represents no alternative to the mindset that places us above nature, a mindset that always puts our wants and supposed needs first.  This often follows even if the interpretation of those needs is constructed on questionable grounds, such as the need to encourage entrepreneurs to the area (trickle-down economics) or to encourage economic growth.

And, perhaps, I will become cloying here (apologies) but it is in an effort to express a sense of loss which I think underlies some of the political battles to conserve our natural environment; a sense which I guess is expressed between the lines in the State of Nature report, a report which demonstrated that 60% of UK species are in decline; a sense of loss which is difficult to demonstrate in political battles that focus on concrete arguments, and can perhaps be better encouraged and expressed through wonderful photos, art, poetry and music.

When the world becomes silent apart from the noise of cars and power tools, pop songs in shopping malls and the chatter of other people; when the birdsong that greets us each morning, and as dusk falls – an experience which allows us to contemplate that we share this world with other forms of life; that the world has other priorities as well as our own; that it is bigger and more important than we are; when this experience of nature becomes a distant memory, preserved only on audio-recordings, or in books, and videos, will it be a better world? We do, at least, know that it is likely to be too late to change our minds.

Thanks for listening, Carrie

 

March 23, 2014

Progress: Beyond The Growth Fetish by Rupert Read

The following article was written by Rupert Read, Chairman of Green House and Green Party member. As pointed out in the blog titled Who Killed Economic Growth in 2011 (which is accompanied by an excellent video issued by the Post Carbon Institute) our dependence on economic growth was challenged in the 1970s, yet we are still waiting to hear it being even questioned in the mainstream media, or by politicians of the other parties.

Progress: Beyond The Growth Fetish

Written by: Rupert Read on 20 March, 2014
The UK has just experienced its annual budget announcement from the Government. It contained an extraordinary attack on the eco-agenda, including cuts to energy costs for manufacturers. On the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme this morning, Ed Balls, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, backed this policy to the hilt. The budget celebrated instead ‘economic growth’ that has been achieved in the last year or so: Balls’s only cavil was that there could have been even more of it.

This GDP growth that is being celebrated by the Chancellor, George Osborne, and seemingly by nearly everyone else, is another unsustainable boom in consumption that is leaving behind those dependent on food banks and the long-term jobless. We will never have a stable, resilient economy, and we will never cease wrecking the planet so long as we chase economic ‘growth’ rather than economic resilience and rely on ‘trickle-down’ economics to look after the poor. In a wealthy country like Britain, we don’t need GDP growth; we need shorter working hours, flexible working, a Living Wage, family life, leisure time and rewarding work.

This is the Green view. It is a radical challenge to the still hegemonic ‘mainstream’ view, the growthist consensus that entirely dominates the media, which uncritically celebrates any ‘growth’ and is thus institutionally biased against the Green Party. Britain’s most influential media outlet, the BBC is particularly at fault. Recent research by social scientist Professor Justin Lewis of Cardiff University noted: The BBC …reflects a series of assumptions that inform the political mainstream…It upholds… a series of economic assumptions based on a global market economy (in which, for example, economic growth is seen as more important than the climate change it helps create).”

London Green Party activist Matt Hawkins helpfully punctured one aspect of that media bias in his Huffington Post blog on the budget, ”It’s Time to Tackle the ‘Hard-Working Families’ Rhetoric.” But I want to go further. Hawkins’ article needs supplementing by a direct attack on the growthist economics – shared by left and right – that underpins much of the over-work implicitly called for whenever someone praises ‘hard-working families’. We call for a fundamental redefinition of what constitutes ‘economic progress’. The lunatic ‘logic’ of many economists’ business-as-usual needs challenging.

Growthism is hegemonic. So such a challenge sounds like a big ask. To see how very big it is – and how there is yet real hope – one might start with the recent ‘manifesto’ from a bunch of ‘green-leaning’ Tories.

The Tory ‘green’ ‘modernisers’ are not really green. Because they are pro-nuclear, pro-fracking – and of course pro-growth. Along with colleagues in the thinktank I belong to, Green House, I responded to them in the Guardian by setting out the pro-ecology post-growth genuinely green route forward here. There is clear Green water between us and these Tories. Ours is an ecologistic position, undermining the industrial-growth technofix mainstream (and seeking actually to conserve our country / our planet, rather than ‘developing’ it to death).

But note this intriguing hopeful moment in the article on the ‘green Tories’: “The modernisers … call for a rethink away from … the ‘British Leyland’ mentality, which says that the strength of an economy is measured solely by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – the size of an economy.”

The consensus around GDP, it would seem, is crumbling. In fact the Office for National Statistics has been busily looking at ways to draw up a “happiness index” on orders from David Cameron himself when he first came to office (before he fatefully decided that ‘green’ = ‘crap’).

The reason that even Tories are now not necessarily sold on GDP is that it is an idea way past its sell-by date. The consensus, among scientists, philosophers, policy-studies experts, ecologists, and even (non-neoclassical) economists, has in fact fallen apart completely. Quietly, away from the awareness of the media, GDP is an idea whose time has come – and gone. It’s time came about 70 years ago. And it has now gone. GDP, the summing up of all ‘economic activity’, good and bad, into one big number, tells us nothing of what we need to know about whether our economy is delivering real prosperity or not.

For confirmation of the point that GDP’s time has already gone, one need only look at this article, by a figure now highly-influential in ‘resource economics’ and in the mainstream field of valuing ‘ecosystem services’, Robert Costanza. Or look at this massive initiative, backed by the European Commission and many ‘mainstream’ NGOs.

Now, of course, we’re not against everything that could be called growth. We’re for growth in actual happiness, for instance: that is the kind of thing that some of the alternative ‘beyond GDP’ indicators are seeking to actually index. Furthermore, we’re of course for a growth in genuinely green sectors of the economy. The expansion of green business/investment IS the Green New Deal. But the corollary, if the Green New Deal is actually to be Green, is that this must be accompanied by substantial reductions in the rest of the economy; i.e. we need to close down a very substantial chunk of the real (the ‘grey’) economy. Over time, this will require a slowing down (carefully executed, to avoid an uncontrolled depression) of the levels of economic activity (much of which is just making people miserable and ill in any case).

What we’re against, in other words, is increases in ‘material throughput’, in pollution and resource consumption: increases that are not found when one does green right, but that are strongly correlated with economic growth (as documented for instance by Jonathon Porritt, in Capitalism As If The World Matters).

Overall economic growth in this country is no longer needed, and no longer viable. One-planet living must be the aim. Britain is currently in a three-planet-living condition!#

Is calling for this deep shift (to one-planet-living) going to prove unpopular? I think not, once we can get a fair hearing in the media. The public want to hear the truth. They want to hear honest politicians. We can’t just go around pretending that everyone can have everything and that everything will be fine in the best of all possible worlds. If our children are to have a future, they need to inherit an economy which is not munching the ecology up at anything like the present rate.

The public sense that they are not experiencing progress; they don’t like  the levels of air pollution they are experiencing. They don’t like the levels of freight they see and hear around them. Especially since the February floods, the public know deep-down that climate change is real and that materialism and consumerism are not making them happy. They don’t like their long commutes, nor the diminution of green spaces. They don’t like over-development, and the gradual destruction of all the beautiful places of our world. In short; there is an opportunity here. There is clear political space emerging, beyond growthism.

What’s the alternative to growthism? It can be summed up in the phrase, ‘contraction and convergence’. This is the idea that the overall consumption of a wealthy country such as Britain needs to contract while each household’s individual rate of consumption needs to converge towards equality; and the same between countries, too.

The richer few will have to cut their consumption much more than the rest. The powerful will resist this. But the outcome, as Wilkinson and Pickett explain in The Spirit Level, will tend to make people happier and better off in almost every way; as more equal societies are better in almost every way. There is a job of framing and communication to be done: but, given a good new yardstick for measuring progress instead of GDP, this is surely achievable. One can live a better life, one can enjoy real progress, while consuming less, and impacting on the world much less.

In part because, again as Wilkinson and Pickett stress, we are inherently social animals. Neo-liberalism has tried to convince us that we are simply individuals and that there is no such thing as society. What the alternatives to GDP are telling us is that this is false. We have a common good. Conveniently, ‘For the common good’ just happens to be the Green Party’s new slogan…

The original commons were areas of pasture, meadow or arable field that were managed by all in the community who recognised that only by working together could they achieve a sustainable way of feeding their animals. They ensured that no one individual overgrazed the common, nor that it was under-grazed and turned to scrub. This was not just for themselves but for their children and future generations. It also ensured that a species-rich crop was produced – the healthiest for livestock and for the insect and bird life it attracted. It is no coincidence that Britain’s last few sustainably managed pastures and meadows are home to some of the richest ecosystems in the country.

That early medieval, or even Anglo Saxon, idea of the common good encapsulates a model for society that the Green Party would like to see revived. The concept of the common good extends to present and future generations and from humans to non human species.

For the common good, it’s time to junk the growth-fetish. Progress is nothing to do with what Balls and Osborne and the BBC and the press obsess about. The media have a helluva lot of catching up to do; for GDP is no longer intellectually respectable. For the reasons given here, it’s time now to make it no longer morally or politically respectable, either.

October 29, 2013

Citizen’s Income

As a follow up to the press release on the Living Wage, this is to point out that ultimately the Green Party support the introduction of a Citizen’s Income (sometimes called “basic income”).

The Green Party advocate introducing a Citizen’s Income as it would eliminate unemployment and poverty traps, as well as acting as a safety net to enable people to choose their own types and patterns of work.

The Green Party also believe that every person should be entitled to basic material security. Providing a Citizen’s Income would help to eliminate poverty.

In a short interview on the Citizen’s Income Trust website, http://www.citizensincome.org/index.html, Malcolm Torry (Director of the Citizen’s Income Trust) gives a description of what Citizen’s Income is. He says:

Citizen’s Income is an unconditional, non withdrawable income for every citizen.  What that means is that every citizen would get it, whatever their earnings, whatever their household structure, whatever their employment status, whatever their gender, whatever…they’d all get exactly the same, so it is unconditional.

It is non withdrawable.  That is, if your income goes up, you don’t get it taken away, like you do with means tested benefits now.  The way we do things now is just awful, because if you earn additional income, you get your benefits taken away from you. That is not much of an incentive to earn additional income to support your family.

Though there are various suggestions related to funding citizen’s income, Malcolm Torry suggests a simple way in which it could be brought in, at an introductory level, without costing anything extra.  He says:

At the moment, if you are earning an income, you get a tax allowance. If instead of having your tax allowance, you had no tax allowance but were paid a cash payment, it could be worth exactly the same to you, so simply changing people’s tax allowances into cash payments would give them a citizen’s income.

If you were on means tested benefits you could turn them into citizen’s income simply by removing the earnings rules.  You would no longer have it [benefits] withdrawn as your earnings go up.  There is a sense in which citizen’s income is a couple of minor administrative changes in what we do. That’s how you pay for it to.

On the Citizen’s Income Trust website there is also an interesting long interview with Matthew Torry, here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRt5dE2GsDY

In this interview he speaks about why we need a Citizen’s Income in more depth. He says that society has changed in relation to work and family setups which makes aspects of the welfare reforms introduced by Beveridge in the 1940s no longer appropriate.  He also addresses criticisms of the idea of a Citizen’s Income.

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If, like the Green Party, you agree that Citizen’s Income would be a good idea, please  sign the European Citizen’s initiative which calls for an exploration  of Citizen’s (Basic) Income as a way of improving social security systems.  Thank you.

https://ec.europa.eu/citizens-initiative/REQ-ECI-2012-000028/public/index.do

More information on the Citizen’s Income can be found on the Citizen’s Income Trust here:

http://www.citizensincome.org/index.html