Sunday, June 01, 2014

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that to end your weekend.

- Lana Payne challenges the Big Lie that right-wing politics are anything but antithetical to broad economic growth. Dennis Howlett weighs in on the Cons' choice to make the rich even richer through their tax policy. And Daniel Tencer juxtaposes the boom in Canadian corporate profits against the continued economic difficulties facing most people.

- Meanwhile, Paul Krugman notes that the most prominent attempt to challenge Thomas Piketty's work represents nothing but inequality denialism. And Auriandra compares the policy views of the 1% with those of the American public - making for a particularly important contrast given the propensity of the U.S.' political system to ignore the latter in favour of the former.

- But political capitulation to the wealthy few comes at a significant price. And Ian Welsh discusses the connection between the lack of parties offering a meaningful response to neoliberalism, and the rise of the fascist right in Europe:
Neo-liberalism is an effective ideology and set of policy prescriptions: not because it produces good outcomes for the majority of people (that’s not its purpose), but because it creates a constituency (oligarchs and their supporters/retainers) who are able to maintain it in power.

All ideologies eventually come to an end, however.  The oligarchs hate real left-wingism far more than they do fascism.  They have crushed the left.  Because no new coherent ideology can arise due to oligarchical control over the mechanisms of dissemination, all that remain are old ideologies.

Given no real and viable left-wing parties to vote for; given the failure of what they are told are left-wing policies (as with Obama being called a left-winger when his economic policy has been to give trillions to oligarchs); people will vote for the only other option: the hard right—the neo-fascists.

They are, at least, against the status quo.  The UK-IP wants to leave the EU.  They want less “free” trade.  And so on.  Given no other option for actual change, people opt for the parties actually offering it, even if those parties are noxious.
- Finally, George Monbiot highlights the cost of giving in to the doctrine of perpetual material growth:
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 body Forest 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.
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.

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