Saturday, August 09, 2014

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Monica Potts responds to the big lie that increasing inequality and perpetual poverty are necessary - or indeed remotely beneficial - as elements of economic growth:
Hanauer and Piketty inspire these broadsides because they are challenging, in a far more aggressive way than plutocrats and economists usually do, the conservative economic orthodoxy that has reigned since at least the 1980s. Under Ronald Reagan, we called it trickle-down economics, the idea that the men who can afford their own private jets—they’re usually men—deserve gobs of money because they provide some special entrepreneurial or innovative talent that drives the American economy.

That’s well known. Far less often discussed is the flipside of this belief: that helping the less well off will dampen the American money-generating engine—that it will hurt growth, because the only thing that inspires the “job creators” to work so hard is the promise of insanely vast financial rewards. Poverty is a necessary evil in this worldview, and helping the less well off creates a “culture of dependency,” which discourages work.
Conservatives have dominated discussions of poverty for a generation with arguments like this one. It’s completely wrong. It’s more than that—it’s just a lie, concocted as cover for policies that overwhelmingly favored the rich. But it took the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression for many economists, liberal or not, to finally say publicly what many had long argued: Inequality is bad for the economy.
An S&P report released August 5 says that rising inequality—gaps in both income and wealth—between the very rich and the rest of us is hurting economic growth. The agency downgraded its forecast for the economy in the coming years because of the record level of inequality and the lack of policy changes to correct for it. The report’s authors argue against the notion that caring about equality necessarily involves a trade-off with “efficiency”—that is, a well-functioning economy.
- William Wolfe-Wylie points out the massive profits being made by corporations cutting in line to use and resell drinking water. And Kamil Ahsan discusses how the business sector has co-opted the very notion of science:
(L)iberals have been remarkably uncritical of the scientific establishment’s blind spots. Left-of-center outlets generally frame scientific issues in one of two ways.

The first is to expose conservatives who fail to accept evolution and climate change, and to extol the virtues of science popularizers. The second is to blame Big Ag, Big Pharma, governmental regulatory agencies, and oil drilling companies for tragedies ranging from pesticide poisoning and farming and seed monopolies, to oil spills and nuclear waste disasters.

Yet much of the scientific establishment, the very same one liberals oppose to Republican “crazies,”  is complicit in the second set of acts liberals so loudly condemn.
If the history of science has one lesson, it is that much of what we know about the world today, our ability to care for it, and the our existence as a species, is a direct result of the scientific discoveries of many pioneering women and men — many of whom, like Rachel Carson, embodied social consciousness.

A robust commitment to scientific exploration and advancement is incomplete without a cognizance of the social consequences of scientific results, and the ways in which financial incentives can debase the scientific process.

The subordination of science to profits, walled off from public scrutiny, is just as damaging as any creationist dogma.
- Sadly, a preference for corporate impunity is all too often entrenched in law as well, as Maura Forrest notes that the mining industry represents just one of the corporate recipients of immunity against the consequences of its own actions. And David Sirota reports on Republicans' efforts to tear down anti-corruption rules intended to ensure that political donations don't get converted into massive contracts to manage pensions funds.

- All of which leads to Errol Sharpe's review of Richard Swift's SOS: Alternatives to Capitalism:
Swift leads us on an exploration of our pre-capitalist roots pointing to the historical reality of different ways of living without falling into the idealistic trait of simply glorifies the past. Following Polanyi he points to an earlier time when the economy was embedded in, and thus in service to, the society. This is in contrast to the present day era of advanced capitalism where society is embedded in and thus in service to, the economy. "Advocates of an alternative to wasteful capitalism," says Swift, "have their roots in past human experience."
It is pointed out that "since the birth of capitalism there has been a constant pressure to transfer the ownership and control of common resources into private hands." Therefore alternatives to capitalism involve defending and expanding the commons. The commons "represents a space between the private market and the political state in which humanity can control and democratically root our common wealth."

Swift also speaks of 'the democratic emergency', the rolling back of the 1960s and the embedding since then of a concept of democracy where representatives are elected only to be subject to a 'disciplined obedience' between elections when the market rules supreme. As Swift in his colourful phraseology puts it "Any sense of the common good was buried in the shopping malls and online boutiques."
In the end, Swift does get it right when he cautions that scenarios for the future must not been seen as blueprints but as a process, an ongoing movement toward 'living well'. It is for a better understanding of this process that we need to turn to Indigenous thought.

SOS is a book that should be read, not only read, but also seriously contemplated by all who are concerned about the present state of affairs. In this book we are both challenged to rethink where we have been and are provided much fodder to stimulate our collective imaginations as to where we need to go.
- Finally, Gregory Beatty comments on the Cons' war on charities. And Rafe Mair discusses why it's long past time for a renovation of Canada's government:
Canadians must get used to the idea that minority or coalition governments are not bad things. We are told, by those who prefer the current system, that minority governments and coalitions bring uncertainty and wobbly decision-making.

Dictatorships are always very popular with those who do the dictating. But many democracies in the world have minority or coalition governments most of the time — and they do just fine.

Minority or coalition governments do not crumble and fall regularly. There is a strong sense of self-preservation in every MP, and elections are very expensive to both members and parties.

What does happen — what must happen — is that minority or coalition governments actually consult all MPs before bringing in budgets or legislation. A revolutionary idea: The people elected to govern the citizens’ affairs actually get a voice in how those affairs will be conducted. And through them, voters actually know what the hell is really going on. Supporters of our current system somehow find this idea unattractive.

No comments:

Post a Comment