Tuesday, October 06, 2015
Sustainability and economics
In many opinions, Western society has been in decline for decades (if not centuries) but we do seem to be heading towards the abyss at an ever increasing speed. Australia is probably a reasonable reflection of what is happening elsewhere (at least if the drivel in newspapers and on television is any guide. There is little real political choice when it comes to elections as all party hacks scramble for the 'middle ground' In Australia there is virtually nothing to choose on economic policies between the Liberal/National coalition government and the Labor opposition. Both also have almost identical policies on defence (which would better be described as aggression). They both endorse any action required by the US. Despite claimed financial constraints, unlimited funds are always found for military adventures. Politicians are happy to send young men to fight, even if the wars are unwinnable – such as Afghanistan and the current Middle East debacle. The whole IS fiasco is a result of the actions of the US, Britain and Australia. Following the intervention in Afghanistan, the invasion of Iraq and the destabilisation of Libya and Syria the world has been embroiled in terrorist activities. The whole system of western governments is dominated by economics. All activities are reduced to a dollar value. The chase for ever-increasing GDP and all other financial indicators locks us in to a perpetual spiral of booms and busts). There may be a few years of growth between the cycles such as between the 1930's depression and the recent so-called Global Financial Crisis – brought about by corporate greed and political stupidity. Continual economic growth is not possible, but no politician is brave enough to admit it. Steady State Economics presents a different view of how we could run the world, instead of chasing the illusion of perpetual growth. It offers the concept of an economy that is completely sustainable. A community with a size and structure that doesn't grow, but remains stable to match the limits of the natural environment and its resources. Steady State Economics presents a different view of how we could run the world, instead of chasing the illusion of perpetual growth. It offers the concept of an economy that is completely sustainable. A community with a size and structure that doesn't grow, but remains stable to match the limits of the natural environment and its resources. Greed and self-interest led to the last global financial meltdown. It was an inevitable result of Government policies, big business demands, and mass gullibility. It will happen again (and again) unless Governments, industrialists, commercial interests and individuals choose a different path from the God 'growth'. The same greed resulted in a pathetic and useless outcome from the climate change talks in Copenhagen. It has also brought us the fiscal nonsense of 'quantitative Easing', derivatives trading and the crooked financial advisers favourite con of 'margin lending'. Traditionally, economics taught in our universities has been based on an assumption that continuous growth is the only way to generate a better life for everyone on the planet. It argues that growth will raise living standards, lift people out of poverty whilst the cycle of supply and demand will solve environmental problems and the depletion of world resources. The classic view is that exponential growth is good and fast growth is even better. Advocates of steady-state economics dispute this view. One of the first was John Stuart Mill in the 19th century and he has been followed by people like Herman Daly who maintains that the economy is a subset of our ecosystem. The global ecosystem is finite, a closed system which cannot grow. Matter neither enters nor leaves it. The ecosystem also provides the economy’s resources and a sink for its wastes. Continuous growth forces a collapse in the ecosystem which then becomes unable to support the economy and the community. Some who question the current economic system, note that the ecology of the planet is increasingly under pressure, with natural resources such as forests, fish stocks, minerals and soil being depleted at alarming rates. Land for food production is increasingly scarce and pollution levels are making water and air unusable or unsafe.