Tony Abbott!!**? Some sombre new reflections

The Australian repeal of climate change measures is a classic case of the ‘Tragedy of the Commons’, but fortunately Oz is one of the smaller players. Selfish and short sighted as Tony Abbott may be, the rest of the world could make him regret it through economic sanctions, even if he doesn’t have to due to extreme weather events. There are clues that heavyweights such as the USA and China are beginning to worry about climate change, and the EU’s carbon trading scheme is already having a measurable effect.
It is claimed that Mrs. Thatcher never said ‘Greed is Good’, but it is a concept which can be defended as producing more prosperity for society as a whole, as long as there is scope for expansion. The only problem, which has been the major political battle line for two centuries, is who should enjoy that prosperity. The basic problem with the ‘Tragedy’ is that right up to a very late stage before expansion becomes impracticable, the greediest, most aggressive players continue to gain the most. Also, a culture which has evolved to take maximum advantage of any scope for expansion will continue to have a powerful momentum, with competition, aggression, greed, and people like Tony Abbott in the vanguard. Contempt for less ’productive’ members of society, which also goes with this territory, is being exploited by Iain Duncan Smith with Labour and Lib Dem acquiescence even though it is irrational with fewer job opportunities.
As it happens, the Green Economics Institute conference in Oxford last week has helped me towards a more detailed, but rather sombre world view. I already agreed with the anti-capitalists that an oligarchy is in control of governments and the media. The Green Party had reason to complain about bias during the election campaign, but the suppression of the anti-austerity march was even more blatant. One insight which emerged from the GEI conference was that UKIP is being funded by the oligarchy with the obvious purpose of ensuring that nation states stay small and ineffectual against the transnationals.
But I still believe that attacking that oligarchy is useless, and that we have to get them on side, and change the culture of society as a whole from an automatic assumption of perpetual growth. A number of threads in my blogs are beginning to come together. In my book, I discussed as a footnote the notion that democracy might have to be sacrificed if measures necessary to prevent serious damage to the ecosphere were to be implemented. There had already been a Radio 4 programme on this theme. Dr. John Rapley, Cambridge University supplied details on how far democracy has been coralled by the oligarchy, but not that there was any sign yet of a shift from typical capitalism.
However, I have also, in earlier blog posts, speculated on what a mega-corporation’s optimum strategy would be if the management accepted the logic of the ‘Tragedy’, which rules out ecological sanity on the part of any individual company, however mega. All they can do is form alliances and make sure they are in as powerful position as possible. Denial of climate change is necessary to justify means to that end. A flash of illumination has been provided recently by a report by ExxonMobil, intended to be confidential to reassure investors and potential investors, but reported in the Financial Times. In it, ExxonMobil stated that the reason they took no account of measures to combat climate change was because they did not believe that any government would dare to implement such measures, for fear of electoral displeasure. That is not proof that ExxonMobil recognizes the ‘Tragedy’, but it is consistent with my theoretical postulation of that possibility. Exxon’s view is certainly correct as to the likely actions of governments.
Another insight offered by Dr. Rapley was that of a new mediaevalism – a stratified society of haves and have nots. It occurred to me that this may have been a mediaeval response to a sufficiently slow onset of the ‘Tragedy’. The same could be relevant to the caste system in India. Again, this would be consistent with there being an insight now into the ‘Tragedy’ in places where it is not yet apparent. On this reading, the future is indeed sombre, for most of us, but not necessarily catastrophic. The question is, what, if anything, can the disenfranchised salvage? Although democracy has been neutralized, there will always be a need for elected representatives. Some point out that democracy was never more than theoretical, but an intelligent oligarchy will want to be well aware of the needs and expectations of the population as a whole.
A strong case can be made that the less the inequality, the happier a society is, but much as I agree with that, I don’t think it is a realistic possibility starting from where we are, and the powerful trends in progress. Some fear that on the contrary, there will be nothing to stop such an oligarchy oppressing the rest of us. They might, but feudalism does offer some hope. Occasionally, the barons got it wrong, and there was a peasants’ revolt. As in Gaza, no doubt 200 peasants died for every baron inconvenienced, but the fact remains it was an inconvenience. It is in the interest of the new oligarchy to give the rest of us something. But how much? What must they give us so that we won’t smash windows in their head offices, or set fire to their fracking wells?
I have a list of three, er, demands . . . pleas. What others do the team think? The first two are access to clean water, and a free health service. Details can be worked out, but what must not happen is private profit from the necessity of water, or American style inefficiency due to vested interests in health care. But last but not least is the Citizens’ Basic Income. I hope that why will be self-evident to (regular?) readers of my blog, especially in terms of facilitating a culture shift which would should reduce greed among the elite as well as applying to the general population. But I should perhaps tease out one further implication. Indians in the wrong caste, or peasants in Europe, were trapped. With a Citizens’ Basic Income anyone would be able, if they did indeed have ability, to join the oligarchy.
In the meantime, just don’t buy anything from Australia


2 responses to “Tony Abbott!!**? Some sombre new reflections

  1. To understand this I would like a brief statement on what is the tragedy of the commons, please.

    • The link should work now. Or there is a potted explanation in my book resume, but briefly it is what happens when an economy which could reply on scope for growth reaches limits. Behaviour, often competitive or aggressive and greedy which benefited society in general((but wasn’t normally good at redistribution) continues, but becomes harmful the wider society.

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