Lima and oil prices; The Archbishop and Wonga

The climate change ‘talks’ at Lima watered down again. Meanwhile, the collapse of oil prices makes success more urgent, and .the Archbishop will ‘compete Wonga out of existence’.

Hopes had been raised that the surprise joint agreement between the USA and China heralded a new approach to climate change by the two biggest offenders. It does. The new attitude is indeed heartening, but Lima shows that rather more will be needed to overcome the ‘Tragedy of the Commons’.

My thinking has been reinforced, by a book I have read recently: The Origin of Capitalism: A Longer View’ by Ellen Meiksins Wood. She explains that the monetization of transactions in England in the late mediaeval period led to new opportunities, but in a way which created unavoidable imperatives. Thus, Capitalism is not the root of the problem, just an important consequence of that root cause. Although many capitalists are indeed enthusiastic at what they are doing, they are not only exploiting opportunities, they are trapped into obeying imperatives.

China has performed an apparent double volte face: from normally playing hardball they  make a truly surprising agreement with  the USA, but then go back to playing hardball at Lima. The key fact which explains China’s behaviour is that no one can afford to place themselves at a disadvantage in the global rat race. I repeat, I do not know a complete answer, but a Citizens’, or Basic income both between individuals within a country, and between countries internationally, is an essential part of the solution.

Has the oil price collapse featured at all at Lima? It should, for the obvious reason that it will lead to faster production of CO2, mainly by fossil fuels which must remain in the ground if climate change is to be checked. There is of course the intriguing fact that fracking and renewables are hog tied together: both need high energy prices to be viable. Fracking is of course the main factor driving the oil price collapse, but it will remain an imperative poised to take advantage of any restriction on conventional supplies, until there is a culture change accepting that a dependence on indiscriminate economic growth is madness.

Energy prices must rise if fossil fuels are to remain unburnt. The Citizens’ Income can cope with this because there will be a component corresponding to a reasonable amount of fuel per person.

I gather that the Archbishop of Canterbury has finally been given permission by the Financial Services Authority to launch his new credit union intended to out-compete Wonga. Certainly its interest rates would do that, but the scheme is open only to church workers. Wonga must be terrified. The Archbishop would do more to help Wonga’s victims if he were to publicly call for a Citizens’ or Basic Income as preferable to Iain Duncan Smith’s Department of work and Pensions regime of workfare, benefit sanctions and Work Capability Assessments, oh, and the Bedroom Tax, and the 1% benefits cap, all of which drive people  to Wonga in desperation.

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