Some months ago I considered betting on Jill Stein as the next USA President . Three extremely unlikely occurrences – Corbyn, Brexit and Trump – have a common element Stein could have exploited. Although it is still incoherent, there is a growing feeling – it is too soon to call it a realization – that there is something wrong that most people can’t quite put their finger on. One could add the fright Bernie Sander’ gave Hillary Clinton a s more evidence for this proposition. Although Corbyn’s comprehensive reaffirmation and Sander’s run are ‘left wing’ expressions of this growing malaise, to some of us neither Brexit nor Trump’s presidential campaign have currently available rational explanations.
Another strange absence in the political debate is trashing the ecosphere. It does not appear to affect voting intentions. I link these odd facts to yet another apparently unconnected phenomenon: the Feudal system in mediaeval Europe. the Indian Caste system is probably another example of the samne thing. What links these disparate facts?
The catastrophe which befell Rapanui (Easter Island) – a brief epoch of cannibalism – was avoided in Europe and India because in the larger land masses the inexorable dynamics were much slower, and strategies could be evolved to forestall it. The essence of the ‘Tragedy’ is that where growth can be taken for granted, a competitive ethos is the best way to exploit resources. But when, inevitably, Limits to Growth are reached, instead of the rational response of co-operation, what happens in practice is that competition intensifies to conflict, warfare, and if necessary genocide. However, in stratified societies with an elite in control, rather than get rid of everyone else, it made more sense to enslave them, but that required a system which gave them enough not to revolt and cause a nuisance.
Even on Rapanui, by the time Captain Cook visited in1774, the impoverished descendants of the survivors were well on the way to evolving strategies for living sustainably within what was left. but in a globalized world, capitalism has led to neoliberalism as a modern form of Feudalism. My Dad thought they had defeated capitalism when Labour gained power in 1945. Many capitalists are everything he accused them of being, but they are not stupid, and they are resourceful. Corbyn, Sanders – and Jill Stein – all cling to the apparently obvious point that capitalsim and neoliberalism must somehow be stopped. They cannot suggest how – and neither can I. The neoliberals will always be too strong.
But I can think of a way to make neoliberalism acceptable to the rest of us
The Citizens’Basic Income
Unlike Feudalism, or the Caste system, under neoliberalism with a basic income, no one is trapped at their starting status. The child of a single parent on a problem estate has the same opportunity of becoming the CEO of a transnational corporation, and joining the elite as everyone else. I will not digress here into why the elite are having difficulty in preventing unsustainable growth, even though it is in their interests to do so. (Clue: it’s the Tragedy of the Commons again)
I never got round to putting my money where my mouth is. Jill Stein could have used this logic to bring about the biggest surprise of all. However a comprehensive account of why such a bet would be unwise, whatever the odds, is provided here by Tessa Stewart, in the ‘Rolling Stone’ website. But there is something positive Stein could still do. According to Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian, the risk of Stein repeating the ‘Nader’ mistake in 2000 pales into insignificance alongside the almost double numbers supporting the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, who, when asked to comment on the latest developments in Aleppo, said “What is Aleppo?”
The trouble is that virtually all votes for either Stein or Johnson will be taken from Clinton, none from Trump. I have recently read ‘The Political Brain’ by Drew Westen, in which he explains that it is emotion, not reason which drives almost all political decisions, and certainly votes. The conventional view is that neither Corbyn nor Sanders could command a majority in the wider electorate. That is a rational view, which may be correct. The public have not yet had the benefit of the above line of reasoning. My own feeling is that the motives of Brexit and Trump voters will be even less amenable to reason. They simply feel swindled by whoever is in control, so they vote for those they mistakenly think of as outsiders – Farage and Trump. The highest Brexit votes were in areas where the plight of many was due to government policies, not membership of the EU, and Trump support seems to be strongest in areas hardest hit by economic malfunction.
This is where Jill Stein could play a decisive role in the Presidential election. She cannot win, but she could prevent the nightmare of a Trump Presidency. Unfortunately she appears unaware of the Citizens’ Basic Income principle, let alone its far reaching potential. Her platform is one of economic regeneration (rather similar to Corbyn’s) which might work if we could still ignore Limits to Growth. But the immediate problem is that the potential Trump voters in the post industrial rust belts don’t appear to be responding to her message.
It is of course possible that they would not take the Basic income any more seriously, but this is an area where Trump has support because he has made promises which are believed. It is not true that the Basic income is unaffordable, but the deprived in post industrial areas will be its direct beneficiaries, It will enable communties based on a bygone source of prosperity to regenerate spontaneously. Otjivero in Namibia shows how this can happen. This strategy should have been a part of Stein’s campaign throughout, but the signs are that her hatred of Clinton blinds her to the horror of a Trump presidency. Better late than never? Stein could just tip the alance.