A new Centre Party? Rename Greens as ‘Doughnut’

There has been talk of a new ‘Centre’ Party’.

The Green Party was founded on the premiss that economic growth would wreck the ecosphere if not checked. Kate Raworth is not the first to point out the obvious, that growth must have limits, hence her ‘Doughnut’ concept.

I hear a lot pf sophisticated arguments about green forms of growth, and how all kinds of eminently sensible measures, such as eating less meat, and having smaller families could cushion the effect of growth per se. Many others claim that increases in efficiency will minimise the problem, so the root problem of limiting economic activity is a can that can be kicked down the road.

I had a problem with that, and another has become clear with hindsight. I am reminded of these mitigations by the assurances we are given that post-Brexit, a whole host of new opportunities will plug the gap. They might, but to take any of these hopes as certainties is rash in the extreme. A no-growth strategy is a wise precaution in case any of the promised developments are delayed.

Growth per se is steadily taking an increasing toll, for now mainly in communities not in the economic mainstream, but there is also ocean acidification, habitat loss, and more. But a more insidious problem is the global mind set. The culture which underpins growth ensures that the aggressive strategies ideal for exploiting new opportunities become the worst possible strategies for an ecologically sustainable society. Does no one else wonder why a species capable of co-operation as no other, has such a record of killing its own kind?

All other political issues should pale into insignificance alongside the threat of serious damage to the ecosphere, but it is possible to understand why this has not happened.  The reasons are complex, but central is the fact that humans are hard wired against loss. Once growth becomes the normal expectation, anything less looks like loss. Some blame the capitalists, but I have recently read in the Finncial Times that dividends from private companies over the past 100 years have averaged at least 5% n the UK and 6% in the USA. Zero growth will put an end to that gallop. Anything less than you are used to feels like loss. We eco-doomsters fear that dividends will be reduced with a vengeance a little later by natural forces, but this carries little weight due to the rationalizations about ‘green growth’ et cetera. They might be enough, but I would rather not take the risk.

All it needs is a new ‘quasi Buddhist’ mind set, er, world wide. The Green Party could have kept this issue in the public’s mind, just as Brexiteers did successfully on their issue. It would not have been ‘popular’ at first, but with the unconditional basic income (UBI) guaranteeing security for all whatever the level of economic activity, the issue would have gradually gained ground.

Instead, the Green Party concentrated on gaining support at local level. This was tactically astute, but it meant that the original raison d’être had to be quietly forgotten. The other difficulty was that ensuring security via the UBI would entail redistribution (i.e. loss for the better off). The party steadily morphed into a better socialist party than the one led by Ed Miliband.

The 2017 General election result in the Isle of Wight suggests that many Conservatives and Lib Dems might indeed support the Green Party if it could free itself of that ’left wing’ tag.

If all that is needed is a new ‘centre’ party, the Liberal Democrats should have been able to achieve that. But what some of us envisaged in 1973 s still needed – a Party with a new vision based on a recognition of the most important issue facing humankind. Would Kate Raworth mind us re-naming the Green Party the Doughnut Party?

 

3 responses to “A new Centre Party? Rename Greens as ‘Doughnut’

  1. 1. I like Kate Raworths line ‘Be agnostic about growth’.

    2. I don’t agree that zero growth will cause zero dividends. Dividends, rent and wages are really all wages, for capital, land, and labour, and can only be called growth if their contribution to GDP increases. Both land tax and interest rates have been kept too low, in my opinion, so it has been more profitable to invest in buy-to-let property than in financing other peoples mortgages.

    3. The UBI need not entail drastic redistribution. A UBI approximately equal to the 2017 basic state pension would not be very different from the current system. This can be seen if benefit withdrawal is combined with income tax and described as flat tax. Thats including the 100 percent benefit withdrawal which is effectively paid by people who don’t get benefits. It may be necessary to continue to disguise some of the tax as benefit withdrawal and the UBI as a means-tested Guaranteed Minimum Income. But it should be run by HMRC as a UBI and flat rate income tax.

    4. I agree about the unfortunate side-effects of concentrating on local politics.

  2. Thank you Alison.
    2. Point taken, but won’t a steady state economyat least reduce dividends,.and if so, by what proportion of that 5% and 6%?
    3. What you say makes sense to me, but there are evensupporters of the UBI who worry about its ‘unaffordability’.

  3. I suppose dividend rates would ideally be at least as high as interest rates, and there isn’t a consensus among economists or anyone else about interest rates. They are influenced by inflation, monetary policy, booms and busts, etc.

    Here are some relevant extracts from my website:

    In March 2009: The new Bank of England interest rate, 0.5% . . . is the lowest in 315 years. The highest was 17% in 1979. Before the 1970s the interest rate always stayed within the range 2 to 10%.

    From http://www.thomaspalley.com : Zero interest rate policy . . . throws away a vital policy instrument in a world where policy makers already confront the challenge of having more targets than instruments.

    Inflation: The long-term trend of wheat prices in England was flat between 1260 and 1510, and between 1590 and 1940. The 20th century exception was probably due to Keynesian policies, and the Tudor one to the influx of Spanish-American silver and gold . . . the mean price in the first half of the twentieth century was about the same as the mean in the first half of the 17th century.

    Boom and bust: Since the late 19th century there have been four long-wave economic depressions . . . After each downturn new economic theories become dominant and are credited with the achievement of prosperity and stability until the end of the next boom. . . But an explanation for longwave Kondratiev downturns may still be a major missing link in economic theory.

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