In a sane, intelligent world, basic needs will be guaranteed on condition you do nothing to damage the ecosphere, the thin shell round a little ball where life is possible. This weblog explores why economic growth is still the received ‘wisdom’.There are two interlocking reasons: the Tragedy of the Commons (see Page on this weblog) and the fact that humans are hard wired to be short term loss averse.
The IPCC reports should make preserving the ecosphere the top political issue, but there are powerful forces preventing this, for understandable, but still inexcusable temporary reasons. No one has yet thought of anything which would enable manufacturers to see manufacturing less rather than more as a viable business strategy. This will have to be in tandem with maximum re-sale and repair, with recycling as a final option, but that ‘obvious’ strategy is more bad news for manufacturers. Some blame capitalists. Yes, but they are trapped in a competitive system. CEOs have almost invariably got where they are today by gambles which paid off.
And capitalists are not 100% to blame. Millions of ordinary people are collectively making unsustainable purchases from the capitalists. I suggest an approach which I believe has a better chance of helping to slow the now dangerous trends than a direct attempt to defeat the capitalists. This will encourage a new culture based on sustainability to emerge.
The central problem is that limiting economic activity to what the ecosphere can bear will feel like loss. Damage to the ecosphere ensures that worse loss will occur if we don’t limit economic activity, so short tem loss must be mitigated by something which enables everyone to feel secure.
The unconditional basic (citizens’) income (UBI), a regular payment to everyone, can be a part of the solution to two apparently unconnected problems, social justice and inequality on the one hand, and limiting economic activity to sustainable levels on the other. Unfortuntely those pressing for a UBI and those trying to prevent destruction of the ecosphere seem to remain separate groups.
The UBI has practical implications, but I see a mind set change as its primary purpose – a means to allow whole populations to see downsizing – preserving the ecosphere – as a priority, uniting former tribal enemies.
That the UBI is affordable is explained on another ‘Page’. It will be drastically redistributive, but persuasion can replace duress in many personal decisions, so that market forces can be given free rein. The UBI is fair, but it is not as ‘left wing’ as it appears at first sight. Anyone with ability can achieve their ambitions, whatever their start in life, without anyone oppressing anyone else.
The Green Party should be recruiting supporters and voters from both sides of the outdated political spectrum.
What became the Green Party was initally no more than a response to the 1972 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study Limits to Growth . I joined in 1973, a few monthe after its inception, Although I have never personally experienced poverty or the means tested benefits trap, my work as a Probation Officer (now retired) brought me forcibly into contact with these realities, and the sheer injustice of accusations that those so trapped were scroungers or benefit cheats. The graph at the top of this page is an official demonstration of this. It is to be found in Dynamic Benefits: towards Welfare that works published by the Centre for Social Justice on 16th September 2009. The graph shows that the withdrawal of benefits has the effect of a form of taxation on all incomes. That effect is huge on low incomes, but insignificant on large incomes.
The surprising source is the Centre for Social Justice. set up by Iain Duncan Smith whilst still in opposition, and Dynamic Benefits is the foundation for the mis-named and accident-prone Universal Credit as its centre piece. In 2018 only a minority of the intended beneficiaries were receiving the UC, and even those who do are often dependent on food banks due to late payments. If effective, it could have been described as an emaciated version of the Basic Income. Iain Duncan Smith’s own literature can be used as a devastating expose of the effect of means testing, in direct opposition to failed government policy, in support of a Basic (Citizens’) Income.
But although the Basic Income principle is gaining ground in Europe it is doing so purely as a social justice measure. Whilst a more equitable income distribution is important, for me an even more important function of a CBI is
To allow whole populations, as individuals, to contemplate a recession with equanimity.
This would apply whether the recession was accidental, as it always has been up to now, or a planned slowdown as proposed by Kate Raworth.. The Citizens’ Basic Income will not bring about a recession, in fact it will reduce its severity for the poor, but it will make the unthinkable thinkable, preferably before the forces driving indiscriminate growth cause an economic collapse anyway.
This weblog tries to explain how the Citizens’ Basic Income will help both climate change and poverty. Ecological sustainability should be the major political issue. Is the economy more important than the environment? The global environment depends on a healthy ecosphere. To better understand why intelligent humans are currently not heeding scientific warnings that we are reaching the limits of the ecosphere to cope with the effects of increasing population times per capita consumption, please also look at my ‘Pages’ on the Tragedy, and Résumé as Springboard.
I retain my hope that the Green Party will have the necessary vision to grasp this opportunity to shift the obselete political fault lines.
Revised March 2019