Category Archives: economics

Moving towards a new, balanced, green economy

Dr Christine Parkinson’s recently published book sets out the following series of measures which could move us towards a new, balanced, green economy:

  • introducing greater incentive schemes to encourage businesses to develop, use and market greener technologies and to penalise those who don’t. Examples of this could include: using and developing renewable forms of energy; phasing out motor vehicles which use petrol or diesel and introducing those that run on easily-accessible clean energy;
  • investing in research institutions which have the ability to develop innovative solutions to today’s climate-change problems;
  • introducing legislation to reduce the use of the motor car, such as restricting the number of cars owned by each household, unless they run on clean energy;
  • phasing out coal-fired power generation, ending fossil fuel subsidies;
  • introducing a carbon tax on those companies who continue to use fossil fuels;
  • rebalancing the economy, so that the rich are not rewarded for irresponsible behaviour that adds to the carbon load;
  • setting targets for meaningful reductions in carbon emissions by an early date, as suggested by Desmond Tutu in his petition (chapter 1) and ensuring that the calculations for this are correct;
  • phasing out nuclear power and nuclear weapons worldwide and re-channelling the money saved into the incentive-schemes and investments mentioned above;
  • proper funding of those institutions regulating the tax system, so that tax evasion and avoidance is properly penalised;
  • shifting the tax system to penalise those activities which need to be discouraged, such as greenhouse gas emissions and the accumulation of wealth;
  • banning certain household appliances and gadgets, which are not necessary and only add to the carbon load;
  • establishing a new institution, which will monitor the use of fossil fuels by companies and promote, and provide support for, the use of greener forms of energy;
  • encouraging less air travel, by raising awareness about the damage this is doing to the planet and encouraging airlines to invest instead in technologies that do not damage the planet;
  • working globally with other partners to reduce deforestation;
  • re-balancing international trading systems, so that goods and animals are not transported unnecessarily across continents and seas, adding to the carbon load;
  • encouraging countries worldwide to be self-sufficient in terms of goods and resources, so that goods are not imported which can be produced internally;
  • re-thinking and re-balancing entirely transnational trading systems;
  • working globally to find a better means of international co-operation in working jointly to reduce and reverse that damage that is currently being done to the planet;
  • encouraging partnerships between local government and local cooperatives and social enterprises;
  • encouraging the setting up of local groups (3G groups), where individuals can meet together to share what they are doing to reduce their carbon emissions and to encourage each other to keep going with it, even if the majority of others are still in denial (3G stands for three generations – the amount of time we have left).

She continues: “Some of the ideas above are already being worked on, and others are not about changing the economic system but about reducing carbon emissions, but I hope these are a starting point for others to add to, if we are really serious about taking meaningful anti-climate-change measures before it is too late”. 

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“Three generations Left” can be ordered direct from the publishers, using this link. Whilst much of the book is viewable on this website, she would prefer you to buy a copy as any profits from the sale of this book will be used to fund her son’s work amongst slum children in Uganda.  Last year was a difficult one for this project (Chrysalis Youth Empowerment Network), as due to the devaluation of the pound post-Brexit, monies sent from the UK to Uganda had lost a fifth of their value. Contact:  ChristineEP21@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

Basic income

Readers who are unaware of the basic income concept can find an outline here.

As Ontario, Canada’s largest province, became the latest to announce a universal basic income three year trial (read on here), we read that a privately-funded, short-term pilot program is being run by this Silicon Valley accelerator, Y Combinator, in California.

The goal is to see how people react in the U.S., says Sam Altman, President, Y Combinator Group. The program gives “unconditional” payments to selected residents of Oakland. The administrators write, “we hope basic income promotes freedom, and we want to see how people experience that freedom.” If it is successful, the plan is to follow up the pilot with a larger, longer-term program”.

Altman says: “50 years from now, I think it will seem ridiculous that we used fear of not being able to eat as a way to motivate people.”

The Dutch universal basic income proposal is for UBI to replace other social security benefits. It would be paid for with revenue from a number of taxes, including a 30% tax on business profits, tax on air pollution, and a higher tax on “big fortunes,” according to Johan Luijendijk, co-founder of the Basisinkomen 2018 advocacy group, which argues that UBI would be affordable because it would replace other government support programmes.

Replacement or supplement?

Over the years in Britain the writer had always heard of UBI as a replacement proposal – but now she reads Professor Karl Widerquist, founder of Basic Income News, describing the Dutch proposal as unique.

The Basic Income European Network (BIEN) agreed at its general assembly in Seoul (in 2016) that universal basic income should not be a replacement of other social services or entitlements, but instead should work in combination with other services. Widerquist in an email with CNBC, is reported to have said universal basic income “is not ‘generally considered’ as a replacement for the rest of the social safety net. Some see it primarily as a replacement. Others see it as a supplement, filling in the cracks.”

The Swiss campaign for the basic income referendum

Earlier this year, a draft report, tabled by a Member of the European Parliament, Mady Delvaux-Stehres, warned that preparations must be made for what it describes as the “technological revolution” currently taking place, including provisions for the “possible effects on the labour market of robotics”. The report which urges member states to consider a general basic income in preparation for robots taking over people’s jobs passed by 17 votes to two.

Ms Delvaux-Stehres said: “We ask the commission to look at what kind of jobs — or more precisely what kind of tasks — will be taken over by robots. There needs to be a discussion about whether we need to change our social security systems. And even whether we have to think about universal revenue, because if there are so many unemployed people, we need nevertheless to insure that they can have a decent life”. 

However the recommendation to “seriously consider” basic income was rejected for inclusion in the final report, with 328 MEPs voting against the recommendation, 286 MEPs voting in favour, and eight abstaining from the vote.

A study by Oxford University’s Carl Frey and Michael Osborne estimates that 47% of U.S. jobs will potentially be replaced by robots and automated technology in the next 10 to 20 years. Those individuals working in transportation, logistics, office management and production are likely to be the first to lose their jobs to robots; according to the report universal basic income may be necessary.

 

 

 

Brexit: moving away from globalisation towards self-reliance’  

Colin Hines draws attention to Green MEP Molly Scott Cato’s publication and launch of  a report by Victor Anderson and Rupert Read: Brexit and Trade Moving from Globalisation to Self-reliance’

Although it regrets our leaving the EU and wishes we wouldn’t, the report is written as an alternative approach assuming we are outside the EU.

Its Executive Summary states:This report puts on to the political agenda an option for Brexit which goes with the grain of widespread worries about globalisation, and argues for greater local, regional, and national self-sufficiency, reducing international trade and boosting import substitution”.

Hines continues: “As I am aware it is the first time a report from a politician isn’t clamouring to retain membership of the open border Single Market”

It details the need for an environmentally sustainable future involving constraints to trade and the rebuilding of local economies. Indeed the report actually calls for ‘Progressive Protectionism’ rather than a race to the bottom relationship with the EU – see page14:

Reducing dependence on international trade implies reducing both imports and exports. It is therefore very different from the traditional protectionism of seeking to limit imports whilst expanding exports. It should therefore meet with less hostility from other countries, as it has a very different aim from simply improving the UK’s balance of payments. It could be described as ‘progressive protectionism’, or ‘green protectionism’. X1V reference adds: ‘For detailed proposals on how this could and should be done, see http://progressiveprotectionism.com/wordpress/

Also ground-breaking in Green Party literature of late is its discussion of the arguments for and against managed migration.

Its sensitive handling of this contentious issue for many in the Greens does mark an important step forward and hopefully will help to start an internal debate about whether or not the party should reconsider its open borders approach.

This recent Daily Telegraph article with Iain Duncan Smith and Nigel Lawson frothing to get rid of key environmental regulations shows how impossible any green future will be under a hard Brexit.

Hines feels that we won’t leave the EU and central to that happening will be a realisation across Europe that to see off the extreme right they must manage internal migration and protect domestic jobs. At that point the reasons for supporting Brexit for most are no longer valid.

He ends: “This timely report makes a crucial input to this debate, one that will rage for the next two years”.

 

 

 

Edited extracts from Progressive Protectionism: migration, immigration

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Colin Hines describes the open borders to movement of people within Europe as undemocratic and anti-internationalist, stealing the brightest and the best from poorer countries.

Britain is the world’s second largest importer of health workers after the US, including more than 48,000 doctors and 86,000 nurses in 2014, despite the fact that in 2010, along with all WHO members, the UK signed the ‘Global Code of Practise on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel’, which ‘encourages countries to improve their health workforce planning and respond to their future needs without relying unduly on the training efforts of other countries, particularly low-income countries suffering from acute shortages’.

Crucially the recipient countries must rapidly train enough doctors and nurses for example from their own population to prevent the shameful theft of such vital staff from the poorer counties which originally paid for their education.

Migration’s boost to population levels in the richer countries results in a larger ‘ecological footprint’ than would otherwise be the case. An ecological footprint is the measure of human impact on the Earths ecosystems. WWF defines it as ‘the impact of human activities measured in terms of the area of biologically productive land and water required to produce the goods consumed and to assimilate the wastes generated.

The crucial thing is to tackle the root cause of why people leave their friends and culture in the first place. This is normally because their economic prospects or level of personal safety are bad enough to force them to emigrate. The replacement of the present system, code name international competitiveness, which pits nation states against nation states in economic warfare, and export led growth will both be drastically reduced as the emphasis shifts to protecting and rebuilding local economies.

Since 2004 there has been a rapid and uncontrollable rise in immigration as millions of workers from the new member states in Eastern Europe came to Western Europe. In the UK, a favourite destination, the number of East Europeans here has increased by nearly one million since 2004, when it stood at 167,000. This has led to increased pressure on local services and housing, and a downward pressure on the wages of the unskilled in particular.

In a dense, long and fully referenced chapter Hines points out that these large-scale migrations occurred at a time when on average, between 65-70% of households in 25 high-income economies experienced stagnant or falling real incomes between 2005 and 2014. The income of the bottom 90% of their populations has stagnated for over 30 years. This has unsurprisingly led to a political backlash.

Progressive Protectionism aims to reduce permanently the amount of international trade in goods, money and services and to enable nation states to decide the level of migration that their citizens desire. This would take our continent into a new more hopeful future by offering the majority a localist programme that the left, green and small ‘c’ conservatives could unite around, bringing a sense of economic security and controlled immigration, similar to that enjoyed in Western Europe during the fifties, sixties and early seventies.  

See: http://progressiveprotectionism.com/wordpress/

Colin Hines will be speaking on Progressive Protectionism in Birmingham on April 22nd.

 

 

 

Delhi’s Devinder Sharma calls for a GEP measurement to replace the current GDP yardstick

Edited extracts from the latest article in Ground Reality

Sensible voices, however few these may be, have now begun to be heard. The pressure to de-globalise is an outcome of the anger that built up slowly and steadily as inequalities worsen and the world goes deeper and deeper into an environmental crisis, fast heading towards a point of no-return.

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The term ‘ecosystem’ was coined by Dr Roy Clapham, a botanist, in 1930. According to IUCN, the definition provided by Christopherson in 1997 is apt: “An ecosystem is a natural system consisting of all plants, animals and microorganisms (biotic factors) in an area functioning together with all the non-living (abiotic) factors of the environment.” The Convention on Biological Diversity (Earth Summit, Rio deJaneiro,1992) defines an ecosystem as: “A dynamic complex of plant, animal and microorganism communities and their non-living environment interacting as a functional unit.”

Unfortunately, Adam Smith did not measure the wealth generated by these ecosystems and the generation of economists who followed the principles of market economy also failed to look beyond what was prescribed in the textbooks. Many of the severe problems the world faces today — greenhouse gas emissions leading to climate change, the melting of ice caps and glaciers and the destruction of the environment (soil, water, oceans and air) — are due to economic thinking which created and thrust upon nations the GDP structure as a measure of wealth generated – based on a flawed assumption of what actually constitutes wealth. As Sharma has repeatedly said, if a tree is planted the GDP does not show it as growth, but if it is cut down the GDP grows.

But according to one study, the actual economic value of a fifty year old tree is as follows: 

  • Oxygen $ 7,700
  • Water recycling $ 10,000
  • Pollution control $ 17,700
  • Shelter for animals $ 8,300
  • Soil conservation $ 8,300

Yet if the tree is felled, the market price would be in the range of $ 1,100. See also the TOI report on Delhi Greens assessment.

Whether we like it or not, Sharma continues, neoliberal economics is bringing the world dangerously close to a tripping point.

A contract was signed in the early 1990s between the pharmaceutical giant Merck and a public-sector research institute in Costa Rica — InBio. Merck agreed to provide $1 million for two years to support ‘chemical prospecting’ which essentially means scouting the available biodiversity for commercial gain. It agreed to provide a 5% royalty arising from sales of any such products developed from samples of plants, animals and microorganism collected from with Costa Rica. Merck was then able to access huge resources for a meagre fee – 5% of the world’s biodiversity.

Biological resources have been conserved and protected by communities/tribes which have lived in these areas over the centuries

Mineral wealth exists in areas where abundant forests and tribes exist and communities living in hilly terrains and mountains have traditionally protected ecosystems. People living downstream in the river basins and plains have enjoyed the benefits of the untiring efforts of these custodians of immense biological wealth, who have been deprived of all the economic benefits – a one way transfer of wealth which has taken place over the centuries.

tribes-2-farms_and_forest_martali_village_eastern_india_2012

Ehrlich and Ehrlich (1981) coined the term ‘ecosystem services’ and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA, 2005) provided the first international effort to quantify ecosystem services, followed by ‘The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), based at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) which created an Ecosystem Service Value Database based on 1500 global peer reviewed publications.

The destruction caused by development is generally considered as inevitable, based on economics that does not make any attempt to integrate the real cost-benefit ratio. However, though a number of studies are currently underway in numerous institutes/universities, the discipline of ecosystem services has still to be recognised. Sharma believes that efforts to calculate the monetary value of ecosystem services will be increasingly valuable in development planning, because the value has hitherto been taken as nil or free of cost. He hopes that once economic values are established, planners will make decisions which will not be based solely on economic gain.

devinder-edited-utube-7Sharma (right) advocates the computation of a Gross Environment Product based on the valuation of ecosystem services, ensuring that ecosystems are no longer associated with poverty. This will require the discarding of the economic assumption that growth automatically trickles down. It doesn’t. The amount of real wealth nations has created should be indicated by the measure of sustainable growth achieved. Becoming carbon neutral is one such indicator.

Primarily with this underlying objective, the Chandigarh-based trust Dialogue Highway, in collaboration with the Department of Environment Studies, Panjab University, organised the 2nd International Dialogue on Himalayan Ecology (Jan 28-29, 2017) on the theme: “The Economics of Himalayan Ecosystems”. (The youtube link leads to the programme in detail, but only a few screen shots). Experts from across the country made presentations based on the outcome of research undertaken to ascribe economic values to the ecosystem services provided by the Himalayas.

Sharma is sure that this dialogue will go a long way towards mainstreaming the subject of ecosystem services in policy planning and intends to undertake a similar exercise for the Western Ghats in the months to come.

 

 

 

New Economics question: is there a socially just, green, internationalist and small ‘c’ conservative form of protectionism?

trump-carrier

There was widespread media coverage of American president elect Donald Trump’s appearance at the Carrier furnace factory in Indianapolis, marking a deal to stop the company from moving hundreds of jobs to Mexico and threatening “consequences” for companies that relocate offshore. He also exerted pressure on Ford who backtracked on opening another small plant in Mexico.

Whilst understanding the welcome for more local jobs, Margaret – at a recent meeting of the West Midlands New Economics Group (WMNEG) – wondered if any deeper thinking would take place, “Or will Ford continue to make the ‘gas-guzzlers’ which are damaging the health of human beings and the planet?” Ann asked if there were different forms of protectionism and has decided to look further.

Colin Hines presents a detailed alternative – ‘progressive protectionism’ – which will be the focus of a future WMNEG meeting. As he wrote in the Guardian:

There is a left, green alternative that could effectively challenge the rise of the extreme right, while giving voters hope for a better future. In my new book ‘Progressive Protectionism: Taking Back Control’, I detail why progressives should endorse the controlling of borders to people, capital, goods and services, but not as occurred in the 1930s, when governments attempted to protect domestic jobs while still wanting to compete and export globally at the expense of others.

Progressive Protectionism, by contrast, aims to nurture and rebuild local economies in a way that permanently reduces the amount of international trade in goods, money and services and enables nation states to control the level of migration that their citizens desire . . . championing policies geared to achieving more job security, a decrease in inequality and protection of the environment worldwide.

corbyn-eu-socialist-leaders

Hines would urge Jeremy Corbyn to use his undoubted popularity with European socialist leaders, at next month’s London meeting of European socialist parties, to discuss how all EU member states can cooperate to reverse the present political, social and economic instability that haunts the whole continent.

He calls for a beneficial treaty replacing the outdated, discredited Treaty of Rome, which is increasing economic insecurity through austerity, relocation of businesses and the rapid migration of workers: “This should prioritise the protection and rebuilding of local economies and so provide a positive answer to voters’ concerns. To achieve this, a debate needs to be started about why Europe needs a progressive protectionism to replace the increasingly discredited Treaty of Rome with a Treaty of Home Europe-wide”. Cross-border issues such as responding to non-European migration, climate change, pollution, crime and military security would still of course require intra-European cooperation”.

He will be speaking on this theme at various events, including one meeting on 22nd April in Birmingham

 

Colin Hines is the convener of the Green New Deal group and for ten years, co-ordinator of Greenpeace International’s Economics Unit. His latest book, ‘Progressive Protectionism‘, was published in January 2017. It details why and how groups of regional nation states and their communities should join together to reintroduce border controls to protect and diversify their economies, provide a sense of security for their people and prevent further deterioration of the environment. He is also author of ‘Localization – A Global Manifesto‘. This may be bought in hard copy or read on computer/Kindle via the Amazon website. Those who avoid Amazon may like to read the assessment of corporate tax avoidance by lawyer Marc Wadsworth, here.

 

 

Rethinking: tomorrow’s economists, who will be running our government, banks, multilateral institutions and think tanks

Echoes of France’s Post-Autistic Economics movement are resounding. In the New Economics Foundation newsletter: Sept/Oct 2001 we read that 27 Cambridge economics PhD students issued a letter calling for a debate about the way economics is carried out – and an end to the mathematical abstractions that bear no relation to the real world. It was said that most of them were so afraid of the reaction of economics departments that they ‘stayed anonymous’. The website set up then is still active – see www.paecon.net – under the name ‘Real World Economics Review’.  Twelve years later, in Manchester, students had no such fears.

pc-economics-society-manchesterLeft to right, Ethan Davies, Fráncéscá Rhŷś-Williams, Joe Earle, Milana Yandieva, Cahal Moran and Jack Hughes

In September’s FT, David Pilling describes a gathering of seven undergraduates in the university’s student union who listened to a brief PowerPoint presentation explaining what was wrong with the economics curriculum.  The Post-Crash Economics Society was founded.

Pilling continues, “The students had gathered in response to an email which read ‘In the middle of the biggest global recession for 80 years, students across the world are questioning the very foundations of our discipline’. It asked whether the economics they were learning, dominated by mathematical formula and abstract models, was relevant to the real world. “How far can economics be called a real science?” it prodded, an allusion to academic economists’ tendency to present their equations and mathematical identities as iron laws rather than imperfect attempts to model unpredictable human interactions. Isn’t economics, they suggested, really more like politics than physics?”

He comments that it is hardly surprising that after the sharpest economic crisis since the Wall Street crash and an even more prolonged sense of malaise, which has provoked political upheavals across Europe and the US, the economics profession is under profound pressure:

The most glaring failure of mainstream economics, the students argue, is its failure to explain, much less foresee, the financial crash of 2008. Joe Earle, a founder of Post-Crash Economics says this was not mentioned once during his entire first year at Manchester in 2011. Rather, his lecturers appeared to believe in a rational economic system that was largely self-correcting, one that would return naturally to a state of equilibrium.

pc-economics-global

Pilling mentions similar developments at Cambridge, Goldsmiths College, the University of Greenwich and University College London. He adds that Post-Crash Economics itself has folded into Rethinking Economics, a registered charity that links more than 40 student groups pressing for curriculum changes in campuses from Italy to Canada and from China to Brazil (above and map).

pc-economics-map

Pilling: “The revolt over the curriculum has implications far beyond academia. Today’s students are, after all, tomorrow’s trained economists, who will be running our economies from their desks in government, banks, multilateral institutions and think tanks. What students learn about how economies work and how governments can influence outcomes will have a profound impact on future policies covering everything from tax and spending to interest rates, minimum wages, greenhouse gas emissions and trade”.