Sunday, October 12, 2008

Exchange at Alternet-Notes on a new green economy

The following is an exchange of comments including mine at Alternet.org today. I'll be following up with more on this in the coming days.

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"create the greatest industrial giant the world had ever seen." -- not necessarily a good thing
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Posted by: Physiocrat on Oct 12, 2008 12:44 AM
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And how is this is a good thing?

Rampant industrialism is the cause of the current crisis -- in my opinion, this is less of an economic crisis and more of a civilizational one.

Unchecked industrialism has led to rampant greed, widespread selfishness/loneliness/alienation, long-term unsustainability, widespread environmental degradation and disconnection from nature, overconsumption, overproduction, and the overall lowering of our QUALITY of life. Sure, we are more 'wealthy' as a culture and have much more stuff than we did in the pre-industrial age, but at what price have we gained all of this STUFF?

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RE: "create the greatest industrial giant the world had ever seen." -- not necessarily a good thing
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Posted by: racetoinfinity on Oct 12, 2008 12:08 PM
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The answer to the very real problems you cite isn't to go backwards to a pre-industrial age (practically impossible now, anyway), but to progress (evolve) to a green (ecologically informed) that heals our dissociation with nature but at a new level (an upward turn of the spiral of social structural [and consciousness] development) - practically, that means major investment in a green economy. The meltdown and debt have made this more problematic for the next administration to provide the stimulus, but global warming makes it imperative.

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RE: "create the greatest industrial giant the world had ever seen." -- not necessarily a good thing
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Posted by: Spot on Oct 12, 2008 3:26 PM
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it is already a fact of our economy that we are moving away from the mass employment of workers for industrial production.

if the goal of the economy is sustainability, we need to focus, of course, on non-destructive practices for the generation of energy and goods. recycling, solar, wind, what have you. unfortunately, green jobs are a red herring for the long-term renewal of our economy. if you don't understand that, think for a second: how many Americans still work for the Tennesee Valley Authority? It's a great goal, and an important one to accomplish, but it isn't a guarantee of return to our halcyon days.

if we want a real sustainable economy, we need to encourage citizens to supply their own needs through local agriculture. a greener economy will require less input from machinery and more from individuals. humans don't consume fossil fuels, only grains and meats and other ag products, and instead of oil spills and insecticides, we drop organic proto-compost.

the problem we face is the realization that the industrial revolution is a dead end at the scale our society has stretched it to. the obsession with mechanization must be discredited if we are to gain a truly green economy, and the value of agricultural labor must be recognized as far more important than any job in a call center or retail outlet.

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RE: Great Depression II or close to it ...
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Posted by: cellorelio on Oct 11, 2008 6:45 PM
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A lot of this makes sense to me and it's explained in terms that you don't have to have been an econ. major to get. I also see some logic in much of what the experts in this article propose. It reminds me of what I learned in high school about the FDR administration taking over after the failed Hoover era that brought us the Great Depression. I was always fascinated by that period of history.

I'm old enough to remember the 1970s' "days of malaise" and the Reagan recession of '82. So many of those factors are at play again today (paying to fight wars overseas, an "energy crisis", exporting high-paying working-class jobs overseas, devaluation of the dollar, a tight credit market, rising inflation and unemployment). Though those issues are now much more extreme. For instance, we'd already lost in Vietnam before the bill for it came due. But today, we're still fighting full-scale wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq and military spending continues to increase with no end in sight.

Though I'd like to see us use this experience to radically transform our society/economy into one that is more anarchist/community-oriented, I just don't think that the masses are open to it. I guess the next best thing is to use government to support people and communities struggling the most while we (activists, anarchists, communitarians) work to educate those who will most benefit from joining us in transforming the world into one that equitably distributes wealth and power.

We have to replicate our successes (the labor movement during the Depression, the various civil rights movements of the '60s and '70s) and learn from our failures (the excesses and complacency of the labor movement from the '60s on; allowing the Radical Right/conservative Republicans to redefine the socio-political agenda beginning in the late '70s).

The question is, how. How do we activate social progressives? How do we put aside the in-fighting and back-biting that seems so inherent to the free-thinking Left? How do we get people to wake up and stop supporting people and policies that directly screw them over? I mean, the Teamsters endorsed Ronald Freaking Reagan in 1980 and '84! In 1978, my parents voted for California's infamous Prop 13* because, as homeowners, they were afraid they could no longer afford to own property as property values ballooned. Right issue, wrong initiative.

My favorite quote of the article: "capitalism itself will come under severe questioning, and many will think that regulating or re-regulating it is not enough. I think you will find the same fundamental questioning happening throughout the world." He added, "Radical economics and Keynesian economics will regain respectability, and neoclassical or neoliberal (trickle-down) economics will be delegitimized." Boo ya!


Vermin

* California Ballot Proposition 13: Billed as capping property taxes for homeowners but really more of a big corporate giveaway while gutting local services, ultimately crushing the still somewhat powerful public employee unions and thereby damaging the entire labor movement.

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RE: Great Depression II or close to it ...
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Posted by: racetoinfinity on Oct 12, 2008 12:12 PM
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A new green economy will be a great opportunity to promote and educate the public in communitarianism, if we don't allow the same corporatism to grab and co-opt the true green evolution underway (a big "if" - they will not surrender their power easily).

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RE: Great Depression II or close to it ...
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Posted by: Spot on Oct 12, 2008 3:34 PM
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Your rating: 4
a new green economy cannot rely on industrial production. products cannot continue be shipped from continent to continent except as luxury goods. food production must follow similar lines, being grown close to the point of consumption.

these factors will undoubtedly lead to increased community interaction, though i understand your concern that corporations will try to maintain control. they inevitably will. don't worry though, there are affinity groups looking at tactics that will make education look positively conservative.

every chain store that burns opens an opportunity for local, sustainable commerce.

my big worry is: how do we kill consolidated control of media?

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1 comment:

Noah "Nog" M. said...

Some interesting stuff. Your techno-green point was good. I haven't read any communitarian material in quite some time.

I noticed that someone mentioned that Keynesian economics would become popular again. I didn't think they had gone out of fashion in the first place. Even with stagflation in the 70s and Greenspan (who I just find incoherent), the interventionist school has generally run the government's financial institutions.

And there's a saying: "money doesn't buy happiness, but poverty doesn't buy anything."


-Nog