A good economy

A good economy will feature work rather than growth for growth sake. Some progressives think that negligible growth is inevitable, perhaps even desirable. Too much growth, so the argument goes, consumes too much of the Earth’s resources. It doesn’t have to be that way says Economist Jim Stanford.

“I disagree on all counts. I do not think that slow growth is natural, inevitable or desirable. I do not think that stagnation and recession will fix environmental problems; more likely, they will make things worse (CCPA Monitor, May/June, 2016).”

New jobs can be created when a nation decides to.

New jobs can be created when a nation decides to.

There are many ways to create growth. One is through capitalism and the unsustainable plunder of the Earth’s resources which focuses on fat dividends for investors.

Another is through work. It’s not like there is a shortage of things to be done, much of it in the service sector: better care for seniors, health care, child care, education, and the arts. Many more jobs wait in green technologies; building and repairing roads and bridges, schools and cultural facilities, public transit. Jobs will continue in areas such information technology and as energy extraction (we won’t stop using fossil fuels tomorrow).

Increased service sector jobs are a novel concept when seen through the lens of Neoliberalism where growth is seen as a function of profit. And it’s a mistake to think that growth is even their primary motive. Greed is. Capitalism is organized to reinforce the wealth and power of a few.

Neoliberalism does not encourage growth. To reduce input costs, wages are driven down. Workers are disempowered through de-unionization and precarious work. “These are all anti-growth policies,” says Stanford.

A measure of growth is the Gross Domestic Product: the total value of goods produced and services provided in a country. In order to keep up with the growth of population and productivity, the GDP should grow by about two per cent annually says Stanford. Any slower and unemployment increases.

The growth of jobs in the service sector may sound a bit fanciful because of resistance from capitalists. Try as they might, they haven’t managed to squeeze much profit out of health care and education.

It’s not fanciful when you remember that we did it once before. Canada and other Western nations pulled themselves up by the bootstraps during the Second World War by creating jobs that met a national objective, not corporate profits.

Unemployment disappeared within months. Untapped sources of labour were drawn into the workplace, particularly women. The bloom of job growth lasted decades with a reduction in poverty and improvement of life expectancy.

Who’s going to pay for it? During the war, money was never a constraint in spite of the hard times of the Great Depression. With modern credit, raising capital is easier than ever. Private financial institutions create money out of thin air whenever it suits their profit-driven motives, as I discussed in my column of December, 2015 How to make money.

Governments can similarly create money, as they did when they saved banks and industry after the Great Recession of 2008. The only thing stopping the growth of service sector jobs is the government’s fear that they will offend the sensibilities of corporations.

 Campbell’s Liberals keep failed neo-liberal experiment alive 

 

The devil incarnate, Osama bin Laden, may have disappeared from the radar screen but one small problem remains.   On September 11, 2001, the world changed forever.

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That’s the way it often is.  Single, pivotal events cause a cascade of dominoes that can never can be reset.  For example, the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary on June 28, 1914, triggered World War I.

The world was forever changed on November 9, 1989.  The Berlin Wall ceased to be a barrier between east and west Germany. The Berlin Wall symbolized something greater than a physical divide.  It also represented the divide between the competing ideologies of the world’s two superpowers, communist Russian and the capitalist U.S.   The fall of the wall was seen by many as the failure of not only communism, but also socialism.

“The dozen years between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the assault on the Twin Towers will be remembered as an era of delusion,” says John Gray, author of The Two Faces of Liberalism.  The collapse of one catastrophic utopian experiment in 1989 launched another — a global free trade market.

Both experiments, Marxism and globalization, have the similar underpinnings, says Gray.   “In both, history is understood as the progress of the species, powered by growing knowledge and wealth, and culminating in a universal civilization.”

The new era, post-Twin Towers, will be characterized by disillusionment of free market ideologies and neo liberalism.  The exact nature of our new era of disillusionment has yet to unfold but a few things are clear.

Many Americans understood the fall of Russia to mean the triumph of capitalism as embodied in the American way of life.  It is now obvious that way of life is not universally embraced by a large portion of the earth’s 6 billion inhabitants.

The rapid consumption of non renewable energy by its engines of industry;  the destructive life style as demonstrated by increasing morbid obesity in children; the worship of celebrity and self; — all symbolize decadence, not the triumph of a world ideology.

It was a popular model that Governments the world over tried to emulate.  They moved decidedly to the right — punishing the poor through reduced welfare and unemployment insurance; rewarding the wealthy with tax breaks.

The only successful left-of-centre governments, like Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Labour Party in Britain, integrated capitalist concepts.

But now even Canadians are changing their view of the American dreamland.  In a recent CBC/Maclean’s poll, 25 per cent of Canadians said that they would like to live and work in the U.S.  In 1990, it was 30 per cent.  In the same poll two-thirds of Canadians felt “Cordial but distant” or “friends but not especially close”.

In B.C., warmth towards the U.S. was lowest in Canada, with three-quarters feeling distant from the U.S.  But that’s not surprising, given the treatment of B.C. by the American softwood industry.   When the illegal U.S. duty on our softwood causes the loss of 30,000 jobs, it’s hard to feel warm and fuzzy towards our American cousins.

The opinions Canada-wide are surprising, however,  when you consider that Canada is viewed as the tiny siamese twin of the U.S., joined at the hip.  Whichever way the U.S. turns, it’s expected that we will follow.

What’s odd is that B.C. is again out of step with global ideology.  While capitalist flames raced from state to country in the 1990s, B.C. had a left-leaning government.   At the same time places like New Zealand  swallowed the right-wing prescription whole.

Taxes were cut to the rich in the pretense of creating jobs.  Spending to education and social services were cut.  Public utilities were sold off.   But New Zealanders woke from their right wing dream and tossed the neo-liberals out.

The new prime minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, had some advice to others who want to try the right-wing experiment, “Don’t try it.  It won’t work.”

Now, B.C. premier Campbell is embarking on his own neo-liberal experiment that has failed elsewhere.  Does Campbell know something he is not telling us?  Perhaps the whole world is out of step but B.C.