Conceding that their grip on the economy is slipping, central bankers are proposing a radical economic reset that would shift yet more power from government to themselves.
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Stories about Labor and Economics.
Most scientists, politicians, and business leaders tend to put their hope in technological progress. Regardless of ideology, there is a widespread expectation that new technologies will replace fossil fuels by harnessing renewable energy such as solar and wind. Many also trust that there will be technologies for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and for “geoengineering” the Earth’s climate. The common denominator in these visions is the faith that we can save modern civilisation if we shift to new technologies. But “technology” is not a magic wand. It requires a lot of money, which means claims on labour and resources from other areas. We tend to forget this crucial fact.
When the Federal Reserve cut interest rates on July 31stfor the first time in more than a decade, commentators were asking why. According to official data, the economy was rebounding, unemployment was below 4%, and GDP growth was above 3%. If anything, by the Fed’s own reasoning, it should have been raising rates.
Failing to understand the systemic character of capitalism and its relation to climate change also leads to the two technologies of change McKibben advocates: the entrepreneurial potential of solar power to remake capitalism’s energy system, and the politics of nonviolent protest, not as a way to take power from rulers but as a way to change their minds.
Falter leads us toward hoped-for green, capitalist solutions. Highlighting that this is “good business,” McKibben forefronts the work of a Harvard graduate and entrepreneur trying to sell investors on small scale solar (with marginal profit margins) in rural Africa: “I’m not a socialist . . . I don’t think humans are wired that way. But I also think extractive capitalism has run its course.” Solar panels produce usable power directly from the sun, and the technology is getting cheaper and more widely available, and, in the market, can out-compete fossil fuel produced electricity.
The left that’s emerged since 2008 is, in reality, an alliance of two projects: a rearguard action by the old working class of the carbon era, against austerity, atomisation and a falling wage share; and an offensive by the diverse, educated workforce of the information era to advance individual rights and social liberalisation. One project is about setting right the injustices of the carbon era; the other is about moving beyond both work and carbon.
That is why all current Green New Deal proposals contain a promise to the existing industrial workforce that, whatever the scale of change, there will be enough decent high-paid jobs created. The same assurance underpins the US Democrat proposal to replace diesel and petrol cars with electric vehicles.
Within hours of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó calling for street mobilisations to back his attempted military coup against President Nicolás Maduro on April 30, Guaidó’s supporters had looted and set fire to the headquarters of the Indio Caricuao Commune in south-west Caracas.
The building was used for local residents’ meetings and housed a commune-run textile enterprise, which funds projects in the community.
Atenea Jiménez, from the National Network of Comuneros (commune activists) said: “Once again attacks on the communes by fascist sectors have begun.”
Payments can happen cheaply and easily without banks or credit card companies. This has now been demonstrated – not in the United States but in China. Unlike in the US, where numerous firms feast on fees from handling and processing payments, in China most money flows through mobile phones nearly for free. In 2018 these cashless payments totaleda whopping $41.5 trillion; and 90% were through Alipay and WeChat Pay, a pair of digital ecosystems that blend social media, commerce and banking.
The fact that the living standard of wage labourers has been delinked from GDP growth has an important implication: their well-being can be substantially increased under circumstances of a constant, or even shrinking GDP. We need not be concerned with maintaining or boosting GDP growth while discussing climate action. On the contrary, revealing and emphasizing the lack of connection between growth and well-being is more fruitful insofar as it demystifies the content of capitalist accumulation.
Today’s economics, especially Economics 101, is a major source of humankind’s denial of the possibility of the calamity of all calamities, which our economy is engineering. Annually, millions of students around the world are forced to study textbooks that indoctrinate them into thinking that there is no significant causal connection between our economy and the ecosphere. Once upon a time there wasn’t. Although from the first forest-clearing onwards, the economy has caused environmental damage and at an increasing rate, it was only in the 19th century – when the economy began the big switch away from muscle energy – that it began to acquire the means to cause lethal damage to the ecosphere.
It has now been over half a century since the natural sciences began to discover that the economy was causing fundamental and irreversible changes to the ecosphere by which we and the economy exist. Given that economics is the study of the economy, a more radical change in a science’s empirical realm is unimaginable.