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Should we forget about growth?
Stephanie Flanders, BBC Online
Never mind the size, focus on the quality. That's always good advice when picking fruit.
Some say it should now be our economic mantra as well.
They say that our fixation with GDP and growth is threatening an environmental disaster. Or, as Lord Skidelsky argues in a book he's just written with his son, Edward, it's distracting us from what really matters, which is leading a good life.
That was our subject on Stephanomics on Radio 4, which is re-broadcast later on Tuesday.
You might not agree with everything Lord Skidelsky says. But he's not the only one who sees the global financial crisis as an opportunity to take stock of the way we've organised our society - and maybe re-think our slavish pursuit of economic growth. (Especially since we don't seem to be doing very well at getting it.)
That is certainly a common theme of the emails and letters I have received since the recession started in 2008...
(31 July 2012)
The cooperative turn - building the right kind of autonomy
Robin Murray, Open Democracy
Extreme weather events have tripled since 1980. There is a sense in which these parallel what is happening in society. Just as tornadoes, floods and firestorms sweep away all that is before them, all that is familiar – houses, roads, even threatening whole towns and cities – so the last 30 years has seen the erosion of the pillars that provided stability to 20th-century society.
It is not just the ever-gathering attacks on the welfare state and its sense of social solidarity. It is the weakening of so much that once shaped values and identity and provided the norms for personal relationships. All these have become less rooted, more diverse, and provisional. The Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman described it as a shift from solid to liquid modernity.
Central to this shift has been an increasingly faster and more liquid economy. Money now moves round the world in milliseconds...
Free-market ideas that were originally part of the Enlightenment’s attack on the landed absolutism of the 18th century have now been turned to defend the new corporate absolutism of today. Those institutions that more than 100 years of active politics put in place to contain and direct the force of a corporate market have one by one been dismantled as fetters to this force. It has been a dismantling undertaken in the name of freedom and efficiency. But the result has been the freedom of the few, and an efficiency that threatens to turn itself against its people and its planet.
Cooperation in its principles and its daily practice is based on a quite different set of values. As a movement it developed in the 1840s as a counter to an earlier period of market utopianism. It was a movement of those marginalised by the market, their alternative designed explicitly to stand the principles of capitalism on their head. As the Rochdale Pioneers put it when they established their first shop, instead of capital employing labour as it did in the new mills that had put these weavers out of work, labour would employ capital, and the cooperative would operate in the interest not of profit but of each and every one of its members...
(24 July 2012)
Economic Growth Idea: Forgive or Restructure Debt U.S. Citizens Hold
Steve Clemons and Richard Vague, The Atlantic
The highly tempestuous debates between Keynesians and deficit-hawks distract from the real cause of America's Great Recession and from the solution. Former banker and credit expert Richard Vague and The Atlantic's Steve Clemons argue in a new report (pdf) that to stimulate jobs and economic growth, financial houses should take phased write downs of assets and give loan holders relief and debt forgiveness...
The Summer of Recovery became a Summer of Anxiety as the jobs machine sputtered and as other parts of the global economy slowed reducing demand for American exports. Voices like Paul Krugman and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich lambasted the White House for not having been Keynesian enough and not opening the government spending spigots to more deeply invest in US infrastructure, shore up deteriorating state balance sheets, and keep more Americans employed and in their homes that were still being foreclosed at record rates...
The debt-hawks and uber-Keynesians may both be well meaning in their desire to steady the US economic ship and relaunch it towards growth -- but they are distracted by ideology and conventional economic thinking from looking at more compelling causes of major economic crises and more efficacious policy responses...
(22 July 2012)