Monthly Archives: July 2012

America is Not the Greatest Country

Not so star-spangled fuckin’ awesome anymore…

A 3 1/2 minute clip of HBO’s the Newsroom tells it like it is.

California knows how to party

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Monetary-Market Anti-Economics

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Very simply understood, the economy is, by whatever means we find most effective and efficient, reduce the waste and ensure the distribution and protection of all that we need to sustain ourselves, in both the cultural measures that we choose (often unconsciously) and the vital measures that are prerequisite to our next breath. The economy, redundantly (though apparently for us, not redundant enough) should economize. And I posit that it is the great mistake of our civilization to mistake the economization of dollars and shares and allegiance and turf for that of our resources and human abilities and needs.

There exists an artificial membrane in many many minds between “average people” and “responsibility for the species” that I find suggests itself in people’s behaviour seems to me to be the monetary-market system. It’s an abstract, dispassionate way to access the guiltless fruits of a damaging system and hold the two justifications in your head.

I find no evil in money, but several inherent flaws to this use of economic methods based on money, such as the need for cyclical consumption, the profitability of scarcity in products/resources, the conditions we tend towards with the priority of profit over feeding, housing, educating, and socializing all people, the distortion of values (conspicuous consumption, war mongering,/imperialism, classism), and the suceptibility of the system fiscal manipulation (intervening in markets of vital good like food and housing, disrupting political and technological progress where vested interests are challenged….).

Overall it seems to me that the fundamental structures that care for and maintain our species and planet should not involve money, or ownership in the traditional sense. I could not imagine as far as luxury goods, but our methods of resource management and our social institutions could use some scientific grounding, and an emergent, updating perspective.

Sure, money facilitates production, exchange, the setting of prices etc. Students doing economics 101 learn all this. However, what they are learning is just one theory of economics – the currently dominant capitalist free market theory that, by itself, is incapable of even promoting, much less assuring our survival. What students these days are not introduced to is a theory of value. A theory that takes account of all inputs including labour, air, water, soil, ecosystems, living space etc rather than just dollars.

I think the OP is correct in that no matter how much money is thrown at poverty in Africa it’s problems will not be solved. In fact OUR problems will get worse before they get better if we continue to do what we’ve been doing. Money just obscures the real underlying problems facing us which are not just in Nairobi or New York but global.

We’ve trapped ourselves in a paradigm divorced from nearly all that is of true value to us and in which $s are all we can see – $ = happy. We have forgotten or not even realized that economics is a human construct. The so called ‘laws’ of economics are no such thing. They are not physical laws like those that underpin gravity but descriptions of socially and culturally constructed human behaviour.  These so called laws are not essential or fundamental to our survival. For example, the equations that are supposed to underpin supply and demand curves are nothing but descriptions of how sellers and buyers in a market economy strive selfishly to achieve the greatest benefit for themselves. They tell us nothing about the true value of food or drinkable water, for example. And the fact that people die for want of these commodities is irrelevant in the economic terms of the currently dominant paradigm.

We’ve trapped ourselves in a mode of economic thought divorced from and incapable of taking account of much that is not only valuable but essential to us.

Does it matter if the earth becomes uncomfortable or uncongenial to human life? The economist blinkered by the current paradigm will not even understand the question and the only answer they could give is: No, not as long as we’re making money. In the long term this is a recipe for disaster. We cannot breath or drink or eat money. The question is:  How do we free ourselves from this trap of our own making? How do we spark a shift in paradigm?

Whether or not we continue to use money to facilitate exchange etc (I suspect we will need to) we will have to understand it for what it is and recognize what it cannot do. Most importantly, it cannot measure value in the deepest sense. If our survival on earth is a value that is important to us we need to do the following as soon as possible:

1. Reduce our population
2. Use renewable, non-polluting forms of energy
3. Repair the worst of the damage we have done to our home planet
4. Promote universal education and learn as much as we can about the universe
5. Either abolish private ownership of land or redistribute it equitably among a much lower population so that all have enough for their basic needs for food, water and living space without destroying it
5. Keep an eye out for incoming asteroids and comets

Money and free market economics alone can achieve none of these. How we ever came to believe they could is a testament to our selfishness, short-sightedness and our propensity for self-delusion.

from user posts @ Project Reason

Wololo wololo

Better Means

I read a comment on a newspaper website, commenting on the student strikes in Quebec, by an Ontario student indignant that they should even complain in Quebec, for he paid nearly double what they did, and it was a hard road for him.

This sentiment in general, toward any kind of protester, always seems to me to be a denigration of the need to protest. “You’re making a big deal out of nothing”. But I suspect that it appears as nothing to those who don’t want to see (or really can’t see) such events as this hike, or any cut, bail-out, or political arrest, as not an isolated event, but related fundamentally to the trends of history, and those fundamentally to the power centres of the Earth.

University tuition fees in Quebec were frozen at $540 per year from 1968 to 1990. In 1994, tuition rose to $1668 per year, after which it was frozen until 2007, when it grew by $100 per year until 2012, making it $2168. Overall, tuition increased an average of $37 per year or 300% between 1968 and 2012, not including other fees that are paid to universities (e.g. administration fees, student service fees, etc.). One hike, even a small one, is a continuation of this trend. This trend that has no good reason under the profit motive to cease.

When I think of being open minded, I find this a practical trait to observe. Humans are limited, short-sighted, and often act unconsciously to things, unless they specifically plan to behave otherwise. We’re great at doing both, actually. We miss a lot, and so cannot reliably be expected to know everything. Thus an open mind allows the testing of many hypotheses, with or without direct effect upon one’s immediate life. New experiences like skydiving can be had easier once the reactive fear of falling from a height is overcome by rationally examining the tools humans have developed and tested for falling safely, i.e. parachutes and harnesses and so on. The openness, I believe, is lacking in those who condemn the protestor. If a society can produce such swathes of embroiled passion in the streets and civil spaces, then something must be reexamined, not stifled.

When I was gallivanting with the occupiers of Toronto, and one of our protests found its way onto the campus of Ryerson University, I had a very sad exchange with a student passing by. He said that he didn’t want to see this on his campus. “I know things are bad, but I have classes and things to focus on, I need to just concentrate on that.” The underlying understanding that I am operating under seems to be the same as he: That things are bad. What we do with this information, then is the difference. How we treat it. Do we furnish this hypothesis with air and patience and consideration? I think this student swept it away, to focus on the short-sighted. I don’t say this with judgement: he (as we’ve said) paid very dearly for these classes and now needed to do well for his financial and thus personal security in this economic system. Which then faces us with the question of how small our boxes can get. How much will we let ourselves be taxed to exit on our own planet? How much longer can the global ecosystem sustain our participation, at this rate, in this marvelous event known as Earth? Can we persist further with our daily occupations; cutting and watering the lawn, selling other beings insurance or products they may not need, massively duplicating simple household items for the sake of two businessmen competing, metastasizing the cancer on the lungs of North American, the logging trade of South America, and for how much longer will we willingly demand, with the votes of our dollars and our silence, for the abuse, exploitation, and early, miserable deaths of billions of our fellow humans to maintain our business as usual, just because it’s what we’ve profited from, planned around, and are used to?

That’s fucking lazy, people.  Apply yourselves. With love, you are not meeting your potential. I do not exclude myself from this, no no no. I’ll even make you a deal: if you scream, I will scream with you. But if I scream, you cannot leave me alone and exposed. Deal? Deal.

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If you think we can grow forever on a finite planet, you’re either a madman or an economist