Revolution in the Air

Well, here it is for what it’s worth, my summing up and the road map for hope, and a way out of the mess we now find ourselves.

When people talk about – overthrowing or abolishing capitalism – unease descends – what will replace it? Those that call for revolution really tell us what the ‘new’ will look like. They leave a void to be filled and can be filled by some nightmare scenarios. Better the devil you know, they will tell you, right? Well not if it means the end of civilisation as we know it.

Firstly we need to release our system from growth, once we get that, we see what a post-capitalist economy might look like, and strangely enough, it is not the command-and-control fiasco of the Soviet Union, or back to the cave in a loincloth. In fact, it will seem very familiar to us all. An economy where people produce and sell useful goods and services, (not plastic promotional items that end up in our seas) an economy where people make rational, informed decisions about what to buy – and where people get compensated with a fair wage for their labour.  An economy that satisfies human needs while minimising waste. An economy that circulates money to those who need it, an economy where innovation makes better, longer-lasting products, reduces ecological pressure, frees up labour time and improves human welfare, an economy that responds to, rather than ignores, the health of the ecology on which we all depend. However, let us be clear, none of this will be easy. Many believe this is an impossible dream, there is no such animal, they will tell you, for it would require a totalitarian government imposing from above when exactly the opposite is true. 

Scientists at Harvard and Yale published a remarkable study on how people make decisions about the natural world. Would people, given a free choice, choose to share finite resources with future generations?

You will gain little from parking resources for future generations, for there is no reciprocal response. The rational choice the economists expected from the groups, they had set up and given common resources to be managed across generations, would be to simply exhaust their resources in the now and leave the future generations with little or nothing.

They found that on average 65 per cent of individuals chose to use their share sustainable, taking from their pool only that which left enough for the pool to regenerate itself. The opposite of what the economists predicted.

However, the other 32 per cent chose to liquidate their share of the resources in pursuit of a quick buck. 

But the good news is that when all the groups came together and acted collectively in direct democracy, 68 per cent were able to overrule the selfish minority and keep their destructive impulses in check. Wow democracy in action, we are saved, well no.

To get to a steady-state economy that states,

Never extract more than ecosystems can regenerate.

Never waste or pollute more than ecosystems can safely absorb.

This would require caps on resources use and waste, and for decades we have been told by economists that such caps are impossible, because people will see them as irrational. Yet given the chance – this is exactly what people want. It shows it is not human nature that is the problem here. It is that we have a political system that allows a few people to sabotage our collective future, for their own gains.

Whit! But we live in a democracy, don’t we?  Well yes, kind of. But you see democracies are not really very democratic.

In the United States, corporations have the right to spend unlimited amounts of money on political advertising, and where there are few restrictions on donations to political parties, under the banner of ‘Free Speech’. This system places politicians at the mercy of corporations and billionaires and under pressure to align with the policy preferences of the elites.  In 2010, $3.55 billion was spent on lobbying up from $1.45 billion in 1998. And it paid off, one study found that money spent on lobbying the US Congress earned returns of up to 22,000 per cent in the form of tax breaks and profits from preferential treatment.

It would appear that the United States resembles a plutocracy more than democracy.

Britain shows similar tendencies, but for different reasons. Britain has a financial hub and economic powerhouse – The City of London, totally immune from many of the nation’s democratic laws and free of parliamentary oversight.  The City of London council is allocated not chosen by residents, but given to businesses – the bigger the business the more votes on the council. In the House of Lords, the chamber is filled not by election members but by appointment. With ninety-six seats for aristocratic families, twenty-six were set aside for the Church of England and many ‘Sold’ to individuals in return for large campaign donations.

Give three million to the Tory party and you too can be a Lord.

We also see the same plutocratic tendencies when it comes to financing. Shareholder votes are controlled by massive mutual funds like BlackRock and Vanguard that have no democratic legitimacy.  

Then there is the media in Britain, three companies’ control 70 per cent of the newspaper market. And half of those are owned by Rupert Murdoch. In the US six companies’ control 90 per cent of all media. It is impossible to have a real democratic conversation about the economy under these conditions.

One of the main reasons we are at this time staring down the barrel of an ecological crisis is because our political systems have been completely corrupted. Those that wish to sustain our planet’s ecology for future generations (and from the studies carried out that is the majority of the people who live on this planet) are trumped by a minority of elites who are quite happy to liquidate everything.    

What if we were able to have an open democratic conversation about what kind of economy we want? What would that look like? How would we distribute resources? I do not have the answers to any of these questions – only to say, it would look a lot different to what we already have, and no one seems to want.

In an age of ecological breakdown, we must break this barrier down. We must subject capitalism to scrutiny – to reason. The journey to a post-capitalist economy begins with the most basic act of democracy.

I will end my story here, for you all have the power at your fingertips to carry on the research. Mostly my thought have come curtsy of The Guardian Newspaper over the last decade and from a lot of reading, and from my own observations over the many years watching politics played out in the UK.

The voters should hold the key to our democracy a democracy that is the will of the people. But as we have seen, here in the UK and in the US the people have little say over decisions made about our future.

There is a glimmer of hope for the people of Scotland over their rUK counterparts – we could make the citizens of Scotland sovereign once more, by declaring independence and making our own chooses over our welfare and the welfare of our lands. 

Stay safe.

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