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Doom, Gloom, or new Broom?

Opinion Piece

The GDC's instant rejection of the climate emergency petition last December was an appalling and cowardly insult to young citizens, giving the appearance of being decided before the event. Councillors were unable to contemplate reordering their priorities.

The reactions since continue to exhibit fear of what a sufficient response to the emergency would involve. Fear — and understandable ignorance. Nationally and internationally, there is almost no leadership on the economic changes required. Economics is the going religion, and there is near-universal dread of committing blasphemy. Yet it is to recession economics, not technology, that we must look.

Without industrial de-escalation, energy and material alternatives are too slow to meet the crisis, although they should be developed as the second response. Orderly retreat, however, can swiftly eliminate WASTE industries — Wasteful, Alienating, Stressful, Toxic or Exploiting. Stopping or slowing destructive industries necessarily reverses growth and slows the economy. Degrowth is the key to more meaningful work and more fulfilling lives.

An economic system that cannot be slowed, stopped or reversed at will — in other words, managed — is fundamentally flawed and needs rethinking. A major driver and accelerant of growth, greater even than population, is compound interest, which both ensures that debt is always more than the economy can repay, and discounts the future.

Formal employment, the “job”, has proved an inefficient and unfair way of apportioning or even denying incomes. Its financial structure has proved a random and now globally lethal way of directing industrial development. Yet job dependence is entrenched across the political spectrum and up the financial ladder, to the extent that only a crisis can change it.

Creating jobs is a mistaken goal. In an informal economy, with income guaranteed and divorced from employment, people work to meet real needs instead of to earn money.

Since detailed planning and regulation of a recession is impossible, transformative economic policies are needed, to act as invisible hands, guiding the contraction of industry and the localisation of markets. These policies threaten vested interests and career-identities, but can provide, perhaps for the first time in the modern era, a universal safety net to individuals, families, underprivileged sectors, and regions.

1. A significant carbon levy, so that fossil-fuel prices increase by an order of magnitude, would halt many WASTE industries and the development of frivolous luxuries.

2. A guaranteed income would transform the labour market, alleviate poverty, and free people to live where there are houses rather than where there are jobs, and to avoid WASTE jobs in favour of productive home, community and environmental work.

3. Free money, or sovereign interest-free money creation (previously misused as quantitative easing to banks), could fund a universal basic income, reverse the discounting of the future, match money to real needs rather than inflationary entrepreneurship, and undermine the exploitative banking system and the value of hoarded wealth.

While excessive credit and the charging of compound interest could be controlled by regulation, they could be more rapidly undermined by free money. If money is used to repay existing debt, then money goes out of existence, so the policy is not automatically inflationary.

Any knee-jerk protests that these are undesirable, impractical or politically unacceptable would miss the point that if we did these things, they would have the stated effects. They would look like an inability to grapple with the ideas.

Only by contemplating strong ideas, rather than tinkering with the status quo, do we open our minds and discover new possibilities.

To repeat the famous graffiti: What if climate change was a hoax and we built a better world for nothing?

  1. G R Webb says:

    I bet you were a Social Creditor in the 1960s

  2. Michelle Ahern says:

    What a breath of fresh air! The best piece I have read here . . . almost ever! Mr Maclean you need to be in politics, but alas only those who ‘tinker with the status quo’ are allowed to run the ‘growth’ economy we live in. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts so concisely on these large, complex ideas.