Wednesday, 3 December 2008

The threat -- and the lessons -- of recession

The recession presents a threat to us all. The Green Party would tackle this threat through tougher action to regulate the finance sector and through a massive job-creation programme in renewable energy, public transport, sustainable local farming and other sectors of the 21st-century green economy [see posts on this, below:]. Our Leader, Caroline Lucas, has joined with the UK's leading green economists to propose a 'Green New Deal' that will stabilise the economy and boost employment.

We as a society can only make real progress if we grasp the opportunity provided by this historical juncture to move away from a culture of debt-sodden materialism. Jobs and local economies would be far more secure if we replaced the mountains of 'cheap' imports with locally made goods that we genuinely need. A recession shows us all the importance of preserving resources: consuming less fuel, saving on heating bills, minimising damage to our shared environment. Let's stabilise the economy, and end the cycle of boom and bust forever, by settling on a level of economic activity that meets our needs without squandering resources.

The threat presented by the recession is stark, and we in the Green Party fully recognise that. And that's just why we all need to learn the lessons and create a stable and sustainable economy for the future.

18 Comments:

Blogger Joe Otten said...

So about how high is this level of economic activity you want to aim for, compared to where we are now?

Are you saying that ultimately we should be working fewer hours than we might want to because this is good for the planet? Doesn't it depend very much on what those hours are spent doing? And aren't threats to the planet quite particular things, rather than hard work in general?

3 December 2008 at 16:08  
Blogger Rupert said...

Come to the debate at UEA tomorrow evening, to find out...

3 December 2008 at 16:55  
Blogger Lynda said...

I believe it would be good to make it harder for large, successful employers in making staff redundant. It is extremely upsetting to have to finish one's career in excess of a decade before pensionable age only to be harassed by the Jobcentre to get a job (where?) when you really would like a job but every single job has around 100 applicants in. Employers now see this as a licence to undermine staff working conditions in expecting staff to work unreasonable hours for low pay and no job security.

3 December 2008 at 22:33  
Blogger weggis said...

When are we going to realise that its not economic activity that's important - that just means that Gordo can tax it and spend the proceeds on Trident, ID cards etc - but productive activity.

4 December 2008 at 00:16  
Blogger Dorothea said...

I don't know about you, Joe, but the fewer hours I can spend working to enrich some greasy toerag boss, the happier I am.

Rupert and Weggis, I agree. The more thrift, barter and self-reliance we can all get going, the better.

4 December 2008 at 21:01  
Blogger Joe Otten said...

Dorothea, clearly yes the message appeals to people who want to work fewer hours. We have a culture of inflexibility where people can't work the hours they want, and this cuts both ways. This suggests to me that what we want is more flexibility to determine our hours, not fewer hours overall, enforced on everyone.

I don't see how barter makes any difference. If the goods/services being bartered are "productive", good, wanted, whatever, they are just as good when bought and sold for cash.

Rupert, so I missed the debate. UEA is a bit of a trek for me. What was the level you went for?

5 December 2008 at 09:14  
Blogger weggis said...

Dear Mr Otten,

There is an important distinction here, which I am not sure you understand, between paid work and productive activity. The latter does not necessarily involve a financial transaction and when it does not, it cannot be taxed. It is not just a question of whether individuals wish to “work” fewer hours but whether they wish to be exploited for fewer hours thus releasing time to be productive for themselves, their families and their communities.

It is the creeping hand of BIG government that seeks, through imposed social structures, to make every human activity the subject of a financial transaction; this being in its OWN and its benefactors interests and not those of the individual.

And they wonder why society and community is broken!

I thought you were a Liberal?

5 December 2008 at 21:33  
Blogger Joe Otten said...

Weggis,

I'm not quite sure what you think I said.

Anyway, you say:

It is the creeping hand of BIG government that seeks, through imposed social structures, to make every human activity the subject of a financial transaction

Can you give me an example or two of this?

Because there are obvious examples of the opposite: big governments provide healthcare and education free at the point of use; small governments leave their people to buy their own.

So while I would generally favour small government, I might make an exception when it comes to public services - although there is a lot to be done to make such services run by and for their users rather than directly by government.

Either way, is this supposed to relate to my skepticism of barter? Is there some intrinsic evil to a financial transaction that barter avoids? Why?

5 December 2008 at 22:55  
Blogger Dorothea said...

"small governments leave their people to buy their own"

You might say rather that small governments FREE "their" (sic) people to buy their own.

6 December 2008 at 16:19  
Blogger weggis said...

Ah! Mr Otten,

I thought it was you who introduced term “barter” but having re-read the thread I see it was Dorothea. My apologies.

What I mean by productive activity as opposed to economic activity is not necessarily barter although it could be included.

I’m talking about things like this:

Raising one’s own children instead of farming them out to a nursery or the grandparents because you have to go to work to pay the bills.

Growing your own food on an allotment – allotments are under threat up and down the country as councils seek to sell land to balance their budgets.

Taking responsibility for your own actions – Councillors now bring in consultants [at our expense] so that when things go wrong they can be blamed.

Building exercise into your daily life instead of going to the gym or health club – because the streets and parks are perceived to be unsafe. And where the equipment USES instead of generates electricity - more economic activity.

Living close to where you work instead of having to move miles away to find somewhere affordable to live. Extra economic activity on fares and less time for oneself, family and community.

Volunteering for a charity or local group. There was a move recently to make Trustees of charities paid employees. Then there are the police checks if you are working with children which are expensive and often cannot be afforded – less volunteers – youth clubs close down – oops need more social workers. That’s all right then, they are part of the economy.

“Mate’s Favours” – my retired plumber mate is no longer allowed to touch my boiler and I’m not allowed to touch his domestic wiring – neither of us have a current certificate, just 40 years practical experience.

Keeping everyone busy on the treadmill or with dumbed down television – oppose the working time directive – so they don’t have time for knitting, needlework, decorating, carpentry, all the things people used to do for themselves, or engaging in their local community.

Getting involved in Neighbourhood Watch instead of being scared that some scallywag will chuck a brick through your window – Police Community Support Officers are part of the economy.

In short we have exported most of our manufacturing and a good deal of our food production. We are now what is termed a Service economy. If that economy is to grow as defined by GDP then we have to encourage people to pay other people to do the things we would otherwise do for ourselves, our mates or families at no cost.

PS: That the Health Service and the Police Service are failing in their primary objective – PREVENTION, is not due to themselves but the undermining of societal mechanisms that assist these aims, ably aided and abetted by successive interfering crap governments.

Rant, rant, rant!

7 December 2008 at 13:46  
Blogger Dorothea said...

Yee-hah! Well ranted, Weggis.

7 December 2008 at 15:34  
Blogger Joe Otten said...

OK weggis, you have lots of good ideas, but the idea that the government is stopping you is mostly wrong.

It is not the government's fault that we have to work to pay the bills. Sure, we could all vote for the "nobody works and everything is free" party, but it might have problems delivering that.

Nor does the government stop you exercising, or volunteering, or make you watch television. Nor, Dorothea, does it stop you buying private health or education.

Yes, there could be better planning reducing the need to travel, better support for allotments and so on. (Although "planning" and "support" are big government words.)

And it seems to me that you are making a big deal over whether you and your mate pay each other for services rendered, or do favours. I don't see how it matters that much - in particular I don't see how it makes any difference to the environment, whether something is paid for, bartered for, or done as a favour.

Why are greens fixated over whether something is paid for or not, rather than whether that thing is bad for the environment or not?

7 December 2008 at 17:24  
Blogger weggis said...

OK Mr Otten. Time for you to answer some questions.

The government is not stopping me, I am fortunate, but please explain how the idea that others who are not so fortunate is “mostly wrong”?

Who is this "nobody works and everything is free" party? It’s not the party I am a member off.

The government sets the tone and the rules, it does not stop us exercising or volunteering, but it does create a framework in which these things can or cannot take place. To what extent do you think that government is at fault here?

I don’t make a “big deal” when I do a mate’s favour, or receive one. That’s the whole point, it’s a favour. If it’s reciprocated that’s fine, but it’s not expected or required. OK you might get “standing” in the local community and lots of peeps may turn up at your funeral, but that’s not really the point, or is it?

Weggis views are his own, that is the beauty of the Green Party, we are allowed to do that. I am not fixated on whether something is paid for or not and I am not fixated on the Environment. We have a wide range of views on all topics, perhaps you should acquaint yourself with the detail?

Liberalism is about “the individual always acts in his own self interest” assuming that the individual knows what his own self interest is. If so, this would also be true for those individuals who make up government and set the scene, think about it.

If we suddenly make everyone fit and healthy, if crime goes down, we don’t NEED “them” anymore. If we continue with obesity etc and anti-social behaviour we need someone to sort it out.

My argument is that we don’t need “them”, we could do it ourselves. If we want to. But “they” ain’t gonna like it and WILL resist and ARE!

7 December 2008 at 22:50  
Blogger Joe Otten said...

OK weggis, you're going to have to clarify what you mean by the idea that "others who are not so fortunate" before I can answer that first question.

To take one of your examples, yes clearly there are not nearly enough allotments for this to bring the benefits it promises on a "mass market" scale. But also, clearly there is not the demand to use allotments on that scale either. So if allotment-holding is part of the path to a better life for all of us, the problem is that people are not choosing to do it, just as much as there are too few allotments provided. It is not the governments fault if people choose not to take up allotments.

FWIW I don't want an allotment. My mum had one when I was a child and it was a chore. All those wasted weekends. I'll never get them back.

I'll admit it is a few years since I read the MfSS in any detail. Has it changed substantially?

As for your view of liberalism, it is utterly warped. You are probably thinking of (vulgar) libertarianism.

14 December 2008 at 17:06  
Blogger weggis said...

Ah! Otten. I’ve just had a peek at your profile. You are in accountancy. Now I understand why you don’t [refuse to?] understand. You are a bean counter, you measure financial transactions. You have no interest in VALUE, only what is paid for. That is your livelihood and I now understand your vested interest.

I have spent this afternoon repairing Mrs Weggis washing machine. Or to be precise the repair took 5 minutes and the rest of the time was spent rummaging around the loft, garage and shed for the spare Control Unit I knew I had, much to my chagrin as I missed the football. The point is that for the majority that would have been a £60 call out fee plus a £200 repair bill, or scrapping it with the landfill fee [which I pay through my council tax] and the cost of a new appliance.

This is the whole point of my original post if you can bring yourself to read and understand it, do try Otten, you might learn summink. This afternoon I have undermined Gordo’s “economic” recovery. He won’t like that one little bit, nor will you. I have ADDED VALUE without any financial transaction he can tax or count in the illusion of GDP growth, or you can make a meal ticket out off. And get this, I’ll do that for free for my mates, and they likewise for me in their sphere of expertise.

In the coming recession, if you have nothing of Value to offer, as you don’t, life is going to be tough. Get used to it.

15 December 2008 at 00:26  
Blogger Joe Otten said...

Oh. I don't know how that happened. I'm in software, not accounting. However, I do find your prejudice towards accountants and your determination to play the man not the ball both quite offensive.

Is "Gordo" upset that you have repaired a washing machine? I have little time for the man myself, but even I don't think he is that petty.

I worry that you seem to take an arbitrary and fiercely moralistic line about what other people do with their time. I don't. If you want to mend washing machines and dig allotments, that's fine and good luck. Or if you wanted to be an accountant, or a taxi driver, or a police officer or a teacher or a tree surgeon, that's fine too. It would be your choice and you shouldn't feel you have to answer for it to anyone.

You on the other hand seem to want to deem whole professions as undesirable, on the basis, it seems of ill-focused anger at the world in general, rather than on any assessment of social or environmental benefits.

15 December 2008 at 11:51  
Blogger Rupert said...

How wonderfully 'liberal' of you, Joe! Perhaps you think that being an arms trader or a pimp is something that we should be equally 'unjudgemental' about ? ...
In other words: it would be interesting to know just how far you take your liberalism...

15 December 2008 at 19:52  
Blogger Joe Otten said...

Perhaps I do, or perhaps you could avoid being snotty and judge what I say by the actual examples I give.

15 December 2008 at 22:28  

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29.
The recession presents a threat to us all. The Green Party would tackle this threat through tougher action to regulate the finance sector and through a massive job-creation programme in renewable energy, public transport, sustainable local farming and other sectors of the 21st-century green economy [see posts on this, below:]. Our Leader, Caroline Lucas, has joined with the UK's leading green economists to propose a 'Green New Deal' that will stabilise the economy and boost employment.

We as a society can only make real progress if we grasp the opportunity provided by this historical juncture to move away from a culture of debt-sodden materialism. Jobs and local economies would be far more secure if we replaced the mountains of 'cheap' imports with locally made goods that we genuinely need. A recession shows us all the importance of preserving resources: consuming less fuel, saving on heating bills, minimising damage to our shared environment. Let's stabilise the economy, and end the cycle of boom and bust forever, by settling on a level of economic activity that meets our needs without squandering resources.

The threat presented by the recession is stark, and we in the Green Party fully recognise that. And that's just why we all need to learn the lessons and create a stable and sustainable economy for the future.
30. 31. 32.