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[ba-unrev-talk] Fwd: [issues] Ockham's Razor

>From: Thommandel@aol.com
><< Relayed by Doug Everingham from an attachment to a message
>From: "Alan Kerns" <akerns@tpg.com.au>
>To: <ERANet@yahoogroups.com>    [Economic Reform Australia list]
>Subject: Re: [ERANet] Ockham's Razor - Uncertainty and Demonising - Eva Cox
>Date: Wed, 28 Aug 2002 4:12 AM
> >From Eva Cox's radio program
>Ockham's Razor -- transcript at
><http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/ockham/stories/s658492.htm>  or listening
>to it (in RealAudio format) from
><http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/ockham/audio/ockham_25082002_2856.ram> [15
>Ockham's Razor - 16/02/1997
>Let's Scrap The Economy
>Ted Trainer explains why the most important item on our agenda should be
>almost completely scrapping our economy, along with the theory it's based
>Robyn Williams: The economy is on everybody's mind, as usual, sometimes to
>the exclusion of most other affairs. So you'll be diverted, perhaps, to
>learn that the title of this week's Ockham's Razor talk is "Let's Scrap the
>Economy." No prisoners taken today.
>Well Dr Ted Trainer lectures in Social Work at the University of New South
>Wales, and here's his case for abolition.
>Ted Trainer: I want to explain why the most important item on our agenda
>should be almost completely scrapping our economy, along with the theory
>it's based on.
>Firstly, this economy is obviously not solving our problems. In the last
>four decades, real income per person in rich countries like Australia has
>more or less trebled. Even in the recessed 1980s, Australia's GDP increased
>by one-third in real terms. Now one would have thought that such large
>increases would have enabled us to totally eliminate problems, such as debt,
>insufficient casualty wards and especially poverty. But in fact it's
>difficult to nominate one social or economic problem that's not become much
>more serious. Unemployment, inequality and poverty increased, and we now
>have perhaps 40,000 homeless people in Australia. In the 1980s Australia's
>rural debt and our foreign debt both multiplied by about ten. In addition,
>just about all indices of social breakdown and the experienced quality of
>life deteriorated.
>It's not just that a system with that record is not likely to suddenly start
>providing well for all. This economy causes the problems now literally
>threatening the destruction of our ecosystems and our social cohesion in
>coming decades.
>Consider firstly the market system. Markets do some things well and there
>might be an important role for them in a satisfactory economy. But at
>present, market forces are given far too much power to determine production,
>distribution and development. It's no exaggeration to say that most of the
>human misery and environmental damage in the world is directly due to the
>operation of market forces.
>Access to the world's resources is grossly unjust. One fifth of the world's
>people are taking and using up about 80% of all the resources produced and
>two to three billion people are seriously deprived. While we squander
>resources on affluent consumer lifestyles, between one and two billion
>people have insufficient food and unsafe drinking water. As a result, more
>than 30,000 people die every day.
>The main reason for this extreme deprivation and injustice is that the
>global economy is a market system, and in a market most of the available
>resources go to those who can pay most for them. That's why Australia has an
>average energy consumption that is 18 times the average for the poorest half
>of the world's people. And it's why more than 500-million tonnes of grain -
>about one-third of the world's total production - is fed to animals in rich
>countries every year to produce meat, while millions in the Third World are
>Even more important, is the fact that market forces draw Third World
>productive capacity into producing things to export to rich countries, when
>anyone can see that those resources should be used by Third World people to
>produce for themselves the basic goods they need. The most disturbing
>example of this is the vast area of the best Third World land growing crops
>to export to our supermarkets.
>Hence, we see the essential characteristic of conventional growth and
>trickle-down development. That is, the fact that it results in development
>which is almost entirely inappropriate to the needs of most Third World
>people. When what's developed is determined by market forces, by what will
>be most profitable to those with money to invest and money to buy products,
>then the inevitable result will be development of the wrong
>things; development mostly of what will benefit the rich. In the last decade
>we have entered an era in which these impoverishing effects of the market
>will rapidly accelerate, because we're now seeing the "globalisation" of the
>world economy. Since the 1970s it has become
>increasingly difficult for corporations and banks to find enough profitable
>investment outlets. Now they're solving this problem by a huge effort to
>sweep away all the tariffs and protection and arrangements which previously
>enabled large numbers of people and regions to produce and sell things. The
>freedom of trade has been made into the supreme sacred value and anything
>which restricts the access of the big corporations and banks to resources
>and markets is being eliminated.
>Why are the economic and political leaders of all countries eagerly going
>along with this push for globalisation and absolute freedom of trade, fully
>opening their societies to the predations of the transnational corporations
>and banks? The answer is, because they have studied conventional economics
>and the only way they know to try to solve their problems is to "get the
>economy going", to crank up more production and consumption, and of course
>the best way to get more business turnover happening is to give the
>corporations even more freedom to buy and sell. The sane alternative is
>never considered: that is, to make sure that Australia's abundant land,
>labour and capital is fully applied to producing what we need for a very
>satisfactory and secure existence, sharing the work, letting in only those
>foreign corporations that will produce what we want, trading only a little,
>to earn the export income needed to import only those things we can't
>produce easily.
>The second major criticism of our economy concerns the destructive relation
>between the market and society. A number of economic historians, such as
>Polanyi, have pointed out that the more the economy prospers, the more that
>desirable social bonds and cohesion are undermined.
>A society is made up of many intangible social bonds, ties, commitments and
>relations - for example, bonds of familiarity, friendship, trust,
>obligation, morality and tradition. These social values are contradicted by
>the values and attitudes that the market requires. In a market situation
>your attention is focused on maximising your individual gain and guarding
>against exploitation. The market situation does not encourage you to think
>about what is good for the other person or for society. The more we turn to
>market relations, the less emphasis we're putting on relations that build
>social concern and cohesion. As Polanyi and others have explained, in all
>pre-capitalist societies, markets and the maximisation of individual income
>were either of trivial significance or did not exist at all. Social factors,
>such as moral codes, religion and tradition were the important criteria
>determining production, distribution and development.
>This clash between the economy and society becomes obvious when we ask what
>would happen if we allowed production and distribution within a family to be
>determined by what would maximise sales or cash income. If Mum started
>making the toast and then selling it to the highest bidder, the economic
>efficiency of the domestic scene would be greatly improved, but the kids
>wouldn't get much toast because Dad can bid much more than they can. In no
>time, the desirable social relations which ensure that Grandpa can have some
>toast, even though he is economically useless, would be replaced by
>calculations about individual cash advantage. In other words, merely
>economic calculations of individual advantage would drive out the social
>relations and concerns whereby in a good society we do many things because
>they are right, or nice, or just, without regard to whether or not they're
>profitable or economically efficient. Hence we can understand why Polanyi
>emphasised that the self-interest which market relations are about will
>literally destroy society and its ecosystems if they're not kept under close
>I come now to the most serious of all the faults built into this economy.
>This is simply the mindless commitment to growth in a world of limited
>resources. You cannot go on and on forever increasing output on a planet
>with limited energy, mineral, biological and environmental resources. But
>conventional economists on the Left and the Right refuse to think about
>It's recently been estimated that each person in Sydney requires 4.5
>hectares of productive land. If all the world's people were to live as
>people in Sydney do, we would need three times all the productive land on
>the planet and for the expected world population of 11-billion by about
>2070, we'd need six times that area. Clearly it's impossible for all to live
>as we do.
>The greenhouse problem provides another powerful argument. The
>Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that we must cut global
>carbon emissions by 60% to 80%. If we cut it by 60% and share the remaining
>energy among the 11-billion people expected after 2060, each of us would
>have to get by on only one-eighteenth of the energy we now average in
>Australia. Most people have no idea that we must face up to such huge
>reductions in consumption if we are to solve the big problems.
>But we have an economy which cannot tolerate any reduction in the volume of
>production or sales. In fact unless output grows at more than 3% per annum,
>there are serious problems, especially of unemployment. It is obviously not
>an economy that could enable us to just produce sufficient to provide us all
>with good lifestyles, or a stable minimum amount of resource use and work.
>If you examine potentially recoverable resource estimates for minerals and
>fuels, you will find that if all people were to live as we in rich countries
>do, then most resources would be totally exhausted in something like four
>decades. These have been some of the lines of argument which I think show
>that there is no possibility of all people rising to anything like the
>living standards people in Australia take for granted today.
>During the 1980s Australia had about 3.2% per annum growth, but this was far
>from sufficient because all our problems became more serious. Let's assume
>4% would be sufficient for a healthy economy, and let's assume we keep that
>up to 2060, and that by then all the world's people will have risen to the
>living standards we would then have. Do you realise that world economic
>output would then be 220 times what it is today? Even if the world as a
>whole were only to average 3% growth from here on, then by 2060 total world
>output would be eight times what it is now. I have just explained that there
>are convincing reasons for concluding that the present amount of world
>output is totally unsustainable, let alone any multiple of it.
>There is now a substantial and growing literature on the basic form a
>sustainable society must take, given the limits to growth analysis of our
>situation. An almost completely new economy must be eventually developed, a
>Third Way, quite different from the capitalist and the big-state socialist
>ways. It must be made up of many small scale, highly self-sufficient local
>economies, involving much simpler and less affluent lifestyles than we have
>now, and much more co-operative arrangements. There could be a role for
>market forces and free enterprise in the form of mostly small businesses,
>but these would have to be under strict social control. Above all, it would
>have to be a zero growth or steady state economy, in which we can just
>produce enough for a high quality of life for all without constantly
>increasing production or consumption.
>Among the ideas being discussed and implemented are locating small market
>gardens throughout cities, planting our suburbs with edible landscapes that
>will provide free food and materials, decentralising much production to
>small local firms, many of which might operate in craft ways, having our own
>town and suburban banks with elected boards ensuring that our savings can be
>invested in enriching our own suburbs, moving much economic activity out of
>the cash sector and into the realm of gifts, surplus swapping and
>contributions to working bees, having suburban market days and running many
>things via local voluntary committees.0
>I have no doubt we could easily organise a much higher quality of life at a
>much more relaxed pace than most of us have now, with no reduction in the
>availability of modern medical or other important technologies, if most
>people saw the desirability of restructuring towns and neighbourhoods along
>the lines now being pioneered by the global Ecovillage and Permaculture
>It is astounding that although the limits to growth argument has been around
>for about 25 years, there is almost no public discussion of it in Australia
>today. The historian Toynbee analysed the rise and fall of civilisations in
>terms of their capacity to respond to challenge. What can we say about our
>prospects when we show almost no ability to even recognise that an economy
>committed to affluence and growth is totally incompatible with ecological or
>social sustainability.
>Robyn Williams: Ted Trainer lectures in the Department of Social Work at the
>University of New South Wales. If you'd like to read more about the details
>of a sustainable society according to him, you can get hold of his two
>recent books: one is "The Conserver Society" published by Zed Books; and the
>other is Towards a Sustainable Economy, by Envirobooks.    (01)