Monday, 7 November 2011

Perhaps if they stopped to think of those less fortunate?

Yesterday I reminded the world – or rather that small part of it reading my tweets – that raising taxes doesn’t create economic growth. It was a simple statement of fact – or that was what I thought. After all taxes are a cost rather than a benefit (which doesn’t mean the same as saying taxes aren’t spent on things that bring us benefit). And public spending – where those taxes go – is almost entirely consumption, no different in effect from me buying a new food processor or a meal out when it breaks down.

My mistake, of course, was to mention the dreaded words “economic growth” - forgetting that there are a group of ‘flat-earth’ believers out there who want economic growth to end. After all they’re fine doing stuff like this and earning (in terms of average global incomes) really good money:

Director of Shelf Life Strategic Sales, co-instigator of @thesourceleeds, verbal identity expert
This fine activity (whatever it all might mean) sits quite a long way towards the top of Maslow’s jolly pyramid. I’m sure clients benefit from the great insight but surely such folk realise that their creative and exciting industry exists as a consequence of economic advancement – we no longer need to work in back-breaking conditions regardless of the weather, we can be a “verbal identity expert”.

So what it is with these wealthy, privileged, educated people that makes them say things like:

…and economic growth for the benefit of the few and the detriment of the environment taxes us all in the end...
Do they simply not understand that economic growth benefits everyone – not least because the government has more money to spend on schools, hospitals and other public service wonders? I wonder why it is that their sweeping assumptions about growth – that they do not benefit from it (when their very industry is a consequence of that growth)?

Maybe the answer sits with that little word “environment”? These are the victims of the “Great Green Con”, the triumph of propaganda suggesting that economic growth threatens our very existence. In their oh so progressive world, “unbridled capitalism” is a thing of ultimate evil, gobbling up the resources of the planet and bringing us to the point of collapse.

And what is their alternative? It is hard to discern from under the pile of platitudinous slogans, from beneath the drifts of received wisdom but I think they want some sort of “steady state” economy where verbal identity experts can ply their arcane craft secure in the knowledge that the planet is safe.

In this world people will no longer indulge in exploitative binges of consumption (other than on the products benefiting from improved “verbal identities” I guess) preferring instead a simpler, lower impact life of allotment gardening, home knitting and shopping at craft markets for ‘home made’. Our “verbal identity expert” will eschew a car, refuse foreign holidays and look sneeringly as those terrible, common people for whom such things are a break from the tedium of a job less interesting that the development of “powerfully authentic, precisely accurate statements”. Jobs on farms, in factories, power stations and sewage works. Jobs in shops, banks and insurance companies, job making the things we need and providing the services we want. Jobs that generate enough value for the businesses to afford such indulgences as a “verbal identity expert”.

And further afield, we’ll see African and Asian subsistence farmers and unemployed slum-dwellers whose chance of advancement – from securing the benefits of economic growth – have gone because the “verbal identity experts” have had their way and stopped the growth. Men and women condemned to scrat in the earth, struggling to survive let alone afford the iPad our “verbal identity expert” takes for granted (or the 4x4 truck they really want – but our expert won’t approve of that either).

The argument for zero-growth, for stasis – whether couched in progressive, “capitalism is evil” terms or wrapped in a green coat – is one of the most offensive of all the indulgent philosophies of our educated western society. It captures “I’m all right, Jack” and builds it into an entire system, it is promoted by successful, high-income people and directs its attention to denying the poor the good things those people already enjoy.

Perhaps if they stopped to think of those less fortunate?



Nick said...

SAid far more effectively, and with greater sense than I've ever seen. Only buffoons, or the truly ignorant do not want growth.

Their enemy, the great evil capitalism, is the very thing that allows them the lifestyle they have.

If only such were publicised on the BBC and Channel 4, read out to remind the complaining classes.

Mike Chitty said...

Capitalism is just a system. Neither evil nor good. It is pretty new and, like its good pal democracy, is probably the very worst way of doing things - except for all of the currently available alternatives.
But it is not operating nowhere near as well as most of us would want. It seems to be storing up problems for a future that is looming ever closer.
But where is the serious debate about how we might learn to work the capitalist system better? To make it serve more of us more effectively? On a local, national and global stage?

All I can find are people wanting to end capitalism with little idea about what we should put in its place.