Monday, 27 June 2011

Episode 2 of BBC TV's Made in Britain focussed on the value chain - basically invention/innovation, manufacture, marketing and branding.

Value is a euphemism for price or money. The real value to you of a GSK pharmaceutical is whether it makes you well. The "value" to them is the money they get from selling the product. A direct conflict of interest. I'm not saying they want you to be ill, only that ot pays them if you buy their drugs.

Presenter Evan Davies was also in a supermarket (probably Tesco) and he pointed out his "favourite" bottled water. He claimed that people who are drawn to branding are 'sophisticated' (his show was really a meta commercial). What is sophisticated about branding water and selling it at a high proce, where elsewhere in the world people are walking miles to get hold of the stuff, or dying because they can't get any potable water?

Evan also featured Silicon Fen, where Cambridge braniacs work on high tech designs. He featured ARM, who design chips for all kinds of devices - especially mobile phones. They don't make them, they just design them and sell the right to make them. Clever and impressive, but this clustering of cleverness done at regional or even national level needs to be taken up to world level. Why is it good to collaborate in Cambridge, but to compete at national level?

The rest of value should be how well something adds to human well being, not just to the bank balance. If you can make a lower energy use, small, powerful chip, logic dictates you tell everyone how to do it, so that the planet can benefit, not that you keep it to yourself so you can make money. A more potent example would be an invention that halted global warming. It would be imperative to scale it up and implement it world wide, not to patent it and keep it to yourself to make money while the world fries.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Prison works?

Check out the work of James Gilligan. I watched a few minutes of his videos on line, and was struck by the point that several studies have shown that education is the most effective antidote to re-offending yet discovered. There wasn't a modest difference - somethinh like 2% after 30 years (by those educated to Bachelor's level or above) compared to 60% after 3 years.

And education can be delivered cheaply, using on line videos, or DVDs, or even conveivably interactive teaching over the internet. In an RBE, of course, education wouldn't be withheld from people so that educators can make money out if it. All educational material would be open source.

Structurally purposeless jobs

Another epithet I heard from The Zeitgeist Movement's founder Peter Joseph, in his lecture in California recently - it can still be seen on (Some of the excerpts are annoyingly short, and there are annoying random interjections of adverts).

Anyway there's much good material from PJ, the USA TZM coordinator, the California coordinator and the City coordinator (sorry forgot which city!).

PJ referred to  "structurally purposeless jobs" solely for the sake of monetary circulation. In the current system you have to have a job to get money to survive, but also to consumme more and more to ensure economic growth. It doesn't matter if the work you dop is futile, or even counter-productive to society, as long as you get paid for it.

In an RBE, "structurally purposeless jobs" would simply not be done. If what someone is doing is not environmentally sustainable and socially productive, they should not be doing it, not even for money.


Let's not kid ourselves. What humanity is competing with is powerful forces of nature. Why are we wasting effort and despoiing the planet by creating nation states to compete with each other, when what we so clearly need to do is to defend ourselves as a species from natural events such as earthquakes, severe weather, global warming (a natural reaction to our activities, at least in part), diseases affecting us directly and affecting the food we need to survive, and possibly other things.

Is this not enough or us to be going on with? Why are we competing with each other, and not collaborating to face these very real threats?

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Just a quotation

"When I feed the poor, they call me a saint, but when I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a Communist"
- Dom Helder Camara


I've just wached the first episode of "Made in Britain", presented by Evan Davies. It was an interesting and well presented programme. It was hard not to ne impressed by the technology on display (from BAe, and McLaren), or to be endeared to Brompton, Britain's biggest bicycle manufacturer

However, I have some issues:

Evan opined that we should all save more, so that £ can be invested in hi tech machinery to maintain  and improve our exports. Our exports do not pay for our imports. What other economies are saying that? The word total exports must equal imports. Which countries are going to step forward and import more than they export?

Evan euphemistically called the BAe fighter jet "controversial". Quite. This is a killing machine. We need to sell more of these to boost our economy? For what reason would people buy more of them?

The McLaren sports car costs (I think) £160,000, so is only available to rich people. It is not a practical piece of transport equipment in any sense, and aptly represents exactly what conspicuous consumption is. How do people get rich enough town one of these  badges of wealth?

At keast the Brompton bicycle is a rather more benign example of a high end product, but as it is so useful and well designed and made, the obvious thing to do in a sane world is share the knowledge needed to make it. Evan explained at one point in the programme how Britain made a technological leap to become more efficient in a certain area of manufacturing, but all manufacturing on the planet needs to be efficient. As a planet, we shouldn't be inefficient just so that we can have competition. Competition is supposed to create efficiency, but not for its own preservation.

If we are not efficient as a planet then we are using the planet's resources more quickly than we are able to, and bringing forward our own demise as a species. I would like to see Evan devoyte his considerable skills as a writer / presenter to that issue, which supersedes any economic recovery.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011


By profit we usually mean financial gain, but it's more general meaning is just a gain or a benefit. If financial gain is a motivator, wouldn't it make sense to harness it to things that 'profit', that is benefit humanity, rather than seeing financial gain as unconditionally good, ecept for the restraints we have put on it (illegal drugs, for example)?

The obvious example of where we've got it wrong is harnessing it to work - human labour. With one habd we're trying to be mor efficient - achieve more with less human labour, but with the other we lock work to income. Makes no sense.

Another example. Would it not make sense to incentivise people remaining healthy, or being restored to health from illness? How does this fit in with people making money from pharmaceuticals? You're ill? Good - I'l sell more drugs, employ more doctors and nurses, build more hospitals.

I don't know if money can be used to incentivise only those things which are truly socially desirable, but if it isn't, what are we doing with it.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Do you want me to have a job or not?

The public sector faces strikes, basically over jobs, terms and conditions. Thousands of people are losing their jobs, and will join the band of people who are told "you must get a job", yet when they tried to keep the job they already had (perhaps through strike action) are told they can't: Money must be saved, efficiency must be gained.

Again, there's nothing wrong with efficiency. Do what needs doing (and only that) as efficiemtly as possible, using machines / technology to [help] achieve it. Interlocking survival with work drives in ineficiency by forcing people to get a job that doesn't need doing, or could be eradicated, or could be done by a machine.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Political ping pong

Ed Balls says we should reduce VAT to stimulate the economy. This means the government will take in less tax per purchase,  but as the price at the till will be lower, the idea is that the increase in purchases will compensate for, and presumably overtake that shortfall.

The government of course says no. That's what they do. One side says 'tinker like this' and the other side steps up and points out the disadvantages. It's all nonsense.

Step away and up from this political ping pong. The more stuff we buy the sooner we'll run out. Don't pretend we can't run out. We are running towards a precipice and all we can think of is going faster. Face up now to the reality that we havn't got an unending anount of stuff, so therefore we have to be wise stewards. Creating jobs on the basis of nore consumption not only consumes stuff, but people's lives, as they spend their time trying to get you to consume more  so that they can consume more.

Change the record. Consue less, work less, become more efiicient, conserve and share what we've got.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Just listen to yourself

On the Today programme this morning, a woman was interviewed about people in this country who didn't have enough food, and were being given it by charity. A disgraceful state of affairs. But she said the people didn't have enough money to buy food and didn't have enough money because they didn't have a [well enough paid] job. (That may just be the gist of what she said). What is this long chain for? You can't have food without money, you can't have money without a job, you can't have a job without work being found or created for you. Rewind.

Why aren't we growing as much food as we sustainably can on this planet and feeding everybody at least enough for their healthy survival. Why not - what's our excuse? Why are we allowing our fellow humans to starve and die? It isn't good enough. The work we do should be for the benefit of the planet and especially humanity. If it isn't, we should be doing it. In your house you don't find work for people to do, you keep it to a minimum and share it out. And you don't let anyone in your house starve while the others waste food, either. Well not if you're sane.

We're so used to this job/money paradigm that we take it as read, but it's silly. Bo it's not silly, it's criminal. We have to stop.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Ecosystems - vital minimum

The problem with ecosystems is that they conjour up ideas of rare species of  - I don't know - wasps, or something in the Amazon Rain Forest, and it's probably hard for many of us to feel much for any wasps, and we wonder if the ecosystem can do without them. Even larger organisms - say polar bears - though of tremendous aesthetic value don't seem to many of us to have much connection with our survival as a species. Species have become extinct, and we're still here.

None of this changes the fact that the biosphere - the overall ecosystem, I suppose, sustains human life. Even if scientists don't know which organisms are vital to this task and which are irrelevant, it is ceratinly the case that we will die if we don't conserve what sustains us. Never mind what looks pretty, or what seems pointless; we know that there is a vital minimum.

National Ecosystem Assessment

Commentators have called this "an attempt to put a hard economic value on Britain's nature". Natural Capitalism that putting a mometary value on ecosystems makes semse because we put a monetary value on "everything" else, but use ecosystems as if they are infinite.

George Monbiot is sceptical: "When you turn nature into an accounting exercise, its destruction can be justified as soon as the business case comes out right." And "it almost always comes out right." Charles Clover in The Sunday Times observes that 'the agricultural losses incurred by setting aside land to promote a "diverse, flowery landscape" are more than made up for in gains from tourism and recreation; that building on green belt would have a disastrous effect on property values."

Where to start. "Property values" is a euphemism for property prices, which as we know fluctuate widely, whereas the value (utility) of a property doesn't. Then there's use of aesthetic values. We lose agricultural land but we gain tourism and recreation. Sorry, but this is not a sensible comparison. Agricutural land is where we grow food. Food is to eat, to sustain life. Yes you can sell it, but you still have to have food. Tourism may bring in money, but you still need to have food. Recreation is good and helps make us fully human, but you can't eat it.

Quantifying all the natural resources we have is a gargantuan task, and having a single unit to measure their utility - ie money - has appeal. But this must still lead to conserving our natural resources, and not be a device for more financial jiggery-pokery, which adds nothing to the physical world and humanity as a whole.

"The need for the UK NEA arose from findings of the 2005 global Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), which not only demonstrated the importance of ecosystem services to human well-being, but also showed that at global scales, many key services are being degraded and lost. As a result, in 2007 the House of Commons Environmental Audit recommended that the Government should conduct a full MA-type assessment for the UK to enable the identification and development of effective policy responses to ecosystem service degradation"

"The UK NEA will help people to make better decisions that impact on the UK’s ecosystems to ensure the long-term sustainable delivery of ecosystem services for the benefit of current and future populations in the UK".

Nothing to do with money. We need ecosystems to live, and we can't buy them.


I suppose TVP/TZM advocates might find themselves saying that we shouldn't squander our natural resources in pursuit of [financial] profit. (In Natural Capitalism terms, liquidate our natural capital and call it income). Thinking about it, I'm quite happy with "we shouldn't squander our natural resources".  That's it, full stop. Profit? Maybe, maybe not, competition? Maybe maybe not. But if competition and financial profit are not being harnessed to the end of environmental sustainabilty, or at least not against it, then they have to be sacrificed. This is nothing to do with social justice - even that is contingent on sustainability.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

What do you want?

The next time someone asks you what you want, you might like to quote Jon Perkins: 'an environmentally sustainable, socially just and peaceful planet.' Pretty good.

John Perkins was a contractor for the CIA who was sent in to various South / Central American Countries to destabilise them for not being favourable to the US way of looking at things. He has learnt the error of his ways.

"Socially just" is in some ways the trickiest of the tenets in Perkins' refrain. I don't know exactly how he envisages it coming about, but TZM/TVP is labelled as 'communist' for advocating social justice. It's a feeble technique just to label something and let it be thought that the bad attributes from the label impute to the labelled. Is social justice wrong? If communism wants social justice, and social justice is right and good, it means communism is not entirely wrong.

TZM/TVP conceives of a world of abundance where people are not deprived of what they need because of financial constraints. Thus it side steps communism, which is theoretically the equal sharing of resources, whether or not they are abundant.

The limiting factor is sustainability. We can't use more resources than we have, and we shouldn't squander them. Whether we can or even should share them equally is another matter, but putting them out of use without benefitting the planet / humanity is plainly stupid. Isn't it?

Cancer, Burzynski, antineoplastons and how profit has to come before life

Polish doctor Burzynski pioneered cancer treatments using antineoplastons see The film 'Burzynski: Cancer Is Serious Business' shows the concerted efforts of various bodies in Texas and the USA to undermine him, whilst his patients and/or their parents movingly witness how they have lived way beyond the expecatations of the prognoses of oncologists.

Underlying all this is the vested interest of big pharma in continuing to use existing treatments, from which they are making big money, along with the natural conservatism of the medical establishment.

The powers that be don't want important medicines to be in the hands of an individual through patents - tey want institutions to have the rights to them - this usually means big pharma.

Given that Burzynski invented/discovered antineoplastons, and first patented them, we might resonably argue that he should benefit from the money made from them. In fact he has has to spend $millions defending hiself against accusations including of being a fraud a quack.

How much better is it, though, for Burzynski to benefit from ANPs than big pharma? For money to be made out of medicine, people have to be ill. The cancer sufferers in the film make emotional pleas in courts and hearings for Burzynski to be allowed to treat people unhindered by government/industry to stop him, but even if Burzynski had always held the rights to the drugs unfettered, this would still be a problem, as he would still be making money from people being ill, and could conceivably want to protect his patent. If someone came out with a better or cheaper treatment, they would then make all the money. How would he feel about that?

If your livelihood depends on things going wrong that you have to fix, you face the same paradox. In an RBE, the patient would come before the patent. In fact there would be no patent. Discoveries / inventions would be open source, and used to benefit humanity as much as possible, within the overall limits of the earth's resources. Money would not be a limiting factor.