Sunday, 24 July 2011

Monetary reform

From my limited knowledge of particular monetary reform proposals, I would say they are a stepping stone to an RBE. The reforms proposed by Positive Money are very inviting. The obvious one is its proposal to eradicate the fractional reserve system, and I'm going to agree and set that to one side.

One of my rerservations centres around the control of money supply. They propose to wrest this from the hands of bankers and politicians - yay - and give it to n independent body. OK, but how is this independent body going to decide by how much to increase money supply, and in whose interest will they do so? Their own, presumably. And will they be inccorruptible?

My other observatiion is that most ordinary people will still have to work to get hold of money, and therefore there will be pressure to create work so that people can do it, which leads us straight into the idea that problems (say  disease and disorder) are s good because they create work/jobs for people to solve them. This does seem to be a weakness of money that these reforms have not addressed, unless I'm mistaken.

Under Positive Money you would enter into a bond, actively allowing the bank to use your money for an agreed period during which you would not be able to take it back. You also get to decide which projects your capital will be spent on. Logically fine, and on the second point you can already choose ethical investments.

The problem as I see it, though, is that some people will still want the maximum return on their investment, so even if the projects invested in aren't sociilly constructive, and/or if they liquidate natural capital and call it income (to quote Natural Capitalism), they will still attract investement because they give a high return on the money put forward.

As I understand it, posiive money is itelf undecided on how it will quantify money supply.  And he point is that even if we willingly put a brake on money supply, the limiting factor is still real resources and not money.

Nevertheless, we cannot ignore this stepping stone. The looming finacial crisesmay be alleviated by a system which uses positive money.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

A cult and a fetish

Critics of environmental sustainability often seem to portray it (negtively) as some kind of religious belief . I recently heard about something - economic growth probably - being "sacrificed on the altar of sustainability".

An article in The Week gives a precis of newspaper articles on energy reform, and most notably Matt Ridley in The Times refers to a 'carbon fetish'. He argues not only that the increased cost of using non renewable energy will destroy jobs, but that (as paraphrased by The Week I take it), 'energy is the elixir of economic growth'.

It is economic growth that is the cult and fetish here. We need energy and we need to conserve the energy we have, not use as much as possible to maintain 'economic growth'. And if we don't stop putting carbon into our atmosphere we are heading for climate catastrophe. Are we not prepared to "sacrifice" economic growth on the "altar" of our own survival as a species?

Let's set out the lie that continued economic growth is here again. We have limited, not unlimited resources. As we have limited resources, we need to conserve them if we wish to survive and prosper as a species. If we don't wish to survive as a species, we can carry on using resources as quickly as possible and lying to ourselves that they will never run out, or not caring on the basis that they won't run out in our lifetime. We can carry on competing for and fighting over the resources, making them more scarce and thereby getting more 'economic growth'.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

It won't work

Critics of the RBE often produce "it won't work" type arguments, as if everything's fine now and there was no finacial meltdown, impending environmental disaster(s), starvation, war, etc. I sometimes wonder if they accept that these things are problems, and that we should look for solutions to them.

If everything was going pretty well, and we came along advocating tweaks, and people said that a tweak wouldn't work, and showed why, the objections migh make some sense, but at the moment it is like going to the doctor with a disease, and whatever the doctor suggests, opining "it won't work".

Perhaps people don't care about wars and starvation that don't directly affect them, but the enviromental catastrophes are eventually going to affect us all either directly, or when people start to move from affected areas. So people need a strategy for at least that.

On natural disaters, Brandy Hume (Take TVP challenge) points out that when individuals and goivernments collaborate to deal with the aftermath of a naural disaster, it is widely seen as good. TZM proposes coming together to face planetary problems before they occur (as far as possible). We're told it won't work, we're a cult, etc.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Jobs for the boys

Sherard Cowper-Coles (former British Ambassador in Afghanistan), in his new book Cables from Kabul, claims that "the top brass were keen to commit troops to keep the army fully employed: 'It's use them or lose them', one top general apparrently told him." [The Week, 2/7/11].

Should this surprise or shock us? I don't see why. Once again, these are jobs, and it is currently socially desirable to have a job - it doesn't especially matter what the job is. And if more troop deployment is antagonising our opponents, they will retaliate more, and so appears a vicious circle. But this is good - more jobs and more economic growth.


The International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) reports that 'Our oceans have reached such a critical state that we may see a mass extinction of marine species unparallelled in human history.' 'Overfishing, pollution, run-off fertilisers from farming and the acidification of the seas caused by CO2 emissions are combining to make oceans uninhabitable to marine creatures'. 'Previous mass extinctions ... have been linked to problems similar to those now facing the oceans - on which all life on the planet ultimately depends. But the oceans are now absorbing far higher levels of CO2 than they did during the wipeout of marine species that happened 55 million years ago.'

So there we are - we face mass extinction. Is this not more pressing than economic growth? Even if economic growth is really important, it can't be as important as facing mass extinction, can it?

The above quotations are from  an article in  The Week (2/7/11) which itself is based in an article in the Independent, which must have been based on the IPSO report.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Population control

Somewhere on the internet some twit commented that TZM/TVP "boils down to ... population control". The vast majority of comments on discussion forums don't merit any response, and this glib and ill-thought out (un thought out) one doesn't either, but it's another in to explaining the tenets of TZM/TVP.

TZM/TVP point out the undisputable scientific fact that the earth has a carrying capacity. Undeniably, this is the limiting factor on the human population. We might not be able to enumerate this, but it is certainly there. We can keep using resources faster and faster, but we will reach this absolute limit.

TZM/TVP say that the only sensible response to this is to use the resources efficiently, to give us the maximum chance of true prosperity as a species.

As to population control, what do you call starvation in the third world while in the first world people die of lifestyle diseases such as those related to obesity? What do you call sending young men (mainly) to death in wars? What do you call leaving curable diseases uncured to preserve financial profit? TZM/TVP calls to an end to all population control, but accepts that there are natural limits.