søndag den 14. februar 2010

Relevante Links..

Links til artikler.

Arbejderen: 14-årige i sikringscelle Forslaget om at sænke den kriminelle lavalder til 14 år er en politisk beslutning, fastslår Venstre - men eksperter står i kø for at advare.

Arbejderen: Politiet anklages efter ransagninger.

torsdag den 11. februar 2010

Globalization Is Killing The Globe: Return to Local Economies

By Thom Hartmann

February 10, 2010 "Huffington Post" -- Globalization is killing Europe, just as it's already wiped out much of the American middle class.

Spain and Greece are facing immediate crises that many other European nations see on the near horizon: aging boomer workers are retiring with healthy benefit packages, but the younger workers who are paying for those benefits aren't making anything close to the income (or, therefore, paying the taxes) that their parents did.

Globalists/corporatists/conservative "free market" and "flat earth" advocates say this is a great opportunity to cut benefits for the old folks (and for the young folks in the future), thus bringing the countries budgets back into balance, and this story is the main corporate media storyline.

But it overlooks the real issue (and the real solution): how globalization is killing these nations' economies and what can be done about it.

From the days of Adam Smith, classical economics pointed out that manufacturing and extraction are the only two ways to "create wealth."

"Wealth" is different from "income." Wealth is value, which endures at least for some time. Income is simply compensation for work. If you wash my car for $10 and I mow your lawn for $10, we have a GDP of $20 and it looks like we both have income and economic activity. But no wealth has been created, just income.

On the other hand, if I build your car, I'm creating something of value. And if you turn my lawn into a small farm that produces food we can all eat, you're creating something of value. Not only do we have an "economy" with a "GDP," we also have created wealth.

A stick on the ground has no commercial value, but if you add labor to it by carving it into an axe handle -- a thing of commercial value -- you have "created wealth." Similarly, metals in the ground have no commercial value, but when you add labor to them by extracting, refining, and forming them into products, you "create wealth." Even turning seeds and dirt and cows into hamburgers is a form of manufacturing and creates wealth.

This is the "Wealth of Nations" that titled Adam Smith's famous 1776 book.

On the other hand, when a trader at Goldman Sachs makes a "profit" trading stocks, bonds, or currencies, no wealth whatsoever is created. In fact, to the extent that that trader takes millions in commissions, pay, and bonuses, he's actually depleting the wealth of the nation (particularly to the extent that he moves his money offshore to save or invest, as many do).

To use the United States as an example, in the late 1940s and early 1950s manufacturing accounted for a high of 28 percent of our total gross domestic product (and much of the rest of the economy like agriculture that, in a classical sense is "manufacturing" wasn't even included in those numbers), and when Reagan came into office it was at a strong 20 percent. Today it's about ten percent of our GDP.

What this means is that we're creating less wealth here, because we're not making much anymore. (And the biggest growth in American manufacturing has been in the military sector, where goods are made that are then destroyed when they explode over foreign cities, causing even more of our wealth to vanish.)

The main effect of the globalism fad of the past 30 yearrs -- lowering the protective barriers to trade that countries for centuries have used to make sure their own local economies are self-sufficient -- has been to ship manufacturing (the creation of wealth) from developed nations to developing nations. Transnational corporations love this, because in countries with lower labor costs and few environmental and safety regulations, it's more profitable to manufacture products. They then sell those products in the "mature" countries -- the places that used to manufacture -- and people burn through the wealth they'd accumulated in the earlier manufacturing days (home equity, principally, along with savings and lines of credit) to buy these foreign-manufactured goods.

At first, it looks like a good deal to consumers in developed nations. Goods are cheaper! But over a decade or two or three, as the creation of real wealth is reduced and the residue of the old wealth is spent, the developed nations become progressively poorer and poorer. At the same time, the "developing" nations become wealthier -- because those are the places that are producing real wealth.

Which brings us to Spain and Greece -- and the problem of all developed nations including the USA. So long as globalism continues apace, the transnational corporations and their CEOs will continue to become fabulously wealthy. But, more importantly, they also acquire the political power that comes with that control of economies.

So they tell us that instead of putting back into place tariffs, domestic content laws, and other "protectionist" policies that built America from the time the were first proposed by Alexander Hamilton in 1791 (and largely adopted by Congress in 1793) until they were dismantled by Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush, we should instead simple "accept the reality" that we're "living beyond our means" and we have to "cut back our wages and social programs."

In other words, they get richer, our nations become poorer, and national sovereignty is reduced.

Nations -- and in large countries like the USA, even states -- must again rebuild their manufacturing base and become locally self-sufficient, so their own consumers are buying products manufactured by their own workers.

"But won't that make Wal-Mart's stuff more expensive?" whine the flat-earthers.

Yes, it will. But most Americans (and Greeks and Spaniards) would gladly pay 10 percent more for the goods in their stores if their paychecks were 20 percent higher. And manufacturing paychecks have always been higher, because manufacturing is where "true wealth" is generated (thus the basis for most union movements, which further guarantee healthy worker income and benefits).

The transnational corporations benefiting from globalization are also, in most cases, the transnational corporations that own our media, so even the word globalization is rarely heard in reports on economic crises around the world.

But globalization is the villain here, and one that needs to be taken in hand and brought under control quickly if we don't want to see virtually the nations of the world end up subservient to corporate control, a new form of an ancient economic system known as feudalism.

onsdag den 10. februar 2010

Degrowth economics: Why less should be so much more

by Serge Latouche

Last December we published an article about contraction economics - décroissance or ’degrowth’- a topic that has become a major subject of debate, not just within the counter-globalisation movement but in the wider world. The big question is: how should ’degrowth’ apply to the South?

THE logic of advertising so dominates the media that it views anything new - material, cultural or otherwise - as a product launch. And in any product launch, the key word is concept. So as discussion of décroissance (literally "degrowth", that is economic contraction or downscaling) spread, the media naturally started to ask what was the concept. We are sorry to disappoint the media, but degrowth is not a concept. There is no theory of contraction equivalent to the growth theories of economics. Degrowth is just a term created by radical critics of growth theory to free everybody from the economic correctness that prevents us from proposing alternative projects for post-development politics.

In fact degrowth is not a concrete project but a keyword. Society has been locked into thought dominated by progressivist growth economics; the tyranny of these has made imaginative thinking outside the box impossible. The idea of a contraction-based society is just a way to provoke thought about alternatives. To accuse its advocates of only wanting to see economies contract within the existing system rather than proposing an alternative to that system, and to suspect them (as do some counter-globalisation economists) of wanting to prevent the underdeveloped world from resolving its problems reflects at best ignorance and at worst bad faith.

Proponents of contraction want to create integrated, self-sufficient and materially responsible societies in both the North and the South. It might be more accurate and less alarming if we replaced the word degrowth with "non-growth". We could then start talking about "a-growthism", as in "a-theism". After all, rejecting the current economic orthodoxy means abandoning a faith system, a religion. To achieve this, we need doggedly and rigorously to deconstruct the matter of development. The term "development" has been redefined and qualified so much that it has become meaningless. Yet despite its failings, this magical concept continues to command total devotion across the political spectrum. The doctrines of "economism" (1), in which growth is the ultimate good, die hard. Even counter-globalisation economists are in a paradoxical position: they acknowledge the harm that growth has done but continue to speak of enabling Southern countries to benefit from it. In the North the furthest they are prepared to go is to advocate slowing down growth. An increasing number of anti-globalisation activists now concede that growth as we have known it is both unsustainable and harmful, socially as well as ecologically. Yet they have little confidence in degrowth as a guiding principle: the South, deprived of development, cannot be denied at least a period of growth, although it may cause problems.

The result is a stalemate where neither growth nor contraction suit. The proposed compromise of growth slowdown follows the tradition in these debates in that it lets everyone agree on a misunderstanding. Forcing our economies to grow more slowly will never deliver the benefits of a society free from constant growth (that is, being materially responsible, fully integrated and self-sufficient) but it will hurt employment, which has been the one undeniable advantage of rapid, inequitable and environmentally catastrophic expansion. To understand why the creation of a non-growth society is so necessary and so desirable for North and South, we must examine the history of the idea. The proposal for a self-sufficient and materially responsible society is not new; it is part of the tradition of development criticism. For more than 40 years an international group of commentators had analysed economic development in the South and denounced the harm it has done (2). These commentators do not just address recent capitalist or ultra-liberal development: for example, they have considered Houari Boumediene’s Algeria and Julius Nyerere’s Tanzania, which were both officially socialist, participatory, self-reliant and based on popular solidarity. And they have also noted that development has often been carried out or supported by charitable, humanist NGOs. Yet apart from a few scattered success stories, it has been an overwhelming failure. What was supposed to bring contentment to everyone in every aspect of life led only to corruption, confusion and structural adjustment plans that turned poverty into destitution.

Degrowth must apply to the South as much as to the North if there is to be any chance to stop Southern societies from rushing up the blind alley of growth economics. Where there is still time, they should aim not for development but for disentanglement - removing the obstacles that prevent them from developing differently. This does not mean a return to an idealised version of an informal economy - nothing can be expected to change in the South if the North does not adopt some form of economic contraction. As long as hungry Ethiopia and Somalia still have to export feedstuffs destined for pet animals in the North, and the meat we eat is raised on soya from the razed Amazon rainforest, our excessive consumption smothers any chance of real self-sufficiency in the South (3).

If the South is to attempt to create non-growth societies, it must rethink and re-localise. Southern countries need to escape from their economic and cultural dependence on the North and rediscover their own histories - interrupted by colonialism, development and globalisation - to establish distinct indigenous cultural identities. The cultural histories of many societies reveal inherently anti-economistic values. These need to be revived, along with rejected or forgotten products and traditional crafts and skills. Insisting on growth in the South, as though it were the only way out of the misery that growth created, can only lead to further westernisation. Development proposals are often born of genuine goodwill - we want to build schools and health clinics, set up water distribution systems, restore self-sufficiency in food - but they all share the ethnocentrism bound up with the idea of development. Ask the governments of countries what they want, or study surveys of populations duped by the media, and they do not ask for the schools and clinics that western paternalism considers fundamental needs. They want air conditioning, mobile phones, fridges and, above all, cars (Volkswagen and General Motors are planning to start producing 3m vehicles a year in China, and Peugeot is also investing heavily there). For the benefit of their governing elites, we might also add nuclear power stations, fighter jets and tanks to the wish list.

Or we could listen to the exasperated Guatemalan leader cited by Alain Gras (4): "Leave the poor alone and stop going on about development!" All the leaders of popular movements, from Vandana Shiva in India to Emmanuel Ndione in Senegal, say the same thing. Advocates of development may pontificate about the need to restore self-sufficiency in food; but the terms they use prove that there was self-sufficiency and that it has been lost. Africa was self-sufficient in food until the 1960s when the great wave of development began. Imperialism, growth economics and globalisation destroyed that self-sufficiency and make African societies more dependent by the day. Water may not have come out of a tap in the past, but most of it was drinkable until industrial waste arrived to pollute it.

Are schools and clinics really the right ways to achieve and maintain good standards of education and health? The great polemicist and social thinker Ivan Illich (1926-2002) had serious doubts about their effectiveness, even in the North (5). As the Iranian economist Majid Rahnema puts it, "What we call aid money serves only to strengthen the structures that generate poverty. Aid money never reaches those victims who, having lost their real assets, look for alternative ways of life outside the globalised system of production which are better suited to their needs" (6).

There is no prospect of just returning to the old ways - no more than there is a universal model of progress on contraction or non-growth lines. Those millions for whom development has meant only poverty and exclusion are left with a weak mixture of lost tradition and unaffordable modernity, a paradox that sums up the double challenge that they face. But we should not underestimate the strength of our social and cultural achievements: once human creativity and ingenuity have been freed from the bonds of economism and development-mania, there is every reason to believe that they can tackle the task.

Different societies have different views of the shared basic aim of a good life. If we must give it a name, it could beumran (thriving or flourishing), as used by the Arab historian and philosopher Ibn Kaldûn (1332-1406); Gandhi’s swadeshi-sarvodaya (self-sufficiency and welfare); bamtaare (shared well-being) in the language of the West African Toucouleurs; or fidnaa/gabbina (the shine of someone who is well-fed and free of all worry) in the vocabulary of Ethiopia’s Borana people (7). What really matters is that we reject continuing destruction in the name of development. The fresh and original alternatives springing up point the way towards a successful post-development society.

However, neither North nor South will overcome their addiction to growth without a collective and comprehensive detoxification programme. The growth doctrine is like a disease and a drug. As Rahnema says, Homo economicus had two strategies for taking over virgin territories: one operated like HIV, the other like a drug pusher (8). Growth economics, like HIV, destroys societies’ immune systems against social ills. And growth needs a constant supply of new markets to survive so, like a drug dealer, it deliberately creates needs and dependencies that did not exist before. The fact that the dealers in the supply chain, mainly transnational corporations, benefit so much from our addiction will make it difficult to overcome. But our ever-increasing consumption is not sustainable; sooner or later we will have to give it up.

Le Monde Diplomatique November 2004