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Just what would a no-growth economy be? Radical capitalists and public monies

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Nov 17, 2017 No Comments ›› Dan Bodine

By Dan Bodine

 

Before politics gets really crazy next year — e.g., now with Republicans and a dunce-hat “greatness” president appearing to be in a free-fall between sex allegations and elections signaling another end to political Imperialism — maybe it’s time for us little people to bring the above question back onto the commons again. What would it be like? Among us “on-the-street” type, e.g.! Not a big-time quiz, this is; maybe a quiet mouse slipping into church for a quick smell, ok? Shhh…

First, since civilization began, people have comfortably lived in different shades of “no-growth” economies. Buying, selling, or trading with each other, basically. Or, as protesting family farmers explained in the early ’80s, “parity.” So what was it that set this last spin of aggressive commerce off?

Wasn’t Queen Isabella seeking more silk linin for her Monday Night bullfighters? And sent ol’ Chris full-galing into Western seas for a shorter route to China’s markets.

And then lo and behold!

But what about the future? The uber future? No Jobs!!! Think they’re disappearing quickly now? Look at what Congress supposedly already has done to truck driver jobs in this subscriber ad on the new uber economy! (‘Course ads are honest!)

I mean, things are happening fast, folks! At least it is for ol’ country folks like me — who still remember cleaning out the outhouse toilet every Saturday morning and swamping it with lime powder! Never saw a social minimalist then!

But the point is, as a people we’ve been there, done that before, and the world didn’t fall off its axis, like it’s threatening now, under loosely regulated radical capitalism. Here’s a historical bit, i.e., from a late scholar’s website discussing this history:

“… research shows clearly that the economic growth of the four leading world economies was in no way linear. The four moving points on the graph represent the economies of China, Western Europe, the former URSS and the United States. Looking at the sub-categories of population, GDP and GDP per capita you can see that China was the largest economy in the world for centuries. It was not until the 19th Century that Western Europe finally caught up, and soon after the United States assumed leadership. Now it looks like China is set to take back its title of largest economy on the planet.”

A second point, actually, about possible no-growth economies today, needs a mention that talk of a finite planet just didn’t suddenly erupt. It’s decades old!

For us repented ol’ hippies, i.e., back in the ’70s-’80s when its converging outline appeared to have us cornered first, what did industry radicals eventually tell us — to settle the heat some?

‘Don’t worry about using up natural resources, because we’ll be mining stuff from the Moon or Mars soon!”

Well…..?

And the rich got richer and the poor poorer!

And what did the wealthy do with their money made all those years? Surely gave it back to the planet some? A grease job here; oil and filter change there?

You kidding?

“…(A)round the world the extremely wealthy have accumulated at least $21 trillion in secretive offshore accounts. That’s a sum equal to the gross domestic products of the United States and Japan added together,” Forbes stated a few years ago in Superrich Hide $21 Trillion Offshore, Study Says.

Yuck! People in a make-or-steal money frenzy, just deciding to declare themselves king or queen of a sinking hill? Yuck, indeed!

OK, this on the economy’s condition now’s a little more direct. Cold turkey!

Quote’s from Nothing Grows Forever, in none other than Mother Jones itself.

“In essence, endless growth puts us on the horns of a seemingly intractable dilemma. Without it, we spiral into poverty. With it, we deplete the planet. Either way, we lose.

“Unless, of course, there’s a third way. Could we have a healthy economy that doesn’t grow? Could we stave off ecological collapse by reining in the world economy? Could we do it without starving?”

Hee, hee! Been there; done that, yes, we ol’ hipsters have!

My 3rd way example is another ol’ professor. Decades back! A professor way ahead of his time then, some said! But not many.

The incident I remember is a class at old North Texas State University, where he read a paper he’d written on steady-state economies and minimum/maximum incomes! (Of course, I can’t remember the ol’ Prof’s name! Seems like Professor Daniels, or maybe Danielson. Swinging in the breeze, I am, here.)

But a teacher you hope your kids and grandkids could have, he was! Honors galore! And I’m sure he’d been a king himself … if only if‘s and but’s were candy and nuts!

For despite a certain prescience, I’m guessing somebody would’ve remembered a revolutionary paper on the economy — in what I think were his early days –that might’ve scarred him. For unfortunately, it wasn’t well received.

It’s socialism! The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!

Such receptions in mollified Academia usually deny coronation, yes.

He wrote it, I’m thinking, probably around 1970. He read it to our Political Science class in ’71, seems like.

Minimum/maximum incomes. Once you reached the top in a division, instead of cash bonuses for exemplary performances, you’d receive government-designated civil honors, or awards — and corresponding media attention — for outstanding professional performance. An elevation, it was, publicly recognizing your contribution. Anything surplus in the public kitty because of it, of course, would be subject to same public budget processes.

Now, which is more important to your body’s health? Attention, or wealth? Careful before jumping into that minefield!

But his paper inspired me then to look for kings and queens anointed for civil and charitable causes, more so than their wealth — feeling such contributions, indeed, were much more valuable an inanimate pile of wealth stacked on a dead ledger sheet by some cold minimalist.

Employed at Texas Instruments in North Dallas then, i.e., I’d been carpooling with 2-3 older women every night for 6-7 months to work; and the topic of professional golfer Lee Trevino  — the world’s ultimate hotdog, I guess — was fresh on my mind.

Each night we passed a well-lit putting course off North Central Freeway where the legendary golfer once spent numerous hours at night. And no one ever ran out of stories about the civic greatness of this guy — the hotdog demeanor, be that it may, a quick social tool he’d learned for breaking ice as a minority. It stuck to me.

Too, the subject reminded me of what the great dockworker-philosopher Eric Hoffer defined in The True Believer as the number one need of men and women in a community — opportunities to prove their worth! As individuals!

Hoffer, a longshoreman most of his life, argued social empowerment (state intervention) for the disadvantaged served both as their defense against minimalists, as well as tools for economic contribution for the state.

The NTSU professor felt prompted to write his paper to counter adverse effects the military-industrial state’s Vietnam War was having then on the middle class.

But prescient?

You can certainly say that now, some, certainly. But then?

—-

I can still remember the scene. Him standing facing the class; leaning on the lectern to his left; clawing the air in front of him with the papers, clutched in his right hand.

The wild idea of a min./max. income had brought quiet guffaws rippling around the class. No one commented in support of it.

He wasn’t offended, he said. He’d made several, earlier presentations of the paper — some even to his professional peers — that’d brought similar responses, too.

Only one point mattered to him.

Not one person, in all my presentations… he said. Not one person, could show it wouldn’t work!

And look at our disappearing middle class today! Was he prescient calling for maximum and minimum incomes?

— If you define it as redrawing the attention carrot, I say maybe.

— If you define it as saving civilization from being destroyed by the planet’s apparent collapsing (due to environmental destructions and climate change), I say yes.

— If you define it as saying, Because of the next Great Depression, you’ll have to eat biscuits and gravy for six months…Hee, hee!

I’d say, Been there, done that!

And we survived.

 


Subscribers Note: Apologies for inactivity, first. This site was launched years ago to help counter some of the bad effects of social minimalism; and, with the current administration in Washington, i.e., we’ve certainly had no shortage of topics to discuss. But truth is, worsening health that’s affected both my brain and lungs has slowed me. To make posting easier, in the next few weeks I’m hoping to combine my websites all into desertmountaintimes.com.

The folks at Blue Sky Web Design graciously are continuing to help me, and when these changes are made all previous posts from each of the three sites still will be accessible to you. Nothing is actually being taken down; simply being brought under one, more convenient roof. If you’re not subscribed to this other site, you can do it here. http://desertmountaintimes.com/category/blog/

Thank you for your continued loyalty as a reader.  — d.b.

 

 

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