10 Nov 2019

The British Elite Are Terrified of Corbyn

This comparison of two stories from the Express says it all.


One party want to raise the minimum wage to £10.50. The other party wants to raise the minimum wage to £10.00. One is hailed as a boon for workers while the other is derides as destroying jobs. Logic suggests that the higher amount ought to draw fire for hurting jobs, since the argument is that higher wages suppresses job creation.

But the paper does not follow logic. In Sept 2019 it rails against £10.00 proposed by Labour, but in Nov 2019 it hails the Tory proposed increase to £10.50.

This is nonsense. This is fake news. This is misinformation. The "free press" may be free, but they are liars. What the hell do we do about this? 

25 Oct 2019

The Debt Clock and the Generational Disaster in the USA.

Check out this amazing Debt Clock for the USA.

It's scary in several ways. Look particularly at the bottom left under "Unfunded Liabilities".
Unfunded Liability - (n) liability is a debt or obligation one party owes to other(s) some future date in time. Debt gets commonly settled by payment or performance of a service. An Unfunded Liability describes any liability, debt, mortgage, or obligation that one either does not have savings set aside for it. 
At present the US Government has unfunded liabilities of $126 trillion. Just to be clear the US government has promised to $126 trillion but has no budget for paying any of it. This is medicare, pensions, social security, government debt, and so on.

And the GDP of the USA is $19 trillion. So the unfunded liabilities are 679% of GDP.

What happens when the US government defaults on its obligations? The constraints on debts to banks and other nations mean they will get priority. A major power defaulting on debts would threaten global chaos on a scale that would make the global financial crisis look like a day in the park. So what will happen is defaulting on domestic obligations: medicare, pensions, social security.

The other thing to notice is the differential between rise in wages and the rise in health care and education. Comparing 2000 and now.
mean income:      $30,872 → $33,445 (+  8.3%)
healthcare costs:  $5,508 → $11,516 (+109.1%)
college tuition:  $11,897 → $24,568 (+106.5%)

This trend is only continuing. It goes with another fact: successive generations have saved less, and fewer have saved at all, for retirement. Saving for retirement requires that we earn enough to put some aside. In my life time the developed world has moved from the wages of one man supporting the entire family with some put aside for a pension, to the wages of both parents being insufficient for live on.

This has been great for corporate profit margins. It has been great for shareholder dividends in this generation. But in another 50 years not only will the population be aging and longer lived, but it won't have saved for retirement. Just at the time when the government's own financial crisis is forcing them to stop spending on domestic obligations.

23 Oct 2019

Some Thoughts on the Politics of the Bottom.

From the protests in Chile:

“We are not from the Right
nor from the Left.
We are from the Bottom
and we are coming for the ones at the Top”

In the politics of the Bottom we have to acknowledge that the Bottom have a uniformly terrible experience of government bureaucracy. They especially have a terrible experience of the legal system and the welfare system. Less money is spent on the Bottom. They get a worse education. They work harder. They don't live as long. They are bullied by the state and management. They are despised.

So the Bottom might not see socialism (the state running things) as a great idea. Handing power to the people who torment, torture, and kill the Bottom may seem like a bad idea to folk at the Bottom. Hence, many vote on the right to the consternation of the left. And they would not be wrong. You cannot empower the disempowered, by handing power to the state. The social liberal aims to give the Bottom a step up through education, healthcare, etc. But the bias in the system constantly sabotages this.

Unfortunately, contra the Liberal myth, the Bottom want to be empowered without taking responsibility. Who appears to offer this? Fascists. The Mafia. Gangs...
"Join us! No one will push you around (except us), we'll look after you and your family, you'll make good money, and there is a career path if you want it."
Fascists understand the bottom better than Socialists or Social Liberals. This is not a good thing... Economic Liberals (NeoLiberals) see the Bottom as an obstacle to prosperity.

The is a problem of Essentialism: the idea that being at the Bottom is not a matter of circumstances or chance; that is is somehow meaningful. If you trace back, people at the Bottom usually had everything taken away by the Top at some point and never recovered.

We have to somehow find a new dynamic. The court cases in the USA which aim to hold the oil companies to account for their deceptions on climate change is one good sign. Similarly the holding of big pharma to account for the opioid crisis.



22 Oct 2019

Doublespeak

Orwellian doublespeak has become the norm for politicians and big business. The tools of semantics leave us scratching our heads when someone says something and then claims not to have said it, or to have said something different, or to have meant something different. Pragmatics takes the nonsense in it's stride and asks the same question: what is the author of the speech act trying to do.

Sowing confusion amongst your enemies using disinformation is a classic military tactic. It undermines the ability of the enemy to understand your true intent and leaves them expending time, energy, and resources sifting through your utterances looking for the truth.

The use of disinformation and propaganda in warfare is not new. The routine overt use of them in domestic politics is. This tells us that the elite are on a war footing. And we, the people, are their enemy.

11 Oct 2019

Google vs Republicans:

The big headline in the Guardian today is Google made large contributions to climate change deniers.

I don't think Google was targeting climate change, denial, but rather the reasoning is found in another article: The obscure law that explains why Google backs climate deniers.

Google and other large internet companies rely on section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to avoid liability for what people like me publish on my Google-owned blogs. This part of the CDA offers the internet giant legal immunity for content I create using their platform "in effect treating them as distributors of content and not publishers". And this seems fair enough. Google owns Blogger. There are millions of blogs on this platform and Google cannot reasonably moderate them expect retroactively if people complain. Google merely distribute my words. And I should be the one who has the liability.

Still, this doesn't explain why Google are giving a lot of money to quite so many right-wing think tanks. Nor why Google have been so defensive about being caught out.
“We’re hardly alone among companies that contribute to organisations while strongly disagreeing with them on climate policy,” the spokesperson said.

The reason they have been making contributions is that Republican senators, particular Ted Cruz have been calling for repeal of §320. And in particular Cruz argues that Google is biased in favour of the Democrats. That is that Google search results are biased. Here is Cruz grilling a Google representative on 16 July 2019:




Make no mistake, this is a disaster for Google! Because senators have power to change laws. If Google were deemed to be a publisher then they would be open to vast number of lawsuits from Republican supporters.

In Aug 2019 Slate ran an article with a bit more information on this. 
"Fox News’ sister network Fox Business had discussed the July Senate testimony of a psychologist named Robert Epstein, who said that “Google’s search algorithm likely impacted undecided voters in a way that gave at least 2.6 million votes to Hillary Clinton.” 
And President translated this into a Tweet that said in part "Google manipulated from 2.6 million to 16 million votes for Hillary Clinton in 2016 Election!" Now this is an obvious distortion of the facts and one of tens of thousands of lies that Trump has told.

Epstein works at the American Institute for Behavioral Research. But Epstein was already in a long standing conflict with Google: "In 2012, Epstein publicly disputed with Google Search over a security warning placed on links to his website" (NYTimes). He subsequently made a career of criticizing Google and other big internet companies. And of course in the increasingly divided and paranoid politics of the US, Republicans latched onto this idea that Google had manipulated search results. 

Of course Google has responded through the usual channels - the mainstream media. They have testified in  But the parts of the media controlled by Republicans of the extreme views we associate with Cruz and Trump are not bound to give Google a fair hearing. The comments under that Ted Cruz video are disturbing in their partisan credulity and paranoia. 

The original liberal country, the home of liberal democracy, the nation that has inscribed liberalism into the very fabric of their constitution has produced a generation, of mainly younger white men, who hate liberalism. I saw yesterday that young white men have issued death threats to Greta Thunberg who they see as representing a vast conspiracy against them. Angry older white men like Jordan Peterson have only stoked the fire higher by confirming their fears of a liberal conspiracy. It's not quite clear what this liberal conspiracy will achieve apart from free healthcare and green energy, but the paranoiacs associate it with gun control and with progressive social values.

We often see negative comments about Google bowing to political pressure to censor results in China. We seldom see analysis of the kind of political pressure that Google has to deal with in the USA where society was always economically right wing, but has become increasingly socially conservative and authoritarian. And make no mistake, Epstein has put Google firmly in the cross hairs. 

Google should be scrutinised. It enjoys a monopoly on the market and it is not always a friend to the individual citizen. Issues about privacy, data, metadata, and censorship are important and Google should be seen to be conforming to social norms on these issues, or at the very least complying with relevant law. 

But the pressure Google face from paranoid Republicans and the rednecks who support Trump is something else. We can perhaps understand why they have resorted to giving large (but undisclosed sums) to right-wing think tanks. Google is fighting for survival and needs allies in the Republican Party to help thwart the insane clown posse that is Trump and his supporters. They cannot simply make a rational argument and present evidence because the other side don't operate on facts and reason. They operate on emotions and prejudice.

Still there is something fundamentally immoral about supporting these organisations that are contributing to climate change denial. Sure, other big companies are doing it, but since when has that been a valid moral argument? Two wrongs don't make a right. Climate change is the issue of our time. And even if we are wrong about everything and we clean up the environment only to realise that we needn't have, we still have clean air, clean water, lower deaths from pollution, and so on. We have to make the transition to a Green Economy anyway. Climate change just makes it urgent. 

Lewis Powell argued in 1971 that the American free enterprise system was under attack by progressive social attitudes (by which he specifically meant the environmental movement, but at that time presumably also the civil rights movement as well). 

The freedom of economic liberals has always been about the freedom to exploit the people and world for profit. The so-called free enterprise system only ever worked well for large multinationals that pursued and gained monopoly power. It wasn't free for anyone else. The free market ideology that combined classical economic liberalism and the new economic theory of monetarism never really addressed the complete lack of freedom of markets. Google is fighting to survive and against a pernicious trend led by a corrupt politician who is misusing his office, but they are using their wealth to buy political influence. This is the flaw in the free market system: those who could, always have manipulated markets for their own benefit. 

Capitalism always ends up being about the elites fighting for power over the workers. If that means drafting our workers to kill your workers, then so be it. The various factions get involved in the deluded idea that by backing the right tyrant they will get special treatment in the new dispensation. So suddenly the young right-wing white men of the USA are against Google, even though Google's contribution to their lives far exceeds that of senator Cruz and this cronies. It's all part of a sinister plot. 

All this is frankly terrifying. Trump, Cruz, the Republican Party, are corrupt and disinterested in dealing with climate change because it shifts profit making to other industries. Google, in a shameless attempt to buy political influence with the allies of these corrupt politicians in order to stave off a disadvantageous change i the law, are making large contributions to the very think tanks that fuel the Republican climate change denial. The only winner here is climate change denial

The UK where I live is scarcely any better. Venal millionaire politicians are destroying democracy for money.





4 Oct 2019

Problems of market economies

From Encyclopedia Britannica:
"By the end of the 19th century, some unforeseen but serious consequences of the Industrial Revolution in Europe and North America had produced a deepening disenchantment with the principal economic basis of classical liberalism—the ideal of a market economy. The main problem was that the profit system had concentrated vast wealth in the hands of a relatively small number of industrialists and financiers, with several adverse consequences. First, great masses of people failed to benefit from the wealth flowing from factories and lived in poverty in vast slums. Second, because the greatly expanded system of production created many goods and services that people often could not afford to buy, markets became glutted and the system periodically came to a near halt in periods of stagnation that came to be called depressions. Finally, those who owned or managed the means of production had acquired enormous economic power that they used to influence and control government, to manipulate an inchoate electorate, to limit competition, and to obstruct substantive social reform. In short, some of the same forces that had once released the productive energies of Western society now restrained them; some of the very energies that had demolished the power of despots now nourished a new despotism."
"As modern liberals struggled to meet the challenge of stagnating living standards in mature industrial economies, others saw an opportunity for a revival of classical liberalism. The intellectual foundations of this revival were primarily the work of the Austrian-born British economist Friedrich von Hayek and the American economist Milton Friedman. One of Hayek’s greatest achievements was to demonstrate, on purely logical grounds, that a centrally planned economy is impossible. He also famously argued, in The Road to Serfdom (1944), that interventionist measures aimed at the redistribution of wealth lead inevitably to totalitarianism. Friedman, as one of the founders of the modern monetarist school of economics, held that the business cycle is determined mainly by the supply of money and by interest rates, rather than by government fiscal policy—contrary to the long-prevailing view of Keynes and his followers. These arguments were enthusiastically embraced by the major conservative political parties in Britain and the United States, which had never abandoned the classical liberal conviction that the market, for all its faults, guides economic policy better than governments do." 

3 Oct 2019

My Response to George Monbiot on Demagogues

Monbiot writes in the Guardian: Demagogues thrive by whipping up our fury. Here’s how to thwart them.

I believe the present wave of authoritarian, nationalistic, and violent politics is the direct result of 40 years of neoliberalism undercutting workers pay and conditions, undermining job security, and generally telling the citizen that they don't matter. 40 years of neoliberal politicians and corporate CEOs corrupting public office and subverting democracy.

There is no govt money for the people because it's all going to subsidise multinational corporations. We have pogroms against "benefit cheats" but tax cheats who steal 100x more are routinely ignored.

This is a mirror of what we saw during the decline of classical liberalism. It "concentrated vast wealth in the hands of a relatively small number of industrialists and financiers," and the masses did not benefit; it caused cycles of boom and bust; and lastly those who had great wealthy used it to buy influence in and control of government, and to manipulate the electorate. (Adapted from Encyclopedia Britannica).

While authoritarian, nationalistic, and violent politics did not take hold everywhere as a result, it did take hold in enough places that we had to fight WWII to stop it. And after that we saw a brief period of humanistic, society-oriented politics until the early 1970s when the economic liberals merged their ideas with the new monetarism to create the new classical liberalism or neoliberalism. The neoliberals launched a "counterattack" against what Lewis Powell called the attack on the free enterprise system. They bought up the media. They bought up business schools. They founded think tanks to employ the business school graduates to keep the message in the media. They built power base that is more or less impervious to governance and democracy.

We did not learn the lessons of history. And now the farce is playing out as tragedy. The difference this time is that 40 years of neoliberalism have ignited climate change, which may well already be irreversible.

In response to this, Monbiot really does have much to offer beyond some simple common sense. I agree that insulting the opposition is a mistake. Insults raise the tension and make resolution less likely. Of course appeasement is not going to work in this case either. This also has historical precedent. 

I think we have to take to the streets in large numbers and demand change. But the UK is a deeply divided country at present, and this favours the Romans Tories, while the Judeans Left cannot stop their infighting even for a second. So a political solution seems a long way off, because the party that creates discord is not going to be stopped by the party embodying discord. In the USA the impeachment of Trump looks encouraging, but remember that Pence will be his replacement. Elsewhere things seem to hang in the balance. And every day the earth is heating up...

12 May 2019

Political Terminology

Still trying to unravel political terminology. My latest attempt:

The opposite of liberal is socialist
The opposite of conservative is progressive
The opposite of libertarian is authoritarian 

These three axes are theoretically independent of each other.

I think some will find this counter-intuitive because these terms are typically mixed up. We call authoritarian groups "far-right" and we think of liberals as of "the left". But I've always found this confusing and the more I study the history of liberalism, the less it makes sense.


Liberal/Socialist

These are primarily economic terms. Liberals are for small government, free markets, and laterly for monetarism (using monetary policy to control inflation). Socialists are for state ownership on behalf of the people, regulated markets, and usually take full employment as their economic goal. The original liberals were against democracy because it threatened a tyranny of the majority (which we have in the case of Brexit).

Many people will be confused by the association of liberalism with the right-wing. But all the key right-wing economic policies came from the classical liberals (Hobbes, Locke, Smith, Mills, etc).

To be far-right in this view is to advocate for allowing markets to decide everything without interference. In this sense, neoliberals who see a role for state in the markets are less right wing than the classical liberals. Mind you the role of the state is strictly limited to managing the money supply to control inflation (monetarism) and preventing monopolies. The latter has not prevented most industries seeing a massive contraction in the number of players. Virtual any class of goods and services you might purchase is not controlled by 3 or 4 companies globally. 4 oil companies, 3 food manufacturers, and so on. And though they are not monopolies these very large and dominant conglomerates have the same effect of suppressing competition. They simply swallow up any competition.

Socialists mainly advocate state ownership of the provision of basic services such as housing, utilities, education, and healthcare. In the past this led to full employment but also to inefficiency.

There are two distinct approaches to welfare. One of the classical liberal arguments for how the state should help citizens is "give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him to fish and he can feed himself for the rest of his life." Liberals want to help a person to help themselves. What welfare liberals imagined is everyone with a fishing rod catching fish to feed themselves. Socialists take the approach that if the strongest members of the society go fishing with a net, they can catch enough fish to feed everyone.

But actually happens under liberalism is that a businessman captures the market on nets, boats, and fish and sells fish to people at the highest price they can extract from the people. In the name of freedom they make everyone slaves to this system.

Now socialism sometimes works well as it did in Scandinavia where everyone paid very high levels of tax (60-90%), but the govt ensured everyone had a job, everyone received an excellent education, very good healthcare, and they had the highest standards of living anywhere in the world. In other places, socialism led to stagnation as the state control was bureaucratic and apathetic. In Scandinavia government was highly motivated to look after citizens, whereas in Britain, with it's much greater population and history of rigid class distinctions, the system bogged down and worked against the citizenry.

As far as the environment goes, liberals treat corporations as legal persons who have the right to engage in economic activity unhindered by excessive regulation. Laissez faire attitudes meant that pollution, greenhouse effects, and habitat loss were acceptable consequences of economic activity, even if they negatively impacted on the health and well-being of citizens. This reminds us that liberalism has always talked expansively, but acted to preserve the privileges and profits of the elite.


Conservative/Progressive

Conservatives are for the status quo. The aging members of the Soviet Politburo were conservatives of the left. Americans who oppose changes to gun laws on the basis of individual liberty are conservatives of the right.

Progressives want to change things. One of the most striking changes of our time was the transition from Hick's interpretations of Keynesian economic policies to those of Friedman and Hayek interpreted by Alan Greenspan. I call this "progressive", not because it led to progress or was a good change, but because it moved decisively away from the status quo.

The problem here is that the term "progressive" is usually associated with progress towards some ideal. With liberals the goal is always individual liberty (though of course companies have the rights of individuals in law). Indeed liberals argue that liberty is not something the government can grant, because liberty is our inalienable natural right. Government can only limit or deny liberty. Most liberals accept, following arguments first made by John Locke, that there are a narrow range of situations in which the government may limit the liberty of an individual and that is where an action or activity harms another citizen.

Just as there are few if any socialists in the USA, there are few if any conservatives in the UK. The Conservative Party of the UK was historically a party which resisted change being proposed by liberals (free markets) and radicals (democracy). But they were taken over by neoclassical liberalism in the 1970s and began a series of massive social and economic reforms, completely changing how the UK economy worked, negating the power of labour unions, and privatising government assets and enterprises (crippling the ability of the state to help citizens).


Libertarian/Authoritarian

I think these terms are fairly clear. Although the UK follows liberal (right-wing) economic policies, these have been adopted by governments who insisted we have no choice. They also happen to resist evidence based policies in favour of the moral commitments of the leaders - typically a "we know best" approach. And this is authoritarian. At the extreme are leaders who dominate (or attempt to dominate) the process of governing, like Trump.

Beyond this are absolutist forms of government such as what we see in North Korea or Saudi Arabia. Libertarians of the right or left (anarchists) are resistant to anyone telling the what to do.

And at the other extreme are the people who don't think the government should tell anyone what to do. These are often people who are already in a position of privilege who see the liberty of other people as a threat to their own power. This has been a feature of the history of liberalism - classical liberals resisted democracy for example, working against the extension of voting rights at every step.

Many libertarians turn out to be socially conservative. They don't want anyone to tell them what to do but they're against the expansion of rights for other groups. So we see US libertarians against the extension of civil rights to transexuals for example. Fundamentalist Christians are anxious to assert their absolute rights to freedom of assembled, worship, and expression, but some of them will murder a doctor who performs an abortion because they insist their worldview is the only valid one. Any libertarian who is against pluralism should face some hard questions, though they seldom do.


Conclusion

This is where I've got to in trying to understand political terminology and the dynamics that it applies to. I'll be continuing to think about for a long time to come I suspect.

It does seem helpful to understand where these terms come from and how the usage has changed over time. It seems helpful to disentangle some of the terms that have begun to merge: like liberal and socialist or liberal and progressive, and all of these with "left-wing"; or conservative and right-wing.

If we can call things by the proper name then it will help us to understand our differences and similarities. For example, although I see many of the liberal attitudes as pernicious in practice (if not always in theory) I can appreciate that the concept of liberty is one that they championed. Liberty is certainly something to celebrate, but it would be nice to spread it around a little more in my view.

But also I think it will be essential in the fight against the climate and biodiversity crisis to frame it in the values of the people we are trying to persuade to help us. Where liberalism is the dominant ideology, as it is in most of Europe and America, it makes sense to frame the discussion in terms of liberty.

If someone poisons the air I breath and thereby shortens my life or causes me to suffer, then this can be frame in many ways. But one important way to talk about, given the values of the ruling elites, is as an infringement of my liberty. It is fundamental to liberalism that if the government has any role at all, it is to prevent other citizens from infringing on my liberty, especially in the form of harming me.



The opposite of  socialist is liberal
The opposite of progressive is conservative
The opposite of authoritarian is libertarian

9 May 2019

Neoliberalism articles

Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world. The word has become a rhetorical weapon, but it properly names the reigning ideology of our era – one that venerates the logic of the market and strips away the things that make us human. By Stephen Metcalf. Guardian. Fri 18 Aug 2017.

Neoliberalism: Oversold? Finance & Development (IMF Journal), June 2016, Vol. 53, No. 2. Jonathan D. Ostry, Prakash Loungani, and Davide Furceri. Inside the stock exchange in Santiago, Chile, one of the first countries to adopt a form of neoliberal policies. Instead of delivering growth, some neoliberal policies have increased inequality, in turn jeopardizing durable expansion.

Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems. George Monbiot.  Guardian. 15 Apr 2016. Financial meltdown, environmental disaster and even the rise of Donald Trump – neoliberalism has played its part in them all. Why has the left failed to come up with an alternative?



6 May 2019

Degrowth & Deflation

I keep seeing naive arguments for degrowth that don't account for the disastrous impact of deflation on an economy, especially in the light of very high levels of private sector debt (across the first world). It would not be so bad if the advocates of degrowth had any sense of how deflation works, but they seem not to.


Deflation

Deflation has similar risks to inflation and can get out of hand just as easily. Deliberately pursuing a course of deflation is dangerous. In deflation, prices fall and consumers assume that if they delay a purchase the price will be lower. So it makes sense to delay it if possible. Demand for products tends to drop, putting further downward pressure on prices (there is a positive feedback loop). But as demand falls off, production has to fall off as well. Supply chains slow down and sometimes dry up. Wages start to fall, and businesses start to lay off workers, usually starting with the low paid, unskilled workers.

Normally we would hope that the fall in wages and rise in unemployment would counteract the deflationary spiral. But if we are actively pursuing degrowth then the deflationary spiral will keep going, we might see the first examples of hyper-deflation. 

We don't live in the kind of world that accepts equality of economic outcome as a goal. Thus the poor are going be worse off. The middle classes will cling on, while they have job. The ruling elite are now excessively insulated against declines by the ability to short stocks and buy credit default swaps in advance of the change of economic policy. They will actually grab an even larger share of a shrinking pie. And this will exacerbate the effects of degrowth. Businesses will downsize and force workers to work harder to preserve investors capital.


Debt Deflation

A problem that almost no one talks about is the fate of debt under deflation. While it is true that buying power increases in the short-term the subsequent fall in wages will cancel that out in time. The trouble comes when your debt stays the same in numerical terms, but your income is shrinking in real terms. In effect deflation multiplies debt. And we need to be clear that the first world is highly indebted. Politicians bang on about govt debt, but private sector debt is much larger. In the UK private sector debt is about 350% of GDP. Household debt alone is slightly over 100% of GDP. But debt is currently rising. Households have spent more than they earned for 9 straight quarters in the UK.

The interest on these debts must be a significant figure, though I have never found anyone who could tell me what that figure might be. If the average interest rate is 10% then the interest payments on debts to the value 350% of GDP are 35% of GDP per annum! As I say, no one seems to be able to tell me what that figure might be, not even the heterodox economists who bang on about private sector debt.


Consuming Less & Kill the Third World

There are powerful arguments for consuming a great deal less in the West in order for us all to survive the climate emergency and to turn around the mass extinction. But this will have massive consequences.

However, this is going to be happening on a global scale. Those countries most at risk from the climate emergency are also most at risk from degrowth.

If Europe stops consuming, say, jute and cheap clothing from Bangladesh, then vast numbers of Bangladeshis lose their livelihood and have no welfare to rely on. And just as we wipe out their economy to save ourselves, their whole country is inundated with floods and because we are following degrowth we have much less to offer them in terms aid.

If Western Europe rapidly stops using gas from Russia and Ukraine for cooking and heating then 190 million people are affected. Gas is by far the largest export from Russia and it mainly goes to the EU. We could expect mass unemployment, again without a welfare safety net. And at the same time their wheat crops are failing from the persistent drought that is already beginning to affect them. But of course we have to stop using fossil fuels and soon.

We desperately need to stop consuming plastic and a lot of the plastic tat we buy is made in China. If China suffers a downturn then we could be looking at 100s of millions of people losing their jobs.

If we suddenly stop going to Greece, or Bali, or Fiji, any of a 1000 places that rely on tourism then again, there will be job losses that create a drag on the local economy, exacerbating the deflationary trend. Factor in the effects of the climate emergency and we can see that a lot of places are going to cease to exist.

There are many of these strong dependencies in a globalised world and the poorer nations are always more vulnerable than the rich.


Surviving the Climate Emergency/Mass Extinction 

Degrowth has the potential to make things a lot worse and the worst impact will be on the poor. Which is not to say that we should not consume less. The catch 22 is that if we do not consume less we will probably all die.

I would say that our priorities would be consuming less locally produced energy. Cutting down the amount of coal and oil burned to power our lifestyles. Next would be transport. It's not enough that we all switch to electric cars. We have to be thinking in terms of using a fraction of the energy resources that we currently do. We need to switch from cars to bicycles, shared vehicles, and public transport.

Switching to plant/fungi/bacteria based foods so that animal farming is reduced will make an important contribution. We need to stop exporting animal products as well. But we need to be cautious about cutting back drastically on goods from poor and services countries, especially where their economic base is narrow. They need time to work out how they will survive the coming economic crash on top of the climate emergency/mass extinction.

Some single products such as palm oil might be good to target. Making and transporting the stuff involves cutting down vast swathes of rain forest and consumes vast amounts of energy. And yet it is not so central to any nation's economy that stopping it would bankrupt them. There must be many similar such products. Coffee and chocolate are probably both in this category and we'll probably discover how committed we are when we consider them.