Citing various mainstream sources Genter starts with the demise of neoliberalism. She then moves on to what the real needs are, and then how we can address them,
To me, the changing discourse around “the economy” is exciting. Here I use quotation marks because too often the economy is talked about like a complicated machine that only experts can understand, and to which we much sacrifice human wellbeing or our precious natural environment in order to have jobs.
The economy should describe how we allocate resources and how we spend our time. We have tended to overlook things that aren’t traded. There are many activities – like caregiving, fundamental to the health of human societies – that are not undertaken for commercial gain. Natural resources tend to be treated as an input to a machine that creates “wealth” in the short term. Yet the resources themselves are not created by humans, they are used up or transformed. The natural world is fundamental to the health of human societies (and other life on the planet), and if we do not look after it responsibly, we will be worse off in the long run.
No longer can we justify ecological degradation and growth in inequality on the basis of being good, or even necessary, for “the economy”, because both are bad for human societies in the long run. We can and must structure our economy in a way that protects the planet we live on, and empowers people to have healthy, happy lives.
The two looming, unavoidable challenges facing humanity are climate change and inequality. The previously dominant economic paradigm exacerbated both, and cannot help us solve either.
What is the answer?
Thomas Piketty has a proposal for a progressive global wealth tax. Combine that with a global price on climate pollution. Allocate the revenue to countries on the basis of population, invest some of the revenue on socially beneficial infrastructure like energy-efficient housing, green transport, clean electricity, and make sure the rest is shared fairly. Protect the few remaining wild places, and manage natural resources responsibly for the long term. Encourage local, truly sustainable, food production.
Then see how people spend their time, and that will be an “economy” that can really serve human wellbeing for the long term.
This may seem too far from the current situation, and politically challenging to implement. But we can start the transition here in New Zealand with a range of Green Party policies that are sensible, and start to allocate resources in a fairer way:
- Capital Gains Tax
- Homes Not Cars
- Climate Tax Cut
- Green Transport
- Protecting Rivers
- Ending Child Poverty
- Smart Farming
It’s silly to say we can’t afford to do these things – the truth is we can’t afford not to.
Rather than arguing about neoliberalism and its serious level faults, I thought we could focus on what we can do differently, using the Green Party ideas as a starting point. The intention here is not so much to point out what is wrong with the GP approach (although constructive criticism is useful), but to use this space to bring out some of our collective ideas about how things could be different, especially where we can see a pathway from where we are now to where we need to be.