Bring on the Recession?

October 11, 2007 by barbara

barbara writes

My name is Barbara and I survived college coursework in economics. Barely. I was a midlife student. I got good grades in my economics classes. I absolutely don’t know why. I prefer to believe it was relationship anguish and not my utter inability to grasp economic principles that left me an empty vessel, economically speaking. That is my full “I’m not an economist” disclaimer.

LeftyMN surfaces interesting stuff. Which is what set me in motion today. He sent a counter-culture piece originally penned for UK’s The Guardian by George Monbiot. It’s titled, “Bring on the Recession.” Monbiot is a UK journalist, author, academic, and political and environmental activist. Read his full bio here. Interesting guy.

Monbiot says he hopes the anticipated recession materializes. (Make that materialises.) He says he understands that hardship accompanies recession. But he also says he believes pending hardship is “the avoidable result(s) of an economy designed to maximize growth rather than welfare . . . Beyond a certain point, hardship is also caused by economic growth.” (Emphasis mine.)

Okay, Republicans. Sit down and put your heads between your knees, which is anatomically easier than where you've been putting your heads lately. Breathe and read on.

Monbiot cites the impact of unrestrained economic growth and spending on the environment, housing, individual and societal well-being, and the growing economic gap between the rich and the un-rich.

He says that “governments love growth because it excuses them from dealing with inequality.” Amen, brother, ain’t it so?! And then he says, “Growth is a political sedative, snuffing out protest, permitting governments to avoid confrontation with the rich, preventing the construction of a just and sustainable economy.” He says that “the rich are having to spend more and more to distinguish themselves from the herd . . . .To ensure that you cannot be mistaken for a lesser being, you can now buy gold and diamond saucepans from Harrods.” Take that, Pampered Chef!

Monbiot believes there comes a point where growth must stop because it cannot be sustained when the marginal costs exceed the marginal benefits. He believes that point has been reached. And though I admit I’ve not given it much thought until now, I’m inclined to agree with him. Which I guess makes me one of those left-wing, tree-hugging socialists. Actually, though I’ve grown weary of labels like those, I’m more weary of inequity and a world controlled, as Monbiot describes them, by “people who put the accumulation of money above all other ends.”

I've lived that life, back in my Republican-rooted young adulthood. It is not a good thing. Not by any definition. It is a narrow, self-centered life, lived in the metaphorical counting house, focused on how to make those piles o'money large, larger, largest.

Long ago, in the day, I studied just sufficiency. Attended national conferences. Wrote about it, exhorting people to consider seriously what is enough, what is sufficient. It was probably a hypocritical endeavor since I was living the good life, striving for more at the side of a man who defined himself by "more." Odd how sometimes we cannot or simply refuse to see our own complicity in the scheme of unraveling things.

Read Monbiot's article in its entirety. If nothing else, it's food for thought and fodder for argument.

Got economic theories?

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Comments

Anonymous (not verified) | October 11, 2007 - 8:47am

I think this guy is probably right. Which means Barbara is probably right. But it's one tough sell. It butts heads with corporate America, capitalism (even when it's run amok) and the perceived "rights" of the wealthy. America's room service tier doesn't give a rip about lesser beings, beyond lip service. Even when this country is on that good old slippery slope. Keep talking. Got to go count my money.

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MLS (not verified) | October 11, 2007 - 10:22am

Well written article by Monbiot. Yes, when is enough - enough and that includes the world population which admittedly has been my main concern for the past 4 decades. In 1960 the population was 3 billion. Today
it is 6+ billion.
Another good reading is Thom Hartmann's book, The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight. Hartmann awakens people (at least tries to) that for many thousands & thousands of years we have lived as rulers of the earth instead of blending in harmony with all life on earth. Think oil and one understands what has happened as a result of the first oil boom in Titusville, PA. in 1859. Our dependency and greed for oil has led us to the marvels of technology, but often times sent us in the wrong direction as we crave for more at whatever the economic/enviornmental impact. What does this have to do with Monbiot's article? Do read Hartmann's book if you haven't already done so. His words offer hope by suggesting our reconnecting with our ancient ancestors as you learn when enough is enough.

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barbara aka babs (not verified) | October 11, 2007 - 1:40pm

It just occurred to me, reading what MLS wrote, that there is a different meaning to the Left's lament about BushCo: "Have you had enough?" Well, yes, matter of fact I have. But the enough is enough thing as applied to money and material goods deserves an answer, too.

I think I've mentioned this before, but David was doing simple living long before it became trendy. Part of that was born of necessity. He opted out of the big-buck rat-race early on to save his sanity and probably his soul. End result: He has never earned big bucks nor had big buckeroo playthings. Some day, I will write extensively about him. But not today.

Some of what I've learned about sufficiency came via the church in an earlier life. Some of it has come from observing David and being a kind of apprentice to his approach. Some of it has come from via the work of Wendell Berry, Al Gore, Bill Moyers, Annie Dillard, the Barbaras (Kingsolver and Ehrenreich). I know I'm forgetting some folks here, but it's only meant to be a representative list.

Interesting that the people who shout loudest about having the freedom to be who they are generally are seriously dependent -- DEPENDENT! -- on oil, as surely as alcoholics and drug addicts are dependent on chemicals.

No bottom line to this comment. There doesn't seem to be one, does there?

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Veritas (not verified) | October 11, 2007 - 8:52pm

why is a warm october day "creepy"? is 80 degrees unprecedented? hardly?..are you aware that most rercords set for heat were set in the 30s and 40s? i believe you have fallen hook line and sinker for XVP Gore's "documentary" "A Convenient Lie".. The Minneapolis Fish Wrapper is a good spot for your column

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Kerosene Hat (not verified) | October 15, 2007 - 12:44pm

The limits of growth may or may not be true but one thing is for sure it is the socialists (I use this term not as an insult but purely as an accurate description) that depend on it, not the capitalists. Just about every government program needs to factor in a healthy growth rate to look even semi-solvent over the next 50+ years. The debt in future promises made by Medicare and Medicaid make our cash debt look paltry. You can talk about increasing the taxes on the wealthy all you want but there simply isn't enough money there to make much of a differences with the types of dollar amounts needed to fund those programs. The inflation tax the Federal Reserve imposes in order to reduce the value of our debts, while maintaining low interest rates so we keep spending, is another way our government "leadership" puts off facing the truth just a wee bit longer.

The real problem is that we are over consuming in every way shape and form and doing so with borrowed money. The government subsidizes this over consumption in the guise of wealth redistribution through low cost transportation and infrastructure expansion. While allowing more people to realize the "American dream" it has created a society dependent on subsidized inefficiency to maintain their expected lifestyle.

The only way out of this mess is a little honesty. We have to realize that we are living beyond our mans as a country. Pretending that we can tax our way out of the problem is no more true than saying we can grow our way out. We have to quit pretending that the way to eliminate poverty is to get everybody to consume at a higher rate. We have to get people to pay the true costs associated with their lifestyles and not let the false promise of government "funded" programs mask the our consumptions true costs.

Creating a true safety net for people is one thing, wealth redistribution another, a centrally controlled economy is something else entirely. The truth is that both Democrats and Republicans support central control of the economy and only differ in which constituents they use it to pay-off once in power. The idea that we currently have any sort of free market or true capitalism is misguided at best and a fallacy, used to promote a further entrenchment of the current power structure, at worst.

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