Grown up Economics - Beth Stratford in Lincoln
This in not so much a review or report as my personal take home messages from a talk given by Beth Stratford followed by discussion in Lincoln on Tuesday 14th July 2015, organised byt the Lincoln Green Party.
Global warming brings humanity its existential crisis. The science is clear for all rational minds. Dealing with it involves more than a direct approach.
Capitalism has within it the requirement to transfer wealth from the workers to the capitalists. This is acceptable so long as there is economic growth, so long as the pie keeps growing and there is hope for all of increasing prosperity. Capitalism therefore requires growth for its survival.
Unless and until there is absolute decoupling of economic growth and resource consumption, growth on a finite and fragile planet must come to an end. Even a modest 3% growth in the global economy would represent a ten-fold increase by about the end of the century.
A steady state economy or even degrowth is a requirement for human survival. But since capitalism requires the transfer of wealth to the capitalists, zero growth implies a fall in the level of real wages, an increasing gap between rich and poor. Since this, beyond a certain point, becomes politically unacceptable, almost all politicians continue to assume that pursuit of growth is required.
The solution to what is otherwise an impossible dilemma is to change capitalism so fundamentally that it promotes greater equality and social justice. It may then not even be capitalism. This is what Naomi Klein in ‘This Changes Everything’ and Pope Francis in ‘Laudato Si’ argue for, that we must work for a change to the global economic system so that it creates equality and social justice if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change.
For the Green Party, the debate as to whether to campaign more about climate change or austerity is a false dichotomy, the one goal requiring success in the other.
Global warming mitigation requires an end to capitalism as we know it, or, turning that around, capitalism requires global warming denial.
Beth Stratford is a PhD researcher at Roehampton University and is interested in how house price inflation is affecting our working behaviour and values. She co-ordinated the Transforming Finance conference in London and the Just Banking conference in Edinburgh. She has worked as a campaigner for Friends of the Earth in Scotland and 10:10, an editor and researcher for the late Dr. David Fleming and Lean Economy Connection, and a documentary film maker. She holds an MSc with distinction in Ecological Economics, and a degree from Cambridge in Politics.