Excerpt from ‘In Praise of Idleness’ by Bertrand Russell: “Suppose that, at a given moment, a certain number of people are engaged in the manufacture of pins. They make as many pins as the world needs, working (say) eight hours a day. Someone makes an invention by which the same number of men can make twice as many pins: pins are already so cheap that hardly any more will be bought at a lower price. In a sensible world, everybody concerned in the manufacturing of pins would take to working four hours instead of eight, and everything else would go on as before. But in the actual world this would be thought demoralising. The men still work eight hours, there are too many pins, some employers go bankrupt, and half the men previously concerned in making pins are thrown out of work. There is, in the end, just as much leisure as on the other plan, but half the men are totally idle while half are still overworked. In this way, it is insured that the unavoidable leisure shall cause misery all round instead of being a universal source of happiness. Can anything more insane be imagined?”
In part 1: Ecological Economist Herman Daly gives an answer to the question: “What is the distinction between economic and uneconomic growth?”
In part 2: Ecological Economist Herman Daly gives an answer to the question: “What is the difference between globalization and internationalism?”
Manfred Max-Neef is a Chilean economist who focussed on ‘development alternatives’. After teaching economics at Berkeley in the 1960s, he served as a Visiting Professor at a number of US and Latin American universities. He has worked on development projects in Latin America for the Pan-American Union, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Labour Office. In 1981 he wrote the book for which he is best known, ‘From the Outside Looking In: Experiences in Barefoot Economics’, published by the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation, Sweden. It is concerned with practising ‘economics as if people matter’ among the poor in South America. In the same year he set up in Chile the organisation CEPAUR (Centre for Development Alternatives). He was Rector of the Universidad Austral de Chile in Valdivia and currently teaches and lectures globally. He received the Right Livelihood Award in 1983.
According to this study, 737 Trans-National Corporations (TNCs) control 80 per cent of the global economy. This includes a ‘super entity’ of 147 at the core that controls 40 per cent of the economic value of TNCs in the world. Here is an interesting theoretical framework to describe the phenomenon: Core periphery theory (Allen Sens).
Reference: Vitali, S., Glattfelder, J. B., & Battiston, S. (2011). The network of global corporate control. PLoS ONE, 6(10), pp. 1-36.
There is evidence that economic growth in the last 50 years is positively correlated with:
– increasing inequity (based on UN and World Bank data)
– environmental degradation (based on Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center data)
Is attempting to solve these problems through further growth like the cat chasing and biting its own tail?
According to this Al Jazeera news report, the richest one per cent of Americans earn nearly a quarter of the country’s income and control 40 per cent of its wealth. Also, the gap between rich and poor has widened over the last 30 years. For a great animation of the data, see The 99.99% versus the 0.01% (The Guardian). This is not just a news report, see below for several academic publications on the wealth gap in the US. Many would argue that income inequality isn’t a problem, as long as there is equality of opportunity (see for example Steve Horwitz in Income mobility or stickiness? (Horwitz, Reich and Pew)). For a reaction to that assumption, see: McNamee, S. J., & Miller, R. K. (2004). The meritocracy myth. Sociation Today, 2(1).
For more research on the gap, see: Saez, E. (2009). Striking it richer: The evolution of top incomes in the united states (update with 2007 estimates). Working Paper Series, Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, UC Berkeley. The CATO institute published a paper saying such figures are exaggerated, see: Reynolds, A. (2007). Has US income inequality really increased? Policy Analysis, 586, 1-24. However, a more recent academic publication confirms the Al Jazeera news report and states that “in 2004, when the wealthiest 1 percent of households received 16.9 percent of all income, those households held nearly double that portion of all net worth (34.3 percent) and even more of all net financial assets (42.2 percent). Stated differently, these extremely affluent households own more than 34 times the average share of wealth and more than 42 times the average share of investment resources. The top 10 percent of households holds 71.3 percent of the wealth… These few people are the winners. At the losers’ end of the distribution, the greater part of the people, amassing 80 percent of households, hold only 15 percent of the net worth, mainly in owner-occupied housing. This concentration of wealth at the top has increased for decades.” (see Goldsmith, W. W., Blakely, E. J., & Clinton, B. (2010). Separate societies: Poverty and inequality in US cities. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.)
Here are two animations I helped co-produce as part of our work with the University of New South Wales Leadership Networks for Climate Change. The animations aim to communicate some very basic understandings about climate change. The first deals with human versus natural emissions, the second with weather versus climate.
This documentary is the result of a collaboration between the Arsenic Mitigation & Research Foundation and the Environmental Policy & Management program at the University of New South Wales. It provides an introduction to the arsenic calamity in Bangladesh and to some of the efforts to address it.
The Largest Mass Poisoning in History (2008). Videorecording. J. Merson and C.F. Rammelt. Dhaka, AMRF, Sydney, EPM Graduate Research Program at UNSW, JMA Production.