The Reality Is Everything Must Change

By Richard Murphy, a chartered accountant and a political economist. He has been described by the Guardian newspaper as an “anti-poverty campaigner and tax expert”. He is Professor of Practice in International Political Economy at City University, London and Director of Tax Research UK. He is a non-executive director of Cambridge Econometrics. He is a member of the Progressive Economy Forum. Originally published at Tax Research UK

Kenan Malik wrote this in The Observer yesterday:

The question we need to ask is not, “How should we create a centrist bulwark against populism?”, but “How can we give progressive shape to people’s disaffection?” Otherwise the left will either remain standing on the sidelines, allowing the radical right to take centre stage, or be driven, as has already happened, to promote illiberal notions of immigration, culture and belonging. Whatever the fate of the gilets jaunes, this wider issue – who will give shape to disaffection? – has still to be addressed.

I thought that a neat synopsis of where we are. Amidst all the noise of Trump, Brexit, trade war and so much more, there is a need for some pretty serious debate. I would remind you that this was also true in WW2. The welfare state was the result. We’re not at war, thankfully, but the crisis is real, nonetheless. And the absence of a great deal of thinking is profoundly worrying.

I would suggest there are three things we know.

The first is that climate change is real. The result is that  nothing can stay the same.

The second is that neoliberalism has reduced most people to living in states of profound insecurity. Ignore that poverty is supposedly being beaten. This is almost for nought if the result is disabling fear for future well-being. This cannot persist because people will not tolerate it. We are seeing that, very widely.

Third, our economic and social orders do, then, have to change, and profoundly. This is not an option. It is an absolute necessity. And what we know is private capital has ceased to be available for active investment it is now almost solely directed to rent seeking. In that case it is only state created funding that can create this process of change.

To put this another way, what may be the biggest programme of change ever known in human history is required in very short order. We need new energy systems; transformation of our housing stock; new transport infrastructure; radically different approaches to food that might even require rationing if we cannot create change any other way; different ways of working and new ways of using leisure time. As I suggested, everything must change.

But this must be done in a way that increases certainty. Jobs must be created on the ground, everywhere. And I mean, in every constituency. There must be new homes on brown field and some greenfield sites – but the transport and other infrastructure must be provided in that case and that does not simply mean more roads. The social safety net must be recreated. That means a job guarantee. It also means a universal basic income. And business must be transformed. Since that process will be incredibly expensive this requires capital and if that means state investment and co-ownership, so be it. At the same time some things might need to be foregone. Like nuclear submarines and aurcraft carriers. We have no resource to waste on the legacies of our imperialist past.

How to do all this? Only state created funding can create the finance needed for this change. What we need is not just a Green New Deal but Green Quantitative Easing too to fund it. If this was wartime funding would be found for the crisis we face. It always has been. Well, this may be worse than war. This is life itself we are fighting for, on all fronts. The time for prevarication is over. The time for pussy- footing with new taxes to extract a little more from the rich is yesterday’s news. There is no time for that. This is the time to create money for change. And, if need be, to restrict money creation for other reasons.

The time for pussy-footing is over. We know what we need to do. We know the scale of the issue. We know the reasons for acting, which combine into the single desire to save the planet to secure  everyone’s future, and we know we can pay for it.

This is not left or right as we know it.

And this not centre either.

This is the new politics. Born of necessity.

Which says we must spend to change, forever.

In time of war innovation iscreleased and effort is maximised. That is what we need now.

This is addressing the wider issue.

And any party not addressing it is part of the problem and not the solution.

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81 comments

    1. tegnost

      hmmm…maybe the CDU and Republicans? How bout “As long as Schauble and Mnuchin”, or “Pelosi and Mcconnell”, or “Paul Ryan the koch bros”? “Germans” is is painting with a too broad brush…and lets some pretty significantly horrible handmaidens completely off the hook, jus’ sayin’

      Reply
      1. Matthew G. Saroff

        It’s not just the CDU.

        The policy of placing downward pressure on wages, cutting social programs, depressing consumer demand and engaging in beggar thy neighbor export policies was Agenda 2010, which was Gerhard Schröder’s initiative, with an SDP/Green coalition government.

        The SDP, the CDU, the FDP, and (to a lesser extant) the Greens are complicit in these destructive economic policies.

        The only parties in the Bundestag right now not complicit in this are Die Linke and Alternative für Deutschland.

        So hoping that Die Linke comes out of top, but I am a bit of a Pinko.

        Reply
  1. BlueMoose

    Reminds me of an earlier post by George Monbiot (Nov 24, 2017) – ‘Everything Must Go’. While I agree with the sentiment, the chance of it happening are approximately zero.

    Reply
      1. BlueMoose

        Sorry if I wasn’t clear. I meant the chance of us doing anything purposeful to avoid the oncoming reset imposed on us by nature is zero. Any serious effort made will be too late. We are just going to keep doing what we are doing until we can’t. I’m not necessarily including you or I in that ‘we’, but speaking about humans in general. There is a lot of things that we could/should/might do, but we aren’t going to. There will just be more meetings and conferences to discuss it. And more announcements by corporations and countries that by some date in the distant future, they will do something about it. But not now.

        Reply
        1. John Wright

          I certainly agree with this.

          I believe the immediate future can be predicted by a spin on the Russell Long tax saying, as in “don’t change me, don’t change you, change the man behind the tree”

          The USA has entire industries based on maintaining the current order ( such as financial sector estimated by Paul Woolley at 2 to 3 times the size it should be for society’s benefit ) and big finance/big pharma/big defense/big energy/big ag controls our government.

          As you say, change will come, but it will be forced by nature.

          Until we have the external forcing function from climate change, “more meetings and conferences” will keep the venues at nice destinations busy.

          Then the same conference attending people will want to be placed in charge of the change operation.

          It may already be too late, see this Tomgram on insect and bird populations

          http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176506/tomgram%3A_subhankar_banerjee%2C_the_vanishing/#more

          Reply
        2. TimR

          “They” can’t do it overnight, unilaterally… They have to get the public demanding it, before they can (appear to) relent and say “ok ok, you forced our hand.”

          Problem, reaction, solution.

          Many of you on this site are “ahead of the curve” on swallowing this propaganda pill. It will (if successful) take time for the rest of the public to catch up, via other forms of programming.

          My own view is that “they” are using CC as a Big Idea to simplify the Demon, as is the nature of propaganda. You don’t tell the masses your real motive. I can only speculate what the real motive and agenda is. And yes, maybe many of “them” are also true believers. I think some know it’s a sales job for other purposes.

          Reply
          1. John Wright

            The greenhouse effect of CO2 was first postulated by Svante Arrhenius in 1896

            See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svante_Arrhenius#Greenhouse_effect

            “He was the first to use basic principles of physical chemistry to calculate estimates of the extent to which increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide increase Earth’s surface temperature, leading David Keeling to conclude that human-caused carbon dioxide emissions are large enough to cause global warming”

            See also https://www.sciencehistory.org/distillations/magazine/future-calculations

            This is a long time horizon to be planning and implementing a propaganda campaign, 1896 to 2018 = 122 years.

            As a public service, please “speculate what the real motive and agenda is”. and why it is “a sales job for other purposes.”

            This knowledge may be quite comforting to a great many worried people, all around the world.

            Reply
        3. Ignacio

          More typical defeatism. It is too late, it will be to late, blah, blah blah. Not in one not in two but hundreds of comments go in the same direction. Just another excuse to do nothing

          Reply
          1. BlueMoose

            I understand your frustration. But as you probably know, there are about 100 corporations that are directly responsible for the mess we find ourselves in today. Unless someone powerful enough to reign them in steps up to the plate, your refusal to use plastic straws while noble, makes no difference.

            Do you think that all the boot-lickers and ass-kissers that worked their way to the top are going to walk away from the gravy train before they have had their turn? Maybe we should all just stop eating – that will show them! I expect some very violent events in the near future as people just lash out in frustration, but it won’t change the course we are on.

            My only hope is that after the dust settles, anyone still around refuses to let it happen again. Hopefully you are young enough and resourceful enough to make it thru this bottleneck and vow not to let it start again.

            Reply
            1. John Wright

              I believe it is too facile to say “there are about 100 corporations that are directly responsible for the mess we find ourselves in today”

              These corporations are eventually selling their output to consumers.

              One could also argue it is bottoms up demand that drives these corporations to produce/consume world wide resources to supply this demand.

              If consumers don’t buy the product, see Kodak and Sears, the corporations would shrink to insignificance.

              For example, the protests in France seem to be driven by an increased gasoline tax. If one assumes there were no tax increase, but the supplying petrochemical companies raised their prices similarly to put environmental controls in place, the consumer response might be the same protest.

              Reply
              1. BlueMoose

                Agreed. It comes from both directions. We are also our worst enemy. In some cases though the demand is completely manufactured (do we really need product X or have we been convinced that we do?). To make matters worse, what we needed last year has now become out of fashion, not cool, etc. There is money still to be made. Any suggestions? Is everyone willingly ready to be uncomfortable or do without?

                It is possible with the right leadership and a sense of shared loss/suffering. The current mode of austerity (as you mentioned in France) won’t cut it much longer.

                Reply
      2. tegnost

        two out in the top of the ninth and she’s throwing fireballs, and when she comes to the plate with that icicle who do you know who can get one past her? (hopefully this comment doesn’t double up on me, I lost it the first time…:)

        Reply
    1. Newton Finn

      In the late Middle Ages leading up to the Enlightenment, the exact same thing would have been said about monarchy and feudalism. These institutions seemed so deeply entrenched as the embodiment of “how things are and were meant to be,” that it was inconceivable that something like democratic government by the masses could ever come into being. Yet it did, however partially and imperfectly. Today, the task is to take democracy to the next level and allow it to express its full potential to reshape and revitalize social and economic life. The following vision may seem like nothing more than a silly dream, but it boils down to something like this vision or suicide by ecocide or nuclear war. I, for one, will to believe (as William James put it) that the survival instinct will ultimately prove more powerful than the death wish.

      https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/11/19/on-earth-as-in-heaven-the-utopianism-of-edward-bellamy/

      Reply
      1. BlueMoose

        Thanks for the link. I’ll read it tomorrow and get back to you. I have my own vision of how democracy should work and it does not resemble anything I see in operation today anywhere. I’m sure all those Middle Age monarchs and feudal lords gave way to reason and resigned their roles willingly for the bettterment of mankind.

        What does your vision of a working democracy (for all) look like? Just curious…

        Reply
  2. KPC

    Ms. Yves Smith, thank you for this!

    Richard Murphy, finally, we can begin again… .

    This is what we are doing here in Central America. My vice president was just a few weeks ago in New York at the UN on these very matters.

    Our first lady is “off shopping” for our new electric trains in Asia, I kid you not.

    We have announced a portion of our initiative to push to all electric transport down to bicycles and motor scooters. I have our student intern working on this gig.

    We long ago went zero carbon or petroleum based electric generation. We are currently about 98% “renewable”. We achieved this decades ago using zero solar and now a bit of wind. We are masters of this tech globally. We lead by law and diplomacy and by our actions.

    We are leaders all the way through. Can we dispense with this nonsense on money and recapitalize and restore the stewardship function explicitly in this season of this great home of ours known as planet earth. The law of Jesus is explicitly incorporated in our constitution. This is the law of Jesus and that of my faith. I am not Abrahamic but my faith differs not a whit from the law of Jesus and the law of la Republica de Costa Rica.

    The Karma Sutra, the law, says: pure water, pure air, pure food leads to pure life or “Pura Vida”.

    But my faith is the faith of the Americas. This can be done. The law of the Americas is still fully functional and operational in this moment. There is a copy of the English translation of the constitution of the Federated Iroquois in this firm. One cannot OWN the land. One is charged…with the responsibility for the stewardship… .

    Now, lets get back to work and do this for all.

    Again, thank you.

    Reply
  3. ChristopherJ

    Thank you, Richard.

    Yes, we need to spend, big time. Where will the money come from? We are already taxed plenty?

    That. Is the barrier.

    Just spend is the answer. As you allude, in times of war, the economy absorbs the extra spending of the government as all citizens work harder. That is what is needed now or we are all dead, and sooner than most think once the plants fail to adapt…

    From my part of world, Cairns. Had a week almost of 40 c every day. Young birds lost big time. Same with insects and reptiles. Two weeks on, 150mils of rainfall in my place 24 hours. 300mils down Tully way (a foot!). Cyclone Owen passed us the other night. (I didn’t wake, but lightning and huge rain and winds…) I had tools 10 foot under cover that got wet and tore off a tarp I had. Others lost their roof and more.

    ‘Hottest day on record’… becoming a more frequent event for communities such as ours.

    In other news, the great barrier reef is developing plans to relocate to Tasmania

    Reply
    1. larry

      Where does the money come from? From a government that operates a sovereign fiat currency system. In such a system, taxation does not underwrite government expenditure. This is the currency system that is operative in most countries, with the notable exception of the Eurozone. The barrier is political will, not finance. This is why such governments can spend without worrying about it. You may not believe me, but I would recommend Bearsley Ruml’s “Taxes for Revenue are Obsolete”. If you google the title, it should come up.

      Reply
    2. Ignacio

      Bad question, bad answer. The question is not “where will the money come from”? The questions are what has to be done and how has this to be done? Money will be brougth as needed just like the US did during WWII.

      Reply
  4. c_heale

    Sorry, but for me “How can we give progressive shape to people’s disaffection?” sounds like politically correct bullshit (it’s so euphemistic). It’s the sort of thing a politician would say, and completely underrates the magnitude of the problems we are facing. We are facing possible human extinction (since the last time the earth warmed this fast, the Permian extinction happened). The only question is what the new society will be like and whether we get their through war or peacefully, and how big a proportion of humanity dies. At the moment we seem to be heading toward war.

    Reply
    1. Milton

      Correction – the last time earth warmed this much. Earth has never warmed this fast (the exception being earth’s formation). We are well on our way past Permian numbers.

      Reply
    2. Eureka Springs

      Shape shifting “progressive” and so many other distracting plastic words is probably a complete waste of time as the last fifty or more years have consistently demonstrated.

      Delegitimization of these pursuits, and their water carriers is of utmost import.

      Binding platforms with leadership expected to act more like obligated jurists representing established platforms rather than bribed and beholden shape shifting lying con-men and women.

      Tax the ever lovin’ hell out of the rich. Especially capital gains and inheritance. Outlaw private jets, helicopters, yachts, even small planes, third or more homes, etc.

      Great appreciation/pride for quality, longevity with utter shame upon planned obsolescence and crapified everything. It’s not just that we have too much stuff but that it constantly has to be replaced.

      Reply
  5. The Rev Kev

    The Reality Is Everything Must Change. One of the best titles that I have ever seen. I suppose that an answer is priorities and taking away resources from areas that drain the economy to devote to area that make for a healthier economy. As an example. This is a UK article and the author mention the high cost of submarines and aircraft carriers. Now in a normal country resources could be set aside to defend the country militarily and the UK being an island gives it a huge advantage.
    However the UK is devoting, because of policy, resources to fund power projection weapons and not weapons to actually defend the country. Those submarines carrying Trident missiles and the two new aircraft carriers that will have F-35 fighters aboard are to project British power around the world as part of an expeditionary force or as a nuclear deterrent. These are so costly that the British armed forces are only a shadow of what they once were and everything from tanks to soldiers are being reduced to fund these power projection weapons.
    By adjusting priorities which changes policy, defense could be done on a rational level and the excess resources be then utilized to be invested in the rest of the country such as in infrastructure. The new energy systems; transformation of our housing stock; new transport infrastructure; radically different approaches to food mentioned in this article all of them then become easier to resource. It is just a mater of deciding what your priorities are.

    Reply
  6. makedoanmend

    If one grew up during the days of what seemed like economic and social progress for ordinary citizens and even into the transition period where we became Homo economus, one never thought that we’d return to the type of situations we read about in our history books.

    Neoliberal conservative doctrine practised for at least 40+ years proved us entirely wrong. Tony Benn (English MP) opined that there was a sort of complacency that set in based on the assumption that things always sort of improved. But we were wrong.

    Whilst the tone of the article and its prescriptions it provides sound rather good, I just get the feeling that something else more fundamental is at work, and not so easily analysed or remedied.

    Pundits have been trying to parse the Gilets Jaunes so that they can categorise their motives and desires and then put them and their concerns into pigeon holes that confirm the pundit’s own pre-disposed ideas. The government, meanwhile, wishes to do the same so they can kettle them and their discontent. Both are futile.

    I don’t think the one can neatly categorise amorphous groups like the Gilets Jaunes. Their only common identity is a wee jellow jacket and probably a huge and broad array of grievances. The colour yellow and a grievance are pretty poor markers. Too vague. And I also get the sense that most people, while they wouldn’t dislike the mentioned proposal, aren’t all that turned on by just adding “green” to mix. The call to green arms have been sounded for many decades. Hell, if one looks at the German greens, one could argue they have merely morphed into a paler shade of green neoliberalism.

    Individuals need to be able to do things at a local level – small things that improve the quality of their lives where they live. Big doctrines fail if small individuals are excluded from the solutions. Such things as Roosevelt’s jobs program put people to work on projects that were bigger than themselves, but they still thought their own material situation improved. Possibly more importantly, their sense of self as part of a larger community also took shape. Such feelings do a whole pile to alleviate alienation, isolation and smouldering grievances.

    However, changing the human condition forever is a tall order.

    We have within our material means the ability to feed, clothe, shelter and educate everyone. But, as a species, we are not capable of doing so for a variety of reasons. Never in history have we had the ability to make our species so secure as we do now, but we choose instead to make as many as insecure as possible. I suspect some people fear that we need to be at each other throats in order to “progress” via incessant competition, while others just need to feel special about themselves by knowing that others are less well off. There’s a whole host of reasons why we are not fundamentally able to change- not least an economic system that needs to expand every year while, simultaneously, concentrating wealth.

    Reply
    1. In the Land of Farmers

      Well written, but this part holds a secret you skimmed over:

      Never in history have we had the ability to make our species so secure as we do now, but we choose instead to make as many as insecure as possible.

      As a species as a whole we are more secure, but individually we are all fighting to be the most secure in the group. We are like ants in a pile climbing on top of each other to reach the highest point of pile and no one asks “why”. If you take a moment to ask why you are crushed. It is a sacrifice to ask why.

      This is not a problem of management, it is a deep spiritual problem. The 60’s were our first chance to create the safe spiritual culture to allow people to ask “why” without being crushed by capitalism. (Unfortunately capitalism invaded that movement through the profit to be made off of drugs)

      Now is our second chance.

      Gilets Jaunes is about power, they want power. They are tired of being on the bottom of the ant pile. But instead of saying “Hey, lets not climb on top of each other” they want superficial changes. There was no need for the riots or marching in Paris. They could just, stop. Stop climbing, get out of the pile, move to the side.

      There is no clearer way I can transmit this though to all of you than by watching the movie SnowPiercer. The end of the story is the answer. It is the rejection of the imagined state of security we are all fighting over. We have to tell this story, there is no other answer.

      Reply
      1. BlueMoose

        I’ll check this movie out but I have to disagree that the Gilets Jaunes movement is about power. I think they just want to live a normal life and are willing to yield power to a gov’t that functions as a utility service and doesn’t try to impose any sort of ideology on its citizens.

        I think we need to discuss what role gov’t should play and what role true citizens should play. We should all have skin in the game. The current arrangement in the US and elsewhere is totally broken, No amount of whitewash or duct-tape is going to fix it.

        Reply
  7. Eudora Welty

    Just in the past few weeks, I’ve felt a larger sense of “the center cannot hold” as I see staffers at a medical center consider discharging these types of patients to local homeless shelters: burn patients (in layman’s terms, a whole-body burn w sensitive healing skin) & head-on car-crash patients (metal in arms & legs, still needing physical therapy to walk normally). I was speechless. There really isn’t intermediate low-need medical housing? Our social safety net is gone.

    Reply
    1. ambrit

      I see it around here with the normalization of the idea of a permanent homeless population. We are now seeing the “Ratty Backpackers” all over town, at all hours of the day and night. People who literally have everything they own on their persons.
      I see this as visibly starting with Reagan’s closing of the larger mental institutions. All those ‘problem cases’ were turned out onto the street. Many of them ended up in prison.
      I have read that most political and social revolutions begin when the ‘middle classes’ begin to lose their status and privileges. The present day Ten Percenters are now beginning their slide into ‘deplorableness.’
      The trick will be, harnessing all that ‘revolutionary’ energy to a species survival agenda. If the concept of ‘The Jackpot’ is valid, then the trick will be to direct the social definition of “survival.”
      “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy “New Dark Age.”

      Reply
  8. Summer

    Everything will change.
    A lot of it may be to just stop. Don’t do anything, just stop doing dumb sh – -.
    It doesn’t have to be replaced with “new-improved-innovative sh – -“.

    Reply
    1. DJG

      Summer: Indeed. I was struck very strongly when I recently was forced to have breakfast at a Starbucks. Starbucks is a factory for trash. The best thing for all of us would be to put it out of business. Yesteray, the NYTimes reports that Walgreens is involved with the sleaziest antidemocratic behavior in Wisconsin, all to protect some tax breaks. People go to restaurants, order too much food, get “boxes,” and leave them on the sidewalks.

      Let’s start by stopping, as you suggest. Some restraint may be called for.

      Reply
  9. cnchal

    > . . . And what we know is private capital has ceased to be available for active investment it is now almost solely directed to rent seeking. In that case it is only state created funding that can create this process of change.

    Nothing will change until the cold dead hands of the banksters are pried off the levers of power.

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      Nothing will change until the cold dead hands of the banksters are pried off the levers of power.

      That would change nothing, other greedy people will just fill the void.

      You want change?

      Render the object of their fervid desire worthless…

      For years now, every month or so, we hear of another ginormous computer hack, the Marriott episode being the latest.

      Sooner or later somebody is going to be able to do something other than steal pertinent information, and instead of robbing a bank, imagine doing the opposite?

      Flooding the system with so much computer generated fiat money, that nobody can tell the ‘good’ fiat from the ‘bad’.

      Everything changes in heartbeat. Why would KBR & Halliburton want to slavishly devote themselves to being the military-GI interface in our theaters of war, if the object of their desire was debauched?

      They’d be gone so quick, see ya.

      Reply
      1. Harry

        No need to prise their hands off. We just need to require massive new equity issuance, wiping out the value of the existing equity.

        Its what Jesus would do. (See Michael Hudson).

        Reply
      2. Susan the other

        Wuk, this is an amazing brilliant idea. I know you’re being a tad facetious – but it’s so powerfully obvious – the idea itself could bomb the ramparts. Because it is actually doable. And everything else has become so ridiculous, why not? And even if in some parallel universe it occurred and caught on among even the most innocent slaves the outcome would not be exploitation of the dumbest because there would be no means of exploitation and etc. It’s the terrorists being terrorized. But I’ll curb my enthusiasm and not get carried away bec. I really like this comment.

        Reply
      3. KPC

        Curious. Do you not think this has already been done and likely being done in an ongoing manner?

        The Fed Reserve and Treasury have zip, nunca, nada control over US dollar monetary policy.

        Reply
  10. Mitch

    Yes. Finally an article that gets to the heart of it. The very base of our industrial civilization is being consumed, and quickly. As it goes, so does everything we took for granted for the past several generations. I don’t expect the transition to entirely go on our terms (as opposed to nature’s) regardless of the leadership. I don’t see much hope for top-down change. I say keep your friends close and work toward resilience on a local level.

    Reply
  11. Harry

    ” And the absence of a great deal of thinking is profoundly worrying.”

    It took lots of work to achieve this. Don’t think its accidental. Part of it is accusing anyone who mentions these issues of being in league with the Devil or Putin – assuming they are not one and the same (has anyone ever seen Putin and the Devil in the same place?),

    There is a fierce lobby for the status quo which seems to assume that nothing important will break if we do nothing. Or perhaps I am getting this wrong. Maybe we are just observing the pro-“Jackpot” lobby in action?

    Reply
    1. whine country

      It’s not so much of the absence of a great deal of thinking but to quote an old phrase: When everyone is thinking the same, then no one is thinking. (Who said it first is still up for debate) Our enemy is group think, and we need a new group.

      Reply
  12. William Hunter Duncan

    Precisely who is going to lead this ‘change of everything’, and who is going to articulate the vision of it?

    It seems to me that we could cut off a few 10,000 neoliberal hydra heads, and a few 10,000 more would sprout in their place.

    So what is the beating heart of the neoliberal hydra, that must be flayed for that monster to die?

    Reply
    1. jsn

      Money!

      Make it worthless to hold and meaningful to use and the vast hoards of offshore wealth will suddenly be looking for use.

      Tax activity that damages real wealth and its distribution and allow for the unlimited creation of real wealth and its distribution.

      Reply
          1. jsn

            I spelled it wrong, sorry to get you excited!
            The root of wealth:

            weal (wēl)
            n. Prosperity; happiness: in weal and woe.
            n. The welfare of the community; the general good: the public weal.

            Reply
      1. William Hunter Duncan

        Yes, I suppose fiat, fractional-reserve, debt based currency is that beating heart. But then, it is also the life-blood of the economy as we know it, so what happens once that neoliberal hydra goes into it’s death rattle? And, this being a metaphor, and those hydra head are the owners of most of that currency, who would rather drop a drone bomb on the head of everyone here before they gave up one cent of those dubious gains, what happens to them? And then, what of the billions who after 40 years of neoliberalism, have come to believe that an economy means anything goes and nothing really matters?

        Reply
        1. jsn

          The genesis or the Old Testament prohibition on usury was to solve this problem: money fools our basic social heuristics and compound, unchecked, enslaves.

          It will require something like that.

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          1. jsn

            “Compound interest, unchecked, enslaves.” oops

            This is documented in Picketty’s Capital and Michael Hudson’s extensive writings.

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            1. William Hunter Duncan

              Agreed. And the mthrfckrs running this scam “left and right” are perfectly content with debt servitude evolving into slavery, backstopped by law enforcement, the “intelligence” community, an increasingly privatized military, and corporate msm. Pretty much none of said security types or media propagandists being interested in Picketty, Hudson or nakedcapitalism.com. Which is only to suggest that, well, that is why the left is mostly a lot of talk, and a lot of that identity politics deluded with a smattering of otherwise status quo greenism, and the authoritarian to-hell with-the-planet right is ascendant.

              Reply
              1. William Hunter Duncan

                Yes, indeed, a new ideology/religion/morality. Something that treats the earth and all its creatures with dignity and respect.

                Reply
        2. jsn

          It took religion to contain the coercive power of money in the Bronze age, it’s likely take an equally strong ideology now.

          Many in the commentariat here are looking for such an ideology based on the consent of the governed and public, social goods.

          It won’t be easy, and the dead minds of those you mention in your last two lines will resist with everything they have.

          Ian Welsh has written a fair bit on this subject.

          Reply
      2. RBHoughton

        The main flaw in our commercial system is the absence of a limit on size. There are banks, insurers and a few industrial firms who overawe their governments and write their own legislation. That has to stop. We vote for government to be in charge of the country.

        O F Schumacher’s fine 1970s book “Small is Beautiful” caught the essential idea. Some banks / insurers are so large today they cannot be regulated. That is ridiculous.

        Reply
        1. Oregoncharles

          A functioning market depends on the units being small (among other things), so concentration is NEVER in the public interest. Mergers and acquisitions should not be possible short of official bankruptcy, and the corporate tax rate should depend on the size of the business – and become prohibitive over a certain size. Businesses would “grow” by selling off pieces.

          Reply
  13. JEHR

    I cannot conceive of this total change happening peacefully: either the population will reach a point of revolt or the climate will remake the environment to its own specifications without concern for human beings. Either way there will be destruction of people.

    Reply
    1. whine country

      I agree with your point but being slightly more optimistic I think that there can be a point where enough “smart” people, seeing that a violent change is inevitable absent some meaningful reform, step up to the plate. Nothing less than an FDR type – a person from wealth who leads by example – comes forth. To use Obama’s words, this person must stand between the elites and the pitchforks with the thought of helping others besides himself.

      Reply
  14. Eclair

    I am going to stick my head above the ramparts here, and please take pot shots at it.

    I, and 25 others ranging in age from 18 to 82, organized by the Sunrise Movement, visited Pramila Jayapal’s (WA District 7 Congressional Rep) office in downtown Seattle, yesterday afternoon. Our purpose was to request, politely, that she support the Green New Deal proposed by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.

    I admit to suffering deja vu moments, having paraded politely through so many legislative offices in the past decade, talking to jolly staffers, since the principal was invariably, although regrettably, absent. Doing the people’s business, one assumes.

    I won’t say that this gathering felt any different, and I have my suspicions that our anger is being corralled and diverted.

    After we all had our minute to say ‘what climate change meant to us personally’ (more deja vu here) a few of us reminded our colleagues that no social change movement has succeeded due to polite ‘asks.’ That’s what you start with. A shot across the bow, so to speak. But we know from experience and reading history, that no elite have ever willingly given up their control on the levers of power.

    Another worry; the group was pretty much all Democrats. But climate-fueled fires and floods don’t discriminate based on political affiliation, although the mansions on the hill are more likely to be inhabited by right-leaning people than are the rentals on the flood plain. Climate change is hurting everyone and for a movement to succeed it must include right and left.

    But, I refuse to submit to despair; we will change. We have the choice either of surrendering to what we term irresistible forces (and if you have no appetite for struggle, then that is what you must do) or of getting to work, rolling up our sleeves, girding our loins, building solidarity in our families and communities, because it is on that local level that change must originate.

    Reply
    1. Odysseus

      “getting to work, rolling up our sleeves, girding our loins, building solidarity in our families and communities, because it is on that local level that change must originate.”

      Nothing is going to happen at the Federal level anytime soon.

      What is happening at levels below the Federal level?
      What state is instituting general carbon taxes?
      What state is raising taxes on fossil fuels?
      What county has an explicit zero net energy requirement for all new buildings?

      These are the kinds of things that are going to have to happen. And soon. So why is nobody doing them?

      Reply
      1. Oregoncharles

        States can levy fuel taxes, but not “general carbon taxes,” because those would have to be levied at the border and that (for good and for bad) would be un-Constitutional.

        Even the feds can’t levy true carbon taxes, for the same reason, but in this case forbidden by the “free trade” treaties – a fundamental objection to “free trade.” (Trade is never free; it depends utterly on rules imposed by some authority.)

        One real possibility would be extraction taxes, levied when trees are cut or minerals are taken out of the ground – and, for that matter, when poisons are dumped into the air or water. Those are more difficult for states, because they’ll be exporting some industries and consequently “jobs.” And again, ideally those are also levied at the border. I’ve seen a suggestion that extraction taxes be largely substituted for income or other taxes. They’re explicitly environmental. Some recompense to citizens to make up for higher living costs would be necessary, too – as the gilets jaunes are teaching us.

        Reply
      2. Eclair

        Perhaps I did not express myself clearly enough, although, goddess knows, that is difficult when the way is not even clear. Susan the other addresses this in her comment below. But, it is something like: we know we must do something. A general goal can be set at a national level: carbon neutral by 2030, for example. Then, at the local level, decisions can be made on how to best to achieve this.

        Reply
        1. Odysseus

          “A general goal can be set at a national level: carbon neutral by 2030, for example. Then, at the local level, decisions can be made on how to best to achieve this.”

          So who’s going to start? Look, I’m all in. But I’m just one person.

          Reply
  15. ChrisAtRU

    “We’re not at war, thankfully …”

    Well … that would depend on one’s definition of “war”, and I must say that based on evidence, we are very much “at war”.

    Whether one chooses to invoke Warren Buffet’s class war comment, or one offers the example of the economic belligerence doled out to Greece by the Troika, the realization should be the same:
    Banks have replaced tanks to a degree as weapons of destruction.

    Reply
    1. knowbuddhau

      Yes, exactly; who’s “we”?

      In a war-torn swamp stop any mercenary
      Can check the British bullets in his armory
      Sandinista!

      –The Clash, “Washington Bullets”

      These days, they’re in Yemen, among other places. Then there are the countless retail wars. War, war, war. It’s what we do. Our whole way of being is based in war of conquest against our own source. Brilliant. I doubt more of the same will get us any where we haven’t been, but, that being the context we’re in, that’ll be the most likely metaphor for our response.

      IMNSHO, we need to be like the protagonist who, facing the ultimate monster, instead of getting belligerent goes, “Let’s dance.”

      “Banks have replaced tanks” — why haven’t I read that before? Very nice.

      Reply
  16. Susan the other

    Thank you Yves and Richard. I took a page full of notes. And was thinking the whole time about the logistics of it all. War mobilization. There’s no other way to begin to think about it. And that works because money becomes a medium of exchange that creates its own value. Because god knows, we’ve pretty much squandered everything at this point. Keep the good (yes there is some) and lose the bad. The most effective organization for “jobs on the ground” are local governments. Where we know each other. Like a million incubators for good innovation and cooperation. A world of resourcefulness. I don’t think that was ever even considered in the neoliberal/con agenda. Strange how hubris works.

    Reply
  17. Bazarov

    I’m reminded, whenever I see articles and headlines like this one, of the great quote from Tancredi in The Leopard:

    “If we want things to remain the same, then everything must change.”

    Reply
  18. Jeremy Grimm

    The little hairs on the back of my neck stood as I read this Manifesto for Survival, and I felt a shiver as though I heard the sweetest of melodies expertly played.

    The TINA miseries of today were beyond my imagination as the US entered the mid-1970’s, as the horrible war in Vietnam ended, as men walked on the moon [although I admit the tin flag left behind marred that accomplishment]. I came out of college into a world with limited employment opportunities but the opportunities available were sufficient for me to enjoy a simple life without dire need or want and most important I felt an optimism for future. We put men on the moon signaling the sky was no limit.

    Echoing @makedoanmend (5:07 am) “However, changing the human condition … is a tall order.” But then I recall how things were not so many decades ago when we held high hopes for a better world for all and then I look at the changes to the human condition wrought in those few decades by the Neoliberal conspiracy against Humankind.

    I don’t know the shape of future but I know with certainty “The Reality Is Everything Must Change.” Our generations will choose through our actions and inactions what shape the future holds.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy Grimm

      At risk of sounding like a Lord-of-the-Rings nut I recalled Gandalf’s speech to Frodo in the film:
      Frodo: “I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.”

      Gandalf: “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. …”

      Reply
      1. Eclair

        Please, Jeremy, continue with inspirational quotes. Artists, whether they are spinners of words or music or paint and stone, give us the courage to face the morning.

        Reply
  19. Tomonthebeach

    Puleeze, somebody share this article with the DNC. We have an administration that can accurately be described as “know-nothings” and an opposition party best described as “clueless.”

    While Murphy sure does not solve the problems, he surely is pointing in the right direction.

    Reply
  20. Anarcissie

    If significant change of any kind comes, it can hardly come through the State or its major institutions, because these are structured to preserve the interests of their ruling or leadership classes, who do not wish to change. There are people at the margins who have changed, who are changing, who will change, but you have apparently not gotten to know them. The obvious being spurned, I don’t know what to advise.

    Reply
  21. Oregoncharles

    ” private capital has ceased to be available for active investment it is now almost solely directed to rent seeking. In that case it is only state created funding that can create this process of change.”

    If “everything must change,” why would a tax expert passively accept the above? It’s a tax issue: tax rent-seeking, reward active investment. Not simple in practice, but one of the uses of taxation. Businesses, in general, respond very well to financial motivators – much better than individuals, who have other motives.

    I know he’s trying to write an inspirational piece, and I agree that state funding will be needed in order to direct the process, but it isn’t inspiring to accept a bad situation, especially one that’s created by public policy.

    Reply
  22. rob

    The “National Emergency Employment Defense” act The “N.E.E.D” Act 115th congress HR 2990 . This was a radical plan of action in 2012. a bill proposed in congress, which was not adopted. WAS the embodiment of the radical actions that must be taken.
    This plan enumerated how to create the money needed for the monumental changes we NEED to make.
    Deflating the money machine FOR WALL STREET, and bringing the goose that creates the golden eggs, to MAIN STREET. The imagination that is needed to change the world, needs money to fuel the way… We in the US, can change everything. If only we were on the same page.
    NO movement happens, because we are pushing in so many directions, we have no goal. No plan on how to achieve those plans. We have nothing to agree on.
    If we could “pay for IT”, what would the” IT’s” be?
    At this point, we can’t get out of our own way. But this idea/plan has been kicking around for 80 years already. Someday, the diamond in the rough, will be utilized. We just need to prepare those that are young enough to live to see the day, to act. The training/education is first done with parables, to get people in the right frame of mind to “help”.

    Reply
  23. RBHoughton

    Thank Heavens someone has introduced this topic for debate. We will likely have to await a critical mass of humanity realising what we have done but its wise to start proposals for Future World now and I guess they must start with the representation and the financial / economic system.

    The representation has to be made representative. My preference is for Primary Assemblies of a few hundred people a la French Revolution. One or two of them proceed to next level and so on. This gives everyone a point of contact on representation.

    On the financial front, we should ditch the mountains of paper we have created. To be sure there really has been some trickle down but its because the tsunami of paper has been so large and the inflation it causes is intolerable for workers. Its also the case that people who have accumulated vast sums have done so as the result of luck. We owe them nothing. We need a means of exchange that cannot be increased beyond the size of the economy it serves.

    These are the measures I feel should be addressed.

    Reply

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