George Monbiot in The Guardian has thrown down a challenge when he states: “It’s the great taboo of our age – and the inability to discuss the pursuit of perpetual growth will prove humanity’s undoing.” Monbiot takes the position that the insatiable demand for growth is reflected in our demand for energy which underpins our ability to grow and make new. Read his thoughtful article here.
Heather Sylvawood’s view on consumerism
Many of us assume that a constant upward trend towards more and more (consumerism) is inevitable. And it is – under our current economic system.The creation of new and often better technology, research and improvements to the living conditions of most all starts with an organisation/person/corporation assuming large amounts of debt (borrowed money) in the expectation that this debt will be repaid with profit once the product is developed, the house is built, the land becomes productive. It would be simple if only the debt had to be repaid, but unfortunately our economic system expects interest for the use of the money. So the objects/products/houses must all come into being as having more value than they actually represent.
Worse – The current purchasing power of the people for whom the new stuff is being produced is insufficient to buy the new objects/products/houses. So guess what? They go into debt and pledge future income to paying off these items at their already inflated values. Often the people who can least afford the consumer goods are the ones pledging a greater proportion of the weekly income to paying off these inflated products. This leads to a cycle of boom, where lots of bank credit is created, and bust, when our ability to pay interest on the debt reaches crisis point.
How to distribute money more equitably
Another entrenched belief is that the only way to distribute wealth equitably is through taxation. This is not a welcome alternative for those who have grafted themselves onto the rich side of the tree. Besides, taxation is a tool of the current economic system and has proved to be a dismal failure in closing the rich-poor divide. There are however, alternatives.
Last century a homespun economist Clifford Hugh Douglas, whose observations and theories explained this phenomena, said that the problems fundamental to economic depression are those of unequal distribution owing to lack of purchasing power. To solve these difficulties Douglas proposed a system of issuing to every citizen dividends, the amount of which would be determined by an estimate of the nation’s real wealth; the establishment of a just price for all goods would be the result. The theories became the founding doctrine of the Social Credit parties and were adopted by Alberta, Canada.
The perfect channel out of debt
One of the Channel Isles, Guernsey, is reputed to have created its own credit when it was virtually bankrupt and was unable to do even the most minor repairs to its miniscule infrastructure. Instead of taxing its already financially stretched population, it printed its own currency to cover the necessary repairs. The tradespeople on the island were paid in Guernsey currency and that was accepted by Guernsey shopkeepers who suddenly had need to employ others who were paid in Guernsey currency.
According to Wikipedia: “Public services, such as water, wastewater, the two main harbours and the airport are still owned and controlled by the States of Guernsey. The electricity, and postal services have been commercialised by the States and are now operated by companies wholly owned by the States of Guernsey. Gas is supplied by an independent private company.”
Because the Isle no longer required taxation to operate its public services, large numbers of companies, head offices and corporations based their businesses in the 78 sq kilometre island. This brought more affluence to the country without adding one cent in interest as debt to anyone. This of course is a system based on similar accounting principles as the current where the Futures Markets take the whole money-debt thing to extreme lengths by gambling on the future possible returns from a crop that has yet to planted or a technology that has yet to be invented. In other words, we’re not happy with plain old debt we use today, we have to gamble our future away.
Consumerism has blinded us to an amazing truth
Mankind made the current economic system – so mankind can make a different one.
Our economy is NOT written on tablets of stone. It is merely a tool that no longer serves us, and it forces us into consumerism so we exploit more and more of our planet. We could stop, but we all need a deeper recognition of the consequences of NOT stopping.