“Capitalism is a system that creates its own crises” says Yanis Veroufakis
In the short video above you can hear a summary of the ideas underpinning that statement. He gets much deeper into his analysis of the failure of capitalism below. One thing I think we must all realise is that at this point it is no longer about right or wrong, it is about recognising that the train which bought us all to this point, is no longer fit for purpose. Capitalism gave us the iPhone but it also gave us refugees, it created wealth like never seen before but it also created inequalities so extreme the whole system is set to topple. It has clearly failed to innovate on the ecological concerns despite having decades in which to bring about the necessary transformation.
Marx, in the labour theory of value explored what might happen when productive systems become fully automated, what is the value of a good if it is 100% intellectual property but created no meaningful work? Innovation in many ways is creating poverty. Rather than freeing workers from meaningless toil it has destroyed once productive and meaningful ways of living, replacing it with nothing.
Einstein feared that wealth disparity would lead to the ownership of media and communications by tiny elites who then would present only a distorted half truth, one convenient to those in power. This is clearly playing out today where dissenting voices are excluded from the conversation and the window of acceptable debate constantly narrows.
The greatest failing of capitalism is climate change, the notion of market externalities, competitive, unrestrained capitalism leads to the externalization of the costs of production onto environment and society – instead of reflecting the true cost of production unintended outcomes such as pollution and social damage is hidden, masked or simply ignored. The market rewards the lowest cost producer and this is the mechanism which has bought to this place of unfolding catastrophe.
Those days are upon us already, so what must we do? Firstly I would argue it is time to recognise that this is where we are, say thank you for whatever trinkets and ball-balls the system allowed us and be ready to move on to what must come next, the transformation to a regenerative economy.
As the world stares the climate emergency in the face, ecological destruction on a scale hitherto un-imagined we must move into overdrive to head off the worst of the damage or the likeliest or soonest of the irreversible tipping points. Varoufakis touches on the need to address the crushing poverty affecting so many of us by socialising the benefits of quantitative easing and banking trickery and by diverting 25% of GDP into a widespread and effective green new deal and finally by reversing the limits on freedom of movement for people while putting much stricter limits on the movement of capital.
Permaculture is regenerative development. By that I mean it includes a specific objective of re-building soils, of harmonising with ecology and society, investing in social capital and targeting social outcomes above cold hard numbers. Those numbers forgot to include the fragile interconnected nature of the environment, the source of clean air water and the resources which sustain us. We each must tackle this multi-headed crisis from where we are, but it will require co-ordinated actions and consistency over time.
I started out as an economics teacher. A rather turgid, dry and uninspiring subject at school, I switched to ecology and then did a degree in sustainable development. It was only years later that I realised permaculture sits at the intersection of those two fields of study. Our ecological salvation lies in the re-understanding of the economic rationale that underpins all of our decision making.
A breaking away from the study of wealth and money might allow us to study instead more human forms of wealth and capital. The economic question has to be along the lines of how do we combine different forms of capital in a way that meets both human and ecological needs as a specific objective. The idea that one may come at the price of the other should always have been an anathema for us.
Sector39 – as a training organisation is ready to lead. Rebuilding community, food security and habitat is central to our experience and skill base. We offer a deep understanding of both economic and ecological theory and can bring a great many years’ of experience to bare in these area. We are keen to hear from anyone ready to work with us.