From the archives: Henry George and the Reconstruction of Capitalism

It’s the weekend, the world economy  is seriously wounded and running out of control. Hmm. Maybe it is time to sit back and consider all the issues and  alternatives. So relax, take off your shoes, get comfortable and sit down to read this challenging 1992 essay by Robert V. Andelson. 
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“It would require less than the fingers of the two hands to enumerate those who, from Plato down, rank with Henry George among the world’s social philosophers…[He is] certainly the greatest that this country has produced. No man … has the right to regard himself as an educated man in social thought unless he has some first hand acquaintance with the theoretical contribution of this great American thinker.” ~John Dewey

With the fall of the Iron Curtain, people all over the world seem to be searching for a “Middle Way.” Except in North Korea and Cuba, doctrinaire Marxism has been repudiated virtually everywhere, even by the Left. Socialism has become passé. Its adherents are no longer riding the crest of the wave of the future. Even the most energetic apostles of federal meddling, John Kenneth Galbraith, for example, eschew the Socialist label.

Yet, on the other hand, the free market economists of the classical period would scarcely recognize Capitalism as we know it in America today. Such luminaries of industry and finance as Lee Iacocca and Felix Rohatyn advocate a measure of government intervention that would have seemed entirely insupportable to Cobden or Ricardo. In the political field, the major candidates differ mainly on matters of degree. It is not so much a question of “Shall there be federal aid?” as of “How much federal aid shall there be?” or of “How shall it be administered?”. As long ago as the late 1940s, “Mr. Conservative” himself, Senator Robert A. Taft, sponsored a bill for federal housing. Later, another Senate Republican leader, Bob Dole, was a major architect of the food stamp program, which is itself a dole, not just for the poor, but, above all, for agribusiness. A Republican president, Richard Nixon, instituted price controls, and cut the dollar loose from its last tenuous backing with the cynical quip, “We are all Keynesians now”.

But what we are presented with, from Right to Left, is not a coordinated structure embodying the best elements from both sides, not even a well-thought-out attempt at syncretism, but rather a bewildering welter of jerry-built solutions, each one based on political and emotional considerations and lacking any functional relationship to a unified system of socio-economic truth — let alone any rootage in a grand scheme of teleology or ethics.

A little Socialism here, and a little Capitalism there; a concern for the public sector here, and a concession to the profit motive there; a sop to the “underprivileged” here, and a bow to incentive there — put them all together, and what have you got? Nothing but a great big rag-bag, a haphazard pastiche of odds and ends without any bones and without any guts!

Nevertheless, there is a Middle Way. . .

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The Troubled Economic Context of the Circular Economy

Finally, a breakthrough alternative to growth economics – the doughnut

Instead of growth at all costs, a new economic model allows us to thrive while saving the planet.

So what are we going to do about it? This is the only question worth asking. But the answers appear elusive. Faced with a multifaceted crisis – the capture of governments by billionaires and their lobbyists, extreme inequality, the rise of demagogues, above all the collapse of the living world – those to whom we look for leadership appear stunned, voiceless, clueless. Even if they had the courage to act, they have no idea what to do.

The most they tend to offer is more economic growth: the fairy dust supposed to make all the bad stuff disappear. Never mind that it drives ecological destruction; that it has failed to relieve structural unemployment or soaring inequality; that, in some recent years, almost all the increment in incomes has been harvested by the top 1%. As values, principles and moral purpose are lost, the promise of growth is all that’s left.

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WHOSE OPINION MATTERS? Lessons from a Stakeholder Engagement Process for Penang, Malaysia

Lessons from a Stakeholder Engagement Process for Penang, Malaysia
Author: Minal Pathak • MIT-UTM Malaysia Sustainable Cities Program 2017

– Commentary by Eric Britton, Professor of Sustainable Development, Institut Supérieur de Gestion Paris

“Recommended reading for anyone who cares about Penang and Democracy”

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(BC) A World Wide Birdwatchers Guide To Dangerous Political Predators

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A late year reflection on dangerous world wide political predators on the prowl and a real menace to democracy, equity and the planet.

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Archives: The struggle for local democracy in Malaysia

This is one of those special times for Malaysia when change and ideas are most  welcome. So there is hope and opportunity.  And it is one of those special times when change, even paradigm shifts are possible, and local governments given a new and more central place in the lives of our citizens. If we can together constructively, creatively and systematically build and add to the many promising initiatives , and if civic engagement leads an upsurge of citizen interest, we will surely see the emergence of an efficient, effective, equitable, democratic local government system in Malaysia that is socially, ecologically and economically sustainable.  And make a marked improvement in the quality of life of all Malaysians.
* Anwar Fazal, Penang. In Malaysiakini, 12 April 2001

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A Paean to Democracy in Troubled Times

On 15 November 2015 US President Barack Obama in a deeply resonant address to an audience of mainly young Greeks in Athens, reminding us of the challenges of democracy in this troubled century, calling for a “course correction” on globalization that has left populations afraid for an uncertain future.

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