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Towards an Economics Reformation

The World faces poverty, inequality, ecological crisis and financial instability.

But we do not need to accept that it has to be this way.

By Mike McLoughlin

31st of October 1517 was the start of the Reformation when Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenburg, changing Christianity for all time. On the 12th December 2017, a few days after the 500th anniversary, a group of economists nailed (blu-tacked in this case) 33 theses to the doors of the London School of Economics. These show what issues in economics should be open to discussion if we are ever going to change the creed of neo-liberalism which is destroying the lives of people here and the world over, by sweeping up the world’s wealth into the control of the richest 1% of the world’s population.

In their introduction the two organisations, Rethinking Economics and The New Weather Institute, are concerned that economics is doing much less than it could to provide insights that would help resolve the world’s problems. They say that an unhealthy intellectual monopoly has developed within economics. The neoclassical (neo-liberal) perspective overwhelmingly dominates teaching, research, advice to policy and public debate. They believe that the argument is not about one theory being better than another but that advance only happens with a debate, and today within economics this debate has died. Mainstream economics appears to have become incapable of self-correction, developing more as a faith than as a science. Often, if theory and evidence are in conflict, it is the theory that has been upheld and the evidence discarded. These theses challenge the unhealthy intellectual monopoly of mainstream economics.

The theses are organised under nine headings. Below is a short summary of the main points under each heading.

THE PURPOSE OF THE ECONOMY: The purpose of the economy is for society to decide. Economic goals cannot be separated from politics. Economics is not value-free. We need more discussion of what sort of economy we want and how to get there.

THE NATURAL WORLD: The economy is a subset of nature and of the societies within which it emerges. It does not exist as an independent entity. Social institutions and ecological systems are not external to its functioning. An economic theory that treats the natural world as external to its model cannot understand the degradation of the natural world – it must recognise that the availability of non-renewable energy and resources is not infinite. The global economy already operates well outside the viable thresholds of ecology, yet requires further growth to function. 

INSTITUTIONS AND MARKETS: All markets are created and shaped by laws, customs and culture, and are influenced by what governments do and don’t do. Markets are outcomes of the interactions between different types of public and private organisations, the voluntary sector and civil society. Markets are more complex and less predictable than implied by just relationships of supply and demand. It is unhelpful to propose a universally applicable set of economic policies based solely on abstract economic theory. 

LABOUR AND CAPITAL: Wages, profits and returns on assets can be shown to depend on a wide range of factors, including the relative power of workers, firms and owners of assets. Economics needs a broader understanding of these factors so as to better inform choices that affect the share of income received by different groups in society. 

THE NATURE OF DECISION-MAKING: Error, bias, pattern-recognition, learning, social interaction and context are all important influences on behaviour that are not recognised in economic theory, so mainstream economic theory and practice must recognise the role of uncertainty. 

INEQUALITY: Markets often show a tendency towards increasing inequality. In turn, unequal societies fare worse across a range of social welfare indicators. Importantly the proposition that as a country gets richer, inequality must inevitably rise before it falls, has been shown to be false. 

GDP GROWTH AND DEBT: Growth is a political as much as an economic choice. If we choose to pursue ‘growth’ then we must decide growth of what, why, for whom, for how long and how much is enough. Private debt profoundly influences the rate at which the economy grows and yet is excluded from mainstream economic theory. Finance and economics cannot be separated. 

MONEY, BANKS AND CRISES: The majority of new money circulating in the economy is created by commercial banks every time they make a new loan. The way in which money is created affects the distribution of wealth within society so the method of money creation should be understood to be a political issue, not a technical one. Economics needs a better understanding of how instability and crises are created internally, rather than treating them as ‘shocks’ from outside. 

THE TEACHING OF ECONOMICS: A good economics education must offer a plurality of theoretical approaches to its students, including the history and philosophy of economic thought. Interdisciplinary courses are key to understanding the economic realities of financial crises, poverty and climate change. The present overwhelming focus on statistics and quantitative models can leave economists blinded to other ways of thinking. Economics must do more to encourage critical thinking, and not simply reward memorisation of theories.

The full text of the introduction and theses can be found here.

 

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Palestine – 100 years after Balfour

Public meeting hosted by Sutton for Peace and Justice

Wednesday 29 November 7.30–9.30pm, doors open at 7.00
At Sutton Quaker Meeting House, Cedar Road, Sutton, SM2 5DA

 

The legacy of Balfour – the broken promises, the suffering and conflict.

Human rights abuses and the plight of Palestinians today – occupation, checkpoints, illegal settlements, house demolitions.

The hopes for a peaceful future with justice and equal rights for everyone living in Israel and Palestine.

 

With:

Salim Alam – Executive Committee Member, Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Hannah Griffiths – human rights monitor and ‘accompanier’ of children in Hebron

Linda Ramsden – UK director of Israeli Committee Against House Demolition (ICAHD)

Doris Richards – who has visited East Jerusalem twice as an Ecumenical Accompanier

 

100 years ago the Balfour Declaration pledged Britain’s support for a ‘national home’ in Palestine for the Jewish people, on the understanding that the rights of ‘existing non-jewish communities in Palestine’ would not be prejudiced. But Britain reneged on its pledge, leaving Palestinians disposessed and living as refugees or under occupation.

Come and hear from speakers with first-hand knowledge of the plight of Palestinians today.

And join the debate.

 

There is no entry charge, donations will be taken on the night

Please reserve your place by email to sutton4peace@yahoo.co.uk
or by text message to 07740 594496

Prominent Israelis call for recognition of state of Palestine

Prominent Israelis have sent a message of support to the organisors of the ‘Balfour Project’ and called for recognition of state of Palestine’.

They say that ‘the seeds of the ongoing dispute between the Palestinians and Israelis were, to a large extent, sown in 1917’ by the Balfour Declaration. And they call on the British Government to recognise Palestine as a state.

Read more here.

Palestine – 100 years after Balfour

Sutton for Peace and Justice will host a meeting to mark 100 years since the Balfour Declaration:

Wednesday 29 November, 7.30–9.30pm, doors open at 7.00.
Sutton Quaker Meeting House, Cedar Road, Sutton, SM2 5DA.

100 years ago the Balfour Declaration pledged Britain’s support for a ‘national home’ in Palestine for the Jewish people, on the understanding that the rights of ‘existing non-jewish communities in Palestine’ would not be prejudiced.

The first part of this pledge led to the establishment of the state of Israel. But Britain reneged on the the second part, leaving Palestinians dispossessed and living as refugees or under occupation.

The resulting suffering and conflict has gone on far too long.
It is time to acknowledge Britain’s broken promises, and bring justice
and equal rights to everyone living in Israel and Palestine.

Come and hear first-hand accounts of the plight of Palestinians today,
and join the discussion of how we can support Palestinians and Israelis
to build a peaceful future based on equal rights for all.

Please reserve your place by email to sutton4peace@yahoo.co.uk
or by text message to 07740 594496.

There is no entry charge, donations will be taken on the night.

You can download or flyer/poster here.

 

Open Bethlehem – A Big Film About a Small Town

Sutton for Peace and Justice is pleased to present a screening of ‘Open Bethlehem’.

On Wednesday 25 October 2017, doors open 7.00 for 7.30 start.

At Sutton Quaker Meeting House, Cedar Road, Sutton SM2 5DA.

Open Bethlehem is a deeply personal film – the story of a homecoming that spans seven momentous years in the life of Bethlehem – the world’s most famous little town.

A critically-acclaimed documentary film by Leila Sansour. Both a portrait of a city of astonishing beauty and political strife under occupation, and the story of the creation of a campaign to compel international action to bring peace to the Middle East.

“One of the most remarkable and moving documentaries I have seen. The tragedy of Palestinians encapsulated in the life of one town – Bethlehem..” Jon Snow – Channel 4

“Open Bethlehem is a fierce and poignant plea against the incarceration of a city”
Film of the Week – The Guardian

For more information about Open Bethlehem see www.openbethlehem.org

There is no advance entry charge, donations will be taken on the night.

Please reserve your place by email to sutton4peace@yahoo.co.uk
or by text message to 07740 594496.

You can download the  flyer for Open Bethlehem.

 

 

The Colloquium in Carshalton Park

Sutton for Peace and Justice brings you

The Colloquium in Carshalton Park

Throughout the day of the Environmental Fair on Bank Holiday Monday 28 August at Carshalton Park, Sutton for Peace and Justice will be hosting a series of informal and open discussions on a range of peace and justice issues:

11.30 Sutton 4 Sanctuary – Refugees welcome here
Helping refugees find a welcome and establish a new home in Sutton, including the Community Sponsorship Scheme.

12.15 Inequality is not inevitable
Inequality is bad for everyone and austerity is making it worse – but there is an alternative.

13.00 Climate Change – threat to peace & justice
Action on climate change is essential – now more than ever.

13.45 The plight of Palestinians today
How the rights of ‘the non-jewish communities of Palestine’ are ‘prejudiced’ 100 years after Balfour.

14.30 In defence of the Human Rights Act
The Human Rights Act protects us all and needs our support.

15.15 Stop nuclear proliferation – scrap Trident
Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki –Trident should be scrapped.

16.00 Sutton 4 Sanctuary – Refugees welcome here
Helping refugees find a welcome and establish a new home in Sutton, including the Community Sponsorship Scheme.

All at the Sutton for Peace and Justice stall J04–J05.

Come along and hear about these important issues, have your say and join the debate.

Colloquium – an informal gathering for the exchange of views, from latin ‘to talk together’; a seminar usually led by a different academic or expert speaker at each meeting.

 

In defence of development aid

S4P aid Apr17 2

Tom Brake and Graham Gordon speak in support of development aid

Reporting by Mike McLoughlin.

At a well-attended meeting hosted by Sutton for Peace and Justice at Friends Meeting House in Sutton on 28th April, Graham Gordon and Tom Brake spoke on why International aid is good for both the recipients and for us.

Both have extensive experience in the subject, Graham Gordon as Head of Public Policy at CAFOD, a leading aid agency, and Tom Brake as present and past Lib-Dem spokesperson on international development.

Tom Brake said that over the last 18 months or so there had been a concerted effort by some of the press to talk down the benefits and exaggerate the failings of aid. One success of this campaign had been the appointment of Priti Patel, an opponent of aid in general to head up The Department for International Development (Dfid) which she once said should be abolished. She has said we will promote transparency but by shifting DFID money into Prosperity, Security and Empowerment funds its use will become less transparent. The “Prosperity” fund will provide cash for private businesses, the “Security” fund probably be used by the Ministry of Defence, the most non-transparent and unaccountable ministry and the “Empowerment “ fund is for the Baltic States who are not high on anyone’s list of the world’s poorest countries. With all these moves the provision of aid will become more political and less able to fulfil its purpose to eradicate poverty in the world.

Tom Brake concluded by saying we should lobby our political parties and their election candidates telling them how much we value aid and encourage its focus on eradicating poverty.

Graham Gordon agreed with Tom Brake in that the quality of our aid was in danger from the skewing of the debate possibly leading to the reduction of our involvement to only disease eradication and responding to natural disasters. DFID was recognised as a world leader in humanitarian aid but also in development aid in areas such as the alleviation of the impact of climate change, improvement of the position of women and girls, and strengthening of civic society for long term development. He quoted several typical schemes in countries as far apart as Zambia and Myanmar whose success was apparently unknown to the aid deniers. These included provision of water boreholes which then enabled girls to attend school because they no longer needed to spend their days fetching water from great distances, providing training in cyclone preparedness so that communities were able to quickly recover from the next cyclone caused by climate change and schemes to strengthen civic society and governance enabling more transparency and so enabling governments to improve their tax take and therefore provide service to their communities.

Graham also mentioned the Commonwealth Development Company, now know as simply CDC, a part privatised arm of DFID. There was little evidence of it being successful at generating jobs by providing capital and loans to private companies. However Ms Patel planned to give it much greater funds. In fact private enterprise is not very good at working with civic society or focussing on the poor, the two most important areas if we really want to eradicate poverty.

Both speakers concluded that we should be proud of our contribution to reducing poverty across the world and being one of the first in the rich world to commit to 0.7% of GDP. Many millions of people have benefited from our generosity and many millions more rely on our continuation of this generosity.