Last week I attended three events focused on the exploring problems and possible solutions within the economic system. The first was hosted by Corporate Watch (at SOAS), the second by WWF’s ‘Finance Lab‘ (at the Institute of Chartered Accountants), and the third a meet-up at the SouthBank by the Collapsonomics gang. Three events focused on big problems, all attempting to create the public discussions we desperately need to counter a system with a dangerous lack of resilience, skirting dangerously close to creating a prolonged depression – along with the disastrous consequences for the natural world caused by an economic system blind to the needs of ecological systems.
The role of the state in this mess is to make sure the crisis made by the financial sector is paid for by all of us. Nick Hillyard from The Corner House describes how this economic crisis is characterised by an absence of public debate on the source of the crises. No-one questions the need for government cuts in a system that seems to have spiralled out of our control; so the failure of the private sector (the banks) is being shifted onto the public sector (us). Austerity measures are only now starting to be put into effect. The fall out from the economic crisis is barely visible in wealthy parts of the UK, but will start to happen in a dramatic way when the cuts are made. What is important to remember is that austerity measures are not some kind of inevitable process because we had (& have) no alternative. They are the result of government policy that has allowed the financial sector to operate in an relatively unregulated manner, and policies which consistently put the interests of the corporations before the interests of the public or the planet. None of this just happened – it happened due to specific policies and a certain economic agenda which allowed it to happen.
As I attempt to make sense of the complex forces at work driving our economic system, I take opportunities to meet with different networks of people attempting to organise some kind of effective resistance, public response or at least a common understanding. The challenges are immense. The best resourced attempts to intervene are funded by corporations and those who do not want to question the assumptions that caused the crisis. We meet in big halls and talk about abstract ideas for a whole day without daring to challenge of the essential problems within the system. My views on deep structural problems with the economy are described in this paper I presented at Oxford July 2010. Networks without corporate sponsors have more intellectual freedom, but fewer resources to engage larger audiences. Small groups of radical thinkers meet and discuss social collapse as an inevitability – is it possible to navigate a gentle landing? Probably not!