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We have to cut material consumption by 20% globally

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This article is by Caroline Lucas MP, who is with me a member of the Green New Deal Group. It was written in anticipation of a parliamentary debate today - which no doubt very few MPs will attend - but which addresses vital issues for our future. It comes from Politics Home and I thought about using a precis, but it needs to be shared as is:

It was over 50 years ago, back in 1968, when US presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy noted that gross national product did not measure the health of children or the joy of their play, the beauty of our poetry, the intelligence of our public debate, our compassion or our devotion to our country. He was right – and yet we continue to measure success in the narrowest of terms.

The endless pursuit of growing consumption and increased gross domestic product (GDP) have been the Holy Grail of economists for decades and lead us all to fixate on a number that’s utterly divorced from either quality of life or how we feel about the future.

Moreover, this obsession with GDP threatens destruction of the planet as we know it.

It’s a point I will be making in Parliament today, during a debate I have secured specifically to challenge the Treasury over the inherent tension between our current economic model and environmental limits.

We’re now right up against those limits of our finite world. A decade ago, a panel of distinguished scientists identified 10 planetary boundaries we were already at or close to exceeding: climate change; ocean acidification; chemical pollution; nitrogen and phosphorous loading; freshwater withdrawal; land conversion; biodiversity loss; and ozone layer depletion.

Earth Overshoot Day marks the point in the year when a country’s resource consumption exceeds the earth’s capacity to regenerate those resources.  For the UK in 2019, the date was May 17th.

The relationship between these environmental limits and the goals we choose to pursue as a society are most clearly set out in the context of climate breakdown.

In April, Greta Thunberg visited the UK in April to speak in parliament about why she and millions of other young people are skipping school to strike for the climate.

She hit the nail on the head about the absurd and archaic way we measure progress, in this age of climate emergency. She said:

“We should no longer measure our wealth and success in the graph that shows economic growth, but in the curve that shows the emissions of greenhouse gases.”

The 2018 special report on keeping global temperature rises below 1.5 degrees, from the IPCC, the UN’s climate experts, emphasises the need for “rapid, far reaching and unprecedented change” across all aspects of society. It goes on to say that we need to globally cut emissions to net zero by the middle of the century.

Jason Hickel, a leading environmental economist at Goldsmiths, points out that during that very same period, the global economy is set to nearly triple in size. That means three times more production and consumption than we are already generating each year.

It’ll be difficult enough to decarbonize the existing global economy in such a short timespan. It’s virtually impossible to do it three times over.

So are we all doomed? Far from it. The IPCC report contains one lifeline scenario that does not rely on speculative future technologies or wishful thinking to make our climate safe.

That scenario is our emergency exit from climate breakdown, and it would deliver positive benefits across society as well as regenerate the natural world on which we all rely for survival. Humans and nature can flourish if we combine environmental limits with social factors such as housing, equity, political voice, heath, education and income.

What does it look like? Fundamentally, it’s about scaling down material consumption – by 20% globally, with rich countries like the UK leading the way.

It’s the transition to economies that, rather than being divisive and degenerative by default, are distributive and regenerative by design. Economies that are in dynamic equilibrium, delivering quality over quantity, nurturing creativity and innovation, as well as enabling us all to live good lives.

To do all this we need to start measuring what matters. The economist Katherine Trebeck has one suggestion: “Why not get countries to measure the number of girls who bicycle to school? What clearer yardstick could convey so much about progress in women’s education, green transport, health and poverty alleviation in a single number?”

 And yet, despite all the growing evidence, GDP growth remains the primary objective across government - and especially for the Treasury.   Every quarter the Treasury reports on GDP growth but not greenhouse gas emissions, material consumption, the state of nature, inequality, or mental health, for example.  And while the Office for National Statistics has been collecting and releasing official wellbeing statistics for a while now, these are generally not used to guide decision making.

Others are already waking up to the link between climate and nature breakdown, levels of happiness and the current global economic model. Businesses and even whole countries like New Zealand are starting to recognise that if endless economic growth is the answer we are asking the wrong question.

So today I will be urging the Treasury to rethink everything it thinks it knows and, as the EEB puts it, “acknowledge the fact that addressing the climate and biodiversity crises may require a direct downscaling of economic production and consumption in the wealthiest countries.”

This requires prioritising the ONS work on developing and adopting alternative measures to GDP - ensuring the environment is integrated alongside social factors. And in the meantime, the Government should publish consumption based carbon emissions, material throughput, and wellbeing statistics alongside quarterly GDP figures from now on.

In short, it’s time to reimagine our economy with one simple purpose – a world in which both humanity and our life-giving planet thrive.

Caroline Lucas is Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion. 

The New Right – and how to understand them

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Whilst I continue to post relatively little because I am writing like fury on new ideas of my own, I thought it worth sharing this idea from and  on the Conversation. I found it illuminating, and well worth considering:

Dressed in pastel-coloured Sunday best, Charles does not look like your typical far-right extremist. Yet he is a member of Génération Identitaire, a militant French youth group keen to overcome the thuggish reputation of the far right. Génération Identitaire is a key example of contemporary nationalist movements and has become particularly notorious after the attack perpetrated by one of its members in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Génération Identitaire’s rallies in the suburbs of French cities feature speeches lamenting the replacement of Europeans by Muslims, “métissage imposé” (forced inter-breeding), chanting “La France est à nous” (“France is ours”), and provocative marches through areas inhabited by minorities, that often descend into beatings. These young nationalists told us that they march to reclaim Europe from foreign invasion by migrants that destroy French culture, stifle their aspirations, steal their jobs, their cities, and even their women.

They also seek to demonstrate the kindness of their ideas by assisting homeless people with food, clothes and hot drinks – but only if the people they help are French and, more specifically, “français de souche”, which usually refers to having white French ancestors.

As we march through the Parisian streets, Charles explains that Génération Identitaire is fuelled by love for the “real” French. For him, it is natural that patriotism should produce love for “his” people, as we saw with the beggars, as well as hatred and violence towards foreigners and feminists. Charles, following the example of Identitarian leaders, believes that nature has already produced a perfectly functional Western culture based around white race, Christianity and a “proper” social order.

Generation Identitaire, November 7 2017. Pulek1/Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA

They argue that any change in that “nature”, such as inclusion of foreigners or changes to the social role of women, is bound to destroy Western cultures. This is not racist, xenophobic or even harassment, Charles reassures as the march pauses to scream at a dark-skinned young woman to “go home”.

In common with the American alt-right and many anti-migration nationalists throughout the West, Charles believes that it is only natural that an identity looks after its own kin at the expense of others. It is not hatred, Charles insists, just self-preservation.

The New Right

Nationalists such as Charles often refer to themselves as the New Right, or read thinkers who do. They are not all as radical as he is, but a diverse grouping of politicians share the stream of New Right ideas. These include Donald Trump, Brexiteers like Jacob Rees-Mogg, European nationalists like Marine Le Pen, Matteo Salvini and Viktor Orbán, and newcomers such as Santiago Abascal and his Vox party in Spain.

All of these politicians maintain informal yet relatively loyal alliances with more extreme groups like Génération Identitaire, the US alt-right, or Fratelli d’Italia. Such groups bring together young activists and champion extreme nationalist causes and campaigning. Not content with democratic engagement, they act vigorously online and in the street against those they consider as threats to their very survival: immigrants, feminists and liberals.

It is very common for liberals and leftists to accuse new nationalists like Trump or Le Pen of returning to 1930s Nazism. Such accusations of fascism are mostly aesthetic: insults hurled at nationalists by ever more outraged liberal echo chambers. To nationalists, all opponents have become communist feminists; to liberals, nationalists are all wannabe Hitlers.

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Adolf Hitler v/s Donald Trump

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Our new research shows that the nationalist far right arises from a deeper history. New Right ideas are clearly not a revival of 1930s fascism. Despite some similarities, today’s nationalists are more directly inspired by a late 19th-century French line of thinking.

We spent the last two years analysing hundreds of documents written by New Right thinkers and their forebears to explain how and why these ideas take root. This ideological history is important if today’s nationalists are to be understood, and if there is to be any hope of overcoming the racism and sexism inherent to their ideas.

What our research shows is that we are living through the latest battle in a 300-year long ideological war over the meaning of humanity itself. On one side is the belief in a universal idea of humanity, which produced notions of equal rights, humanism and liberalism. Opposing it is the belief that marks all forms of nationalism: that humanity is not a single entity but rather, one divided by nature into national identities.

Beginnings

Nationalism is the dark cousin of liberalism. Both seek to establish freedoms and rights. If the French Revolution gave rise to the “rights of man”, Napoleon’s subsequent coup and his idea of the “nation” argued that only the French, not all men, should enjoy those rights. Half a century later, nationalism was being regularly used by politicians like Otto von Bismarck to confront expanding claims to political rights with the argument that the national necessity of a vaguely defined identity trumped granting certain rights to citizens.

Napoleon’s Return from Elba, Charles de Steuben, 1818. Wikimedia Commons

These ideas drew heavily on ethno-nationalist geopolitics, which treated each nation as a distinct species struggling for survival. International relations was viewed as a zero-sum game where the survival of a nation sometimes necessitates the destruction of others.

Then Maurice Barrès came along 1897. He was the thinker behind a very specific set of nationalist ideas that developed more restrictive definitions of national identity than those of the previous nationalist pioneers. His idea of nationalism was focused on birth and culture, rather than civil belonging (as for Napoleon) or loyalty (as for Bismarck). Our research has found that key ideas in today’s New Right find their roots in Barrès and especially retain his ideas about culture and racial birth.

French nationalist Maurice Barrès. Wikimedia Commons

Barrès theorised that the culture and integrity of a nation was “eternal”, and that any change to it, whether brought about by foreign influence or progressive politics, would bring about its demise. Any cultural change, be it to the arts, to the role of women, or to racial assumptions, was seen to erode the spirit of the nation and its way of life. Ideas about the state, belonging and politics, which emerged from Barrès and like-minded thinkers like Charles Maurras tended to advocate racial and cultural exclusion as necessary to national survival.

The key idea introduced by Barrès was the link between race and culture. It meant that culture needed to remain unchanged if it was to survive, as did the race that produced it. Even more importantly, it introduced the notion that any progressive, modern or culture-changing idea endangered the nation’s survival. This idea has found its way to the heart of New Right nationalism today, which is why they attack liberals, socialists, feminists, progressives, and their institutions as much as foreigners.

Piers Morgan

@piersmorgan

BREAKING: Nigel Farage has joined President Trump in declaring: ‘I am not a feminist’. He told @GMB : ‘I don’t know what it means.’

Fascist nationalism

Today’s New Right share much more with these 19th-century nationalists than the fascists of the 1920s and 1930s, like Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, Francisco Franco and Turkey’s Mustafa Kemal. Yet it is important to understand why.

Fascists also believed that geopolitics was characterised by competition between states struggling for survival. But, rather than professing faith in the status quo, they pursued a revolution in all aspects of society to prepare for this existential struggle. They advocated radical social and even biological change. Cultural change was not avoided – as it is by nationalists today and was in the 19th century – but designed for.

Nazi propaganda photo: a mother, her daughters and her son in Hitler Youth uniform.German Federal ArchivesCC BY-SA

Mussolini, for example, sought to dismantle Italian family values and relations, so as to foster new relations between individuals and the state. Working Italians were organised to eat, exercise and even socialise together, rather than with their families. This proposed a huge change to everyday life, reforming the structure of society to instil loyalty to the state and its leader.

Likewise, fascists sought racial purification and expansion through modern science. In anticipation of populating huge empires after the destruction of their original populations, Nazi scientific ambitions sought to double the German population by intervening in women’s bodies to ensure each pregnancy yielded twins.

Fascist nationalism gave total control to a saviour-leader. It demanded total discipline over the entire country and all of its social, cultural, biological, economic and even artistic functions.

Nostalgia and purification

Fascist revolution is clearly not the intellectual precedent of the nationalisms of today. The fascist generation of nationalists hoped to radically change their societies. Today’s nationalists want only to stop and reverse social change.

If we explore the New Right’s reasons for wishing to do so, we find the idea, pioneered by Barrès, that cultural change signifies decadence and corruption. This is why nationalists in our time have no plans to supercharge and empower their nation. They don’t need one. They believe in the perfection of national culture, and want to set it free from any presumption of equality with other identities. Once freed in this way, they argue, culture will thrive and fulfil its innate potential.

This is why today’s nationalists are so nostalgic. It is also why they consistently speak of culture, not race. Indeed, they are often vocal in claiming that race is not their concern. They can do this because the idea of birth-culture inherited from Barrès is already based on race.

As their intellectual pioneer, French philosopher Alain de Benoist, argued in 1999:

Mankind as such does not exist, because their membership within humanity is always mediated by a particular cultural belonging … Biological differences are significant only in reference to social and cultural givens.

Here, race is relevant only insofar as it determines which culture an individual may belong to. Cultural belonging is underpinned by birth, which is why speaking and defending culture, as the New Right does, has powerful racial implications. But conveniently, the emphasis on culture circumvents restrictions on – and public revulsion for – overt racism.

White supremacists march on anniversary of Charlottesville’s Unite the Right rally, August 12 2018. Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

The assumption that cultures are caught in a permanent struggle for survival is liable to tend toward extremes. Many on the alt-right in America and in movements like Génération Identitaire in Europe have already taken these beliefs to their inevitable conclusion: that a global race war needs to be fought to ensure the survival of the white race.

The gunman who attacked a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, like Anders Breivik in Norway in 2011 and the Charlottesville protesters in 2017 in the US, was not only a member of Génération Identitaire, but certain that his actions were the first shots in a struggle over the survival of “Europeans”.

Birth-culture

The New Right, like Barrès before them, purport that culture is biologically mediated rather than socially determined. If one is of the wrong biology then participating in another culture is difficult, if not impossible. The restoration of the nation logically requires the purification of culture and – by implication – race.

By the same token, any assumption of equality among identities is a kind of betrayal of the nation, which undermines its chances of survival. This explains all sorts of very real grievances to voters, from poverty to social frustrations. All of these are attributed to an upending of the natural order that gives equal rights to those who have no “natural” stake in a culture.

The same intellectual mechanism is responsible for the New Right’s fixation with gender. Just as biology determines which culture one may or may not belong and thrive in, biological differences between sexes are seen to determine women’s social and political role.

The liberation of women is viewed as a prime example of how liberal humanist assumptions about equality are unnatural and destroy culture. Women’s control of their reproductive functions is viewed as undermining the nation’s survival in yielding to the selfish caprice of women that refuse to play their nature-given, distinctive, part.

Italy’s interior minister and deputy premier, Matteo Salvini. EPA-EFE/Massimo Percossi

The Brexit referendum campaign and Salvini’s 2017 electoral campaign in Italy are excellent examples of how these ideas can unfold in practice. Leavers like Farage, for example, never argued that migration was to be limited due to racial difference, but demanded the right to “retake control of our borders” in the name of the preservation and prosperity of the nation and its culture. Salvini likewise avoids race and focuses on the right of Italians to prevent migration and ensure Italy’s survival. And, like Vox in Spain, he advocates a rollback of Italian women’s rights, beginning with contraception, to restore “the natural order”.

New Right ideas centre around the claim that nature should determine the structure of society and politics, and so their advocates seek to restore what they see as the natural state – one determined by inequality among identities. This is contrasted against liberal ideas that subvert the natural order of different genders, identities and the struggle among nations.

Alt-right meme of Christopher Colombus as an example of white birth-culture achievement. His face is Pepe the Frog, a symbol of alt-right rebelliousness. Author provided

Truth, red pills and conspiracies

The war against the rights of foreigners and of women takes us to the heart of contemporary nationalist ideas. To betray the “natural order” is a betrayal of one’s own identity and its survival. Their war is against the liberal understanding of equality.

This has implications for how the New Right think about truth. They have determined that mainstream news cannot be believed using an idea sometimes referred to as “the cathedral”. This posits that modern universities, media and cultural institutions function to establish and enforce faith in liberalism, viewed as a kind of new religion. The New Right argue that any rational questioning of liberal beliefs around gender, race or culture becomes heresy. This suggests that the New Right see themselves as the true heirs to the Enlightenment project to free humanity from ignorance and superstition.

New Right politicians prove their credibility through willingness to publicly depart from irrational faith in liberal ideas, so as to represent the legitimate interests of the identity that is “left behind”. This is why Michael Gove, the UK’s Secretary of State for Environment, was able to casually throw scientific expertise out the window in the Brexit referendum and why Trump survives the spectacle of issuing “alternative facts” from the White House.

For this reason, the New Right’s characteristic loathing for political correctness is not just a matter of humour and off colour jokes. It signals to supporters that their leaders are willing to transgress liberal power. Trump’s “grab them by the pussy” as well as regular chauvinistic comments from New Right politicians like Nigel Farage and Salvini play so well with supporters because they are read as a promise to return public discourse to a natural state of freedom.

New Right ideas about survival and identity coalesce in the belief that they have seen through an “unnatural” story woven by liberals. Consider the concept of the “red pill”, common in New Right online discussion threads, which refers to a scene from the Matrix in which Neo is asked whether he wishes to see harsh reality or a pleasant illusion. To be red-pilled is to see “the truth”: a world destroyed by liberal assumptions of equality, between genders and national identities, but also between weak and strong, rich and poor, masking the natural condition that rewards strength and punishes weakness.

Going mainstream

Conspiracy theories flourish today. In fact, they are now mainstream. Hitherto the fare of online cranks, frustrated teenagers and professional conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones, in the early 2010s New Right ideas began to take off thanks to specific grievances that they claimed to explain.

The online incubation of New Right ideas in the run up to Trump’s election was underwritten by the argument that gains from a millennia of white male leadership are being undermined by “libtards” (“liberal retards”) and “SJWs” (“social justice warriors”) informed by “fake news” and wracked by “white guilt” who give away the achievements of Europeans to others, and even undermine their own survival by losing control of their women.

This way of thinking is used to explain all manner of grievances ranging from shifts in the world of work, loss of control over one’s destiny, hopelessness, and community decay. If one buys into their assumptions, their ideas make sense on their own terms and seem to offer immediate solutions to these problems.

Disparate movements have united around these grievances. So New Right politicians often form strange but powerful electoral alliances. The basic template usually seeks to secure a broader vote by mainstreaming or taking over a party (as with Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party) while retaining the extremist vote through proxies that are neither overtly recognised as allies nor disavowed (the alt-right and even the KKK in Trump’s case).

This system of New Right electoral alliances clearly emerged in the Brexit referendum: despite superficial disagreements, Vote Leave, Leave.EU and UKIP never fully contradicted one another. The same is true of Trump’s Republicans and alt-right “very fine people”; Le Pen’s Front (now Rassemblement) National and Génération Identitaire; and Salvini’s Lega and Fratelli d’Italia, Forza Nuova and Casa Pound. These alliances are mostly leaderless, unstable and scarily undisciplined.

A Génération Identitaire flag is flown next to a Union flag. David Mirzoeff/PA Archive/PA Images

Shapeshifters

This is what makes this new generation of nationalism truly viral. Without a permanent structure, these shapeshifting alliances can dodge attacks by reinventing new coalitions of similar members, as occurred with Farage’s Brexit Party.

These coalitions depend on the continued presence of grievances that directly affect people’s lives, particularly growing poverty even when working, the collapse of stable and safe social identities linked to work, the increasing instability of employment security, and the rapid change of local communities due to emigration, migration, collapsing housing affordability, and redevelopment initiatives that displace communities. These provide precise and urgent electoral rallying points.

They are particularly effective given that so many mainstream politicians ignore these basic grievances. In recent years, the lineup of politicians opposing the New Right – Hillary Clinton, the Remain campaign, Emmanuel Macron and Matteo Renzi – have been unwilling to even recognise these structural problems. This provided the New Right the opportunity to appear credible, simply by acknowledging them. They also appear to offer elegant solutions to these societal issues – all of which are based on a return to the “natural” order.

The New Right stems from 19th-century ideas, updated for our times. It ultimately promotes a rather sad view of humanity, where everything is determined by nature, not by individual choice. A world where culture is biologically mediated, immobile and restricted, not the fruit of learning and creativity.

If their success is to be confronted, the basic grievances they claim to resolve will need to be addressed and solutions offered. But if the contradictory informal, yet powerful alliances among nationalists today are to be challenged, the working mechanics of New Right ideas must be understood.

Surely we have a better story to tell

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There is a moment in every day when I have had enough of politics, tax, economics and all that goes with it. I take the dog for a walk. Talk to the family or a friend. Or pursue a hobby. None of that are done just to get away from work. But they all help me do so. I find it helps. Balance has to be an objective in life, and however great my passion for the topics I write about here they cannot be everything in my existence.

But Brexit keeps intruding now. The seemingly never ending machinations of incompetence that have lead to paralysis followed by an inability to decide how to progress invades too much of my time. And even with my capacity for politics I have had almost enough of it.

So I sat back and asked myself why.

The first is that I do want balance. And there is nothing at all balanced about Brexit. It was always dogmatic and hopelessly thought through. Then it was pursued as if the case for it was emphatic, when it never was. Alienation was built in from the start.

Second, it has highlighted the failing of every neoliberal politician who, when they see a problem run away from it, presuming the market always has a better solution than they can offer. Only in this case the solution has to be political and there is no politician left in many parties in the Commons with any comprehension as to how to deal with such an issue. Most have for so long given up political thought in favour of market acquiescence that their DNA as politicians has had the ability to decide removed from its structure.

Third, there is the possibility in all this that by our own collective action we acquiesced in this failure. In fact, somehow by not stopping it we facilitated it. And that is uncomfortable.

Fourth, there is just that feeling that it’s time for for pain to stop. Surely the ibuprofen should work soon? And yet it doesn’t.

In that case is this, like a hangover, our own self-inflicted wound that we must live with? I hope it is not. But what does that mean then?

Have we to join a political party to effect change? Has that worked for Labour? 

Or to stand for office (ample opportunity for that in the upcoming local elections)? I personally am not inclined to do so, but hope others will. 

Or is it time to simply start telling a better story as the basis for change? I get to this last point for a reason. It turned out to be the theme of a discussion I took part in with the journalist Oliver Bullough, author of Moneyland, at City, University of London, last evening. The talk was arranged by the English department and largely attended by students on the MA in non-fiction creative writing. 

Oliver and I discussed why we were storytellers. Because of course we are. Our characters are real. Our narratives are those we observe. We do not make them up. But the way we relate what we see is, of course, creative storytelling. I am unashamed about this. Story telling is powerful, appropriate and even necessary. If in doubt watch the video by New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern this morning. That is story telling to most powerful effect.

So what is the story that we need to tell?

That we are all one humanity, more bound by commonality than divided by any accident of birth?

That those accidents of birth are, however, part of our story and so must be respected?

That this respect enriches and does not diminish us?

That we stand or fall together now, on this our single planet that we call home?

And that we must work together to make it work for all is us? 

Isn’t that the story we must now tell, 8nto which we can weave all our preferences as to sub-plot, emphasis and character that we wish, so long as we remember our aim? I came away thinking so. 

And where does Brexit fit into that, as a narrative of alienation, promoted difference, indifference and contempt on so many levels (and yes I include Remain in some of the criticism; me too, if you like)? It does not fit with our humanity. It is not the story we need. And maybe the inability to decide upon it is because this really is not the story we want to tell, hear or partake in at some very deep level.

We know the EU is not perfect. 

We know it has had political failings.

As we have had, too.

But this was not the story to tell to find a solution to those problems. 

There is a better story to tell.

Mine is the Green New Deal in its broadest understanding, as a tale of survival, commonality, joint endeavour, enterprise, change, respect and hope.

Isn’t that a better narrative than the one we’ve got? 

The market is moving to bonds – which is one of the ways the Green New Deal will be funded

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I have been much criticised in recent times by supposed investment specialists for suggesting that there might be any merit in investing in government bonds. In that context I note this morning that the FT reports that:

The global bond market rally accelerated on Wednesday, as New Zealand’s central bank became the latest to sound a gloomy note on economic growth and traders ratcheted up bets that the Federal Reserve will start cutting interest rates this year. The 10-year Treasury yield slipped another 6 basis points to 2.37 per cent, the lowest since 2017, as the US bond market heads towards its second-best monthly performance in more than a decade. The yield fell further in Asia trading on Thursday, slipping to a near 16-month low of 2.34 per cent.

As they add:

Traders are now betting that there is almost an 80 per cent probability of the Fed trimming rates at least once this year — and a meaningful chance of several cuts.

And why are people buying bonds? Because they want safety. And they do not believe equity markets can provide that.

Why can't equity markets do that? First, because of a shortage of demand. Some of that is down to low pay. Second, it's also partly because people do not want to buy what is on offer (think new phones, diesel cars and planes that don't work). Third, because markets have stopped working out what people want because i) most of the people that markets serve have all they reasonably need and ii) advertising appears not to be working any more. Fourth, because what people want (jobs, a pay rise, security, action on climate change, affordable health care) can only be supplied by the state. And fifth, because those things are not being delivered by market ideologues in legislatures.

So bonds make sense, to the extent that there are ¢10 trillion of negative yielding government bonds in issue right now, and people willingly own them.

So here's an answer. It's a Green New Deal. I hate to point out the obvious. But it's also the only answer I know of. Or that anyone else knows of at present. And if there's one thing the Green New Deal will do it is that it will meet the demand for bonds.

The neoliberal consensus is far too alive and well in Scotland

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With apologies to my non-Scottish readers, what is happening there continues to be of economic and political interest when the rUK only has Brexit and the farce of both Tory and Labour positions on that issue to consider.

And let’s be honest there is something to debate there when in Westminster there appears to only be consensus on a) promoting politically fantastic ideas on Brexit and b) crashing out of the EU.

The latest twist on Scotland is a new report that CommonSpace reported yesterday, saying:

An off-shoot paper from the SNP’s Growth Commission has echoed its economic strategy but for a devolved context, advocating fiscal discipline, restricting government expenditures and tax competition with other small nations.

As they add:

‘Policy insights for Scotland from small advanced nations’, authored by Dr Skilling, who sat on the SNP’s Growth Commission and is a former New Zealand government economic advisor, was launched in Edinburgh this morning [7 June] with Tory shadow Finance Minister Murdo Fraser, Labour Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie and SNP MSP Kate Forbes speaking at the launch.

So, Dr Skilling, who was an adviser to the neoliberal New Zealand government that has been rejected by its voters, put forward pure Washington Consensus neoliberal nonsense straight out of the George Osborne austerity copy-book as a spin off from the SNP Growth Commission, which Skilling advised, and Labour and the Tories applauded.

Please don’t tell me that the neoliberal consensus is not alive and well and in UK politics - as it very clearly is.

I am, however, hopeful that this weekiend’s SNP confernece many see a backlash begin, however, co-ordinated the leadership’s backing for the trusty awful Growth Commission recommendations might be.

 

Would the neoliberals leave Scotland alone.

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The Times has (gleefully) reported this morning that:

An independent Scotland would have to move quickly to cut its deficit and face a choice between the UK or EU markets if there is a hard Brexit, an adviser to the SNP’s growth commission has said.

They continue:

David Skilling said there was more the Scottish government could do now with existing powers to grow its economy, and in a new report cited data suggesting that the country was lagging behind similar-sized nations in exports, schools standards and economic growth.

And add:

A former adviser at the New Zealand treasury, Mr Skilling gave advice to the group that drew up the SNP’s latest blueprint for independence, published last month. The document, which called for tight restrictions on public spending after leaving the UK, has split the pro-independence movement with many on the left saying it would result in a continuation of austerity policies pursued by the UK government.

Mr Skilling’s radoning was that in theses situations:

It was clear that Scotland would have to set out credible plans to cut its deficit, estimated at 8.3 per cent of GDP, to reassure markets.

And I agree: that might be necessary if Scotland did, as the archly neoliberal thinks appropriate, fix its currency against sterling. Of course in that case Scotland would have no choice but spend all its earnings trying to maintain parity with the pound, crushing economic growth in the process.

But if Scotland had its own currency and let it float, as it would have to, Scotland could concentrate on delivering full employment instead.

I am nit saying the folly of the rUK would have no impact in that case; clearly it would. But Scotland would be able to mitigate it rather than be dragged down by it, as neoliberals desire.

It really is time for the neoliberal world view to be rejected by Scotland. Indeed, that is much of what independence would be about.

Oil will have to stay in the ground

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The FT has reported this morning that:

New Zealand has become one of the world’s first countries to ban future offshore oil and gas exploration in a move heralded by environmental campaigners as a symbolic blow to “Big Oil”.

The South Pacific nation’s ban is an important policy move at a time when nations are exploring how to comply with their requirements under the Paris climate change agreement.

I think it was just coincidence that the FT also reports this morning that:

Royal Dutch Shell said it saw little risk of being left with “stranded assets” as the world begins to shift away from fossil fuels and promised to keep pace with the global transition to cleaner energy. The Anglo-Dutch group said 80 per cent of its current proved oil and gas reserves would be produced by 2030, when it expects demand for those hydrocarbons to be higher than it is today even under its most aggressive scenario for growth in alternative forms of energy.

The issue is threefold. First, we know we need to burn less. There is no doubt about that, Full marks to New Zealand then.

Second, most extractive companies are valued not on their current profits but on the reserves that they hold. And as my old friend and fellow Green New Dealer, Jeremey Leggett, has long suggested,  most of their known reserves are going to have to stay in the ground if the world is not to fry.

So, third, we face both a massive energy crisis and a financial one too as the enormous valuation placed on those reserves in the world's financial markets collapses, as surely it will.

New Zealand has made a smart move. Shell is just blustering. The writing is on the wall. For pension funds and others following New Zealand's example and getting out of fossil fuel now might be the very best thing that they can do. Oil is going to have to stay in the ground, whatever the impact on profits. And we'll all have to pay the price for that.

Deliberately created secrecy is still facilitating financial abuse

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The Tax Justice Network Financial Secrecy Index was published this evening. As is said on the FSI site:

The Financial Secrecy Index ranks jurisdictions according to their secrecy and the scale of their offshore financial activities. A politically neutral ranking, it is a tool for understanding global financial secrecy, tax havens or secrecy jurisdictions, and illicit financial flows or capital flight.

The ranking looks like this:

Click on a jurisdiction's name to see the main report; and on its FSI value to access full database content. If you want to sort the table by a different column just click on the header by which you want to sort.
DownloadPDF | Excel
Rank Jurisdiction FSI - Value6 FSI Share7 Secrecy Score4 Global Scale Weight5
1  PDF Switzerland2 1,589.57 5.01% 76 4.50%
2  PDF USA2 1,298.47 4.09% 60 22.30%
3  PDF Cayman Islands2 1,267.68 3.99% 72 3.78%
4  PDF Hong Kong2 1,243.67 3.92% 71 4.16%
5  PDF Singapore2 1,081.98 3.41% 67 4.57%
6  PDF Luxembourg2 975.91 3.07% 58 12.13%
7  PDF Germany2 768.95 2.42% 59 5.16%
8  PDF Taiwan2 743.37 2.34% 76 0.50%
9  PDF United Arab Emirates (Dubai)2,3 661.14 2.08% 84 0.14%
10  PDF Guernsey2 658.91 2.07% 72 0.52%
11  PDF Lebanon2 644.41 2.03% 72 0.51%
12  PDF Panama2 625.84 1.97% 77 0.26%
13 Japan 623.91 1.96% 60 2.23%
14  PDF Netherlands2 598.80 1.88% 66 0.90%
15 Thailand 550.59 1.73% 80 0.12%
16  PDF British Virgin Islands2 502.75 1.58% 69 0.37%
17  PDF Bahrain2 490.70 1.54% 78 0.11%
18  PDF Jersey2 438.21 1.38% 65 0.38%
19 Bahamas 429.00 1.35% 84 0.03%
20 Malta 426.31 1.34% 61 0.71%
21  PDF Canada2 425.84 1.34% 55 1.74%
22 Macao 424.91 1.34% 68 0.23%
23  PDF United Kingdom2 423.76 1.33% 42 17.36%
24  PDF Cyprus2 404.44 1.27% 61 0.54%
25 France 404.17 1.27% 52 2.52%
26  PDF Ireland2 387.94 1.22% 51 2.66%
27  PDF Kenya2 378.34 1.19% 80 0.04%
28 China 372.57 1.17% 60 0.50%
29 Russia 361.15 1.13% 64 0.26%
30  PDF Turkey2 353.88 1.11% 68 0.14%
31 Malaysia (Labuan)3 335.10 1.05% 72 0.07%
32  PDF India2 316.62 0.99% 52 1.16%
33 South Korea 314.05 0.99% 59 0.35%
34  PDF Israel2 313.55 0.98% 63 0.19%
35  PDF Austria2 310.41 0.97% 56 0.56%
36 Bermuda 281.82 0.88% 73 0.03%
37 Saudi Arabia 278.57 0.87% 70 0.05%
38  PDF Liberia2 277.28 0.87% 80 0.01%
39 Marshall Islands 275.28 0.86% 73 0.03%
40 Philippines 269.81 0.85% 65 0.09%
41  PDF Italy2 254.14 0.80% 49 0.92%
42 Isle of Man 248.68 0.78% 64 0.09%
43 Ukraine 246.24 0.77% 69 0.04%
44  PDF Australia2 244.35 0.77% 51 0.60%
45  PDF Norway2 242.84 0.76% 52 0.55%
46 Liechtenstein 240.85 0.76% 78 0.01%
47  PDF Romania2 232.30 0.73% 66 0.05%
48 Barbados 230.95 0.72% 74 0.01%
49  PDF Mauritius2 223.47 0.70% 72 0.02%
50  PDF South Africa2 216.43 0.68% 56 0.18%
51 Poland 215.39 0.67% 57 0.14%
52 Spain 213.88 0.67% 48 0.76%
53  PDF Belgium2 212.96 0.67% 44 1.56%
54 Sweden 203.54 0.64% 45 1.01%
55 Latvia 195.64 0.61% 57 0.11%
56 Anguilla 195.03 0.61% 78 0.00%
57 Indonesia 188.78 0.59% 61 0.05%
58  PDF New Zealand2 178.56 0.56% 56 0.10%
59 Costa Rica 168.77 0.53% 69 0.01%
60 Chile 168.64 0.53% 62 0.03%
61  PDF Denmark2 166.11 0.52% 52 0.15%
62 Paraguay 158.52 0.50% 84 0.00%
63 St. Kitts and Nevis 152.54 0.48% 77 0.00%
64 Portugal (Madeira)3 151.62 0.47% 55 0.08%
65 Puerto Rico 151.06 0.47% 77 0.00%
66  PDF Vanuatu2 149.26 0.47% 89 0.00%
67 Uruguay 148.20 0.46% 61 0.02%
68  PDF Aruba2 148.04 0.46% 76 0.00%
69 Dominican Republic 147.08 0.46% 72 0.00%
70 Czech Republic 145.10 0.45% 53 0.09%
71 Finland 142.23 0.44% 53 0.09%
72 Iceland 139.69 0.44% 60 0.02%
73  PDF Brazil2 137.99 0.43% 49 0.16%
74 Hungary 132.73 0.41% 55 0.05%
75  PDF Tanzania2 128.91 0.40% 73 0.00%
76 Slovakia 127.88 0.40% 55 0.04%
77 Seychelles 125.26 0.39% 75 0.00%
78  PDF Guatemala2 123.62 0.39% 73 0.00%
79 Croatia 119.36 0.37% 59 0.01%
80 Greece 118.58 0.37% 58 0.02%
81 Samoa 115.90 0.36% 78 0.00%
82 Mexico 107.57 0.33% 54 0.03%
83 Gibraltar 107.44 0.33% 71 0.00%
84  PDF Curacao2 105.65 0.33% 75 0.00%
85 Venezuela 105.03 0.33% 69 0.00%
86 US Virgin Islands 101.89 0.32% 73 0.00%
87 Turks and Caicos Islands 98.07 0.30% 77 0.00%
88 Bolivia 94.82 0.29% 80 0.00%
89 Bulgaria 91.38 0.28% 54 0.01%
90  PDF Belize2 86.30 0.27% 75 0.00%
91 Brunei 85.59 0.27% 84 0.00%
92 Monaco 82.93 0.26% 78 0.00%
93 Estonia 79.46 0.25% 51 0.02%
94 Maldives 74.87 0.23% 81 0.00%
95  PDF Ghana2 68.85 0.21% 62 0.00%
96 Dominica 62.02 0.19% 77 0.00%
97 Lithuania 58.74 0.18% 47 0.01%
98 Antigua and Barbuda 54.53 0.17% 87 0.00%
99 Montenegro 52.64 0.16% 63 0.00%
100 Cook Islands 44.97 0.14% 75 0.00%
101 Grenada 44.60 0.14% 77 0.00%
102 Macedonia 39.76 0.12% 61 0.00%
103  PDF Botswana2 39.44 0.12% 69 0.00%
104 Slovenia 35.32 0.11% 42 0.01%
105 Andorra 35.05 0.11% 66 0.00%
106  PDF Gambia2 34.51 0.10% 77 0.00%
107 Trinidad and Tobago 27.86 0.08% 65 0.00%
108 Nauru 26.32 0.08% 67 0.00%
109 San Marino 24.31 0.07% 64 0.00%
110 St. Lucia 21.52 0.06% 78 0.00%
111 St. Vincent and the Grenadines 21.37 0.06% 70 0.00%
112 Montserrat 16.53 0.05% 78 0.00%

 

Footnote 1: The territories marked in Dark Blue are Overseas Territories (OTs) and Crown Dependencies (CDs) where the Queen is head of state; powers to appoint key government officials rest with the British Crown; laws must be approved in London; and the UK government holds various other powers (see here for more details: www.financialsecrecyindex.com/PDF/UnitedKingdom.pdf). Territories marked in light blue are British Commonwealth territories which are not OTs or CDs but whose final court of appeal is the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London (see here for more details: http://www.taxjustice.net/cms/upload/pdf/Privy_Council_and_Secrecy_Scores.pdf). To compute an FSI for the entire group of OTs and CDs (or also including the UK), we first need to calculate the group's joint Secrecy Score and joint Global Scale Weight. Calculating the joint Global Scale Weight is straightforward - we just sum up each jurisdiction's individual Global Scale Weight to arrive at 22.57% (or 5.2% excluding the UK). To combine the Secrecy Scores, we see at least four relevant options. Three of the four options result in the UK and its satellite network of secrecy jurisdictions to top the FSI by a large margin (read more on page 161, in: http://www.financialsecrecyindex.com/PDF/FSI-Methodology.pdf). Note that our list excludes many British Commonwealth realms where the Queen remains head of state.
Footnote 2: For these jurisdictions, we provide special narrative reports exploring the history and politics of their offshore sectors. You can read and download these reports by clicking on the country name.
Footnote 3: For these jurisdictions, we took the secrecy score for the sub-national jurisdiction alone, but the Global Scale Weight (GSW) for the entire country. This is not ideal: we would prefer to use GSW data for sub-national jurisdictions - but this data is simply not available. As a result, these jurisdictions might be ranked higher in the index than is warranted.
Footnote 4: The Secrecy Scores are calculated based on 20 indicators. For full explanation of the methodology and data sources, please read our FSI-methodology document, here: www.financialsecrecyindex.com/PDF/FSI-Methodology.pdf
Footnote 5: The Global Scale Weight represent a jurisdiction's share in global financial services exports. For full explanation of the methodology and data sources, please read our FSI-methodology document, here: www.financialsecrecyindex.com/PDF/FSI-Methodology.pdf
Footnote 6: The FSI Value is calculated by multiplying the cube of the Secrecy Score with the cube root of the Global Scale Weight. The final result is divided through by one hundred for presentational clarity.
Footnote 7: The FSI Share is calculated by summing up all FSI Values, and then dividing each countries FSI Value by the total sum, expressed in percentages.

Why does this matter? As TJN says:

Financial secrecy is a key facilitator of financial crime, and illicit financial flows including money laundering, corruption and tax evasion. Jurisdictions who fail to contain it deny citizens elsewhere their human rights and exacerbate global inequality.

The issue of secrecy facilitating financial abuse is far from resolved as yet. The campaign to end it must go on.

The December Taxcast

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In the December 2016 Tax Justice Network Taxcast: In trusts we trust? We look at the new game in town: beneficial ownership avoidance, the booming industry in alternative escape vehicles from public registers and why we must shine the spotlight on all of them.

Plus: we discuss two big stories we think will define 2017: the race to the bottom between nations on tax aka a transfer of wealth to the corporate community, and how the world’s biggest havens are increasingly having to account for the devastating effect their tax and/or financial secrecy policies are having on human rights around the world.

We also report from the appeal of tax justice heroes Antoine Deltour and Rapahel Halet in Luxembourg.

Featuring: Lawyer Paul Beckett of cyber-intelligence agency Synceritas, journalist and financial sleuth Richard Smith of Naked Capitalism, and John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network. Produced and presented for the Tax Justice Network by Naomi Fowler.

 

"What has happened worldwide is a new phenomenon which I have called beneficial ownership avoidance…the danger is that if one of these structures is established by someone who is less than scrupulous the client going forward can say when asked, do you have an interest under a trust anywhere? The answer is no. Do you own this particular asset? No.”

~Paul Beckett

“There’s been a boom in New Zealand trusts and the suspicion has to be that there’s plenty more oligarchs and the like using these structures to obfuscate ownership.”

~Richard Smith

“The race to bottom between nations on tax is a game for losers…this does nothing at all to improve productivity or growth or the quality of economics anywhere, it quite simply is a transfer of wealth to the corporate community”

~John Christensen

Want more Taxcasts? The full playlist is here.

Want to subscribe? Subscribe via email by contacting the Taxcast producer on naomi [at] taxjustice.net OR subscribe to the Taxcast RSS feed here OR subscribe to our youtube channel, Tax Justice TV OR find us on iTunes

Further reading: Paul R Beckett M.A., M.St. (Oxon.), FRSA, MCIArb., TEP, Isle of Man Advocate and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales – Beneficial Ownership Avoidance: G20 High Level Principles: a Paper Tiger?