HABITUAL POLITICAL SELF-CENSORSHIP
by C. L'Hirondelle (with input from other LIFE members)
February 2008 -
Page 1 of 2
In November 2007, Livable Income For Everyone (LIFE) wrote the article "Defining Money and Productive." Our reason for writing this article was to address the commonly held belief--even by those who agree with the need for a Guaranteed Livable Income-that there is just 'not enough money' for a GLI. This led us to investigate the common belief that a) money comes from production, or b) that money *should* come from production.
In this article we quoted and critiqued orthodox economic assertions including those from the Fraser Institute, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Citizen's Income Toronto, monetary reformers, and economic textbooks.
After circulating this article, LIFE received an email from the president of Canada's National Anti-Poverty Organization (NAPO) urging us to not criticize the economic ideas of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).
We are not writing about this incident to specifically focus on NAPO for their advisement to self-censor, nor for their casual dismissal of this issue. This incident is illustrative of how political and economic self-censorship are a hidden barrier to creating social and economic justice.
The paradox of censorship is that we never know when it is happening because censorship is a non-happening. Unless people who are censored or who are asked to be censored, speak to the issue, there is no way to know that it is happening or on what scale it is happening.
Because of the funding structures of non-profits, there is much political and economic self-censorship and censorship. Poverty itself means that people are in a constant state of self-censorship. For example, someone going to a food bank is not going to write a theses on what is wrong with food banks, sign their name, and hammer it onto the food bank door.
This creates a situation where people become habituated to political self-censorship, allowing it to develop--unnoticed--deeper and deeper roots (since it is impossible to notice something that is by nature hidden).
Each historical time has its taboos. Today one of the biggest taboos is money and what is productive: how does world society define and reward activities that it deems "productive," and how does world society punish people and activities that it deems "unproductive." (No talk shows about these topics!)
Self-censorship is now being documented in the sciences.
But it is also important to document self-censorship in the social sciences.
Here in Victoria, BC, in the province that the government calls "the best place on earth," there are many people surviving on very little income. It is common for people to take great care to hide (censor) their lack of income and source of income. People quite naturally wish to avoid the social pain of being pitied, judged, or condemned by those who are part of the social "norm" (with a job and status). Some low-income people censor themselves so severely that they adopt what they think are the values of upper income groups and are harshly judgemental of other people on low-incomes.
More commonly though, people struggle with their lack of voice, their inability to socialize with normals, with suicidal thoughts or with coping strategies.
This, then, is the background to examine this incident where a funded social justice group (NAPO) asked a non-funded social justice group (LIFE) to censor themselves in the movement for a guaranteed livable income.
1) THE OFFENDING WORDS
Below is the offending section of LIFE's article "Defining Money and Production" (page 4, ) that the president of NAPO took issue with, specifically, the paragraph examining the economic assertion of the CCPA on how to define productive.
Traditional Definitions of Productive
The belief that money comes from production, might be widely held, but it is profoundly anti-woman. Why do women in Canada and around the world make up the majority of those surviving on low incomes? According to traditional economics, they simply are not productive.
'The rewards of a market system are linked to productivity..." -- Karl E. Case, Wellesley College, Ray C. Fair, Yale University, "Principles of Economics", (textbook) Prentice-Hall, 1996
'Provision of services that others value is the source of high earnings..." -- James D. Gwartney and Richard L. Stroup, "What everyone should know about Economics and Prosperity", The Fraser Institute (in cooperation with the James Madison Institute), 1993.
Even a 'left' think tank believes money comes from production. After a panel presentation on guaranteed/basic income at a 2005 conference in Vancouver, the BC Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), worried that a guaranteed income would not be affordable since money comes from production. (CCPA Conference: "Imagining Public Policy to Meet Women's Economic Security Needs", Oct. 13-15, 2005, SFU Harbour Centre, Vancouver, personal notes, C. L'Hirondelle)
Even monetary reformists, believe the money supply should correspond to production: "The prudent [bank] lending limit would be not the maximum the act allows, but a level that would not outstrip the productive capacity at hand." -- William Krehm, A Power Unto Itself: The Bank of Canada - the threat to our nation's economy, 1993.
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