Self-esteem, commie ideas and women's poverty
The following was written by C.L'Hirondelle to respond to a critique of Guaranteed Livable Income that was sent to the PAR-L email list June 27, 2006
PART I: Self-Esteem and Skills as solution to women's oppression??
It has been proposed that women's oppression can be eliminated by giving women "self-esteem and skills "and NOT by changing an economic system that A) relies on the unpaid work of women to produce the entire human species and B) economically penalizes them for doing this work.
No we don't need to change that. Women can just keep doing all the unpaid work on top of their other work, right? After all, maintaining and caring for the human species is just a small hobby women can do on the side of their "real" job. And just think, we get paid in hugs! You can't pay for rent, food or other necessities with hugs, and no one else who does essential work is expected to get paid in hugs, but for women it's just fine! And what do we call economically coerced and unpaid work that is essential to everyone else's well-being? That's not slavery! Is it?
No, our economic system is just fine. That is why half of the world's 6 billion people live on less than $2 a day. http://www.globalissues.org/TradeRelated/Poverty.asp
But hey! All those billions of poor women in the world, just need to get some self-esteem! We could even hold a Live Self-Esteem Aid concert and get some female celebrities to share their secrets of self-esteem with millions of poor women living and dying in poverty here and around the world.
And BC is the Best Place on Earth, just like Premier Campbell says, right? That is why between June 2002 and January 2005, 32 months, 6065 people left the "welfare rolls via the morgue". Source: http://thetyee.ca/News/2005/08/18/WelfareRolls/
And even though Jobs as a method of wealth distribution is fundamentally flawed to the point where our hard work is killing the planet, that's okay! We might not have a planet left but we will have self-esteem for all the hard work we've done commodifying every natural resource we can get our hands on.
Around the world water tables are being drained in many countries to grow flowers or to make coca cola. “Coke's indiscriminate mining of groundwater has dried up many wells, and contaminated the remainder.”
Just think of all the development of more suburbs, think of all the "planted flowers" they will need to pretty up the chemical laden lawns! Think of all the "jobs" that can be created by having to mow all those lawns, and all the new leaf blowers that will be needed to keep those lawns and driveways clean! Isn't jobs and economic growth a beautiful thing! Much better than that messy wilderness or bogs, or wetlands or prairie grasslands with their annoying birds and other wildlife. And who cares that people are crying over the potential loss of the actual spirit bears of BC, when we have six foot tall white fiberglass bears decked out in tuxedos and lingerie standing on sidewalks all over Victoria with their paw uplifted in a frozen wave to tourists (who apparently love taking their picture with them).
Many people when looking at solutions to poverty think that if something worked for them, then it is the solution for all. If they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and "broke a few nails", then everyone can do it! This asserts that there is no systemic creation of poverty but that it is all up to the individual. This implies that if half the world's population or more are poor, are they all lazy! They don't want to "break a sweat" or "break a nail" and they need to "get their life together."
PART II: Commie ideas and the fatal logic of economic growth
So proposing a GLI is "flogging a communist type program." Fine then. Let's do away with all Commie ideas... No commie public health care, no commie public schools, no commie public libraries, commie public sidewalks, no commie public roads with their commie traffic lights, and we don't need to flush our private crap down the commie sewer system. And certainly no commie income distribution either. Work or die is the way to go. How could bosses get slaves for the fields if there is a guaranteed livable income? My god, some people might actually have to get their own hands dirty or clean their own toilets!
Yes, much more logical to pursue infinite economic growth for infinite more jobs for the 6 billion people on the planet who need a livable income even though we use FINITE natural resources to create that "growth." So there are lots of jobs "planting flowers"? Plough up everything to "plant flowers" or other cash crops. Don't worry about crop gluts and dumping surpluses. Don't worry that some farmers are installing wheat burning furnaces because it is more economical to burn it than to sell it.
“...economic growth has enriched the few, impoverished the many and endangered the planet.” (Richard Douthwaite, The Growth Illusion, 1999) “...the result is an economic system that is mindlessly converting life into money in an act of economic insanity.” (David Korten, forward to Growth Illusion, 1999)
“…earth is thus stripped and polluted by ever more unfettered global market operations… When objections are raised, the followers of the paradigm that rules sternly warn that all is necessary ‘to keep the economy going’" (The Cancer Stage Of Capitalism, John McMurtry )
“continuation of the industrial growth model can only lead to further ecological destruction and to greater inequality, deeper poverty.” Maria Mies, Vandana Shiva, Eco-Feminism, 1993
The quest for full employment will only make the current ecological crisis worse: First, people will be forced to continue to do ecologically destructive work in order to feed themselves and their families, and second, make-work projects are vastly more wasteful than just giving people money directly. Even though jobs are a relatively new invention for humanity, it is not surprising that you, like a majority of people, believe in jobism "the belief in jobs as a solution to all social and economic problems." http://www.livableincome.org/jobism.htm
The problem is, work for work's sake is intensely wasteful of natural resources. "That 50 per cent, or more, of society's labor is wasted has been known by some of the world's best philosophers and was discussed extensively in academic circles seventy years ago." (J.W.Smith, The World's Wasted Wealth II, Institute for Economic Democracy, 1994.)
“William Rees, an urban planner at the University of British Columbia, estimated that it requires four to six hectares of land to maintain the consumption level of the average person from a high-consumption country. The problem is that in 1990, worldwide there were only 1.7 hectares of ecologically productive land for each person.”
"A society in which consumption has to be artificially stimulated in order to keep production going is a society founded on trash and waste, and such a society is a house built on sand." (1947, Dorothy L. Sayers, "Creed or Chaos")
The goal of seeking job creation through economic growth is a goal that seeks to increase the world's consumption. It requires more planned obsolescence and bigger landfills. And yet because of free will and limits to consumption this is an impossible, ecocidal goal.
“Growing numbers of people are beginning to realize that capitalism is the uncontrollable force driving our ecological crisis, only to become frozen in their tracks by the awesome implications of the insight.” Joel Kovel, The Enemy of Nature (2001) http://www.joelkovel.org/offthepress.html#enemyofnature
"Without a GLI people won't have a means to stop destroying nature. Instead of building more homes for people, the business sector insists that world society needs more luxury housing, hotels, office buildings, shopping malls, sporting arenas, golf courses and so on. The business sector also wants to use our time and resources to drill for more oil and to dig out more gold and diamonds. The world's business community wants to privatize the world's lands and resources to grow more coffee, tea, cotton, sugar, tobacco, cut flowers and other cash crops. Not only does the repeated consumption of certain products make people sick, it also makes all forms of life progressively sicker by polluting the air, water and soil that gives us all life." http://www.livableincome.org/environment.htm
We need a universal solution to poverty. Trying to create livable incomes for all the people on the planet who need one through ramping up economic growth would put even more strain on the environment. We'd have to harvest the whole planet, turn it into cash and then have what exactly, left? Trying to create good paying jobs for all impoverished people in the world (over 2.8 billion people) would mean we would need several more planets of for resources and several more planets for waste even if we didn’t have the glut of good problem or limits to consumption.
PART III: Ten Points that must be refuted before proposing jobs as a solution to poverty
Just how do people who advocate jobs as a solution to poverty intend to address these following problems which include: massive poverty, exploitation of half the world's population, massive waste and degradation of nature, and the continued denial of mass murder, theft of indigenous lands and slavery as being the roots of economic growth and "development?" The longer these problems go unaddressed, the longer billions of people live and die in poverty.
If there is something wrong with a GLI proposal, people must show how Jobism (http://www.livableincome.org/jobism.htm) would address the following problems:
1) THE NAIRU (The Non-Accelerating Inflationary Rate of Unemployment): When the economy heats up, as it is now, interest rates are raised. Why? "The more rigid wages and salaries are, the more unemployment is necessary to convince individuals that it is appropriate to accept smaller increases in income." Linda McQuaig, quoting an economist from the Bank of Canada in Shooting the Hippo, 1993, (pg. 151)
"The Federal Reserve is almost certain to raise interest rates for the 17th successive time to 5.25 per cent at the end of its two-day policy meeting on Thursday." (Financial Times, June 28 2006)
"It was easy money that helped fuel a boom in housing and consumer spending on big-ticket items, and each quarter-percentage point increase seemed barely perceptible to most consumers and business executives. But two years later, the overnight rate is at 5 percent, and the cumulative impact is increasingly apparent across the most rate-sensitive segments of the economy, including housing, automobile sales and financial markets." (MSNBC, June 28, 2006) http://msnbc.msn.com/id/13599156/
Interest rates are raised to "cool down" the economy when it gets too "hot." When there is not enough "slack" in the labour market, interest rates are raised to create unemployment to stop inflation. See "Unemployment heartwarming to economists" http://www.livableincome.org/unemployment.htm
2) EXPLOITATION OF WOMEN'S UNPAID WORK: Women are supposed to work for free to produce the next generation of humans *in addition to* their work in the formal labour market. That this work is essential to the economy is evident in worried headlines like: "Canada Needs More Kids" (The Province, Aug.9, 04) and "Not enough babies: new threat to economy" (Globe & Mail, Aug. 23, 05), the book "The Empty Cradle" by Phillip Longman, the recent article "Why have children?" by Eric Cohen in Commentary Magazine, June 2006 and Where have all the Children Gone?" article in Public Interest Magazine, Spring 2005 http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0377/is_159/ai_n13684707
There has been no declaration to end the human species. This means that society totally relies on women to produce the next generation. So demanding jobs as the solution to poverty means a continuation of total exploitation of women's work to produce the human species. It means that women pay the externalized costs for all jobs. Many "working people" worry that a guaranteed income would mean a bunch of "lazy" people free-riding on their hard work. However, the opposite is true. Everyone is "free-riding" on the unpaid work of women. http://www.livableincome.org/ahousework.htm (A generous targeted benefit to mothers is also not a solution to this exploitation as women would then face pressure to have babies for economic reasons.)
3) NO PRODUCTIVE CHOICE: "Productive choice would allow people to be able to say "no" to dangerous, degrading or harmful work; "no" to exploitive relationships resulting from poverty, "no" to jobs that harm the environment. It would allow people to say "yes" to work such as caregiving of our own babies and children, our elders, family members with disability, chronic illness, or unexpected health crisis. It would also allow people to do work that is beneficial to the community and to nature. No guaranteed livable income means no productive choice." http://www.livableincome.org/aproductivechoice.htm
4) JOBS IMPOSSIBLE AS A UNIVERSAL SOLUTION: We cannot improve our lot based on the exploitation of other people in other parts of the world. "If one set of women tries to better its material condition as wage-workers, or as consumers, not as human beings, capital will try to offset its possible losses by squeezing another set of women."(Maria Mies, Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale) As I've already stated but must state again: trying to create livable incomes for all the people on the planet who need one through ramping up economic growth and jobs would put even more strain on the environment. We would need several more planets of for resources and several more planets for waste even if we didn’t have the glut of good problem or limits to consumption, as William Rees has pointed out:
5) JOBS FOR ALL = ECOCIDE: "It will be impossible to even begin to save other species and the world's environment as long as billions of people are desperate to escape poverty. People are forced to take any available job regardless of the impact that more production and more consumption has on other peoples, other forms of life and the earth as a whole. Without a GLI people won't have a means to stop destroying nature. Instead of building more homes for people, the business sector insists that world society needs more luxury housing, hotels, office buildings, shopping malls, sporting arenas, golf courses and so on. The business sector also wants to use our time and resources to drill for more oil and to dig out more gold and diamonds. The world's business community wants to privatize the world's lands and resources to grow more coffee, tea, cotton, sugar, tobacco, cut flowers and other cash crops. Not only does the repeated consumption of certain products make people sick, it also makes all forms of life progressively sicker by polluting the air, water and soil that gives us all life." http://www.livableincome.org/environment.htm and http://www.livableincome.org/consumption.htm
6) BAD HEALTH & SOCIAL BREAKDOWN & WAR: Millions of jobs rely on the continued consumption of products that are harmful to health (especially impacting children's health). "The attempt to produce fuller employment by inducing people to consume more products such as fast foods, tobacco, alcohol, soft drinks, donuts, caffeinated drinks, sugared foods, processed foods etc. has caused widespread ill health. " http://www.livableincome.org/health.htm , http://www.livableincome.org/consumption.htm
7) WASTE: "Advocating jobs as a solution to poverty, from either the political left or right still has the same result. It demands that vast quantities of time, energy, resources and people's lives are used by harmful or wasteful economic activities. Even if the government created make-work jobs to relieve poverty there would be massive waste of natural resources --people would use resources going back and forth to work each day, they would need infrastructure and workplaces. Not to mention the tragic waste of human life. The job system is a massive diversion machine - wasting precious resources (natural and human) to create mountains of crap. Just so that people can have jobs."
8) ECONOMIC GLUTS & OVERCAPACITY: “global oversupply of commodities is a direct consequence of the decline in purchasing power and rising levels of poverty” (The Globalization of Poverty by Michel Chossudovsky, 2003) “The progress of civilization has meant the reduction of its employment not its increase.” (Economics in One lesson, Henry Hazlitt, 1946) "The proposal does not deal with the nature of crop agriculture and the reasons why farm programs were established in the first place. As a result, it does not identify how a buyout will serve to address the chronic problem of supply growing faster than demand and the resulting low prices." (April 22, 2005, Daryll E. Ray, Agricultural Policy Analysis Center, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN) http://apacweb.ag.utk.edu/weekcol/246.html
9) FREE WILL: Another problem with using consumption (economic growth) to solve poverty: free will means people do not have to consume to give other people jobs. "Even if we want to consume, there are physical and time limits to consumption. People can only eat so much, drink so much, and their houses (and cars) will only hold so many goods." http://www.livableincome.org/consumption.htm
10) DESTRUCTION OF SUBSISTENCE ECONOMIES
"The war against subsistence is the real war of capital...Only after people's capacity to subsist is destroyed, are they totally and unconditionally in the power of capital." (Maria Mies and Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen, the Subsistence Perspective)
"if entire countries hadn't been exploited as colonies for long periods of time, then there wouldn't be any capitalism." http://www.republicart.net/disc/aeas/mies01_en.htm
"Throughout history the rich and powerful have colluded to use physical force and coercion to gain wealth by stealing it from others and then lying about how they did it."
Again: If there is something wrong with a GLI proposal then show how the jobs "solution" would address the above problems which include: massive poverty, exploitation of half the world's population, massive waste and degradation of nature, and the continued denial of mass murder, theft of indigenous lands and slavery as being the roots of economic growth and "development."
A final comment on vigorous discussions and debates within the social justice and feminist communities: It is much harder to come up with long term universal solutions, which people striving for social justice are trying to do, than it is for people to collude on narrow short term goals of getting as much as possible for themselves and screw the consequences.