Jason Hickel: The “economy” is ultimately our material relationship with each other and with the rest of the world

Yes, it can be said that simply.

Our economic system is based on the assumption that nature is infinite, that it has infinite resources and an infinite capacity to absorb the waste of civilization.

That assumption made somewhat sense in the past when we were far fewer and had simpler technology.

Today, with a huge number of people and a much more efficient technology, it’s clearly ecocidal and suicidal. It will be our downfall unless we change it, and that change has to be thorough and profound.

Said another way, assuming an infinite Earth leads to an economy based on extraction and exploitation. What’s easy and attractive to do, for individuals and organizations, is also what’s destructive for nature, ourselves, and future generations.

Transforming our economy to take ecological realities into account leads to an economy based on reciprocity and care. We can create an economic system where what’s easy and attractive to do also supports life – nature, ourselves, and future generations.

It’s not only possible, it’s essential that we do it if we want to survive.

I love Western medicine

I love Western medicine. It has certainly saved my life. I wouldn’t be here without it.

I love the germ theory and sanitation. It has improved the lives of millions, including me.

I love antibiotics. (And phage therapy even if I have not tried it.)

I love the diagnostic methods.

I love epidemiology and what we learn from epidemiology.

I love that the learnings from epidemiology were put to good use during the recent pandemic.

I love the doctors and nurses who have helped me through the years.

I love the limits it has. It has limits like anything else.

Why am I saying this? I went to the hospital last night after a cat bite and received wound cleaning and antibiotics and am profoundly grateful for it. I know from experience how terrible an infection a cat bite can cause. Twice this morning, I heard someone saying they hate something related to Western medicine. One said he hates antibiotics. The other, that he hates hospitals and doctors.

I love it. I love what it has done for the world, especially in terms of sanitation and the prevention of illnesses. I love that it saved my life. (Although if I had died, that would have been OK too.)

In daily life, I don’t make active use of Western medicine. (Apart from benefiting hugely from the germ theory and sanitation.) I don’t take any medicines. Instead, I much prefer herbal medicine, Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, energy healing, using food as medicine, bodymind practices, and so on. And when I need it, when there is a health crisis, I love Western medicine and make use of it. I love that it’s here, even if it’s imperfect. (Just like anything is imperfect.)

Western medicine has a lot to learn. It operates from a very limited worldview. It doesn’t understand much of how other approaches work. It’s very young and in its infancy. As anything else, it’s caught up in our current economic system and there are a lot of terrible things in how it works and how the pharmaceutical industry works. That reflects our current economic system and not medicine itself.

And yet, I love it. It has done so much for us, and it has a lot of potential.

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Economic growth?

I listened to a talk on limits to economic growth, suggesting that we need zero growth or “degrowth”. I know that these ideas were popular several decades ago, and am surprised to see it presented in that way today.

We have an economical system that’s not aligned with ecological realities, and is terrible – for people, the Earth and future generations – no matter what type of growth we have, whether it’s the usual growth, zero growth or degrowth.

We need an economical system that is aligned with ecological realities, where what’s easy and attractive to do – for individuals and corporations – is good for people, the Earth and future generations.

And that is very much possible. We created our current economical system. It made sense, to some extent, at the time it was initially developed. And we can develop a quite different system. A good question here is: if we were to create an economic system today, with our current knowledge and values, how would it look?

A few things are clear: We need strong institutions to regulate it so corporations don’t take over the policy process. And, for instance…….. Strong taxes on what we don’t want or want less of, such as use of fossil fuels and natural resources, and relatively useless activities such as trading stocks. And incentives for what we do want more of, such as renewable energy use, local trading, worker owned businesses, rengenerative design and more.

We can also say that we need an economical system that supports certain types of growth (quality of life, well being, knowledge), more – for a time – of other types of growth (renewable energy, sustainable technology, regenerative design), and far less of other types of “growth” (use of fossil fuel, release of harmful chemicals, extraction of non-renewable resources).

 

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Richard Wolff, author of Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism

Richard Wolff talks about his book Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism.

Imagine a country where the majority of the population reaps the majority of the benefits for their hard work, creative ingenuity and collaborative efforts. Imagine a country where corporate losses aren’t socialized, while gains are captured by an exclusive minority. Imagine a country run as a democracy, from the bottom up, not a plutocracy from the top down. Richard Wolff not only imagines it, but in his compelling, captivating and stunningly reasoned new book, Democracy at Work, he details how we get there from here – and why we absolutely must.
— Nomi Prins about Richard Wolff

Is There an Alternative for Capitalist Economics and Politics? Richard Wolff Says Yes – an interview with Richard Wolff from TruthOut.