Future Focused? Can Labour's finance spokesperson, Grant Robertson, shrug off his reputation for caution and embrace the sort of policies that would signal to voters that Labour has ceased to fear Neoliberalism and is now ready to challenge it? This week's "Future of Work" conference will offer the beginnings of an answer.
WHILE COVERING last December’s COP21 climate change conference in Paris, American broadcaster, Amy Goodman, made an alarming discovery. Climate scientists, the people the world relies upon to tell them the truth about global warming, were pulling their punches. Interviewing Kevin Anderson, of the Tyndale Centre for Climate Change Research, for the current affairs show Democracy Now! Goodman elicited the following admission:
“So far we simply have not been prepared to accept the revolutionary implications of our own findings, and even when we do we are reluctant to voice such thoughts openly… many are ultimately choosing to censor their own research.”
When asked why he and his colleagues were self-censoring, Anderson replied:
“What we are afraid of doing is putting forward analysis that questions the paradigm, the economic way that we run society today… We fine-tune our analysis so that it fits into the economic reality of our society, the current economic framing. Actually our science now asks fundamental questions about this idea of economic growth in the short term, but we’re very reluctant to say that. In fact, the funding bodies are reluctant to fund research that raises those questions.”
So absolute is the hold of the neoliberal economic paradigm on the minds of the professional classes that not even an existential threat to human civilisation can loosen its grip.
Anderson’s last sentence is particularly chilling, because published research is the royal road to advancement in the twenty-first century university. No academic can afford to have his or her research funding cut off. If a research proposal questioning the long-term viability of “the economic way we run society today” causes those holding the purse-strings to raise their eyebrows, then researchers will very quickly learn to ask less dangerous questions.
But, if neoliberalism (a.k.a the free market system) is going to be be the death of us, how do we explain the success of neoliberal political parties around the world? Why: when neoliberal policies are driving the spectacular growth in global inequality; when the real incomes of even middle-class workers are stagnant or declining; when high levels of personal indebtedness – especially among young people – have barricaded the road to a secure future; and when the capitalist economic system, itself, is in the process of triggering abrupt (and probably irreversible) climate change; is the global electorate so willing to re/elect neoliberal politicians such as David Cameron, Tony Abbot and, yes, even John Key, to office?
The answer would appear to be the general failure of “mainstream” opposition politicians to conceptualise a credible alternative to “the current economic framing”. Rather than use their sojourns in opposition to formulate such a challenge, the parties of the centre-left have tried to come up with ways to temporarily blunt the sharper edges of neoliberal policy. Providing short-term relief from neoliberal pain takes precedence over constructing long-term alternatives.
This refusal to challenge neoliberalism at a fundamental level leaves the primary purveyors of the ideology in the political box seat. As National demonstrated with such force at the last general election, the defenders of “the way we run society today” will not hesitate to present their “neoliberal-lite” political opponents as, quite literally, a ship of fools.
This week the New Zealand Labour Party has given itself a grand opportunity to demonstrate its willingness to move beyond the neoliberal paradigm. Its “Future of Work” conference is being held on Auckland’s AUT University campus and will feature presentations by former US Labor Secretary, Robert Reich, and Guy Standing, author of the best-selling book The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class.
There are two political guarantees that would undermine neoliberalism fundamentally: guaranteed work, and a guaranteed income. The former could take the form of the state establishing (and ensuring) a minimum number of hours to be worked by its citizens over the course of their lifetime. The originator of this idea, Andre Gorsz, set the number at 20,000-30,000 hours. In return, the state would guarantee every citizen a universal basic income – not huge, but sufficient to maintain a dignified and secure existence.
These two guarantees would, necessarily, entail a radical redistribution of wealth from the richest 1 percent of citizens to the remaining 99 percent. Equally radical political and social changes would follow in its wake – but no more radical than the political and social upheavals that followed the imposition of neoliberalism in the 1980s.
If Labour is willing to embrace these two guarantees, then it will be well-positioned to stake its claim to the new political territory of the twenty-first century. If it fails to be bold, and continues, instead, to court the “respectability” that comes with paying fealty to the dominant neoliberal paradigm, then its “Future of Work” initiative will founder.
Like the self-censoring climate scientists exposed by Amy Goodman, Labour will have sacrificed its long-term survival for short-term safety.
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 22 March 2016.
The ascent of neoliberalism credible alternatives aside, has been a huge and very successful effort in social engineering. Helped by a supine press. One of the reasons Sanders can't get as much traction as he deserves in the US is that mainstream media tends to ignore him, and concentrate on Trump who sells newspapers whatever his faults :). So having an alternative is one thing, getting it across to the public is another.
The future of work will come about, because if capitalism wants to maintain social adhesion in society they flourish in, then they will pay for stability rather than revolution.
The mini political revolutions taking place today caused by Trump, Sanders and Corbyn will not go away even if those players depart the scene.
There is so much political turmoil to come and it will be fostered by the Muslim war against the west which many liberals argue (now, but this will change) is only a war that is supported by radical islam. They are plain wrong but it will need time and more terrorism for them to change.
Well done Grant Robertson and Labour for placing this matter on the table in NZ, I do not want to criticise but I agree with Chris Trotter that the Future of Labour is tied to the Future of Work.
Labour needs to take the 'bull by the horns' if they want to win this argument, stop being bureaucratic numptys in presentation, a proposal like this for discussion is not good enough.
Get some balls like Trump, Sanders and Corbyn make ot your policy.
This would lead to a huge change to the dynamics of societal living.
With the State demanding by 'establishing (and ENSURING) a minimum number of hours to be worked by its citizens over the course of their lifetime," how would this be policed? There will always be a sub-strata of society who refuse to participate (work).
And "in return, the state would guarantee every citizen a universal basic income – not huge, but sufficient to maintain a dignified and secure existence" - where would the State's potential interference stop (because going down the track as above, it will surely happen) as to what level that income should be for "work" above and beyond the humdrum?
Sounds akin to communism and a bit utopian. For this to work, all of society would have to opt in, and much as we would like it to be, society will never all pull together.
As per usual Chris you set your expectations impossibly high with your romanticism. Which means next month, next article, you will be disappointed, then angry and all that emotional roller coaster will then be directed at blaming Labour -a party you haven't been a member of for 25 years.
The reality is our governing politico-socio-economic systems are giant supertankers and even if heading for danger they take an enormous amount of time and space to change course.
Of course we should turn as soon as possible but a little humbleness on how difficult that will be wouldn't go amiss Chris.
Gee Chris why don't you join up with Labour again and fix their problem if that is all that is needed. Surely you could make the effort and by your mere presence help us to rise from the mire.
As for supertankers, the people in charge of them tend to put too much faith on technology in running them, and abrogate their responsibility to do their job properly. Senior staff are asleep or drunk when they should be on the job, they run down small boats and so commit manslaughter on the high seas, and also I have heard, in busy ports. Did the Picton Pilot on the Mikhail Lemontov get severely punished for wrecking Russia's cruise hip investment because of his whim? In short they know what they should be doing but they are too big to bring to heel. They and politicians who have the game skewed in their favour, they just don't care about the ordinary person. It's nothing to do with changing direction to a different tangent, that is not a place on their compass at all.
Brendon Harre, the supertanker that Labour is on is having a committee meeting on the bridge, so far they have decided to have a bob each-way on TPPA, which has brassed off the crew.
They do not like Chinese and Indian chefs which is unfortunate for the Chinese and Indian chefs who are crew members, the chefs are holding meetings to discuss the situation. Petty officers Phil Twyford and Rob Salmond are pretending that everyone are happy chappys.
Grant Robertson is telling everyone that he has a revolutionary plan, but he will not make that plan his policy until the supertanker has steamed a lot further.
A lot further means closer to shore.
The Captain is in his cabin having a kip.
Unless the ship is steered back on course the supertanker will founder on the rocks, the Captain and officers do not seem to understand this truism, the crew are making the lifeboats ready to launch. They and they alone know the danger.
The biggest disaster in the companys long proud history will happen unless decisions are made and the ship steered off it present course.
Chris Trotter is frantically ringing the danger bell.
Anon @ 13:43. I agree the liberal West has been too bloody up themselves with their own ideals to recognize the basic hostility of a large chunk of Islam to all infidels. I don't agree that all Islamics share this hostility but enough do. To ignore those who declare a war of annihilation on ourselves is plainly delusional. We are at war with a hostile religious doctrine, time to recognise the enemy.
Brennan I left the Labour party because it abandoned it's ideals 26 years ago. That is a hell of a long time to change the course of a super tanker. What is so romantic about suggesting the wheel be untied and turned? I really get off on deliberate shipwrecks not.
If, as they say, within 10 years 50% of all existing jobs will be done by robots and that massive change is every two and a half years then something will have to change. People can't adjust at that speed of change unlike the industrial revolution where change was gradual by comparison. So the question is do we accept the extreme violence of Anerica or do we start thinking about how we can do better. Personally I think we should start to withdraw from the globalisation view which encourages the dog eat dog attitude of today. As an aside I have heard that the Public Trust is talking of getting rid of receptionists. You see they have to save money........
Hmm, it is rather cute to suggest that this whole deal can be funded by taxing the 1% so that it can redistributed to the 99%. However, I presume you know that is not actually true.
A UBI of say $11,000 as suggested by Labour would push up the size of govt to around 40%. At least it is not 45%+ that would happen if the UBI was $15,000 as many propose.
In any event a UBI of $11,000 would mean an increase of govt spending from the current level of around 31% to 40% and that would require tax increases for at least 60% of income earners.
A top rate of 45% for incomes over $100,000 (or maybe $80,000), a standard rate of between 25 and 30% for income between $30,000 and $50,000, with 30 to 35% for income between $50,000 and $80,000.
I would not like to be selling that as policy at election time. But if that is what Labour wants to do, well that is their choice. The voters get to decide.
Nick J, the only Islamics who are not a danger to the West are those who embraced the Wests way of life including the recognition of democracy to elect political leaders to run the country.
They also recognise full human rights for their female family members and society at large.
Those that don't are a danger and will support our Islamic enemies.
The West in most countries are asleep at the wheel on this issue.
America, Europe, Britain and Australia are coming slowly , very slowly coming out of their slumber.
The West is at war, but the present crop of politicians are to inept to declare it, this will change, unfortunately the cost will be high.
We can always rely on you Dr Mapp to map a political course that will take us to the nearest (desert) island. Short-term expediency, with desperate biddable people looking for sustenance from hard task masters, that's your vision for us. Whereas if we altered course a little, we could get past the barren island and find the green land and white clouds of Aotearoa we rejoice in, in myth and song.
We should be talking about changing our symbols, not the flag, but the name, to be changed to Aotearoa which represents our present aspirations and ideals, far better than British-Dutch, New Zealand. And our aspirations are - to toil in the land we live in, on land we own or have affordable access to, to all have a reasonable living, growing our own food, having modern advantages but valuing them and using them till old then recycling them. For luxuries, we earn them by trading the products of the numerous niche markets we can exploit.
Wayne, Labour did not propose a UBI of $200 a week. That was the herald's figure - Labour have not settled on a figure.
$200 a week would represent a large cut for those on welfare who generally receive around $300 a week, sometimes slightly more. Labour are not about to effectively cut benefits further, that would be stupid. Not even Key is likely to do something as fiendish as that.
May as well abolish the welfare state completely with those figures.
The minimum required to live on in Auckland is around $370 a week, and that does not allow for owning a car and nor does it allow for emergencies.
For Labour to be credible at the next election they have to do some important things.
Some have been done like discarding Moira Coatsworth and Tim Barnett - both entirely useless and shockingly inept and lazy in their roles.
Get someone in to seriously fundraise like Mike Williams used to ie not leave a CEO's office until a cheque has been written.
Next is to develop some policy that will resonate with electorate and hammer it relentlessly over the next year or so.
Cull out the old dead-wood MP's. Little should be going around and having some serious heart-to-hearts and telling them that this is your last term. Goff leaving was a good move for a tilt at the Auckland mayoralty.
A tired 3rd term government is a prime opportunity. It Labour's to lose.
Let's see if they have their eyes on the prize.
What happened to the slogan Jobs, Jobs, jobs which Andrew Little used to con delegates to elect him as leader.
Was it humbug ?.
What will happen if the "1%" bugger off to Hong Kong or Singapore, or a tax haven, along with their wealth?
"What will happen if the "1%" bugger off to Hong Kong or Singapore, or a tax haven, along with their wealth?"
Trite. For one thing if they move to Hong Kong or Singapore, they'll have to spend a lot of time indoors filtering their air.
Good question Richard. My thoughts are first, they won't - because Singapore and HK are crap holes with no fly fishing and luxury lodges on unspoiled beaches.
Second, the NZ 1% would find out very very quickly that they are veeeery small fish in a veeeery big pond without the access to power they rely on here.
Third 1% means the 1% at the top - of which there is aways a top 1%.
Fourth, they all got their money somehow, and if they wanted to leave and take their business with them the next person would gleefully take the opportunity to start it up. For example, the banks. Lets say aussie bank A takes NZD1 billion out of NZ a year, and the government said "too much - we are taking half that NZD1 billion". Aussie bank then says "ok we will leave". Don't you rather think some budding entrepreneur will come along fairly quickly, rubbing hands and saying to themselves "NZD500 million - i will certainly take that, thanks for coming!!".
So - call their bluff! Lets see them go! Good luck to em!
Mass migration to a land based economy which is too far away from other economies to be a major production center results in-
1. Real wages will fall
2. Owners of land will benefit because land underpins the New Zealand economy and the supply of land is fixed.
3. There will be an outflow of "native" labour in search of higher wages in Australia
4. The economy will be bigger, but average incomes will fall
5. Resources will flow into low value service production.
That seems to explain well NZ's situation. If Labour can't accept that paradigm (which it won't due to factionalism) then it is kick the can down the road.
Yes Anon 26 Mar at 18.04 I agree.
I went to the inaugural Labour party 'Campaign College' a few years ago in Auckland.
The best Coatsworth could say regarding aspiring MP's or local activists supporting aspiring MP's was 'Sleep more, drink less' and Barnett's top tip for aspiring Labour MP's was 'learn correct pronounciation of Te Reo Maori'.
Without labouring the point, it is a good thing Coatsworth & Barnett have been sent on their way, both entirely useless with nothing effective to add to the Labour party in NZ.
Chris I would be interested in what you would have to say on this post written by Red Logix in Australia, spelling out the good things going on in Ballarat, compared to our mouselike, hole-in-the-wall existence.
Red Logix has been writing for some time now on TS, and I am wondering if Ballarat now would be an example of what NZ would look like now if we had not had the terrible troika; the Treasury, the Douglas Vichy-cabal and the tetchy twins, the Boilermakers Union and the Cooks and Stewards Union.
Several times between 1971 and 1983 the government launched ‘Operation Pluto’, using state domestic airline and air force planes to fly passengers and cars between Wellington and Blenheim during prolonged industrial disputes.
Was it actually a Campaign Collage? There might have been misunderstanding
owing to a simple typo.
the free dictionary says one meaning of collage is -
a. An artistic composition of materials and objects pasted over a surface, often with unifying lines and color.
Unified by red I imagine.
Getting back to your argument here Chris, I believe neo-liberals are also interested in the idea of a UBI. That view is based on reading about it in The Economist over many years now, as it is not a new idea. They would be interested because it could be good for the modern, sophisticated technology based economy neo-liberalism is aimed at creating and sustaining. Not a state socialist or state capitalist one. That's because they think it would only work if it sustains the economy so well it can afford it, so that in their view would only be a capitalist, free market economy.
Yet according to the scientists, the current world economy is destroying the planet. Well, does it have to? Of course not and indeed the last thing a capitalist wants to do is destroy the golden egg laying goose, so I expect your hated neo-liberal economy will indeed adapt to become fully sustainable, since it must. And I believe that is actually underway now. The scientists however tell us it is happening too slowly, so if they are right, and we continue on this trajectory, we will fall short. We will be in even more trouble though if we kill the goose that lays golden eggs before we achieve the sustainable farming of her. So one answer surely includes a yet to be 'neo-neo-liberalism' which would be the fully sustainable version, i.e. one that uses no fossil fuel, produces no pollution, no waste, and yes, provides for a UBI, and one not just at the bread line level. Fully realisable within a generation in my opinion. (Wild optimism? Yes perhaps but we humans progress only through optimism I believe)
Liberal owners of the computers are not going to pay tax,as their computers educate their computers,so who or were is societies taxed humanity money coming from for the mass of redundent humanity $200 per week coming from,not from the mass redundent.
Has the future of the machine,not robot but computer got humanity to grasp to embrace the old school S.P.G.B. UNDERSTANDING our humanity has to work together to survive,for the greeds machine is not going to share its profit.
"the last thing a capitalist wants to do is destroy the golden egg laying goose"
Unfortunately, most capitalists (or for that matter politicians) don't think far enough ahead to avoid destroying the golden goose. They rely on the market. Unfortunately the market reacts too slowly to correct some of the externalities that capitalists produce. And of course some capitalists don't care. They feel that they will simply retreat behind barbed wire or oceans to avoid the consequences of their folly. Encouraged alas by our Prime Minister.
On the contrary GS, I understand most big business in the West is very keen to go green as. Mostly because they think they may lose their 'licence to operate' but also they can make a profit from it. They want regulation first though, that applies to all so competitors don't cheat. Perhaps that would be a world-wide carbon tax, as advocated by The Economist I seem to recall..
A few don't take that view, like Fonterra for example. Idiots. They should have a hill country re-forestation division which would entirely absorb the whole industry's emissions so they could market all of their products as carbon neutral, plus be improving some of our rivers, since forests are hugely better than pasture in that regard. They could also have wood fired boilers....
But no, they carry on burning coal to dry milk which is undifferentiated on the world market. Dinosaurs.
"On the contrary GS, I understand most big business in the West is very keen to go green as."
Have you got a reference for Charles? Because just looking at New Zealand and the US, Green seems to have been abandoned by the wayside. And please don't jump down my throat, it's a genuine question.
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