July 2015 guest speaker, Ken Johnson

2015-7-21_Ken_Johnson_ed.jpgJuly's meeting was held as usual on the third Tuesday of the month, the 21st, at 11:00 a.m. in the Rod Driver Room at the Dickson Tradies (upstairs at the Quality Hotel entrance).

Ken Johnson (Visiting Fellow at the Fenner School of the Environment & Society, ANU), works on information systems, urban geography policy and planning. He spoke on the following topic:

Where the fuck are we & who is going to save us?"

This humorous title belies some very serious issues confronting our society!


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  • Chris Warren
    commented 2015-09-24 11:17:19 +1000
    In the Vintage Reds meeting on 21 July the guest speaker made several points highlighting that;
    1) work pressures have increased so that there was less time to think or include social activities,
    2) corporate enterprises had grown so large they were able to influence public policy.

    The subsequent discussion considered whether capitalism created these two trends (ie speed-up in business activity, increasing corporate power etc) although it was also suggested that capitalism has “done all-right” once the issues of climate change and population increase were excluded.

    This divergence of views appears based on different perceptions of capitalism and our guest speaker noted, in passing, that markets were not the same thing as capitalism.

    At first glance Australian capitalism has been a roaring success. There have been almost miraculous improvements in living standards and due to a history of struggles from workers and social movements, a portion of these benefits flow throughout all social strata.

    However there are underlying trends suggesting that the capitalist mechanism is damaging social and labour conditions, causing over population, leading to mountains of debt and threatening climate catastrophe.

    There has always been a theory, based on classical economics, that capitalism, entrepreneurship, and competition, contain inherent contradictions that lead to final crisis. Having an economy based on sound commercial principles is one thing, having a capitalist mechanism as its basis is another.

    Now that global debt is over $US200 trillion, inequality is increasing in the long-run, national economies and major banks are needing bailouts and austerity is being imposed, further consideration of these issues is needed. As those attending our July meeting indicated, ours is the first generation which cannot say they are passing the world onto future generations in a better condition than they received it. It is not clear whether ecological crisis or economic crisis will hit us first or whether you can address one without addressing the other.

    Unlike the Victorian era, we have decades of data plus highly developed tools of analysis. We can now point to long-term trends in CO2 emissions, temperature patterns, and economic variables that threaten our future. We can see where we are headed if present trends continue.

    The Trends

    Probably the most damaging trend for the future is that of CO2 concentrations. CO2 levels are increasing and are now over 400 ppm but, more significantly, the rate of increase is itself increasing [see http://archive.is/Wjc2c]

    However capitalism is causing problems. 1) Global debt is now over $200 trillion [see http://archive.is/SNyM5 ]; 2) according to the ILO wages are falling as a share in national product and have been since the 1970’s [see http://archive.is/X5q8b ] and 3) a general rise in economic instability has been observed within capitalist economies since the 1950’s [see http://archive.is/yfSsh].

    All this suggests to me that capitalism has not “done all-right” and may even produce worse conditions for workers in the future.