While the world’s bankers, Central Bankers, and Governments wrestle with a financial crisis so large it has threatened – if it is not contained – to become a systemic crisis of capitalism, the rest of us watch and wait, and wonder what the effects will be.
We recognise the need for action, but we note the irony of vast public funds being made available to rescue the same financial capitalists who habitually advocate the for the ‘reform’ of policy to take away safety nets for the poor and to expose ordinary people to the disciplines of “the market”.
Whether or not the latest rescue package succeeds, there will be economic aftershocks, and we should be wary. In her book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein documents how moments of crisis have been exploited since the 1970s to push unpopular – and otherwise politically impossible – ‘free market’ policies (more accurately, policies favouring the interests of corporate – especially U.S. – capitalism) onto shocked and disoriented publics.
The rest of the world should not expect an Obama Presidency (if it comes to pass) to make much difference to this – it has been a behaviour persistent through changing U.S. Administrations over the decades.
English Green Party candidate and Keele University politics professor Andrew Dobson has written that “the belief that our finite earth places limits on industrial growth” is “the foundation stone of radical green politics” (Dobson, 1995, p.72). For many radical greens, this view still holds today: there is understood to be a strong causal relationship between economic growth and ecological degradation, and it follows that, for the sake of the planet and all the species that inhabit it, including our own, we must put an end to quantitative economic growth.
The view that growth drives ecological degradation has strong roots in New Zealand. The New Zealand Values Party’s election manifesto of 1975, “Beyond Tomorrow“, a founding document of global green politics, opens with the words “Infinite growth is impossible” and goes on to say that “the growth mentality … must be altered.” The alternative put forward is described as a “stable-state society.” Nevertheless, beyond the radical green movement, even among environmentally concerned citizens, this has always been and still is a very much a marginalised view.