The Ecologist


Molly Scott Cato

Forget the 'big society'; we just need a co-operative one

Molly Scott Cato

Molly Scott Cato

Claims that we need a 'big society' to fix our 'broken' one are just Victorian throwbacks - we have the business tools to survive; we just need a co-operative attitude to go with them

The debate over the nature of society is not a new one. The sort of moral panic we are witnessing today, with claims about a ‘broken society’, are a dim echo of the horrors conjured up by Victorian social commentators and novelists who witnessed the brutality human beings were capable of when uprooted from their familiar culture and packed into over-populated, under-serviced industrial towns.

The most lasting and effective response to this dislocation and disempowerment was the rise of the co-operative movement, growing from the demand for wholesome food by the celebrated Rochdale Pioneers in 1844, and rapidly expanding until all areas of social and economic life were encompassed.

In the last half of the twentieth century, the co-operative movement struggled to maintain its identity against the onslaught of market ideology, but it has been in resurgent form in... Read More...

We scare people off by talking about 'degrowth'

Molly Scott Cato

Molly Scott Cato

The French have a much better word for it: 'decroissance'. Using ugly and frightening terms like 'degrowth' won't help pave the way for a new and exciting economics

For an orthodox economist, ‘growth’ is an article of faith. In his book The Growth Illusion, Richard Douthwaite reveals the almost religious awe in which this holy of holies of capitalist economics is held. Its conceptual power is so all-encompassing that an economist would have to call a decline in economic activity, such as that seen in 2009, an example of ‘negative growth’ rather than shrinkage or recession.

Plotting economic growth since 1955 on a graph makes clear how extraordinary is the situation in which we now find ourselves. It shows the consistently upward trend of economic activity in the UK since the end of the Second World War. Economic growth has been increasing exponentially since then. The recession following the financial crisis of 2008 is a dramatic break in the trend, clearly demonstrating a sudden reverse of the continuous series.

Cash = carbon

Although it is apparent to any economist who...

Economists think they are invulnerable and intellectually superior. We all suffer for it

Molly Scott Cato

Molly Scott Cato

'Rational Economic Man' can be a useful mathematical construct. The trouble is, far too many economists seem to have taken him to their heart, and now believe him to be real

In mainstream economic theory, the Rational Economic Man is a device to help us explore how people behave in economic situations, but like the golem of Jewish myth, he appears to have taken on a life of his own.

Forgetting his origin as a conceptual model, the rational economic man (REM) has now become a role-model, so that we have politicians who show off their lack of need for sleep or their ability to negotiate all night, with evident pride in their ability to deny their physical existence. While the rest of us eye our alarm clocks with disgust and look longingly out of the window at the sunny grass, the REM springs forth, already besuited and alert, to make greater profits and avidly maximise his utility.

The REM lies at the heart of the neoclassical economist’s theorising about how economic systems are organised. The utility he seeks to maximise is a narrow, materialistic concept and his mechanism for expanding it is the capitalist marketplace.... Read More...

Iceland's volanco revealed the deep ignorance of jet-setters

Molly Scott Cato

Molly Scott Cato

Why, asks Molly Scott Cato, did it take a volcanic eruption to demonstrate to us the hugely fragile links that hold our modern lives and economy together?

I have lost quite a few friends thanks to Eyjafjallajokull. The view from the moral high-ground was just too good to be kept quiet.

I have not used an airport myself since 2003 and so had always planned my Easter trip to the delightful city of Brno in the Czech Republic to have been made by train. When, much to everyone’s surprise, I arrived back in work on time and in good spirits, I could not resist extolling the beauties of continental train travel.

Faster, stronger... worse

We operate with an in-built assumption that sophisticated, complex and market societies are better able to support their citizens. However, the recent volcanic eruption in Iceland demonstrated that, in many ways, this level of sophistication makes us more vulnerable.

It was at the central station in Prague that I first came across stranded travellers displaced from air to rail. They were like living exemplars of the lack of resilience that... Read More...

What would banks do in a green economy?

Molly Scott-Cato

Molly Scott Cato

Banks - love 'em or hate 'em, they're an integral part of nearly every economic system. But just how would they function in a steady-state, earth-linked economy?

Allowing Adair Turner to create the post-crisis regulatory framework for our banking sector would seem to be a clear example of leaving a gambling addict in charge of the casino. He has been a non-executive director at Standard Chartered Bank and Vice-Chairman of Merrill Lynch Europe, and boss of the lobby group for UK corporations, the Confederation of British Industry. In the turmoil of autumn September 2008 he was brought in to lend weight to the Financial Services Authority, which had demonstrated its utter ineptitude at ensuring standards of probity and had played its own part in destroying the credibility of the banking sector.

I feel the need to establish his track-record before saying that many of the proposals in Lord Turner’s review of the banking sector are rather good ones. He proposes, along with many greens, that government should take more control over the banking... Read More...

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