Tuesday, 10 June 2014

BOOK REVIEW: "The Other Road to Serfdom" by Eric Zencey: Ecological Economics - Valuing Ecosystem Services

Cover from University Press of New England
by Eric Zencey, UTNE Reader: http://www.utne.com/environment/valuing-ecosystem-services-ze0z1301zsau.aspx

"The Other Road to Serfdom and the Path to Sustainable Democracy" offers a coherent vision, a progressive and hopeful alternative to neoconservative economic and political theory - a foundation for an economy that meets the needs of the 99% and just might help save civilization from ecological and political collapse.

Our planet is finite. Our political and economic systems were designed for an infinite planet. 

These difficult truths anchor the perceptive analysis offered in The Other Road to Serfdom and the Path to Sustainable Democracy (University Press of New England, 2012). 

With wit, energy, and a lucid prose style, Eric Zencey identifies the key elements of "infinite planet" thinking that underlie our economics and our politics - and shows how they must change. 

In the following excerpt from chapter 6, “Getting Over GDP,” learn why society must begin valuing ecosystem services in order to measure the true impact of economic growth.

As currently organized, our economy creates wealth by drawing down natural and social capital, a process that can’t go on forever.

One positive result of an economic slowdown is that it slows this rate of ecological and social degradation, giving our system a little more time and breathing room to make the transition we need to make from our infinite-planet ways.

And, lest you think that in pointing this out progressives and environmentalists are uniquely indifferent to the human sorrows and difficulties wrought by recession, keep in mind that infinite-planet economists have long found a considerable amount of silver lining in the dark clouds of economic woe.

High unemployment reduces “upward pressure” on wages and constrains the non-wage claims of labor, like the desire for safer working conditions; both are taken to be positive developments by corporations and those identified with them, including conservatives who have taken to heart the slogan once offered by a president of GM, “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country.”

To some of these infinite-planet thinkers, recession is also an opportunity to release the economy from unwanted environmental regulation.

Thus the remarkable avowal by Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary: “We would welcome a good, bloody, deep recession for 12 to18 months ... [it would bring a halt to the] environmental bullshit ... that has allowed [Prime Minister] Gordon Brown to double air passenger duty. We need a recession if we are going to see off some of this environmental nonsense.”

With less particularly partisan sympathies, mainstream economists acknowledge that with recession comes what Joseph Schumpeter called “creative destruction,” the failure of outmoded economic structures and their replacement by new, more suitable structures.

Downturns have often given a last, fatality-inducing nudge to dying industries and technologies (very few buggy manufacturers made it through the Great Depression).

With a good portion of 2009’s deficit-financed stimulus money being directed toward building renewable energy infrastructure, recovery from the worldwide Great Recession - the downturn that started with the collapse of the subprime lending market in the United States in 2008 - may leave us with an economy several steps closer to being sustainable, an economy better prepared to deal with the waning of the petroleum era.

Read more: http://www.utne.com/environment/valuing-ecosystem-services-ze0z1301zsau.aspx#ixzz34CJurZRj

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