Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Robert Costanza

Of Bats, Bees and Capitalism: The Two insurmountable contradictions…

The motto of Neo-liberal capitalists is: “Economical Factors that can be monetarily evaluated should be considered as Capital to be plundered

You read that the economists have lately estimated that Nature can extend worth of 54,000 billion per year on services rendered . What that means?

That concept of valuing the various services that nature are saving the corporations was first contemplated in 1997 by Robert Costanza, and the studies multiplied since then. For example:

Bats save $23 bn per year in the US on pesticides

Bees and pollinating insects save $190 bn per year.

You read that daily transactions amount to over what all nations produced in GNP for an entire year. What that means?

The neoliberal capitalists have been trying hard to eliminate the notion of “value of work” and replace this term with “circulation of capital” as the main wealth generating factor, sort of connecting work with exchange value and disconnecting human work as a significant value.

Neo-capitalists want to equate value with everything that can be transformed into capital, including knowledge, talents, health care, education, potable water, breathable air… Everything that maintain life and the survival of mankind has to be taxed and “capitalized”…

To that end, multinational corporations and financial institutions are giving their best shots for handicapping States sovereign power for enacting laws that safeguard the best interest of their people.  Like How? Allowing multinationals to sue States at an international commerce tribunal for laws that are not to the corporations interests…

It turns out that it has very little to do with meaningful human freedom, and rather a lot to do with corporate freedom – the freedom of corporations to extract and exploit without hindrance.

“Free trade” agreements such as North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the latest Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), focus primarily on battering down import barriers, curbing labour unions, reducing restrictions on pollution, legalizing capital flight, cutting corporate taxes, eliminating state subsidies for local industries, privatising public assets, and extending foreign patent protections.

None of these measures have to do with enhancing human freedom. Rather, they are designed in the interests of multinational corporations, who through them gain access to new export markets and investment opportunities, and cheaper labour and raw materials.

The disturbing thing about the rhetorical strategy of “free trade” is that the very things that do promote real human freedoms – such as the right of workers to organise, equal access to decent public services, and safeguards for a healthy environment – are cast as somehow anti-democratic, or even totalitarian.

This term of freedoms in Free trade is an obvious propaganda term, a form of Orwellian doublethink that means exactly the opposite of what it claims.

The constraints are reframed as “red tape”, as “market interventions”, or as “barriers to investment”, even when, as is almost always the case, they have been won by popular grassroots movements exercising democratic franchise

In two new “free trade” deals that are about to come into effect: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which will govern trade between the US and the European Union, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which will govern trade between the US and a number of Pacific nations.

We hear very little about these deals because they are shrouded in secrecy, and because six of the corporations leading the negotiations happen to control 90 percent of our media.

Yet, we need to pay attention, because these deals are set to form the blueprint for a new global order.

In addition to battering down import tariffs and privatising public services, the latest trade agreements grant corporations the power to strike down the laws of sovereign nations. You read that right.

Neo-capitalism has created two contradictions that is handicapping any progress in sustainability of nature and mankind.

1. The devaluation of the human workforce has generated s surplus in production in the industrial sectors. The consequences were acute rates of unemployment in almost all the industrialized nations, reduction in social protection level (health, unemployment pay, retirement, schooling…), and a  terrible growth of  wealth inequality and life-styles…

2. The infinite accumulation of capital is confronting earth natural limitations: destabilization of eco-systems, diminishing of natural resources that cannot be regenerated, degrading biodiversity, generating multiple polluting calamities (rivers, air, soil…), and climate change…

Neo-liberal capitalism is dealing with two contradicting challenges:

1. Cannot exploit human labor beyond a certain level of no return without ruining the potential for further expansion

2. Cannot transgress nature limitations in massive exploitation without destroying the basis of material accumulation…

These two inseparable and insurmountable contradictions between human labor and nature limitations have forced the multinational corporations, particularly the financial multinationals, to drop their previous illusions of auto-sufficiency and  endogenous source of value

A new “explicit” dimension of value is taking roots: Knowledge in the production process or the Cognitive Capital.

Question: How knowledge and what kinds of knowledge may modify the meaning of value?

Knowledge in all fields of study and applications is a collective endeavor and imposing high fees on license, trademark and corporation registered patents are extreme barriers that handicap the emerging nations to contribute effectively to word wealth sustainability…

Only applied knowledge in production can be exploited as exchange value, but never the spirit of acquiring knowledge…

Obviously “feeling good” attitude and having hope for a better future are not in the capitalism vocabulary to quantify in their economic models, or the multiple interactions among the economic factors that tell the real story for a sustainable environment to mankind.

Note 1: Post inspired by the article of Jean-Marie Harribey in Le Monde Diplomatic #717 under “Of bats and capitalism

Note 2: Read part 1  https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2013/12/25/any-equivalence-between-wealth-and-value-of-bats-and-capitalism-part-1/

Note 3: On Free Trade Agreements https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2013/12/26/free-trade-among-whom-a-death-to-democracy/

Is there any equivalence between Wealth and Value?

Any difference between products (services) in Usage Values versus products for Exchanged?

You read “This person is worth a million

If this person own shares worth one million, or have that wealth in cash, or in real properties, or accumulated through an enterprise, or inherited… would you consider these forms of wealth as equivalent?

If the shares go bust and you find yourself penniless, or the cash has been devalued through currency changes, or properties have been confiscated or not amounting to much after a calamity, or the enterprise was selling illusion of wealth, or the inheritance was divided up early on while alive and has been wasted… what could be the common denominator among all these forms of wealth?

That once upon a time you were wealthy?

That you knew how to accumulate wealth but unable to hold on to?

That feeling poor in old age is overshadowed by a social recognition that you were once rich?

You read that the economists have lately estimated that Nature can extend worth of 54,000 billion per year on services rendered . What that means?

That concept of valuing the various services that nature are saving the corporations was first contemplated in 1997 by Robert Costanza, and the studies multiplied since then. For example:

Bats save $23 bn per year in the US on pesticides

Bees and pollinating insects save $190 bn per year.

And how about the photosynthesis of forests? How much this process saves on accumulated CO2? And valued per ton of CO2 eliminated on the market… A purely political price consensus by the G20

Anything that can be transformed into money is computed by the neoliberal capitalists who have this faculty of absolute recuperation in their mental system.

William Petty once said: “Work is not the unique source for practical values that it produces in material wealth. Work is the father, and land is the mother…”

The new trend among economists is to include all kinds of factors that can be capitalized in their linear models: Sort of analogue addition of variables that include human capital, social capital, knowledge capital, natural capital, communication capital, cognitive capital…

The motto is: “Economical Factors that can be monetarily evaluated should be considered as Capital

One of the problems in these models is ignoring the interactions among the variables, such as the metabolism within the natural eco-systems. All these interconnections that constitute the vast networks for a living condition and the preservation of the productive conditions.

There are new concepts and terms created by international organizations such as the World Bank, the UN Environmental Programs (PNUE) and the Organization of Cooperation and Economic development ( OCDE), and the European Union…. Terms such as “Valuing the living“, “Intrinsic economic value of nature“, and “service value generated by nature”…

Questions:

1.  Can Nature have  Intrinsic economic value since it is not within the social category?

2. Should the wealth of nature be  reduced to political price decision that are reached by consensus of the largest exporting nations?

Since it is human work and efforts exercised on nature that produce values, should the economists and politicians exclude the social context in navigating within a network of interconnected anthropological living organism?

You read that daily transactions amount to over what all nations produced in GNP for an entire year. What that means?

The neoliberal capitalists have been trying hard to eliminate the notion of “value of work” and replace this term with “circulation of capital” as the main wealth producing factor, sort of connecting work with exchange value and disconnecting usage work as a value in generating wealth.

Neo-capitalists want to equate value with everything that can be transformed into capital, including knowledge, talents, health care, education, potable water, breathable air… Everything that maintain life and the survival of mankind has to be taxed and “capitalized”…

Neo-capitalism has created two contradictions that is handicapping any progress in sustainability of nature and mankind. To be explained in the second part.

Note: Post inspired by the article of Jean-Marie Harribey in Le Monde Diplomatic #717 under “Of bats and capitalism

In Pursuit of happiness? How to go about learning and practicing Happiness?

Robert Costanza, Professor of Sustainability and the Director for the Institute for Sustainable Solutions (ISS) at Portland State University, published this account:

“I recently returned from a trip to Bhutan, a small Himalayan country. The enlightened former king had declared that the goal of his country’s policy was “Gross National Happiness” (GNH) rather than “Gross Domestic Product” (GDP).

GDP is the total market value of all final goods and services produced in a country in a given period. But GDP was never intended as a measure of well-being or progress. It only measures national income or activity, and it includes only those goods and services traded for money. It also adds everything together, without differentiating between desirable, well-being-enhancing economic activity and undesirable, well-being-reducing activity.

For example, an oil spill increases GDP because someone has to clean it up, but it obviously detracts from well-being. More crime, more sickness, more war, more pollution, more fires, storms and pestilence are all potentially positives for GDP because they can cause an increase in economic activity.

I say “former king” for two reasons. The first reason is because he passed the crown on to his son. The second is because neither he nor his heir now govern as absolute monarchs. In what must be the first time in recorded history, the king had to convince his subjects (in the face of real opposition) that democracy was a better way.

After a very interesting and unique transition, Bhutan is now a constitutional monarchy – much like the United Kingdom – where the king has mainly ceremonial duties.

The new Prime Minister, Lyonchoen Jigme Y Thinley, and the elected government have set up a “Gross National Happiness Commission” (GNHC) to implement the process of both measuring GNH and ensuring that the country’s policies are aimed at improving it. They have undertaken surveys of GNH and developed a GNH policy screen. National policies include the goal to become the first country to produce only organic food, and to be a net carbon dioxide sink in perpetuity.

Why are the Bhutanese not getting on the bandwagon that GDP growth is the solution to all problems? They recognise that, while traditional economic growth has in the past been a major means to improving social well-being, it is now causing at least as many problems as it solves. GDP growth strategy is no longer sustainable: It is pushing us beyond the planet’s environmentally safe operating space. It is also not always desirable because it only contributes to improved well-being up to a point.

We need a new approach to economic progress that takes into account the hidden costs of traditional growth, on jobs, on families, on society, on nature, and ultimately on our happiness and quality of life and its sustainability.

GDP  takes no account of how the national income is distributed among people, ignoring the fact that a dollar’s worth of income produces more well-being for a poor person than a rich one.

Alternative measures of progress, like the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), adjust for these problems with GDP to arrive at a better approximation of “national well-being”. Results show that while the US GDP has steadily increased since 1950 (with the occasional recession), GPI peaked around 1975 and has been relatively flat or declining ever since.

So what do the Bhutanese mean by GNH? Bhutan recently completed a survey of 8,000 of its citizens, asking them over 200 questions about various aspects of their lives and how satisfied they are with them. It is what social scientists call an assessment of “subjective well-being”, or SWB – an area of research that is getting increasing attention in many quarters of science and policy as part of the emerging “science of happiness”.

In the US, for example, SWB surveys show flat or dropping scores over the last several decades, consistent with the flattening GPI estimates.

But the GNHC and others in Bhutan recognise that there are other, more objective elements that are also important in assessing their country’s overall well-being. Our team was brought in to help incorporate “natural capital” and the ecosystem services it provides into their national accounting framework.

Ecosystem services are the often un-accounted for benefits that people derive from nature – clean air, water, and soil, a stable climate, recreational and spiritual opportunities to connect with nature, and many more. We estimated in a previous study that, on a global basis, these services were worth in aggregate more than all of global GNP combined.

But these services do not yet adequately appear in any country’s national accounts.  Bhutan sees itself as a leader in rectifying this situation. We held a workshop there last March with over 40 representatives from several government agencies, universities and others to assess how best to do this.

We plan to hold a series of follow-up workshops involving students and faculty from the US working with the Bhutanese to help them become a model of sustainable well-being and to help us do the same.

We all have a lot to learn from Bhutan. They are a small county not yet addicted to economic growth in the conventional sense. They can step back and ask the really important questions: What is happiness? How do we best pursue it? How does one person’s happiness depend on everyone else’s? How important is nature to our happiness and its sustainability? How much and what types of material consumption do we really need to be happy?

The founders of the United States also asked themselves many of these same questions. They set up a country devoted to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Bhutan is helping us to better understand the interdependence of all life on earth, the responsibilities that come with individual liberty, and the meaning and measure of happiness.

These are issues we will all have to collaboratively grapple with and better understand if we hope to create a world where humanity can flourish, and be happy within the finite boundaries of the amazing planet we inhabit.” End of quote

I loved the two decisions of focusing on producing organic food, and insuring a net carbon dioxide sink in perpetuity.  These two decisions, if applied consistently, can become cornerstone behavioral change to improving quality of health.

Bhutan is situated upstream of rivers thus, it should be able to provide clear water.  For example, if Bhutan was situated beneath a river polluted by a “developed” State such as China or India, then Bhutan would have hard time securing the necessary funds for the perpetual clean up job.  Bhutan is also in a high-mountain region, thus securing clear air quality must be less costly than in coastal regions.  The main question remains: If States have no such natural conditions as Bhutan, how could they achieve  “Gross National Happiness” (GNH), if they decide to implement their programs?  Shouldn’t the UN reserve a special fund for poor States that decided to implement such programs for clean potable water, and cleaner air quality?

My first question is: “Where does Bhutan rank on the UN Human Development Indicators (HDI)? For example, infantile mortality, early birth mortality, education literacy…?” In a previous article, I mentioned that poor Bangladesh (half India GNP per person) is better ranked than India on HDI (see note).  Clean water, clean air, and organic food production can reduce drastically health problems, but work habits, archaic customs, and social structure (religiously enslaving sections of the citizens to serving the higher classes) need to be revised in order to increasing Human Development Indicators. Analyzing Bhutan social conditions may give indications for the success of this beautiful program.

My second question is: “What rules may a citizen learn to apply in order to “materialize a state of happiness?”  In a previous article, I mentioned that learning to “Process one idea at a time, then resolve one problem at a time” is the golden pragmatic technique to learning “How  to become happy in life”.  If we learn how to be happy, we surely can then learn how to be successful in our community:  A state of happiness is highly contagious.

Note: https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/04/02/development-is-in-human-rights-indicators-comparing-india-and-bangladesh/


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