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Sustainability: The New Economics with Stephen Williams and Phil Lawn
Episode 1548th January 2022 • Macro N Cheese • Steve Grumbine
00:00:00 00:55:41

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Stephen Williams and Philip Lawn join Steve to discuss the forthcoming book, Sustainability and the New Economics: Synthesising Ecological Economics and Modern Monetary Theory, which Williams co-edited. The book brings together sustainability, ecological economics, and MMT.

As you learn more and more about this thing called sustainability, you realize that it's really the economic system that is at the heart of the problem. It's the economic system you have to change. So when you start studying what we usually call heterodox economics, you soon start to learn about something called ecological economics, which Phil is an expert in. And then you start to hear about this other thing called Modern Monetary Theory. And it turns out these two things are completely complementary, and you need both of them.

The volume is a collection of work by 15 authors or so, all with expertise in different areas, including the relationship between climate change and health impacts, planetary boundaries, sustainable development goals, and law. The book contains chapters by friends of this podcast -- Professor Steve Keen, who looks at the way mainstream economics has perverted the IPCC process, Steven Hail who wrote the chapter on MMT, and Phil Lawn, whose work ties the whole thing together by connecting ecological economics and MMT. In fact, according to Williams, he was the inspiration for the entire project. There is no other book with a focus on this connection.

They explain the extent of the current mess, the post WWII Anthropocene, and examine how we got here, including the birth of neoliberalism, the fossil fuel industry, the publication of the “Limits to Growth” report, (which Steve Keen has talked about in a previous episode of this podcast), and more. Once they’ve laid out the past and the present, they look to the future: where do we go from here?

How do we design a safe and prosperous future? That essentially means what new economic system could we bring in to replace the current failed economic system? Hey, there's nothing more dangerous than a bad idea. And mainstream economics is a terrible idea.

**For a full transcript and “extras” page of this and every episode, go to realprogressives.org/macro-n-cheese-podcast/**

Stephen Williams, from Australia, has a long background in newspaper journalism and a short background in law. His lifelong obsession is the issue of designing societies for maximum well-being and sustainability. This has led him to the study of heterodox economics as an essential suite of tools. He is the co-editor of the forthcoming collected volume, Sustainability and the New Economics: Synthesising Ecological Economics and Modern Monetary Theory(Springer International, 2022).

Based in Adelaide, Philip Lawn is an evidence-based economist and Adjunct Professor at Torrens University, Philip is also research fellow with the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity and a member of the Wakefield Futures Group (South Australia). He is the author and editor of eight books on sustainable development, climate change, and the steady-state economy, and has 55 journal articles and more than 40 book chapters to his name. Philip makes speaking appearances at public events/debates and is regularly invited to deliver keynote and plenary presentations at academic conferences.

#IPCC #MMT #ecological #climate #economics #sustainability #Anthropocene #GISP #Kelton #StevenHail #SteveKeen

Transcripts

Macro N Cheese - Episode 154

Sustainability: The New Economics with Phil Lawn & Stephen Williams

[:

As you learn more and more about this thing called sustainability, you realize that it's really the economic system that is at the heart of the problem. It's the economic system you have to change.

[:

The book is very much a transdisciplinary type of book, even though individual chapters might focus on a particular discipline, it brings a lot of the various disciplines together. And I think that's one of the problems, even at the academic level that we have. Academia is very compartmentalized. That's the reason why, in the past we haven't had modern monetary theory merged with ecological economics.

[:

Now, let's see if we can avoid the apocalypse altogether. Here's another episode of Macro N Cheese with your host, Steve Grumbine.

[:

All right. This is Steve with Macro N Cheese. We have a special interview for you. I will be talking with none other than Professor Philip Lawn and author Stephen Williams. Both of these gentlemen are from down under, and this is an exciting day because we have talked extensively about ecological and environmental impact sustainability.

We've had people like Jason Hickel and we've had Steven Hail on. We have done this over the course of 150 plus podcast interviews. But the author that we're talking to today, Mr. Stephen Williams, had the vision of bringing these people together to create a single book with all these different ecological economists together to put it into one place so that you could have a cohesive analysis of ecological economics.

So I'm very happy. Let me introduce our guests. Professor Phil Lawn. Philip is based in Adelaide. He's an evidence based economist and an adjunct professor at Torrens University. He's also a research fellow with the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity and a member of the Wakefield Futures Group South Australia.

Philip is the author and editor of eight books on sustainable development, climate change, and the Steady State economy, and has 55 Journal articles and more than 40 book chapters to his name. Philip makes speaking appearances at public events, debates, and is regularly invited to deliver keynote and plenary presentations at academic conferences.

by Springer International in:

[00:04:06.510] - Lawn

Thank you.

[:

Thanks, Steve.

[:

Welcome to you.

[:

So it's very early in the morning and due to a couple of technical issues, we missed some good punchlines from a prior effort to take this thing off. But it is Christmas Day in Australia. For those of you listening to this a week later and here in the US, it's Christmas Eve as we're recording this. So we are truly dedicated to the subject.

And with that, I want to ask my guests because this is a really important subject. We do things in one offs. We don't consolidate and look at the whole picture. And I think that that's what this book is doing. It's bringing it all together for a single synthesis and analysis that will tie it all together. And, Stephen, this is your vision. So tell us about the genesis of your book and what it's all about, what you got going on there.

[:

Yeah. Thanks, Steve. So the book, in essence, as you say, it's about sustainability. What is this word? What does it mean and how can we achieve it? Because, hey, let's face it, everyone's for sustainability, right? It's a motherhood issue. No one's going to say I'm against sustainability because that's like saying you want your society to collapse. So it's something we all want.

But very few people know what it is. And very few people, particularly those in power, seem to ask themselves, hey, what is this thing called sustainability? So I come from a long background in environmentalism. And so people like me, we want to stop the destruction of the natural environment. But as you learn more and more about this thing called sustainability, you realize that it's really the economic system that is at the heart of the problem.

It's the economic system you have to change. So when you start studying what we usually call heterodox economics, you soon start to learn about something called ecological economics, which Phil is an expert in. And then you start to hear about this other thing called modern monetary theory. And it turns out these two things are completely complementary and you need both of them.

It seems to me if you're going to achieve this thing called sustainability, which apparently we all want, but very few people bother to try and find out what it is. So that's the genesis of the book. I wanted a book for the average reader. Really, there's no great jargon in the book. We have a glossary that explains the technical terms when we use them.

And there was no book that I was aware of that discussed ecological economics and MMT in the same volume. And this is what we've tried to do, and hopefully we've succeeded.

[:

That's awesome. So with that in mind, you brought Phil in, and Phil is both an ecological economist, but he's also an MMT informed economist as well. So, Phil, how did you come into this?

[:

Well, I just got an invitation from Stephen and Rod to contribute a chapter to the book. And I've got to thank Stephen because at the time, I really didn't want to write a chapter. So some of your listeners may have been aware of a conference that Steven Hail and myself put together here in Adelaide about two years ago, where Bill Mitchell and Stephanie Kelton, were some of the star speakers that was a conference on sustainable prosperity.

So I interviewed as part of one of my presentations, probably the grandfather of ecological economics, Herman Daly. And I in that presentation had a series of PowerPoint slides and what have you. So I just sent the PowerPoint slides and some notes to Stephen and Stephen put together one of the chapters. And then I sort of reworked the chapter.

It was the chapter on ecological economics, the basis of ecological economics and what ecological economics is all about. And so that's how I became part of the project. I also helped Stephen with the introductory and concluding chapters and with the glossary. So that's my role in the book. But it was an invitation from Stephen and Rod, the co-editor of the book. That's how I became involved.

[:

And so you pushed back, huh? You didn't want to do it, but he pulled you along anyway. Is that how it went?

[:

Yeah. He did a great job. I'm really happy with our chapter on ecological economics. I have to say our chapter and I can thank Stephen for I think he did a great job. In fact, I think it's one of the best pieces of work I've done on ecological economics and bringing other elements into it that I produced. I'm very happy with it.

[:

Well, fantastic. Do you think that your focus in writing that chapter maybe pulled you to a new understanding of your own work? Did it change anything about how you saw things? Did it add to your own personal understanding?

[:

I don't think it did that. But one of the things that happens when you write about the same thing over and over again is that you realize how you fail to explain things as well as you probably or possibly could have in the past, and you improve upon it. Every time you write about something, you think of a new way to write about it, add something here, subtract something there, and just including some other elements that I've been thinking about in recent times. I find this is one of the best synthesizing chapters on ecological economics that I've produced. Along with the help of Stephen, of course.

[:

Sure. So, Stephen, let's get back to you. So you pulled together a number of authors to do this. Can you lay out the framework for the book and introduce us to the different authors?

[:

Yes. So the books in three sections, they're a bit artificial, but I think they work reasonably well. The three sections are, first of all, the current mess, and that's to do with things like we're in this thing called the anthropocene, which basically began to kick in after World War II, when economic production really took off in an exponential fashion.

And, of course, everyone's familiar with climate change. But what they tend to miss with climate change is that it's really a symptom of a much bigger problem that we call overshoot. Overshoot is basically your economy is too big for your country or indeed the world. So that's the first section trying to explain the mess we're in now.

Section two sort of backtracks a bit and says, how did we get here? So there's a very good chapter on the birth of neoliberalism and what part that plays in the current mess. We take a close look at the Club of Rome's Limits to Growth report. We take a close look at the fossil fuel industry. We take a reasonably close look at the IPCC process on climate change.

Then the third section talks more about okay, where do we go from here? How do we design a safe and prosperous future? That essentially means what new economic system could we bring in to replace the current failed economic system? Hey, there's nothing more dangerous than a bad idea. And mainstream economics is a terrible idea.

[:

Indeed it is.

[:

That's the three sections.

[:

So who are the authors within there?

[:

So there's probably about 15 authors altogether. I tried to get the best experts I could on the different subjects. For example, Professor Will Steffen is an expert on something called planetary boundaries, which a lot of people would have heard about by now. Then we have experts in the natural environment, experts in the relationship between climate change and health impacts, experts on the sustainable development goals, which are a kind of first attempt to bring the world into the beginnings of a sustainable trajectory. Next bit on neoliberalism. And so it goes.

[:

We also have Professor Steve Keen, who many people would have heard of, who's had a close look at how mainstream economics has perverted the IPCC process. We have experts in law. We have Steven Hail writing the chapter on MMT.

And then we have Phil Lawn's work, which, for me, Phil Lawn's work ties the whole thing together because more than anyone else in the book at least, Phil Lawn understands ecological economics, and he understands MMT. We're bringing those two things together. And I guess Phil Lawn is really the inspiration for the book. I hadn't said that to Phil before, but he really is. Without Phil Lawn, the book wouldn't exist.

[:

Fair enough. When I talked to Phil years ago, he was with Steven Hail, and it's one of our podcasts. Go out there and check it out. It's a great podcast, and I did get the good fortune of meeting Phil in person at the first Modern Monetary Theory conference in Kansas City, and he brought up the Genuine Progress Indicator.

And I know Phil is not the only one that talked about this, but Phil is the one that brought it to my understanding and then the opportunity to meet with Jason Hickel, who focus a lot of their time on this as well. It seems to be an area that is not in the mainstream that we need to do everything we can to make it part of the mainstream.

We need to shift the orthodoxy to the heterodox because without it, these are all great ideas on pieces of paper that no one's taking action on, and it's time for that to change. How does it make you feel, Phil, to know that you're the inspiration of this book?

[:

Well, thanks, Stephen, for the compliment. I'm one of these persons who doesn't really like the limelight get a bit embarrassed when someone says something like that. But I guess it's nice to know that I'm the inspiration for Stephen's book. I'd like to think that there are other people who are probably the true inspiration because they're the people who inspire me.

So I'm really just standing on the shoulders of giants. And I guess I've been one of these fortunate individuals who's really an ecological economist who has come across modern monetary theory. I learnt modern monetary theory, saw how the two can complement each other, and I traveled along that pathway. For some reason, I seem to be the only one who's really done it.

I don't know why that's the case. So that makes me a rare individual. That doesn't mean that I'm a brilliant individual. I just think I've been fortunate enough to have been exposed to both forms of economics for a long period of time, which has allowed me to distill my ideas and bring the two together in a coherent manner. And I've written about it to some extent.

And it seems, according to Stephen, that's been the inspiration for what I think is a pretty remarkable book. Let me just say something about the contributors, which Stephen didn't say. And that is Stephen's done a fantastic job at getting some fantastic contributors to produce chapters for this book. This is not an ordinary book, and I'm not just saying that because I'm a contributor to the book. I think if people can get hold of this book, I think it will certainly be worth their while. I think it's a great book.

[:

That's a great segue into the next question. And this is what both provides me hope and also gives me a kick in the pants. There's an incredible amount of podcasts out there back when we started, there was nobody doing it. Now everybody and their mother has a podcast and you've got videos, you've got books, and we've got a million people watching TikTok, checking out the 30 second videos and living in a bumper sticker culture.

So you've got this incredibly important information. And it's somewhat dense at times, but it's not making its way to global mainstream populations. Everybody's doing their best to hit the areas that they have access to. But this great information is being produced, so it's there. So I guess the question is, is this a book for academics? Or is this for Main Street to provide the impetus to fuel activism? Or is it across the both who's our target audience here?

[:

Yeah. I wish it was more for both audiences. Probably it is more of an academic book because it comes from an academic publisher, and that means it's a bit expensive to buy. Yeah, we need to figure out a way of making these things cheaper, and that's probably the process we have to go into now of getting this information more easily available, preferably for free.

So that's probably the challenge from here on. But at least we can get academics reading this book. Hopefully they will use it in their courses that they're teaching, because as Bill Mitchell keeps saying, education is absolutely crucial if we're going to turn this thing around. What you're doing, Steve, is fantastic. You're making these podcasts available to anyone, really with an Internet connection. So your work is crucial in communicating this stuff to the population in general.

[:

Can I say something? I think Stephen has been a little bit unfair on the book to some extent, in a way, the contributors are academics, but I haven't seen everything that's been contributed towards the book, but I'm sure that most of your listeners will gain a lot from the book. I don't think it's a book that only academics can understand.

I think it's written without an enormous amount of jargon, and what jargon is in the book. As Stephen said, there's a glossary at the rear of the book which explains the terms. So any difficulties that someone might have the glossary can certainly help in that regard. But I wouldn't be putting off your listeners who are not academics.

In many ways I think the book will be very helpful for the layperson, and from an academic point of view, I think the main function of the book might be to provoke academics to pursue areas that they're not familiar with. Because the book is very much a transdisciplinary type of book, even though individual chapters might focus on a particular discipline, it brings a lot of the various disciplines together, so it's very trans disciplinary in nature.

And I think that's one of the problems, even at the academic level that we have. Academia is very compartmentalized, and that's created problems in itself. That's the reason why in the past we haven't had modern monetary theory merge with ecological economics. There's a lot of people who know modern monetary theory intimately but know nothing about ecological economics.

And there are a lot of ecological economists who obviously know ecological economics intimately but know nothing about modern monetary theory, and I think that's a crying shame. But, if this type of book can teach ecological economists more about modern monetary theory and other things, and they can incorporate that into their work, and the modern monetary theory can incorporate ecological economics into their work. I think that augurs well for the future

[:

I think that's a fantastic statement. I want to add to this. I feel in particular, I know of all people, this has hurt you more than anyone. The orthodoxy has marginalized and silenced heterodox professors, information in general. They won't peer review it. They won't let it enter into the journals. And so these interdisciplinary books and the conferences we do and the podcasts that we do where we pull in all those disparate pieces and make a single synthesis, I think, is absolutely critical to overcoming the orthodoxy and being able to do an end around to the gatekeeping that these tenured people do, that block new information.

This is the gatekeeping of real, meaningful information that could substantively change the world. This is the propaganda war. And you have to ask, do these people really genuinely not know some of this stuff, or do they know it and they know that will impact their careers? What do you think about that?

[:

I might get myself in hot water, but in fact, it's not just the mainstream economists who don't understand some of this stuff. It's also the heterodox economists, and I am probably going to get myself in hot water here. There are ecological economists who know nothing about modern monetary theory, and they say things that are incorrect.

he form of a jigsaw puzzle, a:

The really easy ones that you start off with. But I think that the heterodox schools of economics, what I think is relevant combined, which still only make up about 500 of the 1000 pieces. I really do believe that half the pieces are still missing, and that's telling you something about the state of economics. And that's not just because of mainstream economics and the desire of mainstream economists to prevent a lot of this new information that you find in the heterodox schools from emerging and being available to people, but also the fault of not so much the fault of heterodox economists, but the result of, as I said before, this compartmentalization of knowledge.

It requires a lot of work to understand modern monetary theory, and a lot of people focus on that, and they become experts in that area. But at the same time, you have to make yourself aware of other forms of economics that can inform your work and improve upon your work. I'm not saying I'm an expert in all these areas of heterodox economics, but I think the three main areas of heterodox economics that need to be brought together, not just ecological economics and modern monetary theory, but also behavioral economics.

One of the most extraordinary things about economics, and I guess I'm largely talking about mainstream economics, but I can also accuse some forms of heterodox economics for this problem as well. And that is that economics largely about how people make various decisions, mainly economic related decisions. And yet most economists don't really know what lies behind people's decisions, what motivates people to make decisions, which I find quite extraordinary, really.

So I think the work of Daniel Kahneman, he's not in fact an economist, but he's won the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for economics. His work is also very important. I think that also has to be brought in. I don't know to what extent anything related to behavioral economics is included in the book. But you can only do so much with any one particular book.

And I think Stephen and Rod have done a great job with what they've done, just bringing modern monetary theory and ecological economics together. But just harking back to what you said about mainstream economists. It's not just that they want to prevent all this new heterodox knowledge from emerging. The very thing that they're protecting, of course, is their own work.

A lot of these people have been writing publishing for 30 - 40 years, and the last thing they want is to concur with things that render what they've been writing for 30 40 years redundant. And so, as you said, it's an exercise in protecting not just a form of economics but their own work. It's very much about that.

[:

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[:

I want to just say this before I jump back to Stephen Williams, one of the things that you said, the positive money team a lot of them in the UK within this heterodox space and the positive money gang don't really understand aspects of central banking and some aspects of money creation. That say things that I think could be very much better informed by MMT and the ecological side of things.

The Divide by Jason Hickel, which is an absolute must read. It was incredibly well done as it pertained to the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank and the impacts the global north has had on the global south. Where I started getting a little cringey was when he started talking about the way money is created and debt based money and going into the positive money spin.

Can some MMTer please take him out to dinner? But with that in mind, you do have the positive money MMT divide. You have other new schools that are bringing up like you said, the behavioral stuff even the Austrians that talk Praxeology, Richard Wolf. I wish that he would step back and say, Look, I'm a micro economist. I focus on workplace democracy.

But instead he strays into the macro and it never goes well. But this is an area where I think the divide between macro and micro. You talk about informing of people's decisions at the micro level and some of the macro aggregates that come from those collective decisions. How do you suppose a book like this might help bridge that gap? Is this the book to do that, or is this just a conversation starter to get these people to the table?

[:

Yeah. I hope that it will bring a lot of these people together. You mentioned Jason Hickel. I really admire most of his work. His recent book, Less is More, falls into the same trap with money creation and central governments being financially constrained. It falls into a bit of the same trap as his previous book that you mentioned. You've got to remember, these books are written well before they're published, so I think Jason Hickel now understands MMT a lot better than he did when he wrote Less is More. You interviewed Jason Hickel recently, Steve

[:

One of my favorite interviews.

[:

Yeah, he's pushing the job guarantee very strongly. So I think Jason Hickel is a good example of someone who's starting to synthesize these things really well. And I think he'll continue to do so. Phil mentioned Daniel Kahneman. He wrote a very good book called Thinking Fast and Slow, which I loved. I actually did approach Daniel Kahneman to write a chapter for this book.

But he's one of those people whose star is really high in the firmament. And I think there's no way he was going to come on board with a book from an unknown person like myself. And by the way, there were some other MMT stars that I approached that either didn't have the time or the interest for this book.

So you get the best people you can. And as Phil said, I think every author in the book is outstanding. So we've got to promote the book. We've got to get all these people reading it and for them to start talking to each other and realize that we do need a kind of synthesis that this book is suggesting.

[:

That's fantastic. I'm really excited about this. So it's coming out in 2022. To your point, you've been writing this for a long time. When did this all get started?

[:

It's been a two year project from conception to delivery. By the way, people can get the ebook now, it's the paper version, the hard copy that will come out early next year. But people can go online and they can either get the e book now or they can order the hard copy now and getting back to something Phil said. It is definitely written in plain English that anyone can understand.

It's really the price that's going to turn people off. We can't do much about that. Now, the UK had something called a Sustainable Development Commission started, I think in the early two thousands and ran for about ten years. So the UK government, in their wisdom, decided to set up this Sustainable Development Commission.

And surely all nations should have something similar to that where independent experts can advise the government on what sustainability is and whether their policies and laws are taking the nation closer to sustainability or further away from sustainability. But they won't do it because I think they suspect if they did, these experts would tell the government you're not remotely sustainable, because the USA is not remotely sustainable.

China, India, Japan, none of these countries are remotely sustainable. They have to completely change course. And that is what a properly constituted sustainability Commission in each country would tell their elected leaders. You have to change course.

[:

I want to ask you both a question, and it ties right back to what you just said. I believe that there is capture in pretty much all the state governments around the world. I think that the individuals that are in power and the supporting apparatus that doesn't get elected has interests that exceed that of the population. In fact, dominate that of population.

And so there is an assumption that if they just knew this, they do different. But we can see the need to constantly grow and add to the bottom line, the profit margin, depressing wages, increasing profits. And we have seen income inequality explode. This model here is corrosive in and of itself. Their ability to survive is compromised immediately based on this model.

Add in the ecological component and even the purveyors of this perverse belief system are going to be impacted. This seems kind of crazy. Part of me thinks that it's not so innocent, though, at that level that they know.

[:

This is a $64 question. And Stephen mentioned how Bill Mitchell said that education is the key. It is to some extent, but it's only part of the solution. Before we started recording this interview, we were talking about democracy in the USA. I'm a great believer that there's no true democracy anywhere in the world. We just live in a world of plutocracies.

Some are dressed up as democracies, some aren't even dressed up as democracies. They just admit they're plutocracy places like China. They don't even try to pretend that they're democracies. Some countries are closer to what we might call a democracy than others. But the end of the day, all countries are just plutocracy.

Basically, we're governed by people who represent the rich and powerful. And of course, they persist with policies and an economic system that benefits them at the expense of the majority of not only of current society but future generations. If there is one group of people, if you want to call them that because they don't currently exist, that are going to suffer most from all this, it's future generations, because we don't appear to be doing anything concrete at the rate that's required to deal with climate change.

The recent United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference, the Cop conference that was in Glasgow, was a complete failure, as they all are. And so if anyone's being robbed of future generations. And I think that's largely due to the fact that we live in a world of plutocracies. And I don't think we'll see what the people want.

And this is where education is important, because even if we have a situation where the general population is properly represented, you only get representatives that reflect the knowledge of the general population. But I think that until such time as we get to a point where things are so bad that people won't.

And I think we're starting to see that in the USA, even here in Australia, we saw images of what was happening in January with the storming of the Capitol building, and we can all sit back and say, Well, this was horrible and this is not justified. But I think these are people who are reacting to the undesirable effects of living in a plutocracy.

I don't know American politics and American society well enough. But if I think of when Barack Obama was elected as President, I think a lot of Americans thought at last at last we will be able to move down a pathway, perhaps, which is more sustainable, more equitable. And of course, again, I don't know enough about American politics that Obama wasn't able to do things that he wanted to do.

There were a lot of political constraints and so forth. But there are a lot of people who, of course, claim that Trump was the result of a failed Obama administration. If you vote for someone like Obama and you can't get what you want, let's just throw them all out and put some maniac in there as a protest. And I think that's the sort of situation that things have descended to in the USA.

And I think there are a lot of countries like Australia are only just a little bit behind. Everyone seems to be somewhere 5 - 10 years behind. What happens in the USA seem to be following the same sorts of trends and so forth. I don't know how you deal with plutocracies without a violent revolution. It's interesting how you're talking about how we've got growing inequalities under a capitalist system.

Well, in actual fact, for most of the Western world, in the 30 year period after World War II, the gap between rich and poor narrowed. And we're talking capitalist system, so it is possible to reduce inequalities in a capitalist system. But I think the reason why we had that in the post World War II period, because I think what we saw in the 20th century were two extraordinary events that occurred back to back, which had a major effect on the rich and powerful.

The first was the Great Depression. And that was immediately followed by World War II, where a lot of industry was nationalized to fight to engage in the war effort. And so once World War II was over and you had a lot of people who made a lot of sacrifices and were demanding a lot from their governments, we saw a situation where probably for the first time, the average person was reasonably well represented.

what we started to see in the:

[00:39:28.890] - Grumbine

Yeah. As part of my role, at least how I see it anyway, is that I like to bring you guys in, to give me the empirical data on economics and the environment. And I like to bring in the political angle and the power dynamics. The USA was founded as a colonial project, and it wasn't just some sort of a populist movement. These people were bringing their money from the old country.

This country was set up in a rugged individualist approach of go get yours. And now we've become a major importer of other people's goods and services. But we've become a major exporter of absolutely being vampiric and neoliberal and going around the globe and exporting this belief system. This is the USA's chief export, which is neoliberalism and has become part with every country's fabric.

I think some have resisted it more than others. I think the global south has definitely taken note that they don't want any part of it. So we're all stuck in this situation of here is all this important knowledge, and we're up against a system, a political system, a ruling class that doesn't care what we have to say. And when they do act like they care, they do the opposite.

And I think the January 6 thing, the reality is the rest of the world sees that when you put your foot on the back of labor and deny them the opportunity to self-actualize or to be healthy and whole when you make life so precarious, eventually somebody's going to fight back. And it just so happens to be that the right wing in this country is more activated than the left wing because these people are the quote, unquote Hillary Clinton deplorable.

They're now taking away civil liberties, the only way to attack plutocracy. At this point, we can't vote our way out of it. So that leaves you with revolution. Can we really educate our way out of this? Can we vote our way out of this. And I think that we have no real power other than our ability to organize and educate.

And if we can make it so that we're not willing to accept the lies and propaganda anymore and make demands and be consistent even in between elections, maybe it's a real challenge. How do we take this knowledge and get it into the right people's hands?

[:

I think it's important to remember that it's not going to be one thing or the other. It's not going to be education or revolution. We've got to use every tool available to make the changes that we're going to need. There's an interesting thing happening in Australian politics at the moment. We've got a federal election in the first half of next year.

We have a conservative government. They don't have a huge majority, but they have a majority nonetheless. But what we're seeing in Australia at the moment is very strong rise in independents who are mainly taking on the conservative politicians. And it's really exciting to see the independents saying we're actually listening to the voters and asking the voters what they want.

And if you elect us the independents, that's what we're going to do. We're going to give the people what they want. And this has got the conservative politicians running scared. They can really see a threat from these independents who are running on issues like climate change and anticorruption and things like that. So I'd say, watch this space in Australia over the next six months.

It's shaping up to be one of the most interesting federal elections we've had in a very long time. So, yeah, it's neither one thing nor the other. Steve, we've got to do everything we can.

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And I think this book Stephen and Rod put together is part of the educational process. I think that's important because it doesn't matter how we deal with the power related issue. We need the general population to be as knowledgeable as possible. And I think a well-educated population reduces the probability of the solution being a violent one.

So I think that's the role of education and the reason why Bill Mitchell talks about the role of education. Of course, this is part of what plutocracies do. They try to drown out the stuff that makes sense with all their propaganda. And there's a very large noise out there of nonsense, really that's circulating that makes it very difficult. And it makes it difficult for the average person to decipher between what's fact and what's fiction. That's the other thing fighting against.

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And whether social media is a net benefit or a net hindrance. I'm not sure.

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I think it's a net hindrance. On Mondays, he believes that the internet is the charlatan's dream world. I'm sorry. Once upon a time you had a kooky idea and you spoke to a few of your neighbors. It went probably as far as your next block in your neighborhood, but now you can get on the Internet and you can have millions followers almost overnight.

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I have come to believe. And I've been doing this particular thing now for seven years. I've been through two presidential elections here in the United States over that course of time. What we've witnessed is the peeling back of the curtain. But the wizard of Oz has control. And so what you're seeing with a lot of activists in general is a lot of people are checking out.

They're ignoring things now because they don't feel change is possible. And this is what happened January 6, whether you like the people or not, when you give people no alternative, it gets ugly. And so one of the things about social media that is a real challenge is that the algorithms put like minded people together.

And so you end up preaching to the converted instead of people that have never heard you. And so social media can be a great tool. Unfortunately, the algorithms that they use largely give us this feeling of power that we're really doing something. And so you're trapped in a huge cauldron of lots of voices, and it just sounds like noise after a little while.

And I think this pandemic has really exposed that. One of the beautiful things about the time period you spoke about Phil, especially about the post Depression war period, was that there was only a handful of newspaper outlets. Now there was a lot of propaganda during that time, but everybody had the same narrative. And so everybody was able to move in a different direction.

That isn't the case anymore. And we're not able to create meaningful consensus. And when we think we have consensus, like in the United States with Bernie Sanders, the powers that be say, no, no, no. We can't let that happen. So if we don't have some sort of hope that we are powerful enough to effect change through the standard channels that have been given to us, people will either check out or they will resort to other means.

And I think that without that acknowledgment, all this tremendous information that we're providing is just going to be like watching a show when it's done, you're over and you move on to the next subject, I want to prevent that from happening. I want people to see this as meaningful and that they can take your book and read it and say, let's organize around this.

[:

Where these things like this book can help. Is that one of the reasons why politicians get away with what they get away with is because of the lack of knowledge of the general population. Quite often, for example, someone might say, Well, the unemployment rate is too high. Something should be done about unemployment.

And then a politician will say, okay, well, does that mean you want us to spend more to create jobs? And I say, Well, we can't we've run out of money and the average person believes it. So what this book and ecological economics and modern monetary theory can expose. Is this veil that politicians hide behind. What modern monetary theory says is okay.

If you don't want to do something about unemployment, once people know that a monetary sovereign has no financial constraints, you can't use that as an excuse for not doing something about unemployment. You have to tell us the real reason why you're not doing something about unemployment.

And also from a sustainability point of view, you have to explain why you're not doing something about climate change. When there are alternatives, there are ways that we can move towards a sustainable future and in a way that can enhance our wellbeing, because people think sustainability is a threat to our well being somehow.

So this book and the educational process is an important process to expose politicians that hide behind myths. Whereas if they can be exposed for the myths that they keep sprouting on about, then it makes it more difficult for them to justify the policies that they're implementing.

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And Professor Stephanie Kelton's book The Deficit Myth, which has been best seller that must be spreading a lot of education about MMT. You only have to look at, say, Chairman John Yarmuth in the USA, the chairman of the House Budgetary Committee, for him to come out and say, yeah, this MMT stuff is true. I work on the federal budget. I've done it for years. This is how it works. That's tremendous progress. It's too slow, but it's something.

[:

We had John and his son Aaron on with us a few months ago, and that was before Joe Manchin had basically killed the build back better plan. And your point is very well taken. There are people awakening, but we are not in a position to negotiate with physics. You want to change this environmental disaster coming your way. You've got to make some different choices.

So with that in mind, we are up against the clock. We don't have eternity to fix this. This is going to really become calamitous. It already is. It may be too late. I think last time I had you on Phil, we were talking about eleven years the IPCC had given us. How do we contend with a firm timeline that says, if you guys keep this up, you're dead. I just stumped you, man.

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If you really want my honest opinion.

[:

Yes, I do. That's all I want.

[:

Yeah, I think the human race is doomed. So we got those changes in the 20th century only because of those two events that I referred to, but they weren't desirable events. We're talking about a great depression, which had enormous impact, not just on the wealthy, didn't just cut them down in size, but enormous impact on low income people, working class and World War II, which of course, led to loss of millions of lives and the Holocaust and so forth.

So I only see change if something horrible in the future occurs, which is probably going to be an ecological catastrophe. Although the ecological crisis is not an impending crisis anymore. There was a time we used to say we keep doing ABC, then this is going to happen. Well, we've gone past that stage. We're now at a stage where because we've been doing A, B and C for so long.

This is now happening. So we're in the midst of an ecological crisis, and as you enter into some sort of crisis, it can lead to other sorts of crises. So it may take some crisis to occur, something very undesirable, perhaps catastrophic, before we get the sorts of changes that we need. But then it may be too late. Climate change is not something you can just reverse.

It's something that once it's occurring, particularly if you go past the point of no return, we could have a situation where we've got runaway climate change and then really, let's turn out the lights of stuff. So I don't have the solution. The book provides solutions if we're at a point where we have people representing what the average person desires and the average person is well informed and educated. But how we get to the point where the average person is properly represented rather than the rich and powerful? I don't know.

[:

Yeah.

[:

I just want to thank you for that. By the way, Stephen, I want to get you on the last word because we're wrapping up here, but that Phil, I know that was tough to say, but I applaud you for saying it.

[:

No, it wasn't.

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This way for me, I know that most people don't want to say the dark side of this, but I'm of the mindset that if you think we have time, you are wrong. And so this book, I know it's not going to solve this, but it does give creative solutions towards this. And if people will embrace the event, embrace the crisis and understand this is where we are, whether it feels good or not, whether you want to check out or not.

This is where we are. So with that, Steven, you are providing the world a tool to fight back against extinction. So I want to just make sure you have the last word. Stephen, what are your thoughts?

[:

Yeah, it's way past time that we collectively press that red emergency button. It was actually pressed in 1972 when the Limits to Growth report came out, but they ignored it. We're still ignoring it. Even today, with truckloads of information, we have more than enough evidence to press the red emergency button. That's what we all collectively have to do, because the solutions are there on paper. They're in the book go out and buy it.

[:

Done. Gentlemen, this was absolutely a pleasure, because I love you guys and Stephen, it's so nice to get to meet you and Phil, we got to talk soon. I really miss you. It was wonderful to meet you. One of the nicest gentlemen I've ever met in my life. And as you have described in the show. You're also very humble man, but you deserve all the accolades that Stephen threw at you. But with that folks, my name is Steve Grumbine. With my guests, Philip Lawn and Stephen Williams from Macro and Cheese, I want to thank you all for tuning in. We are out of here.

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Macro N Cheese is produced by Andy Kennedy, descriptive writing by Virginia Cotts, and promotional artwork by Mindy Donham. Macro N Cheese is publicly funded by our Real Progressives Patreon account. If you would like to donate to Macro N Cheese, please visit patreon.com/realprogressives.

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