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Green New Deal: Radical Opening?

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There is considerable momentum building here in the US around the concept of a Green New Deal. At the moment it remains vague enough to bring together liberals like Corey Booker and radicals like DSA and System Change Not Climate Change (both groups I belong to). Multiple versions abound, from the Green Party, Sunrise Movement, Data For Progress, Climate Justice Alliance, etc...Just enough nostalgic, populist Americanismto intrigue YES Magazine, enough language around justice and planning to bring in Jacobin.

It has been brought into the mainstream by the photogenic new Rep. from New York AO Cortez and some other new members of Congress, so that even the NY Times has had to cover it. At that level of mainstream "politics", it has the potential to really stink things up; establishment corporate Democrats want to keep it toned down and Republicans are already ridiculing it as a socialist plot. Which is awesome Spectacle that should have happened decades ago.

At a more grassroots level it is causing many of the same headaches for liberal environmental NGO's and all the moderates who want to water it down to "renewables and jobs" vesus radicals wanting to smash capitalist "democracy" and fuck shit up. So it really is an event unlike anything we have seen since Occupy. And it hieghtens the same contradictions and divisions. Maybe those who saw Single Payer Healthcare get mutilated into Obamacare will have learned a few lessons on how the system works.Those who want a tiny carbon tax will get melting ice caps and tipping points thrown in their face.

I am going to a presentation tonight and am fully prepared to hear the Centrist Adults In The Room (those who are terrified of actually having power) warn me not to let "the perfect be the enemy of the good". They will channel Hillary Clinton and tell me to be "realistic". The labor unions are going to want assurance that "economic growth" will continue. I am going to channel 16 year old Gret Thonberg and tell them "your house is on fire. I don't want your hope. I want you to panic."

Could this precipitate rupture, put Capital on trial and find it guilty? Maybe if we stink it up enough. Someone start a bail fund.

Discussion 53 Comments

  • Boulder Dash 7th Feb 2019

    There just ain’t even enough people in agreement enough to fuck shit up Dave.

  • Boulder Dash 7th Feb 2019

    “Rational and reasonable” opening rather than radical. A green new deal is to the NSP what the NSP is to Parecon. But probably to many in the US it equates to the “Gulags”.

  • Alex of... 8th Feb 2019


  • Boulder Dash 8th Feb 2019

    Here’s What a Green New Deal Looks Like in Practice

    By Robert Pollin and CJ Polychroniou
    Source: Truthout
    February 6, 2019

    With the climate change challenge growing more acute with every passing year, the need for the adoption of a new political economy that would tackle effectively both the environmental and the egalitarian concerns of progressive people worldwide grows exponentially. Yet, there is still a lot of disagreement on the left as to the nature of the corresponding political economy model. One segment of the left calls for the complete overthrow of capitalism as a means of dealing with climate change and the growing levels of economic inequality in the era of global neoliberalism, while another one argues against growth in general. In the interview below, Robert Pollin, distinguished professor of economics and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, explains some issues raised by each of these positions, and how to move toward solutions grounded in a fuller understanding of economic development.

    C.J. Polychroniou: Bob, let’s start with the “degrowth” argument for securing climate stabilization and realizing egalitarian aims. What’s wrong with this political economy model in an age of catastrophic climatic conditions brought about through 250 or so years of capitalist expansion via the use of fossil fuel energy sources?

    Robert Pollin: Degrowth proponents have made valuable contributions in addressing many of the untenable features of economic growth. I agree with degrowth proponents that economic growth in general produces a wide range of negative environmental effects. I also agree that a significant share of what is produced and consumed in the current global capitalist economy is wasteful, especially most of what high-income people throughout the world consume. It is also obvious that economic growth per se makes no reference to the distribution of the benefits of growth and, more generally, offers no critique of capitalism as a mode of production.

    But on the specific issue of climate change, degrowth does not provide anything close to a viable stabilization framework — that is, to stabilize the global mean temperature at a level that will prevent severe negative ecological feedback effects, such as increasing frequency of droughts and floods. Consider some very simple arithmetic. According to its most recent October 2018 report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) now concludes that a viable climate stabilization program will necessitate limiting the global mean temperature increase to 1.5° Celsius as of 2100. This in turn will require global net carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions falling by about 45 percent as of 2030 and reaching net zero emissions by 2050. Let’s focus for the moment on the 2030 target of a 45 percent CO2 emissions contraction. Following a degrowth agenda, let’s assume that global GDP [gross domestic product] contracts by 10 percent between now and 2030. That would entail a reduction of global GDP four times greater than during the 2007–09 financial crisis and Great Recession. In terms of CO2 emissions, the net effect of this 10 percent GDP contraction, considered on its own, would be to push emissions down by precisely 10 percent. It would not come close to hitting the IPCC target of a 45 percent CO2 reduction. At the same time, this 10 percent global GDP contraction would result in huge job losses and declines in living standards for working people and the poor. Global unemployment rose by over 30 million during the Great Recession. I have not seen any degrowth proponent present a convincing argument as to how we could avoid a calamitous rise in mass unemployment if GDP were to fall four times as much as during 2007–09.

    A Green New Deal has been proposed by many over the years, including yourself, as the only viable way to tackle effectively climate change. How would the green growth path lead to climate stabilization?

    The core feature of the Green New Deal needs to be a worldwide program to invest between 2 percent and 2.5 percent of global GDP every year to raise energy efficiency standards and expand clean renewable energy supplies. Through this investment program, it becomes realistic to drive down global CO2emissions to zero by 2050, while also supporting rising mass living standards and expanding job opportunities. It is critical to recognize that, within this framework, a higher economic growth rate will also accelerate the rate at which clean energy supplants fossil fuels, since higher levels of GDP will correspondingly mean a higher level of investment being channeled into clean energy projects. In 2016, global clean energy investment was about $300 billion, or 0.4 percent of global GDP. Thus, the increase in investments will need to be in the range of 2 percent of global GDP — about $1.6 trillion at the current global GDP of $80 trillion, then rising in step with global growth thereafter — to reach zero CO2 emissions by 2050.

    Investments aimed at raising energy efficiency standards and expanding the supply of clean renewable energy will also generate tens of millions of new jobs in all regions of the world. This is because building a green economy entails more labor-intensive activities — i.e. proportionally more money channeled into employing people for a given amount of total spending on any given project — than maintaining the world’s current fossil-fuel-based energy infrastructure.

    The consumption of oil, coal and natural gas will also need to fall to near zero over this same 30-year period. This amounts to an average rate of decline of about 8 percent per year. Of course, both privately owned fossil fuel companies, such as Exxon-Mobil and Chevron, and publicly owned companies like Saudi Aramco and Gazprom, have massive interests at stake in preventing reductions in fossil fuel consumption; they also wield enormous political power. These powerful vested interests will simply have to be defeated. At the same time, unavoidably, workers and communities whose livelihoods depend on the fossil fuel industry will lose out in the clean energy transition. Unless strong policies are advanced to support these workers, they will face layoffs, falling incomes and declining public sector budgets to support schools, health clinics and public safety. It follows that the global Green New Deal must commit to providing generous transitional support for workers and communities tied to the fossil fuel industry.

    I take it that you don’t place much value in the position adopted by a certain segment of the left which calls for the immediate and complete overthrow of capitalism as the only realistic option for addressing the climate change threat. What are your arguments against this position?

    The Green New Deal program I advocate obviously challenges property rights and ownership forms within capitalism, starting with both the private and publicly owned fossil fuel companies throughout the world. I have also worked with unions, political parties and NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] to advance a program that is committed to expanding good job opportunities, unionization rates, as well as racial and gender equality. I also focus on Just Transition for workers and communities that are currently dependent on the fossil fuel industry.

    At the same time, I am definitely not saying that we have to overturn capitalism completely before we can get serious about climate stabilization. I think there is a close to 100 percent chance that capitalism will still be around in 30 years as the predominant global economic system. We cannot waste those 30 years, failing to advance an effective global climate stabilization project. Moreover, the struggle for an egalitarian climate stabilization project — a Green New Deal — will serve, in my view, as one of the principal areas of struggle in advancing a democratic socialist alternative to capitalism.

    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been quite instrumental so far in raising public consciousness about the importance of a Green New Deal, which aims to cut US carbon pollution levels in half by 2030. How realistic is this proposal?

    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has done a great job raising consciousness about the imperative of a Green New Deal as a serious climate stabilization project. I don’t think it would be fair to insist that she, and the people working with her, would have a fully laid-out plan as what this viable Green New Deal project should look like. It is, therefore, inevitable that various proposals have been put out recently. Based on my own research, as well as that of many other people, I do think it is feasible, if extremely challenging, for the US to cut its CO2 emissions by 50 percent as of 2030 and to reach zero emissions by 2050. But it is not feasible for the US to get to zero emissions by 2030. The 2015 book by the outstanding Harvard University physicist Mara Prentiss, Energy Revolution, presents a compelling case as to the technical requirements for the US to reach a zero emissions standard within roughly 30 years.

    One final question: How do you see the prospects of a “blue-green” alliance between the labor and environmental movements for tackling the climate change threat?

    The blue-green alliance between the labor and environmental movements has been building for years and continues to strengthen. The earliest efforts at building solidarity between the labor and environmental movements was an organization called the Apollo Alliance, founded by Robert Borosage, Roger Hickey and others in 2001. This then merged into the BlueGreen Alliance. More recently, an important Green New Deal initiative (Initiative 1631) was led in Washington State by the labor movement in the state, including Jeff Johnson, who just recently stepped down as the president of the Washington State Labor Council. In the end, the Washington State Green New Deal ballot initiative was defeated in last November’s election, despite having been supported by a broad coalition of community, environmental, as well as labor groups. But the Green New Deal measure lost only after the oil companies spent $30 million on relentless and shameless propaganda to defeat it. Still, the Washington State labor movement created a template that can be developed further in other states. In Colorado, for example, the state-level AFL-CIO is again working closely with environmental and community groups to advance a viable Green New Deal project.

    C.J. Polychroniou is a political economist/political scientist who has taught and worked in universities and research centers in Europe and the United States. His main research interests are in European economic integration, globalization, the political economy of the United States and the deconstruction of neoliberalism’s politico-economic project. He is a regular contributor to Truthout as well as a member of Truthout’s Public Intellectual Project. He has published several books and his articles have appeared in a variety of journals, magazines, newspapers and popular news websites. Many of his publications have been translated into several foreign languages, including Croatian, French, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish. He is the author of Optimism Over Despair: Noam Chomsky On Capitalism, Empire, and Social Change, an anthology of interviews with Chomsky originally published at Truthout and collected by Haymarket Books.

  • Boulder Dash 8th Feb 2019

    Just arrived in email from System Change Not Climate Change.

    Green New Deal -- An Ecosocialist Study Guide

    Ted Franklin | System Change Not Climate Change | January 30, 2019

    I prepared this study guide for the Ecosocialist Reading Group of East Bay Democratic Socialists of America. These are some of the key readings for anyone who wants to get understand the ecoleft's take on the Green New Deal.

    Overview of the GND

    Like Medicare for All, the Green New Deal has moved swiftly from obscurity to daily mention in the mainstream media, not the least because of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s highly publicized promotion of the concept upon her arrival in Washington, D.C.

    Ocasio-Cortez arrived in Washington with a specific proposal to create a congressional Select Committee on the Green New Deal with subpoena power, authority to draft legislation, and a bar to appointment of any members who have taken contributions from fossil fuel companies. AOC formally put forward her proposal as a proposed addendum to the House Rules for the 116th Congress.

    Over 40 of her fellow legislators backed AOC’s proposal. Nonetheless, after assuring her reappointment as speaker of the house, Representative Nancy Pelosi announced that a special committee on climate would be appointed but without subpoena power, authority to draft legislation, or a bar on members who have received campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry.

    Some on the Left have declared, “I told you so,” but, by far, the main response of the climate justice movement has inclined toward declarations along the lines of “We have just begun to fight.”

    But what is the Green New Deal we are we fighting for?

    There is no agreed upon definition. Left journalist Kate Aronoff offers, “Like the first New Deal … the Green New Deal isn’t a specific set of policies so much as a values framework under which any number of policies can fit.”

    The core readings (“Must Reads”) provide four views of the priorities to be addressed under the Green New Deal . A long list of optional readings provides additional resources for those who want to dig deeper, including some that are critical of the Green New Deal and Ocasio-Cortez’s and Richard Smith’s proposals.

    Must Reads

    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Proposal for a Select Committee for a Green New Deal, Ocasio2018.org (Nov 2018)

    No single person has played a more prominent role in driving discussion of the Green New Deal into the public square than AOC. Her GND proposal was not a specific piece of legislation but a call for the creation of a House committee that would be empowered to develop a proposal for a GND by January 1, 2020 and legislation by March 1, 2020.

    The political heart is section 6 which defines the scope of the plan for a GND and the legislation to implement it. If you are short on time, read section 6.

    The Green Party, The Green New Deal (2012)

    No organization owns the franchise on the Green New Deal, but the Green Party has long posted on its website a Green New Deal proposal. The Green Party’s GND platform rests on four “pillars”: an Economic Bill of Rights (which includes Medicare for All), a Green Transition; Real Financial Reform; and a Functioning Democracy.

    Richard Smith, An Ecosocialist Path to Limiting Global Temperature Rise to 1.5°C, System Change Not Climate Change (Nov. 26, 2018), Real World Economics Review (forthcoming March 1, 2019).

    Richard Smith is a cofounder of System Change Not Climate Change and an active member of DSA’s Ecosocialist Working Group and the New York City chapter of DSA. He is the author of Green Capitalism: The God that Failed and is working on a forthcoming book on China’s not-so-green, communist-capitalist future.

    Climate Justice Alliance, A Green New Deal Must Be Rooted in a Just Transition for Workers and Communities Most Impacted by Climate Change, Press Statement (Dec 10, 2018)

    The Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) is an alliance currently linking 68 community organizations, movement networks, and support organizations throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico to unite under Just Transition strategies. CJA’s inter-generational constituencies are rooted in Indigenous, African American, Latinx, Asian Pacific Islander, and poor white communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis.

    Optional Readings

    Comments on the Green New Deal

    Justine Calma, Something Old, Something New; the Green New Deal Is touching up its (grass)roots, Grist (Jan 9, 2019)

    Calma reports, “Newcomers like Ocasio-Cortez may be leading the charge, but grassroots leaders who have spent years advocating for low-income families and neighborhoods of color most impacted by fossil fuels say their communities weren’t consulted when the idea first took shape.”

    “For all the fanfare,” she writes, “there isn’t a package of policies that make up a Green New Deal just yet. And that’s why community-level activists are clamoring to get involved, help shape the effort, and ensure the deal leaves no one behind.”

    Joint Press Release, 626 Groups Urge Congress to Phase Out Fossil Fuels, Build Green Economy (Jan 10, 2019)

    The joint press release of the 626 groups supporting the Green New Deal includes this link to the letter itself which includes a list of the 626 sponsors. “NYC DSA Ecosocialist” is on the list, but that’s about it for DSA. The New Republic has noted the absence of eight environmental organizations in an article entitled Some of the Biggest Green Groups Have Cold Feet Over the “Green New Deal” (Jan 15, 2019).

    Dharna Noor, Over 600 Groups Call for a Green New Deal: an Interview with Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network (video and transcript), The Real News (Jan 10, 2019)

    Tom Goldtooth of Indigenous Environmental Network says that a Green New Deal must reject corporate takeover and center indigenous and frontline communities.

    Matt Huber (DSA Ecosocialist Working Group Member), Building a “Green New Deal”: Lessons from the Original New Deal, Verso Books (Nov 19, 2018)

    In this article Matt Huber offers four lessons from the original New Deal that contemporary activists and policymakers must learn.

    Ted Franklin (East Bay DSA member), The Green New Deal Goes Viral: What’s Next Is Up to Us, System Change Not Climate Change (Dec 6, 2018)

    “By offering an ambiguous, but potentially expansive, charter for political action, the Green New Deal invites a conversation over what kind of transformation of our economy and society would enable us to meet the targets set by the scientists while getting us off the disastrous political course of Trumpism.”

    Wayne Price, A Green New Deal vs. Revolutionary Socialism, Anarkismo.net (Jan 2, 2019).

    Wayne Price criticizes Richard Smith’s article An Ecosocialist Path to Limiting Global Temperature Rise to 1.5°C and the Green New Deal from an anarchist perspective.

    Max Ajl, Beyond the Green New Deal The Brooklyn Rail. (Nov 2, 2018)

    Max Ajl calls AOC a “Teddy Kennedy-type liberal” and critiques the Green New Deal and ecosocialism from “the left.”

    David Roberts, The Green New Deal, explained, Vox (Updated Jan 7, 2019)

    Roberts reports regularly on climate politics for Vox. This article provides some of the background on how the GND became a political meme.

    Kate Aronoff, With a Green New Deal, Here’s What the World Could Look Like for the Next Generation, The Intercept (Dec 5, 2019)

    Kate Aronoff has written on the politics of climate change for Jacobin, the Intercept, In These Times, and many other publications. In this piece, she speculates on a future that would require a Green New Deal that goes far beyond the imagination of Democratic Party leaders.

    Kelsey Hill, Indigenous Leaders Support a #GreenNewDeal, Lakota People’s Law Project (Dec 19, 2018)

    Kelsey Hill presents an Indigenous perspective on the Green New Deal perspective and calls on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to appoint Deb Haaland, one of the first two Native women elected to Congress this past November, to the Climate Change Select Committee.

    Stan Cox, The Green Growth at the Heart of the Green New Deal? It’s Malignant, Counterpunch (Jan 17, 2019)

    Assuming that the Green New Deal is already a fixed set of policy proposals, Stan Cox takes an axe to the naïve assumption he attributes to Green New Dealers that energy consumption can rise according to business as usual.

    Richard Heinberg, Could a Green New Deal Save Civilization?, Common Dreams (Jan 17, 2019)

    Richard Heinberg, founder of the Post Carbon Institute, argues that “what’s required is not simply to provide jobs to the un- or underemployed while building large numbers of wind turbines and solar panels; we will all need to live very differently and make some sacrifices. Given the already dangerously high and increasing level of economic inequality in the country, it would make sense to ensure that sacrifices fall mostly on those who are currently well-off, while the benefits of job creation are targeted toward those who are already feeling the pinch.”

    Specific Ideas and Proposals for the Green New Deal
    Metro Detroit DSA, Make Detroit the engine of a green new deal, The Detroit Socialist (Jan 5, 2019)

    Metro Detroit DSA calls for a takeover in response to GM’s announced closure of the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly (Poletown) plant.

    Eric Ruud (East Bay DSA member), Nationalize California's Pacific Gas & Electric, Jacobin (Nov 2018)

    “California’s massive, deadly wildfires aren’t just a consequence of climate change — they’re a result of the profit model in utilities. We need to nationalize PG&E and the entire national power grid.”

    Peter Gowan, A Plan to Nationalize Fossil Fuel Companies, Jacobin (Mar 2018)

    “Market-based solutions can't attack climate change. Let's try nationalization.”

    Greg Carlock, Emily Mangan, and Sean McElwee, A Green New Deal; A Progressive Vision for Environmental Sustainability and Economic Stability, Data for Progress (2018)

    This version of the Green New Deal comes from Data for Progress, a new thinktank aligned with corporate-progressive Democrats (Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Tammy Baldwin). The stated aim of Data for Progress is to push the Democratic Party in a “more progressive” direction.

    Comic Relief

    Thomas L. Friedman, A Warning from the Garden, The New York Times (Jan 19, 2007)

    Yes, it’s true. Thomas Friedman did talk about a “Green New Deal” way back when. His version included “more of everything: solar, wind, hydro, ethanol, biodiesel, clean coal and nuclear power.”

  • Boulder Dash 8th Feb 2019

    A Green New Deal vs. Revolutionary Ecosocialism
    Wednesday January 02, 2019 18:49 by Wayne Price Report this post to the editors

    Ecosocialism: reformist or revolutionary, statist or libertarian?

    The idea of a "Green New Deal" has been raised in response to the threat of climate and ecological catastrophe. Two such proposals are analyzed here and counterposed to the program of revolutionary libertarian ecosocialism.

    According to the climate scientists, industrial civilization has at most a dozen years until global warming is irreversible. This will cause (and is already causing) extremes of weather, accelerating extermination of species, droughts and floods, loss of useable water, vast storms, rising sea levels which will destroy islands and coastal cities, raging wildfires, loss of crops, and, overall, environmental conditions in which neither humans nor other organisms evolved to exist. The economic, political, and social results will be horrifying.

    The scientists write that humans have the technological knowledge to avoid the worst results. But this would take enormous efforts to drastically reduce the output of heat-trapping greenhouse gasses. The recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change writes that this “would require rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban, and infrastructure (including transport and buildings) and industrial systems…unprecedented in terms of scale.” (quoted in Smith 2018) At the least this means a rapid transition to shutting down fossil-fuel producing industries, leaving most oil, coal, and natural gas in the ground and rationing what is currently available. It means replacing them with conservation and renewable energy sources. It means drastic changes in the carbon-based-fuel using industries, from construction to manufacturing. It means providing alternate jobs and services for all those put out of work by these changes.

    To the scientists’ warnings, there have been rumblings of concern from some financial investors, businesspeople (in non-oil-producing industries), and local politicians. But overall, the response of conventional politicians has been business-as-usual. The main proposals for limiting climate change has been to place some sort of taxes on carbon emissions. From liberals to conservatives, this has been lauded as a”pro-market” reform. But, as Richard Smith (2018) has explained, these are inadequate, and even fraudulent, proposals. “If the tax is too light, it fails to suppress fossil fuels enough to help the climate. But…no government will set a price high enough to spur truly deep reductions in carbon emissions because they all understand that this would force companies out of business, throw workers out of work, and possibly precipitate recession or worse.”

    In the U.S., one of the two major parties outright denies the scientific evidence as a “hoax.” As if declaring, “After us, the deluge,” its policies have been to increase as much as possible the production of greenhouse-gas emissions and other attacks on the environment. The other party accepts in words the reality of global warming but only advocates inadequate and limited steps to deal with it. It too has promoted increased drilling, fracking, and carbon-fuels burning. These Republicans, Democrats, and their corporate sponsors are enemies of humanity and nature, worse than war criminals.

    On the Left, there have been serious efforts to take up the scientists’ challenge. Various ecosocialists and other radicals have advocated a massive effort to change the path of industrial society. This is sometimes called a “Green New Deal.” This approach is modeled on the U.S.’s New Deal of F. D. Roosevelt in the Great Depression. Its advocates also usually model their programs on the World War II industrial mobilization which followed the New Deal. (For examples, see Aronoff 2018; Ocasio-Cortez 2018; Rugh 2018; Simpson 2018; Smith 2018; Wikipedia.)

    There does need to be a massive social effort to change our current technological course. A drastic transformation of industrial civilization is needed if we are (in Richard Smith’s phrase) to “save the humans,” as well as our fellow animals and plants. Nothing less than a revolution is needed. Yet I think that there are serious weaknesses in this specific approach, not least in modeling itself on the New Deal and the World War II mobilization—which were not revolutions, however romanticized. The proponents of a Green New Deal are almost all reformists—by which I do not mean advocates of reforms, but those who think that a series of reforms will be enough. They are state-socialists who primarily rely on the state to intervene in the economy and even take it over; in practice this program creates not socialism but state capitalism.

    From the perspective of revolutionary anarchist-socialism, the Green New Deal strategy is problematic because it means (1) an effort to modify existing capitalism, not to fight it with the aim of overthrowing it. (2) As often stated, it requires working through the Democratic Party. (3) It proposes to use the current national state as the instrument of change. Finally (4), while advocates speak of popular mobilization and democratization, their overall approach is top-down centralization.

    Plans of Ocasio-Cortez and Richard Smith

    A member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was just elected to the House of Representatives as an insurgent Democrat from Queens, NY. With a group of co-thinkers, she has formally proposed that the House set up a special Select Committee for a Green New Deal. (Ocasio-Cortez 2018) This Congressional committee would work out a plan for the transition of the .U.S. to a “green” non-carbonized economy—although it would not have the power to actually implement any plan. Supposedly this will be raised in the 2019 Congress.

    The committee would develop a “Plan” to achieve such goals as “100% national power from renewable sources” in ten years, a national “smart” energy grid, upgrading residential and industrial buildings for conservation of energy, investments in drawing-down greenhouse gases, and making “green” technology a big U.S. export. Central to its set of goals is “decarbonizing the manufacturing, agricultural, and other industries.” “Decarbonizing, repairing and improving transportation and other infrastructure.” (Ocasio-Cortez 2018) Supposedly, these goals would be implemented in such a way as to provide good jobs, services, and prosperity for everyone.

    Richard Smith is a knowledgeable and insightful ecosocialist writer (from whom I have learned much, despite disagreements). He has a generally positive reaction to this proposal (Smith 2018). Describing himself as “a proud member” of the DSA, he approves Ocasio-Cortez’ idea of a massive governmental program, modeled on the New Deal and World War II mobilization, to counter the climate crisis. However, he raises some significant concerns, specially around the key goal of “decarbonization”.

    “What’s not said is that decarbonization has to translate into shutdowns and retrenchments of actual companies. How does one decarbonize ExxonMobil or Chevron or Peabody Coal? To decarbonize them is to bankrupt them. Further, the same is true for many downstream industrial consumers….” What is required, he concludes, is governmental takeover of these industries with the aim of shutting down or drastically modifying them. “But there is no mention of shutdowns, retrenchments, buyouts, or nationalization.”

    Even more than the need to decarbonize industry (in the U.S. and internationally), is the need to create a balanced, ecologically-sustainable, system of production. “Perhaps the biggest weakness of the GND Plan is that it’s not based on a fundamental understanding that an infinitely growing economy is no longer possible on a finite planet…, of the imperative need for economic de-growth of many industries or of the need to abolish entire unsustainable industries from toxic pesticides to throw-away disposables to arms manufacturers.” (my emphasis)

    Unlike his fellow DSA member (and Democratic politician) Ocasio-Cortez, Smith raises a program which explicitly demands government take-overs of the fossil-fuel producing companies. (He notes, “Others have also argued for nationalization to phase-out fossil fuels.”) He also calls for the nationalization of industries which are dependent on fossil fuels: “autos, aviation, petrochemicals, plastics, construction, manufacturing, shipping, tourism, and so on.” These nationalizations would be part of a plan for phasing-out fossil fuels, phasing-in renewable energy, shutting down fossil-fuel production, shutting down or modifying industries which rely on fossil fuels, and creating large government employment programs. This means changing from an economy built on quantitative growth, accumulation, and profits, to one of “degrowth [and] substantial de-industrialization.”

    This program may seem revolutionary. “It’s difficult to imagine how this could be done within the framework of any capitalism…. Our climate crisis cries out for something like an immediate transition to ecosocialism.”

    Yet Smith contradicts himself; he does not present his perspective as a revolutionary program. While he proposes socialization (in the form of nationalization) of much of the corporate economy, he does not call for taking away the wealth and power of these main sectors of the capitalist class. “We do not call for expropriation. We propose a government buyout at fair value….The companies might welcome a buyout.” There will be “guaranteed state support for the investors….” Further, “it is perhaps conceivable, taking FDR’s war-emergency industrial reordering as a precedent, that the…plan…for fossil fuels buyout-nationalization…could be enacted within the framework of capitalism, though the result would be a largely state-owned economy. Roosevelt created [a] state-directed capitalism….”

    While a revolutionary approach is often derided as absurdly “utopian” and fantastic, this reformist program is itself a fantasy. It imagines that the capitalist class and its bought-and-paid-for politicians—who have resisted for decades any efforts to limit global warming—would not fight tooth-and-claw against this program. They are supposed to accept the loss of their industries, their mansions, their social status, their private jets, their media, their political influence, and the rest of their domination over society—for the sake of the environment! In all probability, to prevent this, they would whip up racism, sexual hysteria, and nationalism, subsidize fascist gangs, urge a military coup, distort or try to shut down elections and outlaw oppositions. All of which has been repeatedly done in the past, and is partially being done right now (if still on a minor scale—so far).

    In the (very) unlikely event that the capitalists accepted this program, they would still be left with great wealth from the buyout, which they would use to fight to get back their power. And even in the (extremely unlikely) event that industries could be successfully decarbonized through buyout-nationalization, there would still be the basic problem (as Smith had pointed out) of the essential drive of capitalism to expand and accumulate profits, which must conflict with sustainable life on earth.

    There is a whole history of class struggles, of revolutions and counterrevolutions, which have consistently taught the lesson that there is no peaceful-gradual-electoral “parliamentary road to socialism,” including to ecosocialism. Radicals should have learned the most recent lesson of the Syriza party in Greece.

    Can the State Save Us?

    Central to the conception of a Green New Deal is the belief that the state can save the humans and the biosphere. To Smith, “Saving the world requires the sort of large-scale economic planning that only governments can do.” There is “only one proximate solution: state intervention….” Similarly, Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal states, “We’re not saying that there isn’t a role for private sector investments; we’re just saying that…the government is best placed to be the prime driver.”

    What Smith, specifically, is proposing is a form of state capitalism. He advocates “a largely state-owned economy” which may be “within the framework of capitalism,” building on but going beyond Roosevelt’s “state-directed capitalism.” There is a radical tradition which had also advocated nationalization of big business and creation of public works, but had always tied statification to a demand for workers’ democratic control and management. For example, Trotsky’s Transitional Program states, “Where military industry is ‘nationalized,’…the slogan of workers’ control preserves its full strength. The proletariat has as little confidence in the government of the bourgeoisie as in an individual capitalist.” (Trotsky 1977; 131) Workers’ management is not part of Smith’s proposal, nor that of Ocasio-Cortez (and it has dropped out of the program of most modern-day Trotskyists).

    Of course Richard Smith is a sincere socialist democrat and a long-time opponent of Stalinist totalitarianism. But he calls on this U.S. bourgeois state, the state created and dominated by U.S. capitalism and imperialism, to take over the economy and run it. This program is state capitalism. As a result, the economy, even if decarbonized, will have the capitalist drive to accumulate profits. Just as was the state-capitalist Soviet Union, it will still be inherently destructive of the human-nature ecological balance,.

    State-socialists focus on blaming the market economy for social ills, such as global warming. They see the state as an outside, neutral, institution, which might intervene in the economy to solve these problems. “If capitalists won’t provide the jobs, then it’s the government’s responsibility to do so. We, the voting public, [will] assert our ownership of the government, not the corporations.” (Smith 2018) In other words, the government could be dominated by the corporations (using their money), or it could be dominated by the people (using their votes). Supposedly either one is possible, in contradiction to the experience of two centuries of class struggle.

    The state is a centralized bureaucratic-military socially-alienated institution. It has been created by (and creates) capitalism (and previous systems of exploitation) and serves to uphold it—and is thoroughly involved in all the evils of industrial capitalism. “Climate change is another state effect that governments are incapable of solving….The infrastructure of automotive transportation, industrial agriculture, and electricity generation, which are responsible for the majority of of greenhouse gas emissions, are built and regulated by states (…). The industries responsible for destroying the planet depend on government regulation, police protection, and financing, and form part of an economic complex that is integrally connected to government…Continuing to trust states as the potential solvers of climate change and mass extinction…[is to be] complicit with catastrophe.” (Gelderloss 2016; 241-2)

    Anarchists and radical Marxists have agreed that the existing state cannot be used to consistently defend the interests of workers and oppressed people. At times, under pressure from below, this state may give some benefits. Similarly, the management of a corporation may raise workers’ wages when under the threat of a strike. But neither the state nor corporate management is “on our side.” Certainly revolutionaries may pressure the state to make reforms in the same way as the workers may strike to force the bosses to raise their wages. But these efforts, win or lose, do not change the institutional power of capital, in corporations or in the state.

    Therefore, anarchists and radical Marxists have advocated overturning and dismantling the state and replacing it with alternate institutions. In an introduction to the Communist Manifesto, Engels modifies their original views by quoting Marx, writing, “One thing especially was proved by the [1871 Paris] Commune, viz., that ‘the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes’.” (Marx & Engels 1955; 6) Which is exactly what Ocasio-Cortez, Smith, and others propose to do.

    Anarchists and other libertarian socialists advocate replacing the state with federations of workplace councils, neighborhood assemblies, and voluntary associations, defended by an armed people (militia) so long as is necessary. They advocate socialization of the economy, not by state ownership, but by replacing capitalism with networks of democratically self-managed industries, consumer cooperatives, and collectivized municipalities. They expect productive technology to be modified by the workers, in such a way as to eliminate the division between mental and manual labor and in order to create an ecologically sustainable society.

    Ocasio-Cortez and other DSAers rely on the Democratic Party to implement their Green New Deal —a plan which, in Smith’s view should lead to the nationalization of much of the economy. However, the Democrats are committed to managing a traditional, private-capitalist, economy. “Most Democrats…acknowledge global warming is real, yet have failed to take meaningful steps to address the apocalyptic scale of the problem.…The Dems have always played seesaw between the interests of their corporate campaign donors and those of the party’s middle- and working-class base… They have more and more aligned themselves with the jealous interests of their elite backers. Party leaders have embraced a business-friendly, neoliberal approach to climate change, just as they have just about everything else.” (Rugh 2018) For an account of the Democrats’ climate-destroying actions when in office, see Dansereau (2018).

    (Members of the Green Party have also advocated a “Green New Deal” for some time. [Wikipedia] I am not reviewing their version of the GND at this time. The Greens reject the Democratic Party, for good reasons, and claim to be for a decentralized society. But they still accept an electoralist-peaceful-reformist strategy. They hope to take over the state by getting their party elected, and then to use the power of the national state to transform capitalism by carrying out a Green New Deal.)

    Decentralization and Federalism

    Richard Smith is for democracy and democratic planning. He proposes elected “planning boards at local, regional, national, and international levels.” Yet his plan, like that of Ocasio-Cortez, is clearly a top-down, centralized approach. Other experts in ecological regeneration (who are not anarchists) have seen things in a more decentralized perspective.

    For example, Bill McKibben has long been a leader of the climate justice movement. His main solution to climate change is decentralization: “more local economies, shorter supply lines, and reduced growth.” (McKibben 2007; 180) “…Development…should look to the local far more than to the global. It should concentrate on creating and sustaining strong communities….” (197) “…The increased sense of community and heightened skill at democratic decision-making that a more local economy implies will not simply increase our levels of satisfaction with our lives, but will also increase our chances of survival….” (231)

    Naomi Klein declares, “There is a clear and essential role for national plans and policies….But…the actual implementation of a great many of these plans [should] be as decentralized as possible. Communities should be given new tools and powers….Worker-run co-ops have the capacity to play a huge role in an industrial transformation…. Neighborhoods [should be] planned democratically by their residents….Farming…can also become an expanded sector of decentralized self-sufficiency and poverty reduction.” (Klein, 2014; 133-134)

    The (Monthly Review) Marxist Fred Magdoff (a professor of plant and soil science) wrote, “Each community and region should strive, within reason, to be as self-sufficient as possible with respect to basic needs such as water, energy, food, and housing. This is not a call for absolute self-sufficiency but rather for an attempt to…lessen the need for long distance transport….Energy…[should be] used near where it was produced…. in smaller farms…to produce high yields per hectare….People will be encouraged to live near where they work….” (Magdoff, 2014; 30—31) Also, “Workplaces (including farms) will be controlled and managed by the workers and communities in which they are based.” (29)

    Compare with the views of anarchist and social ecologist Murray Bookchin: “Civic entities can ‘municipalize’ their industries, utilities, and surrounding land as effectively as any socialist state.…A municipally managed enterprise would be a worker-citizen controlled enterprise, meant to serve human and ecological needs….[There would be] the replacement of the nation state by the municipal confederation.” (Bookchin 1986; 160) The takeover of the oil industry could be a national and international matter, managed through confederation, while use of renewable energy would be primarily implemented by local communes.

    In short, the capitalists’ wealth and power should be taken away from them (expropriated) by the self-organization of the working class and its allies. Capitalism should be replaced by a society which is decentralized and cooperative, producing for use rather than profit, democratically self-managed in the workplace and the community, and federated together from the local level to national and international levels. There should be as much decentralization as is reasonably possible and as little centralization as is absolutely necessary. There needs to be overall economic coordination on a national, continental, and world-wide level, by federations of self-governing industries and communities, but not by bureaucratic-military capitalist states. This is ecoocialism in the form of eco-anarchism.

    But Let’s be Realistic….

    Endorsers of the Green New Deal see it as a realistic proposal for mobilizing masses of people and changing the ecology. They regard a program of revolutionary libertarian ecosocialism as unrealistic, a nonstarter for the brief time there is left to save the world. We must act quickly, they say, with proposals most people can accept, calling on the state to take over.

    This is itself an example of what C. Wright Mills called “crackpot realism.” The idea that the Democratic Party would endorse a plan for the next session of Congress to develop a program of remaking U.S. capitalism, perhaps nationalizing much of the economy, and then get it passed through Congress—is, shall we say, not likely. With all due respect to its proponents (with whom I share values), they are like the drunk who looks for lost keys under the street lamp, because that is where there is light, even though the keys are certain to be elsewhere.

    Smith refers to “de-carbonization” as “a self-radicalizing transitional demand”. He hopes that “a vigorous campaign for this Plan will show why capitalism cannot solve the worst crisis it has ever created and encourage demands for…government planning to suppress emissions….With a…monumental mobilization around this Green New Deal …we can derail the capitalist drive to ecological collapse and build an ecosocialist civilization….”

    In other words, he is for building a mass movement for the Green New Deal of Ocasio-Cortez (which he regards as inadequate as proposed), and/or his more radical plan (nationalization based on buying out the capitalists). He hopes that people will become aware of the limits of any pro-capitalism, because the “campaign will show why capitalism cannot solve the crisis.” However, he does not propose to tell the working class and the rest of the population that a pro-capitalist plain “cannot solve the crisis” Instead he advocates a plan which is an expansion of Roosevelt’s “state-directed capitalism.” Apparently he hopes that the people will come to the conclusion that ”capitalism cannot solve the crisis” by themselves—or perhaps with some help from the reformist, state-socialist, Democratic Party-supporting, Democratic Socialists of America. An ecosocialist result is far more likely if there are already radicals telling the truth about capitalism, from the very beginning, even if it is, so far, unpopular to do so.

    Revolutionaries have long argued that even reforms are most likely to be won when the rulers fear a militant, aggressive, and revolutionary movement, or at least a revolutionary wing of a broader movement. “Reforms” in this case would be steps to hold back and mitigate the effects of global warming due to capitalist industry, even by using the capitalist state. Such reforms cannot be won by an environmental movement which tries to be “reasonable” and “respectable”, especially if it has a radical left which offers to buy out big businesses and stay within the framework of capitalism.

    We cannot say what is reasonable to expect. Today’s popular consciousness is not what it will be tomorrow. The very crises of weather and the environment will change that. The climate crisis will interact with the looming economic crisis, and with continuing turmoil over race, immigration, gender, and sexual orientation. Not to mention endless wars. With such shakeups in the lives of working people and young people, there may be an opening for a revolutionary anarchist ecosocialist program. Whether this will develop in time cannot be known. But we must not give up on history.

    In conclusion, revolutionary libertarian ecosocialists should support all sincere struggles for reforms, including those advocating state action, and participate in these movements. But they should always point out the limitations and dangers of these programs. they should always raise the goal of a decentralized-federation of self-managed institutions as the only society capable of ecological harmony and freedom.

    The issue is not only whether capitalism is compatible with ecological balance and ending climate change. The question is also about the nature of the state, and whether the state is compatible with avoiding ecological catastrophe. These issues should determine our attitude toward proposals for a Green New Deal.


    All, Max (2018). “Beyond the Green New Deal.” The Brooklyn Rail. (11/1/18).

    Aronoff, Kate (2018). “A Mandate for Left Leadership.” The Nation (12/31/18). Pp. 18—20, 26.

    Bookchin, Murray (1986). The Modern Crisis. Philadelphia PA: New Society Publishers.

    Dansereau, Carol (2018). “Climate and the Infernal Blue Wave: Straight Talk About Saving Humanity.” System Change Not Climate Change. (From Counterpunch ll/13/18.)

    Gelderloos, Peter (2016). Worshipping Power: An Anarchist View of Early
    State Formation. Chico CA: AK Press.

    Klein, Naomi (2014). This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. NY: Simon & Schuster.

    Magdoff, Fred (Sept. 2014). “Building an Ecologically Sound and Socially Just Society.” Monthly Review (v. 66; no. 4). Pp. 23—34.

    Marx, Karl, & Engels, Friedrich (1955). The Communist Manifesto. Northbrook IL: AHM Publishing.

    McKibben, Bill (2007). Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. NY: Henry Holt/Times Books.

    Ocasio-Cortez, Alexandria (2018). ”Select Committee for a Green New Deal: Draft Text for Proposed Addendum to House Rules for 116th Congress of the United States”

    Rugh, Peter (2018). “Gearing Up for a Green New Deal.” The Indypendent. Issue 242.

    Simpson, Adam (2018). “The Green New Deal and the Shift to a New Economy” The Next System Podcast.

    Smith, Richard (2018). “An Ecosocialist Path to Limiting Global Temperature Rise to 1.5 [degrees] C” System Change Not Climate Change. (An abridged version of a paper to appear in 3/1/19 Real-World Economics Review.)

    Trotsky, Leon (1977). The Transitional Program for Socialist Revolution. NY: Pathfinder Press.

    Wikipedia, (undated). “Green New Deal.”

    *written for http://www.Anarkismo.net

    • Boulder Dash 8th Feb 2019

      An Ecologically Sound and Socially Just Economy
      by Fred Magdoff
      (Sep 01, 2014)
      Topics: Ecology , Marxist Ecology
      Places: Global

      Fred Magdoff is professor emeritus of plant and soil science at the University of Vermont and a long-time commentator on political-economic topics. He is coauthor, with John Bellamy Foster, of The Great Financial Crisis (2009) and What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism (2011)—both published by Monthly Review Press.
      This article is based on notes from a presentation to the biannual meeting of the United States Society for Ecological Economics, Burlington, Vermont on June 11, 2013.
      Two weeks ago I returned from my fiftieth class reunion at Oberlin College in Ohio. The brief discussions I had there with environmental faculty and students left me feeling a bit dazed. So many good and intelligent people, so concerned, and doing what they think and hope will help heal the environment—this college has one of the best environmental education programs in the country. However, I was left disappointed and profoundly discouraged by the lack of discussion—or even interest in having a real continuing discussion and debate—regarding the root causes of our environmental disasters. Not just climate change, but also pollution of the air, water, soil, and living organisms, the loss of biodiversity both aboveground and in the soil, the extinction of species, and the overuse and misuse of both renewable and nonrenewable natural resources.

      It is as though there is a flat tire with perhaps a thousand holes and people are working on the best way to patch this hole or that one. No one there seems to consider that the problem might be the tire itself—that the design and materials utilized are not appropriate to the way it is being used. And, if that is the case, then no amount of patching can solve the flat tire problem. It is of the utmost importance to be able to distinguish between symptoms (that most people call “problems” or “crises”) and underlying causes.

      I ran into this confusion between symptoms and underlying causes time and time again in agricultural science and farming practices. Soils may be prone to erosion, store little water, grow crops that are susceptible to diseases and insect attack, become compacted, or have low fertility. Farmers (and extension specialists), usually think of and deal with these as individual problems—using pesticide applications, lots of commercial fertilizers, irrigating more frequently, using heavier equipment, and so on. In fact, I spent a significant portion of my career as a soil scientist helping to deal with the negative side effects of one of these responses—excess fertilizer use, especially nitrogen and phosphorus.

      (As an aside, as I was preparing this talk, an unbelievable thirty-five tons of nitrogen in the nitrate form, worth approximately $35,000, flowed down the Raccoon River past Des Moines, Iowa, on the way to the Mississippi and the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico. This flushing of nitrate out of the soil by prolonged spring rains, partially the result of nitrate left over after last year’s drought [2012], was mainly a consequence of an ecologically damaging, but profitable, emphasis on growing corn and soybeans without an ecologically sound crop rotation.)

      However, what I learned over time was that in reality these are symptoms of an unhealthy soil and a simplified approach to soil and crop management. The same is true of never-ending unemployment, inequality and poverty, the systemic necessity of perpetual growth, and pollution of air, water, soil, and organisms. As harmful as each of these is, they are all only symptoms—of an economic system that is essentially unmanaged. Of course large corporations and politicians that represent them try to manage national and international laws, regulations, and markets in such ways that it becomes easier for them to make more money. But with individual corporations and other private capital making decisions which consider only their own interests, the system as a whole alternates between periods of growth (that nowadays are pretty lackluster) and periods of recession. Addressing individual symptoms alone is not sufficient for the tasks we need to undertake—either to create healthy soils or to create an ecologically based and humane society.

      One of the neglected issues regarding thinking and acting about the environment—perhaps the most critical of all—is, to borrow a phrase from the first President Bush, the vision thing. The environmental movement is lacking any kind of meaningful vision as to what a truly ecologically sound and socially just society would look like and how it might operate. I am not talking about a blueprint with all sorts of details, but rather an agreement on essential characteristics of such a system. Without a vision—including some conception of the essential parts of such a system, the chances of actually getting to such a society are essentially zero. Or, as James Baldwin put it in a commonly cited but still very appropriate passage, “Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” It is my contention that we are not facing the root cause of our problems, and until we do, there is no hope of solving the social and ecological problems confronting the world.

      Why Not Tinker with Capitalism?

      Before going into some suggested characteristics of such a system—one that is ecologically sound and socially just—it seems as if most environmentalists think that the answer is to change capitalism. However, none of the suggested tinkering—with banks, international institutions such as the IMF or the World Bank, environmental regulations, worker cooperatives, trying to use markets to reduce pollution, etc.—gets to the heart of the matter. This, of course, does not mean that we should abandon all attempts to buy more time and help educate others through involvement in here-and-now activism. However, the primary problem is the inner moving force of capitalism—its Achilles heel regarding the environment—the unending accumulation of capital, which means perpetual “creative destruction.” Produce and sell more stuff next year and more than that in the following year…for all of eternity.1 In such an economy there can be no concept of “enough.” There cannot be an endpoint to the production and consumption of ever-greater amounts of stuff. No-growth capitalism is an oxymoron.

      There are severe repercussions for many people when economic expansion falters—because it is only through growth that capitalism creates jobs for new workers and for those displaced by automation (nowadays by robots and software programs). In the period from 1949 to 2012, unemployment increased in twenty-one years, about one-third of the time. During those twenty-one years the average annual real GDP growth rate was only 0.8 percent. Although the business cycle does not neatly correspond to calendar years, it is apparent that significant real GDP growth, around 2 percent or greater, is needed to hold down the unemployment rate. The U.S. GDP is currently growing at about a 2 percent rate, with relatively sluggish job growth. As of May 2013, there are still 2.3 million fewer people working than before the start of the Great Recession five-and-a-half years ago. And there are approximately 5.6 million fewer people working in full-time jobs.

      What is the implication for the environment of this growth imperative of capitalism and the need to have growth in order to create jobs? Almost all environmentalists understand that we need to have an economy that does not grow and is still able to function. But if the economy continues growing at its current anemic rate, the GDP will double in 35 years (see Chart 1). If it were to grow at a more healthy rate, the GDP would double in less than twenty-five years. Although a doubling of the GDP will certainly mean more stuff produced, more resources used and more pollution, it does not mean that they will necessarily double.

      Chart 1. Years to Doubling of GDP at Different GDP Growth Rates

      Chart 1. Years to Doubling of GDP at Different GDP Growth Rates

      Source: Calculated by author.

      Just to give a small and somewhat humorous example of the problem, here is a passage from a 2013 New York Times Magazine section (in an issue devoted to inventions):

      Booty Pop, padded underwear that makes a person’s backside look bigger and shapelier, an idea so simple its incredible that it took until 2008 for someone to perfect it…. Two friends…were struck by the popularity of bun-lift surgery and thought there had to be a safer, cheaper way for women to achieve the same effect. So [one of them] glued the padding from her bra into a pair of underpants, found a manufacturer in Asia to produce a version of it that met her specifications; and then introduced it to the world on a cable-television show. They have since sold almost two million Booty Pops.2
      A society that allows (not to mention encourages) such a waste of capital, and both human and natural resources, will never be ecologically sound and will never be socially just. It is not an issue, as some have said, of simply changing from a “growth philosophy,” “growth model,” “growth paradigm,” “domination ethic,” or the focus on GDP growth by economists and the media. Capitalism’s growth imperative has nothing to do with philosophies, models, paradigms, ethics, or which numbers pundits and economists focus on. Neither can it be “reinvented,” as some think, to be ecologically sound and socially just. Rather, it is an economic system that has basic internal forces—especially the profit motive and competition among firms—that operate in such a way as to promote exponential growth while simultaneously causing massive negative social and ecological effects. And when growth in this system fails, what Herman Daly refers to as “a failed growth economy,” the cruelest forms of austerity prevail—giving rise to more and more unequal conditions and more ruthless forms of exploitation of both human beings and the earth.

      Occasionally even a major capitalist sees the weaknesses of the system. After mentioning what he thinks are the strong points of capitalism (some of which I would take issue with), Jeremy Grantham, the environmental philanthropist and legendary fund manager, goes on the explain the following: “However, it [capitalism] is totally ill-equipped to deal with a small handful of issues. Unfortunately, today, they are the issues that are absolutely central to our long-term wellbeing and even survival.”3

      There are some who think that capitalism should be saved because they are under the mistaken notion that capitalism equals democracy. There are, of course, plenty of examples of dictatorships that were capitalist (in many countries of the South, as well as Spain, Greece, Germany, and Italy). For those under the illusion the United States is a democracy because you can vote every four years for a president (or for members of the House of Representatives every two years and the Senate every six)—choosing between candidates of two parties that are both owned lock, stock, and barrel by corporate interest—I urge you to read a short article by Joseph Stiglitz, “Of the 1%, by the 1%, and for the 1%,” as well as many other sources on the U.S. plutocracy.4 The nationally coordinated shutting down of one of the most promising modern exercises of democratic rights in the United States—the Occupy movement—by simultaneous police raids on the Occupy sites, indicates how little tolerance there is for mass expressions of dissenting views. And now with the scandal accompanying Edward Snowden’s release of National Security Agency documents we can see the extent of U.S. government spying on citizens as well as many abroad—in clear violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”5

      I have not heard another argument regarding just what it is about the capitalist system that is so good that it should be preserved. It is true that as part of its growth imperative there is constant innovation to find new products to sell or new processes of production. But there is no reason why there can’t be innovation in a non-capitalist system—if not the churning, continual, “creative destruction” type. Why won’t there be people in an ecologically sound and socially just society who think of better—more environmentally sound ways—of doing something or those engaged in scientific research not for profit but for the love of science, the profound need of some to understand at a deeper level, or just for the benefit of humanity (for example, in the health sciences)? Even today, many people are engaged in innovation for reasons other than the potential monetary payoff.

      An ecologically sound and socially just economy can be defined as one that encourages all people to develop their full human potential in such ways that the environment—with all its complexity, essential cycles, and relationships—remains intact, functioning, and healthy. In other words, an economy designed to be at the service of humanity, which includes the environment on which we and other species depend. This is an economy that can stop growing and can function well during a steady state, while meeting the needs of people and the rest of the natural world.

      The ideas and suggested characteristics, principles, and procedures below are not a grab bag of possibilities from which one can choose. Rather, the various parts need each other in order for the economy and social system to function in an ecologically sound and socially just way. Each fits into one or more of the five attributes or pillars of strong natural systems: self-regulation; self-sufficiency; diversity and interdependence; efficiency (of cycling of energy and nutrients by closely linked metabolic relations); and resilience through self-renewal.

      Social, Economic, and Ecological Principles

      Economic decisions—what to invest in, and what, how, and where to build/produce—are made democratically and for the purpose of fulfilling the basic needs of people. One of the basic needs, of course, is a healthy local, regional, and global environment. Such a society will be oriented to encourage everyone to strive to reach their full human potential. All people can live a culturally and socially rich life, though with a modest amount of stuff—below what is considered necessary for a “middle-class western standard of living.” Note the contrast—production to fulfill human needs versus capitalist production for the purpose of sale in a market in order to generate a profit.
      Workplaces (including farms) will be controlled and managed by the workers and communities in which they are based. There will be no economic exploitation by one person of another and community members will have input into production in their own backyards.
      Once socially determined basic human needs (material and non-material) are met—and after defining how much is enough—the economy stops growing with only neutral or positive side effects for society.
      All people who can work will have a role in the economy. It is important for individuals to feel a part of the community and society and work provides one of those links. If everything is provided for a decent and full existence there is a responsibility for all who are able to participate in providing goods and services.
      Leadership positions (in the economy, community, region, etc.) rotate among the people and there is a system for easy recall of elected officials/leaders.
      Substantive equality among people. This is essential because all will be living at a modest standard in terms of goods and services. In that situation people living at a much higher standard becomes socially unacceptable and unsustainable. People will have richer lives with less stuff because they will have time, assistance, and encouragement to develop and follow their passions—in sports, science, music, dance, writing, painting, handicrafts, or growing flowers—and to more fully engage with family, friends, and community. In a no-growth economy sharing and equality become means to eliminate the remnants of poverty and make sure it does not reappear.
      Interactions between and among communities, regions, and nations will be based on principles of reciprocity, solidarity, and mutual assistance.
      An economy that has a social purpose must involve considerable active management. Planning for short- and longer-term needs begins at the community level (as with the over 30,000 Community Councils of Venezuela) and is intertwined and coordinated with other communities in a regional plan.Once there is social purpose for an economy—as opposed to individuals making decisions that are aimed almost exclusively at obtaining the largest profits possible—there is no way to rationally operate without planning. For example, the production needs for both the First and Second World Wars were accomplished only through planning—and the use of rationing for the public. These plans were essential. After all, given the competition among the military services and with civilian needs as well, how else could you ensure that a particular part, say, a set of ball bearings, got to the right factory at the right time in order to produce an airplane needed for the war effort? It is not possible for markets to do this. In the absence of a planning system for production and distribution, how can we ensure that all people have adequate housing, clean water, sanitation, health services, clothing, and enough food?There may be markets in a post-capitalist society (as there have been since long before the existence of capitalism); in an economy of substantive equality, where basic needs are met, markets may provide some information to planners. When items are scarce, for whatever reason, rationing will ensure that everyone has a fair share—as was done in the United States during the Second World War.(Mostly unacknowledged by economists and pundits, “the market” in capitalist economies is actually a powerful rationing system—rationing according to individual/family resources. Commodities are theoretically available for anyone to purchase—for example, a good new car—but these are out of the reach of people with modest means. And sometimes even basic needs such as food are also beyond the reach of the poor, even in wealthy countries. Close to 50 million people in the United States are considered “food insecure.” This is clearly the result of food rationing occurring in a country that produces bountiful amounts of food.)
      Procedures: Ecologically Sound Metabolic Interactions with Nature/Resources
      Each community and region should strive, within reason, to be as self sufficient as possible with respect to basic needs such as water, energy, food, and housing. This is not a call for absolute self-sufficiency but rather for an attempt to build resilient communities and lessen the need for long-distance transport. Clearly not everything is going to be produced in every community, or even every city. But trying to be as self-sufficient as reasonably possible can still be a goal. Redundancy is an important part of both self-sufficiency and resilience. People with similar skills are needed in a community (there cannot just be one electrician) and redundancy in production facilities means that if something happens to one (say a fire), that others can pick up the slack.
      Energy used comes from current (or very recently past) renewable energy sources and used near where it is produced.
      Methods and aims of industrial production and building construction are such that goods have a long life and are easily repaired, repurposed, and/or recycled.
      Non-renewable resources will be conserved and used sparingly and in such ways that they can be recycled efficiently as efforts continue to replace them with renewable ones. Let me give just two examples: one is very well known, and one very new. The first is that legumes can be grown in rotation to supply nitrogen to grain crops (instead of using nitrogen fertilizer produced by using natural gas). The second is a relatively new process in which fungal hyphae replaces Styrofoam as packing or insulating material.6
      Agricultural production will be carried out based on soil and above-ground habitat management that produces healthy plants better able to defend themselves from diseases and insects and to enhance habitat for beneficial organisms. Integrated animal-crop farms will be encouraged—providing a mosaic of habitats—including relatively undisturbed ones. Farm animals will be treated humanely and allowed to do what they would normally want to do and eat what they would normally eat—instead of being confined under cruel conditions and fed corn and soybeans laced with hormones and antibiotics. Farms will rely on legumes for nitrogen for non-legume crops, as well as efficient nutrient cycling for most nutrient needs. Integrated animal-crop farms make this easier to accomplish.7
      Nutrients from human waste (and farm animal waste, as mentioned above), including bodily waste and unused or spoiled food waste, will be cycled back to farmland as efficiently and safely as possible.
      Renewable resources will be used in ways that preserve the resource base and do not create problems for other species/resources. Local communities will cooperatively manage natural resources such as nearby forests and fisheries to perpetuate them for future generations.
      Labor efficiency will not be an important goal (as it is in an economy in which using less labor is a way to enhance profits). For example, ecologically sound and productive agriculture—which will become essential when oil and phosphorus fertilizer run out or become unaffordable to use for agricultural purposes—will take more people working smaller farms with more human and animal labor. These farmers should be able to produce high yields per hectare and per input of energy, but will have lower yields per hour of labor.
      People will be encouraged to live near where they work and use multifaceted and efficient public transportation when needed. Bicycling will be encouraged and private automobiles will play a very small role, if any, in transportation.
      The precautionary principle will be used to evaluate and make decisions on new procedures, production systems, and materials as well as to evaluate any chemicals used by society—to prove safety for humans and the rest of the environment before introduction.
      Living in an Ecologically Sound and Socially Just Society
      Communities and regions will develop open and democratic processes to make decisions for infrastructure needs as well other investments. Ways need to be developed for communities and regions to work together in solving problems and sharing resources.
      Education and interactions among people within communities and between communities will strive to encourage those human characteristics and ethics that best fit an ecological and just society.
      People will have sufficient time to develop their various interests. People will work for significantly less than the “eight hour” working day, because so much of what is done now is not socially useful for society at large and would be considered waste in a more rational system. These include luxury cars or yachts, most of the financial system, the intelligence­-military-industrial complex (the U.S. military is one of the great destroyers of the environment), the prison-industrial complex, the constant efforts to change fashions and products to induce buying, the sales effort in all its ramifications, and so on. Socially useless, even harmful, products and programs constitute a very large portion of the U.S. economy and utilize as large a share of workers—perhaps as great as half of the labor force and at least as much of the raw materials used.We are all capable of exhibiting a large range of characteristics, from the most brutal to the most altruistic. There is no such thing as an abstract “human nature” divorced from the society in which people are living. It is the society at large, the way the economy works, and one’s family that encourages or even requires (to be successful) some of these characteristics/behaviors while discouraging others. In capitalism, some of the basest characteristics—such as competitiveness, individualism, greed—are encouraged and rewarded. This leads to putting the individual’s (and a corporation’s) best interests ahead of those of society.
      In order for a socially just and ecological society to function, educational efforts need to be taken to encourage compassion (instead of naked individualism), cooperation (instead of competitiveness), reciprocity and sharing (instead of greed and consumerism), an awe of nature in all its complexity and beauty (instead of thinking of nature mainly for its potential usefulness in producing commodities), and egalitarianism (instead of striving to get ahead of others). This means actively working to create a new ethic towards the land, the environment in general, toward our fellow human beings, our communities, and the other species with which we share this planet. The significantly greater time that people will have for purposes other than work will allow for more community activities, interactions with others outside the family and work, and to appreciate the natural world in all its complexity.
      Closing Thoughts

      I have outlined some of the main characteristics that I think are essential for an ecologically and socially humane and just economy and society. These are incompatible—in almost every way—with a capitalist economy. Doing away step by step with capitalism in a necessary long revolution will not automatically bring positive social or ecological change. That change will happen only if a large portion of the population believe in, and fight for, an environmentally sound and socially just society. And it will take a huge shift in almost all of human activities, ways of thinking and behaving, including how we relate to each other and interact with the environment. New ethics will be needed for this new society to function. This is not an easy task, but what is the alternative? A system that, as it functions normally, destroys the very foundations of life through exploitation, waste, and greed is by definition an antiquated system. This is not an argument in favor of doing nothing in the here-and-now. We should be helping to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and encourage universities and other organizations to divest of holdings in fossil-fuel companies and fight for the environmental rights of poor communities. We can use these struggles in order to help educate others that, to solve the overall ecological crisis in all its ramifications, another system is necessary.

      Is this an unattainable “utopia”? I think that, if it ever comes into being, an economy and society that is ecologically sound and socially just will have to embody most of the characteristics I have described above. There is no doubt that it will not happen in the near future. But I contend that it is no more utopian than to think that the financial and other strong business powers and their governmental representatives will allow you to make major changes to the financial system or the way international trade operates. What are the chances of, as some ecological economists have suggested, forcing banks to have very high (some have said 100 percent) reserves so they cannot create significant amount of debt or making major modifications in the workings of the World Bank and rules of the World Trade Organization so that they encourage equality and environmental justice? I think that those ideas are perhaps even more utopian than the possible creation of a new society. As the economist Joan Robinson once explained, “Any government which had both the power and the will to remedy the major defects of the capitalist system would have the will and the power to abolish it altogether.”8

      It has been said, accurately in my opinion, that most people in this society can more easily imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. I fear that barbarism may be the fate that awaits our grandchildren and their children unless we can change that way of thinking and start to envision, and begin to work towards, an economy and society under truly democratic social control with the very purpose being to satisfy basic human needs, which as I have stressed many times, includes a healthy and thriving environment.

      ↩ On the growth imperative of capitalism see Chapter Three in Fred Magdoff and John Bellamy Foster, What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2011).
      ↩ Hugo Lindgren, “If you were trying to name the greatest invention in human history it would be,” New York Times Magazine, June 7, 2013, http://nytimes.com.
      ↩ Leo Hickman, “Jeremy Grantham On How to Feed the World and Why He Invests in Oil,” Guardian Environment Blog, April 16, 2013, http://guardian.co.uk.
      ↩ Joseph E. Stiglitz, “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%,” Vanity Fair, May 2011, http://vanityfair.com.
      ↩ “Fourth Amendment,” http://law.cornell.edu.
      ↩ Laura Shin, “Using Fungi to Replace Styrofoam,” New York Times “Green” blog, April 13, 2009, http://green.blogs.nytimes.com.
      ↩ For information about ecological soil and crop management practices, see Fred Magdoff and Harold van Es, Building Soils for Better Crops, 3rd edition (Waldorf, MD: Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, 2010). This book and others from the SARE program are free at http://sare.org/learning-center/books.
      ↩ Joan Robinson, “Review of R.F. Harrod, The Trade Cycle,” Economic Journal 46, no. 184 (December 1936): 691–93.

  • Boulder Dash 8th Feb 2019

    “The environmental movement is lacking any kind of meaningful vision as to what a truly ecologically sound and socially just society would look like and how it might operate. I am not talking about a blueprint with all sorts of details, but rather an agreement on essential characteristics of such a system. Without a vision—including some conception of the essential parts of such a system, the chances of actually getting to such a society are essentially zero.”

    A blueprint with all sorts of details? Never seen a blueprint. Seen ideas. Some vague, some less vague, some specific to an economy, some that address concerns others don’t, some that profess to be minimally detailed but show considerable detail in other areas, some that want markets in the future but only one with none, many or most that on the whole seem much the same, some revolutionary, some far less so...a moderate green new deal was probably always going to be the place to start...

  • Dave Jones 8th Feb 2019

    You been researching my man, as usual, finding what's relevant. This "blue print versus agreement on essential characteristics" seems like quibbling over difference without a distinction. An ancient lefty debate around orthodoxy that has no resolution. As you know I am a member of SCNCC and have spent valuable time with both Richard Smith and John Foran. I just posted something about my experience last night in the forum there. These folks have Marxist roots but I don't know what their utopia looks like, pretty labor oriented with just enough eco to keep it real.

    My critique was that people should be aware of how many resources and how much energy we American's were going to suck up to put this thing together. They talk joyfully of this win-win, having GDP growth AND saving the planet, just like you would expect a Yank to do, right?

  • Alex of... 8th Feb 2019

    looking at some of the media around the Alexandria GND release...

    rightish or leftish, many quote Pelosi:

    "It will be one of several or maybe many suggestions that we receive. The green dream, or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they're for it, right?"

    (^she's very inspiring)

    there's the RESOLUTION

    as well as this FAQ

    one thing the right has honed in on.. language from the FAQ...

    "guaranteeing.. Economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work"

    unwilling? i actually find that one a bit odd me damn self.


  • Boulder Dash 9th Feb 2019

    Looks like green to me. Evil DicK’s new deal.

  • Dave Jones 9th Feb 2019

    The Sunrise kids want me to sign a petition and then go to my elected representative's office next week. Pretty soon Bernie will announce and then all the energy will be directed to campaigning. I have to admit, it is a brilliant system of control.Poor AOC had to face Chuck Todd (NBC Meet the Press)and say the choice between capitalism and democratic socialism was "false", they can "coexist". Like humans can coexist with ebola.

    Alex, I think a strong case can be made for the right not to work but not something I would emphasize trying to build support for GND. Sounds unamerican. I'm trying to find funding for a climate countdown clock to put downtown, one that clicks off the seconds we have left. So while you are enjoying your croissant and latte you have something to look at beside your Iphone.

    • Boulder Dash 9th Feb 2019

      Ah fuck Dave...I’m just off to the cafe for a coffee while I stair at my iPad...after I feed my ecologically unsound domesticated cat...

  • Alex of... 9th Feb 2019

    note the switch to worker cooperatives. sound like she's trying to introduce a shift in mentality that a working class person (particularly those swinging right) could wrap around. take it from the revamp of 'freedom vs gov control' to a more personal level, where surely many on the right (or leftish) could relate when they consider their own job and lack of influence. realize that democracy is actually an expression of freedom.

    many are familiar with unions, too. lot of these folks rallying for Trump would have been in unions a few decades ago, working side by side with hardcore commies. the mainstream left voice is largely coming from well-off liberal city-folk. the left has largely lost its voice on class. this is a dynamic that needs to be overcome.

    again, many of these Trump voters either switched from Bernie, or at least have respect for him. and as Chomsky pointed out way back, Palin was the only one using the phrase "working class" during Obama's first round. ignored in the mainstream, paved the way for Trump.

    "smash capitalism" doesn't say a whole lot me. there needs to be instruments of workers control to build from. part of that entails rebuilding the bridge between city and rural working class getting split on cultural differences by party politics.

    that language of the "unwilling" getting guaranteed income kind of pisses me off. it pretty much confirms the bullshit narrative that socialism means "you work hard and the government steals your money to give to people who don't."

    yes, to include it in climate legislation practically nullifies the rest of it as far as how these young youtubers watching Jordan P will perceive it. drops the anvil.. boom.. there it is, fucking government control. batshit crazy about that, batshit crazy about the rest.

    but, really.. what is your strong case for the right to not work and get paid through tax money, for those able to work?

  • Boulder Dash 9th Feb 2019

    The right not to work, or being unwilling, is interesting to a degree. Of course one has a right to not work, but the collective has a right to demand something from all in regard to accessing the social pie. There has to be some accounting method.

    A guaranteed income is merely designed to keep a broken and absurd economic system running. It, like so many solutions, relies on some notion of hope...some kind of improvised change that a survival/support income of around 12,000 a year will help facilitate...but to what. Most advocates of a basic income never address thoroughly the economic structures and alternatives to stir enough imagination, and if the go as far as something like a Parecon, they get accused of going too far, too theoretical and infeasible. Advocates usually illustrate/highlight possible ways change could come about or things that could be done if people had a guaranteed income and hence some economic freedom to a certain degree but it may be some would just surf or play music or paint, like for themselves. Derr. But that’s because it’s a fucking bandaid and not a new system or vision and not one that fosters strategy to get somewhere.

    An Inclusive Democracy economic system talked of banishment for those shirkers or surfer bums.

    P2p talks of a kind of shaming or something...your reputation goes to hell...like as a person.

    Funny really considering you need to notice someone is shirking and many anti parecon people don’t like the idea of effort ratings because it they feel it fosters a kind of spying...workers checking each other out and delivering assesssments and shit of other’s “work” effort. Well derr...people fucking DO watch and notice...it’s why people get kicked out of shared rental housing.

    In a Parecon shirking or not working just wouldn’t work...no benefit from it as you cannot access the social pie and there is really no or very minimal way to build some kind of hidden riches through some kind of underworld economy...at least without being noticed.

    The right to not work can be acknowledged but it really isn’t even a possibility. People always notice and get pissed like Alex. I think the dream or fantasy of not working or being unwilling is a symptom purely of the fucked up competitive economic system in which we live. It produces existential fatigue for most, at least the 80%, and people sometimes feel like they just want to sit...sit and make their story doing nothing holding up a big recalcitrant middle finger to the Spectacle.

    Surfers eventually wouldn’t be able to surf due to undernourishment and ill health and an inability to access the latest surfing technology or even repair their board or get around to other breaks due to no money, not enough money and the subsequent attitudes of their once close friends who have noticed they don’t do shit.

    The right to not work is really just a fantasy and nothing more.

  • Alex of... 9th Feb 2019

    the only way i would include that would be tactical. knowing it will cause a fuss, with plans to use it to illustrate a challenge on inheritance, stock, real estate..etc. challenge the libertarian "even playing field" we are not all born into equally. that's luck of the draw, not innovation. challenge wealth that simply creates more wealth. that's the private version of government extracting your money for someone not working.

    again, i'm referring to strategic shifts in ideology in today's political landscape. use it to shift the narrative. turn it upside down.

    • Alex of... 9th Feb 2019

      on a side note, i had looked at Patriot Prayer's (them PNW rightwingers) FB page shortly after the vid of AOC dancing caused a fuss. they had posted a couple snaps from it and said:

      "A far left female acting like a female? See something new every day."

      first comment: "I hate it but she is so hot."
      response: "I know it's so annoying"

      ..lol.. seductive opening? she should challenge the Presidential running age. old enough to own a gun, old enough to run.

      i would also support the Joe Rogan/Sarah Silverman independent ticket.

    • Boulder Dash 9th Feb 2019

      Comedians are taking over the world...

    • Alex of... 9th Feb 2019

      and CEO's to the gulag.

    • Alex of... 9th Feb 2019

    • Boulder Dash 9th Feb 2019

      What’s a gulag?

    • Alex of... 9th Feb 2019

    • Alex of... 9th Feb 2019

      put the unwilling in the gulag.

    • Alex of... 10th Feb 2019

  • Alex of... 10th Feb 2019

    "I'm trying to find funding for a climate countdown clock to put downtown, one that clicks off the seconds we have left."

    curious what timeline you are going by. as in, what it counts down to and what that moment signifies. does it adjust if there's changes?

    if you're serious on that one, i have contacts at https://www.backbonecampaign.org/

    they might be into that kind o thing.

  • Alex of... 10th Feb 2019

  • Dave Jones 11th Feb 2019

    The countdown idea stems from the latest IPCC report that said we had till 2030 to reduce emissions 45%. Of course it isn't exact or definitive, but the symbolic representation is the kind of in-you-face reminder that is necessary. People still say "twelve years" when in fact it diminishes every second.

    As for right not to work, it is an argument Andrew Levine makes in the first chapter of Rethinking Liberal Equality 1998 Cornell U Press and it is interesting as a thought experiment, not for socialists to run on. The sub-title of the book is : From a "Utopian" Point of View.

  • Boulder Dash 11th Feb 2019

    Found first chapter but couldn’t access it. Found an analysis of it.

    Should we have a right not to work?

    Voltaire once said that “work saves a man from three great evils: boredom, vice and need.” Many people endorse this sentiment. Indeed, the ability to seek and secure paid employment is often viewed as an essential part of a well-lived life. Those who do not work are reminded of the fact. They are said to be missing out on a valuable and fulfilling human experience. The sentiment is so pervasive that some of the foundational documents of international human rights law — including the UN Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR Art. 23) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR Art. 6) — recognise and enshrine the “right to work”.

    But what about the right not to work? Although the UDHR and ICESCR both recognise the right to rest and leisure, they do so clearly in the context of a concern about overwork. In other words, they recognise the right to work under fair and reasonable conditions. They do not take the more radical step of recognising a right to opt out of work completely, nor to have that right protected by the state. But maybe they should? Maybe the right not to work is something that a just and humane society should recognise?

    That, at any rate, is the argument developed by Andrew Levine in his article “Fairness to Idleness: Is there a right not to work?”. In this post, I want to take a look at that argument. In broad outline, Levine defends the claim that a right not to work is entailed by the fundamental principles of liberal egalitarianism (of a roughly Rawlsian type). He does so, not because he himself endorses liberal egalitarianism, but because he wishes to highlight the more radical implications of that view.

    I think Levine’s argument is intriguing. I also think that if we are entering an age of increasing automation and technological unemployment — i.e. a world in which economically productive activity will be taken over by machines — its alleged impracticalities will become less and less of an issue. Consequently, it is something we should start to take more seriously. I’ll break my discussion down into two main sections. First, I’ll sketch Levine’s argument for the right not to work. Second, I’ll consider his response to the major criticisms of that argument.

    1. Levine’s Argument for a Right not to Work
    One of the central precepts of liberal egalitarianism (as Levine understands it) is the principle of neutrality. According to this principle, the state should be neutral with respect to its citizens’ conception of the good. That is to say, the state should not promote any particular conception of what the good life consists in. Instead, it should work to tolerate and facilitate people in their pursuit of different conceptions of the good. Obviously, it can only do this to a certain extent. If a person’s conception of the good consists in the belief that, say, all black people should be killed, then that can neither be facilitated nor tolerated. Or if a person’s conception of the good involves unreasonable demands on resources, such that it would deprive many others of their conception of the good, then it may not be permissible or possible to facilitate it. But assuming that a person’s conception of the good does not unjustly or unfairly deprive anyone else of their conception of the good, it should be tolerated, and if possible, facilitated.

    This principle of neutrality provides the basis for Levine’s argument for the right not to work. Although he does not offer a formal summary of that argument, I think we can craft a formal version by reading between the lines. Here is my stab at it:

    (1) If the state is committed to the liberal egalitarian model of justice, then it should tolerate and facilitate any individual citizen’s conception of the good, provided that that conception of the good does not unjustly or unfairly deprive anyone else of their conception of the good.
    (2) There is a conception of the good in which a person refuses to work and instead pursues a life of leisure.
    (3) This conception of the good does not unjustly and unfairly deprive anyone else of their conception of the good.
    (4) Therefore, the liberal egalitarian state should tolerate and facilitate the refusal of work and the pursuit of leisure (i.e. it should recognise a right not to work).

    Let’s talk about the premises of this argument. Premise (1) is the normative principle. As you can see, it is conditional in nature. It assumes that we first accept the liberal egalitarian model. This is a model many would challenge, but we are assuming it arguendo (for the sake of argument). This is because that is the argumentative strategy adopted by Levine. Some may also dispute the claim that liberal egalitarianism entails the restricted form of neutrality that I have outlined in the second half of premise (1). Indeed, as we shall see, Levine himself disputes it, thinking in particular that the “unfairness” condition may be overstated. This means we may have to modify premise (1), but we’ll only do that once we confront the relevant objection to the argument.

    Premise (2) makes what I think is a relatively uncontroversial point, namely that a life of leisure is a possible model of the good life. Since most people accept that leisure is a good, I think they might be willing to accept this claim. Admittedly, a lot more would need to be said to fully defend it. In particular, the concept of “leisure” would need to be unpacked in more detail. The only thing I would say here is that, for me, the concept of a “life of leisure” is not used to denote a life of senseless pleasure-seeking. Rather, it is used to denote a life that is not economically productive or consumptive. Thus, a life of leisure could consist in producing things with no economic value (like blog posts!). Furthermore, I would add that premise (2) is consistent with the view that a life of leisure is “less than ideal” or “sub-optimal”. In other words, it only claims that it is a conception of the good; not that it is the best one.

    Premise (3) is probably the most important one. It makes the key claim that the pursuit of a life of leisure does not unjustly or unfairly interfere with anyone else’s conception of the good. It is this claim that allows us to reach the conclusion that there could be a right not to work. Without it, the argument crumbles. There are several obvious rejoinders to premise (3). We’ll talk about the most obvious one — the reciprocity objection — below. In the meantime, we’ll consider another possible rejoinder.

    Some people might be inclined to view leisure as an expensive taste, one that the state is under no obligation to facilitate. To give an example: sailing around the world on a fully-staffed, multi-million dollar yacht, may well feature in some people’s conception of the good life (I believe I have met such people). But I doubt anyone would say that the state is obliged to facilitate that conception of the good life. If that’s the way you want to live, you’ll have to work and earn the money needed to fund that expensive taste. That’s usually the way we look on all expensive tastes. But isn’t leisure time the same thing? Isn’t it just expensive taste that we need to work hard to earn?

    Levine argues that this is the wrong way to look at the life of leisure. He argues that looking on leisure as a consumption-good — i.e. that can bought and paid for, and substituted for other goods — misses the point in at least two ways. First, it adopts a perspective on leisure that is a function of our capitalistic, commodification-prone society. Second, it ignores the fact that working hard in order to obtain leisure undermines the very nature of that good.

    Instead, Levine argues that we should view leisure as an intrinsic, non-substitutable good: something that can’t simply be purchased in return for a fee. To defend this claim, Levine adopts a rather ingenious strategy: he draws an analogy between the typical arguments for the right to work and the argument he wants to make for the right to leisure. I’ll quote from him here:

    To make the case that the state ought to accord [a right to work]… one would have to show that, for some individuals, the benefits of employment are such that nothing can adequately substitute for them. Presumably the benefits would be non-pecuniary, since direct grants can always substitute for wages…thus it is almost certainly relevant to any likely defense of a right to work that individuals generally cannot purchase jobs through markets…it is also relevant that social norms are such that participation in the monetized economy is, for most people, a basis for self-respect and the respect of others.
    In much the same way, it is fair to view leisure as an intrinsic, non-substitutable component of particular conceptions of the good. The rationale is the same: like employment in the monetized economy, idleness can sometimes be so connected to individuals’ self-understandings, to their relations with others, and indeed to their very identities that trading off leisure for a wage can only be to the detriment of what matters fundamentally [to them].
    (Levine, 2013, 106-107)

    As I say, I think this is ingenious. This is mainly because I think Levine is correct about the right to work. If people believe that work is so important that it must be facilitated and protected by the state, it must be because they think the goods associated with it cannot simply be bought and sold on a market. But if this is correct then why not look on leisure as being the same thing (for at least some people)?

    The problem, of course, is that many will think that facilitating leisure will be unfair and unjust in other ways. Let’s consider this type of objection in more depth.

    2. Reciprocity and the Unfairness of Non-workers
    The view that non-workers are no-good free-loaders, whose lifestyles are funded off the hard-graft of others, is a persistent one. There is good cause for it. The idle leisure-seeking classes of the past and present are typically wealthy landowners or capitalists who fund their extravagant lifestyles from rents they earn from the productive work of others. Surely we cannot be wish to protect and facilitate their right to do this?

    Embedded in this rhetorical question are two related objections to the right to not to work. The first, and more straightforward, is the objection that the state couldn’t really sustain this sort of lifestyle choice. If everybody pursued the life of leisure, there would be nobody left to fund it. The second, and more ethically complex objection, is that even if some people did get to pursue this lifestyle, they could only do so by unjustly or unfairly exploiting others.

    As I say, the first objection is the more straightforward one. We can respond to it in a couple of ways. One is by acknowledging that if everyone chose that lifestyle it would, indeed, be unsustainable, but then suggesting that this is unlikely. This is Levine’s response. He thinks the work ethic is so dominant in our societies that it is highly unlikely that a sufficient number of people will drop out of work. Another response, which I hinted at in the introduction, is to suggest that automation and technological unemployment will either (a) allow for many more people to drop out of work or (b) force many people out of work. Consequently, a life of leisure will become feasible (if not compulsory) for more and more people. Of course, technological unemployment on a large scale could create huge inequalities of wealth, and these would need to be addressed, but that wouldn’t defeat the point I making: that technological unemployment will bring us closer to a world in which a life of leisure is increasingly the norm.

    The second objection is the more ethically contentious one. It derives its logic from classic “public goods” problems like the tragedy of the commons. Societies have a number of coordination problems to solve. Oftentimes, the solution requires some form of cooperation: if everyone (or a sufficient fraction thereof) pitches in, a cooperative gain will be realised. If they do not, the cooperative gain will be lost. The belief is that the gains from economic growth are much like this. Unless a sufficient number of people pitch in (either by supplying capital or labour), those cooperative gains will be lost. Furthermore, the belief is that the shares of those cooperative gains should, in a just and fair society, be proportionate in nature. That is to say, your share of the cooperative gain should be proportionate to the amount of effort you put into realising it. If your share is greater than your contribution, you are unjustly and unfairly profiting from the contribution of others.

    The objection to non-work is simply that if society tolerated and facilitated this lifestyle, it would presumably have to be through some form of redistribution that allowed the leisure-seekers to meet their basic needs without working. That would mean they would receive a share of economic gains that was not proportionate to their contribution. Hence it would mean that they were unjustly and unfairly depriving others of what they were due.

    Interestingly, Levine accepts this criticism (this is where the modification of premise (1) comes into play). He accepts that the life of leisure would involve some degree of unfair gain (though how great is a separate issue). He just doesn’t think this is a normative problem. Why not? Because cooperative gains are rarely, if ever, shared in accordance to contribution. It is usually very difficult to work out what the contributions really are, and oftentimes impractical or undesirable to distribute in accordance with those contributions. For example, the state provides (or heavily regulates the provision of) public goods that cannot be easily supplied by the market. A classic example is healthcare. When it does so, the benefits of that good are rarely equally shared among the population. But we usually do not fret greatly about this. For example, I contribute far more to the public healthcare in my country than I take out of it, but I don’t find this to be terribly unfair to me. Other people need those resources more than I do.

    Is there something different about work and non-work? Should a lack of contribution to economic productivity be treated differently? Levine argues that, in principle, it shouldn’t, but there is a good historical reason as to why it is perceived differently. Material scarcity was, and still is, a fact of life for many human societies. For example, hunter-gatherer tribes living off the land, couldn’t afford to tolerate group members who didn’t do their fair share (certainly not for long). Otherwise, they would all starve. This probably encouraged our ancestors to resent the idle. Levine suggests that this resentment may now be deeply engrained in our psyches. It could be what makes the life of leisure seem so self-indulgent and unfair.

    But the historical rationale for this resentment may no longer be present. We now live in pretty affluent societies, which often overproduce essential goods like food and housing. There are still material scarcities, of course, but they are largely due to failures to distribute the abundant gains in an equitable maner. This increasing affluence — particularly if it can be achieved through machine rather than human labour — reduces the need for everyone to do their “fair share”. As Levine puts it:

    … it is no longer a reasonable functional adaptation to real world conditions to demand that everyone do their “fair share” in the face of scarcity. Increasing affluence diminishes, without extinguishing, the moral urgency of reciprocity. At the same time, it enhances the importance of doing what it required to implement genuine neutrality.
    (Levine, 2013, 111)

    In other words, as we become better and better at meeting our material needs without human labour, it becomes more and more important to ensure that our society meets the other requirements of justice, which in this case means recognising, respecting and facilitating the right not to work.

    3. Conclusion
    That brings us to the end of Levine’s argument. To briefly recap, Levine argues that the principle of liberal neutrality implies a right not to work. This is because leisure is an intrinsic, non-substitutable good, that can feature in a person’s conception of the good life. If the neutral state ought to tolerate and facilitate its citizens’ pursuit of the good, then it ought to tolerate and facilitate the rejection of work.

    Levine defends this argument from charges of impracticality and injustice. He does so primarily on the grounds that increasing affluence and abundance negates the need for everyone to do their “fair share”. I have suggested that this argument can be strengthened by considering the possible impact of automation and technological unemployment.

  • Boulder Dash 11th Feb 2019

    Always liked this but,


    • Boulder Dash 11th Feb 2019

      “First of all: what is work? Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth's surface relatively to other
      such matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first kind is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid. The second kind is capable of indefinite extension: there are not only those who give orders, but those who give advice as to what orders should be given. Usually two opposite kinds of advice are given simultaneously by two organized bodies of men; this is called politics. The skill required for this kind of work is not knowledge of the subjects as to which advice is given, but knowledge of the art of persuasive speaking and writing, i.e. of advertising.”

    • Boulder Dash 11th Feb 2019

      “Instead of that the old chaos was restored, those whose work was demanded were made to work long hours, and the rest were left to starve as unemployed. Why? Because work is a duty, and a man should not receive wages in proportion to what he has produced, but in proportion to his virtue as exemplified by his industry.”

      Michael Albert wouldctake ssuecwith the last sentence...remuneration for output.

  • Boulder Dash 11th Feb 2019

    The insanity of it all...

    “This is the morality of the Slave State, applied in circumstances totally unlike those in which it arose. No wonder the result has been disastrous. Let us take an illustration. Suppose that, at a given moment, a certain number of people are engaged in the manufacture of pins. They make as many pins as the world needs, working (say) eight hours a day. Someone makes an invention by which the same number of men can make twice as many pins: pins are already so cheap that hardly any more will be bought at a lower price. In a sensible world, everybody concerned in the manufacturing of pins would take to working four hours instead of eight, and everything else would go on as before. But in the actual world this would be thought demoralizing. The men still work eight hours, there are too many pins, some employers go bankrupt, and half the men previously concerned in making pins are thrown out of work. There is, in the end, just as much leisure as on the other plan, but half the men are totally idle while half are still overworked. In this way, it is insured that the unavoidable leisure shall cause misery all round instead of being a universal source of happiness. Can anything more insane be imagined?”

  • Boulder Dash 11th Feb 2019

    “Let us, for a moment, consider the ethics of work frankly, without superstition. Every human being, of necessity, consumes, in the course of his life, a certain amount of the produce of human labor. Assuming, as we may, that labor is on the whole disagreeable, it is unjust that a man should consume more than he produces. Of course he may provide services rather than commodities, like a medical man, for example; but he should provide something in return for his board and lodging. to this extent, the duty of work must be admitted, but to this extent only.”

    Again, Albert and Hahnel would take issue. The luck of genetic endowment or the luck of better equipment or both. Better to remunerate for effort, sacrifice and onerousness.

  • Boulder Dash 11th Feb 2019

    “The individual, in our society, works for profit; but the social purpose of his work lies in the consumption of what he produces. It is this divorce between the individual and the social purpose of production that makes it so difficult for men to think clearly in a world in which profit-making is the incentive to industry. We think too much of production, and too little of consumption. One result is that we attach too little importance to enjoyment and simple happiness, and that we do not judge production by the pleasure that it gives to the consumer.”

    The need for participatory planning.

  • Alex of... 11th Feb 2019

    ya, i read that "analysis" of Levine this morning.


    "The rationale is the same: like employment in the monetized economy, idleness can sometimes be so connected to individuals’ self-understandings, to their relations with others, and indeed to their very identities that trading off leisure for a wage can only be to the detriment of what matters fundamentally [to them]."

    well good for them.

    "who shall help me plant the seed?"

    "The problem, of course, is that many will think that facilitating leisure will be unfair and unjust in other ways. Let’s consider this type of objection in more depth."

    "Embedded in this rhetorical question are two related objections to the right to not to work.

    • The first, and more straightforward, is the objection that the state couldn’t really sustain this sort of lifestyle choice. If everybody pursued the life of leisure, there would be nobody left to fund it.

    • The second, and more ethically complex objection, is that even if some people did get to pursue this lifestyle, they could only do so by unjustly or unfairly exploiting others."

    "For example, hunter-gatherer tribes living off the land, couldn’t afford to tolerate group members who didn’t do their fair share (certainly not for long). Otherwise, they would all starve. This probably encouraged our ancestors to resent the idle. Levine suggests that this resentment may now be deeply engrained in our psyches. It could be what makes the life of leisure seem so self-indulgent and unfair.

    But the historical rationale for this resentment may no longer be present. We now live in pretty affluent societies, which often overproduce essential goods like food and housing. There are still material scarcities, of course, but they are largely due to failures to distribute the abundant gains in an equitable maner. This increasing affluence — particularly if it can be achieved through machine rather than human labour — reduces the need for everyone to do their 'fair share'."


    obviously i think there is an unjust distribution of wealth and opportunity to pursue oneself, as well as improper usage of material resources. and i agree, there needs to be new or transformed institutions. but, no.. individuals just deciding that leisure is more fundamentally important to them is not a vaild reason to receive the benefit of the work others do. i call that being an asshole.

    "the concept of a 'life of leisure' is not used to denote a life of senseless pleasure-seeking. Rather, it is used to denote a life that is not economically productive or consumptive. Thus, a life of leisure could consist in producing things with no economic value (like blog posts!)."

    cool, blog away after work. and yes, we should all have leisure time. no, an economy won't account for everything of social or personal value/interest. yes, a system of private-ownership for profit will overvalue some roles and undervalue others.

    but if the argument then comes down to not needing to work because robots!.. then i challenge the statement "We now live in pretty affluent societies". wrote about this before. show me the evidence/data of how 8-12 billion people get to live in a post-scarcity world while robots do the bulk of the work. what assumptions are being made by "we"?

    steps, not fantasies. more concerned that people who are willing to work are unable to get work, or can't afford a basic living standard while working their asses off.

    • Boulder Dash 11th Feb 2019

      Like I said, living a life of purely leisure is a fantasy...won’t happen, can’t happen.

      This post scarcity shit has got to stop...never ever liked it...never makes sense to me...it’s about production, consumption and allocation done in a way that is fair, just and equitable...if some shit is less scarce than other shit it is for the new economic system to take all that shit into account...

      I agree, this post scarcity robots will do all the bad shit doesn’t tell me anything about the economy...another kind of vague fantasy....

    • Alex of... 12th Feb 2019

      maybe post-scarcity and robots-for-all with a couple billion people. i imagine we'd have to work on that post-rupture though... after the thinning.

      according to the Star Trek timeline, WW3 comes to its final end in 2053. a decade later, Zefram Cochrane makes the first human warp flight which leads to "first contact" by the Vulcans. after nearly destroying ourselves, humanity unites under this new realization that we are not alone in the universe.

      of course, we need to avoid the whole SKYNET fiasco when it comes to the robots. we may already be nothing more than batteries for the singularity.


    • Alex of... 12th Feb 2019

      i did a googly search for "Joe Rogan unwilling to work" to see if it has hit the scene yet. i don't keep up on his full casts. but, the first video result that came up was..

    • Bat Chainpuller 13th Feb 2019

    • Bat Chainpuller 13th Feb 2019

      It's contrary to human nature. All those people in the left who support Marxism or socialism just don't understand...gay rights, equal rights for women...they're the first things to go...hahahahaha....they just don't understand. Never been done in human history. it's when they say they want equality of outcome and equality of outcome is contrary to equality. Because when you have equality, equality, REAL equality, meaning, and this is the meaning of equality, the REAL meaning of equality, that you can do whatever you want to do, that breeds inequality..yes, the interlocutor replies with a chuckle...because some people are going to work harder and competition is what pushes things and some people think that competition is bad and the reason they think it's bad...tell me Joe, tell it to me praise the lord...is because it makes them feel bad...like I put something on twitter today...........how about competition is a good thing...yeah, it's a good thing...how about it's ok to finish last because it will motivate you to get off your FAT LAZY ass and climb up the leader board...exactly...yeah, go again...you don't win all the time STUPID...ah, the artificial world of the academic, the uni student, the intelligentsia...its of another world...give me a fucking trade man, a dirty fucking in your face REAL trade dude...we are creating an artificial world out there...its not real and people, young people if they are lead to believe in that they will go out there in this artificial world and get their teeth kicked in..."we" gotta figure out who the fuck "we" are, who "we" really are and until "we" realise those artificial environments...you know the ones...those artificial ones we create...like they're all over the place...that those people...those pesky people over on the port side of the ship...are trying to force onto the world doesn't work...hmmm, campus cities and all those fucking towns with campuses on them...It's just really heavy duty LEFT WING PEOPLE committed to ideology and they don't have...I mean it's good to have both sides, people who lean left and right, and try to figure out which way it works...yeah, balance...and by the way it's gonna work better for some people to be left and some people to be right...BUT...BUT...BUT...this lack of tolerance for other people's ideas is one of the most SHOCKING THINGS ABOUT THE LEFT THESE DAYS...yeah...it's this need and desire to SHUT DOWN SPEECH..you know...but aren't they the people on the forefront of freedom of speech...not anymore, they used to be...the NEW left is more stifling of free speech than the right by far...the NEW left, you know you'd call them Neo-Marxists or postmodernists...yrp the fuckin NEW left bulldozing everyfuckingone with their ideas...they're ubiquitous...fucking NEW leftists...and they know nothing about the GUlags...no sense of history...and the further you go left you see less and less acknowledgment of the Gulags but you might find veganism...hahahahahahaha...thye jus shut down everyone else's opinion because they are right with all those putrid fusions of Noam Chomsky and co,,,that's not how you handle free speech...you handle bad speech with more better speech...hang on, let's say that again...you handle bad speech with MORE BETTER speech,,,ahh Joe the irony of it all but please do go on...you, you, you, become, you have to have your arguments laid out in a way that's convincing to the people that (not who but that) are paying attention and you can't do that if your speech is stifled and that's what's really a problem with the left these days, it's just...and I think a litt...a big part of it's artificial environments you're talking about, they, they, live in these insulated things Jamie what's his dick used to live in...these insulated (artificial?) environments where they think they're right, they think they're doin' the right thing by behaving like this...but it's so short sighted...and again I don't want to make a character judgement on them but I fucking will...to me in my mind (as opposed to someone else's mind) with my own eyes (as opposed to someone else's eyes) the biggest threat to this country ( the US, because he's American and they are in the US of A) is political correctness and SAFE SPACES...yeah...I truly think that teaching people in that manner and allowing them to think that that is how the world outside of that environment (I'm assuming he is talking about this artificial or insulated environment that seem to be the campuses around the place and in small towns) operates is setting you up for a very long term failure 'cause you are just goin to get CRUSHED....blah blah blah blah blah blah

    • Dave Jones 13th Feb 2019

      I think affluent could be defined a couple ways. The indigenous societies spent less time at labor and were therefore more affluent, had more leisure time.(yes there were fewer and they had other problems of precarity) Or we could imagine the efficiencies and technologies (maybe robots and computers) applied in a more egalitarian fashion so we moderns had more leisure. And less stuff so we would have to find meaning elsewhere.

    • Alex of... 13th Feb 2019


    • Boulder Dash 13th Feb 2019

      But that is exactly the key. And that means rearranging the whole show. No longer getting remunerated, or attaining access to the social pie via output or bargaining power. No longer allocating according to competitive market imperatives that introduce anti-solidarity behaviours, homogenise pretty much everything including how people think, and disassembling hierarchical divisions of labour to address empowerment, which if left unbalanced, does create the tendency for those disempowered to disengage in decision making. And it also means negotiating, taking in all qualitative and quantitative aspects of production, be it primary, secondary, tertiary, and consumption, along with every possible ecological cost and benefit, to determine the length of the work week and one would hope that a nice three days on and four off may be the outcome...oh, that’s right, that’s Parecon.

    • Boulder Dash 13th Feb 2019

      Oh, and the trend toward coops or self managed workplaces has replaced the capitalist ownership of the means of production...something that Lenin knocked on the head very quickly out of a hearty belief in Marx’s prescription and a vanguard party to usher in a Utopia. The coordinator class...the empowered leadership management professional class. A tendency of belief held by both Marxist’s and Capitalists and those who believe they are sitting on the correct I-listen-to-all-sides-of-the-fence, like Joe Rogan and guests where one gets to hear MORE BETTER SPEECH. Those who believe the world cannot go on in any reasonable way unless there are great people to lead us, take the reins, and reign because we know that we are all different, genetically endowed, and lobster hierarchy tells us, along with the great Jordan Peterson, who owes much of his recent fame and fortune to those he rallies against, those post modern social justice warriors and PC merchants who forced him into a far better and more lucrative career, some of us are just losers...and that’s ok...the winners are hear to help and steer us losers onto the right path with a better diet, natural drugs, hallucinogens, great workout regiments, floatation tanks, tesla cars, conflict resolution techniques, spiritual and meditative practice and advice, developing well balanced attitudes towards the digital and virtual world/natural world binary along with introductions into the world and the wonders of gambling in all its varieties...well, because it’s only natural.

    • Boulder Dash 13th Feb 2019

      Disengage from decisionmaking...not “in”...

  • Dave Jones 13th Feb 2019

    Notice how Mitch "Turtle Man" McConnell has seized on an AOC blogpost that supposedly condoned supporting those "unwilling to work" under the GND. This is heresy, blasphemy in the America where the greatest compliment you can give is : "s/he is a hard worker!"

    "Unwilling"? Must be black and drive a cadillac. Never a trustfunder at springbreak in Cancun. Slacker, free-rider, beatnick, hippie.

    Obviously the nature of work is going to have to change, become a lot less extractive and resource intensive and generally just less of it. Fewer bullshit jobs making bullshit stuff. Ashley Dawson over at New Politics puts it this way:

    "What such a program of ecological reconstruction would ultimately be reaching for, then, would be a new definition of the good life. Against the current obsession with GDP, with insatiable growth and entrepreneurial self-assertion, ecological reconstruction would involve the growth of leisure and freedom from both toxic pollution and competition.17 As we struggle for this new definition of the good life, it is worth remembering that one of the primary demands of radicals in Congress in the early years of the Great Depression was for a thirty-hour work week. It was to forestall this demand for less work, put before Congress by Senator Hugo Black in 1933, that the National Industrial Recovery Administration, a key plank in the New Deal, was launched.18 Collective bargaining in the search for higher wages and levels of consumption was thus substituted for less work. Today, as agitation for a GND becomes a rallying cry for many progressives, we must make sure that this fateful embrace of growth is not repeated."