(click on the image to read the Tyee’s article)

Throughout my working years I was party to discussions about the role of unions in relation to their members and to the community as a whole. Some felt that the advancement of the economic well-being was paramount in the union’s business to the exclusion of all else. Of course, this being a teacher union, there was also a faction who felt that the social climate was of concern, given that there is so strong a link between the conditions of the learning environment and the well-being of the teaching force, not to mention parents and the broader community.  The Tyee has a piece today about the concerns of unions relating to jobs in the energy sector, a discussion that may drive the wedge that separates economic and environmental well-being in the debate about the construction of energy infrastructure. The trade-off, in the eyes of the energy companies, as in the vast majority of government circles, is that we have to accept huge environmental  risks if we wish to have the prosperity that the export of dilbit and LNG would supposedly bring to our province. Thusly stated, the dichotomy is false and avoids the discussion of who “owns” the economy as well as highlighting the short-sightedness of those leading the discussion.


Had we chosen to be serious about jobs and energy, we would long ago have adopted the construction of infrastructure for renewable energy, using public funds as well as reworked taxes and royalties on fossil fuel development to set in motion a transition out of the era of environmental degradation and the rapid use of finite resources for the benefit of a small minority of the population, and into an era of the deployment and maintenance of all forms of renewable energy, paired with a truly effective recycling program that would obviate the need to extract much of the mineral wealth that is currently mouldering in landfills around the country. It would also be reassuring to see industrial production focused on truly durable goods, items made to last a lifetime and more, goods that, when broken, can be repaired and which, at the end of their useful life, can be easily recycled back into remanufactured replacements.


A quick look at economic gains made by unions might very well show that they are rapidly eaten up by inflation and by new taxes and user fees imposed by governments looking to reduce the load on their business constituency. Gains in working conditions and environmental concerns encourage broader hiring, keeping benefits in the local economy and social gains for society as a whole. We have to remember that the terms of economic discussion have, for decades, been set by a consensus of people schooled in and attached to the Friedman/University of Chicago group of free market freebooters, a group who barely manages to hold back the tides of discontent as they move us from crisis to crisis and who have produced as great a disparity of wealth distribution as has been known in recent history. They have also been the crew that dispenses the results of their efforts and have not spared the froth in letting us know what a brilliant job they’ve done for us, but there is so little truth in most of the reporting that it’s hardly worth the effort it takes to read it. The bar has been set so low that it wouldn’t be hard for us to do better, all the while keeping in mind that we want to still have an economy in mid-century and beyond. Our current course will lead to disorder and destruction, and unions can step up to help alter the course so that our children, grandchildren and later generations will be the beneficiaries of a decent living space and some equality of opportunity to participate fully in the business of society.

Some Wisdom Shows Through



“Economics is a form of brain damage.”
–Hazel Henderson (economist)
The true civilization is where every man gives to every other every right that he claims for himself.
—Robert Ingersoll
These two people were guests on a forum from Boston organized by HuffPost: they are people who work within the current system, but who have drawn the wrath of much of the political class for advocating a return to some saner version of our current economic/social/political régime. Thomas Piketty got an earful from Kevin O’Leary, and it would seem likely that Elizabeth Warren scares the daylights out of even some of the Democratic caucus, as well as the entirety of everything farther to the selfish Right of the political spectrum. Why is that?, you may ask, when what these two are proposing is the rescue of our “civilization” from eating itself alive and taking much of life on Earth with it.  Fundamentally, they are proponents of redistribution of wealth in the opposite direction from what the Washington Consensus and the Reaganite/Thatcherite bunch have written as law in the post-New Deal/post-Great Society era, in effect the taxation of wealth beyond a certain level of absurdity, where wealth ceases to represent a comfortable living and starts to represent power across the spectrum of economics, social affairs and into the deepest recesses of politics and governance.
Piketty and Warren don’t necessarily have all the answers to all our ills, but the refreshing part of what they say is the reasoned openness of their critique of the corruption and misdirection of human affairs where the corruption becomes entrenched in the institutions that are supposed to serve society as a whole and where  moves are afoot to destroy the last vestiges of the commons, or the ability of society to come together to address the challenges that society has, by and large, created. This is evident in many spheres, but is particularly acute in the environmental field where the fossil fuel has drawn a verbal palisade around issues of energy, economy, and living space, including not only the buying of political influence, but the criminalization of revealing the nature of the damage being done by drilling, tracking, and mining of carbon fuel sources.
It would be nice if we had a special sandbox where the rich folk could hold sway and trade in luxuries as long as they didn’t encroach upon what the World needs to be doing to address inequality (especially inequality of opportunity) while the rest of us worked in a more constructive direction to rebuild a society where sense would be part of the commons and where we didn’t depend of stuff to define who we are. Sadly, the trade in luxuries tends to require an inordinate share of economic resources that will be needed to provide a decent standard of living for all of the rest of us.
Thanks to Crooks and Liars for the link to the HuffPo vid.