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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Why the reluctance to seek consensus?

Few people realise the scale of money and civil service time spent on international jamborees which focus on issues such as millennium goals, migration and debt relief – let alone global warming. It amounts to tens of billions of dollars and thousand of man-years.
In stark contrast, little energy seems to be spent attempting to get consensus on the way forward for the deficiencies which have been so visible over the past decade in the economic system which we know, variously, as “globalization” or, increasingly, as “capitalism”.
·       The UN had its fingers burned when, in 2009, it organized the first and only Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis. The G77 group of 130 developing countries tried to insert text that mandated a major role for the UN in dealing with the crisis and backed a comprehensive set of reforms, but northern countries including the US and the EU played a blocking game. Joseph Stiglitz was the author of what remained a Preliminary Report (which I wrote about in 2011)
·       the OECD remains a fan club for unrestricted growth although it does occasionally allow agnostics to produce reports – see, for example, Stiglitz’s latest opus Beyond GDP Measuring what counts
·       The World Bank’s latest World Development Report is as neo-liberal a document as you could imagine

So it has been left to The Club of Rome to come up (a few weeks ago) with Come On! Capitalism, short-termism, population and the destruction of the planet; (Club of Rome 2018) - which is superbly summarized in this article in the current issue of the fascinating Cadmus journal
There’s also a video of a recent introductory presentation at Chatham House.

So the question I want to pose today is why there are so few such attempts to seek consensus on the dominant question of our age – whether at a national or international level; governmental or non-governmental??

I confess I didn’t pay much attention to Yannis Varoufakis’ recent Democracy in Europe initiative (however fascinating his writing, the man is a bit too domineering for my liking) – but I now see that it is a rare and impressive attempt to bring people together to challenge at least one of the dominant players in the economic/financial system. A short 3 page version of its manifesto is here – and the full nine page version here

Few others, it seems, dare venture down such a path – presumably because they know how easily and aggressively they would be accused of “leftism”, “populism”… and even greater crimes….

I would like to seek readers’ help in identifying other initiatives – however minor.

I am aware of The Great Transition Initiative which encourages individuals to comment on a monthly question and paper. Of course it can be criticized for catering only for nerds – but at least it is reaching out to form a network…

The Next System is also a good source of well-written material - project of the US Democracy Collaborative. It had an initial report – The Next System Report – political possibilities for the 21st Century (2015) and references to good community practice in various parts of the world. It has since followed up with a series of worthwhile papers.

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