Talk 2013-03-21: ParEcon – Participatory Economics

Book on ParEcon by Michael AlbertCafé Economique talk given by Jason Chrysostomou of IOPS
When: Thursday 21st March 2013, 7:30-9:30pm
Where: Upstairs room at the Peacock, 11 Mansfield Road, Nottingham, NG1 3FB
Attendance is free although a voluntary collection will be taken to help with the group’s future expenses

As discontent for current forms of socio-economic organisation grows around the world, the pressing question arises, what do we want as an alternative?

Participatory Economics, or ‘Parecon’, is an economic model developed by Robin Hahnel and Michael Albert that seeks to address this question. The model describes how workers and consumers can co-operatively, equitably and efficiently plan a complex modern economy themselves and in a way that produces more desirable humanitarian and ecological outcomes.

This session will present the goals, key institutions and strategic implications of the participatory economics model, followed by a Q&A session.

Some quotes on Parecon:

“It merits close attention, debate and action” – Noam Chomsky

“an imaginative, carefully reasoned description, persistently provocative, of how we might live free from economic injustice” – Howard Zinn

“Parecon is a brave argument … for a much needed, more equitable, democratic, participatory alternative economic vision” – Arundhati Roy

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Summary of a radio interview with Australian economist Steve Keen

Keep the parasitic banks alive and the economy dies

Steve Keen talks to Paul Mason – Analysis, BBC Radio 4, June 2012
(This is a 30 minute interview with a live audience at the London School of Economics.)

This has now become the July 2013 meeting for Café Economique: Keep the Parasitic Banking Sector Alive and the Economy Dies

Steve Keen was one of the few economists who predicted the financial crash. (In 2005 he noted that Australia’s debt to GDP ratio had been increasing exponentially.)

In this interview he argues that the big failure of economists is that their models ignore the impact of money, banks and debt. This is only valid in a world where there is no credit, no debt and no banks.

Banks make profits out of money which they generate – as long as they can persuade people that debt is good for them. But eventually the mountain of debt becomes unsustainable – a massive Ponzi scheme. [This echoes a main campaign objective of the Positive Money campaign which wants to remove the right to create money from private banks.]

Now that the financial crash is requiring the private sector to reduce debt, that reduces GDP and creates austerity – which will continue until debt levels have been brought down. This is not the time for the public sector to also reduce spending.

To avoid the 20 years austerity which could be necessary, Keen advocates a ‘Modern Debt Jubilee’. The government should create money to put into people’s bank accounts – with a requirement for it to be used to pay down debt as a first priority – quantitative easing for people not the banks. This would reduce the profitability of the banks but help to restore the economy.

He also suggests that shares traded on the stock market should have a limit on how many times they can change hands – to reduce speculation. Challenged that this would reduce the dynamism of capitalism, he argues that capitalism was dynamic when it was led by engineers producing things, with the support of banks. When bankers take the lead it causes asset bubbles.

Keen was predicting a further crash in the UK in 2012 – because our debt levels are higher than the US. The Treasury’s own figures suggest the UK debt to GDP ratio peaked at 450% (compared to 300% in the US), and for the financial sector alone 250% (120% in the US). He estimates that 60% of the rise in aggregate demand in the UK in recent years has been from debt. Reducing this debt could cause a crash worse than Lehman in the US.

For background to this discussion, see Chapters 13 & 14 of Steve Keen’s ‘Debunking Economics’, 2nd edition (2011), Zed Books. A summary of Keen’s analysis of the UK debt problem is at:

For a more detailed explanation of debt jubilee see Brian Davey’s blog, including a reference to Keen and a link to a similar idea put forward by Martin Wolf of the Financial Times, and a suggestion that it could be used to invest in green projects as well as paying down debt:

Talk 2013-04-18: “Workers of the world, unite?” Globalisation and the quest for transnational solidarity

Café Economique talk on Thursday, 18 April 2013
Time: 7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Where:  Upstairs room at the Peacock, 11 Mansfield Road, NG1 3FB
(Attendance is free although a voluntary collection will be taken to help with the group’s future expenses)

Our speaker will be Andreas Bieler, Professor of Political Economy, School of Politics and International Relations, University of Nottingham,

From a 1911 issue of the Industrial Worker, newspaper of the International Workers’ of the World

From a 1911 issue of the Industrial Worker, newspaper of the International Workers’ of the World

Against the background of globalisation, trade unions have found it increasingly difficult to represent the interests of their members and wider society. And yet, they are not powerless. Two main strategies of transnational solidarity initiated within the World Social Forum spaces will be explored:

a) The approach of  ‘Decent Work, Decent Life’ headed by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and related organisations and focusing on side agreements to free trade treaties;
b) Initiatives by the Labour and Globalisation Network to increase co-operation with social movements.

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Talk 2013-02-21: Living on Benefits

Café Economique talk by Matthew McVeagh (group member)
When: Thursday 21st February 2013, 7:30pm – 9:30pm
Where: Upstairs room at the Peacock, 11 Mansfield Road, Nottingham, NG1 3FB
Attendance is free although a voluntary collection will be taken to help with the group’s future expenses

Matthew McVeagh, who has extensive experience of living on social security benefits in the UK, will give a talk on what it is like and how it affects your life and involvement in society. Areas covered will include how come we have a benefits system at all, how the system works and how it treats claimants, practical day-to-day living, psychological effects and self-identity, relations between claimants and the rest of society, coming changes, help, resistance and prospects for a better situation.

Matthew welcomes contribution to this talk from others, especially those with similar first-hand experience; please get in touch and we can arrange a sharing of time. The talk will be 45 minutes and after a break there will be 45 minutes for question and answer and discussion. Discussion will also probably continue later into the evening.

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Dole Street
Report on the talk

This talk went well and was well received by the 20 or so attendees. I would like to expand the material to create a better future talk and one with attractive visual aids such as a projected presentation rather than just text read put and expanded upon. Several attendees said they had learnt quite a lot from the talk and the discussion afterwards was lively. It could be useful to repeat it and encourage others to do similarly. There were no immediate practical steps towards organising Nottingham benefit claimants.