Social And Environmental Problems Caused By Our Dysfunctional Economy

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We live in a democracy, where theoretically, the power lies in the hands of the electorate to change the world. However, what does the average person understand of the social and environmental problems facing them. What will it take to change their attitude and get them to exercise their considerable power to improve their lot? Here’s my conversation with “a person in the street.” Unfortunately, the recent election of the far-right in Greece, confirms an abject lack of understanding, and how without a better understanding, their plight will worsen.

In the UK, there is a crisis in social care, particularly in the care of the elderly. Confused debates rage on as to whose responsibility it is to fund these services. Then there are huge environmental concerns and issues – who’s responsible and what’s to be done. These are not exclusive UK problems, but problems shared across all developed economies. If only the majority realised the solutions to these, and many other issues, are relatively simple to fix, and within their grasp. This is my conversation with an ordinary person, on how we can turn things around and why we need to do so.

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Do you realise our environmental and social problems are the result of our dysfunctional economy?

I don't know what you are talking about. The economy is for bankers and politicians, not me. I don't understand, so I don't care.

You should care, as these problems affect you directly. The economy no longer works for you, but against you, and you can help fix it.

How's that? I don't know what you are talking about and haven't noticed anything different in my life, so what am I supposed to fix?

You say you haven't noticed anything different, but I bet most of the things you moan about everyday are caused by our dysfunctional economy.

Oh - like what?

Let me start by mentioning a few things to see if they are on your gripe list.

Okay, fire away.

Salary and wages have stagnated over the years.

Job security under threat.

Work conditions and worker rights threatened.

Job prospects less favourable.

Home ownership more difficult.

Health security in decline.

Level of personal debt increasing.

Social support and services in decline.

Educational support in decline.

Public transport and infrastructure in decline.

Government doesn't seem to be looking after your interests.

Yes, there are a few things on your list, which I moan about fairly regularly.

What about the environment, aren't you also concerned about issues like global warming and pollution?

Yes, I am, but I suppose everybody is. There's not much I or anybody else can do about it, and what's the environment got to do with a dysfunctional economy?

Our dysfunctional economy affects you as much as it affects the environment. All the problems I have mentioned, including environmental problems, are all directly linked to our dysfunctional economy.

That may be, but it hasn't helped me. I may be able to quote you and say," I know what the problem is," but I don't really understand why or what I'm supposed to do about it.

That's fair comment. However, it all starts by identifying the problem. A few moments ago, you didn't think there was anything wrong, but now you have identified our dysfunctional economy as the root cause of what upsets and concerns you most.

Well, more correctly, you have identified it.

Yes, that's true because I have an understanding of the subject to be able to shed light on the matter and guide your thoughts.

So, I only have your word on the subject and am still clueless on how I, with little understanding, can make any difference.

You can make a difference because we live in a democracy, and we must hold our politicians accountable. They must make sure our economy works for the majority, and not the wealthy, select few.

Yes, but how? Even if I spoke to my political representative, which I don't, what do I say, "we have a dysfunctional economy." They'd say be more specific - what do I mean. If I said the economy should serve the majority, not the wealthy few, they'd say what proof do I have?

You already have the proof. The list I read to you earlier is what's happening to the average citizen. Their quality-of-life is in rapid decline while the rich are getting richer. The gap between the rich and ordinary person is getting much wider. Austerity increases while the rich get richer.

Okay - so we've got a dysfunctional economy, one which serves the rich, not the majority.

That's right. Politicians are supposed to ensure the economy works for the majority, not a select, wealthy few. If it worked for the majority, all the problems mentioned, including environmental problems, would not exist.

Sure, you've already said that, but you haven't explained how I can help fix it apart from holding politicians accountable. But, that's too vague. Holding them accountable for what? I can't tell them to stop austerity programmes. If you don't have money you can't spend, so austerity makes sense to me.

That's true. I'm not expecting you to be an expert and explain to politicians that austerity is an inappropriate response to government financial difficulties.

All you need to do is to be aware that our economy no longer serves the majorities needs and is the source of our problems.

Yes. I understand that. You've said it a few times now, but it remains too vague to be actionable.

You are right, I was about to explain what makes our economy dysfunctional and areas the government needs to focus on to correct it.

Okay - so what are they?

There are five main causes, but I'm only going to tell you about the two most important ones because if we can change these two, we will have made significant progress. The first deals with the economic model we have adopted. To cut a very long story short, the economic model we have adopted places the interest of the wealthy at the centre of our economy. This has to be replaced by a version which puts the majorities interests first - what we call a social market model. This model ensures citizens enjoy the highest standard-of-living and quality-of-life, while also protecting our environment. The second thing to do is to change our measurement standards. Currently, our macro and microeconomic measures favour the interests of the wealthy - they concentrate on financial outcomes alone, ignoring the interests of other stakeholders whose interests vastly exceed those of financial interests. You can't change our economic model without changing our measures.

Is that it?

That's it for now. The other causes of our dysfunctional economy can be addressed later on. If today, and in the future, you can spread the message that we have a dysfunctional economy, which is the cause of all our major social and environmental problems and that we can change it by changing our economic model, as well as introducing balanced measurement standards. If you spread that message wide and far, you will be doing something positive.

So, the message is reasonably straight-forward, but will it work?

Yes, the message is straight-forward, and yes, it will work. Our dysfunctional economy is the root cause of our most serious social and environmental problems, and it can be fixed by changing our economic model and implementing new measurement standards. In fact, it's our only solution.

Copyright © 2019 Adrian Mark Dore

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