Social Decline in Mainstream Society
During the 1960s and 1970s, new, wholistic understandings were becoming incorporated into university faculties. Many arose from breakthroughs that had been experienced, observed and written about, often by eminent people at the top of their profession. Many of the initial breakthroughs actually occurred during the 1950s, before breaking into mainstream consciousness during the 1960s and 1970s. Breakthroughs were especially common in the social science fields of Management and Psychology, where both were focusing on the greater human potential, with an eye towards enabling and encouraging higher functioning people.
Many of the post war baby boomer generation of young adults were already having highly positive experiences, of themselves, of each other, and of life itself, and found the new understandings easy to assimilate, integrate and incorporate into their living reality. Some university faculties were being reformed, both from the top by insightful professors, and from the bottom by students who were demanding that education should update to reflect modern reality and the future. Out of these demands the ecology subject was born. By the mid 1970s, following ozone depletion and greenhouse concerns, one major global corporation had already converted 90% of their aerosol can dispersants from chlorofluorocarbons to hydrocarbons, and was working on the balance
Time Of Choices
The issue in the minds of the people was, where to from here? Would we make the transformation into a better, more peaceful world for all, free of serious problems? Would we reach out for a new, improving future, and embrace new, more human-friendly ways to take our nations and economies into an integrated, highly functional ecologically sound, sustainable world? Would we create a new, forward-looking whole-brain economic paradigm, compatible with nature, which would utilise the optimising and abundance principles of nature, and would take the world into a secure, sustainable, ecologically enriched future? Would we update and upgrade Keynesian economics into the next evolutionary step of an economics that incorporated sustainability, abundance, integration and balance? Would we reduce the working week to 15 – 20 hours, so that living a life took precedence over living to work. Everything would all hinge on the kind of economics we would practice.
Revisiting the Past
The growing grassroots embrace of sustainability did not please everybody. Some more established people were horrified at what they saw as the breakdown of established ways; corporations saw their product base threatened by the move towards the natural; especially big pharma, financial institutions saw their finances threatened by the move away from conspicuous consumption; economics depts had no progressive theories and spoke of going back to the ‘real’ economics.
Under the pretext of countering stagflation, and in a dramatic return to what had failed so comprehensively in pre-WW2, the English speaking national Governments re-embraced the same basic laissez-faire, (unrestricted commercial freedom), marketplace–determined economic paradigm of the 1920s and earlier, that had culminated with the stock market crash, the great depression and the second world war, before the all-too-brief 3 or 4 decades of post WW2 creative rebuilding.
Use of Greed as Prime Motivator
Disguised under the new name of economic rationalism, in Australia or more colloquially Thatcherism in the UK, Reaganomics in the US and Rogernomics in NZ, it was championed by the English speaking countries, and was implemented with little or no negotiation or even common discussion, and was imposed as a total-package, done-deal, fait accompli. It privatised much of the post-war constructed, publicly owned infrastructure at bargain prices, and focussed exclusively on the short term, single-bottom-line, quarterly financial return, and the reflected stock market price. “Greed is good”, and “profit is king” became the watchwords. Ms Thatcher declared, “There is no such thing as society, there are only individuals”. Everybody was to be played-off against everybody else. This represented a return to, and an intensification of a hard-line, left-brain paradigm.
What had been touted as marketplace capitalism, rapidly degenerated into a form of corporate capitalism, or corporatism, where a few, giant corporations reign supreme, and monopolies are not actively prevented or even discouraged. Corporations, in their own profit maximising interests, do everything they can to undermine marketplace processes dynamics and effects, to diminish the need for research into new products, and be able charge more for existing products. Corporations wield disproportionate lobbying power, and their primary target of attack is the natural world, where they demand unfettered and free access to all manner of natural resources, destroy and pollute with impunity, create products that are also highly polluting, get natural, wholesome products declared unsafe and illegal. Everything to do with the natural world, which they in fact depend on, and depend on its continued ability to supply resources, is treated with contempt, even as many of those resources are becoming critically low or disappearing altogether.
Their other target is their staff. The 1970s adage of “our staff are our best asset” was replaced with “re-engineering”, a euphemism for downsizing, another euphemism for mass layoffs, and serious attempts were made to downgrade the skills needed and make workers interchangeable, and easily replaceable units. Proactive management models including self-actualising management became was replaced by the antiquated, exploitative ‘economic man’ model Later, the person who coined the term declared it had not been the smartest way to go. The destruction of the skills base is showing up now, and has become a significant contributor to inflation. Corporations now use wages as the main economic variable, to be reduced when profits are not enough to satisfy shareholders, by throwing large numbers of people out of work. Today, people feel privileged just to have a job.
With the re-introduction of the old, corporate-driven economic system, citizens became consumers, and consumerism became the underlining activity. Nations became regarded as economies, many of which soon became unbalanced under a flood of credit without requisite checks and balances. Some began running out of control with skyrocketing inflation, leading to 18%+ interest rates globally, followed by a serious global economic bust in the late 1980s, early 1990s, and early 2000s and in all likelihood 2008, and in every case because of economic bubbles and financial mismanagement.
The Stock Market
The stock market used to be the privy of the more well to do, but has now become the investment place of choice for a significant proportion of the population. Because of its very nature – investing in companies that will turn the greatest profit and produce the largest return most quickly, shareholders have a vested interest in ignoring the damaging effect businesses may have on the environment and social wellbeing, enabling such practices to worsen. This is called privatising profits while socialising costs.
After WW2, Governments had legislated policies to ensure that safety, fairness, propriety, minimum standards. Now, under the guise of ensuring economic progress, much legislated policy became down-graded to “voluntary compliance”. This reversed many more thoughtful and far-sighted policies, and led to a serious escalation of problems, from illegal deals to financial rorts on an unprecedented scale, to greater ecological deterioration, a lessening safety standards etc, and generally diminishing social wellbeing. Information previously available under “freedom-of-information”, was now prohibited under “commercial-in-confidence”, preventing oversight to ensure propriety. Universities re-embraced earlier, outmoded understandings. Science became the privy of the military and the commercial world, and research no longer focused on unlocking the mysteries, but on how to apply it to technology to gain military superiority, and to turn a quick dollar. Much that was discovered was immediately patented, kept within corporations, and not shared in the usual scientific tradition. Egalitarianism gave way to class-consciousness. Education became expensive under the assumption that recipients would command a greater personal salary in the greed economy. Socially, we were returning to a pre-Keynesian paradigm, and at a time when a large part of the system was enjoying a post-Keynesian reality.
After substantial elimination of CFC production, these concerns were dismissed as scare mongering, and CFCs were actually re-embraced as harmless to the environment, until a giant ozone hole appeared over Antarctica. Anticipated problems that had been both warned against and actively worked on, now began to worsen, following the relaxation of controls. Solar hot water on new houses in Perth decreased from around 25% of new houses in the mid 70s to around 5% in the mid 1980s. Many problems that were beginning to be addressed, began to worsen, and have now become well established and seriously out of control, creating global crises affecting the entire natural world, including the atmosphere, oceans, coastal waters, rivers and lakes, soils and most forms of life over the planet. The weather is now in serious imbalance and goes to wild extremes, exaggerating floods, droughts, heat-waves and freezing conditions. This has now been credited to ozone depletion and the greenhouse effect, caused through atmospheric pollution and ecological destruction. Scientific predictions have been constantly underestimated. Many scientists now believe that the polar ice caps are irreversibly melting and will change important ocean currents, affecting coastal sea temperatures that drive much of the weather. Melting of Greenland and Antarctica land-based ice will increase sea levels.
Swelling Government Bureaucracy
In order maintain control of populations in a time of runaway corporations and decreasing social standards, Govt bureaucracies have grown considerably. This is not assisting to maintain social standards, which continue to decline, but has resulted in an Orwellian big-brother effect, that was so dreaded by whole populations a couple of decades ago.
Boom and Bust Cycle
Historically, the boom-bust cycle took 30 years. Nowadays, a boom-bust cycle takes less than 10 years and is devastating for large sections of the population, some of whom loose their homes and/or their life savings. Today, many economies have some of their economic factors running as a boom, while concurrently other factors are faltering as busts. Some factors switch between boom and bust without ever finding the balance.
Global Financial Meltdown
Eventually, after much deregulation of banking and the financial system, and the removal of safeguards, many economies over performed due to housing bubbles and financial derivatives seriously overextending, the global economic system collapsed. This has now resulted in financial and economic collapse of the US, UK, and many European economies that are now being bailed out by taxpayers.