ONE blogs – JOHN CALDER – Man for Monday: WHY NOT AN INCOMES POLICY?

Although politicians cannot see, do not realise it is happening, and are too pre-occupied with their own careers and well being, a radical change is taking place in society. We are constantly told that we will soon return to things as they were, that is to the period of concern only with one’s own financial spending power and pleasures, and a culture based on admiration of role-model celebrities, known- not for their intelligence, creativity and moral excellence- but for their good looks, luck or frequent appearances on television and in the fashion pages. Little thought has been given to the problems of millions of people that are short of the most basic means necessary for their subsistence- those unfortunate enough to be suffering barbarous persecutions and massacres, or even to the natural cataclysms of the a planet which is undergoing violent climate changes that will ultimately affect us all. Climate change, uncontrolled and reckless overpopulation, shortages of food, water and other basic needs: these things can no longer be ignored. There is to be an important international summit in Copenhagen, but I suspect that it will in reality be a total failure, despite the inevitable spin the politicians will put on it.

The world is changing fast. Democracy only functions when the electorate is culturally united, well-educated and living in reasonable security on a fairly equal level, otherwise a benevolent autocracy run by people trained to rule intelligently and who understand all the issues must be the best solution. That such a benevolent autocracy is hard to find because of power-lust, corruption and selfishness I am, of course, aware. But that is not a sufficient reason not to think about the future generations of our species, and how we can create a society in which they can exist and thrive.

The first problem is over population, now approaching seven milliard (or American Billion) people. The planet would have trouble sustaining half that number. Only china, under its not-long-past communist regime recognised the problem and decreed one child to each couple. It was of course extremely unpopular, and when the Indian Government attempted a similar measure, it led to riots and political assassinations. But if rapid depopulation does not occur, humanity will have no future. Some of our best writers, who are also thinkers, have made the point, but no one is listening, especially politicians who seem incapable of thinking beyond the next election. The only way such a thing can be accomplished-depopulation that is-is through surgical sterilisation, enforced by law, and only a totalitarian regime could accomplish that, as it did a few years ago in China, where it was accomplished by the separation of parents and economic and career sanctions.

The second problem involves sharing, which means severely inhibiting our greedy instincts and power lusts. Food shortages will eventually lead to rationing, as in wartime. We learned to live with it before, and we shall have to do so again. World food shortages, induced by climate change and shrinking land areas will make it unavoidable. The third, which is closely associated to rationing, is the imposition of controls to reduce the effects of climate change. There are enough scientists in the world to know how to do this, but it must be imposed by law. Certain liberties are already incompatible with a sustainable future.

The fourth is an international income policy, which means bringing the inequalities to which we have become accustomed to a rapid end. Taxation is one such means, but it is more reasonable and efficient to simply give a fixed income to every profession and occupation, depending on one’s grade on it, age and experience being factors, so that the highest earning and spending power is not more than fifteen times the lowest, which would include those unable to work normally because of disability. There would be no rich and no very poor. Such a situation was considered quite normal by many people fifty years ago. It was class consciousness, the advent of Thatcherism, and the lowering of cultural education and state support for culture, made through subsidy that changed everything. An incomes policy was much discussed fifty years ago, but because it was unpopular with the middle classes, the discussions came to nothing. It is time to start thinking about it again.

Only a general rise in the level of popular interest in terms of creating awareness of the consequences of continuing in our present anarchic ways can bring these things about. But the public has been waking up because of the current political and financial scandals, and as unemployment increases and more financial disasters take place. Unfortunately, there are many more on the way. We need more willingness to consider radical changes in the way we live.

Already, the problems of unemployment and resentment fuelled by the arrival of ever more immigrants, have led to the rise of the BNP and similar extreme right organisations, and so far, there is no obvious equivalent on the left, although it will surely come. What I have been describing as a future society could be both unpleasant and cruelly fascist, or it could be a human and benevolent community-based socialism, although a new name for it will probably come along. But we must face up to the challenge and start thinking about changing society NOW. Otherwise, as the more observant and perceptive journalist are already telling us, we are all doomed.

John Calder 24/10/2009