Austerity and The Middle Way as the Top Cure to Collective Paranoia, Psychosis Delusions – 10/07/2011

For Your Entertainment (FYE)

“Austerity programs can be controversial, as they tend to have an adverse impact on the poorest segments of the population. In many situations, austerity programs are implemented by countries that were previously under dictatorial regimes, leading to criticism that the citizens are forced to repay the debts of their oppressors.
Economist Richard D. Wolff has stated that instead of cutting government programs and raising taxes, austerity should be attained by collecting from non-profit multinational corporations, churches, and private tax-exempt institutions such as universities, which currently pay no taxes at all.
In 2009, 2010, and 2011, workers and students in Greece and other European countries demonstrated against cuts to pensions, public services and education spending as a result of government austerity measures. Following the announcement of plans to introduce austerity measures in Greece, massive demonstrations were witnessed throughout the country, aimed at pressing parliamentarians to vote against the austerity package. In Athens alone 19 arrests were made while 46 civilians and 38 policemen had been injured by June 29, 2011.
Opponents argue that austerity measures tend to depress economic growth, which ultimately causes governments to lose more money in tax revenues. In countries with already anemic economic growth, austerity can engender deflation which inflates existing debt. This can also cause the country to fall into a liquidity trap, causing credit markets to freeze up and unemployment to increase. Opponents point to cases in Ireland and Spain in which austerity measures instituted in response to financial crises in 2009 proved ineffective in combating public debt, and placing those countries at risk of defaulting in late 2010.”

“The argument is that, in equilibrium, total income (and thus demand) must equal total output, and that total investment must equal total saving. Assuming that saving rises faster as a function of income than the relationship between investment and output, then an increase in the marginal propensity to save, ceteris paribus, will move the equilibrium point at which income equals output and investment equals savings to lower values.
In this form it represents a prisoner’s dilemma as saving is beneficial to each individual but deleterious to the general population. This is a “paradox” because it runs contrary to intuition. One who does not know about the paradox of thrift would fall into a fallacy of composition wherein one generalizes what is perceived to be true for an individual within the economy to the overall population. Although exercising thrift may be good for an individual by enabling that individual to save for a “rainy day”, it may not be good for the economy as a whole.
This paradox can be explained by analyzing the place, and impact, of increased savings in an economy. If a population saves more money (that is the marginal propensity to save increases across all income levels), then total revenues for companies will decline. This decrease in economic growth means fewer salary increases and perhaps downsizing. Eventually the population’s total savings will have remained the same or even declined because of lower incomes and a weaker economy. This paradox is based on the proposition, put forth in Keynesian economics, that many economic downturns are demand based.”

“Conspicuous consumption is spending on goods and services acquired mainly for the purpose of displaying income or wealth. In the mind of a conspicuous consumer, such display serves as a means of attaining or maintaining social status.
Invidious consumption, a more specialized term, refers to consumption deliberately intended to cause envy.”

“In the U.S., a trend toward larger houses began in the 1950s, with the average size of a home doubling over the next 50 years. This trend has been compared to the increase in SUV purchases, also often a symbol of conspicuous consumption. People have purchased huge houses even at the expense of the size of their yard, the inability to save funds for retirement, or a greatly increased commute time. Such large homes can also facilitate other forms of consumption, in providing extra storage space for vehicles, clothes, and other objects.
The theory of conspicuous consumption rests upon the theory that displaying wealth does not provide utility for the individual, in the same way as, say, consuming a commodity.”

“Frugality, in the context of certain belief systems, is a philosophy in which one does not trust (or is deeply wary of) “expert” knowledge, often from commercial markets or corporate cultures, claiming to know what is in the best economic, material, or spiritual interests of the individual.”

“Frugality has been adopted as a strategic imperative for by large enterprises as a means of cost reduction through engenderment of a philosophy of careful spending amongst the workforce. Cost reduction is often perceived negatively, be it within a corporate organisation or in society, so inviting each employee to embrace frugality transfers the burden of cost reduction from management to the employee. In doing so, corporations introduce a moral obligation to cost cutting, proposing the notion that careful management of costs is in the company, shareholder and employee’s best interests. If done successfully, there are many benefits, including the efficiencies of scale aspect when summing up individual contributions. The challenge is in its implementation; the key to successful frugality is diligence.”

“Simple living encompasses a number of different voluntary practices to simplify one’s lifestyle. These may include reducing one’s possessions or increasing self-sufficiency, for example. Simple living may be characterized by individuals being satisfied with what they need rather than want. Although asceticism generally promotes living simply and refraining from luxury and indulgence, not all proponents of simple living are ascetics. Simple living is distinct from those living in forced poverty, as it is a voluntary lifestyle choice.
Adherents may choose simple living for a variety of personal reasons, such as spirituality, health, increase in ‘quality time’ for family and friends, reducing personal ecological footprint, stress, personal taste or frugality. Simple living can also be a reaction to materialism and conspicuous consumption. Others cite socio-political goals aligned with the anti-consumerist movement, including conservation, degrowth, social justice, ethnic diversity and sustainable development.”

“Some people practice simple living by reducing expenditure on goods or services. By reducing expenditure, it is possible to reduce income and the time spent earning money. The time saved may be used to help family or others. For example during the Christmas and holiday season, some people often perform alternative giving. Others may spend the extra free time to improve their quality of life, for example pursuing creative activities such as art and crafts (see starving artist).
Another approach is to focus more fundamentally on the underlying motivation of buying and consuming so many resources for a good quality of life. Though our society often seeks to buy happiness, materialism very frequently fails to satisfy, and may even increase the level of stress in life. It has been said that “the making of money and the accumulation of things should not smother the purity of the soul, the life of the mind, the cohesion of the family, or the good of the society.” There are eco-anarchist groups in the United States and Canada today promoting lifestyles of simplicity. Simple living can entail only consuming the resources needed to sustain life.
The grassroots awareness campaign, National Downshifting Week (UK)(founded 1995) encourages participants to positively embrace living with less. Campaign creator, British writer and broadcaster on downshifting and sustainable living, Tracey Smith says, “The more money you spend, the more time you have to be out there earning it and the less time you have to spend with the ones you love”. National Downshifting Week encourages participants to ‘Slow Down and Green Up’ and contains a list of suggestions for individuals, companies, children and schools to help adopt green or eco-friendly policies and habits, develop corporate social and environmental responsibility in the workplace, and create eco-protocols and lessons that work alongside the national curriculum, respectively.
Reducing possessions can also form part of simple living. The 100 Thing Challenge is a grassroots movement to whittle down possessions to a mere 100 items, with the aim of decluttering and simplifying people’s lives.”

“Many Green Parties often advocate simple living as a consequence of their “four pillars” or the “Ten Key Values” of the United States Green Party. This includes, in policy terms, their rejection of genetic modification and nuclear power and other technologies they consider to be hazardous. The Greens’ support for simplicity is based on the reduction in natural resource usage and environmental impact. This concept is expressed in Ernest Callenbach’s “green triangle” of ecology, frugality and health.
Many with similar views avoid involvement even with green politics as compromising simplicity, however, and advocate forms of green anarchism that attempt to implement these principles at a smaller scale, e.g. the ecovillage.
The alleged relationship between economic growth and war, when fought for control and exploitation of natural and human resources, is considered a good reason for promoting a simple living lifestyle. Avoiding the perpetuation of the resource curse is a similar objective of many simple living adherents. Opposition to war has led some to a form of tax resistance in which they reduce their tax liability by taking up a simple living lifestyle.”

“A new economics movement has been building since the UN conference on the environment in 1972, and the publication that year of Only One Earth, The Limits to Growth, and Blueprint For Survival, followed in 1973 by Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered.
Recently, David Wann has introduced the idea of “simple prosperity” as it applies to a sustainable lifestyle. From his point of view, and as a point of departure for what he calls real sustainability, “it is important to ask ourselves three fundamental questions: what is the point of all our commuting and consuming? What is the economy for? And, finally, why do we seem to be unhappier now than when we began our initial pursuit for rich abundance?” In this context, simple living is the opposite of our modern quest for affluence and, as a result, it becomes less preoccupied with quantity and more concerned about the preservation of cities, traditions and nature.
A reference point for this new economics can be found in James Robertson’s A New Economics of Sustainable Development, and the work of thinkers and activists, who participate in his Working for a Sane Alternative network and program. According to Robertson, the shift to sustainability is likely to require a widespread shift of emphasis from raising incomes to reducing costs.
The principles of the new economics, as set out by Robertson, are the following:
systematic empowerment of people (as opposed to making and keeping them dependent), as the basis for people-centred development
systematic conservation of resources and the environment, as the basis for environmentally sustainable development
evolution from a “wealth of nations” model of economic life to a one-world model, and from today’s inter-national economy to an ecologically sustainable, decentralising, multi-level one-world economic system
restoration of political and ethical factors to a central place in economic life and thought
respect for qualitative values, not just quantitative values ”

“The Four Pillars of the Green Party are a foundational statement of Green politics and form the basis of many worldwide Green parties. The Four Pillars are:
Ecological wisdom
Social justice
Grassroots democracy
Different Green Parties that list the Four Pillars phrase them somewhat differently. In general, the four pillars define a Green Party as a political movement that interrelates its philosophy from four different social movements, the peace movement, the civil rights movement, the environmental movement, and the labour movement.”

“The Greeks believed there to be three ‘ingredients’ to beauty: symmetry, proportion, and harmony. This triad of principles infused their life. They were very much attuned to beauty as an object of love and something that was to be imitated and reproduced in their lives, architecture, education (Paideia) and politics. They judged life by this mentality.
In Chinese philosophy, a similar concept, Doctrine of the Mean, was propounded by Confucius; Buddhist philosophy also includes the concept of the middle way.”

“St. Thomas Aquinas, the great Catholic Philosopher, in his Summa Theologica, Question 64 of the Prima Secundæ Partis, argues that Christian morality is consistent with the mean. He observes: “evil consists in discordance from their rule or measure. Now this may happen either by their exceeding the measure or by their falling short of it;…Therefore it is evident that moral virtue observes the mean.””

“Another early elaboration is the Doric saying carved on the front of the temple at Delphi: “Nothing in Excess”.”


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