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Capitalism’s woes will not be solved by 16th or 19th century economic theories

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The fall of the Berlin Wall, one of the starkest symbols of Soviet oppression, heralded the end of socialism. The collapse of Lehman Brothers will probably be the herald of the end of Anglo-American capitalism. Simon Leadbetter asks, what next?

To anyone, but the most ideological and dogmatic free marketer, there is strong evidence that capitalism’s current model is broken. Some economists will say that this situation is a result of too much state intervention and regulation, rather than a systemic failing of capitalism itself. Fewer regulations and smaller governments are the answer.

Those who hold this view are very poor students of history. It doesn’t make sense to use economic theories developed before the emancipation of women, rising globalisation and the information revolution. Similarly, theories that did not have to consider environmental and resource constraints cannot provide answers to our current challenges.

We saw the depressing effects of complete free market economics in the late 18th and 19th centuries. The rise of socialism and communism, as economic theories, and the more benign Keynesianism, were a response to the catastrophic and repeated failings of free markets. Crashes and poverty were endemic in unfettered markets. The welfare state was created as a result of the failure of free markets and austerity in the ’30s and the resulting second world war.

More recently, South America has rejected the free market experiments of the IMF (International Monetary Fund), demonstrating that other economic systems can prevail – despite our best efforts to crush their economies with debt and overthrow or kill their elected leaders. Indeed, the evolution of capitalism in China, India, mainland Europe and the Nordic countries is very different to the system advocated by some economists in UK and the US.

Markets that are completely unregulated, with profit maximisation being their only responsibility, according to the disciples of Milton Friedman, tend towards plutocracy and/or monopoly, a race to the bottom in quality and standards for the majority, damage to the environment and communities, and ultimately, the failure of society and nation states. The recent history of South America, for anyone who cares to open a book about the subject, shows the most egregious failures and outcomes of IMF free market experiments.

Some of the more swivel-eyed free market disciples see the end of nation states as a good thing. For them, the relentless destruction of lives, companies, governments and even countries is the natural order of things, regardless of the human or ecological cost. Nothing must fetter the market.

The subsequent argument is then characterised as a polarised conflict between those who advocate completely free markets and those who advocate interventionist or, what are often characterised in the right wing media as ‘socialist’, responses.

The problem is that the repeated failings of a 16th century economic system, capitalism, cannot be addressed by a 19th century economic theory, socialism. Smith, Marx, Keynes, Friedman and Hayek died long before the economic renaissance of China and India and the rise of the digital era, when computing capability is limitless and resources are scarce.

It is an insult to thinking people to argue that free markets are the high watermark of human civilisation and economics. Those who argue that our economy needs to encourage a relentless Darwinian struggle for survival within society and the environment have an odd concept of what civilisation is about.

For one thing, Darwin didn’t argue that it was the fittest or even the strongest who survive, but instead, those ‘most able to adapt’. The natural end state of unregulated capitalism, that of unmeritocratic plutocracy and monopoly, holds back adaptation and stifles innovation, meaning it is those with the deepest pockets and most power, rather than the most adaptable or innovative that survive.

For those who hold religious beliefs, none of the world’s religions argue that the acquisition of things is the goal of existence, that the poor should be allowed to suffer or starve, or that the natural world degraded.

Humans have, in many areas, thrown of the shackles of being an evolutionary and environmental victim. Unlike most animals, we can now extend our lives far beyond our natural span and we shape our planet more than it shapes us. When we are masters of so many aspects of our existence, why would we aspire to encourage a predatory economic system that condemns the vast majority of the population to poverty, starvation, disease and lives that are often nasty, brutish and short? Why would we allow our economic system and the companies within make the air we breathe and the land and sea that feeds us, become toxic.

We need a 21st century economic system to solve our current woes.

We need a system that recognises natural constraints. Constraints on resource usage, constraints on emissions and, dare we say it, constraints on growth. We live on a finite and fragile blue and green planet, but we are acting as if we live on an infinite one. Constraints do mean regulation and effective penalties for those that transgress them.

We would assert that a hybrid economic system has to be the answer to economic, environmental and society issues. This common sense position is being drowned out by hyperbolic extremists on both sides, as most debates are in the internet age. Very well-funded groups, with powerful vested interests in the media and politics, on the free market side of the debate, and poorly funded, disorganised and divided groups on the interventionist side.

The state can provide certain services better than free markets – natural monopolies such as national infrastructure, health and education, for example, although some would disagree. The private sector is better at providing other services – where innovation is required. Ironically, some of the most disruptive innovations in medicine (genome project), science and technology (the internet), have all been delivered by the public sector.

If we could have a mature debate about which sector, public or private, is best positioned to provide what, rather than the current level of debate that characterises each sector as ‘all bad’, we might just have a chance of recovery and progress.

The endgame?

The sad reality is that our system of free-wheeling capitalism, as advocated in the UK and the US, is in terminal decline. State capitalism, as promulgated by China, is in the ascendancy, without the democratic checks and balances we have built up over the years. This will, almost certainly, be a Chinese century rather than an American one, just as the 19th century was a British one.

We can, of course, throw ourselves into an unfettered and speculative race to bottom against China, abandoning workers’ rights and environmental controls, to compete with those who have none. This will mean accepting ever growing inequality, significant civil unrest and a degraded environment as a price worth paying to simply remain competitive.  The standard of living and quality of life for the majority will decline.

Or we can say productive, competitive and regulated free markets, that enshrine social and environmental responsibility, coupled with publicly funded provision of essential services, an accountable and transparent democracy and the rule of law, are the systems we believe in and will fight for. Unless we take a lead, why would anyone else?

Cicero attributed to a Roman consul, Lucius Cassius, a simple question to ask of any act or policy, “Cui bono?” or “Who benefits?“. It finds a modern form in, “Follow the money“. The question we should constantly ask is who benefits most from maintaining the status quo, moving economic power to undemocratic China, or changing the system. Sadly, the answer is often a very small elite of wealthy and powerful people.

The solution to capitalism’s failure is not more lightly regulated capitalism, but sustainable economics that balance the needs of the planet and its people and is a successful example the world can follow.

Further reading:

Witnessing financial capitalism’s failure

With Libor fixing, the surprise is that anyone was surprised

Are we investing in the future we want for our children and grandchildren?

PM calls for ‘popular capitalism’ despite difficult economic times

We’re not all in it together: the rise of bloated capitalism

Simon Leadbetter is the founder and publisher of Blue & Green Tomorrow. He has held senior roles at Northcliffe, The Daily Telegraph, Santander, Barclaycard, AXA, Prudential and Fidelity. In 2004, he founded a marketing agency that worked amongst others with The Guardian, Vodafone, E.On and Liverpool Victoria. He sold this agency in 2006 and as Chief Marketing Officer for two VC-backed start-ups launched the online platform Cleantech Intelligence (which underpinned the The Guardian’s Cleantech 100) and StrategyEye Cleantech. Most recently, he was Marketing Director of Emap, the UK’s largest B2B publisher, and the founder of Blue & Green Communications Limited.

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What Kitchen Suits Your Style? Modern, Classic or Shaker?

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shaker kitchen designs

A kitchen is the centre of the home. Your kitchen ranges between where friends and family gather, talk about their day, cook meals, have drinks, to somewhere you can just enjoy each other’s company. The kitchen is the heart of the home. But, everyone’s lifestyle is different. Everyone’s taste is different. So, you need a kitchen that not only mirrors your lifestyle but matches your taste too. Whilst some prefer a more traditional design, others want a modern feel or flair – and it’s all down to personal taste.

When it comes to redesigning your kitchen, what style would you go for? It’s a difficult one isn’t it. With so many different styles to go for, how can you know exactly what you want until you’ve seen it in action? Leading kitchen designer, Roman Kitchens, based in Essex, have provided three examples of bespoke kitchens and styles they specialise in, accompanied with beautiful images. This design guide will get you one step closer to picking your dream kitchen for your home.

1. Modern

New home in the city centre? Or even a sleek new modern build? You want a trendy and modern kitchen to reflect your city lifestyle. In modern kitchen design, colours are bolder and fresher, with sleek design and utilities that are distinctive and vibrant.

modern kitchen designs

This modern kitchen is sleek and smooth with flawless design and beauty. Minimalism doesn’t stop this kitchen standing out. Featured walls of wood and vibrant mint green draw the eye, whilst the white surfaces reflect the light, illuminating every nook and cranny of this kitchen. This kitchen features products from Rotpunkt, innovators of modern kitchen design. Made with German engineering, a Rotpunkt Kitchen is the ultimate modern addition to your home. Rotpunkt Kitchens have timeless design and amazing functionality, they work for every purpose and are eco-friendly. Sourced from natural materials, a Rotpunkt kitchen uses 37% less timber, conserving natural forests and being more environmentally conscious.

2. Classic

Prefer a homely and traditional feel? Classic kitchens are warm, welcoming and filled with wood. Wood flooring, wood fixtures, wood furniture – you name it! You can bring a rustic feel to your urban home with a classic kitchen. Subtle colours and beautiful finishes, Classic kitchens are for taking it back to the basics with a definitive look and feel.

classic kitchen designs

With stated handles for cupboards, Classic kitchens are effortlessly timeless. They convey an elegant but relaxing nature. Giving off countryside vibes, natural elements convey a British countryside feel. The wood featured in a classic kitchen can range between oaks and walnut, creating a warmth and original feel to your home. Soft English heritage colours add a certain mood to your home, softening the light making it cosier.

3. Shaker

Any kitchen planner will tell you that the meeting point between traditional and modern design, is a Shaker kitchen. They have a distinctive style and innovative feel. Shakers are fresh, mixing different colour tones with stylish wood and vinyl. The most important feature of a Shaker kitchen is functionality – every feature needs to serve a purpose in the kitchen. Paired with stylish and unique furniture, a Shaker kitchen is an ideal addition to any home.

shaker kitchen designs

The ultimate marriage between Classic and Modern kitchens, this Shaker kitchen has deep colour tones with copper emphasis features. All the fittings and fixtures blur the line of modern and tradition, with a Classic look but modern colour vibe. Unique furniture and design make Shaker Kitchens perfect for the middle ground in kitchen design. Minimal but beautifully dressed. Traditional but bold and modern at the same time. Storage solutions are part of the functionality of Shaker kitchens, but don’t detour from conveying yours as a luxury kitchen.

Whatever you choose for your new kitchen, be it Modern, Classic or Shaker – pick whatever suits you. Taste is, and always will be, subjective – it’s down to you.

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Features

Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy

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Environmental activists are not given the admiration that they deserve. A recent poll by Gallup found that a whopping 32% of Americans still doubt the existence of global warming. The government’s attitude is even worse.

Many global warming activists and green preppers have raised the alarm bell on climate change over the past few years. Government officials have taken notice and begun tracking their activity online. Even former National Guard officers have admitted that green preppers and climate activists are being targeted for terrorist watchlists.

Of course, the extent of their surveillance depends on the context of activism. People that make benign claims about climate change are unlikely to end up on a watchlist, although it is possible if they make allusions to their disdain of the government. However, even the most pacifistic and well intentioned environmental activists may unwittingly trigger some algorithm and be on the wrong side of a criminal investigation.

How could something like this happen? Here are some possibilities:

  • They could share a post on social media from a climate extremist group or another individual on the climate watchlist.
  • They could overly politicize their social media content, such as being highly critical of the president.
  • They could use figures of speech that may be misinterpreted as threats.
  • They might praise the goals of a climate change extremist organization that as previously resorted to violence, even if they don’t condone the actual means.

Preppers and environmental activists must do everything in their power to protect their privacy. Failing to do so could cost them their reputation, future career opportunities or even their freedom. Here are some ways that they are contacting themselves.

Living Off the Grid and Only Venturing to Civilization for Online Use

The more digital footprints you leave behind, the greater attention you draw. People that hold controversial views on environmentalism or doomsday prepping must minimize their digital paper trail.

Living off the grid is probably the best way to protect your privacy. You can make occasional trips to town to use the Wi-Fi and stock up on supplies.

Know the Surveillance Policies of Public Wi-Fi Providers

Using Wi-Fi away from your home can be a good way to protect your privacy.However, choosing the right public Wi-Fi providers is going to be very important.

Keep in mind that some corporate coffee shops such a Starbucks can store tapes for up to 60 days. Mom and pop businesses don’t have the technology nor the interest to store them that long. They generally store tips for only 24 hours and delete them afterwards. This gives you a good window of opportunity to post your thoughts on climate change without being detected.

Always use a VPN with a No Logging Policy

Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. However, some of these providers do a much better job than others. What is a VPN and what should you look for when choosing one? Here are some things to look for when making a selection:

  • Make sure they are based in a country that has strict laws on protecting user privacy. VPNs that are based out of Switzerland, Panama for the British Virgin Islands are always good bets.
  • Look for VPN that has a strict no logging policy. Some VPNs will actually track the websites that you visit, which almost entirely defeats the purpose. Most obviously much better than this, but many also track Your connections and logging data. You want to use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs at all.
  • Try to choose a VPN that has an Internet kill switch. This means that all content will stop serving if your VPN connection drops, which prevents your personal data from leaking out of the VPN tunnel.

You will be much safer if you use a high-quality VPN consistently, especially if you have controversial views on climate related issues or doomsday prepping.

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