Friday, April 16, 2010

Nonviolent Econ 101 (aargh!)

From Schindler's List to Paul Nitze's creation of the National Security Agency to the received wisdom that the way out of an economic depression is to go to war, we are immersed in that assumption. War is good for business. Fix up your economic problems with a good war.

Not so. In a piece in Dollars & Sense, Heidi Garrett-Peltier (research fellow at the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, pictured paddling)
argues that an economic recovery for working people, for the middle class, is going to rely not on war but on peace conversion.

Jobless recovery? No wonder. From Garrett-Peltier:

"For each $1 billion of spending, over 17,000 jobs would be created in clean energy, close to 20,000 in health care, and over 29,000 in education. That same $1 billion would create only 11,600 jobs as a result of military spending. If we look at well-paying jobs, those that pay over $64,000 per year, these alternative domestic spending areas also outperform military spending. The same $1 billion would create 1,500 well-paying jobs in clean energy and just over 1,000 in the military—clean energy creates 50% more good jobs than military spending. Education, which is labor-intensive and creates many well-paying jobs per dollar of expenditure, creates close to 2,500 jobs paying over $64,000—that’s 2.5 times as many as the military."

But, we wonder, how can we maintain the disparity between us and the world if we stop controlling markets militarily?

We can't. And we shouldn't. We are long past the time when we should stand down with violence and stand up for nonviolence. Yes, Nonviolent Econ 101 tells us we are going to have to learn to live on less, materially, but was our lifestyle so bad before we became rulers of the Earth?

And yes, it's true, we cannot quite know, since the US was founded on violence and land theft, as well as slavery and its stolen labor. That formula--obtain cheap human and natural resources by violence or the threat of violence--is the logic of the pirate. We need to grow up and give up those ways and learn to live in peace and justice.

Nonviolent Economics is complex and far beyond the meager capabilities of this old hippie professor. It is a lifestyle, a lifetime, and a collective discussion that precedes action. Last evening little Alexa and I prepared a tiny garden plot, planted some freesia bulbs, and then planted three calico magic beans. The tiny garden space at Whitefeather Peace House is meant to be part of Nonviolent Econ 101, as are most Catholic Worker communities (with whom we identify, at least in part).

We talk about the great Portland program of Food Not Lawns and hope that, one day, Whitefeather folk can carve out enough time to approach someone in the neighborhood with too much lawn and negotiate a sharecropper deal--we garden part of it and we leave part of the produce for the owner.

This 'locavore' ethic is Gandhian, after all, his swadeshi campaign modernized to also account for the other piece of the war economy--the link to oil. Stop the massive transport of food and you delink war from eating, a fairly basic Nonviolent Econ 101 step. Pictured is a bonfire of British clothing, a real and symbolic destruction of the British control of India, and the precursor to spinning for independence.

Bill Hartung also wrote a germinal piece on military spending and employment, noting the poor track record of the F22 military program in particular. And the overall growth in militarization of the US economy can be seen in this chart:

Time to end the Jolly Roger School of Economics and go Gandhian. We may never totatally succeed, but the goodwill and independence of such Nonviolent Econ 101 trends would do a great deal for our image abroad and our self-image.

No comments: