On raising awareness…

[This was a reply I made on August 27, 2011 to a question poised on the steadystaters@googlegroups.com listserv. It mainly points out how raising awareness among the general public is the underlying action that needs to happen — which can be thought of a lifelong service to a noble goal.]


To reply to your questions, please see my responses below:

is there something else that needs to happen besides abolishing the right of corporations to be treated as ‘people’?

I think what needs to happen is raising awareness and education among the general public which amounts to consciousness raising about the issue of corporate personhood and why we must change it. This will not happen quickly, but there are literally hundreds of thousands of activist organizations all over the world working hard on this goal. Have you heard of Bioneers and wiserearth.org, started by Paul Hawken? They are certainly in the vanguard but unfortunately the mainstream media does not quite “get it” yet how serious these issues are, and needs to prodded into covering these issues. So, this is why I’m trying to do my part by volunteering as much as I can to help.

But accomplishing a US Constitutional amendment that abolishes the constitutional rights of corporations will require a huge effort; the last time this was attempted in this country was the Equal Rights Amendment for women. It was a long and exhausting struggle, which came very close to passage, but ultimately failed. The time may come where it will be attempted again for them — which I think could only help the Move To Amend struggle. Please see movetoamend.org for more background on why this goal is necessary.

Some of the more inspirational authors who have influenced me of the need to engage in this consciousness raising comes from David Korten’s The Great Turning and Riane Eisler’s The Chalice and the Blade. They are powerful visionaries, who have faith that it is not human nature to want to destroy ourselves, and point out with abundant and persuasive evidence in their excellent and extensive research.

was there anything in that little deal that spoke of the *responsibilities* of corporations (aside from obeying legal requirements)?

Nope. Appealing to the moral sensibility of corporations is not a strategy that activists who have long been engaged in this struggle would recommend, to put it politely. There are numerous documentaries out there that testify to the psychopathic behavior that large corporations exhibit and cultivate, both as institutions and in the individuals that lead them; one recent one I’d recommend is Inside Job. Certainly, there are outstanding examples of corporations that do do great good because they are headed by individuals with a conscience and a heart, such as Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard; but unfortunately they too small a minority at the moment.

So, raising the political awareness and call to action to curb corporate behavior, and the standard of leadership to, yes, have respect for the environment and communities, goes hand in hand with this awareness raising — including reforming the teaching of economics and how the profession practices its “faith” as well. That is my particular area of interest. The carrot may be to appeal to their sense of responsibility, which really has more value as a political plank, but to expect a real response the real effort must be in the stick — or cudgel, is how I like to think about it — of legal and political change, which is the only force that the corporate elite will really respond to — and certainly not willingly.


Rick Casey

Boulder, CO

Ecological economists must become activists!

[Another post to the steadystaters@google.com listserv….on August 26, 2011]

I fully agree with Sharon of Australia. What she makes clear is that all of us are facing the same economic, environmental and political problem. But this political aspect is what I saw missing from Sharon’s compassionate description of what needs to happen to improve our economic and environmental situation — but which is critical to acknowledge within the steady state community. From my viewpoint, the economic and environmental situation will never change until the political perception changes to the point where we begin to pass legislation that supports the environment and supports an economy based on people, and not corporations. And it is this struggle between the rights of people and the rights of corporations which will become more and more clear, as our problems intensify, and the causes of them become more and more obvious.

This will require changing the stated public purpose of the institutions that underlie global capitalism: to support an economy that serves people, community and the environment, not an economy that is based on a power elite at the top, which seeks only to deregulate everything to keep profits up for the largest banks and the dominant multi-nationals, many of which are deeply tied either to biggest financial corporations, to the military-industrial complex that supports the American global Empire or to the giant corporations that dominate the energy (fossil fuel and nuclear) and extraction industries, the current economic base.

The political problem is based on the current incorrect paradigm — or popular perception — about why the economy exists. The popular perception about why the economy exists has been a mantra drummed into the public consciousness which is based solely on money and profits and jobs, and that There Is No Alternative — or TINA — an acronym introduced my Magaret Thatcher, I believe.

We all know this is an insufficient framework, which is based on the efficiency principle alone. For a complete solution, we students of ecological economics know that it needs to based on three principles of scale and distribution as well as efficiency. There is so much good analysis out there as to why the current paradigm is so broken, and how a new wholistic view of the economy must change the paradigm, that I do not need to go into that here.

This is why I am supporting the Move To Amend campaign in the US, and encourage you all to do so too, which would strip corporations of their US Constitutional rights, which is the key reason why they have become so powerful and so big. It is also a legal fiction that should never have been allowed to exist in the first place. So I repeat: ecological economists must become activists!

Rick Casey

Boulder, CO

Economists need to become activists

[This is a post I made to a listserv dedicated to ecological economics, sometimes referred to as steady state economics. I sidestep the ideological discussions that the question below could devolve into, and point that if ecological economists are sincere about the change they say they seek, they must get involved political process…otherwise their contributions are merely “academic”, i.e. without effect in the so-called ‘real world.’]

On Sun, Aug 7, 2011 at 10:43 PM, cruxcatalyst (sharon) wrote:

Here’s a curly question for the economists among us with more

expertise than myself: how can a capitalist world model exist

(theoretically and practically) without an ever expanding world




To answer, such questions, I agree that it is wise to avoid ideology. My following comments are based solely on the practical recent lessons of why we are experiencing the current recession, and the direction we surely need to head in our economic policies, where I believe ecological economics has much to contribute. I have become convinced that if ecological economists want to be heard, the field will need to become more politically active; this is not an ideological question, but one of practical reality.

I see no conflict between the principles of ecological economics and capitalism, as far as I have come to know them, but that to achieve them from our current economic structure, it will be crucial to re-regulate the financial industry. As abundant research has shown (my main reference is 13 Bankers by Simon Johnson and James Kwak, but there are many others), every recession since the 1980s has been induced by Wall Street speculation, which was brought on by the financial deregulation that it so earnestly sought ever since the New Deal, which established financial stability for nearly five decades. But beginning the Reagan “revolution” (which, in reality, was a devolution, or going backwards), there were periodic recessions about every 10 years. The final straw was the 2008 global financial meltdown, which is a profound lesson in why Wall Street needs to be re-regulated, and the biggest banks broken up.

But as Johnson makes abundantly clear in his excellent research, this will be politically difficult given the stranglehold that Wall Street and the banking industry have on Washington politics. Until there is broad political uprising from the American citizenry, this does present a political stalemate, as the recent near-disaster over the debt ceiling has shown.

This is why I have become personally active in the Move To Amend campaign in Boulder, which is achieving some success. This campaign is about stripping corporations of their constitutional rights through a Constitutional amendment. Such rights, which we can refer to as “corporate personhood,” have been gained strictly by court precedent, primarily SCOTUS court precedent. When one looks deeply into the matter, it become obvious that corporations were never granted these rights by the people, which is where such rights ultimately reside. This struggle deserves to become the biggest struggle for civil rights in history — larger by far than the civil rights struggle of the Sixties. It is ultimately also related to the violent struggle for democracy that is currently being played out throughout the Mideast, where the plutocracy are autocratic families, instead of autocratic corporations.

I urge anyone concerned over these issues to consider this question of corporate personhood and becoming involved in Move To Amend, as I consider it a sine qua non when any serious political solution to our severe economic and environmental problems is considered.

— Rick


Rick Casey :: case…@gmail.com

online Instructor, Environmental Economics, Front Range Community College, Ft Collins, CO

online Instructor, Database Systems, Champlain College, Burlington, VT

Professional Research Assistant, Institute of Behavioral Genetics, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO

A plea to the profession of Ecological Economics

[This is a post that I wrote to an email list that is subscribed to by those interested in the field of Ecological Economics. This field has personally inspired me to return to teaching economics — but only environmental economics, because it represents a crack in the door to let the message of Ecological Economics get through to our existing institutions — which sorely need to hear its message.]

Thank you Mr John Veitch.

Your reply is, to my mind, what this email list is for: to inform and educate each other, and I appreciate this quick sketch of the milestones in the background thinking that underlies modern thinking in ecological economics.

While I don’t wish to discourage easy camaraderie among its subscribers, the more I see uninformative posts that simply take up cycles of my time, the less inclined am I to take this list seriously; but I see Mr Veitch’s post as an opening for a plea that I have been wanting to post to this list for some time.

I am just a beginner in the field of ecological economics myself, and much appreciate these kind of sincere efforts to challenge each other to stimulate new and original thought, which I genuinely believe are needed — especially within the emerging profession of ecological economics. My (quick) background is that I am going into teaching environmental economics at a local community college in Colorado (frontrange.edu) for my fifth semester. I attempted to introduce a course in Ecological Economics there, but have given up, due to lack of support within my department; otherwise, I earn a living primarily as a database programmer in an academic research center (at CU Boulder).

Given the dark clouds on the horizon, I believe the small band represented by ecological economists has a certain list of duties to perform (and here I will reveal my own activist bent): (1) to develop the new ideas and empirical studies with ecological economics to mature its stature as a scientific field of knowledge to be taken seriously, (2) to challenge the existing economics profession to fully embrace ecological economics for its advancement of the overall field of economics and accept that reality, (3) to thoroughly reexamine old ideas (particularly the prominent examples among classical economists who long ago challenged the premises of basing an economy on unlimited growth or materialism) so that we can point out to the ‘old regime’ where they have ‘gone wrong’ but were warned earlier, and (4) develop new bridges of thought between mainstream economics and mainstream ecology (a truly new area of investigation).

The further challenge will be to (5) communicate this to the public and to the policymakers. In these charged political times, I do not expect this to be a high priority for the field; but perhaps there are those among us, young and indomitable, who would wish to take on that duty. For myself, at age 57, I am focusing on my own professional development as an ecological economist, at my level, and working on other political change.

In these pressing times, when we, as economists, can perceive a bit more into the future and know what lies ahead, while uncertain in its exact dimensions and form, portends certain harm unless action is taken, dictates a certain moral responsibility. I much admire figures such as Paul Hawken and Bill McKibbon who are some of the more leading moral figures in our times, who attempt to point out the need to change our economic ways.

I look forward with interest, and expect to learn, from others’ replies.

Respectfully submitted,

Rick Casey

Boulder, CO

[Below is Mr Veitch’s original message….to give my reply some context….]

The new economics has to deal with these facts. (Which I listed with links in a previous post.)

Keynes had no idea what long term damage his theory would create. We do have that knowledge.

Our New Knowledge

In the 1970’s Nicholas Georgescu-Roegan, demonstrated that an economy didn’t depend on money at all. All economic processes involve a transfer of energy. Whatever we do, we take some high quality energy and we dissipate it into the environment. There are real limits to economic practices, that are determined by the rules of physics, not the rules of the market place.

In 1972 Dennis Meadows and associates published Limits to Growth. This book was widely ridiculed at the time, but it’s proven to be a remarkably good guide to what’s happened in the last 40 years. Meadows understood nothing about climate change, but he did anticipate peak oil, and shortages of water.

In 1992, with Agenda 21, the nations of the world agreed to save the biodiversity of the world and to take active steps to protect the environment. But since then little has been done. In the USA, attacks on the principles of Agenda 21 (more American irrational madness), were widely supported.

In 1980 the Brandt Commission reported that there were serious problems the world needed to address. Four areas: Environment, justice, economics and social conflict.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has now produced four reports. The bad news is that the way we have developed our economies is destroying the planet’s climate system. We MUST, reduce and where possible STOP our use of fossil fuels as quickly as possible. No effective action so far.

The Stockholm Resilience Centre has identified nine planetary boundaries that are likely to have tipping points that when crossed could have devastating consequences for the Earth. They believe that we have already crossed three of those.

We now have a problem called jobless growth. In modern economies, new businesses employ very few people. This is particualrly evident in high unemployment for young people.

Keynes and Hayek knew nothing about any of the new knowledge above. Keynes and Hayek produced an economic proposal for the 20th Century, and those ideas served us well. But like Keynes and Hayek, themselves, those ideas are now inappropriate (dead). Why are we still debating those principles? Here’s James Gustave Speth’s proposal for Eight Necessary Transitions, to solve our 21st Century problems.

Here’s the brutal truth. No modern economy can employ all it’s people. Gross Domestic Product, is a poor measure of economic performance and the pursuit of GDP, is the prime cause of climate change and environmental destruction. We cannot solve 21st Century problems with 20th Century economic principles. We don’t need to be trapped in the past. That’s a choice we make.