Three Shepheard-Walwyn authors have been voted through as finalists for the 2012 People’s Book Prize for non-fiction. This includes one of the titles from our Ethical Economics list: congratulations to Walter Rybeck, author of Re-solving the Economic Puzzle . Click here for more information on this book.
The other two titles are Hoodwinking Churchill: Titio’s Great Confidence Trick by Peter Batty and This Life of Grace by John Symons.
Voting to determine the winner opens on 21st May and closes on 30th May. Anyone who so wishes may add their vote by clicking here but you may only vote for the finalists between 21st and 30th May.
The winner will be announced at a gala award dinner at the Stationers’ Hall in the City of London on 30th May. The prizes will be awarded by Frederick Forsyth.
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Polly Higgins believes, when it is right to speak out and shine a light on a dark corner.
“Such are the consequences of our current business practices that we are now on a course that spells disaster for humanity and the Earth. To ignore the warning issued by the OECD last week – that current policy will increase the Earth’s temperature 3 or more degrees by 2100 – is in fact a breach of our human right to life.
“However, I believe we can change our course very fast. This week I have submitted to all governments a concept paper, entitled Closing the door to dangerous industrial activity.”
Polly Higgins is also giving the annual Rachel Carson Memorial lecture in London on 30th March.
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Click here to see a film from Australia which explains why property booms and busts occur with remarkable regularity and how public infrastructure, especially roads and railways can be funded without taxing wages.
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To test the practicality of Polly Higgins’ proposal to make Ecocide a crime, a mock trial was held in the UK Supreme Court in September 2011 at which the two Chief Executives of two fictional oil companies were found guilty by the jury of the crime of Ecocide.
As a further test of the practicality Polly Higgins’ proposal, on 31st March at the Institute for Democracy and Conflict Resolution at the University of Essex in Colchester, the two CEOs will be sentenced. They will be offered a process of restorative justice. Leading lawyers, including Michael Mansfield QC, journalists, businesspeople, academics and campaigners will take part in the sentencing process.
“The sentencing is unique in bringing the head of a corporation face to face with those affected by their company’s destructive practices, including representatives speaking on behalf of birds and other natural life, indigenous peoples and future generations in this case based on real-world oil extraction in the Canadian tar sands.”
Tickets may be obtained via this link.
In the news this week: “Brazilian prosecutors say they will bring criminal charges, including “environmental crimes”, against 17 executives from the US oil company Chevron and drilling contractor Transocean after a new leak of crude oil.”
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We’d like to let you know that we will be exhibiting at the Knebworth Summer Craft & Design Show, 2-4 June (the Diamond Jubilee bank holiday weekend) in Hertfordshire.
Besides exhibiting some of our economic titles, we will also be displaying our beautiful range of calligraphy books which contain inspiring words written out in delightful calligraphy.
Included is Creation: A Celebration
‘If there was an award for the most beautiful book of the year, Peasedown St John artist Sue Symons would stand a very good chance of winning it. Sue might also win an award for the most beautiful art show of the year too… [for these] beautifully and intricately worked panels’ BATH CHRONICLE
Original needlework, painting and calligraphy by Sue Symons
Visit the Romor Exhibitions website for more information and to book tickets.
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From 21st Feb to 15th March, she will be visiting Canada and the United States for a book and lecture tour. We will be updating the dates and venues as they are confirmed:
Feb 17 – 20: Toronto. Feb 18: 4pm at Friend’s meeting house
Feb 20 – 23: Vancouver. Feb 21: 1.30pm, West Coast Environmental Law
Feb 23 – 25: Boulder, CO: 3 days at the Tobias Leadership Conference
March 4 – 5: Los Angeles, CA: March 5: 12pm, UCLA
March 6: Berkeley, CA. 7pm (venue tbc)
March 7: San Francisco, CA. 7pm (venue tbc)
March 8: San Francisco, CA. 12.30pm, Tides Foundation lunch, Thoreau Center in the Presidio.
March 8: San Raphael, CA. 7pm, A Dialogue with Bill Twist of Pachamama Alliance and Polly Higgins about Earth Law and Rights of Nature.
March 9: San Francisco, CA. 7pm, Revving Up for Rio: Earth Law.
We all need new, inspiring ways of opening our leaders’ eyes to the beautiful world we want, where people and our planet are put first. In keeping with the tradition of Valentine’s Day and sending love letters, the Earth Community Trust Charity has set up a website for everyone to send Love Letters to the Earth! Write your message of why you care about the Earth and share it with a loved one. It’s a fun, alternative, positive way to celebrate this Valentine’s Day and beyond. You can also illustrate your Love Letter with a beautiful work of art. There have already been submissions coming in from around the world.
This will be a campaign that grows – they are aiming to collect 1 million Love Letters in the run-up to the Earth Summit in Rio in June. They will be sharing these with world leaders, showing them how much support there is for creating laws to protect the Earth and making Ecocide a crime.
On the 13th and 14th of February, they are having a 2-day tweeting / emailing / Facebooking extravaganza! Join them online as they send the word out to celebrities, artists, high-profile figures from the Dalai Lama to Hollywood, asking them to send a Love Letter too. If you are in London, you may be able to join them at their new popup office space – please email email@example.com for details.
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Anthony Werner, the Managing Director of Shepheard-Walwyn was invited to attend the Dialogue of Civilizations at the World Public Forum held on the island of Rhodes last October. Here is an excerpt from his paper, which has now been published in the Journal of Globalisation for the Common Good:
‘Give us a guide,” cry men to the philosopher. “We would escape from these miseries in which we are entangled. A better state is ever present in our imaginations, and we yearn after it; but all our efforts to realize it are fruitless. We are weary of perpetual failures; tell us by what rule we may attain our desire.’
Witnessing the misery and poverty of mid 19th century Britain, Herbert Spencer, began his Social Statics with the above words. He had in mind, perhaps, Plato’s Republic on the role of the philosopher in educating a political elite – the guardians, as he called them. One of the best known passages from that work is that the human race ‘will never have rest from its evils until philosophers are kings, or kings have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one’.
In view of the present state of the world, I think we can agree that humanity has not yet found ‘rest from its evils’. In this paper we will explore whether there is any particular wisdom to be found in Political Economy that can guide a future political elite in lessening the evils currently suffered by humanity.
Political Economy, or Economics as it is now called, was not a distinct discipline at the time of Plato. It only became a special study in the second half of the 18th century, first in France under the Économistes, or Physiocrats as they are more commonly called, and then in Britain with Adam Smith, often referred to as the ‘father of modern economics’. Economics emerged as a distinct subject in circumstances similar to the ones we are now facing, a mal-functioning of the economic order, which led thinking men and women to ask whether there might be a better way. Likewise the Great Depression of the 1930s led to the emergence of Keynesian economics which has come back into fashion as a way of dealing with the present crisis, with many attributing the current turmoil to market failure, but, as will be argued in this paper, it is really a failure of governance. To find out what Anthony Werner means by this, please click here to view the whole paper.
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The Occupy Wall Street protesters have called themselves the 99% to distinguish themselves from the richest 1% who own a disproportionate share of the nation’s wealth. This phenomenon is not limited to the United States, but is a feature of most of the global economy. This begs the question: Why is so much wealth in the hands of so few?
Oxfam is one of the major aid agencies striving to end poverty. To signal their appreciation that famine relief is no solution to poverty, they have adopted a Chinese proverb:
Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day
Teach him to fish, you feed him for life
This acknowledges the importance of teaching skills as a way of enabling people to become self-supporting and avoiding a dependency culture, but ignores the reality on the ground. Before the newly trained fisherman, or farmer, or whoever can ply his trade, he must first acquire access to land. Without a perch, he cannot fish, without a plot he cannot farm, open a shop or build a home.
Access to land is a basic fact of economics. The significance of this fact in determining the distribution of wealth is ignored by economists today, but its consequences were graphically described in a speech delivered in Edinburgh in1909:
‘It does not matter where you look or what examples you select, you will see that every form of enterprise, every step in material progress, is only undertaken after the land monopolist has skimmed the cream off for himself, and everywhere today the man or the public body who wishes to put land to its highest use is forced to pay a preliminary fine in land values to the man who is putting it to an inferior use, and in some cases to no use at all. All comes back to land value, and its owner for the time being is able to levy his toll upon all other forms of wealth and upon every form of industry. A portion, in some cases the whole, of every benefit which is laboriously acquired by the community is represented in the land value, and finds its way automatically into the landlord’s pocket. If there is a rise in wages, rents are able to move forward, because the workers can afford to pay a little more. If the opening of a new railway or a tramway or the institution of an improved service of workmen’s trains or a lowering of fares or a new invention of any other public convenience affords a benefit to the workers in any particular district, it becomes easier for them to live, and therefore the landlord and the ground landlord, one on top of the other, are able to charge them more for the privilege of living there.’ Winston Churchill
The economist who opened Churchill’s eyes to this fact of economic life – and those of many of the leading Liberals at the beginning of the 20th century – was Henry George and his book Progress and Poverty. This understanding was not confined to the Liberal Party. The New Statesman (20/10/95) noted that ‘The fourth most influential author cited in W T Stead’s 1906 survey of new Labour MPs (after Ruskin, Dickens and the Bible) was one Henry George’.
Deliberately or otherwise, mainstream economists ignore the work of Henry George. As Prof Mark Blaug, the economic historian put it in his Economic Theory in Retrospect: ‘The reactions of four generations of economists to Progress and Poverty… is one of persistent misunderstanding, misrepresentation and downright evasion of the issues by leading members of the economics profession.’ (There are institutions trying to rectify this)
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As the protest camp on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral drags on into another week, the dilemma facing the church authorities intensifies, so much so that now three servants of the cathedral have resigned, including the Dean.
The protest is not against the Church as such but just happens to be located on its doorstep so that it cannot avoid taking sides to some degree in the confrontation between the protestors and the City. The protest is forcing an uncomfortable re-examination of the Church’s social conscience. Finding answers to this dilemma will require both wisdom and courage.
In seeking a solution they might like to consider the dialogue between a theologian and an economist in Promoting the Common Good. Recommending it, the Bishop of Oxford wrote ‘I very much welcome this book and believe that its themes are of crucial importance to the world today’.
They might also like to turn to Archbishop William Temple’s classic, Christianity and Social Order, which poses challenging questions on the relationship between Christianity and the social order. Known as the ‘People’s Archbishop’ for having championed economic justice in the 1920s and 30s he wrote: ‘The art of government in fact is the art of so ordering life that self-interest prompts what justice demands.’
Can our government and churchmen rise to this?
According to The Times, ‘One man is offering you the chance and all you have to do is answer one simple question: how do you manage a country’s orderly exit from the euro?’
In a separate article, Lord Wolfson, the chief executive of the Next clothing chain, explained why he had set up the prize: ’Just as man can be dwarfed by the power of nature, so might governments be humbled by the force of markets. There is a possibility that the structural flaws at the heart of European economic and monetary union pose such a challenge and that the euro could break up in a disorderly rout.
‘The economist Joseph Stiglitz described such a collapse as a “death spiral”. This is not overly dramatic. The unplanned disintegration of the euro would endanger the financial stability of sovereign states and the world’s banking system, along with the savings and jobs of millions. The damage could take a generation to repair.’
The main article reports that the ‘Wolfson prize will be the second-biggest cash prize to be awarded to an academic economist after the Nobel and asks potential applicants to submit an article of up to 25,000 words considering how transition from the euro to a new national currency could be achieved’.
In what appears to be a reference to the prize, the following day The Times carried another article which begins with the question ‘be brutally honest: do you have any idea how the world got itself into its present financial mess, or how it might get out of it? …No? Perhaps you console yourself with the thought that it doesn’t matter … because there are plenty of smart economists out there who do … Yes, those smart economists do indeed have a shrewd prescription … The bad news is, they’re not all the same … We snigger at fortune-tellers yet continue to take seriously the word of economists, a profession definable as ”people who have found a way to retain professional tenure even when their predictions turn out to be entirely wrong”’.
In The Corruption of Economics the authors document how the integrity of economics as a discipline was deliberately compromised towards the end of the 19th century. One result of this perversion of economics was that economists were unable to answer the Queen’s question. Shortly after the collapse of Lehman Bros, the Queen visited the London School of Economics to open a new building. Entertaining her, the professors spoke of the magnitude of the financial collapse. After listening to them, the Queen posed a simple question: ‘if it is so big, why did no one see it coming?’ This was a question the economists could not answer.
The answer, however is given on the first page of the Prologue in Boom Bust which may be viewed on this link.
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