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13 Jan 2012 | Written by

Dialogue of Civilizations at the World Public Forum

Further Reading:



Globalisation for the Common Good
by Kamran Mofid

Promoting the Common Good
by Kamran Mofid

When Philosophers Rule
by Arthur Farndell

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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03 Dec 2011 | Written by

Why is so much wealth in the hands of so few?

Further Reading:



The Power in the Land
by Fred Harrison

Progress and Poverty
by Henry George

The Corruption of Economics
by Fred Harrison and Mason Gaffney

Land-Value Taxation
by Kenneth  Wenzer

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)

Read More …

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02 Nov 2011 | Written by

St Paul’s Cathedral Protesters: the Dilemma facing the Church

Further Reading:


Promoting the Common Good
by Kamran Mofid and Marcus Braybrooke


Christianity and Social Order

by William Temple

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?

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22 Oct 2011 | Written by

Win £250,000!

Further Reading:



The Corruption of Economics
by Mason Gaffney and Fred Harrison
Mason Gaffney is Professor of Economics at the University of California, Riverside. He has written extensively on various aspects of resource economics, urban economics, tax policy, and capital theory.

Boom Bust
by Fred Harrison
After a career as an investigative journalist, he was advisor to a number of Russian academic and political bodies, including the Duma (parliament), in their efforts to implement a more equitable transition to a market economy. Recently he has turned his attention to the failure of economic analysis and public policies in the market economies.

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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30 Sep 2011 | Written by

The Trial: Ecocide v Living Planet

On the 30th of September 2011 a mock Ecocide Trial was held in the UK Supreme Court. It took just 50 minutes for the jury to return with two unanimous guilty convictions of ecocide against the CEO’s of oil companies operating in the Athabasca Tar Sands.

What is Ecocide? The United Nations is considering a petition to make Ecocide the 5th Crime Against Peace to protect the Earth’s right to life by making it a crime under international law to destroy or seriously damage the Earth’s ecosystems.

Here is what  The Guardian, The Independent and the Financial Times have to say about it.

To read more about the trial,  please visit the Eradicating Ecocide website.

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30 Sep 2011 | Written by

Ethical Economics

Further Reading:

The Science of Political Economy
by Henry George

Economists pronounce with great confidence in the media and blind us with maths and jargon so that most of us switch off and leave it to the ‘experts’—but are we wise to do so when the evidence of the last four years suggests they do not know what they are doing? The voter who votes in ignorance forges the chains that bind him.

There have been, however, some brave voices calling into question the fitness of economists to guide policy-making.

As long ago as 1994, Paul Ormerod, in the preface to his book, The Death of Economics, wrote: “Good economists know … that the foundations of their subject are virtually non-existent” and explained that “the obstacles facing academic economists [seeking an alternative, scientific approach] are formidable, for tenure and professional advancement still depend to a large extent on a willingness to comply with and to work within the tenets of orthodox theory.”

Continue reading the full article by Anthony Werner on the IEET website.

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12 Sep 2011 | Written by

Why Clegg and Cable Favour Land-Value Taxation

Further Reading:



The People’s Budget
by Geoffrey Lee

Re-Solving the Economic Puzzle
by Walter Rybeck

Standing for Justice
by John Stewart

Prime Minister
by John Stewart

Recently The Sunday Times reported that the ‘Lib Dems want a land tax on rich’, arguing that ‘proposals aimed primarily at wealthy landowners, property magnates and foreign millionaires are likely to hit middle class landowners’. After this misleading and emotive opening, the article mentioned that Nick Clegg was in favour of a tax shift and that Vince Cable recognised the need for a ‘proper examination about how a land tax could be made to work’.

Clegg and Cable are harking back to a policy of the Liberal Government which won a landslide victory in 1906 and sought to bring in a Land-Value Tax (LVT) in the famous People’s Budget of 1909. This is not so much a tax on the rich, as implied in the article, but a different way of raising taxation – this is the shift referred to by Clegg.

Taxes as currently levied fall on economic activity and impede growth – a recent example being the Chancellor’s windfall tax on the oil and gas industry on which he had to back track to some extent because of the damage to investment in the North Sea it would have caused. An infamous example from earlier time is the window tax which led to the bricking up of windows. One of the great advantages of LVT is that it does not have that negative effect.

Nor is it a tax on the rich, but it is true that the rich would pay more LVT because they own the most valuable properties. It is therefore a much more progressive tax than income tax with its wide bands and poverty trap at the bottom. It also has the advantage, to which Cable alluded, that it cannot be shifted offshore – i.e. cuts out tax avoidance. The idea of the shift is to replace the present harmful taxes with LVT, this is the shift to which Clegg was referring.

Cable was suggesting a way in which the principle of LVT could be introduced with a minimum of disruption, the shift of Business Rates and Council Tax from a rateable value based on land and buildings to one on the land alone. This would give a boost to the building industry since improvements would not attract higher taxes as they do now. It would also make housing more affordable.

This reform was not confined to the Liberal Party. It also played a major part in the Labour Party, and Phillip Snowden introduced the reform in his Budget of 1931.

In his novel, Prime Minister, John Stewart explores how LVT could be introduced in Britain.

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13 Aug 2011 | Written by

The Only Economic Reform Worth Talking About

Further Reading:



Progress and Poverty
by Henry George

The Science of Political Economy

by Henry George

A lucid exposition of the merits of Land-Value Taxation and the contribution of Henry George to the science of political economy by Edward Miller has appeared on the website of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.

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28 Jul 2011 | Written by

Winner of The People’s Book Prize

Further Reading:

Eradicating Ecocide
by Polly Higgins

Voted the people’s favourite, Eradicating Ecocide by Polly Higgins is this year’s winner of The People’s Book Prize for non-fiction. The winner is chosen by popular vote rather than by a panel of judges.

Speaking from the People’s Book Prize Awards Ceremony, held at the The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers in London, Polly Higgins said:

“This is such an honour. To have the support of the public for my work to make Ecocide the 5th Crime Against Peace is proof that we the people are finding voice and saying it is time to change the rules of the game. The People’s Book Prize is also about changing the rules of the game – by having the public vote for the books they believe in, means that we can hear from the people, people who would not normally be heard. For me this is very important. This is all about empowering the public to speak up for what they want to happen – and for their voice to be heard.To be voted by the people for my book has changed my life. I will remember this day as the day when we said that ‘We the people will eradicate ecocide.”

Eradicating Ecocide is the name of the campaign that Polly and her team are now launching to take Ecocide to the UN and make it law. You can read more about the campaign at her website.

Read More …

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21 Jul 2011 | Written by

Eradicating Ecocide

Paperback Price £ 17.95

  • ISBN: 9780856832758
  • Pages: 224pp
  • Size: 214mm x 136mm

Buy this book:
Shepheard-Walwyn Store

Download a sample:

Video Clip:

Author Details:

POLLY HIGGINS is a barrister, international environmental lawyer and activist. She has spoken at various conferences including the Indigenous Peoples Global Summit on Climate Change, Anchorage April 2009, The Talberg Forum, Sweden June 2009 and at the People’s Climate Summit during the COP 15 climate negotiations, Copenhagen December 2009. In April 2010 she launched the campaign thisisecocide.com, which has already alerted thousands to the objective of establishing Ecocide as a crime. The Ecologist magazine voted her one of the ‘World’s Top 10 Visionary Thinkers’, and she has recently been nominated as ‘The Lawyer for Planet Earth’ in the 2010 Performance Awards.

Polly Higgins sets out to demonstrate how our planet is fast being destroyed by the activities of corporations and governments, facilitated by ‘compromise’ laws that offer insufficient deterrence. Polly offers a solution that is radical, but absolutely necessary: the recent Mexican Gulf oil spill is a compelling reminder of the consequences of un-checked ecocide.

‘Eradicating Ecocide highlights the need for enforceable, legally binding mechanisms in national and international law to hold to account perpetrators of long term severe damage to the environment. At this critical juncture in history it is vital that we set global standards of accountability for corporations, in order to put an end to the culture of impunity and double standards that pervade the international legal system. Polly Higgins illustrates how this can be achieved in her invaluable new book. Bianca Jagger, Founder and Chair of Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, Advocate for Crimes Against Present and Future Generations


From Reviews:

‘The beauty of this proposal is how it uses what is already there – the UN framework, the international criminal law as it has developed since World War II, and the trusteeship concept. Ecocide as a fifth crime against peace would be easily administered by the International Criminal Court without creating new structures or administrative bodies. A simple expedient, yet how revolutionary! A global standard of care would reconfigure the entire edifice of international justice on the foundation of Earth Jurisprudence… Eradicating Ecocide brims with hope and reads like a mystery novel.’ Ana Simeon, Sierra Club, BC

‘Eradicating Ecocide… lays the framework for us to lobby our leaders for real environmental laws and contains tips on taking action… it outlines the steps you can take towards becoming an Erin Brockovich in your own right.’ The Observer Magazine

‘Big shifts in international law can happen… [Higgins] makes a good moral and logical argument that the only way we are going to truly stop ecocide is to make it a serious crime.’ Matt McDermott, treehugger.com

‘Eradicating Ecocide gives you all the answers you need, and it does so in a measured and well argued way… the book isn’t another wild diatribe against business – rather it is an examination of international law and how environmental protection has somehow been left by the wayside… The clock to ensure the Earth remains healthy enough to support humankind is already ticking.  This book asks everyone to re-examine the legal framework within which we are attempting to accomplish this, and provides business leaders with a golden opportunity of making it happen.’ Chris Milton, corporate-eye.com


Higgins advocates the introduction of a new international law, Ecocide: ‘damage, destruction to or loss of ecosystems’, as the 5th Crime Against Peace. This would hold to account heads of corporate bodies that are found guilty of damaging the environment; it would present corporations with a new choice: they could choose to be part of the solution, part of the salvation of the planet’s future, by complying with the new law of Ecocide. The opportunity to implement this law represents a crossroads in the fate of humanity; we can accept the change, or we can continue to allow its destruction, risking future brutal war over disappearing natural resources.

This is the first book to explain that we all have a commanding voice and the power to call upon all our governments to change the existing rules of the game.

Higgins presents examples of laws in other countries which have succeeded in curtailing the power of governments, corporations and banks and made a quick and effective change, demonstrating that her proposal is not impossible. Eradicating Ecocide is a crash course on what laws work, what doesn’t and what else is needed to prevent the imminent disaster of global collapse.

Eradicating Ecocide provides a comprehensive overview of what needs to be done in order to prevent ecocide. It is a book providing a template of a body of laws for all governments to implement, which applies equally to smaller communities and anyone who is involved in decision-making.

Comments (10) | Posted in Books