We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lapp├ę, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Could Rationing Be Made Palatable?

by Sharon Astyk from Casaubon's Book. (This article was also featured in the widely read "Energy Bulletin".)

I confess that I didn't read every line in this rather lengthy article, but her main argument is this:
Whether regionally or nationally, rationing is one way, probably the best way, to ensure reasonably equitable distribution - so while presently people see rationing as unimaginable, I would argue that we need to be laying the groundwork for just rationing strategies, administered equitably now - and that this isn't actually as hard as we might think. No, it isn't politically possible right yet - but it could become possible very rapidly. So I present a lightly revised version of a piece I wrote more than three years ago - suggesting that we need to consider strategies for the eventual implementation of resource rationing, whether at the national, state or local levels.
I totally agree that it would be the "best way to ensure reasonably equitable distribution" of scarce items, but I think that she doesn't understand the obstacles preventing such an arrangement. Thus her proposal to lay a groundwork would not succeed.

Her two main arguments were that rationing has already demonstrated feasibility by citing water rationing in Australia and the US experience during WWII. 

Regarding the former, capitalist ruling classes, although they have tried, have not succeeded in turning water into a privately owned commodity. Bechtel corporation tried it in Bolivia and utterly failed. Because it is not a commodity that they sell, they do not mind rationing it. But it is a very different matter when other commodities are considered, commodities that are sold and enrich the ruling class.

Rationing in WWII succeeded because the capitalist ruling class needed the widespread support of the American people to collaborate with them to defeat the competition for world hegemony posed by the same classes in Germany and Japan. Capitalist ruling classes will always make such major concessions to working people when it is in THEIR interest. 

Take the origins of the US, as another example. The Declaration of Independence, written before the War of Independence, placed a lot of stress on equal rights and social justice, but after independence from Britain was achieved, the Constitution that was drawn up placed much greater emphasis on the protection of private property. It was only due to widespread dissatisfaction that a "Bill of Rights" was added to it to get it passed. Since then the Bill of Rights was poorly enforced and nowadays it is largely meaningless given all the post 9-11 "security" (read "police state") measures that have been passed.

The present ruling class in the US has little concern for the deteriorating lives of ordinary Americans. They have moved on to their Empire. For example, a major US export are farm products while many children in the US experience poor and inadequate nutrition. See this article entitled, "Study: Hunger in America jumps ‘unprecedented’ 46 percent". And food stamp programs are being cutback.

So long as this class of sociopaths rule, we can forget about rationing of essential food and fuel supplies. We need to be "laying the groundwork" for taking power away from them.