Contributed by Joe Montero
As we reach the end of 2018, we can look back over the year and see that in terms of the economy, the stability of the political system, the threat of global warming and respect for human rights, the world as a whole and Australia, have taken a step backwards. This is only part of the story.
The year has also seen an important advance in the movement of peoples to bring about major change for the better.
It means, that in the year ahead and beyond there are both considerable risks and opportunities. The year is finishing with another decline in the global economy, led by weakening position of the United States. Share prices are down and this has spread around the world. The American interest rate is about to be increased the country’s Federal Reserve – for the fourth time this year. Investment in this economy is falling.
This does not mean that everything is going to collapse tomorrow. It does however, show increasing volatility and rising uncertainty about the future. There are underlying drivers.
America’s economy is no longer experiencing expansion in the real economy. Many of the commodities used by Americans are imported, and profit overall, is derived from the circulation of money. A big decline in real wages, where more than 50 percent of the workforce has been causalised, means that the opportunities for the domestic market to grow are seriously limited.
Doing business on a big scale depends on government protection and exploiting the global economy.
Almost zero interest rates assisted speeding up the circulation of money for a time, provided the illusion of a growing economy, allowed a little increase in consumption, and ensured higher profits for some. But it seems that this year, it might have run its course.
There is limited salvation in the global economy. It is shrinking as well. Only the Chinese engine is keeping it from being much worse.
For the United States’ economy,. relief is through the exploitation of its spheres of influence. This is where Australia comes in. Where is the profit here?
In part, it is through the export of minerals and fossil fuels. Most important, is the circulation of money, especially through the creation of personal debt, and trade in stocks, bonds and property. The greatest proportion of mining and finance in Australia, contrary to what is often believed, is owned by American interests.
For a time, higher interest rates than those in the United States kept the money flowing in. Now that they are going up, the flow is in the other direction. It is not surprising that the problems of the American economy are imported into Australia in their own specific form.
Australia’s economy is also in the doldrums. Wages are down, and proper full-time jobs are becoming an increasing rarity. And we are not alone.
This is made all the worse with the American trade stand off with China. There is also a level of standoff against Russia and Europe, which is having a negative impact on the global economy and politics. But it is the Australia is stand off with China that Australia is most vulnerable to.
The state of the domestic economy, the expectations of peoples and a less secure global economy are the sources of a further rise in political instability, rooted in the rising disrepute of traditional political institutions, parties and politicians.
Governments are left floundering, as the pressure from society builds and their ground to maneuver and keep on the same course narrows. These governments find themselves in one crisis after another. Rising political instability is uncovering the true extent of hard and soft corruption within the ranks of the business and political elite.
Donald Trump becomes the most unpopular president in memory. Britain’s Theresa May and the Conservatives are drowning, France’s Emmanuel Macron is up against the ropes. It’s the same in other parts of the world. Leaders are embattled and sometimes spaces open up for the rise of mavericks, who add even more uncertainty to the future. This crisis of leadership is a feature of Australia too.
Australia gave rise this year, to the political assassination of Malcolm Turnbull, the coming of the Scott Morrison government, the speed up of internal meltdown in the Liberal and National parties, and a string of political disasters for them.
The year has also witnessed, further evidence over the serious threat of global warming and laid bare the failure of governments to act appropriately. Undoubtedly, this is connected to both the state of the economy and political instability, and has laid bare, the contradiction between short-term expediency and long-term interests.
Blocked in on all sides, traditional political leaders have been more willing to resort to curbs on human rights, to pursue policies that serve the short-term interests of their benefactors. In doing so, they increasingly show themselves as incapable of taking on the challenges of the day.
This is why this year has seen a noticeable rise in the sentiment for change. People want political leadership that offers something different to more of the same: They want to be heard; they want people friendly economic and social policies, which improve the position of working people and build a just society: They want decisive action on the threat of global warming.
Bigger numbers of people are becoming activists. We have just been witnessing the Yellow Vest rebellion in France, which is already starting to serve as an example to other countries. There is a global wave of school and university students rising to meet the challenge of global warming.
Within these and other movements on the rise, new ideas concerning what to replace the status quo with, and how to build a new and direct democracy, which takes power out of the hands of the few and puts it in those of the majority, figure hugely.
In this lies the road to the future.
Together we can change the world
This song performed by kids says it all.
Video from MMM Philippines community by FGA