Economics Philosophy Politics

Buy More Stuff

Buy Less, Sing More anti-capitalist choir took to the streets and the shopping arcades of Cambridge on Saturday 1st August 2009, singing songs from Rev Billy and the Life after Shopping Choir songbook.

Image courtesy of Cameraboy, reprinted from Indymedia
Reprinted from Indymedia UK
Courtesy of Cameraboy, reprinted from Indymedia UK
Reprinted from Indymedia UK

I managed to convince a few friends to accompany me in a placard-waving counter-action, to encourage people instead to Buy More Stuff. Given the number of glum-faced people with chain-store bags and scurrying in and out of shops, I think we won!

Have your own campaign in your own hometown, or stick posters up in your window. Remind others to strive for validation as consumers and surrender unto Mammon!

Click on the images below to download the pdf for print-ready A4 size versions, or feel free to create some yourself!





You can also download all of the above ‘buy more stuff’ posters as a zip

With many thanks to Michael Holden who organizes Buy More Stuff campaigns in and around Seattle, whose idea I ‘borrowed’

Reprinted from Michael Holden's website
Reprinted from Michael Holden's website

I found this lovely video on the youtubes. Enjoy!

Economics Miscellaneous Personal

Day 2 – Part A – Ghost Town

[June 17th]

The other side of Jermyn Street?This morning, after a huge heaping of branny breakfast, my brother and I visit Martin in Granby, an area of Toxteth in Liverpool where there are four whole streets that have been marked out for ‘renewal’.

  • In local council speak, this roughly translates as ‘this area is broken, let’s bulldoze it and put some luxury flats here and hopefully make some money’.
  • In developer speak, ‘we get some grants to redevelop brown-belt sites. Here’s some land we can get cheap’
  • In landlord speak, this translates as ‘quick, easy money? OK’.
  • In tenant speak, this translates as ‘We can’t afford the rents anywhere else. Oh we have to move? Right then, we’ll pack’
  • In home-owner speak, this translates as ‘I worked hard for my house. My family has lived here for generations. I am not moving’.

So for the last few years, the council and developers and the remaining home-owners in the four street area of Ducie, Jermyn, Cairns and Beaconsfield have been involved in an uneasy stand-off. The council and developers offer paltry sums and terrible terms for the property.

If you are retired and have no mortgage, would you accept a lump sum that couldn’t buy property anywhere else in the city? Or would you exchange it for free rent on a flat, when you have kids you want to pass your house to? The last 22 households aren’t tempted.

row of pigeonsSo while the vacant houses around them collapse in on themselves, while contractors employed by the council come round and rip the lead off the roofs (‘to stop other people doing it’), the residents continue to live there. Windows get bricked up. Big security doors and screens get installed. They watch as their once bustling neighbourhood gets used as a dumping ground for old furniture, trailers, rubbish. Pigeons move in. Everything gets eerily quiet.

The thing is, the houses are quite big, and nice. They are of a brick Victorian terrace style that anyone down in the South of England would be eager to preserve and pay sh*t-loads of money for. The developers insist that they aren’t worth keeping. Its cheaper to scrap them and do new-builds, not even keep the facades, though they initially paid lip-service to this idea.

Several years ago, the residents of Cairns street decided to do something about their neighbourhood, not content to watch everything slide into dereliction. So they spent lots of time tidying up the rubbish, carting away the abandoned furniture.

Seedlings on an abandoned trailerEleanor, a green-fingered and community minded resident, spear-headed an effort to green the area. In pots, bowls, baskets and stacks of old tires, flowers and vines and saplings are planted. plants hang from lamp-posts, stack along the top of walls, train up fences. Someone builds boxes for flower beds on the pavement. A trailer gets turned into a nursery stand for seedlings. They enter in the ‘Britain in Bloom’ competition, and win neighbourhood prizes. People start coming specifically to admire the plants.

It would be nice to get more publicity for the area and the resident’s plight. It’s also a wonderful example of a collective ‘f*** you’ to the council and developers that don’t appreciate the personal significance or architecture of a place. A neighbourhood is not a collection of buildings. It is a community. Establishing a destination – in the words of James H Kustler,  ‘a place worth caring about‘ – takes the efforts of the people that live there. The council and developers can help but they often get it wrong. And its nice to have a few plants around.

Economics Philosophy Politics

Markets and morality

Professor Michael Sandel Reith Lectures 2009
Professor Michael Sandel Reith Lectures 2009

I am listening to the 2009 Reith Lectures – the prospects of a new politics of the common good. How do you create a better society? Kudos to my Ma who sent me this link, following on from a very interesting discussion last night.

A New Citizenship – Professor Michael Sandel

Conventional economic reasoning would suggest that if you want to create a certain behaviour, you create an incentive for that behaviour. Self interest is the name of the game; you either give a reward good behaviour, or you set a fine for bad. Makes sense? The problem is that what starts off as an incentive quickly becomes the norm. Market incentives quickly crowd out other norms, such as social norms of morality.

A child that is given a dollar to read a book quickly sees reading not of value to him or her, but a way to make money. A parent that is fined for picking up their child from school late will start treating the fine as a fee payable to the teacher for looking after their child. In the wider world, the carbon emission trading scheme of the Kyoto protocol was designed to reduce emissions. Unfortunately, some of the worst polluters and environmentally negligent nations are some of the richest, and can easily buy their way out of their obligations.

This is really a fascinating listen. I am looking forward to the next lecture, but quite depressed by what I am finding out.

The Trap – Adam Curtis

Adam Curtis has made a television series on a similar theme, The Trap, how attempts to engineer and regulate society through economics have weird and terrible consequences.

Game theory is a dangerous and broken model for human interaction; a system driven by suspicion and self- interest does result in an equilibrium, but at what cost?