Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Short Termism vs. sustainable development

Short Termism vs. sustainable development Image by Stephen Pennell via Flickr

Sustainable development is a sensible framework for looking at the system. It represents a fundamental shift in analysis from the “Washington Consensus”. The idea of examining economic, social, and environmental issues together as three, interdependent pillars of development was a sharp break with the idea that the market was king and that everything else should respond and adapt to it. The ambulances were to be dispatched to retrieve the bodies of the market’s victims from the economic battlefield. And the public was to be responsible for cleaning up the environment, preferably in a way that would generate profits for entrepreneurs.

The crisis showed that the concept of sustainability, by itself, has failed to put the market “in its place”. Some important changes have occurred, particularly in public attitudes, in large part due to the fear of global warming and the resentment of injustice, but those changes have not yet significantly altered the way that we work or co-operate.

 

The market is an important way to organise the economy. But, it is a mechanism, not a religion. Debate on sustainable development is impossible if it must be based on absolute “faith” in the market.

 

And, the market and its actors cannot be expected to replace governance or governments. The market has no face and no name. It can neither be elected nor removed from office. Only elected governments have the legitimacy and the mandate to take public decisions.


Sustainable development is long term. One of the reasons that the economy came unraveled is that it became short term. The imposition of requirements for high, rapid returns often left a company without the resources needed to advance and, sometimes, to survive. Unsustainable, private debt cannot be the model for development. Nor can such colossal failures be shifted without limit onto taxpayers. For decades, private debt has been at risky levels and the bill has come due.

 

Social sustainable development is social justice. Inequality has grown steadily over decades, as documented by the IMF, the ILO and the OECD. It has created a social structure that is “top-heavy” and that is neither fair nor stable. In recent decades, rather than improving social protections and respect for fundamental rights, risk has been shifted from employers, private and public, to their workers. The explosion of precarious work, often temporary and/or with blurred or ignored employment relationships, is just one dramatic example of social short-termism.

 

The global warming that threatens the planet and the exposure to hazardous substances and other risks that threaten workers and the general public has also developed over many years. It is clear that urgent corrective measures must begin to be taken, but that their impact will only be felt after many more decades have passed.

 

The world’s economic, social, and environmental problems have long-term causes and have suffered in all three cases from short-termism. Global, sustainable solutions must be long term. Processes are necessary to stimulate democratic solutions, to improve the observance of rule of law and the quality of governance, to re-build public services, and to generate the sustainable dialogue on which progress is dependent.

Last modified on Wednesday, 04 July 2012
Jim Baker

Jim Baker is Coordinator of the Council of Global Unions (CGU). The CGU brings together EI with all of the other Global Union Federations as well as the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) to the OECD.

Other blog posts

Hidden privatisation(s) in public education: the case of Private Tutoring

Written by
on Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Privatisation in public education has become the focus of much-needed analysis, highlighting the ethical dangers associated with education reforms promoting competition, choice, performance management, private-public partnerships, and commercialization in education* However, one of the most widespread (yet mostly invisible) forms of privatisation in public education – private tutoring – has generally remained outside of policy review. Billion-dollar industry According to 2012 estimates, private tutoring constituted a US$11 billion industry in the United States alone. It has become a worldwide phenomenon…

Read more...

The story on current education reforms in Spain: The past will come back

on Thursday, 21 February 2013

During the time when Spain was ruled by a dictator, girls and boys went to different schools, or they were at least subject to class segregation. Typically, the rich and middle class children went to private religious schools, and the poor children from the suburbs and/or villages went to public schools. A crucifix was also present in all classrooms; it was placed in the front of the room to preside over all classrooms. Compulsory external assessments were the norm for…

Read more...

Why well-trained and effective teachers are central to tackling the global learning and skills crisis

Written by
on Thursday, 26 September 2013

What is the situation? The right to education that stimulates active learning and inspires imaginations can only be a reality when the transformative power of education is fully realised, however too many children and young people - especially the disadvantaged - are leaving school without learning anything of value.   There is consistent evidence that teachers are the most important school-based factor in determining learning outcomes, second only to what children bring to school. Yet globally there remains a marked…

Read more...

Turning the crisis around: Hope for change from global trade unionism

Written by
on Wednesday, 06 June 2012

One of the earliest priorities of the trade union movement, dating back to the 19th century in many countries, was free public education. This demand was made in order to provide opportunities for the children of workers. It was part of a fight for equality, a fight that is not yet won.Quality education remains a central trade union priority for equality between women and men; to provide opportunities for groups on the margins of society; for democracy; and for building…

Read more...
blog archive

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated. HTML code is not allowed.