[Marxism] Paul Phillips
lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jul 18 20:09:30 MDT 2008
Paul Phillips, a Canadian economist and long-time member of PEN-L has
died. I am forwarding an obit and one of his posts to that list.
Paul Arthur Phillips
Died peacefully Wednesday, July 16, 2008, in Vernon, after a brief
battle with cancer. He was predeceased by his parents Dick and Molly
Phillips and his sister Ruth Phillips. He will be deeply missed by
his wife Donna, daughters Erin and Nicole (Dale), his granddaughters,
Lauren, Danika and Holly, his brothers David (Betty) and Rhys
(Tatjana), brother-in-law Gary, sister-in-law Bobby (Ed), nephews and
nieces and many dear friends especially his honourary family Barb,
Mike, Eric, Jeanette and Colin Angel.
Paul was born November 3^rd , 1938, in Hong Kong, the son of
missionaries. The outbreak of war caused them to return to Canada, to
Victoria where Paul grew up.
A graduate of Mount View High School in Victoria, Paul enjoyed his
50th high school reunion in 2006. He graduated with a BSc in
Chemistry and an MA in Economics at the University of Saskatchewan.
He obtained his PhD from the London School of Economics in 1967.
A true renaissance man, Paul possessed an incredible variety of
passions and gifts. As a scholar and teacher he wrote numerous books
and articles on a significant range of topics including labour
economics and labour relations, Canadian economic history and
political economy, comparative economic systems and labour-based
economies, and Yugoslavia and transitional economies. In recent years
he has focused much of his work on environmental issues. He was also
a dedicated teacher, taking great satisfaction in working with
students and with his colleagues at the University of Manitoba, where
he taught for 34 years and which conferred on him the honour of
Professor Emeritus in 2005. He was also Adjunct Professor of American
Studies at the University of Llubljana in Slovenia. Much of his
academic work and his involvement in political and community life was
motivated by a deep and passionate commitment to social justice and a
profound commitment to speaking for those who are left out of the
economic, political and social conversation.
He had the same passion for his other interests: singing and acting,
sailing, skiing, golfing, polo, gardening, cooking, beer and wine
making, design and carpentry. Perhaps his greatest joy, however, came
from music. A player of many instruments, Paul was active in folk
music since the early '60s, sang for thirty years with the Manitoba
Opera Chorus and most recently sang with Aura Chamber Choir and the
Vernon Welsh Men's Choir. So many of his friendships began with a
shared love of music and it was a love he shared with and nurtured in
Despite all of his involvement in groups and organizations Paul was
an independent thinker and unafraid to stand apart from a group. He
took risks intellectually and personally and was not afraid to
reassess a position. Yet in more trivial matters like taste in
clothes or television shows he could be absolutely dogmatic and opinionated.
He will be remembered by friends and family for his fundamentally
kind and generous nature, his great capacity for friendship and good
humour, his dreadful puns, his steadfastness in any commitment, his
willingness to stand up for what he believed was right, his curiosity
and wide ranging intellect and his tendency to burst forth in song in
just about any circumstance.
Cremation has taken place. There will be a memorial service Saturday,
August 2, 2008 at the Schubert Centre, 3505 30^th Avenue, Vernon, at 11:00 AM.
Please, no flowers. Donations can be made in his name to the BC
Cancer Agency, Southern Interior, 399 Royal Avenue, Kelowna, V1Y 5L3
or the Vernon and District Hospice House, 3506 27th Avenue, Vernon, V1T 1S4.
Tom is quite right to challenge the prevailing view that we are not
already witnessing many of the manifestations of depression that were
the hallmark of the depression of the 1930s. (By the way, I wonder
why no one has mentioned the 'great depression' in Britain after the
financial crash in 1873 until circa 1896?) Still, that is not my
point. We will not relive the depression of the 1930s for a number of
reasons that have been mentioned on this list. But, equally, we will
not relive the recovery of the '40s, '50 and '60s. The whole
discussion of Fed and US gov't policy that I see in the financial
press and on the media and even see on this list seems to me to be an
Alice in Wonderland dreamscape because it assumes that once we settle
the subprime debt problem and get the housing market back on course
and get consumers buying (on the cuff) again, the economy can resume
its upward and onward course without major deviations from the path
of the last half-century. Nothing could be more delusionary because
it ignores several immutable facts:
global warming, peak oil, peak water, peak food (and other
commodities), overpopulation, deforestation, etc. etc.
Let me be more explicit. The 1930s were, as Keynes clearly pointed
out, a period of insufficient demand, and indeed the whole canon of
Keynesian thought pushed for supplementing aggregate demand with
government expenditures, tax cuts, investment incentives,
redistributive transfers anything to increase C + I + G + (X-M) in
the classic Keynesian formulation. But fundamental to this
prescription was the underlying understanding of insufficient
aggregate demand relative to excess aggregate supply. Many Marxists,
including our Jim, attribute it, at least in part, to an
'underconsuption undertow' resulting from an increasingly unequal
income distribution which robbed the working class of the ability to
consume. One should also, of course, mention the collapse of
international demand that resulted when Germany's access to borrowed
funds to pay Britain and France its war reparations were cut off.
Certainly, in Canada's case, it was the collapse of export markets
for our commodities, in particular, grains, which triggered the depression.
The 2nd World War 'solved' the problem for North America by creating
excessive aggregate demand ('military Keynesianism') but, what is
readily apparent, is that this massive increase in aggregate demand
(gov't expenditures approaching 50% of GNP) was relatively easily met
with existing resources and capital stocks. That is, there was
massive excess capacity in both capital and in commodity resources.
There was some rationing and inflationary pressure but, in general,
macroeconomic balance was maintained and, when the war was over,
capacity was switched to consumer products and to capital goods to
restock Europe --with relative ease. Productivity increase prompted
by the war, unions and the 'labour-management accord' meant that for
the majority industrial workers, income increases were sufficient to
absorb the increased output of US industry and to the extent it was
not, the government expenditure on the military for the 'cold war'
sufficed. Hence the 'golden age', otherwise known as 'mass-production
However, this was coming to an end in the late 1960s. Though much of
the analysis of this period stressed the re-emergence of excess
capacity or, the other side of the coin, falling profits, little
attention has since been paid to another phenomena that caused
considerable comment among post-Keynesian economists at the time, the
secular rise in real commodity prices. Though the increase was fairly
widespread, it was the rapid jump in oil prices in 1973-4 accredited
to OPEC that caught the attention of most. Over the next half decade
or so the battle between capital and labour over who was to absorb
the cost of oil rents paid to the mid-east oil barons resulted in
inflation which again accelerated in 1978 with the second oil shock.
This necessitated, from capital's point of view, the destruction of
labour's countervailing power and the virtual destruction of the
labour movement, at least in the capitalist surplus value sector.
This was accomplished by monetarism and the severe recession of the
early 1980s. It is no coincidence or accident that real wages have
remained stagnant (or declined for the lower waged and minimum waged
workers) since the mid-1970s. Family wages have increased marginally
entirely due to increased female participation and longer hours
worked by both men and women which allowed consumption to increase
even as income distribution became more and more unequal.
The '70s seem to me to be a kind of pivotal decade in the post-war
period. As mentioned real commodity prices began to rise even before
the OPEC oil crises, real wages peaked and began falling, Bretton
Woods was abandoned, the unions entered a secular decline in the face
of a monetarist-neoliberal response to stagflation. At the same time
Ehrlich published his "Population Bomb" (1968) and the Club of Rome,
"The Limits of Growth" (1972) which highlighted for the first time
since Malthus the physical resource limits to economic expansion and
population growth. Malthus' prediction was countered by colonial
expansion opening up the food resources of the new world. Ehrlich's
and the Meadow's projections were countered by North Sea and other
non-OPEC oil discoveries, the 'green revolution' in agriculture (made
possible by the expansion of fossil fuel availability) and a renewed
expansion of mineral discovery and development. This made possible
the demand-led recoveries from the '81-'83, '91-'94, and 2001-'02
recessions based on easy credit and monetary expansion and
ridiculously low prices for oil.
These conditions have changed since 2002. Oil and commodities are no
longer in elastic supply (ie real commodity prices are rising along
with resource rents redistributing income from resource poor
countries which now includes the United States to resource rich
countries and regions) and the 'green revolution' is failing, in part
due to global warming, a growing shortage of water, soil degradation,
rising resistance to pesticides, herbicides, and the rising cost of
fossil fuel based fertilizer.
This implies that we can not expect a Keynesian 'demand side'
solution to the current slump/crisis nor that we can 'grow' (invest,
consume) our way out of a recession-depression. It also suggests that
any longer term solution must involve both a declining population and
a major redistribution of (a declining) GDP, as well, of course, of a
major change in our 'style' of living necessary to offset the
increase and impacts of global warming, never mind of peak oil.
Any short term 'fix' of credit and consumption expansion will
immediately run up against rising real energy (and food) costs,
inflation, rising emissions (and hence climate change) and, even in
the short run, increased shortages of water (it takes thousands of
litres of water to produce one litre of ethanol; 3 to 6 barrels of
water to produce one barrel of synthetic crude, etc.)
In view of these realities, I think we have to look at a quite
different family of policies to get us out of the current recession.
What is perhaps the most disheartening is that in the current
presidential primary debates, one hears next to nothing from Clinbama
indicating even an awareness of the problem. (This is not to say that
in Canada there is any greater awareness. The Harper conservative
government has its head firmly buried in the sand with its backside
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