AGORA, the BOZAR debate platform, uses BOZAR at Home to bring interesting stories and insights to your screen every two weeks. The first written edition features Ann Pettifor: she was scheduled to give a talk about the Green New Deal in Brussels on 16 March. We also delve into the Centre for Fine Arts’ archives, in search of speakers who discussed themes that are just as relevant today, in these strange times of crisis.
This time we have a Plan B
Can Europeans financially afford a transformation to a more sustainable future - not just of the economy but also of the industry? British political economist Ann Pettifor claims that Europe can effectively afford this radical economic switch with a fairer, more egalitarian society as a result. This change is needed as a matter of urgency. Pettifor explains how we can achieve this change in practical terms, and right now.
Following the 2008 financial crisis, Ann Pettifor went in search of alternatives to a broken system. At the time, it seemed as if no one had seen the crisis coming. Well, almost no one. Pettifor had published a book in 2006 with the visionary title The Coming First World Debt Crisis, which made her instantly famous as one of the few economists who had predicted the crash.
What really surprised her was the response from politicians: there was no plan, no alternative. Along with a group of kindred spirits, she decided to look for a futureproof alternative herself. Their plan was intended to provide a solution to both the economic and the ecological crises. They called it the ‘Green New Deal’.
“I want a central bank in which the civil servants do what their job description says: serve the citizens”– Ann Pettifor
Their great source of inspiration was President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s plan, the original ‘New Deal’ that was intended to rescue the American economy following the Great Depression in the 1930s. Roosevelt pumped money into the economy, initiated work programmes on large scale, facilitated ambitious infrastructural projects such as the construction of the Hoover Dam and the Lincoln Tunnel, reformed the banking sector and planted three billion trees.
The New Green Deal aims to bridge the gap between industry, labour and environmental movements. Governments can regain power over international capital and establish a sustainable, labour-intensive economy with fewer inequalities.
Read the full article in the Groene Amsterdammer.
World history by a cotton thread
How did COVID-19, the coronavirus, arrive in Italy? No one is really sure, but one possibility is the considerable number of Chinese textile workers in northern Italy. More than 4000 sweatshops have been operating in Milan, the fashion capital of Europe, since 2013. They employ predominantly low-paid Chinese workers.
The story brings to mind the Flemish artist Maarten Vanden Eynde’s broader research project ‘Triangular Trade – Cotton’. In this, he focuses on the lasting historical influence of the production of and trade in cotton on the global economy and society in general. He exhibited his work at BOZAR in 2017 as part of the BelgianArtPrize.
“Rather than focusing on the fact that the world is finite, which I find somewhat problematic and tragic, I have started to consider what may come next. […] Ultimately, we are all responsible for creating the history of the future.” – Maarten Vanden Eynde
An original round table talk at the Rotonde Bertouille on 24 May 2017 discussed the role of textiles – particularly cotton – in slavery, colonisation and today’s global economy.
Vanden Eynde called the round table ‘Lunä’, a reference to the Lunar Society of Birmingham, a club of enthusiastic, autodidactic scholars who gathered at full moon to develop and discuss new theories. The so-called ‘Lunaticks’ started a scientific revolution and changed the world. They worked on theories and engines and made an indelible mark on their era.
The participants in the discussion rediscovered that zeitgeist and sat at a reproduction of the table at which the original Lunar Men once sat.
Find out more about the ‘triangular trade’.
From forlorn hope to a glimmer of hope
In 2016, BOZAR organised a series of discussions under the heading of ‘Forlorn Hope’. One evening was dedicated to the matter of how we will use money in the future.
On 14 November 2016, the Scottish political scientist Mark Blyth was our guest at BOZAR. He specialises in international and comparative political economics. In 2012, he published a book entitled Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea criticising austerity policies within Europe. In 2014, together with Eric Lonergan he published the article ‘Print Less but Transfer More: Why Central Banks Should Give Money Directly to the People’ in Foreign Affairs. This made the case for ‘helicopter money’: distributing money to the population as an alternative to the current monetary policy of the European Central Bank.
In 2016, Professor Blyth’s ideas seemed utopian. Marcia De Wachter, then governor of the Belgian National Bank, tore them to pieces during the discussion in the Rotonde Bertouille.
Today, the concept of ‘helicopter money’ appears to be becoming reality. The American and European Central Bank are both making plans of that nature.
"Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures." - Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank.
The original article by Mark Blyth in Foreign Affairs.
A recent article in The New York Times.
A recent article on Apache.be by the Agora-coördinator Karl van den Broeck.