At TEDxTableMountain, ‘the case for the maximum wage’

This is the text of a talk I did on 27 May at TEDxTableMountain, at the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town. It should perhaps be prefaced by saying that it is not an argument for communism or punishing the wealthy, nor for removing decent and proportionate incentives for hard work and enterprise. The video of this talk can be viewed here – or you can find it at the bottom of this article.

Introduction

Speaking at TEDxTableMountain, 27 May 2012: 'The case for the maximum wage'I’m an environmental journalist. I believe that the environmental crisis is mostly a human crisis. It reflects profound imbalances of power in human relationships, and it won’t be solved just by switching to renewable energy and electric cars and improved seed varieties.

To restore the Earth, and that’s what we now need to do, we must begin by restoring the relationships between ourselves.

Slide: ‘It is all wrong to have millionaires before you have ceased to have slums.’

Which of course is something we should be doing anyway – but it’s a priority we seem too often to have lost sight of.

I am speaking today about what is for some people, a very sensitive topic: how we distribute wealth in most of today’s economies and societies, and particularly here in South Africa. Wealth and income, of course, is just one dimension of inequality.

VIDEO: The case for the maximum wage – David Le Page at TEDxTableMountain, May 2012

Continue reading At TEDxTableMountain, ‘the case for the maximum wage’

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Buddhist economics

An old wall at the International Convention Centre in Durban, covered with wild fig treesI have recently done a couple of public talks on ‘Buddhism and economics’, explaining how the absence of values from contemporary discussions of economics undermines human life and dignity. While people tend to think of religions as being either Christianity, Islam or Buddhism, etc, I argue that religions are the things we put faith in — and that in the Western milieu, even those of us offering allegiance to formal traditions in fact put all too much faith in consumerism, economic growth and the high priests and oracles we call economists.

So, ‘economics’ — understood here not so much as a science but as a cultural phenomenon — has become a destructive contemporary cult that elevates discussions of costs and disregards ethics, engages in empty and mindblowingly expensive rituals such as investment banking, peddles unscientific myths about resource limits, reduces living beings to statistics and turns a blind eye to growing global inequality, and accelerating ecocide.

Remedies include rebuilding democracy, establishing economies based on employee ownership, reducing income inequality, shifting from GDP measurement to different metrics for social and economic success — learning to feel more for others, ‘consume less, share better’ and slow down. Here’s the presentation that goes with the talk, constantly evolving on the rather wonderful Prezi.com.