Reports. The Simultaneous Policy: An Insider's Guide to Saving Man and the Planet by John Bunzl

European Business Review

ISSN: 0955-534X

Article publication date: 1 August 2000

Keywords

Citation

Rankin, A. (2000), "Reports. The Simultaneous Policy: An Insider's Guide to Saving Man and the Planet by John Bunzl", European Business Review, Vol. 12 No. 4. https://doi.org/10.1108/ebr.2000.05412dab.008

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited


Reports. The Simultaneous Policy: An Insider's Guide to Saving Man and the Planet by John Bunzl

Reports

The Simultaneous Policy: An Insider's Guide to Saving Man and the Planet by John Bunzl

Keywords Globalization

This monograph provides a refreshing, lively look at the problems of globalisation and their possible solutions. For John Bunzl is not a politician or an activist, neither a bien pensant academic nor a professional conference-goer. Instead, he is the director of a medium-sized business in South London, who has thought about politics, society and the nature of man. Bunzl keenly admits that "at the time of writing, my lifestyle is very much at odds with what I have written regarding the need to liberate oneself from the masters of greed and envy and recognise that 'man cannot live by bread alone"'. Yet that, in a sense, is the whole point of "Simultaneous Policy". Individuals can only transform themselves with limited success unless they act en masse. Similarly, it is impossible for nations, acting alone, to stem the globalist tide. Alone, they are powerless against transnational corporations and the "free" movement of capital. As Bunzl knows well, this process does not really offer "free trade" at all, but protectionism on behalf of the multinationals.

Bunzl's interest in economic and political reform began when he read E.F. Schumacher's Small is Beautiful, which he (rightly) regards as being as valid today as it was in 1974, when it was written. Schumacher called for a return to a human scale in the organisation of politics and economics. He articulated a growing nervousness about the growing centralisation of power, and in economic growth as an end in itself. For Bunzl, Schumacher's predictions of environmental degradation and the collapse of shared values have been more than realised. Far from bringing peoples and nations together, the end of the Cold War has intensified economic competition. It has removed from international capitalists the moral obligation to behave humanely and the pragmatic desire to do so. More than that, the fall of communism has been accompanied by the triumph of neo-liberalism. As mechanistic as "vulgar" Marxism, this ideology places the market and economic growth above considerations of equity and or the need to preserve settled communities. Neo-liberalism's dialectic of change is global in scope and scorns local traditions, peculiarities or needs. The World Trade Organisation, the International Monetary Fund and other neo-liberal bastions impose their will increasingly on governments, north and south. In this sense, the old anarchist slogan is coming true: "Whichever way you vote, the government always gets in". Only now these governments are minimalist in social policy and tied to a free-market agenda.

The idea of a "simultaneous policy" came to Bunzl when he looked at Europe's Green parties, admired their opposition to unprincipled, unplanned "growth" but realised that they were impotent. Impotent because of, rather than despite, their growing electoral strength, since politics today mean compromise with corporate power, not the ability to change things. Resistance to globalisation has been fragmented, fissiparous and unstructured. Often, it is manipulated by violent extremists, as we have seen most recently with the "May Day protests" in London. Many opponents of globalisation call themselves anarchists, reviving the (conveniently) untested philosophies of Bakunin, Proudhon and Kropotkin. Yet the system they oppose represents the unacceptable face of anarchy - the "anarchy of production", as Marx called it, plus the breakdown of a coherent moral order. Bunzl realises that globalisation requires global solutions. A change of course requires nations to act together, much as they did when the United Nations was formed half a century ago, but at a much more profound level. If national governments cannot "re-regulate" business, a coalition of nation states, north and south, can do so. In Simultaneous Policy, Bunzl draws up a three-stage plan for social and political reform. Measures range from, in the first instance, the dismantling and banning of nuclear weapons, the banning of political funding by big business, working towards a series of "change measures to transform major corporations and institutions into ones that are more compatible with a healthy society and environment". Bunzl is not an "anti-capitalist", like those who demonstrate on Western streets. Like the real (as opposed to simplified) Adam Smith, he wants individual enterprise to serve human need. Like Herman Daly, pioneer of the "steady state" (or balanced) economy, he wants economics to be returned to its origins as a branch of moral philosophy. Economic systems, including markets, are man-made, and so it is nonsense to argue that we cannot control them.

The virtue of Bunzl's monograph is that it combines healthy idealism with a good dose of practical wisdom. His conditions for cancelling Third World debt are quite stringent, allowing plutocratic elites no room for manoeuvre. His work should therefore be required reading for Robin Cook, Clare Short and Madeleine Albright (or whoever succeeds her). Bunzl is, I feel, the first writer on the "sustainable society" to advance beyond rhetoric and grapple with the problem of how such a society might be achieved. He is aware that, as in so much else in life, the starting point must be the individual human being. This means that his intense political engagement is tempered by a sense that the underlying problem is moral and spiritual, not political. I feel that the "simultaneous policy" idea is only beginning to take shape, and so there is far more to come from Bunzl. As such, I commend his work to our readers.

For further information about the Simultaneous Policy, please contact John Bunzl, ISPO, P.O. Box 26547, London SE3 7YT, UK. Fax: 020 8460 2035; E-mail: info@simpol.org; Web site: http://www.simpol.org

Aidan Rankin