The Irish Times – Saturday, December 12, 2009
We can always get to Utopia – even from here
WORLD VIEW: Once-radical proposals, such as a tax on global financial transactions, are now mainstream, writes Paul Gillespie
‘A MAP of the world that does not include Utopia is not even worth glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of Utopias.”
Oscar Wilde’s inspiring observation is worth recalling during the Copenhagen climate change summit, as governments face up to the enormous costs involved in preventing global warming and seek new ways to finance them. Since the ecological crisis coincides with the economic and financial one, common solutions look attractive. And since a simple return to untrammelled capitalist growth would be environmentally ruinous we have more and more need for alternative ideas, including utopian ones.
Among them the idea of a tax on currency and other exchange transactions has come from the radical margins to the centre of international politics. Yesterday’s call by the European Council on the International Monetary Fund to examine it is a dramatic confirmation of Wilde’s dictum. In his essay The Soul of Man under Socialism he said machinery must be organised by communities to do useful things such as supplying heat, light or motion to every household. Humanity now faces the gargantuan task of supplying carbon-free energy.