Book review: Change everything. Creating an Economy for the Common Good

Guest post

The collapse of civilisation is prophesied by Sir David Attenborough. He says the world’s warming climate is a manmade disaster and a big threat to humanity. Christian Felber’s book, “Change Everything”, offers a glimmer of hope. He is an Austrian economist and questions the proposal that Capitalist system based on competition is the most efficient system.

Christian Felber thinks big. He proposes a thorough overhaul of our economic model. He describes it as a broken system: the imperative that we should compete in business and pursue the largest possible gain stems from the paradoxical hope the good of all will result from the egotistical behaviour of the individual. Adam Smith who promoted this idea was looking at a very different economy. None of the modern Nobel prize winning economists have ever proved, through a study, that competition is the most efficient market system we know, yet the world’s most dominant economic model for the past 250 years is based on this belief. This belief is based on values not supported by any major religion or philosophical school.

Studies have been conducted examining competition as a stronger motivation than any other method, in numerous other disciplines such as science and education and the results showed that cooperation motivates people more through successful relationships, recognition, esteem, mutual goals and mutual achievements.

The term bonum commune was coined by Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century. Since then, it has run like a common thread through Christian social doctrine, German basic law, Italy’s constitution and the constitution of Bavaria which states “All economic activity serves the common good”. Christian Felber proposes that companies follow a Common Good Balance Matrix which evaluates what impact are economic activities having on the general quality of life today and for future generations. Secondly, what attention is paid to human dignity? Thirdly, is social justice being promoted? Fourthly, is environmental sustainability assured? Fifthly, are business goals achieved democratically and through cooperation? How transparent is the process?

Economy for the Common Good can only be implemented comprehensively in the framework of a direct participatory democracy and there would be rewards as incentives. E.g. A lower tax rate, a lower customs tariff, bank loans with improved conditions, preferential status for public procurement and the award of contracts and direct funding.

Economic growth would no longer be a goal, instead reducing the ecological footprint of the individual, enterprises, and nation states to a globally sustainable level would be strived for.

Get the book, published by Zed books, which, as a workers collective, already embraces many of the values expounded in this book. Web-site: Economy of the Common Good www.ecguk.org

Mary Bennett
First published in ‘The Blackheathean’

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