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

By | Blog | No Comments

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’

The common good – a coming force in mainstream politics?

By | Blog | No Comments

On Saturday 19th May, I attended the Labour Party conference in London on the State of The Economy. During what was generally a really interesting day, one thing that I was struck by was how often the term “common good” cropped up, both in speeches from the main platform and in the breakout sessions on specific topics.

For example, in the session on environmental economics that was chaired by Clive Lewis MP, some of the discussion was about how the UK Treasury might be “greened” to make it more motivated by environmental sustainability and localised democracy that is currently the case. Laurie MacFarlane of OpenDemocracy made a plea in the post-lunch session on Brexit for there to be new metrics and methods of measuring economic success in place of simply using GDP. The closing plenary session featured impassioned speeches from Kate Raworth about the need for the transformation of our economy into an adaptive distributed network and from Paul Mason about the need to build an employment culture that recognises the fundamental importance of social justice.

Elsewhere, we have seen Environment Secretary Michael Gove recently announcing his desire to see UK agricultural policy shift subsidies away from simply rewarding big landowners for owning lots of land and towards rewarding them for the quality of their environmental stewardship.

All of which offers some encouragement that the values and principles upon which the Economy for the Common Good is based may be starting to find some allies and adherents in mainstream political thinking and policy. This should in turn inspire us in our efforts to build partnerships and relationships with other individuals and groups and not to be necessarily deterred by reputations, previous public pronouncements or what appears in the media. An open mind and a willingness to meet people where they are will be the best way to proceed as we seek to build the ECG movement in the UK and internationally.

Andy Chapman
Director
Economy for the Common Good UK CIC

 

Society must change. It’s in our hands.

By | Blog | No Comments

Grenfell Tower - photo credit: David WallaceI am writing this just a few days after the horrific tragedy of Grenfell Tower. At the time of writing the death toll stands at 78 but there is a fear amongst the local community (which happens to be my local community) that this will rise considerably.

Never has an event quite so starkly demonstrated the inequality between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ in UK society. Nor shamingly, the disdain and neglect shown by a rich Council for its poorest residents.

Just a few days after the North Kensington disaster, the Resolution Foundation issued a report that showed that the wealth gap in the UK is widening. 1% of adults own 14% of the nation’s assets (worth £11 trillion) while 15% own no assets at all or are in debt.

A normal reaction of decent people to this is a mix of despair and anger with to coin a dreadful term “the powers that be”. But there is often a feeling of helplessness. “What can I do about it?”

The Economy for the Common Good has a vision for a fairer society and a sustainable future for the generations to follow. But this is not just a pipe-dream. Since its inception just 5 years ago, ECG is now operating in 22 countries. Over 2,000 businesses have signed up. In Salzburg, Stuttgart and Seville – to name but a few, municipal governments are operating to ECG principles.

Now the ECG has arrived in the UK. Companies, NGOs, local government, educators and other workplaces can start to implement the ECG Matrix into their working practices.

The ECG movement believes in building a new and fairer society from the grass roots level. Grass roots level means every one of us. We can make a difference. If you care about the future of society get involved with us. We can help you to help others and help the places where we work to make the changes necessary for a better future for all, not just the few.

David Wallace, Director ECG UK

David Wallace

David Wallace

Director

David worked in senior marketing positions with major brands, Heinz and Sony. He led corporate turnarounds at Linguaphone, Betacom and Cornwell Parker and has advised international companies such as Nokia and Speedo at Group Board level.

He co-founded TNR Communications in 1999, which he sold to the UK’s leading News Agency (the Press Association) in 2008.
In recent years he has worked in executive or trustee roles at a number of charities and not-for-profit organisations including in the fields of:
•Disadvantaged young people
•Dementia
•Personal change and development
•Wildlife conservation

He now brings all this experience (and more) to mentoring SMEs, charities and not-for-profit companies. He is also helping to establish Economy for Common in the UK - a movement that genuinely puts people first in business and other organisations and aims for a fairer distribution of corporate profits amongst those responsible for delivering them.