An economy that works for all
“We want to see a break with the failed economic orthodoxy that has gripped policymakers for a generation, and set out a very clear vision for a labour government that will create an economy that works for all not just the few.
We must be ambitious and bold to win the next election, and deliver the new economy that this country needs.
An economy that starts by tackling the grotesque levels of inequality within our society.”
- Jeremy Corbyn MP
Today, with The Green Party and even Theresa May wanting an economy that works for all, you might imagine it would come from open discussion that includes all.
In 2004 with a business plan to tackle poverty, people-centered economic development was introduced to the UK:
“Traditional capitalism is an insufficient economic model allowing monetary outcomes as the bottom line with little regard to social needs. Bottom line must be taken one step further by at least some companies, past profit, to people. How profits are used is equally as important as creation of profits. Where profits can be brought to bear by willing individuals and companies to social benefit, so much the better. Moreover, this activity must be recognized and supported at government policy level as a badly needed, essential, and entirely legitimate enterprise activity.”
The business plan was shared with the social enterprise community and several branches of government. It came with a warning about social unrest:
“The opportunity for poverty relief was identified not only as a moral imperative, but also as an increasingly pressing strategic imperative. People left to suffer and languish in poverty get one message very clearly: they are not important and do not matter. They are in effect told that they are disposable, expendable. Being left to suffer and die is, for the victim, little different than being done away with by more direct means. Poverty, especially where its harsher forms exist, puts people in self-defence mode, at which point the boundaries of civilization are crossed and we are back to the law of the jungle: kill or be killed. While the vast majority of people in poverty suffer quietly and with little protest, it is not safe to assume that everyone will react the same way. When in defence of family and friends, it is completely predictable that it should be only a matter of time until uprisings become sufficient to imperil an entire nation or region of the world. People with nothing have nothing to lose. Poverty was therefore deemed not only a moral catastrophe but also a time bomb waiting to explode.”
That same year, founder Terry Hallman was interviewed by a leader of the Crimean Tatar diaspora about his recent efforts to stimulate local economy conditions. He described the success of a community microfinance bank in a project he’d sourced in Tomsk Russia:
“Essentially, P-CED challenges conventional capitalism as an insufficient economic paradigm, as evidenced by billions of people in the world living in poverty in capitalist countries and otherwise. Under the conventional scheme, capitalism — enterprise for profit — has certainly transformed much of the world and created a new breed of people in capitalist societies, the middle class. That is a good thing. But, capitalism seems to have developed as far as it can to produce this new class of fairly comfortable people between rich and poor, at least in the West where it has flourished for quite some time.
The problem is that profit and money still tend to accumulate in the hands of comparatively few people. Money, symbolically representing wealth and ownership of material assets, is not an infinite resource. When it accumulates in enormous quantities in the hands of a few people, that means other people are going to be denied. If everyone in the world has enough to live a decent life and not in poverty, then there is no great problem with some people having far more than they need. But, that’s not the case, and there are no rules in the previous capitalist system to fix that. Profit and numbers have no conscience, and anything done in their name has been accepted “as an unavoidable aspect of capitalism.”
STRATEGIC LOCAL INVESTMENT
At rhe core of the 2004 proposal was an autonomous business model for social benefit whose profits would be re-invested to seed social enterprise development via a CDFI like that in Tomsk:
” Fifty percent of annual surplus will remain in each local community where income is derived, by way of deposit into a local community development bank serving that location. In that locales are part of EU and therefore subject to well-developed rule of law, corruption issues should not present insurmountable barriers such as in Crimea.
Fifty percent of surplus will be retained by P-CED for growth and expansion. Along the way, all employees of P-CED are to be paid at minimum a wage sufficient to guarantee a decent standard of living in accordance with the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.”
THE NEW BOTTOM LINE
In the article I wrote in 2013 for MixMarket, Re-imagining Capitalism — The New Bottom Line, I describe how this model funded our work in Ukraine which proposed replication on a national scale. it came just before the economic crisis of 2008.
‘This is a long-term permanently sustainable program, the basis for “people-centered” economic development. Core focus is always on people and their needs, with neediest people having first priority — as contrasted with the eternal chase for financial profit and numbers where people, social benefit, and human well-being are often and routinely overlooked or ignored altogether. This is in keeping with the fundamental objectives of Marshall Plan: policy aimed at hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. This is a bottom-up approach, starting with Ukraine’s poorest and most desperate citizens, rather than a “top-down” approach that might not ever benefit them. They cannot wait, particularly children. Impedance by anyone or any group of people constitutes precisely what the original Marshall Plan was dedicated to opposing. Those who suffer most, and those in greatest need, must be helped first — not secondarily, along the way or by the way. ‘
WE ALL GET TO INVENT THE NEW ECONOMY
Our presentation to the international Economics for Ecology conference in 2009, drew attention to the impact of capitalism on our environment:
“At this point, the simple fact is that regarding economic theory, no one knows what to do next. Possibly this has escaped immediate attention in Ukraine, but, economists in the US as of the end of 2008 openly confessed that they do not know what to do. So, we invented three trillion dollars, lent it to ourselves, and are trying to salvage a broken system so far by reestablishing the broken system with imaginary money.
Now there are, honestly, no answers. It is all just guesswork, and not more than that. What is not guesswork is that the broken — again — capitalist system, be it traditional economics theories in the West or hybrid communism/capitalism in China, is sitting in a world where the existence of human beings is at grave risk, and it’s no longer alarmist to say so.
The question at hand is what to do next, and how to do it. We all get to invent whatever new economics system that comes next, because we must.”
A few months later we’d hear about people-centered economics from theUN General Assembly
“The anti-values of greed, individualism and exclusion should be replaced by solidarity, common good and inclusion. The objective of our economic and social activity should not be the limitless, endless, mindless accumulation of wealth in a profit-centred economy but rather a people-centred economy that guarantees human needs, human rights, and human security, as well as conserves life on earth. These should be universal values that underpin our ethical and moral responsibility.”
(Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann, the President of the United Nations General Assembly speaking in 2009)
Then, from the Vatican, Caritas in Veritate called for an ethics which is people-centered
“Striving to meet the deepest moral needs of the person also has important and beneficial repercussions at the level of economics. The economy needs ethics in order to function correctly — not any ethics whatsoever, but an ethics which is people-centred.”
“This is not merely a matter of a “third sector”, but of a broad new composite reality embracing the private and public spheres, one which does not exclude profit, but instead considers it a means for achieving human and social ends. Whether such companies distribute dividends or not, whether their juridical structure corresponds to one or other of the established forms, becomes secondary in relation to their willingness to view profit as a means of achieving the goal of a more humane market and society. “
“The strengthening of different types of businesses, especially those capable of viewing profit as a means for achieving the goal of a more humane market and society, must also be pursued in those countries that are excluded or marginalized from the influential circles of the global economy. In these countries it is very important to move ahead with projects based on subsidiarity, suitably planned and managed, aimed at affirming rights yet also providing for the assumption of corresponding responsibilities. In development programmes, the principle of the centrality of the human person, as the subject primarily responsible for development, must be preserved. The principal concern must be to improve the actual living conditions of the people in a given region, thus enabling them to carry out those duties which their poverty does not presently allow them to fulfil. “
FAIR TRADE UK AND COOPERATIVES EUROPE.
“Both Cooperatives Europe and Fair Trade have been actively engaged in promoting enterprises that place people and not profit at the heart of business.
Harriet Lamb, CEO of Fair Trade International, explained: “Businesses alone are not enough to tackle poverty; the EU should foster people-centred businesses. Cooperatives and Fair Trade have shown that they put high standards and strict rules on businesses, that they put people first, and still they are successful.”
CHANGING THE WAY BUSINESS IS DONE
“Modifying the output of capitalism is the only method available to resolving the problem of capitalism where numbers trumped people — at the hands of people trained toward profit represented only by numbers and currencies rather than human beings. Profit rules, people are expendable commodities represented by numbers. The solution, and only solution, is to modify that output, measuring profit in terms of real human beings instead of numbers.
We can choose to not reform capitalism, leave human beings to die from deprivation — where we are now — and understand that that puts people in self-defense mode.
When in self-defense mode, kill or be killed, there is no civilization at all. It is the law of the jungle, where we started eons ago. In that context, ‘terrorism’ will likely flourish because it is ‘terrorism’ only for the haves, not for the have-nots. The have-nots already live in terror, as their existence is threatened by deprivation, and they have the right to fight back any way they can.”
‘It is only when wealth begins to concentrate in the hands of a relative few at the expense of billions of others who are denied even a small share of finite wealth that trouble starts and physical, human suffering begins. It does not have to be this way. Massive greed and consequent massive human misery and suffering do not have to be accepted as a givens, unavoidable, intractable, irresolvable. Just changing the way business is done, if only by a few companies, can change the flow of wealth, ease and eliminate poverty, and leave us all with something better to worry about. Basic human needs such as food and shelter are fundamental human rights; there are more than enough resources available to go around — if we can just figure out how to share. It cannot be “Me first, mine first”; rather, “Me, too” is more the order of the day.’