Economics

This article is based on my ideas about the Great Turning Movement. If you aren’t familiar with them, click here. It is linked to from my article Visions of a Regenerative Society. It describes how economics might look in a transformed society.

We need an entirely new economic system that goes beyond capitalism and socialism. We will probably still need a market economy because of its many benefits, but there must be governmental guardianship over the economic system to make sure that it is democratic and aligned with ecological principles.  There will be appropriate tax incentives to encourage businesses to use their innovation for healthy ends. There will be limits on the extraction of non-renewable resources and limits on pollution and wastes.

The price of each manufactured product will reflect all the costs involved in creating it, including environmental costs and effects on local communities. This way, companies will naturally be encouraged to manufacture products in a way that minimizes waste and damage to the environment without the need for much regulation. Businesses will also be encouraged to benefit the communities in which they are located, or, at the least, not harm them.

Generally, trade and commerce will be done at as local a level as possible, especially buying local food. This will minimize transportation and energy use and strengthen local economies and the well-being of communities. National and international trade will only exist for products that cannot be made locally, not items that can be produced at a slightly cheaper cost in some distant location. This will foster economic self-sufficiency and stability for cities, regions, and nations. This means doing away with international trade pacts that mainly benefit corporations rather than communities or people.

In a transformed society, public banks, credit unions, and community development financial institutions will invest capital for the common good rather than for Wall Street’s bottom line. These institutions will replace the financialized, profit-seeking banking sector, helping to put our money to work for the benefit of everyone.

Our current currency system is set up to require inflation and continued economic growth, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Right now, new money is created when central banks make loans, but since these loans must be paid back with interest, this builds in inflation and therefore the need for constant economic growth. However, this is not the only way. Other currency systems that don’t require economic growth have been tried and found successful in some cities and regions. By using these innovative currency systems, and perhaps other economic structures, it will be possible to have a steady-state economy that is healthy. An example of such a currency system is LETS, which is a democratically organized, not-for-profit community enterprise that provides a locally created currency. It has been used in many communities over the years.

In the current society, it is just assumed that having a job (or being self-employed) is the only ticket to having access to the goods and services we need in our lives. And it is getting harder and harder for everyone to have a job, let alone a decent one. This will get somewhat easier in the new economy because renewable energy provides many more jobs than energy that comes from fossil fuels or nuclear. And decentralized technology, small-scale manufacturing, and regenerative farming will provide more jobs.

However, with the relentless advance of automation, it may not continue to be possible for everyone to have a job, unless we make drastic changes in the work week. One possibility is that the length of the work week will be continually shortened to ensure that there are enough jobs for everyone. Another is that society will find some means other than jobs of distributing income.

One extreme proposal is that we have a gift economy, which does away with the problems that come with money.