It’s becoming increasingly clear that our existing economic order is no longer working. It promotes the needs of capital above those of people. It relies on an outdated notion of unlimited and unfettered growth. And it fails singularly to address the deep-seated social and environmental challenges that we face as a society. Thankfully, there are creative and enthusiastic people working tirelessly to create a more democratic and sustainable economy. And a new project from the New Economics Foundation helps us to find them.
The ‘Changing the Rules‘ project seeks to map local, community and other initiatives that are working to build a fairer, more democratic and more sustainable economy. It also showcases the policies and ideas needed to make this happen and provides resources for those who’d like to make a difference.
The problem we face, argues the New Economics Foundation, is that the emergence of the new economy that we need is being blocked by economic rules that were designed to further the interests of the wealthy and the powerful.
And so we need new rules that will allow alternative approaches to develop and to flourish.
This means, they say, that we need:
1. Democratic ownership: a diversification in economic ownership so that everyone has a stake in our future, including greater use of cooperative structures, an end to public services outsourcing, and a focus on community wealth-building;
2. An urgent green transition: creating an environmentally-sustainable future by, among other things, replacing fossil fuels with renewable alternatives, restoring nature and finding better ways than GDP to measure national success;
3. Better work, more leisure: achieving improved pay, conditions and working hours, such as through an increased minimum wage, affordable workspaces for independent businesses and a shorter working week;
4. Homes for all: a wholesale change in our approach to land and to its development, including the creation of a public land bank, an increase in the supply of social housing and tighter controls over developers and landlords;
5. An active state: a decentralised state that prioritises quality of life through, for example, the exploration of new models of public ownership, changes to the tax system and a focus on delivering high quality public services;
6. Fair finance: making finance the servant of society, rather than the master, such as through the expansion of the community and cooperative banking sector, the launch of a national investment bank and greater regulation of credit card lenders.
And through the NEF’s database of community initiatives, we can see what people across the country are doing already to makes this happen.
Here in my neck of the woods, for example, we have Aardman, the UK’s largest animation company, which gave 75% of the company’s shares to its employees as a way of preserving its independence.
We also have Bristol Energy, one of the UK’s first local authority-owned not-for-profit energy companies. And we have Avon Mutual, one of a new breed of community-owned banks that aim to put people and the planet first.
The idea of a new economy won’t appeal to everyone. But with our existing economic system continuing to fail us and our planet, we need desperately to find a better way of doing things. And it strikes me that the New Economics Foundation’s ideas, together with the initiatives that this project showcases, are a great place to start.