- The Commons
- Local Currencies
To educate the public about an economics that supports both people and the planet. We believe that a fair and sustainable economy is possible and that citizens working for the common interest can build systems to achieve it. We recognize that the environmental and equity crises we now face have their roots in the current economic system.
America's task among the nations is to shape a just, equitable, and ecologically responsible economy. The economic is our realm, our element. As Americans, we move in and through the economic confidently and flexibly.
Even when we have achieved financial stability we do not hesitate to recognize a new spirit, a new direction in the economic, and throw caution and convention aside to support it. Or, we sense when our economic decisions have gone awry and we pick up and start again, undaunted.
Is there an independent bookstore, a local bike shop, or an old-fashioned camera shop in your community? If so, they need saving as urgently as the Piping Plover or Plymouth Red-Bellied Turtle. To preserve these businesses, we need to preserve their habitat—a habitat of small, locally owned enterprises, trading with one another, welcoming customers by name, paying town taxes, providing secure jobs, donating gift certificates to benefit the Little League Team, and serving on town boards.
On a shelf in the Library of the Schumacher Center for a New Economics sits a small wooden box with worn leather carrying handle—13 inches by 8 inches by 2 inches. It opens to reveal the parts of an apparatus for spinning cotton. Govindra Deshpande presented this traveling spinning wheel to Bob Swann at the "Tools for Building Sustainable Local Economies" seminar convened at Bard College in 1983 by the E. F. Schumacher Society, the predecessor of the Schumacher Center.
Govindra told how he had walked with Vinoba Bhave, the spiritual successor to Gandhi, during the establishment of the Gramdan Villages of India. Vinoba was concerned with inequity in land distribution, which prevented the landless from constructing homes and earning a livelihood.
In the 1950s Father José María Arizmendiarrieta, the village priest of Mondragón in the Basque region of Spain, inspired the development of a series of cooperatively owned industries to employ youth in his parish. His vision was that, through ownership by the workers, the wealth created by new industries would be distributed to the workers and to the larger community that nourished and supported them.
Identifying a Strategy
Building a responsible movement for a new economy will require planning how to create new jobs without increased growth. One approach is a strategy of import-replacement, with more labor intensive, smaller batch production, transported over shorter distances. The goal would be to create more jobs, but not more "stuff," with a smaller carbon footprint overall. This may be an ambitious objective, but it is necessary if we are to transition to an economic system that is both equitable and sustainable.
Such a strategy will take a cultural shift as well as an economic one.
The home of the Schumacher Center for a New Economics is the Berkshire region of Massachusetts. As we are committed to the implementation as well as the development of a new economics the task for us has been how to create a diverse and vital Berkshire economy independent of, and resilient toward, fluctuations in the outside economy. The process has engaged us with local, regional, and national partner organizations working to identify solutions to similar problems.
Our members helped build a voice for economic change.
Past membership support of the E. F. Schumacher Society, a small organization founded in 1980, allowed it to develop a solid theoretical and practical base of work, positioning it to offer positive solutions when the need for change became broadly apparent.
That time has come.
In September of 2011 the European Spirituality in Economics and Society Forum convened "Responsibility in Economics and Business: The Legacy of E. F. Schumacher" in Antwerp, Belgium—one of many events marking the Centennial of Schumacher's birth. We have posted keynote talks by Simon Trace, Barbara Wood, Susan Witt, and Stewart Wallis at our website: centerforneweconomics.org/schumacher
SIMON TRACE, Executive Director of Practical Action, spoke on "Responsibility in Technology."
In considering the characteristics of a new economy, the question of money arises: What is the appropriate role of money? What entity or entities should govern its issue? How much should be placed in circulation and on what basis? What determines its value once in circulation? How might its very structure favor financing for regionally-based businesses producing goods in a sustainable manner for local markets?
Imagine if leading economists spent time in the wilderness. Perhaps the chair of the Federal Reserve could spend an afternoon standing at the mouth of the Tsiu River on central Alaska's little explored lost coast, as the sleek bodies of silver salmon everywhere swelled upstream pushing against him.