As proponents of a transition to a new economy we have identified the following focus points for our work:
The Local Economy movement is considered by many to be the engine of the new economy. Vibrant, energetic, and self-empowered, it is characterized by the vision and creativity of entrepreneurs partnering with concerned citizens to develop community supported industries. Blossoming out of the local food movement, it is growing to include multiple kinds of local production to meet local needs.
Sharing the Commons
When rights to earth, air, water, and fire (minerals and fossil fuels) – our common heritage – are distributed via the market, private owners collect usage fees, thus profiting from our collective need for access to these rights, contributing to the inequity in income distribution, and encouraging exploitation and environmental degradation. Community land trusts and other new land-tenure methods place the natural world in a commons and allocate its use via a social contract based on ecological principles. The rent paid for use of the commons is then shared for community benefit.
Ownership and Work
When businesses are owned by capital instead of by workers and other stakeholders, profits flow to those who already have capital, furthering the gap between rich and poor. New ownership models – including consumer and producer coops, the Mondragon cooperatives of Spain, the northern Italian flexible manufacturing networks, employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), and multiple-stakeholder ownership – help address this problem by turning hired labor into co-owners.
Centralized currency issue serves centralized production whereas regional currencies represent a democratization of currency issue, supporting local businesses and educating consumers about how their money circulates in the local economy.
Banking and Financing
A global banking and financing system has abstracted, divided, and subdivided its investments beyond recognition and beyond accountability. Public and community banks, place-based investment initiatives, and other forms of social investment in which lenders know their borrowers are promoting long-term sustainable development rather than short-term gain.
Sustainable Production and Consumption
While much of the discussion about ways to make the transition to a new economy is focused on changing business ownership and financing structures, there remains a considerable role for individual households in this effort. Mutual support systems, the elegance of simplicity, the richness of community, living within the bounds of a bioregion, shorter work weeks – these are all elements of a new American dream. TimeBanks, asset-based community accounting, and resilience circles are tools for facilitating what will be a cultural as well as economic shift.
Growth in a new economy will depend not on more stuff but on smaller-batch regional production, creating more jobs and requiring more diversity of skills. To achieve this kind of growth will necessitate technology appropriate in scale as well as associated training programs.
Through deliberative democracy and other alternative models of participation and decision-making, governments are being encouraged to enact policies that support local production, direct investment, cooperative ownership, and ecological land use. Some governments are responding by introducing methods for measuring well-being instead of measuring growth.
Visioning and Messaging
A new economics requires creation of new curriculum material both in form and content, a curriculum that will be multi-disciplined in order to prepare for the complex cultural change the transition will involve. Drawing on both theoretical and practical application, it will be a distributed type of learning – relying on social media, informal learning circles, and peer education. It will employ historic examples, systems-thinking approaches, economic modeling tools, grass-roots community planning, and leadership training for a new generation.
Economist Fritz Schumacher and entrepreneur Judy Wicks would add Beauty to the list; Wendell Berry would reflect that a local economy is built on Affection – affection for place and for the people of that place; Andrew Kimbrell would cite his mentor Thomas Berry in reminding us to consider the Rights of other Beings in our new economy-making; and BALLE’s Michelle Long and CODEPINK’s Jodie Evans would name Economic Justice as a core component.
Please add your own priorities to this list and join us in co-creating an economy for the future.
Your support for the Schumacher Center helps us continue our 34 years of advocacy for an economics as if people and planet mattered. Donations may be mailed to the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, 140 Jug End Road, Great Barrington, MA 01230, made by credit card or PayPal, or made in BerkShares at our Jug End Road office. To make a donation of stock or other securities, please call (413) 528 1737.