IDEAS FOR A GROWN-UP ECONOMY


As we enter week 8 of the lock down, along with thoughts of returning to work or sending children back to school, there is a growing chorus of voices talking about the need for a new form of economics. One of these voices is called the Wellbeing Alliance (WEALL for short: https://wellbeingeconomy.org/ )

WEALL is proposing a new economic model based on a radical repurposing of our current preoccupation with more and more growth: an oxymoron on a finite planet!
It advocates that in the world’s most developed countries, growth has brought unrivalled prosperity and hence “we have arrived”. However, some of the outcomes of growth, such as increasing personal debt, inequality, climate change, a pandemic, and a fractured and deeply polarised politics, may make the fruits of growth rot! In a ground-breaking book – The Economics of Arrival -Katherine Trebeck and Jeremy Williams persuasively argue that it is about time we made ourselves “at home” with the wealth we have created. That we move away from enlarging the economy to improving it and secure the benefits that have accrued from growth, for everyone.

WEALL issued a briefing paper on 8 May, which sets out 10 key principles for an economy which “builds back better “from the Covid 19 pandemic. It prioritises human health,wellbeing,and ecological stability in the long term and seeks to avoid some of the “back to worse” traps of business as usual economics, based on GDP growth!

  1. New goals: ecologically safe and environmentally just Prioritise long-term human wellbeing and ecological stability in all decision-making; degrow and divest from economic sectors that do not contribute to ecological and wellbeing goals; invest in those that do; facilitate a just transition for all that creates jobs in and reskills for environmentally friendly and wellbeing focused sectors.
  2. Protecting environmental standards Protect all existing climate policy and emission reduction targets, environmental regulations, and other environmental policies in all COVID-19 responses.
  3. Green infrastructure and provisioning Develop new green infrastructure and provisioning, and sustainable social practices as part of the COVID-19 recovery. For instance, transform urban space towards active travel and away from car use; scale up public transport, green energy, environmentally sustainable food production, low carbon housing; attach environmental conditionality to bailouts of high carbon industries.
  4. Universal basic services Guarantee needs satisfaction for everyone, including through health care coverage for the whole population free of charge at point of access; universal free provision or vouchers for basic levels of water, electricity, gas, housing, food, mobility, education.
  5. Guaranteed livelihoods Ensure everyone has the means for decent living, for instance through income and/or job guarantees, redistribution of employment through working-time reduction.
  6. Fair distribution Create more equal societies nationally and globally through a fair distribution of resources and opportunities. E.g. more progressive and environmentally orientated income and wealth taxation; public/common ownership of key resources and infrastructure.
  7. Better democracy Ensure effective, transparent, and inclusive democratic processes at all levels; end regulatory capture from corporate interests and corruption.
  8. Wellbeing economics organisations Prioritise in all businesses and organisations social and ecological goals; implement circular economy principles to minimise resource use and waste; ensure economic and organisational democracy.
  9. Cooperation Ensure cooperation and solidarity at all levels, including in international politics and the global economy; across industrial sectors and government ministries; across scales (global, national, regional, local).
  10. Public control of money Introduce public and democratic control of money creation. Spend newly created money on investments that promote social and environmental goals and avoid post-recovery austerity.

I believe we are at a new global tipping point, where the idea of building back better, is growing in everybody’s mind. But will our existing governance systems respond urgently and at scale to the new reality and embrace an economy that values wellbeing and ecological sustainability? Its worth all of us joining and fully supporting the WEALL Movement!

Published by Steve Martin

Steve is a passionate advocate for learning for sustainability and has spent nearly 40 years facilitating and supporting organisations and governments in ways they can contribute towards a more sustainable future. Over the past 15 years he has been a sustainability change consultant for some of the largest FTSE100 companies and Government Agencies such as the Environment Agency and the Learning and Skills Council. He was formerly Director of Learning at Forum for the Future and has served as a trustee for WWF(UK). He is an Honorary Professor at the University of Worcester and President of the sustainability charity Change Agents UK. He is currently a member of the Access Forum for the Peak District National Park and is supporting the local district council on its Climate emergency programme.

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