The purpose of an economy should be the well being of all. We’re all interdependent, humans and other life on the planet. People everywhere share the same need for love, happiness, security, good work, freedom, community and involvement in decisions affecting them. Everyone deserves the opportunity to live a healthy and fulfilling life.
Today, this is far from being the case. The Western economic model is dysfunctional. By fueling climate change and damaging the ecosystem, it threatens our very existence - we may have less than five years before climate change is out of control. Continuous economic growth defies common sense when we’re already consuming 30% more than the earth can sustain and population is set to rise from 7bn to 9bn by mid-century. Economies based on continually increasing consumption and the desire for more, bigger, faster, cheaper and constant innovation spread discontent. Yet political leaders still use GDP to measure progress.
Preoccupied with financial crises, governments are not acting to prevent environmental catastrophe - by far the most urgent priority. Both crises need tackling together. This model systematically transfers wealth from those who create it to the richest and most powerful. Banking and big business are not serving society. The gap between the rich and the rest of us is steadily growing. In USA and UK large numbers of people live in poverty and our level of well-being is among the lowest in the West. Low well-being prevails wherever free market capitalism is given free rein. In India impoverished people are driven from the countryside into huge city slums. In 2010, 7.6 million children under five died, 70% in developing countries. Two-thirds of these deaths are preventable. Injustice and lack of opportunity ultimately lead to violence. In places like Tottenham, near the City of London, where the recent riots began, young people see few opportunities. Unemployment is at the highest level in 17 years and almost one million young people are unemployed. UK now has the highest prison population in decades, alongside USA one of the highest in the Western world.
The vast majority of people, over 90% in USA, want a more equal society. More equal societies work better; people are happier and healthier. Less money is needed to deal with the consequences of inequality; higher taxation is not necessarily required.
Human beings have survived throughout history by learning and adapting. We are enormously creative. Also we are capable of rapid mobilisation, as World War 2 showed. However current political and business leaders are slow to act decisively. The big issue is: will we act quickly enough before climate chaos and ecological catastrophe overwhelm us? We have to demand decisive action.
More and more people realise that the prevailing economic model isn’t working. There is an alternative. We know what needs to be done. It’s total system change. Prosperity - without growth (explored by Tim Jackson in his book of that title) is a win; win. It can resolve both the environmental and economic crises at the same time. A Great Transition (proposed by the New Economics Foundation) offers new work opportunities, a better balance of work and leisure and better health for all. The vision of a better way inspires and brings hope. It can be achieved through substantial funds for green investment; fairer, sustainable taxation; tackling tax avoidance and evasion; and shifting subsidies from industries that accelerate climate change, damage the ecological system and harm lives to those that are sustainable. Big business has to accept that it benefits enormously from public investment and research funded by the state. Their demand for lower taxation is questionable. Now some wealthy people like Warren Buffet are asking to pay more tax! We need a completely new form of auditing that takes account of past investment in infrastructure. Comprehensive monetary reform is needed. Banks make huge profits by creating 97% of our money through debt. Only National Reserve Banks should have the right to issue money to meet national objectives set by Government. A Citizens income, partly funded by land value taxation, can reduce the humiliation and the cost of administering complex benefits. Governments and global institutions must control excessive power and regulate financial markets. Principled foreign policies and conflict resolution can save lives and release vast sums spent on war.
The means are available. Sun, wind and wave can meet our power needs without harming people or planet. We can feed ourselves if we waste less and work with nature. All over the world, good things are happening. There are plenty of models for better businesses and government at every level, local and global.
We need to believe that fundamental change is possible and not accept “It can’t be done”. We need to put the well-being of all before individual affluence. It will mean changes in our lifestyles, giving up some things, choosing instead what truly matters. Apart from saving our lives and those of future generations, this will lead to far greater well-being.
Such a transformation requires bold political leadership, courage and integrity. Individual actions count. But national and international action is needed. If we are to prevent disaster, collaboration, not competition, is required. A new national consensus must be articulated. It also requires citizens to get fully engaged. We can’t afford to be bystanders. All of us have to accept responsibility. We need to inform ourselves, lead, collaborate, lobby, educate politicians and demand they do what’s needed.
There is growing revulsion at the current form of capitalism. Global protests have spread from Wall Street and St Paul’s Cathedral to over 900 cities in 81 countries. Now 100 leading economists and Compass have put forward radical proposals in a Plan B, urging UK Chancellor George Osborne to step back from his disastrous policy of cuts, and implement a strategy to avert environmental catastrophe.
My new book ‘A Better World is Possible’ is a handbook for Everyman. Part 1 makes sense of the system and Part 2 provides a practical vision of a better world; describes the best proposals and existing models that are transforming the situation for the better. The last page lists key campaigns for citizens to use.
A Better World is Possible explains what needs to be done and how we can make it happen. It is available as a paperback and E-Book published by O-Books October 2011, ISBN 978-1-84694-514-4. Order from: your local bookshop, Amazon or O-Books.
If you would like to download the book, it is available free from this website: www/brucenixon.com/betterworld.html
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