Economy for the common good and strategies for degrowth

Aug 10, 2020 by

The economy for the common good was positioned as an alternative to the current neoliberal capitalistic model, one where money it to be used as a means to an end and not an end in and of itself. In other words, money is to serve the common good. There seems to be a contradiction when analysing constitutions as to what exactly this means, as many countries list the ultimate goal of the economy to achieve a common good, but yet we see that progress in the national economy is measured by GDP, corporation success is measured by profits, and investments are measured by ROI (return on investments). There seems to be a flaw in method or measurement here. What is needed is a “beyond GDP” measurement tool, one that does not have GDP at the centre. There are multiple examples of this such as the Happiness Index for example.

What the economy for the common good proposes is that we replace the invisible hand of the market with a visible hand. In other words, state intervention. Companies, enterprises and government institutions are only to make profits if they adhere to values defined by the commons. This will entail complete transparency with regards to all sectors within the economy and a reprioritising of values, one where socio-ecological dimensions are put above capital accumulation. Felber mentions multiple ways in which this can be achieved. For example, Highest common good points could allow companies to pay no corporate tax, socio-ecological trade could incur no additional taxes or trade costs. Banks should also be a focus point here, before any type of loan or credit is issued, there should be social and environmental screening, a criterion that if not met, is not accessible to any loans. Financial risk it to be seen as  socio-ecological risks.

A critique I would introduce here is that it is mentioned that money is to be conceptualised as a means to an end and not an end in itself. Is this not a contradiction to when you mention that socio-ecological conditions must be met to achieve profit accumulation, i.e. the end result here is still capital accumulation?

Strategies for Degrowth

The first quote that caught me was that degrowth will happen eventually, but it is up to us to choose whether we will see “Degrowth by design or by disaster”. Degrowth presents an opposition to capitalism and is presented as a paradigm change. It is not to be confused with socialism (because it is opposite to capitalism), as socialism was also a growing system or ideology. I also asked the question whether the degrowth paradox presents a problem to the movement, as degrowth and capitalism are directly in opposition to one another (even by definition), and thus any attempt at degrowth from within a capitalistic system will fail. The idea was that change come from outside the system, or that capitalism need first be overthrown as per Friedrich Jameson’s quote: “It is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism”. The response was that this is not the case and thus one is to look into education and values to move against capitalism. Further, reducing working times and re-evaluating work was positioned as a good start.

Since  degrowth is an economic principle and form of society that aims at the well-being of all and maintains the ecological basis of life, this requires a fundamental change in our living environment and a comprehensive cultural change. The current economic and social guiding principle is “higher, faster, further” – it requires and promotes competition between all people. On the one hand, this leads to acceleration, excessive demands and exclusion. On the other hand, the economy destroys our natural foundations of life as well as the habitats of plants and animals. We are convinced that the common values ​​of a post-growth society should be mindfulness, solidarity and cooperation. Humanity must see itself as part of the planetary ecosystem. Only in this way can a self-determined life in dignity be made possible for everyone.

In practical terms, this means:  An orientation towards a good life for everyone. This includes
– Deceleration, time prosperity,
A reduction in production and consumption in the global north, a liberation from the one-sided western development paradigm and thus the possibility of a self-determined shaping of society in the global south.
– An expansion of democratic forms of decision-making in order to enable real political participation.
– Social changes and orientation towards sufficiency instead of mere technological innovations and increased efficiency in order to solve ecological problems. We consider the thesis of the possibility of an absolute decoupling of economic growth and resource consumption as historically refuted.
– Regionally anchored, but interlinked and open economic cycles.

But I do agree with all have mentioned before and its just a personal vision.

Written by: Dillon and Mohamed

Based on the session with Nina Treu and Christian Felber during the AEMS 2020.