visser_logo_small.gif (1783 bytes)Work In A SustainabIe Society:
Values for New Economic Relationships

Miller, page 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6

Section headings:

dot.gif (101 bytes) I. Values underlying current economic relationships dot.gif (101 bytes)

III.a   Mondragon's Society of Cooperatives

dot.gif (101 bytes) II. Values for new economic relationships in a sustainable society dot.gif (101 bytes)

III.b   Korten's People-Centered Economy

dot.gif (101 bytes) II.a  Basic Moral Presumptions dot.gif (101 bytes)

III.c   Daly and Cobb's Wholistic Community of Communities

dot.gif (101 bytes) II.b  Moral Priorities dot.gif (101 bytes)

III.d   Theobald's Economic Security Plan

dot.gif (101 bytes) II.c  Applying the Moral Presumptions and Priorities dot.gif (101 bytes) IV. Actions for transformation
dot.gif (101 bytes) III. Some visions of what could be


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 III.b  Korten's People-Centered Economy

David Korten, President of the Manila-based People-Center Development Forum, was educated at Stanford's Business School and taught at Harvard's. By training not inclined to a radical perspective, he became convinced that nothing short of radical change is essential to address the challenges of sustainability. He proposes a people-centered in contrast to a growth-centered economy. In a people-centered economy the focus would be on improving the quality of life rather than on material consumption; on the needs of all rather than the wants of the monied; on economic return to households rather than to capital; on community cooperation rather than on individual competition. Economic activity would emphasize local markets and local ownership rather than on foreign markets, on local diversification and self-reliance in basics rather than international specialization. Preference would be given to production for local markets rather than for export. Financial and environmental conservation and saving would be encouraged rather than financial and environmental borrowing and debt. Social and environmental costs would be explicitly part of the costs of doing business. Access to beneficial technology would be free rather than controlled by corporate monopolies.

In this vision the linkage between quality of life goals, humane scales of production, household well-being, local self-reliance in basics and environmental responsibility is clear.

Korten identifies the foundations of the movement for social and political transformation as being a political awakening of people suffering from the effects of the current system's failure -- job losers, displaced persons, those whose lives are affected by toxic waste dumps -- and a spiritual awakening of people being pushed to confront the shallowness of systems dominated by money and its accompaniments. [David Korten "Rethinking Development: Economy, Ecology & Spirituality," a Videotaped program produced by CODEL - 475 Riverside Drive, Room 1842, New York, NY 10115, 1993.]

He calls for a melding of economics and ecology into an integrated discipline which would attend to achieving a sustainable economy "in which human society has a balanced relationship with the earth's ecosystem and yet human needs are adequately provided for."

An ecological economics has to be predominantly an economics of household and community, not firms, he argues. Decentralization and local accountability must be key features. [David Korten "Sustainable Development: A Review Article," World Policy Journal IX (Winter, 1991-92), 158-190.]

III.c  Daly and Cobb's Wholistic Community of Communities

Economist Herman E. Daly and theologian John B. Cobb, Jr. have collaborated in a thoughtful, comprehensive analysis of how we might redirect the economy toward community, the environment and a sustainable future. They titled their study, For the Common Good.33 33. Herman E. Daly and John B. Cobb, Jr., For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy Toward Community, the Environment, and a Sustainable Future (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1989). See their summary article, "Toward a Self-Reliant National Economy," New Options (December 26, 1989), 4, 7-8; also review by Jan Love, "Wholistic Economics," Sojourners (December, 1990), 46-49.]

They confront the effects of modern economic growth and argue against free trade and for building and strengthening the weakening bonds of national community and then expanding community by federation into larger trading blocs among national communities with similar standards regarding wages, welfare, population control and environmental protection.

They reject the primacy of growth with its accompanying emphasis on consumerism and reject science as the only method of ascertaining truth in economics. Their wholistic, multidimensional analysis is oriented around a biospheric vision based on Christian theism. The value base for their vision is concern for justice, for the well-being of all creation, and for genuine and non-offensive community security.

Various strains of thought shape their vision. They put emphasis on balanced trade which would limit the quantity of imports in light of the available exports. They would reduce the now high degree of global interdependence, and promote national and community self-sufficiency. They advocate smaller markets and political communities of more humane scale. Their communities would guarantee jobs and health care, would provide creative and varied styles of ownership and would feature a negative income tax. The size of the population would be controlled by a transferable birth quota plan.

Economics would be driven by and be in service to community which Daly and Cobb define as follows:

To have a communal character...does not entail intimacy among all participants. It does entail that membership in the society contributes to self-identification. We accept this requirement and add three others. A society should not be called a community unless (1) there is extensive participation by its members in the decisions by which its life is governed, (2) the society as a whole takes responsibility for the members, and (3) this responsibility includes respect for the diverse individuality of these members. [Daly and Cobb, 172.]

III.d  Theobald's Economic Security Plan

In 1963 Robert Theobald, a pioneer American futurist, wrote Free Men and Free Markets. After pointing out how unfree the markets in the so-called "free market economy" of the US really are he identified the problem:

It is the attempt to keep the economy growing fast enough to provide jobs for all that harnesses man[sic] to the juggernaut of scientific and technological change and that keeps us living within a 'whirling-dervish economy dependent on compulsive consumption.'  [Robert Theobald, Free Men and Free Markets (New York:NY: Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., 1963), 144.]

He proposed a plan to ensure that each individual would obtain sufficient resources to allow her/him freedom in choice of action and that these resources would be distributed without government interference in the market mechanism. The Economic Security Plan embodies a positive concept of work as more than simply earning a living.

The plan would break the link between jobs and income by providing to everyone a constitutionally guaranteed right to Basic Economic Security -- a "due-income" which would provide an economic floor. This would reflect a shared responsibility of the whole society for the welfare of all its members in a way that would enhance the good of all.

In this plan everyone's position as a member of society would be secure as the number of market-supported jobs declines in response to technological change. (Writing in l963 he envisioned what is being experienced thirty years later by displaced low-skilled workers and middle management.) The middle-income group would be protected from an abrupt decline in their standard of living through Committed Spending, the second component of the Plan.

The work of the society would be done in two sectors. First, in the Marketives people wishing higher standards of living than that provided by the Basic Economic Security Plan would work as now in profit-oriented activities for compensation determined in the market place. They would pay taxes on income above the Basic Economic Security level. Second, in the Consentives people would work to produce the necessities of life which would be sold at cost of materials and other required supplies. In these workers and management would freely consent to work together in circumstances of equality since workers would not be dependent on a wage contract, since workers would receive their support from Basic Economic Security Plan. Consentives would sell in competition with the marketive in the market system; they would be market-oriented but not market-supported. Workers in Consentives would be working at activities they freely chose.

Over time the Marketives would be producing things that could most efficiently be produced in large quantities, as Consentives by their very nature would not be likely to be interested in repetitive production. Also, over time the position of the Marketive in the socioeconomic system would shift. Its primary purpose would be to act in the interests of the total society, not solely of the stockholders. Management would now be free to act responsibly.

Theobald notes that all of this can only occur if "the economic and social goals of the society as a whole are changed and we aim to achieve an equitable distribution of resources which would then allow production without exploitation and unforced consumption."  [Ibid., 184.]

Theobald posited three decades ago that these goals are not only old Utopian dreams; they are now necessary for our survival. This is certainly no less true now than when he wrote in l963!

These examples of how the economy might look if different values were primary are illustrative and can be useful in stimulating discussion, generating the sense of possibility, and in making imaginable the idea of sustainable societies in which people can live and work together in dignity and freedom. As such they can help to generate energy for the struggle.

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