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Publications / Economy

Universal Basic Income: Has the Time Come?

Should society provide every citizen with a basic income, no strings attached? Proponents and critics of a universal basic income debate whether it should be a central element of strategies for transformation.

Panel 1: The Case is Strong, featuring Guy Standing, Sarath Davala, Karen Foster, Tim Hollo, Michael W. Howard, Azfar Khan, Robert Labaree, Jeremy Lent, Simon Mair, Ulrich Schachtschneider, Caroline Whyte, and Almaz Zelleke, and a response from Guy Standing.

Panel 2: Caveats and Alternatives, featuring Lourdes Benería, Janine Berg, Halina Brown, Andreas Bummel, Anna Coote, Ian Gough, Leah Hamilton, Anke Hassel, Alf Hornborg, Antti Jauhiainen, Mary Mellor, Francine Mestrum, Adam Parsons, and Vicki Robin.

Corporations in the Crosshairs

Footloose corporations, obsessed with the bottom line, are fraying the social-ecological fabric. A forum on the struggle to tame and displace these behemoths—and new directions for the struggle.

Featuring opening reflections from Allen White and comments from Duncan Austin, Frank Dixon, Sally Goerner, Dorothy Guerrero, Yogi Hendlin, David Korten, Steve Lydenberg, Michael Marx, Michael Peck, Álvaro de Regil Castilla, Jackie Smith, Sandra Waddock, Alan Willis, and Simon Zadek.

Another Europe Is Possible

The former Greek Minister of Finance describes his vision for a democratized European Union, the political challenge, and the new transnational movement working for another Europe.

Why Ecosocialism: For a Red-Green Future

“Green capitalism” is an illusion, and twentieth-century socialism is a perversion. We need a new model and movement for a democratic and ecological socialism that links with the wider movement for a better world.

Read the Roundtable discussion on this essay.

Farewell to Development

The alter-globalization mantra of “a world where many worlds fit” has inspired new organizing and thinking across Latin America. Leading “post-development” theorist Arturo Escobar surveys this fight for pluralism and justice.

The Fight for a New Economy

It becomes clearer every day that our economy is failing to serve people and planet. Stewart Wallis, former executive director of the New Economics Foundation, describes a new economy and new efforts to galvanize it.

Development for Whom?

The conventional development model is failing the poor and the environment. An alternative model, rooted in a more holistic understanding of society, can deliver both shared prosperity and sustainability.

What’s Luck Got to Do with It?

In Success and Luck, Robert Frank underscores the role of “dumb luck” in determining winners and losers, debunking the cherished myth of meritocracy. But how can we get the fortunate to share the spoils?

Sustainability and Well-Being: A Happy Synergy

Conventional wisdom sees a conflict between human progress and ecological protection. But a new body of research on subjective well-being tells us to look again.

With commentary from Anamaria Aristizabal, Deric Gruen, Anders Hayden, Emily Huddart Kennedy, Tim Kasser, Sylvia Lorek, Lucie Middlemiss, Tadhg O’Mahony, and Sandra Waddock, and a response from the author.

Wiki Socialism?

In Postcaplitalism, Paul Mason argues that new information technology will end capitalism as we know it and pave the way to a better future. But the technology Mason celebrates won’t do this without mass mobilization on a global scale.

The Struggle for Meaningful Work

Capitalism has degraded both the environment and the conditions of human labor. To achieve meaningful work for all on our finite planet, we should heed the lessons of craft and care work and acknowledge their importance to sustenance and meaning.

Global Compact: Corporate Engagement at the UN

Can corporations become socially responsible actors in a globalizing world? The recently retired Founding Executive Director of the UN Global Compact discusses the prospects for moving beyond incremental change. He finds reasons for hope in increased transparency and collaboration.

Why We Consume: Neural Design and Sustainability

Modern neuroscience suggests that the roots of consumerism lie in our neural circuits for reward learning. Contemporary capitalism truncates the diversity of satisfactions, feeding the hunger for the material rewards it offers. The enrichment of daily life and expansion of satisfactions, not their renunciation, is essential to a Great Transition.

The Church of Economism and Its Discontents

Economism, the reigning ideology in economic policy, reduces social relations to market logic and functions as a secular religion for the global market economy. We need a new economics rooted in a belief system that embraces solidarity, sustainability, and well-being for all.

Worker Cooperatives in a Globalizing World

The former president of Mondragon International discusses how Mondragon, a renowned worker-owned cooperative, puts democracy and solidarity into practice, and shares his insights on the future of global cooperative enterprise.

Decolonizing the Empire of Cotton

Sven Beckert’s Empire of Cotton offers a magisterial history of cotton’s role in the development of modern capitalism. However, it is a partial story: the bright light it shines on the “empire” and its masters occludes the array of social forces and actors working to tame or dismantle the emergent system.

Common Wealth Trusts: Structures of Transition

Modern society is imperiling our collective natural and cultural inheritance. New institutions like common wealth trusts can enable us to protect these resources and share their benefits equally, countering the tendency of contemporary capitalism to destroy nature and widen inequality.

Economics for a Full World

We live in a full world but still behave as if it were empty. The urgent task ahead of us is to create an economy that remains within the earth’s carrying capacity while rethinking the ultimate purpose of the economy itself.

Economics vs. The Economy

Operating from a realistic paradigm that understands the economy as embedded in the ecosphere is the key to transitioning to a sustainable civilization. Will the increasing unfitness of growth-obsessed neoliberal economics to our social and ecological realities spell its demise?

Growing, Growing, Gone: Reaching the Limits

The Limits to Growth, released in 1972, has profoundly influenced environmental research and discourse over the past four decades. Allen White of the Tellus Institute talks with Dennis Meadows, one of its co-authors, about the genesis of the report and its lessons for understanding and managing our uncertain and perilous global future.

The Degrowth Alternative

The degrowth movement has captured wide attention in recent years. Giorgos Kallis, an eminent scholar of this movement, explains its aims of opening up space for imagining and enacting alternative visions to modern growth-based development.

Debating the Sharing Economy

What is the “sharing economy”? Can it contribute to a more sustainable and equitable future? Juliet Schor answers these questions, arguing that democratizing the ownership of these new platforms will be key to realizing their potential.

Dreaming of a Sustainable China

Peggy Liu, the co-founder of the Joint US-China Collaboration on Clean Energy, discusses efforts to steer China’s rapid development in a sustainable direction and to reimagine prosperity while doing so.

Two Cheers for Piketty

In Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty provides a sweeping explanation of inequality, but his proposed remedies offer reform, rather than the fundamental change essential to guiding the global economy toward a just and sustainable future.

Premises for a New Economy

In an ecologically constrained world, both the global North and the global South need to consider new obligations and limits. A basic commitment to social justice requires that the claims of the poor, chiefly residing in the South, take precedence over the claims of the rich, chiefly residing in the North. The scope for further growth to contribute to well-being in affluent regions is quite limited, so the costs to the North of reducing growth may be modest—especially if a new economy is organized to provide the economic basis of a good life based on precepts other than more, more, and still more. While recognizing a priority for the poor imposes obligations on the North, this recognition cannot be a license for the South to replicate the wasteful disregard for ecosystem boundaries or the claims of the disadvantaged that has characterized growth in the North.

Principles for a New Economy

The purpose of an economic system is to organize human activities in ways that support healthy and resilient human communities and ecosystems for both present and future generations. To achieve this purpose, deep, system-wide change to existing economic institutions is urgently needed to reverse conditions typical of contemporary global, regional, national, and local economies. At the core of a New Economy is the need to decouple the achievement of well-being from limitless economic growth. The following Principles are designed to guide the actions of all economic actors and organizations whose decisions and actions affect, or would be affected by, the transition to a New Economy.

A project of the Core Principles Working Group of the New Economy Network

Transforming Innovation for Sustainability

As the world gears up for the Rio + 20 conference in June 2012, many are pinning hopes on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a concrete outcome. Yet there is little clarity on what SDGs should involve, who should set them, and how they can be realized in practice. This commentary article draws on recent research by the STEPS Centre, the Stockholm Resilience Centre, and Tellus Institute to argue that Sustainable Development Goals that keep human societies within a “safe operating space” are now urgently needed. However, delivering on these requires a radically new approach to innovation that gives far greater recognition and power to grassroots actors and processes, involving them within an inclusive, multiscale innovation politics.

World Trade: A New Direction

Global trade negotiations are moribund, with the World Trade Organization’s agenda stalled and the neoliberal ideology it serves confronted by a rising chorus of criticism. The trading system, built on the premise that promoting commercial interests necessarily advances the general interest, instead has fed a multifaceted planetary crisis. At this juncture, trade policy must find a new way forward. The key to this change lies in reversing the priority that in the past made free trade an end in itself, thereby consigning the larger goal of sustainable development to an afterthought. From now on, economic, social, and environmental sustainability goals should set the criteria for designing and applying multilateral trade rules. We suggest concrete steps to help transform the WTO from an agent of privilege and profit into a force for an equitable, peaceful, and resilient world.

Work and Well-Being

In an economy focused on growth and individual gain, it is difficult to question the primacy of compensation among the indicators of welfare and create space for a broad discussion of the factors that contribute to well-being. Yet doing so is essential to corporate redesign. Earnings are but one contribution to a worker’s well-being. A long and satisfying work experience, rich in opportunity and fulfillment, depends on a host of tangible and intangible factors. The current economic crisis provides a rare opening for rethinking the linkage between well-being and work.

How Should the Economy Be Regulated?

Regulation has long been defined in terms of maximizing damage control—namely, to limit the negative behaviors of business to ensure protection of the public interest. While, to some degree, this damage control mindset should be maintained, now is an appropriate moment in time to complement damage control with proactive, positive regulatory principles that are designed to achieve specific public purposes. With a broad spectrum of urgent social, economic, and environmental problems upon us, enhanced regulatory structures and processes stand as a key opportunity to mobilize all our social resources toward solving such problems, while at the same time enhancing democratic process and consciousness.

Climate Change, Development, and the Three-Day Week

Among the efforts to take affluence seriously are various proposals to reduce CO2 emissions while still permitting development to occur. Under these proposals, there are direct or indirect economic benefits for the less developed nations and substantial costs for the developed countries. As one might expect, developed countries either reject such proposals outright or provide only half-hearted support. One could enhance the appeal of the climate and development proposals by adding a call for a reduction in working hours. Addressing climate change, fostering development, and promoting a shorter work week is a policy package with benefits for the majority of the residents of the developing and developed countries.

Visions of Regional Economies in a Great Transition World

Rich Rosen and David Schweickart analyze the dominant models of capitalism and socialism from the twentieth century to identify key lessons learned that must be kept in mind in building a more just, equitable, and sustainable economic system. They then proceed to outline three model economic arrangements that would embody the values of a Great Transition future.

Essay #4 in the GTI Paper Series: Frontiers of a Great Transition

Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren: Progress and Prospects After 75 Years

In 1930, as the Great Depression was beginning, John Maynard Keynes wrote the essay Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren. In it, he looked 100 years ahead to a future in which learning to live well had replaced the struggle for subsistence as the basic problem facing humanity. The future discussed by Keynes is now only twenty-five years away. Beginning with current data on income, the paper shows that progress beyond the struggle for subsistence has been limited to the developed countries and will likely remain so through 2030. Among these countries, overwork, rather than living well, is increasing. This paper calls for a fundamental change in values—away from overwork and toward living well—among the developed countries that might have positive feedback effects on the prospects of developing countries as well.

Civic Entrepreneurship: A Civil Society Perspective on Sustainable Development. Vol. 1: Global Synthesis

Civic Entrepreneurship: A Civil Society Perspective on Sustainable Development celebrates the impact civil society has had on actualizing sustainable development, with over one hundred successful examples worldwide. It is based on the premise that in today’s world, it is not only the past that determines what is and what shall be, but rather that the trends of the present can rewrite the history of what may be. In exploring this premise, the series attempts to understand what has worked for sustainable development, and thus what needs to be built upon to shape a future we want to see.

Environmental Tax Shifting in Massachusetts: Taxes That Work for our Environment and the Economy.

This primer describes an innovative approach to tax policy called Environmental Tax Shifting (ETS). The basic idea is that rather than raising revenues by taxing activities that we want to encourage or support like income or savings or labor, we would tax things we want to discourage like pollution or waste or sprawl. This primer elaborates on different ways we could raise the revenues needed in Massachusetts while at the same time protecting the environment and enhancing the economy.

From Social Costing to Sustainable Development: Beyond the Economic Paradigm

Recent years have been characterized by a major transition in public policy regarding economics, the environment, and human well-being—particularly, the application of economic principles to environmental policy and the insertion of ecological principles into economic affairs. This article explores the evolutionary character of this transition and the contention in which it is often embroiled, such as debates over externalities valuation, discounting, and monetization. It then describes the PoleStar project and how it addresses the complex social, economic, and ecological interactions that will underpin human development in the twenty-first century.

Originally published in Olav Homeyer and Richard Ottinger, eds., Social Costs of Energy: Present Status and Future Trends (New York: Springer, 1994), 373-404.