Archive | April, 2015

Spring shoots of a New Economy gives ground for hope – see the Next System Project

It was Maggie Thatcher, Britain’s most ardent booster of globalisation who coined the acronym TINA for “There is No Alternative” to justify her political love affair with Milton Friedman and Ronald Reagan.  The good news is that the Honourable Lady MP for Finchley and Britain’s first PM may not have been for turning but she was mistaken nevertheless. To misquote Gershwin – “You say it’s TINA but I say it’s TARA – There are Real Alternatives and here’s some cogent evidence. The Next System Project, launched today by Gar Alperovitz, James Gustave Speth, and Joe Guinan, founder and fellows of the Democracy Collaborative is out to show just how many individuals, agencies and parties have been quietly experimenting and refining an array of very attractive alternatives that could help usher in much needed systemic change. (Video at foot of this post) The mainstream press haven’t yet caught on either. Acting more like deer mesmerized by the headlights of elections either side of the Atlantic and, obsessed with the dramas in Washington and London, they seem to have to have caught some of Maggie’s TINA fever. Which is all very well since it buys more time for the thousands of on-the-ground efforts to gather more momentum. Having spent half my adult life just a few miles north of the American border, I have considered the USA both a pioneer and a canary in the proverbial mine. If cracks were ever to appear in the dominant and dominating economic model that has created and shaped our global economy, they would appear in its heartland. As expressed by the founders of the Next System Project, growing numbers of Americans are waking up to the fact that tinkering at the edges, playing party politics, or even using war to boost GDP won’t work because “it’s a system problem” as evidenced by this summation at the outset of the Next System paper:

The United States faces a systemic crisis, not simply political and economic difficulties. The economy is stagnating. The political system is stalemated. Communities are in decay. The lives of millions are compromised by economic and social pain. Violence is endemic among individuals, communities, and nations. Civil liberties are eroding. Near-record numbers of citizens remain incarcerated. Underemployment, inequality and environmental despoliation deepen day by day. The planet itself is threatened by climate change (* see footnote). A generation of young people expects to be worse off than their parents. The very idea of building a cooperative community of caring responsibility has faded from common understanding.

As someone who believes that climate change, resource scarcity, casino financing, income and wealth disparity, and geopolitical instability are not causes but symptoms of a much deeper malaise, news from this project gives cause for “active hope.” I believe, along with the 350+ thought leaders who originally put their names behind this initiative that we humans who occupy a living planet deserve a living democracy and an economy that affirms and respects all life. The crisis is too big for party politics or even between the jaded failing ideologies of capitalism and socialism. We have to dig deep into our hearts to tap our highest aspirations for a:

co-operative, caring and community-nurturing economy that is ecologically sustainable, equitable, and socially responsible – one that is based on rethinking and democratizing the nature of ownership at every level and challenges the growth paradigm that is the underlying assumption of all conventional policies.

One sign of the flux is the emergence of a host of new adjectives in front of the word economy as various groups and constituencies feel their way toward more productive alternatives: sharing (**), caring, provisioning, restorative, regenerative, collaborative, gift, solidarity, stated state and, of course, new.  The Next System paper describes a variety of alternative ways of generating and sharing wealth – with a focus on well-being and flourishing:

  • Worker ownership and self-management
  • Localism and Bioregionalism that point to the all important task of understanding and re-connecting with “Places”
  • The rise of Cooperatives, Not for Profits and Social Enterprise
  • Re-invigorated Social Democracy
  • Participatory Economic Planning
  • Ecological Economics and workable low, de- and no growth scenarios suitable for developed economies

The paper refers to the work of thought leaders in these areas. While links to projects is sadly thin in this paper, I am confident they will be forthcoming. If you are sick and tired of the TINA message and want to catch a glimpse of a “more beautiful world” fighting its way through the asphalt, this is a good Easter read. Our task now – whichever side of the Atlantic – is to persuade the political classes to “get real” and focus on what really matters and join, support or emulate one or more of the many groups and initiatives described by The Next System project. My professional focus is tourism and helping to envision and create a cooperative, caring and community-nurturing visitor economy that is is ecologically sustainable, equitable, and socially responsible. But until those of us engaged in that subset of the broader socio-political economy get with the bigger picture, we’re likely tilting at the wrong windmill. It’s time for tourism innovators and creatives to join hands with each other and reach out to the the literally thousands of kindred spirits working for similar goals but in different sectors. it's time   There’s an old saying that when America sneezes we all catch a cold. America’s systemic failure is our failure. Their crisis is an opportunity for all of us to finally acknowledge that it’s going to take more than one tick in a ballot box to turn things around but at least there are signs that effort in communities are addressing the real problem even if our politicians are not.

* I disagree with this sentence – the planet will manage fine without us. The intelligence abundant throughout the Universe may regret our passing but it has nearly 14 billion years (as far as we know) practising the art of self creation, I believe it will cope.

** IT’s encouraging to read of the mature way in which established companies such as Accor are viewing what has scared some members of the hospitality industry i.e. the rise of Airbnb and other members of the sharing economy – see today’s Hospitality Net article:


TRAILER: Sequel and forthcoming attraction: HOW ON EARTH! Can’t wait till Donnie McLurcan and Jennifer Hinton of the Post Growth Institute publish their first  book on the not-for-profit economy. Here’s what to expect:

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