By Marc Masmiquel
The economy seems to have headed towards a single possible horizon. A path that stratifies society and shields the interest and privilege of a few. There is a lot of political philosophy that defines the reason for this situation. In the same way, there is a lot of daily observation that makes it irrefutable. Another song is what the media or sarcasms tell, because reality slaps the weakest relentlessly. The current political system defends irresponsibility, through patronage, and other tax stratagem and even amnesties in the face of the shameful practice of tax havens. Economists like Vicenç Navarro and Arcadi Oliveres make us literate in the face of so much media cacophony. That is why we need to understand and modify the order of priorities. This prefabricated crisis is due to a surplus value allowed and promoted to maintain a specific productive and speculative model. The troika (European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund) has been tightening the screws to maintain the surplus quotas that investors need. But all this distances the citizen from the rights that the constitutions protect.
It may be necessary to repeat what we have already heard or read. The consumer society we live in makes us dizzy every day with dire news of the inherent limits of one's development and the associated drama. Not only on populations and regions, but on global ecosystems. If we look at the systemic interaction of the majority problems together, we can see food crises, chronic wars, growing poverty, constant diaspora, regular financial collapses, non-stop arms trafficking, theft of raw materials by "big companies", extraction of hydrocarbons more beyond peak oil ... ingredients of a global and complex toxic soup. It does not matter what the cynics say, but supposedly the economy was supposed to help "to be able to reach the necessary means to live, with dignity, and protecting the common good." But job instability, environmental disasters, and the depredation of energy resources, draw us a diagnosis and a very different horizon. Noam Chomsky explains the reasons for these movements. In short: there is a lot of production and little distribution, there is a lot of concentration and little mercy for the effects of such neoliberal policies. So much production to preserve specific interests is inadmissible, and now I speak of what common sense dictates about ethics in front of others. The others, the people, the others, my fellow men, they and us, the same thing, we are the same. Therefore, for many it is not admissible, due to starvation, misery or unemployment. Whatever the level, the injustices of profit are a reality in the same way as their collateral effects.
Is there another way to organize?
It is possible that if we focus on all the execrably that some things have been done we cannot see many exits, to this alley, or heritage of the 20th century. Modern capitalism has generated in its last four decades a desperate situation, but not in the abstract, but here on the street, in everyday reality, the reality for many people. We can clearly see the effects on the balance of payments of the so-called poor countries, because objectively they have been impoverished by structural adjustment plans, which have been unprotecting the local from the foreign. These tactics have eroded the already serious colonial precedents in most of the world's economies, permanent and predatory dumping. Thus, neoliberalism has spread at an exponential speed since the creation of the Bretton Woods institutions, metamorphosing with new faces on the “free trade” highways, both in the EU and across the seas.
The externalities of commercial operations have been responsible for this alleged "free trade" where the parties that "compete" do not do so on equal terms. The contribution to the common good, to the real well-being of the populations, neither producers, nor consumers is not taken into consideration. The economistic approach focuses on weighing success by mere profit. Using this standard, and establishing a sustained and directed cultural manipulation, the current state is possible. It is true that many things have improved, but many others have increased the poverty and misery of three-quarters of the population. Something inadmissible for those who value life and have scruples.
Let's match causes and effects.
The systems that support the economic subsystems and the welfare states and social coverage go hand in hand with the evolution of democratic models. The polarization of democratic elections has made us forget many times the very meaning of the constitutions that states have. These constitutions have been the result of social struggle and demands from and towards the community. Let us have the present memory out of respect and decency, we are heirs of experiences, ideas, sufferings and hope.
Is GDP the right meter for issues so crucial for everyone? Obviously not, but despite this, success continues to be calculated in a biased, partial way and for many intentionally interested. The current system for measuring business excellence omits externalities, and although it is true that for a few years there have been reports of “social responsibility”, it is a tangible fact that these parameters are not binding and therefore by not obliging de facto nothing often remains in mere cosmetic image washing operations or "green washing". CSR systems can be instrumentalized to cover unintended consequences. They are not always excuses, but in many cases they are used as elements of marketing and social image. That is makeup, and the context is that of a competitive and aggressive capitalist market. It would be naive to omit the semantic drift of many concepts. Environmental sustainability is a good example ... since the energy crisis of the '70s its deep meaning has been mutating. Now even large transnational corporations are "sustainable." We cannot rely only on words, or on statements, or on reports issued by private companies, or ad hoc certifications, it is methodologically a distortion, cruel if we weigh the effects of the last decades on the entire globe. The corporations and policies that have sponsored their expansion have behaved disastrously for all biosystems, mortgaging the future of future generations. If we could all choose how we would like the economy to be regulated, how could we do it? Our own constitutions roughly already tell us. The objective is the common good, not "the individual good of some against the suffering of others." If we analyze how the success of companies and institutions is measured, we will see the magnitude of the distortion… the fetish of GDP and its ill-fated goals. So much effort, so much academicism to simply not be able to call things by their name. Let's measure the real contribution to the common good, let's not use distorting standards that fluctuate daily. How could you use a tape measure that would be different every day? It can not. But with the "value of things" we admit it. There are methods that mask crime. It is as if we "upgraded a pirate" and accepted him as a smuggler, and after the "proper" exchanges we called him "businessman", then "financier", then "banker", finally "philanthropist". If we only measure economic success by money, we omit ethical judgment, we ignore the main basis, the heart of the matter. This has been done consistently for a long time. This semantic drift is what has been used to mask great fortunes, centuries ago and today… these “grand thefts” would say Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (the ideologue of mutual support). It doesn't matter if we talk about a smuggler from Santa Margarita or an Al Capone from Brooklyn, the essence is related. The current economic system allows this masking and this semantic and ethical drift of what drives companies. The most outsourcing, monopolistic and aggressive ones are rewarded and helped.
It is nothing new, it is a recurrent theme analyzed by political philosophy. For Aristotle a democracy should be fully participatory and its goal should be to seek the common good. Aristotle proposed two solutions: reduce poverty or reduce democracy. Reducing democracy further is unacceptable. The ethic that seeks the common good in reality wants to expand the limits of our democracies, and reduce the gap between people.
We need rules that level and balance
To reduce poverty, which is nothing more than "unfairly sharing the cake," we need rules that level and balance. And it cannot be with the contributions of GDP, in fact GDP increases when someone dies, it does not speak of distribution, it does not indicate the well-being of people, statistically it is a crude and rude tool. Far ahead are other more accurate multi-indicators and less known to administrators. The salmon press makes it clear: the current real economy measures economic success, for this it uses monetary values or indicators such as gross domestic product and profits, they instrumentalize this measurement for their own interests. These indicators do not tell us anything about whether there is war, we live in a dictatorship, whether we overexploit the environment, whether human rights are respected ... In the same way, a company that has benefits does not tell us anything about the conditions of its workers or about what it produces or how it produces it. It does not say anything about whether it has destroyed local work, whether thanks to its outsourcing of production it has polluted and depleted the biosphere. Let's see equivalences: a system that hides crime is criminal. A method that hides the fault is manipulative and complicit. Therefore, given the current hysteria of the stock market swing, it is worth questioning what crisis the media are talking about ...
Adequate indicators are needed, but not only to measure, but to modify the cases that have induced such conditions. There are many better-oriented indicators, from the HDI (Human Development Index), to the Gini coefficient, or the recent IWI (Inclusive Wealth Index or Inclusive Enrichment Index), through the Bhutan Gross Internal Happiness index, or the precise (and not so well known) Genuine Progress Index (GPI). This article aims to introduce us to another, the Balance of the Common Good, which brings together a precise measurement of specific indicators in 5 blocks: Human dignity, Solidarity, Ecological sustainability, Social justice, Democratic participation and transparency. To make it operational, we use what we call the Matrix of Common Good 4.0.
It would be absurd to be naive
If we wait for companies alone to lead us towards these new directions, it is difficult for changes to come alone. When power groups defend specific privileges, things do not change. When people regain their decision-making capacity and the right tools are used, there is hope.
We cannot forget the trend of corporations, as the documentary The Corporation explains very well, the modern multinational company protected by the status of legal entity, has been acquiring rights of human beings as natural persons. This has reached a degree of paroxysm such that if we were to evaluate the social behavior of companies using the psychiatric criteria with which a psychiatrist would evaluate the mental health of any individual (based on the criteria of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV) the corporate practices examined would fit the symptoms that DSM-IV considers to be defining of psychopathy. In short: it is not from the hand of psychopaths that we can modify the current state.
The Economy for the Common Good is a real alternative to market capitalism and the planned economy. More than 850 companies, in more than a dozen countries, have decided to act differently. Measure success differently. The Economy for the Common Good is an economic project open to companies and promoted by the young Austrian economist Christian Felber (co-founder of ATTAC in Austria) that aims to implement and develop a truly sustainable economy and alternative to financial markets in which they necessarily have to companies participate.
In 2010, together with a group of businessmen, the practical development of the Economy for the Common Good model began as an alternative to market capitalism. According to Felber, the legal principles of the Economy of the Common Good are already present in many constitutions and legal norms, which include the principle according to which economic activity must serve the general interests and the common good or public good. The implementation of the economy of the common good seeks to adapt the real capitalist economy (in which values such as the profit motive and competition prevail) to the constitutional principles. The economy of the common good must be governed by a series of basic principles that represent human values: trust, honesty, responsibility, cooperation, solidarity, generosity and compassion, among others. A Copernican twist to what stuns most of the population. A change that is achievable and in full harmony with the effervescent social movements for a long time and more clearly in recent years. The indignation of many can manifest a practical and real action right now, this project brings together procedures and inspiration. If there were a referendum tomorrow we would see it clearly, make no mistake, most people expect a new economic order, something different from what we know. The Economy for the Common Good covers the basic elements of an alternative economic order system and is open to synergy with similar systems. The specific objective is to create a binding legal framework for the creation of values of business and particular orientation towards the Common Good, which gives incentives to its participants. For this, a poly-indicator is used that measures the contribution to the common good, by means of a matrix, and in this way a Balance of the Common Good (BBC) is carried out, obtaining a value that must be verified annually. For this reason the municipality is the territorial and local nucleus where the BBC can be implemented. It is a tangible, achievable and measurable project.
The initiative of the Economy for the Common Good, is young, but is supported by many organizations, supporters and affiliated companies, began in October 2010, and in just two years it has generated an incipient advance full of energy and hope. Since then the movement has grown steadily. More than one hundred pioneering companies voluntarily carried out the “Balance of the Common Good” for the first time in 2011. There are already municipalities, universities, schools, associations, companies of all kinds and in groups about 4000 supporters (851 Companies, 58 Politicians, 147 Organizations, and 2854 Individuals). For the forcefulness of its principles, it is a success, both in international propagation and in the internal feedback system. A closed manual is not followed, each of the stages of the process is open to opinions and implications. There is a scientific committee, there are advisers from many countries, there are professionals dedicated to propagating the idea, because aside from everything, the "plot of this film" is urgent and necessary. Injustice and opportunism are not suitable paths. Let's use serious criteria, let's use a serious and deep balance, with indicators that measure the inclusion of people in society. Not words, let's analyze results, a measurement system that serves as a compass, not justification. If there are ideas, the door is open. The novelty of this project is that it suffers from bureaucracy, advances by dint of reasoning and is open to permanent collaboration.
And all approaches to the project are considered. For the defenders of the economy of the common good, those companies that guide these principles and values must obtain legal advantages that allow them to survive the current values of profit and competition. The balance of the common good measures how a company "lives": human dignity, solidarity, social justice, ecological sustainability, democracy with all its suppliers and clients. Finally, the evaluation of these values may allow the consumer to choose the products. And to the municipalities attached to this project to reward or not the companies that contribute more or less to the common good. Modifying the current panorama, which makes corporations and companies that prioritize cheap production have a monopoly. If the system favors irresponsible companies, commerce and consumption are irresponsible. If the system begins to empower those who contribute to the common good, we will gradually modify the very causes of structural poverty. They are substantial changes.
In this way, it is a movement open to results, and a local growth process with global consequences can develop. Aiming for synergies with similar principles. In this sense, all of you are cordially invited to participate in the process of developing an Economy for the Common Good.
The procedure is based on local regional teams, called "energy fields" that spread the idea among companies, associations and municipalities. In the Balearic Islands there is a specific working group coordinated with the rest of the movement of the economy of the common good.
In short, the proposal of the economy of the common good invites us to man life from another place, actually, from another speed, from another rhyme. It is true, they are not new things, they are rather old, because life is old, and balance is what maintains cellular integrity, and on another scale the stable biosphere. The movement is demonstrated by walking, and the economy of the common good can make us dance to a new son. Reciprocity and mutual support can be given, but to do this, conscious steps must be taken, this project is a healthy invitation to do so.EcoPortal.net