Artwork by Fay Helfer www.fayhelfer.com
most. This could be paid to everyone as Universal Basic Income – in the past it has taken the form of Working Families Tax Credit. The taxes can also pay for education, schools, hospitals. Investors can then focus on attempting to scoop all this cash up again through the sale of goods and services.
There is also the option of degrowth. This is about deliberately deflating, or shrinking, the global economy, reducing the amount of economic activity. The essentials – food, shelter, health services – could be improved and expanded, but we would produce fewer cars and iPhones. Can we be happier with less economic activity? Imagine a three-day working week without a loss of pay.
The question comes down to this: should we be focusing our societies on real wealth – free time, connection, creative expression – rather than the artificial ‘needs’ such as mouthwash and smart watches created by the advertising industry to keep the production–consumption whirligig turning to satisfy billionaire investors?
The answer to this is one of economics. But clearly it is also philosophical and political. Such a transition would involve huge change on an international scale for individuals, communities and societies. Even if such change is desirable, is it possible? And who will the agents of such change be? We explore these ideas in the following pages.
Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist.
Resurgence & Ecologist