And through increased access to spaces such as sports facilities, community centres and parks, we could change the way we enjoy our free time: instead of having public space taken over by shopping malls, we could enjoy convivial and low-carbon activities for free.
4. From income taxation to community service A considerable portion of the funding of the welfare state comes from income taxation, which would decline in a context of work time reduction. Consequently, the government would have to change the way it financed itself. A straightforward solution could be to shift taxes from work to natural resources, which would have the added benefit of inducing firms to reduce costs by becoming more ecologically sustainable rather than by improving workers’ productivity. We would probably also need other imaginative alternatives, such as introducing non-monetary taxes based on time.
For instance, everyone could be expected to devote time to the provisioning of public services in exchange for the ability to access them free of charge at the point of use. Every person could gradually begin contributing from their teenage years, taking on their social responsibilities fully during adulthood, and finally withdrawing in old age. Their contribution could take the form of specialisation in a certain duty, or entail participation in a rotation of tasks where people would learn various skills.
Illustration © Donna Grethen / Ikon Images
A concrete utopia These four transformational strategies may seem political non-starters. But what is politically realistic today may have very little to do with what
Decommodification can be applied to all social goods that have been made artificially scarce or would otherwise be simple to manage as commons: things such as internet access, housing, public transportation and utilities.
For instance, we could cap the price of housing at half its present level. Citizens would therefore be able to work and earn significantly less than they presently do without any loss to their quality of life. GDP would shrink, but we would also need less money to satisfy our basic needs.
If the provision of basic services is decommodified, then the rationale for pursuing growth on behalf of working people loses its validity.
is politically realistic after another few summers of record-breaking heatwaves, uncontrollable forest fires, and droughts. What I believe is the basic function of the degrowth community is to develop alternatives to the status quo and to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.
Riccardo Mastini is a PhD candidate in Ecological Economics and Political Ecology in the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology ICTA at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.
Resurgence & Ecologist