Alternative financial innovations in Greater Manchester?

We are interested in exploring the possibilities for alternative financial systems to promote economic, social and ecological well-being in this part of the world.
The key idea is to identify the gaps in the local system of financial resources (systems, institutions, mechanisms….) that, if filled, could help improve local economic, social and environmental well-being and resilience.
That suggests three key questions:-

1) How can we keep money local, “plugging the leaks” by which it gets spent out of the local or regional economy.  There is current interest in initiatives like parallel or local currencies, exchanges, and loyalty schemes (e.g. Brixton and Bristol Pounds, Hullcoin, Spice, and locally Chorlton TAG, Fallowfield Timebank) and also some successful international examples such as the Swiss inter-business WIR, and the Banco Palmas social currency in Brazil).  But there might be other ways of achieving this goal – how do we increase commitment and understanding about spending locally, “local multipliers”, etc?

2) How might we link savings, affordable credit and investment in the local economy?  Can the respective agendas coalesce toward something like a local bank or local savings and investment bond, backing savings with investment in things like renewable energy or sustainable food initiatives while en enabling those initiatives to more easily raise capital.  Is anyone doing anything on this front here already?  What might the most effective, and efficient (of time and set-up investment) be?

3) Similarly, can the problem of household indebtedness and reliance on short-term high interest loans (e.g. payday loans) be linked up with these other agendas, for example in partnership with credit unions?

If it looks like there is consensus over feasible intervention or interventions, the next task would be to look at how to take the first steps, and to enrol other relevant people.

At this stage we are looking for two things.

1) Expressions of interest in committing to an initial meeting to explore these ideas. If you contact us, we will get back to you if we have sufficient interest with date and time options.
2) Suggestions of others who might be interested in participating, or whose ideas, knowledge, skills and/or contacts might be helpful.

You can contact us with the form below, or send us an email.  (You can find more background on pages 31-36 of our 2012 report In Place of Growth.)

Responses to the Ecomodernist Manifesto

The Steady State Manchester team:

A brief note from SSM’s Mark Burton on critical responses to the “Ecomodernist Manifesto” that appeared recently.

 

Originally posted on Uncommontater:

Responses to the Ecomodernist Manifesto

I recently came upon An Ecomodernist Manifesto, and was staggered by the scale of its unwarranted assumptions and errors. It argues that the malign human impacts on the earth can be turned benign through the application of technology and further economic growth. Yet its authors claim to be environmentalists (or rather post-environmentalists.

I thought of writing a rebuttal, as I did of the New Climate Economy’s problematic (if less so) report. But there was so much wrong with it, from denial of the linkage between GDP growth and emissions (or rahter faith in yet to be demonstrated decoupling), via advocacy of nuclear power and unproven Carbon Capture and Storage, to a denigration of indigenous, pre-modern ways of life, that it was hard to know where to start.

Luckily four diverse, but complementary critiques haven appeared. Two from the degrowth / ecological economics perspective, one…

View original 573 more words

The Viable Economy serialised – The Conclusion

Finally we continue the serialisation of our intervention, The Viable Economy, wrapping up with the short conclusion and a brief list of further reading (see also the links in the ribbon above)You can read the whole pamphlet here.

Next, we plan to focus more concretely on sectors of the regional economy, and on practical initiatives towards a post-growth Greater Manchester.  Have you enjoyed the Viable Economy?  DO you have thoughts to share?  Do let us know, either by commenting on this post, or by email, twitter etc.

If you like our work, why not make a donation towards it?  Our costs are modest, but we are unfunded.  Thanks!

14) Conclusion

The Viable Economy, based on the values of stewardship, justice, conviviality, solidarity, co-operation, equality and respect, seeks to redress the parlous state we are in, ecologically, socially and economically. Its proposals, even if they need further development, show us how we can set out on a path to a resilient, more localised, stable economy that delivers what we all need: a frugal abundance or true prosperity, where people live in an increasingly equitable and harmonious society, locally and globally, deciding on rather than following economic rules, and not merely treading lightly on the earth, but protecting and restoring those systems that make life possible.

fig3 conclusion

15) Appendix: Further reading

There is a large literature relevant to The Viable Economy, much of which we reference in the footnotes to the text. This is a short selection of works we have found particularly helpful.

Blewitt, J., & Cunningham, R. (Eds.). (2014). “The Post-Growth Project: How the End of Economic Growth Could Bring a Fairer and Happier Society.” London: London Publishing Partnership. All chapters available at http://bit.ly/1zJ3uu9

Davey, B. (Ed.). (2012). Sharing for Survival. Dublin: FEASTA.

Lewis, M., & Conaty, P. (2012). The Resilience Imperative: Cooperative Transitions to a Steady-State Economy. New Society Publishers.

Smith, P. B., & Max-Neef, M. A. (2011). Economics unmasked: from power and greed to compassion and the common good. Totnes, Devon, UK: Green Books.

Victor, P. A., & Jackson, T. (2013). Green Economy at Community Scale. Toronto: The Metcalf Foundation. http://bit.ly/1EwKZsQ

We also encourage you to read our previous reports:

Steady State Manchester. (2012). In Place of Growth: Practical steps to a Manchester where people thrive without harming the planet. Manchester: Steady State Manchester. http://bit.ly/1bTiASu

Steady State Manchester. (2012).Living Well: Practical Solidarity and Steady State Economics. Manchester: Steady State Manchester. http://bit.ly/1bTpEyx

Steady State Manchester. (2014). In Place of Pay Inequality . Manchester: Steady State Manchester. http://bit.ly/1tBTRoJ

And also the regular blog posts on our website http://steadystatemanchester.net

The Viable Economy serialised – About population and migration

We continue the serialisation of our intervention, The Viable Economy, this time with Chapter 13, “About population and migration”.  Population has been a question of some controversy among ecological thinkers and activists.  Migration has great topicality with high levels from Europe and the majority world for reasons connected with the problems of social and ecological justice discussed in other chapters, and is exploited by the populist right and other opportunists.  We look here at the root causes, proposing practical approaches to address them, neither denying their import nor yielding to simplistic and profoundly unjust policies and proposals.  This piece also draws on thinking we previously published in our pamphlet Living Well: Practical Solidarity and Steady State Economics.
Y
ou can download the whole pamphlet as a pdf file, here.

If you like it, why not make a donation towards our work. Our costs are modest, but we are unfunded.

13) Population and migration

The problem

A viable economy requires a stable population in order to live well within planetary limits. In places like Manchester, in the minority world, fertility-based population growth has ceased because women on average have less than two children1. Family size is influenced by mortality rates and economic security. Factors which lead to a fall in family size include being relatively confident you will be looked after if you need support, whether or not you have children to do this and knowing your children are unlikely to die before you.

Currently levels of migration are increasing the size of the population here, although nowhere near as much as in London, or in many far less resourced regions of the world. Current policies focus on controlling the numbers and types of people coming into the country rather than addressing the reasons why people want to move in the first place.

While there will always be a flow of population between areas for very positive reasons which should be warmly welcomed, high levels of migration indicate many people are moving who may prefer to stay in their home country if they can meet their needs. High levels of migration are driven by income inequalities, themselves a result of the free movement of capital (under neoliberal doctrine) and labour (as a means of exerting downward pressure on wages), as well as climate change and wars. And to a lesser, but still significant extent, migration results from persecution be it political, racial, religious or on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The viable alternative

Solidarity is key to ensuring a viable population and migration patterns. This needs to be international, national as well as local.

A viable economy will work on reducing the determinants of migration. Policies should be based on an understanding that the interests of our region are interdependent with the interests of those outside.

Manchester should be a place which values people from outside and celebrates the richness of a diverse and hospitable region. At the same time we should recognise that most people would prefer to stay in their home country if they can see a way to sustain their lives there and live in freedom from conflict and persecution.

If national and international economic equity is increased, migration will fall whether it is from the North East of the UK to Manchester, Manchester to London or Africa to the UK. Similarly if the impact of climate change is kept to the minimum more people will manage to sustain their lives where they are and this will reduce migration. There will be fewer wars in a world where more people can provide for their basic needs, live with greater equity within their societies and between societies and where economies such as ours produces and sells socially useful goods rather than armaments. Well functioning societies here and elsewhere are likely to be more accepting of political, racial, religious and sexual diversity.

Some viable policy ideas

  • Focus on ensuring conditions in which small families can thrive: low mortality rates and support for people without sufficient income and care needs.

  • Focus on reducing the determinants of unviable migration by ensuring all policies foster equity between our region and others, good environmental measures which will ensure minimum climate change and do not fuel reasons for migration such as war e.g. arms exports.

  • Given the role of war and civil conflict as causes of migration, work with the Campaign Against the Arms Trade to encourage transformation of jobs in the arms trade in our region to socially useful production such as renewable energy technology2.

  • Campaign against global injustices and their causes, from free trade agreements to neo-colonial adventures.

1 In 2012, the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) was 1.94 children per woman http://bit.ly/10Ul3bU

We’ll be at “Boom Bust Boom Bust: Why Economics is for Everyone” next week

Boom Bust Boom Bust: Why Economics is for Everyone
31 Mar – 2 Apr 2015, Manchester

Steady State Manchester is pleased to be part of this event of alternative approaches to economics organised by the Post Crash Economics Society, a now famous counter-course initiative of students sick of the narrow curriculum of neo-classical economics. Neglected approaches in mainstream economics include ecological economics, Keynesian economics, Marxism, feminist economics, and post/de-development, all of which have informed our own approach.

So we are delighted to both support the event and to be offering a highly participative workshop in the very first session:  “An Economy for planet and people?”.

Do come along!

Here is the conference website: http://boombustboombust.com/

And the programme Unconference-Programme-final (as at 25 March – the programme on the conference website doesn’t render properly on all browsers so that’s why we’ve put the pdf here).

The Viable Economy serialised – Living Well and its measurement

We continue the serialisation of our intervention, The Viable Economy, this time with Chapter 12, “About Living Well and Its Measurement”, in which we ask what the economy is for, and how we would know if it was working well. In this we purposely avoid problematic terms such as “progress” and “development”.  In seeking measures of economic, social and ecological well-being, we recommend ones that express the interconnection among these three spheres.
Y
ou can download the whole pamphlet as a pdf file, here.

If you like it, why not make a donation towards our work. Our costs are modest, but we are unfunded.

About Living Well1 and its measurement

The problem

Just as the unviable economy is organised around the pursuit of aggregate economic growth, its economics uses the size and growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the related statistic, Gross Value Added (GVA) as measures of economic well-being2. and they are even used as a proxy for social well-being too3. GDP is calculated by adding together the monetary values of all the goods and services produced in an economy. Doing this involves a lot of assumptions and estimates4.

A focus on GDP growth, then, encourages us to value the amount of goods and services that are exchanged for money rather than their value to people and society. Economic growth as measured by GDP fails to distinguish between economic costs and benefits, or to account for uncosted things such as environmental destruction and unpaid work, for example looking after family members, neighbours and sustaining community.

These measures have two problems. Firstly, it is only clear to specialists what is actually being measured and this means that changes in GDP, although taken to indicate changes in economic well-being, do not necessarily indicate anything of the sort. GDP rises with cigarette advertising, armament sales, house prices, the credit-funded purchase of imported goods, encroachment on the green belt and traffic congestion, but it does not reflect those things that really matter to us. Desirable economic changes, such as a reduction the proportion of people in poverty, or the increase in real incomes, are not picked up. Secondly, the narrow focus on GDP determines economic policy: since success in steering the economy is judged in terms of changes in GDP, its increase becomes an end in itself with devastating impacts on the environment, as the 2014 IPCC report makes clear5.

The viable alternative

The viable economic approach uses statistics that reflect key aspects of economic, social and ecological well-being. Rather than treating each of these three domains separately, though, measures are chosen that reflect their inter-connectedness. So, the proportion of money spent and re-spent within the local economy indicates the success of that economy in protecting its wealth, its success in promoting local activity and jobs, and ultimately its ability to source things locally rather than from across the globe, with the associated carbon emissions. The share of income going to the poorest 10 per cent of people indicates their relative prosperity while also reflecting the level of economic inclusion. A more equal society in income and wealth also means less trivial consumption of high-energy goods and services (since the richer strata disproportionately spend their surplus on these things).

Some viable policy ideas

  • Consider developing a ‘genuine progress indicator6‘, or similar, for the city region to measure and direct economic development towards social and ecological viability. This should include social and ecological measures such as well-being, inequality, work/life balance, commuting times and carbon emissions per person.

  • Develop integrated reporting on economic, social and ecological well-being.

  • Devise measures that capture,

  • The bio-regional multiplier (money spent and re-spent in the region)

  • Income and wealth distribution

  • Credit and investment, broken down by sector

  • Employment, unemployment and working hours

  • Resource use and re-use

  • Energy use – carbon generating versus carbon-neutral

  • Estimates of carbon release and sequestration

  • People’s use time, contrasted, for example with working time and work-servicing time (e.g. commuting).

  • Unpaid work which contributes to individual and social well being.

  • If presenting figures on growth, always break them down into component areas, e.g. manufacturing, agriculture, property sales, domestic consumption, etc.

1We might have used the word “progress”, but that is almost irrevocably associated with a linear approach that disparages other cultures and implies the dominance of people over nature? See our pamphlet Living Well: Practical Solidarity and Steady State Economics. http://bit.ly/1bTpEyx

5See note 5

6See our commentary http://bit.ly/1xoToLE

Solidarity with Syriza

Syriza swept into power in Greece

Syriza swept into power in Greece

Last month I attended a Syriza solidarity meeting hosted by the recently formed Left Unity. Guest speakers at the event included Joana Ramiro, journalist at the Morning Star and Kevin Ovenden, journalist and political activist and member of the Respect Party’s leadership. Both Ramiro and Ovenden covered the recent general election in Greece. Syriza are of course the left wing political party that gained 36.3% of the vote in January, despite only being founded in 2012, and who now govern Greece in coalition with ANEL.

The pre-election context in Greece which was described by Ovenden at the solidarity meeting was eerily reminiscent of the type of economic depression last seen in the western world during the 1930s. There has been a 30% reduction in the Greek economy, 60% youth unemployment and 200,000 Greeks are said to have left Greece during the financial crisis. Ovenden described how it had been common place in Greece, as has been the case in majority world countries for the past 50 years, for Greek families to get together and select the eldest son to emigrate to Australia, the US or UK and remit their wages back to their families who have stayed behind. It is in this context of course that Steady State Manchester stands in solidarity with emigrants, like the people from Greece, who are forced to move thousands of miles in order to sustain themselves and their families.

What also became apparent during the course of the meeting was that the stunning election victory by Syriza would not have been possible without the mass mobilisation of the working poor preceding and during Syriza’s election campaign. There had been 35 general strikes in Greece during the last 5 years. One example of this truly heroic action which particularly stayed with me was that of the nearly 600 women cleaners who camped out at the Ministry of Finance. These women were suspended in September 2013 and later dismissed as part of the public sector cuts demanded by Greece’s creditors. These women had camped outside the Ministry since May during their court case to become reinstated and became an emblem of the discontent with austerity which underpinned Syriza’s victory.

The point is that without this collective action Syriza’s stated renegotiating the terms of the bail out with the Troika of the IMF, ECB and European Commission would not have seemed plausible, that is, without a large portion of the Greek people fully participating in social mobilisation and defending public services. I suspect that a similar paradigm shift is needed in Manchester if we are to move towards a radically different economic model.

Of course Syriza is not without its problems and they should be acknowledged. The move to enter into coalition with ANEL, a far right party has caused controversy at the outset of Syriza’s tenure and perhaps already shows a certain sense of pragmatism. Syriza’s cabinet is also almost exclusively male and the party is, for now at least, committed to an increase in GDP growth (although as noted elsewhere, there are people at the centre of Syriza working with a de-growth perspective. Moreover, Syriza itself was nurtured by the development of the alternative, solidarity economy, under hyper-austerity in Greece). However despite these issues Syriza’s advocacy of an end to austerity, confronting the Greek humanitarian crisis and promoting tax justice should be fully supported by all those on the left of UK politics.