Where’s the problem – politics, economy or population?

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Posted Aug 22 2021 by Dave Darby of Lowimpact.org
economy or population

Below are some things that I believe, some that I don’t believe and some that I know. Do you believe similar things? If so, stay in touch. Alternatives are being built – change is coming. Nothing stays the same forever.

I believe that ecology is being damaged, and that wealth is being concentrated, which destroys democracy. I believe that these are the two greatest challenges facing humankind, in terms of our future evolution, stagnation or extinction.

I believe that to address these challenges, lifestyle change is essential, but not sufficient within the current economy. We need a new economic system because we can’t stop this one damaging ecology or concentrating wealth; we can only slow it down – which isn’t enough.

I don’t believe that the current economy can accurately be labelled ‘capitalism’, because capitalism is based on a free market, and we absolutely don’t have a free market. Virtual monopolies such as Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Amazon and Über are allowed (encouraged and assisted, in fact), and states intervene in the market to the advantage of giant corporations in ways that disadvantage small businesses. I believe that this is a big mistake – the opposite of what we should be doing, in fact.

I believe that decentralisation of the economy would be a very good idea. Small businesses form the backbone of communities, whereas large corporations suck wealth out of them. Humans need healthy communities for our well-being.

I don’t believe that the state provides a counterbalance to corporate power. I believe that the state and the corporate sector have a shared agenda and are inextricably linked.

I know that there are many, talented people who are building a decentralised economy that favours small businesses and communities over giant corporations.

I know that there are also many people who spend an inordinate amount of time talking and thinking about politicians, political parties and elections. Those people, whatever their political leanings, can also support the decentralised economy that’s being built.

I believe that if we can decentralise the economy, power and wealth can become more distributed; communities more interesting; jobs more fulfilling; life more fun; and we can live with shorter supply chains that damage ecology less.

I believe that population is an issue. This is controversial in green circles, but whatever economic system we have, we’d damage ecology less if there were 1 billion of us rather than 10 billion of us. Japan and New Zealand are island countries on the edge of the Pacific, not too dissimilar in size. Japan has 125 million people, New Zealand 5 million. I don’t believe that this makes Japan a better country or a better place to live. Yes, people in Europe and North America consume more than people in Africa, Asia or Latin America – but people in those places are intent on consuming much more.

However, I know that the global population is set to stabilise towards the end of this century or the beginning of the next, and then start to fall. It’s difficult to know what else we can do about population apart from wait for it to stop growing and start falling – which it will. But the economy is not about to stop growing. Every government in the world is committed to making sure that it doesn’t. And it’s not about to stop concentrating wealth, as the large monopolies (and notably Amazon) capture an ever-increasing market share. So it’s the economy that’s the real engine behind the damage to ecology and democracy, assisted by all the major political parties of the G20 countries.

I believe that most importantly, if we want a new, decentralised economy, we have to give each other credit, rather than beg banks for it. Banks are not interested in lending to small businesses anyway, and are themselves giant corporations that suck wealth away from communities in the form of interest.

I know that the way that we can provide credit to each other is via a ‘family’ of ideas, the collective name for which is mutual credit. There’s a national mutual credit network being built for Wales, and the first concrete example of a scheme in England will be up and running later this year or early next (in Devon). There’s already a large and growing mutual credit network in Africa, and there are budding networks elsewhere.

I know that these schemes can be networked together via an initiative called the Credit Commons Protocol – a common language that will allow all existing schemes to trade with each other. This global network can form the core of a decentralised economy, from which the exchange medium can’t be extracted and stashed in tax havens.

I believe that around 5% of the population can be motivated to help build a new economy. The other 95% we won’t be able to persuade, but if we can build things that give them immediate benefit, they’ll be on board.

I believe that the growth of the new economy will be incremental – that we’ll eventually transcend the current economy, rather than overthrow it or vote it away.