I’d be interested to hear any views anyone might have.
1 – Citizen’s Income
The idea is that all adult citizens of a country receive an automatic monthly income – regardless of whether they work, how wealthy they are, or anything else. Receipt of this income would be a basic right. It would be enough to live on, but low enough to encourage people to work in order to create extra income for themselves.
The supposed advantages are that it’s fair (in the sense it’s received by all), it’s simple and cheap to implement, it means working is always financially beneficial (as wages don’t replace benefits), it lifts the very poorest out of poverty, it encourages people to take part-time jobs to ‘top-up’ their income, economic activity would be distributed over a broader section of society, and not concentrated in the hands of the wealthy.
It would be funded by increased income taxes, in the UK it has been estimated that to provide a £360 Citizen’s Income for everyone would require a 7% increase in the rate of income tax – but everyone earning around £30,000 or less a year would be better off overall.
2 – Gross National Happiness
Why do we measure our progress using gross domestic product ? GDP simply tells us how much money is being spent in an economy, not on what it’s being spent, or whether anyone is happier as a result. GDP includes consumer debt, money spent of weapons or harmful addictions etc, but omits things without a direct financial value, such as time spent playing with children, nature or healthy social communities.
As an alternative the concept of Gross National Happiness, a sort of wellbeing index, has emerged – the idea being that societies should focus on improving the gross happiness of citizens, rather than just GDP. GDP’s critics argue that it is simply the wrong target to aim for, and we should instead aim to improve our quality of life. Perhaps we should seek growth in GNH, not GDP.
The idea was first coined by the King of Bhutan in 1972, with many countries now producing some form of wellbeing index.
3 – Contraction and Convergence
If the world is to achieve a level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that allows a safe and sustainable global climate, a figure for global emissions will have to be set. Contraction and convergence provides a framework by which current emissions may fairly be reduced to this safe level, and divided equitably between everyone on the planet.
The idea is ultimately that emissions quotas are allocated to countries on the basis of population, thus allowing equal emissions per person. Obviously this is a very different situation from that which currently exists, so various transitional arrangements will be required.
The idea was first put forward by the Global Commons Institute, prior to the climate conference in Kyoto in 1997.
4 – Pay it Forward
The basic idea behind pay it forward, is that rather than having someone pay you back for a good deed or favour, they do a similar good deed or favour to someone else instead. Instead of ‘paying it back’, it’s ‘paid forwards’.
Various forms of the concept exist, one, a sort of virtuous pyramid scheme, by doing good deeds for two people and asking them to repay the good deed each to two others, an ever expanding cascade of good deeds takes place.
The earliest recorded usage of the idea was in an ancient play written in 317BC, but various other proponents have postulated similar ideas since, including Benjamin Franklin and Ralph Waldo Emerson. It also formed the basis of a recent book and film.
5 – Collaborative Society
Collaborative consumption is the idea that rather than everyone needing to own one of everything, we collaborate as small communities or groups in order to share – ladders, bread making machines, hedge trimmers, lawn mowers, electric drills, vans, tents etc are all frequently given as examples of things we often own, but sit around unused most of the time.
As well as collaborative consumption, the idea of collaborative design or production is also now gathering ground, with open source software, crowd funded projects or crowd sourced digital content becoming more widespread – Wikipedia being a good example. Why not extend this concept to actual production or provision of services, perhaps of locally produced food, childcare or similar.
The rise of collaborative systems really exploded with the arrival of the internet, making it easy to commute with like-minded individuals locally and around the world.
6 – Industrial Ecology
In natural ecological systems materials are constantly recycled in circular processes – the carbon cycle, the water cycle, the nitrogen cycle etc. Human industrial systems and processes, by contrast, are typically linear, with raw materials entering the system at one end and a combination of useful products and waste emerging at the other.
Industrial ecology is a term used for encouraging the adoption of ‘joined-up’ thinking and processes, to achieve a more circular economy, producing less waste and requiring fewer resources as a result by reusing and remanufacturing wastes from one industrial process in another.
Although industries have always sought to improve efficiency, the real origins of what is now called industrial ecology were in the 60s and 70s, with the term first being popularised in a paper in Nature in 1989.
7 – Local Currencies
There has been a rise of interest in local currencies, used to promote trade and services within a local area. Part of the idea is that local currency circulates much more rapidly (velocity of money) than national currency, as they are not seen as investment or financial instruments, and this promotes local economic activity.
Local currencies are promoted by the Transition Towns movement as a way of stimulating underutilised local resources, support local business and provide local jobs. The so called Totness Pound, being perhaps the best known UK example.
Historically one of the best known examples of a local currency was the example of Worgl in Austria in 1932, where an impoverished town council put in place their own currency in the hope of revitilising the local economy. It is recorded as having been very successful until it’s banning by the Austrian Government in 1933, in fact now often being referred to as ‘the miracle of Worgl‘.
8 – Random Acts of Kindness
The idea behind the idea of ‘random acts of kindness’ is as old as history – performing selfless acts of kindness for strangers out of love, comradeship or compassion, with no expectation of reciprocity – making the world a nicer place in the process.
The phrase has now caught on globally, being referenced in a number of films and books, including Danny Wallace’s Join Me movement, and his book Random Acts of Kindness: 365 Ways to Make the World a Nicer Place.
The phrase is believed to have been coined by the American writer Anne Herbert, who supposedly wrote it on a napkin in a restaurant outside San Francisco in 1982.
9 – Slow Movement
The slow movement considers that the pace of life has become too fast and frantic, and characterised by more anger, more consumption, more greed and less connection, less community and less enjoyment. Their objective is to promote and support a return to a slower pace of life.
Slow food, in particular, is promoted as a more nutritious, sustainable, satisfying and ultimately enjoyable alternative to the rise of fast food. Similar ideas exist for slow parenting, slow gardening, slow investment, slow fashion and slow media.
The movement stems from Italy, from the protests featuring Carlo Petrini, against the opening of the first McDonalds restaurant in Rome.
10 – Debt Cancellation
At it’s most fundamental, wealthy people lending their spare money to poor people who need it, for which they charge them more money (interest) can be viewed as a means of keeping the rich rich and the poor poor, and for that reason was banned by many of the world’s religions as usury. The Old Testament also required that outstanding debts be regularly forgiven and slaves freed for the same reason, the so called time of Jubilee.
Many developing world countries are indebted to the rich world’s banks, often as a result of corruption by dictators or financing conflicts, and to such an extent that there is little prospect of them ever repaying the amount they owe. Several organisations consider this effective financing of the rich world by the poorest countries in the world immoral, and continue to campaign for a cancellation of the remaining debt.
The debt cancellation movement came to prominence after the Live Aid events of the mid 80s, leading to the international Jubilee 2000 campaign and the 2005 G8 Summit at Glen Eagles – unfortunately much of the debt still currently remains.
Photo by James Bowe, via Flickr