Friday, June 24, 2016

A Fair World, Co-operative Socialist Vision

Co-operative Economic Strategies for Sustainable, Respectful, Responsible Development:
Prosperity, fairly spread, within, and between, Generations
A Fair World, Co-operative Socialist Vision

John Courtneidge, The Fair World Project


Sustainable development requires not only raising the wealth, the equality of wealth sharing, and the well-being of a community, but has also to ensure that well-being processes sustain over time.

Accordingly, the five mechanisms that cause inequality (and which cause the consequential erosion of well-being) are discussed, and sustainable solutions for their eradication are outlined


There are five ways in which wealth leaks away from a community and cause inequality to grow, poverty to increase, and ecological damage to deepen.

Those five adverse mechanisms are:

  • Theft (of and from the Commonweal),
  • Rent, Interest, and Dividends (distributed Company Profits), and,
  • Unequal pay for work (including no pay for work).

If we are to help avoid such illness mechanisms, we need to have strategies that reverse all of these five mechanisms: each adverse mechanism needs a sustainable-wealth strategy to create a self-sustaining whole: one alone is insufficient, all together create an emergent, co-operative synergy.

Strategies for the minimisation of inequality, and maximisation therefore, of human, social, and ecological well-being

1) Abolishing theft from, and of, the Commonweal.
The most blatant way in which people, communities and environment are impoverished is by theft of shared community assets (‘the Commonweal’).

Theft of and from the Commonweal (the creation of ‘ownership’) is the precursor of the other mechanisms: on grand scales, the theft of Africa’s resources, the theft of England by William ‘the Conqueror’, and of North America, (and much of the rest of the planet) by his inheritors, are notable examples. However, the theft of the Trustee Savings Bank (the ‘TSB’ or ‘Penny Bank’) during Margaret Thatcher’s many piratisations (‘privatisations’), and imposed ‘Structure Adjustment Programs’ by the World Bank (sic) and IMF are some more recent examples.

The strategy for dealing with this probably includes the concept of ‘active co-operative stewardship by the community’, rather than delegated ‘representative’ ownership by state organisations (directly or by Quangos).

2) (Consequential) Land Issues (Rents and so on).
Local people are impoverished when local land-based resources are in the hands of external (and indigenous) owners. Such land resources are, both, within the local area (external landlords charging rents for local residential and business accommodation), and, also, external to the locality (external landlords selling food, energy and raw materials into the locality). These factors clearly need multiple strategies if wealth is not to be leached away from the area.

Of the many such strategies for avoiding such pit-falls, one action is the gradual transfer of local land-ownership into the local stewardship of local land trusts, probably constituted as Community Co-operatives: each of which would then lease local land resources, on a limited-term, needs-justified basis, to local co-operative businesses.

In their turn, these local co-operatives would then pay local corporate (co-operatives') taxation (and rent, perhaps), to the local community trusts and/or Co-operative Community Banks, to make local community development possible, and, also, to make grants to more those in need elsewhere (including, perhaps, Citizens’ Incomes: see below).
Local food growing, sustainable public transport, and materials’ re-use are also worthy of local action. Recent developments in 'urban agriculture' merit investigation, as do local recycling schemes for materials' and energy recovery, and rail-based, solar-electrically-powered transport.

Likewise, local co-operative housing and co-operative co-housing strategies retain local housing rents, along with the benefits of local stewardship of the local environment.

3) Interest and for-profit banking and financial systems: 'The For-profit Money-Lender Issue'.
The Jubilee 2000 activities (and so on) have shown the pernicious effect of the debt-plus-interest spiral. These wealth-sapping mechanisms act both upon, and within, communities, creating inequalities in both wealth-creation and in individual-, social- and ecological-wellbeing.

Local interest-free credit creation, through local, public service Community Banks (probably operated as Community Co-operatives – see below) are clearly called for.

At the individual level, interest-free credit unions are inclusive structures (interest-based variants are not available to certain ethical and religious groups and, moreover, charging interest on lent money and created credit is socially iniquitous and ecologically destructive: see, for example, links and ‘Papers’ section at ), while not-for-profit, commercial credit for co-operative businesses (and local public services – perhaps run as community co-operatives) can be delivered through the not-for-profit, Co-operative Community Banks referred to above.

4) Dividends (Distributed Company Profits): The ‘For-profit Employer’ Issue.
Local employment by both local and non-local employers is a prime route to local impoverishment (through global and local inequality). Moreover, external investment and local development only lasts as long as local profits are possible, and when these evaporate, jobs and wellness go.

This suggests that local investment by the community, for the whole community's benefit, but within a global, co-operative consciousness, is the antidote.

Local worker- and whole-community co-operatives are clearly the answer (for work in the market-sector and the monopoly-sector respectively). If these co-operatives carry out Annual Co-operative Audits (to show their fidelity to the Seven Co-operative Principles of the International Co-operative Alliance) community well being (through response to the Seventh ICA Principle) will be ensured.

5) Unequal pay (and no pay sometimes) for work: ‘The Fat Cattery Issue’.
If local (and external) workers come into an area demanding higher than average wages, salaries and perks from the work in that area, then immediate resentment and long-term impoverishment follows.

One strategy for dealing with this is to measure the spread of local incomes, and, so, make sure that non-resident workers receive local wages (perhaps supplemented by their travel costs to and from work).

At a deeper level, inequalities of income are socially-divisive, ecologically-damaging and the source of innumerable consequential ills (recorded, for example, in Richard Wilkinson’s books: see below).

Accordingly, individual incomes need to be set (and guaranteed) within a fairly narrow range: with an impassable lower level and an equally impassable upper level (this is the place for open, democratic decision-making: a true politics, perhaps).

This latter point probably requires a host of new thinking as regards income: with mechanisation, and so on, the link between work and income becomes increasingly absurd. Ideas such as Guaranteed Basic Income, ‘free at the point of use’ social services (an extension of the Public Library idea), etc, become necessary.

Future generations might even conclude that a greater part of the economy could just as well be run on a no-money basis: the economics of love and friendship replacing the present economics of ownership and exploitation, perhaps?


a) Theft from the Commonweal, the payments of Rents, Dividends and Interest, and Income inequality, generally, are all corrosive of individual, community, ecological and global well-being.

(This is because they all lead to financial and functional inequalities that are of benefit to no one: rich, poor and middle income humans, non-human species and global sustainability, alike.

Richard Wilkinson's books, for example, contain relevant epidemiological, sociological and psychological evidence for such analysis. See, inter alia, 'Unhealthy Societies', Routledge, London 1997; ‘Mind the Gap’, Weidenfield and Nicholson, London 2000; and ‘The Impact of Inequality: How to make sick societies healthier’, The Free Press, New York and London, 2005.)

b) Inclusive, co-operative structures – explicitly and demonstrably operating according to the Statement on The Co-operative Identity (The International Co-operative Alliance, Manchester 1995) - maximise local wealth creation, and ensure that prosperity is not only sustainably created, but is evenly spread: within and between generations.

c) By working on each of the five mechanisms that create inequality, the present ‘economics’ of ownership and exploitation might (will?) one day be replaced by a true economics (‘oikonimos’: ‘the care of the household’), based on the values and practices of love, care, co-operation, equality, and friendship.

Accordingly it is clear that, without strategies to ensure 'prosperity, fairly spread', individual, social and environmental poverty, illness and degradation will always be with us.

But, with work to 'build-in' income equality, created by long-lived wealth-creation and retention structures, sustainable development becomes truly sustainable:

- A world, in other words, of locally created, locally determined, internationally-related, globally-responsible practical co-operation: the economics of truth, peace, love and friendship.

John Courtneidge
For The Fair World Project
Formerly: 903-65 Halsey Avenue Toronto Ontario Canada M4B 1A7
Now: Flat 10 Coleridge House, 79 Bromley Road, Beckenham, Kent UK BR3 5PA
January 2001 (Revised May 2007)

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