A budget for sustainability and community

The budget we deserve?

I listened to George Osborne’s budget and Ed Milliband’s reply with dismay, not that I expected anything else, and thought to myself, “What might I or people with similar ideas have done?”  So, here are some ideas, uncosted, and maybe mistaken, for discussion.  Any comments? Similar posts?

Firstly, my goals would be to promote a rapid change to an economy driven by wellbeing for people and planet, one rooted in vibrant, resilient communities, not big corporations and big government. An economy that is essentially collaborative, not competitive. In particular, the goals would be to look after people and help them live lives that are modestly comfortable in material terms, very frugal in resource use but ‘wealthy’ in social and cultural terms.

I don’t want to restore economic growth and the kind of “healthy” economy that is causing the melting of the icecaps, extreme weather, mass extinction of species, rising food and energy prices, economic inequality, depletion of resources, and on and on. I don’t want to restore a dysfunctional and destructive economy.

Firstly, we could raise money generally through a financial transactions tax  on buying and selling stocks, currencies and other financial instruments (the Tobin or Robin Hood tax). Wouldn’t this damage the UK’s financial services industry? Yes, I hope so. It is very much too dominant now. Iceland found when they severely restricted their banks that a lot of bright young people became available for more socially productive enterprises!

Secondly, we could support the setting up of a network of community-owned banks, with the power to create money through loaning it into existence the way our commercial banks do now. They wouldn’t charge interest, but just have fees to cover their costs and a small profit to be used to support community needs.  These new banks would support local businesses, public services, community organisations, but guided by a mixture of social and environmental criteria: Does this activity reflect best environmental practice? Improve community wellbeing? Support those in need? The point here is to encourage wellbeing over financial performance.

We could provide support in financial and organisational terms for a range of community-based organisations and small businesses such as: repair, re-use and recycling centres for goods, clothing, furniture, etc. to reduce consumption, community energy companies that help with insulation, energy efficiency and also provide renewable energy, community transport and vehicle sharing, community exchanges for sharing goods and services of all sorts, local food and agriculture, caring services for children, elderly and others in need, community art, music, dance, celebration, festivals.  I’m sure there are a lot more possibilities here.

Finally, we could set up a volunteer ‘community corp’, like the President Kennedy’s ‘peace corps’  aimed especially at young and unemployed people. It would provide a basic income, and optional hostel accomodation for a workforce to serve the community. It would give them basic training in a range of skills to support the kinds of community enterprises above and also skills of communication, cooperation and handling conflict constructively.

Of course, these ideas aren’t what you hear from today’s politicians, business leaders and the media. Most mainstream ideas about money are illusions, clouding the collective minds of humanity. We get the budget we deserve. For the proposals above to be enacted by a Chancellor, it would be necessary for these illusions to be dispelled for a large part of the general public. Is that change beginning to happen?

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