The old political economic model has crashed; grassroots democracy must be at the heart of the new, writes Maurice Macartney in the first of an occasional series.
For decades, the dominant political-economic model held that the best thing for Government to do was to ‘get out of the way of the markets’.
That model should have died after the global crash of 2008; but certain political leaders worked hard to put the economy back the way it was before, ensuring that wealth – and power – could be cranked back up, as fast as possible, to a relatively small number, while rolling out a colossal programme of public cuts for the many.
A decade of austerity and demagoguery, and one global pandemic later, the economy is crashing again. It is time we recognised this truth: the old economy lies in pieces; it is time for the new.
We cannot, must not, put the pieces back in the same way, with the gearing disproportionately directed vertically, cranking wealth and power upwards. Instead, we must direct the gears horizontally, so that the wealth that is generated in our towns and villages, our neighbourhoods, our workplaces, our communities, circulates around those communities, being amplified as it flows.
The new economy will not be the plutocracy that has dominated and divided us for decades, if not centuries; it will be a grassroots, democratic economy.
And luckily, this new economy is already here; it is already being built, already evolving in towns and cities and regions much like our own, in Cleveland, Mondragon, Preston, Emilia-Romagna, Quebec, North Ayrshire and Newham – to say nothing of the indigenous peoples all over the world who pioneered sustainability and community wealth building long before these terms began to gain traction.
The new economy is growing, too, in Northern Ireland: in the cooperative movement, in mutual banking, in repair cafés springing up in Belfast and beyond, a new movement towards building wealth in our communities is gathering momentum.
Happily, I will be finding out more about this on Monday, 22 March 2021, at 6:00pm, at the Imagine Festival panel event, ‘Creating a Fairer Society’.
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20 March 2021