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Christian Felber began his lecture by emphasizing that we shall never think there is no alternative to the mainstream economy as plenty of alternatives exist. Although not all alternatives he mentioned can be regarded as overarching approaches, they are covering specific aspects in greater detail. Two examples of overarching approaches that focus on the general framework would be “The Economy for the Common Good" and "Doughnut Economics".
When characterizing the Economy for the Common Good (ECG) Felber used an interesting approach. A main characteristic of the ECG compared to the mainstream economy is that the ECG requires clarity about values, objectives and means. Furthermore, the ECG has a pluralistic approach to property and aims to find effective ways to limit consumption by environmental regulations.
The ECG can be implemented in real life in almost all fields, including public facilities or university courses. For this, innovations and a democratical process are required. The economy needs to be integrated both into human societies and the ecosphere. The human society is a subsystem of the ecosphere, and the economy is yet another subsystem of human societies, thus both are deeply embedded in the ecosphere, which is what is not being taken into account in mainstream economics
Deviating from the textbook definition of the economy with profit-maximizing as the main goal of economics, Felber emphasized that not only the needs of the individual person but of both the living and future human generations have to be taken into account. Moreover, democratic values and planetary boundaries have to be considered. The idea of the ECG is not new. Since Aristotle, there has been a consensus that economic theory and practice need to be limited by a certain overarching goal, such as the common good.
A characteristic of the ECG is the different measurements of economic success. Thus e.g. the Common Good Balance Sheet should be used as a complement to the currently used balance sheet with the Common Good Matrix as the basis. As transparency is very important, the fulfillment of the requirements of the Common Good Balance Sheet are measured in terms of Common Good credit points ranging from 0 to 1000 when summed up. According to the ECG movement enterprises with high scores should receive monetary incentives such as lower tax rates or lower interest rates granted by banks for loans. The ECG can be considered as a new approach to tame and humanize capitalism, deepening the tradition of a social market economy by linking economic activities with well defined constraints tailored to the common good. Thus the ECG is conceived as a transformation of existing capitalism binding it to basic human values and constitutional principles. This will not bring about paradise yet but it would result in progress in many fields of life. As example the common good matrix relies on criteria such as democratic participation of workers in enterprises, fair salaries, human dignity or excluding child labor from supply chains.
The ECG consists of many elements such as cooperation before competition, limitation of inequality, a solidarity income, money as a public good, reduction of working time, ecological human rights, sovereign money and democracy. It has a global dimension and demands an ethical world trade with preferential treatment of poor countries. Today about 3.000 companies support the ECG and apply the Common Good Balance Sheet.
At the end of his lecture, Felber explained the method of systemic consensus building in practice by letting us vote on the the issue of the determination of maximum and minimum wage.
Finally the ECG movement has developed rapidly in the last years and hopefully will grow further in the future based on engagement by volunteers, supporters or other members.
We are of the opinion that the principles of this approach are widely accepted as a lot of people in our society are tired of overconsumption and working conditions. Therefore the Common Good movement is likely to grow further in the future. Despite the widespread need of more direct participation of citizens in politics today, most of representative democracies do not comply with this request of participation and might be improved by involving the citizens in economic conventions at all government levels. From our point of view it is very important - as in our times many companies attempt greenwashing – that the companies' success and behavior is measured through appropriate measures and checked by external auditors. The Common Good Balance Sheet seems to be an appropriate instrument for this purpose. In conclusion, we think that the ECG is an alternative to our current form of capitalism as a new and more human form of organizing economy which will lead us on the right path to comprehensive sustainability including the social, economic and ecological dimensions.
Based on the lecture "Economy for the Common Good + Systemic consensous building" by Christian Felber during AEMS 2022.
Written by: Thomas Benedikter and Christian Hübl