The ultimate case of fiddling while Rome (and the planet) burns.
The Chancellor is today promising a ‘new economy’ – and even a ‘new age’ – in his budget speech, while simultaneously delivering a familiar package of tiny tweaks to the old economy that continues to drive a world of food banks, fuel poverty and climate change. What is needed is a revolution in how we understand the economy, its purpose, its goals and its role in delivering a very, very different future.
We are all familiar with the instructions given before every flight – that you should put on your own mask before helping a child with theirs. It often occurs to me that if a plane is about to crash from 30,000 feet worrying about adjusting one’s mask is a bit of a distraction. Right now we are all in a plane that is rushing headlong into a catastrophic crash. Our societal and planetary limits are being stretched to breaking point and instead of fixing the plane’s broken engines, our leaders are calmly telling us to put on our masks, take off our stilettos and brace ourselves for the ride.
Worse than that they are encouraging us to look after Number 1 – and metaphorically put on our own masks – pay fewer taxes, close the borders, cut the benefits bill and so on.
If the economy is on a collision course with destiny, what type of ‘new economy’ do we really need and how do we pilot a new route to get there?
Our current economic model has as its end goal the expansion of itself. The collective, productive effort of us all (and that is more or less what the economy is), is focused on growing more wealth, more consumption and ultimately more economic activity. It’s a bit like saying that the purpose of running is just to clock more miles on a pedometer rather than getting fit and healthy, or the purpose of eating is to consume more and more calories rather than to provide fuel for living.
We need an economy that is entirely focused on helping us all to thrive – now and for generations to come. What sort of society do we want – what do we want for our children, our friends, our neighbourhoods? If we picture that and then design an economy that delivers it then ‘progress’ looks very different to a simple GDP graph or an annual bulging ‘rich list’.
Picture an economy that is judged on its ability to deliver mental and physical health (not just a system to treat illness), education and learning for meaningful and fulfilling lives, affordable and sustainable homes, energy and food systems to provide enough for everyone to live with dignity, the lifelong care, support and connection we need to flourish and a treasured and diverse natural world.
Now THAT would be a ‘new economy’, and one that could avert our current collision course with unimaginable environmental and societal breakdown.
So today, as we listen to the same old headlines, about a tweak to the tax system, or a boost/cut (*delete as appropriate) to the funding for one department or another, let’s think bigger. This new wellbeing economy is already happening in pockets around the world and we and others have the tools and support all set to help plot this new route to the future. Let’s not allow ourselves to be distracted by those that would have us put our own needs ahead of the needs of others, or the planet, but instead put ALL our collective strength into first demanding and then delivering the truly ‘new economy’ that we and perhaps more importantly our children deserve.
Liz Zeidler, chief executive, Centre for Thriving Places
If you’d like to work with CTP to deliver this new economy today where you are – get in touch by emailing email@example.com