Lessons about the economy, once hard to take in during a time of stability, suddenly become glaringly obvious as countries around the world struggle to respond to the Corona virus pandemic.
Private health-care organisations, and public ones trying to emulate them, focussed on profits in the near term, saw no need to stockpile respirators or health-care protection devices. Governments, intent on backing corporations, saw no need to provide health care to the poorest.
The same governments, entranced by the profit-making machinations of the corporations, saw no need to step in and demand they curb their extractive, depleting methods, or to cease passing on negative effects of their operations to society.
The same corporations saw no need to support the people in the country in which they operate, only their duty to extract as much profit as possible to pass on to shareholders and top executives. They saw no need to pay taxes in that country and they set up headquarters offshore.
Citizens bought into the ethic “get a job and work, or suffer” is the way we do things here”. Those with jobs hung onto them as the only economic lifeline available to them. They saw no need for an economic system that provided for all.
As the pandemic hit, the government saw the need to provide heath care for all to stop the spread of the virus. The corporations saw the need for a government bail out and saw the country they registed in for tax purposes was unable to help.
And as corporations axed workers, citizens realised the security they felt from chasing and hanging on to their jobs was all the time tenuous and dependent on the firm they work for having customers who bought their products. Governments saw the point of people having money in their pockets to purchase products. Without that, no corporation can function.
Maybe for the first time in a long time, people started to see the economy was based on people buying things they did not really need whilst many worked all hours and still could not meet their basic needs.
Suddenly messages like “for the many not the few” and the ideas of socialism seemed to make more sense.
Alternatives to modern-day neo-liberal capitalism have been waiting in the wings for hundreds of years to come on stage, for people to see their potential.
Are there some relatively easy steps we can take now to ease our economic problems and at the same time lay the foundations for the future economy?
This is where the adjacent possible comes in. The adjacent possible is something that we can more or less do now, it is a transformation or addition to something we have now and it would start to work immediately.
A new market for labour
Markets have their downsides, especially painful in times of stress. People who need things that are produced cannot pay for them. People need jobs but there are none. People want to feel they are included in society but they are not.
This is where the State Employment Agency comes in. It is state-run and anyone without a job is enrolled in it. Even if you cannot work. The Job Agency provides not only workers to essential services but helps charities find volunteers. There is always something, somewhere people can help out.
Of course, charities cannot pay wages. If you are enrolled in the Agency you get a Universal Basic Income Guarantee. In times of stress it means the Agency is able to deploy people to help out where people are needed: in health care, in farming, in social care. Everyone gets a basic income and the organisations do not have to bother with employment and all that entails. A simple agreement signed with the Agency is enough.
Universal Basic Income Guarantee
The adjacent possible is to give everyone enrolled in the Job Agency a guaranteed income. The income needs to be enough to pay for the basics and woudl be adjusted to ensure everyone has enough.
The Guarantee – or BIG – replaces all social benefits, sickness benefits etc although extra benefits for example for the disabled would be available.
THe idea of BIG together with the Job Agency is to ensure at least two of the basics – an income and inclusion in society. With a BIG you are free to work with charities or to go where extra help is needed – for example during a virus outbreak.
The Continuity and Rationing Agency
The Continuity and Rationing Agency (CRAG) ensures that there is enough production capability to produce the basics. It does this though government ownded- companies and through contracts with private companies, cooperatives and commons initiatives.
In stressed times, CRAG guarantees purchase of all production volumes, introduces rationing and fixed prices.
In this way, the basics are available in sufficient quantities even when businesses would otherwise be unable to operate.
CRAG can deploy extra staff via the Job Agency in stressed times.
Download the concept paper for a deeper treatment of the the proposal.