European Common Goods
Let us try to reconstruct a socio-economic network based on the value to society of Common Goods.
Where do we start? With four clear and understandable steps
THE FOUR STEPS TO A COMMON GOODS SOCIETY
- Declaration of Common Goods at the macro and micro level of society
- A Common Good cannot be traded outside of the community
- The funds in the society are prioritised for protection of Common Goods
- A form of cooperative of members of the society has priority for funding and management of Common Goods
Common Goods are the framework for the transformation of society. They embody the effort of a community investing in its future, welfare and balanced growth and, since they are the lynchpin of collective spirit and endeavour, they cannot be sold out at whatever condition, but can be developed in order to enhance their value and to create further value for the community.
This is why they are a budget priority and are preferentially entrusted to cooperatives or popular shareholding companies.
This start brings us to another central social, cultural and household issue: jobs. Work has been for millennia a defining value of persons and of communities, but now it has been recklessly commoditised, gradually wrecking any sort of family, association and community. It is necessary to bring back this value and to begin precisely with jobs and therefore with companies.
They are the starting point from which to create balanced growth, provided that they:
- Engender a strong work ethic
- Pay decent wages
- Do not pollute
- Pay fair taxes
What does such a company need?
- A Vision and objective
- Competent individuals who are committed
- Access to investment
- Access to Markets
- Efficient Public Administration
Let us deal with these issues one at a time
The real entrepreneurs are those people who take risk in order to achieve their vision: a new product – the result of intuition, or systemic research work. But they must know that the field in which they operate is receptive and creative. Government must provide the guidelines – the long term policies for the country or region (the society) that enables the entrepreneur to make long term investment plans.
The business leader needs an indication of what industrial policy direction government intends to take, independent both of financial policy (e.g. currency) and fickleness to the next election.
An example of such an industrial policy (vision) is the establishment of a long-term energy efficiency policy that most governments have been considering. Such a policy involves the connection of the individual and local energy system and ultimately the countrywide capability to deliver an efficient society. Where governments have failed to date is in the establishment of long-term stable industries to serve such a policy. “Flat earth” implementation of policies, which have allowed low cost imports from countries that do not respect our social standards to destroy local industries that have provided employment and social benefits while serving society’s demands cost effectively and with quality products, is the major cause of the failure.
So what can we do to rectify this?
We need a vision that respects the values of industries in the microcosm as well as the macrocosm of society. It is these industries that deliver our taxes to support infrastructure.
At the macrocosm level we need to consider the relocation or re-opening of previously successful business to take advantage of corporate and technological knowhow and local strategic advantage (e.g. deepwater port). Our birthright has immense value. Our craftsmen and our teachers – as well as our resources – are an untapped wealth to the future of our society.
QUALIFIED AND MOTIVATED WORKERS
We have established the importance of our teachers and our leading craftsmen without whom we would not have achieved the quality of life of which we are proud. We need to invest more in education (not in general) that recreates specialist excellence and dignity for doing a good days work.
People should study that discipline that best suits them and attracts them, whether that be as a process worker, craftsman or medical practitioner. We need to ensure that excellence in any career is adequately financially rewarded.
In large companies, particularly those currently operating, it is important to overcome the dichotomy between the value of employees and the value to shareholders of corporate profits. For long-term corporate stability, we need active involvement in achieving shared benefits between business and workers. Short-term speculation is anathema to long term industrial stability. This means a profound transformation of trade unions, empowering their representatives in the evaluation and formulation of different financial and industrial strategies, as the German example suggests.
ACCESS TO INVESTMENT
A business venture cannot be successful, independent of the ideas and courage of the entrepreneur, without a means of access to investment. One option is to recreate the dual banking system based on commercial and investment banks. In this option it would be important to strengthen the role of cooperative and local banks in the banking system. These have stood alone in helping SMEs in times of crisis.
Of course we also need investment particularly from family funds with strategic interest in society as well as traditional venture capitalists. Ultimately the public bourses provide the opportunity for all citizens to invest in strategic growth businesses and the second and third bourses can provide an easy entry point for credible companies.
Products, manufactured in countries that respect social equity, will cost more than those from countries with a lesser system of social guarantees. The effect of buying cheap, which apparently benefits consumers in the short term, destroys the socio-economic structure of our communities in the long term. Local SME factories close or relocate, while large entities can have offices in tax havens and only outlets in the area. Even shopping malls, mostly not locally owned, transform the dealers into franchisees or employees of other brands and consequently destroy the social structure of the historic centres of many small municipalities.
We must therefore establish a proportion of the market place as a “protected market”. How is this possible while maintaining fair access to foreign goods? The answer is cultural and regional – we change the criteria by which we promote businesses and products to the advantage of the local USPs (Unique Selling Propositions).
The abundance of computers and the Internet allows traceability of almost all products.
We have to change the purchasing policy priorities by which suppliers are selected: local production sector, regular employment and fair salaries, pollution avoidance, price (in this order). This may not prevent product dumping but it enables the populace to be aware of the reality of where their money is destined to finish.
Infrastructure is what defines the quality of socio-economic life and, therefore, is included in the system of Common Goods. We must broaden the concept of Common Goods from natural elements and basic services to everything that defines good quality of community life: schools, hospitals, transport infrastructure (especially sustainable transport).
Infrastructure also includes the microcosm of services, supplies and cultural heritage – from museums to art galleries – local cuisine – heritage sites.
These microcosmic elements of infrastructure must be connected in a network to form part of the engine of socio-economic communities in which they exist. Through this network, creating value from our artistic and cultural treasures should ensure access for local products – not just Chinese copies.
EFFICIENT PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION
Fraud will always exist, and what we propose herein will not work without adequate controls. Corruption, so much a part of world government, can destroy all good work: our socio-economic structure and the possibility of being able to have and maintain a welfare state.
So laws and open government are an essential feature for a Common Goods society. But the laws must be in plain language and fair – for all.