An Inclusive Economic Recovery for Canada

OUR PATH FORWARD

Many people, cities and countries are realizing that going back to “business as usual” is not desirable. From the Great Realization video1 that went viral worldwide; to the Canada-wide networks of Caremongering2 groups and neighbourhood pods3; to residents and Cities that are displaying great creativity and ingenuity4. People are showing how they want to shape the world.

London, Ontario has several examples of initiatives including our local version of the Caremongering Group5 and Neighbourhood Pods6. Plus, some originals including the Food Programs78 and free bikes for essential workers9 

As we transition from emergency response to recovery, hundreds of groups are coming together10 to work towards an inclusive economic recovery that would lead us all to a better normal. It is encouraging to see such a strong willingness to use this moment as an opportunity to implement policy11 changes that will bring our institutions, our economy and relationships closer to the values that we hold dear. 

THE FUTURE WE WANT

Mary Rowe in the webinar We Can Build Back Better12 with Andy Fillmore and Brent Toderian recorded on May 21, 2020, alluded to the desire paths13, the route chosen by people that weren’t part of the “official plan”. Right now, millions of Canadians are navigating uncharted territory and we are showing our desire paths to a world that is just and more resilient in the face of a global crisis. The most recent displays of this collective yearning for social justice are the peaceful demonstrations all across the country14 attracting thousands of people, including in London Ontario, in support of the #blacklivesmatter movement.

Another example is the National survey performed by Abacus Data15 last month that shows that 3 in 4 Canadians (75%) support implementing a wealth tax of 1% to 2% of the value of assets of Canada’s wealthiest people to help pay for the recovery. The same survey also shows that 8 in 10 Canadians (81%) believe that companies receiving government assistance should be required not to use foreign tax havens, and not use the money for excessive salaries, share buybacks, or increasing dividends, no longer allowing companies to decide how best to run their businesses.

There are many other examples. But the difference is this transition to a different way of doing business includes many proposals that may not be familiar to some of us. The fact that these proposals present conceptual differences from our conventional models might cause concern to a group that prefers to be cautious when trying new ideas and is even skeptical about the impact of such measures. We will show here that, in fact, many of these ideas and proposals are well-established, scalable, natural and positive.

I. Inclusive economy is not a new idea

In 1973, E.F. Schumacher published his book called Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered16 where he questioned never-ending economic growth and the ownership structure of big corporations. Two decades later, the book was ranked among the 100 most influential books published since World War II by the Times Literary Review. Glen Pearson17 uses a reference from an earlier time and certainly way more mainstream than E.F. Schumacher – one of the founders of capitalism from 250 years ago:

“[Adam] Smith intensely proclaimed that the effectiveness of the financial market worked when there was a rough equality between sellers and buyers and where neither one became overpowering enough to influence the market price.  More intriguingly for our purposes here, he affirmed that capital was best spent locally, since it permitted owners to see directly what was happening to their investments and the impacts at ground level.”

II. Inclusive economy is scalable

John Lewis Partnership (JLP)18 is a company with gross sales of over £11.7billion and a workforce of over 80,000 partners. If you work there you are a partner because this is an employee-owned business. And this is much more than just a title. They walk the talk at JLP.

First, the employees (partners) have decision-making power. The company has a bilateral governance structure made up of a traditional board of directors and a partnership council elected by the employees. The council appoints five out of the fourteen board members and there is a team responsible to ensure that the relationship between the two governing bodies is a healthy one.

Second, they are entitled to a fair share of the profits and a host of very attractive benefits. At the end of the year, all partners receive the same percentage of profit share ranging from 8% (worst year) to 24% (best year) of their annual income. Let’s say you make £30k/year and you get a bonus of 16% (average profit share). That means that at the end of the year you will pocket an extra £4,800. Another benefit is the pension plan that every partner is entitled to have after only three years of working at JLP. And the company’s contribution to the pension is not far below the annual pay. On top of that, there is a special fund dedicated to providing grants and loans for partners who are unable to work.

The ownership structure is the core aspect that allows all of this to happen. Needless to say that the company has a reputation for high-quality products, excellent job retention rates and the relationship among partners looks more like a tight-knit community than the conventional work colleague. It is normal to find whole families having full careers and being very proud of it. After all, they own the business, in every sense of the word.

III. Inclusive economy and cooperation is natural

The French sociologist Marcel Mauss19 studied archaic societies and after examining the reciprocal gift-giving practices of each, he finds common features in them, despite some variation. From the disparate evidence, he builds a case for a foundation to a human society based on collective (vs. individual) exchange practices.

Harvard Professor Martin Nowak20 who studies evolution using mathematical models goes even further and argues in his book SuperCooperators that cooperation is the third principle of evolution (along with mutation and selection) present since the origin of life itself. According to Nowak, cooperation underpins innovation and humans are the most sophisticated form of cooperators.

“Our breathtaking ability to cooperate is one of the main reasons we have managed to survive in every ecosystem on Earth… By cooperation, I mean more than simply working toward a common aim. I mean … that would-be competitors decide to aid each other instead.”21 

Nowak’s mathematical simulations show how cooperation is susceptible to fluctuations. It is undeniable that our history is riven with conflict. This is not about negating competition – what Nowak demonstrates is the significant role that cooperation plays in our world. 

“Many problems that challenge us today can be traced back to a profound tension between what is good for society as a whole and what is good and desirable for an individual.That conflict can be found in global problems such as climate change, resource depletion and poverty … [Those] cannot be solved by technology alone. They require novel ways for us to work in harmony.”22

IV. Inclusive Economy is Positive

The Preston Model23 is a well-known case of a city-wide community wealth building strategy described in the book The Making of a Democratic Economy24. In 2010, Preston, UK ranked very low in employment and well-being with one in three children living in poverty and considered the suicide capital of England. Fast-forward a few years and in 2018, on a study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Preston was named the most improved city in the UK and a better place to live than London, England.

At the core of its strategies to revitalize the local economy using a generative approach developed by the City Council were the focus on locally owned businesses and a social procurement policy that redirected the local spending contracts of anchor institutions going from 5% to 18% (a £75million increase).

THE ONLY CONSTANT IS CHANGE

COVID-19 took most of us by surprise and exposed many of the fragilities of our current systems. One thing that it showed us is that just because something never happened in the past doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future. It also showed us that we are capable of making different choices for the greater good.

We have the material resources and the knowledge to implement an inclusive economy. The last few months have shown us that we also have the will to put people and the planet first. Charles Eisenstein25 called this moment “a new coronation for all”. More change is underway and it is our opportunity to build back better.

This article was originally published at the London Poverty Research Centre @ King’s.

References

  1. Probably Tom Foolery: https://youtu.be/Nw5KQMXDiM4
  2. BBC News. Coronavirus: Kind Canadians start ‘caremongering’ trend. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-51915723
  3. Neighbourhood Pods for mutual aid – Resource Page: https://shapemycity.com/covid19/
  4. City Share Canada: https://citysharecanada.ca/
  5. Caremongering London, ON – Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/LondonCaremongering
  6. Urban League of London – Pods Hub: https://www.urbanleague.ca/neighbourhood-pods
  7. Global News. Food Bank, RBC Place, Y.O.U. partner up to provide bagged lunches to London’s vulnerable. Available at: https://globalnews.ca/news/6894121/food-bank-rbc-place-you-lunches-london-vulnerable/
  8. Canada Helps. Life*Spin fundraising – Covid-19 Community Food Box Program. Available at: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/lifespin/campaign/community-food-box-program/
  9. Big Bike Giveaway & Squeaky Wheel Bike Co-op. Free Bikes for Essential Workers. Available at: https://www.londoncyclelink.ca/freerides
  10.  https://justrecoveryforall.ca/
  11. First Policy Response. Available at: http://policyresponse.ca/
  12. Andy Fillmore. We Can Build Back Better. Available at: https://www.facebook.com/AndyFillmoreHFX/videos/474979649937142/?__cft__[0]=AZVRkSgNYA7Tcc22Bw02oafnVvL-AhQHQoO_V4WFfGAy8TEdqx17c4DVP3OKXvvIzIhRYmjKa0m8-F7CHXlqY67-57U7cDoqKqaAQJJLMo0ACeHLbLEZFDF-t0HXsGrZ8Cmymc0YhHT4yhPvj11Cs_G2o-naxz175J0LVZ8hKHnwyGWDHC7BLqj6M4ikzfrhae4&__tn__=%2CP-R 
  13. Wikipedia. Desire Path. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desire_path
  14. CBC News. Anti-black racism protests, vigils take place across Canada. Available at: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/canada-anti-black-racism-protests-solidarity-rallies-1.5601792
  15. Abacus Data. Canadians want a recovery that is ambitious, fair, and makes the country more self-sufficient. Available at: https://abacusdata.ca/what-kind-of-recovery-broadbent-institute/
  16. E.F Schumacher. Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Matteredhttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1117634.Small_Is_Beautiful
  17. National News Watch. Canada’s Economic Achilles Heel is Now Exposed For the World to See. Available at: https://www.nationalnewswatch.com/2020/05/20/canadas-economic-achilles-heel-is-now-exposed-for-the-world-to-see/
  18. John Lewis Partnership. Employee Ownership. Available at: https://www.johnlewispartnership.co.uk/work/employee-ownership.html
  19. Marcel Mauss. Essai Sur Le Don: Forme et raison de l’échange dans les sociétés archaïques. (1925) Available at: https://anthropomada.com/bibliotheque/Marcel-MAUSS-Essai-sur-le-don.pdf
  20. New York Times. Book Review – SuperCooperators. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/10/books/review/book-review-supercooperators-by-martin-a-nowak.html
  21. Martin Nowak. Supercooperators: The Mathematics of Evolution, Altruism and Human Behaviour {Or, Why We Need Each Other to Succeed}. (2011). https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9411155-supercooperators
  22. Ibid.
  23. CLES – The National Organization for Local Economies. How we built community wealth in Preston. Available at: https://cles.org.uk/tag/the-preston-model/
  24. Marjorie Kelly, Ted Howard. The Making of a Democratic Economy: Building Prosperity For The Many Not Just The Few. (2019) https://www.ademocraticeconomy.org/
  25. Charles Eisenstein. The Coronation. Available at: https://charleseisenstein.org/essays/the-coronation/

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