How, on Earth?

I’m very much looking forward to attending a talk this Thursday, entitled Is the Post Growth economy already here? By Donnie Maclurcan, executive director of the Post Growth Institute. He’s coming to my city as part of a UK-wide tour promoting a new book he’s co-writing with Jennifer Hinton, co-director of the same Institute.

Cover of the forthcoming book

Cover of the forthcoming book

This book is called How, on Earth? Flourishing in a not-for-profit world by 2050, and will be published in April next year. You can pre-order it here. The book centres around the concept of the not-for-profit enterprise, which earns money to pay for its resources and to pay all employees a fair wage, but reinvests any profits straight back into its social cause, or into improving the enterprise, rather than letting them accrue to shareholders.

If you fail to see how a profit-less model could possibly be a good thing, you might need a bit of background. The Post Growth Institute is an international organisation committed to the promotion and inspiration of a post-growth economy. What the hell is that? Well, it’s an umbrella term for any economic model that comes after our obsession with never-ending economic growth has broken down. The thing is, infinite growth is impossible on a finite planet. Especially when that planet has a fast-growing population, most of which doesn’t even yet have a decent standard of living, and all of which expect a greater standard of living as time goes by. Especially when that planet already has a wide range of serious environmental problems, most significantly critical climate change, devastating biodiversity loss, and resource depletion – as well as spiralling inequality and a very fragile global financial system. The thing is, economic growth has been stretched to the edge of its usefulness, and some now think it is making more problems that it’s solving. In other words, that it’s now uneconomic. Explore the “post-growth” category on this blog for more information, or look around postgrowth.org and steadystate.org.

How, on Earth? Puts forth an exciting vision of how we could live with what the authors call an “economics of enough”. The authors draw together evidence and case studies showing that around the world, not-for-profit enterprises are flourishing and in places even out-performing their for-profit counterparts, due to greater financial stability. They think this new business model holds the keys for dealing with our two huge challenges of financial inequality and environmental devastation.

For my part, I’ve always mused that profit seems to be kind of unnecessary. As long as all the costs are calculated accurately (including paying everyone a fair wage and investments in any new equipment etc) and covered – what else do you need?

Anyway, one of the authors, Donnie Maclurcan, is doing a speaking tour around the UK, covering London, Bristol, Totnes, Brighton, Norwich, Leeds, Inverness and Findhorn. You can see the schedule here. Most events are free or for donation. If you’re interested in the sound of the book I would really recommend going. I’m going to the Brighton event this Thursday and I’m very excited about it. As I said, the title is Is the Post Growth economy already here? Which is quite intriguing, because my initial response would be “nope, not a chance”, but I’m sure I’ll have a much more nuanced view come Friday. All the talks have a slightly different topic, by the way.

Although I don’t see that the post-growth economy is here yet, I do genuinely think it’ll be here soon. It’s true that a full-on challenge to growth-obsession is still pretty niche, but the social enterprise movement, the popularity of the co-operative business model and a growing dissatisfaction with the political status quo all show me perhaps at last the tide is turning.

I’ll let you know what inspirational knowledge-gems I can harvest for you on Thursday.

 

5 thoughts on “How, on Earth?

  1. Tegan, I don’t see a not for profit business model in the near future, although I wish I was wrong. I do agree large profits are not necessary. Having enough to pay a livable wage, reinvestment in the business etc is enough, at least for me. Having said that, I don’t see the mindset of the current CEO’s today wanting to give up the power that comes with their money any time soon. As a result I work in community projects to challenge the average person. When enough “average” citizens refocus their energy on family everything else will fall into place and the CEOs and politicians will have to follow suit.

    1. I agree, CEOs are unlikely to give up their power willingly. Not-for-profit enterprises are springing up all over the world, and actually out-performing for-profit companies at times. However I think this new model will co-exist with the current profit-driven one for quite a while… Slowly growing. I hope it grows quickly! :)

  2. We need a Social Revolution whereby we share our attributes within our community..
    There is no need for anyone to go hungry when supermarkets throw countless items away.. Food Banks are relying on donations from those who are givers.. Yet Big business throw away.. Skills of those jobless can be utilised, So many ways in which when we learn to PULL together as a Unit we overcome diversity.. But so many still live within their separate boxes, afraid of giving, afraid of asking, for fear of Greed taking too much of what is theirs… And yet at the end of the day… We own nothing!.. For its all on lone… We come with nothing and go with nothing… So much toil to accumulate.. ‘THINGS’ most of which we can live without..
    I hope in the future people learn to live together in environments which bring such sustainability into their lives, so that ALL THRIVE and not just the chosen few..

  3. This sounds to be an interesting talk.. A great subject and I would think a very interesting future book to read.. I hope that in the future we will release the need of Greed, and see how its more beneficial in co-operation and sharing.. Learning what is important such as Food, sustainability and conserving our environment..
    I just hope there are many more like you my friend who show such interests in such matters as we older generation appear to have made a hash of caring for our ‘Earth’… Let us hope future generations get to grips with these concepts and put them into action..
    Bless you..
    Sue x

    1. Thanks for reading and for your thoughtful comment, Sue.
      I think greed is a natural human response to perceived scarcity, and to social insecurity. And in much of the world it’s also treated as a virtue in neoliberal economics, where it’s called “rational self-interest”. It’s such a shame, because I believe we humans also have a huge array of much more positive characteristics such as empathy, compassion, insight, co-operation, and the thirst for knowledge. I hope we can build a new economic model which is centred around these virtues instead. X

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