plenty good room

Economic inequality these days yawns as wide as ever. Capitalism has resulted in huge uneven balance of power, and ends up limiting imaginations and constraining life choices. It also harms the most vulnerable in society, who are often the most caring, like people looking after relatives on low incomes. The end result is that owners and investors win, but others don’t. What if we could become moral engineers who co-create the world we all deserve?

Plenty Good Room is a book on how we can create an economy of enough for everyone. Despite the image of right-wing politics being for more conservative and often Catholic voters and politicians, in fact leaving the poor to suffer is against the very nature of who Jesus was all about. The book lays out in clear terms, a more hopeful approach for a western world ravaged by caplitalism. If economic inequality and racial injustice (not to mention harm to the planet and animal welfare) compel you to do something to change things, here are solutions for economic systems that offer plenty good room – not just for a few, but for all.

Major political parties all focus on the backwards philosophy of ‘economic growth’ (described by ecological writer Satish Kumar as ‘buy, buy then throw away’). We are a finite planet, and we can’t keep making stuff that we can’t get rid of to buy new things, just to make shareholders happy. We have catastrophic climate change heading our way (already seen recently with wildfires and heatwaves), yet vested interests means MPs still bang on about reducing climate rules, to help get their seats elected next time. Also read how a basic income could end poverty.

All the main parties are pretty uninspiring, and as none of the big parties want fair votes, it will take a big movement to get some different parties in (the reason they don’t want it). The Green Party has some good policies, but even they are obsessed with Green New Deals, rather than protecting nature and living simply. In fact, the most powerful way we can make change is to collectively buy less, do less and this in turn will ‘make the big fall’ to make line for something else. MPs can force us to do a lot of things by law – but they can’t force us to live consumerist lives and buy crap, to suit them!

Economic growth is something we all hear about if we turn on the news. All MPs are banging on about how we need ‘growth’. And when growth begins to form, it’s good. And if growth stops or reduces, it’s bad. Of course, the truth is the other way around. Economic growth is measured by something called GDP (Gross Domestic Product). In simple terms, it’s the balance sheet of our economy. We need money coming in (growth) in order to pay for things the government pays for. But this no longer works. Because we have a finite planet.

Economic growth depends on people buying stuff all the time (hence advice to ‘shop and support our economy). But that means buying goods often made abroad that are shipped here (often made by poor workers and with bad animal welfare records) to use a few times, throw away and then you buy again. Economic growth is ‘good’ if we have lots of ill health (builds more hospitals that increases GDP) and lots of crime (build more prisons) and we chop down forests to sell toilet paper and increase revenue of companies cleaning up oil spills. Etc, etc.

At the moment, the entire global economy seems to be built on the model of digging things up from one hole in the ground on one side of the earth, transporting them around the world, using them for a few days, and sticking them in a hole in the ground on the other side of the world. George Monbiot

MPs don’t want zero economic growth, because it means they will have to think outside the box. Even Labour and the Lib Dems are obsessed with economic growth. Which is why we’re in such a mess. Greens are less obsessed, but still think building wind turbines everyone and creating ‘Green New Deal’ projects is the answer. Of course the answer to save the planet is to encourage people to live simply and sustainably, and create more localism: walkable communities, indie shops that sell food from local farms, community solar panels to provide free energy for towns, local currencies and credit unions etc. But none of that helps those in power to stay in power.

Conservatives in particular believe in ‘trickledown economics’ which also never works. Economist John Kenneth Galbraith said this theory (of cutting taxes for rich people to provide jobs for the ‘little people’) ends up with ‘If you feed enough oats to the horse, some will pass through to feed the sparrows’. We’ve had this policy for decades. And all that happens is that the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.

alternatives to Gross Domestic Product

coral bay Whistlefish


Canadian economist Mark Anielski (who brought in a Happienss Index in Alberta) puts health, environment and happienss on a par with economics. If you think ‘that sounds nice’ read his book! It’s similar to the Happiness Index, a worldwide ranking that does not just look at money.

Although the UK and USA are near top in GDP terms, in the Happiness Index, we dive to around number 45. The top countries then switch to Costa Rica (which gave up its army years ago to spend money on protecting rainforests and education) and most of Scandinavia). People there are looked after by the state from cradle to grave, and people even trust their governments! 

A similar kind of philosophy is overseen by the King of Bhutan. This tiny kingdom is not a democracy, but the Buddhist king does all he can to make his subjects happy. That has included banning things he thinks are bad for happiness including plastic bags, tobacco, coca-cola and billboards!

When GDP was first introduced, it was useful as a measure, to figure out how to tax the British and American people for the war effort. But there’s a flaw. We’re counting things like car crashes, cancer, divorce as climate change impacts as contributions to the economy, when those expenditures are not contributing to wellbeing. It’s a bad calculator that only knows how to add, doesn’t subtract and violates basic accounting principles. Which I know because I have an accounting background. So we have a very flawed income statement, to judge the progress of countries. Mark Anielski

I have three priorities for our economy: growth, growth and growth. Liz Truss (former Prime Minister)

Women will be at the heart of our plans for economic growth. Rachel Reeves MP (Shadow Chancellor)

how to create more compassionate economies

beloved economies

Beloved Economies is a book that looks at how to co-create alternative economies that work for all. It’s an American book but the ideas translate well here, as both areas could do with moving away from pure capitalism for fairer distribution of wealth, and a healthier happier way of working. Because it’s clear the the status quo only benefits the few.

Based on five years of data, this book offers seven practices for people who are part of teams (businesses, nonprofits, farms, after-school groups to build more purposeful economies that build trust, share power, seek meaningful difference and improve relationships. Big change does not require armies of economies nor even a degree, just the mission to show up each day, with a vision for a better tomorrow. ‘Work’ can work for us all, and build an economic future good for everyone.

Jess Rimington is an economy strategist who worked for 10 years in the non-profit sector and has served as a visiting scholar at Stanford University. As a fourth-generation small business person, she focuses on helping to inspire the imagination of others to step out of current systems to transform their mindset. She lives in the USA, where she and her husband steward a regenerative farm.

Joanna Levitt Cea has worked in community-driven efforts to stop destructive investments harming local people and ecosystems, and has also been a visiting scholar at Stanford University. She lives in Hawaii.

the Biblical version of Sabbath economics

Sabbath economics

Sabbath Economics offers a vision of a world where we live with gratitude and accept our limits, and forgiveness is not just a spiritual matter, but a practical reality for systems of debt and ownership. This concise powerful collection of essays grasps the nettle of Biblical stories and parables we prefer not to take literally, revealing an ancient standard of social justice waiting to be revived. Ched Myers is an activist theologian who has worked in social change movements for almost 40 years. With a degree in New Testament studies, he is popular educator on faith-based peace and justice.

You don’t have to be religious to realise that Sabbath economics makes sense. It’s influenced by stories from the Bible, knowing that our world has enough for everyone (we waste three times more food each year than is needed to feed all the world’s hungry) and if we live within our limits, there won’t be the huge disparity between rich and poor. Consider companies not protecting the (often very poor) residents of Grenfell Tower, which lies in one of the most affluent areas on earth, with billionaire mansions nearby. ‘Forgiveness of debt’ is also a Biblical principle.

If you think that religion does not care about the poor, this is not true, it’s more ‘religious politicians’ that pretend to care, then bring in laws that often kick the poor and disabled and vulnerable further down the rungs of the ladder, so it’s harder for them to get up. Nearly all the government cabinet are millionaires, yet often actually vote to cut benefits for the poorest in society (and often the disabled). And yet some  promote themselves to be of deep faith. We can all assume that Jesus Christ would not have voted to cut benefits for the most vulnerable in society, especially in order to ‘keep inflation low’ or use money saved to buy weapons.

A few years back, 70 ‘leading Catholics’ actually wrote to Iain Duncan Smith, asking him to rewrite policies to be more in line with Christian values, as Tory policies were having devastating effects on the poor. It was also discovered that the Department of Work & Pensions were actually publishing fake testimonies of claimants ‘enjoying their benefits cuts, yet in the 3 years during that time, almost 3000 people died just after ‘work capability assessments’ declared them fit to work’. The controversy was found when readers noted a ‘fake claimant’ happily relaxed after ‘losing 2 weeks benefit’ for not completing a CV in time to find work. People on low incomes noted that losing 2 weeks benefit would likely result in people not being able to eat (taking months to get back to where they were). Proving that those in power have no idea, how people on the bottom of the financial rungs struggle.

The issue is often that government is so focused on creating tax cuts for people who are better off, that benefits are then squeezed.  It’s believed that if the Chancellor uses windfalls to cut tax for the well-off rather than helping those who have been squeezed already with benefit cuts, the so-called ‘Red Wall’ Tory MPs will all revert back to Labour or Lib Dem at the next election.


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