Because People Matter: Building an Economy that Works for Everyone [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Jurriaan Kamp
eBook Category: Business
eBook Description: Our economy is focused on growth and profit. In any given business, success is measured by the flow of money, not the interest of the people involved. In Because People Matter author Jurriaan Kamp tells us why there are better alternatives. Kamp argues that the world economy is not only based on money, but on human choices as well. It is those human choices that can promoted the change necessary to transform our current crisis into a healthier economy that serves everyone. He offers insight on subjects such as a new method of dealing with national income; a world trade based on reciprocity; money without interest; and the liability of shareholders and managers for negligence and environmental damage. Borrowing ideas from prominent economists, Kamp offers a coherent set of conditions for an economy in which it is the people who matter.
eBook Publisher: Paraview Press/Paraview Special Editions
Fictionwise Release Date: August 2003
The Indian novelist Arundhati Roy recently wrote an essay on the gigantic complex of dams in the Narmada Valley in India. Her story illustrates with painful precision the degrading way our modern world economy works. The Narmada project has already made millions of people homeless. Reservoirs have caused the disappearance of agricultural lands, and cattle have drowned. Soon another dam is to be completed and another two hundred thousand Indians will be driven away. Filled with outrage, Roy writes, "The mere participation in a debate over housing signifies a first step towards the suspension of every principle of justice. The forced relocation of two hundred thousand people in order to provide drinking water for forty million, or even entertaining the pretension that such a thing is possible -- there's something totally wrong with the scale at which this work is being undertaken. This is the mathematics of fascism. It causes stories to be strangled and details to be clubbed to death, and perfectly reasonable people become blinded by a misleading but brilliant vision."
Typical India. It seems so far away, like a story about another world where, unfortunately, other norms apply. But that's not what this is. I have become aware that the same "mathematics" is plaguing our own society. We're now in the midst of economic prosperity and fewer factories are being closed. But how long ago was it when thousands of people lost their jobs because of mergers or shutdowns? Granted, those people were not sent to their deaths, as the Indian country dwellers are; they're given a tidy sum of unemployment payments by way of the social security system. Yet the idea behind the calculation is the same: the worldwide domination of big money. In either case, the interests of the individual are not primary. The modern economy is far more likely to be based on the dutch "postergirl" Loesje's ironic comment.
How could human beings have created a system of trade and production in which human beings don't matter? That's the wrong question, many will hasten to respond. Free trade and the market economy are bringing prosperity to the farthest corners of the planet today. Prosperity in figures, yes. But if all those factors are added up -- factors that are not expressed in figures and that are precisely the ones having to do with this human quality of life -- there would be little or nothing left over from all this improvement. The economy serves the gross national product, the stock market and the shareholders. Behind all those institutes are human beings, of course, but their voices don't count.
Take the mantra of bigness. Business are becoming bigger and bigger because the globalization of the world economy demands it, because "bigger" is the same as "better." That's why your bank has changed names three times in the past ten years. That's why airline companies have to merge just to "survive." That's why "the biggest merger ever" has become the monthly refrain of the financial pages. These kinds of mergers may be in the interest of the shareholders, but they are not in the interest of people. Boards of directors can come up with very fancy calculations regarding scale advantages, but those calculations mention nothing about the frustrations that more and more employees are experiencing within these ever-expanding organizations. There's little different between these calculations and Arundhati Roy's "mathematics of fascism."
It's a peculiar world where fathers -- still almost always fathers -- deal with their companies as they would never deal with their own families, and treat the earth as they would never treat their own back yards. It's a peculiar world where housekeeping -- that's the definition of the word "economy" -- means something entirely different at the national level than it does at the level of the individual home. It's a peculiar world when we keep telling ourselves that all those abuses -- human rights violations, environmental pollution, child labor, stress -- are just unavoidable consequences of "progress," as if inhumanity were a condition for humanity.
Those multinational companies and international organizations, such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), don't just do whatever they like. They operate according to rules and principles that are consciously made and chosen. Free trade, gross national product, interest, debts, growth, productivity, efficiency -- all these concepts are formulated with care. The gathering of heads of state and governmental leaders at Bretton Woods in the United States in 1944, for instance -- when the IMF and the World Bank were created -- determined to a great extent how the world economy would develop up to the present day. This is often forgotten. We are not condemned to the present state of affairs; it is something we -- or at least those whom we have appointed for this task - - have chosen.
And that is why we can choose to take a new path. Agreements were made in the past, so there's no reason why we can't make new ones today -- new agreements with new, different, consequences, agreements that might bring about a new economy. I'm not talking about the new internet economy. The digital economy isn't based on anything new, nor does it regard the human individual as central. No, the search for an essentially new economy is still going on, and it's been progressing well. In the past five years, many interesting books have been published by authors who have carefully analyzed the shortcomings of current economic thought and procedures, and who are presenting new, pioneering visions of economic development. But it isn't only new ideas that are on the horizon. What is most promising is that those ideas are striking sympathetic chords in wider and wider circles. The mass protest during the meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle in November 1999 was illustrative. The demonstrators who went to Seattle were not mainly the well-known "professional" activists from organizations such as Greenpeace. There were priests, teachers, students, writers and especially fathers and grandfathers, mothers and grandmothers: ordinary people who threw themselves into the breach for an economy that has room for their values, ideals and longings.
In September 2000, the State of the World Forum was held in New York, always a fascinating encounter between the established order and representatives of the new way of thinking. And once again, the focus was on globalization. As it turned out, the established order had already been contaminated with the "Seattle virus." Whether it was the Thai minister of foreign affairs or the leading partner of the McKinsey consultancy, criticism came from unexpected corners of the galloping liberalization of world trade, in which fundamental human values are being irretrievably swept away. These kinds of opinions and analyses are forming the basis of the policy reform to come.
This book presents a number of ideas intended to support and further stimulate the development of a number of ideas. The book is not exhaustive. There is so much more that is leading in the right direction. But I have chosen a number of fundamental concepts which, when provided with new substance, could become the basis for new agreements for organizing the world economy. The ideas are the products of many brains. A few authors and institutes have been particularly inspiring to me. The work Redefining Progress breaks entirely new ground when it comes to calculating gross national product (see chapter 1). The new book by the Belgian banker Bernard Lietaer, The Future of Money, is an important contribution on the way to a humane economy (see chapter 2). With his horrifying analysis in The Grip of Death, the British author and teacher Michael Rowbotham opened my eyes to the fact that our whole economy runs on debts. And in his essay on Seattle, Paul Hawken showed me that you can be on the side of trade without having to support current international trade policy. The book ends with the ideas of the man who inspired its title, E.F. Schumacher. His Small is Beautiful could still serve as a bible for world economic reform.
The book is organized in two parts. The first part (chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6) deals with the economy at large -- trade, countries and businesses. We have influence on that economy -- indirect influence perhaps, but remember the former Prime Minister who called on people to show their anger. The second part (chapters 7, 8 and 9) deals with the small-scale economy of home and the workplace: how we ourselves decide how we work and how we consume resources, and what kind of growth we are aiming for in our lives. For if the focus in our daily lives is on human beings -- our neighbors -- this choice will ultimately reach the economy at large. It's simple: if we want people to matter, then they matter. It begins with a choice, for you and for me.
This choice brings me back to the outrage expressed by Arundhati Roy and the former Prime Minister of a leading Western European country, who pounded his fist on the table at the State of the World Forum in New York and said, "We must show our anger. Only when we show our anger will governments change their policy." He should know. But in order to get angry we have to know what we're talking about. We have to know what's going on in order to feel involved. You have to know what's going on to realize that you yourself are contributing to developments that you have carefully considered and regard with abhorrence. This is what happens to me when I read the story about the dams in India. I can no longer deny it; I take it personally. I, too, allow the World Bank to do whatever it pleases, carrying out its pernicious policy in developing countries. I, too, buy products from multinational corporations that violate human rights, or from companies that do less than they could to make their production sustainable.
I also accept that 200 of the biggest companies in the world together own more then 80% of the world population. Outrageous enrichment goes hand in hand with incredible pauperisation. What is the similarity between Zambia and the investment-bank Goldman Sachx, The Guardian recently asked? The answer illustrates the madness of the world economy. Zambia earns 2.2 billion dollars per year for its 25 million inhabitants. Goldman Sachs earns per year 2.6 billion dollars for its 161 partners.
As soon as you know what sort of damage is being inflicted by the globalization of the world economy as it is now developing, you can no longer deny your own complicity. As soon as you know that there are alternatives, you find yourself challenged to summon the courage to strive for renewal. That is why I am writing this book -- as the bearer of both bad tidings and good. You have been warned. Rotterdam, November 2000
Copyright © 2003 by Jurriaan Kamp