“Current economic orthodoxy”, says Christian Felber, “confuses means and ends. It says we should strive for the accumulation and maximisation of money and capital, but they are the means, not the ends……The end is the common good.”
He proposes a new approach to economics, putting the system on a new course. Key to this new economy is moving from evaluating the ‘means’ to assessing the ‘goals’, and grounding them in shared values. It means redefining economic success. Indeed, one of the main objectives of his work is to demonstrate that there are alternatives to the current economic order.
Listing the values of the common good as human dignity, solidarity, social justice, ecological sustainability, democracy and freedom, he points out that many democratic consitutitions already contain a commitment to these values, but goals are not based on them.
These ideas are set down in his book, Change Everything: Creating an Economy for the Common Good (2015, Zed Books). Felber is magister philosopiae, Vienna and Madrid Universities, but this is not just an academic treatise, it has spawned a movement in Europe and Latin America, with local chapters taking action on a community level.
And as part of this movement there are already hundreds of companies, local governments and educational institutions striving to live by the new common good indicators, asking themselves if their products/services satisfy human needs? do they have humane working conditions? are their sales activities ethical?
Creating an economy for the common good will require a greater engagement from citizens than is expected in a representative democracy – there will be lengthy consultations and a demand to get involved in public interest companies, but Christian Felber insists there will be plenty of time to get on with your life.
So is this a utopian dream? Listen and make up your mind.