What Kind of Economic Future Do We Want for Yorkshire’s Children?

What Kind of Economic Future Do We Want for Yorkshire’s children introduces Democratic Yorkshire’s ideas on future economic development in the county. These will be discussed more fully in the event of the same name on 3 August. Please follow the link to book.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/what-kind-of-economic-future-do-we-want-for-yorkshires-children-tickets-366847369357

Background

Times are hard, and like the rest of the world, Yorkshire faces ecological disaster.  On top of that, individuals, companies, and communities in the County are struggling in ways never seen before.  Some blame this on the pandemic, but it is not all the pandemic’s fault.  We all know that Yorkshire’s fortunes have been on a downward spiral for decades.

The current governance arrangements in the United Kingdom are nothing short of a farce.

Whitehall ministers and senior civil servants, organising things from the centre, have had their chance, and failed.  The basic needs and aspirations of ordinary citizens are being overlooked, while central government has become a revolving door providing access to a self-serving duopoly of representatives of mega multinationals conspiring with establishment politicians.

Central government exercises widespread control over devolved authorities and local government bodies.  It controls the finance for many local activities and seeks to micro-manage them resulting in even minor local decisions being made by Whitehall.

This makes puppets of devolved and local government authorities with Whitehall pulling the strings.

Central Government itself having become the puppet of large corporations and the banking elite.

The Challenge

Can we create an economy that cares for both the human spirit and our planet earth with well-being and happiness for all people?  Our materialistic and carbon-waste economy has created enormous inequality, the rich live lavish lifestyles while billions of others suffer in poverty, including huge numbers of people across our County. 

Relentless consumption has plundered the environment and sickened the earth.  Yet successive Governments have remained stubbornly obsessed by free market economics. 

At the heart of free market economics are three false assumptions about humanity and the world we live in:

One – people are self-centred caring only about themselves. 

Two – that consuming more means greater well-being.

Three – the environment exists for humans to use as they please.

The emphasis on increasing income and consumption by free market economists may be good for the banking elite and large international corporations, but for the rest of us it far too often leads to a cycle of frustration, disappointment, and despair, including serious mental health issues, as people are deliberately encouraged to attempt to keep up with the Jones’s or otherwise feel a failure. 

Is there a different model?  YES!

Democratic economics is based on three truths:

One – human nature is kind and altruistic.

Two – people are interdependent with each other.

Three – people are interdependent with nature.

We can escape the cycle of disappointment and despair that comes from endlessly chasing after money and wanting more.  We can use our awareness to enjoy life to the fullest without relying on consumerism.

In Democratic economics, economic performance means delivering wellbeing for everyone not just delivering more income for the rich.

When the rich add even more to their income, they buy bigger houses, cars, and yachts.  When low-income families have more money, they spend it on getting by.

Society is better off all round when we reduce status consumption by the wealthy and increase basic consumption by those at the bottom.

Democratic Economics shows us how to get off the materialistic treadmill and focus on the things that are important to us:  living consciously, meaningful lives and caring for mother earth and each other. 

A new level of thinking

As Albert Einstein famously observed: ‘The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.’

A fundamental shake-up is needed!

Participative-representative Democracy (PRD) combined with a sprinkling of Doughnut Economics could, we believe, bring about a radical turnaround from the social and ecological mess we have been creating for ourselves for some time now.

Participative-representative Democracy (PRD)

Participative-representative Democracy (or PRD) is an idea we are currently working with, put together by our partners at the Independent Constitutionalists UK, and we are most grateful for their support.

PRD is a formula already successfully tried and tested by Local Authorities in West Yorkshire particularly, in Housing Management, albeit often under another name.

PRD starts by local communities getting together to air their concerns and discuss potential solutions, if necessary, with specialist advice, and thereafter, wherever possible, taking the necessary action themselves.  Where local communities need to come together to pool resources or to take-up wider challenges, they do so through accountable representation with spokespersons feeding back to the local-community bodies they speak for and represent.

Expanding PRD across Yorkshire and into all public services would enable people to get involved, take control, and identify with what is being done, hence improving standards.

People would have real power over the decisions affecting their lives, be involved at all stages of the governance process: from coming forward with the initial proposals to final decisions, from policy implementation to follow-up monitoring & evaluation for effectiveness, not just locally but right up to the county level and beyond.                                           

Doughnut Economics

The brainchild of Kate Raworth, Doughnut Economics is designed to ensure that no one falls short on life’s essentials, while ensuring that collectively we do not overload our planet’s life-support systems

Kate is an English economist, Senior Associate at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, and a Professor of Practice at Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences.

Kate’s theory is presented in the shape of a doughnut.

Beyond the outer edge of the doughnut represents the potentially catastrophic ecological threats to our planet, some of which we have already begun to overstep.

The centre of the doughnut represents what Kate calls our ‘social foundation.’ This includes our need for decent housing, income and work, clean and affordable energy, an adequate food supply, fresh water, education, health care, and a political voice.

Amsterdam was the first area to model its future on Doughnut Economics principles.

Inspired by the power of the Doughnut and the example of Amsterdam, many grassroots initiatives all around the globe have set out on their own journey.  From Brussels to Berlin, Paris to Rio de Janeiro and even California to Barbados – the energy is spreading.  From the overall vision to a city, a county or even a whole country.

We believe that Yorkshire should do the same.

The environmental circumstances, needs and aspirations of the people living in each area varies enormously of course, there is no simple answer that fits all.  That is why it is essential for each of us to find our own solutions to our own priorities.

Tackling Climate Change

Here we use the example of Climate Change to demonstrate how Doughnut Economics and PRD combined can help fix major problems locally.

Climate change knows no boundaries.  Yorkshire faces the same threats as elsewhere in the world.

Our plant and wildlife are declining; the North Sea’s resources are being depleted, threatening both the livelihoods of our fisherfolk and the long-term prospects of our fishing industry.

Many areas have experienced serious flooding with terrible consequences for households and businesses often taking years to recover from.

We cannot make the problem just disappear, but we can act responsibly to reduce Yorkshire’s carbon footprint and to mitigate the consequences.

Climate change is an international problem that requires local solutions.

Taking hold of our own governance arrangements will enable us to play our full part in regenerating and sustaining our County’s natural resources.

PRD will enable those affected by flooding to use their local knowledge and user expertise to think about the appropriate defences for their area.  It gives them the opportunity to be involved in the design specifications of flood defences and then to monitor the outcomes.

Communities may decide to plant more trees, to open repair shops where manufactures of all kinds can be refurbished, or their parts recycled for further use.

Given the opportunity, peoples’ ingenuity is endless.  We need the kind of democracy here in Yorkshire that enables the collective ingenuity of individuals and their communities to flourish and people to take control of their own future.

Getting the economy started again

Areas of Yorkshire’s economy have been neglected and faced decline for the past forty or so years.

The County will need an initial boost to get our economy moving again.

We believe that adopting the Community Wealth Building model could help provide the kind of initial stimulus we need.

Community Wealth Building is nothing new.  World-wide, local communities are already adopting Community Wealth Building as a boost to their ailing economies.

How it works?

So called anchor institutions, such as the local authority, hospitals, football clubs and universities, spend millions of pounds annually on purchasing goods and services from companies based outside of the County.

Overhauling these institutions’ procurement strategies to buy locally will help transform Yorkshire’s economy.

Buying goods and services locally enables local businesses to thrive, grow, and create local employment opportunities, as well as reducing the carbon footprint as transport needs are cut.

Measuring our economic success

Any improvements in Yorkshire’s economic life are bound to have a positive impact on the UK overall. 

GDP measures an economy’s overall throughput, but not necessarily its overall creation of value and welfare.

There are, however, other, more appropriate eco-economic and socio-economic indicators by which we will want to measure our success and on which we will benchmark with the best in the world and seek to join the top quartile.

Such as for example:

  • Reductions in Air and all other types of pollution
  • Improved biodiversity  
  • Genuinely affordable quality housing
  • The spread of cooperative businesses (more about this in November)
  • Research and development
  • Living with nature
  • Education including lifelong learning
  • Public Transport
  • Social mobility
  • Gender Equality

What next?

Our ambition is for Yorkshire to be a Beacon for the rest of the world, the place where others will want to live and invest for all the right reasons.  A place where our citizens can thrive, lead meaningful lives, and feel economically secure.

This can only be achieved by breaking away from Westminster through the process of Political Self-determination embodied in a new written constitution for the County. 

We passionately believe that it is for the people to decide on the future of their County and to mould the written constitution through an independent Citizen-led and organised Constitutional Convention. 

We anticipate this Convention taking the shape of either a Citizen Assembly or Jury and hopefully completing its recommendations by Yorkshire Day 2027.

Our role at this early stage is to make a start on considering the brief for the convention to work from.  Which for us, this is why it is so important to hear your views on this and other future testaments to Yorkshire’s future.

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