What is Alternative Economics?
I’ve been telling everyone I’m changing the focus of my blog to alternative economics. Most of my friends and co-workers give me a confused look then ask what the heck I mean by that. Often I have trouble defining it myself, so here’s my preliminary explanation.
Alternative to what? The way we produce and consume most of our goods and services today is through the use of money. We go into business or invest to make profits. Big corporations are forced to grow and cut costs to please stockholders. Often, this results in layoffs, pushing worker’s wages down and continually moving production to centers of lower labor costs. This can contribute to a greater gap between the rich and the rest of us and push many people into unemployment, underemployment and sometimes poverty. Many of us are suffering some of the consequence of these trends today.
What do we do when the economy isn’t working for us? Sitting back, belt tightening and isolating ourselves usually doesn’t do us much good. Fortunately there are a lot of alternatives. The ones I’ll be discussing are the ones that focus on ways of meeting our needs while keeping community building and social justice in mind. I would say that these activities are more concerned with relationships than money. As we learn to rely on each other we create different ways of meeting our needs.
Some examples of these alternatives are:
- Buy local campaigns and networks
- Alternative ways of marketing goods
- Urban agriculture and community gardens
- Community supported agriculture
- Co-ops, such as food co-ops
- Worker owned businesses
- Barter and time-banks
- Buying Fair Trade items
- Sustainable energy
- Non-profit organizations like food banks and health care networks
- Creative global meetings on social issues by like-minded groups
- Focus on environmental issues
- Alternative policy meetings and discussions
- Lobbying and building political power to change policies
We’ll be discussing these in more detail and looking at specific examples in coming blogs. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some of the categories of activities that fit into my first attempt at defining the term and starting the conversation. If you can think of any of these please let me know in the comments. I’d also love to see some specific examples of these in the comments too. Please let me know where I can find out more about them if you can.