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If all companies scored points, we would have a near-perfect society: there would be no poverty or unemployment, a clean environment, gender justice, peace, and engaged and motivated workers.

P2P Perspectives: Alternative development

This utopia is of course very far away. We can, however, begin today to move in that direction. Companies with high balance sheet scores could be rewarded with tax benefits, lower tariffs, better terms on loans, and priority in public procurement. As a result, ethical and environmentally friendly products and services would become cheaper than ethically questionable ones. Unlike today, where businesses are punished if they try to pay fair wages and protect the environment, responsible businesses in a common good economy would have an advantage in the marketplace.

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By reversing goals and means, the rules of the economy would be in line with human rights, justice, and democracy. In Spain, Italy, Germany, and Austria, cities and state legislatures have already taken the first steps towards giving preferential treatment and grants to common good-oriented companies. Profits like money or capital, are economic tools.

How a company uses its profits should be completely transparent and limited in scope.

We as a society regulate business and individual activity in a multitude of ways. In order to drive a car on the highway we have to follow certain rules, like speed limits. A car manufacturer is required to ensure the safety of workers at its plants. The use of profits should not be an exception. These proposals would help eliminate the constant drive towards profit-maximization and continual growth that is so prominent in our present system. The reorientation of profits would encourage businesses to shift their strategies towards increasing their contribution to society and the environment.

Technologies of Freedom, the Network Society, and the Culture of Autonomy

Business would no longer be plagued with the ominous threat of failure if they did not increase shareholder value. The compulsion to grow and continuously gain more market share would also disappear.

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This would liberate businesses, allowing them to determine their optimal size and to focus on producing great products and services. Today, this focus has shifted to personal monetary benefits going chiefly to upper management and shareholders. ECG is, of course, not opposed to private companies and entrepreneurship. It simply proposes that they need to reorient towards serving the public good and abiding by values like human rights, human dignity, cooperation, sustainability, and democracy.

The result is a free market economy, but capital accumulation is not the driving force. One cornerstone of the capitalist market economy is the concept that competition is necessary for business. People, including most economists, just assume it to be true.

Research has shown, however, that cooperation, not competition, is much more effective in terms of motivating workers.

Without motivated employees, one will not see improved innovation and efficiency. Competition does, of course, motivate people and market capitalism has proven this, but it motivates them in very problematic ways. Competition can be seen as a win-lose situation. One person is only successful if another person is unsuccessful. Competition primarily motivates people through fear. Fear is a widespread phenomenon in market capitalism. Millions fear losing their job, their income, their social status, and their place in the community. Is this something we want to encourage?

There is another interesting aspect of motivation when it comes to competition. Competition elicits a form of delight in being better than someone else. This can, of course, have serious ramifications. The purpose of our actions and our work should not be to be better than others, but rather, to perform our tasks well, to enjoy our work, and to see that it is helpful and valuable.

If you derive self-worth from being better than others, you are dependent upon others being worse. This actually constitutes pathological narcissism. Feeling better because others are worse off is sick.

The Social Economy

If we look more closely at the term competition, we can see that its meaning has actually been largely distorted. Today, however, competition means to search and act against each other, excluding others from the benefits of a new innovation or product.

The ECG fosters true competition according to its original, literal meaning of working together. In the Economy for the Common Good, competition would not be eliminated.

2. Terms, Analysis, Conception of Economy

Aggressive behavior against competitors, such as hostile takeovers, price dumping, advertising via mass media, or enclosure of intellectual property, would reflect negatively on their ethical scorecard and harm their chances of succeeding in the market. The more cooperative their conduct was, and the more helpful they were with customers and competitors—for example, being transparent and sharing know-how, resources, and means of production—the better their common good score would be. The current win-lose paradigm would be replaced by a win-win paradigm. If enterprises were rewarded for cooperation, destructive competition would turn into peaceful coexistence at the very least.

In some cases, proactive cooperation among businesses would result. The pursuit of an optimal company size and thus the abandonment of the growth imperative would in itself encourage enterprises to engage in cooperation. A company that has reached its desired size has a much easier time sharing knowhow and even passing on contracts it cannot fulfill.

From the theory of evolution, we have learned that a more and more species are evolving and b that certain species do not always endlessly grow until they die. Like all other ideas proposed, these reforms are meant to be changes in the legal framework of the economy. In order to make this happen, governments and parliaments should first be encouraged to implement the reform proposals directly through legislation.

The starting point here is an historical dualism of two extremes. Socialist economic theories, on the one hand, place a very high value on public property. Capitalism, on the other hand, argues that private property is the most important form of property.

The Economy for the Common Good

The Economy for the Common Good envisions all types of property, putting none above the other, but placing limits and conditions on all of them. We argue, for instance, that it is good for a society when the government provides a broad range of basic infrastructure, ranging from water, energy, and transportation to health services, and education. If these services are free, at least for low-income individuals, they are an effective measure against poverty and exclusion.

They strengthen social cohesion and the democratic community. On the other hand, there is no clear argument as to why government-run organizations would have to produce furniture, clothes, or food. Private companies can do this just as well, if not better, but under three conditions: the size of companies is regulated, common good balance sheets are compulsory, and inheritance is limited.

These limits and conditions would, for example, prevent excessive concentration of private property and ensure that it be used for the common good. The commons are another form of property and constitute a cultural practice that enhances both ecological and social values. The commons should be protected by law.

As we will discuss below, a national constitution can provide guidelines as to the role private property, public goods, and the commons should play. By social property, we mean companies that are controlled by their stakeholders— workers, customers, suppliers—but not investors that play none of these other roles.

The Common Good Balance Sheet and its consequent incentives encourage all companies to become more like social businesses, or even like the commons. There is one important exception to property rights and that involves nature. It was not humans who invented and created nature. We are creations of nature. In order to respect our origin and fertile earth, ECG proposes that there can be limited and conditional use of nature for commercial use, but no ownership of nature. That would prevent phenomena like land grabbing, real estate speculation, intellectual property rights on living organisms such as genetically modified organisms , or massive deforestation.

This is an overview of the most important types of property, their function, limits, and conditions. These reflections and proposals are rooted in the idea that all types of property are not ends in themselves, but basic rights that serve higher values such as human rights and social justice. In the ECG we argue that it is of utmost importance to put limits on inequality. This can occur on many levels: income, property, inheritance, or the size of companies.