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Towards an Equality of Contribution in the Common Good Economy

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
5th August 2014


The UK conservative think thank led by Phillip ‘Big Society’ Blond, calls for an equipotential common good economy, inspired by the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church.

Joanne Green of ResPublica explains:

“But what type of inequality do we really need to focus on addressing – is it an inequality of opportunity or outcome? Politicians on the right tend to emphasise policies that promote equality of opportunity whilst those on the left would argue that it is inequality of outcome or income that is the real evil. We believe that both of these aspects are important but inadequate by themselves to address the real injustice of inequality. Instead we would like to see a focus on an equality of participation in economic life which goes further than equality of opportunity as it is not just about giving poor men and women the chance to participate in the economy, it is about making that participation meaningful.

This is based on an understanding of what people need to flourish as human beings – that being made in God’s image they are created for that is to contribute to and participate in the common good – including economic activity. According to CST, human beings should be the subjects (artisans) of their work and their destiny. They are called to become ‘co-creators’ with God.

Of course distribution also matters, when there is too much inequality it is unlikely that poor men and women will be able to participate effectively in the economy, and it is also right that society looks after those that cannot and should not work. But inequality of contribution is primarily about fairness of returns rather than redistributive methods, for example, of achieving a more equal sharing of wealth.

Focusing on inequality of contribution rather than opportunity or outcome has implications for policy choices: that people in poverty have the means at their disposal to take advantage of an opportunity and that the market system is not unfairly stacked against them through making sure that the following is in place:

an enabling environment that works for all a fair fiscal policy social protection regulation to correct market imbalances and instabilities. Finally, requiring economic policy to be accountable to people and political communities is entirely consistent with the principle of subsidiarity expounded by Catholic Social Teaching. Citizens and communities through political debate should be the main arbiter of which economic policies are in their best interests. This is not to argue for the abolition of global institutions such as the WTO and IMF, but to argue for a much greater democratic accountability and connection between those institutions and the wishes and opinions of the people over whose lives they have enormous sway. This is an argument for people and governments as their representatives to assert their rights to decide their own economic policy rather than feel bound to conform to the dominant ideology of market fundamentalism.

In the pursuit of deregulation at any cost, governments have also let global companies become increasingly detached from political and judicial processes intended to represent and protect their citizens. It is essential for governments to work together to require companies to be transparent and accountable to citizens. As enormous challenges still remain which allow global companies to avoid oversight and ensure they make a positive contribution to society.

So, as we seek to respond to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement are we looking through the lens of a ‘common good’ Capitalism?”

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