One of the nicest things about not having a real job is that you can attend things like presentations and webinars, even if they happen at 3pm on a Wednesday. I attended one such webinar recently about a new initiative being launched call “The Next System“. You can still watch the video or find out more information here. Even though it’s a brand new movement, tons of people signed up to attend the webinar right away (over 5,000). Note: although many of the examples are from a US context, the same basic principals can be applied in many other countries, including Canada. Also, the ideas contained in this blog have been summarized below, but they are not my original ideas, simply my idea of what is important and useful for the years to come.
TL:DR – You can watch a short video here to find out what the initiative is all about (it even features Bill Mckibben from 350.org and Danny Glover).
The basic idea of the “Next System” is that the current political and economic system that we live in is broken. There is an extremely unequal distribution of income and quality of life between countries, and even between people in the same country. The goal is to start a conversation about changing to a new and better system. Just because there appears to be a crisis in the old system, doesn’t mean we automatically get a new system – how can we make people optimistic about the future?
Problems with the Old System
- The indiscriminate and unsustainable use of natural resources
- Organizing the economy in only a competitive way (no collaboration)
- Centralized control over land and capital
Instead what we want out of the New System is….
- Using resources sustainably
- Creating better networks and collaboration, including distributed power (with many possibilities using new technologies)
- Fair, efficient, and sustainable
So how do we get there?
Moderated by Laura Flanders (GRITtv)
Speaker Angela Glover Blackwell (Founder and Chief Executive Officer of PolicyLink)
Things don’t just need to change from the top down, the grassroots level movements are extremely important. However, the state has been using forces to shut this down, which results in police brutality against civil society (particularly the must vulnerable populations). At the beginning, a cause may seem like a losing fight, but after a few years it can gain popularity and momentum. In LA, people united to raise the minimum wage, and it took a lot of organization to make that fight possible. In the 60’s, civil rights activism was seen as radical, but maybe we need to return to some of these tactics to continue the movement for equality and representation.
Government is supposed to be for serving the people, and also made up of the people. However, the current systems in place don’t seem to be doing that very well. For instance, California spends more on incarceration than education… That’s a choice, and I personally believe that it’s the wrong one. We have to build a political system that starts by thinking about the people who are the most vulnerable, not just deciding to include them at the end. We need to start a public conversation about what people really want.
Speakers Gar Alperovitz and Gus Speth (from The Next System Project)
There is a fear (especially in the United Sates) of anything that can be seen as “communism”. However, a recent poll of Americans under 30 found that the word socialism has better connotations than the word capitalism for the first time. So what would happen if people stopped fearing a welfare state and we instituted a guaranteed income with universal benefits to all citizens? For example, in Alaska people are guaranteed income from revenues on oil, which gives each person $2,000 (which has been increasing). Why can’t we tax all carbon and give that money to citizens? Do people really want tax dollars spent on things like enlarged military budgets, or do people value other things more… like education, health-care, and community infrastructure.
People used to have jobs with security for their entire life, but employment is becoming more precarious each year. Many people still make less than minimum wage, while billionaires get richer each year. The top 400 people in US have more wealth than bottom 180 million people. We need to begin democratizing wealth. Many people (especially those in marginalized communities) are being impacted not just by current inequality, but my a legacy of inequality that’s been passed down from generation to generation.
Speaker Juliet Schor (Professor of Sociology at Boston College)
Speaker Gerald Torres (Professor of Law at Cornell University)
Co-ops and other businesses owned by the people are gaining in popularity. If private businesses won’t provide goods and services at reasonable rates, then citizens should be allowed to unite to create their own businesses and service providers (which there is currently legislation against in some places – however, people have fought back, and won). There are more and more examples of publicly owned banks/credit unions, power companies, and telecommunications groups owned by the people. These systems are efficient and just at sharing the wealth while providing more goods and services at reasonable prices in their communities.
We need to move away from a capitalist culture that values immediate gratification and ownership over everything else. We need to shift our mentality from consumer to producer/activist. Sharing cultures can be used for a wide variety of services – such as Airbnb, maker spaces, tool libraries, and different types of profit sharing entities. People need to challenge the idea that continuous growth is desirable and sustainable. We need to look at new indicators for well-being, such as happiness, instead of measuring quality of life with GDP.
So what can we (as citizens of the world) really do? This really is a global issue. We share the sky, so it’s impossible to shift all our burdens overseas and wipe our hands of the consequences. However, we can learn a lot from examples that are being tried in other cities and countries. Change is hard for everyone, even people who understand the benefits. So maybe our first step is just to prove that change is possible, and that it is worth fighting for!
If you agree with all this you can sign the statement here.
You can find resources to get you started in your community here.
I would love to hear from my readers: How many of you believe that the system is broken and needs to be changed vs. sticking to the status quo?