New think-tank dedicated to democratising ownership in face of climate crisis
A new think-tank, Common Wealth, ‘dedicated to democratising ownership’, seeks to ‘rapidly and justly transform our economy in the face of climate breakdown’. The organisation sets out its ‘simple but ambitious’ goal:
‘The steady, irreversible replacement of today’s unequal and extractive economy with institutions that share the wealth we create in common, and where freedom, solidarity, and dignity are a universal inheritance.’
Launched a few months ago and ‘warmly welcomed’ by Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Green MP Caroline Lucas, the think-tank was founded by Mathew Lawrence, a former senior research fellow on IPPR’s Commission on Economic Justice, who has collaborated with NEF and The Democracy Collaborative. Board members include Ed Miliband MP, Joe Guinan, director of The Democracy Collaborative, Fran Boait, director of Positive Money, and Aditya Chakrabortty, whose series The Alternatives we have covered extensively.
The think-tank sets out ‘six systemically vital areas where democratic ownership can transform how our economy operates and for whom’, looking to business, finance, data, climate breakdown, social commons and land. It seeks to democratise business, acknowledging that ‘how a company is owned vitally shapes how it operates and in whose interest’. Few have a stake in where they work, and, according to Common Wealth, the consequences are damaging for all: ‘stagnant wages, stark inequalities, sluggish productivity growth, weak investment rates, but runaway pay at the top and record dividends for shareholders’.
It sets out the need to ‘rewire the ownership and governance of financial institutions’, and a pledge to ‘examine how alternative models can ensure finance serves the needs of people and planet’. Regarding data, it states that
‘Building a future of shared plenty will require transforming ownership of data and digital technologies, from private enclosure toward a technological commons.’
In the face of climate breakdown, the think-tank claims that ‘the institutions of the carbon age – extractive, short-termist, and unequal – cannot drive change on the speed and scale required’ and ‘radicalism of ambition is now the safest option; incrementalism the truly dangerous approach’. In light of this, Common Wealth sets out to ‘design ownership models that can create a zero-carbon future and secure natural commons that is democratic and sustainable’.
The next focus for the think-tank is ‘building public affluence – goods and services that are universal, foundational, decommodified’ and reorienting the economy from the creation of private wealth ‘toward focusing on the creation of universal forms of security and capability’. It argues that by doing so, we can ‘better distribute the most precious commodity of all, our time’.
It finally claims that the reclamation of land, the ‘original enclosure’, is ‘fundamental to addressing inequalities of wealth, housing and environmental misuse’. The think-tank will explore the various alternative ‘forms of land ownership and strategies of transition’.
Visit Common Wealth’s website here.