Friday 30 October 2009

Are Caring Economics Feasible? ??? YES!

Caring Society, Illustration by Don Baker

Illustration by Don Baker for YES! Magazine.

Imagine a world where economic systems support our real needs and aspirations: a world guided by a "caring economics" where the main investment is in caring for people and nature.

In this world, the most valued work is the work of caring for people, starting in childhood, as well as caring for our Mother Earth. Leaders recognize that, particularly in the post-industrial knowledge/information era, our most important asset is what economists call "high-quality human capital"—and that neuroscience shows this largely depends on good physical, mental, and emotional care starting at birth. Consequently, childcare in families is supported by caregiver tax-credits, stipends, paid parental leave, and social security credit for the first seven years of caring for a child—whether the caregiver is a woman or a man. Workplace rules such as flex time, and job sharing are commonplace, as businesspeople recognize that when employees feel they and their families are cared for they work better and harder. Training for childcare, primary-school teaching, and other caring professions is a top priority, as is training for elder care. And these jobs are highly respected and well-paid. Parenting education is another top priority. And so it maintaining a clean and healthy natural environment.

There is already movement in this direction, especially in Nordic Nations such as Sweden, Finland, and Norway—nations that often call themselves "caring societies." These nations were so poor at the start of the 20th century that many thousands fled famines (Minnesota was populated by these Nordic refugees). But because they invested in their people through universal healthcare, childcare, generous paid parental leave, parenting education, investment in solar and other alternative power, and other caring policies, today these nations are in the top tiers of both the UN Human Development Reports and the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Reports.

These nations show that caring pays—not only in human and environmental terms but in purely economic terms. They also show that the main obstacle to building a more caring world isn't economic, it's cultural.


These "cultural barriers" are, we sadly must realize, considerable. About a year ago I posted a blog bit to the Owen Sound Sun-Times, no great opEd opus, simply to propose that there may be some humanity of value in the content of a short clip from Brave New Films showing the amazing success of the Norwegian prison system. I was called names, I was told to leave the country, I was told to grow up ... all for only suggesting the clip was worth watching! I can only imagine what might have befallen me had I been the one who had travelled to Norway, made the film and then dared to publish it!!

The original Brave New Films clip is now gone, but here's a similar clip found on you-tube

From the many immediate and unambiguous comments to my Sun-Times blog post:

Teledyn, the negative responses to your "Prison for Life" blog speak for themselves. This is not and never will be material for your stand up comedy, unless you are a real clown.
Perhaps some day and on another planet, the good people and their kids will want to mingle with criminals and enjoy a hot dog or a hamburger on a nice day on the Northern Plains of Chryse Planitia.

but ... that was before the world-wide economic crunch, before, as I think Krishnamurti predicted, that after enough eye for an eye soon nearly everyone is blind, it was back when Owen Sound thought it a cushy and highly profitable proposition to get that massive Federal security contract to build, staff and deploy their sacred rights to inflict inhuman mistreatment on the very most 'deserving' wards of the state.

I wonder what they'd say now ...