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We all know the problem - what’s the solution?

This opinion piece is about 4 years old

As a progressive think tank launches a major look at re-framing the economy, Graham Martin asks: how do you solve a problem like capitalism?

Not a protest, not a complaint – but a solution.

This is how the progressive think tank Common Weal is presenting Resilience Economics, its just-published plan for developing a new economics and a new Scotland in the wake of the Covid crisis.

Now, I’m all for protest – and recent events in the US have given a new urgency to that most democratic of impulses from below. After all, the shape of future and emerging societies are often sketched out and determined on the streets.

And complaints – boy, can I complain. Anyone who knows me will testify – moan, moan, moan.

But I can see why Common Weal has framed its offer like this.

There does seem to be a mood in the air just now to start looking beyond responses to the current crisis to the opportunities which it may – in fact, will have to – open up in the future.

That is why it is important that Resilience Economics is presented as a solution.

Humanity faces what is essentially an existential problem in the form of capitalism

Because we all know what the problem is – as I stated in this very column last month, humanity faces what is essentially an existential problem in the form of capitalism.

In all likelihood, it was the ravages caused by the profit system which created this pandemic – and it is the inequalities inherent, in fact essential to, its very functioning which are causing the most damage and selecting its primary victims.

This is why it’s important to generate solutions – our own solutions, because if we don’t, the endpoint will be presented to us, and it won’t look even like how it was before. It will be much worse.

It’s important that Common Weal has framed its response as an economic solution, because everything flows from economics.

Get this right and we can begin to reframe society.

The preamble to Resilience Economic states: “Resilience means that we create a society in which people can live good lives… we need a resilient economy, one which creates the good jobs that give people the income to live good lives now, which has the security to make us confident we can live good lives in the future.”

Our economy, it goes on, must be “useful, diverse, non-exploitative.” This, I think, is the dividing line between the free market and what Common Weal calls a “designed” economy.

As I said earlier, there does seem to be a mood developing in civil society that we must use the present crisis to – in the words of the excellent slogan which is now gaining some purchase – build back better.

You can read about this in this month’s TFN, where we look at how global civil society is not just responding, but is attempting to crystalise a vision of the future. We also report on how 80 groups across Scotland are lobbying the Scottish Government to ensure that the post-Covid recovery is “fairer and greener”.

TFN also understands that here have been talks at a high level aimed at ensuring the voluntary sector’s voice is heard as we go forward.

This is all welcome – but I wonder if many are still stuck essentially at the protest (or lobbying) phase. We shouldn’t be shy about putting forward our own solutions.

And we shouldn’t be confining ourselves to mere reforms, as important as these are.

It’s important that we ask – no, demand – to be heard. But our voices, ideas and expertise must be built into a new system.

TFN will be exploring ideas about the reconstruction in coming editions – if you’d like to contribute your thoughts, email me at

There’s much to discuss – a world to win, as someone once said – and I’d commend Resilience Economics as an interesting place to start.

Graham Martin is editor of Third Force News.



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lok Yue
almost 4 years ago
Designed economy sounds remarkably similar to command economy, beloved of the Soviets and that didn't end well. The best a democratic government can do is to nudge, not try to control an economy
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Joao Goncalves
almost 4 years ago
I feel the same, lok Yue - it just sounds like the wording has been sanitised for the current zeitgeist.I also find it interesting that so many people try to link the pandemic with profit/capitalism/neoliberalism. Apparently there had never been pandemics before our current economic system *cough* black plague *cough*Also, this is an excerpt taken from the Common Weal document shared in this article: "Protectionism is a pejorative used by neoliberal economists to disparage economies which prioritise domestic need over free market pressures." - so there you go, this document prioritises national priorities to the point of defending protectionism, shocking. With this kind of (nationalist, inward looking) rhetoric, how can they call themselves a progressive think tank? If we take this to its logical conclusion, we will all soon be starting World War 3.
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Lok Yue
almost 4 years ago
Right on, Joaowhether it came from bats in a wet market or escaped from a lab with lax bio security, it was most assuredly NOT carried on some mythical capitalist radiation wave
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