13 June 2008

A Common Treasurer

I am the Green Party's economics speaker. In some of my wilder moments I imagine this might put me in some position to be the Treasurer in the first green government - if only I could live that long! More realistically I think it does give me a responsibility to think about green policies as though they were going to be implemented and to take the economic implications seriously.

If, as Greens, we believe the earth is 'a common treasury', what would a common treasurer look like? What role would we play in allocating the wealth from Nature's cornucopia. Surely we would have to conclude, as green economists do, that the wealth must be fairly shared.

All natural bounty would be viewed as 'commons'. Those who enjoy the benefit of it would pay tax and that would allow us to share the wealth with those who do not or cannot access it directly. The foremost example is land - the primary wealth of any nation and the source of most government income in a green economy.

The planet's atmosphere is also a common wealth. At present this is being greedily hoarded by the Western nations, who use it up with their industrial pollution, especially carbon dioxide. The Contraction and Convergence response to the problem of climate change takes the idea of commons seriously and assigns the right to pollute the atmosphere on fairly between the world's citizens.

How should we share this wealth? Richard Douthwaite proposal Cap-and-Share - we all receive licences to pollute which we can sell to generate our citizens' income, or give to companies we would like to support, or destroy if we want to support the planet at our own expense. Other variants of the policy suggest national governments should receive the licences and do the selling, passing the money on to citizens equally.

Perhaps most important of all is to take control of our own money. A common treasurer would, I am sure, have no objection to this. As in the 19th century local authorities would issue legal tender and invest the benefit in local infrastructure projects. How else would they have paid for the civic buildings and sewers we are still using - because since the privatisation and centralisation of money creation we haven't seen the benefit of it as citizens.

We are planning a monetary empowerment in Stroud. One thing holding us back is coming up with a good name. Others are so lucky. In Llandovery they have the Black Ox Bank, the progenitor of the black horse, set up as a drovers' bank by one Mr Lloyd. Fishguard are creating the Bluestone Bank, named after their famous rock which was so valued that it was transported to Salisbury Plain to build Stonehenge. We haven't come up with anything so resonant yet. Or even something funny. I am so envious of Transition Scilly folk, one of whom I met last weekend - their money will be a blast won't it?

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