Yesterday, the UKs News of the World was closed because of a scandal over phone hacking. The BBC’s Nick Robinson calls this “the third great crisis of trust in recent years. First the banks, then MPs expenses, now the media.” What is it that links them?
All three are illustrations of our upside-down economy, where the motivation for doing things is to make money rather than directly to provide services for the general wellbeing. This motivation is never questioned, no alternative is even imagined. Instead, blame is placed on ‘rougue’ people who are said to be behaving immorally. Organisations survive or go under, not because they have served more or less ably, but because of their finances. While this inherent contradiction in our culture remains, the only solutions are feeble attempts at regulation, which can at best have very limited success because people are always finding themselves caught by opposing pressures.
This highlights the importance of the Transition approach, that promotes community enterprises where service and well-being are the primary motivation, unlike, say the supermarkets or other commercial enterprises. Yes, so long as we are caught in a money-based economy, community enterprises will have to keep their cash flow sufficient, but that is not the same as being driven by it.
I would like to see this issue – what motivates an enterprise or organisation: service & wellbeing or money? – brought more to the foreground in our activities. It is deeper and clearer than simply blaming ‘capitalism’ (What about China?) and gets nearer to the real issues. Finally, the deepest underlying issue is whether we are working in competition with each other (where we need monetary contracts to get agreements) or collaboratively (where money can recede into the background).