The well-being of Europe’s citizens depends less on individual consumption and more on their social consumption of essential goods and services – from water and retail banking to schools and care homes – in what we call the foundational economy. Individual consumption depends on market income, while foundational consumption depends on social infrastructure and delivery systems of networks and branches, which are neither created nor renewed automatically, even as incomes increase. This historically created foundational economy has been wrecked in the last generation by privatisation, outsourcing, franchising and the widespread penetration of opportunistic and predatory business models. The distinctive, primary role of public policy should therefore be to secure the supply of basic services for all citizens (not a quantum of economic growth and jobs). Reconstructing the foundational has to start with a vision of citizenship that identifies foundational entitlements as the conditions for dignified human development, and likewise has to depend on treating the business enterprises central to the foundational economy as juridical persons with claims to entitlements but also with responsibilities and duties. If the aim is citizen well-being and flourishing for the many not the few, then European politics at regional, national and EU level needs to be refocused on foundational consumption and securing universal minimum access and quality. If/when government is unresponsive, the impetus for change has to come from engaging citizens locally and regionally in actions which break with the top down politics of ‘vote for us and we will do this for you’.
‘universal basic’ has become a new catch
phrase: thus, we have not just experiments in universal basic
Renewing the foundational
income in Finland and the Netherlands but also, as discussed
below, proposals in the UK for universal basic infrastructure
and universal basic services. And new thinking is also seeping
into regional policy. Politically, Wales provides an interesting
test case because here, for the first time anywhere in Europe,
foundational language is being incorporated into official policy.
Two cheers for these developments. They are welcome
financial stability. These important
societal functions have been outsourced to economic experts, with
the bank employing two hundred economists in total.21
There have been similar developments elsewhere in the world.
Independent CBs are present in the US, Japan, Australia and most
starkly in Europe in the form of the European Central Bank, which
is completely unaccountable to the democratic wishes of particular
Eurozone countries. In an incredible turn of events in Italy in 2011,
a coalition of technocrats headed by the economist Mario Monti