The economy is the complex set of relationships that people use to provide themselves with the goods and services they need to live meaningful lives in their communities. Of key importance to their lives being meaningful is the ability of people to make a contribution to meeting human need and an ability to influence and help shape how our needs are met. Also of vital importance to meaningful human life is the fostering of relationships within families and communities. Co-operation is an approach to organizing that complex set of relationships in a manner that respects the dignity of people and has confidence that, with few exceptions, people want to make the world a better place. ‘The economy’ ought to allow them to do that. The co-operative values and principles spell out the co-operative approach to creating that complex set of relationships within the economy, in a way that at the same time fosters personal human development and families and communities.
A co-operative economy would:
- Produce goods and services that meet human need
- Provide meaningful roles and personal development for people
- Nurture the families, communities and society
Co-operatives need an analysis based on how well the economy is meeting human need and how human need can be met more effectively, and co-operative business leaders need economic analysis that is consistent with the expectations of their members.
Very little has been written about the economics of co-operative business behaviour. Much has been written about corporate globalization and capital centred economics, but what would global co-operation look like? How would a co-operative economy differ from an investor driven economy? Would GNP be our main preoccupation in shaping economic and social policy? What would the rules of co-operative trade be? Would we think about and treat intellectual property differently? The list of questions is long. Ambitious it is, but what we are talking about is the need for a new approach to economics –