Public finances for the future we want


After the global financial crisis of 2008, the big banks were rescued and government spending was cut. This has justified increasingly severe austerity measures and reinforced a lingering myth that the public sector must rely on private funding to solve excessive inequalities and ecological destruction.

Today, private finance has not only failed to solve these problems, it has intensified them. The public does not have to depend on the private sector. Public funds are much larger than we imagine: equivalent to 93% of global GDP. Public banks have sufficient resources to raise the trillions needed to invest in public services and climate infrastructure, without having to turn to private financiers.

This book presents visions of regenerative and redistributive economies, built with collective power: from the thriving cooperative economy of Kerala, India, to the hundreds of local savings banks in Germany, to the worker-owned bank Banco Popular. in Costa Rica and the thousands of Popular Credit Funds in Vietnam. It explores models that could become the new normal, the basis of a democratically organized and viable future.


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  • Introduction: Public finances for a better future by Lavinia Steinfort
  1. Money for people by Mary Mellor
    In the aftermath of the 2007 financial crisis, governments used the power of public money to save banks and other large corporations, rather than to meet people’s needs. The privatization of money by governments – and not of money itself – perpetuates the pernicious cycle of debt and growth. Despite the rhetoric, states can and do “print money”. Their central banks produce free money for the money-generating activities of the banking sector. And money is created and distributed as the government spends, in the same way that banks generate money by lending. Obviously, it could be put into circulation for different purposes such as facilitating the provision of universal basic services and sustainable livelihoods for all.
  2. The citizens’ heritage fund, a powerful new economic and social instrument by Stewart Lansley and Duncan McCann
    Financed by a higher tax on private wealth, citizens’ wealth funds could offer a progressive and comprehensive route to obtain more social value from existing assets: public, personal and corporate.
  3. From failed local neoliberalism to community owned and controlled finance by Milford Bateman
    For decades, microcredit has captured the zeitgeist of financial neoliberalism and its celebration of individualism, entrepreneurship and self-help. In the 2010s, however, it became clear that the microcredit model was not an anti-poverty panacea, but a slow disaster for the world’s poor. Meanwhile, community-owned and controlled finance has successfully promoted equitable development, as four examples from Europe and Asia illustrate.
  4. The Kerala Cooperative Network: Advancing the Solidarity Economy by Benny Kuruvilla
    In the state of Kerala, in southern India, left-wing parties, labor organizations and popular movements ensured the continuity of cooperatives, social regimes and labor rights. This chapter discusses the successful functioning of worker-run cooperatives across the state despite the growing challenge of neoliberalism. Many individual cooperatives are linked by a network of cooperative finance, local governments and farmers’ markets, and united in a movement to advance the solidarity economy.
  5. Community wealth creation and resilient local economies by Thomas M. Hanna
    There is an urgent need to move away from a financial system designed to extract wealth from local communities. Instead, our common goal should be to support efforts to build community wealth. By leveraging the supply, investment, employment and other capacities of large-scale ‘anchor institutions’ – local public or non-profit organizations such as hospitals and universities – it becomes possible to build more resilient, equitable and sustainable local economies.
  6. The social and solidarity economy and the rise of the new municipalism by Ana Álvaro, Adrián Gallero, Miguel Ángel Martínez, Fernando Sabín and Sandra Salsón
    This chapter provides an overview of the main policies and actions that the municipal governments of different Spanish cities are implementing to promote the social and solidarity economy. Across Spain, new models of water and energy utilities are emerging, such as the user cooperative Comunitat Minera Olesana which manages the water services of Olesa de Montserrat. Combined with new mechanisms for citizen participation and decision-making, the social and solidarity economy has established itself as an organized expression of economic citizenship.
  7. Building bottom-up financing solutions for cooperative housing in Central and South-Eastern Europe by Agnès Gagyi
    The MOBA Housing Network that began in 2017 is a collaboration of emerging cooperative housing initiatives in Central and South-Eastern Europe. MOBA, which stands for “self-help through mutual aid”, enables low-income populations in the region to collectively access financing for affordable housing. Ongoing pilot projects in Budapest, Ljubljana, Belgrade and Zagreb show that it can provide stable and affordable social housing. The institutional framework that MOBA is building offers a model for the systemic transformation of local housing markets everywhere.
  8. Democratize nationalized banks by Frank Vanaerschot
    This chapter explores the democratization strategies of the Belgian public bank Belfius, which was nationalized following the financial crash of 2008.
  9. Public banking on the future we want by Thomas Marois
    Public banks are increasingly seen by the international development community not as corrosive but as catalysts for investing in low-carbon infrastructure. This chapter shows that public banks have sufficient resources to lead the way in mobilizing the total of US $ 90 trillion and US $ 6 trillion annually in necessary climate infrastructure investments – without having to turn to financiers. private.
  10. Public investment for financial system change and not climate change by Oscar Reyes
    This chapter examines how state banks, cooperative and local savings banks, public pension funds and investment funds can redirect their investments in the public interest, fighting climate change and social justice. .
  11. Stimulating investment: breaking the shackles of the euro zone by Ludovic Suttor-Sorel
    The scale of the challenge posed by climate change and the impoverishment of nature requires long-term strategic capital. Yet, in large part due to European Union (EU) fiscal rules which have institutionalized a permanent reduction in public spending, public investment in the region is at a historically low level. This chapter argues that the potential of state investment banks has been largely overlooked and too often limited to reducing the risks of private investment.
  12. A public buyout to keep the carbon in the ground and dissolve climate opposition by Carla Santos Skandier
    Real solutions to the climate crisis must go beyond demand and include supply. The United States can do this by using its sovereign monetary power to dismantle extractive companies as part of a Green New Deal to mitigate climate change and tackle social and economic inequalities. The easiest way to untangle the crippling relationship between government and the big oil industry is to federally buy out the fossil fuel companies that control these harmful assets.
  • Conclusion: transformation tools

This book is published by Transnational Institute (TNI), The Democracy Collaborative, Change Finance, Focus on the Global South, New Economics Foundation, Fairfin, MOBA Housing Network and Tellus Institute.

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