|Celebrating TINA's demise
Emily Kawano, CPE staff economist
July 12, 2006
TINA is dead – let us rejoice. In the early 1980s British Prime
Minister Margaret Thatcher famously declared, "There Is No
Alternative" meaning that there is no alternative to capitalism. In
the following years it certainly seemed that the capitalist juggernaut
was on a roll. By the 1990s, Communism in the Soviet bloc had fallen
and neo-liberalism, a particularly pro-corporate and anti-government
brand of capitalism, had been enthroned throughout most of the world,
enforced by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and
the World Trade Organization. TINA ruled, unchallenged by clear
evidence that a viable alternative existed.
And yet, the steady encroachment of neo-liberalism, accompanied by
growing inequality and immiseration for many throughout the world, may
have seeded TINA's demise. The critique of neo-liberalism has been
well honed by the ever-growing global justice movement that has
focused a spotlight on the failure of the neo-liberal model in terms
of growth, equity and sustainability. In Brazil, Venezuela, Chile,
Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia left-leaning governments have been
swept to power under the banner of anti-neo-liberalism. The World
Social Forum, the largest and most significant gathering of social
movements in the world, is united by an opposition to neo-liberalism
and a belief that 'Another World is Possible.'
At the same time, many people and communities, moved by desperation,
practicality, values, or vision, have become involved in concrete
economic alternatives. A sample includes:
* Cooperatives, which are businesses that are owned and run by the
workers, consumers or members, are seeing new life. According to the
International Cooperative Alliance, co-operatives provide over 100
million jobs around the world-- 20% more than multinational
* Co-housing promotes a sense of community involvement and
responsibility. Housing is private, but there are communal spaces and
buildings, including for example, a common dining area, kitchen,
childcare space, meeting rooms, and recreation space. Real estate
speculation on the housing is prohibited and land is held in common.
* Local currency, in which people and businesses use locally printed
money, aims to stimulate and support the local economy by keeping
money circulating in the local economy rather than 'leaking' outside.
* Community supported agriculture supports local farmers by creating
dependable demand for their produce. People pay for a seasonal or
yearly subscription, which entitles them to a share of whatever is
produced. In the U.S., 25,000 people participate in more than 500 CSA
projects across the country, while in Japan, where it has been around
since the 1960s, 5,000,000 families participate in CSA.
* Participatory budgeting serves to democratize the process of
governmental budgeting by giving local residents an official say in
where public money should go. The most prominent example of
Participatory Budgeting has been in Porto Alegre, Brazil where
communities have been involved in city budgeting since 1989. The
model has spread to cities in Canada, India, Ireland, Uganda and South
* The squatters movement works to take over abandoned or unused land
or structures and then secure permanent rights to the property;
improve the quality of housing, sanitation, and access to clean water;
and empower the poor to come up with their own solutions. Given that
nearly half the population of cities in Asia, Africa and Latin America
are squatters living in illegal settlements, the challenge and need
for this work is very great.
Do these examples offer a serious challenge to neo-liberal capitalism?
The potential is there, but particularly in the U.S., this potential
will remain unrealized unless there is greater coherency among the
various strands and a connection with the larger social movements.
Otherwise these practices run the risk of remaining worthy but
isolated endeavors, struggling for their individual survival, and
cloaked in invisibility.
Shedding the cloak of invisibility is an important step in the
development of greater coherency as well as legitimizing the
importance of economic alternatives. For example, the European Union
(EU) has officially recognized the social economy which includes
significant segments of the alternative economy such as:
* Cooperatives: housing, credit unions, coop banks, producer & consumer coops.
* Social enterprises: businesses that put social aims at the core of
their operation. There are many forms of social enterprises,
including: enterprises that seek to create employment for marginalized
populations such as people with disabilities, or community businesses
that contribute a percentage of profits to a community fund and
include community members on the board.
* Mutuals: non-profits that exist for the benefit of their members,
providing services such as insurance, mortgage and savings plans.
The EU has recognized the value and importance of the social economy
both as a significant sector of the economy as well as its role in
fulfilling social needs. EU governments are required to earmark a
percentage of their budgets to promote the social economy.
Ultimately, it will take this kind of policy, financial and
institutional support to develop the many inspiring economic
alternatives into a viable economic system grounded in economic
justice and sustainability. TINA is dead. The task now is to realize
the transformative potential of the many alternatives that are already
- International Cooperative Alliance, Statistics,
- Co-housing, http://www.cohousing.org/default.aspx
- "The Potential of Local Currency," Susan Meeker-Lowry, Z Magazine,
July/Aug 1995, http://www.zmag.org/ZMag/articles/july95lowry.htm
- Community Supported Agriculture, http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/csa/
- Participatory budgeting resources,
- Squatters movement, http://www.sdinet.org/home.htm
- EU Social Economy,
(c) 2006 Center for Popular Economics