Around the world the economic ideas and policies that have dominated for the past 40 years are rapidly losing legitimacy in the face of multiple crises: stagnant or falling living standards, sharply rising inequality of income and wealth, financial fragility; racial injustice and environmental breakdown.
The Global Financial Crisis of 2007/08 brought an end to the so-called ‘Great Moderation’ – the period of relative economic stability since the 1980s – and laid bare the underlying weaknesses of free market orthodoxy. The impact of the crisis, and the austerity policies that followed, have fractured the political argument in many countries, contributing to a series of political shocks across Britain, the USA and Europe.
At the same time, the economics profession has entered a period of intellectual upheaval. Student-led campaigns for more pluralist economic teaching in universities have gained momentum, while increasing numbers of economists and commentators – including those in mainstream institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – acknowledge the shortcomings of orthodox economic ideas.
At this critical juncture, the media has a critical role to play informing public opinion and shaping the policy debate. But most traditional media outlets remain wedded to economic orthodoxy, reliant on advertisers and proprietors that are hostile to economic change, and columnists that fail to grasp the scale of the challenges we face.
Coverage of ‘the economy’ often focuses on business announcements, the fortunes of financial markets, and incremental policy debates. But the question of who gets what and why is inherently political, and therefore requires a willingness to investigate where power lies in our society – something that rarely features in economics reporting. As a result, the media landscape often acts as a barrier to progressive change rather than the catalyst for it.
openDemocracy is different. We are a global, non-profit media platform that seeks to challenge power and inspire change through tenacious reporting, thoughtful analysis and democratic debate. We run deep investigations; we partner with NGOs, think tanks, activists and academics across the world; and we have an open submissions policy committed to diversity of voice and perspective. We have a long-history of promoting debate on the crisis of our economic system, and the need for an alternative. Most recently, our ‘New Thinking for the British Economy’ project brought together economists, journalists and activists to debate and discuss how the economy needs to change to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century.
Today we are proud to launch ourEconomy, a new section of openDemocracy that puts people, planet and power at the centre of the debate about our economic future. ourEconomy will publish cutting-edge analysis, insight and commentary about the ongoing crisis of our economic system – and promote intelligent debate about what should replace it. We will give voice to those who are putting new economic ideas into practice from the ground up, and showcase some of the most exciting ideas and initiatives from around the world. We will harness openDemocracy’s investigative expertise to shine a light onto the power structures that underpin the status quo, and use human stories to highlight the injustices at the heart of our current economic system.
The project to build a new economy is not merely an intellectual endeavour. Rising temperatures, collapsing biodiversity, depleting natural resources and growing resentment towards an unfair economic system all mean that maintaining the status quo is simply not an option. The question is what comes next.
We hope that ourEconomy will serve as an important catalyst bringing together and supporting the growing global movement which is working to bring about a fairer and more sustainable economic system.