A Short History of the ECG

383–322 B.C.: Aristotle

Aristotle gave the concept of economy its name, and was the first to systematically describe it. He criticized economic management based solely on profit in his Politics, calling it “unnatural” (Book I, Chap. 8 et seq.). He also contrasted it with the “just good”: that which is “communally beneficial” and to which the community is bound – the common good. (Book III, Chap. 12, 1282 b). This makes a “good life” possible and requires “good conduct” on the part of everyone.

106–43 B.C.: Cicero

“The welfare of the people is the ultimate law.” (De Legibus III, 3, b)

1225–1274: Thomas Aquinas

He called the common good the “bonum commune” and deduced in his opus, the Summa Theologica, that by necessity, “every law is designed for the common good” (Prima Secundae, quaestio 90, articulus 2). Since then, this idea has played a central role in Christian social doctrine.

1646–1716: Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

He too believed that law should serve the common good, which he – with the explicit inclusion of the preservation and prosperity of the universe itself – called the global common good. (Nova methodus discendae docendaeque Jurisprudentiae, Book I, § 35; Book II, § 14)

1712–1778: Jean-Jacques Rousseau

In his masterpiece The Social Contract, or Principles of Political Right (Book II, Chap. 3), he asserted that the foundation of legitimate political power is the common will (volonté générale), which is based on common good. This is distinct from the sum of private interests: the volonté particulière or the will of each individual.

1921–2002: John Rawls

According to his work A Theory of Justice (1971), common good in a society is ensured through just “two principles”:  an “equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with a similar liberty for others” and the idea that social and economic inequalities such as differences in wealth or power “are to be arranged so that they are to be of the greatest benefit to the least-advantaged members of society.”

1946: The Constitution of the Free State of Bavaria, Germany

Article 151 of the Bavarian Constitution states the following goal: “All economic activity will serve the common good.”

2001: “Economy for the Common”

Joachim Sikora of Bonn and Günter Hoffmann draft “Visions of the Economy for the Common Good” based on local currency, wastage fees, performance-oriented basic income, and land reform. Joachim Sikora’s Website

2006: “50 Suggestions for a More Just World”

In this critique of globalization (8th Edition), Christian Felber defines concrete means by which the global economy can be made more humane, ecological, and democratic. The critique contains little outright objection, but its investigation of the predominant system of values raises the question of whether the suggestions are inherently opposed to current conceptions of “efficiency”, “growth”, “profit”, “success”, “competitive performance”, and “freedom”.

2008: New Economic Values

The answer to this question was a new book in which the “key values” of the market economy are made transparent and deconstructed. Removing the ideological divide exposes kernels of meaning that form the outline of a new economic order. This is presented in the final chapter of the book.

2008: Attac Business Group

Drawn to its alternative ideas, a dozen Attac entrepreneurs responded to "New Economic Values", offering to a) to help refine the outline and b) to contribute to its execution. For nearly two years the group worked intensely on improving the model, until in August, 2010 the “Economy for the Common Good” was born.

August, 2010: The Economy for the Common Good, the Book

The book is published by the Deuticke publishing house in Vienna. The book’s appendix includes a list of the first 70 participating businesses. (The original goal had been to find between 30 and 50 businesses willing to participate.)

October 6, 2010: Symposium

The Attac entrepreneurs make their first public appearance, organizing a symposium entitled “Unternehmen neu denken” (“rethinking enterprise”). This initial event was intended to test how open-minded, innovative businesses would react to the idea of an Economy for the Common Good. Instead of the expected 50 guests, 100 attended. More than 20 businesses joined a group of “Pioneers”. The process of making the Economy for the Common Good a reality was underway.

December 31, 2010

The number of participants grew rapidly: By the end of 2010, 150 businesses had applied to become supporters, and the number of official Pioneers had increased to 50. In many different regions, the first “energy fields” of engaged participants began to appear. These people worked actively for the realization of the Economy for the Common Good.

January 21, 2011: Matrix 2.0

The Pioneer businesses were interviewed for their initial feedback on the matrix 1.0, the version published in the book. An editorial team collected their responses, and had created version 2.0 by the end of January. A plan of action emerged: Version 3.0 would be finished by the beginning of summer, and would constitute the economic model for 2011. More feedback and the establishment of the model 4.0 for the “fiscal year II” 2012 would follow.

February 9, 2011: Non-Profit Organisation founded

New strategies were planned at a meeting of the Attac entrepreneurs and new participants: The Economy for the Common Good would be “self sufficient”. A foundation would be established to coordinate the diverse areas of activity that had branched out in the process of shaping the Economy for the Common Good: supporters, pioneers companies, consultants, auditors, editors, local chapters and unions.

February 18, 2011: Pioneers

Shortly thereafter, the pioneer companies met to exchange accounts of their first experiences. Together, they created a schedule leading up to October’s Economy for the Common Good Model Press Conference.

February, 2011: Consultants

Members of the Attac entrepreneurs unite to create a platform of Common Good Consultants. Their goals are to aid the Pioneers in the business process, to establish a certified profession, and to found a Common Good Academy.

March 24, 2011: The Common Good Balance Sheet completed

On his own initiative, the software professional Paul Ettl creates a spreadsheet program for the model, which is updated frequently. The most current version is made available on the Pioneer webpage.

April 6, 2011: L’Économie citoyenne

The French translation of "The Economy for the Common Good", L’Économie citoyenne, is published by the Paris publishing house Actes Sud, the same publisher that brought Joseph Stiglitz and Naomi Klein to France.

April 19, 2011: The first 10,000 copies of the book are sold

The Deuticke publishing house announces the sale of the first 10,000 copies of The Economy for the Common Good. The book is in its 5th edition. An entirely reworked edition is planned for early 2012.

May 18, 2011: The first Balance Sheets are completed

At a subsequent Pioneer meeting, the group, which has grown to 70 members, brings in its first business results. The verdict: 50 common good criteria are too many for the first year. It is decided that the best option is to reduce the measures taken, and to increase them little by little over the following years.

June 30, 2011: Common Good Balance Sheet version 3.0

As a result of this feedback, the editorial team works feverishly for weeks to pare the model down to 18 criteria. For each criterion, a one-page fact sheet is created and additional information is recorded in a handbook. The model 3.0 is valid for the 2011 fiscal year. The fact sheets and handbook are updated frequently.

July 13 - 17, 2011: The Attac Academy

The Attac Austria Summer Academy hosts a three-part seminar on the Economy for the Common Good: Fundamentals (values, principles); Problems of Execution (models); Strategies (process, democracy).

July 25, 2011: Contact persons for the Pioneers

Günther Reifer volunteers to take on the responsibility of assisting the Pioneers. He becomes the main point of contact for all of the current and future Pioneer entrepreneurs’ questions and problems: pionierinnen@gemeinwohl-oekonomie.org

August 1, 2011: Organizational Coordinator

Thanks to generous contributions from 15 companies, a full-time organizational coordinator can be brought in. Barbara Stefan is so motivated that she sets to work right away, lending the whole process energy, clarity, order, and support: koordination@gemeinwohl-oekonomie.org

September, 2011: External Audit or Peer-Evaluation is Required

Before the first models are made publicly available, they are evaluated by external parties. In the fiscal year I, this is “only” carried out by other Pioneer businesses and other advisors (especially from other companies with results of over 600 points). Later, the Common Good Auditors will assume the responsibility for this task.

October 5, 2011: Press Conference on Common Good Balance Sheet

Pioneer businesses address the public in Bozen, Graz, Klagenfurt, Linz, Munich, Salzburg, and Vienna in order to introduce the Common Good Economic Model and present their first results. They also make their first political demands.

October 6, 2011: First Birthday

One year after the “Unternehmen neu denken” symposium, all of the participants in the fast-growing Common Good process meet in order to network, exchange accounts of their experiences, discuss issues, consider the future, and celebrate together.  

December, 2011: Common Good Balance Sheet version 4.0

The press conference will further enlarge the pool of participants and instigate a new wave of feedback. This will be “caught” by the editorial team and worked into the matrix / model. The version 4.0 will be valid for the fiscal year II: 2012.

October, 6th-7th, 2012: General Assembly

The first General Assembly of the ECG is held in Austria.

January, 2013: Italian ECG Association is founded

2012 – 2015: Working Towards an Economic Convention

Over the coming years, thousands of businesses will join the process and help to shape it. The model will be reworked annually. At the latest, version 10.0 will serve as the model for the Common Good Economic Convention, and we will call for it to be directly and democratically instituted. It will be used to formulate legislation that will be voted on by the democratic sovereign – the people. If passed, it would be rooted in the constitution, and could only be altered by the same sovereign.