How to build an economy for the 99%

May 25, 2020

Wendy KeatsNote: this piece was originally published on the Co-operate Enterprise Council website by CECNB’s executive director Wendy Keats. This piece is a follow-up to an earlier post Wendy wrote on the CECNB blog entitled Becoming the Society We Want.

At the time of writing the first post, Wendy didn’t expect the most promising opportunity for real change to happen so quickly. But it has. In this edition, Wendy lays out five tried-and-proven strategies for building a new economy that works for the good of all people and our planet. And she goes one step further to show how it can all be done without costing taxpayers any new money.

I ended my last blog with the statement: “I’ve come to believe that my childhood dream of a caring, inclusive, equitable society is not only possible, it’s waiting just around the corner”.  However not for a moment did I expect the most promising opportunity for real change would come within a few days, nor that it would be in the form of a virus that would shut down the world and drive us towards a global recession. 

Yet here we are today. In shock. Wondering what comes next.

Economist Milton Friedman once said, “Only a crisis — actual or perceived — produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around”. And while I disagree with just about everything else Friedman said, he is unquestionably right about this. 

Greedy capitalists and corrupt governments around the world have been using this “crisis strategy” for decades to garner power, control, and trillions of taxpayer and consumer dollars. 

It works like this: when the public is disoriented and reeling from a crisis, corporations and governments push through radical, pro-corporate solutions that would otherwise never see the light of day. There are dozens of examples from Pinochet’s takeover of Chile to the war on Iraq and the financial crisis of 2008. 

“Corona capitalism could shower aid on the wealthiest interests in society, including those most responsible for our current vulnerabilities, while offering next to nothing to the most workers, wiping out small family savings and shuttering small businesses.”


Corona capitalism is already in full swing as we see the Trump administration announce $500 billion for large corporations with practically no oversight while others are busily exploiting the crisis to push for no-strings corporate bailouts, regulatory rollbacks, lowering of employee rights, and environmental standards. 

And it’s not just our neighbors to the south. Alberta recently announced a suspension to environmental reporting requirements for industry that applies to the Water Act, the Public Lands Act, and the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, leaving the oil industry free to move forward with plans with no regulatory oversight. And like some kind of crazy conspiracy movie, there’s growing evidence that China is positioning itself to use COVID-19 to take over the global economy. 

MacLean’s and the Washington Post recently reported “China is planning to overproduce various goods to flood the market and increase its market share while Western companies are on their backs. China is also setting itself up to be a haven for foreign capital if its markets bounce back before ours.”

It all boils down to this: to the greedy and corrupt, crisis is nothing more than an opportunity to make a lot more money. Sound evil? It is.  

Yet one has to grudgingly admit that this “crisis strategy” works very well to make very big changes in a very short period of time.  So here’s my proposition: why don’t we use it for good rather than evil?  We have the solutions…and we know that they work! 

It’s time for an economic model that makes sense to the 99%. 

Who among us really understands how the economy works? Oil prices that fluctuate daily, the stock exchange, debt-to-GDP ratio, free trade agreements…come on, we’re just ordinary folks trying to pay our mortgages and give our kids an education and decent quality of life. Yet, it’s us worker bees and consumers who keep the economy going with our hard-earned dollars and the taxes we pay.

So shouldn’t we have an economic model that makes sense to us? One that rewards those people and businesses that create actual value for society, rather than lines the pockets of greedy capitalists and foreign corporations? 

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”


Call me crazy (it’s been done before 🙂 ) but I’m pretty certain there are lots of us out here who would love to see some common sense being used to rebuild our economy post COVID-19. 

What really excites me is that we have the solutions and they are neither hard to do nor based on some wild hypotheses!  Best of all, they don’t need to cost government anymore money than what they spend now.

Five Tried and Proven Strategies

There are literally thousands of ideas about economic change from some of the greatest thinkers of our time and, while many have great potential, there are five that have been proven to work time and time again.

These are not pie-in-the-sky ideas by a bunch of radical socialists but rather tried-and-proven, scalable models from around the globe, and here in Canada, with solid evidence that they are more productive, more inclusive, more sustainable, and make real differences in the lives of people and for our environment. 

Each of these five strategies on their own would make a huge difference. Together they are the formula for an economy that works for the good of all people and our planet. 

(Note: Below are links to pages that give detailed information about each strategy and the evidence that they work. However if you don’t have time to read them individually, there is a summary at the end.)

The first, shortest, and perhaps not-so-sexy strategy. Yet, it may well be the most important step of all…

“The three wealthiest people in the United States now own more wealth than the entire bottom half of the American population combined, a total of 160 million people or 63 million households.” Here’s how we can change that…

For years, Atlantic Canada has been in a trade deficit po