Decentralised Economy – 2
Prout’s Principles of Decentralized Economy
The first principle of decentralized economy is that all the resources in a socio-economic unit should be controlled by the local people. In particular, the resources which are required to produce the minimum requirements must be in local hands, and all the industries based on these resources will have to be controlled entirely by the local people. Local raw materials must be fully utilized to produce all kinds of commodities necessary for the economic development of a socio-economic unit.
Local people are those who have merged their individual socio-economic interests with the socio-economic interests of the socio-economic unit they live in. Clearly, this concept of local people has nothing to do with physical complexion, race, caste, creed, language or birth place. The fundamental issue is whether or not each person or family has identified their individual socio-economic interests with the collective interests of the concerned socio-economic unit. Those who have not done so should be branded as outsiders.
No outsider should be allowed to interfere in local economic affairs or in the system of production and distribution, otherwise a floating population will develop, causing the outflow of economic wealth from the local area. If this occurs the area will become vulnerable to outside economic exploitation and decentralized economy will be undermined.
The surplus wealth, after meeting the minimum requirements of the people in the local area, should be distributed among the meritorious people according to the degree of their merit. For example, doctors, engineers, scientists and other capable people engaged in various activities require extra amenities so that they can perform greater service to society. While a common person may require a bicycle, a doctor may require a car. But there must also be provision in the economy for reducing the gap between the minimum requirements of all and the amenities of meritorious people. To increase the standard of living of common people, they may be provided with scooters instead of bicycles. Although there is some difference between a scooter and a car, the gap that existed between a car and a bicycle has been partially reduced. The economic gap between common people and meritorious people should be reduced as much as possible, and ceaseless efforts must be made in this regard, but this gap will never vanish altogether. If the gap increases, the common people will be deprived and exploitation will re-emerge in society in the guise of amenities. Decentralized economy leaves no such loophole because on the one hand the standard of the minimum requirements must be increased, and on the other hand the provision of amenities will be assessed from the viewpoint of the collective welfare.
The second principle of decentralized economy is that production should be based on consumption, not profit. Most countries in the world have adopted economic systems which are profit oriented – that is, production is undertaken for profit. Producers give first preference to those items which bring maximum profit, so everywhere there is keen competition regarding the production of the most profitable goods. India is no exception. To increase the standard of living of the people, a new system of production will have to be introduced. Consumption, not profit, should be the underlying motive in the field of production.
In a decentralized economy the commodities produced by a socio-economic unit will be sold in the local market itself. As a result, there will be no uncertainty in the local economy or the economic life of the local population. In addition, money will be circulated within the local market so there will be no outflow of local capital. The possibility of an economic catastrophe in the local economy will be largely eliminated. In such a system, people’s income will have an upward trend and their purchasing capacity will continuously increase. No economic system in the world has been able to continuously increase the purchasing capacity of the people, because economic power is concentrated in the hands of a few.
The third principle of decentralized economy is that production and distribution should be organized through cooperatives. One of the principal reasons for the past failure of the cooperative movement is economic centralization. It is extremely difficult for cooperatives to succeed in an economic environment of exploitation, corruption and materialism, so people cannot accept the cooperative system wholeheartedly. Cooperatives are forced to compete with the monopoly capitalists for local markets, and the rights of the local people over their raw materials are not recognized. Such circumstances have undermined the success of the cooperative movement in many countries of the world.
On the other hand, decentralized economy is one of the principal reasons for the success of the cooperative system. The availability of local raw materials will guarantee constant supplies to cooperative enterprises, and cooperatively produced goods can be easily sold in the local market. Economic certainty will create increasing interest and involvement among the cooperative members, and as the local people will be confident of their economic security, they can wholeheartedly accept the cooperative system.
As far as possible, agriculture, industry and trade should be managed through cooperatives. In these sectors of the economy private ownership should be abolished in stages. Only where production cannot be undertaken by cooperatives because of the complex nature or small scale of operations should it be undertaken by private enterprises. The distribution of commodities should be done through consumers cooperatives. Adequate safeguards for cooperatives will also have to be arranged.
The cooperative system is a must, and it is only possible through decentralized economy. The cooperative system and decentralized economy are inseparable.
The fourth principle of decentralized economy is that the local people must be employed in local economic enterprises. Unless the local people are fully employed in the local economy, unemployment can never be solved. Local people should determine the quantum of minimum requirements and the basic policies connected with their own economic well-being. If this principle is followed the problem of outside interference in the local economy will not arise at all.
Cooperatives will provide employment for local people, and also ensure that the skills and expertise of the local people are fully utilized. Educated people should also be employed in cooperatives so that they do not leave the local area in search of employment or move from the countryside to the cities.
For the development of agriculture there is a great need for specialists and technicians, so cooperatives will have to train unskilled rural people so that they can acquire the necessary skills to develop the agricultural sector. In addition, all types of agro-industries and agrico-industries will have to be developed according to the needs and resources of the local area, and these industries should be managed as cooperatives.
The fifth principle of decentralized economy is that commodities which are not locally produced should be removed from the local markets. As decentralized economy aims to develop local industries and create employment for the local population, those commodities which are not produced within the local area should be banished from the local market as far as possible. It is essential that the local population utilize the commodities produced in their own area to ensure the prosperity of the local economy. Initially, local commodities may be inferior, more costly or less readily available than outside commodities, yet in spite of this, locally produced commodities should still be used by the local people. If local commodities do not meet the needs and aspirations of the people, immediate steps must be taken to increase the quality, reduce the price and increase the supply of local goods, otherwise illegal imports will be encouraged.
In a decentralized economy, the application of this principle is very important. If it is neglected, the local industries will gradually close down, local markets will go out of the hands of the local people and unemployment will increase. Once locally produced goods are accepted in principle, not only will local industries survive, but with their further development the local economy will thrive. The outflow of capital from the local area will be checked, and because it will remain in the local area, it will be utilized to increase production and enhance the prosperity of the local people. With the increasing demand for local commodities, large-scale, medium-scale and small-scale industries will all flourish.