Personal Economics

The challenge of establishing sustainable behaviour

In ‘How to achieve healthy and sustainable economic development’ I started from the global economy and worked down to the micro economy. In this context, money is a tool. But in personal economics most people start from the currency that is available to them when making a decision to acquire energy in the form that helps them to achieve their needs or desires. What has changed over the last twenty years is that it is now possible for people, particularly those with access to the internet, to make purchases, invest or borrow from other micro economies that use a different currency. This has created both new micro economic problems (as the financial crisis of 2008 demonstrated) and new personal responsibilities for ensuring the health and value of the currency individuals use to measure their financial wealth. This article explores this and other personal economic choices that can contribute to the creation of a more sustainable economic environment.

Renewal – the key to responsibility & sustainability
To try to exercise personal responsibility you need to be able to work out where the actions you perform will take the economic energy you are using. For example: if you purchase goods or services wholly created in the UK, the money spent on them should be expected to stay within the UK economy for reuse. However, this might not be wholly true if the company selling the product is not owned in the UK. Sometimes a negative situation is easier to work out, as in the case of the consumption of fossil fuels, when the energy released has come from the crust and is usually discharged into the atmosphere, which has a potentially adverse effect on global carbon levels. But carbon capture could lead to some of the discharge being reinterred back into the earth’s crust. Therefore all an individual can do is make an informed decision on the basis of the best information currently available.

Because currencies are usually issued by a national government or group of countries (as in the members of the Euro Zone), decisions about the use of money tend to be more limiting than those made about goods and services. Purchases, borrowing or investments made in another micro economy that uses a separate currency will mean that future decisions about the value, in money terms, will pass into the control of the economy providing the goods, services, loans or assets. Hopefully, the money will be used to buy from or loan to the originating micro economy, which will create the desirable recycling process sought within the concept or responsible personal economics.

A currency within a micro economy is a public service and all public services should be seen as requiring responsibility from all individuals that use and benefit from them and not just those in government.

Private activities are usually more controllable but they are not always open to everyone. For example, growing your own food has become widely advocated because it can often be more tasty and healthy but also because the global impact seems more sustainable. However, it clearly cannot be achieved by everyone in our mostly urban and variously abled society.

Responsible and sustainable personal economics is not easy and it is also likely to be time consuming but it can provide satisfaction and it is the only way of taking positive actions on behalf of generations either unborn or too young to take decisions for themselves.

Paul Newman
April 2015