Service for the Common Good

In my book Rethinking Economy, I propose a “self-determined service for the common good” (SSCG) as an alternative social security provision that motivates people to work for the common good, and that pays them for their activity. It would avoid fundamental disadvantages of the present social welfare payments (especially for the long-term unemployed). It would not be tied to means testing, but instead to the willingness to work part-time in an activity proposed by the applicant and that serves the common good. A person doing this service for the common good would be allowed to additionally work in another part-time employment, but the total number of work hours shold not exceed those of fulltime employment. This system could assist people even before they find themselves in an almost impossible financial situation, and thus could help avoid emergency situations instead of just alleviating them after the fact.

I have described the basic elements of a self-determined service for the common good in Germany as follows; this proposal could of course be developed further:

A service for the common good in Germany could be designed as follows: any person with a permanent residence permit in the country has the possibility to do a half-time job for the common good, and to be paid 1000 Euros a month for this work. A person who wants to perform as SSCG submits an application at a local government office, declaring which task he or she wishes to perform. For example, he can do social or environmental work with an existing nonprofit, or start his own social project in the neighborhood, or initiate a scientific or artistic or cultural project. In addition, she should explain who should evaluate her performance by which method of assessment, and how the proposed work will complement but not duplicate paid employment positions at existing institutions. In the case of work in the context of an existing charitable organization, someone in that organization can evaluate the work performed. In the case of individual projects, either the people who benefit from that work or the people who regularly work with the SSCG-worker can evaluate her performance. Once an application has been approved, the person can start work, while also being allowed to work up to half time at another job. If the application is rejected, the person can revise and resubmit the application (with the assistance of the relevant agency).

Potential advantages of an SSCG include the following:

  1. shifting the labor market to the advantage of working people,
  2. more equal income distribution,
  3. expressing a sense of value for the contributions of the common-good-workers,
  4. promoting the common good via the work of the common-good-workers,
  5. promoting social innovation by the common-good-workers,
  6. enhancing professional qualifications,
  7. effective use of public funds,
  8. reducing the severity of recessions.

In the second page on the self-determined service for the common good, there are further questions and answers.

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