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This is from a newsletter from Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, called Reinventing Scotland. It explores the wellbeing economySign up here to receive it every Tuesday at 7pm. 

I JUST happened to read an eight-year-old column in The Guardian by George Monbiot. It was headlined “Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems”.

It struck me as being as relevant today as it was when he wrote it. One question he asked jumped right off the page: “Financial meltdown, environmental disaster and even the rise of Donald Trump – neoliberalism has played its part in them all. Why has the left failed to come up with an alternative?”

The National: Former US president Donald Trump appeared in court in Manhattan (AP)

Indeed, capitalism has mutated into a semi-religious mantra called neoliberalism or neoliberal capitalism. Capitalism gone wrong, just as Stalinism was socialism gone wrong. The ideologies of the left and right, taken to extremes, deliver very unpleasant outcomes. That begs the question: can we combine the best ideas of both socialism and capitalism to kill neoliberalism before it's too late?

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Taking Monbiot’s question one step further, can there be an alternative that meets the needs of the left and the right?

Why capitalism thinks it's immortal

Capitalism has been around for so long that it's part of the furniture. It has developed a profound cultural and historical influence as the dominant economic system (in some form or other) for centuries.

During the Cold War propaganda period, the values of capitalism were skilfully fused with freedom, democracy and progress. You can also access those benefits under socialism, wellbeing economics and social democracy. Sadly, the truth is that neoliberalism is different and has set us on a path towards oligarchy, the subversion of democracy and freedom.

Why people quite like capitalism

People aspire to improve their socioeconomic status and rightly or wrongly believe that capitalism offers social mobility. Post the Second World War, capitalism saw significant decreases in poverty and people recognise that current generations are the luckiest to ever live. Every generation has been wealthier than the last and technology has made life easier.

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If you are my age, your great-grandfather had no TV, no phone, no hot showers but probably had to fight in a world war. Those things we value and take for granted emerged under capitalism. Most people don't see or experience poverty, so they view capitalism as a system where hard work can lead to success in life and improved prosperity, even if they have no capital themselves and even if they are struggling financially – they have hope.

People don't understand anti-capitalists

That's why being anti-capitalist falls flat with the general public. Thatcher selling off council houses spread the social impact of home ownership, contributing to a sense of economic independence and stability. People became investors and as equity, bar a few ups and downs, increased rapidly in value, homeowners see themselves as successful within the capitalist system, even if they don't possess significant capital.

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This spills over into consumer culture. Capitalism is closely associated with consumerism, the drive to meet human desires and wants. This has caused the environmental crisis, obesity and a growing lack of self-discipline that’s slowly poisoning people and society, making us greedy, wasteful and isolated.

The National: A generic photo of someone online shopping. See PA Feature FINANCE Black Friday. Picture credit should read: Thinkstock/PA. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FINANCE Black Friday.

It seems that the things people desire the most are the things we need the least. The things we own have started to own us because people go into debt to project a more successful, more decadent version of themselves to others. That debt is just a new form of serfdom. I call it the “Peacock Economy” – maybe a third of what we buy is unnecessary projection.

The way forward everyone can agree on?

Wellbeing economics isn't a new word for socialism, but it does share many common values. A Wellbeing Economic Approach recognises that quality of life, equality, fairness, environmental sustainability, happiness and health are all outcomes that should be given equal weight to GDP in economic planning. It’s about community wealth building and not driving up share prices and making the rich richer in the hope that some wealth trickles down.

It also adopts some of the positive values from capitalism and understands that left and right are outdated paradigms, tribal prisons of the mind invented by politicians to keep voters loyal. But they miss the fact that we cannot have a strong economy without a strong society and we cannot have a strong society without a strong economy.

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If we get that balance right, then our economy still grows but the wealth created is reinvested in local communities for the benefit of all. It's about measuring and prioritising wellbeing factors that most effectively impact on quality of life of individuals and communities, rather than just purely economic indicators like GDP.

The false assumptions at the heart of supporting capitalism

Above I noted that every generation has been wealthier than the last and property ownership has made people feel wealthier, but that period of successful mid-century capitalism has ended. Young people can't afford to buy their own home and stagnating wages mean that young people entering the workforce are going to be less well off than their parents.

Only middle-class kids find it easy to leave home and that's because their parents are buying flats for them and looking to cover mortgages with spare-room rents – pushing prices up thus locking out working-class renters.

The Wellbeing Economic Approach is not just the alternative from the left that Monbiot was asking for, it's the alternative that appeals across the political spectrum.

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp is the CEO of Business for Scotland, the chief economist at the wellbeing economics think tank Scotianomics, the founder of the Believe in Scotland campaign and the author of Scotland the Brief.