PROUT’s economic structure consists of three tiers: key industries, such as electric utilities, are owned and operated by the local or state government, medium and large scale enterprises which operate as cooperatives and are owned by the workers, and small-scale private enterprises owned by individuals. The main defect of capitalism today is that it has created a profit-driven and centralized economy which consolidates economic power in the hands of a few individuals and a few large corporations. These monopoly corporations, where most people are employed today, would be transformed into cooperatives in a PROUT economy.
The Mondragon coops in Spain have demonstrated that co-ops are the most effective way to reduce inequality and maintain full employment. Studies by Professor Jaroslav Vanek at Cornell University have also shown that a cooperative structure is the most efficient way to run large-scale businesses. Today, many progressive and even some conservative thinkers suggest that the corporate sector should be replaced by cooperatives.
The financial system has an important facilitating role to play in the economy by stimulating the real economy. Once the financial sector grows too large, as it currently has, speculation begins to dominate the economy and the real economy becomes unstable. Speculation does not create new wealth, it only redistributes it. Today, an estimated 95% of investments are speculative—only five percent are invested in the real economy. The speculative economy must therefore be curtailed and redirected into an investment economy, so that real money is invested in producing goods and services which create wealth in the real economy.
Free trade between industrially advanced countries can be of mutual benefit, but free trade between rich and poor countries, which happens frequently, is disastrous for the least developed trade partner. Therefore, countries attempting to build up their industrial capacity will have to protect their infant industries through tariffs and other import restrictions. Once industries have been developed sufficiently enough to compete, they can gradually be exposed to trade through local trading blocks that can expand geographically over time. It is best if developing nations only export finished or semi-finished goods and not just raw materials, as is very common today.
If a country has vast resources of raw materials, such as oil, then export may be mutually beneficial, but oil exporting countries need to use the profits to diversify their own local industries as well. Barter of raw materials can be a great way for developing nations to ensure sufficiency in food and other basic needs. The main goal for both developing and developed nations is to first create a self-sufficient industrial and agricultural economy as far as possible before engaging in large scale trade.
Political democracy holds a vital place in society, but it can be improved in the following ways:
by educating the populace politically and economically,
by ensuring that political leaders are ethical and keep their campaign promises, and
by preventing politics from being controlled or unduly influenced by moneyed and other vested interests.
Yet in order to improve people’s lives, PROUT emphasizes economic democracy even more than political democracy. While voting takes place every 2-4 years, economic engagement is, for most people, a daily activity. Thus economic democracy, in the workplace and in the local area, is a direct way in which people can take control of their lives. Through local economic planning, localities can build healthy economies by ensuring that:
the minimum requirements of a particular age are guaranteed to all;
people’s purchasing power increases with the changing times;
all economic decisions are in the hands of local people;
individuals or businesses from outside the local area are not controlling, exploiting, or interfering with the local economy;
resources are sustainably and rationally used and that the rights of animals and plants are protected.
In PROUT, one of the essential roles of political democracy would be to support the goals and objectives of economic democracy.
The underlying philosophy of PROUT is fundamentally spiritual in nature, not because it subscribes to a specific religious view, but because it acknowledges the inherent unity of all life and the spiritual essence at the core of all beings. This spiritual vision also acknowledges the “oneness principle” of the universe, that there is a convergence between consciousness and matter, together creating a web of life in which humans must strive to coexist in harmony. Humans are not only physical and mental beings, but also spiritual. Political and economic planning must therefore acknowledge these three dimensions of life. Spirituality embraces rationality, universal values and science, and should not be confused with a specific religious dogma. Yet spirituality can be described as the universal wisdom at the core of all religions.