Economic Justice: Is the Price Right?
You know that feeling of disappointment when you discover a program or training that you know you would benefit from, but because of the cost it’s not an option for you?
Or the anger-sadness when you have to renounce health treatments or nutritional supplements that would make life easier because you can’t afford them?
Or the confusion when you attend an event and the price on the door is “Donation” or “Pay What You Want”. How much should you offer – the equivalent of a hot chocolate or a ticket to a show?
Do you ever look at the people around you and ask, “What percentage of their paycheck are they giving?”
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It’s not easy to talk about, think about or contemplate the topic of money.
The emotions around it are visceral and ingrained, and for many people who work in unconventional ways, it’s common to experience an entangled range of discomfort when asking for payment for products and services. An example of the complex psychology might run like this:
My gut and my chest contract and feel heavy when I share my time, skills, knowledge and wisdom for little or no reward. I ask myself, why is my contribution to the world is not valued? Is it the culture, or is it my own fault because my sense of self worth is so low? But then, when I state my price, I feel shame and anxiety just the same. Am I asking too much? Shouldn’t I be offering this from the goodness of my heart. Shouldn’t it be free for all?
But free, low cost and a generous heart don’t pay the bills. They’re also ineffective when it comes to building self esteem.
Economic Justice: It’s Not Easy to Talk about Money
It’s not easy to talk about money. Money plunges us into the murky realms of class, race and gender politics. And when our work involves healing and caring, the esoteric and creative arts, activism, growth and the spiritual paths, things become very complicated.
Healers have often done a lot of healing themselves: they have difficult histories. Carers are usually women. Esoterics and activists are often weird folk, people who don’t fit into a box. Creatives spend untold hours perfecting their craft. Personal and spiritual journeys are often pursued by introverts who need a lot of time on their own.
For innumerable reasons, these fields and the people who work them have historically been underpaid or not paid, and the pattern continues. As a consequence their levels of self confidence wax and wane like a moon cycle.
But fortunately, things are changing. These people are having a conversation, and the topic is Economic Justice.
Economic Justice: The Delicate Craft of Inclusion and Compensation
Healing, caring, esoteric crafts, activism, creativity, personal growth and spirituality. There’s an undercurrent which nourishes all of these fields: love, and the belief that a better world is possible. The people who are tending this gorgeous ecosystem of inter-dependence are asking big questions. How can we do things differently? How can we offer our services in ways which are respectful, inclusive and equitable, while at the same time receive fair compensation for our work?
How can we do what we do, be who we are, earn a decent wage and at the same time not leave anyone out?
The model of Economic Justice offers an interesting response.
What Is Economic Justice?
Essentially, the model of Economic Justice is a co-creative process of building communities which are based on equity and empowerment.
- It recognises that we all have different circumstances which impact upon our purchasing capacity, and that both the causes and the effects of this are complicated, deeply rooted and far reaching.
- It asks for an honest appraisal of each person’s situation.
- It means that prices are not set, but are fluid.
- It encourages wealthy people to pay the real price or a bit more. “Paying ahead” helps to offset lower price points, supporting those who otherwise wouldn’t have access.
- It seeks to even out the perceived value of the product or service so that it’s not cheap for some while creating hardship for others.
- It’s a way for the person who is providing the product or service to receive a fair and appropriate income.
- It’s a way for the person who is receiving to recognise the work of the provider and contribute to their wage according to their individual circumstances.
- It’s a community building endeavour which seeks to create relationships that are founded upon equity, inclusivity and loving abundance, as opposed to privilege, exclusion and scarcity.
Economic Justice: How Does it Work?
Engaging with the model of Economic Justice requires a two-way dialogue of honesty and integrity.
Products and services are offered at different price tiers: high, middle and low. Clients and customers are asked to assess their purchasing capacity before deciding upon a price.
“The Green Bottle Sliding Scale of Economic Justice”, which you see above, was created by Alexis at Worts and Cunning Apothecary. It’s widely acknowledged as a great tool and Alexis encourages us to share it. The text of the Sliding Scale that you’ll find below and that I’ve made into a PDF to download is a credited transcript of her work, to which I’ve made a few modifications.
Three bottles containing various levels of magic green potion represent the goodies (or lack thereof) available to 3 socio-economic tiers. Which tier you belong to is determined through simple questions regarding basic needs, employment, transport, debt, savings, housing, vacations, the purchase of new things, health care and disposable income.
This then becomes a guide for choosing the most appropriate payment level on the Sliding Scale.
- The lowest price makes products and services accessible for those who are experiencing financial difficulty.
- The middle price sustains the product or service and pays the facilitator, practitioner or creator.
- The top price helps to offset the lower price tier and supports access for those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it.
The Sliding Scale: A Tool for Economic Justice
To engage with the Sliding Scale of Economic Justice, clarification around a few terms is useful.
- Basic Needs include food, housing and transportation.
- Expendable Income might mean you are able to buy coffee at bar, go to the cinema or a concert, buy new clothes, books and similar items each month.
- Sacrifice means that in order to pay you might need to choose from amongst things that you want (I’ll do this workshop but I won’t go out for dinner this week.)
- Hardship means you won’t be able to meet your basic needs (put food on the table, pay the bills, afford transport.
Which Payment Tier is Appropriate for You?
Choose an accessible investment if you are experiencing financial difficulty.
- I frequently stress about meeting basic needs and don’t always achieve them.
- I am unemployed, under-employed and/or underpaid for my labour.
- I do not have a car or I am not always able to afford gas or transportation.
- I have debt and it sometimes prohibits me from meeting my basic needs.
- I do not have access to savings.
- I rent lower-end properties or have unstable housing.
- I cannot afford vacations or take time off without financial burden.
- I rarely buy new items because I am unable to afford them.
- I may qualify for government assistance including food stamps and health care.
Choose a Mid-Range Investment to Sustain Production of this Work.
- I may stress about meeting my basic needs but still regularly achieve them.
- I am employed and receive adequate pay for my labour.
- I own or lease a car and can easily afford transportation.
- I may have some debt but it does not prohibit attainment of basic needs.
- I might have access to financial savings.
- I rent mid-end properties and have stable housing.
- I can vacation annually or at least every few years without financial burden.
- I am able to buy some new items and I thrift others.
- I have access to health care.
- I have some expendable income.
Choose a Higher Investment to Support Access for Others
- I am comfortably able to meet all my basic needs.
- I am employed and well paid or I do not need to work.
- I own or lease a car and/or can easily afford transportation.
- I may have some debt but it doesn’t impact upon my quality of life.
- I have access to financial savings.
- I own my own home or property and/or I rent a higher-end property.
- I can take a holiday every year and I can easily take time off work.
- I can buy new items if I wish.
- I have regular access to health care.
- I have a comfortable or generous expendable income.
Economic Justice in Practice: PDF
My downloadable PDF of the Sliding Scale, see below, is an example of how the model of Economic Justice works in practice.
Referencing and writing this blog post, creating the PDF, uploading images, setting up the product page, hosting it all on a website… you can appreciate that there’s a lot of time, care and energy behind the actual PDF.
How might we implement an honest and respectful exchange?
We can make this resource is available to all through the principals of Economic Justice.
- If you can’t afford to purchase – Contact me for a Gift Voucher.
- If the price is right – Purchase the PDF in the Shop.
- If you’d like to “pay ahead” to support accessibility – Purchase the PDF, then Donate here.
How does this make you feel in your body and mind? Can you explore the feelings to find the price that sits right?
Economic Justice: An Ongoing Conversation
Along with dialogue, honesty and integrity, the model of Economic Justice requires a sense of curiosity, flexibility and persistence in order to discover the language and structures that will work within a particular business or community.
Alexis describes it very much as a work in progress. She’s written a series of blog posts that document the modifications and reassessments that she’s made over several years. She includes examples of the language she’s using and the copy for her marketing. Together they’re an excellent resource and I encourage you to visit her posts. I’ve linked to them in the “Read More” section below.
Economic Justice: Finding the Right Price for the Global Market
Apart from the complexity of personal issues, the online space means that many are now working in a global market whereby payments are adjusted according to exchange rates. Current rates, for example, mean that €100EUR is $105USD is £85GBP is $155AUD.
But what does this mean at the grass roots level? In the real world where we work and play, the perceived value of that 100 doesn’t depend on the nebulous exchange rate, but on average earnings. According to nurse.org, in 2022 a full time registered nurse in Luxumberg earns 91,000 USD, in Canada 75,660 USD, in Australia 69,699 USD but in Italy only 30,179 USD.
So, the “right price” for Italians is going to be cheap for those who live in countries with strong economies. The problem with this is that it affects the perceived value of the product or service. Where the perceived value is low, people are less likely to care or commit. But raise the price and people from weak economies won’t be able to afford it.
Not much is clear cut or easy when we want to be good people and earn a decent wage for our unconventional practices, products and services.
Economic Justice: Not How Much Does it Cost? But What Is Worth to Me?
In the market economy, the question is, “How much does it cost?”.
But if we want to explore a model of Economic Justice a better question might be, “How much do I need to pay in order for the product or service to have value?”
In addition to the questions listed on the Sliding Scale, some questions to consider are:
- Do you drive a Porsche or a Punto?
- Do you buy clothes from Max Mara or H&M? Cosmetics from Chanel or Kiko?
- How much do you pay for a “special” item of clothing – a new dress or shoes?
- Do you eat out and travel? Where do you go, what do you do?
- How much do you pay your hairdresser, beautician or massage therapist?
- How much do you pay a psychologist, counsellor or private medical specialist?
- How much do you pay your mechanic, electrician or gardener?
- For those things listed, what percentage of your monthly paycheck do you pay?
- Therefore, what is the right price for this product or service that you want to purchase?
- What do you think is the right rate for the facilitator/practitioner/creator, and why?
- How does all this feel in your body?
Interestingly, Alexis notes that “When the scale has been used incorrectly it’s often by folks who have more than enough money to pay full price yet they have purchased at the lower end of my sliding scale. As opposed to my students and clients who have far less money who typically pay the full class price or a higher percentage of their income than their financially better off peer.”
There’s no judgement here. Many well off people carry a scarcity mindset because of inherited generational wounds. It’s difficult to comprehend privilege when it’s the norm.
Economic Justice: Empowerment for All
When talking about Economic Justice, the goal is not to create guilt, stress or shame for anyone on any part of the spectrum. The idea is to encourage an inquiring mind and an open heart so that all members of the community feel empowered.
- Those who can pay more are empowered by assisting others.
- Those who are supported are empowered through being embraced and held by the community.
Be a Part of the Conversation
What are your thoughts around the model of Economic Justice?
I feel that we need to be exploring more inclusive, more compassionate and more empowering ways of giving and receiving, and this model feels like a good way to move in that direction. This isn’t to say that I know how best to implement it, but I like the conversations that are happening and I want to be a part of it.
Add to the dialogue – please leave comments below.
And if you find this post interesting, please share it, adding credits and links back to this post, because that’s the right thing to do. 🙂
A Sliding Scale of Economic Justice: PDF
The Sliding Scale of Economic Justice PDF is an excellent resource for those who are wanting to build communities that are based on accessibility and empowerment for all.
This resource is available to all through the principals of Economic Justice.
- If you can’t afford to purchase – Contact me for a Gift Voucher.
- If the price is right – Purchase the PDF in the Shop.
- If you’d like to “pay ahead” to support accessibility – Purchase the PDF in the Shop, then Donate here.
These posts from Alexis at Worts and Cunning Apothecary are brilliant.
The Sliding Scale: A Tool of Economic Justice – 2015
How to Make the Sliding Scale Better for You and Your Clients – 2018
Beyond Scarcity: Marketing Access Not Scarcity – 2020
I’m also very curious about what’s going on here:
Justice holding scales Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash | No Justice No Peace Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash | More Equality More Love Photo by Cody Pulliam on Unsplash | Do You Want a Future Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash | Passion Led Us Here Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash