The New Economy Law Center sponsors investigations, symposia, fellowships and internships to create a lively forum for exploring the role of the law and policy change in transitioning to a new economy.
ORIGINS AND PURPOSE
The law must grow to meet new societal concerns, sometimes leading, sometimes lagging, but always there to identify and provide the new guidance and norms that are needed.
And so it is now as we face the reality of our current system of political economy, which is characterized by large externalized environmental costs, a GDP growth fetish, and runaway consumerism, to mention but a few of the major dimensions. Today's system is misaligned to meet the global imperatives to rapidly reduce greenhouse gases and to share wealth more equitably at home and abroad. The new economy movement has emerged to provide an alternative system where ecological integrity, social justice, and vibrant democracy are central.
In response to this need, Vermont Law School created the New Economy Law Center in the fall of 2015, the first community of law and policy scholars of its kind. Co-founded by Gus Speth and Professor and Associate Dean of the Environmental Program Melissa Scanlan, the New Economy Law Center engages students, faculty, and others at Vermont Law School and throughout the world. While the New Economy Law Center is informed by and engaged with the work of multiple disciplines, the business sector, and activists, it is focused on the development of law and policy.
The new economy framework
The New Economy Law Center complements the ongoing efforts to build a new economy movement. In terms of environmental policy, law, and advocacy, the new economy framing looks beyond the now-accepted contours of American environmentalism and seeks to frame a new environmental discourse with principles such as the following:
- Seeing the economy as nested in and dependent on the world of nature, its resources, and its systems of life.
- Recognizing the rights of species other than humans and otherwise transcending anthropocentrism.
- Concluding that environmental success depends on correcting the underlying drivers of environmental decline and working for deep, systemic change outside the current framework of environmental law and policy.
- Responding to global-scale environmental challenges through innovative approaches.
Within the framework, and particularly in responding to the need to look beyond traditional approaches to environmental governance, new economy leaders have examined an impressive range of issues:
- the role of the market and the commons
- the nature of the corporation
- the role of GDP growth
- new indicators of well-being beyond GDP
- new systems of money and finance
- economic and social inequality and injustice
- consumerism and lifestyles
- sustainable communities and subsidiarity
- values and culture
- systems of strong democracy
- the international context and foreign affairs
In each of these areas and others, there is a legal architecture that provides a structure for the current economy, polity and society. The New Economy Law Center seeks to identify and understand these systems of law and policy and explore alternatives that are more consistent with the values sought by the new economy movement.
Vermont Law School has been pioneering practical demonstrations of law for the new economy. In the fall of 2014, VLS opened two new law clinics, one focused on establishing community solar projects and another on developing local and regional food systems. There are examples of the new economy being born all around us.