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Glossary for economic democracy

Prepared by the Education Team



one who coordinates public support for, or recommends a particular cause or policy.

Anti-oppression framework:

an approach to socio-economic issues that begins from a place of equality and justice in contrast to existing structures that disadvantage particular groups.


the variety of life that can be found on Earth (people, animals, plants, fungi and microorganisms) as well as the communities that they form and the habitats in which they live.


geographic areas defined by characteristics of the natural environment such as common climate, species, watersheds, terrain and geology.


the measure of the amount of energy that food produces. An important issue in economic justice concerns the quality and quantity of food calories available to different populations.


a growth-oriented economic system in which industry, trade and finance are controlled by private owners for profit rather than the workers they employ for a set wage.

Carrying capacity:

the potential of a geographical area to generate enough food to support 
the population living within that area.

Circular economics:

a framework rooted in ecological ethics and practices in which byproducts, including waste, are recycled back into nature for the purpose of reproduction.

Civic activism:

education, engagement, and participation in the promotion of resilience and adaptation in a community facing social and environmental change.


the shared material and non-material resources that we inherit from the past, create and use in the present, then conserve and sustain for future generations.

Conservation Basin:

a large low-lying area which is fed by surface water and groundwater and is measured to protect agriculture from sediment, erosion or drainage.


worker-owned and operated businesses where members have a voice and a financial stake in the organization and provide local goods and services to the community at 
a reasonable cost.

Data-driven decision making:

the process of making collective decisions based on empirical data rather than on individual intuition or observation.

Decentralized local economy:

an economic system in which a significant portion of the production and distribution of goods and services are provided by small, local companies with little government intervention.

Distributive value:

the equitable distribution of goods and services within a population based on its measurable needs.

Economic democracy:

enables people and local areas to be more empowered, self-sufficient, and sustainable. The main objective is to guarantee the minimum requirements for living to all members of society and to make efforts to improve these conditions over time.

Economic justice:

a set of moral and ethical guidelines for building economic institutions that meet people's’ basic needs leading to a dignified, productive, and creative life.


a group of living organisms that interact with each other in a specific environment on which they depend for sustenance.

Equitable access:

every person has the same opportunity to secure the resources for meeting their basic needs on a sustainable basis.


the combined total of evaporation from the land surface and transpiration from plants.

Free markets:

an economic system in which prices are determined by unrestricted competition and are free from any intervention by a government which regulates supply and demand through various methods such as tariffs used to restrict trade.

Free trade:

an economic policy that does not restrict or encourage imports or exports through tariffs and subsidies.

Graphic Information System (GIS Mapping):

computer-based framework that captures and analyzes complex spatial and geographic data in the form of easy-to use maps.

Green capitalism:

the view that nature has capital because ecosystems have their own yield.

Human capital:

the view that human ideas and labor produce economic value.

Hydrologic cycle:

the complex system of water movement above and below the Earth’s surface that is essential for the maintenance of all life and ecosystems on the planet.

Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC):

a classification system used by the US Geological Survey which arranges water systems from large to small geographic areas and assigns them a unit code.

Invisible hand:

a metaphor coined by Adam Smith describing the social consequences of individuals acting in their own self-interest.



an economic and political philosophy that emphasizes individual rights, personal liberties, democratic societies, and free enterprise.

Model State Legislation:

has been defined by private interest groups as boilerplate proposals which they develop to influence State legislators in the drafting of new legislation. With regards to economic democracy, however, model State legislation refers to bills that focus on the equitability and sustainability of regional resources for the public interest.

Monetary system:

a set of policies, frameworks, and institutions, including a mint, central bank, and treasury, by which a government creates money in an economy.

Natural capital:

the world's stock of natural resources, including geology, soils, air, water and all living organisms, that meet the basic needs and contribute to the well-being of people.


a policy model that encompasses both politics and economics and seeks to transfer the control of economic factors from the public sector to the private sector.

Non-renewable resources:

physical resources whose stock or reserves are limited or fixed and cannot be regenerated.

Participatory democracy:

ensures that citizens are afforded an opportunity to be involved in decision making on matters that directly affect their lives, in contrast to representative democracy which is more indirect.

People’s economy:

is concerned with social inequality and prioritizes the basic needs of ordinary citizens, such as food, clothing, education, shelter and medical care.

Private bank:

a bank which operates as a business whose sole objective is financial profit.

Progressive utilization:

a concept from PR Sarkar, founder of the economic theory Prout, which says that the use of the world’s resources should be maximized in ways that meet the needs of all people.

Public bank:

a chartered depository bank which reflects the values and needs of the public that it represents.

Rational distribution:

a model in which data for a community’s minimum requirements are calculated so that everyone’s needs are met through goods that are supplied at affordable prices.

Renewable resources:

natural resources that have the potential to be regenerated over time.

Rent seeking:

an economic concept whereby an individual or entity seeks to increase their own wealth without creating any benefits or wealth to society.

Representative democracy:

a type of democracy founded on the principle of elected persons representing a group of people, as opposed to participatory democracy.

Resource democracy:

the equitable and sustainable management of vital resources to meet basic human needs of current and future generations.

Resource sustainability:

the optimal use of natural resources for the benefit of the entire community as well as the needs of future generations.


the ability of a person or group to organize and manage itself without intervention from an external authority.

Shadow economy:

an unregulated aspect of the economy in which work is done for cash and for which taxes are not paid.

Social contract:

an agreement among people that defines their moral, political and economic rights and obligations for the society in which they live.

Social justice:

equality in the distribution of wealth, opportunities, privileges, and responsibilities within a society.


a political and economic theory in which the means of producing, distributing and trading wealth are owned and controlled by the cooperative efforts of the people as 
a whole.

Speculative markets:

the trading of financial instruments involving high risks in the hopes of high rewards.

Supply and demand:

the amount of a goods that are available and the willingness of buyers to pay for them, expressed as a price.


the maintenance of natural resources at a certain rate or level over time to maintain an ecological balance.

Systems change:

a process of addressing the root causes of social and economic problems with the intention of fundamentally altering the components and structures that cause the system to behave inequitably and unsustainably.

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