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Friday, February 1, 2013

Manifesto for a New Economic Mind and Morality

The Global Economy is failing. The dominant arrangements of doing business, creating and maintaining wealth, and providing the means of livelihood are now destroying humanity and the very conditions of human life. 

The signs of this destruction are evidenced by:
  • The growing gap between the extremely poor and the extremely rich and a dwindling middle class.
  • The numerous popping “bubbles” of boom and bust stressing families and neighborhoods.
  • The reliance for profit on disasters including war and ecological adversity.
  • The depletion of earth, social, and political resources.
  • The rapid warming of the earth and change of climate.
  • The growing volatility within and among nations and groups.
  • The frequent resort to violence and militarism.
  • The loss of localism in business and commerce; and the increasing concentration of power in transnational corporations with little allegiance to the community or nation of origin.
  • The separation of owners, workers, communities, and the earth.
  • The dependency on massive financial institutions that control the supply and value of money.
  • The ideological clashes irresolvable because of the contradictions in the fundamental premises of the old global economy.

While the effects of this economy are already devastating to the extremely poor, the devastation to the human species as a whole is not far away.  This argues for a sense of urgency to change our behavior profoundly and quickly. The rising appreciation of the destructiveness of the present global economy presents an opportunity to consider a different economy, a sustainable capitalism, by which humans would act more in concert with themselves, their neighbors and communities, and the earth, which is the primary condition of their life. 

Such an economy would:
  1. Maintain the relationship between economy and ecology.
  2. Support all the capitals of human being, not just financial assets, to build true wealth holistically.
  3. Represent an inside-out strategy that builds wealth on local, earth-based and community assets.
  4. Base itself on an ethic of integrity, which is neither relativist nor absolutist, but holds creative tension in all dimensions of human being.
  5. Nourish a politics of inclusion through interacting voluntary associations or publics to build a wealth in which all people profit.
  6. Use measures of success that relate to maintaining and growing true wealth and the personal and public happiness of persons rather than the accumulated capacity to use up or consume.
  7. Allow all persons options for livelihoods that are risky, creative, instructive, and satisfying of their deepest aspirations without the necessity of sacrificing the basic needs of life.

The highway to the sustainable economy is neither incidental reform nor violent, absolutist revolution. Reform that keeps the present arrangements and institutions or Revolution that brings in a new order through force will not lead to a sustainable economy.  A sustainable economy must be systemic and holistic, i.e. an economy built on entirely new principles and consists in totally new arrangements in the way we do business with one another. But it must come not from a powerful and enlightened elite the top, nor from radically dejected victims at the bottom.  It must develop, as it must embody, from the inside out, in local communities, demonstrating the link of gaining livelihood and fostering the life processes of the earth, and built on the basic integrity of the human condition.

While the move to a sustainable economy is urgent, it seems at times to be impossible.  There are overpowering delusions that are holding us back. These delusions include the “myth of the invisible hand,” some transcendent intelligence that arises out of and guides individuals working for their own selfish interests without interference from others or the community. Another is the “collectivist utopia” under the authority of some religious or governmental leader or party. Another delusion is “absolute truth,” revealed by a World Spirit or Omniscient Entity, written in a holy book or constitution or philosophy that removes the human spirit from the responsibility of dealing with the messiness of matter.

More formidable are the institutions in which we have encased ourselves for our own survival that perpetuate the present economy: religious institutions, huge transnational corporations, autonomous states whose officials are in the employ of Church and Corporation, and the rising Plutocracy which controls most of the world’s financial wealth.

But this is not a time for the self-fulfilling prophesies of despair and cynicism. It is the time for action out of hope in the regenerative ability of humanity.

The sustainable economy requires a new mind and a new morality that is happily revealing itself in actual actions and events. These acts of transformation are already transitioning our behavior towards a sustainable politics and economy.

These acts of transformation include:
  • New ventures in “earth friendly” manufacturing and agriculture.
  • Renewable energy enterprises to displace carbon-emitting producers.
  • Urban planning and development for sustainable communities and agriculture.
  • Public and private community-based financing and investment.
  • Public and private service towards community-building economic ventures.
  • Community oriented businesses and cooperatives.
  • Policies for basic life need security of nourishment, education, health, mobility, and shelter.
  • Experiments in liberating education that fosters innovation in science and art, creative earth-friendly technology, entrepreneurship in producing the means of livelihood, and shaping a personal and communal path to knowledge that is not measured by financial accumulation.
  • Organization and development of voluntary organizations that promote a sustainable economy.

Through these activities seeded, planted, and nourished in local communities, fostered by public and private investment and support, and exemplifying a new mind and morality, economic arrangements and institutions are organizing themselves that will replace the present unsustainable economy.

The mind and morality of the sustainable economy is founded on an emerging new image of human transcendence and a renewed ethic of integrity.  Our task is to promote these acts of transformation through personal engagement and public policy (including investment and taxation). Our task is also to contemplate and disseminate the new emerging image of human transcendence and the ethic of integrity.

Our task is urgent and daunting. There is no time or place for dejection and pessimism. We need to engage in and promote thousands of transformational acts, large and small, and build a movement through which we are in communication with each other to nourish the emerging mind and morality of the new sustainable economy. 

This is a draft.  Please edit as you would like for distribution.

Some background reading:
Gar Alperovitz, America Beyond Capitalism
David Korten, Agenda for a New Economy
Jame Gustave Speth, America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy
Rollie Smith, Meditations for an Ethic of Integrity

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