Care2 Editor’s Note: Below is a wonderful post from guest blogger David Korten. He is author of a number of books, including the recently released 2nd edition of Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth. A Declaration of Independence from Wall Street. And good news, folks, he is giving away copies to 10 lucky Care2 members. Just answer Korten’s question in the comments section below and you could be one of the winners chosen. Good luck!
QUESTION: “WHAT IS YOUR PROPOSAL TO INSPIRE AND MOBILIZE PEOPLE AND TO BUILD THE CRITICAL MASS NECESSARY TO TRANSFORM OUR ECONOMIC SYSTEM?”
By David Korten
Imagine a world of healthy happy children, strong families, caring communities, and a vibrant natural environment in which everyone has a meaningful and fulfilling means of livelihood and young people grow up confident in the prospects for their future. An impossible dream? It is within our means.
While he was president, Bill Clinton kept a note taped to his mirror to remind him every morning “It’s the economy, stupid!” Perhaps we should all do the same. It would remind us that the institutions that define the economy effectively determine whether a living wage job will be available to everyone who needs one, whether families can put food on the table without running up credit card and mortgage debt, whether a quality education and health care will be available at an affordable price, and much more.
Economic instability, a grossly unjust distribution of wealth, environmental devastation, and endless wars in distant lands are all symptoms of a failed economic system. Of course, not everyone agrees that it is failing. It works fine from the perspective of Wall Street bankers. They are, however, a tiny minority. It is a devastating failure from the perspective of those who struggle with the realities of an economy that pays substandard wages, keeps jobs scarce, puts education and health care beyond reach, and forces us into perpetual debt slavery to generate hundred million dollar bonuses for Wall Street bankers.
The only legitimate purpose of an economy is to produce the goods and services people need for a full and healthy life. If existing economic institutions fail to fulfill this purpose, it is the democratic right of the people to change them. I’m not talking socialism here. I’m talking real markets and real democracy — the economic alternative both to a capitalist system that subjects people to rule by unaccountable financiers and to a socialist system that subjects them to rule by unaccountable bureaucrats.
It is entirely possible to design economic institutions that value life more than money and distribute power democratically to ordinary people who have a natural concern for the health and vitality of their children, families, community and nature. Although the political barriers are substantial, the basic concepts are simple common sense. You evaluate economic performance by life indicators rather than financial indicators, root the power to create and allocate money in locally accountable financial institutions, and favor public policies that support equitable compensation, community-based cooperative forms of ownership, cost internalization, fair elections, and bio-regional self-reliance.
Declaring our independence from Wall Street to create democratic, market based economies accountable to the people they are intended to serve is a challenge comparable to that faced by the early North American colonists who declared their independence from a powerful king in 1776. The leadership in that early independence movement came from below, not from King George. Likewise the leadership in our contemporary independence movement will come from ordinary people mobilizing from below, not from Wall Street or Wall Street owned politicians.
I find hope in the fact that many millions of people around the world are already engaged in this mobilization. They are forming Common Security Clubs, moving their money from Wall Street banks to community banks and credit unions, forming local coops, and engaging in radical home making to restore the household as a unit of production and reduce their dependence on money. They are rebuilding local economies based on locally owned human-scale businesses, retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency, and changing land use policies to favor compact communities, reduce auto dependence, and reclaim agriculture and forest lands to create regional self-reliance in food, energy, and other basic essentials.
Each is making a important contribution to creating a new reality that looks a lot more like the market economy envisioned by Adam Smith than an economy centrally planned and managed by Goldman Sachs, WalMart, and Monsanto and more like the one-person-one-vote democracy envisioned by Thomas Jefferson than the current system of rule by well-funded Wall Street lobbyists. If you are not already engaged, CARE2 can help you get engaged, as can YES! Magazine and the New Economy Working Group. Spread the good news about the possibilities now within our reach by organizing a discussion group around the recently released 2nd edition of Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth. A Declaration of Independence from Wall Street.
This is the most exciting moment of creative opportunity in the whole of the human experience. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
David Korten is a member of Social Venture Network (SVN) and spoke at SVN’s Spring Member Gathering in April. He is co-founder and board chair of YES! Magazine, co-chair of the New Economy Working Group, president of the People-Centered Development Forum, and a founding board member of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE). His books include Agenda for a New Economy, The Great Turning, and the international best seller When Corporations Rule the World.
SVN’s Fall Invitational is from October 21 – 24 at the Ocean Place Resort in Long Branch, New Jersey and is open to senior executives at for-profit and non-profit organizations whose work is aligned with SVN’s mission of creating a just and sustainable economy. Click here to learn more and register now.
WANT A CHANCE TO WIN A COPY OF DAVID KORTEN’S BOOK AGENDA FOR NEW ECONOMY? ANSWER KORTEN’S QUESTION BELOW IN THE COMMENTS SECTION AND WE’LL SELECT 10 WINNERS!
Photo courtesy of David Korten