Friday, July 31, 2009

We Need a New System of Economics

Riane Eisler in The Real Wealth of Nations perfectly captured why I am so disgusted with our current economic system and the priorities of our country in regards to how we spend our capital. Forgive me for the long quote, but it's just so immaculately articulated that I can't help myself:

Today, millions of people no longer accept suffering and injustice ad just God's will or the result of mysterious, unalterable, economic laws. All over the world, people are alarmed about the health and environmental effects of industrialization seemingly run amok. They're concerned about trade globalization rules that are lowering wages and worker protections earlier taken for granted in the West. They're aware that half the world still lives in poverty and hunger, and that even in the wealthy United States the gap between rich and poor is growing. They recognize that there's something very wrong with cutting funds for school lunches for millions of poor children while corporations get million-dollar subsidies and the super-rich get big tax refunds. They demand an end to accounting practices that enable corporate officers to enrich themselves at the expense of employee benefit plans and shareholder investments. In short, they decry uncaring economic policies and business practices, and want more caring ones.

The bad news is that efforts to move economic systems in a more caring direction have only succeeded in a few places and utterly failed in many others. Despite rhetoric about "compassionate conservatism," in the United States, economic policies have been moving backward rather than forward. Economic elites in both developed and developing nations still control the bulk of the world's resources, children still go hungry even in wealthy nations, and unprecedented threats to our natural habitat such as global warming are still often ignored.

The good news is that a multitude of nongovernmental organizations are somewhat softening the hardships caused by present policies, and there are some attempts to bring about structural change. A socially responsible business movement is working to institute new rule for corporations that require social and ecological accountability. There are attempts to replace economic indicators such as gross domestic product (GDP) with Quality of Life (QL) measurements that more accurately reflect what activities contribute to human wellbeing and environmental sustainability. There is movement to protect our natural environment, combat sweatshop labor, and develop standards for international treaties that protect workers worldwide.

All these are important efforts to remedy specific defects in present economic policies and practices. But we need more. We need a systemic approach that takes into account the larger system of which economics is a part. (from Chapter 2 "Economics through a Wider Lens")
Eisler outlines her new economic model as a "full spectrum of economic relations" in which the market economy, government economy and the illegal economy of our current economic policies are addressed from a stand point that also takes in the currently ignored household economy, unpaid community economy (volunteers and social justice groups) and natural economy.

She argues that an economic policy that devalues caring in a society only leads to the many problems we see in our culture today in which non-earners like children, the homeless and retired people are treated as worthless, when their contributions to society can be just as or more strengthening than monetary contributions.

Eisler notes and I strongly agree that "many of our economic habits were shaped by a warped story of human nature and an economic double standard that gives little or no value to the essential work of caring and caregiving."

Her challenge, and mine is to stop complaining about the practices that are laying the path to our own destruction, to stop accepting a system so obviously flawed and damaging, but instead to "join together to help construct a saner, sounder, more caring economics and culture."

Related posts:
Planet, Not Politics
My Trip Out of Republican Wonderland [Guest Post]
The Bush Legacy (of Failure)

Like what you see? Subscribe here

No comments: