Intimations of a New Economic Story
September 13, 2010
Given the very real tragedy of our current economy, we need a new economic story that dispels faulty assumptions about growth, the environment, natural resources, and most importantly ourselves. The new economic story is rooted in the incontrovertible reality of interdependence—social, ecological, and spiritual. At the same time, the new story honors cultural freedom and equality in matters political, and embraces the value of dynamic tensions inherent in this picture.
The new economic story restores to money its original purpose, to be put at the service of people who can use it to serve others, and eliminates the use of money solely to make more money. An essential part of the story is money’s different transactional functions—purchase, loan, and gift. Each of these functions has its own qualities that support not only the continual circulation of money, but also its renewal. The story is based upon an understanding that all economic activity is originally initiated by gift, just as each of our breathing lives is supported at the outset by the gift of nourishment. This gift is then transformed through human development into capacities for recognizing the needs of others and generating new economic ideas. Lending helps implement those new ideas, and the money is “quickened” by the use of loan (or gift) proceeds for purchase. So the story portrays economic self-renewal through the continual flow and transformation of money through transactions.
In the new story, economic life is also managed collaboratively or associatively by representatives of all parties affected. Thus, everyone’s basic needs are present, and through the circulation of money our interdependence becomes transparent and life-affirming. This is not only possible but necessary for our survival.
It is critical to see this emerging story as a transformation rather than replacement of the old. Transformation assumes an interconnected world in which potential new forms lie somewhere within existing ones. To see this potential requires acceptance of it all, even the shadows. So this economic story is neither one of good versus bad, nor of suspended judgment, but one of transforming: assumptions about into direct experience of; power over into responsibility with; and personal accumulation into service to.
This is a glimpse of the new economic story—nothing more than an intimation. It will take tremendous will, steadfastness of purpose, and an endless supply of social tact and grace to make it a reality. But first it is important to understand the intentions of the story. Only then can it support coherent action and be shared compellingly with others.
John Bloom is the Director of Organizational Culture at RSF Social Finance. If you enjoyed this post, look for John’s book, The Genius of Money, on steinerbooks.org.