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Recognize Economic Priorities

Capitalism Causes Discord & Its Own End

It’s a ques­tion of when, not if, cap­i­tal­ism will end. We need to rede­fine what we mean by growth, and become more respon­si­ble with­in all our rela­tion­ships.

Cap­i­tal­ism is at the root of many of the major issues we face today. This is because nature is an inte­grat­ed sys­tem. So demand­ing adher­ence to anoth­er system—the free-market—that strains rela­tion­ships with exploita­tive, cli­mate-alter­ing prac­tices, will only win us hard­ship in the end.

Con­tin­u­ous cap­i­tal growth based in a world of finite resources is impos­si­ble. The more we go against nature’s truth, the more we endan­ger our­selves and oth­ers. The cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem is designed for end­less expan­sion and prof­it. This is prob­lem­at­ic. A body can­not grow unend­ing­ly. To grow in wealth will only result in oth­ers grow­ing in pover­ty.

One of Hong Kong’s ‘cof­fin homes’, Ben­ny Lam

Look at the signs—the increas­ing instances of: mono­cul­tures, cli­mate change cat­a­stro­phes, and even the inter-per­son­al con­flicts sewn from con­cerns over money—over time, the matured ego-tech­no-eco­nom­ic system’s con­tin­u­ous grind has become the main cause of glob­al mis­align­ment. Envi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion under­writ­ten by the cap­i­tal­is­tic sys­tem is a fat, urgent wake-up call.

How might we learn to oper­ate by using renew­able resources and replen­ish­ing what we have tak­en from the Earth? How might we restore integri­ty to our rela­tion­ships with one anoth­er and the plan­et? As cap­i­tal­ism comes to a close, how might we re-inte­grate val­ues of com­mu­ni­ty, cre­ativ­i­ty, and renew­al into what­ev­er sys­tem comes to replace cap­i­tal­ism? We believe that the answer might revolve around the prac­tice of remem­ber­ing and rever­ing the sacred­ness of life in all our activ­i­ties. We believe in the crit­i­cal pri­or­i­ty to work toward estab­lish­ing con­di­tions in which life can thrive.

Mag­ic show poster, Stro­bridge & Co. Lith, 1897
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Recognize Economic Priorities

Costs of Production Should Incorporate Byproducts

There’s no such thing as fast and cheap. The true costs of pro­duc­tion mate­ri­al­ize even­tu­al­ly. It’s time to dis­man­tle the facades of mate­ri­al­ism so we can see what’s real­ly hap­pen­ing behind the cur­tain.

“We are liv­ing the final stages of a very deceit­ful sys­tem that has made every­thing that is very cost­ly for the plan­et, cost­ly for the pro­duc­er, look cheap for the con­sumer. So very high cost pro­duc­tion, with GMOs and patents and roy­al­ties and fos­sil fuel, is made to look like cheap food. Very cost­ly pro­duc­tion that kills the girls in Bangladesh in slave fac­to­ries, is made to look like cheap cloth­ing. This is a fake cheap.”— Van­dana Shi­va

Lead­ers of indus­try need to be account­able for the costs of cli­mate change. Big oil com­pa­nies have known about the cor­re­la­tion between fos­sil fuels and cli­mate change since the late 1970s.37 Yet this knowl­edge was ignored, and even lob­bied against, in a des­per­ate cor­po­rate effort to main­tain prof­its.

Report from the Besieged City 2, Pete Sacks

Com­pa­nies have fought hard to pro­tect them­selves from being account­able to ecosys­tems and mar­gin­al­ized com­mu­ni­ties. Legal loop­holes have allowed harm­ful busi­ness prac­tices to con­tin­ue for gen­er­a­tions. Through deceit­ful pro­pa­gan­da, the mat­ter of account­abil­i­ty has been obfus­cat­ed. Those who are most vul­ner­a­ble have paid most dear­ly. This behav­ior must be rec­on­ciled.

The esca­lat­ing effects of pol­lu­tion, pover­ty, and cli­mate change show us how inter­con­nect­ed we real­ly are. In Feb­ru­ary 2018, Cap­i­tal Insti­tute founder John Fuller­ton and spir­i­tu­al teacher Thomas Hübl sat down to dis­cuss regen­er­a­tive eco­nom­ics.38 Their con­ver­sa­tion raised the ques­tion: Why is it that the glob­al­ized cap­i­tal­is­tic sys­tem isn’t real­ly work­ing for every­one? In many cas­es, tax loop­holes allow giant com­pa­nies to pay almost noth­ing in tax­es while also suc­cess­ful­ly avoid­ing pay­ing any finan­cial price for any of their envi­ron­men­tal crimes. The most obvi­ous solu­tion to this prob­lem is for com­pa­nies to pay tax­es and become finan­cial­ly account­able for the effects of their actions. Yet, that kind of quick rem­e­dy, has to set the stage to make even more last­ing changes.

Heal­ing needs to occur between not only peo­ple and plan­et, but between groups of peo­ple who have been exploit­ed for the prof­its of oth­ers. In much the same way that can­cer is a lack of regen­er­a­tive health, in its own way, so too is pover­ty. A regen­er­a­tive eco­nom­ic sys­tem can play a vital role in reestab­lish­ing health to com­mu­ni­ties, and espe­cial­ly those which have been under­served or over-policed. Work­ing on heal­ing rela­tion­ships between com­mu­ni­ties of peo­ple will have a sig­nif­i­cant influ­ence on the over­all health expe­ri­enced around the world.

Rec­og­niz­ing that a the­o­ry of eco­nom­ic and social jus­tice is not just a fringe top­ic but the main con­ver­sa­tion that can take root in pol­i­cy-mak­ing, will help shift con­scious­ness on a large scale. The effects will be sub­stan­tial. At the present moment, we’re hav­ing trou­ble see­ing our­selves out of the mess we’re in because we haven’t yet had mass access to a sus­tain­able, regen­er­a­tive mod­el of soci­etal orga­ni­za­tion. Humans are great at cre­at­ing abstract arti­facts like eco­nom­ic mod­els. So let’s design a new mod­el, one that deliv­ers sus­tain­able out­comes in a way that’s intu­itive, auto­mat­ic, and regen­er­a­tive.

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Recognize Economic Priorities

The Convenience of ­Consumption Blurs Life-Cycle Relationships

We make choic­es based on effi­cien­cies for time man­age­ment. But if time’s trap­ping us into an arti­fi­cial val­ue-sys­tem bank­ing on the premise that “time is mon­ey”, we real­ly ought to hop off the clock and move on to a more nat­ur­al rhythm.

“We are not atom­ized pro­duc­ers and con­sumers: We are part of the Earth fam­i­ly, we are part of a human fam­i­ly, we are part of a food com­mu­ni­ty. Food con­nects us. Every­thing is food…”
— Van­dana Shi­va

There are many ways to become more informed about what we use. The sim­plest change we can make is to buy and use less stuff. But, to go a step fur­ther, if we become more enmeshed in the process of cre­at­ing what we use, we will con­tribute more to a pos­i­tive con­ser­va­tion of our planet’s resources. Even just by cut­ting down on fast fash­ion and fast food we will auto­mat­i­cal­ly share a greater stake in the out­come of how our plan­et feels.

Con­tin­u­ing to rely on refined oil for our cars and oth­er gas-pow­ered machines is a pret­ty direct road to plan­e­tary dete­ri­o­ra­tion. But the major­i­ty of food we’re eat­ing, the clothes we’re wear­ing, and the trans­porta­tion we’re tak­ing all share a neg­a­tive envi­ron­men­tal con­nec­tion as well: most like­ly, none of these prod­ucts are things we our­selves cre­at­ed. If we did, we would prob­a­bly place a much greater val­ue on them. Instead, the major­i­ty of us rely on cheap, for­eign pro­duc­ers for a vari­ety of tools, clothes, food, and sup­plies of all mat­ter. And this reliance upon com­pa­nies to con­trol pro­duc­tion and set the price for these items makes us more will­ing to seek sav­ings. We also become blind­ly incen­tivized to nev­er ques­tion how those prices were set so low in the first place.

The Great Bar­ri­er Reef pho­tographed in 1893. Half of the coral in the reef has now died.

In his essay for Aeon in Novem­ber 2018 about the prob­lem of not being involved in the cre­ation of that which we con­sume, and espe­cial­ly our increas­ing reliance upon the effi­cien­cy of algo­rithms for our deci­sion-mak­ing, cura­tor and writer Glenn Adam­son points out, “Such auto­mat­ed deci­sion-mak­ing is extreme­ly effi­cient, but it has con­tributed to a cri­sis of account­abil­i­ty. If no one under­stands what is real­ly hap­pen­ing, how can any­one be held respon­si­ble?”39 If we adopt a more farsee­ing mind­set, that we all share a stake in the out­come of every activ­i­ty and unit of pro­duc­tion, then per­haps we can begin to make wis­er choic­es about what we decide to bring into our lives. In this way, we can cre­ate a clos­er rela­tion­ship to that which we con­sume. And, once we’ve adopt­ed this mind­set, then the vision and real­i­ty of what we col­lec­tive­ly make and con­sume will improve dra­mat­i­cal­ly. We must strive to buy into the val­ue of shar­ing in the cre­ation of the objects, mate­ri­als, and tools we engage with every­day.

Ron Cobb, 1969

As Jun­gian ana­lyst Dr. James Hol­lis observes in his book, Liv­ing an Exam­ined Life: Wis­dom for the Sec­ond Half of the Jour­ney,40 “It does mat­ter whether we serve some­thing redemp­tive or some­thing demon­ic. And it mat­ters even more that we dis­cern the ori­gins of what­ev­er we do and whether doing so serves some­thing heal­ing in us or some­thing that binds us in new ways to the dis­abling past.” In this spir­it, we can become more clear about what serves us as an inex­tri­ca­bly con­nect­ed peo­ple and plan­et. Once we gain that clar­i­ty, we can begin to make more con­sci­en­tious deci­sions about how we live and how we con­strue val­ue in our lives.

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