09/04  Our need for holistic economics

Holistic economics

We are all participants in one of humanity’s largest mistakes. A global economy purely run on greed. Consumer greed, company greed and market greed. The cure is spelled holistic economics.

I’ve long argued that, from both a microeconomic and macroeconomic perspective, the framework for modern economics is far too one-dimensional. Far too single-minded.

How so? Well, companies are singularly focused on making enough profit to satisfy market expectations. Anything else is commonly besides the point.

Market expectations are high. And are singularly focused on making companies perform for optimal growth and profit.

That would be all hunky-dory if two things didn’t exist;

  • Human dependence on a habitable biosphere
  • A human workforce

These two things require companies to take into consideration externalities such as;

  • Environmental impact
  • Effects of working conditions

If they don’t, we will eventually end up where we’re heading right now. Which is in Hellsville. And I mean that in two ways:

  • An uninhabitable planet
  • Angry people. And we don’t like angry people, do we?

So, we need to insert another dimension into the global economic excel spreadsheet.

Sustainability.

This is how E.F. Schumacher puts it:

“[A modern economist] is used to measuring the ’standard of living’ by the amount of annual consumption, assuming all the time that a man who consumes more is ‘better off’ than a man who consumes less.

A Buddhist economist would consider this approach excessively irrational: since consumption is merely a means to human well-being, the aim should be to obtain the maximum of well-being with the minimum of consumption. . . . The less toil there is, the more time and strength is left for artistic creativity. Modern economics, on the other hand, considers consumption to be the sole end and purpose of all economic activity.”

He’s not the only one that thinks along these terms. Masanobu Fukuoka (author of “The One-Straw Revolution” and the pioneer of natural farming) puts it like this;

“If we throw mother nature out the window, she comes back in the door with a pitchfork.”

It’s really quite simple. You need to sow in order to reap. If you only reap, your land will eventually become barren.

Sure, you can use artificial methods of stimulation.

Such as implanting the illusion of happiness and self-fullfillment in the western sense – consumption.

Not in the slightly more balanced sense of attaining a higher state of consciousness or realizing that our purpose is to seek out happiness through means we already own.

You can drink 10 cups of coffee to cram for an exam or to meet a deadline. But eventually, the body shuts down and you will need to sleep.

You can drive for another couple of miles with the reserve tank indicator blinking. But eventually, your car will stop.

There are natural buffer zones in all ecosystems. But along the beguiling 5-lane highway that modern economics has paved, there are unfortunately very few service stations.

Challenge everything.

To collectively change, we don’t perhaps have to go to such lengths as Victor Papanek – a strong advocate of responsible design, who designed a $4 TV set and a transistor radio powered by a burning candle.

But we do have the responsibility to do good. To contribute. We are not here to take, but to give.

Theodore Roosevelt said in his Nobel Lecture;

“We must ever bear in mind that the great end in view is righteousness, justice as between man and man, nation and nation, the chance to lead our lives on a somewhat higher level, with a broader spirit of brotherly goodwill one for another.

Peace is generally good in itself, but it is never the highest good unless it comes as the handmaid of righteousness; and it becomes a very evil thing if it serves merely as a mask for cowardice and sloth, or as an instrument to further the ends of despotism or anarchy.

We despise and abhor the bully, the brawler, the oppressor, whether in private or public life, but we despise no less the coward and the voluptuary.

No man is worth calling a man who will not fight rather than submit to infamy or see those that are dear to him suffer wrong.

No nation deserves to exist if it permits itself to lose the stern and virile virtues; and this without regard to whether the loss is due to the growth of a heartless and all-absorbing commercialism, to prolonged indulgence in luxury and soft, effortless ease, or to the deification of a warped and twisted sentimentality.”

It all starts with a simple question. What can I do?

If you’re a student, what can you do to make others aware that there are alternatives to the conventional truth?

If you’re a farmer, what can you do to make sure your land can survive through generations?

If you’re a construction engineer, what can you do to inform about and practically use alternative materials and building techniques?

If you’re a web designer, what can you do to optimize page load times and reduce energy consumption?

If you’re a shopaholic, what can you do to reduce the environmental impact of your shopping – what alternative products can you purchase?

If you’re the owner of a company, what can you do to minimize your company’s ecological footprint (energy consumption, waste, manufacturing impact) and build for sustainability?

If you are managing wealth, how can you invest towards ecologically sensible growth?

As simple as that. What can I do? A new, holistic system starts there.

J. Krishnamurti said;

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

Let’s make him proud.

On a final note, a filmatization of Carl Sagan’s text “Pale blue dot“:

Footnote: Thanks to Udit, Sandip, Farhan and Gülsen for valuable insights and comments.

2 Comments » Published by Pär, September 4th, 2007
Filed under Sustainability, Future, Soapbox

 

 

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