Our current political chaos has a simple explanation. The economic system is driving environmental collapse, economic desperation, political corruption, and financial instability. And it isn’t working for the vast majority of people.
It serves mainly the interests of a financial oligarchy that in the United States dominates the establishment wings of both the Republican and Democratic parties. So voters are rebelling against those wings of both parties—and for good reason.
As a society we confront a simple truth. An economic system based on the false idea that money is wealth—and the false promise that maximizing financial returns to the holders of financial assets will maximize the well-being of all—inevitably does exactly what it is designed to do:
- Those who have financial assets and benefit from Wall Street’s financial games get steadily richer and more powerful.
- The winners use the power of their financial assets to buy political favor and to hold government hostage by threatening to move jobs and tax revenue to friendlier states and countries.
- The winners then use this political power to extract public subsidies, avoid taxes, and externalize environmental, labor, health, and safety costs to further increase their financial returns and buy more political power.
This results in a vicious cycle of an ever greater concentration of wealth and power in the hands of those who demonstrate the least regard for the health and well-being of others and the living Earth, on which all depend. Fewer and fewer people have more and more power and society pays the price.
A different result requires a different system, and the leadership for change is coming, as it must, from those for whom the current system does not work.
Awareness of system failure is widespread and growing.
Awareness of system failure is widespread and growing. We see it in the rebellion against the establishment wings of the major political parties. We see it as previously competing social movements join forces to articulate and actualize a common vision of a new economy. We see it in varied and widely dispersed local citizen initiatives quietly rebuilding the relationships of caring communities. We see it in millions of defectors from consumerism, who by choice or necessity are living more simply.
Analysis of the sources of the system failure, however, rarely goes beyond vague references to capitalism, neoliberalism, Wall Street, and immigrants.
Most of us have been conditioned by corporate media and economics education—along with the basic fact that we need money to buy the things we need or want—to accept the pervasive, but false, claims that money is wealth and a growing GDP improves the lives of all.
It rarely occurs to us to challenge these claims in our own thinking or in conversations with friends and colleagues. So they persist and allow the corporate establishment to limit the economic policy debate to options that sustain its power.
To build a truly coherent movement with the necessary strength to replace the failed system with one designed and managed to self-organize toward a world that works for all, we must challenge its bogus claims as logical and practical fallacies. And simultaneously affirm the self-evident truth that:
We are living beings born of and nurtured by a living Earth. Life exists—can exist—only in living communities that self-organize to create the conditions essential to life’s existence. Money is just a number, an accounting chit we accept in exchange for things of real value because we have been conditioned to do so almost from birth.
We who work for peace, justice, and sustainability have the ultimate advantage. Truth is on our side. And the deepest truths, those on which our common future depends, live in the human heart. Let us each speak the truth in our own heart so that others may recognize and speak the truth in theirs. Together we will change the human story.
David Korten wrote this article for YES! Magazine as part of his new series of biweekly columns on “A Living Earth Economy.” David is co-founder and board chair of YES! Magazine, president of the Living Economies Forum, co-chair of the New Economy Working Group, a member of the Club of Rome, and the author of influential books, including When Corporations Rule the World and Change the Story, Change the Future: A Living Economy for a Living Earth. His work builds on lessons from the 21 years he and his wife, Fran, lived and worked in Africa, Asia, and Latin America on a quest to end global poverty. Follow him on Twitter @dkorten and Facebook.