Agenda for a New Economy, Part V - Navigating Uncharted Waters

Barack Obama was swept into the U.S. presidency on a promise of change. On the economic front, he pushed through a stimulus package, but his efforts to rein in Wall Street have been tepid and sporadic at best. This is due only in part to Wall Street’s political power. More relevant to the theme of this book is the extent to which actualizing the New Economy vision outlined here requires navigating uncharted waters. The available charts and instruments with which the current ship’s officers are familiar are all carryovers from the old economy.

Actualizing the New Economy vision outlined here requires navigating uncharted waters.

For President Obama or any future president to provide the leadership we need, we not only must generate popular demand from below that is too powerful to ignore but also must produce the required charts, navigational instruments, and senior officers familiar with their use.

Our current situation as a nation and a species has instructive parallels to that of the early American settlers who mobilized to win their independence from a distant king. There was no model for the democratic processes and institutions to which their rebellion led. They learned and advanced the arts of political democracy through invention and practice as they set in motion the historic process of dismantling the institutions of Empire while simultaneously creating the institutions of a new nation.

The process they initiated remains unfinished. We the people of our time must mobilize to carry the process forward by learning and advancing the arts of economic democracy as we declare our independence from Wall Street in both word and deed. The power of popular movements resides in their ability to act on three fronts. They must:

1. Challenge and change the cultural stories that frame the collective life of the society

2. Create new cultural and institutional realities from the bottom up in the communities where the members live

3. Use the power of their numbers to demand that politicians change the rules to favor real markets and real democracy

The power of popular movements resides in their ability to act on three fronts.

Although they work below the media radar, millions of people are engaged on each of these fronts, which is a reassuring cause for hope.

The four chapters of part V address the challenge before us. There is no magic-bullet solution to a human crisis five thousand years in the making. The needed changes touch on nearly every aspect of society and our individual lives.

Chapter 16, “When the People Lead, the Leaders Will Follow,” spells out why leadership for deep change necessarily depends on popular action and identifies parallels between the self-organizing resistance movements of the earlier colonists who achieved their independence from British rule and we, the subject colonists of our day, who through our actions are declaring our independence from Wall Street.

Chapter 17, “A Visionary President Meets Realpolitik,” identifies the reasons President Obama did not — indeed, could not — capitalize on the Wall Street crash to move forward a New Economy agenda, and spells out what we as citizens must do to create a political context that makes such action politically imperative.

Chapter 18, “Change the Story, Change the Future,” examines how culture shapes individual and collective behavior and how social movements can use the power of authentic cultural stories to turn the course of history.

Chapter 19, “Learning to Live, Living to Learn,” frames the threefold strategy by which millions of people are living the New Economy into being through a process of learning by doing. It then outlines the contributions needed from media, education, religion, and the arts and provides guidance for people from all walks of life who seek to contribute.

The book closes with an epilogue that presents “The View from 2084” of the world we may yet leave to our grandchildren if we succeed — a world defined not so much by dazzling new technologies as by the opportunities it offers for meaningful fulfillment.