Ten Common Sense Economic Truths

The more closely I look, the more obvious it is that the Old Economy fails because it is based on false values, assumptions, and logic. Those who are working to create a New Economy from the bottom-up intuitively recognize and act on 10 common sense truths foundational to a sound economy.   


Photo by Jo Christian Oterhals
  1. The proper purpose of an economy is to secure just, sustainable, and joyful livelihoods for all. This may come as something of a shock to Wall Street financiers who profit from financial bubbles, securities fraud, low wages, unemployment, foreign sweatshops, tax evasion, public subsidies, and monopoly pricing. 
  2. GDP is a measure of the economic cost of producing a given level of human well-being and happiness. In the economy, as in any well-run business, the goal should be to minimize cost, not maximize it. 
  3. A rational reallocation of real resources can reduce the human burden on the Earth’s biosphere and simultaneously improve the health and happiness of all. The Wall Street economy wastes enormous resources on things that actually reduce the quality of our lives—for example war, automobile dependence, suburban sprawl, energy-inefficient buildings, financial speculation, advertising, and incarceration for minor, victimless crimes. The most important step toward bringing ourselves into balance with the biosphere is to eliminate the things that are bad for our health and happiness.
    The proper purpose of an economy is to secure just, sustainable, and joyful livelihoods for all.
  4. Markets allocate efficiently only within a framework of appropriate rules to maintain competition, cost internalization, balanced trade, domestic investment, and equality. These are essential conditions for efficient market function. Without rules, a market economy quickly morphs into a system of corporate monopolies engaged in suppressing wages, exporting jobs, collecting public subsidies, poisoning air, land, and water, expropriating resources, corrupting democracy, and a host of other activities that represent an egregiously inefficient and unjust allocation of resources.
  5. A proper money system roots the power to create and allocate money in people and communities in order to facilitate the creation of livelihoods and ecologically balanced community wealth. Money properly serves life, not the reverse. Wall Street uses money to consolidate its power to expropriate the real wealth of the rest of the society. Main Street uses money to connect underutilized resources with unmet needs. Public policy properly favors Main Street.
  6. Money, which is easily created with a simple accounting entry, should never be the deciding constraint in making public resource allocation decisions. This is particularly obvious in the case of economic recessions or depressions, which occur when money fails to flow to where it is needed to put people to work producing essential goods and services. If money is the only lack, then make the accounting entry and get on with it.
  7. Speculation, the inflation of financial bubbles, risk externalization, the extraction of usury, and the use of creative accounting to create money from nothing, unrelated to the creation of anything of real value, serve no valid social purpose. The Wall Street corporations that engage in these activities are not in the business of contributing to the creation of real community wealth. They are in the business of expropriating it, a polite term for theft. They should be regulated or taxed out of existence.
  8. Greed is not a virtue; sharing is not a sin. If your primary business purpose is not to serve the community, you have no business being in business.
  9. The only legitimate reason for government to issue a corporate charter extending special privileges favoring a particular enterprise is to serve a clearly defined public purpose. That purpose should be clearly stated in the corporate charter and be subject to periodic review.
  10. Public policy properly favors local investors and businesses dedicated to creating community wealth over investors and businesses that come only to extract it. The former are most likely to be investors and businesses with strong roots in the communities in which they do business. We properly favor them. 

Adapted from "10 Common Sense Principles for a New Economy" 
originally posted as a YES! blog August 6, 2010