The New Economy

Many organizations dedicated to deep systemic change are mobilizing under a new economy banner. The New Economy Coalition brings together organizations from across the United States working to make a just and sustainable New Economy a reality. The Next System Project is exploring system design options. The New Economy section of the YES! Magazine website carries daily updates on the people who are living the New Economy into being. 

The living systems perspective on the New Economy outlined here is spelled out in more detail in the Living Economy Forum's various books. And is further developed in our YES! Magazine Living Earth Economy column, and our Twitter and Facebook feeds. See <new-economy-resources> for more details. You will also find a wealth of additional materials in the library section of this site.

Most efforts to address issues relating to the environment, justice, peace, poverty, race, gender, immigation, crime, education, and family focus on alleviating downstream symptoms of upstream system failure. The new economy movement is building awareness that the failures are systemic and real solutions require deep structural and cultural change. We are among the groups working to identify the essential characteristics of the new system. We begin with three essential new economy outcomes. 

Three Essential New Economy Outcomes

We humans are on a path to environmental and social collapse.

  • We now consume at a rate 1.6 times what Earth can sustain. 
  • Wealth has become so concentrated that the world's 62 richest billionaires now own as much as the poorest half of humanity--3.5 billion people who struggle to survive on incomes of $2.5 or less per day.

Yet we manage the economy to grow consumption to grow financial returns to the already rich.

Our future depends on navigating the transition to a living Earth economy that self-organizes in support of three essential outcomes.

  1. Earth Balance  between aggregate human consumption and the regenerative capacity of Earth’s biosphere. This will require eliminating profligate consumption that serves only our egos and the squandering of the wealth of nature and the products of human labor to maintain the systems of domination and exploitation that threaten our self-destruction. It will also require voluntary limitation of our human numbers through universal access to family planning methods to assure every child is a wanted child. 
  2. Shared Prosperity based on equitable participation in asset ownership, work opportunities, and social services to secure for everyone the opportunity for a healthy, fulfilling means of livelihood. Societies  that share wealth and work equitably enjoy greater physical and emotional health, stronger families and communities, less violence, and a healthier natural environment. They are as well more democratic and more resilient in the face of crisis. 
  3. Living Democracy as a daily practice of civic engagement through which popular sovereignty finds expression as part of the essential fabric of community life. The active, equitable, and responsible engagement of every person in making the political and economic decisions that bear on individual and community health and happiness is essential to the system's resilience, creativity and ability to adapt to changing conditions in ways that maintain ecological balance and shared prosperity. Living democracy celebrates and affirms diversity, cooperation, and local decision making within a framework of individual rights, community responsibility, democratically determined rules, and mutual accountability 

Success requires that we acknowledge a number of foundational truths.

Foundational Truths 

  • We humans are living beings born of and nurtured by a living Earth.
  • Life exists only in living communities of place that create and maintain the conditions essential to their own existence.
  • Human health and happiness depend on the relationships of strong and healthy families and communities.
  • Money is just a number of no intrinsic value with no existence outside the human mind. It has value only because we accept in exchange for things of real value, like our labor and real capital assets like land.
  • The economy's only legitimate purpose is to support living communities in meeting the essential needs of healthy, happy, and productive living using no more than each person's just and rightful share of our Earth mother's bounty.
  • An economy in which the richest people make the rules to maximize financial returns to themselves without regard to consequences for others will inevitably destroy the social and environmental foundations of the society on which it depends.   

A Market-Based Democratic Alternative

We are taught that the only alternative to the democratic, market-based system we have is the failed state socialism that China and the former Soviet Union abandoned. A democratic, market-based economy is what we in fact seek. Our current system is far from democratic and violates foundational market principles. Ownership is key.

In any economic system, power resides with the owners of the means by which we make our living. The power of kings resided in their ownership of the lands and waters from which their subjects harvested their food and quenched their thirst. Under state socialism, government owns these assets in the name, but not necessarily the interest, of the people.

Under a system of global corporate oligopoly, the powers of ownership reside with global corporations that use them to control our access to jobs, resources, and markets to consign all but a tiny minority to lives of wage and debt slavery. This system bears no resemblence to Thomas Jefferson's vision of democracy or to Adam Smith’s vision of local markets governed by a shared moral code and populated by local farmers, artisans, and merchants who own their own land and tools, care about their neighbors, and exchange goods and services in a transpartent public market place. 

In a true democracy, power resides in the people. That means ownership must reside with people, real people with a real voice. Economic democracy is essential to political democracy. It may be exercised through various forms of cooperative ownership and truly public corporations that support larger scale enterprises. But the preference must always be for human scale enterprises and the interests of the firm must always be subordinate to the interests of the community.

Patriots for Democracy and Markets

The millions of people the world over who are joining together to rebuild their local economies and communities are the true patriots of our time.  They support locally owned human-scale businesses and family farms, develop local financial institutions, reclaim farm and forest lands, advance land use policies that concentrate human populations in compact communities to reduce automobile dependence, retrofit their buildings to conserve energy, and work toward local self reliance in food, energy, and other basic essentials. 

By taking control of their lives, and building resilient local economies that use local resources and employ local people to meet local needs under local control, modern day patriots declare their independence from colonial occupation by alien corporations. They follow in the footsteps of the courageous patriots who in an earlier day declared their independence from subservience to a British king and his crown corporations and launched a new nation dedicated to achieving a daring ideal called democracy.  

Birthing a New System

Our future depends on navigating the transition to a New Economy that approximates the structures and dynamics of Earth's biosphere. This means shifting the economic system's:

  • Defining value from money to life
  • Locus of power from global financial markets to place-based communities,
  • Favored dynamic from competition to cooperation,
  • Defining ethic from reckless externalization of costs to responsible cost internalization, and
  • Primary purpose from growing the financial fortunes of the few to assuring the health and well-being of everyone.

Any initiative that does not advance one or more of these outcomes, probably perpetuates the failed system.

Additional Resources 

These are some of the additional New Economy resources on this website.  

  • Which Story? contrasts the underlying assumptions of the old and new economies and asks you to identify which you find more consistent with your experience and understanding.
  • Healthy Markets spells out the essential design principles of a healthy market economy that supports the structures and self-organizing processes of a healthy ecosystem. 
  • Money Rules addresses the system design choices that determine whether money flows to the phantom wealth Wall Street economy to create inflated financial assets or to the real wealth Main Street economy to create a better life for all. 
  • Life as Teacher outlines the case for looking to healthy living systems for the design principles guide our design of a new economy. 
  • Advancing Transformation outlines a three-fold strategy for global scale transformational change through locally-rooted, self-organizing citizen action.
  • 8 Point Policy Agenda identifies the critical policy initiatives required to shift power from the institutions of the old economy to those of the new economy. 
  • What's New About this New Economy? spells out the differences between two contrasting visions of a New Economy: the magical high-tech fantasy economy and the reality-based living Earth economy. 
  • New Economy Resources provides a guide to resources for further study, organizing discussions, and action engagement.