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Agenda for a New Economy: from Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth

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Click on the following link to view a truly stunning documentary film in high definition video.  In one sense it’s a magnificent accounting of the evolution of life on earth.

But, also included, as a key part of this story, is a vivid portrayal of how the environmental and societal consequences of our current version of industrialism and capitalism are destroying a good part of that magnificence.  And in doing that, this documentary demonstrates why we need a new and different kind of economy to properly manage and reshape industrialism and the marketplace.  Key to this conclusion is the growing evidence that our current economic system has failed on every dimension: environmental, social, and financial.  The fact that the Wall Street financial collapse has preceded the terminal collapse of our social and environmental systems is a blessing.  Why?  Because it demonstrates that our existing economic system has failed even on its own terms.

Visually, musically, intellectually and spiritually stunning, this video contains an abundance of beautiful aerial photography that, even by itself is well worth watching.  And while the film turns somewhat pessimistic midway, the ending is upbeat and hopeful. 


With our reflective consciousness, we humans are Creation's most daring experiment.  This gift of reflective consciousness is the source of our distinctive capacity to choose our future as an intentional collective act.  However, for some 5,000 years we have, for the most part, used this capacity foolishly -- at an enormous cost to ourselves and to other living species.  We must now take the step to a new level of species maturity and demonstrate our ability to act with collective wisdom and foresight.  We must begin this task by addressing the dysfunctions of a global economic system that increasingly values money more than life. 

For all the societal and personal pain created by the recent financial collapse, it is in the larger view a blessing because it demonstrates so conclusively that the economy we had come to worship as an engine of perpetual wealth-creation, was based on little more than fraud, delusion and self-deception.  And now we also have David Korten’s most recent book, Agenda for a New Economy: from Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth, which fully exposes this truth, and maps a path to a new economy.

Further explaining the nature of the challenge before us is Korten’s article "The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community" in the Summer 2006 issue of YES! Magazine, and his book of the same name.  See also his web essay, "The Great Turning: Epic Passage" at

Korten’s basic message is that we can change the course of history by changing the ‘stories’ (i.e. the assumptions and theories) that ‘frame’ America’s dominant culture.  The prevailing ‘stories’ celebrate the individualism, violence, greed linked to the pathologies of our collective human immaturity, while denying the potentials for community, love, and nurturing service that define the more mature aspects of human nature.  The turning from domination by Empire community to a more democratically based Earth community depends on changing these stories through conversations that make public the transformative inner wisdom we possess as individuals.  Institutional change will follow from that.

The root causes of our current socioeconomic crisis are three-fold.

Overconsumption: Growth in human consumption, resulting from a combination of population growth and growth in consumption per capita is depleting the natural life support system of the planet, disrupting natural water cycles and climate systems, thereby posing an ever greater threat to ever more Earth’s inhabitants, human and otherwise.

Inequality:  An unconscionable and growing concentration of financial power, in a world of ever more intense competition (for a declining base of material wealth) is eroding the social fabric to the point of widespread social breakdown.  Hence the growing number of children who die each year – the vast majority from easily preventable reasons.

Pathological Governing Institutions: The most powerful institutions on the planet, global financial markets and the transnational corporations that serve them, are institutions of an empire dedicated to growing consumption and ever larger measures of inequality.  These institutions convert real capital into financial capital to increase the relative economic power of those who live by money, while depressing ever more the wages of those who produce real value through their labor.  These institutions respond to environmental and social crises with palliatives that sidestep the need to reduce overall consumption and reallocate resources from rich to poor.  To do otherwise would be contrary to their legal and financial imperatives.  So it is folly expect the institutions that got us into the crisis to get us out of it.

Korten refers to the transformation we must prepare for as The Great Turning.  (See his website, Navigating the Great Turning at  It’s a rich source of ideas and resources for navigators who work to turn the culture by changing its framing stories.)

Financial collapse is only about money and can be fixed over a few years with relative ease.  Social collapse is about the loss of relationships of trust and caring that are the essential fabric of a functioning community.  These relationships can take generations, even centuries, to restore on a national or global scale.  Environmental collapse is about Earth’s life support system.  This can take millions of years to restore—if ever.

Spending trillions of dollars in an effort to restore Wall Street to its original condition is a reckless waste of time and resources.  The more intelligent course is to declare our independence from the predatory institutions of Wall Street, and put in place a new policy framework favoring Main Street businesses and workers engaged in the socially and environmentally responsible production of goods and services that directly and fundamentally improve the lives of all.

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Several years after receiving my M.A. in social science (interdisciplinary studies) I was an instructor at S.F. State University for a year, but then went back to designing automated machinery, and then tech writing, in Silicon Valley. I've (more...)

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