We have such a lopsided view of what counts in our world. So lopsided that 'geniuses' on Wall Street cooked up a scheme called Derivatives, Hedge Funds and Credit Default Swaps and sold them to the world as if they had counted or had value. Because making money is the thing that counts more than anything in our economy it made sense for Wall Street to do this. The more money, the better.
But now it's been discovered that these investment instruments were made up out of thin air and have absolutely no value! Of course all the investors-who themselves were after the only thing that counts---money-want to be paid off for these fake investments. Imagine everyone's surprise when it was found out that Wall Street investment banks don't have the money to pay everyone off. (Value of all these investments--$180 trillion which is 3 times the gross domestic product of the world).
The world's citizens don't appear to be at all outraged that this is happening. They may not like it, b ut since money is what counts- and is so much more important than clean water, health care, education, etc., its obvious that the only option available is to put all our attention on finding a way to make more money. So, Treasuries of the world are working around the clock to find ways to provide money to banks, large insurance companies and perhaps even "too big to fail" businesses like the 3 major car companies. Everyone takes it for granted that this has to happen.
But is money what counts? Or have world's citizens gotten so sucked up into a myth that we can't see that this isn't true at all? And that means Wall Street folks, Alan Greenspan (who has acknowledged his theology about the economy is wrong), general citizens-everyone is so habituated to this story that no one even questions its validity?
In her book, "Whole Life Economics", Barbara Brandt talked about how this money is what counts" got started. In the early 20th century, the men in the market and government sectors could see that continual recession/depression cycles (there were 13 of them in the 1800s) created chaos. Wanting to create a more stable system-they had 3 options available to them at that time-
- They could let the current system continue to run its course. This did not look like a good choice by market and government folks as it resulted in continual depression/recession cycles. This was not a good thing and destroyed many people's lives.
- They could build a capitalist, unlimited growth and consumption economy. This is the current 3 sector economy: markets, government and illegal sectors shaped around the primary value that "money is what counts". This seemed doable in 1905 and is obviously the choice that was made at that time. It required government and markets to manipulate the system and control the chaos of Option 1. Resources were plentiful, consumption at very low levels-the capacity to make money seemed unlimited.
- They could broaden their view of the economy and foster a system that balanced human and earth needs. This would be a Full Spectrum Economy-a 6 sector economy that includes markets, government, illegal sectors that we have now and to this we would measure/count as valuable-the household, unpaid volunteer work and the natural sectors. Unfortunately-this option was a bit too visionary for the folks of 1905. Can't blame them really-because Option 2-unlimited growth and consumption seemed plausible. No one was thinking about resources running out, population topping 7 billion in less than 100 years, and we'd barely tapped the creativity of the markets for new ideas.
So, we went with Option 2 and it seemed like a good choice. Ah...but 100 years go by so fast, don't they! Now, Option 2-unlimited growth and consumption with money as the most important determinate of value appears to have run its course. Global warming looms, continued consumption at the pace we had over the last 100 years is not sustainable for another 100 years. Population can't continue to grow-yet this is necessary for a consumer economy. We have hit what Brandt calls the "Unavoidable dilemma" of Option 2. Eventually, continued growth is impossible-we either have enough of everything-consumption has run its course or we run out of resources-either way, Option 2 can't keep going.
But because we are so habituated to the 'money is what counts', we've spent the last 20 years trying to find ways to keep that story going. And the Hedge funds, Derivatives and Credit Default Swaps---making money out of thin air is the ultimate end point. If we ever needed a more obvious example that Option 2 has run its course-this would be it.
The world is on its knees trying to figure out how to get this crisis fixed and get the old story going again-but perhaps its time to try Option 3: A Full Spectrum economy that broadens our view of what's important. Instead of money-maybe what's most important is caring for humans and the planet and building a 6 sector economy that puts money back into balance with what's truly important-LIFE.
That's the question before us now: What counts-money or humans and the planet? If we pick money-and the continued limitations of a 3 sector economy-government, market and illegal (drugs, crime, prostitution etc.), we might not be on this planet in another 100 years. If we give ourselves permission to expand the view to a Full Spectrum, 6 sector economy-we can redirect our energy to building a world economy on what really counts-caring for humans and the planet.