Here's a reality-if every piece of paper called money disappeared tomorrow, the economy would still be here. That's because the economy represents the activities necessary to live life--and these activities are going to happen whether there's money or not. Yes, money is a tool that can help us facilitate the activities of life...but it isn't a situation of money first, economy/activities of life second. However, part of the reason we're in such chaos right now is that we have created a world that put money/credit first and economy/necessary activities to sustain life second.
You can see this happening right now as we are bailing out the banks. We have this delusion that this is necessary so the economy can run. But if every bank collapsed and vaporized into outer space tomorrow, people would still get up, find a way to feed themselves, put a roof over their head, clothes on their backs, teach their children how to read, write and create. We would create barter systems, local 'currency' options and other ways to get our basic needs met. And it is because of this that it is necessary put the focus on strengthening the economy instead of strengthening banks and enslaving ourselves to the mistaken belief that it is because of money that we have an economy.
At the same time, there's another major factor that's going to force us to transform the economy/money issue. Yes, the credit/banking crisis is one impetus but global warming is the other. Global warming and a consumer economy are running straight into each other--and the outcome isn't going to be pretty. Maintaining our current consumption levels throughout the world will result in environmental collapse. So, let's stop trying to maintain status quo and create a real wealth economy instead.An economy is all the activities that we engage in order to live life.
We currently limit the definition of our economy because of how we have connected the economy to money. As a result, we measure and value only a small portion of the activities that are needed to live life--just the ones we've attached a monetary value to. And therein lies the opportunity to expand the definition of the economy by expanding the activities that we measure and attach a monetary value to include what's now overlooked. Welcome to a full spectrum economy! Currently we measure the market, government and illegal activities. But to this we will begin adding the household, volunteer and natural/environmental sectors--areas of life where the grand majority of activities of life take place but we exclude in our measurements and have attached no monetary value to at this time. Now here's the interesting thing--the UN estimates the value of the household and unpaid volunteer work at over $11 trillion a year and economists have valued the natural sector at over $33 trillion! Now, that's a thriving economy.
Right now, because 70% of our measured economy is based in consumption, a lot of people are sitting in fear. They can see that their jobs and livelihood will be under threat if we begin to transition away from a consumer economy. But if we begin to build a full spectrum economy and add in these new sectors, it can be done with the conscious understanding that this means a large number of people will need to be making a transition into these new sectors. Because we know we're doing this, there doesn't have to be a 'crash the old system/create chaos,' but, instead, we will be creating a proactive, supportive process of transition, acknowledging that this supportive transition makes sense for us all!
The current banking system thrives/depends on a consumer, credit/debt driven economy. But the economy--those activities necessary to live life--does not depend on the massive consumption of stuff we don't need. As the banking system shrinks, it chokes off the capacity for unlimited consumption. So the transition has begun.
What's missing, though, is that we have yet to bring forth the new sectors into the system and that's the discussion that needs to be on the table now. We need leadership and worldwide awareness. As this happens we can put our attention instead to building up new sectors of the economy and assisting people who currently work in the consumer system to transition over to this new full spectrum economy that depends less on consumption and more on real life necessities.
This is a conscious act that a world wide global forum could facilitate.
New ways of thinking: A Real life economy!
Yes, consumption is still going to happen, but it doesn't have to be 70% of the economy. In a full spectrum economy, the new sectors of household, volunteer actions and the natural sector all become measured and monetarily attached.
For example, volunteer work comprises massive quantities of time and energy of people throughout the country and the world. That activity can be measured and monetized on a local economy level. So a person who volunteers at schools or nursing centers or in the city parks would 'bank' these hours in a Community Credit system that would be tradable within the community she lives in. Community Credits would be accepted at all local restaurants for say, half the bill. Or Community Credits could be traded for a massage, a counseling session or a "flex car" hour so she can drive to visit a friend. In this way a full spectrum, local economy can thrive.
Another example: as the car industry goes into a tailspin, we assist people working in those industries to move over into the new, mass transit industry (created to address global warming). There will be thousands of good paying jobs that can be created as we build the rail lines for light rail, ferry boats along rivers, more bikes, bike paths, Flex-car systems, and tech systems that not only to make efficiency of the system at the ground level, but enable people to interact/use the system to their best value, too.
Take the construction industry. While we're sitting on a glut of houses there are thousands of jobs that could be created for retrofitting our houses to become energy independent. Windows using the latest technology to ensure that they are as warm in the winter but cool in the summer and need as little extra energy for warming/cooling as possible. Solar and wind retrofitting of the 200+ million houses and apartments in the US would employ thousands more-not to mention the solar and wind industries exploding to make the materials necessary.
Take the food industry. Right now we have a highly concentrated food industry that enables a small system to feed large populations, but it also requires tons of energy. A great economic driver for every region of this country would be the development of a regional food system. This would employ thousands in small farms, farmers' markets and food production facilities. Restaurants could thrive in this system. Communities with thriving local food systems also end up increasing connections among the people who live there--an especially wonderful event for our children to see and participate in too.