DEP Contributors Offer New Models for Financial and Economic Systems

Charles Shaw
20 April 2009

In her OD piece from a few weeks ago, "The End of Financial Capitalism," Saskia Sassen wrote that it was too late to save the global financial system.

"...we don't have the resources to save this system - even if we wanted to. It has become too big to save: the value of global financial assets is several times the size of global gross national product (GDP). The real challenge is not to save this system but to definancialise our economies, as a prelude to move beyond the current model of capitalism."

This is becoming a popular refrain, and one certainly being taken up by a number of our contributing authors on the Dictionary of Ethical Politics, who are each proposing some interesting solutions to this particular econocrisis. 

Hazel Henderson's recent piece, "The New Financiers", on her aptly titled Ethical Markets, proposes that “the new financiers will be the high-level information and knowledge brokers – and they will aggregate the new research on global change processes and lead in structuring the deals now creating the growing green economy.”  Because these days information and media drive markets, "they are largely invisible to current financial players and governments because information is their prime currency; rather than money:

"Enter the new financiers: those high-level information and knowledge brokers who understand our Information Age and the great transition from the fossil-fueled Industrial Age to our new Solar Age.  Overloaded money-circuits have broken down and the huge new volume of transactions in the past decade have migrated to the internet.  Pure information-based exchange and sharing has led to the new hybrid economic model described by experts, including Lawrence Lessig’s Remix (2008), Yoichi Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks (2007), Don Tapscott’s Wikinomics (2008), Verna Allee’s Knowledge Evolution (1997) and my own work (www.ethicalmarkets.com).

"This hybrid economy is half the old money-based competition and half information-based sharing, cooperation and exchange.  From electronic stock exchanges, Instinet, Archipelago, NASDAQ, Knight and Entrex to Google, e-Bay, Craigslist, Amazon, Facebook and Wikipedia, we are seeing how money-obsessed financiers are trailing behind.  The new financiers: those high-level information brokers go beyond economics to understanding whole systems and the human family on planet Earth."

Currency is the particular bailiwick of Charles Eisenstein. His two-part "Reinventing Money" (II) series on Reality Sandwich takes an "eco-systemic" approach to creating and valuing currency. Charles exhaustively examines both conventional and non-conventional solutions to the economic crisis, looking at larger complex systems that exist in nature and society and seeing how they apply to financial and money systems.

He proposes that monopoly currencies, such as the gold or petrodollar standard, are the main problem, and replacing one with another is a non-starter. He concludes that "systemic monetary sustainability requires a diversity of currency systems, so that multiple and more diverse agents and channels of monetary links and exchanges can emerge." He calls this the "practical lesson from nature: to allow several types of currencies to circulate among people and businesses to facilitate their exchanges, through the implementation of complementary currencies. These different types of currencies are called complementary because they are designed to operate in parallel with, as complements to,conventional national moneys."  The most well-known example of this kind of complimentary currency are probably  the "Ithaca Hours." 

David Korten outlines a bold agenda for a new economy in his new book which bears the same name. David is presently co-chairing a "New Economy Working Group" with John Cavanagh, executive director of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, D.C. The group was formed at the end of 2008 to further develop and advance New Economy policies. IPS works in partnership with progressive members of the US Congress and many national groups involved in economic education and policy advocacy. YES! Magazine, the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, and the Great Turning Initiative are initial partners in the New Economy Working Group. 

David proposes a largely re-localized 21st Century "Main Street Economy" that also redefines currency and wealth through a very different metric. You can read about the the particulars of his new economic agenda in a piece he called "The Speech President Obama Should Deliver… But Won't."  It proposes investment into local-food systems, renewable energy technology, new urban planning memes, quality affordable health care, and locally-owned enterprise. 



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