Seeing Ahead

by Peter Block on January 4, 2011

Tagged as: Local Economy

Social invention pioneer Al Etmanski asked me this question recently: What would you like to see made visible in 2011?

It’s a great question because it constructs a world where the future we desire is close at hand, if we could but see it. The Bahamians have a quote for the idea, which is likely common to most cultures: “You look, but you do not see.” The task of seeing what is close at hand but not visible is the task of the poet. But let me try to answer the question regardless.

I would have 2011 be the year that the existence and relevance of a shift in economic thinking becomes widespread. The existing economics is based on scarcity, consumption, globalization and competition. Its measures are the dollar value of the exchange of goods and services. Its core belief is in self interest.

There is an alternative economic narrative emerging that is based on abundance, citizenship, localization and cooperation. Its measures are on happiness and well being. Its core belief is in generosity.

This transformation in economic assumptions is sprouting in many places. Here are a few. Yes magazine is telling the story on a regular basis. Edgar Cahn and his TimeBanks are demonstrating how a gift-based economy actually works. Read his book No More Throw Away People. Berrett-Koehler is a small, fierce, independent publisher that has a profound social intent. See their books, especially by David Korten and Marjorie Kelly.

Seek out Olivia Saunders, economics professor at the College of the Bahamas. She chronicles the economic and social cost of political freedom to the circular flow of money in a neighborhood.      

Read Jim Clingman’s books on Blackonomics, taking a similar path as Saunders. And of course, there is the New Economics Institute and its decades-long commitment to innovative thinking about currency and civic values. Finally, Walter Brueggemann, an Old Testament scholar, has written Journey to the Common Good. He draws a parallel between Pharaoh’s economy in ancient Egypt and what is occurring today.       

All of these pioneers have been doing heroic work for a decade or longer. They are engaged not only in creating a new economic narrative, they are also engaged in peacemaking as powerful as anyone on the front page. They have done the hard work, our task is to bring to light and celebrate them.

~ Peter ~

January 4, 2011