the economics of happiness

A new documentary looking at economics through a whole new lense.

‘Both hard hitting and inspiring, ‘The Economics of Happiness’ demonstrates that millions of people across the world are already engaged in building a better world – that small scale initiatives are happening on a large scale. The film shows that countless initiatives are united around a common cause: rebuilding more democratic, human scale, ecological and local economies – the foundation of an ‘economics of happiness’. Going local’ is a powerful strategy to help repair our fractured world – our ecosystems, our societies and our selves. Far from the old institutions of power, people are starting to forge a very different future… Featuring  Vandana Shiva, Bill McKibben, David Korten, Michael Shuman, Juliet Schor, Richard Heinberg, Rob Hopkins, Andrew Simms, Zac Goldsmith, Samdhong Rinpoche

For more info and to find a screening near you go to the link below:


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What if the Green Economy is the Problem – Not the Solution?

I do marketing consulting for hippies.

I work with green, eco-friendly, holistic and otherwise conscious entrepreneurs to help them get more clients and increase their cash-flow. I help them find sustainable livelihoods doing the things they love.

And I have a confession.

I don’t think the Green Economy is sustainable.

I don’t think it’s the answer. In fact, it’s part of the problem.

These days you can’t go two steps without seeing the word ‘green’ being tagged onto some product or service. Magazines have their ‘green issues’, businesses are going green, Walmart and other huge companies are seeking to reduce their environmental footprint, every time I’m out at the organic food store I see some new eco friendly cleaner, some new organic/raw/vegan/alkalizing food bar.

And I’ve got mixed feelings about it all.

The Green Economy is a bit like Barack Obama.

Last week someone asked me what I thought about the Obama Presidency. I told them,

“Well . . . It’s new, fresh, inspiring and makes you feel good. But . . . it’s not sustainable. Is Barack Obama a good thing? Well, what we can say for sure is that his Presidency is less shitty. Profoundly and deeply less shitty than Bush’s presidency. So much less shitty that it’s worth celebrating for months. But, can the corporate, nation state structure of the USA ever be sustainable? I don’t think so.”

And neither can the Green Economy.

Consider how much metal would have to be mined to create the number of wind turbines we need. Or how much cooper would have to be mined to create the wiring for solar panels. Consider how bio-fuels – once considered the answer to all our problems is now seen to be one of the leading causes of deforestation and food shortages as land goes to grow crops for fuel instead of food to feed people.

Shouldn’t green marketing be about making green things seem normal (instead of making normal things seem green)?

* * *

But let’s step back . . .

After all, no one wants pollution of our land, waters, air or energy sources . . . but that’s exactly what we have. We have to face the sobering fact that we are collectively creating what nobody wants individually.

It’s become increasingly clear that the seemingly disconnected, vast array of problems we face are not in fact separate at all but merely different outgrowths of the same system. And it’s a system that is rotten to its core. The same core set of assumptions. The same worldview. This system has been labled a lot of things: Empire, Civilization, The Suicide Economy, Modernity.

The Suicide Economy is one of my favorite because it states the issue so clearly.

Scottish Joke:

A bloke walks into a Glasgow library and says to the prim librarian,

‘Excuse me Miss, dey ye hiv any books on suicide?’

To which she stops doing her tasks, looks at him over the top of her glasses and says,

‘Fook off, ye’ll no bring it back!’

Investing in this economy is like that. The returns are an illusion. You never really get them back.

To create alternatives we must understand the system that is already dominant.

To create solutions we need to understand the problem so that we don’t recreate it.

And, as the analysis of the world the problem gets clearer a solution is emerging – The Green Economy. And people are getting very excited about it.

This is the answer, many would suggest, that we’ve been searching for. When many people encounter the Green Economy they often feel this sense of having arrived “home”. It seems so simple and clear: problem/solution.

But I’m wanting to complicate that conversation a bit more.

I’m suggesting that there are really (at least) three visions of possible worlds. I’m suggesting that the Green Economy isn’t the answer. It’s isn’t the glorious end we’ve been searching for. It’s (possibly) a means to that end. It’s a transition to something else.

And, this distinction between ends and means is important.

If our goal is to be happy and healthy and create just, thriving and sustainable communities then we need to get serious about how to create those. As David Korten puts it, “We can’t talk the alternatives to death. We need to live them into being”.

The challenge is immediately apparent: many of the solutions don’t work. They won’t take us to where we want (and need) to go. For example: a lot of folks in the social entrepreneurial field seem to see the “Green Economy” as the endgame (rather than a means to a deeper transformation).

I was talking with a friend a number of years ago at a Second Cup Café. He was, and really still is, a hardcore capitalist business man. But this new more conscious economy was waking him up. To the smell of dollars anyway. This new green economy is full of chances to make money.

“You got to admit,” he said, leaning forward, holding the now ubiquitous soy chai latte in both his hands, “The green economy is more sustainable than what you’d call our current Suicide Economy.”

Of course, he was right. I sat for a while, sipping on my own chai latte (don’t you judge me . . .) and ruminated on his words before responding.

“Okay . . . sure. It certainly is more sustainable but . . . it’s hard to argue that it is sustainable. And it’s a dangerous frame to use because saying that the Green Economy is “more” sustainable implies that the Suicide Economy is at least somewhat sustainable. And it isn’t. At all.”

I often wonder what would happen if we reframed the conversation to be around violence instead of sustainability. What would happen if we named the fact that the Suicide Economy is deeply violent and that the Green Economy is simply “less violent”. But this is what we can’t admit. We can’t speak of this.

The Green Economy goes far, but does it go far enough?

Certainly making jails more humane is a good thing. But what if we need to question the “idea” of jails and retributive justice (justice by punishment)? Sure, making machines more sustainable is good. But, what if we need to question the very idea of machines? Sure, Oprah Winfrey does some pretty great shows – but what if what we really need is the end to TV not just more progressive shows? Of course treating resources more sustainably is better than where we’re at – but what if what we need to do is question the concept of treating our non-human relatives as “resources”?

Are we letting the good come at the expense of the best?

Is it possible that the Green Economy is better but not the final destination? Is it possible that the Green Economy is still violent to the planet?

A few weeks ago I’d bumped into a neighbour of mine Mark Anielski, author of “The Economics of Happiness”. I told him that I’d just spoken at the Greenfest (the world’s largest green business consumer expo). “My friend just spoke there! And she told me that she just went off about how the Greenfest wasn’t much better than the mainstream. Just a green capitalism.”

I liked her already. So, I emailed an early draft of this piece to her.

She responded, “Yes I did “go off” on the whole shocking insanity of the event…. I was blinded by the flash of visa cards and when the radio interviewer asked me if I wasn’t just so delighted to see such a fantastic expression of sustainability I burst into tears right on live radio and said “WE can not eat our way out this mess… one can not buy their way to the salvation of the mother… this is an abomination… everyone here is on dopamine and is walking around in a trance… a consumer trance… we are doing nothing but selling a new drug that is organic… and it is the same drug addiction and core problem that is keeping everyone asleep and trapped… it is a grand co-opting of the change… it is like giving a heroine addict a new drug and saying” don’t worry you can do this one without feeling badly about it cause it is organic!!!” I was in shock.”

Perhaps the first place to start is to acknowledge that there is something beyond the Green Economy. And to work for that.

What do you think it is? What comes after the green economy? If it’s not the Suicide Economy and it’s not the Green Economy . . . what is it?


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Live Performing Arts vs. The Internet

Here’s a marketing challenge: why should people pay for live theatre when they can just surf the internet for hours?

Arts administrator and live-theater fan Ben Cameron looks at the state of the live arts — asking: How can the magic of live theater, live music, live dance compete with the always-on Internet? At TEDxYYC, he offers a bold look forward.


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WEBSITE: Get huge bargains on ethical products here

Annalea Krebs from Vancouver has started a very exciting new project called EthicalDeal that uses the power of group buying to help people get top quality, ethical and green goods at bargain prices. It’s a win for the businesses selling them and a win for those buying them.



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Hellmanns Commercial: Shop Local

Key Lessons from this Ad:

This commercial is so rich in watchable content that everyone in the local scene is going to spread it far and wide. What if you made your marketing so useful that people in your scene used it to further their own causes?


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The Secret to Being as Radical as We Want to Be is to Finance the Revolution Ourselves

March-April 2006
Michael Shuman, author, The Smallmart Revolution

If Mohandas Gandhi were a typical North American activist these days, he would probably be wearing a three-piece suit and working in a plush office with his law degree prominently displayed. He would have little time to lead protests, since every other week would be spent meeting with donors – and those power lunches would hardly go well with fasting. He would be careful to avoid salt marches or cotton boycotts, so as not to offend key donors. To sharpen his annual pitch to foundations, he would be constantly dreaming up new one-year projects on narrowly focused topics, perhaps a one-time conference on English human-rights abuses, or a documentary on anti-colonial activities in New Delhi. To ensure that various allies didn’t steal away core funders, he would keep his distance and be inclined to trash talk behind their backs. In short, there’s little doubt that the British would still be running India.

The problem with activism today is that it is largely funded by grants and gifts from rich foundations and individuals. The long-standing assumption that you can take the money with few strings attached, and then run, needs to be fundamentally reexamined.

Building a philanthropic base of support can cripple an organization’s mission and wreck it altogether when the well runs dry. Most nonprofits have  engaged in a kind of fundraising arms race in which our best leaders focus  more time, energy and resources, not on changing the world, but on improving  their panhandling prowess to capture just a little more of a philanthropic  pie that actually expands very little from year to year. Armies of “development” staff spend as much as a third of an organization’s resources, not to advance the poor, but to cultivate wealthy donors. Significant numbers of our colleagues create campaigns, direct-mail pitches, telemarketing scripts, newsletters and other products exclusively to “care and feed” prospects and to frame positions that will not offend the rich.

Nonprofit structures dictated by this mode of funding also burden organizers with the heavy regulatory hand of the state. To qualify for tax-deductible contributions, for example, US nonprofits must agree to limit lobbying and not to campaign for political causes of candidates.

We believe it’s time for North American progressives to break free from the philanthropic plantation. Those of us serious about social change increasingly must get down to business, figuratively and literally. Every social change group may not be able to generate all its funding through revenue-generation, but every nonprofit certainly can generate a greater percentage than it is doing now. In other words, we should become our own funders. Once we start generating our own resources, we can invest them politically – as corporations do now – largely without limitation, without wasting our time on fundraising appeals, without worrying about that next grant, without apologies.

To get a sense of the possibilities, check out Cabbages & Condoms, a popular restaurant in Bangkok. As your senses become intoxicated by the aromas of garlic, ginger, basil, galangal and lemongrass, you cannot avoid noticing the origins of the name. On top of each heavy wooden table is a slab of glass, under which are neatly arranged rows of colorful prophylactics. Posters and paintings adorn the half-dozen large rooms, all communicating the restaurant’s central message: the AIDS epidemic afflicting Thailand can be checked only through the unabashed promotion and use of male contraception. With balloon animals made from carefully inflated and twisted condoms and the after-dinner candies replaced with your own take-home “condom-mints,” even teens cannot escape the message prominently framed on  the wall: “Sex is fun but don’t be stupid – use protection.”

What makes the five “C&C” restaurants unique, along with an affiliated  beach-front resort and numerous gift shops, is that they are all owned by  the Population and Community Development Association (PDA), a rural  development organization that has been a leader in promoting family planning  and fighting aids in Thailand. Seven out of every ten dollars spent by the PDA on such activities as free vasectomies and mobile health clinics are covered by the net revenues from its 16 subsidiary for-profits. Were the PDA dependent on funding from the Thai government, the World Bank or even the Rockefeller Foundation, it no doubt would be told to tone down the message. Jokes on its website – like “the Cabbages and Condoms Restaurants in Thailand don’t only present excellent Thai food, the food is guaranteed not to get you pregnant” – would certainly be discouraged.

The cash flow gives the PDA a measure of confidence and boldness. The founder, Mechai Viravaidya, has no qualms about his decision to employ for-profits:“Unlimited demand is chasing limited supply [of charitable donations]. No longer are gifts, grants or begging enough. From day one, thirty years ago, we have been acutely aware of sustainability and cost-recovery.”

Consider some US examples of social entrepreneurship:

Housing Works in New York uses its Used Book Café to generate more than $2 million annually for its work, which prioritizes advocacy for homeless people with HIV. The organization runs clinics, conducts public policy research, lobbies federal and state officials, even leads sit-ins. It is fearless, aggressive and stunningly effective – and its $30 million of annual work would be impossible were it not for its vast range of real estate, food service, retail and rental companies that help pay the bills.

Pioneer Human Services is a community development corporation based in Seattle that assists a wide range of at-risk populations, including the unemployed, the homeless, ex-convicts, alcoholics and addicts. The organization serves 6,500 people a year and generates nearly all its $55 million budget through a web of ambitious subsidiary nonprofit businesses: cafes and a central kitchen facility for institutional customers, aerospace and sheet-metal industries, a construction company, food warehouses, a real-estate management group and consulting services for other nonprofits. Most of the jobs in these businesses are awarded to its at-risk clients, allowing it to further its mission to integrate clients back into society.

The Rocky Mountain Institute, a leading promoter of alternative energy technology in Snowmass, Colorado, created E-Source in 1986 to provide in-depth analysis of services, markets, and technologies relating to energy efficiency and renewable energy production. In 1992 RMI secured a program-related investment from the MacArthur Foundation to move the work into a for-profit subsidiary. By 1998 it was generating about $400,000 for the parent nonprofit, but rmi decided it could do even better under new management, so it sold the company to Pearson plc in Britain for $8 million. Today, RMI assists and benefits from other for-profit spinoffs, such as Hypercar, Inc., which aims to create a lightweight body architecture to improve the efficiency of the entire US automobile fleet.

Judy Wicks’ White Dog Café in Philadelphia is as much a community organizing center as a restaurant. Radical speakers from around the country provide a steady stream of public lectures. An adjacent store sells fair trade products and will soon be introducing a line of locally made clothing. The White Dog itself embodies principles of social justice and environmental stewardship by paying all employees a living wage, insisting on humanely raised meats and eggs, using locally grown ingredients and running on wind electricity. Twenty percent of profits from the restaurant go to the White Dog Café Foundation, carrying on the café’s mission through nonprofit activities.

These examples embody many possible models. A for-profit subsidiary can generate money for a parent nonprofit. Or, better still, a for-profit can become the change it seeks, by producing and selling socially important goods and services. While we reject the libertarian argument that every human problem has an economic solution, many social-change issues clearly have economic dimensions that are susceptible to creative business plans. Hate nuclear power? Launch energy-service companies to spread conservation measures, or build local wind farms to take control of your own electricity future. Concerned about the poor, minorities and women having equal access to credit? Create more community banks, credit unions and micro-enterprise funds. Troubled by pharmaceutical prices that make life-saving drugs unattainable for impoverished people across the globe? Start, as several companies based in the developing world did, companies that mass-produce affordable generic versions of high-priced American drugs.

Socially responsible business should be not just a boutique sector of the private economy, but its mainstream. We have been impressed in recent years by the growing number of local businesspeople who not only “walk the walk” of social justice in the small details of their operations and products but also tout the virtues of local ownership. This third generation of entrepreneur-organizers is being led by groups like the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) and by the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA). Each promotes local ownership of business, champions social justice and neighborhood revitalization, and pushes for new public policies that remove the tilts in a playing field that favors badly behaved big business.

Sooner or later, the concepts of social-change organization and of social-responsibility business should become indistinguishable. Truly responsible businesses would be owned by all members of a community (rich and poor), hire locally, expand local skills, comport with local labor and environmental standards, produce goods and services that meet urgent local needs and become allies of social justice movements. What better way to help the poor than to transform them into the captains, worker-bees, shareholders and customers of community-friendly business?

If foundations and donors had never existed and professional panhandling had been outlawed, social-change groups would have been forced to turn to creating and running new enterprises or new networks of local businesses, and our movement would be considerably healthier than it is today. Progressives have become the classic 20-something kid still living at home, expecting an allowance from deep-pocket parents for a few basic chores, while agreeing, as a condition for the chump change, to obey someone else’s rules on social change. It’s time to grow up and strike out on our own.

Here’s a challenge to activists (one we take seriously ourselves): let’s try to wean ourselves from the charity habit, say by three percent per year. Think about just one piece of your agenda that could be framed as a revenue generator, dream about it a little, develop a business plan and give it a try. If you lack the skills, skip your next fundraising class and instead attend one of thousands upon thousands of entrepreneurship programs around the world. Or hire someone who might start the entrepreneurial subsidiary of your nonprofit.

Gandhi understood that the key to freeing India was to transform his fellow citizens into economically productive agents by spinning their own cloth and  taking their own salt from the sea. Martin Luther King Jr. implored African Americans to form their own credit unions and community development corporations. The secret to being as radical as we want to be – and as radical as we need to be – is to finance the revolution ourselves.


Michael Shuman is the vice president for enterprise development for the Training and Development Corporation. Merrian Fuller is a managing director of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. This article was adapted from “Profits for Justice,” which first appeared in The Nation.


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What is a Local Living Economy?

Perhaps the best resource on this is the Business Association for Local Living Economies ( Here’s how they put – see if this doesn’t resonate deeply with you:

A Local Living Economy ensures economic power resides locally, sustaining healthy community life and natural life, as well as long-term economic viability.

A Living Economy is guided by the following principles:

1.    Living economy communities produce and exchange locally as many products needed by their citizens as they reasonably can, while reaching out to other communities to trade in those products they cannot reasonably produce at home. These communities value their unique character and encourage cultural exchange and cooperation.

2.    Living economy public policies support decentralized ownership of businesses and farms, fair wages, taxes, and budget allocations, trade policies benefiting local economies, and stewardship of the natural environment.

3.    Living economy consumers appreciate the benefits of buying from living economy businesses and, if necessary, are willing to pay a price premium to secure those personal and community benefits.

4.    Living economy investors value businesses that are community stewards and as such accept a ‘living return‘ on their financial investments rather than a maximum return, recognizing the value derived from enjoying a healthy and vibrant community and sustainable global economy.

5.    Living economy businesses are primarily independent and locally owned, and value the needs and interests of all stakeholders, while building long-term profitability.

6.    They strive to:

  • Source products from businesses with similar values, with a preference for local procurement
  • Provide employees a healthy workplace with meaningful living wage jobs
  • Offer customers personal service and useful safe, quality products
  • Work with suppliers to establish a fair exchange
  • Cooperate with other businesses in ways that balance their self-interest with their obligation to the community and future generations
  • Use their business practices to support an inclusive and healthy community, and to protect our natural environment
  • Yield a ‘living return’ to owners and investors


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The Conscious Economy

The solution to globalization is not to throw rocks at big businesses like Wal-Mart but to build the alternative,” says Shuman, author of Going Local: Creating Self-Reliant Communities in a Global Age.

The “alternative” that Shuman is talking about includes not just businesses that are planted on Main Street but entire economies that are locally based. “The more times a dollar circulates in my community, the more jobs, income, and wealth there is in my community,” says Shuman.

And if that well-worn dollar must go elsewhere, let it go to another locally owned business, not to a global corporation. Local business people are as threatened by giant national and transnational industrial, financial, service, and retail corporations as working people are.

Part of the reason Shuman is so high on locally owned for-profits is that “Americans are unlikely to hitch their future to these unconventional corporate forms [cooperatives, non-profits, and public enterprises]… The nation’s ideological commitment to private property and the profit motive, reinforced by the mythology of the rugged individual, are too deeply etched into our collective psyche.” (p.99).

Or ask David Korten puts it,

“The human future depends on moving beyond the self-limiting and ultimately self-destructive ways of Empire to become a new Era of Community in which life is the defining cultural value, cooperation and partnership are society’s organizing principles, and networking is the predominant organizational form.

The culture and institutions of the global suicide economy must be replaced by the culture and institutions of a planetary system of living economies that mimics the behavior of healthy living organisms and ecosystems.

Living Economies. A living economy is comprised of fair-profit [in contrast to profit maximizing] and not-for-profit living enterprises that are place-based, human-scale, stakeholder-owned, democratically accountable, and life serving.

In contrast to the publicly-traded, limited-liability corporation, which is best described as a pool of money dedicated to its self-replication, living enterprises function as communities of people engaged in the business of creating just, sustainable, and fulfilling livelihoods for themselves while contributing to the economic health and prosperity of the community.

Millions of such living enterprises already exist throughout the world. Many have been around for generations. Many people already have a preference for patronizing such enterprises.

Although the foundation of a planetary system of living economies already exists, it remains for these enterprises to recognize and value the potentials they embody and to consciously advance the formation of living economies by growing new webs of relationships among themselves as they walk away from the pathological culture and institutions of the suicide economy.

As living economies become established and recognized as viable and attractive alternatives to collective suicide, they will become a favored choice — of the culturally conscious for employment, shopping and investment — attracting ever more life energy away from the suicide economy and to themselves.

The process will accelerate as living economies offer an increasing and ever more visible variety of viable, beneficial options. Ultimately, the culture and institutions of economic pathology will give way to those of economic health.

The Era of Community is the opposite of the them/us mentality of the Empire Era, with qualities of oneness, sharing, caring, and non-violence – what Martin Luther King called “the Beloved Community.” Creating an economic system, which models these qualities, a “Living Economy,” that will provide an alternative to the Suicide Economy of the Empire Era is a challenge for today’s entrepreneurs.

The new movement is not about maximizing profits, but about maximizing relationships. Rather than striving for continuous growth, national branding and centralized control, new models are scaled to build authentic and meaningful relationships, which add to the quality of life in our local communities and natural environment.”

In short, to quote Judy Wicks . . .

People want fair trade not “Free” trade, alternative education that nurtures the whole child, not just reading, writing and “rithmetic”, a maximization of relationships, not of profits; honesty and transparency, not more lies, hype and manipulation; naturalness, not pretense; the growth of consciousness and creativity, not brands and market share; democracy and decentralized ownership, not concentrated wealth; a living return, not the highest return; a living wage, not the minimum wage; a fair price, not the lowest price; sharing, not hoarding; simplicity, not luxury; life-serving, not self-serving; partnership, not domination; cooperation, not competition; win-win exchange, not win-lose exploitation; family farms, not factory farms; biodiversity, not monocrops; cultural diversity, not monoculture; creativity, not conformity; slow food, not fast food; our bucks, not Starbucks; our mart, not Wal-Mart; a love of life, not a love of money.

We’re tired of seeing this suicide economy steal by enslaving people to produce chocolate, by destroying the environment and thus stealing people’s ability to live there, by stealing the clean air, water and land we rely on to live. In short – stealing our very future.

If you’re on this call, you probably agree with me that each particular place has its own gift. What’s appropriate in one place will not be in another. This green business movement must be about the redistribution of wealth and power. That’s part of why I do almost all of my events on a pay what you can basis.

The only way we can survive is to bring our energy, money and attention back home – to localize again. I think this movement (in its many forms) is one of the most important movements of our times.

And I think we’re seeing what Paul Hawken, author of Natural Capitalism, describes as a sort of third generation of conscious business. Each generation has had a fundamentally different orientation towards its relationship to the rest of the world.

The first generation was all about Containment: You saw it in  the Bophal chemical disaster, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and in the Exxon oil spill. There was this sense that harm is inevitable. It’s the cost of doing business. It’s just ‘collateral damage.’

The second generation focused on Enhancement: there became a sense that,  “it could be better, business could do good”. People began to say, “Okay, if it meets the business case, if it makes good money we’ll do it.” Harm was no longer seen as inevitable. It could be prevented if it convenient and profitable to do so.

But he suggests that there’s the beginning of a third generation focused on Transformation: there’s a growing sense that it’s no longer good enough to ‘do no harm’. We’re seeing a fundamental shift from single to multiple bottom lines. Profit is no longer King to many businesses.

So, we’re in an interesting time really. On one hand we see this incredible growth in organic food but, in reality, only 0.4% of U.S. farmland is dedicated to organics. Fair trade coffee seems to be showing up everywhere – but it’s only 2% of the market. The conscious economy is growing fast but it’s nowhere close to where we need to be.

Psst . . . here’s a secret you already know . . . there’s more than ONE economy.

The way “out of the game” is to realize that there’s another one game in town. Margaret Thatcher justified her ridiculous policies by saying “There Is No Alternative”.


I suggest that there are actually TWO economies: The Suicide Economy and the Conscious Economy. The first is on its way out (never was sustainable anyway) and the second is one its way in.

1)   The Suicide Economy – this would be the big thing destroying the planet we’re all trying so hard to ignore. It is fast paced, globalized and highly competitive. Much like Frankenstein it is our own creation that will likely kills us.

2)   The Conscious Economy – This economy is slower paced, localized and highly cooperative. It’s not about maximizing profits, but maximizing relationships.

The answer – for you and for all of us – is NOT to find ways to become more successful in the current Suicide Economy. It is to find ways to shift, personally and collectively to the Conscious Economy – to Local Living Economies.


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The Problem of the Suicide Economy:

(This blog post is a compilation of the writings of David C. Korten, Victor Bremsen and Judy Wicks).

David Korten: Having reached the limits of an Era of Empire, humanity is compelled to accept responsibility for the consequences of its presence on a finite planet, make a conscious collective choice to leave behind the excesses of its adolescence, and take the step to species maturity. It is the most exciting moment of opportunity in the history of the species.

The Era of Empire embraced competition and domination as its organizing principles, hierarchy as its favored organizational form, and ultimately chose money as its defining value.

The Empire Era created a them/us mentality that justified exploitation, slavery, and genocide, and glorified domination over other peoples and nature.

It has led to the emergence of a global suicide economy  — otherwise known as the corporate global economy — that is rapidly destroying the social and environmental foundations of its own existence and threatening the survival of the human species. It is the Era’s final stage.

The global corporations that are the ruling institutions of the suicide economy are required by law, structure, and the imperatives of global finance to maximize financial returns to absentee owners without regard to the consequences for people or planet.

In short, they are programmed to behave like cancers that seek their own unlimited growth without regard to the consequences.

As these pathological institutions have consolidated their power, the imperatives of global finance have come to dominate the economic, political, and cultural lives of people, communities, and nations everywhere.

* * *

Victor Bremson (Retired Management Consultant and Business Turn Around Specialist):

For example: over the last 40 years, North America has rapidly moved from downtown “main street” economies populated by local independent businesses devoted to serving community needs to a global “Wall Street” economy dominated by huge predatory discount chains located in the middle of vast parking lots seeking to extract the maximum profit from local consumers in the shortest possible time.

With household names like Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Costco and many others, these chains mimic the behavior of predator species characteristic of immature ecosystems.

In simple terms, they destroy all other competing businesses in their path.  Our financial economy specialists proclaim how wonderful their increase in market share is, without taking into effect the damage done to our communities.

Owned primarily by investors without a stake in the local community, these “predators” force community based competitors out of business by pricing very low, sometimes even below cost.

They accomplish this partially by making their suppliers dependent on them and then constantly squeeze them for greater margin.

In the short-run, predator chains keep consumers happy with lower prices and small investors with attractive returns on investment. The substantial costs to the community are less visible, but become ever more substantial over time.

These costs include loss of entrepreneurial class local business, losses of higher paid jobs, loss of environmental standards, increased need for automobile usage and loss of support for building community infrastructure.

* * *

Judy Wicks, White Dog Café:
The movement for socially responsible business is changing.

  • Many, if not most, of our model companies who began the movement and taught us so much, have been or are being sold to large businesses which continue to grow larger and larger (e.g. when Unilever — with hundreds of brands — bought Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream Inc., in April 2000. But the movement certainly had the breath knocked out of it. The Vermont company that had served as a model of fairness to workers and an advocate for the environment had been absorbed into the sort of entity that Wicks and her ilk had been fighting: multinational behemoths that in their view transfer wealth out of local communities).
  • Since the early 1970s, decisions by corporations to move operations to another state or abroad have cost US workers and communities some 75 million jobs. Most of these jobs were in the better paid manufacturing sector, with the bulk of the remaining jobs lost being backroom operations that support service and retail firms.
  • Capital mobility is thus a major reason why 80% of US households have seen their incomes stagnate or decline over this same period.
  • Non-profits have serious impediments to being efficient producers of goods or services: more hands-on boards that occupy inordinate staff time; legal barriers to accumulating assets and hence collateral for financing expansion; social missions that often compel them to pay more for unproductive workers than private firms would, and high turnover of the most productive staff.

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  • The Small-Mart Revolution Talking Points – Michael Shuman

    • The Small-Mart Revolution represents a major new trend that thus far has largely escaped public notice. Local businesses in the United States suffered setbacks during the era of globalization but still make up more than half the economy—and they are now on the verge of a huge comeback.
    • More than a half dozen trends are increasing the competitiveness of small business. The rising price of oil, for example, makes local production and distribution more competitive against Wal-Mart production in China. Local businesses are enjoying advantages in mastering local markets, delivering the best services, and bypassing inefficient global distribution systems. The imminent decline of the U.S. dollar also will benefit local business.
    • This is good news for communities that have been told by their economic development departments that “there is no alternative” (TINA) to attracting or retaining global businesses by paying millions in incentives and reducing labor and environmental standards – policies which studies and experience are showing to be dead-ends.
    • A growing body of evidence shows that local businesses are the best promoters of good jobs, high environmental standards, economic stability, smart growth, the “creative economy,” social equality, and political participation.
    • Local businesses actually have improved their competitiveness in recent years, but these improvements haven’t registered yet, because public policy has foolishly favored of global business. Global businesses get more than $113 billion in subsidies each year, while local businesses get almost nothing. And a variety of other laws – such as banking, trade, tax, securities, and antitrust – increasingly disfavor local business.
    • These policy biases mean that for the Small-Mart Revolution to take hold, waiting for the “invisible hand” of the free market is not enough. Instead, concerted actions by consumers, investors, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and organizers are necessary.
    • Consumers should buy local wherever possible. By shopping smart, they can localize most of their expenditures at no increased cost and even realize significant savings. Replacing the use of nonlocal oil with local energy efficiency measures can save a U.S. household several thousand dollars per year. Around the country are directories, labels, campaigns, and local money systems that help consumers to buy local effectively.
    • Even though most of the competitive economy is made of local small business, it receives very little equity investment. Even Americans who are committed to buying local have no way to localize their pension funds. One reason is that securities laws have effectively kept small businesspeople separated from small investors. A new generation of securities laws are needed that promote local stock markets, local hedge and venture funds, and local mutual funds.
    • Local businesspeople are pioneering a number of strategies to beat global competitors. They are tapping consumers’ growing interest in local goods and services. They are working together through small-business associations, small-business emporiums, producer cooperatives, and flexible manufacturing networks. They are launching successful local businesses that promote local purchasing, local investing, and local entrepreneurship.
    • Public policymakers are beginning to realize that smart reforms of their economic development can save millions by ending incentives, bribes, and payoffs to nonlocal business. Some of that money can wisely be spent instead to support municipal programs to buy, invest, hire, or train local. Also urgent is to press national policymakers to remove the vast number of imbalances facing local business.
    • Around the country communities are organizing residents to develop comprehensive strategies for localization. Local First campaigns can be found in three-dozen cities, from Bellingham (WA) to Philadelphia (PA). In upstate New York and Maine, organizers put together hundreds of community members to envision a local economic future, to assess unnecessary imports and dollar “leakages,” and to create new local businesses that could replace those imports and plug the leaks.
    • The Small-Mart Revolution is not just for the United States – it’s actually happening throughout the world. It has a new vision of globalization—to protect the local, globally. Communities are giving away technology, policy ideas, and technical assistance to increase the self-reliance of their partner communities. Global networks of communities are forming to promote fair trade, corporate responsibility, global small-business networks, global funds of local funds, and global exchanges for local currencies and barter.
    • The Small-Mart Revolution offers communities worldwide a fundamentally new approach to reducing poverty, solving global environmental problems, preventing conflicts, and reducing uncontrolled immigration.
    • The politics of the Small-Mart Revolution are inherently multi-partisan. Conservatives like the focus on small business, free markets, and local government, while progressives like the emphasis on community empowerment.


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