This is part thirty-four of a series of blogs based on excerpts adapted from the 2nd edition of Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth. I wrote Agenda to spur a national conversation on economic policy issues and options that are otherwise largely ignored. This blog series is intended to contribute to that conversation. —DK
We in America rely on foreign consumer credit to live ever further beyond our own means, while allowing our physical, social, and productive infrastructure to deteriorate from neglect. It is the classic path of a dying Empire in decline and denial.
America needs a new national vision, a story of possibility to guide our way in a 21st century world much changed from the world in which we achieved our greatness. Perhaps one day an American president will spell it out in an inaugural or state of the union address along the following lines.
In the meantime, a hypothetical presidential address provides a useful device to frame a New Economy vision for America.
My administration came to office with a mandate for bold action to deal with the evident failure of our most powerful economic institutions. The excesses of Wall Street have crippled our economy; burdened our federal, state, and local governments with debilitating debts; divided us into the profligate and the desperate; corrupted our political institutions; and threatened the destruction of the natural environment on which our very lives depend.
This devastation is the product of a failed economic ideology that says if government favors the financial interests of the rich to the disregard of all else, everyone will benefit and the nation will prosper. A thirty-year experiment with this perversion of both logic and basic moral values demonstrates that it works only for Wall Street bankers who put profits ahead of people and produce nothing of real value.
Wall Street’s success comes at an enormous cost to the nation, and to the folks on Main Street who do honest, productive work and make honest, productive investments. We now live with the devastating consequences of Wall Street’s ill-conceived social engineering experiment in market deregulation and tax avoidance for the rich: a disappearing American middle class and a crumbling physical infrastructure; failing schools; millions without health care; dependence on imported goods, food, and energy, and even essential military hardware.
This is not a broken system in need of a fix. It is a failed system that must be replaced with a new system in tune with the lessons of experience and the realities of the 21st century.
We have been measuring economic performance against GDP, or gross domestic product, which essentially measures the rate at which we are converting useful resources into toxic garbage to make money for Wall Street. Let us henceforth measure economic performance by the indicators of what we really want: the health and well-being of our children, families, communities, and the natural environment.
Like a healthy ecosystem, a healthy twenty-first-century economy must have strong local roots and maximize the beneficial capture, storage, sharing, and use of local energy, water, nutrients, and other mineral resources. That is what we must seek to achieve, community by community, all across this great nation, by unleashing the creative energies of our people and our local governments, businesses, and civic organizations.
The policies of this administration henceforth will favor the people and businesses of Main Street—people who are working to rebuild our local communities, restore the middle class, and bring our natural environment back to health. Together we can actualize the founding ideals of our nation as we restore the health of our economy.
- We will strive for local and national food independence by rebuilding our local food systems based on family farms and environmentally friendly farming methods that rebuild the soil, maximize yields per acre, eliminate the need for toxic chemicals, and create opportunities for the many young people who are returning to the land.
- We will strive for local and national energy independence by supporting local entrepreneurs who are creating and growing businesses to retrofit our buildings and develop and apply renewable-energy technologies.
- We will take steps to assure that our future trade relations are balanced and fair, return manufacturing jobs to America, rebuild our manufacturing capacity on an environmentally sound closed-loop manufacturing model, and learn to live within our own means.
- We will rebuild our national infrastructure around a model of walkable, bicycle-friendly communities with efficient public transportation to conserve energy, nurture the relationships of community, and recover our agricultural and forest lands.
- A strong middle-class society is an American ideal. We will act to restore that ideal through appropriate steps to assure access by every person to high-quality health care, education, and other essential services. We will restore progressive taxation, as well as progressive wage and benefit rules, to protect working people.
- We will create a true ownership society through economic policies that favor responsible ownership of locally rooted enterprises by people who have a stake in the health of their own communities and economies.
My administration will reorder priorities at the national level to support your efforts at the local level to advance these outcomes.
David Korten: We’re in the midst of a contest of competing stories—one fabricated to serve the interests of Empire; the other an authentic story born of the experience and aspirations of ordinary people.
David Korten: What America's current movement against corporate power can learn from that time we overthrew a king.
It’s time we the people declare our independence from the money-favoring Wall Street economy.