Trading is probably as old as man himself. One had freshly-good vegetable and his neighbor had good straw for a roof. You don’t want to eat straw nor do you want to have a roof made of cucumbers.
One could reasonably assume that the exchange was perceived by the two as fair by whatever measure they would employ that would satisfy both parties.
Speculative as it is, I know of no evidence that would suggest that the exchange would have been anything other than perceived as equitable. If it were, one party would hesitate, squawk, complain and the transaction would probably not be realized.
If it were to be consummated because one caved in to unreasonable terms due, say, to one of the parties’ extreme need, word would get out that one party was being unreasonable and unfair. Villages are small places, everyone knows each other, and the unreasonable party would be made known and in some way or another held to account.
This simple illustration of a kind of transaction that likely took place between hunters and gatherers, later during Biblical times and in early agrarian societies, while speculative, is likely true, because any other kind of transaction—unfair, inequitable—would not have been tolerated by the leaders or elders of a village, the families or by anyone, at least because it was not sustainable. The Old Testament devotes a good amount of time to weights and measures largely as a means of fair trade and ‘keeping the peace’. What was also being weighed and measured was the integrity, if not the very soul of the vendor.
This example also illustrates that simplicity in economy can and should be a strong point, yet tends to be minimized if not altogether overlooked. Unsavory characters gain advantage by creating complications and complexity in transactions. There is a beauty in simplicity in all areas of life, and even an elegance. There is a clarity and transparency. Look at what has happened in our world of complex transactions and the amount of deceit and fraud that takes place as a result.
Keep the economy simple! Keep it human-sized!
Another aspect of economy about which I’ve been speaking for decades is the concept of “moderate profit”. Instead of “making a killing” in business, from which people can actually die and do, earning a moderate profit should be plenty sufficient for reasonable sustenance and removes much of the stress correlated with financial tension.
Capping capitalism means stopping its ever-expanding, insatiable appetite to grow until a company owns and controls as much market share as possible. Uncapped, or a more modern word, “unregulated”, the economy is like the wild west where a lot of indigenous people were killed so others could steal their land and resources. I wish our species were mature enough to respect each other sufficiently such that formal regulations wouldn’t be needed, a la the libertarian, but as a collective, unfortunately, we seem far away from that.
The way our current system is used and manipulated looks nothing like what I think Adam Smith had in mind and has been so destructive, so missing moral compass that our species is literally in the beginnings of the 6th Extinction.
But we are best off remembering that any institution, any ‘-ism’ is only a bunch of people—some are good, some are, what we call in Buddhist Psychology, “hungry ghosts”, always hungry for something more. We have to recognize that while, according to Buddhist Psychology, all beings are basically good, some are also so mentally and emotionally imbalanced that they cause harm everywhere and are so misguided, they do what we could call ‘unadulterated evil’.
While recognizing the inherent good, we must also recognize the confusion that governs many members of our human species but thankfully a minority.
What also governs the current economy is the idea that there ‘is never enough’ it is based on a mindset of scarcity. But if we had an economy based on Nature as it should be as should be our system of Medicine, we would have an economy based on abundance, plenty for all. No one says it better than the Italians in their wonderful word abbondanza!
An apple tree doesn’t usually yield 3 apples but is closer to 300. When people hoard their apples, others starve. And the hoarded apples go rotten because one person or a family can eat only so many.
When people are clear and coherent about their heartfelt, human values, money is not God and they can feel good, a very important characteristic in doing business, as is love and appreciation of partners, about making a moderate profit. A moderate profit can still make some wealthy if that is their objective, but it wouldn’t be by taxing everyone so much they are put into serious financial straits as so often medical costs do.
Is this a call not to make a monetary profit? Hell no! The system couldn’t operate. There is joy in being paid well for a well-done job. The idea of capping it, controlling the excess, not by outer regulation but inner awareness, sensitivity, mindfulness and discipline. These are higher brain functions and it’s ‘high-time’ that as a species, we start using what Nature gave us.
Moderating excess, modulating and modifying it, is the call to action here. It’s also called maturing and “growing up”.
This would reduce much stress on the system, on people in a very real way. Medical costs would plummet and the overall cost of most everything would go down. People may possibly earn a little less, but they’d also pay less for living, and as a result of less stress, they’d have more life! And this is a substantial bottom line: More time, more life. And indeed, I am saying, greater health and this is priceless. Remember that computers were originally marketed as saving time and providing greater leisure. It seemed to have the opposite effect but the conversation was to provide people with more time.
An economy that doesn’t only expand but breathes in and out like all of Nature should be our model
Biomimicry is the way anything that works well works. We don’t want to just survive. We all want to thrive! The model we have is Nature Herself and nothing beats it. Medicine tries but it finds that it will always have to go back to Nature’s own chemistry for greatest medicinal effect. The problem there for Big Pharma is that Nature isn’t patentable so they give her a bad name and act like that drugs can outsmart Nature. A few drugs have value indeed, but nothing beats Nature!
Moderate profit and a naturally flowing economy are very simple concepts and very humane ones. When implemented, it taxes everything—ourselves, our resources, our environment, a good deal less.
Moderate profit confronts the idea that “more is better”, and suggests a radical idea for our materialist society that “less is more”. What if that were in some respects, very true? What if we find that having less actually makes us happier, more at ease, more space in the house?
Famous comedian George Carlin had a very funny routine on “Stuff”. He says that our houses are just a place to keep ‘our stuff’. We are stacked up with stuff! Most of which we don’t need or to some extent, even want. This is a consequence of a high-consumer-based society that doesn’t take into consideration the actual ‘cost’ of stuff, of acquiring “things”.
There is an economic and environmental cost as well as a psychological cost. The economic cost is described so well in Annie Leonard’s The Story of Stuff, an animation which, in minutes, tells the story we all need to hear about why we are able to buy things at large, box stores so cheaply.
This leads to the externalizing of costs, ghastly labor practices to reduce costs by usually paying women and children the lowest possible wages in developing countries, the use of the cheapest materials that pollute in the mining, pollute in the making, pollute in the handling and pollute in the owning of say, “cheap things”, e.g., radios, plastic gadgets, toys, furniture, etc. The materials are cheap, they are often made with chemicals which outgas and they easily break. It encourages a “throw away” society.
It was an invitation for people to look at their lifestyle and consumerist tendencies, and to reflect on what a person actually needs, as opposed to unconsciously and habitually tends to acquire. One sees that these are quite different.
This was not a suggestion that people do not enjoy the pleasure of having things that may bring a sense of pleasure, joy or comfort. It was an invitation to dig deeper to examine just what is our relationship to the material world and to re-assess the habits of acquiring with which we may have been raised and never took the time to examine. What includes but also goes beyond the material? Interestingly, we always find that what is most precious to us as humans is completely free: love, friendship, kindness, humor, play, singing, conversations, strolling! Isn’t this curious?
Sometimes people go to excess with themselves or for their children to compensate for an upbringing in which they had materially little. It was also an invitation to see just what our consumerist habits cost us in terms of environmental expense, exploitation of labor, of earth, and an invitation to look at what our lives may be like if we weren’t so enmired, as Carlin so well puts it, “in stuff”.
Everything in nature seeks homeostasis, a balance. Nothing ever goes in one direction, but up down, in, out and sideways. To think then that economies are exempt from natural cycles, that markets just go up, is nothing short of fictional and naïve.
That economies go up and down as well as sideways gives us all a chance to do well, to learn to make do and to experience humility. From the point of view of character development, we could be thankful that economies, as with everything else, operate according to Natural Law, bio-mimetically.
As I am not an economist, but a psychotherapist who considers and contemplates what a humane, ecologically-sensitive economy could be and look like, I don’t know how the idea of moderate profit or reduced consumerism would affect and influence the ebb and flow of what we call cycles of inflation, deflation and recession.
But, perhaps naively, it may not be so relevant as long as people aren’t being pressed to their limits in respect to the costs of rent and the basics with the principle of moderate profit, in place of ‘extreme profit’, or as it’s often referred to: “making a killing” offers.
If we know in advance that water ebbs and flows, high and low tides reflect natural cycles, then so too will all economies. The idea of a homeostatic economy, a balanced economy, one that doesn’t just go up but will always re-balance and also not always ‘grow’, should be influencing our economic attitudes and behaviors and can create greater balance in ourselves.
In short, the economy isn’t just some external system ‘out there’. We are the economy, an economy of our own scale and our own making in many respects. When we own it this way, it all starts to become more real and more in our control. We also become more masterful and skillful.
This last point is equally as important as moderate profit, that economies don’t only grow but plateau, as they must. So isn’t it time that the Federal Reserve Bank and economists get this, get with “Nature’s Economy”?
If you look at Nature, one will see that there is an efficiency like nowhere else. There is zero waste. Everything is used, yes, even all human and sentient waste has a role in fertilizing soil for one. Everything in Nature is used and re-cycled: everything. But plastics?
Based on our current rate of consumption according to the Global Footprint Network:
Today humanity uses the equivalent of 1.6 Earths to provide the resources we use and absorb our waste. This means it now takes the Earth one year and eight months to regenerate what we use in a year. We use more ecological resources and services than nature can regenerate through overfishing, overharvesting forests, and emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than forests can sequester.
There is good news despite this over-use—over-fishing, hunting, extraction, pollution, waste, dumping, daily species destruction and all that is going on daily across the planet. There are more people who are ‘waking up’ and becoming conscious of what we have done to our precious Mother Earth and are changing their actions and habits across the board.
Renewable energy is ticking up significantly, fossil fuel use is being dialed down, divestment is popular, shareholder activists, on Boards such as Exxon-Mobil are beginning to change the business culture to one that it is more humane and eco-sensitive. Biofuels and bio-diesel are becoming more available and refined, and if all goes well, consumerism as a religion will also settle down as human beings become more mature and evolved.
Environmental activist, author Paul Hawken, in his book Blessed Unrest, makes clear that there are millions and millions of people worldwide working for the good of their locality, many working locally and thinking globally if not larger.
Green Economist and futurist, founder of Ethical Markets, Hazel Henderson, has been working to transform Global Finance, has been at the forefront of driving change in this space for decades.
Susan Davis, another leader in pioneering the change of mind and heart in respect to finance and sustainability through her creation of Kinship Earth. Socially-conscious investing is among her many contributions to bring forth a better world through bringing consciousness to economic activity.
To change systems, we have to change minds and hearts—we have to change ourselves. Thinking that ‘more is better’ I suggest is actually an unnatural and polluted mindset that may be ‘the norm’, but that’s not valuable if the norm is pathological.
I suggest strongly that it is, and it is literally destroying life on earth. This article is not simply written to spin off some ‘interesting’ perspectives on the economy—it is to cut to the quick of what we call normal and transform it as soon as possible to mimic Nature and hence become quickly more balanced. Stop the excess! Stop hurting people and planet!
Our economy should live by one of the tenets of the Green Party:
People & planet before profit
One need only look for a quick moment at the state of the world, the vast disparities of wealth, the profound problem of material poverty, of malnutrition, food insecurity, even starvation in a world in which food is in abundance, the frequent use of violence and war to dominate each other and nations, the levels of prejudice and injustice, of endemic corruption in virtually every institution and government in the world, the lack of ethics in government and business—we are simply in a world-at-war on so many levels.
We and our eco-system suffer every single day. We have made a mockery and a travesty of our gorgeous, sacred planet because of unconsciousness, willful ignorance and greed. It has to stop. We need leaders to step up and make the changes in their own companies and to lead the way for others.
As with everything said, there is a balance. From crisis comes opportunity. Pressure forms diamonds. A new platform for a global currency has arisen called Seeds, which has not only a monetary (fiat) value but another bottom line having to do with supporting ‘good works’, projects that are serving human beings, all sentient life and the Earth Herself.
This crypto-currency comes with a mission that shares characteristics with much of what was discussed earlier. This transformational currency project is gaining momentum by the month.
If we are going to talk about moderate profit and ‘capping capitalism’, we simply cannot do this without examining where its opposite comes from: greed. Putting on my psychotherapist’s cap, I suggest that greed is born of fear, fear of both not having enough and fear of not being enough. Fear of not being loved, of not even being lovable, not having enough sense of self to feel self-worth.
As a result of this subconscious mindset that is born out most often of pre-natal and infantile impressions and interpretations, a psychology is formed that often includes an exaggerated sense of self (Narcissism) with a sprinkling of vengeance, to “get back” at the injustices, inequities one might have felt as a child.
The feeling that there is ‘something wrong’ with one that needs to be overcome is sadly, universal. I am suggesting that this mindset is a set-up for a world—and economics, hell-bent on greed and acquisition at any cost. It is unconsciously driven, disrespectful of sentient life, of Mother Earth and is destructive and dangerous. These inner fears generating greed and vengeance, self-righteousness, need to be examined and worked with in a setting that can really help someone come to a level of inner balance and peace.
In these instances, the reptilian brain, the amygdala, is playing too large a role and the pre-frontal cortex and heart are playing too small. The shift forward needs to take place for humanity to really survive—this is the level that the destruction to date has brought us to.
Economies changes when we change. This applies to the economy of a household or a nation.
This thing called Capitalism, a strange word and even typically more bizarre practice, destroys when it runs unabated. When people who are more conscious, compassionate, conscientious and deal simply with trade and transactions as discussed earlier, transacting with kindness and love, the world utterly transforms.
This doesn’t have to be distant and far off. Remember that corporations and governments, all institutions, are just bunches of people. Society is but a collection of us, as is culture, and what we call civilization, all too often, sadly, a misnomer, that is, until we do the inner work necessary to ‘heal ourselves’ of imbalanced thinking, feeling and acting.
What looks like ‘a world out there’ of business transactions, is largely ‘a world in here’ of chaos and uncertainty. When the inner world of heart and mind become aligned and coherent with a sense of purpose to serve others, serve the planet, economies evolve, greed dissipates and balance can be restored.
If we “cap capitalism’ by moderating our minds, pull it out of extreme thinking, emphasize values inside of value, we can make our economic selves, our economic behaviors, in accordance with Nature, our higher Nature and if done rather immediately, we just may be able to ‘stem the tide’ of ecological and psychological destruction and steer this “Spaceship Earth” as scientist extraordinaire, Buckminster Fuller put it, in a constructive direction.
You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.