In Time to Dethrone Economics, I tracked the growing wake-up from the delusions of money-measured GDP growth and all the price-denominated, over-aggregated macroeconomic statistics that dominate our lives and limit our choices. I showed how this conceptual apparatus incentivises individual self-interest, greed, bad behaviour, even the Seven Deadly Sins!
Meanwhile, decades of evidence, often suppressed or ignored is coming to light on the fundamental role of the larger ‘Love Economy’ sectors, based on the principles of the Golden Rule: of mutual aid, caring, sharing and co-operation, which still enfold official GDP and money-measured market sectors in all societies. I described in Creating Alternative Futures: The End of Economics, (1978) how powerful elites in many countries had co-opted the use of money and markets, which had existed in local villages and communities for centuries, along with enthroning economists and their profession to justify their power.
I showed how local communities and their civic volunteers created their own local currencies to retain local services, jobs and enterprises in countries all over the world. In New Zealand, parliamentarian Marilyn Waring in If Women Counted, (1990) revealed this hidden role of the world’s women in providing the loving, caring, sharing voluntary sectors that still support individual competitors and their money-based market activities.
As women organised for their full rights, Marilyn Waring, I and others began focusing on how male control of societies had been perpetuated for centuries. Evolutionary theorist Riane Eisler in The Chalice and the Blade, (1988), described how patriarchal, dominator social systems overcame these older, egalitarian partnership societies. In my The Politics of the Solar Age, (1981), I examined why economic textbooks ignored all this unpaid work underpinning all societies. These official textbooks deemed unpaid work as “uneconomic”; volunteering was deemed “irrational” while human nature was assumed to be self-interested individualistic, competitive and even genetically-determined!
I challenged this dour view of human nature, based on overwhelming evidence that people also find joy and satisfaction in giving, helping others in their communities, raising children and caring for family members. Thus, I promoted my view of total production in all societies, as a three-layer cake with icing, with its two lower layers: Love Economies and Nature.
In HumanKind (2019), Dutch best-selling author Rutger Bregman illuminates all this hidden history of humanity’s empathy, caring, loving, sharing and altruism, and how this positive view of our human behaviour was eclipsed in cynicism and amplified in economic textbooks ‘ view of human selfishness, competition, greed and egotism.
Yet the Golden Rule still lives! In the 1980s, I keynoted annual meetings of many religions, from Christian to Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Bahai groups around the world. They all wanted me to elaborate my critique of the now-globally dominant economies based on the delusions of money-based GDP, all such statistics. Most agreed on how this was incentivising bad behaviour and lowering humanity’s potential, tempting us by rewarding those Seven Deadly Sins.
My message was simple: if a society’s operating source code rewards such debased human behaviour, such impulses will become more widespread, challenging the traditional Golden Rule, honoured in all spiritual principles. Vicki Robin, in Your Money or Your Life, (1993-2020) summarizes this divide between allegiance to “The Golden Calf” or the “Golden Rule”!
Even Adam Smith, in his Theory of Moral Sentiments, (1757) pointed to this unpaid foundation of societies and the empathetic understanding of our wider human responsibilities. His Wealth of Nations, (1776) traced at the national emergence of markets and money-based transactions. In How Adam Smith and Charles Darwin Were Hijacked, we explore how Smith’s Wealth of Nations was pre-empted by elites and market fundamentalists, as well as Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. Sociologist Herbert Spencer, mis-cast Darwin’s theory as “survival of the fittest” in The Economist, for which the magazine apologised for “this poisonous phrase” in 2006.
Evolutionary theorist David Loye, in Darwin’s Lost Theory of Love, (2007), found that Darwin rejected Spencer’s phrase and instead wrote of love 95 times and that humans’ capacities for bonding, sharing, co-operation and altruism were sources of our success. In Rediscovering Darwin, (2018), Loye adds more evidence of how Darwin was hijacked by Victorian-era British elites, now corroborated by many of our most respected scientists and philosophers.
In Nurturing Our Humanity, (2021) Riane Eisler, with co-author Douglas Fry, peace anthropologist, adds new evidence of the power of love. They document how caring and sharing are still driving positive human evolution and our potentialities for our common future on this planet.
They trace all the new research on this under-valued, often suppressed evidence of this role of love, co-operative, empathetic behaviour led our positive human evolution. These behaviours are most often based on the need of human infants for long-term nurturing and caring. Parenting, led naturally by women as physical loving, touching and nurturing of relationship skills, actually improves our developing brains, their structure and increasing our cognitive skills.
Today, diving into the workings of all the obsolete economics-driven operating sub-systems of our global financial casino, we see cognitive biases at all levels in mature industrialized countries. Their venerable Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD) advocates the famous “Washington Consensus” worldviews shared by the international financial institutions: the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF); the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and the Bank for International Settlements (BIS).
Since all these legacy organizations are now under attack from many sides, let’s examine them in further detail. Our research found biases embedded in many decision-algorithms and policies, as described by mathematician Cathy O’Neil in Weapons of Math Destruction (2016). Algorithms also designed by social media giants keep us addicted or outraged, spreading conspiracy theories now threatening our democracies, as I report in Steering Social Media Toward Sanity.
All these human cognitive limitations and perverse subsidies to fossil fuels are now preventing our progress to a saner, sustainable future and the goals outlined by 193 countries in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Meanwhile, fighting money-laundering and tax havens in the global casino is failing, with the cost of such crimes in 2018 of $5.8 trillion, (The Economist, April 17, 2021). At last,139 rich and poor nations losing these revenues due from multinational corporations, are banding together. Placing an enforceable global floor of minimum corporate taxes is basic for global sustainability, now spearheaded by Janet Yellen, Secretary of Treasury in the US administration of Joe Biden (Bloomberg Business Week, April 19, 2021.)
Law Professor Dorothy Brown explains The Whiteness of Wealth: How the Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans and How To Fix It, (2021). She shows how conscious and unconscious biases in the USA since the Jim Crow era, have skewed seemingly neutral, progressive tax policies which penalise African-Americans and women. Such tax rules interact with similar inequities in housing policies, zoning, college loans, and access to farmland. Even the Homestead Act of 1872, famously offering citizens “40 acres and a mule”, excluded Black Americans.
At last, a few economists admit their disastrous advice leading politicians and private decision-makers astray, narrowly focus on money-based statistics, cash flows and price movements. Focus on inflation, debt, and market risks, instead of seeing all the physical global risks economists helped create in the real world: species extinction, climate crises and pandemics, in Pandemics: Looking Back from 2050.
Paul Collier and John Kay in Greed is Dead: Politics After Individualism (2020) identify all their professions’ mistakes, including their narrow focus on individual actors in private markets. They now reaffirm the values of mutuality and social cooperation, embracing ecosystem values vital for human survival, albeit almost 50 years after my Economists versus Ecologists, (1971).
Most economists, with notable exception of Steve Keen in his Debunking Economics (2001), continue science-denying and fronting for greenwashing efforts of their corporate or government clients. The Economics of Biodiversity February 2021, by brahmin economist Partha Dasgupta, reiterates the view that individuals must take responsibility for protecting the Earth, concluding that citizens, rather than economists, must be educated!
How did economics come to dominate academia, policy-making by governments and private decision-making in the 20th century? As human populations expanded around the Earth, economists followed up by focusing on growing money exchanges that tracked our relationships and agreements over using natural resources. Simplified use of prices and cash flows in markets underpin their money-based metrics. Few extended their horizons much beyond GDP and macro-economic indices. Ethical Markets’ series of surveys, Beyond GDP with Globescan in 12 countries launched in 2007 at the European Parliament’s Beyond GDP debate, repeated in 2009, 2013, and 2020, confirmed that citizens are way ahead of economists.
In The Deficit Myth (2020), Stephanie Kelton, exposes the politics of money-creation and credit allocation. As economist for the US Senate Budget Committee, she shows ways economists often conceal the motives of powerful interest groups, using conventional models of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to “score” various legislative proposals. These conceptual tricks can weaponize public debates over government investments in much-needed info-structure: education, and other vital public goods and services, by labelling them as “borrowing” and “debt“ owed to bondholders and financial markets.
These arguments also claim that all such investments must be paid for by cutting other programs. The filibuster blocks the Biden agenda recognising Love Economies’ services to make our economy fairer while shifting to renewable resources.
Kelton reinterprets all the alarms over deficits, inflation, tax increases, and fear-mongering over burdening our children with debt and interest payments to bondholders. Kelton shows how all these rhetorical gambits obscure the role of the US Congress in its power of the purse over budgets and our money supply, affirmed in the Constitution. Of course deficits matter, says Kelton, but so do all the assets they create, which I stress are not yet reflected in GDP. Thus, if GDP were to include an asset account, as in double-entry book-keeping, these assets would balance out much of the government investments in public goods, service, and infrastructure, and cut most countries’ debt-to-GDP ratios by up to 50 per cent – with a few keystrokes!
Generations of wealthy US libertarians have funded laissez-faire economics in countless university-based academic courses, think tanks and foundations. These distort applications of US laws, including those on anti-trust for breaking up monopolies, including today’s powerful global social media, as Senator Amy Klobuchar describes in Antitrust (2021).
Economics jargon conceals uses of power as described by Blair Fix in Power and the Dialect of Economics in Real World Economics Blog. Opposition to Biden’s “Build Back Better” policies to address structural inequalities is libertarian economists’ mantra: “governments bad …markets good”! These ideologies helped Donald Trump, with help from Vladimir Putin in 2016 and 2020. These funders influenced the US Supreme Court’s decision in 2010, allowing anonymous political PACs and floods of political donations documented by Jane Meyer in Dark Money (2017).
In Mission Economy: A Moonshot Guide to Changing Capitalism (2021), Mariana Mazzucato expands on her The Enterprising State (2013) and The Value of Everything (2018) to promote the Biden administration $2 trillion plus jobs plan for re-invigorating the US economy. The transition to fossil-free, more equitable renewably-based systems we have tracked, is now unstoppable, with a cumulative $10.3 trillion in the pipeline globally as of 2020. Biden’s “infostructure” suitable for our Information Age, embraces broadband for all, as well as education, healthcare, and communities unpaid and underpaid caring sectors, the Love Economies underpinning all societies.
Unsurprisingly, intellectuals leading the new paradigm approaches are women. Women have been shut out of science policy, finance, and economics by incumbent patriarchal elites until quite recently. Even in the 1970s, I experienced this while serving as advisor to the US Congress Office of Technology Assessment (OTA). Back then, there were only nine women in the US Congress and one lone Senator. My all-white male colleagues were corporate CEOs, university presidents, and Nobelists. On my arrival, they asked me to go and get the coffee! The April 2021 episode of the PBS TV series “NOVA” explored the efforts of women scientists at Harvard and MIT, to get their administrations to take seriously their well-documented charges of gender bias, harassment and even bullying by male professors.
The painful awakening of US citizens in 2020 and 2021 to all inequities revealed, calls for reforming our society toward our aspirations of “E Pluribus Unum” in our founding documents. Heather McGhee, in her The Sum Of Us (2021), shows how deep cognitive and structural racist biases in our laws and economy, exacerbate inequality. McGhee finds reforms are at last taking hold.
Facing our history as political scientist Jill Lepore shows in her richly illustrated These Truths: An American History, (2019) is the healthiest way forward to a more perfect union. The planet is now teaching humans directly: Love Economies of co-operation, sharing and caring at all levels are basic conditions for our survival.
All nations evolve their infrastructure along with their peoples’ knowledge and technologies. So human societies’ forms of infrastructure continued to evolve as we progressed from villages to towns and cities -always needing to stay connected to meet our changing needs for surviving and developing. We connected our minds, beyond writing on early papyrus, paper, parchment scrolls to books, letters, pamphlets, newspapers, radio, television to today’s broadband-linked internet and social media. Hence, the new term “infostructure”.
Tangible material goods production became outpaced by the growth of services and intangibles. These intangible services, educational intellectual products, digital assets include patents, brands, copyrights, diplomas and business models. Research and national laboratories innovate genetic approaches to health, renewable energy from the sun’s free photons and computers, robotics, algorithms, described by Don and Alex Tapscott in Blockchain Revolution (2016). These software technologies are managing our pensions, making our life decisions. So, Lets Train Humans First Before We Train Machines!
This infostructure grew from our one-room schoolhouses fostering our children’s minds, to free public education, early head start childcare and development programs. Student loans allowed wider participation in colleges and state-funded universities as magnets for new markets. Covid-19 taught us that we can no longer over-burden our Love Economies: families, volunteering, charity and women’s unpaid work to care for our sick and elderly or raising our children. In the USA four million women: frontline nurses, teachers and service workers lost their jobs.
Childcare centres closed, forcing many others to quit other vital public service jobs. Thus, today’s human services infostructure requires rebuilding its robust support system, with 53 million unpaid care workers (NBC News, May 27, 2021), the backbone buttressing all our markets and businesses, to fully restore the 20 million jobs lost in the pandemic. London School of Economics director Minouche Shafik reports that societies average a 14.3 per cent return on investments in preventive healthcare and that childcare is now essential infrastructure, in What We Owe Each Other, (2021).
All this human connectivity evolved over the centuries to facilitate our production and organise our collective activities and governance. Today, we live in mediocracies and their attention economies whatever our ostensible forms of government. Media access, advertising and public relations now seem to dominate politics, private enterprise, culture, values and local communities.
Most of today’s nations are at last valuing Love Economy sectors as the vital bedrock of all societies. They must be fairly financed by government long-term investments in most industrial and post-industrial countries. All societies require government and taxpayers’ investments in these basic underpinnings, that no individual company or group can provide.
US politicians still debate 19th and 20th-century infrastructure, rather than the Love Economy sectors driving our human potentials: the infostructure that now dominates our lives and economy. Time to upgrade our politicians’ and mainstream media editors’ mental software and bring this debate into the present and face up to these issues which will decide our future.
This post first appeared in Wall Street International Magazine and on www.ethicalmarkets.com.