(#249) — Is there such a thing? Our national and local economy are rife with it. Growth can be negative even when it measures rising gross national product. Since the 1980s, uneconomic growth has been our history. More of the same is promised by leading politicians of both parties and deeply underwritten by corporations who purchase a government dedicated to shareholders rather than stakeholders. More of the same is literally ruining the natural world that makes human life possible.
What we are fed by politicians and financial elites at all levels of society is a devotion to GDP that is correctly described as a “grossly distorted picture” of present social reality. Many have a sense that there is something wrong with the US economy and the threat of climate change may be real, but resign themselves to coping with basic tasks of life and paying the bills because of the confidence that the US is still the finest place in the world to live. The fact is that compared to almost every other modern economy in the world, the US is at the bottom in terms of what matters most according to the “American Dream” as well as indexes of what is essential for human sufficiency and security.
One of the biggest problems is that prices in our economy are dishonest and drive consumption and investment decisions that bring chaos and destruction even as the overall economic numbers rise. Consumers are led to reward companies that do serious harm to people and the environment. Government supports these corporations because its revenue comes from the supply of money that is created entirely by the financial sector as it makes loans and piles up public and private debt. When financial decisions prevail in society the priority is for maximizing profit and growth in ways that sacrifice economic growth that matters most.
In our region, casinos and hydro-fracking are favored by those who seek to extend their control of our local economy. Both are examples of the most uneconomic growth enterprises. The case against casinos was well made several years ago when it became apparent to anyone who would consider all of the facts that gambling as an industry is destructive of community and lives as well as generates less revenue than it costs. Hydro-fracking, thanks to brilliant and stead-fast local actions, is understood in the same light: an economic loser in itself and a tremendous threat to a revival of our traditional local industries and the quality of living conditions which make this part of the nation so immensely attractive and important.
We need new arrangements of power and partnership between business, government and pubic participation. We need priority investment in education, health care, environmental stewardship and job creation that are more effective and generate profits that are widely shared. The top and the bottom need to negotiate.
Signs are that public participation is ready and able to provide leadership. Let’s open up the local system to new operating systems that really can do the job for a vibrant local economy.