Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Blind Spot in our Economic Development: 4 ways to meet our needs

Courtesy renjith kishnan, Freedigitalphotos.net
In the news, you can hardly miss it....Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. Important-sounding figures are spouted:

Unemployment figures!
GDP!
Dow Jones Industrial Average!

Everyone wants to GROW the economy to create more JOBS so that people can buy what they need.

But this is a very narrow view of what the economy is. Here's my definition:

The economy is how people meet their needs through trade.


So really what everyone wants is for people to meet their NEEDS, right? Jobs are a means to that end, but not the end. Using money is only one way to meet your needs, and often not even the best way.

Four ways to meet your needs

I have identified at least four ways to meet your needs:
  1. Decide you don't need it after all (voluntary simplicity). If you don't really need that new dress or car or expensive vacation, then maybe you don't have to work so hard to get it. Maybe what you really want is fun, entertainment, time with friends and family.Voluntary simplicity gives us time for the things that matter.
  2. Do it for yourself (self sufficiency). Grow a little of your own food, repair the hem, mow your own grass, learn how to tile your kitchen. Self-sufficiency can build self-esteem, marketable skills, and a sense of empowerment.
  3. Barter with others (sharing economy). Time banks allow people to help one another, trading time instead of dollars. People rent out their tools, their sofa and their cars. These transactions tend to build relationships, build community, more than monetary transactions that carry no sense of reciprocity.
  4. Buy it (the 'economy' everyone thinks about). This involves working hard, often for long hours, often for someone else in ways that leave you out of control over matters that affect you.
There is nothing wrong with #4 above. But our ENTIRE economic strategy is tied to it. And this strategy is the least likely to build community, self-sufficiency and empowerment.

So, Dreamers, what would it look like to have an economic strategy
 that gave equal weight to these four ways?

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