- The Commons
- Local Currencies
An Economics Embodying Our Highest Ideals
On June 5th the New Economics Institute held its founding meeting. Guests helped imagine the future of the Institute -- its vision, its programs, the urgency of its realization. Members of the board of directors outlined future projects:
1. Launching a new economic model of an economy that works and thrives despite dwindling resources (Gus Speth).
2. Developing the Happy Planet Index as a better measure of success (Stewart Wallis).
3. Developing new economic teaching materials that break the stranglehold of the old economics (Neva Goodwin).
4. Using Vermont as a model for rebuilding our economies, one neighborhood at a time (Will Raap).
5. Modeling new ownership options that change the meaning of work and the role of the worker (Gar Alperovitz).
6. Bringing the case for a new economics into mainstream thinking and action. (David Boyle).
Shifting mainstream economics is a huge task. It will take significant resources to accomplish. We need your support financially and we need your help telling the story of a new economics, raising awareness, and activating a movement of change.
Opening remarks from the founding meeting are excerpted below.
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New Economics Institute
In his theory of art the painter Wassily Kandinsky stated that every great work of art must have three elements: something that arises out of the artist’s personal circumstances and his or her character; something representative of the spirit of the time and place, reflecting the struggles of a people in an era; and something universal that will speak to what lies common in all humankind throughout the ages.
I'd say that every great organization must have the same three elements--something that evolves out of its particular circumstances and the people involved in it; a mission that addresses the most critical problems of the times; yet all the while staying true to the universal values that inspire and direct us all.
We are gathered today as the E. F. Schumacher Society transitions to a new form as the New Economics Institute. It is an appropriate evolution for the Society that for thirty years has stewarded in a small way a large mission and intellectual heritage. Our websites last year totaled seven million hits. Our local economic programs have gained wide media attention. The broadly circulated Schumacher lectures collectively tell a story of a new approach to economics. Yet we are too small to take advantage of the opportunity this attention offers. Thus, the board of directors has entered an agreement to partner with the New Economics Foundation, one of Europe’s most effective economic think tanks, to bring the power and depth of its programs to the United States. The evolution of the organization is possible only because of the mature stage of its development and because of the experience and vision of its remarkable board of directors.
This transition comes at a most critical time in our economic history, a time of disillusionment and failure of existing systems. It has always seemed to me that the destiny of America is in the economic sphere as its designer and driver. As a people we are comfortable in this sphere of producing and trading and buying. It is our element. And it is our destiny to shape our economics either for greatness or for limited ends. History will judge us on how we do it. The New Economics Institute emerges at this particular time in our history to help shape and lead the implementation of a new economics so urgently needed.
Though the medium of this new Institute is economics, its work is informed more broadly. It was Martin Buber, the great Hasidic writer, who described the task of human beings on earth as nothing less than striving to raise the sleeping spirit from stone to plant, from plant to animal, from animal to speaking being. He would have our every action permeated by this intent.
What is economics at its core but a system for organizing human labor to transform the earth into products for one another? The outcome of that transformation can either degrade or enhance all involved; the nature of our economic institutions determines which it will be. If we accept Martin Buber's admonition, then it is our responsibility -- our spiritual task, if you will -- to create an economic system that embodies our highest ideas as human beings, one that builds community, advances ecological health, creates beauty, provides sustainability, and encourages mutuality.
This is the task that the New Economics Institute is setting itself. This is the work we are asking you to join us in undertaking.
New Economics Institute