A first post seems to ask for some sort of introduction, a getting-to-know-each-other, a testing the water rather than diving in at the deep end. But the inquiry called Beautiful Economy has no clear beginning. Or rather, it has many.
So why don’t I start with a memory. A very vivid memory of a moment in which reality shifted. A tiny yet radical turning point between ‘life before’ and ‘life after’ the penny dropped. This particular penny had been in free-fall for a while, and it was Arne Naess, the Norwegian philosopher with his article Self-realization: An ecological approach to being in the world, who secured its landing.
An economist by trade, I had been searching for models of moral philosophy in line with the realities of the earth and human nature. Alternative economic theories that respect the dynamics of the ecosystems we depend on, that view people as relational beings, and theories that take a qualitative approach to well-being. I was looking for a model, a new set of rules that could guide us in creating a sustainable and more equitable society.
I also understood that even if there was a model, a perfect set of new rules, this was unlikely to inspire change in actual economic behaviour. Inspiration does not come from models, or regulations on what cannot be done. Inspiration is an intrinsic force, and requires freedom of thought and action.
I found agreement from Naess, who wrote: “When people feel they unselfishly give up, even sacrifice their interest in order to show love for nature, this is probably in the long run a treacherous basis for conservation. …Altruism implies that ego sacrifices its interest in favour of the alter. The motivation is primarily that of duty: we ought to love others as strongly as we love ourself.” An act motivated by duty is a ‘moral act’. Kant distinguishes this from a ‘beautiful act’, which is what we do according to moral law and out of personal inclination; with pleasure and with care.
For Naess, an act of beauty is a joyful act. And “part of the joy stems from the consciousness of our intimate relation to something bigger, an increased sensitivity towards the richness and diversity of life, landscapes of free nature. If we experience reality through the ecological self, the self that is widened and deepened to include other species, ecosystems, and the Earth, our behaviour will naturally and beautifully follow norms of environmental ethics.”
In an instant, life shifted from being an act of morality to an act of beauty. Work became an invitation, the economy a potential for graceful value creation.
Beautiful Economy is the system that we may create if we all act and transact beautifully. If we do what is right, from our ecologically intrinsic wish to do so. Beautiful Economy is a moral economy created with joy. The pattern of our collective acts of beauty.