A Question of Value

In times of economic malaise and financial collapse, people – especially governments and businesses – tend to ask: ‘Can we afford to invest in sustainability?’

This question makes me laugh out loud and at the same time pull my hair in utter exasperation. What do you mean, ‘afford’? Afford in terms of what? In terms of quarterly growth figures? In terms of shareholder confidence? In terms of costs depicted in numbers that refer to monetary units that are actually not units but digits, whose perceived value depends on expectations of financial traders and analysts, and bears very little relationship with the daily bread we eat?

The simple question ‘Can we afford to invest in sustainability?’ lays bare one of the greatest economic misperceptions of capitalist societies; the belief that we are the creators of wealth. That our busy-ness, whether in extraction, processing, producing servicing, selling or renting, creates wealth. It doesn’t. We may support, alter, intensify or speed up certain processes, but the Origin of Wealth is still natural creation.

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Collective Acts of Beauty

Collective Acts of Beauty

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. Continue reading