The Chosen Rich

TWO SELECTIONS FROM THIS CHAPTER.

Colonising Growth

In a world facing global environmental dislocations, rapid resource depletion, with disappearing forests, chronic soil loss and water shortages, and an energy dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels, why do the people of the affluent nations see economic growth as a necessity, instead of a liability? When the economic price of goods and services is based on scarcity, why do people think expanding the population of their city or nation is a good thing? Why do we think we must continually grow the economy, exploiting more resources with ever newer technologies to make more goods and services? Why do we assume that economic growth can go on forever? Do we remain rude colonists, whose approach to life is to conquer and dominate whatever we find, apply whatever technology we can think up, and do whatever comes to mind?

A colonisation of rapid multiplication and spreading out is a strategy of some plants. Where fire destroys an area of forest, or bare ground is formed by erosion, these plants spread rapidly to give rise to an initial cover of vegetation. They have a high energy uptake, but inefficient use, growing quickly and seeding prolifically. Given the sudden opportunity, they compete vigorously through a strategy of expansive takeover and fast growth.

Following the initial shelter and nutrient enrichment provided by the first cover plants, other plants come in, that require a less harsh environment, but use energy more efficiently, and are sturdier and more long lasting. Over time a mature forest re-develops, with a high degree of energy efficiency and a self sustaining re-cycling of biomass and nutrients.

The private ownership capitalist economy is clearly one of growth. Given its dependence on market forces, it is subject to booms and busts, but its essential strategy is one of expansionary takeover and continuous fast growth. Companies within this economy must compete vigorously and continually grow to survive. Where there is little social regulation of markets, there is a strong trend of monopolisation, as competitive advantage is obtained by takeovers and market domination.

The capitalist economy has been and still is fuelled by cheap energy, and has a colonisation strategy. An extraordinarily wide ranging and complicated technology has been developed within this economy, but one that is enormously profligate in its energy use. There is continual innovation, giving rise to constantly changing technological systems, but they are cobbled together layer on layer, with little overall design or rationalising of processes and procedures.

While this fast growth economic system may have had a part to play in an initial expansion and development of productive systems, why do we continue to accept the necessity of economic growth and constant technological change? Is it because continual progressive development fits the cultural approach of Europeans?

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ECONOMIES

Means of Achieving Social Objectives

Contrasting Characteristics

Competitive
(with enforced co-operation)
Co-operative
(with competitive stimulation)
Domination Hierarchy Empowered Participation
Heroes & Strong Leaders Professionalism & Influence
Self-interest Care & Respect
Individual self-reliance Mutual support
Problem - Solution Repeating engagement
Linear processes Interwoven pulsating processes
Progressive development Fluctuations & the unexpected
Interest group advocacy Social duties & roles
Regulations Responsibility
Monocultural Diversity
Monopolisation/Centralisation Networked Decentralisation
Private Ownership Commons & Community Trust
Private Profit People’s Welfare
Individual wealth Social objectives
Loans & Debts Shared liabilities
Interest payments on loans Shared returns
Increasing production Fair distribution
Continuous rapid Growth
(with boom & bust tendency)
Dynamic Balance
(with periodic renewal)
Expansionary Mature
Profligate Efficient
Extractive Renewing
Resource depleting Stewardship
Continual Innovation Selective application

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Economic Activity in an Interconnected World

When life is seen as a dynamic process of constant renewal, where the patterns of change are patterns of interweaving flows, which spiral upward and downward, then economic activity would not consist of a head long rush of economic growth fuelled by constant technological development. A cultural perspective in which life is seen as an on going process of birth and death, of growth and decay, and of processes that are not smooth and progressive but jerky and prone to unexpected and sudden catastrophic movements, would give rise to a different economy, with a different technology. Death would not be so scary, and a decline in the economy, or even in our civilisation as a whole would not be so unthinkable.

Life would have a different meaning.

Social and economic institutions are derived from a cultural underpinning of philosophical attitudes and religious beliefs. The direction of economic activity, the type and form of technology, and the social uses made of the goods and services generated by economic activity, depend on the cultural setting, and are derivative from basic belief assumptions about the nature of reality and the meaning of life.

When life is seen as a participatory experience, within an interactive and interdependent world, social and economic activity would be fundamentally different, because we would have a different perspective on life. When the flow of events is visualised or imagined in terms of spirals that interweave and pulsate, instead of linear chains, there would be a different pattern of acceptable human behaviour. There would be an implicit acceptance of interdependence, with more concern for nurturing relationships than achieving dominance. Harmony and balance would be the measure of success, not continuous and excessive growth at the expense of others.

In a more participatory society, where economic activity was seen as part of the participation of people in social activity, and people carried out their roles in life within a social context that was essentially cooperative and caring, a fair distribution would be more important than increasing production. The activities of companies would be aimed at benefiting the people involved, the suppliers, the workers in the company and consumers, as well as the local community in which it was based. Communal decision making would be based on local communities of interest, and only delegated upwards as the interdependence and complexity of the issues demanded.

The inherent interdependence of all human activity would be recognised in the form and arrangement of social and economic activity, and the more sophisticated and complex the social arrangement, the wider and more interwoven the links of dependence, the more intricate would be the social network. Economic activity would be carried out in a way that reflected and maintained social values of mutual support and responsibility.

When people care for each other, individuals feel supported and they take care – of themselves, of others and of the world in which they live. Care for the world that supports us, and for all the other creatures that share it with us, will follow from an understanding of our part within a much larger participatory world. When we see ourselves as having an active and meaningful role because we are part of a dynamic world with vibrant and diverse networks of living creatures, we will naturally have an attitude of care and responsibility towards our world. Not because it may be in our own self interest will we protect our environment, but because we have an attitude of care and responsibility to our greater being.

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