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Economy is to serve people

Does anyone out there disagree with this?

  1. Economy is there to serve people, not to be served by people.
  2. Development is about people, not about objects.
  3. Growth is not the same as development. Development does not necessarily require growth.
  4. No economic process is possible in the absence of ecosystem services.
  5. Economy is a sub-system of a larger finite system making perpetual growth impossible.

Why do we hang so tightly to our precious GNP and the idea that growth is the answer to everything?

But that is not what the point of this post is about... It is easy to list examples on a macro scale of how our current system is contrary to every one of these ideas which Max-Neef brought together as five postulates that form the basis of what he believes economics should be.

All of these are points that we have all contemplated in one form or another, and I think you would have a hard time finding someone to disagree on. I think that is why I was left not fully satisfied by today's lecture. These are great ideas that reenforce my own thinking, but by simply "knowing" them we are no closer to anything better. Sure, it makes me feel smart to see that we share the same views, and I may, armed with these five points so nicely packaged feel more confident to argue with someone at the pub, but I am not a policy maker, and these points do not inform my life.

Or do they? I am a policy maker in my own life, within my own sphere of influence, so how do these macro ideas help me to make better choices on a personal level? What are some examples in which my life could contradict these seemingly obvious points?

Economy (or my personal finances) are there to serve me, not to be served by me.

  1. Ignoring my health in favor of greater financial gain by foregoing a healthy, enjoyable, homemade meal, in favor of pre-packaged meals from the 7-11... because my work time encroached into my meal preparation time.
  2. Ignoring my health in favor of greater financial gain by buying fruits and vegetables inundated with deadly toxins because I was too late or tired from work to get to the organic market.
  3. Ignoring my relationships in favor of greater financial gain by pretending to, or only half listening to Tomoe as I work overtime on a client's project.
  4. Ignoring my mind and understanding in favor of greater financial gain by giving up reading and study time in favor of an extra paid project.
  5. Ignoring my happiness in favor of greater financial gain by choosing to live in environments which I almost despise (Tokyo), simply because it is easier to get more work there.
  6. Ignoring my leisure and need for idleness in favor of greater financial gain by skipping yet another sketch club session because I just had to finish that last few lines of code tonight.
  7. Ignoring my goals in favor of greater financial gain by continuing to work on paid projects that have no relation to what I am studying, taking time that could be better used to more deeply explore course materials and ideas.

Development is about people, not about objects.

  1. Thinking that I am helping myself to develop my abilities by buying a used TV so I can listen to Swedish, without first making a serious effort to learn from the resources I already have.
  2. Thinking that I am helping myself to develop my abilities by buying a new state-of-the-art camera, rather than first attempting to learn the very basics of photography.
  3. Thinking that I am helping myself to develop my intellect by buying yet another book for my bookshelf of unread books.
  4. Thinking that I am developing relationships by going out to the bar, or some other activity requiring money, instead of sitting at home and simply having a discussion.

Growth is not the same as development. Development does not necessarily require growth.

  1. Telling myself that I am much better off because my bank account is growing now, despite having less time to study and discuss with classmates.
  2. Telling myself that Tomoe and I will have a better relationship if we have jobs paying more than we need, and have opportunities to move up some ladder to even better paying jobs, than if we spend time with each other in an environment we enjoy.

No economic process is possible in the absence of ecosystem services.

  1. Believing that somehow, working on projects now, which we know are contributing to an adverse effect on the natural environment, will give us the financial means to protect our children... even after we have deprived them of needed ecosystem services.

Economy is a sub-system of a larger finite system making perpetual growth impossible.

  1. Continuing to contribute to the system that believes in perpetual growth, both through purchases, investments, and labor.

I may be stretching it a bit on some of these, but I only spent five minutes thinking about it for now... I will definitely be coming back to it later, and definatly be more aware of it as I make future decisions. I am pleased though to notice that many of the things I thought of but did not write were in regards to my actions and lifestyle three years ago. It never seems like it, and I always feel that I have so far to go, but this exercise helped me to realize that I have also come a long way in just three years, and the fact that I didn't even realize it must mean that it was not that hard.

Comments about Economy is to serve people

I agree with your comments. I noticed your 11/16 post on sustainability.bastish.net, and I must tell you how much I agree with you! Life is busy, that's for sure. On another note, my wife and I have started looking for land in New England. We're both from the east, so we knew we'd end up there one day - but we're not looking for a house, we're looking for land. We'll build our own house and generally have a very Thoroeau-esque experience. It'll be an interesting journey over the next few decades.

Chris

Posted by: Christopher at November 18, 2004 08:08 AM


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