Many of us don’t really know what ‘the economy’ is, or what it’s for.
The original meaning in Greek is revealing: it’s a combination of ‘oikos’, meaning ‘household’, and ‘nemein’, meaning ‘manage’.
A system for managing our household, so that we can thrive in it.
‘Oikos’ is also where the ‘eco-’ in ‘eco-friendly’ comes from. The fact that we need a word to highlight the (few) things that are ‘household-friendly’ reveals how badly we’ve lost sight of the principal role of the economy.
Which is also revealed in the state of our household: it’s on fire, flooding, filling up with rubbish, the plants are dying, the children are unwell and the parents are fighting.
All whilst the cupboards quickly empty – our eroding soil can allegedly support 60 more harvests, and in 2022 we reached ‘Earth Overshoot Day’ (the day each year that we start using more resources than we can replenish) in July. For Canada, the USA, and the COP28 hosts UAE, it was in March.
This is a terminal condition.
A condition we are held in by thinking of the economy as a fixed machine, or a container for money like a piggy bank. By thinking that economics rationally follows set laws, like physics.
The economy not a piggy bank, and economics is not physics (it’s more like theology).
The economy is a design, which a few people created led by stories about how we relate to the world.
It is a system for managing our household that is failing, maintained by stories that we now understand are disconnected from reality.
A design that is no longer – maybe never was – fit for purpose, based on stories that are leading us astray.
“Our entire economic system has been based not on loving one another but on exploiting one another, and not on stewarding the Earth but on raping it, all for the most rapacious goal of extracting whatever money we could. And there, in our collective iniquity, lies the root of our problems, as well as the beginning of their solution, should we have the courage to face it.”
So what do we do when something we’ve designed is no longer useful, and certainly when it’s dangerous?
We redesign it. We upgrade it, to make it better.
This process has already begun.
Its success will depend on the stories that we carry.
The stories we all tell everyday, which tell us about our relationship with the world, with reality.
And it’s those stories that are our focus here.
“I look at it this way: Our economics, all those rules, procedures and so on, it is a system that we designed. It’s not God who designed it for us. It’s not like we can’t change it. It’s not a holy book.
We designed this thing (points to the iPhone on the table), a very complicated thing, but we designed it because we thought it would be useful to people. But we don‘t touch economics. Why?
We can design that system. We need to challenge the holiness of it. The whole world is falling apart, so we need to start designing. We need to try these new designs out in real life”