‘Economics’ literally means ‘household management’ – ‘Eco’ from the ancient greek ‘oikos’ (household) and ‘nemein’ (manage).
A system for managing our lives, so that we can keep on living them.
‘Oikos’ is also where the ‘eco’ in ‘eco-friendly’ comes from. The fact that we need a word for ‘household-friendly’, implying that everything else isn’t, suggests that we’ve lost sight of the most basic principle of economics – it’s about managing the household. And doing so ‘wisely’, as Aristotle put it.
Right now, our household is on fire, flooding, polluted and filling up with rubbish.
And we’re running out of food. Our eroding soil can allegedly support 60 more harvests, and in 2020 we reached ‘Earth Overshoot Day’ (the day each year that we start using more resources than we can sustain – i.e. the day we go ‘into debt’) in August.
If your home was on fire, flooding, polluted, filling up with rubbish and running out of food, you’d probably need to think again about how you were managing it.
That’s where we are today.
Today, instead of seeing the economy as a living system for wisely managing our collective household, we tend to think of it as a fixed machine, or a container for money.
We think of it as following physical laws, like gravity.
But it’s not a container, and it doesn’t follow laws.
The economy is a system that we have designed, and maintain every day.
Ultimately, the economy is us.
Unpredictable, emotional, human us.
It is a household that we are no longer managing well.
The design is no longer fit for purpose.
So what do we do when something we’ve designed is no longer useful?
We redesign it.
We redesign it to upgrade it, to make it better.
This redesign has already begun.
Its success will depend on our stories.
The stories we all tell everyday.
And that’s 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”