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Beyond Scarcity: Reinventing Wealth in a Progressive World

We had better be sure we have the right values in mind as we think about ourselves in this historic transition.

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The source of our wealth is the foundation of well-being. Our rewards are many - providing for our families while also resting peacefully at night because we devote ourselves to helping our neighbors. One very important way that we protect our communities is by challenging perspectives that threaten our ability to provide for one another. We reject the false choice of "making money" versus "doing good" and instead create new institutions that promote well-being across society by valuing the work of nonprofit employees, teachers, social workers, and anyone else who dedicates themselves to the betterment of society.

The timing is ripe for this transformation to begin. The economic philosophies of the 20th century have lead to unraveling markets and widespread malaise. Now, as we build new economic safeguards and invest in the future, we can learn from this past and change what it means to be wealthy. All that conservatives can muster is an appeal to our selfish tendencies with their calls for tax cuts (and continue to advance their covert agenda to destroy the fabric of society). We can offer a profound alternative that appeals to our better selves and leads to real and lasting change.

Historic Opportunity to Reinvent Ourselves

You might ask why I'm calling out the scarcity mindset during a time when funding is drying up for nonprofits as we go into a full-scale recession. My answer is that this is an opportune moment for us to set the agenda for the new growth that is sure to follow. President Obama and Congress have just passed the first stage of an economic recovery plan. The experts agree - we need to invest in infrastructure that lays a foundation for 21st century civilization.

This is as true for the progressive movement as it is for our cities and towns. Getting progressive politicians into office isn't enough to solve the climate crisis or rein in terrorist networks in the Middle East. Our problems are bigger than 20th century thinking. We're going to need to engage citizens personally and at unprecedented levels. This will require that we invest in each other and value people as a centerpiece of our efforts. A coherent vision based on a different set of values is needed to rise to the challenges we face.

We have the opportunity to go from being underdogs to agents of change, as my colleague Sue Kerbel points out in her article, " Now What? A Note of Caution, and an Invitation, to Progressives." This is an historic moment that warrants self-evaluation as we envision a better world. And the vision we project to ourselves will be reflected in the world we create.

Change always starts from within.

Joe Brewer is founder and director of Cognitive Policy Works ,
an educational and research center devoted to the application of cognitive and
behavioral sciences to politics. He is a former fellow of the Rockridge Institute ,
a think tank founded by George Lakoff to analyze political discourse for the
progressive movement.

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