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Capitalism Has Failed: 5 Bold Ways to Build a New World

Some new ideas and big questions are defining our economic future.
 
 
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As our political system sputters, a wave of innovative thinking and bold experimentation is quietly sweeping away outmoded economic models. In New Economic Visions, a special five-part  AlterNet series edited by economics editor Lynn Parramore in partnership with political economist Gar Alperovitz of the Democracy Collaborative, creative thinkers come together to explore the exciting ideas and projects that are shaping the philosophical and political vision of the movement that could take our economy back.

The problem, in a nutshell, is this: The old economic model has utterly failed us. It has destroyed our communities, our democracy, our economic security, and the planet we live on. The old industrial-age systems -- state communism, fascism, free-market capitalism -- have all let us down hard, and growing numbers of us understand that going back there isn't an option.

But we also know that transitioning to some kind of a new economy -- and, probably, a new governing model to match -- will be a civilization-wrenching process. We're having to reverse deep and ancient assumptions about how we allocate goods, labor, money, and power on a rapidly shrinking, endangered, complex, and ever more populated planet. We are bolding taking the global economy -- and all 7 billion souls who depend on it -- where no economy has ever gone before.

Right now, all we have to guide us forward are an emerging set of new values and imperatives. The new system can't incentivize economic growth for its own sake, or let monopolies form and flourish. It should be as democratic as possible, but with strong mechanisms in place that protect the common wealth and the common good. It needs to put true costs to things, and hold people accountable for their actions. Above all, it needs to be rooted in the deep satisfactions -- community, nature, family, health, creativity -- that have been the source of real human happiness for most of our species' history.

As we peer out into this future, we can catch glimmers and shadows -- the first dim outlines of things that might become part of the emerging picture over the next few decades. Within this far-ranging conversation, a few dominant themes crop up over and over again. For the final chapter in this series, we'll discuss five robust visions that are forming the conceptual bridge on which our next steps toward the future are being taken.

Small Is Beautiful

Many people imagining our next economy are swept up in the romance of a return to a localized or regionalized economy, where wealth is built by local people creatively deploying local resources to meet local needs.

Relocalization is a way to restore the autonomy, security and control that have been lost now that almost every aspect of our lives has been co-opted by big, centralized, corporate-controlled systems. By bringing everything back to a more human scale, this story argues, we'll enable people to connect with their own creativity, their communities and each other. Alienation and isolation will dissipate. We'll have more time for family and friends, really free enterprise and more satisfying work. Our money will be our own, accumulated by us and re-invested in things we value. And it'll be a serious corrective to our delusional ideas about what constitutes real wealth, too.

This vision is deeply beloved. It's front and center in both the resilience and Transition Towns movement. You hear it from foodies who extol the virtues of local food, Slow Money investors who back local banks and businesses instead of Wall Street, community gardeners, and 10 million Makers. David Korten argues that capitalism is actually the enemy of truly free markets -- the kind where anybody with ideas and initiative can make a tidy living working for herself, doing something she loves. And that kind of freedom is, very naturally, small in scale.

 
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