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10 Steps We Can Take Right Now to Build the New Economy

How to choose people, place, and planet over profit, product, and power.

Are we ready for a new economy?

And a new politics?

First, some definitions. I think we can define the new economy as one where the overriding purpose of economic life is to sustain and to strengthen People, Place, and Planet, and is no longer to grow Profit, Product (as in gross domestic), and Power.

And a new politics? No surprises here. A new politics in America is one that replaces today’s creeping corporatocracy and plutocracy with true popular sovereignty.

Well, then, let’s explore how we can begin the process of transformation to a new economy and a new politics. This afternoon, I want to offer 10 steps we can take now that would start us on our journey. Time is short, so here they are.

Step 1

The journey to a new political economy begins when enough Americans have come to two important conclusions. The first is that something is profoundly wrong with our current political economy—the operating system on which our country now runs. That system is now routinely generating terrible results—failing us socially, economically, environmentally, and politically. When big problems emerge across the entire spectrum of national life, as they surely have in our country, it cannot be for small reasons. We have encompassing problems because of fundamental flaws in our economic and political system. The second conclusion follows from the first. It is the imperative of system change, of building a new political economy that routinely delivers good results for people, place and planet.

A growing number of Americans are already finding it impossible to accept the deteriorating conditions of life and living. They see frightening gap between the world that is and the one that could be. So, our first step is to become teachers—to help bring these Americans, and many more, to see the basic relationships: that the huge challenges we face are the result of system failure, that our current system of political economy no longer deserves legitimacy because it doesn’t deliver on the values it proclaims, and that, therefore, the path forward is to change the system. As the slogan goes, “System change, not climate change.” This is the core, foundational message, and we must pursue many ways to reach ever-larger numbers of Americans with it.

Step 2

What I call progressive fusion. If the various U. S. progressive communities remain as fragmented and as in-their-silos as today, we won’t be able to take advantage of positive opportunities opened up by rising popular disenchantment and by the inevitable crises ahead. What’s needed, for starters, is a unified progressive identity, a concerted effort to institutionalize coordination, a common infrastructure capable of formulating clear policy objectives and strategic messages, and a commitment to creating a powerful, unified movement beyond isolated campaigns.

Critical here is a common progressive platform. It should embrace a profound commitment to social justice, job creation, and environmental protection; a sustained challenge to consumerism and commercialism and the lifestyles they offer; a healthy skepticism of growth mania and a democratic redefinition of what society should be striving to grow; a challenge to corporate dominance and a redefinition of the corporation, its goals and its management and ownership; a commitment to an array of prodemocracy reforms in campaign finance, elections, the regulation of lobbying; and much more. A common agenda would also include an ambitious set of new national indicators beyond GDP to inform us of the true quality of life in America.

A powerful part of the drive for transformation must be a compelling envisioning of the world we would like to leave for our children and grandchildren — a new American Dream, if you will.

Coming together is imperative because all progressive causes face the same reality. We live and work in a system of political economy that cares profoundly about profit and growth and about international power and prestige. It cares about society and the natural world in which it operates primarily to the extent the law requires. So the progressive mandate is to inject values of justice, democracy, sustainability, and peace into this system. And our best hope for doing this is a fusion of those concerned about environment, social justice, true democracy, and peace into one powerful progressive force. We have to recognize that we are all communities of a shared fate. We will rise or fall together, so we’d better get together.