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Will Americans Ever Realize That a Good Life Is More Important Than Money?

Money is the least of our problems. It’s time to pay attention to the real deficits that are killing us.

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Financial system logic, which rests on the illusion that money is wealth, tells us we are making intelligent choices. Living systems logic tells us our current choices are insane and a crime against future human generations and creation itself.

From Built-to-Loot to Built-to-Serve

The economy of a just and sustainable society needs a proper system of money creation and allocation that:

  1. Supports the health and productive function of social and biosystem capital and allocates the sustainable generative output of both to optimize the long-term health and well-being of all; and
  2. Rewards individuals with financial credits in proportion to their actual productive contribution to living system health and prosperity.

The current U.S. money system does exactly the opposite. It celebrates and rewards the destruction of living capital to grow the financial assets of Wall Street looters at the expense of Main Street producers—thus concentrating economic and political power in the hands of those most likely to abuse it for a purely individualist short-term gain.

Wall Street operates as a criminal syndicate devoted to the theft of that to which it has no rightful claim. It then bribes politicians to shield the looters from taxes on their ill-gotten gains and to eliminate social programs that cushion the blow to those they have deprived of a secure and meaningful means of livelihood. This brings us back to the real source and consequence of excess financial debt.

Masters and Debt Slaves

In the big picture, the Wall Street 1 percent has divided society into a looter class that controls access to money and a producer class forced into perpetual debt slavery—an ancient institution that for millennia has allowed the few to rule the many [See inset: “Wall Street and the Ultimate Tyranny”] .The immense burden imposed on the 99 percent by public debt, consumer debt, mortgage debt, and student debt is an outcome of a Wall Street assault on justice and democracy.

The resulting desperation and loss of social trust account for the many current symptoms of social disintegration and decline in ethical standards. These include growth in family breakdown, suicide, forced migration, physical violence, crime, drug use, and prison populations.

Equality as a Crucial Variable

I grew up in America during a time when we took pride in being a middle-class society without extremes of wealth and poverty. In part, we were living an illusion. Large concentrations of private wealth were intact and systemic discrimination excluded large segments of the population—particularly people of color—from participation in the general prosperity. The underlying concept that the good society is an equitable society, however, was and still is valid. And from the 1950s to the 1970s the middle class expanded.

Complete equality is neither possible nor desirable. Modest inequality creates essential incentives for productive contribution to the well-being of the community. Extreme inequality, as exemplified by current U.S. society, is both a source and an indicator of serious institutional failure and social pathology.

British epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson has compiled an impressive body of research that demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt that economic and social inequality is detrimental to human physical and mental health and happiness—even for the very rich. Relatively equal societies are healthier on virtually every indicator of individual and social health and well-being.

In highly unequal societies, the very rich are prone to seek affirmation of their personal worth through extravagant displays of excess. They easily lose sight of the true sources of human happiness, sacrifice authentic relationships, and deny their responsibility to the larger society—at the expense of their essential humanity. At the other extreme, the desperate are prone to manipulation by political demagogues who offer simplistic analyses and self-serving solutions that in the end further deepen their misery. Governing institutions lose legitimacy. Democracy becomes a charade. Moral standards decline. Civic responsibility gives way to extreme individualism and disregard for the rights and well-being of others.