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The Next Chapter of an empty rhetoric

The Next Chapter is a Huffington Post article describing a recent discussion about new economic models in New York hosted by Guardian Sustainable Business.

Saskia Sassen, Robert S. Lynd professor of sociology and co-chair of The Committee on Global Thought from Colombia University, simply said:

"I don't know."

That's not a lot of progress since our presentation to the 2009 Economics for Ecology conference where founder Terry Hallman said:

"At this point, the simple fact is that regarding economic theory, no one knows what to do next.  Possibly this has escaped immediate attention in Ukraine, but, economists in the US as of the end of 2008 openly confessed that they do not know what to do.  So, we invented three trillion dollars, lent it to ourselves, and are trying to salvage a broken system so far by reestablishing the broken system with imaginary money.

Now there are, honestly, no answers.  It is all just guesswork, and not more than that.  What is not guesswork is that the broken – again – capitalist system, be it traditional economics theories in the West or hybrid communism/capitalism in China, is sitting in a world where the existence of human beings is at grave risk, and it's no longer alarmist to say so.

The question at hand is what to do next, and how to do it.  We all get to invent whatever new economics system that comes next, because we must."

At the same conference the following year, Hallman delivered his 1996 treatise on people-centered economics, which had challenged the accumulation of weath and consequent scarcity,  to the point of risking uprisings. His argument for economics which puts people ahead of profit maximisation.

For some reason, when I introduced this to Guardian Sustainable Business at the time, their response was quite hostile

Hunter Lovins, president of Natural Capitalism Solutions, said:

"The Next Chapter is called: 'How We Began to Win'. The story we are all living today is crumbling and humanity begins to realize this. It's our job to roll these crumbs over. For that matter, the Next Chapter could also be called: 'Extraordinary Courage by Ordinary People'."

"Natural Capitalism is the next Industrial Revolution", they say on their web site. It reminded me of what P-CED had argued and the influence of 'Post Capitalist Society'

"We are at the very beginning of a new type of society and civilization, the Information Age. Historically, this is only the third distinct age of civilization. We lived in an agricultural age for thousands of years, which gave way to the Industrial Revolution and Industrial Age during the last three hundred years. The Industrial Age is now giving way to the Information Revolution, which is giving rise to the Information Age. Understanding this, it is appropriate to be concerned with the impact this transition is having and will continue to have on the lives of all of us. In that it is a fundamental predicate of "people-centered" economic development that no person is disposable, it follows that close attention be paid to those in the waning Industrial Age who are not equipped and prepared to take active and productive roles in an Information Age. Many, in fact, are scared, angry, and deeply resentful that they are being left out, ignored, effectively disenfranchised, discarded, thrown away as human flotsam in the name of human and social progress. We have only to ask ourselves individually whether or not this is the sort of progress we want, where we accept consciously and intentionally that human progress allows for disposing of other human beings."

"The greatest initial social and economic risk of the Information Age is in creating two distinctly different classes of people: the technological haves and have-nots. Those who have access to information and information technology have a reasonable expectation to survive and prosper. Those with limited or no access will be left out. This holds true for individuals as well as nations. The key to the future is access to free flow of information. To the extent that the free flow of information is restricted or diminished, people will be left to endure diminished prospects of prosperity and even survival."

The 'Art of Loving' by Erich Fromm had been among other influences:

“Love of the helpless, the poor and the stranger, are the beginning of brotherly love. To love ones flesh and blood is no achievement. The animal loves its young and cares for them. Only in the love of those who do not serve a purpose, does love begin to unfold. Compassion implies the element of knowledge and identification. “  

The major difference however is that Hallman was a practitioner, applying his concepts in deeds not words. His work was an example of "extraordinary courage of ordinary people". He'd taken on the darkest part of capitalism when he said of Ukraine's orphans "Whether these kids live or die is of little, if any interest to mafia" 

It was the title used by Ukraine's Maidan activists on discovering his body and reporting his death in 2011:

The author of breakthru report “Death camps for children” Terry Hallman suddenly died of grave disease on Aug 18 2011. On his death bed he was speaking only of his mission – rescuing of these unlucky kids. His dream was to get them new homes filled with care and love. His quest would be continued as he wished.

Between the lines what few noticed was that the shocking revelations of childcare abuse he'd sketched out a blueprint for change. It was delivered to Ukraine's government in 2007 as 'A 'Marshall Plan for Ukraine' 

What it argued and had since been argued by many others since the crisis of 2008, is that business can be deployed to address seemingly intractable social problems.

'This is a long-term permanently sustainable program, the basis for "people-centered" economic development. Core focus is always on people and their needs, with neediest people having first priority – as contrasted with the eternal chase for financial profit and numbers where people, social benefit, and human well-being are often and routinely overlooked or ignored altogether. This is in keeping with the fundamental objectives of Marshall Plan: policy aimed at hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. This is a bottom-up approach, starting with Ukraine's poorest and most desperate citizens, rather than a "top-down" approach that might not ever benefit them. They cannot wait, particularly children. Impedance by anyone or any group of people constitutes precisely what the original Marshall Plan was dedicated to opposing. Those who suffer most, and those in greatest need, must be helped first -- not secondarily, along the way or by the way. '

The New Bottom Line as I described it, has become one of the most endorsed articles on Mixmarket's Long Term Capitalism initiative.

The concept of Creating Shared Value arrived in 2011 and with it some concerns as to whether it could address some of the biggest social and environmental issues.

I disagreed strongly with the assertion that corporations could profit by solving social problems, having reasoned that profit could be applied to solve social problems. We'd done this ourselves and we weren't intending to profit from either these children or a social crisis which was getting dangerously close to the violent uprisings imagined all those years ago,

Sharing this argument with Guardian Sustainable Business would incur censorship and being blocked from futher discussions.  My comment had allegedly violated their terms of use.

Paradoxically editor Jo Confino now opines on the concept of business built on the ethic of love.

What's since become known as "Profit with Purpose" or "Doing Well by Doing Good' is gaining considerable traction. 

Interestingly two of these camps, representing Conscious Capitalism and B Corporations have recently drawn the same conclusion as we did - that maximising shareholder return isn't the primary purpose of business or its role in society. We call it . 

I know only one way to propagate these ideals.