LIVING FOR CHANGE
The End of Economics
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, May 3, 2009
In 1970 we celebrated Earth Day on April 22 in Detroit for the first time by planting a tree at Belle Isle. Ever since that day I have realized that to save the planet and our own humanity, we need to create an economy that is simpler, smaller and more sustainable.
But I had no idea how to create such an economy, what would move millions around the world to begin creating it or even what to call it.
So for the last nearly 40 years I have attended environmental conferences and joined (or even founded) environmental organizations. I have also read books like E.F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful and Hazel Henderson’s Creating Alternative Futures: The End of Economics.
Imagine my delight, therefore, when a few weeks ago I read an article by Henderson describing how– instead of looking to governments who are trying to restore our undemocratic, unsustainable, dehumanizing, collapsing economy by bailing out banks and encouraging us to start consuming again– new local leaders are involving their communities in creating new healthier, more nurturing economies.
In the article, entitled “Democratizing Finances,” Henderson reports that:
“Local barter-clubs, like Freecycle.com, Craigslist and LETS, and scrip currencies are proliferating. Some of the most successful complementary currencies are Switzerland’s WIR and in the USA, BerkShares, with equivalent to $2 million issued in the first two years and accepted by banks and businesses in Massachusetts.
“People-to-people lending and microfinance projects are booming in many countries. Credit unions are becoming more proactive, reaching out to poorer people and adding microfinance and lending to small businesses.
“Associations of small local banks and businesses are demanding equal treatment in government TARP, TALF, and other bailout programs currently showered on the big banks. Venture capital and venture philanthropy firms,are investing in social enterprises which meet social needs while making modest profits.
“The Business Alliance for Local Living Economics (BALLE) is a network in North America, as well as the New Voice of Business, Green America, the Social Enterprise Alliance, the Fourth Sector Network and the Business-NGO Working Group. Entrex.net focuses on helping small businesses with their Private Company Index (PCI) which outperforms most stock indexes. Britain’s New Economics Foundation’s (NEF) proposal to save Britain’s11,500 postal offices by adding local banking functions is backed by trade unions, small businesses, public interest groups and pensioners.
“Time banking is now helping local people connect and share service. Neighbors contact each other via a local time banker to provide meals and help for shut-ins, babysit each other’s children, watch over property, mow lawns and share appliances.
“Car-sharing has now spawned many new companies such as Zip Car in the USA and others in Canada and Europe.
“China is host to many such local initiatives, linking small businesses on networks. In many countries in Africa, cell phone banking has taken off. Cell phones are the basis for phone ladies in Indian and Bangladeshi villages. Rural farmers and fishers can consult prices being offered in nearby towns and markets on their cell phones to make sure they take their goods to the best places to sell them.
“How far can people-to-people finance go in bypassing big, greedy banks and ethically challenged Wall Street financiers and their political allies? A long way, thanks to all the communications tools now widely available.
“In rural areas in Florida, radio stations have call-in programs where farmers can say, I have spare time on my tractor to exchange for fertilizer or pepper, melon, eggplant seeds. Similarly, the growth of farmers markets and contract-supported agriculture allows local consumers to buy fresh produce directly from nearby farms.
“Local people around the world are realizing that they can simply bypass big banks, stock exchanges and create all these services locally.
“We are beginning to see our world differently than mainstream media portrays. We see our choices with new eyes. We know that money is not real wealth. Real wealth is generated by productive people using the Earth’s resources wisely. We are all rediscovering the many stores of value in our own communities. We find wealth beyond money. We can change our values for the new times we live in and restore love economies to their central role in our lives.”