Edgar Cahn, founder of the Time Dollars program, has interesting thoughts on the economy in a TEDxAshokaU talk.
Traditional economics are focused only on “part of the map”; they ignore the 1/3 that economists think are unimportant: “the one that you go home to every night, it’s called home, family, community;…it probably doesn’t do anything important from the point of GDP. It just raises children, makes neighborhoods safe and vibrant, raises strong families, takes care of the elderly, gets involved in things like elections, tries to make democracy work, tries to make officials accountable, fights for social justice, tries to keep the planet sustainable, but nothing of economic importance you understand …” (laughter) “There is a core economy” (family, neighborhood, community, civil society, networks and informal support systems) that is analogous to a computer’s operating system; many powerful specific programs (like monetary system) don’t work if the core economy goes down.
He notes that new “social enterprise system” is about reviving this social economy. Traditional entrepreneurship can’t effectively unilaterally deliver health care, education, welfare, community justice, or democracy. Need to enlist people as “co-producers”. Need economy that runs both on money and on compassion, since traditional economy values things only that are scarce and love, compassion, grieving, decision-making in small groups, standing up for what is right are universal and hence defined away by the traditional economy as worthless.
We need to revalue compassion, caring, civic engagement. Alvin Toffler explained this point by asking a corporate CEO how effective their best employees would be if they were not toilet-trained. A critical component is reciprocity and “pay it forward“, which is what lead Cahn to “time dollars” (the currency of time) or his “time dollar youth court“. We need to look through the lens of possibility: returning prison convicts in DC could guarantee safe passage at any street corner through gang territory.
“Need to ask why are we here and what kind of world do we want to leave behind…Father Fahey said ‘We have no money; all we have is each other’…To me this represents good news; it means we have true abundance.”
[tip o' the hat to Lew Feldstein for alerting me to Cahn's talk.]