Understanding the Current Money Melt-Down
By Larry Saltzman
Financial and Economic Resources for Progressives
Having trouble making sense of the financial insanity that’s unhinging the U.S. and global economies? Not sure about the real-life effects of the alphabet soup Ponzi schemes like CDOs (collateralized debt obligations), SIVs (structured investment vehicles) and sub-prime derivatives on your personal income, and the safety of your savings, retirement and future? Wondering if the banks are still a smart place to stash your hard-earned cash or if you should put your rapidly devaluing bucks under the mattress, buy gold coins or Euros – or just move to Europe or Argentina?
You’re not alone. Progressives often feel powerless around finance and economics, partly because we have so little knowledge of it. Not many of us actually read The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times of London or The Economist, perhaps put off by the very thought of participating even indirectly in the runaway hypercapitalism that’s destroying the planet.
But we can’t be ostriches with our heads in the sand, avoiding the real life implications of economic threats. Serious thinkers are questioning if the U.S. is actually technically bankrupt at this point, owing more than it earns. For decades we’ve exported our manufacturing, our jobs and imported everything else including food, clothes and the other basics of life. We’ve lived on borrowed money to support our addictions to spending on everything from giant-screen TVs to SUVs to foreign wars. No surprise that the US dollar you earn is shrinking.
It’s encouraging to know that a whole new generation of progressive economic thinkers has arisen to counter the absurdities of both old-model capitalism and old-model Marxist economics, and they can be our guides in these troubled times.
Below is a crash course on how to access everything you’ll need to know about what’s happening to the economy as we move beyond “peak everything” to the energy descent era. You’ll discover some fascinating writers who can advise you on what moves you can make to counteract the worst of the effects of the transition and to put your energy and cash into the alternatives and the emerging sustainable economies. This is guidance you won’t read in the mainstream press!
The best aggregator of progressive economic and financial news is Carolyn Baker at www.carolynbaker.net . You can sign up to receive her daily list of “must read” articles. Although a few of her conspiracy theory pieces may be a turn-off for some, most of the economic news articles she gathers are cutting-edge progressive economic thinking.
A couple of other great sites: www.financialarmageddon.com and www.theoildrum.com .
There’s also a new discussion group at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re interested, just go to Google Groups and sign yourself up.
You might also want to read some stuff by Dr. Hazel Henderson, the Alan Greenspan of the ethical markets movement. www.hazelhenderson.com is the website of this pioneering “evolutionary economist” and producer of “Ethical Markets” Television. She is a futurist, a worldwide syndicated columnist, consultant on sustainable development, and author of Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy, Beyond Globalization and seven other books. Her editorials appear in 27 languages and more than 400 newspapers syndicated by InterPress Service, Rome, New York, and Washington DC.
Her articles have appeared in over 250 journals, including (in USA) Harvard Business Review, New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, and Challenge, Mainichi (Japan), El Diario (Venezuela), World Economic Herald (China), LeMonde Diplomatique (France) and Australian Financial Review. Her books are translated into German, Spanish, Japanese, Dutch, Swedish, Korean, Portuguese, and Chinese. She is on the board of the New Economics Foundation www.neweconomics.org , a British think tank on progressive economics, and the World Business Academy www.worldbusiness.org .
In addition, she has been Regent’s Lecturer at the University of California (Santa Barbara), held the Horace Albright Chair in Conservation at the University of California (Berkeley), and advised the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment and the National Science Foundation from 1974 to 1980.
So here’s the trick question: in which U.S. administration has this distinguished economist been called to serve in the last 28 years? You guessed it – none. One of the ironies about this brilliant woman’s career is that she is far more often consulted by governments other than the U.S.
A new economics and a new accounting are being developed by alternative thinkers like Henderson. The new field of True Cost accounting takes into consideration the actual total cost of products and services. For example, if we paid the full cost of a gallon of gas, including health costs and planetary remediation from global warming, it would probably be over $100 a gallon.
Another radical idea is for governments to only allow corporations that meet the Triple Bottom Line standard – provably good for People (both customers and workers) and Planet as well as being profitable – to continue to operate in our country, our state, our county, our city. But we’d need to license certified forensic auditors to check up on them, of course. (This is one of the many new economics-related occupations and professions which will be needed in the future).
And we also need new ways of documenting progress. Perhaps using the Gross Happiness Index, as Bhutan does, instead of the GNP (Gross National Product) which doesn’t really tell us much about how the people and environment in our country are faring. Also, Hazel Henderson developed the first version of the Country Futures Indicators (CFI©), another alternative to the GNP, in a co-venture with Calvert Group, Inc. The Calvert-Henderson Quality-of-Life Indicators (Desk Reference Manual, 2000) is updated regularly at www.calvert-henderson.com . [And then theres the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) which can be located at here]
New MBA programs in sustainable economics, sustainability and green business are proliferating. At www.netimpact.org you can get a free download of Business as UNusual: The 2007 Net Impact Student Guide to Graduate Business Programs. [Check out our story in HopeDance about the Green MBA program at New College in Santa Rosa]
And what course is complete without a reading list? Here are some terrific books that will turn you into an expert on both the nature of the current economic meltdown and the financial and economic aspects of the emerging sustainable society:
“Crash Proof” by Peter D. Schiff
“Deep Economy” by Bill McKibben
“Financial Armageddon” by Michael J. Panzner
“The Devil Take the Hindmost” will help you understand the history and psychological nature of economic bubbles
“Simple Prosperity” by Dave Wann
“Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability” by David Holmgren. Discusses energy-descent economics.
“Peak Everything” by Richard Heinberg
“The Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein
“Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” by John Perkins
And a couple more websites:
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