May 23, 2019, First Version

(This working paper was written by author, independent scholar, engaged citizen, and former Harvard Business School professor, Dr. David Korten, as a contribution to discussions framing a new economics for the 21st century. It may be freely shared in whole or in part. The second version of this work-in-progress was posted on June 19, 2019.)

In the spirit of indigenous wisdom, modern science, Laudato Si’, the Earth Charter, the Declaration Toward a Global Ethic of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, and the WEALL movement for a global Well-Being Economy, an economics for the 21st century will guide us from an economy that empowers corporations in the service of money to an economy that empowers people in the service of life.

Voices from every quarter—from student activists to the Vatican—are stepping forward to call for an economy that serves the well-being of people and Earth. Pope Francis speaks of the social and environmental failures of an economy devoted to the idolatry of money. Workers and their unions join in with the wrenching observation that “There are no good jobs on a dead planet.”

China has amended its constitution to incorporate its commitment to an ecological civilization. A youth-led political movement calls for a Green New Deal to transform the US economy. The Club of Rome has launched climate crisis, new civilization, and reclaim economics initiatives addressing humanity’s existential crisis. Rethinking Economics, a global student movement demands reform of economics seminars that rarely mention poverty, climate change, or inequality. A global alliance of citizen movements has banded together under the banner of WEALL to work for an economy devoted to the well-being of people and planet.

These voices and more are responding to a spreading awareness that as more and more people compete for less and less in a world in which power and wealth are increasingly concentrated, humanity is on a path to self-extinction.

Twentieth century economists promised that a growing GDP would lead to ever-increasing prosperity for all. We embraced their counsel and were encouraged by reports of growing national and global GDP. Beneath that growth, however, lay a widening gap between rich and poor as the benefits of growth were channeled to the wealthiest, and the less wealthy struggled with the consequences of a growing human population dependent on the declining regenerative capacity of a dying planet.

The 20th century economics that continues to drive global economic policy assumes we live on an open frontier of endless available resources. An economics grounded in a fundamental fallacy does not, cannot, serve people and planet facing the realities of 21st century life on a finite Earth. As truth bursts into public consciousness, it strips away the credibility of economists who find they have nothing else to offer.

The search for a new economics begins by acknowledging the reality behind humanity’s rapidly unfolding existential crisis and the challenge and opportunity it presents. Documents such as the Earth Charter, Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, and the Declaration Toward a Global Ethic of the Parliament of the World’s Religions provide useful guidance.

Continue reading (and/or download the PDF) HERE…