PCDForum Column #17, Release Date August 15, 1991
by James Robertson
Citizen movements throughout the world are discovering the extent to which
our collective social and environmental crisis stems directly from outmoded
economic policies and perspectives seriously in conflict with the needs of a
democratic, post-European, sustainable one-world economy. This realization has
given birth to an international citizen coalition, the new economics movement.
This movement is broadly inclusive of millions of people throughout the world
who are exploring alternative ways of organizing society to manage its
critically scarce resources. We come from many different spheres. Many of us are
unknown to one another and may not even recognize that we are contributing to a
new way of economic life and thought.
- Some of us seek changes in our own way of life, the work we do, the goods
we buy, the way we invest our financial savings, how we deal with our household
wastes and so on.
- Some of us concentrate on changing the institutions that influence and
constrain economic life. We may work to shift the burden of taxation away from
people’s incomes and toward the use of real resources, such as land and energy,
or to reform the institutions of global economic governance such as the IMF, the
World Bank, the GATT, and the G7 to make them more democratic and responsive to
the needs of people and ecology.
- Some of us promote the use of enabling and conserving technologies, as in
energy conservation and organic farming.
- Some work to change the dominant ideas and values that influence all these
other things, such as the idea that money values personal income, business
profits, and the GNP of countries are the only true measure of success and that
spiritual beliefs have little practical bearing on economic affairs.
Our diversity is an important strength, as changes in each of these spheres
contribute to changes in the others. Together they define the new economics
movement, which is helping to shape a new post-modern, post-European world order
for the next century and beyond.
The current modern world order began to emerge about 500 year ago with
Columbus’ voyage to America and Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India. It eventually
crystallized in the second half of the 18th century at the time of the American
and French revolutions and the Enlightenment. This was a period of extraordinary
human progress. Yet the world view that drove its achievements, including its
ideas of value-free science and a world economy comprised of a collection of
national economies competing for wealth, led to conditions that have become
intolerably disabling for earth’s people and damaging to its ecology.
The new post-modern, post-European approach to economic life and thought,
which the new economics movement is beginning to crystallize, must be based on
quite different principles.
- It must systematically enable people to take greater control of their
- It must systematically conserve the earth’s resources.
- It must include qualitative values and ethical choice in economic life.
- It must recognize that our first concern is no longer with the wealth of
nations, but with a single one-world economy, which must be reconceptualized,
redesigned, and restructured over the coming years into a pluralistic,
decentralizing multi-level system.
These principles must find practical application in a variety of spheres,
- Elimination of the kinds of international trade and debt that impoverish
the peoples of the South and compel them to mine environmentally valuable
resources like tropical forests.
- New ways of organizing work that eliminate the necessity to depend on
either an employer or welfare doles for one’s livelihood.
- New ways of living that drastically cut present levels of energy-use and
- New ways of measuring economic performance that reflect actual human
The recent economic summit of the Group of Seven (G7) in London,
demonstrated once again that leadership on these issues will not be forthcoming
from the heads of the world’s most powerful government’s and businesses.
Leadership for change must come from a broadly based movement of citizens able
to see beyond the short-term interests of business and government and become
active contributors to the shaping of the new economics and its practical
James Robertson is a patron of the New Economics Foundation in London, a
leading writer on alternative economics, and a contributing editor of the
PCDForum. This column was prepared and distributed by the PCDForum based on his
paper "Seven Years On: The Other Economic Summit Begins Its Second Seven
Year Cycle." These ideas are further developed in Robertson’s most recent
book Future Wealth: A New Economics for the 21st Century. Further information on
the new economics movement is available from the New Economics Foundation, 88/94
Wentworth Street, London E1 7SE, U.K.