Change is a constancy of life, and where a system is failing change will come.
Will it be generated from within the resiliency of the system? Will it be forced upon the system by a combination of exogenous events like the 2007-2009 financial crisis? What will make it possible to meet the fears, anxieties, aspirations, angers, and despair of so many citizens today? Will it be possible to bring about change that is acceptable both to them and to the worlds of business and government so many people blame for what is coming to be seen as systemic failures, not cyclical patterns?
One tenet for change that we have learned from the global financial crisis of 2007-2009 is that the simple objective of the maximization of shareholder profit is incompatible with the future of western democratic capitalism. A system based on the maximization of profit will not create sustainable political economies. Similarly, an alternative tenet: faith in a totally benign and competent public sector, existing as some sort of maternal womb for individuals, is not only unsustainable, it is unachievable. The question is – what is next? Do we take control of our future? Or do we allow ourselves to passively accept the failure of our social, economic and governmental systems?
The idea for this project is to focus on the development of a new foundation by which to achieve sustainable environmental, social, economic, and political balance.
The foundation that underlies our western capitalist way of life can be described as a tri-partite relationship between the individual members of society, business enterprises, and the government. Philosophically and politically, this foundation developed out of the Enlightenment in Europe and was built upon through the industrialization of Europe and the United States. The two world wars of the early 20th Century fundamentally shifted the foundation and all that had been built upon it.
The economic and social structure that developed in the modern commercialized world after World War II was built upon a devastated base. It was built with the industrialized world’s war machineries devoted to the economic wellbeing of the next generation’s employment. The United States, European Union, and Japan, as we know them today, were created on the basis of this industrial revival.
However, this construct, in its current embodiment, is unable to meet the pressures and demands of the fundamental transformation of the world that has taken place in recent decades. With the rise of powers invested in very different systems, those that arose out of Western Europe should have adapted, but they haven’t. We exist now in a new world with a demographic structure that will culminate, if not corrected, in a dramatic collapse that will far outreach the financial crisis of 2007-2009. The political and economic turmoil of that crisis cannot rightly be seen as part of a cycle that will go up and down. Instead it must be seen as part of an ongoing representation of issues that remain embedded in the underlying structure of our system.
Like any illness left untreated, the symptomatic severity of the underlying issues will increase until the system fails. The fundamental failure of United States policy in 2009 was that it tried to restore the economy to the status quo that existed prior to the crisis. But this approach will not work – we need instead to be focusing on the status quo post, not the status quo ante. Likewise, the current administration has been approaching the problems it faces with short-term appeasements, but these will prove to be utterly insufficient and recklessly shortsighted. We, our government, our businesses, our media, have failed to appreciate that the financial crisis was not the main event, that it was a warning of what is to come. We have failed to appreciate that re-establishing the status quo is not an option.
New ideas are necessary, a new diagram, a new foundation of social, economic, and political interaction. The Enlightenment came at a crossroads – Europe faced a choice, it could continue with the status quo or it could lay the foundations that would allow the next stage of human evolution to be one of intelligence and innovation. Europe at that time chose to lay that new foundation.
We are at a similar crossroads now, but there is a difference – we, and our planet, cannot afford the collapse that will take place if we do not change. The roles of business, government, and individuals must be joined with a common objective – true sustainable growth. To achieve this there must be proper, objective consideration of the entire environment in which we exist. Only through such accounting may business, government and individuals act in harmony, and only through a harmonious interaction will a free political economy survive.