Coming out of denial: The economy for the rest of us

complex economy

As I wrote about in another post, in an economy that is in free fall for those who didn’t participate in the recovery, it is a difficult time. Given this, perhaps this is the time to redefine what an economic recovery is and how we might achieve it.

First of all, I will say that I am no economist or financial whiz; I have a background in psychology, social welfare and public health. This is why, to some extent, when I watch the financial news I am struck by how out of touch I am with the kind of indicators that are used to define economic recovery. To my mind, there are things that I rarely hear talked about but which influence the economic security of a great deal of the population. They are as follows:

  1. Unemployment figures in the United States are highly inaccurate. Who can trust the unemployment rate when many people have remained unemployed for many more months than they get benefits? Many of these people are among the permanently under or unemployed. Others are older or sick enough to be eligible for Social Security or Social Security Disability Insurance. Believe me, despite what you may hear from certain politicos, no one really wants to be among these groups. They would much rather be fully employed making a living wage. These people are slowly becoming the new underclass.
  2. Economic growth as it is presently defined requires that the world population consume more and more which, ultimately, will lead to disastrous results. We in the United States have taught the world well. The prognosticators continue to whip a dead horse as they lament slow growth or no growth in the world’s economies. I have news for these folks. The consequences of economic growth using the present indicators insure that the we deplete the world’s resources, decrease biodiversity, pollute the planet, hasten climate change and foster world conflict.
  3. Financial security for the individual is an elusive goal unless you have a lot of resources and can expertly manage your wealth. Years ago, I remember when you could save your money in a bank and it would grow with interest. You had confidence that your savings were secure. Now, either people have little to save, are actively liquidating what they do have or are anxiously looking at their investments which can quickly lose value dependent on the latest headline. This anxiety is palpable. It contributes to decisions based upon fear. This is no way to anticipate going into the future.
  4. Our notion of success is based upon money and prestige. We have lost the meaning of what it means to have abundance. Abundance means enough, really: enough money to have food and shelter; the privilege of having the freedom to come and go and speak and write what we want to; the opportunity to work at an occupation where we feel valued and adequately compensated; the chance to develop and cultivate our relationships with friends and family; the opportunity to get the education we need to contribute in a way that we feel is meaningful.

In this blog I like to focus on solutions but in this case the solutions are very difficult to achieve. We have developed the system we have over time; it will take time and determination to undo. For a start, we have to wake up to reality. I bought into the delusion for way too long. How about you?

For further information regarding these issues and some possible solutions I recommend the following:

Tim Jackson’s TED talk, An Economic Reality Check:

“The Understandable Madness of Economic Growth” by Jonathan Rowson:

The documentary, Hooked on Growth:

I am interested in what you have to say. Please comment!