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A Broken Record

Why are solutions for the economy stuck on repeat?




Friends, here we are at the very apex of human thought and endeavor, yet public discussion on the economy sounds like a broken record. For instance: we're waiting, hoping for the economy to "recover." Maybe at some point, growth is not normal or possible, and we cannot recover by reverting to an unsustainable trajectory.

Where do the size of our population and finite resources enter the equation? When people and animals mature, they reach a certain size and stop growing. Perhaps that's the correct analogy. Is it so hard to imagine we have reached a mature economy? Maybe there are enough cities, freeways, suburbs and shopping malls. How often do you hear that?

On the left, there's the monotonous broken-record mantra that we must "stimulate" the economy, and the only solution imaginable is government action. It's never suggested that the people themselves, with the greatest freedom and prosperity in all human history, can find a way to help besides being good consumers and shopping for their nuclear family.

On the right, the only contribution to the debate seems to be cut taxes, even though deficits are too big. Then, the idea follows, we'll "stimulate" the economy and huge growth will pay off the deficit and create¬†millions of jobs. (Example: George W. Bush reduced taxes, and everything turned out fine.) For all our vaunted freedom, action on the part of the people is never suggested—except to vote and shop. So little imagination.

Everyday we're besieged by a litany of concerns. We're urged to protest global warming, nuclear weapons, foreign wars and mega-corporations. There are daily reminders that we have 14 million Americans unemployed and not enough jobs for the 150,000 entering the job market each month. There are environmental concerns that development hurts the precious natural world. We need something positive in the mix, something new and exciting.

So, you ask, what have I got? How about: bring on the Aquarian Age. Not through legislation, but through service and good works. Join or support "back to the land" intentional communities. Create a culture of cooperation and generosity by sharing properties.

Are we all just guinea pigs ruled by a constant diet of advertisements, or can some of us strike out and do something outrageously positive, helpful and generous?

Forward-thinking people have greatly influenced our history in the past, starting with the very notion of a country run by the people and extending to the end of slavery, the rise of civil rights, of workers' rights and women's rights. So what's next? I believe the intentional communities movement, already well incubated with a 50-year modern history, fits our need.

I don't think it can be avoided. Some of "the people" will have to pioneer advances in the culture (some are already doing it, but not nearly enough). If young people can dedicate themselves to war, giving up life and limb and comfort, then where are the young people who can build cooperative communities for mutual survival for all? Where are their elders who can encourage a nongovernment people's movement, to demonstrate consideration and even brotherly love?

If we are so advanced, so smart, why aren't these ideas in the conversation? Are profit, greed and accumulation the high points of human consciousness? A few million people on beautiful farms, supportive of the "low money" people—is that such a crazy idea?

Unemployment is here to stay, the cost of living is only getting more astronomical, and the government is way beyond broke. So help out by creating intentional communities instead of crying to be given jobs. Why are we avoiding it? Is it too hard, too creative, too original, too against human nature? Be a pioneer and prove them wrong. Our culture has already come a long, long way.

Create a culture of conscious kinship? Whoa! Stop right there. Let's get back to stuff we're used to: "go shopping," "cut taxes" and "stimulate the economy" so it can "grow" . . .

Ah, that broken record is so comforting.

Art Kopecky is the author of 'New Buffalo: Journals from a Taos Commune' and 'Leaving New Buffalo Commune,' UNM Press. He lives in Sebastopol, works as a contractor-carpenter and is active in the communities movement.

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