Tied in a Gordian Knot, the economic problems today seem intractable. But the knot can be severed if only we reevaluate our precepts.
Modern economic theory revolves around a biblical concept: go forth and multiply. Global population in those times allowed for such thinking, and indeed our survival depended on it. Capitalism flourished as markets expanded without restraint and resources seemed all but infinite.
Such an economic engine cannot be sustained indefinitely. As the global population expands, demand draws down nonrenewable resources at an ever accelerating rate. The debt crisis came about because we borrowed against future resources as if they were limitless.
We have come to the inevitable point at which available resources can no longer support unlimited economic growth. There is only so much to go around, so as the population grows the portion allotted each of us must consequently grow smaller.
A perception that those portions are being distributed unfairly leads to social unrest, which has been amply demonstrated in the recent uprisings in the Middle East and to a lesser extent in the Occupy movement here at home.
Yet a universal economic policy in which the overarching principle of continual growth has failed to end the lingering crisis should come as no surprise. Printing more money cannot compensate for dwindling wealth. New paradigms are in order.
We can begin by using the scarce resources we have more efficiently. That is a temporary measure, but it will help buy us a little time as we become accustomed to consuming less.
Eliminating wasteful consumption won’t destroy an economy and neither will delayed consumption. To the contrary, they free up vital resources so we may create real and lasting wealth.
We have come to depend on our governments to fix all problems but they are powerless to move us forward without full participation of every citizen. We have shared in the rewards of economic growth and now we must share the burden of economic stabilization.
In a free society privilege goes hand in hand with duty.