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189 Any Time, Any Place . . . In this book we have taken back the economy by reframing it as a space of ethical action rather than a machine that must be obeyed. We have taken back work, business, markets, property, and finance and shown how, together, we can act to make a different future. We have opened up the possibility of building community economies shaped by negotiation around the key concerns of • surviving together well and equitably • distributing surplus to enrich social and environmental health •  encountering others in ways that support their well-being as well as ours • consuming sustainably •  caring for—maintaining, replenishing, and growing—our natural and cultural commons • investing our wealth so that future generations can live well In conclusion, we turn to what might stand in our way as we carry on taking back the economy—any time, any place. And we explore how nature might offer inspiration for living with one another equitably, ethically, and within earthly bounds. What’s in Our Way? In order to build a community economy founded on an ethic of negotiated interdependence, we must reframe the economy to make it a space of possibility. We do not have to go along with a framing of the economy as a machine governed by immutable laws or mechanical principles. Indeed, if we do, it will be only states, industries, and rich and powerful individuals that can manipulate its regulations, markets, 190   any time, any place . . . and values and make economic change. People like us are relegated to a role as mere consumers, unable to get our hands on its controlling levers. As shown in chapter 1, the reframing of a diverse economy presents a collection of activities and practices, ones that can be modified and changed. In a diverse economy there are many roles to assume and many opportunities for action. Yet the question remains: why are we so reluctant to assert a role for communities in reshaping the economy for people and the planet? Ultimately, the belief that human self-interest—or greed—directs the economy along its inexorable course is a stubborn aspect of what we’re up against. As consumers we are encouraged to compete and get a better deal than the next person. Although there are countless examples of self-sacrifice, mutual aid, or even enlightened self-interest, when it comes to reframing the economy, human “selfishness” remains the sticking point, the supposedly unchanging fact of the human condition . Often the name we give to this fixed pursuit of self-interest is freedom. Ironically, what follows from belief in the freedom to pursue selfinterest is an almost slavish commitment to a vision of the economy as so powerful that it is beyond reproach. Even when presented with the devastating ecological and social consequences of following the path of continuous growth and increasingly privatized wealth, many readily acknowledge the problem but say that nothing is to be done. In our view, these unexamined, fatalistic beliefs in a mechanistic economy and a fixed human nature are the principal impediments to taking back the economy for people and the planet. There may be no rational argument that can displace such ways of thinking. Experience might have a better chance. In this book we have invited you to suspend your disbelief long enough to act as if community economies were possible and to begin experiencing the economy as a space of ethical decision making. The tools in each chapter help us as individuals to take account of our actual complicated economic lives. They enable us to imagine what might happen if we chose to experiment with taking back the economy, replicating what others are doing all over the world, right now. Our 191   any time, any place . . . wager is that in the process of taking this initial ethical action—going through the exercises laid out in this book—a different understanding of the economy will emerge. As a species, we need to be moved to action. It is in this area that turning to nature for inspiration can help. Though the economy is not natural, it does not follow that economies are purely ours to do with what we will. Biological human needs, the needs of other organisms, and the physical environment create possibilities and set limits. We can learn from nature in our efforts to refashion the economy in accordance with our ethical concerns. In natural systems • diversity produces resilience • maintaining habitats sustains life • interdependence means that changing one thing creates changes...


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