Having grounded ourselves in the solid spiritual awareness of Meister Eckhart on the topic of a just economics, we are now turning to twenty-first century thinkers and activists who help us imagine a post-corona economy, one that serves the planet and all its peoples, not just a few overly rich two-legged ones. 

David Korten. Photo by Joost van der Borg on Wikimedia Commons.

Today I invite you to consider with me the work of philosopher David Korten who imagines a justice-oriented economics for our time not unlike what Eckhart envisioned. 

Korten goes far beyond “economics as we know it” to place economics within a larger, more authentic context.

Having learned from ecologists, cosmologists and spiritual leaders including Joanna Macy, Thomas Berry and creation spirituality, he challenges Americans to wake up to what our empire has been doing to itself and others around the world.

In his Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth, published after the economic collapse of 2008, Korten lays out both a philosophy of economics and a practical guide to a new economics, one that could work “for everyone” — not just all humans but also all beings on the planet.

Agenda for a New Economy by David Korten.

He faces down the pseudo values that empires preach in favor of authentic community values, that is, the “common good.”

He writes:

In the Wall Street economy, money is both means and end, and the primary product is phantom wealth — money disconnected from the production or possession of anything of real value. The Main Street economy is largely engaged in creating real wealth from real resources to meet real needs. Wall Street is very good at making rich people richer, but it has no concern for the health of people, community, or nature except as sources of short-term profit.

He spells out what we ought to have learned from the 2008 global financial collapse:

“Fearless Girl Takes On NYSE” by Billie Grace Ward. The famed statue by Kristen Visbal in its new location opposite the New York Stock Exchange. Photo on Wikimedia Commons.

Draw back the curtain, as the credit collapse has done, to reveal the inner workings of Wall Street, and it begins to look less like a legitimate business enterprise and more like a criminal syndicate running a lucrative extortion racket.

The nearest equivalent in nature is a cancer that drains the body’s energy but produces nothing useful in return. You don’t “fix” a cancer; you excise it and rebuild the healthy tissue. Main Street is the healthy tissue and the foundation of the New Economy.

Seeking to “liberate America from Wall Street rule,” he reminds us:

…as a nation, we are awash in money. A defective system of money, banking, and finance just puts it in the wrong places.

Cutting ties to Wall Street: on 10/3/19, California governor Gavin Newsome signed legislation allowing creation of 10 city-based banking institutions to support local social/economic priorities. Photo by SF Public Banking Coalition.

Instead of imagining that taxing the rich or implementing financial reforms will solve the whole issue, he and his fellow activists of the New Economy Working Group call for

…a deep restructuring of the institutions to which we as a society give the power to create and allocate money.

The key is to “rebuild a system of community-based and accountable institutions devoted to financing productive activities that create good jobs for Americans and generate real community wealth.”

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times, pp. 237-241.

Banner Image: “Government” Mural by Elihu Vedder. Located in the Library of Congress. Photographed 2007 by Carol Highsmith (1946–), who explicitly placed the photograph in the public domain. In Wikimedia Commons.

Queries for Contemplation

According to Korten, there is “phantom wealth” and authentic wealth.  The latter has to do with the health of the earth and its creatures.  How can we best resist the former and build up the latter?

Recommended Reading

Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior For Our Time

While Matthew Fox recognizes that Meister Eckhart has influenced thinkers throughout history, he also wants to introduce Eckhart to today’s activists addressing contemporary crises. Toward that end, Fox creates dialogues between Eckhart and Carl Jung, Thich Nhat Hanh, Rabbi Heschel, Black Elk, Karl Marx, Rumi, Adrienne Rich, Dorothee Soelle, David Korten, Anita Roddick, Lily Yeh, M.C. Richards, and many others.
“Matthew Fox is perhaps the greatest writer on Meister Eckhart that has ever existed. (He) has successfully bridged a gap between Eckhart as a shamanistic personality and Eckhart as a post-modern mentor to the Inter-faith movement, to reveal just how cosmic Eckhart really is, and how remarkably relevant to today’s religious crisis! ” — Steven Herrmann, Author of Spiritual Democracy: The Wisdom of Early American Visionaries for the Journey Forward

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