A thought in progress which occurred when putting together a presentation on “The long now of finance” for SIBOS next week in Amsterdam. I will be presenting as part of the following ‘Innotribe’ whose remit is to think forward across the next century. A slightly daunting prospect, as Bauman reminded us at his conference, “don’t make predictions, especially not about the future”.
I have always found it challenging to describe ‘what is going on now/here’ let alone make any assertions about the shape of the future. Perhaps that is the best to hope for, just as we write our histories for the present so we write futures. One thing which is ‘going on now’ is an increasing instance of ideas of collaboration and inklings of new consumer moralities emerging under the banner of sustainability.
The economics of enough are bubbling up all over the place, not so much new era economics as “new age” currently, but then so was Gaia theory and environmentalism not so long ago. I have seen it used in the context of rethinking Thailand’s economic strategy post the 1997 Asian crisis and trying to assert some new moralities of economic endeavour through recourse to Buddhist teachings.
For me the “economics of enough” reflects a fundamental optimism of what we do as individuals in an open, transparent and social context. It is a function of the compromise between individuality and security which Bauman places at the heart of all social contexts. The Gordon Gekkos of this world thrive behind the opaque doors of regulated financial markets which enshrine and legitimise greed and ruthless competition in the name of liberalisation and the pursuit of money as an end in itself. In many ways in the long now of finance, modern money has been an interesting and roller coaster interlude powered by a sixties style revolution of individual credit (the “pill” that liberated consumerism) and the glamour of an ultimately self absorbed and hedonistic elite (LSD replaced by CDO’s and other ‘exotic’ derivatives). Lehman’s was the gorilla /butterfly crushed by in this case a wheel of its own making.
We are now prepared to consider the idea that you can have ‘enough’ money and be happy, it doesn’t leave you empty and wanting more. Those who believe you always need more money are those which betray the stresses of the reality of servitude that underpins modern money’s promise of liberation.
However, the “economics of enough” are not just a closed loop of self reliance and drawing in of ourselves to our nearest and dearest, but about how individuals will negotiate their share of market returns and rewards for risk when it becomes clear that some investments needs to be made collectively to produce economically enabled social goods, and as such need to be made fairly and transparently to ensure that both sides of the bargain get a fair return or reciprocation.