We’re breaking the Central Covenants of Successful Economies

I’m excerpting an important argument from a blog entry by Arthur Brock, who also outlines the underlying Rules of the Commons, which we will treat separate.

Arthur Brock:

“Our commercial economy is headed for destruction. There are many contributing factors, but in the end it all boils down to the fact that we’ve broken the core covenants, contracts or agreements of successful economies. These rules exist for a reason and you can no more avoid them than you can the principles of mathematics or the laws of physics.

The commercial economy is completely dependent upon the two layers of underlying economies that it is built on. First, there is the social economy inside of which we raise our children, have real relationships and take care of each other. For example, we don’t pay parents to make babies, teach language, potty-train, or devote a couple decades of care and support. Parents “manufacture” the entire labor force for the market economy. They provide talented employees in a much more real way than head-hunting firms, yet earn no commissions for their years of work.

Second, the free-of-charge social economy also relies on its underlying gift economy of nature to provide drinkable water, fresh air, hillsides of timber for building homes, fields of fertile soil for growing food, herds of animals, and ample sunshine without which we could not exist. Nature manufactures our entire food supply and ecosystem – every carbon-sugar our cells require for sustenance – without receiving a penny or so much as a single share of equity in a corporation.

In case you doubt that these are in fact economies, just recall for a moment what an economy is defined as: a system of production, distribution and consumption. There is no question that nature is producing, distributing and consuming energy, organic compounds, biomass, plants, animals, rain and sunshine. Nor that families, friends and society are producing, distributing and consuming language, stories, knowledge, skills and culture.

Now that we recognize these are economies, let’s also note just how successful they are. Despite the setbacks of ice ages, meteor strikes and natural disasters, earth’s “savings account” of biological resources has grown in mass, diversity and genetic abilities for billions of years. Also, in spite of predators, wars, plagues and unsanitary conditions, human societies have grown in population, skills, and knowledge for at least hundreds of thousands of years. The Dow Jones could only dream of such success.

There is a very specific wealth-building pattern at the heart of both of these economic systems that is key to their success. Think of it as the ground wire that allows the electricity to flow through the circuits of the living systems which comprise our planet and society. Value fundamentally belongs to the whole system, not to the parts. Wealth is built and held in the commons.”

3 Comments We’re breaking the Central Covenants of Successful Economies

  1. AvatarSepp Hasslberger

    The market economy, as we have it today, is a cancer growth inside the two “real” economies, the one of Nature and the one of Society.

    Market economy believes it is quite ok to squander, pollute, kill, and generally wreak havoc with Nature, People and Society. I believe we must recognize this role of the market economy and its destructive core, financial speculation. We need to figure out how to limit its influence on the real economies, or better yet radically change it to make it conform to the principles of life, instead of those of death.

  2. AvatarPoor Richard


    One way to radically change the market economy and “make it conform to the principles of life, instead of those of death” is simply to account for true costs, i.e. no more externalities. In other words, before we can place any rational value on goods and services in the market economy, we must know the values of inputs from and impacts on the social and ecological economies. Otherwise our market values might as well be randomly pulled out of a hat (or other cavity).


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