Questions pertain to the first four chapters, which form part I of the book. Pick one or two that resonate with you, or come up with your own questions and ideas.
Take your time to study these chapters. A short summary of each will be posted the next weeks.
From the study guide:
CHAPTER 1 “Looking Upstream,” spells out what it means to treat causes rather than symptoms and why restructuring the economy’s most powerful institutions is essential.
CHAPTER 2 “Modern Alchemists and the Sport of Moneymaking,” looks at the reality behind Wall Street’s illusions and the variety of its methods for making money without the exertion of creating anything of real value in return.
CHAPTER 3“A Real-Market Alternative,” contrasts the Wall Street and Main Street economies and puts to rest the fallacy that the only alternative to rule by Wall Street capitalists is rule by communist bureaucrats.
CHAPTER 4“More Than Tinkering at the Margins,” spells out why the “adjustment at the margins” approach favored by establishment interests cannot stabilize the economy, reduce economic inequality, or prevent environmental collapse.
1. What did you ﬁ nd particularly compelling or provocative about these chapters of Agenda?
2. What is the difference between treating the symptoms and addressing the root causes?
How can root causes be addressed while in the midst of the crisis?
3. What effects of the ongoing economic crisis have you observed in your community – for local government, businesses, schools, etc.?
4. What is the relationship between the environmental and social crises/issues making the headlines today and the economic system?
5. How have the credit, mortgage, and/or investment crises touched you and your circle of friends and family? How have your personal decisions and approaches to ﬁnances, debt, and consumption changed?
6. When and how was your deﬁnition and experience of “capitalism” formed, and how has it changed, if at all, since the beginning of the economic collapse in 2008?
7. Table 3.1 (Page 51 of Agenda) contrasts the differences between Wall Street capitalism and a Main Street market economy. What, if anything, is appealing about the Wall Street approach and what would be difﬁcult to let go? What is most appealing about Main Street markets? To which elements would you give highest priority for major transformation?
8. In what ways do you directly or indirectly rely on Wall Street? In what ways do these connections create contradictions in your value system? What can you do to reduce your dependence on Wall Street?
9. How do you respond to the position that regulation of the free market is an infringement on individual liberty?
10. How should the “public interest” or the “common good” get factored into decisions regarding ﬁnancial/market policies and regulations?
11. Besides GDP, what indicators or indices are used in the mainstream media to portray the “health” or strength of the economy? What alternative measurements would reﬂect the true health of people and the planet?
@Michael: "You speak of a right thing as if there is an objective reality, yet one man's right is another's wrong".
That kind of reasoning can get quickly out of hand. It betrays a post-modern position. Extreme post-modernism negates itself, because if "everything is just an opinion", then, post-modernism is just an opinion too.
No, I proceed from the pov of universal principles, like social justice, equal rights, etc. It is not just that a small elite enriches itself over the dead bodies of the poor. It is immoral, plain and simple. I could cite many examples of immoral behavior of states and its politicians and citizens, but just look around you.
"The rest of the people I leave to you"
Do you have a family? Do you not realize that we have a duty to care not only for self but for others as well? That is called a civilization. What kind of philosophy are you adhering to? You sound like the lonely hermit who does not feel the need to contribute anything of love and kindness to this world. I am almost sure that that is not your intention?
Michael, I now see where you are coming from. Authenticity indeed is key here. This is connected to the freedom aspect that Schumacher felt to be a central theme in his work. Schumacher, BTW, was deeply influenced by Gandhi in many respects: non-violence, work, economy of scale, to mention a few. If we allow ourselves to be free within, then opportunities will be naturally seen for service and expressing one's potential. We may feel this "flow" that you talk about - and also joy of life.
A brief reaction to Anand. This is such a vast topic. In the end about every act is political in nature, when we understand politics as having to do with society in all its aspects.
I doubt that many people are aware of alternatives to the current capitalistic system. How many people realize that a market economy does not need to be capitalistic, for example? David Korten goes into that in his book.
Fritz Schumacher says:
"There appear to be three major choices for a society in which economic
affairs necessarily absorb major attention - the choice between private
ownership of the means of production and alternatively, various types of
public or collectivised ownership; the choice between a market economy and
various arrangements of 'planning'; and the choice between 'freedom' and
'totalitarianism'. Needless to say, with regard to each of these three pairs of
opposites there will always in reality be some degree of mixture - because
they are to some extent complementariness rather than opposites - but the
mixture will show a preponderance on the one side or on the other."
He then mentions eight (2x2x2) models for society and economy in his "Small is beautiful" book, proceeding from the aspect of freedom versus totalitarianism as main factor. Essential food for thought, yet how many people reflect on the potential of alternative economic models, like local money systems? Not enough, IMO. That's why much more discussion and reflection is needed.
"What it is that stops us from doing something which we know is the right thing to do yet will not do?"
Humans are creatures of habit and copy-cats. If there are enough role models who lead the way, they will follow. More likely will be that we will be forced into reconsidering our pattern of expenses (and way of life) by rising oil and food prices. Peak cheap oil seems to have occurred already and higher costs of living are daily reality. Necessity is the mother of invention. So, reaching the limits of our growth-addicted system will necessitate change. Hopefully, it will be peaceful rather than accompanied by resource wars..