individual scale
family scale
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SECTOR 6:00 Economics


In modern times the term 'economics' is generally taken to refer to a social science that studies the nature of economies and economic agents, thus something of a systems approach to understanding theoretical processes of production and exchange. The origin of the word 'economics' is the Greek word 'oikonomia,' which refers to management of a household. Most modern economic theory is predicated upon the false assumption that the environment can provide an infinite reservoir of resources upon which to draw and an infinite sink in which to deposit waste products, both at essentially no cost. For a Sustainable Culture to take root in Human societies, we will need to reclaim the word 'economics,' not as some theoretical concept, but to refer specifically just to materially oriented activity and exchanges in human societies, as a general concept. Therefore this more basic meaning is proposed with regards to Sector Six of the Seed Logos. The achievist twist on the term, as a theoretical framework, laden with the memes of that paradigm, is thus set aside so more comprehensive study of the full topic becomes possible, and quite specifically, real second tier analysis becomes more clearly embedded in a concept, if we operate from a more holistic perspective that discusses actual ecological impacts, full life cycle costs, carbon footprints, etc.

Below the discussion of economics operating at different levels of scale is a more depth discussion of economics with respect to Sustainable Culture.


Economics: Individual

The individual is one component of any economic transaction. Thus we see an economics requiring more than one individual emerging at every level beyond that reactive worldview of the hunter gatherer.
Nevertheless it is fairly common for one individual producing income for a family to be the economic representation of that family, the a single unit of economic activity. Decisions made by a householder to provide for a family become an important consideration for sustainable culture, because in the case of poverty and economic hardship choices may be made that damage ecosystem services, such as cutting trees that stabilize soils to heat and cook in the home, or taking endangered species for bush meat.

Economics: Family or Group

The family is quite clearly a well-defined unit of economic activity, as all small scale consumption happens within the family unit, including maintenance of a household, rearing children, engaging a broader society for trade items which might include food, hardware, transportation and information services, medical care and culture specific things such as spiritual support, education, art goods and so forth.
When the family is conscious of the importance of Sustainable Culture principles, then that family is actively supporting and creating a sustainable culture. When a family has other motivations, such as we see in the egoistic, conformist, or achievist worldviews, then Sustainable Culture values may not be present or prioritized. Therefore it is imperative we find a way to bring sustainable culture values into the family scale economic unit, for it is here that the primary drivers of economic activity rest, it is family scale consumption that ultimately drives all motivation for production, and thus is the foundation for economic activity at every greater level of scale.

Economics: Village

It could be said that a village scale group is the minimum size field of economic activity or interaction, where specialization of individuals and families fit with particular niches whereby a broader society benefits from production within particular skills or activity areas. A well functioning Sustainable Culture social unit operates like an evolved ecosystem in balance with its broader surroundings. There will be dynamic activity within the sphere of that social unit that addresses many of the needs within that unit, but there will also be a permeability beyond the sphere of that social group, enabling exchange of goods, services, people and etc. In terms of sustainable culture, we can be looking for a maximization of efficiencies, whereby waste products of one activity become feedstock or inputs for another activity, a good example of this would be to permaculture model, where for instance chickens help heat the greenhouse, eat agricultural waste products, and produce the manure and protein.

Economics: Bioregion / Region

Reviewing text written some years ago, for a similar cell, but for Food production, we can augment the dialogue with consideration of an evolution of economic systems over time. So we can examing the concept of regional economics with an eye to the Spiral Dynamics worldview perspective.

Throughout history worldwide, and in most of the world today, regional economies are tied to agricultural production. This is true for every social order, from egocentric on through the integrative worldview. When colonial, capital- oriented social structures, meaning a hybrid egocentric-achievist paradigm economic order, were imposed on evolved indigenous systems, which are for the most part regionally self sufficient, something very important was lost. The ideal regional social structure, as far as Sustainable Culture is concerned, is entirely, or almost entirely, self sufficient. So while the indigenous systems were typically egocentric and conformist, the lost element is worth paying close attention to, and we could say that recovering that lost communal weal value is an important ambition of the affiliative worldview. But the affiliative perspective tends to work against the best that the achievist way has to offer, which is unfortunate, because without a coherent economic order, it is difficult to organize human enterprise on a large, regional scale.

When we are largely discussing agriculture based economic activing, the bioregional organization makes sense, as is often done in older established regions, such as we see in settlements organized around horse based transport, which pre-date rail or automobile transport options. There may also be advantages to the watershed boundary approach if serious attention to organic standards or GMO contamination are important for agriculture. Or if strong standards for resource protection, like a water shed or salmon fishery, is very important. Of course, it is worth being careful with the limitations of some rigid organization scheme, as the most intense affiliative folks might wish to dictate, as then, we risk losing the flexibility to create a more integrative perspective, something that might be actually more conducing to a real Sustainable Culture, one that isn't just an idea, but that actually works in a fully networked world, where regions do in fact exchange goods, services, people, etc with each other.

Economics: World

Global Economy is kind a mind boggling concept. We are talking (2011) seven billion souls, small enterprises, multinational corporations, a lively and interconnected banking and investment apparatus, various National governments, some resembling authentic democracies, some pretending to be, some not at all. It is highly complicated, woven with international politics for sure, and bound through numerous treaties, trade relationships, and in some cases, shared resources, like fish stocks in international waters.

Is it possible to have a world economy that supports and conforms with the principles of Sustainable Culture? The current process around attempting to avert catastrophic climate change may be the best example of this kind of effort. While current lack of real success on that issue is not encouraging, the fact that such a dialogue is even possible at all, that it is actually happening, is somewhat encouraging. It is just a matter of time before this iteration of human global civilization comes to terms with how it is truly in the best interest of all to bring human social orders into conformance with some variation of Sustainable Culture. If it isn't this iteration, then maybe the next. Lets all work toward cultivating a consciousness among the peoples of this planet that we all want it to be this round, as the consequences not just for humans but for the non-human denizens is an unpleasant terrain of contemplation. We all want to be good stewards for our children and the children born thousands of years from now. The challenge is mastering the more egocentric tendencies, which are often veiled through the corrupting influence of corporate structure, or other forms of corrupt profit making and illusions of security. Time for us all to say enough to the corruption of high powers. Can we all rise with one voice and topple the dictators, as those wishing democracy have done to everyone's surprise during the Arab Spring in 2011. This is a revolution for the Earth, for the future of Humanity. Can we do it peacefully and with compassion? Does the top fraction of wealthy people have the courage to make the right choice, and end the shell game of power elites, corruption and disconnection from what is truly real? Can this happen in a way that does not end as some affiliative worldview fantasy, but instead harnesses markets intelligently while also taking care of our world? Time will tell. Maybe you will be an important part of this process.

One important first step might be a mechanism to hold corporations accountable to being good global citizens that support principles of Sustainable Culture. We really need a way to end the lives of corporate entities that behave as criminals, with a consequence that their assets become public property. There need to be real consequences, or we will continue to get more of the same: more massive oil spills, more unsafe nuclear plants, more toxic financial products, more unsustainable forestry practices, more agriculture that ruins soil and lives.


More Depth Discussion:
Economics and Sustainable Culture

At the heart of the precept of Sustainability, meaning ultimately an ecological sustainability that includes human civilization(s), is an economics cohered with caring.  The basic motivation for sustainability is caring; caring about the earth, caring about future generations, and ultimately this is a compassion and a caring for oneself, one’s sense of integrity with and connection to, everything else.  In some sense this relates to the highest spiritual principle, that one is in fact connected to everything else, an understanding that is becoming recognized as a fundamental truth by the vanguard of Western Science.  Anyone who has the experience of their heart becoming fully open, even for in instant, has a direct knowledge of how this connection to all, through caring, feels.  In a sense, this is our basic nature as human beings, it is just that many have become lost in identification with the materialist paradigm of the mental realm, the domain of ideas.  This makes sense, because naked economics, relates quite specifically to a drive for survival coded a the level of DNA.  In fact, it is regression at Sector 6 which holds many societies and groups back from greatness.  My home town of Boulder, Colorado is the most regressive in Sector 6; most human societies are caught and limited by egocentrism when it comes to money and fiscal control.  Economics pushes right into fear, into a sense of need to control the future, to have security.  And our main tool to obtain that sense of security is the intellect.  But we are so much more than what the Achievist* science oriented world view (of Spiral Dynamics Orange) attempts to present as a whole picture of reality – an important thing for all of us to remember as we navigate a world populated by artifacts, institutions and brains constructed by the scientific-materialist paradigm, a paradigm that is so easily corrupted by the regressive Egocentric* way (of Spiral Dynamics Red).  Perhaps no better example of this would be the recent financial crisis of 2008, created largely by the financial sector of the U.S. which, because of individuals seeking outrageous personal fortunes and their ability to manipulate U.S. politics at the highest level, were able to crash the entire world banking system.  As Charles Ferguson, co-creator of the Oscar Winning documentary “Inside Job”, put it on prime time TV, when he and Audrey Marrs received that little golden statue, the highest recognition of his art: “Three years after a horrific financial crisis caused by massive fraud not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that is wrong.”  In other words, in this dawn of the 21st century, in the United States, Sector 6 is failing because Sector 10, Social Justice, is coming unglued.  A separation of the elite rich from the rest of society has been allowed to develop to such a degree that most people feel, rightly, that they have lost control of their own country.  In terms of the Spiral Dynamics understanding, it is quite relevant that what has happened, ultimately, is that feelings and beliefs on the part of those holding religious fundamentalist ideologies have been hijacked by political leadership, and these people have been manipulated into voting against their own economic self interest.  People of the lower and middle classes have been persuaded to vote for people and political platforms that have enriched the uppermost echelons of American society; they have unwittingly supported remarkable tax cuts for the richest people, supported the migration of capital and labor outside U.S. borders, allowed basic social safety nets, like any universal medical care, to be eviscerated through a trend toward enrichment of private enterprise.  Meanwhile, basic infrastructure including public education, has been allowed to crumble, and an ill conceived foreign military adventure, based on false premises, has essentially bankrupted the U.S. economy.

The remedy for all of this is to bring caring back into economics.  People should only be allowed to make fortunes if they also take care of the others they interact with.  Economic activity does not necessarily have to be an extractive process, whereby one person gains because another loses.  This is piracy, it is not economic development.  True economic development follows the rising tide model, where all boats are lifted.  When a few benefit at the expense of the others as has occurred in this recent Financial meltdown, or worse, to the great detriment to the entire planet, the result is a lowering of the tide, and ultimately, all boats are dragged down.  Even the very rich are feeling the impact of a global recession; this is not in their interest.  Climate change and ecological collapse is no fun for anyone, but of course, because of economics, the most poor and destitute will feel the effects to the greatest degree.  An economics of Sustainability has a different fragrance; it is a way of understanding real value as having to do with more than some number or amount of precious metal.  Here real value is about understanding relationship with others, about taking a caring about others and the world into concrete reality— the field of action, engagement and manifestation.
Interestingly, this new economics is thus formed in relationship to the sectors in ‘trine relationship’ to Sector 6, those sectors which combined with Economics, form an equalateral triangle: Sector 2, Earth Stewardship and Sector 10, Social Justice.  In Western astrology, in a natal chart this would be a very strong feature known as a ‘grand trine.’  It is no accident that the two companion labeling campaigns we have seen emerge onto agricultural products and to some degree on garments, etc in the green markets these days are typically “organic” and “fair trade”.  These two categories of fairness in production and responsible use of the land are central to much Sustainability discussion when economics is on the table, as they should be.  They represent key leverage points that responsible consumers can apply at the point of sale.  Furthermore, also of interest is that a key element of this caring paradigm, a core dimension of the human driver for ecological sustainability and caring in general, is the opposite point from Sector 6, Sector 12, Values and Spirituality.  Taken together, this pattern forms the remarkable and stable pattern known as a kite.  Note how there is a symbol of Western Spirituality which can be seen to emerge from, but also contains, this special geometry.  This is also within the ancient Egyptian symbol for life, the ankh.


Curiously, a healthy Blue* can support and maintain a healthy, caring economic condition, at least within its own terms and within its own ranks.
In terms of Spiral Dynamics, the emergence of a caring in economics occurs, naturally, as a reaction to the excesses of the Orange Achievist paradigm or Scientific Materialism, and especially, Orange when it is tinged by Red, as we see in the operation of the Corporation, an entity that is specifically structured to produce profit for shareholders without regard to harms done to people or planet.  Corporations are essentially an embodiment of Red selfish drive enshrined within and supported by the machinery and apparatus of Orange materialism and achievement.  Without moderation, this pattern of human organization will destroy human dignity and ruin the world.  Thus, we see the emergence of Green approximately fifty years ago as a reaction to what is understood to be a very dangerous state of affairs.  In recent years, we are now seeing the emergence of an integrative paradigm, Yellow, which recognizes the important value of the Orange Corporation machinery within the current stage of human civilization, but appreciates the importance of moderation of Orange through the best of Green values and understandings.  In other words, it is the emergence of second tier Yellow, which imbues economics with some measure of the caring that is required for an Economics of Sustainability.

Recommended Viewing:
Documentary: The Corporation
Documentary: Inside Job

Recommended Reading:
Natural Capitalism, by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and Hunter Lovins