FondsGoetheanum: Economy











Debt and indebtedness occur whenever not enough has been paid. Debt is the symptom, not the disease.




















The human being is becoming ever more individual. Social and business relationships show a clear development from communitarian to individually-decided values. The needs, dignity and abilities of the individual are paramount today. How can we take proper economic account of them?

Where earlier religious dogma, guilds, tradition or family authority governed economic life, today the individual holds ever more sway. ‘How things always were’ has given way to ‘I want to do things my way’.

Individuality characterises modern man. Of central importance are his needs, his dignity and his abilities.

Where earlier religious dogma, guilds, tradition or family authority governed economic life, today the individual holds ever more sway. ‘How things always were’ has given way to ‘I want to do things my way’.
This is one of the greatest changes in recent times. Recognising it allows us to see today’s situation in a new light – a perspective that enables us to build social and economic relationships afresh, both now and in the future. Put another way: Future forms of coexistence will only be sustainable – and thereby peaceful – if they are based on the principle of individuality. But what does that mean?

Needs, dignity and abilities are key

Each human being comes into relationship with other human beings in three very different ways: through his needs, his dignity and his abilities. In order to satisfy his needs, he requires the products of others. Dignity he derives from the way he is treated and appreciated in his social environment. This is something very different to the satisfaction of needs. The third aspect, his abilities, he experiences perforce of being an individual. And yet he owes the development of his abilities almost entirely to his fellow human beings.
For each and every person, needs, dignity and abilities are doorways into separate and different worlds of experience. If today’s individual human being is to develop and live in a healthy relationship with his community, the social space needs to be consciously designed and ordered to that end.
Meeting everyone’s needs is the task of the economy as a whole – comprising the wide universe of production, trade and consumption. The rights life of today’s many states should ensure dignified relationships between their peoples and uphold the dignity of the individual. Countries are places where a common understanding of right can be experienced, where the right to vote allows every human being to be recognised as a citizen.
With its different approaches to education and training, modern cultural diversity serves the development of individual abilities. In this way human beings become free, but they also become bearers of conscious responsibility. This begins with infants’ imitation of deeds and speech, continues through the joy of learning in school, and then becomes deepened in link with humanity’s great ideals and achievements.
If carried by society in its future design, these three areas – each with their very different criteria – can overcome the confusion brought about by the individualisation of humanity.

The debt crisis as a result of imbalance

The economy is part of a larger social organism. It is here that all projects are perceived, valued and facilitated by means of money. But money is not just money. On closer observation, quite different qualities of money appear depending on whether it is used as a means for buying, lending or giving. Discover these differences, and one also discovers a threefold reality, where previously only one thing, the money supply, was thought to exist.
The buying process takes place wherever money is exchanged for goods. This process is healthy if everyone involved in production receives enough to satisfy his own needs. If that is not the case, then the price is too low – something that has serious consequences elsewhere in economic life, for example, debt. This year much has been said and written about debt and indebtedness. They occur whenever not enough has been paid. Debt is the symptom, not the disease. It is the buying process that is sick.

Of lending and giving

A loan arises when a business idea calls to be realised. Where something new wants to come to expression. Where an entrepreneur needs capital to invest in the means of production. The lending process is healthy when based on trust in human abilities linked to ideas; it is not healthy when it relies instead on securities, such as mortgages on real estate.
Gift money arises where the transfer of money enables new, unexpected monetary values to flourish. It is the most productive form of money, creative of value in the same way that a compost heap brings forth new life out of decayed substances. Donations are healthiest when money passes freely into someone else’s hands; they are least healthy when kept narrow or targeted.

Three levers for taking hold of economic life: purchase money, loan money, gift money

The differentiation of money into three kinds – purchase money, loan money and gift money – enables us to have a quite different view of economic processes. What is the effect of too little spending money, for example? Or too much loan money? Or too little gift money? What are the direct and indirect consequences of the three kinds of money, and how can we use them to counteract disorder and where necessary create equilibrium?
In a picture: Instead of having only one lever in one’s hand – namely, the money supply – one would have three: purchase money, loan money and gift money. This would enable finely-tuned regulation instead of today’s endless chaotic churning of economic life.

Marc Desaules