Posted 07.07.2017

The Economy of Well-Being: Are You Rooted in the Ego or Eco-based Economy?

Photo credit: 123rf

Reflections from our CEO

Would you rather accept $1,000 today or $5 million in 100 years? I frequently ask this question of audiences and the majority respond that they would prefer the money today. Why? $1,000 is useable now, whereas $5 million is a sum that none of us will benefit from in our lifetime; it will go to a future generation. Yet when I ask those same people the value of their grandchildren’s lives in 100 years, most people answer priceless. Nonetheless, the present value of “priceless” (i.e., $5 million) is very little; in other words, the future has no seat at the table when decisions are made.

Our often short-sighted perspective on wealth, in both financial and human terms, reflects the values of our ego-based economy — money, power, and sex, — in which the overarching goal is to maximize self-interest. The timescale factored into future economic decisions is always the present. The consequences of this ego-based economy are evident today: pervasive environmental destruction and a financial system that serves the few at the expense of the many. If we are honest with ourselves, we are all egomaniacs invested in the ego-based economy.

But what if there were another way? The alternative to our ego-based economy might be the so called eco-based economy that has the following characteristics:

  • it’s based on being well (a sense of well-being) rather than doing well (maximizing self interest);
  • it’s rooted in the values of stewardship, generosity and relationships;
  • the timescale informing our most critical decisions is the lifetimes of our grandchildren, great-grandchildren and beyond.

At the Regenerative Future Summit this past May, I was privileged to come together with changemakers in the fields of finance, philanthropy and academia who are daring to envision a restorative economic system based on well-being. Driven by a collective recognition that business can be a force for good, we envisaged a way forward for an economy in service to people and the planet rather than at the expense of them.

This belief in the transformative potential of business—and banking, in particular—drives our work at New Resource Bank. In an industry motivated by one type of capital—financial, which breeds greed—we dare to value other essential types of capital: natural, social and intellectual, to name a few. We measure our success not merely by financial returns, but by our capacity to regenerate the community and the environment through the loans we make.

Given that we are all rooted in the ego-based economy, how do we move away from this system and toward an eco-based economy? Inspired leaders have an important role to play by developing transformative organizations that, in turn, transform our world. And society has a key role in choosing eco-based alternatives in how we invest, bank and spend. For a thorough list of how to “clean” your money, see this helpful article (How To Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is) by Morgan Simon of Transform Finance.

For more on this topic, have a listen to this talk on “Finance in the Regenerative Economy” held at the Regenerative Summit in Boulder, Colorado.