Acclaimed economist Manfred Max-Neef, author of the award-winning book From the Outside Looking in: Experiences in ‘Barefoot Economics’ recently appeared in a must-see interview on Democracy Now where he says a second, more catastrophic crisis is unavoidable because our economic model is “dramatically poisonous.” Max-Neef explains that “Greed is the dominant value today in the world and as long as that persists, we’re done!” But he doesn’t just mean done economically, he means done as a species.
Going beyond facts and figures to describe economics, his philosophy is based on a macro-world view, where he accounts for the biosphere, human creativity, security and happiness, and life in all of its manifestations. He reveals that the majority of economists have great knowledge, more than ever before, but they lack understanding. The two differ as, “knowledge is a function of science, whereas understanding is holistic,” explained Max-Neef. Using the metaphor of love to simplify: we may read and accumulate great knowledge about love, but we can never fully understand it until we fall in love and experience it.
His philosophy of humanizing economics, or “Barefoot Economics,” stems from spending years living in and studying the culture of poverty to better understand the economics of it. He concludes that the poverty culture has entirely different principles than our modern culture, where they must depend on enormous creativity, cooperation and solidarity of people. In poverty, “you cannot be an idiot if you want to survive,” he quipped.
He emphatically assures Amy Goodman in the interview that the “next crisis is coming, and it will be twice as much as this one (referring to financial collapse of 2008).” Only for this one, “there will not be enough money anymore — so that will be it!” Even more frightening are his views that the ecosystem may be beyond critical tipping points. He says, “Some important scientists believe that it is definite, we are finished . . . I have not reached that point, but I believe we are close.”
Max-Neef claims the biggest problem is that economists view nature as a subset of the economy, not the other way around, where “economists don’t realize that if the bees disappear, so will he disappear.” In other words, the notion that infinite growth can persist in a finite biosphere is dead wrong. And we may already have reached a point of no return.
When asked what he thinks needs to change, he replied: “Oh, almost everything! We act systematically against the evidences we have.” He believes the economy will “catastrophically” self-correct and a new model must emerge with principles to humanize the economy in balance with the biosphere. His five principles and values to develop a humanized economy are as follows:
- The economy is to serve the people, not the people to serve the economy.
- Development is about people, and not about objects.
- Growth is not the same as development, and development does not necessarily require growth.
- No economy is possible in the absence of ecosystem services.
- The economy is a subsystem of a larger finite system — the biosphere, hence permanent growth is impossible.
The fundmental value that is needed to sustain this new economy is, “No economic interest, under any circumstances, can be more important than LIFE in all its manifestations.”
When the engineered collapse comes, we can bet that the corporate-government will offer up their “solutions.” It’s not good enough for the Human World Order simply to oppose tyranny; we must also present logical solutions. Manfred Max-Neef is offering a philosophy to re-humanize the economy. From the ashes of the collapse will come the opportunity to build a new economy based on human principles of valuing all life. Ultimately, he is hopeful because of the amazing human creativity and solidarity witnessed among the impoverished. We shall create our way out of the crisis, but it must take place in an entirely new economic model to be successful.
Please watch the entire interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. And follow Manfred Max-Neef’s books and speaking engagements here. Below is an older video describing his work in an indigenous village in South America.