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Market Fundamentalism has become a National State Religion
Profit-centered market fundamentalism has become a national religion perverting historic social values and claiming for itself dominance in public culture.
By David Korten
We humans are living out an epic morality play. For millennia humanity’s most celebrated spiritual teachers have taught that society works best and we all enjoy our greatest joy and fulfillment when we share, cooperate, and are honest in our dealings with one another.
But for the past few decades, this truth has been aggressively challenged by a faith called market fundamentalism—an immoral and counter-factual economic ideology that has assumed the status of a modern state religion. Its believers worship the God of money. Stock exchanges and global banks are their temples. They proclaim that everyone does best when we each seek to maximize our individual financial gain without regard to the consequences for others.
In the eyes of a market fundamentalist, to sacrifice profit for some presumed social or environmental good is immoral. The result is a public culture that proclaims greed is a virtue and sharing is a sin.
In the eyes of a market fundamentalist, to sacrifice profit for some presumed social or environmental good is immoral.Having established control of the institutions of the economy, media, education, government, and even religion, market fundamentalists initiated a global social experiment to test their theory. The results are now in.
The prophets of the older faith traditions were right. Our common future depends on rediscovering their truth and redefining our public culture and governing institutions accordingly.
The following are some of the more visible elements of Wall Street’s global campaign of moral perversion.
Seven Steps for Action Toward a New Economy
Rather than turning again to increased global competition to mend our failing economy, we must instead steer our focus toward cooperation and equality. Step back to take in the big picture, and it turns out Wall Street market fundamentalists have proclaimed the seven deadly sins of pride, greed, envy, anger, lust, gluttony, and sloth to be virtues. In turn they have proclaimed the seven life-serving virtues of humility, sharing, love, compassion, self-control, moderation, and passion to be sins against the market.
There is a widespread sense that with Wall Street’s apparent recovery, the window of opportunity for serious structural change has passed. Such a judgment, however, is premature. Far from closing, the window of opportunity for serious change continues to widen as public awareness of Wall Street corruption grows and true and appropriate moral outrage builds.
Most psychologically healthy adults recognize in their heart of hearts the moral perversion of the old economy, but may fear to speak up because so many experts—including even some religious leaders—continuously assure us in so many words that greed is good, even that God wants us to be financially rich and financial wealth is a mark of God’s favor.
If all who share a mature moral consciousness find the courage to speak the simple truth that greed is driving us to collective self-destruction and cooperation is essential to our common salvation, we can put the perversion behind us and secure the future of our children.
David Korten (livingeconomiesforum.org) is the author of Agenda for a New Economy, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, and the international best seller When Corporations Rule the World. He is board chair of YES! Magazine and co-chair of the New Economy Working Group. This article appeared at Yes! Magazine.
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