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Korten, David C. Berrett-Koehler Publishers PDF
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9. Economic Democracy

Korten, David C. Berrett-Koehler Publishers PDF

Chapter 9

Economic Democracy

If one concedes that financial markets largely rule the world, then all that is left for governments and central banks is to try to please these markets by pursuing the policies the bond traders demand: low inflation enforced through monetarist policies of high real interest rates and high unemployment, and policies of fiscal austerity. . . . In essence, this means abandoning the most basic principles of democracy.


As Americans moved off the farm, they became a nation of employees rather than proprietors, becoming wage earners and modernday sharecroppers rather than equity-empowered stakeowners.

That must change.

— J E F F G AT E S 2

ownership rights have long played a major role in defining power relationships in both political and economic affairs. Our present situation is no exception. The central problem of global capitalism may be described in terms of institutional relationships that concentrate the power of ownership in the hands of an economic aristocracy that is delinked from community interests and has no accountability.

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1. The Sirens’ Song

Korten, David C. Berrett-Koehler Publishers PDF

Chapter 1

The Sirens’ Song

Economic self-interest has always been central to the organization of societies and the advancement of individuals. But the defining characteristic of the postmodern political era is the absolute domination of money as the organizing principle of human and international relations. Some days there seems to be nothing else.


The world of material mechanics, which still holds sway over most minds and is the official science “story” of the mass media, is a world of scarcity (because matter is finite, because it has a limited capacity to fulfill us). It spawns violence by telling us that we are separate: “I can hurt you without hurting the larger whole that includes myself—and since there isn’t enough for both of us, we have a reason to fight each other.”


in the epic greek poem The Odyssey, Circe warns Odysseus about the dangers that lie ahead on his journey home from Troy:

First thou shalt arrive where the enchanter Sirens dwell, they who seduce men. The imprudent man who draws near them never returns, for the Sirens, lying in the flower-strewn fields, will charm him with sweet song; but around them the bodies of their victims lie in heaps. Therefore pass these Sirens by, and stop your men’s ears with wax that none of them may hear; but if you like you can listen yourself, for you may get the men to

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4. The Incredible Journey

Korten, David C. Berrett-Koehler Publishers PDF

Chapter 4

The Incredible Journey

Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, is at the very root of the stupendous edifice of evolution. This central concept of modern biology is no longer one among other conceivable hypotheses. It is the sole conceivable hypothesis.


The evidence for the goal-directedness or purposefulness of life processes at every level of organization within the hierarchy of the ecosphere is so great that its denial to normal people seems quite inconceivable.


how did it happen that a planet barren of life became a living jewel in the vastness of space? A product of chance or of purposeful striving?

Dumb luck or a deep intelligence? These two widely differing interpretations of life’s story suggest sharply contrasting approaches to our future.

Do we trust our future to a role of the dice by global currency speculators and get on with pursuing the sources of our distraction? Or do we take responsibility for attuning ourselves to a deeper purpose and set a conscious course toward our future so informed?

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7. Responsible Freedom

Korten, David C. Berrett-Koehler Publishers PDF

Chapter 7

Responsible Freedom

I slept and dreamt that life was joy.

I awoke and saw that life was service.

I acted and behold, service was joy.

— R A B I N D R A N AT H TA G O R E 1

Living systems evolve in complexity, flexibility, and intelligence through interaction with each other. These interactions require openness and vulnerability in order to process the flow-through of energy and information. They bring into play new responses and new possibilities not previously present, increasing the capacity to effect change.


we humans are the ultimate choice-making organisms, for far more than any other of life’s creatures we have the ability to create a future of our conscious choosing. This freedom is both our blessing and our curse, however, as it means we bear the burden of responsibility to make our choices wisely. Capitalism’s beguiling promise of freedom and prosperity without the commensurate burden of responsibility is perhaps the primary source of its deadly attraction. Hear this verse from its seductive song:

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