The numbers are not lost on anyone paying attention. 1% or less of the world's population controls 1/2 of our planets wealth. In our never ending search for provocative views on the state our capitalist economic system, I came across this excellent perspective by Steven Pearlstein at the Washington Post. It's entitled "Five Myths About Capitalism". He explores 5 commonly held myths about capitalism and suggests ways these stories could evolve to be more generative in nature and address the wealth disparity issues we are facing.
We create stories in an attempt to justify the ways we think the world should work. During feudal times for example, stories reinforced the divine right of the ruling class to do whatever they wished, simply because God told them to. Who could argue with that? As outmoded as that may seem now, without these explanations of how things work we would not get out of bed in the morning for fear of everything being unknown. At the same time, these narratives of how the world works are not written in stone some place on high either, even though some would still have you believe it is so. Our stories about how things work can change in a moment if we desire them to. How many times, have you had that moment when a new explanation of something changes everything about how you see and experience the world around you.
This is nothing new. Humanity has gone through major changes in its cultural narrative from its simple beginnings in small tribes, to feudal empires, to more modern scientific views and for the last 50 years a post-modern diversity narrative responsible for bringing things like the environmental movement, civil and women's rights, alternative health care into being. There is even some thought that a new cycle of human intelligence is currently emerging often referred to as "integral" or "integrated" that recognizes that most of the human narratives about how things should work are still present in all of us. Hence the current culture wars.
Steven's perspective on the five myths about Capitalism highlight the old stories we tell about the ways the "free market" system works best. Even when these five perspectives are challenged for their relevance to us moving forward their defenders say something like..."that's just the way the world works". We know that's not true. There is no way the world works. It works in accordance to our desires, awareness and the explanation narratives we create that reinforce this desired behavior.
Although the "truths" contained in these five myths have been part of a tremendous explosion of wealth on the planet for some of its occupants, what I loved about this article is the way Steven counters each one of these myths with more generative ideas. These new stories explain how we can still have an open market system, still wildly benefit financially from our creativity while at the same time sharing the value of what we all create with more people than just the 1%.