The current economic system is broken, and it is based on false assumptions of what wealth is, and how to create it. We aim to fix the economic system and put in its place a system based on sharing, community and love. However we don’t have the power to dictate the way things should be, to tear down the old system and simply replace it with a new system (and there might be some doubts about the merit of trying to create a loving system in such a rough and potentially violent way). So we are building the new system gently, piece by piece, by helping people who believe in a better way of doing things to build their businesses in a better, more compassionate way. We believe that when the power of true wealth becomes visible in the world the old false assumptions will fall away, and we will be left with a system based on truth, love and harmony.
This process can be quite difficult sometimes – as the methods that need to be applied come from a combination of fields that normally don’t see eye to eye – much must be learnt from the conventional approach to business, but much must also be thrown away, or reinvented. Much must also be learnt from the alternative fields – permaculture, community development, cooperative economics etc, but that must be extended into the practical field of how we run our businesses. Please bear with us in this process as we attempt to transform the language of greed into the language of connection. Perhaps you can help us along the way. Feel free to criticise what you find not useful, and suggest things that could be improved.
But what is True Wealth?
Wealth in many people’s heads translates to the amount of money you have. This is a very superficial view, and one that even conventional economics disagrees with. In conventional economics wealth is described as the speed of flow of money – eg. the amount of money you make and spend in a month. Now it should be fairly obvious to any thinking person that this definition is sorely lacking. Surely a true measure of wealth would have more to do with a person’s level of happiness, their standard of living etc. And perhaps there would be other elements that would come in as well. The best working definition of wealth we have come across comes is ‘Acquiring Capacity’ – ie. the ability to acquire what you need and want through money, or through other means. This of course leads to some deep questions about what exactly do you need and want. In this sense the True Wealth of acquiring capacity can be increased by increasing the amount of money you have to some extent, but it can also be increased by other factors – the level of happiness and satisfaction in your life, the availability of goods and services in your location, the clarity that you have about your own needs and desires etc. Of course this makes it much more difficult to calculate and put simple numbers to, which may be disturbing to conventional economists, but perhaps might seem liberating to the more alternative minded. This kind of wealth is something you feel, rather than something that is expressed in numbers in your bank account.
It is also worth noting that this definition of wealth allows us to be very generous in our pursuit of wealth, to build wealth for the community as well as for ourselves at the same time. When someone sells delicious bread at the markets for example the money travels in one direction only – from the buyer to the seller, but the acquiring capacity increases for both. The buyer is more wealthy because they have the ability to buy the bread that they want, and the seller is more wealthy because they have the ability to spend the money they earned on other things. And perhaps both of them are more wealthy because they have the ability to spend an enjoyable time at the markets buying and selling and sharing with their friends. In the same way cooperative businesses can help increase the wealth of all their members and customers at the same time, and even activities that would not normally be seen as economic at all (eg. meditation) might be seen as truly increasing the wealth through the increase in happiness.
Four types of wealth
It is very valuable to be able to look at your own true wealth, and the true wealth of your community in a way that allows you to see holistically what is going on, and what needs to be improved in order to increase your wealth (ie. your happiness). Awareness is powerful, as any meditator will know, and this awareness applied to wealth will transform it and improve things in your own life and the life of those around you. In order to do this we need to be able to review things in an organised manner that allows you to see what is going on in some detail, and at the same time to be able to look at the overview. We suggest this system of 4 different types of wealth, and reviewing each one independently.
- Financial wellbeing – this is the conventional accounts – how much money do you have, what is your income, what is your expenditure, what are your assets etc. Now this may in some ways be the least important – money doesn’t buy happiness, but it is a necessary foundation. We live in a world where money is important, and so to make sure that we are financially sustainable is essential to our wellbeing.
- Physical wellbeing – are you (and others around you) getting your basic needs met? Are there any basic needs that are missing, or could be improved? Is there any way in which you would like to improve your basic living standards. This is about setting a baseline – a minimum standard so that you (and others if you are looking on a more broad scale) can be sure that you will not fall into difficulties, or high stress situations. Again this will not make you happy, but it is required as part of your wellbeing.
- Mental Wellbeing – are you happy? Do you have entertainment, hobbies, interests that keep you engaged and enjoying yourself? Do you have social support and connections? What elements are missing for you to feel fully supported and enjoying life?
- Potentialities – Maximum Utilisation and self-actualisation – Are you living to your full potential? Are there any wasted skills or resources? What elements inside you or what elements or resources outside of you could be better utilised? How can you get closer to full potential
You will notice that each of these types of wealth can be used as a review of our own personal wellbeing, or can be looked at in a more expansive way and lead to a review of a community’s wellbeing. In fact this way of looking at wealth leads us to build community wellbeing as well as our own wellbeing at the same time, because it becomes very clear how the two are linked.
If you are reading this, I hope that you are committed to building a wealthy life for yourself and the people around you at the same time. If you are then doing a regular review process where you look holistically at all aspects of your wealth and wellbeing is a great step towards moving in that direction. Try and have fun while you do it because that fun itself is an essential part of true wealth.