Arts and Entertainment

Agenda for economic revolution at Eagle Harbor Books tonight

Esteemed islander David Korten’s new book lays out the framework for a new economy based on Main Street rather than Wall Street.

In the wake of the great financial crisis of 2008, its easy to see that Wall Street is broken.

It’s been the source of much ado — hailed as everything from armageddon to the next Great Depression to just another temporary blip in the market that’ll correct itself over time. The looming economic question for the nation has since been how to fix it.

The government has thrown billions of tax-payer funded stimulus dollars at the cash-hemorrhaging corporate sector, hoping to stabilize the economy under the agreement that the corporations will pay back the loans once the ship has righted its course.

Now some companies are back for more. All the while, case after case of unscrupulous, scandalous and even malicious business practices, stemming from some of those very corporations, have been exposed. But that’s the kind of stuff you’d find in the national financial pages.

The Bainbridge-based, gray-haired grassroots revolutionary world economics and social behavioral scholar David C. Korten has brought the discussion home to Kitsap. In the pages of the local A&E section, no less.

Korten will be speaking at his hometown bookstore Eagle Harbor Books Thursday with his latest text, “Agenda for the New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth,” in which he raises the notion that maybe what Wall Street shouldn’t be repaired at all.

“The old system is in a process of destroying itself,” he said, talking with What’s Up earlier this week.

Rather than spend all this time, money and energy in an attempt to revive the old system, he proposes, perhaps we’d be better off hastening its demise, and instead use those resources to build a new economy.

Indeed, a new economy — one with an epicenter on Main Street and an emphasis on what Korten labels “real wealth” — actual people, products and services with intrinsic value — as opposed to the “phantom wealth” — securities, derivatives and hedge funds, credit cards and even money with virtually no intrinsic value — created by Wall Street.

It’s a revolutionary idea, on the grandest economic scale, but it’s framed by what are ultimately common sense principles. And it could be our only hope.

“Our economic system has failed on every dimension: environmental, social, and financial,” Korten writes at his Web site “The fact that the Wall Street financial collapse has preceded the terminal collapse of our social and environmental systems is a blessing because it demonstrates that the economic system has failed even on its own terms.”

The financial system can be fixed with relative ease as compared to a collapse of either our social or environmental system. But Korten notes that they’re all interconnected.

Symbolic by design, he launched “Agenda for a New Economy” — in the heart of the Wall Street district at the historic Trinity Church in Manhattan during the National Theologic Conference Jan. 23, after he and his publisher Berrett-Koehler astonishingly completed the entire book — from the idea to writing to the shelves — in less than two months.

It’s just one block in the greater puzzle Korten has been piecing together for decades — documented in his previous books (“When Corporations Rule the World,” “The Post-Corporate World” and “The Great Turning,”) along with many lectures and multiple magazine and newspaper articles — following a Stanford education and more than 30 years collectively spent abroad, dedicated to ending global poverty by providing aid and imparting the business model of American capitalism.

It was during that time spent abroad, trying to bring capitalism to third world countries, that Korten began to realize just how flawed the system was. The financial crisis of 2008, he says, presents a perfect opportunity for positive change.

“It felt like my whole life had been in preparation for writing this book,” Korten said, adding later, “this is a decisive moment for us as a species as well as a nation.”

DAVID KORTEN will speak about his “Agenda for a New Economy” at 7:30 p.m. March 19 at Eagle Harbor Books, 157 Winslow Way on Bainbridge. Also check out his latest column on the matter in the Spring 2009 edition of Yes! Magazine, Info:, or call the store at (206) 842-5332.


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