Meaningful Intervention

Paradigm paralysis is defined at Wikipedia as the inability or refusal to see beyond the current models of thinking. It takes a severe shock to end such paralysis.

In shifting paradigms, words matter. When presented by those of credible authority, the words that are chosen help shape our fundamental world view. Perhaps some of the words we are now seeing will mark a beginning of discussion about real change and effective solutions to the economic and financial turmoil now gripping our nation and the entire world.

Today, Bloomberg is quoting the leader of the International Monetary Fund this way:

IMF Says Advanced Economies Already in Depression

Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) — Advanced economies are already in a depression and the financial crisis may deepen unless the banking system is fixed, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said.

Strong, perhaps even shocking words.

So far in addressing the current economic crisis, debate in Washington has generally been confined within the narrow constraints of outdated economic paradigms. Our political and economic thought leaders, with their world views calcified by the forces that placed them in their privileged positions, are unable to admit the insolvency of the financial system for fear that the entire basis of their own credibility will be undermined.

We need to reshape our common fundamental definitions of economic prosperity and personal success, while at the same time reaffirming our traditional respect for responsibility and accountability. Saddling our children and grandchildren under mountains of dept in a futile effort to prop up insolvent and failed institutions is not only irresponsible, but immoral.

The entire discussion in Washington regarding economics and finance is especially discouraging after all the presidential campaign rhetoric about Hope and Change. With their focus on stimulating clearly unsustainable forms of growth and consumption, while bailing out obviously already failed institutions deemed “too big to fail”, the folks leading our government are not offering anything new or useful at all. Their solutions are not credible. They are just pushing on the same old levers harder and faster, while ordinary Americans know in our guts that the whole system is careening out of control.

To change anything, the key is understanding where the real leverage lies.

The best place to start thinking about real solutions is the incredible article written by the late Donella Meadows, “Places to Intervene in a System”, which first appeared in Whole Earth Magazine in 1997. It is posted here at


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Filed under Economic Policy, Fundamental Perspectives

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