From MICHAEL NAGLER
On Monday the Dow Jones industrial average fell 634.76 points; the sixth-worst point decline for the Dow in the last 112 years and the worst drop since December 2008. Every stock in the S&P 500 index declined.
It is easy to blame bipartisan bickering for the impasse that led to Standard & Poor’s downgrading of the American debt, and in turn the vertiginous fall of the Dow. This bickering—this substitution of ideology for reason, of egotism for compassion and responsibility on the part of lawmakers—is a national disgrace; but while it failed to fix the problem, we must realize that it did not cause it. The cause—and potential for a significant renewal—lies much deeper.
So let’s allow ourselves to ask a fundamental question: what’s an economy for?
The real purpose of an economic system is to guarantee to every person in its circle the fundamentals of physical existence (food, clothing, shelter) and the tools of meaningful work so that they can get on with the business of living together and working out our common destiny. This was Gandhi’s vision, among others’. We can no longer afford to ignore him in this sector any more than we can ignore his spectacular contributions to peace and security.
By the time Gandhi’s thinking on the subject matured in his classic treatise, Hind Swaraj, or Indian Home Rule (1909), he saw that our present economic system is being driven by a dangerous motive: the multiplication of wants. Because these wants are artificial—being that they created by advertising—and can never be satisfied, it creates what economist David Korten has called a “phantom economy” of fantastic financial manipulations that of course can never endure.
We will never know real prosperity—where we acknowledge that we are much more than producer/ consumers and can only be fulfilled when we discover a higher purpose—until we shift to another basis entirely, the fulfillment of needs. We have physical needs, to be sure, but also