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Are market economies imploding? Is Western capitalism on the verge of following Soviet communism into collapse? A new economic model must be found that works for all.

We are now in the midst of a financial and economic crisis. It may be a temporary adjustment, and all will be back to normal in a few years, or we may soon see a collapse of the whole system, akin to the implosion of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. The possibility of implosion is a wild card that needs investigating, because its probability of occurring is far from zero.

The futurist community should explore this wild card, as there are no current examples that can be followed. The communist model is discredited by its own collapse. Futurists should analyze the causes of the current situation, evaluate the actions being taken, and propose new approaches. So far, all the futurist visions that I have seen are extrapolations of the existing situation; none describe a rupture with the past.

The current crisis may be a sign either that continuous growth is not endlessly possible or that an economy based on consumption is not viable anymore. It is clear that the market economy did not function as hoped. We must now determine whether it is enough to adapt current regulations or whether we need fundamental changes. Was government intervention at the end of the Bush administration an anomaly or an indispensable permanent element of economic management? Will more regulation help when existing regulations fail to be properly applied, or do we need a fundamentally different approach to the economy?

Adam Smith's invisible hand does not function without regulations, such as those against monopolies, corruption, and abuse of insider knowledge. Free enterprise requires all sorts of adjustments to function properly, all sorts of visible hands to justify its existence. A theory may be perfectly reasonable, yet not applicable in the real world. We desperately need a new paradigm that better fits the reality.

Since much has been said already about the abuses of the salaries and bonuses in high places, we might review our social ethics in the future, as well as our responsibilities for Third World countries. Is it acceptable that liberal globalization is the cause of hunger in poor countries?

Much grimmer than these theoretical considerations are current demonstrations in Greece, Iceland, and other nations. Does this foreshadow revolutions throughout the Western world?

The questions for us are: Do we need a new society, new structures, and new ethics? Who will rise to the challenge and propose some? The goals of such a utopia are becoming visible: less consumption, zero or negative growth, more and better social contacts and responsibility, less selfishness, more happiness. Achieving this future (if desired) and avoiding the wild card, of Soviet-style implosion will require the remaking of economic science. Can it be done?

About the Author

Marc Blasband is a principal of MobEco, a zero-emissions mobility solutions association. He manages the Chez Grand Pere playground and park, featuring demonstrations of MobEco solutions. He has more than 40 years of experience in computer software. His address is Chez Grand Pere, Rue Petit Barvaux 2, 6940 Barvaux 0032, Belgium. E-mail; Web site

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Author:Blasband, Marc
Publication:The Futurist
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2009
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