New past, better future

“The Twentieth Century is definitely behind us, and there is little doubt that we need a new and better considered past for the sake of a new and better imagined future.”

Carol Gluck, Professor of History and the 2019 Chair
of the Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University

If we want to imagine a better future through finance, we might do well to begin with a better consideration of our past, also through finance.

In our review, we see that economies comprise an essential part of our uniquely human way of being in the world throughout history. For as long as there has been people, we have lived and prospered through enterprise that has focussed our collaborative efforts to share, thrive and change the world as we choose it to be.

Enterprise uses money to pay the costs of our efforts.  That money can be recouped only after surpluses have been co-created and shared. So, people have always had social structures in place to aggregate surpluses to form money for investment in more enterprise. That’s progress.

History shows that, as the times dictated, people evolved at least six distinct social structures for social decision making through finance.

  1. Friends and family. Beginning with the earliest aboriginal populations, subsistence prosperity extended by the biological family unit to include the social structures of clan, tribe or people like friends.
  2. Church and philanthropy. The invention of irrigated farming and large-scale grain agriculture evolved the social structures of city states ruled over by a priestly class. That has been handed down as church and philanthropy and caring for others.
  3. Government. Increasing populations and a growing diversity of craftsmanship and trade evolved the social structures of feudal estates ruled over by a privileged and entitled landed aristocracy. That has aged into government taxing and spending for public health, public safety and public welfare.
  4. Banking and lending: Increasing travel and exploration evolved the social structures of empire building, colonialism and wealth creation through banking and lending for personal profit.
  5. Industrialization. The invention of machine-powered industrial economies of scale evolved into the modern social structures of nation states and finance through speculation over exchanges and through funds.
  6. Stewardship. A new channel of fiduciary finance is evolving in our time, with the invention of computer connected, evolving and adaptive networks focussed on a new sufficient prosperity through financial stewardship, intergenerational loyalties and social and environmental justice — in the conduct of commerce.