There’s a knee-jerk reflex, particularly in the United States, for people’s first reaction to any bad news to be, “Oh no, how will it affect the economy?”
True, bad news tends to have an impact on Wall Street. The thing is, Wall Street is not a synonym for the economy, even though sometimes people seem to view it that way. The financial markets are but one segment of the economy. Unfortunately, a lot of people have invested pretty much all their money in funds that are somehow tied to the stock market. I’m not here to tell people not to invest in the stock market; we all have different views on that.
What I am here to say, is that the real economy will never die. The real economy is simply people meeting other people’s needs, with some exchange involved, be it money or barter or what have you.
And investments are everywhere; Wall Street is just one slice of the economy. Granted, it is a big slice in terms of dollars. But anyone can choose to change their investment mix anytime. (For some great alternative options, see Laura Oldanie’s article linked at the end of this post.)
When I see bad news (be it a virus epidemic or extreme weather event or what have you), my first thought (beyond, “Are people going to survive the immediate event?”) is, “Are people and communities equipped to survive the aftermath of the event”; or “Are people equipped to survive a long-term situation” such as an extended drought; a crop failure in a major food-producing region.
Then the focus becomes wider, and we start to be able to take charge of the economy in a deeper sense (people meeting people’s needs), as opposed to just looking at the Dow Jones average in the paper each day, and feeling secure or not according to what that number is.
My economy questions include, What are the local food-growing sources? Is there a good mix of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and calorie crops grown locally? Do at least some of my neighbors share my interest in this?
And transportation: If petroleum-based transportation is disrupted, what are our options for getting our needs met by human-powered, sail-powered, or other non-automotive transport?
Same question for home energy supply: How do we power our homes, or comfortably do without power?
A key component of the economic viability of a place is the soil. Those of us in wealthy industrialized nations forget this (or never learn it in the first place), but it’s still true, and the truth will become more apparent in the event of disruptions to global markets and long-distance supply lines. A question that should concern us all is, “If we had to grow food in our community, would we be able to? Has the soil been depleted by landscaping practices that emphasize neatness over health and functionality? Is there a decent amount of native tree, plant, insect life?”
Another question: How is the skills base of my neighborhood, my local area? Do we have carpentry skills, does someone know how to weld, do we have people who know how to make and mend clothes, is there an herbalist, and so on. I find that NextDoor is a great app for informally getting a “skills snapshot” of my community. One could also go door to door visiting people, or take a survey at the neighborhood meeting. I have not yet done a full-on skills inventory of my community, but I think it’d be an extremely useful and possibly life-saving undertaking for us all.
The ultimate most important question is, How well can my neighbors and I cooperate to get our needs met no matter what comes? That, to me, is the real essence of the economy.
The Real Economy (Wikipedia definition): “The real economy concerns the flow of goods and services (like oil, bread and labor hours), compared with the monetary sector…”
And the following economic topic merits its own post, but for now, I offer you one article about the concept of a community currency. Yes, communities can issue their own currency (it’s been done successfully in Austin TX and many other places), and it’s a great way for local people to support each other’s livelihood (and, in the event of systemic shutdowns from natural disasters and the like, continue to have a thriving local economy). Check out this article from treehugger.com: How To Print Your Own Money, Build Community, and Not Get Arrested by the Feds.
How I Am Investing To Save the Planet, by Laura Oldanie (whose Triple Bottom Line Financial Independence blog is among the permalinks in my sidebar). From being a part owner in a local farm to investing in a business bond fund for veteran-owned and Main Street businesses, Laura shares many ways to earn a solid return on your money while benefiting people and the planet.