Stocks dive. Europe’s banks weaken. (Time to be optimistic.)

by Bruce Kasanoff on September 22, 2011

Banks have record amounts of cash, but they won’t lend.

Companies have record amounts of cash, but they won’t hire.

Both have circled their wagons, and are protecting… whom? Certainly not employees, many of whom are now on the streets after years of loyal service. Certainly not customers, with whom these institutions play a zero-sum game in which only one side can win.

I hate the suffering that so many people are experiencing, but I am thrilled to witness the last moments of an economic system that has outlived its usefulness.

Our mass production economy is all but dead. We just haven’t buried it yet. What’s worse, our politicians and bankers haven’t yet realized the system will never come back. Propping it up is like endorsing as policy a goofy movie in which teenagers carry around a dead body to parties and classes.

What we need is an economy based on information, a personal economy in which people value most highly the solutions and services that are tailored to their needs. In such an economy, we don’t endlessly need to consume physical goods; people will pay for information, for customized services, and for special experiences.

Once you realize that our whole economic system is being replaced with a new one, things don’t look so bad. Don’t get me wrong – my stomach lurches when the market plunges 400 points – but it doesn’t feel like the end of the world. It feels like a new, better beginning.

I’m hopeful that we are headed towards an economy built on a foundation of common sense, logic, compassion and loyalty.

Common sense, for reasons I have explained previously in my Common Sensor post.

Logic, because we will have much better access to actual data about our world and how it works.

Compassion, because when companies and governments recognize that they add value by addressing the unique needs of individuals, they must learn to accomodate what each person needs.

Loyalty, because throwing employees and customers overboard in a crisis is not a sound long-term strategy. Contrary to what some think, people remember the institutions that forced them to spend 18, 24 or more months without income.

It’s understandable to be worried. But there’s also good reason to be optimistic.

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