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Framework for sustainable economies in the 21st Century

Toward a framework for sustainable economies
Toward a framework for sustainable economies
James George

As a continuing theme toward building a 21st Century “caliphate” where the word describes a free world without walls, this article discusses another part of the topic that is the basic recipe itself. Sustainable economies are like a robust menu of possibilities that reflect a diverse world of different cultures and people coming to grips with common ingredients for peaceful coexistence. Our dishes may taste and appear differently, varying by local ingredients, but all of them will sustain people in an environment of self respect, human dignity, equality and freedom.

The free world caliphate is not Islamic nor is it ruled by one political leader. The word caliphate is used to connote boundaries for people that are self determined and governed by free people in democratic societies. Many nation states are already defined and determined with respect to boundaries while others are still fluid and evolving.

Islamic State would have it that their caliphate be non pluralistic and based on hostile and obsolete values that are inhospitable and unsustainable in a free world. Here, we are designing a free and sustainable world that is from a collective of global citizens who share a common desire for peace and the pursuit of prosperity in a manner that optimizes return on natural resources without damaging water, air, and the land on which we depend.

“Nature doesn't make catastrophes; it moves with an organic determination. Disasters are a human invention, wholly manufactured by our unwillingness to acknowledge nature's dominion. When we begin to achieve cooperation and harmony with our world, disasters will diminish dramatically in scope. Stop chasing our other invention, money, and a tsunami is just a big wave, and earthquakes our mother turning in her bed. When we get in our own way by building and living badly, we put ourselves in jeopardy. It's not nature to blame.”

Michael Krupnick

In a paper that Dr. James Rodger and I wrote for a conference on Sustainable Economics a couple of years ago, we described lessons from initial research that pointed to understanding three ideas.

“Sustainable Economies and Energy Strategy

By James A. George and James A. Rodger © 2012 All Rights Reserved

Abstract—In an environment of global recession and sub performing economies, nations are searching for economic development strategies. The notion of ever-expanding economies from the capitalist paradigm is negated by such factors as:

  • 8 billion global inhabitants
  • Global air pollution causing global warming toward planet extinction
  • Polluted water and insufficient supply to support and sustain populations
  • Dependence on nonrenewable fossil fuels
  • Unmitigated risk in the use of nuclear power

Our aim is pursuing a sustainable economic model that preserves positive dynamics of capitalism while improving collaboration between government and industry to engineer economic performance from optimizing return on national, regional, and local resources. This new work is based on applying Smart Data, Enterprise Performance Optimization Strategy ©2010 James A. George and James A. Rodger, Wiley Publishing. Optimizing return on resources begins at the lowest level of people representation and political leadership that are encouraged to address prescriptive tasks including:

  1. Inventory resources
  2. Assess population size and demographics to resources
  3. Assess economic performance as measured by income, housing, health care, transportation, food, water, education, and communications
  4. Define minimally acceptable good life as a baseline
  5. Determine requirements for upward mobility in the context of a mixed free-market economy
  6. Determine the adequacy of employers to population
  7. Determine the adequacy of local economic production including investment for addressing social and security revenue requirements.
  8. Determine the optimal energy mix to sustain inhabitants.

We demonstrated the application of collaborative government and private enterprise initiatives toward developing a sustainable energy strategy and policy. Marcellus shale mining is presented as a case example because one author lives in the region where this is a developing asset and is familiar with the instance.

When people use the term “sustainable” and “sustainability economics” our research indicates that there is significant variation in interpretation. The pioneers in addressing this subject are from the environmental and energy sector, however to make the topic most vividly relevant, we focus on the business and economy application in the context of overarching theories that address planet Earth as a system. Explored here are theories that are rooted in local people addressing local and regional needs and opportunities. The theories and concepts are scalable to addressing the global economic environment. Yet, to make the theories and their application actionable in practical terms, the paper demonstrates immediate relevance to optimizing return on national resources with direct impact on improving the quality of life for all citizens.


First, it is important to understand the direction of our diligence in studying the subject in preparation for developing our theory and example.

As a research team, Dr. James A. Rodger tackled the academic research performed in sustainable economics. James A. George researched problems with capitalism and alternative models. Our due diligence is represented in two adjunct papers: “Theoretical background for sustainability economics via Progressive Utilization Theory (PROUT),” James A. Rodger, PhD., © 2012 All Rights Reserved and “Research and Analysis of Progressive Utilization Theory,” James A. George © 2012 All Rights Reserved.

“Progressive Utilization Theory (PROUT)” was selected as a baseline alternative to capitalism. “Sustainability economics” has evolved to a degree of maturity and is considered as a minimum starting point for economics in the context of humanity optimizing existence on planet Earth. “Gaia theory” is considered as a way to understand operative ecology and environment in a conceptual manner. In addition, our research includes significant contributions from John Ikerd, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural & Applied Economics, University of Missouri Columbia College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

Here is the approach taken for analysis and subsequent integration of ideas into a cohesive story about sustainable economics leading to energy strategy for the purpose of providing an actionable model for communities to adopt throughout the world.

  1. Trouble with capitalism
  2. Promise from Progressive Utilization Theory
  3. Vigilance and perspective from Gaia Theory
  4. The best from capitalism
  5. Synthesis
  6. Energy strategy

Here is an excerpt from “The Trouble with Capitalism”:

"Defenestration may not be necessary or desirable as there may be assets worth preserving in the existing systems. The intention is to focus on economy framework and to avoid debating the merit of specific governmental forms as that is for a different discussion. However, starting over is always an option when systems fail.

As referenced in Smart Data, Enterprise Performance Optimization Strategy © 2010 James A, George and James A. Rodger, making changes in systems should begin by considering capacity for change and improvement. That means, it is possible to embark upon desired changes and improvements without the resources to complete the process. One result is producing conditions that are far worse than not having made any changes.

The context for this analysis is from the perspective of a citizen living within the American system as a member of the larger “Planet Earth” community. As large and influential as America may be, it is still a microcosm.

Here is the problem in a nutshell and it begins with the fundamental premise:

  • Capitalism is based on the notion of individuals pursuing ever-expanding market opportunities driven by population growth and endless development.
  • Capitalism is based on private ownership and individual freedom with minimal governance as the belief is that markets are self-correcting.

First, the planet and nation states and all of their divisions of civil (and tribal) authority have limited resources to support populations. People are not necessarily located in the best places to optimize resources. People are consuming and producing waste such that inhabitation is stressing the limit of the planet to sustain them. Therefore, the economic model based on continuous expansion and development is flawed.

Second, private ownership, individual freedom, self-determination and self-reliance are all good qualities and values; though as in the case with everything there is a need for laws and regulations to guide behavior in society.

In the American instance, citizens enjoy the right and privilege to live in a free nation. The Constitution and American government system provide the environment in which citizen entrepreneurs and workers may flourish and enjoy a good life with equal opportunity and liberty. Citizens and corporations pay for government operations that ensure national security through both military defense and economic security through policies, laws, and regulations.

Capitalism in its purest state is not patriotic nor is it socially responsible as that is an individual choice by citizens and corporations who are profit-driven. Government is needed to mitigate the unbridled pursuit of capitalism as profit takers are not necessarily future makers. In fact, short term interests may cause damage for future generations.

Therefore, governments, elected officials and most importantly citizens must understand that the form of economy they chose and how they decide to regulate it is a long-term proposition with a higher order of social responsibility than the present. That is why capitalism and free enterprise are mechanisms employed by people to do work and are not an end state.

Governments that align too closely with capitalism without constraints are by design not being responsible to the planet and to humanity."

George and Rodger

Dr. Rodger is a professor at Indiana University PA.

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