Lessons On Capitalism From An Unlikely Source

When I lead groups of people on journeys to Peru, Guatemala, and Ecuador we always learn a great deal from indigenous people about the power of our relationships with nature and about our own ability to shapeshift. Participants these days are especially struck by the economics of the local marketplaces as they contrast to our current destructive system of capitalism. I know that some of you will share such experiences in the upcoming trips to indigenous teachers in Peru in December 2014 and the Mayan lands of Central America in January 2015.

I have been involved with indigenous people in these countries since the late 1960’s, and they never fail to give me – and the other trip participants – hope for the future of our species.

Since the 1970s the United States has advocated a type of capitalism that I call “predatory capitalism;” it is an aberration and an abject failure. When governmental policies cleared the way for major businesses to carve out monopolies and to avoid regulation, the notion of a “free market” became an illusion.

Capitalism as an economic concept has been around for about four centuries. While I am not convinced that it is the best system or one we should stick with, I do believe it will continue to predominate for the next several decades. I also believe that during that time we need to change it radically. Many people think that our current form of capitalism, which emphasizes huge corporations that are driven by the single goal of maximizing profits regardless of social and environmental costs, is the only model. That simply is not true.

There is another way, and we’re seeing it in practice all over the world. Local markets throughout parts of Latin America, Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and increasingly in farmers’ markets in Europe and the United States demonstrate vibrant alternatives to the predatory form. They emphasize local goods and services and, although some of the trading is done through bartering, they are an ancient time-tested form of capitalism where community is valued over materialistic excess.

This alternative creates space for members of the community to each produce and create something the rest of the community wants; as needs are fulfilled reasonable profits are also generated. In addition, a great deal of community interaction takes place; people exchange information and have fun communicating with each other. Increasingly, people in the United States and Europe and the rest the world are coming to understand the eloquence and efficiency of such markets.

As we in the US and the rest of the world join the Consciousness Revolution, we can shift away from practices that no longer work for the majority to other economic structures that will provide a future our grandchildren will want to inherit. Current prevalent forms of politics and economics must shift. We need to insist – through our power as consumers – that corporations set a goal of serving the public interest, instead of maximizing profits for a handful of extremely wealthy people. To begin with, you and I can change the way our communities conduct business; we can encourage truly “free market” local systems.

Big corporations and governments out to make the largest profits possible oppose such grass roots capitalism because it takes money out of their pockets and puts it back into local communities. Our message will be heard loud and clear when we speak with our purchasing power. Even Big Business and Big Government will have to change – or go the way of the dinosaurs. Let’s change the predatory capitalism of our current system by following the compassionate and community-oriented economic systems of indigenous people throughout the world.

Limited space still available! I invite you to join me and an amazing group of fellow travelers on journeys to indigenous teachers in Peru in December 2014 and the Mayan lands of Central America in January 2015. Please sign up now; space is limited.

About John Perkins

John is a founder and board member of Dream Change & The Pachamama Alliance, non-profit organizations devoted to establishing a world future generations will want to inherit & the author of the NY Times bestseller, Confessions Of An Economic Hitman.

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