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Think About It — The Power of Money and Markets


Our economy impacts people and communities in both positive and negative ways. On the upside, some rural Americans enjoy good jobs, decent benefits and natural areas. However, low-wage jobs, damaged land and waterways, forgotten cultural traditions and low access to services are real downsides in many rural communities. While some eastern Kentucky counties enjoy the benefits of a thriving economy, most all of them are dealing with the downsides.


In his book The Soul of Capitalism, William Greider argues that, although America’s economy is the most powerful, wealth-creating engine in history, today's capitalism has gotten out of control. He claims that it has eroded family life, harmed the environment and damaged our communities. Fortunately, he believes that modern capitalism doesn’t have to be this way. We can make money, have healthy communities and help people meet their basic needs.


While there are no easy answers, Greider believes small changes to our economy can create large benefits. Profit and quality of life do not have to be mutually exclusive. Our economic system can be improved by ordinary people. We can have an economic system that supports a meaningful and high-quality way of life while still building individual and community wealth.


Greider points to possibilities that already exist for improving the way our economy works such as:
• worker-owned businesses;
• pension funds investing in companies with good social, environmental and business practices; and
• profitable small businesses that focus on high-value products and services.


In Kentucky and all over rural America, small business people, farmers, community leaders and engaged citizens are proving Greider right. But much work remains if we are to transform capitalism into a strong force for making eastern Kentucky’s communities more sustainable.


Some questions to think about.
• What would need to change in eastern Kentucky today to create more and better jobs?
• What examples do you know of today where people in eastern Kentucky are making this vision a reality?
• How can we make small businesses in eastern Kentucky more profitable so they can produce the wages, benefits and goods that improve our communities?


These are big questions that require bold solutions. MACED agrees that if changes are to be made, people in our communities are the ones who must make them happen. We are interested in what you think. Email us at info@maced.org if you have any answers to these questions or thoughts on this issue.


To learn more about these ideas, read William Greider, The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy (Simon & Schuster, 2003).