Watching a documentary about Wendell Berry (Look and See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry, available on Netflix), I heard him use a phrase that struck me: "a money economy."
The term almost seems redundant. What other kind of economy is there? When we talk about "the economy," of course we are talking about money and wealth. The word economy comes from the Greek words oikos (house) and nomos (law). So economy means the rule of the house, or how we do things.
Berry's phrase helped me see that there can be many kinds of economies. Relationship economy, reputation economy, moral economy, friendship economy, intellectual economy, compassion economy...
So, which economies do I pay attention to? In which economies am I investing? Am I learning about the economies that really matter?
In our society, we know which economy really matters. Economists believe that every resource will be used in whatever way will produce the most profit. So, you won't find a vegetable garden along the street in Manhattan...or virtually any other city. That prime real estate can make more money with retail, office, or housing. The pressures of the market force the property to be used for more lucrative purposes. If not now, some day that property will be used to make money--as opposed to food.
(And why would anyone grow food if not to make money. I don't know. . . maybe to eat.)
And that's the way we think. We just assume that money is everything.
Follow the money.
Go and make money.
Live long and prosper.
Win the lottery.
What would our world be like if we paid more attention to other economies? How would I be different if I cared about the economies that really matter?