Roots to Renewal

Episode Ten: John Fullerton on Regenerative Economics

April 11, 2022 Hawthorne Valley Season 1 Episode 10
Episode Ten: John Fullerton on Regenerative Economics
Roots to Renewal
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Roots to Renewal
Episode Ten: John Fullerton on Regenerative Economics
Apr 11, 2022 Season 1 Episode 10
Hawthorne Valley

Sponsored by Tierra Farm; Music by Aaron Dessner

We are happy to be back after a short hiatus for a conversation with John Fullerton, founder of the Connecticut-based Capital Institute, a think-and-do tank with a mission to reimagine our economic and financial systems to promote transformation to a more just and regenerative world. 

An unconventional economist, impact investor, writer, and philosopher, John is the architect of Regenerative Economics, first conceived in his 2015 booklet, “Regenerative Capitalism: How Universal Patterns and Principles will Shape the New Economy.” He and our podcast host Martin Ping – Hawthorne Valley’s executive director – sat down in the midst of John’s newly launched 8-week course, “Introduction to Regenerative Economics: New Ways of Thinking, Seeing, Being and Managing for the 21st Century,” of which Martin is part of the first cohort. The aim of the course is to provide a living systems approach to redesigning our economy so that long-term prosperity, human dignity, social equity, and planetary wellness can be viably sustained throughout the world. 

Let’s listen in as John and Martin explore the concept of regenerative economics as an alternative way forward, and the urgent need to rethink an economy based on exponential growth as the source of our prosperity – the consequences of which are being felt in unprecedented ways.

Visit the Capital Institute's website.
Donate to Hawthorne Valley.

Thanks for listening to Hawthorne Valley’s Roots to Renewal podcast. We are an association comprised of a variety of interconnected initiatives that work collectively to meet our mission. You can learn more about our work by visiting our website at hawthornevalley.org.

Hawthorne Valley is a registered 501c3 nonprofit organization, and we rely on the generosity of people like you to make our work a reality. Please consider making a donation to support us today. If you’d like to help us in other ways, please help us spread the word about this podcast by sharing it with your friends, and leaving us a rating and review.


If you'd like to follow the goings-on at the farm and our initiatives, follow us on Instagram!

Show Notes Transcript

Sponsored by Tierra Farm; Music by Aaron Dessner

We are happy to be back after a short hiatus for a conversation with John Fullerton, founder of the Connecticut-based Capital Institute, a think-and-do tank with a mission to reimagine our economic and financial systems to promote transformation to a more just and regenerative world. 

An unconventional economist, impact investor, writer, and philosopher, John is the architect of Regenerative Economics, first conceived in his 2015 booklet, “Regenerative Capitalism: How Universal Patterns and Principles will Shape the New Economy.” He and our podcast host Martin Ping – Hawthorne Valley’s executive director – sat down in the midst of John’s newly launched 8-week course, “Introduction to Regenerative Economics: New Ways of Thinking, Seeing, Being and Managing for the 21st Century,” of which Martin is part of the first cohort. The aim of the course is to provide a living systems approach to redesigning our economy so that long-term prosperity, human dignity, social equity, and planetary wellness can be viably sustained throughout the world. 

Let’s listen in as John and Martin explore the concept of regenerative economics as an alternative way forward, and the urgent need to rethink an economy based on exponential growth as the source of our prosperity – the consequences of which are being felt in unprecedented ways.

Visit the Capital Institute's website.
Donate to Hawthorne Valley.

Thanks for listening to Hawthorne Valley’s Roots to Renewal podcast. We are an association comprised of a variety of interconnected initiatives that work collectively to meet our mission. You can learn more about our work by visiting our website at hawthornevalley.org.

Hawthorne Valley is a registered 501c3 nonprofit organization, and we rely on the generosity of people like you to make our work a reality. Please consider making a donation to support us today. If you’d like to help us in other ways, please help us spread the word about this podcast by sharing it with your friends, and leaving us a rating and review.


If you'd like to follow the goings-on at the farm and our initiatives, follow us on Instagram!

Heather Gibbons (00:09):

Welcome back to Hawthorne Valley's 50th anniversary podcast, Roots to Renewal. I'm Heather Gibbons, Hawthorne, Valley's director of marketing and communications. We started Roots to Renewal, to share Hawthorne Valley's story, and engage in conversation with friends from around the world who dedicate their lives to meeting the ecological, social, and spiritual needs of our time. We are thankful for the generous support of Tierra Farm, a family owned environmentally conscious manufacturer and distributor of organic dried fruits and nuts without whom this podcast would not be possible. Learn more at tierrafarm.org.

Heather Gibbons (00:47):

We are happy to be back after a short hiatus for a conversation with John Fullerton, founder of the Connecticut based Capital Institute, a think-and-do tank with a mission to reimagine our economic and financial systems to promote transformation to a more just and regenerative world. An unconventional economist, impact investor, writer, and philosopher, John is the architect of regenerative economics. First conceived in his 2015 booklet “Regenerative Capitalism: How Universal Patterns and Principles will Shape the New Economy.” He and our podcast host Martin Ping - Hawthorne Valley's executive director - sat down in the midst of John's newly launched eight-week course "Introduction to Regenerative Economics: New Ways of Thinking, Seeing, Being, and Managing for the 21st Century," of which Martin is part of the first cohort. The aim of the course is to provide a living systems approach to redesigning our economy so that long-term prosperity, human dignity, social equity, and planetary wellness can be viably sustained throughout the world. Let's listen in as John and Martin explore the concept of regenerative economics as an alternative way forward, and the urgent need to rethink an economy based on exponential growth as the source of our prosperity - the consequences of which are being felt in unprecedented ways.

Martin Ping (02:11):

Good afternoon, John. It is really so kind of you to make time in your schedule, especially now, as I know you have just launched this eight week course on regenerative capitalism. And I know that because I'm participating in the course - full disclosure, I'm really, really excited that we get to have a conversation now, and I hope that many of the elements that are coming out in the course will, come out in our conversation today. And I think just for the benefit of our listeners, it would be good to start by just allowing them to get to know you a little bit and hear where your background is from. And some of the key points that highlight your journey from your successful career with JP Morgan, to your decision to leave that and, eventually found the Capital Institute.

John Fullerton (03:12):

Well, hi Martin, thanks so much for inviting me on your podcast. As you mentioned, I did work on Wall Street for nearly 20 years, right out of college. I worked for a firm called JP Morgan, but that firm doesn't exist anymore. It had a very different culture than the modern version of JP Morgan. And, I left in 2001 after the merger with Chase, really to kind of respond to an itch that I had been feeling for years. And if you had asked me what I was gonna do next, then I would've honestly told you I had no idea. I then experienced 9-11 up close and personal. The first day I went back into the city to think about what I was gonna do next. And then that pushed me into a very kind of deep introspective period that I often referred to as my deep think. It was sort of reconnecting with my soul, having worked on Wall Street for 20 years, I became obsessed with a burning question, which was how to imagine an economy that wouldn't destroy the planet. And since then the inequality crisis has exploded out of control. And so it's now kind of the dual question of how to rethink our economic system in a way that is more equitable and doesn't destroy the planet.

Martin Ping (04:23):

You know, that we're doing this podcast for our 50th anniversary at Hawthorne Valley. And, And it's

John Fullerton (04:32):

Interesting anniversary date.

Martin Ping (04:34):

Exactly because it was 50th anniversary of Limits to Growth as well, which was, uh, commissioned by the Club of Rome. And you're a member of the Club of Rome. Is that not true?

John Fullerton (04:44):

I am.

Martin Ping (04:46):

And, and what does that, entail,

John Fullerton (04:49):

Uh, other than the dues?

Martin Ping (04:51):

<laugh>,

John Fullerton (04:53):

Um, you know, it's a, a wonderful group of extremely smart, thoughtful people who, all in their own ways are wrestling with the challenge of a fair and equitable and sustainable society. But, as you said, The Club of Rome, I can't articulate the history accurately, but it, it was created by a group who were asking some of these big questions, but really kind of, uh, got on the map with the publication of Limits to Growth. That was a book written as a report to the Club of Rome. That initial book was sort of the clarion and call for, if you just play out the global economy and the, the trends in population to it's, you know, over a 5,000 year time span, what would happen. And, it wasn't actually prediction. It was just a scenario analysis by today's standards, very rudimentary system science, it remarkably accurately predicted a lot of the things that have begun to play out in the last five, 10 years.

John Fullerton (06:02):

The short version of that was simply exponential growth of the material throughput, the metabolism of the economy, uh, exponential growth on a finite planet works until it doesn't work. And we happen to live at a time where it no longer works, but that's a, that's a big rethink when you remember that our entire economic system is predicated on the assumption that exponential growth is the source of our prosperity. The thing that has surprised me the most is how difficult it is to elicit a response from those that are deep in the system, to the simple observation, that exponential growth on a finite planet doesn't work, meaning it doesn't work, not like an ethical question or an ideological question, but a question of physics, you know, the actual physics don't work. The challenge is not to explain the physics. The challenge is to figure out how to communicate this in a way that people see not only the problem in this light, but then can see a way to an alternative way forward

Martin Ping (07:18):

Habit is a strong, long force in our lives. And we have habitual thinking, that's not the entire human, you know, biography, but certainly for generations coming out of the age of enlightenment and this, you know, what has really moved towards a much more reductive way of knowing the world sometimes feels to me like, we're the proverbial frog in the pot. We, how do we move from a more linear, reductive, rational way of knowing the world into a more, uh, holistic something that's just patterned or based on life?

John Fullerton (08:01):

You mentioned this reductive thinking, and I certainly never even considered the distinction between reductive thinking and holistic thinking. In fact, I don't think I knew what holistic thinking meant until I started down this journey. So I think it's probably fair to say that most people that work in high finance, where I came from would either have not thought about that, or even be aware that it was something to think about, um, because finance, you know, if anything is purely analytical or highly analytical and reductive. And, you know, as you point out that in the history of humanity, that's really all only, you know, since the, you know, what we call the modern era has been defined by the scientific method, which we equate with reduction in reductionist thinking. But that in itself is a, is a flaw there. There's, there's such a thing as holistic science, and it's not that reductionist thinking is wrong.

John Fullerton (09:03):

Um, I'll, I'll draw on our mutual friend and teacher, Wes Jackson, who likes to say there's nothing wrong with the reductionist method so long as you don't confuse the method with the way the world actually works. Literally ever since Decartes, we've associated logical reductive process with the scientific method, that's created all kinds of advances in great progress, but also a whole bunch of associated unintended consequences. I imagine there's some folks that work in agriculture who know this better than anyone in your audience, but, you know, the green revolution was a brilliant solution to the problem of poverty, except that it was a reduction, a reductive response to a problem that created bigger problems than the solution that than the problem was intended to solve mm-hmm <affirmative>. And, and in many ways, climate change is another example of that, you know, we didn't understand the carbon cycle when we decided to start burning all this fossil fuels.

John Fullerton (10:04):

Um, and we certainly didn't understand the, the linkage, the interconnection between, um, uh, taking carbon that was buried underground and suddenly put it in the atmosphere and what that do to the whole system. Uh, but we got great cheap, free cheap energy that we, we solved all kinds of problems with like the need for quote horsepower. Um, so we're, we're, we're in the midst of, you know, re relearning how to think. And of course the irony, the tragedy, the, um, I dunno what to call it other than a tragedy is that we actually used to think this way, all indigenous cultures inherently think this way mm-hmm, <affirmative>, um, Eastern cultures used to think this way much more than they do now, particularly Neo Confucianism. And so we, Western thinkers have won the battle for how to think and polluted the world's minds with purely reductionist thinking at the expense of being able to see the whole, I, I think we live in a moment that the world is forcing us expand our ability to think, and to see, and to manage things in a more holistic way. And, and nowhere is that more profoundly important than in our economy and the financial system that drives it because that's become the dominant aspect of our modern culture, whether we like it or not.

Martin Ping (11:39):

Right. And that's, uh, where your response comes in and we all have, responsibility in this. And I'm glad that your ability is to respond in the way that you have, which is by, founding the Capital Institute as a research engine and a think and do tank. And, uh, maybe you could say a little bit about the founding of the Capital Institute, and then I really wanna get to your, your, uh, whitepaper that you wrote in 2015, but, okay,

John Fullerton (12:12):

Well, so the Capital Institute was born out of the ashes of the financial crisis, um, in 2010 formally. Um, but it was really the manifestation of, of the question that was that I was carrying for years before that, which was this sort of how to rethink our economy, I was having these conversations with my friends, from my old world, and, you know, they would be scratching their head and then the financial crisis hit, which really was not a crisis of the ecological crisis that we are now experiencing. It was really a, financial, uh, it was, it was first and foremost, a financial crisis, not an economic or ecological crisis, but of course the financial crisis triggered an economic crisis, cuz they're all connected, but suddenly all my friends said, Hey you're not crazy after all <laugh>. Uh, so I, I suppose the truth is that gave me the confidence to put out the shingle and say, this is a question. This is a space and we need a platform to engage around this question. Um, but to me, the question began as exponential growth on a finite planet.

Martin Ping (13:30):

One of the pieces that, uh, came out of your work in 2015, was your white paper, "Regenerative Capitalism, How Universal Principles and Patterns will Shape our Economy" I'm really struck by the, um, eight principles that together are key to this idea of having a more regenerative economy.

John Fullerton (13:57):

The, the essence of the idea of regenerative economics is that, uh, regeneration is the process that all living systems demonstrate. So our bodies regenerate, forests regenerate. Most of the work around rethinking economics could be put in the category of fixing what's wrong with economics. And I, I use the, the metaphor of, you know, the astronomers who used to have the belief that the earth was the center of the universe. And if you believe that all the planets are rotating around the earth and you watch they wobble. And so the astronomers for over a thousand years developed theories to explain the wobbles of the rotations of the planets around the earth, but it didn't occur to them that the earth is not the center of the universe. And it took Copernicus to come along and say, I think the sun is at the center and the, and the earth is rotating around the sun along with other planets.

John Fullerton (15:08):

And, and that was, you know, a very, challenging you know, I mean, Copernicus of saved that until he was almost almost on his deathbed because he knew it would be such a threat to the church because the church's doctrine required that the earth was at the center. And then the church had this special relationship with God. And so it, it kind of the whole belief system of the medieval era was gonna be called into question. And, and I think a similar thing is happening now. Most of the challenges to economics are coming out of ideological divisions. So you have the free market crowd saying, we need less government regulation and you have the, uh, Keynesian or socialist or social democracy crowds saying, you know, the markets are too violent and rough and tumble. We need a softer, gentler. And so there's this sort of, you know, let's just call it political left versus right argument about how to tame the economy and make it more, make it more resilient.

John Fullerton (16:15):

Um, uh, and now add to that, you know, how do we deal with climate change? But all of these are essentially patches to the fundamental, uh, economic foundation, which in my research, I was shocked to discover neoclassical economics, which is the, you know, is the economics you learn when you go to college. And if you do a degree, in economics or, or a PhD in economics, neoclassical economics is the foundation. And the little sort of secret truth is that classical economics is built on a Newtonian physics foundation. So there's, there's this literal, belief that just as there are laws of physics and by the way, Newtonian physics, meaning simple cause and effect - not everything's connected to everything which came with quantum physics - and then the neoclassical economists, um, back before the turn of the century, literally just transposed assumptions from Newtonian physics and assumed that they would apply to some yet to be made up laws of economics.

John Fullerton (17:33):

And so the foundation of neoclassical economics, whether you come from a neoliberal kind of free market orientation, or a more social democracy socialist communal orientation, um, I believe is, is built on a foundation that has to be fundamentally rethought and upgraded to our modern scientific understanding of how the world actually works, which is as a living system. Um, and so, you know, without getting into the eight principles, the, the big idea here is simply that we know we know how living systems work. We know that there are patterns and principles that can be used to describe them. And my premise is that if the human economy is going to be a healthy economy that, sustains itself over the long run and is reason equitable or equitable enough to ensure that it continues without triggering revolutions and violence and the kinds of things we're seeing today.

John Fullerton (18:38):

And so that it doesn't break the planet within which it's embedded, why wouldn't it need to behave and be structured and designed like all other living systems? So the eight principles are just one person's effort to describe how living systems work in the context of a human economy. Um, and, and we could spend hours talking about all eight of those, but the big idea is simply we need to use life as the design principle, rather than Newtonian physics as a design principle, which gets back to the mechanistic versus holistic approach. Again, Newtonian physics is, you know, literally assumes that, you know, it's, a machine metaphor that there's, you know, life is a machine and the parts can be managed and manipulated. Whereas, uh, biology, ecology is grounded on an understanding that that life is a living system.

Martin Ping (19:39):

Yeah. And that, um, makes me think of, you know, where we're at today with technology and the idea that for some that, you know, technology is going to save us one way or the other from all of our past technologies that have created the unintended consequences that you've spoken about. Uh, and, even maybe so much as go so far as make us imortal, mm-hmm, <affirmative> by, by, you know, transhumanism. And, and it seems to me like almost, you know, the, the really taking that extending what you do has said to its its most I don't know, I'll put a judgment on it by saying like its most dangerous outcome, which the most dehumanizing outcome, which is to say we're moving further away from even considering the human being as a living system and then patterning our other systems off of that and going, making humans more like machines it's really odd.

Martin Ping (20:38):

I know Thomas Barry was a, um, he had a great influence on my early life and, and I know he was a, a person you've also read. And I remember him, you know, speaking about moving into the ecozoic, I've heard others like Nickanor Perlas express concern that we're might choose to technozoic and it seems like we're actually standing at that juncture of, do we, do we go further into reductive mechanistic, subnature of, of technology and machines or do we look to nature and life as the, as the pattern in guiding principle that help us design systems that will ultimately work.

John Fullerton (21:19):

Hmm. First of all, I, I I'm, I'm just about done with Jeremy Lent's new book, The Web of Meaning, and he does a really a brilliant job at dealing with this exact issue. So I highly recommend people to read that book it's you know, 400 odd pages and another a hundred pages of footnotes it's beautifully researched. Um, and it's the sequel to his other book, The Patterning Instinct, which is also, um, really a must read, but

Martin Ping (21:46):

I'm, I'm in the middle of a, a patterning instinct I have. And I have the next one as I'm just gonna read them both.

John Fullerton (21:53):

Yeah, no

Martin Ping (21:54):

Based, based on your recommendation,

John Fullerton (21:55):

Actually, what he addresses very much head on is this idea of, you know, the singularity. And as you said, that the technologists who are seeing humans as a machine, you know, right at the time when people like me are arguing, we need to see humans as living systems that they are, and the economy behaving as a living system, we have technologists trying to go the opposite direction and frankly, they're winning, right? I mean, that's what's happening, but Jeremy does a beautiful job of explaining why they're wrong. And I would, I wouldn't be able to do do justice to it, but in a, in a very analytical way, you're drawing on, uh, really some of the best, neuroscience research that exists. It, it's just simply untrue that the human brain behaves like a computer. Mm. Uh, and it's, it's, uh, it relates to the difference between complexity and what's complicated.

John Fullerton (22:58):

Um, and, and so, um, you know, a machine is complicated and, um, a bicycle is complicated, but there's a solution to the best design for bicycle. And if you work on that challenge, you end up with a design of what looks like a bicycle. We started out, there was a really big wheel in the front, a little wheel in the back, but it turns out it's better to have both wheels the same size. That's a, that's a you know, a reductive process gets us to that solution. And so now there is a best design for a bicycle. There's a best design for a rocket ship. There's a best design for putting the man on the moon. Um, but there's no best design for managing a family or managing our own health. Your health is very different than my health. Your gut biome is totally different than my gut biome.

John Fullerton (23:49):

And our health is a function of the interaction of our gut biome with our genes and all of our other stuff that I couldn't even begin to explain. Um, and, so what, what what's complex is what's new for humans to get their heads around and learn how to not even manage. I don't, I don't think you can accurately say you manage complexity. You kind of work with complexity. Um, some people say you dance with complexity. I think it's self-evident that the human economy is complex, not complicated, but we treat it as if it's complicated. So we, we have, you know, a central bank with one big policy tool, basically up and raising and lowering interest rates, too much inflation raise interest rates, too much unemployment, lower interest rates as if it's a machine, but the actual manifestation of what happens to communities, to families, to businesses, um, when you crank up or crank down interest rates is enormously complex and, and unmanageable with that simple tool.

John Fullerton (24:55):

Um, and yet that that's derived from our neoclassical framework, uh, which, which assumes, which is partly true. The thing about Newtonian physics, it's not that it's wrong us, it's just that it's partially right. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. And so we have a, we have a way of managing our economies and managing our businesses, like the whole maximize shareholder value. You can't say that that's wrong, it's partially right. But it doesn't account for the complexity of how an enterprise interacts with human society and, uh, and the non-human world around it. Yeah. So the punch line is we need to learn to manage complexity and we're terrible at it. And we don't even realize that it's different than what's complicated and all the techno people who, who are envisioning, you know, the singularity and humans becoming more like machines are, are seeing the world through the lens of complicated, not complexity.

Martin Ping (25:55):

I often think of Hawthorne Valley as a complex ecosystem of, you know, associated activities. And it's often hard for people to understand how does it actually all work and how, what are the relationships and it's the, you know, in a way it's all of the in between spaces and the, the connective tissue and the relationships that's, that is actually the most interesting. And I think in your description, you hit, you know, most of the eight principles of in right relationship viewing, uh, wealth holistically, this idea of edge effect, abundance, it's all so interesting. And one can go take a walk in a forest and experience complexity as a, you know, a real working, uh, system that's just so beautifully expressed and somebody else could walk in the forest and see board feet of lumber,

John Fullerton (26:49):

See trees. Yeah. Well, and there's one other principle I will, I will mention, um, because it's so relevant to the inequality crisis. The, and again, these are not like principles John made up. These are principles that I wrote after studying living systems. And so they're, they're one person's way to, and again, reductionist process here at work, reduce something that is way more complex than can be described in linear language. English is a linear language, and that can be described in eight principles, much less 18 principles, but I did the best I could to simplify it. Um, uh, using the reductionist method to something we could get our heads around, but the one principle I'll just sort of throw out because it's a little bit, um, counterintuitive, uh, is what what's called empowered participation. The idea of empowered participation is that in a healthy system, all the parts of the system are, are empowered to participate in the health of that system.

John Fullerton (27:51):

Half of the population of this planet are disempowered and unable to participate in the health of the global economy. So that's, that's not just a question of, wow, that's terrible. That's unfair, that's unjust, although it is, is, it's also, we're all suffering from that. And I don't think you need to be a genius to look at the world today and recognize that all of us, our physical health, our physical safety, our mental health, uh, is suffering from the fact that we've got this grotesque inequality, uh, in the world and, and not just our, our health, but think of all the lost potential that doesn't, uh, that, that isn't part of the healthy human economy, because we've cut off probably more than half of the population from participating. And you can, you can, you know, you can zoom that into your own community. There's inequality in the richest country, in the world there's grotesque inequality and in every community there's grotesque inequality. Um, and it has the same adverse effect, not just on the quote, poor people, but on the quote, rich people as well.

Martin Ping (28:58):

It's a shame shameful waste of capacity, as far as everybody's voice at the table. What we're missing out on is also makes me think of Otto Scharmer, um, saying in order to even, you know, know ourselves as a system, it's, it's like all the parts, all the participants have to become aware of the fact that we are a system and the system getting to know itself is one further pathway towards, you know, um, hopefully improving that overall wellbeing of the system.

John Fullerton (29:34):

And there there's another critical piece to it, which is that going back to this exponential growth on a finite planet doesn't work anymore. That we're naive if we suggest that a growing economy is not a source of prosperity, it does create employment. It does create, um, livelihoods and wealth, which is then used for all the good reasons that we wanted to irrespective of the inequality. So if, if, if you tell me we can't continue to expand the material footprint of the economy, but you don't offer me an alternative path to prosperity, you're essentially saying we're, uh, we're destined to enter a depression like no one's ever seen it before, or alternatively we're destined to destroy the planet. That that was the existential crisis that I have have faced. And the thing about the regenerative process is that it unlocks potential in real living systems that no one could have seen before that happened. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, and, and, and this is, um, super important because to me, it is the reason to remain hopeful when we look at all the facts about what we need to do to shrink the logical footprint of the, of the, uh, global economy. So it's, it's the, it's the escape vows. It's the, it's the reason it's the logical reason to remain hopeful when all the facts suggest that there's reason to be very unhopeful.

Martin Ping (31:17):

There is a lot in our face right now that that, uh, would lead one to that conclusion and it's, and yet that's that be comes so disempowering. Um, we're, we're all fans here of, of, uh, David Orr, and, uh, Hmm. He among others who have written about hope and spoken about hope in a, in a way that's, that's not like false optimism, but yeah, I just, I love David's quote, uh, “hope is a verb with its shirt sleeves rolled up,” right?

Martin Ping (31:46):

<laugh> it implies, it implies of doing, but, you know, considering that Ken Balding's quote about, uh, “anyone believing in, in exponential growth on a finite planet is either madman or economist.” And considering all of this, all of the known and seen damage to our ecosystems, depletion of nature, all of the resulting social unrest and psychic distress, one has to solve hope. And you do that. It, that it's possible to move from this, this narrative we have, based on the notion that economics is about the efficient management of scarcity to one that honors the more indigenous understanding of the abundance of life.

John Fullerton (32:32):

I, I don't think we can do that within the current institutional framework of the modern capitalist economy. I, I think this is a much bigger shift than any of us certainly myself included have, have been able to get their heads around. Um, but for example, there's, you know, this issue of scarcity and abundance. If we think of the simple concept of inheritance, you know, there's a, there's 1% or less than 1% of the population that are born, that, that chose their parents really well and, uh, and are born into inheritance and the economic reality for someone that inherits even a modest amount of money compared to the vast, vast majority of people that don't is, is, um, is extraordinary. The, the difference between starting out with net financial wealth, as opposed to net financial deficits is, is extraordinary.

John Fullerton (33:38):

And it, you know, Thomas Picketty's book barely even scratched the surface on that. It's actually much deeper and more profound than he, he wrote. Now, the truth is that, um, there's a Nobel economist. They're not all, uh, they're not all bad people. <laugh>, uh, there's a Nobel economist that estimated that our coinherited wealth is 80% of our total inherited wealth. Meaning the private inherited wealth is only 20% of the actual wealth. And, it's very hard to compare, you know, to compare financial assets with non-financial assets, but they made it, you know, a serious effort and they, they counted like the cumulative intellectual capital of humanity. So when we were born, the internet didn't exist, but today someone's born, the internet exists. So that's cohered wealth that is, you know, is hugely beneficial for all kinds of reasons. Including if you wanna start a business called Facebook book, you don't get to start that business if the internet doesn't exist.

John Fullerton (34:46):

So a huge percentage of Zuckerberg's financial wealth is truly coinherited, but he got to use the internet and, and, um, capitalize on that without paying the rest of us for the coinherited wealth that, um, that enabled him to build that business. So Peter Barnes is the one that, that has sort of awakened me to this. Um, and, and he, he credits Thomas Payne for this thinking, uh, of, of our coinherited wealth, but it's all relates to this concept of the commons, but it's not just the natural commons, it's the natural commons, plus our, you know, collective technological, um, progress broadly defined. So the, the reason I'm raising all this is that I believe for us to rethink redesign our economy in a way that can be regenerative, it's going to need to, uh, incorporate not just the private inherited wealth, but the, um, the common, uh, coinherited wealth. And then there truly is abundance, but we've locked 80% of it out of our economic system. And so our economic system is built around the piece of wealth that's scarce, which is the private wealth.

Martin Ping (36:02):

That's, that's a really helpful, um, illustration and you use the word, you know, it's a design. And I think it is all a design question because the current system is one is human designed and, uh, for better or for worse. And I, really like, uh, Kate Raworth's book, Donut Economics, and I like that. She says, we need to think in pictures and her, you know, her illustration of the donut with the out, outside being the planetary boundaries that we really should not exceed. And, and the inner ring being the, uh, standard of living that no one should fall below. It, it seems to me that if we started with something that basic, you know, it's, we should be able to figure it out.

John Fullerton (36:49):

Yeah, yeah. But that's been a, that's been a wonderful that one visual has gotten so much traction. Uh, it's, it's a wonderful reminder that, that pictures and a, and a artistic, as opposed to an analytical, uh, way of communicating, again, that, that goes back to our reductionist. You know, we, we favor the analytical over the intuitive or creative. Um, but yeah, that's been a, a fabulous help, but there's a difference between agreeing on what the goals are and then understanding the process required to get to the goals. Mm. And, um, again, regeneration is a very, is a real process in real living systems. It does, it's not a word. I mean, it is a word, but it's not just a word. It's actually a descriptive of a very real process. And that's a process that, you know, scientists have learned to understand how that works. So the challenge to me is, is as simple and as complicated as figuring out how to apply that process to the complexity of our global economy.

Martin Ping (37:56):

That's a beautiful place to perhaps, uh, draw this, this conversation to, um, not a close, but a pause because we're gonna continue it, uh, over the next eight weeks together in the course, and then beyond, but I'm really, can't express, enough gratitude, John, that you, that you've done all this thinking that you're sharing it out and that you, in the midst of all of your, uh, busyness at the moment would take the time to have our, our conversation this afternoon. So thank you very, very much. And I will look forward to seeing you on Thursday's live session, I think is our next

John Fullerton (38:39):

Absolutely Martin it's, it's my real pleasure and honor you, you're an exemplar for the regenerative economy more than you might give yourself credit. So thanks for all your good work that you do.

Heather Gibbons (38:56):

If you'd like to learn more about John's work and the Capital Institute, please visit capitalinstitute.org. Thanks for listening to Hawthorne Valley's Roots to Renewal podcast. We are an association comprised of a variety of interconnected initiatives that work collectively to meet our mission. You can learn more about our, by visiting our website at hawthornevalley.org. Hawthorne Valley is a registered 501 C3 nonprofit organization. And we rely on the generosity of people like you to make our work a reality. Please consider making a donation to support us today. If you'd like to help us in other ways, please help spread the word about this podcast by sharing it with your friends and leaving us a rating and review special. Thanks to our sponsor Tierra Farm, who makes this podcast possible and to Grammy award winning artist, Aaron Dessner for providing our soundtrack. We'd also like to thank Aaron Ping for once again, lending his editing expertise.