An economist is someone who, when he finds something that works in practice, tries to make it work in theory.
Man walking along a road in the countryside comes across a shepherd and a huge flock of sheep. Tells the shepherd, "I will bet you $100 against one of your sheep that I can tell you the exact number in this flock." The shepherd thinks it over; it's a big flock so he takes the bet. "973," says the man. The shepherd is astonished, because that is exactly right. Says "OK, I'm a man of my word, take an animal." Man picks one up and begins to walk away.
"Wait," cries the shepherd, "Let me have a chance to get even. Double or nothing that I can guess your occupation." Man says sure. "You are an economist," says the shepherd. "Amazing!" responds the man, "How did you know?"
"Well," says the shepherd, "put down my dog and I will tell you."
I can't resist economist jokes. But seriously folks, growing the regeneration wave is going to require innovations in the economics surrounding production of our food, products, and services. Mindset changes, much like those required to see regenerative possibilities for making "stuff", are also required to see regenerative potential in economics.
We're already seeing momentum towards a next generation of economics. Steve Keen, Professor at Kingston University London, compares the current state of economics to the shift in astronomy from a detailed, but wrong, geo-centric perspective to a helio-centric model. Keen concludes, "the economy is as poorly understood today as the Universe was in the days of Copernicus."
Economics has the added complexity that its "planets" and "cosmos" co-evolve, changing each other as they go -- that's how we got to the anthropocene. Wearing a "regenerative" hat, we need specific things from this next generation of economics that will enable a high functioning intentional anthropocene.
For example, we need economics to provide:
- compelling ideas, nudges, and rules that will influence laws and regulations that will reinforce regenerative behavior
- more emphasis on cooperation in addition to competition, as a social strategy
- focus on understanding, creating, and measuring public and public/private returns as well as purely private returns
- thinking beyond efficiency and optimization generating insights to help design for abundance as well as scarcity.
Fundamentally, we need a wing of economics that sees itself not as a passive interpreter of homo economicus, but as an active, agile, imaginative participant in creating the future. We need an economics that doesn't just observe the game, but has a mission to play and create a truly regenerative world. No joke.
Be intentional - join the wave!