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by Aman Singh Das | March 29, 2011


In a powerful editorial on CSRwire's Talkback blog, David Korten—author of When Corporations Rule the World and more recently, Agenda for a New Economy, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community—compares modern-day Wall Street executives to the emperors of centuries past. He writes:

"In an earlier day our rulers were kings and emperors. Now they are corporate CEOs and hedge fund managers. Wall Street is Empire's most recent stage. Its reign will mark the end of the tragic drama of a 5,000-year Era of Empire."

Why this comparison?

Is Wall Street nearing its end?

According to Korten, Wall Street—much like the Empire—dictates our lives today because everything from mortgages, loans, buying power, and job creation are closely linked to the prosperity of these chosen financial few.

And when the fortune and failure of the masses is resolutely tied to one economic institution, the logical implication is that a history of, "…economic, social and environmental pathologies—including sexism, racism, economic injustice, violence and environmental destruction," will force the dictator, i.e., Wall Street to fall.

"As powerful as Wall Street appears to be, its abuse of power has so eroded the economic, social and environmental foundations of its own existence that its fate is sealed."

To some this comparison might sound archaic, unnecessary, or even a bit outlandish. But for Korten who has extensively studied capitalism and the evolution of business, the economic roller coaster of recent years has confirmed his belief in the circle of life—or in this case, business.

What would replace our erstwhile financial institutions in this new economy?

For Korten, the new economy would be supported by small, locally-owned businesses who operate with the mission of serving a triple bottom line by "investing in the use of local resources to produce real goods and services responsive to local needs."

He concludes by calling to action the strength of a collective voice: "We the People have a choice. We can allow Wall Street to maintain its grip until it brings down the whole of human civilization in irrevocable social and environmental collapse. Or we can take control of our future and replace the Wall Street economy with the values and institutions of a New Economy comprised of locally owned businesses devoted to serving their communities."

"Either way, Wall Street's days are numbered. Ours need not be," he ends ominously.

Korten might not be all alone in his thesis after all.

Charles Ferguson, director of Oscar-nominated Inside Job recently told Dealbook that he wouldn't be surprised if there was another financial crisis in the next 10 years. "The problem is that in finance people can get enormously wealthy by causing enormous damage to many other people. And that hasn't been stopped. That's part of why I am concerned that this could happen again in another decade," he said.

In an economy where jobs remain few, continued layoffs (Goldman Sachs announced 5% cuts last week), and multiple global crises and diplomacy keeping the White House busy—and distracted from domestic recovery, is Korten's scenario realistic?

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CSRwire: The End of Empire


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