On the Air: Postcards from Main Street
I figure there are two distinct ways to learn about the economy of the future.
One way is to take a visit to Wall Street: either the actual street on the Number 3 subway line or, by extension, the metaphor for theâ€¨great and the powerful at the top of our financial system.Â The other way is to go to the other street, Main Street, and see what people are doing about the economy at the grassroots.â€¨â€¨
Call it Eco Tourism, only in this case, the "Eco" stands for "economy." Iâ€¨took some time this year when the days were long and the air was warm toâ€¨take a trip around America to check out experiments on Main Street toâ€¨shove the economy toward serving the needs of people. Contrast this, oneâ€¨economic philosopher told me, to the standard idea of the economy thatâ€¨demands that we serve it.â€¨â€¨
Everywhere I turned, it was easy to find examples of hard-working peopleâ€¨trying to orient their economic efforts locally and regionally and to useâ€¨their commerce to build relationships with individuals even as they workedâ€¨to cement the bonds of community. Building a "relationship economy, not aâ€¨one-night stand economy," was the phrase I heard.
I found worker-ownedâ€¨co-ops in Ohio and Texas helping people take more control of their economicâ€¨destinies as they build assets and resilience. I found a kind ofâ€¨newfangled "chamber of commerce" in the state of Washington working to getâ€¨business folk and other engaged individuals to think long term aboutâ€¨jobs, their community and their environment. I found a very differentâ€¨conception of banking in the Midwest, which you can hear more about on our Marketplace story on Bremer Bank, which has 100 branches in three Upper Midwest states.
Listen to the story here:
And in my home state of Maine,â€¨people developed a system to trade hours of their skills, not dollars,â€¨again to build a new kind of economy that tries to address some of ourâ€¨most pressing and vexing challenges, creating jobs - or better yet,â€¨livelihoods.â€¨â€¨
I have to say I met great people and had a ball on on this exercise inâ€¨Eco(nomic) Tourism. Some of the results are on the radio on Marketplace asâ€¨part of this Economy 4.0 project. And on television, PBS is airing myâ€¨Fixing the Future special.
When folks hear and see how much economicâ€¨innovation is going on, removed from the typical centers of finance, Iâ€¨hope they will be inspired. However, they shouldn't be surprised. Deâ€¨Tocqueville found fascinating experiments in democracy when he roamed ourâ€¨country nearly two centuries ago. In the 21st century, it is theâ€¨experiments in the economy that are flourishing.
Watch a trailer for David Brancaccio's PBS series, Fixing the Future:
Photo at top: Monument of old oil cans, Casselton, North Dakota. (David Brancaccio 2010).