April 14, 2008: Home financing and credit have been tightening in response to the crisis that began with the massive lack of integrity in the subprime mortgage market that led to the creation and collapse of the housing bubble in the United States. This is now mutating into a contagious economic slowdown that is spreading around the globe, with property analysts are now predicting that some countries will face an even more wrenching adjustment than that of the United States, including the possibility that the downturn could become a wholesale collapse. As a result, the International Monetary Fund last Wednesday cut its forecast for global economic growth this year, citing the reverberations of the American housing bust and credit squeeze, and warning that this malaise could extend into 2009.
Have you noticed that the term "economic growth" is widely used in such a common-sense and self-obvious way that very few people notice the poison this phrase contains? Virtually all actions regarding the economy by businesses, banks and governments (including the Federal Reserve and the World Bank) are based on an assumption that economic growth is the key to making the world work.
This notion is like the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes. We are surrounded by examples of how our almost single-minded emphasis on economic growth, in fact, one of the biggest causes of lack of integrity today. (Now, mind you, I believe deeply in the virtues of capitalism, so you would be way off base if you read what I have to say about this as an indictment of capitalism.)
Here in a nutshell is how we sign up for huge economic damage, personally and collectively, by making economic growth our most important economic objective:
- Obsession with economic growth reflects a delusional notion that "more and more" is the key to fulfillment.
- The delusion that economic growth is the key to fulfillment drowns out the crucial importance of individuals, couples and families identifying and creating "enough."
- The more that businesses and citizens define fulfillment as a never-ending thirst for more and more and more, the more this creates a societal obsession with and dependence upon economic growth.
- The more that economic growth become the prime directive, the more that businesses, citizens and governments justify living on credit.
- The more an individual, couple or family replaces a primary focus on "enough" with focusing primarily on "growth," the more they end up sacrificing their financial integrity. The more they sacrifice their financial integrity the more impossible they make it for them to attain the financial fulfillment they seek.
- Sacrificing financial integrity for the sake of economic growth creates economic bubbles that eventually burst. These cycles help create the economic slowdowns like the one that is now causing suffering on an increasingly massive scale.
- The sub-prime mortgage mess is a prime example of this insanity.
Financial fulfillment revolves not around never-ending economic growth but around creating financial independence. Financial independence means that your financial assets yield passive income that exceeds your expenses. Around the world we have replaced the priority of achieving financial independence with a profoundly deluded notion of consumerism. Too many of us believe that accumulating more and more, and bigger and bigger, will bring us more fulfillment than financial independence can provide. The opposite is what is actually true.
Look, here’s the bottom line: as long as we as individuals focus primarily on our own economic growth, and as long as we as citizens tolerate our governments directing our economy primarily around the goal of economic growth, the less fulfillment we will experience… and the more our rampant problems with lack of integrity will continue to proliferate.
To start turning this around in ourselves so we can start insisting that our government turns this around too, we must first do something about why we have become obsessed with economic growth at the expense of financial independence in the first place. We do this because we are trying to fill a hole in ourselves that can never be filled by consumerism. The New IQ book and workbook provide a time-tested system for healing the hole that causes personal fulfillment to remain elusive and societal integrity to remain at all-time lows.