Human economies can be understood in more than one way.
- The private business economy is what economics textbooks are generally about.
- The public purpose economy consists of governments and their agencies as well as non-profits and international institutions like the World Bank or the United Nations. The public purpose economy is a collection of institutions that are justified by their stated intention to act for some broader good than their own profit or enrichment – though they may differ widely in their definitions of what is “good”.
- The core economy is where households and communities carry on their internal activities of production, distribution and consumption. The core economy’s justification and purpose is the survival and well-being of its members. It is located in home, family, and neighborhood; places that function as markets for emotional, social, and civic transactions. This paper will consider some distinguishing characteristics of these three economies – in particular: their goals or justifications; what currency they use; what kind of demand they respond to; and how they define and reward work.
The second half of the paper will offer reflections on the harms caused by an excessive dominance of the private business economy over the other two, with thoughts on some of what will be required to redress this balance. It will conclude with an image of a healthier relationship between humanity and our natural environment – a relationship that will inevitably come about, whether we choose to move into it positively, or are forced into it by breakdowns in all of our economies resulting from natural and social disasters.