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  • Chelsea Robinson

Rebuilding Trust and Purpose in the American Economy

The American economy is at a crossroads. As we progress through the 2020s, people are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the current state of work and the economy. Large corporations are extracting value unsustainably from people, places, and our planet, while financial markets and speculation manipulate and aggregate value in abstract ways that do not reflect real productivity. This disconnect is exemplified by real estate markets, where speculative value and investment control demand, supply, and pricing, leaving ordinary people to compete in a rigged game.

The erosion of trust in financial institutions, exacerbated by multiple crises and bank bailouts, has led to a growing sentiment that government oversight and policy protect the interests of the few, not the many. This disillusionment is further compounded by the fact that wages are not keeping up with the rising costs of childcare, housing, and inflation. In many places, the expenses associated with having a job, such as transportation and domestic duties, are outweighing the benefits of employment itself.

As a result, we are witnessing phenomena like the great resignation and the growth of #antiwork movements. However, this disillusionment is not solely rooted in the age-old class war; it also stems from a shift in values, particularly among younger generations entering the workforce and leadership positions. These generations have evolving expectations of workplace culture and compensation, and their disengagement threatens American dominance by eroding pride and purpose in US productivity.

We recognize that work can provide people with an immense sense of meaning. Contributing to society directly impacts our sense of self-worth, belonging, and even citizenship. However, the current drivers of our working lives are not aligned with human potential. If left unchecked, default economic drivers will lead us further towards the extraction of natural assets, erosion of public capacity, and depression of individual agencies over the next century. These harms will be exacerbated by the predicted impacts of climate change and other pressing issues.

To bridge the needs of a world concerned about polycrisis, burnout, cost of living, and war, we must go beyond minor changes to HR policies. We need a systematic, structural redesign of incentives.

We believe that this generation has a unique window of opportunity to stand up for equitable economic solutions and combat economic decay. The context of polycrisis, where every aspect of our society is being questioned, sets the stage for rapid change. Throughout history, economic ecosystems of shared infrastructure have mitigated the damage of economic volatility for their members. It is no coincidence that most case studies in this book are stories of recovery from a crisis.

By scaling up the shared ownership and stewardship movement through connective infrastructure, we can protect ordinary people across the US from worsening circumstances and rebuild our public goods over time.

To learn more about how we can rebuild trust and purpose in the American economy, we invite you to read the book "Assets in Common." This work explores the potential of expanding shared ownership and stewardship through legal and financial connectivity In the pages of "Assets in Common," you'll discover how we can work together to reshape our economic landscape and build a society that truly works for everyone.


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