This article appeared in the September 15, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Butterflies, capitalism, and the golden rule

J. David Ake/AP
A morning commuter sits on a bench at the ferry terminal in Jersey City, New Jersey, looking at the lower Manhattan skyline, Aug. 18, 2022. The world gathers for the U.N. General Assembly in New York next week.

When the world gathers in New York next week for the United Nations General Assembly, Kim Polman will be there to talk about butterflies – kind of.

Ms. Polman is co-founder of Reboot the Future, an organization built on the idea that the golden rule – cherished in various forms by all human cultures – is the basis for societal and economic transformation. Ms. Polman is not alone in thinking capitalism needs a reboot. On one hand, capitalism has generated unprecedented wealth, lifting wide swaths of the world out of poverty. But it is also at the basis of what some call the “death economy” – extractive and exploitative practices built on competition run amok. 

She’ll be in New York to discuss the new book she helped write, “Values for a Life Economy.” The key to pivoting from an extractive, exploitative capitalism to one that embraces all and the planet is recognizing our deep interconnection. “We are all connected, and we are all responsible,” she says. “We need to wake up to the idea that we are not just here for ourselves.”

She’s talking about nothing less than a shift in our economic paradigm. From the days of Adam Smith, capitalism has been about how competition holds our lower natures in check. Can we really expect more of ourselves as humans? That’s where the butterflies come in. 

When the caterpillar starts its metamorphosis, its cells actively resist. It tries to stop the process. “But the cell that holds the vision of the butterfly is innate in the caterpillar,” she says. The ability to transform is already there, and it only becomes active under duress.

For humans, she says, that visionary cell is the golden rule – the innate, natural impulse to treat others and the world the way you would wish to be treated. “Our work,” she says, “is to reach a tipping point.”        

This article appeared in the September 15, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 09/15 edition
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