The "Relational Economy" - Our New Normal?

Doug Tjaden Community, Economics, Family, Reboot

In the spring of 2019 I visited my friend Uli Kortsch at his home in Colorado. It was one of the rare times we were able to sit down face-to-face and catch up on what God was doing in our separate, but parallel monetary reform universes. I’d written a white paper several months prior that focused more on economics than money. It was a first for me. The title was “Toward A Relational Economy” and I was interested to hear what Uli thought of it.

Now you have to understand that Uli is one of the most well read people that I know. If a book has been written on economics or money Uli has read it or knows of it. So as our conversation shifted to the white paper and my thoughts about how God intended economics to be much more relational than our Neo-Darwinian capitalist model (the paper is where I’d first used that term) he got a familiar look on his face. Sure enough, the next thing I knew he was leaving the room as he said, “I’ve got a book that you need to read.”

A minute later he came back and handed me a book that wasn’t as life changing as it was life affirming. The title - “After Capitalism - Rethinking Economic Relationships.” Uli doesn’t hand out books unless they are well researched and well reasoned and it didn’t take long to find out why Uli gave me the book. Just a few pages in I came across what accurately summarized the thesis of my white paper.

“The greatest challenge in moving from a Capitalist to a relational economic system is how to shift the goalposts from pursuit of business profit and personal gain to a focus on good and right relationship with God and neighbor. This priority has to be reflected, first of all, in how people use their time, as time for many people is their scarcest resource; arguably, it is also the most important ‘currency’ of relationship. So the issues is this: how can society demonstrate to outsiders, and to itself, that its greatest priority is quality of relationships in its use of time?” After Capitalism, pg 23 Paul Mills, Michael Schluter

The author recognized there are serious problems with an economy built around the three c's of consumerism, competition, and comfort. That never has been and never will be God's best. Our present NeoDarwinian capitalist system however, caters to these three c's. The result is poor stewardship of relational and natural resources and a breakdown in both society and the environment.

Jesus however, modeled an economy where relationship - love God and love your neighbor - is the focus of our time and energy. Equity (emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being) is the cornerstone of this "Relational Economy." It creates the means by which people can prioritize loving their neighbor by providing for their most basic needs, which in turn creates the trust and cultural stability necessary to thrive in any macro-economic environment.

The development of a Relational Economy will take time. We must first reprogram decades of cultural DNA that has been embedded with the three c's of our present economic and monetary models. But the work has begun, and with it the hope of a "new normal." One where future generations will find spending their economic energy on loving their neighbor so normal that they look at the 20th and early 21st Centuries with great sadness for all that humanity lost, and great joy for their future and generations to come.

Share this article: