Economic Pattern Language

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"...we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered." --MLK, Beyond Vietnam -- A Time to Break Silence, delivered 4 April 1967

The purpose of the economy is the spread of substantial freedom. It's much more than just stuff; rather it is about the ability of individuals to develop to their fullest human capacity. One way to describe the alternative to conservative economics is with an economic pattern language. This version of such a pattern language starts with six broad patterns, that correspond with six broad conservative anti-patterns. This page is a collection of the work related to the development of this alternative.

The objective of these patterns are good outcomes - growth, shared equity and environmental sustainability - and an economy that works for people. The antipatterns are the commonly found ideas that lead to bad outcomes when governed by: limit the spread of substantial freedom, promote materialism and plutonomy and lead to fossil fuel dependence and environmental disasters.

There are lots of names for the alternative. A few of them: Social Market Democracy, American Dream 2.0, California Dream 2.0, High Road Economics, Obamanomics (briefly - this was more applicable before extending the Bush tax cuts and the deficit commission), Democratized Economics, Integrative Economics, Purple or Turquoise Economics, Social Democratic Capitalism, Sustainable Economics, Resilient Economics, Econocracy, People First Economics, Liberation Capitalism, Constructive Capitalism.

patterns ----- antipatterns
secure basic freedoms - you're on your own
democratize economic power - you get what you deserve
public investment - small government
green economy - drill here, drill now
housebreak capitalism - deregulate everything
globalize this - dominate globally

Deepak Bhargava of the Center for Community Change presented Six foundational ideas for a progressive economic vision at Netroots Nation in 2010:

  • Wealth is created not by individual entrepreneurs, but by all of us.
  • Our shared quality of life is more important than the private accumulation of wealth.
  • Human beings are complex, and capable of many things, not just selfishness.
  • Inequality in wealth and income beyond a certain point (that we are well beyond) is bad for democracy and bad for the economy.
  • Racial inequality is not separable from economic inequality in the United States – they are part and parcel of the same set of structures and so any progressive economic project must put racial justice at the center.
  • Broader participation by workers and communities –- more democracy improves rather than impedes economic productivity, innovation and growth.

Other related core foundational ideas include:

  • equity
  • racial justice
  • post-materialism (less is the new more)
  • interdependence
  • substantial freedom
  • collective individualism
  • government is good
  • agile democracy
  • money as a public utility

"I am somehow less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops." — Stephen Jay Gould


Strategic Research

Candidates and activists needs to understand how to communicate our vision of the economy. See the Strategic Research page for resources.

Academic Research

Institute for New Economic Thinking INET video page (great)

Economic Dynamics 2010

A Pattern Language for Communication Revolution, another interesting and helpful progressive pattern language


New metrics are necessary to replace GDP and the stock market, like the Genuine Progress Indicator.


The following videos are from Netroots Nation 2010 Building a Progressive Economic Vision session:

  • Elizabeth Warren
  • Richard Trumka
  • George Goehl
  • Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins
  • Deepak Bhargava (see his six principles, above)


Limited government, tax cuts, traditional values, and military strength vs. public investment, fair taxes, individual liberties and demilitarization.

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