Owning Our Future | Marjorie Kelly

Summary of: Owning Our Future: The Emerging Ownership Revolution
By: Marjorie Kelly


In ‘Owning Our Future: The Emerging Ownership Revolution,’ Marjorie Kelly tackles the delicate issue of ownership, unlocking the door to a crucial and timely discussion about our modern economic system. This book explores the inherent flaws of our economic structures, manifested through the crisis of 2008, and emphasizes the need for a transformative shift towards ‘generative’ ownership. The argument revolves around the contrast between extractive forms of ownership, which prioritize individual wealth accumulation, and generative systems, which prioritize the well-being of society and the environment. Through real-life examples, the author showcases the urgency for new approaches and ownership structures to create sustainable change, while shedding light on ongoing economic experiments across the world.

The Flaws of Ownership

The 2008 financial crisis was not accidental but the result of a flawed economic system that failed. Ownership is the underlying structure of any economy, with public or private ownership being debated in the 20th century. However, both have failed, and society needs a generative form of ownership that nurtures life rather than an extractive one that benefits a few at the expense of many. Extractive models made sense in the industrial era but has outlived its utility in the 21st century, leading to ecological crises, high unemployment, stagnant wages, wealth differentials, and debt loads. Society needs new approaches based on deep change that relies on sustainable economic experiments already underway worldwide.

Financialized Ownership in the Mortgage and Banking Sectors

The aim of public corporations is to create wealth for shareholders, even if it extracts financial value from real assets such as wages, housing, or company profits. This financialized ownership harms the real economy in sectors like banking and mortgages. The author states that emerging ownership models are diverse and can be more sustainable. The example of a couple who became debt-ridden and lost their real estate due to the mortgage industry’s fees and penalties illustrates the financialized ownership’s negative consequences. The economic crisis of 2008 was caused by a system dynamic that prioritized financial goals over other considerations. The author calls for alternative architectures that prioritize serving life’s needs over financializing ownership and creating profit.

The Difference between Extractive and Generative Financial Institutions

Some banks falsely use the title “community” while not aligning with community-based values. Generative financial institutions prioritize community-based banking, such as the 1,000 Community Development Financial Institutions and 8,000 consumer-owned credit unions in the US. These institutions prioritize conservative lending practices, resulting in 50% fewer loan losses than other banks. Their objective is to keep loans on their books, leading to their preference for borrowers who repay debts, as opposed to extractive lenders who prioritize selling loans. Generative organizations prioritize servicing their customers, fostering community partnerships, and sustainably serving the greater good. In contrast, extractive systems prioritize unregulated growth and expansion without conscientious consideration of their borrowers.

Unveiling the Mystery of Capital

In The Mystery of Capital, Hernando de Soto argues that a home with a mortgage leads a double life that monetizes its property value into market capital. This extractive nature also characterizes public companies that prioritize profit maximization over clients and workers. Through the “magic of the multiple,” the pursuit of limitless growth and speculation creates an unstable economy. The extractive economy reached a tipping point during the 2008 crisis, with most monetary benefits going to creditors rather than homeowners. De Soto suggests that an ethical economic system built on fairness is more resilient than one built on extractive ownership.

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