"Mr. Gandhi," a reporter asked during Gandhi's 1930 visit to England, "What do you think of Western civilization?"
"I think it would be a very good idea," he replied.
Ouch. That is the opening line of the prologue of Woody Tasch's book, Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered. He laments starting the book with a reference to Gandhi, but there's no doubt that the above exchange sets the stage for every argument Tasch goes on to make. Following are just a few excerpts to give you a taste:
"A very good idea would be a civilization that did not strip its topsoil, turn it into cheap food and highly processed food products of questionable nutritional value, and put its faith in markets at the expense of places."
"In our devotion to money, market, and machine, we are destroying not only the fertility of the soil, but the fertility of our imaginations."
But this isn't just romantic. Kneeling at the altar of growth has not served us. A holistic approach may be all that's left... and exactly what's been missing. Tasch also calls into question big box, cheap crap that we support at the cash register and in our portfolios:
"Products produced cheaply create ugly work lives and ugly households and ugly communities. Profits produced quickly cannot purchase patience and care. Patience is beautiful. Restraint and care are beautiful."
Tasch's work isn't just about ranting about what's wrong or not recognizing the many benefits we enjoy by living in this country. It's about identifying what we know deep in our guts to be true so that we get giddy and obsessed about change. So that we can't help ourselves. So that we begin acting as if we understand that we are living and spending in a way that can no longer be supported by the earth. We've exhausted her. It hurts the beauty in our lives and the beauty of the planet.
"Every investment we make is a statement of intention, a statement of purpose, a speculation about the future of man and his role in the scheme of things, not merely a financial speculation."
Is this the case for you? Do you know where your money is invested? Have you looked closely at your mutual funds and retirement accounts? Are your investments in line with your values? Because as Tasch argues, the existing system is us. But so is a new paradigm:
"The solution lies not in the hands of economists and bankers, but in the hearts and minds and portfolios of every man and woman who puts money into the market."
Are you nodding?
Listen to a 2-minute snippet from my interview with Tasch last fall:
Listen to the whole interview: