The world economy today is at an historical inflection point. The neoclassical (industrial) model of economics is self-destructing while a new life-mimicking model, based on radically different assumptions, is emerging. Although rarely acknowledged in economic journals, Nordic countries, which pioneered the life-mimicking model, have become world leaders in prosperity and productivity while those operating on the older neoclassical/industrial model are trapped in downward spirals.
By approaching economies as sub-systems of life rather than super-systems that transcend life, we gain transformative insights. Such thinking led to the first circular economy experiments in Kalundborg (Denmark) during the 1970s, then quickly spread to the rest of the Nordic world. By placing a higher value on living assets (people and Nature) than on non-living capital assets, this approach generates harmony rather than exploitation and conflict. Because Nordic people feel vested in the system and responsible for its success, they are extraordinarily innovative and productive. That is why Nordic companies are regularly rated among the world’s most sustainable and profitable in their fields – even though their region holds less than half of one percent of the world’s population.
Written in an accessible way for non-economists, the book is ideal for readers interested in the benefits of biomimicry and methods of guiding democratic countries along a proven path of self-renewal. Economies That Mimic Life will also provide useful background for corporate leaders in scenario planning and strategic thinking. Knowing which way the political-economic wind is blowing will become increasingly important to corporate survival.
Table of Contents
1. The Six Qualities of Life-Mimicking Cultures
2. The Value of Social Capital Networks
3. The Catalytic Power of Education
4. Frugality as Strength
5. Openness as Long-Term Strategy
6. The Value of Symbiotic Vision
7. Towards a More Conscious Economy
8. The Nordic Renaissance
9. What we Can Learn from The Nordic Model
Epilogue: Why Iceland has a higher Living Standard than the US
Appendix One: Leverage Points in Economic Development
Appendix Two: Nordic Companies in the Global 100
Appendix Three: The Nordic Ecological Footprint
Appendix Four: The Fallacy of Debt Leverage
Joseph H. Bragdon is an investment advisor to high net worth families. Economies That Mimic Life is his third book on the general subject of biomimicry in business and economics. He is a pioneer in the field of corporate stewardship.
"What a nice surprise to learn of your book, which brings some sanity to the outmoded economic model that is always on life support at the expense of someone else's life! You appear to have cracked the code of what actually is a functional economy, one that serves society rather than the other way around." - William R. Moomaw, Professor Emeritus of International Environmental Policy, Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, Tufts University. Also a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.
"The Nordics stand out in international surveys in diverse ways: most democratic, happiest peoples, best for business, most prosperous and most livable cities. Jay Bragdon now adds another perspective: economic structures that mimic nature – an approach that allows both people, nature and economy to thrive. Reading the book from within the Nordics, it is an eye-opener. Although the Nordics still have a long way to go with regards to living in harmony with nature, Bragdon provides a vocabulary and an understanding that allow us to see what we are already doing right and therefore need to do even more." - Lene Rachel Andersen, futurist, philosopher and author The Nordic Secret: A European Story of Beauty and Freedom.
"We live at an epochal time, where one economic worldview is dying and another is being born. Countries that lead this Copernican Revolution generate the world’s highest living standards while lowering their ecological footprints. In keeping with the egalitarian, inclusive attributes of Nature, they are also rated as the world’s healthiest and freest democracies. Jay Bragdon's important and timely research in this venue reveals the future that is emerging today. It is prescient and practical, a must-read for those exploring new possibilities for our economies, businesses and civilization." - Giles Hutchins, author of The Nature of Business (2012), The Illusion of Separation (2014), Future Fit (2016) and co-author of Regenerative Leadership (2019).
"Jay Bragdon is a consummate life long learner, systems thinker, model, and mentor for so many of us working with complex system change. His depth of understanding of, and the ability to expose the interconnectedness of the Nordic model, old and new forms of capitalism, principles of sustainability, the power of culture and our ability to thrive in harmony with the natural world are beyond compare. Jay has the unique ability to articulate, translate and make accessible typically complex theories of change and financial models. This is an important read for anyone who cares about the urgency of addressing and achieving ecological, social and economic well-being for all, not just some. It is time for the ultimate paradigm shift!" - Darcy Winslow, Co-Founder and President, Academy for Systems Change
"An inspiring, hopeful, and superb book. Written with that rare combination of both common sense and striking data, the author unveils the "Nordic secret" that’s propelling what’s rapidly emerging as the most robust, regenerative, and life-affirming form of capitalism in the world today. Jay Bragdon has nailed it. This business book is a must read. It’s a map—totally grounded in reality—for realizing a world of well-being, where business and economies can excel, all persons can thrive, and nature can flourish, now and across the generations." - David L. Cooperrider, PhD, Distinguished University Professor and Author Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change; Char and Chuck Fowler Chair for Business as an Agent of World Benefit, Case Western Reserve University
"Economies that mimic life is THE BIG IDEA at this critical moment in history. Mainstream economists, blinded by the neoclassical ideology of continuous GDP growth, miss the essential truth of this idea, which puts life at the center of economic decision-making; and society is now paying a deadly price in terms of ecological and financial overshootre. A contemporary proof of conceptThe primary source of this transformative idea is a group of Nordic countries whose universal safety nets strengthen their free enterprise economies by investing them with healthy, educated and committed workforces. Jay Bragdon has revealed the essential truths of this system, which are as old as human culture itself." - John Fullerton, Founder of Capital Institute, author of Regenerative Capitalism, and former Managing Director of JPMorgan
"As one who has been born and raised in Sweden and now having many of my social projects in Sweden, it is interesting to consider the Nordic Model as life-mimicking. By framing our political-economic system as such, Jay Bragdon has discovered an implicit architecture underlying our prosperity that puts life ahead of GDP. This, of course, makes sense because people and Nature are the source of GDP. As a foundational ideal, however, it is precisely opposite the more common neoclassical model that puts GDP ahead of life - an industrial era mindset that has led to global climate change, social divisiveness and financial chaos. This is not to say our Nordic system is perfect. We still have a lot to learn. Nevertheless, as this book reveals, economies that mimic life offer an adaptable, believable pathway to the future that our over-stressed world so desperately needs." - Tomas Björkman, founder of the Ekskäret Foundation, former chair of the EFG investment Bank and author of The World We Create (2019).