Most of us would be better off if we spent less, spent more wisely, and saved more. But what happens to an economy based on consumer spending when consumers don't spend? If we all do what is good for our personal situation will the economy crash?   American consumer capitalism is full of conundrums. Consumer spending drives the economy but is often not good for consumers. Competition drives innovation but cooperation is essential to everyone's well being. Profit is necessary to sustain economic activity but fixation on making money (greed) is killing the planet. Freedom to create and run businesses is the essence of free market capitalism but regulation (i.e., restrictions on freedom) are essential for many reasons. The supposedly rational workings of the free market are too often far from rational or efficient.   Too often what is good for the individuals, or individual companies, is not good for the economy or society and vice versa. Consumer spending is just one example. Shifting manufacturing to China may help a company's bottom line, but this hurts local communities and working families. Low wages improve profits but it hurts workers and the whole economy. Low interest rates encourage businesses to borrow and grow, but savers, and retirees trying to live off savings, are hurt with the current ridiculously low rates. Housing prices going up is considered a “strong market.” It is good for sellers (and the real estate industry) but it is not good for buyers.     How do we resolve these conundrums? We have to change our thinking and the way we live. It may sound corny, but we are all better off when everyone is better off. We are all better off when there is more balance. The old adage “moderation in all things” applies. “Live simply that others may simply live” needs to be a guiding principle. Having enough must replace constantly striving to have more. Quality of life must become more important than quantity.   Kate Raworth, an economist at Oxford University, says “The challenge now is to create local to global economies that ensure that no one falls short on life’s essentials – from food and housing to healthcare and political voice – while safeguarding Earth’s life-giving systems, from a stable climate and fertile soils to healthy oceans and a protective ozone layer. This single switch of purpose transforms the meaning and shape of economic progress: from endless growth to thriving in balance” (from her book “Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist”).   Almost all economists, politicians, and business leaders believe growth is the primary measure of a successful economy. Growth is the answer to economic problems. The economy must grow as measured by stock market indexes and Gross Domestic Product (GDP). But these indexes measure a small slice of human activity and needs. They have little to do with what is really important to all of us. They don't measure happiness. They don't even measure the huge, and very important, unpaid work of care givers (usually women). Society could not survive without their work but it is not counted as part of the economy.   We need to move beyond he sacred cow of economic growth. Growth is good in some contexts but it is not a panacea. Nor is unlimited growth sustainable. The boom-and-bust history of capitalism is proof. Too often we grow until the bubble bursts. The belief that economies can grow endlessly is an illusion. Kate Raworth says, “Mainstream economics views endless GDP growth as a must, but nothing in nature grows forever... What we need are economies that make us thrive, whether or not they grow.”   We would be better off with a more stable economy. Businesses can be profitable, provide useful goods and services, make a living for the owners, and provide good incomes for workers without constantly growing. Constantly increasing market share, stock price, or annual profits can not be the goal and have a stable, sustainable economy. A prime example of instability is the “casino capitalism” of the various speculative markets. In stock market trading over half of the transactions are done by computers. Computers can track fractions of a penny changes in price, using “high frequency trading” in fractions of a second to make money. These speculative feeding frenzies regularly crash the real economy.     Another example is the huge inequality between most of us and the super wealthy. Harper's Magazine reports that Trump's cabinet and advisers have a combined net worth greater than the GDP of 114 countries! There is not rational justification for this level of inequality.   A stable economy needs moderation in interest rates. Rates need to allow businesses access to capital, home buyers access to affordable loans, banks the ability to make money, and savers to get a decent return. But for many years interests rates have been ridiculously low in a desperate effort to “stimulate” the economy. The exception is credit cards and payday loan scams that serve the working class and poor.   The dominant role of Mega-corps is not good. Multinationals which are larger than countries create economic, environmental, and political problems. Bigger is not always better. Stable, sustainable economies are build on successful local communities. You can't build a global economy while impoverishing local communities and destroying the natural resources on which all life depends.   This is not about envy, opposing development, limiting opportunity, or destroying capitalism. It is about fostering a better, more satisfying, more sustainable vision for economic success. As Professor Raworth says, “The character at the heart of 20th century economics—‘rational economic man’—presents a pitiful portrait of humanity...But human nature is far richer than this...It’s time to put this new portrait of humanity at the heart of economic theory so that economics can start to nurture the best of human nature.”