The idea of the circular economy frequently brings to mind issues of recycling waste and materials and making moderate use of natural resources. But if a new system is to emerge which is sustainable and equitable the whole economic model will have to be re-thought. With the differences in wealth which exist at the moment, no ecological ambition is possible. Energy saving can only come from economic and social restraint and not from excessive fortunes and life-syles. We will have to construct new norms of social, educational, fiscal and climate justice through democratic discussion. These norms will have to say no to the present hyper concentration of economic power. On the contrary, the economy of the 21st century must be based on the permanent circulation of power, wealth and knowledge.