cj#858> “Achieving a Livable World” – Introduction


Richard Moore

Dear cj,

My thanks to the many of you who have been sending in feedback on my book
in progress.  Based on this feedback, and comments from publishers, I am
now rewriting from the beginning.

People asked for more direct language, more examples, and a less abstract
presentation. My abilities in this direction are, shall we say, not greatly
developed. Nonetheless, I agree the suggestions make good sense. Further
feedback as to "reader accessibility" will be welcome. This introduction,
being an overview, remains more abstract than (hopefully) will be Chapter



                         Achieving a Livable World

                   a democratic response to globalization

                           Introduction - draft 2

                     Copyright 1998 by Richard K. Moore
                Latest update: 27 October 1998 - 2845 words
                    comments to: •••@••.•••

1998 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the General Agreement on Tariffs and
Trade (GATT), the first of the global free-trade agreements. At a United
Nations conference in Geneva celebrating this anniversary, US President Bill
Clinton opened his speech with the statement "Globalization is not a policy
choice; it is a fact".

This statement suggests a number of questions: What is globalization? Where
did it come from? Where is it heading? Why does it appear to be inevitable?
Why does the most powerful leader in the world express powerlessness in the
face of globalization? Is what he says true, or are there alternatives to
globalization? If so, what are they and how can they be pursued?

This book is an investigation into these questions. The investigation will
take us back to the birth of democratic republics in the late Eighteenth
Century -- what is referred to as the Era of Enlightenment. We will look at
the role played by political elites in the establishment of these republics,
and we will review the history of the past two centuries, giving special
attention to the power of elites and to the development of capitalism and

Our investigation will reveal that many common assumptions about this
history are in fact myth. We will find that Western democracies have
represented not the ascendency of popular sovereignty, but rather a
political compromise that has served the interests of wealthy elites while
granting to Western populations a number of privileges and benefits. We will
find that globalization brings the abandonment of this political compromise
-- what has often been referred to as the social contract -- along with the
abandonment of constitutional democracy and of Western privileges.

In our review of capitalism, we will learn that incredible energy and
creativity has been unleashed by capitalism's growth imperative (its
inherent need for never-ending economic growth). Besides all the industrial
and technological innovations that this creativity has enabled, we will find
that the design of societal systems has been one of capitalism's most
inventive fields of endeavor. In order to create room for ever more growth,
elites have become highly organized and very effective at political intrigue
and at implementing systematic changes in societies worldwide.

We will discover that globalization is in fact a grand elite project -- a
coordinated, coherent suite of initiatives -- and that it is unfolding on a
canvas much broader than is generally appreciated. Tight government budgets,
privatization, downsized companies -- these aspects of globalization are
known to nearly everyone. Those who inform themselves -- and there are many
useful books available -- learn that globalization also brings accelerating
environmental damage, increased poverty, destabilized societies, and a
house-of-cards global financial system.

But even that does not adequately capture the scope of the globalization
project. I hope it will become clear, as this investigation unfolds, that
globalization amounts to an overall restructuring of the world order, a
political rebuilding project that goes very deep. In globalization's new
world order, democratic governance and national sovereignty are being
bulldozed clean from the global building site. The system of strong national
republics, which was the West's heritage from the Enlightenment era, is
being systematically dismantled. Political arrangements are being scraped
way back, and old political strata, so to speak, are re-emerging.

In some ways, globalization scrapes us back to the robber-baron era of the
late nineteenth century, when laissez-faire capitalism reigned supreme, boom
and bust cycles were frequent, and politicians were "in the pockets" of
magnates such as John D. Rockefeller and J. Pierpont Morgan. Today it is
called deregulation instead of laissez-faire, and it is giant transnational
corporations (TNC's) that exert the political influence instead of colorful
robber barons, but the game is the same, as are the results.

In other dimensions, the globalization project is scraping even deeper,
taking us back to the feudal era, with wealth and power concentrated in the
hands of a super-rich elite, and with most everyone else reduced to a kind
of disenfranchised serfdom. In still other aspects, globalization takes us
all the way back to the Roman Empire, only this time on a global scale.
Instead of an Emperor and Roman Legions, we have a World Trade Organization
and a US/NATO strike force. And again the once-proud citizens of republics
are being reduced to consuming bread and circuses -- and to unquestioned
obedience to arbitrary imperial edicts.

In every crisis, according at least to the Chinese symbol for crisis, there
is both danger and opportunity. The opportunity brought by globalization is
for people everywhere, from all walks of life, to wake up to the dire threat
that faces them, and to do something about it.

This investigation will show that the capitalist elite is too thoroughly
entrenched for meaningful reform to be accomplished through standard
political channels. And we will see that the corporate system is too
dependent on endless growth for reform to be possible within the terms of
that system. Only a radical restructuring of economic arrangements can
provide for livable, stable societies. And only a radical shift of political
power -- the dethroning of the elite establishment -- can create a political
environment in which such a transformation can be accomplished and workable
democracy established.

In many parts of the third world, we will discover, people are generally
aware of the threat posed by globalization. Centuries of struggle against
imperialism have led to heightened political awareness, and organized
resistance to globalization is growing rapidly. However, the methods by
which the West dominates the third world are very effective, having been
perfected during centuries of imperialism. For this reason, we will find
that a successful response to globalization must be led by the West itself.
Unfortunately, Westerners have been slower to understand the nature of the
threat, due to sophisticated media propaganda and centuries of relative

We will take a critical look at the history of Western political movements,
seeking to understand why some succeeded and others failed. We will find
that every political movement has a predictable set of obstacles to
overcome, ranging from internal divisiveness, to systematic repression, to
co-option at the very gates of would-be triumph. Based on these experiences,
we will endeavor to formulate a strategy for a successful political movement
aimed at ending elite domination and establishing a stable, sustainable, and
democratic world system.

This will be a common-sense investigation, not an academic treatise. My own
background is in software systems, not in economics, history, or political
science. This investigation works directly from the reported facts, and
there will be no attempt to relate the work to the various theoretical
frameworks that the social sciences have developed over the years.

How this investigation is structured
At a recent workshop on political activism, I learned about a "change
formula" which helps clarify how social change occurs. The formula states
that the force for change is related to discomfort level, quality of vision,
and available means. If people are comfortable with existing arrangements,
they are unlikely to seek or favor change. Even if they are very
uncomfortable, they won't usually be eager for change unless they have a
clear vision of something better. And even then, with both discomfort and
vision, little progress can be made until a practical means has been
identified by which the vision can be realized.

If a group of people are to work together for change, as in a political
movement, then they need to have a shared sense of discomfort, a common
vision of something better, and an agreed means of achieving it. If such a
movement is to be global in scope, then a great deal of agreement will be
required among a very large number of people. With all due humility, I offer
this book as an attempt to contribute toward building that level of
agreement and helping to spark a global movement for a livable world.

Part I addresses the issue of discomfort. I hope to show that globalization
represents perhaps the gravest danger ever to face humanity. This turns out
to be a relatively straightforward case to make. The evidence is abundant
all around us, and only a steady diet of corporate propaganda and official
doubletalk keeps so many people from recognizing the evidence for what it
is. Besides the evidence presented here, a bibliography is provided listing
several outstanding books which have looked in more detail at the various
aspects of globalization and corporate power.

Part II seeks to articulate an appropriate vision for a livable world. This
turns out to be an investigation of a quite different kind. While
understanding the threat of globalization is a matter of interpreting
observable facts, identifying an appropriate vision calls for a
consideration of system dynamics.

Politics, economics, the environment, and world order are all systems. In a
livable world, I will argue, these systems need to work together in harmony
and they need to be stable and robust. The notion of livability, I will
argue, leads naturally to the identification of certain fundamental
principles. These principles can be interpreted as requirements for a
livable world system. By considering these requirements, and following where
they take us, we will be led to the architecture for a livable world. This
process is a matter of discovering objective necessities, not of describing
subjective ideals. It is more like a map than a recipe.

This kind of systems analysis has been used effectively by many previous
investigators and thinkers. The US Constitution, for example, embodies a
systems perspective on factional politics. Adam Smith, one of the
Enlightenment thinkers, explored the system dynamics of free markets, by
looking at supply and demand as system forces. Karl Marx, in the nineteenth
century, worked out the dynamics of a more complete model of the capitalist
system, taking also into account monopolization and political power. The
terminology of systems had not been invented at the time of these earlier
efforts, but they exemplify systems analysis nonetheless.

System dynamics are much better understood today. Adam Smith had only the
simple models of Newton to work from, and Marx had only the slightly more
complex models developed during early industrialization. Since that time the
development of complex computer software, and the study of biological
systems, have given us an incredibly enriched understanding of how complex
systems function, and of what characteristics are necessary to ensure
stability and reliability.

As I said before, this will be a common-sense investigation. The lessons we
will draw from systems theory are very simple ones -- there will be no
mathematics nor even diagrams. The point really is to look at things as
systems, to identify the underlying forces at work, and to work out how
those forces can be kept in balance. This is what Smith did with regard to
the forces of supply and demand. With modern system concepts we have the
tools necessary to look at the whole system instead of only an idealized
subsystem such as free-market economics.

In discovering our vision, or architecture, for a livable world, we will
develop a common-sense understanding of what democracy means in practice, of
how sustainability can be managed, and how a stable world order can be most
reliably ensured. We will draw on examples from many real-world systems,
including, with some irony, those used in modern corporations. One of the
core principles of a livable world, we will find, is that of localism.
Localism -- an emphasis on the political and economic self-determination of
localities -- turns out to be necessary and central to both democracy and

Part III seeks to outline the means by which global transformation can be
accomplished. We will learn from the experience of previous social movements
and we will draw on the results of Part II. From previous movements we will
work out movement strategy -- how to prevail in the face of determined
opposition. Part II shows us how the movement can be unified and
coordinated, while also being democratic and locally based.

Many previous movements have failed at the very point of victory. The
victory of the French Revolution, for example, led to bloody chaos while the
Russian Revolution led to dictatorship. These movements managed to defeat
the old regimes, but when victory was won a power vacuum was created, and
into it leapt those hungry for power. A democratic, locally-based movement
can be not only the means of achieving victory, but it can also become the
basis for democracy in the new world. If the movement models itself on its
own vision for a livable world, then as it develops it becomes the society
it seeks. Thus no power vacuum is created, and the transition can be smooth
to livable, democratic societies.

Our investigation will show that the principle of non-violence must be
central to a successful movement. In the context of Western liberal values,
as Gandhi and Martin Luther King demonstrated, a non-violent strategy gives
maximum advantage to people, in the face of powerful, armed establishments.
And non-violence also builds the kind of movement that can become the civil
society appropriate for a livable world.

The prospects for success
There remains a fundamental question: Is there any reason to believe that a
global grass-roots movement is possible or likely in current circumstances?
Are historical conditions right for such a movement to arise?

Globalization itself, I suggest, has created, and is creating, conditions
which are favorable to the development of such a movement. To begin with,
globalization is creating the conditions for massive unrest and discomfort,
as will be discussed in Part I. In addition, the development of a
functioning global society is creating a cultural vacuum. Our cultures, our
political traditions, and our identities are oriented around nations as the
largest unit of society. As economics and politics operate more and more
globally, we are set adrift as to who we are, what society we are part of,
and what the values and rules of our societies are.

Into this vacuum are rushing fundamentalist religions, nationalistic
movements, messianic cults, and various other radical ideologies and
agendas. In this respect we can compare current conditions to those of the
Roman Empire. The administration and trading systems that Rome established
connected diverse cultures into a larger society. None of the existing
religions matched the scale of the new society, and evangelistic religions
such as Mithraism and Christianity rushed in to fill the vacuum. The gods
offered by the Romans themselves, apparently, didn't have sufficient appeal.

The only "god" offered by today's global regime is market forces, supported
by its trinity of growth, deregulation, and free-trade. This "religion" is
hardly satisfying as the foundation of global culture, and there is little
wonder people everywhere are searching for new cultural anchors, or reaching
back nostalgically for old ones. US Congressman Newt Gingrich comes to mind,
with his sentimental praise of an idealized Main Street America. There is
reason to be fearful during such a time of cultural instability, given the
comfort to be found in easy answers and repressive fundamentalist ideologies.
But in a time of searching, enlightened ideas may also find an audience.
Cultural instability provides a favorable opportunity for mass movements, of
whatever variety.

Of particular significance is globalization's abandonment of traditional
Western privileges. As social services are dismantled and wages decline,
Western governments are increasingly devoting themselves to promoting
corporate interests rather than promoting social well being and healthy
national economies. The relative privilege of Western populations has
traditionally provided a mass constituency in support of the established
capitalist system. As more and more Westerners come to realize that
globalization is betraying this unwritten social contract, many of them are
looking for new solutions. This creates an opportunity for mass political
movements in the very heart of the beast -- the Western fortress of global

In addition, there seem to be cracks showing up in the capitalist edifice
itself. One of the most successful capitalists, billionaire financier George
Soros, told us in the Atlantic Monthly (February 1997) that unrestrained
capitalism has become the greatest threat to "open societies" and democratic
values. The collapse of Asian economies shook global confidence, and Western
leaders have called officially for reform of the international financial
system. A major free-trade proposal, the Multilateral Agreement on
Investments, was recently stalled due to disputes among Western leaders.
These kind of developments do not mean that capitalism will collapse, but
any such weaknesses or divisions enhance, at least psychologically, the
prospects for our movement.

As the millennium approaches, I believe it is fair to say that anxiety
regarding global instability and social deterioration is at a very high
level worldwide. Old systems really are falling apart, and the new global
system has not managed to instill confidence or cultural identity. The
objective conditions, I suggest, are almost ideally favorable for mass
movements. The challenge is for responsible people of good will everywhere
to rise up and make use of this opportunity. The window of opportunity is
closing fast, as nations are being disempowered and popular will is being
made rapidly irrelevant.

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