Guidebook 2.c: FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF A LIVABLE WORLD

2001-01-10

Richard Moore

Friends,

This section, 'Fundamental principles of a livable world'
turned out to be a biggee - weighing in at nearly 5,000
words.  Many threads come together in this section and the
synergy between them was well worth developing.   Every
piece of the revolution interacts here - the goals, the
organizing principle, the movement structure, and the
victory strategy.

For those who have been pointing out gaps, I hope this
indicates how they are going to be remedied.  For those
waiting to see solutions, I hope you can find value in these
proposals.  Any feedback will be to the benefit of future
readers, as this is an evolving work in progress.

I'm submitting this material at this time to New Dawn
Magazine, as an article for their next issue.  Some people
on these lists have expressed distress at some of the material
New Dawn publishes.  Personally, I think their editorial
policy is a bit tongue in cheek.  But in any case, my main
concern is to reach the audience.  I'd even let Time
Magazine publish my stuff - and you can't find a more
reprehensible venue that that.

regards,
rkm


============================================================================

    A GUIDEBOOK: HOW THE WORLD WORKS AND HOW WE CAN CHANGE IT
    (C) 2001, Richard K. Moore
    http://cyberjournal.org/cj/guide/

    Chapter 2:

    What kind of world do we want?

         a. Globalization: crisis and opportunity
         b. The Moment of Global Convergence
   ===>  c. Fundamental principles of a livable world
         d. Localism, diversity, and genuine democracy
         e. Sustainability and its political implications
         f. Decentralized sovereignty and global stability
         g. Human evolution and the liberation of the spirit

   ---------------------------------------------------------

   2.c. Fundamental principles of a livable world

                "Moderation in all things."
                - classical Greek wisdom

   It would be easy for me to write down a description of my own
   personal utopia, or to wish for a world in which everyone has
   magically become enlightened and public spirited. It is much
   more difficult to come up with a vision that can appeal to
   all segments of the world population, and which accepts that
   people are unlikely to change their basic natures or beliefs
   in the near future. It is even more difficult to make that
   vision one which is coherent and which lays the foundations
   for a system that will work effectively in practice.

   In order to approach this challenge, we will first seek to
   identify a few fundamental principles which we can hope
   everyone could agree to. We will then investigate the
   implications of these principles, to find out how they might
   be implemented in practice, and what kind of world that would
   lead to. In this investigation, we will look at historical
   precedents and we will employ some simple principles of
   systems analysis. The investigation will be bound by a great
   many constraints, such as the finiteness of resources and the
   diversity of existing human societies.

   Let me first list the general principles and then explain
   what I mean by them:

          * Personal liberty
          * A voice for everyone in society's governance
          * Decentralization
          * Harmonization instead of factionalism
          * Economic vitality
          * Sustainability
          * World peace

   Personal liberty
   ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
   Within the limits of respecting the liberty and welfare of
   others, every individual should be free to pursue their lives
   more or less as they see fit. If they choose to submit
   themselves to the dictates of a religion, to cultural
   traditions, or whatever, then so be it - but such choices
   should be voluntary.

   No single principle, however, can be interpreted in isolation
   - each must be kept in balance with the others. 'Personal
   liberty' does not mean that a community has no right to
   prohibit anti-social behavior, according to local cultural
   norms. Nor does it mean that an individual can choose to do
   sit around all day, and then demand that society support
   them. Personal liberty must be balanced against personal
   responsibility, and it must be kept in reasonable harmony
   with the welfare of society.

   At the same time, the principle of personal liberty serves to
   counter-balance an excessive application of other principles.
   In China, large numbers of people have been forced against
   their will to work on agricultural labor crews, so as to
   fulfill the government's economic objectives. And in the
   United States, men have frequently been forced against their
   will to fight in imperialist wars, on the pretext of
   'defending' national interests. The principle of 'personal
   freedom' aims to protect the individual against such
   excessive intrusions by society-at-large, and from any
   'tyranny of the majority'. In a livable world, society may
   protect itself from anti-social individuals, but it does not
   seek to accomplish its objectives through coercion. A livable
   society is _for the people, not _over the people.

   A voice for everyone in society's governance
   ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
   A livable society is not only _for the people, but also _of
   the people. Our current societies have a pretense of
   'representation' but that does not in practice provide a
   voice for the people. We get candidates who sell themselves
   on television, debating 'issues' which have little relevance
   to essential matters - and then when they're in office they
   ignore their constituencies and devote their energies to
   promoting the corporate neoliberal agenda. This may be less
   true in local elections, but it is very true at the top
   levels, where the big decisions are made.

   Our supposedly 'opposing' political parties go to great
   lengths to convince us that they differ in their
   philosophies, but in practice the 'bipartisan' corporate
   program is what gets implemented, regardless of who gets
   elected. When it comes down to it, what could we expect from
   a system where the only input from the people is an 'X' every
   four years, next to the name of one personality or the other?
   How could that possibly convey the will of the people?

   The word 'democracy' comes from the Greeks, who were the
   first to study governmental structures in a systematic way.
   Their basic categories of governance were 'aristocracy',
   'tyranny', and 'democracy'. In fact, these three are all
   forms of tyranny, as far as the the man in the street is
   concerned. The only difference between them is who
   administers the regime. With 'tyranny' it is a self-appointed
   dictator; with 'aristocracy' it is a property-owning class;
   with 'democracy' it is some party which has convinced voters
   that it is less-objectionable than the alternative parties.

   The literal translation of the Greek dêmokratia, 'rule by the
   people', is basically a good idea. But the implementations of
   'democracy', starting with the Greeks, have emphasized the
   'rule' and left out the 'people'. In fact, electoral politics
   always becomes a game of power-brokers and demagogues,
   leading to a tyranny of the majority - which really means
   tyranny by the party that best succeeded in fooling the
   electorate.

   For 10,000 years our lives have been increasingly dominated
   by hierarchies. After such long-term subjugation it may be
   scary to think of running society ourselves. But who else
   should we trust instead? Even if your answer is "God", then
   it is up to _you to represent her wisdom in the body politic.
   With the dawning of the 21st Century, it is time for humanity
   to grow up and take responsibility for itself. We are now 21.

   There are many precedents, both historical and current, which
   provide effective models for involving people in the
   decisions that affect their lives - for putting
   responsibility where it belongs. These models are based on
   the harmonization of interests, rather than on competition
   among political parties and societal factions. And they are
   models which begin the problem-solving process at the local
   level - not in the halls of some remote central government.

   Decentralization
   ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
   In a livable society, local communities should be able to
   make the decisions that affect them directly. Why should
   someone else tell them how to live their lives, how late they
   can keep their pubs open, or what kind of schools they can
   run for their children? Why should that be the business of
   anyone outside the community? There have been cases, to be
   sure, where local minorities have been suppressed, and
   central governments have come to their rescue. But in a
   livable society, where everyone has an effective voice in
   their communities, there should be little need for that kind
   of central interventionism.

   And again, this principle needs to be balanced against
   others. A community cannot pollute the water source of other
   communities, nor can it be allowed to squander its resources
   recklessly - forcing its people eventually to make demands on
   the resources of others. And the community cannot be allowed
   to violate the liberty of its citizens, to ignore their
   political voice, or to use its children as free labor instead
   of giving them an education.

   There are clearly problems that need to be dealt with on a
   larger scale than a single community, and there are problems
   that can only be dealt with on a global basis. But in a
   livable society, decisions are made locally whenever
   possible, and larger-scale decisions are made in
   participation with those affected. In our societies today,
   decisions by unaccountable centralized bureaucracies have
   become the _primary means by which society is run. In a
   livable society the power-and-responsibility pyramid is
   turned the other way around.

   Consider how the international postal system operates. Each
   nation has full sovereignty over how it delivers mail, and
   what kind of post-office system it wants to set up. There is
   no centralized global postal authority which has jurisdiction
   over the internal operations of national postal systems. All
   nations (except in time of conflict) have always agreed to
   deliver the mail passed on to them by other nations - based
   entirely on mutual benefit and trust. The Internet works the
   same way. Each Internet provider is like a local post office,
   and the providers voluntarily collaborate in the exchange of
   mail - based on mutual benefit and trust. The international
   rail system is yet another familiar example.

   The Internet, and these international infrastructure systems,
   are examples of _decentralized, non-hierarchical systems_.
   Because they are based on mutual benefit, each party can
   trust the others to implement their part of the transactions
   - in whatever manner best suits them. As these examples
   prove, such a system can be very reliable, and it can evolve
   over time as new circumstances arise. The administrative
   burden is decentralized, where it can be more efficiently
   optimized for local conditions. The overall administration
   overhead is less than in a centralized system; administration
   is closer to its users; and different societies can choose to
   have different qualities of local service, depending on what
   they can afford and what their needs are. In a decentralized
   system, unresponsive and inflexible bureaucracies are
   minimized.

   In addition to these many advantages, decentralized systems
   provide something even more important - they facilitate
   innovative evolution. Let's suppose that Sweden develops an
   appropriate-tech mail sorter that is more energy efficient
   than those used anywhere else. Very soon, other nations will
   emulate Sweden, perhaps modifying or refining the design in
   the process. In a centralized system, the research &
   development function is also centralized, and innovation is
   constrained through a narrow pipeline. In a decentralized
   system, each party can take risks on their own with new
   ideas, and if they fail, no one else need emulate them.

   In a livable world, decentralized systems are to be
   preferred, wherever they can be successfully employed.
   Besides their advantages in terms of system performance, such
   systems provide a political benefit: they transfer
   responsibility and control to the lowest possible level, in
   many cases to the local community itself. To the extent that
   liberty and responsibility can be successfully combined and
   concentrated at the community level, we can hope to achieve a
   livable, humane, world - where everyone's voice is expressed
   and listened to. Such a society would be very well ordered,
   but that order would be a harmony of individual voices, not
   the regimented order imposed by a central government.

                Sidebar: Decentralization and the movement
                ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
                A decentralized model is also ideal for the movement
                we are now building. People are involved in all
                kinds of networks already, whether they be community
                organizations, professional associations, churches,
                or whatever. Some of these are currently activist,
                such as the NRA or the Sierra Club. All of them are
                _potentially activist, whenever the conditions
                become right. If we attempt to build a new
                super-movement, and hope to recruit everyone to its
                banner, then we are going against the momentum of
                bonds and alliances which have already been built.
                Besides, such a super-movement would be a move
                toward a centralized paradigm, in this case
                'ideological centralization'. In ideas, as in
                technology, local diversity facilitates overall
                societal evolution.

                I suggest that what we need is not a new movement
                _organization, but rather a new organizing
                _paradigm. We need to find ways to get groups of
                people to listen to one another, and to discover
                that they are - on all sides - mostly sincere people
                trying to make life better for their families. Once
                people, and groups, can communicate beyond their
                differences, and begin to find what they have in
                common, then they can begin to find consensus
                solutions to the problems that face them in their
                lives. One person might be a bio-ethical vegetarian,
                and another an avid hunter, yet they might both
                agree that corporate power is ruining their
                livelihoods. We need to embrace a paradigm of
                inclusiveness, and of systematic consensus building.
                The paradigm is itself decentralized - the
                harmonization process can begin anywhere and
                everywhere, by diverse methods and with varying
                success - and without any central organization.

                The _growth of the movement is simply the spread of
                this harmonization process throughout the global
                society. The _progress of the movement is the
                evolutionary process by which harmonization
                techniques are refined, and higher-levels of
                movement coordination become possible. The _victory
                of the movement will occur when the entire global
                society has been mobilized, and when it is capable
                of taking decisive and coordinated action everywhere
                at once, without any central authority, and without
                allegiance being sworn to any single ideology or
                religion.

   Harmonization instead of factionalism
   ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
   Our current political systems are based on competition among
   societal factions. Different factions (workers, gun owners,
   stock brokers, ethnic minorities, etc.) each identify their
   own interests, and then they compete in various ways to
   promote their interests in preference to those of other
   groups. Political parties seek to enlist the support of these
   factions, and then the parties go on to repeat the factional
   competition in our legislative bodies. In practice, the
   societal factions are betrayed - the parties follow the
   agenda of a tiny super-rich minority instead of listening to
   their electoral constituencies. Politics in the Roman
   Republic degenerated into 'bread and circuses', and that has
   been the story of 'democracy' ever since. But even if the
   competitive system worked as it is ideally supposed to work,
   it would still be a very dysfunctional system.

   Consider the decision-making process that is followed in our
   legislatures - some call it "Parliamentary Process" and other
   call it "Robert's Rules of Order". Under this system,
   discussion continues until some faction feels that it has
   assembled a majority for its proposal. A vote is then called,
   and if a majority assents, the matter is settled and debate
   is ended. The focus is not on discussing problems, listening
   to alternatives, and working out solutions. Instead, the
   parliamentary process provides a forum where deal-makers try
   to assemble support for prepackaged partisan proposals.

   It is no surprise that such a system does a poor job at
   solving societal problems. The problems of our society are
   complex, and coming up with solutions requires that all
   relevant considerations be taken into account. Instead, each
   party proposes narrowly conceived solutions, based on its own
   partisan perspective, and designed to provide relative
   advantage to its own constituency. This process is not
   conducive to generating effective solutions. The relevant
   information is simply not being taken into account.

   Consider the story of the blind men and the elephant. None
   could see the whole elephant, and each got a different
   impression depending on which part of the elephant they could
   touch. Our societal problems are like that elephant, and our
   politicians are like those blind men. What the blind men need
   to do, in the case of the elephant, is to talk to one another
   and compare their observations. What our politicians need to
   do is listen to one another, and come up with solutions that
   work for society generally. But our system is not set up that
   way - the politicians (with some notable exceptions) perceive
   their role as promoting one set of interests over another.
   Thus our societal problems, like the elephant, are only
   partially understood and partially addressed - even when the
   system works ideally and without corruption.

   A livable society cannot afford to entrust its governance to
   such a dysfunctional system. When people come together to
   make decisions, whether locally or on a larger-scale basis,
   society needs its problems to be addressed collaboratively,
   with all relevant information taken into account, leading to
   solutions which harmonize the interests of the various
   constituencies.

   There are proven processes which facilitate this kind of
   collaborative harmonization, and they are not at all like the
   parliamentary process. Instead of debate, they emphasize
   listening. Instead of focusing on partisan solutions, they
   focus on understanding the problems, and identifying the
   kinds of outcomes different people would like to achieve.
   These are creative, problem-solving processes, where people
   learn from one another, and solutions are developed which
   none of the participants anticipated. Furthermore, the
   processes help build a sense of community, and help develop a
   cooperative spirit generally among those who participate.

   Such processes, I suggest, are the appropriate political
   processes for a livable society. In Section 2.d, we will
   investigate how this can work in practice, and how it can
   scale up to handle the problems of large societies, and to
   handle global problems. What it leads to is an overall
   process of global harmonization, rather than the development
   of competing factions and competing nations. And instead of
   decision-making by central bureaucracies, it leads to
   decisions which arise from the people themselves, the best
   ideas spreading and evolving.

   Harmonization processes are in widespread use, and one the
   biggest markets for them is within corporate organizations,
   where they might be called 'team-effectiveness workshops', or
   'organizational-effectiveness seminars'. Such processes have
   been used successfully in movement organizing efforts and, as
   I have suggested above, such processes are likely to evolve -
   as the movement develops - into a refined and effective means
   of collective deliberation and action. As the movement learns
   to pursue harmonization in a systematic way, it will develop
   the very political processes that will be needed by the
   post-capitalist society.

   Economic vitality
   ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
   A healthy society cannot exist without a healthy economy.
   Under capitalism, we tend to think of 'the economy' as being
   employment figures, stock market levels, and interest rates.
   In fact, the 'economy' is everything you and I do, each day,
   as we make a living, and acquire the things we need. The
   economy is the sum total of the ways people interact, as they
   carry out their business in life. An economy is healthy -
   vital - when people's work is directed toward things that are
   needed by society - when supply and demand are allowed to
   interact naturally and directly. People, out of their own
   self-interest, generally seek to maximize their economic
   reward for the work they do. A 'vital' economy is one where
   economic rewards are closely linked to societal benefit. In
   that way, the economy naturally facilitates the welfare of
   everyone, with little need for central coordination. That, by
   the way, is precisely what Adam Smith was seeking to
   accomplish.

   Under capitalism, most people maximize their economic reward
   by taking a job in a corporation for a salary. Their work
   then serves whatever agenda the corporation might have in
   mind. Instead of work being linked to societal benefit, work
   is linked to corporate profitability. To the extent that
   corporate prosperity benefits society, then the system works
   well enough. It worked well enough, in fact, that most
   Westerners were happy with the system up until neoliberalism
   raised its ugly head. It is now abundantly clear that a
   capitalist economy is ultimately an unhealthy economy - it
   directs people toward work which pollutes our environment,
   wastes our resources, and which fails to meet the basic needs
   of most of the world's people. Under capitalism, economic
   reward is separated from societal benefit, and the pursuit of
   economic gain becomes ultimately an anti-social force.

   A livable society, given our finite resources, cannot afford
   capitalism's wastefulness. We need economic arrangements
   which take into account the fact that our children will need
   to live after us, and which don't reward farmers for
   poisoning our food and depleting our topsoil. We need a
   fair-competition marketplace, with effective measures to
   prevent speculation and the emergence of monopoly operators.
   We need to structure our monetary and financial system so
   that it facilitates market competition and encourages the
   development of healthy businesses. Instead of giant private
   banks, whose only objective is maximizing their returns, we
   need something more like the credit-union model, where funds
   are available locally at rates that enable businesses to
   develop without a punitive debt burden. We need to remove the
   artificial 'growth imperative' by which capitalism has
   infected our economies. Societies benefit from stable,
   profitable businesses, rather than businesses which must grow
   and exploit in order to survive at all.

   Under such conditions, competitive markets can be a very
   effective way to achieve a healthy, vital economy. There are
   some cases, however, where other economic models have a role
   to play as well. Highway systems, for example, are best
   managed by public agencies, as they are in most of parts of
   the world already. The actual work might be contracted out to
   efficient private operators, but the infrastructure should be
   managed so as to serve society generally, rather than to line
   the pockets of a private owner. Co-ops are another useful
   model, provided they are not allowed to grow into exploitive
   monopolies. Competitive markets, societal management, and
   co-ops are all available in our 'toolkit for a healthy
   economy'. Which to apply in each case depends on
   circumstances, and on the preferences of those affected.

   Sustainability
   ^^^^^^^^^^^^^
   Whatever definition of 'livable world' we might come up with,
   I think it is safe to say that all of us want to build a
   system that will last - a system that can be sustained over
   time. Why would we squander our rare Moment of Convergence on
   building something that will fall apart and cause a crisis
   for our grandchildren? I suggest that _sustainability is a
   principle we can all agree must be observed a livable world.

   This means that we need to move as rapidly as possible to
   harvesting methods which don't take more trees or fish than
   nature can replace. It means we need to adopt agricultural
   methods and livestock practices which do not deplete the
   water tables or the soil bank. Sustainable methods require
   more labor than industrial methods, but labor is something we
   have an abundance of in this over-populated world of ours.
   Labor-intensive, sustainable agriculture can produce as much
   food as the industrial alternative, and it can do so using
   organic practices. In addition to providing increased
   employment, and using less water and energy, such methods
   avoid the need for expensive pesticides (which are made from
   non-renewable resources) and the food is healthier for those
   who eat it.

   Achieving sustainability will be a major societal project.
   Under capitalism, our economies have become dependent on
   excessive long-distance food transport, on extensive use of
   automobiles, and on similar extravagances that are not
   sustainable - but which cannot simply be abandoned
   all-at-once. There needs to be a well-orchestrated transition
   program, in which current systems are gradually phased out,
   and new sustainable infrastructures are developed and
   established. This transition program will in fact be a major
   development project, and it may require the use of a
   considerable portion of our remaining fossil fuels. Obviously
   we want to keep green-house emissions to a minimum, but what
   better use of our last fossil fuel, than to build
   energy-efficient systems that don't depend on non-renewable
   sources?

   In the literature today, there is already a considerable
   understanding of ecosystems, sustainable methods, and
   energy-efficient technologies. Considerable work has been
   done as well into sustainable economic systems, using a
   different basis for issuing money and credit than under the
   capitalist system. There is little doubt that adequate
   solutions can be developed once they become high-priority
   societal projects. After the victory of the movement, we will
   still have all of our professionals, scientists, experts,
   etc.

   There is one aspect of sustainability that often goes
   overlooked in these kinds of discussions, and that is
   _political sustainability. How can we maintain the spirit of
   the Moment of Convergence? How can we create stable
   institutions and structures which nurture global harmony and
   collaboration? How do we balance the needs and desires of the
   individual, the community, and the society-at-large? Do we
   want a centralized world government, or do we want a world
   community - of cooperating, sovereign nations? In either
   case, how can we prevent some aggressive faction from seizing
   power somewhere, and starting a new cycle of conflict and
   empire building?

   These are some of the questions we will be dealing with in
   the remainder of this chapter.

   World peace
   ^^^^^^^^^^^
   I doubt if anyone would disagree that a livable world must be
   a world without war. But, we must admit, humanity has been at
   war nearly continuously, in one part of the world or another,
   for thousands of years: Is it _possible to achieve lasting
   peace? Is war perhaps inherent in human nature, if there is
   such a thing? I'd like to suggest some reasons why the
   achievement of a stable peace may not be nearly so difficult
   as it might first appear.

   Let's consider the history of the major Western European
   powers - Germany, France, Great Britain, and Italy. For
   centuries, up until 1945, these powers were at war time and
   time again, with all sorts of shifting alliances and
   balance-of-power games. Competition for markets and
   territories continued even during intervals of peace, and the
   next war was always brewing on the horizon. World War I was
   supposed to be the 'war to end all wars', but nothing had
   really changed, and World War II followed only twenty years
   later with even greater ferocity.

   But after World War II, something entirely new and different
   happened. As Europe recovered from this particular war, it
   began to build a cooperative framework instead of rushing to
   rearm and enter a new cycle of conflict. After only a few
   years the idea of war between these powers had become nearly
   unthinkable, it is still unthinkable today, and there is
   little reason to expect this to change in the near future.
   This example proves rather conclusively that a cycle of
   perpetual warfare _can be broken, and that a successful
   cooperative regime _can come suddenly into existence. And in
   this case, the reasons for the transformation are easy to
   understand.

   What European powers had been fighting about, at least for
   the last century or two, had been their empires - their
   spheres of influence. After each war there were minor
   adjustments of European borders, but the basic map of the
   four major powers has remained recognizable. The wars were
   wars of competition over empire, rather than wars of mutual
   conquest per se. What brought peace to Western Europe after
   Word War II was a shift in the nature of imperialism, brought
   about under firm U.S. leadership.

   Whether Europe liked it or not, Uncle Sam had decided to
   claim and defend the exclusive right to manage global
   geopolitical affairs. In this endeavor, America employed both
   carrots and sticks. The Marshall Plan, NATO, the UN, and the
   Bretton Woods institutions were carrots - they gave Europe
   positive reasons to enter into collaborative arrangements.
   America's willingness to deploy fleets worldwide in support
   of imperialism (Pax Americana) was also a carrot, in that it
   relieved Europe of that burden. But when Britain and France
   launched the Suez invasion, then America made it clear that
   coercion would be used if the carrots didn't do the job.
   Europe was persuaded and coerced into engaging in a
   cooperative system of imperialism, and to leave competitive
   imperialism behind.

   Once imperialism had become a cooperative venture, then there
   was no particular reason for European powers to fight one
   another. Instead, the advantages of cooperation came to the
   fore - pooling their coal resources, reducing their mutual
   tariffs, and evolving toward an integrated Europe. Once the
   cooperative regime got a good start, it became
   self-stabilizing, and in every year that passed, war became
   less and less a possibility among these powers.

   I suggest that we can expect this same kind of transformation
   on a global scale following our Moment of Global Convergence.
   After World War II, the USA took advantage of the postwar
   desire for peace, and used that energy to establish the UN
   and the Bretton Woods institutions. Similarly, we will need
   to build on the post-victory spirit of cooperation, and
   establish cooperative programs of exchange and development
   among our new societies. In this way we can hope to build a
   momentum for cooperation that will self-stabilize and evolve
   further, as happened so successfully in Western Europe after
   1945.

   --------------------------------------------------------------

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