PROUT Blog – “A Solution-Oriented Approach”

Beyond the Bill of Rights: Economic Democracy

When the United States Constitution was drafted by America’s Founding Fathers at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, George Mason, the influential delegate from the state of Virginia, was one of only three delegates who refused to sign it. His reason: “It has no declaration of rights.”

It was Mason who was most vocal in insisting that a democratic government could not stand without the constitutional protection of certain freedoms. He, above all others, fought passionately to ensure that basic human rights would be incorporated into the Constitution. American government, Mason believed, would turn to tyranny should citizens not be ensured sovereign rights. In the end Mason’s determined advocacy prevailed, and the Bill of Rights was eventually amended to the US Constitution.

The Constitution is the foundation of American government, and it is the Constitution’s Bill of Rights — and the First Amendment freedoms of expression in particular — that has served as the bedrock of American political democracy.

In the same way that political democracy requires a Bill of Rights, economic democracy also requires the declaration of certain fundamental rights. Without such rights, citizens would be (and are) at constant risk of erosion of their empowerment in the economic realm, and an economy of opportunity for all will degenerate into an economy for the wealthy.

For most of its citizens, America is no longer “the land of opportunity”. There is no longer an American economy that is by, for, and of the people. The skewed economic power enjoyed by the plutocrats has become so extreme as to fully corrupt political power, and the freedoms George Mason fought for now have little meaning. The Bill of Rights can no longer ensure the viability of political democracy.

Political democracy has been subverted by wealth: Corporations now have “personhood” rights, and they exert these rights backed by their massive coffers that buy political influence far beyond the means of common citizens.

The rights that George Mason fought to instill in the American Constitution served the nation well; political democracy long endured, protected by the bulwark of the Bill of Rights. But this bulwark is now breached. The political freedoms of the Bill of Rights are no longer enough; they no longer suffice.

What must be added to America’s political freedoms is a set of economic rights that ensure economic democracy — rights that can restore America’s political democracy in the process.

The fundamental economic rights required for economic democracy are four in number. Two of them define the economic rights of individuals, and two define the economic rights of communities.

The economic rights to be guaranteed individuals are:

1] The basic necessities and amenities of life should be guaranteed to all, according to standards appropriate to the region and the age.
2] There should be ever-increasing purchasing power enjoyed by all.

And the economic rights to be guaranteed communities are:

3] The power to make economic decisions should be vested in the hands of local people and their decisions should be made on the basis of collective necessity.
4] People outside the local community should not interfere in the local economy, and locally generated capital should not be drained from the local community.

With these rights securely established, America could enjoy an economy that is by, for, and of the people; and both citizens and local communities could feel empowered to develop fully their economic potentials.

With these rights, the American political system will no longer be bought and sold but will maintain its democratic integrity, its participatory vitality.

At the 1787 Continental Congress, George Mason drew a line in the sand: No bill of rights, no ratification of the Constitution. The American people must now draw a new line in the sand: No economic empowerment of people and local communities, no business as usual.

This is a cause worthy of struggling for. It is one that can unite the great majority of Americans in common cause and that can give them an expanded vision of democracy.

A juncture has been reached: Awareness of unbridled greed is now commonplace. Most people know the plutocracy does not serve them. In this milieu, Americans will embrace the rights of economic democracy, and they will come to cherish them every bit as much as they have cherished their political freedoms.

By | 2018-06-23T05:36:23+0000 June 14th, 2018|Ronald Logan, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Global Metacrisis

People are naturally reticent to change their society’s whole system of economic activity. However much care is taken in attempting an orderly transition, the potential for disruption is real. Additionally, nearly all who have influence and privilege will resist a change of system. The case for a change of system must be real and compelling. People must realize (as many already do) that there is no choice other than to act, that it is a matter of survival — and, in the end, the new system will bring a far better quality of life to all.

Here is the circumstance that now compels action: Humanity faces several major crises, each of which has capacity to bring dead-endings to our civilizational trajectory. Each alone may bring collapse; together their danger to humanity is magnified.

Resource Depletion. Although world population continues to grow, resource use grows even faster. Crucial resources are now being depleted at an unsustainable rate. The production of some vital, non-renewable resources has already reached peak and is in decline — most important among them is oil. Even the production of some vital renewable resources has peaked, such as timber, fish, and grain. Estimates of the overshoot of the carrying capacity of the earth are now at about 60 percent — that is, 1.6 earths now required to sustain humanity at our present level of resource use.

Climate Change. The correlation between CO2 levels and global temperatures is well established. Earth’s average annual temperature has steadily risen, as has the frequency of extreme weather events. There is growing awareness of the potential for positive-feedback mechanisms setting in — such as methane release in the tundra — that have potential to fuel acceleration of temperature rises. There is a real possibility the global climate system is already reaching tipping-points, which could bring a sudden shift in the stable climate that earth has enjoyed for the past twelve millennia. One variation of such a tipping-point scenario involves increased Arctic ice melt blocking and shutting down of the North Atlantic Current, responsible for maintaining Northern Europe’s mild climate.

Environmental Destruction. The earth’s biosphere is being killed at a rate so rapid as to be characterized as life’s “sixth extinction” event. Humanity’s impact on the planet has been of such a scale as to leave marked impact on earth’s geological record, compelling scientists to recognize the emergence of a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene. As the destruction proceeds — consuming soils, aquifers, surface waters, coral reefs, forests, flood plain buffers, ecosystem biodiversity — the economic potentials of humanity are diminishing accordingly, and the health and vitality of humans and other living beings are increasingly compromised. It is not unreasonable to project ecosystem collapse in fragile environments. Indeed, this appears to be occurring already in growing numbers of dead zones at river mouths and in dying coral reef communities across the tropics.

Economic Collapse. There are two fundamental causes of economic depressions: (1) over-concentration of wealth among the rich, which reduces the purchasing capacity of the common people, and (2) stagnancy in the movement of money in the productive economy, as investors withhold credit, or investments get concentrated into non-productive speculation. Both of these conditions exist, to an extreme, in the current global economy. Concentration of wealth has soared to reckless levels. While the number of billionaires continues to climb, the real wages of the middle and lower classes have remained stagnant in most countries, if not declined. Despite state interventions to stimulate credit markets, there is little investment flowing into industry and commerce. Meanwhile investment in speculative financial markets has resumed in force, despite the partial bursting of the speculative bubble in 2008. This is occurring amidst a debt bubble of a size almost beyond imagining.

These crises — and others could be identified — are not independent from each other, but should be regarded as acute symptoms of a larger global metacrisis that is rooted in fundamental defects at the heart of the present social order. As such, they are interrelated, with capacity to interact in complex and mutually reinforcing ways.

So, let us take for example, the situation in the mid 2000s when there was a global tightness of oil supply (due in part to peaking oil production). This brought on a surge in gas prices, which created a cost of living surge, that exacerbated the home mortgage crisis, which accelerated the credit meltdown, which, then, slammed the breaks on the economy. Slowed economic activity, in turn, caused a plunge in oil demand and a drop in gas prices, which weakened political pressure for developing alternative fuel sources, and thereby undermining aggressive efforts to reduce carbon emissions — the greenhouse gas most responsible for climate change that is putting stress on agricultural production.

As a result of the global metacrisis, it is no longer advisable for local economies to continue linking their fate to an unstable, crisis prone global economy. As the interactive and mutually exacerbating effects of the symptoms of the global metacrisis intensify, and as their effects come together in unanticipated perfect storm situations, tragedy and hardship will become more commonplace. Even where there is not severe hardship, societies will yet face ongoing dwindling of developmental potentials.

Acknowledgement of the global metacrisis compels us to accept that the sinking ship must be abandoned and fundamental change embraced.

Change at such a fundamental level will not be easy. Many are invested in economic globalism and will resist letting it go. But the necessity of change is upon us. We either resist it, at great cost to humanity’s wellbeing, or accept the challenges and embrace the new possibilities that are arising.

Adopting a new development modality — one that is decentralized and sustainable — will require an extraordinary degree of vision, engagement, unity and leadership. But most of all, it will require a viable new economic paradigm to guide development.

By | 2018-06-23T05:36:08+0000 May 31st, 2018|Ronald Logan, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Comprehensive Shift to a Viable Future

Occupy World Street, A Global Roadmap for Radical Economic and Political Reform
Ross Jackson
Green Books, 2012
Reviewed by Mel Strawn and Clare Strawn (father/daughter)

Some few years ago we were all aware of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and you might yawn with “been there, done that” in response to Jackson’s subsequent book Occupy World Street. But note: This book takes it up a notch to WORLD street and offers “A Global Roadmap for Radical Economic and Political Reform.” Economics isn’t a sexy cup of tea. But in Jackson’s book, the treatment of economics is deepened and broadened to an integrated discussion of virtually all that we depend on, care about and can’t escape. We depend, for instance, on a living biome; our lives are an integral part of the natural world. (That’s where the food is.) So it is that runaway global warming is a major background issue addressed throughout the book.

ross-cover-slide
Click here to view interview

The book’s introduction starts: “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who can” (Steve Jobs). Ross Jackson, Ph.D., is a Danish citizen, raised in Canada, with degrees in engineering physics, industrial managing and operations research, which is the science of problem solving. He has worked in global finance and founded the Gaia Foundation and the Global Ecovillage Network; in other words, he’s experienced widely diverse positions that inform his analysis and qualify him as “crazy enough to think he can change the world.”

Dangerous Crossroads
Jackson notes, “Humankind stands at a dangerous crossroads. In the worst case–if an irreversible global warming manifests—we may not survive. Even if this worst case does not materialize, we face a series of other threats–ecosystem overload, over population, extinction of species, and a serious economic overload.”

The first part of the book draws on sound research and theory to demonstrate three converging planetary crises: destruction of the environment, peak oil, and collapse of social and economic systems. While many books expound on these problems, it is instructive to review them all in juxtaposition.

Part Two offers a useful review of dominant economic beliefs. As critical review of the topic is glaringly missing in most formal education curricula (particularly in the US), this section is an important contribution to civic education. It is particularly important to unmask the “Neo Liberal Project” since it is the sea we swim in (particularly in the U.S. where fewer alternative paradigms are in public discourse) and therefore largely invisible. The chapter in Part Two, “The Drivers of Destruction,” provides an understanding of our current financial crises.

In explicating the current world order, Jackson reveals the Kennan doctrine (George Kennan was with the U.S. Dept. of State during the cold war) quoting from a 1948 secret memo, “Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern or relationships, which will allow us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security” (p. 125). This cuts to the chase of what our threats to security are about, which Jackson links to our current loss of democracy to global corporatocracy.

Jackson calls out our failed political leadership. He reiterates the obvious: infinite growth on a finite planet is an impossibility; and clearly states that a radical change in our (largely Western) lifestyles is essential to survival.

Emerging Models
Starting with Part Four, the book offers emerging models and examples of possibility with values and worldview that elevate planetary sustainability to the central concern for economic development. Part of this movement involves aligning single issue oriented NGOs to address systemic problems. This is a shift from our current mode, which, like reductionist science, isolates a single factor (cause) and ignores the whole. This no longer matches our understanding of complex systems.

PROUTist thinking has, historically, been in front of this integrated whole-systems analysis. It is not, therefore, surprising that the PROUT Institute finds itself in collaboration with Jackson to support regional development systems.

Jackson proposes a Gaian Confederation, an alternative, community-based way(s) to conduct the human enterprise based on ecological sustainability and human rights. The road map referred to in the book’s title outlines specific concepts for global governance and economic systems that offer an alternative vision to that of the discredited neoliberal paradigm discussed in the first half of the book. “Gaia” is the view that the planet earth is alive, inclusive and interdependent as a single living system. It was developed as a theory by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis, evolutionary biologist.

Rather than dumping the reader into nihilism, as so many books of dire warning do, Jackson’s book argues for planting the seed for the coming generations. “There is a world of difference between an abstract vision and one that is on the ground and evolving” (p. 275). And the author, himself, is on the ground and evolving through his engagement with multiple global networks.

Breakaway
In the final chapter, “The Breakaway Strategy,” Jackson identifies nation states that are potential starting points for global federation. PROUTists and many bioregional visionaries recommend regional units that are more aligned with local carrying capacity and development. This may prove to be a more accessible starting point for building on existing alternative models and less constrained by national politics.

These two reviewers (Mel and Clare) question two points. First, does humanity have enough time to turn around? Even Jackson’s terrific analysis and recommendations for mitigating action is vague on the realities of time needed for transformative global turn around on the timetable of rapidly accelerating positive feedbacks that spell across-the-board disaster. If the imminent ecosystem collapse is non-linear (as predicted by Guy McPherson, known for the concept of “near term extinction”) is it possible for human systems to shift in a rapid non-linear trajectory as well?

Secondly, Jackson’s perspective has a Eurocentric bias that fails to adequately consider the movements of colonized people that may be the seeds of global transformation. It may well be that wisdom and action from indigenous peoples are the lever to make the breakaway. This is seen, for example, in current “water protectors” movements in North and Latin America that are blocking oil extraction by raising the banner of sacred values.

There is vastly more to consider in this comprehensive book. It has decisive positive reviews from a wide range of stakeholders, communicators and activists. These include David Korten, cofounder of YES Magazine and author of “The Great Turning” and “Agenda for a New Economy”; Dennis Meadows, co-author of “Limits to Growth” who says: “…Jackson’s proposal for post-collapse strategy is the first plausible, constructive scenario I have seen. An excellent text, even amazing”; and Maurice Strong, Secretary General of the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio, who says: “Never has the kind of ‘breakaway’ Ross Jackson envisages been more necessary to our prospects for survival.”

Buy
Occupy World Street at http://proutinstitute.org/bookstore/

Learn more about the AndelsTanken Langeland project: http://proutinstitute.org/projects/andelstanken/

Reviewers: Mel Strawn, Professor Emeritus, University of Denver. Mel has 30 plus years as an educator at the college-university levels and as an environmental student/leader/activist in various ways since the late 1960’s. “I am a designer-artist trying to make sense of a vastly complex world.”
Clare Strawn, Ph.D., is the PROUT Institute’s strategic development and learning officer, and an international education program evaluation consultant.

By | 2016-11-15T02:25:14+0000 November 15th, 2016|Book Reviews|0 Comments

Cycles and Bubbles

Second in a Series on Economic Depression by Ronald Logan, PROUT Institute Executive Director

At some point in the late 1980s I was exposed to the Kondratiev Cycle, first proposed by Nikolai Kondratiev a talented Soviet economist whose work predicted cycles of economic depressions.

In his 1925 book, The Major Economic Cycles, he introduced a theory of 50-60 year-long cycles of boom and bust in capitalist economies. Kondratiev’s works were suppressed in the Stalinist era (he was executed by Stalin in 1938), but were rediscovered in the late 1970s when his ideas on economic cycles eventually came to my attention. My interest in the Kondratiev Cycle was primed by my exposure to PROUT founder P.R. Sarkar’s article Economic Dynamics, which also predicted a coming great depression — one that would bring the downfall of capitalism.

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By | 2016-10-12T23:45:01+0000 June 1st, 2016|Ronald Logan|0 Comments

Library Expands Contents With Many Valuable New Articles

We’ve expanded our library with a diversity of new contents having value for a wide range of readers! In the past three months, some 13 new items have been uploaded to the Library. This includes two new folder collections:

  • General PROUT Theory
  • Cooperative Enterprise

Some new articles of particular significance include:

Our library has been getting valuable use: At this year’s 11th Annual Finnish Social Forum — a gathering of social movements, NGOs and civil society organizations — the Finnish PROUT group at the program distributed packets of PROUT articles that were sourced from the PROUT Institute Library.

Here are short blurbs on all of the articles and papers — and the two new subject folders — added to the Library since March, 2016

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By | 2018-01-19T04:49:17+0000 June 1st, 2016|Ronald Logan|0 Comments

Globalizing the Company Town

A “company town” is a town in which all property, services, and enterprises are owned by a single company. In a company town, it is the company that hires, fires, and retires workers. It is the company that runs the store where people get their commodities and that controls the water and the electric systems. The company runs the school and runs the medical clinic. The company owns the homes that workers rent. And it is the company that brings in the hired security force when there is labor unrest. In the company town, whose interests rule?

Let us now consider the global economy. In the global economy, who provides the jobs; who outsources the jobs? Who runs (and ruins) retirement programs? In the global economy, who owns the resources, and who plunders the resources? Who decides what factories get built — and then decides when they get moved and where? Who runs the hospitals; who controls the energy grid, the media, the currency? It is an increasingly small number of growing conglomerates.

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By | 2016-06-01T03:16:47+0000 June 1st, 2016|Ronald Logan, Uncategorized|0 Comments

The latest from the Philippines:

Here are Ellen Trazo’s reports on the ongoing projects:

Socio – Women’s Livelihood Center, which houses the Consumer’s Store and the Charcoal Making Project. The women’s project is a good partnership with Sr. Edith, a Benedictine nun, as they own that piece of land and donated the galvanized roof for the store and some plywood. We bought the wood and nails, and give honorariums to the fulltime carpenters. Most of the labor was given as free service by the husbands of the women members.  I felt so touched and happy because I saw how the community helped one another… buying woods, ferry it using the motor boats, the youth, the men and women were carrying the lumbers from the boat to the construction site.

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By | 2018-01-19T04:44:43+0000 May 31st, 2016|Philippines|0 Comments

AndelsTanken Creates Green Initiatives

Members of AndelsTanken understands that most Danes readily agree on two long-term goals: CO2 neutrality and cooperative economic development. The first goal is a global imperative and the second is part of the Danish cultural and economic DNA. For 70 years, from 1882 to 1952, Denmark demonstrated a sustainable developmental model based on local resources and cooperatives. Many Danes have rallied around us in taking up these simple goals.

The enormous volunteer engagement that’s come to life is inspiring. Many experienced and engaged people have come forward to offer their skills and time — some to foster local sustainable development, some to continue working in the projects, and some who see localized coop development as the way to meet the challenges of transition.

AndelsTanken’s method is to seek out projects that people are inspired to be a part of, and then to develop concrete action plans in cooperation with these people. AndelsTanken’s role is to facilitate the co-creation of project descriptions and the plans for project implementation.

We’re involved in a number of projects that demonstrate ways for the green economy to grow and become a viable alternative. These projects work on different levels of the new green and sustainable market economy, retaking control over value chains and democratizing the economy and the planning processes. So far we’ve co-created nine projects, described below.

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By | 2016-10-12T23:45:01+0000 May 31st, 2016|AndelsTanken|0 Comments