Ronald Logan

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

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

Signs of Economic Crisis?

First in a series on Economic Depression by Ronald Logan, PROUT Institute Executive Director

In my in-box yesterday was a forwarded article from The Common Sense Show newsletter reporting that the BDI (“Baltic Dry Index” — an index of the cost of shipping commodities by sea) had just dropped 3.1 percent to a record low, and concluding that, “To anyone who knows anything about economics, it is clear that this financial era is coming to an end.”

This came two days after another forwarded article, this one in the English paper, The Telegraph, titled “RBS Cries ‘Sell Everything’ as Deflationary Crisis Nears.” The substance of the article: The bank “RBS

[Royal Bank of Scotland] has advised clients to brace for a ‘cataclysmic year’ and a global deflationary crisis,” and that “Markets are flashing stress alerts akin to the turbulent months before the Lehman crisis in 2008.”
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By | 2018-01-19T04:05:41+0000 January 22nd, 2016|News, Ronald Logan|1 Comment