"Contemporary society seems to be capable of containing social change - qualitative change which would establish essentially different institutions, a new direction of the productive process, new modes of human existence... In the face of apparently contradictory facts, the critical analysis continues to insist that the need for qualitative change is as pressing as ever before... The union of growing productivity and growing destruction; the surrender of thought, hope and fear to the decisions of the powers that be; the preservation of misery in the face of unprecedented wealth constitute the most impartial indictment - even if they are not the raison d'être of this society but only its by-product: its sweeping rationality which propels efficiency and growth is itself irrational.
In this society, the productive apparatus tends to become totalitarian to the extent to which it determines not only the socially needed occupations, skills and attitudes, but also individual needs and aspirations, thus obliterates the opposition between private and public existence, between individual and social needs... The totalitarian tendency of these controls seems to assert itself in still another sense - by spreading to the less developed and even to the preindustrial areas of the world..."
Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man, 1964, Introduction
Forty years on and this is just what we see happening. The 'consumerist' dogma of Western society has become global, undemocratic, arrogant and obsessed with totalitarian manipulation of all aspects of our lives, private as well as public. The world 'monoculture', common to capitalist (American) and socialist (European) styles of interference and control, increasingly takes away what little humanity, choice and privacy we have left. All diversity and freedom is removed to foster the seeming need of a few insane control-freak megalomaniacs for absolute power. We appear incapable of committing such people to the mental institutions where they belong, and instead bow down and worship them as if they were Gods ! The result ?
"Resources move from the poor to the rich,
and pollution moves from the rich to the poor."
Vandana Shiva, The World on the Edge, 2000
Yet all is not yet lost, over recent decades there has been a tremendous growth in non-profit and non-Governmental organisations (NGOs), independent thinkers who have banded together (self-organized via the Internet) to oppose the oppression of humanity and of our diversity, not to mention the destruction of our very planet... This culture-oriented voluntary grouping, of which we are a part, is usually now called 'global civil society' (as opposed to business or political power groups - which increasing amount to the same thing). It is not at war (yet) with these other globalising groups, but is committed to protecting human values (including democracy) and reversing the more blinkered anti-social tendencies and arrogant attitudes of the other two conformist groups.
"As the great words of freedom and fulfilment are pronounced by campaigning leaders and politicians, on the screens and radios and stages, they turn into meaningless sounds which obtain meaning only in the context of propaganda, business, discipline and relaxation... Higher culture becomes part of the material culture. In this transformation it loses the greater part of its truth."
Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man, 1964, Ch. 3, Repressive Desublimation
We are determined, for this reason, to restore to humanity its heritage and wisdom, that higher culture in all its majesty, and to preserve our essential multicultural diversity, and this perspective is what we shall discuss and endorse here, along with a look at how a real democracy might operate. It also requires us to take a look at many aspects of our current devaluation of higher culture (e.g. the debasement of 'great art' into crassly used advertising jingles and symbols, or the trashy more-of-the-same 'reality' TV shows broadcast in place of uplifting 'high drama'), plus that commodification for profit of everything worthwhile in our lives. Yet we can note that the three great values of humanity are still free. Truth, beauty and love cost nothing, if we share them freely, if we no longer permit them to be stolen by the highest bidder and put up for sale back to us !
"The global civil society relies on a network of scholars, research institutes, think tanks and centres of learning that largely operate outside our leading academic institutions, business organizations and government agencies. Their common characteristic is that they pursue their research and teaching within an explicit framework of shared core values."
Fritjof Capra, The Hidden Connections, 2003, Ch. 7, The Global Civil Society.
"The engine behind this rapidly expanding sector is caring - caring about social, environmental, cultural, religious, political or personal issues that bring citizens together and motivates and drives civil society organizations to do what they do. Representing a tremendous range of constituencies, interests, and socio-economic levels of society, these groups now touch people and communities almost everywhere, even in the most remote or marginalized areas."
S. Bruce Schearer, The Emerging Role of Civil Society, 1995
All human values are actually at our core, we are multidimensional beings. Humans cannot and must not be reduced or constrained to fit the limited aspirations of the ignorant and small-minded ! We are not machines, we are not animals, we are more than all these lesser views in fact. We have at least three levels of values, which I choose to call 'primal' (related to material and environmental needs), 'social' (related to interpersonal needs), and 'abstract' (related to creativity and critical thinking). Each of these levels contains many separate values, most of which feature not at all in the general dogmas of global economic 'reality', i.e. the greed only culture endemic to the socially destructive and clearly unsustainable 'consumerist' viewpoint.
"That soul-destroying, meaningless, mechanical, monotonous, moronic work is an insult to human nature which must necessarily and inevitably produce either escapism or aggression, and that no amount of 'bread and circuses' can compensate for the damage done - these are facts which are neither denied nor acknowledged but are met by an unbreakable conspiracy of silence - because to deny them would be too obviously absurd and to acknowledge them would condemn the central preoccupation of modern society as a crime against humanity."
Fritz Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful, 1974, Pg. 35
Different groups within the global civil society community target different problem areas, e.g. ecological destruction, climate change, economic, 'racial' or gender inequalities, scientism or spiritual fundamentalism, yet all are clear that an impoverished world, in all senses, (supposing that it can still even persist) is quite unacceptable. There can be no maximisation of one value at the expense of all the others, whatever value that may be. In all complex systems a balance is needed to achieve maximum fitness (quality of life), and it is to this end that we encourage all participants to accept the values of all the others, not uncritically of course - we all make mistakes (in pursuing our 'ideals' especially), but with tolerance and openness, i.e. truthfully.
"Without an active and thriving civil society, without its collaboration and a close relationship with institutions, no local or global project to improve the quality of life or to preserve the planet will ever be successful. Therefore, every "realistic" vision of the future must include:
- projects and plans for strengthening the civil society and local communities;
- the recognition of the role that civil society organisations perform and can carry out for peace, for an economy with justice and for democracy;
- the growth of cooperation between civil society and institutions at all levels, from the local to the global one, spreading a culture of reciprocity;
- respect for the autonomy of the civil society and its non-subordination to the political or economic system;
- the growth of cooperation between the civil societies of different countries, reinforcing the international dimension of their activity and the role of a global civil society.
The international situation is rapidly worsening and there is the need to oppose the current attempts to establish a hierarchical world order..., upon the exploitation of the natural and human resources of the poorer countries, violence and the destruction of the environment, upon the control of information and communication, financial speculation damaging the real economy and human development. This imposes great responsibilities upon civil societies all over the world which no woman or man can ignore. "
Final Document of the 3rd Assembly of the United Nations of the Peoples, Perugia, 1999
This outlines some of the themes behind our work, and later on we will go into more detail about the reasons for our concerns and the steps we can take to help remedy the situation and to improve that 'quality of life' currently being badly damaged by issues of economic stupidity.
But one of the central problems we face, in making any major changes in today's world, is in reclaiming our debilitated 'democracy' and re-establishing 'accountability to the people' within both business and political hierarchies (including their various bureaucracies).
"It is an essential part of democracy that minorities should be adequately represented. No real democracy, nothing but a false show of democracy, is possible without it."
John Stuart Mill, Considerations on Representative Government, 1861, Ch. 7
In a representative democracy, if my vote does not result in a person of my choice representing my views, then I am disenfranchised. Let us repeat that. If no member of my legislative body is there as a direct result of my vote, then I am unrepresented, my views carry no weight at all in the political decisions of my country, I can influence and affect nothing whatsoever. It is clear that all governments disenfranchise many (most?) of their citizens in this way. Minorities that do not wield adequate votes in any constituency are ignored, their views are not then officially represented at all in government - even if (in the nation at large) their position holds considerable support. It is even possible for all the 'elected' representatives to support a supposed 'majority' viewpoint that nethertheless actually represents much less than 50% of the people of the country - disenfranchising the majority of the actual people from any form of representative government at all ! No wonder citizens have cynical attitudes to the politicians of today, who quite deliberately and deceitfully maintain such a system.
"The surely scandalous fact, concealed by this leader-writer's mystificatory personification of the British Electorate, is that the result of that election, as of every other General Election for the last fifty-six years, has been the oppression of the majority by a minority. No party since 1935, not even Labour in 1945, has won by an absolute majority of all votes cast; and there has always been a large proportion even of individual consituencies in which a majority of voters voted against the candidate elected. Such are the effects of a monstrously unfair, unrepresentative and undemocratic electoral system."
Antony Flew, Thinking About Social Thinking, 1991, Ch.4,2,(ii)
If we add in that 'governments' are generally formed from only the 'majority' party (which itself may represent less than a third of the popular 'vote', and also excludes everybody who didn't choose to support any of the offered 'choices' at all...), and that the government itself comprises only a minority (undemocratically selected) part of that body, then we have in effect a so called 'democracy' that directly represents (in terms of power to act) only a very small minority of the population indeed, in other words an 'elite' - just as it did centuries ago ! And this does not take into account the many behind-the-scenes influences on these 'leaders', which tend to go against the interests of those they claim to represent, nor the considerable incitements to self-interest that power without adequate democratic control produces in those leaders themselves, in other words these 'representatives' have no incentive (once elected) to take any notice of public opinion whatsoever, and increasing they do not - and don't care a jot about this betrayal ! When we add in the power party leaders have over their members, we see also that party interests, i.e. their dogma, not the wishes of the people, usually controls political actions - to the detriment of the very concept of 'representation'. Rather than the current crop of Western states trying to 'export' their abortion of unrepresentative democracy to other areas of the world, perhaps we need to consider bringing real democracy to the West first ? But how can we do this ?
"There is much talk about the emergence of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or civil society organizations (CSOs) as major international actors.
CSOs are crucial not only as checks on elites, they are also the key to the evolution of the democracy. Representative democracy has always suffered from what Rousseau saw as its tendency to develop a “corporate will” separate from the general will, thus perverting the purposes of representation.
By organizing the energies of millions of citizens to impinge on the daily political scene, CSOs are a force pushing the evolution of more direct forms of democratic rule. Combined with advanced applications of information technology that allow citizens and citizens’ groups to instantaneously communicate with one another, CSO activity may be the key to the emergence of direct democracy in contemporary mass societies.
The development of civil society, in short, presents opportunities for democracy both vertically and horizontally. It is the route to a more humane, more participatory, and more equitable future."
Walden Bello, Global Civil Society: Problems and Promises, 2001
"Morality knows nothing of geographical boundaries or distinctions of race."
Herbert Spencer, Social Statics, 1851, pt. IV, Ch. 30
The static thinking of the past, with its fixed boundaries to countries, constituencies and parties, relates very badly to our modern world. Today, viewpoints are more likely to cross national boundaries and be morally based than to be 'parochial' (e.g. the green movement), similarly the fixed constituencies appropriate to isolated towns of the past are not now appropriate to modern mobile living, where people often work in a different constituency to where they live, and often connect to many other areas on a daily basis. We are no longer isolated pawns that can be restricted to bureaucratic boxes for the convenience of static thinking, and in fact as we are considering national issues (government should not be interfering in purely local ones) the idea of bricks and mortar based constituencies is quite irrelevant. How then can we best be represented, without permitting the current bullying from the top mentality to continue ?
This is not as difficult as it might seem, if we allow for the dynamics of social life. Why should I have a single local representative, who in being diverse from me does not represent adequately all my views, even if I manage to get that person elected ? Far better would be a system whereby I can vote for anyone in the country, regardless of location, thus if locally I had no 'Green' candidate say, I could transfer my vote to one elsewhere. But we can do better still. In any multi-dimensional system of ethical values, it make no sense to adopt an all or nothing viewpoint. What I should be able to do is to vote individually on each question, i.e. I vote for my chosen candidate to represent my views on health, for another to represent my security concerns and so on. It may, of course, be the case that a candidate gains my vote for multiple issues, but I retain the freedom to make my position clear on individual issues, and then be represented by someone holding the same position (their influence being proportional to their overall support). I would also demand the right to withdraw my support (instantly) if the 'representative' reneged on his promises or position. This form of multiple transferable vote would be true democracy, in contrast to the 'all or nothing' fiasco perpetrated at the moment, where once 'elected' politicians treat the electorate with complete contempt. But is such a new scheme workable ? Let us see.
"All political parties die at last of swallowing their own lies."
John Arbuthnot (1667-1735)
Along with the static constituencies we have the static parties, e.g. Conservative or Liberal. These all or nothing hierarchies of power, where 'leaders' protect their own power bases at the expense of any 'representative' role, are also well out of date. The idea of 'representation' insists that the people come first, not the 'party', and a fixed set of one-dimensional dogmas, imposed regardless of opposition or destructive fallout, does not meet this criteria at all, neither does the absurd practice of the candidate being imposed from outside the constituency by party leaders ! We can see the failure of central 'policy' clearly within the parties themselves, where dissension on almost every issue leads to furious attempts by the leader to paper over the cracks and present a 'united front' - in other words a lie aimed at preserving the authority and credibility of the leader's top-down control over our supposed 'representatives'.
In the proposed system, we distribute votes according to the issues, so each representative is empowered to act on behalf of groups of people regarding one issue. There may, of course, be several representatives for any issue, incorporating differing viewpoints, or a representative may be empowered to act on several issues. There are however no fixed parties and no centralised power systems, i.e. this is not, at all, the same as 'proportional representation' which maintains (and even strengthens) the undemocratic 'party' dogmas. The absurdity of current arrangements could easily be demonstrated by the simple expedient of adding a "None of the above" option to voting papers, thus enabling dissenters (currently ignored, as they cannot vote effectively) to actively express their opinion as to those candidates standing for office. If the dissident vote exceeded the 'winner' then such an election should be declared null and void and all of the candidates rejected.
"Political campaigns are designedly made into emotional orgies which endeavor to distract attention from the real issues involved, and they actually paralyze what slight powers of cerebration man can normally muster."
James Harvey, The Human Comedy, 1937, Ch. 9
Where multiple issues coexist, each with more than one possible policy, then a vast number of policy combinations are credible. It is unlikely, to say the least, that the two or three 'packages' proposed by conventional party politics will include the best combination of directions to optimise the views of the people. More than likely the public are asked to choose the lesser of a small choice of evils, policy packages ('manifestos') that on some issues at least are diametrically opposed to their own wishes or which take no public stance on many issues at all - allowing 'winning' leaders to later do anything they want without any control or remit. This is not democratic representation but the removal of effective choice. To overcome this dilemma we should be able to choose general policy on an issue by issue basis, separating out the actual issues from the power structure. Each candidate would then outline their position on each issue that interested them and the public could cast their votes for whichever candidate met their criteria for each issue. This methodology would much better focus the executive onto those directions required by the electorate, whilst leaving the implementation details to be arranged by the administration.
"Democracy is only an experiment in government, and it has the obvious disadvantage of merely counting votes instead of weighing them."
W. R. Inge (1860-1954)
Thus the ballot paper could take the form of a computer readable matrix, with issues along one axis and candidates along the other (with a space for the voter to add candidates from elsewhere if the local candidates did not adequately represent their views). To avoid such a system becoming an unfathomable marathon exercise, it could be staggered, as elections often are nowadays, with only a certain proportion of issues voted upon each year, rather than the lot (as a package) every 5 years or so (as is currently done in the U.K.). It may be possible also for the voter to rate each issue on a scale, say, of 1 to 10, enabling priorities and levels of commitment to be automatically derived. For the more down-to-earth policy details, where a full ballot for consensus or direction is not justified, much more use could be made of 'opinion polls' (or 'Citizen Deliberative Councils'). The validity of these (within statistically known limits) is well understood, so a sample of public opinion should follow every major policy suggestion by government. If this supports the measure then all well and good, but if rejected (and a recent series of polls in the U.K. found public opinion often 90% or more against the so called 'democratic government' stance !) then continuing to implement such policies must be regarded as the actions of a dictator and thus criminal behaviour - treason against our democracy and the people's intended form of government.
"The principles of a free constitution are irrevocably lost, when the legislative power is nominated by the executive."
Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1776-1788, Ch. 3
On each issue therefore we will have elected representatives attuned to the wishes of the people. It seems clear that these people alone have the legitimacy to act as a source of ministers for such issues, they are the peoples' 'experts'. Thus the current policy where party leaders can dictatorially appoint their 'executive', often choosing autonomous cronies rather than people accountable to the people (or even to the representatives !) for any issue, must be dispensed with. This leads naturally to the breakdown of the party system itself, which is largely a hangover from old 'class-war' ideas and pretty much irrelevant and disadvantageous to modern multi-cultural and classless societies. People would of course be able to belong to such groupings if they so desired, but control of the representatives would remain with those who actually voted for them and not with the party 'machine'. Much of the corruption endemic to the modern political scene could be avoided in this way, especially that power of organised pressure groups to buy policy by contributions to party funds or by the bribery of party officials with 'favours' or the like.
"In a democratic society like ours, relief must come through an aroused popular conscience that sears the conscience of the people's representatives."
Felix Frankfurter, Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 270, 1962
Given that they have my vote, does this imply then that my 'representative' can do as they please until election time comes round again ? What if they have no effective conscience to sear, i.e. today's arrogant politicians ? Clearly such a system, as currently imposed worldwide, is undemocratic. People are not static, so can change their minds. Both myself and my representative evolve, we learn new things, we change our positions. So I must have the ability to change my mind, perhaps because my representative lied to me, and does not actually choose to represent my position, perhaps because they have decided that position is no longer acceptable to them, or perhaps (given world developments) I have changed my stance. Real democracy must allow for me to withdraw my vote at any time, on any issue, and empower a different representative to act on my behalf. This is a form of continuous election, and serves to counter one of the most pernicious failings of current 'term' based election systems, the failure of the people to be able to dynamically control, at all, the behaviour of their so-called representatives, i.e. to keep them 'honest'. The threat of having his or her support fall below a critical level, and then being out-of-a-job, can be a very strong incentive to stay focused upon what their supporters actually want !
"The working of great institutions is mainly the result of a vast mass of routine, petty malice, self-interest, carelessness and sheer mistake. Only a residual fraction is thought."
George Santayana (1863-1952)
Who then works for whom ? Sometimes it seems that state (and local) bureaucrats think that we, the people, work for them and not the other way about ! Control of the people rather than control by the people seems to be the ethic of permanent, non-elected, public employees. This is not helped by the ease by which 'expert' and experienced mandarins can pull the wool over the eyes of non-expert, inexperienced politicians and councillors, whose 'claims to fame' often rest upon qualities that have nothing to do with their ability to do whatever national or local government job they are called upon to take on. It is far too easy for bureaucrats (at every level) to pretend that they have power to make 'rules', to control people's behaviour, without anyone ever questioning these 'claims' or holding them personally responsible for all the anti-social effects and costs of their self-indulgent interference. Without any written public authority or legitimacy to take the specific actions that they do (with all the associated social and economic costs democratically agreed), then the behaviour of these (out-of-control) people is obviously fraudulent and they should be immediately arrested and charged with such an offence !
In our new expertise based election system, our 'representatives', by being appointed for specific values, can be expected to have more ability to 'see the wood for the trees' and to see beyond those self-indulgent 'smoke-screens' created by bureaucratic self-interest. Holding 'experts' to account is one of the main functions of government. It is not the role of the elected representatives to make policy in detail, but to steer the actions of their administration in the directions desired by the electorate and to monitor compliance. For example, if we wish as a nation to move towards renewable energy, then the bureaucrats should be instructed accordingly and held responsible for coming up with suitable plans and incentives to do so - involving any necessary experts. If they cannot do so, and can give no acceptable reasons, then they fail in their function and need to be replaced. A representative, fully aware of the issue (and of general world thinking and critiques on the matter), should be able to tell if the solutions proposed are of an adequate standard, in a way that current 'generalist' time-serving politicians seem totally unable to achieve. Dynamic imagination and modern knowledge must replace static conformity and "Buggins' turn" in the evaluation of 'public servants'.
"The public do not know enough to be experts, yet know enough to decide between them."
Samuel Butler (1835-1902)
One of the criticisms of current political practice is that it fails to encourage "joined-up government", i.e. the ability of departments to work together rather than ignoring the effects of each others' policies or even fighting amongst themselves. Could our system improve this or would it make it even worst ? From a systems point of view all our values interrelate, so solutions based upon one value would be expected to have effects on many of the others. Although our scheme of representative 'experts' would seem to fragment issues into disjoint action groups, it should be the case that an expert on any issue has more understanding as to how that value affects the wider picture, than an minister appointed at random by a party system, and having only the most trivial knowledge of what they are doing. Additionally we can expect that groups of representatives, not being dependent upon the competitive power structures common to grace and favour systems of appointment, will be more inclined to work together for common ends and take each others views into account.
Indeed, since administrative departments generally will be largely composed of specialists and will be unable or unwilling to take account of other specialisms, we can say that one of the main functions of government is to allow for such a transdisciplinary discourse, to allow the policy controllers to discuss these interactions in a knowledgeable way, and to accept criticism and advice, if needed, from those representatives not members of the executive, i.e. the other stakeholders (and including NGO's). Meaningful discourse here will be helped if all those involved have a good grasp of the background to the values they represent, far more so than if they are merely party 'hacks' with no relevant experience to offer the legislature. The idea of 'select committees' each focused on one value, naturally allows all those representatives elected to represent that value to come together for more detailed discussions and agreements, in contrast to the compositions of such committees in party systems, where seniority and obedience seem to be valued more than ability.
"Politicians are not people who seek power in order to implement policies they think necessary. They are people who seek policies in order to attain power."
Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966)
One extremely negative aspect of current political systems is their tendency to concentrate power into ever more centralised forms. All hierarchical systems have this effect, since giving any 'boss' control will encourage them to try to destroy any opposition, and this generally means taking over all decision making centrally. That this is fitness reducing and stagnating for the whole is well known from cybernetic considerations, yet the dynamics of our structures almost force this process to take place. Breaking down this trend against democratic behaviour requires new forms of structure, a new commitment to real decentralisation of people power (as opposed to just more intermediate and isolating bureaucrats) and its replacement with more open self-organizing processes involving all those citizens actually affected. Dispensing with our outdated two party systems, which encourage little more than eternal conflict, would be a step forward here and our proposed value focus would help achieve this, since it would encourage independent 'experts' to stand for election with the genuine prospect of making a difference to those values close to their hearts.
But more would be needed to distribute democracy. We would still have only one national government, one centralised body. Other levels of more localised democracy would also be necessary, but here we have an advantage since we already have many local candidates, focused on values, who will not have been elected to the national body. It should be possible to augment the best supported of these with other representatives concerned with local issues to form a seamless whole, where national representatives meet with regional ones, who meet with district ones and so on down to individual towns and villages (and maybe upwards to world bodies also). In this way we have 'direct democracy' at each level, yet 'representative democracy' between levels - maybe the best of both worlds. An issue then becomes a problem that requires a national representative (and national action) only when enough people vote for one - preventing the incessant taking of any and every power over our lives by government edict that we see worldwide today. In this way, representation level and control revolve around those areas of most interest to the populace, and not around those skewed priorities so common to 'leaderless' bureaucracies who are allowed to waste time and money on trivial (yet highly socially destructive) bullying exercises - with all the detrimental effects such behaviour produces in the 'victims', or to party political bias and prejudices which attempt to do much the same.
"The liberal philosophy holds that enduring governments must be accountable to someone beside themselves; that a government responsible only to its own conscience is not for long tolerable."
Walter Lippmann (1889-1974)
In today's largely unaccountable systems (e.g. the 'accounts' of the E.U. have not been passed by auditors for many years !), taxes, subsidies and the like bear little relationship to expenditures or to people's priorities. It is essential for financial accountability that the taxes levied (under whatever name - and all government revenues are taxes of course) are seen to pay for those services agreed by the populace when approving each specific tax, and are not random thefts from the people, just used to fill a pot and 'balance the books' for undeclared, unapproved expenditures or cross subsidies of other 'overrunning' (i.e. mismanaged) projects. Waste and spending on irrelevancies must be seen to be removed and the budget available for any issue must relate to the number of people committed to it, both nationally and locally. It is unacceptable that politicians are able to divert money, raised for one particular issue, to support their own prejudicial interests or ego tripping, without the public being able to audit this. If the public are expected to be able to cope on a fixed income (and they always are) then the same responsibility must be imposed on all politicians and their bureaucratic 'friends'. If these restrictions and accountability are unacceptable to 'candidates', and they choose not to stand for election, or if bureaucrats choose to resign, then we certainly won't miss any of them and perhaps didn't need their parasitism in the first place !
"Synergic consensus occurs when a group of humans sitting in heterarchy negotiate to reach a decision in which they all win and in which no one loses. In a synergic heterarchy, all members sit on the same level as “equals”. No one has more authority than anyone else. Every one has equal responsibility and equal authority within the heterarchy. The assignment for the heterarchy is to find a plan of action so that all members win. It is the collective responsibility of the entire heterarchy to find this “best” solution. Anyone can propose a plan to accomplish the needs of the group. All problems related to accomplishing the needs would be discussed at length in the heterarchy.
Synergic consensus is unanimous consensus. Unanimous consensus is protected by the judicious use of the synergic veto. Synergic relationship requires that when any party within a group is losing, the action causing the loss must stop. But again all vetoes are immediately followed by renegotiation to modify the plan of action so that loss can be eliminated, and action can continue."
Timothy Wilken, Synergic Consensus, 2000
The ultimate in democratic behaviour would be such a veto. Only by denying the 'right' of others to hurt us in any way, without our agreement, can we prevent the endless bullying that takes place throughout our lives. That such bullying is harmful nobody can doubt, the recipient is always in the best position to judge this, and nobody can validly gainsay them - that in itself would be even more bullying !
"If every man has to have his share allotted to him from above, we arrive at a kind of prison existence where everyone is at the mercy of the warders. And in our modern prisons the warder is at any rate a recognized official, against whom one can lodge a complaint. But who will be the warders in the general socialist prison ? There will be no question of lodging complaints against them, they will be the most meciless tyrants ever seen, and the rest will the slaves of the tyrants."
Otto von Bismarck, Imperial Reichstag, 17 September 1878
Given that we can democratically leash (somehow) all those control-freak monsters currently ravaging the Earth, then what would or should we do differently ? To see this more clearly let us examine the basis of some of the problems that the various Global Civil Society (GCS) people choose to tackle (there are others of course, including education, farming, human rights, disaster relief, conflict and health issues).
"The ritual-authoritarian language spreads over the contemporary world, through democratic and non-democratic, capitalist and non-capitalist countries... As the substance of the various regimes no longer appears in alternative modes of life, it comes to rest in alternative techniques of manipulation and control. Language not only reflects these controls but becomes itself an instrument of control even where it does not transmit orders but information; where it demands, not obedience but choice, not submission but freedom."
Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man, 1964, Ch. 4, The Language of Total Administration
Language is a powerful and highly misused tool for manipulation and deceit. Vague or weasel words (which remove meaning), euphemisms (e.g. 'ethnic cleansing') and discussion-stopping conflations (e.g. 'harmless fall-out' - a total contradiction in terms !) are so common today that we may as well be living in Orwell's double-speak world of 1984 (he was just a bit early, but our politicians have learned well from him...which is more than we have it seems !). By avoiding saying anything concrete at all in these ways, all criticism is suppressed and hidden, all sensible discussion is avoided, all actual accountability removed. Once upon a time honesty was a valued commodity, and public-affecting people who were 'economical with the truth' (i.e. liars) were rapidly forced to resign - not so today, they hang on for dear life in total defiance of the electorate ! It is imperative however that we regain this intolerance to public deceit, that we treat all such liars with the utmost contempt, since they are effectively criminals hurting us and our society. At the very least we must show them that we will take nothing they say as having any credibility whatsoever and we should certainly not act upon it or permit our 'public servants' to act upon it - in other words we divest them of all power to control us. This applies also to deceitful advertisers !
"Many good people and groups have sacrificed much over the past centuries to gain recognition for certain fundamental values, principles and approaches to collective initiative. These are now basic to the ways in which society is organized and governed. All new initiatives are presented and debated in terms of this language.
But the unquestioning manner in which these terms are treated has made of them an ideal pattern of camouflage to disguise initiatives which, deliberately or inadvertently, serve only to reinforce the individual and collective paralysis by which society is presently bedevilled. Many who sincerely believe in the profound significance of this new mode of organization tend to be unskilled in their ability to see how they are duped by those who only pay lip service to them."
Anthony Judge, In Quest of Uncommon Ground, 1997
Another form of this manipulation is the attempt to use language to change the meaning of words, to redefine terms so narrowly that whole areas of valid discourse are made to seem illegitimate or irrelevant, whole sets of our values are then sidelined and ignored - thus the effects on them of any policies are totally neglected ! Alternatively words are redefined so widely that anything and everything can be regarded as being included. Not surprisingly the first form is used by politicians to silence criticism and the power of others, and the second to extend their own apparent powers and credibility ! Do not accept blindly the misleading definitions offered by these manipulators...
"Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men."
Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead, 1943
The second aspect of the 'Big Brother' state is, just as Orwell predicted, the obsession with meddling in all aspects of our lives, the collection of dossiers on every citizen, the automated snooping on everything we do, now made possible with computers, and the automated analysis of such to locate 'trouble makers' or 'opportunities' (depending upon whether it is government or business doing this). A 'Police State' is not what the people want, and we should not tolerate attempts to set one up (and should demand the immediate dismantling of those many aspects of this and those associated interfering laws which are already in place !). Abuse of power by any party to persecute, smear or pester people in these petty ways - which all cost far more than the result is worth to society (and remember we pay for it all...) is intolerable. Unless of course these 'people' think hurting people is worth any cost ! But note Article 12 of the "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights":
"No one shall be subjected to interference of his privacy,
nor attacks upon his honor and reputation."
"The greater the importance of safeguarding the community from incitements to the overthrow of our institutions by force and violence, the more imperative is the need to preserve inviolate the constitutional rights of free speech, free press and free assembly in order to maintain the opportunity for free political discussion, to the end that government may be responsive to the will of the people and that changes, if desired, may be obtained by peaceful means. Therein lies the security of the Republic, the very foundation of constitutional government."
Charles Evans Hughes, 1937, DeJonge v. Oregon, 299 U.S. 353, 365
Thought-control, another Orwellian insight, is behind the recent rise in what is called 'political correctness'. This a typically deceitful misnomer, it is neither political (i.e. voted upon by the public !) nor correct - these people are actually highly prejudiced, appallingly intolerant, distorters of truth. It refers to behaviours which act to try to prevent (again) criticism and free speech. All human freedoms come down to our ability to make our points without such suppression, as Article 19 puts it:
"We have the right to freedom of expression".
Once more we seem to live in a world that tries to suppress our basic (internationally agreed !!!) rights as humans. We must stand up for all these rights and refuse to obey anyone who tries to take them away, whether by legal fictions or other deceits. They are all irrefutable as Article 30 says explicitly:
"Nothing in this Declaration can be interpreted by anyone in such a way that its aim is to destroy the rights and freedoms set forth herein."
"No one is fit to be trusted with power.…No one.…Any man who has lived at all knows the follies and wickedness he's capable of. If he does not know it, he is not fit to govern others. And if he does know it, he knows also that neither he nor any man ought to be allowed to decide a single human fate."
Sir Charles Percy Snow, The Light and the Dark, 1961
This aspect relates to today's tendency for certain people to set themselves up as 'superior' to others, claiming that they know what must be done and cannot be criticised or over-ruled. Such delusions of grandeur are groundless, no single person knows it all - they never have and never will. All we have here is people who generally have no expertise, or a very limited amount, just showing how ignorant they are by their actions in trying to bluff their way through life. By trying to prevent discussion or agreement they try to insulate their untenable or ill-thought-out views from public scrutiny. Such bullying is quite unacceptable, whether it occurs in our schools or originates from our leaders ! We must not tolerate such anti-social behaviours anywhere.
"The debacle of the 2000 presidential election made it clear that we are operating a badly frayed nineteenth-century democracy in twenty-first-century America. Voter participation is shockingly low and declining each year. At best only one-half the eligible electorate actually votes in a presidential election. Turnout for Senate and House elections in nonpresidential years rarely exceeds 40 percent. Local participation is even lower. And on the whole, those who actually vote are richer, whiter, and better educated than those who don't."
Burt Neuborne, Reclaiming Democracy, 2001
One result of the extent of political arrogance today is that voters are finding, that since politicians never listen to anything they say in any case, then there is no point in voting for any of them. So turnouts in elections are at an all time low. It must be made clear that the legitimacy of any government depends on citizen support, therefore few, if any, modern 'democratic governments' can now claim to even be legitimate, so neither are any of the laws they make ! Many people of course are interested in reforming the electoral system, but tinkering will not do if we just allow the behaviour of politicians to remain the same... We must tackle the cause and not just this symptom - which politicians (naturally !) tackle by yet more bullying: 'mandatory voting' - you will vote for me or go directly to jail !
"Failure to cooperate for mutual benefit does not necessarily signal ignorance or irrationality or even malevolence, as philosophers since Hobbes have underscored... Social scientists have lately analyzed this fundamental predicament in a variety of guises: the tragedy of the commons; the logic of collective action; public goods; the prisoners' dilemma. In all these situations...everyone would be better off if everyone could cooperate. In the absence of coordination and credible mutual commitment, however, everyone defects, ruefully but rationally, confirming one another's melancholy expectations."
Robert D. Putnam, The Prosperous Community: Social Capital and Public Life, 1993
Another modern worry is the break up of existing communities. In a world where most people do not work locally, but only return home to sleep (often in vast 'housing developments' that have few, if any, social areas or community facilities) it is very difficult to maintain a community spirit. In most larger towns and cities people may never even meet their neighbours, may never have any recourse to engage in common activities at all, may never trust each other. But community self-help is the most synergic and cost effective way of achieving action - far more so than 'employing' outsiders (or even local firms). We all have very many skills, and when we pool them we can achieve almost anything - as do 'primitive' village communities (without any 'money' at all !). Enhancing such togetherness and trust is the focus of various modern groups.
"One recent World Bank report, cited in current drafts of the World Development Report, estimated that the benefits associated with trade liberalisation have been captured by the wealthiest 20 per cent, with the poorest 40 per cent becoming poorer."
Oxfam GB, Policy Paper - Growth with Equity is Good for the Poor, 2000
Despite capitalist rhetoric, illustrated by the oft-repeated mantra "growth is good for the poor" this free market ‘trickle down’ theory is an unscientific farce. The gap between rich and poor has (provably) grown incessantly over recent decades, all over the planet - the difference accelerating as global 'consumerism' is rolled out. More people worldwide are now destitute as a proportion of the population than at any recorded time, whilst many more people have become billionaires as a result ! Reversing this poor to rich transfer of all resources is a priority issue for many civil groups, not just those targeting the 'Third World', but also those concerned with our Western inner cities and rural communities where exactly the same trends have taken place.
"However both institutions soon shifted their focus to promoting and enforcing a narrow model of economic development in the Third World, often with disastrous social and environmental consequences... Rather than protecting people's health, safety, livelihood and culture, the WTO's free-trade rules undermine these basic human rights in order to consolidate the power and wealth of a small corporate elite."
Fritjof Capra, The Hidden Connections, 2003, Ch. 7, Globalization by Design.
The first two institutions mentioned here are the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Together with the World Trade Organisation (WTO), these 'Bretton Woods' organizations were originally created (undemocratically) in 1944 for a world vastly different than today's. They still all operate behind closed-doors, without any democratic scrutiny or control, and often use violent terrorist-style tactics to suppress protest at, or investigation of, their behaviours. All three of these money-before-people organizations exclude input from NGO's concerned with the environment, social justice, human rights and democracy and, as a result, should be forcibly closed down by the United Nations - which should take on any useful role these unaccountable institutions ever had, if any.
"As the Earth continues to warm, there is a growing risk that the climate will change in ways that will seriously disrupt our lives... Among the most severe consequences of global warming are:
a faster rise in sea level;
more heat waves and droughts, resulting in more and more conflicts for water resources;
more extreme weather events, producing floods and property destruction;
a greater potential for heat-related illnesses and deaths as well as the wider spread of infectious diseases carried by insects and rodents into areas previously free from them.
If climatic trends continue unabated, global warming will threaten our health, our cities, our farms and forests, beaches and wetlands, and other natural habitats."
Union of Concerned Scientists, Global Warming, 2003
Whatever the causes of global warming (or cooling) may be, it seems to be a fact that temperatures are increasing today, so it may well be too late already to prevent catastrophe to the Earth and especially to humanity, since a positive-feedback process leading to irreversible climate change may already have started - and who can really say if the recent Asian tsunami, and the many other 'freak weather' conditions worldwide, are not the first stages of the revolt of a stressed Earth ? From a systems point of view, global warming would be expected to make the weather system more chaotic (i.e. 'turbulent'), so the current unsettled conditions are fully compatible with this being the cause. Note that even if such warm periods were common in the past, those periods did not coincide with 6 billion+ people trying to live off a limited and changing environment. Stresses today have far more lethal effects than in earlier pre-industrial ages, so explaining the problem away without action just will not do. What action is now appropriate is subject to much debate, but it must allow us all to adapt to climate changes, without making our global problems even worst by treating climate change as yet another isolated pressure-group issue to become obsessed about - blind to the other issues we also raise here, which all are simultaneously affecting our complex global society.
"What do wild salmon runs, juvenile crime rates, and employment levels at the world's largest airplane manufacturer have in common? As any good systems thinker knows, the answer is "everything".
More specifically, all three are indicators - measurements of the health of larger systems."
Alan AtKisson, Measuring Sustainability, 1994
As we have said many times before, all things are connected, so that disturbances to one part of any system can be felt elsewhere. Thus by being sensitive to the changes we see around us we can become sensitised to the state of our planet itself, and much more aware of which negative influences are destroying it.
"Wherever problems arise, people notice. Some of the people who notice, study the problems and find solutions. This willingness to address problems is the natural immune system of society".
Sustainability - A Choice to Consider
Before any problem can be addressed it must be recognised. Today we have many groups in denial, who cannot or will not take note of truths that negate their own entrenched dogmas. This is very much a psychological problem, we are all so unwilling to escape our delusions, to completely rebuild our lives - it is so scary ! Yet if we do not, collectively, change our lifestyles then our planet may be doomed and us with it. There is no way that our current Western depletion of resources and energy, plus our pollution and population growth can be sustained, it is self-delusional madness to think the opposite - and social insanity that allows us to tolerate as business or political leaders those who maintain such delusional views...
"The ecospheric functions of biodiversity are far more pervasive, diverse and complex than generally realized. When ecosystems are left undisturbed by humans, they exhibit an inherent self-organizing capability. Over billions of years life forms and ecosystems became ever more complex, leading to the emergence of a stable and harmonious Ecosphere.
An extensive literature now exists on the toxification and destruction of ecosystems, and the continuing overexploitation of species and ecosystems which carry out irreplaceable ecospheric functions. The commodification of nature remains official government policy, while an extensive greenwash literature provides cover for reams of destructive federal and provincial legislation and policies in agriculture, fisheries, forestry and industry - particularly the chemical industry which manufactures millions of tons of toxics every year, for deliberate dispersal into the Ecosphere."
Ted Mosquin, The Roles of Biodiversity in Creating and Maintaining the Ecosphere, 1994
In any complex system, its resilience to disturbance and its scope for improvement depends upon its level of diversity. This applies equally well to our planet. Reducing biological diversity stresses ecosystems, they become fragile and may be more easily destroyed. As we depend upon these ecosystems for our very survival then such behaviours are suicidal, and when this is done for the mere profit of the few then it becomes criminal negligence to allow it to continue. Additionally, diversity in nature gives us options as humans. We have so much to learn from nature yet, it has been innovating for 4000 times as long as humanity has, and has found many solutions that we puny and arrogant mortals have never even dreamt of. To destroy them before we even understand them is unscientific lunacy.
"Petroleum geologists have known for 50 years that global oil production would "peak" and begin its inevitable decline within a decade of the year 2000. Moreover, no renewable energy systems have the potential to generate more than a tiny fraction of the power now being generated by fossil fuels. In short, the end of oil signals the end of civilization, as we know it."
Jay Hanson, Energy Synopsis, 2001
Non-renewable resources are obviously limited. The faster we use them then the sooner they become exhausted. Thus many people are concerned about the use of oil, coal and natural gas. These all took millions of years to form and cannot be replaced by man, whatever we do. Thus if we are to continue using fuel at ever increasing rates then we will need to find other sources. The chief renewable resources are natural vegetation and sunlight. Natural vegetation in its turn uses sunlight efficiently to grow, to renew, so it is pretty senseless for us to destroy forests and other natural habitats. We should instead harvest them sustainably and use them to replace non-renewable resources at every opportunity.
"Centralized power generation is no longer cheaper even on its own - and when supply is expanded, new power plants now cost less than the grid linking them to customers.
Smaller power sources located at or near the customer, collectively called “distributed generation”, today offer many other benefits not provided by big, centralized plants."
Amory B. Lovins and Jeremy Heiman, RMI Solutions, Fall/Winter 2002
Use of solar power and local electricity generation, rather than the wasteful centralisation of such, are also ways of conserving energy and resources and are actively promoted by many civil society groups such as RMI, as of course are the use of hydroelectric, wind, wave, biomass (e.g. hemp) and hydrogen, all renewable energy sources. Does anyone in government actually listen, let alone act on all this scientifically available knowledge ?
"We have now reached the end of the road. From the necessary consumption of the industrial age, through the continuous consumption of the late industrial phase, we have got to the present senseless consumption. This senseless consumption is also the result of excessive useless production. They both are, in themselves, nothing other than waste.
Given the fact that the present ideology based on growth of consumption and on short-term binge is preparing, in the medium-long term, dearth and disaster for future generations, a new paradigm and a new practice should urgently become the common attitude of the humankind."
Polyarchy, From Senseless Consumption to Sensible Care, 2002
Another form of resource depletion is due to our consumerist lifestyle. Rather than making products that last, corporations (obsessed with turnover and profit) prefer to make disposable products that can (must !) be discarded after a short time, in fact they are designed to fail (preferably just after the guarantee runs out...). Thus energy and resource saving measures are actively avoided at all costs since this will reduce sales ! The net result is that the planet is drowning under mountains of unusable waste, discarded and dumped products laced with dangerous and un-recyclable chemicals.
"A recycling scheme based in Kaitaia, New Zealand found it was operationally cheaper to recycle than to landfill. The recycling system cost NZ$7.37 per cubic metre, compared with waste disposal system costs of NZ$12.28 per cubic metre (not including savings in landfill costs which further reduced recycling system costs to $3.36 per cubic metre). That is, at a conservative estimate, recycling cost just 60% of landfill costs."
The Green Party, Rubbish-Free by 2020, 2003
A further aspect of this anti-social behaviour is that products are made that can no longer be repaired, they are assembled in such a way as to make them (finally) inaccessible. If any small component fails then the whole product or at least a major module needs to be replaced and the rest of the still working parts dumped. We should insist that all goods are once more designed to be repairable and recyclable (nature recycles everything of course), and that the manufacturers pick up the cost of the latter - as an incentive to make it cheap and easy !
"In 1991, a Rocky Mountain Institute design called the Hypercar synthesized many of the emerging automobile technologies. To maximize competition and adoption, the design was put in the public domain (making it unpatentable), hoping this would trigger the biggest shift in the world's industrial structure since microchips. Such Hypercars could ultimately spell the end of today's car, oil, steel, aluminum, electricity, and coal industries - and herald the birth of successor industries that are more benign."
Paul Hawken, Amory & Hunter Lovins, Natural Capitalism, 2000, Ch. 2
A knock-on effect of big business has been a move from local firms and factories to international ones. Thus, rather than delivering a product to a local shop, it has to be shipped (literally) on average a quarter way around the entire globe, a journey of some 6,500 miles for every 'baked bean' or microchip ! This absurdly wasteful process not only adds vastly to the price of all goods, but creates a vast sink for scarce energy, whether using road, rail, air or water transportation (and often all of them !), plus all the resultant pollution.
But there is more. Concentrating businesses at one location forces all their employees to commute back and forth every single day. This massively clogs up roads and other transport systems, adds hours to everyone's working day (uncompensated of course !), uses even more scarce resources and creates a smog of pollution around every big city. A massive quality-of-life reducing externality for company profit at social cost yet again.
A return to small-is-beautiful local companies and technologies is well overdue.
"The first assumption of orthodoxy to be challenged must be that it is a function of the economic system to provide employment. 'We must create more jobs'. Because it has nearly always been so, except for the favoured few who inherit wealth, employment remains as a fixation in the mind that only by that means can one obtain the wherewithal to buy the necessities of life. One must 'earn one's living'... But as technological innovation proceeds apace with the spread of automation, robotisation and computerisation, it is high time that the 'problem' of unemployment and its attendant loss of incomes is recognised for what it really is. The essence of the 'unemployment problem' has been put succinctly by Douglas as follows:
The best brains of this and every other country in the industrial and scientific field are working as though they recognised their objective to be the replacement of human labour by that of machines, although it is quite possible that very few of them do. To put the matter still more baldly, these best brains are endeavouring to put the world out of work, to create what is miscalled an unemployment problem, but what should be called a condition of leisure." [C.H. Douglas, Warning Democracy, 1930]"
The inescapable conclusion is that incomes from employment have to be supplemented by incomes not derived from employment, that is to say, an unearned basic income for all over and above earnings, the cost of which does not appear in the costs of production. However startling that conclusion may appear at first sight, there is nothing new in it, the justification for it on both philosophical and pragmatic grounds having been well enunciated by Douglas years ago.
The Social Credit School of Studies, Economics and Social Credit, 2003
Why work ? What is the purpose of this obsession of all our governments with full employment ? Why do they spend so much of their time trying to force people to work, to compel them to work; to commute; to waste their lives - i.e. they must obey others (be 'enslaved') or be left to starve ? Why, after automating production progressively for over a hundred years are we nowadays (absurdly) working longer, harder and under more stress than ever before ? Why has the promise that automation would free the people from work not been met ?
"Let us remember that the automatic machine... is the precise economic equivalent of slave labor. Any labour that competes with slave labor must must accept the economic conditions of slave labor. It is perfectly clear that this will produce an unemployment situation in comparison with which the present recession and even the depression of the thirties will seem a pleasant joke."
Norbert Weiner, The Human Use of Human Beings, 1950, Pg.162
It is now totally possible to provide all the material needs of society without significant work at all, almost all work today is unnecessary, pointless pen pushing, pointless moving things around, pointless jobs for the sake of jobs, pointless bullying by those jealous people who really hate the idea of anyone getting something for nothing ! In many cases governments are paying companies vast sums to create jobs, when far less money would enable those very same 'workers' to live in idle luxury for the rest of their lives ! And of course the companies simply take the money and run - to the next group of dumb politicians who will pay them to indulge in their own fantasies ! It is time to stop believing this absurd fallacy, to realise that toil is not what life is all about, and that it is irrelevant to either profit or self-respect. The contradiction between companies forever trying to shed workers and governments forever trying to force them back is quite ludicrous. It is long overdue for the Guaranteed Basic Income or Citizen's Dividend (as it has also been called) to be made a reality...
"If truth presupposes freedom from toil, and if this freedom is, in the social reality, the prerogative of a minority, then the reality allows such a truth only in approximation and for a privileged group.
There, truth is preserved intact...as an achievement of thought - intact because its very notion expresses the insight that those who devote their lives to earning a living are incapable of living a human existence."
Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man, 1964, Ch. 5, The Defeated Logic of Protest
"The overwhelming importance of the atmosphere means that there are no longer any frontiers to defend against pollution, attack, or propaganda. It means, further, that only by a deep patriotic devotion to one's country can there be a hope of the kind of protection of the whole planet, which is necessary for the survival of the people of other countries."
Margaret Mead, Culture and Commitment, 1970
Naturally our transport systems run mainly on fossil fuels, even electric trains are driven initially by such fuels. One of the main disadvantages of burning fossil fuels is the level of pollution generated. All these fuels release harmful chemicals, whether by the end user or as intermediates in the generation of so-called 'clean' electricity. But other aspects of our lives also generate pollution, nitrate fertilisers have poisoned our water, pesticides and additives have poisoned our food, emissions from chemical plants poison our air.
"BBC film team John Seymour and Herbert Girardet asked a California tomato farmer why he grew tomatoes for his family in a special kitchen garden when he had thousands of acres of them. He replied that if they understood what agricultural poisons were built into every cell of every tomato grown in his fields - his kitchen garden was organic - they would neither ask that question nor ever eat another canned tomato in their lives! He then explained how he was trapped in this method of production by deep indebtedness for machinery, chemicals, irrigation and the need to meet contract quotas."
Elisabet Sahtouris, Earthdance, 1999, Ch. 20
Everywhere we look commercial greed creates destructive forms of pollution that leave society to pick up the bill - in health as well as in financial terms. In many cases these contaminations can easily be eliminated, they are maintained due to faulty reasoning - the belief that removal is more costly than doing nothing. This state of affairs is largely due to the back-to-front incentive structures that our undemocratic governments impose.
"A typical American taxpayer forks out at least $2000 a year to fund perverse subsidies, and then pays another $2000 through increased prices for consumer goods and services or through environmental degradation.
It has long been recognized that certain subsidies are detrimental to the economy. Not so well known is that many of these same subsidies are harmful to the environment as well. Subsidies for agriculture foster over-loading of croplands, leading to erosion of topsoil, pollution from synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and release of greenhouse gases among other adverse effects. Subsidies for fossil fuels aggravate pollution effects such as acid rain, urban smog and possible global warming. Subsidies for road transportation promote some of the worst forms of pollution, plus excessive road building with loss of landscape amenity and other environmental ills. Subsidies for water encourage mis-use and over-use of supplies that are increasingly scarce in many lands. Subsidies for fisheries foster over-harvesting of depleted fish stocks.
Norman Myers and Jennifer Kent, Perverse Subsidies, 1998
How we reward or penalise social behaviour (enforceably) is down to laws and taxation - the remit of politics and of government. It is rather disturbing therefore than many of the incentives (subsidies, tax breaks, grants) offered by governments penalise socially responsible behaviours and reward socially destructive ones ! Since these sorts of 'rewards' to supporters and pressure groups are so perverse it is hard to find out the facts, yet estimates put the total sum yearly at twice the world military expenditure - i.e. far more than is needed to reverse many of our social ills completely ! Further more, such subsidies add to the problems directly, by requiring society to then act to repair the effects of the destructive actions of their own governments (or even sillier need one government department to repair the damage caused by another - all at our expense...) ! It is imperative that the whole structure of world incentives is revised and made compatible with common sense.
"Only three things are really needed in order to begin creating a closed, toxic environment - whether that be a 'cult', a bad marriage, a prison or a dictatorship. And those are (i) a significant power differential between the leaders and their followers, (ii) a lack of checks and balances on the leaders to keep them from abusing their existing power and grabbing for more, and (iii) sufficient psychological, financial and/or physical (e.g., locks and bars) constraints to keep the mistreated followers from simply leaving. The increasingly 'cult-like' nature of the environment will then follow straightforward, simply via the presence of basic human psychology in both the leaders/guards and their followers/prisoners."
Geoffrey D. Falk, Stripping the Gurus, 2005, Ch. XXVII
We have looked at some areas of concern to Global Civil Society groups, and it should be now obvious why they are all concerned. How did we get into this mess at all ? I hope that our treatment of democracy itself has highlighted the answer. It is because we have lost all effective democratic control over our own lives. Our entire planet, its organisms and its peoples have been betrayed by our politicians and sold off (or more likely given away...) to corporate or other unaccountable interests to use as they wish - for personal profit and ego-tripping of course !
It is now quite essential that we take control back, and to this end I've suggested a new form of democracy that seems capable of re-establishing our authority over our 'representatives', who then in turn will be instructed to re-establish control over those many despoilers of our planet and of our lives who currently never have to meet the financial or social costs of their obnoxiousness. It is about time that they did - and with a vengeance !