Thesis Number: #10 (Page 4 of 8)
Mission to Renew
The quest for the Good Life s obstructed by the condition we call induced ignorance (Thesis #9). But we embark on emancipation by questioning the concepts that have been contorted to serve the rent-seekers. Linguistic analysis illuminates the parameters of new ways of living.
Scarcity, for example, is imbued with an ideological meaning that hinders us from understanding reality. We could all enjoy a life of abundance (where abundance is measured not just in material goods, but including the aesthetic riches that raise our levels of psychological contentment). Propagandists claim that resources fall short of what we need. They point to finite resources like petroleum which, once consumed, are gone forever. But concepts like scarcity are employed in post-classical economic theory to manipulate our minds. Our gaze is diverted away from the gluttony of rent-seekers who pillage nature’s – and society’s – riches (Box 3).
Attributing shortages to Nature
Many reformers, in seeking solutions to problems like poverty, aggravate the problem. Dennis Sherwood, for example, advises corporations on innovation and creativity in business practises. In his manual on systems thinking, he links population growth with scarcity of natural resources (land, water and oil). This “leads to COMPETITION FOR SCARCE RESOURCES, which in turn leads to FAMINE and WAR” (Sherwood 2002: 243, emphasis in original). But as explained in Harrison (2012), humans create all the value they need if they are free to work. Nature collaborates in generous ways, supplying the energy needed for the Good Life. Problems only arise when constraints are imposed by those who seek to live off unearned incomes by monopolising the resources of nature and, consequently, the riches of society.
The threat to humanity has now grown to the point where people need to take control of their destinies in the confident knowledge that common sense is a good guide to the renewal of themselves and their communities. All they need is the assurance that common sense is consistent with the evolutionary insights which have been accumulated over tens of thousands of years.
Everyday ethical norms provide reliable guides that instil order in complex society. These would be reactivated if people were assured that they were consistent with
- Religious teachings: endorsements from ancient wisdom – pre-biblical rules like Jubilee debt cancellation and land restoration through to the parable of the vineyard as recounted by Jesus (Thesis #3);
- Scientific reasoning, from the earliest Islamic and Enlightenment scholars (Thesis #3); through to
- Empirical evidence accumulated by Nobel laureates like Robert Solow, Franco Modigliani and William Vickrey, who affirm that optimum results are achieved by a pricing mechanism that treats rent as public revenue (Noyes 1991).
There are no dark areas that need to be filled. The urgent task of rehabilitating our communities need not be postponed. To achieve a sustainable settlement, however, scale and form must be determined by people in free association.
The scale of the damage inflicted by the statecraft of greed is so enormous that it will take a huge investment to renew what it means to be human. Resources would be forthcoming out of the gains from transforming the financial system. Those gains would be of a spiritual, moral and material kind. Personal liberty would translate into productivity improvements. So resources – material wealth and leisure time – would be available to fund the recovery of pathologically disturbed societies. The first tranche of gains would need to be devoted to rehabilitating wrecked communities and their habitats.
- Reconstituting the family
The family has been deconstructed under the influence of “liberal” doctrines that allegedly extend the freedom of the “individual”. A heavy price has been paid by children who endure increasingly fragile parental relationships. Britain is typical of western culture (anecdotal evidence is offered in Box 4). Rebuilding values and institutions to strengthen the family unit is a critical challenge for society.
Pity the Children
In Britain, according to Lord Freud, a Coalition Government welfare minister, about 700,000 children in lone-parent families live in poverty. The annual cash costs of family breakdown are estimated at about £46bn (Bingham 2014). One indicator of the irresponsible society: many men fail to fulfil their duty of care to women who bear their children. At school, children now score below immigrant children in English. Children are so hypertensive that one head teacher recommends that they be given lessons in being quiet to avoid stress (Paton 2014).
- Rebuilding the nation
People need the confidence that would encourage them to inform politicians like Hillary Clinton that slogans will no longer suffice. The former US Secretary of State says that the 21st century’s mission is to “complete the unfinished business of making sure that every girl and boy, that every woman and man, lives in societies that respect their rights no matter who they are, gives them the opportunities that every human being deserves – no matter where you were born, no matter the colour of your skin, no matter your religion, your ethnicity or whom you love” (Rucker 2014). This is rhetoric without substance. The unequal distribution of endowments will drive ever-widening wedges in nations that are infused by rent-seeking.
- Re-wilding natural habitats
Damage inflicted on other species and their habitats is not contested. Nature will eventually repair that damage, but we can redeem past assaults on living habitats by helping to re-wild the forests and uplands (Monbiot 2013).