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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Close the Gap

The disparity between rich and poor in and between nations is obscene. This has been well documented by experts of all political persuasions. I really recommend Joseph Stiglitz, The Price of Inequality.

There are many organizations, public and private, religious and secular, local, national and international, whose mission is to bring all persons out of poverty and close the inequality gap. Yet despite all the financial, volunteer, and governmental action, the inequality and its costs to all of us continue to grow. It is a matter of will, yes, but it is also a matter of how our institutions, both economic and political, are working or not working.

I cannot think of a more important mission than confronting this obscenity in order to bring all people into full human development. But how?

I don't know; but I propose four principles and corresponding policies for consideration in determining our action.  (I have argued elsewhere for the universality and source of these principles.)

Four Principles:

1.  The Principle of Personal Right: Life, Freedom, the Pursuit of Happiness.

Life: Every person who is born into the world and into the human family should have all the material and biological means to survive and grow simply because he or she exists.

Freedom: Every person should have the means to exercise his or her ability to be free from oppression (liberty) and free for (power) co-creating their world.

Pursuit of Happiness:  Every person should have the means and opportunity to pursue personal wealth and public development including the ability to engage with others in the shaping of their common space (polis).

2.  The Principle of Personal Responsibility.

Every person must ensure that every other person has the right to life, freedom, and pursuit of happiness within his or her ability to respond.  The ability to respond is determined by the limits of space, time, and knowledge.

3.  The Public Principle.

Every person achieves full human development in a social order that accepts and actualizes the above two principles. Private self-interest (personal wealth) must be subordinated to mutual self-interest (public good). While a person may understand that her development includes the accumulation of wealth beyond life's basic needs, this accumulation cannot be at the expense of the public.  Government should not be identified as the public but as a means to guaranteed personal right and responsibility and to achieve a true public (where all have the ability to act together). This means publicly accountable government and other social institutions.

4.  The Strategic Principle.

Strategies for achieving true publics are inclusive (open to all), institutional (relating to existing institutions and building new ones), affirming (focusing on building up, rather tearing down except to remove obstacles), knowledgeable (informed by science, thoughtful, doable or pragmatic over dogmatic).

Four Corresponding Policies:

1.  Set and insure the minimum threshold of income and assets (income, health, education, housing, mobility) needed for biological survival defined within the locality and insured by the public.

2.  Reform income and asset taxes and provide public investment to leverage private investment in institutions of learning, working, housing, food, and clean energy to guarantee public and private resources for achieving the minimum threshold.

3.  Affirm democratic republicanism over plutocracy or oligarchy by removing the influence of private wealth on public decision-making. Reform government and its agencies so that they are accountable to publics not special private interests.

4.  Public/Private organizing and planning. Organize local publics linked to local institutions and interrelate them nationally on a strategy to encourage full human development and attack economic and political disparity. Develop a movement that is organized outside political partisanship linking what is best in existing NGOs.

Next Steps:

  • One on ones with representatives of national and international non-governmental organizations.
  • Assessment of the assets, contributions, and effectiveness of these organizations.
  • Identify and recruit partners.
  • Design what might fit into or hold together these efforts into a bold, measurable strategy.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very thoughtful stuff Rollie - thanks for posting - regards, keith