about steps toward a socially just and ecologically integrated economy
A Story of Two Wolves
An elder Cherokee woman was teaching her grandchildren about life. She said to them: A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight between two wolves. One wolf is fear, anger, envy and guilt, lies, arrogance, and greed. The other is patience, humility, and gratitude, truthfulness, faith and compassion. This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person too.
They thought about it for a minute, and then one child asked her grandmother, “Which one will win?” Their grandmother simply replied, “The one you feed.”
The World We Experience
Humanity’s uses of land, material resources, and fossil fuels has steadily increased. Indiscriminate economic growth causes ecological destruction. We are on a collision course with the realities of a finite biosphere.
Our nation’s economic policies promote the consumption of goods and services, many of which are of questionable value, and the exploitation of speculative financial markets. These policies are also:
- increasing the number of low wage and part-time jobs that are without benefits, and the economic insecurity and hardship this creates;
- increasing the total amount of financial debt, and the steady transfer of financial wealth from borrowers to lenders;
- increasing the uses of fear and violence to protect the system and its beneficiaries from those it marginalizes and alienates;
- increasing the disregard for truth in advertising, mass media, public discourse, and politics.
When stock market values increase, it may be good for retirement accounts and endowments, but it also increases economic inequality, which now is greater than it has ever been in recent times. We seem to be losing much of the slow progress toward racial justice and equality of opportunity that began after the Second World War. And those who would protect the environment seem unable to slow the pace of ecological destruction. Legislation and programs that promoted racial justice, equality of opportunity, and environmental protection in the past have been abandoned or undermined.
The World We Seek
In 2013, Friends Committee on National Legislation revised its policy statement, “The World We Seek.” to explicitly affirm that “the biosphere is finite” and policies are needed at all levels that reflect this reality.
The world we seek would be rooted in justice and reverence for life.
- The main purpose of its economy would be to provide livelihoods for all, rather than wealth for a few; extremes of wealth and poverty are unhealthy for the whole society as well as the poor.
- Its governments would be freely elected by the people, have the power to establish measures of common well-being, and require institutions to serve the common good and the future of life on earth.
- The global commons would be protected: not only the air, oceans, fresh water, and earth’s ecological integrity, but also humanity’s cultural heritage, accumulated knowledge, and ways of sharing it.
- Earth’s resources would be used more sparingly, and our common wealth would be preserved for the common good rather than degraded by unrestrained private ownership.
- Systems of production and distribution would minimize the ecological costs of extraction, transport, and waste, while providing for everyone’s needs. Systems of finance would support this kind of production.
- Everyone would be treated fairly and with dignity by others, and by the institutions established to serve the needs of the society and the communities within it.
Questions About Policies Needed For The World We Seek
What needs to be measured, instead of our material and energy consumption (GDP), to guide economic policy toward advancing societal well-being, social justice, and ecological integrity?
- How can the economy use fewer energy and material resources, or stop growing if necessary, or even decrease in size, in order to function within earth’s ecological limits?
- How can our society provide meaningful livelihoods through suitable employment for all its members, and justice in the distribution of wealth which assures that everyone’s essential needs are met?
- What can be done to end the systemic use of racial and ethnic discrimination as a way to cope with social and environmental problems that the existing economic system creates and fails to address?
- What will be needed for the economy to functions within ecological limits while also reducing economic inequality and advancing economic security for everyone, at home and abroad?
- How can the current monetary and financial system be changed so its routine operations advance societal well-being, social justice, and ecological integrity?
If today’s governments would attempt to promote social justice, we could and would learn from many past legislative successes and shortcomings, including, for example, tax policy, voting rights, criminal justice, employee protections and benefits, and financial regulations.
Questions to Ask About Proposed Legislation
- Does it tend toward the idea that basic resources are finite and part of the global commons?
- Does it tax/regulate/subsidize in ways that reduce unjust exploitation, pollution, and waste?
- Does it tend toward reducing the range of inequality in wealth and income?
- Does it tend toward equal treatment before the law, and protection from violence and abuse?
- Does it tend toward improved employee earnings, protections, and opportunities?
- Does it encourage corporate responsibility and community-based financial institutions?
- Does it move away from “free trade” to allow for more regulation of transnational corporations and more incentives for governments to protect the self-reliance and well-being of their people?
WE MUST ALSO ASK whether any substantial policies to advance “the world we seek” can be carried forwarded without reducing the influence of money in politics.
- Super-wealthy individuals, the financial sector, and transnational corporations, use their immense wealth to oppose these policies and increase their own wealth and power. Money in politics has recently increased due to Supreme Court decisions based on its interpretation of the Constitution that money is speech and corporations are people. It likely that legislation for reducing inequality, racism, or carbon pollution and other kinds of ecological destruction would be challenged, and weakened if not over-ruled by the Court.
- As a result, resolutions to amend the constitution were recently introduced in both the Senate and House. They would enable the federal and state governments to a) regulate spending to influence elections, and b) distinguish between natural persons and artificial entities created by law, while c) protecting the freedom of the press.
- Resolutions to amend must be approved by two thirds of both the Senate and House, and ratified by the legislatures of three quarters of the states. In September, 2014, a resolution to amend was approved by 54 Senators, and campaigns in xx states are under way to support this kind of amendment.
There is growing sentiment among policy-makers and advocates who favor “we world we seek,” that amending the constitution to reduce the influence of money in politics and to end corporate person-hood will be necessary in order to make significant and enduring progress toward the world we seek.
Consider: What are the values and assumptions underlying these statements and questions?
WHAT COMMENTS, QUESTIONS, OR CONCERNS DO YOU HAVE ABOUT ANY OF THESE STATEMENTS OR QUESTIONS?”