5 Economic Principles For A Progressive Alliance

What does a Progressive Alliance stand for?

Five Economic Principles that could hold a Progressive Alliance together

 By Martin Whitlock & Joshua Malkin

What are the policies that could enable an economic system that values positive human outcomes rather than the mere accumulation of money?

The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing. This ancient Greek proverb, famously applied by Isiah Berlin to writers and thinkers, is an equally apt description of the state of current economic and political debate.

The progressive movement has the green new deal, degrowth, the wellbeing economy, land reform, the Robin Hood tax, social enterprise, UBI, sovereign money, beyond-GDP and literally dozens of similarly reform-based framings; but the established neoliberal order has only one principle, which is the power of free market capitalism. So while the progressive fox is nipping hither and thither the neoliberal hedgehog just stays put and does its thing.

There are thousands of groups and organisations all working for progressive economic and social reform. They range from well-funded academic groups and policy think-tanks to small, local campaigns and interventions run by volunteers. Each has a different focus, reflecting their status, resources and policy interests. What they have in common, however, is that they are all trying to make a difference within a system that, like a hedgehog, is well organised to resist them.

It is at that system level that economic outcomes are determined. That’s because decision-making follows the system, so only when the system changes is decision-making rerouted to different outcomes. Such change generally depends on the current system breaking down. Six years of war ushered in the welfare state after 1945, and the successive crises of the 1970s paved the way for neoliberalism in the 1980s.

In both those cases the theoretical groundwork for change had been decades in preparation, and the same is true now of the progressive economy movement, which has been actively theorising since at least the 1980s. So why, when neoliberalism was so discredited by the 2008 financial crisis, did a progressive economy not emerge to replace it? And why now, as we live through another moment in which political and economic ideologies no longer fit with technological and social conditions, do progressives find themselves once again so far out to sea?

The answer lies with the fox and the hedgehog. The fox jumps from cause to cause, trying to ameliorate the bad effects of the system in a thousand limited ways. The 38 Degrees platform is the ultimate fox in this sense. At any moment it is host to thousands of individual campaigns, all essentially progressive. But where is the big campaign to change the system, so that all those small campaigns to ameliorate its bad effects will be turbo-charged?

That campaign is waiting for its hedgehog. It is waiting for the moment when all its fox-like diversity can be subordinated to one big thing that will change the system. Agreeing what that thing is, and finding a way to describe it, is the progressive movement’s key task, and the vital first step in building an effective progressive alliance in the political sphere.

So here is a starting point. Just as neoliberalism refers to market-oriented principles that defer to the power of private capital, progressive politics must reference people-centred principles that defer to the power of human relationships. That means establishing economic principles that foster relationship and mutuality as the key repositories of value.

Neoliberalism values money, so in the neoliberal system the activity that leads to the acquisition of the greatest amount of money is deemed to be the most productive. A progressive economic system values human and environmental wellbeing, so whatever activity most increases that wellbeing is deemed the most productive.

A shift from one value-system to the other would be transformative in terms of human and environmental outcomes. But wellbeing alone is not sufficient to frame a transformative political and economic movement, because, along with freedom, opportunity, health and prosperity, wellbeing has been commodified and co-opted to the neoliberal system as something that money can buy.

One of the few things that can’t be bought, owned, traded or commodified is humanness itself. Indeed, a framing of human politics or human economics makes intuitive sense, because why would we not place our real human needs at the centre of our economic endeavour? But whatever name we use, politics is nothing without policy, and a progressive political alliance needs clear, specific and practical proposals to give substance to a new system of human values.

So what are the policies that give effect to an economic system that values positive human outcomes rather than the mere accumulation of money? Here are the five key policy principles that we believe could hold a progressive alliance together.

  1. Land & Housing: land ownership and use should create real value for people, communities and the natural environment, including truly affordable housing and sustainable farming;
  2. Responsible Business: all companies should add human and environmental value;
  3. Money & Asset Creation: bank lending should prioritise positive human and environmental outcomes over the accumulation of money-assets;
  4. Public Services: hospitals, schools, social care and other community services should be seen as wealth creators and exemplars of human value rather than as costs to be minimised;
  5. Economic Outcomes: GDP should be reformed to prioritise human and environmental wellbeing over resource depletion, environmental destruction and asset price inflation.

Taken collectively, these principles all have to do with how we value things in the economy. Taken individually, they speak directly to the anxieties, frustrations and deprivations that people experience in their daily lives. Pretty much every single progressive campaign or aspiration can be fitted into them, while still leaving plenty of space for the particular priorities that all participants in a progressive alliance will bring.

Here is the hedgehog of human value that can rival in simplicity and clarity the neoliberal ideal of the free market. And here are the policy principles that describe and elucidate the shared objective of human and environmental wellbeing. Finding such common ground in the economic fundamentals is surely our best hope for a principled Progressive Alliance, united in purpose and vision by a real agenda for change rather than mere antipathy to a disadvantageous electoral system. For further information visit www.humanpolitics.org

Top image credit Filip Urban https://unsplash.com/photos/ffJ8Qa0VQU0?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditShareLink

Eight F words In Response To Politics & Business As Usual

Eight F words In Response To  Politics & Business As Usual

Understanding the roots of opinion divides is critical to the new politics.   

Joshua Malkin suggests some choice F words in response to politics as usual

Understanding the roots of opinion divides is critical to the new politics.   Most people are still locked into the old oppositional identity politics, which is part of the old broken compass that has only two dysfunctional poles – either progressive or conservative. In a previous blog “Why Progressives Can’t Progress & Conservatives Can’t Conserve”  – I made the case for mutualism as a new direction of regenerative shared purpose.

I expand on some other themes within that here.

A new definition of diversity

A new politics requires a non-partisan direction that most people can support and a practical future vision based on human values. One cultural example of this is the kindness revolution that is springing up in different places and forms, such as in Cardiff and in Leeds where the City Council has launched their Compassionate City Awards  – and The Kindness Revolution are organising talks and workshops on the new KPI – Kindness Performance Indicators, the Kindness Innovation Network, the Wellbeing Economy and much more. 

Why Progressives Can’t Progress & Conservatives Can’t Conserve

Why Progressives Can’t Progress & Conservatives Can’t Conserve

Joshua Malkin argues that the foundational principles of our long accepted political philosophies are no longer able to hold the contradictions of a technological, globalised world.

Seductive Liberty is over- rated, unless we put Good Will and Compassion before conquest and self-interest.

Righteous Equality is over-rated unless we put Respect For Diversity before sameness and conformity.

But Mutual Fraternity is always under-rated because it requires us each to take responsibility for our own power and for what we create in, and extract from, the world.”

The amplification of power for good or ill, which technology now bestows upon us, comprises a totally underestimated step-change in society that has overtaken us without our realising it. This constitutes a completely different political context which requires a new level of institutional and individual maturity.

Is There A Scientific Basis For Kindness?

Is There A Scientific Basis For Kindness?

Dr Claudius van Wyk, director of the ET Group – an international wellness consultancy explores some reflections upon the scientific foundations of a philosophy of kindness – from chemistry and biology to psychology and society. [i]

Had he been alive today, Darwin would have been horrified, as a Christian, to find his theory of evolution, has been mechanistically reduced to the simplistic idea of the ‘survival of the fittest’ and consequently used to justify, life-degrading and unethical worldviews.

This misrepresentation has surely been a factor in society’s fixation on power and control rather than on reciprocity and shared purpose.

A Post-Liberal Story of Hope.

A Post-Liberal Story of Hope.

Joshua Malkin suggests that an evolutionary shift, towards a positive future of whole-systems politics and an economy of wellbeing, is within our grasp.

Before we can begin to put things right, we first need to understand what is wrong. Our failure to recognize that over time, a host of incremental changes have resulted in a wholly different world, which, without our noticing has overtaken us. Our institutions including our politics no longer match people’s lived experience and can no longer protect what we hold most dear.

In response to a widespread feeling that UK politics has become dysfunctional, many voices are calling for a kinder politics. This blog is about the new centrism, how it is different from the old centrism and a new way of navigating our broken political spectrum, away from left or right or centre to above.

Once Upon A Time

Once Upon A Time

Once Upon A Time…

There was a Kingdom, where those in power had lost touch with their sacred Covenant – with the people, with the land and with God. Wealthy barons despoiled the land, extracting more and more wealth from the peasants, who had to work harder and harder to make ends meet. Mistrust and cynicism reigned and the people lived more out of fear than out of hope.

Every day brought news of fresh disasters and dishonour. Seemingly pleasant enough people began to behave badly as things went from worse to worse. Rumours of the end of the world came and went and came again. No one knew any more what was true and what was not. Scandal after scandal rocked the Kingdom and pestilence spread across the land.

Community Wealth Building Though A Commons Equity Society

Community Wealth Building Though A Commons Equity Society

A New Way of Building Community Capital, Allocating Shared Surplus & Developing A Conducive Context For Placed Based Wellbeing

by Joshua Malkin, Mark Drewell and Sebastian Parsons   

A commons [1] is a way to express a very old idea—that some forms of wealth are foundational to the wellbeing of life and belong to all of us; and that these community resources and connections must be actively protected and managed for the good of all.’

FROM ENTROPY TO SYNTROPY

Nature has a lot to teach us about design. In nature, systems that are unable to dynamically distribute energy and resources to where they are needed either evolve or die; systems that are unable to effectively conserve existing value are inherently unstable.

A Peaceful, Positive & Productive 21st Century People’s Revolt

A Peaceful, Positive & Productive 21st Century People’s Revolt

Re-balancing small-minded, big power & its hollow ideological wasteland

Joshua Malkin suggests how we can move beyond our dysfunctional politics

We find ourselves in a dysfunctional system called liberal democracy, where moral or economic bankruptcy are the only choices of which Brexit is the ultimate symptom. For over two hundred years our politics and economy have been distracted by a sterile and unproductive debate between proponents of ‘freedom’ on the one hand and proponents of ‘’equality’ on the other [1]

This worldview informs the way we organise the whole of our societal governance systems but has reached the limits of its own logic and our thining is thinking us. Increasingly it seems as though we cling to an incoherent ideological wasteland whose compass is taking us nowhere, and which, despite our delusions of grandeur in terms of technological advance, are undermining human and planetary wellbeing.

We inhabit a broken political system [2], a broken economic system [3] and a degraded environment [4] where both human and natural value have been hollowed out not just from places and communities but even from within the domestic and personal domains of home, family and self [6] for the benefit of powerful interests – whether these are market or state-based.

The consequences of this pointless opposition of left and right are legion – they include, among many other things, empty high streets [7], increasing numbers of homeless people [8], unaffordable homes, rising levels of mental health problems [9], communities bereft of beauty but filled with bureaucracy, time-poor families with both parents on a treadmill of debt [10], an epidemic of loneliness [11] and young people without the prospect of a meaningful or flourishing future in a speculative economy whose purpose is to reward those willing and able to turn labour and nature into capital at everyone else’s expense and a patronizing state that allows us a vote every five years for parties that don’t represent us, our communities or our values and who exclude the capability, leadership and wisdom of everyone outside their party membership, irrespective of ability or knowledge[12].

The resulting short-termism of left and right and centre must be replaced. Contrary to what our political elites tell us, neither becoming more left wing nor more right wing , nor honoring the EU referendum nor staying in Europe, nor changing a voting system to include proportional representation will change this. We need a system capable of planning for the long term, based not only on who we are in terms of the diversity of our own communities, but on who we want to become together – a conversation which is rarely heard but which needs to be encouraged.

The good news is that we can step beyond our current impotent, testosterone fueled, swingometer grab for power called party politics, by choosing to leave those who want to fight each other behind and getting on with organizing ourselves and reclaiming our ability to improve our own communities  ourselves, irrespective of the state or the market.

Despite the BBC and the other mainstream media’s addiction to melodrama, doom and despondency and their unwillingness to see the hundreds of thousands of people already involved in underfunded, positive care and community activism as ‘news’, you can join in this amazing story of self-organizing and volunteering happening near you and across the country – indeed across the world –  which is under-represented and under-resourced by our dysfunctional political and economic institutions.

Integral to this peaceful, positive and productive people’s revolt is a principle that is not represented by any political party. It is that of regenerative human fellowship, which requires responsibility from each and respect to each from all. Mutualism encompasses at its best the idea that ethical is optimal. There are many organisations that were originally founded on such principles but have lost their way in our political and economic wasteland and who need a gentle or less gentle reminder of their own values.

Unfortunately, there also are many others still stuck in the old lower level destructive worldview of power and money who see efficiency and self-interest as more important than shared purpose, growing people or protecting place or planet. We can lead them by example by simply getting on with what must be done in order to make this journey together and to reach for a greater destiny than small-minded big power dares to embrace.  But at some point, we will have to have the gumption to evolve new institutions that will make the old ones redundant by simply being better. For that we need new platforms such as an alliance fot civil society.

By choosing human fellowship instead of ‘freedom’ or ‘equality’ we can move beyond liberal democracy to compassionate democracy where families, communities and ethical enterprise can flourish, where everyone matters and creativity and innovation, held by the principle of fraternity, are honoured for the contribution they make to individual, community and societal wellbeing.

You never change something by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Buckminster Fuller

Notes

  1. Since the French and American revolutions
  2. Voting levels have constantly been decreasing unless there has been a particular reason to vote strategically or an opportunity like the EU referendum where a vote could have impact
  3. More meaningless jobs, increasing levels of inequality, decreasing middle class, economic students in revolt
  4. Climate change, tree cover, biodiversity, sea plastic, agribusiness examples
  5. Rowan Williams quote
  6. Empty high streets figures
  7. Homeless people figures
  8. Unaffordable homes figures
  9. Rising mental health figures
  10. Debt figures
  11. Loneliness figures
  12. Political party membership figures

British Politics Is Running Out Of Time

British Politics Is Running Out Of Time

 Dr Claudius van Wyk suggests that it’s time for Prime Minister May to call an election to break the political logjam and give legitimacy to a way forward!

We have now reached the stage, in this late hour, where the Brexit impasse has become a relatively pointless distraction in an increasingly volatile world. There are so many more important issues needing urgent attention. These range from global geopolitical dynamics, such as an imminent renewal of the arms race, trade wars to the deepening challenges to environmental sustainability.

Brexit – a pointless distraction

Senior Conservative Party MP Kenneth Clarke recently warned that with the hapless handling of the Brexit brouhaha, the public is increasingly viewing politicians, politics, and parliament specifically, with growing contempt. This must surely be deeply disturbing to those genuinely concerned about the future of the country, and all the human benefits that have accompanied the development of the democratic tradition over its fraught history – see: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/should-queen-now-take-charge-claudius-van-wyk/ History shows that with vacillating leadership in a time of crisis people more readily respond to radical extremism with unpredictable consequences.

Functional Government Needed

In short, we need a new functional government with a clear mandate to give the country direction. So it’s time for Theresa May to show the courage and moral integrity, of which she is no doubt capable, to call an election. This will of course require that Parliament votes to postpone Brexit – and yes, unless a way can be found around it Britain may have to participate again in the forthcoming EU elections – but so be it. Whilst there are those who might be concerned at the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party winning such an election, my own view is that under his prevaricating leadership this is unlikely to happen. – see: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/who-me-

A ‘Centrist’ movement ?

It’s time to let political parties re-organise themselves around new strategic objectives and seek a clear mandate of not only how they will manage Brexit going forward, but more importantly, to demonstrate their understanding of and applied approach to the dynamic complexity of the 21st century. With a gathering of a centrist movement in British politics this could very well result in the need for a coalition government – see: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/brexit-new-political-dialogue-claudius-van-wyk/

Quantum leap in political praxis

I have argued repeatedly that the old left/right, conservative/liberal, capitalist/socialist divide have become thoroughly dysfunctional ideologies for orientating our thinking around d the management of our complex issues. Just as, at this time, we need a quantum leap in human consciousness, so too we need a quantum leap in political praxis.

We’ve run out of time – come on Prime Minister – call an election! 

A New Politics In A Changed World

A New Politics In A Changed World

Joshua Malkin argues that the world has changed and it is time for our politics to change too. New politics demands we shift our focus from ego to eco, from closed to open attitudes, from life degrading to life-enhancing economic policies – and that we navigate by an evolutionary, vertical political spectrum –  above left and right and centre. This constitutes a new story of care-ability, capability, creativity and collaboration.

 The World Has Changed

The world is very different from how things were even 20 years ago – if we consider technology, communications, production, consumption, culture, global secondary markets, social values, climate breakdown and biodiversity loss-  but our political philosophies haven’t changed and are unable to deal with this new world.

As Professor Paul Hawken suggests, “Civilization needs a new operating system. You are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades.” [i]

We can no longer expect to transform society if we start from the old polarized left-right politics, which allows markets and the state to use their power for partisan separatist interests, rather than challenging each of us to take responsibility for ourselves and the public space – the social and natural commons –  that enables all of us to flourish.

The 3 R’s Of Civil Society

In contrast, the values of civil society – the 3R’s of Respect, Responsibility and Reciprocity [give and take] provide a mutual basis for encouraging individual creativity, initiative and capability, while restraining the worst excesses of self-interest. Enlightened self-interest puts human fellowship [fraternity] before literal or legal ideas of liberty and equality and by doing so builds a civil society. A new politics demands we shift our focus from ego to eco, from closed to open attitudes, from life degrading to life-enhancing perspectives – and that we navigate by an evolutionary political spectrum rather than a horizontal one.

Civil society offers a form of mutualism that integrates the best of individualism and collectivism and prevents the worst of both from dominating because it challenges us to put our personal responsibility first.[ii]

The Paradox Of Power

The advantage of a culture based upon mutualism is that it solves the paradox of power. Rather than supporting short-term, self-interested mis-creation, Mutulism directs collective and individual creative power towards building a long-term context conducive for all to flourish, whose characteristics include

  • Inclusive prosperity
  • Regenerative economy
  • Subsidiarity or devolved power for self-organisation
  • Empowered civil society
  • Community resilience
  • Shared value
  • Reciprocal security

Mutualism raises personal responsibility to a new level.

The philosopher Jordan Petersen suggests that, “People are hungry for discussion of the relation between responsibility and meaning rather than the discussion of rights and privileges that has dominated the last 50 years. Courage, nobility, real compassion and a commitment to developing capability are the way we honour our social obligations.” Jordan Petersen [iii]

But people are hungry for more than a discussion – they want a fairer, kinder society. They want moral leadership and a positive vision that can reunite the kingdom.

Responsibility is a necessary foundation of Rights

If we are willing to take responsibility for our own power to create [or mis-create] before we challenge others, we take on a new level of maturity personally and collectively. This constitutes a new story of care-ability, capability, courage, creativity and collaboration. Surely Britain’s destiny is to spread these values into Europe and beyond and to create a new age of humanity in the 21st century.

Civil society is consistent with defining ourselves as Democrats rather than liberals, as traditionalists rather than Tories and with a commitment to social justice but not to a centralized state.

To Be Meaningful, Freedom  & Equality Require Fraternity

Crucially fraternity distinguishes between sameness and equality on one hand, and fairness and equality on the other thereby supporting freedom in diversity rather than the type of censorial political correctness which squashes diversity and which is neither useful nor kind.

As a higher form of mutualism, civil society as a perspective, is committed to protecting and nurturing the natural environment upon which we all depend that supports an enabling context in which all may flourish.

Civil society is the ground in which personal, social and public wellbeing can flourish

 A Space of Hope

It therefore offers a space of hope for those who for years have been unable to vote for any of the old political ‘isms’, which in a changed world are unable to protect what we hold most dear.

A traditional perspective of economic growth does not distinguish between bad growth and good growth. Such a neoliberal model of free-market behaviour is an ideology that justifies growing money above all else and thereby promotes economic and cultural insecurity before social and public wellbeing. Consequently, there is a significant rift between what people want and what the market and the state are able or willing to offer.

But those of us who have wanted to make our society more civil, safer, healthier, caring, honest, competent and kinder have been stuck in what is an impotent ineffective opposition between left and right wing ideologies.

Just as the 20th century found fascism and communism to be historical dead ends, the 21st century will come to see liberalism, conservatism and socialism also as political dead ends. This is because, whilst having made significant positive contributions in their time, in a changed world they are unable to deal with the paradox of power and therefore are unable to protect what we hold most dear.

The paradox of power is simply that we all we all have the power to create but in so doing we also have the power to mis-create

Technology intensifies social and economic power for good or ill

The potential for mis-creation – in relation to degrading the human, social and natural value that support wellbeing – is exponentially increased in a technological world. Consequently the foundational principles of liberty and equality are no longer sufficient for governance. It is no longer sufficient to vote for the least worst party – we must take responsibility ourselves to contribute towards the greater good in whatever way we can.

Mutualism requires redefining prosperity and work through the frame of wellbeing for all. This is not another moral, righteous position it is simply a practical response to the new era that calls forth greater maturity from humanity as a whole.

Notes:

[i] Paul Hawken – University of Portland 2009 Commencement Speech

“”Civilization needs a new operating system. You are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/paul-hawken-profile

[ii] Mutualism recognizes that relationships based on raw power alone will always be dysfunctional because social wellbeing is relational. Relationships based on more than power and more than profit require trust, which requires a shared purpose that regulates self-interest.

[iii] Jordan Petersen : https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=959&v=yZYQpge1W5s