Having listened to 3 hours of presentations at the Diem25 launch last night, I am reminded of how averse the left-progressive/radical sector is to solutions. The podium was clear: there is no A, B, C sequence that leads from problem to solution. We do not have the answer, apparently, and we should not expect to have one. Instead we must engage in interminable meetings, until unattributable solutions arise from the coalescence, and therefore pass the test of not resembling early 20th C “final solutions”.
But still the audience in even this self-selected leftie gathering wanted to know: What next? How do we get from A to B?
Snakes can’t jump – why voting Labour in the next election won’t make any difference
“Lemmings, left!” ~ heard from the back of the pack as they hurtled towards the cliff.
Across the industrialised or ‘advanced’ world there is a dearth of new ideas and a consequent absence of solutions for, and discussions about, the real problems facing us.
Our demographics are approaching post-industrial new normals. Our economies are still dependent on exploitation of resources or labour, or both. Our societies are structured to combat the scourge of parochial narrow-mindedness, but not take advantage of inter-connected communities.
The existing political parties are devoid of brilliant thinking in the face of enormous challenges, offering 20th C, or even 19th C, solutions for our 21st C problems. Neither “growth” on a finite planet (with increasing competition for resources), nor simply paying ourselves more, nor the white knights of private enterprise are 21st C ideas let alone solutions, and the general public knows this.
We stand before the chasm of the next financial calamity, dressed only in our grandfathers’ long johns. We need fresh thinking that leverages the modern world and all of the opportunities that can only be ours in the 21st C because we have the benefits of the industrial, technological and information revolutions behind us.
We cannot afford to go into the next election like we are now.
Central to our legacy political parties’ internal problems and the disconnect between their policies and reality is their failure to grasp the true nature of human society, and our evolution in the continuum of this planet.
“Business” is a classic example of this disconnect. Neither left nor right places this vital human function in its appropriate context. The left has traditionally seen the economy in terms of objective components to be arranged on a chessboard, but not understood in any meaningful way. New Labour was simply a capitulation to the traditional right-wing perspective, which recognises the “animal spirits” inherent in business activity and in the economy, but does nothing to understand context.
Pushed to the limits of their policy framework, confronted with its evident failures, both sides tends towards the notion that businesses can be seduced or encouraged into fulfilling a social responsibility. This is a fundamental misunderstanding what business is, it is the equivalent to suggesting that snakes can jump. (Indicative of this problem was the response I received once to a posting in a comments section where I suggested that snakes couldn’t jump, in which the responder said that snakes could jump, and that they did have legs, and that our responsibility was to help snakes understand that they did have legs.)
A decent and functional understanding of the true nature of life recognises that “business” is a term we used to refer to a perfectly natural set of behaviours that are related to living in a resource and time constrained world with many various needs. And as a natural set of behaviours the correct approach is to understand their context and function, rather than trying to suggest that they should be redirected in some other direction. Once a set of behaviours has been understood in its context, then one can determine if those behaviours become inappropriate because they have left their natural context. This understanding is completely absent from both left and right, without that understanding both of our legacy parties employ, deploy and allow business to operate outside of its context, with negative results for our entire society.
These parties, whose foundation for policy is so pathetically absent of real understanding, are completely useless at developing solutions to our problems. The Conservatives will attempt to deploy snakes everywhere, and when confronted with its failures, they will suggest that they are training a new subset of the species that has legs. Labour will draw lines in the sand, and tell the snakes that they are only allowed in certain areas, and that there are certain of the lines over which they must jump. It’s madness either way.
And this is but one example of where our legacy parties are completely failing to grasp the real issues. Frankly, it doesn’t make any difference which one of them you vote for, none of them is actually going to solve any of the problems.
Proper change is a continuous process. “Change is the only constant”, and a well founded human society incorporates this truth into the foundations of its structures.
There are three important points to grasp about the ‘proper change’ that LIFE is proposing:
The reform of our social and economic structures is to provide more effective delivery mechanisms, and at the same time are more accessible and available to the process of change in the future.
The objectives that we propose are not imagined as final destinations, but rather as the next best radical evolution that we can imagine now.
Our proposals are deliberately non-prescriptive in various matters, precisely because we understand and expect that the specific solutions to the specific manifestations of those problems will vary, and will be best prescribed in the place and time that they are experienced. Our determination to empower local communities is derived from this understanding.
LIFE’s primary objective is to create a more sustainable human society, and sustainability is dependent on resilience, and resilience is the ability to cope with change. As described quite elegantly by Mr Unger at the RSA, a “high-energy democracy” is vital, because it is the manifestation of humanity’s highest evolution: communal decision making. Our ability to make diversity work for us in collective decision making was forged in the adversity of evolutionary change. And LIFE’s proposals for the reformation of our democratic structures aim to bring us closer to the effective practice of high-energy democracy – not for it’s own end, but because it is a means to adapt and change without depending on crisis as a catalyst.
Proper change means focusing on the structures that shape our lives, with the understanding that those structures determine the framework within which all else is settled. There are millions of good people doing excellent work on the many problems that we have in our society, but we all need structural change to facilitate proper solutions. LIFE intends to provide the rallying point for everyone who can see that structural change is needed, and that structural change is what will enable a multitude of good works to bear fruit.
LIFE’s proposals are not a “blueprint” for modern society; they are a line drawing in B2 pencil, and they are supplied with extra paper, rubbers and pencils for all. (International editions are supplied with erasers.) The flexible, devolved, high-energy democracy that we propose is our guarantee that many solutions will evolve, and we will all be free to adopt and adapt the best solutions for ourselves. We propose reformation of our structures that enable radical evolution, and expects further reformation of the structures themselves.
Proper change does not acknowledge a closed list of options, and LIFE rejects the notion that we have to choose between revolution and the status quo. We believe that there is a nexus of aspiration and realism, we see that we can engage in proper change that builds on what we have, and is not constrained by where we have come from or define where we can get to.
Proper change will raise the ordinary lives of ordinary people, and that will be the criteria by which it can be judged. That standard is not confined to a material realm, but rather a greater ambition for more generalised involvement, empowerment and engagement by one and all in the common fortunes of all. Deeper participation in our common democracy, more abundant contributions of art and innovation, and the development of a common sense of purpose and outcome will be the true measures of proper change.
It may not feel like it right now, but we are in desperate straits, and in need of radical change if we are to maintain the society that we have built over the last 300 years.
Britons deserve the right to choose a proper solution at the next general election, and that is why we have formed the LIFE Party.
Slashing at our social fabric, or paying ourselves more, cannot be the only two alternatives on offer in the nation that used democracy and freedom to spawn the greatest advances in human accomplishment. In a time where balance is so desperately needed, between man and planet and between ambition and compassion, simply loading one side of the scales is a betrayal of our proud history and our potential future.
LIFE believes in the ability of people to find the solutions they need in their community, and we will support them by giving them local control and a direct distribution of Income Taxes.
LIFE believes that society is based on a citizen contract, a promise between citizens to provide a basic standard of life to everyone.
LIFE believes that a resilient society is a sustainable society, and that the future is to de-centralise government and empower communities to build their own capacity and self-reliance.
LIFE believes that we cannot have a future worth living if we do not respect the freedom of the individual, and understand the incredibly important value of diversity, specialists of all kinds and all the contributions of every citizen.
What LIFE is proposing is simple, a radical evolution: public services instead of welfare.
If we provide each other with safety (guaranteed access to the basic necessities of life in the event of need),
free of charge and without means testing,
we will remake our economy and come into balance with our environment.
That’s it. This one simple change will bring growth to our economy, sanity to our public finances, and joy to our lives.
This is not utopian, this is simple, basic stuff. We can spend the same amount of money that we are already spending on welfare today, but instead of providing benefits, we provide the actual services that those benefits are supposed to buy. The services only cover the bare necessities of life, and they are available universally to every citizen, irrespective of circumstance. No “benefit trap”.
No one is forced to take the services, they are just there to provide a floor to living standards to those that want to use them.
You know something’s wrong, that we have not sorted out a decent way to live together, yet. And you know that there is a better way, that we are not this stupid and blind, that we can do a better job of living together in peace with prosperity. Well, you’re right… here is why and how.
The tension in money
The search for a truly functional economic system is still going on – we haven’t got there yet. The richest societies are swimming in wealth and debt at the same time, the fastest growing countries are destroying their living environments, and the failing countries are mired in restrictive cultures. Capitalism may be the “least worst” system, but it is not good enough to sustain human life on this planet.
Marx’s critique of capitalism (that the working classes would eventually revolt against those who accumulated the capital) has turned out to be misplaced. It is more true that we are evolutionarily predisposed to the acceptance of hierarchy, even when it is dispensed from no more meritorious source than random genetics. The real failure of capitalism as a system for organising human societies is no less foundational than the failure in Marxist theory, its failure is the absurdity of placing a system of capital at the root of a system for organising humans.
Capitalism is an economic system, and not a political system. Moreover it is an economic system specifically focused on capital, and its kissing-cousin ‘money’. When capitalism is purloined to become a social system, it faces an inevitable tension that must exist in a system that recognises money as the only representation of value. In a “capitalist society” money is used in two different ways:
a medium for transactions (including those that do not create any wealth),
a store of wealth.
These two roles pull in fundamentally opposing directions, and corrupt the very foundation of capital as an economic element.
In its transactional role the impetus is always to create more money, to represent a higher and higher proportion of the total activity in the system. Because if capitalism is to be the social system, then it is necessarily forced to embrace the notion that all activity can and should be represented by money. In its role as a store of wealth, on the other hand, it is necessary to constrain the supply of money to only that amount that represents the remaining capital after transactions have been completed.
The tension between these opposing roles that money must play in a purely capitalist society, is its ultimate downfall – not the class revolution imagined by Marx.
The only thing that can be everything and special at the same time, is nothing.
21st century enlightened economics recognises a third, or middle way. It recognises capitalism as a perfectly valid mechanism for representing economic activity, and at the same time recognises that economic activity is only a subset of the total society, because the economy is a child of the society. Once we relinquish the enslavement of capital as the sole representative of all transactions, we are freed to recognise that there are many transactions in the social sphere that are bartered for social value, and which are much better not recognised as having monetary value.
The 20th century classroom
The 20th century was really the battleground of two 19th-century phenomena: the scientific revolution, and the pressure that revolution placed on the organisation of human societies. Developments in scientific knowledge led first to the industrial revolution, then to the electronic revolution, and lastly, but not finally, to the information revolution. In each revolution the capability to create and recognise increases in wealth grew exponentially. Each revolution also led to exponential increases in our ability to look after ourselves, to feed ourselves and provide for our health, leading to massive increases in the human population. We stand here in the morning of the 21st century, almost exhausted by the incredible events of the last 150 years, and yet facing, with immediate significance, the challenge of bringing it all together into a sustainable mix. We must now complete the fourth revolution, the sustainability revolution, if we are to go into the afternoon of this century with anything like the population we have today.
If we could see ourselves today, we would see a person standing on the top of the globe, brandishing pieces of paper, and shouting out “This is my worth!”. And in an instant we would recognise the fallacy of ‘economics as society’. The compulsion to bring every activity into the monetary realm is a self-defeating strategy that pits credibility against the wealth it seeks to protect. As more and more of a society’s activity is turned into money, and money is used a store of security, the dragon chases its tail until it has consumed itself. This is where we are now. As our money seeks security, it is the flow of the money that defines the value of the assets, and the connection between wealth and money is loosened, until it is lost. We are there already: the price of nearly every asset is not significant of its real value, instead it is the quality of its ability to provide a secure store of money that defines it’s price.
21st-century enlightened society
21st century enlightened society is one in which a capitalist economy exists alongside, and inside, a sustainable human society. 21st-century enlightenment economics retains and nurtures the perfectly human elements of competitive resource allocation, reward for effort and innovation, and it does so without pretending to be a system for organising human society.
The organisation of large-scale human society is in every way a superior activity to that of economics. 21st-century social organisation must meld the interests of humans, with the preservation of our environment, it must acknowledge our tribal tendencies, accept our natural ambition, recognise our dependence on specialisation, and appeal to our highest callings to follow a path that is inherently sustainable and balanced.
There are two root causes for the failure of every large-scale human society to date: environmental destruction, and specialist denigration. Why are fascism and communism ultimately doomed to failure? Because they both fail to honour and support the specialisation necessary for complex large-scale societies. Why is capitalism doomed to failure? Because it fails to recognise environmental and social values. Why are religious societies doomed to failure? Because they do not provide the freedom necessary to allow specialisation to flourish.
And large-scale human societies are equally dependent on their ability to honour and nurture specialisation for their survival. Large numbers of humans require complex infrastructure and sophisticated administration to survive, and both of those are dependent on the availability of, and respect for, a wide range of specialists. Honouring specialisation has a kissing-cousin too: respecting diversity, which inevitably leads to secularism.
By learning from our history and understanding the proper role of economics, we can start to divine the threads we must weave into a path to a sustainable future: we must protect our environment, honour and nurture specialisation, and recognise our economy as a child of society.
If you are destroying your environment, denigrating the contributions of specialists, or promoting money is the only signifier of value, then you should know that you are also sowing the seeds of the destruction of your society. If you restricting individual liberty, you are restraining the unnecessary experimentation that is the heart of innovation. If everything is money, then money cannot be capital, and your capitalist economy is broken. Use a hammer to drive a screw, and you end up with nails.
There is a happy ending. Understanding the proper roles of money, diversity and environment leads us to a new, sustainable social structure; one that must incorporate these essential ingredients:
An economy that uses money for trade and commerce, and does not attempt to put a price on every activity.
A society that values the contribution of specialists, and protects the freedom they need to succeed.
A deep respect for the natural environment on which we depend.
We achieve a sustainable economy by providing the basic necessities of life to each other, without charge or condition. In this way we confine the use of money primarily to commercial transactions, and so we protect the proper role of capital, and allow it to operate usefully inside our economy. We also own our social responsibility, and make ourselves the masters of our economy, because we are not asking money to fill an unnatural role as our social security.
We create a sustainable society by recognising the value to the whole society of diversity, and the essential contribution of specialists of all kinds. Individual liberty is the foundation of successful specialisation.
We protect our environment by incorporating it is a valid priority in all our policies, and by enforcing its recognition in the pricing structures of our economy.
These are the foundations of LIFE’s policies. Grounded in a clear understanding of what is necessary to survive, we can complete the final revolution: to provide a future worth living for our children and their children.
If you believe that there is something fundamentally wrong with the track we are on, and to continue down the current path will ultimately to disaster, then the question you have to face is what needs to change?
So the first question is: are we basically on the right track, and just need to make some adjustments?
If your answer to this is yes, then playing the game of contemporary politics, with a few policy adjustments here and there, is something that you believe will change the course and the destination from disaster to solution. In this case there is no need for a new political party, and the best thing to do is to roll up your sleeves, get involved with the existing parties, and then make sure the appropriate adjustments get made.
Note: you may also arrive at this conclusion simply because you have not considered there are any practical alternatives to the current system. This is not the same as believing that we are basically on the right track, and if you are only engaged with the current system because you cannot see any alternatives, you should really re-evaluate your position.
If your answer to first question is no, then the second question is: is there a viable alternative to what we’re doing today?
There are two basic categories into which the answers to this question fall: either they harken back to solutions which have already been tried historically, or they look forward to new solutions which we have not yet attempted.
Solutions from the past include communism, full-throated individualistic capitalism, despotism, dictatorship, caliphates and other forms of religious government, fascism, expansionist imperialism, a return to agrarian subsistence, and, last but not least, various forms of leftist socialism typical of European nations since WWII. Inevitably you will believe that these did not fail in the past because of any inherent weaknesses, but simply because of failures in their implementation. In our opinion you are deluding yourself, and these have all failed in the past for perfectly good reasons.
New solutions? Although there has been a dearth of new thinking in politics, economics and the science of human organisation in the last fifty years, we believe there is a new solution. A solution that takes the best from what we have already learned and fashions a new formula based on the best of those ideas and a realistic assessment of both the human condition and the environment we live in. Our best version of what that new solution looks like is what we are proposing in LIFE.
On the surface the policies proposed by LIFE are simply adjustments to the social-democratic-capitalist system commonly practised in the industrial world today. But underneath, LIFE’s policies actually propose a wholesale rearrangement of the social contract, and the structure of the economy. The mutual contract for unconditional social support is new. The understanding that economic activity falls into two distinct realms, hygiene and wealth, is new. The adoption of modern sophisticated democratic structures, the embracing of technology, and the fundamental appreciation of the role of individual freedom as essential to group function, are all new. And the fact that all of these policies are based on inherently natural human characteristics, imbues them with an almost unintentional, automatic consequence of environmental sustainability.
So if you believe we are fundamentally on the wrong track today, and you are not a fan of old solutions that failed in the past, then it behooves you take a long good look at the proposals of LIFE as the only reasonable, practical and available new alternative on offer.
You must be logged in to post a comment.