Reconsidering Divine Principle’s Call to Create a Socialist Ideal

Capitalism-Socialism

By Jack LaValley

Jack LaValleyDivine Principle claims the ideals and values embedded in capitalist democratic free markets will give way to a socialist ideal:

“Because human beings are created to live in an ideal society, they will inevitably pursue a socialistic ideal as they strive for freedom and democracy and further search into their original nature (Exposition of the Divine Principle, p. 342).”

Regarding the economic system organized in a socialist society, Divine Principle:

“God’s plan is to develop a socialistic economy, although with a form and content utterly different from the state socialism that communism actually established (p. 341).”

Let’s examine Divine Principle’s call for the creation of a socialist ideal.

In the last 150 years, the Western capitalist system has proved better than any other method devised to produce politically and legally free individuals, distribute products via the free market mechanism and create material prosperity for the individual. In America — still the most prosperous country in the world — people enjoy the freedom to pursue material comfort, a stable democracy, limited government, and peace.

Yet great numbers of individuals in our midst suffer from various forms of mental illness. Available data in the United States on destructive acts such as suicide, homicide, alcoholism, illicit drug use, and a multitude of other psychologically-based disorders, can give us cause to ask if there might be something wrong with our way of life and the aims we are striving for.

Mental health professionals identify three causal factors to mental illness: biological; psychological, and environmental. Outside of genetic factors, brain trauma injuries and neurological disorders, mental illness is often viewed as a deviation from expected social norms and behaviors. Those individuals who break with established social norms and behaviors are viewed as abnormal or mentally ill.

One extreme example of this can be found in the 1970s anti-cult deprogramming phenomenon.

In response to the growing number of converts to new religious movements (NRM) in America, parents resorted to having their children abducted and subjected to a continuous barrage of arguments and attacks against their new religion, in hopes they would agree to leave the group.

Those parents believed it was not “normal” behavior for a grown adult to give up college, a job or a career and dedicate his/her life working in a NRM.  According to established and expected social norms, young adults who ventured into these new religions were believed to have lost the ability to think freely and make rational decision about how to live life.

One definition of mental health and maturity can be found in the Introduction to Divine Principle:

“…But were genuine brotherly love to overflow from the depth of people’s hearts, they would no longer wish to do anything that would cause pain to their neighbor. How much more would this be true in a society of people who actually feel that God, who transcends time and space and observes their every act, wants them to love each other?  Therefore, once the sinful history of humanity has come to an end, a new historical era will begin wherein people simply will not commit sin (p. 9).”

Indian philosopher and social critic Jiddu Krishnamurti believed that fitting in with a given society’s social norms does not necessarily mean one is experiencing vibrant mental health: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” Sigmund Freud tackled the topic of how to determine if whole societies can be sick in Civilization and Its Discontents (1930). He theorized it’s possible that many systems of civilization and even the whole of humanity “have become neurotic under the pressure of the civilizing trends.”

Psychoanalyst Eric Fromm enlarged upon that idea in The Sane Society (1955). He believed the civilizing trends of mid-20th century American capitalism had created an unhealthy social character for its citizens; one that failed to satisfy fundamental psychic needs, i.e., the need to relate to self and others in a loving way; the need for a sense of identity; and the need to surrender in loving devotion to something greater than oneself.

According to Fromm, evolving American capitalist methods of production, distribution and consummation had ceased to be a means to a more dignified life (the aim of 19th and early 20th century capitalism) and had now become an end in themselves, with the average citizen now “consumption and production crazy.” He claimed 20th century American capitalism had gotten off track by failing to see that its successful pursuit of one aim (the production of more and more things) had prevented the pursuit of a more comprehensive aim, namely; a society achieving a sufficient production of necessary and useful goods. In the process of defending himself against accusations of being an apologist for Marxist economic theory and a proponent of Soviet-style communism, Fromm also took aim at outmoded Marxist concepts of human nature and the oppressive, over-centralized production and bureaucratization in Soviet Russia.

A recent fundraising letter published by libertarian Washington think tank, the Cato Institute, called for all Americans to rally around the Constitution and Declaration of Independence to come up with clear answers for many pressing problems plaguing our nation. Central to Cato’s agenda is the promotion of dynamic market capitalism, social tolerance, a strict respect for privacy and private property, civil liberties, and peaceful international relations. Cato believes the recent federal encroachment into the private affairs of its citizens poses the single biggest threat to American exceptionalism.

It is hard to argue against these ideals and principles, as they have managed to produce the most materially prosperous and free nation in the world.  But Divine Principle insists that the radical inner transformation required for humanity’s salvation must be matched by the transformation of socio-economic conditions:

“According to God’s ideal of creation, God confers upon each individual the same original value. Just as parents love all their children equally, God desires to provide pleasant environments and living conditions equally to all His children.  Moreover, in an ideal society, production, distribution and consumption should have the same organic relationship as exists between the functions of digestion, circulation and metabolism in the human body. Thus, there should not be destructive competition due to over-production, nor unfair distribution leading to excessive accumulation and consumption, which are contrary to the purpose of the public good.  There should be sufficient production of necessary and useful goods, fair and efficient distribution of these goods, and reasonable consumption which is in harmony with the purpose of the whole. Just as the liver provides a reserve of nutrients for the human body, adequate reserves of capital should be maintained to ensure smooth operation of the entire economy (pp. 341-42).”

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, other centrally planned alternatives to the capitalist mode of production that led to oppression and dictatorship in the 20th century — e.g., China, Vietnam, Cuba, and even North Korea — are now embracing some features of a capitalist free market system.  In particular, the idea of the commodity market as a mechanism by which prices are determined and products are regulated, and the principle that individuals competing among themselves for profit provides the greatest advantage for everyone, are cautiously emerging into the social fabric of these countries.

It appears the socialist ideal alluded to in Divine Principle is fading further from the consciousness of societies around the world. What capitalism has fulfilled by producing material prosperity and political and social freedoms seems to indicate we just need to continue with it throughout the 21st century and beyond.  Anyone seriously suggesting the socialist ideal as the next great moral movement to usher in a new era where all of God’s children will be provided “pleasant environments and living conditions” may be considered abnormal or even mentally ill.

Socialist theories and applications developed since the 18th century have always been primarily concerned with what has happened to men and women in the industrial system. Critiques of capitalism revolved around the principle that human beings are not to be used as a means to an end — to produce social products for profit — but that material production is for the unfolding of our creative powers.  In a socialist economy, production of products is for social usefulness and not for the making of profit and accumulation of capital (e.g., the 2008 “too big to fail” bank crisis that left American taxpayers on the hook). Social ownership and cooperative management of the economy characterize the means of production.

A brief overview of the Cranes Club and its inaugural conference held December 19-21, 2014 in Las Vegas.

Divine Principle’s call for the emergence of a socialist ideal provides an opportunity to examine if the capitalist socio-economic structure corresponds to the deepest needs of human nature and produces vibrant mental health and maturity for all of its citizens. It also calls into question the role that society plays in helping or hindering the development of our innate creative powers and mental health. In other words, it is not enough to call for inner reform and transformation through the religious sphere.  Shouldn’t advocates of the Divine Principle view of the world also have to look at how the current socio-economic structure promotes or inhibits the cultivation of our essential human nature and mental health?

Over 60 years, the Unification Movement built up billions of dollars in assets. Thousands of volunteers worked in numerous business and service-related organizations for little money or non-competitive salaries while helping to accumulate those assets. In recent years, we unfortunately have witnessed battles waged among a few for claim to those assets. In the early 1980s, the American movement’s communitarian-like style of socialism (where everyone lived together in small centers with a common ideal and shared equally of personal possessions and finances for the benefit of all ) gave way to living fully under the accepted and expected norms of American capitalism. An intellectually honest examination of our movement’s labor practices and its ensuing use of accumulated capital, calls into question the application of the ideas of our founder in relation to Divine Principle’s claim that providential history is moving towards the establishment of a socialist ideal.

In December 2014, the inaugural meeting of the Cranes Club, an assembly of Unificationist young adults, was held in Las Vegas. These young professionals gathered for three days to discuss how to work together to have a more positive global impact. One of the top areas of challenge identified was clarifying a united vision/message. Isn’t it time for some of those educated professionals to take up the challenge of considering how to move forward with Divine Principle’s call to create a socialist ideal? Perhaps they can organize a conference on the theme “Divine Principle and the Socialist Ideal: Taking the Dream to the Next Level.”

Let me reiterate Divine Principle’s call for the creation of a socialist ideal:

“Because human beings are created to live in an ideal society, they will inevitably pursue a socialistic ideal as they strive for freedom and democracy and further search into their original nature.”♦

Jack LaValley maintains a full-time career in the hospitality industry in New York City. He is the founder of true4ever.com and the author of the eLearning book, Seven Secrets to Finding True Love. He received his M.S.Ed. from the University of Bridgeport. Jack and his wife, Wha ja, are the proud parents of three grown children.

9 thoughts on “Reconsidering Divine Principle’s Call to Create a Socialist Ideal

  1. Thank you, Jack. I appreciate your essay and analysis of the Unification Movement’s current state. Let me add a few thoughts.

    1. Our movement started out and gained its early following because of the global vision our founder conveyed to many of those who joined in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. It was a vision that talked about the transformation of the lives of individuals from which then would emerge a new society and world, based on justice, equality and a quality of love the world had not seen, or had only gotten small glimpses of at best.

    2. This vision of the founder (TF) got weaker and weaker as time passed and worldly matters such as money, position and influence came to the fore. The global vision has been largely replaced by a Confucian-style model, which is most certainly not suitable as the future model for an ideal and just world, described by the above quotes from the Divine Principle. A model that transcends Confucian and Christian-based (and other existing cultures) politics, economics and educational systems is needed, if the Unification Movement wants to present a credible alternative to the world and earn credibility and acceptance as a natural result. The world’s leaders and those who we often refer to as “the prepared” will not be impressed and won by the current inward-looking movement, arguing and fighting over theologies and assets, specifically at the top layers of the movement.

    3. What is needed, in my view, are three aspects (very briefly only):

    a) The unique value of each individual with unique skills and talents needs to be re-emphasized and put in practice — i.e., a movement where Human Rights and Responsibilities defined are practiced.

    b) The model of healthy and stable families needs to be not only taught but supported by research and by developing consistent work and promotion in this field, together with already existing like-minded organizations. This area should not be left to a few individuals within the movement; it should be a main focus of the international HQ – not only in name but in practice.

    c) Young adults of our movement need to be given much more space to refine and apply their talents, skills and enthusiasm in all areas where our movement is active and beyond. There is no need to be afraid of talent, skills and youthful enthusiasm!:) And their investment needs to be compensated properly and adequately. And of course, this does not have to be limited to young adults only.

    All of the above will take time, may 10, 20 or more years. Hopefully the Cranes Club is the starting point of a new and reformed movement.

  2. Thank you, Jack, for your thoughtful essay. I agree with you! My only concern is that this will fall on deaf ears. The movement at the moment is in “survival mode,” and such considerations as “how to move forward with Divine Principle’s call to create a socialist ideal” are at present quite low on the totem pole, compared to “how to stop bickering” (a poor man doesn’t philosophize until his mouth is full of bread!). Still, I appreciate the effort you made to research and put this together, and I hope one day — sooner than later — we will move beyond our current petty preoccupations and put real effort into developing these “higher” ideals.

  3. Jack,

    The above passage in the Divine Principle is frequently quoted, but sufficiently vague because the writers of DP had not worked out an exact system, but were appealing to the core ideas of Chapter 1, that everyone should have the right to achieve the three blessings. In addition to just having a legal right, there is a social ideal that we are all one family and when one person suffers or needs help, others should help.

    The history of the 20th century reflects the capitalist attempt to let the economic sector decide how to create social justice and the communist attempt to let the government decide how to create social justice. Both approaches failed because neither money (the economic sector) nor power (the government sector) should be put above the principle of love which generates from the cultural sector. Thus I would see the core of “socialism” to be neither in the markets nor the government but in the cultural sphere. A culture rooted in the ideal of creation should be in the subject position, enabling the freedom people require to pursue happiness and their own destiny, while decentralizing wealth and political power as much as possible, to return to a very large middle class with very few outliers being either obscenely rich or so poor they can’t pursue a life. This could mean more checks and balances on both the political and economic spheres and less faith that either the government or economic spheres can save us. This is what both the Democratic and Republican Parties would respectively have us believe.

    In the political sphere there would be a need to eliminate the two political parties that purport to speak on people’s behalf, but in fact speak for these two sectors that control culture. To give each person relatively equal political power you need to limit political campaign contributions to individuals, so that the money that goes to candidates’ campaigns actually represents the will of the people, rather than the will of special interests like banks, utilities, labor unions, oil companies and all other special interests that should be governed by the people rather than governing over the people and extracting wealth from the people through the current system. I would recommend eliminating party affiliation on ballots so that voters can remain stupid and not study candidate’s qualifications but just vote a party line that favors their pocketbook. This is a form of serfdom and not a democracy of the people.

    In the economic sphere, the first need would be to tax money earned passively through investment at a higher rate than wage labor. Investors making money off of the labor of others are engaging in a form of slavery. This is where Warren Buffett made the point that he was being taxed less than his secretary. His secretary pays up to 35% of her earnings in income taxes, but earnings on investments are just taxed at 10%. These tax rates actually promote the seeking of money through investment rather than through work, and make U.S. labor more expensive. These two rates should at least be reversed so that work is encouraged over this form of economic slavery that currently exists in the system. I spelled out a lot more of what I think are the “headwing” things we could do in my book, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness Version, Version 4.0.

  4. Gordon, thanks for reading and being part of the conversation. I agree that any social, political or economic vision must call for cultural transformation. For example: Can we expect our American materialistic society focused on “success in the market” via more production and consumption to live up to the ideals and values embedded in the Ten Commandments?

  5. To Jack and others,

    I remember bringing this up in a newspaper interview once, as “heavenly socialism”, when I was a 23 year-old missionary in Alabama back in the 70s. It was controversial.

    Today, however, as blessed families replaced individual members living communally, there is less and less interest in such communitarian arrangements. Today in dealing with the bureaucracies that control Obamacare, motor vehicle registration, and Social Security, I am reminded constantly of why we don’t want such centralized control or functioning. I’ve even experienced that a computer entry error took away my health care coverage for months. Yesterday, I had reps of both agencies involved on the phone simultaneously and they were at a standoff, each requiring the other to take the initial step in restoring my healthcare coverage which they acknowledged was due to me. They had little motivation and passion to secure my coverage and take the initiative. So much for impersonal bureaucracy. It’s one thing to pass a hat and take an offering for someone in need — it is quite another to deal with bureaucracy.

    The Amish community is interesting in their ways of parenting (see Serena Miller’s new book, More than Happy) but also in their refusal to be caught up in these big government bureaucracies (according to Miller they do not participate in Social Security or Obamacare). Instead these families are happily productive with farms, small businesses and value-making activities which involve their whole family, as well as their community. Despite withdrawing after the 8th grade from public school they continue to study to do business well. In some case,s they’ve bought farms that weren’t doing well and turned them around to be productive. They’ve refrained from structures and technologies that their culture deems dehumanizes them.

    I think the goal of all government programs is that individuals and families become self-insured against economic downturns, accidents, ill health, etc. There should be a component of all government programs which leads ultimately to self-insurance. This could be a requirement to purchase insurance, as car-owners do, or to have investments sustaining self-insurance. The goal finally is that all citizens be self-insured (and self-assured) and then bring about the withering away of the state, as the need for government diminishes. In this regard, all government programs should have a sunset clause which pulls the plug on the government programs itself or diminishes it as it is unneeded.

    Government waste is a huge problem with nearly all agencies competing with time to spend their yearly budgets in order to be re-budgeted at the same level in the next year. This a mirror image, a cruel and selfish opposite, to the thriftiness of the many small businesses that employ most Americans and pay much of the taxes.

    A study by Liebman and Mahoney (Harvard) entitled “Do Expiring Budgets Lead to Wasteful Year-End Spending?” (Nov. 2010) examines some of these trends in federal procurement. I have seen it at the local level in the schools, and I assume it is true in most branches of government. I have seen a school principal rushing out to spend the last of the budget on superfluous supplies, so as to exhaust the budget. Use it or loose it.

    I think there is some hope that the digital age could trim the layers of middle management that make government and bureaucracies inefficient but the motivation and clarity of direction and understanding have to be there. The government and bureaucracy in general should know that they are an archangelic servant trying to raise up Adam and Eve, John and Susie Citizen, so that they are empowered to stand on their own. At that point government would need to wither appropriately and should. With these limits and purposes in mind government could be humble and not all-powerful or eternal.

    Perhaps a debate over socialism is not so productive at this time. A debate over family insurance, and how to transfer prosperity to future generations in a positive manner that empowers them, amplifying their creativity and responsibility, might be more on target. Internal prosperity is also key and we try to bequeath our best of tradition to the future.

  6. You’re all misled. Socialism stinks. It has failed wherever it has been tried, whether of the totalitarian kind or the “democratic socialist” kind as in Western Europe. Tax some folk and businesses to look after everybody else and use the force of the power of the state. Just look at Greece. Now it has a communist government — elected. Hah! They want even more money from the EU (that means Germany) with no conditions attached as to spending.

    Socialism, in all its expressions, is a mid-19th century idea (along with Darwinism, by the way) that has inspired many and has found to be a total and abject failure. The people who wrote this section of the Divine Principle should have known better. But I don’t blame them. Any ideal world will not be based on socialism, I can assure you of that.

    Monarchy also stinks, God told them so way back in the Book of Samuel. At least America got that right.

  7. That passage from DP misleads a lot of people, it seems. Government cannot and will not provide any solutions to the human socio-economic condition. It is a leach. It fundamentally forcibly takes from one to give to another of its choice. Early America…at least until 1913…was the closest system on earth to God’s ideal. Excluding America’s failure to embrace blacks and other minorities, each individual American had total freedom to pursue his heart’s desire and to build a socio-economic future that satisfied. Charity sprung up to help those who couldn’t or wouldn’t for the myriad human reasons, making America the most charitable nation not just in the world, but in the history of the world. Had all that not been corrupted by socialism, Marxism, liberalism, progressivism, and the like, that ideal would’ve continued to develop and grow and build. I don’t believe the massive drug use that has plagued our society — and all the liberty-destroying legal and police apparatus to oppose it — would’ve even occurred.

    The ideal of God rests on one single foundation: unconditional love for one’s fellows, which flows from them into the heart of God, realising not just the three blessings but God’s original desire for creation. Through unconditional love we cannot stand idly by while others suffer. Hence, the great charitable works of America that sought to, and in many cases did, help others transcend their socio-economic suffering. Thus, the quoted DP passage is not talking about socio-economics, and is certainly not talking about empowering government systems to advance the social or economic aspects of the three blessings. It is talking about the natural, spontaneous efforts of individual human beings working in voluntary cooperation, privately, to help those in their community to experience a pleasing lifestyle and environment. A “socialistic” ideal does not need to refer to “socialism” as we’ve understood it, that is, organised through government systems and imposed on the people. It actually refers to the socialism of the heart, where “I” am an inextricable part of the society around me, and I take interest in those that share it with me.

    The correct system is the one America invented: free market capitalism rooted in republican constitutional government where each person was 100% free of government intrusion and force, need only respect the rights and privileges of others under that system, and in so doing would and did organise methods to alleviate human suffering that is not any part of that system but part of the human fallen condition. That’s why America became the richest, most productive and happiest country in the world, leading by a wide margin in charitable giving and projects globally, until the advent of state-controlled socialism beginning in 1913 began to erode and destroy that heaven-inspired system. We see its fruits today in the loss of freedom, the forcible intrusion of government into the private lives of citizens, the loss of economic prosperity, constant war, political violence, greed, selfishness, violence, and the absolute need to control others. The result of that is always rebellion and chaos.

    So, forget about socialism. It’s a false god. A false ideology. A false ideal. God’s ideal embodies maximized human freedom, which maximizes human opportunity, which maximizes the unavoidable human drive to help others. That triad, flowing from the true ideal of Unificationism embodied in Divine Principle, is the “socialist ideal” DP advances. And that’s why in the very same sentence it is coupled with “as they strive for freedom and democracy.” With socialism, there is no freedom and democracy. Only force, using democracy, as required, for cover, much as the allegorical wolf uses sheep’s clothing.

  8. As I understand it, socialism will follow naturally the human desire to live for others, not the other way around (enforcement). In such a society, there will be a minimum of laws and a maximum of responsibility for the individual. “News” will not just entertain, but will call for action as the recent events in Nepal and the Pacific region illustrated. Unificationists went there to help, inspired by our founder; a hint how it could be. Sufficient food, clothing and shelter, education, health care, and environmental protection are projects which only partly can be enforced by states, but should be the concern of every conscientious human being who has more than enough to live comfortably.

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