Confined to our homes by a virus for which we are severely underprepared, the whole world is faced with the inadequacies of our systems.
We Unificationists, in particular, because of our high ideals, are challenged to reassess who we are, what values we are expressing in how we live, and how can we choose the best path to a future that manifests our vision for one united world (see my previous article on this site).
Besides the obvious failures of the healthcare system, from the perspective of a Unificationist, we can see that our current Western economic system fails to serve our deeper purposes in life in many ways. We spend most of our lives in debt, trying to catch up, and figuring out how to pay for healthcare, education, etc., instead of being able to invest time and love in our children.
Given that we expect to live in an eternal world after this, how can we design an economic system that allows for the greatest freedom to make our own decisions, and that enables personal growth?
Humans grow by receiving love, and by giving love, by investing effort, through relationships, by exercising their own responsibility towards living a life of value fulfillment. We grow by living for both the whole purpose and the individual purpose, and especially through investing in our children and communities.
Indigenous communities sustained their way of life throughout thousands of years, supported by nature, and without destroying that natural world. Despite its technological achievements, Western thinking, originating in Europe but now worldwide, has led us to the brink of destruction of the natural world, as now seen in the sudden clearing of atmospheric pollution as human economic activity is forcibly shut down in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead of going back to total communal ownership, hunting, fishing, and raising GMO-free crops, consider what could have emerged from a respectful analysis of the two ways of life that clashed as Europeans moved into the New World, sadly displacing the original residents.
There are a few basic facts to take as a foundation for our future economics: the universe provides all of nature for free, for the equal use of every person. There is no income requirement for what is provided. However, shaping the natural environment for the purpose of maintaining humanity does require some effort. Both facts lead to one level of responsibility, and so far, there is no responsibility on anyone’s part to work anywhere near as long hours as is typical in America today, because ensuring that everyone has a house, food and basic needs would not involve more than probably one or two days a week, if everyone contributes.
The second level of responsibility is oriented more toward growth of humanity as a whole. Our absolute responsibility is to raise healthy and happy children, and guarantee that their individual survival needs are met, allowing them to be ready to work on their own personal goals and values, to express their own individuality in the context of becoming loving, capable adults. This inevitably leads to the evolution of humanity, the expression of humanity’s values.
Indigenous thinking, embedded in the world as part of nature as they were, is necessary but not sufficient, in that it is unlikely such a way of life in itself would have led to the current level of progress in science, technology, psychology, etc. However, by merging with and influencing Western values, there could well have been a much more healthy development of all these areas of knowledge.
Thus we are led, in analyzing what could have been, to incorporate the best of both worlds. Simply jettisoning capitalism would leave us bereft of what could be a very strong pillar of our economic future, while ignoring our identity as community, we already can see has severe consequences, particularly in terms of honoring the divine, unique, and sacred value of each and every individual.
Our society simply throws away those who haven’t achieved parity in the economic competition that we think of as life. They end up in poverty, in economic slavery, working all hours for survival only, never attaining the economic capacity to move further toward value fulfillment, thereby impoverishing humanity beyond any imagining.
Capitalism has shown itself to be highly vulnerable to being hijacked by the “winners” in the economic race, and needs some very fundamental modification. Firstly, we must recognize the unconditional aspect of nature’s contribution. Without nature, without the bees to pollinate, without the tendency of seeds to grow, existence itself would be threatened, and no corporation would make an easy profit if they had to replace all the functions of nature through their own ingenuity. This belongs equally to every person, because we are all equally created as part of nature.
Therefore we can see two distinct levels of economic thinking here, the first being the meeting of our needs within a hugely benevolent, well-suited planet, and the second being the enabling of growth through the creative use of nature and our relationships with each other. Thus, every person should receive the basics, within the context of a couple days’ work a week for the benefit of maintaining this basic level of life, and once that is achieved, then beyond that people may freely work toward profit and creative expression of what is important to them. I say freely because work as we know it is not necessarily the highest value, as any Unificationist can attest.
Thus a person who wants a very nice home should be able to achieve that on the basis of hard work, but to the extent she or he uses more than say half an acre of land on which to build, there should be recognition that the community must be compensated for the loss of the use of this extra land. If people use nature for economic purposes, and obviously they have to, then they can receive the rewards of their transforming nature into useful commodities, but also compensate the whole for whatever they use that rightfully belongs to the whole.
A nature-value tax would be a natural source of income distributed to everyone, out of which those who choose not to work (other than the time needed for maintaining the communal level of life) for some time, or even for large parts of their lives, may do so freely and without guilt of feeling like a parasite. At this point, spending time at home raising one’s children in this country is considered almost parasitic behavior. Clearly this violates the deeper purpose of life, and yet we are all driven to live in this fashion.
In a YouTube video, the author asks, “Everyone needs to live somewhere, which makes land a fundamental necessity — so can we just regard land as a commodity to be bought and sold for profit?” A companion video is here.
Without the obligation to work for survival, people would be able to choose whether or not to take a job, and employers would have to pay enough to entice workers to work. Our view of corporations would evolve, and we would see them more as sources of community value, rather than as ways of enriching the owners, the current “super-rich.” Corporate leadership would be compensated for their time and work, well-compensated, but would not be as excessively rich as they are today. However they would have people’s respect and gratitude instead of resentment. They would not be forever fending off lawsuits, because people’s anger would be relieved as we all start to feel more valued and loved. Even inter-corporate cooperation might evolve into a real phenomenon, beyond simply that of buying up smaller corporations to increase short-term profits.
The sharing of corporate returns might also prove a source of some kind of living wage, or basic corporate income, in such a world.
Freedom from debt and from bureaucracy-imposed burdens are both necessary aspects of any future system. Servicing debt is maybe the most debilitating aspect of our current economic lives. If we have to have a system with built-in debt, then at least build a protective wall around the retail economy and people’s savings, so that no one can lose everything because of such debt. Likewise we need a greatly strengthened firewall between retail and the speculative behaviors that have forced us to bail out wealthy corporations, especially banks, several times in recent decades.
Government must also evolve to stop using our technology to impose order upon us under the guise of providing for us. Such evolution though requires a much greater level of trust of each other, because so much of the endless filling out of forms and paying vast amounts for insurance emanates from our distrust. Lawyers and courts have taken over so much of our decision-making, leaving us very inadequate in our capacity to solve problems by working things out together, and leaving us vulnerable economically as we have to pay for this distrust. We have not learned wisdom in the handling of an information economy, and until this evolves, our data is used for the profit of some and for the ease of controlling the population by others.
Capitalism has given us ways to use money by investing in corporations and businesses such that our money can grow even while we are not actively working. This has been a great relief to many, in providing retirement income and freeing up one’s time. Simply discarding our capitalistic system devalues the Western progress that freed us from so much of our servitude to nature. The path to living within the natural world and also freeing ourselves from the limitations of living only as part of the natural world is a path that requires thought and universal values.
In Unificationist terms, we could be focusing on horizontal progress instead of being paralyzed by vertical issues of who should we be obeying.
The Unification movement is very well-placed to contribute to this, given the supreme value of the human being in its philosophy, and once we have overcome our differences and are reunited as a movement, we will no doubt engage on this level once again. Western values need to be incorporated in our movement toward the future, so that we have hope to see a world that of course incorporates intellectual accomplishment, but also values justice and heart more than intellect alone.♦
Alison Wakelin (UTS Class of 1989) is Senior Lecturer in Physics and Astronomy at Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania. She is also currently the Town Chair of Ardentown, Delaware. She earned an M.A. in Astrophysics from Princeton University, and previously taught math and science on U.S. Army bases in South Korea for ten years.
Alison touches on some important points here. She writes: “Thus we are led, in analyzing what could have been, to incorporate the best of both worlds. Simply jettisoning capitalism would leave us bereft of what could be a very strong pillar of our economic future, while ignoring our identity as community, we already can see has severe consequences, particularly in terms of honoring the divine, unique, and sacred value of each and every individual.”
In True Father’s explanation of Headwing in Cheon Seong Gyeong he states that Godism and free-market capitalism “rooted in head-wing thought” are like “inner and outer halves” that can lead to God. (CSG p. 1066). This reinforces the idea that there’s a need for a God-centered economic paradigm to be fashioned and practiced in order bring about the ideal that we advocate vis-a-vis commerce, private property, entrepreneurism, personal income, etc. Father’s advocacy of attaining the 3 Blessings (CSG, pp. 1042 to 1060) as the foundation for the realization interdependence and mutual prosperity remains an essential aspect of our vision. Obviously, we can’t get to the ideal realization of the third blessing (all things — commerce, education, media, the arts, the environment, technology, et.al.) without getting the first two blessings right.
In his book Conscious Capitalism, John Mackey (founder of Whole Foods) cites Adam Smith’s assertion the there is a “self-purpose” and a “whole purpose” in the capitalist modality and these purposes need to be balanced and harmonized in order to insure fairness and mitigate greed. This is surely a principled perspective. True Mother’s advocacy of caring for the environment requires a hard look at how seriously various nations take environmental issues in the context of “whole” and “self” purposes and the creation of an economic model that respects Mother Nature accordingly.
Because technology — developing it and acquiring it (personal computers, cell phones, WiFi, printers, toner, memory) — requires financial resources, we can’t easily turn back the clock to the pre-digital era in a mode of austerity. Money matters as Alison notes.
Having Godism in the equation is something Unificationists generally agree upon. How we convince the movers and shakers in the world of this remains our challenge.
I believe they tried something like this before in the USSR — only, because of the demotivating effect it had on the populace, eventually, people had to work 40 hours a week just to get a basic income to survive — and even then technological development pretty much ground to a halt. The Israelis tried the kibbutz model — and threw it out because it just created so many lazy people. Now they build communities where each family is economically independent — but the members have shared values. Each community has different shared values that they believe are important.
Of course, one can understand your heart for fairness, and a more sustainable, tranquil life. One can admire your hopes. Many of the things you think we should be doing are already being done. For example, in the UK, businesses pay business rates something akin to the land tax you propose.
I personally find that there are many problems with the model you present. I wish to talk about two of them.
The first problem is that to achieve your aims there would have to be a massive amount of authoritarian control. This is always the case wherever socialist models take hold — it is endemic to socialism. Though we might look at Christian communities of shared economics — there is a vast difference between a voluntary community and state-mandated one. In taking so much power to themselves, politicians start to act in other authoritarian ways. For example, politicians start to define right and wrong based on who shouts the loudest and who controls the media. Good people start to be seen as bad people for just wanting some more freedom for their lives.
The second problem is though one likes to see the positives in trying to act with compassion and fairness, my work shows me that such legislative efforts, more often than not, lead to far greater problems for the next generation — the damage done is always greater than the goodness that was done by introducing the laws to help various groups of citizens. The challenge for the compassionate is to see the vast damage — which one doesn’t see unless one goes to seriously look for it — because the media isn’t going to tell you about it. For example, UBI was stopped in Finland because it is just such a demotivator for young adults who have little personal discipline. Having to work for a living forces those with little discipline to become more disciplined, and eventually many become disciplined enough to build a self-sustaining personal life. I don’t want to make a long list of the negatives — just to say that it was not socialism that has just lifted some billion and a half people out of poverty over the last 20 years.
So yes, build your voluntary communities. The Amish have done this, and some people stay and some people leave. Go for it. Tell the world how well it works for you. Maybe others will try. But most people are born with a personality that finds such a lifestyle is not to their taste.
From a Principled point of view — I believe the primary way of solving the many injustices we see in the world today is to raise individuals to become individually bound to a personal value system that will allow them to make personal decisions that allow them to make better choices in their family and work life. And then to have the skills to sustain a marriage so they are able to pass those good values on down to their children. These values have very little to do with political mandates, but much more to do with religious values.
I perceive that over the last 60 years, political values have taken precedence in large areas of the social fabric — in areas where they have no natural authority to rule. Because of this over-reach, growing numbers of individuals have seen no need to develop their own personal, religious-based value system. Many of the young seem to believe that if they support the political mandates, this makes them good people, and thus they don’t need to work on their own value system — something that might include things such as personal responsibility, honesty, gratitude, humility, forgiveness, and seeing difficulties as a chance for growth, for example. Thus, on many campuses today, resentment, anger, ingratitude, ongoing anger, and more are taught as a means to get the young politically motivated.
This lack of a personal value system is now reflected in the many evils that are present in some areas of corporate life. As I said, the over-involvement of the state — all in the name of goodness — can often have very negative social consequences.
Land is crucial, especially in the UK. Read the report “Land For the Many” commissioned by the Labour Party in June 2019.
I don’t see that an authoritarian approach is inevitable, I actually am the highest elected official in the community where I live, and my approach to government is very much to let people make their own decisions, and support them as much as possible. We have a land value tax and it works. The whole community makes decisions together in Town Assembly. See my last AU Blog post on government and distributed power.
Also I think you’re seeing lack of motivation in the young in large part because of the lack of opportunity for a balanced life at least partly as a result of the failures of the trickle-down theory. While young people need time to discover their own path, usually goals and motivation emerge as soon as they realize no one is going to make their life path for them, and this is it. Especially when they’re ready to have children.
Thank you for a thought-provoking article, Alison.
I am reminded of Father’s remarks that when the world is restored, more people can enjoy “hobbyism,” recreation and other enrichment activities.
At the same time, as a first generation, I am still impressed that some of our own parents’ generation have achieved good lives while living into their 90’s. Two important reasons: For one, they had far less chemicals, vaccines, processed foods and junk foods in their bodies. Secondly, they had a strong work ethic that gave them a sense of purpose, discipline and self-esteem through achievement and living for the sake of others such as providing for their family.
For example, my husband’s parents are Italian immigrants who did not have more than an 8th grade education. Yet, they had the determination and grit to come to America where his mother worked a factory job as a seamstress for minimum wage (maybe not more than $3.00+ hr.) over many years. But she saved her money and even invested in a 3-story home in Queens that later sold for perhaps 4 times the original cost. From that investment, they purchased a nice 3 br home with a fenced in backyard in Long Island and paid for it in cash. His father was a master carpenter who worked free-lance and had a small union pension when he retired. Overall, they ate well (of course, the best Italian homecooking and yearly storing of fresh tomato sauces as well as homemade wine too.) They raised responsible, hard-working children who developed skills of architecture, carpentry, teaching and cooking! His mother is now 93 yrs. old.
My father lived to be 99 yrs. old. Having lived through the Great Depression, he also served as a fighter pilot and pilot instructor in WWII…of course, a very dangerous and stressful mission flying over the Pacific with only 8 hrs. fuel and a mission that was 4 hrs. away. He had to leave his young wife and family while he served his nation. He started work as an office boy and worked his way up from scratch, learning the accounting and finance skills to later become an executive. Always donating to charities and American freedom organizations, he deserved to engage in recreation and regular exercise when he retired, never missing a week of tennis and golf until he was 97 yrs. old when we persuaded him only to play 9 holes of golf instead of 18 and to quit the tennis.
Concurrently with economic analysis, we need to realize the very essential ingredients of good living as demonstrated from these two family examples: Values of honoring God, family, country, freedom, sacrifice for others, self-discipline, commitment to working hard whether it be a job or cooking and cleaning, and valuing the sense of purpose from developing a trade or skills that utilize one’s talents and abilities. Work should not be devalued. Saving and living within your means is a way to keep out of debt. Helping others through voluntary service and financial support works best when, as our founder said, it is given freely and from heart, not government oppression.
As we see in this time of tribulation, many many people are showing these values of living for the sake of others and helping others in need. Extraordinary examples to show others.
This is all fine, Donna, but to me it sounds like Protestantism more than Unificationism. Definitely on the good side, but not enough to reach inspiring. I don’t think sacrifice is an inspiring message without a strong reason to believe it will result in a higher goal. It’s just not the same as the purpose of life being joy.
This is Unificationism which embraces many aspects. Service and sacrificial loving acts are what a strong marriage is about, what unconditional true love is about, what good parenting is about, what living for the nation and world is about. We are seeing it through the nurses, good neighbors, restaurant owners feeding the community, police work, individuals stopping their usual activities and helping coronavirus situations, etc. Of course, joy can be included. It is not just a Protestant ethic, but in the history of all backgrounds, Catholic initiatives for peace, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. It is a most inspiring message as George Dunhamm III confirms in his humble testimony here, and, of course, in the words and life of True Parents.
Yet, we know that in totalitarian, communist countries, the demand for sacrifice is a different cause and effect.
Your ideas about living in harmony with nature are certainly evident in the third blessing taught in Divine Principle, but some people argue that the size of the earth is such that the traditional native hunter-gatherer lifestyle could only support 250 million people on earth at most. To support more than that number of people, you need farming and the human production of goods and services, or you have ceaseless tribal wars over resources or the need to sacrifice people to keep the population numbers stable.
Recently there have been disputes between environmentalists and people who have imported wild animals to ranches on Texas where animals are raised for big game hunts and people are charged a fee to get to hunt them. Some species would be extinct in the wild by now if animals were not protected that way. The recent “Tiger King” episodes on Netflix reveal larger numbers of tigers are living in private hands and zoos than in the wild. I wouldn’t think a Unificationist enjoys seeing a tiger living in a small cage, unable to run over the land or wild animals killed for sport or ivory. But it is clear that some sense of ownership seems to prevent extinctions more than traditional hunter-gather lifestyles–which also prevents humans from flourishing by fighting over natural resources.
The coronavirus pandemic is showing the current generation that we can do better than our current social systems. The reduction of smog in LA and pollution of the canals in Venice have shown us that the environment can be cleaner with a change of lifestyle. It is ironic that things may have improved more from an environmental standpoint than they would with programs like AOC’s “Green New Deal” that would spend so much money you would need greater production, not less, to pay for it. It was not reform of capitalism, or the passing of laws that led to environmental improvement, but the change of lifestyle and even the greater focus on science to understand a virus and the way the biological world works.
Certainly, changes can be made to our “crony capitalism” in which laws favor a few big corporations driven by profit, but individual ownership and family ownership (capital) are both goals of the first blessing and a requirement for achieving the third blessing. The economic system you seemed to be promoting is state capitalism, which Russia tried and failed, and the Chinese abandoned after 30 years. I do not believe salvation will come from a state plan that forces everyone to sacrifice and tells them what they must do, but a cultural consciousness that teaches productive ownership with a parental heart. Communism is, after all, a hunter-gatherer ideology. It taught that workers should seize the ownership of the means of production and redistribute it. It was just the hunting and gathering the property created by others rather than plants and animals, and not an ideology that promoted new production and innovation.
State capitalism is based on the idea that someone else or some system will take care of everyone. It is a child’s mentality to be taken care of by someone or something else. Parental heart, on the other hand, means taking care of yourself and your children, and the environment. This does not mean asking someone or something else to take responsibility, but a shift from growth-stage to perfection-stage culture.
This change of attitude or “growing up” will certainly lead to reform of the current economic and political systems, but not as dramatically as some envision. After all, evolution of cultural, political and economic systems already enabled us to create a world that went beyond the traditional hunter-gatherer societies since the development of farming at the time of Adam and Eve. It could be argued that they were “chosen” to be the first family to organize around “production” rather than hunting and gathering and that, at that time, there was an opportunity to put hunting and killing behind and start and new God-centered history.
I sincerely doubt that many people will opt for a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Most would probably go for making a business with a safety net above survival level, at least after some time when they’ve come to believe that this guarantee is going to continue. It could certainly not work if everyone went back to nature, I didn’t mean to imply that they should.
I do think that we can look for some change in our thinking about corporations and expect that they can provide something toward our basic good as a world community.
I enjoyed Alison’s attempt to revive the best of capitalism and our communitarian past.
I think one reason it seems we have to work so hard to have a roof over our head and food on the table is the high cost of fallen nature. Just as calculating the real cost in labor time of those necessities might be impossible, so it may be impossible to figure the economic burdens we carry from the facts of social conflict: fallen nature in the form of crime and war.
One GAO study tried to put crime in perspective:
“Crime and society’s response to it pose significant costs to the United States. The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that federal, state, and local governments collectively spent over $280 billion in fiscal year 2012 (adjusted to 2016 dollars) on criminal justice programs such as police protection, the court system, and incarceration. There are also many other financial and nonfinancial effects of crime that researchers consider when estimating the total costs of crime in the United States. These can include tangible costs such as replacing damaged property or medical care to treat victims’ injuries, and intangible costs such as changes in people’s behavior to avoid crime, among many other costs. Researchers have estimated varying annual costs of crime, including totals of $690 billion, $1.57 trillion, and $3.41 trillion, adjusted to 2016 dollars.”
We have all seen estimates of the global cost of defense spending and war-making, both of which go to the account of human nature rather than simply systems analyses.
Similarly a principled view of the coronavirus catastrophe could see the vast global economic losses as a function of fallen nature on a global scale. It appears that one national government allowed 100,000s of its fellow humans to be at risk of their lives rather than lose face and compromise its attempt at global economic and political dominance.
Fixing these causes of economic slavery requires work at the individual level in terms of human restoration and the dismantling of authoritarian systems that hold power and ideology as superior to the needs and wants of individuals and communities.
Great comment, Peter! I totally agree, and most of what you say stems from our deeply flawed approach to justice. Justice without heart is a disaster.
Alison, I have been trying to think through what you mean by “justice without heart is a disaster” and how that might relate to the high cost of fallen nature.
Libertarian sociologist Charles Murray pointed out in Losing Ground that at some point in the 1970s there seemed to be shift to blaming society rather than the individual for destructive behavior, on the part of experts, courts and political leaders. Murray doesn’t see much good coming from the sudden embrace of “compassion”.
One example is that the criminal records of teens were often expunged based on the compassionate idea that young men shouldn’t have their youthful indiscretions destroy their adulthoods. One result that Murray documented was that young men, not being stupid, happily indulged in criminality in their teens, in the knowledge that all would be forgiven. Worse, they thereby avoided the hard life lessons that are sometimes necessary to turn at risk youth in the right direction. From this point of view, compassion undermines rather than supports justice, and increases the cost both human and economic of fallen nature. It is perhaps not a coincidence that the legalistic influence of fathers dramatically declined in the same period, leading young men (and women) away from a healthy grasp of the meaning of justice and towards self-centeredness and narcissism.
In the last paragraph Alison says:
“The Unification movement is very well-placed to contribute to this, given the supreme value of the human being in its philosophy, and once we have overcome our differences and are reunited as a movement, we will no doubt engage on this level once again.”
Are we all going to get back together? I didn’t get that memo.
This is such a great article and reminder of what is important.
I’ve been struggling a lot lately. My business is totally failing. Even before the virus, we were on the verge of bankruptcy. We make expenseive software that people stop using after a few months. It’s a good idea that no one wants to use. So I’ve spent my life chasing this business that was a terrible idea in the first place. Now with the coronavirus I am cutting my employee salaries a lot. I feel like a failure.
But your article has shown me that the problem is I’m just chasing after the dollar, not really helping people. I’ve been thinking that I should focus on better values. I’ve been a bad boss, a bad husband, very selfish, I yell at people and call them dumb. But this virus has put a lot into perspective for me. I’m going to focus on being a better person and helping out instead of spending all my time on my failing business.
I believe Peter Elliffe’s point about fallen nature gets to the heart of the matter—figuratively and literally.
Rousseau was an advocate of the idea “the nobel savage” who was not corrupted by “bourgeois” values: “Man is free but everywhere in chains.” But German philosopher, Johann Gottlieb Fichte opined that freedom was “double-edged” and could result in inhumane behavior regardless of the culture, and “noble savages” were no less fallen than the nobility in the aristocracy that Rousseau railed against. Fichte properly noted that both noble savages and noblemen were in need of moral standards to mitigate immoral behavior. Twentieth century author, V.S. Naipaul (who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001), shared similar perspectives and was heavily criticized for allegedly having an unsympathetic attitude toward the developing world and indigenous cultures, but he wasn’t wrong.
Historian Max Neiman makes the point that slavery, subjugation, rape, and pillaging have been going on forever. This happened in Asia, in the Near East, in Africa, and among native American tribes. Speaking to the issue of fallen nature, the drive for supremacy in contemporary circumstances, Neiman states: “Will Asia, via China prevail? And then they’ll have their own justification for their supremacy. If the planet is around long enough, the cycle will start all over again. Blame, self-worship, blame, and some more self-worship. Sanctimony and selective memory are universal practices.”
This is why Unificationists emphasize the importance of freedom and our portion of responsibility in attainting the 3 Blessings as a hedge against fallen nature. DP asserts that a mode of socialism will be a part of “ideal” economic paradigm as we enter the era of settlement of CIG. We believe that Godism ought to be central to creating a “heavenly” economic model, not to mention “heavenly” education, media, art, etc. Sacrificing for the greater good—living for the sake of others—remains a central virtue for us. Unificationists may be “well-placed” to overcome “crony capitalism” (or “crony fascism”), but this requires a further examination of what the ideal model will be.
Will there be an elected governing body?
Will there be private property?
Will there be guaranteed income?
Will there be a central bank?
What is a fair wage?
What is the tax rate?
Will there be credit and investment mechanisms?
Thank you, David, for writing this post that allows me to illustrate a very basic point where we differ.
Your references are all to Western thinkers, mostly those European philosophers who had in common the fact that they were operating within a certain mindset, albeit that they were exercising their critical thinking. Still they had in common an acceptance that there is an objective material world independent of the existence of man, the observer. They believed that the opposite of a true fact is a falsehood. They accepted that the land and nature should be used for the benefit of mankind (intentional use of mankind here, where I would usually use humanity). They never questioned that we live in linear time, and there’s nothing we can do about it. They accepted that life was about being successful in achieving your goals and working towards them.
Indigenous peoples didn’t accept these as basic axioms of reality, and today quantum physics is more on the side of indigenous thinking.
To an indigenous person and to a quantum physicist, reality exists as a single whole, a oneness where there is no such thing as an external material world independent of the observer. Human consciousness affects the material world directly, to some ways of thinking human consciousness completes the creation of material reality. Time is non-linear, and participating in creation is in fact more of a cyclical phenomenon.
To an indigenous person, the land is sacred, nature itself is the expression of original consciousness (usually known to us as God). We live in a spiritual reality, and if we are cut off from this reality, then we are living cut off from the greater parts of our own selves.
And physics is more supportive of this picture than ever before, moving more and more towards this worldview.
My perspective is that a Unificationism must accept the validity of the indigenous worldview before it can become complete. We cannot live in a disenchanted world without experiencing deep distortions of our own desires and selves. Unification Thought itself supports the worldview that consciousness creates and permeates everything; even the tiniest elementary particle has some kind of internal reality.
So when I write about economics I include quantum physics, indigenous thought, as the basis for my thinking, because it was what I accepted as true when I first encountered the DP, and have never had reason to reject since. But I feel very worn down by the strong tendencies to bring everything down to systems and economic models that fundamentally do not incorporate a vast ocean of our thought as Unificationists.
I will take Big Bang Theory as my definitive proof that quantum theorists are not only not like members of a traditional “natural” and non-alienated culture, but they are more alienated and cursed by a bifurcated worldview than the rest of us.
I can’t imagine that many Unificationists would argue that “nature itself” isn’t the physical expression of God’s “invisible nature and deity.” We have a very definite idea about quantum physics vis-à-vis the created world and the concepts of polarity and give-and-take action.
However, as Unificationists we understand these issues in the context of the ethos of Judeo-Christian culture. Since the Renaissance that culture has spawned some of the world greatest achievements in science, medicine, physics, astronomy, technology and the arts. Having established a culture based on Christian teachings we might deduce that those achievements were the result of the merit of the age.
Regarding my citing Western thinkers you stated that these people “had in common the fact that they were operating within a certain mindset…an acceptance that there is an objective material world independent of the existence of man, the observer.” Implicit in this view is that there was little or no understanding among this philosophers in the spiritual and religious reality of the human experience and nature. This was not true of all Western/European thinkers.
There is a common misunderstanding that the Enlightenment thinkers (and artists) rejected religion and spiritual-based consciousness out of hand. But that wasn’t the case across-the-board, and I can point to many composers of the 18th and 19th centuries who remained believers — Haydn, Beethoven, Liszt, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Bruckner — to name but a few. They all composed music based on liturgical texts and often cited their belief in God and their reverence for nature as sources of their inspiration.
The iconic historian Will Durant observed that many Enlightenment thinkers remained “believers” (Goethe and Locke, e.g.), but realized that they didn’t have a belief system that could effectively replace the moral codes of Christianity. The American founders certainly believed in the importance of Christian morals being foundational tenets upon which to establish a nation. As George Washington asserted: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” Washington was referring to a very specific set of religious beliefs.
Regarding indigenous cultures of the past; If we’re to believe anthropologists, the strong ate first and ate best and the weak were either killed off or left behind. The human impulse to “survive” often trumped fairness, justice and socially egalitarian concerns — or any reverence for nature. We might want to think otherwise, but the reality has been that fallen nature has been a corrupting force in all cultures. And that was, for me, one of the tenets of DP that made a great deal of sense in coming to terms with why attaining some measure of heaven-on-earth was so challenging.
“However, as Unificationists we understand these issues in the context of the ethos of Judeo-Christian culture.”
I think again you bring up a key point here, David. We in the West especially have been prone to think that Judeo-Christian culture is superior to other cultures, whereas Koreans would tend to focus on Korean culture, or their particular brand of mixed Confucianism, Buddhism and Christianity.
I would argue that although Christian culture enabled people to recognize the unique imperative of the messianic mission, it is now holding us back where we should be moving into a post-Judeo-Christian era (also of course post-Buddhist, etc.).
It seems to me that Unificationism transcends all religions, moving us rather into a post-religious era, rather than assuming we can just continue with our Christian heritage. Quantum physics is not compatible with the physics that was developed pre-1900, and that was more based on a Christian worldview. So we need to look into the differences between the preparation era and now, and figure out what is the future we could be embracing right this moment if we were open to it.
I see the ideal that we maybe project on to indigenous people as being one other supporting pillar of the pre-messianic preparation, the more feminine version, whether people lived it well of not (like the very questionable history of actual Christians).
Moving forward we could benefit from using what we now know from science to give us clues as to a deeper understanding of a universal truth.
I’d like to offer some ideas on “combining” the best of Western capitalism and communitarian viewpoints and lifestyles and what David Eaton quoted as the “inner and outer halves.” I like that quote, David. Still, how do we make decisions on the practical or horizontal plane and keep true to some core values? In DP terminology, those core values are the three blessings. At a company I worked for, if you were a senior manager or executive, you were required to participate in a variety of internal training programs. Overall, this was called “regenerative management.” There were four components to this: focus on what is important, or what is effective; make processes within that efficient; always act ethically and legally, and finally create sustainable or regenerative processes. It was a fun and profitable place to work, though challenging at times.
My takeaway from this that might help this discussion is that when trying to assess how the two halves, inner and outer, might produce a specific decision about some practical political, economic or other issue, focusing on what is effective would be determined at what level of government the decision should be made or perhaps the government should not be involved at all. So in the case of land ownership, Alison puts forth the idea of some baseline of ownership, a half acre or something and the rest being owned in common somehow. And to use more would require a land tax or transfer of this value to the community,
First, I would like to correct a few facts about land ownership in the U.S. The federal government currently “owns” approximately 640 million acres of land or 28%. All land is not equal, and most of this is in the West, including Alaska. The main reason is lack of water, most of that land was available for homesteading, but no one claimed it. In places like Delaware, the percentage is very small. And secondly, there are already taxes on land. These go to pay for local government and those services and public education primarily. I own seven properties and pay these on a regular basis.
So if what is important is to provide every family unit with housing that is affordable and suits their needs, several decisions would need to be made. What limits people from doing this now? Having known a variety of tenants or renters in my properties, they face several dilemmas. First and most important is their job and life skills and lack of financial literacy. Second, they do not have a large network of people who can help them or even model what success might look like. They are stuck, and this happens in rural areas as well. They lack social mobility. Third, they lack capital, or money, to start and develop their own business and purchase their own home. Certainly poverty and racism are factors here. They also have broken or poorly functioning family units.
So if the goal or the focus is providing a safe and affordable place for family units to thrive in we need fully functioning family units, job and skills training and access to inexpensive capital and the training to go along with how to form successful business units and use that capital. The Unification movement has something to offer in terms of forming good, fully functioning family units. So for issues concerning this, the non-profit sector seems best suited to address and make these decisions. For job and skills training, local and state governments along with educational institutions are best suited for this role. Perhaps to pay for these programs, there needs to be access to low interest or no interest or “forgivable “ loans similar to what are now being offered to small businesses to retain their workers, This would require federal action and perhaps this could function in some way that Alison envisions a “land tax” would. Habitat for Humanity currently builds affordable housing that requires sweat-equity, but little capital. Why not build upon this?
And you want all these kinds of decisions to be efficient, ethical or free from misuse and conflicts of interest and sustainable or regenerative. This last point means that each program is an outcome of decisions that need to be self-sustaining.
I offer these thoughts as a way to consider a process for thinking through these complex problems.
All good ideas, Rob. One thing though, a property tax (which is what we have now) is not the same as a land value tax. A property tax is assessed on the value of the house as well as the land, so making improvements to your house raises your taxes. A land value tax is assessed solely on the value of the land, and so allows for improvements without penalty. A land value tax would do a far better job of preventing the exponential increase in rent, which landlords can use to capture any increase in wages, and have used on a regular basis.
I own properties in Allentown, New Tripoli and Jim Thorpe, PA, and in South Bend, Indiana. Who, in this new way of taxing, would decide the value? It seems to me that since land is not all equal in its ability to be used and developed, its value would vary as well. Would not market forces still determine this?
Renters certainly are one of the stakeholders, but also local county government and schools receive funding from these, as well as the owners and all the services we use, including insurance, real estate appraisals, title companies, and banks. How would this new funding process effect these?
According to Mike Curtis, a nationally respected Georgist lecturer, you are of course correct that the market would determine the value of the land, but collecting the land rent involves the ratio of building (capital) to land value, and that wouldn’t change with every parcel. Generally this ratio would be already known in some areas, since it is often assessed when property taxes are assessed.
Allentown already has a little higher tax on the value of land, so you probably already benefited from that, in that it would make landlords somewhat more motivated to sell their land rather than keep it and continue paying taxes on it. Pennsylvania is probably the state which has implemented the LVT the most, maybe because Henry George was born in Philadelphia, and he became quite famous at the time due to his writing and economic/political activities.
All stakeholders would have to receive income from the taxes of course. Renters would pay the tax to the landlord, who would pass it on to society. But renters would be receiving higher wages, and have more opportunity to eventually buy their own houses. I don’t think it would solve our problems completely, but I think a LVT would certainly be one of the pillars of the coming changes.
Another pillar, actually one of the most powerful ways of implementing change, is to think of pre-distribution rather than redistribution. Somehow billionaires think they actually earned their $14,000 an hour, and are reluctant to think they shouldn’t hold on to it fully, so taxing the wealthy is likely to prove an ephemeral goal. Gardels and Berggruen (see The World Post) advocate enhancing the assets of those who currently have little by some kind of national endowment fund whereby everyone shares in society’s wealth. This is a similar approach to taxing the ownership of nature, but this concerns, in their model, some kind of wealth sharing from corporate profits, most particularly in light of the times corporations have now been bailed out by taxes imposed on the population.
Many nations have some kind of wealth-sharing model, recognizing that the fundamental purpose of an economy is the health and growth of the people in the nation.
This is a somewhat Georgist perspective, since I live in a community based on Georgist ideas. I understand there are other ideas out there, and we live in a virtual world also these days, but it doesn’t change the fact that we live and work in the real world.
There’s nothing wrong with much of capitalism, and with the right thinking (universal value of the human…) everyone would benefit, but there are many who are totally disenfranchised from their rights as a human, the most fundamental being the right to exist. So keep capitalism, but socialize the land by collecting its rental value. A corporation or a big landowner makes profit because the land they own is valuable, but it has economic value precisely because there is a community that lives there and engages in the economy, not because that corporation or landowner is making it valuable. It is right to collect taxes on a socially created value for the sake of funding the community rather than just giving the land to a wealthy class and letting them capture all the socially created value.
Collecting a part or all of the rent on land would free up a lot of land, since it would make it far less profitable to just keep land on a speculative basis, certainly to keep decaying buildings on unused land, and that would open opportunities for far more people. Property taxes allow the owner to just let his buildings decay, with no incentive to keep them up. The price of land would go down, everyone could have access to a residential plot, maybe rent-exempt up to the value of the least valuable plot (more equitable than plots of the same size).
Poverty, racism, broken or poorly functioning family units are huge issues, only exacerbated by our current levels of inequality, and the consequent disempowerment of those who might be able to make positive changes, but opportunity will over time lift everyone. The first step in making changes is to guarantee people’s basic needs, and thereby allow people to move on to the next levels, belonging and love. Anyone living in a society where they feel loved and to which they belong is going to be far more empowered to take their opportunities and start businesses, etc.
Very few people who came to this country came from a position of vast capital, skill and education, but they made it because of the early spirit in this country. If there is enough land rent (LVT) to issue a cash dividend it would give people a hand up in acquiring some capital. This way we are not looking to the “successful” people to provide for the “unsuccessful” people, but rather sharing the efforts of everybody, in guaranteeing access to nature.
To some extent, we have a problem in how much bureaucracy is involved in creating businesses. Here I would add the automatic move toward getting into debt. When I looked into making a business, the first thing everyone advised was to make a good business plan so I could borrow money to finance the start up. Sometimes this is necessary, but it is far better to be able to start small and build up gradually, without going into debt. Our current situation is going to create devastating consequences most particularly on those who are operating from a position of debt, because repaying debt cannot be sidestepped, especially given the power the banks have over people, and their own patterns of making profit.
Removing some of the needs for insurance, licenses, etc., might really help. Of course, access to a location is the really big one. I agree with your suggestions, but these things already exist and are severely underutilized. People just find the array of bureaucratic requirements overwhelming.
We have low interest today, but only landowners get it. Workers hardly even can keep what they have because of inflation. The LVT would raise wages and interest, and getting more people into productive work would alleviate the pressure on Social Security and Medicare, which are very stressed for funds with such a low interest rate.
I don’t know about Georgist thought, but I do have a very clear idea how real estate taxes work and do not work. Properties are “assessed” on their land and structures, in Pennsylvania this is roughly ⅓ land and ⅔ building. You pay taxes on both. What you are charged for the two basic recipients of these taxes are for schools and local (city) and county taxes. That number is used by the different taxing authorities to pay for their services. Their “mileages” or percentages are determined by their elected representatives to meet their budgets.
So, if you changed the percent of land to ⅔ and buildings to ⅓, with all else being equal, there is no more money to “share” or distribute. And most cities use 60%-70% of their budgets for fire and police including those pensions. I think there is not a lot of urban land that is being tied up by investors. What would change is what an investor can depreciate on their taxes. Only a building can be depreciated, which does lower the money an investor owes on their state and federal taxes. This would be a big change. So let’s say a community enacted that, that dollar amount could “theoretically” go somewhere else. It is is not real cash, but only a deduction against taxes owed, so I don’t get how this value could create higher wages. Perhaps that amount of money that a landlord then would not be able to deduct could be pooled and used to help the poor. Is this the process you and others envision?
My observations from tenants I have had and conversations with other investors inform me that what people really lack are:
1. Fully functional families.
2. Poor job skills and financial literacy.
3. No or limited network or mentors to help them.
4. Limited or no access to reasonable cost health care.
If you gave every family at or below the poverty level $1,000/month forever and those four issues were not addressed, the actual status of most would not change. My tenants who had some or most of those skills moved up and out and on. To obtain higher wages, I do see a role for government, but I think something different than you.
Jobs skills, there is such a huge need for this along with financial literacy. Getting people out of high school and into the trades, with real skills training could make a huge difference. And with technology changing so rapidly, even people who have been middle class need to retool their skills on a regular basis. Partnerships between business, government and educational institutions is something I would support and pay more taxes for.
This in turn could foster mentors and a network of people that would be part of their team, so to speak.
Somehow, we need to create fully functional families and I think the government has little to offer here. Unificationism and other religious viewpoints can help here, but people need real programs that can break the cycles of dysfunction they are in. To the extent that people can acquire these individual and family skills via the blessing, this is part of the solution. Thr non-profit sector has to lead here.
I have changed my thinking on a much broader system of health care for all, much like I have via Medicare and the private wraparound policies we have. They are affordable, provide very good access to real care and we can live anywhere. As an investor, someone who needs people with reliable incomes to pay rent. I am willing to help pay for this. This would allow families to have that stability in their lives. I thin some version of this time has come.
I am not a big fan of transfers of wealth. The wealthy own businesses, real estate and intellectual property that creates more wealth for them. The assets they own are what everybody else owns stock or bonds (debt) in. It is not being transferred from others to them. And I do think you point is valid to some extent, that they did not do this alone, they do receive tax advantages. I think that teaching the poor how to create wealth is possible, but will require a national and state wide investment in human capital. Generations of immigrants have done this is America and it is still possible.
This article, titled, “The Coronavirus Is Changing the Future of Home, Work, and Life,” states eloquently a hopeful view of how society will evolve as a result of this pandemic. The fact that healthy living is almost impossible when people live in densely populated cities will, according to this author, encourage more flight to rural environments. I remember Father Moon talking about how huge cities are not healthy environments for people, and he specifically mentioned that cities should not have more than a population maximum of about 100,000 (or was it 200,000?). See what you think.
Thanks for sharing Laura; a great article. It did not give a number for the size of a more ideal city, but I do think that anything larger than 250,000 creates infrastructure problems. The largest cities, 10 million and up, face such large-scale problems in providing safe water, sanitation and safety, not to mention housing, that they become so expensive to live in that many slide into extreme poverty. This is not an easy situation to solve.
It is not just the coronavirus that is stimulating this demographic shift, housing prices are too high in large cities for immigrants and millennials to afford and their high tax and generous welfare programs are causing stratification where people are either upper-middle-class or dependents and the homeless. The movement from San Francisco to Texas and Arizona has been going on for many years now.
There is also the phenomenon that the large cities tend to have greater political influence in states and suck up resources unfairly. For example, in Minneapolis, people all over the state subsidize the light rail, but only those living in densely populated areas use it. Now they attract the homeless. This is causing more anger from people outside the cities who believe their taxes should equally serve them, and the Tea Party had support from many of these rural people who felt exploited by large cities. Some kind of political shift might occur that accelerates the decline of large cities.
The coronavirus author writes:
“And to be sure, we still see some new [buildings] on occasion in places like New York and Chicago, and even more so in the rising cities of East Asia and the Middle East.”
I have to assume he hasn’t looked at the New York City skyline recently, which simply looks like a different city from the one I came to a little over 30 years ago. While the US economy has gone through a series of major crises, and NYC has often been the epicenter, the city just recovers and resumes its role as the center of the tri-state area.
It looks as though as long as there are jobs, money, opportunity, energy and excitement in New York City it will continue to grow and attract the ambitious. This pandemic may just be another blip.
This article is just another effort to, in effect, impose pretty communism on an unsuspecting populace. It completely ignores not only fundamental human freedom to be as one wants to be, but the basic workings of human nature. Communists don’t accept that freedom is fundamental but social service…in other words, slavery to society. The Unificationist concept of living for the sake of others was long ago corrupted to mean sacrificing yourself for another’s benefit when no similar sacrifice is ever expected to come your way, which is just pretty words for enslavement to the state. Every “progressive” effort to impose laws that benefit some person from the work of another person is nothing more than a law of incremental slavery.
The so-called problem with capitalism is that people permit fraud. Same problem with communism except the level of applied violence is exponentially greater which motivates people to let fraud slide until, inevitably, the reach their tether and revolt. Fraud is anything that isn’t what is appears to be, or is implied or stated to be, for the purposes of aggrandising the fraudster in some way. Were government to concern itself with only fraud, 99% of capitalism’s so-called ills would disappear. A lack of transparency coupled to an almost total complacency by people generally enables fraud. Transparency would reduce that complacency through outrage but one wonders how much. News routinely reports fraud and other related abuse by people in positions and the population tunes it out. So, yeah, the real problem here is people, not systems or ways of life.
There is literally no such thing as “living in harmony with nature” where, say, 10 million human beings are congregated. That’s a fantasy. Pure delusion. A city of any real magnitude even if “harmonised” with nature in terms of greening, no pollution besides human waste, and so on, would nevertheless totally upset the”balance” of nature as a heat sink, land built over by buildings, rivers necessarily rerouted or even put underground, and so forth. A 7.5 billion population is absolutely going to terraform earth no matter how benignly people live. And we haven’t any technology to live without a “footprint.” Even farting pollutes the air, of which cows are the greatest source. If we forsake meat and eat only plants we’re still killing quite obviously sentient plants, tilling vast tracts of land or covering large land areas with buildings for indoor farming. People watch TV like Star Trek when they encounter alien populations living in quaint small villages or sterile cities and think that’s some actually possible reality without ever taking into account of biological reality.
Right now in America we have a so-called capitalist system but in reality, even at its perfect capitalist height (before crony capitalism, I mean), the population actually operated under a myriad of economic systems from pure communism to vicious mercantilism and everything in between, all in harmony with the other, because people were free to participate in these various systems or not. The Amish have a system, Mormons did, Anglo-Protestants did, small communes and different small-town experiments did, and every time somebody bartered and the like. In a free society all these kinds of economic “systems” flourish and the ones that meet people’s needs dominate the most transactions without any need of government imposition and reduction in freedom beyond policing fraud (and other material crimes, obviously). We have crony-capitalism today because it quite frankly meets the needs of people better than anything else, except it has a real downside in fraud.
If we want to harmonise with nature and be a flourishing society however one defines those things, the solution lies in human freedom and socialising children into respect for freedom. From that will develop the society this article is only utopianising.
“…sacrificing yourself for another’s benefit when no similar sacrifice is ever expected to come your way, which is just pretty words for enslavement to the state”
“working two or three jobs to increase the wealth of the CEO solely for the sake of survival, ie., being a wage slave”
Really quite similar when it comes down to it.
Human freedom is an internal state, not something to derive from “the system”, but if the system chosen tells you your only value lies in working to enrich the wealthy, then that impacts your self-image and your motivation and your feeling of belonging to a human family.
You are ignoring a huge element of capitalism: risk. Many people make the conscious decision to work for a corporation for the sake of security. They avoid taking risks involved in the responsibility of ownership. Anybody who actually has been engaged in starting and running a business understands that they can lose everything in the process. Many who succeed have only done so after trial and error, winning and losing. My family members are very grateful today that they have a guaranteed job — with large corporations — and are not going to have to lose everything, including the ability to feed their children. My son’s employer has been paying regular wages throughout this crisis, while having to cut back on hours due to this coronavirus. So this corporation is losing money, but they know they need to take care of their employees and not let them be destroyed. It is just not true that CEOs and corporations are automatically greedy, selfish and uncaring. There are literally thousands of examples of corporate generosity.
I think you’re basically right: most Americans are caring, generous people. But the conditions are loaded against fairness in the sense that the laws have favored a a huge transfer of wealth from the middle class to the wealthy. Inequality is a massive problem in this country. But simply taxing the rich is not the way to do it, that would just raise resentment. We have to look more deeply at the economic rent and at who is determining the laws that have allowed this situation. I’m not against corporations. But the distribution has become unacceptable at this point.
Socialist, or quasi-socialist modalities can “work” for a while in small, ethnic mono-cultures, because economic inefficiencies can be more easily glossed over by communal or tribal sentiments. The kibbutzim and the Amish are good examples of such. However, as populations grow diversity, creativity, technology, domestic and international competition — i.e., the market, or freedom — eventually make any socialist-type of economic modality untenable. Chris MeKeon’s point about the problem being “the people” rather than the system gets back to the importance of the 3 Blessings.
Freedom is a central concept in the ideology of the American founders and also in Divine Principle. Father said there is no freedom outside of the Principle. The founders’ natural law perspective held that freedom was essential to a healthy political system and that there was no freedom outside of virtue.
However today’s left has little use for the idea of freedom. Why? Because their idea of a healthy political system is one in which individualism is subsumed by the needs of the system, i.e., the environment, social redistribution, behavior in accordance with the norms of political correctness.
Until very recently the distinguishing feature of life in the United States has been the atmosphere of freedom, the ability to publically acknowledge God, the belief that entrepreneurialism creates benefits for everyone, the ability to accept human difference and differential rewards.
In the heady days of the 1960s, freedom was a core idea of the cultural left, but it has been replaced by statism. We are experiencing unprecedented state intervention in our lives and the NY governor asserts that politicians are not to be the ones to pull back on government control — that must be the work of technocrats. It is doubtful that Americans will be able to claw back their freedoms from the technocrats, who likely never imagined that total power would be theirs.
It has to be remembered that freedom is not a luxury granted to us by a benign state, but the essential characteristic of citizenship in a democratic republic, and essential to any polity based on God.
Equating the quantum and indigenous views of reality is interesting, but perhaps less useful for any physical world template or current possibility. An apocalyptic or less hopeful view seems to coincide or preside when one attempts to break things (systems, organization, reality) down to such a fundamental, elemental level.
However, if the day comes when the two worlds (or more in the multiverse view) actually collide (harmoniously) or intertwine “supra-sensorily” there may be something there.
Otherwise, yes, a systems and/or process (“Western”) approach to economy would seem to be “best” in terms of solutions. The caveat for Unificationists, it would seem here, might be: “Have we collected/unified all the variables necessary for the (great) change to actually occur?”
Greetings from the north.
You made a comment, in your reply to Laura, that “the laws have favored a huge transfer of wealth from the middle class to the wealthy. Inequality is a massive problem in this country”. Clearly economic inequality has become almost an obsession in the last decade. Pope Francis deemed it “the root of social evil”, Barack Obama, “the defining challenge of our time”. Is this true? Is inequality a “massive problem”? Has there actually been “a huge transfer of wealth from the middle class to the wealthy”, has the middle class been immiserated by rising inequality?
Methinks inequality is not such a problem, indeed an argument can be made that it is unavoidable with the creation of wealth. Rather, poverty is the real problem and the two often get confused. There was greater income inequality in both the USA and the UK 100 years ago than there is today. From its peak in the 1860s, income inequality basically declined until it bottomed out after the Second World War. Since the mid-1970s it has been rising, as you say correctly spurred by changes in laws, but is not the cause of the myriad problems currently faced by the USA.
Confusion comes from thinking wealth is finite, which clearly one can see in the incredible growth of wealth since the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, is totally wrong. Gross World Product has grown almost 100-fold in the last 200 years. Typical of this finite mindset is a statement such as Piketty’s that, “The poorer half of the population is as poor today, as they were in the past, with barely 5% of total wealth in 2010, just as in 1910.” (Capital in the Twenty-First Century) A true statement would be that today the poor are far richer rather than “just as poor”, in comparison to their ancestors 100 years ago, given the rise in total wealth of which they own 5%, even given population growth. Plus today, in a nation such as the USA, how much more is spent by the government on those poor than 100 years ago? How many of those poor have air conditioners, laundry machines, a computer and a smart phone? The “have-nots” clearly became the “haves”.
The finite wealth fallacy becomes more damaging when it would seem that if the rich got richer they must have “stolen” more than their share from somebody else, which you think is the “middle class”. My family was, however, more than willingly complicit in elevating J.K. Rowling to the ranks of the most unequal! Yes, the middle class faces significant challenges, but they did not transfer their wealth to the wealthy. The owners of the FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google) stocks just became more wealthy as total wealth expanded. Much is made of the “shrinking U.S. middle class”. Given that the U.S. population is increasing, this means that either the disappearing middle class are moving “up” or “down”. It seems more are moving up. This is from the WSJ in 2016: “The latest piece of evidence comes from economist Stephen Rose of the Urban Institute, who finds in new research that the upper middle class in the U.S. is larger and richer than it’s ever been. He finds the upper middle class has expanded from about 12% of the population in 1979 to a new record of nearly 30% as of 2014.” Note that this is just a few years after the financial crisis of 2008-09.
Enough said and thanks for stimulating our community to thought and reflection.
What makes it indisputably obvious that inequality is a big problem is the gender discrimination. Any conditions that lead to women making up less than 12% of the world’s billionaires are clearly favoring the masculine viewpoint, and thus are not a good reflection of the balance of masculinity and femininity that exist within God. We have an excessively masculine economy, and therefore it needs to change.
Obviously there are lots of good arguments to make against inequality, such as the power of the rich to influence the laws, to increase the rewards to the rich rather than decrease them, for instance. Wealth shouldn’t lead to political power, but it does.
But at the end of the day, would you really want to reach the end of your life and look back and say well I made billions, while billions of people lived in poverty? If you have that much capacity to make wealth equal to that of many whole countries, shouldn’t you be using your capacity to help people in some way (to empower them)? Or is it OK for Jeff Bezos to suggest his workers get help from the government because he doesn’t pay them a wage that covers their basic needs.
What matters regarding inequality is not billions in poverty as a statistic but whether there are ways in which people can improve their economic status. There’s the famous Bono quote that in the end it is companies and the jobs they provide that helps people climb out of grinding poverty. The Great Society programs had very clear aims, which have not been met, so the “goal posts” move and now the aim is not “elimination of poverty” but “maintaining the status quo”.
If the wealthy nations do not think through the moral relativism of multiculturalism and rebuild social policy on realistic metrics of human nature, the only fruit will be status quo economics and growing resentment even amongst our own idealists.
The reason equality is not a secure foundation for social policy is that inequality is sown in human nature. Speaking strictly for myself, I was brought up in a solid middle class home but my financial skills are mediocre. My observation is that you can transfer money, but you can’t transfer wealth. Wealth has to be built by a person, family, community, not gifted to them.
In terms of human rights, we have the right to acquire and maintain private property on the basis of our efforts. That is a human right because it is essential to human freedom and is not bought at someone else’s expense. Economic equality on the other hand can only be attempted precisely at the expense of other individuals, families and communities.
Our discussion is lacking something. We can bring up fine intellectual arguments and discuss this or that economic issue, but the fundamental problem is that we are arguing within one perspective, and that is the purpose of my post. All of these arguments are good and have validity, but will not suffice to make the necessary changes to ourselves and our movement unless we first acknowledge the legitimacy of the worldview that says every individual has divine value, and how we live in the cosmos must reflect that.
I feel that we are too afraid that we will have to renounce the Western worldview, and get pulled back into an impoverished, socialist reality. This is in no way the purpose of this article, and in no way what I think God wants to see (well, God may be a socialist, I don’t know, but that’s not what I’m claiming). God cannot work with us all in poverty.
Let me use one of Rob’s comments as an example, because he is one of the best people on the planet, and would always be ready to help any of us if we needed it, so I’m not trying to be accusing in any way.
Regarding healthcare, Rob says “as an investor, someone who needs people with reliable incomes to pay rent. I am willing to help pay for this. This would allow families to have that stability in their lives”. The problem here is only that Rob words this as though he is paying for something, giving something of his, when what I’m saying is that the Western worldview did not acknowledge the legitimacy of the indigenous worldview, in which everyone was equally entitled to healing and physical necessities, regardless of who owned what. Therefore from this other perspective, Rob is living within a “stolen” world, and instead of paying for healthcare, he is simply returning what is the birthright of those millions disenfranchised by the Western takeover of the economic world.
Also actually Rob is willing to pay for healthcare as he puts it because it would prove of economic benefit to those who need workers to be stable. This is not a good argument, I think, because it comes from within the Western viewpoint only.
So we have to ask ourselves, what does Unificationism say, because we have created a movement that is firmly within the Western economic paradigm, and it has led to resentment, a deeply felt loss of our unity and feeling of being family, and ultimately to our splitting into factions.
I want to say I don’t think there’s any problem with being economically successful, it just comes down to the heart. I don’t believe God judges anyone for success, it is part of God’s design, but the heart behind it is crucial. Jacob saw the meaninglessness of economic success given the state of disunity with Esau, so let’s start there. On the basis of unity with each other, then economic success is great, but without it we’re not truly living our own beliefs.
I don’t think I expressed myself as clearly as I should have. My observations from tenants I have had and conversations with other investors inform me that what people really lack are:
1. Fully functional families.
2. Good job skills and financial literacy.
3. An adequate network or mentors to help them.
4. Access to reasonable cost health care.
What I mean is that everyone should be willing to pay for these, as they will enhance not only the lives of those receiving this, but society overall. They deserve it and it is part of a greater good. In essence, teaching people to fish or live successfully.
Some version of universal health care would give everyone that base for a successful life. These I am certain would make a big difference as would job skill training.
If this is an insufficient worldview, please explain to me how, specifically, land taxes will give people higher wages. This sounds like wishful thinking and giving people fish instead of teaching them how to fish. Without these, no amount of transfers of wealth will make much difference.
And we are going to have to start paying for lots of things we just used debt to pay for. The above are investments in human capital, but we need investments in our physical infrastructure as well. This coronavirus pause has shown, as you stated, how many holes there are in our economy and society.
Peter Elliffe cites Bono’s quote regarding corporations being job creators. Bono also said (in a Time Magazine interview in 2002), “you’ve got to become the change you want to see in the world. I’m actually not a very good example of that — I’m too selfish, and the right to be ridiculous is something I hold too dear — but still, I know it’s true.”
That statement gets back to the mind-body issue as articulated in DP’s explanation of the 3 Blessings. It’s not enough to talk-the-talk, we must walk-the-walk. (In Bono’s case, it’s not enough to sing-the-song, he must live-the-lyric).
Previously, I referenced the passage in Book 10 of CSG where Father speaks about the harmonization of Godism and free-market democracy as “inner and outer halves” as the way to manifest a Godly culture/society. Implicit in that view is that there are absolute and object truths that when understood and implemented can “lead us straight toward God.” This view is not shared by the postmodernist multiculturalist philosophers, politicians and academics who reject the idea that there are objective truths. If, in fact, that is the case, why would we believe anything they say, no matter how intentioned their views may be? There is an inherent contradiction here because saying that “there are no objective truths” is in itself a truth claim.
The original idea behind multiculturalism was to appreciate and value “the other.” Goethe once stated that it’s not enough to merely tolerate “the other” but that it’s important to understand and acknowledge the value of “the other.” But the current iteration of multiculturalism has produced the perfidious thesis that all cultures are equally valid or valuable, that Judeo-Christian, Western civilization should denigrated, and that any critical examination of non-Western societies is somehow racist or bigoted. But the “objective truth” is that some cultures treat women better than others. Some cultures treat minorities better than others. Some cultures value individual civil liberties better than others.
With regard to Alison’s comment regarding women receiving smaller salaries than men, there are multiple reasons for this and it’s not always, or even primarily because of discrimination. Women often choose professions that typically are not as well-paying than their male counterparts. Some women actually do make more than men.
David suggests: “With regard to Alison’s comment regarding women receiving smaller salaries than men, there are multiple reasons for this and it’s not always, or even primarily because of discrimination. Women often choose professions that typically are not as well-paying than their male counterparts.”
How come the Unification Movement is so far behind on the issue of women’s equality that statements like this can so easily be made and even believed?
My actual comment by the way was that only 12% of billionaires are women. Wealth and salaries aren’t always a one-to-one correspondence.
One of my sisters is a banker and was president of her banking division. When her bank merged with another bank and her position was dissolved, she received a year’s severance pay. This might have been due to their ensuring that she would not sue them for discrimination in the layoff. She then became an official for a new bank which soon also merged with another bank. Again, she was given a year’s severance pay. (We see that bank mergers happen often.) She actually benefited greatly from “discrimination” culture and had two full years vacation with full pay! She is now a wealthy millionaire.
But as far as the Unification Movement goes, as we know, first generation practices come from the old paradigm of religious authority given usually for men only. Regional leaders are all male, most boards are male, most professors at UTS are male, most FFWPU presidents, officials and pastors are male with only a few token exceptions. Not much has changed since Father proclaimed “The Pacific Era of Women in Leadership” except that with his passing, True Mother is now our leader and he also fully endorsed her as such.
True Father, in one of his last series of 2010 East Garden talks (that I attended) said:
“Father is not a chauvinist, as some people think. A president of the United States can be a man or a woman.”
In his 1998 speech to seminary graduates at East Garden he also said, “God needs leaders. Father needs leaders. I don’t care if they are men or women.”
When first generation ole’ boys are gone, then perhaps second and third generation leadership will be more balanced, and thus, more Unificationist. Even Dr.Sang Hun Lee taught that in the Completed Testament Era, education should be taught by a balance of both men and women. Well, this is another topic for another time.
Regarding Alison’s reply to the issue of women in our church vis-à-vis economic issues; we joined our church and became missionaries. We didn’t join because it was a financially expedient career choice. Moreover, Western cultures in general have done better with regard to women’s rights than their Oriental/Confucian counterparts. As we know, FFWPU is still dealing with that issue to significant degrees regarding True Mother’s leadership.
Prior to joining our church I chose to pursue music as a career knowing that my chances for long-term financial security was tenuous and that making that choice might have problematic effects—including finding a spouse. Women by nature seek men who can be good providers, so being a musician put me at a certain disadvantage, but that was a trade-off that I was willing to accept. I have six sisters, several of whom have done financially better that I have because of their choice of profession (investment banker, educator, realtor, e.g.), as well as their choice of spouse.
With regard to Peter’s point regarding government, we know that politics and government are not well-suited to solve cultural or spiritual problems, especially resentment and the ideologies that trade in such. Collectivist modalities have limitations too because not all people of a given group — whether predicated on race, ethnicity, religion, gender — think the same or share the same values. Mohammad’s disdain for music is well-known (especially his opprobrium for female singers), and I’ve met Muslims who disdain jazz, pop music and Rap music, yet I’ve worked with Muslims who perform and create music in these genres. There is a reason that the U.S. Constitution stops at individual rights because in any group there will be a diversity of ideas and opinions. (Just look at this discussion thread).
In his recent book The Fractured Republic, Yuval Levin addresses the issue individual liberty vs. collectivism and big government solutions…their pros and cons. He writes:
“There is an alternative to this perilous mix of over-centralization and hyper-individualism. It can be found in the intricate structure of our complex social topography and in the institutions and relationships that stand between the isolated individual and the nation state. These begin in loving family attachments. They spread outward to interpersonal relationship in neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, religious communities, fraternal bodies, civic associations, economic enterprises, activists groups and local governments.”
Levin’s assertion regarding “loving families” as a basis for societal betterment comports with the 3 Blessings as explained in DP. The idea of faith, freedom and family being pillars to create the aforementioned culture of peace — the hope of all ages — is the necessary antidote to resentment-based mindsets and political agendas.
Until people are educated in the ways of Godism and get beyond the idea that politics (government) can solve our spiritual and cultural problems, resentment will continue to be an obstacle in getting to a culture of peace. I believe most of us here would concur.
David suggests: “Women by nature seek men who can be good providers”. To my mind you’re just digging yourself further into the depths here, David. You seem to think women seek a dependent status? Can you kindly prove to us that such a desire, if it exists, comes from original nature and not fallen nature?
I concede that women would very much like a period of semi-dependency to adequately be there for their very young children. And that could and does come from the state in a more enlightened culture, not to mention that men also get paternity leave in such a culture. But beyond that I just don’t see how your statement is anything other than a fixed idea in your head.
With regard to my comment regarding female tendencies, have heard of evolutionary psychology? The Stanford Encyclopedia defines it accordingly:
“Evolutionary psychology is one of many biologically informed approaches to the study of human behavior. Along with cognitive psychologists, evolutionary psychologists propose that much, if not all, of our behavior can be explained by appeal to internal psychological mechanisms. What distinguishes evolutionary psychologists from many cognitive psychologists is the proposal that the relevant internal mechanisms are adaptations—products of natural selection—that helped our ancestors get around the world, survive and reproduce.”
There is a reason why it’s difficult to go on a diet in the winter time because our evolutionary biology is informing us that food might be hard to find (as it was for our ancestors long ago) and our bodies need to store fat. The impulse to survive is not unlike the impulse to seek beauty, for we need physical and spiritual nourishment. Among our ancestors men were generally better hunters than women. Can you at least accept the fact that there is biological/psychological/evolutionary aspect in my comment about women and it’s not just some obtuseness I suffer from?
Thank you for putting together this essay and for stirring our community. It appeals to the hearts, minds and desires of Unificationists, at a time when we are collectively facing an ever-growing need to understand God and each other, whilst in the very presence of Her and His company.
Undoubtedly, pulling together in life, in both times of ease and in difficulty, was always the hope of God, as Original Designer. How precious then of you to turn our hearts and minds to think of “design”, a dear and heartfelt reality of God.
It pulls our community back to the blessing in the Divine Principle of “growth”. We must consider that we are not a community that can afford to be static, but one which must grow with God, as we have grown with True Parents.
A community of love is precious –- and, a fulfillment of purpose. Our very high ideals are challenged in reassessment, and a call to higher expression is sorely needed. Once youthful followers, we, who have grown now in age, must grow still to go on in love and support a better future.
Critical to the effort is sharing and listening. Whether it is merging the values of cultures or the redefining of economy, God will be listening, and Her presence is a must, as His has been in human practice, across centuries of time. Our generation still has much to offer, here and into the spiritual world, when we do ascend.
Your thought-provoking essay will only serve to bring unity, as we face creative opportunities and own our responsibility. So, whether we are speaking of corporate returns or a living wage, our basic normative value must be love.
I am fully aware that God is willing to liaise with humanity, and we may be better positioned as the result of your article to face behaviors, speculative or otherwise. God, as the ultimate owner of data, will walk us through many solutions.
Thank you for starting into a more fruitful path for resolution of human conflict and for bringing into our midst an opportunity for God to liaise with each of us in the quiet of the night or in broad daylight.
I am sure many ascended saints will be glad to have chance to pitch in and give more of themselves to the glory of God and love, and to engage in a practical way for the continued growth of humankind, supporting, not only our community, but all communities.
What a great discussion!
Years ago I attended Dr. Sang Hun Lee’s lectures on VOC. When he got to talking about the counterproposal to economic theory, he talked a lot about gratitude and the ethics of giving and receiving as the counterproposal to capitalism’s profit motive. When people purchase a product, the money they spend can be seen as an expression of gratitude for being able to receive something they find useful. The capitalist who makes the product offers a service to benefit others, and others respond by purchasing it with gratitude for its existence. He said that when people have this mindset, the distortions of capitalism can disappear.
The concept of interdependence, according to Dr. Lee, is that everyone from the mailroom clerk and janitor, to the engineers, to the CEO, are all participating in the creation of products that build wealth. Therefore, if the managers and CEO recognize the contributions of the people on the very bottom, they will be grateful and pay them a greater salary, give them stock options, etc. They wouldn’t be using salary bonuses and stock options only for their fellow managers at the top, because what value is a manager without the people underneath him or her whom he or she manages? But we are conditioned by the Western, Hellenistic concept that intellect is more valuable than will, and therefore smart people should be paid more than workers. And by the concept, rooted ultimately in class, that disparages poor people as lazy and irresponsible. Is that in accord with the Principle? I don’t think so.
On this score I could conceive of Facebook paying a dividend to its users, since the users of Facebook are contributing to its value. Everyone who contributes (gives) should receive. It’s sort of happening already for big-volume users who get advertising dollars. But even the ordinary family that posts photos on Facebook is not only a user but also a contributor to its value. Facebook provides value by opening a portal for communication, but the ordinary user also contributes value by using it and making the portal attractive to others to join in.
Extending this notion to having a parental heart, people — and the government that represents them to carry out the will of the community, especially at the local level — would “pay it forward” by investing in disadvantaged youth, knowing that some of them might become valuable contributors to society; and for this potential they could already be grateful. Further, mothers and mothers-to-be who are raising the next generation could be said to deserve support for the value that they are adding to society.
True Mother advocates a Hyojeong culture. Hyojeong includes the element of “jeong,” which is the heart of solidarity with all members of the community. It’s the heart to value every compatriot as a brother or sister or cousin. It is the heart to buy a meal for the homeless man who cannot afford it. This is mainly a Korean trait, but it resembles to some extent the communal ethos of native peoples.
How wonderful would Western society be if it had that heart? But we are still so conditioned by the Judeo-Christian mindset of law, personal responsibility and individual rights, on top of an implicit class system that says that the aristocracy (Europe) or the business leaders (USA) are entitled to more than Joe Blow. That’s our society, like it or not. It has so conditioned us that we don’t see the goodness of such communal approaches.
We are seeing it now in the many companies who are offering service and supplies. We are seeing it now through many individuals helping their neighbors, communities and hospitals in need. How about those individuals doing “home deliveries” for their neighbors? How about those restaurants serving free food to first responders and communities in need? How about those nurses working day and night under stress to keep people alive? We are seeing it now in the new philanthropic endeavors and transformations of heart.
I hope that a new heart is emerging from business ethics and startups that seek to serve as a primary purpose. Since the beginning of America, through the Revolutionary War, Civil War, WW I and WW II, etc., we have seen the spirit of people and churches helping others.
In that regard, I think accusing “Western culture” has lost its importance. For those of us who have actually lived in Europe, Russia, Africa, and elsewhere, we have experienced that people everywhere exhibit the heart and will to help others in various forms and on many occasions.
I don’t believe at all that it’s “implicit” that the class system that Dr. Wilson alludes to is something citizens in the USA have mindlessly acquiesced to. The current election cycle has revealed that there is a significant part of the electorate (maybe 60%) that wants to see a leveling of the economic playing field. Back in 2010 when the Affordable Care Act was being formulated, polls indicated that 72% of Americans wanted to see some form of healthcare reform, e.g., the debate about the most efficacious way to do accomplish that continues because a large segment of the citizenry remains concerned about a government-run, single-payer system—the cost and the quality of care. These are legitimate concerns that require serious debate.
Moreover, the problems in our society (and European society) that have resulted in secularization, self-centeredness, individualism and other pathologies like substance abuse, domestic violence, increased levels of crime, poor academic achievement, greed and nihilism, are not due to the Judeo-Christian mindset or its tenets, but rather the rejection and abnegation of such. Liberal author Bruce Bauer (an American living in Europe since 1999) writes about this in his book While Europe Slept, in which he cites the loss of Europe’s cultural/religious patrimony as a serious contributing factor for many of its current problems.
It is wonderful what some members of the business community are doing in these days of the coronavirus. Indeed, America has a wonderful community spirit of helping one another in a crisis. One spiritual benefit of America’s faith traditions, centered on Christianity, has been to lift up the spirit of caring and empathy. This could be a launching-pad to new sorts of economic realities. The important thing for Unificationists, I believe, is to keep our sense of idealism and be open to new possibilities that may improve society’s manifestation of the Principle. Certainly you wouldn’t disagree that we still have a long way to go.
Still, even though the Christian heart can be remarkable, its individualistic ontology leaves it with a weak theoretical basis for moving forward. One of the points of the Divine Principle that has always attracted me is its relational ontology, which has strong connections to neo-Confucianism. The ideal world has to blend East and West, taking the good points of both while improving upon their weak points.
Of course, I certainly agree with you, Andrew. My presentation that was to be for the Korea Summit 2020 outlined the historical exchange of East-West theological ideas that was promoted through trade, travel and the translation of texts through the 19th century. Through the assimilation of Asian thought, the Romanticism movement promoted this cross-cultural context in a number of disciplines such as literature, art, philosophy, theology and even science. In this paper, “19th Century Romanticisms’ Oriental Renaissance: Precursors to an East-West Theology,” I focused on Taoism and the emergence of Moon’s East-West theology.
However, promoting this blended theological approach does not mean unnecessarily bashing Judeo-Christianity and overemphasizing an ethical viewpoint from Confucianism. Especially in the American providence, strengthening Judeo-Christianity and giving the Completed Testament and CIG fulfillment for the leadership of Judeo-Christianity providentially is our mission here. And, Andrew, your remarks seem to forget that I am a longtime Father Moon scholar.
In reading and understanding articles or arguments, here are some guidelines that occur to me when engaging in discussion or reading.
1) What are the basic premises of the article/argument?
2) Is the writer reality-based and people-oriented, including heart aspects and having or using the facts of real experience?
3) Is there obfuscation of the facts?
4) Does the writer use logical or illogical and/or irrational thought; whether it is based on reality thinking or overly obtuse or abstract notions and/or fantasy? (I remember John Henry Newman’s text, Grammar of Assent, in which he says that “experience supports real convictions” more than abstract notional thinking alone).
5) Is there conscious or unconscious mimicing of propaganda language, disinformation and/or politically correct terminology (from any angle) that is unexplained and taken for granted.
6) Does the flow of syntax (language) show a spiritual or emotional content behind the “words as signs” rather than just abstract or overly coneptualized syntax?
These are some of my personal learning concerns. In regard to the theorizing about economics and social reality, I am presently reading a text entitled Military Strategy: Soviet Doctrine and Concepts (1963). Written by Soviet Marshal V. D. Sokolovsky, it is full of propaganda language about socialism and capitalism. To the author, Marx, Engels and Lenin are the major philosophers of history, likened to Plato and Aristotle.
Here are some excerpts which show the use of propagandistic language that can be correlated to some leftist or democratic socialist speech:
In listening and reading, I am looking for underlying values and the way a writer expresses thought with feeling and/or experience and what is behind, underneath or inside the words as well as my own intuitive and concrete experiences which inform me.
Dr. Wilson writes:
“True Mother advocates a Hyojeong culture. Hyojeong includes the element of “jeong,” which is the heart of solidarity with all members of the community. It’s the heart to value every compatriot as a brother or sister or cousin. It is the heart to buy a meal for the homeless man who cannot afford it. This is mainly a Korean trait, but it resembles to some extent the communal ethos of native peoples. How wonderful would Western society be if it had that heart?”
For me this is the point. My studies over the last few years revealed that the founding American generation built their political society on the principles of natural law, which structured a comprehensive system of justice. We have lost the overall picture of that system, thinking that its “formal equality” is cold and heartless.
But it is only as cold and heartless as the people who live in it and administer it. Now we are told that government must supply the missing heart. Yet decades of experience have shown that heartistically lazy humans get colder when they think that compassion is the job of government.
Another problem is that as we seek to address problems such as women’s oppression through institutional means, moving away from natural right principles, we discover that other rights get damaged. As we change family law to enable women to leave unsatisfying marriages we create a system which denies the rights of both fathers and children to live in an intact family, where issues of heart might still be worked out, to give one example.
In other words, the challenge is precisely heart but we keep thinking institutional changes are necessary. And those institutional changes do more harm than good.
In the drive to redistribute wealth we are also creating burdens of vast debt and looming taxation and inflation for our children and grandchildren, rather than gifting them a society with an intact system of justice.
You seem to care deeply about the justice system in the US, which is wonderful in my opinion.
You say “But it is only as cold and heartless as the people who live in it and administer it”. I think I would argue that the heart is crucial, but laws have been passed that exacerbate the problems of lack of heart, and therefore need to be changed back before real structural change can occur. For example, mass incarceration resulted from the 1980s laws around “Truth in Sentencing”, passed by states, but encouraged by the federal government insisting on some part of such a law in order to qualify for funding. This effectively blocked the possibility for parole, and ensured that people would serve close to their full sentence. This was so devastating in its consequences that many states have changed this law by now, although some still keep it. For instance, Delaware’s prisons are at 150% capacity, and California’s were even higher before the courts ordered them to reduce their prison population.
Another major contribution to mass incarceration came from the “broken window” theory, which started with the observation that most criminals had in their background a time when they first engaged in petty crimes like breaking windows, graffiti, etc., so decided to imprison anyone caught in such petty crime in order to stop them before they got to the bigger crimes. Clearly this victimizes the vast number of teenagers who do daft things while they’re in their teens, but clean up their act soon after, and the prisons became full. Throw in racism and the War on Drugs and you have a disaster.
Without changing the laws back from Truth in Sentencing, things are not going to get better. Heart is necessary but not sufficient, because those who administer the system are paralyzed by the bureaucracy and the economy that has become dependent on keeping the system going. For instance, you can’t get an arrest taken off your record without paying $800 even though it’s already proven that the arrest was because someone made a false accusation against you, and it’s acknowledged by lawmakers that they won’t change that law because then the system would run out of money.
We don’t have justice any more, and it was all because of theories that sounded good at the time. Government doesn’t have to supply the heart, but they are sadly necessary to change the laws. The heart comes from those communities that have been devastated by those laws, but are still working to bring some measure of justice. The true heart would be demonstrated by adopting Restorative Justice principles, which are often in evidence in indigenous communities, and I hope very much to see that emerge. Unificationism naturally adopted something like restorative justice practices back in the day, because it made sense given that we considered each other family. (And we still do, by the way)
Alison, can you provide a concrete example of “restorative justice principles, which are often in evidence in indigenous communities?” You cite these communities often. What communities precisely are you referring to?
In California, in that state’s attempt bring about a different mode of justice and lessen the case loads in metropolitan areas, Proposition 47—which states that the theft of goods or money under $950 without fear of being charged with a felony and not being prosecuted at all—has caused crime rates to sky rocket. Small businesses have been hit especially hard as shop lifting has reached epidemic proportions. There are other forms of “devastation” occurring.
Also, the Parkland, Florida school shooter, Nikolas Cruz, was shielded by a Broward County initiative called the Promise Program which was designed to limit the “school-to-prison pipeline” at a time when more kids were getting arrested in Broward schools than any other district in the state. The idea of that program was insure that students who committed crimes were not punished in such a way that their futures—getting into college, getting a good job—would be “unjustly” inhibited by having a criminal record. Cruz and his brother had been reported 45 times to local law enforcement for possible criminal behavior but they were not prosecuted or even surveilled. Apparently, the signs of trouble were ignored in the attempt to shield Cruz from having a police record.
Clearly there have been downsides in these attempts modify our justice system. To say that “we don’t have a justice system anymore” is an unfortunate generalization. That’s not to say nothing should be done to reform bad practices, but as Prop 47 and the Promise Program demonstrate, the proposed cure can have deleterious outcomes.
Hi Alison. When I speak of a theory of justice I don’t mean primarily criminal justice but a general understanding of what is good and what is honored in society.
The theory of justice around the revolution was based on natural law principles. Later in the 19th century, Progressivism revised the theory of rights to include “positive” rights. Since the 1960s the new liberalism of Rawls has been in effect. These are major changes in how society sees itself and structures its rewards and honors.
It seems to me that the natural law theory of justice was most in keeping with human nature and therefore most likely to result in just outcomes. But that’s a story for another time.
Although I think the broken windows theory was good news for NYC in the 1980s.
“Restorative Justice” is used quite widely, mainly among “First Nations,” i.e., indigenous/aboriginal communities, in Canada.
In Saskatchewan, population about 1.2 million, Restorative Justice Programs resolve about 3,500 adult and youth criminal cases annually. Sixty-five First Nations in the province are involved in the programs. The initiative works by enabling victims and offenders to have input into how their cases are resolved. Restorative Justice provides an opportunity for victims, offenders and communities to discuss what happened, who was harmed as a result of the crime, and what could be done to address the situation. This normally happens within a “Healing Circle”.
Most referrals come to an agreement about what the offender will do to repair the harm as much as possible, such as paying restitution to the victim, completing community service hours, making charitable donations or attending treatment programs.The programs have a positive impact on crime reduction, with only 20% of offenders who participated in the program re-offending three years later, compared with 32% of those who didn’t participate. The data shows that 80% of cases reach an agreement about how the offender will make amends, and over 90% of agreements are completed.
This link provides a brief description of the process.
Thanks for the explanation. The Healing Circle sounds a bit like “a jury of one’s peers.” And “repairing the harm” sounds like cases in civil court where restitution is common. Community service, treatment programs, etc., are common in the USA as well. Is the basic difference that there is no jail time or prisons? What about violent offenders — murder, rape, grand larceny? Just asking.