A response to the "Occupy Movement"

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Friday, December 30, 2011

Respect and the "enclave mentality"

My cousin Alan Miller and I exchanged the comments below in response to a link I posted on my Facebook wall. The link I posted is about the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which authorizes the U.S. military to detain anyone accused of being a terrorist or supporting terrorism in military custody, indefinitely, and without trial.


[Bob said (regarding the DAA of 2012)]
This is serious stuff, folks. When the "Bad Guys" hold people indefinitely without charges, without counsel, we call it totalitarianism. Remember, you wouldn't have to actually do anything to be held indefinitely, just be accused of being/supporting/talking to a terrorist.


[Alan said]
Hey, Cuz, here we have an issue we can certainly agree on unequivocally! Any citizen on the left or right could be branded a terrorist, so this is causing concern across the political spectrum. Hmm...didn't we have that thing called habeas corpus that is supposed to apply to all citizens? Bright spot is that I'll bet this wouldn't stand in the supreme court!

[Bob said]
Alan! Dude! You are so right! Having not only voted but also campaigned for Obama, I'm very disappointed for a number of reasons - but this one pretty much takes the $@^% cake! (Not that I'm letting those ^$##^ Bozo's in Congress off the hook...) What this really, REALLY brings home to me is that it's well and truly time to let go of partisan chauvinism (i.e., launching the heavy artillery when "They" do bad stuff, then making excuses, denying or ignoring bad stuff when "We" do it.) If it sucks, it sucks for Obama, Gingrich, Bush, Kennedy, Everybody. BTW - did you actually read any of the stuff at the blog I started? (http://dialogforpeaceandprosperity.blogspot.com/ ) I think we have a lot more in common than might be imagined...(like, I'm seriously looking at voting for Ron Paul...)

[Alan said]
Haven't had time to go through your blog posting- at some point will make time. I think a lot of the crap that goes on would solved if the fed gov just went back to the basics it was supposed to do under the constitution- common defense, coordinate commerce between the states, etc. and let the states handle everything else on a local level. That's like trying to get the genie back in the bottle, though- too much power and money to give up! The beauty of control going back to the states would be the amount of real "diversity" (that revered buzz word) that would be created as like-minded people create the kind of structures they want in their states and cities. But the feds always redefine the issue of states rights back into the issue of racial discrimination in the south and use that to rationalize federal control over ALL areas of life, because the issue of "equality" (of outcome) is seen to trump individual freedom and responsibility.

…Speaking of which; if you don't like central control, have you gotten a grip on this UN Agenda 21 issue- the idea of using the concept of "sustainability" to affect world-wide centralized control of all areas of life with the rationale that it is all necessary to "save the planet"? Check out this article (from the dreaded Fox News) about the EPA taking up this call to become proactive in not only environmental, but ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL areas of life. I would think you would agree on how this can lead to top down micromanagement of how we live.. Especially note the segment on how this is playing out in Europe. Hey, everybody is for clean air and water, but all issues of life are then redefined back into that issue, so, for example, if you want to live in a single family home or drive somewhere in your own car you want to DESTROY THE PLANET. Here's a link to the article, and a link to an article on Agenda 21. You can find agenda 21 stuff on the UN's own site too. I mean, man, it's got to be obvious the power grab that's going on here! (I'm heading to Yakima tomorrow for the rest of the week, so when you respond back it might take me a while to get back to you. But I'm interested in your take on this and how scientific debate is being silenced by the urgent push to seize control of our lives in the name of "we've got to do something- and we'll tell you what it will be. And you will pay us to do it." http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/12/19/epa-ponders-expanded-regulatory-power-in-name-sustainable-development/?test=latestnews

…and Agenda 21- http://www.sovereigndistinction.com/globalization.html

…and the UN Eco Power Grab:

Exclusive: UN Climate Draft Text Demands 'New International Climate Court' to compel reparations for…


I did visit all the websites and articles that Alan mentioned above, and found some very interesting things.

To start with, I'd never read or listened to anything from Fox News, so it came as something of a surprise to me that the article on the Environmental Protection Agency by George Russell (Executive Editor of Fox News) displayed less blatant editorial bias than many comparable pieces from liberal/progressive/green sources. I also watched a couple of Fox News video clips, and thought they both gave a pretty even handed perspective on the issues they covered.

Next I visited the Sovereign Distinction site, and read some of the article from December, 2010 by Donna J. Holt on [United Nations] Agenda 21, Private Property and National Sovereignty. While I thought the overall tone of the website and the article more strident and partisan than Fox, I was impressed by the careful research, attributions for information sources, and links to sites for "see for yourself" confirmation of what was being said.

Then I followed the link to www.climatedepot.com, and found what I judge to be bare-knuckled conservative polemic typified by statements like "The contents of this document, turgidly drafted with all the UN's skill at what the former head of its documentation center used to call “transparent impenetrability”, are not just off the wall – they are lunatic." and "The draft, which seems to have been written by feeble-minded green activists and environmental extremists, talks of “The recognition and defence of the rights of Mother Earth to ensure harmony between humanity and nature”."

Setting aside the issue of editorial bias, what impresses me about all three of these sites is the validity and importance of the concerns they are raising.

I did go directly to the United Nations website and scanned their posting of UN Agenda 21, and I think a good case can be made for it being Old Guard Socialism marching under the banner of Sustainable Development.

40 years ago, I would've said "Right on, Brothers! Power to the People!"

20 years ago, I would've said "Gee, I'm all for helping Mother Earth, and I think these people are trying to do that, but I'm having a hard time understanding what, exactly, they're doing…"

Right now, in the last couple of days of 2011, I'm still all for helping Mother Earth, and still think the UN people and their allies are trying to do that.

What has changed for me is that I no longer believe that a just and sustainable world can be created by anything like Agenda 21, which in it own preamble states that "Its successful implementation is first and foremost the responsibility of Governments."

What I'm seeing is that the same combination of pork-barrel politics, bureaucratic arrogance and self-service masquerading as public service that helped create the military-industrial complex and endless war, the medical-industrial complex and endless health care costs, the oil-industrial complex and endless pursuit of the next barrel of crude, can now help create an eco-industrial complex and endless justification of any kind of power grabbing and coercion in the name of sustainable development.

I believe that the creation and implementation of any just and sustainable socio-economic system, whether at the regional, national or trans-national level, is first and foremost the responsibility of the people who live within that system, and that it must be based on mutual respect and cooperation, not mandated by an elite of and then implemented by force.

I also believe that to do that we must let go of the "enclave mentality", in which we insulate ourselves from a world of conflicting values and opinions by respecting and listening only to people whose opinions agree with our own, and dismissing and disrespecting people whose opinions disagree with our own.

I am as guilty of this as anyone, as I found out when I visited the websites that Alan recommended, and found much truth there that I had previously dismissed because I "didn't like the politics" of the people who were presenting it.

Respect does not always equal agreement, disagreement does not always mean disrespect.

In order to authentically agree or disagree about anything, we must first respect and pursue the truth, regardless of who tells it or how inconvenient it may be.

If we commit to telling and hearing the truth regardless of how disagreeable or inconvenient it may be, and we honor that commitment in our speaking and listening, that is respect.

Where there is respect, there can be trust.

Where there is trust, there can be cooperation.

Where there is cooperation, all things are possible.

Next up: "On The Nature Of Truth And Democracy"

Monday, December 26, 2011

Yes! It works!

Check out this ABC News piece (if you haven't already,) on the power of buying American!


We can do this in a thousand different ways across the country...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Fractal Economics

After reading Parke Bostrom's excellent critique of my post on Entrepreneurial Humanism, I looked up "anarcho-capitalism" on Wikipedia, and I agree that there are some very close parallels between the two.

Most particularly, I agree with the statement attributed to Murray Rothbard, a leading philosopher of anarcho-capitalism: "…the capitalist system of today is, indeed, not properly anarchistic because it is so often in collusion with the state."

This cuts to the heart of my deep distrust of capitalism as it exists today.

The way I see it now, when corporations reach a certain level of assets and cash flow, their power over the government (through lobbying and campaign contributions,) and over the marketplace itself (by muscling through legislation that favors their interests,) creates Mussolini's definition of Fascism: "Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power."

But even if we could make laws that reduce this corporate influence (which I doubt, given just how much power the corporations really do wield,) it would at best only limit the corruption, not solve any basic problems.

I truly believe that we must come to grips with the basic human conflict of individual vs. collective good, and that this can only be done through self knowledge, self discipline and conscious cooperation, not legislation or other forms of coercion.

Reaching the point where enough people have resolved this conflict to create a culture of cooperation will, in my belief, be as great a leap in human evolution as the emergence and success of the Cro-Magnon brain that replaced the Neanderthal brain.

It will require re-defining what terms like peace, prosperity, well being and contentment mean to us as individuals, re-structuring how we connect and interact with people in our daily lives, and re-structuring the social and economic institutions that create the larger landscape in which we live.

In creating a socio-economic system that supports this evolutionary leap, I believe that the workable answer to the corporate capitalism/fascism we have today is "fractal economics": an economy based on small to mid-sized businesses applying a common set of ethics and principles, operated by employers and employees who are applying these same principles in their daily lives, and serving a customer base also applying these principles in the use of their purchasing power.

[I'm using the term "fractal" here as an interpretation of fractal geometry: " 'A fractal has been defined as "a rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a reduced-size copy of the whole," a property called self-similarity.' " (Source: Wikipedia) In fractal economics, I'm reversing and expanding this definition: "An individual unit having a certain shape and properties, which combines and interacts with other units having similar shapes and properties, to form a larger unit with the shape and properties of its smaller units. This larger unit can combine and interact with other larger units, with each larger unit embodying the basic shape and properties of the smallest units."]

Obviously I've presented this in sweeping and idealistic terms. I think it's important to do that at this stage, to allow ourselves to be inspired by the possibilities of real change - fundamental change - rather than slapping more bandages on the systemic cancers of our culture.

Turning these ideals in something that actually works has to start somewhere, so I'm putting this model forward in expectation that others will help to identify its strengths and weaknesses, contribute new ideas, and pull it together into something that we can put into action.

The vision I'm seeing is composed of three interdependent components: pro-active consumerism, fractal business design, and fractal money. These three components also represent phases of the implementation of entrepreneurial humanism through fractal economics, each step creating the foundation for the next step.

Pro-active Consumerism

This is the absolutely essential core of fractal economics, without which no other component can function.

It is dependent upon the following hierarchy of assertions:

1. If we are to divest the power to control our lives from government and corporations, without creating other institutions that do the same things and then complaining about how they control us, we must take up that power ourselves.
2. In taking that power, we must also take personal responsibility for doing the beneficial things that government and corporations are doing for us now. This means that most of us are called to invest time, energy and money differently than we are currently investing them.
3. In order to create an economy that works for most of the people most of the time, we must invest our time, energy and money in re-creating the marketplace from the ground up. This means moving from a 'push-based' to a 'pull-based' market.

The push-based market is dominated by corporations dedicated to generating profit without regard to the impact on human beings and the world in which humans live.

Products are created on the basis of their ability to generate sales, and then a lot of creativity and money goes into convincing the public that we need this, we want this, we have to have this, it will make us feel cool, sexy, smart, powerful, beautiful, connected, loved, etc., while ignoring, denying or minimizing the consequences that using or consuming the product actually brings.

(The soft drink industry is perhaps the quintessential example of this. According to information found at http://www.everyday-wisdom.com/soft-drink-consumption.html the National Soft Drink Association reports that average per-capita consumption of soft drinks in America has reached 600 12-ounce servings (56 gallons) per year. In males between the ages of 12 and 29, the average is 160 gallons per year. [When I attempted to verify this information at the NSDA website, I found that it's a closed, members-only site, as is the American Beverage Association's site.] The official website of the US Dept. of Agriculture provides a report strongly linking soft drink consumption by middle school children to obesity and type 2 diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, 8.3% of Americans have diabetes, and almost 25% are pre-diabetic, with the numbers still rising.)

The ethos underlying this mode of operation is some variation on "Hey, we're here to make a profit, that's what business is about, it's not our job to decide what's good or not good for people, or the world. We sell, they buy. End of story."

And in my belief and judgment, most of that ethos is absolutely correct!

It's our job to decide what is and isn't good for us, our job to decide what we will and won't buy, and why we do or don't.

In the pull-based market, consumers do take responsibility for what we buy and from whom, for the impact of our spending/consuming habits on our own lives and those around us.

In fractal economics power must always be accompanied by responsibility (and vice versa,) because the properties of the larger structures always equals the sum of the properties of the individuals involved.

If we want an economy that works for most of the people most of the time, we must have a majority of individuals who work for most of the people most of the time - not to the exclusion of their own profit, but in ways that recognize a level of mutual inter-dependence.

I propose that we (consumers) establish a network of affiliated organizations specifically to bring together, educate and empower consumers in taking control of, and responsibility for, our economy.

I propose that we call the parent organization the American Consumers Union, the local affiliate the Humboldt Consumers Union, and that we create and copyright/trademark logos for them right away.

I propose that we link these names and logos to copyrighted documents titled "The Bill of Rights & Responsibilities of the American Consumers Union" and "The Bill of Rights & Responsibilities of the Humboldt Consumers Union".

I propose that these documents be similar to the following:

The members of the American Consumers Union are agreed that the corporate-dominated American economy of the 20th and early 21st centuries is unstable, unjust, and hugely benefits a small minority to the detriment of the vast majority.

We are also agreed that changes needed to bring about a more stable and just economy (one that meets the needs of most of the people, most of the time,) cannot be legislated or coerced. It can only come about through the cooperation of citizens who recognize that what we buy and from whom impacts everyone around us. We must be willing to purchase carefully to make that impact a positive one, and willing to pay a higher price (and where necessary, to make do with less,) in order to bring about a more stable and just economy.

We declare the following rights and responsibilities, and declare also our determination to put them into practice:

1. We have the right and responsibility to organize and consolidate our power as consumers, to set standards and specifications for the goods and services we desire, to cooperate with businesses to deliver these goods and services at a reasonable profit, and to reward businesses that do cooperate with our customer loyalty and support.
2. We have the right and responsibility to purchase products that are well made, designed to be durable and repaired rather than discarded, and to pay a reasonable premium for this quality and durability.
3. We have the right and responsibility to purchase products that, throughout the cycle of manufacture, use and release, are supportive of the planet on which we live and depend, and to pay a reasonable premium for these products.
4. We have the right and responsibility to exercise a hierarchical preference in purchasing locally, regionally and American made products, to support family, small and mid-sized businesses over large corporations, and to pay a reasonable premium in giving this support.
5. We have the right and responsibility to purchase from businesses that pay employees a living wage, provide health care and retirement benefits, and to pay a reasonable premium in supporting these businesses.
6. We have the right and responsibility to do business with local credit unions and banks, to keep our money within our communities rather than exporting it, and to accept that sometimes we will receive a lesser short term profit from investing in this way.

By recognizing that how and what we buy as consumers directly impacts how and what we earn as employees or entrepreneurs, by cooperating with other consumers and businesses to achieve a workable balance of personal and community prosperity, we create a very different marketplace from the existing, winner-take-all, corporate-dominated killing fields.

By doing all this under the banner of a clearly defined set of rights and responsibilities common to all, and linking these rights and responsibilities to clearly recognizable logos, we can tap into the deep and powerful desire for change that has been building up in the shadows of America until the Occupy Movement gave it voice.

I think it's vitally important to keep two things in mind at this point:

First and foremost is getting something in motion as soon as possible, rather than trying to hash out every possibility and detail before we start.

Secondly, the purpose of taking the first few steps isn't to make the changes we want happen right now. It's about creating the framework and momentum of cooperation, getting face to face with consumers and businesses, making incremental changes in our own spending/purchasing patterns within this framework, and documenting and publishing the results - however minor those results might seem.

The biggest hurdles in creating positive change are always inertia and skepticism.

Inertia is why it's so important to go from doing nothing to doing something, however flawed it may prove to be, as soon as possible. (Also because the widespread discontent expressing through the Occupy movement will turn toxic, ugly and violent very quickly if it isn't given a positive outlet.)

Skepticism is why it's so important to document and publish. Every small success builds the confidence to produce more small successes. A small group showing the world five small successes will almost certainly become a larger group, and will show the world five larger successes.

Where to start?

Something do-able, something non-threatening, something that lends itself to business/consumer cooperation.


I'm a big fan of Casa Lindra salsa, made in Arcata (Northern Humboldt County, CA, six miles north of where I live.) The cupboard under my kitchen counter is filled with stacks upon stacks of plastic Casa Lindra containers, which we use for food storage, but we still put stacks and stacks of them in the recycle bin each month.

I think it would be relatively easy to organize a group of Casa Lindra customers who would like to buy their salsa in bulk, and to approach Casa Lindra with a proposal to make this possible.

I also think that Casa Lindra would be receptive to approach by a group of customers who are already buying their product regularly, who have come up with a plan, and are pledged to do their part in making the plan work.

This, to me, embodies the very heart and soul of pro-active consumerism: Consumers deciding what they want and how they want it, coming up with a plan, approaching business(es) with the plan, and committing to doing their share to make it work.

With this humble beginning, I can imagine a functioning network of local chapters affiliated through the logo and the The Bill of Rights & Responsibilities of the American Consumers Union in two to five years, and a functioning national organization in 10 to 20 years.

As the numbers and clout of the organization grows, I see the ability to support small and mid-sized businesses in providing good pay and benefits for employees becoming a reality, and this mutual support and cooperation leading to…

Fractal Business Design

This phase of fractal economics is less thought-through in my own mind, but it starts with a trademarked/copyrighted logo and mission statement similar to the bill of rights and responsibilities above, to be adopted and used by each participating business.

The most crucial aspect of this concept is to have statements equivalent to the following included in the core mission of the business itself:

1. The commitment of this business is not solely to provide profits for its owners, nor solely to provide living wages and benefits for its employees, but to provide both in mutual cooperation and support.
2. The commitment of this business is to provide products and services that meet authentic needs, do what they're supposed to do, and to work closely with customers to ensure that this is so.
3. The commitment of this business is to provide our products and services in ways that support the planet on which we live and depend.

The general idea is that businesses with very closely aligned mission statements will be better able to cooperate, with each other and with consumers. (Especially consumers with a closely aligned mission statement of their own!)

As the movement grows one benefit will be that affiliated businesses can employee/recruit people who belong to the American Consumers Union, which will not only provide an unusually cooperative and aware work force, but also an unusually cooperative customer base for affiliated businesses.

As growth continues, and the cooperation between consumers and business increases, it will be possible to create businesses with a list of products and services desired, and a list of customers waiting to buy them. This will reduce or eliminate the need to allocate a significant part of cash flow to advertising, and reduce losses from unsuccessful products.

This level of business and consumer cooperation will also make it possible create consortiums of small to mid-sized businesses, which will reap the benefits of economy of scale and the bargaining clout of large corporations, without their inflexibility.

For example, with a loyal customer and disciplined customer base, ultra-efficient cars could be produced using parts from relatively small contractors, assembled in relatively small local/regional plants, and pre-sold to customers who know exactly what they want. The price to the customer might be somewhat higher than the same car produced in one gigantic plant in Michigan, but the customers aren't just looking at the bottom line. And if customer demand drops off, the participating businesses can cooperate with each other and with customers in scaling back production, and/or creating and providing different products. This is all supported by customers whose loyalty is to the companies and their core values, not just the products.

Obviously there's a lot yet to be worked out, and I'm going to take my own medicine and post this for feedback rather than trying to hash it all out first.

Blessings to all,


Saturday, December 3, 2011

The piece below is from a friend, Don Allen, who had trouble with the "Comment" widget so I'm posting it for him. Bob Olofson


A digression on Bob’s thought-provoking piece on Fractal Economics:

Bob’s exposition of a roadmap to a different (maybe better) way of dealing with material goods in human society is very well thought out (as usual for Bob) and lots of fun to play with. But what really grabs my interest – and what I see to be the key to anything that might be done – are four critical notions that he sets forth in the first dozen paragraphs of his article.

The first three are sublimely interconnected and are the key to all effective social change.

  • There’s a perceived difference (Bob says "conflict") between our notions of individual and collective good;
  • The resolution of this difference necessarily happens within the individual – i.e., it can’t happen anywhere else than within the individual; and
  • In order to resolve this conflict, the individual must redefine (for oneself) such terms as "peace, prosperity, well-being and contentment."

The fourth critical notion – fractal theory – offers a useful metaphor for understanding the mechanics of human society (economics and everything else, as well).

I completely agree with Bob that when there’s a perceived difference between individual (personal) and collective (societal) well-being such difference can only be resolved within the individual perceiving the difference. For all practical purposes, the difference only exists – if it exists at all – in the individual’s perception of it.

Here it’s useful to pick up the fractal theory bit. Perhaps it makes sense to view individual humans as fractal segments. String a bunch of us together and you get society (or a society, or a corporation perhaps). And when you stand far enough back from the society you’ve gotten, its shape is pretty much the same as any of its fractal segment components, which are in turn pretty much indistinguishable from each other.

Okay, maybe it’s a bit of a stretch. Fractals seem to be concrete "things," and we’re talking about behavior. But consider the value of applying the fractal metaphor to the individual/society link-up. If the larger segment reflects the shape of the smaller segment, then maybe it’s useful to use this metaphor for thinking about behavior of the larger body. Does it make sense to say that the behavior of the larger body reflects the behavior of the individual components? That’s how it seems to me.

So, even though Bob’s outline of an action plan is well considered and elegantly presented, my attention is drawn more to the question of how individuals change themselves in order for society to manifest benefit for all. Said a bit differently, if we don’t like society’s behavior, the right place to look for change is in our own behavior.

Again (because it’s so important): there’s only one platform from which any individual has leverage to change society, and that’s within that individual. Change yourself and you change society. It’s that simple.

Check it out in the converse. Have you ever successfully changed another individual? Be honest. Really probe this notion. Where – in all the universe – do you have the power to change anyone?

Lest we despair, fearing our personal inadequacy and ineffectiveness, check this out too: how great is your power for change? If you really look at it, I think you’ll find that it’s enormous. It’s downright godlike. You have infinite power to change yourself. And what happens when you change yourself? Examine that through the lens of the fractal metaphor.

I like to remember a motto I once read in the Last Whole Earth Catalog: "We are as gods and might as well get good at it." Words to live by.

It’s a reasonably good bet that if you’re reading this you’ve been on your own personal quest for change for a long time now. Blessings on your journey. If you’re inclined to check some more stuff out, here are some links to resources that have been (and still are) really useful to me.

For an interesting insight into fractal theory at work in the market, scan the Wikipedia article on Fibonacci retracement.

For a sweet angle on the Occupy Movement, watch this video.

I’ve received inspiring and highly useful insights along my path from these folks:

The Passion Test can be a useful tool for effecting personal change.

And if you want to plug into lifelong support in an approach that’s guaranteed to change the way you live, check out Balanced View. Listen to the two talking heads on the home page. Then, if you’re still interested, listen to more of the teachers and download/read the free books. I can vouch for the efficacy of this outfit and their trainings. Wow!

Much love to all, --d.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bob reinvents anarcho-capitalism?

Hi all,

[My name is Parke. I live in Eureka. I met Bob several years ago at meetings of the Voter Confidence Committee. I think Bob also attended a Ron Paul meetup back in late 2007 or early 2008.]

[This post is a response to Bob's post entitled: The Precepts of Entrepreneurial Humanism.]

In his "Precepts", Bob references the Declaration of Independence. I think it is worth re-reading the central sentence of Declaration of Independence for comparison.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

When I first read Bob's Declaration of Commonality, I was skeptical about points 1-5. They seemed vague enough to be used to justify a wide range of eventual conclusions.

Point 6 is the first radical and distinctive point of the Declaration. "A socio-economic system that truly does work well for most people most of the time cannot be coerced or legislated into existence." This is amazingly similar to the non-aggression principle of libertarian political philosophy: the rejection of the aggressive use of force (or coercion) as a political tool.

In Point 7, Bob suggests that all laws are of the form: "If you DON'T do this, I will hurt you." I would call this a "positive" law, in that it requires a certain action. But there are also "negative" laws, that forbid certain actions: "If you DO do this, I will hurt you."

If you subscribe to the libertarian non-aggression principle, the distinction between positive and negative laws is less important. All just laws have the form: "If you attack me, I will defend myself." Consequently, no law should authorize the aggressive use of force or coercion, and any laws that do are illegitimate.

Point 8 has shades of the Declaration of Independence's claim that "[Governments] deriv[e] their just powers from the consent of the governed".

Point 9 echoes Thoreau's Civil Disobedience: "That government is best which governs least."

In points 10-14, Bob basically (re)invents anarcho-capitalism: the abolition of government (political hierarchy), and the belief in private property and free markets.

Googling turns up an "Anarcho-Capitalist Manifesto". The Manifesto is probably not a recruiting document (it won't inspire converts), but it does clearly identify and separate the key concepts of anarcho-capitalism.

Wikipedia also has an article on Anarcho-capitalism.

Point 12 ("The way forward...") describes what I have heard is one of the scenarios by which a society could decide to live in an anarcho-capitalistic manner - namely, that a majority of people in the society would recognize that government does more harm than good, and decide that they would be better off without it. An alternative approach might be to work within the current governmental/political system to repeal the excessive quantity of laws our current government has foisted upon us.

I do see somewhat of an inconsistency in the Declaration of Commonality regarding what the proper nature and role of "the law" (governmental law) is. In 9, Bob writes we should "reduc[e] our body of law and its machinery to the minimum", which implies that we should keep some small amount of governmental law and governmental machinery in place. But then later, in 12, Bob writes that "The way forward is ... not by voting for representatives or legislation", suggesting that he might want to abolish all legislation (and also the governmental machinery that goes with it). How you answer this question determines whether or not you are an anarchist. If you refrain from anarchism, you probably want to encourage citizens to work inside government to shrink it. Alternatively, if you subscribe to anarchism, you might instead just encourage citizens to ignore government on the grounds that it is illegitimate and will eventually go away.

How Bob wants to improve his Precepts and Declaration really depends on what he wants it to accomplish. I might make some minor improvements here and there. But most changes should be driven by what the goal is, and that is not a decision for me to make.

Interestingly, I had dinner with a couple of anarchists in Reno in September. As a result of that discussion, I thought about trying to rewrite the Declaration of Independence not to justify the "instituting of Governments among Men", but rather to call for the abolition of governments, on the grounds that government itself is the biggest threat to our Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Unlike Bob, I never started writing it. If I had, I would have tried to mirror the (linguistic) structure of the Declaration of Independence as closely as possible, in order to highlight the specific differences between it and my "Declaration of Peace and Prosperity" (working title).

My thanks to Bob for starting this blog off with such a substantive post!
The Precepts of Entrepreneurial Humanism

I am presenting these ideas in a form similar to the Declaration of Independence, because I believe that the challenges that we face now call for as sweeping and passionate a statement of principles as that one.

I present it here not as a completed work but a starting place for dialog, in the trust that we will somehow find the language to inspire the re-birth of a nation, and the commitment to make it so.

Declaration of Commonality

We who desire peace and prosperity for ourselves and for all people hereby declare our belief in the following principals, our commitment to living these principals in our daily lives, and to creating a nation and a world in which cooperation and goodwill are the norm.

1. As human beings, we are more alike than different.
2. The basic needs common to all humans include the physical (e.g., food, shelter,) and the emotional and metaphysical (e.g., companionship, a sense of belonging and success in the world.)
3. There is an inherent human dichotomy between the need to stand out and the need to blend in, to cooperate and to compete, to contribute to the collective good, and to create and acquire for one's self.
4. Given this inherent dichotomy, and the subjective nature of our emotional and metaphysical needs, no socio-economic system will ever function equally well for meeting the needs of all the people all the time.
5. What is achievable, given strong enough consensus and self-discipline, is a socio-economic system that works well for most people most of the time, and in which there is mutual respect between the least and most prosperous.
6. A socio-economic system that truly does work well for most people most of the time cannot be coerced or legislated into existence. It can only come about through the cooperation of a clear majority of citizens who honor both the common and individual good, and who take personal responsibility for creating and upholding both.
7. The dichotomy of individual vs. common good applies to government in all forms, including taxation, and all law embodies some degree of coercion. ("If you don't do this, I will hurt you.")
8. In a system that depends on the ongoing cooperation of a clear majority of citizens to function, all law (and all of the 'machinery' that goes with it , including taxation,) must always be kept to an irreducible minimum.
9. In reducing our body of law and its machinery to the minimum, we must take personal responsibility for creating institutions of cooperation to replace the institutions of coercion.
10. This means that a clear majority of citizens must look closely at our own beliefs and behaviors, evaluate these in terms of the balance of individual and common good, and do this in community with other citizens. In this way we can all see what we're doing, why and how we're doing it, and how what we do as individuals will impact the larger whole.
11. Democracy, as it is currently defined, is about trying to put the creation of law into the hands of the people who will be governed by it. But the ways in which we've practiced it have created a juggernaut of laws that only lawyers can even pretend to understand, bureaucracies that can create as many problems as they solve, and a burden of taxation and national debt that threatens to crush our entire nation under their weight.
12. The way forward is a new democracy of personal responsibility, in which a clear and conscious majority of citizens cooperate to fulfill their desires for peace and prosperity - not to the exclusion of voting for representatives or legislation, but primarily by consciously shaping our own behaviors to create it.
13. The cornerstone of a democracy of personal responsibility is the power of the marketplace, because the personal behaviors that have by far the greatest impact on the common good are the ways in which we spend and earn money.
14. By earning and spending money in awareness of how we impact the common good, and doing this in conscious cooperation with like-minded citizens, we create a new marketplace, a new economy, a new nation, a new world.

Bob Olofson

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Basic rules & guidelines

I have created this blog as a response to the Occupy Wall Street movement, which I see as having galvanized many people into a sense of power and purpose, and also see as creating a great deal of polarization, hostility and self-righteous mud slinging.

The purpose of this blog is to provide a safe, respectful space for people of all beliefs, genders and political persuasions to create a socio-economic system based on mutual respect and cooperation, and to take personal action to bring this system into operation.

In order to create a safe and respectful space for this dialog, I am establishing basic ground rules for participation, and will act as moderator for the dialog and keeper of the rules.

Here they are:

  1. No name-calling. It's okay to say "President Obama isn't keeping his promise about XXXX", it's not okay to say "President Obama is a @%$!&^ idiot commie traitor" or any variations on this theme, applied either to public personages or participants in this dialog.
  2. This is not a platform for attacking or defending any ideology(s) or belief(s). It's okay to point out specific things that we see as working or not working, equitable or not equitable in a given system, model or ideology, as long as it is presented in the context of cooperating to create something we believe will work better.
That's pretty much it. There may be additions and/or modifications later, and I welcome feedback on this issue. But for now I want to keep the actual rules (which I reserve the right to enforce by deleting and/or flagging comments I judge to be in violation of them,) as few and simple as possible.

I also propose some guidelines in creating the most open, supportive and respectful space possible for this dialog:

  • Use 'I statements' such as "I believe that cooperation is a more effective strategy than competition" rather than ex-cathedra pronouncements like "The truth is, cooperation is always better than competition".
  • Find something to agree with or validate about another participant's comment/posting, before moving on to areas of disagreement, questioning or refuting the data presented, etc. Example: "I agree with Peabody's comment about soft drinks being a major contributor to diabetes and therefore to skyrocketing health care costs, and I think that taxing soft drinks and channeling that money into diabetes education and treatment would be a more equitable solution than banning them altogether."
  • Cite sources for data, so that everyone can assess for themselves how credible it is, and can do further research if interested.
  • Bear in mind always that the purpose of this dialog is creating a system based on cooperation and respect, and acting to bring that system into operation. This will only happen (in my firm and passionate belief,) if and to the degree that we are respectful and cooperative in this dialog.
I am working on another post that outlines some specific issues and ideas that I have gathered under the label of 'Entrepreneurial Humanism', which I hope to have up in the next few days.

I look forward to seeing where this journey leads us!

Blessings to all,

Bob Olofson