rkm> A new economics & politics: starting with the community


Richard Moore

2b. A new economics & politics: starting with the community

    "The challenge before us is to reverse our present backward
    course and re-create ourselves as contributors to the
    advancement of life's epic journey. It starts with choosing
    life as our guiding metaphor and continues with deepening
    our understanding of life's ways in search of insights into
    the unrealized possibilities of our species.
    - David Korten, 'The Post-Corporate World', p. 104

    "Until recently, the vast bulk of humanity relied only upon
    the local economy for its livelihood. Today's problems will
    eventually be solved by recognizing that local production
    for local consumption - using local resources, under the
    guidance and control of local communities, and reflecting
    local and regional cultures and traditions with the limits
    of nature - is a far more successful direction than the
    currently promoted, clearly utopian, globally centralized ,
    expansionist model."
    - Jerry Mander and Edward Goldsmith, 'The Case Against the
    Global Economy and For a Turn Toward the Local', p 391.
    "What is so exciting about the Participatory Budget in
    Brazil's Gaucho country is the interaction between active
    citizens, elected politicians and career officials. Instead
    of playing an advisory role, as do many citizens bodies in
    our political system, the regional and sectoral assemblies
    actually discuss and debate budget priorities. In my
    neighbourhood, for example, we might decide that a new
    school is more important than improvements to the highway."
    - 'Porto Alegre', Judy Rebick, online ZNet Commentary, 3 March

The Taker vision of 'subdue and conquer' has been reflected
in the behavior of Tak societies toward the world, and it
has also been reflected in the internal structure of those
societies. Those structures have always been hierarchies,
permitting centralized control by one ruling elite or
another - the topmost takers.  Domination starts at the top
of the pyramid, and flows downward, with those at the bottom
implementing elite agendas and carrying out the actual work
of subduing nature.  If we want our societies to abandon the
dominator paradigm with respect to the world, then we need
first to remove the dominator paradigm from our societal
structures.  Before we can harmonize with the world, we must
learn to harmonize our societies.  Harmony, you might say,
begins at home.

In nature, and in non-Tak societies, harmony is achieved not
through centralized authority, but through localized
interactions.  It begins in the small, and from that
foundation the larger web of life is woven. If we wish to
harmonize our societies with the web of life, then it makes
good sense to begin at the local level. The local level, the
community level, is where people can meet face to face - and
where everyone's voice can be heard. The community is the
natural place for social harmony to be developed.
Communities can then come together in regional councils,
where concerns can be harmonized regarding larger scale
issues - and so on. The Tak political model is authority all
the way down; the life-harmonization political model is
voluntary collaboration all the way up. Tak political
agendas begin in the imperial center; harmonized political
agendas begin in every community.

In my various dialogs in online discussion forums, I've
found that many people are very afraid of losing the sense
of security that central authorities seem to provide. We Tak
have been so long domesticated to hierarchy that is
difficult for us to imagine anything else working. We are
like the lioness in 'Born Free', who ran from the lowly the
wart hog - not realizing her own power. And we are like the
long-term prisoner, who finds upon his release that he has
forgotten how to deal with the outside world. But 10,000
years of domestication cannot erase millions of years of
evolution, and our capacity to govern ourselves in freedom
has not been lost. Our political voices, however, have
atrophied - from their long confinement in sealed voting
booths. We must learn again to speak, and to listen, and to
solve problems together in our communities.

One community in Brazil - indeed an entire city - has been
achieving spectacular results by means of a bottom-up
decision making process.  Porto Alegre has for years been
using a Participatory Budget Process and the city has become
a global model of a livable, workable, fiscally-sound city.
Discussions begin at the neighborhood level, where everyone
is welcome to participate - and from there begins the
decision process regarding the allocation of the city's
budget.  Creativity is something everyone possesses, and
when ordinary people are empowered to participate in the
decisions of their community, a flowering of innovation and
practical problem-solving results. The people of Porto
Alegre are not of a different species and they have not
passed through any profound consciousness-raising experience
- they have simply been empowered to solve their own
problems. Their experience demonstrates that harmonization
can work, not only at the most local level, but even in a
city with a multi-level decision-making process. And if it
can work there, it can work elsewhere.

In the past few centuries we have become increasingly
dependent on industrial agriculture and on the long-distance
transport of goods. It is unlikely that we can again achieve
small-scale self-sufficiency, nor is it necessary that we do
so. There is no reason why we cannot continue to use and
develop modern technology, nor need we forsake the benefits
of specialization and trade - but we need to learn to do
these things in ways that are sustainable and which are
harmonious with the world around us. Our communities will
continue to be part of a larger economic web - but we can
greatly increase the diversity of our local production and
thereby the degree to which we are locally self-sufficient. 
The more our economies are locally centered, then the less
energy is needed by society - and the easier it is to move
our economies toward full sustainability and environmental
harmony.  In economics as in politics, the local community
is the place where harmonization needs to begin.


Richard K Moore
Wexford, Ireland
Citizens for a Democratic Renaissance 
email: •••@••.••• 
URL: http://cyberjournal.org

    A community will evolve only when
    the people control their means of communication.
    - Frantz Fanon

    "One cannot separate economics, political science, and
    history. Politics is the control of the economy. History,
    when accurately and fully recorded, is that story. In most
    textbooks and classrooms, not only are these three fields of
    study separated, but they are further compartmentalized into
    separate subfields, obscuring the close interconnections
    between them" -- J.W. Smith, The World's Wasted Wealth 2,
    (Institute for Economic Democracy, 1994), p. 22.

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