Glen T. Martin
The process of human liberation only begins when people come together to solve the most fundamental problems of their collective, physical existence. Human beings are not likely to grow toward the higher dimensions of self-realization when they are trapped in the structure of heartless scarcity and brutal competition for the crumbs that fall from the tables of the rich. Nor are they likely to grow toward higher dimensions of maturity when they are trapped within a system of militarized sovereign nation-states telling their citizens that the true patriotic “community” spirit is one that hates, fears, and militarizes against its “enemies” around the globe.
Capitalism is a very stupid societal economic system because it presupposes human beings as greedy adolescents, as “homo economicus,” a stereotype conception of humans reduced to egoism, a very low form of human consciousness. It presents a picture of human beings exclusively concerned with self-interest and maximizing profits. Capitalist dogma cultivates the consciousness of an egoistic adolescent wearing a grown-man’s expensive suit and tie. It’s ideal approximates that of a moral-moron, somewhat like the image of a Donald Trump.
If you think my last statement was hyperbole, read Bill McKibben’s description of the ideology of the superrich in Silicon Valley, USA, who follow the truly puerile thought of novelist Ayn Rand (2019, Part Two). Under capitalism resources are scarce because they are privately owned by people who egoistically profit from perpetuating that scarcity—if everyone had the necessary resources for life, then they would not be compelled to pay the owners for all those things necessary to survive and flourish, and the poor would not be compelled to work at poverty-level wages in order to make the rich richer.
We are told that “free enterprise” is a fundamental part of a free society, and, indeed, if we compare “free enterprise” with the nightmare of Soviet totalitarianism this appears to make some sense. But that is a false comparison promoted by the western ruling classes at humanity’s expense. The opposite of a society where everyone is egoistically “free” to grab as much private wealth as possible and as much private property as possible is not Soviet Communism.
The opposite of the society of egoistic competition and greed is the cooperative society of love and justice where people come together to solve the most fundamental problems of their collective, physical, and social existence. A cooperative society is never a totalitarian society. Both communism and capitalism are forms of totalitarianism, that is, systems of domination. We need, instead, global community—people freely cooperating with others. In today’s world, “people coming together” can only mean coming together at all levels, from the local to the global.
The fragmentation of capitalism in which individuals and corporations compete with one another for scarce resources (in order to control these resources and use the scarcity to their own advantage by exploiting those who lack the basic necessities) is complemented by the fragmentation of militarized, sovereign nation-states. Militarized sovereign nation-states do the same thing as capitalists—they compete to control resources for themselves. Built into their “sovereignty” is the imperative to dominate, to create around themselves a “sphere of influence.”
In a world of lawless rival power centers competing with one another, the “security” of each one is perceived as increased when it is able to control or dominate others: economically, militarily, and often politically. Where there exists no enforceable law, immature egoism (now called “nationalism” and “patriotism”) takes over. The strongest thug on the block controls the block. Those loyal to the thug are called “patriots.”
The United Nations, which serves as the ideological framework for this system of fragmentation and destruction of true community, states in its Sustainable Development Goals Document: “We affirm that every State has, and shall freely exercise, full permanent sovereignty over all its wealth, natural resources and economic activity.” With this statement we have the U.N.’s bottom line: the resources that human beings need to live and that are essential to planetary ecological health are declared the private property of militarized sovereign states. The ability of our world to become a community addressing the needs of all human beings is cut off at its roots.
The broadest functions of any and all legitimate government are to protect the universal human rights (freedom and dignity) of individual persons while at the same time promoting and protecting the common good of all. Under capitalism these two functions are in conflict with one another. Capitalism claims that an essential component of “freedom” is the right to unlimited accumulation of private wealth and the right to use accumulated private wealth to exploit others to continually increase this process of unlimited accumulation. It perpetuates the absurd myth that this greedy competition empowers an unseen “invisible hand” that is secretly promoting the common good behind the scenes.
The result we see all around us—extreme and unconscionable wealth for a few with the majority just scraping by, always in danger of falling into homeless and destitution. Can anyone seriously believe that this system supports genuine freedom? It is a system of domination and exploitation ravaging society under the ideological cover of “freedom” and the absurd notion of an “invisible hand.” There is no authentic freedom in this system.
The government that is supposed to protect the freedom and rights of individuals within the framework of the common good, under this system, becomes the wholly-owned subsidiary of the rich, who buy, lobby, and exploit politicians and their law-making powers for the good of the few, certainly not for the freedom and dignity of the many. Similarly, under the U.N. system of militarized sovereign nation-states, the resources of our planet necessary to its ecological health and to satisfying the basic needs of all human beings become the wholly-owned subsidiary of these fragmented, “sovereign” units of greed, selfishness, and militarized “national pride.”
The solution is not for the vast majority of people to take over government and impose some totalitarian “planned” society in place of the domination and exploitation by the rich, or in place of the fragmentation of militarized governments. The function of good government to protect the “common good” of society is not served by totalitarianism and slavery at any level. Nor is it served though the false freedom of unlimited accumulation of private wealth with its attendant powers to exploit the poor and corrupt the government. Authentic freedom is not “freedom from” interference by “big government” as the ideologues of capitalism and wealth-elitism advocate.
Authentic freedom comes about when this ideology is transcended by the conception of an authentic human community. A community, as this relates to freedom, is more than just a social grouping like “the black community” or the “white-supremacist community.” An authentic community aspires to the ideal of “one for all and all for one.” Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned “the beloved community” in just this way. An authentic community is one of nonviolence, freedom, love, and justice. Government and law can be designed to empower and protect authentic community.
In an authentic community, people are free from fear and competition against those who would dominate or exploit them. People work together for the freedom and the well-being of all. Since people are no longer wracked by fear and anxiety of failure (since they know their well-being is supported by the community), they can now ascend to what has been called “positive freedom,” what philosopher of law Lon Fuller (1969) calls “the morality of aspiration.” They can follow their dreams and actualize their life-potential since they are no longer struggling within a system of scarcity, self-defense, and needless risk. (Article 13.12 of the Earth Constitution assures to every child “the right to the full realization of his or her potential”.)
This concept of authentic “positive freedom” in relation to government goes back several centuries in western thought. It includes such advanced thinkers as Baruch Spinoza, Immanuel Kant, GWF Hegel, T.H. Green, Ernst Barker, Errol E. Harris (2008), James L. Marsh (1995) and Joel Kovel (2007). I have reviewed much of this history in my books Ascent to Freedom (2008) and One World Renaissance (2016). These thinkers show that government (in its proper role and functioning) can both reflect community and promote community in a variety of ways that increase both freedom and the common good of all.
The Constitution for the Federation of Earth establishes just such a community. It is explicitly designed to foster both authentic freedom and a universal common good for humanity. It is premised on the understanding that these two dimensions go together—authentic freedom includes both freedom from want for basic necessities and freedom to grow within a nonviolent and supportive community (cf. Gewirth 1996). The authentic common good means not only that universal human rights are protected but that war is ended, the ecological fabric of life is restored and safeguarded, and wealth differences are diminished to the point where they no longer subvert democratic processes.
The force of law can be used, of course, for purposes of domination and exploitation (which always go together). But the force of law can also be used to provide the rules and framework by which persons foster community and solidarity. Philosopher Peter Gabel (2013), for example, makes this connection very clear, as I also attempt to do in my book Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendence (2018).
The Earth Constitution imposes nothing alien on humanity but provides a concrete framework for the emergence of an authentic global community premised on the ideal of “one for all and all for one.” A complete community requires more than simply cultural unity; it is only really completed through political unity (Finnis 1980, Chap. VI). This is an ideal, to be sure, but no such ideal can be progressively actualized in history without a constitutional framework that both empowers the ideal and provides the rules and mechanisms for its concrete embodiment.
Similarly, no ideal of an authentic human community of freedom, justice, and love can be actualized in history while human beings remain both structurally and psychologically fragmented by capitalist and militarized nation-state stupidity. The Earth Constitution understands this profoundly, outlining a process by which the World Disarmament Agency can eventually lead (through careful, cooperative, collaboration among nations) to eliminate weapons of war, making possible a world that has no need of the institutions of war since humanity will be in the process of becoming a global, planetary community rather than a nightmare of fragmentation and conflict.
As I show in my recent book, The Earth Constitution Solution: Design for a Living Planet, the same conversion to a planetary community is necessary if we are to survive climate collapse and salvage a decent ecological biosphere for future generations. Replacing the hopelessly antiquated U.N. Charter by the Earth Constitution is not a small or cosmetic change. It constitutes the structural paradigm-shift necessary for establishing an authentic global community of freedom, justice, and love.
To summarize my points: we must (1) replace so-called “free market” capitalism with a “fair market” system designed to provide reasonable economic equality and prosperity to all persons on Earth (see Raworth 2017). (2) We must end the war-system in the world and replace it with a civilian planetary law enforcement within a democratic Constitution for the Federation of Earth. (3) We must cooperate everywhere on Earth with a common, planetary community-spirit to convert to sustainable, regenerative, and ecologically sound processes for producing and consuming the goods and services necessary for life. These three represent concrete steps in a movement from egoism and fragmentation to planetary community and maturity.
The Earth Constitution alone makes all this possible. It elevates these steps from being a mere cultural ideal to concrete actions that we can take to make it happen. It also, by these very means, makes possible moral and psychological growth to a new human maturity. The Earth Constitution alone is the foundation for a future planetary community of freedom, justice, and love.
Finnis, John (1980). Natural Law and Natural Rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Fuller, Lon (1969). The Morality of Law. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Gebel, Peter (2013). Another Way of Seeing: Essays on Transforming Law, Politics, and Culture. New Orleans: Quid Pro Books.
Gewirth, Alan (1996). The Community of Rights. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Harris, Errol E. (2008). Twenty-first Century Democratic Renaissance: From Plato to Neoliberalism to Planetary Democracy. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.
Kovel, Joel (2007). The Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World. London: Zed Books.
Marsh, James L. (1995). Critique, Action, and Liberation. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Martin, Glen T. (2008). Ascent to Freedom: Practical and Philosophical Foundations of Democratic World Law. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.
Martin, Glen T. (2016). One World Renaissance: Holistic Planetary Transformation Through a Global Social Contract. Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press.
Martin, Glen T. (2018). Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendence: The Power of the Future for Planetary Transformation. London: Cambridge Scholars Publishers.
Martin, Glen T. (2021). The Earth Constitution Solution: Design for a Living Planet. Independence, VA: Peace Pentagon Press.
Raworth, Kate (2017). Doughnut Economics: 7 Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing.