Glen T. Martin
I want to attempt here something that is often perceived as difficult—to write a brief essay that gets to the heart of the economic problem of the world’s dominant economic system and shows the way to an economics of human liberation and sustainability.
I have written about this problem at some length in my books over the past 10 years. By going deeply into the economic problem in relation to the project of world system transformation and human spiritual transformation, I believe the roots, the essence of the problem, have become progressively clearer. Yet the basic dynamics of system and spiritual transformation remain basically the same.
Many of the modern economists that I have read in this respect, despite important insights into specific economic mechanisms and principles, remain limited in their ability to articulate fully the transformation that needs to occur because they are limited by their professional specialization. They have been trained to look at economics apart from the larger context of world systems, human values, the development of human spiritual and ethical maturity, planetary ecology, and the progress of human civilization as a whole.
Some of the most illuminating books on economics have come from those authors willing to include economics into the need for a larger paradigm-shift, for example, John B. Cobb, Jr’s Sustainability: Economics, Ecology & Justice or Herman E. Daly and Kenneth Townsend’s Valuing the Earth: Economics, Ecology, Ethics or Dada Maheshvarananda’s After Capitalism: Prout’s Vision for a New World.
My 2005 book Millennium Dawn also addressed the question of human liberation holistically, examining the multiple aspects of human life (all integrated with economics) that must change if we are to move to a world premised on human dignity and liberation, free and ecologically sustainable. Chapters 7, 8, and 9 specifically show how the economics of an ethically and spiritually grounded socialism become fundamental to the necessary planetary paradigm-shift.
My book of that same year, World Revolution through World Law, included the “Manifesto of the Earth Federation.” This manifesto again shows in what way economics is only a component, indeed fundamental, of the paradigm-shift that is integral to people moving to the planetary level in their thinking and acting.
My 2008 book Ascent to Freedom begins (in its first three chapters) by bringing together many statements on the new holism discovered by scientists during the 20th century. The book goes on to apply this holism to the historical development of the concepts of world law and one world civilization. It shows, in the final chapters, in what ways the paradigm-shift necessarily includes economics but also transcends economics within the more inclusive framework of what needs to happen if we are to create a decent future for the Earth and its living creatures.
In Triumph of Civilization (2010), I consider economics within the context of the violence of the world system paradigm that includes both sovereign nation-states and globalized capitalism. Chapter 6 is about the “Violent Economics” of the current world system and Chapter 7 about the ways in which a non-violent economics would integrate into a non-violent planetary civilization. The concluding chapters present a number of very specific economic policies and principles necessary to a decent world within the concept of the larger planetary paradigm-shift that is necessary.
In The Anatomy of a Sustainable World (2013), I focus on sustainable economics, as articulated, for example, in Herman E. Daly’s Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development. The Anatomy of a Sustainable World draws on the fundamental economic insights that are integral to all the above named books and basic to a critically informed set of economic principles: first, production must be for use-values and not for the extraction of surplus value, second, costs must be calculated holistically in terms of our relationship to the environment, society, and future generations. This means that externalities can no longer be ignored in the economic calculations of production. The capitalist system to date has maximized private profit by externalizing the true costs of production onto society, the environment, and future generations.
Third, the ideology of perpetual growth is in contradiction with living on a finite planet with delicately interwoven ecological systems and limited natural resources. Economic development must become qualitative, rather than quantitative. Fourth, the perpetual framework of money scarcity and debt financing, enforced by the global privatized banking system, needs to be transformed into a public, debt-free system focused on empowering creativity and sustainable productivity while engendering reasonable economic equality.
None of these needed changes to the system can happen apart from the larger paradigm-shift from the early-modern paradigm of fragmentation to the newly understood holistic planetary paradigm. The world-system is an integral product of the early-modern paradigm and there can be no economic liberation outside the context of fundamental paradigm-shift to holism: cultural, political, economic, and civilizational.
As social scientists Boswell and Chase-Dunn affirm: “A system of sovereign states (i.e. with an overarching definition of sovereignty) is fundamental to the origins and reproduction of the capitalist world economy” (2000: 23). Social scientist Thomas R. Shannonconcludes: “The political power of the capitalist class reinforces the tendency for the state to support the national capitalist class. As a consequence of this interstate competition, the world system has been characterized by repeated wars and shifting military alliances” (1989: 35).
It avails little to talk about what might be the best economic system without recognizing that the liberation cannot happen without transformation of the entire world system from fragmentation to holism. This holistic transformation is concentrated and articulated in the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. The Anatomy of a Sustainable World goes into the economic arrangements provided by the Earth Constitution in some detail. But the more fundamental point should not be missed: it is the transformation itself, the uniting of the world under the holistic framework of the Earth Constitution that will be the key to an economics of universal prosperity and sustainability.
From this transformed paradigm everything else follows, including a transformed economics. Here is a list of some of the specific economic consequences that follow from ratification of the Earth Constitution:
- Global public, debt-free banking directed toward sustainable productivity of use-values for all people on Earth. This means that money is created by the Earth Federation and lent at low interest or interest free to any and all who have a sustainable productive project that can protect the environment, produce use-values, or engender new techniques or discoveries. Universal credit from debt-free public money is a public utility, a right of everyone on the Earth.
- One universal currency valued the same everywhere and one universal set of wage standards and corresponding limits on private profit legislated by law for the empowerment of global ecological and productive health and the common good of the Earth.
- All non-productive extractive activities (such as rent and interest) abolished or minimized along with all non-productive financial speculation. (In a recent interview posted at Information Clearinghouse, economist Michael Hudson points out that Marx and the classical economists were all in agreement that these non-productive activities served as a drag on both production and universal economic prosperity.)
- Income security for everyone, including quality health-care, education, accident insurance, food, housing, clean water and sanitation. (It has been repeatedly shown that these are relatively inexpensive and easily provided merely by converting the trillions of dollars now spent on militarism worldwide to these necessities of life.)
- Carefully monitoring of all the Earth’s ecosystems, productive activities, and technologies by agencies of the Integrative Complex to ensure integration of human activities with the ecological balances of our planet. (Just as there is no political freedom without the regulation of democratic laws, so there is no economic freedom without economic regulation in the service of the common welfare.)
- Cooperative and local enterprises legally empowered and promoted everywhere on Earth. The Provisional World Parliament has already taken steps in this direction with World Legislative Act 63: the Cooperative Communities Empowerment Act. (With their externalization of costs now forbidden by law, giant multinational corporations will not be able to complete with locally grown food and local cooperative production and will soon begin breaking up and divesting into ecologically sustainable, more cooperative enterprises.)
- Massive public works projects employing former military personnel and underemployed people worldwide in restoring the environment, planting trees, cleaning up pollution, and converting to solar and clean forms of energy. (The people of Earth want and need to be put to work, and there is plenty of valuable work that needs to be done. The absurdity of the present system is that it puts people out of work.)
It should be clear that none of these essential features of a liberated world economy is possible without the paradigm-shift to the unity in diversity of the Earth Constitution. On the other hand, all of these transformative innovations not only go together but would be relatively easy to implement by the World Parliament under the authority given to it by the Earth Constitution. Economics follows from this holistic paradigm-shift.
Economic speculation apart from the holistic transformation effected by the Earth Constitution is relatively futile because it puts the cart before the horse. Global capitalism and the system of sovereign nation-states form one integral world-system premised on false, early-modern paradigm assumptions. The Constitution transforms the whole world system to the holism of unity in diversity. And from this paradigm-shift, and from this alone, follows economic liberation.
Boswell and Chase-Dunn (2000). The Spiral of Capitalism and Socialism: Toward Global Democracy. Lynne Reinner Publisher.
Shannon, Thomas R. (1989). An Introduction to World-System Perspective. Westview Press.