Chapter 5 – Moving Towards Proposed Changes
revised/edited 11/2014, 12/2016, minor revisions 4/’17
5.0 and 5.1 Introductory remarks; Local and Global Actions added 11/2014, revised 12/2016, 6/2017
5.2 Issues in Economic Transition
5.3 Transforming Social and Political Institutions
5.4 Advancing Ethical Standards
5.5 Changing Legal Systems
5.6 Some Issues of Transition in Poor Regions and Areas with High Unemployment
5.0 and 5.1 Introductory remarks; Local and Global Actions added 11/2014, revised 12/2016, 6/2017
5.1.1 Principles in accomplishing changes last expanded/edited 10,11/2014, revised/edited 12/2016, 6/2017
5.1.2 Clarifying misconceptions regarding the economy and starting actions edited 11/’14, revised/edited 12/2016. 6/2017
5.1.3 Cooperation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and political movements minor revisions/editing 10/2014
5.1.4 Broad cooperation of progressive institutions and organizations editied 10/2014, 6/2017
5.1.5 Efforts to broadly apply natural ethics edited 10/2014, revised/edited 6/2017
5.1.6 International economic interactions and trade minor revisions/editing 10/2014, revised/edited 6/2017
5.1.7 Discrimination against women and girls minor revisions/editing 10/2014, 6/2017
5.1.8 Appendix, further considerations regarding changes added 10/2014
5.0.1 Introductory remarks added 2/2021
Since at least about 1980, it has become evident that climate change is a hazard that will affect many aspects of people’s lives and the world’s economies; however, only in the last few years have people become acutely aware of how real climate change is. There have been record temperatures globally and specifically in Siberia and Alaska, worldwide wild fires, intense storms, floods, etc.
Major changes are needed, starting immediately, but today’s economic systems creates major road blocks. Consequently addressing the economic institutions must be a first priority.
Equally problematic is people’s resistance to change. Even if stressed and unhappy, most people believe they would be even more discontented with less space, less ‘junk,’ less consumerism, healthier more plant-based nutrition, and less driving. Proposed emergency measures include working towards drastically changed transportation systems, and for the middle-class and wealthy smaller housing units, less heating and cooling and generally less luxuries.
A high-intensity education campaign must address the need to immediately start saving energy and address the widespread addiction to consumerism; less frequent but more dangerous are addiction to wealth and power and addiction to conspiracy theorizing. To save a resemblance of today’s planet, we do not have three decades to reach carbon neutrality.
There are conflicts between political philosophies of freedom (to enjoy oneself as one wishes) versus rational restrictions for the common good. There are also questions as to what enhances people’s happiness. We must consider: humans are very resilient and they readily adapt to major changes if a significant number of people consider the changes meaningful or necessary and when most are compelled to participate.
Modern economies have driven people to a way of living where many or most have difficulties managing their income and limited free time. While our gathering-hunting ancestors apparently strived to have egalitarian societies with much relaxed times, modern economies drove people to think about always being in some ways productive, to plan improvements, and to compete and compare themselves with neighbors and peers. When not busy, people often seek intense entertainment such as exciting movies, sports shows, video games, or virtual reality experiences. Advertisers work hard on convincing people that they “need” all modern luxuries to be happy, and most people fall for and internalize such beliefs.
Stress is often exacerbated due to debts. Many people live from pay check to pay check, but compared with their parents, they may have fancier cars, TVs, and devices, sometimes even more spacious and luxurious housing. Often a crisis point is needed for people to move into smaller, cozier and more practical housing units and they give up their continuous accumulation of goods.
In the not very distant past, people lived with much less ‘creature comfort,’ but most people remember the time as less hurried, less competitive, and that there was more personal communication and trust among neighbors.
Factors leading to happiness include meaningful activities that are productive, artistic, involve nature, and/or are social, without too much pressure, and without times of boredom. Nature, art, and caring relationships are main sources of pleasure. Also important are times of relaxation, meditation and contemplation. Modern people frequently feel rushed or bored; boredom usually consists in a sense of pressure to do something when everything feels too tiring or overwhelming. People experience much negative stress or anxiety, that is, anxiety that includes conflict rather than being positively exciting. In positive stress, people see what causes anxiety as positively challenging and meaningful. People may have to choose between multiple difficult options, but when having made a decision and working wholeheartedly towards a goal, anxieties, fears and pain are readily tolerated. People often seek positive stress, studying and seeking challenging work, in trips and expeditions, and when starting a family.
To be happy, we do not need a stable temperature, many entertainment options, specific foods and drinks we crave, and conveniences we often take for granted. Particularly when in groups, we may associate being cold, hot, hungry and thirsty with being in a happy state of mind, for instance on skiing trips, in a safari or on an expedition. People may choose to join the Peace Corps or volunteer for some time in a Third World country with a non-profit organization such as doctors without borders, or they may work in a large tree planting project; these decisions depend to a significant degree on peer influences and are little influenced by anticipated bodily comfort. Also, to reach their goal of a high material living standard, people still may choose to work in places where conditions are very uncomfortable.
Transitioning to living with minimal greenhouse gas production means driving cars much less while mostly using ultra-light electric and/or human powered vehicles and riding light rail trains; eating much less meat and experimenting more with vegetarian and vegan dishes from around the world; having less digital communication and more person-to-person contacts; working in less stressful jobs; living in smaller housing units, clothing more according to temperature, etc. As individuals and societies we must decrease consumerism, competitiveness, and addiction to wealth and power. People benefit from sharing more and using public facilities since they often feel isolated and miss opportunities to meet strangers and make friends.
5.0.2 Introductory remarks added 11/2014, revised 12/2016, minor revisions 4/2017, revised 12/2016,6/2017
Sciences and technologies are extremely advanced and progressing rapidly. Is there comparable progress in our economic systems, our governments and other institutions?
- Are central banks and treasury departments keeping the world financial system essentially stable, and fair?
- And are they promoting healthy economies?
- Does the world financial systems allow the dramatic, needed changes to halt catastrophic global warming?
- Are economists directing governments to create a stable economy that includes all people, improves human services and infrastructure, and deal with the climate emergency?
- Do business people, technicians and politicians know how to apply scientific insights and technological inventions for the good of people?
- Has the huge progress in sciences improved living conditions for the majority of people?
- Are the people and human rights a top priorities of business leaders and politicians?
- Are governments solving international conflicts peacefully and are they effectively alleviating and preventing large-scale suffering?
- Are people happier than one or two generations ago?
According to assessments from much anecdotal evidence, many governmental and private institutions perpetuate obsolete haphazard ways of doing business. They keep realizing innovations that are flawed and often lead to results that are much different from what was intended.
Economic systems are poorly understood and appear unmanageable. Modern economies include a large, powerful financial sector that manipulates resources, gambles with assets of savers, and, while making large profits, drives up costs for businesses and consumers without any benefits to the economy. Employer-employee relationships are largely guided by profit-driven management hierarchies and by false assumptions about efficiency, not by over-riding goals and not based on cooperation between all involved parties. Healthcare politics in the USA has been more about protecting profits and giving the appearance of highest quality than about people. Education systems are good for some but inadequate for many.
Governments are designed to fulfill functions that individuals and private enterprises cannot and/or should not fulfill. However, there is often so much mismanagement, mistrust, corruption and perverted incentives that in most countries, many governmental institutions are not very effective, not trusted and sometimes causing much harm. Democratic election systems work poorly, and elected and appointed officials are not appropriately monitored concerning competency and ethical decision-making, conflicts of interest usually being major problems.
While the U.S. financial sector recently (in the mid 2010s) took around 25% of all corporate profits, it moved from mostly lending to businesses into mostly trading commodities and securities, inventing ever more indirect, complex and risky “financial instruments.” The largest banks that were responsible for the 2008 financial crisis may now cause even worse dangers of a financial collapse. While it is now well known that the banking system is dangerous and a burden to the economy, there is no political will and no well-designed plan to properly regulate it. In many areas, politicians follow ideology and try to exploit momentary political advantages rather than considering scientific insights and attempting pragmatic problem solving; religion-related misconceptions, unsubstantiated tenets of ideologies, and opportunism often override rational and ethical decision-making based on the spirit of sensible laws and the pursuit of a long-term vision.
5.1.1 Principles in accomplishing changes last expanded/edited 10,11/2014, edited 12/2016, minor changes 6/2017
Several factors are important to reach major changes.
For individuals, factors leading to choosing change include:
- Finding goals that are positive, clear and realistic; and understanding that reaching the goals is principally possible.
- Emotions support the perceived relevance of the goals.
- There is a state of mind that is conducive and open to change; people finding emotional meaning in working towards the goals.
- Plans methods and ways to move towards the goals are developed.
For institutional changes, which may compel individuals to participate, societies primarily need:
- A critical number of people who have an intuitive sense of the present wrongs, are open to and enthusiastic about initiating changes, and have a perception that constructive changes are possible and timely.
- An understanding of what is principally wrong in the institutions (understanding that the tenets of many institutions are based on biases, obsolete notions, and a false belief that the status quo is justified by precedents; understanding that it is wrong to claim that today’s institutions are the “least bad” that is possible).
- Goals that are fairly detailed and positive; a model of different forms of organization based on new insights, values and priorities.
- Plans and ways of moving towards the goal, including extensive educational efforts and political movements, particularly broad, more or less coordinated grassroots movements.
Goals have to be positive for multiple reasons:
- The human mind is primarily motivated by and oriented towards positive goals.
- Negative causes do not contain a direction that orients and guides constructive actions.
- If negative motivations lead to change, results are likely to be temporary, possibly chaotic or catastrophic.
- Without a clear, positive image of alternatives, bad situations are usually seen as “normal”; naturally people usually fear changes and what may follow while the status quo is familiar and preferable.
Examples to explain principles:
In individuals, a conducive state of mind often consists in nonjudgmental contemplation, looking at many possible ways of behaving, feeling and thinking differently, and appreciating how adaptable and resilient the human mind is. Such a state of mind is often a consequence of major losses or hardships, when people are forced to assess new ways of moving on. Approaches to reach personal goals may include studying, detailed planning, practicing lifestyle changes, possibly imagery and artistic activities. Developing sensible routines and basic discipline may be a first step. Large goals need to be divided into small manageable steps.
Good health as a goal has to be positively defined: having a reasonably good body and mind that is utilized doing meaningful things, giving pleasure to self and others, having inherent resilience and strength, being able to help others, etc. Defining health negatively as absence of diagnosable disease and lack of pain is not helpful. (Actually human bodies and minds are far from perfect: evolution developed backs and knees that are very vulnerable to wear and injuries; reproduction seems unnecessarily dangerous and painful for women; most people are predisposed towards illnesses and emotional disorders in less than ideal situations; when following instincts, people tend to cause much unnecessary suffering to each other; cultures tend to invent dangerous and painful customs, and in most cultures there are beliefs and myths that cause much additional stress.)
In defining morality, negative directives, such as not to fight, lie or steal, are of limited value. Positive goals for ethical family may include teaching and practicing being honest, reliable, helpful, grateful and forgiving; being open to others’ thoughts and beliefs; being compassionately empathetic while avoiding “us-versus-them thinking”; practicing and teaching ways to resolve conflicts ; maintaining a calm and thoughtful attitude when negative emotions are triggered; and letting vindictive impulses dissipate rather than acting on them.
When planning to change a behavior, one may start by observing what is happening now, for instance self-monitoring smoking behavior; in addition, frequently taking time to think about positive motivation and their emotional significance; reviewing behaviors that can be changed at the same time to decrease triggers and habitual aspects of behavior, e.g. changing diet and going for a walk immediately after eating; frequently concentrating on relaxing hands, shoulders and face; strengthening motivation by telling others of plan to make specific changes and replacing self-defeating thoughts with thoughts related to the goal. When thinking of changing behaviors, making several changes at once is usually easier than one behavior at the time since bad behaviors tend to reinforce each other.
For institutional changes, an early stage towards change is reviewing the tenets, the traditional assumptions and the organization’s more or less hidden incentives and disincentives. Examples:
Democratic governance emphasizes self-governance: local officials are to represent the interests of a people. However, local officials have always conflicts of interests since they are part of some family, neighborhood, and professional group. Since they grew up in the local culture, they rarely see its most blatant faults, such as discrimination against groups and unhealthy and cruel traditions that may be illegal but broadly encouraged or condoned.
When recognizing the grave problems with the tenets of a civilization’s institutions, the next step appears obvious: designing a new model framework of constitutions, economic institutions, systems of taxation, legal systems, etc. while carefully paying attention to experiences in other cultures, historical and present, and considering research in many fields that relate to the understanding of human nature, human behavior and the human mind (biology, ethology, anthropology, history, psychology, including research outside main stream psychological teaching such as ‘happiness research’, brain research).
5.1.2 Clarifying misconceptions regarding the economy and starting actions revisions/editing 10,11//2014, 12/2016
Securities markets and the U.S. ‘financial sector of the economy’ are not the “least bad” possible ways of allocating capital. They are the cause of broad misallocation of resources and of major instability causing recessions and depressions. Since 2008, central banks (in the USA the Federal Reserve System), treasury departments and politicians have failed to rain in the dangerous securities gambling of most larger financial institutions and to shrink or break up the “too large to fail” financial institutions.
In an attempt to avoid a collapse of the present world-economic system1, people should withdraw all savings and investments from the large banks and move them to credit union and small, more ethically operated banks. Similarly, enterprises, particularly small businesses, should stop working with the largest banks. People must pressure politicians to re-introduce the complete separation of deposit banking and financial institutions that trade securities and commodities; politicians should regulate, limit and eventually forbid most derivatives and similar “financial instruments”; and we must demand high reserve requirements for all financial institutions while decreasing the borrowing by institutions. People should also demand that all securities transactions are taxed: a small sales or transaction tax would greatly slow down the large-scale stock market gambling, and it would tax the wealthy who benefit most from these destabilizing transactions.
Most important for long-term progress, both local and global action should first and foremost spread relevant information and ideas. Alternative models of economic systems may, initially, be more important than political, legal, and social institutions, since business interests and employees’ concerns about their future income tend to crush attempts of significant and systematic improvements. Education and dissemination of ideas must aggressively challenge widespread erroneous beliefs:
– The tenets of present economic-financial institutions are not the “least bad possible”; they can and should be changed.
– Free-market capitalism is not basic to democratic governance.
– The USA does not have the best or “least bad” legal-political system.
Regarding our economy, people should learn that:
– Interests and profits from investments are unethical; they have no constructive economic function; they represent a significant part of most production costs, driving up prices of goods and services; they transfer money from poor and middle-class to the wealthiest people.
– Governments can and should establish a stable money supply; the functional (circulating) money supply should not depend on lending activities of banks and other financial institutions.
– At least as a temporary measure, issuing local currencies may aid areas to economically develop without credit arrangements or government interference.
– Stable full employment without inflation is possible, and it is economically and socially desirable to include all people in meaningful economic functions. (Where automation and high efficiency reduces needed work by people, people may work fewer hours and employment should be created in projects to improve education and healthcare; care of children, elderly and disabled people; public transportation and other infrastructure; parks, projects to protect animals and the environment, etc.)
– Large corporations are hardly more efficient or otherwise preferable to small, locally owned enterprises; large corporations have many hidden costs, monetary and social.
– Globalizing the economy has limited advantages but many hidden long-term costs. Taxation should create disincentives and thus decrease damages caused by trade and production that is, in a broad sense, highly inefficient.
– Addiction-like pursuit of wealth, material assets and luxury, is harmful to concerned individuals, their families, society at large and future generations.
As people become more concerned about the virtual exclusion of a large part of humanity from the world economy and about the flow of money to the extremely wealthy, a significant part of the population may become ready to evaluate and support the pursuit of alternative economic institutions.
Much of what is shipped across oceans and continents could easily be produced locally. Transportation appears cheap but has major hidden costs: transportation causes greenhouse gases, requires publicly subsidized highways and may lead to major pollution and also to accidents. Counting human labor rather than dollars, much of globalization is very inefficient; in addition, health and safety of Third World workers are often ignored. Long-distance trade is primarily beneficial when one area has better conditions for production, e.g. a better climate for growing certain crops or ready availability of raw materials; generally producing goods were the resources are is more efficient than transporting bulky, heavy and/or easily spoiling resources for production in another continent (e.g. tomato sauce should be produced where tomatoes are grown; cheese and milk powder are best manufactured where fresh milk is produced). Factory workers in poor countries often work in unhealthy and sometimes inhumane conditions, and, more importantly, manufacturers are discouraged from producing goods and infrastructure for their own people. Third World countries did not improve their economies primarily because young women have been working for foreign factories, but because these women contribute to the money economy and bring money to the villages, rather than being forced to marry as young teenagers and bearing children the country cannot feed. Utilizing a local currency, poor people could work for each other, building better roads and houses, producing better food and clothing for the local markets and educating their children. Workers of foreign-owned companies earn ‘hard currency’ for their countries and enrich some local people, but much of the ‘hard currency’ is used to buy Western luxury products. As Third World economies develop, the demand for reasonable labor pay will grow and advantages to produce goods in poor countries will diminish. The economic benefits of cheap Third World labor will also decrease because high labor costs in Western countries will soon be partly offset with robotics.
Today’s financial institutions are very vulnerable with regard to any signs of instability: in recent years, ‘bubbles’ based on speculation with borrowed money have taken more and more complex and unpredictable forms; neither investors, brokers nor creators of the complex “financial instruments” understand them well enough to estimate the dangers they may create. In the “real economy,” the circulating money supp