Posted by Maria Khodorkovsky on October 15, 2008 “Like many words frequently used in matters of state and government, economy has its origins in Ancient Greece. Eco is a derivation of the Greek oikos, meaning an extended family unit. The oikos was run by the oldest male of the family, whose role it was to tend to agriculture and to ensure that all components of the family unit were running smoothly. Thus, eco now designates a broad, self-sustained unit, as in the terms ecology and ecosystem. The suffix –nomy is derived from the Greek nomos, meaning management, law, or principle. Thus oikonomos, the original form of economics, meant the management of the hearth and home.”
This presentation is intended to serve as an introduction to the knowledge and insight provided by Henry George in his book, Progress and Poverty: An Inquiry into the Cause of Industrial Depressions and of Increase of Want with Increase of Wealth: The Remedy, written in 1879.
While many people today overlook George’s work, believing his 19th century ideas about interest, rent, wage and capital are not relevant to our current global economy, ‘The Remedy’ that he is truly offering should be understood as a timeless, deep structural insight into the problem of limited human constructions of power.
In this presentation, you will hopefully gain greater understanding of the error in human perception that is perpetuated when individuals agree to participate in a society that organizes survival around the perpetuation of a highly-constructed and illusory, predatory, competitive political economy.
You will be able to differentiate the norms of morally-unregulated, non-reflective, individualistic human behavior within a political economy from the norms of a nurturing, mindful, relational human behavior within a renewed manifestation of an ecological economy.
This understanding will hopefully provide youth with preliminary tools for clear discernmentbetweenmodels of governance and education that perpetuate fundamental errors in human perception, leaving the people of the world unprotected from poverty, emotional and mental depression, and environmental degradation, and new, emerging models of governance and education that protect universal health, education and the arts, offering genuine progress for all humanity.
By the end of the presentation you will hopefully have insight to guide your reflection as an activist towards a much more penetrating and profound vision of structural change within the present day social order.
With the internalization of this prophetic vision, the individual is able to re-organize values, attention and perception and to restore the generative energies of youth… liberating a freedom of mind and movement that WILL unite and transform our world! The hope is that this preliminary presentation will provide you with the deepened insight and critical knowledge for discernment to inspire you to be a catalyst of profound social change.
BE A CATALYST OF DEEP STRUCTURAL SOCIAL CHANGE — from a message dated 8 January 2000 written by the Universal House of Justice to the Friends gathered at the Youth Congress in Paraguay “As this generation of youth assumes the responsibilities of conducting the affairs of society, it will encounter a landscape of bewildering contrast. On the one hand, the region can justly boast brilliant achievements in the intellectual, technological and economic spheres. On the other, it has failed to reduce widespread poverty or to avoid a rising sea of violence that threatens to submerge its peoples.Why– and the question needs to be asked plainly– has this society been impotent, despite its great wealth, to remove the injustices that are tearing its fiber apart? The answer to this question, as amply evidenced by decades of contentious history, cannot be found in political passion, conflicting expressions of class interest, or technical recipes. What is called for is a spiritual revival, as a prerequisite to the successful application of political, economic and technological instruments. But there is a need for a catalyst. Be assured that, in spite of your small numbers, you are the channels through which such a catalyst can be provided.”
“Our material civilization has reached a fruition point—a perfect state of imperfection so that its limitations may be recognized and we may progress with new self-awareness towards our next point of wholeness and fruition—the Great Peace. Our material ‘free’ world has culminated in a reverse totalitarian state where the liberties of the individual to organize their attention around the materially-constructed rewards of social survival and to pursue our own course of meaning-making actually block the rightful path of freedom for the human spirit to achieve its true happiness through malleable expression in world harmony.” – Julie MazzarellaGeredien, World Citizen Letter
In his book, Progress and Poverty, George addresses the massive integrative problem in our current system that creates a schism between the world of social body inner pain and poverty and the world of imagined ‘progress’ achieved by the commodification of scientific knowledge by the wealthy and educated elite.
All people participate in an inner schism until our social agreement aligns with universal principles of inter-participatory harmony and justice. When man relates to the physical reality without cohesive moral and spiritual sensitivity to inter-relationships and universal laws, he creates a schism in the social reality.
Although the continual uplifting presence of the human spirit persists– emerging as the unifying power within social justice movements, as sincere practice within faith traditions, as break-throughs in heart-felt human research, as well as in daily narratives, both quiet and dramatic, of human sacrifice and generosity– the dominant forces of materialism prevent these fruits of the larger, ennobling human story from reaching and ennobling the developmental trajectory of all people.
WORK ON THIS SLIDE on the schism– extremes and polarities We live in a spiritual desert …division of people into classes, fragmentation within learning and institutions, pain of social body unaddressed, where the conscience… work on this– scientist, artist educator as worker…insertion of false, human-constructed predators in the system– perpetuating old physiology of struggle and survival on the constructed, sociological level.
The majority of those dutifully maintaining the middle class status-quoin the dominant world culture feel socially coerced and obliged to oppress their vital life systems in conformity to the larger social system material agreements. They suffer from a host of stress-related ills, the most mundane and generally accepted of which include: back pain, depression, allergies, food cravings and addictions, as well as being held hostage to a family of negative or indifferent social emotions, intellectual frustration and anxiety,that develop when our social agreement is not supported by the primary biological and spiritual emotions of trust and caring.
George asks Why is our social reality so rife with ills? What is the error in our perception? If we directly address this error and clear our vision, we will clear our path to genuine progress and know the true spirit of humanity and wholeness to be always with us. Each day people will be released from the mundane prison of materially-centered reality to behold the light of their own natural capacity for determination, emotional courage, kindness, co-operation and creativity.
Our shared social reality is oppressive until the error of perception that George speaks of in Progress and Poverty is openly acknowledged and addressed.
George’s Insight for Us Henry George explains that at the root of all social injustice is a blurred conception of the word, ‘ownership’.
There is a difference between what can be owned and what cannot be owned. When people, through personal, corporate or institutional action, take exclusionary possession of what is meant to be a universally shared natural resource, the boundary between what we can rightfully own and what we cannot, has been crossed. The meaning of ownership becomes blurred. An ethic of ‘might is right’ begins to blunt our natural human sensitivities and without a conscious counter-system of awareness in place, we begin instinctually to harden our systems of attunement and empathy for fellow living creatures. We have the beginning of moral blindness– indifference to natural felt codes of fairness and reciprocity. This is the cause of social injustice and inequality.
We must develop a more discerning, moral comprehension of the concept of ownership. • What can an individual rightfully own? • What cannot be owned by any one individual? What is meant to be shared?
George writes that the ‘real and natural distinction’ we must make in order to discern ownership is between ‘things which are the product of labor and things which are the gratuitous offerings of nature.’ p. 337
Basically, George clarifies: • We OWN what we labor for. 2. We do NOT OWN the gratuitous bounty of Nature.
The current problem is that , right now, one word--‘PROPERTY’– is used to talk about ownership. Today, action constructs of ownership– buying and selling– have been created to shape the false perception that individuals can own and profit from the gratuitous bounties of nature– that they can grow wealth without laboring for it.
People can refer to individuals or companies OWNING land, OWNING natural resources, OWNING reservoirs of data, OWNING complex portfolios of stocks in businesses they have never heard of… In this blurred social agreement at the root cause of all injustice, all of the above can be referred to as private property, although none of the above represents the fruits of an individual’s honest labor.
Instead, it represents the idea, that through a human-made, legal construct of ownership, certain individuals can secure greater degrees of power for themselves relative to other people. Owners of this type of false property can then control the standard for the living conditions within the society. They set salaries and rents, and use knowledge to create products, patterns of life style and living conditions that set in motion cycles of stress and addiction that prevent individuals from accessing their interiority and that establish the false notion that it is possible for individuals in a class society to grow profit without personal labor. This construct of ownership is the source of all exploitation and oppression.
Let us look more carefully at the distinction between labor and a bounty of Nature. • What do we mean when we say ‘we own what we labor for?’ What is labor? What does labor give us that we rightfully own? • What do we mean when we say ‘we do not own the bounty of Nature?’ What is the bounty of Nature? What is offered to us through the bounty of nature and if it can’t be owned by any one person fairly, how can it be shared fairly?
First, let us look at labor. • LABOR Labor is the exertion of one’s own faculties. Labor is at the heart of ownership because it is the active expression of the integration of the individual. Labor embodies our right to direct our will and to organize the action of our mind, brain and body through conscious, personal effort. Because the individual purposefully puts forth personal effort and directs this process, she can be said to own the fruits of her own labor with integrity. George explains that ‘the fact that each particular pair of hands obey a particular brain and are related to a particular stomach; the fact that each man is a definite, coherent, independent whole…justifies individual ownership. As a man belongs to himself, so his labor when put in concrete form belongs to him.” Progress and Poverty, p. 334
If we only own what we create through labor, then we will need to refine our currently bloated definition of the word property. In restoring justice to the concept of ownership, we will be able to restore truth and accuracy to the meaning of the word property.
After reading and reflecting upon George’s clarification of the definition of property, I arrive at a deepened understanding of the essence of this word. The heart of this understanding is necessary for a new purity of thinking and bio-political shift in our whole concept of ownership: • The word property in the social world may realign conceptually with its original association with science and math. • Property, in the scientific and mathematical sense, refers to the distinct, integral nature or quality of an entity, such as of an element on the Periodic Table or of a mathematical operation. • A ‘property’ of an element or a mathematical law is a specific wholeness that can be claimed and owned through descriptive language because we are able to define its distinct parameters of being.
The metal element copper has properties that are distinct from the elemental salt, lithium. The commutative property describes one organizational mathematical truth, while the distributive property describes a separate, distinct truth. Properties are radically individual while remaining equal in regards to the virtue of their coherent descriptive functionality and integrity.
We achieve property through labor because labor produces a consolidation of the individual through effort and intention that is akin to the distinct inner integral structure of a mathematical or scientific property.
In order to establish a universal moral and spiritual value system centered in the heart of human feeling, it is important to distinguish that through honest labor we may be said to own two categories of property: 1. Outer World Property– Material, physical goods as property attained through labor When the requisite prior raw resources have been acquired without harming or causing imbalance to other living systems, we can fairly say that we physically own what we have created through the exertion of our own labor— the cabin that we build, the basket that we weave, the picture that we paint -- all are examples of the rightful property of the laborer, who may now justly offer this fruit of labor to a larger collective of people, and by doing so, participate actively in a living economy. The cabin, the basket, the picture-- are all the distinct result of the inner integration of intention and bodily effort put forth by the particular individual or individuals who labored in the creation. In this basic sphere of individual and small group material, creative endeavor, it is evident that if a person did not participate in the exertion of labor entailed, he cannot rightfully claim as property what has manifested as the result of that labor.
Inner World Property– moral, emotional, intellectual and spiritual cohesive development of self as ’proper’ Property of Character attained through labor We own the fruits of our interior landscape when we labor. We are radically free to enjoy our own states of being when we cultivate ourselves through intentional, integrative efforts. our emotional ground of being when we have done good work that serves a good cause, the inner networking of our brain when we have organized our skills dynamically around a higher principle, Our beneficial habits of mind and developed capacities for attention, reasoning, imagination and ethical well-being when we have engaged our own faculties creatively for the benefit of the world, are in a sense, gifts of recompense to us in return for our purposeful actions, our labors of love in the world
We rightfully own the inner capacities of our heart and mind that we have labored to develop. • Quotes Abe Lincoln– when I do good, I feel good…
Through labors of education and practice, we come to OWN our capacity to think critically and compassionately, to develop life-long skills of mindfulness and creativity, and capacities to know happiness through offering our service, and feeling it joyfully benefitting the world.
The virtues we acquire through devoted effort may rightfully be considered personal properties. They are dynamic structures and sub-structures that create within us consistent strongholds of skills, and of life-affirming cognitive and emotional dispositions, and that allow us to attain an inner stability of traits that grant us ownership of the inner property of trustworthiness.
The fourth Tarázconcernethtrustworthiness. Verily it is the door of security for all that dwell on earth and a token of glory on the part of the All-Merciful. He who partaketh thereof hath indeed partaken of the treasures of wealth and prosperity. Trustworthiness is the greatest portal leading unto the tranquility and security of the people. In truth the stability of every affair hath depended and doth depend upon it. All the domains of power, of grandeur and of wealth are illumined by its light. fromTarazát (Ornaments), Bahá’u’lláh, the Bahá’i Faith
Review— • Through labor we are able to own both the inner and outer fruits of our efforts.
In contrast, we do not OWN what we have not labored for. Gratuitous bounties of Nature are fruits that emerge from dynamic creative processes in creation. Because we only OWN what we LABOR for, no one can claim to OWN gratuitous bounties of Nature. There are two types of resources in this category that no one individual or group of individuals can own and that must be shared fairly, because no ONE individual or ONE isolated group of people has LABORED for it. The two categories of gratuitous bounties of Nature are: • The literal, physical, natural resources of the land. • Thecollective mental power that emerges from many individuals working together in relationship. This power can be new knowledge or creative resources that bring into fruition new cognitive capacities of the human mind that are beneficial for human optimal development when applied with proper education.
Let us investigate together why these two categories of resources CANNOT be owned. • Why no one can person can own the LAND No one grows a tree through their own effort. No one labors to make berries spring forth from bushes or makes the water flow…no one forms the rocks and minerals that can be used for tools, or spends countless years converting old leaves to coal. No one makes the sun shine or the rain drops fall to keep life nourished and growing. No human being can rightfully claim to OWN land, water, air or the life within it, because no one can honestly say that they labor for it. We participate in it.
George states this understanding for us clearly: ‘The essential character’ of the natural resources of the land is that “they do not embody labor, and exist irrespective of human exertion and irrespective of man; they are the field or environment in which man finds himself; the storehouse from which his needs must be supplied, the raw material upon which and the forces with which alone his labor can act.” George p. 337-338
Further explanation- Why no one can person can own the LAND These resources are meant to be shared. They are the gifts and bounties of Nature. This has been the first natural impression of all peoples. This is natural law. The integrative, individualizing reality of PROPERTY, as we have discussed, can only be attained through the integrative, individualizing action of human exertion upon resources that are themselves not unjustly confiscated and manipulated as personal possession for creating unjust profit.
George explains the justice of equality and non-ownership in this natural, biological law: “If we are all here by the equal permission of the Creator, we are all here with an equal title to the enjoyment of his bounty– with an equal right to the use of all that nature so impartially offers… There is in nature no such thing as a fee simple in land.There is on earth no power which can rightfully make a grant of exclusive ownership in land…Have we made the earth, that we should determine the rights of those who after us shall tenant it in their turn?” George p.
Why no one person or group can own knowledge that arises from COLLECTIVE MENTAL POWER Each person has been given innate core faculties such as memory, attention, imagination. These are our INNER bounties from Nature. We do not LABOR for these innate faculties. We are born with them. Understanding this allows us to engage our creative capacities with the necessary detachment and humility required for self-awareness that protects our mental equilibrium.
The development of all human skills also calls upon deeper universal principles of inter-relationship, harmony and flow that are likewise bountiful expressions of creative self-organizing capacities within Nature. The integrative power of these principles play a far more essential role in skill emergence than an individual’s effortful exertion of labor.
For example, we do not CREATE our imagination. It is a gift within us that we DISCOVER. If we relate to our imagination through the mistaken paradigm of OWNERSHIP, we create with a sense of entitlement and greed, and, in a self-involved, limited state of mind, design fanciful ways to increase our own advantage, personal power and false profit. These creations have harm and injustice embedded in them because they seek to attain for the self rather than to share universal health and benefit. If we relate to our imagination through the rightful paradigm of RADICAL ACCEPTANCE and RESPONSIBLE STEWARDSHIP, then we open the door to create with a sense of gratitude and respect for the mystery of the creative bounties of Nature within us. We apply the ethical principles of high reason and engage ALL of our emotionally-based critical thinking capacities to create what is most beneficial for all humanity, that which only helps optimally and does not harm.
When a person or group identifies their personal power with the emergent, creative power of their collective faculties through the mistaken paradigm of OWNERSHIP, harm, distortion of reality, oppression of vital knowledge and imbalances of the mind pollute the social culture.
In contrast, when people sincerely engage their mental capacities as accepting and responsible stewards, they participate in the mysterious and beautiful powers and bestowals of our mind. • Their discoveries represent moments of insight and gift. They reveal a participation in a much greater reality. Human discoveries of genuine inter-relationship are rightfully intended to benefit all humanity– not just one group or category of select people.
The bounties of these emergent gifts can be considered like the natural gratuitous bounties within Nature. They require human interaction to emerge-- however, no one human being or group owns this bounty that comes forth from human collaboration.
Further explanation--Why no one person or group can own COLLECTIVE POWER A deepened biological and spiritual appreciation of the emergence of collective power is necessary to raise our level of self-awareness and to prevent oppression caused by false identification and ownership of this collective power.