Discover LIFE

In the never ending quest to make the principles and ideas behind LIFE accessible to a wider audience we have produced an new iBook called “Discover LIFE”.

Understanding who we are requires that we can reach beyond our personal perception of the world to see ourselves as a species.

Who are humans?

How did we get here?

What makes us tick?

These are the important questions we must be able to answer first, before we can embark on our journey to find out what works for us.

With sound and compassionate understanding of our inherited natures, we will be on the road to developing effective new models around which the peoples of the world can organise themselves.

The book is available in the animated iBook format for Apple devices and computers here. Most graphics are clickable for more detail – it’s fun, try it out. Open in iBooks when prompted.

And a PDF Hi-Res version (30Mb) is here and a Low-Res (7Mb) version is here.

Please post your comments and suggestions below, or email them to info@uklife.org, that would be greatly appreciated

Many thanks!

The Path to a Future: Flat Sharing

For my entire working life the conventional wisdom seems to have been that only a mug would pay their full share of taxes, and that it was every citizen’s duty to reduce their responsibilities in this area to a minimum. Those who succeeded in paying the least amount of taxes have generally been lauded as heroes.

Continue reading “The Path to a Future: Flat Sharing”

#OCCUPY the Ballot Box

The conundrum of the Occupy movement’s “missing list of demands” is the key to understanding what has to be done.

Protest in a democracy represents a conundrum. Do we want change or do we want to complain?

Who doesn’t realize that our modern world is not serving the majority of us? Probably not even 1% – do you know anyone? We all know the banks have gotten away with theft. We all know politics has been, and is being further, corrupted by money. It’s not difficult to understand that burning millions of barrels of oil into the air every day and dumping tons of man-made chemicals into our waters is affecting our environment detrimentally. Let’s not do ourselves a diservice: we all know that “things ain’t right, and something’s gotta change”.

Our predicament is not in dispute. The solution is.

The fundamental obstacle to a solution is complexity. The reality of our modern world is that it is complex: the banking system is complex, sovereign accounting is complex, the interdependencies of our environment are complex. To understand why writing down half the value of some debts in one of the smallest economies in the modern world could affect the political stability of the largest country in the world is complex; to understand why the largest country can’t just step in a fix that problem is even more complex.

There’s a perfectly natural resistance in the Occupy movement to adopting a “simple set of demands” because, consciously and unconsciously, we all understand that our predicament will not yield to a simple solution or short list of demands. Matt Taibbi, one of the most dogged and brilliant journalists on the financial beat, recognizes this even as he offers a short list of key changes that could be made to address the specific problems resulting from casino capitalism in our overweight financial sector; but, good as his list is, it does not address why we have an overweight financial sector in the first place.

The Occupy movement is a protest movement. It takes its name and its inspiration of the occupation strategy employed by the revolutionaries in Egypt this spring, and it is stirring the wider public to more open consideration of changes that seemed inconceivable only a few years ago. But the difference is that the Egyptians were revolting against a dictatorship and they could coalesce around the simple demand that the dictator be removed; in contrast the Occupy movement is almost exclusively active in wealthy democracies, and cannot reasonably demand the removal of a government chosen by the people a few years ago and available for replacement in a few years time.

The lack of a simple set of demands is not a purposeful tactic of the Occupy movement, it is the manifestation of an understanding that the problems are more complex than a simple list could address. Housing, healthcare, tax policy, the environment, social security, employment and inequality are all prevalent issues expressed in the Occupy protests, and such a broad agenda does not lend itself to a simple list of demands. The protestors can point to the simple manifestations of the problems in their lives, but they also know that any real solutions are going to be complex.

To move forward we need to remember that what appears as complex is in fact just lots of simple things seen at once. And while you cannot solve a complex problem with a simple solution, you can solve a thousand simple problems with a thousand simple solutions. This is the key to system change: it’s not one big solution, it’s a million small solutions.

Self-evidently: every aspect of human society has been created by us, and so it can be re-created by us. But we did not arrive here in one stroke, we are where we are as a result of the culmination of millions of small and simple decisions taken by people like us. When democracy arose it was the next vital step in enabling the broadest possible collective application of decision making to complex problems; and it lies before us now with the same urgent potential that drove its early advocates with such zeal. The short list of demands can be replaced with one: “Occupy the Ballot Box!”

We do not need anyone’s permission, we are not dependent on anyone else’s favors or attention – we are the ones who can bring about the changes we need, one decision at a time. We already have what the Egyptians in Tahrir Square died for: the right to select our own government.

If you support the Occupy protests you must take the next decision and vote for real change. If there’s no one to vote for, you must stand for change yourself – you don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to know it all, you just have to care enough to be one of a million decision makers who will contribute to the long list of solutions. If you want to stand for election but need a broad platform that fills in and addresses the complex issues raised in the Occupy protests, take what you want from the Standards of LIFE and make it your own. We will vote with you, we will stand with you and we will bring change to our world together.

The Path to A Future: The Indian Highway problem.

I was sitting in the waiting room of a garage the other day with my son, while I scribbled notes for this book. I reached the end of a section and, looking for inspiration, I turned to him and asked him what problem in the world he thought we should think about next.

“The Indian highways.” was his response.

We had just returned from a three week tour around India and obviously the many hours we spent dodging death as we traveled the roads, at one end of the country to the other, had left an impression on him.

At first I simply threw up my hands and said that I didn’t think that was truly a solvable problem. Then I remembered that there isn’t a problem we’ve created that we can’t also have a solution for.

During our vacation we had traveled by car along a section of India’s new “National Highway” and

encountered the normal array of miscellaneous traffic from pedestrians, to ox carts, to huge over laden Tata trucks. But what made this particularly incongruous was that this was a toll road, and for at least a mile either side of the tollbooths there were fences to prevent the entrance of non-vehicular traffic. In remembering this, it struck me that if you build a highway through an area that has no paved local roads, this was bound to happen; people will find a way onto the highway. So the answer is that you have to build local roads for local traffic, first.

“Local roads first.”

An interesting analogy for building The Path to a Future, eh?


Part 20 in the serialization of the The Path to A Future. Real security. A new section will be posted every 2 weeks during 2011. Enjoy! If you want to get a free PDF of the book go to www.standardsoflife.org/thepathtoafuture.

More money is not the answer

We need to occupy our communities and demand less money, rather than occupying corporate spaces and demand more money.

More money for banks. More money for governments. More money for small businesses. More money for social services. More money for everything – who could disagree with that!?

Apparently the US and the UK are so short of money that their central bankers have had to print trillions more just to keep the wheel of society turning. Banks whose capital base consists of nothing more than bits of paper have apparently run out of the ability to write more bits of paper and now need others to print paper for them. Whole nations that voluntarily gave up the right to print their own pieces of paper are apparently on the brink of collapse without someone else lending them more bits of paper.

This situation is evidently insane. The problem is NOT too little money! The problem is TOO MUCH MONEY!

We talk of not being able to provide for our old age security without money… horse shit! You’ll only need money if no one else will help you. We talk of unemployment, when there is evidently so much basic work to be done around us building and maintaining and improving our communities. We have come to conceptualize ourselves as living in a world of individual separateness in which transactions can only occur when greased by the flow of printed pieces of paper. But this concept does not withstand even the merest scrutiny, in fact it requires deliberate denial all the time. We all know that we are people, living with others and largely dependent on each other to get through any single day. We are dependent on each others good graces, compassion, empathy and generosity – even for the most basic restraint of not running us down with their car in the carpark!

We have not run out of money, we have just run out the capacity for money to substitute for reality.

The frail reality of the theater set we have built to act out our life-play in is upon us. Soon it must surely become too obvious to ignore: neither we, nor our world, are built from money. We are flesh and bone progeny of the earth beneath our feet, and “our world” is but a social construct designed by us to support our huge number.

Money has a role, an important role, but it is just a role in the wider context of our society. Enterprise is a natural aspect of human society, and business is a good thing. But lack of money and lack of economic activity are not what ails us – there isn’t enough money in all the world to fix our social disconnectedness. Money cannot be used to pay for everything, it is an instrument for the exchange of surplus value and if we try to use it as a substitute for the value of life it loses its value, and its role collapses. This is the lesson of our times: we must learn to see the reality of our mutual interdependence and lose the illusion of separateness that our plunge into industrial capitalism pulled over our eyes.

We need to occupy our communities and demand less money, rather than occupying corporate spaces to demand more money. When we start giving ourselves the right to live in the reality we are already in we will not need to protest others to give us permission.

The Path to A Future: Politicians!

Politics has become a dirty word, and politicians the definition of an untrustworthy profession. It’s not hard to see why, from blatant corruption to obvious incompetence the world is littered with good reasons to distrust anyone linked with politics.

Yet everywhere we still yearn for effective action, and nowhere more so than in the political arena. We don’t envy anyone the job; either because it is dangerous, or futile, or thankless, or all of those.

Being the chosen representative of your peers in the affairs of state should be an honorable and respectable position, a job that our best and brightest aspire to hold. We need to make being a politician a respected role, if we are to attract the quality leadership that we will need to guide us down The Path.

A politician is a representative of the people, selected to provide executive leadership of the government apparatus and civilian leadership of our societies. This is one of the most important roles that anyone can serve in our society. We not only want, we really need people of character, ability and integrity to provide leadership for our societies in this time.

If we are going to make being a politician a truly meaningful job that garners the best candidates from our constituency, and which commands our respect and trust, what do we expect that job to look like?

Here are some elements of what a political job description should include:

  • First and foremost, it has to be a position that allows the holder to get things done, to change what has to be changed and align the priorities of the government with the needs of the people. A politician has to have sufficient power and freedom to make decisions, and hold the civil service responsible for enacting those decisions.
  • They need the support of a legal framework that describes the extent and the limits of their authority clearly, so that they can be held responsible for that which they are responsible for, and not for what they’re not. A framework that also frees citizens to be responsible for their own actions, as partners in the process.
  • We want politicians to be dealmakers, but not consummate dealmakers. We want people who can put a manifesto in front of the electorate, and then go and get it done. Preferably with the support of as many as possible, but where a majority is a mandate.
  • They need to be paid well. Well enough to be comfortable, and well enough to make holding the job a reasonable prospect compared to other leadership positions in a constituency. Well enough to want to hold on to the job without other income or taking bribes, but not so well that they can afford to pay bribes!

In summary, a politician should be a leader, with the weight of their popular support behind their executive decisionmaking, operating in a clear and supporting legal framework, with sufficient pay and administrative support to allow them to focus on being the best representative of their peers that they can be.

Creating that is going to mean changing the political system. These changes are entirely possible in a democracy, and you quite probably live in one. They just require that you, the voter, demand them.

Let’s look at some of the attributes of a political system that will attract the kind of candidates that you would be proud to call your representative. Below are some of the facets of such a system, the kind of super-democracy discussed earlier in this book and laid out in detail in the Standards of LIFE.

Representative Mandate

In a super-democracy, a representative actually has the decision-making power of the voters that support them. A representative who wins 60% of the vote can get things done without the support of another who won 10% of the vote. At the same time, our representatives need to represent us in all our dimensions and diversity. To resolve these two requirements we need an assembly for each constituency in which all voters in a constituency vote for the same slate of candidates, and the elected representatives vote in their assembly with the weight of the share of the vote they received.

For instance, in a state election, everyone in the state votes for the exact same candidates; no subdivisions, no geographic areas and no sub-constituencies. One constituency and one list of candidates that everyone votes from. When all the votes are added up, the candidates with the most votes occupy the available seats in the assembly. But when the assembly votes, each representative votes with the full weight of the number of voters that supported them in the election.

Framework

Politics has to operate within a legal framework where the rule of law is paramount. The law protects the people and describes the limits of the power of the politicians. Part of this framework is a requirement for transparency, which is essential to restraining corruption and keeping the citizenry informed. This is what a constitution is for.

Aspects of a helpful constitution include:

  • A legal structure that accords each layer of government with the authority for their particular constituency. Power needs to originate close to the voter in local government, and only be promoted to regional and state layers by choice. This system allows for differences and provides harmonization. It uses a legal system called Variable Law, which allows for the promotion, and retrieval, of aspects of law between layers of government.
  • Election to office must be open to all citizens who wish to be candidates, and must provide equal access to mass media for all of them.
  • No presidents, no upper chambers or lower houses. Just one assembly for each constituency, full of elected representatives voting with the power of their direct electoral support.
  • No term limits: if someone’s good at their job and retains the trust of their peers and wants to carry on, they should be able to. (Obviously subject to fair-access election system, see above.)
  • No constitutional recognition of political parties. People are free to organize, join and support parties, but individuals are elected irrespective and independent of their party affiliations.
  • The assembly needs to be the highest authority in the land, under the Constitution. All civil and military services must report to, and be subservient to, the assembly. All management positions of those services that report directly to the assembly should serve at the will of the assembly, who may appoint replacements as they see fit.
  • Public funding of mass media access for campaigning to control the influence of money on elections and politicians.
  • No funds from outside the constituency or corporations.

Compensation

  • All representatives should be equally compensated and their pay should be proportional to the income of their constituency – something between 5 and 10 times the average income of their constituents would be about right. This links the personal interests of the politician directly to the interest of the majority of their constituents.
  • Administrative support and expense should be provided to each representative. It is in everyone’s interest that they are well-informed, able to order research and provided sufficient support that allows them to focus on the decisions.

A political system built on these principles, and working within this kind of framework, would be a lot more responsive and responsible to its voters, and would attract candidates who have the desire and ability to effect change.

If we can couple these changes to the job description for a politician with election campaign funding reform, will lay the foundation for the quality decision making that is so vital to our progress through the difficult times ahead.

Not only can we make politics a clean word again, we must. The changes we need to make to our societies and economies require quality leadership in our democratic systems. We need systemic change, and that means changing our system of representation.


A full description of how “super-democracy” is structured can be found at: http://www.StandardsofLIFE.org/Representation.
The full text of the current LIFE Constitutional template can be found at: http://www.StandardsofLIFE.org/Constitutional+Template.

Part 17 in the serialization of the The Path to A Future.
A new section will be posted every 2 weeks during 2011. Enjoy!
To get a free PDF of the book go to www.standardsoflife.org/thepathtoafuture.

The Path to A Future: Economics 001

The economy, and implicitly the development of wealth, is a core issue that too often suffocates the debate about our options for change. Many of us come to the table with assumptions about the relationship between wealth and prosperity. We need to reevaluate these assumptions if we are to develop solutions to our problems. In this section we will revisit the basic constructs of economics and wealth creation, to make sure we are operating from a realistic and accurate foundation when we formulate the framework for our economies.

The typical policy debate today is about the balance between the social ills of the free market, and economic ills of a state-controlled economy. This suggests a built-in assumption that we must compromise our social security to let markets be free.

Why is that true? Why is it that market freedom is a function of social insecurity? What is it about economic theory that stipulates a need for the population to be prepared to pay a piece of their personal freedom, in order to get to a piece of the market freedom pie? The conventional answer to this is that the labor force needs an incentive to work, and that sometimes the appropriate incentive is survival. Apparently, without the threat of destitution, people will not take the jobs on offer in a free market!

Which leads to the next question: why would a free market create work that only those threatened with starvation would want to perform?

Oh I see, a free market doesn’t necessarily create undesirable jobs, it’s just that the free market rewards low cost, and low cost means work and reward conditions that only the potentially destitute would agree to work in.

Right?

This cyclical assumption that low cost requires undesirable work, which demands an insecure workforce, is fairly deeply embedded in our current cultural psychology, especially in the West. In fact it isn’t really challenged, because it is so widely held and so subtly integrated.

As I will show, the opposite is actually true. Secure populations, working voluntarily in jobs of their choosing, is the most productive economic model available. The “market” is not a policy model, it’s only a mechanism; it is no more an economic, or political, model than the explosion in a cylinder is a car.

Our desired outcome is prosperity. That is the destination everyone understands we are aiming for; everything else is just a means of achieving prosperity. The free market is not the destination, any more than collective bargaining is. So the first link to unhinge in our minds is that the “free market” is what we need. Keep your eyes on the prize: prosperity.

The “market” is a set of mechanisms that naturally directs resources to meet needs. While its principles are simple, in operation it accommodates a bewildering array of inputs, influences and outcomes. It’s like our brains: we know the principles on which they work, but that doesn’t mean we know how to work them.

Cost is a significant input to market mechanisms. When all else is equal, cost drives decisions to the most efficient outcome; that is the raison d’être of the market. But we should note that, almost always, cost is the last criteria in the decision tree; the item has to be fit for purpose first, and affordable second.

What about trade? Within a given market, does the locality need to be the lowest cost producer of the good or service? If trade is possible the answer is no, because if equal and lower cost items are available through trade, then trade will fill the need. Unless… unless the item is so vital to the survival of the population or the basic functioning of the society, that a breakdown of trade, for any reason, would be a strategic threat to everyone. There are certain items that are so strategically important that higher cost is not a barrier to local production, and the market must necessarily be modified in order to accommodate the higher priced, locally secured items.

This leads us to an important place on our journey and we would do well to stop and clearly annunciate our conclusions:

  • The market is a great system for almost everything.
  • The market is not an appropriate mechanism for the most important things.

Whoa! How did we get here? I’m a freemarket capitalist and I’ve been around for a while so I know a thing or two about the world I live in, and this doesn’t sound right at all! I’m going to have to go back and read those last few pages again. You’ve used some crazy commie logic to trap me into believing that the free market won’t solve these problems. Wait here while I reread.

Okay, back again. Well, um, I can’t see where I could disagree. It’s not like it’s complicated, right? There’s just some stuff in the world that’s too important to outsource. I can see that.

Thanks.

Now the other news: if there is no strategic imperative, there’s no reason to interfere in markets. This is where some get caught up in a different false linkage: they think that we can intervene in markets to make them produce social welfare and justice. In fact, the basic social welfare of our societies is not an output of markets. Markets do not have “well-being” as an output in any of their functional logic. Markets efficiently direct resources to fill the needs of consumers, that is all they do. The welfare of society and our quality of life have to be outputs of human endeavor, they are a function of choice. We do not have to choose the common good or a high quality of life, and we certainly won’t get either if we wait for markets to deliver them.

Let’s be fair to markets while we’re here: they don’t know how to benefit society, and it’s extremely unfair to ask them to do so. Markets, especially those catalyzed by modern banking systems, are good at creating wealth; but wealth is not the same as prosperity. Prosperity is a mixture of wealth, peace and freedom that delivers a high standard of life. So if we want prosperity, we have to mix the output of markets, with the output of our choices to promote peace and freedom.

When we can clearly see these distinctions, and the properly differentiated roles for economics and politics, we can formulate more coherent policies that are more likely to deliver our intended outcomes.

Economic policy should concern itself with:

  • the maintenance of markets
  • the management of the monetary system
  • the administration of strategic resources

Political and social policy should focus on:

  • the cessation of hostilities
  • the protection of liberty
  • the general welfare of society

Let’s look at each of these policy areas in turn, so that we may more clearly demarcate their boundaries. Once we have separated them in our minds, we will be better able to act in the right places to produce our desired results.

Economic Policy

The maintenance of markets involves trying to ensure that they function as freely as possible by correcting naturally occurring defects as much as is possible. The two most common defects in market function are the imperfect distribution of information and the exclusion of external costs.

  • Making as much information as possible available to consumers, with the lowest barriers to acquisition, is the best we can hope for; you can take a consumer to information, but you can’t make them know.
  • External costs, “externalities” in official parlance, are those costs that can be directly attributed to the lifecycle of a product or service, but for which there is no one to demand payment during that lifecycle. Nature is a good example of a non-payment-demanding party to many transactions. When these externalities are recognized, the proper maintenance of market function requires that these costs are imposed on behalf of the non-paymentdemanders, usually in the form of some kind of tax, duty or other loading of the item’s cost profile.

The management of the monetary system is primarily about preserving the value of the currency. Given that there is no real basis of tangible value in a modern currency unit, it is important that the quantity of money in circulation be managed in line with the output of the economy. Furthermore it is essential that the banking system charged with the care of private deposits, debts and equity be regulated for stability. Modern economies based on monetary systems require a trusted banking function in order to operate, and so the maintenance of that system’s stability is paramount. (Banking is entirely different than investment management, which is not really a banking function at all, and should be kept separate from banking. In fact, the term ‘investment bank’ should be abolished.)

The third leg of economic policy is the administration of strategic resources. As discussed earlier, there are resources that are so important to the sustenance of a society that trade cannot be relied on for their procurement and distribution. These resources must be identified and their supply purposefully managed, such that their availability is as guaranteed as it is possible to achieve. Chief amongst these resources are shelter, food, healthcare, education, transport, energy, information and the legal infrastructure of democracy (the same services that form super-security). In most situations only a subset of the total market for each of these resources is strategic, and only that subset need be the subject of public policy. For example, the availability of clean drinking water is a matter for public policy but this does not need to extend to the bottled water market. Similarly the provisioning of primary health care as a public service, does not preclude the availability of specialized procedures in the private market.

Those are the elements of economic policy and maybe you’ve noticed certain absences that you might normally expect to be part of contemporary policy portfolios. Before going further, let’s do a quick review of the complementary political policies that accompany our economic policies, to shed some light on those absences.

Political Policy

We have said already that political policy should concern itself with the establishment of peace, the protection of freedom and the provision of welfare. As regards the economy, the establishment of peace and the rule of law are precursors to enterprise and trade. The freedom of the people is necessary for proper market function, the development of business and the fostering of innovation. Indeed, the freedom to choose and the freedom to fail are essential to the fluidity and effectiveness of market mechanisms.

The provision of public welfare is commonly understood to be the primary function of government, but the policy framework to deliver effective results has eluded most, if not all, to date. Public welfare policy has been colored by our history and has yet to free itself from the shackles of our legacy perspective. During the last century or so we have developed levels of efficiency and productivity that have created the capacity to provide universal welfare. The capability of the population to sustain itself, without reliance on the grandesse of a ruling elite or the magnanimity of magnates, means that we can truly deliver the bare necessities of life to all, at a reasonable cost to all.

The cost of universal shelter, sustenance, healthcare, education, transport, information and democratic freedom is about one third of the total output of modern economies. That’s right, for about 30 cents on the dollar we can afford basic housing, a healthy diet, primary health care, reasonable education, local public transport and universal digital information access for everyone. Not everyone is going to want or need every service, but if they did, we can afford to provide them today; with the same tax rates we are already paying.

So why aren’t we doing it? The primary reason goes back to the starting premise of this section: the idea that the provision of such welfare would fatally undermine the economy, the very system that produces the wealth that makes it all possible. And we’re back to the same logic we questioned at the start. Do we believe that the motivation to work, to innovate and to be more productive will disappear if we aren’t afraid of starving to death in the gutter? This is not reality. It misunderstands human nature, and the meaning of “welfare”.

Human nature is full of aspiration; that is what has driven our development over time. Once we have filled our bellies we desire taste; once we have rested we desire comfort; once we have seen color we desire lights and once we are satisfied we wish to contribute. The religions of the world are the ultimate examples of our capacity for aspiration, far beyond the mundane practicalities of life. Providing a roof, a bed and a bowl of soup does not satisfy the aspirations of anyone. Would it satisfy you? Wouldn’t you still want to see a movie, eat some chocolate or wear different clothes? Perhaps you’d rather own a mountain bike, become a photographer or grow some vegetables? To believe that providing the bare necessities of life to someone will blunt their motivation and dull their aspirations, is to negate what you know about yourself. It’s simply not a reality, not of anyone, anywhere.

So what should public “welfare” policy actually provide? The policy should aim to satisfy a basic, mutual social contract between neighbors: that no matter what fortune befalls you, you will have the bare necessities of life, and as much opportunity to make the most of your life as can be afforded. Viewed in this light, welfare policy is not a benefit that anyone is entitled to, it is a service delivered to the best of their neighbor’s ability.

Public welfare policy is really about delivering personal security and opportunity. As such it does not involve the transfer of payments, instead it delivers services that fulfill the social contract. Housing is made available to provide secure shelter, food sufficient to maintain health and medical services as can be afforded for all. Think of them as services, not dependent on the largess of some individual or group, but provided universally, as a birth right of citizenship. No cash, no luxuries and only what can be universally afforded from a reasonable tax.

Now start to imagine the impact of such a public welfare system on the economic system. No need for a minimum wage. Everyone has their basic sustenance taken care of, so they are free to provide or pay for labor at whatever rate they choose. On almost every level required for a flourishing market economy the situation is improved: workforce mobility, propensity for risk, innovation capacity, skills development, productivity, confidence and satisfaction. The implementation of universal personal security will have a dramatically beneficial impact on economic output, at the same time that it enables “low cost” production.

Because delivering universal services frees labor to be priced according to its marginal value added, the “cost” of labor throughout the economy is significantly reduced, especially at the lower skill levels. This in turn, has the knock on effect of reducing the nominal cost of delivering the universal services themselves, because a high proportion of the cost of delivering those services is labor related. In effect, providing universal services reduces the cost of delivering those same services.

A fundamental and progressive effect of universal personal security will be the stimulation and expansion of micro-enterprise. Freed from the pursuit of mere survival, the population will be able to use their more unique skills and interests to create micro-services and products that meet the needs of very small markets. This micro-economy has the ability to boost general satisfaction by allowing specific needs to be met more directly, at the same time that it further enhances the economy by dramatically increasing transaction volumes and efficiency. Child care that allows bicycle repair, that saves resources, that are diverted to power buses, that get people to work faster, that allows more family time. The feedback loops that reinforce the productivity, efficiency and diversity of the economy are endless. Additionally, as more needs are satisfied more directly by micro-suppliers, the dependence on mass production and long-distance transport is lessened, the resilience of local economies is strengthened and production becomes more environmentally sustainable.

Conclusion

When we can separate and distinguish between economic and political policy, we can make effective choices that will lead to the prosperity we desire. We don’t need an economic policy that creates jobs, we need a political policy that allows jobs to be created. We don’t need economic policies that encumber businesses with social responsibility; we need political policies that deliver real social security.

For our economy we need economic policies, and for our welfare we need political policies; each, unto their own. Far from economic growth resulting in social ills, or social growth resulting in economic ills; economic and social growth are mutually enhancing. Delivering universal social security will not erode productivity, it will enhance it. Unfettered markets will not drive social well-being into the ground, they will lift it up.

If we can just uncouple our unfounded assumptions about the relationship between enterprise and welfare for long enough to see again with clear eyes, based on what we know about ourselves, we can pave a Path to prosperity for all.


Part 17 in the serialization of the The Path to A Future.
A new section will be posted every 2 weeks during 2011. Enjoy!
To get a free PDF of the book go to www.standardsoflife.org/thepathtoafuture.