The New Wealth of Nations
By John Raven
The Way Forward
Chapter 17 - Section II
The Critique Summarised
Summary of Parts I, II, and III
Introduction to, and Overview of, Part IV
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- Summary of Parts I, II, and III
- The Way Forward: The New Values
- Beyond The New Values
- Giving Effect to The New Values
Further information from John Raven
The Way Forward: The New Values
Despite the continuing strength of reactionary, conservative forces in the world today, there is now surprising agreement about how society needs to change. The constellation of new ideas and goals is often referred to collectively as the "New Values", although this term is sometimes also used to refer to their antithesis - to a new-found faith (often grounded in despair) in blind market processes.
The "New" values are actually ancient ones, remarkably similar to those espoused by American native peoples, and involve recycling, conservation, respect for, and harmony with, nature, and community care.
More specifically, the New Values involve:
- A desire to exchange goods and services in the context of personal relationships instead of an impersonal market.
- A concern with the re-design of living arrangements, particularly decentralising production and creating short journeys to work. This finds expression in a commitment to moving jobs to people instead of moving people and materials to jobs. Such developments would dramatically reduce the energy consumed (and pollution created) in transportation, and simultaneously lead to an increase in the quality of life.
- An awareness that the quality of life could be greatly enhanced by making more use of community support networks, Local Exchange Trading Systems (LETS) and skills exchanges which recognise the importance of many more types of contribution than are rewarded through the market place. This awareness sometimes encompasses a desire to replace both drugs-based health care and commercialised insurance by networks of mutual support.
- A desire to replace GNP, as the main goal and criterion of community success, by Quality of Life indices.
- A desire to have a fair, equitable, distribution of incomes and access to the other good things in life (including satisfying work and leisure) within societies. This is often associated with a particular commitment to end the inequitable exposure of the weakest members of society (and many of those who actually contribute most to it) to the greatest hazards of income discontinuity and poor standards of health care and insurance.
- A desire to end the exploitative nature of most current trade with the Third World.
- An emphasis on choosing work because it is personally satisfying and because it makes a directly-experienced positive contribution to the community rather than because it offers a good salary and career prospects. (Robertson17.10 has characterised this emphasis as a concern with "Own-work" ... but when one looks at the kind of work that lies at the heart of his discussion, one finds that it would be better characterised as "Commune-work".)
- A commitment to the idea that the problems which confront society are most likely to be solved if people choose their work and voluntary activities for the personal satisfactions to be gained from beneficial human relationships, and a rejection of the idea that they are mostly to be solved through the creation of organisationally based - and especially government-promoted - arrangements.
- A desire to retrain the unemployed to undertake the myriad activities which are necessary to improve the quality of life instead of designating them as "unemployable" and treating them in degrading and de-humanising ways.
- A commitment (related to the above) to developing and utilising all the human resources available to society instead of assigning some people to affluent life styles and others to lives of degradation and humiliation.
- A desire to conserve and replace (partly through re-cycling) both non-renewable and renewable energy as well as minerals, food, and timber (with a particular concern with the rain forests in the latter area). . A concern to introduce much more effective measures to control pollution, to halt the destruction of habitat, and to stem the destruction of the soils, seas, and atmosphere.
- Recognition of the need to repair the damage already done to the seas, soils, waterways, and atmosphere - and especially the ozone layer.
- Recognition of the need for sustainable agriculture, forestry, and fishing. The need to reduce the use of fertilizers and pesticides is widely recognised. The need to move from energy-intensive tractors and other machines to renewable energy is less widely recognised. Still less widely recognised is the need to reduce levels of transportation of agricultural products to huge energy-intensive processing and centralised distribution plants.
- A desire to dismantle the "Defence" system - including the entire international industry that lies behind the overt military enterprise.
- An emphasis on the importance of taking personal responsibility for ensuring that one's life style matches the planet's needs rather than relying on institutional arrangements and the process of law.
Many of these values are captured by the term "sustainability". We should not live in a way which the planet cannot sustain, heap burdens on our children, destroy the resources of the planet faster than we replace them, or set in train irreversible processes (such as global warming). Nor, while it may be sustainable for us, should we externalise our economic and political problems to the other side of the globe.
Other values can be subsumed in the wider notion of "Emphasising Quality of Life rather than GNP". Such a reformulation of goals leads to a new concept of wealth. Wealth inheres in such things as the quality of human relations; the aesthetics and liveability of built environments; stress-free journeys to work; non-stressful working arrangements; freedom from the threat of crime or fear of arbitrary prosecution for trivial "offences"; the sense of being able to rely on being cared for in a humane way if one happens on misfortune (something which can only be effectively provided through community support networks); security to plan for the future; the absence of the discomfort which stems from an awareness of gross disparities in quality of life in one's own community; ability to influence what happens in society or the future - to feel that one has made a difference; satisfying work - which means opportunities to exercise discretion and judgement and have a satisfying relationship with others; opportunities for leisure and the chance to use it in satisfying ways; opportunities to develop, use, and gain recognition for, one's talents; and opportunities to contribute meaningfully to society.
Still others are captured by the notion of "seeing through economics". Although most people are not aware of much of what has been said in earlier chapters, there is growing awareness of the absence of real economic advantages in large-scale production and distribution and an awareness of the disbenefits. There is an increasing sense that economics, by addressing itself to GNP rather than Quality of Life, does not deal with what really matters. And there is increasing recognition that the policies of the IMF do not improve the quality of life in the Third World.
Not only is there direct evidence of support for the New Values in the work of the Taylor Nelson Monitor17.11 and that of Yankelovitch and his collaborators17.12, indirect evidence of the extent of recognition of the need for change comes from the fact that, in the last three elections in the UK, both the Conservative and Labour parties obtained the support of the lowest-ever proportions of the electorate. Other evidence of the extent of this recognition is to be found in the low-level of support for privatisation and the enterprise culture among the bulk of the population17.13.
Beyond The New Values
Despite the fact that New Values are clearly a step in the right direction, what we have seen in this book is that, on their own, they are insufficient. Although the previously mentioned surveys provide some grounds for optimism, they also show, less positively, that few people realise just how serious is our predicament. Few realise how entrapped we are in what Milbrath17.14 has termed "dominator" thoughtways and a "dominator" society - a pervasive climate in which social and economic processes collude with scientific assumptions to ensure that power orientations dominate over an orientation to peace, co-operation, and peaceful co-existence with each other and with nature. No one is free to choose peace, but anyone can impose on all the necessity for power. A society that exploits nature quickly acquires more power than one which exploits it more slowly. Power over nature also means power over people.
We have suggested in this book that we need to completely re-design our way of life. The changes that are needed include:
- Dramatically reducing energy consumption. This logically means dramatically reducing the number of (indeed to all intents and purposes, getting rid of) our motor cars and all the industries associated with them - car maintenance, highway planning and construction agencies, fuel delivery systems, car insurance companies, many legal practices, and hospital accident care facilities. It means dramatically reducing the amount of centralised production and associated distributive arrangements such as multi-purpose out-of-town shopping centres, the associated transportation of workers, and the panoply of accounting systems (and all that goes with them) that are required to support them. It therefore means getting rid of most trade. It means getting rid of much of our legal, policing, and "criminal" incarceration system. Conserving energy also means abandoning our current forms of central heating and air conditioning. It therefore means abandoning our attempts to live in some of the hottest and coldest regions of the world (or, at least, dramatically changing the way we attempt to do it), not to mention outer space.
- Dramatically reducing the consumption of non-renewable resources. This means ceasing to consume fossil fuels and dramatically limiting our consumption of minerals including metals and sulphates.
- Dramatically reducing the production of waste. This includes sewerage, packaging, refuse, and books and newspapers. Reducing it means re-using (and not merely re-cycling) packaging. It means re-cycling paper and other materials. But it also means phasing out many of the industrial processes which rely on, and produce, the vast array of toxic chemicals used by modern industry. These are typically dumped at sea or buried in the ground. (In this context it is important to note that the production of many apparently "clean" electronic gadgets creates huge amounts of toxic waste which both pollute water systems and are hard to dispose of.)
- Dismantling the "Defence" Industry(whilst finding alternative ways of investing in the research, currently funded through the "defence" budget, which is so urgently needed to find new ways of doing things).
- Dismantling the nuclear industry, including nuclear electricity-generating plants.
- Largely dismantling the banking, financial, insurance, and pension system as we know it. This system contributes enormously to the problems faced by the Third World, the poor, and future generations, and it "requires" for its continued operation vast, useless industries and endless, useless work - which in turn make enormous demands for power, paper, and transport.
- Disbanding most centralised manufacturingand the marketing and distribution networks based upon it, not only because of the energy consumed, but also because it demands so many non-renewable resources and creates such enormous burdens of pollution and personal stress.
- Radically reforming agriculture, forestry, and fishinginto sustainable, energy-positive industries which neither over-exploit and erode the soils nor generate intense pollution of the soils, the waterways, and the seas.
- Developing and introducing social-science based Quality of Life Indicatorsin place of GNP, and initiating the mechanisms that are needed to collect, sift, and take action on the basis of, the information so generated.
- Introducing much better arrangements to evaluate policy and take action: To assess the effects and effectiveness of activities undertaken in all areas, to develop a better understanding of the issues involved, to sift this information for good ideas, and to take action on incomplete and tentative information in an innovative way in the long-term public interest.
- Introducing information-based "pricing" of optionsbased on calculations of the human and natural resources consumed or destroyed in producing (or replacing) them.
- Introducing community support networksin place of drugs-based health care, commercial insurance, and pensions.
- Introducing mechanisms of exchangebased on explicit information in place of market transactions.
- Introducing information-based management of world economic processes(but not "world government").
In summary, introducing a sustainable way of life means largely abandoning the great engines of our economy - engines which provide employment and give meaning and purpose to most people's lives - and finding new ways of organising things and giving new meaning to people's lives. Only drastic measures will lead to improvement in the quality of life, both for ourselves and for other species.
The most important developments that are required are alternative societal management arrangements which will result in much more innovative information-based action being taken to enhance the common good; arrangements which will bring the dominator society to an end.
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Continue to Chapter 17, Section III
Return to NWN Introduction
Chapter 1 which provides a sketch map of where the book is going and an overview of its contents similar to the final, summary chapter of many books.
Continue to Chapter 4 Some Observations on Money
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