The values of a new humanist economy

26.01.2013 - Budapest, Hungary - Tony Robinson

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The values of a new humanist economy
(Image by Wikimedia commons)

Humanists look at the world economy in despair.  A huge proportion of the world’s population lives in absolute poverty; living in order to survive, hoping that today they don’t get sick.

On the other hand there are a tiny, tiny number of individuals who can change all of that and do nothing.  A recent report in Pressenza indicates that 100 people earned 240 billion dollars last year, enough to end global poverty 4 times over.

This same elite that I wrote about last week control the banks, the production of weapons, the media and governments all around the world.  It’s not like this elite all share the same ideology in terms of their public policies, but their private policies are the same: the personal possession of money is the most important value.  Some of these elite may even at times “give” some money to the world’s poor via charitable foundations but essentially this charity is not aimed at economic development and there are too many stories of charitable money not making any difference at all as it doesn’t even reach the people it is intended for.

On top of this the economic model does not value the environment or future generations as consumption of new goods drives an unsustainable exploitation of the world’s natural resources at the expense of environmental destruction.

How can any of this be good?

Of course it isn’t so I take this opportunity to play with a few mental images.  The theme of this year’s Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum in Bonn, Germany between the 17th and 19th of June is “The Future of Growth: Economic values and the media” and Pressenza will host a workshop called, “Turning a crisis into an opportunity: Humanising the Economy”.

So, how would a humanised economy work?

In first place we have to consider what the values of New Humanism are.  Silo identified six points that characterise a “Humanist Attitude”:

  1. placing the human being as the central value and concern;
  2. affirming the equality of all human beings;
  3. recognizing personal and cultural diversity;
  4. tending to develop new knowledge beyond what is accepted as absolute truth;
  5. affirming the freedom of ideas and beliefs; and
  6. repudiating violence.

So in thinking about a new economy we will keep this in mind.

First I want to clarify that I’m not an economist and know nothing more than what I see in the mainstream and alternative media and what I research on Wikipedia.  Therefore to those who are “experts” in this field this will appear naïve but I make no apologies for it.  We are starting with a clean piece of paper and imagining a new economy, the transition to that economy will be for academics and politicians.

Here are some questions that concern me:

  1. Why does a doctor in one part of the planet earn more than a doctor in another part of the planet?  If the value of human life is central, surely a doctor who saves lives in one country should receive the same salary as a doctor in another country?
  2. Why is it that those who grow the world’s food generally get so little compensation for their work?  Without food we would all die.  The same could be said of those who make clothes, without which we would all be naked.
  3. The banking system produces nothing and yet those who work in it are among the wealthiest in the world.  Bonuses given by banks to their speculating staff are sickening and yet this money is not the bank’s it is money of the customers.
  4. Let’s take the case of a product like washing powder for clothes.  It doesn’t matter which brand you buy they all contain the same chemicals.  In some cases the product is exactly the same and made in the same factories but some goes into pink bags with one brand name, while some of it goes into orange bags with a different brand.  These companies then spend huge sums to convince customers that one is better than another.  What useful contribution to society does money spent on marketing make?
  5. Is land a commodity that should be owned by people?

A new scale of remuneration to reflect a humanist scale of values

In the economy of the future, remuneration should reflect the contribution that a person makes to the advancement of human life, so we could imagine that the most valuable people are those who contribute to the development and survival of human beings: doctors, nurses, teachers, farmers and certain scientists, etc.

Then there are others who maybe have a slightly lesser impact: those who make clothes, those who make food, those who clean and keep our environment hygienic and those who build houses and make them function well, those who work in dangerous conditions in mines and oil platforms, etc.

Maybe then there are those who coordinate human activity, our elected representatives, managers, administrators, those who work in banks and offices who perform functions that support society as a whole, etc.

Later might come the makers of consumer technology and the products that we need to live.

And so on, down the scale.  At the bottom end of the scale unfortunately would be those who work in Marketing.

This list is not exhaustive and for sure there are many, many more types of occupation to add to make a complete picture, but I think the idea of the scale is clear.

Those who buy and sell shares for a living, those who speculate, those who produce nothing would be out of a job, because they would add no value in the new economy.

The new central value of the worker would be efficiency, not for the sake of company profit but in order to leave work as quickly as possible every day!

In the new economy it will not be that someone at one end of the scale can earn 10,000 times what someone at the other end of the scale can earn; academics will work out the details.  Nor are we proposing that the rich will be plunged down to the conditions of the poorest.  On the contrary humanists propose that the conditions of the poorest are brought up to the conditions of the developed world.  Nor will it be that everything is centrally planned.  Just as it will not be that the private sector can control everything.

All those who can work would be able to do so, and all will feel pride in what they do knowing that what they do is a contribution to their own development and the development of society as a whole.  Everyone would know that the planet is being managed in a sustainable way.  A mantra for the new society would be “don’t leave the planet in a worse condition than you found it for future generations”.

The world has the resources to make the transition to a new economy because in the new economy the military budget will be free for all other purposes and poverty will be eradicated.  Eradication of poverty will lead to a stabilisation of the world’s population.

Human beings are capable of doing anything that they are able to imagine – well maybe travelling at the speed of light is beyond us.  So, if enough of us start to imagine how a humanist economy can be it will act as a driving force in our consciousness and with time we will make it happen.

Pressenza will be covering the Global Media Forum and we will try to bring you as much interesting material as possible to start stimulating our imaginations.

Categories: Economics, Humanism and Spirituality, International, Opinions

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