The Critical Thinking project came together to develop understanding of contemporary affairs and root causes of economic instability, inequality, conflict, poverty and environmental destruction. We use evidence based research to identify levers for change and explore alternative economic and political structures which might serve us and future generations better. Two and a quarter years on from when Critical Thinking and the Free University emerged from Occupy the London Stock Exchange, we've arrived at conclusions which can usefully be shared to help promote fundamental, radical change in the form of a New Model Charter and a means to challenge corporations and governments globally.
Politics and economics do not serve the interests of the majority but increasingly favour those with the most wealth, power and influence. Myopic self-interest and systemic imperatives are driving environmental destruction, inequality, economic instability and escalating conflict while risking the future of our civilisation. The time has come for all people to engage in democracy to secure politics and economics which serve the needs of all rather than those of the detached ruling elites, to change the course of our civilisation.
These four demands go to the heart of abusive, concentrated power and will form the foundation for a freer, fairer world in which politics and economics serve the interests of all rather than the minority.
1. Current political systems are unsustainable, undemocratic, unjust and lead to corruption and collusion among vested interests. We demand an alternative, participatory democracy in which all interests are represented in decision making communally, regionally, nationally and globally. All decisions should be devolved to communities where appropriate and should only be made at higher levels when it is imperative for the common good to do so.
2. The value of land, resources and other commons (such as water, the radio spectrum, genes, nature and knowledge) cannot be appropriated by individuals, corporations or governments; they are gifts from the universe or are communally created. The value of these must be shared for the good of all to fund public services and an unconditional citizens dividend.
3. Interest on money systemically drives:
• wealth from the poorest to the richest
• environmental destruction
• exponential, unsustainable debt growth.
Debt must be unenforceable in law and usury (lending money at interest) illegal. Debt must revert to a social construct rather than a mechanism for wealth extraction, exploitation and oppression.
4. Increased mechanisation and technology has rendered full employment unachievable, unnecessary and undesirable. The Means to Life cannot be conditional on paid employment but is a right for all and must be provided in the form of an unconditional citizens dividend sufficient for a decent life.
• simplification of economics leading to wider understanding of how the world works facilitating informed democratic participation
• dispersal of concentrated power
• elimination of systemic imperatives to extract resources and damage the environment while placing resources under common control to ensure all needs are reflected in their use
• elimination of systemic drivers of inequality
• elimination of systemic drivers of conflict
• people will be free to act creatively and communally to work for a better life for all unfettered by the need to work to survive – many destructive or meaningless jobs would disappear
• equalised gender relations
• equalised power between employers and workers
• elimination of state pensions and employment taxes
• enterprise can flourish on a manageable scale in the form of private companies, partnerships, co-operatives
• housing, infrastructure and larger projects can be funded, debt free, through the creation of national currency which would form the mechanism to collect the communal value of land, resources and other commons, allowing community and alternative currencies to flourish
• communal, national and global cohesion
• banking will be a technology based utility freeing talented people to work for a better world
• transition from a competitive civilisation of scarcity to a co-operative global community of abundance
The burden of proof, required to challenge the status quo, has invariably fallen on those seeking change while the ruling elites control the levers to distract, divide and suppress popular movements. But there is a concept of Fiduciary Responsibility in law which obliges those in power to answer a prima facie case of negligence and abuse. It is first important to note that frequently the burden of proof is not an all-or-nothing proposition. For example, as the process of providing convincing evidence continues, the burden of proof can shift back and forth between the parties. It is sufficient for activists to submit pleadings (a plaintiff merely alleges and offers to prove requisite facts (called a 'prima facie case') indicating that, 'more likely than not') to shift the burden of proof to the defendant, ie. those in power. The abusive political and economic system can be challenged in law and those in power, corporations and governments, are legally obliged to answer the charges against them. The New Model Charter could form the basis for a legal challenge to governments and corporations, globally.
The charter has evolved from the weekly sessions of Critical Thinking, underpinned by research from a wide variety of historic and contemporary sources and in collaboration with many individuals and groups including Occupy London and others around the world.
We, the people, have a prima facie case backed up by copious evidence of systemic abuse and negligence. We can, given the will and resources, challenge and expose the power of the ruling elites. It can be a global movement for change if sufficient numbers understand how this can be done. We just need to share the knowledge and who knows? It may attract the interest of public spirited lawyers and judges.
We must continue to work on plans for alternative governance structures, overcoming ideology inspired resistance while avoiding egotistical tendencies and groupthink. Most of all we need a transition plan to move from a competitive, destructive civilisation in decline to a caring, collaborative global community. It is achievable, we just need to remove the structural incentives and opportunities to further self-interest at the expense of the majority.
The last word today goes to Arlo Guthrie: