L e v e l - 7

Tools For A New Political Economy

Enlisting the Wealthiest Elite to Become Change Agents

Why is this so critical? Mainly because past efforts to reform political economies have resorted to expropriation - forcefully taking the assets of owner-shareholders and redistributing them. Humanity has had a violent history of revolution in this regard. Instead, the approach outlined here is attempt to recruit elite change agents who voluntarily restructure their wealth and ownership as a consequence of persuasion, education and the rule of law. In essence this is a revolution of moral maturity that inspires constructive change.

Here are some thoughts about enlisting the wealthiest elite to become change agents….

The Transitional Role of The Wealthy (From The Goldilocks Zone of Integral Liberty)

Yet another chicken-and-egg dilemma also presents itself: How can we provide a robust “universal social backbone” without relying on either an oversized federal government or equally gargantuan for-profit corporations? And how could we engineer graduated incentives and disincentives for the foundations of liberty when there is reflexive and aggressive resistance to doing so from all-of-the-above…? To answer the first question, we will need to concurrently develop robust
participatory mechanisms outlined in the next section. To answer the second, let’s return for a moment to Aristotle (Politics, Book VI, Part V):

“Yet the true friend of the people should see that they be not too poor, for extreme poverty lowers the character of the democracy; measures therefore should be taken which will give them lasting prosperity; and as this is equally the interest of all classes, the proceeds of the public revenues should be accumulated and distributed among its poor, if possible, in such quantities as may enable them to purchase a little farm, or, at any rate, make a beginning in trade or husbandry. And if this benevolence cannot be extended to all, money should be distributed in turn according to tribes or other divisions, and in the meantime the rich should pay the fee for the attendance of the poor at the necessary assemblies; and should in return be excused from useless public services. By administering the state in this spirit the Carthaginians retain the affections of the people; their policy is from time to time to send some of them into their dependent towns, where they grow rich. It is also worthy of a generous and sensible nobility to divide the poor amongst them, and give them the means of going to work. The example of the people of Tarentum is also well deserving of imitation, for, by sharing the use of their own property with the poor, they gain their goodwill. Moreover, they divide all their offices into two classes, some of them being elected by vote, the others by lot; the latter, that the people may participate in them, and the former, that the state may be better administered. A like result may be gained by dividing the same offices, so as to have two classes of magistrates, one chosen by vote, the other by lot.”

If the nobles of ancient Carthage and Tarentum could voluntarily share their wealth and political power, then part of the solution is today’s elite volunteering along similar lines – in this case within a much more complex environment and with new technologies and tools, but with similar intent. If the wealthiest members of today’s society jointly agreed to support the formation of a “universal social backbone” and propagate new memeplexes that prioritize the foundations of liberty, this would not only remove barriers to engineering a freer society, but accelerate its reification. One of the more beneficial
interobjective systems, conditions and artifacts would therefore be an organized commitment from the established elite to sustain this transition. Consider, for example, if the world’s most influential think tanks, affiliations and families were to adopt the attenuation or eradication of all variations of poverty previously alluded to as their primary agenda, and used their extraordinary resources to champion authentic freedom. What greater legacy could there be?

At the same time, top-down approaches tend to fail if they don’t coincide with grass-roots activism – for the problem intrinsic to
noblesse oblige operating in the vacuum of self-referential values arises once again. Instead we must remember what Paulo Freire elegantly articulates in Pedagogy of the Oppressed (rev. ed. 1996, p.50-51):

“The oppressed, who have been shaped by the death-affirming climate of oppression, must find through their struggle the way to life-affirming humanization, which does not lie simply in having more to eat (although it does involve having more to eat and cannot fail to include this aspect). The oppressed have been destroyed precisely because their situation has reduced them to things. In order to regain their humanity they must cease to be things and fight as men and women. This is a radical requirement. They cannot enter the struggle as objects in order later to become human beings.

The struggle begins with men’s recognition that they have been destroyed. Propaganda, management, manipulation – all arms of domination – cannot be the instruments of their rehumanization. The only effective instrument is a humanizing pedagogy in which the revolutionary leadership establishes a permanent relationship of dialogue with the oppressed. In a humanizing pedagogy the method ceases to be an instrument by which the teachers (in this instance, the revolutionary leadership) can manipulate the students (in this instance, the oppressed), because it expresses the consciousness of the students themselves….

…A revolutionary leadership must accordingly practice co-intentional education. Teachers and students (leadership and people), co-intent on reality, are both Subjects, not only in the task of unveiling that reality, and thereby coming to know it critically, but in the task of re-creating that knowledge. As they attain this knowledge of reality through common reflection and action, they discover themselves its permanent re-creators. In this way, the presence of the oppressed in the struggle for their liberation will be what it should be: not pseudo-participation, but committed involvement.”

William Godwin’s Appeal in “Political Justice”

Godwin’s language seems particularly insightful regardubg engaging the elite to help actualize change, and I’ve excerpted some highlights here:

“The rich and great are far from callous to views of general felicity, when such views are brought before them with that evidence and attraction of which they are susceptible. From one dreadful disadvantage their minds are free. They have not been soured with unrelenting tyranny, or narrowed by the perpetual pressure of distress. They are peculiarly qualified to judge of the emptiness of that pomp and those gratifications, which are always most admired when they are seen from a distance. They will frequently be found considerably indifferent to these things, unless confirmed by habit and rendered inveterate by age. If you show them the attractions of gallantry and magnanimity in resigning them, they will often be resigned without reluctance. Wherever accident of any sort has introduced an active mind, there enterprise is a necessary consequence; and there are few persons so inactive, as to sit down for ever in the supine enjoyment of the indulgences to which they were born. The same spirit that has led forth the young nobility of successive ages to en counter the hardships of a camp, might easily be employed to render them champions of the cause of equality: nor is it to be believed that the circumstance of superior virtue and truth in this latter exertion will be without its effect.

But let us suppose a considerable party of the rich and great to be actuated by no view but to their emolument and ease. It is not difficult to show them, that their interest in this sense will admit of no more than a temperate and yielding resistance. Much no doubt of the future tranquillity or confusion of man kind depends upon the conduct of this party. To them I would say: ‘It is in vain for you to fight against truth. It is like endeavouring with the human hand to stop the inroad of the ocean. Retire betimes. Seek your safety in concession. If you will not go over to the standard of political justice, temporise at least with an enemy whom you cannot overcome. Much, inexpressibly much depends upon you. If you be wise, if you be prudent, if you would secure at least your lives and your personal ease amidst the general shipwreck of monopoly and folly, you will be unwilling to irritate and defy. Unless by your rashness, there will be no confusion, no murder, not a drop of blood will be spilt, and you will yourselves be made happy. If you brave the storm and call down every species of odium on your heads, still it is possible, still it is to be hoped that the general tranquillity may be maintained. But, should it prove otherwise, you will have principally to answer for all the consequences that shall ensue.’”

And, from
Escaping the Failures of Capitalism:

Our objective here is the intense encouragement for the ruling elite – especially the wealthiest “behind the scenes” movers and shakers – to support transitional proposals and disengage from state-capitalist activities and influence.

This is a tough one, mainly because it goes to the heart of the elite’s paranoia regarding a populist uprising – the anticipation of a just reprisal that oppressors always fear from the oppressed – and the elite is, in many ways, very well prepared. Due to their firmly entrenched resistance, self-protective habits and melodramatic paranoia (such as that voiced by Tom Perkins in his January, 2014
Wall Street Journal letter), countermeasures in this arena may require disruption to insulated lifestyles, direct appeals to family members, aggressive use of the rule-of-law to increase accountability, and a carefully contrived means of devaluing assets and reducing wealth in order to create leverage and equalize power. Such interventions are likely to provoke draconian responses of the kind we have seen many times in reaction to WTO protests, Occupy encampments, and other forms of civil disobedience. We must remember that the reflex to crack down on populism or increase social controls is always present in a feudalist system, and that a careful review of the Patriot Act, the proposed Patriot Act II (“Domestic Security Enhancement Act”), the recent revelations of overreaching NSA domestic surveillance, the four U.S. citizens killed by U.S. drone attacks, and other such indicators expose the thin veneer of democracy that separates us from an Orwellian spiral. In the same vein, we must also be wary of the coopting of reformist activism, information and education by the wealthy elite in service to their own agendas, as exemplified by the Koch brothers and their ilk molding the Tea Party to their will.

There are of course those among the wealthy elite who already have empathy for the masses, who desire change, and who may already be engaged in transformative efforts. For these a quick primer on the principles found in Paolo Friere’s
Pedagogy of the Oppressed is a critical educational step, in my view. But regardless of where their sympathies lie, the persuasion of the ruling elite must be planned with extraordinary care, an abundance of empathy, a clear action plan for them to follow once they embrace transition – for example, which efforts to fund, how to constructively use their influence, etc. to aid in the liberation of their fellows and transformation of the political economy. They must become willing and active participants in the realization of a Level 7 vision, not merely hibernating until the storms of change have passed. Of course, for the worst offenders – those who actively strive to elevate and insulate the One Percent in an oligarchic cocoon, resisting all collaborative efforts at humanization – there must also be firmly inescapable consequences if they continue to perpetuate crony capitalism and commercialist corporationism; because of their blindness and the reach of their influence, we cannot allow these few to accelerate negative Darwinian outcomes for the rest of humanity.

Who, specifically, should be the target of these efforts? Here are some starting points that may help with this exploration:

  • Compile a list of people on governing boards for large or influential corporations and organizations, and document those who serve on multiple boards (“interlocking directorates”).
  • Compile a list of people who attend meetings of the Bilderberg Group.
  • Compile a list of all Super PAC founders and officers, and all of the Super PAC top donors.
  • Compile a list of top executives and major shareholders of all transnational corporations and their subsidiaries.
  • Compile a list of top executives and major shareholders of the 100 largest banks in the world (by assets) and their subsidiaries.
  • Compile a list of the 1,000 wealthiest individuals on the planet.
  • Expand all of these lists to include the friends, regular business associates and family members of the above.
  • Cross-reference these lists to indicate individual and group concentrations of associations, wealth and/or direct influence, perhaps using a cumulative point-scoring system.
  • Begin by addressing those with the highest cumulative scoring rank, then expand out from there.

You may notice that I did not include politicians in these lists, because elected representatives are in fact elected, and therefore already subject to the will of the people. Clearly, it would be helpful if there were additional electoral mechanisms to easily remove politicians from office whose actions are particularly egregious in enabling plutocracy, and so that may also become a worthwhile goal (for example,
direct democracy referenda). But that is really just scratching the surface of the underlying problem, for politicians – even seemingly powerful world leaders – are really no different than monopoly newscasters or multimedia advertisers in that they too often are just parroting the words and will of their wealthy benefactors.

Pasted Graphic 1