Well, it's that time again, when we must switch (even if briefly) from discussing politics and science and ambitious “modernist” enterprises over to more elevated thoughts of repairing the world through good old fashioned giving. Tikkun Olam.
Yes, I have spoken elsewhere in praise of the worldwide benefits of American deficit-spending as the principal engine that propells the modernization of peoples and nations all over the globe. And I still believe that this weird economic titan is the unsung "blind hand" that is saving human civilization as we speak, lifting billions up by their bootstraps... and by dint of their own hard work. (Not entirely a "blind" hand. This pattern was planned by sages like Marshall and Acheson, a lifetime ago.)
Still, there is very little karmic reward for saving the world this way. At the petty, day-to-day level, it is not especially generous to grab up heaps of cheap duds and frills and toys at WalMart, no matter how much macroeconomic good (and ecological harm) it does. Moreover, it certainly does not fill in the gaps where crass commerce do little to lift up those in pain.
In other words, commerce won’t do it all, alone. Especially when it comes to matters environmental, or those involving the spread of liberty and free-thinking, or giving the poorest of the poor a chance to take part in this great game of uplift.
There are countless beneficial endeavors that can make a huge difference... moreover. they exist in such an eclectic variety that any of you can surely find a few groups out there eager to save the world in exactly the ways that you think it needs saving!
Yea, even if your notions swing to colonizing Mars. Or donating video cameras to freedom activists in developing nations, so that they can bring modern rights and progress through the cleansing light of accountability...
...you name it! Hence, there is simply no excuse for sitting on your fat butt doing nothing, when you can sit on your fat butt and help save the world at the same time!
See how this can be done in my "Proxy Power" essay.
And if you have more than a few pennies? Suppose you happen to be a mere millionaire, wishing you could pump-prime in just the right way to encourage a larger fraction of Billionaires to care and give more? Well then, there's another idea that may interest you.
I have also touted as one of the best holiday gifts around, the WORLDCHANGING BOOK.
And now, even more ideas:
Tom Atlee, of the Co-intelligence Newsletter, offers one list:
”If you'd like to give gifts that can make a significant difference to future generations and the evolution of civilization, look for individuals and organizations that are
* articulating new inclusive worldviews,
* promoting wise systemic change, and/or
* building the capacity of communities and democracies to self-organize in healthy ways.
I offer the Co-Intelligence Institute as one such organization.
Other current favorites include:
* The Great Story -- generating a movement for conscious evolution (including of the evolution of social systems)
* Natural Capitalism Institute -- creating an online resource "commons" that will revolutionize the sustainability movement
* National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation -- building the capacity for conversation to change the ways we solve problems and co-create our future.”
I cannot judge these suggestions in detail. (Some of you report on them in comments?) But it sounds like that last goup could use some good “disputation” interface!
And now, about the need...
Here's a statistic of interest, from the BBC: "The richest 2% of adults in the world own more than half of all household wealth, according to a new study by a United Nations research institute. The report, from the World Institute for Development Economics Research at the UN University, says that the poorer half of the world's population own barely 1% of global wealth. There have of course been many studies of worldwide inequality. But what is new about this report, the authors say, is its coverage. It deals with all countries in the world - either actual data or estimates based on statistical analysis - and it deals with wealth, where most previous research has looked at income. What they mean by wealth in this study is what people own, less what they owe - their debts. The assets include land, buildings, animals and financial assets.
"DIFFERENT ASSETS: The analysis shows, as have many other less comprehensive studies, striking divergences in wealth between countries. Wealth is heavily concentrated in North America, Europe and some countries in the Asia Pacific region, such as Japan and Australia. These countries account for 90% of household wealth. The study also finds that inequality is sharper in wealth than in annual income. And it uncovers some striking differences in the types of assets that dominate in different countries. In less developed nations, land and farm assets are more important, reflecting the greater importance of agriculture in those economies. In addition, the report says the weighting is the result of "immature" financial institutions, which make it much harder for people to have savings accounts or shares. In contrast, some citizens of the rich countries have more debt than assets - making them, the report says, among the poorest in the world in terms of household wealth. However, t hey are presumably better off in terms of what they consume than many people in developing countries."
Ah, but you know what Mr. Transparency thinks?
I think the biggest problem is not so much disparity of wealth but the FOG and secrecy that surrounds ownership in this world. The world's poor include several billions who actually own some land and assets! But who (according to Hernando deSotot) cannot borrow against these assets or leverage capital for lack of good banking systems and clear title. That is the problem at the low end.
At the high end, banking secrecy and hidden ownership are the great scandal of the age and one that those in power probably strive hard (perhaps by fomenting distractions) to keep us from noticing. You can guess what Adam Smith would have thought of that. Denying free market players (in their billions) the information that they need, in order to make fair and wise competitive choices.
People who use such means can rationalize all they want. But they are not believers in capitalism, or markets, or enterprise, or true competition.
They are believers in cheating.