Our world's social and ecological problems are as diverse as are the regions and cultures of our world and civilization. Yet, all are interconnected and rooted in corporate exploitation. To be effective and durable, the next social contract must ensure:
★ Corporate Accountability
It goes without saying that the opportunity to generate profit for investors – the primary purpose of corporations – arises from the need of people to consume food and manufactured products in the course of sustaining their own lives. Without people, corporate profit would not exist. Corporations make the most of their opportunity by exploiting the earth’s natural resources and the productive talent of their employees.
Yet, corporations compete against each other so each looks for ways to limit costs and maximize revenues. Inevitably, competition powers a common corporate interest in externalizing – that is, passing on to others – as many costs of their operations as possible. At the same time, corporations have an interest in blocking competition and in monopolizing markets wherever possible.
These might have been relatively minor (and unacknowledged) concerns in the early centuries of the Industrial Age, but they became widely debilitating (and well-recognized) practices as corporations came to dominate global commerce and international affairs during the 20th century. Today, corporations demand their “right” to free speech and to unfettered corporate spending on politicians. Their profiteering agendas are institutionalized with “lives” far longer than the real lives of their relatively temporary managers, trustees, investors, regulators and consumers. In the absence of a social contract to ensure otherwise, corporations, not people, now rule our world.
Yet, corporations are the storehouses of the accumulated wealth produced from nature and labor by the world’s people since the dawn of civilization. They should be social assets, not our exploiters. Corporate wealth and power need to be tamed for the good of all of us. Moreover, we must tap corporate commerce for the funds necessary to save the earth, our communities, and ourselves. From where else are these trillions of vital investment dollars to come?
The corporations brought us to the brink of a new dark age. Now, they must be held to account to save us from tipping over.
★ Full Employment
The chief necessity of people all over the world is safe, secure jobs that provide income enough to support a small family and save for old age.
In ways that are detrimental to long-term human survival on earth, we already produce more commodities than can be sustained by a world striving for the luxurious lifestyles of capitalists and celebrities. Rather than the hopeless and disastrous pursuit of this kind of security, we need to put people to work solving the social and ecological crises of our time, all of which have local, regional and global manifestations that require our attention and investment. We need more schools and wider access to communications. We need more “barefoot” doctors in villages linked to global networks and medicinal suppliers. We need new roads and mass transit along with better water and sanitation systems. We need renewable energy, a new, efficient global electrical grid, and accessible-to-all communications networks. We need conflict resolution and humanitarian relief to abate tensions and unite distrusting and threatened people in common endeavors. We need a youth service corps that puts young people to work addressing our communities’ problems while learning the skills and insights necessary to build a better world tomorrow.
All of these endeavors are long-term, and they require a global workforce. We can have a full employment economy worldwide. All we need is a permanent revenue stream and a global financial authority – the Global Problem-Solving Authority (GPSA) – committed to full-employment problem-solving.
A clear sign of human desperation is our world’s widening violence. Every society has opportunists that play one group’s needs against others'. The inequities of global commerce – its “winners and losers,” with corporations always coming out on top – and corporate banking’s embrace of austerity (since the 2008 financial crisis) have given such hustlers a banquet of opportunity. After 9/11 (2001), the simmering and sporadic crisis of the previous decade – remember Rwanda, the Balkans, Somali and Palestine? – metastasized into widened and sustained violence (Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya, Greece, Libya, Syria, Pakistan, Uganda, Mexico, Gaza). Protests have met government repression in Egypt, Tunisia, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Brazil, Iran, India, Ukraine, Venezuela and Chile. Gun violence in the U.S. has topped record levels. Personal and terrorist suicides are on the rise.
A humanitarian catastrophe results, with tens of thousands of innocent people killed, families evicted from their homes, vast destruction of vital infrastructure, and another generation of children trained by violence to fear and hate.
Our world is crowded, including some of our most sacred cities. Yet, it is increasingly integrated, its nations and cities multicultural in fact even if not in political administration. Cultural and political conflicts are inevitable, but the way to overcome them is not with force but with investment. When people have the opportunity to work – to have a full time job that supports themselves and their families – they do not need to fight and will avoid it.
It is impossible to imagine global peace and security without a concerted drive to bring equity and justice to the people of our world who endure historic prejudice and oppression.
The Industrial Age was one of ruthless competition on two fronts. Internationally, corporations in the most industrialized nations pummeled the undeveloped world and wrought general havoc, leading their nations into great, periodic wars with each other. Domestically, chaffing against union power in the West and, in the East, using the state power as an ideological straightjacket, industrialists delayed, impeded, and, frequently, balked at efforts to dismantle long-institutionalized cultural oppression.
Today, in the context of the austerity regime imposed by corporate finance, in a world in which millions are without work and lack even basic food security, in a world in which governments are blocked by corporate finance from successful investment in human needs of all sorts, it is absolutely necessary to acknowledge historic inequities and concentrate a greater share of problem-solving investments in the geographic regions and cultural groups that are farthest behind. As social security builds in these areas, violence will diminish, productivity will increase, problems will be solved, and pressure on the civilization and the environment will abate. Eventually, population will decline as well.
Similarly, focused attention needs to be given to the status, rights and opportunities of women in all societies. The rapid development of the service economy in the past 60 years – and, in particular, the emergence of Civil Society and its array of NGOs – has dispelled the myth that women do not belong in the workplace, but the path to economic security for women is still blocked and barricaded, almost at every turn. Girls need education and opportunity, not coerced or bartered marriages and lifetimes of domestic slavery. Women garment workers need union rights. Rape and pillage, the tools of warlords, must be condemned and repressed, along with the steady resort of states and terrorists to violence that displaces families, tears away fathers, and overburdens mothers. Until ways are found for women to assume full roles in leadership in all spheres of politics, culture, and commercial production, civilization’s problems cannot be solved.
★ Social Service
Decades of global mass communications have forged a global population that is broadly knowledgeable. Yet everywhere, well-educated young adults who want to provide vital services to their community cannot find jobs because local NGOs are dependent on meager handouts from governments or corporations.
We need to vastly expand the operations of NGOs, coordinating local programs on the regional and global levels, so that we can aggressively tackle the social and ecological problems that plague us.
NGOs – mission-driven non-profits operating under the general banner of Civil Society – employ knowledgeable, creative, energetic people to serve the many needs of a community that corporations and other businesses ignore because profits cannot be made addressing them. Managed transparently by self-selecting boards of trustees, NGOs win funding and are evaluated based on the strength and success of their service programs.
Pursuing an agenda of full employment worldwide, we need to finance an immense expansion of the NGO economy, not to deny corporations their markets, but to fill the huge and vital gaps in human need that corporations are ill-equipped or unwilling to address. As the NGO economy expands, its employees will achieve more stable lives, and their spending may spur expansion in corporate production. At the very least, the sustained expansion of the NGO economy will reverse social and economic polarization and ecological degradation while putting everyone to work. Full employment will envelop society with a powerful new safety net, making it possible for humans to live without the fearful need to accumulate as much wealth as possible, others be damned. Violence will diminish. A global youth service corps will provide an army of young, paid volunteers for community service. The spirit of holism – We are all in this world together! – will prevail. With social stability and security, birthrates will drop, setting the foundation for a sustainable future.
We need to embrace the potential of our world’s emerging service economy. It is our future, our means of survival on earth. We are learning to exist by serving each other, something that cannot be done through corporate exploitation or government oppression. As the NGO economy succeeds so will humanity succeed.
★ Sustainable Future
A sustainable future means many things, including ways to ensure health and sanitation worldwide, reduce population, restore natural habitat, curtail climate change, recycle waste, develop renewable energy, and deploy an efficient power grid with affordable access for all.
All of these general, global needs have local and regional specifics, and all have NGOs and public advocacy groups that understand the issues and know what to do. What we lack are the financial resources to seriously, in a sustained way over several generations, pursue a global effort.
Human life so dominates our planet and its natural resources that a sixth extinction episode – comparable to the one 65 million yeas ago that drove the dinosaurs from existence – is in progress. This one is caused by humans. By our massive numbers and the resulting overconsumption of natural resource and overproduction of waste, we are driving other species to extinction at rates catastrophic not only to them but, ultimately, to us as well.
Today’s young adult generation – the Millennials – has potentially 50+ more years to live. If humanity is to survive the death throes of the Industrial Age, the Millennials must become foot soldiers in the greatest restorative health program for people and the environment that our world has ever seen. Unfortunately, without a successful struggle now for a new social contract, humanity will not survive. A dark age looms. At the macro level, it will bring the collapse of civilization and the steady obliteration of most human life. At the micro level, it means every young man and woman – and their children and grandchildren – faces a desultory and tragic future.