The 27 Principles

The 27 Principles first appeared in 2012 as the final chapter in Four Horsemen: The Survival Manual (they also had a cameo role in The Blueprint). They have been subject to some revision since, but I think they’ve stood the test of time. Indeed, they are, if anything, more relevant in the light of the Brexit vote and the recent election of Donald Trump.

 

1. Our global civilization now exhibits many of the symptoms of earlier civilizations in their death throes. While we are far better equipped than our ancestors to prevent civilizational collapse, this requires a major reconfiguration of our political and economic institutions.

2. In respect of our basic needs and aspirations, people everywhere are the same, regardless of cultural differences. Everybody wishes for security and fulfilment in life, but these aspirations can only be achieved universally in a world in which the economy is configured specifically to encourage this outcome.

3. The greatest obstacle to creating a just, inclusive and sustainable society is the manipulation of the economy in the interests of elite power and privilege. This must be overcome if democracy is to deliver structures and institutions that promote majority interests.

4. The causes of war and terrorism are complex but there is always an economic context. Perceptions of injustice – historical or enduring – are nearly always a factor in disputes between nations and peoples. Reducing economic disparities is the only way to eliminate such violence. People are less inclined to engage in acts of violence when they feel economically secure and positive about the future.

5. Much of today’s social injustice is a legacy of imperial conquest or the subjugation of one people by another, or is based on unfounded prejudice. This is best addressed by creating an economy in which everyone has the same opportunities regardless of gender, race, religion, disability or sexual orientation.

6. Social and cultural evolution has changed human societies for thousands of years. This evolutionary process is mediated entirely by the human mind, but it can be directed to any imaginable end. Only if that process is driven by moral considerations will it promote movement towards a more inclusive society.

7. Our immature democracy fails to deliver democratic outcomes. Only when the balance of power in society begins to change will leaders emerge who ensure that politics embodies the belief that all people’s interests should be given equal weight.

8. Selfish and competitive behaviour is a product of genetics, culture and environment. But if the institutions that encourage such behaviours can be reformed, they will find fewer outlets. And as they are gradually marginalised, the world will become more secure.

9. Social conscience and the capacity to empathise with others varies greatly from person to person. But as these qualities are largely a function of environment there is no reason why they shouldn’t become better developed in many more people. Enlarging the scope of our moral concern is key to progress, especially in respect of the threat of climate change, the impact of which on future generations we should already be taking account.

10. For more than a century economics has been taught without reference to morality. Today’s dominant neo-classical economics still refuses to engage debates about values. In failing to do so, it makes the biggest value judgement of all. It says: this is the way world is and economics can have nothing to say about how things should, or could, be different. This philosophically absurd position has to be challenged.

11. Neo-classical economics has failed to explain, predict or offer guidance in respect of how we should organise society to maximise wellbeing, minimise suffering and eradicate poverty. Only by rebuilding itself on firm moral foundations can the discipline find a relevant and useful role.

12. Three things lie at the heart of current economic dysfunction: unearned income and wealth from land rent, the creation of money by privately-owned banks, and speculation in currencies, commodities and derivatives. These activities must be brought to an end. The enjoyment of unearned wealth – the product of rent-seeking activities by a privileged elite – not only takes real value from those who create it, but restricts opportunities for wealth creation and excludes millions from the economy.

13. Beyond the requirement to satisfy the needs of a growing population, the economy does not have to grow. Relentless growth only accelerates the rate of resource depletion. A steady state economy providing properly rewarded work for everyone is perfectly achievable. It would more also be more sustainable and would unleash a huge pool of untapped human talent and creativity.

14. Capital accumulation is essential to the ongoing process of wealth creation, but if capital becomes concentrated in too few hands, access to economic opportunities and resources is restricted and the distribution of wealth skewed. This ultimately leads to destitution and early death for millions.

15. Markets are the ideal mechanism for determining prices of tangible goods in situations where there are many genuine buyers and genuine sellers. Otherwise – and especially when applied to the pricing of invented financial instruments – their impact is negative.

16. Poverty is best addressed not by redistributing money from rich to poor, but by reconfiguring the economy to provide viable opportunities for everyone. There is no reason why everyone who wishes to work should not have a job.

17. The revenues earned by a business should be divided between those who provide land, labour and capital in proportion with the value of the contribution of each. The market mechanism is well-suited to this task as long as access to economic opportunities and resources is distributed fairly.

18. Progress requires reform of the monetary system to achieve long-term stability in the money supply. This means removing from the right to create money from privately owned banks. Currently banks are incentivized to expand the money supply in search of profits. This system of money issue benefits a small minority and leads to regular economic slumps. Issuing new money as debt places an unnecessary burden on society.

19. Speculation in commodity markets, including those for food and other essentials, disrupts the pricing mechanism and leads to poor people being priced out. The establishment of derivatives markets for speculative purposes, and the practice of ‘trading on margin’ whereby money is created purely for speculation and through which the rich extract wealth from those who create it, have no place in a civilized society.

20. The tax system, which currently penalises entrepreneurship and hard work, and targets the poorest through taxes on consumption, should be fundamentally reformed. Basing the tax system on resource rents, including carefully targeted taxes on land values, would not only provide better incentives, encourage equity and mitigate resource depletion and climate change, it would also give the state a positive role in economic renewal and advance without the need to appropriate private wealth.

21. Creating a better distribution of economic opportunities and resources is best achieved by placing more of the economy in the hands of small businesses, and by creating conditions that favour mutual forms of business ownership: cooperatives, employee-owned firms and not-for-profit enterprises in which the only stakeholders are staff and customers.

22. Human perfectibility and a utopian society may be beyond us, but there is nothing in human nature that limits civilisational progress. The abolition of slavery and the extension of a previously denied rights to women provide evidence that moral advance is the cornerstone of progress.

23. Personal freedom and collective justice are not mutually exclusive; they are co-dependent. The idea that improvements in one can only be made at expense of the other is demonstrably untrue. Personal freedom is worth nothing without the means to economic security and material wellbeing.

24. Global problems demand global solutions. This means the basis of relations between nations must move from competition to cooperation. The universal values on which progress depends are non-negotiable: they cannot be modified to suit the context of particular societies or cultures.

25. Apathy, cynicism and the refusal to believe in the possibility of progress is a major obstacle to change. Only when a critical mass of people come to see the potential benefits of transformative social change, believe it is achievable, and commit to work for it, will a new order begin to emerge.

26. Accusations of naivety and idealism must be strongly refuted, as must any suggestion that there is no alternative to current arrangements, or that things really aren’t so bad. These are weapons wielded by cynics and others interested only in defending the status quo.

27. A just and sustainable global society is perfectly achievable. Civilization has made greatest progress when previously competing groups have come to recognise the value in cooperating with their former enemies in the pursuit of common objectives. Only when cooperation becomes the defining characteristic of social relations will a just and inclusive global society be possible. It’s time for the next great leap.