Monday, September 13, 2010

More Flora Tristan

From the Rise of Women to Storehouses

By John Taylor; 2010 Sep 13, 'Izzat 03, 167 BE

Another revision of a late chapter in the "Comenius and the Cosmopolitan Condition" section of Citizens without Borders.

In this section we established that good government on a world scale will be the outcome of a holistic view of self and humanity. This vision of Homo Universalis takes us in three directions, one, enlightened service, two, expressions of faith and three, participation in the polity. As John Comenius pointed out, citizens and groups can support one another through three institutions based upon these three, one each for science, religion and politics. Using standard PIM software, borderless citizens can coordinate activity within a repeating service decade and election cycle for these institutions. Once everyone participates in this, we will grasp our due proportions as human beings -- which is just how Plato defined wisdom. Wisdom permits us to apply principle without qualm or compromise. We have discussed three world principles so far, those of counsel, harm and need.

Equality of the Sexes

Last time, we broached another universal principle, the equality of women. As women rise to prominence in every region, society will gain the capacity to balance personal and social, local and global control, and manual and theoretical work. Flora Tristan raised an issue rarely mentioned even in feminist circles today, that of reparations to women for centuries of suppression and exploitation. She came up with a sensible way to spend the vast compensation funds owed to women, that is, to found in every locality an institution that she called the Worker's Union, and to erect in prominent places physical buildings to house that institution, which she called Worker's Palaces.

These palaces would showcase the equality of women vocationally, by allowing girls to learn in equal numbers with boys, as well as industrially -- that is, by subjecting housework to the economies of scale that even in the 19th Century were commonplace in industry. The palaces would also provide social services at the most local level possible -- a principle called subsidiarity that we shall discuss in greater detail shortly. Sources of funding would come from all levels of society, and from the palaces themselves. The palaces would include schools whose goal is to introduce every child, poor or rich, to skilled manual labour. Using the latest in educational theory, they would take on the ambitious goal of providing no fewer than two manual trades for each student,

"As for vocational training, each child would choose the trade he feels the most suited for. Besides all the other work, he would have to do, upon leaving the palace he will have to be a competent worker in at least two trades." (Worker's Union, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, 1983, p. 122)

Although well established in adult education, the idea that children should be allowed to choose their own course of studies is rarely countenanced by mainstream schools, even today. Another reform she envisions is profit sharing. This is rare enough even for adults outside of Europe (where cooperative companies are among the largest employers, especially in Holland and Spain), but Tristan suggests that it be used to motivate the vocational activity of children at the earliest age possible.

"In order for him to become interested in work, as of the age of ten the child will be eligible to share in the profits produced by the work in the establishment. This amount will increase every year until his departure at the age of eighteen. Half will be given to him as a trousseau made in the establishment and the other half in money." (Worker's Union, p. 122)

Outside boarders from rich families would study along with the orphans and pupils from poor families, and, between the ages of six and ten, would also be paid from their share of the profits of their work. She also suggested that the palaces maintain a steady flow of adults from diverse backgrounds, so that young people will not grow up parochial or prejudiced as a result of having friends and acquaintances from a single mould.

The Twin Principles

The rise of women to equality, aided by the social services provided by Worker's Palaces, will endow the home, the neighbourhood, the block and the village with much more power and prominence than we can imagine in our time, an age when the centers of power for most people exist far away, over the horizon. As mentioned, wisdom will be possible, capacity will increase and the principles mentioned before will be applied, as well as two new ones, the twin principles of local governance known as subsidiarity and fiscal transparency. These Jane Jacobs set out in her final book, Dark Age Ahead.

"Subsidiarity is the principle that government works best -- most responsibly and responsively -- when it is closest to the people it serves and the needs it addresses. Fiscal accountability is the principle that institutions collecting and disbursing taxes work most responsibly when they are transparent to those providing the money." (Jane Jacobs, Dark Age Ahead, Random House, New York, 2004, 103)

As Jacobs points out, localizing principles are far from new. They arose in the cities and towns of Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire and enabled European civilization to take the ascendant for many centuries. According to Jacobs, they saved civilization from the dark ages, while ignoring them puts us in danger of another dark age.
Jacobs' twin principles of fiscal accountability and subsidiarity are so important, both individually and in combination, that before describing the outward physical conditions of the Cosmopolis, I should go into them in more detail.

Fiscal Transparency and Neighbourhood Storehouses

Fiscal transparency is the key to keeping local governance from the corruption that is endemic today. Behind every great fortune lies a great crime. This is even more true of so-called "hot money." As the song says, evil grows in the dark; blocking budgets from view invites wrongdoing. "Offshore" or "flight" money funds crime and skims trillions of dollars directly off the budgets of corporations and governments alike. Funds are laundered for organized crime, the illegal drug market, tax evaders and so forth. Meanwhile, open books are closing as secrecy and "black budgets" become increasingly widespread, especially in the richest and most corrupt nations. At the same time, the centralized bureaucracies of the monolithic state in effect bribe the populace into quiescence with welfare and other payments. This creates a mentality of dependency on the local level, in spite of the fact that all wealth, by definition, is generated from services performed on the local level.

The banking industry with its "private clients" is so heavily complicit in this and other types of skulduggery that it would be appropriate for reformers to oust them from the table completely. We can re-introduce fiscal transparency at a stroke by replacing large, centralized banking institutions with community-owned "storehouses." Here everybody has a right to a bank account, and has to use it, at least for local transactions.

These local storehouses, perhaps a part of the Worker's Palace, will take on most banking functions, and even devise their own local currencies, all rooted in local needs. As semi-public institutions, they will be responsible solely to the people, both locals and the entire human race. As such, they are required by law to have "glass pockets," or open bookkeeping methods, and everyone working there is accountable to a democratically elected leadership. As the story of Joseph in the Bible illustrates, these local financial institutions offer stability by storing up the windfall profits of good times and re-distributing them during down cycles. In order to work well, though, these storehouses need to function on the most local level possible. This leads us to the other twin principle, subsidiarity.

next time: Subsidiarity


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