Friday, October 23, 2009

Paxterras, Eduterras and Ecuterras

A Three Part, Unidirectional Currency

By John Taylor; 2009 Oct 23, Ilm 09, 166 BE

This is part of a series of essays on John Amos Comenius's idea of universal reform, or "Panorthosia," and how it might be applied today. Today let us continue our discussion of a Comenius-inspired idea for three new forms of currency.

John Amos Comenius proposed a world government unlike any other. He saw the routine, day-to-day work of legislation being handled by continental governments, while at the top, instead of a wholly political entity, there would be a three-chambered supreme court keeping education, politics and religion as three separate but equal partners. These three bodies Comenius called the College of Light, the Dicastery of Peace and the Ecumenical Consistory. Each has an independent sphere and runs autonomously, holding elections, maintaining its own budget through independent taxation and possibly, as we will speculate upon today, even print its own currency.

This tripartite partnership is not restricted to the world level. It is universal, meaning that it is a sort of franchise duplicated at every institutional level, from continental governments right down to faith groups and family households. It uses as foundation or model the individual, whose fundamental interests, Comenius maintained, are threefold: peace in the short term (politics), providence in the long term (religion), and the advance of knowledge from one generation to the next (science and education).
Such governance has no parallel in modern times. Even the most enlightened democratic politicians would shrink in horror at sharing money and power with scientists, educators and spiritual leaders. True, political leaders gladly take science and faith under their wings, as long as the purse strings and decision-making remain firmly in their hands. Even the United Nations tacked on Unesco only as an afterthought years after the U.N. formed. To find something similar, you have to go all the way back to Plato's "The Republic." Let us briefly summarize Plato's idea.

Plato compared society to a pastoral model run by a shepherd, who is served by sheepdogs, which in turn manage herds of sheep. These three functions of the state, wisdom, protection and production, are mutually exclusive, yet at the same time utterly depend upon one another. This can be compared to the world's simplest game, rock-paper-scissors. Just as rock breaks scissors, scissors cut paper and paper wraps rock, so it is with shepherd, sheepdog and sheep. The shepherd, or philosopher king, cannot eat without an income from sheep, nor manage sheep without a sheepdog. The sheepdog, the spirited, protective element of society, cannot restrain its passions without knowledge and guidance from the shepherd, nor are its natural abilities constructive without a flock of wandering sheep to keep in line. The sheep cannot fully concentrate on grazing or protect against predators without sheepdogs, nor do they have any long term hope of survival without serving the needs of humans through their shepherd.

As mentioned, the nation state of today is monolithic, with one shepherd, one sheepdog and one flock of sheep. The guardian or sheepdog is the laws, police and military, which protect and tax the people and their various enterprises. Nationalists justify their monopoly on power by pointing to the constant threat of attack from other nations, or from separatists, terrorists and insurgents within. Tension between nations creates a so-called balance of terror holding war at bay, even as nuclear weapons proliferate. One advantage of keeping almost two hundred separate nation states in the United Nations is that it does perforce maintain a degree of decentralization, though in practice it leaves even the strongest nation states open to undue influence from wealthy corporations, which are not tied down by borders.

In a Comenian UCS, all nations would unite under a single, constitutional, elected republic. As the government of all human beings ruling over all nations, its very existence would finish the threat of external attack forever -- or, at least until we experience first contact with intelligent aliens. As for the more insidious internal problems of discontent, insurgency and civil war, and the often worse threat of arbitrary countermeasures from the center, these would be removed by constitutionally decentralizing the world government, for example, by applying the principle of subsidiarity and shoring up the periphery, adding continental, neighbourhood and household governmental structures both above and below the level of the nation state.

Another important way to diffuse power in the center is what we are discussing here, splitting the central authority into three chambers, each holding its own elections, enforcing taxation and printing its own money. Just as nation states now require taxpayers to pay taxes in their own currency, each of the three chambers would require world citizens to pay their taxes in their own respective currency.

How might monetary policy work in such a system?

As discussed yesterday, the variety of local currencies could be collectively called "locas," and the global currency "terras." In a Comenian world order there might be three types of terra. The College of Light, charged with science and education, might produce an educational terra, or eduterra for short. The political body, Comenius's Dicastery of Peace, is charged with keeping the peace. A name for its currency might be "peace terra," or paxterra for short. The currency of the Ecumenical Consistory, responsible for inter-faith relations and fulfilling the spiritual needs of humanity, might be called "ecumenical terras," or ecuterras for short.
I am on so to speak Terra Incognita here I know, but I wonder if the world body might decide to limit conversion among these three kinds of terra currency, using Plato's pastoral game of stone-paper-scissors as model. For example, it is a major lesson of history that religious leaders do tremendous harm and provoke terrible persecution when they attempt to meddle in politics, so why not prohibit the conversion of ecuterras directly into paxterras? Similarly, the relentless creep of global warming demonstrates the harm that politicians do when they try to write the agenda of science. In order to prevent this, the constitution of the world government could forbid conversion of paxterras directly into eduterras.

Like the game of rock-paper-scissors, these two blocking rules force money conversions to circulate in one direction only, from eduterras to paxterras to ecuterras, not the other way around. So, religion must cross through science (that is, quasi-political or superstitious beliefs must be subjected to the systematic, reasoned scrutiny of the scientific method) in order to have a say in the arena of policy and politics. Similarly, politicians would have to subject their policies to religious values of mercy, love and reciprocity before they can speak to scientific opinion. Plus, scientists and educators must address practical policy before wasting time and energy fathoming the eternal, ultimate concerns of faith. Unless this due vetting takes place, not a penny, or whatever the smallest unit of the terra is called, can be spent in ill-advised boundary-crossing enterprises.

Next time, let us talk in more detail about how these three world bodies might work monetary policy using their respective currencies, starting with the eduterra.


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