January 2013
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A (r)evolution from the center

by Carmine Gorga

For the Holocaust, the Shoah, and the Gulag never to happen again, we clearly have to dispel wrong ideas from our hearts and our minds not only at the local, but especially at the national level.

Concentrating on the United States, where I live, these are some of the recommendations I have been making over the years. If I had to reduce them to a bare minimum, I would say that we have to strenuously try to combat two misguided ideas: One, the rich are creators of poverty; two, the rich are creators of jobs.

Neither one is true; both confuse the mind and foster dreadfully wrong economic policies.

OK, if these ideas are wrong, with what would you replace them? Again, were I compelled to reduce my recommendations to the bare essentials, this is what I would urge: Let us engage our minds in the construction of a world of economic justice.

In fact, I can recall a few months ago when I excitedly wrote a letter to President Barak Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden, Mrs. Michelle Obama, and the National Democratic Committee reminding them of Reverend Martin Luther King’s compelling expression that “The Arc of the Moral Universe Is Long, but It Bends Toward Justice”. I accordingly urged them to look into the offerings of economic justice.

Not a word was heard from them. The great unanswerable question is, would the Democratic Party have put the nation to the great risk of losing the election to the Republican Party—in its present extreme ideological shape—had the program of economic justice been part and parcel of the discussion? I personally do not think so. There is too much to gain for America through the implementation of such a program.

As insurance for the success of the program of justice, I am now setting forth this book, with the hope that the powers-to-be will eventually pay attention to you, dear reader—if not this year, then the next or the next.

Dear reader, I am not asking you to go on a fool’s errand. Quite apart from the straits we are in, thanks to the dire conditions of the economy and the magnificent preparatory work done by the Occupy Movement, there is a good chance to be heard today.

But we have to change our tune. We have to stop beating the drums of the past wars. We have to give up on the chimera of redistribution of wealth created in the past; that has never happened and there is no reason to believe it will ever happen in the future. Einstein said it best, of course, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. 

Besides, when you really think of it, you realize that that wealth is a pittance. The wealth created in the past is an evanescent pittance. Real, solid wealth is that we are creating now and we will create in the future. But let me look at it from another angle. The wealth controlled from gated communities is indeed a pittance. The real wealth that came under the control of my pitiful bank account during the last two or three months alone included: splendid sunsets from Stage Fort Park in Gloucester to various locations around Tampa, Florida; Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg; the Roman Forums; the Vatican Museums; and Michelangelo’s Moses.

That is what we have to be concerned with. We have to know what does wealth mean; and when we come down to material wealth, we have to develop a bold innovative approach not to let the wealth that we create escape from our hands. That is wealth that must be distributed fairly.

Not redistribution, but fair distribution, is our program of action. That has to be base for the great bargain, the Grand Compromise. We will give up redistribution of past wealth in exchange for fair distribution of future wealth.

To evaluate our chances of success, let us consider that rich people are those who lose most in turbulent times; let us consider that this is a reality that is rarely talked about. I would hate to be rich today. Overnight fortunes are made—or lost. Hence, in this economic crisis, arguments can be offered to those whom Robert Leaver, a disenchanted banker, calls “disenchanted one percenters”. They exist, even though one has to call them the “silent minority”.

Placed on this new rock solid truth, our case becomes of potential interest to the Democratic and the Republican establishment, to say nothing of the dedicated personal supporters of President Obama and Governor Romney—as well as the Greens, the Libertarians, and the Tea Partiers, to mention only the major political divides of our day. In other words, we have a fighting chance of unifying the country. And, indeed, only if we succeed in unifying the country, have we a chance to succeed. We have met the enemy; it is us—us and our wrong ideas.

Our plea might be this: Let us get on with the work of instituting a regimen of economic justice—economic justice for all; economic justice for the rich, the middle class, and the poor. That is the only serious way to win the war on poverty.

A program of economic justice implies that the rich have to step outside the tumultuous culture of our age and give up on the chimera of getting rich fast. In other words, what we have to consider are the ways to get rich—and stay rich.

These are the ways of modern moral capitalism that are advocated in these pages. There is now a window of opportunity of striking this bargain, of translating these ways into practice. These are the ways that can be lost, perhaps for a long time, if an extremely ideological candidate is ever elected and he and his supporters do not purge themselves of primeval autocratic urges to which they seem so often to succumb. These urges are deep in our culture. They would not be there if they were not supported by many corroborating, but misguided, ideas.

Some of the specifics of a modern moral capitalism we shall observe in the following pages. They are way too numerous to be summarized and their description exhausted in one book. That is why at the end of these pages the reader will be presented with a plea of patience. The title of the concluding comments is this: To Be Continued.

Let us remember: The most difficult step is the first one.

What guarantee can any government offer the rich that the world of the future will embrace them rather than suspect and reject them? The discourse is long, but here it can be shortened to this stark statement: We must abandon the false ideals of social justice with its misguided expectations of redistribution of wealth and of economic equality—as distinguished from political and moral equality. If by its fruits you shall know the tree, just consider that the pursuit of social justice has shifted the search for happiness onto the shoulders of the state and in the process it has made charity compulsory, thus allowing love to flee from most social relationships.

Moving gradually from social justice to economic justice will remove the greatest source of friction and uncertainty in the modern world: The arrogance of the state to play God, its necessity to decide who deserves more and who deserves less, its necessity to forcibly impose its will upon defenseless citizens. No wonder games to determine who gets more and who gets less have come to dominate the political discourse. Games of redistribution of income and wealth are inherently unjust.

If and when we abandon the false ideals of social justice, only then shall we leave the modern world of dirty politics behind and return to the millenarian concerns for economic justice. But there is no reason to look backward. We only have to realize that political democracy is empty without economic democracy.

What we have to be concerned with are issues of fair distribution of the wealth that is being created from now on. Let us not repeat the errors of the past: Let us stop pitching the poor against the rich and the rich against the poor. Such struggles lead only to Fascism and Communism. There is no bargain for anyone in either form of social organization. Let us consider that only a just and equitable society is a stable and peaceful society.

What we need now is a (r)evolution from the center.

Mr. Gorga would like to acknowledge the invaluable editorial assistance received from Peter J. Bearse and David S. Wise.

Carmine Gorga, a former Fulbright Scholar, is president of The Somist Institute, a research organization in Gloucester, Mass. Through The Economic Process, To My Polis, and numerous other publications in economic theory and policy, he has transformed economics from a linear to a relational discipline. This piece is from a forthcoming book titled “What is at stake: Recovery in six months or ten years”. Dr. Gorga blogs at www.a-new-economic-atlas.com and www.modern-moral-meditations.blogspot.com.