John McMurtry is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Guelph, Canada. Most recently, he has focused his research on the value structure of economic theory and its consequences for global civil and environmental life. McMurtry’s principal research project in Philosophy spanning over seven years has followed from the invitation by the Secretariat of UNESCO/EOLSS (Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems, Paris-Oxford) to construct, author and edit Philosophy and World Problems as a multi-volume study of world philosophy.
Three sub-volumes entitled Western Philosophy and the Life-Ground, Modes of Reason, and Philosophy, Human Nature and Society have been written with internationally distinguished philosophers contributing to five topic areas in each of these general fields. The central title study by McMurtry, entitled, “What is Good, What is Bad? The Value of All Values Across Time, Place and Theories”, is an encompassing in-depth critical study of known world philosophies and fields to explain the inner logic of each canon and school in relationship to world problems across languages and eras including the method of life value onto-axiology which is deployed to excavate, explain and resolve life-blind presuppositions of the world’s major thought-systems from the ancients East and West to modern and contemporary philosophy. McMurtry was named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (FRSC) in June 2001 for his outstanding contributions to the study of humanities.
I. THE RIGHTS OF THE “HUMAN” OVER THE “NON-HUMAN”: THE UNDECLARED WORLD WAR OF HUMAN RIGHTS VERSUS CORPORATE RIGHTS
The core problem of rights in general is that we have no life-value criterion whereby to tell whether a right is good or bad for society. Rights in private property are accepted from the English, American and French revolutions on, and disbelievers have been generally vilified as subversive and against freedom. Yet any criterion to determine when private property’s right to exclude others enables and disables people’ lives is not conceived by philosophers, and economists assume private property as an absolute presupposition of market exchange. Since John Locke and the private-property revolutions he provides the canonical justifications for in England and America, any idea of basing property and exchange in life needs is effectively taboo in the mass media, public political discourse and economic theory alike.
Locke specified three provisos of an individual property right claim in his historic Second Treatise of Government which was published within a year of the English revolution against James II in 1688. His conditions for the legitimacy of private property were life-grounded, but for the last time in the received literatures since. Locke’s memorable conditions of just private-property right were sound: (1) “mixing one’s labour with” the property to entitle it; (2) “always good enough left over for others”; and (3) “no waste or spoilage” of it. Yet while Locke’s rhetoric of freedom and democratic accountability was recited almost word for word in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, his life-grounding conditions of exclusionary property were ignored from then on including by Locke himself. Having made the case at length for private property as a “natural right” by these three justifications, Locke erased all of them with “the introduction of money” in a stroke of the pen, and the erasure was never acknowledged.1 A subordinate clause within a 10-line sentence was enough, and Locke’s money shell-game has stood since – a synecdoche of the capitalist epoch. His life-grounded provisos have disappeared without a trace, with fateful implications. In this study, I explain the life-value test by which we tell whether any claimed right, however powerful it is in the world, is sound or not, and to what extent. Property right itself – from personal fixed possessions to corporate kingdoms – is neither holus-bolus justified or rejected, but grounded in and tested by its life value.
The general theory behind my analysis is life-value onto-axiology, what I have spelled out in depth for UNESCO.2 Simply speaking, the onto of the concept refers to ontology, literally “the philosophy of being”; and the axiology refers to theories of what is of value, truth being a primary value. Multiplied disciplinary divisions into fields and areas of specialty have, however, among other centrifugal forces of the contemporary mind, excluded any unifying principle of value at all, and that has been a major incapacity of thought behind life and life-support system collapse across the world with no unified causal explanation or resolution in principle.
Right to Life: From Right-Wing Slogan to Life-Grounded Comprehension
One particular block against understanding life value has been the slogan ‘right-to-life’ attached to the U.S. right-wing’s most popular issue of contention – a woman’s relatively recent legal right to end her pregnancy. When I first introduced life-value theory in generic form to the Canadian Philosophical Association’s Annual Meeting in 1998, a well-known feminist philosopher, Alison Jaggar, stormily dismissed the idea as more ‘right-to-life’ advocacy. I report this position to illustrate the metaphysical stupefaction that has come with the internalization of this slogan in even a distinguished feminist philosopher’s mind – so that the very concept of life itself is erasively reduced to an embryo in a woman’s body with rights to continue growing. This fallacy fits a much wider syntax of thought that is by its nature life-blind – the greatest problem of our age to which explanation returns ahead. At this stage, the point is to observe that the ‘right-to-life’ concept to denote what excludes virtually all of life discloses in its acceptance a mind-block which, at the most general level, is a structural disconnect of this era’s consciousness from the very ground of our lives. If one tracks its pattern, one sees that a decoupling from life requirements at all levels has occurred. Since the abortion issue has astonishingly managed to appropriate the meaning of ‘right to life’, with even philosophers internalising rather than challenging the conception, while simultaneously avoiding deeper-structural issues of life rights in discussing justice itself, we need clearly to re-ground. Analysis here thus introduces the method and logos of life-value understanding through this issue.
As it stands, the abortion issue poses “woman’s right to choose” as in ultimate conflict with “the right to life of the unborn human being”. Legions of people adopt one side or the other in sustained elaboration of the one or the other position, ignoring the common life-ground that life-value understanding begins with – that is, that life is good, and is better the more coherently inclusive its life-fields and ranges in thought, felt being and action. This forms the primary axiom of life value.3 In contrast, the opposing sides of this issue (and countless others) privilege a standpoint of exclusive right in either-or disjunction.
Here as elsewhere, life-value understanding goes underneath one-sided structuring to the deeper ground of life value itself, and applies a life-value test to both sides. Thus the normalized circle of sterile conflict found in rights conflicts in general – in which each side obscures the underlying principle of life value in attachment to an aspect which excludes the other – is re-set to comprehend the wider common ground of life value itself to resolve dispute in terms of this more ultimate and unifying meaning.
Life-value analysis therefore always goes to what is at stake in life capacity gain or loss – a life re-grounding which is utterly foreign to the corporate-right reign now destroying world life and life support systems. Life-value method identifies the extent to which any side stands – and does not stand – for life value, and exposes false pretences masking the underlying life-value issues. Here as elsewhere, there is one ultimate criterion of life-value/disvalue across domains, the formal axiom of life value and its converse. As testing will show, it applies across value conflicts.
With respect to the woman’s “right to choose” whether to continue bearing an embryo or fetus, it follows, life-value analysis recognises that the principal life-value bearing here lies with the person who organically bears the life. Gain or loss of life-value and decision on how to go living better or worse is hers by the organic coordinates of life itself. For she alone in the world is the direct experiencer and carrier of it. This is not an argument for private property, to which the woman’s right has been often reduced. It is a life-value diagnosis which explains her rights and its limits at the same time. All concept and image thought is borne by her. The felt side of being within is carried by her. She not anyone else lives the action of the one organism. All of these facts are undeniable – that is, they cannot be life-coherently denied – and all are basic to the ‘right to life’ of the pregnant woman herself and the fields of life she organically bears.
While the embryo bears little or none of these life claims to right at the outset, it qualifies for them as it grows towards these very capacities of higher life and its self-governing direction and enjoyment as human life. In the ontogeny of embryonic existence growing to fetal differentiation to eventually the stage when an organic human being has developed, the concept of a human baby becomes life coherent rather than a patriarchal projection of power to dictate to the woman life-bearer. At this stage, the fetus is truly no longer merely “part of the woman’s body”. It has become a self-organising unity capable of independent fields of life learning, sentience, affect and body action, however infantile. At this moving line of life development the still in-utero fetus ascends to right to life since it could be delivered from the life bearer as a child with all these human ranges of an advanced self-organising life form. It is during this stage, conversely, that the woman’s right to terminate ends insofar as there is truly a being with the distinguishing characteristics of human life.
Intrinsic Life Worth and Humanity’s Universal Being
It might be reasoned from this line of argument that other forms of life too have a right to life insofar as they too are just as “capable of independent fields of life learning, sentience, affect and body action”. This inference follows, but is a frozen one. Unlike the human infant which is not yet delivered, they are not capable of continuously higher life in development of human language, concept and image thought, feeling identity limitlessly beyond its own body, and rule-governed activities forming all of what we call the sciences, the arts, and games. Humanity in the full sense consists of these ever developing and uniquely human characteristics. It is this out-of-uterus potential of the gestating infant that anti-abortion positions conflate with what is without any of its features – a confusion of projection which is dominant in this lobby.
In accordance life-value measure, the embryo/fetus within the woman’s organism is only of intrinsic worth insofar as it realises and bears life fields of thought, felt being and action – beginning with intra-uterine movement, proprioceptive feeling and perhaps image thought.
Thus the embryo or fetus is correspondingly lower in life value in proportion to the non-existence of these fields of life value. It is, as Aldous Huxley clinically observes in Point Counter Point, “a potential fish”. But it is also a human potential. Observe that life-value analysis does not import the future imagined of a human person into present value any more than it does the image of a full-grown fish. Yet it still recognises the life value of the projective imagination and feeling-with by life-value measure. It may be a projection, but the act of imagination and fellow-life feeling themselves are of life value as such. They become disvalue in life terms, nonetheless, insofar as they attack or repress the ultimate choice and self-direction of the fully human life of the fetus-bearing woman on the basis of this projection.
Projecting Personhood onto the Non-Human to Deprive the Human
Life-value analysis brings us back to the life-ground. It affirms the right of both bearing mother and embryo/fetus as life value within themselves to the extent of the fields of life-value borne – not by projection of doctrine claiming absolute value where little life-value in fact exists.
In accordance with the same life-value measure, the woman and the fetus are of the greatest value together before artificial separation by this projection. This is why life-value onto-axiology rejects projection of human status onto the non-human when it licenses repression and attack of what is truly human in fact – the impregnated woman. Denial and punishment of her deciding against allowing an almost invisible zygote cell grow rapidly inside her body over almost a year against her will is tyrannical. This form of oppression on the strength of a figurative fallacy is, however, not alone in the contemporary world. It is magnified many times over when the rights of super persons are legally conferred on lifeless corporate stocks which have the rights to rule over living persons in every way that lawyers can construct. These fictive corporate “persons” bearing unlimited growing rights have become the dictator of the age.
The rights of corporate “persons” wholly invented by law are far beyond the patriarchal fiction of an heir inside a mother at impregnation. They can deprive people of their livelihoods and vocations in the thousands without cause, loot and destroy environments around the world in every form of pollution and degradation, sue governments for hundreds of millions for democratic legislation that diminishes their profits, and finance governments in and out of office with no effective rights of living human beings to stop them.
Do we see here a connected derangement of society’s ruling syntax of value and meaning? Fictional human beings are constructed to rule real human beings. Living persons are thus demoted to things or obedient cogs; while non-human entities are promoted to living persons ruling over them. Has this dehumanization of the human and humanization of the non-human inverted our very structure of thinking in terms of rights. Recall how Locke annulled in the blink of an eye all rights to property by labour, non-scarcity and non-waste by the rights of money to override all of them – the shell-game switch now over three centuries old.
Non-persons inverted into persons and the rights of the non-human over the human are metaphysical absurdities which oppress the world at many levels. The passionate certitude with which they are prosecuted is familiar in fanatic cults, but now has countless legs to overrun real human lives in the name of invented “persons” – the most recent of which has been the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision to abolish spending limits on media-flood electioneering called the “free political speech of corporate persons”. Under the court name of “United Citizens”, a turnaround of the long constitutional phrase of “citizens united”, the corporate lobby won the “first amendment right of free speech” for big oil/banks/military/pharmaceutical corporations to, in fact, drown out the voices of all living citizens and persons. An ultimate onto-axiological reversal of human life itself has thus occurred as court command. Dehumanization of the human and humanization of the inhuman is the inner logic of the corporate rights system.
Deprivation of living people’s rights under cover of “freedom of trade” has long preceded the court’s decision – in fact, only the unilateral rights of transnational corporations. Its deeper decoded meaning is their freedom to displace all life and life-value by private commodities and profit – that is, to substitute the rights of the non-living over the living at every turn for corporate money gain. Locke’s money substitution for living labor, non-waste and enough left over for others – the canonical justification of the 1688 bourgeois Revolution – rationalized the master cheat of the ruling money party since.
No sacrificial regime to tribal god has so long bedevilled humanity. Its system lock-step over the last 30 years to global disaster is laid bare by this investigation.
The Life-Value Onto-Ethic in Contrast
At the most general level, in contrast, the life-value onto-ethic chooses and stands for what coherently enables life at all levels (the life coherence principle) and upholds it to the most inclusive level possible without life-value loss (the life compossibility principle).
We see this meaning in motion throughout this analysis. But it is buried from view in the most apparently plausible ways. Always there is involved in the discourses of the corporate-rights system the necessity of “trade-offs” that are in fact life-sacrificial – the very nature of the global corporate system which has been internalized by moral theory itself. Yet life-sacrificial tradeoffs are nowhere truly necessary if they are thought through in the light of the life compossibility and coherence principles. The clearcuts of forests for “development” of all kinds, for example, are in fact much more developed in outcome without the clearcuts by selective harvesting and soil stewardship to maximize life function for all. One would hardly know this in the endless positing in our culture of “no choice” and the “necessity” of pesticides, prisons, lay-offs, environmental destruction, foreign wars, and so on. But the rule-governed human being can always change the rules as human – although one can hardly understand this once the ultimate dehumanization of society is assumed as bound by the ‘iron laws’ of a pervasively enforced system.
Behind these disorders of human life sacrifice and system dehumanization – evils which it is civilisation’s vocation to grow beyond – lies the monstrous construction itself. Its ruling value is invariant – to turn life and life conditions into more money for the corporate rich as the final end of society. The rules and rights by which we live are a-priori ungrounded in life and life value, and the slow-motion collapse underneath of world life and life support systems signals this in every domain.
II. FINDING THE LOST LIFE-VALUE GROUND AND MEASURE: THE COMMON LIFE INTEREST OF LEGITIMATE RIGHTS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
Instituted exclusion of the common life ground and interest follows logically from the atomic division of interests into competing rights decoupled from life value in automaton self-maximisation – the ruling syntax of the age. The principle of life value goes underneath this agon of rights without life base. It explains the validity and invalidity of each and all positions by the life-value comprehension it stands for, seeking beyond competing partialities to coherence with life requirements without satisfaction of which life capacities are reduced or despoiled.
Life-value onto-axiology understands that the common life interest is grounded in objective life requirements at all levels, common life support systems. It recognises that human rights and rules must cohere with these life requirements through time, or disaster is constructed by the systematically life-blind assaults on life fabrics and conditions – for connected system example, by the ever deeper corporate looting of fossil oils from land, deltas and oceans and cumulative polluting effluents from extraction to global market to mass consumption.
The objective common life interest which is ignored begins with the universal life support systems all human life, life conditions and fellow life depend on. This life-ground is the real and unseen base of legitimate human rights – what they must cohere with to be valid. Revealingly this life-ground foundation of rights is unrecognised by economic, ethical, political and rights discourses. What life-value understanding requires is this comprehension, and so it rejects any position which does not take account of humanity’s life support systems at social and individual levels as unsound, and perhaps unwittingly destructive. It works by the life-coherence principle towards understanding of what we might call deep rights. The ultimate starting point here and elsewhere is that all true values cohere in virtue of the common life-ground which enables the compossible validity of each.
It therefore follows from life-value onto-ethics that one can only justify a right as ultimately legitimate if it enables life in a way not possible without it – the necessity condition of the right along with its coherence with other life systems. For example, the human right to living space not violated by forces external to it is the life-value foundation of private-property rights and their historical justification before they are debased as absolutist rights which take account of neither. Any right has limits, and life space is one – most obviously overridden in such claims as the claimed rights of the Nazi regime to lebensraum, or global corporations to other societies’ life resources. A legitimate right is defined by both life necessity and life coherence. The primary axiom and its converse explains the general life-value base here in universal principle, with margins of life-range gain or loss the life-value measure.
The human vocation is, then, to be of living worth in these terms, with right and obligation arising where known reduction of human life capacities results absent their fulfilment. Consider, for example, the human right to clean water and the corresponding obligation to provide for it at both social and individual levels. What is required at the baseline of understanding and prescription is an incontestable and sufficient criterion of life necessity or need coherent with others’. Such a criterion must meet three problems which are typically regarded as insuperable, but are perfectly soluble: (i) to distinguish needs from mere wants and habits; (ii) to provide a criterion which is consistent with and works for all needs; and (iii) clearly applies across diverse ways of life and individual differences.
Such a baseline criterion of life necessity then yields the ultimate principle of validity of human rights and obligations and the structure of social justice. What is due to and from human beings, the ancient formula of justice, right and obligation, is here understood in systematic and objective life-value terms, what has been long lacking in received conceptions.
Life-value analysis grounds in a universal criterion of life necessity or need and its corresponding good: that is, N is a need if and only if, and to the extent that, deprivation of N‘s good always results in reduction of life capacity. Thought experiment as well as the findings of science will demonstrate that there is no vital need that does not satisfy this criterion. Both also confirm that there is no life capacity that is not also measurable by this principle – for example, the need for drinking water measured by the calibrated life capacity loss without it through time.
Capabilities: Regrounding Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum in Life Need and Value
Both positive and negative poles of life capacity admit of many levels and kinds of capability test. Note, however, that the life-value meaning of capability is not that of Amartya Sen and the capabilities literature.4 It refers strictly to life capabilities and their ranges of function as are needed for human life not to be demonstrably reduced in its capacities. No such principled ground or qualifications are offered in the received meaning of “capabilities”. This is why political and corporate rhetorics have been quick to pick up on the loose concept in play, merely “ability to perform functionings” – a criterion which allows merely private preferences for non-life functionings, like private motor powers meeting no need but violating them in both owner (who needs the exercise) and other life (which is oppressed by its effects of noise, pollution and life-field occupation). Martha Nussbaum, the other best known leader of the capabilities literature, goes further than Sen in “taking a stand” on what these capabilities are, but here schema lacks any defined principled ground and any criterion whereby the claimed life goods can be anchored, tested, or integrated. The missing life-ground and criterion is the N-axiom which sets the life necessity condition of legitimate rights.
Conversely, it follows from the N-axiom that nothing that does not satisfy this objective and comprehensive criterion qualifies as a need or necessary good, nor can have a just right to it as distinguished from a privilege. Again contrast this to Sen’s position that all capabilities we might “have reason to value” count. Such a criterion legitimates the right to any commodity which people ‘have a reason to value’ so a personal sports vehicle with 6-foot tires or a 500 horse-power marine engine one desires to have like others or to be “safe and well-served” qualifies. What in the capabilities literatures rules against these capabilities? As in the capitalist market of choice, there is none. Corporations talk about their capabilities all the time, and those of their products – giant gas-fuelled personal motors, fast-repeat guns, exciting video kill games, two-pound burgers piled high, and so on. All grant the abilities to “perform functionings” that “the individual chooses”, and everyone is given a “reasons to value” them. Until a life-value criterion is built in, the worst can and does happen in the name of ‘choice’, ‘capability’ and ‘reason to value’. What people want is their good, and individuals choose or – in aggregate – the market does. No life-value principle guides judgement.
Sen is concerned with equality of capabilities and rights to them, however, whereas the market system selects for inequality with no concerns. All that matters is that people pay. While the market is bound by money-demand, Sen wants those without it to have more equal standing. So far, so good. But again the question insists at a general level. What if the desired capability for which people claim a right is for what stunts or violates life capacities at an ecological or organic level? The issue is avoided because a common syntax of freedom of choice and worth rules at both market and high-theory levels. A fateful question is posed by life-value principle. How can corporate rights to exploit the resources of the world to maximally satisfy what individual consumers have a right to choose have any limit or end to despoliation of life fields and support systems by this ruling logic of rights and freedoms?
Neither market theory or received rights doctrines can meet the problem until life-value standards are grounded in. With no life-value requirement or need entering as a condition of the legitimacy of these kinds of rights and freedoms, we end as we have with a collapsing planetary life system and social injustice beyond bearing.
Individual Differences and the Life-Value Criterion and Measure of Legitimate Rights
The plot thickens further, however. Before we can re-ground in the universal life needs and goods all people require which follow from the N-criterion, many will protest that cultural or individual differences make this universalist idea impossible, or undesirable, or both.
For example, some choose to satisfy their need for food in the form of fish and beans, others by meat and potatoes, and still others by vegetables and fruits, with many further variations among these menus. Hence the false inference arises that the need for food too is various. More careful consideration resolves the problem, however, because it recognises that organic need is for a complement of nutritional food which can be spelled out across these different fares by the N-criterion and primary axiom of value. No-one chooses this life necessity and good itself, nor can impose it on another. It is a necessity of life recognised by life-value understanding, and admits of endless degrees and choices within its principles of recognition, bad and good and mixed. Whether it is recognised or not, the objective criterion of life value remains constant, and thus too the life-value ground of rights and the principles of social justice across cultures.
The test in all situations is invariant: whether life capacities are more restricted or reduced in range without the life necessity and good than with it. Empirical science can confirm or disconfirm, but need is always this in principle. Right to what is not needed by these objective and comprehensive life-value criteria, while other human life needs it to live as human, cannot therefore be a legitimate right, or be consistent with social justice. This is what life-value onto-axiology concludes, and it is open to counter-argument any step of the way.
Thinking Past the Life-Blind Paradigms
Yet how manifold is the resistance to understanding the self-evident. Acculturated stupefaction and wilful blindness seem at work, and one can explain this as a product of a corporate system which is not only structured to the unliving, but invades what is not itself as its feeding cycle. The academy follows suit way by abstracting out all that lives by formulae and conceptions indifferent to life needs a-priori – as we can seen in particular with economic thought whose price and profit calculus cannot distinguish between what enables and disables life or what is alive and what is dead. Life value and need do not compute. We could walk through the other disciplines and find a similar blocking out of all the life necessities to live as human – philosophy and theory that avoid the life-ground in principle in self-referential idea systems, history that fixes more on how many can be killed and ruled to erect monuments on the wreckage to record for posterity, and so on.
Still another avoidance is to argue that the need-criterion of legitimacy of right is reductionist for people’s lives beyond need. Yet again one asks: what exactly is worthwhile that is not an expression or enjoyment of a life capacity? If nothing is, and need is solely that without life capacities are reduced, what of true life-value can be ruled out? Nothing can be – as thought experiment will confirm. As we consider the universal life needs which satisfy the N-criterion – a long research study whose conclusions are reported for examination ahead – we find that there is nothing worthwhile in life that is excluded because all that people do or choose to do requires life capacities, and they in turn require the life goods that meet needs to flourish however free and unique they may be. Whatever the manifold variations and choices within the generic goods of these universal life needs, no life-coherent possibility is pre-empted. Moreover, all that a human life can have a legitimate right to is that which is needed to enable life capacities to live and flourish as human – the universal life needs and goods which derive from the primary axiom and the N-criterion.
The Universal Human Life Necessities
They are the common life-ground of humanity, and they entail the rights and obligations required to fulfil them. Life-value research has accordingly established seven distinct domains of human life necessities and goods required by human beings across persons and cultures. Each domain of universal human life need may be personally tested, in turn, by asking which of any one could live without and not suffer a reduction of life capacity.
Some goods are physically undeniable. One cannot do without oxygenated air or potable liquid or caloric intake in any degree without a proportionate reduction or destruction of life capacity. The life-value calculus identifies for every life good the scientifically establishable limits of life capacity range and the degrees of its reduction correlating with the degrees of deprivation of it.
Thus one cannot live six minutes without any breathable air, a day or so without water, a week without any food, and so on. The italicised parameters apply across need-capacity domains, with very different lines of necessity and loss from deprivation of different universal needs. Insufficient breathable air leads quickly to incapacitation by the degree of deprivation, but no open space or light – other goods of one’s atmospheric situation – take far longer to show the loss of life capabilities or ability to function through range. Nonetheless they too are universal life necessities and goods in a correspondingly qualified sense. And so on through the entire framework of universal life needs/goods spelled out ahead.
Consider an example. The nourishment requirement is many-sided in calorie, protein, and vitamin necessities of intake, with research establishing required range quantities for size and age parameters, and corresponding physical degeneration by significant deprivations. Deprivation of communicative culture, on the other hand, is more complex and less dramatic in the effects of its deprivation, but still expresses deprivation of its goods in life capacity loss. Although no reading or writing tools for a writer would score far higher as a disabling deprivation than it would for someone preferring music and play as human expression and communication forms, still people without any cultural creations or means of creation – from language interaction through the arts to play – are made subhuman in their quality of life. Cultural goods thus also constitute a universal human life necessity by the N-criterion. Although the need satisfiers and choices vary immensely, reduction of life capacities without any of them is clear and usually quantifiable by functioning range.
Universal Life Needs the Basis of All Legitimate Rights
It is important to be very clear on these matters because the generic principles involved cross all domains, goods and necessities of human life. To move into still further spheres of these universal human life necessities and goods – the real basis of legitimate human rights – we may consider what is often blinkered out as a merely subjective or individual or cultural issue without unifying objective principle of determination or life-capacity measure.
Consider in this light a human life without anyone caring for its existence at any level. Such a deprived life is a kind of hell, although capacity loss from its deprivation is not so easily measurable as life without sufficient caloric intake or potable water. There is a human life necessity of supportive care or “love” which some say the greatest need of all. Certainly without it people variously lose life capacity including the will to live itself, and infants and children variously shrivel up and die to the world without it, as research has shown across the primates.
In every domain of universal human life need, in short, there are implications for human rights and obligation corresponding to the life-value loss and provision involved.
Still another universal life good and necessity for human beings across cultures, again admitting of very different forms, is the need for a physical or natural environment in some integrity of form. This is why people being confined to an environment of squalid disorder is a human-right violation and social injustice. Deterioration of the life fields of thought, felt being and action follows – as has been shown by animal welfare research with even livestock reduced in their vital signs of alertness, brightness of eye and skin sheen if they are deprived of environmental shape and stimulus.
At this point explanation calls for some unifying complete set of these universal human life goods/needs/necessities without which human beings variously suffer life capacity loss towards inertia, disease and death. Life-value understanding requires the full life-value framework and coordinates of legitimate human rights and obligations. Whether every vital life need is agreed upon or not is less the ultimate issue than that we have some objective and generalizable framework to ground in as opposed to an absurd intellectual and market culture which recognises no objective ground of human life at all but money demand, priced supply aggregates, a one dollar a day differential of poverty, and so on. The furthest analysis has gotten beyond this in the new well-being indexes beyond gross market sales (GDP) are lists without any principled ground, unifying criterion, or delimiting framework of universal life goods.
The standard need-set of “food, clothing, housing, and so on” which Marx first recognised 176 years ago after centuries of theory without any life-requirement is obviously inadequate. It has no criteria, measure or connected whole. The ubiquitous “basic needs” of non-governemntal organisations is vacuous. It is ambiguous enough that marketeers can deny deprivation as long as income is rising by less than the cost of a bottle of pop.
The most important human life need for a vocation or meaningful employment is always left out, and food itself can continue to be processed junk – as in U.S. school lunches where the highlight of food for poor children, ketchup, may qualify as a vegetable. Humanity has been a long time without its most basic life-value bearings, and this vacuity of meaning fits the ruling money-rights system like a glove.
III. GROWING THE LIFE GOODS BASE: BEYOND MONEY, IDEOLOGY AND PRODUCTIVE FORCES
The problem of a criterial measure of human life needs is a life-and-death matter. Yet the reigning economic theory since Adam Smith everywhere conflates needs with wants, and necessity with system demand. In Anglo-American justice theory as well as economics and studied philosophy in general, no criterion of life need ever arises. The concept in principled form might as well be outlawed. John Rawls’ standard-bearing “primary goods”, for example, is decoupled from life needs altogether. The ruling proxy of “income” substitutes for them.
Theory in general continues the effective prohibition even in the political economy discourses of the Left which become track capitalist-system mechanics with no welfare index or standard of life need to ground meaning in life necessity itself. One might say there is a pathological blinker against the life-value meaning of needs in Western civilisation – except that Eastern civilization is more blinkered still. It does not and cannot distinguish between a vital human need and an extinguishable attachment in its Vedanta and Buddhist forms. Confucianism prioritizes propriety to superiors over the life needs of anyone. For all, unsatisfied life needs are wordlessly presupposed as a problem of the lower classes. The decorum of the rich over centuries and across cultures gives the illusion they are above universal life needs because unbroken by them in their privilege of guaranteed provision.
The great exceptions are Lao Tzu in the East and the recorded Jesus in the West, who speaks of “feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving shelter to the homeless”. Nonetheless official culture and lead thinkers normally subjectivise need a-priori, and almost never relate rights to defined life needs. Philosophy seeks to understand the ultimately regulating principles of the human condition, but has avoided this ultimate issue from the beginning – most dogmatically since its linguistic turn of the twentieth century. Economics is meant to comprehend production and distribution of otherwise scarce goods for human society to live and live better from, but is blind to the production of universal life goods at any level – in fact, an anti-economics which is indifferent to the difference between need and want, and all waste beyond money costs.
History is supposed to find the deciding ground of what uprisings and forward movements of peoples are about if it is to understand what is going on, but ruling-order provision of life necessities and goods for society and its technological-social possibility remain unexamined as an historical struggle and trend.
Does any social science do better? The general fact is that is that no higher-order theory of rights and social justice grounds in the life-and-death necessities of human existence. Even materialist theories avoid universal human life needs. The ancient Carvaka of India focused on voluptuous desires, and no known materialist doctrine since has comprehended or researched a universal life-necessity framework.
Why Marx Does not Solve the Problem
Karl Marx brought European ideology “down to earth”, but begins Capital by saying on the first page that “the nature of human wants, whether for instance they spring from the stomach or fancy, makes no difference” to his study. The issue of the life goods all people need to live and live well has been essentially a blank slate except in medicine, and as we know its contemporary dominant forms have been biased towards expensive corporate commodities for profit – exotic machines, traumatic body mechanics, and corporate pharmaceuticals for symptoms.
Even with the new welfare indexes where we seem at last to be getting towards the life base for rights, duties and social justice, there is no criterion of life necessity or good in any. A leading formation of such an index in Canada, The Canadian Well-Being Index, is a case in point. When provided with formal demonstration of the universal needs principle and framework required for any concept of welfare to be life coherent, the assembled experts “greeted it with a strange silence and would not engage it” in the words of its medical adviser. This response is symptomatic of an underlying syntax of contemporary thought which blocks out the very life-ground of humanity’s universal requirements of existence as its formal habit of rational thought.
Predictable Downfall of Human and Planetary Life Until Life-Value Turn
It is no wonder that no social or natural life support systems are any longer secure. This is a predictable fatal consequence at a system level. Its money-sequenced depredation only becomes worse until the system is re-set in terms of universal life necessities which, in fact, exclude nothing worthwhile. Test that claim in your own experience in light of what has been agreed to by the universality of all the needs identified by the primary axiom and N-criterion. This is the only life security that matters, but “security” in state-and-corpse speak is the systemic opposite. This is a testable law of its nature. It is not human nature, but elimination of human nature as life coherent to favour money sequences becoming more – the cancer stage of capitalism
Life-value analysis, in contrast, begins with humanity’s necessary life goods as its terrestrial ground. Standard categories like “income”, “primary goods”, “prosperity”, “rights”, “freedoms” and so on are discovered under analysis to have no criterial meaning of life value at all. One must therefore build from the life-ground up.
Once research and reflection manage to arrive at defining principled grounds of humanity’s universal life necessities and goods, it can work towards laying bare a unifying framework of them – a difficult road in a cognitive context in which countless varieties of relativism, differences, custom and resistance rule out such a research project a-priori.
Again we find there is virtually nothing to go on that is criterially well formed and life-grounded at once. The need criteria defined by the analysis of section II provide this missing baseline. They are life-grounded and can be verified and tested by one’s own experience.
Without such a principled life-ground one is at an onto-axiological loss. One cannot truly know what human beings have rights to as human or what social justice consists in. The life base and principled substance of what really matters are altogether missing.
Emptiness and arbitrariness of rights thus follow. The distinguishing feature of life-value understanding is that it re-grounds thought and analysis at the level of human life necessities and capacities themselves, and in the ecological support systems that make them possible at the same time.
From Moral and Legal Philosophy to Marxian Revolution: The Missing Life-Ground
Moral and legal philosophers have nowhere yet so grounded.
Readers may think Marx has. He certainly begins to re-ground in human life needs and capacities, but on closer examination his ultimate base is found to be historical productive force development which he assumes realizes human life needs and capacities and necessitates the revolution of capitalism to full human freedom and self-realisation at the same time. Yet Marx and Marxists have never provided life-value criteria to explain or to bridge the three levels of life-and-death issue which are skipped over here:
(1) why seizure of the state from capitalist control is ensured against the systematic life-blindness of the order it grows out of;
(2) what collective life-values there are to guide this state rule and its productive force development beyond more material output as an end in itself; and
(3) how human life needs and capacities are to be enabled and fulfilled by this program as assumed rather than distorted or imprisoned by it.
The Modern Blind Eye: No Life-Value Standard to Steer Productive Development
Productive force development can go well or badly depending on its regulating value purpose – well if steered by life-value coordinates to realise human needs, badly if steered to maximise private profits or state-party power. In itself, productive force development means nothing but more material output. One of the greatest confusions of mankind is to assume that that more productivity or material output automatically means better lives and life conditions for people without any life-value criterion to show or enable this outcome.
Consider for ongoing example a state-led flooding conversion of the natural wonder of the Yangtze River Gorges into a central power dam with millions of lives forcibly uprooted and beaten if resistant, and long-term ecological catastrophe ignored by the ruling engineers of the Central Committee. Under the direction of private money capital, the outcomes can be much worse. More material output can be for nothing but more money-value to fast-profit stockholders with only more job losses, waste and junk left over. One cannot, in short, reasonably assume that technological advances or innovations in themselves serve human needs and capacities to live fuller lives. They can only reliably do so if life-value standards govern them, and they have never been so governed. Presumption has led without life-standards or measures.
Marx was not as life-blind as classical and so-called neo-classical economics or states like China run by engineers. But he supposed life-value advance by productive force development as the ultimate principle of historical change. His essential justification is that private capitalist control for profit explains the monstrous outcomes of ever more machine and mass-labour powers. Yet however much this analysis explains, its argument cannot in principle meet the ultimate problem. For life-grounded standards are not only missing, but never formed. Without them to recognise the conflict between human life and life support requirements, on the one hand, and more and bigger material outputs on the other, only assumption of a better life for people is left to rely on – that is, magical thinking.
This has been the deepest onto-axiological fault-line of both the Marxian and the capitalist ideas. What is required to steer the world from its cumulative construction of human-and-terrestrial-life catastrophe is fatally screened out – the life-coherent use of technology. The capitalist story of the private market’s invisible hand necessitating the best of all possible results or “optimal” social welfare may be the prototype of the life-blind logic of rule, but whatever doctrine is believed, only life-coherent technological development resolve the problem, and that requires regulating life standards at both human and ecological levels. The industrial method of factory and assembly-line production to ever vaster and world-changing forms can continue to be by slave-like mass labour and ever more nature-destructive machines and methods or, at the other pole of possibility, be led by coherent life standards to better ensure humanity’s universal life necessities and goods including human vocation and environmental integrity of growth. That it can be made one way rather than the other is the deciding choice process of social rule-system.
The belief that the powers of production themselves “discipline, unite, and organise” the working class into revolutionary self-determination and human freedom is one of the still-believed formulae on the left that has blocked the life standards required. For every moment of this discipline and organising in capitalism is to save private money costs for absentee investors and to do so by turning all moments of production including workers into life-numbed mechanical functions. Why would people so conditioned, and permitted at best only to bargain for monetised benefits become an oppositely-structured force against their work-and-consumer conditioning around the clock?
Without life-values and their corresponding rights and obligations regulatively steering productive forces – a-priori screened out or denigrated by Marxist and capitalist discourses alike – hoped-for metamorphoses into optimal social states do not occur, but end in life-despoiling results. The results are socially constructed, not arranged by an invisible hand or dialectical laws. To steer by life-coherent standards rather than magical mechanism is the ultimate social choice space that has been lost. The long-term outcome has come to be virtually every life system in cumulative decline by a life-blind automatism which still leads at the front end of theory.5
The First Requirement of Social Justice: Re-Grounding in Universal Human Life Goods
Soviet industrial development showed that the mounting life catastrophe is not only capitalist in nature. It too had few or no effective life-value standards. The infamous mass murders and system life oppressions in the name of liberation require no elaboration here. In fact, they have provided the choral chant of capitalist propaganda since. Where states like Cuba or Venezuela in our time have better structured towards meeting basic life needs, they have been made international pariahs by the usual selective reporting for which provision of universal life necessities is blinkered out a-priori. They are called “despotic” from this standpoint.
While no thinking person should be duped by this Orwellian clamour, life-value analysis applies to clarify the problem on both sides. Neither Cuba nor Venezuela specifies principled life-value standards to ensure accountability of the ruling party to their realization. Clear recognition of atmospheric end environmental life goods, for example, does not register. Just as deeply, the human vocation to serve, express and enjoy human life capacities as an end-in-self of value is not a policy life standard. In Cuba which has been at its socialist revolution for 50 years in spite of U.S. continuous criminal embargo and violations of international law, it has nonetheless advanced far. In elite performances of conventional forms of sport, music, and dance, free scientific and literacy education to a universal level, and life-serving medical care at an international level of commitment, the accomplishments have been immense. Yet the critical dialogical development of the humanities, public discourses and political policy have lagged into near atrophy. So too have locally-led innovation and the resources to organise and implement better social living conditions on the ground – such as occurred in Chile in the barrios with state-provided materials and free self-directed home-building, before President Allende was murdered in 1973 by a Friedman-advised state dictatorship for the “free market”.
Recognising the Human Vocation Above All
The human vocation is an ultimate need for life contribution and enjoyment which entails free critical speech, thought and creative action consistent with collective life-need requirements. But it remains at a backward stage of accommodation and development. This is the ultimate issue of unrecognised life need and humanisation of rights globally.
The so-called “developed world” under corporate globalization has gone rapidly backward in this respect. It has cumulatively eliminated the human vocation without noticing it by private money-sequence competition as its logic of rule. Even its critical higher education and research, once the leader of the world, have been subjugated to the corporate private-profit mechanism while the next generation has ever diminishing opportunities for any work but private-profit service jobs. In the ‘Free World’ and the Majority World at once, there is almost no vocational security at any life-serving function, rising unemployment for post-2008 youth in particular, and fewer livelihoods in the real economy of producing life-value goods. The unseen social bedrock of society, the civil commons analysed ahead, has been militantly defunded and privatised for profit. What does not turn a private money profit is defunded or funded so that it does.
Right of Access to Universal Life Goods: The Missing Argument
Life-value understanding makes a very important meta shift of rights towards each person’s right of access to a universal human life good rather than being confined within the now ruling legal concept of merely private rights to exclude all others for self-profit from whatever is held. This is a foundational distinction which will be unpacked further ahead as the inner logic of an unseen war of rights systems is explained.
Here the grounding baseline of meaning is the universal life needs of all human beings across language, class and other divisions. Bear in mind that each and all of the goods specified in what follows meet the stringent criteria of a universal life good and necessity at once. Each, that is, denotes: (i) a universal good which is also (ii) a universal necessity that in every case (ii) holds across individuals and cultures (iv) if and only if, and (v) to the extent that, (vi) deprivation of N (vii) always results in reduction of life capacity.
Explanation needs to very exact here because there has been a long and world-wide confusion on these issues. Postmodern culture, relativism and scepticism of all kinds explicitly or tacitly refuse to accept any universal good or necessity at all. Philosophers over 200 and perhaps 2500 years have generally avoided the issue with no universal criterion evident in any known school. Both canonical philosophers and modern economists issuing from a philosophical school conflate needs and desires with no recognition of their ultimate distinction – that all need objects enable life capacities, and do not admit of excess or perversion. Conditioned market desires, preferences and wants are the opposite in principle, and serve only private profit whatever the cost in life capacity reduction at human and ecological levels – the disorder built into the system.
Yet amidst tireless variations on the slogans of “individual/consumer differences and choice” and “what is a need to some is a want to others”, the absence of any ground of understanding humanity’s ultimate directive meaning defines the age. Those who know perfectly well there are “basic needs” – even that for a human vocation – still give no principled ground of meaning.
IV. THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN LIFE NECESSITIES: THE LIFE GROUND OF ECONOMICS AND HUMAN RIGHTS DEFINED
Before identifying the set of universal life needs and goods which frame the issues of rights and social justice for a life-coherent standpoint, there are a number of issues to be considered as one works through them. Every sphere of goods defined ahead is necessary to human well-being by the N-axiom, but to very different degrees of necessity from one good to another.
For obvious example, deprivation of clean water is more immediately life-destructive than of cultural goods by the measure of reduced life capacity towards death, but cultural goods are nonetheless necessary to a human life by the same measure. One should also keep in mind that even if most humans alive have not had sufficient access to these goods, it remains true by life-need criterion and measure that they are reduced in their life capacities even if this reduction has become normalized. For official measures of people’s welfare have no life coordinates. Only an aggregate average of private money-demand is involved, and so only private priced commodities which may be junk or disease-causing are covered. Thus a rise of commodities and services bought and sold is consistent with, in fact, more impoverishment in a society’s life goods – its jobs, its environment, its foods, and its natural resources.
Perhaps no absurdity has been more ruinous than the private money-demand measures of human well-being and development. One day it will seem more lethally fatuous than buying indulgences from the Church to bring life welfare. Yet innumerable false doctrines collaborate in disconnecting corporate, state, popular and academic intelligence from objective life values, and so too rights and obligations. Even democratic theory has become ungrounded from what people require to live and live well. With the ruling model as electoral headcounts in a corporate-state field of propaganda, a majority can be indoctrinated to support as “freedom” a belligerent war on cue or the depredations of children’s lives.
High theory does not re-ground, but de-grounds further. Fictitious contractarian models and debates with no life-ground nor organic need nor mention of corporate profit itself multiply in name journals, books and graduate schools as “the latest research on justice”. In opposition to all this, life-value understanding recognises that real development and social justice advance by better provision of universal life goods and necessities to people without which they suffer loss of life capacity – an objective fact admitting of objective degrees of advance or regression as more or less people are nourished or malnourished by them. Theories and practises are thus obliged to face a life-coherence principle of validity – that is, whether their positions are consistent with or blind to the most universal requirements of continued human and planetary well-being.
In short, life-value understanding reconnects to the common life-ground and the universal necessities and goods each and all objectively need to live a human life. This is the life-value meaning of the Socratic wisdom that “an unexamined life is not worth living”.
Blocking Out Life Necessity: The Compulsion of High Theory
Whatever creative choices one might make and be individuated by within the range of possibilities opened by access to these life goods, they are required by every human being and human rights and social justice correspond in their development to the provision of them to enable the lives of all.
Yet no sooner are such words as “universal” and “necessary” out than charges of “communism”, “paternalism”, “the terrorist universal” and so on unleashed. In high theory as well as the capitalist market, a conventional thought-space of life-disconnect reigns. A useful experiment here is to identify any universal and necessary life good whatever for humanity which is acknowledged as such in the entire literature of contemporary higher-order thought outside life-value theory.
As perhaps future inhabitants of the globe may recognise in amazement that any future life was possible, this disconnect has been so complete and complaisant that most in governing circles and the academy resist any system understanding of what is happening even as the ice-caps melt and the next generation cannot find a livelihood or vocation. What is miscalled “the economy” has one supreme law that overrides all life requirements whatever – to turn private money into more money for its possessors ad infinitum through corporate money-and-commodity vehicles.
The mind-lock binding acceptance, in turn, is that this system is alone capable of “delivering the goods” when in fact it increasingly despoils life goods and rights across domains. Yet one can only know this if one knows what these life goods are.
The Universal Life Needs and Goods: Explaining the Base of All Rights and Obligations
In the unifying life-value framework of needs/goods defined ahead, each is a universal life necessity and good because no-one across cultures can be deprived of it without losing life capacity towards inhuman existence or death. All are also distinct from each other because none can be provided for by any or all of the rest.
These general facts may be tested through every one. The universal necessity of each also confers a universal human right to it and the obligation to ensure it where lacking. This follows from the principle of consistency and non-contradiction in any coherent ought statement. If it is a life necessity and good for all, all ought to have it so far as materially possible, or the moral position is incoherent with life and fact at the same time.
It is the greatest failure of the global corporate market order that none of these universal human life goods and necessities is ensured by its organising system because it depends on scarcity and attends only to private payment of price. It thus fallaciously shifts necessity onto the demands of its own doctrine, and so its value calculus is indifferent to whether any of these life needs are met, or are violated root and branch. Instead the internal dogmas of its thought-system are called “laws”, “necessity” and “reality” all at once. This is the false metaphysic of this disorder that is so endlessly assumed and repeated that it is not seen. Society is thus held in a post-hypnotic trance of the ruling doctrine as in a fanatical religion.
Beyond the Invisible Hand: Naming Humanity’s Universal Life Necessities and Goods
In contrast, what is self-evidently true in fact, principle and experience are the universal life goods and necessities of all human beings. Their real goods are what any life-coherent economy should seek to achieve. They enable the long elusive “good life” in defined substance, while also satisfying all reasonable claims to human rights.
Deprived of any of these universal life necessities/goods, and to the extent of this deprivation, economic decline and social injustice follow together in correlation to the deprivation of these life goods when their protection and provision is possible. Again we need to be aware that their provision constitutes the sole necessity of the real economy and human rights at once:
(1) the atmospheric goods of unpolluted air, sunlight, climate cycles, and seeing-hearing space;
(2) the bodily goods of clean water, nourishing food, fit clothing, and waste disposal;
(3) the home good of shelter from the elements and noxious animals/materials with the means to sleep and freely function;
(4) the environmental good of natural and constructed elements contributing to a life-supporting whole;
(5) the social goods of reliable care through time by supportive love, work-day limits/safety, accessible healthcare, and security of person;
(6) the cultural goods of language, the arts, participant civil rights, and play; and
(7) the vocational good of enabling and obliging each to contribute to the provision of these universal life goods consistent with the enjoyment of them.
How to Test the Universal Life Goods and Necessities for Validity
The reader is invited to test this needs/goods index at every point. Two questions arise for any sound criterion or definition, and they are worth applying to each and all members of the whole set. Is anything claimed that is not a demonstrable universal need/good by the N-criterion? Or is anything missing from the set?
In elementary logic, these are known as the questions of “too broad?” or “too narrow?” They are posed to any definition or criterion of any principle, and they take us through all the questions and debate required to know the sound answer. This is the process of truth for life-value onto-axiology, the process of more coherently inclusive taking into account. The resting point of valid criterion is reached when there are no exceptions to show that the frame of life needs and goods above is too narrow or too broad in any element or as a complete set. The process moves through testing counterexamples as long as these can be given, at which point one knows the provisionally sound criterion or definition. If this set of universal life needs/goods of human beings across cultures still stands in the face of counter-argument until no life-coherent candidate remains, then it has stood the test of truth.
Sufficiency and Insufficiency of Provision Recognised by Life Capacity Margins
Once we reach this point, we recall the principle of measure. Each and all of these universal life goods admit of sufficiency or insufficiency which is definable by the margin gain, or loss, of life range with, or without, provision. Sufficiency is reached when no life good is missing from this set without which life capacities are reduced – a condition that flourishing human lives and societies both enjoy and provide for.
It should by now be clear in the face of long confusion and nonsense on this point that socially assured sufficiency of life goods does not mean authoritarian government or levelling of individuation and diversity. The goods are universal necessities of a human life, not dictated by central authority or anyone else. People’s lives are precisely not levelled, as now, but ensured provision. On the contrary, they are enabled to be far more diverse and individuated with more life and choice space than before.
Thinking Through “From Each According to Ability, To Each According to Needs”
The universal ethic and social justice of the principle “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” is here provided with what it has lacked – the precise criteria, defined content and comprehensive meaning of “needs”. While life-value understanding agrees with the general principle, it first recognises and confronts three major problems which have not been resolved by this classic formula:
(1) “Needs” themselves have remained without criterion or definition. Thus damaging habits conceived as needs may qualify as benefits, leading to disabling consequences and disputes.
(2) The “ability” expected from each is not grounded in human life capacities. Thus dehumanizing use of abilities can be obliged, allowing for distortion of their underlying capacities;
(3) There is no principled linkage between needs and abilities to ensure system life coherence;
(4) With no defined criteria of the burden-benefit sides of this principle of social justice, it remains a slogan without defined substance or directive meaning
(1) to (4) explain the great shortcomings of this timeless idea which have led to the rejection of it as vague, utopian, ungrounded and so on. These are not merely academic issues. The idea’s greatest advocate, Marx himself, affirmed ‘need’ growth with no limit (e.g., he affirmed cigarettes and mansions as needs if these were the norm of the stage of productive development of the society in question), and he uncritically assumed that this productive development conditioning these ‘needs’ was their inexorable external determiner. What other great philosophies like Buddhism and Lao tsu’s Taoism affirmed as the ultimate choice-space of humanity – release from conditioned desires – was not only ignored, but explicitly overridden by affirmation of ‘need’ growth without end. Need growth without limit is a principle shared with subsequent economics, and it mischievously justifies ever more corporate market growth as necessary and good.
In this way, both the ruling disorder and its Marxian alternative affirm perhaps the most ruinous assumption of modern thought. Nowhere is life-value analysis more demanded than here. It recognises only needs whose goods enable life capacities that are always reduced without them, and derives all needs from this anchoring principle of life value.
Thus grounded, humanity’s social and historical advance can be objectively told as distinguished from merely propagandised or confounded by ambiguity and disputation. Governing value standards are, in short, finally defined in life-coherent terms, and conditioned wants can be exposed for what they are by objective life-value coordinates. Human rights and social justice are thus provided with their lost life-ground.
V. RECOVERING THE BASES OF OUR LIVES FROM SILENCE AND OCCUPATION: THE HUMAN VOCATION, THE CIVIL COMMONS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
A human vocation comes in as many forms as there are ways of contributing one’s share to society by expressing one’s own capabilities as a human being. It enables and obliges the provision of universal life necessities for others, and realizes oneself as human. It is the ultimate human life good and necessity because it links the rights of people to universal human goods to their obligation to contribute to them – the bridge from individual to society, is to ought, and humanity’s development to better. It bonds from within and calls from without as the human vocation linking the individual and society rather than dividing them.
No need and capacity so defines human being, and yet no universal life good is more alienated from us within the money capitalist system. Work is a “disutility” to all ruling economic doctrine since Adam Smith, and only its selling for a price counts as work. It is here most fundamentally that humanity’s meaning is turned upside down. Grotesque consequences of economic organisation follow such as disqualifying the most basic economic contributions such as homecare and child upbringing as not work because it has not been bought and sold.
The obligation of contributory work for the society and world which host one’s life is not coercive for life-value understanding. It is grounded in humanity’s deepest need – to do what is of value to others and meaningful to oneself. This is in truth what makes human beings different from two-legged animals. Two-legged animals are identical with their self-desires in the individual, and are unconnected to each other by rules for mutual life-good provision within herd and peck-orders. This non-human state admits of degrees, but almost all societies we know today are bound in this direction by the ruling system of all competing against one another for means of existence and private profit.
While almost anyone can recognise the human vocation to produce life-value for others beyond self as undeniable – what drives every self-realising occupation – this human vocation has long been conditioned out of conscious recognition. It gets lost in atomic concepts of “self-respect”, or is directly reversed by market doctrine that conceives real work as only what others buy. This onto-axiology thus presupposes a kind of enslavement – one’s vital hours are sold to another as a commodity with no human rights in trade treaties which regulate the world’s ‘economies’.
Constructive activity to produce life-value for others – what we are impelled to do if we are healthy human beings – is thus erased as a form of life and motivation in the market order. While it remains in teaching, health-care and other professions not yet subverted by private money-sequence subjugation, it grows ever scarcer in the macro global system. Revealingly all the while, global-market corporations never stop telling us that they do what they do is for us. They obliquely recognise this condition of human being, but it has been driven into the life-unconscious at the theoretical level.
Being Human: Why We Must Work for Our Own Life Good and Others’ at the Same Time
We already intuitively know that no-one can flourish who does nothing of objective value for others – the meaning of work in the life-value onto-ethic. That is must be done to enable others’ means and ranges of life as well as one’s own is what distinguishes it from play, although it may be experienced as more interesting and uplifting than play.
This is why why deadbeats wither on the vine, why disemployment causes disease, and why both left and right have long recognised that a large percentage of people without work is a social disaster. On the other hand, the insistent reduction of human beings to bipedal desiring machines is the onto-axiology of neo-economic doctrine. In his paradigm-setting work, Mathematical Psychics, Frances Edgeworth crystallises the onto-axiology at work (italics added): “The conception of man as a pleasure machine may justify the employment of mechanical terms and mathematical reasoning in social science”. 6 This concept of humanity as a mechanical desiring machine has become a fatal reduction built into the ruling money-sequence and commodity system at a global level, with the limitless desires for more of its two-legged atomic mechanisms set to perfect indifference to all beyond them. The global corporate system is the mega-mechanism of these atoms interacting to produce ever more money demand and exchange – not product (consider the ever dominant financial system which produces nothing) and certainly not life goods (consider rising junk foods, violence entertainments, and homicidal armaments).
Because the money-sequence system serving the one percent at the top of the me-feeding cycle extends the inhuman mechanism into every corner of life, the human vocation and life goods themselves are cumulatively poisoned and deformed. While purporting to serve people’s self-interests in a systematic way, this disorder has in fact hollowed out planetary life support systems and human-life identity itself while leaving an increasing great majority of the world’s individual persons without the life necessities and goods they require to be human. In contrast, a society is life-value efficient only so far as its rule system is structured to provide for access of its members to life goods through generational time. This structure of provision for the life capacities of its members to be fully alive rather than deprived is, in turn, what life-value theory designates as the civil commons.
The Civil Commons: Real Economic Base and Social Correlative of the Human Vocation
The civil commons may be amnesiac in even left theory, but it is the social basis of valid human rights and social justice as well as economic reproduction at the same time. The civil commons is defined as any and all social constructs which enable universal access to human life goods without which people’s capacities are always reduced. Thus defined in logico-scientific principle, the civil commons can be recognised as the unseen differentia of the species which first emerges in language itself and distinguishes all subsequent supra-genetic evolution.
Lest this moving line of social development continue to be blocked out by submergence in the reigning disorder which everywhere dismantles the civil commons that have been built, the reality still remains that civil commons functions sustain the human condition remaining everywhere we look beneath the surface of corporate occupation and commodification for profit.
As I sit in my home, there is nothing I experience and need that is possible without the civil-commons infrastructures enabling it. The electricity flow to my word-processor, lamp and space-heater are built and guaranteed by publicly built public hydro sources, lines and safety regulations including the standard-plug structure and sustained currents whose failure at any point might destroy my machine as well as my projects. Yet even this fundamental necessity of my human vocation, of my light, of my warmth, of my cooking and refrigeration – and everyone else’s in the wider community – could not occur without long civil planning, contribution and struggle to develop and retain every moment of it against privatization-for-profit forces. If Enron had not collapsed from its private money-sequencing in place of public energy provision, we would still be hearing how its method leads the future – as indeed it does without the brand.
The Corporate-Rich War on Civil Commons to Expropriate and Degrade Them for Profit
Here and elsewhere corporate money-sequence forces dismantle the civil commons bases of society without identification of their causal mechanism of destruction – as the example of New Orleans still shows the world, but does not teach anyone in the privatizing culture. New Orleans could not withstand an offshore hurricane with its stripped civil commons leaving nothing intact in its natural and built sea-delta infrastructures or community resources of rescue, health and housing to protect human life through natural time. The hurricane Katrina was not a natural disaster. It was a man-made one from the destabilization of hydrological cycles behind these events through thousands of stranded, terrorised and drowned people to the masses of New Orleans people still homeless and ruined today.
Back to the simple problem of retaining public electricity generation and distribution which has been one of humanity’s great advances in life goods provision by civil commons structure. Privatization for profit has threatened the regular cost-effective flow and the source of electricity for citizens everywhere it has been regressed to. In California private-profit control bankrupted the wealthiest state of the U.S. in the short and long term, and treated its citizens to endless blackouts and extortionate prices up to 200 times the normal. This is the cancer money sequencing with no function multiplying out of control, but it made market far more profitable, and therefore great good to this value metric. For this reason, the money-sequence managers and sales personnel were ebullient at every blackout in anticipation of the spiked-up returns of commissions from the scarcity prices they could then impose for future supplies. Before the Enron black hole started, however, it was regaled by the corporate press as ahead of the world with its “asset light free market in more efficient private energy management and supply”. Higher efficiency in this system means more money for private money-sequencers than what they put in, the higher the ratio of self-take the more “efficient”.
The civil commons infrastructure of society which is thus raided for money-sequence profit everywhere it can be is thus destroyed beneath notice. It so deeply grounds our conscious lives that it is invisible as the air we breathe – whose breathability is itself a civil commons achievement in an industrialized world. Consider for more substantial example the sidewalks we walk on and our common travel lanes for vehicles – especially bicycles which have themselves become a civil commons good as not only lanes but as endogenous-energy mechanisms publicly provided in more advanced cities like Montreal. These are civil-commons constructions still advance against the corporate world war to expropriate or annihilate them, but remain unseen as what they are – the already existing alternative to the global corporate occupation beneath and around them.
While no-one is permitted to charge a price for profit to use public pathways, but corporate money-sequence forces have already succeeded here at the level of private-toll highways appropriating enormous public wealth by the for-profit privatization. Now they are pushing to privatize the re-building of Canada’s infrastructure for profit and toll now it has been so badly run down by continuous corporate rich tax cuts, off-shore evasion with impunity, and corporate vehicle loading. The corporate raiders who assault the civil commons will continue to succeed as long as the civil commons remain invisible and unprotected with even more highly paid private corporate consultants hired by governments to tell them what to do next. I can still breathe the air outside my inner-city home because there are public regulations, also hard-won, on exhaust fumes from private and private-profit automobiles and from corporate-factory pollutions – still poisonous in the big cities, and dangerous even in a small town for citizens with bronchial and respiratory illnesses from their poisonous emissions. The right of citizens to clean air is sometimes talked about, but only instituted by enforced public regulations which are intensely-lobbied against by the corporate money-sequencing lobby controlling governments.
From Commons-Blind Theory on Both Sides of Class Division to Life-Goods Economy and Justice
The war of private corporate rights against the civil commons and human rights to life goods is waged across society without a received theoretical literature identifying the life-and-death forces at work. This is the empty theoretical and critical space which life-value analysis maps. Its critical application makes clear that not even the most developed societies yet recognise or protect some of the most basic life-spaces – for example, the life field of hearing whose cumulative occupation and violation by private corporate commodity-machines has effectively despoiled a whole sentient field of human life across the rural-urban divide.
Yet not even this ruin of the primary sentient fields of human and fellow life registers as a social injustice to commentators. The walled estates of the rich may trigger angry reaction, but not to protect the shared sentient life-field that is everywhere destroyed – including in newly marketizing Cuba. Here as elsewhere, the deeper structure of injustice and economic incompetence in protecting common life goods is unseen. And here as well, system response is to commodify the new scarcity of life good to sell to those with money in new private markets and profits of enclosures. The circle of life-value destruction thus feeds on itself.
Without life-value understanding which recognises that only common-life structures or ‘civil commons’ can block against the multiplying life-field invasions – in this case, by laws and mandatory corporate-machine silencers to protect public life space. Yet here too any such resolution is condemned as “big government”, “an impediment to growth”, “nanny-state interference with people’s freedom”, and anything else corporate propagandists can manage to indoctrinate people by in their mass media and ruling parties. Now at new margins of the invasive totalizing life-space occupation, industrial corporate wind-turbines whose vast and state-subsidized machines occupy horizons and relentlessly destroy birds and their flight paths while propagating subsonic wave-propagation which disequlibriate the autonomic system are mass-built for private corporate profit while requiring almost as much fossil fuel to build and to sustain power outputs as the fossil fuels they are supposed to replace. Until the underlying war of life-world occupation is laid bare by life-value analysis, hoops of the mind stupefy the acquiescent. This is why even as official responses to wider oil and carbon crises transparently fail, the primary civil commons solution which has worked so well in past crises of collective life threat, public rations, cannot enter the group-mind. The group-mind phenomenon is as old as herd behaviour, but is now managed by pervasive corporate ‘public relations’.7
When life-value analysis examines the infrastructures of the civil commons which have developed, one can see everyday rights of life protected around the clock whose non-violation makes them invisible. Citizens can trust the food and drink they need is not deprived because their refrigerators, the energy flows to it and the stoves to prepare it are all protected by still further civil commons infrastructures which are not yet conscious or connected – not only the electricity or gas systems which are publicly regulated, but every item to eat or drink anywhere is safe-guarded by the same unseen social agency whose food and beverage regulations – so far as they are not undermined by the same private for-profit forces – protect citizens from toxins, disease bearing biota, unknown spoilage dates, hidden contents, and so on. Here again, the civil commons are put at risk by corporate interests whose sole goal is to sell more for private money-profit without limit, their sole binding obligation under corporate law and charter and international trade regulation.
The moving line of the transnational corporate takeover of our long evolved common safeguards of life invades everywhere – the independent government testing of food and beverage products replaced by corporation control, smuggled in genetically-engineered contents which governments will not even label, sabotaged public efforts to flag junk foods and drinks from local to UN levels over decades, uploaded sugar, caffeine and salt contents to disease levels in even children’s drinks, and so on. Where does it stop even as people come to know? It does not. Humanity’s food supply itself has, in a word, been contaminated and debased beneath and around hard-won civil regulations, while simultaneously macro life support systems and biodiversity collapse under the same global corporate-state misrule.
No theory or practise can decode the life-value parameters of destruction, its cause or the civil commons logic of resolution without life-value principles to guide analysis. Otherwise the connecting life-attack pattern cannot be seen. This is why global war of private money-sequence growth to marketise everything for a price for private profit is still absurdly named “economic development” and “economic growth” by even opponents as the system’s anti-economic wastes grow – the inverting group-mind at work in the most unexpected places. At the same time, the historical social agency that really stands for universal human life requirements is not recognised by even those who see a system disorder. Competing partialities miss the civil commons infrastructures in a meta preoccupation with divisions within the capitalist market.
Karl Polanyi’s classic work, The Great Transformation (1944), is a compelling exception, but his emphasis is on pre-market community and stop-gap social measures since. Polanyi refers to the “natural and social life substance” that is market-attacked, but recognises no through-line of development of society’s common life bases of reproduction and advance. Marx and Marxism focus on class divisions and technological powers with no civil commons recognition anywhere. The substitute notion of “communism”, now unusable, is confined to a long superannuated past or a utopian future without even life goods yet defined and the entire evolution of their common ground beneath classes unconceived.
The ancient idea of the “commons” is itself inadequate because it applies only to natural forests and the immediate natural resources characterising medieval and remaining village commons. It does not recognize the social construction of their protection and reproduction, nor their more important cumulative modern form of civil commons infrastructures and services for all citizens. In short, no received literature, however progressive, has recognised the onto-ethical nature and evolutionary ground of civil commons that from the beginning distinguish human society from aggregates of two-legged beasts. Not even a common life-value principle is understood. This is not from stupidity, but from long cultural disconnection from the life-ground on which all depend and from the very roots of humanity in rule-governed common possession whose first form is language.
Regaining the Lost Bearings of Civil Commons as First Premise of Human Evolution
“The commons” which has re-emerged as a concept in recent years has itself been stripped of universal life-value meaning by social progressives and private corporations at the same time. Neither recognise its civil meaning of rule-governed access of all to life goods.
Multinational corporations see only a natural resource which can be exploited rent-free. On the other hand, those who affirm the “commons” either have no criterion of what they affirm, or assume a badly mistaken one (e.g., excluding the state as funder, as American concepts usually do). The civil commons remain thus open to any distortion at all at the level of meaning itself.
Without any principled comprehension of humanity`s evolving social life support systems, disconnection from them follows. Who is the historical subject? What can replace the industrial proletariat now removed to the non-industrialized world? What concept of collective agency can we have? The now established box of formal analysis is that economic and political science cannot think beyond aggregates of atomic selves. At the same time, philosophers are stuck within an agent-relative ontology where social agency disappears a-priori.8 Thus confined to market, electoral and moral aggregates of private individuals, the private-profitization of the civil commons proceeds apace for more self commodities, corporate rule and systems wastes. This debasement and reversal of human evolution is then absurdly called “more freedom for the individual” and “more prosperity for all”.
With no social subject left or life-value grounds, common life support systems can collapse all around with none responsible or accountable – “impersonal market competition”. Here lies the ultimate abdication of the human vocation and economic sovereignty at once. The rules of the monstrous construction run by themselves with no human agency responsible for the man-made system or allowed to change it for the better. Societies around the world are thus condemned to suffer mounting “sacrifices” to the corporate system’s growth. They must tear down their civil commons developments to pay the system’s private banks, and to reassure more profits to come in propitiation of the life-blind mechanism which “must grow again” as the ruling end in itself. The god-system thus reverses human and planetary evolution as its feeding cycle.
From Corporate State versus Social State to Life-Coherent Rationality
The state itself is step-by-step reduced to two ruling functions – armed defence of global corporations’ interests at home and abroad and unconditional hand-outs to ensure their competitive growth. If money-sequence overreaching bankrupts both, the corporate-market state re-finances them with public money and strips back social sectors to pay. With no common life interest conceived or guiding across generational time, the world and its peoples are hollowed out for still more of the same with mounting cumulative harms to human and ecological life.
The sovereign demand to be “more competitive in the global market” is, decoded, an attack on the human vocation itself with new jobs for the younger generations increasingly only in private money-sequencing functions – from fast-food services to telemarketing of unneeded commodities to management service. Received theories structure out this level of human immiserisation as we have seen. In response, life-coherent understanding must re-ground in universal human life requirements and the common life interest to meet the void of theory and practise which lack any clear conception of inherited social agency standing for the public good.
The civil commons principle, in contrast, bridges from the universal human life necessities and goods to the civil-commons constructions that have long provided for progressive access to them. Human evolution from common fires, shared water sources and human language is recognised as a civil commons throughline whose universal life goods increase the more all can access them – the inner life code of every social development that has been achieved to the knowledge commons and shareware of the contemporary internet system.
Along with life-value and civil-commons principles, rationality itself is reclaimed as the life-coherence principle – consistency with and realisation of common life requirements through time as the test of validity across domains. Social justice follows in normative meaning, and civil commons rights and obligations enable universal access to universal human life goods towards sufficiency of all – the human vocation in collective form. The essence of the world disorder, conversely, is disconnection from and destruction of this underlying structure of human meaning and advance – the meta evil of our era. The ultimate war of the contemporary world is between knowledge and misrepresentation of the process.
VI. EVOLVED CIVIL COMMONS VERSUS CORPORATE GLOBALIZATION: A PERFORMANCE EVALUATION ACROSS UNIVERSAL LIFE GOODS
The facts of daily life in developed society have been so painstakingly and historically constructed across generations to enable universal access to the life goods of evolved humanity that we need systematic understanding of how provision of every ultimate life good is under attack by private money-sequence forces.
Beyond the civil commons bases of safe and reliable energy flows into homes to perform the functions required for individual creation, food, warmth, and sleep, beyond the evolving body of public rules and regulations to ensure the safety of foods, water supplies and building structures, and beyond the publicly built and kept pathways and routes of people’s lives in every life-value domain, still more layers of civil commons to enable us to live and flourish as human. The public education that has taught people how to read, compute and research, the public libraries and resources all can access without price, the civil water mains and sewer pipes built and maintained to provide all with drinking and cleaning sources to overcome filth and disease, the universal public healthcare without which countless lives are bankrupted or destroyed, the universal pensions for old age, unemployment-income insurance, disability allowances and supports, the civil interventions available in countless forms to prevent harms to person, property and home, the public information resources and consumer protection requirements, the publicly constructed and serviced dry-and-wet waste cycles for all dwellings, the countless standing government offices to respond to needs of every kind, the new shareware and creative commons of the Internet – where do the civil commons stop? What domain of our lives is not deprived or threatened without them? What human benefit of culture and civilisation do we enjoy that they do not enable in a continuous way?
The uncovering of the civil commons by which people’s lives are continuously sustained and enabled on every level day in and day out is the lost common ground of our lives. It is simultaneously the substance of social justice not yet recognised in received theory and doctrine. Yet which is not under attack by defunding, underfunding, deregulation and for-profit privatization as private wealth has risen for the apical money-sequencers to a level where a few hundred control more private wealth than 95% of the world? After public grade school education was stripped in Africa to pay foreign money-sequence debts to public health systems, and income security for the unemployed, civil services, pensions and higher research in the industrialised world slashed or privatised for profit afterwards, there seems no end to the reversal of humanity’s social evolution itself.
As civil commons are continually axed by defunding, attrition and casualisation of their work, and as rich corporations and high-end incomes receive continual tax reductions – the ever pressing financial pincers – the despoiling of social and ecological life support systems piece by piece is prevented only by resistance at every node of the private money-sequence invasion. Even when the most beloved and recognised civil commons formations – like Canada’s public healthcare system – cannot be cut without loss of the next election, the global disorder is not penetrated in its system-wide inner logic by public or academic understanding. Like Plato’s cave-dwellers held by their chains of conditioning to see only dancing shadows projected onto the wall before them from an unseen source, we do not see the regulating forms behind the show of ever-changing appearances. Thus the civil commons substructure of human society is underfunded, privatised in bits and wholes, opened to foreign corporate takeover, tax-starved and stripped back at every level from one decade to the next across the world disorder without connection of the dots.
Re-Setting to the Common Life-Ground of Our Existence
We need to re-set conception to the common grounds of our existence to know our ultimate bearings. It is only from these bearings that reclamation of the bases for a human life and society can life-coherently proceed as universal across cultural and other differences.
The defining principle of all universal human life necessities and goods is (1) that without which the life capacity of anyone is reduced (2) by the degree of the good’s necessity, (3) to the extent of its deprivation when (4) the means are available to provide it. This is also the exact line and measure of economic in/competence and social in/justice at the same time. Economic and moral rationality are not opposed as they long have been in the ruling disorder. They are re-integrated in life-coherent framework to apply across domains.
The universal goods which are provided or deprived are, in turn, goods which have:
(i) intrinsic value so far as they are felt and conscious to human being (e.g., the air, waters and fellow beings felt as values in themselves);
(ii) instrumental or ultimate value without which human life is reduced or destroyed by degrees;
(iii) mark injustice or diseconomy to the degree of the systemic life loss without them; and
(iv) mark social justice and economic advance at once to the measure of the protection and enabling of their provision through time by
(v) society’s system of benefits and burdens progressively ensuring their provision.
Economic Advance and Social Justice Both Decided by Universal Provision of Life Goods
Once real economic advance and social justice are defined with principled life coordinates, not opposed without life coordinates of either, we awake from their false and life-blind division.
We are able to understand how either is in fact won or lost in the world: for example, by potable and waste water cycles, scientific literacy levels, life-coherent technological advance, and life security gains or losses – all validated or invalidated by the enabling advance or disabling reversal of citizens’ life capacities through generational time. It is real economic development from the standpoint of production and distribution of otherwise scarce goods through generational time. It is social justice from the standpoint of realisation of rights to the universal goods of a human life formerly wanting or deprived.
At this point it is worth reviewing the fate and trends of the universal human life necessities and goods under corporate-market rule for private profit and commodification, and the sole known protection of them by public regulation and investment in their provision – that is, by civil commons formations. It is here that we can tell the clear lines of the undeclared war of private corporate invasion and occupation of humanity’s life grounds. The absurdity of claims of “development”, “win-win wealth creation” and “capacity building” are thereby exposed.
Analysis thus moves underneath rhetoric to actual universal human life necessities and goods which are provided or deprived, efficiently allocated or debased and wasted by a putative economic system. The real lines of economic development and social justice are thus no longer lost in the life-blind money-value metric or propagandist doctrine.
(1) The natural atmospheric goods of breathable air, open space and light are not conserved nor protected by the corporate-rights system, but systemically depredated insofar as (i) the air is polluted by its commodities’ production and uses (e.g., ever more motor vehicles for profit with no limit on their numbers or ration of their use on land, air or water); (ii) open space is cumulatively occupied by these corporate-person uses and commodities disabling people’s lives (e.g., by pervading fumes and motor-spike decibels and subsonic propagations); and (iii) the light of the sun has been made toxic by corporate-commodity effluents having cumulatively destroyed the ozone layer for protecting the earth from infra-red solar radiations.
On the other hand, where public regulatory interventions have been prevailed, there are air-pollution abatement measures, open-space protections, and sun-radiation buffers (by ozone-layer protocol, the sole life standard in transnational business treaties). Corporate-person provision of the universal atmospheric goods of breathable air, open space and natural light is, in all, totalizing in despoliation without public authority regulating every phase of its cycles. As with provision or deprivation of all the universal life goods of (1) to (7), economic advance and social justice, or their violation follow, along with higher or lower human rights and obligations.
(2) The bodily goods of clean water, nourishing food and waste disposal have been increasingly depredated by reigning corporate rights and commodity cycles insofar as: (i) the fresh waters of aquifers, lakes and rivers are polluted and drawn down by corporate-person activities of manifold kinds from factory farming, toxic discharges across industries and commodity extraction, with untreated public sewage itself led by these open-waste methods and by corporate blocking of taxes required to resolve the problem; (ii) the world’s foods and beverages are increasingly sugar-salt-and-oil laden, chemically adulterated, and genetically contaminated to serve money-sequence functions of mass sale, masking of age and quality, and care-cost reduction, thereby leading multi-disease causation and depleting loss of seed stocks, vitamin yield, forest covers, and organic immune resistance; and (iii) massive waste methods increase by non-selective forest and fish factory looting, throwaway products and packaging, and non-recycling of waste products.
Conversely, economic provision and social justice together advance insofar as each and all of these depredatory trends in life goods security and provision are exactly reversed through generational time by regulating life standards and norms (e.g., by institutionalization in now exclusively corporate-rights treaties of trade and investment, as now with steel standards and ozone-depleting substances).
Home and Habitat Goods
(3) The home and habitat goods of shelter from the elements and noxious animals and insects with means to freely function are improved in countless expendable conveniences, but under the ruling corporate system: (i) a home is dependent on private money stocks or debt-servitude to private banks at compound-interest charges exceeding principal and, simultaneously, tied to private-developer profits so that increasing numbers of families are home-insecure or homeless; (ii) corporate-person ‘development’ is pervasively sited on shrinking farmlands to exploit their already historically developed life capital of cleared, graded and drained lands for what maximizes its external money gains; and (iii) protection from noxious animals and insects is by profitable commodities of instant poisons, solvents and other kill-mechanisms which are hazardous to life forms in general and blinker out life-coherent methods of public resolution.
Conversely, economic provision and social justice advance together insofar as housing is by public non-profit provision (as for post-1945 war veterans), land speculation is made unprofitable by transaction tax-back of the unearned gains, cross-border regulation of life-toxic agents as now in ad hoc manner in the developed world.
(4). The built and natural environmental goods of surrounding elements and contours contributing to the whole are what form all pleasant human surroundings across cultures.
This environing life good too requires public coordination and control which private developers and financiers have displaced: (i) by massive ungreen urban sprawl ‘development’ around from one town and city and beauty space to the next across borders if not over-ruled by externally enforced regulations (e.g., as with old European towns or public parks); (ii) by buildings determined only by corporate-person profit for unit sold and not for their contributing place in the whole unless regulated by such public standards; (iii) leased public lands and resources to be torn apart and polluted by corporate-person loot-mining of forests and minerals, military attack or practice areas by high-profit weapons, and private commodity noise machines multiplying in number. As with all other coherent provision of universal life goods, every one of these disorders is preventable and has been prevented by public life standards with which all must comply to have access to them for productive purpose or personal enjoyment.
Life-Protective Goods of Security and Healthcare
(5) The life-protective goods of civil life security and healthcare when ill are the mark of civilized humanity in all places and times, but are undermined by corporate-person rule insofar as: (i) the private money-sequence system it presides over redistributes public wealth and worker wages to its own global growth in ever greater extremes, thereby depriving increasing majorities of income and life security of all kinds; (ii) ever more public wealth expended on ‘national security’ by armed forces and high-profit armaments in fact directed to killing and terrorizing civilians and children in over 90 percent of casualties and deaths over decades, while simultaneously depriving massively publicly provided resources for life security for all; (iii) the mass sale of addictive and life-disabling junk drinks and foods and injection of toxins and carcinogens into commodity cleaners, consumables and personal care products which afflict countless people with diseases, whose cause by these products is unresearched or undisclosed; and (iv) the privatization for profit of health-restoring goods so that what does not serve corporate money sequences is ruled out, including public health plans and their extensions.
Yet again, every one of these disorders of economic provision and social justice are reversible by civil commons agency and known methods – for principal examples, public healthcare systems far superior in costs and outcomes, and diminishing expenditures on armed-force violence as ‘national security’ which in fact terrorizes and deprives citizens across the world .
Cultural Life Goods
(6) The universal human life goods of language, music, art, and play which constitute culture in all its diverse human forms are debased or eliminated insofar as corporate money-sequence growth selects for funding and reproduction of only those forms which directly or indirectly produce and mass-market commodities for corporate profit. Whatever does not serve this ulterior goal is not funded or, if integral to people’s lives, distorted into a form that does (e.g., public education tailored to the demands of corporate rule). Thus culture becomes commodified to sell corporate brands, communication is reduced to what promotes sales by instant images and sound bites, and public cultural policies are determined by corporate modes (e.g., publicly financed spectacle sites in place of community play and performance areas). The cultural form is decided as “good” or “bad”, in turn, by private money-value returns – that is, how much is paid for product or reproduction (high art), or how well it sells corporate commodities (commercial art). In general, culture becomes funded or defunded as it returns higher or lower money value to private parties. Students, for example, are required to “invest” in their higher education by debt contracts with private banks to pay for “the higher returns” of their learning – the money sequence of value imposed on and regulating education itself.
Every one of these trends of systemic depredation of human culture in all forms correlates with rapid corporate-profit growth into them with no cultural form made more life-enabling in any life value domain of human thought, felt being and action by the invasion.
The Good of Human Vocation
(7) The good of human vocation is the ultimate life good for human beings in community insofar as it enables and obliges people to contribute to the provision of universal life goods consistent with each’s enjoyment of them. This is the innermost moral logic of real economy and social justice ruled out by the opposite demands of pecuniary self-maximization with other human beings as mere resources for more money for ever fewer at the top. The logic of human economic incentive and provision as well as human rights and obligations follows from understanding the nature of the universal human life goods themselves.
To enjoy the atmospheric goods of nature obliges one to not degrade but preserve them. To benefit from the bodily goods of clean water, nourishing food and waste disposal requires that each contribute to their provision by sustaining taxation and participation. In the same way, the universal human goods of home and pleasant environment, civil safety and care when ill, and enjoyment of cultural goods are realized in terms of the same life-value code of human vocation, economic function and social justice in mutually coherent unity across differences.
At the highest level of abstraction, the vocation of each individual is to do what s/he can that is of life-value to others and of life-interest to self. For none to shirk the duty of giving back in to what enables the humanity of each is the obligation in return for these goods and rights – the human ordering of both economic provision and social justice.
These are the real bases of self-respect and substantive individual freedom. Every person has something unique to offer, and social organisation is only good so far as the life capacities of individual and society, right and obligation, are bonded in mutual progression and not dehumanizing to both. The value of work for others, in turn, is defined by its contribution to the provision of the universal goods each and all require to live as human.
The autonomous artist is not an exception. S/he is an exemplification of this life-value onto-axiology of vocation, productive function and social justice – giving self to the art to communicate to the world in original creation. One can be a clean-up worker, or an academic, or both in life-time given, or any other number of life-time contributions to the provision of humanity’s ultimate life goods. Mothers count as much as farmers who count as much as heads of state in this human ecology of vocation.
The commensurable unit of obligation is hours worked for provision of the life goods needed across generational time. In brutal contrast, as the surrounding world makes clear, the private for-profit corporate commodity system results in more permanently unemployed, more downgraded jobs, more extended laid-off periods, less sustaining incomes, more squeezed-out work, more eliminated life benefits, ever fewer with work pensions and – most deeply – rapidly dwindling life vocations for the next generations.
VII: WHY CONTEMPORARY JUSTICE THEORY FAILS: THE MISSING COMMON INTEREST OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND REASON
While contemporary justice theory has become the most well-known field of philosophy in recent decades, it presupposes the same first premise of value choice as the ruling disorder. The implicit baseline of rational decision is pecuniary self-maximization.
Contemporary justice theory assumes, but nowhere justifies this ground of rationality. It is Contemporary justice theory assumes, but nowhere justifies this ground of rationality. It is simply the given from which reasoning begins. As John Rawls the originator of contemporary justice theory says in passing reference in A Theory of Justice (1971), “it is rational for the parties to suppose they do want a larger share – – -The concept of rationality adopted here – – is the standard one familiar in social theory” (p.143). He cites Arrow and Sen and others, but nowhere justifies the assumption they assume as given. It is the first principle of modern rationality, and no-one inside the tradition challenges it. That the assumed rationality is in truth the opposite of reason which seeks to take account of others’ interests, not just the furtherance of one’s own, does not compute in the market logic which rules. All want more as rational. This is the first principle of modern theory, and no-one inside this reigning mind order challenges it.
The ultimate failing in principle is: all shared life goods – both natural and social – are blinkered out a-priori. Money income for self stands in as the first principle of value gain, and rights without any life-necessity ground bind competing conceptions. John Rawls reposes on these life-blind first principles throughout, and sets the liberal agenda. Defence of Lockian private property with no limit is the opposed right-wing agenda of Robert Nozick. For over 40 years these much elaborated impressions have ruled official political philosophy across the English-speaking world. At the same time, the reigning money-sequence system itself is off-limits to discuss. Money-capital as the determiner of the real world is an unspeakable in the discourse.
The life substance of both justice and injustice are thus abstracted out a-priori. The central issue becomes, instead, one of money-value “incentives” to “the talented” to “serve the least advantaged”. This is the cover story that is argued over ever since. Anglo-American philosophy on justice is usually about it. The life-and-death problems confronting humanity are thereby screened out within the primary myth of the ruling ideology – that inequality of money gain is based on personal talent.
Since more money-possession comes from assumed “superior talent” of individuals, private control of money capital by inheritance, one-pointed greed, blind luck, dishonesty, tax and obligation avoidance, and so on are all blinkered out. More deeply, the underlying social structural issue of ever more money wealth allocated to the few at the ever greater expense of the many with no higher talent involved is suppressed a-priori. All that is discussable now is locked into the terms of the mythic assumption of unequal wealth from ‘superior talent’. One can fashion an imagined set of principles and institutions to base incentives on serving the least advantaged (the Rawls school). Or one can reject the whole premise of any re-distributive scheme at all and argue only for absolute right to keep the wealth as one pleases (the Nozick or ‘libertarian’ school). The question of private money capital control as the decider of wealth independent of any personal talent nowhere arises, however, as review of the vast literatures on “the difference principle” confirms.
The examples used are instead deviously selective and disconnected from reality. Nozick features Wilt Chamberlain selling tickets to see him play and his right to have the unequal wealth. The literature on Rawls features the pay for superior performance necessary to get a woman surgeon to do the surgery rather than the gardening she prefers. On the basis of such examples, necessary money incentives to the talented or no redistribution of wealth however extreme the inequality stand as the central ideas of social justice.
Abstracting Away Everything that Ultimately Matters: Mapping High Theory’s Correspondence to the Life-Blind Ruling System
The general principle from which these hot-house debates are generated, “the difference principle” of Rawls’ A Theory of Justice, is more interesting. It is that “the higher expectations of those better situated are just if and only if they improve the expectations of the least advantaged members of society”.
While Rawls and high-end justice theory appear to propose a high standard here, all the ultimate questions of social justice are blinkered out. The ground of private property itself, money-capital right to become more with no burden, natural resources left over for others, the non-waste obligation, the protection of common life support systems, organic means of existence and the production of them, the rights and duties justly assigned to ensure their provision, and how humanity is to live with Nature so as not to despoil it – – All of these issues are abstracted away along with the real world and the life-and-death problems of a just social order.
From here, critical discussion turns on how inequality of the income of the ‘more talented’ can be justified. The implicitly cordoned-off areas of discussion are worth identifying to comprehend how this framework of analysis of social justice preconsciously conforms to the ruling money-sequence program of rule. However ultimate their importance to our lives and their right regulation, the following foundational areas of concern are blocked out:
(1) the biophysical world itself and its universal requirements of reproduction;
(2) human needs, their nature, criterion and universal structure;
(3) production of the means whereby societies live, and its organizing principles of regulation;
(4) the nature of actual money-capitalist society and its money-profit sequence;
(5) the conception of any of (1) to (4) as normative issues or questions;
(6) any right or obligation of justice not based on contractual agreement of atomic individuals;
(7) any resource to repudiate any social regulator as evil;
(8) any allowance of method to ground in or introduce (1) to (7) as what must be addressed by a theory of justice.
“What is left that matters?” one might ask. This is a question that does not arise within the field. The field of real-life problems of social justice is ruled out by the life-blind syntax of argument itself. The universal human life necessities and goods, the just organisation of their provision and the civil commons principle, the natural life-ground and the human vocation are a-priori expelled from this meaning and value structure. At the same time, the actually ruling capitalist system, its money-sequence logic and destruction of social and ecological support systems are effectively off-limits to evaluate. In these ways the reigning philosophical vision of social justice is life-blind like the ruling system, and taboo against raising questions is by a-priori device rather than by censorship or a gun. From the start, discussion of “the difference principle” is linked to the neo-economic standard of “Pareto optimality”, a touchstone of modern social and philosophical sciences. Although Pareto himself does not define the principle in natural language, it means a condition in which no-one can be made better off without someone being made worse off. Against surface appearance, however, the Pareto principle is consistent with the most extreme immiserisations of most human beings. For example, if the given distribution is a very small fraction of society in control of most of its money-capital assets – as today – Pareto “optimization” would leave all their wealth intact with no redistribution because this would make the super-rich ‘worse off’, and thus be a violation of Pareto efficiency. Rawls recognises a problem here, but shifts it to the deplored feudal past. “It may be that under certain conditions”, he says with emphasis added, “serfdom cannot be significantly reformed without lowering the expectations of some representative man, say that of landowners (p. 12).
G.A. Cohen’s Egalitarian Rescue Remains Within the Ruling Alibi as First Premise
Former Marxian scholar, G.A. Cohen, goes with Rawls to the Pareto principle in Rescuing Justice and Equality (2009), but he too rejects it as inadequate for justice. Both he and Rawls, however, entirely sidestep the capitalist world reality of allocating money to money-capital profit without limit or desert. This is the ticket in the door. Global capitalism itself is off-limits to discuss. Indeed none in this dominant discourse ever engages the actually ruling structure of global injustice, nor develops a principled alternative to its regulating mechanism.
Since the elephant in the room is not there, the human and ecological world being trampled does not enter as an issue. As Antonio Gramsci has observed, hegemonic ideas never touch the essential core of ruling economic relations. While standing against any inequality, Cohen declines also to question Rawls’ position that inequality-producing incentives do get people to produce more real goods from which the poor benefit. Instead just-so stories continue to stand in for reality to reflect the reigning myth of the system: to wit, there are specially talented and productive individuals, they alone can produce what people need more of, and the issue is whether to give them higher money incentives to perform their superior work.
Life-coherent reason does not go down this primrose path. It observes there is no criterion of life need here, nor account of the actual productivity of life goods by the higher paid, nor sound correlation of incentives to either. All this is taken for granted in accord with the ruling myth. What is not reflected from the wider world, however, is any trace of the actually ruling system of inequality to which no part of the myth applies. In the real world, it is not talented individuals receiving more merit pay, but a financial sect’s control of money sequencing to more private money with no productive merit required and at steeply rising costs to the majority’s lives and their common life support systems. The basic structure of injustice is thus pre-empted from view to attend to the unrecognised myth.
With life-value, money-capital profit and the common life-ground all unspeakable within this disconnected framework, in short, the multiplying assumptions at work construct an ideological illusion which is uncritically reproduced by radical justice theory itself. Money inequality is correlated with superior persons and their performances of value for others – the ultimate alibi of the corporate system made first premise. Its popular version, which Rawls emulates without notice, is: “the rich create a larger social pie from which the poor benefit”.
Economic Science and Pareto Optimum/Efficiency Unmasked in Principle
The man behind this idea is Pareto, the leading mantra-name in rational choice theory. His position is worth briefly visiting not only because Rawls and Cohen do not, but because it discloses the pedigree of the principle from which the reigning discourse on justice comes. To begin with, Pareto’s canonical Manual of Political Economy itself repudiates any equalising mechanism as economic nonsense.9 It is only used “to get rid of one aristocracy and replace it with another” (p. 93), he says, with aristocratic rule as “what always exists” (pp. 311-12). It is a law of nature which only “decadent” and “degenerate” members of the ruling class oppose, he declares as self-evident in echo of the rabid Friedrich Nietzsche.
These ‘decadents’ are only moved to by a “morbid pity” or because they are “eager for perverse enjoyment” (p. 73). Pareto thus affirms war and the mass killing as necessary to “European civilization” whose advance he regards as “the fruit of an infinite number wars and of much destruction of the weak– – [by whose] sufferings the present prosperity has been acquired” (p. 48). “Very moral civilized people”, he asserts, “have [also] destroyed and continue to destroy, without the least scruple, savage or barbarian peoples”. All the “so-called liberal professions [medical care and education, for example]”, he declares in implicit pre-emption of any compensating services to the poor, “derive their income from factory owners” who would be deterred from producing wealth for society by such “humanitarian absurdity” (p. 304).
We may thus see in Pareto the core intellectual program of the global corporate system of rapacious greed which economists pervasively justify as “Pareto-optimal”. While it seems paradoxical that liberal egalitarians would appropriate Pareto to their apparently opposite cause, there is less paradox than first appears. Pareto’s principle of “equilibrium”, as he calls it, in which none can be made better off without others being made worse off – is a logic of status-quo adhesion. It is consistent with the most extreme and growing life-value deprivation of the majority in the name of a bigger pie for all, as he recognises.
Rawlsian Justice as Trickle-Down Myth in Formal Costume
This is where the Rawlsian difference principle seems to ensure fairness and justice where the Pareto principle does not. Yet when we examine it more carefully, we find that it has no criterial limit on justifiable inequality to ensure that it not as permissive of the inequality which the capitalist idea of ‘trickle-down’ has justified in the decades since Rawls’ famous A Theory of Justice was published. In fact, almost every capitalist gain-scheme advocated in the world since – global free trade and investment without borders, ever lower taxes and regulation, ‘right to work’ breaking of unions , and so on – has been represented as a policy to benefit the poor. Now even the IMF now calls its privatizing-pay-bank-debt programs “poverty alleviation programs”.
With no life-value standards grounded in, people’s life necessities and goods can be relentlessly degraded and deprived and so long as money-income rises a few cents for the poor, “the least advantaged” or “poorest” are believed to have been “uplifted out of povery” and “justice” thus served. We see here how income stand-in for human life necessities and goods can lead to the most unjust results without notice – especially when, as now, average or mean quantities erase the low extremes from view, and “out of poverty” elevation occurs at two dollars a day.
Consider here subsistence farmers driven from their farmland, their family and their community supports into the city – as hundreds of millions are every decade – with nothing but the price of a coffee in new income counting as “millions lifted out of poverty”. We hear variations on this story non-stop. Where does philosophy of social justice then turn? Only by grounding in a defined set of means of life themselves universally necessary to human survival and flourishing is the problem soluble; and only civil commons evolution led by the life-coherence principle of validity builds the process of social justice in life-value terms.
Since more money-possession comes from the “superior talent” of individuals, the issue of private control of money capital by inheritance, one-pointed greed, luck, dishonesty, tax and obligation avoidance, and so on disappears. So does the underlying social structural issue of ever more money wealth being allocated to the few at the ever greater expense of the many because it is a corruptly life-blind system out of control. All that matters now is to work from the myth of unequal wealth from ‘superior talent’. One can argue for absolute right to keep the wealth as one pleases with redistribution outlawed (Nozick) or to fashion an imagined set of principles and institutions to base incentives on serving the least advantaged (Rawls). The question of private money capital control without desert is evaded as if it did not exist.
In these ways the reigning philosophical vision of social justice is life-blind like the ruling system. Silencing of questions about it is not recognised because it is by a-priori device. The real world of monstrous injustice is simply blocked out by just-so stories – the very same device which reigns in economic theory. The universal life-and-death necessities of a just versus unjust social order are left with no place in the conversation. As in the wider world, grounding justice in what we all need to live as human is erased as a thinkable possibility. Only income proxies and rights without life content remain.
VIII. BEYOND EQUIVOCAL EQUALITY AND MASKING MYTHS: GROUNDING JUSTICE IN WHAT WE ALL NEED TO LIVE AS HUMAN
G.A. Cohen’s Rescuing Equality and Justice is the most egalitarian opposition to the Rawlsian ‘difference principle’ within the dominant academic discourse. Yet all the life-blind exclusions identified by (1) to (8) above govern this understanding of social justice as well. Criterial life substance, basic needs, and existing ruling social structure continue to be blocked out. The worst-off are, therefore, not better recognized in what makes them badly off.
The reigning order of inequality by unearned private money-capital income is also never mentioned. The masking myth of personal talent reaping higher pay (benefit) for superior productivity of performance (burden) remains in place unexposed. Again we may see the ruling value syntax at work. Radically egalitarian argument itself avoids the organic life goods making anyone’s life well or worse, blinkers out the money-capital governance of the world producing the deepest real inequalities, and accepts the idealizing equation of deserving more money for superior performance as the ultimate issue to argue. Conceptions of justice and injustice again disappear into debate within the terms of a primary myth of the system.
Because the ruling money-sequence syntax of injustice remains in place, the common life-ground itself and life-grounded government to achieve social justice cannot be conceived. What is not recognised is that even the normative category of “equality” allows for limitless exploitation of its ambiguity of meaning. This is why “equality” has been at the forefront of system-justifying doctrine since John Locke and the U.S. Constitution he inspired, while also being a rallying cry of radicals from the British Levellers to the French sans-culottes to socialists today. It is an equivocal concept which brings out whatever discussants project onto it.
That is to say, any ordering principle can be seen as both equality and inequality at once, depending on the viewer – equality before the same capitalist rule system, for example, but extreme inequality of condition entailed by its operations, on the other.
This is why market capitalism has long been described as both a system of “equality” and a system of “inequality” at the same time. The original revolutionary struggles and documents in the formation of capitalism in the later eighteenth century and contemporary philosophy of justice have both long traded on and elaborated this built-in equivocality without recognizing the intrinsic problem of double meaning. Even when one seems to have a straight-on disagreement in principle – for example, G.A. Cohen opposed to Robert Nozick opposed to John Rawls, the list is long – the most apparently inegalitarian position, like Nozick’s, turns out to be grounded at another level in the same idea – equality before market-system laws.
What really matters to people cannot be understood by elastic categories without life-value criteria – “equality” in particular. What the lives of all people in fact need for their life capacities not to be deprived is the robust and impartial standard which is missing in social justice theory, but what life-value onto-ethics builds on. Liberal theory never mentions sufficient food, or water, or housing, or waste systems, or natural environment as parameters of social justice, even though their deprivation in developed society is the most pressing form of injustice. How can rights or justice be understood when what really matters to people’s lives is thus hollowed out? Citizens cannot eat claimed liberties, or be assured of a more just society by a marginal income gain when they have lost their homes, or enjoy an attractive versus despoiled environment if the issue is blinkered out, or be concerned with massive fellow species extinctions if the matter cannot be seen, or have a human vocation if only opportunities exist to compete for scarce higher money-value positions.
If all of these basic issues of human life right are blinkered out as they essentially have been, social justice cannot be understood even in theory, and in practice the most basic common life goods can be despoiled beneath recognition. This is why even the human food system can be stripped of nutriments by chemical-genetic concoctions in accord with the money-value syntax with no issue of injustice to millions diseased by it arising to theoretical view.
Most social injustices in the contemporary global rule system are of this kind – unjust deprivations of means of life by the reigning system’s demands, usually represented as “equal rights to compete” for self privilege within it. Thus increasing hundreds of millions of people can be without ecological security or even water and nutrition as global wealth multiplies in the control of an apical few, yet the freedoms and well-being of the poor is declared to be rising. Ever greater volumes of junk commodities may undermine the health of children and non-affluent across the globe even after critical science recognizes the epidemic damages, but the lives of all are declared as “better off”. Social infrastructures of education, health and pensions may be defunded to pay compound-interest public debts to private foreign banks leveraging the debt money, but the transfer of wealth from the impoverished to the rich is called an “economic necessity for developing nations”. Evolved cultures of participant art and play can be lost to debased and violence-pervaded products of mass-culture factories, but a “global information culture” is proclaimed. Wars and domestic oppressions by force of arms may grow in public funds devoted to them as common life support systems are stripped towards collapse, but “security of the world’s peoples” is ubiquitously incanted. Species extinctions and genocides may accelerate by the ruling system’s growth demands, but more parks emptied of indigenous people and pollution-credit handouts to polluters is called “saving the natural world for our children”.
Eventually the question needs to be posed, what could be a more life-blind disorder of burden and benefit allocation, of rights and obligations borne by global society’s citizens? How much more could the ultimate principle of justice, the due proportion between rights and duties, benefits and burdens, be turned upside down in life-value terms?
From Rational Plan of Life to Human Vocation: The Ultimate Moral Regrounding
The most basic onto-axiological principle in the dominant theoretical discourse dodges this question a-priori. The dominant assumption of contemporary English-speaking philosophy is that a “rational plan of life” is the given frame of a good life for anyone. It is an ancient idea with a pedigree back to Socrates, but in contractual justice theory and corresponding moral philosophy, rationality means consistently self-maximizing choice with morality and justice the arrangements required to make these choices compatible among individuals by agreed-upon principles of restraint for the a just or right ordering.
“Communitarian” justice theory does not ground in this atomic logic of individual choice and consent. Its base is established social relations and personal bonds with no way beyond these constituted attachments to more life-coherent forms of social order. This is why liberals reject “communitarianism” for rational life plans of individuals.
No-one on either side conceives of the logic of life-value community, all the social constructs enabling universal access to life goods – what life-value onto-axiology calls ‘the civil commons’. In any case, the Rawlsian discourse reiterates its first premise of a ‘rational career plan’ for each as what must be open to pursue as a necessary condition of social justice. Yet a question immediately arises none in this tradition answer: What of those who have no such ‘rational plan of life’, but reject it as a careerist closure to the creative openness of human being? Young people, for example, may find elders insisting on such a life plan as oppressive bores. They may further experience any force-fitting of them into such a ‘rational plan’ as an overbearing injustice to their open lives. But the young are excluded wholesale from this scheme of justice as young. Rawls is clear that their elders must choose for them, and this is not seen as a problem although it may be the upbringing source of all the others.10
The young are by no means alone. Consider the possible exceptions to this presupposition of how to live justly. Giving one’s all to the challenging tasks at hand can make the ‘career plan’ a cramping, egoic distraction. An all-round life may rule out a ‘life plan’ as a one-sided reduction. Yet this idea itself of a ‘rational life plan’ is an assumption of justice theory without any argument for it. Deeper interrogation might ask whether it is a primitive assumption of elite racism and sexism too – the subjugated are irrational. Revealingly, various wisdom literatures implicitly and explicitly counsel against this form of rationality. Very briefly, they agree that any such confinement to a self-plan and the accumulating assets of its fulfilment means blindness to the wider life body to be comprehended and served.
Life-Ground Ethics Rejects a Career Plan as a Universal Good of Justice or Morality
The “rational life plan” which is assumed as both (i) the condition of understanding justice and (ii) what justice must allow to be realised, really means, decoded, a self-maximising career plan across decades of unpredictable self, age and world changes – hardly what social justice needs, especially in a world of work changes as normal.
Since life-span plans can only make sense as career plans, social justice itself must then mean what serves the careers of atomic selves. A summary comprehension of the underlying shape of justice in this scheme of thinking follows. The rational life-career plan determines each’s good, and justice is what allows it to each: with equality of benefits to each self the basic issue of contention. One will find no relevant dimension of this dominant discourse on justice excluded by this formula. What is not noticed is that the good of life itself has silently disappeared. Life as ground, ultimate value and connectively guiding goal is abstracted out and in its place are rights of atomic selves to compete for positional advantages.
World movements for social justice are accordingly blocked out along with the ultimate concerns moving them. For example, concepts of global justice like ‘basic needs fulfilment’, climate justice’, ‘end the war’, ‘food sovereignty’, ‘no privatization of water’, ‘public health not private profit’, ‘education is not a corporate agenda’, and ‘no blood for oil’ cannot compute to this paradigm. There are in truth no life grounds to recognize the reduction and violation of people’s lives in which social injustice consists. Yet a life-coherent concept of justice cannot be satisfied with these glimpses. Principled grounds, life-good coordinates, and thought-through conception of social agency for achieving them are required. Justice always turns on what is ultimately due to the lives involved, but nowhere are the life-coherent benefits and burdens, rights and obligations that true justice entails defined in official, academic or oppositional discourse. The profoundly unresolved issue of exactly what is due on both sides of the right-obligation ledger can only be answered by life-ground onto-ethics: understanding that defines humanity’s universal life needs and goods, and comprehends the civil commons agency and rationality required to enable human lives in a life-coherent way. The concept of “equality” does not much help if it is a life-decoupled formula in a long line of opposite meanings of it.
Life-value onto-axiology re-grounds in life itself and what it needs at all levels for its capacities to reproduce and flourish. It observes that any real social justice is a process of society’s achievement of universal human life goods for all by its social rule-system – in the largest sense, from natural capital preservation and the coordinated capabilities of scientific technology to life-protective imperatives and educational, health and social programs recognising human life right to all. The need/good of human vocation in particular is recognised to be the life-coherent contribution of each to provision of these life goods to receive the benefits and enjoyment of them.
Linking Life Right and Obligation at System-Wide and Historical Levels
Linkage of right and obligation at a system-wide level is the ultimate onto-ethical issue of human civilization, and requires any system to be accountable to the enabling provision of these universal human life goods as its ground of legitimacy.
When we stand back to consider the historical pattern of the last 80 years, however, we are able to recognise the meta logic of humanity’s universal life necessities/goods and their evolving civil commons provision since the Great Depression and War, on the one hand, and the private-profit corporate war upon them to appropriate and dismantle their resources for private profit since 1980, on the other. This meta conflict explains why ever more growth of wealth by the rule of this system goes along ever more impoverishment of most people’s lives and life conditions – the unseen war of social injustice, that is, ever more unnecessary suffering from life capacity reduction by deprivation of life goods.
Life-value understanding therefore recognises and stands for the age-old process of overcoming social injustice by civil commons advance. Thus, for example, it understands that national public healthcare which became socially provided without price barrier for all those in need of it was a major civil commons victory for social justice in many societies, just as public water and sanitation systems were a century before and still are today in much of the world. In the private corporate rule of the U.S., in contrast, it recognises that citizens are ruined or bankrupted by medical costs more than any other cause, and almost twice the population of Canada are still without protection. It understands too that even long-successful public health systems are endangered by the same private for-profit corporate forces as invade civil commons in all spheres in the name of “freedom of choice” or “new efficiencies” or other demonstrably false claim. Nonetheless social-structural analysis in even its progressive forms misses the mark when it reduces the struggle to one of waged workers against capitalism or women against patriarchy. The underlying common life-value ground of all is again blinkered out in principle.
The Life-Coherence Principle, Civil Commons, and the Human Vocation
Consider here the jobs and benefits of universalizing literacy as well as public healthcare, society-wide water and sewer systems as well as life-protective laws and norms, life security in old age and disability as well as in unemployment, scientific understanding normalized as well as public parks and squares, as well as open internet communication and information.
There is no level of our human lives and conditions not enabled and dependent on shared civil commons formations whose inner logic of recognition and advance is the life-coherence principle, or consistency with universal life requirements. Yet even our life-ground as human reason and how to live is lost to us. It remains invisible amidst lavish praises of private-profit commodities filling the electro-magnetic spectrum with demands for ever more life-blind growth of both. The cost of what really matters on every level is unseen.
While life-value understanding, the civil commons, and the life coherence principle continue to underlie all real human advance, their ultimate ground of meaning and value is generally not conceived in principle. The ultimate need to serve, express and enjoy human life capacities as a coherent end-in-self of life is the lost human vocation.
IX. REGAINING THE REAL ECONOMY FROM THE CANCER SYSTEM: THE CHOICE SPACE FOR HUMANITY’S EVOLUTION OR DESTRUCTION
In Nature, rights and obligations do not exist. The right is to the stronger, and no obligations confine what is seized or destroyed. Yet what is not seen by those affirming the ‘right of the stronger’ is that few or no beings survive in Nature whose functions do not contribute to their wider life-host.
Scientific ecology has made this clear over many years, but it is a theme of understanding that goes back to the Tao-te Ching over 2500 years ago. It provides a natural basis for understanding human rights and obligations – a life-grounded ecology of justice at the human level. To put the matter boldly, the same logic of the italicised law can be applied to the human level in rights terms.
Rights and obligations are yoked as self survival and function for the life-host are yoked in Nature – but at a higher level where rules regulate instead of natural laws of blind evolution. At the conscious level of evolved social justice, the peck-order, leave-to-die and predation system of Nature are superseded. Even in Nature, the young are protected, fed and taught around the clock by the lives of their mothers in mammalian and bird species – a still instinctual anticipation of the human ascension to morality and justice.
In classical and neo-classical market philosophy, not even pre-human obligation to be human exists. As Adam Smith says in a little-known overview of the market’s supply-demand system, “among the inferior ranks of people the scantiness of subsistence can set limits to the further multiplication of the human species; and it can so in no other way than by destroying a great part of the children which their fruitful marriages produce”.11 The savagery of the brutes is surpassed by a ruling mechanism without natural beauty or fighting chance. Masses are entrapped within the blindly turning wheels of an indifferently homicidal system. This is why market-capitalist ideology has been so long bent on assimilating the system to natural laws. It drapes the monstrous mechanism in a macro alibi of ‘natural struggle for existence.’
Evolution of Humanity by Rules of Life-Enabling Economy and Justice
Notwithstanding the homicidal logic of the ruling market system and doctrine, the human order supersedes the natural system. This is why even with the unprecedented capitalist order of pecuniary selfishness without limit as good for all, the irrepressible impulse to identify beyond one’s skin never dies in the face of human life being broken. This is the inner message of Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation and Marx’s inner inspiration. He cannot bear the capitalist system’s oppression, and argues it must fall by raising its worker victims to inevitable and successful revolution.
In any case, all social order ultimately consists in the rules or rule-systems societies live by. For life-value understanding, in turn, rights for individuals depend on obligations fulfilled to the life-hosts that sustain them at social and natural levels. Just social rules systems can thus replace absolute rights of market property and trade structured to mass human sacrifice. But the issue is not determined by laws, as Marx thought in unwitting abdication to scientism. Societies in one way or another decide how they live by the rule-structures they raise and enforce, and the range of possibility given by natural laws within which they must function to survive allows for vastly different and opposed outcomes. Think of economic-system rules in the 1970’s compared to now and how much they have changed. It is nonsense to claim something other than human beings made the changes.
The rights-obligations structure of society is life-blind until it is ordered to enable the lives of all its members by the greatest possible provision of universal life goods each requires to flourish as human. This is the life-value ecology of rights which civil commons development has long been governed by beneath principled attention and understanding – precisely what the globalising private money-value disorder predatorily attacks. Wherever this system is not subordinated to civil authority as an instrumental mechanism of life goods provision (e.g., as efficient machine manufacturing and price mechanism within life-coherent constraints), it reverts to this predatory throwback rule. Without social recognition and regulation of this predatory logic, this system can – and typically does – blindly destroy and despoil human and natural life support systems to maximise the private returns of its money-sequence system as an end-in-itself. When in opposition to this life-blind growth, for example, the Council of Canadians or the Right to Food movement of India stands instead for universal provision of these life goods on the basis of a prior public establishment of a National Health Act and Public Distribution System – the latter struggling against private-take norms at all levels to achieve a “universal public distribution of food as a life-saver for half of India’s children suffering from malnutrition” – we observe the civil commons in action in both institutional and active-citizen forms.
Progressive or Regressive Meta Pattern of History?
If we revisit the universal life goods defined in this study, we will be able to further find long-term movements of this instituted and advancing kind operating beneath theoretical connection of them, but recognised by life-value theory as a meta pattern of history not yet conscious of its ultimate meaning. Because conceptions of human well-being and justice have long been decoupled from life-ground requirements – from the biophysical world itself, from human needs and their criterion, and from the organizing principles of providing the life means without any of which people are oppressed – no theory of right or justice or common interest has yet grounded in this ultimate common life interest and foundation. While opposed on the surface, “conservative”, “libertarian”, “liberal” and “communitarian” schools of theory share these blinkers in different ways. Each glimpses some dimension of the civil commons, but never its organising idea and unifying life substance. Thus the very vocation of human evolution is missed.
When the world’s richest men like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett today try to organise their number to give away most of their wealth to social causes where human life is clearly at risk and in need of intervention – for example, malaria in the majority world where there is little market demand to generate private investment for maximal profit – we can see this human vocation peeking through the ruling disorder. Yes, we may rightly be concerned about their tax write-offs and private-foundation powers, as well as the token nature of this enterprise affecting a tiny segment of the deadly global injustice in isolated spheres. Life-value analysis at the system level recognises that only civil commons formations backed by public funding and universal life-need programs can work at a social level and in the long term. Yet it also recognises an important shift occurring – that those best at the private money-sequence game realise that something is wrong and must be responded to. This is the human vocation expressed even by them.
Beneath such positive symptoms, nonetheless, life-value understanding insists on the deep-structure issue – that society’s regulation to secure and provide life goods otherwise in short supply, or its system failure to do so, is what ultimately matters. The rules by which people live decide whether a society is well or ill, and whether it rises or falls in the long run. It recognises that the rules by which its members govern themselves form the moving line between healthy societies and diseased ones: between the well-being and the ill-being of societies and communities across time, place and cultures. Life-and-death implications are thus always built into governing rule systems. They determine whether the human vocation and civil commons are repressed or enabled to develop. Herein lies the ultimate choice-space of universal life-value versus private money-value – the ultimate value issue of the human race’s evolution.
Beneath endless diversions within the private price and commodity system, the turn of human society one way or the other has in fact already occurred. The predatory money-sequence system grows in nano-global self-multiplication to threaten all life-systems and values masked as prosperity and freedom. The deciding line of rights-obligation structure is a choice path between these two. It can continue to be mounting econo-ecological disaster by money-sequence self-multiplications in which the supreme right is private profit with no accountability of its invasive growths to life requirements at any level. Or it can re-set the rules towards a life-valuing order of provision of universal life necessities for all and accountability to social and ecological life support systems as the regulating logic of human development. From this life-grounded choice follow the turning points required for a recovered economy – a public credit and banking system and life-protective rules written into trade treaties.
The Corporate-State War Against Human Evolution
At the present the choice space itself is so closed at the U.S. and E.U. levels as to appear a terminal cancer of economic organisation – as I explain in my forthcoming second edition of The Cancer Stage of Capitalism. Whatever the results are in fact, however, they will be a man-made construction at every moment of repressed and conscious choice path.
It is not as if we do not know life-value logic and measure in our own lives. Yet the system has run far beyond society’s control and knowledge of its workings. It destroys the life-world by its nature. Its ruling global corporate conglomerates are, in fact, lavishly subsidized and armed-force defended by states to pollute the world at every level, draw down its non-renewable resources, competitively disemploy and underpay workers across cultures, systematically shirk public tax obligations and run down public infrastructures, destroy the habitat of species, and so on. There is no mystery as to why, although no-one says it in public. Every vector of global life-system depredation is corporately driven by roaming money-profit “investors” whose rights are the sole rights recognised in trade and investment treaties, and which governments are now structured to ensure even if they produce nothing – as with the ruling big banks which governments endlessly save at the rising life costs of their peoples.
Such cancerous behavior is not what any sane individual would or could do in person. Not even corporations acknowledge this is what they do, but insist in every ad on the opposite of their serving people’s lives. The human vocation comes out one way or another. But the corporate-person system in fact regulates against life by corporate rights which compel private money-sequencing as their sole obligation.12 Its meta program over the last 30 years in particular has been counter-revolution against the life-enabling regimes developed since the Depression and the Nazi machine. While “economic efficiency and growth” are always the justification of the now ruling system, the justification is absurd since it wastes many times more life goods than all previous systems put together and increasingly grows only ruling money sequences. It is in fact the greatest dis-economy in history, but requires life-value diagnosis to reveal it.
Recovering the Real Economy in Principle and Fact
Whether a rules system produces and stewards universal life goods with non-waste or depredates them for private profit and commodities is what matters for sustainability – but life-value standards alone re-ground reason to the life coherent framework of meaning and value required.
Goods mean life goods, not any priced commodity which may be bad for ecological and human life. Necessity means what is needed by the lives of human persons, not the demand of what those with money want to buy from corporate persons. Supply is not excluded to priced commodities for profit, but provision of human life goods by all means – civil commons, ecosystem services and womens’ unpaid work included. Productivity is not measured by ever more manufacture, transport and sale of profitable commodities by loot-and-pollute methods at lower money costs, but productive gains in life goods produced and secured for citizens and peoples through time.
The human vocation of life-value understanding and furtherance recognizes all this as self-evident. It is what conscious and life-conscious human beings already do in their personal lives as the inner logic of their right-obligation code – the life value code of growing life thought, felt being and action into more coherently inclusive ranges of life across time. At the macro level, it is what the civil commons infrastructures of societies evolve through generational time. All legitimate rights are ultimately to the goods that protect and enable human life, the true logic of economic demand at the same time. These rights, in turn, are the only legitimate basis of obligation – to contribute to them consistently with their provision, the true logic of economic supply. This is the human vocation in its defining principles of social justice and economic organisation at once within a unifying life-value frame.
Critical economic and social-justice theory begins to comprehend this logic of real economy and life-value right and obligation, but does not yet have the life-good criteria to ground soundly underneath the measure of private money demand created and controlled by private debt issue and private price-for-profit. Meanwhile growing corporate-person commodities, profit and bank-debt repayment have become the ruling goal of global governments. In these ways, global corporate-state and banking axes have blindly led the world to economic as well as human-rights reversal – steeply shorter rather than greater supply of human life goods for the great majority, more life-value inefficiency/waste and life-capital loss than ever before, longer hours of toil and more life insecurity than before, and more throughput and sink loads than can be biophysically carried by the terrestrial life system through generational time.
On the ecological plane of species survival by species contribution to the natural life host, on the social justice plane of right-obligation due to provide for a human life for each, and on the economic plane of productive efficiency and non-waste, it is catastrophically deranged in objective fact, and must be re-ordered to life coherence. The problem has been that a pervasive system of misrepresentation – propaganda or public relations – has been fatally successful in blocking human recognition of the disorder. It is instructive in this condition to consider the world of life itself as in a global war in which the enemy has not yet been recognised.
X. THE SOCIAL STATE VERSUS THE CORPORATE STATE: FROM EUROPEAN FASCISM TO GLOBAL MONEY-SEQUENCE ABSOLUTISM
Corporate-system drivers of “deregulation”, “privatization” and “lower taxes” lead reversals of civil commons evolution. When 70% of France supports the strikes against raising the public pension age in the Fall of 2010, resistance to the totalizing private-profit agenda grounds in the civil commons. Yet even as they are again attacked in Italy and Greece to pay private banks and bond issuers a year later, France’s uprising dissolves from view. More profoundly, Argentina’s’ triumphant default on the very same debt as Greece in 2002 is erased from public choice space. Any example of regaining the real economy from the money-sequence party is silenced – but the unspoken Latin American revolution from Argentina’s historic default carries on. Once released from the debt-money clawhold in the face of the direst IMF threats, it regrouped its economy to public direction, spectacular agricultural productivity, capital and export controls, and world-leading reduction of poverty.
Yet in the European crisis, only the “catastrophe of default” is trumpeted by the corporate-state leaders and media – the historical amnesia that sustains the rule of the corporate money-sequence system. Thus Greece and Italy are equated to their debt status with private banks and money-lender rates, while Europe is equated to its new currency of payment to them. Bailing out the private banks and bondholders is, accordingly, equated to “saving Greece” or whatever society is next in the money-party’s sights. The meaning of society itself is transmuted to serving private bank issuers of debt. Taking back the control of debt issue and credit to public bank authority is the known solution no leader dares to speak, nor media to mention.
In normal times, civil commons are dismantled, defunded and restructured to serve the private-profit order as “more efficient and cost-saving” wherever the people allow it. In post-2008 times, slash-and-burn of the life-serving public sectors and services becomes a war of movement towards their elimination. Facts do not compute in either process. Consistent demonstration of decline in life goods and cost-efficiency wherever the corporate money-sequence system invades is forgotten in the culture of occupation.
In the wider culture of surrender, perpetual threats of war distract attention with their invariant meaning unstated – armed aggression to seize poorer countries’ assets for foreign corporate exploitation. Always called “defending freedom”, the ever beating war drums and threats are fore-grounded by one coliseum contest after another in “fight to the death”. The mobs are thus held in helpless trance. On the global plane of humanity’s fields of life, the great disorder simultaneously loots and pollutes the natural world on every plane by the same value code of money-gain and growth as all there is. The cumulative collapse of common life goods does not, therefore, compute to the ‘economics’ of this system for which all life conditions from the atmosphere and breathing air to the phytoplankton top and living grounds of the world’s oceans do not enter any market or state account of society’s well-being.
Social State Evolution versus Corporate State Growth: The Battle Lines Defined
Life-value analysis recognises that there is not one modern state, but two conflicting states within one – the now dominant state to serve and grow private corporations and commodity markets at whatever cost to life capacities and support systems, and the public state to serve the common life interest of universal life goods at all levels.
Herein lies the core of the transformation of contemporary human society backwards or forwards. On the make-or-break level of public funding, the lines of invasion are clear. Government functions and expenditures are increasingly structured to subsidize private-profit interests towards bankrupting the social state. Since the 2008 collapse of the global money-party scheme, countless trillions of dollars and still counting of present and future public funds have been haemorrhaged out by many channels to refinance the dominant private banks and bondholders with no function but maximum take at the cost of life systems on every level. This has been the turning point of the money-sequence cancer for all to see, but the public money-flows out to corporate-bank circuits only increase.
The global crisis developing from the corporate-rights system consuming society’s life support systems has been, however, a long time building. Longitudinal diagnosis reveals public subsidization of global for-profit corporations growing with no accountability in ever more staggering amounts – continual major tax cuts and write-offs which make major corporations pay less tax than their lower-end employees; growing subsidies to dominant corporations for extraction of public resources and pollutive commodity production; continued transfer of credit and currency creation to large private banks and rising public subsidies for private automobile, weapons, aeronautical and commodity research and manufacture; perpetual expansion of heavy-gauge highways and police-and-prison systems tailored to private corporate interests; rising armed forces and corporate weapons production to guard these and other for-profit corporate appropriations and interests beyond home borders; and ever increasing bankrolling of corporate-trade offices, negotiations and enforcements to systemize and extend corporate rights further within and across borders. All are justified as “necessary” and “in the public interest” until life-value analysis is applied to recognise the opposite.
One historic heist to beggar all before it in bleeding peoples and social states dry across the U.S. and European Union has stood out historically – the 2008 crash of the central private debt-issue system leveraged to uncontrolled levels of extraction from already hollowed out economies and peoples across the world. Yet within eighteen months after the many trillions of dollars of direct transfer of public wealth to the largest private corporate banks in 2008 as “necessary to save the economy and restore credit”, public-sector and debt crises have only spread further. Time to pay for this vast hand-out to failed private money-sequencers to hold onto for still more private profit and executive bonuses has now fallen upon life-serving sectors of the economy to be squeezed further. Life-blind categories of judgement and decision prop every step so that the fatal meaning is hardly conceived. Societies’ life support systems are now pursued to extract more from them. The private system of money growth with no limit or goal but more of itself now feeds on what is left wherever it can while hoarding its public giveaways to go on hollowing out its life hosts.
The darkest turn has been that the European Union itself, whose public sectors and civil commons infrastructures have led the world, are bled to pay for the carcinogenic money-sequencing at ever greater public expense. Public constitutional control of credit and currency remains blocked out and is nowhere directed to funding the common life interest of the real economy itself. None goes out to social and natural life support systems, nor to secure public employment, nor to life-serving purpose of any kind. All goes to the carcinogenic private money sequences to more without any life function. All comes out of present and future citizen lives and life support systems to pay for their continued growth.
Beneath the surface play of phenomena, the determining economic form of corporate money sequences is undiagnosed for what it is. The system crests in pure exaction, expropriation and chaos with Wall Street leading in licensed fraud to steal the life security of tens of millions – but lavishly rewarded by the U.S. government with nearly a trillion dollars to begin. The cancer circuits are thus re-financed to keep on hollowing out the world, with ever more public money to ensure the bank’s private debt extractions. The societies least able to pay are always the first to be made to ensure that the rising costs on their private debt payments never end. The private financial corporations are thus at the top of the feeding cycle for which governments are the obedient enforcer, funder and granter of money-creation rights. The great meltdown had been set up in countless ways across the post-1980 global system – all to enable the corporate-person rights’ regime to turn societies, their peoples, their resources and their built and natural environments into free sites for multiply leveraged money-sequence takeovers, resource looting, and junk commodity invasions as well as debt enslavement.
“Free trade” treaties and wars against non-conforming societies have been the major pincers of attack, grounded in private bank control of the public’s money and credit issue. In these ways, formerly evolving social orders to serve people’s lives rather than corporate money-sequence rights have been usurped from top to bottom. The world has thus been coerced to civil and ecological breakdown by the private money sequence system for no life function, and it has been subverted most by what is not seen – the silent hijacking of constitutional public control of money creation. This is the deepest unrecognised civil commons of publicly protected exchange medium which has been wrested away from the public. The design is not new, but elaborated since Benjamin Franklin and others reported it as the main reason the Thirteen Colonies rebelled against British rule. It was Britain’s banning of the “colonial scrip” by the 1775 Currency Act which had enabled the independent prosperity of the Colonies, and whose outlawing by the private Bank of England caused a depression.
This is the one cause of the American Revolution you never read about in history books. The private bank appropriation of public currency and credit is the tuning core of the financial subjugation of societies, but is little known. Today it is led by endless debt issue by banks without the money to back it. As long as public and constitutional jurisdiction over exchange medium and public credit is not reclaimed, the life security of people and peoples is broken step by step beneath even Marxian detection.13
From the Depression, Anti-Fascist War and Decolonisation to the Corporate Occupation
The corporate money-right takeover of government has entailed the destruction of the social state. Democratic government’s real function of serving, regulating and enabling the common life interest of its people is mutated into serving the private money sequences of transnational and bank corporations instead. This systemic, life-and-death conflict within the contemporary state and its citizen body is not academically or officially recognised – although the Wall Street motto of the one percent and the 99 percent opens the window to it. In terms of the life and money codes of value, it is the war between life requirements of human beings and private money-rights for corporate persons which is the essence of the whole matter.
We will not here engage the usual rationalizations away of this war of aggression as “the engine of the economy”, “the provider of jobs”, “society’s wealth producer” and “the return of power to the private sector”. The facts clearly demonstrate the opposite on all scores. The corporate-rights system pervasively invades people’s private lives at every channel and node. Its money sequences ever more preponderantly produce nothing or junk. Its essential mode of enrichment is eliminating people’s jobs and downgrading them, not creating them. And it wastes, pollutes and runs down the life capital bases of societies towards collapse, a cumulative wealth destroyer at the real level. “Wealth” in the money-sequence code means only private money control at the top.
In an age of induced amnesia of the real economy and real peoples’ struggle for freedom, we require an historical perspective which takes into account the economic and social progression of society before the corporate-right usurpation of it. Before 1945 ended the most systematically genocidal system in history, the Nazi’s proclaimed natural right to rule other societies by eradication of non-Aryan peoples and limiting borders of Europe followed upon earlier cultural genocides and enslavements of other peoples from Latin America to Africa to India to Vietnam by a broader and longer-lived Euro-American colonialism. Accompanying and preceding these imperial systems there were the ecogenocides of the first peoples across the American hemisphere, while before and coincident with these there was the clearance of the village commons of the British countrysides during and through the rise of its world-wide empire. Analysis can track this ruling pattern of ecogenocidal depredation and rule back through millennia and before corporate rule itself to the command of Yahweh to “exterminate all the men, women and children” of the “Promised Land” whose claimed right reigns still today.
This enduring pattern of massacre, occupation and exploitation where all rights are on the one side and none for the rest is what Europe’s emergence out of a continental zone of wars into an enduring multinational union of many-sided civil commons and rights of human life led world civilisation. Yet the only lasting large-scale social system in modern history to regulate towards social justice and universal human life goods provision for all citizens has been and continues to be systematically reversed. Transnational corporate relocation of production to regions with no labor or environmental standards to sell back into societies so as to thereby bankrupt their advanced and independent civil commons has been the global corporate formula. Captive states extending cumulative public subsidies of every kind to these same dominant private corporations to defund social programs has been the complementary policy formula for the public’s dispossession. “The tough new global marketplace” is the master meta idea, recalling John D. Rockefeller’s famous declaration: “The disparity in income between the rich and the poor is merely the survival of the fittest – – – the working out of a law of nature and a law of God”.
At the level of international law which had unprecedentedly moved beyond this credo after the defeat of Nazism, the corporate-rights reverse has instituted a pre-Nazi contempt for life-protective laws and human rights. No such law or norm, however binding and sacredly sworn to by governments since 1945, is now enforced. The International Criminal Court is only used by the world’s lead corporate state which has not ratified it. The laws and covenants against genocide or for economic and political rights – a very impressive body of law as we see ahead – are effectively suspended. In effect only unilateral private corporate rights are imposed by transnational trade treaties effectively annulling all rights but of corporate investors. All international law in the common life interest is ignored unless usable against non-corporate state targets. The macro imposition of the global corporate-rights system across political differences and borders now rules the world’s economies and politics as absolute wherever corporate rights are concerned. It is a far more embracing absolutism than Nazism achieved and it is managed by financial means with war as a back-up rather than the leading edge. The global corporate-rights system entitles, for example, override of national and regional legislation everywhere, and huge fines against government’s public budgets for disobeying the countless new “disciplines” adjudicated by in-secret procedures of tribunals of appointed trade lawyers.
The Morality of Corporate Rights: No Rights Except for Private Money Sequences
There is no morality but “free trade” throughout – a moral theology of the ‘invisible hand’ which is believed to necessarily produce the best of possible worlds whatever the exchanges for price and profit might be – for example, financial syndicate/ bank/ hedgefund betting on higher cereal crops and oil prices pumped by massively subsidized bio-fuels at the same time to make a killing when millions cannot afford the higher prices and go hungry or starve.
The fanaticism of the moral theology of theo-capitalism has many expressions. It also includes calling E.U. refusal of genetically engineered foods “immoral”, forgiving poor countries’ debts a “moral hazard”, and – perhaps above all – bombing defenceless societies with socially owned oil revenues as “enemies of freedom”.
Thus the goal of “world rule” long projected onto the Soviet Union has been strategically achieved by the global money party. Its perpetual war of movement and position to grow private money sequences across all limits explains why even in the aftermath of the self-caused corporate-bank collapse of 2008, public funds have gone to large corporate bank bailouts and none or little to the poor, the disemployed, the home-expropriated, the pension-ruined and, least of all, to public options in place of the private corporate failures.
It follows from this ruling disorder that human persons and their life conditions cumulatively dissolve into functions of transnational corporate rule – that is, to grow corporate-person money-sequences anywhere and everywhere for maximum private profit with no life-protective regulatory limitations or life costs computed. Backed by countless rules enforceable against still pliant governments, this extra-parliamentary corporate rights reign still commands intra- and inter-governmental relations across the G-20 and beyond.
Real persons’ lives and life support systems do not factor in at all. Life-grounded morality is not only alien to this absolutist corporate-rights system, but attacked whenever societies or movements seek to institute mutual life security or public ownership of natural resources. If protection of life support system or resource control is profitable to deny or destroy, then private and borderless corporate extractors will eradicate them as “barriers” unless peoples stop them. There is no limit to what will be seized or eliminated in the name of “market freedom”. Even if the enemy is a poverty-ridden peasant movement seeking untilled land to farm or to deploy resource revenues for food subsidies, free healthcare, education, or other public means of life, they are lethally attacked, or bombed to oblivion – as in Iraq and Libya in recent years. This is the long ecogenocidal method of the world’s ultimate rogue state.
First-world states are enmeshed in its system and stripped by financial means. The testing question here is – what public health program, university education, broadcaster, or pension is safe in our country from the corporate-rights regime of economic occupation and budget stripping?
Social Justice and Economic Integrity: The Life Code in Social Defence
Such a systemically pathological pattern is not decided by ‘economic laws’ or ‘human nature’. It is imposed by a constructed and unilateral corporate rights system whose nature is to deny all other rights, most basically to human life. This is the secret history of modern capitalism from before the Reagan presidency’s explicit turn from “human rights” to the “fight against communism” – that is, against indigenous poor people fighting for land and means of existence. The previous world war, in contrast, was against fascism – not for it.
History is decided not fated. Thus the 1939-45 war was directed against a mass-murderous system for the rights of human beings to live, and waged by real economies – from universal public rations of scarce life goods to full employment of citizens to controls on private money attacks on society’s life capacities to the sovereign right of nations to self-determination against foreign occupation. All are now down the memory hole of the global corporate occupation. Under the Orwellian concept of “growth”, it is now structured to invade the world at all levels of life organisation, and corrupt, extort or obliterate whatever stands in the way.
After the victory over racist fascism, the money-sequence absolutism behind it was held in check. The world flourished in real life economy and human rights perhaps more than ever before in the human condition – mystified by Hobsbaum and the left as “the golden age”. Over 30 years of civil commons building was achieved before the new global corporate absolutism, the incubus of the old, seized borderless global power by the invisible coup d’etat anatomized ahead. Behind the lure of market commodities, big lies about more jobs and closing out of unions, backroom writing of an override system for all economies, and black armed force from the streets to the sky, the coup prevailed in macrocosm as it had in microcosm in Chile before.
While the new driver of private money profit and consumption has cumulatively depredated life capacities on most levels, it is still absurdly called “wealth creation” and “freedom” no matter how despoiling of healthy life it in fact is. On the other hand, the diverse building of a very different kind of social order dedicated to the lives of its citizens becoming better by universal access to universal life goods has been warred upon. Behind a culture of pervasive lies and ostentation, the ‘enemy’ is, decoded, any social ordering or public sector universally providing necessary life goods without mediation by corporate price and profit.
Yet the civil commons basis of human life cannot die so long as society exists, and it continues into the institutional present. Its social formations have already evolved in both mixed capitalist and state-socialist economies, and are still supported by great majorities. Yet global corporate absolutism is structured to grow only private money sequences to more. In a world whose aggregate demand has been hollowed out by non-stop appropriation of revenues from working people and the social state, depression is predictable. It is in this dead-end that the corporate bank, oil and oligopolist axis finds its last great frontier – public budgets to loot. This metastasis to the core of social life organisation by the transnational money-sequence growth system cannot be sustained. It implodes into one disaster after another. It cannot correct its incapacity for provision of otherwise scarce means of life to which it is blind in principle and only degrades over time – from food, water and healthcare to science and higher education.
The failed corporate-rights system cannot, in short, continue on without despoiling the world. It plunders the world’s life capital bases of reproduction, and its major consumer ‘goods’ are disease and death causing. India’s increasingly captive state may in 2012 let the global junk food system in to flood its society as everywhere else with sugar-salt-fat addictive substances (post-apartheid Africa the latest case). Nonetheless at the world system level, the return of humanity’s social evolution occurs again in Latin America’s resounding repudiation across nations of the “neo-liberal model” and new economic success. Despite the euphemistic category for reduction of human society to an instrument for private money sequencing with no purpose beyond multiplying itself, the long-haul r/evolution continues.
XI. THE LIFE-AND-DEATH WAR OF RIGHTS SYSTEMS DEFINED
The global disorder is glimpsed in everyday symptoms, but not the deep-structural conflict – the war on common goods for human life by unliving and unaccountable corporate persons backed by global armed force under multiple alias names, borderless growth without law, no duties but to money profit, and no limit by death or even taxes.
This is the contemporary corporate rights system. Formerly confined to wildernesses whose people who had no rights under corporate trade charter, the reborn corporate rights system now straddles the world – but with no colonial limits or required charter from the sovereign (the corporation writes its own). No monster imagined by myth has matched its private powers over the lives, livelihoods and life means of peoples, its unaccountability to any higher power, its impunity in annually imposing trillions of dollars of damages on the world, and its emergent rights to control state elections, offices, public communications and the academy itself. Ever more unaccountable since the Reagan-Thatcher turn, state sovereignty in the public interest has been overthrown for direct rule by transnational corporations whose supra-state rights are embedded in small-print treaty regulations conferring rights on them alone.
The borderless corporate market’s feeding cycles are all that can be bought and sold – increasingly everything. Its conglomerate money stocks can ruin currencies and economies overnight with leveraged capital for fast profit, avoid taxes, regulations, and living wages, loot natural resources before moving on, and spew toxic wastes into the air, the waters and the ground with no charge. They can buy and sell governments and officials as servant classes, control the contents of trade-and-investment treaties making it all legally possible, propagandize the virtues of their brand companies around the clock, and flood the sites they poison, destroy or make unliveable with hired lawyer and P.R. hit squads, mouth-sealed agreements for any money paid out, and demands for more of the same. Nations who do not consent are destabilized or warred upon until they too are occupied states. In Orwellian touch, the umbrella term for this permanent war of invasion and occupation is “the Free World”.
Private corporate banks meanwhile pick up ever more of the wealth extracted by leveraging money into 100-times multiples or whatever can be borne into function-decoupled money circuits seeking only to be maximally more with no product. The methods are well known but not connected – pervasive compounding state and personal debts, perpetual takeovers and service charges to dismantle for more, fraudulent financial products metastasized across continents when interest rates are low, and myriad forms of bleeding exchange sites, productive economies and peoples dry to multiply the cancerous money sequences faster around the world.
Defining the Global Corporate Mechanism in Formal Terms
We need here as elsewhere a criterial definition so that pro and anti slogans do not confuse meaning. The meaning is complex, but can be exactly parsed in formal terms. The corporation is a changing pool of money owners defined by a unitary legal goal of profit maximization for its shareholders and their non-liability for the corporation’s actions. It is also the sole right holder as “the investor” in transnational treaty corporate-rights mechanisms whose rules since 1988 govern the global market and whose articles exclude all labor and citizens rights. Above the lines of natural life and death – “lacking both a body to be kicked and a soul to be damned, they therefore do as they like” in the words of British Lord Chancellor Thurlow (1731-1806) – the corporation is the sole agent inducing obligations in contemporary international trade with a unilateral rights to sue governments for “loss of profit opportunity” through binding and punitive tribunals with powers of unlimited financial penalty. In domestic law, the private corporation writes its own charter of incorporation as distinct from its original reception of power by sovereign government conferral.
This deep structure of rule is blocked out across disciplines and cultures, in particular its cumulative threat to global life itself. Its surface expressions are infinite and pervasive, but all conform to one syntax of rule. The subject is private money capital whose verb is seeking to become more without upper limit, and all modifiers are money-demand or its equivalents. Competing money capital subjects purchase, exchange and dispose of human and natural resources, commodities, and stock futures to become more money capital and commodities as final end. Rationality is, in turn, regulatively presupposed as (i) self-maximizing strategies in (ii) conditions of scarcity or conflict over (iii) desired payoffs at (iv) minimum costs for the self to (v) win/gain more. One can see that this syntax of meaning and value is life-value blind in every dimension, but the causal mechanism of disaster it forms is not recognised nor examined, even in philosophy whose formal paradigms of rational justice and morality presuppose (i) through (v).
What systemic injustice and violation of human and ecological life systems today is not driven by globalization of this syntax of value in money-value terms? The question is not asked, but its answer discloses whether or not any other causal mechanism can explain it. Formally represented again, this ruling system of rights has disconnected its private money sequences from even the tangible products of classical industrialization in $ 1 → 2 → 3 → n sequences of merger and equity predating, currency speculations, shorting bets, price arbitrages, carrying trade margins, derivative covering, credit swaps, and so on. Private money-value multiplication decoupled from any commitment to life goods production of any kind captures government revenues formerly available for investment in social life goods and regulatory structures and increasingly dominates all levels of the world system.
The Age-Old Life Economy of the Civil Commons versus the Corporate-Rights System
The resolution may be expressed in one life-value principle. Transnational corporate-person rule by money sequencing as the sovereign driver of world society must be regulatively re-set so that enabling life goods instead of disabling life bads are selected to sustain rather than predate social and ecological life-support-systems – as explained in prior sections and has already happened before in history without principled comprehension across cases.
Civil commons development has been explained as the unifying social agency of social resistance and advance across cultures, the human vocation in collective expression across place and time. Deeper than the issue of revolution is the prior issue of a life-coherent rule system of political-economic ordering. The civil commons principle identifies this required ordering, but must be distinguished from the age-old concept of “the commons” which is used today in profoundly conflicted ways– as “global commons” open to corporate-right control on the one hand, as shared life goods of subsistence agriculture on the other hand, and so on. The actual ‘commons’ were and remain nature-given forests and fields in which villagers could graze their livestock, draw water, pick plant-stuffs for food, access wood for fuel, building materials and tools, and so on. They were not, as famously misunderstood in Garrett Hardin’s “The Tragedy of the Commons” (1968), natural resources which local people spoiled by individual exploitation.
Before they were expropriated by agribusiness interests, the commons were structured by community rules for their protection and reproduction through generational time. Harden’s article projects agri-business over-exploitation onto its victims, a familiar operation of this system’s ideology. The meaning and substance of the civil commons is geared to the present, however, and includes the centuries of progressive history since “the village clearances” which, in Marx’s words, introduce capitalism “dripping blood and dirt from every pore”. The civil commons refers far beyond what is given by natural commons to include all human-made goods that people need and to which community members have universal access by social regulation of production and use.
These life goods include from the earliest times on community gathering places, abodes and life-spaces, structured water sources or wells, care of the young and ill, repulsion of external attacks, human waste and burial routines or rituals, community stories, tribal symbols and games, and so on. Which remains unpredated by the corporate-right system? In every case, the underlying organizing principle of what is attacked and expropriated is still not yet understood – a contributing function of each to the well-being of the social whole by cohering functions – which in the first instance involved hunting, gathering, cooking, childcare, planting, and the rest, but even now involve every kind of social and natural life support system built and stewarded beneath the private-profit and commodity surface. All involve, that is: (i) social rules of access or activity or production which (ii) enable the access of all members to (iii) life goods whose generic criterion is (iv) that without which human life capacity is reduced.
Holding and Advancing the Life-Ground of Resistance: Clarifying the Civil Commons of Economic and Human Rights Around and Under Us
Moving from past periods to our era, a host of otherwise unconnected phenomena in our daily lives come to attention through the lenses of civil commons understanding – not only the air we breathe which has been safeguarded from pollution and the clean water we can drink from any tap, but – as the Occupy Wall Street movement has pressed into – any park or public concourse. The civil commons are all around and under us – a public health-care resource, an educational classroom and its texts, the classics of word, film and documentary in public libraries, any neighbourhood or government network of mutual life assistance, common life-serving knowledges of hygiene and cooperative ordering (e.g., queues), unemployment supports and old-age and disability pensions, undominated democratic elections, all publicly constructed infrastructures that exist, city playing areas and recreation spaces, open public ways from sidewalks to paths in the wilderness, the entire accessible content of the knowledge commons and Internet – – all are civil commons phenomena. But they are unrecognised in their unifying meaning and so not connected into the common life-ground still left and to be advanced at every level.
Specifically all these civil commons depend upon and express rule structures, enable access without price or other barrier, and are cases or means of life goods without which people’s individual life capacities are disabled.
On the other hand, what does not qualify under these criteria is not a civil commons formation, and may be a usurpation or violation of it – from privatized-for profit healthcare subsidized by taxpayers to, more heinously, armed-war aggression by state armed forces of distant societies promoted as “defending the free world”. The civil commons criteria, in short, provide the missing objective and principled grounds for distinguishing what has not before been reliably told apart – government and private-sector formations that serve the common life interest versus ones that do not. Every corporate enterprise depends on claiming it best serves people’s interests – but ever fewer in fact do and ever more override people’s individual and common life interests in cumulatively destructive ways that only criterial recognition can identify through the propagandist fields and only civil regulation can impartially prevent.
The life-value criterion of the civil commons principle also works the other way to tell community traditions and norms which are worth preserving as opposed to totemic life oppressions. The ultimate issue always is: Does this private, state or traditional right compossibly enable people’s lives across the community? This is the life-coherence question.
Yet an endless politics and ideology of invalidation as “socialism” and “communism”, on the one hand, or “not working-class centred” or “unrecognized in the literatures”, on the other, or further blindness to the civil commons infrastructures of our lives have fatefully blinkered public and theoretical understanding. These opposing forces and ideologies ironically collaborate in an unseen way. Both block out the underlying civil commons from view, the very distinguishing feature of the species’ evolution as human.
While in fact historically led by women to the present day in the majority world, feminist literature itself does not comprehend the civil commons pattern of human development across epochs. Although Karl Polanyi has tapped the general idea in Britain from medieval villages to 1944 in Britain in his The Great Transformation and Richard Titmuss has over the 23 years since Polanyi in his Commitment to Welfare (1967), neither classic identifies the generic principle, while both are in any case excluded from contemporary mainstream teaching of economic, political and moral science. G.A. Cohen resonantly cites Titmuss in his Rescuing Justice and Equality (2008) as advocating the individual motive force of “principled commitment and fellow feeling” (p. 189), but again the objective principles which unify and define these life-support institutions over millennia are not penetrated.
Life-value analysis observes that despite the relentless blocking and attack on civil commons at every level by private-profit forces, public regulations and outlays have been instituted which concretise the civil commons principle in every case but which received theory remains incapable of comprehending – as once women, workers and slaves, non-whites, and children could not be recognised as human beings.
Indeed civil commons formations have had an even deeper blind eye against their recognition – with more far-reaching consequences in the corporate totalitarianism of today. Economic understanding is as blocked against recognition of the civil commons principle and reality as the terminal bigot is against recognising the human in other races. U.S.-led Western foreign policy in fact systemically attacks any society which has built or seeks to build any social infrastructure displacing private-profit corporate control of its resources for public benefit – in short, civil commons formations called by other names. An unseen profile of world war emerges through the lenses of this long repressed framework of comprehension.
Beyond Amnesiac Despair: The Life Economy and Human Rights Base Already Won
If we reflect again on the actual life-serving fabric across classes that has been built since Marx in the ultimate struggle not yet conscious in theory or conception, we see civil formations at every line of developed civilisation – effective laws to ensure the purity of food and milk as well as water supplies; inspection, disinfestation and condemnation of private as well as public structures deemed to be health hazards; the construction and maintenance of community systems of waste and garbage disposal; systematic testing, inspecting and screening of commercial products to validate their safety for human use and consumption; formation of publicly enforced workplace standards in private factories and places of business; provision of public spaces and paved paths to ensure non-priced free and safe movement for all; development over generations of non-profit public libraries, museums and universal education systems shared and managed by public servants for whom price or profit demands would constitute a criminal offence; and most recently and perhaps revolutionarily, development of a universal nano-second communication system of information without price barriers or media control of its content led by civil commons shareware and information across property and national barriers.
This latter is a world-wide civil commons formation bursting out of the seams of the corporate-right lockdown by countless millions collaborating across divisions in spontaneous community of thought, learning and action which has long led the original civil commons of language through every generation of its advance – – Or regression by exploitative control by private interests now centered on money profit. It is the story of history, but in so many shifting variations and doctrinal filters we have trouble seeing our common life ground and human vocation with us from the beginning. The Internet is the latest war zone with the social communication, freedom and knowledge commons of the human users invaded by corporations and states seeking to commercialize, copyright, block, and so on with no life function – the dividing line of the war.
When overall we consider the dramatically lower life-costs and money-costs compared to private money-sequence rule by transnational corporate monsters called ‘persons’, the lights go on everywhere the war is waged. Always non-profit efficiency, durability and good management achieve the very opposite of what is pervasively asserted in the ruling system ideology that ‘only the market works’ – the mask of the oligopolist rights system. Consider the general facts never reported in the corporate media or connected. Social versus corporately privatized healthcare, water provision, higher research, communications, shareware, and mass transport have always been demonstrated far superior in life-enabling outcomes and profitless cost efficiency through known historical struggles in virtually every case. Where does this superiority not hold? Yet where is the political question asked in public with independent facts? Challenge anyone to show the evidence of even one ‘privatization’ and you are unlikely to find fact or satisfaction.
There is, however, a law of comparative performance which is invariably avoided. Modern public enterprise in accordance with the civil commons principle is incontrovertibly more evolved and proven system of production and distribution for the wellbeing of citizens’ lives than the private and corporate rights system in all areas in which it has been permitted to openly and democratically develop.
The Real Private Sector is the Opposite of Global Corporate For Profit
When we consider an apparent exception to this law from ‘the private sector’ – like the greening and flowering of people’s private homes and gardens – we find that it is yet another example of the civil commons principle. All who pass are enabled to enjoy the biodiverse life and beauty without charge or profit, including the many-sided bird and fellow life provided new habitats.
This civil commons found in also in community vegetable gardens – a spontaneous greening of urban life that restores the life world for life function. Even the corporate poisoning and pollution of this life good – for example by once pervasive pesticides and herbicides – comes to be banned by long public struggle for the common life goods of non-toxic air and earth. The moving lines of civil commons struggles have no edge. But without a unifying principle or name, they remain invisible and unconnected.
The actual social resistance and advance against the global corporate system occupation is thus not grounded in by theory, or recognised as an historically bonding human vocation across times, places and actions. But when the people roll into the streets, a millennia-old civil commons meaning binds them as the ongoing resistance to the oppressor in inhuman form. Ever more transparently representing the money interests of the one per cent alone, only armed force and ignorance can sustain the life-blind rule.
XII. HUMANITY’S EVOLUTION AND THE GREAT REVERSAL: AN ANATOMY OF THE CORPORATE RIGHT COUNTER-REVOLUTION
Humanity’s real evolution and development is in universally enabling human life capacities to think, feel and act in more coherently inclusive ranges of life expression and enjoyment. Productivity and productive forces are only properly means of this development, and against it when life destructive. More income is at best a proxy up to sufficiency of life goods, and even then may be spent on life bads. Only life-value understanding is consistent with life requirements and flourishing, the good of all goods.
While as we have seen this moral compass is inconceivable within the corporate-market system, life-value formation is not merely a hope but a long-term trend across the ages. The primary axiom of value formalised at the beginning of this monograph is the inner logic of this trend. In economic terms, ever more life goods are produced and distributed accessible to more people – despite great periods of reversal as we experience today. The pattern is contingent. An ecogenocidal streak of ruling power may become dominant and destroy life organisation on the planet – already perpetrated by this system to a very significant extent. Our principal problem now is that we do not recognise what is happening or why at a value-system level. The ultimate regulator of the ruling disorder reversing human evolution is so presupposed that contemporary politics and policy economics are in principle blind to its derangement and, more so, to the known way beyond it.
The forward trend still persists, however, and humanity’s universalizing life goods now include the Internet as the most significant new civil commons development of the post-1945 era. Its new mode is quintessentially human in its medium of language and signs which enrich the more they are shared in discovery and dissemination. Led by “shareware” and “creative commons”, the Internet has made possible network communication of information, concerns and values to stand for together across situations and distances without price, profit or censor in between. It is a new force for defense, reclamation and advance of common life space in the world, as the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street movements have shown.
While the Internet is by origin, nature and development outside corporate rule, it is at the same time contaminated by and exploited for corporate price and profit by invasively pervading commercialization and copyright closure of knowledge dissemination. Here too resistance against the corporate-right war of totalizing occupation is in motion. As it goes into the streets in solidarity for a better world we may observe a new level of civil commons meaning in history. What is now missing is exact direction uniting across differences.
Getting Our Historical Bearings in the Turning-Point Time
In this context, we may best get our historical bearings of the common interest of ever more coherently inclusive protection of life and provision of life goods from a time when the U.S. presidency once stood for them. A 1944 State of the Union Address by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt reveals the structural shift of official policy goals towards government by life values and standards against enemy powers within and without the U.S. Roosevelt said in précis: “We cannot be content if some fraction of people is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure. True individual freedom cannot exist without life security. Regardless of station, race, or creed, there is a right to a useful and remunerative job, to adequate food and clothing and recreation, to a decent living, to freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home and abroad, to a decent home, to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health, to adequate protection from the fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment, to a good education.”
Observe how comprehensive and concrete the universal life goods this presidency names, and how they accord with the universal human life goods explained in this study. The human vocation, standards of life value, the life coherence principle, and civil commons constructs are all implicit. Roosevelt was no utopian. He was well aware of the private corporate reaction still in force which had collaborated with the Nazis in armoured-vehicle manufacture, information technology for concentration camps, and chemical and pharmaceutical production.14 The leader of the real free world concluded from this ultimate socio-political conflict he was standing within: “Our rightful place in the world depends on how fully human rights have been carried into practice for citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world. But there are grave dangers of rightist reaction and should it develop it is certain that, even although we shall have conquered our enemies abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of fascism at home.”
Roosevelt’s affirmed the civil commons project of universal human life rights that has since been attacked at every stitch of historical construction by private money-sequence interests and powers. He rightly foresaw that universal life goods accessible to all as government’s and citizens’ obligation and the right of all to be enabled by must be “carried into practice”, or the “rightist reaction at home” and “the spirit of fascism” will prevail. One might conclude from post-1980 imposition of transnational corporate-right rule that the enemy Roosevelt alluded to has in fact won in both the U.S. and the world, but in a different way than in the past. It has reversed the evolved social state by three deciding levels of “rightist reaction” which form a new strategic pattern into the present.
The Great Reversal
My own research over 25 years has found and confirmed a systematic structure underling what we might call the Great Reversal. It can be most concisely formulated at a high order level of conception as follows:
(1) systematic defunding, privatization and reversal of evolving social sectors in the name of eliminating public debt and deficits caused in fact by i. compounding high-interest bank rates, ii. radical tax cuts to corporations and higher incomes, and iii. increased military spending;
(2) by corporate-trade treaties with overriding rights decided and instituted outside elected legislatures and without electoral support by transnational corporate agents in and out of public office;
(3) by private funding of propaganda against the social entitlements and for market-capitalist values, while increasingly tying higher research funding itself to corporate commodity and weapons development.15
The elements of this systematic pattern of ‘rightist reaction’ to the present may be tested on all the phenomena of cutback on civil commons formations over the last 30 years, and find few or no exceptions or deviations from it. The evidence in fact is depressingly ever more abundant. These regulating principles continue today beneath public and scientific reports, and all deprive many or most people of the life goods they would otherwise have access to had civil commons development continued its trajectory of advance from the war against fascism.
Claims or assumptions that social programs were too expensive or “unaffordable” for government to shoulder are silly because they ignore the general facts that the debt and deficit growths used as pretext for social-program slashing were over 94% due to prior tax cuts to corporations and the rich (Canada’s typical pattern), and to 20% prime compound-interest rates charged to governments by private banks silently appropriating the constitutional right of governments to issue credit through public treasury (as swiftly occurred for Wall Street in the long-term trillions in its 2008 meltdown).
The “unaffordable” argument also ignores the further general fact that government tax and hand-out subsidies to private corporations including arms manufacturers and agribusiness exceed the cost of social programs in the U.S. One needn’t refer to Big Lies to recognise them and their underlying pattern of serving one factional interest – private-profit money sequencing and corporate commodity markets. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, there has been no need to compete with better social programs and universal life goods because now transnational corporate persons have the right to “do just as they please” where there are no obstacles like free unions or independent political-democratic processes. Globalization in this condition is what is never reported in legislatures or by the media – the globalization of corporate-person rights as absolute, unaccountable, and unlimited – in short, fascism in a new form.16
The Historic Choice Today
Globalization as corporate money-sequencing across borders seeks only to become more private money demand without bound. This is its law of motion and its rule expands by increasingly powerful instruments from earth-moving machinery and ocean-bottom drillers to genetically modified organisms and financial derivatives within government-deregulated-and-subsidised conditions. Social or environmental justice in this reigning disorder does not factor in, and is attacked where it does – unless, as in Brazil, the economy functions far more efficiently with guaranteed incomes for poor mothers, or China, where private banks are on a tight leash, or Venezuela or Bolivia where public oil wealth is allocated to public purposes, and so on. The war goes on one way or another. It goes better for life and justice when the disorder is recognised and put under public control, worse if not.
Where the transnational corporate-rights reign is not put on a leash or public resources reclaimed, the worst comes as in the rest of the world today. Human beings have been ever more widely structured as inputs to serve the corporate money-sequence value mechanism as public-sector, farming and home-worker positions are eliminated in continuous tens of millions. On the environmental level, there is no research in the last 30 years that rebuts the general fact that virtually every life-system on the planet is in decline or collapse. While invariably represented by economists and corporate media as “necessary” for “prosperity and freedom”, life-value understanding recognizes that this private corporate program is the demonstrably the opposite of all. It is a social construction led by armed force and command treaty in every step of its globalization which, in fact, deprives ever more people of their universal necessities of a human life by reversal of social justice and a collapsing real economy and at once.
Average market income rises in some places by a dollar is the money-value fig-leaf of the great destruction and dispossession of life goods across the world.
While rights in general mean lawful or law-backed claims to goods of any kind, the regulating rights of the global corporate system are absolutist:
(1) recognizing only the trans-border rights of money-capital owners or “investors”;
(2) excluding all rights not backed by money demand, and
3) legally erasing any national legislation not in compliance with these treaty-instituted rights.
The trade-and-investment treaties defining this rights system are anchored in the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the subsequent World Trade Organization (WTO). They require that foreign corporations receive equal treatment “without discrimination” in all societies so contracted in all matters of purchase, sale and subsidy, as well as the corporate-person or “investor” right to sue governments which do not comply or which are alleged to have caused “loss of profit opportunity” (e.g., by banning advertisements for a commodity such as cigarettes or regulating against a fuel additive with neurotoxins for national health reasons). At the same time, what used to be and should return as a matter of political debate and judgment within national borders – for example, to exchange domestic market access and natural resources for reciprocal returns from the corporations receiving these rights (e.g., manufacturing in the host country for free access to the domestic auto market) – have been outlawed by the new corporate-rights system. The ultimate right to exchange between domestic public and foreign corporation is thereby abolished in favor of unilateral corporate rights – the only actual content of trade-investment treaties and “agreements between nations” in the reversal period.
Much follows from absolutist prescription against the sovereign rights of government to negotiate with foreign corporate persons – in fact, the abolition of their free trade. Transnational corporations receive what they have not had since decolonization –the rights to sell in foreign markets without impediment, to buy domestic industries without limit, to receive guaranteed free access to the natural resources of other societies, and to receive government subsidies on a citizen basis. Sovereign government over society’s mode of reproduction is in this way replaced by foreign corporate rights as “non-discrimination” against them. No rights, on the other hand, are granted to workers, or citizens. “Performance requirement” and “process of production” condition by host or importing society, formerly givens of democratic self-government, are made illegal and subject to unsustainable financial punishment. The ecological consequences are least of all discussed. Unconditional rights of transnational corporations to nationally owned natural resources for exploitation of oil, minerals, fish and timber permit their world-wide corporate looting of one region after another to move onto the next with no accountability under the rules for future supplies or ruinous effects (U.S. exceptionalism aside). Observe how all that has been taken away without public knowledge by the corporate-rights war of occupation and depredation of all formerly self-organizing life systems is just as rapidly reversible in principle.
With the binding regulations of these corporate rights upheld and adjudicated by closed tribunals, and proceedings unpublished and judgments to enforce the “least trade restrictive practices” in all matters final and not appealable, however, responsible self-government of societies has been ruled out at the economic level – what has formerly caused revolutions, but has here been effectively hidden. The new rules by which societies’ economies must live are thus effectively outside public debate and understanding, as may be tested by seeking where they are identified anywhere in public policy forums and economic policy discussions.
Yet this inner logic of supreme rights to corporate persons and none to living persons has received little academic attention, including by moral philosophy, justice theory and ethicist literatures. Because the new regulatory apparatus runs to over 20,000 pages of legal jargon in the prototype NAFTA, few have the skill or patience to read the defining terms. Because as well the myriad articles nowhere reveal the underlying principles regulating them, the philosophical under-labour required to decode their moral meaning has been missing.
Most poignantly, the ruling corporate rights system has been ludicrously conflated without notice with the local real free market which is opposite in every norm and feature. It occurs on public property, sells local produce and crafts, does not advertise, pre-package or expatriate profits, has no external hierarchy or stock-profit demands, does not lobby governments for handouts and favours to dominant sellers, and cannot manipulate supply or demand. As elsewhere, the meanings of words are reversed. In line with the unobserved sea-shift across borders in the name of opposite meanings, rights of human beings and fellow life do not count in. Indeed individual rights become the rights of corporate persons instead – rights to commercial free speech with no criterion of factual truth, for example, and to anonymous external funding of election propaganda with no limit as, again, “freedom of speech”. The equal rights of the U.S. Fifth Amendment intended to protect freed slaves are also appropriated by corporations as “equal persons” so that 99% of litigation for these equal rights are to protect these “corporate persons” which have been fabricated by law. Life-protective and enabling rights of real persons are at the same time expelled from human work across domains.
Corporate rights have become so unquestioned that Jurgen Habermas adopts their rule as a technical given – “the technical-administrative apparatus” of the “norm-free sociality” of the economy. The most powerful norm system ever is thus assumed as the opposite at the highest levels of transnational research publication.
Life-value analysis, in contrast, recognizes the absurd, and rejects the equation of presupposed norms to not norms. No society’s rule system is decided by natural laws. As social constructions, rule systems vary widely from social order to social order through cultures and the means available. In our era, society’s rule and rights systems have developed in fact a primary contradiction between them – human-life-protective/enabling norms and rights versus money-capital-protective/enabling norms and rights. The latter however rule, and so are claimed as not norms at all, but technical facts like the law of gas expansion driving wheels. Yet the repressed contradiction which is not seen here is deeper than between classes or cultures. It is between human and ecological life’s inherent requirements to reproduce and biodiversify in ever more life-enabling forms and unliving money-capital’s imperative to grow private commodities and profit in ever more violation of life needs and capacities on every plane. The former increasingly necessitate life standards to enable human life and life conditions to survive and flourish (the civil commons), while the latter multiplies its own money-sequences to more whatever cumulative degradation and exhaustion of resources and sinks it causes. Corporate rights without accountability or limit thus war against human and planetary life itself.
Consider an everyday microcosm of the corporate-person rights system which stands for the whole as internalized in the individual creatures of its pervasively life-invading system. The “free individual expressing ‘his’ rights” becomes his spending on and consuming corporate power-motors to drown all else in its moronic racket while churning up the earth face, wild and water life for more faster. Decoded s/he is propelled along the following preconscious steps: “(1) I the consumer have a right to (2) the hearing and sight fields around me (2) because of my high-cost commodity motor to (3) occupy the public life space I choose (4) with no barrier to this consumer enjoyment nor (5) rations of use of what is short and shortening for the world (6) whatever hell on earth it creates for the sentience of other life because (7) I have bought and paid for what has been produced to be enjoyed and (8) this is my right and my freedom.
XIII. HISTORY’S LONG WAR FOR LIBERATION: RECLAIMING THE LIFE RIGHTS WHICH HAVE BEEN WON
Life-value understanding sees through the lenses of the long history of corporate money-sequence rights – from the private East India Company over 250 years ago with sovereign rights of life and death over native peoples to global corporations today granted rights to be competitively indifferent to their destruction of human and natural life at all levels.
As always in the corporate-rights disorder, only maximally more money for money investors counts. And as always, the horrors of the system are projected onto the ever-changing designated ‘Enemy’ to justify eradicating it. Life-value understanding nonetheless recognises something deeper at work underneath the rule of the mutating system – the human vocation, the ever evolving civil commons, and the codified life standards of real civilisation.
Analysis recognises, for principal example, the universal life-protective norms that have been instituted since the 1939-45 World War. These are advanced civil commons developments at the global level, but are of no account to the corporate world order which ignores and overrides them at will. To be reclaimed, they must be recalled and understood. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Rights (1948) is the best-known standard bearer. It moves from where Roosevelt left off. It recognizes the underlying value ground of universal life goods for human beings, but at a world level. Moreover, one unifying principle inaccessible to market consciousness governs each and all of these human rights – to protect and enable human life in all domains. No such codified development of human consciousness has before existed.
This body of Declarations, Covenants and Conventions is simultaneously directed against one real enemy across the world – that which violates or prevents these universal life goods. The ultimate tragedy, however, has not yet been recognised. This global historical turn out of the most systematically dehumanizing and mass-homicidal period in world history has been step by step subverted by the covert corporate-rights counter-revolution. The instituted norms for ‘the 99%’ codifying how society must live to evolve beyond continuous mass sacrifice have been reversed. Underneath the public eye, the absolutist rapacity, technology and command of system fascism have bridged to the present through the U.S. fanatic right and the transnational money party. Nonetheless the social justice turn beyond its hold has long ago been decided from the crucible of a hundred million lives and social infrastructures in ruin. This momentous turn out of system fascism has been exactly codified in a body of law governing the community of nations which has been lawlessly usurped since by the corporate-rights axes – often in its very name.
An internationally covenanted moral conclusion of the world’s nations has, in short, already chosen a human versus inhuman life of peoples by universal rights of life built into social orders as mutually obligatory and binding. Yet all have been violated root and branch by the corporate-rights system that is hidden from public view, in fact the covert fascist turn backwards the world has been subjected to for 30 years with worse cumulative results than Nazism. Still this entire body of international law and life standards stands today as the only codified and legitimate “human rights and international norms” that exist – however pervasively this concept is mendaciously invoked by corporate-state puppets. It reveals step by step as we now see the illegal global rule now taking world humanity, fellow life and life support systems into the abyss.
The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an icon that is under theorised as well as little heeded in the global culture of absolute corporate rights. But its universal rights and standards are worth citing in full to recognize their inner life-value logic: the rights to “freedom of speech and belief”, “freedom from want”, “dignity and worth of the human person”, “not to be subjected to – – inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment”, “equal access to public service”, “universal and equal suffrage”, “social security – – and [the resources required for] the free development of personality”, “work [and]- – just and favourable conditions of work”, “rest and leisure”, “standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his [sic] family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care”, and “education – – and equally accessible higher education”. The underpinning principle of all of these rights, the one onto-ethical ground of which each is another and complementary aspect of an implied moral whole, is to enable human life against its many-sided oppression.
The U.N. Declaration of Rights can thus be understood – although this meaning has so far eluded philosophy, law and economics – to be a universal statement of life-value morality and social justice which has already been agreed to by states across cultures. Revealingly the Universal Declaration of Rights has been criticized from both the left and the right. The Marxist conceives it as a “merely ideological mask” of capitalist reality, while the Reaganite denounces it as “dangerous nonsense” and “communism in disguise”. But in fact the problem is that common life support systems are what really matters, and they are not funded to enable these human rights. This is the missing life-ground and civil commons across contending positions.
Societies’ Life Rights Against Corporate Fascism Across Borders
There has also been a United Nations’ Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States since 1974 which spells out the economic conditions required for human life standards to govern more effectively than in the past. This codified global agreement was passed by the United Nations General Assembly by a 120-6 vote just after the U.S.-supported and murderous military coup of the democratically elected government of Chile.
While this U.N. Charter of Economic Rights was cooperatively written and near-unanimously supported by national representatives to the U.N. from across the world to lead another kind of globalization than the one unveiled by the U.S.-managed Pinochet coup in Chile, it was annulled by extra-parliamentary passage of the transnational corporate rights edicts explained above. Under this new world order, the terms of the Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States were silently overridden in their entirety – in particular the “sovereign and inalienable right of every state to choose its economic system”, and its “permanent sovereignty, including possession, use and disposal over all its wealth, natural resources and economic activities”. The political rights of states “to regulate and exercise authority over foreign investment within its national jurisdiction” and “to regulate and supervise the activities of transnational corporations” were erased by the new global corporate-rights system.
Ensuring that this reversal was as inconspicuous as possible, the new transnational corporate-rights system was undiscussed in legislatures, unread by legislators, and formed, adjudicated and enforced outside of electoral processes and democratic accountability. David Rockefeller, a leader of ‘the new world order’ and founder of the transnational Bildersberg meetings behind it, frankly described its meaning to the 1991 gathering of world leaders in a leaked transcription: “A supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national autodetermination practiced in past centuries”.
Private corporate rights were thus given the force of supreme world law without recognition of the fact that the “plan for world rule” had long been ascribed to the “World Communist Plot”. Predictably across time, the corporate-rights dictatorship by conglomerate-money sequencing projects its own properties onto what opposes it. But what it wars upon in fact is always people in community seeking their common life security against it.
Thus just as the life-protective rights of the 1948 U.N. Declaration were earlier decoupled from the economic conditions required for their realization, and just as the collective rights of national economies to develop in control of their own natural resources and markets under the protection of the U.N. Charter of Economic Rights were overridden, so also further life-protective rights formed by the United Nations were ignored or vilified – and warred upon as they became real economies for the common life interest. The profile of what the community of nations has agreed upon as the basic life-protective norms of world civilisation exactly reveals what the corporate-rights system in fact wars upon as against (its) “freedom”.
Examples include, but are not confined to, the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1951), United Nations Convention on the Political Rights of Women (1952), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1986). Binding international criminal law existing in some form since the Nazi war leaders were tried under the Nuremburg Charter to protect the lives of people against the “supreme crime” of a war of aggression and “all the crimes following from it” – “war crimes”, the “crime of genocide” and “crimes against humanity” – has also stayed unenforced since. Its final institutional formation as the International Criminal Court (I.C.C.) in 2002 has been restricted to prosecution of unallied third-world leaders, or – in Guantanamo style – young Muslims resisting U.S.-led NATO occupation of Afghanistan charged with “war crimes”. The “supreme crime of a war of aggression” by the major states has at the same time been kept beyond the Court’s jurisdiction. As in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and corporate privatization of its economy and oil extraction, the ruling corporate rights system proceeds across borders and above the law as did the prior fascism, but more long-lastingly by money-led occupation of electoral processes, government ministries, and transnational treaty processes and procedures.
Today we may observe life-enabling and protective rights receiving little or no enforcement while globalizing money-capital rights of corporations backed by transnational U.S.-led armed force systematically violate them.
Resolving Confusions of Meaning to See the Historical Pattern Across Generational Time
While there is thus widespread confusion and cynicism about “human rights”, and corporate-person rights continue to expand under the mask of “national interests” or “world security” enforced by dominant military establishments, life-protective norms continue to evolve.
One need only look at the unprecedented world charters and covenants cited above to see a 70-year-long swing towards global life-security norms before unimagined.
The problem is in implementation. Legal scholars widely agree that the problem with even the legally binding covenants on life-protective rights is the problem of enforceability across borders. Few or none see is that if the same regulatory instruments were applied as now in the enforcement of private corporate rights across borders, the problem of enforceability would be solved. Such enforcement of universal life-protective rights, however, is so effectively blocked that not even learned advocates of human rights recognize the possibility.
Yet all that is required is the inclusion in international trade treaties of those life standards which are already formed and agreed upon across nations. The United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), for mainspring example, is both legally binding and global in jurisdiction. It is an established global legal and life-value ground from which to enforce life-protective rights against unaccountable global corporate money-rights. Yet its existence and its articles are not recognized by over 99% of the population in a world whose public media and journals are overwhelmingly occupied by a few private transnational corporations seeking only apical profit and continuance of the ignorance.
The terms of the International Covenant are nonetheless of great significance. For they are legally binding and their unifying meaning is to guarantee universal access to universal human life goods. They provide for what is obliged of every government, but is nowhere mentioned by any. The signature proof of the corporate occupation of the world’s governments is that the covenant they have solemnly signed is now effectively pretended not to exist as an obligation. A signature proof that the world’s mass media are only the mouthpiece of their corporate owners is that none has once reported this ultimate covenant of nations. Likewise, the signature proof that all political parties on record are but system reflexes of the private global corporate money-sequence occupation is that none ever mentions the ultimate Covenant among nations.
The United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is all that 100 years of labour across nations has achieved in setting the minimal and universal moral parameters of how to live as societies in the contemporary world. Its articles specifically require as binding all “state parties” or states to ensure (with developing standards and monitoring):
“just and favorable conditions of work”,
“a decent living for citizens and their families”,
“safe and healthy working conditions”.
“the right of everyone to form trade unions”
“[the right of all] to social security including social insurance”.
“the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living”,
“[the right of all] to an equitable “environmental and industrial hygiene”.
The covenant is not only for one’s own nation. On the global level, all state parties are to work for:
“distribution of world food supplies in relation to need”,
“primary education compulsory and free to all”
“equally accessible” and “progressively free” provision of “higher education”.
Obviously these terms of the Covenant are honoured more in the breach than the observance, and increasingly so – a measure of the reversal of humanity’s life rights and economic evolution under the global corporate-rights system. Yet the legally binding Covenant nonetheless expresses the ultimate life-value system that humanity progressively stands for in the face of the life-blind top-down absolutism. In perfect opposition to it, the unifying principle of the Covenant is to protect and enable human life by provision of universal life goods. Although a reporting mechanism is still instituted to observe and monitor the progress of the signatory states, there is no mechanism to motivate compliance of states with the Covenant articles – that is, unless these long established and signed articles are included in trade-and-investment treaties where non-compliance triggers strict trade penalties.
This operationalization of universally life-protective law is perfectly viable – as the 1989 Montreal Ozone Protocol has shown by its inclusion in NAFTA. Yet long proved implementation of life-protective law has been ignored since within governing international policy circles, the public media and even academic circles. These are all signs of the lawless corporate occupation internalized by its creatures.
Each and all the Covenant articles fulfil the life-value test. In onto-axiological terms, they more or less express the underlying life-value onto-axiology, life-coherence principle and civil commons meaning in international law.
What can stop the fulfilment of what the world’s peoples and nations have put into solemn covenant with one another? What can stop it when the resources required in money-demand terms are less than one resource-seizing war from a poorer country? Why when we already have long demonstration of societies’ achieving these basic life standards do not the peoples of the world reclaim their life rights from the global corporate occupation?
Analysis has already shown how the Great Reversal has been imposed beneath popular recognition in institutional coup d’etat. That recognition is what is now arising in the Occupy Wall Street movement. The essentially cognitive problem remaining is courageous intuition without principled understanding of the known nature of the disorder and its resolution.
Reclaiming and Moving Beyond the Human Life Rights That Have Already Been Won.
It is as if the principled grounds of life-value understanding have been long at work as a higher value syntax evolving beneath the global corporate invasion and despoliation of human and natural life systems. The United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights makes these life standards more explicit as a binding order of life-protective and enabling law, just as the earlier Universal Declaration of Human Rights did after the military defeat of European fascism.
While this resistance struggle and life-value advance struggles on beneath the ruling absolutism and corporate looting of the world, it still misses the connection of life-value rights to life-value obligations – not only to fellow human but to ecological requirements. This is what the human vocation and deeper civil commons movement bridges towards in the next steps of humanity’s social evolution. How to live – critical philosophy’s oldest question – is not only an individual issue, but more ultimately a social one. A life-coherent rule system has already been largely achieved in international law and the most developed communities. It is not impossible to agree upon across diverse cultures because in fact the defining terms have already been widely signed as solemn covenant across nations. All of the life standards named in the U.N. Declaration and the International Covenant are governed by one underlying and unifying principle governing advanced societies – protection and provision of that without which human life capacity is always reduced. Together the life goods and standards required have been agreed on in the basics. How humanity, however different, must live to survive and flourish is an already instituted moral code across cultures.
Yet, as we have seen, the private money-sequencing system and corporate-right rule have warred upon these universal life standards in every way possible. Thus no article of the human Covenant has been permitted into the solely effective mode of transnational law that humanity knows – its economic treaties. Yet operationalisation of life-protective law in this treaty system is already known to work – as, again, the 1989 Montreal Ozone Protocol has proved by its explicit inclusion in the NAFTA prototype of the WTO and general adhesion to it.
In far more evolved form, the European Union has long made corporate rights accountable to human life rights across borders by its Community Charter of Fundamental Social Rights. Its underlying principle of governance is principally livelihood rights: to equitable remuneration; a maximum number of hours per working week; free association in trade unions and collective bargaining; professional training; sex equality; minimum health and security provision; employer-employee consultation and participation; a minimum working age of 16; minimum pension rights; protection for disabled workers; and prohibition of slavery, forced labour and the use of the human body or body parts for financial gain.
Predictably, no level of the European Union’s social organization has not been attacked by European big business and transnational media like the Economist in every issue. This is the rightist reaction of the transnational money party whose sequences run through elected heads of state and politicians themselves – the Great Reversal still in motion. The financial crisis of the European Union following upon and caused by Wall Street’s greatest fraud in history still ongoing has had a perhaps strategically planned outcome – the turning back of Europe’s post-1945 civilisation which has built a legal-political firewall against predation of working people and citizens by any fascism. It has showed the life standards that can work over time as opposed to the “race to the bottom” of life standards defining global corporate fascism. The only way to undermine them given their civil habit, support and popularity is by financial means – and this unravelling began with the mechanisms analysed in prior sections.
Nonetheless the integrated moral-economic European model has already evolved over half a century regulated by life standards, and has worked far better than any other international paradigm over 60 years in protecting the lives and freedoms of citizens. Of course, it is everywhere denigrated by the corporate politicians and media for restrictions on “globally competitive” practices with no life standards at all, and stripped back where possible so that the life security and freedoms of the great majority are being ridden under even as I write. This is the post-1945 fascist bid for world-rule power under cover. More gravely, it is a corporate-rights system engineering to annihilate life standards across the world. Yet it only succeeds so far as what it is remains unpursued – corporate rights usurpation of humanity’s social evolution, and the cumulative destruction of the life-carrying capacities of humanity and the planet itself.
- Bernays, Edward W. (1933), Propaganda, New York: Liverright.
- Chossudovsky, Michel (2003), The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order, Picourt, PQ: Global research
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- Edgeworth, Frances (1881). Mathematical Psychics, London: London School of Economics.
- Glasbeek, Harry (2002), Wealth By Stealth: Corporate Crime, Corporate Law and the Perversion of Democracy, Toronto: Between the Lines Press
- Higham, Charles (1983), Trading with the Enemy: An Expose of the Nazi-American Money Plot 1933-1949, New York: Dell Publishing Co.
- Hodgson, Bernard (2001), Economics as Moral Science, Heidelberg: Springer Press.
- International Forum on Globalization (IFG) (1998). The Siena Declaration On the Crisis of Economic Globalization, Siena, Italy.
- Lane, R.E. (2000), The loss of happiness in market democracies, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
- Locke, John (1690/1950), The Second Treatise on Government, New York: Liberal Arts Press.
- Manno, J.P. (2000), Privileged Goods: Commoditization and Its Impact on Environment and Society, London: Lewis Publishers.
- Marx, Karl and Engels, F. (1975- ), Collected Works of Marx and Engels, 44 vols. (Eds. R. Dixon et al). New York: International Publishers.
- McMurtry, J. (1979-80), The Case for Children’s Liberation”, Interchange 10:3, with Critical Response by and Reply to Ian Winchester.
- McMurtry, J. (1984), “Fascism and Neo-Conservatism: Is There a Difference?”, Praxis International 4:1, 86-102.
- McMurtry, J. (1988), Understanding War, Toronto: Samuel Stevens and Science for Peace.
- McMurtry, J. (1998), Unequal Freedoms: The Global Market As An Ethical System, Toronto and Westport CT: Garamond and Kumarian.
- McMurtry, J. (1999), The Cancer Stage of Capitalism. London and Tokyo: Pluto and Springer Press.
- McMurtry, J. (2002), Value Wars: The Global Market versus the Life Economy, London: Pluto Press.
- Michalos, A.C. (2008), Trade Barriers to the Public Good, Montreal-Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.
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- Nussbaum (2000), Women and Human Development / The Capabilities Approach New York: Cambridge University Press.
- Pareto, Vilfredo, (1971 ), Manual of Political Economy, New York: A.M. Kelley.
- Polanyi, Karl (1944/2000), The Great Transformation. Boston: Beacon Press.
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- The fallacious logic and devious strategy of Locke’s argument is anatomized step by step in Value Wars: The Global Market versus the Life Economy, London: Pluto Press, pp.65-73.
- What is Good? What is Bad? The Value of All Values Across Time, Place and Theories, Oxford: Eolss Publishers under the auspices of Unesco, 2010.
- The formal axiom of life value is: x is of value if and only if, and to the extent that, it constitutes or enables a more coherently inclusive range of life than without it: within the fields of life of thought (conceptual and image), felt side of being (sentience, emotion, mood), and/or action (animate movement through space-time). Conversely, x is of disvalue if and only if, and to the extent that, it disables life so defined.
- The literature here has become huge, but Amartya Sen (1992) Inequality ReExamined Cambridge Mass: Harvard University Press is a good place to start, and discussion around the capabilities touchstone of equality is found in Martha Nussbaum and Sen Nussbaum, M. and Sen, eds. (1993) The Quality of Life. Clarendon: Oxford University Press, along with relevant work by G.A. Cohen, Onera O’Oneill, Hilary Putnam, Charles Taylor, and Michael Walzer. Nussbaum (2000), Women and Human Development. The Capabilities Approach New York: Cambridge Univeraity Press provides her most in-depth account.
- Philip Mirowski’s Machine Dreams (2000) is a very informed study tracking the machine model in contemporary market economic theory into the “automaton theater” of economic, military and decision-theory research today – extending the magic thinking of the invisible hand’s necessitation of the best of possible worlds into the mechanism of life-blind system automatism.
- Mathematical Psychics (1881, London: London School of Economics). Bernard Hodgson spells out the implications in his Economics as Moral Science ( 2001), Heidelberg: Springer Press.
- Edward Bernays, a nephew of Freud , explains how in his Propaganda (1933) New York: Liverright. As the primary pioneer of modern mass-market conditioning, he identifies the key of the process is to appeal to and control unconscious desires to sell commodities and engineer social consent. My essay entry, “The Ruling Group-Mind” (in the Encyclopedia of Case-Study Research (2008), Toronto: Sage) spells out the unexamined premises and systematically life-destructive consequences of the group-mind phenomenon.
- Amartya Sen’s Nobel Speech on “Social Choice” preconsciously reveals the problem. In his immense bibliography, there is no concept of social choice he reports that does not assume it as an aggregate of individual agents choosing in market, electoral or other such atomic grid of choice space.
- Pareto, Vilfredo, (1971 ), Manual of Political Economy, New York: A.M. Kelley. Few realise that Pareto’s classic is based on dyadic asset exchange with no relation to life needs, given distribution, work hours, ecological support systems, or economic performance.
- This argument is made in “The Case for Children’s Liberation”, Interchange (1979-80) 10:3, with Critical Response and Reply.
- Adam Smith (1776/1966), An Inquiry into Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. New York: A.M. Kelley, p.85 (Book I, Chapter III, “Wages of Labour”).
- In a paradigm-setting state Supreme Court decision (Dodge v. Ford Motor Co., 204 Michigan 459 (1919), for example, the Court held in a precedent ruling that has not since been overturned that it is a violation of “the lawful power of a corporation” to decide anything not “organized for the profit of the stockholders”. In this case, even Henry Ford’s own plan to “employ more men, to spread the benefits of this industrial system to the greatest possible number, to help them build up their lives and homes” was ruled illegal. It transgressed the rights of corporate stockholders to maximum profits revenues to themselves. In short, the corporate person could not plan for the life benefits of anyone, even “the greatest possible number” of real persons, without violating its legal purpose of private money sequencing to maximally more for money-stock investors. The corporate person remains programmed by law to this one overriding goal in exclusion of providing more life means for more people by still-profitable business.
- McMurtry (1999/2002), The Cancer Stage of Capitalism (London and Tokyo: Pluto and Springer Press) explains this anomaly and the underlying money-sequence source and cause of cumulative world system collapse.
- Little known even today is that the Ford, General Motors, IBM and Dupont corporations produced for the Nazi war machine in these functions even after the U.S. was at war with it (Charles Higham, Trading with the Enemy: An Expose of the Nazi-American Money Plot 1933-1949. New York, Dell Publishing Co., 1983). Moreover these corporations received government compensation for their bombed factories and losses in Germany after the war was ended, an indication of the supreme and borderless power wielded upon which the ‘New World Order’, a Nazi concept, was instituted by national and international mechanisms of law identified in this paper.
- I have tracked these strategic patterns in depth in prior work such as Unequal Freedoms: The Global Market as an Ethical System (1998) Toronto: Garamond/University of Toronto Press.
- The underlying fascist logic is explained in my Fascism and Neo-Conservatism: Is There a Difference? (1984), “Praxis International 4 (1), 86-102.