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Sender: millershed@EARTHLINK.NET
Subject: Re: A focus on empowerment vs. a focus on inequality
Date: Mon, May 26, 2014
Msg: 101025

Hello Lawry,

Steiner would agree with you that markets allow transactions that are mutually beneficial, and he definitely saw a global economy as largely an extremely positive thing.

I would just say that any transaction involves more than an exchange of money for goods or services, etc. It involves attitudes and relationship. This is why the upside of a world economy is that it actually builds global relationships (a brotherhood of all humanity, transcending racial, religious, and national differences). This is another way in which the economic system outpaces the political sphere, which is still at the stage of nation-states (with signs of moving beyond that, such as the EU, but even here the economic nature of the union is far beyond the political). Another reason to try to use the enormous positive forces of the economic system for good.

In terms of attitude, however, I would say that Steiner's ideal of "I offer my goods or services to those who need them, and I receive what I need from others who offer theirs" is poles apart from the essentially egotistical goal of maximizing personal profit (through unequal exchanges, if possible). To ground this in current reality, look at the shrinking middle class, the rise in low-paying jobs, and the decline in well-paying jobs. If I as an employer can increase profits by paying employees as little as possible, that is of course what I will do. One of the ways we do this is through the hourly worker, who typically has few or no benefits (in addition to low pay). Steiner thought that hourly pay treated people as commodities--basically it dehumanizes them. Again, to ground this in current reality, when there are hundreds of applicants for even low-paying, low-benefit jobs, employees are expendable. There is no relational commitment between employer and employee. This is a world of replaceable machine parts, not one of human connections and brotherhood.

So there's always a shadow side, even to an essentially healthy and life-providing system. My question is, how can we minimize that shadow side and maximize the health-creating aspects of the global economic system?

John Miller
(952) 797-2302
Green Tea Party Movement

-----Original Message-----
From: Lawrence Chickering
Sent: May 23, 2014 1:26 PM
Subject: Re: [TRANSPARTISAN] A focus on empowerment vs. a focus on inequality


Your thought about Steiner and motivation does not completely turn traditions thinking on its head. Market economies are about mutually-beneficial exchanges.  People can't support themselves unless they do things that are valuable for others.  So market economies are inherently 'other-regarding'.  

Lawry Chickering
Educate Girls Globally

Sent from my iPhone

On May 23, 2014, at 10:55 AM, <> wrote:

Hi Lawry,

Steiner's main contribution is World Economy. Other writings on the Threefold Social Order are also applicable and helpful, as the economic sphere is one of the three. You may be aware that Steiner applied the values (from the French revolution) of liberty, equality, and fraternity to the three spheres, as follows: Liberty is the guiding principle of the cultural (arts, religion, education, etc.) sphere (since we all freely choose our individual pursuits, elective affinities, etc.); Equality is the guiding principle of the rights (or political/government) sphere (as in, we're all equal under the law, etc.); and Brotherhood or Fraternity is the guiding principle of the economic sphere.

So it's interesting that, while Steiner strongly valued freedom, in economic matters he emphasized our (voluntary) service to one another. He turned the whole idea of why we work on its head. Rather than working to sustain ourselves, he said, we should work in order to make the products of our work available to others. Thus, work is (or should be) an act of giving rather than a means of receiving.

So, in case I was unclear, for Steiner economic transactions were inherently value-laden rather than value-free. It takes some getting used to. . . . (It also seems tremendously impractical and idealistic, and I have for many years lived and worked in organizations that attempted to live in this way and can attest that it's not easy---but I still think his key insight is valid). All the best!

John Miller
(952) 887-2763
Green Tea Party Movement
-----Original Message-----
From: Lawrence Chickering
Sent: May 23, 2014 11:20 AM
Subject: Re: [TRANSPARTISAN] A focus on empowerment vs. a focus on inequality

Hi John, 

Although I have read more than twenty of his books, I think, I don't know 
much about Steiner's view of money.  It does not surprise me, however -- 
given his strong emphasis on freedom -- that he regards money (I would say, 
like the market) as value-free -- to do with them as our freedom leads us.  

Critics of capitalism tend to regard materialistic values as inherent in 
capitalism.  Their belief in governments to humanize markets comes from 
their belief in governments run not by politicians and bureaucrats, but by 
people like them.  When you see capitalism in instrumental rather than 
substantive terms -- as a process of free exchange -- then it becomes clear 
that 'capitalism' and 'socialism' operate in different dimensions that can 
(even) overlap and integrate.  Milton Friedman regarded the Israeli kibbutzim 
as a triumph of capitalism because they are freely chosen at the same time 
that many people regard them as representing the best of socialism.  

I believe EGG, for the same reasons, represents the best of capitalism, 
integrating all major stakeholders with 'ownership' in the schools to work 
together and make them better.  I would say that is also the best of 
socialism, bringing people together for the public good, especially for the 
poorest people (tribal girls, who are afraid to speak up in front of boys, show 
greatest gains in learning from our program).  


A. Lawrence Chickering
Educate Girls Globally

A. Lawrence Chickering
Founder and President, Educate Girls Globally (EGG)
Author: Beyond Left and Right (1993) and co-author (with James 
S. Turner) Voice of the People: The Transpartisan Imperative 
in American Life (2008) 

On May 22, 2014, at 09:12, wrote:

Hi Lawry,

Thanks for your very thoughtful response. You are obviously much more educated in economic matters than I am, so I readily confess to a good deal of naivete. And yes, I did know that you were also influenced by Steiner. We may well be the only two in the conversation who are, so I'll say a little bit at the risk of boring or losing others. What strikes me most about Steiner's ideas about money--what seems utterly counter-intuitive to my progressive instincts--is that he considers it a highly spiritual process (not a thing)--at least when allowed to flow optimally.

Two conditions strike me as applicable to the optimal flow of money. One is that the whole danger of the flow of money (I believe, and I believe Steiner says) is that it can operate in a way that is "value-free" (in quotes, because I believe the value that this phrase assumes is materialism, which considers itself the only true value because it is empirical). Yet every monetary transaction is also a spiritual transaction. I find this in Steiner's meditation on, for example, a paper clip. A paper clip is not (just, or even mostly) a material object. It carries with it the natural and human processes that have accompanied every step in its extraction, production, and distribution. That is, it has a spiritual fingerprint and--so to speak--a spiritual value (which may have positive as well as negative aspects). Steiner asks us to do the impossible--because following the trail of even a simple paper clip is impossible, due to the world's complexity--yet it's a useful exercise (and one that is applicable when we consider the Congolese rare minerals in our smartphones, etc.). So I am encouraged when I see economists such as Eisenstein trying to view money and the economy in spiritual terms. I think Steiner's main thrust was that economic matters needed to be considered in spiritual terms as well as material ones and that economic transactions should be viewed as opportunities for highly positive spiritual deeds. So the context of my distinction between making and maximizing profits is something like this: Not too many decades ago, highly successful companies paid a lot of attention not only to profits but also to the wellbeing of their workers and that of the wider communities in which they were located. Thus, some profitability was sacrificed in order to improve conditions for their workers and to work positively within their local communities. I fear those days are long gone, because maximizing profits has become the only value that the market rewards.

The second condition of the optimal flow of money, to me, is that it needs to be somewhere between stagnant and chaotic--that is, dynamic and life-giving. Steiner spoke of the dangers of stagnation--accumulating capital rather than using it in productive manners. I don't recall him speaking much of the other extreme, which is chaos (though I may well be wrong on this). But Fritjof Capra speaks very presciently (2002) of the dangers of the "global casino," citing the work of Manuel Castells. While I think Capra gets it very laregely right, again I fear that we are much farther down that road then when Capra wrote The Hidden Connections. The rate of investment and exchange is so feverish that it has shifted from a powerfully flowing river to a tumultously pounding waterfall--very much skirting the edge of chaos and hence flirting with collapse. I think the issues behind the 2008 recession are pertinent--how the collapse of Bear Stearns (one investment firm, and far from the biggest) triggered events that were very hard to contain (similar to Greece and the Euro, etc.). And I would also note that the word "trust" was very widely used after that recession, as the factor that kept people from buying houses and spending in general, which would have improved the economy much more rapidly. To me, this confirms Steiner's description of money as a covenant, not an artifact, involving spiritual qualities such as trust, responsibility, and even altruism (as Steiner makes clear when he speaks of gifts vs. loans or purchases). Which brings us around again to the need for economic concepts and policies that will incorporate ethical and--dare I say it--spiritual values. 

And again, I think a truly free market economy (one that is genuinely self-organizing) can function to bring this about--though it will take a maturing of our worldview from one of fragmented scientific reductionism and materialism to one of interconnectedness and wholeness, including the span from physical to psychic to noetic (body, soul, and spirit). So I would guess that there is a great deal more that we agree on than that we differ on. But I do take to heart your warning about language and your ideas on effective communication. And, again, I plead guilty to a considerable degree of hubris in daring to speak on topics about which my knowledge and understanding are severely limited (including, I'm sure, Steiner's ideas on economics!).

I hope that, in expalining to you--in terms of some of the concepts that we both treasure--where I was coming from, I haven't lost everybody else! With warmest regards,


John Miller
(952) 797-2302
Green Tea Party Movement  
-----Original Message----- 
From: Lawrence Chickering 
Sent: May 22, 2014 1:49 AM 
Subject: Re: [TRANSPARTISAN] A focus on empowerment vs. a focus on inequality 

Dear John, 

Your response has me spinning about, trying to think how to respond in a way 
that will be useful.  First, I think you know that Rudolf Steiner, for more than 
forty years, has been the great intellectual and spiritual influence on my 
thinking on almost every subject.  I had the good fortune to have an extraordinary 
disciple of Steiner's (a psychiatrist and also an Austrian) mentor me in his theories 
and especially his spiritual practices at the end of the 1960s, when I lived briefly 
in New York.  The path he set me on has guided me ever since.  

One area on which Steiner influenced me only implicitly was in communication -- in 
the uses of language especially to communicate thoughts 'for which we have no 
[universally accepted] language'.  Language is a challenge, of course, because 
people code their messages differently; and the challenge of communicating 
(as opposed to mere emoting) is to communicate not in one's own code, but 
in the listener's code -- thus to be understood in the spirit the communicator 
intends.  When I responded to your statements about scarcity and profits, I was 
assuming -- perhaps incorrectly -- that this community is committed to coding 
messages in accord with the mainstream economic and political idiom.  You 
wrote what you wrote based on very different assumptions.  

Part of me now wants to caution you to be careful in using words and phrases 
commonly used (and with widely agreed meanings) in the mainstream debate 
when you intend very different meanings.  But perhaps it is I who needs to be 
cautious because I realize it is possible that our unusual transpartisan community 
may be much more aligned linguistically with you than with me.  

Although I regard my worldview as epistemologically very different than the 
worldview that dominates meanstream thought, all of my formal professional 
work has been undertaken in terms of the mainstream idiom.  I want to influence 
that idiom, and I see more opportunity to accomplish that from inside the 
mainstream debate than from outside.  

To touch on your points about scarcity and profit, one reason I believe 'capitalism' 
has been as associated as it has with materialism is that economists have been 
unwilling to open their inquiry into economic issues to include powerful non-
material things that are valued in powerful ways by all human beings.  This is 
the idea underlying the extraordinary success of the program I founded and run, 
Educate Girls Globally, which is institutionalizing the spirit of private rights into 
public spaces such as schools, with results on all major stakeholders in schools -- 
including government bureaucrats -- that are considered impossible by the 
mainstream debate.  I will not repeat the 'lessons' learned from this work other 
than to say that the lessons are precisely the lessons that James Dierke and I 
are writing a book about public school reform, integrating my work in India with 
his in a middle school in the most dangerous neighborhood in San Francisco.  His 
results in Visitacion Valley Middle School, for which he was given an award as the 
outstanding principal of a middle school in the entire country, are so powerful 
that at a time when teachers are straining to leave schools like his, no one 
wanted to leave his school while he was principal (he retired a year or two ago).  

These are all things that he and I are writing about using a mainstream vocabulary, 
and Dierke's own success -- in winning his award -- has been achieved in the 
most mainstream institution of an inner-city public school.  

I feel I have written far more than will interest most people here on this subject.  
I wanted to be completely transparent about the assumptions that I bring to 
all of these subjects, which have preoccupied me for more than forty years.  

Lawry Chickering
Educate Girls Globally
Author Beyond Left and Right (1993) and co-author (with James S. Turner) 
     Voice of the People: The Transpartisan Imperative in American Life, 2008.  

On May 21, 2014, at 18:41, <> <> wrote:

Hi Lawry and all,

Here is Charles Eisenstein on scarcity:

I don't pretend to capture what he said, but I am influenced by ideas on spiritual economics, including Rudolf Steiner and E. F. Schumacher. All the best!

-----Original Message----- 
From: Lawrence Chickering 
Sent: May 21, 2014 12:26 PM 
Subject: Re: [TRANSPARTISAN] A focus on empowerment vs. a focus on inequality 

I would like to hear Michael Strong's thoughts on this because he knows 
more about it than I do.  John, your discussion of scarcity and profits deviates 
so much from my understanding of economists' traditional view of both that 
you need to say a lot more than this to make a convincing case that the 
traditional economist's view needs a major overhaul.  

In the mainstream perspective, scarcity is not caused by anything; it is the 
defining characteristic of economic life.  The challenge is how to distribute 
the scarcity.  My natural instinct here is to start taking about capitalism and 
how it approaches these issues.  My own perspective on capitalism, however, 
is broader -- more expansive -- than the traditional view, and I can't avoid 
saying something about this here.  

My first thought here is that in an important respect all economic systems are 
'capitalist'.  My friend the late economist Milton Friedman captured an important 
part of the point when he said one reason he favored 'capitalism' (narrow sense) 
is that it is 'the only system that doesn't give all property rights to the ruling 
("capitalist") class.'  The essence of capitalism, that is, is a system of free 
exchange within whatever constraints are imposed on it.  The Soviet Union 
was not 'capitalist'; yet anyone who actually went there and watched people 
interact, they would see frenzies of entrepreneurial, capitalist activities.  In 
my own, personal experience, every taxi cab was a super market.  It was the 
purest form of capitalism I have ever seen.  

My second wish to broaden the meaning of 'capitalism' is beyond private 
spaces to public spaces.  This is too large a subject to treat here; I encourage 
anyone wanting to know more to read Anjula Tyagi's and my article on EGG 
from Policy Review, which I have sent more than once (won't send again 
except to people who can't unearth it).  EGG empowers people in a marketplace 
of social goods to do what they care about.  The program sets off an explosion 
of entrepreneurial activity, people working together to common purpose.  
Creating private rights in public space like schools creates strong incentives 
to cooperation that highlight the impulse toward public spirit that is 
powerful in everyone in our connected world.  

Now to your point emphasizing the distinction between 'making' and 'maximizing' 
profits.  This point implies that profit is something wrongfully extracted from 
people in exchanges.  (The alternative, conventional view is that people want to 
pay profits to get what they want [are willing to pay for].)  

Let me focus on people you might see as the most extreme (reprehensible) 
profit-maximizeers.  The common economist's generalization is that all profits, 
past the short-term, are the same, discounted for risk.  'Capitalism' (in the 
narrow view) is an allocative system -- not a distributive system -- that allocates 
resources to their highest valued uses.  Who determines 'highest valued 
use'?  Consumers, communicating through the price system.  All investors seek 
to 'maximize profits'; that is why they hire financial advisors -- to advise them 
on where above-market profits are creating market signals for more capital. 
Profits tend to be 'maximized' only in the short term

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