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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: 101029

Hello Lawry,

I hear what you are saying. Perhaps it is not markets themselves that produce negative outputs so much as the way we approach them--again, our attitudes, what we bring to transacations (which can be more or less conscious of the "value" of what we are getting, in terms of the contributions of many people to its production, distribution, etc., as well as the impact that these processes have made socially and environmentally).

So I think we are basically in agreement that the market can play a hugely beneficial role. I would offer to Rick that it might be interesting to rethink cap and prioritize as a function of the economic rather than the political sphere. Steiner expected the economic sphere (business) to pay for the cultural sphere, and he modeled this in the first Waldorf school. Being a school, it was part of the cultural sphere, but it was paid for by the owner of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarrete company (largely as a service to employees). Since then, I don't know of any Waldorf schools that have been funded in this way. In Europe, they are largely supported by the state; in the US they are largely tuition-based.

I think government steps in when the economic sphere does not fulfill its role of seeing that needs are met (for all, not some). I would say that the liberal paradigm is that this is a good thing, but this was not Steiner's view (e.g., in his belief that education should be provided by the business sector rather than the political sector--which is driven by the value of equality (we are equal in our rights) rather than fraternity (we try to meet one another's needs, but our needs are hardly equal, nor are we equal in our cultural predilictions, which are driven by the value of liberty). To clarify, it is my impression that cap and prioritize leaves intact the liberal paradigm that government should tax and redistribute to meet economic and cultural needs, which are not really its functions.

Here I think the conservative stance has great merit, but in fact--despite many charitable efforts--some of them stunning, such as the Gates Foundation--we do not see churches or non-profits meeting the needs of all. So government naturally steps in. But what if business DID meet the needs of all? So far as I know, Steiner never figured this one out (or Waldorf schools would be differently funded!). But I think a new innovation has great promise to do what he intended.

Minnesota just passed into law--after five years, and now only possible with a democratic house, senate, and governor--benefit corporations. (A number of other states have passed this, beginning in 2010.) That's a little strange, as these are very much in line with conservative ideals. That is, they take repsonsibility for the common good rather than relying on massive, top-down, government redistribution programs. They are for-profit, but they also have broader goals for benefits to their workers, society, and/or the environment (spelled out in their founding documents).

Can one imagine a day when benefit corporations are the rule rather than the exception? What a powerful force for good that would be! I think broad transpartisan support for this could be garnered, as really they are in line with libertarian philosophy while also favored by liverals. And NOBODY really thinks big government is really the answer. Or big anything, for that matter--the Gates Fndtn. is just as monolithic as teh federal govt. But the beauty of this idea (Like the way EGG works) is that it is largely self-organizing and therefore responsive to local needs. Thoughts?


-----Original Message-----
From: Lawrence Chickering
Sent: May 24, 2014 9:51 AM
Subject: Re: [TRANSPARTISAN] A focus on empowerment vs. a focus on inequality


I know many people on this listserve will resist what I am about to write, 
but if you follow the idea of markets as truly value-free, then you will have 
to abandon most of your thoughts that markets somehow militate against 
the aspiration to higher, non-materialistic values.  I agree completely with 
your second graf here, but inherent in it is the idea that one thing -- a 
very important thing -- people value is service to others.  They do this for 
two reasons: first, because reciprocal kindness builds community and 
connection, which is one of the most highly-valued of all things by healthy 
human beings; and second, when a relationship involves an employee, 
because taking care of employees is economically efficient in a narrow 
sense (even assuming no spiritual commitment to it).  When employers 
pay 'too little' for its people, they risk high employee turnover, which is 
very costly.  Experienced employees are hugely valuable, as is a happy 
workforce.  As Becker showed in his work on discrimination, people who 
discriminate lose money because they have to pay more for people of 
the 'right racial or gender or beauty (whatever) pedigree'.  If they want 
to keep a perpetually unhappy workforce, they will pay by bearing high 
costs to train people, compensating for high turnover.  Successful companies 
do not behave like that.  Did you know that for years U.S. automakers paid 
large numbers of employees to be unemployed, to wait in the wings for 
expansion of demand for cars?  While union contracts may have had 
something to do with that, it is also likely that the companies rationalized 
it, in some way, as efficient.  

Lawry Chickering
Educate Girls Globally

On May 23, 2014, at 18:48, <> <> wrote:

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, ar

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