Toward Deeper Equality and Liberty

shutterstock_149137127“The sweltering summer (of) legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.”

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Among my peers, liberty is a principle many idealize, and rightly so. However, an additional principle is detrimentally marginalized. This principle is equality, which precedes freedom.

Recognize that absolute freedom is neither possible or desirable. People must not be free in violence. We need freedom that causes no harm to others. On this, corporatist libertarians disagree. They desire corporate freedom from regulations of environmental destruction, labor laws and anything that inhibits profit maximization.

Similarly, absolute equality is not possible or desirable. We need absolutely equal rights for minorities, women, and gay people. We also need absolute equality in access to healthcare, education, employment and criminal justice. However, most fundamentally, we need relative economic equality, allowing additional incentive and reward for people that work harder or have advanced skills.

American history includes great horrors of Native American land theft and genocidal terrorism, cruel slavery, and endless slaughter of humans in warfare. Yet, there is something beautiful, which is the great march toward equality for black people, women, and now gays.

Admittedly, vast work remains to create further political equality for all, but the deepest issue is economic equality. Obviously, dictatorship that force superficial equality are despicable, such as the fake socialism of the Soviet Union and China. Likewise, corporate capitalism is similarly problematic with extreme wealth concentration.

With NBC exit polls from the recent election found 63 percent of voters saw our economic system favors the wealthy, many realize our inequality. According to another NBC report, the 400 richest Americans are now worth $2 trillion, quadrupling from 1995. This is more than the wealth of the bottom half of all Americans, and more than the GDP of Canada and nearly every other nation. The richest 1 percent now owns more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. Income data is equally disturbing, with the richest few enjoying skyrocketing pay increases while the bottom half experienced flat-lined pay for decades.

Power is the issue, and wealth is power. Is power concentrated in the hands of one dictator? Is it concentrated in the hands of a few billionaire corporate oligarchs? Previously, genuine political leaders reigned in the excesses of what capitalist godfather Adam Smith called the “master class” (who meet privately) “in conspiracy against the public.” However, thanks to Milton Friedman’s dominant neoliberal ideology, we are witnessing extreme power concentration.

With intense economic inequality, real freedom is impossible. Abolitionist Francis Wright once said, “Equality is the soul of liberty; there is, in fact, no liberty without it.”

Who dictates the agenda of the “free” press, and commercial media? Who controls debates, and funds elections? Who hires armies of lobbyists to flood governmental offices? Who pays lawyers millions to fight countless legal battles of economic and environmental importance? Who funds “scientific” research at our universities?

What must be done? President Franklin Roosevelt argued that we need an “economic bill of rights” for “equality in the pursuit of happiness.” These rights include a living wage, food, housing, healthcare, social security, education, and freedom from monopolies. We moved toward some of these.

Why does Paris Hilton never have to think about employment, food, housing, healthcare, education, or retirement, while the poorer half of America is consumed with difficulties? Poor people can work two jobs, and still struggle to pay for necessities, with little access to higher education or healthcare. Additionally, poor people cannot pay “good” lawyers for “justice” in a criminal system that leads the world in incarceration rates.

This is not equality, justice or freedom for the poor. The only real freedom is to be homeless, uneducated, hungry, diseased, dead or incarcerated.

Many European nations have advanced on these issues. Access to higher education, healthcare and other social policies are much more equal there. Why do we claim to be the greatest nation “with liberty and justice for all”?

It is ignorant falsity, but we can make it true. There are many policies that would create relative economic equality. Re-instituting progressive taxation, a living wage, and expropriating excessive property for public housing are simple measures. More advanced policies would favor local business and farms by revoking harmful or useless corporations, and restructuring useful corporations into non-profits or worker cooperatives. Also, international tax and economic treaties could prevent capital flight and relocation to tax havens.

Ultimately, power must be decentralized. We must decentralize business, agriculture, energy and nearly every other sector. We must form a sincerely democratic global federation of decision-making, with respected treaties for peace, equality, freedom and ecological economics. The U.S. and U.N. federations are a start. We can do better.

You may correctly think some of these ideas are radical. Yet, the founding fathers, abolitionists, suffragettes, civil rights leaders, and every other group that advanced equality and freedom were considered radical. We have no choice but face radical change. Nearly every aspect of our socioeconomic system is unsustainable, meaning it cannot perpetuate.

The corporate military empire, the environmental crisis, and the fact that our economy is based on cheap oil are intertwined. Every empire has fallen before us. We are the last domino. We have overinvested in a $1 trillion annual military budget, and not energy and education. Cheap oil is not infinite.

There are two plausible scenarios. Either we rapidly evolve into a more economically equal society with functional democracy, allowing for sustainable energy and agriculture, or we fall. After the fall, do we descend into chaotic dystopian warlord fiefdoms, or do we wake up, come together and rebuild an egalitarian social order filled with Love?

Your guess is as good as mine. I pray for Love.

Categories: Legacy Archive