Introduction to a Democratic Socioeconomic Platform

Robley E. George

Center for the Study of Democratic Societies
www.CenterSDS.com

15 February 2009

Introduction

The purpose of this communication is to introduce a Democratic Socioeconomic Platform, in search of a Democratic Political Party.

The purpose of this Democratic Socioeconomic Platform is to put forth a new, fundamentally just, democratic and systemically consistent political platform capable of, when democratically implemented, satisfactorily resolving or significantly reducing a wide variety of contemporary serious societal problems, as well as effectively enhancing the General Welfare of All Citizens of a Democratic Society.

Socioeconomic Democracy, which is the essence of the proposed DSeP, can be viewed as engaging in Transformational Politics, that is, an evolutionary politics that consciously, openly, honestly, forthrightly, publicly, peacefully, democratically and successfully works to realize Synergetic Inclusive Societal Improvement. It will be seen that Socioeconomic Democracy contributes significantly to the Positive Empowerment and Healthy Development of all Participants of a Democratic Society.

Specifically, Socioeconomic Democracy (SeD) is a theoretical and practical socioeconomic system wherein there exist both some form and amount of locally appropriate Universally Guaranteed Personal Income (UGI) and some form and amount of locally appropriate Maximum Allowable Personal Wealth (MAW), with both the lower bound on personal material poverty and the upper bound on personal material wealth set and adjusted democratically by all participants of a democratic society.

The definitive document describing Socioeconomic Democracy is the book Socioeconomic Democracy: An Advanced Socioeconomic System (Praeger, 2002) [1]. The website of the Center for the Study of Democratic Societies provides a wealth of further information regarding Socioeconomic Democracy [2]. The specifically defined idea of Socioeconomic Democracy was first presented in this writer’s initial, self-published book in 1972 [3]. A far more fully justified and developed exposition of the Democratic Socioeconomic Platform introduced here was first presented in the Pelican Web [4], and is now conveniently available on the CSDS website [5].

The subject of Socioeconomic Democracy is discussed on a growing number of websites, Internet newsletters, e-journals, and social and professional networks, locatable by the usual procedures. See, for example, [6 – 22]. A sampling of supportive or related material for the various ideas of Socioeconomic Democracy may be found in the much abbreviated further reading list [23-40].

In this material and elsewhere will be found anthropological, historical, philosophical, psychological, religious and human rights justifications for various locally appropriate forms of Socioeconomic Democracy.

Numerous practical political approximations to the ideal theoretical democratic socioeconomic system model have already been outlined or detailed. One simple, obvious and meritorious practical political approximation is characterized by different political parties advocating different amounts for the two crucial socioeconomic boundary parameters, with the “winning” political party or coalition then implementing their particular understanding of the General Will of the democratic society. Another not-unreasonable political approximation to universally guaranteed income might be guaranteed income for all citizens over and/or under certain age limits.

Striking similarities and two intriguing minor differences between SeD and Zakat, one of the Five Pillars of Islam, that embodies the essence of Islami (Psycho-Politico-Socio-)Economics, have been indicated and internationally discussed. Simply developing this relationship logically could facilitate considerable progress.

Relative costs and benefits studies for the four basic forms of SeD, as well as important considerations of the effect of variations in the particular magnitudes of the democratically set tolerable bounds on personal material poverty and personal material wealth have likewise been provided. System realizability, feasibility and implementation requirements have also been identified and shown to be quite satisfiable. Again, essentially all that is required is a thoughtful democratic society.

Essential Aspects of Socioeconomic Democracy

We begin by examining each of SeD’s democratically set bounds, i.e., UGI and MAW. Following that is an important yet simple differentiation between Qualitative Democracy and Quantitative Democracy. The latter, justified by elementary Social or Public Choice theory, is used to allow society to democratically decide the amounts of these two fundamental economic bounds, UGI and MAW. Some of the many possible theoretical variations of SeD are then outlined.

After this introduction to the essential elements of SeD, Economic Incentive and Self-Interest within and induced by such a system are considered. Following a brief review of the strong, positive and societally beneficial economic incentive created by Socioeconomic Democracy, we then consider the possibilities of democratically resolving, or at least significantly reducing, simultaneously, humanity’s many painful, interrelated and utterly unnecessary socioeconomic problems.

UGI.  With Socioeconomic Democracy, each Participant of the Democratic Society would understand that some form and amount of a democratically determined minimum amount of societally guaranteed personal income or financial support would always be available.  Put another way, society would guarantee each citizen some minimum amount of purchasing power, one way or another.

To be sure, this basic idea dates back at least to antiquity, and has, in recent decades, been increasingly explored and richly developed by numerous individuals, organizations and governments at all levels. The Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) and the United States Basic Income Guarantee (USBIG) organizations are but two of many dedicated and productive groups exploring, advocating and introducing the general concepts around the world.

Depending upon available resources and the degree and direction of technological development, this democratically set, societally guaranteed minimum income for all could be sufficient to satisfy the typical individual's minimum subsistence and/or personal healthy growth needs. Alternatively, other societies might democratically decide to set the guaranteed amount at a partial subsistence level, for a variety of legitimate reasons usually generated by particular circumstances.

There are, of course, as many different names and forms of UGI (ranging at least from Basic Income (BI) to Negative Income Tax (NIT) and including Guaranteed Livable Income (GLI)) as there are reasons to establish some form of UGI, or, for that matter, as there are ways proposed to fund different forms of UGI.  Indeed, a democratically set UGI could logically be called and considered Guaranteed Sustainable Development for All. An increasingly popular public policy perspective referred to as “Socioeconomic Affirmative Action” is clearly related.

MAW.  Further, with Socioeconomic Democracy, all participants of the democratic socioeconomic system would understand that all personal material wealth above the democratically determined and established maximum allowable amount would, by due process, be transferred out of their ownership and control in a manner specified by the democratically designed and implemented laws of the land, and transferred in accordance with other laws of the land to fund, say, various forms of Sustainable Development for All.

Do note that all the wealth above the democratically determined maximum allowable amount, now to be devoted (after SeD is established) to the sustainable development of all, could be either transferred in some sense directly to a democratically elected government to be deployed as democratically determined, or be dispersed and deployed as the present wealth owners desire and think best, satisfying, of course, a few reasonable laws, rules and regulations on the matter.

This latter procedure has many merits, of which one would be that the present wealth holders might in general be expected to more fully appreciate their “earned” opportunity to direct their democratically determined excess wealth toward focusing on specific societal problems that particularly interest and concern them personally.

Yet again, this “privilege” to personally deploy one’s “excess” wealth for the betterment of society, as personally preferred, could be extended to all those who had personal wealth in excess of the initially established, democratically decided MAW limit (a “Grandfather” clause, as it were), while all excess personal wealth periodically trimmed off after the system is well established could be directed toward a democratic government’s General Welfare Fund.

Perhaps needless to say, the primary benefit of Socioeconomic Democracy to enhance societal well being and the General Welfare is the result of the economic incentive the democratically set MAW limit creates, and not the amount of wealth periodically trimmed off and donated toward the worthy cause of insuring sustainable development for all. (But everything helps.) This Economic Incentive is discussed below.

Democracy.  There is a simple procedure by which each individual participant in a democratic society (or each member of a democratic legislative body or committee) can directly vote her or his particular preference for an amount, magnitude, or quantity of something in question, with the democratically determined, societally or legislatively desired amount unequivocally resulting.  As if to emphasize the significance of the discovery, Duncan Black and Economics Nobelist Kenneth Arrow independently and more or less simultaneously established the important yet simple mathematical result and procedure more than a half century ago.

Their now-classic Social Choice contributions have provided the theory which shows that the Median Value of the participants' (citizens' or legislators’) Personal Preference Distribution is the amount the democratic society or body, as a whole, is "for" -- assuming the minimal operational “one participant, one vote; majority rule” decision-making process.  Roughly speaking, this means that the democratically determined amount is such that half the voters want that much or more while the other half want that much or less.

Note that the objective is not, definitely not, and should never be “equality, in and of everything” (whatever that might mean, and neglecting its impossibility of realization), but rather acceptably bounded inequality of essentials, with the particular democratic society democratically determining the degree of inequality it will tolerate or does desire.

In passing, we note that Rush Limbaugh, the popular self-designated “Doctor of Democracy,” will undoubtedly meet this concept of an advanced functioning democracy with high approval. This should be especially the case considering Rush’s long-expressed concern regarding his apprehension about public discussion of excessive and innovative CEO “Compensation Packages” and the many embarrassing problems such pumped-up public attention exposes.

Variations of SeD. Note that any participant in the democratic political process, who might be opposed to any amount of UGI, for any reason at all, could vote to place the lower bound on universal, societally guaranteed financial assistance at zero. If a majority of voters so voted, it would be the democratic desire of that particular society, at that particular time, to have no UGI.

Likewise, anyone who might be opposed to some finite limit on allowable personal material wealth, for any reason(s) whatsoever, could and should vote, at election time, to place the upper bound of MAW at infinity. If, for any of a variety of reasons, a majority of the voting public were to prefer and vote to place MAW at infinity, then it would be the democratic desire of that society, at that time, to have no upper bound on personal material wealth.

Socioeconomic Democracy is thus seen to embrace, present and facilitate all four of the generic variations of democratic socioeconomic systems. That is, there can be democratic societies wherein there is a nonzero UGI and a finite MAW (the standard and most effective form of SeD); zero UGI and finite MAW (a system with many merits!); nonzero UGI and infinite MAW (legendary problems: how and how much to finance the UGI, and who says so?); and finally, zero UGI and infinite MAW (similar to the current situation, but at least then democratically approved, with such skewed and problem-producing wealth maldistribution apparently acceptable). Beyond these four theoretical and fundamental variations of Socioeconomic Democracy are, of course, the wide ranges of particular magnitudes of the UGI and MAW levels, both to be democratically established.

Perhaps needless to observe, the same voting procedure (Quantitative Democracy) can be used to democratically resolve a wide variety of other serious societal questions concerning magnitudes of important societal parameters, arising in many different realms and levels of society. These might include, for example, a societally set upper bound on allowable personal income and/or an upper bound on the allowable ratio of maximum-to-minimum income, or wealth, whether in a company, corporation, or country. Thus, many societies, all fundamentally democratic, could nevertheless display their individual democratic differences.

Economic Incentives Created by Socioeconomic Democracy

Consider first the economic incentive created by a democratically set Maximum Allowable Personal Wealth limit. We have observed earlier that, with SeD, all wealth above the democratically set upper bound on personal material wealth could either be given to the government as taxes (to either enhance the General Welfare Fund or be mandated for specific projects and purposes) or be disposed of as the present wealth “owners” so choose (again, satisfying reasonable, democratically established societal restrictions, suggestions and opportunities).

In either case, all rational, self-interested and insatiable (as the current dominant-though-fading neoclassical economic assumptions/theory goes), extremely wealthy, and certainly law-abiding, participants in the democratic society with its democratic socioeconomic system, who still desire increased personal material wealth, would be economically motivated, that is, have economic incentive, to actively and seriously work to increase the welfare and well-being of the less well-off members of society.  Only in this manner can these (still-wealthiest) participants persuade a majority of the citizens/participants of the democratic society to see the wisdom in and democratically vote to raise somewhat the legal upper limit on allowable personal material wealth -- everything considered.

There is, in fact, strong economic incentive for those who are at or near the democratically set upper bound on allowable personal material wealth to be successful in improving the General Welfare.  For if the current level of MAW is not producing sufficient improvement in the General Welfare, as democratically determined, there is the possibility and probability that the democratic society will democratically decide to reduce the MAW limit even more, in order to enlist even more still-wealthy participants (with their unique and valuable know-how, contacts and “can-do”-ness), and their extra wealth, in the proper and noble task of seriously improving the welfare and well being of all society, humanity and posterity.

The ultimate effect of such economic incentive, as experienced by those at or near the democratically set upper bound on MAW, will be to transform their very real, primitive and originally quite justified (individual survivability) concept of “self-interest” to instead, and in effect, interpret and include larger and larger segments of society and humanity as “self,” insofar as calculations of “self-interest” are concerned.

This is because such a perspective will be appealing to that still-functioning, primitive, individual-ego-informed self-interest. Put another way, global and higher consciousness will be increasingly appreciated, encouraged and demonstrated with the emerging realization of the very real benefit to personal self-interest that results from considerations of inclusive “self-interest.”

Note also that a not-insignificant amount of this effect would be manifest, even if some particular democratic society democratically decided and voted to initially establish the upper limit on allowable personal material wealth (MAW) at, say, twice the amount of wealth presently possessed by the currently Richest of the Rich. Verification of this observation is an amusing exercise.

Another informative and amusing exercise is to consider the effects and ramifications of many different levels of MAW, democratically set in, say, contemporary United States of America -- though the general idea is, of course, applicable everywhere. For example, consider what different situations would obtain in the USA (as well as globally, for that matter) if the personal MAW limit in the USA in 2012 were democratically set at, say, $1tn, $700bn (an acknowledgement of Hank’s contribution to public discussion), $100bn, $50bn (an acknowledgement of Bernie’s contribution to public discussion), $10bn, $1bn, $500m, and even $100m (also known as a “Texas Unit”).

A further question might be: Just what does the Gentle Reader think/feel the MAW limit should be in the USA? Still another, as instructive, question is: Just what does the thoughtful reader think/feel the MAW limit ultimately would be, if democratically established in the USA in 2012?

The economic incentives created by various forms of UGI have long been theoretically examined, practically tested and adequately documented. The results are easily available, though anyone not familiar with the subject could conveniently begin with BIEN and USBIG. And, of course, there’s the good ol’ Alaska Permanent Fund!

Certainly, except for Tom Paine and, actually, Thales, no proposal for some form of UGI has ever yet been seriously linked directly to either democracy or some form of upper bound on allowable personal material wealth. Hence, in spite of its promise and potential, the present state of this biologically and psychologically very sick planet.

Insights parallel to those regarding the democratically set MAW limit, above, can be obtained by considering implications and ramifications of various possible specific, democratically set UGI amounts and approximations, in the USA and elsewhere, again in 2012. If one were “totally” against any universally guaranteed income for all, one could/would/should vote to place the UGI at $0/yr. For different reasons, different arguments could easily be produced to justify consideration of, say, numerical values of personal UGI ranging from $0/yr, $1/yr, $1/mo, $1/d (amount one-sixth of humanity tries to live on), $100/mo, $200/mo (roughly comparable to the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend), $10k/yr, $100k/yr, $1m/yr, and, say, $657m/yr (which was the average “compensation” of the “top” 20 private equity and hedge fund managers in 2006, according to the informative Rosa Brooks).

The incentives, economic and otherwise, created by establishing these two crucial economic bounds, i.e., UGI and MAW, democratically, will, among many other desirable developments, significantly encourage and enhance the informed political participation of all citizens in their finally meaningfully democratic society -- here assumed a positive and progressive political development. This, again, is basically because of very real and undeniable self-interest in all of us. After all, the only way to democratically establish the UGI and MAW limits is to participate in the political process that would change the de facto settings from zero and infinity, respectively, to magnitudes more suitable to a sustainable democratic society.

Democratic Resolution of Socioeconomic Problems

As is sketched above and described at length in the referenced material, Socioeconomic Democracy would thus create economic incentive and provide necessary funds to encourage and effect significant reduction in an almost surprisingly diverse array of unnecessary yet painful, expensive and lethal individual, societal and global problems.

These problems include (but are by no means limited to) those familiar ones involving: automation, computerization and robotization; budget deficits and national debts; bureaucracy; maltreatment of children; crime and punishment; development, sustainable or otherwise; ecology, environment, resources and pollution; education; the elderly; the feminine majority; inflation; international conflict; intranational conflict; involuntary employment; involuntary unemployment; labor strife and strikes; sick medical and health care; military metamorphosis; natural disasters; pay justice; planned obsolescence; political participation; poverty; racism; sexism; untamed technology; and the General Welfare.

It should be kept in mind that these highly desirable outcomes of reduced societal problems are not simply “Goals for a Better World.” Rather, they are the direct and predictable ramifications of adopting various forms of locally appropriate Socioeconomic Democracy.

As indicated earlier, the individual, extremely wealthy people (all those democratic participants in the democratic society who are at or near the democratically set personal MAW limit), with their different skills and knowledge sets, if serious about their self-interest maximization, can all be expected to utilize and apply their gifts/talents toward reducing or resolving the problems of others. And wanting to do so efficiently and effectively, these individual, still extremely wealthy participants of their particular democratic societies can further be expected to devote their gifts/talents to reducing those classes of problems that particularly interest them -- for any of a variety of reasons.

This is one of a number of reasons why so many different societal problems will all be seriously addressed and significantly reduced, because they will all be addressed simultaneously, synergistically and therefore successfully. Whatever societal problems are not addressed adequately by the publicly motivated “private sector,” as democratically determined, can and should be successfully addressed by the democratic government, which will now have available sufficient funds and motivation to do so, appreciatively provided by the democratically set MAW limit.

This might appear, at first glance, revolutionary. But remember; only in this way can these still wealthiest members of society persuade a majority of society to democratically raise the upper limit on MAW, which the law-abiding wealthiest of society presumably still desire. Far more common, it is predicted, will be the increasing number of those who now see the undeniable and inviting light of a glorious new day beckoning from, dare it be said, the end of humanity’s terrifyingly dark Tunnel of Conscious Transformation.

References and Links

[1] Socioeconomic Democracy: An Advanced Socioeconomic System. Westport: Praeger, 2002. (Praeger Studies on the 21st Century.)

[2] Center for the Study of Democratic Societies:
<http://www.CenterSDS.com>

[3] Common Sense II: On the Further Design of Government in General. Jericho (NY): Exposition University Press, 1972.

[4] An earlier draft of this DSeP was first published on the PelicanWeb (July & August, 2008), in its two parts.

DSeP, Part I
<http://pelicanweb.org/solisustv04n07george1.html>

DSeP, Part II
<http://pelicanweb.org/solisustv04n08george2.html>

[5] “A Democratic Socioeconomic Platform, in search of a Democratic Political Party” (the complete, single pdf version)
<http://www.CenterSDS.com/DSeP.html>

[6] “Socioeconomic Democracy and Sustainable Development”
Solidarity, Sustainability, and Non-Violence, v.3, n.12 (Dec. 2007).
<http://pelicanweb.org/solisustv03n12george.html>

[7] “Socioeconomic Democracy and Sustainable Development”
DEVELOPMENT 4 ALL.
<http://www.development4all.org/frameset-4.html>

[8] “Socioeconomic Democracy & Energy”
Synthesis/Regeneration. No. 43 (Spring 2007).
<http://www.greens.org/s-r/43/43-17.html>

[9] “Share the Wealth … with Socioeconomic Democracy”
Physics – Economy – New Energy. (Mar. 2007).
<http://blog.hasslberger.com/2007/03/share_the_wealth_with_socioeco.html>

[10] “Socioeconomic Democracy”
New Paradigm. v.1, n.2 (Sep. 2006).
<http://www.newparadigmjournal.com/Sept2006/socioeconomic.htm>

[11] “Socioeconomic Democracy: A Democratic Basic Income Guarantee.” Paper presented at the USBIG (US Basic Income Guarantee) Congress. New York, March 2005.
<http://www.usbig.net/papers.html>

[12] “Utopia or Oblivion”
Future Positive. (Mar. 2004).
<http://futurepositive.synearth.net/2004/03/05>

[13] “SOCIOECONOMIC DEMOCRACY: A Realizable Democratic Socioeconomic Utopia.” Utopian World Championship 2004. <http://www.soc.nu/utopian/competitors/prop_final.asp?ID=227>

[14] “Socioeconomic Democracy.” ahp Perspective, Association for Humanistic Psychology, Dec. 2003/Jan. 2004 (17-19).

[15] “Futures of Socioeconomic Democracy.” Journal of Futures Studies, v.5, n.4. Tamsui (Taiwan), Center for Futures Studies, May 2001 (31-48).

[16] “Socioeconomic Democracy and the State of Welfare.” Democracy & Nature: The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, v.5, n.3. London, Carfax Publishing, Nov. 1999 (469-484).

[17] “Socioeconomic Democracy: A Synergetic Amalgam of New and Ancient Ideas in Political Economy.” Paper presented at the 5th International Congress of the International Society for Intercommunication of New Ideas (ISINI), Mexico City, August 1999. In Ortiz, Edgar and Alejandra Cabello (eds.), Economic Issues and Globalization: Theory and Evidence I: Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, 1999. Article essentially reproduced at CSDS website:
<http://www.centersds.com/briefintro.htm>

[18] “Socioeconomic Democracy and Islami Economics.” Some Significant 21st Century Trends and Issues: Poverty, Population, Peace and Sustainability, Dr. Ikram Azam, ed. Islamabad: Pakistan Futuristics Institute (PFI), 1998.

[19] "Socioeconomic Democracy." In Pak Futurist 6. PFI, Sep/Oct 1992.

[20] "The Developing World and Socioeconomic Democracy." Paper presented at First International Pakistan Futuristics Institute (PFI)/World Future Studies Federation (WFSF) Conference entitled The Future of Democracy in the Developing World, Islamabad, October 1992. Later in PFI/WFSF First International Conference Special Souvenir. Islamabad, October 1992.

[21] “An Introduction to Socioeconomic Democracy.” Journal of World Education, v.16, n.3. Association of World Education, July 1985 (7-10).

[22] For a more complete historical development and presentation of the ideas of Socioeconomic Democracy, starting in the early 1970s, please see CSDS/Bibliography:
<http://www.centersds.com/biblio.htm>

[23] Paine, Thomas. Everything you can get your hands and eyes on. He remains at once current, prophetic and empowering.

[24] Kuhn, Thomas, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd Edn. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1970.

[25] Black, Duncan, The Theory of Committees and Elections. London: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1958.

[26] Arrow, Kenneth, Social Choice and Individual Values, 2nd Edn. New York: Wiley, 1963.

[27] Ulatowska, Lisinka, FEARless: Ordinary people doing extraordinary things in a world gripped by fear. Bloomington: AuthorHouse, 2005.

[28] “Health and Illness in Relation to Dignity and Humiliation in Times of Global Interdependence” by Lindner, Evelin G.
Solidarity, Sustainability, and Non-Violence, v.4, n.6 (June, 2008).
<http://pelicanweb.org/solisustv04n06lindner.html>

[29] “About Altruism” by Lichtenberg, Judith. Philosophy & Public Policy Quarterly, v.28, ns.1/2. Univ. of Maryland: Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, Winter/Spring 2008 (2-6).

[30] “Can Democracy Save the Planet?” by Elkington, John & Lotherington, John.
Open Democracy: free thinking for the world. (21 April 2008).
<http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/can_democracy_save_the_planet>

[31] “Wall Street’s crybabies” by Rosa Brooks
<http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/sunday/la-oe-brooks12-2009feb12,1,488722.column>

[32] DoWire/Democracies Online
<http://dowire.org/>

[33] Democratic Governance Practice Network (MDG-Net)
<http://sdnhq.undp.org/wiki/DGP-Net_Ongoing_E-discussion>

[34] “Too Much: A Commentary on Excess and Inequality”
<http://www.toomuchonline.org/>

[35] Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN)
<http://www.etes.ucl.ac.be/bien/Index.html>

[36] U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network (USBIG)
<http://www.usbig.net/>

[37] Livable Income For Everyone
<http://www.livableincome.org/>

[38] Alaska Permanent Fund
<https://www.pfd.state.ak.us/>

[39] Income Security Institute, Washington, DC
<http://www.incomesecurityforall.org/>

[40] Maslow, Abraham H. and Honigmann, John. “Synergy: Some Notes of Ruth Benedict.” American Anthropologist 72, 1970.

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