The moral visionary says, “We have this vision of what we should do and what kind of person or organization we should become, and we must do these things to realize our vision.” Not everyone is a moral visionary, but we all probably do have aspirations for our lives, and when they serve as guides for our choices, then we are thinking like a moral visionary.
The typical saying of the moral judge is quite different than that of the moral visionary. It goes something like: “You cannot do that because it is unfair and it violates human rights.” The moral judge seeks to protect people’s dignity. He or she only allows those actions that pass the test of the universal moral law. Keeping promises regardless of consequences is a good example. Protecting human rights is another. Instead of using one’s aspirations to determine the right choice, the moral judge uses the rational principle of consistency.
The moral assessor also has a different voice. It may sound like this: “You need to consider the total impact of the proposed policy on others, before you can decide what to do.” The moral assessor examines the consequences of different policies on selected groups, and then assesses what policy will bring about the greater good. The greater good could be defined as the most pleasure or happiness, the maximization of value, or the satisfaction of preferences. In any case, the assessor uses the tools of comparison and contrast among different policies to determine which one is right.
We may find ourselves more comfortable with one type of thinking than another, but most of us have some experience in all three. Understanding their differences will help us develop solutions to disagreements that will find support from various types of thinking, instead of just our own.
How interesting that one becomes a national citizen through naturalization, rather than through nationalization as one would expect. This deserves some reflection:
Take a minute to watch this short video on The Business of Guns. It addresses a topic that should be on list of what we need to do to civilize the economy: The Business of Guns
I am beginning a new course at Saybrook University: “The Ethics of Transformative Social Change: Thinking like a Global Citizen.” It’s the global citizen part that interests me right now. Here is a proposal for 10 duties of the Global Citizen. What do you think?
Here are some of the terms of the old vocabulary: public goods and private goods, for-profit and non-profit organizations, public agencies and NGOs, capital and social markets, government, markets, and civil society, the commons and the private.
The problem is that by itself this vocabulary does not help us understand how we should provide people with the goods they have reason to value, such as housing, food, clothing, security, health care, education, and so on. Furthermore, if we take any one of these general provisions and examine the system that provides it, we find all of the institutions and structures named in the old vocabulary working together (or not) to give everyone access to the provision (or not).
Take the system of providing food. There are government food stamps and government agriculture subsidies; local farmer markets and agriculture research at state run Universities; banks that provide credit and foreclose on farms; soup kitchens and citizen’s groups against fast food and cruelty to animals. Add to this advertising in the food industry, restaurants that contribute (or not) to a city’s ambiance, and the list goes on.
If the purpose of economics is to ensure that everyone has access to the basic provisions for a good life, then I think we need to think about creating a vocabulary that matches the actors, agencies, and institutions that actually play a role in the production, distribution, and restoration of the systems of provision, such as the food system.
In Civilizing the Economy, I argue that the first step is to create a civic foundation; instead of a property-based foundation, for conversations about re-designing the food system so it is more just and sustainable. That means that we enter the conversation as members of the civic rather than as owners of property.
Property ownership is a civic (legal) creation for the good management of our resources. It is something like a concession.
There are many questions about how to conceptualize and to design a food system that could move us from where we are to where we must go for a sustainable global economy. Perhaps the first, or close to it, is who controls our money. What should be the role of money (and banks) in the provision of food? Should we have private or public banks? Coop banks? Now, in the context of a conversation about the provision of food, the “old” vocabulary seems relevant. So maybe we don’t need a new vocabulary, but a stronger notion of the context (economic systems of provision) in which we use them.