The Ten Commandments: update for elites
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The Ten Commandments: update for elites

We imagined an updated version of the Ten Commandments, for the world has changed, and just telling us not to kill, nor to steal or covet our neighbours wife, is presently missing the essential, and in fact not widely respected. We have to come down to earth.
Ladislau Dowbor
6 páginas
Originalmente publicado
12 de setembro, 2019

Tolerance for a world where 850 million go hungry, where some 6 million children die every year of ridiculous causes, and where the natural riches of the planet and even the climate are destroyed for the profit of irresponsible corporations, is growing thin.

We imagined an updated version of the Ten Commandments, for the world has changed, and just telling us not to kill, nor to steal or covet our neighbours wife, is presently missing the essential, and in fact not widely respected. We have to come down to earth.

– Prof. Ladislau Dowbor

The Almighty, after a few thousand years, remembered that he had created a blue round object and entrusted it to what he thought would come to be intelligent bipeds. As he beheld how we treat the planet we had inherited, the forests cut down, the devastated oceans, the polluted rivers, the poverty of slums, the luxury of nababs good at getting rich but incapable of good management, the millions of the hungry and the deaths of innocent children, the Almighty decided we needed some stronger Commandments, going beyond such unreasonable and innocuous laws as the traditional “Thou shalt no covet thy neighbour’s wife”. Considering that His words are not covered by copyright, being rather in the Creative Commons realm, we modestly undertook to communicate the present revised and updated edition. We thought it would be helpful, and even necessary, and that the planet deserved it.

As a society, we don’t want just to survive, but to live with better quality of life. And this means organizing, in an orderly manner, the challenges and answers. These are the minimum results we need to achieve, the “must have” of development, with the corresponding decision-making processes. The proposals or lines of action suggested below have a common denominator: they have all been tried and are being applied in various regions of the world, sectors or different activity levels. They are initiatives that have been tested, and can become widespread policies, with the evident flexibility due to the diversity of situations in the world. We have no illusions as to the distance between our political realities and the ambition of the measures we advocate. But it seemed essential, in every way, to set the necessary measures down in an organized way, because having a clearer north helps to create new planetary governance. They are not listed in any particular order, for most of them have simultaneous implications for several others. But all the Commandments must be observed and obeyed, for the wrath of the elements will strike us all, and without waiting for the next life.

Considering that obedience to the original version of the Ten Commandments (particularly Lo Tinaf,  Lo Tirtzach and Lo Tignov)has been quite sporadic, this time the Author decided to attach an explanatory note to each Commandments, particularly, but not exclusively, for better understanding by corporate legal persons.

I – Thou Shalt not Buy Governments

Rescue the public dimension of the State:How can we have regulatory mechanisms that work if our politicians are elected with the money of the corporations they are supposed to regulate? If the agencies that evaluate risks are paid by those who create the risk? If those responsible for a central bank come from the companies that need to be regulated and then return to get their jobs back? One of the clearest proposals of the current crisis and one that we find mentioned in almost the entire political spectrum is the need to reduce the capacity of the corporations to dictate the rules of the game. The number of laws approved to reduce taxes on financial transactions, to reduce the regulations of the Central Bank, to authorize banks to make all and any operations, added to the power of financial lobbies, make the need to restore the regulatory power of the state evident and for that reason, the politicians should be elected by real people, and not by corporate entities that are a fiction in terms of human rights. See Mazzucato, The Entrepreneurial State.

II – Thou Shalt not Present Wrong Numbers

Redesign our national accounting systems
: The national (and local) accounting system has to be centered on the objectives we are aiming for. The GDP indicates the intensity of the use of the productive apparatus, but does not indicate what is produced, for whom and at what cost to the stock of natural resources the planet has at its disposal. It counts as an increase to GDP: a natural disaster, the increase of disease, the restriction of access to free goods. The HDI was already a great progress, but we have to evolve to an integrated accounting of the effective results of our efforts, and particularly to the allocation of financial resources, ensuring a development that is not only economically viable, but also socially fair and environmentally sustainable. The methodologies exist, partially applied in several countries, sectors or researches. The expansion of the international indicators like the HDI, the generalization of national indicators like Calvert-Hendersen Quality of Life in the United States, the proposal of the Stiglitz/Sen/Fitoussi Commission– all champion a reformulation of accounts. The adoption in all cities of local quality of life indicators, as the the Jacksonville Quality of Life Progress Indicators, or indicators developed by the Movimento Nossa São Paulo – has become essential to measure what really matters: a sustainable development, improvement of the quality of life of the population. Much more than restricting measuring to commercial output, it’s all about the outcome for the population and the planet. See Doughnut EconomyKate Raworth.

III – Thou Shalt not Push thy Fellowman into Poverty

Basic income: 
Some things have to be accessible to everyone, it is that simple. Critical poverty is the biggest drama, as much because of the suffering it causes as for the links with the environmental drama, lack of access to information and knowledge, as well as the deformation of the production profile: business is not interested in the needs of those who do not have purchasing power. Costs are ridiculous, when compared to the trillions transferred to financial groups during the financial crisis. The ethical benefit is immense, because it is a planetary scandal that millions of children die every year of ridiculous causes; these children have nothing to do with our political and corporate mess. The short and medium-term benefit of redistribution is big, as money at the bottom of the pyramid immediately boosts micro and small production, acting as a anti-cyclical process, as has been noted in Brazil’s social policies. In the long run, it will be a generation of children who will have been decently fed, who will turn into better students at school and live a better adult life. In terms of political stability and general security, the impacts are obvious. It is the best financial investment we can imagine, and the Brazilian, Mexican and other countries’ experiences have already given us all the necessary know-how. The theory that the poor will sit back if they receive subsidies is simply denied by the facts: the poor do not lack initiative, they lack opportunities. See and so many studies. We certainly know what should be done.

IV – Thou Shalt not Deprive thy Fellowman of the Right to Earn his Living

Guarantee the right to make a living: 
Every person who wants to make a living to provide for his family has the right to work. In a planet where there is a world of things to be done, including rescuing the environment, it is absurd to keep so many people out of organized forms of production and income generation. We have the resources and the technical and organizational knowledge to ensure, in each village or city, access to a decent and socially useful job. The experiences in Maharashtra (India) have demonstrated its viability, as have numerous Brazilian experiences, and of course the New Deal of the 1930s crisis. These are initiatives where everyone wins: the municipality improves basic sanitation, housing, urban maintenance and food production in the “green belts”. The families can live in a decent way; and society becomes better structured and less tense. The costs of unemployment benefit are reduced. In the Indian case, each village and city is obliged to draw up labor intensive projects. Money lent or created in this way represents investment, improvement in quality of life and gives an excellent return. More fundamental, it guarantees that everyone has a role in the building of sustainable development. In the economic activity, besides the productive result, it is essential to think about the social restructuring involved, the creation of social capital. The industrial fishing in the oceans can be more productive in volume of catch, but the outcome is disastrous, both because of the diminishing stocks of life in the oceans, and of the hundreds of millions of people who lived from traditional fishing practice and are losing their means of subsistance. The dimension of the jobs creating impact of all economic initiatives has to become a central concern. See ILO, Working for a Brighter Future.

V -Thou Shalt not Overwork Thyself or thy Fellowman

Reduction of working hours: 
The under-utilization of the work force is a planetary problem, even if unequal in its scale. In Brazil, as we have seen, with 105 million people in the economically active population, we have only 33 million people formally employed in the private sector and 9 million public servants. The numbers do not add up. The informal sector lies in the order of 40% of thework force. A large section of the nation “manages” to survive. Regarding top jobs, people do not live well because of the excessive work loads. It is not a luxury demand: the number of suicides in companies where the race for efficiency has become inhuman is impressive. Professional stress is becoming a planetary illness and the issue regarding quality of life in the workspace is becoming central. The social redistribution of the workload has become a necessity. Resistance is understandable, but reality shows that with technological advances, the productive processes become less labor intensive, and reducing the working day is a question of time. We cannot have a minority in possession of extremely modern equipment and technology that carries out mass production for a mass of spectators, especially because it’s about balancing salaries and consequently, demand, as well as ensuring a place for everyone. The reduction of the working day will not reduce the well-being or the wealth of the population, but will shift it to new sectors more centered on the use of free time, with more cultural and leisure activities. We do not necessarily need more cars or plastic; we need more quality of life. New Economics Foundation has great research.

VI – Thou Shalt not Live for Money

Promoting style of life change: 
On this planet of 7.7 billion inhabitants, with an annual increase in the order of 80 million, every policy also involves a change in individual behavior and consumption culture. Respecting environment regulations, moderating consumption, debt awareness, intelligent use of means of transportation, generalization of recycling processes, waste reduction – there is a wide range of initiatives in our daily life that involves a change in values and attitude when faced with economic, social and environmental challenges. During an energy blackout in Brazil, a good informative campaign was employed, with the collaborative role of the media and the systematic punishment of excesses. It allowed for a general rationalization of the domestic use of energy. Practically everybody found one could live with much less energy. This aspect of problem solving is essential and involves not only appropriate legislation, but above all effective participation from the media. Today, 95% of the homes in Brazil have television, and an intelligent informative use of this and other media has become fundamental. In the face of the necessary efforts, it is not enough just to reduce the marketing assault which stimulates consummerism, it is necessary to rescue the informative dimensions of the means of communication. The scientific media has practically disappeared, the news follows the attraction and sensation of crime news, when what we fundamentally need is a population well informed about the real challenges we face. A big part of the change in individual behavior depends on public actions: people will not leave the car at home (or decide not to have one) if there is no public transporation; they will not recycle if there are no adequate collection systems. We need a public policy for changes in individual behavior. See Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth.

VII – Thou Shalt not Earn Money with Others’ Money

Rationalize the financial intermediation systems: 
The final allocation of financial resources is no longer organized according to end use and social needs, it has been reorganized according to the interests of the financial intermediaries themselves. Credit activity is always a public activity, it can be in the sphere of public institutions or the sphere of private banks, but they work with public money. This is why they are formally under control of a central bank, and they need authorizations since they make money with other people’s money. The 2008 financial crisis clearly demonstrated the chaos generated by the lack of trustworthy regulatory mechanisms in the sector. In recent decades, we have jumped from one bubble to the next, from crisis to crisis, and governments have not had the will or the strength to update the regulatory system in order to ensure improved systemic productivity of our savings. Until a more favorable balance of power is not generated at the global level, we need to promote improved national financial regulatory systems. Money allocation is not most productive where the intermediaries earn the most. It is a public resource, and we must channel resources to optimize outcomes for society in general. South Korea opened a 36 billion dollar fund to finance collective transportation and energy alternatives, generating 960 thousand jobs. The positive impact is a reduction in greenhouse gas emissisons, but it is also a way to face the global crisis by boosting internal demand. It is again environmentally friendly by improving the consumption profile (mass transportation). From the social perspective, it reduces unemployment and generates income. From the technological perspective it generates innovations in the area od clean energy use, emissions control, cleaner production proocess and so forth. It even has an impact seldom considered, which is reducing the time people waste commuting to work. We are dealing with public funding here, private banks do not have this systemic view of the positive use of money. (Global Green New Deal, UNEP). Resources must be made more accessible according to the greater social, economic and environmental results. Financial intermediation is a means, not an end. See Dowbor, The Age of Unproductive Capital.

VIII – Thou Shalt not Tax Good Actions to Fund Bad Debts

Rationalize the tax system:
 The very concept of how we raise public money, how we allocate it, to whom and to what end, must be revised. Tax policy is clearly one of the mains instruments we have to balance the whole system, above all because it can be promoted by democratic mechanisms. The key issue is not the reduction of taxes (the eternal “big government” scarecrow) but in the socially fair form of taxation and the productive allocation in social and environmental terms. The taxation of speculative transactions (national or international) should generate funds to finance a series of essential policies for social and environmental equilibrium. Taxation of the rich is currently essential to reduce the political power of economic dynasties (1% of the planet’s families own more than the 99%). Inheritance tax is fundamental for more balanced opportunites between generations. Income tax should obtain more weight relative to indirect taxes, with progressivity which allows for efficient income redistribution.

It is important to remember that the planet’s greatest fortunes in general are not connected to an increase of the planet’s productive capacities but the increase in corporate acquisitions, generating even more unstable and less governable empires where the quest is for control of the financial, political and media power and the appropriation of natural resources. The tax system needs to be reformulated in the anti-cyclical sense, privileging productive activities and penalizing speculations; in the social aspect by being highly progressive; and in the sense of environmental protection by taxing toxic or climate changing emissions, as well as the use of non-renewable natural resources. And the giants who do not pay taxes, by nesting in tax havens, should start revising their policies. See New Rules for the 21st CenturyRoosevelt Institute.

IX – Thou Shalt not Deprive thy Fellowman of Knowledge

Access to knowledge and sustainable technologies: 
Effective participation of populations in the sustainable development processes involves keeping a wide ranging and free public access system for required information. The planetary online connectivity that new technologies allow can be made a highway for democracy, social balance and sustainability. The cost/benefit of generalized digital inclusion is simply unbeatable. Communities with access to information are much more empowered, become responsible for their own development. The speed of expansion of this type of technology (ICT) even in the poorest regions has been noticed with the widespread use of mobile phones. The productive impact is immense for the small producers who begin to have direct access to various markets, both in terms of inputs and for their own products, escaping from the varied financial and commercial intermediation systems. Generalized digital inclusion is a powerful opening in the changing process which has today become indispensable.

The world frequently forgets that 2 billion people still cook with firewood, in areas where there are significant innovations in the heating systems with the use of improved stoves. Technologies like the cistern system in the Northeast, use of bio-mass, less aggressive crop protection systems, etc., constitute a change vector in the productive processes culture. The creation of a network of online technological support centers, with great capillarity, can be inspired from India’s experience, where centers were created in practically all of the country’s villages. As sustained by so many analysts, we must ensure flexibility of patents to allow universal access to information for the technological changes demanded by sustainable development. See Rifkin, The Zero Marginal Cost Society.

X – Thou Shalt not Deprive thy Fellowman of his Word

Democratize communication: 
Communication is one of the most dynamic areas in terms of its impact on social transformation. We are permanently surrounded by messages. Our children spend hours watching marketing campaigns. The communication industry, with its impressive national and international concentration of control, generated a global way of life industry, obsessive consummerism which in turn reinforce elitism, inequality, the waste of resources as a symbol of success. The integrated system permits the costs of media and marketing campaigns to be thrown in with the production costs of the products we are called upon to purchase, and we end up bambarded by a permanent idiotic chatter paid out of our pockets. More recently, corporations use this road to generate a positive image of themselves, as if they were green, nice and concerned persons. The electromagnetic spectrum these messages use is a natural, public asset, and access to public, free and intelligent information for the whole planet is simply on our doorstep. By gradually expanding the numerous alternative forms of communication that are popping up in so many ways, we can introduce a new culture, another vison of the world, a more diversified and less pasteurized culture, pluralism in place of religious, political or comercial fundamentalism. Read The Guardian, The Intercept and so many independent open-access publications.


The fact that most gives us hope, is the impressive multiplication of initiatives in the technological area, of the local management systems, of internet use to democratize knowledge, discovery of new less aggressive forms of production, and more balanced access to resources. In this area Brazil has shown that to start building a more dignified life for the people below, for the forgotten two thirds of humanity, does not create a tragedy for the rich. In fact, in a balanced society, everyone will live better. Tolerance for a world where 850 million go hungry, where some 6 million children die every year of ridiculous causes, and where the natural riches of the planet are dilapidated for the profit of irresponsible corporations, is growing thin.

PS: And thou shalt not only respect you neighbour’s wife, but all women.

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