27 March 2009

Pick a country, any country

Implementation of sheviit (land-sabbatical) laws must be national in scope because individuals can't really accomplish the task. Sabbaticals work only when they're operating at the national scale. Asking individuals to accomplish the tasks of stewardship is an empty exercise because stewardship at anything lower than the national scale is doomed to fail.

Stewardship is not only about good intentions, it's about properly defining property rights and then enabling a commercial system that works according the dictates of gift exchange rather than market exchange.

The teaching of the Chumash (Bible) is that stewardship must occur at the national level. That's the point of the laws of sheviit and shemitta (debt forebearance and disbursement of the sabbatical surplus).

A better strategy than getting people with good intentions to practice eco-friendly tasks would be to find a country whose citizens would be amenable to the ways of the stewardship of the environment, and then, as a demonstration project to show the world how it is done and what the national advantages to such an approach really are, to implement the ways of environmental stewardship at the national level. That would be the 'light unto the nations' part of the biblical mandate.

Such an approach is has the advantage that it is not so much anti-corporate as it is pro-stewardship. That it is 'pro-' means the approach doesn't have to be angry. It also means the policy positions don't have to be negative. It means that people are preparing for the inevitable collapse of the corporate, 'mechanical' systems by describing what will take their place.

Gandhi was proposing such a approach when he taught non-violence. Non-violence presumed the resistance to, and thus the containment and eventual collapse of illegitimate power. The problem with Gandhi's experiment was poor timing. Had the Muslim world not descended into an epochal resource curse with the discorvery of oil on their lands at almost exactly the moment his teachings were coming to the fore with the indendence of India and the creation of Pakistan, Gandhi's wisdom would have been much more clearly manifested in the world today.

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