31 December 2010

The Middle East’s version of WWII

After the First World War the architects of the peace redefined the nation-statehood of Eastern and Southern Europe as well as of the Middle East. The Second World War re-shaped the nation-statehood of Europe but left intact the still unstable nation-states of the Middle East. 
Al-Qa'eda and the Muslim jihad is the resultant of that WWI peace treaty. The terror war is the Middle East’s version of WWII. In the end, the nation-states of the Middle East will be reshaped.

The values of xenia

The true measure of legitimate authority is xenia. Empire counts as a positive force in human civilization’s history insofar as it promotes and enforces the values of xenia
Political hatred is the institutional expression of xenophobia. When empires crumble and hatred is unleashed on the remnants of ethnic groupings that had enjoyed imperial protection, the resultant system loses the imprimature of legitimate authority. 

Xenia and humility

For Israel to find a stable place in the Middle East she must solve the problem of xenia for the dispossessed peoples of the former Ottoman Empire just the way the Western Europeans would not find peace until they solved the problem of xenia for the dispossessed peoples of the former Hapsburg and Romanoff and Hohenzollern Empires. 
The service of the gods depends on the leadership's knowing it must resist hubris domestically and it must promote xenia internationally. When we speak of self-restraint among the ruling elites, it is with respect to these two domains of values that we mean it. Xenia – being kind to the stranger in the strange land – is the cognate of humility – caring for the fertile core of what is alive; where everything that is alive has a fertile core that is given to a people as a beneficence from Providence.  

27 December 2010

Honor and distinction and not wealth

The welfare contribution of social status is not just about conspicuous consumption, it's about dignity and honor and the social capital that accrues to a person for doing his duty. 
When someone fulfills his duty society rather than any particular individual repays him with honor and distinction and not wealth. 
We cherish that distinction because it gives our lives meaning even if it isn't worth all that much in the marketplace. 

Needs and urges

To need to do something is a class of motivation that belongs to an urge that comes of abundance. 
An agent divests of waste out of need to satisfy an urge. The obligation that comes with accepting a gift is what one feels because of the need the gift established in the person. We need to earn and we need to deserve and we need to act for the sake of achieving justice-as-deservedness. When we are in an undeserved state our sense of justice sets up a need in us that registers as an urge to perform a duty to return ourselves to a state of deservedness. A need is a discomfitted feeling which the satisfaction of some urge would allay. 
Needs and urges are sensational, hormonal counterpoints to rational incentives and preferences. 
Urges give rise to urgency. Needs and urges have a temporal aspect to them that incentives and preferences lack.

The duty of abundance

  • The duty of abundance is blessing. 
  • The duty of abundance is to replicate the abundance so that when it is passed along it is passed along in sufficient measure that the next generation can likewise pass it on in blessing. 
  • The duty of abundance is tradition. 
  • The duty of abundance is to replicate the institutional base on which the abundance was generated. Those are the two dimensions of blessing: persons to populate the institution and a natural capital base on which the persons can achieve an equivalent measure of abundance. 
  • The duty of abundance is to propel the abundance and not only to pass it on. 
  • The duty of abundance is to diversify the rules of abundance into all the myriad institutions of the society so that every institution enhances the culture of abundance which the abundance is enabling. 
The institutions of abundance must be established not only in the realm of philanthropy; the institutions and values of abundance must infuse themselves as well into the realm of productivity. 
Gifts engender obligations in two dimensions: 
  1. recognize the beneficence of the gift's source by reciprocating; and 
  2. propel the gift's beneficence by building institutions of tradition. 
Market trades are about present consumption while gift exchanges are about past appreciation and future replication. Past appreciation is about being a part of a larger whole while future replication is about making a whole comprised of equivalent parts. 

Humongous hangover of emptiness and waste

Access to services is preferred to ownership. 
Private property with all its exclusivity is not any better than belonging to a community and having access to the sharing of a much larger basket of goods. 
Contemporary society's humongous hangover of emptiness and waste could be replaced by mutual aid and civil society, to the benefit of all. 

The lessons of stewardship

People have a fertile core that could also be over-mined and depleted. Alongside natural resources are the human resources that are available for exploitation as well. Those who don't respect the earth's fertile core are likely likewise not to respect the fertile core of other people. 
The lessons of stewardship are a stepping stone for a leadership for cultivating the dignity of the followership in their society. 

Israel is a child of both Mesopotamia and Egypt

The meaning of Mesopotamia in the Bible is of a mature society that has moved past its prime. In the modern world Western Europe is Mesopotamia. Western Europe is the sterile but highly sophisticated culture that serves as the foundation for offspring cultures. Its science and art, if not its political/economics and religion, still remains as a legacy that deserves our appreciation and respect. 
In contrast to Western Europe/Mesopotamia stands the opposing empire, Egypt – the opposing cultures: variously Russia, Germany, China, the Muslim world, etc. Each claims to a vitality and a vibrancy the Western European culture seems to have lost. 
The Bible is a blueprint for how a legitimate authority might govern in a mature culture that enjoys the fruits of abundance and security. Mesopotamia is the example of how not to do it. Mesopotamia is the cautionary tale that says: too much sophistication will lead to sterility and not vitality. 
History can be seen to unfold as a series of Egypts vying to replace the spiritually depleted husks of a corresponding series of Mesopotamias. The narrative arc of the Bible is the narrative arc of history, writ large. The Bible situates Israel as the pivot around which the Egypts and the Mesopotamias contend with each other. Israel is a child of both Mesopotamia and Egypt. Israel plays out internally, within herself, the struggles of the contending empires and offers them first a neutrality they could trust; second, a buffer from each other they could appreciate; and, third, a solution to their differences they could adopt for themselves. The contending empires employ Israel as a defanged, safe, surrogate opposition, almost like a vaccine. The empires can use opposition to Israel as a way to develop their own cultural antibodies in their struggle with their opposing empires further away. 
Here is a narrative for the role Israel plays in world history that differs considerably from the role Israel plays in the Christian or Muslim narratives, narratives that serve their own Christian or Muslim imperial ambitions. We have, as it were, two competing narratives: the religious narrative where Judaism is the Mesopotamia to the daughter religions' Egypts vs the political narrative where Israel as the safe pivot between the old, sterile but sophisticated ancien regime contending with the young, fertile, brash but clumsy, rising empire. 
These two competing narratives play themselves out in two different stories of the internal struggles of the Jewish people: on the one (religious) hand, the narrative of a tired leadership that cannot muster the people as it struggles against the brash insurgents who wish repeatedly to return to Egypt's fleshpots; and, on the other (political) hand, the story of the rule of YHWH's followers who have incorporated a deeper understanding of the forces of history with which they are contending, where Joseph is Egypt; Reuven and Shimon are Mesopotamia; and Yehuda and Binyamin and Levi constitute the core of the Children of Israel. These two narratives play themselves out as, on the one hand, the diaspora narrative of religious Judaism wrestling with religious Christendom and religious Islam versus, on the other hand, the messianic narrative of political Israel wrestling with political Europe and political Arabia. 

26 December 2010

Young enough

When Mesopotamia struggles with Egypt in the Bible, the battle is temporal and not just geographic. Mesopotamia is older than Egypt, which, in turn, is older than Israel. 
Sterility vs excess is not just about East vs West, it is also about old vs young. 
What the Bible offers is neither East nor West, neither old nor young but something in between – the wedge and buffer of the Arava and adult, both old enough to be beyond adolescence but young enough to still have fertility and vitality. 

Haredism is a movement

Haredism is a movement that emodies an ideology. It favors Haredi members over the rest of the Jewish people. 
Movements such is these are pathalogical. They supplant the people.

Abundance and security enable decay

The oriental notion of yin-yang, where every moment has the seeds of its own destruction built into it, has a biblical counterpart: scarcity and threat enable growth while abundance and security enable decay. 
The logic of decadence – the four horsemen of the modern apocalypse: emigration, disease, famine, war, coupled to the fifth horseman, climate change – is the logic of abundance unrestrained. 
When we need to deal with the forces of darkness we need to understand how abundance changes the playing field for human societies. 

The psychological manifestation of insecure abundance

The Orthodox camp is neurotic. They hear everything as either praising their heritage or attacking their heritage. It's exhausting being with them. They epitomize self-centeredness. In the end, it's just boring and a waste of time, no matter how beautiful they seem on the surface. 
Neurotics live in a permanent condition of scarcity and threat, no matter how abundant and secure their lives are. 
Neurosis is the psychological manifestation of insecure abundance. 

From religious to political

The transition from religious to political is the key to the Mosaic function of extracting the Jewish people from Diaspora. 

Avodah zara

The difference between the religious perspective and the political perspective centers on how one ascribes meaning in the Bible to the term 'avodah zara.' In the one case avodah zara is a semantic issue that has to do with how a competing religion defines the heavenly realm; in the other case avodah zara is a substantive issue having to do with how power is understood and whether supreme power can be lodged in human mastery. 

The ensuing havoc can undo entire civilizations

Who is the highest authority in a society? 
One of the consequences of the disenchantment that was one of the by-products of the Enlightenment and the collapse of the ancien regime was the loss of a clear locus in the society of a supreme authority. Absent such a locus, the struggle to achieve and to take for oneself that position of supreme authority turns into a free-for-all. The ensuing havoc can undo entire civilizations. 
Whether or not the people submit themselves to a divine ruler it would seem crucial to the orderly administration of a society that the mitigating institutions of sanctity be always and everywhere put into place, lest the society implodes in an orgy of disenchantment. 
When Am Yisroel demands an icon like the eigel masseikha they are reacting out of their need for a clear and manifest authority figure in their social organization. 

Torah learning is simply too weak

All defects in the conduct and governance of Jewish society are the result of defects in the Torah learning of their rabbinic leadership. 
Present day Torah learning is simply too weak. Had Jewish Torah leadership developed better Torah scholarship the Jewish people throughout their history would have achieved a more robust and satisfactory condition. 
If divine Providence accounts for all that happens to the Jewish people, and if rabbinic authority must be received uncritically, then rabbinic failure has to account for all the people's deficits. 

A society that's traversed the sova point

When a society is in decline, when it has traversed its sova point, the self-interested thing for the ruling elite to do is to disinvest and to pocket the cash in their private interests or in the interests of their ideological partisans. 
The American Constitutional system apparently did not anticipate the challenges of governance that come with the nation’s sova. The responsibilities of government that serves so strongly to keep public servants honest are not binding in a society that has traversed the sova point. 
The key to governance beyond the sova point is for the ruling elites to have an internal compass that gets coupled with a willingness to submit to a higher power Who is not subject to the temptations of material excess. 

The marginal member of society ... any society

The stateless Jew and the disenfranchised member of the mob shared a common affection for ethnic, tribal self-identification. If the term 'Hebrew, Ivri' means simply the marginal member of society, any society, then the diaspora Jew and the gentile Hebrew formed an implicit alliance in 19th/20th century Europe. 
"... the Jews were the example of a people who without any home at all had been able to keep their identity through the centuries and could therefore be cited as proof that no territory was needed to constitute a nationality. If the pan-movements insisted on the secondary importance of the state and the paramount importance of the people, organized throughout the countries and not necessarily represented in visible institutions, the Jews were a perfect model of a nation without a state and without visible institutions. If tribal nationalities pointed to themselves as the center of the national pride, regardless of historical achievements and partnership in recorded events, of they believed that some mysterious inherent psychological or physical quality made them the incarnation not of Germany but Germanism, not of Russia, but the Russian soul, they somehow knew, even if they did not know how to express it, that the Jewishness of assimilated Jews was exactly the same kind of personal individual embodiment of Judaism and that the peculiar pride of secularized Jews, who had not given up the claim to chosenness more really meant that they believed they were different and better simply because they happened to be born as Jews, regardless of Jewish achievements and tradition. ... the position of the uprooted masses of the big cities, which racism mobilized so efficiently, was in many ways very similar [to the Jews' position]. They too were outside the pale of society, and they too were outside the political body of the nation-state ... In the Jews they recognized their happier, luckier competitors because, as they saw it, the Jews had found a way of constituting a society of their own which, precisely because it had no visible representation and no normal political outlet, could become a substitute for the nation." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 239).

Chosenness

Likely the pan-movements resented the Jewish chosenness because the movement leaders wanted a bit of the pseudo-divinity the Jews reserved for the rulership of the kingdom of God. 

The rule of wisdom; the rule of cleverness

"If rule by good laws has sometimes been called the rule of wisdom, rule by appropriate decrees may rightly be called the rule of cleverness. For it is clever to reckon with ulterior motives and aims, and it is wise to understand and create by deduction from generally accepted principles." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 244). 
Rule by decree is the preferred mode of the strongman rulers because it plays to their strong suit – cunning and an instinct for survival. 
The rule of wisdom is what is aspired to by mature societies that have the benefit of abundance and security and that have a sense of what it means to take responsibility, which is to say, to do one's duty. 

Desert and trust

Pseudo-mysticism and secrecy are the hallmarks of a cunning leadership that keeps its populations confused and in the dark about why whatever is happening to them is happening. Superstition and suspicion are what takes the place of explanation and collaboration as the pathological fills in when the robust processes of a healthy society weaken and decay (or perhaps, in a sort of Gresham's Law action, are driven out). 
For a people to understand why what is happening to them is happening they need desert and trust. They need for things to be earned with respect to themselves and with respect to each other because trust is nothing more than the sense of what some thing or person has earned. 
"And it is this pseudomysticism that is the stamp of bureaucracy when becomes a form of government. Since the people it dominates never really know why something is happening, and a rational interpretation of laws does not exist, there remains only one thing that counts, the brutal naked event itself. What happens to one then becomes subject to an interpretation whose possibilities are endless, unlimited by reason and unhampered by knowledge. Within the framework of such endless interpretative speculation, so characteristic of all branches of Russian pre-revolutionary literature, the whole texture of life and world assume a mysterious secrecy and depth. There is a dangerous charm in this aura because of its seemingly inexhaustible richness; interpretation of suffering has a much larger range than that of action for the former goes on in the inwardness of the soul and releases all the possibilities of human imagination, whereas the latter is constantly checked, and possibly led into absurdity, by outward consequences and controllable experiences." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 245). 
Modern society believes the cure for superstition and secrecy is rationality and an abundance of information. The biblical regime believes the cure is justice-as-deservedness. 
It is na├»ve to apply the methods of science to the challenges of a people lost in the wilderness. Science might be able to penetrate a beneficent Nature but it hasn’t got a prayer against the slithering cunning of a despot. 

Desert through the back door

"Franz Kafka knew well enough the superstition of fate which possesses people who live under the perpetual rule of accidents, the inevitable tendency to read a special superhuman meaning into happenings whose rational significance is beyond the knowledge and understanding of the concerned. ... He exposed the pride in necessity as such, even the necessity of evil, and the nauseating conceit which identifies evil and misfortune with destiny." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 245). 
When people do not have a well articulated and well developed sensibility of justice-as-deservedness they invent notions of fate and destiny and 'rational' and 'scientific' explanations that allow them to make sense of their worlds. They import desert through the back door, as it were, even when the desert is invented and artificial. 

The instruments of honor and shame

"The slogan 'above the parties,' the appeal to 'men of all parties,' and the boast that they would 'stand far removed from the strife of parties and represent only a national purpose' was equally characteristic of all imperialist groups, where it appeared as a natural consequence of their exclusive interest in foreign policy in which the nation was supposed to act as a whole in any event, independent of classes and parties." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 250). 
Such movements that claim a supra-ideological, privileged position need at the same time to temper their purchases on the levers of power. That is the true meaning of the separation of Church and State. 
The question is how might a supra-ideological movement come to a position of influence without resorting to the use of the levers of power? Perhaps here is where the instruments of honor and shame come into play. 

A more populist strain of legitimacy

To promote a political movement rather than a political party is to appeal to a more populist strain of legitimacy. 
Often the leaders of the 'movements' aren't so much seeking the populist imprimature as they are cunningly trying to mask the fact of their political and partisan agenda. 

Power will alternate

A two-party system of government is really a single administration that has two ideological branches which alternate with each other to rule. That alternation is built into the design of the bureaus of the government, each of which conducts its affairs with the expectation that power will alternate between the parties. 
Such temporal alternation mimics the economic alternation that shemitta represents, except that shemitta alternates political power back and forth on the basis of economic rather than electoral factors. 
In the biblical regime power does not alternate by electoral mandate but by conformity to an artificially induced economic business cycle. 

A general mood

"Long before Nazism proudly pronounced that though it had a program it did not need one, Pan-Germanism discovered how much more important for mass appeal a general mood was than laid-down outlines and platforms." (The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1994; page 260). 
Social change comes about by appeals to the right hemisphere not the left. A general mood resonates with right hemispheric ways of experiencing the world. 
If honor is prerequisite to concrete social change, it is likely because honor appeals to right hemispheric values rather than left. 
What was the right hemispheric sensibility of the biblical regime? 

25 December 2010

Being, having, doing, interacting

Manfred Max-Neef offers axiological and existential categories (being, having, doing, interacting) of need:
1.       Subsistence – physical and mental health, equilibrium, sense of humor, adaptability; food, shelter, work; feed, procreate, rest, work; living environment, social setting.
2.      Protection – care, adaptability, autonomy, equilibrium, solidarity; insurance systems, savings, social security, health systems, rights, family, work; cooperate, prevent, plan take care of, cure, help; living space, social environment, dwelling.
3.      Affection – self-esteem, solidarity, respect, tolerance, generosity, receptiveness, passion, determination, sensuality, sense of humor; friendships, family, partnerships with nature, make love, caress, express emotions, share, take care of, cultivate, appreciate; privacy, intimacy, home, space of togetherness.
4.      Understanding – critical conscience, receptiveness, curiosity, astonishment, discipline, intuition, rationality; literature, teachers, method, educational and communications policies; investigate, study, experiment, educate, analyze, meditate; settings of formative interaction, schools, universities, academies, groups, communities, family.
5.       Participation – adaptability, receptiveness, solidarity, willingness, determination, dedication, respect, passion, sense of humor; rights, responsibilities, duties, privileges, work; become affiliated, cooperate, propose, share, dissent, obey, interact, agree on, express opinions; setting of participative interaction, parties, associations, churches, commnties, neighborhoods, family.
6.      Idleness – curiosity, receptiveness, imagination, recklessness, sense of humor, tranquility, sensuality; games, spectacles, clubs, parties, peace of mind; daydream, brood, dream, recall old times, give way to fantasies, remember, relax, have fun, play; privacy, intimacy, space of closeness, free time, surroundings, landscapes.
7.       Creation – passion, determination, intuition, imagination, boldness, rationality, autonomy, inventiveness, curiosity; abilities, skills, method, work; work, invent, build, design, interpret; productive and feedback settings, workshops, cultural groups, audiences, spaces for expressions, temproal freedom.
8.      Identity – sense of belonging, consistency, differentiation, self-esteem, assertiveness; symbols, language, religion, habits, customs, reference groups, sexuality, values, norms, historical, memory, work; commit oneself, integrate oneself, decide on, get to know oneself, recognize oneself, actualize oneself, grow; social rhythms, everyday settings, settings which one belongs, maturation stages.
9.      Freedom – autonomy, self-esteem, determination, passion, assertiveness, open-mindedness, boldness, rebelliousness, tolerance; equal rights; dissent, choose, be different, run risks, develop awareness, commit oneself, disobey; ability to come into contact with different people at different times in different places. 

Ecological economics comprehends asset theory

Ecological economics bridges micro-economics and macro-economics. If micro comprehends price theory, and macro comprehends income theory, then ecological economics comprehends asset theory. 

Netting out all asset values

GNP does not measure the transaction in assets because such transaction does not contribute to the flow of goods produced. 
Because only the value added is a flow, the original asset value of the goods produced does not factor into the meaure of GNP since GNP is a flow and nets out all asset values from the metric. 

Harvesting the resource

As creative expression is the outcome of covenantal partnership between the creative source and the inspirational source, so the value of natural resources accrue both to the labor and capital invested in harvesting the resource as well as to the original source of the resource, which appears in the accounting as a gift. 

Who ends up with what

Gifts are never seen as having been produced, they are always merely transfered as assets. The only thing that happens with the granting of a gift is a transfer of ownership. 
In a market economy the measurement of transactions is a proxy for the measure of what is produced and consumed. Gifts don't show up in that metric. They do not appear as market transactions, and so they do not register as product. 
The gift of life, of child care, of household management – all these things are gifts and so do not register as part of the national product. The misleading implication is that nothing is being produced when things are given away. Product, in market economies, is measured only in terms of the cost, not the benefit. All that is happening with gift exchange is that things are being moved around in the domain after consumption has already occurred so it is just a matter of who ends up with what, not how much is being produced/consumed. 

Power is the embodiment of earnedness

Fairness vs deservedness, allocation vs merit, these dichotomies might correspond well to the difference between flows and stocks. 
To apportion who deserves which part of some past, fixed aggregation of value is likely more a matter of context than it is a matter of content, more about the general environment of the valuation than it is particular to the specific asset in question. 
We need to take a step back and ask the question what does it mean to have a claim based on deserving something? Does it mean being able to consume the thing? Probably not. We typically don't have the right to waste an asset that was bequeathed to us. So the claim is a claim of stewardship rather than of private property. 
To deserve is to have earned – but that which comes to us for having earned something is not the right to consume the thing but rather a corresponding enlargement of our person's 'asset' value. When we earn something, what we get is the projection of that value into our honor, dignity, distinguishedness, authority, and, ultimately, our power. 
Power is the embodiment of earnedness because power is an asset as embodied in the person of the agent. Who owns what is a matter of who has power over it rather than which good becomes a part of whom's wealth, except insofar as wealth is power. 

24 December 2010

How much non-economic welfare

Waste, bads, disutility – these are typically not traded in the marketplace and so they are not measured as economic welfare. Indeed, when they are measured they enter as economic goods insofar as what is being measured is the product or service being transacted-in to deal with the disutility. 
As the asset base of the resource gift does not enter into the measurement of economic life, so the asset effect of the injury to society's asset base of welfare does not go into the measurement of economic life. 
For starters we should develop a sense of how much and which proportion of our lives is the result of economic welfare and how much non-economic welfare. 

The economy in liquidation mode

By definition income is that subset of consumption which leaves the capital stock unchanged. Consumption that diminishes the stock of capital, that injures the ability of the agent to produce an equal quantity of consumables in subsequent time periods, is not called income. Income is therefore by definition that portion of consumption that is sustainable. Sustainability goes directly to the asset neutrality of the income accounts. 
When you consume out of capital it is not called 'income,' it is called 'liquidation.' When an economy plateaus and the opportunities for growth diminish while the standard of living is high and the asset base is abundant it becomes tempting to shift the economy from growth to liquidation. In order to accomplish this it is a pre-requisite to shift the economy from a P&L accounting to a balance sheet accounting. The easiest way to accomplish such a shift is to financialize the real economy. 
The environmentalists have it wrong. The problem with the US economy is not that it is overly growth-oriented. The problem is it that the US economy is growth-oriented in liquidation mode. We should stop talking about sustainable and renewable technologies and start talking about liquidation policies and an economy that's going out of business. The self-indulgence of the right-wing Boomer is not sex, drugs and rocknroll, it is running the economy in liquidation rather than income mode. Corporate America has moved from power hungry to degenerate. By devising an economic order that depends on the depletion of natural resources for its vitality American corporate leadership has created a corporate culture that disdains the covenantal boundaries of divine grace while at the same time leads to a management style oriented to liquidation and degenerate corporate governance. Once the depletion of the natural resources stopped being able to fuel the growth of the American national economy, the unfettered marketplace shifted to liquidating the industrial base by selling off the asset base through debt and by counting that selling-off as national income. 
The genius of American know-how was the ability to develop management systems for large scale industrial and commercial enterprises which solved the moral hazard problem that comes with principal-agent relations. That genius applied well to an economic order that was growing by leaps and bounds, and had a clear-eyed view of the future. When the economy plateaued and growth opportunities diminished, the problem of principal-agent came back with a vengeance. 
The problem of principal-agent is the problem of unearned power. The agent should function like a steward for the accumulated value embodied in the running of the enterprise. Instead the agent re-directs that value to his private interests. The moral hazard of the over-payed courtier is the manifestation of the parasite. The parasite feeds off of the life nourishment of the host while re-engineering the host to liquidate itself. The opposite of symbiosis is the parasitic relationship. The symbiant honors its own duties to its covenantal partner while it conducts its own affairs and the affairs of the joint enterprise in a life-affirming way. The parasite feeds off of the abundance of its host while it conducts its own affairs in a way that liquidates the system. 
The punishment in Leviticus for violating the covenantal partnership was to turn the people of Israel into parasites that made them feed off of their host cultures. The antisemite reacts against the parasitism of the Jewish people because the antisemite is himself largely parasitic in character. 
The challenge of abundance is the challenge of the principal-agent, it is the challenge of stewardship and trusteeship, of administering what one did not create, of recognizing both one's own merit as well as what was bequeathed from a higher authority. 
The Sabbath day is about the invocation (zakhor) of the creative impulse as a covenantal partnership. The keeping of that institution (shamor) is about the double portion on Friday where abundance also forces the acknowledgement of the covenantal dividing line between Man and God. Because the mannah was a gift (rain, himtir, is a gift) it instantly required the institution of the Sabbath day to manage the challenges and confusions that come from being granted something one did not earn on one's own. 

To take off the table

It serves well the interests of extractives to insist the impression of the condition of scarcity onto the body politic. 
To believe in the ever-present condition of scarcity is to take off the table of a people's consideration the manifest surplus and excess under which many in the society persist. By taking that excess out of consideration the extractives remove from deliberation the obligations that come with that excess, and the duty to divest and not to hoard which comes with having more than one needs. 
Needs can only be defined if we have a sense of sova.

Needs vs wants

Needs define what would enable someone to make good; wants define what would keep them from making good. 

The city of Sodom

The destruction of the city of Sodom is an example of an ecosystem that was injured past the point of no return. 

Individual versus collective decision-making

Problems of scarcity are best solved by individual decision-making; problems of abundance are best solved by collective decision-making. Decisions about scarcity are thus best made on the margin, while decisions about abundance are best made infra-marginally. That is why ecological economics deals with matters of the whole, matters that go beyond the marginal, matters that relate to the ecological balance between components of a whole system. 
As soon as we concern ourselves with matters of balance we engage in covenantal relationships because such relationships are intrinsically about maintaining a proper balance between the covenantal partners. 
The argument against government regulation is an argument against political/economic systems that do not recognize and respect the importance of covenantal relationships. In societies that appreciate the power of covenantal relationships, governments function better and the stewardship role, along with the demands of honor such a role entails, moves into the foreground. 

Bringing a good to market

Prices that clear markets in effect eliminate hoarding. The act of bringing a good to market and allowing for someone else (who might need the good more than the good's owner) to acquire the good is in effect to enable the passing along of the value to where it could do better service. 

Ancient culture and future culture

Whole-design is really about the deep integration of ancient culture and future culture, understanding the problems that need to be solved by design. 

Design and devisement

To introduce complementarity into the system that comes from covenants (as opposed to substitutibility in the system that comes from markets) is to require consideration of the whole of the system and the integration of the parts. 
The mode by which we introduce integration into the system we call design and devisement. To devise is to reorganize that which is given, while a design is the map of that reorganization. 
Implicit in the notion of devisement is the notion of recycling. We devise out of that which is given. Devisement is thus self-covenanting. 
Waste is the purest gift because it is truly not wanted by the grantor. Grace and waste are close to each other. Add to that the impulse to impregnate as a form of grace, and we have a trio of gifts in their purest form. 

23 December 2010

A form of copyleft

What do we do with the excess? We distribute it as broadly as possible and as equably as possible, and we endow the legatees of that distribution with as much claim to the entitlement as is possible. 
Rights are the allottments of excess under the rules of equality. We learn this from the laws of Yom haKippurim
Land is a surrogate for the graceful distribution of all allottments. They are distributed equably, and they are subject to sabbatical laws. The sabbatical laws are a form of copyleft: you can use it but not as private property. These entitlements can only be used as script for civic empowerment. 
The sabbatical and the jubilee are both institutions of civic participation and civic empowerment. 

When someone should get a whole lot more

In the absence of information everyone deserves the same endowment. For someone to be honored is to have information that justifies for that someone a greater endowment than someone else's. To deserve something is to have a reason for why everyone should get a trifle less and the deserving someone should get a whole lot more. 
To deserve is to engender traditions of value creation. 
The opposite of consuming and hoarding is generating value that gets refreshed over and over again from generation to generation. To redeem a gift grant is to keep the gift in train of being granted ad infinitum

The opposite of deserving is corruption

The opposite of deserving is corruption. 
To deserve is to be honored for a reason that respects the gift and its traditional power to distribute as broadly and as equably as possible. Equality guarantees the broadest and most diverse distribution. 
Corruption honors for the sake of concentrating power. Corruption is the opposite of equality for it reverses the diversity that comes of the diffusion of power. 

The universe of possibilities

The forward traditional power of gifts alters not so much the material conditions of those it touches as it alters the universe of their possibilities. 

Authority is to duty as price is to choice

Choice maximizes the welfare you get from consuming and from hoarding; authority speaks to duty and addresses the definition of and the fulfillment of duty’s possibilities. 
Authority is to duty as price is to choice. It informs the decision-making process. Authority is the meta-data to the fulfillment of duties as price is the meta-data to the exercise of choices. The meta-data of authority informs the social manifestation of the fulfillment of duties as the meta-data of prices informs the social manifestation of the exercise of choices. 
A price defines the terms whereby property rights would be relinquished. Authority defines the terms that delimit one's property rights in the first place. That is how authority deals with apportionment while choices deal with allocations. The delimitation of property rights defines the arena of duties to dispose of and to dispense with the excess of what one deserves of what was gifted to one. 
The voluntary side of the duty comes from the willingness to receive the gift in the first place, which receipt set in train the duty to propel its excess. One does not have a duty to reciprocate a gift so much as to pass along the excess in the gift beyond what one deserved. 

22 December 2010

Two sorts of property

Financial exchanges are also, in a way, copylefts. You buy in order to sell to someone who is buying in order to sell, etc. 
So society has two sorts of property:(1) owned and consumed by Man; and (2) consumed by Man but owned by God. 
That second species follows the rules of gifts, and the higher authority Who conferred the gifts on Man. 

Absent authority

Where there is no authority you will find corruption because when authority lacks the power to propel its message it makes for a lack of information about one's duties. Absent duties, the situation collapses into consumption, and the hoarding of gifts for oneself. 
Absent authority, it is hard to know what one deserves relative to what one was given. 

We deserve our misfortune

Servility is the conviction that one is not entitled to what one lacks, which lack comes from some higher authorities having hoarded to themselves what rightfully belonged to the commonwealth. 
Servility is the conviction that one deserves one's misfortune for having the commonwealth looted by the powers that be. 

The two imposters

Excess and orthodoxy – the one is a reaction against the other. Orthodoxy is how we think we can keep excess in check. 
If we manage excess properly, we won't need to fall into the dysfunctions of orthodoxy. These two imposters are complements of each other. 

21 December 2010

The right to use public office to fulfill certain duties

Rights are typically understood as referring to political endowments to the individual. 
There is a cognate form of rights that refers to the economic duties of the collective. Those duties are, for example, to distribute the social excess equally among all members of society. 
Rights as duties is an interesting notion. Society has the right to care for the needy; it has the right to honor what was given to it by a higher authority; it has the right to select leaders who exercise wisdom and compassion. These are all society's rights as the fulfillment of duties the leadership have a right to exercise. 
Having the right to use the public office to fulfill certain duties is indeed something a society must afford to the leadership – as a right. 

Economic growth is a tool for acquiring power

Growth is the centerpiece of the effect of the economy on the Chinese society. Economic growth is a tool for acquiring power. The question is what other economic lever other than growth could give the society's authorities a handle on the management of the social order. 

20 December 2010

Sacrifice and abundance vs costs and benefits

In gift exchange the definitive driver of the judgment is with respect to one's own costs and some other's benefit. The criterion is vitality; the objective is the need to maintain momentum to retain the creative energy of the thing. In a trade what defines the negotiation is my cost relative to your benefit in terms of my evaluation of what you get. I am adjusting my basket. In a gift exchange what defines the transaction is my sacrifice relative to my abundance in the context of your ability to amplify the value for yet others. I am adjusting what has not yet been made in order to maximize life. 
Sacrifice and abundance vs costs and benefits. 

Determination and defiance

To shape the legend of the modern Jewish people in their new homeland we cannot simply reject and renounce the exile and the two millennia of diaspora; we need to harness the story and sling it into the service of the Jewish people's future role, whatever it turns out we think that role ought to be. 
The narrative of the Jewish diaspora is one not of individual courage and certainly not one of sterling leadership and glory; rather, the diaspora is the story of the people's courage and dignity. The story of the diaspora is the story of defying God, not of submitting to Him. His is the narrative of the Jewish people’s exilic fear and weakness of will. 
“And upon those who are left alive of you I will send a faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; and the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee, as fleeing from a sword; and they shall fall when none pursues. And they shall fall one upon the other, as it were before a sword, when none pursues; and you shall have no power before your enemies. And you shall perish among the heathen, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up." Leviticus 26:36-38.
While some of the Bible’s ominous foretelling has clearly come to pass, in the end the people's overall exilic experience, despite their leaders' confusion and weakness, should be seen as one of determination and defiance. The Jewish people survived in exile not as a result of the rabbinic regime but in spite of it. The biblical regime was too much alive in the Jewish people's soul for it to give up the ghost to foreign influence. The Jewish people survived the long exile not because they "didn't change their names, dress or language;" they survived the long exile because they did not submit to "avodah zara, shfichat damim and gilui arayot," and because they stayed faithful to the dream of their land. 
That national courage has made the Jewish people not only excellent and creative and clever; it has made the people also gentle in their power and humble in their might. There is something the Jewish people in their homeland are trying to prove to the world, to demonstrate and illustrate to the world – that respect in the council of nations must be earned and that reverence to a higher power and the stewardship that that implies is the source of a generous people's strength and wealth.

Utility measures means; desert measures ends

Desert imbues value in a thing or person in a way that ultility does not. Utility measures the value of a means while desert measures the value of an end. Utility allows for the thing to be consumed in the service of some further, ultimate end; desert demands the thing or person be honored and consecrated. 
Prostitution is the shift in the valuation of a person or a calling from desert to utility. Utility can be alienated and traded; desert is inalienable and subject to tradition, to traditing. 
Dignity is lodged in the sort of value that is measured by desert rather than by utility. Prostitution is an affront to dignity. 
Dignity stops the flow of evaluation from moving toward some ultimate, higher end and forces it back to the appreciation of the sanctity of the particular person or consecrated object. This stoppage of the flow of evaluation resembles the stoppage of the flow of responsibility that is the essence of the meaning of duty. (Duty is the taking of responsibility rather than trying to palm it off elsewhere.) 
Desert allows for intermediate values to become ultimate values. 

Commodification is a form of hubris

  1. To evaluate for its utility something that has dignity is to commodify it. 
  2. To commodify is to replace the evaluation of desert with the evaluation of worth. 
  3. To treat something in terms of its worth is to dominate it the way a divine being dominates living creatures. 
  4. To commodify something is to place oneself in relation to it as a god. 
  5. Commodification is a form of hubris.