New Paradigm: The Necessity and the Opportunity

4.6. Other Deep Drivers
Many other factors and forces are spreading globally and growing in intensity, which can contribute significantly to preparing the ground, generating the pressure and creating the opportunities needed for transition to a new paradigm. These include the rise of global civil society with shared values and a shared commitment to building a better world for all human­ity; a revolutionary new set of powerful biological, biochemical, genetic, and materials science technologies, synthetic biology and human enhancement; and the progressive shift of power from centers of gravity from West to East, from North to South, and from nation-states to private actors; the widespread disillusionment with prevailing institutions of governance.8 A careful consideration and analysis of these and other factors will serve as a realistic basis for assessing the likely direction, character and potential impact of paradigm change in the years to come.

5. Theoretical Discontent
It seems ironic that the most powerful driver for change may be the dismal performance of prevailing social theory and policy in recent years, which has led to widespread public disillusionment. It comes at a time of triumphal progress for the physical and biological sciences which has resulted in monumental advances in fields such as computing, telecommunications, biotechnology, medicine and materials science. Never before have the lives of ordinary human beings around the world benefitted so directly and immensely from application of science and technology to promote human welfare.

But the surging technology mania has been accompanied by an increasing frustration and disillusionment with the failure of social science theory to provide intellectual clarity and effective policy guidelines for promoting peace, prosperity and human security. Advances in the natural sciences have so far outpaced concomitant advances in social science that each new technological advance poses new threats to the welfare of human beings it is intended to promote.

There are growing signs of this dilemma in many fields, but most conspicuously in the field of economics. The failure of theory and policy is largely responsible for rising levels of unemployment, widening inequalities, accelerating ecological destruction, dissolution of public trust in the social contract, increasing alienation and rising social unrest. This failure has led to the paradox of a world in which unprecedented productive capacities co-exist with unmet needs and rising levels of economic insecurity. The world today possesses all the capacities required to meet the needs of every human being, yet prevailing theory is grossly inadequate to reconcile human needs with social potential.

Unemployment is a case in point. Visions of future economic progress are blurred and blighted by misconceptions and fallacies regarding the prospects for employment generation due to the widely held belief that population growth, technology adoption and globalization are permanently eliminating the possibility of full employment. But the facts contradict this view. During the last sixty years of unprecedented population growth, technological innovation and globalization, growth of employment globally has outpaced growth of population. It is true that present policies aggravate unemployment, but it is important to recognize that rising unemployment is not at all inevitable. It is a result of current theory and prevailing policy, not intractable laws of economics.

The superabundance of money at a time of rising deficits and budget cuts is another symptom of theory and policy failure. Since 1980 global financial assets have risen from $12 trillion to $225 trillion, many times faster than the growth of the global economy. About 80% of these funds are being channeled into financial speculation rather than being invested to create new jobs and higher incomes in the real economy. The negative impact of these free-wheeling funds has led to increasingly volatile financial markets and growing pressure to curtail hidden subsidies to the financial industry, tax havens, tax evasion and corruption. Public resentment is increasing the pressure for game-changing rules leading to more equitable income and wealth distribution. Since 1996 income inequality in Latin America has already declined by more than 10 percent, an indication that change is possible on a continent that long maintained very high levels of inequality.

A third symptom is the utter failure of current theory and policy to reconcile aspirations for economic advancement with the carrying capacity of the environment and the rights of future generations. The rapid depletion of water, minerals, soil and energy resources is the result of current ideas and practices which incentivize rapid automation and unbridled resource consumption while taxing labor. The flawed, pseudo-scientific statistical measures employed to monitor economic activity and justify economic policy aggravate the very problems they are intended to remedy.

Growing disenchantment with prevailing economic theory is a necessary and important step needed to challenge and undermine the authority of outmoded ideas. In order to create the intellectual space needed for the development and discussion of more viable concepts and perspectives, it is essential to recognize the unsubstantial character of the emperor’s theoretical garb. The work of the World Academy, Club of Rome, World Future Council and many other organizations can play an important role in aiding that process.

6. A New Paradigm in Thought
Impatience, frustration and disillusionment with ignorance, inertia and blind resistance to change prompt many in­­­formed individuals and institutions to look for a shortcut to the new paradigm by focusing on pragmatic policy changes and avoid­ing what appears to be a useless, never-ending debate over conflicting theories and concepts. This view does not take into account the deep conceptual roots of the current paradigm and the powerful influence of outmoded ideas on current policies. Throughout history ideas have exhibited enormous power to change the world. A new paradigm must necessarily be founded on a new conceptual framework. There is no shortcut.

A new paradigm cannot be achieved by trying to either reconcile or settle the on-going intellectual conflict between Keynesian and neoliberal economic concepts and policies or between those supporting the political rights of sovereign states and those advocating the need for democratic institutions of global governance. As in all matters intellectual, there is truth in both perspectives, but both truths are partial. A new paradigm cannot be brought about by insisting on any aspect of truth without reconciling it with contradictory aspects.

The existing paradigm is the product of a reductionist, mechanistic, materialistic mindset that divides reality into countless separate compartments and tries to deal with each individually, unmindful of its impact on all the other aspects with which it is related. A new paradigm requires a more holistic, synthetic, organic mode of thinking that recognizes the interrelationships and interdependence between different fields. It requires development of an integrated science of society based on common principles to replace the fragmented disciplines that prevail today.

Most of all, the new paradigm requires a new center. Prevailing theory is based on a fatalistic belief in the value and power of money, free markets, competition, balance of power, national sovereignty, information, scientific progress, technological innovation, institutional mechanism and other idols of past paradigm changes. The new paradigm needs to be human-centered. Its guiding star and foremost preoccupation must be the right of every human being to peace, security, welfare and well-being.

The world urgently needs fresh thinking to formulate a new intellectual paradigm that fully comprehends the interrelationships and interdependence of all dimensions of global society and social development, has as its goal to optimize human welfare and well-being for all human beings, and is based on the premise that democratic principles and universal human values are the only viable basis on which sustainable progress for humanity is achievable. It should be based on the realization that money, markets and technology are human creations intended to serve, not dominate or enslave, humanity. It should regard human capital as the most precious of all resources, a resource of virtually unlimited creative potential, and give highest priority to the full development and free creative expression of human capacities. Economic value should reflect real contribution to human welfare. Economic systems should be founded on the principle that freedom and regulation go hand in hand, freedom for individ­ual initiative and regulation to ensure the fairness and equity of social systems.

A fundamental change in thought implies also a fundamental change in values. Values are not merely utopian ideals. They represent the quintessence of the knowledge acquired by humanity regarding the essential elements for survival, growth, development and evolution, for peace, prosperity and human fulfillment. A new paradigm cannot be founded by institu­tionalizing the temporary inequalities that presently divide the welfare of people and countries from one another or by imposing sacrifices on future generations that we are unwilling to impose on ourselves. The most important paradigm changes of the past few centuries affirm the values on which future progress should be based. The most ancient formula for social wisdom promises to be the last – freedom, equal rights and justice for every individual and responsibility for the welfare of all.

7. Principles for a New Paradigm
The purpose of this paper is to set forth the rationale and justification for a collaborative effort of leading international institutions to identify the basic components of a new paradigm capable of addressing humanity’s most pressing challenges and exploiting its unprecedented opportunities. While it is not the intention to suggest the ultimate content, it may be useful to illustrate the approach with a few salient principles that have been discussed in recent conferences and publications.

1. Reform of Financial Markets:  The new paradigm needs to regard money as a social organization that capitalizes trust and is capable of multiplying the prosperity of all, rather than as a scarce material resource or power to be hoarded and applied for the benefit of a few. Financial markets originally developed as an adjunct to the real economy designed to pool capital for investments that meet human needs and generate employment. Today financial markets have become divorced from that original purpose and are left free to act in ways that directly undermine the effective functioning of the world economy. Less than 20% of global financial assets support development and activity in the real economy. Current policy regards the right to free speculation by the wealthy as more fundamental than the right of every human being to gainful employment and economic survival. As economy is a subset of society intended to promote social welfare, financial markets must be so regulated to support the real economy. A punitive tax on speculative financial transactions is just one of many feasible policy measures that could redirect tens of trillions of dollars into essential investments to create sufficient jobs for youth and the elderly, rapidly raise global living standards, reduce mortality rates, spread education, replace climate disruptions with renewable energy production, extract drinking water from the oceans, and thereby eliminate the underlying sources of frustration and unrest that threaten social stability.

2. Right to Employment:  The new paradigm must challenge the outdated notion thatunemployment is either necessary or inevitable. In a market-based economy, access to gainful employment is the economic equivalent of the right to vote in political democracy. It needs to be recognized as a fundamental right. Monetary and fiscal policy are grossly inadequate mechanisms for achieving full employment during periods of rapid social transition. A re-examination of current economic and commercial policies will reveal ample scope for stimulating natural employment generation when full development and utilization of human capabilities are given top priority.

3. Investment in Education: Education is the prime instrument for conscious social evolution. Highest priority is needed to accelerate investment in education at all levels in order to raise levels of education globally to the level of OECD countries. Strategies should include the design of a world-class global system of higher education utilizing emerging technology for delivery of accessible, affordable, high quality, multi-lingual, multi-cultural, trans-disciplinary education and practical vocational training designed to more effectively prepare the young generation for commercial and social entrepreneurship, self-employment, employment and effective citizenship in democratic societies.

4. Circular Economy: The concept of circular economy strongly advocated by Club of Romecan dramatically reduce the consumption of both raw materials and energy, and the emission of CO2 and other wastes. In a circular economy, sales of products would be largely replaced by leases, combined with exceptional service. Since responsibility for the material used in a product remains with the manufacturing company, strong incentives are created to fully exploit the material for as long as possible to earn maximum return on what already has been produced.9

5. Global Governance & Security: With regard to governance, international institutions need to be founded on true principles of representative democracy. The principle of sovereignty needs to be redefined to reflect the rights of the human collective to security and a fair sharing of the earth’s abundant wealth. A truly cooperative global security system that enhances the security of all nations must replace the existing competitive system in which measures to enhance the security of one nation or group reduce the perceived security of all others. It must be based on the conception that law must be based on a codification of the public conscience, not on the vested interests of entrenched powers. International law must reflect the universal values and enlightened views of humanity rather than the negotiating power of governments. The basic premise of a global security system must be that war is illegal and that possession, use or threat of use of weapons of mass destruction is a crime against humanity.

This list of principles is intended to illustrate that solutions can be found to the entire range of challenges and opportunities presently before us. Some of them may appear unachievable under the present political dispensation, precisely because they touch the root causes of current problems that we have thus far been unwilling to address. The greatest defense of the present paradigm is the premise that there is no better alternative. Impartial study supports the view that comprehensive solutions are indeed possible and that implementation of a new paradigm, no matter how difficult, could quickly usher in a world far more stable, secure, prosperous and just than the world we live in today. At the very least, this realization should dispel the fatalistic sense of helplessness that stifles human initiative and focus attention on the deeper issues that need to be addressed.

8 Ibid.
9 Ibid

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