Understand that we are the governments and let them work for us
Government is a way for us human beings to admit our frailties, that we need help to get close to our ideals, to reach our goals. We created it to help us achieve the idea of a good life, whatever that may be. Thomas Jefferson agreed:
“The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government”.
Then how can we human beings through governing our society make sure that we care for human life and happiness.
First we need to see if that truly is the goal of our societies today. Taking a quick look it doesn’t really seem that this is the case. A lot of talk is around jobs and growth, not so much how we can allow all human beings to flourish.
There was good reason for this economic thinking during the 20th cas economic growth and work looked like the panacea for a lot of social ailments, e.g. unemployment, poverty, class struggles. But just as the combustion engine performed marvelous work at the time it later has become apparent that maybe economic growth wasn’t the greatest idea in the long run. Combustion engine created an existential crisis. Our economics as well. Wealth didn’t trickle down, inequality increased, poverty continued to test our reason and those fortunate to get wealth didn’t feel much better with it.
More importantly we forgot to recognize the context where we live in, the physical limits of the planet and, perhaps because of our human propensity to combine ignorance and feelings of grandeur, we smashed right into the limits with our inventions of economic system based on growth and the combustion engine.
Recognizing the context of our human existence, limits of the planet and also that we human beings are all equals is the second step in governing for the care of human life and happiness.
After we have set a goal and recognized the limits we can think about how we can bring about this society, the third step. Our economy plays a big part as can help us humans to allocate the limited resources. However like other institutions and policies that we need to create a society that helps human beings to flourish within limits it is important to remember that economy is not an end in itself but a mean to reach the goals we set.
Reshaping our society also will require an imagination and an openness to transform. Some institutions might have to be revalued, some scrapped and some new might have to be invented. All of them should amplify the values that creates human well-being and be aligned with our goal to let us human beings flourish within limits.
Even if this reformulating of our existence sounds scary it will be less so if we acknowledge the complexity of our system and the limits of our models of it, if we can be bold and humble enough learn to embrace our mistakes, listen to what they teach us and from what we learn keep experimenting and governing towards the world we want to see because as they say, another better world with fairer economic system within the limits, is possible!
References and quotes