of a better world

Tom Bender

Patriotism, David Spangler says, is aligning ourselves with the Soul of America, seeking to embody in our everyday lives the highest of what it means to be an American. That is the kind of patriotism we need today. A spirit which reflects the vastness and energy of our land, the spirit of all the races and peoples who live here, the spiritual powers that nurture all humanity. Love, courage, openness, discovery, creativity, tolerance, and freedom. Honoring equality, individuality and difference - and using these forces to create a greater whole through willing cooperation. The true Spirit of America is a gift we can give to the rest of the world, whose light can outshine a past of greed and violence.

Our deepest goals are rarely material or economic. They include love and being loved, feeling of value to others, knowing we have something to contribute. They embrace friendship, peace, security, health, well-being, adventure, joy, passion and spirit. They encompass meaningfulness and purpose of our life; growth, fullness, and experience; successful meeting of challenges; knowledge and expansion of our own capabilities. It's time to remember and embrace those goals - for our entire global family. They can change the world:

1. End terrorism - Let's start with our own actions, and permanently dismantle our hated "School of the Americas" terrorist training center in Georgia, and any similar institutions. End our assassinations of foreign leaders and support of repressive regimes. (We have assassinated at least 8 foreign leaders in the last 50 years, and Presidents Clinton and Bush have acknowledged at least four attempts to kill bin Laden.) Stop our sales of 68% of the weapons sold to developing countries. End our embargo against civilian Iraq which has already resulted in over 100,000 innocent Iraqi children dead of slow starvation. Let's continue to seek, as we have, international rather than unilateral action in response to acts of terrorism. Let's bring the individuals and organizations accused before impartial international justice, not just bomb them into oblivion. Any party to a conflict can make a persuasive case for their position and actions. We need to hear all sides, and to extend to others our judicial beliefs of "innocent until proved guilty". It is the only position that can lead to true justice and to respect before the world. Let's reduce the causes of terrorism, and join together internationally to deal with the fanatics that remain.

2. Achieve energy independence - Domestic energy sources continue to decline. Our dependence on imports increases, and with it our trade imbalances and entanglements such as Vietnam, Libya, Iraq, the Persian Gulf, and now Afghanistan. Solar and energy efficiency can reduce building and industrial energy use 90%, saving money as well. Accelerated introduction of "Hypercars" can replace our existing vehicle fleet with 100mpg cars in five years. We can reduce our oil need 90% in five years. Get our economy moving - fine - but lets do it by producing things that make a real difference. Busses, not bombs; high-speed trains, not airline bailouts; homes ten times as efficient as today's.

3. Get out of debt - Foreign debts and draconian measures to bring debtor countries into unfair trade agreements are one of the root causes of international anger against our "global" culture. Forgiving debts we knew would lead to such results is an essential first step. Getting out of debt at home individually, as businesses, and as a nation is the same as increasing our incomes by 20% - what we all pay for interest charges. Pledge that 20% to help the rest of the world.

4. Require fair wages - People are starving even in our own country. It is criminal to me to allow a person to be paid a wage less than one quarter of a minimum "living wage." Quadruple the minimum wage, locally or nationally, and reduce government aid spending in the process. Tax the wealthy to restore economic equity. Equity, practical compassion, and social justice are the cornerstones of Muslim culture. Can't we do as much?

5. Establish fair trade - "Free trade" is freedom only for the powerful to exploit the poor. It allows moving money and resources, but doesn't allow people to move where wages or living conditions are better. Its results are not justified - transfer of more wealth to the wealthy, at the expense of the poor. Turn GATT and NAFTA upside down. Our trade agreements need to be public and democratic, not secret; determined by sovereign governments, not private corporations; judicated by impartial public bodies, not the corporations themselves; and supportive of fair wages, environmental health, local autonomy, and improving quality of life - everywhere. Dismantle the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund which have been instrumental in destroying the autonomous economy of country after country, and replace them with institutions enabling each country to develop their own way of life.

6. Stabilize our population, help others stabilize theirs - Growth is the root source of so many of our world problems. Many people familiar with the problem say that economic equity and security, education, empowerment of women, prevention of unwanted births, and reduction of incentives for greater consumption are all that is needed to achieve stabilization. We now spend 33-40% of our national income to pay for growth. Think what a difference those resources could make in other people's lives.

7. Share with others - We have more than is fair. Some of it can be shared with the rest of the world with no loss to ourselves. A videotaped college lecture can be shared worldwide by satellite and internet - giving the world free education. It costs us nothing to share with the world what we've learned about increasing resource and economic productivity, or the benefits of clean water on health. Stabilizing growth, improving equity, and reducing debt can maintain our present well-being with 80% less resources. Couldn't we share a big part of that to improve the well-being of others?

8. Help everyone achieve local food self-sufficiency - This is basic. Without it, people are forced into terms of trade they have no power to affect, and further impoverishment. With it comes power to determine their own lives, culture, and relationship with others.

9. Stop discounting the future - If we want a positive future, we need to understand what comprises and generates that future, and take the steps to achieve it. A central element of our economics has been discounting the future - analytically and in real life. We already live in that future, have received significant reduction in our well-being, and are faced now with a future of strife, terrorism, reduction in civil liberties, global warming and pain. An economics of wholeness, which shows true costs and doesn't discount the future, can produce ten-fold improvement in our entire economy. Evaluation of CEO's based on achieving long-term benefits rather than immediate resource liquidation can align business practices with public good. As farmers say, "Don't eat your seed corn."

10. Restore values and the sacred to our lives and culture - Start on the street. Every purchase we make is based on deceit. Prices that make us think we're paying less than we are, packaging that confuses and makes comparison difficult, hidden financing costs, manipulative advertising. Honest and helpful pricing can restore respect to our transactions. Take sex and body parts off of our magazine covers and out of our ads. It offends, degrades, exploits basic human nature. It perverts, corrupts and debases the wonder and beauty of sex, love, passion, and beauty into a tool to deceive us yet again. In traditional Japan, nudity and mixed bathing were commonplace, but photographs of naked people considered obscene. Intention and exploitation are offensive, not how much of our bodies are covered. In the aftermath of September 11, people are suddenly offended by advertising. Feel in yourself why that is so, and remember advertising raises prices of many products by another 20%.

A path away from terrorism is possible. It arises most often from a history of true injustice. The August interview with former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark in The Sun indicates we have caused some of that injustice. Our path begins by taking steps to put people before profit, caring before greed, justice, equity and compassion before all else.


Tom Bender is recipient of national and international awards for his seminal work in development of sustainable economics, communities and design. His latest book, LEARNING TO COUNT WHAT REALLY COUNTS, details the workings of Factor Ten economics.

© Tom Bender
15 October 2001
38755 Reed Rd.
Nehalem OR 97131