Good living as country project

Global trajectory is social and environmentally unsustainable. It is imperative to change the course and way of functioning. Where should we go and which will be the new way of functioning? One alternative option to concentrating savagery is to adopt good living as country project.

Dismantling the unbridled process of concentration of wealth and decisional power is a critical imperative. By doing so, a still-untrodden promissory path opens that demands creating beyond what has been imposed as immutable truth. Today, the economy weighs heavily and subordinates the rest; it requires transcendent changes. However, despite being of strategic importance, this transformation is not enough to configure itself as sufficient condition. We need to work simultaneously on important aspects of politics, the media, the judiciary, education, health, science and technology, popular settlements.

Adopting good living as country project sets a critical inflection point, one of the many that have marked the march of humanity. As such, it is not a model of an already formed and completed country but rather a construction to be made, attending to the singularities and times of each society. Good living as country project entails reorienting national effort from serving privileged minorities to benefiting the entire population and the environment. It would be a collective construction, thus not just by small groups who of course contribute to that.

Cutting off the Gordian knot[1] to open a promissory path

Economic functioning cannot be transformed without changing the organizing principle that today guides practically all economic actors, maximizing profit. It is a principle that allows for producing a diversity of goods and services, some of which infringe upon humanity and nevertheless obtain large profits. Some examples are production of massive destruction weapons, speculative financial services, luxury goods for ostentatious minorities, medicines that do not cure but prolong treatments, non-productive speculative appropriation of urban and rural land, drug, people, and organ trafficking, among many others.

Maximizing profits not only guides what to produce but also how, where, and how much, as well as when to stop producing without considering the impacts in jobs and setbacks of whole territories. If we do not change the organizing principle, repeatedly the power of profit owners will resurface to impose greed and selfishness.

It is worth highlighting that good living does not give up having an efficient economic system; it wants to change the course and way of functioning of the existent productive system so that its north becomes serving general wellbeing and environment protection. The organizing principle changes but the economy is not destroyed, its effectiveness is reinforced on other bases, no longer maximizing profits but rather producing what serves the population without destroying the environment. Existent assets are preserved and they are given a reason to exist, another way of functioning. A tremendous double challenge is displacing those who have risen as helmspersons of humanity, leading social coalitions capable of making and sustaining the transformation and, at the same time, establishing the still inexistent new, create, probe, and consecrate it with the consequent successes, mistakes, advances and setbacks.

How do we achieve it? Good living is sustained on a new group of game rules. Those who establish them are multiple actors and not the few owners of wealth and decisional power. That is, money owners do not decide but rather the population through their legitimate representatives in liberated democracies. It is about a political rearrangement based on the clarification of popular sectors and their organization, whose emergence and development will adopt the forms that each society is able to define.

New rules of the game are expressed through public policies and regulations that operate over how and who generate surpluses, applied to what purposes, which are their timeframes and sequences. This demands diverse actions (aforementioned in an article regarding the foundational steps towards good living), such as clearing detours that generate productive matrix bottlenecks, dismantling oligopolistic schemes, adopting redistributive modalities within value chains, solving capital flight of large evaders, transforming financial system to favor work instead of speculation, establishing a progressive tax system. Other examples are allocating public spending towards social debt and strategic projects, selecting foreign investments that serve good living, assuring that foreign trade facilitates the retention and reinvestment of surpluses in the own country, guaranteeing lands for popular settlements and family agriculture. In addition, using as much as possible renewable commodities and prudently caring for the non-renewable ones, promoting proximity production to minimize transportation distances.

In markets where powerful actors have at their disposal mechanisms and complicities to evade regulations and responsibilities, the State cannot limit itself to establishing rules of the game to orientate the economy towards good living, but also it has to gather the necessary power and control capabilities to verify compliances.

A tricky matter, not simple but necessary to solve, is to establish new decisional vectors at the level of owners and senior management of large corporations. Even though public policies and regulations condition those decisions, in many cases this might not be enough. Work in various other fronts is needed. One of them, seemingly naïve but worth exploring is trying to clarify groups of shareholders—owners of corporations—about the imperious need for replacing the principle of maximizing profits by good living. Some shareholders could accompany this construction by instructing the board and senior management to, without losing efficiency, change objectives and way of functioning; other shareholders might not accept that because they operate clutched to preserving privileges and profits. It will be necessary to search for legal and legitimate modalities for removing them as, for example, by facilitating that non-conventional actors acquire shares, being those public-private trusts created for that purpose, non-profit development organizations, universities, scientific, technological, or religious  entities, among others. There is still too mucho to be conceived within this critical dimension.

Economic transformation, indispensable though not sufficient condition

Despite having mentioned it before, as the end of these lines approaches, it is worth insisting on that though economic transformation is indispensable for advancing towards good living; however, much to the regret of economists, it cannot constitute by itself a sufficient condition. Changes in economic system must be done within the context of equally important changes in politics, the media, and judicial system; even going from the banality of befuddling shows to those that clarify about social inequalities, inequities, illegitimate privileges, popular feelings that those who dominate want to hide or negatively stereotype. This is how Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the author of Cien años de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude), expressed it when he was recriminated about his incidence on the television series scripts, “one of my best sellers is read, luckily, by a couple dozen millions of people while a successful TV series accesses hundreds of millions of consciences.”

Good living as global project

We have focused on good living as country project because there are strong reasons to transform and reorganize national economic system. However, it is not possible to ignore that many global factors harshly condition the march of the country. In more than one sense, they present themselves as unreachable structural parameters that make for the context in which each country operates. A truth well known by history is hidden; that parameters exist but can be modified and that, in fact, the sudden or subtle transformation of the parameters is what explains that there is no immutable system nor one that enjoys impunity permanently. An Ernesto Sabato’s quote to which I call upon frequently highlighted this, “Eternal Systems have a characteristic, they last very little. They all aspire to the Absolute Truth, but history of philosophy is the history of Systems, that is, the history of the Fall of Systems.”

Hopefully, a time will arrive where good living besides being a country project becomes a global project.

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[1] . Gordian knot refers to a difficulty that cannot be solved, an obstacle hard to overcome, of difficult solution or outcome, especially when this situation only admits creative solutions, or from lateral thinking.

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