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'The Plant of Civilization Belongs to the Community '

by Frances Hutchinson

Originally published as an editorial in the Winter 2008 issue of The Social Crediter

When I returned to study and research into economic, social and environmental issues in the late 1980s, after a gap of almost three decades, I was under the impression that I must have missed a great deal of significant thought.

Hence I read through volumes of material, including Susan George, How the Other Half Dies: The Real Reason for World Hunger (1976) and A Fate Worse Than Debt: A Radical New Analysis of the Third World Debt Crisis (1988), Rachel Carson Silent Spring (1962), Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, Wendell Berry, What are People For?, Joanna Blythman, Shopped: The Shocking Power of British Supermarkets, Terry Boardman, Mapping the Millennium, Richard Body, Agriculture: The Triumph and the Shame, Douglas Booth, The Environmental Consequences of Growth, Barbara Brant, Whole Life Economics, Gideon Burrows, The No-Nonsense Guide to the Arms Trade, Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power, Michel Chossudovsky, The Globalisation of Poverty, Andree Collard and Joyce Contrucci, The Rape of the World, David Cronwell, Private Planet, Herman Daly, Towards a Steady-State Economy, Herman Daly and John B. Cobb, For the Common Good, Richard Douthwaite, The Growth Illusion, John Kenneth Galbraith, The Age of Uncertainty, The Affluent Society, (and many others), Graham Harvey, The Killing of the Countryside, Robert L. Heilbroner, The Making of Economic Society, Hazel Henderson, The Politics of the Solar Age, Colin Hines, Localisation: A Global Manifesto, Mae-Wan Ho, Genetic Engineering; Dream or Nightmare?, Richard Mabey, The Common Ground, H.J. Massingham, The Wisdom of the Fields, and The Tree of Life, Sean McDonagh, To Care for the Earth, Alastair McIntosh, Soil and Soul, John McMurtry, The Cancer Stage of Capitalism, James E. Meade, The Stationary Economy, Donella Meadows et al, The Limits to Growth, Susan Meaker-Lowry, Invested in the Common Good, Kenneth Mellanby, Can Britain Feed Itself?, Carolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature, Mary Midgely, The Myths We Live By, Maria Mies, Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale, Michael Northcott, An Angel Directs the Storm: Apocalyptic Religion and American Empire, Gunnar Myrdal, The Challenge of World Poverty, Norman Myers, The Gaia Atlas of Planet Management, Richard Norton-Taylor, Whose Land is it Anyway?, Paul Omerod, The Death Of Economics, David W. Orr, Earth in Mind, Winin Pereira and Jeremy Seabrook, Asking the Earth, Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation, Clive Pontin, The Green History of the World, Arundhat Roy, The Algebra of Infinite Justice, E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful, Joni Seager, Earth Follies, Dorothy and Walter Schwarz, Breaking Through, John Seymour and Herbert Giradet, Blueprint for a Green Planet, Vandana Shiva, Staying Alive, Charlene Spretnak, The Spiritual Dimensions of Green Politics, E.P. Thompson, Customs in Common, Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees, Our Ecological Footprint, Barbara Ward, Progress for a Small Planet, and Ellen Meiksins Wood, The Origins of Capitalism.

These are all substantial works which have been reviewed in quality journals, most of them during the 1990s. They form the tip of the iceberg of works being produced in the late 20th century by a 'writership and for a readership seriously concerned at the headlong rush of humanity towards, social, military or ecological disaster. Each of these works and there are many, many more than those cited above have involved great sacrifices on the part of the authors, as every writer will know. They have not been written to make money for the authors, nor to further a career in business, academia or the mass media. More often than not, the writers have found doors closed against them, or that at best they have been shunted into a backwater. They express dissatisfaction with the glowing illusion of materialism, with its quick fixes based on sham solutions to fundamental problems. The target readership is people who desire the challenge of good work, with time to be with their children, the natural world and above all themselves as human beings. The alternative is ugliness, emptiness, uncertainty and a sense of powerlessness in the economic, political and cultural spheres of life.

On the whole, the works cited above lack an analysis of the root causes of the problems, despite the fact that such analysis has been available since the first three decades of 20th century. For example, the early works of Douglas, published between 1918 and 1925, were written well before the Wall Street Crash, the fall of the Labour Government in 1931, the depression years of the 1930s, the rise of Hitler as German dictator, the election of a social credit government in Alberta and World War II. Through his meticulous analysis of the interactions between the institutions of finance and the practical realities of production, distribution and exchange, Douglas was able to predict the likely outcomes of policy decisions in the economic sphere with unerring accuracy. Furthermore, Douglas indicated the likely impact of specific economic policies on the political and cultural spheres.

It was a time of optimism, when it seemed possible that each and every individual might, as a member of a particular community, take an intelligent interest in the determination of economic policy. In an address given to the students at Ruskin College, Oxford, in June 1920, Douglas captured this mood, observing that the individual, in free association with others in community, is rightly the determinant of policy. Since 'the plant of civilization belongs to the community ', no individual or group should be in a position to control policy in their own interests. The free association of individuals cannot be over-ruled by individual profiteers, the 'workers or a centralized bureaucratic state. For Douglas, 'the only possible method by which the highest civilization can be reached is to make it impossible for either the State or any other body to apply economic pressure to any individual.

This philosophy was diametrically opposed to any form of authoritarian dictatorship or bureaucratic central planning. In the text quoted above Douglas was speaking to an Oxford college at the heart of the new thinking. Industrialisation had emerged through the ruthless individualistic capitalist exploitation of the workers and the land, culminating in world war. Ruskin College encapsulated the aspirations of a generation of young people seeking new ways of working together to create communities of free individuals. As the subsequent history of the 20th century shows, these aspirations were corrupted into the 'beggar-my-neighbour philosophy of careerism in politics, business and academia. However, in the 21st century surviving texts from the 1920s and 1930s, which are now becoming available through electronic technology, can almost seem to have been written with the present generation of young people in mind. It is as though The Great War from which we are emerging is not just that of 1914-18, but that of the whole of the 20th century.

In this issue of The Social Crediter the reader is introduced to texts which circulated outside academia and mainstream political circles when originally written. The time is ripe for these texts to be the subject of serious debate in political parties of all persuasions, throughout the voluntary sector, and above all in the universities and institutes of higher learning. In this way, the young people of today may perhaps develop constructive alternatives to the disastrous policies of the 20th century.

For the entire issue of The Social Crediter, back issues and other Social Credit materials, go to www.douglassocialcredit.com


The Purpose of Economic Activity

Extract from speech by Clifford Hugh Douglas Ruskin College, Oxford, June 1920

The primary object of the whole industrial system should be the delivery to individuals, associated together as the public, or society, of the material goods and services they individually require. This demand of individuals, be it emphasized, is the absolute origin of all activity.

Since men co-operate to satisfy this demand, which is complex in nature, it is necessary to combine the demand, and this combined demand of society is the policy, so far as it is economic, of society as a whole.
The first part of the problem, then, consists in finding a mechanism which will impose this policy on the co-operating producers with the maximum of effectiveness, which always means the minimum of friction.

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