Introduction | Worldview | Criteria | Declaration | Vision | Interviews
The following statement describes America as it could be in thirty years if the American people united to make it happen.
|A Vision for a More Peaceful World|
|by Wade Hudson|
The United States of America has the look and feel of a new society. We're not perfect, but we've made much progress, especially in the last ten years. We're more democratic and more caring. Individually, most of us usually feel inward peace. As a society, we’re generally peaceful. And as a country, we’ve been at peace for more than two decades.
Our primary purpose is to create healthy living conditions so that all people can enjoy life, become better human beings, and enrich their lives and the lives of their communities.
The American people have asserted their power, established mechanisms that give all people a real voice in their lives, and demanded that elected officials respect the will of the people.
The country as a whole insists that governments regulate the economy effectively and wisely. And corporations are required to serve the public interest as well as make money.
All workers earn a living wage and receive at least one month's paid vacation each year, as well as paid family leave in the event of a medical emergency or the birth of a child.
Workers who can't find a job in private business, or who prefer public service, go to the local employment office and get referred to a meaningful public-service job.
The Earned Income Tax Credit provides low-wage workers with tax rebates that are sufficient to assure an adequate income for families with children. The minimum wage provides single workers with enough income to make ends meet.
Universal health insurance protects everyone from being thrown into poverty by a sudden illness or accident.
Social Security benefits provide retired persons with enough income to live decently.
Due to increased non-profit housing and effective rent control, affordable housing is assured everyone.
A new federal farm program has led to a rapid growth in sustainable, diversified, organic family farms. This rebirth in local agriculture has revitalized small towns throughout the country.
In these and other ways, basic economic security for all who are willing to work is guaranteed (though most people are still motivated to improve their lot by working hard). This underlying foundation of economic security enables people to focus on appreciating each moment without worrying about the future.
|The Good Life|
Since Americans are now more relaxed about their financial situation, they more fully use their free time to pursue their heart's desire.
They play with children, relatives, lovers, and friends.
They paint, learn photography, write poetry, play music, beautify their homes, cultivate gardens, and pursue a wide variety of other creative activities.
They participate in the religious community of their choice, exchange email with people throughout the world, join book clubs, volunteer at community centers, work with grassroots political organizations, perform in church plays, and take part in civic life in any number of other ways.
They read and surf the Web and go to lifelong learning centers.
They join support groups with people who share similar histories, take self-improvement classes of all sorts, meditate, pray, learn how to relax, appreciate solitude, and practice doing nothing.
They exercise and play sports.
They dance and go to movies and concerts.
They hike in the woods, enjoy waterfalls, camp, travel, watch birds, listen to the ocean, sail, surf, watch falling stars, listen to crickets, and learn to love nature in all sorts of ways.
Increasingly, businesses are employee-owned and -controlled. On the basis of one vote for each worker, employee-owners elect their governing board members.
In addition, workers generally have a major voice in running their business, including the selection of supervisors. Truly democratic work teams are commonplace.
By giving substantial tax breaks and other support to businesses that adopt employee-controlled status, society has actively encouraged this form of enterprise. The percentage of employee-controlled businesses grows each year, resulting in increased morale, productivity, and job security. These businesses tend to be smaller and rooted in local communities -- so they are less likely to move to other countries than is the case with corporations controlled by outside investors.
Businesses can no longer fire union organizers or hire replacement workers without being severely penalized. Unions are recognized when a majority of workers sign union cards.
Unions are more democratic than they used to be. Most unions, for example, now elect their national leadership directly, which was not the case decades ago. In addition, secondary boycotts are allowed so that unions can support one another's strikes.
Consequently, most workers in investor-owned businesses belong to unions. This overall strengthening of unions has boosted wages and job security.
Economic security and improved working conditions have led to less urgency about getting promoted and being "top dog." Workers are learning how to be more cooperative. Cutthroat competition is fading. People learn self-respect based on simply being human and doing their best, rather than dominating people whom they consider inferior. Increasingly, people respect each other as human beings of equal worth. Relationships characterized by domination and submission are diminishing as self-determination and mutual support blossom.
As stated in the Preamble to the Constitution, government's main focus now is to "promote the general welfare." If one person is left behind, no one is secure. If anyone is considered "disposable," everyone faces the threat of neglect. If the liberty of one person is denied unfairly, no one is free. So as a society, we now affirm that all people are entitled to fundamental human rights, including the means to live a fruitful life as each person chooses (so long as she or he does not violate the rights of others).
We, the people of the United States, assure that all children grow up in families that have sufficient income and other resources to meet their children's basic needs. When needed, families receive tax credits that enable their children to live decently.
High-quality childcare is available for all children. A substantial increase in salaries and training for childcare workers has resulted in a major improvement in the quality of childcare centers.
Parents who need it receive an in-home caregiver's grant during the first three years of a child's life so that one parent can care for infants and toddlers full-time when they choose to do so. Similar in-home support is offered to family members who wish to care for frail relatives.
A sufficient number of after-school programs have greatly reduced the old problem of school-age children being left home alone.
Throughout the country, small crisis centers assist victims of physical and sexual abuse. Public funding is adequate to establish enough centers so that people can receive help when they need it.
The United States also provides high-quality services to people who are afflicted with disabling personal problems, such as substance abuse or being seriously troubled emotionally or mentally. Again, public funding has been increased sufficiently to assure that these services are available on demand to those who need and want them.
These centers offer peer counseling, self-learning, support groups, many varieties of counseling and therapy, and holistic alternatives such as diet, exercise, meditation, breathing exercises, and natural remedies. Psychiatrists are available to prescribe psychiatric drugs to clients who want and need them.
Because the availability of meaningful living-wage employment provides clients with more incentive to deal with their problems, users of mental-health services are now better able to become independent than was the case when economic insecurity and dead-end jobs awaited people leaving similar programs.
Support services, workplace accommodations, and wage subsidies enable people with disabilities to make ends meet while working to the degree that they are able.
Throughout society, decision-making is decentralized and democratized as much as possible. In schools, for example, students, parents, teachers, and principals increasingly work together as partners, each with a real voice in how the school operates. Nursing homes are learning how to involve residents and staff in vigorous, productive discussions and joint decisions that shape the operation of these facilities. Health services fund more consumer-operated mental-health services, including user-run drop-in centers, as well as small residential crisis centers operated on the self-help model. These community-support efforts have increased the formation of lasting friendships and cooperative problem-solving.
Most federal funds for social-service programs are distributed to state and local governments, which administer programs within broad federal guidelines. This decentralization maximizes local community participation in funding decisions and oversight. As a result, programs are less bureaucratic and more responsive to local needs.
In all of these ways, the United States has become a much more caring and democratic society.
Establishing economic security and economic justice has resulted in a steady decrease in crime and a more peaceful social environment. However, some people still violate the rights of others. These people are handled by a criminal justice system that differs dramatically from the system in place at the beginning of this century. Vengeance and cruelty are less common. Incarceration is considered sufficient punishment in and of itself. Since living conditions for lower-income people have been dramatically improved, the denial of liberty is more of a punishment than it used to be.
We’ve eliminated the inhuman conditions that used to drive prisoners crazy, created deep resentments, and fostered more crime. We employ imprisonment without possibility of parole rather than the death penalty, which we abolished.
Whenever possible, people who commit crimes are required to engage in restitution or some form of repayment to the victims of their crimes. Education about the consequences of crime and other social rehabilitation services are offered to prisoners as a way to reduce future crime. If prisoners prefer to be left alone and simply do their time, however, they can.
Once prisoners are released, they are again eligible for all public services and entitled to vote.
With assistance from strong civilian review boards, police departments have rooted out brutality and corruption. All police officers now see themselves as servants of the people, peacemakers, and mediators. The extensive use of foot patrols in urban areas contributes to higher quality, more personal police work.
Vigorous prosecution of white-collar crime has led to a greater sense of fairness. The criminal justice system now takes seriously crimes such as embezzlement, fraud, price-fixing, insider trading, malfeasance, and tax evasion, whether committed by corporations or individuals.
The United States fully affirms liberty and self-determination throughout society. Governments deny the liberty of an individual only if and when that individual has violated the rights of another human being. Otherwise, people are free to do as they choose. The right of privacy is consistently respected.
A woman's right to choose whether to give birth is effectively protected. Abortion clinics and their staff are guarded against threats of violence. Opponents of abortion who utilize or threaten violence are vigorously prosecuted. At the same time, society has greatly increased support services for women who wish to have their children adopted and has boosted funding for sex education and contraceptives as a way to help prevent unwanted pregnancies.
The gap in pay between women and men working in the same occupation is being steadily reduced. Victims of wage discrimination can now effectively sue employers. In combination with an educational campaign directed at employers, this threat of legal action has encouraged equal pay for equal work.
Discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation has virtually disappeared. Gay and lesbian people have the same rights that heterosexual people have.
Because health and social-service centers are attractive, comfortable, available on demand, truly supportive, and voluntary, people in need utilize them more than was the case decades ago, when large numbers of troubled people wandered the streets in a daze, afraid to go to unfriendly, coercive, paternalistic, and over-crowded institutions.
Because meaningful living-wage job opportunities are guaranteed and high-quality health and human services are available on demand, involuntary poverty no longer drives people into the self-destructive forms of behavior that used to be associated with victimless crimes. These improvements facilitated the decriminalization of behaviors that do not involve violating the rights of others, such as the use of mind-altering drugs, prostitution, and merely drinking alcohol in public.
Mind-altering drugs are distributed at health clinics, along with educational materials about their dangers. These same centers offer counseling and rehabilitation programs to people who want to change their habits. Decriminalization has taken the profit out of the black-market drug business and eliminated the violence and crime previously associated with drug dealing.
Thus, our society supports both individual liberty and community support. By encouraging each person to discover his or her own path, people are better able to develop satisfying relationships when they want to do so. By preventing governmental intrusion into private matters, we're better able to focus government activities on public issues.
Self-determination is also affirmed in the classroom, where students are encouraged to pursue their curiosity at their own pace and help each other solve problems. Appropriate learning tools are available to students in a joyous, largely self-directed approach to learning and discovery. Classrooms are much smaller. Teachers and teachers' aides are much better paid. Teachers encourage students to think for themselves. Schools facilitate participation in extra-curricular and service-learning activities. Teaching the philosophy and methods of non-violence and conflict-resolution permeates all school systems. Since children learn that they can do what they want so long as they don't violate the rights of others, they're able to protect their own integrity as they mature.
Publicly funded, multi-purpose community centers serve as places where people connect and form friendships. Some of these centers are neighborhood-based; others are rooted in specific common interests. Many utilize space at public schools at night and on weekends. These community centers offer a variety of educational, recreational, self-help, cultural, and creative activities. Life-long learning opportunities for adults are a common component. In order to assure that all people have the opportunity to participate in a rich community life, our society dedicates sufficient funds to support as many of these centers as are needed.
Believing that everyone benefits from the empowerment of others, our society has resolved to steadily reduce racial injustice. The number of staff people investigating charges of discrimination, especially in employment and housing, has been greatly increased, as have the penalties. We’ve resolved to eliminate all forms of institutional racism.
Colleges, universities, businesses, and public agencies fully incorporate individuals from groups who have been historically disadvantaged, including lower-income people, people of color, and women. As a result, these institutions now relate more effectively with the communities that they serve.
Speaking on behalf of the people of the United States, the federal government has officially apologized to African Americans for the institution of slavery and begun paying reparations for slavery and the official discrimination that followed it. These payments are made to non-profit organizations that provide assistance to African Americans based on need.
The sovereignty of Native American nations has been reaffirmed and strengthened. Employment programs and social services are fully available on tribal lands.
Legal immigrants to this country are eligible for all human services and public assistance. We treat undocumented immigrants with dignity and respect their human rights. All undocumented immigrants can receive public health care and their children can attend public school. People awaiting deportation are no longer detained in jails, but are held under humane conditions with access to legal services.
We discourage illegal immigration by assisting economic development in less developed countries, so that prosperity in those countries will enable their citizens to remain in their homeland, as they generally prefer. Because some illegal immigration is inevitable and undocumented immigrants are vulnerable to exploitation, occasional amnesties allow undocumented immigrants to remain in this country legally and receive the full rights and benefits accorded all legal immigrants.
The federal government has raised the funds required for needed programs by reducing military spending and increasing taxes on the rich, the super-rich, and large businesses. In addition, steady economic growth has boosted federal tax revenues.
Tax rates, graduated according to ability to pay, enable the wealthy to give back to society part of what they owe for all that they have received from society at large, including infrastructure, property rights, cultural inheritance, stability, and other forms of support.
As a result, the gap between the rich and the poor has been substantially reduced, which has lessened resentments, hostility, and self-destructive behavior that previously were more severe among lower-income people. These improvements have contributed to a more peaceful social environment, which benefits everyone, including higher-income people.
Since lower-income people now have enough income to make ends meet, they are healthier, happier, and better educated. Consequently, they are more productive at work, which benefits higher-income people and businesses. In addition, lower-income people now hold more purchasing power, which also benefits higher-income people, because more consumers are able to buy more products.
In these ways, the payment of more taxes by higher-income people and businesses enables an upward spiral of positive growth throughout society, which indirectly and constantly boosts the incomes of everyone, including the wealthy. Awareness of these ripple effects has led to "enlightened self-interest" among many higher-income people, who have supported fair taxation in order to contribute to the transformation of our society.
As expected, increased economic growth has contributed to inflationary pressures. But society no longer allows a bank-dominated Federal Reserve to deal with the threat of excessive inflation by keeping interest rates unduly high, which dampened the economy, lowered wages, and created unemployment. In the past, this strategy protected the wealthy at the expense of the general welfare. Rather, the Federal Reserve now includes representatives from all sectors of society and is no longer controlled by the super-rich for their own benefit. Society as a whole now controls inflation with strategies that are more beneficial to all people.
Representatives from labor, business, and government meet regularly in a wage-price council. This council determines a fair rate of profitability for each industry, the overall rate of inflation, and the productivity growth in each industry (when productivity increases, the same number of workers produces more than they did before, which enables workers to earn higher wages without lowering profits). Based on these three factors -- profitability, inflation, and productivity -- the council sets standards for wage and price increases that do not risk runaway inflation or damage competitiveness, while allowing a fair return to investors. These standards guide labor-business negotiations concerning wages and benefits.
When particular businesses ignore these standards and raise prices excessively, government officials (including the President) and advocacy organizations engage in widespread and relentless campaigns to educate the public about the price gouging. When necessary, they lead consumer boycotts against particular businesses. A few highly successful boycotts years ago made the point. Most businesses now respect the standards set by the wage-price council and limit their price increases to a reasonable level.
Government agencies also regulate prices in areas that are not subject to competitive pressures because they are inherently highly centralized. These areas include water, electricity, and airlines. The tendency to deregulate these industries that was prominent in the early years of this century has been reversed. In the case of electricity, government bodies on all levels have assumed increasing responsibility for the production of electric power.
Public income-assistance, such as Social Security, increases automatically based on the rate of inflation.
Local governments limit rent increases on residential and commercial properties at levels that allow property owners to earn a fair return on their investment.
The government's new farm policy stabilizes food prices.
All of these methods in combination control inflation and have resulted in acceptable, predictable, modest price increases throughout the economy, without imposing hardship on anyone.
A stronger economy has added to the need to minimize impacts on the environment. Now that we have established a foundation of economic security for all and our focus is on the quality of life, society is better able to secure Earth's bounty for future generations because there is less anxiety about supposedly having to choose between "jobs" and "the environment."
Our society now uses renewable resources -- such as water, soil, forest products, and marine life -- without exceeding the rates of regeneration for those resources. We minimize depletion of non-renewable resources -- such as fossil fuels -- by maximizing conservation, greatly expanding public transit systems, encouraging workers to live close to their workplace, eliminating gas-guzzling automobiles, and relying increasingly on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Due to its inherent danger, we’re eliminating nuclear energy as a source of electricity.
We require that all development avoid damaging the ability of future generations to meet their needs. We're steadily recovering endangered species and damaged ecosystems. We've stopped the introduction of harmful or potentially dangerous genetically modified organisms. We no longer allow the build-up of radioactive, toxic, or other hazardous substances. We recycle most materials, ensure that the environment can assimilate waste naturally, and prohibit the production of materials that can't be recycled or assimilated.
The necessity to safeguard Mother Earth has contributed to the clear recognition that property rights are limited. Since society grants and defines the rights associated with property ownership, society has the right to set conditions on those rights, including restraining property owners in advance from damaging the public interest. Although courts and legislatures have long recognized the legitimacy of such restraints, political rhetoric about the alleged absolute rights of property owners confused the issue for decades. Now, the duty of property owners to protect the public interest is widely accepted as valid.
In order to establish clearly that society can legitimately restrain property rights, we’ve adopted an amendment to the United States Constitution that:
1) Clarifies that since corporations are not persons, they are not automatically entitled to any of the rights afforded persons under the Constitution. Rather, corporations are entitled only those specific rights granted by legislation.
2) Authorizes governments to protect the general welfare when needed by limiting profits to a fair return on investment. (This amendment thus settled the previous controversy surrounding measures such as local rent control laws and zoning codes that limit development.)
3) Authorizes governments to limit spending on political campaigns in order to ensure all citizens a more equal opportunity to participate in the political process, prevent the corruption of our republican form of government, and improve public confidence in government.
Many other reforms have strengthened corporate accountability as well.
Members of boards of directors are now personally liable for malfeasance perpetrated by management. Moreover, board members and executives who knowingly market products that cause death or serious injury are subject to criminal penalties.
Public auditors, funded with fees paid by the finance industry, now monitor money-market firms, as they had supervised commercial banks for decades.
New and re-issued corporate charters now include requirements that each corporation include on its board of directors representatives from its employees as well as stakeholders from each community where the corporation is headquartered. These local representatives are appointed by locally elected governmental bodies. Charters also stipulate that for-profit corporations must protect the environment, the public safety, and the human rights of their employees, including economic rights.
State governments now automatically review corporate charters every thirty years. Corporations that have had top-level executives convicted of multiple crimes, or otherwise violated their public trust, cannot have their charter renewed and must go out of business. Whenever a sufficient number of complaints are filed against a particular corporation, state governments hold public hearings on charter renewals.
The federal government vigorously enforces antitrust laws to prevent large corporations from using unfair business practices to monopolize economic power. Federal, state, and local governments encourage the development of small-scale, local enterprises, especially worker-owned businesses. Zoning laws are used to preserve the unique character of existing communities, protect the viability of independent businesses, and control the spread of homogenous chain stores.
In general, free-market competition sets prices and investment decisions are made privately. Public regulation, however, is well established in certain essential areas such as rent control and agriculture, as well in businesses such as airlines and electrical utilities that are inherently concentrated. And public ownership is accepted when needed, as with parks, highways, airports, and the printing of money.
In particular, corporate media is an ongoing focus of federal anti-trust action. Around the turn of the 21st century, the federal government allowed media giants to own more and more media outlets, both in particular cities and throughout the country. This concentration of the public airwaves in the hands of a few corporations resulted in a bias in the flow of information that favored corporations and super-wealthy individuals. In recent years, this trend has been reversed.
Corporate media conglomerates have been forced to divest themselves of their outlets. Massive public support for non-profit, non-commercial media outlets has resulted in a dramatic increase in the diversity of programming and publications. Recognizing that a truly free "marketplace of ideas" is essential for a democracy, the federal government has distributed substantial grants to non-profit, member-controlled media outlets for the purchase of transmitters and other essential equipment.
In addition to limiting the power of corporations in general, a number of other steps have been taken to strengthen popular power by making elections more democratic. In particular, public financing of campaigns and reasonable limits on political contributions have leveled the playing field, strengthened the relative voice of ordinary Americans, enhanced competitiveness in elections, produced more choices, increased interest in politics, and reduced the unfair power of incumbents, wealthy individuals, and large corporations.
All federal elections are held on a weekend to increase voter turnout. Voters can register at any time, including on voting day, and can vote by mail. Former prisoners are entitled to vote. In exchange for their ability to use the public airwaves, television networks are required to provide extensive, free airtime to candidates for public office to present their views and engage in debate with one another.
Most jurisdictions now use instant-runoff voting. Voters can vote for only one candidate, or they can rank candidates in order of preference (first, second, third choice, etc.). If no candidate receives a majority of first choices, the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated and the second choice of those voters who ranked that candidate first are counted, and so forth, until one candidate has a majority. This approach avoids the need for runoff elections, which are costly and usually attract lower turnouts. With instant-runoff voting, voters don't have to vote for the "lesser of two evils". Rather, they can vote for those candidates they like most without worrying that their vote will help candidates they like least. Consequently, the electoral arena includes more diversity. Since more voters have choices that appeal to them, interest in politics has increased. Since winners may need the second choices from opponents' supporters, instant runoff voting also promotes positive campaigning and coalitions, which increases turnout -- in contrast to the negative campaigns of the past that turned people off to politics.
Internationally, the United States treats other nations with great respect. As we fully affirm the right of self-determination for individuals in our own country, we support the right of other nations to shape their own destinies. Strong national governments are essential so that ordinary people can protect themselves from powerful, global economic forces.
The right of nations to establish tariffs on imports in order to shelter developing and/or essential industries is unquestioned. In particular, the United States recognizes and supports the need for each country to maximize food security through diversified, local agriculture.
As a way to guard against destabilizing capital flight, many nations use taxation to discourage short-term investments that would otherwise enter and leave their country quickly. To further stabilize the global economy, the United States and other industrialized nations have established significant taxes on purely financial transactions (such as buying and selling currency) as a way to virtually eliminate such non-productive, destabilizing activities.
The United States has greatly increased assistance to developing countries geared toward supporting local self-sufficiency and sustainable economic growth. The foreign debt of developing countries was completely forgiven fifteen years ago. The United States no longer interferes with efforts of developing countries to fulfill their capital needs internally by restraining capital flight and/or imposing taxes based on the ability to pay. As a result, decreasing global poverty has boosted demand for U.S. products and services, which has strengthened our economy.
The United States has fully paid its United Nations dues and pledged to fall behind never again. We've supported the democratization of the United Nations by adding countries to the Security Council and increasing the power of the General Assembly.
We ratified the International Criminal Court and agreed that member states shall have the power to arrest persons charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, including United States citizens.
Though we reserve the right to defend ourselves if and when attacked, we normally use our military force only in conjunction with the United Nations. We no longer base military forces on foreign soil.
Compared to the early part of this century, we’ve reduced spending on our military by one-fourth, while keeping our military strong enough to protect our country from any potential foreign threat, and we're moving toward further reductions. In addition, along with all other nuclear nations, we’re reducing our stockpile of nuclear weapons by 10 percent each year, toward the goal of complete nuclear disarmament within another decade.
Through the United Nations, we've invested major funds in the peaceful resolution of potentially violent conflicts, including civil wars. These efforts include mediation teams, observers, peacekeepers, and the infusion of major financial aid to induce antagonists to see beyond their immediate conflict and agree to long-term solutions.
In recent years, the United States government has signed and now actively supports a number of valuable international treaties that it previously opposed or resisted, including agreements to limit the sale and transfer of military weapons and land mines, eliminate all nuclear and biological weapons, steadily reduce greenhouse emissions, and safeguard the oceans of the world. Moreover, our government has established a consistent record of support for international human rights, including economic rights. And it has clearly acknowledged that our own government and military must be held accountable to the highest standards.
These changes in United States foreign policy, including its international economic policies, have resulted in a steady reduction in anti-American feelings throughout the world. As a result, acts of terrorism against this country and the people of this country have diminished. When terrorists do strike, we cooperate actively with other countries to apprehend, try, and confine such criminals.
In these ways, in coordination with the peoples of other nations who have adopted similar policies, the United States is now working globally in a cooperative manner to safeguard the planet and the rights of its inhabitants, aware that we can learn as much from other countries as they can learn from us.
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