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The Forum > Article Comments > Building a good society > Comments

Building a good society : Comments

By Don Aitkin, published 18/3/2014

Half a dozen value statements follow. They are mine, and I have been working on them for a long time. If they stimulate you to look at your own, well and good.

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Don,

Good post. I agree with all your points and especially #3.

I approach this slightly differently. From my persective the world is good and getting better all the time. Humanity is doing well.

For those who haven't spent time playing with 'GapMinder" I'd urge them to have a look (here: http://www.gapminder.org/world ). Click "play" and watch how life expectancy throughout the countries and regions of the world has improved as real per capita income has increased. Then change the vertical axis to chart: Fertility, child mortality, education, health, environment, or any of the other UN Human Development Indexes listed on the pull down menu.

Next, change the horizontal axis to 'Total energy use per person', and repeat the sequence of plotting the various indexes on the vertical axis as above.

From these charts it is easy to draw the 'big picture' conclusion that the very best things we can do for the world, and especially for the poorest people is to improve global income per person and the availability of cheap energy per person. We've been doing that for 200,000 years and especially last century. We are doing well and doing better all the time. But the 'Progressives' do all they can to block the very progress that delivers the best results for human well being.

The best way to improve human well-being throughout the world is with economic policies that are rational. The best ways to spread the wealth are: free trade, globalisation, multinational corporations, etc. And the best way to deliver clean electricity to the world is with nuclear power (if we'd remove the impediments that make it about 10 times more expensive than it could and should be).

All these things that are good for human well-being are exactly what the self-claimed 'Progressives' are opposed to
Posted by Peter Lang, Tuesday, 18 March 2014 8:47:15 AM
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Well, the only real cure for poverty is economic growth. This growth should include all citizens, who in a truly egalitarian society, would start their race to the top, from an equal starting point, with an equal education being that starting point.
Our system unfairly treats the income of the very wealthy, very differently from that paid by ordinary folks! With some of the richest corporations and their multimillionaire CEO's paying little or no tax, or at half the rate in percentage terms, when compared with ordinary workers!
There was a time, when executive salaries, were limited to thirty multiples of the lowest paid.
No man is an island, and there is no such thing as a self made man, who was born in the log cabin he built with his own two hands!
Results in business always rely on many hands and much cooperation! And therefore, all of those hands, should be awarded similar comparative percentage increases, not self congratulating corporate cowboys!
Even then, the results of cooperative endeavor, can be crueled in just months by an incompetent chief executive.
QANTAS i.e., has gone from a 40% domestic market share, to just 17%, in just a few short years.
A million so Aussie superannuates, saw their modest pensions go up in smoke, by the poor investment decision of "learner driver" Fund managers, and then sat powerless, while these self serving incompetents, were handed golden parachutes, (shareholders funds,) in order to lever their patently incompetent hands off the corporate tiller.
Sure, no two people are ever born equal, but that shouldn't allow some of us, to compound their problems/poverty, by giving patently preferential treatment, and pay scales, to those who are already, massively over-advantaged!
George Orwell's animal farm, could be applied exclusively to extreme capitalism, with the self serving and controlling greedy pigs, being captains of industry, and those servile politicians, who "covertly" put them and their own retirement options, well ahead of common folks, or the true national interest!
Perhaps some folks have a very different view, of what compromises a good society?
Rhrosty.
Posted by Rhrosty, Tuesday, 18 March 2014 1:56:02 PM
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nice piece
Posted by Chris Lewis, Tuesday, 18 March 2014 2:55:35 PM
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Being a non-academic, I can only address these issues through the lens of a commercial enterprise. For me, the business equivalent of this article is the "mission statement", arrived at after much intellectual sweating and straining, and eventually culminating in a series of trite motherhood statements that are forgotten within weeks.

Perhaps that's not entirely fair. A closer analogue might be an organization's culture - a tacit understanding of "that's how we do it around here", meaning that, faced with the same business challenge, the entire organization from top to bottom would react in the same way. That sort of culture is rare.

Either way, articulating what a "good society" or a "good company" consists of, is a far different exercise from actually "building' such a society or company. There needs to be a basic, underlying value set as a starting-point, so that the vision has common soil in which to grow. And if this is the case, then today's world is far too heterogenous and diverse to take this for granted. Or even as an aspiration.

The fact that Mr Aitkin's six points are mostly in the wishful-thinking category should not be seen as a criticism, as idealism has its place in trying to unravel the links between people and society. But it would be unwise to use them to draw any general conclusions, or to guide political thought. Sometimes, simplicity is simply too simple to be of much use.
Posted by Pericles, Tuesday, 18 March 2014 3:18:17 PM
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Thanks Don, for another thoughtful article.

Your values are a good starting point, but they leave a lot unsaid. For example, I think many people would agree that “human beings are capable of great altruism and also of great destruction. A good society employs the former and tries to avoid the latter.” The question is how a good society does that, and what compromises and trade-offs we accept. Someone on one end of the political spectrum might see this as largely a role for the state to prescribe how we act, what we can and can’t say, what we can buy, where we can live, etc. Others see maximal personal liberty as the way to go, backed up only with a few negative proscriptions (thou shalt not steal, murder, etc).

Likewise, I think I agree about everyone having a stake in society, but it raises the question of how we make this happen. There may well be social structures and practices that make people alienated and disempowered. Which are these, and what do you do about them? Again, different ideological perspectives will give diametrically opposed answers.

It’s a good starting point, though, to think about the fundamental values that drive the way we think of these issues.
Posted by Rhian, Tuesday, 18 March 2014 3:59:34 PM
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I found this article very interesting
Posted by austintlr, Wednesday, 19 March 2014 4:52:42 PM
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