Putting Dignity & Rights at the Heart of the Global Economy

Issue Date: 
March - April 2005
Volume and Number: 
Volume 5, No 2
Keith Helmuth and Judy Lumb
PDF Version: 
Information and Action Addressing Public Policy 
for an Ecologically Sustainable World
Volume 5, Number 2                                                                                                                  March-April 2005
“Putting Dignity & Rights at the Heart of the Global Economy”
A Review of “A Quaker Perspective”
Keith Helmuth and Judy Lumb 
Friends are now reaching deeply into questions of economic  What could be more fi tting than that the group which fostered 
policy and behavior with new resolve and discernment.  the abolition of negro slavery, sponsored prison reform, gives testimony 
Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) and  against war, initiated European Reconstruction, carries on American 
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) have both recently  Friends Service work in the coal fi elds, should once again advance 
issued public documents that explicitly link “structural economic  the outpost of civilization by carrying an easily understood message of 
violence” with the prospects for justice, peace and human better-
economic reform to the world?
ment, and they have done so within the context of Earth’s ecological 
  e members of this committee, citing their credentials as 
integrity. FCNL has included this recognition and commitment  professionals in the fi elds of business and engineering, laid out a 
in its statement of legislative priorities for the 109th Congress.  slate of reforms that were both visionary and prescient, and which, 
  e newly published report of AFSC’s Working Party on Global  to some degree, found lodging in the New Deal soon to come.
Economics, Putting Dignity & Rights at the Heart of the Global 
AFSC Working Party 
Economy: A Quaker Perspective, makes this recognition central to 
In the direct lineage of this concern, the AFSC Working 
its analysis and recommendations for action. 
Party has now produced and presented to Friends a document 
For FCNL and AFSC to have independently taken this step  on global economics of even greater breadth and precision. It is a 
is a clear signal that economics is now understood to be of such  manual for education and discernment that every Friend concerned 
critical importance to issues of oppression, organized violence, social 
with human betterment should obtain, study and share with their 
vulnerability, and ecological disintegration that Friends must set  Meeting.
aside their disagreements on economic theory and seek common 
  e AFSC Working Party was composed of 17 individuals 
ground in our testimonies for a new witness on the human future.  working over a period of two and a half years with a diversity of 
To a very large extent, this seems to be what the AFSC Working  experience and expertise in economics, business, social services, 
Party has done and Friends are well served by their Report.
community work, political science, and education, a diversity that 
No one argues that economics is not a central organizing force 
enriched their work:
in human aff airs worldwide. But can human values and human 
choices govern and direct economics or is the force of economics 
  e Working Party on Global Economics refl ected diverse views 
a kind of omnipotent governor of human aff airs that operates as a  in the Quaker community and broader society today. Many diff erences 
natural law? After carefully avoiding this classic dispute for some  of experience, opinion and analysis arose as we searched for common 
time, Friends now seem poised to consider the options with a new  ground. Our own discussion showed time and again that mutual 
level of critical discernment. 
respect is enriched by diversity and openness. Some of us wanted to 
  e options of economic concern rose to particular articula-
emphasize the number of people who have been lifted out of poverty 
tion among Friends during the Great Depression. In 1934 the  in the last four decades and others wanted to focus on the billions of 
Industrial Relations Section of the Social Service Committee of  people impoverished today. … Some Working Party members wanted 
Friends General Conference issued “A Statement of Economic  to emphasize the role of business as the key to success for job creation 
Objectives” in which they wrote: 
and poverty elimination while others focused on the need for a stronger 
public sector and global New Deal in order to assure economic rights 

It is a paradox that we suff er in the midst of plenty. We have  and meet human needs. Some thought voluntary codes of conduct for 
bumper crops; and undernourishment. We have cotton in excess; and  businesses off ered new hope while others saw a disappointing track 
millions poorly clad. We have fuel in plenty; and lack suffi

  cient heat  record and emphasized the necessity of laws and regulations to assure 
in homes. We have a redundancy of lumber, brick, cement; and people  corporate responsibility and accountability. 
are herded into slums. We have doctors, dentists, nurses; and hundreds 

Working Party members had very diff erent analyses of past and 
of thousands too poor to pay for much-needed medical services.
present trends, their causes and consequences. But members shared 
Is it not apparent that we must begin to chart our twisted indus-
a commitment to building a world nurturing human dignity and 
trial labyrinth into a clear course yielding good to all? What if there  economic rights for all. Th
  at is the common ground that provides a 
are diffi
  culties? Let us choose a destination on the map of life and plot  foundation for this document, and the “shared Truth” we hope serves 
our course accordingly.
the AFSC. (p. 4)

Global Poverty Gaps Widening 
Quaker Eco-Bulletin (QEB) is pub-
  e Report begins with an assessment of the current situation, recent history 
lished bi-monthly as an insert in Be-
and trends, and the role of the global economy, using data from the United Nations, 
Friending Creation by Quaker Eco-
World Bank, etc., some of which is presented in the Appendix. While acknowledging 
Witness-National Legislation (QNL), a 
and documenting some improvements in life expectancy, child mortality, and literacy 
project of Quaker Earthcare Witness 
(formerly FCUN).
rates in some developing countries in the past few decades, the authors show a disturb-
ing backsliding trend since 1990. Forty-six countries are poorer today than they were 
QNL promotes government and cor-
in 1990. Half the earth’s human population lives on less than $2 per day, which is not 
porate policies to help restore and 
enough to sustain basic needs, not to mention education and personal development. 
protect Earth’s biological integrity. It 
works within and through the Religious 
  e gap between rich and poor is widening dramatically, both within and between 
Society of Friends for policies that en-
able human communities to relate in 
•  In 1979, the richest 1 percent of Americans had 23 times as much after-tax income 
mutually enhancing ways to the eco-
as the bottom 20 percent. By the year 2000, the top 1 percent had 63 times as much 
systems of which they are a part. This 
after-tax income as the bottom 20 percent.1
witness seeks to be guided by the Spirit 
•  In 1960-62 the 20 richest countries had 54 times the GDP per capita of the 20 poorest 
and grounded in reverence for  God’s 
countries. In 2000-02 the richest countries had 121 times as much.2 (p. 13)
One of the most striking aspects of the AFSC Working Party’s agreement is the 
QEB’s purpose is to advance Friends’ 
Report’s repeated reference to “A Second Bill of Rights” that President Franklin Delano 
witness on government and corporate 
Roosevelt introduced in his 1944 State of the Union Address (sidebar). FDR laid out 
policy as it relates to the ecosystems 
that sustain us. Each issue is an article 
an economic bill of rights designed to advance the security and dignity of all persons 
about timely legislative or corporate 
within the American polity. Th
  e AFSC Working Party advances this vision to the level 
policy issues affecting our society’s 
of the global economy and links its recommendations solidly to the Universal Declara-
relationship to the earth.
tion of Human Rights. Although the language of the Report is plain, there is nothing 
Friends are invited to contact us about 
timid or tentative about its vision. In the face of the political and economic forces in the 
writing an article for QEB. Submissions 
U.S. that now speak openly about wanting to “roll back the New Deal”, and disinvest 
are subject to editing and should: 
many of the nation’s international agreements, this is a bold move. 
Provide background information 
that refl ects the complexity of the 
Market Fundamentalism
issue and is respectful toward other 
 e Report defi nes market fundamentalism as a dogmatic globalization strategy to 
points of view.
maximize freedom for private enterprise and private profi ts; maximize support and protection 
Explain why the issue is a Friends’ 
of the private sector, particularly large corporations; and minimize the role of government in 
regulating private businesses, providing social services and protecting the environment and 
Describe the positions of other 
other common goods.” (p. 103)
faith-based and secular environ-
mental groups on the issue.
  e market fundamentalist approach “is intolerant of debate: government is the 
Relate the issue to legislation or 
problem, free markets the solution. While advocates of the market fundamentalist approach 
corporate policy.
assert that it will lead to greater affl
  uence and eventual improvement for all, we observe 
List what Friends can do.
that this strategy of globalization has led to slower economic growth for many countries and 
Provide sources for additional 
more inequality, deprivation and environmental devastation. Th
  is type of globalization 
undermines dignity and fosters neither socially responsible business nor sustainable develop-
QEB Coordinator: Keith Helmuth
ment.” (p. 17)
  e history and role of the international fi nancial institutions—World Bank and 
QEB  Editorial Team: Judy Lumb, 
Sandra Lewis, Barbara Day
International Monetary Fund—are explained quite clearly, especially in regard to the 
impossible burden of debt that most developing countries carry. Th
 is “Washington 
To receive QEB: 
consensus” regards economic activity that does not contribute to capital concentration 
Email: QEW-NL@QuakerEarthcare.org
as “non-viable” and writes off  persons, classes and regions that either cannot or do not 
Website: <QuakerEarthcare.org> 
want to get with this program. 
Mail: write to address below
  e Report describes the recent history of trade negotiations in some detail and 
shows how provisions of proposed trade agreements weaken labor and environmental 
Projects of QNL, such as QEB, are 
standards and even limit the sovereignty of countries by prohibiting preferences for use 
funded by contributions to: 
of local enterprises and those operated by women and minorities. 
Quaker Earthcare Witness
173-B N Prospect Street
Burlington VT 05401 
 1Congressional Budget Offi ce, August 2003, and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 
“The New Defi nitive CBO Data on income and Tax Trends,” September 23, 2003.
2World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization, established by the ILO. 
A Fair Globalization: Creating Opportunities for All, 2004, p. 37.
Quaker Eco-Bulletin    January-February 2005

tion.” Th
  ere is a fundamental problem with this language and with 
the concepts it expresses. Th
  e dynamic on which the quality of 
A Second Bill of Rights
the human future depends is not “sustainable development,” but 
•  The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries 
or shops or farms or mines of the nation.
“developing sustainability.” 
•  The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and cloth-
  is is not word play. Th
  is is a fundamentally diff erent ori-
ing and recreation.
entation and strategy of adaptation. Under the economic growth 
•  The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a 
return that will give him and his family a decent living.
scenario, “environmental protection” generally means reducing the 
•  The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade 
rate of growth of ecosystem destruction. But reducing the rate of 
in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and 
growth of destruction is still destruction. Th
  e quality of the human 
domination by monopolies at home or abroad.
future, including the end of poverty, depends on ending ecosystem 
•  The right of every family to a decent home.
•  The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to 
achieve and enjoy good health.
Ending poverty for the numbers concerned within Earth’s 
•  The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of 
ecological context is not so much a matter of growing the economy 
old age, sickness, accident and unemployment.
•  The right to a good education.
in order to raise income levels, as it is a matter of redesigning the 
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
provisioning of goods and services (including monetary services) 
State of the Union Address 1944
within the context of a viable social ecology. 
Ending poverty is about adequate access to the means of life. 
  e design of this access can take a variety of forms, depending 
  e Report proposes a new human right: the right to mobility. 
on ecosystem adaptation, social networks and public policy. Th
  e wide gap between rich and poor countries has made it necessary 
economic growth scenario rides on the assumption that the envi-
for some family members to migrate to other countries to support  ronment is part of the economy, that it exists to supply and fuel 
their family. Remittances from these migrants to their families  human enterprise. But when we hold still and think clearly, we 
provide an increasingly important source of funds for developing  know that the human economy is a subsidiary of Earth’s economy. 
countries (Appendix G).
Economic security, dignity and human well being depend, fi rst 
For several years, AFSC staff  have provided leadership in an  and last, on the full functioning biotic integrity and resilience of 
Interfaith Working Group that has produced an Interfaith State-
Earth’s ecosystems. 
ment on International Trade and Investment.  Th
 e Statement’s Five 
Any political economy derived by humans must ultimately 
Principles focus on 1) the dignity of the person, 2) advancing the  function within constraints imposed by nature-constraints that 
common good, 3) transparency and public participation, 4) the  defi ne the conditions required to sustain life as we know it on 
legitimate role of government and civil society, and 5) safeguarding 
earth. Th
  e ecological principles that underlie these conditions are a 
the global commons.
given, they are universal and morally neutral. If we want to sustain 
  e AFSC Report does a masterful job of addressing the fi rst  life on earth we have to create economic and governing systems 
three principles with specifi c recommendations. Th
 e Report has  that, in the long run, do not contravene these principles. Th is is a 
a clear focus on the fourth principle, but without  acknowledg-
basic minimum requirement for any political economy anywhere, 
ing how far and how quickly international fi nance has evolved to   regardless of what other values or moral frameworks are refl ected 
undermine the ability of government and civil society to infl uence  in the economic system. 
the  global economy.  It acknowledges serious problems but makes 
A sustainable political economy must be based on a deep un-
no  recommendations to address the fi fth principle of safeguarding  derstanding of the healthy functioning of complex, interdependent, 
the global commons.
self-governing, re-generating natural systems. Policy-makers, busi-
Developing Sustainability
ness and fi nancial leaders, and citizens alike must understand these 
While this Report sees justice, peace and the integrity of  ecological principles and the necessity of living within the limits 
Creation as a single issue with various aspects of emphasis, it can  they impose. Th
  e political and economic institutions we create must 
be fairly observed that its handling of the ecological context is less  function within these limits. Jared Diamond’s new book, Collapse: 
fully and less rigorously developed than is its economic analysis.  How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, describes the fate of several 
  e section on “Environment” starts with the statement that  diff erent societies that chose to ignore this truth.
“today’s global economy is not a sustainable economy.” It focuses 
  e Report takes this ecological understanding into ac-
primarily on climate change and on the technologies and practices  count, and makes a signifi cant contribution to the cultural task of 
that can reduce greenhouse gas production. Th
  e section concludes  bringing economics and ecology into a single focus. Th e Report, 
by stating that “developing countries need economic growth with  however, holds back from making full analytic use of the ecologi-
equity if poverty is to be eliminated,” but then adds that “economic 
cal perspective. For example, Appendix A systematically specifi es 
growth cannot continue to have lasting destructive eff ects on the  recommendations from each section of the Report but passes 
over the “Environment” section without a word, as if there were 
To resolve this dilemma, the Report then quotes the UN’s  no signifi cant actions to be taken in this area that were central to 
Rio Declaration and the Earth Summit Agenda 21 on the need  dignity and rights. Yet we know from the discussion in the body 
to “achieve sustainable development” and “environmental protec-
of the text that this is not the case. Perhaps the desire to focus as 
Quaker Eco-Bulletin    January-February 2005

sharply as possible on “dignity and rights,” and to keep the Report  off shore at some point (Brittain-Catlin, 2005). Th
  e logic of this 
within a length that would invite wide readership, argued against  drift does not off er a good foothold for reform.
a fuller inclusion of ecological analysis.
Most of the reforms proposed depend on political jurisdictions 
  e Working Group placed the Universal Declaration of  that can act decisively in support of the common good and on a 
Human Rights at the center of its deliberations and Report. If the  community-minded corporate ethos—the very characteristics that 
Earth Charter were now brought into the picture in the same way,  the emerging pirate economy is shutting down and turning off . Th
and its framework of understanding and commitment applied to  lines of demarcation between criminal and non-criminal business 
economic behavior, our witness would be better founded within  activity are increasingly diffi
  cult to discern. If we are brutally hon-
the reality of the human-earth relationship. Th
  e overarching issue  est, our analysis must take into account the blended fortunes of 
of ecologically sound economic adaptation would be brought more 
business, crime, and government, and recognize the outlaw mental-
fully into view.
ity that increasingly governs nomadic, transnational capital. Th
In this context, we can see the achievement of the Working  pirate economy is only interested in capital concentration and its 
Group as a stage in a process, and the Report as a tool to be em-
unfettered deployment. Appealing for reform to this transnational 
ployed in the ongoing task of understanding and addressing both  amalgam of blended fortunes is like asking an organized crime 
the policy and implementation of equitable and ecologically sound 
operation to start looking after the common good of all those it 
economic behavior. 
has traditionally exploited. 
  e AFSC Working Party has taken an important step. If we 
  is is a dark shadow across the potential of economic re-
can now take further steps that help bring economics and ecology  form. Th
  e logic of our situation argues that the chances of such 
into a single analytic focus, Friends witness and action may hit  reform—reform that “places dignity and rights at the heart of the 
a stride that contributes with increasing eff ectiveness to a more  global economy,” reform that advances ecosystem integrity and 
hopeful future. 
stewardship economics—depends on a signifi cant level of political 
In thinking ahead to the next stages of this inquiry and analy-
change, both as a resurgence of jurisdictional responsibility at local, 
sis, a question must be raised about whether the reforms recom-
regional and national levels, and as the emergence of transnational 
mended in the Report are commensurate with the scale and velocity 
jurisdictional institutions dedicated to the common good from a 
of change that transnational capital now commands. Put in the  global perspective. 
starkest terms, it is no exaggeration to say that a “pirate economy” 
Nelson Mandela’s current eff ort to, essentially, shame world 
is emerging on a global scale, an economy that can advance and  leaders into action on world poverty, and the respectful audiences 
protect its operations by the strategic allocation of funds in various  he is commanding, is a hopeful sign. Th
  e Report of the AFSC 
jurisdictions—both political and social. Th
  is is the business model  Working Party in the hands of Friends should now be inserted into 
of organized crime.
this struggle at every opportunity. In an age when economics has 
A third of the world’s wealth is held off shore. Eighty percent  replaced religion as the gatekeeper to the common good, Quakers 
of international banking transactions take place in this shadow  should be no more inclined to leave economics to the economists 
world. Half the capital in the world’s stock exchanges is “parked”  than they were in the previous age to leave religion to the priests.
For Further Information
What Friends Can Do
William Brittain-Catlin. Offshore: The Dark Side of the Global 
1. Obtain a copy of Putting Dignity & Rights at the 
Economy,  to be published in June, 2005.
Heart of the Global Economy: A Quaker Perspec-
Ha-Joon Chang, 2002. Kicking Away the Ladder: Development 
tive, which can be downloaded or ordered on line 
Strategy in Historical Perspective.
at <www.afsc.org>. Call 215-241-7048 or write to 
Amy Chua, 2003, 2004. World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market 
AFSC, 1501 Cherry Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102-
Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability.
Jared Diamond, 2005. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or 
1403  ($7.00 plus shipping)
2. Study the Report and become thoroughly familiar 
Susan George, 2004. The Lugano Report: On Preserving Capitalism 
with its analysis and recommendations. 
in the Twenty-fi rst Century, 2nd edition. 
R. T. Naylor, 2004. The Wages of Crime: Black Markets, Illegal 
3. Introduce the Report into the dialogue of your 
Finance and the Underground Economy, Revised edition.
Meeting. Organize a study group aimed at amplify-
Robert H. Nelson, 2001. Economics as Religion: From Samuelson 
ing the knowledge and effect of the Report within 
to Chicago and Beyond.
your Meeting.
Ronnen Palan, 2003. The Offshore World: Sovereign Markets, Virtual 
4. Become familiar with the work AFSC and FCNL are do-
Places, and Nomad Millionaires
ing around issues of structural economic violence.
John Perkins, 2004. Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.
Oswaldo de Rivero, 2001. The Myth of Development: The Non-Viable 
5. Facilitate your Meeting’s response to FCNL’s regular 
Economies of the 21st Century
priority setting process with support for action on 
Holly Sklar, 1995. Chaos or Community: Seeking Solutions, Not 
policy that promotes economic equity, environmen-
Scapegoats for Bad Economics. (Holly Sklar, who is one of the 
tal justice, energy decoupled from violent confl ict, 
best analysts and writers now dealing with economics at a popular 
and ecological integrity.
level, was a member of the AFSC Working Party.)

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