The Prout parliament game

By Sohail Inayatullah
UNESCO Chair in Futures Studies. Sinayatullah@gmail.com

At a socio-spiritual group gathering that advocates the adoption of Prout ideals, I had the chance to experiment with gaming and creating progressive policy futures by running the first Prout parliament game.  The core question was what would the world look like if Prout – as theory and movement – was in power; if the core ideas of Prout were adopted as the norm, as informing and framing global and local legislative priorities?

It is considered by leading scholars as one of the clearest alternatives to capitalism (and communism).

The Prout parliament game has four parts. Part 1 is an explanation of core Prout ideas in a futures context. Part 2 is a futures wheel process that develops the implications of key emerging issues. Part 3 is the development of a checklist that is used to informed decision-making.  And part 4 is the process of using the checklist to vote on parliamentary proposals. The structure and processes of the game lends itself to easy adoption for other social movements and organizations.

PART ONE

I began the workshop with the overall global context. First was  Sri P.R. Sarkar’s argument that not only was time “galloping”, – increasing at a rapid pace – but that as global and local political and economic systems are experiencing flux, individuals can have a  greater impact: you and I can make a difference.  Second, the critical importance of vision, of defining where we as a society wished to be in 20 years. The argument made was that those who can imagine a desired future, feel the future they wish, had a greater chance of achieving the future. Strategy thus emerges from vision and not as an outcome of current problems. As Sarkar has argued: “What is the use of recollecting the history of your past life? Try to learn only about the future. You are to look ahead, you are to look forward. We must keep the goal fixed before us, and keep moving towards the goal.”

I then presented some critical aspects of Prout. These were:

a. Inclusive spiritual practice

b. A vegetarian diet, especially non-violence towards animals

c. Deep sustainability in that Gaia is treated as a cooperative partner

d. The switch to renewable energy and the creation of energy cooperatives through peer to peer energy platforms

e. Neo-humanistic education – a focus on teaching and telling stories that were based on planetary identity. Ethnicity, religion, nation-states are not defining: deep spirit and nature are. Traditional ethnic and gendered stereotypes are shunned for the stories of how humanity as a collective has solved problems.

f. The move toward regional association, imagining a confederation of Asian and antipodean states – an Asian-Australia union by 2038

G. Finally, we sought to remeasure this future, moving from GDP as defining to a quadruple bottom line: prosperity (increased goods and services), sustainability (nature, first), social inclusion (a society where inclusion is designed as the norm) and spirituality (happiness and other measures of bliss).

https://thetippingpoint.me/2012/05/09/quadruple-bottom-line-reporting-would-you-adopt-it-for-your-organisation

PART TWO

In this context, we developed six working groups and asked a series of what-if questions (derived from the foresight literature) for Australia by 2038. Each group explored the implications of each question and articulated Prout strategies.

  1. Chindia wins the current economic game – 50% of world GDP is produced by these two nations
  2. The neohumanist education revolution – national policy of teaching deep sustainability and inclusion.
  3. The energy shift to renewables – 50% of all homes produce their own energy
  4. Plant-based diets  as the new normal – 50% of all individuals self-identify with a  plant diet based (up from the current 1 million or 5% vegetarians or vegans in Australia)
  5. Gender equity – in 50% of all boards (up from the current 27-32%)
  6. Technologies of the mind – eight million practice meditation or 36% of the Australian population by 2038. This would be up from the current two million.
https://wakeuplondon.org/2011/08/02/next-meditation-flash-mob-trafalgar-square-again/

For the rise of Chindia, participants suggested that given the reality of conflict and war – as one hegemon was rising and another declining – developing pathways toward cooperation, through international mediation and arbitration in the Asian region was critical. More significantly, greater economic growth/equity would result if economic leaders China and India would move from the corporatist model to the platform cooperative model. They would not only succeed at the current economic game, but create a far more inclusive alternative game.

https://chinaeconomicreview.com/op-ed-making-chindia-reality/

For the rise of plant based diets including the likely exponential growth of cellular agriculture, participants (who all happened to be between the ages of  8-14) suggested that Prout work with farmers to help them transition from meat based systems to plant based systems. Their suffering needed to be addressed. Prout practicing compassion was paramount here.[

The other groups adopted similar approaches focusing on spiritual education, housing for all,  and health as primary. The gender group suggested there would need to be free or affordable education for women, including tertiary education. Moreover,  gender would become far more fluid, and policies would reflect a cooperative worldview challenging the rigid roles of patriarchy. Moreover, what school children read and how they worked with each other would not be based on strict gender roles. Traditional feminine ways of knowing would not be marginalized in this alternative future.  

Indigenous futurist Cherie Minniecon led the gender working group

The technologies of the mind group noted that with 50% of people meditating, there would likely be improved physical and mental health, thus freeing up financial resources to be used in other areas. There would also be an elevation of consciousness – softer, wiser, integrated –  of the society, making progressive policy changes in other areas easier.

The energy group suggested that a renewables-based energy revolution would help mitigate climate change and help encourage local prosperity.

The Millennium Tree by Josephine Wall

PART THREE

After brief presentations by each group, participants were asked to develop a Prout checklist. A checklist, developed by Peter Provost is meant to guide medical practitioners, ensuring that rules of safety and procedure are followed. These are step by step guidelines to ensure that sentiment does not come in the way of decision-making.

For the Prout movement, the checklist becomes a way of articulating policy based on the core Prout ideas and not on sentiments one may privately hold. It also helps in taking Prout from a theory to practice.

Groups articulated a number of salient points. Some of the key ones were:

  • Does the policy lead to reduction in crime?
  • Is the policy inclusive?
  • Does the policy reduce pain to animals and nature?
  • Does the policy encourage cooperation?
  • Does the policy reduce inequity?
  • Does the policy encourage cooperatives?
  • Does the policy ensure that the basic requirements of housing, health, and education are provided for all?
  • Does the policy benefit the majority of people?
  • Can the outcomes of the policy be easily accessed by the majority of people?”
  • Does the policy decentralize power?
  • Does the policy help in creating regional governance?
  • Does the policy wisely use new technologies?

As this was the first iteration of the game, they remained the working group level.  In the future,  I hope to develop this checklist into broader categories and develop a ranked list agreed upon by all participants.

PART FOUR

With the establishment of a working checklist, we then convened the Prout parliament. As this was experimental, we first had policy positions that were easy to dissect.

In the first, it was suggested that all western medicine be removed by 2038. Using the checklist, this was quickly voted down – as it excluded an important healing tradition, it would lead to more harm, and as one participant reminded, Sarkar was pluralistic toward healing tradition – what mattered most was whether the modality cured or not. The second policy suggestion was terminating funding for renewable energy sources and the move toward full nuclear.

https://www.engineersaustralia.org.au/Event/why-not-nuclear

This was also quickly voted down as the risk of harm was considered too great. Nuclearization would also lead to a concentration of economic power. Local, cooperative energy solutions from solar, wind, and geo-thermal were recommended, instead.

The parliamentary floor was then opened up to all proposals. Three individuals presented.

The first suggested that meditation practice be legislated for all high schools in Australia. There was a debate as to which type of meditation. This was clarified as 20 minutes a day of quiet mindfulness every morning. Further clarification was sought as to primary versus high schools. The presenter argued that for primary schools it would be optional, but for secondary schools, it would be mandatory. Given the health gains and correlated reduction in crime and other positives associated with mindfulness/meditation, the resolution was passed.

The second suggested that regulation for housing be reduced so that one could quickly put up homes as needed so as to reduce homelessness. The votes were positive, however, the gender group was concerned that a lack of regulation could adversely impact safety, nature, and cultural heritage. The presenter modified his proposal, asking for reduced regulation and not the end of regulation.

The last presenter wished to adopt a policy of no government interference in private education. Upon clarification that there would still be federal neohumanist guidelines,  the proposal was passed. Education policy would be set through educational experts and registered bodies using evidence-base policy.

The game concluded with the parliament funding the three proposals. Each committee was given (an imaginary) one million dollars to fund research and implementation.

CONCLUSION

The conclusion was that the Prout Parliament game was

1. A practical and easy way to teach Prout

2. A great way to envision what a Prout society could look like

3. An excellent approach – the checklist in particular  – to shift Prout from grand theory and a possible future to pragmatic strategy. And:

4. Useful in enhancing negotiation and cooperation skills.

While some expressed positive doubt, the workshop ended with a quote from Sri Sarkar: “A bright future awaits you – your future is glorious, your future is luminous, your future is effulgent … the future of humanity is strikingly resplendent .

The Prout parliament game
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To Tax the Rich or to Cap Wealth, That is the Question

By T. Shanks

Ever since the days of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, the predominant mantra repeated all over the world has been that tax cuts for the rich are the best way to stimulate the economy. But during the past year, this trend has changed. For the first time in decades, progressive voices are calling for increased taxation of the rich. From veteran labour journalist Sam Pizzigati to US politicians Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez to Bernie Sanders, concrete proposals are being put forward to spread the wealth of the rich. In the latest meeting in Davos, a contribution by Dutch historian Rutger Bregman went viral when he suggested that CEOs shelve their “stupid philanthropy schemes” and start talking about taxing the rich. As he so eloquently put it, “all the rest is bullshit.”

The rationale for giving tax cuts to the rich has been “supply-side economics”, popularly termed Reaganomics or Voodoo Economics. By reducing taxes for the manufacturers, it is argued, goods will become less expensive and unemployment will go down.  The economic activity that is generated by this scheme, the theory goes, will be so great that the governmental loss in revenue due to lower rates will be more than compensated for by the broader tax base. This phenomenon has been called the Laffer curve, after American economist Arthur Laffer, who supposedly drew the curve on a napkin to illustrate the argument.  The problem, however, is that there is no proven track record in modern history that tax revenue has increased by lowering taxes. Some economists consider the idea so ludicrous that they have called the concept the Laughter curve.  More worrisome still, there is no indication that lowering taxes for the rich creates jobs or stimulates economic growth. Quite the contrary. The profits to be had in manufacturing or job creation are tiny, whereas the profits from speculation and benefits in the financial sectors, are high. In other words, rich people do not invest their money in building new factories. They either buy stocks, bonds, and derivative financial products recommended by their broker, or they invest their cash in real estate.

None of these activities create more jobs. All they do is creating more inequality.

So, what about Ronald Reagan? Did he not introduce tax cuts and the economy boomed?  Apart from his tax cuts, he also doubled the government debt. In his six years of economic transition, he borrowed more money than all presidents put together since the time of George Washington. That, in fact, is what made the economy boom.

But while the economy during the Reagan days and beyond has been doing well, the people have not. To maintain the same living standard as one breadwinner in the 1970s could provide by working eight to five with weekends free, it now takes two breadwinners working multiple jobs.  At the same time, inequality has skyrocketed. While the richest are much better off than in the 1970s, the remaining 99 percent of the population is decidedly worse off. In addition to that, the total household indebtedness has risen from almost zero in 1950, to over 13 trillion dollars today, with an average debt of people aged between 35 and 54 now over USD 130,000.

During the post-war boom, up to the early sixties, tax rates in the United States were progressive, with the top rate of 91 percent prior to 1962, and then reduced to 70 percent up to 1981. But the trend changed when Ronald Reagan lowered taxes to a top rate of an astonishing 28 percent by the end of his presidency. Not only were income taxes high prior to Ronald Reagan, inheritance taxes had a top rate of 77 percent in the 1960s, while today the maximum rate is 40 percent, and all estates worth less than 11 million are exempt from taxes. You can find similar trends in most Western democracies.

Please bear in mind that these high taxations went hand-in-hand with unprecedented economic growth that was twice the present rate. During some of the 1950s, economic growth topped seven percent, an unheard of figure in the US today.

The big difference between the boom of the 1950s and the 1960s and the one today is not just progressive taxation, but the fact that salaries back then rose in line with labour productivity, and therefore everyone benefitted from the boom. But for the past several decades, real salaries have stagnated, with only the top earners and executives increasing their earnings. Add regressive taxation to the mix, which gives more and more tax breaks for the rich, and the wealth discrepancy picture becomes complete. While it is difficult to prove causation, it is a statistical fact that during times of higher wages and higher taxes for the rich, the economy grows faster than during the present era of low wages, low taxes for the rich and increased inequality. 

So what is wrong with inequality? If some people can make money out of their sweat and hard work, should they not be allowed to do that without having to share it with lazy people who do not want to put in the work needed to become rich?

This is an argument we often hear from the far right, but it has a fatal flaw. The truth is that in the present type of market economy, individual gains are rarely, if ever, linked to social contribution. Those who get rich are, as a rule, not those who work hard and build up great companies. Most of the money for the rich is accumulated through speculation, financial services, and corporate raiding. Often people are even rewarded for antisocial activities. For example, when banks were losing lots of money during the financial crisis of 2008, bank executives carted off huge bonuses while loyal bank customers lost their investments and homes. Another example of those who make money out of the misery of the innocent are corporate raiders, those who buy up companies, dispose of their assets, and close the businesses at a profit, while the workers are made redundant. These are obviously the wrong kinds of incentives on which to build a strong economy and society.

The current proposals to increase taxes on the rich by Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others is a good step in the right direction. At the same time, the redistribution of wealth through taxes is not the most efficient way to solve the problem of wealth inequality. If the root cause is unfair and results in unequal remuneration of the social contribution of individuals, why not tackle this straight away rather than through the cumbersome system of collecting high taxes from the rich to redistribute money through social services to the poor? If workers were given adequate salaries reflecting their true contribution to the economy, there would be no need to give them handouts through social programs.

So, while introducing progressive taxation seems like a sensible short-term strategy, a more elegant solution would be to introduce a maximum wage along with a higher minimum wage. If the highest paid executive in an organisation was limited to a pay that was set as a multiple of the salary of the lowest paid individual, whether this multiple is 10, 35, 50 or any other number, we would avoid the situation where executives make in a day what an average worker makes in a year.  This would also stimulate the economy, as consumers with more money will spend more and drive the demand for goods. What capitalists often neglect to account for is that their workers are also their customers, and the less they are paid, the less they are able to buy. Though workers have the option to borrow money in the meanwhile, loans eventually need to be repaid, so this is also not the best long-term solution.

A minimum waged that is linked to a maximum wage is a core pillar of the Prout economic system. This basic policy will help solve many of the problems of wealth inequality, social injustice, unemployment and the disintegration of key values in a healthy society. While progressive taxation is good first step to mitigate the worst excesses of inequality, it would even be better to avoid the formation of inequality in the first place.

To Tax the Rich or to Cap Wealth, That is the Question
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Market Economy vs Planned Economy

By Maheshvara Pacheco

The Cold War era was, in a nutshell, a display of might between two belligerent ideals contending for hegemonic supremacy of the world stage. As we know, it eventually culminated with the swift collapse of the communist colossus in the early 1990s. The system of centralized ownership and planning was an expensive, ineffective and corrupt bureaucratic machine which eventually suffocated the economy, leading to popular revolt. This major event set the tone for the world’s economic development for decades to come.

Today, the predominance of the capitalistic system seems all but unchallenged. China, in an effort to avoid the same fate as the USSR, began economic reform in 1978, when it started to decollectivize agriculture and open up the country for foreign investment. With its special economic zones, China today displays a type of market economy which came to be known as “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” Nevertheless, even though it has seemingly achieved significant strategic power, China is starting to pay the cost of its economic achievements. The inherent difficulties to unregulated progress are evidenced by the current environmental problems that the country is now facing air, water and soil pollution, habitat destruction and desertification. The New York Times reports that the country burns 47% of the world’s coal. Air pollution in Beijing has become so impenetrable that the U.S. Embassy’s air quality measuring station can only call it “beyond index.” More than half of China’s surface water is so polluted it cannot be treated to make it drinkable. Despite recent gains in reforestation and grasslands restoration, the desert continues to expand each year by about 2,460 sq km, according to the World Wildlife Fund. The resulting loss of arable land has created a generation of “eco-migrants,” the Guardian reports, who are forced to leave their homelands because their traditional agricultural lifestyle is no longer an option. This translates, among other things, into a growing need for imports of essential goods to meet population demands. Though these facts may seem alarming, they are just the undesired (and often undisclosed) consequences of a system where profit is the only guiding motive for companies and governments alike.

While in communism we have economic centralization through state-owned industries, in capitalism we have centralized power through monopolies of multinational mega-giant corporations. It is naïve to think that neoliberal capitalism provides a democratic solution for the world’s market structure. Capitalism promotes anarchy of production, where the development of resources and technologies are not in congruence with people’s needs. Just recently it has been reported that in Cristobal de las Casas, a town in Mexico, water shortage caused by Coca Cola’s agreement with the Mexican government to draw more than 1,100,000 litres of water per day is making people turn to drink Coca Cola as an alternative to water. They even use it as currency and religious offering. This has caused a spike in rates of obesity, malnutrition, hypertension and diabetes. This may cause shock, but it’s far from being an isolated incident. Cases in which multinational companies cause harm to people and the environment is commonplace.

Capitalism has failed” is a frequently uttered sentence these days. From intellectuals to grassroots movements, the failures of capitalism seem blatant and obvious. On the other hand, conservative thinkers remind us of the failures of the communist experiment in the east, in an attempt to ascertain capitalism as the only viable way to run the world’s economic system. PROUT offers a new perspective. We consider that unless we have an economy based on local production, sustainably catering to the people’s needs, we will never be able to battle against the looming environmental and social catastrophes.

PROUT is essentially a market economy. We believe in freedom of initiative to be one of the main driving forces in a flourishing market, which ultimately makes for an abundance of varied and high-quality goods. However, we recognize the impending dangers of a market driven by self-interest and greed. For that reason, in a PROUTist system there would be a strong role given to regulation. We understand that each community knows its needs, potentials and weaknesses better than a central government. For this reason, PROUT promotes economic democracy: a decentralized economic system where the means of production are given back to the people through the propagation popularization of worker-owned cooperatives, which together would provide the means to set the agenda for the development of their region. Economic democracy is characterized by an emphasis on the decentralization of economy, while providing a strong regulatory element in all areas where there is potential for abuse (such as the environment, or product safety), ultimately providing for the population’s well-being. In an economic democracy, a situation such as that in Cristobal de Las Casas would not be allowed to happen.

According to PROUT, value is meant to circulate first and foremost within the local community. Therefore, it would be illegal for foreign companies to establish a base and exploit the resources of a region, siphoning the profits made from it to investors all around the world. The significant water supplies in the town should instead be used for the development of the local region. By taking advantage of the kinetic energy produced by water currents from the rivers, cheap and clean energy could be generated. The abundance of water could also be utilized to modernize the production of textiles that has existed in the region for centuries, bringing a rise in the standard of living of the entire population.

Market Economy vs Planned Economy
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