Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How Governance Became Unethical – and what to do about it (speaking notes for the Lecture delivered at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, 10 February 2014)

Distinguished guests – and, Dr Kuehne, many thanks, for that kind introduction. Neil Levesque and Ann Camann, my thanks to you for the kind invitation and all that you have done to help with the practical arrangements!

I want to thank you all, first, because I am from India, and not many Americans are happy to hear non-Americans speaking about America (I should say, not many Americans are prepared to tolerate non-Americans speaking about America!).

However, this talk is really in a global context, because the US is still the world’s largest economy (roughly a third, actually of the world economy as a whole!) and whatever happens here impacts the world.

Second, my thanks because I am at this Institute, which is hosted by St Anselm’s, while I am a Hindu follower of Jesus, and Hindu followers of Jesus tend to be very anti-christian. So I am especially appreciative of St Anselm’s which is prepared to tolerate someone like me who is quite critical of its allegiance! However, though I may not be an ally, I am certainly a co-belligerent against many common opponents, as I think you will discover as we go along.

The Relational Thinking Network, on whose behalf I am partly speaking today, certainly has Roman Catholics among its members, supporters and sympathisers, along with Protestants, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, people of other religions, as well as atheists and agnostics, not to mention people who are from the Right as well as the Left of the political spectrum.

Allow me to start with a quote from Alexis de Tocqueville

*SLIDE 2* the well known 19th century French observer of American society, whose book

*SLIDE 3* Democracy in America, published in 1835, is still widely read – indeed, if you haven’t read it, I recommend it to you as something that is essential reading for anyone who wishes to take an intelligent interest in the world.

Tocqueville travelled through what was then the New World observing, from the perspective of a detached social scientist, America’s burgeoning democratic order, the market revolution, and Western expansion.

The quote from Tocqueville to which I want to draw your attention is the following:

*SLIDE4* “There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle”

Perhaps some of you may feel that part of Tocqueville’s statement

*SLIDE5* “there is no party of principle” in the US is still valid!

And, I don’t know, but perhaps some of you may feel that Tocqueville’s statement

*SLIDE6* “there are many men of principle in both parties” is less true than it used to be!

If so, may I suggest that your gut feeling that the number of people of principle has declined, may be partly due to your disappointment with some people who you thought followed good old American principles but turned out to have had those on as a mask to hide their real motivations, and your gut feeling may have partly to do with your disappointment with some other people who may have really believed in those principles but who made the wrong choice at one point or another.

However, it is also possible that your gut feeling about the increasing lack of principle in today’s politicians may be partly a mere perception – it may be that, not THAT many politicians LACK principles, it may be that they follow DIFFERENT principles than yours!

In other words, there has been a colossal values-shift among American politicians and indeed in American society over the generation or two even since the 1960s – which I guess dates most of us in this room.

That shift in US values was multi-dimensional.

Allow me to attempt to describe some elements of it, even in the very brief time that we have together.

*SLIDE7* Early US values could be considered to be an outcome of at least a 3-way conflict: there were the values of Native Americans, there were the values of those whom I may, without intending to indicate cattle ranching, and I hope not entirely inappropriately, colloquially call “Cowboys”, and there were the values that ruled in the Puritan and other Settlements, which were indubitably Protestant, Reformed, Biblical…

*SLIDE8* By the 19th century, when Tocqueville was travelling through America, it is clear that the influence of Biblical values was widespread, though there was an impending clash with two new forces.

The first and obvious clash was with the values of the slave-owning South (much of which justified its slave-owning with stray texts from the Old Testament).

However, even though it required huge sacrifice to counter this threat, the threat of the slave-owning South, the far more insidious threat was from the canker, the rot, forming at the heart of Puritan and Protestant values in the Settlements – the rising orientation, particularly among the rich - due to the inevitable temptation of the rich to pride, arrogance, and a degenerate lifestyle – as initially few and then larger numbers therefore oriented themselves towards towards Rationalism and Deism (EXPLAIN, IF NECESSARY).

At this stage, however, if one does not examine the philosophy but examines the morality or ethics, you will find that most Deists and Rationalists had an understandable emotional attachment, however nominal or superficial, to basically New Testament values, even if they had no intellectual basis for such values in their own philosophy.

However, as always happens, prosperity produces, in the second and third generations of the wealthy, an even greater tendency towards pride, arrogance, and a dissolute lifestyle. By the 1880s, Deists and Rationalists found New Testament morality too constraining, and started patronising, in more or less organised fashion, the old idea of Evolutionism (in its new avatar of Darwinism) to use as a battering ram against organisations, institutions and individuals that promoted trust in the Bible and faith in God.

That attack was only marginally successful till the 1960s, when the GI Bill (EXPLAIN, IF NECESSARY) and the incredibly massive expansion in the number of universities and, within existing universities, in the number and size of educational programs, provided to Rationalists and Evolutionists an opportunity to ensure that the academics in all these universities were, as far as possible, also Rationalists and Evolutionists.

The 1960s and 1970s therefore saw the culture-defining battle between faith and Evolutionism, even though the wider body of Christians seem to have been entirely unaware of that, principally because they had been too preoccupied, since the turn of the twentieth century, with trying to defend their own churches, denominations, and other institutions from the depredations of Rationalism and Evolutionism.

*SLIDE9* THIS slide suggests the nature of today’s situation in terms of values.

The whole story is told much more fully in books such as *SLIDE10* Vishal Mangalwadi’s The Book That Made Your World, *SLIDE11* George Marsden’s The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Non-Belief, and other works by *SLIDE12* Nathan O. Hatch (such as The Bible in America, The Democratisation of American Christianity, and Methodism and the Shaping of American Culture) and, probably most important of all, books by *SLIDE13* David W. Bebbington, such as Baptists Through the Centuries, and The Dominance of Evangelicalism.

In any case, allow me to sum up the transition in American values down to our day in the following way:

*SLIDE14* There have been incredible transformations of the dominant consensus in the US, which took us from no State establishment of any religious denomination (and therefore competition between the various varieties of Puritanism and Protestantism), to a new situation by the inclusion of the large numbers of Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic immigrants to the US from the 1880s so that the new amalgam was referred to as “Christian”. From that, there was a transition to the term “Judeo-Christian” by the immigration of Jewish people from around the 1900s. From the 1960s, there was a complete revolution, to the beginnings of what was called “secularism” (the banning of prayer in public schools, the removal of the Ten Commandments from public places, and so on). In the last few years we have seen the prominence given by the media to anti-theists.

The result has been the rise, among today's young people, of what I call a “Whatever-culture”, which has three characteristics:

- first, the idea that there is nothing which is in its essence sense right or wrong, typified by the widespread propagandising of the slogan “everything is relative” (when it should be quite clear to anyone with the slightest bit of sense that everything is not relative – for instance neither a mile, nor an acre, nor a pint, nor a gallon is “relative”).

So the first mark of today’s “Whatever culture” is the foolish idea that “everything is relative”.

The second is that the future does not matter – with all the consequences of such an attitude not only for individual and family wellbeing in the long term, but also for national and global survival - given the environmental challenges that we all now face.

The third is the sort of Buddhist attitude that the present is what it is and can be, to you, whatever you want it to be.

People of my generation sometimes refer to this “Whatever culture” as “apathy”, but it is rather a plague that has spread throughout the USA - a disease that would be called, in classical terms, the sin of “spiritual sloth”, or neglecting what God has said, and being physically, emotionally and volitionally inactive. The sin of sloth refers to the waste that is consequent upon lack of use, in relation to a person, place, thing, skill, or ideal that requires maintenance, refinement, or other effort to continue to exist. Classical definitions of the sin of sloth focused on it as either refusal or carelessness in the performance of one's obligations, especially obligations which are spiritual, ethical and legal (such as political participation in a democracy).

Whether you consider it an America-wide plague of sloth, or mere apathy, the practical *SLIDE 15* result, at the level of governance, was the injection of high-growth hormones into the economy. By the 1970s, the US government could dare, and the public and the media was willing to be complicit, in the immoral act of breaking an international treaty by unilaterally DELINKING THE DOLLAR FROM GOLD (enabling, first, American debt due to the Vietnam War to be repaid in debased dollars, but also so as to manipulate the value of the dollar more freely in the interests of American growth but at the cost of increasing volatility and vulnerability not only in the US but around the world). By the 1980s, as natural demand started drying up, our monetarist friends could stimulate demand by artificial means, including putting in place particular mechanisms that were more or less effective (such as FREDDIE MAC, FANNIE MAE) but these sorts of mechanisms created the long term challenges for the economy from which we have suffered in the last few years. From the 1990s, demand picked up worldwide as the result of the COLLAPSE OF THE BERLIN WALL AND THE OPENING OF RUSSIA, CHINA AND INDIA, making the whole world capitalist, with two and a half billion consumers and producers being added to the global economy, so we would have had historically unprecedented growth anyway, but various ways were invented of boosting that growth even further. Many of these ways were unsound and dangerous (which we will look at with the next slide). Any economy designed as ours is at present goes through booms and busts, and the greater the growth, the greater the booms and busts – so with these new mechanisms, the bust when it came was going to be one of the biggest yet – and that is what happened starting in 2007.

• *SLIDE 16* Here are the other high-growth hormones which, as a result of the new orientation of governance, were either added or greatly expanded in scope since the 1990s.

Allow me to discuss them in reverse order to that shown in the slide.

About *High Frequency Trading*, I will say only that it should be obvious that High-Frequency Trading strengthens the trend towards short-termism, and militates against long-term thinking, by all stock-exchange quoted companies.

• Another high-growth hormone was the *encouragement of speculation*. Politicians, regulators and market players together conspired (and the media and the public, whose role in any democracy, is to guard their freedoms, did nothing to oppose), the subversion and systematic violation of the Glass-Steagall Act, till the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act was able to be practically smuggled in, in a midnight-session in 1999. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act added “safe money” (your savings, your pension money, the money of municipalities, and so on) to the “hot money” (of rich individuals and large institutions) with which speculation (or large-scale gambling) had earlier been allowed.

• Another high-growth hormone added to the economy was so-called *Securitisation* – one of these wonderful names which indicates the opposite of what it is; and, partly because of the name, but also for other equally insubstantial reasons, the attitude induced by securitisation was “where’s the risk?” when it was absolutely clear to any normal-headed person that risk does not go away when it is widely distributed, it just makes system instability more likely when anything goes wrong.

• The last of the high-growth hormones that I want to mention (there were and are others!) is *leverage* - with idiocies such as mortgages available to most people at 120% of the value of the object being hypothecated but, if you were rich, you could speculate in the millions of dollars while, if you were a major global bank, you could gamble in the billions of dollars through companies such as LTCM which (as some of you may be too young to recollect but which the older ones among us may recollect), nearly brought the global economy to a grinding halt in 1998, when we were only half an hour away from total collapse, and it required quite illegal means to rescue the global economy.

Such high-growth hormones together led, then, to the current economic crisis which started in 2007, as well as the current political deadlock in the US.

*SLIDE 17* The political gridlock is, of course, not one of policies, even though that is the appearance that is given to the deadlock, because that suits both the Democrats and the Republicans. Rather, the political gridlock is really a gridlock of interests. We don’t have time to explore that any further right now, but if you are interested in looking into that, there are plenty of books which will provide the facts to you, such as Jeff Faux’s THE GLOBAL CLASS WAR, which documents how America’s bipartisan elite has betrayed the people of the USA.

In any case, in view of our topic today, the point to which I would like to draw your attention is that *SLIDE18* Politics always trumps economics: something that I did not understand at all when I first came across that statement as a student at university, but as I started working, and compared what was happening in my own country, India, with what was happening in other developing countries, as well as in other developed countries, I began to understand the crucial importance of the right policies.

However, political renewal requires cultural renewal (cultural renewal must either precede or accompany political renewal – (GIVE EXAMPLES OF 19TH CENTURY ENGLAND AND THE WORK OF WILLIAM WILBERFORCE, AND LEE KUAN YEW AND CONTEMPORARY SINGAPORE).

For cultural renewal, Relational Thinking has much to offer everyone – whether ordinary Democrats, Republicans, or Uncommitted Citizens.

*SLIDE 19* The first thing that Relational Thinking offers us is a comprehensive analysis of the challenges facing us, which form an interconnected web EXPLAIN TWO OR THREE

*SLIDE20* The 2nd thing that RT offers us is a comprehensive vision for the future (if you don’t like the word “Biblical”, that simply indicates where it comes from and, if you don’t want to know that, please change it to “Relational” or “Human” or whatever else you like)

*SLIDE21* The 3rd thing that RT offers us is a clear view of how the world should look, and will look, if we move towards this kind of cultural and social, and therefore economic and political renewal.

Applying the Relational Proximity Model to your family life and personal relationships, and to NPOs or other organisations with which you may be involved, enables you to begin to see not only the particular strengths of your relationships, and the areas for improvement, but also specifically how you might improve them.

*SLIDE22* Relational Thinking is buttressed by academically solid research through the non-profit organisation, Relational Research, which is able to undertake research on behalf of Think Tanks, NonProfits, Foundations, Political Parties, Governments, and companies and other business-oriented organisations.

In addition *SLIDE 23* there is the for-profit company, Relational Analytics. Though a part its profits go to the investors in the company, they are aware that a part of the profits also go back into the work of Relational Research. Relational Analytics offers a set of audit tools for companies not only to measure Relational Risk but also, as a consequence of the audit, to prescribe ways of addressing *relational risk*.

Then there is the Relationships Foundation which is involved with policy work.

Between the work of such specialist parts of the Relational Thinking Network, and the national movements, such as the USA’s own rWorld (SIMON, WHERE ARE YOU? If you have questions about the national movement which has just started in the USA, please contact Simon Fowler). Anyway, between the work of the national movements, which are not only in the USA but also in the UK, South Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia, and the specialist parts of the Relational Thinking Network such as Relational Research and Relational Analytics, the Relational Thinking Network offers you one important means of cultural renewal, which I am happy to commend to you.

Naturally, there are other organisations also working for societal resurgence, and you may be perhaps already working with one of them.

I hope so.

Meanwhile, let me summarise my message: Governance has become more and more unethical since the 1980s because of increasing abandonment by Americans of Truth and spirituality that lead to morality and responsibility. The route to cultural, social, economic and political recovery undoubtedly lie in re-commitment to Truth, morality, and responsibility by each of us in this Auditorium and by the many millions of Americans around this nation. If you do not turn to Truth, morality and responsibility, then America as a nation will continue to decline. Nations not only rise, nations have also fallen into decline and oblivion; think of the Roman Empire, the Greek, the Assyrian, the Persian, that of Chengiz Khan, and so on.

But I am hopeful that a better prospect is ahead – if we and others in the USA will turn to Truth, goodness, modesty, mercy, and indeed to genuine and sacrificial love for each other, for your nation, and for the still-globalising world in which we all now live.

Thank you.

ENDS Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A wonderful tour de force which I hope will inspire my moderation of a debate on Thursday!