Monday, January 29, 2018


Copyright © Klaus Veltjens 2018
(references are numbers in brackets)

An overview of man’s biological development over nearly 3.6 billion years and the changing environment over the last 8,000 years, and how man’s evolution was and still is part of the ecolo-gy that developed simultaneously with us.
The emphasis in this essay is on nutrition and health.
A suggestion for changing what went wrong by supporting a healthy outcome.

Our origin goes back to the beginning of cellular life on Earth about 3.6 billion years ago, when our first ancestor was a prokaryote cell.
Around 2.5 billion years ago, one prokaryote cell swallowed a cyanobacterium cell without digesting it. That cell was able to do photosynthesis, converting carbon dioxide plus water with light as “catalyst” into sugar as source of energy (6CO2+6H2O=C6H12O6); so it co-opted it to use this capacity.
That process then released O2 as waste, which started filling the atmosphere with oxygen, The result of this endosymbiosis (1) became ultimately co-opted into every plant.
Another incredible event was the endosymbiosis of the eukaryotic cell, a merger of one cell with most of its DNA in its nucleus with another cell, the mitochondrion, with its own DNA nearly two billion years ago (2).
This cell was the ancestor of almost all animals on Earth.(3). That is the cell we are made of with about 250 variants that have different numbers of mitochondria in them. Around 80% of our own energy comes from the ATP (Adenosine triphosphate (C10H16N5O13P3)) produced by the mi-tochondria in each of our cells. By hydrolysis of ATP it releases between 30.5 and 45.6 kJ/mol (4).
The mitochondrion in this combined cell produced energy for its survival plus some energy to spare, and this was the cause for Darwin's order of the survival of the fittest, and all creatures be-came competitive predators: Everyone is eating everyone else, and plants, having the last laugh, absorb the remains of all of them when they die.
The microbiome in our gut is a community of microbiota that joined the evolution of animals around 500 million years ago. At that time, what could be our ancestor living in water, the hydra was no more than a floating digestive tract. A tube a few millimeters long with a mouth at one end, a digestive system filled with microbes along its length, and an adhesive disk at the other end to anchor the animal to a rock or plant. These creatures can still be found in freshwater to-day.(5)

Our evolution took place interactively with all the plants, animals, and microorganisms in an ecological community together. This means we were, and are still, symbiotically relating to each other; our life and immune system are in tune with it as a source of nutrition and protection against disease. We depend on it from the moment of conception and throughout life.
The hunter-gatherers ate what was seasonally available in their local ecology. They moved barefoot through their territory, perfectly grounded (earthed) to mother Earth (6), to hunt and gather their food. The only toxins were of natural origin, and our body could detox them. Plants provided the ammunition our immune system required, such as vitamins, trace metals, and special molecules like cancer-cell-eating Anthocyanin in the dark pigment in fruits and leaves, and other antioxidants. The first Australian and American peoples were healthy before the European diet was introduced. Bush tucker was the food the First Australians gathered from their land; the Pa-lawa people of Trowunna collected rich supplies of roots, fungi, lagoon leeks, yakka bread, seeds, orchid bulbs and plant shoots that were harvested throughout the seasons (7).

The original immune system of the peoples who migrated out of central Africa were blood type O, suitable for a hunter gatherer environment, and this is still the blood group of the first peoples of Australia and America as they became isolated as a result of rising sea levels after the ice ages. However, around 8,000 years ago in the Levant, agriculture facilitated specialisation and urban life with resulting sanitary problems and unfamiliar food, and this, over a few thou-sand years, caused a mutation to the blood type A, which introduced an immune system able to protect us better from those new threats (8).
After a further 4,000 thousand years man took to the savannas, taking their livestock with them; milk was a dietary problem, so over time another mutation took place: blood type B. When Type A and Type B societies started to intermingle, type AB started to appear between 500 BC and 900 AD.

The development of the human body via a pathway of many animal species over the last near-ly 1 billion years was a continuous evolution into an increasingly complex yet integrated commu-nity of cells (9). By now, each human body is a cooperative ecological community of 100,000,000,000,000 (100 Trillion) eukaryotic cells, together with a further separate 1014 to 1015 microorganisms that are living symbiotically in our gut and elsewhere weighing 2.5 kg or more (10. This microbiome therefore represents the same number or perhaps even 10 times the number cells in the gut compared to cells in our entire body (11). Combined, these 200 Trillion cells rep-resent nearly 29,000 times as many cells in each of us compared with the total number of humans on earth, yet those cells are more cooperative than human peoples.
This community of specialised symbiotic cells is able to coordinate all bodily functions, such as sensing the external and internal environments, communicating with the brain via the gut-brain axis (12), adapting heart rates to demand, sorting the food into useful products, recyclable waste, and poisonous substances, expelling the latter, storing surplus food for future use, achieving en-ergy production for extended periods while sending warnings when muscles reach dangerous acidity, and killing and removing bacterial or viral attackers from the body. The microbiota in our digestive system (from the mouth to the end of the colon) play an important part in the commu-nication between the brain, the gut, and all the other organs(13). The brain receives data from each part of the body including the microbiome every millisecond, acts upon and records the in-formation most likely in the insular cortex; some of this information we can call upon years later in “gut-feelings”(14) and metacognition (15). The communication between cells by electro-chemical messages and hormonal messengers is so fast that your hand on the hotplate of the stove will automatically be removed from the heat before you feel the pain.
When our nutrition is inadequate, the body will still always find the best process for our sur-vival, even if it has to take material from elsewhere in the body to produce what is needed to solve the problem (16).
The bacteria in our colon have a symbiotic relationship with our immune system. They guard the colon wall, where many of them live, against the passage of unwanted living or chemical in-truders into the bloodstream. They, in particular various lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, live by eating the fibre our digestive system cannot digest. In this balanced external and internal ecologi-cal environment, which developed simultaneously with us over billions of years, we survived and multiplied.
These important microbes are part of a diverse and balanced gut flora, a symbiosis, but when falling out of this balanced state, called dysbiosis, they get overwhelmed by other somewhat self-ish bacteria, pathobionts, that live off processed sugars and flour. Then the “good” bacteria, starved of their essential fibre as food, may no longer be able to protect us, and unwanted prod-ucts will enter our bloodstream through a “leaky gut”. That initiates a counterattack by the im-mune system, generally by inflammatory action, which in turn can be identified as a large number of diseases throughout the body and even in the brain (17)(18).

What changed?
All this worked well until progressively with urbanisation and the industrial revolution we moved away from our local ecology to cities. Our food was no longer similar to what we “gath-ered” in our ecological surroundings before that.
When the people left the farms and villages and moved to the cities, poverty followed, the country-diet was forgotten, and new pollutants multiplied. It took the world’s populations fur-ther away from the ecological sources of food, and encouraged the industrialisation of agriculture and food production, which in turn caused a dramatic reduction in its nutritional value. Our eco-logical nutrition has been compromised.
The first major change occurred around 8,000 years ago; with urbanisation.
250 years ago, with the beginning of the industrial revolution, our excellent immune system was overwhelmed by the poisonous by-products and deprivation caused by industrialisation.
In addition to that, during the last 70 years by industrialised farming, when fertilisation by dung and liquid manure was replaced by artificial fertilisers, nutrition was taken out of the equa-tion.
Shoes with plastic soles became electrical insulators that disconnected us from being grounded to the electron feed from earth, interfering with the gut-brain axis information transfer. By con-necting the body to the Earth enables free electrons from the Earth’s surface to spread over and into the body, where they can have antioxidant effects. Grounding produces measurable differ-ences in the concentrations of white blood cells, cytokines, and other molecules involved in the inflammatory response. (19)
There has been no time to mutate again to adapt to these rapid changes.

What should the essential issues relating to high quality productive agriculture be to return to the ecological nutrition our bodies’ ecosystem need?
With agricultural fertilisation and its emphasis on just nitrogen, potassium, and phosphate; the minerals required by our body’s healthy metabolism and by a fully functioning immune system are not only missing, but if they were in the soil, as a result of increasing acidity, they could not be absorbed by the plants we and our livestock eat.
The biodiversity of the world’s plant and animal life is said to have decreased by an estimated 30% since the 1970s. It is of concern, perhaps by corollary, that the biodiversity of the western Microbiome has also decreased by a similar amount by comparison to that of the world’s primal communities.
We have been separated from our ecological environment, and the foods produced with cur-rent large scale farming techniques are lacking what our bodies had available during our evolution and on which our body depends, i.e. the food provided in our local ecosystem. The current use of artificial fertilisers repress the plants’ ability to absorb the essential nutrients, i.e. vitamins, miner-als and trace elements, including selenium, copper, magnesium, zinc, iodine, molybdenum, plus others, and EFAs (essential fatty acids) such as omega-3 and omega-6.
All of these are essential for our physical and neurological development and our immune sys-tems to function properly, and all of them have to be in a delicate balance with each other (20). Without essential vitamins, minerals, and fibre:
• Our body cannot develop properly in utero,
• cannot develop in childhood,
• cannot sustain itself,
• cannot defend itself against diseases, and
• cannot develop a child’s brain properly,
If freshness is important, then distance is a disadvantage of obtaining food from thousands of kilometres away, quite apart from the fuel and energy requirements to transport it. Therefore we must encourage the consumption of seasonal local products.

The body’s gut flora, the microbiome, must be balanced in favour of the good bacteria in or-der to assist in maintaining the body’s homeostasis and prevent diseases linked to neuropsycho-logical, metabolic, and gastrointestinal disorders. Due to the widespread consumption of highly processed foods, where fibre has been removed and sugar introduced, the gut flora has become dominated by the bad bacteria such as Clostridium difficili, and that has compromised the im-mune system.
The number of species in the microbiota of rural agrarians and hunter-gatherers have capabili-ties that many people in urban environments have simply lost. In particular the bacterium rumino-cocccus bromii, which predigests resistant fibre which then enables other bacteria to ferment re-sistant starch into short-chain fatty acids (21). Resistant starch is contained in plant food such as bananas, potatoes, seeds, legumes, and unprocessed grains.
The result of a dysfunctional microbiome is the endemic spread of diseases linked it. (22)
• Arthritis 3.5 million people (15.3%)
• Asthma 2.5 million people (10.8%)
• Cancer 370,100 people (1.6%)
• High cholesterol 1.6 million people (7.1%)
• Diabetes 1.2 million people (5.1%)
• Heart disease 1.2 million people (5.2%)
• Hypertension 2.6 million people (11.3%)
• Kidney disease 203,400 people (0.9%)
• Mental and behavioural conditions 4.0 million people (17.5%)
• Osteoporosis 801,800 people (3.5%)
Neurological diseases (23)
• Autism spectrum disorder (ASD),
• Multiple sclerosis (MS),
• Depression,
• Dementia,
• Alzheimer’s,
• Parkinson’s.

In other words, a nutritional imbalance can cause catastrophic and epidemic diseases.

Food is not merely fuel measured in Calories or Kilojoules provided by carbohydrates. The es-sential minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and EFAs are missing, and need to be returned to our foods. Adding them into the food is best done at its source: in the crop fields and the livestock paddocks.
This means that:
• The soil has to contain the ingredients our immune system needs,
• The vegetables, grains, and livestock must supply us with them,
• They must provide us with what our ancient ecology provided, and
• The produce must reach us fresh from the farms.

Change is possible by avoiding artificial fertilisers. What is needed is a farmers’ stewardship (24) towards the production of organic-only and even biodynamic food, where produce can be traced from the farmer to the retailer. It should include the use of recycled irrigation water now of Class A drinking water quality, and fertilise with the minerals of the sea, where our first ecol-ogy was.
Seaweed still has all the ingredients of our original ecological food sources. The average com-position of seaweed (Ascophyllum nodosum), the predominant seaweed in agriculture used today, typically contains over 60 minerals, 12 vitamins, 21 amino acids, simple and complex carbohy-drates plus several plant growth hormones.
Seaweed collection and processing as fertiliser as well as food will provide all of the essential trace and micro elements our nutrition must include. This is already being done in Asia and Nor-way.

Products need to be tested to show content of all essential minerals, micro elements, vitamins, EFAs (essential fatty acids), and fibre. For a consistent result, soils need to be tested regularly for Ph-neutral soil and Mineral content.
Restrict refining of food products.

To succeed with this project, an intensive process of education and marketing would need to accompany it, starting with:
• Government
• The farmers, including existing research groups such as:
• Slow Foods,
• PPS (Perennial Pasture Systems),
• Biodynamic Agriculture Australia Ltd,
• Organic Dairy Farmers,
• Australian Pig Farmers, etc
• Children in primary and secondary schools, and
• Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation.

Man’s life depends on food, and most of it comes from the land.
Arable land is reducing at a rapid rate. Of this planet’s 148 million square kilometres of land, approximately 31 million is arable, and this land is being lost at the rate of over 100,000 km² per year as a result of urban sprawl and drought.
That means:
0.51 ha per person in the year 2000,
0.39 ha per person in 2015,
0.28 ha per person in 2050, and
even less with rising sea levels and salinity.
Expanding cities use up arable land

Cities can and do provide facilities for physical exercise as this is a vital part of healthy living and wellbeing:
 Walking tracks,
 Cycling tracks,
 Gym equipment in parks,
 Swimming pools,
 Beach access,
 Gyms, and
 Health spas.

From a farmer’s viewpoint it would:
 Create living soil,
 Reduce predation,
 Reduce erosion,
 Improve productivity,
 Improve drought-proofing,
 Reduce salinity and acidity problems,
 Supply a growing world market, and
 Achieve better products with better prices at little (if any) extra cost.

From a government’s viewpoint at all levels it would:
 Lower the health budget per person,
 Utilise water waste for production,
 Reduce infrastructure costs,
 Reduce aggressive crimes, and
 Protect the natural environment.

From the population’s viewpoint it would:
 Bring enjoyment of better health and fitness,
 Reduce medical expenses,
 Reduce lost work time,
 Reduce stress and associated sickness, and
 Improve child raising.

1 Virtual Fossil Museum
2 Brian Cox Human Universe
3 Brian Cox Human Universe
4 Wikipedia
5 Emeran Mayer, MD The Mind-Gut Connection: How the Hidden Conversation Within Our Bodies Impacts Our Mood, Our Choices, and Our Overall Health – page 91
6 Oschman J, Chevalier G, Brown R
7 University of Tasmania
8 Dr Peter J,D’Adamo Eat Right for Your Type 1996
9 Bruce H. Lipton, PhD The Biology of Belief 2009
10 Emeran Mayer, MD The Mind-Gut Connection: How the Hidden Conversation Within Our Bodies Impacts Our Mood, Our Choices, and Our Overall Health
11 Linghong Zhou & Jane A Foster Psychobiotics and gut-brain axis: in the pursuit of happiness
12 Linghong Zhou & Jane A Foster Psychobiotics and gut-brain axis: in the pursuit of happiness
13 Emeran Mayer, MD The Mind-Gut Connection; How the Hidden Conversation Within Our Bodies Impacts Our Mood, Our Choices, and Our Overall Health
14 Emeran Mayer, MD The Mind-Gut Connection: How the Hidden Conversation Within Our Bodies Impacts Our Mood, Our Choices, and Our Overall Health
16 Dr. M. Ted Morter, Jr. Your Health Your Choice 1990
17 Dr David Perlmutter Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain for Life 2015
18 Emeran Mayer, MD The Mind-Gut Connection: How the Hidden Conversation Within Our Bodies Impacts Our Mood, Our Choices, and Our Overall Health
19 Oschman J, Chevalier G, Brown R
20 Dr. Carole Hungerford Good Health in the 21st
21 Emeran Mayer, MD The Mind-Gut Connection: How the Hidden Conversation Within Our Bodies Impacts Our Mood, Our Choices, and Our Overall Health – page 215
22 Australian Bureau of Statistics
23 Dr David Perlmutter Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain for Life 2015

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

This is an extract from my book "World without War, made possible by empowered individuals".
Embrace – Culture of Pooled Commitment
We have investigated three streams of human activity and how moral and ethical values and principles can be promulgated in the ‘worldspirit’ and implemented in all three streams. As the values and principles were developed so that each stream can prepare suitable plans for each culture of commitment, they would have tended to develop somewhat independently from each other. In the end it is important that the three streams come together. This means that spirituality will influence commercial decisions in the stream of commerce, and influence citizens in their development of political constitutions and institutions in the stream of government. By corollary, government will influence spirituality when comprehensive doctrines are being modified to make the change possible from overlapping consensus towards true consensus, always retaining the separation of state and religion. Commerce will influence government in the financial and moral support towards cultural endeavours such as a wider curriculum in education to include subjects like history, languages, philosophy, art and religions, and support institutions in similar fields.
As I bring all three streams together in the embrace of a culture of pooled commitment, I will set the scene for creating a World Gemeinschaft out of a world society of peoples.
Rawls suggested the following basic political principles for his Society of Peoples:
“ … let’s first look at familiar and traditional principles of justice among free and democratic peoples:
Peoples are free and independent, and their freedom and independence are to be respected by other peoples.
Peoples are to observe treaties and undertakings.
Peoples are equal and are parties to the agreements that bind them.
Peoples are to observe a duty of non-intervention,
Peoples have the right of self-defence but no right to instigate war for reasons other than self-defence.
Peoples are to honour human rights.
Peoples are to observe certain specified restrictions in the conduct of war.
Peoples have a duty to assist other peoples living under unfavourable conditions that prevent their having a just or decent political and social regime.”
The last principle is an indication that the Society of Peoples will not be an introverted and exclusive society, but will respect, tolerate and interact with non-member peoples. There will be acceptance of moral issues beyond those of purely political thought, and even a hint of altruism.
The term ‘self-defence’ will have to be clearly defined and must depend on consensus of the society as a whole, as it is a term that has been grossly misused in the past for other usually selfish purposes. The principles also make it clear that the only peoples who could form a Society of Peoples are ‘well-ordered peoples’, who would then have to agree on norms for the formation or adaptation of their individual governments’ constitutions and justice systems in order to come to a mutually agreeable system for the World Society of Peoples and its governance.
Rawls’ principles are, however, merely a political basis represented in the stream of government, which includes humanitarian aspects on which to build. It would need to be expanded to include aspects of the stream of spirituality, such as metaphysical and moral worldviews that have, particularly in the early stages of forming his ‘original position’, been shrouded by Rawls behind a ‘veil of ignorance’.
Peace or stability comes in two kinds: stability for ‘the right reasons’ and stability as a ‘balance of power or impotence’. ‘Right reasons’ means, that such stability:
“ … rests in part on the allegiance to the Law of Peoples. … it is stable with respect to justice; and the institutions and practices among peoples continue to satisfy the relevant principles of right and justice, even though their relations and success are continually changing in view of political, economic, and social trends.”
The French political scientist and teacher of social philosophy at the University of Toulouse and the Sorbonne, Dr Raymond Aron (1905–1983), called it ‘peace of satisfaction’ , as such peoples, who belong to legitimate regimes that abide by shared principles, have nothing to go to war about. Their basic needs are met and their fundamental interests are fully compatible with other democratic peoples. They do not aspire to change other peoples’ religions, nor are they driven by hurt pride or arrogance.
The closest current intra-national organisation to such a Society of Peoples, although not yet a government in the strictest sense of the concept, is the European Union. It is unique in the world. It sprang from the determination of a few politicians of a number of former enemy countries led by Robert Schuman of France after World War II to find a solution for preventing war in Europe:
“The Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe is preceded by a Preamble which recalls, among other things, Europe’s cultural, religious and humanist inheritance, and invokes the desire of the peoples of Europe to transcend their ancient divisions in order to forge a common destiny, while remaining proud of their national identities and history.”
The European Union, representing 493 million inhabitants (2006), the world’s third largest population after China and India. It is not a federation such as the USA nor is it simply a common market or an organisation for co-operation between governments. While the member states retain their independence, they pool their sovereignty in order to gain a strength and world influence none of them could have on their own. This means that the member states delegate some of their decision-making powers to shared institutions they have created, so that decisions on specific matters of joint interest can be made democratically at European level.
The member countries have to be and are indeed liberal democratic peoples. This system is so attractive to non-member states that they will decide to bring about internal political and sometimes constitutional changes to gain acceptance to EU membership. In 2006, there were 27 member countries and three candidate countries including Turkey. This expansion by demand is a clear indication of the suitability of that system for including peoples of many different cultures and religions. The internal changes that may be needed to achieve acceptance for membership are not always easy, as existing political systems have evolved through centuries of history and are therefore entrenched in the psyche of the people, particularly where state and religion have at one stage been one and the same. To achieve such adaptation will require time, as there will be the need for those peoples to learn, adjust and adapt.
Nevertheless, all member peoples accept and support the Values of the Union:
“The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values, which are set out in Article I-2, are common to the Member States. Moreover, the societies of the Member States are characterised by pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men.”
The shared institutions of the EU include the Parliament and Council. Members of the European Parliament are elected by the EU citizens. They do not sit in national blocks but in seven Europe-wide political groups. Between them, they represent all views on European integration, from the strongly pro-federalist to the openly Euro-sceptic. The council is the main decision-making body. Meetings are attended by a minister from each member state, the selection of the minister depending on the subjects on the agenda. The presidency of the council rotates every six months.
This system of combining separate countries into a single decision-making and legal system is unique, and sets a very promising example for what could one day become a prototype for a world government. It has developed in a democratic way, provides extraordinary benefits for each state that none could have on its own, and makes war between them impossible. The EU functions as a sovereign entity in the international scene but it allows each state to maintain its cultural identity.
“The European Union is a federal body that has adopted the principle that decisions should always be taken at the lowest level capable of dealing with the problem. The application of this principle, known as subsidiarity, is still being tested. But if it works for Europe, it is not impossible that it might work for the world.”
‘Subsidiarity’ is another term for ‘bottom-up’ governance, and is the principle which states that matters ought to be handled by the smallest (or the lowest) competent authority. The Oxford English Dictionary defines subsidiarity as the idea that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level.
The EU was created for European countries and its bottom-up constitution is perhaps the reason why its administration is relatively large. To extend this society of peoples to a worldwide ‘union’ of societies of peoples would certainly require other parallel and somewhat similar societies of peoples in other regions, plus another level of administration to coordinate the various regions. All societies would have the same overarching principles and ‘law of the peoples’. However, with their different cultures and histories, they would need to tolerate reasonable differences in their interpretations. This would mean that the ‘original position’ and ‘second position’ of John Rawls in achieving internal governance and a social contract between peoples would have to be expanded to a ‘third position’ for the formation of principles of a just and reasonable union of the regional societies of peoples. Utopia? Perhaps, but then with positivity, patience and persistence, it will become a self-fulfilling reasonable facticity.
The EU has a Court of Justice to make sure that EU law is interpreted and applied the same way in all member states, so that the law is the same for everyone.
The concept of justice has various meanings. Law enforcement in many countries has created doubt whether it will achieve justice before the law, and has been harshly criticised in the term ‘the law is an ass’. If the courtroom is a battleground for combating lawyers finding loopholes in the words of the law, and the winner is decided by the price the defendant is willing or able to pay for representation, then the law is indeed an ass, as fairness is no longer the issue. Many laws, in their method of assessing punishment, echo the ancient feelings of revenge. The idea of ‘justice as fairness’ or any other conception of justice by liberal citizens is first of all developed on the liberal conception of right and justice. A law is always legitimate if it is formed by a government under its constitutional powers, but as a consequence, it may not necessarily be just if it does not also fulfil the test of liberal and humanitarian governance, which should be reflected in the judge’s decisions. The law, as it is written by a democratic government, will always only be able to cover generalities; it cannot and should not be specific to cover all contingencies. This means that its interpretation in the courts will rely on the judge’s reasonableness beyond the written word to apply constitutional, humanitarian and in a sense historical sense in its judgements. In most cases, this will also be influenced by the corpus iuris contained in the unwritten law of the collective cases. Hegel comments like this:
“There is an essential aspect in law and the administration of justice which contains a contingency and which derives from the fact that the law is a general prescription that has to be applied to the individual case. If you wanted to declare yourself against this contingency, you would be talking in abstractions.”
In developing the idea for the law of the people for a liberal, egalitarian and just society, Jean Jacques Rousseau says this in his introduction to ‘The Social Contract’:
“In this inquiry I shall endeavour always to unite what right sanctions with what is prescribed by interest, in order that justice and utility may in no case be divided.”
Reasonable pluralism may not be possible within a people or in a society of peoples wholly relying on such a theory of justice, as through public reason it requires the fulfilment of reciprocity. To make reasonable pluralism possible and to achieve genuine reciprocity rather than a status of modus vivendi, it is necessary that comprehensive religious and secular doctrines include clauses that make them fit reasonably into the law of the people. In that situation, they will be able to live together in ‘overlapping consensus’.
In summary, a Society of Peoples is formed by well-ordered peoples who have liberal and just democratic regimes. John Laws:
“Political liberalism proposes that, in a constitutional democratic regime, comprehensive doctrines of truth or of right are to be replaced in public reason by an idea of the politically reasonable addressed to citizens as citizens. Here note the parallel: public reason is invoked by members of the Society of Peoples, and its principles are addressed to peoples as peoples. They are not expressed in terms of comprehensive doctrines of truth or of right, which may hold sway in this or that society, but in terms that can be shared by different peoples.”
This is liberalism, not libertarianism that lacks reciprocity, and is pluralism where peoples have reasonable, expected and tolerated differences from one another with their distinctive institutions and languages, religions and cultures, as well as their different histories.
John Rawls makes a distinction between his theory of justice and political liberalism. He believes that the theory of justice develops from the idea of the social contract represented by Locke, Rousseau and Kant, yet he hopes to present the structural features of such a theory so as to make it the best approximation to our considered conceptions of justice. This would then seem to be the most appropriate moral basis for a democratic society, especially when ‘justice as fairness’ together with other conceptions of justice are presented as a ‘comprehensive liberal doctrine’ in which all the members of the well-ordered society affirm the same doctrine. Aye, there’s the rub, for in such a society, where all the members of a society affirm that same doctrine, it will contradict the concept of reasonable pluralism and can therefore not represent true political liberalism.
The question is how: is it possible for those affirming a comprehensive doctrine, religious or non-religious, to hold a reasonable political conception of justice that also supports a constitutional democratic society? John Rawls:
“The political conceptions are seen as both liberal and self-standing and not as comprehensive, whereas the religious doctrines may be comprehensive but not liberal. The two books are asymmetrical, though both have an idea of public reason. In the first, public reason is given by a comprehensive liberal doctrine, while in the second, public reason is a way of reasoning about political value shared by free and equal citizens that does not trespass on citizens’ comprehensive doctrines so long as those doctrines are consistent with a democratic polity.”
Thus, the well-ordered constitutional democratic society of political liberalism is one governed by laws with citizens following irreconcilable yet reasonable and comprehensive doctrines by ‘overlapping consensus’. These doctrines can therefore, according to Rawls, support reasonable political conceptions – “although not necessarily the most reasonable” – which specify the basic rights, liberties and opportunities of citizens in the society’s basic structure.
This means that individuals of different peoples would have to be liberal in accepting and tolerating the differences between citizens in their society and other liberal and non-liberal peoples and their cultures and histories – in spite of irreconcilable differences in their comprehensive doctrines. They would discuss, reflect about and endorse what statutes they wanted for their peoples to achieve stability, and by relying on public reason reach ‘overlapping consensus’.
Inclusion of Comprehensive Doctrines
This acceptance of a pluralism in which comprehensive doctrines can exist next to each other on the basis of an ‘overlapping consensus’ can however only be a temporary solution or a first step, as it was derived from a theoretical rather than a real position. In this situation stability is based on a purely politically reasonable acceptance and agreement to tolerate unreconciled differences, and in which that political stability is relying on faith in reason to continue. The society of peoples proposed by John Rawls as a theory was a political development of well-ordered peoples into a liberal and just society, albeit with the risk of instability through its reliance on faith in reason in the resulting overlapping consensus. This status had involved a bias in the discussion towards purely political doctrine by shrouding sociological and comprehensive doctrines, both religious and secular, in a veil of ignorance. Even if this veil has become thinner in Rawls’ later thinking, as he has accepted discussions of reasonable comprehensive doctrines, religious or non-religious, they are still subject to a ‘proviso’ that they can support reasonable conceptions of political justice.
To overcome this bias, the streams of government and spirituality need to embrace the project of communicative action and discourse that takes place not only on a political level but also in a wider moral and ethical sphere driven by like-minded citizens of well-ordered societies as citizens and by peoples as peoples. This way a society of peoples will be able to formulate principles that allow its peoples to interact with each other in true stability for the right reasons, and will be able to prepare values and principles that are acceptable to all, similar to Hans Küng’s declaration with regard to the world’s religions, and in this way become a ‘World Gemeinschaft’.
For a number of ‘Societies of Peoples’ to become a ‘World Gemeinschaft’, their principles must become meaningful to the individual citizens and to the peoples, equivalent to the ‘shared mores’ of the communities that embraced ‘familiarity’ before the industrial revolution. It must embrace more than purely political aspects and include sociological philosophy and religious worldviews to allow for positive communicative action with regard to every form of human interaction, including civic virtue, altruism and comprehensive doctrines. These principles will then become overarching in the sense of the ‘worldspirit’ in all other arrangements between them, including the forming of special institutions.
It is necessary therefore that the continuing differences be resolved, as a next step, by norm-led philosophical argumentation with discourse ethics between adherents of the religious and secular doctrines and other liberal and just citizens, where all have rights of political participation as well as basic liberal rights. So far sociological and metaphysical subjects that have been suppressed by Rawls’ ‘veil of ignorance’, and had reached the possibility of forming a theoretical society with a stability relying on faith in reason. The ‘proviso’ in his later writing did not change this, as a proviso is just another version of ‘exclusion’. Such discourse must now reach beyond political philosophy, and open up to a much wider view of public culture than he allowed. It reached this point where the citizens had developed and enshrined a constitution based on history and reason. The ‘proviso’ still precludes the introduction of subjects outside political thought unless they support reasonable conceptions of political justice. This will create a popular autonomy for a society’s citizens at the expense to some extent of their private autonomy.
To bring this theoretical constitution into the real world, it will have to be overhauled as a living and ongoing social institution. Any discourse of this nature could in some instances be seen as civil disobedience, perhaps even heresy, but would be a necessary part of keeping a democratic constitution up to date from generation to generation, where its justification relies on the dynamic understanding of the constitution as an unfinished project.
Jürgen Habermas continued his discussion with Rawls after he had introduced the proviso, although after Rawls had died, and argues that some arduous work of hermeneutic self-reflection must be undertaken from within the perspective of religious traditions:
“... traditional communities of faith must process their cognitive dissonance that either do not arise for secular citizens, or arise only insofar as they adhere to doctrines anchored in similarly dogmatic ways”.
For Muslims, for instance, the Prophet’s revelations in the Qur’an and Sunna are unalterable, as the techniques of ‘usul al-fiqh’ (methodology for application of Islamic precepts) allow no possibility for change. However:
“In contrast, there is nothing to prevent the formation of a fresh consensus around new interpretative techniques or innovative interpretations of the Qur’an and Sunna, which would become a part of the Shari’a just as the existing methodologies and interpretations came to be a part of it in the first place.”
Consensus, or ‘ijma’, has a critical role even within Islam, as it is the basis of the acceptance of the text of the Qur’an and the records of Sunna as the fundamental sources of Islam and Shari’a.
This ultimate communicative action must aim at finding a truth, rather than reasonableness, along an epistemic path, which studies the nature, methods, limitations and validity of knowledge and belief in connection with these doctrines. This is necessary in order to allow them to resolve the differences that make a true consensus and true tolerance based in conciliation between them possible.
The targeted outcome will be to renegotiate the overlapping consensus of the ‘world society of peoples’ toward the achievement of a ‘World Gemeinschaft’ with spiritually as well as political true consensus that will be a lasting basis for stability. However, in order to achieve this, reforms and modifications to the religious and secular doctrines will have to be negotiated to find a truth that cannot be merely compatible with political justice but where a political comprehension of justice can be ‘derived’. This is in the sense of logicism for each worldview or doctrine to achieve true pluralism, a task that is likely to take a little time to complete due to the rigidity of some of the doctrines.
Such change is already starting to take place in Islam, especially with regard to the religious law of Islam, Shar’ia. This change was given particular impetus in Sudan by Ustadh (revered teacher) Mahmoud Mohamed Taha (1909–1985), who started the Islam Reform movement with considerable following in the face of opposition from the government. He was sentenced to death and executed on trumped-up charges in an unconstitutional court under the instructions of the president of Sudan, Numeiri. Three weeks after the execution, Numeiri was deposed and the court case, the charges and the sentence were, during the reign of the following interim government, declared null and void.
Ustadh Mahmoud made a clear distinction between those parts of the Qur’an that had been revealed to Muhammad in Mecca (al-islam), and those after he had moved to Medina (al-iman) . ‘The Second Message (Mecca) is Islam,’ he said, and concluded that the First Message (Medina) was an ‘explanation’, written into the Qur’an to help believers of a superficial or lower level (al-mu’minin) to become true ‘submitters’ (al-muslimin) at the ultimate level:
“‘Explanation’ of the Qur’an has been only in terms of [expedient] legislation, the Shari’a, and interpretation to the extent appropriate for the time of such explanation and in accordance with the capacity of the audience and the abilities of the people.”
Muhammad believed in and pronounced the equality of men and women:
“The equality between men and women is the universal rule in Islam, and Shari’a law discriminated between the two only because of circumstances prevailing at the various stages of development of society.”
Absolute freedom he considers a right, albeit subject to obligations towards the community:
“We have already discussed repression in this book and said that it is caused by fear, and that absolute individual freedom requires freedom from fear. To achieve such freedom from any form or type of fear, it is necessary to organize the community in such a way as to secure the individual against fear of the lack of subsistence, oppressive authority, and intolerant public opinion.”
Ustadh Mahmoud Mohamed Taha was the first man to propose a direct dialog for peaceful co-existence between the Arab States and the State of Israel after the 1967 six-day war between the Arabs and Israel.
One of his Sudanese followers, Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law at Emory University School of Law, translated some of his works and is following through on the insights of Mahmoud Mohamed Taha. He himself advocates social and cultural reform in Muslim communities in his ground-breaking book ‘Islam and the Secular State; negotiating the Future of Shari’a’, where he promotes the possibility of a Muslim society within a pluralistic democratic state.
“The framework proposed in this book provides the normative and institutional parameters and safeguards for the negotiation and mediation of the role of Shari`a among Muslims and non-Muslims now and into the future. By negotiation and mediation, I mean to emphasize that there is no categorical and permanent resolution of the paradox of how to secure the religious neutrality of the state in the reality of the connectedness of Islam and politics.”
He suggests that Islam would be able to accept such reciprocity with other doctrines, although not in the sense of ‘al-mu’awadah’, the reciprocity principle of Shari’a, but if it were to reconsider an interpretation of the Qur’an on the basis of the earlier Mecca period of Muhammad’s teachings. An-Na’im claims that the superior Mecca revelations and principles were interpreted to be more ‘realistic and practical’ (in 7th century historical context) in Medina, because ‘society was not yet ready’ for their implementation. Now that historical conditions have changed, An-Na’im believes that Muslims should follow the earlier Mecca period in interpreting Shari’a.
“The Qur’an does not mention constitutionalism, but human rational thinking and experience have shown that constitutionalism is necessary for realizing the just and good society by the Qur’an. An Islamic justification and support for constitutionalism is important and relevant for Muslims. Non-Muslims may have their own secular or other justifications. As long as all are agreed on the principle of specific rules of constitutionalism, including complete equality and non-discrimination on grounds of gender or religion, each may have his or her own reasons for coming to that agreement.”
He suggests that:
“Shari’a principles by their nature and function defy any possibility of enforcement by the state, claiming to enforce Shari’a principles as state law is a logical contradiction.”
Informed by the social normativity of the ‘worldsoul’ and through communicative action with discourse ethics by the world’s communities with an ever-decreasing thickness of the veil of ignorance, perhaps with the help of the parliament of the world’s religions, individuals together will develop and promote the moral values and standards as set in the concept of the ‘worldspirit’. They will apply them as an overall ethic to all religious and secular worldviews and to commercial and governmental activities alike.
Hegel, inspired by Rousseau, demands from a true people’s religion of reason:
“Its teachings must be grounded in general reason. Fantasy, heart, sensuality must not miss out in this. It must be such, that all needs for living and public affairs of state will follow.”
This does not mean that secular people do not also have to learn tolerance and understanding towards religious people:
“As long as secular people are convinced that religious traditions and religious communities are, as it were, archaic relics of premodern societies persisting into the present, they can understand freedom of religion only as the cultural equivalent of the conservation of species threatened with extinction.”
This would put such secular citizens into a similar category as fundamentalists in the religious communities with regard to their contribution toward consensus. Michel Onfray’s atheism would clearly qualify for this. These citizens would have to participate in a learning process to accept that religions can contribute cognitive substance, albeit subject to translation from the religious language into the political language. This is an important aspect of Rawls’ proviso.
A Rolling Change
The implementation of obtaining worldwide consensus will have its difficulties, which, to be overcome, will take time. The painful process of change in Europe from the medieval class system through the era of emancipation towards a Rechtsstaat has not yet taken place in many Third World countries. That means that for such a change towards a fully democratic, just and liberal system in the remainder of the world to take place, it would have to be rolled out in a most co-operative and sensitive way to avoid the revolutionary friction that accompanied it in Europe. It will be necessary to recognise the difficulties:
• There are many disparate states of individual national economies and democratic systems in the world or even within regions. They will require cultural and administrative changes, similar to those that changed the traditional European systems following the Reformation and leading to the success of capitalism and associated bureaucratic applications towards social democratic and just government, the Rechtsstaat. In Europe this process managed, over time, to rationalise the differences between capital and market on the one side, and the citizen or family household and general public on the other. For Europe this was in many ways a painful process, and could therefore provide many lessons to the rest of the world community to avoid the mistakes that were perhaps necessary in order to eliminate them from the final model.
• For such changes to take place in the rest of the world and in order to show how they can succeed to involve the people in a positive manner, it requires intensive educational processes to develop the social capital as well as a philosophical understanding of the required changes. This does not need to be in the form of straight copies of the proven systems in the western world, but should be built in the grounding of local histories and cultures. Education must include the raising of an understanding that corruption is an unacceptable cost to achieving equality. Populations in dictatorial countries will require more adjustment towards a freethinking culture, as they have usually been deprived of such opportunities.
• These changes require financial assistance from the richer peoples, which includes support to those at present having an unsustainable windfall from the sale of natural resources, particularly oil. Such support must be sensitive to the local social and cultural environment.
• It will be essential that the existing global inter- and semi-governmental organisations be rationalised to achieve an efficient and unified approach.
• In terms of sociological philosophy, there is however but a narrow path towards achieving a World Gemeinschaft that is able to be self-reflective of its own identity. Simply welding together various social communities such as Rawls’ Peoples into a purely political society of peoples would still have barriers to overcome, barriers that exclude the life-world of citizens. In Nicholas Luhmann’s application of system, society may have succeeded to differentiate independent subsystems that are self-reflexive of their own specialised knowledge and entity, but cannot be so as a whole, as the individual in such an all-embracing society would become isolated.
• By contrast to such a subject-philosophical construction of a unified society’s self-awareness, it is possible to see the various parts of society as a higher level of inter-subjectivities, capable of communicative action among one another and with the discipline of discourse ethics, in which identity-building and collective self-ascriptions can be articulated,
“ … and in the higher aggregated public is also a self-awareness of the total Gesellschaft. This then does no longer need to satisfy the requirements of precision that must be set by subject-philosophy on self-awareness. It is neither philosophy nor Gesellschaft-theory in which the self-knowledge of the society is concentrated.”
In this trans-cultural diffusion and therefore perhaps unexpected state of overall self-awareness, it will then be possible for a World Gemeinschaft to react to political and social events. The highly aggregated, publicly condensed but life-world-like opinion building and will-forming processes indicate the tight interlacing of socialisation, personalisation and ego and group identities. These interactions are by individuals, albeit of disparate cultures and origin, but with a shared and irrevocable normativity, such as the ‘worldsoul’, who will be bound together in a non-political World Gemeinschaft for the good of all, and as such will also be able to powerfully influence governments. Such a World Gemeinschaft will make a world without war possible.

John Rawls – The Law of Peoples – Harvard University Press – page 37 -1999, fourth printing 2002
John Rawls – The Law of Peoples – Harvard University Press – pages 30-32, 1999, fourth printing 2002
John Rawls – The Law of Peoples – Harvard University Press – page 45 -1999, fourth printing 2002
Raymond Aron – Peace and War: The Theory of International Relations – translation: R. Howard and A. B. Fox – Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1966
EU Constitution –Objectives, Values
Peter Singer – One World – The Ethics of Globalisation – pages 218 – The Text Publishing Company 2004
G.W.F. Hegel – Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts, Werke 7 , addendum page 367 – Suhrkamp Taschenbuch Wissenschaft 607, my translation
Jean Jacques Rousseau – The Social Contract – Book I – Translated by G. D. H. Cole, public domain –
John Rawls – The Law of Peoples – Harvard University Press – page 55 – 1999, fourth printing 2002
John Rawls – The Law of Peoples – Harvard University Press – page 180 – 1999, fourth printing 2002
John Rawls – Political Liberalism – expanded edition, including Reply to Habermas, and The Idea of Public Reason Revisited – pages 462-466 Columbia University Press 2005
Jürgen Habermas – Between Naturalism and Religion – page 137 , translated by Ciaran Cronin, English edition 2008, reprinted 2009, Polity Press Cambridge, UK
Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im – Islam and the Secular State; Negotiating the future of Shari’a – Chapter 1, page 13, Harvard University Press, 2008
Abudullahi Ahmed An-Na’im – Translator’s Introduction in Mahmoud Mohamed Taha’s book The Second Message of Islam, Syracuse University Press
Mahmoud Mohamed Taha, translated by Abdullahi An-Na’im – The Second Message of Islam – page 125, Syracuse University Press, 1996
Mahmoud Mohamed Taha, translated by Abdullahi An-Na’im – The Second Message of Islam – page 147, Syracuse University Press, 1996
Mahmoud Mohamed Taha, translated by Abdullahi An-Na’im – The Second Message of Islam – page 63, Syracuse University Press, 1996
Mahmoud Mohamed Taha, translated by Abdullahi An-Na’im – The Second Message of Islam – page 129, Syracuse University Press, 1996
Al-Ustaz Mahmoud Muhammad Taha – ‘The Middle East Problem’ and ‘The Challenge facing the Arabs’ – both of which were published in 1967.
Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im – Islam and the Secular State; Negotiating the future of Shari’a – Chapter 7, page 267, Harvard University Press, 2008
Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im – Toward an Islam Reformation: Civil Liberties, Human Rights, and International Law – pages 52-57 – Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1990
Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im – Toward an Islam Reformation: Civil Liberties, Human Rights, and International Law – page 69-100 – Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1990
Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im – Islam and the Secular State; Negotiating the future of Shari’a – Chapter 1, page 2, Harvard University Press, 2008
G. W. F, Hegel – Moderne Welt Suhrkamp-Werkausgabe, volume 1, page 33, my translation
Jürgen Habermas - Between Naturalism and Religion – page138, translated by Ciaran Cronin, English edition 2008, reprinted 2009, Polity Press Cambridge, UK
Jürgen Habermas – Der philosophische Diskurs der Moderne – pages 434-435, Suhrkamp Taschenbuch Wissen 749, my translation

Thursday, July 27, 2017


Observations by Nick Veltjens 2017

God did not exist when homo sapiens started to exist as a new species around 300 thousand years ago. Neither did it exist when man first formed tribal communities. Man was at that time unable to grasp abstracts, things one could not touch. Abstracts did not exist in their languages. Australian aboriginals still have no word for time.
So when the need came, together with formed communities, to find a unifying cultural code that could support peaceful cohabitation and team-like cooperation in their more regional activities, they found important locations signified by objects in the surrounding land, and emphasised their importance by giving them spiritual names and references.
Some of the northern American Indians called them Manitou. The Australian aborigines refer to them in their Dreaming. Both these cultures have their separation from the rest of the world in common and therefore it is possible to identify the very early development of language, going back around 70,000 years. The Australian first people arrived here at least 65,000 years ago, and their culture continued with a very close relationship to and identification with the land. Spirits are attached to physical objects in their world, things you can see and touch.
When agriculture began to create specialisation and the development of urban living in the Middle East, the languages became more grammatically expressive and semantic, god-like spirits became common use in thousands of communities, The Sumerian people, in their systematic way, collected these “gods” and listed them on clay tablets in their cuneiform writing. They sorted them and unified them so that there would be only one fertility goddess and one god of war, etc. and decided that there ought to be one god in charge of them all. This then was the first step to make “gods” out of the spiritual creatures that had followed the tribal emigration from central Africa to the Levant.
The ancient Greeks’ gods where still not completely abstract; they had just retreated to the mountain (Olympus) and the sea (Mediterranean). The ancient Greeks also had problems with time, as they had no word for future; for them it was simply an extension of the present. Also, they had no word for Repenting; when Luke’s Gospel was translated from Aramaic into Greek, they used a word that meant changing your mind instead of repenting.
In the end, it was Abraham, who came from Sumerian city of Ur, who was picking up on the one god known then as El and Ya, both names for the same deity. One text said of him (Pettinato 1981):
“Lord of heaven and earth, The earth was not; you created it. The light of the day was not; you created it; The morning light you had not yet made.”
This found a precise reflection in the Genesis tradition, where God creates the earth and then calls light into existence and is the first reference in this region to one god above all others. ‘El’ and ‘Ya’ are the basis of a number of words referring to God in various Levant cultures, including in the Qur’an and the original consonantal Hebrew bible. Yahweh is the god with whom Abraham had his covenant, and it is considered to be the same as represented by the tetragrammaton YHWH in the Hebrew bible, translated as Jehova by Martin Luther, and representing Yahweh, whose name was not permitted to be pronounced; instead the reader would say Adonai (my Lord).
When specialization became an important economic function, the management of the relationship between gods and people also called for specialists to handle it; that was the beginning of religions and with that came the emphasis on their political function and consequent power.
Religions lost their connection with the culture of the peoples when they were written down as in Bible (old and new), the Gospels, and the Qur’an. They stayed behind the times and in many ways became out of date. Mohammed actually changed some of his preaching from Mecca when he spoke to the less educated tribal Arabs in Medina, incorporating some of their traditional more aggressive ideas, which were then also included in the Qur’an, even though they were a contradiction of his earlier preaching. He had suggested them as introductions (a first message) to the true Islam from Mecca, and they should be deleted when the people were more educated.
Ustadh Mahmoud Taha of the Sudan made a clear distinction between those parts of the Qur’an that had been revealed to Muhammad in Mecca (al-islam), and those after he had moved to Medina (al-iman) . ‘The Second Message (from Mecca) is Islam,’ he said, and concluded that the First Message (Medina) was an ‘explanation’, written into the Qur’an to help believers of a superficial or lower level (al-mu’minin) to become true ‘submitters’ (al-muslimin) at the ultimate level:
“‘Explanation’ of the Qur’an has been only in terms of [expedient] legislation, the Shari’a, and interpretation to the extent appropriate for the time of such explanation and in accordance with the capacity of the audience and the abilities of the people.”
The fact that God had become a political tool of power is seen throughout history and even now. The most terrible examples are the Thirty Years war between Catholics and Protestants, and now between Shia and Sunni Muslims; in both cases the wars were about a mere difference in interpretation of the word of the relevant prophets, Jesus and Mohammed, but with horrendous results. The Greek empire also collapsed by the leadership following their cultural obsession with Eros .
What is needed instead of a god, is a code of ethics, such as the Golden Rule, which in fact is the basis of all religions. Even Jesus said that the 10 (prohibitive) commandments could be combined into two (positive ones):
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like unto it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
The creation of God by man had its purpose, but when it became politicised, man now needs to bring ethics back as a personal responsibility for each citizen of this world .

Luke 1
Earth History, a new approach – The Tradition in Ancient Sumer –
Revered teacher
Mahmoud Mohamed Taha, translated by Abdullahi An-Na’im – The Second Message of Islam – page 125, Syracuse University Press, 1996
Mahmoud Mohamed Taha, translated by Abdullahi An-Na’im – The Second Message of Islam – page 147, Syracuse University Press, 1996
Matthew 22:34-40 (King James Version), and Luke 10:25-37
World without war, Klaus Veltjens:

Friday, January 6, 2017

Copyright © Nick Veltjens 2017
The measure of economic activity in a country is GDP, Gross Domestic Product, which is the current market value of finished goods and services it produces in a specific period. It is calculated like this:
GDP = C + G + I + NX
Where C represents the sum of all private consumption, i.e. consumer spending in a nation's economy, G is total government spending, I is the sum of all the country's investment including businesses capital expenditures which is sometimes referred to a finished production, and NX is the nation's total net exports calculated as total exports minus total imports (NX = Exports - Imports).
This is referred to as nominal GDP and is based on current values, while real GDP is adjusted for inflation or deflation; in other words it takes changes of market values into consideration.
Australia’s GDP growth trends around 3% p.a. and last year has shown an increase to 3.1%. Real GDP, however, was less than that, because the market value of mining products has dropped considerably. Nominal GDP can be misleading, as it does not show the underlying conditions such as unemployment and underemployment, and therefore does not measure the relationship between GDP and productivity per hour in the workforce.
In real GDP this becomes visible as these underlying trends are considered. For instance, if these conditions are taken into account, it will show an output gap that can be either positive as in the case of real growth, or negative, indicating a tendency towards depression or even recession. At present, Australia’s reducing real GDP of 1.0% should therefore be considered rather than rising nominal GDP of 3.1%, a downward trend of which the Australian Reserve Bank has repeatedly warned.
This means we are slowly going broke. We are spending more than we earn.
The reason for this, as it is throughout the West, is the fact that we have sent our jobs overseas by having production carried out in other countries, and sending more and more of the necessary raw material over there at ever reducing prices. As a result, jobs were lost and wages have stagnated, and the consequent increase in consumer borrowing causes the underlying national cash balance to become more and more negative.
To overcome this economic slide, underemployment and unemployment need to be reversed by encouraging businesses to resume production and to hire. To start with, the government must stimulate the economy and provide:
• a massive capital injection by commissioning major investments such as infrastructure projects;
• financing innovation;
• support start-up companies; and
• increase the amount of circulating cash to satisfy the resulting growth.
This should not necessarily create a serious debt burden to the government and will not generate any more inflation than what is needed to counteract deflation. Construction of residential projects will create employment during the building process, but there will be no more production resulting from these projects after they are completed. Major investment in public works, however, can be targeted towards construction that will provide employment even after their completion.
Railways and ports provide not only jobs for running the facility after completion, but will provide a service to industry for economically transporting products from the place of manufacture to the local and overseas markets. Thus, larger markets will create more production which will, with the benefit of size, improve productivity.
Such investments will close the negative output gap by creating more jobs, better productivity, and bringing back a positive cash balance, but will not substantially increase the government’s debt level.
Why would the government not suffer a significant increase in the debt level? Capital injection in major projects generate an economic multiplier effect, because workers and businesses will spend some of their income in the region, creating income for others, and they will then also spend. The multiplier effect can be calculated; it is related to the population’s Marginal Propensity to Consume (MPC), which is the proportion of income available to be spent within the region. With an average income of $55,000 p.a., the MPC is about 0.7. For most projects the multiplier effect is as follows:
Multiplier = 1 / (1 – MPC) = 1 / (1 - 0.7) = 1 / 0.3 = 3.3
The following analysis is based on a series of 7 infrastructure projects over 39 years:
• Frankston Station precinct: $1,000,000,000
• Rail Electrification to Somerville: $1,800,000,000
• Hastings Port Development: $1,250,000,000
• Hastings-Lyndhurst connectivity: $8,000,000,000
• International Airport: $17,000,000,000
• Monorail Berwick-Frankston: $2,000,000,000
• Monorail Hastings-Tullamarine Airport: $7,000,000,000
TOTAL $39,000,000,000
Let us assume that the government spends $1 billion a year on such a series of infrastructure projects, the multiplier effect of 3.3 will create economic activity in the local region of 3.3 x $1 billion = $3.3 billion, which, with the usual delay, will filter through about a year later. Half of this activity would result in wages from 30,000 new jobs at say an average of $55,000 p.a. which amounts to $1.65 billion p.a. From this the government will receive income tax at around 20%, which amounts to $330 million p.a. and that is a return of 33% p.a. on the government’s initial capital injection of $1 billion. That is merely on the cost of development and construction, and does not include the future economic benefits generated by the use of the facilities after completion.
If these projects are funded by loans (bonds) negotiated each year for an annual expenditure of $1 billion, and all of the return of 33% p.a. is used to repay the loans each year for that capital, then each of the loaned amounts will be paid off in three years, and the total remaining net debt will never be more than a platform of $2 billion at any time after three years; that is why I call it “platform funding”.
This means, for instance, if a series of projects totalling $39 billion is funded by annually borrowed loans of $1 billion over 39 years, and all the 33% return from income tax is used to repay each loan over three years (after one year’s initial delay), then the project will never have created a debt of more than $2 billion at any one time from year three on.
This is flexible. Should the government wish to retain part of its 33% return, then the retained amount can be spent on social services, education or health, but the platform will be higher. For instance, if retaining:
• nil % p.a. (33% return p.a. remains to repay loans) the platform will be $2 billion after 3 years;
• 8.3% p.a. (25% return p.a. remains to repay loans) the platform will be 2.5 billion after 4 years;
• 13.3% p.a. (20% return p.a. remains to repay loans) the platform will be $3 billion after 5 years, and
• 23.3% p.a. (10% return p.a. remains to repay loans) the platform will be $5.5 billion after 10 years.
This opens the opportunity of negotiating a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement with an investor such a consortium that wishes to buy a 99 year lease of the infrastructure for the right to operate it. Instead of retaining some of the return as above, the same amounts, i.e. either 8.3%, 13.3% or 23.3% (see above), of the overall 33% return would be repaid to the government by the consortium each year. This then means that for each of these ratios the government receives from its partner the relevant annual amount of $83.3, $133.3 or $233.3 million respectively each year to spend on social services etc. The investor’s ultimate purchase prices accumulating over 39 years would then be $3.25, $5.2, or $9.1 billion respectively.
That means that the government can use all of the 33% return from income tax to repay its annual loans. The debt would then again never exceed $2 billion after three years, and yet the government can spend the money received cumulatively each year from its PPP partner on social services, education and health. It’s like having the cake and eat it too.
Coincidentally, GST will do something similar to the economy of the states. With the annual investment of $1 billion in one of the states and a multiplier effect of 3.3 the regional economic activity rises to $3.3 billion. If this were to raise 10% of GST, i.e. $330 million p.a., then that state also gets a nominal return of 33% on that investment, whether it was spent out of their own coffers or someone else’s; nominal only because it has to share this with other states and that depends on the rules of distribution.
There is, however, a risk attached to this. As with all business investments, one should assess it by a SWOT analysis; Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.
The Strengths of Platform Funding lie in the considerable reduction in interest charges. Its flexibility compared with overall long-term cumulative funding allows for each year’s loan to be adapted both to the social and economic environment at the time, and to the rate of repayment in accordance with the national needs as perceived at the time.
The stimulus will ultimately reduce both the regional negative output gap and underlying negative cash balance, as will the ongoing benefits after completion.
The Weaknesses are the need for negotiating each loan and the associated costs and a small increase in the national debt level, although this is much less than with cumulative funding.
Opportunities relate to the capacity of such schemes to act quickly and decisively each year as the shifting underlying economic conditions change. Plus, there are opportunities for attracting private investment to free capital for social budget expenditure and for supporting innovation and productivity increases, while paying off the loans to maintain the $2 billion platform.
Threats can be recognized in the inherent mixture of components of the GDP measure itself. While increased government funding “G” in the above formula will increase consumption “C” resulting from the increase in the number of jobs, if this consumption is not satisfied by the
“finished production” resulting from business investment “I”, then it will increase imports in the formula’s NX. That would then limit GDP growth. This means that to increase business investment to enable successful competition with imports, products have to be at least equally if not more attractive than imported products, and that means innovation, improved productivity, and aggressive marketing.
As these calculations do not include company tax from the benefitting contractors, that additional income could be used by the government to pay interest and other costs.
This essay may be an over-simplification, but it is offered as food (cake?) for thought.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

“The urgency of now” was the call for change by Dr Martin Luther King, the change that made history. “The urgency of now” was repeated by President Obama (Milwaukee 2008) during his debate for changing the health system in the USA.
Australia needs to recognise that it is faced with a fierce urgency of now, as this is the time when the electorate has called for change. It wants a change away from the two party system, it wants a voice in the government’s decision making, a process that involves individuals representing their disparate opinions, fears and desires.
The opportunity is here and now for the leader of the government to invoke the voice of the people, a voice that clamours to be heard.
The new government needs to show unity. That unity is not merely a united front within a party claiming to lead, but a unity with the people who voted for change.
This change is obviously not what either of the major parties had put forward as its election platform; it is a mix of many ideas that could bring the electorate along towards a better Australia. It represents ideas form the extreme left through the centre to the extreme right. All of them want to be heard, and all of them want a government to embrace such change with leadership and innovative action.
If it were possible to have a government that unites all sides into the decision making processes, such as was achieved by Winston Churchill’s War Cabinet (10 May 1940) when the fierce urgency of now was forced upon Great Britain in September 1939, then the electorate would smile. It needs courage, as the introduction of change always needs strength and a steely spine.
Before and after the winning party is given the privilege to govern, it can start this process of discussions among themselves and with all elected members of parliament and senators to establish the many aspects that all sides have in common. These discussions would then open the door for selecting suitable members for Cabinet, whether from its own or other parties, in order to enable negotiations for the preparations of new laws that should incorporate as much as possible of the opinions of the public represented by the independents and opposition.
Such negotiations, conducted without pressure but based on clear thinking, cooperation and common sense, would at first result in consensus (Jürgen Habermas, the Theory of Communicative Action). This would then become the basis for well-considered Action (Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition) by the government, legislation that satisfies the electorate’s call.
This is innovation at the core of governing; a new way of embracing the politics of all, yet reducing it to the feasibility in law. The Law can and should not embrace all contingencies (Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, The Philosophy of Right), but must set the principles that mirror the culture of the people.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The planned negotiations to stop the killing in Syria are the first indication that a truly human solution can be found.
The combatants in the conflict are driven by the belief that they can achieve their aims by violence. They believe in Leviathan force, as described by Thomas Hobbes , as their only means to hold, obtain or expand their power. That is by violence and brutal oppression, backed by the distorted propaganda of religious truth.
Those who intend to reconcile them may well approach the task in two different ways:
• by political negotiations that aim at finding a compromise political solution of give and take in terms of a cease-fire, rigid front lines, and perhaps some aspects of disarming; or
• aiming at true and lasting reconciliation, where the opposing sides engage in negotiation on the basis of Communicative Action to reach consensus.
Whichever approach is adopted, it must be carried out by the peoples engaged in the conflict without interference from the rest of the world, although assistance may be requested.
In order to achieve a lasting peace, all combatants must be invited to the table, including Da-esh, as without their inclusion their imperialism will never be halted; whether or not they are a recognisable entity in international negotiations is irrelevant with regard to the ultimate success of the project; and whether or not it can be expected of them to keep any promises is another matter that can be dealt with when they don’t.
Jürgen Habermas, the still living German philosopher, in his 'Theory of Communicative Action' proposes that consensus, not necessarily total agreement, can be achieved if such communicative action is conducted in an environment of fairness and without the pressure of superiority of any one party. It would also require an equal capability of speaking in the medium of discussion.
Although consensus is not an agreement in the strictest dense, it still is a promise, and a promise is part of the norm of the human ethic. Even overlapping consensus (John Rawls, 'Political Liberalism') can be documented as it is based on political discussion, and such document can be signed, as it relies on faith in reason, namely the reason that it is possible to keep that promise for the sake of peace.
It is, however, only a first step in the longer term, and it should in the end be followed by true consensus . Faith in reason relies on both sides being reasonable, while true consensus relies on both sides removing all incidents of friction, including, in the case of worldviews, offending phrases in both religious and secular doctrine. It may also need the understanding that Islam can support the separation of state and religion.
This then would, in the case of Syria and the other peoples in the Middle East, require a removal of those points of friction within Islam and vis-à-vis the other Abrahamic religions. Such points of friction are behind much of the Middle Eastern aggression and war. It has its historical equivalence in the original cause of the thirty-years war (1616-1648) that started as a war between Roman Catholics and Protestants and killed more than half the population of Europe. In that case even the treaties of Münster and Osnabrück (1648) in the Peace of Westphalia could not stop the murderous Inquisition. Such a risk remains throughout the Middle East until such internal reconciliation is achieved, perhaps as it existed in the Ottoman Empire.
This is not impossible, as Sudanese born Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law at Emory University School of Law, has described in his seminal book Islam and the Secular State, negotiating the Future of Shari’a , a book he distributes free of charge in its Arabic translation in countries with a majority of Muslims in the population.
Calling here upon ground breaking thinkers, is because, as Hannah Arendt’s 'action' in 'The Human Condition' suggest, that the widest communication with the community or even the world is needed for such action to find common ground.
There is also another now tested way to bring the fiercest opponents to the negotiation table, and to find a lasting solution. This was tested in South Africa by the institution of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) . Under the able chairmanship of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, it set a trend, completely without precedent, of promoting amnesties for perpetrators of heinous crimes on the basis of forgiveness by their victims. Such an action can only be carried out by the victims themselves, as no one else has the power to forgive the perpetrators. So, while an international body can advise and encourage, the action of setting up such a Truth and Reconciliation Commission must be reserved for the affected parties. Nevertheless, someone like Desmond Tutu could be called upon to help, if he is willing to come out of retirement to offer his supreme capacity to do so. His advice would remove the chance of an imitation of the fraudulent TRC in Chile.
The ultimate purpose of a TRC is the release or closure needed by both the victims and the perpetrators, although it does not necessarily remove the need for international court action to pursue crimes against humanity. This in turn can then support successful negotiations for an initial social contract on the basis of (overlapping) consensus, and can then pave the way towards a solution of the internal and external religious power struggles that drive the people of the Middle East apart.
Once this has been achieved, perhaps even in this generation, then it would become possible for the various ME nations to form a Levantine Union , similar to the EU. In a system such as the EU, sacrifices are made and some national rights are given up. Member nations pool some of their autonomy to achieve a common good. It is a bottom-up system.