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1 Point Values Platform [DRAFT]

[Leaving this sticky because I'd really like some feedback on lets's methodology. Feeling a little bit like Sisyphus here.... --lambert]

[Previous version: X Things To Help Us Avoid Breaking Bad [PRE-DRAFT] --lambert]

Er, "values"? Should I not have asked what I mean by values? Other than "not breaking bad"? In case there are any moral philosophers in the readership, I'll quote the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Value Theory
The term “value theory” is used in at least three different ways in philosophy. In its broadest sense, “value theory” is a catch-all label used to encompass all branches of moral philosophy, social and political philosophy, aesthetics, and sometimes feminist philosophy and the philosophy of religion — whatever areas of philosophy are deemed to encompass some “evaluative” aspect. In its narrowest sense, “value theory” is used for a relatively narrow area of normative ethical theory particularly, but not exclusively, of concern to consequentialists. In this narrow sense, “value theory” is roughly synonymous with “axiology”. Axiology can be thought of as primarily concerned with classifying what things are good, and how good they are. For instance, a traditional question of axiology concerns whether the objects of value are subjective psychological states, or objective states of the world.

So, "What is good?" and/or "What do we mean when we say 'This is good'"? (If you're not a moral philosopher, but a marketer, or a self-marketer, here's a handy list of 400 value words.) Assuming that answers to these questions are circumscribed by subject matter, we're seeking the answer to/meaning of "What is good?" within the scope of political economy,* our quest to create a living system that at the very least isn't degrading to inhabit. This quest is important for at least two reasons, one tactical, the other strategic.

Tactically, it's important to recognize that the neo-liberal ascendancy dating from approximately 1975 has dominated, and still dominates, values discourse in the political class and hence the country. We call these values "conservative," but they are shared across the spectrum in the Beltway, as well as by "values voters." Positively, the political class upholds "family values" (latest), and it's no coincidence that "family values" translates in practice into "aristocracy," the ideal social order of reaction.** Negatively, the political class defines more "the not good" than "the good," and the "not good" seems to have a lot to do with sex (which seems also to have become the central concern of religion, but never mind that). Sexy time is doubleplusungood, for example, especially when practiced by women, men without power, the working class, the young, the old, and everywhere outside marriage, because family. (The one demographic for whom this discourse seems to be changing is with gays, especially since gay marriage fits neatly into "family values" moralizing.) It's no surprise the left doesn't get anywhere if all it offers is a pale imitation of values that are designed to destroy it! And since "you can't beat something with nothing," we'd better have something beat "family values" with. It's noteworthy that decrepit and horrid as "family values" discourse has become, Democrats, let alone "progressives," haven't been able to replace it with anything.***

Strategically, our**** goal is to enact, and derive the concrete material benefits from, the 12-point platform. This campaign, whose success depends on building infrastructure (public goods?) as described in the X-Point Structural Thingummies (conditions? reforms?), will be long and difficult (though not dull). We can foresee that the Thingummies, and possibly even the Platform itself, will need to be adjusted. But what will govern the changes? That's where values come in (as opposed to the vacuous "pragmatism" of career "progressives.") So far, I've come up with one, and I think that's fine (and surely 12 values would be too many!) Rewording slightly from the pre-draft:

  1. Preserve and Expand The Commons.

I've tried to embody all other values -- justice and social justice, say -- in policies that bring concrete material benefits, or reforms that cut across and support policies. So here we have basically the Ninth Amendment, that we can use to handle any residual policies or implementation details -- or to force changes in policies or reforms after encounters with real electorates.

Finally, there's been some discussion about whether "Preserve and Expand The Commons" is a value or a policy. I think it really is a value, because policies provide concrete material benefits (like medical care, or food that isn't poisonous). "Preserve and Expand The Commons" does not do that.

When I think of why "Preserve and Expand The Commons" is good, I think back to David Graeber's idea of the communism of everyday life: For example, we live (or hope to live) in a society where, when you ask somebody "How do I get to the Post Office," it's not the norm that you are deliberately misdirected, or decoyed into a poker game where you are the pigeon, or shot for your temerity. No, your question is answered, because it's general "common knowledge" that should be shared. Analytically sloppy though this association of ideas is, I think that's what we mean by "the commons" as a value. (This is probably also linked to the concept "Don't be an asshole," as exemplified by the behavior of assholes in a quiet car; in that context, quiet is a commons.) We might also look at strategic hate management as a commons violation, because of the way it pollutes common meanings. For example, Thai politics are color-coded, so if you wear red or yellow or white or blue it means something. Whatever happened to just wearing red or blue because it was becoming?

Anyhow, needs a lot of work! I like to think of myself as a stylist, but these posts are not coming easily.

NOTE * Values like "Do unto others" have a much broader scope.

NOTE ** The Kennedys, The Bushes, probably The Clintons....

NOTE *** I'm not saying that left/progressive/liberals are people with no values, or amoral. I am saying they haven't overthrown the "family values" notion of "the good" with a better alternative ("better," in this context, meaning values that will lead to the concrete material benefits of the 12-Point Platform). Sure, there are endless reams of books and speeches and conferences and memos out there, but can you remember any of it? I can't. It's all forgettable mush, on the order of "It takes a village." Perhaps, on this point, Democrats are not able to differentiate themselves from Republicans because they aren't all that different.

NOTE **** Reflexively, I define "we" as "those who support the 12 Point Platform, the X-Point Structural Thingummies, and the 1 Point Values Platform." "We" can support more, but this is the indivisible baseline. Not that fellow travelers can't support their own bits, if they like.

UPDATE Adding, and still whining about how hard this is to write, the discourse of "values voters" is so repellent to me I can hardly bring myself to write about it; I should be more compassionate and analytical, because maybe my feelings of repugance mean the strategic hate management is working. Or read... What, readers? And how could I possibly have written "indivisible baseline"? What's wrong with me?

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psychohistorian's picture
Submitted by psychohistorian on

I think I feel your birthing pain....

The value that came to my mind is Equality of treatment as a human.
To me that value is essential to counteract the class existence and tendencies of our species.

Personal privacy is another value to me but not sure how to bound it rationally.

Freedom of personal expression (living life) as long as it doesn't hurt others seems to be another core value, IMO....it relates to speech, what happens in the bedroom, who you associate with or not, etc.

My brain is tired now......need to cogitate more, and look forward to others thoughts.

Submitted by lambert on

The idea is that the values explicitly stated here, though they infuse everything else, are as it were residual, like the ninth amendment; they are here to handle cases that are not explictly stated.

So for example, "equality of treatment as a human" is operationalized in enforcing the Constitution, because that is what the Bill of Rights is supposed to do.

So it's not a list of core values at all. Our values IMNSHO ought insofar as possible to be embodied as concrete material benefits of planks, or in goverance structures.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

1. I think that "preserve and expand the commons" is too narrow a value focus. It's not as broad as the notion of "public purpose" and all that it may entail.

2. One problem with "public purpose" is its vagueness. However, high level values will often be vague and will admit of different interpretations. The Theory of Public Purpose is about specifying the analytic hierarchy that has Public Purpose as its goal value.

3. To do this right, we need at least an intermediate level of abstraction between the goal value and a set of lower level objectives that all contribute to Public Purpose. Here's a list of lower level objectives formulated in the terminology of value gaps. The objectives are met when the value gaps are closed.

-- the gap between actual output and projected “full” output;

-- High involuntary unemployment vs. full employment;

-- Price stability vs. inflation or hyperinflation;

-- Minimum wage vs. a living wage;

-- No operative right to health care for everyone;

-- social exclusion and the loss of personal freedom;

-- skill deterioration due to unemployment;

-- psychological harm such as sense of identity, self-respect, and sense of
empowerment;

-- much greater ill health and reduced life expectancy than necessary;

-- loss of motivation to live a full empowered life;

-- deterioration of social relations, communities, social networks, and family life;

-- increasing racial and gender inequality;

-- increasing educational inequality;

-- decreasing equality of opportunity;

-- loss of social values and sense of individual responsibility;

-- increasing economic inequality over time;

-- increasing poverty;

-- increasing crime rates including increasing use of control frauds by
important economic institutions;

-- Failure to prosecute and punish people who commit control frauds;

-- The collapse of real estate values and the destruction of the wealth of
working people after the crash of 2008;

-- increasing anger against economic and political elites that get more and
more and more wealthy, and more and more immune to the rule of law;

-- increasing political inequality undermining political, social, and economic democracy;

-- increasing political unrest and threats of political violence both from the privileged and those seeking change.

-- increasing environmental degradation;

-- Increasing climate change/global warming.

-- the gap between current energy foundations of our economy and new energy foundations based on renewables.

4. Looking at these, they seem to be at a lower level of abstraction than Public Purpose, but not high level enough to be at a level of abstraction just below Public Purpose. on the other hand, "Preserve and expand the commons" seems to be at that level. I think some of the value gaps above would fit under "preserve and expand the commons" in the analytic hierarchy comprising the Theory of Public Purpose. I also think that other items would fit under Psychohistory's equality and personal privacy values. Some address social and economic justice, and other high level values just under Public Purpose

5. So, I'm proposing we take the above list, add to it to make it more complete, and then abstract from it to fill in a hierarchy level (t could be more than one) between Public Purpose and the value gap level.

6. Then I think we should take the 12 point platform and fit it within the analytic hierarchy framework, since each policy in the platform will contribute to one or more value gaps at the level just above.

7. If we do this right we will have the outline of our Theory of Purpose. We can then begin to fill in that theory with priorities among the value gaps relative to the objectives, and the objectives relative to the highest level -- Public Purpose

8. Of course, there can be alternative Theories of Public Purpose. These can differ according to the content of the levels of the hierarchy specification, the priorities among the components of the hierarchy at each level, and even the form of the function relating each component of the hierarchy to other components.

9. Finally, note that the Theory of Public Purpose isn't only a value theory. It is a Political Theory combining values, descriptive propositions and policies that we think will contribute to achieving our values.

Submitted by lambert on

That will much improve this section (and handles the tactical issue of having a fallback to default to very well).

* * *

I need to read the value gap material more closely, and it's late for me here. Of course, Joe, if you want to take a hack at sorting the policies into buckets....

I should say that I like the Policies/Reforms/Value(s) set of major headings.

1) Policies provide concrete material benefits. (We don't need to go airy-fairy with discussions of "what is good" because the benefit should be so simple and obvious. Like health care. Or not running out of money three weeks into the month. Etc.

2) Reforms provide the infrastructural changes to bring the policies into being and support them. Most of them have to do with governance issues. They cut across polices. For example, net neutrality is a governance issue that affects literally everything because we will find it very difficult to get the polices in place without having the Internet to communicate with

3) Values provide the steering/governace to keep us on track in the process of winning the concrete material benefits and getting the reforms done.

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

How clear do we need to be on the various distinctions? To me, about half of the 12 platform planks specify value outcomes rather than specific material benefits. For example, "Retirement security" is a statement that every politician will agree with. The Republicans will go on to say that a good individual retirement account is a lot more secure than Social Security which will run out of trust fund in 30 years or so. Monsanto will tell you that GMOs are the key to food which is good, clean, and fair. I don't think I'd understand that "End the Wars" means stop the prison industry if you hadn't told me.

Some of the problem is that we're still thinking in terms of marginal reforms of the neoliberal regime. That approach demands lots and lots of detail and/or explanation. (See so-called health care policy that makes marginal reforms in a 1200 page bill of details, aka Obamacare). If this is what we want to do, we should prioritize more strongly. For example, psychohistorian above suggests "Equality of treatment as a human" as a value. Lambert responds that it's already operationalized in enforcing the Constitution. I'm reminded of Anatole France's observation "In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets, and steal loaves of bread." letsgetitdone gives a list in which inequality is specified in 5 of the items and implied in lots more.

In political terms, the difference between a genuine left and the right is that the left believes in equality and the right in hierarchy. We'll never get anywhere until we quit agreeing that inequality is good as long as it doesn't go too far. We should scrap the meritocracy justification and quit swearing that we want equality of opportunity but not equality of outcome. I'd go for a genuine equality value and genuine equality platform planks.

There are other areas where we need to watch neoliberal language and the policies they bring. The easiest one is defense. It's not defense spending; it's war spending. It's armaments. It's military. And there's the social safety net. It's not a safety net. It's the right of access to public infrastructure. When hammered with propaganda, we need to hammer back.

I'm obviously still having problems with clarifying things in my mind.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Good comment, I think. But the relationship between "equality" and "equality of opportunity" is complex. Also, I don't think "equality of opportunity" is a neoliberal value. I think that what they value is inheritable plutocracy wth provision for elevating the occasional "achiever" from outside the plutocratic class. Remember the Kochs. "We got rich the old-fashioned way. We were born that way." Or words to that effect.

Anyway, I think "equality" is too abstract, since there are so many dimensions or aspects of it, not all desirable. For example, equality of venality? I don't think we're for that unless zero venality is involved.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Good comment, I think. But the relationship between "equality" and "equality of opportunity" is complex. Also, I don't think "equality of opportunity" is a neoliberal value. I think that what they value is inheritable plutocracy wth provision for elevating the occasional "achiever" from outside the plutocratic class. Remember the Kochs. "We got rich the old-fashioned way. We were born that way." Or words to that effect.

Anyway, I think "equality" is too abstract, since there are so many dimensions or aspects of it, not all desirable. For example, equality of venality? I don't think we're for that unless zero venality is involved.

psychohistorian's picture
Submitted by psychohistorian on

I have not added any more because I too am confused as to the structure of the "information" we are trying to help pull together.

I would like to throw out the hierarchy I learned and practiced regarding planning
Vision
Goals
Strategies

I have a bit of trouble with the existing Constitution being the vision and almost think we need to somewhat start from scratch and/or make explicit references to it when desirable.

Do you (Lambert) have a hierarchy that we should be understanding and working with that I have missed coming in late to this "party"? Do others have such?

I REALLY do believe this is/could be a powerful exercise and want to add value, if possible.
Thanks

psychohistorian's picture
Submitted by psychohistorian on

I just read a Crooks & Liars posting about the Moral Monday group that has expanded into a fusion of multiple groups and these are their demands which I think speaks to the effort Lambert is leading:

• Secure pro-labor, anti-poverty policies that insure economic sustainability;

• Provide well-funded, quality public education for all;

• Stand up for the health of every North Carolinian by promoting health care access and environmental justice;

• Address inequalities in the criminal justice system;

• Protect and expand voting rights for people of color, women, immigrants, the elderly and students to safeguard fair democratic representation.

Submitted by lambert on

We need to get something out before the election truly gets underway.

Best to get something out, method or no; I don't want to take another two months rebuilding the whole effort from a new conceptual framework.

There seems to be a ferment of lists out there; as the X point idea seems to be the most coherent and the most far-reaching.