Mahatma Gandhi Community Forum

American consumer advocate and third-party Presidential candidate Ralph Nader, a huge fan of Gandhi, has a new book out entitled, "Only the Super-Rich can Save Us". It is a work of fiction that could become non-fiction if the book's events happened. The storyline is that the world's richest man, appalled at the American government's neglectful response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, organizes other rich people and they collectively act to save America and, subsequently, the world. (You guessed it, typical American center-of-the-universe belief.) Nevertheless, I had to wonder what Nader's novel had in common with Gandhi's hope for Trusteeship; performed by the rich to help the poor. Do both Nader and Gandhi see the "Super-Rich" as the center of the universe? Looking at the USA, it would be easy to think that they are. (The richest 1% of Americans own over half the total USA wealth.) Modern transportation has allowed capitalists to decentralize labor and production while centralizing capital. Capitalism grew from mercantilism, which grew and expanded with the Roman Empire. From around the 700's to 1300's, mercantilism all but disappeared in Europe. It was replaced by local barter and trade. But mercantilism returned and grew into today's sophisticated global capitalist structure. The billionaires are now the monarchy. I think it is unlikely that they will save the world. Can we brainstorm: Can Trusteeship and/or Economic Justice be realized?

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Agenda disclosure: I contend that family empowerment is the way forward if we are to realize widespread Trusteeship. The parent's natural desire to see their children have a better life than their own - that is a motive that can sustain Trusteeship through the generations. Non-violent and just methodologies for family economic empowerment are needed to eradicate inter-generational poverty. Give family units tools to consolidate and conserve earnings for use by future generations - that is one way to help alleviate poverty.
Family empowerment involves planned action within the family unit. It doesn't matter if the family unit is a large extended family, a mix of nuclear families and individuals, or something else. It only matters that all family unit members are adults and all agree to follow the group's bylaws. The key to success lies in the bylaws of the group. The bylaws must limit membership to a practical number, and must assure that all members have an equal voice and be equals in decision-making. There must be mechanisms in the bylaws for members to become, if necessary, temporarily inactive. There must be regular meetings and nominal monthly dues - to maintain interest and emphasize the importance of the group's purpose. And, of course, the purpose must be to start and grow a fund for the education of the young. It is through the education of the young that the family unit's prosperity grows slowly and sustainably.
Namaste ~ Dipak commented that he liked the term "Trusteeism". Sounds good to me. In America, the term is used in reference to various attempts by lay catholics to take control of their local parish away from the church Bishop and give control to church trustees. Used here, the term will refer to the emerging economic system of "Trusteeism". Trusteeism will be unlike either capitalism or socialism. Both of those economic systems always move toward the centralization of authority and increased dependence on others. In socialism, one is dependent on central planners. In capitalism, one is dependent on the "credit" system. (It is really a debt system. Banks choose to call their debt cards "credit" cards. Sounds better.) Americans, at the leading edge of capitalism, have already created 1.4 million charitable organizations. Many are Trusts used to set aside funds for grandchildren. This practice will soon expand to the lower economic classes as they learn the advantages that accrue when a family operates completely as a charitable organization managing assets for future generations. Blessings.
Today's mega-corporations evolved from the English public joint-stock companies of the 16th century. The joint-stock companies were given limited debt liability by the Crown in exchange for regulation. These were foreign trading companies. Mostly, they were pirates. The corporation turned out to be a very useful invention for pirates and capitalists alike. The finances of ordinary people deserve tools as useful as the corporation. We need social and financial inventions for the rest of us.
Gandhi's dream of Trusteeship will become a reality much sooner than most expect. Because ownership has existed seemingly forever in all types of cultures, we tend to assume it will always be the norm. But ownership is a concept that today is largely based on myth. Think of all the things in a modern society that we don't "own", but that are vitally important to us. The roads, the school system, the libraries, the internet. The internet is rapidly making it unnecessary to own music, books, and movies. Houses, vehicles, furniture, etc., can all be rented - often with less hassle than buying them. More and more young people are learning from global warming that we are one people on one planet. As more see the whole planet, not just their country of birth, as home - more will want to travel and see their expanded "home". For these sojourners, non-ownership will afford lighter travel. No, we don't need ownership; but we still need true wealth. True wealth is that which is sustainable and can't be lost - knowledge. Access to knowledge (education) is the key to success in the modern society. Owning more will not save us, but learning more will.
I find it odd that no one is upset about being born into a family that has no wealth. It is something that happens to nearly everyone in the world. Of course, we say that it would be ridiculous to be upset over such a thing. We don't control the circumstances of our birth. The moment we are born we are immediately embedded, apparently by chance, in a specific family. But wait! What if my ancestors had been able to donate a part of their earnings to a secure educational loan fund that belonged to the unborn children. My great-grandfather would have had the opportunity to donate a portion of his life's earnings to educate future descendents. His son and my father would have had the same opportunity. All parents wish to have a legacy they can leave to their descendents. I feel certain they would have seized the opportunity. And, if they had, by the time I arrived there would have been a family bank in place to finace my higher education with an long term interest-free loan. And this family bank would stay in place and continue to grow, and provide educational loans through the generations. But that kind of opportunity wasn't there for my great-grandfather, just as it isn't yet there for myself. Innummerable financial instruments and organizations have been invented. Nevertheless, there is still no instrument or organization for the family to use as a means for establishing and maintaining a perpetual family bank. So, I am upset about being born into a family without wealth. I think it is time to question a world that doesn't provide parents with a legal way to establish a perpetual family bank that has tax advantages at least as good as credit unions.
For me, the question that starts this forum discussion is rhetorical. Of course, trusteeship (or trusteeism) will be realized. The question is when, not if, trusteeism will be realized. And the answer to "when" is this: It will be realized when YOU become the trustee of YOUR future offspring's property. Trusteeism will spread family by family, until finally it is everywhere. It will be an economic revolution, not a political revolution. (There will be political debate, as forces of centralized capital seek to outlaw the expansion of economic empowerment within family units.) My family, a lower-class American family with no savings, is just now beginning the process of empowerment through trusteeship. This is no joke. YOU can do it also, if you like. To get started, use our family trust instrument as an example and draft your own trust instrument. It is uploaded here. ~ Namaste
Christopher Worth has raised an importent point by bringing the question of Trusteeship for discussion. Can Trusteeship be possible? It is possible only when we realise the true meaning of Trusteeship. It is difficult to understand the real meaning of Trusteeship under the present Systems that we all have given our silent support and have been accepting the Systems which are mostly inhumane. Gandhi had given a new name to that System, Volluntary Poverty. Unfortunately hardly very few people tried to understand that concept. It needs a revolutionary change in human relationship vis a vis a global social circumstances. If there are, we can further discuss. I admire Christopher for raising the issue..
Namaste Arya ~ Thank you for the kind thoughts. Voluntary poverty is a noble and satisfying lifestyle for those who choose it. Sadly, it seems the majority of us choose to pursue material abundance. Family-centered trusteeship offers a way to link the motivation to acquire material abundance with the motivation to adopt voluntary poverty as a satisfying lifestyle. If an individual is trying to increase material wealth for the benefit of another person(s), such as future generations of the family: then that individual will feel the happiness of unselfish giving as they help increase the family wealth for future generations. I envision the day when millions of families have the capacity to preserve the accumulated family assets of a generation for use by future generations. In this way, each family can establish a perpetual "family bank" that grows in value through the generations. Inevitably, the cycle of generational poverty ends. Family Trusts can have any number of members, and members can be related in any way (as described in the Trust bylaws). Though there are few assets in my family, we are currently setting up a trust to begin our "perpetual family bank." Of course, we will keep Ghanditopia members updated on our progress. ~ Chris
I see the real work needing to be done now, as being at the 'bottom level'. If the poor can be educated as to how and why they are poor, why they are kept in poverty, why the environment they live in is degraded, they can begin to think how to change the situation. The 2 billion hungry people on the planet need to be empowered. Those slaving for minimum wages with their days and lives also need this education. That brings us up to over 6 billion people. The rich only stay rich with the cooperation of the poor. You might be interested in the work of Father Edwin John of Democracy is an ideal that needs practical manifestations. Trusteeship and moral economics can be realized, but not from the top down, which has to date, not worked.
Aunty Kamala
Chris and I have been discussing the Trusteeship issue for long in other thread. I had the opportunity to propose a programme to change the thought process. Chris had earlier launched two blogs: The Wealth of Families and Binary Economics. I have responded to the issue in detail and, therefore, do not want to repeat myself in greater detail. What I want to say here is, the sheer tenacity of Chris iin pursuing his idea. His Trust deed is a document worth paying attention to. It may or may not be possible to 'ditto' it given the different laws governing a nation. But, more than the words of his document, it is the idea which is more important. Gandhi was not a theoretician in the strictest sense of the word. But he was an experimenter par excellence. We do not find a well developed idea of Trusteeship in his writings that can be put into action, nor we find any concrete example of making a capitalist into a trustee. In a way Gandhi did a good thing. He left some scope for others to work on it.
What Chris proposes can be very close to Gandhian Trusteeship as Chris does not call for 'change of heart' that Gandhi wanted to see, yet it has an element of 'duty' that Gandhi expected the Capitalists to develop. Chris limits ( and thereby, actually expands!) the scope to a family thinking about, and providing for, people who are yet to come to this world. The feeling of being a trustee without self-interest is natural in this case.
This is, however, the 'cornering of wealth' which could just be the first step towards checking the unbridled flow of the capital in the market. In fact, capitalism survives on spending. Savings are not its choice if these are not converted into 'investment'. Saving for the future will entail check on consumption by the present generation.and the saved funds cannot go to stock market.
Whether or not the real Trusteeship can emerge from this, no one can say at the moment. The only problem is, as I have stated in the blog 'Binary Economics', families have to live within the given economic conditions. if the general economic condition deteriorates the families suffer and all savings are wiped out. Another thing, if social security system is not in force and people need to buy their pensions from companies that invest in stock markets the erosion in the available funds even in the present is always a possibility. After all, where from can a family acquire its incomes? from outside the family!
I would, therefore, say:at micro level, Chris' formula must succeed in cornering the wealth and at macro level may Aunty Kamala's vision and collective action that checks the erosion of small people's funds and transfers money to them must succeed! Without the second, the first will be under constant fear of losing out.
Namaste Dipak ~ Again I thank you for the many seeds you offer to keep these topics moving into new areas. Discussions on Gandhitopia have encouraged me to continue exploring and searching for answers. Your link to the site advocating "radical homemaking" led me to wonder again about how we make choices. The lifestyle of the radical homemaker seems more attractive than the generic industrial lifestyle lived by most of humanity. America experienced a growing "back to the land" movement at the end of the sixties and through the seventies. The sixties counter-culture spawned a large number of "hippies" who sought freedom from factory work on communes or micro-farms in the countryside. Nevertheless, the continual onslaught of advertising for the shiny new gadgets, with many whistles and bells, still seduces nearly everyone into the pursuit of the "American Dream." Aunty Kamala has pointed to the local community governance advocated by Father Edwin John, and you have pointed to Grameen Bank as an example of economic empowerment. The common values seem to be decentralization of decision-making, gender equality, and a lifestyle that is economically and environmentally sustainable. I believe it follows then that our primary task is to serve as an example in our own families and communities.


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