Nonviolent economy

By Johan Galtung

Two important words enriching each other. “Nonviolent” easily becomes bla-bla, and “economy” is too general. But, does “nonviolent” make a difference for the better to the economy? And vice versa, can “economy” make “nonviolent” more positive, beyond resistance to evil?

Let us start with “economy”, here conceived of as a cycle with three poles: Nature, Production, Consumption. And three processes: Extraction from Nature, Distribution from Production to Consumption, and Pollution from Production-Consumption back to Nature. The cycle flow is in that order: Nature → Production → Consumption → Nature.

A simple summary of the economy: humans extract resources from nature, produce-process for (end) consumption, and sends what they cannot consume back to nature (but economists, like book-keepers, left out the Nature part). And we want it all to be nonviolent!

“Do no harm!”, nonviolent, is insufficient. “Peace”, “peaceful” include positive peace–Peace Economics, A Theory of Development are my books (TRANSCEND University Press, 2012, 2010)–with “do good!”.

And: Nature can evolve better without us, not we without Nature.

Enters money, speeding up the cycle at the Distribution link. Not only products in return for labor or other products but anything in return for anything at the same price. The general flow of money is contrary to the cycle flow: there is monetized consumer demand (and producer supply to stimulate demand), to be met by monetized producer supply, to be met by resources from nature. We notice that consumers pay for products (goods and services), producers pay for resources, and nobody pays nature; not only extracted, but exploited. Violence.

Money takes on its own life, generalized to “financial objects”, including complex “derivatives”. Added to the “real economy” for end consumption then there is a “finance economy” for buying and selling of financial objects, with no end consumption. It just goes on and on.

Nonviolence to nature only as non-depletion and non-pollution is not good enough; only negative peace. Positive peace with nature would enhance nature, cater to nature’s need for diversity and symbiosis, increase the diversity of biota and abiota, stimulate photosynthesis and other syntheses enriching nature. A model is forestry, clearing to improve the access of plants, trees, animals to sun and (not too much) water. This is also done in animal parks as opposed to the very violent zoos with cages, etc. They should be forbidden, right away.

But the basic violence is slaughter, for food. Let nature yield its fruits voluntarily. A nonviolent economy is vegetarian and beyond.

Does this limit extraction to the “sustainable”, reproducible? “Sustainable”, status quo, is not good enough, “enhanceable” is better. A better nature will offer more to extract and less of nature’s violence, drought-flooding-tsunamis-earthquakes. A nature at ease with itself and humans, without being tamed like we tame animals. Plowing furrows for monocrop seeds, remedying lost diversity with manure and poison, is violence. Permaculture, diverse, symbiotic, is nonviolent; enriching nature to offer more and better fruits.

We move on to Production-Distribution-Consumption, with humans all over but no Protagoras “man is the measure of all things”. Our discourse for the economy certainly also includes nature as “measure”.

The argument would be the same. Not to do harm to human beings is to meet their basic needs, to stay alive, and for water and food, clothing and shelter, health, and education to relate to others. Not good enough, we want both the real and the finance economy also to do good to humans, to enhance them, not merely not to do harm. Too modest. Or, a discourse advanced by not very modest people wanting to protect an economy serving elites, not people, with some minor modifications?

Cooperation, not competition? Both, competition is fun, like in sports, games as long as losing does no real harm. A false dichotomy.

Dialogue is the key, between consumers and producers. Consumers having a say in what is produced would also be in the interest of the producers. Diversity is another key, individual consumers differ.

Instead of producers doing “market studies”, they should enter into dialogue with people. They might discover that instead of cars that all look alike and are the same except for class geared to class society, people want slower, less risky cars, more like Tivoli cars. And computers that save automatically, erasing being an option.

Instead of spying on people to offer packages geared to their demand “profiles”, let people express individual wishes and meet them. Humans seem today to be increasingly individualist and diverse; and they want to be in command as subjects, not manipulated as objects.

In short, equality between the Production and Consumption poles, like between them and the Nature pole. However, the cycle itself should also be nonviolent: a cycle with the three poles in three different continents is violent by being beyond control, even comprehension. Contract the cycle to the regional-state-provincial-local levels to facilitate dialogues on equal terms. An argument for localism.

Distribution uses long chains for products to reach consumers, even across regional and state borders; transport at the expense of Nature, fees for the consumers. Again an argument for localism.

Finance economy for nonviolent investment; not derivative chains for speculation at the expense of many. To be forbidden, right away.

In a nonviolent economy consumption not only makes no harm but is a delight, like meetings in virtual space, or driving at no risk. Or, by making drinking and eating more delightful. To quench thirst water does the job, straight down. But anything with taste should stay sometime in the mouth, near the taste and smell buds. Chew slowly, with no violence by “washing it down”. Nonviolent quantities of good wine and juices are for tasting and smelling, not for washing. Bon apétit!

Originally published at Transcend Media Service, TMS, here.

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