FROM 1968 TO 2018 – AN ECONOMIC BILL OF RIGHTS FOR 21ST CENTURY
Despite the intervening decades since the Poor People’s Campaign, it is true to say that Dr King would recognise the same issues today as he faced then – inequality, corporate power, racism and militarism. Now, we have other factors that also need to be incorporated – climate change, the total capture and consolidation of political power by the financial and business class; the globalisation of the neo-liberal agenda (north and south alike).
Dr. King and the Committee of 100 devised an ambitious Economic Bill of Rights that would go to the heart of the inequality dividing the have and have-nots in American society.
1968 – The original five demands stand the test of time.
The most interesting fact to emerge is that King’s first call was for a guaranteed minimum income – an idea now gaining great traction around the world and called by various titles ie Universal Basic Income. King was way ahead of his time.
The solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income. … We are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.
A host of positive psychological changes inevitably will result from widespread economic security. The dignity of the individual will flourish when the decisions concerning his life are in his hands, when he has the assurance that his income is stable and certain, and when he knows that he has the means to seek self-improvement.
There is nothing except short-sightedness to prevent us from guaranteeing an annual minimum – and liveable – income for every American family. The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.
Martin Luther King Jr., Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? (1968)
We suggest that King’s second call would also be addressed by the UBI concept. Universal Basic Income is also integral to the policy platform of the Movement for Black Lives in the USA – it sees UBI as key to the present day concerns and discussion about reparation for African Americans.
The other three original calls relate to access to finance, access to land and – significantly – participation in government.
We propose five additional calls to be added
Fifty years on we have proposed extending the original five to more fully reflect King’s concerns such as perpetual war and military spending; manifestations of racism linked to the global failed ‘War On Drugs’ and gross levels incarceration of African Americans; the power of corporations, climate change and the demand to reverse the ‘aid’ narrative adhered to by northern (rich) governments and institutions at the expense of the global south.
Below are the original five calls and how we envisage them today plus the five new calls to take account of issues we need to address for this 21st century.
THE ECONOMIC BILL OF RIGHTS – then and now
|IN 1968, THE COMMITTEE OF 100 DEMANDED AN ECONOMIC BILL OF RIGHTS WITH FIVE PLANKS to deliver ECONOMIC JUSTICE
1. 1968 “A meaningful job at a living wage”
2018 we have levels of unemployment; rising gap between top and bottom salary; triumph of the 1% and shareholder value, massive military spending. WE WANT Citizen’s Income; public investment in infrastructure, public services and jobs; more of the green jobs economy; more of the co-op economy.
2. 1968 “A secure and adequate income” for all those unable to find or do a job
2018 we have inadequate taxation to support social welfare/safety net; WE WANT a properly funded social security system and / or meaningful alternatives to work for those who cannot work.
3. 1968 “Access to land” for economic uses:
2018 WE WANT land reform to challenge the domination of globalised agribusiness; increased respect for and investment in small and medium sized farmers around the world.
4. 1968 “Access to capital” for poor people and minorities to promote their own businesses:
2018 the banking catastrophe meant banks were bailed yet very little was re-directed back into the economy. WE WANT stringent regulation of banking; due process to be implemented for those culpable in the crash; more mutuals and co-op financing.
5. 1968 “Ability for ordinary people to “play a truly significant role” in the government”
2018 WE CALL UPON THE ‘EVERYDAY CITIZEN’, young and old alike, opt in – stand for office – in order to secure support (taxes and legislation) for health, education, housing, reform and regulation of banks, corps etc.
6. 2018 WE ADD: CLIMATE CHANGE & ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY– increased investment in mitigation; green economy and renewable; due process for climate crimes.
7. 2018 WE ADD: REVERSE THE POWER OF TNCs (Transnational Corporations): See the People’s Treaty on challenging corporate power within a legal framework. http://www.foei.org/what-we-do/un-treaty-on-tncs “It is a time for a legally binding instrument to control transnational corporations with respect to human rights. A treaty that also gives victims of corporate abuses access to justice where there is none and challenges the economic and political power of TNCs’ Lucia Ortiz, Friends of the Earth International.
8. 2018 WE ADD: REVERSE AID NARRATIVE; insist northern governments and institutions recognise and act upon the fact that the north owes the south in economic terms.
9. 2018 WE ADD: END ‘THE WAR ON DRUGS’ – redirect government funds into pro poor polices; capture revenue in same way as alcohol and tobacco; put an end to the ‘Prison Industrial Complex’
10. 2018 WE ADD: REPLACE GLOBAL AID PARADIGM with economic & environmental justice. For every $ that goes in aid to developing nations, $10 is returned back to global north. Northern governments & institutions must admit and act upon the fact that the north owes the south in economic terms.
11. 2018 WE ADD : WAR SPENDING/INTL RELATIONS: We want massive reductions in military spending, just as Dr King advocated. Militarisation was the third of his ‘triple evils’ – poverty, racism and militarism. Real security threats to be addressed: climate change, poverty, food sovereignty. See TPNS Five Percent Campaign.
The Beloved Community and Dr. King’s renewed Economic Bill of Rights
Dr. King’s ‘Beloved Community’ was a global vision in which all people could share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. In the Beloved Community, international disputes will be resolved by peaceful conflict-resolution and reconciliation of adversaries, instead of military power. Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred. Peace with justice will prevail over war and military conflict. For Dr. King, The Beloved Community was not a lofty utopian goal to be confused with the rapturous image of the Peaceable Kingdom, in which lions and lambs coexist in idyllic harmony.
On the contrary, it was for him a realistic, achievable goal that could be attained by a critical mass of people committed to and trained in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence.
Today, an Economic Bill of Rights and the realization of a Beloved Community is at the essence of Dr. King’s prophetic, Urgency of Now.
Globalization has fuelled a level of inequality the world has never before seen. The poor has become poorer and the rich has grown richer. The “radical redistribution of power” is a moral imperative if we are to ever truly fulfil the Dr. King’s vision.
Organizing a global campaign for economic fairness and justice is the first step toward the realization of Dr. King’s dream by amassing and awakening the dormant power of the seemingly powerless peoples of the world to call for radical re-imagination of the world’s economic systems, the rebuilding of communities rooted is agape love and the reconstruction of society guided the “revolution of values” that recognizes, uplifts and advocates for the principles and policies outlined in the 1968 Economic Bills of Rights.
AN ECONOMIC BILL OF RIGHTS IS AN INTERNATIONAL AND MORAL IMPERATIVE
The Economic Bill of Rights is about poverty eradication; it resonates with global standards such as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
It tackles the impact of:
- Globalization & gross inequality
- Failed neo-liberal policies (deregulation; privatisation eg finance, public sector)
- Perpetual war
- Environmental degradation
- In the USA : Reparatory Justice and reparations
- Gender inequality
- Political alienation
And its response it to demand progressive policy solutions because:-
- Economic equality is possible only when we call out and expose the injustice of inequality-The poor are powerful and have a voice
- Poor People’s Rights are shared human rights
- The Global South and economically marginalized people in the North are increasingly aware of the need to organize, advocate and agitate and advance a vision of economic equality such as Dr. King proposed.
- Free trade needs unpacking: it is not ‘free’ for the Global South or poor workers in the North.
- Economic /conflict/ climate refugees or migrants are a product of policies that are designed to benefit certain interests (ie arms trade in conflict; transnational corporations; businesses that profit from cheap/illegal labour)
- Action on reparatory justice and reparations is long overdue in the USA
- There is an urgent, overdue need to mitigate catastrophic climate change and increased investment in renewable and energy conservation.
Read more about why we need to internationalise the Poor People’s Campaign.