What Are You Willing to Do?Reducing Inequality by shopping choices, housing a homeless person in your backyard, and rebalancing our relationship to Earth scroll down arrow

Illustration by Simone Golob

Shop Here, Not ThereScience Says Reducing Inequality Is Almost That Simple

YES! Illustration by Jennifer Luxton

YES! Illustration by Jennifer Luxton

Imagine heading out to run errands at all your usual places, and your phone’s “equity app” has a better idea. Siri might say: “Buy your groceries at one of these other stores, just as close as your regular store.” Or: “There are three coffee shops within 2 miles. You haven’t tried this one before.”

Chris Winters

Chris Winters is a senior editor at YES! He covers economic justice and politics. Twitter @CWintersWriter

We already get shopping suggestions when we bring up Google Maps, especially when our smartphones are transmitting our GPS coordinates. A similar type of computation is happening behind the scenes at Facebook and Twitter, whose targeted ads can sometimes be scarily on point.

But what if, instead of just boosting sales, those suggestions coming from your phone were designed to address social problems like inequality?

A group of researchers in France and Spain may have solved one preliminary puzzle toward getting us to that point. In the paper “Crowdsourcing the Robin Hood Effect in Cities,” published in June in the journal Applied Network Science, the researchers describe a computer algorithm they created that attempts to “rewire” the complex network of commercial transactions and shopping trips people take part in every day. The goal is to redirect more money to poorer neighborhoods so that the wealth differences between rich and poor parts of a city are evened out.

The study used data from 150,000 people and 95,000 businesses in Barcelona and Madrid, and on the surface the pattern of transactions and the money spent revealed that some neighborhoods were up to 5 times wealthier than others. But researchers were shocked to find that if as few as 5 percent of commercial transactions were changed — so that capital flowed from richer to poorer neighborhoods — income inequality in those cities was drastically reduced, up to 80 percent.

“We were not expecting that,” said one of the study’s authors, Maxime Lenormand of the National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture in Montpelier, France. “Actually, I checked the algorithm because I was not sure in the beginning that everything was OK in the code.”

Lenormand conducted the study of the Robin Hood Effect with Thomas Louail of the Paris-based National Center for Scientific Research’s Joint Research Unit of Urban Geography, Juan Murillo Arias of Madrid-based BBVA Data & Analytics, and José J. Ramasco of the Institute of Interdisciplinary Physics and Complex Systems in Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

Their research began as an attempt to use a model in transportation planning that finds the most efficient way people can get to work and extend it into the area of reducing inequality, Louail said.

It also has potential applications in combatting the “neighborhood effect,” a self-reinforcing trend that describes how the relative wealth of a person’s neighborhood affects their own wealth, which in turn accelerates the neighborhood’s own tendencies toward wealth or poverty. Rewiring shopping trips to cross those neighborhood boundaries can decrease the ghettoization urban neighborhoods experience.

But so far, it’s just an algorithm. “One of the first questions you can ask is what extent is this scenario implementable,” Louail said. “What it’s going to take to perform in real life, and how you will motivate people to change their travel destination for shopping.”

Illustration by Simone Golob

Illustration by Simone Golob

The rise of so-called “big data” raises interesting questions about how social scientists and anti-poverty activists approach their work, said Sarah Elwood, a professor in the University of Washington’s Department of Geography who studies the intersection of geographic information systems and technology with social justice and inequality. “We’re seeing more of these sorts of practices that sort of try to get at the behaviors of individual people and try to get them to do something different.”

Guiding and changing individual behavior to instigate social change is possible, both at the grassroots level and as “nudge policies” enacted by governments, she said, yet such small actions don’t address the structural causes of poverty. “It’s important to differentiate between questions of inequality and questions of impoverishment. You can change the degree of inequality in a society without having acted to change the big processes of impoverishment.”

Louail and Lenormand agree. If reversing inequality were the goal, then even an algorithm embedded in a smartphone app would require other measures, such as policy decisions or local government incentives to encourage participation. “But [the solution] is not an app, of course, and maybe I think that the city government, local government somehow could imagine some incentives to help, to motivate people to engage in these kinds of collective enterprises,” Louail said.

“We remind the readers [of our study] that the possible tools of city governance to mitigate inequalities are necessary but they’re not sufficient to resolve everything,” he said. “And so what we proposed is you can articulate or supplement governance with more bottom-up initiatives.”

The researchers see this as an important first step toward using large amounts of data to address social problems. Since their paper was published, they’ve been contacted by people from around the world interested in developing mobile apps or other technology based on their “Robin Hood” algorithm.

Louail and Lenormand are still considering what next steps they might take. Elwood thinks there’s an opportunity to bring other dimensions into the research: “I think big data is going to continue getting bigger, but I believe there are significant aspects of human knowledge, human experience, expressions in social life in cities that we are never going to be able to capture in data.”

“I would want to put their data science expertise together with people who know and study the politics of urban redevelopment, people who think about housing policy, people who think about existing approaches to development in metro areas,” she says. “For me this is the moment for complex research teams that can ask questions from a variety of different standpoints and be more than the sum of their parts.”

Chris Winters

Chris Winters is a senior editor at YES! He covers economic justice and politics. Twitter @CWintersWriter

Yes, In My BackyardHomeowners Make Space For A Backyard Tiny House — And Welcome A Homeless Person To The Neighborhood

YES! photo by Paul Dunn

Volunteers help landscape the Seattle backyard of Kim Sherman and Dan Tenenbaum about two weeks before Robert, a 75-year-old man who’s lived homeless for years, moves into his home, right.YES! photo by Paul Dunn

Two major interstate freeways cross at the edge of the Seattle neighborhood where I live. Last autumn, as winter began to close in, the homeless encampments growing along the freeways wrapped around the hill and took root under the interstate bridge six blocks from my house. Constructions of pallets and old furniture and blankets began to accumulate, and rubbish spread across the walkways leading to the bus stops. We commuters made our way past the campsites, heads down. Eye contact with the people living there seemed intrusive at such close quarters. On cold dark mornings, with a roaring campfire next to a public walkway, the area seemed chaotic, and maybe even dangerous.

Valerie Schloredt

Valerie Schloredt is a freelance editor and writer in Seattle.

During those daily encounters with homelessness, I often wondered — like so many others across the city and across the political spectrum — “Why doesn’t the city do something?” What people think government should do differs, and the discussion often turns to just getting rid of tent cities and the homeless. This comment from a “Nextdoor” website, from a discussion about a city-authorized encampment, is typical of many: “It’s always easier to say we want to give a place for these people to live when it’s not in your backyard. Crime follows the encampments.”

After several months, the city did do something. Workers came and “swept” the messy encampment at the bus stop, all the material and possessions thrown into dumpsters. Tents were also removed from the grassy slopes along the freeway, far from pedestrians. Passing one day, I saw several small bulldozers churning up the ground so that it was no longer suitable for camping. All that was left at the side of the road was mud.

But the homeless are still here in this Beacon Hill neighborhood, where old and new, prosperity and depravation live cheek by jowl. In a few square blocks around my house, there are small one-story homes built for working people in the 1940s and modern sharp-angled townhouses, where well-lit windows reveal plush sofas, big screens, and glossy kitchens. Around the corner are derelict RVs, their windows obscured with cardboard, their roofs reinforced with blue tarps to keep out the rain. People live on those streets in old cars and shelters made from pallets and salvaged furniture. Apparently streets of warehouses are where the homeless are allowed, at least for now.

With an economy powered by tech giants like Amazon and Microsoft, Seattle is the fastest-growing major city in the United States. It also ranks high for homelessness, third after New York and Los Angeles. That’s alarming for a mid-sized city where increases in density are not offsetting the rise in population — or the price of housing. At last count, there were 11,643 people experiencing homelessness in Seattle and surrounding King County. Half the homeless people surveyed as part of that study reported having at least one disabling condition, such as a mental health disorder or substance abuse, evidence that the causes of the crisis are social as well as economic. Despite media discourse, furious comment threads, and evolving public policy, it seems there is no government remedy on the horizon big enough to solve homelessness in Seattle.

I had walked past the house at the end of my street countless times — it’s a pretty bungalow on the way to the bus stop — but one summer afternoon, homeowners Kim Sherman and Dan Tenenbaum were outside holding a plant sale, and there were coffee and cookies. I was pleased to meet them — I didn’t grow up in this neighborhood or raise a child here, so I don’t know many of the residents. I suspect Kim and Dan were looking to meet more of the neighbors too, because after we chatted for a minute Kim showed me the plans for what would replace the strawberry plants she’d just uprooted: a 125-square-foot house for a homeless man. The house would be built by the BLOCK Project, a new nonprofit that aims to house the homeless in high-quality backyard cottages. The organization would build and own the houses, helping with formalities like planning permission and insurance — while homeowners would lend space for the tiny homes and welcome the new inhabitants into the neighborhood.

The tiny house in Kim and Dan’s backyard would be the first in the city. It appeared that somebody was doing something about homelessness in the neighborhood, after all.

YES! Photo by John Lok

Rex Hohlbein and his daugher, Jen LaFreniere, both Seattle architects, are building tiny homes for the homeless in people’s backyards. Thirty homeowners have signed up so far.YES! Photo by John Lok

It’s one thing to discuss homelessness as an abstraction, like that “Nextdoor” commenter who had a problem with giving “these people” a place to live. It’s quite another to look a homeless person in the face and reckon with their humanity. That’s why, a few years ago, Seattle architect Rex Hohlbein started taking portraits of homeless people and posting them on Facebook, with a tagline that resonated strongly with the public: the advice to “Just say hello.” And that’s also why Hohlbein and architect daughter Jenn LaFreniere recently started the BLOCK Project.

Hohlbein’s awareness of homelessness became acute when he met some homeless men on a park bench near his office. One man in particular became a good friend, and Hohlbein invited him in. Soon, his architecture office became a hub for the homeless, with some people taking shelter and others dropping off supplies and donations.

“Suddenly everything that was coming in the door was more compelling than architecture,” says Hohlbein, who left a successful 28-year career in architecture to do this new work he loves even more. He founded Facing Homelessness, a nonprofit that directly supports homeless individuals. “It’s been an insanely beautiful experience,” Hohlbein says. “Not for one minute do I regret that decision.”

The project is based on relationships — Hohlbein’s stories and photos develop out of friendship and conversation, making a bridge between homeless people and those who follow Facing Homelessness, and perhaps donate goods, money, or services. I see an example of how that works when I visit the Facing Homelessness office — in a church basement rather than an architect’s office — and meet Steve, a thin, bearded man who hugs himself as if he’s cold, even on a warm day in July. “I’m just so tired of being tired,” he says, with a gesture of despair. “I’m tired of sleeping in doorways or in churches. I need to be inside. I’m 54, and I’ve been doing this for 23 years.”

I admire a portrait of Steve on the wall — he’s slightly younger there, with shorter hair and a fashionably trimmed beard. “Well, I have something to show you,” he says, taking an envelope out of his pocket with more black-and-white photos of himself, taken by Hohlbein. All of them capture what you might not notice if you just passed Steve on the street — his gentle expression and the warmth in his eyes.

Steve says that a little over $800 would get him back into Section 8 housing — when he was evicted, he got a bill he couldn’t pay. Hohlbein and co-worker Sarah Steilen assure Steve they will request donations on Facebook and liaise with his social worker to try to get him back into housing.

Later on, I ask Steilen about the condemnation of the homeless I’ve read online or heard in meetings, especially in discussions about the location of sanctioned encampments. There often seems to be little empathy for people whose behavior is less than perfect. How do we evoke greater understanding? She reminds me that most of us have someone or something that supports us: a job, a family, or friends who help us out when we’re in trouble. “Many of the people we help don’t have anyone else who can help them,” she says, explaining the Facing Homelessness approach. “For some of them, the people they are close to have similar problems and can’t offer much support. So they need someone who will accept them as they are and try to give them what they need.”

Hohlbein sees homelessness as primarily the result of people being excluded from society and community. “The beauty of community is that we can change that now, if we turn around and love people instead of judging them, accepting them and knowing that they’re doing the best they can.

“If we’re really serious about ending homelessness, we have to be honest about what’s going on here, and that is that community’s not involved — we have completely stepped to the side and let government and nonprofits take over, hoping we’ll hear on the evening news that, finally, we’ve got a solution to end homelessness. It’s never coming, because homelessness has more to do with healthy community than it even does with providing enough shelter.”

That’s where the tiny-house-in-a-neighborhood-backyard comes in, by modeling a community solution to homelessness and allowing people to step up, to offer up some space and invite a new member into their community. And they are.

YES! infographic

A small home built in the Beacon Hill backyard of Kim Sherman and Dan Tenenbaum. YES! photo by Gaelen Kelly

YES! infographic

Kim Sherman and Dan Tenenbaum in the Beacon Hill neighborhood are the first to host a homeless person with a BLOCK Project home. Now, 30 households throughout Seattle have signed up. YES! photo by Paul Dunn

The build for what Hohlbein and my neighbors Kim and Dan are already calling “Robert’s House” begins on a Saturday morning at 7, when a crew of enthusiastic volunteers turns up to dig the foundation.

Robert’s house will be tiny as houses go. But from the area marked off with surveyor’s string, that looks like about half of Kim and Dan’s backyard. A few days ago, a team of volunteers from a real estate agency cleared away the remainder of Kim’s vegetable patch to make way for the house. In the weekends to come, side beams, pre-fabricated panels, and a roof will go up, and then the “mechanicals” — pipes, plumbing, toilet, sink, and solar panels — will be installed.

A landscape architect volunteered his firm’s services to make the most of the space that Kim, Dan, and Robert will be sharing. Robert will have a patio and garden area of his own, and the house will be finished and ready for him to move in by fall.

“Facing Homelessness wanted the first person housed through this project to be Native American,” says Kim, “in recognition of the fact that this is Native land that we’re living on. And Native Americans have one of the higher rates of homelessness.” Kim and Dan were connected to Robert through the Chief Seattle Club, which will continue to give him whatever support he needs after he moves into the house. The three spent some time in conversation to make sure their backyard-sharing arrangement would be a good fit, and took to each other immediately. “He is just the nicest man,” Kim says of Robert, “and it’s a honor to get to know him.” Robert just turned 75. He has worked all his life at a variety of jobs, including construction and fishing, and yet has been homeless for nearly 10 years, some of that on the street. He’s currently staying in a dormitory-style shelter and doesn’t want to be interviewed — he’s already had enough media attention.

When I see the site for the tiny house, I remark to Kim that it is generous of her and Dan to give up half of their backyard. “We don’t think of it that way,” she says, looking a bit embarrassed. “I think of this as something I’m doing for me. There is such a negative political atmosphere right now. This project is making me happy. When you look at the problem of homelessness, it’s so huge — but when you do one thing, you start to feel like you’re able to do more.”

Hohlbein’s work is all about that — empowering people to do one thing, and then more. He’s gathered an impressive collection of contributors for the first BLOCK Project homes — including a major construction company that has committed to building the first four houses and donating materials. That sort of help makes a difference. “With the donated labor and materials,” says Turner Construction business manager Ian Klein, “we’re building a project that would normally cost $85,000 or $90,000 for $30,000.”

Building companies are not the only volunteers. When I stop by Kim and Dan’s later in the summer to see how the house is coming along, I meet Lavrans Mathiesen, who says he volunteered because he saw a request on Facebook. A fine woodworker who runs his own business, Mathiesen lives in the neighborhood and has volunteered over five weekends — on wall framing, waterproofing and insulation, erecting panels, and today, when I meet him, on designing trim for the windows. The house is nearly finished.

Thirty households in Seattle have already volunteered their backyards to provide a permanent BLOCK Project home. “Someone compared this to Airbnb,” laughs Hohlbein, “asking people to reimagine their personal space, bringing strangers into their home to spend the night. We believe the BLOCK Project is going to do the same thing to our backyards, that we will no longer see them as our personal sanctuary. Just by being owners of a house in Seattle, we get the right to help people because we have land.”

The paradigm shift Hohlbein is working to create involves not just reassessing personal space and social responsibility, but a different sort of approach to conflict over the issue of homelessness: “Our biggest fear in the beginning was NIMBYism,” he says. “And we decided to just take it on by saying ‘Yes In My Backyard.’ We’re going to turn all the NIMBYs to YIMBYs, and we don’t want to do it in a confrontational way. All the things we’re doing are to bring community together to just bring people right into the middle of it, so that we empower them.”

Countering the NIMBYish position that equates homelessness with anti-social behavior or crime, the nonprofit is working closely with social service agencies that match tenants to homeowners and will provide ongoing support after a tenant moves in. “We also know that the BLOCK Home isn’t right for everybody,” Hohlbein says. “There are people with severe mental health issues, aggression problems, severe violent offenders, Level 3 sex offenders — it’s a small category of the homeless, but it is a category. The thing that we’re excited about is that when the BLOCK Project takes a giant chunk out of the homeless issue, we will be freeing up so many professionals to give their attention to people who really need that kind of care.”

Despite the careful liaison with social services, if even one homeowner on a block doesn’t voluntarily support the presence of a BLOCK House, it will not be built. “We do not want to take someone who is living on the street, that’s living very uncomfortably, and move them on a block only to make someone who was comfortable uncomfortable. We’re not going to be just trading comfort here.

“We believe that time is on our side, and as this project continues to move forward, more and more blocks will have it. There’s enough blocks,” Hohlbein says. “If we provide one on every block in the city, we provide more than enough housing for the unsheltered in Seattle.”

The most obvious solutions to homelessness — subsidized public housing on a large scale and free and effective health care — are probably the least likely to happen soon. Seattle’s latest plan, helping the homeless get into private market-rate apartments, may be unrealistic for low-wage workers in an expensive city. So the vision of a tiny house for the homeless on every block may be more practical than it sounds at first. Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon, are looking at similar initiatives whereby homeowners would gain a backyard cottage by agreeing to rent it, for a period of years, to a homeless person. Those schemes differ from the BLOCK Project in that there would be financial gain for the homeowner.

But what they share is the idea of a small solution of generosity, scaled up, and the assumption that plenty of homeowners might be willing to house the homeless in their backyards.

YES! photo by John Lok

His relationships with homeless people convinced architect Rex Hohlbein, right, to quit his private practice and start both Facing Homelessness and the BLOCK Project. YES! photo by John Lok

One Sunday afternoon, exactly where I used to walk past the winter encampment on the way to the bus stop, I visit a community effort to address the needs of the homeless. It’s the Rainier Popup Kitchen: a long row of tables under the bridge where volunteers in aprons are preparing to serve home-cooked food to whoever comes by for a free meal. There is barbecued chicken and a delicious-looking tray of enchiladas, salad, even generous scoops of blackberry ice cream. Once a week, the Rainier Popup folks manage to feed about 150 people, and do it with warmth and hospitality. There are tables and chairs set up so that the homeless diners can eat in comfort. Checkered tablecloths flutter in the summer breeze, and there are salt and pepper shakers on every table. This looks more like a patio than a soup kitchen.

I ask if I can help out and am put to work on another row of tables, where there are clothes to give away and a big pile of brand-new socks. For the next few hours, people line up to make requests, and the other volunteers and I do our best to find what suits their needs. Some of the people I meet look like they’ve been living outdoors, but some don’t, and there are several who belie stereotypes about the homeless — there are, for example, lovely young women here looking for maternity clothes. And many of the homeless guests are gracious, giving me more thanks and appreciation than I deserve — it’s the Rainier Popup volunteers who’ve had the resourcefulness to purchase socks in bulk and set up tables and get a company to donate ice cream. Still, it feels very good to look people in the eye and talk to them, and to go to a little trouble to find what they need: thick white socks or thin dark ones, a toothbrush, pants that might fit, and a clean T-shirt. Solving these minor problems together feels like an equalizer. At least for this afternoon, I’m working with people who are homeless, rather than being on the other side of the walkway and keeping my head down.

Not everyone has a backyard, and not everyone can make the sort of long-term commitment Kim and Dan have made to house a homeless person. Not everyone has the charisma and vision and persuasiveness that made Rex Hohlbein’s leap of faith a success when he left a high-status career to befriend people in desperate need. But their example could get more of us to change our way of thinking and to take some sort of action. During those winter months when I walked past the homeless under the bridge, wondering why the city didn’t do something, members of the community, like the Rainier Popup volunteers, like Kim and Dan and Rex, were reaching out to homeless people — and treating them like neighbors.

Valerie Schloredt

Valerie Schloredt is a freelance editor and writer in Seattle.

Commentary

What’s Required to Rebalance Our Relationship to Earth

The earth

To have a viable human future on this overstressed planet, it is essential that we build a solidarity economy that seeks material sufficiency and spiritual abundance for all in balance with a living Earth. We must join in common cause to build local relationships of caring and equitable sharing across the lines of race, religion, and class. Strong and healthy local relationships, however, are only one element of the larger economic transformation required to rebalance our relationship to Earth and achieve a radical redistribution of access to and control of the essentials of living.

David Korten

David Korten is president of the Living Economies Forum, a member of the Club of Rome, and the author of When Corporations Rule the World. His most recent book is Change the Story, Change the Future: A Living Economy for a Living Earth. He is co-founder of YES! Twitter: @dkorten

Three key statistics reveal the current grim reality:

1. According to the Ecological Footprint Network, we humans currently consume at a rate 1.7 times what Earth’s generative capacity can sustain — and the gap is growing. Consumption at a rate above one further depletes Earth’s capacity to support life.

2. According to Oxfam International, the financial assets of the world’s eight richest individuals now exceed those of the poorest half of humanity, 3.8 billion people. These eight people have ever-growing power to engage in obscene displays of self-indulgent consumption, dictate political outcomes that favor their further enrichment, undermine the legitimacy and credibility of governing institutions, and deprive billions of respect and essential means of living.

3. Our current population of 7.5 billion people is expected to stabilize at 11.2 billion in 2100 — a 50 percent increase. All will need food, water, shelter, energy, and other essentials, further intensifying competition for Earth’s dwindling resources and condemning additional billions to lives of desperation.

As drought, storms, floods, fires, and rising sea levels render more areas of Earth uninhabitable, we face a virtually certain future of death, displacement, and growing waves of desperate refugees, threatening the future of every person irrespective of class, color, gender, or religion.

Throughout history, as empires have risen and fallen, people have experienced immense suffering from similar patterns of excess and exclusion. But it always has been more contained by geography. Never have we faced species extinctions and natural systems collapse on anything like the current scale. So dire is this situation that we now face the possibility that we might become the first species knowingly responsible for its own extinction.

A different course requires corrective action equivalent to the scale of the problem we have created. Success requires education and organizing to make the politically impossible politically unstoppable.

The basics are straightforward. We must reduce our burden on Earth’s regenerative systems by approximately 40 percent. And we must share what remains of Earth’s generative capacity to meet the essential material needs of all people: food, water, clean air, housing, energy, transport, and more. We must simultaneously limit the growth of our numbers by making family planning services freely available to all and encouraging their use.

We all depend on the health and productivity of living Earth systems that none among us created. We earn our right to use them by fulfilling our responsibility to care for and restore them to full health and productivity. No one has a right to more than they need so long as others’ needs go unmet.

Here are some of the actions required to simultaneously restore human–Earth balance and redistribute the human share of Earth’s wealth.

Our most urgent need is to replace our use of coal, oil, and gas with wind and solar energy, and switch from farming methods that destroy the soil and deplete water sources to ones that restore soil fertility, clean water, and sequester carbon. We can do this in part with market mechanisms by taxing coal, oil, and gas extraction at the source and distributing the proceeds equally to everyone. Similar measures might apply to the extraction of all other nonrenewable resources.

A society without safety nets creates a powerful incentive for people to hold on to excess assets. No one knows how long they will live or what health or other misfortunes might befall them or their loved ones. Thus, no one knows how much money they may need. Public programs that guarantee health care and retirement security for all reduce uncertainty and, by extension, people’s hoarding mentality.

Some people truly earn their fortunes by making significant contributions to societal well-being. Most, however, involve expropriation of resources of the commons, public subsidies, monopoly profits, financial manipulation and fraud, and/or political corruption.

Those individuals who make unusual contributions to the common good may merit some level of extra material reward, but this doesn’t need to pass on to their heirs in perpetuity. In the tradition of jubilee, every death should be a time for celebratory wealth redistribution to fund educational and livelihood opportunity trust funds for every young person.

In addition to giving to nonprofits, individuals could gift their estates to finance worker and community cooperative-owned enterprises or land trusts. Of course, a sharply progressive income tax would reduce excessive accumulation from the beginning, which is critical to maintaining a healthy democracy.

Organizing as a world of democratically self-governing communities has long had popular appeal. Imagine a world in which each community bears responsibility for living within the means of its own natural land and water endowments, creating a clear community incentive to see to their care and to limit reproduction and nonessential consumption.

And how should we deal with corporations and the excessive power they currently wield? Corporations are creations of government. The only legitimate reason for a democratic government to create a corporation is to serve a beneficial public purpose. Once created to serve that purpose, the corporation must be transparent to the public and accountable to the government of the electorate that chartered it. A corporation has no inherent right to exist or operate beyond that government’s jurisdiction.

As we face challenges unprecedented in human experience, we must rise to the occasion in global solidarity. We share an equally unprecedented interest in a deep cultural, social, and institutional transformation that recognizes our common humanity, fulfills our need to share and care for Earth and one another, and fills the lives of all with an abundance of love and joy.

David Korten

David Korten is president of the Living Economies Forum, a member of the Club of Rome, and the author of When Corporations Rule the World. His most recent book is Change the Story, Change the Future: A Living Economy for a Living Earth. He is co-founder of YES! Twitter: @dkorten