(From Kim Stanley Robinson's "Fifty Degrees Below" - quoted without permission)

Chapter VI - OPTIMODAL

Social Science Experiment in Elective Politics (SSEEP)
(notes by Edgardo Alfonso, for Diane Chang, the Vanderwal committee, and the National Science Board)

The experiment is designed to ask, if the scientific community were to propose a platform of political goals based on scientific principles, how would it be formulated, and what would the platform say? In other words, what goals for improvement in society and government might follow logically from the aggregate of scientific findings and the application of the scientific method to the problem of change? The platform could conceivably take the form of the "Contract with America" adopted by the Republican Party before the 1994 election (a kind of list of Things To Do):

"Contract with Humanity"
"Contract with the Children"
"Contract with the Generations to Come"
commitment to inventing a sustainable culture
(Permaculture, first iteration —what science is for)

Some kind of underlying macro-goal or foundational axiom set might have to be synthesized from the particulars of scientific practice and the composite standard model of physical reality expressed by the various disciplines.

1) One axiom or goal might be some form of the "Greatest good for the greatest number" rubric. Without implying in any way that this "greatest good" could include or justify any planned or accepted structural or permanent disadvantaging of any minority of any size. As should be clear in the wording of the rubric, the greatest number is of course one hundred percent, including also the generations to come.

2) Even in the context of any religious or humanistic anthropocentrism, the life of our species depends on the rest of Earth's biosphere. Even the utilitarian view of nature as something distinct and subservient to humanity must grant the biosphere the status of a diffused expression and aspect of our bodies. Interdependence of all the components of biosphere (including humanity) is undeniable. An observable, confirmable fact (breathing). Given some version of these foundational axioms, the scientific community suggests these platform particulars for government: (preliminary partial list, please add to as you see fit)

"Contract with Our Children"

1. protection of the biosphere:
sustainable uses; clean technologies; carbon balance; climate homeostasis.

2. protection of human welfare:
universal housing, clothing, shelter, clean water, health care, education, reproductive rights.

3. full employment:
Current economy defines 5.4% unemployment as optimum for desired "wage-pressure balance," treating labor (people) as a commodity and using a supply/demand pricing model. Five percent in U.S.A. = approx. fifteen million people. At the same time there is important work not being done. If government-insured full employment reduced "wage pressure," forcing a rise in minimum wages from the private sector, this would help pull millions out of poverty, decrease their government dependence and social service costs, and inject and cycle their larger incomes back into the economy.

4. Individual ownership of the majority of the surplus value of one's labor.
People create by their work an economic value beyond what it costs to pay them and provide their means of production. This averages $66,000 per year for American workers, a surplus now legally belonging to owners/stockholders.

American workers therefore receive between a fifth and a third of the actual value of their work. The rest goes to owners.

A minimum share of 51% of the surplus value of one's work should be returned to one, this value to be measured by objective and transparent accounting as defined by law.
3. and 4. combined would tend to promote the greatest good for the greatest number, by distributing the wealth more equitably among those who have created it.

5. Reduction of military spending
Match U.S. military expenditures to the average of other nations; this would halve the military budget, freeing over two hundred billion dollars a year.

More generally, all national militaries should be integrated in an international agreement upholding nonviolent conflict resolution. (Using black helicopters of course.)
Disproportionate size of U.S. military and arms industry a waste of resources. Doubling since September 11, 2001 resembles panic response or attempt at global hegemony. Results undermine goals outlined in the foundational axioms.

6. Population stabilization
Human population stabilized at some level to be determined by carrying capacity studies and foundational axioms. Best results here so far have resulted from increase in women's rights and education, also a goal in itself thus a powerful positive feedback loop with chance for results within a single generation.

Context/ultimate goal: Permaculture

A scientifically informed government should lead the way in the invention of a culture which is sustainable perpetually. This is the only normative bequest to the generations to come. It is not adaptive to heavily damage the biosphere when our own offspring and all the generations to follow will need it, like we do, in order to survive. If reproductive success is defined as life's goal, as it is in evolutionary theory, then stealing from descendants is maladaptive.

Protection of the environment, therefore, along with restoration of landscapes and biodiversity, should become one of the principal goals of the economy. Government must lead the way in investigating potential climate-altering strategies to mitigate current problems and eventually establish a balance that can be maintained in perpetuity.


Process Notes: how to enact platform.

Broader outreach. Public discussion. Performance evaluation methodologies. Scientific organizations and universities as information transmitters. Individuals in these organizations as catalysts in information cascade; also, candidates for elections and appointments. Advocacy. Study governing methods in other countries to suggest possible reforms to our system where currently function (democracy) is impaired. Some candidates for study:

Swiss presidential model (executive council)

Australian ballot (preferential voting)

transparency in government (freedom of information, watchdog groups)

revolution (scientific)