Facing Social Revolution: The Personal Journey of a Quaker Economist

By John P. Powelson; Jack Powelson et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 14
The Massive Chasm

In this chapter I address the main historical reasons for the massive chasm: the wealth of the West and the poverty of the Third World. Other scholars will disagree with me, and I lay no claim to the sole truth. Rather, I tell of my perceptions: what I have seen in history that has led me to the beliefs I hold. I limit myself to major forces and omit many qualifications, subreasons, and explanations that would be essential if this were a scholarly treatise.

In simple terms, I believe that the keys to material well being for everyone lie in pluralist societies, with decentralization and dispersion of power. They lie also in the creation of institutions of trust, mutual accountability, and peaceful bargaining. War and the excesses of power are the principal hindrances.

As early as 1000 A.D., Europe and Japan were becoming societies of many corporate groups, hereafter "pluralist societies." Each group, with its own internal structure, bargained with other groups on behalf of its members. In Europe, the groups were village farmers, lords of the land, merchants, traders, high government officials, local officials, the pope, clerics, town patricians, princes, kings, military officers, and on and on. As time went on, new groups evolved: craft guilds, labor unions, Levellers, Diggers, Quakers, political parties, League of Women Voters, the Sierra Club, and many more. An analogous set arose in Japan: emperors, shoguns, Buddhist monks, azukari dokoro, jito, ikki, samurai, possessors of different shiki,

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