Humane Civilization -- A Draft Manuscript
humane Zivilsation / civilización humana / civilisation humaine
Preface / Introduction revised 3/2019
Considered Working Titles:
Economic, Legal, Political and Social Institutions: Models for
Change: An Outline for reforming the obsolete tenets of modern
Meeting Human Needs: Ethically Reforming our Economy and Government
Beyond Liberal and Conservative - Vision of a Peaceful Revolution
Humane civilizations worldwide
DRAFT DOCUMENT by Heinz Aeschbach, MD, Austin, Texas,
first published 2008, with ongoing support, editing and additions by
Walter Aeschbach, MD, El Paso, Texas, and Margaret A. P. Aeschbach, Austin, Texas; and other articles [more to be
Our goal is a
worldwide movement that seeks to realize a vision of reforming
institutions of civilizations so that they bring the best human
qualities out of people and create humane civilizations.
Founders, organization members:
Heinz Aeschbach, M.D., Austin, Texas, USA [board-cert. psychiatrtist]
Walter Aeschbach, M.D., El Paso, Texas, USA [board-cert. psychiatrtist]
Margaret A. P. Aeschbach, MLS, Austin, Texas, USA,
Crispa J. Aeschbach-Jachmann, M.D., Austin, Texas, USA [board-cert. psychiatrtist]
Naoma C. Lane, BS Ed., M.S.S.W, Ed Admin., Ohama, Nebraska, USA
Copyright Heinz Aeschbach, MD, 2008/'09/'10/'11/'12/'13/'14/'15/'16/'17/'18/'19 - H.Aeschbach@gmail.com
Web design and photos by Linda Nowotny (no credit taken for previous versions of this website or revisions made after Jan/Feb 2011).
revised 3/2019 [added 12/2016, edited 10/2017]
The Humane Civilization Worldwide project is the result of our
life-long pursuit to find ways of making the world a better place
(‘our’ and ‘we’ refers to us twin brothers Heinz and Walter Aeschbach,
both psychiatrists). Margaret A. P. Aeschbach and Crispa Aeschbach-Jachmann also contributed to important discussions of issues.
Observing and studying people, it appears that
humans’ behaviors are often appalling and hardly rational: considering
people’s intelligence, scientific knowledge, and the technological
developments that were achieved, we should expect that the world is a
much better place than it is. Wars should have been considered obsolete
since the times when conquerors stopped pursuing systematic genocides
or cruelly mistreating and enslaving conquered people. Crimes should be
rare since they hardly ever enhance the thief’s or attacker’s quality
of life. It seems hard to understand why cruel traditional practices
often spread rather than having been abolished long ago.
This Humane Civilization Worldwide document (published in
this website) is a work in progress; we work continuously on improving
it. It is written so that any part may be read and understood by
itself; there is no need to read from beginning to the place of main
interest. Consequently, reading through it includes duplications but we
try to avoid contradicting statements. There is no claim that ideas and
opinions are original, many ideas may be described elsewhere, sometimes
we reinvent what others already proposed. However, we have been trying
to create a cohesive, fairly comprehensive ‘blueprint’ for a better
In efforts to understand humans, how our instincts and
emotions, our responses to stimuli, and our reasoning cause our wishes,
pursuits and actions, we studied many aspects of human nature, and we
studied cultural-institutional factors that contribute to people’s
perceptions and decision-making. Our opinions are based on observing
ourselves, people we know, and psychiatric patients, empathetically
listening to their stories and discussing their perceptions and
thoughts; and on independent studies that included ethology (studies of
observed animal and human behaviors), anthropology, history,
primatology, psychology, neurosciences, and economics. Much
anthropological information was gained from reading literature of
foreign and native cultures, particularly post-colonial literature of
Asia and Africa. Difficulties and failures in developing aid projects
also added valuable information about humans and cultures. We discussed
our own views and conclusions at length with many people.
Throughout history, progress toward higher quality of life
for all has been extremely slow, hesitant and with frequent
regressions. Hominids-humans had big brains (close to 1,000g) for over
a million years and walked upright for several million years but
appeared to evolve genetically faster than intellectually, culturally,
and technologically. Simple stone axes were used for over 1.5 million
years, until about 0.2 million years ago, with no apparent
improvements. The regular use of fire for cooking evolved over about a
million years and made chewing and digesting food much easier. Genetic
anatomical adaptations in teeth and intestine occurred simultaneously.
The development of more sophisticated hunting weapons was slow enough
that most African wild life had time to adapt by way of mutations,
developing a fear of the small human hunters. It took Homo sapiens tens
of thousands of years from the first lines drawn on cave walls, later
outlines of animals to the creation of simple but beautiful paintings.
Rather than thinking creatively and devising more sophisticated ways,
Homo sapiens, the large-brained Homo neanderthalensis and earlier Homo
species apparently followed primarily traditional ways of tool use;
developments and improvements appear more coincidental than planned and invented.
After the last ice age about 10,000 years ago, the world's
climate appears to have been relatively stable and developments started
very gradually to accelerate. However, our instincts and the prevalent
primitive cultures did little to improve people's lives. The largely
coincidental developments of agriculture and animal husbandry led to
hierarchical structures and virtual enslaving of most people. Kings and
high priests ordered the construction of impressive monuments, there
were some technological inventions and a very small number of humans
lived in considerable luxury. However, throughout Antiquity and the
Middle Ages, progress from century to century was barely noticeable.
Fresh water and sewage systems hardly evolved from Roman times to the
18th century. Aqueducts in Mexico look as if built by the ancient
In recent centuries, the speed of progress has
accelerated, in some areas exponentially, and today the majority of
people experience much less physical hardships and suffering than ever.
However mental health problems including anxiety and depression,
abuse-addiction problems, and existential crises are very widespread.
Suicide rates are still high, and among adolescents and children rates
have been increasing in some highly developed countries. Also domestic
violence and antisocial behaviors by gangs are still serious problems,
and crime rates, related to and unrelated to drug abuse, remain much
higher than we should expect.
Modern institutions vary greatly in their adequacy. For
instance, devastating economic conditions are an odd problem: if
unemployed people want to work, there is work to be done, and there are
resources to work with, why is the money supply exhausted, or why do
governments not provide the money supply needed to effectively mediate
economic transactions? If there are legal limitations to expand the
money supply, people should at least be able to work with local barter
coupons. Obviously, healthy adults have time to raise and educate young
people and help old and disabled people. Why are so many adults wasting
time or, ignoring needs in their communities, work for wealth and
luxuries they can hardly enjoy?
An important conclusion is that we have to understand and
fight harmful inherent, biological predispositions and fight them
worldwide with reforms of our institutions.. Like other highly
developed animals, we
have a powerful, underappreciated instinct to follow our elders. People
then rationalize even worst traditions as necessary. Unlike most
animals, humans are also docile, comparable to the few animal species
that lent themselves to be domesticated for exploitation; and this
docility has been widely abused. When a good idea is proposed, the
almost universal response is “that will not work”, and “yes, but...”
Work in developing countries often failed when these propensities were
not appreciated. Only if an invention promises to be imminently
gratifying and or meets an addictive propensity, is it likely to be
developed; examples of abusive-addictive pursuits include power and
wealth, and unhealthy comfort and food. Inventions of the last few
centuries primarily served to expand the power and wealth of
aristocracy and later entrepreneurs and industrialists. Capitalism
relied on the greed of industrialists who wanted to become wealthier
thanks to inventions and exploitation of cheap labor, and investors
wanted to become wealthier without working themselves.
Industrialization's benefits to the poor have been secondary, not a
primary goal. For example, inventiveness in ship building was first
used to efficiently transport stolen precious metals and slaves, not to
provide better nutrition for the poor or for tourism of common people.
Capitalist enterprises and customers are still irrational and prone to
abuse-addictive pursuits. While Volvo developed cost-effective safety
features in cars, most car manufacturers had to be forced to build cars
according to new safety standards rather than mainly focusing on
building appealing, fast cars, and people had to be forced to use the
by Volvo developed convenient and highly effective seat belts. Good
results that benefit most people appear to be largely by-products of
industrial developments. Ethics or morality in institutions is usually
extremely limited with ethics rules usually having been created as a
response to some gross abuse.
From a philosophical standpoint and forming opinions that
are based on much research data and observations, we conclude that
humans must seek ethical guidelines that are based on an understanding
of human nature and on what people universally wish or, more
importantly, prefer (people may wish high status, honor, and revenge,
but more importantly, they usually prefer peace and stability to
contests, conflict and fighting.)
Religions can hardly guide us, since, if there is a
quasi-personal God, we cannot know what She/He wishes from us - world
religions vastly differ in their teachings and within Christianity,
people vastly disagree on details when interpreting the Bible,
particularly concerning moral principles. An intractable problem has
been the propensity of religions to incorporate inhumane traditional
values and practices into their teachings, making it much harder to
evolve and eliminate worst traditional practices. Unless isolated and
marginalized, pacifist religions usually devised many exceptions to
We maintain that idealistic concepts such as freedom,
equal rights, justice, or autonomy do not work as ethical guidelines
either. Considering the major differences between people, gender,
temperaments and genetic predispositions, being poor or wealthy,
growing up in different environments, etc., the notion of being ‘born
equal’ and the term ‘justice’ make little sense; freedom for one often
limits freedoms of others and freedom is sometimes interpreted as a
right to exploit the environment. The terms ‘unjust’ or ‘unfair’ are
meaningful when indicating that rules are applied unevenly with the
intent to benefit one group and/or harm another; but, in certain
circumstances, rules should be ignored; ethical reasoning is key. If
free will exists, it is minimal: we hardly can look back and claim, “I
could have behaved differently” without assuming that knowledge,
perceptions, impulses, mental state, etc. were different. Even though
the sense of being responsible for one’s actions is natural, even
needed in our decision-making, we must make efforts to be understanding
and forgiving and focus on institutions and cultural developments,
which strongly influence people’s perceptions, aspirations, and
must focus on the goal of preventing ethics transgressions by reforming
institutions and helping people who are prone to unhappiness and
hostile feelings, supporting people who experience hardships,
preventing victimizations as feasible, and treating all people humanely.
Most important in the development of individuals and in
decision-making are our instincts, which we usually perceive as
emotions, and cultural-institutional ways of enhancing them,
suppressing them, and modifying or shaping their expression. For our endeavor the institutions that influence our
emotional-behavioral systems are of particular interest: economic systems, legal and political
systems, and education, which includes influences by entertainment.
Many kinds of personal experiences, traveling, and social interactions,
listening to personal accounts, etc. add to people's growth. We have to
recognize the great differences between different people, inherent
differences, education and background, experiences of trauma and/or
luck. Was the person influenced or abused in pernicious ways early in life; was
he/she at a good place during critical phases in life, etc.? Our goal is
that model institutions will work reasonably well for all people,
address individual problems as feasible, and bring out the best
qualities in each person.
The purpose of this draft and organization is to
• Develop, explain and teach natural ethics, which is based on science and on an understanding of human nature.
• Propagate a philosophy of governance that is based on natural, science-based ethics.
• Continue analytical examinations of cultural and governmental institutions.
• Develop model frameworks of institutions that will serve as guidelines or goals for proposed changes of present institutions.
In addition, the organization seeks to create a worldwide movement of
people and organizations who share at least in part or in principle the
goals of this organization in order to gain more influence worldwide
and help many people find meaning and satisfaction in participating in
the movement. The goal of making a small contribution to improving the
world may replace meaningless pursuits of wealth, status and luxuries
or substance abuse.
It is not sufficient to make sporadic improvements to
alleviate some contemptible cruelties and ignored suffering, or to
correct specific irrational policies; we need to find and address the
cultural-institutional factors that lead to senseless suffering,
cruelties, irrational policies and corruption, and the factors that
keep governments from effectively addressing serious problems.
revised 3,4/2019 [previously revised/edited 2/2012; 2/2013; 8/2014; 1/2016; 10/2017]
Scientists everywhere express alarm about climate change and
destruction of habitats, but institutions, governmental,
entrepreneurial, and religious appear self-driven, running their course
with minimal foresight and ethical guidance.
• There are no systematic analyses as to what is going wrong in our
institutions and why, and what alternatives would be reasonable.
Learning some from fairly good governments and adding new ideas, we
must work to establish model economic, political, legal, and
educational systems, etc., which may be applicable in rich and poor
• People are not good or bad; humans have inborn predispositions to be
caring, helpful, cooperative, and compassionate; but also to be
competitive, egoistic, and belligerent. Our environment, our cultures,
and the institutions of our civilizations shape how we express our
instinctive and emotional predispositions. To create humane
civilizations we need to create institutions that bring the best human
qualities out of all people.
Our political, economic, and legal systems do not accomplish
what people universally wish. People of modern civilizations often
behave unreasonable and unethical, and, even if well-to-do, many are
dissatisfied. Considering people’s intelligence, today’s astonishing
scientific knowledge and the technological achievements, we should be
able to expect a world with much less conflicts and suffering.
We may visualize humans becoming more ethical but we can
only work on improving the behavior of people by changing the
institutions that have an impact on individuals. Institutions
powerfully influence the development of individuals’ character,
physical and mental health, perceptions, aspirations, decision-making,
and happiness. To make today’s civilizations more humane, we must
change the institutions that shape people’s perceptions, aspirations
and behaviors, and we must have ideas as to how good institutions would
In attempts to understand misguided developments and in
efforts to design better institutions, we must consider human nature.
Humans are basically very tradition-bound. Rather than rationally
planning, they usually follow by cultures shaped emotions: the culture
of the area and the cultures of groups: family, tribe, organization,
gang, or cult. Humans generally reject novelty that is not imminently
rewarding and/or addicting. Humans are also docile and easily
exploited. People have propensities to become egoistic, to follow
shortsighted goals of idols or peer groups and to enjoy rewarding abuse
behaviors until they become addicted.
As we observe continuous progress in many areas, we share
an ethical obligation to seek out the failures of our cultures, observe
and analyze them and cooperate in pursuing reforms. The ultimate goals
are those of global ethics including peace and stability, mutual
respect and loving relationships, avoidance of us-against-them
thinking, and a better future for our children. Good institutions will
help people pursue ethical goals that give life meaning and enhance
Humane Civilization Worldwide (HCW) and its website focus
on examining major inadequately addressed problems and offer framework
models of institutions that are designed to improve or replace current
institutions. The intent is that these rough ‘blue prints’ will guide
reforms of the institutions that are the root cause of unnecessary
conflicts and suffering. This vision of an institutional framework of
humane civilizations is based on our understanding of studies in the
fields of economics, ethics, social and political sciences, and human
nature. We include fairly detailed proposals for changing economic,
political, educational, and other institutions that are relevant in all
Goals have been to
• Find and analyze major and underappreciated problems in modern societies.
• Establish ethical guidelines that 1. correspond with scientific data
on human nature and what humans globally wish and prefer, and 2.
consequently address how cultures influence and shape ways people
express their emotions and instincts; the goal is to ameliorate
conflicts, minimize unnecessary suffering and bring the best out of
• Establish a vision of realistic, sensible models of institutions that
help to improve local cultures and develop peaceful, humane,
sustainable civilizations worldwide.
• Increase awareness of the meaning of such goals; address whole populations, explaining problems and ways to move forward.
• Working with organizations with similar ethical goals towards
becoming a powerful worldwide movement (people and organizations
agreeing, at least with the basic ideas and goals of the presented
vision; individuals and organizations may differ in their priorities
and some details but should be united in the pursuit of this broader
vision, communicating as part of this movement with a voice that cannot
The described proposals are only a first step, nothing
final, a work in progress. They try to end the hold of obsolete
philosophies concerning present institutions but remain pragmatic;
progressive thinking will be needed far into the future. The document
in this website is based on our present knowledge and opinions, and it
needs to be continuously improved and expanded.
Our thinking about economic and social order go beyond
ideologies of left and right and describe a radical departure from
conventional economic views. As most people, we are conservative in the
sense that we want to save much that is universally recognized as
valuable: timeless wisdoms and ethical principles, many natural and on
instincts based social patterns, the heritage and artifacts of
cultures, animal and plant species, and other natural resources of the
world. People must also become liberal in the sense of progressive,
generous, tolerant, and broad-minded. The world cannot stand still but
must not change without direction, and we need to free ourselves, as
quickly as possible, from obsolete notions.
There is no claim that ideas and conclusions are original,
our own; many have been proposed, even tried, or we re-invented them;
but this is an attempt of a comprehensive plan - putting the pieces
together and creating broadly useful guidelines.
NGOs, religious-charitable groups, political parties and
other groups and agents should address many obvious problems; and they
should move from isolated efforts to broad cooperation; at least
progressive entities expressing support for each other. An umbrella
organization may be needed. Urgent goals that need to be cooperatively,
systematically and effectively pursued include:
• Climate change to be addressed from many sides: food choices and
production, transportation, insulation of buildings, renewable energy
sources, decreasing sun exposure and heat absorption of earth's
surface, sequestering carbon, etc.
• Economics, monetary systems: A stable money supply is important for
economic stability. The circulating money should be owned mostly by
individuals, enterprises, and agencies, not by financial institution.
Lending activities and speculation must be very limited. When the money
supply has to be increased to serve a growing civilian economy,
governments must issue new money, not borrow or encourage bank lending.
Creating new money that increases civilian productivity is not
inflationary. If growth in economy is delayed with investment such as
education of young people or in large infrastructure projects, mild
inflation is expected but is not disruptive. Only government
expenditures that do not increase civilian productivity, such as space
programs and military expenditure, are inflationary.
• Economics, governmental policies: Systems of taxation should be
designed to encourage and discourage specific economic activities. A
minimum basic income should be issued to everybody. Free enterprises
should be guided by regulations, incentives and disincentives to
minimize harm and fulfill needs. Part of the economy should move
towards social enterprises that work on the ‘common good.’ Etc.
• Educational systems should include
- ethics, learning broad compassionate empathy and avoiding ‘us-versus-them’ thinking, etc.
- a broad range of objectives including healthy lifestyle, sciences, art, etc.
- adult education.
Religions' role must be recognized as primarily cultural-artistic,
religions should not teach ‘facts’ or archaic morals that contradict
• Punitive-adversarial legal thinking versus systematic ways of
preventing most ethics violations: Punitive-adversarial legal systems
are fundamentally unethical and is largely based on pre-Christian
notions. It should be replaced by science-based ways of preventing most
ethics violations; treating rather than punishing people who, due to
pathological developments, acted in dangerous and seriously unethical
• Move from ‘equal rights’ to ‘special rights’ of specific groups, e.g.
women’s reproductive rights and mothers’ rights when working.
• Freedoms must be limited, e.g. ‘free speech’ must not include the
right to knowingly disperse false claims or slender; freedom of some
often infringes on freedoms of others or is destructive to the
• Governments and societies’ institutions largely rely on obsolete
concepts: they are essentially based on 18th century philosophies,
focusing on elusive, philosophically-scientifically untenable notions.
They need reforms; we need new ways of thinking.
Philosophers and even some scientists have been arguing as
to whether humans are basically ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Observations show
that, as most mammals and birds, humans can be loving and caring as
well as very aggressive, against members of their own and other
species; and like many social animals, they can be cooperative or
adversarial, and they may assault as individuals or in groups.
Environmental factors, and in humans institutions, are key.
Humans are often considerate, loving, ethical and content
with meaningful work, but they tend also to be egoistic, greedy,
power-hungry, shortsighted, callous and cruel; inherent and by teaching
reinforced ‘us-versus-them’ thinking is a main cause for humans'
callousness and cruelties. Philosophers and scholars commonly emphasize
individual responsibility1. This makes little sense when
considering how the culture, its institutions and significant personal
experiences shape individuals' perceptions, thinking, values and the
expression of instincts. And only the institutional environment is
readily accessible to change, not the thinking of all or most
individuals. The institutional environment and culture that people live
in powerfully influences them, as do the anarchic conditions in
shantytowns and other poor areas of the world2.
People, as individuals or functioning within institutions,
appear most of the time hardly aware of broad ethical goals that
reflect humans’ universal wishes and preferences, including peace and
compromises rather than justice with vindication; mutual respect and
loving relationships across all lines that may separate people; and a
better future for future generations. Instead people work mostly for
what they may want and think of at the time. They may pursue any
pleasurable activity; they may seek esteem, honor, or revenge; they may
follow addictive pursuits, habits or simply routines and ‘policies and
procedures’. Rather than being rational planners, humans primarily
follow pursuits that are driven by instincts and culture; these
pursuits are triggered by external and internal stimuli and they are
emotionally experienced as 'feeling right' and/or promising good
feelings. People tend to go from one pursuit that is perceived as
positive, to another, and dangers, probable deprivations, or suffering
rarely stop the course of actions. High rank, social respect, power,
and access to mating partners have always been among the main
motivators, but cultures often modified and perverted our instincts.
Developments of cultures were exceedingly slow. Throughout
prehistory and up to modern times, despite their intelligence, humans
tended to follow simple traditions and they rarely sought better ways
by learning from past and from observations. They appear to have
thought mostly about the present and about social relationships; they
hardly thought about how they influenced their own and their
offspring’s future, ways they may survive and move on. After the last
ice age, with the development of towns and agriculture, people lived
much more densely in large, mostly anonymous groups. The evolving
cultures became extremely cruel in systematic ways, subjugating,
exploiting, and abusing the majority of people. Leaders despicably
abused humans' and particularly women's docile nature. Since then,
civilizations have struggled to develop more humane institutions. A
likely explanation for the very slow progress is that higher animals,
including humans, have a strong instinctive predisposition to imitate
and learn from older individuals how to express instincts within their
environment. Modern people are not much different, even if many aspects
of life became much more complex. We learn mainly from older authority
figures or idols and older peers, sometimes from leaders of cult, drug
or gang subcultures, but otherwise rarely accept novelty unless it is
very attractive and imminently rewarding.
Instincts from small group living have not served evolving
civilizations well. Biological and historical factors may explain why,
in spite of the high level of knowledge, technologically and
psychologically, the world appears to be in a deplorable and
Thoughts on fostering progress:
Progressive organizations, charitable organizations, NGOs,
political parties, and representatives within governmental agencies,
deal with many issues Humane Civilization Worldwide addresses. Whether
a group focuses on endangered animals or women's rights, progressive
groups hardly oppose each other; all groups agree with a goal of
leaving a better world to future generations. Even if some may disagree
with specific goals or consider them unimportant, these organizations
and agents would greatly benefit from cooperating, and if associated
within an umbrella organization, they may represents the majority of
All groups working separately, it is easy to dismiss
progressive causes because each group appears to represent a very small
minority. While a majority of people agree with many progressive
pursuits, concerns related to human rights, women's rights,
environmental concerns, climate change, or avoidance of warfare, they
usually focus on supporting mainly one or a few groups; thus no groups
seems to represent a significant segment of the population. Sadly, many
groups appear to directly compete for donor dollars, even if they claim
or believe that they encourage people to donate more to NGOs and
charities. Obviously, a charitable organization spending much money for
fund-raising and advertizing to lure people from supporting one to
supporting another, similar organization, is wasteful and
Because of astounding and accelerating progress, much of
what is discussed today may seem obsolete in the near future.
Capitalism with its top-down managed corporations and encroaching
property rights may be weakening while cooperative work on ‘commons’
grows, with sharing and broad access to knowledge. We may expect an
abundance of inexpensive automatically and robotically produced high
quality goods: scarcity may not remain a central issue of economic
thinking. However, natural land is a limited and extremely valuable
resource and natural environments require protection. The biologist
Edward O. Wilson proposed to maintain and return half the land to a
natural state; this is a reasonable, realistic goal.
An optimistic laissez-fair attitude is dangerous, in spite
of reasonable expectations that inventions will help alleviate many of
the major, still worsening, problems:
• Global warming, at least the present human contribution, can, with political will and much education, be essentially stopped.
• The rapid increase in electric road vehicles is leading to resource shortages3
and/or accelerated mineral resource mining with its own pollution
problems. The use of SUVs and air traffic should be discouraged and
rail transportation promoted.
• Population growth is slowing, but not enough, particularly
considering continued economic progress. The world cannot support most
of the world population emulating Western style middle-class living.
• Enterprises’ legal duty to make profits for investors and seeking
profits interferes with the pursuit of ethical and pragmatic goals. It
also leads to rapid shifting and moving of resources, which creates
major instability for people.
• A money supply relying on debts leads to many seriously indebted
families. Severely indebted people hardly consider their and their
children's future, often become desperate, and they may commit crimes
• Other consequences of laissez-fair economic systems include: widening
income gap, monopolies with small businesses unable to compete, much
waste in wealthy areas while worst poverty is not mitigated. Adequate
responses to major crises will not be possible. In addition, poor
countries are drawn into the Western economic system with all its
problems. Living simply and densely is hardly a priority.
• Since most people in wealthy countries stay comfortable while much of
the world suffers, Western leaders tend to ignore the urgency of
climate change and economic problems - presently there is still little
political will for the needed extraordinary efforts.
Thoughts on ethics as a science:
Ethics and improved economic institutions are most
relevant for progress and the survival of civilizations - economic
institutions are functioning like behavior modification programs and
often compete with ethics based approaches. Ethics is not adequately
studied and taught, and ethical supervision of agencies and
institutions is inadequate. Ethics, as a science, must be further
Ethics must be based on empiricism, the understanding of
human nature, not on transcendental philosophies or religions4.
Ethics must be pragmatic, observing human instincts and deep-seated
goals of all people. Globally, people share some desires and, more
importantly, preferences; for instance, people may wish honor and
revenge but on the whole prefer peace. Most people share a wish that
the next generation, particularly their children and young relatives,
have a better life then they have had. Many instincts foster ethical
behavior: social instincts, sense of reciprocity, desire to help and
share knowledge, and particularly sympathetic feelings and the ability
to be compassionately empathetic towards, friends, strangers, even
animals. (Empathy means one visualizes being in the place of others or
being the other being, making efforts to understand his/her
perceptions, emotions, fears, and aspirations, which is usually
associated with compassion.) But people also must learn to avoid
expressing or vicariously and in thoughts enjoying inclinations such as
aggression, vindictiveness, excessive competitiveness, unethical sex,
fascination with cruelties and most importantly ‘us-versus-them’
thinking. Perceiving people as “them” or “others” weakens or completely
eliminates sympathy and compassion. Tendencies to addictive behaviors
have to be addressed as problems of cultures and of ethics.
Ethics must be emphasized in formal and informal education
for all ages, and most institutions need ethical consultations and
oversight. Individuals must see ethical decision-making as above
institutions’ traditions, policies and procedures, etc., since rules of
professional and institutional ethics often miss major problems.
Education should also teach that dishonest, shortsighted,
narrow-minded, corrupt, greed-driven behaviors and other forms of
addictive and dysfunctional responses to stress are not only major
obstacles to progress, they greatly damage the individual’ s self
respect and quality of life.
Ethics must be global and include respect and
compassionate empathy for all people and sentient beings, consideration
of the environment we leave to future generations, and the scientific
understanding of human nature and the world. Thoughtful, sensitive and
mentally balanced people of all cultures can find consensus concerning
human rights and global ethical principles.
Cultural-religious morals and ‘spirituality’ are not
necessarily following ethical principles; they often incorporate
unethical traditions and they generally adapt to leaders’ proclivities.
Most forms of religious moralities are patriarchal and repress women;
inhumane old traditions are readily incorporated as religions’ moral
mandates. Members of pacifist religions often justified wars;
Christianity was pacifist until the concept of “just wars” was devised,
and Christians also abandoned the mandate to always forgive and readily
used cruel punishments and the death penalty. The term ‘spirituality’
is often used to avoid talking of religious biases; spiritual states
are not necessarily connected to a sense of feeling the presence of or
communicating with a god but may be induced by awe, experiencing
natural or artistic beauty and greatness. Humans are able to hold
contradictory beliefs and may rapidly switch from one realm of thinking
to some incompatible ideas. Religions frequently exploit this inherent
Religions should be a source of positive spiritual
emotions and an inspiration for ethical behaviors. However, throughout
history religions have divided people and caused or contributed to
conflicts, cruelties and wars. Religious texts, traditions and
teachings have to be understood as parts of cultures, comparable to
poetry, never as truths. We particularly must avoid beliefs that
contradict the scientific understanding of humans and nature; and
religions must end tolerating, justifying or mandating violations of
human rights and global ethical principles. Religious people must
accept and be tolerant towards other cultures and philosophies
including agnostic and atheist thinking.
While people are able to hold simultaneously contradictory
beliefs, they generally are only able to understand and focus on some
aspects of religious teaching part of the time. Being religious
basically means trying to believe in what one considers the most
essential aspects of religious teachings. If Christians would truly
believe in the teachings of extreme suffering in purgatory and the
eternity of tortures in hell, they would be paralyzed by fear. While
Christians emphasize in their prayers forgiveness, they also embrace
punitive legal systems and vengeful thoughts. There is no record of
Jesus addressing homosexuality or mentioning abortions and the Old
Testament gives little value to a fetus; still beliefs concerning
homosexuality and abortion have caused divisive antagonism in Christian
Founders of religions and religious leaders addressed
certain aspects of ethics and cultures, but they emphasize different
priorities and many religious doctrines contradict science-based
ethical principles. Societies must not justify discrimination and other
forms of abuses justified by an individual’s ‘conscience,’ which was
shaped by religion.
Thoughts concerning climate change:
Climate change, to which humans significantly contribute,
is largely preventable threat. It must be addressed from many angles:
• Food choices and production, mainly shift from meat (beef being
worst) to plant protein, and more local food production and processing.
• Transportation: Highly efficient family sedans, station wagons and
minivans should replace SUVs; ship and rail transportation should
largely replace road and air transportation (rails of wide range of
gauges and weight; and including high-speed rail).
• Insulation of buildings; smaller dwellings for families and individuals; denser living.
• Renewable energy sources,
• Decreasing sun exposure and heat absorption of earth's surface, and partly shielding atmosphere from sun light.
• Creating synthetic fuels of CO2, using solar or other renewable energy.
• Sequestering carbon e.g. burying wood in way that it will not
decompose and free CO2 (possibly sinking it in polar sea); and other
ways of permanently removing CO2 from atmosphere.
Reliance on much beef and other meat is not only an issue
of aggravating global warming and animal abuse; presently food
production is hardly keeping up with population growth5
partly because of climate change. Global warming, water shortages and
scarcity of phosphorus are expected to dangerously reduce world food
production.6 To what degree technological progress and its
application will offset perilous developments cannot be predicted.
Problems are aggravated by our present economic system that greatly
discourages investments that do not promise short-term profits.
Additionally, cultures are slow in adapting to ecologically
responsible, healthier living, including mainly vegetarian diets.
Thoughts on economic systems and the role of democratic governments:
An economic system is obviously dysfunctional if
there are unemployed people who want to work, there is work to be done,
and there are resources to work with, but there is no money supply to
efficiently mediate economic transactions.
Economies need a stable money supply that does not depend
on financial institutions’ lending activities. Bank lending expands the
functional money supply in that deposited money can be lent to more
than one person or institution (As soon as a loan is issued, that money
is to other bank accounts and can be lent to another entity - except
for cash, all money stays within the banking system). Banks usually
lend “generously” when there is no need to expand the economic
activities but shrink the money supply by lending issuing fewer loans
when there is an economic slowdown, which is when money is needed to
employ people who could provide services, repair buildings and
Countries must never borrow money - if the economy
expands, the country must expand its money supply - print new money, If
a country's borrowing from foreign countries or the IMF does not lead
to significant inflation, it would have been safe to simply increase
its own money supply. If new money is issued, the question is: 1. Does
the increased money supply immediately stimulate the economy, allow new
workplaces with job growth and increased productivity? 2. Does the
increased money lead to a delayed but significant increase in the
productivity as in healthcare and educational expenditures, civilian
research, or large infrastructure projects? 3. Is the increased money
used for expenditures with no positive effect on the civilian economy,
such as weapons, military activities, or space programs. If
productivity increases, even if delayed, an increase in the money
supply will hardly lead to significant inflation; however, military
expenditures hurt the civilian economy by increasing people's incomes
without increased civilian productivity and by competing for resources.
If much of the functional money supply consists in loans
from private banks, bankers have to decide what new or growing business
enterprise should get loans. They are not qualified for making such
decisions and mostly rely on past, obsolete data, e.g. if recently
values of residence or office buildings rose, they may lend money to
builders until there is an oversupply and values plummet.
Federal banks should maintain a stable money supply with
limited loans being issued by local cooperative nonprofit development
banks. Private for-profit banks may maintain a limited function but
must be tightly regulated. Securities markets should have a very
limited function and trading should be taxed.
Since money tends to flow from poor, less industrialized
areas to metropolitan and wealthier foreign centers, economically
depressed areas may need local currencies that function like barter
coupons and cannot leave the area. Such money is likely to maintain or
increase local economic activities, prevent migration to urban slums
and help attract branches of metropolitan industries.
A worldwide currency is needed for government reserves and
international economic transactions. Private crypto currencies
(electronic money) should be outlawed except possibly as limited local
Income taxes are hard to collect and they tend to
‘punish’ actual work while taxing income from speculative investments
much less. Sales taxes are much easier to apply and they positively
influence economic choices, if taxation rates are graded according to
product category considering social desirability. Polluting and very
unhealthy products should be taxed much higher than basic, wholesome,
ecologically sound goods.
Taxation should cover disability and elderly income
(Social Security), health insurance and education at all levels. To
eradicate economic hardships leading to child malnutrition,
homelessness, etc., a minimum basic income should be introduced
worldwide, issued in coupons usable for basic food, shelter, clothing
and public transportation; the amount are to be adapted to local
conditions. This is particularly important in areas where many jobs
disappear due to the rapid increase in automation, robotics, etc.
While free enterprises are valuable, they need to be
influenced and directed to incorporate priorities other than maximizing
profits; e.g. by targeted taxations that addresses particularly
polluting, unhealthy, excessively luxurious and wasteful products, etc.
We must also encourage a broad move towards social enterprises with the
‘common good’ rather than profits being their primary objective, along
with broader cooperation and greatly limited patent and ‘intellectual
Prior to any major changes, all politicians should observe
some economic insights that diverge from dogmatic conservative
• Inappropriate reduction in government spending in an indebted country
worsens its ability to pay debts and causes unnecessary suffering.
• Excessive indebtedness of a country should be treated as largely a
responsibility of lenders. If borrowing money is appropriate to improve
and develop an economy, expanding the local money supply would be
• Increasing the money supply is not inflationary if it increases
civilian economic activities. Borrowing and creating new money for
defense spending is: it increases the civilian buyers’ income without
increasing production of desired goods and services; and the
competition between military and civilian industries drives up costs of
metal and other material resources, and labor.
• Lending should be limited and mostly replaced by increased saving and
the extension of the money supply, in some places adding local
• In any economy no person should be marginalized or excluded and a
‘safety net’ for the poor (minimum income, healthcare,
government-provided for person appropriate education) is essential for
the health of a civilization.
• Securities trade needs to be taxed, and the creation of complex
'financial instruments' must be limited - sales should be forbidden if
there is no ‘informed consent’ to a transaction because sellers
and buyers do not understand what is included in the contract.
• Governments must be employers of last resort.
Developments in modern societies fail in many ways and
Western economies created grave problems that need to be addressed.
Competing free enterprises are creative and there is much progress and
material growth, but without government involvement, enterprises
largely ignore the unemployed and the poorest people, the needs of poor
countries and protection of the environment. They rarely focus on what
is most needed. Much of the developments did little to improve people’s
quality of life. When productivity increases, people are enticed to
seek luxury and perfection, and they may work rather more (particularly
in the USA, less in Europe). Consumerism corrupts ethical thinking and
often becomes an addiction. Advertisements purposely create desires
and/or make people feel inadequate and insecure so that corporations
can exploit these anxieties. Buying on credit is today strongly
encouraged, leading to indebtedness with detrimental consequences. A
lack of meaningful values is often a consequence and a cause of
spending excessively on artless entertainment and luxuries that do not
enhance happiness. Driven by profits and legally protected as “free
speech,” commercial media portray violence, cruelties, unethical sex,
and other abusive behaviors as entertainment, thus inadvertently or
recklessly reinforcing grossly unethical inclinations in people. While
media keep offending and eroding cultural values, some religious groups
responded with a return to fundamentalism, rather than focusing on
Economies with their financial institutions, supported by
current economic policies, are self-driving and largely out-of-control.
While overall wealth grows rapidly in much of the world, corresponding
improvements in quality of life are often lacking. Some developments
cause worldwide dire social and political problems, including wars.
Over a billion people still live in miserable conditions, few having a
possibility to escape extreme poverty. Slums in poor countries are
still growing since farms and grazing lands cannot support the
population growth and/or become wasteland because of overgrazing and
droughts. Ecosystems are destroyed. Families and local cultures
disintegrate. Women, underpaid and working in wretched conditions,
contributed greatly to the rapid development of industrializing
economies, but even though much discussed, widespread discriminating
and abusive treatments of girls and women continue with little
political will to stop them8. Even in highly industrialized
societies, there is still frequent discrimination and institutions do
not adequately consider needs specific to girls, pregnant women and
women with small children.
Whether economics is a science is debatable: economics, as
taught in schools and as used in political decision-making, consists of
multiple theories with limited validity. Different schools of economics
do not even agree on basic principles; indeed economists of similar
persuasion keep giving contradictory advice: there is not enough
consumer confidence meaning people should dare using their savings and
go into debt, versus people do not save enough, there is too much debt!
And economists generally lack an understanding of human decision-making
processes, the importance of emotions, the frequency of cognitive
errors, etc. No school of economics appears able to predict economic
developments9. Economic and related political discussions
appear stuck within narrow models; particularly conservative
politicians and economists keep recommending approaches that lead to
much suffering and, in case of recessions, very slow recoveries.
Thoughts on education and religion:
Most modern education systems are far from optimal. The
primary goal must not be to make children productive but, while
teaching knowledge, we must direct them to become ethical, healthy and
happy. Teaching must include teaching broad compassionate empathy and
avert us-versus-them thinking, etc. Sex education needs to include
learning about psychological aspects of relationships. In many
situations, sex-segregated school settings are probably beneficial.
Diverse school systems must learn from each other. And civilizations
must learn to understand that mass media and the Internet including
social networks and games are de facto part of the educational system.
Therefore ethical guidelines must be developed that balance the right
of freedom of expression with the need to protect children and
adolescents from ethically and culturally destructive influences.
Children learn from the people and culture around them:
their family and teachers, folklore and games, the media, the Internet,
etc. Entertainments of all kinds are powerful teachers and need to be
recognized and treated as part of the education system of a
civilization with similar ethical oversight as schools. Language, being
multilingual-multicultural, the physical-social environments,
connectedness with nature, work place environments, and income
distribution also influence people’s values and thinking.
Ethics is not adequately studied and taught. Including
ethics discussions in education of all levels would help to establish
adequate ethical supervision of agencies and institutions and greatly
decrease the problem of corruption in all its forms.
Religion and legal systems are usually seen as substitute
for empirical, pragmatic ethical considerations that should be observed
in all situations; they are not. Economic systems, functioning like a
behavior modification program, often interferes with ethical
decision-making; rather than recognizing its destructiveness,
capitalist societies often encourages reckless competitiveness,
addictive consumerism, greed, and group thinking that lacks empathetic
consideration for outsiders. Ethics education must counter these
We cannot wait for people to suddenly decide to become
responsible and pursue ethical goals. Peaceful and humane civilizations
are possible. But ethics, including compassion towards people perceived
as “others," can and must be taught. Following ethical values feels
good and may become self-reinforcing. Cultures should teach people to
avoid unethical expressions of instincts and addictive behaviors, such
as substance abuse, consumerism, and pursuit of wealth and power.
Conflicts and negative feelings towards others are also reduced
if cultural institutions teach some common standards and habits, mainly
observing reasonable cleanliness, avoiding waste, being careful and
reasonably punctual, and above all being polite, honest, respectful and
considerate towards others. Particularly consideration readily leads to
friendship, attachment and love. Institutions that decidedly address
the world’s foremost problems are possible. Good institutions bring the
best out of people.
Religions should be a source of spiritual emotions and be
part of artistic culture, but they remain a major problem. By
definition, religious beliefs cannot be substantiated and sacred
scriptures have been interpreted in many different ways. If specific
religious texts really were communications from a, the only, God,
expressing his/her will, why would this God allow so much ambiguity?
And religions cannot be genuinely tolerant: believing one thing
excludes accepting the validity of a divergent belief. Religious people
often claim that all religions essentially express the same moral
principles. This is not true – not only are priorities, focus and
interpretation of the human condition different, the moral principles
of the early books of the Old Testament, Hindu Scriptures, and other
holy texts are principally different from Jesus’ teachings as related
in the New Testament. Religious beliefs in reincarnation are not
comparable with Christian teachings. Generally, religious teachings
also reinforce cultural hierarchies and power structures and
incorporate local traditions, which may be cruel and ethically
indefensible; and virtually all religions incorporate inhumane
patriarchal values. Hinduism goes even further in classifying some
humans as utterly contemptible.
Teaching children about hell or other cruel punishments
after death is a form of child abuse; and it is only possible to accept
both, permanent happiness in heaven for some and unending tortures in
hell for others, by greatly reinforcing the inherent propensity to
‘us-versus-them’ thinking, which essentially eliminates compassion and
reinforces adversarial thinking. Premature rituals such as First
Communion and Confirmation feel wrong, almost like child marriages or
preadolescent girls vowing to become nuns - children do not understand
the meaning of their religion and its sacraments.
Thoughts concerning modern legal systems:
Instead of laws and law enforcement, societies must focus
on prevention of grossly unethical behaviors (criminal and dangerous
actions) and on protecting people from individuals who appear unable to
adapt and live within ethical boundaries. Targeted disincentives should
largely prevent minor transgressions. People who are in apparent danger
of perpetrating major ethics violations and particularly people who
actually committed significant unethical acts need treatment, and their
freedoms may be significantly restricted. Teaching perpetrators
compassionate empathy, offering opportunities to learn skills, creating
constructive opportunities, and helping them find meaning in life
greatly reduces further crimes.
The principle of an adversarial legal system is
indefensible. In the U.S. hired expert witnesses have immunity when
expressing very biased opinions and juries are supposed to be impartial
and find the “truth.” Previous interpretations of laws are generally
considered more relevant than science-based insights. However, the
U.S.’ legal system is, understandably, not trusted by most poor people,
but it is broadly supported by the country’s conservative population
and it is entrenched; it is a matter of cultural pride. People do not
want to recognize that it is wrong in principle and bad in execution.
Most lawyers do not recognize the archaic nature of legal doctrines.
Legal systems need to be redesigned according to
principles of ethics. The U.S.' legal system, which is supposed to
enforce ethical behavior, is essentially a relic of pre-Christian
religiosity. As in antiquity, its primary goal is vindication; it uses
quasi-religious rituals; it works with logic that is based on false
premises: false beliefs about human volition, emotions, reasoning and
behaviors, and a principle misunderstanding of mental disorders. Laws
contribute little to prevent crimes by the very wealthy “who live
above the law” and by poor people who live often in anarchic
conditions. Discrimination in law enforcement, extreme sentence, and
abuses within prisons are ethically unacceptable, and they have little
effect on disturbed and disenfranchised people’s propensity to commit
crimes. Disturbed developments in children and young adolescents,
including antisocial behaviors, such as petit thefts, abuse of animals,
and exploitative sex, can be identified and treated; however, they are
usually ignored. The legal system deals later with the foreseeable
severely disturbed behaviors in a destructive way.
Judges and the legal system consider some mental disorders
to constitute excuses or ameliorating circumstances while others are
considered aggravating factors. Substance addictions tend to be treated
as a ‘disease’ in Caucasian men, as crimes in minority men, and as a
despicable character weakness and crime in mothers. Gender also
influences judgments: women tend to be punished more severely in many
lesser crimes, men may get longer sentences in more severe crimes since
they are often more dangerous. The suffering of families, particularly
children is hardly considered when a mother or an employed father is
Human decision-making processes are very complex.
Sometimes, people may feel like they are choosing freely without being
encumbered by rational thoughts; they may perceive themselves as
rational, ‘calculating,’ and doing what is ‘objectively best’; they may
feel confused and ‘out of control,’ unable to think about reasonable
options; and at times the intensity of an instinct or emotion, a
compulsion or an addiction may prevent any rational or ethical
consideration from stopping the behavior. Abusable drugs imitate the
good feelings of instincts and abuse and addiction behaviors (including
‘junk food’ binges, abusive sex, pursuit of power and material goods)
interfere with rational and ethical thinking and decision-making.
Decision-making always relies on emotional valuations. What feels good
and/or right is determined by our biology, basically instincts
responding to internal and environmental stimuli, including stimuli
that have become associated with an instinct. However, the expression
of instincts is usually modified by cultures and personal experiences
and may be adapted according to higher values or sublimated with art.
There are conflicts in all human relationships. Humans
have a propensity to competitiveness, vindictiveness, and aggression,
and humans are fascinated by cruelties. Our instincts have not evolved
to serve our interests as individuals and they are not adapted to
civilizations that have developed in recent millennias10. While humans
are often violent, they also have instincts that drive us towards
behaving ethically, and it appears that there has been a more or less
continuous progression towards less violence, as documented by S.
Pinkers11. Even though the majority of major cultures have become more
humane in recent decades, there are principal shortcomings in modern
civilizations that keep a high level of vulnerability towards a renewed
spread of violence and sadistic cruelties. The Universal Declaration of
Human Rights is not followed in any country12; the legal systems rarely
addresses major human rights’ issues adequately. In some places,
violence including genocidal actions against minorities continues as
part of “normal” political pursuits, and involved individuals may be
ecstatic while slaughtering the weak13. Revolutions, struggles
for democratic governance and great scientific and technological
progress advanced the lives of much of the world population, but
billions of poor people are continuously exposed to threats of violence
and cruelties, some living in traditional societies, others in
minimally functioning and failing states, many living in slum cities or
other islands of anarchy (even within wealthy countries).
In spite of inadequate legal systems, societies may, with
significant ups and downs, slowly move towards more humane
civilizations, but people must not sit back and watch others work for
progress. However small our contributions, our combined efforts to make
civilizations more ethical and humane will help billions of people,
and, more than anything else, it is such work that gives our lives
Thoughts on the philosophy of governing modern societies:
Modern political-legal systems are still based on
concepts of 18th century philosophers, which are obsolete. We must move
forward. People are not born equal: there are big differences between
girls and boys, between children’s inherent temperaments and talents,
and between familial, socio-economic, cultural, and physical
environments children are born into. And happiness is apparently to a
significant degree inherent. Treating two persons the same way is not
justice. Since there is hardly free will and every person is different,
we need to set a goal of all people being treated humanely, with
compassion. ‘Justice’ is an elusive, essentially meaningless term, but
injustice or unfair treatment is different: it generally means that
enforcement of rules or law are purposely applied differently when
dealing with ‘important’ versus ‘unimportant’ people, or that rules are
formulated in ways that help or harm specific groups or individuals.
Rather than ‘equal rights,’ we must focus on basic rights
with limitations, rights to be protected from unnecessary harm, and
special rights for specific population groups, particularly women: for
instance, every woman must have ready access to the contraceptive
method that is optimal for her and to abortions; pregnant women and
women with children need special considerations in education and work
settings; sports must consider the higher vulnerability of girls (e.g.
concerning brain damage from impacts), etc. Rather than focusing on
preventing women from getting abortions, civilizations must address the
need for abortions, particularly in underdeveloped countries and among
the poor, involving men in addressing ways to prevent undesirable
Freedom is a relative term with multiple meanings that
include the right to act freely while following reasonable laws,
freedom to practice any religion, speak and express any opinion, and
freedom from abuses or imprisonment without grave cause. However,
freedom of religion must avoid unethical practices and teachings that
contradict sciences and ethical guidelines; freedom of expression must
not allow public speech designed to harm, spread information that is
known to be wrong, etc.
Democratic institutions work inadequately and must be
improved; specific proposals are described in this website. While
decision-making by large populations tends to seek reasonable goals and
avoid extreme actions, the actual systems often undo this benefit.
• Primary elections often eliminate moderate candidates that would be acceptable to the majority.
• Political campaigns usually evoke emotions rather than thoughtful consideration.
• The systems encourage shortsighted goals and put local interests
above larger, much more important concerns (as soon as elected, a
primary concern of politicians is to seem effective around the time
when the contest for reelection starts).
• Members of parliaments usually fail in achieving a balance between a
pursuit of instantaneous advantages for their constituency versus
interests of the country, world community and future generations.
• Politically, people may follow misguided cultural-religious,
simplistically thinking, and extremist groups that ignore complexities
and scientific aspects of proposals, and they often inflame politics,
• The organization of governmental agencies often fosters inefficiencies with lack of adaptability and oversight.
With ‘self-governance’ people elect individuals of their
jurisdiction who naturally have associations and interests of the
subgroups to which they belong; the voters then have little power
unless they have time and/or the resources to lobby. Progress is
impeded since local populations and their elected officials rarely see
the problems that are obvious to outsiders; problems often include
serious human rights violations.
So far, a workable and generally acceptable system of
democratic governance has not been found; and there is still no
consensus as to what the goals of governance should be, even though
some areas, particularly Scandinavia, are doing quite well.
The lack of a workable model of democratic governance for
Third World cultures is tragic; in fact, most Western democracies still
struggle with major dysfunctions in their own democratic institutions.
In interacting with the poor countries, highly industrialized countries
have pressured poor countries to abide by Western political and
economic goals, often supporting cruel dictators. Poor countries later
tried to emulate Western legal systems, but due to costs and lack of
qualified professionals, legal systems work in most poor and even some
wealthy countries vey poorly. Much consideration is needed to develop
constitutions, regulations and laws that adequately consider strengths
and weaknesses in human nature as well as differences between various
cultures, subcultures and family cultures, genders, and individuals’
characteristics. And models of governance must be applicable to wealthy
and poor countries. We must establish institutions and elect leaders
that address the important issues and challenges in the pursuit of more
humane, sustainable civilizations.
People have to clarify the functions of governments for
highly industrialized and for developing countries; specifically what
tasks a society should fulfill that individuals cannot do and private
corporations should not do.
A consensus may focus on the following functions and goals:
• Education that includes teaching ethics, health and sex education, etc.
• Health care, support of disabled and elderly.
• A broad approach to address climate change.
• Supervision of all institutions.
• Crime prevention and institutions replacing the function of present, unethical legal system.
• Establishing a money supply with special consideration that poor
people have money for local economic interactions (local currencies may
be needed to keep money from leaking from poor areas to cities and
• A minimum basic income.
• Supervision of economic and financial institutions.
• Infrastructure, particularly efficient, ecological transportation
system (that should include small narrow track trains in sparsely
populated and mountainous areas, light rail and two-level trains in
densely populated areas and high speed trains for long-distance travel);
• Guidelines for the development of towns and city neighborhoods, with
relatively high population density and adequate provisions for
community functions; etc. Central governments have also the function of
mediating in internal and international conflicts.
Proposals for good governance include:
• The government is secular and incorporates a broad range of members.
• Decisions are generally not based on a simple majority vote but on
seeking consensus or a ‘common denominator’ that is acceptable to
essentially all representatives.
• Representatives are obliged to work for the whole country, not make decisions that are based on local culture or religion.
• For many positions only objective outsiders are eligible (with local officials, conflicts of interest are unavoidable).
• In elections, voters rank candidates and also express whom they
consider acceptable versus questionably acceptable versus not eligible.
• Executive committees or cabinets may include parliament members; they
are elected by the parliament. Their function is to find what is best
for a country and its regions and world community. They also mediate
between the interests of regions and districts.
• Most officials with executive functions and judges or ethics
committee leaders must not be from the region they work for, and the
leaders of a federation must be foreigners. Executive officials may not
need to be full-time in the capitals.
• Generally, there should be leading committees rather than presidents, governors and mayors.
Women tend to have different approaches to problem solving
and different priorities. Differences between men and women are partly
biological (brain architecture, reproductive function, etc.) When
electing two representatives for any area, it would probably improve
democratic functions if always a woman and a man are elected. The work
of governing bodies may be more effective if women and men form
separate chambers with women having at least equal power and influence.
It may be argued that women should dominate executive functions since
women are generally more aware of social consequences of decisions and
tend to be more pragmatic. It is important that women in politics no
longer have to adapt to male thinking patterns and strategies.
The U.S. constitution has been considered a model but it
is failing. The introductory remarks of the constitution are spurious,
and there was no attempt to fulfill the stated goals according to the
philosophy of its time. The constitution mostly attempts to assure a
permanent balance between opposing political forces, that no branch of
government or party becomes dominant. Other democracies may be doing
worse, but the intent of the U.S. constitution has long been perverted,
and U.S. politicians have often been successful in pursuing extremist,
Freedom of speech must be limited. It must not allow
speech designed to harm people, and there must be consequences for
purposeful dangerous communication such as making up lies to thwart
The term ‘opinion’ must be defined as a conclusion that is based
on knowledge but is uncertain, as opposed to what is considered
scientifically proven. A hunch, bias, or a religious belief is not an
Journalists publicly interviewing people and communications
media must make sure that they are not becoming tools for spreading
hatred and dangerous misinformation. They should respond immediately to
apparently false claims, asking for sources and commenting that most
reputable scientists would hardly agree. Media should not publish
“opposing views” in which one is describing grossly unethical
attitudes, is hateful, biased, and/or obviously based on falsehoods.
Tribes, religious groups, and other groups of shared
culture or heritage are valuable for people’s sense of identity.
However, they must never be a basis of governance. The goals of
governments must include following highest international standards of
ethics and relevant sciences, never representing the interests and
biases of ethnic groups, professional organizations, religions, etc.
Tribal ancestry should not influence political thinking.
A major challenge is to strengthen and broaden ethical
thinking in politics and all institutions. All political
decision-making demands thorough ethical considerations.
Ethical dilemmas in political decisions and prioritizing, which have been treated very negligently, include:
• Most problematic developments, such as climate change, have hardly
been recognized as problems requiring immediate changes in many areas -
for most institutions changes are sluggish at best.
• Access to abortions: As men have been impregnating women at an
irresponsibly high rate, women had over a billion abortions in the last
two decades alone (averaging more than one abortion per women).
Abortions saved the world from disastrous overpopulation, mass
starvation, mass migrations and wars. Until recently, most abortions
were, in many areas, illegal, contributing considerably to women’s
suffering and pregnancy related deaths. (Of all continents, South
America has had the highest abortion rate and also the second highest
population growth.) All over the world, policies and moral teachings
concerning birth control, including abortions, are mostly based on
archaic male-centered views and misunderstood religious texts; they
discriminate against women and violate their human rights. Families
wishing to adopt have always been a tiny number compared with the
number of needed abortions. Obviously abortions should be safe and,
with effective preventive measures, become very rare.
• Few Western politicians reveal much concern about the millions of
people who have been abused and killed in central-East Africa due to
wars, which are partly caused by resource shortages and valuable
• Most politicians are indifferent about extreme pollution killing
large numbers of older people and children since this is today mostly a
problem of the poor.
• Increase in food production is barely keeping pace with population
growth; much agricultural land is expected to become less productive
because of climate change and lacking fresh water. World fish stocks
have been decimated by overexploitation. People of poor countries who
enter the middle class want to emulate a wasteful Western lifestyle
that will not be sustainable.
• Heat waves will destroy the livelihood of the majority of South
Asian, Sub-Saharan, and central African people and of many Latin
Americans. Densely populated costal areas will be more often flooded.
However, Northern countries resist necessary mass migrations.
• The USA is one of very few countries that still consider reliance on
military force essential in solving most severe conflicts. U.S bombings
in North Korean and Cambodia killed a large part of the areas'
populations and led to most cruel dictatorships; later interventions in
Central America, Somalia, Yemen and Syria appeared to have worsened
and/or prolonged local conflicts.
• While preoccupied with international terrorism, U.S. military actions
that killed mainly civilians have been likely to increase recruitment
by extremist organizations. People broadly ignore that Western
influences (entertainment that is harmful to traditional cultural
values and encouragement of consumerism) may promote religious
fundamentalism and extremism, rather than lead to a gradual progress in
these cultures. For political reasons and dependence on oil,
politicians keep ignoring the Saudi Arabia's role in spreading schools
of extremist Muslim factions.
• Infrequent terrorist acts by foreigners are rarely compared with
vastly more deaths caused by irresponsible gun laws: the U.S. has
inordinate numbers of suicide, homicide, gun accidents, and
‘home-grown’ terrorism. Neither are attacks by foreign terrorists
compared with domestic violence: thousands are killed every year by
family members and intimate partners, mostly women and children.
Regarding suicides, research indicates that if a frequently used
‘fashionable’ means of suicide becomes hard to obtain, suicides drop
rather than people seeking other methods of suicide. In additions,
small steps could greatly reduce traffic fatalities.
• The USA has failed to properly address substance abuse disorders and
other abuse-addiction problems. Drug-related deaths keep climbing and
the demand for drugs along with the U.S.’s irresponsible gun laws are
responsible for much of the violence in Latin America. The U.S. needs
proper drug abuse prevention that focuses on ethics and meaning in
young people's lives (avoiding existential crises), and treatment of
mental disorders, particularly PTSD; and the U.S. needs everywhere
readily available drug abuse treatment, including methadone and
buprenorphine maintenance, long-term low-intensity residential
treatments; and other measures.
Judging catastrophes from a historical perspective, recent
problems are significantly less severe than famines, wars and genocides
in the past. Crimes have greatly decreased in most countries and most
civilizations decreased institutionalized cruelties. However, this is
no reason to minimize the significant remaining violations of human
rights (or institutionalized ethics violations), and of new
catastrophic developments. Even if we do, in many regards, much better
than earlier generations, we need to uncompromisingly address current
problems and challenges - consequences of climate change are likely to
be grave, lead to serious vicious cycles and may erase many recent
The great differences between cultures are not related to people
choosing to be cruel or diligent/moral out of free will. Goldhagen
believes that not seeing people as free agents dehumanizes them,
turning them into automatons(Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Worse than War,
2009, p.11). However, it is not free will that distinguishes us from
robots (we do not even know whether we have free will), being sentient
distinguishes us from automatons.
2 Many strong personalities, including spiritual leaders and
humanistic writers, influenced countless individuals; however,
institutional changes are needed to solidify progress. Without them,
people usually revert to the old ways; this process has repeated itself
many times throughout history.
4 Consilience, The Unity of Knowledge, Edward O. Wilson, 1998: chapter 11, Ethics and Religion, p. 238ff.
5 Significant food shortages are predicted. Actually, there still
is sizable excess food production, but much nutritious food is used for
wasteful meat production, for pet food or processed into fuel for cars.
Particularly beef production is extremely inefficient regarding land
and water use; rain forests are cut down to produce beef; additionally
cows produce much greenhouse gases. In addition, much food spoils while
stored and transported and particularly in wealthy countries, much is
wasted (compare A Five-Step Plan to Feed the World by Jonathan Foley,
National Geographic May/2014, and other sources. There is a vast
potential for increased food production, e.g. utilizing hydroponics in
areas with limited fresh water, but investments in new technologies
appear grossly inadequate (compare Abundance – The Future Is Better
Than You Think by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, 2012,p. 85ff,
7 Particularly religious people may study: Our Endangered Values, by Jimmy Carter, 2005.
8 compare: Half the Sky , Turning Oppression into Opportunities
for Women Worldwide, by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, 2009; A
Call to Action - Women, Religion, Violence, and Power, by Jimmy Carter,
9 Compare: The New York Times, 3/25/2010, Opinion article “The
Return of History”, by David Brooks (conservative commentator),
addressing the history of modern economics. He relates “In The Wall
Street Journal, Russ Roberts of George Mason University wondered why
economics is even considered a science. Real sciences make progress.
But in economics, old thinkers cycle in and out of fashion. In real
sciences, evidence solves problems. Roberts asked his colleagues if
they could think of any econometric study so well done that it had
definitely settled a dispute. Nobody could think of one.”
10 Biological development fosters the propagation of one's genes
and its copies in relatives, compare: The Selfish Gene, Richard
11 The Better Angels of Our Nature - Why Violence Has Declined, by Steven Pinker, 2011
12 In most countries there are at best feeble attempts to stop
human rights violations and many governments are perpetrators. Human
Rights regarding freedom of movement and asylum (article 13 and 14)
cannot be realized one country at a time; international agreements are
needed. Far too many people, particularly women, fulfill criteria for
seeking asylum when living in countries where their basic rights are
continuously threatened and violated. A few wealthy states, such as the
Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands, cannot absorb millions of
abused and/or malnourished people who wish to move. Additionally,
progressive countries have difficulties preventing the continuation of
the abuses of girls and women within the immigrant communities.
13 Authors, including D. J. Goldhagen, offer complex explanations
for common people's participation in genocidal actions. The three main
reasons are 1. Humans’ (primates’) ready ability to think of
individuals outside their own groups as “them” or “others”, i.e. not or
no longer deserving consideration, 2. a lack of effective ethics
education, and 3. humans’ natural fascination with suffering and
cruelties, which is associated with positive and often sexual
excitement; with desensitization, worse suffering is needed for the
rush and excitement (people want to see accidents and crimes and
readily participate in sadistic transgressions). People often celebrate
murderous and genocidal actions. Truman was reportedly jubilant after
the bombing of Hiroshima (Goldhagen, Worse than War, p. 187 and 3.)
Even Chimpanzees and certainly early humans sometimes killed others
with apparent excitement and seemingly lacking any empathy or
compassion. Compare Through a Window, by Jane Goodall, 1990, p.106:
After a chimpanzee group split into two, there were systematic attacks
against all adults of the smaller group, including former friends, old,
weak and female individuals. As in human inter-group violence, there
was frenzied excitement followed by a seemingly triumphant mood.