Principles vs. Ideals – How to Build a Thriving Community

Doug Tjaden Community, Economics, Featured

At Thrive 21, we are serious about helping families and communities experience real, tangible growth in their overall well-being. That means creating a real-world, practical framework for that growth to occur. But how can we go about creating such a framework? One can certainly start from scratch with a set of ideals - defined as “a standard of perfection, beauty, or excellence.” After all, who wouldn’t want something that is excellent or even perfect?

The danger lies in formulating policies and practices based on ideals that have no real-world chance to produce anything close to the “excellence or perfection” espoused by them. Sadly, this happens regularly when politicians and economists are involved. For example, in the United States, Congress and the Federal Reserve have stated that they have a mandate which is actually an “ideal.” That is to manage fiscal and monetary policy to create “full employment” and “low inflation.”

The reality is that the policies they have developed and enacted around this “ideal” have produced very different results than what they proposed. Employment is uneven at best across various sectors of the economy, and inflation is becoming a real problem for the first time in decades. This is in part because of the vast diversity of the economic ecosystem of the United States. A one-size-fits-all approach to economic and monetary policy has produced highly negative unintended consequences in communities across the nation. This type of approach was a problem well before the pandemic inserted its own set of variables into the mix.

Adding fuel to the fire are metrics measured to achieve “success” that incentivize behaviors that are counter to the goal of maximizing true prosperity. Today, most developed nations rely primarily on GDP and “unemployment” metrics to measure the success of their policies. The problem with these metrics is that they don’t measure what matters most to the individuals and families within a nation’s communities.

A Principle-Based Approach

Admittedly, that last point is debatable in our post Century of the Self world, where “stuff” matters a lot more than it should to a large number of people. However, we believe that as we move through the Great Reset, the shaking the world is experiencing will increase. The allure of “stuff” will lose its luster for many people as they begin to realize the value of human relationships. Our answer in the midst of this transition is to take a principle-based approach to the design of a new means of value exchange. One that promotes increasing the value of our fellow human’s well-being over increasing the production of “stuff.”  

The Statemen Project has a list of 12 Master Principles which formulate the basis for our design. These principles have proven over time and across cultures that, when implemented, they will produce the greatest degree of freedom and prosperity for the most people possible. That is in part because these principles deeply influence the outcomes of human interaction. They support the Principles of Kingdom Building which are extensively developed in “I Came to Give” and are summarized as follows:

  • Cooperation: The choice to work with others as we give our unique gifts and talents (division of labor) to invest in other’s well-being (through service-based power/reciprocity/community), which strengthens trust in and between people in the community (results-based reality).
  • Stewardship: The choice to acknowledge that God owns everything (jurisdictional government). Our responsibility is to “cultivate” the earth for its highest and best use (service-based power) as the means to build strong communities (results-based reality). 
  • Abundance: When we make the (choice) to believe God’s promise to provide for us (trust) as we perform our specific function on earth (division of labor). This will increase economic output so that the needs in the community are met (results-based reality).
  • Equity: The (choice) to help your neighbor (service-based power) increase their physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, which is necessary to protect their identity, develop a healthy community (reciprocity), and build the Kingdom of God (results-based reality).

We are focusing on creating a real-world, practical framework for economic development based on these principles, rather than simply the “ideal.” It gives us the best opportunity to produce outcomes that benefit the most people possible. Oversight of the systems that we build according to these principles is best done at the local level. That makes them, in essence, Principles of Community Building. Few serious-minded community development advocates can argue against them stated as such.

Therefore, we can and will take these principles into any debate where decisions are made on the design and construction of economic systems, and the stated outcome is freedom and true prosperity for the citizens of a community. We look forward to the coming years when the successful implementation of these new systems begins to bear fruit.  

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