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Letter to the Editor: “Thrive” Filmmakers Foster & Kimberly Gamble Respond

On August 21, YES! published an article by John Robbins about the film called “Thrive.” The article described the reasons why ten progressives interviewed in the film, including himself, had dissociated themselves from it. In the letter below, “Thrive” filmmakers Foster and Kimberly Gamble respond.
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3) Nonviolence isn’t just a goal. It’s the way.

Most of us think if we could just get people to do what we believe in, things would be fine. Some believe we need to require people to pay more for education, others believe we need to require employers to pay higher wages, and still others believe the government should require citizens to pay an even higher percentage of their earnings for war, whatever the cost, in order to maintain what they see as America’s hard-won position of authority in the world. One of the problems that shows up right away is that we don’t all agree with what that right requirement ought to be that’s going to solve our problems. It’s interesting to see how righteous people can be about imposing their will on others while resisting having another’s will imposed on them. That is actually the essence of the two-party polarity when it comes down to it.

Nonetheless, most people have accepted that involuntary taxation is simply what’s needed for humanity to function with some semblance of civility and order. And because people in need are currently dependent on government support, paying taxes to provide that support is one of the ways we demonstrate our compassion. That is partly why it is so challenging to suggest that we examine the ultimate value of this tax-based ruling system—and why John can stoop to claims of class bias when we dare even suggest that we examine another possibility. However, it is only by ignoring Thrive’s transition strategies that Robbins could fabricate such an argument. Thrive includes strategies that support people in the process of becoming independent and prosperous, and has as its goal the freedom and empowerment of everyone, not just the majority.

Most of us would agree that democracy represents a great stride from royalty and dictatorship. We believe it is the best system the world has known—to date. That does not mean it should be our end goal. So following the thread of inquiry wherever it might take us, we allowed ourselves to think about and research alternatives to governments and the involuntary, violence-enforced taxation that supports them. Some questions we began with, and which John has repeatedly refused to answer, are:

  • What is the relationship between fairness and freedom? Is it right for some to decide what is “fair” and use force to impose it on others, or is individual freedom primary and in fact the core ethic from which ultimate fairness emerges?
  • Do you believe human compassion and community will only arise if it is mandated and enforced by an authoritarian state?
  • If there were a way to have accessible education and healthcare, help for those in need, a respected system of justice, accessible and good roads, etc.—without a coercive government to provide and enforce them—would you want that?

In our ensuing research, we found whole philosophies based on the notion that if people organize around non-aggression instead of coercive taxation, an entirely new kind of human existence becomes possible. The principle of non-violation means that no one can violate another except in true self-defense. It’s the one thing we have found that everyone agrees upon: none of us wants to be violated against our will.

Can you imagine that if people had enough money and time and freedom from coercion and suffering they could come up with a variety of systems for successful self-organizing that do not depend on the immoral initiation of force? We do.

In this scenario, individuals or corporations who infringe on this right not to be violated are prosecuted. So pollution and theft and any kind of violation would be prosecuted—not capped and traded or otherwise allowed. This is the vision of liberty—not libertarianism—that Thrive proposes. Because we are so far from people having the freedom and prosperity needed to do without government support, we propose an essential transition strategy from here to there. By holding liberty as the beacon of where humanity can go, we avoid creating short-term “fixes” that will inadvertently prevent us from getting there.

Every government throughout the world has relied on involuntary taxation to sustain itself, and the taxes have been used primarily to grow the governments instead of providing for the increased well-being of their citizens. Furthermore, governments are responsible for more death and destruction than any other entity on the planet: over 200 million deaths in the twentieth century alone.

Giving Robbins the benefit of the doubt, we assume he has genuine concern that the impact of Thrive and these considerations will somehow encourage heartless right-wing elitism and bring more suffering to the poor. Nothing could be further from the truth. Thrive specifically outlines a strategic transition to address the needs of the people and the environment on the journey to a new paradigm of life on Earth.

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