Everyone seems to know that the problem in Ferguson relates to a white police force in a
predominantly black community. Whether the community leaders were blind to the problem, or
aware of it but unable to find African American people qualified, is argued from both sides.
— Global Grind News (@GlobalGrindNews) August 14, 2014
At issue here is what some are calling community capital. In our free market system capital is
being expanded beyond Marx’s limited view of financial capital to include just about everything
worthwhile. Education, training and experience give one personal capital; friends and networks
give one social capital; and now, participation in a diverse community gives one community
capital. This is a pretty neat way of describing what can happen when our human adaptations
are centered on building communities rather than on accumulating money; on diversity rather
than survival. So how can we promote such an orientation so that we have no more Fergusons?
Well, the problem is much bigger than Ferguson. Our whole nation is short on community
capital. Our prison population is item number one; it reflects the lack of community capital that
permeates our country and in 40 participating states costs close to a billion dollars annually per
state. Drug offenses are the main reason for most incarceration, and our drug economy is a
main occupation for many who see no future in our legal free market economy. Our significant
income disparity also reflects reduced community capital. Altogether our penal system and drug
wars cost close to a hundred billion dollars every year, but that financial capital is likely far less
than the value of the human, social, and community capital that is wasted in the process.
In searching for alternatives we tend to laugh at the U.S. Army’s “Be All You Can Be” ads, but
the military has a valid record of bringing people from poverty into the middle class. Many have
argued for expanding its role by establishing a program of a year of government service for
all young people, and we agree. Eighteen year olds who are searching for work often fail and
are among the highest groups of unemployed, and are also at highest risk for drug abuse and
— Karma Bieber (@karmabieber__) August 14, 2014
Young people would have some military training, as well as options for volunteer military,
UN Peacekeeping Forces, as well as Peace Corps. Some of them could be appropriately
paired with Police Officers in their hometowns to help avoid situations of racial disparity like
we see in Ferguson and elsewhere. And they could also be used to help rebuild our crumbling
Young people could work in Nursing homes, day care facilities, and as teachers aids. Included
in these jobs would be training in child development, nutrition, parenting, and education.
This kind of a program would not be cheap in terms of money, but we agree with the effort to
replace our measuring stick of GDP with something better that measures the value of individual,
social, and community capital instead of just the dollars. Giving something back to our country
would be a good place to start.