Shared Values: Upholding Virtue or Undermining Freedom?

downtown rkfd

Downtown Rockford after the Vision Rally

I intended this to be a post specifically about the Vision Rally, but I realized that I have not yet written much about the Shared Values and decided that topic deserved its own post.

Transform Rockford has developed a list of nine statements that sum up the values which the movement holds to and promotes.  Here is the list:

Update: I had incorrectly stated there were seven. There are actually nine of these value statements. I copied this text from the Transform Rockford site and apparently missed the first two, inclusion and caring. 

– Inclusion: Cultivate and support an environment that fully engages our community’s differences and diversity to ensure that individuals and organizations are heard, valued and supported.

– Caring: Show concern for the welfare of each person and foster a community culture that thinks and acts as one interactive and interdependent region.

– Respect: Embrace the knowledge and experiences of others by being attentive, listening well, and celebrate diversity as a strength and source of shared learning.

– Transparency: Foster an open process for maximum participant input and access to all information to enhance understanding and community ownership.

– Trustworthiness: Strive for integrity and reliable communication. Become committed to the highest levels of honesty and truthfulness.

– Unity: Place the greater good of all parts of our region and its transformation ahead of self or organizational interests.

– Ideation: Balance our brainstorming and decision- making process with all points of view and measurable information.

– Responsibility: Pursue excellence and accountability of self and others by not shifting blame or taking improper credit. Participate to the fullest of our ability.

– Interconnectedness: Won’t compromise any jurisdiction’s or organization’s identity or decision authority, but rather look to partner and integrate shared values, goals and philosophies.

After thinking through each of these very carefully, I determined that I could support most of these values. But there are a couple of them that concern me, so I will share my objections here.

The first one that bothers me is unity, wherein we should, “place the greater good of all parts of our region and its transformation ahead of self or organizational interests.” I am concerned by the idea that we ought to place the interest of the collective over the interest of the individual. I think this shows some confusion about what it means to have self interest. We all act to achieve our own personal ends. This is the human action axiom. And, as Hans-Hermann Hoppe pointed out in Economic Science and the Austrian Method, this axiom is irrefutable. If a person argues against this axiom, they are acting to achieve an end, which in this case would be the refutation of this statement as an axiom. So there is no way to avoid self-interest. It defines us human beings. However, self interest does not necessarily equal selfish behavior. Take the case of a philanthropist. This person receives satisfaction from knowing they have helped others. They place a high value on charity towards others. So they act, by giving away money, to achieve their end of feeling satisfied that they have helped someone else. In the case of Transform Rockford, many people are involved because they want to make a difference in the community. They want to leave the world a better place. That is their end, or their goal. So they are involved with Transform Rockford to pursue their own personal goal. It is the beauty of voluntary interaction that our self-centered goals become directed outward towards benefiting the rest of the world. 

Additionally, the wording of this statement is so ambiguous, it could easily be used for less than desirable goals. There is potential for this statement to be used by a communist movement to justify the denial of individual rights. I am in no way equating Transform Rockford with a communist movement, but the implications of this statement, if taken to the extreme, would be nothing less than communism. As Lenin famously said, “a few eggs must be broken to make an omelet.” There is no contrasting statement of individual rights in the Shared Values to help safeguard against this development, which leaves me quite concerned. 

The other concept that I am not sure about is interconnectedness, which means we “won’t compromise any jurisdiction’s or organization’s identity or decision authority, but rather look to partner and integrate shared values, goals and philosophies.” Again, this sounds great, but how would this actually work out? What happens when two organizations claim to have ultimate decision authority over the same group of people? What about when groups have inherently contradictory goals and philosophies? How will two organizations be integrated when their goals point in the opposite directions? And if you begin removing the contradictions until you get down to the fundamental shared values (because we can always reduce it to, “we are human beings,” or “we all want to be happy”), then there will be difference between anyone and any individual’s or group’s own identity will be lost. This whole sentence is full of logically problematic statements. 

So those are the two Shared Values which most concern me and I can basically get behind the rest of them. But I am also troubled by what is lacking in the Shared Values. There is no commitment to individual rights. The issues I have with the two value statements above could be resolved by affirming the individual’s right to life, liberty, and property. However, that could be a whole blog post in and of itself.

My last point about the Shared Values is that alignment with them is voluntary. As long as it stays that way, I have no problem with the idea of Shared Values. After the Vision Rally on Wednesday, I filled out a volunteer card. I was specifically interested in being on one of the “red teams” which gets to critique and challenge the drafts presented by each group. That sounds like the perfect thing for me. to do. Anyways, as I was filling it out, there was a checkbox for me to state if I agreed with the Shared Values. I thought about it for a few seconds and then skipped it, with a sense of relief. No one came up to me and said, “check that box, or else you’ll be arrested!” No one forced me to agree at gunpoint. Now, if I am not allowed to volunteer for Transform Rockford because I can’t fully support all the Shared Values, that’s fine. Any organization has the right to determine who can be involved. But Transform Rockford can’t come knocking at my door and demand that I sign my name to the Shared Values. So, as long as everything about Transform Rockford is voluntary, I will not object to the movement as a whole. There are aspects which concern me, but if participation is voluntary, I can raise no objections to the fundamental concept of Transform Rockford. 

In my next post I’ll get down to actually talking about my reaction to the Vision Rally and the information shared at that event.

2 Comments

  1. Good logic! Enjoyed the article.

  2. Pingback: Concerns about the Vision Statements | Veritas et Libertas

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