Reflections from Phoenix

DSC01862March 22, 2014

I woke up this morning with a fragment of the dream in which I was immersed as I woke up. I had been trying to get rid of a large, apparently dead, putrid bird in my attic. I finally got some help. I was embarrassed about the situation. I thought to myself that I would justify my neglect by telling them, “I didn’t know it was there,” which was only partly true. I had known it was there but had either neglected it or suppressed the awareness. As it turned out, after they rescued the bird, it was alive.

My take on the dream is that the bird represents my sense of myself as a “community organizer,” my lifelong identity. But lately, my initiatives have not gotten off the ground. The last one that had any success was the Occupy Be the Change Caucus, and that project was only partially successful, at best.

Part of the problem is my age. Soon I will be 70. People respond most strongly to their peers and most of my peers are either dead (Steve Sears, Gil Lopez, Richard Koogle), tired, or set in their ways.

So I resolve to stop beating that dead horse (or dead bird) and stop trying to initiate projects. Rather, I’ll concentrate on writing my autobiography and occasional proposals for action that I will share, while remaining available to participate if and when a strong organizing committee initiates a project that inspires me. If the bird flies, I’ll join the flight.


Being alone back in the States where I speak the language is more difficult than being alone in a country where I don’t speak the language (especially when that country is in the Caribbean and I can hang out on the beach anytime I want). Here my inability to have soulful connections with the people I encounter is more difficult because the potential is more present. It’s like a mirage that vanishes upon approach. When people ask me, “How are you doing?” I may start answering, “Alienated as usual, but I’m getting used to it.”

Except for my frequent conversations with my sister, Mary, and my old friend, Leonard, my online and telephonic communications are few and far between. I reply to emails in kind, and if someone calls me, I’ll call them later. But not much is happening in that regard, which I find curious, for I feel I can be a good friend.

Normally it doesn’t bother me. For one thing, it leaves me with more free time to pursue my other interests. But when the possibility for a deep conversation with someone appears in front of me, I often get butterflies in my stomach. Like when an artist from South Africa who loved the movie “Looking for Sugar Man” appeared for a three-day stay in this two-bedroom apartment where I’m staying. When she was twelve, she adored Rodriguez and knew all the lyrics to his songs. Surely here was a chance for an authentic dialog! But it never happened.

Then, ironically, Friday night, I ended up next to two women from Oakland, a mother and her daughter, and after the game I gave them a tour of Old Town and we experienced a remarkable, inspiring encounter. I cherish my memory of our encounter, which reassured me the path I’m on is valid. After we parted, I came home, went to bed, and slept better than I have in ages.

This afternoon, I’m going to Thai Royal Massage for another unique foot massage, which they provide while the client lies in a recliner, which has inspired me to offer foot massages to people who come to my next housewarming in my refurbished apartment after I return at the end of May!

In the meantime, my top priority will be my autobiography, whose working title now is “Saving the World: My Story.” Being de facto homeless, I plan to wander through Nevada, soak in hot springs, watch the Giants on TV, and play blackjack 2 hours a day to pay for my lodging.


March 25, 2014

I just posted three pieces that feel good to me:

Proposed: A Full Employment Jam, or Working Conference (3/25/14 Draft)
The following proposal for collaboration is presented for consideration by interested parties. At the moment, no one is working to organize this project. It is my hope that individuals and organizations will eventually emerge to convene a process of the sort envisioned here.

Read more.


Proposed: A Holistic Community Network (3/24/14 Draft)

Following is the first draft of a pledge that participants in “holistic growth support groups” might embrace and use to guide their work together. My thought is that if a sizable number of such groups were to form and affiliate with one another in an informal network, it could be the foundation for a deep sense of community.

Read more.


Proposed: A Full Employment Network (3/25/14 Draft)

Economic insecurity leads people to constantly calculate how to survive at the expense of others. It corrupts our culture, fosters social discord, undermines personal authenticity, and leaves individuals in great need of caring communities that truly nurture self-empowerment.

By gathering regularly in small groups with trusted friends, we could support one another in our efforts to become better human beings and more effective activists. In this way, a network of full employment support groups could fulfill unmet personal needs, grow community, and help build a grassroots full employment movement.

Read more.




Economic Insecurity: Consequences and Alternatives

look downstairs into stairwell whirl
quapan / Foter / CC BY

Economic insecurity leads people to constantly calculate how to survive at the expense of others. It corrupts our culture, fosters social discord, undermines personal authenticity, and leaves individuals in great need of caring communities that truly nurture self-empowerment.

By gathering regularly in small groups with trusted friends, we could support one another in our efforts to become better human beings and more effective activists. In this way, a network of full employment support groups could fulfill unmet personal needs, grow community, and help build a grassroots full employment movement.

We need to establish a foundation of economic security for the sake of everyone, not just those currently unemployed or threatened with imminent unemployment. The benefits of full employment would ripple throughout society. All of us could more easily be real, speak from the heart, explore within, and become who we really are. No one is free until we are all free.

The threat of poverty hurts everyone. The specter of unemployment prompts us to suppress our feelings out of concern for how others will react. We learn to be dishonest, first with our teachers and then our bosses. Constantly hustling, these habits become deeply engrained, often unconscious. We become self-centered, phony, and shallow, always worrying about what others think of us. We sell our souls and go along to get along. We talk and talk without really listening. We rarely stop thinking and examine ourselves deeply. Most of us have only one or two friends, or no one, with whom we can discuss personal problems. We play games, hold ourselves back from really trying to actualize our potential, and never fully dedicate ourselves to a cause that provides deep meaning to our lives. We become hyper-competitive, obsessed with who is “top dog,” and look down on others we consider inferior, often based on race, gender, sexual preference, class, or level of education.

This hyper-individualism carries over into politics, including grassroots activism. Activists with noble motives become excessively “political.” We become too concerned with our own ambitions and our desire to “make a difference.” We focus on gaining the satisfaction of knowing that we have done the right thing. We want to be recognized for some great achievement. We praise others to get them to do what we want them to do, and allow ourselves to be strongly influenced by others whose respect we seek. We’re constantly trying to prove ourselves – to others and to ourselves. We deceive, manipulate, and sometimes lie in order to get what we want. We fail to be fully authentic, present, spontaneous, and true to our deepest self. We use immoral means to achieve moral goals.

These patterns are reflected in the traditional definition of leadership. We assume that “leaders” are those who are able to mobilize “followers” to do what they want them to do. This approach is fundamentally individualistic, egocentric, arrogant, and elitist. It reinforces ego-driven power struggles, the urge to dominate, and the willingness to submit.

Consequently activist organizations attract primarily people who are willing to defer to “leaders” they place on a pedestal (and often knock them off later out of jealousy and resentment). Most organizations do not, as much as they could, engage people who are strong, creative, self-confident, and able and willing to collaborate while respecting others. Rather, they drive those people away.

Another problem with traditional activism is the constant reliance on tapping fear and anger. That future-oriented approach can sometimes appear to be effective in the short run. But it is unable to sustain itself over time. It burns out or spirals down into more negativity. It also fails to attract people that an effective movement needs – namely, happy, caring, open, and freewheeling people who trust that the Universe will take care of herself.

A full employment movement that aims to be effective needs to counter those tendencies. We need to cultivate joyous communities that foster self-empowerment. A national network of “full employment support groups” rooted in compassionate populism and deep morality could help build a grassroots movement to make this country more democratic and just. The plan outlined here is not the only method. But it could contribute.

The need for new organizing methods that enable us to better attract, inspire, involve, and unite large numbers of Americans is compelling. To become more effective, we need to examine ourselves honestly, acknowledge our mistakes, and resolve not to repeat them. Engaging in such self-examination with trusted friends (perhaps including one’s spouse) at least once a month could be beneficial.

With this approach, it would be important to establish that individuals need to decide for themselves how they need to grow. Self-determination is key. These support groups would need to trust each member to set their own goals, without applying oppressive pressure that tries to transform people overnight into totally new human beings according to some prescribed doctrine. Down deep, most human beings want to do what is right and when they look inside honestly, they usually form wise plans for action. Each member would need to respect the support group and trust that by being open and listening with compassion, everyone will learn and benefit from the process. Being judgmental and pushing others to conform to others’ opinions undercuts self-empowerment.

If a network of full employment support groups were to develop, many members would likely address self-development issues other than those discussed here. But all members would have in common a commitment to intentionally, consciously, clearly support one another in their efforts to become better human beings and more effective activists. That shared experience could provide the basis for the growth of support groups rooted in the proven peer-support model.

Let us inspire each other with positive energy. Let us create safe spaces where we can be real, let it all hang out, share meals, enjoy each other’s fellowship, and nurture one another. Let us attract new members with contagious happiness and cultivate leader-full, compassionate, democratic communities that are not dependent on any one leader or any one “lead organizer.” Let us build a member-controlled, national network of “safe houses” whose members unite to push the federal government to fulfill its responsibility to assure full employment.

The point is not only the individual. The purpose of a community or a society is not merely to enable individuals to fulfill themselves or pursue happiness. The community is also valuable in and of itself. Communities are greater than the sum of their parts. After individuals die, communities can live on, as do biological families, woven into the fabric of life and the force that structures life. If we are only concerned about our own needs or those of our immediate family, we miss out on the meaning of life.

A full employment movement would best be neither “left” nor “right.” By avoiding these abstract labels, the movement could focus on its key principle: As a society, we should see to it that everyone has a living-wage job opportunity and if the private economy and private charity fail to meet that obligation, the federal government must step in. That belief is embraced by individuals who hold a wide variety of political viewpoints.

The elites who dominate our society will likely continue to oppose efforts to achieve full employment. But we need not demonize them. They are not exclusively responsible. They are only pawns in the game. If they step out of line, “the system” will replace them. When we talk about them or engage in dialog with them, we can do so with compassion. We can appeal to their higher nature or, if necessary, to their “enlightened self-interest.” And we can always maintain a willingness to compromise and reconcile differences as we move toward our ultimate goal.

Ordinary Americans are also to blame. If more people were more active between elections and united behind positions already supported by strong majorities, we could turn this country around. So long as this condition prevails, we cannot legitimately scapegoat any “villain.”

Our society can best be described as “crony capitalism” dominated by an unholy alliance of Big Government and Big Business, facilitated by the infamous “revolving door.” This social system is self-perpetuating. To restructure it, we need a massive, united popular movement focused on creating a viable “mixed economy” that serves the common good.

It makes no sense to always attack either the “free market” or “the government.” We need both. Exactly what this mix should be needs to be considered case-by-case, based on our best guess about what is most effective, not on the basis of some preconceived ideology. Those conclusions will vary as conditions change.

As full employment support groups could keep pace with their members and support them on their personal issues as they define them, so too a movement to transform America could keep pace with Americans and support positions they already endorse.

At this time, in this country, we can declare that the federal government should see to it that everyone who wants to work can find a living-wage job opportunity.

By developing new ways of doing politics and growing small, self-perpetuating, self-governing, face-to-face, intimate communities that help members actualize their potential, we can help build a full employment movement. When we secure the human right to a living-wage job opportunity, the same forces could take further steps to move toward making the United States a compassionate community dedicated to the common good of all humanity.

Proposed: A Holistic Community Network (3/24/14 Draft)

Following is the first draft of a pledge that participants in “holistic growth support groups” might embrace and use to guide their work together. My thought is that if a sizable number of such groups were to form and affiliate with one another in an informal network, it could be the foundation for a deep sense of community.

This proposal is a simplification of ideas I’ve articulated previously. As such, it may be more user-friendly. The terminology is provisional and subject to revision.

If such groups were to form, occasional regional and national gatherings of participants could be convened. Participants from different groups could also share reports with one another via the Internet. Reports from and interviews with participants could provide content for a book and a documentary.

I welcome your feedback. If this proposal is amended, the latest draft will always be posted at this URL.

Holistic Growth Pledge (3/23/14 Draft)

To help nurture a more nonviolent and compassionate world, I pledge:

1. Day-by-day I will try to become a better human being.
2. For at least two hours each month, I will try to help change one or more public policies.
3. At least once a month, I will gather with at least two close friends who sign this pledge to:
• share a meal,
• socialize informally,
• enjoy each other’s company, and
• engage for at least 90 minutes in a soulful conversation during which we speak from the heart openly and honestly about our efforts to fulfill this pledge.

My Autobiography: Preface

High School Basseball

When I tell stories about my life, a common response is curiosity or amusement. Those responses prompted me to write this book.

After sharing an early draft of this preface with friends, one responded, “The list of accomplishments…is very moving and inspiring, and reflects your exceptional sense of integrity. You should be proud, Wade!” But I didn’t believe her.

Until I had written a large portion of the book, I had focused more on my failures and weaknesses than on my successes and strengths. Now, after reflecting on my life as a whole and revealing some secrets that had been hidden, I have greater self-confidence and more self-respect.


For more than 45 years, my primary commitment has been to foster the development of compassionate communities whose members support each other in their efforts to become better human beings, grow democratic communities that serve as models for how we can improve our society, and engage in political action to help change public policies. I believe that efforts in each of these areas can strengthen efforts in the other areas. This book reports on my persistent efforts to foster the growth of such communities and promote fundamental social change.

Another consistent thread in my life has been the pursuit of truth, justice, and beauty. If one experiences beauty, one becomes loving and wants others to be treated fairly, which requires knowing what is true. If one discovers truth, one experiences the beauty of being in harmony with the life force that energizes and structures the universe (which some call God), and one wants to help foster such experiences in a more just world. If one senses what is just, one wants to know how to facilitate reconciliation and unity, which is the essence of beauty. In these ways, truth, justice, and beauty are three sides of the same reality.

From early on, I’ve relentlessly tried to figure out myself, the world around me, and what it all means. I’ve tried to help improve governmental policies in order to reduce and prevent suffering. And I’ve tried to enjoy life, be happy, love others as I love myself, and avoid both selfishness and self-sacrifice, partly so that I can better serve others.

As a young child, I lived with little indoor plumbing on a small farm outside Little Rock, where my grandfather molded me into a Little League super-star and my mother, a rare White anti-racist in Arkansas, taught me the Golden Rule and other spiritual precepts. At seven, we moved to Dallas, where my father managed a theater in an African-American ghetto, and I attended mediocre schools that failed to challenge their students.

When I was fourteen, my grandfather suffered a stroke after getting agitated while watching me play baseball and died that night, for which I felt responsible.

The next year I discovered the Dallas Public Library and an exciting world of new ideas, especially the works of Bertrand Russell, H.L. Mencken, Thomas Paine, Voltaire, and other iconoclasts. Most of my high school teachers, who were steeped in the Christian fundamentalism and anti-Communist orthodoxy that dominated Dallas at that time, did not appreciate my free thinking.

In 1960 every junior was required to take a course on “Anti-Communism,” which ironically led me to the University of California at Berkeley (after I persuaded my mother to support me by giving her an offer she could not refuse).

In less than two months, the Cuban Missile Crisis frightened the whole world and I went to my first political demonstration.

At my student co-op where I ate meals and eventually served in leadership positions, two graduate students introduced me to contemporary theologians who translated fundamentalist Christian myths into language that made sense to me.

My second semester I discovered Bob Dylan, whose music affected me profoundly and has inspired me ever since. And I heard James Baldwin speak on campus, which left me with tears rolling down my face. I proceeded to read everything Baldwin had written.

Early the next year I became immersed in the civil rights movement and thereafter many movements associated with the Sixties, including anti-war, human potential, student power, black liberation, women’s liberation, sexual liberation, gay liberation, the counter-culture, and People’s Park.

In 1967, at the age of 23, I dedicated my life to organizing “communities of faith, love, and action” and studied theology for two years at the Pacific School of Religion. There I co-conducted “A Sort Of Modern-Day Dionysian Rite” in the chapel and helped organize the New Seminary Movement, which led to me being expelled by the President, only to be reinstated by the Board of Trustees.

In 1969, I moved to San Francisco to work as an intern minister at Glide Church and its National Sex and Drug Forum, whose methods included showing social-service workers erotic and pornographic movies.

While demonstrating nonviolently in support of the Black Panther Party during a police raid on their Los Angeles office, the police beat me severely and charged me with felonious assault on a police officer, resulting in convictions on two misdemeanors.

Following my Glide internship, I decided to stay in San Francisco and do community organizing on my own, unaffiliated with any established organization.

My first project was the Alternative Futures Community, which conducted weekend marathon Urban Plunges addressing women’s liberation, gay liberation, racism, and the need for radical political action.

I then had a very bad LSD trip that lasted for months and landed me in two mental hospitals, including one in Dallas where I had worked as an orderly. My therapist was my former boss who had become a friend in the interim.

After I recovered, I initiated or co-founded a number of community-based projects focused on a variety of issues, including men’s liberation, alternatives to psychiatry, public transit, food coops, a low-income housing coop, job creation, a neighborhood cultural center, national antipoverty policy, and corporate power. In addition, I participated in efforts initiated by others focused on issues like rent control and high-rise development, as well as anti-war campaigns, including reporting from Baghdad for the Iraq Peace Team during the U.S. invasion.

These efforts resulted in some victories, some unplanned benefits, and other resounding defeats. Through it all, I kept plugging away, addressing unmet needs, and planting seeds.

I then took a break to step back and reevaluate the “progressive movement” with which I had identified. With others, I co-convened a series of Strategy Workshops, two Compassionate Politics Workshops, and a workshop on the “Holistic Gandhi-King Three-fold Path,” which integrates personal, social, and political growth.

These efforts led me to self-publish two books that are posted on the Web – Economic Security for All: How to End Poverty in the United States and Global Transformation: Strategy for Action – and three booklets, “Promoting the General Welfare: A Campaign for American Values,” “The Compassion Movement: A Declaration,” and “Baghdad Journal.” Since October 2010 I’ve published a blog, “Wade’s Weekly.” In late 2013 I started publishing Wade’s Wire, to which I post no more than one item each day. And in early 2014, I launched “Wade’s Monthly,” an Internet listserv.

While writing this book, I wrote the Guarantee Living-Wage Job Opportunities petition and circulated “The Personal, the Social, and the Political: A Survey.”

[to be updated later]


Though I’ve had numerous rewarding intimate relations with women, I’ve never been married and have no children, partly because I’ve been so focused on my community work. Humanity is my family. One lover who left me three times and is still a good friend, Janelle Jones, calls me Wade “Save the World” Hudson. I miss not having children, but for every loss there is a gain and one of the children I helped raise, Brandon Faloona, honored me with the name of his first son, Azure Wade Faloona.

For money, after hustling money from foundations for twenty years, I decided in 1989 to drive taxi part-time, which left me free to do whatever community work I wanted to do while living simply. In 2000, I got my own taxi permit, which provides me with a comfortable income and enabled me to become co-owner of Yellow Cab Cooperative.


I would never have written this book without strong encouragement from numerous people I respect. In particular, the following friends have provided key support:
• Mike Larsen, long-time literary agent and good friend.
• Dave Robbins, retired English Literature professor, who greatly influenced me when I was a freshman and he was a graduate student.
• Leonard Roy Frank, editor of the Random House Webster’s Quotationary, who has been a dear friend for more than 40 years and knows me very well.
• Roma Guy, founder of the Women’s Building in San Francisco with whom I’ve collaborated off and on for 40 years.
• Sharon Johnson, former legislative aide to Supervisor Harry Britt and Assemblyman John Burton, who’s known me and my work for almost 40 years.
• Numerous subscribers to Wade’s Weekly, where I posted early drafts of several chapters.

Thanks to their support, at the age of 69, in mid-October 2013, I brought my correspondence, journals, and other documents with me to Las Terrenas the north coast of the Dominican Republic to refresh my memory to work intensively on this book for several months.


Writing this autobiography has helped me better understand my life and clarify my own thinking. Writing pushes me to follow my thoughts to their logical conclusion, which leads to new thoughts and new ways of acting in the world, as I create myself.

And the process has been liberating. The more transparent I am, the more easily I overcome fears associated with being honest. The more I bring secrets out of the closet, the less ashamed I am and the more I accept myself. Because I wrote this book, in certain respects, I feel like a different person. I’ve gone through lots of changes over the years and will likely doing so in the future. Every so often, I feel like “a new man,” though I remain essentially the same, and hope to continue to evolve. Or maybe I’m just “more of who I am,” to use a phrase I heard from Mike Larsen.

Reading my journals and correspondence and reflecting on my life illuminated for me how from an early age I have struggled to feel free to be myself, to be true to my deepest self – while at the same time accepting my responsibility as a human being to help relieve the suffering I’ve seen all around me.

But I was constantly tormented by feeling that I had to prove myself, to others and to myself. Afflicted with deep-seated guilt that was unintentionally instilled in me by my wonderful, loving mother, I was constantly comparing myself to others and always coming up short. I was too anxious about what others thought about me and didn’t feel I had accomplished all that much. Being insecure, my ability to freely engage in open, honest relationships was limited — whether in love, politics, or society at large.

Before, I would beat myself up for not fulfilling my dreams. Believing that our society could be improved fundamentally and comprehensively, I pushed to make it happen quickly. I was very ambitious and often focused on goals that were not realistic. Aided by the process of writing this book, my perspective has changed.

Now I tell myself what I told my father on his death bed. When he lamented not having been a better father, I said, “You did the best you could.” Given our limitations, that is all we can do.

In recent years, I’ve decided the “left-right” continuum makes no sense and concluded that our society is dominated by a “crony capitalism” which is an unholy alliance of Big Government and Big Businesses. Both “liberals” and “conservatives” reinforce that system. I now more clearly see the weaknesses of “the left” and positive values affirmed by those who identify with “the right.” Instead I now affirm “compassionate populism” and analyze what works best to “promote the general welfare” (as stated in the Preamble to our Constitution). I still aim to make our society more truly democratic and caring, but now I look at each issue independently without regard to any predetermined ideology.

I still have my vision of a “new” society. Without vision, we perish. But that vision is no longer a blueprint. If we knew in advance what a “transformed” society would look like, it would not be transformation, but just another manufactured product.


By sharing this book, I hope you will be entertained by an interesting story and learn something from my mistakes and how my worldview has shifted – though you will surely come to some conclusions that differ from mine. And maybe you will be inspired to deepen or continue your own efforts to improve yourself and our world.

By clarifying my thinking and sharing who I am, I hope to connect with more people who are committed to supporting one another with their self-development, community building, and political action in order to nurture compassionate communities and a greatly improved society dedicated to the well-being of all humanity.

Regardless, I welcome your feedback.

Wade Lee Hudson

Proposed: A Full Employment Jam, or Working Conference (3/25/14 Draft)

The following proposal for collaboration is presented for consideration by interested parties. At the moment, no one is working to organize this project. It is my hope that individuals and organizations will eventually emerge to convene a process of the sort envisioned here.

In response to the first draft (see Comments), Seb Paquet suggested that the  co-organizers/facilitators:

create three shared Google Docs: one to clarify intentions and desired outcomes, a second one to write the invitation, and a final one for the event flow proper. You will probably go back and forth between the docs as the vision becomes clear.

In the event flow doc, if you use headers appropriately, you can insert a table of contents at the top to facilitate navigation. You’re certainly able to set this up by yourself, but let me know if you run into issues.

In the flow, don’t forget to enable everyone to introduce themselves meaningfully, to facilitate collaboration.

Some people use ‘Jam’ as a hip substitute for ‘Working Conference’. see e.g. the Global Service Jam and Global Sustainability Jam,

Feel free to utilize any of these ideas that you find useful and/or encourage others to do so. If and when I learn of any such effort, I will spread the word on the “@LivingWageJobs Report” listserv and on Twitter (@LivingWageJobs). Feel free to subscribe and/or follow. Feedback is welcome. If you are interested in joining this collaboration if and when it is initiated, please let me know.


The need for a federal jobs program to achieve full employment is compelling. But no grassroots movement is focused on that goal. One reason may be that there is no consensus among experts, advocates, activists, and think tanks about how best to move in that direction.

The following proposal presents an open, collaborative method for surfacing, clarifying, evaluating, and uniting behind models for federal legislation to achieve full employment. Seb Paquet, an associate of Here Comes Everybody author Clay Shirky, helped to develop this proposal.

The primary intent is not to identify one proposal and then try to build one organization to back it (though that could be the result). Rather the aim is to enable concerned parties to better understand the major, basic options and to facilitate a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of those options. Then, following a national gathering at which these issues would be discussed face-to-face, each participant would choose which option, or options, to back.

If you or anyone you know are interested in this project, I’d like to know about it. If need be, I will put people who are interested in touch with one another. Other than perhaps modifying this proposal occasionally and posting the latest draft here, I do not plan to take further steps to initiate this project myself. However, if a strong, inclusive organizing committee forms to develop it, I might be able to donate several hours a week to assist.

To develop alternative models for a federal jobs program to achieve full employment in the United States as quickly as feasible.

Primary Method:
Invite individuals, informal teams, and organizations to submit one-page outlines of federal legislation to achieve full employment in the United States as quickly as feasible.

Post those proposals online. The organizers of the conference encourage authors of similar proposals (if there are any) to synthesize their proposals.

Convene a national conference to discuss and evaluate those proposals.

Conduct the conference with a variation on Open Space Technology. The proposals are posted on the wall. More options could be proposed by participants at the outset of the conference. The authors of the proposals have a set amount of time to present their proposals at the initial plenary session.

Then the conference breaks down into working groups to discuss and perhaps modify those proposals. Each participant goes to the working group of their choice, or moves between them.

Those groups present their work to the closing plenary, where they are discussed and then evaluated by all of the participants (either with a rating or a ranking).

A virtual conference could take place concurrently so that people could follow along and perhaps participate in that manner.

After the conference, different organizations work together to develop and/or promote the models of their choice.

The whole process and the proceedings of the conference could provide content for a book and a documentary.

This proposal may be amended from time to time. Earlier drafts will be posted as comments below.

Morality and High Finance

By Wade Lee Hudson

One of the best analysts of the financial industry is James Kwak, co-author with Simon Johnson of The Baseline Scenario blog. On February 14, he posted “The Social Value of Finance,” which was a comment on a long paper by Sabeel Rahman, a Harvard Law fellow, on the moral implications of the financial crisis and the question of how to deal with banks that are “too-big-to-fail” (TBTF).

Kwak reported that Rahman “draws a contrast between a managerial approach to financial regulation, which relies on supposedly depoliticized, expert regulators, and a structural approach, which imposes hard constraints on financial firms.” Partly because this distinction resonated with the critique of traditional liberalism that I articulated in “Growing Compassionate Populism,” I read Rahman’s article and was very impressed with his analysis. I particularly appreciated his affirmation of the need for “moral judgments.”

When he granted me permission to quote from his paper, I was working on the submission to Netroots Nation for a panel presentation at their 2014 conference. So I asked him if he would participate on that panel. He said yes, and offered the following description of himself and what he would say:

Rahman (Harvard Law School and the Roosevelt Institute) studies the history of the Progressive movement, and the normative, legal, and organizing dimensions of economic reform. An effective movement for full employment requires a compelling moral narrative of economic progress. Rahman will outline how early twentieth-century progressive reformers faced a similar situation of widening inequality, upheaval, and political dysfunction. These reformers developed a moral view of the economy that catalyzed major progressive reforms in labor, consumer rights, and economic regulation. But progressive discourse in recent decades has largely moved away from this moral vision of the economy. Rahman will build on this historical account to suggest an account of economic freedom for our current moment—one that is distinctly progressive, and which can serve as the foundation for a more broad-based push for full employment, living wages, and an economy that realizes the full potential of all citizens.

Following is the abstract, table of contents, and conclusion of his (draft) paper, which is titled, “Managerialism, Structuralism, and Moral Judgment: Law, Reform Discourse, and the Pathologies of Financial Reform in Historical Perspective.”


Five years after the financial crisis, it remains unclear the degree to which regulatory reforms have succeeded in addressing the root causes of the financial crisis. This paper argues that ongoing policy debates about financial reform are undermined by a tension not between pro- and anti-regulatory views, but rather a deeper tension within reform discourse between two rival conceptual frameworks of how financial regulation should operate. The predominant approach to financial regulation in the United States, especially on matters of systemic risk and financial stability has revolved around a “managerial” approach that relies heavily on the ability of insulated expert regulators to optimize and manage the vicissitudes of the financial system. Although this approach may seem logical, it is nevertheless at odds with a rival reform discourse present today, and historically. In this rival approach, the emphasis is less on expert macroeconomic management, and more on “structural” regulations: reforms that impose strict constraints on the size and powers of financial firms, potentially at greater cost to industry but also more easily implemented.

This paper identifies this disjuncture between managerial and structural approaches in financial regulation discourse today (Part I). It then traces historically how the managerial ethic comes to dominate financial reform law and policy over the last century (Part II). In short, I argue that the gravitation towards managerialism stems from an underlying unease with making moral judgments about the social value of finance, and an overeager deference to financial innovation as an unqualified good. This avoidance of moral judgment in turn has created pathologies in the law of financial regulation, displacing a fundamentally moral and substantive judgment about the value of various financial firms and activities into proxy debates over, for example, agency jurisdiction, centralization, or the quality of regulatory expertise (Part III). These pathologies continue to constrain the effective implementation of financial reform in the United States. The paper then returns to some of the major financial regulation debates today to suggest that addressing issues like “too-big-to-fail” or new financial instruments necessarily requires making a moral judgment about the social value of finance — and that such judgments, once embraced, open up a range of more structural, rather than managerial, approaches to financial reform (Part IV).


I. The Discourse and Limits of Financial Reform
II. From Critique to Deference: A Brief History of Financial Regulation
Populists, Progressives, and the social control of finance
The New Deal Financial Regulation
From Consumer Protection to Financialization: Postwar Regulation
Setting the stage: deregulation
Moral judgment and the social value of finance
III. The Costs of Avoidance: Pathologies in Financial Regulation Law
From moral judgment to technocratic deference
Displacing the moral into the jurisdictionalFinancial regulation as an expertise-forcing inquiry
Financial reform in the courts
IV. Moral Judgment and Structural Financial Regulation
Too-big-to-fail as a moral category
“Speculation” and financial innovation
Finance as a public utility
V. Conclusion



In both the recent history of financial regulation and the post-crisis debates since 2008, there is a common tendency to turn to technocratic institutions as a preferred way to address controversial questions about what kinds of financial firms and activities we as a society ought to permit. But these are not purely technical issues to be resolved by neutral expertise. They fundamentally implicate moral judgments about what kind of economy we desire, and what kind of activities we value as a society. Furthermore, by transmuting these moral questions into technocratic ones to be judged by expert regulators, we do not resolve them. Instead, substantive concerns reappear through proxy debates over the scope of regulatory authority and expertise, creating an additional layer of formalism and contributing to some of the regulatory pathologies that helped fuel the 2008 crisis itself.

In the effort to avoid these moral controversies, policymakers and judges have routinely turned to centralized, national, expert-led organizations. By contrast, a more moralized engagement with the substantive issues of economic regulation calls for a different institutional structure, raising the possibility of more structural, rather than managerial, responses to the problem of TBTF: placing structural limits on the size and powers of financial firms; narrowing the scope for new financial innovations; or, in the extreme, regulating finance as a public utility. The above discussion does not suggest a precise answer to the problems of modern financial regulation—adjudicating between these more structural approaches is a task for another inquiry—but it does suggest three important implications.

First, in financial regulation as in other domains of economic regulation, ideas matter. Our responses to these policy problems depends as much on our normative and conceptual construction of the problems themselves as it does on the state of our technical knowledge.

Second, in engaging complex and controversial policy issues like TBTF, the allure of a purely technical, neutral managerial approach is largely illusory. Regardless of the state of expert knowledge or technocratic institutions, these issues will necessarily require moral judgment. Indeed, the effort to sterilize these questions of their moral controversy is ultimately counterproductive, for it creates problematic policies and institutional structures, and narrows the menu of available policy options.

Third, engaging the moral dimension of these issues more openly points us towards a very different institutional decision-making structure. If a technical understanding of TBTF suggests the need to prioritize and optimize technocratic policymaking bodies like insulated, expertise-based regulatory bodies, a more moralized view of finance suggests something different. Once engaged, such moral debate must be channeled through institutions where all affected interests can engage to voice their concerns, where there is a legitimate procedure through which these moral debates can be argued, judged, and revisited. A moralized understanding of economic regulation thus goes hand-in-hand with a more democratic structure for deciding these moral questions. This democratic structure reverses the features of technocratic governance described above. Instead of centralized, expert-led bodies, this democratic approach points us towards collective decision-making that is based on moral, as well as technical, reasons; that is participatory and representative, rather than expert-led; and that therefore may involve a more decentralized and politicized institutional form, rather than the centralized and insulated technocratic model.

These democratic institutional forms are therefore the other side of the coin of engaging the moral dimension of these policy debates. The ability to have this moral debate is in part a product the kind of moral vision that we as citizens are willing to entertain when we engage these kinds of issues, and partly a result of the institutional structure of policymaking. The purpose of these democratic structures is to make possible a productive, effective—but still moral and substantive—debate over the good economy and the good life. Ultimately, issues like TBTF require us to engage head-on a political project of reforming our democratic institutions—and constructing new ones—as a way to address the substantive concerns more fully.

Rahman, K. Sabeel, Managerialism, Structuralism, and Moral Judgment: Law, Reform Discourse, and the Pathologies of Financial Reform in Historical Perspective (December 16, 2013). Prepared for presentation at the Joint Program of the Financial Institutions and European Law Sections, AALS Annual Meeting, New York City, January 3, 2014, for the panel: “Taking Stock of Post-Crisis Reforms: Local, Global, and Comparative Perspectives on Financial Sector Regulation”. Available at SSRN: or


Brett Dennen Playlist on Spotify

BrettI’ve created a playlist (“Brett Dennen 3.17.14”) on my Spotify account (“Wade Hudson”) of the songs Brett played last night in the order that he played them. He is a hell of a “preacher.” Activists could learn a great deal from him about how to communicate. I have a fairly good digital recording of everything except the first song. If anyone wants it, I could upload it to Dropbox.

My Photos of Samana

DSC01101In December, 2013, I took a guided tour of the Samana peninula. It began in the town of Samana, stopped on the coast at the area known as the Mouth of the Devil due to the waves that create blowholes, and ended up at Playa de Rincon.

I believe you can watch these 53 photos as an automated slideshow if you click on the third icon from the right on the bottom toolbar. To see some or all of them, click here.