Chuck Collins directs the Institute of Policy Studies Program on Inequality and the Common Good. He is also co-founder of United for a Fair Economy and Wealth for the Common Good, a network of wealthy individuals who embrace fair taxation to support the broader good. He has authored of 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It and has joined Bill Gates, Sr. to co-author Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes. I learned about Chuck through David Korten, only to realize that I already had Resilience Circles—another project Chuck is affiliated with—on my list of potential episode themes.
At this point you have probably guessed that Chuck and I spent a lot of time talking about wealth and class, but it’s hard to cover those issues without digging into assumptions about human nature. Are we individualistic and selfish? Social and communal? All of the above? Chuck gives us a glimpse into how he pitches economic equality to the 1%, a pitch that involves the importance of the social and ecological commons while recognizing the importance of individual determination. Education makes an appearance and Chuck stresses that, in addition to the social/civic education Lawrence Torcello discussed, we need to remember that we are embedded in an ecological system. Resilience Circles make a brief appearance and new economies come up towards the end of the conversation.
You’ll probably notice more commonalities and contrasts with plenty of other thinkers. Obviously there are a fair number of similarities between Chuck and David Korten, though our conversations focused on very different themes. Equally interesting, how do Chuck’s assertions about human nature and brain science pair with Colin Camerer? Priscilla Grim and Cameron Whitten have discussed class without sharing the environmental concerns of other thinkers in the project, but Chuck suggests that an awareness of the ecological commons is key to encouraging a robust sense of the social commons. It is easy to find contrasts between Chuck and libertarian-leaning thinkers like Max More and Ariel Waldman, but he also shares their appreciation of individual agency.