Apply Grameen Bank Micro-Thinking to Redress Economic Discrimination Before the Law

Apply Grameen Bank Micro-Thinking to Redress Economic Discrimination Before the Law
Peter DuMont - Mon Oct 09, 2017 @ 05:29PM
Comments: 48

Grameen Bank founder and Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus was interviewed 2017 October 9th by star host Michael Krasny on KQED's Forum radio talk show.  Yunus has authored a new book, Three Zeroes, about eliminating environmental destruction, unemployment, and devastating inequality by harnessing for the masses the power of entrepreneurship.

During the interview, Yunus expressed doubt that law could adequately address shocking inequality gaps. (He pointed to the power differentials that wealth creates even under law.) 

He also described a brilliant adaptation (or one could say completion) of the Pyramid social-economic model.  In the latter, the rich are at the top and the poor are at the large base, whereas in the Diamond model, there is another pyramid directly underneath, base-to-base with the first one.  Thus, a few super-rich make up the top, and an equally few super-poor appear at the bottom point, with the majority of society making up the middle.

I posted the following comments (with minor edits here) in the citizen-participation section of the show's website.

  • 1PeterDuMont2STARALLIANCE8 • 

    1) Thank you for your life's work! Today is Columbus Day, or variably: Indigenous People's Day.  We might also call it (incorporating both): Global Pioneers' Day!  Host and guest alike deserve this appellation.

    2) I love the Wealth Diamond idea. Thank you for that simple powerful metaphor!

    3) Here's a slogan which, if not new, I haven't heard enough of: EACH ONE HELP ONE.  Let's have more of this in our society and spread the load of assisting the poor and injured!

    4) Mr. Yunus was dismissive of law as a means of fixing social ills and extreme polarization.  But law will help a lot when more poor people can make use of it promptly and enjoy its protections. We need to counterbalance Economic Discrimination Before the Law with A Universal Right to Civil Counsel.

    5) To help accomplish this, a model somewhat akin to the Grameen Bank-like model can be employed, in the sense of honoring the potential of the poor; helping them to help themselves. Here is the idea in brief: Establish a dedicated fund, with earnings sufficient to hire a small panel of attorneys and support staff.  Solicit applications for civil legal representation from poor people in a given area. Carefully select cases that are likely to win monetary awards (just as contingency lawyers do when bigger winnings are involved!) Settle or prosecute these cases, and use a disclosed percentage of the winnings to grow the fund and serve more clients!

    Not only will many individuals be helped in a critical way; the entire community of the rich and powerful will be put on notice: they just might not get away with quiet and/or systemic abuse of the poor.

    The need, purpose, and importance of this plan may be obvious to some. For others, here is some added information and commentary.

    Such a movement would help fill the terrible gap left for the poor under the current contingency system regarding civil matters. Many civil cases of the poor, although critical to their lives and careers, do not involve enough money (or in some cases, involve too much risk) to attract the business needs and motivations of attorneys under the contingency system. These attorneys normally contract for 30-40% of winnings and charge nothing up front. That formula works fine for personal injury cases with high provable damages and deep pockets or adequate insurance on the defendant's side — but it doesn't work at all for most other categories of complaint the poor encounter, which usually don't meet these two criteria.

    Because the staff attorneys of the Grameen (or perhaps we could say the STAR ALLIANCE) model would receive salaries and not be dependent on big commissions; they could spend their time representing the poor and the agency would nevertheless be sustainable.

    Just as in the contingency law business, careful selection of cases — almost surely to be victorious for money damages AND collectible, once won — is vital to success.

    Without such an institutionalized, creative solution for the poor; they are systematically left outside to suffer helplessly (with the exception of VERY NARROW cases categories covered by under-funded legal aid.) The abused poor are also at grave risk of at least tripling their own damages by trying, unsuccessfully, to work the system themselves without the vital training required — this while already off-balance and damaged by the injuries they seek to redress! This gap in the practical legal system is an ugly reality, utterly horrible to experience, which tears at the entire fabric of society and could soon tear it up.

    Filling in this one, glaring gap in our legal system would heal and empower large numbers of individual actors and help close — by uncountable, individual means — the treacherous economic and social gaps which Yunus and other great minds have warned are unacceptably dangerous to everyone.

Comments: 48

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