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Our Inescapable Network of Mutuality

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s first great dream for America was for her to eradicate her sin of racial inequality. His daring leadership during America’s civil rights efforts of the 1950s–1960s gifted us with significant accomplishments toward that continuing dream. His second great dream for America, the next mountain to climb but for which he was only able to cast the vision, was to eradicate her sin of economic inequality.

Image Credit: Hank Willis Thomas and MASS Design Group |

Dr. King was born and raised in America’s segregated South during the Jim Crow era. Beginning with the view from the porch of his childhood home, he saw the detrimental effects of economic exploitation and inequity on the Black community. As he grew and his view widened, his lived experience confirmed in him the need for correction. Fortunately, his religious conviction, intellect, and education gifted him with the thoughts and words to begin moving toward that correction.

King saw the devastating effects of the segregated South and, by extension, the segregated nation. Those who established the segregated society, he observed, “segregated southern money from the poor whites; they segregated southern mores from the rich whites; they segregated southern churches from Christianity; they segregated southern minds from honest thinking, and they segregated the Negro from everything.”

Segregation at its heart, Dr. King argued, is a travesty of justice perpetrated upon the American mind. At its core this travesty of justice, this crushing injustice, sprang from an ingrained theological ignorance buttressed by the cruelest of manmade laws.

The theological ignorance was rooted in prideful, zero-sum cultural fallacies including rugged individualism and absolute self-determination, at least for Whites. Raising awareness about the interrelatedness of Americans—indeed all humans, White and Black, rich and poor, Dr. King spoke of us all as “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.” Despite our cultural fallacies, we all come into a ready-made world where we must rely on each other and none of us could survive alone. Using the example of the ubiquitous nature of globalization (even in the 1960s), he noted, “[T]his is the way our universe is structured, this is its interrelated quality. We aren’t going to have peace on earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.”

Turning to the legal constructs that facilitated the theological ignorance, Dr. King noted, “There are two types of laws: there are just and there are unjust laws. . . . A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. . . . Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.” Dr. King was not speaking to simply the patently unjust Jim Crow-era laws on the books that physically and socially separated Blacks and Whites. He was also speaking to the kind of capitalism that exploited people. Giving structure and clarity to Dr. King’s dream for America’s economic equality, we label those exploitative practices ‘plantation economics’ and contrast them with the concepts we label Partnership Economics.

Plantation economics is our term for the kind of capitalism that rejects the interrelated structure of all reality, and exploits. Our definition of plantation economics is, “any one person or group destructively exploiting or wielding control over another and/or resources.” Our definition of ‘plantation system’ is, “any human construct that creates and/or permits inequities in support of plantation economics." These definitions, clearly and concisely, make it easy to identify and hang a target on the unjust laws, customs, and people that exploit. Getting the target correct is a critical early step in determining what needs to be reconstructed or who needs to be removed from power.

Partnership Economics is our term for the kind of capitalism that accepts the interrelated structure of all reality and, with an ethic of mutuality, partners rather than exploits. Our construct of Partnership Economics is the kind of capitalism we understand Dr. King would support. We flesh out the principles and construct of Partnership Economics throughout our book Better Capitalism, and invite you to explore and learn more by reading a copy.

Meanwhile, where do you see plantation economics and plantation systems at work in your corner of the world? How can you replace plantation economics with Partnership Economics?

What about you? Share your story, question, comment, idea, disagreement -- yes, we welcome disagreement for the sake of mutual benefit! -- with us at We will give a thoughtful response, with prioritized attention to emails from our subscribers. Subscribe here >>

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