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Sliding Scales and Integrity

Does being too detailed with sliding scales discourage people from having sessions about money and using their integrity? How do we encourage integrity in our use of money for RC?

It is difficult to think about differences in wealth and income and about the economic inequality of our world. I will speak from my experience only.

In my First World1 country of the United States, when organizers use a specific sliding scale tied to income (and I don’t think it would be different if wealth were included), it looks to me like people view their application as they do their tax form. In my country, people almost uniformly try to pay as little tax as possible and use anything, legal or illegal, to reduce their payments. This happens despite a strong pretense of patriotism. I hear almost no one except myself say, “I am proud to pay my taxes.”

An organizer of one of my workshops—a working-class person—had many people calling her up because of a detailed sliding scale. They were having long discussions with her about why they thought they should pay less and giving many detailed reasons. This put her in the role of a “tax advisor.” I don’t think that is how to encourage integrity or is fair to the organizer. It did not seem good to her or to me that people were treating the collection of fees for the workshop like an impersonal arm of an oppressive institution.

In my Region2 the latest brilliant and effective idea is from an RC teacher who teaches a class on money and charges from one dollar to a hundred dollars for each class meeting. (In the case of a workshop, she does mention the estimated “break even” fee necessary to pay all the bills.)

In our Region I would say that even the poorest person wastes a dollar a week on addictions or some other attempt at finding comfort. So it does not seem unreasonable to charge that. I can go out on the roads around my house and in an hour find enough discarded returnable bottles to pay for this class.

In our Region it would take a factory worker two days to earn a hundred dollars, and that does not include the cost of his or her transportation to work. On the other hand, there are people who might spend a hundred dollars in that same two days on things that are not necessities, but they would find it a challenge to give up those comforts to pay for an RC class. The scale challenges them to choose the class over comforts.

With this kind of very open scale, people in our Region have ended up using their integrity as a guide. I think this is because of two things:

1) There is no specific answer to how much people should pay—they have to decide for themselves.

2) We have done a lot of work, directly or indirectly, on class and the genocide of Indigenous people. Also, our highest level of leadership consists of working-class or raised-poor people. We have a long-standing Native community. We have more diversity in terms of income and wealth than many RC Communities. And people of low income and little wealth are prominent in our Community and greatly respected.

I think this scale encourages integrity, but I don’t think it is just the scale that has made a difference. It is also the work we have done to build an economically diverse Community and to make having such a Community a goal that everyone is proud of.

What motivates us to do that work? I think it is the close relationships we’ve figured out how to make between people of significantly different incomes. We care enough about each other that people who have the means to pay think beyond what is good for themselves to what will support the whole. There are not many places in their lives where they can spend their money and get such a significant return in supporting the end of oppression. Numbers of them write generous checks to pay for a workshop. Sometimes if a workshop is in danger of not paying all the bills, a person who has already paid will come forward and give another few hundred dollars. And we all feel good about that.

Is everyone able to use his or her integrity? No, some people who have the means are trying to pay the least they can, because that is what society encourages them to do. But I do not feel bad about that—it is simply the condition of the oppressive society.

I think the real question is, how do we encourage integrity in paying for classes and workshops in RC? I think this method has worked for our Community. Your Community may be different and require a different “solution.”

I will add that because ours is a First World Community, even a person who is struggling financially is living a lifestyle that is wealthy by world standards. There are International workshops at which the participants vary more greatly in terms of their wealth and income, and the wealthier people of the world lack simple information and awareness about that. I think more specific sliding scales can be offered in those situations—scales that educate people about the extremes of inequality and help them understand in a concrete way what it would mean, specifically, in those situations to use one’s integrity.

Dan Nickerson
International Liberation Person for Working-Class People
Freeport, Maine, USA
Reprinted from the e-mail discussion list for RC Community Members


1 First World means industrialized, materially wealthy.
2 A Region is a subdivision of the International RC Community, usually consisting of several Areas (local RC Communities).


Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00