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Is it possible that some people actually see violence as a good thing? Are any of those people religious? Is violence moral when committed by U.S. government employees? Here is a darn disturbing article. “Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. … It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right upfront with you, I like brawling.” — Lt. Gen. James Mattis; USMC Feb 2, 2005
by Dom Stasi
Feb. 22, 2005: What makes some guys like to fight? Why is it “a hell of hoot”?
Seems to me that even if one cares nothing at all for the humanity of his adversary, and even if he is beating women or children or defenseless men, even then, fighting will probably get you injured to some degree in return. The simple fact is that striking bone hurts ones fists. Does that add to the fun? Is there so much pleasure to be derived from beating another person that it’s worth the reciprocal pain? As an adult I’ve come to consider fighting a last resort, a life-saving or life-improving defensive necessity, sort of like surgery without the anesthetic. But fun? Hardly.
Further, if we skip the part about shooting people, then most real fighting brawling in particular implies touching another person, doing so violently, passionately, and having him touch you in return, with equal ardor or submission. This person-to-person touching is generally accompanied by grunting sounds and sweat. Inevitably, there is also pain and often blood. Consider the image. Is fighting the only thing that comes to mind? Of course not. So, is there a repressed sadomasochistic sexual component to the joy of fighting? If so, does that make fighting rape when one of the combatants is unwilling?
Or, as is more likely — and perhaps more disturbing — is there something in all of us that responds to fighting’s lure, the lure of physical domination? Is there a primitive compulsion to dominate that is perhaps stronger than anything the developed rational mind can use to counter it? Is there a thing in us so primal, so animal that it ignores or is oblivious to the inevitable repercussions of physical violence, repurcussions that only thinking humans can anticipate?
Did evolution weave some uncontrollable thing into the genetic fabric of its survivors that thrives on mortal combat?
So it seems.
Fun or fabric, the last real touchy-feely fight I had was as a teenager.
A big, dumb bully had injured my sister with a tossed firecracker. It left a minor scar. It was no big deal until I made it one. I encountered the culprit at the annual end-of-summer-vacation beach party. After a couple of beers, I decided that he wasn’t all that big. I introduced myself, and invited him behind a sand dune. Once there and alone, I realized he was big, really big. But I was fast. At first that speed seemed little more to me than an exit strategy. That’s when he swung. I ducked. He grabbed my head and I realized that for the first time in my life, I was about to be physically abused. It was a sick feeling. It was precicely then that thinking stopped, and something else took over.
Purely on instinct I dealt him a clean blow to the ribs and another to the midsection. He released me and I tagged him on the chin as he stepped back. To my amazement he fell to his knees. Then, in a textbook display of underage drinking’s affect on teenage hormones, I proceeded to beat him senseless.
Oh, I could have stopped when he asked me to stop, but was not about to let him stand up again. I should have stopped when he begged me to stop, for by then he couldn’t stand up again. Instead I beat him senseless. Was it fun? I dread to think it might have been.
The point of this, however, is that the big man’s arrogance left him wide open for a beating he should never have taken. He did not know how to fight defense! He was, after all, a bully. Defense was never an issue. He was all about the preemptive strike.
Upon returning to school I encountered the repercussions. My sister, my pretty and popular sister, could not get a date for a significant part of her junior year because all the boys thought her brother a violent maniac. She hated me for it. But it didn’t end there.
The bully became my new and unwanted best friend, following me around like a 230-pound pup.
I lost my position as varsity left fielder for having splintered the 3rd metacarpal bone in my right hand on the bully’s head.
Pretty girls who formerly avoided the bully suddenly felt — and several displayed — sympathy for his bandaged countenance while shooting me disapproving glances. He seemed richer for this. I, poorer. Was any of this in the plan? Plan? What plan?
If you were to say, big deal. This stuff happens every day at high schools all across America, you would be right. We grow up, and we grow out of it. Well, most of us grow out of it.
Consider then, yet another, uglier little slice of life, something that does not happen every day. But it happens. It happens because not all of us grow out of it.
Who among us has not heard the story of the woman who was constantly abused and brutally beaten by her husband? He was much larger, far more aggressive, and immensely more physically powerful than was she. As such, his small brain told him he was safe and could continue the abuse. Fun dominion. No possibility of reprisal.
What he failed to consider was that he had trapped her into a life no longer livable. She acted. Of course she did.
One evening as he slept-off yet another courage-inducing drunken binge, she duct-taped him into their bed, wrapping strip after strip of the sticky stuff around his arms and legs, and around the bed. She then prodded him awake and proceeded to beat him first with her fists, then with her high-heeled shoe, then with a baseball bat until he was dead. She drove off never to be heard from again. He rotted beneath the tape. When the police discovered the body, they estimated that the beating was administered over a period of twelve hours. More fun? Perhaps. Retribution? Absolutely.
The moral of these stories is simple. No one with a sound human mind remains helpless in the face of inevitable abuse unless of course he or she chooses to. In all of human history, few have chosen to. Sometimes retribution is swift, as with the bully, sometimes slower, as with the woman. But in every instance, victims can be driven beyond their concern for repercussions. That’s when even the physically weakest among us are moved to act.
I inflict these ugly little slices of life upon you gentle reader that it might illustrate how unplanned fighting among humans rarely yields the expected results. We call them repercussions. We too often ignore them before the fact in our quest for easy dominion.
It also illustrates quite typical human behavior. Bullies, even those who limit their violence to the abuse of women, children, and defenseless people, are still not entirely safe from reciprocal harm. Human abuse victims often have, or will surely find formidable and compassionate allies: friends and family. If that’s not enough, they WILL gain access to weapons when they need them desperately enough.
In the hands of the vindictive, these family, friends, and weapons will shift the balance of power. They will be brought to bear against the bully at some future date lest the abuse ends. Even a small ally can distract a big bully’s attention if he’s brandishing a club. Under such conditions, even the littlest guy can score a game punch. Hit the right place, and it’s the only punch he’ll need.
On a larger, but equally human scale, consider a defenseless little unarmed country. It is reeling from extended abuse by a big, dumb bully country that just wont leave it alone. Since countries are geographically fixed in place and cannot run away as people can, might not a country under assault befriend a big brother country of similar family name but of whom it formerly if only recently disdained? If the big brother was smaller than the bully, but meaner, might not the victimized country find reason to patch things up? Family is family, after all.
I’m speaking of course of Iraq and Iran and the greater Middle East as well.
In fact, if one looks back a few decades, back to a time before the Europeans came into the Middle East and drew borders and changed all the names, he would find that Iran was part of the very same nation state as Iraq. Their new names are made up. They are European Christian given names and nothing more. So, might not the N country find reason to sympathize with the Q country? After all, they are family. The only thing about which they formerly disagreed was religion. But America fixed that with this month’s US sponsored elections. They’re both under Shi’a control now.
Oh the media will tell you Iraq’s Shiite leaders are secular, unlike Iran’s Ayatollahs, and if we drink enough Bush Administration cool ade perhaps we’ll collectively find a reason why that matters. But lest we forget, the Shah and Saddam were secular too. By Middle Eastern standards even George W. Bush is secular.
That begs the question: So what? They’re all nuts. Shouldn’t that be what we focus on?
The point is this. With the emotional obstacle of religion out of the way, wouldn’t that family affinity grow warmer now that the U.S. sponsored elections have given power to the very same majority sect that so altered life in Iran: the big brother country?
(That’s right folks. We lost 1550 young troopers in order to turn Iraq into Iran. We did that by handing over control of Iraq to The Shi’a, the sect of the Ayatollah Khomeini.)
Amid the corporate press euphoria of elections in Iraq, elections where only 400 voters were killed, and amid the multiple orgasms in Washington because only 90 more Iraqi Shi’a were killed at Ashura observances this week, Russia, yes Russia, weighed in on the Nukes For Iran issue. On Saturday, February 19th, Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would help build an $800 million nuclear power plant in Iran. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A36611-2005Feb18?language=printer) The only condition anyone set is that Iran must give back the spent nuclear fuel when depleted.
This comes on the heels of some very troubling revelations. Two days earlier, Bush’s new CIA Director Porter Goss testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, that Bush’s war has turned Iraq into a training ground for terrorists. At the same hearing, Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency told the committee that “Our policies in the Middle East fuel Islamic resentment.” As evidence of this, Jacoby pointed out that attacks by a growing insurgency have increased by a staggering 240% in just the last year.(http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article8133.htm) And finally, thanks to us, Iraq is doing what it did not do, could not do, and would not do before we arrived: Iraq is now a breeding ground for al Qaida, and they’re both finally gonna get next to some nuclear weapons-grade plutonium.
But back to our story. If that new ally had nuclear weaponry, just think of the possibilities. Might not such a newfound friendship yield vindication against the abuser at some future date, repercussions notwithstanding, a date when the abuser is tired or sleeping or drunk with power? Or in a word: distracted. It takes post-MTV America about a millisecond to get distracted.
Further, this defensive behavior by our adversaries is normal behavior. It’s more normal certainly than liking to fight. It is also human, and it is just. Though the result of conflict is never predictable, the result of continued abuse is. There will be vindication coming out of the Middle East. It’s been going on in Palestine for 58 years so far. Now we’ve created another disaster in the region not another democracy.
Now, with Russia playing a hand by providing Iran with nuclear power, we’re in a high stakes game again, just like the Cold War.
This raises questions in my mind, questions the press seems to have overlooked, or been told not to ask. I’ll ask them here. They are, after all, obvious enough.
My first question is this: Does anyone really care what Iran does with its DEPLETED plutonium after a few billion years?
My second question is simpler still: We all know that Russia needs the $800 million they’re getting for building the nuke. That’s a given. But why does Iran, a country with more oil underneath it than a McDonald’s freedom fry, need a nuclear power plant at all? Hello is anyone out there?
Yet this is the country Iran – toward which we’ve driven Iraq with our stupid administration’s stupid war.
But I digress… how does all this relate to the subject of fighting and its aftermath?
Simple. In the realm of Earthly creatures, humans are slow and weak and not especially big. Yet we dominate. That’s because we are not programmed for helplessness. When it comes to fighting against humans, the only speed and strength that count are the speed and strength of the combatant’s mind. Only here does size matter.
Vindication is so simple and fundamental a form of human behavior so predictably primitive a response to abuse, that it might even be within the cognitive grasp of the few intellectually advanced Right-wing chickenhawks sucking at the teat of our current government. Yet their greed and power-lust prevents them seeing it. They will, though. We all will.
The human mind is a more formidable weapon than anything it can devise. Whatever the mind can devise, the mind can obviate.
Against the bodies of our adversaries, America’s weapons and warriors are devastating. But against their minds, even our nukes are reduced to so much irrelevant smoke. Add to this that our leaders are of inferior mind to their adversaries and are disdained by fully half of their own demonstrably better-informed population. Now, multiply that adversarial mind by 1.7 billion.
There are 1.7 billion Muslim minds out there in the world. They are being made drunk with hatred, hatred of their bigoted and persistent abuser: America. Their religious teachings deride violence. But so do those of the American armchair-warrior chieftain and his comparatively little group of never-bloodied war counselors who abuse them. We’ve all seen how malleable are religious teachings in the face of fear, hypocrisy, and hatred. Another few billion non-Muslim human minds despise our leaders because they realize they cannot share the planet with them very much longer and survive, nor can they assure the survival of their children at the hands of the Americans.
Simply stated, in the course of human events, our leaders are demonstrated failures, doomed to failure yet again. They’re just too dumb, greedy, and scared to see it. They will though. All of us on geographically fixed in place America will see it.
With billions of Chinese now clamoring for oil at any price, and the Euro kicking the Dollar’s ass everywhere else, no one will need America for very much longer. Oh, the French will smile and make nice to Condoleeza, and the idiots of the press will eat it up. But the EU members have already begun their economic neutralization of America. I see it every day. They do not consider an increasingly fundamentalist, ignorant, scientifically irrational society worth its place at the table of mankind. We’re a consumer of their goods, little more. As America spirals ever deeper into religious primitivism, we deliberately segregate ourselves from the modern world. Our economy is no longer the largest, our debt structure is unmanageable, our bonds are worthless to foreign markets, and our philosophies equally worthless to foreign minds. We’re boring, we’re boorish, and we’re broke. We’re also troublemakers. Nobody needs us any longer. We’re the big stupid guy who always starts the fight that gets himself and everyone with him, bounced from the party. Then, when the bully finally gets his ass kicked, he starts to suck up. Look at Bush and Condoleeza grinning their way across Europe even now.
And as for our war, did you know that behind the scenes we’ve been secretly negotiating with the Iraqi insurgents?(http://www.time.com/time/) I’ll bet that lets them know they can’t win. Better still, do our troops know that?
Sucking up. What a surprise.
So, fighting between humans is not quite the same thing as hitting your dog on the nose with a newspaper. Fighting between humans always yields repercussions. Most humans are vindictive not submissive. Eventually vindication overcomes concern for reprisal.
So one should not start a fight with innocent humans without an appreciation of those repercussions, and neither fighting nor shooting people should be fun when one combatant is neither willing, culpable, nor equally armed. In fact, shooting people should not be fun. Period.
Yet, when all is said and done, some guys just like to fight. They ignore the implications, and they invent justification for their actions. Consider what else General Mattis said:
“In Afghanistan you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.” (http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/marine_s_comments)
But is it justification? The general seems to be ignoring both reality and recent history.
For example, though I can find no evidence of any American generals having been killed in the Iraq or Afghanistan fighting, 1540 of their troops have died there recently.(http://icasualties.org/oif/Details.aspx) How much fun were they having? How much fun will they never get to have? How many more will die simply as retribution for the general’s misguided attempt at bravado.
For do his words not incentivize an already suicidal enemy fully as much as those of our president when the latter foolishly bragged, Bring em on! They do, and perhaps more so. A general does not compromise the welfare of his men by incentivizing the enemy, an enemy our government is ostensibly attempting to pacify, not defeat, at this stage of the fighting. He knows this and should keep it top of mind. His words are damaging and disappointing because they came from a warrior leader of men, not from the brain damaged, drug abusing, alcoholic deserter who said, Bring ‘em on. Mattis’s words have meaning, for General Mattis is a good and worthy officer. He has boldly spoken out against prisoner abuse, and torture and done so for reasons only a soldier can appreciate. Study his record, and you’ll know he’s been there. For this general, this good man and true, there is no excuse for so blatant a lapse of judgment.
Further, they are empty, self-serving words.
Remember, one million fighters died in the Russo/Afghan wars before we arrived.(http://www.rense.com/general61/hate.htm) Yet those remaining Afghan fighters never gave up. It was the Russians who gave up. They went broke and quit the fight. So one should weigh his words carefully before deriding this enemy’s manhood. Warrior generals know better than to ridicule their adversaries, however tiny those adversaries might be. By deriding the enemy’s courage, a commander trivializes the courage of those fighting that enemy his own troops. This fight ain’t over yet. Remember al Qaida? Stronger than ever, and we’ve outspent the Russians with no results. Osama bin Laden is still free. Are you?
As for Iraq, words alone cannot describe our crimes. Our actions have left over 66,000 innocent women and children dead in Iraq.(http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A7967-2004Oct28.html) We’ve left countless more people maimed.
As relates to these atrocities, methinks that each and every one of the women and children we’ve killed in the Middle East and everyone to whom they mattered, would have preferred that they be slapped around for a while longer at least until they, or other rational humans found a better solution to their plight, a solution short of killing them.
After all, isn’t that why were still in this fight, to free people from oppression? Or was that last week’s excuse? I’ve lost track.
Dom Stasi is Chief Technology Officer for an international media network. A pilot, Air Force veteran, and member of both the Planetary Society, and Center For Inquiry, he is a widely published science and technology writer. A father of two, Mr. Stasi lives in Los Angeles with his wife of 38 years.
On February 10, elections to municipal councils were held in the region around Alreyad or Riyadh, the capital of Al-Mamlaka al-Arabiya as-Saudiya, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The country has a population of 21 million, of whom 3/4 are citizens. The voter turnout was high, but women were excluded from the elections. Elections in other provinces will take place in March and April.
That the elections were only for local councils was a wise step for Saudi Arabia. Democracy grows best from the ground up, and local elections are closer to the people, allow for more participation, and create a culture of democracy that can then be extended to the national level.
There will be social pressure in the future to include women in the electorate. There have been elections in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries that are largely Islamic, where women did vote. Given the culture of Saudi Arabia, where women are not allowed to drive cars, the exclusion of women is not surprising, but will have to change, even if the government officials think they have to set up separate voting places for women. Women are also not allowed to be candidates in the current elections, and either the Saudi rulers will have to put up convincing religious reasons why women should not be in government, or else women will have to be allowed in next time.
Kings and dictators still rule much of the Arab world, so the recent elections in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Palestine are historically significant, however flawed they may be. We should not be so cynical that we overlook the positive influence these elections will have. There is much frustration among Arabs with their governing regimes, and either they will democratize or else face violent revolts. Arab kings may be heeding the lessons of the French and Russian monarchies, which refused to budge, and then collapsed in violent revolutions.
One of the problem in local government in Saudi Arabia as elsewhere is corruption. It is doubtful that the elections will greatly reduce corruption in city councils, since half the councils are still appointed by the central government. Frustration with continuing corruption will pressure the Saudi government to let all the council members to be elected.
Many of the winning candidates for the city council seats were Islamists. This will not be a problem, since Saudi Arabia already enforces religious laws as interpreted by the rulers. Perhaps, though, the elected council members may be able to alter the local enforcement.
The negative feelings of many Arabs towards the USA created fears that democracy would be seen as an American or European idea not suited to Arab and Islamic culture. But the enthusiasm for voting that has been shown by elections all over the Islamic world has shown that democracy is seen by most Muslims as natural and rightful, not a foreign imposition.
US government chiefs should avoid gloating about this election. The White House is touting the book by Natan Sharansky, The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror. Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident now living in Israel, has a good case for the influence of democracy. But Arabs need to grow democracy themselves from local grassroots rather than have mass national democracy imposed on them from Americans or Europeans. The Saudi government may have been responding in part to external elements, but it was mostly internal pressure that led to the elections and could continue to bring the kingdom ever closer to a constitutional monarchy with a democratic government. That is the only way to prevent the violent extremists and supremacists from taking control.
Copyright 2005 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
Genetic Manipulators Try Also to Manipulate Science
Recent News on Genetically Modified Foods
On June 24, European Union environment ministers moved closer to a moratorium on authorising new genetically modified organisms, at least until new rules can be agreed to reassure consumers of their safety.
“Until new rules are in place, we don’t want any new products to be released,” German Environment Minister Juergen Trittin told a press conference. “It will be a de facto moratorium, though legally-speaking we can’t call it that,” he said.
Ministers met in Luxembourg with the aim of agreeing revised rules for approving new GMOs amid growing public concern about the safety of gene technology following a number of food scares.
Environmental pressure group Greenpeace immediately welcomed the move towards a moratorium.”GMOs are an environmental threat and an unjustified experiment with food,” it said in a statement, adding it hoped the temporary halt to approvals was a step to a “consistent ban”.
FDA Documents Show They Ignored GMO Safety Warnings From Their Own Scientists
Lawsuit in U.S.A. Uncovers Disagreement Within FDA Over Safety of Biotech Foods
Agency Contradicted Own Experts in Approving Genetically Engineered Foods — Misrepresented Facts in Order to Promote U.S. Biotech Industry
Statement by Steven M. Druker, J.D., executive director of the Alliance for Bio-Integrity, coordinator of the lawsuit against the FDA to obtain mandatory safety testing and labeling of gene-spliced foods, and an attorney on the case (in collaboration with the Legal Department of the Center for Technology Assessment in Washington, D.C.).
In May 1998, a coalition of public interest groups, scientists, and religious leaders filed a landmark lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to obtain mandatory safety testing and labeling of all genetically engineered foods (Alliance for Bio-Integrity, et. al. v. Shalala). Nine eminent life scientists joined the coalition in order to emphasize the degree to which they think FDA policy is scientifically unsound and morally irresponsible. Now, the FDA’s own files confirm how well-founded are their concerns. The FDA was required to deliver copies of these files–totalling over 44,000 pages–to the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
The FDA’s records reveal it declared genetically engineered foods to be safe in the face of disagreement from its own experts–all the while claiming a broad scientific consensus supported its stance. Internal reports and memoranda disclose: (1) agency scientists repeatedly cautioned that foods produced through recombinant DNA technology entail different risks than do their conventionally produced counterparts and (2) that this input was consistently disregarded by the bureaucrats who crafted the agency’s current policy, which treats bioengineered foods the same as natural ones.
Besides contradicting the FDA’s claim that its policy is science-based, this evidence shows the agency violated the U.S. Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act in allowing genetically engineered foods to be marketed without testing on the premise that they are generally recognized as safe by qualified experts.
FDA Scientists Protest Attempt to Equate Genetic Engineering with Conventional Breeding
The FDA admits it is operating under a bias, “to foster” the U.S. biotech industry; and this directive advocates the premise that bioengineered foods are essentially the same as others. However, the agency’s attempts to bend its policy to conform with this premise met strong resistance from its own scientists, who repeatedly warned that genetic engineering differs from conventional practices and entails a unique set of risks. Numerous agency experts protested that drafts of the Statement of Policy were ignoring the recognized potential for bioengineering to produce unexpected toxins and allergens in a different manner and to a different degree than do conventional methods.
According to Dr. Louis Priybl of the FDA Microbiology Group, “There is a profound difference between the types of unexpected effects from traditional breeding and genetic engineering which is just glanced over in this document.” He added that several aspects of gene splicing “…may be more hazardous.”
Dr. Linda Kahl, an FDA compliance officer, objected that the agency was “…trying to fit a square peg into a round hole … [by] trying to force an ultimate conclusion that there is no difference between foods modified by genetic engineering and foods modified by traditional breeding practices.” She said: “The processes of genetic engineering and traditional breeding are different, and according to the technical experts in the agency, they lead to different risks.”
A recent study by eminent oncologists Dr. Lennart Hardell and Dr. Mikael Eriksson of Sweden, has revealed clear links between one of the world’s biggest selling herbicides, Monsanto Roundup, to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer.
In the study published in the 15 March 1999 Journal of American Cancer Society, the researchers also maintain that exposure to glyphosate ‘yielded increased risks for NHL.’ They stress that with the rapidly increasing use of glyphosate since the time the study was carried out, ‘glyphosate deserves further epidemiologic studies.’
Glyphosate, commonly known as Roundup, is the world’s most widely used herbicide. It is estimated that for 1998, over a 112,000 tonnes of glyphosate was used world-wide. It indiscriminately kills off a wide variety of weeds after application and is primarily used to control annual and perennial plants.
According to Sadhbh O’ Neill of Genetic Concern, ‘this study reinforces concerns by environmentalists and health professionals that far from reducing herbicide use, glyphosate resistant crops may result in increased residues to which we as consumers will be exposed in our food.’
‘Increased residues of glyphosate and its metabolites are already on sale via genetically engineered soya, common in processed foods. However no studies of the effects of GE soya sprayed with Roundup on health have been carried out either on animals or humans to date,’ she continued.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics from 1997 show that expanded plantings of Roundup Ready soybeans (i.e. soybeans genetically engineered to be used with the herbicide) resulted in a 72% increase in the use of glyphosate. According to the Pesticides Action Network, scientists estimate that plants genetically engineered to be herbicide resistant will actually triple the amount of herbicides used. Farmers, knowing that their crop can tolerate or resist being killed off by the herbicides, will tend to use them more liberally.
O’ Neill concluded: ‘The EPA when authorising Monsanto’s field trials for Roundup-ready sugar beet did not consider the issue. They considered this to be the job of the Pesticides Control Service of the Department of Agriculture. Thus nobody has included the effects of increasing the use of glyphosate in the risk/benefit analysis carried out. It is yet another example of how regulatory authorities supposedly protecting public health have failed to implement the ‘precautionary principle’ with respect to genetic manipulations.’
What do you suggest be done to preserve your safety and that of your children? Tell your opinion to The Progress Report!
During the three-week voyage, Gandhi was too unsure of his English to speak to the other passengers and shunned the dining room because he did not know how to use a knife and fork. He survived on fruits and sweets he had brought with him from home.
When he finally arrived in London, some Indian friends took charge of him and found him a place to stay. But he was homesick, and at night he wept, not for his wife, but for his mother.
Since he had vowed he would not touch meat, he tried living on bread and spinach, but this diet did not satisfy him. When Indian friends advised him to eat meat as they did, he replied simply, “A vow is a vow. It cannot be broken.” Instead, he set about hunting for a vegetarian restaurant, walking ten or twelve miles each day until he was finally hungry enough to enter the cheapest restaurant in sight and stuff himself on bread.
One day he finally found a vegetarian restaurant and enjoyed his first hearty meal since he had left home. “God had come to my aid,” he wrote.
Freed from fear of starvation, young Gandhi next set about becoming an English dandy. He bought costly new clothes and spent ten minutes in front of a huge mirror each morning brushing back his thick black hair, though there was nothing he could do about his ears, which thrust out from the sides of his head like jug handles. For further refinement he arranged for dancing and elocution lessons, bought a violin, and hired a music teacher.
After about three months of this Gandhi decided that “If my character made a gentleman of me, so much the better. Otherwise I should forego the ambition.” He cancelled his lessons, sold the violin, and got down to the serious business of studying law.
Gandhi was an earnest student, taking on more work than was required, and the more he studied, the more austere he became. He trimmed his expenses by walking ten miles to school each day to save carfare, moving into a cheaper room, and preparing his own breakfasts of oatmeal and cocoa and dinners of bread and cocoa. He continued to eat lunch in vegetarian restaurants.
All of his life, experiments with food were to be part of Gandhi’s experiments with truth. While in England, where food is sometimes tasteless anyway, he decided he could do without condiments, for “the real seat of taste [is] not the tongue but the mind.” He was an aggressive vegetarian and was elected to the executive committee of the local vegetarian society, which he founded. But he was so shy that he froze when he attempted to speak at meetings, and others had to read his speeches for him.
During Gandhi’s second year in England, two English brothers asked him to study the Bhagavad Gita, a part of the sacred Hindu scriptures, with them. A long poem of some seven hundred stanzas, written several hundred years before Christ was born, the Gita is a dialogue between the Hindu god Krishna and Arjuna, a warrior about to go into battle.
Gandhi had never before studied the Gita, either in English, or in its original Sanskrit, or in Gujarati, his own dialect. It glorifies action, renunciation, and worldly detachment, and its message seared Gandhi’s soul. He later called the Gita his “dictionary of conduct” and turned to it for “a ready solution of all my troubles and trials.”
At about the same time he was searching through the Gita, a Christian friend persuaded Gandhi to read the Bible. The Old Testament set him dozing, but the New Testament, particularly Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, evoked a spiritual recognition. “‘”Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man take away thy coat let him have thy cloak too.” The seeds of Gandhi’s philosophy of renunciation and nonviolence were thus planted almost simultaneously by sacred Hindu and Christian texts.
Gandhi easily passed his law examinations, was called to the bar on June 10, 1891, enrolled to practice in the High Court on the 11th, and sailed for home on the 12th. He did not spend a day more in England than he had to.
On the choppy passage back to India, twenty-one-year-old Gandhi was sick with doubt. He had learned some laws, but he had not learned how to be a lawyer. Besides, the laws he had learned were English; he still knew nothing of the Hindu or Moslem law of his own country. The despair he felt was doubled when his brother met him at the dock with the news that his adored mother had died while he was away. Gandhi returned to his family at Rajkot. He quarreled with his wife and played with his son, but he was unable to earn money to support them. Friends advised him to go to Bombay to study Indian law, but when he finally got his first case there he was too shy to cross-examine the opposing witnesses. He returned the fee and told his client to find another lawyer.
Desperate, he tried to get a job teaching English in a high school, but he was rejected as unqualified. Defeated, he left Bombay and returned to Rajkot. Gandhi’s brother, who was also a lawyer, routed enough paperwork to him to pay for his keep, but Gandhi hated the petty tasks, the local political intrigues, and the arrogance of the ruling British. Bitter and bewildered, he longed to escape from India. His opportunity unexpectedly came when a large Indian firm in Porbandar asked him to go to South Africa to assist in a long and complex legal case in the courts there. It would take about a year and he would be paid all his expenses plus a salary. Gandhi accepted with joy.
A second son had been born to Kasturbai since Gandhi’s return from England almost two years earlier. Gandhi bade his growing family farewell and in April, 1893, not yet twenty-four years old, he set sail “to try my luck in South Africa.” He found more than luck; he found himself, his philosophy, and his following.
This biography was written by Roberta Strauss Feuerlicht and is reprinted here with the permission of the copyright holder.
All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.
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The Kyoto Treaty on atmospheric pollution came into effect on February 16, 2005. The signatories have committed themselves to reduce carbon emissions below the 1990 level by 2012. Air pollution is believed to create a greater greenhouse effect, resulting in global warming, the rise of ocean levels, and possibly catastrophic changes in ocean currents, climates, ecologies and economies.
The U.S. Senate refused to ratify the treaty during the Clinton administration, and President Bush has rejected the treaty. Australia has also rejected the Kyoto Protocol, but Russia has joined it. One of the problems with the 1997 Kyoto Protocol is that it does not apply to developing economies, such as India and China. With these countries rapidly growing and creating a significant amount of the global pollution, a reduction in pollution in the USA will have little effect unless India and China and other developing countries get on board.
The governing chiefs of India and China argue that reducing pollution would stifle their economic development. They say that the U.S., Europe, and Russia had few pollution controls when their economies were industrializing, and so the developing economies today should not be handicapped with pollution reduction. Once these economies catch up with North America, Europe, and Japan in development, then they would join the treaty.
By that argument, India and China could adopt slavery to promote economic development, since the U.S. exploited slaves during its initial development. Nobody today argues that slavery would be justified in India and China just because the U.S. had it earlier. An evil committed in the past does not justify an evil in the present.
The most efficient way to reduce pollution has been well known in economics for 80 years. The economist Arthur Pigou showed how when there is a negative external effect such as pollution, the buyer is not paying the full social cost of the good. In effect, the user is subsidized. To eliminate the subsidy and make him pay the social cost, there needs to be a pollution charge on the sale of the good, ideally equal to the social cost of the pollution contributed by that item.
These charges or pollution taxes are called “Pigovian,” after Pigou. Every economics textbook discusses negative externalities such as pollution, and the Pigovian taxes that internalize the cost, illustrated with graphs showing the supply curves of the buyer’s cost and the social cost. With a Pigovian tax, the buyer’s cost equals the social cost. The polluter either avoids the charge by reducing pollution, or else pays the charge and passes on the cost to the buyer. At the higher price, less is bought, less is produced, so there is less pollution, and society is compensated for the damage.
Governing chiefs have economic advisors, and they are aware of the possibility of pollution charges to reduce gaseous emissions. But the chiefs of India, China, and the USA have rejected pollution charges. The argument that pollution reduction would damage their economies is false. The government revenue from pollution charges can be offset by a reduction of taxes on wages, capital, value added, and sales. These taxes burden the economy, so an increase in pollution charges accompanied by a reduction of punitive taxes would leave the overall tax burden the same, while reducing pollution.
The economic reality is that in the long run, there need not be any economic cost to reducing pollution. The political reality is that the governing chiefs do not want to enact pollution-reducing charges because the chiefs of the polluting industries have huge political clout.
For example, in China, there is growing air pollution from burning coal. The Chinese chiefs seek to decrease their dependence on oil by using more coal for energy. They regard the heavy pollution as an acceptable price for rapid economic growth. But they could grow just as rapidly by eliminating all their taxes on wages, capital, and sales and shifting public revenue to pollution charges and the tapping of land rent. They could also eliminate the corruption taxes with high penalties on governing officials who demand bribes. Production would be shifted to less polluting industries and methods. The chiefs of China have rejected this solution, because the coal-mining interests have great political clout.
Similarly, the USA could implement the Kyoto goals by shifting public revenue to pollution and land rent. But the US chiefs have rejected this. The coal and oil industry chiefs in the US have great political clout, and will not allow a tax shift that will reduce their economic dominance. The public is too ignorant and apathetic to demand the efficient solution to pollution.
Most environmentalists can also be blamed for the pollution problem. They cry “Kyoto! Kyoto!” but reject the efficient tax shift. They want to reduce pollution with regulations, by command and control. If you try to explain the economics to them, they refuse to listen. They present the public with the false choice between the environment and the economy. It seems that they prefer command and control to the reduction in pollution. It has been said that such stubbornly ignorant environmentalists are green on the outside and red on the inside.
Most “liberals” and “progressives” can also be blamed for air pollution. They say that the Social Security problem is not urgent, so why reform the system? Well, global warming is also important but not urgent, so why not postpone a solution? This is a false argument. If there is a long-term problem which gets more costly every year, we should solve it sooner rather than later.
Is air pollution causing global warming? Nobody knows for sure. Possibly we are in a natural cycle of warming. When the ice age ended, that global warming was not caused by industrial pollution. But an important rule of life is that it is best not to fool with mother nature. It is quite possible that pollution is contributing to an increase in global warming. The economic cost of catastrophic warming far exceeds the transition to efficient public revenues.
Most of the countries that have adopted the Kyoto Treaty are in fact not making progress towards reducing pollution. But there is no economic excuse for excessive pollution. Greedy special interests are exploiting public ignorance, and the typical human is apathetic, too busy making a living, dealing with oppression, and being entertained, to get aroused about global warming.
If you care, if you want to do something, and you think this reasoning make sense, then email this article to your liberal, progressive, conservative, radical, or libertarian friends. We need to educate the public, and you at least could have the satisfaction of helping if only just a little bit.
Copyright 2005 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
ACLU Lauds Introduction of Cornyn-Leahy ‘OPEN Government Act,’ Much-Needed Measure Would Increase Transparency, Access to Records
The U.S. Senate will consider S.394, the “Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National Government Act of 2005.” The bill won’t get anywhere without resistance from politicians who favor secrecy instead of accountability. If you support the bill, please ask your Senators to support it as well.
Here is a news report from the American Civil Liberties Union.
The American Civil Liberties Union applauded the introduction of a measure, sponsored by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), designed to increase the transparency of the government by strengthening the Freedom of Information Act.
“Senator Cornyn and the ACLU do not often agree, but, as his bill shows, a commitment to open government transcends political ideologies,” said Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU Washington Office. “This much-needed bill will help buck the growing trend of hiding the actions of the government from public scrutiny. Secrecy, not openness, all too often seems to be the dominant trend of agencies in recent times.”
The bill, called the Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National Government Act of 2005, or the “OPEN Government Act of 2005,” includes a series of much-needed corrections to policies that have eroded FOIA.
Specifically, the act would ensure that requesters have timely information on the status of their requests, set enforceable time limits for agencies to respond to requests, implement news media status rules that recognize the reality of freelance journalists and the Internet, and provide strong incentives — including both carrots and sticks — for agency employees to improve FOIA compliance. The act also includes a review of the new exemption in the Homeland Security Act for so-called critical infrastructure information.
The ACLU pointed to a growing secrecy trend as a need for reforms to increase transparency. As J. William Leonard, director of the National Archives’ Information Security Oversight Office told a House panel last year, “It is no secret that government classifies too much information,” and the amount of materials that should not be classified at all “is disturbingly increasing.”
The 9/11 Commission last year recommended that Congress declassify the top line of the intelligence budget to better “foster accountability” — a move that was ultimately was rejected. The ACLU also noted that it was through FOIA that it obtained documents detailing the abuses of detainees in Afghanistan and Abu Ghraib. Making targeted corrections to improve the operation of FOIA would make it a more effective accountability tool, the ACLU added.
Said Timothy H. Edgar, the ACLU counsel for national security policy, “Let us heed the call of James Madison and allow the people to arm themselves with the power knowledge gives. We strongly urge Congress to pass the OPEN Government Act of 2005 to restore some of that power.”
Congress Continues With Corruption and Failure — Handouts to Large Agribusiness Corporations
In the midst of a record-breaking budget deficit, how vital do you think it is to hand taxpayer money out to large agribusiness corporations, some of which are not even American?
Here is a news update from Taxpayers for Common Sense. TCS is the best organization that monitors excessive government spending, corruption and corporate welfare.
A Litmus Test on Spending
When it comes to congressional pork barrel spending, there has been no holier sacred cow than welfare for agribusiness corporations. So when President Bush announced a modest proposal to reduce individual farm payments to $250,000 per farm, he put his administration on a collision course with one of Congress’s fastest moving corruption trains.
Time and again, no matter how much lip service is paid to reining in these outdated farm programs, Congress buckles under the pressure and continues its blank check farm policy. The 1996 farm bill was supposed to reduce this spending and return the farm sector to the free market. Instead, total agribusiness handouts more than doubled. In 2002, turrning budget surpluses into huge deficits, Congress grew even worse, re-wrote the farm bill, and threw in everything but the kitchen sink. Instead of fixing the failures of the previous bill, Congress ended up passing the most expensive farm legislation in history. And guess who signed it into law?
Since 1998, average annual farm payments have gone from $7 billion to $18 billion. The FY 2006 budget estimates 2005 farm subsidy spending will top $24 billion. Worse, farm payments have become increasingly concentrated, flowing to fewer and fewer individual farmers. According to the USDA, only 8 percent of producers receive 78 percent of subsidies. At the top of the subsidy food chain, huge corporate operations receive payments in the millions, while the average for 80 percent of farmers is under $1,000.
Instead of keeping farmers on the land, these huge government payments to only the largest, most productive farms are forcing many small farmers out of business. Farm payments are based on production levels, so the bigger the farm, the bigger the government check. Large corporate operations are able to plant more crops, so they get the biggest slice of the subsidy pie. These large farms then turn around and use their outsized government checks to buy up even more farm land. Unable to compete, small farmers are left with no choice but to sell their land to the very operations that are putting them out of business.
Despite these inequities, members of Congress are defending the current status quo. Members of the House Agriculture Committee members already sent a letter to Budget Chairman Nussle demanding that he leave the last farm bill alone until its provisions expire in 2007.
President Bush’s willingness to take on these lawmakers and other entrenched interests that keep these subsidies flowing will prove a litmus test of his willingness to step up the plate, stick to his fiscal guns, and back his own budget. Otherwise this will be another case of empty sword-rattling and false starts that leave taxpayers holding the tab and America’s family farmers out in the cold.
For more information, contact Keith Ashdown at (202)-546-8500 ext. 110 or by email at email@example.com TCS is at www.taxpayer.net
The old currency of Iraq is defunct. It has become a collectible rather than a medium of exchange. The U.S. military administration is paying workers in U.S. dollars.
The interim government of Iraq will need to deal with money and banking. Here is a great opportunity to start fresh rather than copy the failing fiat-money policies now practiced throughout the world. Currency after currency in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and previously in Europe, has been inflated to a worthless nothing. The reason is very simple.
All countries today issue fiat money. That means the money is created by government command. Essentially, fiat money has no cost of production. If something can be created at no cost, its value can drop to just that, zero. As the central bank issues ever more fiat currency, the price level rises and the value of the currency falls.
Probably the ultimate best policy for the new government would be to do nothing about money, and just let people use whatever currency they wish. Various foreign currencies would circulate, and entrepreneurs would see an opportunity to issue private local money, and the best moneys would become widely circulated and become the media of exchange.
But the new government will most likely wish to issue a new Iraqi currency as a symbol of the new era and as a nationalist device. In that case, what kind of money would be best for the economy? It would be a great error to copy central banking and fiat money just because that is the current monetary fad. Aside from political pressures, central bankers just don’t have the knowledge to know how much money to issue for stability. This is unknowable.
Iraqis would not want to base their new currency on the dollar or the euro, but would want to have their own independent domestic money. To anchor the value, the Iraqi money should be convertible to some commodity at a fixed exchange rate. It should be a commodity that folks regularly use. I propose a currency based on postage.
The government of Iraq would issue “forever” postage stamps valid for domestic use indefinitely. These would be a good store of value, since a stamp could always be used to pay for postage. Then the government would issue a currency called the “post.” It would have a picture of the “forever stamp,” and a one-post bank note could always be exchanged for a “forever” stamp. The unit of account of the money would thus be the post.
Now the currency would have a stable anchor. The government would not want to over-issue, since the posts would be obligations to provide postage service. Inflation would be possible if the government subsidizes the postal service, but then this would create a real cost for the government. In contrast, with fiat money, inflation benefits the government chiefs as a tax on money holdings, easier to impose than taxes on income or sales. The incentive for the government would be to avoid inflation.
The post should be a voluntary currency. Banks should be free to use any currency and issue their own private currency, as would be any person or organization. There should be no deposit insurance, required reserves, or other restrictions on banking other than being honest. So long as the bank policy is fully disclosed, it would do business with willing customers as it pleases.
Besides stable money, Iraq needs free trade and a sound system of public revenue. The U.S. government has called on the United Nations to drop trade barriers with Iraq. Unfortunately, some European countries are resisting this, first wanting to settle how the oil will be handled. This is wrong. Let’s have immediate free trade for Iraq!
The U.S. government is also calling for the elimination of the national debt of Iraq. Again, some European countries, having loaned billions to the Iraqi dictatorship, now resist canceling the debt. If they want to impose conditions, they should just be ignored. The Iraqi debt should be declared wiped clean. It was the dictator’s debt, not the people’s.
The public revenue for the new Iraq should come only from the rent of natural resources. Oil profits, which is really the economic rent of that resource, should finance reconstruction. Local governance should be financed from the rental value of land. There is no need to impose any tax on wage income, sales, or business profits. Investment will rush to Iraq if it is not punished with taxes. If we are serious about freedom for Iraq, it should include economic freedom.
So that’s the formula for success in Iraq. Establish sound money based on a real commodity. Cancel the debt. Have free trade. Get public revenue from rent. The economics is easy. It’s the politics that’s hard.
Copyright 2003 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
As the U.S. continues to oppose cleaner energy and independence from foreign oil, the rest of the world moves ahead with new technologies and new jobs.
Here is a summary of the situation as of February 16, 2005, when the Kyoto Protocol became international law. The author writes from the perspective of Maryland, U.S., but his remarks apply generally.
by Mike Tidwell February 16, 2005
As of this day, 140 nations from around the world, including Japan and all of Europe, will begin helping Maryland stave off potential economic and environmental disaster.
All 140 want to protect Maryland’s fishing industry and farms and its many tourism assets. All 140 nations want to slow the spread of Lyme disease and West Nile virus while giving the world’s children cleaner air to breathe.
Today, the Kyoto treaty on global warming assumes the force of law in a majority of the world’s nations. By mandating a significant and precise reduction in greenhouse gas emissions through the adoption of clean energy and efficiency standards, the treaty will begin to protect Maryland — and every other state and country — from the negative impacts of global climate disruption.
The bad news is that our own country is not among the 140. Our own government, heavily dominated by a fossil-fuel lobby with close ties to the Bush administration, stands in near total diplomatic isolation. President Bush has rejected the Kyoto process, saying it would harm the U.S. economy. He’s committing our nation instead — unthinkably — to a policy of burning substantially more, not less, oil and coal and natural gas.
Some American so-called conservatives continue to ridicule the very idea of global warming. To these critics, Kyoto signatories such as Canada and Britain simply have it all wrong. Japan and New Zealand have swallowed “junk science.” Russia and South Africa are just plain suckers. So what are Americans to believe?
The Bush administration firmly settled this issue. Mr. Bush asked the National Academy of Sciences in 2001 to examine human-induced climate change. The NAS reply: The basic science of global warming is solid. Human activity will warm the planet 3 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, and the consequences could be alarming.
The Bush administration reported to the United Nations in 2002, using data from 10 federal agencies to conclude that serious warming was guaranteed in the next few decades because so much carbon dioxide — which can linger in the atmosphere for a century — had already been released from fossil-fuel combustion. As a result, Southeastern forests and snow-dependent Western rivers could be severely degraded. Assateague Island National Seashore could disappear because of a rise in sea level.
The rising sea level is accelerating the profound shoreline erosion all along the Chesapeake Bay. The Eastern Shore’s Blackwater Wildlife Refuge lost a third of its marshes in the 20th century largely because of a warming-induced rise in water. Maryland farmers report unprecedented floods and droughts in recent years, while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says agricultural yields could drop a shocking 42 percent in the state with more warming.
Marylanders may be grateful to the rest of the world for acting on global warming despite U.S. intransigence. But a problem remains: the U.S. generates 25 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases. So the 140 Kyoto nations cannot, by themselves, make the 80 percent cut in global greenhouse gases many scientists say is needed. The United States must join Kyoto immediately.
American and Australian industries are in danger of being left behind as Europe and Japan reap the financial and societal benefits of being first in the race to develop climate friendly technologies.
– Greenpeace International
Thankfully, America is blessed with great clean energy potential. Texas and the Dakotas have enough wind power that can be harnessed to provide America with all of its electricity. And 100 miles square of sunny Nevada desert covered with solar panels could do the same. Hybrid cars, meanwhile, are already here, and hydrogen cars may be on the way. And studies show that clean energy creates more jobs and more wealth than fossil-fuel use. In Pennsylvania, former coal miners are operating commercial wind farms.
Given all this, Mr. Bush’s assertion that the Kyoto process would harm our economy starts to sound merely like the whine of a doomed fossil-fuel industry — which it is. What could be a bigger threat to our economy and national security than global warming combined with our overdependence on foreign sources of oil that are quickly running out anyway?
Clearly there’s another way: a clean energy future. Today, 140 nations have opened the door. All we have to do is walk through it.
Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network based in Takoma Park, Maryland, U.S., is the author of Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana’s Cajun Coast.
Does someone other than you own the email messages that you send or receive? How about your private bank account information? How about your borrowing habits at your local library? Should others be allowed to sell or snoop that information without your approval?
Here are portions of a recent guest essay appearing in eWeek magazine.
For at least seven months last year, a hacker had access to T-Mobile’s customer network. He is known to have accessed information belonging to at least 400 customers — names, Social Security numbers, voice mail messages, SMS messages, photos — and probably had the ability to access data belonging to any of T-Mobile’s 16.3 million U.S. customers. But in its fervor to report on the security of cell phones, and T-Mobile in particular, the media missed the most important point of the story. The security of much of our data is not under our control.
This is new. A dozen years ago, if someone wanted to look through your mail, they would have had to break into your house. Now they can just break into your ISP remotely and download millions of messages. Ten years ago, your voice mail was on an answering machine in your house; now it’s on a computer owned by a telephone company. Your financial data is on Web sites protected only by passwords. The list of books you browse, and the books you buy, is stored in the computers of some online bookseller. Your affinity card allows your supermarket to know what food you like. Data that used to be under your direct control is now controlled by others.
We have no choice but to trust these companies with our privacy, even though the companies have littleincentive to protect that privacy. T-Mobile suffered some bad press for its lousy security, nothing more. It’ll spend some money improving its security, but it’ll be security designed to protect its reputation from bad PR, not security designed to protect the privacy of its customers.
This loss of control over our data has other effects, too. Our protections against police abuse have severely eroded. The courts have ruled that the police can search all your data without a warrant, as long as that data is held by others. The police need a warrant to read the e-mail on your computer, but they don’ t need one to read it off the backup tapes at your ISP. The courts have affirmed many times that there’s no reasonable expectation of privacy with regard to data held by third parties.
This isn’t a technology problem; it’s a legal problem. The courts need to recognize that in the information age, virtual privacy and physical privacy don’t have the same boundaries. We should be able to control our own data, regardless of where it is stored. We should be able to make decisions about the security and privacy of that data and have legal recourse should companies fail to honor those decisions. And just as the Supreme Court eventually ruled that tapping a telephone was a Fourth Amendment search, requiring a warrant — even though it occurred at the phone company switching office — the Supreme Court must recognize that reading e-mail at an ISP is no different.
Bruce Schneier is chief technology officer of Counterpane Internet Security Inc.
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If you like reading appalling stories about welfare queens who abuse the system and get money that they don’t really need from the taxpayers, well, here is a gem for you.
by Jim Hightower
Charles Schwab is one lucky duck. Not only is he a billionaire stockbroker, heading the Wall Street firm that bears his family name, but he also has his own private duck-hunting club on 1,500 acres of wetlands in picturesque Northern California.
He calls his place Casa de Patos, which is Spanish for House of Ducks. However, ducks don’t read, so they’re unaware that Charlie named his place for the birds and that they’re supposed to swoop down from their migratory path to get a close enough for Schwab and his duck-loving friends to shoot at them. Also, while you and I know from his ubiquitous ads that Charles is a hot-shot Wall Street stockbroker, your average duck doesn’t watch a lot of TV and wouldn’t know Charles Schwab from a cotton swab.
But Schwab knows that his feathered friends are attracted to rice fields, so, to lure more of the game birds within gunshot range, Charles has had much of Casa de Patos planted in rice. Charles Schwab, billionaire duck man, discovered the federal farm program. Specifically, his legal eagles determined that, as a rice grower, Schwab was eligible for rice subsidies from us taxpayers. Lots of subsidies.
The bottom line here is that you and I, Mr. and Ms. Joe Schmoe Taxpayer, fork over some $500,000 a year in federal crop-support funds so Schwab can be sure that guests at his exclusive hunting club have plenty of ducks to kill. The farm program was originally meant to help struggling small farmers — not a pleasure-seeking Wall Streeter with a net worth of some $4 billion. With program perverters like Schwab, we taxpayers are sitting ducks.
Jim Hightower’s latest book is If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote, They Would Have Given Us Candidates. This article appeared in the Texas Observer.
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We are witnessing the return of monarchy throughout the world, where the position of chief of government is hereditary. In North Korea, Kim Jong Il inherited leadership from his father, Kim Il Sung. In Syria, Bashar Assad inherited the presidency from his father Hafez Assad. In the Congo (former Zaire), Joseph Kabila took charge after the death of his father, Laurent Kabila. Their leadership was affirmed by the ruling parties of both countries, but clearly the filial relationship gave them the power.
In the United States of America, we now have George W. Bush as president, son of former president George Herbert Walker Bush. His ascent to the presidency was no doubt a consequence of being the son of the former president, although this does not detract from his own talents and efforts. In these cases, the sons may well become good leaders. Nevertheless, we should note the pattern that may be developing: the monarchy is back!
In the case of the USA, the people still need to vote in order for the sons and daughters of government chiefs to achieve power. But their candidacies are given a vital boost by their name and filiation. The Kennedies are a prime example, as is indeed former Vice President and presidential candidate Al Gore. The US had a previous father-son presidency in the 1800s, with John Adams and John Quincy Adams.
In the case of the more authoritarian regimes, the accession to power by the sons of the chief of government has created de facto monarchies. The age of monarchies ended after World War I, when the great empires of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, and Turkey collapsed and became republics. The Chinese empire had already fallen. Their monarchies were already crumbling, but the kings and emperors were under the delusion of great power and foolishly sought to extend their holdings, only to crack under defeat.
So now it is no longer in fashion to anoint oneself a king or emperor, as Napoleon did. Going around wearing a crown would look silly. But when the sons of autocrats inherit the position, there is a de facto monarchy in place, an actual hereditary rule even though not de jure, in law. So far we have second- generation monarchical rule; we will see if these regimes last long enough for the third generation to take over.
Given that a country has a dictator, rule by the offspring is not the worst option. A favorable feature of monarchy is that it provides for an orderly succession, avoiding a war among conflicting claims to power. There is some continuity of policy, and often hope for more enlightened rule, as we are seeing indeed in North Korea, where both Koreas are taking steps towards peace. There is a greater chance of progressive change when a young dictator takes control than when the same old oligarchy chooses a new chief of state to continue the same old decrepit policies.
Still, having power remain with the family is ultimately unhealthy for governance and liberty. We get an aristocracy with privileges, power, and wealth, and the mass of people perhaps propagandized into king-worship but still left with high costs of government tyrants, a poorer standard of living, and loss of liberty.
The root of the problem is political power concentrated in a central government. This is a treasure that becomes the possession of the ruler, who then naturally wishes to pass on to his children. The remedy is a decentralization of power, down to villages, towns, cities, counties, and other localities. When power rests mainly in neighborhood districts and other small local groups and is then delegated upwards by choice, the head of state is no longer such as glittering prize. And if the child of the chief should become the new chief, it is not so important.
Centralized power is what we have inherited from conquest. The continuous enforcement of centralized power itself creates a type of monarchy that all countries today are afflicted with.
Eventually the people must take charge and undo the structures from conquest and recognize the sovereignty of each human individual. Then we can delegate power by choice to small local councils, who would by choice delegate some powers to higher-level authorities. Until we have decentralized power based on individual choice, we will continue to see elite families enjoy power as an inherited privilege.
What is your opinion? Share it with The Progress Report! Copyright 2001 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
The government of the United States of America is supposed to be by the people and of the people, as Lincoln said, but to an ever greater degree the USA is being ruled by the diktat of presidential executive orders.
Presidential rule began with Lincoln during the Civil War and then was vastly expanded by Theodore Roosevelt. The trend of expanding presidential rule has accelerated under president Clinton. Rather than prevent this transfer of authority to the executive branch, Congress has facilitated it by delegating power to the presidency, and the courts have usually failed to stop it.
Just because the president is elected by the people does not imply that his decrees are of the people. Under the USA Constitution, the president is to execute the laws passed by Congress, not make law by executive decrees.
The courts did stop one executive order. In 1995 Clinton issued Executive Order 12954 to prohibit some federal contractors from hiring replacement workers during a strike, despite a 1938 Supreme Court decision that an employer may do so. Congress had rejected legislation that would have enacted such a prohibition. This executive order thus overruled both the Supreme Court and Congress. The U.S. Court of Appeals found that this executive order amounted to legislation, and struck it down.
In 1998 Clinton issued EO 13083 to redefine “federalism,” the relationship between the federal and state governments. The order justified federal action to solve “national” problems. Facing resistance from state governors, Clinton suspended the order.
Typically, however, executive orders have been used to assert and expand federal power, including military power. The war in Yugoslavia was waged by executive order, without the declaration of war required by the Constitution. In June 1998, EO 13088 declared a national emergency and prohibited trade with Yugoslavia. The bombing of Yugoslavia took place without Congressional authority. In April, EO 13119 designated Yugoslavia and Albania as a war zone, and EO 13120 ordered reserve units to active duty.
The precedent for such presidential war making goes back to Abraham Lincoln, who initially fought the Civil War without Congressional approval, let alone a Congressional declaration of war, as well as violating the authority given to Congress to raise and support armies. In August 1861 Congress ratified the orders of Lincoln. Unfortunately, as noted by a report by the Cato Institute, “the Supreme Court has upheld the legality of presidential actions ratified by Congress after the fact” (Policy Analysis no. 538).
Thus the Civil War actions set the stage for the later expansion of presidential power by executive order decrees, just as Lincoln and Congress also established the income tax, the military draft, and the nationalization of the currency due to the war.
President Wilson greatly expanded presidential rule, being the first president to declare a national emergency, which activated laws previously passed. He declared an emergency on February 5, 1917, two months before Congress declared war. Wilson then created federal agencies with presidential directives.
Presidential power expanded again under Franklin Roosevelt. On March 6, 1933, Roosevelt issued a proclamation declaring a state of national emergency. The United States officially remained in a state of emergency until 1978. But President Carter declared a new national emergency in 1979 during the Iranian hostage crisis, and the USA has been in an official state of emergency ever since! In fact, there are 13 concurrent states of emergency today.
There are two proposals in Congress to limit executive orders, HCR 30 and HR 2655 by Representatives Paul and Metcalf. HR 2655 would terminate emergency declarations and vest emergency declarations in Congress. The bill also requires presidential directives to specify their legal basis.
Passing this bill would go a long way to restoring the separation of powers intended by the US Constitution. But a more permanent reform is needed to prevent such usurpation of power. A radical decentralization of power and voting is needed in order to create a structure where the power truly rests with the people, not with the head of state.
(For more information, see the Cato Institute’s Policy Analysis No. 358 (October 28, 1999), “Executive Orders and National Emergencies: How Presidents Have Come to ‘Run the Country’ by Usurping Legislative Power,” by William J. Olson and Alan Woll.)
What is your opinion? Share it with The Progress Report! Copyright 1999 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
Social Security reform is now hot. The president is proposing shifting some of the Social Security taxes to private accounts. But there is much confusion about the two aspects to reforming Social Security.
The first problem with social security is that it is out of balance. There is at present a surplus because of the large baby-boom population still working. They will be retiring and getting social security payments in ten years. The projections depend on the growth of wages and on expected retirement ages, but around 2020, Social Security will start paying out more than it takes in, depleting its treasury-bond trust fund. Around 2040, the trust fund will be depleted, and Social Security will have a deficit.
The deficit can be dealt with in several ways. 1) The federal government can finance it. 2) SS benefits can be cut. 3) SS taxes can be increased. 4) Massive immigration of young workers can increase the revenues. 5) The entire SS system is privatized, the transition financed by a national tax on land values.
Politically, the most likely way the system is put in balance will be a combination of the first three, the rate of increase in future benefits reduced by using the increase in consumer prices instead of wages as the index. A bad way to decrease benefits would be to tax social security income even more than it is now. Workers’ wages are already taxed, and SS is supposed to be wages returned to workers at retirement, so taxing SS income is deeply unjust.
The second problem with Social Security is that it reduces savings and provides less retirement income than private accounts. To compare Social Security with a fully private account, consider a 20 year old man born in 1950 who will work for 45 years at $40,000 per year, with a real net return on investments of 4 percent. (The numbers assume zero inflation; with inflation, the numbers would just be higher, but the relative amounts would be the same.) The Social Security calculator says he would get $13,500 per year starting at age 65. (Enter 1/1/1950 for the date of birth, $40,000 for income, 1/2015 for the retirement date, and use today’s dollars.) The monthly benefit is $1149, for an annual income of $13,788.
Now let’s calculate putting 12 percent of the wage into a private account (I am taking out the portion of SS that pays for medicare). This includes the employee and employer portion of social security. With an income of $40,000 per year, the monthly investment is $400. Assume a modest tax-free real rate of return on investment of 4% (with inflation subtracted out). On retirement, the investment would have grown to $605,800, which would be put into an immediate annuity. (To calculate the amount, go to savings calculator and enter zero for the initial amount, 400 for monthly savings, 4 for interest rate, and 45 for term of investment.)
Now go to the annuity calculator. Use California for the state, 65 for the age, male for the gender, and ignore the spouse settings. Enter $605,800 for the dollar amount. The result is a single lifetime income (with no beneficiaries) of $3870 per month, or $46,440 per year. The ratio of private to SS income is 46440/13788, or 3.4 times higher! The annuity income is a bit less for women, since they live longer, but still much greater than social security.
The numbers are clear. Private accounts would be much better for a worker just starting his career. Private accounts are also better for the economy, since they increase the amount of savings and investment, and therefore increase the growth of the economy.
The problem is the transition, since folks already in the system would still be drawing out money, with no new money coming in. The president’s proposal for a partial privatization would borrow the money, adding to the federal deficit.
But the transition could be financed by a national tax on land value, paid by the states in proportion to their population. This constitutional method of public finance was used several times by the federal government in the first decades after independence. The War of 1812 was financed by such a direct tax. The SS spends about $500 billion per year. The total amount of land value in the U.S. is at least $10 trillion (not counting the rental value of oil, minerals, the radio spectrum, and other natural resources).
A national land value tax of $500 billion would be economically feasible. The first effect would be a dramatic reduction of real estate prices, as taxing most of the rent would greatly deflate land prices. But unlike taxes on wages and capital, the effect of a land-value tax on the economy would be positive, since it would put idle land to full use. A taxed investor will invest less, and a taxed worker will work less, but taxed land will produce more, not less, because the idle land pays the same tax as a plot put to its best productive use. A more productive economy will then raise land rents, while the money that formerly went into SS and land purchases would now be invested in more capital goods, better worker skills, and improved technology. The US economy would surpass China in growth, further raising wages and rent.
Those who recently bought land would rightly point out that they how have to pay a tax on their deflated land value while also having to pay their old mortgage. Those who recently sold land would gain at the expense of current owners. The economic hardship by some landowners and the associated political opposition could be overcome by having the federal government sell special land-tax bonds. The bond revenue would be used to compensate landowners for the loss of land value. The bonds would be perpetual, without a maturity date, and the interest income would be tax-free. Their face value would be adjusted annually for price inflation, but the interest rate on the face value would gradually diminish to zero over 40 years. There would be a market for the bonds, and bondholders could sell the bonds at any time.
After the transition to private accounts is complete and social security is abolished, its insurance aspects either privatized or shifted to other programs, the land-value tax would be used to buy back the bonds. With a rapidly growing economy, increasing rent, and diminishing interest payment, the bonds would gradually have a reduced market price and would eventually all be redeemed by the government, and then the land-value tax would replace the federal income tax.
President Bush stated that he is open to all ideas for reforming Social Security. So I hereby propose the use of a national land-value tax to finance shifting to private accounts. But I don’t expect the President or Congress to support this plan, or even discuss it. No major newspaper will even bring it up. They will refuse to discuss it because it is politically infeasible, and it is politically infeasible because there is no public support, because the major media will refuse to mention it. Nevertheless, let the record should show that it was proposed, and could have solved the problem while boosting the economy.
There is hope, though. If you think this is a good idea, write a letter to your local newspaper. Discuss it with your friends. The Social Security problem would be just the right opportunity for a shift not only to private retirement accounts but also to eventually shift federal taxation from income to land value. Social Security is a lemon. Let’s make lemonade!
Copyright 2005 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
Children Punished for Refusing to Watch TV Commercials
Local school officials are punishing children who refuse to watch TV commercials. This is a true story.
Commercial Alert and Obligation Inc. sent a letter today to Ohio Governor Bob Taft asking him not to allow local school systems to punish children who won’t watch Primedia’s Channel One in the public schools. According to the Toledo Blade, two Ohio children were held in a juvenile detention center on October 6th for refusing to watch Channel One and TV in public school. Primedia’s Channel One is a controversial televised in-school marketing program. The letter follows.
Dear Governor Taft:
Local school officials are using Ohio’s compulsory education laws to force children to watch commercial television and advertising in school, including the controversial marketing program Channel One. We urge you to take a stand for children and stop this abuse of the authority of the state.
According to the Toledo Blade, two Ohio children, D.J. and Carlotta Maurer, spent October 6th in the Wood County Juvenile Detention Center because they refused to watch Channel One and other televised programming at Perrysburg Junior High School. They refused because they choose not to take in the degraded commercial culture that Channel One and media corporations deliver to children each day.
Channel One does not exist to help or teach kids. It exists to help corporations that want to market to kids. As a Channel One executive once said, “The biggest selling point to advertisers [is] . . . we are forcing kids to watch two minutes of commercials” each day.
Ohio’s compulsory education laws exist for the nurture of children, not their exploitation. But Primedia’s Channel One has been able to harness the coercive arm of the State of Ohio to force schoolchildren to watch its daily fare. This includes “lite” news and advertisements for violent entertainment such as “Supernova,” “The Mummy,” and James Bond “The World is Not Enough,” as well as junk food, video games and low-grade sensuality. That is a blatant misuse of state power. It is not the proper role of the schools or the state to promote such products and values to innocent and vulnerable schoolchildren. Certainly, the laws of the state should never be used to compel children to subject themselves to such promotion. When the government sends children to a juvenile detention center because they don’t want to watch advertising, that is both Orwellian and more than a little sick.
The public schools ought to be a sanctuary from the noxious aspects of the commercial culture. Many parents are rightly worried about the way the commercial culture saturates their kids lives with degraded values and nonstop seductions.
We strongly urge you to take a stand for parents and remove Channel One from Ohio’s public schools. This would be a clarion call for those parents who wish their children to grow up free from the depredations and enticements of the media corporations and their advertisers.
Gary Ruskin, Director, Commercial Alert Jim Metrock, President, Obligation, Inc.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP: Please ask Ohio Governor Bob Taft to 1) Get Channel One out of Ohio’s public schools; and, 2) Make sure that local school systems stop punishing children who won’t watch TV or Primedia’s Channel One in the public schools.
Governor Taft’s email address is Governor.Taft@das.state.oh.us his fax is (614) 466-9354 and phone is 614-466-3555.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Commercial Alert opposes corporate exploitation of children and the excesses of commercialism, advertising and marketing. Commercial Alert’s web page is at http://www.commercialalert.org/
Amazing, isn’t it? What’s your opinion? Tell your views to The Progress Report!
what you do when you see economies as part of the ecosystem, following feedback loops and storing up energy. Surplus energy – fat or profit – enables us to produce and reproduce. To recycle society’s surplus, the commonwealth, geonomics would replace taxes with land dues (charged to users of sites and resources, including the EM spectrum, and extra to polluters), and replace subsidies with rent dividends to citizens (a la Alaska’s oil dividend). Without taxes and subsidies to distort them, prices become precise, reflect accurately our costs and values; then, motivated by no more than the bottom line, both producers and consumers make sustainable choices. While no place uses geonomics in its entirety, some places use parts of it, most notably a shift of the property tax off buildings, onto locations. Shifting the property tax drives efficient use of land, in-fills cities, improves the housing stock, makes homes affordable, engenders jobs and investment opportunities, lowers crime, raises civic participation, etc – overall it makes cities more livable. Geonomics – a way to share the bounty of nature and society – is something we can work for locally, globally, and in between.
about the money we spend on the nature we use. It flows torrentially yet invisibly, often submerged in the price of housing, food, fuel, and everything else. Flowing from the many to the few, natural rent distorts prices and rewards unjust and unsustainable choices. Redirected via dues and dividends to flow from each to all, “rent” payments would level the playing field and empower neighbors to shrink their workweek and expand their horizons. Modeled on nature’s feedback loops, earlier proposals to redirect rent found favor with Paine, Tolstoy, and Einstein. Wherever tried, to the degree tried, redirecting rent worked. One of today’s versions, the green tax shift, spreads out of Europe. Another, the Property Tax Shift, activists can win at the local level, building a world that works right for everyone.
a way to redirect all the money we spend on the nature we use – trillions of dollars annually. We can’t pay the Creator of sites and resources and are mistaken to pay their owners this biggest stream in our economy. Instead, as owners we should pay our neighbors for respecting our claims to land. Owners could pay in land dues to the public treasury, a la Sydney Australia’s land tax, and residents could get back a “rent” dividend, a la Alaska’s oil dividend. We’d pay for owning sites, resources, EM spectrum, or emitting pollutants into the ecosphere, then get a fair share of the recovered revenue. The economy would finally have a thermostat, the dividend. When it’s small, people would work more; when it’s big, they’d work less. Sharing Earth’s worth, we could jettison counterproductive taxes and addictive subsidies. Prices would become precise; things like sprawl, sprayed food, gasoline engines, coal-burning plants would no longer seem cheap; things like compact towns, organic foods, fuel cells, and solar powers would become affordable. Getting shares, people could spend their expanded leisure socializing, making art, enjoying nature, or just chilling. Economies let us produce wealth efficiently; geonomics lets us share it fairly.
a neologism for sharing “rent” or “social surplus” – the money we spend on the nature we use. When we buy land, such as the land beneath a home, we typically pay the wrong person – the homeowner. Instead, since land cost us nothing to make and is the common heri-tage of us all, rather than pay the owner, we should pay ourselves, our neighbors, our community. That is, we should all pay land dues to the public treasury, then our government would pay us land dividends from this collected revenue. It’s similar to the Alaska oil dividend, almost $2,000 last year. Indeed, the annual rental value of land, oil, all other natural resources, including the broadcast spectrum and other government-granted permits such as corporate charters, totals several trillion dollars each year. It’s so much that some could be spent on basic social services, the rest parceled out as a divi-dend, as Tom Paine suggested, and taxes (except any on natural rents) could be abolished, as Thomas Jeffer-son suggested. Were we sharing Earth by sharing her worth, territorial disputes would be fewer, less intense, and more resolvable.
an answer for Jonathan of the Green Party (Nov 7): “What does ‘share our surplus’ mean?”
Our surplus is the values that society generates synergistically. It’s the money we spend on the nature we use: on land sites, natural resources, EM spectrum, ecosystem services (assimilating pollutants). It’s also the money we pay to holders of government-granted privileges like corporate charters. We could share it by paying for the nature we use and privileges we hold to the public treasury then getting back a fair share of the recovered revenue. Used to be, owners did owe rent (“own” and “owe” used to be one word). And presently, some lucky residents do get back periodic dividends: Alaska’s oil dividend and Aspen Colorado’s housing assistance. Doing that, instead of subsidizing bads while taxing goods, is the essence of geonomics.
Jonathan: “Is local currency what you mean?”
Editor: It’s not. Community currency is a good reform, but every good reform pushes up site values. That makes land an even more tempting object of speculation. Now, any good will eventually do bad by widening the income gap – until you share land values.
a new policy from a new perspective. Once your worldview shifts — so that vacant city lots are no longer invisible — then epiphany. “Of course! Why didn’t I see it before?” Once you do see the emptiness and what damage it does, how can you ever go back to the old paradigm?
the study of the money we spend on the nature we use. When we pay that money to private owners, we reward both speculation and over-extraction. Robert Kiyosaki’s bestseller, Rich Dad’s Prophecy, says, “One of the reasons McDonald’s is such a rich company is not because it sells a lot of burgers but because it owns the land at some of the best intersections in the world. The main reason Kim and I invest in such properties is to own the land at the corner of the intersection. (p 200) My real estate advisor states that the rich either made their money in real estate or hold their money in real estate.” (p 141, via Greg Young) When government recovers the rents for natural advantages for everyone, it can save citizens millions. Ben Sevack, Montreal steel manufacturer, tells us (August 12) that Alberta, by leasing oil & gas fields, recovers enough revenue to be the only province in Canada to get by without a sales tax and to levy a flat provincial income tax. While running for re-election, provincial Premier Ralph Klein proposes to abolish their income tax and promises to eliminate medical insurance premiums and use resource revenue to pay for all medical expense for seniors. After all this planned tax-cutting and greater expense, they still expect a large budget surplus. Even places without oil and gas have high site values in their downtowns, and high values in their utility franchises. Recover the values of locations and privileges, displace the harmful taxes on sales, salaries, and structures, then use the revenue to fund basic government and pay residents a dividend, and you have geonomics in action.
in part the Great Green Tax Shift maxed out. Economically, taxing pollution and depletion does reduce pollutants and extracts – and thus the tax base; plus such taxes are regressive, requiring a safety net. On the other hand, collecting site rent is progressive and generates a revenue surplus payable as a dividend to residents, which can serve as the safety net. Environmentally, taxes on waste and extraction do not drive efficient use of land, as does getting site rent.
more transformation than reform; it’s a step ahead. Harvard economics students this year did petition to change the curriculum, in the wake of the English who caught the dissension from across The Channel. French reformers, who fault conventional economics for conjuring mathematical models of little empirical relevance and being closed to critical and reflective thought, reject this “autism” – or detachment from reality – and dub their offering “post-autistic economics”. Not a bad name, but again, academics define themselves by what they’re not, not by what they are, unlike geonomists. We track rent – the money we spend on the nature we use – and watch it pull all the other economic indicators in its wake. We see economies as part of the ecosystem, similarly following natural patterns and able to self-regulate more so than allowed, once we quit distorting prices. To align people and planet, we’d replace taxes and subsidies with recovering and sharing rents.
a manual. The world did not come without a way for people to prosper, and the planet to heal and stay well; that way is geonomics. Economies are part of the ecosystem. Both generate surpluses and follow self-regulating feedback loops. A cycle like the Law of Supply and Demand is one of the economy’s on/off loops. Our spending for land and resources – things that nobody made and everybody needs – constitutes our society’s surplus. Those profits without production (remember, nobody produced Earth) can become our commonwealth. To share it, we could pay land dues in to the public treasury (wouldn’t oil companies love that?) and get rent dividends back, a la Alaska’s oil dividend. Doing so let’s us axe taxes and jettison subsidies. Taxes and subsidies distort price (the DNA of exchange), violate quid pro quo by benefiting the well-connected more than anyone else, reinforce hierarchy of state over citizen, and are costly to administer (you don’t really need so much bureaucracy, do you?). Conversely, land dues motivate people to not waste sites, resources, and the ecosystem while rent dividends motivate people to not waste themselves. Receiving this income supplement – a Citizens Dividend – people can invest in their favorite technology or outgrow being “economan” and shrink their overbearing workweek in order to enjoy more time with family, friends, community, and nature. Then in all that free time, maybe we could figure out just what we are here for.