We are Hanno Beck, Lindy Davies, Fred Foldvary, Mike O'Mara, Jeff Smith, and assorted volunteers, all dedicated to bringing you the news and views that make a difference in our species struggle to win justice, prosperity, and eco-librium.
This 2013 excerpt of EcoWatch, Aug 9, is by Laura Beans.
Hundreds of participants have banded together in Nez Perce ancestral land and a Wild and Scenic River Corridor to the Montana border for nightly tar sands protests, including members of the Nez Perce Nation and Idle No More. Idaho Rivers United (IRU) and the Nez Perce Tribe filed a joint lawsuit in federal court in Boise, ID, to stop the megaload delivery truck carrying tar sands equipment.
The water evaporator of the Oregon-based shipper Omega Morgan had received one permit, but bypassed approval by the U.S. Forest Service and Federal Highway Administration. The Forest Service even raised objections. Still, the firm tried to slip its megaload through unnoticed.
The U.S. Forest Service’s failure to stop a megaload from entering the river corridor was “arbitrary, capricious, (and) an abuse of discretion.”
Police muscle is escalating as each evening blockade presses on, using their cars and phalanx tactics and broke the blockade for the megaload truck.
WIRT is calling on the Forest Service to “step up to the plate with fed marshals, arrest the driver and impound the rig,” which is traveling without a permit.
Gas injections used to enhance oil production linked to quakes in the Permian Basin.
This 2013 excerpt of Nature, Nov 4, is by Jeff Tollefson.
First came reports of earthquakes caused by hydraulic fracturing and the reinjection of water during oil and gas operations. Now US scientists are reporting tremors may have been caused by the injection of carbon dioxide during oil production. Since 2006, a series of tremors has rattled Snyder, Texas, which lies in the oil-rich Permian Basin.
The evidence centres on a sudden burst of seismic activity around an old oil field in the Permian Basin in northwest Texas. From 2006 to 2011, after more than two decades without any earthquakes, seismometers in the region registered 38 tremors, including 18 larger quakes ranging from magnitude 3 to 4.4. The tremors began just two years after injections of significant volumes of CO2 began at the site, in an effort to boost oil production.
The earthquakes have rattled residents in the nearby town of Snyder and spurred questions about the link to oil and gas activity in the region.
Any time you are putting material into the ground, particularly under pressure, you are going to have the potential to break rock.
The data suggest that there is a previously unidentified fault running through the area, and that the CO2 injections effectively lubricate that fault, enabling slippage. (Scientists documented a series of earthquakes in the area from 1975 through 1982, but those tremors were linked to water injections, also intended to boost oil production.)
This 2013 excerpt of Huffington Post, Aug 7, is by Richard (RJ) Eskow.
Here are seven things about Wall Street crime and Washington “justice” you might have wanted to know. It’s true that there’s a shortage of justice where bankers are concerned; the prosecuting has been tepid. But don’t get depressed. Get serious about demanding change.
1. Attorney General Holder said the Justice Department can’t indict too-big-to-fail banks because it would endanger the nation’s, and possible the world’s, economy. Criminal indictments against bankers are necessary both for the cause of justice, and the safety of our economy. Why did Holder make these comments? It’s called misdirection. It gets everybody thinking about one question — Why aren’t they indicting banks? — so they won’t think about a more important question: Why aren’t they indicting bankers?
2. If hurting ‘too big to fail’ banks is such a concern, why did the Justice Department and the SEC just sue Bank of America? Shareholders bear the costs and the consequences of these suits, which are directed against the banks as institutions — even when the suit in question involves fraud against the shareholders themselves. That means the executives who profit from criminal behavior have absolutely no reason not to commit those crimes again and again and again — which, as the record shows, is exactly what they have been doing.
Suits like these do not endanger the institution being sued. The amounts of money involved — $850 million, in this case — sound large. But they’re negligible when compared to the revenue at America’s bloated mega-banks.
3. Why sue Bank of America at all, if they’re in the banks’ pockets? Washington officials have multiple constituencies, presumably including wronged investors who want restitution of some kind. They presumably want to make sure the banks’ exposure is kept manageable — from the bank’s perspective — but don’t want to anger the investors any more than necessary.
4. The Justice Department has said it’s too hard to get convictions in financial fraud cases. More than 1,000 people were convicted after the much smaller savings and loan scandal of the 1980s. It wasn’t “too hard” to get a conviction then. But then, in those days they were trying.
A rare courtroom victory against Goldman Sachs was achieved just last week. Needless to say, it was not against a Goldman executive, but against a relatively junior employee, trader “Fab” Tourre. It was not a criminal prosecution, but a civil case. And the verdict was won by the SEC, not the Justice Department.
5. Why don’t they want to indict bank executives? Both Attorney General Holder and his recently departed No. 2, Lanny Breuer, had high-priced jobs defending Wall Street bank executives. Breuer has already cashed out and gone back to Covington & Burling, Holder’s once (and future?) firm, with a special title and position created especially for him.
As for elected officials, bank executives write very big campaign checks. They also hobnob with powerful politicians. When JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon testified before the Senate Banking Committee earlier this year, only two of the senators facing him had not received campaign contributions from his bank. Dimon was also called “Obama’s Favorite Banker” for a while.
Another executive with a large financial operation, GE’s Jeffrey Immelt, was named head of the President’s ‘Jobs Council.’ Immelt was responsible for GE Capital while municipalities were being criminally defrauded in the case which became United States of America v. Carollo, Goldberg and Grimm.
6. Why are they saying that the SEC’s “winding down” its fraud investigations? Impending statute of limitations makes it more difficult to keep pursuing pre-2008 misdeeds. The Justice Department and SEC chose to “run out the clock” on Wall Street’s crimes.
7. What can we do about it?
A full investigation of Wall Street crimes.
Expanded powers for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
No more deals where banks “neither admit nor deny wrongdoing.”
Ed. Note: All well and good but we can’t turn back the clock and can’t keep faith in regulations that come and go. We need to shrink banks and expand ourselves. Stop sending fat mortgages to Wall Street. Instead, keep our payments for land and resources recirculating in our community. Levy land taxes in lieu of others or institute Land Dues to fund a rent dividend paid to residents and citizens. People will be better off, have more power that comes from greater income, and banks will have less, devolving into human-scale.
This 2013 excerpt of Care2, Oct 30, is by se smith.
Companies started manufacturing products with notes about their charitable giving, and also set about boldly linking charitable causes with their products. Breast cancer is one of the most obvious examples: consumers are encouraged to buy given products with promises that some proceeds go to breast cancer research and treatment, although they rarely stop to audit where that money is really going and how it’s being used.
Companies tend to prefer charities with a strong existing infrastructure (thus products co-branded with the American Heart Association, for example) or a simple charity appeal (offering to donate coats to homeless shelters for coats purchased in the winter months).
Breast Cancer Action’s “Think Before You Pink” campaign targets cause marketing, exposing abuses while at the same time promoting real-world action people can take on breast cancer issues. As the campaign’s tagline suggests, sometimes it’s a good idea to put down the pink ribbon and call the local cancer resource center to see if they need in-kind donations, people who can keep patients company or help them with errands, or other assistance.
This 2013 excerpt of Mint Press News, Aug 8 is by Laura Beans.
The multinational Chevron Corp. has been fined $2 million after accepting a plea bargain following an August 2012 fire at a Richmond, CA, refinery that sent 15,000 people to the hospital with complaints of breathing problems.
Investigators found “willful violations” in Chevron Corp.’s response before, during and after the Aug. 6 fire in Richmond caused by an old, leaky pipe in one of the facility’s crude units.
Chevron attorneys pleaded not guilty to six charges, accepting the terms, which includes 3 1/2 years of probation, $1.28 million in fines and more than $720,000 in restitution payments to three different agencies.
The fine and settlement come on the heels of a protest earlier this week on the anniversary of the fire. Roughly 1,000 people gathered August 6, to commemorate the incident and demand accountability.
Those gathered chanted, “Arrest Chevron,” in front of the refinery gates before police in riot gear moved in, arresting 208 protesters.
This fine is a slap on the wrist for Chevron, a multinational oil corporation with $241 billion in revenue last year. Like most oil companies, Chevron has a dubious safety record and has been responsible for several serious accidents in recent years.
An explosion at a Chevron refinery in Wales killed four workers and seriously injured one other during a June 2011 accident.
More recently, a January 2012 blowout and fire at a Chevron offshore natural-gas platform killed two men near Nigeria. The fire continued burning for 46 days, stopping only after the flow of natural gas dried up.
This claim pales in comparison to an unresolved $19 billion lawsuit filed by members of Ecuador’s indigenous Amazonian community after years of pollution in areas around Chevron drilling sites. Years after the 2011 legal victory in an Ecuadorian court, Chevron has not paid the fine, nor has it offered compensation to the victims. Local residents claim that cancer rates have increased as a result of contaminated drinking water.
Popularity of “policing for profits” grows as law enforcement budgets dwindle.
This 2013 excerpt of USA Today, Oct 30, is by Jonathan Turley, of George Washington University and a member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors.
Officers stop cars on a pretext such as not using a turn signal and then ask a series of questions about drugs or contraband in the car. If the driver does not consent to a search, officers will sometimes declare that the driver is acting suspiciously and call in a drug dog or search the passenger for their own personal safety. Any drugs found can then be used to seize the car and any money inside of it. The result is that police are mining our highways for jackpot stops.
Churning has become the self-help solution for some federal agencies. The most recent example of this trend was highlighted by an investigation into the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The Justice Department’s inspector general found that the ATF conducted dozens of unauthorized undercover investigations into illicit cigarette sales and lost track of 420 million cigarettes worth $127 million. The investigation concluded that the ATF was engaging in churning operations designed to fund its operations and misused $162 million in profits.
Consider the case of George Reby, an insurance adjuster from New Jersey. Last year, he was stopped in Tennessee by officer Larry Bates for speeding and asked whether he had a large quantity of money. Reby said he had about $20,000 and explained that he planned to buy a car. Bates seized the money. He did not arrest Reby, mind you. Reby committed no crime. The officer stated that police would keep the money until Reby could prove to their satisfaction that it was legitimate.
Then there is Tara Mishra, who had given her life savings to friends as her share in a new business. Last year, a Nebraska state trooper stopped her friends for speeding and asked to search for drugs. The couple agreed, and the troopers found more than $1 million. Though the couple explained why Mishra had given them the money and though no drugs were found, police kept the cash after a K-9 analysis found drug residue on it.
It was another pretext. Studies show a high percentage of money has such residue on it. Mishra was forced to litigate until a federal judge ordered the money returned to her in July.
At such stops, citizens invoke their rights at their own peril. One recent video shows an irate officer ordering a driver to pull to the side after he questioned the basis for the stop. He was forced to wait for a drug dog, which signaled the presence of drugs after the officer notably pointed at the door. The police then unleashed a full drug search. After finding no drugs, the officer is heard warning his partner, “He’s perfectly innocent, and he knows his rights; he knows what the Constitution says.”
Of course, his rights really are not much of a barrier when the Supreme Court has expressly stated that it will not question motives of officers.
Nobody home: Almost 12,700 residential properties in Melbourne appear unoccupied. Those residents either don’t take showers or many apartments are empty most of the year.
This 2013 excerpt of Australia’s The Age, Oct 30, is by Jason Dowling, City Editor.
A study has found more than 64,000 residential properties in Melbourne are rarely used and almost 12,700 appear unoccupied.
The findings are based on an analysis of water use commissioned by Prosper Australia [AKA EarthSharing, one of our affiliates], a group seeking tax changes to improve the efficiency of land use.
Average household water consumption in Melbourne is estimated at 419 litres a day.
The analysis of 1.4 million residential properties found 4.4 per cent were potentially unused or seldom used.
“The annual increase in the capital value of the land under a property can outrun the net rental income,” it said. “An investor may calculate it is profitable to purchase a property exclusively for the potential capital gains.
“A substantial land value tax would blunt capital appreciation and serve as a withholding cost, shifting the incentive to profit from rental income rather than capital gain.”
Karl Fitzgerald, of Prosper Australia, said the results showed there were many properties not being used efficiently for housing.
He said there was a housing “distribution issue”, not a supply issue.
“We are strong believers that stamp duty must be replaced with a land tax,” he said.
There are more bicycles than residents in The Netherlands and in cities like Amsterdam and The Hague up to 70% of all journeys are made by bike.
This 2013 excerpt of the BBC, Aug 7, is by Anna Holligan.
In response a social movement demanding safer cycling conditions for children was formed. Called Stop de Kindermoord (Stop the Child Murder), it took its name from the headline of an article written by journalist Vic Langenhoff whose own child had been killed in a road accident.
The Dutch faith in the reliability and sustainability of the motor vehicle was also shaken by the Middle East oil crisis of 1973, when oil-producing countries stopped exports to the US and Western Europe.
These twin pressures helped to persuade the Dutch government to invest in improved cycling infrastructure and Dutch urban planners started to diverge from the car-centric road-building policies being pursued throughout the urbanising West.
In many cities the paths are completely segregated from motorised traffic. Sometimes, where space is scant and both must share, you can see signs showing an image of a cyclist with a car behind accompanied by the words ‘Bike Street: Cars are guests’.
You can cycle around a roundabout while cars (almost always) wait patiently for you to pass. The idea that “the bike is right” is such an alien concept for tourists on bikes that many often find it difficult to navigate roads and junctions at first.
Even before they can walk, Dutch children are immersed in a world of cycling. As babies and toddlers they travel in special seats on “bakfiets”, or cargo bikes. These seats are often equipped with canopies to protect the children from the elements, and some parents have been known to spend a small fortune doing up their machines.
As the children grow up they take to their own bikes, something made easier and safer by the discrete cycle lanes being wide enough for children to ride alongside an accompanying adult. And, as young people aren’t allowed to drive unsupervised until they are 18, cycling offers Dutch teenagers an alternative form of freedom.
The state also plays a part in teaching too, with cycling proficiency lessons a compulsory part of the Dutch school curriculum. All schools have places to park bikes and at some schools 90% of pupils cycle to class.
In the 16th Century, houses in Amsterdam were taxed according to their width, a measure residents countered by building tall, narrow houses. So hallways get filled with bikes – but so many people cycle, no-one really minds, and just clambers past.
The bike is an integral part of everyday life rather than a specialist’s accessory or a symbol of a minority lifestyle, so Dutch people don’t concern themselves with having the very latest model of bike or hi-tech gadgets.
They regard their bikes as trusty companions in life’s adventures. In that kind of relationship it is longevity that counts – so the older, the better. It’s not uncommon to hear a bike coming up behind you with the mudguard rattling against the wheel. If anything, having a tatty, battered old bike affords more status as it attests to a long and lasting love.
The famously flat Dutch terrain, combined with densely-populated areas, mean that most journeys are of short duration and not too difficult to complete.
Dutch people also tend to go helmet-free because they are protected by the cycle-centric rules of the roads and the way infrastructure is designed. If you see someone wearing a cycling helmet in The Netherlands, the chances are they’re a tourist or a professional.
The U.S. Navy has announced that it has turned over its decommissioned carrier, the USS Forrestal, for scrap. The Navy’s first super-carrier, launched in 1954, was in service for an eventful 4 decades; John McCain served aboard the ship in the sixties before becoming a P.O.W. in Vietnam. Rather than sell it for scrap metal, the Navy had to pay to have it scrapped — all of one cent.
A scion of one of America’s top fortunes has just exposed our “charitable-industrial complex.”
This 2013 excerpt of Other Words, Aug 7, is by Sam Pizzigati, author of The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class.
Some 97 percent of the world’s “high-net-worth individuals” do give annually to charity. Yet only one-third of these extremely wealthy folks give away over 1 percent of their net worth. The rich, in other words, could afford to give away far more than they actually do.
Peter Buffett runs a foundation his father Warren Buffett created. He says American philanthropy has become our “charitable-industrial complex.”
In elite philanthropic gatherings, notes the 55-year-old Buffett, you’ll see “heads of state meeting with investment managers and corporate leaders,” all of them “searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left.”
And the answers that do eventually emerge seldom discomfort the problem-creators. These answers almost always keep, Buffett charges, “the existing structure of inequality in place.”
Peter Buffett dubs this comforting charade “conscience laundering.” Philanthropy helps the wealthy feel less torn “about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on.” They “sleep better at night while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over.”
This 2013 excerpt of the Guardian, Oct 20, is by Ian Sample.
A US scientist has discovered an internal body clock based on DNA that measures the biological age of our tissues and organs.
The clock shows that while many healthy tissues age at the same rate as the body as a whole, some of them age much faster or slower.
Researchers say that unravelling the mechanisms behind the clock will help them understand the ageing process and hopefully lead to drugs and other interventions that slow it down.
Tests on healthy heart tissue showed that its biological age – how worn out it appears to be – was around nine years younger than expected. Female breast tissue aged faster than the rest of the body, on average appearing two years older.
Diseased tissues also aged at different rates, with cancers speeding up the clock by an average of 36 years. Some brain cancer tissues taken from children had a biological age of more than 80 years.
The biological clock was reset to zero when cells plucked from an adult were reprogrammed back to a stem-cell-like state. The process for converting adult cells into stem cells, which can grow into any tissue in the body, won the Nobel prize in 2012 for Sir John Gurdon at Cambridge University and Shinya Yamanaka at Kyoto University.
New research finds that anxiety caused by the 2008 economic crash led many mothers to switch to a less-nurturing parenting style.
This 2013 excerpt of Pacific Standard, Aug 5, is by Tom Jacobs.
Stress and worry caused by the 2008 crash led many mothers to have less patience with their kids.
Harsh parenting was not positively associated with high levels of unemployment, but rather with increases in the unemployment rate and declines in consumer sentiment; the anticipation of adversity was a more important determinant of harsh parenting than actual exposure.
Mothers engaged in significantly more harsh parenting behaviors following a 10 percent increase in their city’s unemployment rate.
Unfortunately, this dynamic was not easily reversed: Improvements in the local economy “were associated with much smaller, statistically insignificant changes in harsh parenting.
These results were limited to the approximately 50 percent of the women studied —- those who fit a specific genetic profile that makes them more sensitive to changes in their environment. Their genetic variation has been linked to poorer efficiency of the brain’s dopamine system, which regulates aggression and impulsivity.
Some people are “orchids” who wilt in poor conditions, while others are “dandelions” who can survive no matter what.
Low on cash and tapped out on its credit limit, the federal government limped into an uncertain economic future after Congress failed to reach a deal to raise the federal debt limit.
This 2013 excerpt of the San Jose Mercury News, Oct 15, is by Dan Nakaso.
Q What happens if the debt limit is not extended?
A Without the ability to borrow more money and add to the nation’s $16.7 trillion debt, the Treasury will be left with about $30 billion to cover government spending that’s estimated at $60 billion per day.
Q What can I do to protect my finances?
A “There’s really not too much an individual can do in the short run,” said Fred Foldvary, a retired economics professor from Santa Clara University who now lectures in public finance and law and economics at San Jose State [and blogs at this site].
But there are a couple of tricks, including parking any cash in a savings account to avoid the possibility of stock market chaos. Those worried about a drop in the market can turn to bear market funds tied to the S&P 500 that rise in value when the stock market falls, he said. Of course, “there is always risk,” Foldvary added. “You would lose money if the stock market shot up.”
Otherwise, Foldvary recommends that people keep their money in their retirement accounts, which are designed to grow over the long haul.
“Don’t panic,” he said.
Q How will the federal government function if it defaults on its financial obligations?
A The U.S. already owes $1.3 trillion to China and $1.1 trillion to Japan. Without the ability to borrow even more, the Treasury will have to rely on taxes and fees to keep the lights on and continue to pay an estimated 68 percent of its bills. Goldman Sachs estimates that government spending almost immediately will drop by $175 billion — or about 1 percent of the overall U.S. economy.
The country’s vast estates are under threat of being broken up and sold to small farmers. The laird’s response? Get off our land.
This 2013 excerpt of the UK Independent, Aug 1, is by Jonathan Brown.
Scotland currently has the most concentrated pattern of private ownership in the developed world with just 432 individuals accounting for half of all non-public land.
Submissions by the aristocracy and their representatives to the Land Reform Review Group, which was set up by the Scottish Government to consider the stalled question of redistribution, reveal deep-seated opposition to change.
Among those to challenge the proposals was an estate belonging to the 10th Duke of Buccleuch – a title created in 1663 for the illegitimate son of Charles II – who is now Europe’s largest landowner with holdings valued at more than £1bn.
Mark Coombs, the manager of the Duke’s 33,000 ha Queensberry Estate said there was no call for the ownership structure to change.
It’s the first time they have addressed head on the fact that so much land is held in so few hands. They are denying it’s a problem but they are conceding it is one of the central issues which is very interesting because they cannot win in the long term.
a study of a phenomenon David Ricardo noted going on two centuries ago. When wine grapes rise to $10,000 a ton from the very best land (last year, cabernet sauvignon commanded an average of $4,021 a ton in the Napa Valley), then vineyard prices soar from $18,000 an acre in the 1980′s to $100,000 an acre five years ago and now for a top pedigree up to $300,000 an acre (The New York Times, April 9, via Wyn Achenbaum). Pricey land does not make wine pricey; spendy wine makes land spendy. While vintners make their wine tasty, nature and society in general – not any lone owner – make land desireable. Steve Kerch of CBS’s MarketWatch (April 5) notes that much of what a home sells for on the open market is a reflection of intangible factors such as what school district the house sits in. The price the builder has to pay for the land also tends to be driven by the same intangibles. Because the value of land comes from society, and because one’s use excludes the rest of society, each user owes all others compensation, and is owed compensation by everyone else. Sharing land’s value, instead of taxing one’s efforts, is the policy of geonomics.
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.
a new field of study offered in place of economics, as astronomy replaced astrology and chemistry replaced alchemy. Conventional economics, in which GNP can do well while people suffer, is a bit too superstitious for my renaissance upbringing. If I’m to propitiate unseen forces, it won’t be inflation or “the market”; let it be theEgyptian cat goddess. At least then we’d have fewer rats. Meanwhile, believing in reason leads to a new policy, also christened geonomics. That’s the proposal to share (a kind of management, the “nomics” part) the worth of Mother Earth (the “geo” part). If our economies are to work right, people need to see prices that tell the truth. Now taxes and subsidies distort prices, tricking people into squandering the planet. Using land dues and rent dividends instead lets prices be precise, guiding people to get more from less and thereby shrink their workweek. More free time ought to make us happy enough to evolve beyond economics, except when nostalgic for superstition.
an alternative to conventional land trusts. Just as it seems some functions should not be left to the market – private courts and cops invite corruption (while private mediation is fine) – just so some land should not be left in the market. That said, sacred sites do not make much of a model for treating the vast acreage of land that we need to use. So the usual trust model, which is anti-use and counter-market, can not apply where it’s needed most. Trust proponents worry about ownership and control – two very human ambitions – but they’re not central. Supposedly, we the people own millions acres – acres that private corporations treat as private fiefdoms – and conversely, the Nature Conservancy owns wilderness the public can some places use as parks. So, the issue is not who owns but who gets the rent – ideally, all of us.
an economic policy based on the earth’s natural patterns. Eco-systems self-regulate by using feedback loops to keep balance. Can economies do likewise? Why don’t they now produce efficiently and distribute fairly? The answers lie in the money we spend on the earth we use. To attain people/planet harmony, that financial flow from sites and resources must visit each of us. Our agent, government, must collect this natural rent via fees and disburse the collected revenue via dividends. And, it must forgo taxes on homes and earnings, and quit subsidies of either the needy or the greedy. As our steward, government must also collect Ecology Security Deposits, require Restoration Insurance, and auction off the occasional Emissions Permit. And that’s about it – were nature our model.
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.
suitable for framing by Green Parties. When Greens began in Germany two decades ago, they defined themselves as neither left nor right but in front. Geonomics fits that description. The Green Parties have their Four Pillars; geonomists have four ways to apply them:
Ecological Wisdom. Want people to use the eco-system wisely? Charge them Rent and, to end corporate license, add surcharges. To minimize these costs, people will use less Earth.
Nonviolence. Want people to settle disputes nonviolently? Set a good example; don’t levy taxes, which rely on the threat of incarceration, to take people’s money. Try quid pro quo fees and dues.
Social Responsibility. Want people to be responsible for their actions? Don’t make basic choices for them by subsidizing services, addicting them to a caretaker state. Let people spend shares of social surplus.
Grassroots Democracy. Better have grassroots prosperity. Remember, political power follows economic. Pay people a Citizens Dividend; to keep it, they’ll show up at the polls, public hearings, and conventions.
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, in-cluding 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.
a POV that Spain’s president might try. A few blocks from my room in Madrid at a book fair to promote literacy, Sr Zapatero, while giving autographs and high fives to kids, said books are very expensive and he’d see about getting the value added tax on them cut down to zero. (El Pais, June 4; see, politicians can grasp geo-logic.) But why do we raise the cost of any useful product? Why not tax useless products? Even more basic: is being better than a costly tax good enough? Our favorite replacement for any tax is no tax: instead, run government like a business and charge full market value for the permits it issues, such as everything from corporate charters to emission allowances to resource leases. These pieces of paper are immensely valuable, yet now our steward, the state, gives them away for nearly free, absolutely free in some cases. Government is sitting on its own assets and needs merely to cash in by doing what any rational entity in the economy does – negotiate the best deal. Then with this profit, rather than fund more waste, pay the stakeholders, we citizenry, a dividend. Thereby geonomics gets rid of two huge problems. It replaces taxes with full-value fees and replaces subsidies for special interests with a Citizens Dividend for people in general. Neither left nor right, this reform is what both nature lovers and liberty lovers need to promote, right now.
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 and parcel 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.
Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous mind.
It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.
There is no shame when you try and fail; there is only shame when you fail to try.
Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.
Reasoning was not designed to pursue the truth. Reasoning was designed by evolution to help us win arguments.
Jonathan Haidt, 2011, explaining the theory of Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber.
The equal right of all men and women to the use of land is as clear as their equal right to breathe the air. It is a right proclaimed by the fact of their existence. For we cannot suppose that some men and women have a right to be in this world and others do not.
It’s the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter.
As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.
I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.