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Ed. Notes: During scary times, many people get rid of currency and stock up on gold, behavior that bankers don’t like, since they make their money off people borrowing and remaining dependent upon currency. While gold did rise this recent recession, it did not rise as high as perhaps it should have during a downturn labeled “the Great Recession”. What kept the price of gold from soaring thru the roof was the above sale of tons of gold by the IMF, ostensibly to have cash for poor nations, but could the real motive have been to keep gold from displacing the official currencies of nations?
Also, does creating debt, even at zero interest, create prosperity? Or, does it merely distract attention from the real causes underlying endemic poverty and from the real solutions? The real problems are lack of owner occupancy and of honest dealings. How is lending to corrupt elites supposed to fix that? It never has before.
If rich nations really wanted to help poor nations, they’d allow true free trade and set a better example at home, a model of economic justice that could be copied everywhere — a geonomy of no corporate welfare, no taxes on our efforts, no privatized “rents”, and a total and equal sharing of the worth of Earth. Then hello prosperity, bye-bye debt, gold, and the rest of distracting non-solutions.
This 2013 excerpt of IRIN, Dec 11, is by Elizabeth Blunt.
Daniel Runde, aid worker at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), asked donor countries to shift their focus away from alleviating poverty and concentrate on helping developing countries reach a position from which they can end poverty and deliver social goods for themselves.
Economists Francois Bourguingon and Stefan Dercon found a significant relationship between economic growth and people who live on less than a dollar a day, but they found no little or no correlation between growth and any one of the non-income Millennium Development Goals, such as child nutrition, girls’ education, or the number of children in school.
“So the role of assistance and expertise is going to change,” Runde said. “It’s not going to be about the most money on the table but about the best ideas, the best solution to a problem.”
The help that is needed now, Runde thinks, is in the fields of economic growth and governance. At the moment, these areas receive a very small part of the aid budget from his own country, the US. What little money is available for growth and governance goes largely to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Going forward, Runde says there should be more focus on issues such as tax collection, commercial law, contract enforcement, and secure land tenure. These ideas were greeted politely at the London meeting, but with considerable reservations by many attendees.
Ed. Notes: Given that land tenure and taxation (or community dues) are so important, the best help the North could give the South is the power of a good example. The North could lead the way by following the dictum “pay dues for what you take, not taxes on what you make.” The dictum to follow regarding property in land is to: claim publicly, occupy privately, pay rent neighborly (as they’ll pay you), and use sparingly. If the North were to adopt these powerful reforms, the South would not be far behind. Then the whole planet could enjoy prosperity, and sustainable prosperity at that.
This 2013 excerpt of OtherWords, Oct 9, is by Sam Pizzigati, author of The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class.
Those janitors who clean Smithsonian museums? Those cooks at military bases? Those programmers writing software for Medicare? More and more of the workers who keep our government running work for private contractors. And many of these workers don’t make much at all. About 560,000 Americans employed by contractors have jobs that pay $12 an hour or less.
Meanwhile, the federal government reimburses private firms for up to $763,039 of the compensation they pay executives, a figure that will shortly rise to $950,000 under federal law. The federal government is now spending $20.8 to $23.9 billion annually, overall, for the compensation of top private contractor executives.
The government pays the President $400,000, the Vice President $230,700. If government reimbursed CEO salary at $230,700, it could give a $6 an hour raise to the 560,000 federal contractor workers who currently make $12 or less an hour.
Contractors like Lockheed Martin and other weaponeers owe their robust profitability to federal contracts. This profitability keeps corporate share prices high. Stock options and other stock awards translate these high share prices into whopping executive windfalls. Lockheed’s CEO Stevens took home $23.8 million last year.
The federal government already denies our tax dollars to companies with employment practices that discriminate on the basis of race or gender. We’ve decided, as a society, not to subsidize racial or gender inequality. Why should we subsidize economic inequality?
Ed. Notes: Bigger picture, why subsidize anything? We could forget about padding the wages for low-skilled work if instead we shared the worth of Earth. If everyone got an extra income from the value of land and resources — a la Alaska’s oil dividend or Singapore’s land dividend — then people could directly negotiate higher wages without having to have government intervene. People could also afford retraining. Or maybe even start their own business. All those futures sound brighter than being locked into an undemanding, tho’ better paying, job with a boss.
Even better, if we not only paid ourselves a Citizen’s Dividend but also axed the counterproductive taxes on earnings, purchases, and houses, why would we subsidize anything, even schools and clinics? Costs of living would be lower and with income higher, we would have the wherewithal to choose our own teachers and doctors, again without having to have government intervene.
Let our concern for struggling workers, and our distaste for income inequality, blossom into a campaign for geonomic justice.
China’s doctors are beginning to speak of a link between air pollution and lung cancer. Children as young as 8 have been treated.
This 2013 excerpt of the Los Angeles Times, Dec 24, is by Barbara Demick.
Back in the 1970s, the textbook lung cancer patient was a chain-smoking male in his 60s. Nowadays, Dr. Bai sees so many who are still in their 20s that the cases blend together. “When I see patients who are not smokers with no other risk factors, we have to assume that the most probable cause is pollution,” said Bai.
Increasingly, other Chinese physicians are reaching the same conclusion. At a time when cigarette smoking is on the decline in China, the nation is facing an explosion of lung cancer cases. In the last three decades, an era in which China industrialized, deaths from lung cancer have risen 465%.
Microscopic particles from exhaust, coal smoke, and vehicle fumes burrow their way into lungs. The World Health Organization classifies particulate levels between 300 and 500 micrograms per cubic meter as hazardous. When readings approached 1,000 in Harbin city, residents said they couldn’t see their dogs at the end of the leash.
The Harbin “airpocalypse,” as it was dubbed, was caused mostly by coal, which remains the major heating source in China.
Ten years ago, it was sensitive to talk about smoking because the tobacco industry was so important to the Chinese economy. Now it feels safe to talk about smoking. But for pollution, people are not prepared to talk about it. The doctor who first disclosed the case of an 8-year-old girl with lung cancer appears to have been publicly silenced.
Ed. Notes: If only rulers would demand solutions as much as they demand acquiescence. There are technical solutions awaiting on shelves. But governments won’t find them, thinking inside the box. They’d have to become open to what works. Besides treating the symptom — the exhaust — there are cleaner fuels, more efficient engines, less wasteful modes of heating and transportation, and better urban settlement patterns that don’t need as much energy intake. But to enjoy these benefits, the Chinese rulers would have to geonomize, and to that they’d have to quit relying on force and just give the people the opportunity to do the right thing, something Confucius might’ve said. To date, the Chinese rulers have made many rational decisions, so there is hope.
This 2013 excerpt of Gizmodo, Oct 09, is by Ashley Feinberg.
In China town planners accidentally built new apartments right where they’d already planned to build an eight-lane highway. The town council asked the new tenants if they would move out of their brand new homes. But since it could offer only meager compensation, the tenants refused. So the council built the highway around the new building, bringing an eight-lane highway to four. Ironically, the highway hasn’t done anything to help the horrible rush-hour congestion.
Ed. Notes: If a society enjoyed a true democracy, wouldn’t a planner error like this be avoided, instead of just blindly plowing along once some official’s decision had been made. Too often people don’t suffer the consequences of their choices; responsibility for our actions is something we humans need constantly to learn. That said, I bet if land values were the source of public funds and/or the source for a Citizen’s Dividend, then mistakes like this would be impossible or exceedingly rare.
This 2013 excerpt of Business Insider, Dec 23, is by Christina Sterbenz.
As the years pass, secrets surface. Government documents become declassified. We now have evidence of certain elaborate government conspiracies right here in the U.S. of A.
Parts of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, which led to U.S. intervention in Vietnam, never happened. Talk of Tonkin’s status as a “false flag” for U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War has permeated public discourse almost since the time of the attacks, especially after the government admitted that the second incident may have involved false radar images. But after resisting comment for decades, the National Security Agency finally declassified documents in 2005, admitting the incident on Aug. 4 never happened at all.
In January 1973, then CIA Director Richard Helms ordered the destruction of all documents pertaining to MKUltra, the government use of hypnosis, sensory deprivation, isolation, torture, and most memorably, LSD, on unwitting U.S. and Canadian citizens, one of whom committed suicide. To conduct these experiments, the CIA paid prisons, hospitals, and other institutions to keep quiet; over 30 universities became involved in various studies. When Congress looked into the matter, no one, not even Helms, could “remember” details. Through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, more documents were located, but the full timeline remains incomplete. The events inspired investigative journalist Jon Ronson’s best-selling book, “The Men Who Stare At Goats,” now a movie of the same title starring George Clooney.
Investigating Iran Contra, Congress subpoenaed government documents as early as 1981 and forced declassification of others. It turns out senior officials in the Reagan administration sold arms to Iran, then under embargo. The government, with the National Security Council’s Oliver North acting as a key player, later used the profits to fund the Contras in Nicaragua. The hearings never labeled the sale of weapons to Iran a criminal offense, but some officials faced charges for supporting the Contras. The administration, however, refused to declassify certain documents, forcing Congress to drop them.
In 1990, a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl identified only as “Nayirah” testified before Congress that she witnessed Iraqi soldiers pulling infants from their incubators at a hospital and tossing them to the ground to die. PR giant Hill & Knowlton arranged her testimony for a client, Kuwaiti-sponsored Citizens for a Free Kuwait, and furthermore that Nayirah was the daughter of Kuwait’s Ambassador to the U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos coordinated the whole thing. Nayirah’s testimony helped build support for the Persian Gulf War, though Congress would have likely pursued involvement without her words.
Ed. Notes: So people in power do conspire to do things they hope you never find out about. Some theories about their conspiracies do turn out to be true; conspiracy theories can not be dismissed out of hand.
Since it’s hard to know which ones will turn out to be true, which to be false, perhaps the wisest course is to suspend judgment of the claims of both the theorists, and of the government, especially when the government claims push buttons designed to sway people and win their acceptance of a controversial policy.
And keep reading sites like this to learn the facts that, for whatever reason, don’t see the light of day in the mainstream media, announcers who just parrot the official line.
This 2013 excerpt of OpEd News, Oct 8, is by William John Cox, author of the Policy Manual of the Los Angeles Police Department and of the Role of the Police in America for a National Advisory Commission during the Nixon administration.
Unstable and undemocratic countries are usually controlled by individuals and cabals against whom military force ends up harming their own domestic victims more than the entrenched leadership, and new regimes offer little improvement.
Destroying the infrastructure of a nation to turn its people against their “leadership” fails, as in Iraq, resulting in the deaths of thousands of innocent children. Targeting “insurgents” using drones and violent nighttime home invasions fails, as in Afghanistan, resulting in “collateral” deaths and injuries to bystanders. Imposition of economic sanctions fails, as in Iran, resulting in the destruction of the middle class and small businesses that are essential to a free society. Support of “rebels” against their government fails, as in Libya, when the new government is controlled by hostile and undemocratic forces. Continued use of aggressive war by the United States to bring about regime change will fail, as in Syria, for all of these reasons.
The use of war as an instrument of foreign policy fails in all of these situations because it does not produce the desired change; it injures the innocent victims of their unrepresentative governments and results in their hatred of the aggressors, rather than their oppressors.
In addition, the use of war by the United States also harms its own people through the wasteful diversion of scarce tax resources to the military-industrial complex, the compiling of massive and unsustainable public debt, and a reduction of personal freedoms by the intelligence-security complex.
Moreover, the use of aggressive, yet undeclared war by the United States has resulted in an undemocratic shift of power from the legislative branch to the executive branch of government. For the past 50 years, it has been the president, rather than Congress, who has repeatedly unleashed the greatest military force in history against far weaker nations and their people, who do not have the means or ability to fight back, except through acts of terror.
The aggressive use of war in most of these situations has been illegal. The United States signed the General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy (Kellogg-Briand Pact) in 1928. Along with other nations, the U.S. promised to not use war to resolve “disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be.” That treaty is still binding on the United States.
Moreover, the U.S. ratification of the United Nations Charter in 1945 incorporated its provisions into the “supreme law of the land.” Article 2 of the Charter provides, “All members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered [and shall] refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”
In addition to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria, the United States is also currently conducting aggressive wars in Somalia and Yemen. Not only are these wars undeclared by Congress, their extent is largely concealed from the American people. Moreover, in “fighting” these wars, the president, as Commander in Chief, claims the right to kill and detain “unlawful combatants,” including American citizens, anywhere in the world without trial.
Yet the American people no longer want to militarily intervene in other countries as a matter of foreign policy. A recent CBS/NYT poll found that 72 percent of Americans are opposed to removing dictators where it can, and a CNN poll found more than six in ten Americans desiring a more “non-interventionist” foreign policy.
There is violence and repression in the world, some of which threatens the security interests of the United States, and it would be naive to deny it; however, it is equally foolish to believe that undeclared aggressive war against nation states and their people can resolve each and every one of these threats. There has to be a better solution, one that is both legal and effective.
Assuming that the Obama administration can make the case that Bashar al-Assad and his regime poses a risk of danger to the people of the United States, shouldn’t the president present the evidence to Congress? Rather than an authorization to launch “limited military strikes” on Syria, which is tantamount to a declaration of war, the president could request a resolution along these lines:
“The Congress of the United States declares that Bashar al-Assad and his administration of the government of Syria pose a danger to the United States and directs the President of the United States to file an action against the government of Syria in the International Court of Justice and to take all necessary and reasonable steps to compel the personal attendance of Assad at The Hague to defend his government.”
The resolution is directed against Assad, personally, as the dictator of Syria, instead of the people of Syria. It is narrowly designed to compel him to leave the country to attend the trial, thereby forcing him to hand over the reins of his government to other, hopefully more moderate, factions. As a practical matter, once Assad leaves Syria, the chances of his ever returning are very slim.
In many respects, the congressional resolution would act like an arrest warrant in a domestic criminal action. There, a judge finds probable cause for the arrest and directs the police to take the suspect into custody and deliver the defendant for trial. In doing so, the police are authorized to use all necessary and reasonable force to take custody of the accused.
While a congressional resolution directing the U.S. president to secure the presence (consent) of the Syrian president at the International Court would be coercive, it would be far less violent than the unleashing of bombs and cruise missiles on the Syrian people.
The “arrest” of Assad has a valuable double meaning. One is the actual taking into custody or securing his appearance at The Hague; the other is that he is arrested or stopped from performing the dangerous acts he is accused of.
While the use of reasonable force personally directed against Assad to “arrest” him might result in his death, the use of force would not have political assassination as its purpose. To the contrary and much like hostage negotiations by professional police officers, every attempt should be made to negotiate his voluntary surrender. Reasonable rewards and incentives might also be offered for his delivery by members of his own government or military.
In matters such as Libya’s Muammar Gadaffi or Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, the harm done to the people and societies they governed would have been far less violent under a congressional arrest warrant than the actual war launched upon them by the United States, ostensibly for the same purpose.
Given the fact that societies in nations such as Iraq, Libya, or Syria are tribal in nature, the death and injuries suffered by the individual innocent victims of the violent and aggressive wars launched by the United States results in hatred and condemnation from generations to come. To the contrary, however, limited and effective action directed against their native oppressors would rebound with the respect and appreciation of the people, both now and in the future.
President Obama wants to bomb Syria to send a message that the use of chemical weapons against rebel forces is unacceptable. To the contrary, he should send a message to the world that the United States has the wisdom and power to achieve its foreign policy goals in a manner that is consistent with its constitution, legal obligations, and the will of its people.
Ed. Notes: Citizens have little control over government officials. Government officials get to spend public dollars almost any way they want, whether pouring the funds into the war machine or into Wall Street banks or whatever. Such power enjoyed by politicians makes it easy to ignore laws, treaties, constitutions, and even common sense.
If we want governments to be law-abiding and rational, we need to make governing less profitable, indeed, non-profitable. To shift the discretionary power of spending from politicians to people, we could replace social programs with a Citizen’s Dividend and require all military action to be funded by the income tax or Citizen’s Dues and use that tax or dues only for war. Tie war directly to taxation; when citizens get tired of one they’ll reduce the other.
Even deeper, reduce the economic reason for waging war. Many wars are turf battles but the issue of territory could be settled fairly and efficiently. What society must do is accept the notion that the worth of Earth belongs to everybody, not just the 1%. We should all pay in Land Dues proportional to the value of the part of Earth we claim, and get back rent dividends equal to the amounts everyone else gets back, de-motivating the turf reason for waging war, by nations big and small. Then the poor suffering people around the world will suffer less at the hands of the US military/industrial complex.
This 2013 of Popular Resistance, Dec 20, is by Kerry Drake.
End Homelessness: It is cheaper to give people an apartment than hospital visits, arrests and incarceration.
Give them an apartment first, ask questions later.
Utah has reduced its rate of chronic homelessness by 78 percent over the past eight years, moving 2000 people off the street and putting the state on track to eradicate homelessness altogether by 2015.
How’d they do it? The state is giving away apartments, no strings attached.
In 2005, Utah calculated the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail stays for an average homeless person was $16,670, while the cost of providing an apartment and social worker would be $11,000. Each participant works with a caseworker to become self-sufficient, but if they fail, they still get to keep their apartment.
Other states are eager to emulate Utah’s results. Wyoming has seen its homeless population more than double in the past three years, and it only provides shelter for 26 percent of them, the lowest rate in the country. City officials in Casper, Wyoming, now plan to launch a pilot program using the methods of Utah’s Housing First program. There’s no telling how far the idea might go.
This 2013 excerpt of National Geographic, Oct 8, is by Virginia Hughes.
By comparing the relative lengths of certain fingers in eight cave sites in France and Spain, archaeologist Dean Snow determined that three-quarters of the handprints were female.
Because many early cave paintings showcase game animals —- bison, reindeer, horses, woolly mammoths —- many researchers have proposed that they were made by male hunters, perhaps to chronicle their kills or as some kind of “hunting magic” to improve success of an upcoming hunt.
“In most hunter-gatherer societies, it’s men that do the killing. But it’s often the women who haul the meat back to camp, and women are as concerned with the productivity of the hunt as the men are,” Snow said.
The hands in the caves were much more sexually dimorphic than modern hands, meaning that there was little overlap in the various hand measurements.
Several years ago, evolutionary biologist R. Dale Guthrie performed a similar analysis of Paleolithic handprints. His work—based mostly on differences in the width of the palm and the thumb. He found that the vast majority of handprints came from adolescent boys.
For adults, caves would have been dangerous and uninteresting, but young boys would have explored them for adventure, said Guthrie. “They drew what was on their mind, which is mainly two things: naked women and large, frightening mammals.”
Was most of the art made by shamans who went into trances to try to connect with the spirit world? “If you go into one of these caves alone, you start to suffer from sensory deprivation very, very quickly, in 5 to 10 minutes,” archaeologist Dave Whitley said. “It can spin you into an altered state of consciousness.” In some hunter-gatherer societies shamans are female or even transgendered.
Left answered: Why would women be the primary artists? Were they creating only the handprints, or the rest of the art as well? Would the hand analysis hold up if the artists weren’t human, but Neanderthal? Why did these ancient artists, whoever they were, leave handprints at all?
“A pretty good hypothesis is that this is somebody saying, ‘This is mine, I did this,’” Snow said.
Ed. Notes: You think prehistoric artists needed subsidies or patrons? Or was art a normal and integrated part of life that everyone practiced, like today we might all send an email? And whose caves were they? Did artists need permission or pay rent? Or were caves the commons? Maybe the handprints belonged to the landlady! Or were left by taggers! Hopefully not. And hopefully art will make a comeback and moderns will regain a love for esthetics. For that, tho’, we need leisure, security, equality, and freedom. All are things that economic justice can deliver, specifically by following geonomics.
These three 2013 excerpts on unaffordable housing in the San Francisco Bay Area are from: (1) Think Progress, Dec 18 on frost death by Scott Keyes; (2) Pando, Dec 20, on attacking a Google bus by Carmel Deamicis; and (3) Boing Boing, Dec 21, on a dormitory by Cory Doctorow.
In The Wealthiest Area Of The Country, 7 Homeless People Have Frozen To Death This Winter
A homeless man was beaten up and robbed by multiple men, who took the new winter coat White’s sister had given him. He was wearing just a hoodie and shorts. He was the seventh homeless person in the San Francisco Bay Area to die in the cold since November 28.
Approximately 700 homeless people die from hypothermia every year. Those deaths tend to occur in the East Coast and Midwest, not California. But temperatures in the Bay have repeatedly dipped below freezing in the past few weeks, an uncommon occurrence in a region generally known for its lack of inclement weather.
The Bay Area has one of the highest homeless populations. The San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose metropolitan area is the wealthiest in the country, even outpacing New York-Connecticut and Washington DC-Maryland-Northern Virginia. This influx of money has brought higher housing prices and more evictions in the past few years.
Bay Area housing protestors in West Oakland attacked a Google bus taking employees to their Mountain View headquarters, smashing the bus’s rear window while Google employees were inside. For the SF protest, roughly 100 people showed up and blocked an Apple bus for 30 minutes, organized by Eviction Free SF, Our Mission No Eviction, and Just Cause.
“Rents are going through the roof in both cities, we’re seeing massive levels of eviction,” an organizer said. Another said “it’s important to link gentrification in the East Bay to gentrification in SF.”
As the tech industry grows in size, wealth, and power, it attracts more people to the SF Bay Area and decreases the amount of available housing. Some San Francisco and East Bay residents are getting pushed out of the cities they live in because they can no longer afford rent. Some landlords sell their property for high rates.
Many employees who work for Google, Apple, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other tech companies based on the Peninsula live in San Francisco or the East Bay. They take shuttles run by the corporations from these locations down to work in Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and Mountain View.
Protestors have blockaded tech company buses on previous instances, most notably a few weeks ago when a video went viral online. The clip showed a supposed Google employee shouting back at protestors, “You can’t afford it? You can leave.” The man turned out to be a union organizer.
The smashing of the Google bus window today marks the first time the anti-eviction movement has used physically aggressive tactics, although in May between 30 and 40 protesters in San Francisco’s Mission district attacked a piñata in the form of a Google bus.
Live in a San Francisco Ikea Bunk-bed in a Mass Hacker Dormitory for a mere $1k/mo
A Craigslist ad for a “hub for entrepreneurs” who come from all part around the world offers a barracks of dozens of bunk-beds ranked in rows for a mere $999/month. But for productive collaboration you also get access to plenty of whiteboards and brainstorm areas as you seek to launch your tech business. Space is shared by entrepreneurs of all sexes.
The building hosts events, meetups, and parties for the tech community. “Our goal is to facilitate the idea exchange and support an entrepreneur so that you don’t have to worry about housing and a place to work from. No need to hop from coffee shop to coffee shop – create meaningful relationships, work with people who will help you in the long run. We host events and workshop to which you’re welcome to attend as well.”
When I moved to San Francisco in the late nineties, I lived in half an illegal sublet for about $2K/month, and that was a deal by the standards of the day. But I had it better than the guy paying $800/month for the Sears shed in the back-yard — I got a toilet!
Ed. Notes: Bunk beds are bad but it’s even worse in Tokyo where traveling salesmen sleep in drawers. While there may be over population in some metro areas and too little shelter, there is also wasted land — vacant lots and under-used lots — and abandoned or near-empty buildings.
Why do owners do that? Many are speculating, waiting to get an even higher offer. But there is a way to prod them to put their land to best use. It’s a method Pittsburgh used when it had the most affordable housing of any major US city (and the by-far lowest crime rate) and even closed its homeless shelter not from lack of funds but from lack of guests, housing was so affordable.
What Pittsburgh did and any city, state, or nation could do is shift their property tax off buildings, onto land. To afford it, owners get busy developing. That increases the housing stock and decreases the housing costs.
That was in the old Steel City, in the Rust Belt, but in the Sun Belt this property tax shift could work even better, precisely because location values are higher. The local government would recover those socially-generated values and distribute the lion’s share to residents. As site values climbed, one’s share of this pie would grow. People could always afford to live where they love, and love where they live.
Shuttle vandalism is mindless. Shelters are helpful but still dealing with symptom, not system. Better than vandalize buses is to geonomize localities.
This 2013 excerpt of BBC, Oct 7, is by Roger Harrabin.
The world’s governments agreed — after long negotiations in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) — that all airlines should join a global scheme to cut carbon emissions. But details will not be negotiated until 2016. It ends for the first time the notion of exceptionalism that has been cultivated by the airline industry.
The aviation sector will attempt to negotiate by 2016 a market-based mechanism (taxes, tradeable permits or carbon offsets) to tackle emissions from flying.
The EU’s own aviation emissions tax is on hold pending a global deal
There is still pressure on the EU to delay imposing its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) on aviation.
This agonised process for just one sector indicates just how hard it will be to get a global deal on greenhouse gas emissions.
Ed. Notes: Politics does not reveal humans at their best but at least it appears progress is being made, that the principle of pay for what you take is being followed. Next, perhaps, the principle of don’t pay for what you make — no tax on earnings and ownings — will be followed.
Then, finally, humanity may follow the principle of reap as you sow, including society as a whole reaping what it sows, which is the annual rental value of land and resources, since it is the presence of community which generates the rent or price for a location.
This geonomic policy would help airlines minimize their emissions. De-taxing our efforts while sharing out recovered rents to everyone, even to presently unheralded basement inventors, both speed up techno-progress, including development of alternative fuels and alternative engines — economic justice can be that powerful.
This 2013 excerpt of Business Spectator, Dec 9, is by Steve Keen, University of Western Sydney and author of Debunking Economics and the blog Debtwatch.
Eight years ago, in December 2005, I began warning of an impending economic crisis that would commence when the rate of growth of private debt started to fall. Journalists throughout the world picked it up and publicised my views – as well as similar arguments from Nouriel Roubini, Dean Baker, Ann Pettifor, Michael Hudson, Wynne Godley, and a few others. But our arguments were ignored by the economics profession. Numerical evidence of what caused the crisis was and still is ignored by mainstream economists, while less numerate journalists latched onto it.
When an issue is politically neutral, a higher level of numeracy does correlate with a higher capacity to interpret numerical data correctly. But when an issue is politically charged – or the numerical data challenges a numerate person’s sense of self – numeracy actually works against understanding the issue. The reason appears to be that numerate people employed their numeracy skills to evade the evidence, rather than to consider it.
So much for democracy: both evidence and intelligence make precious little difference to how people will vote on contentious issues. The need to preserve a sense of identity matters more than the evidence – and this can’t be treated as “irrational” behavior either, because it’s quite rational to want to retain membership of a group that is immediately important to you.
Max Planck – the father of quantum mechanics – found it near impossible to convince his fellow physicists to accept his new – and empirically far more accurate – characterisation of the nature of energy. He ultimately concluded that: “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”
In social conflict over empirical issues, each side tends to deride the other as lacking the ability to interpret the data – thus thinking they are more numerate than their opponents.
Ed. Notes: While Keen is better than the economists winning so-called “Nobel” prizes (no such thing in economics; the money actually comes from banks), he’s still not as penetrating and scientific as the topic requires. For instance, it’s not just private debt in general that triggers recessions but private mortgage debt or, more precisely, our spending for land (under houses). When that gets out of hand, it sucks up our spending that no longer can go to purchasing the goods and services produced by our neighbors, so they cut back, a vicious spiral ensues, and recession is under way. Not grasping the deeper phenomena at work, economists (even the nice ones) can’t see the deep policy shift that’s needed to correct economies — which would be geonomics.
These two 2013 excerpts on rent-seeking are from (1) the Seattle Times, Oct 7, by Jon Talton and (2) Telefriden, Dec 17, by Rob Frieden at Penn State U and author of Winning the Silicon Sweepstakes: Can the United States Compete in Global Telecommunications.
The McCutcheon Case is Bad for the Economy, too
The next big campaign finance case, McCutcheon vs FEC, is at least as bad as 2010′s Citizen’s United, which struck down more than a century of restraints on corporate and union money in elections and affirmed “corporate personhood.” With McCutcheon, the plaintiff is asking that limits on individual contributions to candidates be struck down. Even under current law, an individual could spread up to $3.5 million among candidates.
Both Citizens United and McCutcheon carry economic consequences. They ensure that America will be less fair and capitalism will be less competitive.
Today’s inequality was purchased by the already unprecedented money in politics. The increasing phenomenon of “rent seeking,” where giant corporations use their power to extract government subsidies and laws that allow for massive executive compensation, is a near free ride while profiting from environmental destruction, taxpayer backing of a risky financial sector, and thwarting competition.
Rent-seeking, which happens in myriad ways and on a vast scale, is the redistribution of income from one part of society to another. Thus vast sums are gambled in world capital markets rather than be used to expand existing companies, seed new ones, and create jobs. It mostly comes at the expense of wage earners and lower-income Americans. Think of the big banks and the recession: They are more profitable (and bigger) today than ever, while the median household makes less than it did in 1989.
Joseph Stiglitz: “Rent seeking makes nothing grow. Efforts are directed toward getting a larger share of the pie rather than increasing the size of the pie. But it’s worse than that: rent seeking distorts resource allocations and makes the economy weaker. It is a centripetal force: the rewards of rent seeking become so outsize that more and more energy is directed toward it, at the expense of everything else.”
Big money in politics has also helped create highly concentrated industries in numerous sectors, from finance to media. For them, it is a profitable loop: Money buys lax antitrust enforcement which allows for greater size which infuses ever larger amounts of money into passing legislation favorable to these quasi-monopolies, cartels, and oligopolies. The price of entry for new competitors is prohibitive. Business formation suffers. And it’s much easier to hold down job creation and keep people desperate just to hang onto their stagnant-wage jobs if they have them.
Inequality and a fixed market will only grow worse if McCutcheon becomes the latest piece of judicial activism from the Roberts court.
Stakeholders keen on working less hard and earning greater returns will resort to any political, legal and economic ideology and philosophy to support the desired outcome.
It is quite fine when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted incumbent wireline telephone free spectrum for mobile services, but now denying these carriers the opportunity to bid for any and all spectrum is an abomination.
Let’s not underestimate the power of sponsored research where esteemed scholars grab lots of dollars for embracing a specific ideology and explaining how it serves the public interest. In a matter of days the very same economist might rail against the Herfindahl Hirschman Index (“HHI”) of market concentration as flawed and not predictive of anything. But when presented with an assignment and a generous retainer to show how robustly competitive a market is, that economist might quickly invoke the HHI to “prove” how competition can exist in a concentrated marketplace.
Ed. Notes: It’s encouraging that this sort of corruption gets covered by professors and in the biggest paper in the Pacific Coast Northwest. However, as usual, it’s almost all problem and no solution. The solution is not just to say “no” to rent-seeking but something far more fundamental. It’s as Abraham Lincoln said: “Nothing’s fixed until it’s fixed right.”
This sort of rent-seeking above won’t end until the classic sort of rent-winning — that is, absentee owners and lenders getting paid to permit others to use land — gets corrected. The correction to that basic injustice is to not pay them for a site or a resource but to pay your community. Nobody made land, everybody needs land, and all of us — the presence of community — is what gives locations their value.
We need to pay Land Dues into the public treasury and get Rent Shares back. But we don’t need to pay taxes on earnings, purchases, and buildings while getting bureaucratized “services”. Letting politicians decide how to spend public money only opens the Pandora’s Box of rent-seeking. Better to follow the basic principle of sharing Earth’s worth while de-legitimizing capricious taxation and subsidization — the geonomic reform.
This 2013 excerpt of the Huffington Post, Dec 17, is by Shahien Nasiripour and Michael McAuliff.
The nation’s biggest banks have quietly dodged a measure expressing Congress’s desire to eliminate the unfair advantages they may enjoy because they’re perceived as “too big to fail.”
The “sense of the Senate” measure did little more than convey lawmakers’ view that the federal government should somehow stamp out subsidies or taxpayer-conferred benefits. Aimed at institutions with more than $500 billion in assets, it was sponsored by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), and passed the Senate in March by a 99-0 vote in a show of lawmakers’ reluctance to be tagged as big-bank sympathizers.
Though largely symbolic in nature, proponents of the measure used the vote to rally support for congressional and regulatory efforts to break up the biggest banks on the grounds that the subsidies amount to an unfair earnings advantage not available to smaller banks. Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, American International Group, and General Electric Capital are the eight U.S. financial institutions with sufficient assets to fall under the measure.
Despite the unanimous vote in the Senate, congressional negotiators declined to include the control- Wall St. bill in the bipartisan budget deal. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio): “Our amendment was approved 99-0 in the light of day, and then removed in the dark.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said, referring to the Senate, that banks “frankly own the place.”
Ed. Notes: Where do Wall Street banks get their money? Mostly from mortgages. What do these debts extract? Payments for land is the biggest part. So if we kept our payments for land (and resources) circulating locally, then such spending for nature could not engross Wall Street banks to the point where they appear too big to fail. We’d not have to worry about their fate at all. We’d have the money and the comfort that comes with it. All we have to do is institute Land Dues to direct the flow of spending into the local treasury and Rent Dividends to bounce it back out to residents as a fair share. It’s sort of like what Singapore already, and goes by the name of geonomics.
When the US Federal Government Shut Down, its Military Spent More.
This 2013 excerpt of Foreign Policy, Oct 7, is by John Reed.
The Pentagon pumped $5 billions of dollars into contractors’ bank accounts on the eve of the U.S. government’s shutdown that saw 400,000 Defense Department employees furloughed.
All told, the Pentagon awarded 94 contracts on its annual end-of-the-fiscal-year spending spree, spending more than five billion dollars on everything from robot submarines to Finnish hand grenades and a radar base mounted on an offshore oil platform. To put things in perspective, the Pentagon gave out only 14 contracts on September 3, the first workday of the month.
This goes to show that even when the federal government is shutdown and the military has temporarily lost half its civilian workforce, the Pentagon can spend money like almost no one else.
Ed. Notes: It goes to show me that we’re making a huge mistake letting government spend public money any way it wants. The discretionary power of funding must become severely curtailed. Limit political spending to the military and other means of defense and limit the source of those funds to a flat income tax or to citizenship dues. If people are going to still want to complain about taxes they’ll have to complain about war, too. As for domestic programs, such as schooling and medical attention, just pay the citizenry a dividend and let people choose their own teachers and doctors.
Get that money from the common wealth, from society’s surplus, from all the money all of us spend for all the nature we use. Use taxes, fees, dues, etc to redirect our spending for land and resources into the public treasury, and use rebates, vouchers, and dividends to disburse those funds back out to all of us.
Then it won’t just be military contractors and the rest of the war machine able to celebrate Christmas in style.
the policy that the earth’s natural patterns suggests. Use the eco-system’s self-regulating feedback loops as a model. What then needs changing? Basically, the flow of money spent to own or use Earth (both sites and resources) must visit each of us. Our agent, government, exists to collect this natural rent via fees and to disburse the collected revenue via dividends. Doing this, we could forgo taxes on homes and earnings and subsidies of either the needy or the greedy. For more, see our web site, our pamphlet of the title above, or any of our other lit pieces; ask for our literature list.
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.
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.
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 heritage 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 dividend, as Tom Paine suggested, and taxes (except any on natural rents) could be abolished, as Thomas Jefferson suggested. Were we sharing Earth by sharing her worth, territorial disputes would be fewer, less intense, and more resolvable.
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.
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.
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.
a scientific look at how we divvy up the work and the wealth, how some of us end up with too much or too little effort or reward. That’s partly due to Ricardo’s Law of Rent, showing how wasteful use of Earth cuts wages. And it’s partly due to how a society’s elite runs government around like water boys, dishing out subsidies and tax breaks. While geonomists look political reality right in the eye, without blinking, conventional economists flinch. When Paul Volcker, ex-chief of the Federal Reserve, moved on to a cushy professorship at Princeton cum book contract, the crush of deadlines bore down. So Volcker asked a junior associate to help with the book. The guy refused, explaining that giving serious consideration to policy would ruin his academic career. The ex-Fed chief couldn’t believe it and asked the department chair if truly that were the case. That head honcho pondered the question then replied no, not if he only does it once. And economics was AKA political economy!