As society grapples with the reality of
climate change, many believe that technology will somehow save the planet. As
this book argues, that is not enough: larger-scale collaboration, coordination,
and funding is needed. Individuals and groups, even with significant personal
resources, will not be able to reverse the present course of ecological
disaster. What our endangered planet needs is broadly supported community
action, which is what happens when people come together and organize for the
common good. What we need, in short, is political structures and actions. The
essays in this book examine the political structures that have led to our
present crisis and offer concrete lessons from the U.S., Japan, Brazil, and
Greece, that can, if heeded, bring us back from the brink and toward an
This book of essays emerged out of some of the presentations
that were given at a major conference, Seizing
an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization. that was organized by Center
for Process Studies and held at Pomona College (CA) in June 2015 and attended
by more than 1500 people. It includes two of my own essays, Greece and the Global Debt Crisis, and How Private Currencies and Credit Clearing
Exchanges Can Help Save Civilization, as well as essays by John Cobb, Ellen
Brown, Gayle McLaughlin and several others.
The full list of contents and order form can be found here.
The book can also be ordered on Amazon.com
Global War Profiteers vs. the People of the United States
_________________ Summer travel plans
My travels last year were quite limited for various reasons. This year I’m planning to spend six weeks in Europe and the UK starting in early May and extending to the middle of June. My first objective is to meet up in London with colleagues who have been working toward organizing a mutual credit clearing network to enable moneyless trading among cooperative businesses and small and medium sized enterprises. I also have plans to meet up with colleagues in Italy, and I am slated to spend the first two weeks of June as a facilitator in residence (FIR) at the Kalikalos holistic summer school at Mt. Pelion in Greece, where I have previously conducted workshops and spent a lot of productive and enjoyable time. At this point I have some unscheduled blocks of time mainly in the latter part of May, which makes possible visits to other places as opportunities arise and the spirit moves me. _________________ Announcing Beyond Money Podcast
Building upon last
with executives of the Moxey trade network, Ken Freeman and I have been working
together to set up the Beyond Money Podcast
website. The site is now live with the first two of what we hope will be a long
series of audio interviews with major players who have knowledge and/or
experience in some aspect of alternative currencies and exchange systems.
In the premier
episode I provide a broad overview of the money and banking
system, its history and dysfunctions, and discuss reciprocal exchange
alternatives that have emerged and are continuing to develop. The second
episode is an interview with educator and social activist
Heloisa Primavera, in which she tells about the conditions that led to the rise
of the social money movement in Argentina around the turn of the century, its
eventual fall, and current efforts to rebuild it.
I have long argued that
the global interest-based debt money regime is dysfunctional, destructive and
unsustainable, yet debts in both the private and public sectors continue to explode
exponentially along with increasing disparities of incomes and wealth, causing
social, economic and financial pressures to continue to build. The need for
strong measures and serious restructuring is enormous but the vested interests,
fearing their loss of power, are resistant to change.
In his latest book, “…And
Forgive Them Their Debts, renowned economist Michael Hudson,
reveals that periodic debt forgiveness has been a practice in many cultures
going back thousands of years, even predating the Jubilee prescribed in Mosaic
Law and described in Old Testament of the Bible. Hudson’s long historical
purview is highlighted in the book’s subtitle, “Lending, Foreclosure and Redemption from Bronze Age
Finance to the Jubilee Year.” He argues that periodic debt
forgiveness is a necessity to preserve civilization because of the inevitable
imbalances that develop over time. The Financial Times has called this book one of the
best economics books of 2018.
I’ve not yet read the
book, but I met Hudson more than 30 years ago and have followed his work ever
since. There are numerous videos available in which Hudson describes his
research findings and prescriptions, including this recent interview by award
winning journalist Chris Hedges: On Contact: The history of debt forgiveness.
It is to be expected that such a proposal as debt forgiveness, if
acknowledged at all, would be greeted by the mainstream as “radical,”
“impractical,” or even “communistic,” but it is not hard to see the necessity
of making a periodic reset when it comes to debt. Anyone who has ever played
the game, Monopoly, knows that, if
played long enough, one player ends up owning everything and all the others end
up with debts they cannot pay.
Bankruptcy procedures have long since been established to enable some financial
restructuring for individual and corporate debtors. These procedures invariably
include the reduction of debts in whole or in part. Debtor prisons have long
since been abolished but debt bondage remains in many forms and laws tend to
favor creditors and the owners of capital over those whose livelihood depends
on their ability to sell their labor in the market.
As conditions build
toward the next financial crisis, the powers-that-be will undoubtedly employ
ever more desperate measures to hold on to power. An
article in SD Bullion outlines the ways we should expect them
to react to the eventual crisis.
Here is an excerpt:
“Writing for the Financial Times in
February of 2018, the former head of research for the central bank of central
banks (the BIS), William White stated the common sense perspective that, “Governments
and international forums need to revisit bankruptcy procedures. Debt that
cannot be serviced will not be serviced.
“What Mr. White failed
to mention in his somewhat recent op-ed article was that the BIS’ FSB has been
writing and enacting new global bank and globally important financial
institution bankruptcy laws for years now.
“Far [too] few people
banking in supposed first world nations fully understand the existence nor the
potential implications of current Bank
Bail-in Laws and other financial emergency
provisions which have been enacted in recent years.
The bottom line is that, as always, those least able to afford it will be
required to pay the cost of systemic failures. Your “money in the bank” may not
be as safe as you think. Now that depositors are “legally treated as unsecured
creditors,” the stage is set for partial or total confiscation of depositors’ funds.
A global financial reset is inevitable. It can be done intentionally in an
orderly fashion, but more than likely, the debt crisis will be left to fester
until or the reset happens spontaneously and chaotically. The big question is,
when will it occur?
_________________ Elections 2020
For the first time in many years, the people may have a chance to decide
who will be a major party candidate for US President. For the past several
decades, the “Demopublican” regime has forced voters to choose between two preselected
candidates, both of whom can be counted upon to advance the agenda of the elite
political establishment. But on the heels of the 2018 midterm election
victories of many reform-minded and progressive candidates to Congress, the
winds of change are beginning to blow.
In anticipation of the Democrat
party primary elections, the field of potential Presidential candidates has
exploded. It is extremely important that all voices and all ideas be heard. We
must not allow the media to tell us which ideas are workable and which are not,
or which candidate is able to win and whjich is not. To that end I am
supporting with my small voice and small financial contributions the campaigns
of many candidates to assure that they will qualify to participate in the upcoming
The criteria established
by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) for participating in the Democratic
primary debates in June and July are:
Receive at least 1% in 3 polls either nationally or in early states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina) between January 1 and mid-May; or
Receive 65,000 individual donations, including at least 200 from 20 different states
DNC has also said that the field would be restricted to 20 candidates, so if
more than 20 candidates satisfy the criteria above, they would knock out the
While a closer look at
the details of their various platforms is necessary, and I am not yet ready to
endorse any candidate, I like what I’ve been hearing from Andrew Yang
and Tulsi Gabbard.
Yang has many ideas
that I like. Citing advances in automation and artificial intelligence, Yang,
on his website, declares one of his main priorities:
not a career politician—I’m an entrepreneur who understands the economy. It’s
clear to me, and to many of the nation’s best job creators, that we need to
make an unprecedented change, and we need to make it now. But the establishment
isn’t willing to take the necessary bold steps. As president, my first priority
will be to implement Universal Basic Income for every American adult over the
age of 18: $1,000 a month, no strings attached, paid for by a new tax on the
companies benefiting most from automation.
The Yang campaign
reports that he has already reached the threshold of 65,000 individual donors
more than two months before the May 15th deadline, and they have also
raised over $750,000 in the last month.
As for Tulsi Gabbard, this
excerpt from her website resonates with my own values:
is a champion for protecting our environment, ensuring clean water and air for
generations to come, investing in infrastructure and a green energy economy,
healthcare for all, civil liberties and privacy, support for small businesses,
criminal justice reform, sustainable agriculture, breaking up the big banks…and
she needs your help!
change wars are bankrupting our country and our moral authority. We need to
redirect those resources into a renewable, sustainable economy that works for
everyone and bring about an era of peace. We must put service above self and
reclaim our great democracy from the forces of hatred and division.
As the 2020 campaign season
heats up, it is crucial that we attend to more than just the mainstream media
channels. You can find a list of my favorite sources here.
_________________ Global War Profiteers vs. the People of
the United States
The problem has long been recognized but it’s far worse than we thought.
DeGraw’s report quotes President John F. Kennedy, speaking in 1961 about the
state secrets privilege: It is a system which has conscripted vast
human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly
efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic,
scientific and political operations. Its preparations are concealed, not
published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced,
not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is
revealed….If you are awaiting a finding of ‘clear and present danger,’ then I
can only say that the danger has never been more clear and its presence has
never been more imminent.”
1) Record Number of Whistleblowers Retaliated Against & Silenced, As Trillions of Dollars Unaccounted For 2) Department of Defense Inspector General Caught Covering Up Corruption, Altering Audit Reports 3) Intelligence Community Whistleblowers Retaliated Against, Cover-Up Attempts Reported, Key Officials Wrongfully Fired, ‘Honest Inspectors Flee,’ Prominent Insiders Speak Out, ‘There Is No Oversight’ 4) C.I.A. Caught Illegally, Unconstitutionally Spying on Congress, Using National Security Classification to Cover-Up Corruption, Routinely Retaliating Against Investigators & Whistleblowers 5) First-Ever Full-Scope Audit Failed, No Congressional Briefing, Accounting Fraud “Legalized” 6) Fixable Pentagon Accounting Problems Ignored, Well-Proven, Long-Established Systemic Failure to Address Known Critical Issues 7) Many Critical Cyber Vulnerabilities Ignored at Pentagon & U.S. Treasury, An Open Invitation For Criminals Worldwide 8) Known Solutions – That Can Save Tens of Billions of Tax Dollars Annually – Not Implemented, As Key Gov Accountability Offices Drastically Underfunded & Understaffed 9) Since 1998, $21 Trillion Unaccounted For, $2.6 Billion in Bribes and 12,727 Government Officials Through Global Military Revolving Door 10) Classifying Corruption: Under the Guise of National Security, U.S. Treasury Looted & Constitution Rendered Null & Void Conclusion Download Full Report
In 2018, the United Nations Human Rights Commission (HRC) sent its former Secretary, Alfred de Zayas to Venezuela to investigate the situation there. De Zayas is an American lawyer, writer, historian, a leading expert in the field of human rights and international law.
In August of 2018, de Zayas presented his
report to the HRC but it was
greeted with a shocking silence. The only mainstream media outlet
that I am aware of that has covered the UN report is the Independent
(UK), in an article titled, Venezuela
crisis: Former UN rapporteur says US sanctions are killing citizens,
published on January 26, 2019. I have not seen any similar coverage
it in the United States, and I myself learned about the report almost
by accident. Amidst the deafening drumbeat for regime change, one
must wonder why such an official investigation has been ignored.
Despite this neglect by the mainstream media, several recorded interviews of De Zayas have made their way onto the Worldwide Web. In this video interview, the UN Investigator and human rights rapporteur gives a summary of his findings. De Zayas says that there is no humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, but“The government … through an external economic war is being asphyxiated.” He asserts that “the financial blockade has had extremely adverse human rights impact” and it has been the intention of the United States “to create a situation whereby the people or the military would topple the government…and then the one percent could again come in and again control the wealth of Venezuela.”
Among the facts that he presents are these:
Venezuelan oil company Citgo has not been allowed to take it
revenues, amounting to 9 or 10 billion dollars, out of the United
July 2017 Citibank decided, without prior notice, to close the
accounts of the Central Bank of Venezuela,
again, in November 2017, Citibank blocked the transfer[of funds] for
a shipment of more than 300,000 doses of insulin.
in November 2017, “the company Euroclear, retained $1.65 billion
that the government of Venezuela had paid for the purchase of food
These and numerous other blocks of payment for essential medicines, he argues, are responsible for increased rates of child and maternal mortality, and increased deaths due to lack of insulin and anti-retroviral drugs.
National security advisor, John Bolton has arrogantly admitted on air to Fox Business host Trish Regan that the [Trump] administration had the goal of putting U.S. companies in charge of Venezuela’s oil production. See it on former Congressman Ron Paul’s Liberty Report. The most recent developments in this matter have included new financial sanctions, the attempt to declare the Maduro presidency illegitimate and to impose a hand-picked puppet, and an attempt to provoke an incident by sending so-called “aid” to the border with Columbia. As Mr. De Zayas, puts it, “Juan Guaido is riding on the Trojan horse of the United States.”
We should be grateful to Mr. De Zayas for courageously reporting the truth of the matter in Venezuela. It is distressing to me to see such broad support by Western and Latin American governments for regime change in Venezuela based on trumped-up charges. Such blatant imperial overreach should have the US populace up in arms, especially after the obvious falsehoods that have been put forth to overthrow governments in places like Iraq, Libya, and others countries across the middle-east and North Africa, and the attempted overthrow of the Assad government in Syria. Truly, the world order today has all the hallmarks of a fascist super-state.
Underestimating the People We’ve seen this all before: On April 11 of 2002, the Venezuelan opposition—according to the most credible accounts—unleashed snipers on its own supporters and used the ensuing deaths to justify a coup against Hugo Chávez. But the opposition dramatically overplayed its hand and underestimated the Chavista grassroots, who it routinely smeared as the blind followers of a populist strongman. When coup leaders abolished all branches of government and scrapped the constitution, hundreds of thousands of poor Venezuelans poured into the streets demanding, and eventually forcing, Chávez’s return to power.
Much has changed since 2002. A perfect storm of Chávez’s death,
collapsing global oil prices, a mismanaged system of currency
controls, ferocious aggression from the opposition and—more
recently—U.S. sanctions, has thrown the Venezuelan economy into a
tailspin. Many of the impressive accomplishments of the Bolivarian
Revolution—in health care, education and poverty reduction—have
quickly evaporated, producing frustration, confusion and desperation
among even Chavismo’s most hardline supporters.
Read the rest of the article here _________________________________
Hope and US Aid
at the Border, the title of a recent New York Times video,
deodorizes the US attempt to overthrow President Maduro of socialist
Venezuela and replace him with a hand-picked member of the Venezuelan
elite, capitalist class.
As the major media presents it, the US is altruistically rushing to feed a people in economic crisis. And, of course, our government knows what is best for the Venezuelan people (just as we did for Afghani, Iraqi and Vietnamese peoples). Yet, photos of mass rallies reveal that millions of darker-skinned – indigenous and mixed-race Venezuelans, of poorer classes support their elected president, while smaller numbers of white descendants of early Spanish colonizers back the US-selected and designated new president, a legislator named Juan Guiado. Our troops and aid anywhere near Venezuela smell like regime change. …
The enlightenment of another Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, Kevin Tillman, pierces the benighted world of Washington. “As one of the soldiers who illegally invaded Iraq…I know an illegal coup/invasion when I see one…if Venezuelans believe their president (their president) PMaduro has mismanaged the nation’s most valuable asset [oil], it is their right to seek change, but this is not a right enjoyed by Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi or Elliot Abrams.”
The US Neocon-led strategy is increasingly clear: establish a ‘beach-head’ on the Colombian-Venezuelan (and Venezuelan-Brazilian) border under the guise of providing humanitarian aid. Use the aid to get Venezuelans on the border to welcome the US proxy forces to cross over. Set up political and military structures thereafter just inside the Venezuelan borders with Colombia and Brazil, from which to launch further similar efforts deeper into Venezuela. Repeat this province by province, step by step, penetrating Venezuela space until enough local units of the Venezuelan military change sides and convince one or more of the Venezuelan military hierarchy to join them. Establish a dual state and government within and along the border of the Venezuelan state this way. A breakaway State and dual power within the country. Make it appear, by manipulating the media, that the Venezuelan people are rising up against the Maduro government, when in fact it is US proxy forces invading and using opportunist local politicians, military, and others in the ‘conquered’ zones, as the media covers for their invasion.
Thierry Meyssan is a French journalist, author and political consultant. He is founder of the Voltaire Network (1994) and has written numerous articles about the geopolitical power struggle. In this article, Meyssan argues that:
If my analysis
is correct – and for the moment, everything seems to confirm it –
we have to prepare for a war not only in Venezuela, but throughout
the Caribbean Basin. Nicaragua and Haïti are already destabilised.
This war will be
imposed from the exterior. Its aim will no longer be to overthrow
leftist governments for the profit of right wing parties, even if
appearances will at first be confusing. The logic of events will make
no distinction between one side or another. Little by little, the
whole society will be threatened, without the distinction of ideology
or social class. Identically, it will become impossible for other
states in the region to shelter from the storm. Even those who
believe that they can protect themselves by serving as a rear base
for military operations will be partially destroyed. For example,
even though the Press hardly ever mentioned it, entire cities were
wiped out in the region of Qatif, in Saudi Arabia, even though this
country was Washington’s main ally in the « Greater Middle East ».
You can read the entire article here. _________________________________
By Eric Zuesse Introduction This news-report is being submitted to all US and allied news-media, and is being published by all honest ones, in order to inform you of crucial facts that the others — the dishonest ones, who hide such crucial facts — are hiding about Venezuela. These are facts that have received coverage only in one single British newspaper: the Independent, which published a summary account of them on January 26th. That newspaper’s account will be excerpted here at the end, but first will be highlights from its topic, the official report to the UN General Assembly in August of last year, which has been covered-up ever since. This is why that report’s author has now gone to the Independent, desperate to get the story out, finally, to the public. Read the full article here. _______________________________________
Feel free to provide additional pertinent links, and your comments, by entering them in the Leave a Reply box below.
Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of State and corporate power. —Benito Mussolini (1883-1945), Fascist Dictator of Italy
The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to the point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism–ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power. — Franklin D. Roosevelt
current attack by US and globalist forces against the Venezuelan government is
the latest in a long series of regime change actions aimed at keeping or
restoring control over essential resources, in this case oil, and preventing
any significant departure from corporatization and elite rule. It should be
clear by now that according to Mussolini’s definition, the present world order
is not democratic, but fascist. Centralized control of money, banking, and finance
have allowed the power elite to develop financial weapons that can be deployed
to bring independent governments to heel, with military force being deployed if
In his recent
article,Sanctions of Mass Destruction: America’s war
on Venezuela, journalist Garikai
Chengu points out that,
“American economic sanctions have been the worst crime against humanity since
World War Two. America’s economic sanctions have killed more innocent people
than all of the nuclear, biological and chemical weapons ever used in the
history of mankind,” and highlights
the obvious saying, “The fact that for America the issue in Venezuela is oil, not democracy,
will surprise only those who watch the news and ignore history.
Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves on the planet.”
Chengu goes on to say that “From the first moment Hugo Chavez took office,
the United States has been trying to overthrow Venezuela’s socialist movement
by using sanctions, coup attempts, and funding the opposition parties. …United
Nations Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur, Alfred de Zayas, recommended,
just a few days ago, that the International Criminal Court investigate economic
sanctions against Venezuela as a possible crime against humanity perpetrated by
“Prior to American sanctions, socialism in Venezuela had reduced inequality and poverty whilst pensions expanded. During the same time period in America, it has been the absolute reverse. President Chavez funneled Venezuela’s oil revenues into social spending such as free+6 healthcare, education, subsidized food networks, and housing construction.”
Johnstone reports that, while
the Maduro government has refused this “Trojan Horse” of supposed aid from the
United States, he has not been refusing aid from other sources. “In
reality, Maduro has been accepting aid from everywhere except from the
government that is openly staging a coup in his country in gross violation of
its national sovereignty. Just last week Caracas accepted 933
tons of food and medical supplies from China, Cuba, India and Turkey, and
Russia has shipped in 300 tons of aid on its own.”
Florida Senator Marco Rubio posted this image in his recent tweet. The implication is clear that Rubio wants Maduro to be tortured, sodomized and murdered just as Gaddafi was in Lybia for defying the demands of the empire.
CNN’s Ana Cabrera reports that Florida Senator Marco Rubio has said
that “no matter how long this takes,” the US and the international
community are standing with the people of Venezuela, “until freedom is
restored in Venezuela.”
Sure, freedom for U.S. corporations
to plunder Venezuela’s oil resources, and once again dominate the Venezuelan
people. We’ve seen this “ploy” so many times before, in so many different
places; can anyone possibly take it seriously? Mr. Rubio, you call yourself (on
your Twitter page) “a follower of Christ,” but your behavior is not at all
Christ-like. Did Christ ever call for the violent overthrow of governments, or
the torture and murder of another human being, or the promulgation of lies
intended to justify such actions? Even
the United Nations has acknowledged that this so-called “aid”
that you are trying to impose is a political ploy. “Humanitarian action needs
to be independent of political, military or other objectives,” U.N. spokesman
Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.
And it is not only the Trump administration that is beating the drums for this takeover of Venezuela. According to Johnstone, even so-called democrats like Bill and Hillary Clinton, Dianne Feinstein, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris are calling for regime change there.
I have long argued that the interest-based, debt-money, central banking regime is both dysfunctional and destructive, and advocated for the decentralization of control over credit and the creation of exchange alternatives that use privately issued currencies and direct clearing of accounts among buyers and sellers.
There is a considerable body of literature that makes the case for free money and free banking, most of which has been ignored. These ideas have been overwhelmed by the economic and financial orthodoxy which stands in support of the political status quo which centralizes power and concentrates wealth.
For governments, central banks serve as “lenders of last resort,” enabling deficit spending through their purchase of government bonds and manipulation of interest rates, while for the banking cartel, government serves as “borrower of last resort,” sustaining their privilege of lending money into circulation and charging interest on it. Whenever this unsustainable system threatens to implode (as it did in the crisis of 2008), the government steps in to take bad (private) debts off the bankers’ hands and place them on the shoulders of the citizens (“bail-outs”). When the next bubble reaches its climax, we will likely see another round of “quantitative easing,” but when that proves to be inadequate, we will likely see some combination of inflation and outright asset confiscation known as “bail-ins” (partial seizure of bank balances).
In his recent review, Leonidas Zelmanovitz, highlights the main points in Vera Smith’s book, The Rationale of Central Banking and the Free Banking Alternative, which was published in 1936. Paraphrasing Smith, Zelmanovitz concludes that [Keynsian policies are] “not necessary to solve the problems they are purported to solve; most likely, they are part of the cause of the problem. Furthermore, there is an alternative, and that alternative is free banking,.” and, ” You can have good money without central banking and central banking does not guarantee good money.” You can read the entire review on the EconLib website.
Another classic source on free banking is Henry Meulen‘s, Free Banking (London: Macmillan, 1934). Free download available here. I will provide some excerpts from that source in a future post.
The American people elected Donald Trump to shake things up,
and, for better or for worse that is what he’s been doing. Most of what Trump has
done in the first two years of his presidency has been destructive—to the
environment, to social justice, to economic equity, and to civil discourse. But
whether he knows what he is doing or not, he has been shaking up America’s
longstanding foreign policy in a way that I think is positive. The United
States, under both major parties, has, since the fall of the Soviet Union, been
working to maintain “full spectrum dominance” around the world. It has been
bent upon constraining the power and influence of potential rivals like Russia
and China, and promoting by both overt and covert means, regime change in
numerous countries around the world in hopes of installing puppet regimes that
would be subservient to the demands of the “New World Order.”
Trump may very well be a narcissistic “loose cannon,” and his
intentions may be purely self-centered and aimed at self-aggrandizement, but many
of his foreign policy actions are moving the world in the direction that it
needs to go, i.e., towards a multi-polar
world order. He is doing this by (1) trying to cooperate and normalize
relations with Russia, (2) pressuring Britain and Western European (NATO)
allies, thus undermining longstanding alliances, and (3) upsetting prior trade
agreements via the imposition of tariffs.
The turmoil in Washington politics has at times been almost
comical, as we’ve seen the evident tug of war between a strong-willed President
with his own ideas, and the entrenched “deep state” that is
controlled by the elite global power establishment. This has been evident in
some of the presidential appointments that seem at odds with Trump’s rhetoric,
like the appointment of super-hawk and Russophobe, John Bolton as national
The appointment of John Kelly, as White House Chief of Staff,
was supposed to control Trump, but now Trump has ousted Kelly and named Mick Mulvaney as
his temporary replacement. Does that indicate a power shift in Trump’s favor? Or
now that the Democrats have taken control of the House, will they be able to
tie Trumps hands?
In the United States, the fourth Thursday in November is designated as Thanksgiving Day, a national holiday. Days of thanksgiving were variously celebrated in the colonies from very early times, but the national holiday we celebrate today was proclaimed in 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, by President Abraham Lincoln. It is fitting that we take time to remember the many blessings that each of us enjoys, even in the most dire circumstances.
What we consistently fail to do is to recognize the misery that our actions may be causing for others. While individually, the way we live our lives may be exemplary, our collective circumstances often derive from less than benevolent actions take on our behalf by political and economic leaders. One need not look very deeply to see the absurdity of the present world order that is based on perpetual war and struggles for dominance among national and supra-national elites. When one considers the marvelous technological advances and the vast amounts of material wealth that humans have been able to produce, it is clear that no one in this world should need to live in squalor. Yet, vast numbers of our brothers and sisters around the world lack the barest necessities to live a dignified life, much less the resources needed to realize their full potential. Still others are being terrorized, bombed, detained and persecuted through no fault of their own.
The hard question for me is, “How am I complicit in all of this, and what can I do about it?”
While driving in my car I often have the radio tuned to the local NPR station. A couple of days ago I happened to hear an episode (Ep. 356) of the popular Freakonomics program, this one titled, America’s Hidden Duopoly. The discussion was about the American two-party political system, which is in essence a duopoly of political power. Many Americans have long lamented the fact that they are often required to make a choice between “the lesser of two evils.” Third parties come and go by none has ever gained enough support to offer anything but “a wasted vote.”
Is there some other way in which the problem can be addressed? One initiative mentioned in the interview that seems to hold some promise is Unite America. Their motto is Country Over Party and their focus is on “building a movement to elect common-sense, independent candidates to office who can represent We, the People – not the party bosses or special interests.” The way they propose to achieve that is through their “Fulcrum Strategy,” that is “focused on electing independent candidates to narrowly divided legislatures, like the US Senate, where they can deny both parties an outright majority and use their enormous leverage to forge common ground solutions.” The argue that it would take only 4 or 5 independent Senators to swing the balance of power.
Hmmm, that itself is a tall order, but it just might work. Another initiative that looks promising is World Beyond War.
David Brooks is a familiar figure on the PBS News Hour, where he has for years been providing political commentary alongside Mark Shields. I can’t say that I’ve been all that impressed with him, but after a friend referred me to a presentation he gave at the 2018 Pacific Summit earlier this year I came away with a different opinion. I find Brooks much more impressive and insightful as a social philosopher and historian. He articulately and entertainingly provides an assessment of our present sociopolitical predicament. I recommend that you can view that presentation on YouTube.
Still, I have a little different take on the situation, something that no one else seems to be seeing. Arnold Toynbee is quoted as having said, “Civilizations start to decay when they lose their moral fiber and the cultural elite turns parasitic.” That is the situation we find ourselves in today. Our political leadership has let us down. When the power elite works to dominate and exploit us, when they can no longer be trusted to tell us the truth, when they fail to act on behalf of peace and the common good, what is there but to revert to tribal identities and find common cause with those whom we know and trust? While pundits and politicos decry the rise of “populism,” I see it as a natural response to the failure of the power elite. Populist actions are not always tainted by racism, sexism, and scapegoating. We need to rebuild society from the bottom up, starting with the people around us, then branching out to form alliances and coalitions. But if we are to end up with something better than what we wish to replace, our actions need to be open-hearted and beneficent. With good will toward all, perhaps it is possible to have a populist revolution that is peaceful and advances the causes of social justice, economic equity, individual liberty and human unity.
In a recent article, Joseph E. Stiglitz, former chief economist of the World Bank, argues that the American economy is rigged and outlines a few things that we can do about it.
Stiglitz begins his article by saying:
“Americans are used to thinking that their nation is special. In many ways, it is: the U.S. has by far the most Nobel Prize winners, the largest defense expenditures (almost equal to the next 10 or so countries put together) and the most billionaires (twice as many as China, the closest competitor). But some examples of American Exceptionalism should not make us proud. By most accounts, the U.S. has the highest level of economic inequality among developed countries. It has the world’s greatest per capita health expenditures yet the lowest life expectancy among comparable countries. It is also one of a few developed countries jostling for the dubious distinction of having the lowest measures of equality of opportunity.”
He then explains how economic inequality and political inequality are mutually reinforcing, each growing in response to growth in the other. When the super-rich are able to make the rules, they can rig the game to become ever richer. He concedes that “There is no magic bullet to remedy a problem as deep-rooted as America’s inequality. Its origins are largely political, so it is hard to imagine meaningful change without a concerted effort to take money out of politics.”
Stiglitz outlines a number of measures that could achieve that but all of them require legislative action. That seems like a “catch 22.” If the political machinery is so thoroughly in the hands of the economic and political elite, how is it possible to use the political process the change the status quo? I have long argued that, in view of that political reality, the only viable strategy is to design and deploy innovative monetary and financial systems that enable us reclaim “the credit commons.” By decentralizing the control of credit, it is possible to reduce our dependence upon bank borrowing and political forms of money. This is not so far-fetched as it might first appear. For details of how it can be, and is being done, see my article, Confronting the power elite.
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