Category Archives: Economy/Economics

The Peoples’ Capitalism

Introduction

America began as a plutocracy and rather quickly evolved into a corpocracy, or an unequal partnership between Corporate America and Government America, with the former controlling the latter. We now call the plutocracy the power elite of the corpocracy, and it is this power elite that is responsible for America’s economy and its capitalistic economic system. Both the economy and the system serve the power elite, obviously, and not the common good. Assuming you are not one of the power elite, you, like me, are on the short end of the stick. How short depends generally on what your socioeconomic status is. The stick is very short for America at large, for it is becoming, if it hasn’t already gotten there, a third world country, which means a substandard living for many of the citizenry.

I once raised the question, “Is America going to Hell in a handbasket?”1 If it is, there are three “isms” why; imperialism, militarism, and capitalism. There is absolutely nothing intrinsically good about the first two isms. There is no good imperialism, no good militarism. Not so the third ism. All America has ever known and used is bad capitalism. But as Parts 1-9 have shown us, there are many visions of a good capitalism. However, there are probably millions of people, especially socialists, who insist there is no good capitalism. Well, they can believe whatever they want to believe.

That being said, what do I have to offer in this last part, Part 10, of the ten-part series on “economic sanity and alternative economic systems”? A “peoples’ capitalism,” a good capitalism, is what I have to offer. It does not stand alone. It stands on the shoulders of the non-economist thinkers who preceded me in Parts 1 through 9.

The Lodestar for The Peoples’ Capitalism

The lodestar tells us what to aim for, the end goal, which is the creation of a fully functioning peoples’ capitalism, and how we know if we get there. The lodestar is nothing more nor anything less than that prescribed in the first 28 Articles of the United Nations Declaration of Universal Human Rights. At first blush some of the articles seem to have nothing or little to do with a nation’s economy and its economic system, yet these 28 rights could never materialize under bad capitalism.

(1) Innate freedom and equality
(2) Ban on discrimination
(3) Right to life
(4) Ban on slavery
(5) Ban on torture
(6) Right to recognition as a person before the law
(7) Equality before the law
(8) Right to effective judiciary
(9) Ban on arbitrary detention
(10) Right to public hearing
(11) Right to the presumption of innocence
(12) Right to privacy
(13) Right to freedom of movement
(14) Right to asylum
(15) Right to a nationality
(16) Right to marriage and family
(17) Right to own property
(18) Right to freedom of thought and religion
(19) Right to freedom of opinion and expression
(20) Right to freedom of assembly and association
(21) Right to take part in government
(22) Right to social security
(23) Right to work
(24) Right to rest
(25) Right to an adequate standard of living
(26) Right to education
(27) Right to participate in cultural life
(28) Right to a social and international order.

Ordinarily, I regard the UN as a worthless entity, a pawn of the world’s power elite, particularly that of America’s corpocracy, but I give the UN credit at least for enunciating the above principles. But I must discredit if for being feckless. No nation can expect UN enforcement of the 28 rights. The UN declaration is like all corporate codes of ethics, paper principles to be preached and never practiced.

The Lodestar’s Lodestar: Article 25

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

All the other articles are represented in one way or another in Article 25. We must look to it for the criteria for determining whether every human being has the essentials for an adequate living and nothing less. If they do, then it is at least partly due to some form of socially responsible capitalism. Adequacy, of course, is the minimum standard. Millions of Americans and billions of other peoples have far less than an adequate standard of living. They have a miserable standard of living.

Developing criteria, or indicators of progress and reaching the goal, used to be among the mainstays of my working career, but no more. I shall turn that responsibility over to a task force of special people to be identified next.

Setting the Stage for True Reform

Let’s assume the following stage setting. My proposal for a U.S. Chamber of Democracy (USCD) has been implemented.2 It has commissioned a task force, peopled by the non-economists highlighted earlier in this series along with Aristotle and Marx in absentia, and charged with developing and publishing under the auspices of the USCD a proposal for a new national economic policy and a new economic system, the peoples’ capitalism. The proposal would include strategic initiatives, a time table for finishing, and indicators of progress.

The task force would also be charged with polling the opinions of middle class Americans, the socioeconomic group essential to any true democracy and viable economy, and then melding the solicited public opinion with the draft proposal.

Additionally, the USCD would implement my proposal for establishing the “democracy’s commandos,” comprising nearly 20 groups of disgruntled or otherwise receptive Americans numbering in the hundreds of thousands to apply pressure on the corpocracy’s power elite, including its corrupt politicians, to implement the proposal or suffer the consequences.3

The task-force’s strategic initiatives are mostly mine. That is, after all, my prerogative since I fathered the task-force! I have written reams of real and virtual paper identifying and explaining the strategic initiatives necessary for ending the corpocracy (including its endless spying and warring) and achieving true economic reform.4  I will spare you the details and the time by listing in no particular order just those 19 initiatives necessary to create the “peoples’ capitalism” and then arbitrarily pick and summarize just one of them. But I guarantee you, all 19 are solid initiatives, and if they were all achieved America would have a new economic system, the peoples’ capitalism.

(a) End Free Market Ballyhoo;
(b) End Fear Mongering Over the National Debt;
(c) End Privatization;
(d) End Economic Disparities and Poverty;
(e) End Trickle-down Economics Hokum and Blaming the Poor for their Poverty;
(f) Move toward “An Acceptable” Level of Employment;
(g) Increase Wages;
(h) Reduce the Costs of Daily Living;
(i) Move toward a Quality American Education;
(j) End Shut-Out Capitalists: So Much Capitalism, so Few Capitalists!
(k) End Wall Street along with Financial Speculation at Home and Away;
(l) Replace Bad with Good Globalization: Localize More, Globalize Less;
(m) Abolish the Unholy Trinity: The WTO, WBO and IMF;
(n) Repeal Existing Trade Agreements;
(o) End Unsustainable Development and Ovidian Growth;
(p) Make Commerce Greener;
(q) Replace Private Banks with Public Banks: Starting with abolishing the FED;
(r) End Elitist Corporate Pay for Socially Irresponsible Performance; and,
(s) Share Democracy’s Cost Fairly.

I will arbitrarily pick the last initiative, “Share Democracy’s Costs Fairly” and summarize it.

The task force would consider all good ideas on how to achieve fair-share taxation, including Barnes’ proposals for common tax credits. Just as importantly. the task force would peer through the corpocracy’s veil and do a “tax-escape” audit” of all forms of corporate welfare, including tax havens, tax cuts for the filthy rich, etc.5 While this exercise is being done, the aforementioned poll would include asking the polled to rate the importance of the UN’s Articles. Finally, democracy’s commandos would be told about the findings and asked if they would be willing to apply their democracy power to end corporate welfare for the sake of the general welfare.

In Closing

I will close with these short remarks. Yes, neither the USCD nor the democracy commandos exist, but not for my lack of trying for 10,000 or so hours on and off for several years. Yes, it is a wish list of 19 initiatives, but they represent thoroughly studied ideas, and from ideas flow change if opportunities arise. Yes, up against America’s mighty corpocracy, it’s the corpocracy’s ideas that prevail. From those three remarks conclude what you will about the peoples’ capitalism or any other significant reforms in the economic arena ever occurring.

Recapping Parts 1-9

Part 1: Economic Sanity and Alternative Economic Systems introduced this 10-part series on economic sanity and alternative economic systems. I told readers “Never mind that I am not an economist. Instead, please appreciate that I am not an economist.” That led to me trotting out for the umpteenth time my “human equation” for explaining anything involving humans. Getting closer to the subject at hand, I went on to say that “human behavior, even habitual behavior, needs to be motivated. At the heart of human motivation are values, beliefs, attitudes, needs and wants, with the latter two being the most relevant for the topic of this series. Human needs and wants are the bedrock of any economy and any economic system. Money is not the bedrock. It is simply a medium. There was no money when the earliest humans started needing and wanting. Debt, as some economic thinkers think, is not the bedrock. Debt is merely an offshoot of a usually uneven transaction. And since no human, not even a member of a society’s power elite, is self-sufficient, satisfying one’s needs and wants will in one way or another depend on what some other human beings do. So, you see, the psychology of human nature is the bedrock of economics, any economy and any economic system.” While I truly believe what I just wrote, it also gives me passage to writing about economies and economic systems as a psychologist!

Part 2. Economic Insanity Up Close. This article summarizes Roger Terry’s book on “economic insanity.” He is a non-economist and a responsible businessman. Terry contends that the growth-driven capitalism of big, authoritarian, and unaccountable organizations is devouring the American dream. Terry’s features of a new economic system would be a structurally different capitalism, one we’ve never seen before. It would be a “Nation of Owners,” in which there are three levels of ownership: (a) small enterprises, like his own, with the founders and a few partners who share ownership commensurate with their seniority and other factors like start-up funding; (b) larger enterprises, the corporations of today, would be owned collectively by their members, who would elect managers for limited terms of office; and (c) public enterprises, such as utilities, education, defense, and the like, would be created and managed by public boards or local governments. Now that I would add and enthusiastically emphasize would be real economic sanity!

Part 3. Notes on Some Classical Thinking. In this article I “pick the brains” of Aristotle, Adam Smith and Karl Marx. I close by telling readers I’m leaving Smith behind and feel much closer to Aristotle and Marx.

Part 4. The Fringe Economy. Part 4 reviews the book, Short Changed, Life and Debt in the Fringe Economy, written by Howard Karger, who at the time was a professor of social policy.

The fringe economy preys on the poor through seven different medium all controlled by corporations; pawn shops, the credit card industry, alternative financial services such as check cashing and rent-to-own, fringe housing, real estate speculation and foreclosure, the fringe auto industry, and the “getting-out-of-debt” industry such as the multi-billion dollar debt management business. The solution, Karger thinks, is not to eliminate the fringe market because mainstream services are not as accessible physically or as culturally compatible to poor neighborhoods. He suggests numerous solutions, some more plausible than others that would accommodate the realities of these neighborhoods while also eliminating some of the abusive and fraudulent practices of doing business with the people who live in those neighborhoods.

Part 5. Six Economies. This is a review of Riane Eisler’s book, The Real Wealth of Nations. I am not going to summarize it here. She is a genius. You need to read her book.

Part 6. Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution. The authors of Natural Capitalism argue that it is needed to “create the next industrial revolution.” They warn that if we continue to ignore the value of natural capital; i.e., nature’s life-support systems for humankind, there will come a time when there won’t be any more life support. My rejoinder was that “America doesn’t need the next industrial revolution. America needs a new and better capitalism that enfolds industry without its corpocracy.”

Part 7. The Uncommon Commons. This is a review of a book, Capitalism 3.0: A Guide to Reclaiming the Commons, by Peterr Barnes, co-founder, president, or a director of various socially responsible businesses. He wants “capitalism 3.0” to replace “capitalism 2.0,” the existing economic “operating system.” He complains that corporations, with no resistance from “our” government, are privatizing the commons, profiting from it and externalizing the costs. He defines “the commons” as assets we all share by inheriting or creating them together and subdivides them into three sectors, nature, community, and culture. Together they represent our “common wealth” in contrast to our “private wealth.” Barne’s proposals are among the most unique I’ve ever read on capitalism and deserve your attention.

Part 8. Shared Capitalism. Jeff Gates wrote a book jam packed with ideas about what he calls “shared capitalism for the twenty-first century.” He was once counsel to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee (1980-87). In this role, Gates crafted federal law on employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) and pension plans. In other words, he worked for the corpocracy, and that opened his eyes! Unshared capitalism, he argues, while made to order by the corpocracy, is totally unfit for a democracy. His solution is to make widespread ownership a specific goal of national economic policy. His opinion that people take responsibility for what they own resonates with me, having watched for two decades party-going renters misbehave and scar property in an ocean-side condominium where my wife and I owned and never rented a unit.

Part 9. Spiritual Capitalism. Dana Zohar and Ian Marshall wrote the book, Spiritual Capital: Wealth We Can Live By.  Zohar is broadly trained and thus taps into diverse resources such as classical literature, physics, religion, and psychology. Marshall is a Jungian-oriented psychiatrist and psychotherapist. The authors argue that material capitalism, the kind that predominates in America’s corpocracy, is unsustainable, depleting our natural resources, creating political and social instability, eroding our moral standards, and degrading the very meaning of life in terms of its deepest values and aspirations. Rather than reject this conventional capitalism altogether, however, the authors advocate transforming it into a more positive, sustainable economic system that they call “spiritual capitalism” in the secular, non-religious sense.

It’s defined as the amount of knowledge and expertise available about “meaning, values, and fundamental purposes.” It produces not material wealth that ultimately consumes itself but a self-sustaining wealth “that enriches the deeper aspects of our lives.”

The authors are creative thinkers who forced me repeatedly to think outside my own relatively narrow paradigms. There is much about their views and ideas with which I agree. Yet, the authors’ analysis of the problem and their proposed remedy are too unbalanced and insufficient. Material capitalism is far more than what they call a crisis of motivation. Many other factors contribute to the failings of traditional capitalism. Moreover, relying on a critical mass of business people to shift upwards their spiritual intelligence, as they propose, is naïve and simplistic in my opinion.

Part 10. The Peoples’ Capitalism. You are reading it now.

• Part 1 here; Part 2 here; Part 3 here; Part 4 here; Part 5 here; Part 6 here; Part 7 here; Part 8 here; Part 9 here

  1. Brumback, GB. “Is America Going to Hell in a Handbasket?” The Greanville Post, March 29; Uncommon Thought Journal, April 21; Cyrano’s Journal, April 22, 2013.
  2. See my book, The Devil’s Marriage: Break Up the Corpocracy or Leave Democracy in the Lurch, 2011.
  3. Ibid.
  4. See also my books Corporate Reckoning Ahead, 2015, and America’s Oldest Professions: Warring and Spying, 2015.
  5. Editorial. $100 Billion the Country Could Use. The New York Times Online, March 13, 2009.

Trump is Alienating Europe: This Is a Good Thing

Thesis: the main achievement of the Trump administration to date has been to alienate European allies, in particular Germany, France and Britain, thus weakening the Atlantic Alliance. Originally concerned by candidate Trump’s questioning of NATO’s continuing relevance, they have been satisfied by Trump’s re-commitment to the alliance (even as he moans about the member countries’ general failure to shell out the 2% for “defense” the pact theoretically entails). But they’ve been dismayed by the U.S.’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord on climate, its pullout from the Iran nuclear deal (threatening sanctions on European companies that in accordance with the deal want to trade with Iran), its abandonment of coordinated policy on Israel, its imposition of tariffs on European steel and aluminum, and its general barking tone.

These days Angela Merkel is feeling more in common with Vladimir Putin than Donald Trump. Putin speaks to her in fluent German, treats her with respect, and is generally predictable, unlike the erratic Trump.

He tells her: let’s make more energy deals for mutual benefit, whatever the Americans think. And please don’t support the expansion of NATO; enough already. We are a formidable power, but our military budget is tiny compared to NATO’s and we are not about—and have no reason to—invade you. We just don’t want your military alliance to completely encircle us. We understand that, as a U.S. ally, you had to echo Washington’s condemnation of our annexation of Crimea and apply sanctions to us. But you know as well as I do that if Ukraine had been brought into NATO as the U.S. planned after the 2014 coup, our Crimea naval bases would have been transferred to NATO and we could never accept that. If you make the lifting of sanctions contingent on Russian withdrawal from Crimea, sorry, we will just have to accept them while applying counter-sanctions. Let us work together on the issues that unite us, like combating climate change and implementing the Iran agreement and protecting these agreements against U.S. obstruction.

This is potentially a key moment in which finally the unholy alliance based on a Faustian bargain between the U.S. and European anticommunists in the late 1940s fractures. What is the greater threat to Europe? The Russian state, which has gone through the agonizing process of full-scale capitalist restoration and a period of total chaos in the 1990s giving way to recovery under Putin, and which currently spends about 14% of what the U.S. devotes to military expenses every year? Or the U.S., which (still) wants to dictate European policy, even as its GDP dips relative to Europe’s? The EU GDP is now 90% of the U.S.’s.

Putin told Emmanuel Macron at the recent St. Petersburg economic conference: “Europe depends on U.S. in the realm of security. But you don’t need to worry about that; we’ll help. We’ll provide security.” I don’t think it was a joke.

Imagine a Europe not dominated by German banks deeply invested in support for U.S. imperialism using EU architecture to hold nations hostage to imposed austerity programs. Imagine a Europe of independent countries seeking rational equidistance between Washington and Moscow.

Putin has envisioned a free trade union including the EU extending from Vladivostok to Lisbon. It would be facilitated by China’s “new Silk Road” infrastructure projects, which may indeed unite Eurasia as never before, even as the U.S. recedes into the Grey Havens.

Russia will keep Crimea, as it has for most of the last three centuries; Ukraine will have to accord autonomy to the Russian-speaking Donbas region; Europe will lift its Russia sanctions gradually, because they are not in Europe’s interest (and punish Europe for the U.S.’s sake); contempt for the U.S. will mount so long as Trump is president, and could even deepen if he’s succeeded by Pence. The EU will continue to split on issues of immigration, austerity, Russian ties and other issues and the splits will deepen. The understaffed and clueless State Department will continue to urge trans-Atlantic unity. But having violated that unity repeatedly the U.S. has no moral authority to demand its continuation.

Meanwhile Putin plans a meeting with Japan’s Abe Shinzo to resolve the Northern Islands question. Probably a swap of islands, Russia returning two to Japanese sovereignty. This would end the formal state of war between the two countries and pave the way to huge Japanese investments in Russia. And given the U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Japan will likely be drawn more into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization dominated by China and Russia.

India under Modi is basking in a period of U.S.-Indian friendship. Having (without clear explanation) forgiven India for its robust nuclear weapons program the U.S. seeks more cooperation with India versus China. But the U.S. alienates New Delhi over Iran sanctions. India buys Iranian oil and will continue to do so.

Xi Jinping in China enjoys a good relationship with Trump, having cleverly flattered him and Ivanka. But he is not pleased with Trump’s trade war threats and challenge to Chinese construction on the South China Sea atolls. The Chinese economy grows by leaps and bounds, and China’s military strengthens inevitably. China is the main rival to the U.S. geopolitically, and it is strategically aligned not only with Russia but with Central Asian countries, former Soviet republics, in general.

The U.S. could at least once boast of hegemony over Latin America, where military dictatorships once comfortably secured U.S. interests. Now these are gone.  Latin America in general militates in different ways against U.S. imperialism. The spectacle of a U.S. president demanding the construction of a wall to keep out Mexican illegal immigrants and demanding that Mexico pay for it appears to hundreds of millions of people as a perverse, sadistic move. Reports of kids separated at the border from their parents and disappearing in their hundreds doesn’t help.

The U.S. is alienating Canada, for god’s sake, by steel tariffs. Good good good good good. Let’s break the whole thing, Donald!

The emergence of a multilateral world—in which the U.S. cannot oblige its allies (as it did in the case of the Iraq War) to embrace its own lies, and share in the ramifications of their acceptance—is on the horizon. The world sees a moron in the White House, handles him carefully, its leaders probably trading notes on his disturbing and unstable personality. Leaders assess the U.S. as a declining power with a horrifying arsenal and more horrifying willingness to invade countries for no good reason but diminishing geopolitical clout. The flurry of exchanges between European and Iranian leaders after the U.S. announcement on the Iran deal and stated determination of the Europeans to beat U.S. secondary sanctions, and strong EU statements of indignation at the US. decision, may signal a sea-change in relations.

European Council President Donald Tusk (a former Polish prime minister) last week criticized “the capricious assertiveness of the American administration” over issues including Iran, Gaza, trade tariffs and North Korea. adding: “Looking at the latest decisions of Donald Trump, someone could even think: With friends like that, who needs enemies? But, frankly speaking, Europe should be grateful by President Trump. Because, thanks to him, we got rid of all the illusions. He has made us realize that if you need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of your arm.”

You realize what this means?

These are significant words, under-reported by the U.S. media, that appears to simply assume the continuation of the existing U.S. hegemonic order in the world, is addicted to the cult of promoting military “service” as a good in itself, and—while wanting to bring down Trump for various reasons—cannot challenge capitalism and imperialism or make astute analyses of present conditions because they are paid by corporations that have vested interests in promoting the CNN and NYT concept of reality. The fact is, the post-war U.S.-dominated world is collapsing, as it should. As empires do.

The fact that this collapse is aided by a colorful idiot in the White House merely adds dramatic appeal to the historical narrative. He will grandiloquently preside over some sort of Korean agreement to satisfy his ego, then perhaps attack Iran with zero European backing but frenzied Israeli and Saudi support, inaugurating a major if not world war. This would not further endear this country to the planet in general.

Charter Schools: “Backpack Full of Cash”

Backpack Full of Cash is a 90-minute documentary about the negative consequences of the growing privatization of public schools in America. Produced several years ago, the film focuses mainly on the harmful impact of charter schools on public schools and America’s most vulnerable children. The film has been viewed by thousands of people in many different venues, and many continue to organize film screenings in their communities.

Among other things, the film makers have produced a useful 28-page discussion guide which includes questions and answers surrounding privatization and charter schools.

This three-part series tackles a few of these questions in greater detail.

QUESTION: We live in a capitalist country. Why not look to the free market for solutions?

RESPONSE: Labor is the only source of value. Profit equals unpaid labor. Capitalism is a transient economic system designed to maximize profit as fast as possible for major owners of capital. Production under capitalism takes place for the purpose of profitable exchange, not for meeting social needs. If something is not profitable, it will not be produced. And what is not produced, cannot be distributed. This is a very narrow aim for society and the reason why, even though society has an overabundance of wealth and resources, millions go without many basic needs being met. For example, there are thousands of homeless people in the U.S. even though there are thousands of vacant houses.

Far from ensuring that goods and services are produced and distributed in the most “efficient” manner, the capitalist “free market” ensures chaos, anarchy, volatility, and uncertainty. Risk, insecurity, and instability are inherent, not accidental, features of the “free market.” Economic slumps, recessions, booms, busts, depressions, and crises are the fellow-travelers of capitalism. This is how the so-called “invisible hand” operates. The “free market” produces carnage in business and society every day. A dog-eat-dog ethos prevails. Fortunes are made and lost overnight. “Winners” and “losers” abound. Greed, jealousy, rivalry, narcissism, individualism, and “getting ahead of others” are treated as normal, permanent, unavoidable, and healthy. These traits are supposedly part of “human nature,” rather than the direct expression of an impermanent economic system plagued by violent internal contradictions.

Why should collective human responsibilities like education rest on uncertainty, insecurity, instability, and chaos? Why should critical social responsibilities be based on the narrow profit motive? Modern humans need education (and healthcare, food, and shelter) on a reliable, sustainable, crisis-free basis. Subjecting basic needs to the blind destruction of the “free market” is irrational, irresponsible, and historically unwarranted. Schools should not be closing and opening every day, and in such an inhuman dog-eat-dog environment. The needs of students, educators, parents, the economy, and society cannot be met properly when the profit motive and the “law of the jungle” are the main modes of life.

The “free market” works only for a tiny ruling elite, and even then with great risks and insecurity. Education, like food, shelter, clothing, and healthcare are social responsibilities which cannot be treated as commodities. Education is not a business. Nor can it be left to chance. Students, parents, and teachers are not consumers. Their identity, needs, and complexity cannot be reduced to buying and selling, winning and losing. Homo Sapiens are more than Homo Economicus.

The right to education in a modern society based on large-scale production cannot be guaranteed without conscious human planning. Economic “booms and busts” and the devastating ripples they regularly send through society and all of its institutions can be avoided. There is an alternative, one whose seeds lie in the present. It is both possible and necessary to set a new direction for society and the economy and to live in a human-centered way. No human or institution has to be the victim of blind anarchic “market forces” that always seem to perpetuate upheaval and anxiety while always benefitting the privileged few the most.

I Went to Flagstaff for a Commencement

What is explained can be denied but what is felt cannot be forgotten.

Charles Bowden

What do you say, at age 61, as I am rubbernecking the constant superficial, seedy, consumer-caked world now as someone considered a major failure – a few dozens jobs, mostly sacked from, and a few dozen careers, and, I am slogging away at a homeless shelter trying to save myself from the constrictor of capitalism, that strangulating system that gets us all complicit in the crime, making us all little Eichmann’s in this murder incorporated killing, complicit in the hyper exploitation of man, woman, child, ecosystem?

Consumerism as a psychological wedge to allow for the synchronized event horizon of finance-government-surveillance-media-military to work on the masses as a suffocating fog pumped out across the globe by an elite bent on total dominance.

We can jump onto the global stage and see the battering truth:

Diagnosing the Empire with Sadistic Personality Disorder (SPD)

Western culture is clearly obsessed with rules, guilt, submissiveness and punishment.

By now it is clear that the West is the least free society on Earth. In North America and Europe, almost everyone is under constant scrutiny: people are spied on, observed, their personal information is being continually extracted, and the surveillance cameras are used indiscriminately.

Life is synchronized and managed. There are hardly any surprises.

One can sleep with whomever he or she wishes (as long as it is done within the ‘allowed protocol’).

Homosexuality and bisexuality are allowed. But that is about all; that is how far ‘freedom’ usually stretches.
Rebellion is not only discouraged, it is fought against, brutally. For the tiniest misdemeanors or errors, people end up behind bars. As a result, the U.S. has more prisoners per capita than any other country on Earth, except the Seychelles.

And as a further result, almost all conversations, but especially public discourses, are now being controlled by so-called ‘political correctness’ and its variants.

But back to the culture of fear and punishment.

Look at the headlines of the Western newspapers. For example, New York Times from April 12. 2018: Punishment of Syria may be harsher this time.

We are so used to such perverse language used by the Empire that it hardly strikes us as twisted, bizarre, pathological.

It stinks of some sadomasochistic cartoon, or of a stereotypical image of an atrocious English teacher holding a ruler over a pupil’s extended hands, shouting, “Shall I?”

Carl Gustav Jung described Western culture, on several occasions, as a “pathology”. He did it particularly after WWII, but he mentioned that the West had been committing terrible crimes in all parts of the world, for centuries. That is most likely why the Western mainstream psychiatrists and psychologists have been glorifying the ego-centric and generally apolitical Sigmund Freud, while ignoring, even defaming, Carl Gustav Jung.

The reality is, though, most of the revolutionaries like myself in this cesspool of capitalism have to slog ahead in the belly of the beast, without the rarefied air of being an international journalist like Andre Vltchek. The reality is most of us know that when 11 million babies under age two die of treatable maladies each year, or when bodies are shot through and extremities are shattered by the sadism that is the Gestapo-Apartheid “state/religion” of Israel, we push through the fog of rapacious consumerism and consort with our deep empathy for our brothers and sisters under the thumb of despotic regimes like USA, Russia, Israel, China, India, et al.

Because, now, no matter the level of melanin in a collective people’s skin or the desperation of the people, the globe has been infected by a virus called Capitalism-Finance-Unfettered Exploitation.

Exploitation is a pretty tame word for what I am hinting at: destruction, annihilation, extinction. As is the case with me, a rant percolates from the bowels of the commonness of my life, the microcosm of traveling from point A to point B. What happens in Vegas happens in New York City. What unfolds in little town USA is unfolding in San Fran.

Whatever it is, here I was, back in Arizona, first Phoenix, the cancer, the cancer, and then up to Flagstaff, oh that place before white man invasion sacred healing cloud island peaks. Arizona, as I’ve written extensively, is where I cut my teeth as a small town newspaper reporter, learned directly the value of radical conservation, became a brother in arms for Chicanoism, tried my hand at diving and helping bring across refugees of the proxy wars of USA in Guatemala, etc.

I’ve written poetically about the place – here and there, and have inserted the value of those formative years into almost everything I’ve written, taught, done in my 48 years since coming to Arizona young, 13:

Wrestling the Blind, Chasing Apache Horses, and Unpacking the Vietnam War – (September 4th, 2013) or page 12, Cirque

But this most recent trip, a weekend, I went to celebrate my 22-year-old niece’s matriculation, with bachelor of science degree, from Northern Arizona University. The old days when I was young, 19, and a journalist, and then, activist, like quicksilver in my brain, taking over not only my senses, but memory. Many of us saw the writing on the wall 40 and 50 years ago – this barely inhabitable place (a place of migration for Papago and other indigenous people’s), with a blitzkrieg of outsiders plowing the desert and eventually corralling the Colorado River into brackish canals to feed the malls and mayhem of winter baseball leagues and out of control military complex tax cheats. Three state universities, and then this new cheater, University of Phoenix . . . headquarters for the bizarre U-Haul . . . dry mothball arenas for the USA’s killing flying machines. Odd as hell place, with the likes of Edward Abbey running amok. I hear now Noam Chomsky is visiting prof at U of A in Tucson.

Humans build their societies around consumption of fossil water long buried in the earth, and these societies, being based on temporary resources, face the problem of being temporary themselves.

— Charles Bowden, Killing Hidden Waters

I kind of think of Charles Bowden from time to time, who was a reporter and novelist living in Tucson and covering the Southwest and northern Mexico. When I go into the desert, after looking at some shell of a rag that we now call daily newspapers, I feel this guy’s haunting – now dead going on four years:

When he got a hold of a story, he wouldn’t let it go, said former Citizen copy editor Judy Carlock. He had a very generous heart and a lot of compassion … he didn’t mince words.

The way I was trained up, reporters went toward the story, just as firemen rush toward the fire. It is a duty.

He was compelled to work; he had to write … in vivid imagery and concrete detail, Carlock said. Every Monday morning, the (Citizen) city desk would come in to find a long, brilliant masterpiece they had to find room for in the paper.

He lived at full tilt, fueled on caffeine and nicotine, said Carlock. Bowden had stopped smoking about two years ago, Carroll said, and was lifting weights, working on that second wind in his life.

He was no saint, but he was true to himself, said Carlock. I think he secretly relished being thought of as a rogue.

This amazing ecosystem, with syncopated Native American tribes and amazing Mexican communities turned into a wheezing series of six-lane freeways and spiraling communities for the infirm, the emphysemic and the insane.

It’s really difficult to find a place to start.  Sedona and the vortices? Flagstaff, from one-horse town to bedroom (climatically cooler but fire prone) to Phoenix? The 365 days a year fire pit danger, as heat comes earlier, rain disappears quicker, and the landscape is peppered with suburbia’s faux Mexican-Italian-Spanish-Greek designs as the ubiquitous 20-mile caravans of cars and trucks push the hot tunnel of air which is Arizona?

As a former newspaperman, I am compelled to read the dwindling local news anywhere I go, even five and dime advertising things, or corny local monthlies, and so just a few minutes with the Arizona Republic show me where the mass delusion, mass magical thinking and mass ignorance get set in. But, compelling, the stories slugs or ledes:

• Border Patrol punk who murdered 16 year old for throwing rocks, and the jury convicting him of involuntary manslaughter gets hung

• Animal abuse claims against the Havasupal Tribe’s section of the Grand Canyon – you know, animal lovers saying the pack animals used to ferry the tourists into the Canyon are treated like shit (abused) . . . . oh those do-gooders, just how many of them are animal-free product users . . . how many of them know how every stitch of clothing, every chemical smeared in their lives, every product of the modern age are placed in their realm with millions of rats, mice, dogs, and apes murdered for that consumer entitlement . . . ?

• PK12 teachers on the march for wage increases, class size reductions, more counselors, more money for staff and support personnel . . . and yet many of these Arizona scallywags want them to eat shit

• Flagstaff keeping homeless people from living – camping – on public property through ordinances from hell

• A great female representative from the state wanting dreamer children – undocumented – out of the Copper State, more of the same Trump et al giving children the boot while Trump’s monster wife calls for no more bullying

• God in the classroom, a civics literacy bill, more report cards for schools (to fail them so the charter schools get more easy pickings), and this drive for charter (for- profit, hedge-fund lined) schools to take from the public coffers and teach absolute shit

• More gigantic housing developments planned in the Sonora desert without any water delivery plans, without any water!

• Raytheon Missile Systems breaks ground on an expansion of its Tucson facility – 2,000 more Little Eichmann’s added to the already large 10,000 workers designing, testing, manufacturing and delivering via Amazon dot Com killing systems to include Tomahawk missiles and this new Stormbreaker small diameter bomb

• Mexican-American female columnist for the Arizona Republic newspaper bashing the possibility of socialist former Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador making it as president of Mexico . . . “he’s a Hugo Chavez-style authoritarian tropical messiah who would turn Mexico into another Venezuela”

• The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community building lavish baseball stadiums for professional teams like the Diamondbacks

• HBO plans to debut John McCain documentary on Memorial Day – “John McCain; For Whom the Bell Tolls”

• soda or sugar taxes outlawed in the state
• non-English contracts will be voided in all insurance transactions, and beyond

• Abortion patient questions are now mandatory

Oh the compounding blasphemy. If this were a thematic essay, well, here are the components:

• Wanton excess in the state, with brand new, freshly washed expensive SUV’s, power cars, pick-up trucks

• Endless strip mall after strip mall and faux Spanish colonial kitsch and after faux Hacienda kitsch which propels the dribbling consumerism of 24/7 Superstore Grand Openings

• Zero tribute to the peoples of the real Arizona – Chemehuevi, Chiricahua, Cocopa, or Xawitt Kwñchawaay, Dilzhe’e, Apache, Havasupai, or Havasuw `Baaja, Hopi, Hualapai, or Hwal `Baaja, Maricopa, or Piipaash, Mohave, or Hamakhava (also spelled Mojave), Navajo, or Diné, Southern Paiute, Akimel O’odham, formerly Pima, Quechan, or Yuma, San Carlos Apache, Nné – Coyotero, or Western Apaches, Tewa, Tohono O’odham, formerly Papago, Southern Ute, White Mountain Apache, Ndé – Coyotero or Western Apaches, Xalychidom, or Halchidhoma, Yaqui people, Yavapai, or Kwevkepaya, Wipukepa, Tolkepaya, and Yavepé (four separate groups), Zuni, or A:shiwi

• Redneck clashing with wimpy liberal clashing with snowbird clashing with old Mafia clashing with Hispanic-Latino/a clashing with senior citizen Trump lover clashing with new money clashing with the Raytheon mentality clashing with the endless cancer spur that is Arizona

• My old stomping grounds, now despoiled by in-ground pools, putrid man-made lakes, endless track homes like carcinoma, endless twisting cul-de-sacs where minds end up mushed up in mojito-ville

• Hatred, man, the Trump way, McCain way, Goldwater, putrid former Maricopa County Sheriff and Minutemen militias on the border, and the Gestapo Border Patrol and the rot which is a state in the union emblematic of red state loafers and the hard-working people like those teachers

• A college, NAU, broken by a president who cheats faculty and luxuriates in the money thrown her way and the attention the local yokels give her

• Students fighting this female NAU president Rita Cheng who wants cuts to all sorts of important programs (in the liberal arts) so she can court those wanton criminal corporations and alt-right Koch Brothers

• The graduation I went to was embarrassing, dead, nothing in the way of speakers, controlled by this president, and was ten times more lackluster than a Missouri Synod Lutheran Sunday meeting

• Peter Principle of incompetents rising, as in the case of Rita Cheng and thousands of movers and shakers (sic) that run the state

• The inarticulate middle and upper classes of society exemplified in Arizona

• A state with more sun per year with nary a solar panel in sight

• The rotten belief that infinite growth, infinite in-migration, infinite giveaways to the corporate leeches will lead to prosperity

• The Caucasian and other Whitey people’s insipid Trader Joe’s-Dutch Brothers-Bed, Bath and Beyond systematic lobotomizing of the masses

• Sprayed-on lawns and Astroturf backyards scattered around the desiccating real lawns throughout the entire Phoenix and Tucson metroplexes

• Daily reminder of the old adage of “who the fuck thought white people and their poodles settling in Arizona made any sense”

• Like anywhere else, Arizona has no worthy newspaper of note anymore, and the news is not to be seen in the light of day

I’ve always said, that one slice of life is a microcosm, that splice onto one of the big fat four-hour reels of 70 mm movie film depicting the universality in the absurdity of being Homo Sapiens under the thumb of money changers, militaries and grand exploiters. Example: One shit-hole sugar cane fucker and his sibling (Fanjul Brothers) and his fucking family destroying the lives of thousands of slaves, upsetting the natural world, and sending the sweet sting of death to millions. One fucking family owning billions of dollars and billions of people and draining the Everglades. Something along those lines – just look at history of rubber, gold, oil, wood, fruit, minerals, raw labor, animals.

This arithmetic is as clear as the day is long, in a world where this time, the so-called now time, is bereft of no logic, no ethics, no depth of knowledge, no truth except the rubbery huckster kind. While NAU had zero commencement speakers for all five graduation sequences, we now have to read about a world of Rex Tillerson — that son of a bitch lying, thieving, fossil fuel thug — now at a graduation for a military institute (what the fuck are we still living in a world of military academies – sic).

You can’t make this shit up in a work of fiction:

In a commencement speech at Virginia Military Institute, the camera-shy former secretary of state gave his most public remarks since President Donald Trump ousted him from the White House in March.

“As I reflect upon the state of American democracy,” he told the Class of 2018, “I observe a growing crisis in ethics and integrity.”

Tillerson’s emphasis on integrity echoed his parting words to colleagues at the State Department in March. Then he went even further:

“If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom.”

Tillerson’s time in Trump administration was marked by tension. He reportedly called the president a “moron” eight months before he was fired and replaced by then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

But the oil industry veteran has yet to directly criticize Trump. His speech, which began with a discussion on the globalized economy and stressed “the value of friends and allies,” is the closest he has come to attacking Trump’s rhetoric and “America First” policy.

This from the moronic Huffington Post. Alternative realities, sure, Mister Exxon. The reality of propping up dictators, of hiring murderers to take over land, of stealing oil from any number of countries, and the complete environmental despoilment created by the great Exxon-Shell-Chevron-You-Name-It soul and soil eating machine. Imagine, this guy’s a thug, Tillerson, who has no concept of realities, except his thuggery, and a billionaire mentality. Yeah, Exxon and the alternative reality of climate change and the bullshit destruction of the earth from fossil fuel burning. What great record this keynote speaker Tillerson has, and, in the end, he’s as ballless as the lot of the millionaires\billionaires, afraid to criticize the deviant, stupid and reckless Trump.

Where do these people come from? Which DNA-warped womb do they exit from? Which felonious family raised them? Which two-bit schools educated them? Which insane people hire them and then promote them?

A two-day trip back to Arizona is like a two-year LSD trip, floating around with mushrooms on the tongue daily, as bottles of mescal run through the veins. I am telling you, when you get out of your routine – I am a social worker in a veterans’ homeless shelter, where the word “chaos” describes the totality of my time there, daily – and this rushing hot wave of air sucks the oxygen from the lungs for a minute or two. Arizona is California is Oregon is Washington . . . .

And exactly what is the US of A, with so much junk, so much materialistic droning, and yet, poverty is growing, big time, and the fear of the future in terms of no one achieving affordable housing and clean public transportation and free education and decent jobs is like us all whistling as we walk past the graveyard which is Western Capitalism.

Arizona, like any other state, is defined by the kleptomaniacs in government, on boards, in corporations and in the political class. Arizona is defined by a schizophrenia of faux opulence and real indebtedness and our fellow citizens struggling, dying, really, in a world that is upside down when it comes to clean air, clean water, real medicine, and affordable life.

Arizona is the mix of Eastern seaboard accents and southern twangs and amazingly mean people who are in it for themselves, for their backyard in-ground pools, for the 6,000 square foot Barcelona- style triple-decker home. We are talking about leathery skin from all the sun and leathery pools of empathy in the hearts and minds of most Arizonans.

Yet, here I am, 61, wishing my niece good tidings, as she embarks on the journey of medical school applications, and then, what? What world is it we have to give or anoint our children with? I am flabbergasted at the stupidity of the NAU graduation, the bloodlessness of the speakers, the lack of verve, the paucity of an event that for many has cost a pretty penny in debt for parents and children alike.

I end with 2011 commencement speech at Olympia’s Evergreen State College, Angela Davis:

Commencement speakers frequently assume that their role is to encourage graduates to go out and conquer the world. The task I have set for myself is much more modest. I want to urge you to be able to retrieve and sort through and rethink and preserve memories of your time here, which may very well turn out to be the most important period of your lives. Like the philosopher Walter Benjamin, I emphasize the past as the key to your future.

And so as you move on, some of you will go to graduate school, right? Some of you will find jobs. Unfortunately, some of you may not find jobs. Some of you will make families, some of you will engage in activism, some you will be involved in cultural work, and there are all kinds of permutations and combinations of all of these. But I would like you to periodically stop and reflect about the extent to which your lives were radically transformed by your experiences here. And I hope that you will have courage to draw upon the education you have received here from your most challenging professors, as you try to imagine more equitable ways of inhabiting all of our worlds. If you continue to think and act in the tradition of your college you will respect all of the inhabitants of our environments, and not simply assume that the environment must be preserved for the sake of future human generations, but rather for all the future generations of plant life, future generations of all animal life.

How do we extricate ourselves from enduring hierarchies, class, race, sexual, religious, geopolitical? This question, I think, is the question that needs to be posed. Posing that question is the mark of educated human beings. So I might then ask you to think about education as the practice of freedom. Education is the practice of freedom. And so freedom becomes, not an imagined condition in the future, not the set of achievements that will fulfill some desire, but rather an unrelenting, unending, collective effort to reconstruct our lives, our ways of relating to each other, our communities, and our futures. Congratulations to The Evergreen State College class of 2011.

Six Economies

By the time we come to the end of this series we will have been swimming in the primordial soup of the seeds for alternative forms of traditional capitalism! As I have long said, there is bad capitalism, the kind we have, and good capitalism, the kind we need

Part 5 is an adaptation of my review of a book about six economies written by Riane Eisler.1 She titled the book “The Real Wealth of Nations,” which to me was a repartee to Adam Smith’s magnum opus. Because she is absolutely one of my favorite authors I must begin by telling you about her.

Escaping with her parents from the Nazis in Germany led her eventually to ponder how there could be a world so cruel, insensitive, and destructive when humans, she believed, have a great capacity for caring, consciousness, and creativity (we should highlight “capacity” for she could not say “habit”). She ultimately concluded that “we have to change present economic systems” for the sake of ourselves, our children, and future generations. Being trained not in economics but in sociology, anthropology, and law was, I’m convinced, an asset for her, not a liability, in doing the research and writing for this book. And I certainly agree with her when she quotes Einstein as having said that solving problems can’t be done with the same thinking that created them, even though I hardly think it takes a genius to know that. In any case, Eisler has done some very creative and constructive thinking.

She was selected as the only woman among twenty great thinkers including Hegel, Adam Smith, Marx, and Toynbee in recognition of the lasting importance of her work.2 Her book, The Chalice and the Blade recounting the transition from earliest egalitarian to later patriarchal societies, was an international best seller and acclaimed by Princeton anthropologist Ashley Montagu as “the most important book since Darwin’s Origin of the Species.”3,4

Karl Marx once said about capitalists, “give them enough rope and they’ll hang themselves” If only that would happen! Eisler isn’t sympathetic to either Marx or Adam Smith. She contends that their theories and their application call for the control of natural resources and the means of production by a male dominated culture and as a consequence neither communism nor capitalism as we know it is capable of solving the chronic problems confronting society. Well, if you remember what I wrote about Marx in the previous part of this series, I would give him some slack here.5

Her focus in her book is on explaining dysfunctional economic structures, rules, and practices, offering an alternative perspective for a new economics along with providing convincing evidence of its superiority, and proposing necessary reforms to change the present system. Whereas Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations focused on the market, she goes beyond it to reexamine economics from a larger perspective that includes the life-supporting activities of households, communities, and nature. “Ultimately,” she says, “the real wealth of a nation lies in the quality of its human and natural capital” and the basic purpose of an economic system should thus be to “promote human welfare and human happiness,” characteristics that are missing from our present economic system. She is obviously more in tune with Aristotle’s thinking about economics than with Smith or Marx.6

A central theme of her book is that since any economic system emerges out of a larger social, cultural, and technological context, a viable system can’t be constructed without taking that broader context into account, and especially not without giving visibility and value to the socially and economically essential work of caring for people and nature. She defines care giving as “actions based on empathy, responsibility, and concern for human welfare and optimal human development.”

Our economic system is dysfunctional she contends because it, like its larger context, depends on what she calls the domination model. It has four core components; a rigid top-down social structure, much abuse and violence, a male superiority premise, and beliefs that perpetuate domination and violence. This system, where people are either dominating or being dominated rests on several erroneous assumptions such as people being inherently untrustworthy, that fear of pain (as a psychologist, I disagree with this as a source of motivation) and scarcity are the main motivators for work, and that caring and care giving are impediments to productivity or at best irrelevant to economics. For example, with regard to the last misassumption, she points out that care giving isn’t, but should be, included as a positive value in economic indicators such as the GNP, which, manifesting a domination system as it does, misleadingly includes war-related expenditures as positive values. She cites a Swiss survey and a UN report, the first, showing that the value of unpaid, care giving work accounts for 70 percent of the reported Swiss GDP, and the second, estimating in 1985 that the value of women’s unpaid work amount worldwide and annually to 11 trillion dollars. Those are amazing findings!

A functional economic system along with its larger context would be one she posits that depends on what she calls the partnership model of mutually respectful and caring relations. She leaves no stone unturned, no relevant field of inquiry unexplored in showing in various ways how this model is far superior to the other one. For example, she documents studies demonstrating that in business “it pays to care-in dollars and cents.” Organizational psychologists like me would be familiar with the evidence presented that caring and empowering corporations do indeed give a positive return on investment in their human capital. She shows how the Nordic countries, the only ones coming close to her partnership model, are faring well economically and socially.

Having a national capacity and resources for providing optimal human development is clearly necessary for having a healthy economy, and she persuasively links the domination form of child rearing (and thus suboptimal human development) to adverse consequences later in life that show up in the kinds of leaders and followers our society has, in our belligerent relationships with other countries, and in our diminished capacity for a functional and healthy economy. She presents neuroscientific evidence of how care giving rather than selfishness produces the most powerful reactions in the brain circuitry associated with pleasurable sensations. Finally, she shows how disastrous it could be if the domination model is played out with new and risky technological developments on the horizon.

Her perspective and understanding are so broad that she conceptualizes not one but six economic sectors. The first sector, the core one, is the household economy from which the rest of the sectors spring because productivity depends so much on human activity, which starts at birth and is markedly shaped by what kinds of experiences there are throughout human upbringing. Her core economy is clearly reminiscent of Aristotle’s thinking.7 The second is the unpaid economy made up mostly of volunteers. The third is the conventional market economy. The fourth is the illegal economy like illegal arms trade (and I suppose she would include Karger’s fringe economy summarized earlier in this series).8 The fifth is the government economy that includes not just the large population of government workers but also the laws, rules, and policies that (should) govern the market economy. The sixth, the natural economy, is as basic as the first in that our environment produces natural resources used and misused by the market economy.

The sectors are inextricably intertwined, and all must be taken into account in order to transform our economic system, our institutions, and our culture from the domination into the partnership model. The greatest challenge, she contends, is to develop economic models, measures, and rules where the first, second, and sixth sectors are recognized and highly valued. Our beliefs about what we value are largely unconscious, she continues, having been inherited from earlier times when anything associated with the female half of humanity, such as caring and care giving was devalued. If you scoff at this, you should read her book because I can’t do it real justice here other than to say I know of no other living scholar that has evolved a new theory of economics after having spent 30 years of research combing the data from over 20 thousand or more years of history collected by herself and others from myriad fields of inquiry.

Her book is much more than just theoretically significant, as would be expected from a social activist. She proceeds smoothly and logically from her theorizing to advocacy and conclusion. She makes a number of practical suggestions about what needs to be done on Wall Street (e.g. stiff tax on short-term speculations), in government (e.g., massive investment in child care and human development), by business leaders (e.g., changing from top-down to empowering corporations), and among social activist citizens (e.g., mounting a global movement to change laws and customs-she describes how she wrote an amicus brief that helped women legally gain equal rights). She summarizes the progress being made that she believes represents a “caring revolution.”

The only quibble I have with her summary is her assessment that “hundreds of thousands of nongovernmental organizations” are all working she says toward the “common goal of shifting to a more caring economic and social system.” I seriously doubt that claim. I’ve studied about 150 prominent NGOs in the U.S. My conclusion is that they are first and foremost compromised by the corpocracy, and secondly, represent a very fragmented activity, where even NGOs with similar missions and initiatives don’t communicate with each other let alone coordinate or collaborate in their work. Moreover, I once contacted the leadership of 176 NGOs proposing a super coalition of NGOs under the auspices of, let’s say, a U.S. Chamber of Democracy that is a counterpoint to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the advocate and lobbyist for big business that typifies the domination model. That proposal fell flat. Only five endorsed it; 32 said no; and 139 didn’t even respond.9

Conclusion

Eisler’s conclusion is my conclusion, “we have to change present economic systems” for the sake of ourselves, our children, and future generations.

I had originally intended to pair this Part 5 with Part 6 to shorten an otherwise lengthy chain of articles. But her book is so seminal, so profound, so unique that it absolutely deserves to stand alone! Furthermore, I am revising my “pantheon of brilliant, radical and humane thinkers.”10 I am telling Aristotle he must share the top spot with Eisler!

• Read Part 1 here; Part 2 here; Part 3 here; Part 4 here;

  1. Brumback, GB. Review in the Book Review Section of Personnel Psychology (2009, Vol 62, #1, 179-183) of The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics, 2007, by Riane Eisler.
  2. Galtung, J.& Inayatullah S. Macrohistory and Macrohistorians: Perspectives on Individual, Social, and Civilizational Change, 1997.
  3. Eisler, R. The Chalice & the Blade: Our history, our Future, 1987.
  4. Eisler, R. Wikipedia. wikipedia.org/wiki/Riane Eisler.
  5. Brumback, GB. “Notes on Some Classical Thinking” (Part 3 of 10 Part Series) “Economic Sanity and Alternative Economic Systems”, Dissident Voice, May 20; OpEdNews, May 21, 2018.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid. Part 3
  8. Ibid. Part 4.
  9. Brumback, GB. Tyranny’s Hush Money, OpEdNews 9/28/2013, The Greanville Post, September 29, 2013.
  10. Op. Cit. Footnote 5.

Fringe Economy

Fringe, adj. not part of the mainstream; unconventional, peripheral. When this definition is applied to the economy it becomes the title of a book, Short Changed: Life and Debt in the Fringe Economy, written by Howard Karger, who at the time was a professor of social policy.1 Part 4 is a review of that book.

Do you have any idea what the “historical neighborhood banker” is? I didn’t until I read his book. It’s the pawnshop says Karger. Most likely not in your neighborhood, though. Indebted people have been pawning their belongings as long ago as 1000 BC. If your image of today’s American pawnshop is of a storefront operation owned and operated by a shady character, you’ll be as surprised as I was to learn that many of those storefronts have been gobbled up by five publicly traded corporations (e.g., EZ Pawn) raking in 100’s of millions of dollars yearly from pawnshop loans and with boards of directors lavishly paying their CEOs. Even the shrinking population of go-it-alone pawn shop brokers gets loans to set up their operations from big banks. Well, why not? No banksters worthy of the name will miss out on grabbing other people’s money.

Karger defines the fringe economy as “corporations and business practices [that pray on the poor] by charging excessive interest rates or fees, or exorbitant prices for goods and services.” He divides this economy into seven sectors and gives a chapter to each. Besides a storefront loan sector that includes pawnshop businesses, the other sectors are the credit card industry, alternative financial services such as check cashing and rent-to-own, fringe housing, real estate speculation and foreclosure, the fringe auto industry, and the “getting-out-of-debt” industry such as the multibillion dollar debt management business. Large corporations operate in each of these sectors, and some, like EZ Pawn, may not be household names, while other large corporations that operate in both the fringe and mainstream economies surely are, such as the really big banksters, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Verizon, and then the telecommunications giant, AT & T, that depended on the banksters at the outset.

Karger fills his book with a lot of facts about his subject, so much so that he warns early on that reading them “may be tedious” yet necessary because the “devil is in the details.” He compensates nicely for them, though, by fleshing out the facts with many anecdotes. I couldn’t help but think how Charles Dickens might have novelized them into a modern classic, absent the debtor’s prison (see the next paragraph) in “David Copperfield.

Karger’s name for the last sector, the “getting-out-of debt” industry surely has to be tongue-in-cheek, for as he describes and explains it, this industry can only be a multi-billion dollar business because its customers never get out of debt. Businesses in the other sectors, as he amply shows, are no different in that they all seek to sink already indebted people further into debt by escalating the interest fees levied on them, amounting in some cases to nearly a 500% APR! It would not be profitable to put these people in debtors’ prisons. Indeed, the entire sub-prime and predatory lending businesses of the fringe economy are built on the backs of persistently indebted customers.

Obviously, it would it not be profitable either to drive indebted people into bankruptcy, an escape hatch of last resort so to speak. This explains why corporations, especially in the credit card industry lobbied heavily to get the draconian Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act passed by a captive Congress. Known pejoratively but aptly as the “loan shark law,” Karger notes that it “intensifies the economic war on the poor and credit-challenged.”

If you are thinking loan sharks might starve if people stopped spending beyond their means you would be giving, in Karger’s opinion, too much credence to what he calls the “over consumption” argument. While he agrees that such “affluenza” (see De Graaf et al., 2002) is a contributing factor, he maintains that the argument fails to address a major cause of indebtedness, “the high cost of living in a privatized society.”2 He notes that the rising cost of necessities amounted then to 75% of a family’s two-person income, leaving little left for luxuries for the “functionally poor.” Moreover, consumer spending is less than it was a decade ago then. The argument, he believes, lets lawmakers fault debtors “for an economic reality they can’t control.”

Besides its loan shark law, the government has boosted the fringe economy in various other ways. For example, what Karger means by a “privatized society” is that stricter federal and state public assistance policies more quickly than before throw former recipients into jobs with no benefits and with pay suppressed by the miserly minimum wage law that has been frozen at that time by conservative politicians since 1997. Another example is public policy on homeownership along with sub-prime mortgage lenders and their low teaser rates that lure unqualified customers to buy homes eventually foreclosed. And not to leave out the judiciary’s role, Karger cites a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows national banks to charge the highest rate allowable in their home states to borrowers living elsewhere.

What, you might ask, is the difference between the two types of lending, sub-prime and predatory? Is the first legal and the second not? No. Illegalities exist in both. Moreover, state usury laws vary, so what may be illegal loans in one state are legal in another. Ethical considerations certainly don’t differentiate the two types of lending. Unscrupulous but legal practices abound in both types. The difference between them Karger says is blurry, offering his own blurry view that the first is generally “beneficial” and the second is “destructive.” In my opinion the only difference may be in how excessively customers are gouged. It seems to me, moreover, that sub-prime loans can’t be beneficial because the effects of being gouged benefit only the gouger.

The profitability of the fringe market has been too tempting for mainstream financial institutions not to enter it. Some observers, Karger says, believe this development will help to counteract unscrupulous lending practices. Not a chance! Anyone who tracks big financial institutions and corporations in general should know that the profit to be made and the pressure to make it every quarter will compromise the means to make it. Karger is not “optimistic” either and offers some corroborating evidence by citing some very prominent corporations that entered the fringe market. Customers of this market represent what I would call our own undeveloped “sub-country,” so why should we expect it to be any less exploited than are undeveloped countries by multi-national corporations?

The solution, Karger thinks, is not to eliminate the fringe market, as if that were even a remote possibility! He also thinks it would not be desirable because compared to fringe services the mainstream ones are not as accessible physically or as culturally compatible to poor neighborhoods.

At the end of each sector’s chapter and in the concluding chapter, therefore, he suggests numerous solutions, some more plausible than others, that would accommodate the realities of these neighborhoods while also eliminating some of the abusive and fraudulent practices of doing business with the people who live in those neighborhoods. Many of the solutions, like lending “only to borrowers who have the income or liquid assets to repay the debt” (how plausible, though, is that for some borrowers?) could be voluntarily adopted by lenders. But business being what it is, whether in the fringe or mainstream economy, socially and genuinely responsible behavior is rarely volunteered. So Karger adds some legislative recommendations. In this sense his book is very timely. As I wrote the review, for instance, Congress was considering legislation to curb the excesses of the sub-prime mortgage business. But whatever Congress passes is academic. Anything Congress does is not done without the heavy hand of large corporations in the mix.

In Closing

Were it only true that the corpocracy and its capitalism were relegated to the fringe economy and then made to vanish to never-never land!

  1. Brumback, GB. “Review of the book Short Changed: Life and Debt in the Fringe Economy by Howard Karger in the book review section of Personnel Psychology 60″, 2007, pp. 787-790.
  2. John De Graaf, J. et al. Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic, 2002.

Notes on Some Classical Thinking

Notice the “notes” in the title. Part 3 is no textbook. Part 3 is a miniscule “Cliff Notes.” Notice, too, that the title reads “classical” thinking, not “early” thinking. There’s a difference. Since I regard human transactions as the bedrock of any economy and economic system, were I to choose the latter over the former qualifier I would have a lot of ground to cover, namely, that of early humans and their thinking as deduced from artifacts. An impossible task for me.

It’s not at all impossible for me, however, to skim the thinking of three classicists, Aristotle (384-322 BC), Adam Smith (1723-1790) and Karl Marx (1813-1883). Of the three, Marx came the closest to being a quasi-economist. He wrote about his vision of socialism 19 years before he wrote his Das Kapital, yet he began his career as a radical journalist that got him expelled by the governments of three countries. The same experience might have befallen me had I not kept my mouth mostly shut during my career.

Aristotle’s Thinking

Aristotle (384-322 BC) may just be the premium thinker of all time. And he thought a lot about the economies of his era. It behooves me, therefore, to “consult” with him through his writings and their interpretations since great minds (his, certainly not mine) live on.

In his day the Greek word for economy meant “household management” within the context of the community. Today in the USA economy means banksters and Wall Street.

Economic activity in his view consisted of individuals doing things necessary for survival and for the good life, which to him meant a moral life of virtue that leads to happiness. He criticized money-making as a way of gaining wealth, thought it was unnatural for people to use money to make more money — the essence of capitalism-and considered usury, or predatory lending, to be the most immoral form of economic activity. Seeking wealth is justifiable, Aristotle thought, only if it amounted to no more than an accumulation of material goods sufficient for the household.

While there were banks in his day, there is a running debate by scholars over whether or the extent to which lending was done productively, that is, with the intent of making money from the loans. I can’t imagine, though, any banking business done then as criminally as it is done today.

It’s interesting to note that a totally free market was not the custom in ancient Greece. For instance, public officials monitored measurements, levied taxes on various transactions, and even fixed retail prices! Ancient Greece survived without a free market, America’s corpocracy couldn’t survive with it! Ancient Greece had a fair market. America has an unfair market.

I feel a special bonding with Aristotle. Why? To him human action was the fulcrum of an economy. That is precisely my thinking! Please recall that in Part 1 I wrote this: “Economics, any economy, and any economic system such as capitalism are not what orthodox thinkers in general and economists particularly think they are. They are first and foremost human inventions and human actions—.”1 And, if I may be so smug, I thought of it before doing some additional reading on Aristotle where I read that: “Aristotle then goes on to derive a number of economic ideas from axiomatic concepts including the necessity of human action (emphasis mine).2  And, if I may be so smug one more time, my pal Aristotle and I are unorthodox thinkers (actually, throughout my career I was regarded as an “iconoclastic” organizational psychologist)!

Adam Smith’s Thinking

Dialogue from the Netherworld

Democracy requires unfettered capitalism.
— Milton Friedman (1912-2006)

No, it’s your corpocracy that requires it.
— Adam Smith (1723–1790)

I begin this by imagining a dialogue “overheard” from somewhere between the putative father of capitalism, Adam Smith, and the Nobel laureate in economics and guru of free-market capitalism, Milton Friedman. The views of the two gentlemen have little in common, and I can imagine a lively debate.

Adam Smith’s espousal of a free market has been far overblown. He made only a passing reference to “the invisible hand” in his Wealth of Nations and never once in it used the term “capitalism.”3 He would have recoiled at today’s corpocracy and its capitalism, for he thought the emerging corporations of his time posed threats emanating from their unlimited life span; unlimited size; unlimited power; and unlimited license. Look familiar, don’t they? He foresaw corpocratic capitalism. I foreswore it.4

But Smith and I part company when it comes to his view of the human nature underlying capitalism.  It is, in my opinion, an immoral view even though, ironically, he is known as a moral philosopher.

Read this passage of his and see if you agree with me:

[M]an has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only. He will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favour, and shew them that it is for their own advantage to do for him what he requires of them. Whoever offers to another a bargain of any kind, proposes to do this. Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want, . . . It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.5

Since self-love and selfish behavior are at odds with what I know to be the universal moral values found (usually more in words than deeds) throughout time and place, I am leaving Smith quickly to move to the next classical thinker.6

Karl Marx

I have never been, or will I ever be a communist or a socialist because of their downsides, such as centralized or state planning and the diminution of individualism. But I feel a special affinity to Karl Marx and would place him far above Adam Smith in my pantheon of brilliant, radical and humane thinkers. I feel this way about him because his primary objective in life was “to integrate extensive knowledge of the past and present with a moral imperative in order to provide a goad and a guide for contemporary action to create a more humane and equitable culture—he had the dream of people making their own history as individuals creating a community.”7 Marx, in other words, was heads and shoulders above Smith when it comes to propounding economic and political ideas that if implemented would lead to a more humane way of life.

In at least one respect, Marx is like all other human beings. What he thought and wrote was influenced by events of his era, with the most significant being the industrial revolution that was enslaving workers in dehumanizing factories with deplorable working conditions and paltry wages. The industrial revolution had a significant impact on his thinking and writing.

I will give you here my succinct interpretation of his magnum opus, Das Kapital. I will zero in on just two of his ideas, the nature of the worker and the work day, because his ideas vibrate within my very being.

The worker, like any human being, has needs to be met as best as possible; security needs, social needs, leisure needs, etc. Given capitalism, to Marx (and to me) the worker becomes an entity, not a human being, commodified by the capitalist.

As for the work day, if the worker takes some time off to attend his mother’s funeral, the capitalist sees it as the worker stealing value from the capitalist, and Marx and I see it as a thieving capitalist. I am reminded of a major war contractor giving a 10-year employee a layoff notice the very day the employee returned from bereavement leave following the death of the employee’s young son.8

In Closing

Three classical thinkers all thinking on the same topic, economies and economic systems. Of the three, one will mostly be cast aside as we continue through this series, Adam Smith.

As you can probably tell, I’m a Marxist without being a communist or a socialist. If Marx were alive today and read my writings he surely would agree with all of them and might not mind being called a “Brumbackist” if he could forgive my shunning communism and socialism. Maybe he could even accept a theme of this series, namely, that there’s bad capitalism everywhere, but there could also be good capitalism.

Read Part 1 here; Part 2 here;

  1. Brumback, GB. “Economic Sanity and Alternative Economic Systems”, Part 1. Introduction to the Series. OpEdNews, May 16; Dissident Voice, May 17, 2018.
  2. Younkin, EW. “Aristotle and Economics”, quebecoislibre.org, September 15, 2005 paper number 158.
  3. Smith, A. The Wealth of Nations, 1776.
  4. See my books, The Devil’s Marriage: Break Up the Corpocracy or Leave it in the Lurch; and Corporate Reckoning Ahead.
  5. Smith, A. Op. Cit., p. 638.
  6. See Josephson, M. Teaching Ethical Decision Making and Principled Reasoning. Ethics: Easier Said than Done. 1988, 1, pp. 27-33.
  7. Williams, AW. “The Legacy of Karl Marx: Or, the Inheritance We Dare Not Squander”, A talk presented at a symposium marking the one-hundredth anniversary of Marx’s death, Oregon State University, 1983.
  8. Brumback, GB. America’s Oldest Professions: Warring and Spying, 2015, p. 117.

Economic Insanity Close Up

Capitalism as it is practiced is economically insane, and it is devouring the American dream. So says the author of one of the books I have reviewed.1 Part 2 of this series adapts and adds to that review.

Roger Terry wrote a book in 1995 on “economic insanity” (no, it isn’t a “mis”fortune telling of the insane economic meltdown of 2008 thirteen years later). He’s certainly not a mainstream economist nor do I think even a maverick one. Rather, I assume business management is his professional field because he mentions once having students in his management classes in the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University. He is the co-founder of the “funcompany,” which is in the publishing and stationary business. His company gives him an opportunity to practice some of what he preaches.

Terry contends that the growth-driven capitalism of big, authoritarian, and unaccountable organizations is devouring the American dream. As proof he points to the erosion of the good life of being happy; how we have become a nation not of citizens but of consumers of “life-style enhancing” things, yet in actuality we produce more (in waste) than we consume in products and services; how seeking limitless economic progress is both illusory and self-destructive; how we live in a capitalistic society, but most of us are dependent wage earners, not independent capitalists; and how the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer-an inevitable result of capitalism.

I could not agree more with his aspersion toward “big, authoritarian, and unaccountable organizations.” My very first book not only railed against them, but better still, offered a model of an organization that was the direct antithesis of today’s behemoth hierarchical organizations.2

Note his reference to “independent capitalists.” We shall encounter that idea more than once as we proceed through the series.

In the first part of his book, Terry questions three underlying assumptions of our current capitalistic system that he contends are so inherently wrong that the system can’t be fixed; 1) limitless, perpetual economic growth is an imperative good, 2) increasing productivity is a cure-all for an ailing economy, and 3) maintaining a good life depends on continuous technological advances. I could add some more underlying inherently wrong assumptions, like that of assuming that debt is the basis of our economy.3

The growth imperative, he argues, is illogical, immoral, misguiding, and destructive. It’s illogical because we consumers buy products we don’t really need (e.g., personal computer upgrades) from companies that are fearful of not making and selling new products lest their competitors do so and grab more of the market share. It’s immoral because it lets companies rationalize wrongdoing for the sake of survival.  It’s misguiding because companies are diverted from what should be their true purpose, to serve society in useful ways. It’s destructive because our planet and our pocketbooks are being irretrievably depleted by a growth-driven, consumer-oriented economy. I agree with him completely, and as a side note, I have reviewed another book that propounds the opposite, “double-digit” growth.4

He argues that productivity increases, contrary to the prevailing assumption, don’t make the economy grow and thereby don’t improve our standard of living. He observes that while productivity has gone up over the last 25 years, real wages haven’t. Productivity increases, instead, are siphoned into the pockets of the rich, into pay for support people (e.g., consultants) who don’t produce anything, and into payments on un-forgiving huge debts fueled by the growth imperative. Not to mention, I would add, the unconscionable hiatus between the haves and have nots that are reflected not only in individual incomes but also in misery, insufferably poor living conditions and health, and sometimes death from failing health.

Technological advances, he claims, are “inherently self-destructive” because they are “quickly bankrupting us.” Only a few select companies and the more affluent among us can afford the technology race. The rest go out of business or into deeper debt.

In Terry’s opinion, the assumptions are so inherently wrong that the system can’t be fixed, so in the second part of his book he offers ideas for a new kind of capitalism. In that sense, Terry’s ideas are very much at home with this series (obviously, or I wouldn’t have included him).

In the second part of his book, Terry outlines the features of a new economic system. It would be a structurally different capitalism, one we’ve never seen before. It would be a “Nation of Owners,” in which there are three levels of ownership: (a) small enterprises, like his own, with the founders and a few partners who share ownership commensurate with their seniority and other factors like start-up funding; (b) larger enterprises, the corporations of today, would be owned collectively by their members, who would elect managers for limited terms of office; and (c) public enterprises, such as utilities, education, defense, and the like, would be created and managed by public boards or local governments. Now that, I would add and enthusiastically emphasize, would be real economic sanity!

Here is a sketch of what he says life would be like under this different capitalism. It would be a “truer form” of capitalism because anyone able-bodied and “even minimally motivated would own capital and in reasonably equal portions,” thus guaranteeing freedom of opportunity and markedly reducing inequality of income. There would no longer be a Wall Street since absentee owners; i.e., shareholders, would gradually be replaced by working owners, which in turn would eliminate the motive of short-term profits and its immoral consequences. Our government would be much different — it wouldn’t be controlled by a corpocracy. Our economy would be developing better rather than growing bigger. Businesses would be motivated to serve society instead of serving themselves. There would be no more drudgery at work, exploitation of workers, cutthroat competition, takeovers, downsizings, wholesale firings, ballooning personal and collective debt, frivolous products, superfluous support structures, or any other ills you might associate with the present system. Sounds like utopia, doesn’t it? Unless you’re a fat-cat CEO or you can’t wait for the next computer upgrade.

But he obviously wasn’t writing for the fat-cat CEOs or the impatient PC owners; no, he was writing instead for people “who will inhabit America’s future and dream the American Dream” and “leaders—among us (who) have yet to find their voices.”

Terry forged this book out of what he calls “a disjointed pile of half-baked, angry ideas.” His purpose in this less angry final product is “to identify a new way of looking at our organizational and individual lives through rejecting certain assumptions that drive our economic system.” Some of it is indeed a new way for me and maybe for you, too.

In Closing

Roger Terry has given us an innovative alternative form of capitalism. Terrific! But there’s more! Wait until you see the rest of this series!

An Internet friend of mine who is also an editor and writer wrote not long ago that capitalism is intrinsically a despicable economic system that has caused the U.S. to be the scourge of humanity, so to speak.5 I posted this response to his article:

Capitalism, on the other hand, is not intrinsically the curse of humanity as you suggest. In two of my books, The Devil’s Marriage: Break Up the Corpocracy or Leave Democracy in the Lurch; and, Corporate Reckoning Ahead, I present six viable, alternative forms of capitalism, none of which resemble the present form. And I laid out a way to put the latter in the dustbin of history. Of course, Americans have been duped by the corpocracy to accept the present form of capitalism as the only form, and unless they wise up and rise up America and the rest of the world will continue to suffer until the bitter end, which will also sweep away the power elite but not soon enough.

That commentary of mine underlies this series. By its end you will have come to your own conclusion if not way before.

• Read Part 1 here;

  1. Terry, R. Economic Insanity: How Growth-Driven Capitalism is Devouring the American Dream, 1995.
  2. Brumback, GB. Tall Performance from Short Organizations Through We/Me Power, 2004.
  3. Brumback, GB. “Economic Sanity and Alternative Economic Systems: Part 1. Introduction to the Series“, OpEdNews, May 16; Dissident Voice, May 17, 2018.
  4. Michael Treacy. “Double-Digit Growth: How Great Companies Achieve It-No Matter What”, New York: Portfolio, 2003.
  5. Pear, DW. “On U.S. Imperialism, Capitalism and Fascism”, OpEdNews, May 12, 2018.

Economic Sanity and Alternative Economic Systems

This piece introduces my 10-part series on economic sanity and alternative economic systems.  Never mind that I am not an economist. Instead, please appreciate that I am not an economist.

Neither is Daniel Kahneman an economist, and he won the Nobel Prize for economics. He is a psychologist like me, but a very different psychologist in at least two respects. Firstly, his specialty is cognitive psychology, mine is organizational psychology. Secondly, I will never win a Nobel Prize.

Neither was Aristotle, an ancient Greek philosopher who ruminated on the matter of economics. Neither was Adam Smith, the putative father of capitalism. He was a moral philosopher. Neither, I am almost certain, are any of the other thinkers profiled in this series.

And that, if I do say so myself, is the beauty of this series and of most any unorthodox treatment of the matter. Economics, any economy, and any economic system such as capitalism are not what orthodox thinkers in general and economists particularly think they are. They are first and foremost human inventions and human actions, and absolutely anything and everything involving humans, ipso facto is at their very core psychological in nature.

And that brings me to my “human equation” for explaining anything involving humans. If you have read certain of my writings, you may be tired of reading it again, but I must mention it again without too much elaboration. The right side of the equation is the output side with two parts, human behavior first and its consequences second. The input side also has two parts, humans with all their characteristics and their situations and circumstances. An interesting twist, by the way, is that the equation is not linear. It is circular. Feedback from the right side can influence the left side. If a transaction of mine fails, for example, I am unlikely to repeat that transaction the same way again.

Getting closer to the subject at hand, human behavior, even habitual behavior, needs to be motivated. At the heart of human motivation are values, beliefs, attitudes, needs and wants, with the latter two being the most relevant for the topic of this series. Human needs and wants are the bedrock of any economy and any economic system. Money is not the bedrock. It is simply a medium. There was no money when the earliest humans started needing and wanting. Debt, as some economic thinkers think, is not the bedrock. Debt is merely an offshoot of an usually uneven transaction. And since no human, not even a member of a society’s power elite is self-sufficient, satisfying one’s needs and wants will in one way or another depend on what some other human beings do. So, you see, the psychology of human nature is the bedrock of economics, any economy and any economic system.

Preview

Part 2. Economic Insanity Close Up. Capitalism as it is practiced is economically insane, and it is devouring the American dream, so says the author of one of the books I have reviewed. Part 2 will summarize that review.1

Part 3. Two Early Philosophers on Economies and their Systems. The ideas of Aristotle and Adam Smith are discussed in Part 3.

Parts 4-9 are ordered alphabetically by the contributor’s names except mine, which takes up the rear end. Parts 4-9 are adaptations of some of my book reviews in the past, books that I had deliberately chosen to review to educate myself. The last part, Part 10, gives my proposal for an alternative capitalism and ends by wrapping up the series.

Part 5. “Capitalism 3.0.”2

Part 6. “Real Wealth of Nations.”3

Part 7. “Shared Capitalism.”4

Part 8. “Natural Capitalism.”5

Part 9. “Spiritual Capital.”6

Part 10. “The Peoples’ Capitalism” and the Series Conclusion.7

In Closing

I hope after reading the series that your perspective on economics, economies and capitalism has been expanded, which is my purpose for having written the series (writing it also further edifies me). To be honest, I have yet to write the rest of it, but it should come sooner than later. I wanted to make Part 1 available now simply because I had finished it, and letting it rest in my computer would be unbearable.

  1. Terry, R. Economic Insanity: How Growth-Driven Capitalism is Devouring the American Dream, 1995.
  2. Barnes, P. Capitalism 3.0: A Guide to Reclaiming the Commons, 2006.
  3. Eisler, R. The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics, 2007.
  4. Gates, JR. The Ownership Solution: Toward A Shared Capitalism for the 21st Century, 1998.
  5. Hawkins, P., Lovins, A., & Lovins, LH. Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, 1999.
  6. Zohar, D. and Marshall, I. Spiritual Capital: Wealth We Can Live By, 2004.
  7. See my books; The Devil’s Marriage: Break Up the Corpocracy or Leave Democracy in the Lurch, Chapter 11, pp. 149-180, and Corporate Reckoning Ahead, Chapter 12, pp. 124-136.

For His 200th Birthday, Honoring Marx As An Activist

In 1888, Marx wrote, “philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.”

On this 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx we focus on Marx as a political activist, rather than what he is best known for, an economist and philosopher who wrote some of the most important analyses explaining capitalism and putting forward an alternative economic model.

In the Communist Manifesto, Marx wrote, “The history of all previous societies has been the history of class struggles.” He believed political change stems from the history of conflicts between people who are exploited against the people who are exploiting them. This exploitation leads to conflict and revolt. Marx posited revolution as “the driving force of history.”

The root of the political struggle for Marx was the economic system creating a struggle between classes. This conflict has varied throughout history; e.g., the serfs vs. the lords in the Feudal Era, the slaves vs. their owners in the era of slavery, and today between workers and their bosses or capitalists.

Iconic picture of the 1848 revolution in Berlin. Unknown artist. Public domain.

Marx Was a Political Activist Working to Change the World

In an interview with Immanuel WallersteinMarcello Musto described Marx’s political activism, noting:

For all his life, Marx was not merely a scholar isolated among the books of London’s British Museum, but always a militant revolutionary involved in the struggles of his epoch. Due to his activism, he was expelled from France, Belgium and Germany in his youth. He was also forced to go into exile in England when the revolutions of 1848 were defeated. He promoted newspapers and journals and always supported labor movements in all the ways he could. Later, from 1864 to 1872, he became the leader of the International Working Men’s Association, the first transnational organization of the working class and, in 1871, defended the Paris Commune, the first socialist experiment in history.

Wallerstein adds that Marx played a major role in organizing people on an international level and that “Marx’s political activity also involved journalism…. He worked as a journalist to get an income, but he saw his contributions as a political activity. He had not any sense of being a neutral. He was always a committed journalist.”

At 24 years of age, Marx was writing fiery articles opposing Prussian authoritarianism. The newspaper he edited was closed in 1842 by the government, he was exiled and moved to Paris from where he was expelled in 1844.

In 1848, Marx and Engels published the Communist Manifesto.  “The Manifesto” was written as a declaration of the principles of socialism for the Communist League in Brussels. It remains a statement of the core principles of socialism to this day. At 45 years of age, Marx was elected to the general council of the first International where he was active in organizing the International’s annual congresses.

Marx’s vision of socialism had nothing in common with one-party dictatorships like the former Soviet Union that declared themselves to be socialist or communist. For Marx, the key question was not whether the economy was controlled by the state, but which class controlled the state. A society can only be socialist if power is in the hands of workers themselves.

Photo: Dean Chahim/flickr/cc)

Our Tasks: Expose Inequality, Create New Economic Systems

Marx’s critique of capitalism focuses on how it inevitably leads to concentration of wealth. Marxism was seen as extinct after the Reagan-Thatcher eras and the end of the Soviet Union. But, now after nearly 40 years of neoliberalism, the inequality of deregulated global capitalism has made the occupy meme of the 99 percent versus the one percent a factual reality.

The Independent reports on Marx’s anniversary:

Unsurprisingly, several decades of neoliberalism have been the greatest testament to how a deregulated capitalism, red in tooth and claw, siphons wealth to the top 1 per cent or even 0.1 per cent. Recent figures show that the wealthiest eight billionaires in the world (whom you could fit into a people carrier) have as much wealth as the bottom half of the global population, or some 3. 5 billion people. Astonishingly, the equivalent figure was the 62 wealthiest billionaires in 2016. Back in 2010 it was more than 300. This is how rapidly wealth is being sucked up to the top – this may be termed the vacuum-up effect as opposed to the myth of trickle-down economics.

In the United States, three people hold more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the domestic population, “a total of 160 million people or 63 million American households.” Roughly a fifth of USians “have zero or negative net worth.” That figure is even higher for black and Latino households, the result of decades of discrimination. In some US corporations, the CEO earns more than 1,000 times the average worker; i.e., workers would have to toil more than nine centuries to make as much as the CEO makes in just one year.

The contradiction between extreme wealth and widespread poverty and economic insecurity, between the efficient production of goods and services and the refusal to share the prosperity created by efficiency, and between the use of natural resources and the destruction of the planet and enormous threats of climate change are leading people to see the failures of capitalism.

In 2017, the National Review reported that a poll found as many as 40 percent of people in the U.S. “now prefer socialism to capitalism.” A 2016 YouGov survey found that respondents younger than 30 rated socialism more favorably than capitalism, 43 percent vs. 32 percent. “Socialism” was the most looked-up word on Merriam-Webster’s site in 2015. “Socialism has been near the top of our online dictionary look-up list for several years,” said editor-at-large Peter Sokolowsk.

In 2014, David Harvey, a top Marxist academic, wrote, in Seventeen Contradictions And the End of Capitalism, that the extreme contradictions are leading to major transformations:

“It is in a political climate such as this that the violent and unpredictable eruptions that are occurring all around the world on an episodic basis (from Turkey and Egypt to Brazil and Sweden in 2013 alone) look more and more like the prior tremors for a coming earthquake that will make the post-colonial revolutionary struggles of the 1960s look like child’s play.”

How will that change occur? The answer is in part up to what those working for change do. Youssef El-Gingihy writes in the Independent of one likely possibility:

The transition of capitalism to an alternative political and economic system will likely play out over a protracted period, even if it is catalyzed by revolution. Much in the same way that feudalism evolved into capitalism through the dual industrial (economic) and French revolutions (political), in which the bourgeoisie superseded the aristocratic order preceded by the 17th-century English civil war.

We see the slow transition in process with the development of a myriad of economic democracy projects that give workers control of their employment through worker cooperatives, give communities control over their development through land trusts, give people direct control over budget decisions through participatory budgeting and democratize banking through public banks. These are some efforts to create an economy that serves the people without limiting control to workers, whose numbers are shrinking due to automation. Many of these new economic models are in their early stages of development.

Marx believed that:

No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society.

The lessons of Karl Marx show that our tasks are to heighten class conflict by exposing the reality of abhorrent inequality and create new systems to replace failing capitalism.