We are fortunate indeed that, in our time, the obscure subject known as economics is at last being opened up by a new generation of clear eyed thinkers, exposing it to the light of day. Some of their names appear in the Recommended Reading list at the end of this book. Actually understanding economics, they understand how desperately its simple, true fundamentals need to be laid out, examined and explained so that everybody can understand what’s going on. This is good because, assuredly, every person alive is profoundly affected every day by economics—most just don’t know it. Nor do most yet realize how economics is but one component of a unitary complex of human concerns that include the earth environment, political, spiritual and scientific perspectives, ethical choices and values, and a Godly mandate for all of us to attain knowledge, understanding, wisdom—and to help ourselves grow by caring for others, helping them grow too.
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Well, that’s all I have to say about that. For now. Too late I’ll think of all those other things I’ll wish I’d said. I quite agree with that old folksong The Housewife’s Lament: “Pleasures they dwindle and prices they double and nothing is as I would wish it to be.” I’m trying to think if all these chapters leave anyone unoffended. If so, I apologize—I meant to be even handed.
Elmore Bland, Truthteller
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The presence of a single person in poverty is a failing of the entire people. The growing inequality of wealth and persistence of the slaveholder persuasion are failings of the whole that is us. Financial manipulations and chronic economic booms and busts and worsening selfishness and power seeking are failings, as are closed mindsets and dividing into mutually hate-filled political camps. Abject absence of civic education about social contract and golden rule that enables election of divisive self servers to public office, and permitting such wrongnesses to stand through sheer inattention and neglecting to register and vote, are failings. Do we as a people value anything worth valuing over the long run?
We have become, or perhaps degraded back down to, the shallow materialists who don’t want to ever leave the meaningless amusement park of free mansions and trivial glittering stuff, take all you can carry, while the big guy stands quietly at one side—waiting for us all, together, to learn The Lesson. We can’t go truly home until we all learn it, every one. When we at last and finally arise, leaving behind our dead bodies to return to the earth, the only things we can take with us are our accumulated love and acquired knowledge. This certainty comes from the tellings of people who have had near-death experiences.
We must stop failing. Our basic failures begin with forgetting who we are, and failing to develop our minds, and failing to help others uplift themselves above the base instincts remaining in our evolved animal bodies. Some of my best friends are, ironically, animals who love more fully, more unconditionally, than do about half of all highly-evolved humans. Most of all we must upgrade our own failing perspectives to “responsibility”—to ourselves, to those many who are our other-selves in their separate bodies—to our planet Earth, our nurturing mother on whom we depend utterly. Through our failings we have put it all at great risk, and from this risk there is no escaping. It must be faced.
Ethical fixes: Righting economic wrongs to serve the common good
Since Roosevelt, they are all pygmies.
Frima Rosenbaum, Ira Katznelson’s grandmother
Buckminster Fuller advised against trying to change things by fighting existing realities. “To change something,” he counseled, “build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” He was right of course, and so we proceed.
Sixteen American fixes: a CaFMaC sampler
- Public Oversight and Regulation of Private Business will be instituted exactly like civilian control over the military, for the implied dangers to democracy are the same. Any (meaning every) corporation controlling more than five percent (5%) of the U.S. market for whatever it sells will be subdivided, so that none (not one) of the subdivided parts is left controlling more than 5%. That takes care of the too-big-to-fail problem. The employees of such corporations will be enabled to buy and operate the new subdivided entities as non-profit cooperatives mandated to compete and constrain consumer prices. All natural monopolies—e.g., those that inherently must use pipelines, power grids and suchlike—will be placed under direct control of a government—local, state or federal, as applicable in each case, administering uniform federal rules that apply nationwide. Un-natural monopolies will simply be subdivided under the 5% rule. “Citizens United” and “corporate personhood” will of course be abolished, the abolition being reinforced by Constitutional amendment. Federal- and state-initiative programs to stimulate and support new small business entrepreneurs shall become a high national priority. Suppression of small entrepreneurs by larger established businesses shall be prosecuted as a felony.
- Economic Rights as an entitlement of American citizenship shall include: Assurance in federal law of enough income to buy adequate 1) food; 2) clothing; 3) shelter; 4) health care; 5) transportation and child care; 6) insurance mandated by law; 7) college education or savings but not both at the same time; and 8) an economically secure retirement. Political liberty is pretty much meaningless for any American who, despite working two or three low-pay jobs, still lacks enough money to purchase these economic rights and must often choose between food, rent and medicine. No more.
- Living Wage: Every entity doing business in the USA shall pay every employee at least a Living Wage. By federal law, living wages shall correspond to the cost of purchasing full Economic Rights in each US region, and those per-region costs shall be updated annually by the federal government. The “minimum” wage, which is a built-in guarantee of staying in poverty, shall be abolished forever and good riddance.
- Domestic Employment with Fully Restored Jobs: With 327 million Americans and rising yearly, we are our own best market—the third largest in the world. We can and shall create millions of new well-paid jobs with many initiatives such as these:
1) everything we Americans need to buy shall be manufactured (or originated, such as fire insurance) right here in the USA; 2) we shall rebuild domestic manufacturing on a wartime footing as we did in 1942; 3) we shall ban foreign ownership of any business operating in the U.S., meaning that every business allowed to operate within the USA shall have one hundred percent American ownership; 4) we shall abrogate every international trade agreement that permits any disadvantage to American consumers; 5) we shall initiate massive infrastructure renewal. Additional renewal initiatives follow below; see many more in the CaFMaC Appendix.
- Rural and Urban Employment: 1) A National Family Farm Restoration Initiative transferring hundreds of thousands of farm acres at reduced prices from corporate ownership to young farmers, with federally sponsored training and loans to buy affordable good used farm equipment; 2) A National Urban Truck Farming Initiative creating thousands of new jobs and organic crops, with massive recycling of compostable wasted food and leftovers; 3) An Appalachia Leads America Initiative creating thousands of new entrepreneurial enterprises suited to mountainous terrain, with unemployed coal miners receiving priority for a million new jobs; 4) A National Cisterns Project to capture naturally distilled rainwater for every home and building in the USA, to the fullest extent feasible, beginning in arid areas now experiencing most the severe water shortages (this initiative will require creating a modern equivalent of the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps); and 5) Conversion of industrial rust-belt wastelands into modern neighborhoods with a variety of desirable low-cost residential houses (not high-rise apartments), ample retail outlets, schools, parks, entertainment, new entrepreneurial employers, urban gardens, and new local governments. (see CaFMaC for more details).
- Universal responsibility. Children at every grade in every public school shall be progressively taught that all Americans share responsibility for our mutual wellbeing; that all personal income above the cost of the basic Economic Rights is a privilege of being an American citizen privileged to live in the USA; that all privileged incomes and accumulated wealth are taxable in the best common interest of All The People of the United States in support of each other and in loyalty to our national commonwealth. Children shall be taught that our national purpose is to help each other, and when we have a fair and just economic system, labor unions and welfare will no longer be needed.