Lincoln's Grave Warning Realized
"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country...corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."
Eight Principles of Uncivilization
‘We must unhumanise our views a little, and become conﬁdent
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.’
We live in a time of social, economic and ecological unravelling. All around us are signs that our whole way of living is already passing into history. We will face this reality honestly and learn how to live with it.
We reject the faith which holds that the converging crises of our times can be reduced to a set of‘problems’ in need of technological or political ‘solutions’.
We believe that the roots of these crises lie in the stories we have been telling ourselves. We intend to challenge the stories which underpin our civilisation: the myth of progress, the myth of human centrality, and the myth of our separation from ‘nature’. These myths are more dangerous for the fact that we have forgotten they are myths.
We will reassert the role of story-telling as more than mere entertainment. It is through stories that we weave reality.
Humans are not the point and purpose of the planet. Our art will begin with the attempt to step outside the human bubble. By careful attention, we will reengage with the non-human world.
We will celebrate writing and art which is grounded in a sense of place and of time. Our literature has been dominated for too long by those who inhabit the cosmopolitan citadels.
We will not lose ourselves in the elaboration of theories or ideologies. Our words will be elemental. We write with dirt under our ﬁngernails.
The end of the world as we know it is not the end of the world full stop. Together, we will ﬁnd the hope beyond hope, the paths which lead to the unknown world ahead of us.
Walking on lava
The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilisation
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Those who witness extreme social collapse at first hand seldom describe any deep revelation about the truths of human existence. What they do mention, if asked, is their surprise at how easy it is to die.
The pattern of ordinary life, in which so much stays the same from one day to the next, disguises the fragility of its fabric. How many of our activities are made possible by the impression of stability that pattern gives? So long as it repeats, or varies steadily enough, we are able to plan for tomorrow as if all the things we rely on and don’t think about too carefully will still be there. When the pattern is broken, by civil war or natural disaster or the smaller-scale tragedies that tear at its fabric, many of those activities become impossible or meaningless, while simply meeting needs we once took for granted may occupy much of our lives.
What war correspondents and relief workers report is not only the fragility of the fabric, but the speed with which it can unravel. As we write this, no one can say with certainty where the unravelling of the financial and commercial fabric of our economies will end. Meanwhile, beyond the cities, unchecked industrial exploitation frays the material basis of life in many parts of the world, and pulls at the ecological systems which sustain it.
Precarious as this moment may be, however, an awareness of the fragility of what we call civilisation is nothing new.
‘Few men realise,’ wrote Joseph Conrad in 1896, ‘that their life, the very essence of their character, their capabilities and their audacities, are only the expression of their belief in the safety of their surroundings.’ Conrad’s writings exposed the civilisation exported by European imperialists to be little more than a comforting illusion, not only in the dark, unconquerable heart of Africa, but in the whited sepulchres of their capital cities. The inhabitants of that civilisation believed ‘blindly in the irresistible force of its institutions and its morals, in the power of its police and of its opinion,’ but their confidence could be maintained only by the seeming solidity of the crowd of like-minded believers surrounding them. Outside the walls, the wild remained as close to the surface as blood under skin, but the city-dweller was no longer equipped to face it directly.
The remainder of the essay can be read online: Dark Mountain manifesto.
Paul is the author of One No, Many Yeses and Real England. He was deputy editor of The Ecologist between 1999 and 2001. His first poetry collection, Kidland, is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry. His website is www.paulkingsnorth.net
Dougald writes the blog Changing the World (and other excuses for not getting a proper job). He is a former BBC journalist and has written for and edited various online and offline magazines. His website is www.dougald.co.uk~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Editorial Notes ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Several Energy Bulletin contributors are on their Blogroll, including John Michael Greer, Sharon Astyk, Rob Hopkins and Dmitry Orlov. Also mentioned are Wendell Berry and Ivan Illich.
George Monbiot recently wrote a column in the Guardian about Dark Mountain Project: I share their despair, but I'm not quite ready to climb the Dark Mountain.
On Common Dreams, Robert C. Koehler wrote a related piece: Dark Green.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Original article available here~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Our American Objectives
restore public confidence in the government's ability to undertake large national infrastructure projects, and re-assert its right to set goals and policies to ensure those projects proceed smoothly; define the overarching standards for a reconstructed America including a federal review of the building and planning codes now in use, and probably the writing of new mandates that set out 21st-century standards and priorities for energy use, urban and transportation planning, and environmental design, which once put into law and accepted into general use, will be very difficult to change; commit funding for a massive 10- or 20-year program that will upgrade or replace failing components of America's infrastructure as the nation is broke (as it was in FDR's day) and this kind of spending needs to be seen as the long-term investment in our economic future that it is; restore a fair, honest, broad-based system of public contracting that will put large numbers of Americans to work on these new projects (and write the new rules in a way that ensures that the firms doing the most innovative work don't have to compete with unfair behemoth corporations like Halliburton and Lockheed for the lion's share of the funding) so that once there is a healthy, competitive construction industry that knows how to build sustainable projects—and is relying on the government to keep it in business—we will get a political constituency that will fight to ensure that the rebuilding will continue for the next several decades, regardless of what political party is in power; use the forces of globalization and information to strengthen and expand existing democratic alliances and created new ones; employ these alliances to destroy terrorist networks and establish new international security structures; lead, through our historic principles, on international cooperative efforts in spreading economic opportunity and democratic liberties, nation building, counter-prolification, and optimum environmental protection and safeguards; and cherish, honor, and protect our history and traditions of liberty and freedoms domestically particularly with respect to the Bill of Rights."
"The renewed social contract for America with its middle class and poor must:
- Raise the minimum wage still higher and on a regular basis. It has fallen far behind increases in inflation since the 1970s, and that affects higher level wages as well.
- Encourage living-wage programs by local governments. Governments can demand that their contractors and suppliers pay well above the minimum wage. There is substantial evidence that this does not result in an undue loss of jobs.
- Enforce the labor laws vigilantly. Minimum-wage and maximum-hour laws are violated to a stunning degree. American workers shouldn't be forced by their employers to understate the number of hours worked or be locked in the warehouse so they can't leave on time. Workers often make only $2 and $3 an hour.
- Unions are not seeking a free pass to organize secretly when they advocate for open check-offs on cards to approve of a union vote. They are seeking to organize without persistent and often illegal management interference. Penalties for illegally deterring such organizing are so light, it makes little sense for management not to pursue strategies to stop organizing even at the cost of prosecution.
- Request that trading partners develop serious environmental standards and worker-protection laws. This is good for them, bringing a progressive revolution and a robust domestic market to their countries. It is good for America, which will be able to compete on a more level playing field.
- Demand that the president, governors and mayors speak up about unconscionable executive salaries and low wages. The influence from the top cannot be underestimated. A president who looks the other way sends a strong signal to business. A president who demands responsible treatment of workers will get a response. Business does not like such attention.
- These measures should be accompanied by serious investment in modernized infrastructure and energy alternatives, which can create millions of domestic jobs that pay good salaries. It should also be accompanied by a policy that supports a lower dollar -- contrary to Rubinomics -- in order to stimulate manufacturing exports again. Accomplishing this may require a new system of semi-fixed currencies across the globe. The unabashed high-dollar policy of the past twenty years has led to imbalances around the world that have contributed fundamentally to US overindebtedness.
- And finally, the nation needs more balance on the part of the Federal Reserve between subduing inflation and creating jobs. Americans can live with inflation above 2 percent a year. There is no academic evidence to support a 2 percent annual target, although the Fed has made this its informal target."
The Continuing Case for The Second Bill of Rights for All American Citzens
...from Michael Lind on Salon.com on 11 January 2010 ....
The Case for Economic Rights
Three score and six years ago, the greatest president of the 20th century gave one of his greatest speeches. On Jan. 11, 1944, in a State of the Union address that deserves to be ranked with Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" and King's "I Have a Dream" speech, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called for recognition of a "Second Bill of Rights." According to FDR:
"This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights -- among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty. As our nation has grown in size and stature, however -- as our industrial economy expanded -- these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness."
Roosevelt did not argue that economic rights had superseded basic, old-fashioned political and civil rights. The argument of authoritarians and totalitarians that economic rights are more important than non-economic liberty was abhorrent to him. Instead, with the examples of the fascist and communist regimes of his time in mind, he argued that the purpose of economic rights was to support and reinforce, not replace, civil and political liberties:
"We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. 'Necessitous men are not free men.' People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all -- regardless of station, race, or creed."
President Roosevelt was not promoting economic rights that were necessarily enforceable in court, but rather economic benefits and opportunities that every American should expect to enjoy by virtue of citizenship in our democratic republic. Many of the rights he identified have been secured by programs with bipartisan support. These include:
"the right to a good education" (the G.I. Bill, student loans, Pell Grants, Head Start, federal aid to K-12 schools) and
"the right of every family to a decent home" (federally subsidized home loans and tax breaks for home ownership). But even before the global economic crisis, the U.S. fell short when it came to full employment --
"the right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation"
-- and a living wage --
"the right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation."
Roosevelt's vision was controversial at the time and is contested today. When it comes to providing a safety net for Americans, there are three distinct paradigms, which I would describe as economic citizenship, welfare corporatism and faith-based charity.
Supporters of faith-based charity among "theoconservatives" such as Marvin Olasky argue that modern social insurance like Social Security and Medicare was a mistake. The medieval British and colonial American systems of relying on religious institutions to care for the sick and poor should have been continued and built upon, with government subsidies to "faith-based institutions."
The secular business-class right, however, has shown little interest in faith-based charity, perhaps because it is difficult for rent-seeking bankers, brokers and other private sector actors to extract huge amounts of money from tax-exempt church hospitals and church soup lines. The right's preferred alternative to the progressive vision of economic citizenship is what I call "welfare corporatism." Whereas economic citizenship views protection against sickness, unemployment and old age as entitlements of citizens in a democratic republic, welfare corporatism treats these necessities of life as commodities like groceries or appliances, to be purchased in a market by people who are thought of as consumers, not citizens.
Let's contrast ideal versions of the two approaches. In the ideal America of economic citizenship, there would be a single, universal, integrated, lifelong system of economic security including
Social Security, unemployment payments and
paid for by a single contributory payroll tax (which could be made progressive in various ways or reduced by combination with other revenue streams). Funding for all programs would be entirely nationalized, although states could play a role in administration. There would still be supplementary private markets in health and retirement products and services for the affluent, but most middle-class Americans would continue to rely primarily on the simple, user-friendly public system of economic security. As Steven Attewell points out, the Social Security Act of 1935 was intended not merely to provide public pensions for the elderly but to establish a framework for a comprehensive system of social insurance corresponding to President Roosevelt's "right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment." Attewell writes: "We need to go back to the original drawing board -- the Social Security Act of 1935 -- to finish the job it began and create a truly universal and comprehensive social welfare state."
In the utopia of welfare corporatism, today's public benefits -- Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance and, in a few states, public family leave programs -- would be abolished and replaced by harebrained schemes dreamed up by libertarian ideologues at corporate-funded think tanks like the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation. Tax subsidies would be funneled to insurance companies, brokers and banks. Social Security would be replaced by a bewildering miscellany of tax-favored personal savings accounts. Medicare would be replaced by a dog's breakfast of tax subsidies for purchasing health insurance and personal medical savings accounts. Unemployment insurance would give way to yet another Rube Goldberg scheme of tax-favored unemployment insurance accounts. As for family leave -- well, if you're not wealthy enough to pay out of pocket for a nanny for your child or a nurse for your parent, you're out of luck.
The strongest case for economic citizenship instead of welfare corporatism is economic. Economic citizenship is more efficient and cheaper in the long run, because the government need only meet costs, while subsidized private providers must make a profit. The Democratic and Republican supporters of welfare corporatism justify their system of massive subsidies for for-profit healthcare and retirement security with the claim that market competition will keep down prices. If only that were true. Competitive markets are probably impossible to create, in the highly regulated insurance sector and the highly concentrated financial sector that sells private retirement goods and services.
It follows that a policy of subsidizing oligopolies and monopolies, via government subsidies to consumers, in the absence of government-imposed price controls, is a recipe for cost inflation, as the providers jack up their prices, sending the consumers back to Congress to demand even more public subsidies. By its very nature, welfare corporatism funnels public resources, in the form of tax breaks, to rent-seeking, predatory firms in the FIRE (finance, insurance, real estate) sector, with ever-swelling dead-weight costs on the economy. Welfare corporatism equals corporate welfare.
Unfortunately, most progressives have failed to make the case against the libertarian myth of market competition in the provision of social insurance. All too many, including President Obama, have made the too-clever-by-half argument that the public option would keep prices down by means of market competition. In other words, the center-left has borrowed a bogus argument about competition from right-wing free-market fundamentalism in order to defend a token public program that ceased to be of any interest once Obama and the Democrats in Congress ruled that Americans with employer-provided insurance would be banned from joining the public option. When you're reduced to parroting the opposition's erroneous theories, in the process of begging for a slight modification of the opposition's pet program, you clearly don't have the nerve or the patience to play the long game in politics.
In a response to one of my earlier columns, Will Marshall wonders how I can dare to criticize the legacy of Bill Clinton, a Democrat. My reasons should be clear by now. I am not a partisan Democratic operative focused on winning the next election. I am interested only in strengthening the republic through a gradual expansion of economic citizenship in the tradition of Franklin Roosevelt's Second Bill of Rights. If this means criticizing Democratic presidents who expand welfare corporatism instead of economic citizenship, so be it.
As part of his opportunistic policy of triangulation between his own party and the opposition, Bill Clinton joined the Republicans in a three-pronged assault on New Deal economic citizenship. He and the Republican Congress abolished Aid to Families With Dependent Children, a flawed and unpopular means-tested program for the poor that should have been reformed as a national program rather than turned over to the states as the neo-Confederate right insisted. Instead of piecemeal expansion of single-payer healthcare, Clinton pushed a version of employer-based welfare corporatism plus subsidies that came out of the playbook of moderate Republicans like Nixon. And we now know that Clinton secretly agreed to support Newt Gingrich's drive to partly privatize Social Security, in return for dedicating the federal government's imaginary future surpluses to what was left of Social Security. In 2005, Will Marshall argued in favor of private accounts, on the grounds that they would soften up Americans for cuts in Social Security: "If today's workers start saving and investing more in stocks and bonds, the returns they earn would allow us to trim their Social Security benefits later, without reducing their overall standard of living."
While George W. Bush pushed for partial privatization of Social Security, he failed because of massive public opposition. But Bush and the Republican majority in Congress succeeded in enacting the Social Security drug benefit, a flawed but genuine expansion of economic citizenship. Clinton is the only president to have successfully supported the destruction of a New Deal entitlement, while Bush presided over the greatest expansion of the Rooseveltian entitlement system since Lyndon Johnson passed Medicare.
For his part, Barack Obama, like Bill Clinton, rejected single-payer in favor of a moderately conservative welfare corporatist approach to healthcare reform. In contrast, Obama's proposal for student loan reform, an idea discussed in the Clinton years, would move in the right direction, away from welfare corporatism and toward economic citizenship, by replacing subsidized third-party lenders with direct government provision of student loans to needy college students.
Parties are coalitions of interest groups, they are not public philosophies, and presidents, great and minor, are and have to be opportunists. In contrast, reformers only have a chance of succeeding if they stick to their basic principles and keep their eyes on the prize. Progressives should support any politician, Democrat or Republican, who expands economic citizenship to the detriment of welfare corporatism, and they should oppose any politician, Democrat or Republican, who expands welfare corporatism to the detriment of economic citizenship.
Any more questions?
14 June 2009
Monday 15 June Links
The Story of the Demise of Montana's Exclusive Yellowstone Club
The Giant Debt Bomb is Ticking
Will Mankind Ever Return to the Moon ?
Creating Imaginary Controversy with Medicare
The Forgotten Poor, Eternally in Pain and Hardship
The Tragedy of Jaguars in Arizona
Eastern Utah Getting Hammered by Economic Collapse
Much Ado About Nothing by PETA
Battle Just Beginning Over SoCal - Vegas Train Choice
The Full Story Behind the Demise of The Rocky Mountain News
The Story of Taxation in Oregon
Navahos Oppose Long Walk Trail Concept
Major Tragic Crime Issues Beset Albuquerque
America's Most Fit Cities
The Looming End of Glacier National Park's Ice and Glaciers
Dust Bowl Exodus Now in Reverse in Today's Woes Stricken California
Heart Warming Story