(What the Americans need to fix perhaps we could avoid?)
This page is very long and is not meant for one sitting or reading from beginning to end. If you need some ideas dip in. there are No’s to remind you where you are. It’s all About community and staying free. Either start at intro. or use the links to get going.
Liberty- The power of choosing thinking and acting for oneself
Some things to do.
Coming to your neighborhood soon
Rules to staying free
When Public space goes private
To make meetings democratic
What they didn’t tell you Adam Smith said
If you think the social welfare state is bad
Social security may not be going bankrupt
A few facts about money
This section covers a variety of topics and could be used to conjure up discussion and ideas that relate to our community. In this web site I use a lot of American references for various reasons . One being there is much more material available on the subject matter. (Americans are closer to the source of the problems in the Americanization of the planet than we are so it is wise to follow their lead. And, they are less secretive than this country.). Another is When America sneezes the rest of us catch cold as recent events pay proof to. The numbers are if you need to remember where things are only. there is a lot of stuff’ pencil at the ready.
After you have identified the problem you have to decide if you wish to ignore it or do something about it. If you decide to do something about it, you have to equip yourself with the appropriate tools for the job. Complaining is a good start. Complaining to the right people is even better. Knowing how to complain effectively is better still. Encouraging other people to join you precipitates positive change.
So with this in mind. The following sections are culled from Sam Smiths book, (see end for details if you want the book) and concern issues we share with our American cousins. Or have to look forward to in the near future if western culture is allowed to homogenizes into an totalitarian USA model.
1 Everything is connected to everything else
2. Everything must go somewhere
3. Make some people afraid of other people is one of the best ways to control all of them
HOW TO AVOID BLAMING THE WRONG THING
4.Count the bodies. If something bad is happening, there should be evidence of it. Besides, counting the bodies helps order priorities
5. Get facts before you get scared. Just because a politician or a journalist says there’s a threat doesn’t mean there actually is one.
6. Just because its on TV doesn’t mean it’s happening to you
7. Fight issues, not people. Your gun-loving antiabortion neighbor may also oppose plans to store nuclear waist nearby. Find out. After all, most of us are right only part of the time.
8. Don’t try to crush those with whom you disagree; convert them.
9. Before “they” can do any real harm, “they” probably need money and power. If “they” don’t have it,- you are probably worrying about the wrong “they”.
10. Try something. If it works great. If it doesn’t try something else.
11. “Every one wants to examine the school that fails; nobody looks at the ones that work.
12. How do I work? I grope. Albert Einstein.
13. One big difference between institutions and communities. Communities compensate for, and absorb failure – as when neighbors help out friends or relatives in trouble – while institutions attempt to eradicate it.
14. ” environmental attorneys have been funneling peoples time energy and resources into a regulatory and administrative law system where even if we ‘win’ we don’t win much; and where there are few mechanisms for shifting rights and powers away from the corporations and towards people, communities and nature
15. As our lives become more regulated, we increasingly rely on professionals to keep our selves out of trouble. As we do so, we start to lose the sense of self-capacity essential to a vibrant citizenry
16. If you use experts you want to make sure they are on your side
SOME THINGS TO DO
17 Fix your country or your community, not the “system”
18. Don’t say you can’t beat city hall until you’ve tried. And then tried again, using a new idea
19. Think of new solutions, not new rules
20.Don’t make it uncomfortable for others to offer new ideas.
21. Don’t worry about political labels. Be ahead rather than left or right
22. Don’t blame the weak for trouble caused by the strong
23. Don’t do the same thing over and over again and expect anything different to happen
24. Think laterally. Imagine the solution you want, and then figure out how to get there. Experiment
25. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes along the way
26. Use your experts, not theirs. If you can’t find an expert, become one yourself
HOW TO STAY FREE
Hang on to democracy in good times and bad
27. As things now stand, we could easily become the first people in history to lose democracy and its constitutional freedoms simply because we have forgotten what they are about
RESTRICTIONS LESS THAN A GENERATION OLD
28. Black schoolchildren in Prince George’s county, Maryland, are being taught by the police how to behave when stopped or arrested. It is assumed by both school officials and the cops that it will happen
29. Roadblocks as part of random searches for drivers who have been drinking or using drugs
30. The extensive use of military in civil law enforcement, particularly in the war on drugs
31. The use of handcuffs on persons accused of minor offences and moving violations
32. Jump out squads that leap out of police vehicles and search nearby citizens
33. Much greater use of wire traps and other forms of surveillance
34. Punishment before trial such as pre-trial detention and civil forfeiture of property
35. Punishment of those not directly involved in offences, such as parents being held responsible for the actions of their children, employers being required to enforce immigration laws, and bartenders being made to forced drinking laws
36. Warrant less searches of persons and property before entering buildings, boarding planes, or using various public facilities
37. Closing of public buildings or parts of buildings on security grounds 37. Increased restrictions on students speech, behavior and clothing
38. Increased mandatory use of IDs
39. Increased restrictions on attorney-client privacy
40. Greatly increased government access to personal financial records
41. Loss of a once widely presumed guarantee of confidentiality in dealings with business, doctors accountants, and banks
42. The greatest incarceration rate of any industrialized country in the world
43. Mandatory sentencing for minor offences, particularly marijuana possession
44. Increased surveillance of employees in the workplace
45. Laws in eleven states that make it a crime to suggest that a particular food is unsafe without a “sound scientific basis” for the claim
46COMING TO YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD SOON
In 1996 the British Parliament passed legislation that allowed police to stop, frisk, and search anyone in any area they designated without ground for suspicion. Anyone declining to be searched may be arrested, jailed, or fined. Under a previous minor law, some 21,000 people and vehicles were searched, with only two arrests for suspected terrorist activities
47. Increased use of charges involving offences allegedly committed after a person has been halted by a police officer, such as failing to obey a lawful order
48. Widespread youth curfews
49. Expanded definition of pornography and laws against it
50. Greatly increased use of private police forces by corporations
51. Persons being forced to take part in line-ups because of some similarity to actual suspects
52. Loss of control over how personal information is used by business companies
53. Eviction of tenants from homes where police believe drugs are being sold.
54. Public housing projects being sealed to conduct home-to- home searches
55. Use of stereotypical profiles (including racial characteristics) to justify police searches
56. Seizure of lawyers fees in drugs cases
57. Parentless searches and questioning of bus, train, and airline passengers
58. Random searches of school lockers
59. Random searches of cars in school parking lots
60. Increased numbers of activities requiring extensive personal investigation and disclosure
61. Lack of privacy in transactions such as video rentals or computer use
62 Video surveillance of sidewalks, parks, and other public spaces
63. Involuntary drug testing increasingly used as a prerequisite for routine activities, such as earning a livelihood and playing on a sports team
64. Steady erosion by the courts of protection against search and seizure
DRAWING THE LINE
Over just a few decades the practices listed above have become part of “the slow motion underneath” America- little changes each “worse than the last, but only a little worse.” Is the analogy unfair? Are the procedures described above merle the necessary results of a complex modern society? The inevitable result of a war on drugs? To find out where you would draw the line, government back over the list of items above and ask yourself of each: Was this step necessary? Wise? Democratic? Now here are some further measures that have been proposed, or ar incremental extensions of existing restrictions, or may come due to advanced technology.
Which ones do you feel cross the line? At what point would you take a public stand on any of these?
66. Video surveillance of public bathrooms
67. Strip searches of persons matching terrorist or drug courier profiles at airports and bus and train stations
68. An national ID card encoded with any or all of the following: medical information, credit history, employment record, arrest and driving record
69. Check points at the edges of selected neighbor hoods
70. Random identification checks of pedestrians by police officers
71. Curfews for adults in high crime areas
72. A computer data search before you would be permitted to board a plane
73. Daytime curfews for youths
74. Random street frisks for weapons
75. Mail covers: recording by the postal service of suspicious names and addresses on envelopes
76. Mail surveillance: opening of suspicious mail by the postal service
77. National data base assembling medical, credit, criminal and other records in easy accessible format
78. Mandatory finger printing or ID chip implantation for purposes of positive identification
79. Incarceration in “public health centre’s” for those who fail mandatory drug tests required for driver’s licenses or school attendance
80. USE IT OR LOSE IT
‘The lawyer in the book store’- voluntary repression- Every time an American decides that it is to dangerous to exercise a freedom, that freedom is diminished
81. THUS THE FIRST RULE OF STAYING FREE IS TO ACT FREE
Cowed by McCarthy blacklist Edward R Murrow- Today , as then , there is a shortage of such voices. The media in particular have become unwilling to challenge the status quo, participating instead in what Spengler called the “terrible censorship of silence Karen Silkwood etc. Here are some of the hidden heroes and heroines of democracy. They remind us that if they can take such risks, the least the rest of us can do is to act like a free people
82. THE SECOND RULE FOR STAYING FREE IS TO KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
– CONSTITUTION – people uninformed what contains in constitution – This is one reason why its been so easy to chip away at the rights the constitution contains. In fact, however the important aspects of the constitution are easy to understand than, say, the rules of the NFL player draft or free agentry and salary caps. The best rights you’ve got list.. 83.
SO WHO’S REALLY IN CHARGE? YOU ARE
84. THE MOST DANGEROUS THING ANY POLITICIAN CAN SAY ABOUT YOUR RIGHTS
When politicians or journalists say that a constitutional right must be balanced by something else, they are really talking about reducing ore eliminating that right. In fact the rights listed in the constitution are not bargaining chips but permanent guarantees. Lately politicians and the media have also taken to talking about “rights and responsibilities,” as though free speech and free religion and not having cops raid your house without a warrant were privileges we citizens get when we’re well behaved. Don’t believe them. Our constitutional rights, to borrow a phrase from the declaration of independence are” unalienable”. Of course the country will work a lot better if you vote in every election, help out in your community, and are nice to your neighbors, but these virtues are not necessary in order for you to be protected under the constitution. You can be a grouchy, selfish couch potato making crazy calls to talk shows and still have the same rights as the most faithful volunteer at the local church.
85. SELLING CITY HALL
one of the most traditional methods of replacing or weakening democracy is to corrupt it. We not only pay enough attention to legal corruption but tend to put far more emphasis on who is being corrupted than on who is doing the corruption.
( HOW O KEEP CORRUPTION IN CHECK (AND OUT OF THE CONSTITUTION)
86. HIT THE CORRUPTERS AS HARD AS THE CORRUPTEES. THE REAL DANGER IN CORRUPTION IS THE BRIBE BUYS, NOT THE SOUL OF THE POLITICIAN
(which probably was not in great shape anyway).
87. The worst corruption tends to be legal; therefore hardly anyone notices it. Remember corruption not only means “dishonest” but also means “without integrity”. In most jurisdictions the latter is not a violation of the law.
88. Just because the corruption is legal doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Martin Luther didn’t – and so helped reform a little church run protection ratchet known as indulgence.
89. Simply because corruption is bad, don’t suppose all reforms are good. Early 20th century housing reformers, for example, would conduct midnight raids on tenements to expose over crowding, and Common Cause helped give use PACs.?
90. If forced to chose between minor corruption and major incompetence, take the former. Its cheaper and easy to live with.
91. Favor corruption that is well distributed – that gets down to the street over that which only favors a few. Thus reforming zoning policies before you worry about parking tickets.
ECONOMIC FREEDOMS COUNT TOO
recap and read more The rise of the modern corporation in the 19th century represented a counter coup against these values of the American Revolution. It dramatically undermined both political and economic freedom, corruption politicians and ransacked national assets. It replaced the feudalism of the monarchy with the feudalism of the corporation. Perhaps the most important event occurred 110 years after the launching of the American Revolution. In 1886 the Supreme Court ruled that the corporation was a person under the 14th Amendment and entitled to such constitutional protection as those of free speech.
With this fiction the Court helped boost the corporate take over of America. The 14th amendment had been clearly written to protect the rights of newly freed slaves, yet by 1930s – fifty years later – less than one half of 1 percent of 14 Amendment cases coming before the Supreme Court involved blacks, and more than 50 percent involved corporations seeking its protection.
As persons, corporations could inject themselves into civic life (such as influencing campaigns and politicians) while repelling public interference in their own affairs. They could construct barriers on civil liberties grounds against efforts to control their rapaciousness and greed. Many of these rights that corporations secured by law came even as blacks and women were still struggling towards full enfranchisement. During much of the past century Americans went along with the rising power of corporations because these companies provided higher incomes and ever increasing jobs. But about 20 years ago, these two conditions began to disappear. Part of today’s political tensions stems from a growing concern over the rising political power of big corporations even as their social and economic contribution to America declines.
92. PRIVATISING DEMOCRACY
Another easy way to diminish democracy – one that has become immensely popular in the 1990s – is to privatize it. Of course that’s not quite how it is described. Pro-oponents speak of privatizing services or privatizing government, but what they often mean is making a corporate entity out of what was formerly part of democracy. This trend has occurred with the media hardly noticing the political erosion involved. In fact, in the lexicon of politics and press these days, the citizen has been reduced to a mere consumer or taxpayer, terms that wipe out the fundamental notions of ownership of government by the public. The citizen, it is now widely suggested, only pays and is served; the citizen no longer decides.
93. There is a immense difference between letting the Biggo corporation collect your garbage and letting it teach your kids. When a school system contracts with a private firm to run its schools, it not only is transferring the power to teach and administer but is delegating its own power to decide democratically how these things should happen. The media has been a major cheerleader of privatization. It in particular, likes a new form called the business improvement district. The idea is to designate a special district, usually downtown, in which a special assessment is applied to local business and their tenants to support such programs as new lighting, security patrols and planning. In these districts, voting on directors and their policies may be weighted on the basis of tax payments, thus favoring the largest commercial interests even though the owners may not even reside in the city involved. In many cases owners of major property not only get to decide but can pass on the fees they approve to their tenants. Residents and business tenants tend to have little or no say. Such districts, in essence, apply the principal of corporate voting – the more money you have, the more votes you get – to public decisions. Even in the early days of the republic – when the franchise was limited to property – owning white males – each voter still only got one ballot.
94. Fraction of all federal taxes paid by corporations in 1940 1/3. In 1970s; 1/5. To-day 1/10
95. A REALLY SIMPLE RULE ON PRIVATISATION
Ask the following question: is this something in which citizens should have say? If the answer is yes, don’t privatize.
96.LETTING CORPORATIONS RUN WILD
The privatization. of democracy is just part of the damage done by a post 1980 era of permissiveness towards corporations. Some of the other results:
>The S&L scandals.?
>The incorporation and industrialization of health care
>the emigration of jobs and business abroad
>The rise of multinationals and a decline of corporate loyalty towards the United States.
>The dismantling of union agreements
>The de facto repeal of antitrust laws
>Growing assaults on environmental and health regulations
>The co-optation of congress, White House, and both major political parties to the service of major corporations Deep political corruption fueled by corporate lobbying
97. Why has all this happened so easily? One reason is that the politicians themselves have been privatized. If you compare what members of congress receive in government salary with what they get from business in campaign contributions, you might easily conclude that your representative is a corporate employee. You would not be all that far off
98 America did not invent corporatism Mussolini- Italy etc
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN PUBLIC SPACE GOES PRIVATE
On public property you have a right of free speech. So does a corporation On the corporations property only the corporation retains the full right of free speech. While in the town square, you are protected not only by the constitution but by a broad range of other laws, such as those ensuring civil rights While in a shopping mall that frequently replaces the town square, your constitutional and legal rights are greatly restricted. If you live in a town or village- a real community- you share with other voters broad powers over what happens and who carries it out If you live in a developers ‘community’ nearly all the decisions will be made by the developers company In a traditional downtown, decisions such as tax policy are made by the voters and the people they elect. All these persons are residents of the town. In the new privatized. business districts sprouting up around the country decisions (including special assessments) are made by commercial tax payers. Residents and tenants may get no vote, and the business owners need not live in the community
100. HOW TO LOOT LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Here are three ways corporations’ loot local governments:
>They demand large subsidies for companies coming to, or remaining in, a community. Kentucky, for example, kept two businesses in the state by paying them$350,000 per job
>They refuse to pay a fair share of improvements required because of their presence in a community
>They take public property such as water and do not pay for it or for the ecological damage that results
HOW TO COUNT THE VOTES RIGHT
101. The two major parties spend their time trying to please everyone and end up pleasing only a few of us >We use a voting system called winner -take- all. The winner need only be the first and not necessarily the choice of the majority of the voters >We tend to elect legislators by single -member districts. One of the problems with this can be seen by imagining that every congressional seat in the country was won by the blue party – but each by one vote. Under winner-take- all, the blues would gain all the seats in the House and those voting for the Yellows and the Greens and the Browns would not be represented at all. One of the major flaws of our system:
>We provide representation only to those who win. Here are some other things wrong with our system:
> It discriminates against minorities and minority views. For example, if representation in congress after the 92 election had been proportional to the presidential vote, there would have been at least 80 Perot supporters in the House if representatives. Out system keeps minorities out of public office – and not just ethnic minorities either. When new voting methods were introduced in southern communities as a result of voting rights lawsuits, not only blacks but republicans started showing up on government bodies.
>It can also discriminate against the majority. First past the post elections with multiple candidates may not reflect the majorities will, but rather only which majority gets the most votes.
> It gives to much importance to personalities and to little to issues. With only two parties that pretend to represent the country’s entire political spectrum, it is nearly impossible for either party to propose a coherent program or even an idea. Too many compromises have to be made. Instead of discussing substantive maters, candidates turn to negative advertising or to issues deliberately designed to polarize the citizenry. This, it turns out, is also an easy way to appeal to swing voters who don’t really care for either candidate
> It works against peaceful change. The genius of a well-working democracy is its ability to adapt to new social conditions and values. The tumult of democracy is a happy substitute for more violent solutions. Winner-take-all, elections, however, discount alienated minority voting blocks. These voters are urged to take their complaints to the voting booth, yet when they get there, they discover their votes aren’t worth anything.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION
102. Fortunately there are some things we could do about it. For example, we could vote like most other democracies. One of Americas best kept secrets is how strange our voting system really is. Only Britain America members of the British commonwealth, and a few other countries rely on winner-take-all. In fact to most of the world we vote the way the British drive- on the wrong side of the road. (A consistent beneficiary of winner -take -all elections was Margaret Thatcher, who conducted her whole revolution without the Conservatives ever getting more than 45 percent of the vote.) Most countries with elections use some form of proportional representation, which means that seats in legislatures ore divvied up in proportion to the votes received by each party. This includes not only most of the old democracies in Europe but the newly freed countries of South Africa and the former Soviet Union. Under PR if the late night TV party were to win 18 percent of the vote, it would get 18 percent of the seats.
Under the present rules in America, parties that won 18 percent of the vote usually don’t get any seats. Instead their members stay home, watch late night TV, and get mad at the system. Strange as PR may seem it has a history in this country going back to the Progressive Era, when nearly two dozen cities used it – including New York, Sacramento, and Cleveland. It disappeared not because it was ineffective but because the urban power brokers didn’t like it. In 1915 when Ashtabula, Ohio, adopted the system, the local paper enthused, “the dries and the wets are represented; the Protestants and Catholics; the business, professionals, and labouring men; the Republicans, Democrats and socialists; the English, Swedish, and Italians are represented. It would be hard to select a more representative council in any other way.” One of the great advantages of proportional representation is it is fair. In South Africa it has provided representation not only to the dominant party but to the white minority and black opposition parties. Ninety nine percent of South African voters were able to elect someone to represent them! This is one important reason South Africa’s transition from apartheid was as smooth as it was. In America you have the right to vote – you just don’t have the right to be represented Douglas Amy. The Germans may even have a better idea. They didn’t want to give up district elections entirely. After all, it’s useful having a legislator elected to look after your community. So they came up with a very democratic solution. They mixed their systems. In Germany half the legislature is elected by district, just like here in the United States. The other half is elected by PR nation wide. The PR winners are selected in such a way that the whole parliament is proportional to the national vote. Here is how it works: lets say that the blue party wins 20 percent of the district seats, but 35 percent of the national vote. After the district winners have been selected, the rest of the seats are filled in such a way that the blues have 35 percent of the entire parliament. 70 Opponents of PR make a number of arguments against it for example:
>It is to complicate. But are Americans dumber than Germans? How come South Africans , including the illiterate, were able to understand it so easy in what was to many their first election ever.
> 103. Having a lot of parties leads to instability. Heard of any coups or political crisis in Germany or Sweden lately? In fact, in a recent Swedish election, 86 percent of the voters turned out. Besides, most countries us some sort of minimum threshold (such as 5%) before a party is entitled to any seat PREFERENCE VOTING What about elections for single posts like mayor or governor? Clearly proportional representation doesn’t work here. There is, however, a system that does, and it is in use in places such as Ireland and Cambridge Massachusetts. Its called preference voting. In the United States we typically elect winners for single positions using a system called first-past-the-post. Whoever gets the most votes wins. For example, if there were four candidates in a race for mayor, the winner theoretically could be elected by 25% of the vote plus a few ballots. Three quarter of the cities voters might detest the winner, but it wouldn’t matter. Preference voting is one of the best ways to create a better consensus. In some states runoff elections are used, but the results in these are typically distorted by the far lower turn out in the second round of voting. Under preference voting, you get to rank your choice. Then, if no one gets a majority, another redistribution according to supporters’ second choices. If no one still has a majority, another redistribution occurs with the ballots of the next lowest ranked candidate and so forth. One way this system protects minorities (either cultural or political) is by encouraging voters to select their favorite candidates without reference to the chance of winning, lets say that you are vehemently opposed to the construction of a new bridge. Only one candidate shares your view, and she stands little chance of winning. You can rank this candidate first and then be more pragmatic about your second choice. Since major candidates know that this is happening, they government after second place as well as first place votes instead of writing of minority views, as often happens with winner-takes-all. They may even modify their position on the bridge in order to get second place votes. The system can also be used – as it is in Cambridge – for multi seat elections in which case it becomes a form of proportional representation. The rules are more complicated, but they work and are specifically designed to ensure that varied interests are proportionately represented in legislative bodies. 72 There are still other variations, such as a system known as approval voting, in which you don’t rank your choices but just vote for as many candidates as meets your approval. Others prefer cumulative voting in multi seat contests, a system in which citizens can concentrate their ballots all on one candidate ore spread them around as they wish. Each system has its advocates – often-argumentative ones – but each scheme represents a major improvement on the current system. As the Los Angeles Times put it, “Mathematicians do not agree on the best system, but they have no problems in pointing their fingers at the worst – the plurality system used in most U.S. elections ORGANISATIONS Preference voting is an ideal system to elect the leadership of an organization from a local PTA to a national religious denomination. Hundreds of universities, trade unions and non profit organizations use preference voting in Britain, as do a growing number in the USA.
.a study in Milwaukee county in 1988 found government agencies spending more than$1 billion annually on fighting poverty. If this money had been given in cash to the poor, it would have meant more than$33,000 for each low-income family, well above the poverty line.
TELEDEMOCRACYTALK ABOUT GETTING A BANG FOR YOUR BUCK
104. Political contributions Subsidies and tax breaks + Waist management $3 $300 Mining $1 $2,000 Natural gas $3 $4,000 Coal $1 $8,000 Oil $23 $8,800 Nuclear energy £0.1 £11,000 + In millions. I would like to have displayed all this using a graph, but the difference between what the industries gave and what they got was so great that the contributions would not have shown up without a magnifying glass.
>We can change political cultures as well as laws. Politicians would like us to talk about family values. Lets talk about their values instead. We can vote against candidates who are on the dole. We can write letters to the editors and call talk shows. Local, state and national citizens groups can come together and establish codes of conduct for candidates and office holders. The town meeting is the strongest of all citadels of civil liberty, the purest of all democracies.
102. One of the best ways to revive democracy in our country is to make sure every organization, school, and club meeting is run according to its principals
103. the beauty of consensus is that people feel better after reaching it, for in its wake is clear evidence that one has done the best possible under the circumstances. Instead of a vote, there typically comes a call for consensus expressed by a question such as “Are there any concerns remaining?” If there are concerns, the group tries to work them out or amend the proposal under consideration. If there are still problems, some members of the group may agree to “stand aside” on the issue- in other words, to retain their concerns but not block the decision.
TO MAKE MEETINGS DEMOCRATIC, DECENT, YET STILL PRODUCTIVE YOU CAN ALSO:
Stress common ground. Get people looking for things they can agree on rather than fight about.
>Hide your copy of Roberts rules of order. At least try simple fairness and civility before building parliamentary mazes
>If an issue starts to bog down a meeting, have each side select a representative, have the representatives chose a mediator, and ask all three to leave and try to reach a consensus
>Use preference voting for the selection of officers and boards
> If you are trying to draft a program or policy, break up into small groups dealing with different aspects of the mater. List every idea on newsprint. Then give the participants three or four small coloured sticks with their initials on them. Let them place these sticks on the idea they most favor. Then, as in preference voting, drop those ideas with only one sticker and let those who supported them move their stickers elsewhere. Continue until consensus is reached. The physical activity alone helps ease some of the tension that can develop on such occasions
>Use fishbowl negotiations. Have each small group select a representative. Have the representative’s gather in a circle with their group members behind them. While only the representatives are allowed to negotiate the final decision, their group members can stop them at any time for a caucus. Everything is done in front of every one ells; that’s how it gets its name.
>Meetings can turn otherwise decent people into demons, the succinct into the pedantic, and the normally direct into convoluted. A moderator or chair with a sense of humour and fairness can prevent a lot of mystery. Everyone ells can help by acting like real people.
CUTTING GOVERNMENT SPENDING TAKES MONEY OUT OF THE ECONOMY
105. There are plenty of good reasons to be frugal with public funds, but, “putting money back into the economy – a popular cliche – is not one of them. This is because, like it or not, government spending is part of the economy. A dollar doesn’t really know whether it is being spent publicly or privately. Or whether it last came out of profits or taxes. In some cases, in fact, a public dollar can do much more good for the economy than a private one. For example, government is generally required to buy domestic products and hire domestic workers, while private corporations are under no such restrictions. Even more dramatically, a billion or two spent on public works is far better for the economy than using money to allow one baby boomer to buy another’s corporation. On the other hand, purchasing a tank that just sits on a military base doesn’t have anywhere near the same spin-off economic effects as spending the same amount of money on pizzas to government.
REVENUES ARE PART OF BUDGETS TOO
Lost in the great balanced budget mania of the 1990s was a fact obvious to anyone in business: A really good way to improve your books is to increase your revenues. For government, this simple notion has gone out of style. The assumption has become that the only way to reduce the deficit is to cut expenses. But just as a business needs customers, our country needs thriving citizens.
CUTTING THE BUDGET MAY NOT EVEN CUT WAIST
Few of us like to see the government waste money. Yet while Americans have been sold on the notion that cutting the deficit will cut waste, it seldom does. In part this is because the same politicians who claim to be budget slathers also have a bunch of pet projects they want funded. Multiply that instinct by the number of congressional members and you’ve got 535 big problems. Further, a lot of waste is so well concealed that it takes a government Accounting Office investigation or a public interest group to uncover it. Unfortunately such stories make the news one day and are then forgotten. There is also waist so well hidden that know one even knows how it happened. At the Pentagon, when the military knows money has been spent but doesn’t know on what and who authorized it, it is called a problem disbursement. By the mid- nineties there were tens of billions of dollars worth of problem disbursements on the militaries books. Finally, journalist Kevin Phillips has pointed out, the politicians who talk the loudest about balancing the budget often are far more interested in other things, such as taxes, ore helping Wall street, ore slashing programs they don’t like for political reasons. A balanced budget just becomes an excuse to get these other things done.
WHAT THEY DIDN’T TELL YOU ADAM SMITH ALSO SAID
106.Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to only so far as I may be necessary for promoting that of the consumers. in the mercantile system the interest of the consumer is almost constantly sacrificed to that of the producer; and it seems to consider production, and not consumption, as the ultimate end and object of industry and commerce.
SOME MORE THINGS THEY DON’T TELL YOU ABOUT THE ECONOMY THE GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCE IS PRETTY GROSS
The GDP is a measure of the amount of money changing hands in the United States. When you hear or read about “economic growth” people are talking about the GDP. Its important- and misleading. For example, the gross domestic product doesn’t give a damn about what happens to the money that changes hands. For all the GDP cares, it can be used to build a church or for a Klan rally. aS long as moneys moving, its considered good for the country. I know that’s weird but that’s the way economists think. In an article for the Atlantic Monthly, reformers working on an alternative measure wrote: By the curious standard of the GDP the nations economic hero is a terminal cancer patient who is going through a costly divorce. The happiest event is an earthquake or a hurricane. The most desirable habitat is a multi million dollar Superfund site. All these add up to the GDP, because they cause money to change hands. It is as if a business kept a balance sheet by merle adding up all “transactions” without distinguishing between income and expense, or between assets or liabilities. In the same spirit, the Wall Street Journal figured that he O.J. Simpson trial added about $200 million to the economy or more than the annual GDP of Grenada. Prozac adds another $2.2 billion. The GDP also doesn’t take into account the massive amount of productivity that isn’t paid for at all: the voluntary economy. Just as lawyers try to get us to view the world through adversarial lenses, so economists encourage us to view the world as a place in which the only activities that matter are those that are reimbursed . it is a world without co-operation, altruism, or even barter. It is a world without parents, friends, or neighbors doing things for one another. It denigrates the bulk of human activity – especially that of women, who have traditionally functioned outside the formal economy and do about half of the worlds real work without getting paid for it. 92The genuine progress indicator (GPI) adds things up differently: >Housework is valued at what it would cost if you had to hire someone to do it.
>The money people spend to deter and punish crime is assumed to be a cost to society rather than an asset.
>Also listed as costs are auto accidents, water filters, and other environmental protection devices.
>The depletion of natural resources is assumed by the GPI to be a liability, whereas is currently treated as gain.
> Over work – working two jobs or longer hours- is considered a cost to society. More than 400 economists from across the spectrum have endorsed the idea of new economic indicators. It is still being worked on, but Mae soon you will be getting quarterly updates on the GPI. Meanwhile even those of us who don’t like the GDP continue to use it while trying to remind people that it is only about spending money and not about whether the money is doing any good.
THEY’RE NAIRU MOMS, NOT WELFARE MOTHERS
107. NAIRU stands for “non accelerating inflation rate of unemployment.” this is the rate of unemployment many economists say is required to keep us away from inflation. Our government agrees with them. The emphasis on inflation may be explained by something economist John Galbraith has pointed out. The wealthy are hurt more by inflation, and the poor are hurt by unemployment. In any case, if as a mater of national policy an unemployment rate of 5 to 6 % is a good thing, we then need to find more than 5 million loyal people who will support this policy by remaining unemployed or underemployed. Of course since we can’t really admit we are doing this, we end up pushing expensive and ineffective training (for jobs that corporations would like to get rid of) and workfare programs (which economists hope wont work to well), and spending a lot of time berating women. One letter to the Washington post suggests that instead they deserve a postage stamp and a national holiday.
A WORD FROM HEADQUARTERS.
As employee layoffs mushroomed in the mid 90s a survey of 35 large corporations found that average compensation for their CEOs had risen 23 percent in 1995 to $4.4 billion.
IF YOU THINK THE SOCIAL WELFARE STATE IS BAD, CONSIDER WHAT LIFE WAS LIKE BEFORE IT.
If you reach adulthood in the last twenty years or so, chances are you haven’t heard much good about the social welfare state. In truth, however, public health and welfare programs, which began in the last century and accelerated in the early part of this one, brought some of the greatest and economical and social advantages of human history many of which you and I enjoy and take for granted today. Life before these programs was not all that pleasant. There was no social security, unemployment compensation, minimum wage or meaningful occupational safety rules. It was a time of un inspected meat and milk, of unregulated medical drugs, of firetraps and un seaworthy vessels, and of much shorter life expectancy. Furthermore before public health and sanitation programs there was a tendency for streets to be strewn with manure, garbage, rooting pigs, and the occasional dead horse. As for those who weren’t wealthy, a typical view during the Victorian era was expressed by a popular motivation speaker in some 5,000 lectures: “to sympathize with a man whom god has punished for his sins.is to do wrong.let us remember that there is not a poor person in the United States who was not made poor by his own shortcomings”. Even the socialists of the day did not think highly of the poor. Fabian Beatrice Webb in England suggested that the poor be divided into deserving and not deserving and that the idle loafers be subjected to “compulsory training, or military or other training . . .absorbing the whole time of the man from 6am to 10pm.” But when it came to fight the Boer War, the British found that 40 percent of its recruits were unfit. The British government responded by appointing a committee on Physical Deterioration that not only recommended free school lunch but also compulsory free medical examinations. The American army had similar problems getting ready for World War II. In both countries school lunches and health care were advanced not as a knee -jerk liberalism but to make sure there was enough healthy men for the military.
PEOPLE WHO COMPLAIN about the welfare state remind me of the man from Virginia who went to college on the GI bill and bought his first house on a VA loan. When a hurricane struck he got federal disaster aid. when he got sick he got treated at a veterans hospital. When he was laid off he received unemployment insurance and when he got an SBA loan to Start his own business. His bank funds were protected under federal deposit insurance laws. Now he is retired and on Social Security and Medicare. The other day he got into his car, drove the federal interstate to the railroad station, took Amtrak to Washington, and went to Capital Hill to ask his representative to get the government off his back.
SOCIAL SECURITY MAY NOT BE GOING BANKRUPT AFTER ALL
108. Everyone’s heard that the social security trust fund is going to government bust sometime in the next century. But only a few people have looked at the assumptions justifying this prediction. Doug Henwood of the Left Business Observer did and found that the figures assumed economic growth barely above that of the Depression years of 1930s half the rate of the past 75 years. Says Henwood: “either the trustees are deliberately projecting slow growth to feed the pension-cutting mania, or they are expressing a deep pessimism about the U.S. economies future. Big news whichever it is. ” if the trustees growth projections are accurate, we have a lot more than social security to worry about.
>People are going to become older and ill whether or not we make decent provisions for them. The choice for young Americans is not whether they have to pay for the future but whether they will pay through a planed government program or on an as hoc and unpredictable basis – for example, having to support ill parents out of their own salaries and savings at a time not of their choosing. Further, it is probable that those now in their twenties may someday grow old and ill themselves.
>While there is a great hue and cry over the possible fate of social security, the same Cassandra’s show little interest in the fact that we have only some 40 years of oil preserves left. If a trust fund runs out, spending from other sources can take its place. If the well runs dry, however, you cant print more oil.
> University of Pittsburgh professor emeritus Fredrick Thayer has asked why it is we worry about the effect of the “crushing debt” on our children and grandchildren in peace time, but not during wars, when we run up enormous deficits? Obviously he notes, a “crushing burden could have been avoided by not responding to the attack on Pearl Harbour”. Instead thanks to World War II, our economy boomed
> While the demographic bulge created by baby boomers will eventually create a much larger senior population, the figure that really matters is the total dependant population, including children. Twentieth century fund president Richard. C Leone has pointed out that there was once a boomer bulge among the dependant young and some how Americans coped with that. He notes in 1964 there were 96 young and old dependants for every hundred wage earners, but in the dreaded future of 2030 there will be only 83 per hundred (as opposed to 70 per 100 in the early nineties).
>Finally, one way to cover deficiencies in the social security trust fund is to raise the upper limit of income – currently $62,700 – subject to social security withholding. Or tax unearned income, such as interests and dividends. Not surprisingly the social security goblins never suggest that they themselves might pay social Security taxes on the second £62,700 they earn or even the third and fourth if need be.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE GLOBALLY COMPETITIVE IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE
Contrary to what you have heard from politicians, economists, and journalists, you do not have to become globally competitive in the first half of the 20 st century if you don’t want to. Here’s why; most of the economy then, as now, will be domestic. Only about 25 percent of the economy currently involve imports and exports. One reason there is so much talk about global trade is that big global corporations would like you to stop pushing so hard for things like higher wages, work place safety and a healthier environment. They want you to lower your sights and become more like a worker in the nonindustrialised countries. The more they succeed at this, the more globally competitive they become. You unfortunately, just become poorer, less healthy, and not even domestically competitive.
ON WALL STREET THERE ARE PLENTY OF FREE LUNCHES BUT NO FREE MARKETS
109. The carefully concealed truth is that. Wall street and corporate America hate free markets. That is why these welfare fathers keep tens of thousands of lobbyists in Washington: to protect them from the random effects of the competition that they so frequently extol. That is why they invent welfare programs for multinationals such as GATT and NAFTA. That’s why they have their own branch of government – the federal reserve – to keep the economy working the way they want it, and that’s why the federal tax code is so complicated – glutted with special breaks and subsidies for “free2 marketers. The least free of all markets is to be found at the Pentagon, where defense contractors have become so dependant on their single customer, the military, that more than a few simply wouldn’t know how to survive in the normal business competition. Generally, the smaller the business, the more it resembles the great myths of capitalism. If you want to find out what free enterprise is really about, talk to a street vendor not to a fortune 500 executive.
AND NOW A FEW FACTS ABOUT MONEY MONEY IS INFORMATION
While everyone talks about the economy – what we do with our money – little attention is given to the real nature of money. Money isn’t only a way of storing wealth; it is also information. Money is how we measure the value of something, just as an inch is a way we measure length. David Burman explained it nicely in Canada’s Peace Magazine: Imagine you are going to have a house built. You have assembled all the materials, you have the necessary permits, have acquired the land, and have engaged skilled and experienced workers to do the job. But when you come on the scene to see how things are going, you find that nothing has happened. The foreman responds to your look o annoyance, ” Uh sorry we can’t start.” “Why not? You ask incredulously. Well we’re all out of inches. Used ’em all up on the last house down the road. Have to wait until we get some more’ maybe next week.” Absurd as the story may seem, we treat money information just this way. Despite having resources and labour available, despite will and skill, we repeatedly say that something can’t be done because we don’t have enough money. In fact, over the past few years it’s been one of the favorite things to say. As we shall see a little latter there is much better ways to use the information that money provides us.
MOST MONEY DOESN’T EXIST
110. The total federal state, local and private debt in this country in 1996 was around $14 trillion. The actual money supply was just under 6 trillion. So what happened to the rest of the money? Most of it doesn’t exist and never did. We call this imaginary money debt. This debt is money that we (as individuals, companies and governments) have borrowed, primarily from private sources. As Bob Blain a professor at Illinois University puts it “Most debt is not the result of people borrowing money; it is the result of people not being able to repay what they owed [to banks or individuals] at some earlier time. Instead of declaring them bankrupt, creditors just add more to their debt.” This new debt is called interest. Many people think the idea of governments printing money is shameful, yet our laws permit private financial institutions to create money all the time. Every time you fail to pay off your credit card, you’re letting a banker print some more money. Your not the first, of course. For example, when the congress met in 1790 to figure out how to pay off the Revolutionary War debt of $75 million, Alexander Hamilton strongly advocated issuing interest bearing debt certificates and using them as money. Congressman James Jackson of Georgia warned that this would “settle upon our posterity a burden which [citizens] can neither bear or relieve themselves from . . . Though our present debt be but a few millions, in the course of a single century it may be multiplied to an extent we dare not think of.
IT’S REALLY OK FOR GOVERNMENTS TO PRINT MONEY
An alternative to congresses borrowing money to pay of the debt would have been to have created the £75 million, using its constitutional power to”coin money and regulate the value thereof.” Instead Congress began a long tradition of borrowing money that – £5 trillion of debt later – many believe we can neither bear nor relieve ourselves from. In the early 19th century the little British Channel island of Guernsey faced a smaller but similar problem. Its sea walls were crumbling. Its roads were to narrow, and it was already heavily in debt. There was little employment, and people were leaving for elsewhere. Instead of going still further into debt the island government simply issued 4’000 pounds in state notes to start repairs on the sea walls as well as for other needed public works. More issues followed and twenty years latter the island had printed nearly 50,000 pounds. Guernsey had more than doubled its money supply without inflation. A report for the islands States Office in June 1946 notes that island leaders frequently commented that these public works could not have been carried out without the issues, that they had been accomplished without interest costs, and that as a result “the influx of visitors was increased, commerce was stimulated and the prosperity of the island vastly improved.” By 1943 nearly a half million pounds’ worth of notes belonged to the public and was so valued that much of it was being hoarded in peoples homes, awaiting the islands liberation from the Germans. (the cagey burgers of the Channel Islands are no longer interested in this form of financing. The islands have instead become offshore havens for major banks and the mega rich) About the same time that Guernsey started to fix its sea walls the city of Glasgow, Scotland borrowed 60,000 pounds to build a fruit market. The guernsey seawalls were repaid in 10 years; the fruit market loan took 139. In the first part of the 20th century Glasgow paid over a quarter of a million pounds in interest alone on this ancient project. How did Guernsey avoid the fiscal disaster that conventional economics provided for it? First and foremost that understanding that when you build roads or seawalls or colleges or houses, you are not reducing your societies wealth. In fact, if you do it right, you are creating something that will add to its wealth. The money that was created was simply backed by public works rather than gold or “full faith and credit.” It was, in fact, based on something more solid than the dollar bills in our wallets today. 99 “The privilege of creating and issuing money is not only the supreme prerogative of government, but is the governments greatest creative opportunity. By the adoption of these principals, the tax players will be saved immense sums of interest” – Abraham Lincoln.
A 12 STEP PROGRAM FOR RECOVERY FROM CORPORATISM NO 1
111. Today there is a revival of community money – or green dollars, as it is sometimes called. In 1983 Michael Linton developed a local exchange trading system (LETS) on Vancouver Island that created $350,000 worth of trading in its first four years. David Burnam puts it this way: “LETS is as close to a biological organism as an economic system can be. . . . Low administration fees pay for daily operations entirely with green dollars. Federal dollar expenses like telephone and postage stamps come from nominal annual fees. . . .” In Ithaca New York, some half million dollars’ worth of local trade has been added to the economy through Ithaca hour notes An Ithaca hour is based on the average local wage, about ten dollars an hour. Ithaca hours are used to buy plumbing, childcare, car repair and eye glasses. They are accepted in restaurants, movie theatres bowling alleys and health clubs. As Paul Glover explains in In Context, ” We print our own money because we watched as federal dollars come to town, shake a few hands, then leave to buy rain forest lumber and to fight wars. The local money, on the other hand, stays in our region to help us hire each other.” The Ithaca money was inspired by the success of a similar program in western Massachusetts, where in 1989 a local restaurateur, Frank Tortoriello, raised a badly needed $5,000 in 30 days by issuing script. His dele dollars drifted into the local economy and even began turning up in church collection plates. Edgar Cahn has come up with some imaginative ways to rebuild a nonmonetized economy without even using script. He calls his system time dollars. For example in one Washington DC community volunteers accumulate credit hours for a local organization through baby sitting, cleaning alleys, and so forth. These hours are then traded for the professional legal help the organization needs. Although the participating law firm was already doing a lot of pro bono work, time dollars changed the relationship between lawyers and the community. The latter now earns assistance through its own efforts, and the firm treats the lawyers time as billable hours.
NO4 VALUE THE UNMEASURABLE
Economics argue if you can’t measure it, its not important. In modern economics altruism and co-operation are given no value; neither are do-it-yourself projects ore the bulk of unpaid work by women around the globe. Economics not only have trouble with theory but can’t even add right.
Read the book ; Sam Smiths Great American Repair Mantual