Equity, Equity, Equity

Sharon November 3rd, 2008

The day before the election, I suppose I should write a post about who I think you should vote for for president.   Yawn. The thing is, is it really going to shock anyone that a New York leftist prefers Obama?  Did you really need me to say it?  I’ll probably actually vote for a third party candidate, since my vote here in New York is worth jack, but if I voted where my vote counted, I’d vote Obama. 

Now that we’ve dispensed with that, let’s get down to the real issues, the real questions that are going to face our country.  We haven’t been able to do that, since this election has been taking over the public discourse since G-d gave the Torah to Moses, but it is time to get over that.  The single biggest issue facing the next president - and he’s going to have to deal with it one way or another - is going to be the question of Equity.  That’s a subject that hasn’t made it to the national table in a very, very long time. 

Why equity?  Well, first of all, we’re entering a major Depression, not a little tiny economic downturn, but a crisis.  And what happens in major economic crises is that people get very poor, often hungry, cold and scared, and they get angry.  And there’s a lot to be angry about.  Over the last thirty years, real wages have fallen and wealth has concentrated - and it is being rapidly concentrated further by the massive reallocation of what remains of our wealth into already wealthy hands.   One of the reasons I think that McCain/Palin’s “Obama will share the wealth” narrative has failed to put them in the lead is simply this - more and more Americans are suddenly realizing that they may soon have more in common with the people who need to be shared with than with the ones who lose.

Now I should take this moment to demand government action - to begin programs and tax relief that allocates wealth around. And such may happen.  But I’ll tell you a secret - I think it would be great if the government led the way on this subject - it would alleviate a lot of suffering.  But in the end, I think the result will be the same whether they lead or whether they follow.  Because if they wait for Americans to take up pitchforks and torches, the shifts will be even more radical - and that’s not a bad thing either.  As historian Sheldon Wolin observes, almost all the major shifts to greater sharing of wealth and power have come in response to the anger of the people.  Howard Zinn argues that FDR’s Great Society came about simply because people, acting in response to the exigencies of the Depression discovered their remarkable power - and the government responded to ensure that no one noticed that the ruling class might not be needed at all.  One way or another, hard times mean that equity issues are coming to the table.

The truth is that most research about hard times shows that most people are willing to do what is necessary to deal with a situation - but their primary concern is equity - justice and fairness.  That is, people will make do with rationing, with great burdens and difficult times - they will even find coping mechanisms and what historian Timothy Breen calls “rituals of non-consumption” that compensate them for the consumption they used to engage in.  What they won’t tolerate is injustice and unfairness.  This is the conclusion of a recent book about Britain during and after WWII, reviewed here:

Two fundamental, timeless lessons emerge from the whole experience. First, that most people will broadly accept straitened times if they are genuinely convinced of their necessity and that there is no alternative. Second, that social cohesiveness during such an unwelcome turn of events will rest to a large degree on the extent to which the pain is administered on an equitable, transparent basis. Even so, should the economic downturn prove severe, it is still likely to be a psychic shock for anyone under, say, the age of 40, for whom the austerity years are not even a folk memory. The process will be a huge challenge to the legitimacy of our democratic political system, though not inconceivably may do wonders to strengthen and reaffirm that rather frayed legitimacy.”

 I found the same thing when I researched the question of whether some kind of rationing system could ever be brought to the general public - in fact, historically people have even liked rationing, when they felt its primary role was to make sure that pretty much everyone labored under the same constraints - and their fury knew no bounds when those constraints were violated. 

But there are other reasons equity is going to have to come to the table.  The first is climate change.  Over the last year, most of the major nations of the Global South that contribute most to global warming have simply declined to make major cuts in their emissions.  Why?  Because without equity, they are being asked to impoverish their citizens while we are being asked to turn the thermostat down - unless the question of a fair share comes to the table.  The truth is that we will not address climate change until we address the question of equity at an international level.  Nearly everyone would rather not discuss this - but it will come to the table, sooner or later, simply because we have no choice. I hope it will be sooner not later, but climate change will push itself onto the world agenda - and into our daily lives.  And at the root of climate change is the recognition we cannot go on as we are.

Then there’s the food issue - Aaron Newton and I have just completed editing a book about the question of whether and how the world and this country can feed themselves in a warming world, in the face of rising energy costs.  And what we’ve concluded is simply this - the issue comes down to equity.  In the end, the central question of our times is going to be food allocation - as I put it the other day “Is there dinner?  Do I get any?”  And the only way to address the food crisis - a crisis that is only going to get bigger as time goes on - is this.  To make sure we deal with the question of what constitutes a fair share - that we divide the work and the food more justly than we have, not in the perfection of human nature, not in an ideal world, but in this one.   And this problem isn’t just going to play out on the world level - although it will do that too as very angry people who recognize that the deaths of their kids and their lives of poverty were created, in part, by the actions of those who fed food to their cars and were willing to see them die so they could keep on the road.

One of the remarkable things we’ve found in our research into food systems is this - in any place that has had to or wanted to radically reduce its use of petrochemicals in agriculture, what is really rapidly discovered is that you can do that - but not on a massive scale.  In Cuba, in the Soviet Union, in shifts to organic production in the US and UK, generally speaking what shows pretty clearly in the research is this - you can farm with few or no chemical inputs, whether you do it because you want to or because you have to (and we suspect many of us will have to) - but not rapidly on massive farms of thousands of acres - period.  Huge scale agriculture is simply not amenable to rapid shifts away from fossil fuels - so if we are to deal with our current crises, and keep food coming in, we’re going to have to make sure that land is in the hands of people who can grow food on it on a reasonable scale.  That means one of the great questions of the coming decade is this - how will the people get access to land to grow food on.  And that, fundamentally, is an equity question too - particularly as foreclosure pushes more and more people out of the pieces of land they could be growing on.

The word socialist has been thrown around a lot during this campaign, mostly because people really do think that the only choices in figuring out how to live are capitalist and communist/socialist.  I think that’s a fundamentally false way of thinking about this - first of all, we all know that all economic systems are hybrids (lord knows, I’m not sure you can even call our economic system capitalism anymore) - there is no pure socialism, no pure capitalism in practical reality.  Those nuances we ignore matter.  For example, greater equity could be achieved by removing some of the private from private hands, or it could be achieved through a capitalist distributist model, in which who gets to hold the private is limited.

But in some ways, I think that the capitalist/socialist discussion misses the point.  In the interview we did with her for our book, Helena Norberg-Hodge, author of _Ancient Futures_ and _Bringing the Food Economy Home_ made what I think is the essential point -  that scale matters as much as economic system:

“…I think it’s very important that we realize that communism or capitalism or even socialism are all large-scale, centralized systems and therefore I prefer not to talk about the problem as being capitalism.  The reason why I don’t is that it in many minds conjures up the notion that socialism or communism are better and I personally believe that the intentions behind communism and socialism are broader and in a certain way more noble, but I don’t think it’s just that the centralized power they entail, in both socialism and communism, was the problem socially, but I also see them as fundamentally anti-ecological, because they were top-down, centralized systems that also then foisted monoculture in terms of agricultural production, but when we talk about agricultural production, we’re basically talking about all the activities from which we derive our basic needs: forestry, for building, fiber, building materials.”

Norberg-Hodge’s argument, which I entirely agree with, is that the whole discussion finally misses the point.  What is needed will be a hybrid again of private and public resources, of things we call “socialist” and those we call “capitalist” but the salient point is this - that power, and autonomy and what really matters have to be more widely distributed, the scale of management radically reduced and that equity, in the end, is more about the right to self-governance than whether we reduce taxes or reallocate wealth that way.  The central problem will be how to get the tools of self-sufficiency - the ability to feed and clothe and care for yourself into ordinary people’s hands again. 

And that provides a measure of an answer to the problem of how we will deal with equity on a world scale as well - because in the end, I think the truth is that there’s no real way to deal with the question of equity without changing the typical American lifestyle.  The good news is that a lot of us are vaguely (or more than vaguely)  uneasy about the changes that our lifestyle has wrought in our lives anyway - it is an oversimplification to say they haven’t made us happier, because it is more than that - they not only haven’t made us happier, they haven’t made us better.  And that may be the really salient point - that one of the things that would make us happier is the sense that we’re living a more ethical, more just, more natural life, and that we have more power of over our own destinies.  And that’s not possible without dealing with the equity question.

The really good news is that dealing with equity isn’t a one directional loss - it isn’t that if Americans start living a more equitable life they simply lower their standard of living.  They raise our access to power, to self-sufficiency and the confidence in engenders.  Greater equity gives us institutions on a scale we can comprehend and a richness in connection to the world around us.  It is truly a little bit about using less - but even more about being richer.

I hope, personally, that Obama wins the election.  But even if you don’t share my hope, the thing that I’m really hopeful about is this - that in some senses, it doesn’t matter who wins, because we’re going to require whoever “leads” to follow our lead, to address the equity issue.  Presidents come, and thankfully, this president is going.  But presidents are only presidents - the people, well, that’s something else.

 Sharon

57 Responses to “Equity, Equity, Equity”

  1. Greenpaon 03 Nov 2008 at 9:21 am

    As soon as President Obama has a second to think, he’ll start looking around for staff. I’m expecting to be appointed Secretary of Everything, in just a few weeks now.

    When that happens, here’s what I’ll do. I’ll dig out all the laws governing “business” in our country, and point out something we’ve all- all- forgotten.

    “Business”, and “corporations” are all chartered and given special privileges “for the benefit of the public welfare.” Or some such language.

    Man, did we ever lose track of that. And, in our first attempt to make capitalism a “good system”- we kind forgot something basic- we gave business privileges- but no limits. There should be no “right” to take unlimited profit- nor to give yourself unlimited bonuses.

    Obvious, huh? And- one of the legal fantasies created for corporations is that a corporation “is” a “person”. Oh, yeah? Ok, good- then we should go all the way there.

    A corporation should be subject to the draft, in times of national need (zero profits in any war, for any reason) - and, there should be a corporate death penalty. Like for Boeing- which has been convicted of bribery like 10 times; but is still seen as a great public beneficiary. Nope; kill it; fire all management, sell all the pieces; out of existence. Somebody else will make airplanes.

    There ya go, everything fixed. :-) Makes a nice fantasy, anyway.

  2. Greyon 03 Nov 2008 at 9:51 am

    Ah, well, I’m writing in a name on the ballot. I can’t endorse either candidate as being a capable president in these times, and I’m tired of trying to choose between the lesser of two evils, especially when they seem so close.

    I think you hit it with self-governance. What we wanted as a people, a long time ago, was the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Events in the past 8 years, that I have seen, have made this pursuit much more difficult. Sure people can still do it, they can still pursue - if they aren’t working an extra job or two trying to make it on this lousy consumer-driven treadmill we’ve been riding.

    We’re on the wrong treadmill. It’s time for us, as a people, to get off that treadmill and have a good look at the world around us - and find what it really takes for us to be happy. I can tell you this: no form of government will ever make you happy.

  3. Patrioton 03 Nov 2008 at 10:07 am

    The Rally Mohawks Song

    (Sung after the Boston Tea Party)

    Rally, Mohawks bring out your axes!
    And tell Obama we’ll pay no taxes

    on his foreign tea!
    His threats are vain - and vain to think
    To force our girls and wives to drink

    His vile Bohea!
    Then rally boys, and hasten on
    To meet our Chiefs at the Green Dragon.
    Our Warren’s there, and bold Revere,
    With hands to do and words to cheer

    For Liberty and Laws!
    Our country’s Braves and firm defenders
    Shall ne’er be left by true North-Enders,

    Fighting Freedom’s cause!
    Then rally boys and hasten on

    to meet our Chiefs at the Green Dragon

  4. I’m with you and Grey. I’m torn between a write-in candidate and a third party candidate. Yes, I do have a preference between the two anointed candidates. But that preference isn’t strong enough to make me hold my nose and vote. I’ve done that before, and it left a bad taste in my mouth.

    I’m sick of this tired, two-party system. I’m tired of the empty rhetoric and platitudes, the dirty tricks leafleting and robocalls, and the illegal disenfranchisement of those entitled to vote. Just once I’d like to hear some honest to god straight talk from a politician about what we’re actually facing. I can’t help but believe that as frightened as some people would be by facing that reality, that there would also be a huge sense of relief and release in candidly admitting what we can all sense. People may be easily snowed, led, and under-educated. But don’t we all know in our guts that many things just aren’t right? Why can’t our “leaders” address these things substantively?

    Oh, for someone with a shred of moral courage and integrity.

  5. Brad K.on 03 Nov 2008 at 10:12 am

    In talking about economic and social models, one that has been lurking in my mind is - feudalism.

    Where a Midwest farmer might be operating 640, maybe three thousand acres today - in the past that might have been 4 to 12 quarter-section farms, many with share-cropper tenants. Such a system could make use of managing a large parcel well - a larger degree of local planning - as well as individual attention and effort on the local farm. Organized as a feudal arrangement, the tenants would benefit from having a collective buffer is one area produces well, and another poorly, due to particular weather, flooding, or pest problems. A communal association would emphasize and permit sharing equipment, efforts, and effective practices.

    Not to mention employing four to 12 families, where one lives today.

    According to the old book, “Ten Acres Enough”, “No man needs to farm more ground than he can adequately manure” .. depending on watersheds, water drainage, etc. of course. I understand that the Russian state farms produced poorly according to state-dictated practices and planning. But the farmers that worked the ground got personal gardens - that produced tremendously.

    Redistributing wealth, as a concept, bothers me. I prefer to let natural process - say, distributing to heirs through an estate - to limit most aggregations. Because it is only those with the greatest assets that create the most jobs, that can achieve the greatest economies of scale.

    I can understand your concerns over the proven capacity of faceless corporations and unscrupulous figures in power to commit evil. But strengthening criminal processes and penalties against those individuals responsible for atrocities and unfair dealings seem to be a more equitable solution.

  6. […] Casaubon’s Book » Blog Archive » Equity, Equity, Equity The day before the election, I suppose I should write a post about who I think you should vote for for president. Yawn. The thing is, is it really going to shock anyone that a New York leftist prefers Obama? Did you really need me to say it? I’ll probably actually vote for a third party candidate, since my vote here in New York is worth jack, but if I voted where my vote counted, I’d vote Obama. […]

  7. Evelynon 03 Nov 2008 at 10:37 am

    The most important thing is the discussion of equity. A lot of people blame capitalism but what about the people that do not want to work and think they deserve better without doing the work. Yes, we want equality but if my neighbor sits down while I am working and he is expecting to eat from my food is wrongly mistaking me for the government. Yes, we complaint that rich people are not equal to us but what about all those people that will not get their hands dirty because they completed their education. The sad part is when the time comes that food is scare the masses will go against the few business existing and will want free stuff but will not work. People complained that they have no food but they refused to disconnect their cable or internet because they will die or to sell their second or third TV. Yes, all those people that want equity is because they want what a hard working people have but not that everybody have a lot less. How we manage equality with people that do not want to work?

  8. Greenpaon 03 Nov 2008 at 10:42 am

    Brad K. Feudalism makes an interesting discussion, and a long one. History suggests that every time a successful central government has collapsed, it has reverted to some form of feudalism - China many times; Russia probably most recently, cut up into mob fiefdoms.

    I think one could make the case that our corporate structure actually could be called a form of feudalism, now today. Going back to Boeing- the aircraft world consists of a few princedoms, granted rights from the king, constantly in competition with each other. Etc. Finance- same thing. Fiefdoms; holding specific territories. And fighting each other for more.

    re: “Because it is only those with the greatest assets that create the most jobs, that can achieve the greatest economies of scale.”

    This has long been an argument for the creation of great wealth; and has been a hard one to counter. But- I think we may need to re-think the entire concept of “economies of scale.”

    I’m not sure here- but I have a feeling that a close examination of most economies of scale include: reducing all processes to their bare bones- including acquiring basic materials for the process by the “cheapest” path- which often means some equivalent of strip mining.

    “Economies of scale” might, in fact, turn out to be economies only if you ignore many real world costs. Like polluted ground waters, displaced people, etc.

    Worth re-thinking, I think.

  9. Greenpaon 03 Nov 2008 at 10:49 am

    Evelyn- excellent question- and perhaps one of the ultimate reasons for the broad scale failure of communism. Sooner or later, the real workers get sick of feeding the slackers- eventually, nobody works.

    My mother got me started collecting “folk tales” from cultures around the world. All of them (a big statement!) include cautionary tales about “the boy (or girl) who would not work”.

    So it’s not a new problem. The thing is; their basic answer is virtually always some form of- “this turns out badly for the slacker; someday” - ie. when the slacker needs special attention from the community- and nobody will help them.

    I don’t think that translates to a community bigger than a village, though.

    Yep. Real problem.

  10. Rebeccaon 03 Nov 2008 at 11:25 am

    We’ve been centralizing wealth for so long, by sucking it out of the people and the planet in general, that I’m not sure most people can even visualize an equitable society. I am also not sure the system will try to make things more equitable, even by so much as rationing when shortages start, because that would threaten the premises on which its based.

    As for slackers, there’s a simple way to deal with them in traditional socieities: you don’t work, you don’t eat. It’s not as big a problem as most think; we’ve been led to believe it is by the same people who rob us blind while at the same time complaining about welfare.

  11. Barbara E.on 03 Nov 2008 at 11:31 am

    Many interesting points! Thanks for writing about these topics. Not trolling, but accuracy’s important: FDR = New Deal; Great Society was Lyndon Johnson’s initiative.

  12. Cathyon 03 Nov 2008 at 11:54 am

    Painting all those folks who do not work - or cannot find work - as “slackers” is using a pretty broad brush. While most of us will be blessed with the ability to work and take care of ourselves (albeit on a much reduced level) in the future, we need to determine why a “slacker” isn’t working.
    Is he/she too good to do manual work, lazy, in denial, etc? Or is there a really good reason such as physical incapacity, mental challenges, lack of education/training, etc?
    No doubt there are some folks who will need a kick in the ass to get them started, but we who can perform need to also nuture our brothers and sisters who are “lilies of the field”.
    Cathy

  13. texicalion 03 Nov 2008 at 12:11 pm

    “Economies of Scale”

    Economies of scale put people out of work. I came from a medium sized county seat in Texas. At one point there were about a dozen small independent pharmacies. Now there are two (one of which is my dad’s). There were independet clothiers, independent grocers, and bookstores. Each one run by families that paid good wages and gave back to the community. They were the ones who paid for baseball fields, and were members of the Rotary. Walmart, HEB (a big texas grocer), and the like came in. Created a lot of jobs (part time, no benefits). Put the independents out of business. Yes Walmart gives to communities, but it is a pittance compared to the long term investment of the independent business owner. I am convinced that this is true of most of the economies of scale created by large wealth. They buy each other up, “right-size” their workforces, and take money out of community. Labor utilization would be much higher if all companies were “right-sized” for the community. Efficiency and “economies of scale” are the enemy of employment. What we need now is employment.

  14. Cathyon 03 Nov 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Texacali: Amen! I couldn’t have said it better myself. I, too, am from a Michigan county seat town which has been ravaged by Walmart and several other “big box stores”. What used to be a comfortable town is now close to a ghost town as good people leave in search of jobs that pay a decent living wage. What a shame!

    Sharon: This is definitely one of your best posts ever! I had never considered the fact that greater equity is not a personal loss but rather a sharing in power that will make us all richer! Great stuff! Thanks.

  15. Meadowlarkon 03 Nov 2008 at 12:24 pm

    I’m writing someone in. I agree with those above who simply cannot “vote for the lessor of two evils”. We are sending a message, and it might take several cycles until they get it, but get it they will.

    Ron Paul - 2012!!

  16. BrianMon 03 Nov 2008 at 12:30 pm

    The thing about equity, which I agree is clearly a foundation issue, is that it necessarily opens the door and lets the elephant (population) into the room. Addressing equity is difficult in the best of times, which these are not. In times of decreasing finite resources and increasingly damaged sustainable resources, finding equity in a world with runaway population is unlikely to be pleasant.

    Equity amongst a sustainable population (of what? .5 to 2 billion by most estimates… let’s even say 3 billion and be optimistic) is one of fair division and sharing of available resources (okay, in theory :). It is a discussion that can be cooperative in nature. Equity in a world of 6.5 billion on the fast track for 10 billion will become, as you say, about dinner. That is not a discussion that is likely to be cooperative in nature. People get personally offended when their children are starving. And any equitable division of world resources will, almost by definition, force a large number of the “developed” members of the world’s 6.5B to be much hungrier than they will likely accept. At 10B, more so.

    Without addressing the population problem in some kind of sane, just, equitable manner, any kind of wealth, food or resource equity is going to be enormously difficult to obtain or sustain. That doesn’t mean that it should not be a goal, just that somebody will need to figure out what to do with the elephant in the living room. He’s hungry, thirsty and getting bigger all the time.

  17. Veganon 03 Nov 2008 at 12:41 pm

    We must stop the reactionary McCain/Palin ticket. As a FL resident, I felt obliged to vote for Obama (already voted). At heart, I’m a Green.

  18. aurorabon 03 Nov 2008 at 1:10 pm

    I’m with Vegan. Don’t throw your vote away on a third-party candidate or a write-in. That just gives the election to the default (McCain/Palin, in my view).

  19. Anion 03 Nov 2008 at 1:20 pm

    I don’t have any problem with voting for Obama- I even made my first, though small, donation to a political campaign this year to support him. The thought of McCain/Pallin is really scary to contemplate- would further the secession movement in my state though I’m sure :-).

    I don’t think most of the US public has thought much about equity really. If you read “Don’t Think of an Elephant” I think it gives a good description of how most right wing/republicans view wealth and poverty in that rich people have deserved to become rich through their actions-they did something right- and poor people are poor because they have not done the right things. I do believe that this way of thinking is strong in this country and permeates everything. To insist on a different way brings cries of socialism….

  20. Brian M.on 03 Nov 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Wow there is another Brian M. here now too!
    I guess I’ll go back to JediDaddy, and let him be BrianM

    I will say that I think whether you should vote 3rd party or not depends alot on the state. 3rd party votes are “wasted” in the sense that they have the same effect on this election as a vote for whoever gets first place, but they can effect future elections in terms of funding and ballot access. But MANY votes for the 2 frontrunners are “wasted” too, all votes for 2nd place, and “excess” votes for the winner are all wasted. Plurality voting systems “waste” a lot of vote, its one of the reasons that so many countries prefer other voting systems to plurality systems. Here in Indiana, I’ll vote for a frontrunner, but over in Illinois, it makes sense for any McCain supporter, and many Obama supporters to vote for their favorite 3rd party candidate, rather than voting for Obama or McCain. Here in Indiana, there is a real danger that 3rd party votes will act as spoilers, over in Illinois there is very little danger of that. It is really a state by state tactical decision, rather than some issue of ideology, or some blanket rule. Of course, if your conscience won’t let you vote tactically that is a different issue …

    Also I have a fun old argument on the corporate personhood stuff, that never got published, because the publisher who accepted it went out of business before publishing it, that I may try to run by Greenpa at some point.

    Brian M. AKA JediDaddy

  21. con 03 Nov 2008 at 1:58 pm

    The theory of equality is great, unfortunately many do not want to share the equity of the work load! They feel entitled to all that we have worked our butts off to get. I have sacrificed, chose not to buy, stayed up many a night studying to get an MBA and hated my job more years than I want to remember, so now you feel that it is OK to forcibly take away what I have worked for? This does not including my gardening, weaving, spinning, horsefarming, cooking, canning, sewing, orcharding, husbandry skills and classes I have taken, spent on, failed at and persisted at, instead of vacationing on a beach someplace, because I was more aware, cared more, got less sleep, had fewer luxuries and made it work for my family. I am more than happy to give to those who need it because their circumstances have been out of their control. I DO NOT, HOWEVER, FEEL THAT A GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL NEEDS TO MAKE THAT DECISION FOR ME, AS TO WHO IS ENTITLED AFTER SITTING ON THEIR BUTTS MOST OF THEIR LIVES TO TAKE MY LAND, GOATS, CHICKENS, PRODUCE AND DO NOTHING WITH IT SINCE THEY HAVE NOT LEARNED NOR ARE THEY INCLINED TO LEARN WHAT WE HAVE THROUGH WORKING AND STUDYING AFTER THE 60 HOUR WORK WEEK - THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!!!

    Sharon - generally, I think you have much to offer and very good critical thinking here, in this case, you are still wearing rose colored glasses. Frankly, I don’t like either candidate, but Obama is a train wreck waiting to crash on our lives and livelihoods and nobody really knows what he stands for…Change can be good, and it can be bad.

  22. Shelleyon 03 Nov 2008 at 2:44 pm

    “Huge scale agriculture is simply not amenable to rapid shifts away from fossil fuels” So True!!!

    Real life example….

    I agree with those who wrote about huge business destroying equitable society. In Alaska in the 1950 we had over 75 dairies in the Palmer area (our only agricultural area) and they supplied ALL of the residents of the state through direct sales to consumers. Then gov’t regulations and big conglomerate business practices moved in and created a giant Dairy company partially supported by the State. The number of dairies dropped to 4!!! All of them were huge operations and the 4 huge operations are not able to meet the supply need of all 600,000 residents of the State of Alaska. Well, surprise…the huge dairy company failed….was propped up by the State for a while, but then completely collapsed. The 4 huge dairies had no one to buy their milk and they were pouring it out on the fields. There is NO direct sales of milk to consumers and ALL of the dairy in the stores came from the “lower 48″ by, you guessed it, oil powered long distance transport….very costly. Milk on sale is about $3.50 a gallon. Not on sale it is $5.00 a gallon. Well a new business has started up and is running partially on grants and is buying milk from the 4 dairies and has connected with Cold Stone Creamery to sell milk to them for their ice cream and we are seeing the revival of those 4 dairies. But still, regulation prohibit small dairy operations selling to consumers directly. So Alaskans are still in a situation where we don’t have enough milk produced in the state to meet the needs of the populace so milk must be shipped in. Imagine is some catastophy happened and our shipping lines were disrupted!

    Isn’t economics of scale just so wonderful!!!(sarcasm)

    No one is getting rich in this scenario either….not the 4 dairis, or the one milk company or the stores.

  23. Ginaon 03 Nov 2008 at 4:06 pm

    I have to ask all of you who keep mentioning the people that don’t work, who exactly are we refering too? See, the way I look at it this, I worked my a$$ off too to get multiple degrees while working full time, raised a son on limited income (w/o gov assist), bought a little land, some livestock and provide my children with healthy food, medical care and books and whatnot, but I am still struggling compared to people that I don’t see as hard workers: some actors/actresses, Paris Hilton, oil execs, sports players, corp bums who pheasant hunt after being bailed out on our expense…I guess I can’t see how we can be so angry at those “below” us who are working at jobs that are clearly beneath us (sarcasm) like killing our CAFO food animals, cleaning our public toilets, or working a 14 hour day spreading asphalt. Are these people not working hard enough? I guess that AIG guy who claimed everything was great despite the recession because the pheasant hunting was good deserves his wealth since he is working so darn hard. I’d really like a clear cut example of these folks that are going to live off of the rest of us because the ones I’ve seen so far are bleeding most (hard working) people I know completely dry. I realize their are people who take advantage of the system and, maybe, that is also a result of an equity problem. We have made it possible for people to skim off the top and not work. People get punished if they try to work and also seek assistance. I know someone, a widow, who started drawing SS. She recieved roughly $1000 a month after working most of her life. By the end of last year, the gov sent her a letter telling her she would have to pay back 12,000 because she made too much money working. In the area she lives in, had she just taken the 1200 to live on, she would have fallen below poverty rates. Personally, and this is a HUGE pipedream, I think gov assist recipients (including college students) should have to work. I think they should have to work in clinics and food banks and community gardens. They should have to run a recycling program or clean streets. Problem is: most people living in poverty (or slacking off others) are children, mothers, or elderly. So how do we handle that?

    I guess the part of this I took most to heart was the reference of the poor being angry when their children starve so others can stay on the road. I think it was a vital point. Technically speaking, we are a selfish lot.

  24. Anonymouson 03 Nov 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Please note the below site.
    These are democrats with a different view
    Thank you

    http://justsaynodeal.com/

  25. Rosaon 03 Nov 2008 at 4:55 pm

    A long time ago I was writing a paper on historical populism & land reform in the US, Brazil, & China (don’t ask) and I found two sources I’ve wanted to reference several times in the last few years, but never found (both were pre-internet & our public library is a popular library, not a research one.)

    I wonder if somebody here can think of what they were, or point me to similar ones?

    One was a then-current (1992?) study of calorie output on farms grouped by size, the concluded that mid-sized farms (20-100 acres) were the most productive.

    Another was a study of productivity & financial failures of megafarms in the US in the 1920s, both corporate & collective (yes, there were a few large collective farms in US back then) that found that they were equally inefficient, and suggested that the later failure of collective farming in Russia & China was about size & centralization, not ownership structure.

    Do these ring a bell to anyone?

  26. SurvivalTopics.comon 03 Nov 2008 at 5:11 pm

    One thing we need to get rid of inheriting excessive wealth. The money and power is handed down through the generations (think Kennedy family) and the game becomes so uneven that the cream finds it increasingly difficult to rise to the top. When a few percentage of the population has 90% and more of the wealth it leads to massive social and economic problems, as we are seeing.

  27. TheNormalMiddleon 03 Nov 2008 at 5:45 pm

    When the poor start hiring people and creating jobs, then I’ll be on board with redistributing the wealth.

    Until then, I am not a big advocate of “what’s mine is yours” unless whats yours is mine too.

  28. texicalion 03 Nov 2008 at 5:52 pm

    The point of social insurance is to recognize that one day you may indeed need some of mine. I am reading a book on the Great Depression at the moment, many good hardworking people got absolutely cleaned out. Some did foolish things and took on risk, others just got caught in the collapse. I may become one of those, or you may. Therefore, what’s mine is in fact also yours should you come to need it.

  29. Theresaon 03 Nov 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Here in Canada we have what are called “equalization payments.” Essentially, the provinces that are very wealthy on a per capita basis pay into a federal fund and the provinces that are less wealthy on a per capita basis receive money from that fund. (The provinces on the giving and receiving end of this arrangement have changed over the years, depending on the nature of the economy at the time.) This arrangement ensures that each province has the funding to be able to offer essential services to its citizens, and that those services are equitable across the country. This is very much a ‘redistribution of wealth’ which the media seems to be labeling as ’socialist’ lately. Maybe it is, I don’t know, but so what if it is? Isn’t it also just the fair and right thing to do?

  30. Maryaon 03 Nov 2008 at 6:04 pm

    I suppose none of this should shock me. None of you have lived under communism and none of you have lived under the debilitating, life-beating aspects of socialism. Yes, things need to change, but watch what you wish for. You will be getting it in this administration. Equity does not exist in life and it does not and will never exist in communism.

  31. Theresaon 03 Nov 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Well, so far Canada seems to have been able to find a balance of fairness and economic development. Our banks were regulated it looks like that was a good thing too. I sure wouldn’t call it communism.

  32. risa bon 03 Nov 2008 at 7:55 pm

    “Bee A social gathering for some useful work. The object generally precedes the word, as a spelling - bee (a gathering to compete in spelling). There are apple-bees, husking-bees, and half a dozen other sorts of bees or gatherings. It is an old Devonshire custom, which was carried across the Atlantic in Elizabethan times. Source: Brewer’s Dictionary.”

    http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/definition/bee

    To promote equity locally, hold bees.

  33. CrimsonCoconuton 03 Nov 2008 at 8:21 pm

    Whether or not Obama turns out to be a great president (I like to think he will, but in the end only time will tell), a victory for him will be spiritually important for the American people. He represents those of us who want respect for human rights, the end of torture, and respect for other nations and the US constitution. I have mixed feeling about James H. Kunstler’s work but he did bring up a good point recently, that Obama serves as a sort of friendly hand to guide us through a rough transition.
    Best of all, though, he has at least some understanding of the energy situation, and I think he’ll handle it much better than McCain could (Matt Simmons will back me up on that). I’m not sure he comprehends how massive of a challenge it will be yet, but I think he’ll make a good effort. He has charisma, and when you’re trying to achieve social change that means a lot.

  34. Watcheron 03 Nov 2008 at 9:17 pm

    It is easy to say we need to take from some and give to others. A government that already mismanages my tax dollars and is very inefficient would make me pay more with Obama in office. I dnt support this spending orgy. Now Sharon what if the government came and took 4 of every ten tomatoes you picked fresh or they took 4 out of every 10 jars of canned vegetables. How about 4 out of every ten loaves of bread you make? You would want them to come and take more right? We, as a society, have the responsibility to take care of those that can’t take care of themselves. We do not have any responsibility to take care of those who choose not to take care of themselves. People make choices and they should be responsible for their choices. I have lived in many states and seen many things. I have seen people choosing to live on the government. So we need to inspire more people to continue with bad choices? A friend of mine teaches medical assistant classes. It has mostly welfare recipients that attend only to get their check. They don’t have to pass. They dont come to school when it rains. So we need to encourage even worse work ethics? A government sponsored work for pay program only works when people actually want to work and do the work. It would be very difficult to get the people that feel “they deserve” just because they were born to develop a good work ethic. You say this isn’t so? How about all those playing the lottery, or the game shows, or all the gambling? Getting something with minimal work. The first depression saw huge unemployment but a huge contributor to our getting out of it was a huge work force that was mobile, semi-skilled (basic mechanical knowledge), and a willingness to do whatever had to be done to get the job such as moving across the US or working long hours. We do not have that anymore. We had many people that could grow their own food, many people worked on family farms. That is gone thanks to big agri-business. So Obama and the baby steps towards socialism is the answer? I think the USSR showed the farce in that. I dont like either candidate but only one has many questions about his associations and character that are unanswered. So we need the change we can believe in. That makes up from lack of any real accomplishments? Still if Obama gets in he will be blamed for the crisis looming ahead of us and that assures a much better candidate will emerge in four years. Only thing is….how much damage is he capable of in that time. It is not ok to criticize M. Obama for bad statements but it is ok to ask for dna tests of Palins down syndrome child to make sure it is hers? I love the hypocrisy. I haven’t heard a single republican say they hate Obama. Mostly they say they are afraid of what he will do. I hear plenty of democrats saying they hate McCain and Palin. When asked why they sputter. Nice programming. Interesting as they try to paint the republicans as hatemongers when it seems they are the ones harboring hate in their hearts. We have become a nation of television and media zombies believing anything they are told that sounds great. Put a whiff of reality in their and either denial sets in or they scream it is propaganda. In the end….this sad collection of people, that used to be a nation, will quite possibly get exactly what they deserve from their government while a minority of good people will have to suffer the consequences as well. Letting a slogan determine your vote is moronic. Too bad people dont really try to get informed on the candidates. A statement about our current culture. I do make this prediction however; within 10 years the mental illness of liberalism will be well on its way to being cured. When a person is required to work hard just to provide enough for their family to survive and personal responsibility emerges Phoenix-like from the ashes, then things will begin to revert to true values instead of the perverted ones we have now. The next ten years are going to be a rough ride, no matter who is President. How rough….well that is a different matter. Side note…..Anyone wanna take a bet of $100. I bet Obama does not deliver 50% of what he promises on the campaign trail.
    Best wishes to all.
    Watcher

  35. Davidon 03 Nov 2008 at 9:22 pm

    Well, you tried, Sharon. Lord knows you tried. But some of your readers saw the word ’socialism’ and flipped out.

    It’s a sad commentary on the abusive nature of political systems that people can only imagine equitable distribution of assets and liabilities as the first step towards an authoritarian nightmare state. It’s the thin edge of the wedge, and Obama is the standard-bearer.

    So your point about the false choice between ’socialism’ and ‘capitalism’ got lost in the static. The real issue, as you’re trying to make clear, is not about the degree or the nature of state intervention in the production and distribution of goods and services; it’s about the scale of that intervention, and the degree to which regular folks have a voice in those decisions. (Apologies if I’m garbling it — at least I’m not wigging out about the horrors of imaginary gulags.)

    FWIW, I think you’re really right about that. For a long time now, I’ve been feeling that these tired old debates between left and right are distractions from the real discussions we ought to be having: about large-scale top-down command-and-control economy vs. small-scale bottom-up self-organizing economy. Everything that this blog is about argues for more local control and equity practiced among people living in a community together. Not the horrors, real or imagined, of having bureaucrats in DC make decisions about who works for what wages in order to get how much bread — but local meetings and organizations to figure out how we’re going to get through this together.

    And the fact that many people automatically read authoritarianism into this kind of community self-management says a lot about how conditioned we are to see local management and autonomous association (i.e., anarchism or libertarianism) as impossible. To believe that we require top-down management is the best Stockholm Syndrome of all time. It mean that we are kept busy arguing about vanilla fascism or chocolate fascism, when we should be taking over the damn ice cream stand and rocking it our own bad selves.

    And this would depress me more than it does if I believed that it was immutable. But I do believe that in the next few years we are all going to be back in school, learning all about Getting Along, and Making Do, and Dealing With Neighbours, and many other exciting post-secondary courses that we have been too busy shopping and snoozing to get to yet. And these will be for-credit courses, no shirking.

    And we’ll learn that we don’t need to depend on Big Brother, either the scary ’socialist’ one or his less scary ‘capitalist’ counterpart, as much as we thought we did. And that doing for ourselves makes us better and more capable citizens, and happier people.

    And that ‘redistributing the wealth’ just means living within the bounds set by nature and abiding by the ethical system of every religion or philosophy that we pretend to live by (while actually living selfishly and thoughtlessly).

  36. Davidon 03 Nov 2008 at 9:25 pm

    And the time will come when (cue spooky organ music) ‘the USA’ will sound like ‘the USSR’ when horrible bugbears and negative examples of politics gone feral are required.

    People: it’s not about the president. It’s about you. You. And your community.

  37. Brad K.on 03 Nov 2008 at 10:32 pm

    Gina, when you count the unemployed, include those that small businesses will *not* hire - college grads over 50, and now, according to CBS News/60 Minutes, reservists and national guard members.

    Include those with erratic working records due to long term medical conditions - such as moderate depression - and no health benefits.

    Include those that have looked for jobs, and been turned down so often they have disconnected from society.

    Include those caught in a bind when their company ‘right sizes’ or merges or closes.

    Include those that lose their job because they had family to care for - and not can’t find work because their employer gives them an ‘erratic work habits’ reference.

    Include those that require psychiatric or medical assistance to function as a reliable employee - but don’t meet handicapped guidelines. And also can’t receive medical or psychiatric assistance.

    Include those that once received a very good rate of pay - and cannot find an employer willing to hire them at a lower wage.

  38. Christinaon 04 Nov 2008 at 5:25 am

    Oh dear! Sometimes I just don’t understand Americans… Obama is certainly NOT a socialist. In Scandinavia, and probably in most parts of Europe, he would be considered to be very much to the right, much more conservative than the Conservative party which today is part of our government. And McCain is so far to the (European) right that he is outside the measuring scales!

    I pay quite a large sum out of my paycheck in taxes. That is perfectly OK with me! I know I will have some security if I get sick, pregnant, lose my work and after retirement. I have access to low-cost, high-quality medical care. And my kids will have free University education if they choose to study. We also have a redistribution system between richer and poorer provinces, like the one in Canada.

    All this was achieved during Social Democrat rule (NOT socialist, mind you!).

    Redistributing wealth is not socialism, it’s just plain common sense, kindness and generosity! Which we all could use a lot more of.

    Christina in Sweden

  39. Ginaon 04 Nov 2008 at 5:31 am

    Brad K: Thanks for expanding on the definition of poor. These are the people we seem to think don’t exist in this country.

  40. Sharonon 04 Nov 2008 at 8:35 am

    Christina, sometimes I’m not sure I understand America, either, and I live here. As David points out, no matter how much I try to say that this isn’t really about any kind of centralized institution - capitalist or socialist, I think there are some people who simply can’t hear anything beyond certain words.

    On the other hand, I’m genuinely heartened by the fact that I have readers who cross the political spectrum and feel passionately on a range of subjects. Quite honestly, I think we’re starting to see the old enlightenment lines between left and right blur and collapse. I’ve seen former corporate executives calling for a Jubilee year that wipes out debt, and leftists talking positively about Ron Paul. And here Rod Dreher and I are getting to be buddies :-). There’s a center-fulcrum point of people who are willing to acknowledge that we have differences, but there is important common ground. Fulcrums are useful - as Archimedes pointed out, with a good place to stand and a long enough lever, you can move the world.

    Sharon

  41. Rosaon 04 Nov 2008 at 9:51 am

    I do think we need some centralized power, though. Local control can lead to terrible things - look at the treatment of women who want to leave the FLDS, in the FLDS towns where the state government doesn’t have a presence. Or the way giving states and localities full control over voting rules allowed for poll taxes and disenfranchisement of people of color.

    Local differences in tax or environmental law can lead to a race to the bottom competing for business development - it’s no good protecting your own soil and water if the next county is going to blow the tops off all its mountains or allow huge hog confinement facilities with leaky manure lagoons.

    There needs to be a balance between local control and larger structures. We actually have the legal framework for that balance, it’s just that every level from local on up has been subverted “for the good of the economy”.

  42. Greenpaon 04 Nov 2008 at 9:53 am

    I notice that a lot of folks who react badly to “spreading the wealth” use the word “take” when discussing how it might work, as in “the government will take my potatoes.”

    If you’ll forgive my going back to pre-industrial cultures again- which I tend to do because that is where humans have spent most of their evolutionary history- the village/tribe pretty much always had sharing mechanisms in place. So widows and orphans could count on some help. Slackers were a separate problem- the ones who pretend to need- but are just parasitic.

    All the existing stories of these cultures, and the studies of undisturbed tribal resource management, have plenty of latitude in them. The best hunter lives better. The chief has an abundance of everything. The woman who makes the best pots, and the medicine woman- all have “more”. Basically, incentive to make more contributions to the general welfare are preserved.

    And a critical factor- the support for those in need is not seen as “taking” - it’s seen as “giving”. The extent to which one can “give” is a matter of tremendous status.

    Typically in folk wisdom- along with the story of the “boy who would not work” - there may be a warning story of “the man who would not share”. He doesn’t come out well in the long run, either.

    Again, these are concepts that can be seen to work reasonably well in the village- but which break down in the “city”, where individuals cannot know everyone.

    I don’t know where this all goes. But we used to have ways that, mostly, worked. Looking to them for suggestions and understanding appeals to me.

  43. Veganon 04 Nov 2008 at 10:57 am

    Christina in Sweden,

    You said it so well.

    Thank you.

  44. Hummingbirdon 04 Nov 2008 at 11:20 am

    I’m really disappointed in the level of this discussion among normally more sensible people. What is it about elections that reduces people to buzzwords and slogans. Nobody’s going to take your potatoes. I wish they would take the $100 million bonuses of the wall street jerks who destroyed the world economy for decades to come while enriching themselves and their buddies. How did the campaigns convince relatively poor people that they would be on the losing end of any “wealth redistribution” if they are not in Bill Gates’ income catagory.

    It reminds me of a slogan painted on the car of some voters at my polling place this morning when I arrived. “Remember 9-11. Vote for MCain not Hussain.” I complained to the staff inside, but was told it was OK if they were 50 feet away from the door.

    How can we pull together as we must after the election if even the people on this blog have absorbed the negative and divisive slogans of this toxic campaign.

  45. Thomas Eicheron 04 Nov 2008 at 11:40 am

    There are a number of political and economic systems that are between state capitalism and state socialism: mutualism, distributism, geolibertarianism, libertarian socialism, libertarian municipalism, anarcho-syndicalism, guild socialism, cooperative socialism, etc..

    A good starting point is Kevin Carson’s Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism and his online book, Studies in Mutualist Political Economy.

  46. deweyon 04 Nov 2008 at 11:50 am

    A point someone else made online recently: How is it that it is good and patriotic for young working-class men to join the army, thus sacrificing years of liberty and maybe even their limbs or lives, to better their country by invading and occupying its alleged enemies, but it is unpatriotic to suggest that old rich men should offer up an extra 3% of their earnings over a quarter-million per year to better their country by keeping its infrastructure running, or, say, by funding the soldiers’ pay, equipment, and health care? The rich profit far more from business as usual in the American empire, yet they are being asked to make much smaller sacrifices to maintain the status quo. I have very little sympathy for their whining. (How many of you people who are wailing that Obama will confiscate the potatoes out of your garden make anything close to $200,000 per year, or ever will? My guess is none of you, but you’ve swallowed the line that if you keep slaving away, someday you too will be rich. The odds are huge that you won’t.)

  47. risa bon 04 Nov 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Gee, Sharon, ya wanna come over for tea?

  48. Heather Grayon 04 Nov 2008 at 12:18 pm

    We redistribute wealth in our little town all the time… a portion of the proceeds from the annual fall fair goes to the citizen scholarship fund, we have raffle fundraisers to help buy library books, send kids to learn about nature, and both a raffle and general donation boxes to help with getting supplies to keep people warm this winter. We have the food pantry of course, and now one of the local eateries is going to have Soup Kitchen afternoon on Tuesdays — and one of the customers badgered the owners into putting out a donation box so that customers with money could donate to buy soup supplies. Soon there will be a collection of various winter supplies and I can finally get rid of a box of fleece hats and mittens I had leftover from when I used to make them to sell.

    People are doing research to find out what town, state, and federal programs are available to people (of all income levels, not just the poorest, and also for different age groups) and getting the word out about these programs.

    It’s probably harder to do that in a city — we’re only a town — although larger than the theoretical village Greenpa mentioned because we sure don’t all know each other. I’ve read about some places where people are coming together as neighborhoods though, like one of the boroughs in London is doing for working on creating ‘transition town’.

    *sigh* All this talk reminds me I need to touch base with some folks about trying to find a place to hold craft workshops/gatherings. There’s interest in knitting, crocheting, and spinning (I can help with 2 out of 3), and a class on darning would probably also be a good idea. Oh, and someone suggested sewing, but that’s going to be more than one day for sure. Oy. And then there’s the possibility of the less practical art of decoupage… good for livening up decor, making gifts, and even strengthening boxes so they last longer…

    And before someone wonders how crafts relate to redistribution of wealth or whatever, knowledge and skills are a form of wealth in my book. I’ve saved a lot on clothing just because I know how to mend things. And because I can do more than mending I’ve also taken things that weren’t my style and tweaked them to suit — something incredibly gratifying about getting a used silk blouse for $3 and giving it a classic look that’ll last for the next decade or so!

  49. Lisa Zon 04 Nov 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Heather Gray, Amanda Soule over at the popular SouleMama blog has just started a new “mama to mama” crafting for social justice site. Google her if you don’t know her blog.

  50. Debbieon 04 Nov 2008 at 2:49 pm

    Sharon,

    Great site, many wonderful posts and thought provoking discussions. Thanks!

    I also refuse to vote the lesser of two evils. The 2 party system is so corrupt. I feel a vote for either is basically the same. I will be writing in Ron Paul, a true Statesman.

    In California he is an official write in candidate.

    Off to the polls.

  51. Christinaon 04 Nov 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Sharon and Vegan - thanks for your comments. You see, from a European perspective some aspects of American political life are just so… strange! Very hard to understand.

    And yet, what’s happening in the USA has so much impact on the rest of us. Scary, sometimes, at least when it comes to people like GWB and the like.

    Growing up in Scandinavia meant having the Soviet Union and the other communist countries next door. It could be frightening, sometimes. But we also learned that they are human beings just like you and me. Almost nobody wanted to live in a centralized socialist state like the SU. But we saw that socialism was not entirely bad and that *democratic* socialism could actually be a good thing sometimes. It’s not all black and white!

    I would have liked to invite you to Sweden to see how things work here, but I suppose you would have to travel with a sailing ship or something ;-) Transatlantic flights must mean a horrible lot of carbon emissions!

    Christina in Sweden
    who will follow the election with great interest!

  52. Rebeccaon 04 Nov 2008 at 4:07 pm

    Greenpa, from my studies of history I think that most traditional cities were a collection of small neighborhoods, each like a town or a village that functioned in much the same way. Also, the fraternal organizations did a lot of the work of building community and helping widows and children until the early 20th century.

  53. jerahon 04 Nov 2008 at 8:43 pm

    Amen and amen.

  54. Wolfon 04 Nov 2008 at 11:17 pm

    We be fraked. I have no real worries for myself and mine. The rest can suffer the consequences of their vote. Extreme sarcasm here. I just love how educated people are. Anyone ever care to read Obamas web site in totality? Hmmmm lets see his increase in taxes on the wealthy, according to his website, will be letting the bush tax cuts expire for theose making over 250k a year. His website even states he is going to cut what the federal government receives in taxes compared to earlier years. His website wants to expand social programs and “the military”. His actual website has the extra social progams, the decrease in the tax revenues, the increase in the military, and even goes to say they will pay down the deficit. Any one that is dumb enough to believe that…….. Cut tax revenue, increase spending, and pay down the deficit?????

    The clueless get what they deserve. I hope starving in their homes gives them warm comfort for how they voted. Change change change? Did they even read his website entirely? No. This country will get what it deserves and I will stand by and watch as the hordes suffer their own bad choices. I hope this does not come to pass. I hope every day as such. But as I say plan for the worst and hope for the best and reality is normally somewhere in between. Welcome to the downfall of the USA. You get what you deserve and vote for…. I hope I am proven wrong and time will tell. No worries here. To the rest…….. enjoy your uneducated vote….. Relish in it for now and experience it later. Gloabl issues dont give a damn about what you think you deserve. It pains me our society has fallen to this level. My concern is when a real crisis hits how many freedoms the people will give up to have the government take care of them. May the wise procreate and the stupid starve while chanting “Change we can believe in.” Again I hope I am wrong. I am not waiting to find out. Enjoy your vote and what it brings you. Clueless.

  55. deweyon 05 Nov 2008 at 11:06 am

    My impression, from over 20 years of reading survivalist literature, is that most people who rant about how their fellow Americans (aka “hordes”) are imminently doomed by the crise du jour to “starve” are really people who have a deep hostility toward anyone not in their own very narrow (sociocultural, religious, and/or racial) ingroup, and who are finding an acceptable way to express their desire to see the rest of us (e.g., city folks with college degrees) die.

    You are probably right that Obama’s plan cannot balance the budget - though Bill Clinton managed it - but an unbalanced budget need not lead to us “stupid” people who disagree with you “starving.” If it did, there would be widespread famine after the last several years of Gee Dubya’s blowout spending. Also, if you are a good right-winger, you are supposed to accept the Laffer Curve as an article of faith, are you not? This foundation of voodoo economics says that cutting tax rates actually increases tax revenues - which might be true or might not, depending in part upon what the starting and ending rates are. The GOP has long offered this as an excuse for cutting taxes for the rich. Why are you so sure that it will not operate likewise when taxes are cut for the middle class?

  56. Kevin Carsonon 05 Nov 2008 at 1:23 pm

    Thomas Eicher: Thanks a lot for the mention.

    Brad K.: I’m extremely skeptical about the economies of scale argument. IMO thinkers like Lewis Mumford and Ralph Borsodi have demonstrated pretty conclusively that the development of small-scale electrically powered machinery has enabled small factories serving local markets, or even the household and informal economy, to obtain most of the necessary economies of scale in production. And even when unit costs of production are modestly above those of large-scale manufacturers, this is more than offset by the drastically reduced distribution costs that come with producing close to the point of consumption.

    One of the problems with the kind of Sloanist production that Chandler and Galbraith celebrated is that it requires overbuilt industry to run at full capacity to minimize unit costs, and that it requires long-term planning to guarantee a market for goods when the whole production cycle requires enormous commitment of capital and years of planning. This means producing to maximize capacity utilization rather than in response to autonomous demand, push-distribution, and planned obsolescence. And even then consumers won’t absorb the full output, which means massive state intervention to absorb surplus output and surplus capital (the permanent war economy, the Interstate and other subsidies to the car culture, etc.).

    A couple of chapters I’ve written deal with problems in the orthodox econ of scale position, and describe the decentralist alternative:

    Chapter One. A Critical Survey of Orthodox Views on Economy of Scale
    Chapter Fourteen. Decentralized Production Technology

  57. Robin Mon 06 Nov 2008 at 5:58 pm

    I am a child from six generations of farming family. Third generation in America. I know a thing or two about farming. The first being that it is far more work than 99% of the population wants to do on any scale. Our planet is a tremendously large place, however, there is not enough arable land on the planet for each adult to have 10 acres to farm; there is not enough land mass that is arable for each group of 10 adults to have one acre to farm together.

    And just for kicks, let’s say that there was enough land for everyone to have ten acres to farm – just what percentage of the world population do you really think wants to do the hard work that is farming? Furthermore, if you want to remove modern farm equipment from the equation – you could probably stand the number of Americans willing to work that hard shoulder-to-shoulder on one-quarter section of land.

    The real problem in America is not “equity” related at all. It is self-responsibility related. People want someone else to do it all for them. Corporations are a good example of that. I listen to people go off about how bad corporations behave all the time and it makes me laugh. Corporations have stockholders. If the corporation is publically traded, the stockholders have a large say in how a corporation is run, and in what executives get paid. Every year in the USA, hundreds of thousands of letters go out to stockholders containing proxy ballots – and most shareholders never even bother to look at them. As long as the corporation is doing well, and the stockholder’s investment is consistently increasing at an unrealistic rate – they, frankly, do not care what the corporation does. “Just give me my thirty percent return on investment.” This is not just rich folks; this is teachers, government workers, healthcare workers, and autoworkers, anyone who has a 401K, IRA, CalPers, Keogh, or other retirement fund. You want to see corporate behavior change –change has to take place with the stockholders.

    The gap between the haves and the have-nots in America is a function of the push for people to attend college and to learn to use technology. Today in America 30% of adults have a bachelors degree. When you add to that that most people with college degrees live in metropolitan areas you have a very high percentage of people who earn a very high income, and a smaller percentage of people who have either a high school diploma or are high school drop-outs in service sector jobs. Given that picture, or course there will be a huge disparity between the “rich” and the “Poor.”

    There are three things, in the USA, we know for sure about poverty:
    1. People who graduate from high school make far more money than people who do not.
    2. People who can communicate clearly in written and spoken English make far more money than people who cannot.
    3. We have long since left the agrarian age, and labor unions have priced us out of competitiveness in the industrial age, and we have entered the technology age and anyone who is clueless about technology is going to be left behind financially.

    What to do about it:

    1. Abolish the US income tax code and institute a flat tax of 15% for everyone who works - no deductions, no write-offs. This will result in billions more in Income Tax revenue – and it also makes it so that everyone’s dollar is worth the same amount of money.
    2. Eliminate the Federal Minimum Wage. Require all states to set minimum wage laws based on cost of living – county to county. This will cause businesses to move and decentralize spreading employment opportunity all over America, and allow business to locate in places where the labor cost is not so prohibitive that they cannot compete in the global market.
    3. Issue a national benefits card to all Americans. This card will have a magnetic strip on the back that will contain your educational achievement levels, your SS# and benefit information and your eligibility for various federal programs.
    4. Set up federally funded daycare centers all over cities with a population of 50,000 or more. These daycare centers will provide day care from FREE to low cost on a sliding scale depending on the information on your national benefits card.
    5. Require all Americans who do not have a high-school diploma to attend classes so they can sit for and pass the GED exam.
    6. Require all Americans to learn to communicate clearly in both written and spoken English. I know that many people have an issue with this – but English is the international language of business and that is not going to change in the next 50 years. It is ironic that in China, India, and Japan all students learn their native language and English as a matter of course.
    7. Send all adults that did not attend college for aptitude testing and send them to vocational educational schools. There is a HUGE shortage in electricians, plumbers, automobile mechanics, nurses, crane operators, construction workers, road crews, in fact – in most blue-collar occupations. These are good jobs that pay well. However, fewer and fewer people want to do them because they are not glamorous.
    8. Return to building 3 bedroom, 1 bath, 1200 sq ft homes – when I grew up this was the normal sized home for a two parent family with 4 kids. A great many people are priced out of the housing market because no one wants to build high-quality single-family homes of a modest size anymore. When did a 4 bedroom, three baths, 2100 sq. ft. home become the norm for 2 adults and 1.6 children?
    9. Reward people for saving. It is time for people to stop living beyond their means. Non-mortgage consumer debt in the USA has topped $2.4 trillion dollars. That is nearly $20K in non-essential consumer debt for every man, woman, and child in the country. This one thing alone will close a good portion of the ‘equity” gap. This total lack of savings is what caused the liquidity problem for the banks. Lots of loans going out, no deposits coming in.

    Well, that is my nickel on the subject. Thanks.

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