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Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Competition is a good thing.
It is an especially good thing for political, economic and religious ideas. Why? One reason is because that's the best way we have of sifting out what works from what doesn't. Another reason is that, because we are different, this allows for the satisfaction of different religious styles. Still another is that religion as a whole flourishes as never before when they compete peaceably with one another. It's also a useful reminder of how far we've yet to travel along the road to God; that none of us, individually or societally, are 'finished works' or are likely to be so while we live on earth.
And another very good reason is, whenever an imposed-from-above system, be it religious, political or economic becomes, for all intents and purposes, 'the only game in town' it's never taken too long, till now, for the folks running the system to behave in ways that are discreditable, sometimes egregiously so, to the newly monopolistic 'system' in question. Not to mention how long it can take that same system to shake off the ill effects of once having been a monopoly even if they're not that any more. Exhibit A here is: the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church protecting pedophile priests. Not to mention the probable (and still mostly unreported) horde of imams doing the same (literally) damned thing!
One system fortunate in not having been a monopoly for too long yet is capitalism. Since the Berlin Wall fell and we won the Cold War, capitalism has been largely considered as the only economic system that can work. And for the last decade, have we or haven't we seen capitalists acting in ways that are profoundly discreditable to that same system? Beginning with Enron through the housing bubble and previously reputable brokerages betting against their own clients and culminating in the greatest crash since 1929. Not to mention the questionably deliberate near-gutting of our industrial base, the assault on public education which is still an extremely vital part of our infrastructure, much of which has been allowed to crumble! And it must be said that the Clinton administration, a scant five years after the Wall fell, paved the way for this with the repeal of the Glass-Steagall law, among other things. The over-skewing of wealth into the hands of the uppermost 0.1% is part of this profoundly counter-productive cycle, as is the concomitant loss of real democracy in our politics.
What should we do? Quite bluntly, we need to redistribute wealth to some extent! Justice Brandeis said it in 1927: "We can either have a few very wealthy people, or we can have democracy, but we cannot have both." Most of us are thankfully inclined to opt for democracy. First, the highest tax bracket needs to be at least 50% (which it was under Reagan). Second, public education needs a lot of repair, renewal and stregthening--as does most of our infrastructure. Third, the 'greening' of our economy needs to be pushed forward. This, more than anything else, will produce the number of necessary jobs. Fourth, every business of a certain size or above (I'd recommend this wherever the employer starts not to know all his/her employees) needs to give its employees a chance to 'buy into' the business. As far as possible, employees and stockholders need to be the same people.
We  have always said (and we've seen it to be so), people work better when they work for themselves. Well, let's start putting it more into practice! And if they're owners, will they or won't they take better care (including of each other) in, and of, that facility? Surely the answer is 'yes'. Most businesses which are co-operatives are still with us. Even the Grange still exists, although we could do with it being more influential. Now is the time to democratize our economy and the returns from it!!
Co-operatives can and should show a healthier alternative to the capitalism lately turned vicious and downright piratical. This will still take time even if it starts to happen on a larger scale and we need to not allow ourselves to be distracted by divisive 'wedge' matters. I don't even want to call them 'issues' because they don't deserve to be. We do need to listen deeply to one another so that we can speak with one another. Fellow environmentalists, start hearing issues of class. Then let's expand each other's understanding of bread-and-butter matters like jobs. Never mind anyone else's domestic arrangements so long as the families are healthy. And we all need to recognize, and fight, injustice in whatever color it comes!
There will continue to be wealthy and (relatively) 'poor', but a vital, functioning democracy with Judeo-Christian underpinnings needs brackets for both. None so rich as to bid defiance to the government which receives our input and is thereby empowered to act on behalf of all of us, none so poor as to need to scrape in order to stay alive. And there continues to be a vital 'commons' available to all of us. I hope and believe this to be a reasonable 'yardstick' for free societies.

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