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Wednesday, June 27, 2012


As I observe the growing lust for privatization on the part of so-called conservatives, I'm reminded of another time when government was largely privatized. One corporation, duly chartered, had everything--and I mean everything--in its hands. What happened? The officials of that company became, with horrifying speed, 'drunk' on power and on greed. Many of this company's employees spent most of their time illegally accumulating fortunes rather than attending to business. One way of getting rich quick was to force the land's inhabitants to buy company goods from them at gouger's prices and compel those same inhabitants to accept (literal) starvation prices for their goods. As a result, famine gripped this actually quite rich, and fertile, land because the corporation and its servants were sucking it dry! And yet, because the corporation's servants were so engrossed with making themselves quickly rich, the company itself was chronically on the edge of bankruptcy until the body that had chartered it (and many of whose members owned stock in it) put together what we'd call today a 'bailout package'.
At the same time, there was another land where the officials were reasonably paid and known by the people they served. And they were dependent on the people for their jobs through the people's chosen representatives. Knowing this, they did what they were reasonably paid to do and sought no dishonest gain. They had no reason to seek it and plenty of reasons not to. The land thrived, not least because the working people were highly paid and had money to spend and thus, as the money moved, so also did goods and services. Any guesses as to which is which, and when?
For answers, open a copy of The Wealth of Nations and go to page 84 of the paperback Modern Library edition. Also, look on page 93 for what Smith had to say about the beneficial effects of the liberal reward of labor. Then consider those who want to revoke even the minimum wage as part of their obliterate-the-middle-class program and propose to substitute for a decent wage the pinch of real hunger on most of us coupled with empty by-and-by false promises!
I would say that those who now push less government and more privatization are acting with all the greed, rapacity and almost the brutality of the East India Company in the 1760s. I also say that the end will be at best deplorably similar. At worst we may see real famine for the first (and let's hope only) time in our country's history. Government is all of us together both helping each other and keeping a watchful eye on those who might be bullies if we weren't watching. Properly supervised government bureaucrats cost a lot less than corporate bureaucrats preoccupied with fattening their own pockets and this is why Medicare for ALL will also cost a lot less per person than does our current system with overpaid executives (i.e., bureaucrats) at the top!
It's worth remembering that the real Tea Party was an act of protest against the collusion of government with corporate power. Many colonists knew the bad rep of the East India Company and the reasons for it. I think it's also worth remembering how corrupt Parliament was then and to ask ourselves, does Congress (and our state legislatures) have all that far to go before their corruption by money equals that of Lord North's Parliament? I wonder. I hope you do too.
Privatization to the current extent is not a good idea at all. Government of, by and for the people needs to be brought back and privatization scaled way back--if not completely abolished, but let that judgment wait a little. If anyone can tell me a reason why privatization will work better here than in the Bengal of the 1760s, speak now or, indeed, forever hold your peace!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


"Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?"
 So the Ghost of Christmas Present repeats Scrooge's own words to him when, for probably the first time in years, he is actually distressed on someone else's behalf--specifically, that of the ill-favored children, Ignorance and Want, that cling to the Ghost 'appealing from their fathers'. The Ghost warns Scrooge, "Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!" cries the Spirit as he stretches his hand toward the city. "Slander those that tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes and worsen it! And bide the end!"
Scrooge cries out, "Have they no refuge or recourse?" and that's where the Spirit repeats Scrooge's own words to him.
It's not for nothing we say, "If you think education is expensive (or troublesome, as in doubt-producing) then try ignorance." Seems Dickens already knew this 170 years ago when he first published  A Christmas Carol. And I can see powerful forces in today's world that, ignorantly or deliberately, attempting to push us back to that! As we give wealthy and greedy men a direct monetary interest in seeing large numbers of people incarcerated in for-profit prisons and, maybe, stand on the brink of resurrecting debtors' prisons and privatizing them as well and also, simultaneously, making both higher education and technical training more expensive so that hardly a student emerges without such a load of debt on their backs as will probably preclude any upward change in their standard of living or anything more than staying just out of those newly-built and for-profit debtor's prisons, we are laying the groundwork for a new slave society!
It will be a society of all but the very rich either in those factory-prisons or bound to the land as serfs, with all but the very rich also voteless and, hence, voiceless. Perhaps the masters will hold out the bait of living debt-free for a lifetime of unstinting hard work and blind obedience and, right now, I feel as if I can't bet against a majority of us falling for it! Not to mention that too many of the mega-rich became so not by real creation of real wealth but by tilting the monetary table their way and/or plundering the commons and leaving their messes for us to clean!
Such a society would have much less 'societal capital' in the forms of mutual trust, neighborliness, etc. and would thus be much more violent than currently. Yes, Virginia, that is only too possible. Just look at Somalia or, say, Pakistan to see what it would be like.
We are still the world's largest economy and have produced some real wealth-producing innovations over the last thirty years--most notably, improvements in informational technology including the Internet. But we also should have heeded Carter when he started the push to cleaner, greener forms of energy. But the fossil-fuel lobbies told us we'd lose electricity, have to walk everywhere and scrounge for wood for heat and we of course fell for it! Well, folks, the time is now here when we either switch to those energies or, starting with Florida, the Outer Banks and maybe Manhattan and Long Island, we start to lose our shoreline! We have the technology to switch now and not lose anything by it except what we waste anyhow--and as we do, we will create a lot of new wealth, replenish and add hugely to our 'societal capital' and we save both our planet and our society. How? Because as we switch to solar, wind, geothermal and probably fusion in time we will need to  democratize our economy and reduce the wealth gap. I say reduce, not abolish--humans will always have varying capacities and a democracy's stakeholders need to be as many as possible.
The most sickening aspect of the current regression is that many seek to cloak something profoundly immoral and impious with moralism and pratings of 'Lord, Lord' (see Matt. 7:21). Some even have the gall to say it's irreligious to care for Creation when God makes it clear He wants us to care for it as He does! Caring is key--for our own relationships with God, for ourselves and each other, and for Creation. I know I may be rambling a bit here but I hope 1) I tie them together at least passably and 2) I show the choice before us: a cleaner, greener future with good education, good work and more freedom for all (and, remember, the rich do well when we do, too) and between a future of debt slavery, prisons, corporate neo-feudalism and worsening environment (including less land to live on). The choice is ours, fellow citizens. I know my own choice; I pray you all choose wisely. Listen to God and choose LIFE. I think you know where that is.