Posts Tagged ‘economics as if people mattered’


October 31, 2011

The Mote in God's Eye


There is no longer any doubt that environmental alarms are well-founded, so why is it taking so long for that fact to sink in?  At work recently, someone in the coffee klatch confessed that he hoped things would “stay okay until I die.”  Even on the surface, I know this selfish attitude is probably overpowering and protecting most of the people I know.  Few people feel any stake or control and so no one acts.  Most of my fellows and “fellowesses” usually feel small and gray and bleak.  They, like me, are remote echoes of prehistoric pasts, but are still earthly-bound to the nonsense of being a member of an over-riding culture, which never pauses long enough to discover itself.  Too busy it is for introspection.  Too concerned with making money and pretending to be movie-idols.

Seen from outer space, poor, old Earth has mange. Deserts replace forests and lumber interests tell us they must cut more trees to keep the economy alive and loggers’ jobs. Cattle ranchers claim they must cut to provide beef to Mickey D’s. In truth, the lumber interests cut jobs by automating destruction of the forests and cattle destroy the fragile forest soil. The last rape of all the Old Growth left will not save the logger’s lifestyle, or grow enough beef for Mickey D’s insatiable maw, and once the Old Growth is gone, so goes the breathing apparatus for the entire planet.

Industry ‘experts’ – hired degrees who know that fact is disposable to theory – tell us that ‘careful management’ will replace Old Growth. Timber company television ads show stretches of green, managed forest. However, what I want to know is, what do all of the forests managed by all of the timber companies look like in aggregate? Taken in accumulated, today terms and future-damaging results, the timber companies and forest rapers (timber and cattle companies, miners and developers) are working against posterity around the world, and nothing and no one seems able to stop it. They even murdered a man in Brazil for daring to say out loud that it was happening.

Our species has done this throughout its evolution.  One finds our indelible four-thousand-five-hundred year old scars on the ground at Mohenjo Daro, once the greatest city in the Indus Valley; we know little about its society; it is a barren flattened circle of over 1,000 years habitation; nothing grows there; the name means “mound of death.”  Ufologists suspect a nuclear explosion caused by alien interference. Fact is, if we’re in a place long enough we totally strip it of all resources and threaten all life, including our own.  It’s a phenomenon I call, ‘The Easter Island Syndrome.’

According to archaeological evidence, Polynesians arrived at the tiny island off the coast of present day Chile – 300 strong and bearing plants and animals for starters.  Before they were done, they were 4,000 strong and they had denuded the island to raise the Aku-Aku, those legendary, long-eared, big-nosed statutes of their ancestors, seeking power and prestige.  The Easter Island culture killed itself, consuming its natural resources to do that.  One day, the quarries were abandoned.  Tools were dropped beside unfinished work.  The population fell into cannibalism for a time (I fantasize that they ate the priests and politicians first).  The first European visitors brought disease to the remnant who lacked immunity and died by the boatload.  Later Europeans thought the survivors were a slow, lethargic people with little memory of their own history and quickly enslaved them. Time and outside assistance eventually changed the picture to one of livability today, but Easter Island is a microcosmic prophecy for our entire planet.

Billions and Billions

There is a scientific postulate that asserts that the Earth will renew itself – having suffered the depredations of miners, loggers, or nuclear waste makers – given enough time (eons).  The Earth will right itself, and all the damage done by humankind will be undone.  This postulate is known as the Gaea Effect, after the Earth Goddess Gaea, the ‘deep-breasted,’ whose ‘soil nourishes all that exists and by whose benevolence men are blessed with fair children and all the pleasant fruits of the earth.’  Her majesty was once acknowledged ‘not only by men but by the gods themselves.’ Whenever conservation is mentioned in America, however, many men look as if the devil had propositioned them.  Women pointedly mention a husband, father, boyfriend, brother, or hanger-on of male importance, who is gainfully employed as: a well-digger in the oil fields; a logger on a pristine mountain top; a strip miner in the fecund valleys; or, in charge of the nuclear reactors at Three Mile Island.

Freemarket Man thinks of himself as the lord of creation, husband of the universe!  How utterly absurd that is.  He believes he can rape his bride at will, without conscience, and survive to an unburdened old age.  Like any abused wife, the good, old natural continuum will quietly stab Man in the back some dark night.  Or, set his bed on fire! The variable is the rate of decay caused by our assault on the biosphere.  As our environment disintegrates, we open our amniotic fluid to the outside vacuum – the eternal void of space.  We chip the shell from our fragile egg and leave the poorly formed embryo to fry in the empty silence.  Word on the street is that the world is ending.  We’ve run our course as a species and the forest-destroying masses, the poor and the starving billions, are at last about to bring down Cargill Grain and the International Oil Cartel.

Let ’em keep on making money, until we’re all dead and money doesn’t mean anything to anyone anymore.  Maybe then – if there are any seeds left and soil fertile enough to encourage life – the Gaea Effect will assert itself.  In two or three billion years, there might be a restored earth, blessedly minus the threat of humankind (which, viewed properly, is an unsympathetic and rather stupid parasite bent on destroying its hostess).  That’s as positive as I can get, until such time as I see genuine evidence that we are working to stop this feeding and breeding frenzy that we’re on as a species.

Ironically, our horrific western rapaciousness nears its cannibalistic end as we celebrate our self-proclaimed, world-wide, ideological supremacy.  Natural resources dwindle, reusable trash and garbage is vouchsafed in massive piles of publicly-subsidized debris called ‘solid waste,’ which we privately franchise and mine for private gain.  Lo, the seas shall rise as we debate land use regulation and spread FEMA flood relief money along the shore!  Our transportation decisions will provide archeological oddities for alien students, raising the question: ‘How could they achieve this standard of engineering, but be blind to their absolute destruction of their own habitat?’  Ask Malthus or Erlich.  Ask the Pentagon.  Ask any of those who preach procreation from the pulpit to insure the earthly power of their priests and bishops.  Ask the leaders of the great political polities who refuse to face the consequences of vast ecological rape.  If I’m depressing you, good.

We are as a species, dichotomous and profound.  We sing about progress as we dig in our heels to stay in the same place.  We are as profound as a potato.  Only god can make a potato, although man can manipulate it hydroponically, or cause it to grow upside down on the bottom of a fruitcake.  That’s the real majesty of it.  That we are able to do so much.  To transcend to the heights of ridiculousness.  To richly imagine an earthly paradise, and somehow suppress evidence, divert attention, raise barriers of jargon, split hairs, and delay in the courts, debate trivia and mouth platitudinous obscenities to obfuscate reason.  Moreover, dodge substance and ignore the fact that the Old Growth forests of the world are almost gone – in Oregon as well as Brazil.

E. F. Schumacher ’s  Small Is Beautiful,  subtitle ’Economics As If People Mattered,’ is about Gandhian economics and economy of scale.  If you see the world as an environment, made up of ecosystems – each independent, yet interdependent – like nations – you realize that the bulk of an ecosystem’s needs can be met internally when the population is small.  When over-population or resource-depletion occurs, however, the ecosystem either destroys itself, or assaults another ecosystem for its raw materials.  Yet, if the population of the ecosystem limits its numbers and conserves its resources, it may be self-sustaining forever, or as close to that as mere mortals get.  In order to protect the earth, Man must understand his dependency and place upon it.  He must have a sense of past and future, and take responsibility for the present.  We have an obvious choice: spend the present wisely, or squander it like bad money.

If we let it end, mourn no more Beethoven.  No more Mozart.  No Van Gogh.  Visitors from other worlds may find our few survivors (if any)  wandering mindlessly in the rubble of our desert midden heaps, searching listlessly for the barest means of survival.  Unable to hear or heed our own direst warnings, unalarmed in the face of the direst possible sign; obsessed by a cheese sandwich while the sun fries our brains.

SELFISH POSTSCRIPT:  I wouldn’t worry about this so much, if the corporatists and ignorant who are despoiling the planet were only endangering themselves.  I just realize that their stupidity and greed are going to kill everything, including me!  Now, I don’t know about you, gentle reader, but that pisses me off.

“Act.  There may be no result in your lifetime, but without action, there will be no result at all.” – Mahatma Gandhi.

Here are some action and primary resource links that help to make a positive difference. 

INVOLVED AND INFORMED (essential links):




AVAAZ: Avaaz members respond by rapidly combining the small amounts of time or money they can give into a powerful collective force. In just hours we can send hundreds of thousands of messages to political leaders telling them to save a crucial summit on climate change , hold hundreds of rallies across the world calling for action to prevent a genocide, or donate hundreds of thousands of euros, dollars and yen to support nonviolent protest in Burma. Click here to see a list of our campaigns and impact in 2007. 

Weather Underground  is committed to delivering the most reliable, accurate weather information possible. Our state-of-the-art technology monitors conditions and forecasts for locations across the world, so you’ll always find the weather information that you need.

The Newseum displays these daily newspaper front pages in their original, unedited form. Some front pages may contain material that is objectionable to some visitors. Viewer discretion is advised.

World Clock : time, and real-time statistics: population, death, illness, environment, energy, us crimes, food, more.

The Natural Resources Defense Council works to protect wildlife and wild places and to ensure a healthy environment for all life on earth.

Since 1892, the Sierra Club has been working to protect communities, wild places, and the planet itself. We are the oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States.

“WE are 2,313, 499 people determined to Solve the Climate Crisis and Repower America with 100% clean electricity within 10 years.”  The We Campaign is a project of The Alliance for Climate Protection– a nonprofit, nonpartisan effort founded by Nobel laureate and former Vice President Al Gore.  The goal of the Alliance is to build a movement that creates the political will to solve the climate crisis — in part through repowering America with 100 percent of its electricity from clean energy sources within 10 years.  Our economy, national security, and climate can’t afford to wait.

Founded in 1947, Defenders of Wildlife is one of the country’s leaders in science-based, results-oriented wildlife conservation. We stand out in our commitment to saving imperiled wildlife and championing the Endangered Species Act, the landmark law that protects them.

STUPIDOLOGY, a serious subject – reprise

June 9, 2011
Manfred Max-neef

ABSTRACT: A STUPID WAY OF LIFE, Manfred Max-Neef Adapted from The Schumacher Memorial Lecture, Bristol, England, October 8, 1989.  [Manfred Arthur Max-Neef (b. October 26, 1932, Valparaiso, Chile) is a Chilean economist and environmentalist. He is of German descent. Mainly known for his human development model based on Fundamental human needs. Max-Neef started his career as a teacher of economics at the University of California, Berkeley in the early 1960s.]


Since childhood, I wondered: “What makes human beings unique? Is there a human attribute that no other animal shares?” The first answer was: humans have a soul,  animals do not. I love animals; a just and generous God – which I believed in then – would not make such a discrimination.

I was told that we are the only intelligent beings, animals only have instincts. Wrong again. We know animals have intelligence. Are humans the only beings capable of humor? No, studies prove, even birds make jokes and “laugh” at each other. My father said: “Why don’t you try stupidity?” I am probably founder of a new and important discipline — stupidology. Stupidity is the unique trait of human beings.

In 1975, I gave a course in Wellesley College entitled “Inquiry into the-Nature and Causes of Human Stupidity.” It was very well-attended. The first two  sessions were fun; by the fourth, there were long faces. We discovered that it was a damn serious subject.


Later, after three trips around the world in twenty months, I thought: “I have seen too much. I don’t want anymore. I am fed up!” What grows fastest and is diffused widest with greatest efficiency, velocity and acceleration is human stupidity. Whether bulldozing thousands of rural villages in Rumania to modernize and expand agricultural production; or transporting millions from one end of the country to the other in the colossal World Bank-financed transmigration for the Indonesian development program; or Thailand proudly announcing destruction of several hundreds of villages in the forested north with people reinstalled in fourteen urban centers “with all the amenities they would require for a developed society” — all reflected the same kind of stupidity.

Stupidity is a cosmically democratic force. It contaminates everyone. No one is safe. North, South, West or East, race, creed and ideology, we commit the same stupidities over and again. Something renders us immune to experience. But, there are positive trends. We watch the last few meters of a race between two irreconcilable forces; one will win by the most important “tip of the nose” in history. Two forces, two paradigms, two utopias make a schizophrenic world. This is our reality, we cannot fool ourselves. How do we face and interpret it? The world has not always been schizophrenic.

Ludwig Wittgenstein focused me on the problem of language. Language is the expression of and generates a culture. If language is poor, culture is poor; we are trapped by language. The way we use words or concepts influences and determines behavior and perceptions. Every generation has its own theme, preoccupation, and language trap.


We are trapped, like it or not, in the language of economics, which has domesticated the entire world, permeating everyday life and expression; used in the kitchen, with friends, scientific associations, clubs, work place and even bedrooms. It dominates the world influencing behavior and perceptions. If a certain language domesticates it is not necessarily negative, although in this case it is. It boils down to a question of coherence or incoherence. In the late 1920s and early 30s, the language of Keynesian macroeconomics emerged as response to the “Great World Crisis,” enabled interpretation, and was an efficient tool to fix it. It was a language coherent with its historical moment.

The next language shift in the 1950s was optimistic “development language”, not due to crisis; but to enthusiasm for spectacular economic reconstruction of post-war Europe, based on belief that we could eradicate poverty by use of its clichés: rapid industrialization, modernization, urbanization, self-sustained growth, etc. It delivered important spectacular changes in the 50s and 60s that encouraged optimism. Again a case of coherence between language and historical reality.

Since the mid-1970s through the 80s (called “the lost decade” in the United Nations), a new mega crisis we are still unable to fully interpret arose. This crisis has not generated its own language. We still use the language of development, “enriched” by the most reactionary principles unearthed from the cemetery of neo-classic economics. We have a language based on enthusiasm for unlimited economic growth and expansion faced with a reality of social and ecological collapse. Our language is now [dangerously] incoherent with our historical reality.

More coherent alternative languages may enter the dominant language as cosmetic improvement. “Sustainability” metamorphosed into “sustainable growth.” The merits of unending growth are undebated, its assumed virtues are paramount in conventional economic fundamentalism. The dominant language only allows “nicer” growth.

If alternative languages do not penetrate to those with conventional and traditional positions there is no intelligent dialogue, we remain schizophrenic. Skeptics will not go away; to change things we must be understood. It is our turn and we need a sense of self-criticism; we do not own the truth; we search in good faith, but we may be wrong.

Making mistakes is not wrong; but dishonesty is; we cannot afford it. Humans naturally make proposals and propositions, and we tend to believe that every proposition is right or wrong, passionately taking sides. Propositions are not necessarily right or wrong. Perhaps the majority are nonsensical, keep in mind. It is very dangerous when beliefs turn rigid and inflexible. I shudder at fundamentalist intolerances.


The world is tired of grand solutions and people who know exactly what has to be done. The world probably requires something extremely simple—to be together with it, and enjoy the magnificent diversity such an effort brings about. I mean be, not be this or be that. The greatest personal challenge we each face is to be brave enough to be.

Societies are increasingly interconnected and interdependent in everything positive and negative. This should be true of all living systems. Yet, due to the human attribute of stupidity, we do not take advantage of interdependence and interconnectedness so that solidarity can display its synergic possibilities for overcoming our grave predicament. We still favor the economic efficiency of greed and political dynamics of paranoia in a global system in which poverty keeps increasing and major scientific and technological effort is directly or indirectly aimed at destroying the human species.

It makes no sense to talk about developed and developing countries, unless we add under developing countries or countries headed for underdevelopment. This category fits most presently rich countries, where quality of life is deteriorating at alarming speed. In 1989 one in five U.S. children were below the poverty line [one in four in 2010], in a country with 6 percent of world population and 55 percent of world total energy consumption.

UNICEF reports that the majority of poor are children and, worse, the majority of children are poor. Unsustainable development will not solve unsustainable poverty.

The paradox is that we know a lot, probably all we need to know, but understand little. We tend to believe that having described and explained something, we understand it. Describing plus explaining does not equal understanding. We can never understand love, unless we fall in love. This is valid for every living system. You cannot attempt to understand something of which you are not a part. Hence, how can we understand a society, a world, a planet, a biosphere by detaching ourselves from it?

How many actually understand the problems we are trying to solve? Problem solving belongs to the realm of knowledge and requires fragmented thinking. In the realm of understanding problem posing and problem solving do not make sense, because we must deal with transformations that start with, and within, ourselves.


Now, what about the future? Dr. Gilberto Gallopin proposes three possible scenarios.

Scenario one: total or partial extinction of the human species. The most obvious way is nuclear holocaust. But a number of processes can do it: destruction of the environment, pollution of seas, lakes and rivers, greenhouse effect, ozone layer depletion and so on.

Scenario two: barbarianization of the world. A new way of turning human kind into barbarians. Bubbles of enormous wealth, surrounded by fortresses to protect from immense territories of poverty and misery; a Mad Max scenario. It is in mental attitudes and actual creation of isolated areas for the very rich who do not want to be contaminated by seeing, hearing or dealing with poverty. It includes resurgence of repressive regimes cooperating with the wealthy bubbles to impose further hardships on the poor.

Scenario three: the possibility of a great transition—the passing from a dominant rationality of blind economic competition and greed to a rationality based on the principles of sharing and solidarity. Passing from Mutually Assured Destruction to an era of Mutually Assured Solidarity. But can we do it? Have we the tools, the will and the talent? Can we overcome the stupidity that keeps such a possibility out of reach? I believe we do and can. But there may not be too much time left.

We want to change the world, but are confronted with a great paradox. I lack the power to change the world or any significant part of it. I only have the power to change myself. If I decide to change myself, there is no police force in the world that can prevent me from doing so. It is just my decision and if I want to do it, I can do it. If I change myself, something may happen as a consequence that may lead to a change in the world. But we are afraid of changing ourselves. It is always easier to try to change others. The dictum of Socrates was “Know thyself,” for he knew how afraid human beings are to know themselves. We know a lot about our neighbors, but we know little about ourselves. So, if we simply manage to change ourselves, something fascinating may happen to the world.

I hope the day comes [when] every one of us may be brave enough to say in absolute honesty: “I am, and because I am, I have become a part of…” It seems to me that this is the right direction to follow if we want to put an end to a stupid way of life.


‘Dramatically Poisonous’ Economy Heading to ‘Catastrophic’ Collapse, Says Acclaimed Economist




April 2, 2011

[Click images for MORE info]


The only way we are going to have any chance of getting out of our own extinction is to finally bite the bullet and STOP these big oil boys.

It’s time to end taxpayer handouts to Big Oil; it’s time to end dangerous new drilling handouts to Big Oil, and it’s time to invest in real solutions that end our oil addiction, including a 60 mpg standard for new vehicles and transportation choices such as public transportation and safe biking and walking; and massive investment in clean energy.

We are going to be at the bottom of our own LaBrea Tar Pit as the mastodons and saber-tooth fossils of our time if we do not act swiftly.

Hanging Out on Main Street

Dennis Kucinich: Creating Economic Democracy March 25, 2011 by Grit TV

“We have to change the balance here and the way you change the balance is a conceptual shift in what you see as the purpose of a nation. The purpose of a nation isn’t to make the rich richer or to make the poor poorer, it’s to make sure that you have a vibrant economy where there’s room for everyone,” says Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich. Laura sat down with Rep. Kucinich in Madison March 12 after his speech at a rally hosted by The Progressive magazine and discussed the attacks on public sector workers and what a real economic democracy would look like–full employment, universal health care and education, and a commitment to peace.

Public Enemies - Charles and David


David and Charles are responsible for a vicious attack campaign aimed directly at obstructing and killing progressive reform. Their opposition is a long family tradition of trying to shift the country to the far right. Their father, Fred Koch, helped to found the John Birch Society in the late 1950s. Among the American Nazis, KKK hoods and militia toughs the John Birch Society ran Patrick Henry bookstores filled with scurrilous lying polemics attacking and undermining and diminishing government and advocating a treasonous program of subversion and sabotage. Fred’s sons continue to galvanize hundreds of thousands of middle class people into supporting the Kochs’ narrow agenda of cutting corporate taxes and avoiding consumer regulations to the ruin of our equality and democracy.

Their opposition is a long family tradition of trying to shift the country to the far right and intentionally intended to destroy our democratic republic.

P.s. David Koch presents himself as a champion of science. Nevertheless, Koch has done more to undermine the public’s understanding of climate change science than any other person in America. The Kochs financed the rowdies who disrupted the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

Surely, the Kochs must be criminally liable for something in the midst of all their selfish corruption. Up the Rebels!

Citizens United - bought and paid for corporate shills.

Persecuted Kochs

DIGEST: Billionaire Self-Pity and the Koch Brothers. Glenn Greenwald 3-28-11

Since the financial crisis of 2008, one of the most revealing spectacles has been the parade of financial elites who petulantly insist that they are the victims of societal hostility: political officials heap too much blame on them, public policy burdens them so unfairly, the public resents them, and — most amazingly of all — President Obama is a radical egalitarian who is unprecedentedly hostile to business interests. One particularly illustrative example was the whiny little multi-millionaire hedge fund manager (and CNBC contributor), Anthony Scaramucci, who stood up at an October, 2010, town hall meeting and demanded to know: “when are we going to stop whacking at the Wall Street piñata?”

The Weekly Standard now has a very lengthy defense of — including rare interviews with — Charles and David Koch, the libertarian billionaires who fund everything from right-wing economic policy, union-busting, and anti-climate-change advocacy to civil liberties and liberalized social policies — though far more the former goals than the latter. In this article one finds the purest and most instructive expression of billionaire self-pity that I think I’ve ever seen — one that is as self-absorbed and detached from reality as it destructive. It’s really worth examining their revealed mindset to see how those who wield the greatest financial power (and thus the greatest political power) think of themselves and those who are outside of their class.

There’s no question in my mind that the unrestrained power over the political process and both political parties enjoyed by oligarchs is the single greatest political problem the country faces — the overarching problem — but in the scheme of corporate and oligarchical dominance, the Koch Brothers are a small part of that dynamic.  Nor do I believe that they’re motivated in their political activism by personal profit: for people with a net worth of $20 billion, there are vastly more efficient ways to convert one’s wealth into greater wealth than spending money to influence public policy; I think they’re True Believers.

Ask Charles Koch what he thinks about Obama and he looks like he’s just bit into a lemon. “He’s a dedicated egalitarian,” Charles said. “I’m not saying he’s a Marxist, but he’s internalized some Marxist models — that is, that business tends to be successful by exploiting its customers and workers.”

David agreed. “He’s the most radical president we’ve ever had as a nation,” he said, “and has done more damage to the free enterprise system and long-term prosperity than any president we’ve ever had.” David suggested the president’s radicalism was tied to his upbringing. “His father was a hard core economic socialist in Kenya,” he said. “Obama didn’t really interact with his father face-to-face very much, but was apparently from what I read a great admirer of his father’s points of view. So he had sort of antibusiness, anti-free enterprise influences affecting him almost all his life. It just shows you what a person with a silver tongue can achieve.”

So Barack Obama is a “dedicated egalitarian” who has “internalized Marxist” ideas in the Kenyan socialist tradition. Just compare that to actual facts. From The Huffington Post today:

Since Obama was inaugurated, the Dow Jones has increased more than 50% — from 8,000 to more than 12,000; the wealthiest recieved a massive tax cut; the top marginal tax rate was three times less than during the Eisenhower years and substantially lower than during the Reagan years; income and wealth inequality are so vast and rising that it is easily at Third World levels; meanwhile, “the share of U.S. taxes paid by corporations has fallen from 30 percent of federal revenue in the 1950s to 6.6 percent in 2009.” During this same time period, the unemployment rate has increased from 7.7% to 8.9%; millions of Americans have had their homes foreclosed; and the number of Americans living below the poverty line increased by many millions, the largest number since the statistic has been recorded. Can you smell Obama’s radical egalitarianism and Marxist anti-business hatred yet?

Read the full article at

more Glenn Greenwald

  • Last Supper Spread


Church-going Christians are twice as likely to become obese as godless barbarians, says a new study by Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Even the apostles are eating more and more over the past thousand years. Though the body‘s supposed to be a temple and all, one academic suggests churches are “a feeding ground for gluttony and obesity.” Kinda harsh, but it may be time to cut back on those baked ham and mashed potato suppers.