Where to Find Liberty, Equality and Justice

Below are definitions of many of the types of  ways to organize a society. I have endeavored to find the simplest, most direct, most comparable definitions based on the dictionary and the first use of the terms by their originators:

Totalitarianism: Rule by a small group or single individual

Democracy: Rule by the entire group

Republic: Representative democracy (a bit of a contradiction?)

Freedom: A coercion-less and restriction-less existence

Human Rights: Universal, egalitarian, lawful standards of treatment for all human beings

Fascism: Social conservatism, marriage of government and business, militarism, nationalism and authoritarianism

Capitalism: Ownership of everything by individuals

Communism: Ownership of everything by the entire group

Socialism: A transition between ownership of everything by individuals and ownership of everything by the group

Social Democracy: Socialism achieved through democratic processes

Communalism: Local decision-making & autonomy within a federation

*Any and all specifics beyond these definitions are types of democracy, republicanism, socialism, fascism etc.

Give me: Human Rights-based Communal Social Democracy. This would be a balance of public and private ownership. It would be completely democratic and protect the rights of all individuals including the minority.

The Political Spectrum

I don’t think you can necessarily say right-wing people “are” or left-wing people “are” because individuals vary so much. Maybe what we can talk about is what left-wing and right-wing beliefs and values are. Let’s just take one topic- government.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that right-wingers believe in small government- period.

Now, the left-wing view favors neither big government nor small government. The left-wing belief is in GOOD government. It should be whatever it needs to be in order to serve the people (democracy) and the common good (society) and not the profit motive.

A small government that can’t protect the rights of it’s people is bad. A big government that violates the rights of it’s people is bad. A small government that is top-down with little say from the people is bad. A big government that views its people as resources to be exploited for profit and controlled for power is bad. A big government that has many levels where people get to make their own decisions is good.

Any government that does not represent the people is bad because that is the purpose of government. Any government that is not controlled by the people is not a democracy. Unfortunately, the US has never had a government controlled by all the people. We’ve always had a government controlled by the rich. Today most governments across the globe don’t represent the people so much as they represent multi-national corporations and banks.

You’re brave, you sacrifice but I’m sorry, your not helping.

I’m sorry. While veterans are certainly brave, it makes no sense for any of us to thank them for our freedoms. There is not, nor has there been, a foreign militia threatening our freedoms here in America. What minor statistical danger we may face from foreign terrorism is in fact created by our military interventions, and the existence of over 700 US bases, around the globe.

The US is protected from attacks, by all but the most powerful nations, by two vast oceans on either coast. We have friendly neighboring nations to the north and south who have never had any interest in taking away our freedoms. There are many nations across the globe that have freedoms comparable to ours, and they have negligible armed forces.

Perhaps a former slave could thank a civil war veteran (although many blacks and abolitionists had just as much to do with emancipation). Maybe a European could thank a US WWII veteran (although Russia played the biggest part in defeating the Nazis). Maybe a Chinese could thank a WWII veteran of the Pacific theatre.

All other military ventures in American history- certainly all military actions since the end of WW II, had absolutely nothing to do with protecting our freedoms. North Korea was not threatening our shores. Nor was Vietnam. Our soldiers didn’t fight the USSR. Certainly no terrorists have ever had enough power to take away our freedoms. Besides, terrorism has not been, and cannot be, defeated through military action. The governments of Iraq and Afghanistan had done nothing to our country.

Our freedoms exist, to the extent they do, because of the rights encoded in the Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments to the constitution. Freedom isn’t free; but it doesn’t require killing foreigners. Our freedoms exist because average people, not soldiers, spoke up for those rights, exercised those rights and held any entity who wanted to take away those rights accountable. You could even thank certain lawyers, judges, policemen or politicians on occasion. But to whatever extent we have freedoms in this country; it has nothing to do with our military.

There is no reason for us to have a large standing military. Until 1946, it was always America’s tradition to avoid a large standing army. Many of the ‘Founding Fathers’ warned against this. When we fought World War II it took only a short time to fill the ranks of a very large military force- from less than a quarter million to almost 14 million. It also took us a very short time to convert our industries to arms manufacturing.

We only have a large standing military now to feed the military-industrial complex. We are dependent on the arms industry to help keep our economy afloat. So this worship of the military is a marketing ploy.

Are there individuals and small groups who would threaten my safety or my life? Sure, lots of them live in the inner cities of our own country. Should the army blow them up and shoot them? No sane American would propose that.

Are there individuals and small groups who would threaten my safety or my life in other countries. Sure, lots of them live in the inner cities of those countries and many of those countries are so poor almost everywhere is the inner city. Should the army blow them up and shoot them? Since it’s our military and economic interference in their countries that make them hate us in the first place- I would have to say no. So even though the army might be safe-guarding my freedom IF I lived on the military bases in that country, they are actually creating the dangers I face when I leave that base.

As far as the army keeping anyone from attacking my freedoms here in the US, it’s pretty obvious that nothing they are doing overseas is protecting my freedoms or making me more free. In fact, it is just creating a world more hostile to us sticking our noses in where we don’t belong- not to protect any people but to make the world safe for international business and finance to exploit these countries. Of course, international business and finance are exploiting our country to- just not at the point of a gun.

So the military doesn’t protect our freedom, it only contributes to problems that can’t be solved militarily.

It’s the Tree That’s Rotten

Humanity became a successful species because we adapted to changes in our environment. This means we were easily influenced by our environment. We still are, but our current environment is influencing us to embrace selfishness, ignorance, cruelty and greed. This is not helping us to survive as a species.

The greatest influence affecting the entire globe, rich and poor, big country and small country, black, white, yellow, brown and red- is multinational corporations who are not beholden to any one nation.

But there is a group that influences them- the global financial system. As you know, a parasite will eventually kill it’s host, often by taking over the host’s own systems. The banking/wall street parasite has taken over humanity’s economic system and is using it to destroy us.

This corporate octopus with the banker’s head influences almost all the information people get, influences almost all our politicians and it influences the armed forces. It has warped our values and the way we view and understand the world. It has destroyed democracy around the globe. It has controlled the terms of the debate. It is ruining the natural environment on which we depend.

This multi-national financial/corporate welfare system must be changed. It is not about a few rotten apples. It is a rotten system.

During the Great Depression the system was reformed and made less harmful through regulation and government intervention. But this allowed the system to remain in place and eventually bankers and corporations were able to take complete control of the government and use it now to intervene, not on behalf of democracy but on behalf of the interests of the bankers and their stockholders.

They’ve removed all restraints on business and finance. They’ve increased the restraints on people & their freedoms. They’ve put a price on everything including the natural world.

During the 1960s and early 1970s many people tried to apply the principles of justice, freedom, democracy and equality (and the reforms of the Great Depression) to people of all colors, creeds and nations. The most influential were jailed, killed, or made victims of viscous smear campaigns and blackmail from the financial/business system’s minions in the intelligence community, military and media.

In response to this tumultuous time the bankers and the multinationals used their great influence to insure that such attacks on their interests would not happen again. They used the age-old tactic of getting the average people to fight against each other so they wouldn’t see what was really causing their sorrow- the system. This system benefits the banks and the multi-nationals, not the people.

It has created a gigantic military-industrial complex in a country that has no military rival. A country that does not have a single threat that can be solved with military solutions. It has created a militarized nation in a country that, for it’s first 160 years, was against standing armies.

This too is economic. Making tons of weapons keeps the economy chugging along. But it’s created a nation of fearful, cruel people who worship the military we employ to kill for a living. It’s created a nation of good, obedient little soldiers who do what they’re told and don’t question their orders. People who worship, not freedom and justice, but obedience & violence.

The only way to change these attitudes is to change the environment that fosters them. To do that the system must be changed- peacefully. To attempt to do so any other way would not only be a complete failure, it would be morally wrong.

The only antidote to financial/corporate power is numbers. Numbers of people. The only way numbers of people can exercise their power is through government. We need to put the people in charge of the government. We’ve always had a plutocracy, we need to create a democracy. Right now we have a semi-fascist corporatocracy.

If we change the system in the U.S. it will change around the world. By helping ourselves we can help our brothers and sisters around the globe. Brothers and sisters that have faced destruction at the hands of the bankers, corporations and their puppets in the military and intelligence agencies. By helping ourselves we can stop the destruction of what we humans must have in order to survive- our values, our community and our natural environment.

Minimum Wage

The economic inequality in American society does not reflect fairness and equilibrium. It reflects power and disequilibrium. The same is true in the argument over the minimum wage.

Historical data prove that raising wages does not cause unemployment (the facts also bear out the truth that any connection between unemployment and inflation is indirect). Any business that has demand for their product is going to have to employ enough workers to make that amount of product, regardless of the wages.

Wages do not reflect a workers contribution to production. Wages reflect what the owners (who take in all the money the company makes then give some back to the workers) are willing to share with their workers. In the absence of unions, owners have all the bargaining power. That’s dictatorship not democracy.

Since the range of possible wages is set by the wider labor market in the business sector, and not the owners, it behooves the government to set a wage floor that is democratic. Raising the legal minimum wage won’t necessarily cut into profits. This is because raising wages puts more money into consumer’s hands.

People who aren’t rich don’t horde their money. They don’t have enough. They need it to buy food, gas, the basic necessities of life and some items that entertain and make life a little easier to deal with. If you increase their wages they will buy more stuff. This means more products bought and an increase in profits that can be used to off-set the increase in wages.

Increasing the money in the hands of the mega-rich doesn’t affect profits because they aren’t going to spend that extra money on goods and services. They already have enough spending money for everything they want. If average folks aren’t spending then capital is afraid to spend on creating new businesses and factories. This is the historical lesson of all recessions and depressions. In today’s world of unregulated financial markets the mega-rich will use extra money to play the stock market. So extra money at the top, when folks in the middle and bottom are suffering, doesn’t help the economy. It does not “trickle down”.

Also, if average workers have more money they don’t need to borrow as much. So their increased income now goes to buy more products and services as opposed to bank fees and interest. Not so good for the loan and credit card companies, but much better for the businesses the worker’s frequent and much better for the economy.

If an increase in minimum wage causes your business competitors to raise their prices, but you leave yours low, your profits can increase. It works for Wal-Mart. Your profit per item decreases but the number of items you sell will increase because people will always buy the cheaper product (especially if it is of the same, or better, quality). So the increased sales will keep your profit the same as it was (before your competitors raised their prices) and it might even increase it. You will also have happier workers because they are being paid more.

The conventional economic notion of a perfectly competitive labor market is absurd.  Labor does not behave, and can not be treated, as just another commodity subject to the supply and demand curve. Are employees the same as a product that is sold? Are people the same as corn or wheat or beef or timber or tin? Do people behave like commodities?

Conventional economic theory holds that: when wages are too high then there will be too many people looking for work whereas if wages are low then some people will decide not to work because it isn’t worth it. This makes little sense in the real world. Most people in low-end jobs don’t’ have the option not to work. If they don’t work their families don’t eat. So most people are going to work no matter what minimum wage is.

Of course, some go on unemployment or welfare. If you want to reduce the number of people “living off the system” then you should support raising the minimum wage to increase the incentive to work. If minimum wage is so low that the unemployed won’t work then a higher minimum wage floor could stop spiraling unemployment and get people off unemployment checks and welfare.There is no single, possible, consistent, descriptive labor-supply curve. There is no statistical evidence that raising the minimum wage effects unemployment. Data shows that individual workers are just as likely to work fewer hours as to work more when wages increase.

Raising wages can reduce over-production. It also cuts into the profit margin. Over-production contributes to recessions and the profit margins of many businesses are way too high anyways. Price = Cost of Production (including wages) + Profit. If demand stays high and the amount of production can’t be scaled back then cost of production/wages will go up. But prices can stay the same if profits are reduced. In larger businesses, profits can and should be reduced in the area of executive compensation and shareholder profits. Is it such a disaster to make a little less profit so people can have better lives?

The belief that raising minimum wage causes inflation is based on the belief that raising it also causes unemployment. The belief that unemployment effects inflation is based on an erroneous interpretation of the Phillips’ curve. Phillips’ research into the rate of change in prices due to unemployment clearly shows that it takes quite awhile for prices to change relative to unemployment. The stagflation of the 1970s proved that this correlation doesn’t always exist.

Other workers won’t settle for minimum wage jobs when higher wages are available elsewhere. So a higher minimum wage would also entice more and better workers to take minimum wage jobs thus increasing the productivity of businesses. Unless you like it when terrible employees serve you at the store or the restaurant.

If minimum wage increases most full time workers won’t take hours away from possible new hires by working more. There’s only so many hours in a day and they still have to eat, sleep, take care of their kids and spend time with their families. Some people have hobbies and interests outside work. Most sane individuals will choose to have some free time and not give it all up to work more.

Regardless, moderate inflation doesn’t need to be a big problem for the working man. It’s their creditors who have reason to be against inflation. If the dollar decreases then the dollars paid for interest fees are worth less. This is good for the working person who essentially pays less in interest as inflation rises.

The mega-rich also don’t like inflation. This is because they don’t work for a living. They let their money do the work for them, often by investing in financial instruments. If the return of on their stocks is a little less it’s not going to cause them undue economic hardship.

Interest earned through financial instruments becomes worth less as prices rise and the amount a dollar will buy becomes less. The rich might then look at the fact their interest earned is less and instead invest in businesses and factories which will multiply their dollars through profits from inflation-increased prices.

Employers could cut products/services which would decrease staff, but if demand for their products and services is there then they’d be a fool to cut those products/services. If there isn’t the demand then they shouldn’t be over-producing products/services anyways. If they are doing things sensibly then they are not wasting extra staff hours inefficiently. Regardless of wages, it takes x number of staff hours to create x number of products/services. If wages go up- it still takes x number of staff hours to create x number of products/services.

This is the way the free market is supposed to work. If a business isn’t run efficiently they should be out of business. If a business’s profit margin isn’t enough to cover a living wage for their workers then they shouldn’t be in business.

An owner could keep payroll at the level it was before minimum wage was raised if they cut staff hours (as opposed to cutting staff) to make up for the increase in the hourly wage. Workers would make the same paycheck they made before the wage hike but at fewer hours worked. This could force more inefficient businesses to increase productivity per hour. It doesn’t cut into a business’s profit margin or force them to raise prices. This would free up more hours for employees to take care of their families or find second jobs. If demand for the business’s product doesn’t change then they might end up hiring more workers.

If the minimum wage stays low and businesses could hire two workers instead of one for the same amount of money, that doesn’t mean they would. As mentioned before, it still takes x number of workers to make x amount of product/services and wage rates can’t change that. Most businesses, if they are well run, will have the number of staff they need to do the job- no more and no less.

How many small business owners have valuable, productive employees at the current minimum wage? The small businesses that take good care of their employees are probably paying them above the current minimum wage anyway.

Granted some small businesses may not have enough profit margin to transfer into higher wages. But small businesses that employe a lot of minimum wage labor (like a pizza shop for example) get a substantial amount of business from minimum wage earners. These individuals would have more money to spend at that business if the minimum wage was increased. So their profits would increase and make up for the added labor costs from the increased minimum wage.

The Only Sin: Virtue Turns Vice When Misapplied

It seems to me that there is really only one sin (if you’re speaking religiously/spiritually) or vice (if you’re speaking morally/philosophically). The only bad thing is perversion. I’m talking about the dictionary definition here. Perversion is a distortion or corruption of something’s original state or meaning. As Shakespeare said: virtue turns vice when it’s misapplied.

The perversion of desirable human traits is the cause of most of humanities faults. The path to goodness is not found in Aristotle’s mean between the two extremes. It is not found in moderation. There is no middle path, there is no left or right. There are only virtues and their perversions.

So avoiding vice/sin, while never easy, is at least straightforward when you look at it this way. Of course, you still have to think it through for yourself. You have to look at the virtues (which pretty-much all people of all walks of life agree on) and avoid perverting them from their purity. So here’s my tentative list of some of the biggest vices and the virtues they are perverting:

Freedom perverted is Irresponsibility

Respect perverted is Authoritarianism/Blind Obedience

Loyalty perverted is Nationalism

Selectivity perverted is Intolerance/Racism

Discretion perverted is Ignorance

Skepticism perverted is Cynicism

Diplomacy perverted is Deceit

Harmony perverted is  Mindless Conformity

Cooperation perverted is Docileness

Acceptance perverted is Apathy

Innocence perverted is Denial

Emotion perverted is Anger

Fear perverted is Violence

 

The War on Poverty

I’d like to share from the book Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society by historian John Andrew published in 1998.  One of the cornerstones of Johnson’s Great Society programs was the War on Poverty. Johnson’s war on poverty did fail. It failed because it’s programs only targeted certain groups instead of everybody. It failed because it focused on services and not employment. It failed because it attacked the symptoms of the problem and not the disease.

The disease is still with us today and it’s gotten far worse. The disease is a system that did not, and does not; provide enough jobs at wages above the poverty level.  The problem is a system that keeps the poor isolated and ignorant.  The problem is a system that keeps the middle class aligned against the poor when they should be siding with them to fix a system that mainly benefits corporations, banks and the filthy rich.

Johnson’s war on poverty was not a complete failure. It released about six million Americans from poverty between 1964 and 1969. The number of Americans of all types living in poverty dropped from 18 percent in 1960 to 9 percent by 1972.

Compared to the budgets for other programs like our war on drugs, our war on terror and our war on crime, the war on poverty cost almost nothing.  For example, the $1.5 billion authorized for the war on poverty in 1966 was only 1.5 percent of the total federal budget. That was about $60 spent for the whole year on each person in poverty.  Heck, I’ll bet most people reading this would be willing to give at least $60 to help one poor person get through the year.

One big factor that destroyed Johnson’s Great Society programs was the Vietnam War. While the government spent $60 per person, per year to fight poverty, it spent $300,000 to kill one Vietcong. Another factor was the fact that the US economy tanked in 1973.

But poverty levels have steadily increased since the country took a hard right turn in the eighties. Which is too bad, because the end of the cold war should have freed up some of that excessive military spending. Yet, in 1996 according to Andrew, about 22 percent of US children were living in poverty.  You can’t blame their situation on their laziness.

Many would like to blame the victims.  Sure, there is a culture of poverty and sure it causes people to make things worse for themselves.  But that culture is created by the simple fact that they are poor. The facts show that welfare benefits do not cause the problem. A lack of steady jobs is a far greater cause of the oft-cited problems among the poor.