It will not come as a surprise to anyone that the world in general, and the United States in particular, are in a mess. We seem bogged down in a quagmire with no way out.
I am primarily focusing this Post on the United States, since that’s where I live. The Hispanic side of my family (Escontrias) has lived in the Southwest for over 400 years, and my Irish/Welsh/English side (Armstrong/Lewis/Cato) have been here since before the British policies and domination starved Ireland by creating the Great Irish Famine (an Gorta Mór) in 1845-1852. I am not leaving, and I’m fighting for my Country. I hope that readers in other nations will find how to apply the ideas in their own countries.
What We Are Up Against Above all, we MUST stop the Carbon Dioxide emissions from the use of fossil fuels that are literally going to make our world hostile to life. There is no more time to pay any more attention to the (either ignorant or lying) natterers (Fox News, Right-Wingers) who deny that this is happening. If you have any doubt, watch the latest episode of Fox Entertainment’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (“World Set Free”) The evidence is in, and there is no room for doubt. Our collective greed and laziness are going to doom all life on our planet to a very inhospitable future.
We can change this. Convert completely to renewable energy (Solar, Wind, Hydro-Electric) within our lifetimes. Yes, this will put the oil, gas, and coal companies out of business if they don’t convert. This is our life as a Planet at stake here. Those companies must convert to clean energy now. Yes, this will bankrupt many of the OPEC nations. We have no choice. They must find other ways to support themselves. When the world’s climate changes drastically, Saudi Arabia, et al. will be uninhabitable anyway. All their money will be for naught.
No More Business As Usual In order to do this, and solve the rest of the problems, we have to radically change how we operate. Business as Usual is gone. This is the time to change. There are things we can do, but it will not be easy, and it will require changing some very entrenched beliefs, attitudes, and ways of doing things. I have blogged about a number of these things previously. Here I will try to pull all of this together.
Some Fundamental Principles — The First step is to remove private and corporate money from politics, completely. See my
full explanation of how we can do this (Enough is Enough: section Money Out of Politics). This is actually the most important thing we can do, and is the first step to making all the rest of the reforms possible. You think it’s not possible? Sure it is. We just have to force the politicians to do it or lose their jobs. Once we do it, the rest of the Free World will follow. (Russia and the People’s Republic of China have “elections” but they are certainly not part of the Free World. In another Blog posting, we’ll take a look at the current state of Russia.) And by the way, Money is not Speech. We need to overturn that Supreme Court Decision with a Constitutional Amendment. — The Economy and Society are human artifacts, not forces of nature. We can shape them any way we wish. To paraphrase the New Testament:
καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς Τὸ σάββατον διὰ τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἐγένετο, καὶ οὐχ ὁ ἄνθρωπος διὰ τὸ σάββατον· And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath… (Mark 2:27) The Economy is made for Man, not Man for the Economy. All economic structures must benefit the lowest in society as well as the highest. Harvard’s John Rawls laid this out very cogently many years ago in A Theory of Justice. This work has had such enduring success that there is now, even a Musical based on Rawls’ Intellectual Journey to create it! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9-fiYu0A-0 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVu-aiWDk20 — Might for Right, not Might Makes Right must become the norm. See my previous Blog.
— The Cappadocian View of Entrepreneurship. As we have discussed before (Enough is Enough section “My Inspiration”), the Late Antique Christian teachers from Cappadocia (St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian, St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Macrina) taught a very advance and sound concept of the balance between talent and service. This involves Communal Responsibility. The purpose (τέλος-telos) of a Wealthy person or corporation is to provide goods and services at a fair cost, and to provide jobs for people at a living wage.
Corollaries of this:
1. Wealth is not a right, it is a responsibility. It is OK to live well (not with indulgent opulence), but one must fulfill the goals above and also be generous to those in need in proportion to one’s wealth (φιλανθρωπία—philanthropia).
2. Corporations are not persons, and this legal fiction mistakenly created by the Supreme Court must be stripped from them by a Constitutional Amendment. Trade secrets are OK to keep. In-camera judges can make decisions about whether something is a trade secret or not. All books must be open to public (or at least court) scrutiny. All corporate meeting minutes, emails and communications must be open to public or court scrutiny with the exception above. Since Corporations—Profit and Non-Profit—are not persons, they do not have a 5th Amendment right to not incriminate themselves.
3. No Corporation is too big to fail. No person is too good for imprisonment (or house arrest, etc.) The consequences of corporate failure must be managed, but with so many entrepreneurs, there are plenty of people to take up the slack, employ the workers, etc.
4. Stockholders must follow the same norms as above.
Although a For-Profit Corporation must make a profit to stay alive, profit is not the purpose of a corporation. Its purpose is: providing goods and services at a fair and competitive price, and providing living wage jobs and safe conditions to its workers. Profits are a by-product of doing those things well, and can be used as a measuring tool, but not the only one.
5. The Wealthy are servants of the community, just as people with other skills. Those like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet know this.
Rights and Responsibilities I love our Constitution and Bill of Rights and am dedicated to their preservation. We need to add some more Amendments to enshrine the Rights that the former communists nations had. Even though Communism was horribly administered, even a clock that is broken is right twice a day. Rights to be added to the Constitution:
- Right to Full Employment
- Right to Full Housing
- Right to Full Health Care
- Right to Gender/Orientation Equality
As with Auto-Insurance and now Affordable Health Care, fulfillment of these Rights can be provided by the Private Sector.
The goal is equality, not egalitarianism. We must rebalance the Rights and Responsibilities of the Individual with those of Society. To complement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Rosicrucian Order AMORC has issued the Rosicrucian Declaration of Human Duties, and the Contribution to Peace. Both documents are important contributions to correcting what ails us. The two recent Rosicrucian Manifestos also outline what needs to be done as we move forward to create the Rosicrucian Utopia.
A New “New Deal”
We must return to an updated New Deal, originally established by our Father and Mother among the Saints, Franklin and Eleanor. The core of the New Deal is this social contract: “I promise to work as hard as I can, and society promises to support me and my family if something goes wrong.” The WPA and the CCC were instrumental in building the infrastructure we use today. Now, huge amounts of work need to be done, and 5.6 million Americans need work. What is preventing us from closing that gap? Greed, Corporations putting profits over the good of the Nation, and politicians who are in the pocket
of those Corporations are the culprits. I don’t care if a new WPA/CCC is run by the government or the private sector. Just get it done. When I debated in High School, one of our topics was Universal Conscription. One form of this would be a two-year National Service requirement for everyone growing up. This need not be military. It could be built-in to the educational system as a nationwide, diverse internship. This should be explored, and again, probably a blend of Government and Private Sector would be best.
I know that many of my colleagues among the Progressives are not going to like this, but I do not think there is a right to urban homelessness and vagrancy. Those new WPA/CCC workers and National Service interns can provide full care and rehabilitation for those who need it. “No person left behind” must be our motto. And we must reverse the trend started by our former, benighted, California Governor Ronald Reagan, and provide mandatory mental health care and institutions for those suffering from these illnesses.
The Love of Money ῥίζα γὰρ πάντων τῶν κακῶν ἐστιν ἡ φιλαργυρία… “For the love of money is the root of all evil…” (1 Timothy 6:10).
The Rosicrucian Appellatio Fraternitatis puts it this way:
With regard to the subject of money, it is not a question of resorting to caricature or demagoguery. As a means of exchange, it is a necessity in order to live in society. We need it to obtain what is necessary for our material well-being and to satisfy the legitimate pleasures our existence can offer. But, over time, it has taken on too much importance, to a point where it conditions and governs practically all sectors of human activity. It has today acquired cult status, acting as a religion which probably has the greatest number of followers in the world. Unfortunately, every day at its altar we sacrifice the most elementary of ethical values (honesty, integrity, equity, solidarity, etc.) so that it constitutes more than ever a vehicle of debasement.
As we have seen, we must remove private and corporate money from politics.
Years ago (and I can’t find the reference), the NY Times Economics Editor opined that he could make no sense of the financial policies of the G.W. Bush administration. He speculated that the only thing that could make sense of the policies would be if the goal were to bankrupt the U.S. Then we would have to turn to the rich to bail us out, and they would own us. I believe that to be closer to the truth than we would like to think. Wall Street must operate solely to benefit Main Street. See above for the Fundamental Principle of Cappadocian views of Entrepreneurship. Looking into our trading system, should we trade non-real things? We should get rid of junk bonds and betting on failure. All the causes of the recent and current Financial Crisis are well outlined at this article. To summarize, the many things that brought down the financial industry must be corrected, and those suits who broke laws should be prosecuted and imprisoned. We have really done nothing to fix the financial industry. We just bailed them out, and they keep right on doing the same things, and paying themselves handsomely. They must obey the guidelines outlined above. Greed is killing us.
In this regard, corporate executive salaries should be capped at a reasonable multiple of the lowest or average line-worker salary paid in their company. Golden Parachutes, etc. must end. There are several ways this can be done. When the Templars first began the credit and banking industry in the 12th Century, it was an advance. Now, we are in the situation that the way the world financial industry makes its money is by keeping all nations and all individuals in continual debt. This must end. We must restructure the entire world economic system. The Roman Catholic Papacy has been at the forefront of social teaching in this regard since Leo XIII in 1891, as I have blogged about
before. Pope Francis is very clear about the need for reform. Money must return to being a tool of exchange, instead of the goal itself. Further, what does lots of money really represent: control over others. This is unhealthy in the extreme.
Openness in Government Once we have removed private and corporate money from politics, we can move forward with much needed Government Reforms.
We have had the worst Congress in history over the past few years. Republicans are guilty because they are Know-Nothing Obstructionists. Democrats are guilty for not using their sometimes majority correctly, and for being too “nice,” and ineffective. And shame, shame on Catholic politicians who are conservative and ignore the Church’s Social Teachings. The President is responsible too, as he has continued to try to “reach out” to the Republicans who have no interest in co-operation at all. They are spoiled rich brats, and should simply be ignored. That felt good. Now, what do we need to do?
Restore the Loyal Opposition: Ever since the Reagan era, the Republicans have deliberately destroyed the concept of the “Loyal Opposition.” Before that time, all Americans regarded people in other parties as Loyal Americans who held different ideas about what needed to be done. Nixon started down this road with his Dirty Tricks, and Reagan’s boys (especially the gang of Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al.), and later, the despicable Karl Rove locked it into place. During the Bush II administration, if anyone disagreed with the President’s policies, the right
said they were being disloyal to the Country. Now, in the Obama administration, the right says that the President is disloyal and only they are loyal Americans. Their lies and demonizations are pretty clear. Let’s wake up and Just Say No! Sunshine in Government: All government proceedings, barring the needs of National Security, must be open for inspection, and Classified material must be reviewed by In-Camera Congress committees and Judges.
Controls on lobbying: Lobbying as we know if must end. Lobbyists should not be able to so much as buy a cup of coffee for a politician. No junkets. No money exchanged at all. And no ghost-writing of legislation. Just go in, make your case to the politician, and leave. Essentially, K Street needs to be urban-renewed. End Executive Privilege: The President has no special need to claim Executive Privilege to ignore Congressional Subpoenas. If there are legitimate State Secrets involved, then have a closed-door committee meeting.
Election Reform: Limit Campaigns to six weeks or maybe two months. No campaigning allowed before the kickoff date. Voting on Saturday and Sunday to maximize participation. All voting machines must either use a scanned paper ballot or issue a printed receipt showing the vote, with two copies, one for the voter and one for the polling place. No hanging chads. A paper re-count can always be done. No computer-only paperless voting, as this is too easy to manipulate.
Electoral College: This 18th Century Antique needs to be carefully re-examined to see if it meets the needs of the 21st Century.
Other Issues There are many other issues facing us. Here are some thoughts.
— We must continue the Separation of Church and State. Essential for Democracy. Nutty minority voices (e.g. fundamentalists) must be tolerated, but outvoted.
— Religious institutions must be respected (e.g. Catholic Hospitals must not be forced to provide abortions, etc.), but medical care in general must not be controlled by religious interests.
— Immigration: Wealthy nations must assist poor countries to raise their standard of living so that illegal immigration is lowered. Once a person gets here, however, we must provide a realistic way for them to get a green card or citizenship, unless they are criminals. We must also make sure they have health care, education, etc. This is Enlightened Self-Interest. Support the Kino Border Initiative of CalProv Jesuits. Fr, Sean Carroll, S.J. is a wonderfully dedicated Jesuit and a former colleague and friend of mine!
Abortion: Our goal should be, through education and medical care to reduce abortions to thelowest number possible. It should remain a right that seldom has to be invoked. The Politicos have used this issue to divide the public. Let’s actually reduce abortions within the legal framework instead of fighting about it. This is just like when the Boston Brahmins fomented the Busing crisis to keep poor Irish and poor blacks from banding together to fight their real enemy: the Boston Rich Elites.
Sanity must be returned to our Gun Laws. True, effective background checks must be universally mandatory. No Gun Show or other loopholes. While I support the Second Amendment, it was never meant to include what it does today. We have the finest military women and men in the world, and they are loyal to the United States Constitution. I am not fearful of a military coup in this Country. I fear a Corporate Coup (we are almost there now). Visit this page for awesome refutations of the Gun Lobby’s arguments.
The media must play their part to create engaging stories to make heroes of good people. The current media complacency (where is the crusading CBS of yesteryear?) will be the subject of a future Blog Post.
Conclusion Well, that’s my rant for this weekend. I hope it was enjoyable, and also thought-provoking. I’m not imagining that everyone who reads it will agree with every point, but that is the nature of Free Speech in a Democracy! Peace to all! Steven A. Armstrong Tutor, Editor, Consultant