Introduction to Common
Sense Revival has been published and is currently available from the on-demand
publisher Lulu at a maximum discount of 30% off the list price. Common
Sense Revival consists of nine “chapters”, as follows:
1. This Introduction to Common Sense Revival
2. Real Live Experiment in Applied Trickle-Down Economics
3. Sustainability Index: An Assessment of Progress toward
4. A Proposed Bill of Rights for Future
5. Uncommon Sense and
6. A Clear-Eyed Patriot Issues a Clarion Call for a Second American
7. Intelligent Precautionary Principles Enunciated – Holy
8. One Dozen Big Initiatives to Positively Transform Our
9. Happy Harbingers in Good Ideas for a Better Future
is the current Introduction to this book
Introduction to Common
beginning, everything that human beings ate came from the wild. Throughout almost the entire span of our
species’ existence, our ancestors gained sustenance by hunting animals and gathering plants and fruits, nuts,
eggs, shellfish and other wild things to eat.
Then, about 12,000 years ago, some of our ancestors began to figure out
the substantial advantages of domesticating animals, cultivating grains, and
growing vegetables and fruits. Today,
amazingly enough, there is only one significant source of wild food
remaining: fish and shellfish from the
sea. And it turns out that we are
exploiting wild fisheries at a completely unsustainable rate. This fact makes it vitally important for us
to consider the serious implications of this unwise course of action.
old Chinese Proverb says, “Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a
day. Teach him how to fish, and he will
eat for a lifetime.” There is good
wisdom in this understanding, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that when
there are too many fishermen, overfishing can deplete fish stocks and lead to
risks of fishery collapse. In addition,
pollution, toxins, and physical damages to fisheries are harming life in
aquatic ecosystems. The sustainability
of wild fisheries is being further threatened by an increasing acidification of
Earth’s oceans that is being caused by a build-up of carbon dioxide in the
atmosphere resulting from the burning of fossil fuels. It would be a much better plan for humanity to agree to sensibly protect wild
fisheries to ensure there will be wild fish for fellow humans long into the
It is, all
considered, a huge global challenge to reconcile voracious human needs and
desires with sustainable fishing practices.
The United Nations estimates that fishing fleets in the world are twice
as large as the oceans can sustain. The
total harvest of wild fish, shellfish and aquatic plants has increased by about
500% since 1950. Aquaculture production
-- “the farming of aquatic organisms” -- has increased from a negligible amount
in 1950 to about 80 million tons in 2012, and is now approaching the total
harvest from wild fisheries as wild capture has flatlined. But aquaculture is fraught with many
environmental problems and significant risks. Marine biologists and ecologists
know that we should establish no-catch areas and ocean preserves to protect key
wild fish breeding grounds and nursery habitats in oceans, estuaries, mangrove
swamps, wetlands and rivers, but few nations are taking such eminently
I make a soft,
sibilant sound that is generally effective in attracting the immediate
attention of any nearby dogs. It is
beginning to appear that the ecologist Garrett Hardin may have been right when
he somewhat cynically asserted: “Natural selection favors the forces of
psychological denial.” When individuals and businesses deny facts
about damages to common resources, they can gain narrow self-interested
benefits in the short term by exploiting these resources with excessive
heedlessness. Those who deny how
undesirable it is to rapidly deplete natural resources, or how high the
mounting costs will be due to climate change, can likewise gain short-term advantages,
but these gains are unfortunately realized at the expense of humanity and the
biosphere as a whole.
larger sense, we have been collectively denying the staggering scope of our
aggregate harmful impacts on natural systems as our human numbers have more
than tripled in the past 75 years. This
is true mainly because so many people have been eager to ignore the inherent
limits of resources and vulnerabilities in natural processes. “Ruin is the destination toward which all
men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the
freedom of the commons,” wrote Professor Garrett Hardin. He
compellingly added, “Education
can counteract the natural tendency to do the wrong thing …”.
educate ourselves! Biotic conditions on
Earth have been deteriorating as the number of human beings alive continues to
inexorably increase. It would be smart
for us to respect the conclusions reached in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a study
completed in 2005 by more than 1,200 scientists in 95 countries who had spent 4
years compiling their findings. These
experts reported that humanity is consuming natural resources at an
unsustainable rate, and that we are simultaneously causing the degradation of
ecosystems upon which we depend. This
double whammy is diminishing the carrying capacity of the Earth for many
species of life, and that ominously includes our own. Not so good!
The issue of
the sustainable use of fisheries is just one aspect of a larger and even
more daunting overall dilemma of how humankind can manage to feed growing
masses of people as increasing human needs and their expanding wants collide
with compromised ecosystems and declining reserves of natural resources and
excessive emissions of greenhouse gases. We stand here, arms akimbo,
relaxed yet intently attentive, objectively surveying the scene at this crucial
juncture in history, and this Common
Sense Revival providentially proposes a variety of good solutions
to these unprecedented global challenges.
people to do no harm, and to practice restraint according to fundamental
precepts, suggesting we should engage in good conduct, and eat moderately, and
devote ourselves to becoming more aware and enlightened. A silent Yay! for such wise perspectives. Let us meditate.
Visions Materialize in the Interstices of Our Minds
“Her Deepness”, Dr. Sylvia Earle, is America’s foremost
oceanographer and an outspoken advocate for courageous and farsighted
commitments to giving expanded protections to Earth’s oceans. As related in the telling story and boldly
beautiful photography of the documentary film Mission Blue, Dr. Earle has spent more time beneath the surface of
the seas than almost anyone else alive, so she has seen the devastating effects
of increasing human predations there.
She has witnessed firsthand the overfishing, the slaughtering of marine
animals, the Texas-sized Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and the heedless damages
associated with grotesquely wasteful fishing practices and collateral
adversities being caused by human activities.
Dr. Earle was the winner of the TED Prize in 2009. This recognition included a $1 million grant that is given each
year to an extraordinary individual who has a creative vision to spark positive
global change. Sylvia’s proposal was to “use all means at
your disposal -- films! expeditions! the Web! new submarines! -- to create a
campaign to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected
areas -- << Hope Spots >> -- that are large enough to save and
restore the blue heart of the planet.”
A salubrious idea! Let’s all
pitch in and work together to help achieve this goal.
Anyone who has had the extraordinary experience of snorkeling in
the luminous and brilliantly colorful undersea world of coral reef communities
teeming with a
symbiotic profusion of living things and a marvelous variety of life forms will appreciate the depth of the tragedy
that is unfolding in marine ecosystems.
Visualize night-feeding “feather animal” brain corals and inquisitive
parrotfish and dainty damselfish and crusty crustaceans and spiny sea urchins
and numerous other species of life that live in healthy undersea
ecosystems. As human activities
directly contribute to an increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in the
atmosphere, the slightly alkaline ocean water is absorbing more of this
acid-forming gas, and the resulting “ocean acidification” is disrupting vital
coral reef ecosystems and threatening many species of marine life with eternal
extinction. In terms of a profusion of
biological diversity, coral reefs are like the rainforests of the seas, and
corals as a group are nearly as threatened as amphibians, the most endangered
group of species in terrestrial habitats.
Both amphibians and corals are indicator species that resemble canaries
in coal mines that are dropping dead, and this development should serve as a
warning of hazardous changes in conditions that are crucial to the survival of
the coal miners themselves. That, in
effect, is all of us!
I imagine a loud
bell ringing out every time another species of life goes extinct, for this
unraveling of biological diversity sends us a crucial message: "For
whom does the bell toll? It tolls for thee."
We are experiencing Years of
Living Dangerously, and this should put us on high alert, poised to take
courageous action. Bravo in this
context for Pope Francis on his climate change encyclical. Climate can be an angry beast, and it is
dangerous folly to recklessly poke it.
Greenhouse gases trap heat energy from the sun, destabilizing
atmospheric and climatic conditions, so we should follow precautionary
principles and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and methane. Was the destructive Hurricane Sandy in
October 2012 or the powerful Philippine typhoon in early November 2013 or the
torrential “1,000-year” rains in the Louisiana Flood of August 2016 some sort
of sign from God that showed His displeasure with humankind? Or was it merely Mother Nature indifferently
demonstrating Her true character? Mom Nature
no doubt has some real impressive feats about to unfold as time lapses
ceaselessly into a turbulent future.
The best means to pacify Mom Nature would be to cultivate better
understandings of her natural workings, and to work with her, not against her. The proponents of Natural Capitalism urge us to recognize the essential relationship that exists between Earth's
living systems and crucially valuable natural resources, and to seek fairer
outcomes in the social and cultural behaviors that are the basis of human
these understandings launch a revival of common
sense realizations, and let them be couched in a context of Big Picture uncommon good sense. And let these revelations come now! See the details of understandings in the Sustainability Index of this Common Sense Revival, for they urge us to hear anew, as if for the first time, the insightful truth
found in the observation by cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of
thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
It’s time for
people from all points on the political spectrum to courageously step forward
and demand smarter management of common resources. I encourage everyone to join in, to help us collectively begin to
do the right things that are consequentially most consistent with the greater
good and prospects of people in the future.
To provide guidance
in our national decision-making, and to further these salubrious goals, it
would be a good idea to adopt a farsighted Bill of Rights for Future
Generations, like the one specifically proposed in this manifesto.
South African Nelson Mandela would have
agreed, for he once said: “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in
which it treats its children.”
group cohesion is a key to human security and sanity. As our societies worldwide struggle to adapt to rapidly changing
economic, geopolitical, demographic and environmental circumstances, the need
for inclusive and fair-minded solutions based on shared values becomes ever
greater. Yet at this crucial juncture
in history, humanity is being subjected to one of the rudest and most nefarious
episodes of toxic divisiveness in history, all for the apparent purpose of
mollifying the supreme insecurities of a boastful, manipulative and
greed-driven bully, and of satisfying the sociopathological self-aggrandizement
needs of this narcissistic megalomaniac.
American people need a good therapist in addition to a rational and effective
leader who can articulate a visionary message of sanity and who can recognize
the vital importance of choosing an inclusive path forward. They need an honest leader who is effective
in communicating the overarching need for us to collaborate together rather
than to create conflicts. We will be
stronger and safer by coming together and rejecting the bid for power of an
authoritarian “strong man” who promises to impose “law-and-order” rule over the
restive masses, who are justifiably angry at their increasingly insecure state
as the rich grab a growing portion of the nation’s wealth. Tens of millions of Americans have valid
grievances for the way our system has been rigged to their disadvantage, and
they are being riled up by the propaganda of wealthy conservatives and white
supremacists who are making desperate efforts to preserve an American order
that is slipping away as the USA becomes more racially and culturally
and inequities are intensifying in the world and injustices are proliferating
as the wealthiest 1% of people ever more jealously strives to protect and expand
their privileges in the face of the growing needs for fairer treatment of the
99%. Ayn Rand’s ideology, which
championed the supposed superior rights of heroic businessmen, have been
adapted by conservatives to modern circumstances to rationalize low taxes on
the rich and an increasing concentration of wealth and power in the hands of
the few. But the simple fact of the
matter is that everyone will be better off only when everyone is better off. The temperature in this pressure cooker is
getting too hot, and the safety valve is being screwed too tight, resulting in
an unnecessarily dangerous state of affairs.
We must turn down the heat on this pressure cooker of social unrest by
implementing national policies that are fairer, so that there is expanded
prosperity and greater social justice.
The costs of “social insurance policies” to accomplish this are not that
high, and they would be Solon-wise and better for the 1% by being better for
the 99%, for they would keep the proverbial pitchforks from coming out.
The Tree of the Awareness of Right and Wrong
influences have wrought remarkable changes in human behaviors over many, many
millennia, and the better angels of our nature have made far-reaching inroads
against the worser devils of our primal impulses. At the same time, an extraordinary and heartening change has
taken place. Deontological theories that posit absolute notions of good and evil
are beginning to yield to a more relative sense of ethical consequentialism in assessing right and wrong.
It is as if the biblical forbidden Tree of the Knowledge of
Good and Evil has gone extinct, with its alluring fruit and large deciduous
dualistic Manichean leaves, but before it did so, some of its ancestors evolved
into a new species, an evergreen, the majestic Tree of the Awareness of Right
and Wrong. The roots of this new
species grow deep in the fertile soil of ecological wisdom and the ethics of
reciprocity and honorable social intelligence and loving kindness and right
while sitting under the broad canopy of a sacred Tree of the Awareness of Right
and Wrong, that the ultimate moral good consists of those things that are most
consistent with the greater good of humanity.
People see the world in a wide variety of
ways, and hold contrasting and conflicting opinions about big issues, so the
best means of assessing the true propriety of any contention is by fairly
evaluating the likely consequences of different courses of action.
particularly love this idea of right perspective because it happens to coincide
with the spiritual wisdom of the Noble Eightfold Path in Buddhist
philosophy. This wholesome Middle Way
is said to have helped many individuals in a quest for self-awakening,
liberation and enlightenment.
Noble Eightfold Path involves Right Mindfulness, Right View, Right Intention,
Right Speech, Right Effort, Right Livelihood, Right Concentration and Right
Action. This path theoretically can be
followed, with scrupulous practice, to develop insight into the true nature of
phenomena and reality -- and of ourselves!
Buddhists believe that these aspects of wisdom and proper focus and
ethical conduct are the best way to transcend delusion, intolerance and greed. These eight facets of the Noble Path are
linked together like the spokes of a wheel, and when any one of them is
cultivated, they say, it makes the others easier to achieve.
I like this concept!
Expanded vision and awareness are practical necessities for us here in
the 21st century. This is not merely
idealism, and it is true for us both individually and collectively. Achieving a more expansive attunement and
competence should be a core mission of education, so that we may improve the
prospects of our selves, our communities and our societies, both at home and
Let us eat the fine fruit of the Tree of the Awareness of
Right and Wrong, and share it with every person, and acknowledge together that
the First Commandment of the ultimate human good is to leave a fair legacy to
our descendants in future generations.
Overview of Economic
provocative to realize that every type of economic system has a specific
utility, and that this usefulness can change over time in response to changing
needs. Cast aside ideological notions for
a moment, and consider this idea closely. The United States had a very
effective centrally-planned economy during World War II that was focused on
helping us fight and win a war against the militaristic aggression and world
domination gambits of Hitler’s Germany and Emperor Hirohito’s Japan. Then the U.S. had a mixed economy during the
Cold War period from 1945 to 1980, as huge public investments were made in
rebuilding Europe and constructing a national Interstate Highway system,
sending men to the moon, creating social welfare programs like Medicare, and
establishing protections of clean water, clean air, wilderness areas and
endangered species. During this time,
tax rates on the highest incomes were 70% or higher each and every year to help
finance these important national priorities that served the greater good.
however, the U.S. economy began to be hijacked by moneyed interests that
shifted it toward laissez-faire deregulatory plans and tax schemes that give
most benefits of the economy to people at the top. This has made the economic system a skewed and flawed utility
that foolishly shifts the burden of taxation onto all people in the future by
means of the misguided expediency of assessing low tax rates on the highest
levels of income -- and financing this generosity by adding the cost to the
already riskily gargantuan national debt.
The utility of our economy, in other words, has been corrupted to focus
on increasing the concentration of wealth in the hands of a relative few. This utility seriously undermines social
cohesion and comes at a very high cost of stoked inequality, reduced social
mobility, and socially undesirable constraints on investments in greater good
goals. It is becoming obvious today
that we should now once again shift our economic methods to deal effectively
with the daunting problems that are resulting from this unfair and shortsighted
status quo in our institutionally corrupt econopolitical system.
In his State
of the Union Address in January 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made what
has famously become known as his Four Freedoms Speech. In this talk, he articulated what he felt
were four fundamental freedoms that people "everywhere in the world"
ought to enjoy. They included the
freedom of speech, the freedom of worship, the freedom from want, and the
freedom from fear. Today, with almost 1
billion people living in dire poverty, and as an unrestrained global arms race
makes people everywhere less secure and more indebted, and as demagogic
Trumpian divisiveness and growing inequality afflicts the world, at least two
of these Four Freedoms are being abrogated.
This calls for Right Mindfulness, Right Intention and Right Action!
Americans want to have the political status quo “blown up”, and for very good
reasons. The political establishment
deserves the severe rebuke it has been given by people who supported Bernie
Sanders and D.J. Trump in the 2016 primary elections. Our dominating two party political system has betrayed the
American people by allowing our national decision making to be deeply corrupted
by corporate entities that take unfair advantage of our laws to profit
excessively on some of the sorry provisions written into international trade
agreements. We have also been betrayed
by moneyed interests that have been grabbing an obscenely huge share of the
national wealth at the expense of the vast majority of the people. The fact that these schemes have been used
to give outlandish benefits and privileges to the top 1% has been particularly
galling because citizens see that the general welfare of the people is being
sadly neglected, with students being saddled with opprobrious amounts of debt
and social investments being subjected to austerity measures and the national
debt spiking riskily upwards and the criminal justice system continuing to be
profoundly unfair. This über-scam has
been perpetrated by operatives and apologists for the status quo who act to
divide people against each other and spew out misguiding propaganda and sow
doubt about the best courses of action and deny science and generally engage in
strategies that exploit identity politics and harshly blame other people.
one realizes the reality that a deeply divided and disenfranchised populace is
dramatically easier to manipulate and exploit and cheat and oppress than a
people united in seeking common good solutions to problems, it is easy to see
why our political system has become so divisive. We must soundly reject the ideological agents that are corrupting
our politics and subverting our national decision-making. It is becoming crystal clear that the
American people must rise up in peaceful revolution to demand greater
democratic fairness and to vigilantly protect the freedom of the press and
ensure diverse voices in the media and guarantee the balanced justice achievable by maintaining an independent judiciary.
Americans will be stronger if we come together in fair-minded common purpose,
and champion values that are eminently more moral, more socially sane, more
spiritually healing, and more environmentally responsible.
these introductory ideas, here is an overview of my master plan for this Common
Sense Revival. Thomas Paine and Mark Twain are two of the
most memorable characters in American history, and both of these great men provided provocative
insights into the most momentous issues of their times. Their perspectives are still very valuable
when applied to the challenges we face today, so I have adopted some of the
understandings of these two self-made eminences in this manuscript to help
illuminate the best ways forward for us to achieve goals that are consistent
with the common good.
Paine was an Englishman who immigrated to Britain’s colonies in North America in 1774, and became one of the most influential voices in favor of
American independence and a new form of government that would fairly represent
all of its citizens. George
Washington soberly observed that Thomas Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense “worked a powerful change in the minds of many
men”. It did so by igniting popular
disaffection with the British and converting many colonists to a belief in the
causes of independence, fairer political representation, expanded liberties and
broadened prosperity. Let’s clamor for
these causes again today!
Mark Twain was a
poor boy from Missouri, born in 1835, who became famous for his entertaining and provocative writing, and for his drawling humor and deadpan delivery in
public talks. By the time he died in April 1910, he plausibly claimed to have become “the most conspicuous person on the planet”. His novel story of a teenage boy and an
openhearted avuncular black slave who adventurously escape together on a raft
drifting down the mighty Mississippi in search of freedom is one of the most
simple, surprising, creative, and emotionally evocative tales in all of
literature. Mark Twain gave the American people excellent
advice when he declared, “Always do the
right thing. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”
Introduction was intended to serve as a succinct synopsis of the ideas
articulated throughout the twelve books of the Earth Manifesto. These writings have tended to become less
succinct but more inclusive and far-reaching and, I hope, compelling as time
marches inexorably past. Let this
Common Sense Revival become an effective launch pad for ideas that, with any
poetic justice, will help revolutionarily transform human societies into ones
that are significantly fairer, healthier and more likely sustainable.
worldviews and farsighted understandings are contained in this collection of
essays, and there are also highly specific proposals for ways to improve our
country and the world. Incisive
insights are conveyed into how we can make our communities healthier, our
societies fairer, our economies more stable and sound, and our planet more
ecologically flourishing. Propitious
ways are proposed for us to begin to more sensibly protect the lands, waters,
resources and environment that are so crucial to our prosperity and survival.
Common Sense Revival is dedicated to the eminently fair idea that the legacy we
leave to our heirs in future generations should rightly be one of solid
foundations for future well-being. We
simply cannot continue to build a house-of-cards structure that relies on population growth,
unsustainably wasteful usages of resources and environmentally damaging
business activities. We must eliminate
perverse incentives and strengthen our crisis-prone economic system to mitigate
cycles of boom, bust and bailout. NOW
is the time to stop giving tax cuts and historically low tax rates to wealthy
people, and to rein in deficit financing schemes that have made the U.S.
national debt the largest in world history.
Let’s alter highly inegalitarian social policies and unaffordable
subsidy and entitlement schemes, and solve egregious healthcare injustices. Let’s cut wasteful spending on the military,
and reject ideological narrow-mindedness and political extremism. We cannot afford to continue having
rancorous divisiveness and extensive corruption in our domestic politics, or
Trumped up antipathies, stoked fears, provoked anti-neighborly prejudices, or
so much violence in international affairs.
a noble spiritual teacher nodding affirmatively at these words as
she meditates under an old banyan tree that resembles the large sacred “awakening tree” -- Ficus religiosa -- under
which the Buddha is said to have first achieved enlightenment in northern India
some 2,400 years ago.
The proposals and recommendations made throughout these
writings would be most effective when supported by all countries around the
globe. But since nationalistic and ethnocentric sentiments are powerful in
nations worldwide, and because people tend to cherish national sovereignty
while staunchly opposing any plans that resemble world government, new
international agreements between all nations are needed that will promote and
safeguard the common good. This is a
good reason that Albert Einstein was an outspoken proponent of a more
international form of governance that would help prevent wars and assure a more
peaceful coexistence between the peoples and countries of the world.
way we could achieve this and other greater good goals would be by
restructuring our societies to make them fairer to all. One integral aspect of this restructuring
should be to institute reforms to our systems of taxation and campaign
financing, and to take other sensible steps to prevent abuses of power by
overly influential rich people and gigantic multinational corporations.
“Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET
sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour; a long habit of not thinking a thing WRONG
gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT, and raises at first a
formidable outcry in defense of custom.” … “But a long and violent abuse of
power is generally the Means of calling the right of it into question …”
--- Thomas Paine, Introduction to Common
The core idea expressed in these writings is that humankind
needs to engage in better stewardship of planet Earth and the ecological health
of natural ecosystems. This core idea gives recognition and respect to the fact that farsighted
protections of the underpinnings of healthy societies are vitally necessary to
ensure a better degree of common good for humanity. In the long run, our
aggregate activities simply must be sustainable, whether we proactively choose
to achieve this necessary goal, or are forced to it by disastrous developments.
To achieve goals that are in harmony with the common good, we
need better organization and more intelligently focused priorities, and more
honest and responsible leadership. A
main focus of these efforts should be to improve the protection of Earth’s
ecosystems, because they are vitally important to our prosperity and survival.
efforts to achieve dominion over all creatures that creepeth and crawleth have
admittedly been astonishingly “successful”.
In fact, we’re reaching a state of Peak Cornucopia, as evidenced by the
amazingly providential bounty of things to eat that are available at markets
like CostCo and Whole Foods. The fish
and shellfish! Yet it is becoming increasingly
clear that limits exist, and that our collective best interests are to be found
in being more responsible for restoring the health of Earth’s biological
systems. It will prove to be foolhardy
for us to continue exploiting natural resources at the fastest possible rate
without giving adequate consideration to their depletion.
corollary of this core idea that reasonable protections of the environment are
indispensible to our well-being is that economic prosperity can be achieved in
the long run only if it avoids squandering vital resources and damaging natural
habitats. When we rashly cause
environmental degradation, we are treating Mother Earth like a business in
liquidation. This is a stupid strategy,
compared to acting with more responsible stewardship to ensure that our home planet
will continue to be a thriving and indefinitely prosperous concern.
The bottom line in the long run is that the overall quality of
life should be given a higher priority.
We can no longer afford to continue putting an overly heavy emphasis on the
quantity of goods we can produce and consume. The quality of life for people alive should be regarded as
more important than the pursuit of public policies that maximize the advantages
of rich people and corporate entities.
The quality of life should also be regarded as more important than the
quantity of people we can cram onto the planet. If we fail to make life better for the vast majority of people in
the world today, and if we are unable to assure the potential well-being of our
descendants in the future, we will court catastrophe by unnecessarily
exhausting natural resources and irretrievably damaging Earth’s providential
ecosystems. This outcome would
ominously accelerate the rate at which we are driving many species of life
toward extinction, and increase the risks to our own survival.
NOW is the time for us to choose smarter
courses of action that focus on the greater good as a top priority. This is why we need to ratify a Bill of
Rights for Future Generations in nations worldwide, thereby providing clearer
guidance in making the right choices for a better future.
One of the great Founding ideals in the United States was the
idea that a representative system of government should guarantee people that
their general welfare is one of the highest priorities of the Union. Such an assurance would help ensure that
every person would be able to have a fair opportunity to pursue his or her own
dreams and happiness and personal sense of security.
Thomas Paine offered a good piece of advice to help guide us in
improving our societies. He had
borrowed this perspective from Italian author Giacinto Dragonetti, a wise observer on the nature of governments. Giacinto contended long ago in his Treatise of Virtues and Rewards that political
representatives should “fix the true point of happiness and freedom” by seeking
to create “the greatest sum of individual happiness, with the least national
expense." An excellent
Let’s salute the merits of this idea. It is an important understanding for us today
because we have been mortgaging future generations to the hilt, and we are now
finding it to be crucial to seek cost-effective and affordable ways to maximize
opportunities for the happiness, security and well-being of all Americans. This necessarily means that we should shift
the focus of our public policies away from primary efforts to give the richest
1% of Americans an ever-increasing monopoly on the nation’s wealth, and prevent
them from largely dictating our national planning. As Jacques-Yves
Cousteau liked to say,
“Let us cease thinking only of ourselves
and reasoning only in the short term.
Let us assure for the children
to come the same
rights that have been declared for their parents.”
A Sticky Idea
Sometimes an idea strikes a resonant chord within us, and
develops a quality known as “stickiness”.
Sticky ideas are ones that are generally better understood and
remembered than run-of-the-mill conceptions.
They achieve this status by relating a good story that is simple,
unexpected, concrete, credible and emotionally impactful. The stickier an idea is, the more likely
it will be to make people care, and thus to have a lasting impact by
actually changing people’s opinions or behaviors. Malcolm Gladwell coined the term “stickiness” in his book The Tipping Point, and Chip and Dan
Heath adapted the idea in their illuminating book, Made to Stick.
The Heath brothers emphasize the importance of clearly identifying the
core ideas in every attempt to set forth transformative messages.
me state another core idea in the Earth Manifesto. It is a simple one that has unexpected implications: There is good cause for hope in the
prospects of our species. This hope,
naturally, is conditioned upon our collectively doing the right things. We need to make smarter and more ethical
choices about how we treat our home planet and its resources, and other people,
and other forms of life on Earth.
Wells declared back in 1920: "Human history becomes more and more a race
between education and catastrophe." Sure enough, sparkling glitters
of perceptive understanding are appearing in many places; and so too are many dark dangers that seem
to be rushing headlong in our direction like a surging succession of tsunami waves
gathering impetus as they approach the shallower shores of our awareness. Hope springs eternal, and green shoots of
adaptive change can be seen in developments as diverse as public awareness,
global climate collaboration, progressive ideas and spiritual open-mindedness.
These things provide us with good cause for hope. Hopeful perspectives and optimistic attitudes have a nice added
advantage: surprising success in many endeavors
is associated with positive attitudes.
countervailing forces of inertia, resistance and opposition make it poignantly
uncertain what the outcome of this race between understanding and calamity will
be. A convincing case can be made that
prospects are dim for us to deal adequately with the daunting list of encroaching
risks. We are unquestionably beset by a
wide range of serious problems like corporate malfeasance, political corruption, stagnant real
wages, huge discrepancies in wealth, high rates of underemployment, adverse
impacts of offshoring, growing numbers of poor people, intensifying
international stresses, threats of terrorist attacks, habitat destruction,
resource depletion, species extinctions, air and water pollution, and the
degradation of vital ecosystems.
Winston Churchill once observed,
“Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing -- after they have
exhausted all other possibilities.”
Surprisingly, many of the problems we face are not insurmountable. Instead, they could actually be easily
solved or mitigated by means of right ideas and understandings, clearer goals,
proper priorities, better organization, fairer compromise in public policies,
collaborative decision-making, sensible financing and creatively adaptive
has been learned in the past 3,600 years since alphabets were invented to
record ideas. Exceptionally surprising
things have been discovered about the physical world we live in, and about
ourselves within it. Human beings have
a considerable ability to freely make individual choices, and we seem, in aggregate,
to be eminently capable of using our unique human capabilities of foresight to
understand clearly and act intelligently.
This puts us in a good position to come together to shift our courses of
action toward ones that are more propitious to the future well-being of our
wellsprings of action are basic to human nature. The choices we make are deeply affected by both genetically
inherited propensities and behavioral conditioning. But the aggregate expressions of our human drives, compulsions,
desires, hopes and dreams are malleable, and our human nature itself is capable
of amazingly adaptive cultural changes in response to things like shifts in
incentives and disincentives, or changing urgencies. Fairer understandings can also play a role in influencing our
behaviors in socially positive ways.
A colorfully beautiful copy of Hundertwasser’s “Save the Seas”
poster beams its benediction from the walls of my comfortable abode as I
contemplate the providential good sense contained in the idea that humanity
should make expanding commitments to protecting life in the world’s
oceans. The irony of this artistic
rendering of the sensible commandment to Save the Seas suddenly strikes me like
epiphany. I realize that the seas are
currently saving us -- not only by
providing us with large quantities of fish and shellfish for food, but also by
absorbing a significant proportion of the ungodly amounts of greenhouse gases
that we have been heedlessly spewing into the atmosphere, as if there will be
no tomorrow. (Note: there will be
By absorbing big quantities of carbon dioxide, the seas are
effectively slowing down a more disastrously rapid onset of climate change
impacts on our lives. But in so saving
us, the oceans are warming and becoming “more acidic”, just as evidence
confirms they did during the worst two mass extinction events that ever
affected life on Earth in the last 500 million years. These developments in the seas are endangering the biotic
richness and diversity of life in the oceans, particularly of numerous species
of beautiful corals and coral reef communities of life that are critically
important in the food chain. Nature’s
miraculous balancing processes are thus temporarily compensating for our
wasteful polluting ways, but it is far too unwise to push our luck so recklessly!
We are, in reality, an inseparable
part of the biological web of life on Earth, interconnected and
interdependent. Since we are at the top
of the food chain, our fate is linked inextricably to the continued productivity
and health of this oceanic lifeline.
Conservation biologists tell us it is folly to obtusely harm this biotic
foundation of well-being, yet here we are, doing just that.
Dr. Sylvia Earle, as if pleasantly and mercifully echoing a
thunderous voice from Heaven above, says “save
the seas NOW”. We must alter our
collective habits, reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere, establish wider
protections of marine ecosystems and rainforests, and institute effective
incentives and disincentives that will radically alter the course of aggregate
Initium est dimidium facti, said the Romans, back when they spoke Latin: “The start is half the deed.”
perspectives and foresight are vastly more reliable means for the salvation of
humanity than to cast our hopes and prayers into the skies and blindly believe
that some divine being has a master plan and loves us and cares about our
fates. Since we influence our own
destinies by the gods we choose, we would be wise to choose a God that isn’t a
divine being who plays favorites, but instead is a force indistinguishable from
Mother Nature, wonderfully providential but impersonal and infinitely unforgiving.
Natural processes create a complex and amazing self-regulating system that is
defined by natural physical laws, and every individual living thing lives and
dies according to the nature of its kind, and will survive only by living in
harmony with natural selective pressures, and by experiencing a modicum of good
fortune. It should be understood that
these natural processes do not have
any knowable divine intent or
purpose, or any mystical Gaia consciousness force.
“Give a man a fish, and you'll feed him for a day. Give him a religion, and he'll starve to
praying for a fish.”
-- Timothy Jones
It is remarkably shortsighted to oppose protections of marine
habitats. Only about 3% of all ocean
areas are protected, and Dr. Earle recommends that people around the world
should increase the extent of these protections to 20% by 2020. This is a truly laudable plan to ensure that
these vitally providential resources remain sustainable far into the
future. And the clock is ticking. Thank you, Barack Obama, for having
protected a larger area of ocean marine reserves than any leader ever!
Humanity is experiencing a period similar to 1938 and 1939, says the
Gaia hypothesis guru James Lovelock, who explained that, at the time, "we
all knew something terrible was going to happen, but didn't know what to do
about it". But once the Second
World War was under way, "everyone got excited, they loved the things they
could do ... so when I think of the impending crisis now, I think in those
terms. A sense of purpose -- that's
what people want." A modern
equivalent of “victory gardens” and collaborative cooperation are called for.
Let’s all get
evangelical! Here is a truly worthy
purpose: Let’s save ourselves! Our transcendent obligation is becoming more obvious every day, to those
in the know. Fair is fair. Save the seas!
one of the most effective influences in getting people to take bold remedial
actions to a big problem is to suffer the provocation of a crisis. The next crisis may not be far off, but
here’s a better plan. Let’s NOT wait
until the next crisis comes before beginning to act. Let’s act NOW!
Intractable stupidity is not an auspicious quality. "I see it with everybody,” says
Lovelock. “People just want to go on doing what they're doing, they want
business as usual. They say, 'Oh yes,
there's going to be a problem up ahead,’ but they don't want to change
anything." But change we must,
whether intelligently by choice, or by dumbly waiting until we’re forced to
adapt to worsened conditions just to survive.
By spewing more
than 36 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air every year, humankind may
put as much of this heat-trapping gas into the atmosphere in the next 1,000
years as Siberian volcanoes did in 100,000 years during the Permian
Extinction. The fossil record tells us that more than 90% of all
marine species of life were wiped out in this worst-ever mass extinction
episode. The cause of this biotic
disaster is fascinating, for it involves astonishingly voluminous flows of
magma in the biggest igneous extrusion that ever took place on Earth in the
Siberian Traps of what is today eastern Russia, and this provides us with a
compelling cautionary tale.
Women of the
World, Unite! (Men, Join Us!)
idea in this manifesto is that the education and empowerment of women around the world would
yield big benefits for everyone concerned.
Programs with this goal would contribute to a better overall quality of
life. In our male-dominated patriarchal societies, inadequate respect is given
to women’s dignity, health, security, sexuality, accomplishments and
perspectives, and to fair pay and their personal rights, reproductive choices
and other prerogatives. Change must
come! Very good reasons exist for giving women better representation in the
halls of power. For a fuller understanding of such ideas,
see Feminine Vision of an Achievable
World: Anima Should Reign, in Book Five of the Earth Manifesto, or online.
of the unexpected implications of this idea is that ideological extremism in
opposition to fairer treatment of women is not reasonable, and it is not
ethical, and it is not a virtue.
Fair-minded compromises are needed!
Churches, in particular, need to evolve, and to explain things to
domination-demanding conservatives amongst their flocks! As Nelson Mandela once provocatively pointed
out: “It always seems impossible, until it’s done.”
Cherish Mothers and Children!
Here is a convincing psychological and socioeconomic perspective
on social justice that provides a profound way of seeing why nations worldwide
should take bold steps to reduce inequality and social inequities. Dr. John Bowlby was a psychiatrist who
devoted his life to understanding and promoting human well-being and mental
health. He formulated “attachment
theory” to explore and explain the integral aspects of human development. His major conclusion, grounded in the available empirical evidence, was
that a requirement for growing up with good mental health is that “the infant
and young child should experience a warm, intimate, and continuous relationship
with his mother (or permanent mother substitute) in which both find
satisfaction and enjoyment”. Dr. Bowlby
emphasized the important role of social networks and both economic and health
factors in the development of well-functioning mother-child relationships. He called on societies to provide better
support for parents, and his words ring with a resounding moral truth (this was
“Just as children are absolutely dependent on their parents for
sustenance, so in all but the most primitive communities, are parents,
especially their mothers, dependent on a greater society for economic
provision. If a community values its children it must cherish their parents.”
Unfortunately for our society’s health, conservative
politicians in the USA today demonstrate a bigger concern for human embryos and
fetuses than they do for real children or their mothers. Many Republicans want to give a fertilized
egg the expansive rights of personhood, and to eliminate the rights of any
woman to use contraception or have an abortion, and they also generally want to
slash spending for maternal and childhood health care. This cynical political calculus is a form of
pandering to right-wing conservatives, but I personally find much more
respectability and moral rectitude in Dr. Bowlby’s honorable
understandings. Evaluated from a
perspective of consequentialist ethics, the bottom line of Republican national
policies on women’s rights are often morally repugnant, especially in the big
picture of the general welfare and a truer quality of life for all. Extreme injustices in socially conservative
countries worldwide make many societies even worse.
Call for More Sensible National Priorities
formidable challenges confront us in the world today. Underlying most of them is one of the most serious problems of
all: our national priorities are
ridiculously askew. One primary factor
that contributes to this state of affairs is that Americans have allowed
government “of the people, by the people and for the people” to become a
sham. Moneyed interests have subverted
the common good, and our politics has become so polarized that the resulting
gridlock is acting as a barrier to smart action and reform. The richest 1% of Americans has effectively
corrupted our economic and political systems into disastrous misrepresentations
of the greater good. Economic
inequality and the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few are reaching
extremes rarely seen in history, paralleling the gaudily tumultuous Gilded Age
of the late 19th century and the dangerous brink of the Depression at the end
of the Roaring Twenties. And the U.S.
has become an “incarceration nation”, with a larger percentage of its
population in prison than any country on Earth.
are times that try people’s souls, as Thomas Paine was wont to say. Epic conflicts confront us, and yet the best
interests of the majority of people, and of everyone in future generations, are
being undermined by despotic factions that have corrupted our political system
to gain outlandishly nice benefits.
though we are aware that “United we stand, divided we fall”, we allow political
operatives to divide us by hijacking our emotions and exploiting hot button
social issues and provoking prejudices.
This divisive tactic helps exploiters subvert our democracy, and makes
it easier for vested interest groups to usurp power and abuse that power to
grab an ungodly proportion of the wealth generated in our economy for
is a fascinating perspective to understand that there was truly broad and
bipartisan leadership in passing all the bedrock environmental laws of the
1970s, including the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act and the Endangered
Species Act. In his provocative book Getting
to Green, the political independent Frederic Rich explains how a
"Great Estrangement" then began in the 1980s and 1990s that has led
to extreme polarization on environmental issues. During the years since Bill Clinton was first elected,
conservatives have taken a hard tack to the right and the Green movement has
drifted to the left, so environmental issues have undergone a disastrous
transformation "from common cause to divisive wedge."
It's a shame
and a tragedy that this
demise of bipartisanship has taken place since those days of distinctly
successful environmental initiatives.
Vicious and vacuous political dialogue and extreme rhetoric on both the
left and the right have had the effect of undermining hopes for us to create a much better balance between the positive
aspects of honest conservative philosophies and the positive aspects of liberal
philosophies. This balance is needed to enable us to create truly
healthier societies. Frederic Rich argues convincingly
that this Great Estrangement will not end with "conservative capitulation
to the compelling urgency of the Green agenda;
instead, the Green movement will need to listen to conservatives, take a
few steps in their direction, and focus on that space where the values of right
and left overlap." Frederic Rich calls this potentially auspicious
area of agreement "Center Green":
Green takes as its model the national land trust movement, a corner of the
environmental movement that has succeeded in maintaining vigorous bipartisan
support. Center Green is a modest change in approach rooted in the way
America is, not a utopian vision of what it could become. It is, above
all, pragmatic and non-ideological, where policy is measured not by whether it
is the optimum solution, but by the two-part test of whether it would make a
meaningful contribution to solving an environmental problem and whether it is
“movement conservatism” has gained an ungodly grip on the USA. This is an “interlocking
set of institutions and alliances that has won elections by stoking cultural
and racial anxiety, but used these victories mainly to push an elitist economic
agenda, meanwhile providing a support network for political and ideological
loyalists.” It enlists evangelical conservatives to collaborate with Big
Business in an unholy alliance that gives lip service to hot button social
issues to secure trillions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthiest
Americans. Movement conservatism thus represents one of the
most outrageous bait-and-switch schemes ever, as judged by the extremely
consequential negative impacts of this ideological subversion of greater good
representatives are fighting pitched battles among themselves for power and
influence, and refusing to make fair, farsighted compromises that would advance
the common good. Instead, they are
taking advantage of divisive social issues and people’s anxieties,
insecurities, grievances, frustration and anger to perpetuate a status quo that
is too unfair and unsustainable. Or
even worse, they exploit these feelings to change things in a backward
way. As a sad consequence, we are
failing to deal adequately with big problems like climate change, damages to
the environment, assaults on wildlife and biotic well-being, excessive debt,
huge unfunded liabilities, the offshoring of manufacturing and technical
service jobs, and wrongheaded priorities and gaping injustices.
need a kinder and gentler politics,” said British Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn
after the murder of legislator Jo Cox by a frenzied proponent of Britain making
a “Brexit” departure from the European Union. "We all have a
responsibility, in this House and beyond, not to whip up hatred and sow
becoming vividly clear that we should re-order our national priorities to
fairly and effectively address the far-reaching environmental, social and
economic problems that confront us. To
do this, we need to fix our political system so that Big Money can no longer
dominate our decision-making.
To Do the Right Thing, or Not To Do the
Right Thing, That is the Question
To be, or not to be, that is the question
‘tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
take Arms against a Sea of trouble,
by opposing, end them …
there’s the rub!
--- Soliloquy in Hamlet,
‘Tis nobler, my
conscience shouts to me in a respectfully muffled yet urgent tone, to support
proactive goals and seize the moment by demanding fairer representation of
common good interests, and by so opposing ideological wrongheadedness, ending
its more negative aspects.
Annie Leonard makes a provocative
assertion in The Story of Change, an excellent film in her outstanding The
Story of Stuff series. She states
that the real power to create a fairer and healthier and more sustainable
economy lies not in individual choices we make in buying things, but in coming
together as citizens to build a better future.
She also simply and brilliantly relates how “The Story
of Broke” is being used to short-change students and the American people, and
to radically transform our country into a less egalitarian place. Watch Leonard’s animated films online for
details -- and read on for some valuable perspectives and recommendations.
people should reject extremely partisan politicians who abuse power by
dishonorably deceiving the people. We should be outraged at politicians who
are devious in important economic, environmental, social and military
matters. In particular, we should
reject every politician who tries to fool the American people with rosy
rhetoric about freedom yet prescribes policies that give freedoms to rich people
to evade taxes, and freedoms for corporations to pollute the commons, and
freedoms for banks and big businesses to avoid rules designed to advance the
greater public good, and freedoms of big corporate entities to offshore jobs
and roll back protections of working people and public health laws, and
freedoms of the gun lobby and the arms industry to dominate our national
objectionable are those politicians who adamantly oppose the freedom of women
to make their own personal choices about having sex, preventing pregnancy, and
making an achingly difficult decision to terminate a pregnancy when the
circumstances counsel such a course of action to be best. And those who oppose the freedoms of
students to get good affordable educations, and stand against minimum wage laws
and universal healthcare and higher pay for overtime work, and women being paid
equal amounts for equal work. And those
who oppose gay people having equal rights to heterosexuals. And those who staunchly oppose protections
of public lands from privatization or corporate despoliation. We need better national plans to reassure
people in future generations that the legacy we leave them will be one of
reasonable hopes for safety, prosperity, economic solvency, and a sustainable
deceptive populist rhetoric, negative attack ads, low voter turnout, vote
suppression efforts and absurdly gerrymandered congressional districts in the
November 2014 national elections helped give Republicans control of the U.S.
Senate. This anti-progressive
development has made our national politics much uglier and more dysfunctional,
uncompromising, acrimonious, inegalitarian and anti-environmental. Having Republicans control the Senate and
the House is tragically undermining the rights and hopes of women, children,
minorities, immigrants, gay people, poor people, and all people in future
generations. Instead we should be
striving to reduce inequality and social injustices in our society, and to
improve social mobility, and to prevent excessive harm to the environment. And we cannot let any leader abrogate our
obligations to the people in 200 countries around the world who have agreed on
the imperatives to mitigate impacts of global climate change.
The Vital Need
for Good Religion
stories and other foundational religious myths can play a vital role in
people’s lives. A crucial aspect of our
personal experiences is a deep emotional need to try to understand and explain
existence, and to find a sense of self-identity, purpose, belonging and good
guidance in a world of impersonal and inexorable laws of nature, and of chance
happenstance (and of rigged institutions!).
We have deep emotional needs for motivating myths to help inform our
beliefs and our values, our feelings, our philosophies, our moral conceptions,
our worldviews, and our futures. “The poet understands
that a myth is not a lie, but the soul’s version of the truth.”
thing that seems obvious about Creation stories is that they fulfill important
roles in every culture that has generated them. It is also apparent that religions can die out and drift off into
the realm of legend and fable, as times and cultures change. Enveloped in any Creation story at a given
point in time, believers feel that all the gods and goddesses in their pantheon
of deities really exist -- or that their one specific God is the one and only
true and right Supreme Being.
Genesis story in the Bible has been interpreted to give people the right to
have dominion over every other creature that creepeth and crawleth upon the
face of the earth. This time-tested
tale is subtly used to reinforce rationalizations that say God strictly
commands us to be fruitful and multiply.
Now that people have obeyed these edicts for two millennia, changing
conditions have begun to prevail. Our
activities, in aggregate, are driving thousands, probably millions, of species
of life toward extinction. The implications
of this trend are stunning. Humanity
has multiplied from around 50 million people alive when the Old Testament was
written to almost 7,400 million as the year 2016 begins. Our increasing numbers make it important for
us to perform a simpler arithmetic operation -- Go Forth and Add!
The number of
wild animals on Earth has shockingly been reduced by more than 50% in the past
40 years, according to a report by the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological
Society of London. This stunning fact
is juxtaposed against another sensational statistic: the number of human beings on Earth increased by more than 75%
from 4 billion to over 7 billion during this same 40 year period. I am neither a scientist nor a statistician,
but anybody can see the writing on the wall.
We are living in unsustainable ways, already in the risky stages of
human population overshoot. We should
shift our collective priorities from high global rates of reproduction to goals
that would help assure a better quality of life for the people who have already
been born, and for the ones who will follow.
A goal of zero population growth should be accepted as a precautionary
best plan to avert an eventual catastrophic population collapse. Evaluate the paradoxes in Climate Change Considerations, Carrying
Capacity, and Ecological Overshoot for broader perspective on these issues.
believe strongly that it is a moral mistake to wear blinders and become fixated
on the idea that any Creation story or “holy book” is literally
true. If you want literal truth, one
place to start is to understand that every human being has always come from a
woman’s womb, and the first woman did not come from any man’s rib. Literal interpretations are a narrow strain
of religious fundamentalism that can provoke people into doing terrible things. As Voltaire famously once wrote, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can
make you commit atrocities.”
literalism of belief is foolishly inflexible.
Blind convictions can become socially dangerous and anti-adaptive,
especially when married to authoritarian impulses or parochial passions or
sectarian religious fundamentalism or the fanned flames of belligerent
nationalism. This is glaringly apparent
today with intense religious strife in the U.S. and around the world, and with
suicide bombers and zealots fighting culture wars, and with all the atrocities
that have taken place in the past two thousand years involving things like
pogroms, persecutions, religious wars, Inquisitions, ethnic genocides and
burning women at the stake.
myths can be vital to our emotional and even our physical well-being, a new
guiding myth would be widely beneficial if it provided us with better guidance
in our on-going cultural evolution. A
much better understanding of the evolutionary roots of ethics and religion
could help us accept an evolving conception of a popular new defining mythology
that could safely guide us to a more providential future. Both ethics and religious beliefs have been
smiled upon by natural selection when they have served to promote cooperation
within clans and social groups.
Cooperation between individuals just happens to be more mutually
beneficial for a group’s survival than greedily ruthless competition (or
maniacal authoritarian rule).
guiding myth should incorporate responsible tenets that honor social and
ecological truths, and it should be flexible enough to avoid being ossified
into a rejection of the best evolving understandings of science. This new moral compass should be more believable and inclusive, and it sure should not be shackled to social
conservatism or economic fundamentalism or uncompromising authority. This would help us deal more sensibly with the social and ecological crises that we face in
a vital need for myths that define us exists in human awareness, these
foundational stories cannot be like the one in the Bible that calls for the
utter annihilation of others who hold different beliefs. Faithful believer? Agnostic? Atheist? Agree to seek common ground, and to be tolerant
and respectful in all disagreements!
religions need to adapt to survive and remain relevant, and to help the
faithful as circumstances change. For
this reason, traditionalist conservative wings of every religion should yield
their insistence on dominating their faith traditions. Jesus, after all, was no conservative! He was, in fact, a revolutionary who opposed
the Roman occupation of his homeland and championed the downtrodden and the
poor against money-grubbing collaborators in the hierarchy of priests in
Jerusalem. Religious establishments
should allow moderate and liberal elements within their ranks to reform their
faiths and steer them toward fairer guidance, greater relevance and safer and
more inclusive ways forward.
Progressive ideas are needed, not dominance by reactionary
Good Ideas for
a Better Future
Here’s a surprising epiphany: one
of the best ideas for a better future is found in a place not often envisioned:
proper accounting! We currently
allow profit-maximizing activities to be achieved, in part, by allowing big
corporations to externalize costs onto society, rather than requiring them to
be included in the prices of products produced and services rendered. We should instead require these costs to be
“internalized”. By more fully
accounting for wasteful or polluting activities, people’s aggregate behaviors
and habits would be shifted toward less wasteful ones.
A more sensible allocation of costs to their proper source would be
eminently fair-minded. Such a plan
would shift incentives and disincentives, and such motivations are powerfully
effective. A new regime of fairer accounting would have the added advantage of
having wide-ranging positive effects by significantly reducing the costs currently being externalized onto
society, thereby reducing the amount of debt, waste, pollution, environmental damages and
climate-impacting greenhouse gas emissions.
It would also serve to spark innovation, promote efficiency of energy use,
stimulate resource conservation, and commendably facilitate a necessary
transition to renewable alternatives.
A correlated good idea for a better future is to be found in the creation
of new incentives designed to encourage sustainable activities. Effective disincentives should be put in
place that would reduce wasteful uses of resources and also mitigate damages to
wildlife habitats and ecosystems.
Pigouvian “green fees” like taxes on fossil fuels and carbon emissions
are a concrete example of such smart disincentives. Money raised from green taxes could be used to finance relief and
recovery from natural disasters, among other good purposes. Natural disasters, after all, are getting
ever more costly as the climate changes and weather patterns become more
chaotic in localities all around the globe.
fuels at current rates is bad for the economy, bad for the environment, and
especially bad for poor people around the world. Robert Pollin cogently makes this point in his book Greening
the Global Economy. Big oil and
coal companies and those involved in fracking for natural gas make claims to
the contrary, thus contradicting this perspective, according to California Governor Jerry Brown, but Robert Pollin
“powerfully demonstrates that investing in efficiency and renewable energy
generates a far better standard of living than the current alternative --
abject and massive dependency on fossil fuel.”
fees on carbon emissions is a good idea for three important reasons.
First, the resulting higher price on carbon would effectively reduce demand and
stimulate innovative efforts to conserve fossil fuel resources and find
alternative energy sources. Second, the
fee would generate large amounts of money that could be used to pay for adverse
impacts of gaseous emissions on millions of people's respiratory health as
well as natural disasters related to intensifying storms, droughts, wildfires
and coastal flooding caused by climate change and rising sea levels. A carbon fee would be an effective mechanism
to internalize costs that are currently being externalized. And third,
the fee should be part of a progressively designed fee-and-dividend system that
would give half the proceeds back to all people in an egalitarian way that would
fully cover the higher costs of energy for the bottom 75 percent of people
who would otherwise face serious hardships in paying for the higher costs of
gasoline and heating oil and electricity generated by the burning of fossil
These ideas are consistent with insightful
observations of Paul Hawken, author of The
Ecology of Commerce, who points the optimal way for how we should be
working to make our societies better:
"To create an enduring society, we will need a system of commerce
and production where each and every act is inherently sustainable and
restorative. … Just as every action in an industrial society leads to
environmental degradation, regardless of intention, we must design a system
where the opposite is true, where doing good is like falling off a log, where
the natural, everyday acts of work and life accumulate into a better world as a
matter of course, not as a matter of conscious altruism."
This is a crucial insight. As the need becomes ever more urgent for us to restructure our
economic and political systems to make them fairer to people now and in the
future, it is becoming clear that stubborn intransigence within our two primary
political parties is no longer acceptable.
Our political duopoly system, as analyzed by Charles Ferguson in Predator Nation, is misguided precisely
because it allows vested interest groups to skew our national tax and spending
priorities into a pathetic caricature of propriety. The continued failure to sensibly restructure our economic system
casts harsh light onto the foolhardy nature of allowing extensive environmental
costs to be foisted onto society. And
it shines a glaring spotlight on the absurdity of perverse incentives and the
expediency of incurring record levels of national debt to allow the wealthiest
Americans to pay taxes at rates near the lowest levels in generations. As the need for us to invest in the greater
well-being of our societies becomes more obvious, new approaches are clearly
Choosing to Maximize the Right Things
Imagine for a moment how much knowledge has been
gained in the 240 years since American colonists espoused great democratic
ideals and declared independence from Britain.
At the same time, think about a recent study that measured the factors
that contribute to people’s happiness and the general welfare. Surprisingly, it turns out that people are
much happier when the national income is more broadly distributed than when it
is highly concentrated in the hands of a few.
Here’s the specific story. Extensive surveys of public opinion have found that people are happier, as
gauged by a wide range of measures, when they earn $50,000 to $75,000 per year
than when they make less money. They
are happier in every category that affects the quality of
life, including job satisfaction, emotional sense of security, personal
relationships, community involvements, physical health and spiritual life. In contrast, the same studies have found that people who make
more than $75,000 per year are NOT particularly happier than those who earn
this much. Research on the “economics
of happiness” reveals that, once people can easily afford the basic necessities
of life, money takes on a less central role in their well-being.
key understanding here is that, when prosperity is more widely shared, it
results in improved outcomes and security for all. This is a cogent argument for resisting the corrupting influence
of high-income earners to abuse the power of their moneyed influence to get low
tax rates on the highest levels of their incomes. As it turns out, public policies designed to ensure a broader
distribution of wealth dovetail nicely with another great promise of democratic
governance, which our Founders strived to create -- to wit, that governments
should be designed to prevent despotic abuses of power and political influence
by any one person or faction of society.
Glory Be to God that we know how to make
our country much fairer, and thus happier and more secure! We just need to prevent giant corporations
and wealthy people from abusing the influence of their overweening power to rig
the system ever more distinctly to their narrow advantages. Every alert reader who is following this
unfolding story close enough will realize -- Eureka! -- that there are ways to
head in the right direction to achieve common good goals, and there are ways to
head in the wrong direction. Having
realized this, please indulge in reading further while I navigate the shoals of
“the Curse of Knowledge” that prevents clear communications from being conveyed
simply, memorably, engagingly, credibly, provocatively, and in an effectively
astonishing to most people that the bottom-line story of our top economic
priority since Ronald Reagan took office has been to give people who earn the
highest incomes the lowest possible rates of tax. This goal has been achieved by the short-term-oriented expediency
of borrowing more than $18 trillion since 1980 to finance this unaffordably
laws, it turns out, are among the most
politically determined laws of all.
Most people are rather surprised to find that every taxpayer basically
pays the same amount of tax on the incomes they earn from work. A person who earns $500,000 owes the exact
same amount on the first $50,000 of taxable income as a taxpayer who earns only
$50,000 in taxable income. This is truly fair. The progressive structure of the
tax code makes higher rates apply to higher levels of earnings, and this is
smart, for there is a wide range of needs in complex modern civilizations, and
the money to satisfy these needs is best supplied by people who have prospered
under the provisions of the current system and thus have the good fortune to be
able to afford it.
are some exceptions to the fact that all taxpayers pay the same rates of tax on
all levels of earnings. Tax cheaters
don’t, for instance. The main
legitimate exception is that, when income is made from investments instead of
being earned through work, much lower capital gains tax rates apply. And, since more than two-thirds of all
capital gains stunningly go to the top 1% of Americans, these low rates are
mainly given to people who are already the most financially privileged. REFORM!
Progressive changes in taxation are the best means to make the
distribution of wealth fairer. Regressive changes in the tax structure, in
contrast, inevitably create a more extreme state of concentrated wealth in the
hands of the few. The highly regressive
changes in taxation that have been put into effect since 1980 have had the
undesirable effect of making our society increasingly inegalitarian. Morbid symptoms have resulted. For instance, according to Bill Moyers, “The richest 400 Americans now own more wealth
than the bottom 180 million taken together.”
This is an almost laughably obscene degree of inequality and injustice.
“We can have democracy in this country, or we can
have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few,
can’t have both.”
--- Louis Brandeis, Supreme
Court Justice from 1916 to 1939
One of the starkest outcomes of growing economic inequality in
the U.S. is a widening gap in life expectancy between rich people and poor
people. This is one of the pathological
consequences of the obsequious attitude of politicians in allowing rich people
to abuse the power of their moneyed influence.
Trends of increases in inequality, from this standpoint, can literally
be a matter of life and death.
We should naturally wonder what is causing this growing gap in the well-being and life expectancy between rich people
and poor people. One factor that
directly contributes to this nefarious aspect of inequality is the high cost of
health care. Another is that people who
earn lower incomes are disproportionately exposed to workplace risks,
pollution, toxins and other negative environmental health dangers. Higher incomes allow people to avoid cheap,
unhealthy fast food, and to buy more expensive nutritious organic foods that
help promote good health. People in
lower socioeconomic classes tend to be subjected to chronic stress and
premature aging, and to be more vulnerable to a variety of diseases, and to
have propensities to drink excessively or to harm their health by smoking tobacco. Gun violence also impacts this group much
more frequently than others.
People in 36 other countries have longer life spans than people in the
U.S., according to United Nations statistics. A commendable concern for the
general welfare of our nation’s citizens should motivate us to really
understand what drives these trends, and to take bold steps to ameliorate
them. As can be seen in numerous
situations, the broadest understandings are needed to formulate the fairest
national priorities and policies.
could we ensure that more people earn the equivalent buying power of making
between $50,000 and $75,000 per year? A
short list of common sense methods comes to mind. In addition to making our system of taxation more progressive by
reducing taxes on all earnings under $75,000 and increasing taxes on all
earnings in excess of this amount, we could improve the affordability of
education and the fairness of opportunities.
We could provide better cost-contained single-payer universal
healthcare. We could also give working
people more influence by guaranteeing them collective bargaining rights, and we
could make larger public investments in environmental protections and needed
infrastructure. We could put a price on
carbon dioxide emissions with a fee-and-dividend plan that would be eminently
influential and egalitarian in impact.
I’m sure readers could think of many other good ways to accomplish this
fair-minded goal. Let me know what you
Necessary Gauntlet Is Thrown Down, and So Be It!
Trump claims he would make America great again, but the ways he proposes to do
this don’t make sense, and his candidacy is dangerous on many fronts, including
the risks associated with
the divisive effects of his attitudes and his diabolical invective against anyone who opposes
him. As the respect-worthy League of Conservation Voters points
out, the worst aspect of Trump’s candidacy, from a long-term ecological
perspective, is his repeated indications that if elected president he would
cripple the Environmental Protection Agency and reject clean energy initiatives
and abrogate American commitments made with almost every other country on Earth
in the Paris Accords to help mitigate the impacts of human-induced climate
change. Additionally, Trump wants to give more huge tax breaks to rich
people like himself, which could be accomplished only by dangerously ratcheting
up the national debt and undermining the social safety net, thereby severely
restricting funding for public schools and expanded opportunities and smart
social insurance programs that keep revolutionary unrest in check. This would be the extreme opposite of
creating a fair and more broadly prosperous society.
attributes, along with his eagerness to deport millions of hard working immigrants
and launch trade wars and act with belligerence and isolationism on the
international stage, make it appear that Trump wants to make America great again by abandoning Promethean foresight and precautionary principles
altogether. To more fully understand
the implications of such potentially disastrous stances, see Intelligent Precautionary Principles
Enunciated – Holy Cow!
true salvation must be found in collaborative efforts to ensure greater social
justice, reduce extremes of inequality, create conditions more amenable to
ecological sustainability and peaceful coexistence, and establish a broad
comity of citizens, embracing diversity and joined in good faith by fair-minded
and farsighted leaders.
Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) has declared he would not support Trump, and Senator
Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is calling on Republican politicians who have
endorsed Trump to publicly change their minds because of an unfolding
litany of serious problems associated with Trump’s persona, racist statements
and bizarre pronouncements. Graham said
Trump's comments about an Indiana judge with Mexican-American
heritage were "the most un-American thing from a politician since Joe
McCarthy." The judge that Trump has been harshly castigating is
presiding over a fraud and racketeering case against the now-defunct “Trump
call on all Americans to soundly reject Trump’s bid to become the most powerful
leader in the world. I urge all voters to help oust the
power-abusing “Party of No” obstructionists from the U.S. Senate and House in
the upcoming national elections. We
should demand that all our representatives work together to deal more sensibly
with the daunting challenges that confront humanity and all life on Earth.
We must choose effective adaptive strategies rather than obtusely barricading
ourselves in, as if the best plan is to shelter in place in face of on-rushing
challenges and changes.
respect-worthy black guy's tenure in the White House is coming to its
conclusion, and though a new somewhat progressive leader is in the offing for
conservatives to hate and berate, the best plan for us going forward is to
honestly strive to actualize greater good goals. We need good ideas and
fair-minded leadership, not a volatile hothead and a dangerously counterproductive
agenda that leads us in the wrong directions.
further urge those of my fellow Americans who are subjecting themselves to
bile-filled propaganda to quit “cold turkey” by tuning out Rush Limbaugh and
practicing abstinence from mindlessly parroting the Fox News party line.
Let your own best-informed understandings counsel your political perspectives
Clinton has now been chosen as the first woman in U.S. history to be the
presidential nominee of one of the two major political parties, and a historic
contrast is at hand between her and the trade-war-threatening real estate mogul
and reality TV celebrity, who is repeatedly demonstrating nasty, ruthless,
hyper-litigious, belligerently divisive, racist, sexist, insulting, anti-immigrant,
anti-Mexican, anti-Muslim macho male drama queen tactics in his bid to gain
power. Trump is a big liar and cheater,
much, much more so that Hillary. His
highly unethical business dealings and "genius" tax evasion alone
should disqualify him from a position of power in the USA.
Aside on Purpose
made my best ongoing efforts to integrate the most farsighted modern
understandings in this Common Sense Revival,
so as to passionately persuade people everywhere that our collective salvation
is best sought in fairness principles, smart priorities, wise planning, good
organization, collaboration and progressive initiatives.
is a brief overview of some of the other contents of this Common Sense Revival. Many
of my most recently evolved reflections are contained in Real Live
Experiments in Applied Trickle-Down Theoretics, and in Uncommon Sense and Fair-Mindedness, including things that I feel
like shouting to high heaven about, like Robert Reich’s perspectives in the
outstanding film Inequality for All. Reich makes it clear that corrupting special
interests have skewed our national priorities and contributed to a more
constricting concentration of the nation’s wealth in the hands of the few. As a pathetic result, hardships and stresses
and other negative developments associated with growing inequality have become
exaggerated, and impetuses for a “vicious economic circle” have ramped up while
the hopes for creating a “virtuous economic circle” have diminished.
interesting back-story pulses deep within each individual. Bob Reich is very short, standing less than
five feet tall, due to a genetic condition. He was bullied as a child, so he sought protection by making
friends with older boys. One of his most
respected friends was later murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan while he
was involved in civil rights activism in support of voting rights for black
people in Mississippi during the Freedom
Summer of 1964. Reich cites this
event as a major inspiration for him to "fight the bullies, to protect the
powerless, to make sure that the people without a voice have a voice.” His efforts today to help the American
people in their struggles against inegalitarian policies deserve the greatest
In the final essay of this Common Sense Revival, Happy
Harbingers in Good Ideas for a Better Future delivers the goods referred to in this title, so it should be given
due attention. It begins with my curiously fanciful autobiographical story
about my heritage as Mark Twain’s great-granddaughter, and explains my feelings
about being a soul mate heir of the marvelous author’s philosophic and humorous
Elaboration on the Life and Views of Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine published his influential pamphlet Common Sense in January 1776, just six
months before the American colonies declared independence from the exploitive
rule of the British Empire. With this
salvo of ideas, Thomas Paine helped change the course of history. Paine made a forceful case for both
independence and individual liberty in Common
Sense, and he proposed enlightening ideas about the desirability of giving
fairer representation to the voices and interests of all citizens.
advantage of plain truths similar to those articulated by Thomas Paine, this
Common Sense Revival is being published to advance fair-minded proposals and
help solve crucially important challenges.
Back in the days when the U.S. Constitution was written, people were aware
that “eternal vigilance” is necessary to preserve liberty and guarantee people
a range of personal freedoms. Today we need to be more committed and clear-eyed
and in our vigilance against tyranny, and we should strongly support personal
freedoms. And, simultaneously,
incentives should be used to help motivate each and every person to contribute
more to the common good.
Thomas Paine modestly expressed the hope that his Common Sense would represent the “straggling thoughts of
individuals” that would provide guidance to “wise and able leaders” so that
they would be successful in making marked improvements in our society. Similarly, it is my hope that the ideas in
this manifesto will be seen as the well-considered ideas of a reasonably
objective observer, and that these perspectives will prove to be a powerful
stimulus in motivating our leaders to implement fairer and more ecologically
intelligent national policies. Vote,
and every time you do, vote for honest representatives who are most likely to
be truly wise, able and fair!
Persuasive good ideas could reverse the trend toward dysfunction in our
political system today. Heck, not only
could they help remedy the serious problem of our having a shortage of
reasonably fair-minded “wise and able” leaders, but good ideas could help serve
to mitigate hyper-partisan strife and reduce the extent to which our
representatives pander to narrow interests.
They could even force our leaders to be more virtuous, instead of having
them continue to primarily pander to entrenched interest groups, or to be
shrewdly scheming, overly self-serving, or ideologically inflexible and
We stand before a great crossroads in the
history of our country. Formidable
challenges lie before us, and most of them are quite complicated and serious
and contentious. In a very odd stroke
of misfortune, many of the substantive issues like climate change that face
humanity were barely discussed in the 2012 campaign for the presidency. The failure to talk about crucial challenges
is dangerous to our collective well-being, and to all people in the
future. We need to stop burying our
heads in the sand when it comes to important issues!
These issues include the need to conserve
resources, protect the environment, develop renewable and cleaner sources of
energy, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere to mitigate the
damaging impacts of ominous changes in global weather patterns and the
chemistry and temperatures of ocean waters.
We should also deal more sensibly with big problems like global poverty,
malnutrition, overpopulation, overfishing, and the destruction of rainforests,
wetlands, coral reefs and other vital ecosystems. We should improve our public education system, and prevent the
risks associated with corporations becoming too big to control and “too big to
fail”. Effective steps should be taken
to reduce high levels of incarceration in U.S. prisons and to cut down on gun
violence, and to stop the ridiculously costly war on drugs, and to reduce the
unaffordable costs of wars and America’s military and security state. We need to talk about these things, and
boldly deal with them!
How can we find a way to begin paying
closer attention to big problems in our elections, and in all of our national
decision-making? How can we ensure
that, in our national political discourse in general, we will address the
biggest challenges in a fairer, more serious and more civil way? Fox News is not the answer!
Professor Jared Diamond makes a valuable
observation in his insightful book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or
Succeed. He contends that we need a
paradigm shift in how our leaders think.
America needs leaders with “the courage to practice long-term thinking
and make bold, courageous, anticipatory decisions at a time when problems become
perceptible, but before they reach crisis proportions.” Hallelujah!
Let’s give stronger support to progressive leaders who will act
accordingly! Politics-as-usual is becoming
too risky to allow it to be perpetuated without far-reaching reforms.
A lofty vision of hope and fair-minded
social justice and ecological salvation sails onto the scene, accompanied by
sounds of a soaring Beethoven symphony that has the potential to swell in the
interstices of our minds.
Concluding Comments to this Introduction
The time for
these important ideas has come; they are NOT, as Thomas Paine put it in his
incendiary pamphlet Common Sense,
"not yet sufficiently fashionable."
When Paine advocated a new form of fairly representative government that
would be virtuous because it honestly serves the interests of all the people,
he wisely focused on ideas, not specific individuals. He did this to establish his objectivity in his analysis of the
“absurdity” of despotic rule. And he cleverly
justified the vehemence of his arguments -- and lent his work significant
gravity -- by referring to the "cause of America" as "the cause
of all mankind.”
His cause has
indeed become important to all of humanity.
But rich conservatives have manifested no inclination to agreeing to
make fair-minded compromises on issues of taxation, balanced budgets, campaign
finance reform, more power for working people, comprehensive immigration
reform, or the financing of social programs.
So it is our duty to demand a more broad-minded agenda, and everyone
should honestly contribute to helping create a healthier, more peaceable, more
sustainable, and more secure world for ourselves and our descendants.
independence of the American people from the overweening power of wealthy
people must sooner or later arrive.
These sentiments are equally applicable to peoples in countries
worldwide. Rich people, after all, are
concerned mainly for their own short-term interests, and too many of them are
inadequately concerned with longer-term values, or the well-being of the
majority of people, or the common good of the whole of society, today AND
“I have heard some men say, many of whom I believe spoke without
thinking, that they fear to demand independence from the tyranny of rule by
rich people because it would produce class warfare and worse hardships for the
majority of Americans, but I believe this is deceptive propaganda, and
misguided spin at that. Such
contentions are, in fact, willful and audacious libels against the truth and
the common good.”
--- Thomas Paine, liberally paraphrased and
slightly misconstrued for editorial purposes
Paine’s day, there were two different ways by which independence from tyranny
could be gained. One was to work within
the colonial system to achieve reforms, and the other was to break entirely
free from Britain by declaring independence.
It appears today that there are three ways we could deal with the
tyranny of power abuses by domineering wealthy people: Either we let the voice of the people be
fairly represented, and make sensible fair-minded reforms; or we allow feelings of desperation and
dissatisfaction to build until another economic cataclysm results, or violent
protests break out in the streets, forcing our leaders to make wide-ranging
reforms; or we let a more authoritarian
rule be imposed that would suppress people’s rights, repress dissent, and
imprison violators and conscientious objectors, and probably artists and
“We have it in
our power to begin the world over again,” declared Thomas Paine. He said we must make difficult and
farsighted choices that, one day or another, would dramatically influence the
fate of America. In Common Sense, he made it completely
clear which courses of action he believed we should sensibly choose.
A Comedy, or a Tragedy?
In classical literature and theatre,
artistic creations were classified as either comedies or tragedies. The main difference was that comedies had
happy endings, while tragedies had tragic ones. Surely we should be striving in our modern times to redesign our
societies to improve the probability that 100 years from now our descendants
will be able to look back and say we committed ourselves to happier endings,
rather than to more severe inequities or tragedy-of-the-commons disasters.
To make marked
improvements in our world, we should reject the usurpation of power by wealthy
people and their facilitators, and demand they stop severely afflicting our
nations in the present day. We need to
give recognition to the fact that narrowly-focused interest groups cannot be
trusted to show adequate concern for the greater good. Shame upon wealthy people for their
stubbornly hard-hearted conduct in insisting on ever-more power and privileges
for themselves, “Even savages do not
foist far-reaching adversities upon members of their own communities,” as
Thomas Paine wrote (paraphrased).
objective assessment of the two primary political parties in the U.S. reveals
that the Republican Party threatens our individual liberties and overall
well-being much more than the Democratic Party. After all, while
Democrats lean toward positive aspects of socialism and policies that would
create greater equality, Republicans push for a bigger piece of the economic pie
to be given to the top 1% of Americans, and they couple this misguided tactic
with austerity measures for the rest of the people, and lean toward domination
of our decision-making by wealthy people and giant corporations and
ideologically conservative Supreme Court Justices.
politicians audaciously exploit people's anxieties and insecurities and fears,
as they egregiously did in the Republican debate between presidential
candidates on December 15, 2015. The debate focused on terrorism and
immigration in the near aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks and the gun
slaughter by two ISIS supporters at a facility for individuals with
developmental disabilities in San Bernardino. The toxic tone of
Republicans politicians has a strong bias toward authoritarian imposition of
control over the populace.
debate also featured glaring propaganda blaming the black guy in the White
House for every woe we face, particularly including the instability and
terrorism stoked in the Middle East by George W. Bush's unnecessary preemptive
war against Iraq. And our overall economic prosperity and broader
economic well-being have been torpedoed at every turn by domination-demanding
"conservatives" in the Senate and the House.
historically been worse for economic growth, worse in driving up the national
debt, and worse for hopes that we will adequately protect natural ecosystems
and the environmental commons in the best interest of untold numbers of human
beings in future generations. History confirms
that Republican presidents are less fiscally responsible than Democratic
ones. Statistics on the national debt show that the debt has consistently
grown faster in the past 50 years when Republicans are in charge. This is
due simply to Republican politicians having more success in giving rich people
tax breaks and promoting higher levels of military spending than in making the
difficult decisions necessary to control spending.
Without so much
fomented fear and prodded prejudice, the Republican propaganda machine would
likely collapse of its own ethical wrongheadedness, and lose power. Conservative politicians have such adamant
compulsions to gain more power that they encourage evangelical religious
fundamentalism, and in the process they give counter-supporting energy that
strengthens Islamic extremism, which it avowedly hates. This internecine
spiral could be countered through wise seeing and honorable action and giving
support to moderating voices. One of
the worst examples of the Republican compulsion to control We the People is their official rigid platform that tries to keep
women barefoot and pregnant and subservient by making contraceptives and
day-after pills more difficult to obtain, and by trying to outlaw safe
abortions, no matter what the circumstances.
Robert Reich has
created a sensational two-minute whiteboard video presentation concerning the
seven principal unprincipled "principles" that are the favorite ideas
of Paul Ryan, the former "Young Gun" and now Speaker of the House. These
represent the top priorities of the "conservative" Republican
politicians in the U.S. Senate and the House, and of all the candidates who
competed for the Republican nomination for the presidency in the national
elections in November 2016. All these
ideas would have adverse effects on the vast majority of Americans, and they
would be evidently contrary to the common good. These misguided and
misguiding leadership goals are distinctly anti-populist because of their
unstated but crystal clear over-emphasis on priorities that would dramatically
improve the fortunes of the top 1% of Americans while torpedoing the prospects
of working people and middle-class families, and dashing their hopes to
have a fair chance to improve their lots and get a few crumbs from the
bounty of the monopolized American Dream.
Worst of all,
from the overarching perspective of the ecological focus of this Manifesto, is
the fact that the tripartite priorities of maximizing private profits, giving a
bigger proportion of profits to the wealthiest 1%, and shredding the safety net
would have catastrophically consequential negative impacts on the biotic
foundations of Earth’s providential ecosystems and hopes for the sustainability
of usages of finite natural resources.
And by doing the bidding of elite anti-progressive elements in society,
working people are more easily exploited, making them more desperate and less
supportive of environmental protections.
This is not a good thing. Shrewd
foxes have taken over the henhouse, and we must find ways to oust them before
they wreak even more horrible havoc on all the chickens.
related to the on-going alteration of the global climate due to greenhouse gas
emissions, remember the Hippocratic oath that wisely stipulates, "First,
do no harm." The Republican refrain has long been to deny harms are
taking place and to rationalize the maximizing of profits for Big Oil and Big
Coal at the exceedingly high cost of wreaking serious damages on the ecological
underpinnings of the long term well-being of humanity and the providential
health of the web of life upon which all biotic well-being depends.
When we honestly
consider the legacy we are leaving to posterity, we should remember the words
of Thomas Paine in Common Sense: “… As we are running the next generation
into debt, we ought to do the work of it, otherwise we use them meanly and
pitifully. In order to discover the
line of our duty rightly, we should take our children in our hand, and fix our station
a few years farther into life; that
eminence will present a prospect, which a few present fears and prejudices
conceal from our sight.”
Note that I
myself, Dr. Tiffany B. Twain, am not induced by motives of pride, party or
resentment in espousing doctrines of greater fairness in our society. I am clearly, conscientiously and positively
persuaded that the true interests of our nation and the world are to be found
in once again embracing the fair-minded principles of our Founders; “… Every thing short of that is mere
patchwork”, so it would afford us “no lasting felicity”. As Thomas Paine noted in an Appendix to Common Sense: “Had the spirit of prophecy directed the birth of this
production, it could not have brought it forth at a more seasonable juncture,
or at a more necessary time.”
matter. Good ideas are good. Bad ideas and failed or inauspicious
prescriptions are not good, and neither are half-truths, cultivated doubt,
closed-mindedness of conviction, demonstrable falsehoods, tortuously
gerrymandered thinking, coldly calculated corruption in politics, or obstinate
clinging to wrongheaded priorities.
Let’s honestly debate ideas, and come together over the best ones. And then, let’s act accordingly!
young French nobleman and historian named Alexis de Tocqueville visited America
for six months in the early 1830s. In
light of his experiences and observations, he wrote a poignant portrait about
our country titled Democracy in America. He was frankly skeptical that we could make
democratic governance work in the long run.
But we have made it admirably far, and I am optimistic that soon we will
begin taking smarter corrective steps to fix the dysfunctionally inept and
divisive political status quo, and begin to positively remedy the serious
financial, social and ecological shortcomings of our current system.
conclusion, I repeat the excellent piece of guidance by Giacinto Dragonetti
that Thomas Paine so admired.
Our political representatives should “fix the true point of happiness
and freedom” by seeking to create “the greatest sum of individual happiness,
with the least national expense."
LET’S TRY IT! Let’s generously
and reasonably enlarge our views beyond the present, and work together to usher
in a golden era of greater good.
Dr. Tiffany B. Twain
Doctor of Philosophy and illegitimate great-granddaughter of Mark Twain
October 1, 2016