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                                      Introduction to Common Sense Revival

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 Sustainable Living

   4.   A Proposed Bill of Rights for Future Generations     

   5.   Uncommon Sense and Fair-Mindedness                   

   6.   A Clear-Eyed Patriot Issues a Clarion Call for a Second American Revolution        

   7.   Intelligent Precautionary Principles Enunciated – Holy Cow!     

   8.   One Dozen Big Initiatives to Positively Transform Our Societies                         

   9.   Happy Harbingers in Good Ideas for a Better Future

Here is the current Introduction to this book

        Introduction to Common Sense Revival

In the 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.

An 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 future. 

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 reasonable measures.

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. 

In a 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 …”.

Let’s 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. 

Buddha advised 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.

Creative 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 capital.

Let 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. 

The great 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.”

Manifesto Rudely Interrupted

Improved 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.

The 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 diverse.  

Inequalities 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

Civilizing 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 understanding. 

One realizes, 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.

I 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.

This ancient 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 abroad.

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 Systems

It is 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. 

Since 1981, 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!

Revelations

Many 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. 

When 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.

We 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.

Introductory Vision

With 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. 

Thomas 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.”

This 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.

Big Picture 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.

This 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.

Visualize 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. 

One specific 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 Sense

Executive Summary

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.

Humankind’s 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.

A 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 notion! 

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.

So let 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.

H.G. 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. 

Powerful 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 approaches.

Much 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 kind.

Mysterious 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.

Mission Blue

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 a transcendent 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 a tomorrow!) 

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 human activities.

Initium est dimidium facti, said the Romans, back when they spoke Latin:  “The start is half the deed.”

Big picture 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 death while

     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!

Interestingly, 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!)

Another core 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.

One 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 in 1951):

“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.

A Call for More Sensible National Priorities

Many 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. 

These 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.

Even 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 themselves.

It 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":

"Center 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 achievable politically."

Counterproductively, “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 goals.

Our 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.

“We 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 division.”

It is 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

 Whether ‘tis Nobler in the mind to suffer

  The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,

   Or to take Arms against a Sea of trouble,

    And, by opposing, end them …

       Ay, there’s the rub!

                                   --- Soliloquy in Hamlet, William Shakespeare

‘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.

The American 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 decision-making. 

Particularly 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 living.

Misinformation, 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

Creation 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.”

One 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. 

The 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.

I 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.”

Atavistic 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.

Since 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). 

A new 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 the world.

While 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! 

All 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 conservatives!

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. 

Burning fossil 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.”

Implementing 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 fuels. 

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 required.

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. 

The 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.

Sing 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 motivating manner.

It is 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 generous privilege.

Tax 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.

There 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,

    but we 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.

How 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 propose! 

A Necessary Gauntlet Is Thrown Down, and So Be It!

D.J. 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.

These 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!

Any 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.

Senator 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 University”.

I 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.

The 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.

I 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 and worldviews.

Hillary 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.

An Aside on Purpose

I have 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. 

Here 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.

An 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 respect.

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 perspectives.

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.

Taking 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 uncompromising.

Fair-Minded Communications

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.

Greater 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 tomorrow.

“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

In Thomas 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 intellectuals, too.

“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).

A relatively 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.

Partisan 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. 

The Republican 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.

Republicans have 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. 

On issues 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.”

Ideas 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!

A 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.

In 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.

    Truly,  Dr. Tiffany B. Twain

      Doctor of Philosophy and illegitimate great-granddaughter of Mark Twain

        October 1, 2016