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                              Important Principles Illuminated

                                                                                                           Earth Manifesto Insights

                                                                                                              Dr. Tiffany B. Twain  

                                                                                                             October 2005

Survival of our species is the ultimate human moral good.  It is consequently immoral to leave a legacy to future generations of circumstances that are demonstrably detrimental to the well-being of our descendents.  We should not create policies that pollute our environs, deplete resources, bankrupt institutions, degrade lands, diminish waterways, and exacerbate urban problems.  Likewise, it is wrongful and unjust to leave our heirs with heightened social stresses and international conflicts.  We must not allow our profit-obsessed and short-term-oriented economic system to enrich giant corporations at the expense of the environment and the public's health. It is the protection of environmental commons, after all, that is vital to the health, prosperity, ecological sustainability and safety of society --- NOT the rampant exploitation and degradation of the Earth's resources and biodiversity.

Socialism and communism collapsed because they instituted centrally planned economies that did not allow prices to reflect economic truths.  Capitalism will eventually collapse unless it allows prices to reflect ecological truths.  No business can long survive by continually squandering its capital assets.  Likewise, human societies cannot continue to effectively consume and exploit their seed capital --- natural resources, non-renewable minerals, and workers --- without risking dangerous social unrest, political instability, and economic collapse.  Inevitably, we must either choose to redesign our economic systems to be sustainable, or we will be forced to do so by deteriorating conditions that will make such common sense changes necessary.

A reasonable and positive way to intelligently redesign our economy to be sustainable and fairer is to embrace green taxes.  We should choose a wise strategy of shifting taxes from good things like employment, payroll, and savings, to bad things like pollution, waste, and weapons production.  This shift would have many dramatic collateral benefits, including the following:  conservation and efficiency would be encouraged;  technological innovation would be stimulated;  human health would be better protected;  the quality of the environment would be improved;  and the world would be made more secure.

Creating green incentives and disincentives that more accurately reflect full product pricing and fairer public policies would be greatly helpful in transforming our societies into more wholesome ones.  Simultaneously, we should implement free-market fiscal policies that eliminate corporate welfare in the forms of senseless subsidies, unwise tax exemptions, and absurd loopholes that are socially costly and environmentally damaging.

Ambrose Bierce defined politics as "a strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles."  Today's political strife is, on the surface, a titanic struggle for the hearts and minds of men and women.  On a deeper level, it is a profound struggle, in essence, between two opposing forces:  one that seeks to give ever-greater wealth and influence to those with power and privilege, and the other that advocates wise, fair, far-sighted planning to help protect the public, safeguard its assets, maintain critical infrastructure, circumvent crises, guarantee civil liberties, prevent ecological catastrophes, and limit the corruption and abuses of power that are inherent in crony capitalism and in a government elected under a system that basically constitutes a form of institutionalized bribery.

There is hope, and great potential for positive change and salubrious progress in human affairs.  But we cannot be complacent and let those in power drive us in the wrong directions.  There are daunting challenges facing us, and we must reform the ominously negative aspects of the business-as-usual Status Quo, and transform our economies and societies in ways that are more fair and more far-sighted.  We must stop figuratively "fiddling while Rome burns."

The time has come to demand more moderate, reasonable, independent, and visionary leadership.  We must achieve fairer representation of all American citizens, including the young who will inherit the legacies of our shortsightedness.  Conservative forces have come to dominate our governments and religious institutions in recent years.  They have been remarkably successful in dominating American society and implementing anti-progressive social and environmental policies.

The social consequences of political "conservatism" are becoming ever more clearly detrimental to American society.  This has been revealed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the South, where the misplaced priorities of the federal government have shown that extreme disparities of wealth and poverty are having distinctly adverse effects on our country.  We cannot continue to allow enormous tax breaks for the rich, nor the elimination of the Estate Tax that shifts the tax burden from the super rich to everyone else.  And we must stop our hyper-spending on wars abroad, and our fiscally unsustainable deficit spending, and our unwise neglect of critical infrastructure spending in favor of absurd pork barrel projects.

We cannot continue to allow the wealthy, the fortunate and the privileged to harshly defend and expand their special privileges at the expense of the underprivileged, the general public, the environment, and the future.  We cannot accept policies that promote unsustainable resource exploitation.  We cannot allow our leaders to create and perpetuate increases in social inequalities and injustices.  And we cannot let the ruling elite create new infringements on privacy and individual freedoms.  We must defend our Constitutional principles and the progressive rules of law that have evolved from them in the past 200 years.

Patriotism is not blind belief in, and obedience to, the politicians in power.  In truth, patriotism is an honest commitment to the principles that this country really represents, which include fairness, freedom, honesty, justice, limited government intrusion, and government that is truly representative of the best interests of its people.  Mark Twain said it simply: "My kind of patriotism and loyalty is loyalty to one's country, and not to one's institutions or officeholders."

Legislation is unfair and regressive when it creates a greater, ever-widening gap between the privileges and fortunes of the Haves and those of the Have-Nots.  It is the death knell of democracy to allow the ever-increasing concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few.  Cultivated distractions like dire warnings of terrorist threats, the exaggeration of public fears, aggressive militarism, and the hyping-up of divisive hot-button social controversies may mask this insidious and anti-democratic trend, but they do not lessen the misguided wrongfulness of it.

We cannot continue to allow giant corporations and their lobbyists to have undue influence in writing legislation that primarily favors businesses at the public expense.  Mark Twain cynically observed that "It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress."  Institutional bribery is at the heart of our electoral system;  this is why serious campaign finance reform is vitally needed to make our democracy fairer.  The corrupting influence of Big Money is at the heart of almost all legislation that is enacted by Congress.  Rather than the health, safety, and best interests of the public, legislation invariably has a primary concern with the profitability of some narrow Vested Interest, like the oil industry and the gun industry and the tobacco industry and the mining industry and the auto industry and the pharmaceutical industry and the chemical industry and the banking industry.

The July 2005 Energy Bill is a classic example of wrong-headed legislation driven by Corporate greed;  it has no provision for better vehicle mileage, because such a common sense requirement is opposed by giant automakers.  The majority of the Energy Bill's subsidies go to giant oil and coal companies, who are making obscenely big profits already.  The impact of this Energy Bill will be to help maintain our indisputably unsustainable addiction to fossil fuels and to dangerous nuclear power.  This dependence is very risky in economic, geopolitical, and ecological terms.

The August 2005 proposal by the Bush Administration to redefine Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards is effectively enshrining shortsightedness in official public policy by exempting such obscene gas guzzlers as Hummers and giant SUV's from more efficient gasoline use.  Instead of boldly embracing innovation and cleaner technologies, we are effectively continuing our foolish obeisance to Big Auto and Big Oil.  We are failing to embrace available technologies that would hasten our achieving greater independence from imported oil, and from our Achilles-heel addiction to profligate oil consumption.  This creates greater risk of more expensive oil wars, financial instability, and dangerous impacts of global climate change.  And our desperate dependence on fossil fuels makes us more vulnerable to shortages, supply disruptions, hostility, terrorism, and the necessity for us to support domineering foreign policies and economic imperialism.

We should not allow politicians to pander so exclusively to such Special Interests.  Nor can we continue to allow them to use the irresponsible expediency of borrowing enormous sums of money from future generations, simply in order to give tax breaks primarily to rich people and to wage very costly wars.

Each and every person is vulnerable to hard times and financial and health adversities.  We should consequently restructure our societies to be more empathetic and supportive of those who fall through the cracks.  We should change our fiscal priorities so that the government is more accountable and less profligate with taxpayers' money.  Spending must be more tightly controlled and less wasteful.  We must prevent the irresponsible growth of bureaucracy, and reduce the ability of Congress to indulge in pork barrel spending or to allow war and reconstruction profiteering.  We should not give generous and unfair prerogatives to corporations;  and we should not allow regressive changes in tax policies such as the elimination of the Inheritance Tax.

What can we do to put the United States back on a fair, sensible, respectable, and noble course?  What initiatives can we implement to create better balance, to encourage moderation, and to set our societies on a more wholesome, peaceful, and sustainable course?

We need to establish more positive social values, build community, and promote education and individual growth.  We should cultivate the ability to think critically and foster creativity and encourage responsibility at all levels.  We should reward moderation and conservation, establish true accountability, balance discipline and independence, seek fair and reasonable consensus rather than partisan discord, reduce violence against women, reverse all forms of discrimination, encourage caring involvement and true compassion, mitigate social anger and frustration, increase opportunity for the underprivileged, find better ways to provide universal healthcare, empower women, strive to eliminate war as an option, and contribute boldly to ecological sustainability.  Let's do it!

I feel strongly that the single most important initiative that can be taken worldwide to improve human societies would be to embrace programs to educate and empower girls and women.  Much poverty, inequity, and suffering is caused by discrimination against the female sex and the stratification of gender roles.  A very good way to move towards greater equality in societies would be to institute international school lunch programs such as those advocated by George McGovern and Bob Dole.  Such programs, generously financed by the United States and developed countries, would reduce hunger and poverty, encourage school attendance, and create great goodwill for America and Western nations.  Since girls represent two-thirds of the 100 million children who do not attend school, this program would be a beneficial long-term strategy to educate and empower women and provide families with better opportunities.  This in turn would make a great contribution towards fairness, social empathy, gender equality, cooperation, wisdom, communication, and reproductive responsibility.

                                                                                               --- Dr. Tiffany Twain