Two Recent Compelling Books on Our Troubles–with Solutions


I have recently discovered two excellent books about the depths of trouble our nation has gotten into.  Both are concise, VERY blunt (and informed) about our social dysfunction as a result of our economic system (especially over the past 45 years), and yet still hopeful about the possibilities of change:

1) What Then Must We Do? Straight Talk about the Next American Revolution, by Gar Alperovitz (April, 2013).  I have just finished this book by this well known political economist, and in addition to documenting our nation’s social troubles, he offers a really detailed agenda(s) for a progressive transition from a wealth-dominated economic system to a form of economic democracy, community by community, or region by region, with the increasing chances of a national revolution (peaceful) in our mode of operating.

2) America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy, by James Gustave Speth (2012), environmentalist, professor of law, and long time player in the fields of ecology and international development.  I am only about a fourth of the way through this book, so my review of necessity is less well grounded than that of the Alperovitz work at this point.  He, as with the latter, graphically portrays our social/economic sickness, but he also adds a great deal of information about the ecological dangers we are getting into, nationally and globally.  Like Mr. Alperovitz, he offers a series of prescriptions for economic and political change, and he provides some solutions that are immediately feasible, and some that will require a much more radical transformation, when circumstances allow – and demand – it.

I heartily recommend these concise (under 200 pages) books, which are both challenging to any complacency AND optimistic in terms of where we as a nation can be going if we the people want to badly enough!

I am grateful that such well informed and creative observers, activists and writers such as Messrs. Alperovitz and Speth are “in the water” with the rest of us during these challenging, yet hopeful times. 

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Wonderful Book(s) on Alternative Currencies!


I have just started reading an excellent book on Alternative Currencies which is understandable, comprehensive and compelling.  Its message is that we must develop local and/or regional currencies to supplement our U.S. national currency if we are to truly meet the unprecedented challenges of social justice, income inequities and ecological sustainability.  Our present monetary system continues to aggravate social wellbeing and ecological damage in its very functioning (not its intent); it operates on outdated principles which no longer serve human or ecological needs.

The book is New Money for a New World, by Bernard Lietaer and Stephen Belgin (2012).  The authors write clearly and concisely about this often complex topic.  They are blunt and direct in describing the need to get beyond the present limitations of our national money system.  This book is a joy to read, also, because of the lucid writing style.

Here are some other recent related titles:

Occupy Money: Creating an Economy Where Everybody Wins, by Margrit Kennedy – this 2012 book is a concise (93 small pages), readable introduction to the same topic.

Rethinking Money: How New Currencies Turn Scarcity into Prosperity, by Bernard Lietaer and Jacqui Dunne, 2013

People Money:  The promise of regional currencies, by Margrit Kennedy, Bernard Lietaer and John Rogers, 2012

Creating Wealth: Growing Local Economies with Local Currencies, by Gwendolyn Hallsmith and Bernard Lietaer, 2011

 

Posted in Complementary Currencies, Economic Systems | Tagged , | 3 Comments

The Election of November 6, 2012


Like many others in our Economic Reform Advocacy Group, we have felt the tension between: 1) Our long term goal of advocating effectively for major economic-political system reforms in support of national and global social justice and ecological sustainability; and: 2) The short term goal of electing a President and Congress sympathetic to the same reforms.

Most of us recognized that at this time, neither party has pursued our long term reform objectives with consummate zeal.  However, we believed that President Obama and the Democrats in Congress offer far more of a chance for seriously pursuing these goals than Mitt Romney (or any other of the Republican candidates) and the Republicans in Congress, most of whom blindly follow short term business interests, even to the point of denying climate change as a factor in regulating business.  Thus most of us in our group elected to largely suspend our advocacy efforts in the spring of 2012 in favor of getting directly involved in the 2012 campaign.

With the above in mind, we as a group were happy with the President’s win and the gain of Democratic seats in the Senate and the House.  We were also pleased that the immense funding pumped into Super-Pacs by wealthy private and corporate donors did NOT thwart the people’s will in this election!

Now that the election is over, we will get back to our studies and our advocacy efforts, as we have realized that the economic-political reforms needed for social justice and ecological sustainability must not be left in the hands of our elected officials alone – the “powers that be” require the influence of an aroused public which has grown tired of the “status quo” in our country which has become so unjust to many here and around the world and so destructive to our natural environment.

Let us all pray for wisdom and strength to nudge our country in the direction of a holistic way of life.

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Article from the current Newsweek


Regarding the seriousness of the current situation in the USA and Europe, I suggest you read this article (below) from the current Newsweek. It made quite an impression on me, although I was not surprised at what George Soros said.  In fact, I appreciate his candor:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/01/22/george-soros-on-the-coming-u-s-class-war.html

I am appreciative of Newsweek’s efforts to conduct such relevant interviews!

Posted in Capitalism, Economic Democracy, Economics and politics, Reforming/Regulating Capitalism | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Businesses making profits but workers aren’t benefiting


http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/26/business/for-companies-the-good-old-days-are-now.html?_r=4&ref=business

What’s wrong with our cultural ethics here? Higher profits, yet workers aren’t sharing in it. Wages and salaries are at a low point as a fraction of gross domestic product.

We need a political change, since the party of NO won’t agree to higher taxes on dividends, capital gains, or corporations which could pay for a massive jobs program for green energy and infrastructure (which would help the entire economy). What does the party of NO care about high unemployment, anyway, as long as their corporate masters are getting richer? They seem indifferent to human suffering and poverty as well.

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State-Sponsored Capitalism?


A knowledgeable person in our Economics Reform Advocacy Group (ERAG) mentioned a 2010 book, The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War between States and Corporations?, by Ian Bremmer, which suggests a newly emerging model, State-Sponsored Capitalism, such as is practiced in China.

In my view, linking capitalism directly to state political interests is potentially a very dangerous development, in my mind- it reminds me of the kings using commerce to enhance their own power, which led to wars – trade wars and armed wars. How about a “global-centric” economic development model, adapted to each country’s culture – there would theoretically be no intrinsic conflict of ends. That would suggest one of the social democracy models – that of David Schweickart (After Capitalism) or that of Dr. J.W. Smith (who worked from the theories of Henry George, 19th century economist): http://www.ied.info/ .     It would also bring focusing on the environmental health to the top tier of concerns/aims.

Posted in Alternatives to Capitalism, Capitalism, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Madison and the Need for System Change


The current situation in Madison, Wisconsin, and several other states starkly points out the need for system change.  This represents more than a partisan challenge.  Some (not all) of these Republican governors seem to think that attacking the right of public employees to organize will be the solution to their current economic deficits, although that may only be a smokescreen to obscure the bigger problem.  That deeper problem is the increasing flow of wealth to the top relative few in our society (only partly due to their not being taxed as much as they were for decades), the increasing dominance by big business of our political process (including co-opting the energy of the Tea Party movement), the impact of “business needs” on our foreign and domestic policies, and the degradation of our natural environment due in large part to an economic system pressing for ever-increasing consumption and endless growth, much of which has nothing to do with meeting basic human needs here and abroad.

I agree with those governors that starting to balance state (and Federal) budgets is essential – but it is also important to look at increasing revenue by taxing the wealthiest citizens at higher rates, as has been true in earlier decades in our country – instead of just reducing services and negotiating adjusted contracts with state employee unions (and private contractors).  That seems to be a “third rail” in  the Republican Party, which today seems blind to the concept of social and economic justice.  It is good to recall that the first U.S. government effort to “rein in” the excesses of our economic system came from the administration of Republican President Teddy Roosevelt and, I believe, a largely Republican Congress.

The move towards major economic (and political) reform requires input from citizens and from BOTH political parties.   Let BOTH parties move to a focus on national and global justice, instead of being locked into favoring certain interest groups.

Posted in Capitalism, Economics and politics, Faith, Values and Economics, Reforming/Regulating Capitalism, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments