Everything You Know Is Wrong

expertsagree_croppedOr more precisely, most people have been misled about economics, politics, and human nature. The truth is:

  • The greed and violence all around us are not in our genes, but in our culture, which we can change.
  • The USA is not “the land of the free.” We have more people locked up than any other nation, and punishing people does not heal them.
  • Most Muslims, atheists, Hispanics, gays, socialists, etc., are nice people, who do not want to hurt you, rob you, or force you to do anything. You should get to know a few of them.
  • Capitalism and competition are not good, efficient, or necessary. Just the opposite, in fact. Any trade between buyer and seller has “externalities,” unmeasured side effects paid for by everyone else. These are enormous. No corporation today would be profitable if it had to pay for its externalities.
  • If you have food and a roof, more property will not make you happier. More friends will, but property separates us: If you’re my rival, I can’t afford to care about you. We’ll only be safe in a culture of sharing and caring that leaves no one behind.
  • The so-called “Defense” Department is a lie. Our wars are mass murders to make the rich richer.
  • Corporate government and corporate news media lie to us all the time. Yet we honor our rulers, like some national Stockholm Syndrome.
  • The USA is not a democracy. It has been a plutocracy thinly disguised as a democracy ever since its “founding” in land theft, genocide, and slavery. In 2014 Gilens and Page proved statistically that, despite elections, the rich get the laws they want and the rest of us don’t. Money is influence, and so the only way to avoid rule by the wealthy class is to not have a wealthy class; that requires a different economic system.
  • Representative democracy is not an ideal form of government. It’s a hierarchy, concentrating power in the hands of a few, and power corrupts. Most so-called “representatives” end up representing only their own interests; they lie and steal to stay in power. What we really need is anarchism (see below).
  • Anarchism does not mean chaos, disorder, and destruction, though that is what the corporate news media tries to tell you. “An”+”archism” actually means “no” + “rulers.” It means replacing coercive authoritarian hierarchy with cooperative horizontal networking — i.e., replacing bullying with friendships. Of course, that will require a big change in culture. It cannot be imposed by force; like peace, it can only be achieved through consensus and understanding.
  • Global warming, one of the externalities of trade, is coming bigger and faster than most people understand, as we pass tipping points and as feedback causes exponential growth. Exxon and its congressmen have known and lied for profit for half a century. The flooded cities by century’s end are only a dramatic distraction; you should worry instead about famines causing the collapse of civilization by next decade’s end. I expect young people’s climate movements, such as SchoolStrike and Sunrise, will grow rapidly, as they come to realize that climate apocalypse is foreclosing their entire future. I just hope they won’t take long to realize that ending capitalism is a necessary step toward saving the climate.
  • Capitalism can’t last much longer. Perhaps the simplest reason is automation, which is unprecedented. Faster than most people realize, jobs are being taken by robots. That means leisure if we share their benefits, or layoffs if we don’t; presently we’re following the latter option. In the short run, most of us will starve. In the long run, though, too few people will have money in their pockets with which to buy the goods produced by the robots; thus the warehouses will be overstocked and the retail shops will be deserted. The question is whether we will end capitalism before it ends us.
  • History is not repeating. For instance, if Trump is indeed another Hitler, then he is a second Hitler, and so he is arising in a world where people already know what it is like to have a Hitler. (Or have people already forgotten what the first Hitler was like? Perhaps George Santayana, was right: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”)
  • Marx and Lenin predicted some of what is happening (for instance, the financialization of the economy), but they could not have predicted everything. I do not believe they foresaw the consequences of Edward Bernays, Joseph McCarthy, the anomalous “golden age of capitalism” (1950-1970), total automation, the internet, mobile smartphones, and 3-d printers. If we have any future at all, it is not going to be like the past. Join the discussion.

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firesignthe_everything2019 May 26, version 1.08. Original version 2012. The leaflet (version 1.07) fits two sides of a half page. The title is taken from the 1974 comedy album by Firesign Theatre.

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