Highest Priority Problems (leaflet)

War is our most shameful problem, and I don’t know why anti-war protests disappeared during Obama’s regime. The USA has been at war almost every year of its history, and nearly all the wars have been based on lies, and have been waged purely for profit, not for defense; the phrase Department of “Defense” is a lie. The crimes have been bipartisan — all our presidents and most of our members of congress have been liars, thieves, and mass murderers. And yet we treat them with respect and honor; it’s a national epidemic of Stockholm Syndrome. How can we end war? I’ll come back to that question.

But war only kills millions of people. Global warming will soon kill billions, through crop failures that have already begun. Global warming is coming much bigger and faster than most people realize. Some scientists are predicting extinction of our species by 2026. If there’s still a chance for us to save ourselves, we know what must be done: Quickly end fossil fuels, deforesting, and factory beef, we must plant more trees and biochar, and so on. And I emphasize “quickly.” That requires swift massive government action. And yet, the world’s governments are doing almost nothing. Why?

Plutocracy means rule by the rich. Some people say we’re in danger of losing our democracy, but those people are out of date. We’ve already been ruled by the rich, perhaps a long time, certainly at least a couple of decades — that’s how far back the data of Gilens and Page goes. Their statistical analysis, published in 2014, makes it clear that the rich get the public policies they want and the rest of us don’t, regardless of any elections or other semblances of democracy. Government and business merge, rather than act as checks and balances on each other. Trump may be making things worse, but mostly he is making more obvious what was already going on.

Some people think we can end plutocracy without changing our economic system, just by passing a few laws or a constitutional amendment. I don’t think so. The rich determine which laws get passed, and how the laws get interpreted, and which ones get enforced, and when. Generally the laws don’t get enforced against the rich — just look at the huge bank robberies of 2008, for instance. Wealth IS influence, regardless of what the Supreme Court does or doesn’t say about it. The only way we’ll avoid rule by the wealthy class is to not have a wealthy class.

And that will require a different economic system. Under our present system, inequality has become enormous. The richest 8 people in the world now have as much wealth as the poorest 3.7 billion people, that is, the bottom half of the world. And even the USA, the richest country in the world, has many, many poor people. That’s not an accident; growing inequality is a built-in feature of capitalism.

Capitalism is our most pressing problem, because it causes war, warming, and plutocracy, as well as many other problems — poverty, sexism, racism, fracking, oil leaks, water poisoning, rigged elections, inadequate healthcare and education, and so on. Those are all just symptoms of capitalism. Unless we address the underlying disease, the symptoms won’t go away, and more symptoms will keep popping up. We don’t know how to end capitalism, so I’m not suggesting that we do it overnight, but at least let’s think and talk about it now.

Among other things, we need to discuss what it means to “end capitalism.” I’m on the radical end – I’m convinced that we need to end private property, and figure out how to share everything, for several reasons:

  • With separate property, I don’t need to care about you, and I can’t afford to care about you, because I’m competing against you. All relationships are monetized, and everyone becomes an object. That leads to fear, hate, othering, and bullying, including sexism and racism.
  • Privately owned workplaces are little tyrannies; that’s why we all hate Mondays. Automation is growing faster than most people realize, and for most of us it means layoffs, not leisure. We’re all in the precariat now, the “gig economy.”
  • And if we don’t share, we trade. Each trade increases inequality, because it is of greater benefit to the trader who was already in the stronger bargaining position. That applies not just to material goods, but also to employment, which trades money for labor, and to debts, which trade money at one time for more money later.
  • Moreover, every trade has externalized costs, harms borne by people other than the negotiators of the trade. These include a poisoned environment and global warming. Market prices are far from true costs; raw materials are priced by extraction, not by replacement or cleanup.

Rising inequality and automation and other problems will soon bring capitalism to an end. But whether that end is a gentle transition, or a horrendous crash killing most of us, will depend on what we say and do before then.

In the meantime, power corrupts, as the Stanford Prison Experiment proved. Bosses bully their employees, police shoot their citizens, soldiers and prison guards torture their captives, and rich people start wars to make themselves richer. Evidently, we should try to replace hierarchies of power with horizontal networking.

Some people aren’t eager for a new way of life, but the old way is dying. Let’s be upbeat about it: This is a great adventure, and we can create the world we all really want, a world of caring and sharing that leaves no one behind.

So, how do we work on this?

We need to start campaigning against capitalism. We shouldn’t stop working on the smaller problems, the symptoms of capitalism, but we should start identifying them as such. For instance, when you advocate for the homeless, explain that their situation is neither their fault nor a random accident, but an inevitable side effect of capitalism.

We need an enormous campaign of education. Leaflets, videos, marches, teach-ins. All the ideas that I’ve just described here need to go viral somehow. I’ve been making leaflets and simple videos, but so far none of them have gone viral. Evidently I need some help with this.


2017 Feb 7, version 3.04. The leaflet is formatted to fit on two sides of one full page (letter size paper).