The Root Problem 10,000 BC (leaflet)
For 200,000 years we were hunter-gatherers, and teamwork was essential for survival. We shared everything of importance, and cooperated without hierarchy. With no private advantage, there was no incentive for corruption; one could only “get ahead” if the whole community got ahead. Genetically that’s still who we are: We’re still capable of sharing without hierarchy.
But 12,000 years ago, when we started farming, we also began separateness, hierarchy, and property, which I’ll discuss. Those have caused essentially all our problems. Have we any chance of fixing things, after all this time? Yes – first, because we’re now more aware of and more articulate about these evils, and secondly, because we must fix things: Nuclear war or ecosystem collapse may soon kill us all.
By “separateness” I mean the delusion that my well being doesn’t depend on yours. But in truth, we are social animals. From cradle to grave, we see our lives in terms of our relationships with others. Even a hermit lives with the memory of his mother – and hermits are rare.
Hierarchies, in our workplaces and our so-called “representative” government, concentrate power. Power corrupts: Authoritarians beat their families, bosses bully workers, guards torture prisoners, police shoot the poor, politicians lie to start wars, and the corporate news repeats the lies. We should replace hierarchy with horizontal networking.
Property is so deeply a part of our culture that we can hardly imagine life without it. We don’t share, so we must trade – for food, rent, labor, everything. But trade increases inequality, because it gives greater profit to the trader who was already in the stronger bargaining position. Inequality in our society has grown enormous, creating poverty and plutocracy. Trade also produces externalities, unmeasured side effects not paid for by the traders; those include war, poverty, and ecocide.
Property separates us from one another. Privately owned workplaces are dictatorships; that’s why we hate Mondays. Competition makes us all commodities to be exploited or discarded. It kills empathy, leaving racists, sexists, and other bullies. Homeless beggars on street corners remind us that no one cares for them, or for us. Every week some loner shoots up a school. But we don’t shoot our friends. Why can’t we all be friends? Let’s create a culture that leaves no one behind.
Having more than you need won’t make you happy or secure, but being part of a caring community will. We can no longer afford the rich, who always want more.
Money IS influence, so the wealthy class rules, and the only way to end that is to not have a wealthy class. That requires an economic system not based on trade and profit. Changing the economic system so fundamentally requires a mass movement – not to persuade our rulers, but to overthrow them.
And that, in turn, requires lots of leaflets like this one. Culture change can’t be forced; the first step is to get more people talking about it.
2018 Oct 23, version 5.01. The leaflet takes two sides of 1/2 page.
Capitalism is killing the planet (leaflet)
Our extinction is closer than most people realize, because they don’t understand feedback loops, tipping points, and the madness driving our rulers.
A feedback loop has consequences that are also causes. The bigger the loop gets, the faster it grows. An example: As polar ice melts, its white surface is replaced by dark soil or water. Less sunlight is reflected into space; more is absorbed by the earth as heat. Thus, still more melting. This and many other feedbacks hasten global warming. They will continue even if civilization collapses; our only hope is to stop the loops before then.
A tipping point has gradual causes and abrupt one-way consequences, like when you lean your chair back too far. There are many ways the climate may change suddenly. Here is one: Frozen under the Arctic is lots of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Warming, a little of the gas has begun burping out. Soon the rest may be released in one great belch, and the subsequent reflected heat will roast us all.
The fifth planetary mass extinction killed the dinosaurs, along with most other life on Earth at that time. Since then, the world’s temperature has oscillated a few times, but never so fast as it’s rising now. Meanwhile, we’re cutting down all the forests, and filling the oceans with plastic and the rivers with oil. Plants and animals, unable to adapt this fast, are dying off; we’re now in the sixth mass extinction. Soon our crops will fail, and the rich will discover they can’t eat money.
Science might still save the ecosystem, but it isn’t being used. The 2016 Paris Climate Agreement covered goals but not methods; nations only agreed what to wish for. Plutocrats block any reform that would reduce their short-term profits. Gilens and Page proved statistically that, regardless of elections, the rich get the public policies they want and the rest of us don’t. Our so-called “democracy” is a sham.
If we don’t share, we trade. That favors the trader in the stronger bargaining position, making him still stronger, increasing inequality, creating plutocracy — that is, rule by a small wealthy class. And power corrupts, as the Stanford Prison Experiment proved.
Externalities are the unmeasured and unpaid for side effects of trade, such as ecocide, poverty, and war. The market’s “efficiency” is a lie.
And on the personal level, separate property makes separate lives, replacing empathy with alienation. Instead of caring for our neighbors, we end up using them or even shooting them.
Inequality, externalities, and alienation can’t be reformed away, because they are not just superficial corruption. They are inherent in the very notion of trade, and can only be ended by sharing. We need not just kinder hearts and smarter regulations, but an entirely different economic system. That, in turn, requires a radically awakened public. The first step is to talk about it.
2018 April 30, version 1.10. The ODT file prints on two sides of a half page.
Capitalism, the Root Problem (leaflet)
For 10,000 years markets have caused bullying, wars, poverty, plutocracy, corruption, and more recently ecosystem collapse, which is killing us all. All of that can be explained in terms of alienation and inequality.
Alienation. Capitalism alienates us from work. Privately owned workplaces are dictatorships. A few of us – nurses, teachers, firefighters – find meaning in our jobs, but most of us take home only a paycheck. That, not laziness, is why we hate Mondays.
Capitalism alienates us from side effects of our actions. For instance, oil’s buyer and seller don’t pay for global warming. Wars, poverty, and ecocide will continue as long as someone profits from them.
Capitalism alienates us from each other. Separate property creates separate lives. Seeing the homeless beggar on the corner reminds us that no one cares. Competition destroys empathy, leaving racists, sexists, and other bullies, some of them killers. We’ll only be safe in a caring, sharing community that leaves no one behind, so no one wants to hurt us.
Inequality. If we don’t share, we trade. But that gives greater profit to the trader in the stronger bargaining position, making him stronger still. Inequality increases, creating poverty and plutocracy, reinforcing hierarchy.
Hierarchy corrupts, as the Stanford Prison Experiment proved. We see that all around us: Authoritarians beat their families, bosses bully workers, police shoot the poor, and presidents lie to start wars. Hierarchy and property feed each other, so they must be ended together, replaced by egalitarianism and sharing.
The first step is to get more people talking about it.
2018 Mar 6, version 5.07. Underlined blue phrases are links to related materials. The leaflet takes two sides of 1/3 page.
Three evils of capitalism
The three most conspicuous consequences of capitalism are poverty, war, and ecocide.
- Poverty could be eliminated if we would only learn to share, as did the early followers of Jesus in the book of Acts.
- War is mass murder based on lies, making politicians rich.
- Ecocide means “killing everything.” It’s accelerating because corporations lobby effectively against any laws that would cut into their short-term profits. Ironically, they’ll have no profits at all after the planet is dead.
Ecocide has become worse in recent years, but all three of these conspicuous evils have tormented us since the invention of property 10,000 years ago. They come to us through three subtler evils: inequality, externalities, and alienation.
- Inequality. If we don’t share, we trade. But that gives greater benefit to the trader who was in the stronger bargaining position, thus making him stronger still. So trade concentrates wealth into few hands. And wealth is power, and the Stanford Prison Experiment proved that power corrupts, making all evils possible.
- Externalities. A trade negotiated between buyer and seller can affect a third party in harmful ways. These externalized costs include poverty, war, and ecocide.
- Alienation. The market makes us all into meaningless commodities to be exploited or discarded. We can’t care about others while competing against them. Thus each of us is alone. That anguish makes all evils possible.
In conclusion: Private property is killing us; we need to figure out how to share. The first step is to get more people talking about it.
2017 Oct 8, version 2.03. Underlined blue words and phrases are links to related materials. The video is 2 minutes long.
A Different Vision
“The world is facing terrible problems, but it’s not too late for us to solve them if we work together.”
That’s what a lot of political activists say. I agree about working together, but I have a very different view of what the problems and solutions are. Most activists identify the problems as
war, ecocide, climate change, unemployment,
poverty, racism, sexism, corruption, fascism, etc.,
but I will explain that those are just symptoms of a deeper disease, the root of all evil, hierarchy and property, two institutions that most activists don’t see as problematical at all.
Some will think that I’m just being intellectual, idealistic, unrealistic, and utopian. In a self-assured tone, they’ll explain
“We need to deal with climate change right now; we can dream later about fantasies like sharing. People can’t imagine that kind of change right now, it’s neither necessary nor possible.”
But I’m going to explain why a really big change is both necessary and possible; people will want it when they understand it better. Until we address hierarchy and property, our efforts on symptoms such as war or climate change will be as unproductive as Sisyphus’s efforts to push his rock up the hill.
And for tactics, most activists will turn to
demonstrations, petitions, fundraising,
elections, and maybe revolution,
as though our task is merely to marshal the forces we already have to support the ideas we already have. But I see all of these tactics as premature: They should be left for later steps. Before we rush into a “movement,” we must think deeply about its goals; otherwise its results will be temporary and superficial, or worse. And if we somehow manage to jail the crooks but we don’t change the culture, it will quickly generate a new batch of crooks.
What is really crucial now is leaflets, discussions, teach-ins, consciousness-raising, getting people to awaken, to understand what is causing all our problems and crushing all our solutions. We may not be able to end hierarchy and property immediately, but we need to immediately begin thinking and talking about it. Talking now about our long-term goals will improve both our long-term and short-term results, and will speed them up.
My vision is simple and yet difficult — simple in that it has few moving parts, but difficult to understand because it is unfamiliar, foreign, altogether alien. It is far outside what most people have been thinking about; it contradicts assumptions that have been deeply embedded in our culture for 10,000 years. How we see the world and our relationships determines what kind of lives we will have. I am calling for a new way of seeing and living – and we really have no choice, for our old way of life is ending. Sapolsky has shown that even baboons can change their culture accidentally; surely we humans can change ours intentionally.
Hierarchy concentrates power, and power corrupts. We see that all around us: Authoritarians beat their wives and children, bosses bully workers, guards torture inmates, police shoot the poor, and the rich start wars to make themselves richer. Our politicians are liars, thieves, and mass murderers, yet we honor them; we are caught up in a global version of Stockholm Syndrome (a psychological bond between hostages and captor).
The Stanford Prison Experiment proved that power corrupts: Student volunteers were tested for normalcy, then divided randomly into guards and inmates for a two week mock prison. Before that time was half up, the experiment was halted, because the guards began abusing the inmates.
The alternative to hierarchy is horizontal networking, otherwise known as anarchy, which means “no rulers.” The corporate news media, owned by our ruling class, claims that anarchy is chaos, like a boat with no one steering, but they are lying: Society is not a boat. The most visible example of horizontal networking is the internet, which is leaderless. In particular, Facebook is mostly leaderless, though it has over a billion participants. We have few historical examples of anarchism as “government” because it is usually stamped out by nearby authoritarians. For instance, in 1939 Franco’s fascists crushed the anarcho-socialist democracy of Catalonia.
What is our true nature? Perhaps it is revealed when disaster wipes away our everyday routines. Hollywood shows people fighting each other for a scrap of food, but that’s rare in real life. Rebecca Solnit’s book “A Paradise Built in Hell” studied the aftermaths of several great disasters – the 1906 earthquake and fires in San Francisco, the attacks of September 11 2001, and so on. In each case people came together to help one another in any way they could. Despite the pains of the disaster, survivors later had fond memories of community. We can create that community without that disaster.
Property looks complicated because our culture has lied about it in many different ways. Economics is the comparison of different methods of being selfish. But they’ve all been disastrous.
Capitalists try to take credit for scientific innovation, but that’s a lie. Scientific research would work a lot better if it were more cooperative and less competitive. In fact, nearly all of our technological gadgets have originated in university and military laboratories where the scientists are paid in a fashion much more like socialism than like business.
Keynes derided capitalism as “the astonishing belief that the nastiest motives of the nastiest men somehow work to create the best of all possible worlds.” Advocates of the market claim that it promotes the industrious and punishes the lazy. But the truth is that the market rewards the few who control it and screws everyone else. Advocates of the market claim that we can all be good little businessmen, honest and respectful to each other while pursuing our own separate interests and separate lives. But the truth is that the market replaces honesty and respect with theft and abuse, because that’s where the incentives are.
Even in a voluntary trade, where both traders benefit, the one who was already in a stronger bargaining position benefits more, becoming stronger still. Thus inequality increases, and wealth is concentrated into fewer hands. And wealth is power and influence, so the market creates plutocracy, which means rule by the rich. And power corrupts, as I discussed earlier. The only way to end rule by the wealthy class is to not have a wealthy class, and that requires an economic system different from our present one.
We’ve been told that markets are efficient, but that’s a lie. Market prices are far from true costs. The market pays only for extraction, not for replacement or cleanup. Market transactions externalize some costs – that is, harmful side effects are inflicted on some third party who was never consulted in the trade negotiations. Conventional economics textbooks gloss over these externalities as though they were minor, but in fact they are enormous; they include war, poverty, and ecocide.
Some people blame modern technology, but technology can be used for good or ill. It’s largely ill, in a society of selfishness and externalities. Oil spills poison our water, and fracking causes earthquakes. Over time, exploitation becomes more efficient; for instance, slumlords now have computers.
To maintain short-term profits, fossil fuel companies have lied for decades about global warming. It’s now accelerating faster than most people realize; we’re about to go over a climate cliff. The rich will discover too late that they can’t eat money and that there are no profits on a dead planet.
We’ve been told that humans are greedy, motivated only by selfishness. And that’s probably true of a few humans who don’t understand themselves very well. But sociologists have found that, once your basic material needs are met, more material goods will not increase your happiness. In fact, more material goods will separate you from other people and thereby decrease your happiness.
A few of us – teachers, nurses, firefighters – have jobs that feel meaningful. But most of us in a capitalist economy get nothing from our jobs but a paycheck, if we’re lucky enough to have a job at all. That lack of meaning, and not laziness, is why we hate Mondays. Privately owned workplaces are little dictatorships.
But the present system can’t last much longer: Robots are displacing humans faster and faster. It’s not yet clear what economic system will replace the present one. The transition will be painful if we don’t plan for it in advance.
In the meantime, one person’s loss is another person’s gain, and we can’t care about each other while competing against each other. In the market, we’re all commodities to be exploited or discarded. And that callousness spills out of the market into the rest of our lives. The market kills empathy, making possible racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, etc. Look at the many homeless in our streets; clearly we are not acting as our brother’s keeper. Someday soon this indifference may catch up with the rest of us: Some suicidal madman may build a germ warfare lab in his basement and kill us all.
Property and hierarchy feed and perpetuate each other. Business and government merge; there is a revolving door between them; they are not “checks and balances” on each other. The rich buy influence over government, while legislators pass laws to assist their own investments.
Conclusion. The only thing that can make us safe is a culture of caring and sharing that leaves no one behind, so no one wants to hurt us. We can be friends instead of rivals. To change our culture, we must see things in a new way — we must see more clearly what is happening all around us. We must spread the best ideas we can find.
2017 Dec 31, version 2.05. The 11 minute video is based on a slightly earlier version of this essay.
Why the World is Crazy (leaflet)
For thousands of years, religions have told us “love your neighbor,” and most of us have tried that. Nevertheless war, poverty, and other cruelties continue, recently magnified by modern technology. Soon we may all die by nuclear war, runaway warming, or a plague released by some suicidal scientist.
The unkindness all around us is not in our nature. It is in our culture, which we can change. Our efforts for a better world are subverted by hierarchy and property, institutions that we mistakenly accept as normal.
Hierarchy — including so-called “representative democracy” — concentrates power. Power corrupts, as the Stanford Prison Experiment proved. We see it at every level: Authoritarians beat their children, men abuse women, bosses bully workers, guards torture inmates, whites lynch colors, and police shoot the unarmed. The rich and powerful start wars to make themselves richer, and lie to cover it up – yet we honor them with statues; we suffer from a national Stockholm syndrome. The solution is to replace hierarchical coercion with horizontal networking, throughout all our activities.
Property, too, concentrates power. Trade increases inequality, which is now enormous; Gilens and Page proved we are ruled by the rich. Corporations don’t pay for externalities, unmeasured side effects of trade, including war, poverty, and the collapse of the ecosystem, which is coming bigger and faster than most people understand. Our jobs lack meaning; that’s why we hate Mondays. We can’t care about others while competing against them. Lonely selfishness is not superficial corruption that can be reformed away; rather, it is the basis of our economic system and our whole way of life.
But we’re all alike inside, so look within to see the better world that is possible. We’ll be made safe by a culture of caring and sharing that leaves no one behind, so no one wants to hurt us. The first step is to get more people talking about it.
2017 July 26, version 3.01. Underlined blue words and phrases are links to related materials. The leaflet fits on two sides of 1/3 page. The video version is 3 minutes long.
End Plutocracy (leaflet)
is 4 minutes long. The leaflet
fits on two sides of ½ page.
Part a: Plutocracy is now.
Some people fear we may soon lose our democracy. But they’re out of date. We’ve already had plutocracy, rule by the rich, for decades or longer. There’s now proof of that:
In a 2014 research paper, university professors Gilens and Page put aside methods such as elections and lobbying. In decades of data, they statistically compared the preferences people have expressed in polls with the outcomes, the public policies that actually get signed into law. They found that the rich end up with the policies they want, and the rest of us don’t.
Business and government have merged, rather than act as checks and balances on each other. And the plutocrats use their power to perpetuate their control.
Part b: The plutocrats are monsters.
Corporations have often paid starvation wages, and beaten or killed union organizers. For decades, the cigarette companies and fossil fuel companies knew what harm their products were doing, and lied about it.
And the USA has been at war nearly every year of its history, killing innocent people for lies and profit, not for defense. And when the truth later comes out, there are no prosecutions. The wars, bank bailouts, and other crimes of government have bipartisan support, so most of our politicians are con men, bank robbers, and mass murderers. And yet we treat them with respect, like some national Stockholm Syndrome.
Power corrupts. That was finally proved in 1971 by the Stanford Prison Experiment. Student volunteers were tested for normalcy, then divided randomly into guards and inmates for a two-week mock prison. Within six days the guards were abusing the inmates so severely that the experiment was halted. Outside of experiments, in real life, we see power corrupting at every level. Bosses bully their workers, guards torture their captives, police shoot the poor, and the rich start wars to make themselves richer.
Evidently we should restructure our society, replacing hierarchies of power with horizontal networking.
What can we do about this? Reformists believe laws could separate legislators from lobbyists, clean up elections, and so on.
But I have my doubts about that. After all, it’s the plutocrats who determine which bills become laws, and which laws get enforced. The plutocrats are not likely to vote themselves out of power. Money IS influence, regardless of what the Supreme Court does or doesn’t say about that. The only way to end rule by the wealthy class is to not have a wealthy class.
But that’s the opposite of where we are now. Today’s divide between haves and have-nots is enormous: The richest six people in the world now have as much wealth as the poorest 3.7 billion people. An imbalance that big didn’t just “happen.” It’s been growing for a long time. Growing inequality must be a basic feature in our way of life. Evidently trade favors the trader in the stronger bargaining position.
How should we change our economic system? Let’s get more people talking about that.
2017 Dec 22 version 8.11. Jump to: Part a: Plutocracy is now ● Part b: The plutocrats are monsters ● Part c: Remedies This page can also be accessed as http://EndPlutocracy.org.
Plutocracy and Separateness
is 9½ minutes long. An abridged version of the text is formatted for a leaflet
that fits on two sides of ⅓ page.
First of all, this is not about Trump. This is bigger than Trump. In fact, this is huge.
Part a: Systemic problems.
Racism, sexism, homelessness, oil spills, climate change, war, etc. Reformists generally work on just one of those problems by itself, as though it could be cleaned up without changing everything else in our lives. But if you treat the symptoms without addressing the underlying disease, the symptoms will keep coming back, and new symptoms will appear, too.
What is the underlying disease? I’d say it’s our culture of separateness, but that’s hard to explain. I’ll come back to that later.
A better place to start is plutocracy, rule by the rich. That’s a good approximation, and easier to explain.
Mostly, I’m recommending the same old tactics — marches, leaflets, viral videos, and so on. But when you go to a rally — for healthcare, Standing Rock, or whatever — carry a sign saying how that problem is caused by plutocracy. And this new campaign requires more educational efforts such as teach-ins.
Setting a good example is not enough. Brainwashed people may not learn even from their own experience, unless we explain what’s going on.
This educational campaign will broaden our view of all the issues. For instance, homelessness can be ended by a guaranteed basic income, but then anyone could quit a job he hates. That would change the balance of power in every workplace, in ways the owners won’t like.
Part b: Plutocracy is now.
Some people fear we may soon lose our democracy. But they’re out of date. We’ve already been ruled by the rich for decades or longer. There’s now proof of that:
In 2014, Gilens and Page, of Princeton and Northwestern, published “Testing Theories of American Politics.” Here is their idea:
This country decides public policy by elections, petitions, lobbying, bribes, assassinations, etc. But those are hard to measure. Let’s put those aside, and just look at which public policies actually get signed into law. Statistically compare those outcomes with the preferences people express in polls.
And here is what Gilens and Page found in decades of data: The rich end up with the policies they want and the rest of us don’t, regardless of elections or other trappings of democracy.
Part c: The plutocrats are monsters.
Corporations have often paid starvation wages, and beaten or killed union organizers. The cigarette companies knowingly poison millions of people, and lied about it for decades. Exxon has known for decades that its product is wrecking the climate, and that will kill billions.
And the USA has been at war nearly every year of its history, killing innocent people for lies and profit, not for defense. And as the truth gradually comes out, there are no prosecutions. The wars, the bank bailouts, all the crimes of government have bipartisan support, so most of our politicians are con men, bank robbers, and mass murderers. And yet we treat them with respect, like some national Stockholm Syndrome.
What can we do about this?
Reformists believe laws could separate legislators from lobbyists, clean up elections, and so on. I have my doubts about that.
After all, it’s the plutocrats who determine which laws get passed and which of those get enforced. They are not likely to vote themselves out of power.
Money IS influence, regardless of what the Supreme Court does or doesn’t say about that. The only way to end rule by the wealthy class is to not have a wealthy class. But that requires big changes in our economic system.
Part d: Radical economics.
Economic inequality in the world today is enormous. The richest six people now have as much wealth as the poorest 3.7 billion people.
An imbalance this big didn’t just “happen.” We need to change something really basic in our standard operating procedures.
I think I’ve figured out what it is. You can see it in the board game “Monopoly,” which always ends with all the players but one totally impoverished. It doesn’t depend on cheating, though certainly that would speed things up. It just depends on private property, as I’ll explain.
And I’m not saying give away all your property tomorrow. Most of us, including me, don’t know how to live without private property. We need to figure that out together, and I’m now going to explain why.
If we don’t share, we trade — for food, labor, rent, whatever. That looks harmless, because it’s voluntary; we trade only when it helps us both. But it doesn’t help us both equally.
Suppose I’m wealthier than you. I have lots of options. I could find someone else to trade with. I could trade some other day. Whereas you — you’re poor, you’re desperate, your child is sick, your rent is due, you need this trade right now.
Evidently I’m in the stronger bargaining position; I can set the terms of the trade. Probably I’ll set them to help me as much as possible, though that may help you very little. And that’s how inequality grows.
Another drawback of trade is externalized cost. That’s the side effect on someone other than the traders. It includes war and ecocide.
Part e: The psychology of separateness.
The problem is not just in our rulers, but in our culture, in all of us. You keep your stuff in your house, I keep my stuff in my house, and that’s the so-called “American dream.” But that separates us, so I don’t need to care about you. In fact, I can’t afford to care about you, because the system makes me compete against you. Your loss may be my gain. It’s an unfriendly culture.
Baboon culture generally is unfriendly too. Primatologist Robert Sapolsky has a Youtube that begins with a big baboon hitting another baboon, who swats a smaller one, and so on. Each baboon except the last gets to feel a little control over his life.
Maybe that desire for control is why, in our own society, there is so much bullying — sexism, racism, nationalism, and just random shootings.
Power corrupts. That was finally proved in 1971 by Zimbardo’s Prison Experiment. Student volunteers were tested for normalcy, then divided randomly into guards and inmates for a two-week mock prison. Within six days the guards were abusing the inmates so severely that the experiment was halted.
Outside of experiments, in real life, we see power corrupting at every level. Bosses bully their workers, guards torture their captives, police shoot the poor, and the rich start wars to make themselves richer.
I don’t think all this cruelty is inherent in human nature. It’s just our current culture.
Later in Sapolsky’s baboon video, he talks about one group of baboons that accidentally changed to a culture of friendship, of not hitting. If baboons can change their culture accidentally, then we humans can change ours intentionally.
It would help if people learned a bit more about psychology. They’d be less inclined toward hierarchy if they knew about Zimbardo’s and Sapolsky’s work. They’d obey, conform, or punish less readily if they knew about Milgram‘s obedience experiment, Asch‘s conformity experiment, and Johnson‘s punishment experiment. And they wouldn’t focus so much on money if they heard Pink and Kohn on extrinsic motivation.
And separateness makes technology dangerous. Soon some suicidal madman may build his own germ warfare lab and kill us all.
We’ll only be safe in a world where no one wants to hurt us. Let’s make a culture of caring and sharing that leaves no one behind.
2017 Dec 22 version 6.41. Jump to: Part a: Systemic problems ● Part b: Plutocracy is now ● Part c: The plutocrats are monsters ● Part d: Radical economics ● Part e: The psychology of separateness
SHARING or EXTINCTION (leaflet)
We’re facing many threats, but ecosystem collapse is the one that’s certain if we don’t change our ways. We’re already in runaway warming, with floods, droughts, and super-storms. Watch for famines, plagues, and more refugees. Exxon and Koch spread disinformation, and people don’t understand feedback loops and exponential growth — I’ve written more about those elsewhere. Continuing this path will make us Road Warrior within one decade, and extinct altogether in two.
The good news is, we may still have a chance, if we quickly make drastic changes. Phase out fossil fuels, plastics, over-fishing – and beef, a big source of methane. We need more trees, biochar, solar, wind, recyclables, and biodegradables. Invest heavily in sustainability research. It’s worth a try.
The bad news is, plutocrats are blocking those changes, to protect their investments. The 2014 research of Gilens and Page showed our democracy is a sham – really it’s plutocracy, rule by the rich.
Plutocrats do whatever makes them richer; they see ecocidal side effects as someone else’s problem. They even lie to start wars for profit. That’s because power corrupts, as the Stanford Prison Experiment proved. Power comes from both property and hierarchy, which are not really separate: Big business and hierarchical government merge, rather than keeping a check on each other as claimed.
After 10,000 years of property, we hardly notice its drawbacks. For instance, it necessitates trade. That looks harmless, and helps both traders. But it’s more helpful to the trader in the stronger bargaining position, thus making him stronger still, increasing inequality, ultimately creating poverty and plutocracy.
Moreover, property separates us, making us defensive selfish bullies, competing, not caring. Privately owned workplaces are little tyrannies, so we all hate Mondays. And technology keeps improving; soon every madman will have his own germ warfare lab.
But – good news, finally – we CAN end plutocracy. Some people claim that we can’t, that humans are basically greedy and authoritarian, but that’s just our current culture. You can see our true nature in any kindergarten: children learning “share and don’t hit.” For adults that requires an enormous awakening, but perhaps one will be triggered by the threat of extinction.
We need a culture of caring, sharing, and non-hierarchical networking that leaves no one behind, so that no one wants to hurt others. Such a culture is like peace: It can’t be imposed by force. It can only be adopted voluntarily, through inspiration, education, and building friendship and trust. The first step is to get more people talking about it.
2017-01-01, version 3.14. Underlined blue phrases are links to related materials
Property is Ecocide (2½ min)
Feedback loops are SPEEDING UP global warming. If we don’t halt that, watch for famine, collapse of civilization, death of most humans, I’d estimate by around 2030.
But that collapse won’t halt the feedback, some of which is now independent of human activities. (For instance, the melting of polar ice reduces reflectivity and so increases the planet’s capture of sunlight.) Continued warming will collapse the ecosystem. Humans and most other species will go extinct, I’d estimate by around 2040. The billionaires in bunkers are fools: They’ll emerge to nothing but ashes.
It might not be too late to fix this. We know what changes to make in our technology. But we’re not making those changes; that’s a SOCIAL problem.
Most governments are doing too little, too late. That’s because they’re owned by plutocrats, especially oil companies, who make immense short-term profits from current arrangements. Recent wars are over the petrodollar; “humanitarian intervention” is a lie.
Part of the problem is that the plutocrats are NOT a united conspiracy like the fabled Illuminati. Each plutocrat is in this only for himself. Each says to himself, “I just want to make a quick buck right now; I’ll let someone else worry about saving life on Earth.” Yes, they’re selfish, but not a lot more than ordinary people in our society — each of whom says, “I just want to buy my own home; I’ll let someone else worry about that unlucky beggar on the street corner.”
Private property separates us, replacing cooperation with competition, which is NOT a good thing. Moderation and reform are not possible: Capitalism is devious like the Devil and grows like cancer. The only solution is sharing and caring. We need a worldwide ecosocialist revolution. The first step is to explain this to everyone.
2019 June 9, version 1.03.
10,000 Year Revolution (2 min)
We must start living in a new and different way, or else we’ll all soon be killed by climate apocalypse. It’s coming much bigger and faster than most people have understood — see how suddenly the exponential curve rises. Averting extinction requires lots of big changes, including the end of oil and meat, but those are blocked by oil companies, meat companies, etc. We can’t vote those obstacles away, both because (a) the corporate news media keep us ignorant, and (b) regardless of elections, only the rich get the public policies they want. Money is influence, so the only way to end rule by the wealthy class is to not have a wealthy class. That requires a very different socioeconomic system, for hierarchies and markets both concentrate power. Power corrupts, as we see in domestic violence, workplace bullying, police brutality, prison torture, and unnecessary wars. The market is not efficient — its unmeasured side effects are ecocidal. Our culture of separateness and competition brings alienation, loneliness, mass shootings, poverty, racism, sexism, and other cruelties. We must end hierarchy and property, though that’s hard to imagine. Perhaps we don’t have to copy our hunter-gatherer ancestors in every respect, but like them we can and must figure out how to share everything as equals, and leave no one behind. That will be our biggest change in 10,000 years — bigger than a “revolution,” it will be an awakening, a metamorphosis. It will be joyous.
2019 Sept 7, version 3.08.
Revolt or Die (2 min)
Imminent doom. Global warming is coming bigger and faster than most people realize, because they don’t understand its feedback loops and tipping points. I expect famine by 2030 and our extinction by 2040. Billionaires emerging from bunkers will find only ashes.
What remedies? Consumer choices won’t halt the apocalypse. We need quick huge national and global action. But…
Insane rulers. Our governments are not acting. Someone profits from ecocide, like war and poverty. Each plutocrat thinks, “I just want to make a quick buck for myself right now; let someone else save life on Earth.”
Immovable government. Reforms won’t happen. Regardless of elections, the rich get the policies they want and the rest of us don’t; statistically we have no democracy. Money IS influence, so the only way to end rule by the wealthy class is to not have a wealthy class. That requires a very different economic system.
What kind of revolution? If we merely change rulers, our sick culture will quickly corrupt the new rulers. This culture of hierarchy and property has tormented us with war and poverty for 10,000 years. But for 300,000 years before that we shared as equals; the whole world was the commons. We must relearn that view. Tell people.
2019 July 6, version 1.09. The leaflet fits on two sides of 1/4 page.
The rich are killing the world (4 min)
Climate is changing incredibly fast. Arctic methane will bring famines and the collapse of civilization, but even that won’t stop the feedback loops. The temperature will keep rising, bringing ecosystem collapse and global extinction. To avert those, we need big changes fast.
The Arctic began melting a few years ago. That should have been a wake-up call to ban oil. But instead our insane rulers, concerned only with short-term profits, rushed to grab Arctic oil.
Power – from money, elections, any source – corrupts: Authoritarians beat their families, bosses bully workers, guards torture prisoners, and police shoot the poor. Our rulers start wars for profit; they murder millions for oil, water, and other resources. We need to replace hierarchy with horizontalism.
Democracy is a sham. Gilens and Page’s 2014 statistics proved the rich get the public policies they want and the rest of us don’t. Money is influence, so the only way to end rule by the wealthy class is to not have a wealthy class. That requires a wholly different economic system, which in turn requires widespread understanding. (So I hand out leaflets.)
How is property at fault? Well, as we don’t share, we must trade — for money, labor, food, rent, everything. Trade favors the trader in the stronger bargaining position, making him stronger still. Inequality grows huge.
Buyer and seller negotiate, but other parties bear “externalities,” unmeasured side effects. Those include war, poverty, and ecocide. Thus the “efficiency of the market” is a lie. And privately owned workplaces are dictatorships (which is why we hate Mondays).
But the sickness is in all of us, in our culture. The market makes us commodities to be exploited or discarded. Competition separates us, killing empathy. Insecurity engenders racism, sexism, austerity, imperialism, and other kinds of bullying. “Getting ahead” is an incentive for all evils. Homeless beggars on street corners remind us that society doesn’t care. Every week some lonely man shoots up a school. But we don’t shoot our friends. (Can’t we all be friends?)
We’ve fought over hierarchy and property for 10,000 years. But for 300,000 years before that we lived as equals and shared everything of importance. That’s still our true nature; we can return to it. The first step is to get more people thinking about it.
2019 April 19, version 4.23. The leaflet fits on two sides of 1/2 page. The original version was created for the September 2018 climate march.
What Progressives Don’t See
Progressives are fooled by the corporate news media, who are paid to lie about wars, climate, economics, everything. Progressives believe the abuses in capitalism can be removed through reforms; they haven’t realized that the abuses are capitalism. A simple analysis will show that inequality, externalities, and alienation are terrible evils inherent in every version of capitalism.
INEQUALITY is enormous in our society. That didn’t happen by accident, nor solely by cheating (though certainly the cheating is massive). It’s like the board game Monopoly, which always ends with all the players but one destitute. Markets naturally increase inequality, by giving greater benefit to whichever trader was already in the stronger bargaining position. Thus wealth is concentrated in a few people, who gain power and are corrupted by it. Everyone else gets poorer; the 99% experience hard times despite rising productivity. The market’s “opportunity for all” is a lie.
EXTERNALITIES are the unmeasured side effects of trade. These costs are borne by the public; no corporation today would be profitable if it paid for its externalities. They are enormous; they include poverty, war, and ecocide. War is mass murder for profit, not “defense.” And ecocide, if continued, will soon destroy the climate and the ecosystem, and kill us all. The so-called “efficiency of the market” is a lie.
ALIENATION: The market makes us all commodities to be exploited or discarded. It says “every man for himself,” and pits us against each other in merciless competition; we see the casualties begging on street corners. Your loss is not my loss, and might even be my gain. Desperation kills empathy, inviting sexism, racism, austerity, imperialism, and other kinds of bullying. And every week some angry, lonely man shoots up a school. Capitalism is lethal in the hands of psychopaths, and capitalism creates psychopaths. Greed, devious as the Devil, grows like cancer and can’t be harnessed.
Aside from property, our other root problem is hierarchy, which also concentrates power. The USA has been a plutocracy thinly disguised as democracy ever since its founding in land theft, genocide, and slavery. Lust for power motivates racism, sexism, etc.
Hierarchy and property can’t be made healthy through reforms; they must be ended altogether. We need to replace those institutions with horizontalism and sharing, respectively. This will be a huge change, our biggest in 10,000 years. But without it the climate apocalypse will kill us all — an even bigger change.
If we jail the plutocrats without changing the culture that spawned them, it will quickly spawn a new batch of plutocrats. We need the right kind of revolution. That will only happen when the 99% see what is really going on. Tell them.
2019 July 4, version 1.23. The leaflet version takes up two sides of 1/2 page. The video is based on version 1.19.