[saymaListserv] Fwd: Social Concerns: The System and its Failures

Janet Minshall jhminshall at comcast.net
Thu May 20 09:21:06 JEST 2004

>Date: Wed, 19 May 2004 19:40:34 -0400
>To: earthcare at yahoogroups.com
>From: Janet  Minshall <jhminshall at comcast.net>
>Subject: Re: [earthcare] real causes of social system failure
>Cc: lphilip at mail.netidea.com
>Hi Lynne Phillips,  I appreciate your "rant" as you call it, but 
>disagree with several points you have made.  I also noticed that 
>your message to the Earthcare folk  left out an important section of 
>my message to which you were apparently replying, so I have revised 
>my message back to what was originally sent to Stan Becker and the 
>Earthcare list and placed it and Stan's message below yours.
>Lynne, I am trying to get folks to think beyond the present to what 
>I see as the most likely of futures.  The way things are going I 
>don't believe that our government or any government is going to go 
>out of its' way to set limits on pollution or build atmospheric 
>bubbles to preserve the environment, but they may actually increase 
>the inflow of refugees and immigrants to preserve the tax base and 
>social programs just to forestall unrest. Then it will be up to our 
>children and decendants to find other ways to preserve the 
>environment -- maybe even atmospheric bubbles.
>Yes, there are and have been problems with the free market economic 
>system, Capitalism, that has developed primarily in Western Europe 
>and North America over the past 300 - 700 years depending upon when 
>you see it starting. (Historically Merchant Capitalism was in place 
>long before the system we now know as Capitalism and may date as far 
>back as the Fourteenth Century.  Many of the relations of modern 
>Capitalism, along with the general use of money were established as 
>Feudalism broke down and then was superceded between the Tenth 
>Century and the Sixteenth Century. During this period, unevenly, 
>property became capital manifesting itself no longer in specific 
>goods such as heads of horses and cattle, pounds of silver, or acres 
>of land, but as an abstract sum of infinitely flexible use whose 
>"value" was its capacity to earn rent, interest or profit.  "None of 
>these changes was planned, clearly foreseen, or for that matter, 
>welcomed."  The preceding is a loose paraphrase and then a quote 
>from Robert L. Heilbroner's old economics text "The Economic 
>Problem", Second Edition, copyright 1968-70.)
>I cite this bit of economic history to reinforce for you that the 
>Capitalist system was not "thought up" or "designed", it happened. 
>Income has never been distributed fairly, either by tribal leaders, 
>or by kings and nobles, or by presidents and prime ministers.  The 
>world, over time, has moved from being controlled for the benefit of 
>a very few people who were rich to being controlled for the benefit 
>of many who are rich.  Wealth has been dramatically spread over a 
>wider and wider population ever since the Magna Carta took away some 
>of the holdings of the King of England and transferred them to the 
>nobles.  Later the French Revolution and the American Revolution 
>transferred more of the wealth from the nobility to white European 
>men over the age of 35, usually merchants or landowners.  Now the 
>number of millionaires in the US and Western Europe grows 
>dramatically -- faster in times of prosperity such as the huge 
>stockmarket bubble in the late '90s, and slower in times of 
>recession and depression, as does the middle class the world over.
>I resettled refugees for ten years as regional coordinator of 
>immigration and refugee services for a large Christian denomination. 
>I know first hand that the primary reason people leave their 
>homeland is war and civil strife, and the secondary reason, just as 
>compelling, is economic opportunity -- jobs. It is this quest for 
>jobs and a "better" life which could provide the way to deal with 
>the looming crisis of population decline all over the world.  The 
>great decline has already started in Europe and among the Western 
>European population of the US (and probably in Canada, too) and thus 
>far shows no sign of reversing.  It well may proceed very much as 
>the stockmarket proceeds -- first there is a big move downward, 
>followed by several small moves upward, and then there is another 
>big move down.  It is uneven, like the development of Capitalism.
>I think you are right that the problem of bringing the rich and the 
>poor to a more equitable balance is a political one but I disagree 
>that it can be solved by demanding change from our politicians. 
>They already seem to have been bought and paid for.  (I'll vote 
>Democratic anyway, just in case.)  Friends seem to believe that 
>corporations are the embodiment of evil, but they really aren't. 
>Corporations are made up of human beings with human faults such as 
>greed and grandiosity.  Some of them, however, are now beginning to 
>face the fact that many of their customers, employees, staff and 
>shareholders care more about the environment and human rights than 
>they do about outsized profits.  (I say outsized profits because 
>every corporation, even not-for-profit ones, must make a profit in 
>order to continue in existence and thus provide jobs for the rest of 
>us.  When there is NO profit, jobs are lost.  It is a narrowing of 
>the difference between the salaries of top management and the 
>ordinary worker that I'm after.  Even our beloved wider Quaker 
>organizations have widened that salary difference dramatically 
>during my watch).  I hope Friends will take seriously the suggestion 
>to become a shareholder in a corporation they wish to change. 
>Shareholder activism works. Corporations MUST respond to the 
>expressed concerns  of their customers and their shareholders in 
>order to stay in business.
>I like your final quote "It is not necessary to have hope in order 
>to undertake a task.  It is not necessary to succeed in order to 
>persevere", by William the Silent.
>I will add a favorite of mine from Henry James' The Middle Years (a 
>mostly boring book, unfortunately):
>"We work in the dark. We do what we can. We give what we have. Our 
>doubt is our passion.  Our passion is our task. The rest is the 
>madness of art."
>-- or the madness of politics, or economics, or history.  Janet Minshall
>Lynne, and any other Canadians who are reading this, please forgive 
>me for referring repeatedly to the "US and Western Europe", I 
>probably should have said "North America and Western Europe".  J
>Lynne Phillips wrote to the Earthcare list on 5-19-04:
>>Dear all,
>>There is a genuine population problem but there is an even more serious
>>problem with our free market economic system which promotes "development"
>>in order to maximize return on investments for and by the privileged.  Even
>>with its current population burden, we humans could adequately clothe,
>>feed, and educate all of humanity if we cared enough to distribute income
>>fairly.   As it is, the uneven distribution of control over resources and
>>power is leading the US and much of the world into greater gaps between the
>>rich and the poor.  In addition, the value of consumerism which is driving
>>the economies of the industrial capitalist world, has created a
>>monster.  According to some scientists and economists, if everyone were to
>>live at the same standard as the ordinary Canadian, we would need 6 to 7
>>planet Earths to support that level.  Modern industrial nations have been
>>robbing planet Earth of its natural and social capital.  The people
>>responsible for the consequences of taking resources beyond the capability
>>of the ecosystems to sustain the loss will probably not be around to suffer
>>the consequences, but future generations will.  Why do Mexicans, Chinese,
>>Africans, etc. try to enter the US, Canada, GB, etc?   Not because they
>>hate their homeland.  Although there are many reasons for immigrating, the
>>most common one is because they are driven out by poverty or lack of
>>opportunity in countries with failing social systems.
>>Planet Earth has undergone at least two major life extinctions in its
>>history.  We may be causing a third one.  In the cosmic scheme of things
>>the loss of Earth's biosphere, as we know it, is insignificant.  After all,
>>we have only 5 billion years until the sun goes through its cycle and fries
>>the Earth on its way towards being a white dwarf.  As for me, I would like
>>to die knowing that this beautiful and for all we know - unique - planet
>>can continue to evolve without the handicap of human greed.
>>The solutions to Earth's problems begin at the political level.  If
>>governments have any power to control corporations, that is where the
>>revolution must begin.  An economically and ecologically literate citizenry
>>could be aroused to demand a social system that follows ethical
>>principles.  And so on.  I don't see it happening in the US and probably
>>not in Canada either.  We are captive to the barrage of propaganda that
>>mesmerizes us on a daily basis as we sit obediently in front of our TV
>>sets.  Not to mention all the toys we can buy or the promises of toys, if
>>we are good boys and girls.
>>If you have read this far, thanks for hanging in on my rant.  I am
>>heartsick at what has happened to my province (British Columbia) since the
>>neo-conservative "Liberal" government was elected 4 years ago and declared
>>that BC is "open for business".  It has been good business for a few, but
>>for the many - esp. the young, the poor, women, the elderly, the ill, the
>>indigeneous peoples and other ethnic minorities, it has resulted in a
>>steady erosion of income, health care, and educational opportunities.  The
>>income gap between rich and poor has widened more in BC than any other
>>Canadian province.  And so on.
>>I found this quotation decades ago.  I pull it out on occasions like this
>>to console myself:  "It is not necessary to have hope in order to undertake
>>a task.  It is not necessary to succeed in order to persevere"    William
>>the Silent      We do what can be done according to the ethical principles
>>scripted by all the world's great religions.  It is the only way to live if
>>we wish to walk in the Light.
>>In Friendship,
>>Lynne Phillips
>>L & M Phillips
>>PO Box 1557
>>Rossland, BC
>>British Columbia
>>V0G  1Y0
>Janet wrote in response to Stan Becker on 5-19-04
>Hi Stan,  As to the three options in your message below, the 
>Europeans are busily encouraging fertility but their encouragement 
>doesn't seem to be working.  We may have no choice but to let 
>population decline.  If that is the case then the issue is not one 
>of reducing population growth in the short term but rather of 
>planning for the coming long term decline. It is that planning 
>process I want to see acknowledged and begun.
>It may be that the US and Western Europe could extend their social 
>and health services for a period of time by admitting more refugees 
>and immigrants who are looking for employment and would be most 
>willing to pay income taxes and help support Social 
>Security/Medicare/Medicaid costs just for the privilege of working. 
>The populations of the US and Western Europe would then be 
>considerably more diverse than they are at present.  This would 
>likely engender a racial/religious backlash unless we start soon to 
>effectively defuse relations between WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon 
>Protestants) and peoples of color and of other non-WASP ethnic 
>cultures.  But this would also leave much of the rest of the world 
>without its brightest and most industrious people who would have 
>immigrated to the US and Western Europe for better jobs. Employment 
>immigration would not add to the planet's population load but it 
>would significantly add to the difficulties of incorporating large 
>numbers of additional people into US and Western European cities and 
>suburbs where employment tends to be concentrated.  I think, too, 
>that there would be concentrated centers of employment in India and 
>China, and perhaps in Japan.
>Do we write off the areas of employment as environmental losses and 
>focus instead on creating pollution limits (very difficult to 
>achieve) or atmospheric bubbles (not so difficult to achieve) for 
>the cities and suburbs so that their atmospheres will not 
>contaminate the protected areas of forests, wetlands, prairies and 
>beaches surrounding them?  How then do we minimize the health 
>effects of working in such areas of employment?  Gas masks for 
>everyone?  And will this kind of concentration create enough in the 
>way of economic proceeds to provide health and social services for 
>those who are born seriously handicapped and not able to work, or 
>who become ill and are unable to work.  (The current estimate of 
>money going out of the US to the families of illegal and newly 
>arrived refugees and immigrants runs from $30 billion to over $100 
>billion a year.)
>I want to hear serious comments and suggestions of alternatives. 
>Janet Minshall
>(In my original posting I also included much of the background 
>material from the list but for the sake of brevity I have not done 
>that this time. J)
>>From Stan Becker 5-19-04:
>>Your solution to the problem of adding 70-80 million persons to the
>>planet each year is unclear to me.   We are working to reduce population
>>GROWTH.  On the other hand, where population is in decline there seem
>>three options: 1. let it decline; 2. encourage immigration; 3. encourage
>>fertility.  From the perspective of other species on the planet, 1 is
>>not unreasonable; after all we were 2.5 billion on the planet in 1950 so
>>nothing magic about 6.3 billion we are now.
>>Atlanta is an area of rapid growth; what are you suggesting for it?.  US
>>is growing by 3 million per year.......
>>P.S. Good news; I believe the adoption pamphlet will finally come out
>>this summer.

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