(«HTML Version » «EPUB Version: » «MOBI Version: » «PDF Version: »)
4th December 2012 (begun in
early August 2012 - how time flies!)
Is it getting warmer?
This post is in two parts. I started it in late winter, assuming
that spring was still two or three weeks away, but spring came early this year.
Spring chores took over and now, with next winter's firewood cut and stacked,
I'm back to it:
It is mid-August, winter is tailing off, but it still has a
sting in the tail. Yesterday was almost like spring, but this morning the wind
had swung to the south-west, it was raining and cold. Now, in midafternoon, the
wind has died down, birds are squabbling in the trees in what is obviously an
early start to spring-time enthusiasms and the dogs are stretched out on a lawn
in the sun.
Early winter might have had a depressing effect, but the promise
of spring seems to have reinvigorated everything. All round the property it is
the same. Birds are becoming amorous - and just a little belligerent toward
possible rivals; bulbs and almonds are in full display; spring flowering plants,
shrubs and fruit trees are setting bud; and last evening the frogs were clearing
their throats as they emerged from winter hibernation. This morning the froth of
their merry-making fringes the dam. One hopes for their sake that they are not
being overly optimistic about the end of winter!
It's time to check the woodpile and select trees to be felled
for next winter's fuel supply. The pile is larger than usual for this time of
the year. It looks as though I could cope with another 2 to 3 months of winter,
yet I cut much the same amount of wood as in past years. Could it be that,
despite the apparent coldness, this winter has been milder than normal?1 I don't bother
with records so I have no way of knowing, but the woodpile is already about a
third of what I need for next year.
Thank the Deity(ies) for Capitalism!
I have found at least 10 trees that will contribute to the pile.
Two or three of them are growing too close to power lines2 , several more have reached
their use-by date, and a few fire prone pines and eucalypts near buildings need
to come down to make room for fire resistant species (I've already planted about
60 of those this year3 ). It looks as though I
will have more than enough wood for next winter. Everything has started growing
again, things are beginning to look rather scruffy! I'll have to start mowing
lawns once more.
I have a couple of petrol driven chainsaws with 24" and 26"
bars; a diesel tractor/front loader to help control the direction in which trees
fall; to move the sawn logs to the pile; and cart the debris to the fire pit;
and a log splitter to split the wood ready for the fireplace. And I can do all
this over a 3-4 week period at the end of winter and start of spring.
All the above was written in August. It is now late November,
the lawns have been mowed and trimmed several times; 15 trees have been felled,
cut up and added to next winter's wood pile; the debris piles have been burned
and replacement seedlings have been planted and are doing well. It appears that
we're headed into an El Niño season but late spring is a beautiful time
of the year.
The deciduous trees are now clothed in fresh green foliage; the
eucalypts tipped with soft red-tinged leaves. The callistemons, white cedars
(Melia Azedarach) and other spring-flowering shrubs and trees are in full bloom;
the banks and beds are vivid with gaillardias, gazanias, statice, roses, ice
plants (Carpobrotus), bougainvillea, pelargoniums and other flowering
perennials. It is easy to pretend that the rest of the world is not real - just
a hazy mirage (I've got to stop listening to the News - it brings one back to a
rather depressing reality!!).
The frogs were right - we've had warm weather since they spawned
and the dam has been alive with tadpoles. Frogs are turning up in the most
peculiar places - a small light brown frog had found its way into my rain gauge
a couple of days ago - I've no idea how it got there (raining frogs??). The
birds are well into nest building and raising their young and even strong winds
and rain squalls haven't dampened their ardor. The wild weather has simply
encouraged them to carry on their courtships in the relative shelter of the
gardens. It is an invigorating time of the year!
Young Barry (a rather intelligent kelpie/huntaway cross), our
resident philosopher, reminds me each morning of the nature of reality:
according to him, as he prances under a bird feeder and scatters the
honey-eaters, life is just one long meaningless bark - but that's all the more
reason why we should not take it seriously; why we should enjoy it!
We need Capitalism tempered with
I couldn't possibly enjoy my lifestyle without modern equipment.
I live in a very privileged time. I'm not anti-capitalist, how could I be? I
live in a capitalist world and I depend on the products of capitalist
But, I know that we, as relatively intelligent beings, have a
responsibility not only to enjoy life, but also to tailor our institutions and
activities to ensure the greatest good for all; to enhance human welfare
How appropriate for our times is the observation, made more than
2500 years ago and reiterated by humanity's sages throughout history:
How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather
Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to
share plunder with the proud.4
(The Proverbs (16: 16, 19))
It would be truly delinquent to abdicate responsibility for our
futures to those who have hijacked them; who have placed self-interested greed
before human welfare and loudly insist that we are all better off for this.
We have a responsibility to mitigate the social and
environmental consequences of the often antisocially driven predilections of a
few real-world Scrooge McDucks who have plundered our communities and our
environments for their private benefit5 .
It is not anti-capitalist to question the status quo.
It is not 'socialist' to suggest that obscene accumulations of 'wealth' should
be recycled back into the real-world economy of productive enterprise and social
wellbeing; whatever might be claimed by those intent on protecting and 'growing'
their 'asset portfolios'.
But, I know that they already hold the high ground. They already
control the opinion-shaping apparatuses of capitalism.
There is little or no scientifically valid data to support the
claim that the wellbeing of the real economy and the social welfare of people
requires that those who accumulate wealth should be able to keep it - as much as
both the ideologically driven and wealth accumulators of the world might want us
to accept this6 . Most of that accumulated
wealth becomes trapped in vortex economic activity7 .
On the contrary, there is a great deal of scientifically
validated evidence that, as Iglesias and de Almeida8 (2012, p. 85) put it, normal
market exchange activity results in a concentration of wealth in very few
…the system converges to a very unequal condensed state, where
one or a few agents concentrate all the wealth of the society while the wide
majority of agents shares zero or almost zero fraction of the wealth.
… in the low and middle income classes the process of wealth
accumulation is additive (and mainly due to wages), causing a Gaussian-like
distribution, while in the high income range, wealth grows in a multiplicative
way, generating the observed power law tail.
… a frequent outcome in these models is condensation,
i.e. concentration of all available wealth in just one or a few agents. This
final state corresponds to a kind of equipartition of poverty: all agents
(except for a set of zero measure) possess zero wealth while one, or a few ones,
concentrate all available resources.
The system on which we rely for our well-being can only deliver
a better quality of life for all if it is tailored to that end. Clearly, we need
capitalism; but we need it shaped to the long-term benefit of all9 .
Let's Stop Blaming Our Victims!
It really is time to ensure the well-being of all, not merely
the absurd wealth of a few at the expense of the rest.
The US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in 1934, during the
'Great Depression', provided a clear road-map for communities and nations
wishing to refocus their economies, their communities and their individual
These three great objectives: the security of the home, the
security of livelihood, and the security of social insurance--are, it seems to
me, a minimum of the promise that we can offer to the American people. They
constitute a right which belongs to every individual and every family willing to
work. They are the essential fulfillment of measures already taken toward
relief, recovery and reconstruction.
This seeking for a greater measure of welfare and happiness does
not indicate a change in values. It is rather a return to values lost in the
course of our economic development and expansion.
Ample scope is left for the exercise of private initiative. In
fact, in the process of recovery, I am greatly hoping that repeated promises of
private investment and private initiative to relieve the Government in the
immediate future of much of the burden it has assumed, will be fulfilled. We
have not imposed undue restrictions upon business. We have not opposed the
incentive of reasonable and legitimate private profit. We have sought rather to
enable certain aspects of business to regain the confidence of the public. We
have sought to put forward the rule of fair play in finance and industry.
It is true that there are a few among us who would still go back.
These few offer no substitute for the gains already made, nor any hope for
making future gains for human happiness. They loudly assert that individual
liberty is being restricted by Government, but when they are asked what
individual liberties they have lost, they are put to it to answer.
We must dedicate ourselves anew to a recovery of the old and
sacred possessive rights for which mankind has constantly struggled: homes,
livelihood, and individual security. The road to these values is the way of
progress. Neither you nor I will rest content until we have done our utmost to
move further on that road.
(Franklin D. Roosevelt, Message
To Congress Reviewing The Broad Objectives And Accomplishments Of The
Administration. June 8, 1934)
What can one say but 'Amen'!
It really is time to break out of the mindset of Western
capitalism. It is not just 'unfortunate', it is morally reprehensible to blame
the victims of aggressive, self-interested capitalism for their degraded
circumstances 10 .
The Last Western Colony
(and its Native Reserves)
This morning I woke to a news report telling me that Israel was
bombing Gaza because its people would not play dead; like a man who has his foot
on the throat of another, telling him that this is his fault because he keeps on
'struggling'. As an Israeli spokesperson put it: "We have to bomb them because
they keep shooting rockets at us". And, when the US president Obama was asked
for his reaction, he blithely told Gaza to stop shooting rockets at Israel! The
West has its own well-developed spin on this sort of thing.
I was brought up on the horrific stories of the Warsaw Ghetto
during World War Two11 . A trapped and
brutalized people were blamed for resisting Nazi oppression, for maintaining
their identities and their self-respect and refusing simply to be victims. I was
inspired by those stories (and I still am!).
Now, I am witness to similar atrocities, but now I am supposed
to accept that the behavior is reasonable because it comes from us! (Yes Us!)
No, this is not a 'Jewish' problem, any more than the atrocities of the past,
committed against indigenous inhabitants of North America and many other
colonial and post-colonial territories, were 'Protestant' or 'Roman Catholic'
problems (and yes, Israel is a Western colony, politically, financially and
militarily supported by the West; replete with its own 'native reserves'12 ).
The charters and legislative enablers contrived by European
governments to justify, in their own minds, the subjugation and dispossession of
colonial populations, is matched by similar legalisms of the past 50 years to
justify Israeli activity13 . This report to the US Congress: Jeremy M.
Sharp, U.S. Foreign
Aid to Israel (Congressional Research Service RL33222, March 12,
2012) gives an interesting summation of the importance
of US involvement in Israel's economic and military strength. As this
Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign
assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel
$115 billion in bilateral assistance. Almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is
in the form of military assistance, although in the past Israel also received
significant economic assistance.
Strong congressional support for Israel has resulted in Israel
receiving benefits not available to any other countries; for example, Israel can
use some U.S. military assistance both for research and development in the
United States and for military purchases from Israeli manufacturers.
In addition, all U.S. assistance earmarked for Israel is
delivered in the first 30 days of the fiscal year, while most other recipients
normally receive aid in installments. In addition to receiving U.S. State
Department-administered foreign assistance, Israel also receives funds from
annual defense appropriations bills for joint U.S.-Israeli missile defense
… On March 5, 2012, House lawmakers introduced H.R. 4133, the
United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012. If passed
[Signed into law: July 27, 2012 (see Signing of the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation
Act ], this bill would, among other things,
- allocate additional weaponry and munitions for the
forward-deployed United States stockpile in Israel;
- provide Israel additional surplus defense articles and defense
services, as appropriate, in the wake of the withdrawal of United States forces
- expand Israel's authority to make purchases under the Foreign
Military Financing program on a commercial basis;
- encourage an expanded role for Israel within the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization (NATO), including an enhanced presence at NATO headquarters
- support extension of the long-standing loan guarantee program
for Israel, recognizing Israel's unbroken record of repaying its loans on time
and in full;
- and require the President to submit a report on the status of
Israel's qualitative military edge in light of current trends and instability in
This is a Western problem; yet another display of a predilection
for blaming victims for the consequences of our aggressive self-interest which
stretches back at least to the late 15th century: they shouldn't get
in the way; they need to accept that times are changing; they 'need to adapt';
they need to 'compromise'.
(See Who were 'The Poor'? for some of the treatment meted
out to their own 'poor' by 18th century British elites.)
As Herbert Spencer put it in 1884,
To become fit for the social state, man has not only to lose his
savageness, but he has to acquire the capacities needful for civilized life.
Power of application must be developed; such modification of the intellect as
shall qualify it for its new tasks must take place; and, above all, there must
be gained the ability to sacrifice a small mediate gratification for a future
The state of transition will of course be an unhappy state.
Misery inevitably results from incongruity between constitutions and conditions.
All these evils which afflict us, and seem to the uninitiated the obvious
consequences of this or that removable cause, are unavoidable attendants on the
adaptation now in progress.
Humanity is being pressed against the inexorable necessities of
its new position – is being molded into harmony with them, and has to bear the
resulting unhappiness as best it can. The process must be undergone, and the
sufferings must be endured.
No power on earth, no cunningly-devised laws of statesmen, no
world-rectifying schemes of the humane, no communist panaceas, no reforms that
men ever did broach or ever will broach, can diminish them one jot.
(1884 Ch. 3, p.
Western people have given a great many absurd justifications for
their ruthless suppression and exploitation of others through the centuries. It
seems that we have not changed our spots!
It's time for the aggressors to learn to compromise and
adapt. We do neither them nor ourselves any long-run favor by condoning and
supporting their behavior.
1 I wonder whether these graphs are
on closer inspection, make that 5! The moral: never plant Monterey pine
near power lines - no matter how high the lines are.
Experience over the past two decades, in my neck of the woods, makes it
prudent to start planting for an increasing likelihood of wildfires through the
coming decades. This experience is reinforced by the increasingly strong
warnings being given by climatologists.
Here is a NASA report on recent wildfire activity
in Western Australia (similar fire activity is developing in South Australia,
Queensland and inland New South Wales and, today, the Fire Authority for the
Australian state of Victoria has declared a 'total fire ban' with the likelihood
of dangerous grass fires 'serious'): Wildfires Light Up Western Australia.
Here is the latest NASA report focused on the
United States: Climate Models Project Increase in U.S. Wildfire Risk. As the
… the U.S. land area burned by fire each year has increased
significantly in the past 25 years, so too have the emissions. Carbon dioxide
emissions from wildfires in the western U.S. have more than doubled since the
1980s, according to Chris Williams of Clark University in Worcester, Mass
So, I've started replacing trees which might pose
a fire risk with others less likely to do so. Of course, no trees are truly fire
proof, it is a matter of how long it takes to get them going.
There is also a lot of disagreement as to the
merits of various trees. My motto is: if everyone seems to agree then treat it
as 'fire retardant'; if almost all agree then treat it as 'fire resistant'; if
more than half agree then treat it as 'less fire prone'.
And, of course, always test them if you can. I try
to get a few off-cuts or branches and toss them on the fire when I'm burning
debris. Guess I'm naturally cautious, but I have found a few, which some people
have claimed were a fire risk, to be slow to burn - which should allow the fire
front to pass with minor problems.
On those grounds:
My fire retardants are, in order of effectiveness
(and distance from buildings):
- White Cedar (Melia Azedarach - said to be as close to 'fire
proof' as a tree can get. In the last disastrous fire in this state, these trees
remained unscathed and the buildings they protected were also spared. My
experience is that this tree is both drought and salt tolerant (and, of course,
for those reasons, considered an environmental risk));
- Pohutukawa (Metrosideros Thomasii) – an update [mid January 2013]. We've had an unprecedented run of dry weather with high 30°C and low 40°C temperatures over the past month and these trees have not handled the heat/dryness - guess we learn by trial and error!;
- Plum, Apple, Crab Apple seedlings. All the fruit trees are
either seedlings I have struck or cuttings from previously grown seedlings
selected for both their fruit and salt tolerance.
The Fire Resistant trees:
- Sydney Red Gum (Angophora Costata – not very salt tolerant);
- River Sheoak (Casuarina Cunninghamiana);
- Silky Oak (Grevillea Robusta – from experience, moderately salt
and drought tolerant);
- Himalayan Ash (Fraxinus Griffithii);
- White Ash (Fraxinus Americana);
- Green Ash (Fraxinus Pennsylvanica - an excellent early budding
variety, both salt and drought tolerant);
- Common Ash (Fraxinus Excelsior);
- Flowering Ash (Fraxinus Ornus);
- Claret Ash (Fraxinus oxycarpa 'Raywood');
- Golden Ash (Fraxinus excelsior 'Aurea');
- Desert Ash (Fraxinus angustifolia - both salt and drought
tolerant and considered an environmental threat).
The 'Less Fire Prone' trees include:
- Sydney Blue Gum (Eucalyptus saligna);
- Gungurru (Eucalyptus Caesia);
- Swamp Yate (Eucalyptus Occidentalis);
- Cootamundra Wattle (Acacia baileyana - best when young, needs
to be added to the wood pile after about 10 years);
- various Western Australian Corymbias (Ficifolia and Maculata);
- Black Sheoak (Allocasuarina Littoralis);
- Drooping Sheoak (Allocasuarina Verticillata).
Of course, no tree is finally safe from a human
being with a chainsaw and if I decide that any of these are a fire risk, they
will become firewood!
We, in the West, are losing our way. Everywhere, we seem to be winding
down our commitment to anything other than stripped down profiteering. See
(Sarah Kendzior, Aljazeera, 20 Aug 2012) The closing of American academia for a depressing picture of
what we are doing to our 'institutions of higher learning'.
(And, yes, it really does matter when we replace
our colleges and universities with cut-price job certificate factories).
As I explained to a disinterested administration
at the 'institute of higher education' to which I was attached at the time of my
retirement a few years ago:
Western tertiary institutions are metamorphosing into shop
fronts of cut-rate educational packages aimed not at furthering understanding of
the issues they address but at satisfying the demand for job-required
The administrations which have emerged have, largely, already
accepted the validity of this new rationale for existence and are geared to
cutting production costs of the packages they sell so as to remain competitive
in a global marketplace.
All that is now needed is educational packages which consumers
will buy. Since consumers seldom know before-hand what should be contained in an
educational package, they, so long as the certificate they receive gets them a
job, accept the contents as incidental to the main purpose of involvement –
increasing their employment prospects.
Commercialism has overtaken and commoditized the organized
pursuit of wisdom in Western countries. (See Consumer Society and Commoditization for more on this.)
In this new world, academic staff … are reconstituted as
assemblers and maintainers of stripped-down educational packages tailored to
meeting market demand at minimal cost. Their existence becomes defensible only
through the amount of money they generate and by the number of students who buy
Since administrative personnel are central, previously academic
titles become administrative titles; managers are converted into professors and
granted pseudo-legitimacy as ‘academic leaders’. They then use this manufactured
legitimacy to drive academic staff to conform to the new merchandising demands
of their metamorphosed institutions. Since they are the new academic leaders,
academic staff find it difficult to challenge the legitimacy of their demands,
always justified as necessary in an institution ‘in crisis’.
The academic consequences for Western tertiary institutions of
the activities of these pseudo-academic administrative hierarchies were best
spelt out by a hand, writing on the wall of a dining hall in Belshazzar's
"This is the inscription that was written:
"This is what these words mean:
Mene: God has numbered the
days of your reign and brought it to an end.
Tekel: You have been weighed on
the scales and found wanting.
Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to
the Medes and Persians."
[Book of Daniel (Chapter 5 Verses 25-28)]
Of course, even had administrative leaders been
concerned about the direction in which they were steering the institutions they
had hijacked, they could have done little to alter course. They had been
appointed because they were prepared to displace the organized pursuit of wisdom
with various income generating schemes, including production of job-required
certificates. Had they chosen not to do so, they would have been replaced by
other more malleable souls.
See Paul Krugman (New York Times,
November 25, 2012), The Fake Skills Shortage for a few of the pressures being
brought to bear on employment remuneration in this new world of stripped-down,
ultimately self-defeating, profiteering.
(A word of caution on Krugman's position: Krugman
believes in the virtues of free trade and globalization, however, he wants to
mitigate the effects of the consequences. So, he writes as a person concerned
for mitigating effects, while still supporting the fundamental causative
policies. Rather like a Climate Change Denier who, while believing that climate
change isn't happening, sees the consequences and wants to mitigate their
impacts in people's lives.
Much of the confusion which people often feel in
trying to come to grips with economic solutions to social problems stems from
similar mismatches between basic economic presumptions and massaged
explanations/mitigations of social outcomes. The consequence is that for many,
economics seems to be just too difficult to get one's head around: "The
confusion I feel must be because I am missing something!!")
For more on the Summum Bonum see In Search of the 'Greatest Good' – The Summum Bonum
Having subjected my senses for too long to the Bloomberg channel, I am now
quite certain that the ability to ruthlessly accumulate wealth - all too often
at the expense of the already–poor of this world - does not equate to
intelligent breadth of perspective.
Gina Rinehart, Chairman of Hancock Prospecting and
'the world's richest woman', has provided a delightful insight into her
In a 10-minute video posted on the Sydney Mining Club website,
Ms Rinehart said despite wanting to create sustainable jobs in Australia, she
and others are being forced to “make a different” choice.
“People who know what it is to hire people…understand better
than most what could prevent them from doing so,” she said.
Overseas competitors, such as in Africa, can offer much cheaper
investment opportunities, she said.
"Furthermore, Africans want to work and its workers are willing
to work for less than $2 per day,'' Ms Rinehart says in the video.
"Such statistics make me worry for this country's future.''
Hitting out at the government, the world’s richest woman said
our grossly in debt nation will be hurt “as the self-interested complaints of a
greedy few is now becoming the accepted truth and more ominously is showing up
in incontrovertible data.”
Companies in WA are investing in low-cost highly resourced
Africa as businesses need to sell their product on the world market and not at
Australia is slipping down the ranks of global
competitiveness due to the carbon tax, red tape, new and increasing taxes and
infrastructure that lags well behind the world’s best, she said.
O'Carroll, 'Australia is too expensive for business says Gina Rinehart'
Herald Sun, September 05 2012)
As David Lazarus explained in the Los Angeles
Just in case you were beginning to think rich people were deeply
misunderstood and that they feel the pain of those who are less fortunate,
here's the world's wealthiest woman, Australian mining tycoon Gina Rinehart,
with some helpful advice.
"If you're jealous of those with more money, don't just sit
there and complain," she said in a magazine piece. "Do something to make more
money yourself -- spend less time drinking or smoking and socializing, and more
Yeah, let them eat cake.
Rinehart made her money the old-fashioned way: She inherited it.
Her family iron ore prospecting fortune of $30.1 billion makes her Australia's
wealthiest person and the richest woman on the planet.
"There is no monopoly on becoming a millionaire," she said by
way of encouragement.
"Become one of those people who work hard, invest and build, and
at the same time create employment and opportunities for others."
Boom. Almost too easy.
Why are people poor? Rinehart blamed what she described as
"socialist," anti-business government policies, and urged Australian officials
to lower the minimum wage and cut taxes.
"The millionaires and billionaires who choose to invest in
Australia are actually those who most help the poor and our young," she said.
"This secret needs to be spread widely."
And now it's out there.
Thank you, rich people. We're not worthy.
(David Lazarus, World's richest woman says poor should have less fun, work
harder, Los Angeles Times, August 30, 2012)
Like Rinehart, many of those who have limited
their horizons to wealth manipulation and accumulation display an
18th century, middle ranking lack of concern for the victims of their
exploitation (see The Virtuous Capitalist, The Poor and the Wasteland for more
Jefferson provided his own astute description of
such activity in late 18th century Europe:
…they have divided their nations into two classes, wolves and
sheep. I do not exaggerate. …man is the only animal which devours his own kind.
Yet, how often we hear the victims of their
asocial behaviors claim that the ability of such wolves to accumulate wealth
equips them to preside over all our destinies!
See Robert Frank (The New York Times, April 12th 2007)
In the Real World of Work and Wages, Trickle-Down Theories Don't
Hold Up for more on this. As Frank explains:
Trickle-down theorists are quick to object that higher taxes
would cause top earners to work less and take fewer risks, thereby stifling
economic growth. In their familiar rhetorical flourish, they insist that a more
progressive tax system would kill the geese that lay the golden eggs. On close
examination, however, this claim is supported neither by economic theory nor by
The surface plausibility of trickle-down theory owes much to the
fact that it appears to follow from the time-honored belief that people respond
to incentives. Because higher taxes on top earners reduce the reward for effort,
it seems reasonable that they would induce people to work less, as trickle-down
theorists claim. As every economics textbook makes clear, however, a decline in
after-tax wages also exerts a second, opposing effect. By making people feel
poorer, it provides them with an incentive to recoup their income loss by
working harder than before. Economic theory says nothing about which of these
offsetting effects may dominate.
If economic theory is unkind to trickle-down proponents, the
lessons of experience are downright brutal. If lower real wages induce people to
work shorter hours, then the opposite should be true when real wages increase.
According to trickle-down theory, then, the cumulative effect of the last
century’s sharp rise in real wages should have been a significant increase in
hours worked. In fact, however, the workweek is much shorter now than in 1900.
Trickle-down theory also predicts shorter workweeks in countries
with lower real after-tax pay rates. Yet here, too, the numbers tell a different
story. For example, even though chief executives in Japan earn less than
one-fifth what their American counterparts do and face substantially higher
marginal tax rates, Japanese executives do not log shorter hours.
Trickle-down theory also predicts a positive correlation between
inequality and economic growth, the idea being that income disparities
strengthen motivation to get ahead. Yet when researchers track the data within
individual countries over time, they find a negative correlation. In the decades
immediately after World War II, for example, income inequality was low by
historical standards, yet growth rates in most industrial countries were
extremely high. In contrast, growth rates have been only about half as large in
the years since 1973, a period in which inequality has been steadily rising.
For more on this see: Trapped in the Vortex Economy
See J. R. Iglesias and R. M. C. de Almeida, Entropy and equilibrium state of free market models, The
European Physical Journal B – Condensed Matter and Complex Systems, Volume
85 (2012), Number 3, 85-95
I am always impressed, when I again read FDR's vision of an American
future, summed up in this explanation made in a 'Fireside Chat' in 1934:
Men may differ as to the particular form of governmental
activity with respect to industry and business, but nearly all are agreed that
private enterprise in times such as these cannot be left without assistance and
without reasonable safeguards lest it destroy not only itself but also our
processes of civilization.
The underlying necessity for such activity is indeed as strong
now as it was years ago when Elihu Root said the following very significant
Instead of the give and take of free individual contract, the
tremendous power of organization has combined great aggregations of capital in
enormous industrial establishments working through vast agencies of commerce and
employing great masses of men in movements of production and transportation and
trade, so great in the mass that each individual concerned in them is quite
helpless by himself.
The relations between the employer and the employed, between the
owners of aggregated capital and the units of organized labor, between the small
producer, the small trader, the consumer, and the great transporting and
manufacturing and distributing agencies, all present new questions for the
solution of which the old reliance upon the free action of individual wills
appear quite inadequate.
And in many directions, the intervention of that organized
control which we call government seems necessary to produce the same result of
justice and right conduct which obtained through the attrition of individuals
before the new conditions arose.
…In our efforts for recovery we have avoided on the one hand the
theory that business should and must be taken over into an all-embracing
Government. We have avoided on the other hand the equally untenable theory that
it is an interference with liberty to offer reasonable help when private
enterprise is in need of help.
The course we have followed fits the American practice of
Government - a practice of taking action step by step, of regulating only to
meet concrete needs - a practice of courageous recognition of change. I believe
with Abraham Lincoln, that
The legitimate object of Government is to do for a community of
people whatever they need to have done but cannot do at all or cannot do so well
for themselves in their separate and individual capacities.
I still believe in ideals. I am not for a return to that
definition of Liberty under which for many years a free people were being
gradually regimented into the service of the privileged few.
I prefer and I am sure you prefer that broader definition of
Liberty under which we are moving forward to greater freedom, to greater
security for the average man than he has ever known before in the history of
Chat-- Sunday, September 30, 1934)
For a clear discussion of some of the consequences
of Roosevelt's New Deal policies through the 1950s-1970s, see Paul Krugman, The Twinkie Manifesto (New York Times, November 18,
2012). As he says,
… in the 1950s incomes in the top bracket faced a marginal tax
rate of 91, that’s right, 91 percent, while taxes on corporate profits were
twice as large, relative to national income, as in recent years. The best
estimates suggest that circa 1960 the top 0.01 percent of Americans paid an
effective federal tax rate of more than 70 percent, twice what they pay
Nor were high taxes the only burden wealthy businessmen had to
bear. They also faced a labor force with a degree of bargaining power hard to
imagine today. In 1955 roughly a third of American workers were union members.
In the biggest companies, management and labor bargained as equals, so much so
that it was common to talk about corporations serving an array of “stakeholders”
as opposed to merely serving stockholders.
Squeezed between high taxes and empowered workers, executives
were relatively impoverished by the standards of either earlier or later
generations. In 1955 Fortune magazine published an essay, “How top executives
live,” which emphasized how modest their lifestyles had become compared with
days of yore. The vast mansions, armies of servants, and huge yachts of the
1920s were no more; by 1955 the typical executive, Fortune claimed, lived in a
smallish suburban house, relied on part-time help and skippered his own
relatively small boat.
… Strange to say, however, the oppressed executives Fortune
portrayed in 1955 didn’t go Galt and deprive the nation of their talents. On the
contrary, if Fortune is to be believed, they were working harder than ever. And
the high-tax, strong-union decades after World War II were in fact marked by
spectacular, widely shared economic growth: nothing before or since has matched
the doubling of median family income between 1947 and 1973.
See Warren E. Buffett (New York Times,
November 25, 2012), A Minimum Tax for the Wealthy, for some of the consequences of
Roosevelt's New Deal policies through the 1950s-1970s and consequences of the
neoliberal post-1970s years (and a more realistic summation of the true wealth
of those at the top in the 1950s-60s than given by Fortune Magazine, as
paraphrased above by Paul Krugman). As Buffett says,
Between 1951 and 1954, when the capital gains rate was 25
percent and marginal rates on dividends reached 91 percent in extreme cases, I
sold securities and did pretty well. In the years from 1956 to 1969, the top
marginal rate fell modestly, but was still a lofty 70 percent — and the tax rate
on capital gains inched up to 27.5 percent. I was managing funds for investors
then. Never did anyone mention taxes as a reason to forgo an investment
opportunity that I offered.
Under those burdensome rates, moreover, both employment and the
gross domestic product (a measure of the nation’s economic output) increased at
a rapid clip. The middle class and the rich alike gained ground.
So let’s forget about the rich and ultrarich going on strike and
stuffing their ample funds under their mattresses if — gasp — capital gains
rates and ordinary income rates are increased. The ultrarich, including me, will
forever pursue investment opportunities.
And, wow, do we have plenty to invest. The Forbes 400, the wealthiest individuals in America, hit a
new group record for wealth this year: $1.7 trillion. That’s more than five
times the $300 billion total in 1992. In recent years, my gang has been leaving
the middle class in the dust.
That US 'leaders' should have seen fit, over the
past forty years, to strip and dismantle, rather than adapt and shape
Roosevelt's New Deal measures boggles the mind! (See The emergence of welfarism: Social Costs are Production Costs
for more on this.)
10 How easy it is for those who belong to
exploiting groups to blame their victims for the consequences of their policies.
First, dispossess them, then, as their communities disintegrate and they become
demoralized, point to the consequences as justification for your attitudes and
policies (see Bubbles and Wasteland for more on this).
See Fight to the death: Warsaw Ghetto tales of horror, honor,
sacrifice in 'Isaac's Army', a review of Matthew Brzezinski's book,
(Isaac's Army: A Story Of Courage And Survival In Nazi-occupied Poland,
Random House, 2012) for a brief description of it all.
See Teaching 'the Natives' to Work for more on this common Western
colonial approach to the 'management' of indigenous populations - often argued
to be not indigenous. As Cecil Rhodes explained of the tribes of the regions
which were to become Northern and Southern Rhodesia (Zambia and Zimbabwe): They
were invaders, who had no 'real' right to the lands on which they lived.
Here is a Zimbabwe Embassy explanation of what
The advent of European settler occupation of Zimbabwe in
September 1890 is the genesis of the dispossession of blacks of their land. The
1893 invasion of the Ndebele Kingdom leading to the creation of the Gwaai and
Shangani reserves: the 1896-97 Shona and Ndebele first Chimurenga/Imfazwe (war
of liberation); the nationalist struggle in the period before and after the
Second World War; the second Chimurenga/Imfazwe which gave birth to the
independent Zimbabwe in 1980; the contentious Lancaster House Constitutional
negotiations and the Agreement in 1979 and, as already stated the current
internal political developments, all bear testimony to the centrality of the
land issue in the country’s history.
The systematic dispossession realised largely through violence,
war and legislative enactments by successive colonial Governments led to the
racially skewed land distribution and ownership pattern that until recently was
characteristic of Zimbabwe.
Having regard to the political and related problems arising from
the Boer controlled Witwatersrand gold fields in the Transvaal, Cecil John
Rhodes, the Prime Minister of the cape, and through his British South Africa
Company (BSAC), became fixated with the idea of developing a second
Witwatersrand (Second Rand) to the north of the Limpopo river. The Rudd
Concession of 1888, fraudulently obtained from King Lobengula, became the
vehicle through which colonialists obtained mineral rights in Mashonaland. The
concession provided Rhodes with the impetus to obtain a Royal Charter in 1889,
which among other things, granted the BSAC authority to administer and govern
the region that encompasses present day Zimbabwe. The Charter was granted
notwithstanding King Lobengula’s protestations that he had been deceived.
Lobengula repudiated the Rudd Concession stating that he would
“not recognise the paper, as it contains neither my words nor the words of those
who got it.” The response by Queen Victoria to King Lobengula’s protestation to
this development was that it “would be unwise to exclude white men”.
… On account of the settler’s superior firepower the African
resistance fighters of the Chimurenga/imfazwe were subdued. The rapidity of the
establishment of additional “Native Reserves” throughout the country was given
impetus with codification – in the British Government’s Southern Rhodesia Order
in Council of 1898 – of the policy of racial segregation. By the same instrument
it was provided that
The Company shall from time to time assign to Natives inhabiting
Southern Rhodesia, land sufficient for their occupation and suitable for their
agricultural or pastoral requirements
Invariably, this land was located in marginal and low potential
Land acquisition for speculative purposes was the precursor to
land acquisition for agricultural production as an economic activity, its
euphemism being “white agricultural policy,” which commenced in 1908. However,
its successful realisation was predicated on the continued dispossession of the
African of the best land and the destruction of his property in the years
1908-14. By 1914, white settlers, numbering 23 730 owned 19 032 320 acres of
land while an estimated 752, 000 Africans occupied a total of 21 390 080 acres
of land, (R. Palmer: Land and Racial Domination in Rhodesia, Heinemann
The end of the First World War saw the BSAC embarking on Land
Settlement Policy through the launch of an elaborate and extensive campaign of
wooing immigrants to Southern Rhodesia, (British South Africa Company Leaflet of
1st January 1919). The British Government under pressure to accommodate veterans
of war as well as mitigate the demands on it arising for the post war economic
depression, lent support to the campaign. An increase in the settler population
necessarily had to be matched with the availability of additional land for the
(Embassy of Zimbabwe in Stockholm, accessed 16th
Dec. 2012, Background to Land Reform in Zimbabwe)
How wonderfully adept Western people are at
contriving and manipulating law to justify naked aggression and land
acquisition! And they really do believe the fantasy they create through weaving
a web of self-serving legislation to justify their predations. And, yes, they're
still doing it!
13 See Jim Zanotti, Israel:
Background and U.S. Relations (Congressional Research Service RL33476,
November 7, 2012) for a brief description of United States and British
involvement in Israel's legitimation, security and expansion since the Second