Richard E. Garner, Jr.
and flapping in the wind, attached to a pole set up in the yard of one of my
across-the-street neighbors, the flag of the United States, Old Glory, drew my
attention as I stood at a bus stop, waiting for a bus. As I looked at it, my
mind wandered, and I found myself counting the red and white bars. There was so
much flapping of the flag back and forth in the wind that that proved to be
more difficult than I expected. At first it did not seem as if there could
really be thirteen, as I knew there had to be. However, after a few minutes I
succeeded and counted all thirteen bars. The bus came and I went on my way.
The thirteen red and white bars, as we know, represent
the original thirteen states at the time of the adoption of our Constitution
and the formation of the Union. And the stars represent the fifty states that
are now part of the Union.
The United States is a very different kind of country
than it was at the time of the American Revolution and the writing and adoption
of our Constitution. At the time of the founding of the United States, we had a
population of about 3 ½ million people. We now have a population of more than
332 million people, and we are still growing despite the recent slowdown in the
rate of natural increase.
Although the United States is a different kind of
country, and we have a lot more people, and there has been a tremendous
expansion of knowledge, including especially scientific knowledge of the
universe, in many important ways our country is still the same country that had
its beginnings in the American Revolution and the adoption of our Constitution
written at the convention in Philadelphia in May of 1787.
We have had several different reform eras, and our
economy and technology have been developed to a point of great complexity. And
the world has changed profoundly. However, we are still the intellectual,
cultural and political inheritors of the most successful democratic revolution
ever. And that fact, the fact that at one and the same time, our country is a
very different kind of country than what the founders created and still very
much the same, holds out great peril and great promise for our future.
As I have tried to describe in previous blog posts,
our two major political parties have been completely oblivious of the problems
of human population growth and economic growth, and our minor parties have
either given these problems inadequate attention or no attention also. However,
if enough citizens who see these problems and how fundamental they are can get
into effective communication with each other, and act together, we can have
reasonable hope of starting a new political party very much like the one I am
going to try to describe in time to make a difference. I am not suggesting that
such a party should be based solely upon my thoughts. I am hoping that I will
get the non-hostile, supportive responses of many people, sharing their
thoughts, and that together, somehow, we will be able to move forward into the
unknown. With courage and open-mindedness and humility, but nevertheless with
belief in ourselves and in our own ability to apprehend reality however
imperfect it may be, we can help to secure the future of humanity and most of
the rest of life on Earth.
I am going to try to describe some general types of
policy proposals that the new political party should be committed to promoting.
However, the new party will be about more than just a set of policy proposals.
In broad terms its purpose will be to promote a different vision of the nature
of the relationship between humanity and the rest of the biosphere and what
that relationship has to be like if humanity and the biosphere as a whole are
to not just survive but flourish, and where humanity will be able to advance to
a more secure prospect for the future.
One of the most important policy proposals of the new
political party should be for a national population policy. This policy should
be completely noncoercive about the personal reproductive choices of Americans.
However, it also should be clear, firm, and unequivocal in what it says. Its
essential feature should be a statement to the effect that it is the policy of
the government of the United States that population growth of citizens and
legal permanent residents should come to a complete end at the earliest possible
time, and that a transition should be approached to a slowly declining
It will be part of the policy to explain that it
exists not just for the sake of the short term and long term economic and
social benefits of citizens, but most importantly for the sake of the
protection and preservation of the remaining biodiversity and the survival and
well-being of the non-human part of the biosphere that exists within the
borders of the United States.
For the national population policy to be effective,
there will need to be supplemental policies that will engage the emotionally
super-charged issues of immigration and women’s right to reproductive choice,
including the right to have an abortion.
The approach of all factions of both major political
parties and all the minor parties as well to the issue of immigration is
tragically flawed. Our country’s discussion and debate about immigration and
what our immigration policies should be needs to be firmly placed within the
context of the problems of population growth and economic growth and their
inevitable impacts on the non-human part of the biosphere that exists within
the borders of the United States. In addition, there is the indirect but very
real impact of population growth in the United States from a large volume of
immigration on the biosphere of the entire Earth. Our American way of life is
one of the most energy and resource intensive in the world. And politically and
economically our country is the most important in the world. What happens to us
will inevitably affect almost all of humanity and much of the rest of life on
I am fully aware that the problem of racism in the
United States is pervasive and quite real. I would also agree that racism and
racist thinking have had a tragic influence on the making of immigration policy
in the United States throughout our history. However, we need to make some
critically important logical distinctions. It is entirely possible for some
Americans to have racist opinions about immigrants and at the very same time
they may have legitimate concerns about the impact of a large volume of
immigration on their lives.
The various economic studies claiming to show that
immigration has no significant negative impact on employment in the United
States are not reliable. Our discussion of immigration takes place in the
context of a society where economic growth and population growth are almost
universally assumed to be good things. In this context, it is easy for economic
growth to thoroughly muddy up the picture of what is really happening.
The new political party should promote a national
population policy that takes full account of both natural increase and
immigration, both legal and undocumented, as components of our population
To that end, the national population policy should
promote environmental education about the effects of population growth and
population size on the environment. And it should educate Americans about the
benefits of small family size. And it should hold up choosing not to have
children at all as a patriotic and responsible life choice.
In regard to immigration, the new political party
should promote restrictions on the total volume of immigration, both legal and
undocumented, rather than any further increases in legal immigration. It should
seek significant reductions in legal immigration, starting with economic
immigration, including the H-1B program. There should also be reductions in
There should be a tightening up of regulation of
undocumented immigration. As much as possible this should be based on shifting
the burden of enforcement of our laws against undocumented immigration from the
person seeking to immigrate to the employer. There should be electronic
verification of eligibility for all employment in the United States, making
sure that only citizens and legally admitted residents are able to obtain it.
There should also be a stiffening of sanctions for employers of undocumented
I fully realize that many people think that the making
of immigration policy should revolve solely around the personal stories of the
immigrants. They may think that the apparent or real desperation of those
seeking to immigrate makes a claim on us that we are required to answer in the
affirmative. There is no conceivable way that we Americans or our government
can attempt to solve the problems of all the desperate people in the world by
allowing them to come here and live.
We have almost eight billion people in the world. A
significant percentage of them are extremely desperate. Allowing even a small
fraction of them to come here to live could destroy our ability to maintain a
viable, organized society.
Not only do we have the right to restrict immigration
into the United States. we have the profound responsibility to all Americans,
to all of humanity and to most of life on Earth to do so.
In addition to the restrictions on legal and
undocumented immigration suggested above, the new political party I am
describing would accept a certain amount of immigration of political refugees
or asylum seekers above the level of zero net immigration for a limited but not
We should keep in mind that we cannot accept an
unlimited amount of immigration of refugees or asylum seekers any more than we
can any other category of immigration.
The new political party will accept democratic
compromises on changes in immigration policy in the short term to intermediate
In addition, the new political party will not be
indifferent to the fate of people around the world who do not feel safe or feel
powerless to bring about beneficial change in their own country. As much as it
is in our power to do so, we will try to find ways to help them other than
allowing them to come here to live.
The new political party will promote an awareness of
the need to get to zero net immigration into the United States just as soon as
it becomes possible to do so.
The new political party will also have to develop
measures to bring economic growth to an end.
Developing and promoting policies to bring economic
growth to a complete end may be even more difficult than bringing population
growth to an end. The push for economic growth is deeply rooted in our most
important institutions and in our sense of ourselves as a people. It is rooted
in our historical experience as a people expanding across the physical frontier
of a continent. It is also rooted in the operations of a market society, any
market society where the so called “free” market is the central organizing
principle of the society.
The basic principle of a society organized primarily
around the marketplace where thousands of individual firms compete against each
other, seeking to make a profit as large as possible on the sale of goods and
services has within it the logical structure that inevitably leads to the push
for economic growth. Whether the money supply is relatively static or whether
it is expanding relatively quickly, at the end of a given unit of time, some
people will have done much better than others in the marketplace. They will
have accumulated much more wealth than they had at the beginning through the
sale of goods and services, or they will have earned much more. Others will
have got by with only slightly more or slightly less than they had at the
beginning, although they may have lived comfortably and were able to meet their
needs. Others will not have done very well at all.
In the first place, before we can have any hope of
bringing economic growth to an end, without causing complete chaos in a way
that absolutely will not work, we need to bring population growth, including
population growth from immigration to an end. Or we need to have implemented
policy changes and legislation that we can be confident will bring population
growth to an end and help bring about a transition to a slowly declining
population, or negative population growth.
Returning to our consideration of what happens to different
groups of people in a so-called free market economy, when we are ready to start
making the transition to a society where there is no economic growth, we need
to consider what will happen when we adopt various policies to bring it to an
As I said earlier, in a free market economy, different
groups of people have dramatically different degrees of success. Without a
large role for government in intervening in the marketplace, such an economy
will tend towards collapse. Without population growth, and steady increases in
the inputs of matter and energy into the economic process, and a steady
expansion of the money supply, and of the demand for goods and services,
including a greater variety of types of goods and services, including through
technological innovation, this will be especially true.
In one of his books Ecological Economics:
Principles and Applications, Herman E. Daly suggests that ending fractional
reserve banking would help restrict economic growth and bring it to an end.
Fractional reserve banking is the system we have now where private banks and
other financial institutions are allowed to keep the money that they have on
deposit as only a very small fraction of the total amount of money that they
have out on loan, for which they charge interest. In this way, when the banks
loan money, they are participating in the expansion of the money supply, and
this helps to create the expansion of the economy, or i.e., economic growth.
I agree that ending fractional reserve banking would
help to end economic growth. However, I have concerns about it. For one thing,
Daly is not clear about what would replace the role of the banks or what else
would change in the economy at the same time. If Daly means that the government
should take on the exclusive role of creating money, I am concerned that trying
to promote such a dramatic policy shift will make the initial tasks of the new
political party even more difficult than it is already going to be. Perhaps, at
a certain point down the road, we could take gradual steps away from fractional
reserve banking. Perhaps we could gradually increase the size or fraction that
the deposits or the reserves are as a percentage of the loans that the bank has
Also, I want the different kind of society where the
economy is not growing, or even gradually shrinking in the material and energy
inputs that it draws from nature, to still be a free society.
There are other policy ideas that some ecological
economists have suggested as ways to help end economic growth. One of them is
the idea of local currencies, where people turn to the economy in the local
area for more of their economic needs.
I would agree that shortening supply lines, or the
distances that are involved in the provision of our goods and services would help
lighten the load of human activities on the biosphere.
However, I am very skeptical of the idea that the
population here in the United States would be able to engage in extensive
reliance on the economy in our local areas anytime in the foreseeable future.
In our complex world with our complex technology, our American population
depends on goods and services and natural resources from hundreds and thousands
of miles away.
These two suggestions reveal something about
ecological economics and the new kind of society that we need the new political
party to help create. We don’t just need a different kind of economy. We need
to change the political and economic structure of society.
Ecological economics, like other schools of economics,
is an axiomatic system. It is based more on empiricism, learning from
experience, than any other school of economics that I know. Ecological economics correctly recognizes,
unlike all other schools of economics, that any economy is contained within the
ecosystems of the Earth. However, it is still an axiomatic system where
ecological economists reason from assumptions about reality in a very abstract,
highly generalized way.
In order to have a chance for some initial successes,
the new political party should start with the United States as it is now. And
the advocates for it should ask how we address the structure of political and
economic power so that we can prepare the ground for a different kind of
A couple of the ideas suggested by Senator Elizabeth
Warren, a wealth tax, and a corporate accountability act, might provide the
basis, at least in part, for a beginning.
These ideas as I am going to describe them and the
context in which I am going to put them have not been endorsed by Senator
Warren. One of them goes back at least to the time of the founding of the
United States when it was suggested by James Madison at the convention in
Philadelphia in 1787 when our constitution was drafted. (This was the idea of
federal charters for corporations according to Marshall B. Clinard in Corporate
Corruption: The Abuse of Power published by Praeger, 1990. The idea didn’t
make it into the Constitution.)
As suggested by Senator Warren, the wealth tax would
have been a tax of 2 or 3% on the personal wealth of the richest Americans.
These would have been the richest of the rich, those with the largest amounts
of wealth at the very top of our society.
The purpose of the wealth tax as suggested by Senator
Warren seems to have been to reduce economic inequality and provide funding for
needed government programs such as a debt free college education.
I am suggesting something quite different, although I
would agree that many of the uses for the funds raised by the wealth tax which
Senator Warren suggested in her campaign for the Democratic Party’s nomination
for President would have been very worthy. Many articles appeared in the news
after Senator Warren had made her suggestion of a wealth tax saying there’s a
better way to make the rich pay. No, there isn’t. And simply making them pay
isn’t the point. We need to end the destructive power of the superrich over
American democracy and the destiny of humanity and most of the rest of life on
Earth. At this point life on Earth is being destroyed by our American way of
life and the way of life of the developed world which has now been spread
around the world by the globalized economy. The American system works too well.
It is very productive and very destructive at one and the same time. We need
something very different. No ifs, no ands, and no buts.
A wealth tax could be one of many tools for
fundamentally changing the nature of American society and government for the
better. For that to be possible, we would need to go quite a bit further than
what Senator Warren suggested. We need to put the wealth tax in the context of
the American system. We need to put an end to the idea that any American has a
right to the unlimited accumulation of wealth.
We need to look at the statistics on how much wealth a
very small minority of Americans have in relation to the total economy and
relative to everyone else and decide what kind of role a wealth tax could play
in helping our government place limits on this accumulation of wealth. Rather
than a mere 2 or 3%, at some levels the wealth tax might need to be more than
50%, or even more than 90%.
I am quite aware how aghast a great many Americans
might be in response to ideas such as this. Confiscation, they might very well
say! No, not confiscation. The end of planetary destruction. The end of our
relentless march towards the doom of a world.
I understand quite well that we may need a
constitutional amendment for a wealth tax to be possible. So be it. This is
still another reason why we cannot rely on the existing two major parties to
get the job done.
We also need to apply the idea of a wealth tax to
businesses as well as to individuals.
Just as we did with the idea of a wealth tax on
individuals, we need to expand the idea of a wealth tax on businesses to the
idea of limits on how much wealth, income or property any business entity,
whether it is a corporation or not, is allowed to accumulate and control. We
need to look at the statistics on the largest businesses and corporations and
decide what the appropriate limits would be. We also need to look at what
functions they serve in the context of society.
Again, we might need a constitutional amendment to
make this possible.
With her idea of a corporate accountability act,
Senator Warren suggested that the largest corporations should be federally chartered.
And she suggested that the boards of directors should be required to have a
certain percentage of their members represent the employees of the corporation
rather than the shareholders. I would suggest that we need to go further and
have a certain percentage of the board of directors represent the public and be
legally required to monitor and help regulate how the business of the
corporation impacts the biosphere, both its human and non-human parts.
In fact, we need to completely rethink what we allow
the business corporation to be and to do.
In order to successfully reform what we allow the
business corporation to be and to do, as part of a larger effort to bring
economic growth to an end we need to keep some things in mind.
First, we need to take a close look at the economic,
social, cultural and political situation in the United States and in the world
as it exists now and at the role that business corporations play within
it. We cannot simply get rid of the
corporations, at least not in the short-term to intermediate term future. We
will need them for a while at least. However, we can fundamentally change them
in the interest of preserving life on Earth and improving the functioning of
American democracy and making America a truly free, just and good society.
To do this, we need to take a step back, and look at
one of the underlying assumptions of the founding fathers. They assumed that
the individual would seek the implementation of their natural rights to life,
liberty and the pursuit of happiness within the marketplace, with a minimum of
We need to improve on this. The natural rights of the
individual can only be effectively pursued in a secure manner in the context of
a polity with a government that is fundamentally committed to the preservation
and protection of the entire part of the biosphere that exists within the
borders of the nation-state, in this case the United States, and to
preservation of the biosphere of life on Earth as a whole.
Given this modified assumption, we can proceed to
consider how to reform the corporation and bring economic growth to an end.
We need to review past efforts to reform corporations.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries laws were passed by
Congress giving the federal government the ability to break up what were known
as trusts, or business corporations with monopoly power over certain industries
into smaller units.
The enforcement of our anti-trust laws has waxed and
waned over the course of the last century depending on how different
Presidential administrations thought about it.
Existing anti-trust law seems to be based primarily
upon the idea that monopolies or oligopolies are bad if they interfere with or
suppress the ability of companies in particular industries to compete in
providing goods and services to the consumer at the lowest possible price. We
need to expand on this and develop a concept of political anti-trust.
We need to recognize that business corporations do
many bad things besides just monopolize the provision of particular goods and
services, or particular categories of goods and services. Businesses and
corporations small, medium, large and very large have polluted different parts
of our environment. They have polluted our water. They have polluted our air.
They have put toxic chemicals into different types of ecosystems. One of the
worst things that business corporations have done is lead our American society
in a process of consuming large parts of the biosphere within the United States
and around the world. Forests have been cut down for farmland. And farmland has
been covered over with housing and commercial buildings. So much has been
covered over with roads, highways and commercial buildings. And occasionally
government buildings. Or mines or drilling equipment.
And now we have people saying that we will fight
climate change by building dense in urban environments so that people will not
have to do so much driving that puts carbon dioxide into the air. Building
dense or building up rather than over the land is not going to adequately
protect the biosphere from human activities.
For every high-rise condominium or apartment complex,
we should think of the invisible lines from the apartments or condominiums on
the upper floors that could be traced to the many parts of the environment that
will be torn up or polluted or simply used to provide for their perceived needs
and wants in an energy-intensive, resource-intensive civilization.
These are some of the things we should think of when
we decide how the federal government, or the government at any level should go
about chartering or regulating business corporations.
At the federal level, for chartering or re-chartering
there should be no assumption that there is an automatic right for a group of
businesspeople to obtain a charter, or what may be a re-chartering at the
federal level just so a small minority of people can get rich. That is
conducting the government according to the old assumption. We need a government
guided by the new assumption, that the ability of every citizen to enjoy these
natural rights depends on the existence of, and on their ability to participate
in, a government that is committed to the preservation and protection of that
part of the biosphere within the borders of the nation-state and across the
In the regulation and chartering of the largest
corporations at the federal level, we need to challenge the unexamined
assumption that business corporations have the right to be immortal, or last
indefinitely and continue to grow.
Chartering and rechartering should be for limited time
periods, and there should be no-assumption of an indefinite right to be
As an example, we might allow an initial charter to
last for twenty years and then only one re-chartering for twenty years.
The business corporations, especially the largest
ones, have such a negative impact on the biosphere here in the United States,
and in the world and such a negative impact on our democracy that they might
almost be considered as a political empire themselves rivaling the
nation-states in power.
In order to contain this empire of business
corporations back within the boundaries of the state, we need reforms in the
areas of corporate size, developing a theory of political anti-trust, corporate
personhood, vertical and horizontal integration, and limited liability.
Much has been made already of the evils flowing from
corporate personhood. I support the idea of ending corporate personhood.
However, I think we need much more than a constitutional amendment focusing
solely on this aspect of the modern corporation. We need a drastic cutback in
the allowed scope of horizontal integration, or the acquisition by one very
large company of another almost as big company. Many times, the almost as big
company being acquired is in the same industry. Often, they are not. We should
prohibit the acquisition by one company of others in unrelated industries.
Mergers of companies in related industries should be allowed, if at all, only
in very special circumstances, if the resulting company will fall within limits
placed on corporate size, and if the merger is truly in the interest not just
of the consumer, but the citizen. Mergers of unrelated companies in different
industries mostly should just not be allowed at all.
We need to place restrictions on limited liability
also. Eventually we may have to end it.
We may need to prohibit the holding company, or a
company which is designed and created solely to own other companies.
I realize that the defenders of the political and
economic status quo may say that the changes I am suggesting will eliminate the
possibility of needed technological innovation. However, I believe that these
changes could be brought about in such a way that they wouldn’t prevent truly
needed innovation that was consistent with our overall goal of bringing
population growth to an end, and gradual economic degrowth. Much, if not most
of the innovation of the last couple of centuries has had unintended and
profoundly harmful consequences, in large part because of the false belief that
technology will always solve the problems of growth, especially population
There is no conceivable technological innovation that
is going to save us from the consequences of continuing population growth and
Responsibility for implementing some of the most
important of these various changes to how our federal government approaches
regulating business corporations and other large businesses might be brought
under a new cabinet department of Economic Transformation and Ecological
Preservation. The legal authority, however, would originate in legislation
passed by the Congress and signed by the President and if necessary,
The cabinet department would not have a monopoly on
the responsibility. Ultimate responsibility for reaching the goals sought by
creating the department, bringing economic growth in the United States to an
end, and transforming US economic society in a way consistent with that, would
remain with the people, and with US society and our government. If the
department failed to achieve the goals it was set up to pursue, or make
significant progress towards them, it woold be up to the people to look for
The new political party will also need to pay attention
to how our government and the largest businesses and corporations control our
structures and institutions of mass communication. This includes but is not
limited to the businesses and corporations making use of the electromagnetic
spectrum. The uses of the electromagnetic spectrum for mass communication
includes radio, broadcast and cable television, personal computers, cell phones
and smartphones. The institutions of mass communication also include
traditional print-based media such as newspapers, general interest magazines and
special interest periodicals that now almost all have a presence on the
Throughout our country’s history, our news media have
mostly supported our established political and economic order. By this I mean
that these media have provided a platform almost exclusively for Americans who
have supported the ideas that continuing population growth and economic growth
were good things. Or it did not occur to them to question these underlying
assumptions. Almost all our literature, our culture and our democratic
discourse has taken place in ways that implicitly made these assumptions as
part of the intellectual background of concern and interest.
With the rise of the internet, and the changes to our
country’s approach to global trade introduced by the Clinton administration,
this is even more true today than it used to be.
The rise of television about seventy years ago severely
weakened US daily metropolitan newspapers and set them on a downward path. The
rise of the internet and US participation in the global economy after the
pattern established by the policies of Bill Clinton and subsequent Presidents
weakened them still more. They are now struggling for survival. General
interest magazines and special interest magazines have suffered a similar fate.
It is in this atmosphere that the new political party
or the advocates for such will have to find a path forward into an unknown
In the immediate future, one thing the new political
party can do is rally the scientists, scholars, activists and citizens who do
see these fundamental problems clearly to advocate for open and adequate
attention to these problems by our news media and by our government. And this should
be done in such a way that these failures of our news media are pointed out as
political failures, as failures of the American system. This effort to rally
environmental opinion among scientists and citizens will not succeed if it
proceeds on the basis that this is a rational society and all we need to do is
get our descriptions of the problems and what we need to do out there and
society will somehow be magically transformed. It will not. We must seek specific
political goals and fundamental changes to our institutions of government if we
really want American society to be changed for the better and most of life on
Earth to be saved.
The kinds of changes I have already described in how
our government regulates the largest business corporations and the control of
wealth could be very helpful in how we approach getting our telecommunications
companies and our news media to engage with these fundamental environmental
problems, population growth and economic growth.
Perhaps in the near future we could have an
environmental news network that would include broadcast television that would
not neglect the problems of population growth and economic growth and would
report on them on a daily, even hourly basis, and would be publicly
In the meantime, until we can achieve something like
this the new political party or the advocates for such will have to rely on
their ability to make creative uses of existing media to promote an
understanding of these problems and the need for major political changes,
including the need for a new political party.
The new political party should also have a local
presence wherever possible where people can meet to discuss these fundamental
problems, population growth and economic growth, and how a new political party
can approach the task of bringing them to an end and transforming American
The new political party should also take a different
approach to the globalized US and world economy. Let’s look first at what this
means. The production, marketing and distribution of almost everything that is
bought and sold in the marketplace now stretches around the planet. Commodities
that are torn from the Earth, mined or otherwise extracted, or grown for food,
and the products that are made from them, travel hundreds and even thousands of
miles to where they are sold. The one thing that seems to matter the most in
this overall process is whether or not the provision of these products and
services is cost effective at the lowest possible price. And whether or not it
produces the maximum possible amount of economic growth. The impact on the
labor market, on the lives of workers and on democracy is almost completely ignored.
And the impact on the biosphere and the future of humanity is virtually
The new political party should promote an at least
partial disengagement of the United States and American companies and citizens
from participation in the global economy at it now exists. This doesn’t mean
and end to US participation in global trade.
It will mean many things. There should be a complete
analysis of how our United States government might restructure its regulation
of how US businesses and citizens participate in global trade in such a way
that it supports the basic goals of the new political party, to end population
growth and economic growth and preserve the biosphere within our borders and
across the face of the planet.
There should be an end to US participation in a system
of global trade that is allowed to take place according to the principles of
alleged, so-called free trade and comparative advantage. The system of free
trade as it functions now doesn’t really allow for true freedom at all. It’s
really a new system of tyranny.
There should be an end to a system of exploitation of
the people of the economically less developed countries to produce manufactured
goods so American companies do not have to pay unionized American workers
decent wages and so they can escape more rigorous regulation of the
environmental consequences of the production of these manufactured goods.
We cannot bring back or undo the past. However, step
by step, we can change things in the direction of an economy and a society and
a polity where the biosphere will be protected from unnecessarily harmful
consequences of human activities, and where our democracy will not be steadily
undermined by our participation in global trade.
Some manufacturing can be brought home. And we need to
systematically analyze the grounding in objective reality of the material and
energy inputs of every aspect of our lives, not just from fossil fuels, and not
just from eating meat.
Tariffs may have their place, especially linked to
well thought out industrial policies, or policies that would aid certain
industries that would be sustainable and protect the environment, if they are
not guided by a goal of endless growth. But we should not exclusively rely on
them. We need a different kind of society, guided by different principles.
In what I said above about a wealth tax on superrich
individuals and large businesses, or a corporate accountability system to help
end economic growth, I have not said much about how ordinary citizens might be
asked to restrain their consumption in order to bring that about.
American life is so economically unequal that it can
truly be said that at least the bottom half of the population in terms of
income doesn’t really engage in a whole lot of over-consumption. Most of the
activities that they engage in may have more of an impact on nature than we
would prefer. But they make choices within a framework that they did not create
and that is almost literally forced down their throats.
One of the things that we might do with the proceeds
from the imposition of a wealth tax on superrich individuals or large
businesses would be to provide a truly free college education through the full
undergraduate level at public colleges and universities throughout the country.
And perhaps we should make this funding available to students seeking a college
education at private universities as well.
Providing debt free college education to all citizens
would be a way to help American society turn away from the pursuit of endless
growth in the consumption of material things to the pursuit of intangible
things including knowledge of life and the universe and understanding of
oneself and other people.
To ask how individual consumption should be restrained
to bring an end to economic growth, we need to take a good look at the American
upper middle class and some of the comfortable myths they seem to have
swallowed whole. One of the myths that many Americans seem to believe is that
technology will save us. Let’s consider the electric car. At least in theory an
electric powered automobile represents an improvement over one powered by an
internal combustion engine. If you think that the entire meaning of the world
environmental crisis revolves around climate change caused by using fossil
fuels it might seem like an improvement. However, this overlooks many things.
To make an electric car, many things have to be done that have a significant
impact on the environment. And to provide the electricity that keeps an
electric car running, many things also have to be done that also have a
significant impact on the environment.
The denser we build our cities the less likely that
solar panels mounted on rooftops will be enough to meet our needs. We will need
even more electricity from centralized collection sources of solar and wind
energy. The more energy we need from these sources the longer the transmission
lines will have to be. And the longer the transmission lines are, the more
energy will be lost on its way to the point of end use, and the more areas that
will have to be covered by large arrays of solar panels or wind plants.
One of the other myths that many people believe is
that a conversion to veganism will help to solve the problem of climate change.
It is true that methane from cattle passing gas is a significant percentage of
the greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. However, pushing a
widespread conversion to veganism is not the way to solve this problem. Let’s
be sure that we understand what it is first. Veganism means not eating any meat
or consuming any animal products for food at all.
One of the problems with this is that not everybody
can do it. There are many people who have
medical problems that make it a necessity to consume meat and/or other
animal products in order to live. I happen to be one of them. And for another
thing, food preferences are very deep seated. They are not likely to be changed
in enough of a widespread way in time to make a difference as far as climate
change is concerned.
Even if we could all become vegans overnight, as long
as population growth and economic growth continue, we will still be in trouble.
If you are concerned about methane or other greenhouse gases coming from animal
husbandry, one of the other things you should be concerned about is the large
volume of immigration into the United States. The majority of immigrants are
vey likely to become much more frequent meat eaters than they would have been
if they had continued to live in their home countries.
An integrated approach, that combined partial solutions
in many different areas might have a better chance of working. If we educate as
many people as possible about the advantages of eating less meat, in particular
less beef, and at the same time restrict and reduce legal and undocumented
immigration into the United States, that could help lay the foundations for the
dramatic shift away from fossil fuels and the other political changes that we
I have also not had much to say about how I think the
new political party should approach the problem of climate change, at least not
in this particular blog post. The new political party that I would like to see
formed and hope to be a part of will treat the problem of climate change just
as seriously as the most ardent advocates for action to slow it down and
prevent it. In fact, we will treat it more seriously than either of the two
existing major parties. We simply maintain that a completely carbon free
economy cannot be successfully sought or reached while remaining indifferent to
the problems of population and economic growth. These two later problems are
not overshadowed in urgency by climate change.
They are completely interwoven with it.
Solutions to the problem of climate change can also
not be sought while ignoring the structure of political and economic power. We
can see this by looking at the current paralysis of our government in taking
even the most minimal action to address climate change, and what they do agree
to is almost certain to be inadequate.
I have also not explicitly mentioned or used the term
“Sixth Mass Extinction” which refers to the greatly increased rate of
extinctions of other species of life because of human activities including
population growth. This greatly increased rate of extinction has been going on
throughout the preceding century into these opening decades of our own. All of
my blog posts have been implicitly referring to this problem and the other
major environmental problems including climate change. (See https://www.pnas.org/content/117/24/13596.)
The explicit purpose of my blog and my suggestion that we need a new political are
meant to address exactly this most important dimension of the world
environmental crisis as well as the need of all Americans for a new type of
society, one that will actually have a chance of lasting and truly securing the
Much of what I have suggested here as possible goals
for the new political party, including the idea of a wealth tax, might be seen
as left-wing or liberal or even socialist. If you support the idea of an end to
population growth and economic growth in the United States, but not some of my
other suggestions, like a wealth tax, please let me know, and I will try to
respond. I believe that laissez-faire economics is not a truly conservative
philosophy anymore than indifference to the numbers involved in a large volume
of immigration into the United States is a truly progressive or liberal one. I
believe that the meaning of words is relative to specific intellectual and
historical contexts and grounding in objective reality. I am speaking here
primarily of words having to do with political ideology.
I believe that the ability of humans to realize or
approximate any set of political ideals in any philosophy depends on
open-mindedness and the free interchange of ideas and discussions among people
with different points of view who treat each other with mutual respect.
These are some of the ideas and policies that I would
like to see a new political party promote and fight for.
I hope that you have found something of value in what
I have said here. Please comment and tell me what you think, and if you have
any questions, I will try to answer them. And please, if you do comment, please
do so without attacking me or anyone else in a personal way. Please focus on
the substance and the facts of any particular issue.
And please consider donating through one of the ways
set forth below. Even modest donations would help. I am a man in my early 70s
living on social security and supplemental security income, and I could really
use your help. I am a college educated man who has lived in a material sense and
in other ways a very hard life. I have spent it fighting for the future of all
life. I invite you to join me.
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Copyright 2021 by Richard E. Garner, Jr