What the new political party that we need in the United States should be like and what some of its goals should be

October 8, 2021

By Richard E. Garner, Jr.

            Blowing 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 population.

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 Earth.

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 growth.

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 family migration.

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 workers.

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 indefinite time. 

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 term future.

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 end.

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 made.

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 society.

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 government interference.

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 globe.

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 rechartered.

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 growth.

There is no conceivable technological innovation that is going to save us from the consequences of continuing population growth and economic growth.

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, constitutional amendments.

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 appropriate remedies.

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 internet.

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 future.

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 financed. 

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 society.

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 completely ignored.

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 need.

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 human future.

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.

Please donate through either PayPal.com or GoFundMe.com. At some point in the near future I may have either a P.O. box or other land-based mailbox for those who don’t feel comfortable donating through an online platform or if you have any trouble with either one of these. If you do have any trouble please let me know in a comment. The links for PayPal or GoFundMe are:

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Copyright 2021 by Richard E. Garner, Jr

Why we need a new political party and a new type of Society in the United States

by Richard E. Garner, Jr

Once. Or sometimes maybe twice in a day a potential customer would call my Dad’s TV repair shop while I sat there answering the phone for him during the great Oil Embargo from late 1973 to early 1974. People were not getting their TV sets repaired. The Yom Kippur War had occurred in the Middle East in October 1973. As one of the consequences of this war the Arab member nations of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) had declared an embargo on the sale of oil to two nations, the United States, and the Netherlands, in retaliation for an airlift of military supplies to Israel during that war. Because of the embargo there were serious shortages of some petroleum products in the United States, like gasoline and home heating oil.

The shortage of gasoline was a serious disruption of daily life in the United States. Both the availability and the price of gasoline were affected. Many gasoline stations frequently had to close. People often had to wait in long lines to buy it.

Because of the impact of the Oil Embargo on the US economy, many people had less discretionary income for things like getting their TV sets repaired when they needed to, and there was great uncertainty about what would happen next.

For my Dad, a man who had grown up during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the consequences of the Embargo were like another economic depression. For the American people, the embargo and its consequences came as a great shock. A way of life based on the automobile and cheap, easily available oil and products made from oil had spread rapidly throughout American society throughout much of the twentieth century. This spread had been especially rapid in the post-World War II period from the end of the war in 1945 up until the time of the Embargo in 1973. Suddenly this great abundance was under threat.

To give President Nixon and many other leaders in American government and business some credit, they did see a problem coming with oil and energy in general at least a few years ahead of the Embargo. However, they mostly misconceived and misunderstood the nature of the problem. President Nixon told Americans that they faced an energy crisis. President Nixon and these other leaders saw the energy crisis as essentially a crisis of energy supply, or the types of energy sources from which we got our energy or what part of the world we got it from.

Energy can become a problem of supply for two reasons:

  1. The members of your society approach the exhaustion of your finite supply of your preferred source of energy for useful work. The discovery that the supply of your preferred form of energy is finite and not endless may be rather sudden and unpleasant.
  2. The number of people in your society using your preferred form of energy expands rapidly.

Energy can become a problem of use if you start using it to do and to make and to sell more and more things. All these things that you make a rapidly growing use of energy to do will inevitably have a growing impact on nature, which, as previously noted in earlier posts to this blog, is finite. All these uses of energy that are exhausting or approaching the exhaustion of your finite supply will be producing more air pollution, more water pollution, and more toxic substances, or more other kinds of pollution from the new products you are making with your preferred energy source.

At the time of the Oil Embargo of 1973 – 1974, both categories of reasons why energy could be a problem of both supply and use applied to the United States. Americans were using more and more products made from oil or using oil. And there were more and more Americans engaged in these uses of oil.

At the time of the Oil Embargo of 1973-1974 world human population was approaching four billion people. This was an increase of 100% in only fifty years from about two billion in 1925. In the United States human population was over 200 million in the 1970s. It had only been about 150 million a quarter century earlier in 1950. This was an increase of a third or 33 and one-third per cent. ( See https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/world-population-by-year and also https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/worldwide-population-throughout-human-history.htm . And for US population figures see the US Statistical Abstract 1980 part 2 – Section 01 at https://www.census.gov/library/publications/1980/compendia/statab/101ed.html )

Much if not most of this rapid population growth in the United States and in the world came because of a rapid increase in the use of fossil fuels. This included natural gas, which was used to make an artificial nitrogen fertilizer that greatly increased agricultural productivity using something called the Haber-Bosch process. It also included the use of oil-based insecticides like DDT to keep the insects that might consume much of the food crops eaten by human beings at bay, and to combat human diseases like malaria. (See Countdown – Our Last Best Hope for a Future on Earth by Alan Weisman, Little, Brown and Co. 2013 Also, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population )  

The discovery and use of antibiotics like penicillin, by lowering the death rate, also contributed significantly to human population growth.

The use of oil brought a whole new way of life to the United States that greatly reduced the physical hardship of life for many people and helped to promote widespread prosperity. (See Energy for Survival – The Alternative to Extinction by Wilson Clark Copyright 1974 by Wilson Clark Anchor Press 1974 – also The Prize – The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power by Daniel Yergin Copyright 1991, 1992 by Daniel Yergin,,Touchstone Simon and Schuster)

The problems of energy supply and energy use that human beings face are involved in all sources and forms of energy that we use, whether from fossil fuels, oil, coal and natural gas, or the renewable, so-called 100% clean sources like solar, wind and waterpower. Anything that we human beings ever do in our activities within the world of nature or the universe involves energy, which scientists define as the ability to do work. And energy, in all its forms, is ruled by two fundamental laws, first, that it cannot be created or destroyed, and second, the second law of thermodynamics. The second law of thermodynamics can be stated in many different ways. The basic idea is that the useful work derived from the transformation of any form of energy into another can never be completely efficient, and some of the energy must be dissipated as useless heat energy that cannot be recovered for further work. These laws profoundly affect how humans will ever be able to solve the World Environmental Crisis. Given a sufficiently large number of human beings and a sufficiently large quantity of energy used, of whatever form or source, nature will be impacted accordingly.

Most of us are familiar with oil spills into oceans, lakes and rivers, and the contamination of groundwater by oil and natural gas and chemicals derived from these. We are also familiar with the pollution of our air and water by products derived from fossil fuels, such as air pollution from automobiles.

The mineral ores from which the key materials for the solar photovoltaic cells for solar panels are made are mined from the earth, just as natural gas is pumped from the ground. Although the suggestion has been made that we try to develop the use of more common materials than rare earths to make solar cells, no matter what materials we use, we will still be making huge impacts on the biosphere through our use of these so-called clean energy sources.

What I have said so far mostly involves the problems of energy supply. There is also the question of what kinds of things we have been doing with all this energy and what kinds of things we are going to do in the future. As I said, we have been making more and more things and more and more kinds of things. In the post-World War II period running from the end of the war in 1945 until the time of the Embargo in 1973 we became committed as a society to continuing economic growth, which is the steady increase in the total quantity of goods and services produced in our economy from one year to the next.

The oil embargo ended after a relatively brief period, in March of 1974. There were some policies adopted by our government because of the embargo. Efficiency standards for automobiles were put in place. They were required to get an increased number of miles per gallon from gasoline. In addition, a pipeline for the development of oil in Alaska was approved. However, there was no comprehensive policy developed to deal with all the different problems associated with energy supply and use in the 1970s and there has not been since. And our alleged leaders in both of our two major political parties continue to misconceive and misunderstand the problem of energy as almost exclusively a problem of supply. Prior to the oil embargo, in the 1960s and early 1970s a critically important social movement emerged in the United States and much of the world. This was the modern environmental movement. This was sparked at first by some rather obvious things, such as air and water pollution, and the impact of the use of chemical insecticides on wildlife. Some of these things were rather dramatic, such as a river in the eastern United States, the Cuyahoga, catching on fire.

However, the environmental movement quickly became much more theoretical and concerned with the foundations or causes of why there was an environmental crisis. For many years, scientists, scholars, activists in conservation and environmental organizations and ordinary citizens had been becoming steadily more and more concerned about the problem of human population growth and its possible impact on the future of the rest of life on Earth, or the biosphere, as scientists call it.

In 1968 a book written by a biologist named Paul Ehrlich and his wife, Anne Ehrlich, called The Population Bomb was published. (She was not listed because of the publishing conventions of the time, but she was in fact a co-author.) In this book the Ehrlichs focused on one of the central parts of the problem of human population growth, the problem of keeping everyone adequately fed. They suggested that widespread, dramatic famines in many parts of the world were likely to happen in what was then the near future.

Fortunately, for the sake of the great many lives saved, with the help of improvements in agricultural technology and the development of dwarf varieties of wheat that together were called a “Green Revolution,” these dramatic famines did not happen. However, widespread hunger and malnutrition experienced by hundreds of millions have continued to be an ongoing problem and the future of agricultural productivity is still very much in question and a great many people have drawn the wrong conclusions from a temporary reprieve from a problem of fundamental importance for all of humankind and most of life on Earth. And the impacts of huge, dramatic increases in our human population on the rest of the biosphere continued in the 1970s despite the absence of dramatic, visible famines and they continue to this very day. (See the report by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization called “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020” www.fao.org/documents/card/en/c/ca9692en . See also below for references to descriptions of the impact of population growth on the rest of the biosphere.)

The Population Bomb was about more than predictions of famines. It was also about the basic logical structure of the problem of population growth for any human society or civilization at any time.

Paul Ehrlich and a couple of other gentlemen founded a grassroots volunteer organization called Zero Population Growth in the wake of the publication of The Population Bomb. For many years this organization has worked to educate Americans about the problem of population growth and to advocate for voluntary, non-coercive measures by the US government to address it. They have emphasized the impact of population growth in many other areas besides just food, such as the impact on habitat for wildlife and endangered species, deforestation, desertification and urban sprawl. (Sadly, I have to report that approximately in 2002 the name of this organization was changed by the President and Board of Directors at the time, without consulting their 70, 000 plus members, but rather other organizations, to Population Connection. The need for a complete end to human population growth and a transition to a slowly declining population is even more urgent now than it was eighteen years ago.)

Clear and comprehensive statements in systematic general terms about why population growth is a problem for all of humankind now in our time have been slow in coming, and when they have come, they have not been as widely disseminated as they should have been. One particularly cogent statement that I am personally aware of was the first Scientists’ Warning to Humanity that appeared in 1992. In this warning an emphasis is placed on the finite nature of the biosphere and our position as human beings of absolute dependence on the well-being and healthy functioning of that biosphere and the negative impact of  a very large number of human beings whose activities inevitably have an effect on the possibility of that healthy functioning (see https://www.ucssusa.org/resources/1992-world-scientists-warning-humanity .)  

I was unaware of this document when I wrote my first post for this blog, https://www.arepublicfortheearth.org. The argument in this warning backs up what I said in my first post. I mention this just in case someone accuses me of plagiarism, and as an illustration of an important point. You do not need to be a professional scientist or have a Ph. D in something like Ecology to understand this problem and be able to reason and communicate about it in a way that is grounded in facts and logic.

After the end of the oil embargo in 1974, both Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter attempted to address what was perceived and understood as the “Energy Crisis.” They did so without success.

The Oil Embargo was not the only shock to the American people and the American economy by events abroad in the 1970s. Towards the end of the 1970s there was a political revolution in Iran, one of the major oil-producing and exporting countries in the Middle East. The flow of oil coming from Iran onto the world market was cut off for an extended period. Most of the staff at the American embassy in Tehran, the capital city of Iran, were taken hostage by Iranians and held for an extended period as well.

Partly because of this second major oil shock to the US economy, the US inflation rate went up to 18%. The inflation rate was brought down by a policy of high interest rates adopted by the Federal Reserve, the central bank of the United States. Unfortunately, this policy helped to send the US economy into a major recession.

The American people faced many economic, political, and cultural problems in the 1970s, as well as what they were only belatedly becoming aware of, threats to the environment. The post- World War II period from the end of the war in 1945 to approximately the time of the Oil Embargo in 1973 was a time of unprecedented economic prosperity for most Americans, especially most caucasian Americans. This prosperity was largely based on policies promoting economic growth. There was also a high rate of population growth from natural increase in the same period although this was not the result of an explicit government policy.

These policies promoting economic growth included a high level of spending by the federal government, both spending for the military and defense and for social welfare as well. These policies included strong labor unions and laws protecting them, and the willingness of the managers of large companies to accept labor peace by signing contracts with unions guaranteeing their members high rates of pay and benefits, including pensions. It did not, unfortunately, include allowing unions a voice in management decision making about the goals or future of the companies. These policies or circumstances that helped to promote economic growth also included cheap, widely available oil and oil-derived products and other cheap fossil fuels. They also included higher levels of spending by state and local governments. Many colleges and universities expanded to serve much larger student-bodies.

Businesses helped to promote this widespread prosperity by building inexpensive homes for a great expansion of the suburbs.

These policies and circumstances that helped to promote widespread prosperity lasted only a brief time. In 1956, a geologist named M. King Hubbert, working for the Royal Dutch Shell Oil Company, predicted that the US would reach peak oil production in 1970. This meant that the maximum amount of oil that could be pumped out of known reserves in the US would be reached.

Peak oil was indeed reached in 1970, as Hubbert had predicted. This helped to set the stage for the Embargo of 1973.

Another important development was the undermining of the US labor movement by American leaders of manufacturing companies throughout the 1970s and later. These leaders were unsatisfied with their rates of profit for their companies for various reasons. Beginning earlier, but really picking up speed in the 1970s they began the deindustrialization of large areas in the Northeast and the upper Midwest. They began moving their manufacturing facilities from states in the Northeast where labor unions had good contracts providing high wages and benefits to other parts of the country, such as the South, where laws protecting unions were weak or nonexistent. Later they moved their manufacturing facilities out of the country altogether to countries such as Mexico, or elsewhere in Latin America, or Asia. (see The Deindustrializaion of America by Barry Bluestone and Bennett Harrison, Copyright 1982 by Barry Bluestone and Bennett Harrison, Basic Books, Inc.)

Other important developments occurred in the 1960s that helped to undermine the economic prosperity of the post-World War II period and the confidence of Americans in their government and its ability to help them with their problems. After the death of President Kennedy, President Johnson pushed a tax cut through Congress. The tax cut did stimulate the economy and help people at the lower end of the economic ladder of employment and income. However, it also helped to stimulate inflation in combination with other things such as a high level of spending on the military because of US involvement in the Vietnam War.

In addition, President Johnson declared a War on Poverty. This was an attempt to help poor people, including many African – Americans, who had been subjected to much discrimination, overcome their disparate circumstances. Unfortunately, the way this attempt to eradicate poverty was developed was not well thought out and brought about much opposition by local politicians and elected officials. So, this attempt to end poverty failed to help poor people in a lasting way (see The Unfinished Journey – Americans since World War II by William H. Chafe Copyright 1986, 1991 by Oxford University Press.)

In addition, US involvement in the Vietnam War, which was opposed by many in the Democratic Party, was identified with the Democratic Party, and helped to weaken it politically.

The Bretton Woods monetary system that was the result of an agreement among the Allied nations towards the end of the World War II, in 1944, at a city of the same name in the United States and had been the system used for world trade by the nations of the word throughout the post-World War II period, had seriously unraveled by the end of the 1960s because of inherent flaws in the system. Under this agreement, the US dollar was the reserve currency for world trade. The US dollar was backed up by gold. Other nations could exchange dollars for gold from the US Treasury which they accumulated from trade and spending by US companies and individuals in their countries. However, the US Treasury did not have an unlimited supply of gold. President Nixon closed the gold window for the exchange of US dollars for gold by central banks of other nations and allowed the US dollar to float on the world market for the exchange of currencies.  This also helped to produce inflation.

These various events and developments helped to produce a shift in public opinion toward conservative political opinions and support for more conservative policies.

Among the intellectual leaders of the US environmental movement an important conceptual discovery was made in the early 1970s. This was the recognition of economic growth as the other major causative factor underlying the world environmental crisis of an endangered biosphere and the distorted unsustainable relationship between humankind and that biosphere. An economist named Herman E. Daly and other scholars began developing something called Steady-State economics. Later this was changed to Ecological Economics. (See Steady-State Economics by Herman E. Daly. Also, see Ecological Economics: Principles and Applications by Herman E. Daly. Also see my blog post “Economic Growth and the Type of Society that the United States Is” on this website: https://www.arepublicfortheearth.org .)

Economic growth is the steady increase in the total quantity of goods and services produced in an economy in a given unit of time, usually a year. Since this cannot happen without an increase in the quantity of matter and energy that are essential inputs into the economic process no matter how efficient the productive process may become and regardless of whether the energy involved comes from fossil fuel sources or some other source, the impact of economic growth on the biosphere or regions of it can be very profound. This is especially true in the context of our contemporary human civilization with our heart-breaking degree of human overpopulation and our huge national and world economies that have altered the climate and that are driving a Sixth Mass extinction of other species of life.

In 1980 Ronald Reagan was elected to the Presidency of the United States. There are many things that can be noted about President Reagan. Two are especially important.

First, he believed very strongly in political and economic conservatism. He believed that government was the cause of the problems that Americans faced. However, he was willing to accept and support compromises with his political opponents to get part of what he wanted.

Second, he was completely hostile even to the recognition of environmental problems, not to mention government intervention in the economy to protect the environment.

Democratic members of Congress and many Republican members of Congress were not hostile to the protection of the environment. However, they did not really understand the substantive nature of the world environmental crisis and how the underlying causes of environmental problems, human population growth and economic growth inevitably create this crisis through their operation on a finite planet with a finite biosphere of life, and so they had no real concept of how to fight someone like Ronald Reagan most effectively.

In the absence of effective leadership and engagement with the world environmental crisis from the federal government in the 1970s and the 1980s, the political fight to protect the environment in the United States mostly took place at the local and state levels. An important focus was trying to prevent or minimize the covering over of land for new residential and commercial buildings. This mostly has not worked, although there have been many temporary victories.

Some environmentalists have said that there can be no permanent victories in the struggle to conserve the environment because the victory you win today may become a defeat tomorrow. However, what we need to realize is that without systemic long-term change, we face the certainty of ultimate complete systemic defeat.

President Reagan failed to deliver on his promises to his working-class supporters. The big tax cuts that he pushed through Congress failed to save US manufacturing jobs. They also, most importantly, failed to protect unionized manufacturing employment. In addition to the deindustrialization that had been occurring in the US in the 1970s and the ongoing process of globalization of the US and world economies union members in manufacturing industries did not do well during Reagan’s presidency partly because he was hostile to the very idea of labor unions. And his supply side economic polices of big tax cuts for the rich and upper income earners and cuts in government spending and regulation of business could not possibly have helped them. They were based on a flawed analysis of what had been going wrong in the American economy and in American life and government in the 1970s and what needed to be done at that point in the early 1980s. Ronald Reagan’s philosophy of economic and political conservatism was a pile of nonsense from the very beginning. It was a pile of nonsense when it first took form in American intellectual and political life in the late nineteenth century and it was then in the 1980s and it still is today. However, the liberalism that the leaders of the Democratic Party in the 1970s and 1980s and the American people had inherited from the post-World War II period did not provide much of a foundation for an effective engagement with the World Environmental Crisis either. The beliefs of the so-called progressives of today also do not provide this foundation.  

In 1992 Bill Clinton was elected President. Clinton pushed the NAFTA and GATT trade agreements through the Congress. Clinton promised that NAFTA, a trade agreement with Mexico and Canada would lead to hundreds of thousands of new good paying jobs for Americans. The reality has been quite different. Many new US jobs have come since the passage of NAFTA. However, for the most part these have not been the high paying unionized jobs in manufacturing that existed before the passage of NAFTA. The passage of NAFTA led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs in the US. It also led to the loss of the service jobs that depended on US based manufacturing.

It’s true that the spread of the personal computer and the computerization of the US economy and the rise of the internet and later the cell phone and the smartphone have led to many jobs in fields such as computer programming or software engineering. However, these are mostly not union jobs. And these jobs are also subject to the uncertainties and the lack of security of the globalized US and world economy.

Some economists have pointed to automation in manufacturing as a reason why US based manufacturing jobs have been lost. However, most of this automation has come years after the fact of NAFTA. The impact of NAFTA and the globalization of the US economy have contributed to the political weakness of the Democratic Party as the party of the post-World War II liberal welfare state in its contest with the rigidly ideological Republican Party and the failure of our American civilization to engage with the complex, dangerous reality of the World Environmental Crisis that has been facing us for more than fifty years  (see https://www.epi.org/publication/briefingpapers_bp147/ and https://www.computerworld.com/article/3175715/laid-off-it-workers-worry-us-is-losing-tech-jobs-to-outsourcing.html .)

One critically important impact of the globalization of the US and global economies has largely been overlooked in the discussions of the impact on US jobs and our economy and society. This has been the spread of the resource intensive, energy intensive US way of life around the world.  This has greatly amplified the impact of human activities on the non-human part of the biosphere and contributed to a massive loss of habitat for wildlife and greatly contributed to climate change. This process has taken place in at least two major ways. The first is through the shift of manufacturing facilities from economically well-developed countries like the United States to less developed countries where the workers can be exploited and paid much less than their unionized counterparts and where laws protecting the environment are weak or non-existent. The second is through the growth of consumption of goods and services produced through this same resource-intensive, energy-intensive way of life in these same countries. I do not mean to suggest that there should not have been some increase in the use of resources so that there could be some measure of justice and fairness and a decent way of life for the people living in the less developed world.

Not only is it the case that there had to be some increase in the use of resources and some extensions of the benefits of the industrial mode of production to the less economically developed countries, it also needs to be said that for Americans to just try to ignore the less developed world and let the people living there fend for themselves within the so-called “Free Market” would not have been good for the biosphere either, including both its human and non-human parts.

It is a tragic and terrible truth that racism has been a part of American life since our beginnings. It is also a tragic and terrible truth that racism has been a part of our discussion of immigrants and immigration and the making of our immigration policies throughout our history as well. However, in order to evaluate what our immigration policies should or should not be and consider the interests of all concerned, whether citizen or immigrant, and also the interests that are almost always forgotten and neglected in any such discussion, specifically the interests of the non-human life, the animals and plants that will lose habitat inevitably from continuing population growth, including that coming from a large volume of immigration, we need to develop the ability to make fine logical and moral distinctions. It is entirely possible for some people to have racist opinions about immigrants and at the very same time to have legitimate grievances about the impact of a large volume of immigration and specific immigration policies on their lives.  

Many members of the economics profession and many other Americans as well may make the argument that a large volume of immigration has had no significant negative impact on American workers. These arguments are simply not credible. Just taking classical economic theory into account, if you dramatically expand the supply of labor, and a large portion of the labor pool is made up of people who are willing to work for a lot less money because they are here illegally, it is inevitable that that will affect the labor market, including the prevailing wage.

However, putting aside the economic impact on jobs, and that is not the only economic impact of immigration, the impact of a large volume of immigration on the environment, on the non-human part of the biosphere, is the most important short-term and long-term impact of immigration on the United States.

There is something called biodiversity, which is the diversity of other species of life in a region or environment. Continuing population growth, including population growth from a large volume of immigration, both legal as well as undocumented, inevitably reduces habitat for other species. There is a risk that a continuing large volume of immigration will greatly diminish the remaining biodiversity within the United States. And let us be clear. It will do this essentially forever, for the rest of time as it may unfold on this planet. It took nature billions of years to create this life.   It is hard to see how this will not happen. Even with a low fertility rate, with a large volume of immigration year after year, we will have a significant amount of continuing population growth.

Some people may not see the importance of this potentially devastating loss of biodiversity here in the U.S. I refer you to the reference above, the first Scientists’ Warning to Humanity. All of humankind is dependent on a finite biosphere of life, and the healthy functioning of that biosphere. The more biodiversity there continues to be, including here within the United States, the more likely the functioning of the global biosphere will continue to be sufficiently healthy for humankind to be able to continue to live on this planet. With the climate change that has already taken place, the climate change to come, and with this ongoing loss of biodiversity here in the United States and global biodiversity, this healthy functioning is in jeopardy. It also must be said that other species of life have a right to be on this planet that is apart from any consideration of what is in humanity’s interest.

If we are to evaluate thoughtfully what our immigration policies should be in a way that is dispassionate, we need to consider the large numbers that have been involved in immigration into the United States for quite some time. According to figures from the Department of Homeland Security, we have had over one million legal immigrants per year for almost every year for the last twenty years and levels approaching one million a year for the last thirty years and in one of those years almost two million. We have also had a growing volume of legal immigration approaching these levels going back to the mid-1970s. This has been a significant component of our population growth. (See https://www.dhs.gov/immigration-statistics/yearbook/2019 for statistics on US legal immigration and https://www.dhs.gov/immigration-statistics/population-estimates/unauthorized-resident for estimates of the number of undocumented immigrants living in the US.)

Many arguments are advanced by advocates of a continuing large volume of immigration that fail to see the big picture. Consider the argument that we need more immigrants to care for our aging population, and to shore up our Social Security system. These arguments fail to see that the environment has to be considered as more important than any economic problem. We can care for our elderly and finance the Social Security system and arrange our economy with a stable population. We must do this, although it needs to be said that we can reach a stable population without coercion. Without an environment there will be no economy. 

Our two major political parties, the Democratic and Republican Parties, did respond with a reasonable degree of effectiveness to some of the more obvious environmental problems of the 1960s and 1970s. Under President Nixon, an Environmental Protection Agency was established. A clean water law was passed. A clean air act was passed. A National Environmental Policy Act was passed. An Endangered Species law was passed. However, our two major political parties have been completely oblivious to the underlying causes of the world environmental crisis, human population growth and economic growth.

Two of the major, most widely reported on environmental problems of the early twenty-first century, Climate Change, and the ongoing Sixth Mass Extinction of other species of life are directly related to these two major underlying causes of the World Environmental Crisis, population growth and economic growth.

Let’s consider the first one, climate change. Although it is widely known at this point in history, let’s review what this is: the increase in the global average temperature of the atmosphere and consequent changes in climate because of the pervasive burning and other uses of fossil fuels, coal, oil, and natural gas, by human beings. The problem is not simply the greenhouse gases that get into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels, but the greatly increased number of people here in the United States and around the world who are using these fuels and products from these fuels.

The problem was also created in part by the massive assault on the biosphere engaged in by human beings over the past several centuries that greatly reduced the ability of the biosphere to take some of these greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and recycle them into organic material. This process involved the conversion of forests into farmland, and then the conversion of farmland into urban environments, covered over by residential and commercial buildings.

The problem has also been the massive expansion of the number of products and services using oil, and other fossil fuels to further the process of economic growth.

The other major environmental problem that has been somewhat widely reported on in the last twenty years, although not nearly as widely reported on as climate change, is the Sixth Mass Extinction of other species of life that is now occurring. Here again, the two underlying causes of this problem are population growth and economic growth. The expansion of the human population directly competes with the use and availability of habitat for other species. The conversion of forests into farmland reduces habitat for wildlife and the conversion of farmland into urban uses such as housing for humans and commercial buildings and for other business activities also reduces habitat for wildlife. ( see the following article for a discussion of rates of extinction linked to human activities and the background rate of extinction from evolution and the impact of human activities on small-ranged species and a statement of the impact of population growth on biodiversity https://science.sciencemag.org/content/344/6187/1246752 and the following article for a discussion of biological annihilation of populations of other vertebrate species by  the impact of population growth and other human activities and how this pushes these other species towards endangered status https://www.pnas.org/content/114/30/E6089 ).

I want to be clear. I am not denying the importance of climate change as a threat to human life and most of life on Earth. Nor am I denying the central importance of the burning of fossil fuels and their use as the immediate cause of climate change. I am simply saying that the ongoing Sixth Mass Extinction of other species of life should be considered as of at least equal moral and political gravity as a threat to human life and life on Earth that simply must be addressed. I am also pointing out how these two underlying causes of the world environmental crisis, population growth and economic growth, have contributed indirectly to the genesis of the problem over the relative long-term of the past several centuries. I do believe that we need to get as close as we can get to a fossil fuel free economy and world civilization as soon as we possibly can. However, simply to think and act as if a mere substitution of renewable energy for fossil fuel derived energy will allow us to continue to have the same kind of society based on endless population and economic growth is false.

I also want to make clear, since I have indicated in what I have said here that there are reasons for thinking that a continuing large volume of immigration, both legal and undocumented into the United States is probably not a good thing, that I do not support former President of the United States Donald Trump and his racist, hateful approach to immigration, and I never did. In fact, I regard the rise of this kind of man to the Presidency of the United States as one of the great catastrophes of American and world history, the full consequences of which may unfold throughout the rest of this century and beyond, unless we act. And the way to act effectively is to go beyond Trump the man to the underlying problems that contributed to his rise.

Even on their own terms, with their ad hoc definition of the World Environmental Crisis as solely about the need to stop using fossil fuels, our two major parties have not been doing very well at all in claiming to be offering leadership or governance to the American people. One party, the Republican Party, is in complete denial about the reality of the problem of climate change and how it is caused by using fossil fuels. The other major party, the Democratic Party, has offered completely inadequate measures for minimizing the global warming and climate change that is happening and securing the human future and the future of the biosphere. (For a partial glimpse of just how inadequate, consider the following article on a UN report on the kind of measures necessary to keep the degree of global warming below 1.5 degrees Centigrade rather than 2 degrees Centigrade, which was the earlier goal at https://www.climatechangenews.com/2018/10/08/37-things-need-know-1-5c-global-warming/.  Also consider the failure of elected officials who are members of the Democratic Party or candidates for the Democratic nominations for various offices including the Presidency to do much more to stand up for the environment in their communications with the public than say they are for more renewable or so-called 100% clean energy. Consider the failure to call for adequate restrictions on fossil fuel use or any kind of energy use period which would start to become feasible once we effectively engage with the problems of population and economic growth.)

In addition, our two major parties have not just accepted but actively promoted the globalization of the US and world economies while ignoring the impact of this globalization on the functioning of American democracy, on American lives, and the world environmental crisis and the future of the planet.

They have also failed to deal adequately with the problems of economic inequality, racism, sexism, healthcare, education, and the ability of Americans to understand their world, make informed choices, and live reasonably free and happy lives.

Both parties are steeped in the past, and the institutions and established ways of thinking of the past and show no sign whatever of the ability or the willingness on the part of their leaders, the elected officials who are members of them, their candidates, or their most active members to confront reality as whole in an open-minded and open-hearted way.

I am not saying that their leaders are bad people. However, power only respects other organized power. The leaders of the two major parties have good intentions, and the two major parties, over the course of the whole of American history, have done much good. However, we simply must have a political party in the United States that will not blink in the face of reality as a whole in a mind-bendingly complex world and put the preservation and protection of life on Earth, including the millions of other species, and the ecosystems of the Earth first as a necessary pre-condition for even the partial achievement of any broad social goal of a good society, such as justice, or ending racism and sexism.

At this point I have only made a brief introduction to a description of some of the most important reasons why we need a new political party here in the United States to protect and preserve the entire biosphere of life on Earth. I have not even touched upon yet a description of what a new type of society should be like. I do not mean something other than a democracy. On the contrary, I mean a more truly democratic society and government. Also, most importantly, this should be a society that is solidly grounded in reality, in an understanding of the nature of life on Earth and how it functions, that is what we need.

In posts to come I hope to describe what the new political party and the new type of society should be like, and what some of the goals of the new political party should be. I will also provide further details about why we need a new political party. I also want to say here that we should not seek to change everything. We should approach the business of political and cultural change with great care and a profound sense of responsibility to everyone in our society and all of humankind and all of life in the present and in the future. There is a great deal about the present and that we have inherited from the past that is worth keeping. We must however make some very fundamental changes in the ways we think and act as they are established in our political order if there is to be any kind of decent future for all Americans, all of humankind, and most of the rest of life on Earth.

On a personal note, I want to say a little about what happened with my Dad and his TV repair shop at the end of the Oil Embargo of 1973-1974. What happened to him was that he solved the financial difficulties that he got into because of the embargo by getting a job as an instructor in electronics repair with a private trade school. Many other Americans were not so fortunate. And you could say that our entire society has not been so fortunate in the way we have come to grips with the larger problems that were behind the embargo and the “Energy Crisis,” We have essentially fled from reality as a whole ever since then.

As I continue to develop and post additional articles on this blog, I hope at some point to have action items on issues at stake here in the U.S. in our society and before our government that I will invite readers to participate in as we continue to discuss the need for a new political party to effectively address the world environmental crisis.

I mentioned earlier that world population crossed the four billion mark about 1974. We are now closing in on having over eight billion people in the world. The U.S. Census Bureau says that world population is now about 7.744 billion. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division says that world population is now over 7.7 billion and projects that world population will reach almost 10 billion by 2050 and almost 11 billion by 2100. Here in the U. S. our population is now a little over 330 million. This is an increase of over 60 per cent from about 203 million since about 1970. (See the Population Clock at https://www.census.gov. Also see https://populaton.un.org/wpp/Publications/ . The first PDF, the Highlights, has these figures. See also the reference given above for the Statistical Abstract for 1980 published by the US. Census Bureau for figures on American population size and growth.) We Americans, as individual citizens and as a country, need to get moving. The systematic evasion of the issues of population growth and population size over the last fifty years has already had profound consequences for Americans, all humankind, and most of life on Earth. The phenomena of population growth and economic growth and their inevitable consequences need to be brought fully into the open in our democratic discourse without further delay.

I hope I have at least attracted your interest and even more hopefully, that you will support me. Please comment and provide as much detail about what you think as possible while at the same time being brief.  Donations of even modest amounts would be helpful. Even if you do not completely agree with me, if you think that I provide an important point of view, please consider supporting me.

I will be moderating (screening, not editing) all comments. If you choose to comment, please do so without attacking either me or anyone else in a personal way.

You can go to my Go Fund Me page at

 https://www.gofundme.com/for-an-environmental-republic to make a donation.

Thank you for visiting and I hope you will come back. Also, if you like what you read here, please tell other people about this blog at https://www.arepublicfortheearth.org.

Copyright 2021 by Richard E. Garner, Jr

Getting my socks dry, climate change, some possible problems with a carbon free economy and how to secure the future for humankind and life on Earth

By    Richard E. Garner, Jr

A couple of days ago I was drying my clothes in the natural gas powered clothes dryer I have  in the mobile home where I live, and I had to marvel at the fact that after the dryer had stopped and I was taking my clothes out of the dryer, by the time I got to some of my socks in the back of the dryer, after I had taken out some of my t-shirts and other clothes and folded them and put them away by the time I got to them, they were already starting to get a little bit damp again. I remembered what my mother had told me many times when she was alive about the importance of getting my clothes out of the dryer as soon as it stops running. I got to thinking about energy in the universe and our human use of it and the subject of this blog post which is about the idea of a carbon-free economy, some of the problems we might have in making the transition to it, and why the idea itself has shortcomings as a main or sole program of action for solving the world environmental crisis as a whole and securing the future for humankind and life on Earth.  

The idea of a carbon free economy has arisen in recent years in response to the growing, extremely serious threat of climate change. The climate change we are talking about is the increase in the global average temperature of the atmosphere that has been taking place in the recent past. This increased global average temperature is the result of the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere because of human activities. These activities include the massive burning of fossil fuels, coal, oil, and natural gas over the past several centuries, intensive livestock farming, the use of synthetic fertilizers to produce food for our growing human population, and industrial activities and their consequences.

The hope behind the idea of a carbon free economy is that if we can if we can dramatically reduce our use of fossil fuels to power almost everything that we do, we will be able to bring this increase in the global average temperature to a halt and avoid an level of climate change that will make human life on Earth almost, if not completely impossible.

To bring our greenhouse gas emissions to zero, or close to zero, we have been relying on the expansion of the use of renewable energy, or so-called clean energy. Renewable energy includes different ways of making use of the energy in sunlight falling on the Earth, wind energy,

geothermal energy, and other ways of making use of flows of energy that occur in nature, without human intervention

There have been reports that the amount of energy production capacity from renewable sources at the global level is already at one third of total capacity. So, having a goal of 100 per cent of total human uses of energy in the shortest possible time frame doesn’t seem unrealistic ( Joshua S. Hill “Renewable Energy Now Accounts For A Third Of All Global Power Capacity” https://www.cleantechnica.com/2019/04/03/renewable-energy-accounts-for-a-third-of-all-global -power-capacity .)

However, there are problems with the idea of a carbon free economy in the way we have been thinking about it. The primary cause of climate change, the burning of fossil fuels, is not the sole major cause of negative impacts on the biosphere from human activities. In the first place, burning fossil fuels by utility power plants or in residential or commercial buildings or to power our cars or airplanes is not the only kind of use made of these commodities torn from the Earth by human beings. We use fossil fuels, especially oil, to make all kinds of different things that the modern world depends on, like many different kinds of plastics, not just the kind that end up in the ocean. There is plastic in our clothing, in our shoes, our cars, our homes and other buildings. For medical care. For all kinds of packaging. We swim in an ocean of plastic even on the land. Are we ready to go back to clothing made only from cotton, or wool, or linen? What about the types of plastic where a return to the older materials will not be feasible?

Even with the uses of fossil fuels where we burn them have their problems where a simple substitution of renewable energy for a use of fossil fuels is either going to be impractical or it is just not going to be the same. Consider transportation. Consider fossil fuel based commercial air travel. Our American and global human civilizations make an extensive use of fossil fuels to move all kinds of people around the world every day. Why? Are we sane? It takes a tremendous amount of energy to move a pound or a kilogram of mass through the air than over the ground even at a relatively low altitude or low rate of speed. Some of the advocates for a carbon free economy seem to think that we will be able to power this activity with biofuels from growing crops. There are various problems with this including the diversion of land for wildlife to grow the biofuels or the diversion of food crops to being used for a non-food purpose in a world with a growing human population. Also, there is the use of water. And are we going to use fossil fuels to make the nitrogen fertilizer to grow the crops for the biofuels? How are we possibly going to produce enough biofuels to continue this kind of activity on this massive a scale? I don’t see how.

Negative impacts on the biosphere will continue to grow from continuing human population growth and economic growth. And as long as we have these phenomena the ground will continue to shift under our feet as we pursue a carbon free economy. With literally billions more people we will need many more solar panels or wind plants put up somewhere with everything that will entail. And we don’t seem to be thinking about what a mammoth undertaking it will be to make the transition.

At a minimum, no matter what type of energy powers our society, or what kind of society we have, we human beings will always need to eat food. At this point in time most human beings are alive because of the use of a process called the Haber-Bosch process. This is a process for

making nitrogen fertilizer for use in agriculture that involves the burning of natural gas at very high temperatures. There is research underway on various substitutes for this process. However, we already have a very large human population. Current world population is over 7.6 billion and may be as high as 10 billion by the year 2050 ( See https://www.un.org/development/desa/en/news/population/world-population-prospects-2017.html .)

(See https://news.berkeley.edu/2014/12/09/organic-conventional-farming-yield-gap/ . )

A complete transition away from this process in a short time will be risky and involve many unknowns.

In addition to the Haber-Bosch process, we are dependent on other fossil fuel-based products for modern agriculture, including chemical insecticides made using oil, and chemical weed killers, also made using oil. The whole centralized food production, marketing and distribution system uses tremendous amounts of energy and involves tremendous amounts of energy waste. Changing this system so that it runs entirely on renewable energy is something that I hope will possible. But it will not be easy.

I have not mentioned the degree to which another aspect of modern agriculture, the raising of livestock for meat and dairy products, also produces greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. The raising of cattle for beef produces an even more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, methane. The extent of meat eating in the economically developed world, and now around the world because of the globalized economy, is unprecedented in human history. Again, it will not be easy to educate enough people to eat less meat or none to a sufficient extent to make enough of a difference in time to slow down our march towards unacceptable climate change and the production of other negative impacts on the biosphere.

Organic agriculture, which is the production of food without the fossil fuel based tools of fertilizers using the Haber-Bosch process or oil based insecticides and weed killers and with strict attention to maintaining the health and fertility of the soil which fossil fuel based agriculture tends to destroy is no panacea or easy substitute in  world with a growing human population. There is a yield gap between organic and conventional agriculture for different crops and in different regions and in different contexts. There are various estimated of how bad it is in these different contexts. Some estimates range up to 20 per cent. Again, this will not be easily overcome.

Stepping away from agriculture to the urban environment, we encounter other problems in making the transition to a carbon -free economy and protecting the biosphere from the harm caused by human activities. In order to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from the use of fossil fuels for transportation, more dense patterns of housing development are being proposed. This will involve building up rather than out, with more high-rise apartment buildings and condominiums rather than single family homes. And more of this dense housing development will be close enough to public transit to walk. This will protect at least part of the environment in the short term. There will be less urban sprawl. However, this will not eliminate the impact of continuing population growth and economic growth on the environment. Every-thing that people living in a high-rise condominium want and think that they need will have an impact on the environment in its production, marketing and distribution. And the more people that are involved the greater the impact will be.

I don’t want to give the impression that I am against the idea of a carbon-free economy or the desperate, frantic movement to try to make this happen. I am against the exclusive emphasis on climate change as our only major environmental threat to the human future and the future of life on Earth. There are other major threats to the environment from human activities that cry out for attention that deserve to be considered of equal moral gravity. The ongoing Sixth Mass Extinction of other species of life is one of them. The huge amount of population growth that has already taken place in the last one hundred years and the spread of the energy intensive and resource intensive way of life that began here in the United States and in Europe and has been spread around the world through the globalized economy is behind this problem. Continuing human population growth and economic growth will keep it going and may lead to the ultimate tragedy, the complete stripping of Earth’s remaining biodiversity, and possibly our own extinction as well.

We may be able to achieve a 100 per cent carbon free economy. However, this will not by itself save humankind and it will not by itself save life on Earth. In addition to pursuing a carbon free economy as soon as possible, there are other things we need to do. 

  1. We need to bring population growth to the very center of American politics in a way that has never been done before. We need to do this in such a way that the reality of pervasive racism in our society does not control or disrupt or suppress the substance of the discussion. And we also need to do it in a such a way that false perceptions of racism or simple misunderstandings do not suppress the substance of the discussion or our effective intellectual, moral or political engagement with the problem. This can be done in a way that values the life of every human on the planet but is also dispassionate about the impacts of phenomena such as a large volume of immigration into any nation-state, whether legal or undocumented on the environment within that nation-state and the lives of the people, citizens and immigrants already living there as well as the large impacts on the fate of humankind and life on Earth.
  2. We need to develop a non-coercive national population policy that will seek to bring US population growth to a complete halt and eventually seek to bring about a gradual, slow decline in population over an extended period of time. This policy will have to involve significant reductions in legal as well as undocumented immigration.
  3. We need to imagine and build a society that does not require continuing economic growth. 
  4. We need to imagine and build a fundamentally different kind of society with a different conception of the nature of the good life.

 I forgot to connect my story of drying my socks with most of what I have said here about a carbon free economy. Natural gas-powered clothes dryers at least have the virtue of the use of energy being as close as possible to the point of end use. Electric clothes dryers will involve transmission line losses and other waste and impacts on the environment, even if the centralized source of energy is renewable.

A really superior technology was my mother’s old fashioned clothes line, from many years ago.

What happens to the socks after the dryer is turned off tells you a lot about our human relationship to the universe. Once the heat is turned off, some of the water molecules that were driven out go back into the socks. Nature does not care what we do. And it does not care what any of us think. About anything. Nature will endlessly adapt to what we do or don’t do. But the effects of some of these adaptations on human beings will not be pleasant.

Thank you for your time and interest in visiting and reading this blog. Hopefully you read at least this one post all the way through. I hope I made you think even if you do not agree. Leave a comment or question if you wish. If you think what I have written here deserves your support please tell your friends about this blog and if you are in a position to do so, please go to my GoFundMe page and make a donation at

https://www.gofundme.com/golden-web-communications/.

Some Possible Topics for Future Posts:

Before the Final Curtain Rings Down: Why We Need a New Political Party to Effectively Engage the World Environmental Crisis and Improve American Democracy

The International Empire of Business Corporations, Democracy and the Fate of Life on Earth

Starting the World Over Again – What the New Political Party Should Be Like and What Its Goals Should Be

The US Presidential Race, Our Political System, and Our Crisis of Survival and Meaning

Power, Freedom and the Economic Process

The Globalized Economy, Its Impacts on Democracy and Its Threat to Life on Earth

Beyond Socialism and Capitalism

Economic Society and the Good Society

The Unity of Humankind and the Unity of Life on Earth

Into the Universe: the Wonder of Being

Copyright 2019 Richard E. Garner, Jr

Economic growth and the type of society that the United States Is

By

Richard E. Garner, Jr

Economic growth is defined as an increase in the total quantity of goods and services produced in an economy in a given period of time, usually a year, or a quarter of a year, as reported on by the US Bureau of Economic Analysis. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_growth; also, https://www.bea.gov/news/2019/initial-gross-domestic-product-4th-quarter-and-annual-2018.) Corrections for inflation in the level of prices are worked into some definitions, so that we have “real growth” or “inflation adjusted growth.” We may quibble over how accurately a given system for measuring economic growth does in fact reflect the actual increase in the production of goods and services that has taken place. And some people seem to confuse the system for measuring the phenomenon with the phenomenon itself. And there has been a great deal of debate about other systems that would measure economic activity differently, with less emphasis on material production and more on subjectively perceived benefits, such as welfare or happiness.

However, what is of critical importance is the underlying phenomenon of economic growth, the steady increase from one year to the next in the material production of goods and services. What is also of critical importance to understand is that no matter how efficient we get in the different processes and economic activities that we engage in economic growth will always involve some increases in the total quantities of matter and energy into the overall economic process.

These steady increases in the total quantities of matter and energy that we humans are putting into the economic process are what our finite, limited biosphere of life on Earth ultimately cannot take.

This problem applies to our struggle to avoid an unacceptable level of climate change as well as to everything else. Even if we are successful in transforming our economy so that it is entirely free of the use of fossil fuels, as long as we continue to have economic growth, we will have continued increases in inputs of matter and energy into the economic process.

The transformation of energy from sunlight falling on the Earth into electricity by solar cells might seem to be a perfectly innocent activity that could not possibly impact nature in any harmful way.  This is true as far as contributing to greenhouse gases and the problem of climate change.  However, the minerals that are the source of the semiconductor materials for the solar cells have to be extracted from nature through mining and other activities. In fact, all of the materials for the solar panels and the wires for the transmission lines and all of the materials for the use of renewable energy involves extractions from nature.

We are a long way from the time that this particular activity alone, the use of renewable energy, becomes a problem because of its unseen and unthought about impacts on the natural world. However, as long as we continue to have a society where population growth and economic growth both continue to take place, even this seemingly innocent activity could conceivably become a big part of our problems at some point in the not all that distant future.

Every single activity that we engage in, or that we might ever engage in has the potential for becoming a problem in how it impacts nature given a sufficiently large aggregate level of the quantities of matter and energy involved.

Today we have a system for measuring economic growth called Gross Domestic Product, or GDP. A report on GDP is issued after the end of every quarter and after the end of each year by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and agency of the US government. The most recent report of the BEA states that the initial estimate for US GDP for 2018 was over $20 trillion dollars. They say that real GDP increased 2.9 percent from 2017 to 2018.  https://www.bea.gov/news/2019/initial-gross-domestic-product-4th-quarter-and-annual-2018. These annual increases add up over time. Our US and world economies are quite huge and have a tremendous impact on the natural world.

The political and moral importance of the underlying phenomenon of economic growth extends beyond any system for measuring it. Even if other systems for measuring economic activity seem to do a better job of measuring such things as welfare or happiness, these other systems are unlikely to overshadow the importance of economic growth and its impact on the prospects for the survival and well being of humankind and much of the rest of life on Earth as far into the future as we can see.

The political importance of economic growth flows logically from our core political values and ideals. It flows from our founding fathers’ ideas about the nature of individual political freedom and political power. Our founding fathers thought that freedom essentially consisted in not being taxed, or at least in not being taxed without representation. After the Revolution, any tax was suspect. Only grudgingly, enough power was given to the federal government to protect each individual man from the potential violence of other individual men and all from the threat of violence from other nations.

Throughout our history the good life has been thought of, at first, as the ability of men to use their property as they saw fit, and later as the ability of more and more people to come to this frontier society and pursue the acquisition of more and more things, without limit, and without regard for the impact on nature here in the United States or in the world as a whole.

Building a society that does not need continuing economic growth will not be easy. However, it simply must be done if humankind is to survive and if the complete destruction of the biosphere is to be avoided. This will be among the most difficult things that human beings have ever done. We will need to integrate our efforts to bring economic growth to a gradual halt with efforts to bring population growth to a complete end and with efforts to build a carbon free or as close as possible to a carbon free economy. And we will need to proceed on from there to try to bring about through noncoercive means a slow gradual decline over a long period of time in population size everywhere on the planet. And we will need to build a fundamentally different kind of society that grows from intangible intellectual, moral and spiritual achievements and from improvements in health, education and improved relationships among different groups of human beings and between humankind and the rest of life. This is what we need rather than a society growing endlessly in its physical impact on the Earth through population and economic growth. It[RG1]  will need to be a democratic society, but also a society where the marketplace is no longer the central organizing principle. There may be a way to contain the economic process back within the boundaries of the state in such a way that it does not produce such extensive economic and political inequality and where the biosphere is not threatened, but it is difficult to see now. Whatever type of society we try to build we must remember to ask ourselves, what does the Earth need? What does the rest of life need not just to avoid extinction but to thrive and flourish?

Thankyou for your time and interest. Please come back. Leave a comment if you wish, and if you are in a position to do so, and you think what I have to say here is of value and deserves to be supported, please consider going to my GoFundMe page and leave a donation at https://www.gofundme.com/golden-web-communications.

Some possible topics for future posts include the following:

Some possible problems with a carbon free economy

Why we need a new political party

A new political party for a type of society that is more truly democratic but also fundamentally different

The international empire of business corporations and the fate of humankind

The type of society that we need – a good society in a world of limits

A long-term nonviolent revolution based on love and cold realism

Work, energy, the industrial mode of production and democracy

Power, freedom and the economic process

Beyond socialism and capitalism

Into the universe – the wonder of being

Copyright 2019 by Richard E. Garner, Jr


 [RG1]

Introduction

Hello. Welcome to my blog. In this blog I intend to pursue an exploration of what kind of a polity, that is, what kind of a society, with what kind of government, do we need to have here in the United States that by its essential nature, to the best of available human knowledge, functions in a way that is in harmony with the continued existence of the rest of life on the planet. What kind of a republic for do we need to have that is truly for the Earth, and all of the life upon it, both human and nonhuman?

And further, what kind of a republic do we need to have that will be capable of advancing the meaning and implementation of the best of our ideals that we have inherited from the founding fathers of our country and past generations of Americans?

No matter what goals we might seek in trying to change society, whether it is greater economic security and equality for everyone in society, or justice for all, no matter what our concerns might be, whether it is racism or sexism, or what kind of a world our children will inherit, any lasting progress towards or attainment of our goals will be jeopardized if we do not focus as we never have before on some fundamental questions. What does the Earth need? More specifically, what does life on Earth need? Even more specifically, what does the non-human part of life need from humankind in order to continue sustaining our existence? That is the reality that we have to face. Our existence is sustained, not by our cleverness, despite what might seem to a great many people, to be our impressive technology. Nor is it sustained by our wisdom.

Our existence is sustained, in the sense of what we absolutely must have in order to live any kind of lives at all, by the rest of life.

One of the most fundamental of our needs is the ability to breathe. We need oxygen from the air that we breathe in order to live. And we need food to eat. Without thousands of different species of microorganism called phytoplankton that float beneath the surface of the ocean and bodies of water on the land, and without plants on the land that have chlorophyll molecules in their tissues that give them the ability to take energy from the sunlight falling on them and carbon dioxide and use them to produce oxygen and organic material, food, for their own needs, and for other organisms, animals and microbiota which cannot do this for themselves, we would not be here.

All of our other physical needs, besides breathing and eating, we obtain either from the rest of life, or by disturbing the Earth, where life is, and life is almost everywhere within the zone where it exists, in or upon the outer layers of the Earth’s crust, and in the lower part of the Earth’s atmosphere. For thousands of years we obtained the materials for our clothing, either from other animals, or from plants. These included furs, and also cotton and wool. In the past one hundred years or so, we have created synthetic fibers for our clothing from oil. Now, because of climate change, we are going to have to learn to get by without it.

In addition to enabling us to meet almost all of our physical needs, all of the other animals and the plants, even the microbiota, which make up the rest of life, nourish us spiritually. By interacting with the other creatures of the Earth over the course of thousands of years, and later by studying them systematically and scientifically, we came to know ourselves, and what kind of creatures we are, and how we came to be.

Where would we be without the greywolves, or the lions nd tigers and bears, and the deer and the antelope and the beetles and the bees? These creatures are our sisters and brothers. We came from their world. And we are still a part of their world. And they have a right to be here, just as much as we do. If we push them out of this world, we will be pushing ourselves out in the process.

We are all now paying a great deal of attention to climate change, to the alarming increase int the global average temperature of the atmosphere, which has contributed to so many extreme weather events in recent years, including extreme cold and blizzards as well as extreme heat, drought, more frequent wildfires and unusually heavy precipitation in short periods of time. This climate change, which is mostly caused by human activities, especially our almost exclusive and pervasive use of fossil fuels for almost everything we have been doing for more than the last one hundred years, threatens all of humankind and most of the rest of life. Or at least most of us are paying attention to it. We are struggling to find ways to do enough about it soon enough to avert an unacceptable level of climate change that will imperil our very ability to live on this planet. We do indeed need to transform the use of energy in our economy so that it is as close as possible to being 100% free of the use of fossil fuels. This will be no easy thing. Our economy is rooted in our history and our culture and our infrastructure. And these things are rooted in the extensive use of fossil fuels over the past more than one hundred years for almost everything we have been doing.

In addition, as extremely serious as the problem of climate change is, we need to not lose sight of our other major environmental problems. Many scientists think that we are on the brink of a sixth mass extinction of other species of life, the worst in over two hundred million years.

There are also other types of air pollution than the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. There is water pollution, and chemical and industrial pollution, deforestation and desertification, and the extensive loss of wildlife.

In recent years we have drifted away from an awareness and understanding of one of the fundamental underlying causes of most of our environmental problems, human population growth, which is a problem for people of all races in all countries, including the United States. Human population growth and population size are problems because of the finite, limited extent of the biosphere of life on Earth, and because of the fragile, interconnected, interdependent nature of that life, and the enormous, overwhelming impact of our rapidly growing human numbers, and the large size that our population has already reached on the biosphere. The biosphere of life on  Earth, making up the totality of all life on Earth, in some definitions includes the inanimate parts of the Earth with which life interacts, such as the outer layers of the Earth’s crust, and the lower parts of the atmosphere. (see “Biosphere” by Michael B. Thompson, John N. Thompson, and David M. Cates at https://www.britannica.com/science/biosphere and “Biosphere”, encyclopedia entry at https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/biosphere) World population is projected by the United Nations to reach 9.8 billion by the year 2050 and is currently estimated at about 7.6 billion (see
https://www.un.org/development/desa/en/news/population/world-population-prospects-2017.html .) As recently as 1975 it was estimated to have reached somewhat over 4 billion. About the time of the Great Depression, 1930, it has been estimated to have been about 2 billion. So world population has almost quadrupled in less than one hundred years. This is very rapid growth on the time scale of recorded human history, or the estimated time that the human species has been in existence. ( see
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population_estimates )

As a corollary to the problem of human population growth, the large volume of immigration from one nation to another, including from many nations to the United States, is inevitably a part of the population growth in the countries receiving the immigration.

Tragically, a great many people have come to believe that concern about these two problems, population growth and immigration, originates almost solely or entirely in racism. This is not true. Population growth and population size are fundamental aspects of reality. They cannot be evaded. Especially given the huge size of the population currently living in the United States and in the world as a whole. Our current U. S. population is over 328 million. ( see https://www.census.gov/data.html.) Our American society and our global human civilization cannot really be understood without considering them and integrating them into one’s picture of the reality of life on Earth as a whole in the universe.

It is true that racism is and has been involved in discussions of immigration here in the United States and in policy making regarding it throughout our history. That doesn’t mean that immigration and population growth are not potential problems for people of all races. There are many myths about human population growth that, tragically, a great many people seem to believe. Another major one, besides the idea that concern about it originates in racism, is that the main problem with human population growth is almost solely the problem of providing adequate food for such a huge, rapidly growing number of people. This also, is not true. As I have already tried to indicate, the problem is much more complex than this. For now, I wish to say in regard to immigration that I do not support President Donald Trump’s racist, hateful approach to it.

It is possible to be dispassionate about what the facts are about immigration and population growth in a way that still values the life of every individual on the planet. We may have to make hard choices. I personally believe that we need some restrictions on both legal and undocumented immigration. A continuing large volume of immigration will inevitably have negative consequences for the environment. It should be possible to discuss the facts with regard to these two problems without racism, hysteria, or dogma, or unjustified assumptions about why other people think as they do.

In addition to the subjects I have already mentioned, I intend to also explore how the phenomenon of economic growth affects or threatens the biosphere. First, we have to consider what economic growth is. Economic growth is defined as an increase in the total quantity of goods and services produced in an economy in a given time period, usually a year. The powerful and the privileged in our society seem to think that economic growth is and inherently good thing and that it always will be. However, when we think more carefully about what is involved with economic growth, we may be led to question this.

No matter how efficient we get in the production of goods and services economic growth will always mean an increase in the total quantity of matter and energy as inputs into the economic process. It is this continuing increase in the quantity matter and energy into the economic process that even the most resource efficient economic growth inevitably produces that is a threat to the biosphere.

I also intend to explore how different ideas and belief systems and institutions and reform movements have evolved over the course of our history and what lessons they may have to offer us now in our own time, or not. I will also try to imagine new kinds of policies and institutions that may help us to deal effectively with the major problems of our time. I also intend to advocate for a new political party and explain why I think our two currently existing major parties cannot be counted on to do what we need them to do.

From one post to another I hope to gradually fill in more detail on the separate parts of the big picture of reality as a whole, and the reality of our political order, as it functions now, and why and how we might hope to improve it, so that it functions more closely to an ideal.

These are among the problems and subjects I hope to explore in this blog. I hope you will join me with your interest, by reading it, and with your comments, if you have any, and any information or knowledge, or expertise that you would care to share. And your financial support, in the form of your donations, any amount, large or small will be appreciated. If you wish to support this blog, please go to my GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/golden-web-communications and donate. I am trying to raise funds to start a small business, which will publish nonfiction books related to the topics I cover in this blog, which I will write myself, and also operate the blog. And your emotional support or encouragement will also be appreciated. Questioning the picture of reality promoted by the powerful and the privileged, and popular unexamined assumptions, can be a hazardous enterprise.

Some possible topics for future posts

  • Economic growth and the type of society that the United States is.
  • Some possible problems with the carbon-free economy
  • Why we need a new political party
  • What the new political party should be like and what some of its main goals should be
  • The international empire of business corporations
  • The globalized US and world economies
  • Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Accountable Capitalism Act, how good is it, and how could it be improved, or what should we have instead?
  • The perception and understanding of truth in a democracy

Thank you again for your interest. I hope you found something of value here, or that made you think. I hope you will come back.

Copyright 2019 all content on this blog Richard E. Garner, Jr