LIKE A RIPE PEAR….
By Nancy Dobson, P.O .Box 71132, Bethesda, Md 20813
The Golden Rule and economics. Some see this phrase as oxymoronic. How to love all others as you love your own soul and treat them as you want them to treat you is a bedrock rule without which complex civilizations cannot function. Every great civilization has discovered and lived by this rule. However, some economic systems replace the Golden Rule with the rule to do whatever makes you rich.
The Biblical laws that forbid usury – receiving interest on money or other property (i.e.,, capitalism) – show that we have long been aware of the social and spiritual damage caused by this economic model. (Deuteronomy 23:20-21; Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:35-38; and see Ezekiel 18:5-9, 22:1-12; Psalm 15:1-5; Nehemiah 5:1-13) People in many countries in the world today are waking up to the dangers to the environment and to social systems caused by capitalism, and they are seeking alternatives.
Environmental scientists tell us that planned obsolescence – which causes the exploitation of resources beyond earth’s capacity to replenish them and the excessive waste of products made to break easily so they can be rebought — as well as dangerous innovations that work against nature’s laws, are leading us to a convergence of environmental crises where ecosystems are preparing to collapse all the way up the chain of life to humans. Needless aggression and excessive weapons manufacturing – enough to destroy the whole planet multiple times – are additional well studied side effects of the capitalist economic system. In order to quickly infuse money (that has been siphoned off by the rich) into the system, war is provoked or a “preemptive strike” carried out so that weapons can be built and used up and cities can be destroyed and rebuilt.
Millions of people are alert to these dangers and are looking for alternatives. There are ways we can personally work around the current system. The most obvious are to fit our homes with renewable energy, use public transportation, buy local and long lasting products, repair, recycle, plant gardens, eat more legume-dairy-carbohydrate mix instead of meat and to not pay interest or collect interest or dividends. There also are changes the government could make to help us transition to a more sustainable economic system. One of these is a Flat Tax. Though the model that has been proposed in Congress several times would benefit the rich and burden the middle class and poor, a more equitable model could be created. An equitable model of a Flat Tax must tax all income, including all interest and dividend income, or this money is a gift to the rich.
Another economic sustainability practice is interest free banking. This is already available to us. Several Islamic interest free banks are now open in the United States and welcome clients of all faiths. They are FDIC insured and ATM accessible, and they offer interest free home financing.
The Vatican also has a banking system. The Pope could arrange for it to open banking branches in other countries around the world and to use the fee based system currently used by Islamic banks. This would draw the Vatican out of the Biblically illegal usury system and expand a sustainable economic model for Catholics and others to use. It also would generate income the church could use to meet its various needs.
Barter and countertrade are a natural part of a sustainable economy. The government should regulate this industry and allow taxes to be paid with barter credits. There are already many barter businesses in America.
The marvel of the Internet is the wealth of information that it makes available to all, as well as its social networking capability. We deeply appreciate its many unique advantages. However, secure it is not. The Internet will never be completely secure. Even the CIA gets hacked into hundreds of times a day – and those are just the known hacks! Today’s highly integrated fiat economy is moving into an especially vulnerable position with Internet banking. When money disappears from credit and checking accounts, banks just invent new money out of thin air to replace it. But if enough people hack and steal, or enough money is magically created, the economy will have run-away inflation and the value of money will plummet. As more people learn how to work the Internet, more will figure out how to hack. Many will try to create their own money or steal from banks. Theft will mushroom and the value of money will dissolve.
Though electronic banking is convenient, we should be willing to suffer the small inconvenience of check writing and window banking to protect our economy. It is a choice between convenience and safety. Running red lights may be convenient, but it isn’t safe. Internet banking may be convenient, but in the long term it isn’t going to be safe for the nation. Prepaid credit cards can be used to purchase items off the Internet. Bills can be paid forward so that regular expenses, such as utilities, carry a credit. Similarly, we could arrange for stores where we shop regularly – and that maintain credit records on stand-alone, wi-fi free computers — to carry a credit from which we draw to pay daily or weekly needs as they arise. Bill updates could be sent separately by verifiable e-mail unless money is due.
Some type of system similar to the stock market would be useful to support innovation, as long as it is part of a sustainable economy. Under the current system, businesses must inflate prices and devalue products in order to pay dividends, a practice that steals from the poor. Stock dividends should be limited to a return of investment plus a standard hourly amount, if actual hours are worked, (for which paper back-up may be required) and to cover investment related costs. It doesn’t negate a free market to have all money taxed before it is invested. A Flat Tax that taxes all income would eliminate the financially destabilizing advantage currently enjoyed by those who invest in order to avoid taxes — and who live off of dividends, money they do nothing to earn.
Bonds are another way to steal from the poor, since the dividends paid to bond holders come from taxes. Bonds are not necessary. They fund public service projects. These projects should be paid for directly with taxes – equitable taxes paid by rich and poor — instead of by bonds that pay dividends derived from taxes.
Too tight an economic system, such as communism, is oppressive, but too loose a system, such as capitalism, is highly destructive. Our challenge is to create fair, stabilizing laws within which to conduct business, and to enforce them. That’s where the Golden Rule comes in. Laws should reflect the ethic that we won’t treat others — including those in other countries and of other faiths — as we would not want others to treat us, and that we won’t treat the environment in a way we would not personally want to live in. Like the active/passive tension between the genders that makes up society, the delicate balance between supportive forces and aggressive forces in the economy shouldn’t become unbalanced to the point of social and environmental destruction.
In order to elect political representatives who will work for sustainability we need an honest vote count. Computers have proved unreliable in securing a verifiable vote count. Voters could hold fund raisers and use the money to print ballots, then obtain voter registration lists from their counties, mail and hand deliver the ballots and ask voters in each precinct to send the write-in ballots to a place where they are verified against the registration lists and counted by voter volunteers. Voluntary donations also could be invited. This would check the computer vote count in elections and take back democracy for America.
Here is one way to work with the ballots. Use 81/2 by 61/2 inch sheets, a separate sheet for each office and issue plus a cover sheet. All pages would have the voter’s name and voter registration number on them and the voter would sign and date each page after marking their vote. Either use a different color box frame for each page or a different size and placement of box on the page so that once separated and stacked the pages can be fanned to catch any that are in the wrong stack. After the ballots are mailed or delivered to each precinct, the intake person would remove the cover sheet and check off the name on the voter registration list. The next person would separate the pages and give volunteer counters at separate tables the sheet for the office or issue they are counting. The counters would put the pages in stacks according to who and what was voted for. The votes could be stapled in the top center in groups of 100 to make them easier to count throughout the day, and a total signed off on by two checkers at the end of each day they are counted, before they are locked up. Campaign committee members could easily check the stacks by fanning them to verify that all votes in each stack are for the candidate or issue voted for in that stack.
Our decisions and actions create rhythms in ourselves and our relationships. Physicists call it the Butterfly Effect that tiny, specific changes cause significant systemic changes. This is true in nature’s systems, and it is true in human systems as well. As each person changes his or her habits to follow sustainable economic and environmental practices their choices ripple out to affect others in a multitude of ways. This is how India was able to wrest control of its government out of the hands of the powerful British. Gandhi said the weight of civil disobedience – of individual citizens’ non-violent choices – would be like a ripe pear falling. The British would not be able to prevent the return of sovereignty to the Indian people. Similarly, as citizens around the world tangibly choose against capitalism and in favor of sustainability, governments and big businesses will inevitably have to change. Each individual chooses between green or greedy, between sustainable or susceptible, between being part of the problem or being part of the solution.
We are intelligent enough to create a sustainable economic system and end the environmental degradation and extreme social assaults perpetrated to protect capitalism. Voters can help the government move to a sustainable system both by their individual choices and by electing representatives who acknowledge the problems inherent in capitalism and who support solutions. Please copy this document and share it with political candidates and representatives, as well as with your family and friends. Let’s bring sustainability to fruition.