Clarifying a Vision of Economic Freedom

 

This is the rule of most perfect Christianity, its most exact definition, its highest point, namely, the seeking of the common good; for nothing can so make a person an imitator of Christ as caring for neighbors.
John Chrysostom (ca. 347-407)

 

"On this Labor Day in the midst of continuing economic turmoil, we are called to renew our commitment to the God-given task of defending human life and dignity, celebrating work, and defending workers with both hope and conviction. This is a time for prayer, reflection, and action. In the words of our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI:
"The current crisis obliges us to re-plan our journey, to set ourselves new rules and to discover new forms of commitment, to build on positive experiences and to reject negatives ones. The crisis thus becomes an opportunity for discernment, in which to shape a new vision for the future (Caritas in Veritate, no. 21).'"  http://www.usccb.org

We have traveled light years ahead in ways of sharing and cooperation. Further research and education in creating an inclusive economy can prepare society as a whole for more breakthroughs for the human family which will make war and violence obsolete. "The process is neither simple nor linear, but cumulative and highly networked across society" p. 9 Unjust Deserts, How the Rich Are Taking Our Common Inheritance And Why We Should Take It Back) Dr. Gar Alperovitz applies our common growth in technical knowledge to an inclusive and fair economy, We will have to transition from the military industrial complex, but there is no system that we cannot analyze and change.

"Aggressive growth is impossible ecologically and implausible economically. We need economic strategies at the local, state and national levels that prioritize community benefit over corporate gain, and which presume a need for local resiliency instead of depending on uncontrolled growth. We also need to develop new strategies to democratize wealth in the face of extreme inequality. Like the programs developed in “the state and local laboratories of democracy” that led to the New Deal, numerous experiments percolating across the country in the “new economy” — building cooperative and community-owned businesses, developing locally focused supply chains at a municipal and regional level, building new forms for public ownership of essential services like banking and power generation — may just point the way. The end of growth poses a long-term systemic challenge, and such explorations suggest that a new direction may be quietly being explored in the midst of economic and ecological degradation. It is a direction that is likely to accelerate as economic and social pain of the decaying economic system continues to force Americans to explore solutions that take us beyond the tired nostrums of the past." Gar Alperovitz is a professor of political economy at the University of Maryland and a founder of the Democracy Collaborative.

The 2010 Labor Day Statement of Bishop Murphy for the US bishops praises intermediate groups in civil society like labor unions, universities and "all those who seek to add vision and hope to a national and global economic dialogue." Let us dialogue together to insure a more democratic and inclusive global economy.  When we end the war SYSTEM and move to more democratic and effective legal body for our planet, instead of researching more powerful ways to kill one another and destroy our planet, our scientists and engineers can devote their time and talent to manufacturing goods from cradle to cradle, co-creating with God a safer, more secure, and enjoyable world.

The World Bank estimates that in addition to the thirty children already dying per hour, the global economic crisis is causing an additional twenty-two children to die per hour.  It's possible there will be an additional 400,000 child deaths, or an extra child dying every 79 seconds.  The group of 20 of the world's "leaders" will decide how many of the poor will die.  The poor are not represented on any summit.  The poor never approved any bad loans or risky investments.  The 500 richest people in the world earn more than the 416 million poorest people. (Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, April 2, 2009, A 27.

This contrasts with Christian theory:

God is Love Pope Benedict XVI

"This principle of love is the starting-point for understanding the great parables of Jesus. The rich man (Luke 16.19-31) begs from his place of torment that his brothers be informed about what happens to those who simply ignore the poor man in need. Jesus takes up this cry for help as a warning to help us return to the right path. The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10.25-37) offers two particularly important clarifications. Until that time, the concept of 'neighbor' was understood as referring essentially to one's countrymen and to foreigners who had settled in the land of Israel; in other words, to the closely-knit community of a single country or people. This limit is now abolished. Anyone who needs me, and whom I can help, is my neighbor. The concept of 'neighbor' is universalized, yet it remains concrete. Despite being extended to all humankind, 'neighbor' is not reduced to a generic, abstract and undemanding expression of love, but calls for my own practical commitment here and now. The Church has the duty to interpret ever anew this relationship between near and far with regard to the actual daily life of her members. Lastly, we should especially mention the great parable of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46), in which love becomes the criterion for the definitive decision about a human life's worth or lack thereof. Jesus identifies himself with those in need, with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison. 'As you did it to one of the least of these, my sisters and brothers, you did it to me.' (Mt. 25.40) Love of God and love of neighbor have become one: in the least of the brethren we find Jesus himself, and in Jesus we find God."
-Deus Caritas Est Pope Benedict XVI. 15

There are positive and negative drives within us. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola help our courage and hope prevail over our fear and apathy. I invite you to join me as I try to break out of what is and move to what can be and should be. When we dream alone, it remains a dream. When we dream together, even impossible dreams can come true.

It's difficult to understand a new vision if your financial security depends on not understanding it. We are in the midst of an historic transition. We need to provide economic security to those dependent now, for example, on growing tobacco.  How else can we are expect them to transition to growing local, organic produce?  We also need to transition from a military economy to a peaceful economy based on law and order.  Those dependent on the military economy need to be assisted in the transition.

Let's look ahead at the year 2034 and try to clarify a vision of what a decent future would look like. Let's look to the future, ignoring obstacles to our dream at least for now, and picture the minimum essentials of a peace with economic justice. If the house of our world needs remodeling, let's fashion a blueprint for a new house which will shelter all of us.

A rising tide lifts all boats only if all boats are on top of the water. If some boats are sinking or already submerged, a rising tide does them no good. "The economy" is an abstraction. The unemployed and the poor do not participate adequately in "the economy." Almost the entire continent of Africa (except for South Africa) has been bypassed by the global economy as have many inner cities and rural areas even in developed countries.  A rising tide today will submerge large areas of our globe.  We need to transition to green, sustainable energy in dramatic ways.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"People tend to say a university should be impartial, but we think not. A university should try to be free, objective, but objectivity and freedom can demand one to be partial. We are freely in favor of the oppressed. The oppressed are the truth of our reality.

St. Paul says 'Where sin abounds, there grace does more abound'  We proclaim utopianly that a new earth must be shaped with principles of greater altruism and solidarity. . the present order based on the accumulation of private capital and material wealth can be considered a prehistoric and prehuman stage. The great benefits of nature . all the natural resources for production, use, and enjoyment--need not be privately appropriated by any individual, group, or nation. In fact, natural resources are the grand medium of communication and common living. .today human beings are subordinated to the economy; the economy should be subordinated to human beings." (Towards a Society that Serves Its People:  The Intellectual Contribution of El Salvador?s Murdered Jesuits, edited by John Hassett & Hugh Lacy, Fr.  Ignacio Ellacuria, S.J. "Utopia and Prophesy in Latin America"  translated by Fr. James Brockman, S.J. p. 76  Common Property)

When I traveled to Santa Clara University in October of 2000, the leader of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, energized me when he addressed representatives of the twenty-eight Jesuit Colleges and Universities. "Thanks to science and technology, human society is able to solve problems such as feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, or developing more just conditions of life . . . We need a sustained interdisciplinary dialogue of research and reflection, a continuous pooling of expertise. The purpose is to assimilate experiences and insights according to their different disciplines in a 'vision of knowledge which, well aware of its limitations, is not satisfied with fragments but tries to integrate them into a true and wise synthesis.'"

Even to think outside the box is a price as a society we seem unwilling to pay. Fr. Ignacio Ellacuria, S.J., President of the Jesuit university in San Salvador, thought outside the box and paid for his thoughts with his life. "It is necessary to proclaim utopianly that new earth with new human beings shaped with principles of greater altruism and solidarity."1 To think new thoughts takes the kind of inner spiritual freedom God can give to us. Let me describe just one aspect of my dream, economic democracy.

All of us have a natural right to water, to food that is nutritious, to a healthy environment, to shelter, to health care, to education.  "The right to have a share of earthly goods sufficent for oneself and one's family belongs to everyone.  The fathers and doctors of the church held this view, teaching that we are obliged to come to the relief of the poor and to do so not merely out of our superfluous goods."  Minimum material resources are an absolute necessity for human life." (National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for all; Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the US Economy, No. 70.)

As intelligent loving persons, all of us have the right to be free to make our own decisions. I strive for a responsible freedom that respects and promotes the freedom of others and not just myself. I'm glad I live in a nation that respects the freedom of all, believes in individual rights, yet promotes the common good. Although I have individual basic human rights, I am not free to try to dominate others and ignore the basic rights of others. My dream is to search together for the basic rights of all.

Global Economic Democracy

We understand what political democracy is. As free citizens, we do have some say about what our local, state, and federal governments do. There is another power in present world structures which has enormous influence, ownership and control of the means of production, the factories and farms. Just as important are financial institutions such as banks and insurance companies.  Some see our best and brightest young men gravitating toward the more lucrative financial sector for their careers which creates an inbalance for a healthy economy.

Corporations make decisions which vitally affect all of us, decisions to downsize, to move to the South, the West, and overseas, decisions that often pollute the environment and destroy the rainforests. The average free citizen in the United States has little if anything to say about employment, trade or monetary decisions, or care of the earth, not to mention the kind of food that s/he eats or the kind of doctors s/he wants to serve her/him.

"Academic studies have clearly documented the power of large multi-national corporations to determine legislation, influence regulatory agencies, election patterns and the media. Companies are free to relocate, leaving behind deteriorating houses, schools, roads, and hospitals, and the social disaster of community decay. 'Throwaway cities' is wasteful--and entails the new expense of having to rebuild the same costly facilities elsewhere."2

Although very imperfect, now there is some semblance of political democracy in many parts of the world. The global democratic process needs to be extended in some way to the factories and the farms. We could call more humane economic structures by some other name. We could call it global economic freedom, global economic security, global economic equity. I will call it global economic democracy.

Can we say we have a genuine democracy if each human person does not have the opportunity and capacity to participate? Each person needs education, adequate resources, enough free time to participate in the political and economic process.

Consumers vote by what they buy. We do have social legislation such as anti-trust laws. Corporations have stockholder meetings. In the present order we do vote by what we buy, through the political process, and by means of the stock that we own. All of these approaches need to be pursued. But some say this is not enough.

Anti-trust laws, labor laws, environmental laws are weak and ineffective. If major corporations do not agree with a law, some stall instead of complying. Since the cost of resistance is often quite modest compared to the cost of compliance, companies can benefit in real dollars by stalling.3

Although the death penalty for human persons is cruel and unusual punishment, some suggest that we apply the death penalty to corporations who commit major crimes. As a culture we demand that we get tough on street crime. But the U.S. is reluctant to prosecute adequately much larger and more harmful corporate crimes.4

Certainly there are many responsible, moral people caught up in the present structures. But the status quo is not coming close to acknowledging the basic human rights of each human person, made in the image and likeness of God. Nor are we taking adequate care of our earth. I dream of new structures through which all of us can participate in basic policy decisions that affect all of us. My dream is economic democracy.

Internal Participation

Instead of trying to regulate corporations from without, do we need local community ownership of the means of production in order to participate in decisions from within? If we are part of the Board of Directors, we can urge the Board to use environmental friendly methods, pay at least a living wage, insure worker safety.

At present we only try to regulate large corporations from without making them a little less harmful. We have not been examining the nature and structure of corporations. "Corporations were, on the whole, willing to accept many regulatory agencies

  • because they shielded corporations from the public,
  • on condition that decisions of regulatory agencies could be appealed to courts, where corporations were confident that they could usually win, especially in federal courts, and 
  • it was cheaper to buy influence from a few regulators than an entire legislature."5

Many feel international trade organizations like the World Trade Organization are indeed undermining what few national laws there are. Globalization is one of the main threats to local community democracy and local economic stability.6

Corporations are not governed by one member, one vote constituencies but by those who have the most money. Corporations have enormous staff and financial resources. Instead of encouraging stockholder participation, corporations often challenge stockholder resolutions; and the Security and Exchange Commission frequently rules in their favor.

Consumers have limited choices, often inadequate information, and usually no way to communicate with other consumers on a large scale.

If there are huge disparities in income and wealth between those at the top and the rest of the population, the market produces more of the luxury goods and services wanted by those at the top and fewer of the goods and services needed by those in the middle.7 Although we live in an age of technological abundance, there is a limit to our economic and physical resources. If we use our resources mostly for luxuries for the wealthy, there will not be enough for necessities. My dream is that the world's resources be shared fairly by all.

Are the few who own and control the factories, farms, and banks making the important decisions which affect all of us? Enormous wealth affects even political democracy. If the wealthy contribute to both political parties, they have easy access to legislators. Recent Supreme Court decisions have favored influence of corporations on political elections. Since only the wealthy can hire expensive lawyers, wealth also influences justice in the courts. The existence of enormous wealth alongside great poverty is a lack of community, solidarity, and democracy.

Pope Pius XI did not hesitate to call our present system a kind of dictatorship because of its centralization of power. "It is obvious that in our days not only is wealth accumulated, but immense power and despotic economic domination is concentrated in the hands of a few. . banks supply the life-blood to the entire economic body, and grasp in their hands the very soul of production, so that no one dare breathe against their will. . this accumulation of power is the natural result of a limitless free competition that permits the survival of those who are the strongest, which often means those who fight most relentlessly, and who pay least attention to the dictates of conscience. . . free competition and economic domination must be kept within just and definite limits, and brought under the effective control of public authority."8

The wealthy have greater influence on elected officials. "You have to be either wealthy or have access to wealth to run for federal office in this country. . . Tim Wirth, our senator from Colorado for many years, says that day in and day out for a six-year term he spent more than 50% of his time asking people for money. In the year he ran it went up to 80%. . . Barney Frank says we like to pretend that our elected officials are the only people in the world who walk up to total strangers, ask them for thousands or now hundreds of thousands of dollars, get it, and are completely unaffected by it, achieving a state of 'perfect ingratitude.' But we know it isn't so . . . we demand elections, not auctions . . .We want the children who breathe the air to count as much as the polluters who fight clean air standards. . . We want the millions who need health care to count as much as the insurance companies that donate millions to thwart reform."9

Many today are searching for better ways to insure economic democracy. If we are to respect the dignity and worth of every human person, we need to find a way to insure not just political and civil rights but basic economic rights for all.

Community Inheritance

The famous Jewish philosopher Martin Buber wrote much about a "community of communities." The Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland Gar Alperovitz follows Buber's philosophy in his thoroughly researched and compelling writings. How can we make the local community the base of our economic democracy?

Each local community has provided generations of schooling, highways and waterways, police and fire protection. No one person or group starts from zero or operates in a vacuum. All new inventions build on previous generations, indeed are the result of centuries of knowledge, skills, and wealth. Inventors pick the fruit of a tree that stands on a huge mountain of previous development. Shouldn't substantial wealth be regularly returned to the community that ultimately made the creation of the wealth possible? This can be done through inheritance laws, eminent domain, public trust funds.

Alaska has built up a large permanent fund that yields a thousand dollars to each citizen. An equal amount is allocated to public uses since the community as a whole plays a major role in the creation of wealth and of new technologies.10 This small example could be expanded to more imaginative and substantial ventures to strengthen and stabilize economic democracy in the local community. See also Unjust Deserts, How the Rich are Taking Our Common Inheritance and Why We Should Take it Back, Wealth and Inequality in the Knowledge Economy by Gar Alperovitz & Lew Daly.

Balance of Local and Global

Since we have a global economy today, I dream of the "truly effective international authority" which was the ardent wish of Blessed John XXIII in Peace on Earth. We are one human family. Families cannot live together in harmony unless there is a certain order. The human family cannot live together without a minimum of global law and order. My dream is a world constitution which would establish a new world democratic authority. Accompanying this new democratic world authority would be local community ownership of the means of production.

If done according to the principle of subsidiarity, economies of scale would dictate regional, national, and international entities that produce goods and services. We acknowledge the principle of subsidiarity for the levels of government. My dream is that subsidiarity be followed in forms of economic democracy in similar ways to our approach to political democracy. We should not rely on a larger unit if a smaller one can do the job. Subsidiarity would bring us much more local community ownership of the means of production rather than domination by large, overly centralized conglomerates.

Although all of us own consumer property like our clothing, only a few own the factories that produce the clothes we wear. Catholic social teaching defends the right for everyone to private ownership of even productive property such as factories. If the ownership of this productive property is extended to all, excessive concentration of ownership would end, and ordinary citizens would have more economic and political power.

Catholic teaching has recognized the value of private property to respect the dignity of individual persons, to guarantee freedom, and to provide for basic needs. Widespread community ownership of the means of production is a check and balance on overly-centralized government. But the title to private ownership is only legitimate if the productive property serves the greatest number, is democratically controlled, and is treated with responsible stewardship.11

My dream is that like charity, economic democracy and community stability begin at home. The US now has many structures that further local community stability such as local living wage ordinances, local ownership of banking, insurance, telecommunications, cable TV, composting systems, sewage treatment plants, methane recovery systems, and transportation. My dream is to strengthen and expand local multipliers. Preference should be given to local contractors and local businesses. "Income that is spent and respent locally circulates and recirculates through the community, bringing additional wealth and employment with each transaction."12

Local Ownership of Water

Water is a fundamental human right. The human person can survive only a few days without clean, safe drinking water. Rights to food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, cannot be attained or guaranteed without also guaranteeing access to clean water. Without water, life is threatened. Agriculture cannot be sustained without sufficient water. The right to water is an inalienable right. Since we need water to live, everyone should have access to water. Public ownership of water sources is a basic key to economic democracy.

Unfortunately, the world is running out of fresh water. Deforestation; destruction of wetlands; pollution of our rivers, lakes, and underground water supplies; global warming; increased use by industry and households in wealthy industrialized nations; are all endangering our fragile water systems. Unless we change, demand for potable water will soon exceed availability.13

The increasing demand for water has been noticed by global corporations who want to sell water for a profit. Water has become "blue gold." The religion of the so-called "free market" urges us to privatize water. The North American Free Trade Agreement, the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs, and the World Trade Organization treat water not as a human right but as a commodity.

Water by its very nature cannot be considered as a mere commodity among other commodities. Catholic social thought has always stressed that the defense and preservation of certain common goods such as the natural and human environments cannot be safeguarded simply by market forces, since there are fundamental human needs which escape market logic.14

Water is a public good. Being at the service of its citizens, the state is the steward of the people's resources and the common good. The state should see there is an efficient and reliable water service which provides for low-income families.

Most of the water supplies in the US are owned publicly. Now conglomerates want to privatize our water. Although the water issue is global in scope, it is at the local level where decisive action can best be taken. By organizing, Montara, California, a small community of 4,900 people, has reclaimed ownership of its municipal water system from a behemoth German energy group RWE AG.15 Do we want economic democracy and follow Montara or deliver control of the water of our earth to a few giant multi-national conglomerates?

Water and Vegan Diet

New Yorker, Oct. 23, 2006, p. 64: "As people migrate to cities, they invariably start to eat more meat, adding to the pressure on water resources. The amount of water required to feed cattle and to process beef is enormous: it takes a thousand tons of water to grow a ton of grain and fifteen thousand to grow a ton of cow. Thirteen hundred gallons of water go into the production of a single hamburger; a steak requires double that amount. Every day, a hundred thousand people join India's middle class, and many have become affluent enough to eat out every week."

Living Water

In the Christian Scriptures, Jesus appropriated the term living water to refer to himself as the source of genuine spiritual life. He applied this symbol to himself because he knew that people depend on water for their survival as individuals and as communities; that water slakes thirst and quenches fields and livestock as well as wild creatures. Isaiah saw water as a resource for all. Isaiah 44.3, 55.1: "lf you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk!"16

Water for All

At the Third World Water Forum in Kyoto, March 16-23, 2003 the Pontifical Justice and Peace Council stated that inadequate access to safe drinking water is the lot of over one billion persons! "This all too often is the cause of disease, unnecessary suffering, conflicts, poverty and even death."17

Multinational corporations with the means to control water cannot be allowed to destroy or exhaust this resource which is destined for the use of all. Economic democracy leads us to water management that is participatory, involving users, planners and policy-makers at all levels

We need to respect the integrity of creation and grow in appreciation of the significance of water in God's plan. If all of us make the decisions about such a basic resource as water, we will use funds released through cancellation of the Third World debt to improve water services. Production of some goods may best be privatized. Water is not one of them.

Local Food Production

Economic democracy demands that food also be produced locally. In the US the food that we eat travels an average of 1500 miles! Much food spoils. "A study conducted by the US Department of Agriculture found that in 1995 'about 96 billion pounds of food, or 27 percent of the 356 billion pounds of the food available for human consumption in the US were wasted at the retail, consumer, and food service levels.' The disposal cost of waste food for municipalities exceeded an estimated $1 billion per year by the mid-1990's."18

The many miles that our food travels today use incredible amounts of non-renewable energy and release climate disrupting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The single greatest cause of global warming and climate destabilization is industrial agriculture (i.e. non-organic, non-sustainable, non-locally produced.). We need to return to diverse mixed crops produced for local consumption and work toward community and regional food self-reliance. This will reduce chemicals, mechanization, and fossil fuel use, allowing people to farm who know and love the land. It will also reduce pollution of soil, air, rivers and oceans.

An Inconvenient Truth

In our present system our livelihood and success can depend on a particular industry that uses fossil fuels extensively. Our job can cloud our vision and affect our judgment. Global warming can be "an inconvenient truth." But global warming can affect the livelihood of all of us in a dramatic way. Examine the science at Climate Crisis.

"To grow corn that cheap, you need more than just subsidies. [When the farmer gets a fair price which includes care of the environment, there won't be any need for subsidies.] You also need vast quantities of fossil fuel. The food industry consumes about 20 percent of imported petroleum, much of which goes to fertilize cornfields. Corn takes a great amount of nitrogen to grow, and the way we make artificial nitrogen is to turn natural gas into ammonium-nitrate fertilizer. So something else you're eating in that McDonald's meal is fossil fuel. A pound of beef takes a half gallon of oil to grow. A bushel of corn also takes about a half gallon. It takes ten calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce one calorie of food energy that way. So to eat that McDonald's meal, we need to keep the oil flowing. . .transporting food from distant farms requires fossil fuel and technologies to keep food fresh. . . grasslands have plenty of biodiversity and help lessen the greenhouse effect by reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. All plants take in carbon dioxide, sequester the carbon, and release the oxygen back into the air. What's important about grasses is that they sequester most of that carbon in the soil, and very little in their actual 'bodies.'" The Sun, May 2006, pp. 7-8. [Thus our food delivery system is a major cause of global warming and destabilization of the climate.]

We need to close down huge factory farms that create environmental nightmares, pollute the underground water supply, and are hardly kind to animals. Thousands of hogs confined in one factory farm creates as much waste as a city of 30,000 people.

We need to limit corporate farming. Corporate ownership of farmland is already restricted in Nebraska, North Dakota, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. Other states place limits on the size of farms. The ultimate policy goal must be to reduce the super-farm to a moderate-sized farm able to be handled by family farmers or small cooperatives.

We need to bring anti-trust actions to reverse corporate oligarchy in the food industry in which a few giant firms control seed, feed, farm machinery, and in which a few giant firms buy farm products and manufacture food and fiber. Appropriate technology and economies of scale would make the production of food more ecologically sustainable and lead to greater economic democracy.

We need to revive rural communities so that they can become strong again and diverse enough to support family farmers with services and supplies.19

There is a myth that large farms are more efficient. Extensive research has shown that "Small farms are 'multi-functional'- more productive, more efficient, and contribute more to economic development than large farms. Small farmers can also make better stewards of natural resources, conserving biodiversity and safe-guarding the future sustainability of agricultural production."20

A Fair Price for Local Farmers

Local food production will not work unless local farmers get a fair price for nutritious food produced in a sustainable way. Now athletes get more for having their picture on a box of cereal than the farmer gets for many hours of hard work growing the wheat or corn. My dream is that together we create a new system, new smaller producers of seed, feed, machinery; new government policy, new and enforceable anti-trust laws.

The costs for local farmers for seed, feed, machinery, fuel, have risen. Their income has not. There is a way to ensure that farm income is adequate and comes from the marketplace and not from taxpayers. A market price floor needs to be reestablished by the Secretary of Agriculture that is related to the true cost of production. Work that does not yield a minimum wage is not a meaningful job. If we have minimum wage laws, we should set minimum prices.

No one today is making any money in agriculture except for the transnational corporate giants who control farm commodity prices, agricultural input prices, seeds, patents, and retail food sales. Corporations are making billions while family farmers in the US and all over the world are going bankrupt. On a global scale this chemical and genetically engineered driven model of agriculture will be literally catastrophic.21

We fail in economic democracy if where there were once a hundred farmers using thirty acres each, there is now one corporate farmer using 3000 acres. Nearly a billion pounds of pesticide are applied annually in the US. Half of the US topsoil has been lost in the last four decades of industrial farming. A coalition of sixty organizations, the Turning Point Project, proposes a return to diverse mixed crops produced for local consumption, community and regional food self-reliance.22

Global Democratic Economic Law

An important part of my dream is to have enforceable, democratic, global law that applies to individuals as well as nations. I am a citizen of the state of Ohio as well as a citizen of the United States. I am a citizen of the world as well as a citizen of the United States. There is no structure as yet that allows me to exercise my rights and duties as a citizen of a democratic world.

Only an impartial international trade commission can justly handle fair trade between the wealthy and poorer nations. Nations with more economic power are often tempted to force their own way on those with less power. "We must expand our understanding of the moral responsibility of citizens to serve the common good of the entire planet. . . All economic agents must consciously and deliberately attend to the good of the whole human family. We must all work to increase the effectiveness of international agencies in addressing global problems."23

We are citizens of the United States. We are also citizens of the world. Together we must search for the common good of the whole world. All stakeholders need to be involved in world trade. Safe food, a healthy earth, small farm agriculture, a living wage are concerns of all of us. I dream that ordinary citizens not be simply observers in crucial decisions that affect everyone. Openness and transparency are essential for democracy.

One way to give us a voice in global trade is by a new world constitution that would insure democratic, enforceable global law. The common good cannot be safeguarded simply by market forces. Although the market can be a useful tool, it is not a god. Made up of all of us sinners, the market can often be motivated by greed and selfishness.24

A companion direction for economic democracy would be local community ownership of the means of production. My dream is smaller units of production which provide sufficient checks and balances and better serve local, national and world trade.25

Dr. David Korten proposes that the organizations agreed on in July, 1944 at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, which today are known as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization, be brought back under open and democratic control of the United Nations. In the view of Dr. Korten the Bretton Woods institutions need to be decommissioned, and three new UN agencies be created with roles nearly opposite of the present structures.

An International Insolvency Court would hear cases brought by debtor nations to work out a more balanced approach to debt responsibilities. Was the debt incurred by a dictator who used the money for his own enrichment, a loan that the bank never should have made in the first place? The rescheduling of the debt should allow governments to provide essential social services. "Such plans would ideally take into account the implicit debt owed to the debtor country by creditor countries in the North for wealth previously extracted without proper compensation."26

An International Finance Organization to replace the International Monetary Fund would promote productive national investment. This new UN agency would help prevent the use of offshore banks and tax havens for money laundering and tax evasion.

An Organization for Corporate Accountability which would replace the World Trade Organization would assure "public accountability of international corporations and finance . . . break up concentrations of corporate power in banking, media, and agribusiness . . . decharter corporations with a history of regulatory violations; prohibit the patenting of genetic materials, life forms and processes."27

Utopia is a vision of the future. St. Thomas More's Utopia in 1516 built on Plato's Republic around 400 B.C. "Restrict this right of rich individuals to buy up everything and this license to exercise a kind of monopoly for themselves." Thomas More advocates laws that limit the amount of land and income an individual may have. Utopia leaves time for citizens to be human. Time is to be set aside for intellectual and spiritual pursuits.

Conclusion

Although it has accomplished much and is an important step toward the goal, the United Nations is only a confederation. My dream is a democratic world authority with a world constitution that recognizes the principle of subsidiarity. This is what Pope John XXIII longed for in Peace on Earth. A world constitution would have sufficient checks and balances at all levels of government and at the same time encourage local and community ownership of farms, factories, banks, insurance companies, transportation, communications media. Local community ownership would be a check and balance in itself of all government.

Although emphasis would begin with local democracy, economies of scale would favor some regional, state, national, even a democratic world ownership. "The great benefits of nature--the air, the seas and beaches, the mountains and forests, the rivers and lakes, in general all the natural resources for production, use, and enjoyment--need not be privately appropriated by any individual person, group, or nation, and in fact they are the grand medium of communication and common living."28

We need to be spiritually free enough to take the best of traditional capitalism and traditional socialism and create a new and fair system. There is a myth that privatization is always more efficient than government. The research doesn't bear that out. Our own experience in health care, for example, confirms that the private insurance companies can be an immense, unwieldy, impersonal, time-consuming, maddening bureaucracy, an enemy to economic democracy.

I don't want fundamental policy decisions made by a few government bureaucrats. Neither do I want them made only by a few corporation board members in secret behind closed doors.

My dream is a world in which each human person has adequate food, water, shelter, health care. Cities, states, nations, a world democratic authority, all must assure all of these for all of its citizens. Government at all levels can do this by external laws. Government can also promote economic democracy by favoring widespread ownership of the means of production, the factories, farms, banks, insurance companies, transportation, communications media. If only a few own the means of production and communication, those few will make the decisions which are the responsibility of all.

For the most part, I ignored the obstacles to my dream of economic democracy. Nor did I sketch how we can start now to work toward a better world in 2034. I think the dream has value in itself. The dream sets us in the right direction and moves us to take the steps now to make the dream come true.

"Then the Lord answered me and said: Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets, so that one can read it readily. For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint. If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late. The rash man has no integrity; but the just man, because of his faith, shall live." (Habakkuk 2.2)

Footnotes

1. Fr. Ignacio Ellacuria, S.J. "Utopia and Prophecy in Latin America" Towards a Society that Serves Its People: The Intellectual Contribution of El Salvador's Murdered Jesuits eds. John Hassett & Hugh Lacy Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1991, 62, 63,192, 205, 207, 175, 206.).
2. Who Is My Neighbor? Economics As If Values Matter, "Building a Living Democracy "Dr. Gar Alperovitz, 110, 112.
3. William Greider, Who Will Tell the People? The Betrayal of American Democracy, 110
4.For the difference between our attitude toward street crime and corporate crime see http://www.corporatecrimereporter.com
5.Citizens Over Corporations, A Brief History of Democracy in Ohio and Challenges to Freedom in the Future, Ohio Committee on Corporations, Law and Democracy, American Friends Service Committee. 35, 36.
6.Public Citizen http://www.tradewatch.org. See also a thoroughly researched primer on how to balance local and global. Making a Place for Community, Local Democracy in a Global Era, 2003 Thad Williamson, David Imbroscio, and Gar Alperovtiz . Routledge.
7.See Chuck Collins, Betsy Leondar-Wright, Holly Sklar, Shifting Fortunes, The Perils of the Growing American Wealth Gap, 1999.
8.Quadragesimo Anno No's 105-111. Pope Paul VI repeats this theme in Octogesima Adveniens no. 44 as does Pope John Paul II in Centesimus Annus No. 35.
9.Gene Nichol, "Money Must Not Trump Democracy" Alliance Reports, August 1999, Volume 3,Number 2, p. 5 Alliance for Democracy works to lessen the excessive influence of corporations over the US political system.
10. Dr. Gar Alperovitz, Who Is My Neighbor? Economics As If Values Matter, "Building a Living Democracy" Washington, D.C., Sojourners, 1994 104-117.
11. Pope John Paul II, On Human Work, III, No. 14, 45
12. Making a Place for Community, Local Democracy in a Global Era, 166.
13. Yes, A Journal of Positive Futures "Whose Water?" Winter 2004
14. Pope John Paul II Centesimus Annus, 40
15. Yes, A Journal of Positive Futures "Whose Water?" Winter 2004
16. From twelve Catholic bishops of the US Pacific Northwest and southeastern British Columbia, Canada, Origins, Vol. 30, p. 613, Mar. 8, 2001.
17, Origins April 24, 2003.
18. Making a Place for Community, Local Democracy in a Global Era 258
19. Turning Point Project www.turnpoint.org 666 Pennsylvania Ave. SE Suite 302 Washington, DC 20003 1-800-249-8712
20. Peter M. Rosset, PhD, The Multiple Functions and Benefits of Small Farm Agriculture in the Context of Global Trade Negotiations, September, 1999 available on the Food First Website at http://www.foodfirst.org/pubs/policybs/pb4.html)
21. BioDemocracy News # 25 http://www.purefood.org BioDemocracy Campaign
22. Turning Point Project
23. US Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All No. 322-325.
24. Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus No's 35 and 52
25. Pope Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, No. 23, 24
26. Dr. David Korten When Corporations Rule the World Chapter 20, up-dated 2001 edition 281
27. Ibid. 282,283.
28. Towards a Society that Serves Its People The Intellectual Contribution of El Salvador's Murdered Jesuits, 76, 85.

We Are a Part of the Whole

"A human being is a part of the whole that we call the universe, a part limited in time and space. And yet we experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest--a kind of optical illusion of our consciousness. This illusion is a prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for only the few people nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living beings and all of nature." Albert Einstein 

One journey we may take in our imagination is to join the astronauts as they look down on the earth and see one planet, one human family.  Either we will learn to live together in peace, share and cooperate with one another, listen compassionately to the basic needs of one another or fight over resources, try to lord it over one another, and end dying together.

A recent approach to people over greed is http://www.zenit.org/article-33718?l=english ZE11102402 - 2011-10-24 Permalink: http://www.zenit.org/article-33718?l=english
PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE ON THE GLOBAL ECONOMY)

I invite all of us to the art of envisioning, going forward, searching for old and new ways and structures in a balanced and peaceful manner, through collaboration, negotiation and mediation to promote, refine, and implement a vision of hope.

I have great respect for the insights of Dr. Gar Alperovitz. We have no economic problem. In US there is 192,000 dollars for each family of four. We haven't learned yet how to manage the economy which needs to be democratic and ecologically sustainable. Worker-owned cooperatives following the Mondragon model are our future. Credit unions are our future. Nationalizing the banks are our future. There are now 130 million Americans in Credit Unions and Cooperatives. If the public is keeping the 35% floor under the economy, why aren't we going in the direction of more public ownership? If the public is paying for it, why doesn't the public own it?. We need to re-read Martin Buber.
In Paths to Utopia, the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber said that since working for the common good cannot be forced, all must daily collaborate in supporting a radically decentralized socialism. Buber says the middle ages had a community of communities. Only a community of communities merits the title of commonwealth. Buber felt socialists should make spirit real and bring humankind together as in the year of the jubilee in the Hebrew Covenant. True religion persists in communes. He wanted labor to unite under a labor principle, not a capital principle. Buber wanted a union of agriculture, industry and handicraft, a federation of cooperatives, a full cooperative. The idea of community is inclusive. It includes the family, schools, workers, municipal government. A full cooperative would include consumer and worker cooperatives operating together in the same locality in such a manner as to alter the local culture. He urged the importance of rural agricultural kibbutz cooperatives in Israel. We need to sustain the experience that "We're all in this together."
Who owns the means of production? Should it be a highly centralized state? Buber thought not. Instead he wanted social units of urban and rural workers, living and producing on a communal basis.
Martin Buber went to Israel, but he wanted to live with the Palestinians as equals in a bi-national state. When he died, Palestinian leaders put a wreath on his grave.
The famous Jewish philosopher Martin Buber wrote much about a "community of communities." The Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland Gar Alperovitz follows Buber's philosophy in his thoroughly researched and compelling writings. How can we make the local community the base of our economic democracy?
Each local community has provided generations of schooling, highways and waterways, police and fire protection. No one person or group starts from zero or operates in a vacuum. All new inventions build on previous generations, indeed are the result of centuries of knowledge, skills, and wealth. Inventors pick the fruit of a tree that stands on a huge mountain of previous development. Shouldn't substantial wealth be regularly returned to the community that ultimately made the creation of the wealth possible? This can be done through inheritance laws, eminent domain, public trust funds.
Alaska has built up a large permanent fund that yields a thousand dollars to each citizen. An equal amount is allocated to public uses since the community as a whole plays a major role in the creation of wealth and of new technologies.10 This small example could be expanded to more imaginative and substantial ventures to strengthen and stabilize economic democracy in the local community. See also Unjust Deserts, How the Rich are Taking Our Common Inheritance and Why We Should Take it Back, Wealth and Inequality in the Knowledge Economy by Gar Alperovitz & Lew Daly.

Just Proportional Support of Minimal Government Is Patriotic
One step toward economic democracy could be progressive taxation according to ability to pay. The 25th chapter of the book of Leviticus describes the Jubilee year during which wealth and property are redistributed. The earth is the Lord's. We are stewards of God's creation.
Jesus says: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's." (Luke 20.25) Jesus did not reject the principle of taxation. St. Paul wrote to the community at Rome: "You pay taxes not only to escape punishment but also for the sake of conscience, magistrates being God's ministers who devote themselves to God's service with unremitting care. Pay each one his due; taxes to whom taxes are due." (Romans 13.6-7)
Closer to our own day Pope Pius XII said: "There can be no doubt concerning the duty of each citizen to bear a part of the public expense. But the state on its part, insofar as it is charged with protecting and promoting the common good of its citizens, is under an obligation to assess upon them only necessary levies, which are furthermore proportionate to their means." (Pope Speaks 3 (1957) 327.) Pope John XXIII repeated this ethical standard: "As regards taxation, assessment according to ability to pay is fundamental to a just and equitable tax system." (Pope John XXIII, Mater et Magistra, No. 132)
The United States Catholic Bishops reaffirm this principle: "The tax system should raise adequate revenues to pay for the public needs of society, especially to meet the basic needs of the poor. Secondly, the tax system should be structured according to the principle of progressivity, so that those with relatively greater financial resources pay a higher rate of taxation. The inclusion of such a principle in tax policies is an important means of reducing the severe inequalities of income and wealth in the nation. Action should be taken to reduce or offset the fact that most sales taxes and payroll taxes place a disproportionate burden on those with lower incomes. It's not simply that the wealthy should pay a greater amount but that they should pay at a higher rate of taxation. The goods of creation are to be shared by all God's people." (Economic Justice For All, No. 202)
The more one has, the bigger one's stake in the common good, and the greater a person's interest in its soundness. Those who have more are more a part of the common good; they should be contributing more to its well-being. Tax breaks are not so great a good to the affluent as it is an evil for lower-income people who must take up the slack or suffer decreased services.


I think that beyond a certain level of income many people strive more for power and prestige than for money. But even if progressive taxation does clip a bit the ambition of a few at the top, the effect would be to make power and decision-making more democratic and open up more opportunities for everyone to be creative and competitive. There would be a fresh influx of inventiveness, ingenuity, and releasing of untapped potential. Moreover, mal-distribution of wealth and decision-making weakens solidarity and community. Scripture promotes community not selfishness. We are one human family.
"Jesus looking hard at him loved him, and said, 'One thing is lacking to you: whatever things you have, sell, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come follow me.' He was appalled at the word, and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. And looking around, Jesus said to his disciples, 'How hard it will be for those having riches to enter into the kingdom of God!" (Mark 10.21-24)
The human person needs a certain minimum to pay for basic necessities. The more a family has above the basic minimum, the less its absolute need for it, and the higher the rate of taxation it can bear. The intent of progressive taxes is not to afflict the rich, but rather to put the tax burden where it will cause the least suffering. Taxes on furs and jewelry are fairer than taxes on food and basic medicine. Moreover, there is a floor below which we should not allow the human person to fall. Thus some have advocated a "negative income tax" in which those below the minimum are raised to an adequate income level.


A regressive tax occurs when the less a person has of the thing taxed, the higher the rate of payment. Sales taxes on necessities, present welfare laws and utility rates are a regressive tax.


A proportional or flat tax is when everyone is taxed at the same rate without regard for means or ability to pay. This is equal but not equitable. If we want more revenue for Social Security, for example, then payroll taxes which currently in 2009 do not apply either to earnings above $90,000 or to non-wage/salary income (e.g. dividends and capital gains) should be raised. Currently a person making $300,000 a year pays exactly the same into the Social Security Trust Fund as someone making $90,000 because of the present ceiling. Social Security is financed in a highly regressive manner: above $90,000 the more you make the lower the percent of your income you pay.
Second, as many have pointed out, taking back some part of the huge tax cuts given to those at the very top by the Bush Administration could easily solve any problems which the system may possibly face down the line.


When we have genuine international law and order, we will have a world tax system. Presently our "foreign aid" tends to be paternalistic and to be used as a political weapon. A tax should be levied on those who use the seas, the polar regions, terrestrial atmosphere and space. Our one Creator has made and destined all creation--air, land, and sea, as well as human inventiveness--for the whole human family, especially the poor and the oppressed. Indeed, in an age of technological abundance, I see no need for anyone to be poor or lack basic necessities.


Some feel tax laws are deliberately complicated and obscure to conceal what they really say. Politicians pretend to be for progressive taxation but in reality do not want to offend the sources of their campaign financing. Corporations and the wealthy have the best of both worlds. They appear publicly to be paying an exorbitant amount, but actually pay much less than their share.
Critics of the present "welfare to the rich" say the capital gains preference is the greatest single source of tax reduction for the very wealthy. Only one in ten can benefit from capital gains. It would be unfair to tax profits from investments in property held many years as if the profits were made in a single year, and taxes on long-term investments can be spread out, but the present tax-break for capital gains is way too much.


Dr. Gar Alperovitz, in Rebuilding America, insists that tax expenditures are in the hundred of billions of dollars and could greatly reduce the federal deficit. If I cancel a debt that you owe, in effect I am giving you what I cancel. Tax breaks are a form of welfare that frequently goes unnoticed.

Blessing of the Taxes Posted Friday, March 09 2007 Network of Spiritual Progressives a Tikkun Project
Many thanks to Jim Burklo, pastor, Sausalito Presbyterian Church, for this prayer.
"Dear God, bless my taxes! Give me peace of mind as I struggle to fill out the forms and determine the right amounts I should be sending to Washington and Sacramento. Keep me calm, I pray, as I write out those fat checks on April 15. And whisper a reminder to me, Lord, of all the good reasons that I send my money to my government every year.
Remind me of the fact that I could not write this prayer if I had not received an excellent tax-subsidized education - my parents couldn't have afforded fancy private schools or colleges. Gently show me that the Internet, through which I send this prayer to others, was created with taxpayer dollars. Help me to recall that my freedom to pray as I wish was purchased with the lives of soldiers and the tax payments of other citizens who defended liberty before I was born. Reveal to me, Lord, in my mind?s eye, the roads and the airports, the water systems, the magnificent parks and wilderness areas, the public health workers, the regulators of the environment and of commerce, the scientists, and all the other people and things that my taxes make possible. They provide safety and comfort, protect natural resources, and enable capitalism to flourish for the benefit of all. Remind me of how hard and scary life was for the sick and elderly before citizens paid Social Security taxes and received its benefits. Show me, dear One, just how expensive, difficult, and unpleasant life would be for me and everyone else without all the services and protections that are funded by my tax payments.
Dear Lord, remind me that, in fact, for all the good things that I and others receive back from our government, my tax payments are a bargain. Take me out of my selfishness and give me a spirit of gratitude as I write those tax checks. Inspire me to see that this is a sacred duty, and is a way that I serve others who are vulnerable, poor, or sick, and are especially dependent on public assistance.
O dear One, there are so many ways I wish my taxes could be spent differently. There are many things I don?t like about what my government is doing, there are ways that the tax system could be made more fair, and there are many important things the government leaves undone. I?m willing, O Lord, to pay even more in taxes if it would work for the common good: it could save us all even more money and trouble, in the end. So, more than ever, dear God, give me the strength and the vision to rise up and take action as a voter, pressing my government to act for peace and justice at home and abroad. My sacred duty as a citizen is only partly fulfilled as I write my tax checks. I ask for your guidance, God, as I join with others to change the priorities and values of our government, so that they reflect more of what we see of your will.
May your blessing rest on my Form 1040, dear Lord, and may my taxes well serve you and my fellow citizens! Amen."

 

Vision of Hope Speaker Series Feb. 9, 2009, Greg Coleridge

It?s impossible to explore economics, economic systems, and a vision for an inclusive economy in a vacuum. Economics is not a silo but rather a web with vast interconnections

We live in a time of immense crisis - multiple crises which together threaten not only our economy, but society and like support system itself.

We also live in a time of immense opportunity with vast possibilities for improvement of the human condition and a more right relationship between human beings and the rest of the natural world.

The crises and opportunities are at their root more than any single or even multiple issues. It involves the prevailing economic myth, what others might call the dominant paradigm, still others the accepted story, while still others the major framework.

Whatever you're preferred term (I'll use framework), it's the one that says economic growth is good and more growth is better because it means more stuff is created which we can consume -- which is the definition of self-worth and meaning since, as Madison avenue says "You are what you drive."

Endless more is the major economic goal.

Another element of the dominant framework is the Well, it turns out the uncontrolled and unregulated economic tides have created a global economic and ecological tsunami that has washed away jobs, companies, pensions, home values, security, and a good deal of the ozone. That's the negative. The positive is that the economic crisis has exposed the inherent failure of the dominant economic framework, an economic system that has become increasingly detached from serving the interests of people, our communities, and the earth's caring capacities.

The economic paragons who we were told to entrust all power and authority pursued their own interests at the expense of everyone else and the planet. The Invisible Hand was actually a clenched fist that landed in the midsection of the middle class and poor. The Market it turns out is incapable of addressing serious environmental problems.

Fashioning an economy for all, an inclusive economy, must begin not with an economic prescription but a political one, actually a human prescription. The basic principle should be this: people must have a right to decide issues that affect their lives, their communities, their environment. People must possess the right to decide.

Under our current economic system, this is for the most part not possible. Economic decisions are considered private decisions, even those made by transnational business corporations, top down economic institutions with the power to determine the fates of millions of workers and communities and where the Bill of Rights have no relevance.

The most important sector of the economy to address is the financial sector. The power to coin and distribute money is at the root of all others. Banks and other financial institutions have long been deemed as potential threats to self-governance from Revolutionary times through the Populists of the 1870's-1890's to the present.

In an 1802 letter to his Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin, President Thomas Jefferson reflected:
"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs."

My vision of hope in constructing an inclusive economy and inclusive government, thus, is focused on financial institutitions.

I've developed a 10 point plan, the first 5 focused on the financial sector, the 2nd 5 on related issues.

1. Hold those responsible for the current crisis responsible both individuals and companies. Bank CEO's and other officers who have used bank bailout money for lavish bonuses or golden parachutes should be jailed and funds returned. Banking corporations that have misused bank funds for CEO buyout or bank acquisitions should be forced to return taypayer funds. Companies responsible for the home foreclosure crisis should have their corporate charters revoked and reorganized. This would serve as an important deterrent of future abuse.

2. It's time to democratize banks. Bailing out banks simply because they're too big to fail means they're too big to exist. More bailout funds, as economist and Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz says in a recent article calling for government take over of banks, would simply waste hundreds of billions of dollars and not solve the credit crisis. Banks would simply further consolidate with the few that remain more politically and economically powerful. Democratizing banks would mean bank investors would lose out. It would also mean money could finally be directed to help those facing home foreclosures.

3. Democratize issuance of currency by making the Federal Reserve a total public entity, a 4th branch of the government with checks and balance of issuing money decided by Congress as many are suggesting. It's absurd to permit an entity that is partially private to determine our nation's money supply.

4. Fundamentally restructure the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. It's time to abolish odios debt of underdeveloped nations who in most cases long ago paid back the principal of their original loan with hefty interest. End the Structural Adjustment Program which link loans to gutting a nation?s economic sovereignty. Focus on micro loans promoting sustainability and decentralization.


5. Fund a new federal program that provides financial and technical incentives to democratize banks and corporations via cooperatives. Other nation's have hundreds, if not thousands, of economic cooperatives that supply everything from manufacturing to banking. They are democratically run. It's time for our nation to provide major incentives for that here.

6. Abolish corporate personhood. The notion that business corporations can possess Bill of Rights and other constitutional protections must cease. Corporate rights threatens the economic health of communities but also what is little left of our democracy.

7. Reverse Buckley v Valeo, the 1976 Supreme Court decision equating money with free speech. Money isn't speech. It's property. When invested in politics, money from the wealthy drowns out the voices of those without money. The ever-widening income and wealth gap, perpetuated by government policies, will never be narrowed unless the political power of the wealthy is minimized. Reserving Buckley is an important step in this direction.

8. Keep public assets public. It seems every public asset has at one point or another been targeted for sale at the municipal, state and federal government. Privatization/corporation of public assets reduces public control. Keeping public assets public is the surest way to maximize transparency and responsibility of workers and directors who are unable to hide behind the legal shield erected by corporations in the name of protecting "trade secrets" or "propriety information."

9. Develop new measurements of well being. The Growth Domestic Product (GDP) merely measures economic growth, be it good or bad. Building a needed house or a unneeded nuclear bomb factory both add to the GDP. We need a different economic ruler,  one that measures not just economic advancements but also quality of life which involves more than mere economics, such as happiness.

10. Replace the "endless more" growth economic model with a sustainable and just model based on tenants of respect, dignity, equity, democracy, cooperation, and meeting basic physical needs, not insatiable wants. This involves two tracks. We need macro economic institutions and policies (some of which mentioned earlier) along with programs like social security, environmental protections, green technologies, minimum wage, and labor regulations. We also need micro economic alternatives (i.e. cooperatives, land trusts, local currencies, community supported agriculture, participatory budgeting).


It is time for us to take charge of our economy. It is complicated but we can not be intimated. We can demystify and demythologize it. There are people who are working on popular economics. We the People have in the past come together in powerful social movements to educate ourselves and then take action on nuclear power, nuclear weapons/war, the wars in Central America and Iraq, and numerous environmental problems. Each time we were told: "leave it to the experts," or "they know best." Each time we educated ourselves and came to know enough to know what we were being told was not true and was against the interests of the vast majority of our fellow citizens.

When it comes to economics, we all have PhDs in what it's like to live through what is arguably the most severe economic crisis in the history of this nation outside of the great depression.

At its core, we must remember that economics is about morals and values -- not pie charts, graphs, percentiles, or trends. It's not a cosmic force. Virtually everything that has, is and will happen is due to conscious and willful decisions made by human beings often times who are accountable and responsible to few if any others. That's the problem. Others making decisions for us.

Shouldn't we have the power and authority to make decisions affecting our lives and communties? Real democracy. Real participation. Real inclusion. And real soon.



=============================================

AFSC/RELATED RESOURCES ON DEMOCRACY AND CORPORATIONS

Creating Democracy workshop
An introductory, participatory workshop on how to change laws and assert citizen authority and power.
http://www.afsc.net/PDFFiles/CDWorkshopFlyer.pdf

This is What Democracy [in Ohio] Looks Like: Ohio?s Democratic/Self-Determination ?Infrastructure?
[updated, December, 2008] 16 pages
http://www.afsc.net/PDFFiles/InfrastructureDecember08.pdf

Controlling Blackwater and Other Corporations (September 21, 2007 letter to editor)
http://www.afsc.net/PDFFiles/092107PDLTEIraqContractorsGC.pdf

Honor Democracy in Iraq (September 13, 2007 letter to editor)
http://www.afsc.net/PDFFiles/091307ABJLTEIraqGC.pdf

A U.S. Constitution with DEMOCRACY IN MIND
Second of two articles on the U.S. Constitution
By What Authority
, published by the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy [POCLAD]
Spring, 2007
http://www.poclad.org/bwa/Spring07.htm

The U.S. Constitution: Pull the Curtain
First of two articles on the U.S. Constitution
Winter 2007
By What Authority, published by the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy (POCLAD)
http://www.poclad.org/bwa/Winter07.htm

Nature not the only source of closings (February 2007 article)
http://www.afsc.net/PDFFiles/022007ClosingsGColeridge.pdf

Employee Free Choice Act (February 2007 talk)
http://www.afsc.net/PDFFiles/EmployeeFreeChoiceCole.pdf

Will changed faces result in changed policies? (November 2006 article)
http://www.afsc.net/PDFFiles/110806PostElectionEditorial.pdf

Globalization is a choice (November, 2006)
http://www.afsc.net/PDFFiles/112006ABJLTEGlobalization.pdf

Closing the Circle: The Corporatization of Elections (Article)
from By What Authority, a publication of the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy [POCLAD], Summer, 2006
http://www.poclad.org/bwa/Summer06.htm

CorpOrNation - The Story of Citizens and Corporations in Ohio. DVD
http://www.afsc.net/Products/CorpOrNation.html

Citizens Over Corporations, A Brief History of Democracy in Ohio and Challenges to Freedom in the Future. Booklet
http://www.afsc.net/Products/COCBooklet.html

Defying Corporations, Defining Democracy: A Book of History and Strategy
http://cipa-apex.org/books/poclad/

Resources for Educators
http://www.afsc.net/educatorresources.html

Other resources on Corporations and Democracy:
http://www.afsc.net/neoresources.html

AFSC webpage on Corporations and Democracy:
http://www.afsc.net/ejcorpdem.html


www.poclad.org  Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy

 

Vision of Hope: Dr. Nancy Bertaux. Lecture given Oct. 10, 2006

"Successful societies have to unite around a powerful story with a sustaining ideology. To hold together there has to be a utopian vision that underlies some common goals that members of society can work to achieve?Capitalism postulates only one goal?an individual interest in maximizing personal consumption. But individual greed simply isn?t a goal that can hold any society together in the long run.? (Thurow 257)

"We must realize that the democratic form of government is bound to penetrate our industrial life as well. It cannot be confined merely to our political institutions.? --Sidney Hillman, President, Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union, 1924

WHAT IS ECONOMIC DEMOCRACY?

"Economic democracy [is] the transfer of economic decision making from the few to the many. The very same arguments that for two centuries supported the ceding of political choice to the mass of people rather than its retention by a single individual or a small group, also provide the rationale for production and investment decision making by workers and consumers, not by individual capital owners or their managers. (Carnoy and Shearer 3)

Economic Democracy is a worker-managed market socialism?Economic Democracy presupposes political democracy?I assume a constitutional government that guarantees civil liberties to all; I assume a representative government, with democratically elected bodies at the community, regional, and national levels?Yugoslav socialism was (in theory) democratic at the workplace, but it had a one-party, authoritarian state; contemporary Western capitalism is (in theory) politically democratic, but it is authoritarian at the workplace. Our model will be democratic in both spheres. (Schweickart 67)

The U.S. economy can be driven by greed and fear. Or it can be propelled by commitment and cooperation. We propose a democratic program for restructuring the U.S. economy [that]?would more effectively promote economic recovery? [a]nd?would consistently foster economic and political democracy. (262)

These [are the] four key principles [in our Economic Bill of Rights]?economic security and equity, democratic and productive work relations, democratic planning, and the right to a better way of life. (Bowles, Gordon and Weisskopf 381)

Greater influence for all within organizations will increase efficiency and self-actualization

Increases in global equity and equality are necessary for stability and happiness of the world

More economic equity and equality needed within countries, so that political equality is possible, and in order to increase social happiness

WHY ECONOMIC DEMOCRACY?

INCOME INEQUALITY TRENDS IN THE U.S.

Year Lowest 5th Second Third Fourth Highest

1975 4.4% 10.5% 17.1% 24.8% 43.2%

2001 3.5 8.7 14.6 23.0 50.1

Trend -20.4% -17.1% -14.6% -7.3% +16.0%

WEALTH INEQUALITY IN THE U.S.

2001: Top 10% of wealth-holders own 80.7% of all wealth

Top 1% own over half

Bottom 25% have 0 net worth

CEO PAY

(CEO pay at major corporation as multiple of average worker at that corporation):

1980: 42

1990: 85

2001: 411

(Note: Japan = 20, UK = 35)

 

MINIMUM WAGE FACTS

The federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour has less purchasing power than in all but one of the past fifty years.

? Since 1968, its inflation-adjusted value has fallen by more than thirty percent.

? A full-time minimum wage worker now brings in only $10,712 a year.

Democracy and capitalism have very different beliefs about the proper distribution of power. One believes in a completely equal distribution of political power, ?one man , one vote,? while the other believes that it is the duty of the economically fit to drive the unfit out of business?To put it in its starkest form, capitalism is perfectly compatible with slavery. The American South had such a system for more than two centuries. Democracy is not compatible with slavery.

In an economy with rapidly increasing inequality, this difference in beliefs about the proper distribution of power is a fault line of enormous proportions waiting to slip. (Thurow 242)

Talkin? Bout A Revolution--Tracey Chapman

Don't you know you're talking about a revolution

It sounds like a whisper

While they're standing in the welfare lines

Crying at the doorsteps of those armies of salvation

Wasting time in unemployment lines

Sitting around waiting for a promotion

Don't you know you're talking about a revolution

It sounds like a whisper

Poor people are gonna rise up

And get their share

Poor people are gonna rise up

And take what's theirs

Don't you know you better

run, run, run, run, run, run

Cause finally the tables are starting to turn

The shared top-bracket status of speculators, corporate raiders, $100,000-soft-money political donors, inside traders, chainsaw-wielding corporate CEOs, and Washington megalobbyists never became a talking point [in the 2000 election]. How the top 1 percent garnered over half of late-twentieth-century U.S. income gains went essentially unremarked upon; the expansion of the combined assets of the Forbes 400 from several hundred billion dollars in 1982 to $3 trillion in 2000 remained disembodied, a ghostly aggrandizement almost never tied to the donations, dealings, and purged workforces. (Phillips 408)

How else to describe the new (2001 Bush) administration?s legislative agenda?elimination of the inheritance tax, revision of the bankruptcy laws, the repeal of safely regulations in the workplace, easing of restriction on monopoly, etc.?except as an act of class warfare? Not the aggression that Karl Marx and maybe Ralph Nader had in mind, not the angry poor sacking the mansions of the rich, but the aggrieved rich burning down the huts of the presumptuous and troublemaking poor. (Lewis Lapham quoted in Phillips 405)

There is now massive evidence that for decades Americans have been steadily becoming less equal, less free, and less the masters of their own fate.

The top 1 percent now garners for itself more income each year than the bottom 100 million Americans combined. Even before the war on terrorism?, the United States?criminalized ?more conduct than most, maybe than any, non-Islamic nations.??[And] seven out of ten [Americans] felt that ?people like me have almost no say in the political system.? (Aperovitz 1)

The Need for ?Evolutionary Reconstruction?

If the critical values [of equality, liberty and democracy] lose meaning, politics obviously must also lose moral integrity?Beyond this, if equality, liberty and meaningful democracy can truly no longer be sustained by the political and economic arrangements of the current system, this defines the beginning phases of?a systemic crisis? [I]f the system itself is at fault,?a solution would ultimately require the development of a new system. (Alperovitz 2)

HOW DO WE IMPLEMENT ECONOMIC DEMOCRACY?

(aka ?The devil is in the details?)

1. Each productive enterprise is managed democratically by its workers.

2. The day-to-day economy is a market economy: Raw materials and consumer goods are bought and sold at prices determined by the forces of supply and demand.

3. New investment is socially controlled: The investment fund is generated by taxation and is dispensed according to democratic, market-conforming plan. (Schweickart 68)

What we are seeking, over the long run, is not greater government ownership, but greater democratization of economic decision making. Public enterprise is only a means to that end, not an end in itself. What we would like to see is an economy with??a diverse, diffused, pluralist, and heterogeneous pattern of ownership???a truly democratic economy. (Carnoy and Shearer 85)

A public trust to establish community ownership of common wealth?at the national, state, regional, and local levels?could in turn produce a stream of income, part of which could be used to provide needed services; part of which could provide economic stability and security for individuals and communities. (Alperovitz

In Newark, New Jersey, a nonprofit neighborhood corporation employs two thousand people to build and manage housing and help run a supermarket and other businesses that funnel profits back into health care, job creation, education and other community services. In Glasgow, Kentucky, the city runs a quality cable, telephone, and Internet service at costs far lower than commercial rivals. In Harrisonburg, Virginia, a highly successful company owned by the employees makes and sells cable television testing equipment. In Alabama the state pension fund owns a major interest in many large and small businesses. In Alaska every state resident as a matter of right receives dividends from a fund that invests oil revenues on behalf of the public at large. (Alperovitz 5)

?Do I still believe in [worker] participation? Yes, for three reasons: politically in can reduce power imbalance, psychologically it satisfies some basic human skills, and for managerial reasons because it contributes to organizational effectiveness. But making it work is difficult. It runs against the natural human instinct not to share power. It is too easy to introduce participation symbolically or superficially.?

?More attention needs to be given to context. [T]hree of the most successful examples of workers? self-management?, the Israeli kibbutzim, Yugoslav self-management, and Mondragon, were in part politically motivated?[W]hen the political situation changed, they became less participative.?( Strauss 801)

Two current web-sites are www.garalperovitz.com

www.Community-Wealth.com

AFRICA AND ECONOMIC DEMOCRACY

In a world of regional trading blocs,..[m]ost developing countries will have to negotiate access to the world?s wealthy markets?Who want the marginalized economic losers of the world (say, Africa south of the Sahara) on their team? (Thurow 120)

Every border in Africa is essentially in the wrong place?the place where the British and French armies just happened to meet. The existing borders make no sense geographically, ethnically, linguistically, historically, or economically. (Thurow 62)

We know that increasing consumption does not, as a general rule, make people happier. Every religious tradition tells us this, and so does everyday experience. Poverty is painful and degrading, but once you have reached a certain level of material comfort and security, consuming more does little for your overall sense of well-being. In fact, it may contribute to the opposite. (Schweickart 142)

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR ECONOMIC DEMOCRACY?

Waiting On The World To Change--John Mayer

me and all my friends we're all misunderstood

they say we stand for nothing

and there's no way we ever could

now we see everything that's going wrong

with the world and those who lead it

we just feel like we don't have the means to rise above and beat it

so we keep waiting waiting on the world to change

it's hard to beat the system

when we're standing at a distance

so we keep waiting waiting on the world to change

now if we had the power to bring our neighbors home from war

they would have never missed a Christmas no more ribbons on their door

and when you trust your television what you get is what you got

cause when they own the information, oh they can bend it all they want

that's why we're waiting waiting on the world to change

it's not that we don't care, we just know that the fight ain't fair

so we keep on waiting waiting on the world to change

one day our generation is gonna rule the population

so we keep on waiting waiting on the world to change

?[O]ver the long haul rebuilding local democracy with a small d, from the bottom up, is a necessary though obviously not sufficient requirement of renewing the basis of meaningful Democracy with a big D in the political-economic system as a whole. (Alperovitz 123)

OHIO?S MINIMUM WAGE PROPOSAL

? Ohio is one of only two states to set its minimum wage below the federal, although the national rate applies to most workers here. 15 states and D.C. now have minimums above the federal.

? The current proposal to raise Ohio?s minimum wage to $7.15 is comparable to laws that have passed in other states.

? The proposed Ohio legislation would directly affect 446,000 covered employees earning less than $7.15 an hour.

? Of those who would get a raise, the majority (60 percent) are women workers, more than 70 percent are age 20 or older, and more than three-fourths work at least twenty hours weekly.

Global Economic Democracy

As intelligent loving persons, I think all of us want to be free to make our own decisions. I strive for a responsible freedom that respects and promotes the freedom of others and not just myself. I'm glad I live in a nation that respects the freedom of all, believes in individual rights, yet promotes the common good. Presuming I have passed a driver's test, I am free to drive an automobile. I am not free to drive recklessly and endanger others. I am not free to dominate others and ignore their basic rights.

We understand what political democracy is. As free citizens, we do have some say about what our local, state, and federal governments do. But there is another power in present world structures but which has enormous influence and say, ownership and control of the means of production, the factories and farms. Corporations make decisions which vitally affect all of us, decisions to downsize, to move to the South, the West, and overseas, decisions that often pollute the environment and destroy the rainforests. The average free citizen in the United States has little or anything to say about employment, trade or monetary decisions, or care of the earth, not to mention the kind of food that he eats or the kind of doctors he wants to serve him.

"Pre-20th century American society did in fact rest upon a footing of millions and millions of individual entrepreneurs. They were mostly farmer-businesspeople--an entrepreneurial breed very different, for instance, from the farmer-peasants of many other societies. . .By the late 20th century, however, only a very small fraction of Americans--no more than 15%--can in any reasonable sense be called individual entrepreneurs. The US has become a society of employees, most of whom work for large or medium-sized bureaucracies, private or public. The difference between a system dominated by General Motors and Exxon and one based upon the individual landholding farmer and small businessperson of an earlier day in American history may very well be greater--in the real experience of the average person--than the difference between a system based upon large private bureaucracies in the US and public bureaucracies in socialist nations. . . Repeated academic studies routinely document the power of major private corporations to shape legislation, influence regulatory agencies, dominate important Executive Branch decisions, and influence election patterns and the media. . . tax and other government programs often encourage companies to relocate, leaving behind deteriorating houses, schools, roads, and hospitals, and the social disaster of community decay. The policy of 'throwaway cities" is wasteful--and entails the new expense of having to rebuild the same costly facilities elsewhere." (Who Is My Neighbor? Economics As If Values Matter, "Building a Living Democracy" Dr. Gar Alperovitz, p.110, 112)

Daelalus, Journal of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences , Winter 2002, Orlando Patterson, "Beyond Compassion, Selfish Reasons for being Unselfish" pp. 26 ff: "America has developed an unusual class system. It is a highly competitive society in which the majority of players are winners, but in which the winners to an increasing degree take all, or nearly all. This is the best of all possible worlds for the majority of winners. But for the losers, especially those at the bottom, it is the worst of all possible worlds. . the conviction that anyone can make it if they only try hard enough, and that failure is a reflection of character--is believed by the majority, which has its own successes to prove it. .
'The United States ranks among the most open and participatory of modern democracies when it comes to politics and among the least egalitarian when it come to economic matters.' (Sidney Verba and Gary Orren)

"Democracy if it is to be more than a facade for special interest-group maneuvering and indirect control by the elites, requires that each and all have substantially equal capacity to participate. When there are vast differences in income, wealth, education, free time, and personal security, citizens with low incomes are fundamentally disadvantaged: They do not have the money to influence politics; their education does not give them as many skills; they don't have the time: and often, fearful of losing their jobs, they prefer silence to speaking their minds." Gar Alperovitz, "A different future" Christianity and Crisis Vol. 51, No. 1.

Consumers vote by what they buy. We do have social legislation such as anti-trust laws. Corporations have stockholder meetings. In the present order we do vote by what we buy, through the political process, and by means of the stock that we own. All of these approaches need to be pursued. But some say this is not enough.

Anti-trust laws, labor laws, environmental laws are weak and ineffective. Major corporations have a choice not available to most citizens. If they regard the law as unworthy, irrational or too demanding, they resist. Since the cost of resistance is often quite modest compared to the cost of compliance, companies benefit in real dollars by stalling. "Twenty years ago, we set out to eliminate sulfur dioxide from the air. Here we are twenty years later and more than hundred million Americans are still breathing air with unhealthful levels of sulfur dioxide. Why? Because the companies fight you when you try to pass a law. They fight you when you try to pass a second law. They fight you when you try to write the regulations. They fight you when you try to enforce the regulations. Nowhere do they ever stop and say: 'Let's obey the law.'" (William Greider, Who Will Tell the People? The Betrayal of American Democracy, p. 110)

Progressives "followed Populists as those advocating for change. Their goals were not to define corporate natures, only to regulate corporate behavior. 'Regulatory agencies' began to be created in large numbers--not for purposes of defining corporations as subordinate, but merely to make them a little less harmful. Corporations were, on the whole, willing to accept many regulatory agencies (a) because they shielded corporations from the public, (b) on condition that decisions of regulatory agencies could be appealed to courts, where corporations were confident that they could usually win, especially in federal courts, and (c) it was cheaper to buy influence from a few regulators than an entire legislature."
pp 35, 36 Citizens Over Corporations, A Brief History of Democracy in Ohio and Challenges to Freedom in the Future, Ohio Committee on Corporations, Law and Democracy, American Friends Service Committee, 513 W. Exchange Street, Akron, Ohio 44302, AFSCole@aol.com

International trade organizations like the World Trade Organization are indeed undermining what few national laws there are. (See Public Citizenhttp://www.tradewatch.org/) Also Making a Place for Community, Local Democracy in a Global Era)

A positive campaign to make poverty history is the ONE Campaign: You are invited to sign the ONE declaration. More than one million Americans have joined ONE. ONE calls for debt cancellation, trade reform, providing basic needs by allocating an additional one percent of the US budget for health, education, clean water and food for the world's poorest countries. ONE is a new effort by Americans to rally Americans-ONE BY ONE-to fight the emergency of global AIDS and extreme poverty. Millenium Goals, an internationally agreed upon effort, are to halve global poverty by 2015. Corporations are not governed by one member, one vote constituencies but by those who have the most money. Corporations have enormous staff and financial resources, often challenge stockholder resolutions, and the SEC frequently rules in their favor.

 

Consumers have limited choices, often inadequate information, and usually no way to communicate with other consumers on a large scale. If the wealthy accumulate more and more, the market produces more of the goods and services wanted by those at the top and fewer of the goods and services wanted by those in the middle. (See Chuck Collins, Betsy Leondar-Wright, Holly Sklar, Shifting Fortunes, The Perils of the Growing American Wealth Gap, 1999.)

Many today are searching for better ways to insure economic freedom and economic democracy. If we are to respect the dignity and worth of every human person, we need to find a way to insure basic economic rights for all.

Did God charge us for creating us? Did our mothers send us a bill for giving birth to us? Did our parents expect us to pay room and board when we were children? Jesus freely gave His life for us. We should give freely what we have freely received. "Thus says the Lord: All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; Come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk!" Isaiah 55.1-3) Did Jesus check the credit of the multitude before he multiplied the loaves? "Jesus said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds." (Matthew 14.13-21) "Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common." (Acts of the Apostles 4.32)

Each local community has provided generations of schooling, highways and waterways, police and fire protection. All new inventions build on previous generations, indeed centuries of knowledge, skills, and wealth. Inventors pick the best fruit of a tree that stands on a huge mountain of previous culture. Substantial wealth should be regularly returned to the community that ultimately made the creation of the wealth possible. This can be done through inheritance laws, eminent domain, public trust funds.

Alaska has built up a large permanent fund that yields a thousand dollars to each citizen. An equal amount is allocated to publicly determined uses since the community as a whole plays a fundamental role in the creation of wealth and of new technologies.

Today, do the few who own and control the factories, farms, and banks have too much power? Their enormous wealth affects even political democracy. If the wealthy contribute to both political parties, they have easy access to legislators. Since only the wealthy can hire expensive lawyers, wealth also influences justice in the courts. Most of the people in our jails and on death row are poor people. The existence of enormous wealth alongside great poverty is a lack of community and solidarity. Our present system is a kind of dictatorship because of its centralization of power. (Read Quadragesimo Anno, Pope Pius XI, No's 105-111. "It is obvious that in our days not only is wealth accumulated, but immense power and despotic economic domination is concentrated in the hands of a few. . banks supply the life-blood to the entire economic body, and grasp in their hands the very soul of production, so that no one dare breathe against their will. . this accumulation of power is the natural result of a limitless free competition that permits the survival of those who are the strongest, which often means those who fight most relentlessly, and who pay least attention to the dictates of conscience. . . free competition and economic domination must be kept within just and definite limits, and brought under the effective control of public authority." (Pope Paul VI repeats this theme in Octogesima Adveniens no. 44 as does Pope John Paul II in Centesimus Annus No. 35)

Global economic democracy could take many forms. At least it must mean the exercise of basic human rights for each human person. At most it would mean local community ownership of the means of production and community services. In between it would mean legislative control by the government of business, e.g. the Federal Trade Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Labor Relations Board. Since we have a global economy today, it's hard for me to see how there can be control of multi-national corporations and global financial institutions without the "truly effective international authority" so ardently longed for by Pope John XXIII. I don't think we can say we have genuine democracy in our nation or in our world if there are not sufficient checks and balances on those with enormous wealth and power. If done according to the principle of subsidiarity, economies of scale would dictate some regional, national, and international entities. The oceans, natural resources, and the communications media should be owned in common.

Although very imperfect, now there is some semblance of political democracy in many parts of the world. This democratic process needs to be extended in some way to the factories and the farms. We could call more humane structures by some other name. We could call it global economic freedom, global economic security, global economic equity. I will call it global economic democracy. The Redeemer of Humankind, the first encyclical of Pope John Paul II, No. 16 states: "Human persons cannot allow themselves to become slaves of economic systems. The living parable of Lazarus begging at the table of the rich banqueter, calls into question the financial, monetary, production, and commercial mechanisms that support the world's economy. Daring and creative initiatives are needed to restore a moral order in keeping with human dignity. Our solidarity with all that is human must inspire us to redistribute wealth and control over wealth."

St. Thomas Aquinas said that no one can own capital resources, land and natural resources, unless she/he respects the rights of others and of society as a whole. Catholic teaching has recognized the value of private property to respect the dignity of individual persons, to guarantee freedom, and to provide for basic needs. Widespread community ownership of the means of production is a check and balance on overly-centralized government. But the title to private ownership is only legitimate if the land serves the greatest number, is democratically controlled, and is treated with responsible stewardship. (Pope John Paul II, On Human Work, III, No. 14, 45)
(see the September 2001 Rome Conference http://www.stthomas.edu/cathstudies/cst/mgmt/le)

Failing to respect the integrity of creation is a violation of the Seventh Commandment. Since the goods of creation are destined for all, the common good takes precedence over an individual's right to private property. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No 2415; No.2402,3)

Although all of us own consumer property like our clothing, only a few own the factories that produce the clothes we wear. The US bishops defend the right to private ownership of even productive property such as factories if the ownership of this productive property is extended to all. Excessive concentration of ownership of the means of production means excessive economic and political power. "Private property does not constitute for anyone an absolute or unconditioned right. No one is justified in keeping for his exclusive use what he does not need, when others lack necessities." (Pope Paul VI, Development of Peoples, 23; US Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All, No. 115) Does this mean that the government should send in troops to confiscate the corporations of those not acting responsibly? I think it would be more prudent to make and enforce genuine anti-trust laws or promote more local community ownership. "One cannot exclude the socialization, in suitable conditions, of certain means of production." (Pope John Paul II On Human Work,14)

Mondragon: an experiment in Economic Democracy

In 1989 I traveled to Mondragon in Spain. This was partially a spiritual pilgrimage to the land of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, and partially a visit to one of the most encouraging stories I have heard in the last fifty years.

In 1941 a Catholic priest was assigned to Mondragon, a small Basque town in Spain of 8,000 people. Observing that his young parishioners were discriminated against, he started a technical high school of his own. His graduates were eventually very successful and began working for manufacturing firms. Discovering that their advancement was blocked, the graduates returned to Father Don Jose Maria Arizmendiarrietta asking for help. He asked: "Why not start a business of your own based on Catholic Social Doctrine?" Fr. Don Jose's students wanted to emphasize the dignity and worth of the human person. They came up with the idea of a worker-owned cooperative as a means to achieve "the primacy of labor among factors of production." Fr. Don Jose Maria begged money from friends, and his graduates purchased the license of a small bankrupt company in Vitoria. In 1954 they constructed a factory in Mondragon and began producing a small stove with twenty-four workers. The new company was called ULGOR, an acronym formed from the initial letters of names of the five founders. ULGOR rapidly diversified and grew to 143 workers by 1958. Soon they founded several other cooperatives, a machine-tool factory, an iron-smelting company, a consumer cooperative store, a foundry, and a producer of domestic appliance components.

By 1959 they began to have difficulty getting the bank loans they needed. Father Arizmendiarietta had a solution. Start a bank of their own. The students responded: "We told him, yesterday we were craftsmen, foremen, and engineers. Today we are trying to learn how to be managers and executives. Tomorrow you want us to become bankers. That is impossible!" But Fr. Arizmendiarietta had done the necessary research and he was, in the end, persuasive. The Caja Laboral Popular began operations in 1959 and by 1989 was one of the largest banks in Spain.

In 1989 Fagor, the cooperative that produces refrigerators and stoves, had effective competition only from a German company and a Swedish company. Fagor had 30% of the Spanish market, was the biggest manufacturer of electrical appliances, the seventh largest manufacturer in Spain. By 1989 Mondragon was an association of nearly two hundred enterprises, mostly industrial factories which not only manufactured durable goods, intermediate goods, and capital equipment, but also produced electronic and high-technology products. Mondragon also included schools, farms, retail stores. These enterprises had over 20,000 owners who were also the only workers. They had guaranteed jobs for life, fully adequate take-home incomes, nearly equal participation in their firm's profits and losses, and equal share in the democratic control of their enterprises, a broad health insurance plan for their families, a private unemployment program which pays 80% of take-home pay if they are ever laid off, and a pension program which pays 60% of their salary on the last day of work until death. Mondragon had its own doctors, its own social security, its own day-care centers. The commercial enterprises sold nearly a billion dollars worth of goods and services annually.

Because Mondragon stresses education, research, and development the cooperatives are always growing. But the workers feel education to responsibility and human and religious values is more important than technical knowledge. It is relatively easy to structure a cooperative. The real challenge is to have cooperative people. The members are divided within themselves. Part of them, the owner part, wants to protect the long-range interests of the company. Part of them, the worker part, want to work less and get more benefits. Thus integration is within the worker-owners as well as between the worker-owners.

Fr. Arizmendiarrietta died in 1976. His teachings were a striking anticipation of Pope John Paul II's encyclical Laborem Exercens in its theme of the priority of labor over capital, its emphasis on the dignity of work, and the need for worker solidarity. I'm not ready to say that the Mondragon cooperatives are without fault, and they are forced to operate in the present system. It is unlikely that they will not be infected by the current defects in contemporary structures.

Today you can examine Mondragon's web-site. http://www.mcc.es/ing/index.asp They now have workers who are part-owners, but also workers who are not. The basic structure, however, remains much more democratic than the average corporation.

"MONDRAGÓN CORPORACIÓN COOPERATIVA, MCC, is a business group made up of 150 companies organised in three sectorial groups: Financial, Industrial and Distribution, together with the Research and Training areas.
Mondragón Corporación Cooperativa is the fruit of the sound vision of a young priest, Don José María Arizmendiarrieta, as well as the solidarity and efforts of all our worker-members. Together we have been able to transform a humble factory, which in 1956 manufactured oil stoves and paraffin heaters, into the leading industrial group in the Basque Country and 7th in the ranking in Spain, with sales of 9.232 million euros in its Industrial and Distribution activities, 8.474 million euros of administered assets in its Financial activity and a total workforce of 66.558 at the end of 2002.
MCC?s mission combines the basic objectives of a business organization competing in international markets with the use of democratic methods in its organisation, job creation, promotion of its workers in human and professional terms and commitment to the development of its social environment."
Jesús Catania Chairman of the General Council

In Cincinnati, Ohio The Interfaith Business Builders model themselves after the Modragan cooperative structure. www.interfaithbusinessbuilders.org Cooperative Janitorial Services is Interfaith Business Builders? pride and joy. The success of Cooperative Janitorial Services and its dozen+ members (worker/owners) says Interfaith Business Builders are learning the formulas for successful development of cooperative businesses in low income communities in this country. They see a very exciting future ahead.

Because only active and thoughtful citizens will change those in power, the world will not get international law and order until we become proficient in active non-violence. Nor do I think we will be able to function in a democratic way until more people have ownership and control of the means of production, the factories and farms.

A Brief History of Corporations

I think we get a better understanding of present day corporations if we know a little of the history of how corporations began. It may not occur to us that there may have been a time when corporations were more accountable than they are today.

Even though they had done nothing to incur the debt, in sixteenth century England descendants could inherit an individual?s debts and even be imprisoned if they were not able to pay. Those who sailed from England to trade for spices in the East Indies faced not only a dangerous sea voyage because of storms or pirates but also the prospect of ruining their own families and their descendants. Charters were granted by the state to a group of investors to serve a public purpose, namely to encourage trade with the East Indies.

In chartering corporations, the crown limited an investor?s liability for losses to the amount of her or his investment--a right not extended to individual citizens. A share of the profits would go to the king, and the charter of the corporation was bestowed at the pleasure of the crown and could be withdrawn at any time. Since corporations were so dependent on the crown, from the very beginning corporations have struggled to expand their rights and limit corporate obligations.

England used corporations such as the East India Company and the Hudson Bay Company to control the colonial economies. Indeed, many American colonies were themselves chartered as corporations. English corporations generally had monopoly powers over territories and industries. Even though colonists had the raw materials, they were forbidden to produce their own clothing. Raw materials were shipped to England and the finished products returned to the colonies.

Writing The Wealth of Nations in 1776, the same year as The Declaration of Independence, Adam Smith opposed corporations who could suppress the competition of the market. Both Adam Smith and American colonists did not want undue power in the hands of the state or of corporations. In the beginning of the United States family farms and business were the mainstay of the economy along with neighborhood shops, cooperatives, and worker-owned enterprises. Investment decisions were local and democratic. Only the individual states could charter corporations, not the federal government. State charters were limited to a fixed number of years and were revoked if the provisions of the charters were not observed. Large and small investors had equal voting rights, and interlocking directorates were forbidden. Corporations were limited to only those business activities specifically authorized in its charter. By 1800 only two hundred corporate charters had been granted by the states.

The nineteenth century saw the gradual rise in the power of corporations especially during and after the Civil War. Profiting greatly from the manufacture of needed munitions, corporations were able to buy legislation that gave them massive grants of money and land to expand the Western railway system. Before his death President Abraham Lincoln observed: ?Corporations have been enthroned. . .An era of corruption in high places will follow and the money power will endeavor to prolong its reign by working on the prejudices of the people. . .until wealth is aggregated in a few hands. . . and the Republic is destroyed.? (Harvey Wasserman, America Born & Reborn, p. 89) Gradually corporations controlled key state legislatures and rewrote the laws that governed their creation and operation. New Jersey and Delaware limited the liability of corporate owners and managers and issued charters in perpetuity.

Conservative courts made decision after decision in favor of corporations. In 1886 the Supreme Court ruled in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad that a private corporation is a natural person! Corporations soon claimed the rights of individual citizens without having many of the responsibilities and liabilities of citizenship. The individual was no match for the vast financial resources of corporations who dominated public thought and discourse.

Child labor, inadequate wages, corporation security forces, violent industrial wars led at the turn of the twentieth century to dramatic rises in labor union membership. Industrialists merged their empires into even larger corporate directorates, ?combining $22.2 billion in assets under the Northern Securities Corporation of New Jersey. . .equivalent in its day to twice the total assessed value of all property in thirteen states in the southern United States.? (David Korten, When Corporations Rule the World, p. 60.)

Under some threat from socialism, big business began to work with large moderate labor unions that without challenging corporate power or the market system negotiated uniform wages and standards and enforced worker discipline according to agreed rules. Since the courts continued to rule against labor, unions developed a legislative agenda and allied itself with the Democratic Party.

During the roaring twenties corporate monopolies flourished and were loosely regulated. Although many American families had a much better standard of living, one percent of Americans still controlled 59 percent of the wealth.

In October 1929 the financial system came crashing down, and financial fortunes evaporated almost overnight. President Franklin Roosevelt felt strong measures needed to be taken.

Moderating influences moved laissez-faire capitalism to a period called social-welfare capitalism in which government had a more active role. Government helped the poor and the workers through laws to protect human rights and provide basic needs, e.g. minimum wage laws, laws to insure safety in the workplace, the forty-hour work week, child-labor laws, and social security. Since government insured fair and equal competition through anti-trust laws, a few large corporations were not permitted to dominate the market.

English economist John Maynard Keynes led the theory of social-welfare capitalism in which government intervenes actively in the boom and bust business cycles which often had caused much hardship and instability during laissez-faire capitalism. Keynes proposed that during periods of depression the government spend more and tax less. During periods of prosperity the government spends less and taxes more. The economy is also controlled by interest rates which are set in the US by the Federal Reserve.

The courts continued to favor business, and it was only the long term in office of President Franklin Roosevelt that allowed the Supreme Court to become more open to worker?s interests and social legislation.

World War II created a climate in which the government took an even more central role in placing controls on consumption, industrial output, and allocation of national resources. A highly progressive tax system, full employment at good wages, and a strong social safety net brought greater equity to the US.

Driven by anti-communism, the national security state began to gain strength after World War II. United States corporations became transnational and moved South, West, and overseas where wages and taxes were lower. This translated into fewer safety standards for workers and fewer social services. United States economist Milton Friedman returned to the philosophy of John Locke as he pushed for a minimal governmental role in the economy. The excessive military spending after World War II sacrificed some of the social gains begun by social welfare capitalism.

In the ?60's a new generation challenged consumerism, neglect of the environment, and the military-industrial complex. The government was aggressively pursuing antitrust cases to keep markets open and competitive.

The ?70's returned to more conservative courts and fewer controls on financial institutions.

The ?80's brought corporate control of the legislative agenda. Progressive taxation was reversed; restraints on corporate mergers and acquisitions were removed. Environmental and labor standards were weakened. Corporate workforces were downsized and manufacturing operations were shipped abroad to benefit from cheap labor and lesser environmental standards.

The US-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund forced the debt-burdened Southern countries to become open to foreign corporations, eliminate protectionist barriers and lift restrictions on foreign investment.

The number of billionaires in the US increased from one in 1978 to 120 in 1994. Unemployment became chronic, labor unions lost members and political influence. Wages began to decline, as did the income of the poor.

With the end of the Cold War, the free-market ideology has become a fundamentalist religious faith despite the clear evidence that there are vast numbers of the world population for which this dogma is not working. Even those in corporations who see the need to change are driven by the system. The questions then arises: who will govern? the people or the artificial persona of the corporation? To pit an individual against a multinational corporation is equivalent to putting a featherweight in the same ring with a heavyweight. The pendulum of power of corporations has swung back and forth from their inception. Is it time to examine ways in which we can have an economic system that is more local and democratic, allowing the principle of subsidiarity to apply to business as well as to government?

(The above has been taken in large part from Chapter Four ?The Rise of Corporate Power in America? in David Korten?s When Corporations Rule the World, and from Pemberton and Finn, Toward a Christian Economic Ethic)

If you wish to help preserve economic freedom and economic equity, consider contacting the Alliance for Democracy, Changing corporate structures may seem like a gigantic task, but change is usually initiated by a small group of committed citizens.

Citizens Over Corporations

A Brief History of Democracy in Ohio and Challenges to Freedom in the Future was researched by the Ohio Committee on Corporations, Law and Democracy of the American Friends Service Committee. Investing some of their huge profits from the Civil War, corporations lobbied for legal doctrines and laws which preferred private over public interests and property rights over human rights. Workers now have no free speech or assembly rights on corporate property. The Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, the National Labor Relations board, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interstate Commerce Commission, etc. help corporations to do a little less harm but do not touch root causes of injustice and lack of democracy. Corporations exert tremendous power over legislatures, courts, executive branches, press and information, all of which are essential to democracy. "Unlike people, corporations can live forever, operate even after breaking laws, and write off fines and penalties. Corporate leaders are immune from liability and are free from public recall." ii

The US Revolution was in part against corporations. In The Wealth of Nations written in 1776 Adam Smith mentions corporations twelve times, not once favorably. The US Constitution makes no mention of corporations but entrusts decision-making to state legislators who were at that time closest to the people. In 1802 the Ohio Constitution states that "all powers, not hereby delegated, remain with the people. . .who at all times have complete power to alter, reform or abolish their government. . . Private property ought and shall ever be held inviolate, but always subservient to the public welfare." p. 6 The town meeting was where the community made its decisions.

Early acts which created corporations one at a time through petitioning the legislature, or General Assembly, stipulated rigid conditions. These privileges, not rights, included: limited duration of charter or certificate of incorporation; limitation on amount of land ownership; limitation of amount of capitalization or total investment of owners; limitations of charter for a specific purpose (to amend its charter, a new corporation had to be formed);the state reserving the right to amend the charters or to revoke them.)" p. 7. From 1839 to 1849 the Ohio legislature repealed several corporate charters, effectively dissolving the corporations. Courts ruled that banks could not charge more interest than what was stipulated by the General Assembly in the bank's charter. p. 17.

Richard Grossman, Co-Director, Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy. "Backed by the might of the English Empire, corporations waged war, vacuumed up resources, enslaved people, destroyed local cultures, and wrote the arbitrary rules by which millions of people lived, labored, and died. Then they wrote the history books to keep the facts from future generations." p. 42

Is the Corporation a Person?

James Aaron Tecumseh Sinclair go·lem (glm) n. In Jewish folklore, an artificially created human supernaturally endowed with life.

Earthen tools are the staple of humankind?s extension of itself- the collection, manipulation, and exploration of its environment beyond the confines of weak, limited flesh. What started out as clay pots and stone axes has blossomed into the steel wings of airliners and the microscopic silicon strands of the computer processor. In folklore, the golem was a tool created from clay and words of power by a master Kabbalist. Hebrew words were inscribed on its forehead during a stringent ritual, usually invoking the name of God or His attributes, such as ?God is Truth.? Its inception and function was usually limited- it was a tool for bearing loads, as a sacrifice, or as a powerful defender. But humans are fallible, and our intentions impure. Creation of the creature through our words and intent was invariably the cause of our inevitable lack of control over it. The golem would become more powerful than intended, destructive, and violent.

In reality, modern man has created such creatures. Born of legalese and baptized in the sweat of labor, they roam the earth performing the tasks and bidding of their masters. You?ve seen their sigils, you know their names. Their footprints clutter our homes, their excrement pollutes our water.

The modern golem, the Corporation as human animation, was given breath in 1886. Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad was a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, not to establish some federal definition of limitation to the business construct of the corporation, a business and legal tool that had been used for hundreds of years, but to decide who was to determine taxable value of fence posts along the railroads right-of way.

J.C. Bancroft Davis- interestingly, a former railroad president- wrote in the case?s headnote that ?The defendant Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteen Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.? Although the headnote had no bearing in law, and the court at the time made no such ruling in the case, corporate attorneys and lazy (or activist) judges have repeated its mantra over the heads of corporate entities, breathing life into inanimate, legal constructs.

Essentially, corporations, which before that time were required in most states to serve the common good and possessed limited lifespans and rights, were transformed into beings that held the rights of actual humans, were immortal, and could wield tremendous power.

Corporate persons, or golems, have since utilized rights granted to humans for their own gain and motives, usually in the name of profit and shareholder value. They use the First Amendment to justify their right to lie or deceive in advertising. They use it to pump millions of dollars into our political system. They invoke Fourth Amendment protections against search and seizure of assets thwarting government oversight and auditing. The Fourteenth Amendment ensures they are not discriminated against in law and is used when a community does not wish their presence- even when brought to a general vote. The sum gain is a twisted political system which serves the rights and common good of large golems, depressed cheap-labor communities, and environmental decay. Essentially, it is the collapse of the ?town commons? and democracy itself.

The easy answer is to remove the words of power from their foreheads and de-animate them. Removing corporate personhood would limit their power and give it back to the living beings for which they were originally intended. The corporation, like the clay bowl or stone ax, is a useful tool. At this country?s inception corporations were chartered to, above all, serve the public good. They were legal constructs with limited lifespans used as the tools of business and commerce. If the tool was used for destructive purposes, its charter was revoked - the tool essentially broken. Our founders believed this necessary to the survival of justice and a democratic system of governance.

There are many organizations that are leading the fight for human rights for humans, up to and including a Constitutional Amendment. You can contact POCLAD (Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy) at http://www.poclad.org/ CELDF (The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund) at www.celdf.org, your local Green Party, and various religious organizations (such as Unitarian Universalists ? check this web site for information and links to other organizations: www.firstuucolumbus.org/corppers) to help bring democracy and justice back to the people and rid the world of this dark, corrupted magic.

Originally published at www.hystericalleft.com'

In Central Ohio, contact Citizens for Democracy and Ending Corporate Control Web site: www.firstuucolumbus.org/corppers

Local Contact: Michael Greenman (614) 898-5825 or mgreenma@columbus.rr.com

See also End Corporate Rule; Legalize Democracy:  MoveTo Amend.org   707-269-0984  "If We the People are sovereign, we must control the government.  Corporations are created and chartered by the government which, acting on behalf of We the People gives corporations privileges, not rights.  Neither the government, without the consent of the governed, nor corporations have the right to rule over the people.  Since corporations have gained the legal status of persons, corporations have accumulated rights and become rulers--in other words, they can tell the government what to do.  Corporate legal personhood was wrongly given--not by We the People, but by nine Supreme Court judges in 1886, following the power accrued by corporations by the Civil War, another reason for abolishing the war SYSTEM.

Corporate Personhood is bad for democracy, people, and the planet because it has allowed an artificial entity to legally relegate people to subhuman status.  We the People have the sovereign right--indeed, duty--to abolish Corporate Personhood."

 

Tikkun Social Responsibility Amendment to the US Constitution

The Social Responsibility Amendment to the US Constitution is a useful way to educate about the need for a new global consciousness as described in the Tikkun Community Core Vision. Every corporation doing business in the US with an income above $20 million dollars would receive a new corporate charter once every twenty years, which will only be granted to corporations that can prove to a jury of ordinary citizens that they have a powerful record of social responsibility. The struggle for a Social Responsibility Amendment to the US Constitution may take several decades. In the meantime, we also support the Social Responsibility Initiative, to be passed by local city councils, county officials, state legislatures, and the US Congress, requiring that any corporation receiving contracts for work in the public sector prove a history of social and ecological responsibility as measured by an Ethical Impact Report. (See http://www.tikkun.org/)

The Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by Rabbi Michael Lerner "Every corporation doing business within the US (whether located here or abroad) with annual income of over $20 million must receive a new corporate charter every twenty years, and these new charters will only be granted to corporations who can prove a history of social responsibility as measured by an Ethical Impact Report which will measure the company's sensitivity to the needs of the environment, the community, and its employees.  See http://www.spiritualprogressives.org

The Ethical Impact Report will be compiled by 3 different constituencies: the corporation itself, the workers (under conditions of confidentiality), and relevant community organizations around the world who wish to present their case about the social responsibility of the corporation. Cases shall be decided by Social Responsibility Grand Juries selected to be representative of the economic, social, ethnic, racial, and religious diversity of the United States. In cases in which these Grand Juries find insufficient social responsibility, they may assign the assets of the corporation to a community organization or other corporation which can show that it has a better plan for ensuring high levels of social responsibility while continuing to make the corporation survive. If no such group can be found, the Grand Jury can simply suspend the operations of the corporation, or mandate specific changes in corporate behavior and fine and imprison corporate officials and board members who do not implement the plan.

Most American politicians fear to challenge corporate power not only because they need the financial support during elections, but for a deeper and more reasonable reason as well: they fear that corporations can always threaten to move their base of operations, leaving joblessness and economic devastation in their wake.

The various branches of the progressive movement each seek to obtain some minimal restraints on corporate power. But the history of the environmental movement's reformism demonstrates the problem here: for every single victory won at the expenditure of huge amounts of energy, there emerge three or four new areas in which unrestrained consumption and the extension of the market to every corner of the world threaten the life-support system of the planet while simultaneously developing finding new labor markets to pay exploitative wages. And as the ethos of selfishness and materialism generated by the market and glorified by the media as "human nature" increasingly presents itself as "common sense" to the peoples of the world, resistance seems foolish to many who decide that the best they can do is to try to "make it"--even at the expense of so many others around the world who we know will never get their share. While some may take refuge from the selfishness and love corroding aspects of the market by attempting to build ultra-nationalist or religious fundamentalist communities around a different vision, most will passively acquiesce, convinced by the Thomas Friedman rhetoric that "there is no alternative." But there is an alternative: to change the progressive agenda from its previous focus on "inclusion," (making sure that those in the US who had been "left out" of the rewards of the capitalist system would get a fairer portion) to a new focus on "changing the bottom line." In its deepest sense, this strategy, which we call "a politics of meaning," aims to change the very definition of productivity and efficiency, so that we see institutions as efficient or productive not only to the extent that they maximize money and power, but also to the extent that they maximize people's capacities to be loving and caring, ethically and ecologically sensitive, and able to respond to the world not only in terms of how we can "use it" but also with awe and wonder.

No, I don't expect that the SRA will pass our state legislatures or Congress very quickly. Just as the ERA never passed, yet had a monumental impact on public discourse and understanding, the campaign for the SRA could similarly shift the parameters of American political discussion. If liberal and progressive forces made this SRA a central item on their agenda, and talked about this as the way to create "a new bottom line," we could provide people with a plausible picture of how it might be possible to live in a world in which loving and caring could have real social power.

To launch the SRA: use the next few years to involve all sectors of American society in the conversation about what should be included in the Ethical Impact Report used to judge whether a corporation is entitled to charter-renewal. And popularize the notion of "a new bottom line." And if we could have the courage to call the SRA a fundamental spiritual challenge to the ethos of selfishness and materialism, we might soon find that our SRA campaign could attract sectors of the population who feel ripped off by the spiritual deadness and moral decline of American society but who have never understood the connection between the spiritual crisis and the dynamics of the market. The SRA--an example of what I call Emancipatory Spirituality in my new book Spirit Matters--could give people confidence that their own highest values might someday have a chance of shaping social reality, so that people might look upon each other as embodiments of the sacred rather than as
solely vehicles for narcissistic gratification, and might look upon the world as deserving of awe and wonder and not just as a resource. It's the loss of that kind of hope which leads people to believe "there is no alternative," and the recreation of that hope which is likely to be the first positive outcome of the SRA campaign." Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun and rabbi of Beyt Tikkun synagogue in San Francisco (www.beyttikkun.org)

From Core principles of Tikkun Community:
2. A NEW BOTTOM LINE IN OUR ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS

Productivity and efficiency must no longer be judged solely by the degree to which any corporation or institution maximizes profits or power, but also by the degree to which a corporation, school, government institution, or social practice tends to support ethical, spiritual, and ecological sensitivity and to promote the sustainability of our environment; the degree to which a corporation, school, government institution, or social practice tends to support human beings to be loving, caring and capable of sustaining long-term loving relationships; the degree to which a corporation, school, government institution or social practice helps people overcome a narrow utilitarian attitude toward each other or toward the universe and instead encourages them to see other people in a non-utilitarian and to view the physical world not primarily as something that can be used for human purposes but also through the lens of awe and wonder at the grandeur of creation; Beyond all definitions of efficiency and productivity, we seek to shape a society in which there is time not only to Do and to Make but there is time also to Be and to Love?time for family, community, and spiritual exploration.

We want this New Bottom Line brought into all aspects of our public life, so that we can begin to reshape our schools and hospitals, our government, our professions, our media in ways that encourage people to see each other as fundamentally valuable and deserving of love and caring. We reject the notion that values should be kept out of public life, and instead seek to champion the values articulated in this statement, and to encourage social change that would foster these values throughout the society. So, for example, we want schools to be assessed as successful or as failures not only to the extent that they produce students who can read and write but also to the extent that they tend to foster caring human beings who are ethically and ecologically sensitive, who excel at taking care of others and at developing their own inner resources, and who have developed the capacity to respond to the universe with awe and wonder. We want corporate charters to be dependent on their ability to prove a history of social responsibility as measured by an Ethical Impact Report. We want all of our economic and social institutions to be judged successful to the extent that they foster caring and respect for all peoples and for the planet.

Returning National Pastime to the Nation

Sunday, July 21, 2002 By Kristina Goetz, kgoetz@enquirer.com. The Cincinnati Enquirer
"Seven times since 1994, John Fairfield has instructed Xavier University students on the history of Major League Baseball. ?A civic institution worth saving,? he calls it, something ?to represent our better selves.?
?We need to repossess the national pastime,? he said to the dozen students taking ?Baseball and American Culture.? ?We need to take it back from the owners.? ?Baseball is more than a market thing,? said Dr. Fairfield, an urban historian with an interest in baseball. ?It matters, and if we as a people can't preserve this, I have no hope for us.?

Discussion on how to save the national pastime ranged from ideas found mostly in academic journals to more broadly discussed movements such as examining Major League Baseball's 1922 exemption from anti-trust legislation.

Another idea from Friday's class: Return the game to the public by removing ball clubs from private ownership. Instead, put them in the hands of cities or nonprofits. ?Municipalities should be allowed, indeed encouraged, to form their own teams and build their own parks as a matter of civic pride and development, plowing the profits back into their cities,? Dr. Fairfield said.

Ideology

Christian Scripture speaks of the principalities and powers, the world as opposed to the values of Jesus. Those who are making the decisions today have an ideology. To recognize and analyze the dominant culture today we need to have the spiritual freedom to acknowledge our own immediate vested interests. To change our attitude isn't easy. To have a complete change of attitude is a spiritual challenge. I think a long-term vision more in accord with God's Word is in everyone's interest. But to even consider such a change requires spiritual discernment.

The present principalities and powers use "globalization" as an ideology. To them, the operation of the market has an absolute value. The market is not for people, but people are subordinated to the market. The unrestricted "free" market assumes a religious character, as greed becomes a virtue, competition a commandment, and profit a sign of salvation. Dissenters are dismissed as non-believers at best, and heretics at worst. Economic fundamentalism is as bad as religious fundamentalism.

In the present structures capital flow across borders is rapid and uncontrolled. Trade relationships may be "free" but whether they are fair depends on factors of power, size, experience, skills, etc.

(See Africa in the Age of Globalisation: What is Our Future? Presentation by Fr. Peter J. Henriot, S.J., Arrupe College, Harare, Zimbabwe, 31 March 2001)

The ideology of conspicuous consumption has moved to conspicuous equity. If a few have enough capital, they can retire and follow whatever pursuits they wish. I suggest we explore ways to have equity for all. (See America Beyond Capitalism, Reclaiming Our Wealth, Our Liberty, and Our Democracy, Gar Alperovitz)

Do we take our values from the dominant culture? Or do we taking our values from God, the churches, common decency? Do we have enough spiritual freedom to see alternatives to the present structures?

 

Christian Socialism

 

John Cort obviously supports socialism, but socialism as he understands it. On p. 355 at the end of his Christian Socialism he gives several definitions. "Production primarily for use and only secondarily for profit." "Socialism is the extension of democratic process from the political to the economic sphere." "Socialism is the vision of a pluralist society in which the advantages of competition, a free market and political democracy are reconciled with the maximum socialization of production and the demands of justice, full employment and the realization of that minimum of worldly goods for all which Thomas Aquinas told us is necessary for a life of virtue."

 

I understand economic democracy in the same general sense as Cort understands socialism, "the extension of democratic process from the political to the economic sphere."

 

I understand economic democracy as similar also to Cort's third definition of socialism, "full employment, a minimum of worldly goods for all."

 

The definition of socialism that I am used to is government ownership of most of the means of production. John Cort's definition is obviously different. In any case, I think Christian Socialism is good because it gives me at least a new perspective of socialism, introduces the religious aspect, and talks about a lot of the same things I mean by economic democracy.

 

Labor

"All work has a threefold moral significance. First, it is the principal way that people exercise the distinctive human capacity for self-expression and self-realization. Second, it is the ordinary way for human beings to fulfill their material needs. Finally, work enables people to contribute to the well-being of the larger community. Work is not only for one's self. It is for one's family, for the nation, and indeed for the benefit of the entire human family." (Economic Justice for All, US Catholic Bishops, No. 97)

If work is the main way in which human persons can be co-creators with God, they need to have a real say in the quality of their work. They also need job security and freedom to choose work commensurate with their talents. The right to work is a basic right. I don't think our culture can morally play games with people's lives, downsizing so that stockholders and CEO's can profit more at the worker's expense.

Economic conversion is necessary from a military economy to a civilian economy. I wouldn't rule out a similar form of economic conversion from tobacco to an organic grain crop, from a less efficient to a more efficient way of production as long as workers are given security and a chance to train for other work. Nor do I think firing workers should be a way used to control inflation. I think there are moral ways to insure price stability in necessities. (See Dr. Gar Alperovitz and Jeff Faux, Rebuilding America)

One of the key elements of Catholic Social Teaching as well as that of all main-line religions is the dignity of each human person and the dignity of human labor performed by the human person. Workers have the noble destiny of being called to be co-creators with God. Because each person has human rights including economic rights, each of us has the right to meaningful employment that will serve the common good. Since a human laborer is not a tool or a material commodity, workers should receive a living wage, enough to support the breadwinner of the family.

http://www.livingwagecampaign.org is a comprehensive living wage campaign web site by ACORN.
http://www.ethicaltrade.org Ethical Trading Initiative distinguishes between legal minimum wage and
a moral living wage. (Click on "resources", ETI reports and background papers, June 2000 report, "The Living Wage Clause in the ETI Base Code: How to Implement It")

?I was deeply concerned from my early teen days about the gulf between superfluous wealth and abject poverty. .Although modern American capitalism had greatly reduced the gap through social reforms, there was still need for a better distribution of wealth. .there is always danger of being more concerned about making a living than making a life. We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to others.? Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Stride Toward Freedom, p. 73.

"There is nothing but a lack of social vision to prevent us form paying an adequate wage to every American [worker] whether he is a hospital worker, laundry worker, maid, or day laborer." - Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

King's dream included decent wages. By Holly Sklar
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services,
January 12, 2005 Copyright (c) 2005 Holly Sklar
Did you know that raising the minimum wage was a demand of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I have a Dream" speech?

King, A. Philip Randolph of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and other leaders of the 1963 March on Washington demanded "a national minimum wage act that will give all Americans a decent standard of living."

They didn't dream that four decades later, the value of the minimum wage would go down as the cost of housing, food, health care and other necessities went up.

They didn't dream that four decades later, 36 million Americans would be below the official poverty line -- far below a decent standard of living.

They didn't dream that four decades later, the black poverty rate would still be triple that of whites.

At the time of the march in 1963, the minimum wage was $7.80 an hour, adjusting for inflation in 2004 dollars. Today's minimum wage is far lower -- just $5.15 an hour.

In "Where Do We Go From Here?" King wrote, "There is nothing but a lack of social vision to prevent us from paying an adequate wage to every American citizen whether he be a hospital worker, laundry worker, maid, or day laborer."

The minimum wage reached its peak value in 1968, the year King was assassinated.

Today's $5.15 minimum wage is 41 percent less than 1968's inflation-adjusted minimum wage of $8.78.

Full-time, year-round minimum wage workers made $18,262 in 1968, adjusting for inflation. Today's full-time minimum wage workers make just $10,712 a year.

The minimum wage sets the wage floor. As the floor sinks, millions of workers find themselves with wages above the minimum, but not above the poverty level.

Business Week observed last year in a cover story on the working poor, "Today more than 28 million people, about a quarter of the workforce between the ages of 18 and 64, earn less than $9.04 an hour, which translates into a full-time salary of $18,800 a year -- the income that marks the federal poverty line for a family of four."

One out of three black workers earns less than $9.04 an hour -- barely above the value of the minimum wage of 1968.

Certainly, King didn't dream that four decades after the March on Washington, the U.S. Conference of Mayors would find in its annual "Hunger and Homelessness Survey" that 17 percent of the homeless were employed, as were 34 percent of adults requesting emergency food assistance.

The last minimum wage increases in 1996-97 were followed by rising incomes and falling poverty and unemployment nationwide. We need another boost to the minimum wage, and the economy.

Most Americans believe a job should keep you out of poverty, not keep you in it. Most Americans want to raise the minimum wage significantly.

Yet Congress has had seven pay raises since 1997, when the minimum increased to $5.15, while approving none for minimum wage workers. This month, congressional pay rose to $162,100 -- way up from $133,600 in 1997. That cumulative $28,500 congressional pay hike is more than the total earnings of two minimum wage workers.

At the time of the 1963 March on Washington, members of congress earned nine times the pay of minimum wage workers. Now, they earn 15 times as much. To reverse that growing gap, Congress should tie their pay raises to raises in the minimum wage.

Georgia Congressman John Lewis, a leader of the March on Washington, has said if King were alive, "he would be in the forefront of reminding the government that its first concern should be the basic needs of its citizens -- not just black Americans but all Americans -- for food, shelter, health care, education, jobs, livable incomes and the opportunity to realize their full potential."

A. Philip Randolph introduced King before the "I have a Dream" speech as "the moral leader of America."

Congress and the White House should stop taking a holiday from King's dream and enact "a national minimum wage act that will give all Americans a decent standard of living."

Holly Sklar is co-author of "Raise the Floor: Wages and Policies That Work for All Of Us" (www.raisethefloor.org). She can be reached at hsklar@aol.com.

Copyright (c) 2005 Holly Sklar

The popes and bishops have also fully supported the right of the workers to organize into unions. "The experience of history teaches that organizations of this type are an indispensable element of social life." Pope John Paul II On Human Work. 20. "We firmly oppose organized efforts to break existing unions and prevent workers from organizing." US. Catholic Bishops. Economic Justice for All, No. 104. "The way power is distributed in a free market economy frequently gives employers greater bargaining power than employees in the negotiation of labor contracts." Ibid. No. 103. "We vehemently oppose violations of the freedom to associate, wherever they occur, for they are an intolerable attack on social solidarity." Ibid. No. 105. "It is unfair to expect unions to make concessions if managers and shareholders do not make at least equal sacrifices." Ibid. No. 106. Even if the workers did not need the power of the unions to offset the greater power of the wealthy and corporations, unions are valuable because through the organization of the unions, workers are better able to contribute to the common good. Unions are valuable members of the community.

Thus the main line religions affirm the legal and moral right of workers to choose a union. As individuals can be selfish, groups can also turn in upon themselves. However organized groups like unions can also be better able to have solidarity with other workers, better able to contribute to the institution for which they are working, and better able to contribute to the larger community. I have long been part of religion-labor coalitions that have worked together for basic human rights and protection of the environment.

All workers whether they belong to unions or not have a responsibility to be in solidarity with other workers, to contribute to the institution for which they are working and to contribute to the larger community. However unions have a special responsibility and a unique capability in this regard.

The Blueprint for Social Justice of Loyola University in New Orleans was founded in 1948 by Fr. Louis J. Twomey, S.J. . (http://www.loyno.edu/twomey)

The AFL-CIO (http://www.aflcio.org/home.htm) has supported a Patients' Bill of Rights. Health care is a basic human right, not a commodity to be bought and sold at a time when the human person is weak and vulnerable.

Dorothy Day promoted a consistent ethic of life and is a model for us of non-violence. She also recognized the value of human labor and of workers. (The Dorothy Day Library is on the Web at www.catholicworker.org/dorothyday)

Capital transcends national borders and can be transferred at the touch of a computer. The International Labor Organization (http://www.ilo.org) is United Nations agency that seeks social justice and internationally recognized human and labor rights. It represents 175 member nations.

Sr. Ruth Rosenbaum from the Center for Reflection, Education and Action emphasizes that each human person is created in the image and likeness of God. Since more than 50% of the world?s population lives below the poverty line of their respective countries, any analysis needs to start from the perspective of persons and communities that are economically poor. The organization with which Sr. Ruth works, CREA, has developed the Purchasing Power Index and researched sustainable living wages. Workers ask: Can I feed my children? Can my children go to school? What happens if I get sick? Can I provide my family with the food, clothing and home that they need?

The Purchasing Power Index (PPI) uses minPP: the minutes of Purchasing Power required for the purchase of an item at a given wage level. Every hour has 60 minutes. Every day has 24 hours. A 40 hour workweek has 2400 minPP (40x60); a 50 hour workweek has 3000minPP (50x60) If prices increase and wages do not, the minPP required will increase. How many minutes of work are required to buy each item? Can the wages earned in a workweek provide the purchasing power needed to meet the housing, transportation, clothing, nutrition and other needs of the worker and her/his family? A worker cannot budget what she/he does not have.

If children in the US require X number of servings of proteins, fruits and vegetables, etc. per day in order to be healthy, so do children all over the world. A house should provide shelter from the rain and extreme heat and/or cold, with sufficient living space and protection from public exposure. A house should also provide sufficient sleeping spaces for all members of the family as well as a space for bathing. A house should provide a space for cooking. A house should provide space for meeting sanitary needs so there is no risk of contamination. Clothing, whether new or used, needs to be sufficient to provide for cleanliness and appropriateness of dress for school, work and social activities.

The purchasing power index is trans-temporal. Purchasing power can be compared over time for any group of workers, for workers in a specific factory, city, region or country. Example: the average minPP at the legal minimum wage, necessary for the purchase of 1 kilo (2.2 lb) of rice in Matamoros, Mexico. 1994: 34 minPP; 1996: 36 minPP; 1998: 38 minPP; 2000 67minPP.

The Purchasing Power Index is trans-cultural, compared from one region to another within a given state, region or country; trans-national?for different groups of workers doing the same work in different countries. Examples: The cost of 1 kilo or rice based on the legal minimum wage in each country: Jakarta, Indonesia (1996) 98 minPP; Matamoros, Mexico (1996) 35 minPP; Port-au-Prince, Haiti (1996) 106 minPP.

In CREA?s summer 2000 study in eastern Connecticut, a household of four ( 2 adults and 2 children) needed a household income equal to $23.40 per hour to meet the basic needs for housing and related costs, clothes, transportation, food, childcare and healthcare.

The effects of any changes in wages or prices or inflation, or any combination of these factors on purchasing power can be clearly measured. No longer is it necessary to talk about prices or wages in terms of ?real? currency or ?real? prices. What is real for the workers, anywhere, is what they are able to do with their wages.

The global economy is based on a system of contract suppliers. Raw materials are produced in one place. Processing of the materials occurs in a second place. Assembly of the products (often in many stages) takes place in at least one other place. Items are packaged in a fourth place. The item is sold in a fifth place. The profits accrue in still other places. In each place, at each stage, the owners are looking for the cheapest labor, the least expensive materials, the least taxation, and the GREATEST PROFIT. Stockholders benefit from these profits.

Legal wages have no connection to need. The ?prevailing industry wage? has no relationship to need. The moral wage asks the important question: what does any worker have the right to expect as a result of working? How can the system be re-designed so that all workers and their families can meet basic needs?

CREA did recent studies in Mexico, the largest study of its kind, Making the Invisible Visible, which includes fifteen city studies and 3 region studies. The study is accompanied by many photos and verified by the workers themselves. Actual pricing was in stores and markets where workers really shop. Hundreds of interviews were conducted with workers and their families in their homes, not at or near the factories. Absolute confidentiality was guaranteed.

At the present time workers in Mexico earn between 17.4% and 26.6% of what is required to meet the Sustainable Living Wage level. Children everywhere dream of going to school, of getting an education, of having a good future. What are we doing to bring this about?

Affordability Resources

Living Wage/Cost-of-Living Studies

Six Strategies (http://www.sixstrategies.com/)

Includes a long list of very good state-by-state studies that calculate a ?self-sufficiency wage? that is a vast improvement on the old way of calculating the income needed to rise above poverty. These use a more-or-less consistent methodology that has built some real credibility, including among policy makers,

Economic Policy Institute (http://www.epinet.org/)

Good research on living wage and other issues affecting working families. Their web site includes a family budget calculator that?s useful: http://www.epinet.org/content.cfm/datazone_fambud_budget

ACORN's Living Wage Resource Center (http://www.xu.edu/peace/htt;:/www.livingwagecampaign.org/

A good list of current living wage campaigns, past wins, and other resources.

Basic Methodology: There are several studies that are consistently cited in the literature that lay out the basic methodology outlined in the self-sufficiency wage calculations:

? Hardships in America: The Real Story of Working Families , by Heather Boushey, Chauna Brocht, Bethany Gunderson, and Jared Bernstein, p. 5-7, The Economic Policy Institute, Washington, D.C., 2001.

? How Much is Enough? Basic Family Budgets for Working Families, by Jared Bernstein, Chauna Brocht, and Maggie Spade-Aguilar, The Economic Policy Institute, Washington D.C., 2000.

Putting Wage Issues In Context (Housing, Transportation, etc.)

National Low-Income Housing Coalition

NLIHC publishes a very good report each year called "Out of Reach" that reports on the state of affordable housing in cities across the US (http://www.hlihc.org/oor2004/. The organization -- which has local affiliates in many markets that tend to do good work -- has created something it calls the "housing wage" (the amount someone would have to earn in order to afford an apartment at median rent for that area). It's a good way of looking at the living wage question. This is a very good, easy-to-use, searchable resource.

National Housing Conference

I don't know much about them yet, but they seem to put together some interesting reports, including one called Paycheck to Paycheck (http://www.nhc.org/nhcimages/paycheck03.pdf which is really not very good for Cinti and Indy but still might be worth a look. It actually looks at housing by occupations (such as janitor, firefighter, teacher, etc.).

HUD?s Fair Market Rent Determination - http://www.huduser.org/dat.asets/fmr.html

Fair Market Rents (FMRs) determine the eligibility of rental housing units for the Section 8 Housing Assistance Payments program. FMRs are gross rent estimates. They include the shelter rent plus the cost of all utilities, except telephones. HUD sets FMRs to assure that a sufficient supply of rental housing is available to program participants. To accomplish this objective, FMRs must be both high enough to permit a selection of units and neighborhoods and low enough to serve as many low-income families as possible. The level at which FMRs are set is expressed as a percentile point within the rent distribution of standard-quality rental housing units. The current definition used is the 40th percentile rent, the dollar amount below which 40 percent of the standard-quality rental housing units are rented. Data is available for counties and MSA?s.

Surface Transportation Policy Project

STPP is an organization that lobbies for public transit-friendly federal transportation dollars, and couches its arguments in the context of environmental and social justice concerns (such as the need for an adequate transportation system that serves low-income workers). It has some good localized data on transportation spending at the family level (http://www.transact.org/states/default.asp), and some good reports (especially its "Driven to Spend" report).

Hidden Cost to Taxpayers and Employers (Public Assistance, Lost Productivity, etc.)

University of California Berkeley Labor Center -- http://wwwlaborcenter.berkeley.edu/

This is the home to two reports that have received a lot of attention lately -- the famous report on Wal-Mart's impact on taxpayers (http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/publications/walmart.shtml) and a very good report on the hidden costs of low wage jobs in California (http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/publications/lowwage_ca.shtml). These are must read reports for all of us. We know one of the authors ? Ken Jacobs ? well, and he has offered to be helpful.

US Dept of Health & Human Services Office of Family Resources -- http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ofa/

Oversees the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program, which was created by the Welfare Reform Law of 1996. TANF became effective July 1, 1997, and replaced what was then commonly known as welfare. Date collected includes money distributed and spent by states on public assistance - ?welfare?, childcare, and transportation. This site also has links to individual state public assistance sites.

USDA Food Stamp Program -- http://www.fns.usda.ogv/fsp/

This site has information about the food stamp program (who qualifies, statistics, etc) but also collects data from states on number of persons participating in the program, dollars spent, etc. Info found here can lead to statements such as ?the number of people participating in the food stamp program in Indiana has increased by 75 percent over the last four years? or ?expenditures in the state of Ohio on food stamps has risen from $520,402,338 in 2000 to $1,009,262,441 in 2004, an increase of 94 percent?.

The Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) program -- http://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/

The WIC Program serves to safeguard the health of low-income women, infants, & children up to age 5 who are at nutritional risk by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, information on healthy eating, and referrals to health care and is run through the USDA. This program sets income eligibility requirements at 185 percent of poverty level (which helps us make our case that the poverty level is ridiculously low). More fun statements such as ?over 131 thousand families in Indiana rely on the WIC program at a cost of over $52 million in public dollars.?

The National School Lunch Program -- http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/Lunch/Default.htm

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. Income eligibility again uses federal poverty guidelines (free meals to folks at or below 130% of poverty level, reduced price meals up to 185%). This site accumulates state level data; school district level data may be more useful.

Poverty Guidelines and Research (National)

US Department of Health and Human Services Poverty Guidelines -- http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/index.shtml#latest

The official poverty guidelines set by the US Government. Information on how the numbers were derived, historical data and history of how the poverty line was established is here too.

US Census Bureau Statistics on Poverty -- http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty.html

The Census Bureau is the government agency that prepares statistics on the number of people in poverty in the United States. This site has links to the American Community Survey, which keeps numbers on general demographics as well as social, economic, and housing characteristics for municipalities around the US.

Institute for Research on Poverty -- http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/irp/

IRP is a center for interdisciplinary research (read VERY ACADEMIC) into the causes and consequences of poverty and social inequality in the United States. It is based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it has a particular interest in poverty and family welfare in the Midwest. Because of the funding source, a lot of these papers lean conservative over the last few years but there are some useful studies.


Poverty Guidelines and Research (State and Local)

State of Indiana Family and Social Services Administration -- http://www.in.gov/fssa/

The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration acts as the safety net for nearly a million Hoosiers -- about one in every six people in the state. Accumulates data down to the county level.

State of Ohio Department of Job and Family Services -- http://jfs.ohio.gov/0001InfoCenter.stm - reports

The link is to the eligibility and reports section of the website which tracks public assistance, unemployment and other useful information, most data is broken down to the county level.

Texas Health and Human Services Commission -- http://www.hhsc.state.tx.us/Programs/Programs.html - FS

After a recent consolidation of state programs, all things ?service related? are now under the jurisdiction of the HHSC ? Medicaid, CHIP, public assistance, and even things like disaster assistance and immigration are all found here.

Texas Education Agency -- http://www.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/aeis/2003/download.html

This is the data collection area of the Department of Education in Texas. One of the useful pieces of data that can be collected here is the number and percentage of ?economically disadvantaged? students in a given region, district or school. I hope there?s more (not an easy website to use)?

Indiana Department of Education -- http://www.doe.state.in.us/htmls/education.html

This is the data collection area for the DOE in Indiana. Very useful information (number of students on free and reduced lunch, expenditure per pupil, etc) broken down by state, district, or school level. Also can run comparisons with other schools in the area or state.

Ohio Department of Education -- http://ilrc.ode.state.oh.us/

This is the data collection area for the DOE in Ohio. Very useful information (median household income, expenditure per pupil, etc) broken down by state, district, or school level. Also can run comparisons with other schools in the area or state.

Ohio?s Healthy Start Insurance Program -- http://jfs.ohio.gov/ohp/bcps/hshf/hs_fact.stm

Run by the State of Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, this insurance covers children and pregnant women with incomes up to 150% of the poverty guideline.

Children?s Issues ? Childcare, Head Start, Growing Up in Poverty?

Child Care and Development Block Grant -- http://childcareresearch.org/discover/index.jsp

CCDBG provides a block grant to states for childcare assistance in order to help low-income working families, families receiving public assistance, and those enrolled in training or education pay for childcare. These are separate from TANF dollars, but are allocated in TANF legislation and TANF dollars can also be spent on childcare so these dollars are harder to track. The best resource I found that calculates these dollars is listed above.

Head Start Bureau ? http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/hsb/research/index.htm

Head Start and Early Head Start are child development programs that serve children from birth to age 5, pregnant women, and their families with the overall goal of increasing the school readiness of young children in low-income families. The link above is directed to the research section of the website that has data for numbers served, dollars spent, etc. There are also links to different state programs that oversee allocation and distribution of funds.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation?s Kids Count project - http://www.aecf.org/kidscount/

A very simple to use website which quickly compiles census data on ?children?s issues? (income and poverty, parental employment, etc).

Children?s Defense Fund -- http://www.childrensdefense.org/

The true ?leave no child behind? organization. The website includes lots of white papers on the effects of poverty, jobs, and healthcare on children and their families. Take special notice of the ?family income and jobs? section of the website.

Jobs and Employment

Occupations with the largest job growth 2002 ? 2012 -- http://www.bls.gov/emp/emptab4.htm

This chart says it all. 17 out of 20 of the top growth occupations require NO education or skills other than on-the-job-training. Service economy, here we come.

US Dept of Labor Bureau of Statistics -- http://www.bls.gov/data/home.htm

A really decent collection of data. Employment, hours, and earnings data from the county level on up. Includes data on mass layoffs, employee benefits, and the national compensation survey where you can look find wage information broken down by category and locality.

Sweatshops

Jim Keady, former soccer professional, and Leslie Kretzu, a human rights activist spent a summer trying to live on $1.25 a day with Nike factory workers in Tangerang, Indonesia. They have first hand knowledge of the stories of women, men and children who suffer each day while trying to survive on sweatshop wages. Tiger Woods, Nike Spokesman, makes $55,555 a day. Phil Knight, Nike CEO, has a net worth of $5.8 billion! Catholic Social Teaching emphasizes the need for a living wage to provide for basic needs, housing, nutrition, clothing, health care, education, potable water, childcare, energy, transportation and savings. A living wage offers the possibility of a life with basic human dignity. (See Educating for Justice http://www.E4J.org JWKeady@aol.com The Living Wage Project http://nikewages.org/)

From Truthout: Nike Publishes Details of Abuse at Asian Factories By David Teather The Guardian UK Thursday 14 April 2005

Nike, long the subject of sweatshop allegations, yesterday produced the most comprehensive picture yet of the 700 factories that produce its footwear and clothing, detailing admissions of abuses, including forced overtime and restricted access to water.

The company has published a 108-page report, available on its website, the first since it paid $1.5m to settle allegations that it had made false claims about how well its workers were treated.

For years activists have been pressing Nike and other companies to reveal where their factories are in order to allow independent monitoring.

Nike lists 124 plants in China contracted to make its products, 73 in Thailand, 35 in South Korea, 34 in Vietnam and others in Asia.

It also produces goods in South America, Australia, Canada, Italy, Mexico, Turkey and the US. It employs 650,000 contract workers worldwide.

The report admits to widespread problems, particularly in Nike's Asian factories. The company said it audited hundreds of factories in 2003 and 2004 and found cases of "abusive treatment", physical and verbal, in more than a quarter of its south Asian plants.

Between 25% and 50% of the factories in the region restrict access to toilets and drinking water during the workday.

The same percentage deny workers at least one day off in seven.

In more than half of Nike's factories, the report said, employees worked more than 60 hours a day. In up to 25%, workers refusing to do overtime were punished.

Wages were also below the legal minimum at up to 25% of factories.

Michael Posner, the executive director of the organisation Human Rights First, described the report as "an important step forward" and praised Nike for its transparency.

But he added: "The facts on the ground suggest there are still enormous problems with these supply chains and factories _ what is Nike doing to change the picture and give workers more rights?"

Nike has joined the Fair Labour Association, a group that includes other footwear and clothing makers, as well as NGOs and universities, which conducts independent audits designed to improve standards across the industry.

The company said it needed further cooperation with other members of the industry.

"We do not believe Nike has the power to single-handedly solve the issues at stake," the company said in the report.

Mr. Posner said retailers such as Wal-Mart bore huge responsibility for keeping prices low and consequently compounding poor working conditions in factories overseas.

He said that the likes of Nike and Adidas needed to work together to gain some kind of counterweight.

Debora Spar, the author of a case study on Nike, said the report "shows the company has turned a corner, although I am not sure that I would describe it as a very sharp corner."

United Students Against Sweatshops

United Students Against Sweatshops is an international student movement of campuses and individual students fighting for sweatshop free labor conditions and workers? rights. We define ?sweatshop? broadly and recognize that it is not limited to the apparel industry, but everywhere among us. We believe that university standards should be brought in line with those of its students who demand that their school?s logo is emblazoned on clothing made in decent working conditions. We have fought for these beliefs by demanding that our universities adopt ethically and legally strong codes of conduct, full public disclosure of campany information and truly independent verification systems to ensure that sweatshop conditions are not happening. Ultimately, we are using our power as students to affect the larger industry that thrives in secrecy, exploitation, and the power relations of a flawed system.

Principles of Unity

The principles of unity below have been drafted as an assessment of the spirit and of the issues which bring students on campuses across North America together to create a united youth front against sweatshops.

Hopefully, these principles touch on the underlying consciousness we are all developing, within ourselves as individuals and within our collectives, whether they be local, regional, national, or international.

The abuse of sweatshop labor is among the most blatant examples of the excesses and exploitation of the global economy. We recognize, however, that the term ?sweatshop? is not limited to the apparel industry as traditionally conceived; sweatshop conditions exist in the fields, in the prisons, on our campuses, in the power relations of a flawed system.
Thus, we consider all struggles against the systemic problems of the global economy to be directly or by analogy a struggle against sweatshops. Whether a campus group focuses its energies on the apparel industry or on another form of sweatshop, agreement with the principles below will be used as the sole requisite for working under the name of United Students Against Sweatshops.

The Principles

1. We work in solidarity with working people?s struggles. In order to best accomplish this and in recognition of the interconnections between local and global struggles, we strive to build relationships with other progressive movements and cooperate in coalition with other groups struggling for justice within all communities campus, local, regional, and international.

2. We struggle against racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, and other forms of oppression within our society, within our organizations, and within ourselves. Not only are we collectively confronting these prejudices as inherent defects of the global economy which creates sweatshops, but we also recognize the need for individuals to confront the prejudices they have internalized as the result of living and learning in a flawed and oppressive society.

3. We are working in coalition to build a grassroots student movement that challenges corporate power and that fights for economic justice. This coalition is loosely defined, thus we strive to act in coordination with one another to mobilize resources and build a national network while reserving the autonomy of individuals and campuses. We do not impose a single ideological position, practice, or approach; rather, we aim to support one another in a spirit of respect for difference, shared purpose and hope.

4. We strive to act democratically. With the understanding that we live and learn in a state of imperfect government, we attempt to achieve truer democracy in making decisions which affect our collective work. Furthermore, we strive to empower one another as individuals and as a collective through trust, patience, and an open spirit.

The power of these principles to unify us as United Students Against Sweatshops ultimately rests with the individual. Self-evaluation and personal responsibility are critical to the effectiveness of our work we all must continue to struggle as individuals in order to struggle in concert, thus we strive for compassion and support for one another as we continue this endeavor together.

© United Students Against Sweatshops. Privacy Policy. Site Maintenance.

http://www.studentsagainstsweatshops.org/

Fair Labor Association

In March, 1999, seventeen colleges and universities affiliated with the Fair Labor Association. (www.fairlabor.org)
Today 157 schools have affiliated with the FLA. Ten major apparel and footwear companies have begun monitoring. There are six independent external monitors.

Workers Rights Consortium

The Workers' Rights Consortium is a grass roots organization that also monitors working conditions in apparel and footwear contract suppliers. There are more than 100 Colleges and Universities who belong. http://www.workersrights.org/

Modern-Day Slavery

Forms of slavery that exist today: bonded labor-As defined by the International Labor Organization, bonded laborer refers to a worker who renders service under conditions of bondage arising from economic considerations, notably indebtedness through a loan or advance. When debt is the root cause of the bondage, the implication is that the worker (or dependents or heirs) is tied to a particular creditor for a specified or unspecified period until the loan is repaid (ILO, 2001) Debt bondage may be distinguished by a relatively short duration of obligation, while bonded labor is a derivation of traditional forms of agricultural serfdom.

Forced labor--ILO Convention No. 29: all work or service that is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered herself or himself voluntarily. There are seven major categories of forced labor: 1. Slavery and Abductions 2. Compulsory Participation in Public Works Projects 3. Mandatory forced labor in Remote Areas 4. Bonded Labor 5. Involuntary Labor Resulting from Trafficking in Persons 6. Domestic Workers in Involuntary Labor Situations 7. Prison Labor and Rehabilitation Through Work

Other forms of Forced labor: Early and forced marriage; slavery by descent by virtue of birth. People enslaved often as bonded slaves, give birth to children who inherit the bond and the status as slaves along with their parents; trafficking, UN: "The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation" Child labor.

See http://www.antislavery.org Read David Batstone, Not for Sale, The Return of the Global Slave Trade-and how we can fight it

See http://www.TheAmazingChange.com Follow the food chain, the contract suppliers to the beginning of the product. The Amazing Change coordinates the work of those who verify the slavery.

 Co-op America

Co-op America is a not-for-profit membership organization founded in 1982. Our mission is to harness economic power?the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace?to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.

Our Vision: We work for a world where all people have enough, where all communities are healthy and safe, and where the bounty of the Earth is preserved for all the generations to come.

What Makes Co-op America Unique: We focus on economic strategies?economic action to solve social and environmental problems.
We mobilize people in their economic roles?as consumers, investors, workers, business leaders. We empower people to take personal and collective action. We work on issues of social justice and environmental responsibility. We see these issues as completely linked in the quest for a sustainable world. It?s what we mean when we say ?green.? We work to stop abusive practices and to create healthy, just and sustainable practices. http://www.coopamerica.org

Full Employment

Employment is a natural economic right. In the US the Humphrey-Hawkins full- employment legislation allowed an individual to go to court to secure a government- guaranteed job if no other possibilities were available. There should be a legal right to a job that is absolute. Certainly there is a moral right.

The right to work was included in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948, (Article 23_ the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted in 1966, the Council of Europe European Social Charter adopted in 1961, the Organization of American States? American Declaration of Rights and Duties of Man adopted in 1948 and the Organization of African Unity Africa Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights adopted in 1981. British scholars and statesmen like John Maynard Keynes and William Beveridge had a beneficial influence on the right to employment and governmental responsibility following the great depression of the 1930's. Swedish contributions were made by Gunnar Myrdal, Dag Hammarskjold, and Gosta Rehn.

Although in theory the right to employment was recognized, the precise responsibility of government has been a prolonged debate. The farther the world moved from the Great Depression, the dimmer became the vision of full employment and the less urgent the issue.

Even though there was debate in the United States from 1975 to 1978 about the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act, the final statute fell far short of its sponsors' hopes. I remember being a strong advocate of full employment during this period, and I was very disappointed with the results.  A present proposal (February, 2012) is from Rep. John Conyers, leader of the Democratic Black Caucus.  Conyers Introduced Deficit Neutral Full Employment and Training Bill  Washington DC- Congressman John Conyers (D-Mich.) today introduced H.R. 870, the ?Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment & Training Act,? a comprehensive and innovative federal and local government job creation and training bill that would create millions of new jobs for the nation?s unemployed.
Local jobs would be created through a partnership between the Department of Labor, state, and local governments, non-profit community organizations, and small businesses. Under the Act, jobs would be created in the fields of construction, infrastructure repairs, green jobs, education, health care, and neighborhood renovation.
The Act?s Full Employment Trust Fund would provide federal funding for local community-based job creation and training initiatives until full employment is reached in the United States. The Act is deficit neutral and fully funded through a modest tax on Wall Street stock and bond transactions.
?Today, there are millions of Americans who want a job, but can?t find one,? said Conyers. ?The inability to find meaningful and sustainable work strips our fellow citizens of their basic right to have access to food, housing, health care, freedom of movement, and perhaps, most importantly, the ability to pursue life with a sense of dignity and meaning. High levels of unemployment are unacceptable and immoral in the wealthiest nation in the world. Thus, I believe it is critical that the federal government empower states, local governments, non-profits, and small businesses to create jobs during an economic downturn.
My ?Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act? would allow local government officials to work with community leaders to come up with an effective job creation program, based on each community?s respective needs?be it improvements in infrastructure, housing, energy efficiency, education, or health care.
The private sector will also benefit if millions of new jobs are created through improvements in our nation?s aging and crumbling infrastructure. New orders for brick, concrete, steel, aluminum, and plastics mean new jobs in America?s plants and factories and a rebirth of American manufacturing.
Lastly, because we exist in a period when concerns about government debt loom large in many minds, my legislation will be fully funded by a tax on Wall Street speculation and will not add a dime to the federal debt. Wall Street was responsible for the financial crisis that began in 2008 and continues to affect us today. Having already received significant assistance from the federal government, it is only fair that Wall Street now pay Main Street back by helping put America back to work "

John Rawls's A Theory of Justice stresses the value of self-respect and provision of at least minimum necessities while not neglecting the value of liberty. Others have built on this foundation the duty of society to guarantee each person adequate employment.

Prolonged unemployment leads to discouraged workers who remove themselves from the workforce. If workers cannot find a living wage for many years, they drop out and are not counted in the statistics as unemployed. (Daedalus, Journal of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Winter 2002, Orlando Patterson, "Beyond Compassion, Selfish Reasons for being Unselfish" p. 33) "Chronic poverty and unemployment in the midst of plenty is directly related to chronic drug use, criminality, the desolation of communities both urban and, increasingly, rural, and growing violence in all aspects of life. A semiliterate and alienated lower class wastes much of America's potential manpower. . .What is true of the weather is equally true of the moral climate we share: the rich winners and their children, can no more escape cultural pollution than they can escape air pollution. . . there is growing evidence that America's lowest-common-denominator popular culture is having a damaging effect on middle-and upper-class children, even as early as kindergarten. It has not gone unnoticed that the perpetrators of mass murder in our high schools have all been children from the families of privileged winners. And it is now well known that the major audience for the most brutally misogynistic and violent of rap lyrics is composed of upper-middle-class Euro-American youngsters." (p. 28)

Western governments became disillusioned about Keynesian macroeconomic policies and concerned that full employment would bring inflation. Indeed unemployment seems to be periodically planned for by macroeconomic policy-makers.

Despite these obstacles I think small faith communities can discern together ways to assert in theory and in practice the basic right to work. Since each person is called to be a co-creator with God, creative work is an expression of one's personality. A paid job is not the only way to be a co-creator, but it is the normal way to provide for oneself and one's family in our present society.

"The right to a job should be accepted as fundamental. . .There should be a legal right to a job. . . this requires absolute guarantees. . .an individual should be able to go to court to secure a government-guaranteed job if no other possibilities are available." (Gar Alperovitz, "Building a Living Democracy" 111)

Remedies for Unemployment, Underemployment, Lack of Creative and Quality Employment

Where there's a will there's a way. As a culture, we need to want full employment. The principalities and powers have used unemployment to control inflation or control people or control unions.  This is unacceptable if not immoral.  The acceptable response is for all of us to work together to promote full employment which I think would help everyone.  The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace calls for a democratic global authority to make global trade fairer and more inclusive.  Universities and all influencing world peace should educate toward full employment.

"It is hoped that those in universities and other institutions who educate tomorrow's leadership will work hard to prepare them for their responsibilities to discern the global public good and serve it in a constantly changing world. The gap between ethical training and technical preparation needs to be filled by highlighting in a particular way the inescapable synergy between the two levels of practical doing (praxis) and of boundless human striving (poièsis).
The same effort is required from all those who are in a position to enlighten world public opinion in order to help it to brave this new world, no longer with anxiety but in hope and solidarity."

DECEMBER 2011 UNEMPLOYMENT DATA  (U.S. BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS)

Officially unemployed: 13.1 million (8.5%) Hidden unemployment: 14.5 million Total: 27.6 million (17.2% of the labor force)  There are now more than 8 job-wanters* for each available job. (Jan. 2012)  http://www.njfac.org  National Jobs For All Coalition

In his many writings Dr. Gar Alperovitz has a vision of full production, full employment and price stability in necessities.

We need to decrease dramatically our military spending on a world-wide basis. Our best minds do not do research and investigate methods of development that would meet the basic needs of our world but instead spend their time and expertise searching out new ways of killing and destroying.

Military spending is inflationary. Consumers can't buy tanks. A military economy has too much money chasing too few life enhancing goods. Military spending creates fewer jobs than productive expenditures. (See War in Slow Motion, The Economic and Social Impact of Militarism, edited by Zelle W. Andrews)  "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."  Former President and 4-Star General Dwight D. Eisenhower.  The vision that drives those who promote a permanent war economy is one that assumes that if we dominate the world's land, sea, air and outer space, we will be safe to pursue a comfortable lifestyle.  It is a selfish, dangerous, and false promise.  "Perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4.18)  "God has called us to live in peace." (1 Corinthians 7.15)  One of four working families in the U.S. has difficulty meeting their basic needs.  This is multiplied exponentially on a world-wide basis.

The $500 billion national security budget of the U.S. is over half the world's total military spending.  The shares of military contractors is skyrocketing.  (Lockheed Martin shares have tripled since 2000)  At the same time, the Pentagon doesn't have enough money to cover the basic equipment needs of today's soldiers. Much military spending is subject to waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement.  The Pentagon's inspector general recently conceded that 25% of the funds it spends cannot be accounted for.  By waging war we are contributiing to the very terrorism we seek to destroy.  Do we fear more than we love?  It is estimated that 29% of tax dollars go for present military spending;13% for past military spending.(veterans, military part of interest on debt)  www://nationalpriorities.org/TaxDay2004/pdf/us.pdf  "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  Matthew 6.21  (See National Jobs for All Coalition web-site above.)

We need to make education and job training a priority. Now we spend much more money on prisons than we do on education.

We need worker-owned industry, smaller units of production, and democracy in the work place.

We need less over-time, fewer part-time jobs, a reduced work-week.

Progressive taxation, a rate of taxation according to ability to pay, would help prevent concentration of power and wealth.

Catholic Teaching

Even though the US bishops praise the founders of our country for their achievements in civil and political rights, they now call for a new effort. "We believe the time has come for a similar experiment in securing economic rights: the creation of an order that guarantees the minimum conditions of human dignity in the economic sphere for every person." (Economic Justice For All, 235) The US bishops spell out what they consider the rights of workers beginning with an income sufficient to support a family. They add "adequate healthcare, security for old age or disability, unemployment compensation, healthful working conditions, weekly rest, periodic holidays for recreation and leisure, and reasonable security against arbitrary dismissal. These provisions are all essential if workers are to be treated as persons rather than simply as a 'factor of production.'" (Ibid 103) Although the bishops applaud the business person who organizes human labor and the means of production, they emphasize that such efforts should be for the common good. St. Thomas Aquinas said that no one can own capital resources, land and natural resources, unless she/he respect the rights of others and of society as a whole. (Ibid No's 110, 112)

Although John Locke argued that that government governs best which governs least, the principle of subsidiarity goes in both directions. Governments should not intervene if smaller groups can do the job. But if smaller units cannot respond adequately to the needs of the common good, "Government has a moral function: protecting human rights and securing basic justice for all members of the commonwealth." (Pope John XXIII, Peace on Earth 60-62) "It is government's role to guarantee the minimum conditions that make this rich social activity possible, namely, human rights and justice." (Economic Justice for All 122) The United States bishops urge citizens to vote for government representatives who follow moral principles.

Each human person has the right to eat. This would seem self-evident, but it is obviously not an operative collective value in the dominant culture. Although decent jobs that pay a living wage are not available, society demands that the poor work. If the poor don't work according to the standards of the wealthy, they soon lack adequate food and water. "For millions of people unemployment or underemployment, together with a lack of access to fertile agricultural land, means inadequate income, misery, and early death. Such gloomy realities underline the tremendous present need to place full employment at the center of public policy and human rights, this requiring enlightened global perspectives as well as effective national policies." (Siegel, Employment and Human Rights, the International Dimension 17. Gives a brief history of the right to work.) Unemployment and underemployment do not seem to be as severe maladies as starvation and torture, but over time the lack of meaningful work can have severe physical and psychological effects. I think full employment needs to become a priority.

The Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace connects a fair and inclusive global economy to a democratic world federation:  http://www.zenit.org/article-33718?l=english

ZE11102402 - Oct. 24, 2011
Permalink: http://www.zenit.org/article-33718?l=english
Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace on the Global Economy

"This Reflection Hopes to Benefit World Leaders and All People of Good Will"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 24, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a provisional English translation of the document released today by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace regarding a reform of the global economy.

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Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

TOWARDS REFORMING THE INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL AND MONETARY SYSTEMS IN THE CONTEXT OF GLOBAL PUBLIC AUTHORITY

Vatican City
2011

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Table of Contents

Preface

Presupposition

Economic Development and Inequalities

The Role of Technology and the Ethical Challenge

An Authority over Globalization

Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in a way that Responds to the Needs of all Peoples

Conclusions

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Preface


?The world situation requires the concerted effort of everyone, a thorough examination of every facet of the problem ? social, economic, cultural and spiritual. The Church, which has long experience in human affairs and has no desire to be involved in the political activities of any nation, ?seeks but one goal: to carry forward the work of Christ under the lead of the befriending Spirit. And Christ entered this world to give witness to the truth; to save, not to judge; to serve, not to be served.??
With these words, in the prophetic and always relevant Encyclical Populorum Progressio of 1967, Paul VI outlined in a clear way ?the trajectories? of the Church?s close relation with the world. These trajectories intersect in the profound value of human dignity and the quest for the common good, which make people responsible and free to act according to their highest aspirations.
The economic and financial crisis which the world is going through calls everyone, individuals and peoples, to examine in depth the principles and the cultural and moral values at the basis of social coexistence. What is more, the crisis engages private actors and competent public authorities on the national, regional and international level in serious reflection on both causes and solutions of a political, economic and technical nature.
In this perspective, as Benedict XVI teaches, the crisis ?obliges us to re-plan our journey, to set ourselves new rules and to discover new forms of commitment, to build on positive experiences and to reject negative ones. The crisis thus becomes an opportunity for discernment, in which to shape a new vision for the future. In this spirit, with confidence rather than resignation, it is appropriate to address the difficulties of the present time.?
The G20 leaders themselves said in the Statement they adopted in Pittsburgh in 2009: ?The economic crisis demonstrates the importance of ushering in a new era of sustainable global economic activity grounded in responsibility.?
The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace now responds to the Holy Father?s appeal, while making the concerns of everyone our own, especially the concerns of those who pay most dearly for the current situation. With due respect for the competent civil and political authorities, the Council hereby offers and shares its reflection: Towards reforming the international financial and monetary systems in the context of global public authority.
This reflection hopes to benefit world leaders and all people of good will. It is an exercise of responsibility not only towards the current but above all towards future generations, so that hope for a better future and confidence in human dignity and capacity for good may never be extinguished.

Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson,

President

+Mario Toso,

Secretary

Presupposition

Every individual and every community shares in and is responsible for promoting the common good. Faithful to their ethical and religious vocation, communities of believers should take the lead in asking whether human family has adequate means at its disposal to achieve the global common good. The Church for her part is called to encourage in everyone without distinction, the desire to join in the ?monumental amount of individual and collective effort? which men have made ?throughout the course of the centuries ... to better the circumstances of their lives.... [T]his human activity accords with God?s will.?


1. Economic Development and Inequalities

The grave economic and financial crisis which the world is going through today springs from multiple causes. Opinions on the number and significance of these causes vary widely. Some commentators emphasize first and foremost certain errors inherent in the economic and financial policies; others stress the structural weaknesses of political, economic and financial institutions; still others say that the causes are ethical breakdowns occurring at all levels of a world economy that is increasingly dominated by utilitarianism and materialism. At every stage of the crisis, one might discover particular technical errors intertwined with certain ethical orientations.

In material goods markets, natural factors and productive capacity as well as labour in all of its many forms set quantitative limits by determining relationships of costs and prices which, under certain conditions, permit an efficient allocation of available resources.

In monetary and financial markets, however, the dynamics are quite different. In recent decades, it was the banks that extended credit, which generated money, which in turn sought a further expansion of credit. In this way, the economic system was driven towards an inflationary spiral that inevitably encountered a limit in the risk that credit institutions could accept. They faced the ultimate danger of bankruptcy, with negative consequences for the entire economic and financial system

After World War II, national economies made progress, albeit with enormous sacrifices for millions, indeed billions of people who, as producers and entrepreneurs on the one hand and as savers and consumers on the other, had put their confidence in a regular and progressive expansion of money supply and investment in line with opportunities for real growth of the economy.

Since the 1990s, we have seen that money and credit instruments worldwide have grown more rapidly than revenue, even adjusting for current prices. From this came the formation of pockets of excessive liquidity and speculative bubbles which later turned into a series of solvency and confidence crises that have spread and followed one another over the years.

A first crisis took place in the 1970s until the early 1980s and was related to the sudden sharp rises in oil prices. Subsequently, there was a series of crises in the developing world, for example, the first crisis in Mexico in the 1980s and those in Brazil, Russia and Korea, and then again in Mexico in the 1990s as well as in Thailand and Argentina.

The speculative bubble in real estate and the recent financial crisis have the very same origin in the excessive amount of money and the plethora of financial instruments globally.

Whereas the crises in the developing countries that risked involving the global monetary and financial system were contained through interventions by the more developed countries, the outbreak of the crisis in 2008 was characterized by a different factor compared with the previous ones, something decisive and explosive. Generated in the context of the United States, it took place in one of the most important zones for the global economy and finances. It directly affected what is still the currency of reference for the great majority of international trade transactions.

A liberalist approach, unsympathetic towards public intervention in the markets, chose to allow an important international financial institution to fall into bankruptcy, on the assumption that this would contain the crisis and its effects. Unfortunately, this spawned a widespread lack of confidence and a sudden change in attitudes. Various public interventions of enormous scope (more than 20% of gross national product) were urgently requested in order to stem the negative effects that could have overwhelmed the entire international financial system.

The consequences for the real economy, what with grave difficulties in some sectors ? first of all, construction ? and wide distribution of unfavourable forecasts, have generated a negative trend in production and international trade with very serious repercussions for employment as well as other effects that have probably not yet had their full impact. The costs are extremely onerous for millions in the developed countries, but also and above all for billions in the developing ones.

In countries and areas where the most elementary goods like health, food and shelter are still lacking, more than a billion people are forced to survive on an average income of less than a dollar a day.

Global economic well-being, traditionally measured by national income and also by levels of capacities, grew during the second half of the twentieth century, to an extent and with a speed never experienced in the history of humankind.

But the inequalities within and between various countries have also grown significantly. While some of the more industrialized and developed countries and economic zones ? the ones that are most industrialized and developed ? have seen their income grow considerably, other countries have in fact been excluded from the overall improvement of the economy and their situation has even worsened.

After the Second Vatican Council in his Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio of 1967, Paul VI already clearly and prophetically denounced the dangers of an economic development conceived in liberalist terms because of its harmful consequences for world equilibrium and peace. The Pontiff asserted that the defence of life and the promotion of people?s cultural and moral development are the essential conditions for the promotion of authentic development. On these grounds, Paul VI said that full and global development is ?the new name of peace?.

Forty years later, in its annual Report of in 2007, the International Monetary Fund recognized the close connection between an inadequately managed process of globalization on the one hand, and the world?s great inequalities on the other. Today the modern means of communication make these great economic, social and cultural inequalities obvious to everyone, rich and poor alike, giving rise to tensions and to massive migratory movements.

Nonetheless, it should be reiterated that the process of globalisation with its positive aspects is at the root of the world economy's great development in the twentieth century. It is worth recalling that between 1900 and 2000 the world population increased almost fourfold and the wealth produced worldwide grew much more rapidly, resulting in a significant rise of average per capita income. At the same time, however, the distribution of wealth did not become fairer but in many cases worsened.

What has driven the world in such a problematic direction for its economy and also for peace?

First and foremost, an economic liberalism that spurns rules and controls. Economic liberalism is a theoretical system of thought, a form of ?economic apriorism? that purports to derive laws for how markets function from theory, these being laws of capitalistic development, while exaggerating certain aspects of markets. An economic system of thought that sets down a priori the laws of market functioning and economic development, without measuring them against reality, runs the risk of becoming an instrument subordinated to the interests of the countries that effectively enjoy a position of economic and financial advantage.

Regulations and controls, imperfect though they may be, already often exist at the national and regional levels; whereas on the international level, it is hard to apply and consolidate such controls and rules.

The inequalities and distortions of capitalist development are often an expression not only of economic liberalism but also of utilitarian thinking: that is, theoretical and practical approaches according to which what is useful for the individual leads to the good of the community. This saying has a core of truth, but it cannot be ignored that individual utility ? even where it is legitimate ? does not always favour the common good. In many cases a spirit of solidarity is called for that transcends personal utility for the good of the community.

In the 1920s, some economists had already warned about giving too much weight, in the absence of regulations and controls, to theories which have since become prevailing ideologies and practices on the international level.

One devastating effect of these ideologies, especially in the last decades of the past century and the first years of the current one, has been the outbreak of the crisis in which the world is still immersed.

In his social encyclical, Benedict XVI precisely identified the roots of a crisis that is not only economic and financial but above all moral in nature. In fact, as the Pontiff notes, to function correctly the economy needs ethics; and not just of any kind but one that is people-centred. He goes on to denounce the role played by utilitarianism and individualism and the responsibilities of those who have adopted and promoted them as the parameters for the optimal behaviour of all economic and political agents who operate and interact in the social context. But Benedict XVI also identifies and denounces a new ideology, that of ?technocracy?.


2. The Role of Technology and the Ethical Challenge

The great economic and social development of the past century, with their bright spots and serious shadows, can also be attributed in large part to the continued development of technology and more recently to advances in information technologies and especially their applications in the economy and most significantly in finance.

However, to interpret the current new social question lucidly, we must avoid the error ? itself a product of neo-liberal thinking ? that would consider all the problems that need tackling to be exclusively of a technical nature. In such a guise, they evade the needed discernment and ethical evaluation. In this context Benedict XVI's encyclical warns about the dangers of the technocracy ideology: that is, of making technology absolute, which ?tends to prevent people from recognizing anything that cannot be explained in terms of matter alone? and minimizing the value of the choices made by the concrete human individual who works in the economic-financial system by reducing them to mere technical variables. Being closed to a ?beyond? in the sense of something more than technology, not only makes it impossible to find adequate solutions to the problems, but it impoverishes the principal victims of the crisis more and more from the material standpoint.

In the context of the complexity of the phenomena, the importance of the ethical and cultural factors cannot be overlooked or underestimated. In fact, the crisis has revealed behaviours like selfishness, collective greed and the hoarding of goods on a great scale. No one can be content with seeing man live like ?a wolf to his fellow man?, according to the concept expounded by Hobbes. No one can in conscience accept the development of some countries to the detriment of others. If no solutions are found to the various forms of injustice, the negative effects that will follow on the social, political and economic level will be destined to create a climate of growing hostility and even violence, and ultimately undermine the very foundations of democratic institutions, even the ones considered most solid.

Recognizing the primacy of being over having and of ethics over the economy, the world?s peoples ought to adopt an ethic of solidarity as the animating core of their action. This implies abandoning all forms of petty selfishness and embracing the logic of the global common good which transcends merely contingent, particular interests. In a word, they ought to have a keen sense of belonging to the human family which means sharing the common dignity of all human beings: ?Even prior to the logic of a fair exchange of goods and the forms of justice appropriate to it, there exists something which is due to man because he is man, by reason of his lofty dignity.?

In 1991, after the failure of Marxist communism, Blessed John Paul II had already warned of the risk of an ?idolatry of the market, an idolatry which ignores the existence of goods which by their nature are not and cannot be mere commodities.? Today his warning needs to be heeded without delay and a road must be taken that is in greater harmony with the dignity and transcendent vocation of the person and the human family.


3. An Authority over Globalization

On the way to building a more fraternal and just human family and, even before that, a new humanism open to transcendence, Blessed John XXIII?s teaching seems especially timely. In the prophetic Encyclical Pacem in Terris of 1963, he observed that the world was heading towards ever greater unification. He then acknowledged the fact that a correspondence was lacking in the human community between the political organization ?on a world level and the objective needs of the universal common good?. He also expressed the hope that one day ?a true world political authority? would be created.

In view of the unification of the world engendered by the complex phenomenon of globalization, and of the importance of guaranteeing, in addition to other collective goods, the good of a free, stable world economic and financial system at the service of the real economy, today the teaching of Pacem in Terris appears to be even more vital and worthy of urgent implementation.

In the same spirit of Pacem in Terris, Benedict XVI himself expressed the need to create a world political authority. This seems obvious if we consider the fact that the agenda of questions to be dealt with globally is becoming ever longer. Think, for example, of peace and security; disarmament and arms control; promotion and protection of fundamental human rights; management of the economy and development policies; management of the migratory flows and food security, and protection of the environment. In all these areas, the growing interdependence between States and regions of the world becomes more and more obvious as well as the need for answers that are not just sectorial and isolated, but systematic and integrated, rich in solidarity and subsidiarity and geared to the universal common good.

As the Pope reminds us, if this road is not followed, ?despite the great progress accomplished in various sectors, international law would risk being conditioned by the balance of power among the strongest nations.?

The purpose of the public authority, as John XXIII recalled in Pacem in Terris, is first and foremost to serve the common good. Therefore, it should be endowed with structures and adequate, effective mechanisms equal to its mission and the expectations placed in it. This is especially true in a globalized world which makes individuals and peoples increasingly interconnected and interdependent, but which also reveals the existence of monetary and financial markets of a predominantly speculative sort that are harmful for the real economy, especially of the weaker countries.

This is a complex and delicate process. A supranational Authority of this kind should have a realistic structure and be set up gradually. It should be favourable to the existence of efficient and effective monetary and financial systems; that is, free and stable markets overseen by a suitable legal framework, well-functioning in support of sustainable development and social progress of all, and inspired by the values of charity and truth. It is a matter of an Authority with a global reach that cannot be imposed by force, coercion or violence, but should be the outcome of a free and shared agreement and a reflection of the permanent and historic needs of the world common good. It ought to arise from a process of progressive maturation of consciences and freedoms as well as the awareness of growing responsibilities. Consequently, reciprocal trust, autonomy and participation cannot be overlooked as if they were superfluous elements. The consent should involve an ever greater number of countries that adhere with conviction, through a sincere dialogue that values the minority opinions rather than marginalizing them. So the world Authority should consistently involve all peoples in a collaboration in which they are called to contribute, bringing to it the heritage of their virtues and their civilizations.

The establishment of a world political Authority should be preceded by a preliminary phase of consultation from which a legitimated institution will emerge that is in a position to be an effective guide and, at the same time, can allow each country to express and pursue its own particular good. The exercise of this Authority at the service of the good of each and every one will necessarily be super partes (impartial): that is, above any partial vision or particular good, in view of achieving the common good. Its decisions should not be the result of the more developed countries' excessive power over the weaker countries. Instead, they should be made in the interest of all, not only to the advantage of some groups, whether they are formed by private lobbies or national governments.

A supranational Institution, the expression of a ?community of nations?, will not last long, however, if the countries? diversities from the standpoint of cultures, material and immaterial resources and historic and geographic conditions, are not recognized and fully respected. The lack of a convinced consensus, nourished by an unceasing moral communion on the part of the world community, would also reduce the effectiveness of such an Authority.

What is valid on the national level is also valid on the global level. A person is not made to serve authority unconditionally. Rather, it is the task of authority to be at the service of the person, consistent with the pre-eminent value of human dignity. Likewise, governments should not serve the world Authority unconditionally. Instead, it is the world Authority that should put itself at the service of the various member countries, according to the principle of subsidiarity. Among the ways it should do this is by creating the socio-economic, political and legal conditions essential for the existence of markets that are efficient and efficacious because they are not over-protected by paternalistic national policies and not weakened by systematic deficits in public finances and of the gross national products ? indeed, such policies and deficits actually hamper the markets themselves in operating in a world context as open and competitive institutions.

In the tradition of the Church?s Magisterium which Benedict XVI has vigorously embraced, the principle of subsidiarity should regulate relations between the State and local communities and between public and private institutions, not excluding the monetary and financial institutions. So, on a higher level, it ought to govern the relations between a possible future global public Authority and regional and national institutions. This principle guarantees both democratic legitimacy and the efficacy of the decisions of those called to make them. It allows respect for the freedom of people, individually and in communities, and at the same time, allows them to take responsibility for the objectives and duties that pertain to them.
According to the logic of subsidiarity, the higher Authority offers its subsidium, that is, its aid, only when individual, social or financial actors are intrinsically deficient in capacity, or cannot manage by themselves to do what is required of them. Thanks to the principle of solidarity, a lasting and fruitful relation is built up between global civil society and a world public Authority as States, intermediate bodies, various institutions ? including economic and financial ones ? and citizens make their decisions with a view to the global common good, which transcends national goods.
As we read in Caritas in Veritate, ?The governance of globalization must be marked by subsidiarity, articulated into several layers and involving different levels that can work together.? Only in this way can the danger of a central Authority?s bureaucratic isolation be avoided, which would otherwise risk being delegitimized by an excessive distance from the realities on which it is based and easily fall prey to paternalistic, technocratic or hegemonic temptations.
However, a long road still needs to be travelled before arriving at the creation of a public Authority with universal jurisdiction. It would seem logical for the reform process to proceed with the United Nations as its reference because of the worldwide scope of its responsibilities, its ability to bring together the nations of the world, and the diversity of its tasks and those of its specialized Agencies. The fruit of such reforms ought to be a greater ability to adopt policies and choices that are binding because they are aimed at achieving the common good on the local, regional and world levels. Among the policies, those regarding global social justice seem most urgent: financial and monetary policies that will not damage the weakest countries; and policies aimed at achieving free and stable markets and a fair distribution of world wealth, which may also derive from unprecedented forms of global fiscal solidarity, which will be dealt with later.
On the way to creating a world political Authority, questions of governance (that is, a system of merely horizontal coordination without an authority super partes cannot be separated from those of a shared government (that is, a system which in addition to horizontal coordination establishes an authority super partes) which is functional and proportionate to the gradual development of a global political society. The establishment of a global political Authority cannot be achieved without an already functioning multilateralism, not only on a diplomatic level, but also and above all in relation to programs for sustainable development and peace. It is not possible to arrive at global Government without giving political expression to pre-existing forms of interdependence and cooperation.

4. Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in a way that Responds to the Needs of all Peoples

In economic and financial matters, the most significant difficulties come from the lack of an effective set of structures that can guarantee, in addition to a system of governance, a system of government for the economy and international finance.
What can be said about this prospect? What steps can be taken concretely?
With regard to the current global economic and financial systems, two decisive factors should be stressed. The first is the gradual decline in efficacy of the Bretton Woods institutions beginning in the early 1970s. In particular, the International Monetary Fund has lost an essential element for stabilizing world finance, that of regulating the overall money supply and vigilance over the amount of credit risk taken on by the system. To sum it up, stabilizing the world monetary system is no longer a ?universal public good? within its reach.
The second factor is the need for a minimum, shared body of rules to manage the global financial market which has grown much more rapidly than the real economy. This situation of rapid, uneven growth has come about, on the one hand, because of the overall abrogation of controls on capital movements and the tendency to deregulate banking and financial activities; and on the other, because of advances in financial technology, due largely to information technology.


On the structural level, in the latter part of the last century, monetary and financial activities worldwide grew much more rapidly than the production of goods and services. In this context, the quality of credit tended to decrease to the point that it exposed the credit institutions to more risk than was reasonably sustainable. It is sufficient to look at the fate of large and small credit institutions during the crises that broke out in the 1980s and 1990s, and finally in the 2008 crisis.
Again in the last part of the twentieth century, there was a growing tendency to define the strategic directions of economic and financial policy in terms of ?clubs? and of larger or smaller groups of more developed countries. While not denying the positive aspects of this approach, it is impossible to overlook that it did not appear to respect the representative principle fully, in particular of the less developed or emerging countries.
The need to heed the voices of a greater number of countries has led to expanding the relevant groups; for instance, there is now a G20 where there was once just a G7. This has been a positive development because it became possible to include developing and emerging countries with larger populations in shaping the economy and global finance.

In the area of the G20, concrete tendencies can thus mature which, when worked out properly in the appropriate technical centres, will be able to guide the competent bodies on the national and regional level towards consolidating existing institutions and creating new ones with appropriate and effective instruments on the international level.
Moreover, the G20 leaders themselves said in their final Statement in Pittsburgh 2009: ?The economic crisis demonstrates the importance of ushering in a new era of sustainable global economic activity grounded in responsibility?. To tackle the crisis and open up a new era ?of responsibility?, in addition to technical and short-term measures, the leaders put forth the proposal ?to reform the global architecture to meet the needs of the 21st century,? and later the proposal ?to launch a framework that lays out the policies and the way we act together to generate strong, sustainable and balanced global growth?.
Therefore, a process of reflection and reforms needs to be launched that will explore creative and realistic avenues for taking advantage of the positive aspects of already existing forums.
Specific attention should be paid to the reform of the international monetary system and, in particular, the commitment to create some form of global monetary management, something that is already implicit in the Statutes of the International Monetary Fund. It is obvious that to some extent this is equivalent to putting the existing exchange systems up for discussion in order to find effective means of coordination and supervision. This process must also involve the emerging and developing countries in defining the stages of a gradual adaptation of the existing instruments.
In fact, one can see an emerging requirement for a body that will carry out the functions of a kind of ?central world bank? that regulates the flow and system of monetary exchanges similar to the national central banks. The underlying logic of peace, coordination and common vision which led to the Bretton Woods Agreements needs to be dusted off in order to provide adequate answers to the current questions. On the regional level, this process could begin by strengthening the existing institutions, such as the European Central Bank. However, this would require not only a reflection on the economic and financial level, but also and first of all on the political level, so as to create the set of public institutions that will guarantee the unity and consistency of the common decisions.
These measures ought to be conceived of as some of the first steps in view of a public Authority with universal jurisdiction; as a first stage in a longer effort by the global community to steer its institutions towards achieving the common good. Other stages will have to follow in which the dynamics familiar to us may become more marked, but they may also be accompanied by changes which would be useless to try to predict today.
In this process, the primacy of the spiritual and of ethics needs to be restored and, with them, the primacy of politics ? which is responsible for the common good ? over the economy and finance. These latter need to be brought back within the boundaries of their real vocation and function, including their social function, in consideration of their obvious responsibilities to society, in order to nourish markets and financial institutions which are really at the service of the person, which are capable of responding to the needs of the common good and universal brotherhood, and which transcend all forms of economist stagnation and performative mercantilism.
On the basis of this sort of ethical approach, it seems advisable to reflect, for example, on:
a) taxation measures on financial transactions through fair but modulated rates with charges proportionate to the complexity of the operations, especially those made on the ?secondary? market. Such taxation would be very useful in promoting global development and sustainability according to the principles of social justice and solidarity. It could also contribute to the creation of a world reserve fund to support the economies of the countries hit by crisis as well as the recovery of their monetary and financial system;
b) forms of recapitalization of banks with public funds making the support conditional on ?virtuous? behaviours aimed at developing the ?real economy?;
c) the definition of the domains of ordinary credit and of Investment Banking. This distinction would allow a more effective management of the ?shadow markets? which have no controls and limits.
It is sensible and realistic to allow the necessary time to build up broad consensuses, but the goal of the universal common good with its inescapable demands is waiting on the horizon. Moreover, it is hoped that those in universities and other institutions who educate tomorrow's leadership will work hard to prepare them for their responsibilities to discern the global public good and serve it in a constantly changing world. The gap between ethical training and technical preparation needs to be filled by highlighting in a particular way the inescapable synergy between the two levels of practical doing (praxis) and of boundless human striving (poièsis).
The same effort is required from all those who are in a position to enlighten world public opinion in order to help it to brave this new world, no longer with anxiety but in hope and solidarity.

Conclusions

Under the current uncertainties, in a society capable of mobilizing immense means but whose cultural and moral reflection is still inadequate with regard to their use in achieving the appropriate ends, we are invited to not give in and to build above all a meaningful future for the generations to come. We should not be afraid to propose new ideas, even if they might destabilize pre-existing balances of power that prevail over the weakest. They are a seed thrown to the ground that will sprout and hurry towards bearing fruit.
As Benedict XVI exhorts us, agents on all levels ? social, political, economic, professional ? are urgently needed who have the courage to serve and to promote the common good through an upright life. Only they will succeed in living and seeing beyond the appearances of things and perceiving the gap between existing reality and untried possibilities.
Paul VI emphasized the revolutionary power of ?forward-looking imagination? that can perceive the possibilities inscribed in the present and guide people towards a new future. By freeing his imagination, man frees his existence. Through an effort of community imagination, it is possible to transform not only institutions but also lifestyles and encourage a better future for all peoples.
Modern States became structured wholes over time and reinforced sovereignty within their own territory. But social, cultural and political conditions have gradually changed. Their interdependence has grown ? so it has become natural to think of an international community that is integrated and increasingly ruled by a shared system ? but a worse form of nationalism has lingered on, according to which the State feels it can achieve the good of its own citizens in a self-sufficient way.
Today all of this seems anachronistic and surreal, and all the nations, great or small, together with their governments, are called to go beyond the ?state of nature? which would keep States in a never-ending struggle with one another. Globalization, despite some of its negative aspects, is unifying peoples more and prompting them to move towards a new ?rule of law? on the supranational level, supported by a more intense and fruitful collaboration. With dynamics similar to those that put an end in the past to the ?anarchical? struggle between rival clans and kingdoms with regard to the creation of national states, today humanity needs to be committed to the transition from a situation of archaic struggles between national entities, to a new model of a more cohesive, polyarchic international society that respects every people's identity within the multifaceted riches of a single humanity. Such a passage, which is already timidly under way, would ensure the citizens of all countries ? regardless of their size or power ? peace and security, development, and free, stable and transparent markets. As John Paul II warns us, ?Just as the time has finally come when in individual States a system of private vendetta and reprisal has given way to the rule of law, so too a similar step forward is now urgently needed in the international community.?
Time has come to conceive of institutions with universal competence, now that vital goods shared by the entire human family are at stake, goods which the individual States cannot promote and protect by themselves.
So conditions exist for definitively going beyond a ?Westphalian? international order in which the States feel the need for cooperation but do not seize the opportunity to integrate their respective sovereignties for the common good of peoples.
It is the task of today?s generation to recognize and consciously to accept these new world dynamics for the achievement of a universal common good. Of course, this transformation will be made at the cost of a gradual, balanced transfer of a part of each nation?s powers to a world Authority and to regional Authorities, but this is necessary at a time when the dynamism of human society and the economy and the progress of technology are transcending borders, which are in fact already very eroded in a globalized world.
The birth of a new society and the building of new institutions with a universal vocation and competence are a prerogative and a duty for everyone, with no distinction. What is at stake is the common good of humanity and the future itself.
In this context, for every Christian there is a special call of the Spirit to become committed decisively and generously so that the many dynamics under way will be channelled towards prospects of fraternity and the common good. An immense amount of work is to be done towards the integral development of peoples and of every person. As the Fathers said at the Second Vatican Council, this is a mission that is both social and spiritual, which ? to the extent that the former can contribute to the better ordering of human society, it is of vital concern to the Kingdom of God.?
In a world on its way to rapid globalization, the reference to a world Authority becomes the only horizon compatible with the new realities of our time and the needs of humankind. However, it should not be forgotten that this development, given wounded human nature, will not come about without anguish and suffering.
Through the account of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), the Bible warns us how the ?diversity? of peoples can turn into a vehicle for selfishness and an instrument of division. In humanity there is a real risk that peoples will end up not understanding each other and that cultural diversities will lead to irremediable oppositions. The image of the Tower of Babel also warns us that we must avoid a ?unity? that is only apparent, where selfishness and divisions endure because the foundations of the society are not stable. In both cases, Babel is the image of what peoples and individuals can become when they do not recognize their intrinsic transcendent dignity and brotherhood.
The spirit of Babel is the antithesis of the Spirit of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-12), of God?s design for the whole of humanity: that is, unity in truth. Only a spirit of concord that rises above divisions and conflicts will allow humanity to be authentically one family and to conceive of a new world with the creation of a world public Authority at the service of the common good.

© Innovative Media, Inc.Reprinting ZENIT's articles requires written permission from the editor.
 

Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola


Xavier University is celebrating 175 years. We are commemorating in a special way three of the first Jesuits, St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Francis Xavier, Blessed Peter Faber. All Jesuits are formed by the Spiritual Exercises. Jesus invites us to follow him in bringing about God?s reign. Jesus? plan of action is quite different from that of Lucifer. Lucifer is surrounded by fire and smoke. The retreatant asks for insight ?into the deceits of the evil leader, and for help to guard myself against them.? Lucifer?s platform is riches, vain honor, surging pride. These lead to all other vices, a chasm between the wealthy and the poor, the economic and political power of a few. Jesus ?takes his place in that great plain near Jerusalem, in an area which is lowly, beautiful, and attractive.? With God?s grace we can be led to a peace with justice and an entirely new vision of community, solidarity, and democracy. Followers of Jesus receive their identity and self-worth by experiencing God?s love. Solidarity with the poor may mean enduring misunderstanding even rejection. As Jesus did, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. suffered death as a result of his message of non-violence and justice.

St. Ignatius sees people tempted to seek riches, and then because they possess some thing or things, they find themselves seeking the honor and esteem of the wealthy, the powerful, and the ruthless. From such honor arises a false sense of identity in which false pride has its roots. So the strategy of the deceitful on is simple: riches?these are mine; honor?look at me; pride?look who I am. By these three steps we are led to arrogance, conceit, a narrow closed mind, and then to all other vices. Upward mobility leads to a flight from the poor.

Jesus adopts a strategy just the opposite. Try to help people to grow and make their own decisions. Do not enslave or exploit others. Let go of riches and power. Be free to be true to yourself and open to receive the love and vision of Jesus. Jesus followed downward mobility, from the second person of the Trinity to become a member of the human family. Jesus calls us to detachment from wealth and power to attachment to people, especially the poor.

Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice

Ecumenical perspectives on the churches and labor can be found at Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice
http://www.nicwj.org

Self Sufficiency Standard

There should be a floor below which we don't allow the human person to fall simply because they are human persons made in the image and likeness of God. Thus breadwinners for families should get a living wage. But what of those handicapped, chronically ill, elderly, unemployed or underemployed? What of children? Should those raising children get adequate income simply because they have the challenging task of caring for children, a task frequently much more difficult, if done well, than work that receives compensation?

Developed by Diana Pearce, working with Wider Opportunities for Women, Inc., the Self Sufficiency Standard calculates the minimum level of income needed to live without reliance on government transfers or private charity. The Self Sufficiency Standard for Ohio varies from a low of $11,810 for a single adult to $30,679 for a single parent with three children. For the typical two-parent family of four in Ohio, the Self Sufficiency Standard is $26,515 for that family to be completely free of subsidies and transfers from government and private sources.

Child care often costs more than rent. The typical single parent in Ohio with two preschool-age children can expect to pay $616 per month for child care, but only $478 per month for a two-bedroom apartment. (See The Self Sufficiency Standard in Ohio, A Report Prepared for the Grail Women Task Force by Dr. David Maume of the University of Cincinnati, May 1999. "If Ohio limits welfare use to five years in a lifetime, significant numbers of women and children will be condemned to a lifetime of economic insecurity and poverty.")

Leisure

I think US culture is mired in excessive busyness and activity. We are all over-extended with not enough time for God, those close to us, or for the arts. We don't have enough time to think, to rest, to reflect, to be good citizens. (See Juliet Schor, The Overworked American.)

Economists treat time as one more scarce resource to be rationed according to the "laws" of supply and demand. Usury is the oldest example of buying and selling time. (Jeremy Rifkin, Time Wars: The Primary Conflict in Human History.)

US culture values efficiency and productivity above all. Even in times of high unemployment, a person without a job is seriously suspect. Although our ideals of service come from our spirituality, the norms by which we judge ourselves come from our culture.

"In the creation narrative God worked six days to create the world and rested on the seventh. We must take that image seriously and learn how to harmonize action and rest, work and leisure, so that both contribute to building up the person as well as the family and community." (US Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All, no. 338)

Since US culture wants to get quickly to the heart of the matter, the bottom line, we lose patience with dialogue, process, consensus. In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius of Loyola says the retreatant may need more penance, maybe less. (No. 89) Doing more for God may mean doing less and resting more. God wants not just our hands and back and brains, but our hearts and souls as well, in relationship. We need leisure to see the wonder of people in their complexity and brokenness, and the mystery of our own life. A world of total work cannot dominate our lives. If we set boundaries and limits to our work, we will not be driven by it. I recommend Gerard L. Stockhausen, S.J. "I'd Love To, But I Don't Have the Time, Jesuits and Leisure" in Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits, 27/3 May 1995

An essential to building community and healthy sub-structures is the creation of free time. St. Thomas More calls attention to this in Utopia. How can we have intelligent, informed citizens without free time? How can we develop family and community relationships without free-time? Economic and political democracy are impossible without adequate free time. Planning would create more free time. "Today some work an 80-hour week and some are unemployed and without income. This is an inevitable result of the haphazard functioning of the market." Without planning by all the stakeholders in society the result is bound to be unbalanced.

Part of a day needs to be spent providing necessities. Another part can be totally free. Jacques Maritain proposed that each person work half-time to insure basic necessities. During the second half of the day people would be free to choose other work and "life enhancement activities." St. Thomas More had a similar idea as we have seen. Now we hardly have time to be human. We don't have time to be good citizens, to pray, to grow intellectually, to be good friends and family members. We need free time in order to reflect and make political and economic decisions.

"The state should pay to each citizen, simply by virtue of his or her citizenship, an income sufficient for subsistence. This should be unconditional, and paid equally to all, employed and unemployed, men and women, married and single. . .This state-guaranteed subsistence income (sometimes referred to as the social dividend or social wage) would give every citizen the basis for equal autonomy." (Gar Alperovitz, "Building a Living Democracy" 111)

If we had universal stock ownership as proposed by Stuart Speiser or a public trust as proposed by Gar Alperovitz that did create more free time, would people work? Would they use the free time wisely? I believe in the human person. I think we want to be creative. We want to contribute to society and the common good. People who retire have worked. Now that they no longer need to work in order to support themselves, do retired people just sit around and watch television or do they generally speaking make a creative use of their time?

A Small World Bank, Bangladesh

In 1983 Professor Muhammad Yumus of Bangladesh began the Grameen ("rural" in Begali) Bank. He argued that the poor simply needed a tiny amount of money, as little as one dollar per person. Where was the collateral? The poor couldn't even read. But the small loans were repaid. The bank expanded to several villages, then to the whole district and finally, to five districts. Today the Grameen Bank has more than a thousand branches and 1.6 million borrowers in 34,000 villages in Bangladesh. It lends $30 million per month and enjoys a loan recovery rate of 97 percent. It charges 20 percent interest with a one-year repayment requirement, yet the bad debt on its books is less than one half of one percent.

Normally, bank policy is "the more you have the more you can borrow." Yumas reversed that to "the less you have, the higher your priority." His bank would lend only to the poorest of the rural poor, and half of them must be women." To build commitment and provide community support, the prospective client must find five friends to borrow with. Initial loans are $10 to $20. Average loans are $100. The interest rate is high, the repayment time short, and there is a mandatory savings requirement. Yet 48 percent of those who have borrowed from the bank for ten years have crossed the poverty line. Another 27 percent have come close. The remainder have not been helped, usually because chronic ill health erodes any progress. (See 50 Years is Enough, The Case Against the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, pp. 183,4 Global Exchangehttp://www.globalexchange.org/

Nitlapan, Nicaragua

 

In July of 2001 I talked with Dr. Arturo Grigsby, Director of Nitlapan. Nitlapan is a Nahualt indigenous word meaning "I plant". 2000 was a bad year for the Nicaraguan economy. Four out of eleven banks failed. But it was the best year ever for Nitlapan. The economy of the big boys can be quite different from that of small farmers and small businesses. In the 1980's the Jesuit university in Managua did research. What is one of the greatest needs in Nicaragua? It?s micro-credit. Banks are not interested in small farmers and small businesses.

In 1988 Fr. Peter Emilio Marchetti Raph, S.J. started Nitlapan, a multi-disciplinary institute of the Jesuit-run Central America University in Managua, Nicaragua. It's purpose is to promote links between the university professional formation and applied research activities and producers' organizations for the implementation of sustainable economic development programs.

Now the loan fund started by the Jesuit university is separately incorporated and employs 215 people in various parts of Nicaragua. The twenty-three loan branches are in the area in which the micro-credit is made. There are millions of dollars of loans made to thousands of families through the Fund for Local Development. Decisions are made in a democratic participative way.

Arturo Grigsby agreed that democratic regional and international financial institutions would be a vast improvement over the present World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Escape from Pottersville: Strengthening Banking in the Public Interest

Sunday 03 January 2010

by: Ellen Hodgson Brown J.D., t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

Returning our business to community banks is a great start. However, community banks are not suffering from a lack of customers so much as from a lack of the capital they need to make new loans, and investment capital today is scarce. There is a way out of this dilemma, demonstrated for more than 90 years by the innovative state of North Dakota - a partnership in which community banks are backed by the deep pockets of a state-owned bank.

Arianna Huffington just posted an article that has sparked a remarkable wave of interest, evoking over 4,500 comments in a mere three days. Called "Move Your Money," the article maintains that we can get credit flowing again on Main Street by moving our money out of the Wall Street behemoths and into our local community banks. This solution has been suggested before, but Arianna added the very appealing draw of a video clip featuring Jimmy Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life. In the holiday season, we are all hungry for a glimpse of that wonderful movie that used to be a mainstay of Christmas, showing daily throughout the holidays. The copyright holders have suddenly gotten very Scrooge-like and are allowing it to be shown only once a year on NBC. Whatever their motives, Wall Street no doubt approves of this restriction, since the movie continually reminds viewers of the potentially villainous nature of big banking.

Pulling our money out of Wall Street and putting it into our local community banks is an idea with definite popular appeal. Unfortunately, however, this move alone won't be sufficient to strengthen the small banks. Community banks lack capital - money that belongs to the bank - and the deposits of customers don't count as capital. Rather, they represent liabilities of the bank, since the money has to be available for the depositors on demand. Bank capital consists of the funds of investors, the bank's loan portfolio (money that will be paid back with interest) and retained earnings (the difference between assets and liabilities). Lending ability is limited by a bank's assets, not its deposits, and today, investors willing to build up the asset base of small community banks are scarce, due to the banks' increasing propensity to go bankrupt.

It's a Wonderful Life actually illustrates the weakness of local community banking without major capital backup. George Bailey's bank was a savings and loan, which lent out the deposits of its customers. It "borrowed short and lent long," meaning it took in short-term deposits and made long-term mortgage loans with them. When the customers panicked and all came for their deposits at once, the money was not to be had. George's neighbors and family saved the day by raiding their cookie jars, but that miracle cannot be counted on outside Hollywood.

The savings and loan model collapsed completely in the 1980s. Since then, all banks have been allowed to create credit as needed just by writing it as loans on their books, a system called "fractional reserve" lending. Banks can do this up to a certain limit, which used to be capped by a "reserve requirement" of 10 percent. That meant the bank had to have on hand a sum equal to 10 percent of its outstanding loans, either in its vault as cash or in the bank's reserve account at its local Federal Reserve bank. But many exceptions were carved out of the rule, and the banks figured out how to get around it.

That was when the Bank for International Settlements stepped in and imposed "capital requirements." The BIS is the "central bankers' central bank" in Basel, Switzerland. In 1988, its Basel Committee on Banking Supervision published a set of minimal requirements for banks, called Basel I. No longer would "reserves" in the form of other people's deposits be sufficient to cover loan losses. The committee said that loans had to be classified according to risk, and that the banks had to maintain real capital - their own money - equal to 8 percent of these "risk-weighted" assets. Half of this had to be "Tier 1" capital - completely liquid assets in the form of common shares (funds from investors) or retained earnings. The other half could include such things as unencumbered real estate and loans, but they still had to be the bank's own assets, not the depositors'.

For a number of years US banks managed to get around this rule too. They did it by removing loans from their books, bundling them up as "securities," and selling them off to investors. But the "shadow lenders" - the investors buying the bundled loans - eventually realized these securities were far more risky than alleged. They then left the market, and they aren't expected to return any time soon. That means banks are now stuck with their loans, and if the loans go into default, as many are doing, the assets of the banks must be marked down. The banks can then become "zombie banks" (unable to make new loans) or can go bankrupt and have to close their doors.

The final blow to the easy credit provided by US banks came with another stricture on capital, called Basel II. It manifested in the US as the "mark-to-market" rule, which required a bank's loan portfolio to be valued at what it could be sold for (the "market"), not its original book value. In today's unfavorable market, that meant a huge drop in asset value for the banks, dramatically reducing their ability to generate new loans. When the announcement was made in November 2007 that this rule was going to be imposed on US banks, credit dried up and the stock market plunged. The market did not begin to recover until 2009, when the rule was largely lifted. However, on December 17, 2009, the Basel Committee announced plans to impose even tighter capital requirements. The foreseeable result is the collapse of yet more community banks and the drying up of yet more credit on Main Street.

Anchoring Community Banks to State-owned Banks

Where can our floundering community banks get the capital to clean up their books so they can make more loans? An answer is provided by the innovative state of North Dakota. North Dakota is one of only two states (along with Montana) expected to meet its budget in 2010, and it was the only state to actually gain jobs in 2009 while other states were losing them. Since 2000, North Dakota's GNP has grown 56 percent, personal income has grown 43 percent and wages have grown 34 percent. The state not only has no funding problems, but in 2009 it had a budget surplus of $1.3 billion, the largest it ever had - not bad for a state of only 700,000 people.

North Dakota is the only state in the union to own its own bank.The Bank of North Dakota (BND) was established by the state legislature in 1919 specifically to free farmers and small businessmen from the clutches of out-of-state bankers and railroad men. The bank's stated mission is to deliver sound financial services that promote agriculture, commerce and industry in North Dakota.

The BND avoids rivalry with private banks by partnering with them. Most lending is originated by a local bank. The BND then comes in to participate in the loan, share risk, buy down the interest rate and buy up loans, thereby freeing up banks to lend more. One of the BND's functions is to provide a secondary market for real estate loans, which it buys from local banks. Its residential loan portfolio is now $500 billion to $600 billion. This function has helped the state avoid the credit crisis that afflicted Wall Street when the secondary market for loans collapsed in late 2007 and helped it reduce its foreclosure rate. The secondary market provided by the "shadow lenders" is provided in North Dakota by the BND, something other state banks could do for their community banks as well.

Other services the bank provides include guarantees for entrepreneurial startups and student loans, the purchase of municipal bonds from public institutions and a well-funded disaster loan program. When North Dakota failed to meet its state budget a few years ago, the BND met the shortfall. The BND has an account with the Federal Reserve Bank, but its deposits are not insured by the FDIC. Rather, they are guaranteed by the State of North Dakota itself - a prudent move today, when the FDIC is verging on bankruptcy.

A New Vision for a New Decade

A state-owned bank has enormous advantages over smaller private institutions: states own huge amounts of capital (cash, investments, buildings, land, parks and other infrastructure), and they can think farther ahead than their quarterly profit statements, allowing them to take long-term risks. Their asset bases are not marred by oversized salaries and bonuses; they have no shareholders expecting a sizable cut; and they have not marred their books with bad derivatives bets, unmarketable collateralized debt obligations and mark-to-market accounting problems.

The BND is set up as a dba: "the state of North Dakota doing business as the Bank of North Dakota." Technically, that makes the capital of the state the capital of the bank. The BND's return on equity is about 25 percent. It pays a hefty dividend to the state, projected at over $60 million in 2009. In the last decade, the BND has turned back a third of a billion dollars to the state's general fund, offsetting taxes.

By law, the state and all its agencies must deposit their funds in the bank, which pays a competitive interest rate to the state treasurer. The bank also accepts funds from other depositors. These copious deposits can then serve as the reserves for plowing money back into the state in the form of loans.

The BND's populist organizers originally conceived of the bank as a credit union-like institution that would provide an alternative to predatory lenders, but conservative interests later took control and suppressed these commercial lending functions. The BND now chiefly acts as a central bank, with functions similar to those of a branch of the Federal Reserve. Although the BND operates mainly as a "bankers' bank," the public bank model offers exciting possibilities for direct low-cost commercial lending, refinancing the state's own debts and funding infrastructure nearly interest-free, reinvigorating the housing market and more. For a fuller discussion, see "Cut Wall Street Out! How States Can Finance Their Own Recovery."

For three centuries, the United States has thrived on what Benjamin Franklin called "ready money" and today we call "ready credit." We can have that abundance again by generating our own credit through our own state and local banks. Just as George Bailey needed a visit from an angel to point the way, we need the vision to see the possibilities.

Arianna's vision for moving our money from the large banks into our local community banks is a very admirable first step. However, those community banks are not likely to have sufficient capital to free up credit for their local businesses and other customers without the partnership of state-owned banks, or the publicly owned banks of counties and larger cities, which also have ample capital assets. A number of states, counties and cities are actively exploring this option. The BND model shows us how government-owned banks and community banks can work together to get money flowing back to Main Street again.

Ellen Hodgson Brown J.D. developed her research skills as an attorney practicing civil litigation in Los Angeles. In "Web of Debt," her latest book, she turns those skills to an analysis of the Federal Reserve and "the money trust." She shows how this private cartel has usurped the power to create money from the people themselves, and how we the people can get it back. Her earlier books focused on the pharmaceutical cartel that gets its power from "the money trust." Her eleven books include "Forbidden Medicine, Nature's Pharmacy" (co-authored with Dr. Lynne Walker) and "The Key to Ultimate Health" (co-authored with Dr. Richard Hansen). Her web sites are www.webofdebt.com and www.ellenbrown.com.

Corporate Responsibility

Today many business leaders recognize that a commitment to corporate social responsibility can provide a distinct advantage in attracting and retaining employees, dealing with suppliers and regulators, strengthening customer relationships and providing positive returns for investors.

Many corporations have departments dedicated to social responsibility. Procter @ Gamble for example has a
Corporate Sustainable Development Division. (http://www.pg.com/sr)

Corporations have been chartered by individual states for a specific purpose to serve the community.

As citizens we have the responsibility to monitor legislation that regulates corporations to produce safe products in a way that does not harm the environment and treats its employees fairly.

As stockholders we need to vote our proxies reflectively, file or co-file stockholder resolutions, review the performance of the financial institutions in which we hold stock or with which we do business to determine their record of lending.

We also need to invest our monies in corporations that do not violate our moral principles. We must search for alternative investments, especially those focused on housing, community and economic development.
(See the Jesuit Conference web-site http://www.jesuit.org/ under Social Ministries, section Invest for change)
For universities involved in responsible investments and vendor-related issues see Earlham College
http://www.earlham.edu/policies/vendor.html

Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility

One group working for thirty years for economic democracy is the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility whose motto is "Inspired by faith, committed to action." Through letters, dialogue, and stockholder resolutions, the ICCR makes corporations more accountable to workers, consumers, and the environment. ICCR is a North American association of nearly 275 Protestant, Roman Catholic and Jewish institutional investors, including denominations, religious communities, pension funds, foundations, dioceses and health care corporations. These investors believe that to be responsible stewards they must work to achieve much more than an acceptable financial return on their investments. They utilize religious investments and other resources to change unjust or harmful corporate policies and practices, challenging the powerful role corporations play in the use or misuse of the Earth's human and physical resources. ICCR members also make alternative investments to promote economic justice and development in low income and minority communities. For more information contact ICCR.org Room 550, 475 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10115.
To see information on shareholder resolutions see http://www.socialfunds.com/ under "activism" or http://www.iccr.org

A helpful website on corporate responsibility is Region VI Coalition http://www.region6cri.org/
Students work for social justice through Students Transforming And Resisting Corporations http://www.starcalliance.org/
An evaluation of corporations are had on Coop America http://coopamerica.com/

Christian Brothers Investment Services, Inc. is both an investment adviser and a ministry. http://www.cbisonline.com/sri/index.asp

Mutual Funds

"Socially responsible investing has continued to muscle its way past skeptics and critics who have argued that investing with a conscience doesn't pay. . .socially responsible funds have consistently outperformed the Standard @ Poor's 500.
Assets under management in socially responsible portfolios have exceeded $2 trillion, linking almost one out of every eight dollars under management in the US with screened portfolios, shareholder advocacy and community investing."
(The Corporate Examiner, Vol. 28, No. 1-2, November 16, 1999)
Examples of companies dedicated to socially responsible investing are Aquinas Fundshttp:www.aquinasfunds.com
Calvert Group http://www.calvertgroup.com Domini Social Investments http://www.domini.com
Walden Asset Management http://www.waldenassetmgmt.com

Catholic Teaching

In Economic Justice for All, Pastoral Letter of the US Catholic Bishops on Catholic Social Teaching and the US Economy (No.'s 110-118) the US bishops say "Resources created by human industry are held in trust. They have benefited from the work of many others and from the local communities that support their endeavors. They are accountable to these workers and communities when making decisions. . . Business people, managers, investors, and financiers follow a vital Christian vocation when they act responsibly and seek the common good."

Ibid. No. 306) "Most shareholders today exercise relatively little power in corporate governance. Although shareholders can and should vote on the selection of corporate directors and on investment questions and other policy matters, it appears that return on investment is the governing criterion in the relation between them and management. We do not believe this is an adequate rationale for shareholder decisions."

(Ibid. No 354) "Individual Christians who are shareholders and those responsible within church institutions that own stocks in US corporations must see to it that the invested funds are used responsibly. Although it is a moral and legal fiduciary responsibility of the trustees to ensure an adequate return on investment for the support of the work of the Church, their stewardship embraces broader moral concerns. As part-owners, they must cooperate in shaping the policies of those companies through dialogue with management, through votes at corporate meetings, through the introduction of resolutions, and through participation in investment decisions. We praise the efforts of dioceses and other religious and ecumenical bodies that work together toward these goals. We also praise efforts to develop alternative investment policies, especially those which support enterprises that promote economic development in depressed communites and which help the Church respond to local and regional needs. When the decision to divest seems unavoidable, it should be done after prudent examination and with a clear explanation of the motives."

 

 

Alliance for Democracy

Another group working for economic democracy is the Alliance for Democracy begun in 1995 by Ronnie Dugger, journalist and writer. The Alliance for Democracy is concerned that giant corporations will break free of community and democratic control, pursue wealth without limits, and ignore responsibility to the national and international common good. The Alliance for Democracy is concerned that we are now dominated by a corporate oligarchy which through a corporate owned media even sets the limits of public discussion. In 1980 the average US CEO was paid as much as forty-two factory workers. In 1999 the average CEO was paid as much as 475 workers. After World War II, corporate taxes accounted for 28 percent of federal revenue. By 1993 their share had fallen to 9.3 percent, while the tax burden on individuals increased from 43 to 73 percent. Of the world's 100 largest economic entities, 66 are corporations and 34 are countries. Hard and soft money contributions in the 2000 federal election cycle total more than $2.5 billion. The World Trade Organization and NAFTA have granted corporations veto power over national environmental and labor laws. Through the WTO, transnational corporations have successfully sued national governments and overturned regulatory laws, winning millions of dollars in damages since 1997.

The Alliance for Democracy, snail mail 681 Main Street, Waltham, MA 02451) says one-third of large corporations paid no income tax each year from 1989-95; nearly two-thirds of large corporations paid less than a million dollars in income tax in 1995. Only 10% of households received the benefits of last year's stock market gains. 60% of Americans do not own any stock. Almost half of the jobs created last year pay less than $16,000 which Jobs With Justice say is less than half of a living wage. After World War II, corporate taxes accounted for 28 percent of federal revenue. By 1993 their share had fallen to 9.3 percent, while the tax burden on
individuals increased from 43 to 73 percent.

The Alliance for Democracy (http://www.thealliancefordemocracy.org/) is thus a new populist movement whose mission is to free all people from corporate domination of politics, the "economy", the environment, culture and information; to establish true democracy; and to create a just society with a sustainable, equitable economy.

Although corporations are obviously not persons, the Santa Clara Supreme Court decision of 1886 has conferred all the constitutional rights of persons on corporations while at the same time exempting corporations from many of the responsibilities and liabilities of individual citizens. Critics like the Alliance for Democracy say this pits the individual citizen against the vast financial and communication resources of the corporation and allows corporations to dominate public thought and discourse.

Corporations

Many corporations have departments dedicated to social responsibility. Procter @ Gamble for example has a
Corporate Sustainable Development Division. (http://www.pg.com/sr)

See also Sodexho http://www.sodexhousa.com/

In October 2005 Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott announced a long-range plan to use 100 percent renewable energy. In 2004 Wal-Mart established a 'global ethics office' to enforce ten principles, including to "never manipulate, mis-represent, abuse, or conceal information' and "never act unethically--even if someone else instructs you to do so." Employees have access to a confidential hotline to report abuses. See Utne May-June '06 Joseph Hart, "The New Capitalist$" p. 39.

Fair-trade Coffee

In 2003 coffee pickers earn less than half of the legal minimum wage of $2.48 a day. The World Food Program estimates 150,000 refugees have been created in Mexico and Central America as a result of a dramatic decrease in the price of coffee. The Sisters of Charity have filed a shareholder resolution with Procter & Gamble requesting them to consider purchasing coffee at least 5% that is Fair Trade Certified. Consumers are asked to contact Nestle, Kraft, Procter & Gamble, and Sara Lee and ask them to pay a fair price for their coffee. For more information and a direct link to e-mail the coffee companies, visit http://www.maketradefair.com//

Dividends of Faith-based Investing

Individuals and families can join institutions in faith-based investing. See U.S. Catholic, January 2003, file:///W:/peace

Vision of Better Ways

It doesn't take a great deal of research, analysis, experience, reading of the signs of the times to conclude that as a human family we need to start thinking outside the box. We need new thoughts and ideas, a new vision.

To read about the excessive power of corporations I suggest Dr. David C. Korten, When Corporations Rule the World; (up-dated expanded 2001 edition.) and The Post Corporate World, Life after Capitalism. David Korten contrasts present capitalism controlled by an elite few with the market theory of Adam Smith Wealth of Nations, 1776. "Buyers and sellers must be too small to influence the market price. Complete information must be available to all participants and there can be no trade secrets. Sellers must bear the full cost of the products they sell and pass them on in the sale price. Investment capital must remain within national borders and trade between countries must be balanced. Savings must be invested in the creation of productive capital." (pp. 38, 39 The Post Corporate World) Today corporations externalize environmental, labor, and health costs to the public. They receive more in subsidies than they pay in taxes. The corporation today is a naked emperor, and we all indulge in self-deception rather than face reality. Despite all our dogmatic assertions about the absolute necessity of a free market, our economic system today has little or nothing in common with the free market philosophy of Adam Smith.
(See Living Economy http://www.pcdf.org People-Centered Development Forum)
(Also Yes Magazine http://www.yesmagazine.org)

Presently the free market does not respond to needs but money. If fewer and fewer people own more and more land, control credit, water, and marketing channels, the market responds to the tastes of those who can pay, the privileged minority. Basic food, housing, health care for all give way to luxury items for the wealthy. The market simply mirrors inequalities in wealth and income. In a just society, the market is a useful tool for distribution, not some absolute god!

Winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in economics, Professor Amartya Sen, in Development as Freedom pp. 270 ff, says that Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, has been quoted incredibly often quite out of context as a single-minded prophet of self-interest. It is true that we do not need benevolence to motivate us for a mutually beneficial exchange. "In dealing with other problems--those of distribution and equity and of rule following for generating productive efficiency--Smith emphasized broader motivations. 'Humanity, generosity, and public spirit, are qualities most useful.' Some men are born small and some achieve smallness. Adam Smith has had much smallness thrust upon him."

Watch the TV documentary Free Speech for Sale narrated by Bill Moyers. Those with money can shout. Those without money must content themselves with a whisper and hope someone will hear.

In Paths to Utopia, the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber said that since working for the common good cannot be forced, all must daily collaborate in supporting a radically decentralized socialism. Buber says the middle ages had a community of communities. Only a community of communities merits the title of commonwealth. Buber felt socialists should make spirit real and bring humankind together as in the year of the jubilee in the Hebrew Covenant. True religion persists in communes. He wanted labor to unite under a labor principle, not a capital principle. Buber wanted a union of agriculture, industry and handicraft, a federation of cooperatives, a full cooperative. The idea of community is inclusive. It includes the family, schools, workers, municipal government. A full cooperative would include consumer and worker cooperatives operating together in the same locality in such a manner as to alter the local culture. He urged the importance of rural agricultural kibbutz cooperatives in Israel. We need to sustain the experience that "We're all in this together."

Who owns the means of production? Should it be a highly centralized state? Buber thought not. Instead he wanted social units of urban and rural workers, living and producing on a communal basis.

Martin Buber went to Israel, but he wanted to live with the Palestinians as equals in a bi-national state. When he died, Palestinian leaders put a wreath on his grave.

In Communitas, Paul and Percival Goodman wanted to provide subsistence for everyone and let the rest of the economy fluctuate at will. They estimated that less than 10% of the economy is for subsistence. If we take subsistence out of the economy, a person's right to life is not subject to trade. Subsistence is not something to profit by, to invest in, to buy or sell. Everyone labors for subsistence, and everyone has title to subsistence.

Jacques Maritain has a similar solution. Half of a person's work would be devoted to securing basic necessities; half to whatever they wished.

Stuart M. Speiser is mentioned in a footnote to No. 300 of the US bishops pastoral Economic Justice For All. Speiser's plan for universal share ownership to me shows that redistributing ownership might not be as impossible or unfair as some might think. Once as a society we recognize as Plato, St. Thomas More, and many others have, that poverty and wealth is unfair and contrary to the biblical image of a common banquet for all, we can devise a plan that would not destroy the benefits of free enterprise.

North Dakota has a 75 year-old state bank and Wisconsin a state-owned insurance company that earns money for the public treasury. Connecticut has establish a program that provides start-up capital and grants to promising small businesses developing new products; the state receives royalty income in return. Minnesota and Wisconsin also supply venture capital to private investors.

Ebenezer Howard, Britain's turn-of-the-century father of modern city planning proposed that cities hold land "in trust for the whole community, so that the entire increment of value gradually created becomes the property of the municipality." The community would obtain its returns by renting property at rates appropriate to the value of the site and its supporting infrastructure. Citizens would decide who to lease land to and on what terms. Local communal ownership of land would supply abundant resources for generous public services, directly responsible to the citizens.

One way to acknowledge the community's contribution to advances in technology might be public ownership of patents and copyrights after an individual's or company's control has expired.

Harvard law professor Roberto Mangabeira Unger proposes that the government establish a rotation capital fund to democratize the use of society's wealth. Capital takers--entrepreneurs and other business investors--would pay a substantial interest charge and thus establish a large flow of income back to the public, to be distributed to individuals or invested in public needs. No one would have a permanent right to the use of capital. It would be on loan from the community. (See Technology Review "Distributing Our Technological Inheritance, Gar Alperovitz)

There are now nearly 10,000 worker-owned firms operating in the US. Community Supported Agriculture provides a structural link between small-scale, organic food producers and consumers. (See Tikkun, Vol. 11, No. 3, 13-17,
Gar Alperovtiz, "The Reconstruction of Community Meaning, the Insight of Martin Buber and the Emerging American Crisis")

If the local community owned the means of production, it would not pollute itself. There are a myriad of community development corporations, hundreds of democratically controlled worker-owned firms and thousands of co-ops which help us toward economic democracy. If America's gross national product were divided equally, it would provide each family of four with at least $100,000.

If we had economic and political democracy, we could achieve economic and community security. Right now one man, the President of the US, could decide to destroy the world.

Encouraging is the new academic Democracy Collaborative http://www.democracycollaborative.org/


The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published a survey by Jeffrey C. Isaac covering important new books on democracy and community building. His report features ?Making a Place for Community? by Gar Alperovitz.

The State of Civil Society
Jeffery C. Isaac
Published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 11, 2003

In recent years, an eclectic group of American scholars, policy analysts, journalists, and activists from across the political spectrum has turned toward "civil society" as the answer to today's social problems. Refusing to cede political power to market forces, most advocates of civil society argue that serious social problems -- economic dislocation, social instability, environmental degradation, political alienation -- continue to plague American society, and that meaningful forms of collective response to such problems are both necessary and possible. Such responses, they maintain, are best encouraged in the voluntary, private domain between government and economic institutions and outside the arenas of conventional politics and public-policy formation. Some civil-society advocates, with roots in conservative and neoconservative critiques of the welfare state and its "therapeutic" culture, focus on promoting such supposedly "moral" institutions as the nuclear family, religious congregations, and "faith-based initiatives." Others, closer to the left, are concerned primarily with the injustices of capitalist markets and focus on a broader range of voluntary associations, including nonprofit organizations, community-development corporations, trade unions, and social movements.

Two new books highlight some of the innovative civil-society solutions being applied to a complex range of social ills, and emphasize the importance of political economy in crafting such measures. But the books' tonal clash with post-9/11 political rhetoric also suggests how wide a gap has developed between grass-roots idealism and the sweeping concerns of a state and a society obsessed with "homeland security."

As their proponents argue, civil-society programs have much to recommend them:

They work on the principle of "subsidiarity," typically proposing to solve problems at the simplest level possible (e.g., community-based development of affordable housing). That local orientation appeals to all those, right and left, who are wary of the centralized, bureaucratic state and who seek to promote greater civic engagement through citizen participation.

They seek to promote individual and civic responsibility, requiring citizens to work together to achieve common goods. In that regard, civil-society initiatives can be seen as allowing citizens to exert their rightful political power rather than becoming clients of, or dependent on, the state. Moreover, the initiatives typically encourage citizens to exert that power through deliberation rather than zero-sum strategic bargaining, and through community-oriented rather than predatory practices that would unduly benefit particular interests.

Relying on self-organization and volunteerism, civil-society projects don't necessarily require large amounts of money from government or other sources. Thus they appear to combine, at least ideally, the virtues of entrepreneurial effort, efficiency, voluntarism, and civic-mindedness. For that reason they are often presented as being practical and effective in a way that welfare-state regulations and allocations are not. Further, they are often seen as sources of "social capital" that build confidence in social and political institutions. As Benjamin R. Barber sums up this general understanding of civil society in his book A Place for Us: How to Make Society Civil and Democracy Strong (Hill and Wang, 1998), it "posits a third domain of civic engagement which is neither governmental nor strictly private yet shares the virtues of both. It offers a space for public work, civic business, and other common activities that are focused neither on profit nor on a welfare bureaucracy's client services. It is also a communicative domain of civility, where political discourse is grounded in mutual respect and the search for common understanding even as it expresses differences and identity conflicts. It extols voluntarism but insists that voluntarism is the first step to citizenship, not just an exercise in private character building, philanthropy, or noblesse oblige."

The emergent public discourse on civil society has been accompanied by a proliferation of practical experiments shaped by an extensive and increasingly dense network of philanthropic foundations, academic institutions, and other organizations. Those include the Kettering Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Bradley Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the National Civic League, the Hubert Humphrey Center at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, and the Walt Whitman Center at the Douglass Campus of Rutgers University.

In their book Civic Innovation in America: Community Empowerment, Public Policy, and the Movement for Civic Renewal (University of California Press, 2001), Carmen Sirianni, a sociology professor at Brandeis University, and Lewis Friedland, a journalism professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, call such initiatives a genuine "movement for civic renewal ... with common language, shared practices, and networked relationships across a variety of arenas." Sirianni and Friedland catalog a range of recent efforts in four domains -- community development, environmentalism, health policy, and public journalism. Their chapter on civic environmentalism discusses new forms of deliberation and negotiation over hazardous-waste disposal and appropriate risk that include business, local government, environmental activists, and civic associations; public-information campaigns about toxic substances, such as the Right-to-Know Network and Citizen's Clearinghouse on Toxic Waste; civic monitoring of pollution and waste disposal; local green-space ordinances; community land trusts; and environmental stewardship and good-neighbor agreements. Those arrangements are partly a response to the declining federal ability and inclination to impose environmental solutions. But they've also come about because many environmental activists have learned that there are no cost-free ways to make environmental decisions, and that bureaucratic regulation is often inferior to consensus-building and civic responsibility.

In their chapter on community organizing and development, the authors describe a range of experimental efforts to deal with urban problems:

Local nonprofit social-service agencies that offer child care, support for the victims of domestic abuse, temporary shelter, and job training.

Community-development corporations that seek to leverage public, private, and philanthropic funds to revitalize neighborhoods through the construction of low-cost housing, the establishment of neighborhood-based health clinics and cooperatives, and the promotion of neighborhood-based retail outlets, banks, shopping centers, and other businesses.

Community-development financial institutions that bridge major financial institutions and inner-city communities to counter the effects of redlining (illegally denying loans in certain areas of a community).

Community organizations facilitated by the Industrial Areas Foundation, such as East Brooklyn Congregations, which pioneered the Nehemiah Project to build low-cost housing, and Communities Organized for Public Service, which supports a range of redevelopment efforts in San Antonio. (On the latter, see Mark R. Warren's superb study Dry Bones Rattling: Community Building to Revitalize American Democracy [Princeton University Press, 2001].)

Innovative, locally oriented "third sector" programs outside government and corporate agencies that build human and social capital, such as YouthBuild USA and the National Community Development Initiative. Sirianni and Friedland's encyclopedic account makes clear that, as Harry Boyte and Nancy Kari, of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, put it in Building America: The Democratic Promise of Public Work (Temple University Press, 1996): "For all our problems and fears as a nation, civic energy abounds. Americans are not uncaring or apathetic about public affairs. In fact, a rich array of civic work in many diverse settings is evident across the country."

Thad Williamson, David Imbroscio, and Gar Alperovitz's book, Making a Place for Community: Local Democracy in a Global Era (Routledge, 2002) is an excellent complement to Civic Innovation in America, and to the literature of "civic renewal" generally. While much of this literature has focused on political and sociological themes, Making a Place for Community emphasizes economics. The authors show that social dislocation and civic atrophy are generated and reinforced by the tendencies toward free trade and financial globalization, capital mobility, and urban sprawl that are integral to contemporary global capitalism. While they discuss the economic criticisms that have been leveled against those phenomena, the principal focus of the book is on their political consequences in undermining the neighborhoods and place-based social networks that are necessary to the flourishing of democracy. Further, they make it clear that those tendencies are not simply market-driven; they are in part the products of governmental tax policies, trade policies, and other forms of public subsidization.

The authors' point: The political economy must be addressed and reformed if efforts to promote "civil society" and "civic renewal" are to succeed. "The issue is not whether the federal government will continue to have a role in the economy and in shaping markets. Rather, the issue is whether such intervention will continue to take place in a scattershot, inconsistent manner largely driven by special interests, or whether the federal role in the economy might instead serve a coherent objective ... the reconstruction of community -- and local democracy -- in America in the new century."

The strongest part of the book is its discussion of how such a reconstruction might be accomplished. It outlines a range of federal policies that are already in place, and whose expansion could foster civil society and democracy. Programs worthy of expansion, the authors say, include:

Trade Adjustment Assistance and the Job Training and Workforce Investment Act, both designed to aid workers whose jobs are displaced by new imports.

Community Development Block Grants, urban Empowerment Zones, and Enterprise Communities administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development; the HUBZone Program, which promotes federal contracts administered by the Small Business Administration in high-unemployment areas; and the job-generating Economic Development Administration.

Regional development projects, such as the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Mississippi Delta Regional Authority. Efforts to convert obsolete military bases to commercial, residential, or environmental-conservation projects.

Rural-development programs administered by the Department of Agriculture.

And the Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields Initiative to clean up polluted properties and put them to new uses. Also discussed are state and local ownership of utilities and other public resources; community-development corporations, community-development financial institutions, and community land trusts; local efforts to support small-business development and "import substitution" strategies to promote local buying and selling; experiments in metropolitan tax-base sharing of the sort pioneered by Sen. Myron Orfield in the Twin Cities region; state and municipal "claw back" mechanisms designed to make the recipients of tax advantages accountable to their communities; employee stock-ownership plans; and economically targeted investments in public programs by public-employee pension funds. In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Americans have been called to sacrifice in the name of freedom. While in my view the threat posed by Al Qaeda-linked terrorism is very real, requiring an equally real political and military response, the current invocations of freedom ring hollow. While attention has been fixed on the question of "homeland security," broader questions of social and economic vulnerability and risk have been substantially ignored by political leaders, policy makers, and the news media. Books such as Civic Innovation in America and Making a Place for Community are all the more welcome, for they take seriously the project of civic engagement and civic renewal, and offer a vision of a more robustly democratic society that is also safer and more civil.

At the same time, I'm struck by the discrepancy between the hopefulness articulated by Sirianni and Friedland, and by Williamson, Imbroscio, and Alperovitz, and the cynicism of the broader public culture. Even before 9/11, the voices of progressive liberalism had been muted and marginalized by enthusiasm for "third wave" technologies, the "opportunity society," and a "third way" that had largely abandoned any serious commitment to an ambitious and remedial public-policy agenda. The core constituencies of organized liberalism have long experienced deterioration, division, and demoralization. That political weakening is traceable to the racial, Vietnam, and fiscal crises of the 1960s and '70s. It was shown in the ascendancy of Reaganism, in the "Gingrich Revolution" of 1994, in the repudiation of liberalism by Clinton's "progressive" agenda; and in the victory of George W. Bush in 2000. The fact that Bush lacked an electoral majority and came to the presidency as a result of a questionable Supreme Court ruling only underscored the weakness of a liberal alternative that could mobilize a decisive majority or offer the political confidence to press the constitutional questions at stake in the electoral deadlock. The rightward shift of public discourse in 9/11's wake has simply exacerbated the trend.

In such a context, even so pragmatically grounded a project as "civic renewal" or "the revival of civil society" has a utopian ring. The tone of Making a Place for Community is resolutely hypothetical: "If local and state-level initiatives can ultimately be married to higher-order activism and policy making on the federal and international levels, we believe there is a real not chimerical chance of making serious headway in reconstructing community in America over the coming decade"; "We have little doubt that if this fundamental goal were to gain wide acceptance, creative minds, committed activists, and courageous policy makers would find countless ways to further the goal"; "the developmental work of the past three decades has generated enough experience ... that a new framework of explicit policy support could permit a major advance in the coming period" (emphasis added). The authors lay out a modestly visionary program, estimating that for $75-billion -- less than 4 percent of projected federal spending for the 2003 fiscal year -- existing programs could be bolstered, without any substantial new legislation, in a way that would "dramatically expand support for community economic stability." But the likelihood of even that relatively small shift in public discourse, much less of the government making such commitments, must be judged minuscule in the current political climate.

Williamson, Imbroscio, and Alperovitz quote the University of California at Santa Barbara historian Alice O'Connor: "Having encouraged the trends that impoverish communities in the first place, the federal government steps in with modest and inadequate interventions to deal with the consequences ... and then wonders why community development so often fails." O'Connor describes such policy efforts as "swimming against the tide." If anything, current tides are even more powerful than the 1990s tides of which O'Connor wrote. That's no reason to stop swimming and embrace the prospect of drowning. On the contrary. It is more important than ever that writers and activists think creatively about the best ways of leveraging limited financial and political resources to achieve a modicum of civic empowerment and social justice. Books such as Civic Innovation in America and Making a Place for Community are important contributions to such thinking. The ideas and projects they describe are not likely to remake our political landscape, yet they can serve as sources of political inspiration and instruction. They demonstrate that even at a time of liberal decline the wells of pragmatic reform have not run dry, and that conscientious and committed citizens and activists can make a difference, even if in small ways, in working to make the United States a more democratic place to live.

Jeffrey C. Isaac is a professor of political science and the director of the Center for the Study of Democracy at Indiana University at Bloomington. He writes regularly for Dissent magazine and is the author of the newly released The Poverty of Progressivism: The Future of American Democracy in a Time of Liberal Decline (Rowman & Littlefield).

Thad Williamson, David Improscio, and Gar Alperovitz Making a Place for Community, Local Democracy in a Global Era Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, New York and London, 2003.

(Below are my own notes.)

Forward by Benjamin Barber x We need to build bridges across theoretical academic boundaries. Neo liberals abstract economics from politics, sociology, theology, history, and real communities. xi Our present so-called free market system de-stabilizes local communities which are the basis of democracy.

Preface xiv local economic stability for communities needs to be our guiding principle for economic and social policy if we want real democracy. xv the so-called free market is not omniscent nor governed by forces of nature nor by any immutable laws. The free market is made up of us sinners and our human decisions. Xvi The triple threat to local community economic stability is globalization, job and capital shifts, and urban sprawl. We need to anchor business in the local community.

Introduction p. 3 Lack of local community stability leads to psychic illnesses, anxiety, worry, tension, deterioration of interpersonal relationships. p. 4 We lose social capital when civic life is weakened. P. 5 The ability of corporations to leave local communities limits democratic choices of the people. P. 13 A public balance sheet includes costs to local community of a firm?s relocation. A corporation?s balance sheet does not include poor labor relations, harm to environment, cost to corporations for infrastructure, schools, transportation, health, police and fire protection.

Chapter One. Globalization and Free Trade. P. 30 Is absolute free trade a greater value than adequate democracy for the local community? P. 32 ?Comparative advantage? doesn?t work when capital is mobile (p. 50) In practice ?comparative advantage? has less to do with greater efficiency and productivity and more to do with tax breaks, various other subsidies, inadequate wages, fewer environmental safeguards, etc. p. 33 In fact, no industrial nation has succeeded without some form of protectionism against imports. P. 34 Trade arrangements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement has been a net destroyer of domestic jobs. P. 38 The threat to move to another nation undercuts the ability of workers to organize into unions. P. 38 world trade has led to a decrease in wages and great instability. Import purchases can limit effect of national economic policies such as Keynesian demand stimulus. Keynesian demand-led expansions and the accompanying multiplier effect of domestic spending do not work as well if dollars are leaked out of the domestic economy. P. 40 Governments find it difficult to tax corporations who can move elsewhere so they tax labor.

Pp 42, 43 Imports could be produced with fewer safety and ecological protections, longer work weeks, child and prison labor. Some of the most successful exporters regularly employ political repression. 13 nations with export growth rates of 7.7 percent of higher between 1990 and 1995 ?engaged in at least three of the following human rights abuses: extrajudicial killings, torture, restrictions on freedom of speech and religion, government tampering with the judicial system, excessive use of police force, arbitrary arrests, and ?significant child labor.? These nations include Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Mexico, China, El Salvador, Bangladesh, Peru, Chile, Turkey, Tunisia, and Pakistan (which engaged in all seven of the abuses). PP. 43-47 International trade and investment agreements can make community-supporting policies illegal. The World Trade Organization can take away the ability of States and Nations to make their own decision. Whatever WTO or its replacement decides should be a democratic decision. P. 50 Decreased labor and environmental standards and erosion of democracy help no one in the long run.

Chapter 2, The Chase for Jobs. P. 54 If increased income comes from lower taxies, fewer environmental restrictions, or lower wages, there is no overall gain in productivity. P. 55 When a corporation moves to another city or nation, the cost of empty buildings, layed off workers, eroded tax bases, weakened school systems, increased welfare costs, etc. need to be part of a public balance sheet (see also Introduction p. 13).Large scale relocation of corporations are not rational socially or economically if we factor in the total situation. Business relocation benefits those who make the decision. The cost is borne by those who are excluded from the decision. We need to make such decisions more democratic in which all stakeholders are represented in the decision. P. 56 In fact, the Federal government has subsidized the redistribution of wealth from the North and Mid-West to the South, the West and overseas. The economic wars between the States and cities is costly and inefficient. P. 58 There are multiple subsidies given to corporations to keep them in a particular state or city. The South adds the ?advantage? of anti-labor laws and fewer environmental requirements. No relocation or expansion takes place without significant help from the government. P 59. Giving away the store to corporations is a lose-lose game. All localities together should stop warring with one another in a race to the bottom. P. 60 More jobs would be created if the money is spent on education, job training, the nurturing of local enterprise. P. 62 Lawmakers need a secure economic base, locally rooted capital. Otherwise the temptation, even the compulsion, to give subsidies to corporations will be overwhelming. States, cities, and nations can?t make themselves secure by making other states, cities, and nations less secure. P 64 At the very least corporations should be asked to pay back subsidies if they don?t meet job creation goals

Chapter 3 The Challenge of Urban Sprawl P. 78 In other nations federal funds pay for local community expenditures. Why not urban sprawl? P. 80 Low-density development decreases inter-action and civic life. P. 81 Environmental concerns: uses prime farmland; use of fossil fuels increases global warming, global climatic changes; destroys forest, air pollution, traffic congestions. Suburban residents spend three full weeks of work driving extra hours. P. 82 Water run off harms rivers, causes soil erosion, pollution, damages underground water levels, etc. p. 83 infrastructure, roads, water lines, sewers, schools, hospitals, police are all more costly to low-density areas. P. 89 Chains like Wall-mart have destroyed local businesses.

Part II. The triple threat to local community democracy is globalization, suburban sprawl, and capital mobility. Chapter 4 Federal Job-Stabilizing Policies P. 103 Why not make community stability a major policy priority? P. 105 Federal government does determine economic development (and underdevelopment) Question is when will we have a rational policy which will rebuild community and local democracy? p. 132 We give vast tax breaks to private corporations which could be used for local community development and democracy. p. 139 Business incentives need accountability provisions. P. 141 Voluntary anti-corporate welfare pacts between states and nations could be strengthened by federal legislation. PP 142-3. ACORN Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now promotes living wage ordinances in cities. No living wage, no city subsidies. Same should hold for federal subsidies. Pp. 143-4. There should be linkage of economic development to whether local issues are addressed. Pp. 144-5. There should be metropolitan tax-base sharing. P. 146. We need local government ownership of business: utilities, transportation, communications media. P. 127. We have local community ownership of banking, insurance, etc communications, telephone, cable TV; venture capitalism; investment in corporations; real estate (the more money the developer makes, the higher the rent) professional sports, minor league teams; golf courses p. 162 1400 US cities have composting systems; sewage treatment plants; methane recover; railroads. Communities can go into business for themselves. p. 166 We need to strengthen local multipliers. ?Income that is spent and re-spent locally circulates and re-circulates through the community, bringing additional wealth and employment with each transaction.? We need to plug the leaks in the local economy. P. 167 We need to produce local substitutes for imports. Import substitution can increase community economic stability and positively impact local democracy. p. 168 We need to buy local. State and city contracts should be given to local business, giving at least a 5% preference. P. 171 We need to produce locally, do research on local needs and then promote local produces. There are many methane recovery systems. P. 174.We need local food production. P. 175 We should target incentives to local producers. Let?s stop predatory pricing by enforcement of anti-trust laws; let?s have local land use and zoning policy. Let?s restrict the size of chain stores and tax outside chains more. P. 176 Let?s promote purchasing cooperatives like Independent Grocers Alliance. P. 177 We can use local currency. P. 179 Let?s use public pension funds for economically targeted investments (ETIS) (Couldn?t universities do this?) ETIs could support community-rooted economic development.

Chapter 8. Supporting Employee Ownership in America. p. 208 Employee ownership can be encouraged in a variety of ways. P. 209 Valuable to have one person, one vote. p. 211 Democratic ownership would protect against abuses like the Enron scandal.

Chapter 9. Community Development Corporations and Community Development Financial Institutions. P. 217 We need to revive the vision of Robert Kennedy toward a more comprehensive approach. p. 217. Community Development corporations are often not democratic. p. 219 Some CDC?s are successful. p. 220 One success story is the New Community Corporation in Newark, New Jersey, the largest private employer of local residents. "In addition to a variety of job-training services and a two-thirds stake in a Pathmark supermarket and shopping center, New Community Corporation also operates eight day care centers, a nursing home, a medical day care center for seniors, two other grocery stores, a restaurant, a newspaper, and a credit union. Corporate interests are not allowed on the board, which has an unusually high degree of direct community participation. New Community Corporation owns each of the stores in its shopping centers, including several franchises of national chains. New Community Corporations real estate holdings have an estimated value of $500,000,000, and generates @$200 million in economic activity each year." See http://www.newcommunity.org/

P 223 There are Community development Banks, Credit Unions. P. 224 Loan Funds P. 225 Microenterprise loan funds are modeled after Bangladesh?s Grameen Bank p. 232 Community Reinvestment Act p. 235 Are Community Development Corporations part of the establishment or do they have vision and are part of grassroots groups? P. 236 following: consumer co-ops, purchasing co-ops including farmer co-ops; worker owned co-ops; consumer co-ops, p. 237 producer owned co-ops should follow the Rockdale principles, one member, one vote. p. 238 National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. P. 240 Community owned corporations like p. 241 Green Bay Packers p. 242 Why not allow only members of a local community to own stock? P. 243Enterprise by non-profits p. 246 faith-based economic development p. 249 there should be community ownership of land as in Scandinavia, Native Americans p. 250 Community Land Trusts p. 254 Community Supported Agriculture p. 258 We need locally grown food. 27% of food is wasted at retail, consumer and food service levels. P. 259 Community gardens. P. 261. Most federal subsidies go to large landowners and corporate farmers. P. 262 We need community control of land.

HOW CAN WE GET CONTROL OF WORLD FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS?

p. 270 Competition should be based on product quality and efficiency of production not on a race to the bottom on labor and environmental standards. P. 279 A democratic world bank could be a lender of last resort p. 230 A democratic world bank could be a clearing house where all international debts are settled.

Chapter 13. Alternative Approaches to Trade. P. 295. ?The primary aim of the state in regard to trade policy should be to seek to nurture just, sustainable, and secure communities within its own borders?and simultaneously give due consideration to the nurturance of such communities elsewhere. If democracy is a fundamental goal of long-term importance?and if this requires a foundation in democratic communities?then certain policies follow: A democratic community should provide sufficient material provision for all its members, minimally, and must ultimately be able to exercise meaningful self-determination over its economic and social life. Civil liberties for workers, workers? right to exercise collective action, and a minimum wage set above the poverty level are all ground rules for production in just communities. Such communities need to rest on a secure economic base to practice active self-governance, and they should be able to take active steps to ensure that production is organized in a manner that upholds the dignity, civil liberties, and self-respect of those who engage in production. Production should be organized in a manner that tends to cultivate democratic virtues that would be transferable from the workplace to the public arena. . . a just community also values the particularities, tradition, history, institutions, and other distinct qualities of place that characterize and constitute community, and thus tends to view skeptically policies that ignore or run roughshod over these particularities, especially policies that jeopardize the accumulated civic and social networks through which local-level democratic politics finds its expression.?

p. 296 We have a moral obligation to promote just communities everywhere. P. 297 Just communities lead to global peace. Democracies with economic ties to one another seldom go to war. Economic and political instability threatens everyone. p. 299 Fossil fuels for transportation are highly subsidized. Environmental costs need to be on a public interest balance sheet. P. 302 Trade between nations needs to have performance requirements. P. 303 Global Sustainable Development Resolution proposed by Vermont representative Bernie Sanders. Trade agreements should not infringe on local and national policies to support community economic stability and economic democracy, ?the right of countries to take legal measures that require public or state ownership in some sectors, exclusive national ownership in some sectors, and national participation in the ownership of some sectors.? Asks for a Tobin tax on capital flows.

William Greider . ?Under a social tariff, goods produced in countries that do not respect labor rights, have poor environmental regulations, or show little regard for health and safety would be subject to a tariff on entering the US. Competition should not be allowed on the basis of cost advantages derived from substandard conditions such as less than a living wage. P. 305. If a plant relocates, workers need assistance, job training, or opportunity to purchase the plant. Value of plant to workers and community would mean that not as high a profit margin is needed.

Dr. Gar Alperovitz, Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland, America Beyond Capitalism, Reclaiming Our Wealth, Our Liberty, and Our Democracy:

America Beyond Capitalism, Reclaiming Our Wealth, Our Liberty, and Our Democracy Gar Alperovitz, Wiley, 2005. p. 214 ?The earth?s atmosphere simply cannot absorb infinite amounts of carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels; its water systems cannot absorb the runoff of nitrate-based fertilizers used in modern food production without damage to the ecosystem. p. 215 The late Kenneth Boulding:?Anyone who believes that exponential growth can go on forever is either a madman or an economist.?

p. 222 ? Public Trust strategies could permit the development of additional income flows not dependent upon either taxation or increased royalties and the sale of permits. Here a key question is not only who owns the existing productive wealth of the nation, but who will own the new wealth that will inevitably be created in the future. . .Louis Kelso and others have put forward strategies that utilize public loan guarantees or other widely accepted forms of government-backed insurance to finance new capital formation aimed at broadening wealth ownership. Strategies based on the same principle could also provide a major long-term source of capital for Public Trust investment aimed at producing income flows to help narrow the growing income gap and for other public purposes.

p. 223 ?Among the well-known pressures generating status-oriented consumption are economic insecurity, a dearth of meaningful personal relationships and a sense of community, and insufficient time and encouragement to pursue creative and fulfilling activities that do not require materialist consumption. . . ?We have sought to quell our loneliness and vulnerability through our possessions.?

p. 233 To achieve greater equality we need "new institutions that hold wealth on behalf of small and large publics. . .economic institutions that sustain greater stability of local community life. .radical decentralization, ultimately in all probability to some form of regional units. .individual economic security and greater amounts of free time. . neither of these is possible without a change in the ownership of wealth and the income flows it permits"

 

For a new way to make things, an architect and a chemist, William McDonough and Michael Braungart, have written a book that is waterproof: Cradle to Cradle. Instead of products going cradle to grave and making our earth one big landfill, why not create products that are made to go cradle to cradle?

Cradle to Cradle
William McDonough & Michael Braungart

pp. 169-171

"The truth is, we are standing in the middle of an enormous marketplace filled with ingredients that are largely undefined: we know little about what they are made of, and how. And based on what we do know, for the most part the news is not good; most of the products we have analyzed do not meet truly eco-effective design criteria. Yet decisions have to be made today, forcing upon the designer the difficult question of which materials are sound enough to use. People are coming for dinner in a few hours, and they expect to ? need to ? eat. Despite the astonishing paucity of healthy, nutritious ingredients, and the mystery surrounding, say, genetically modified crops (to carry the metaphor further), we cannot put off cooking until perfection has been achieved.
You might decide, as a personal preference, to be a vegetarian (?free of? meat), or not to consume meat from animals that have been fed hormones (another ?free of? strategy). But what about the ingredients you do use? Being a vegetarian does not tell you exactly how the produce you are using has been grown or handled. You might prefer organically grown spinach to conventionally grown spinach, but without knowing more about the processor?s packaging and transportation methods, you can?t be certain that it it safer or better for the environment unless you grow it yourself. But we must begin somewhere, and odds are that as an initial step, considering these issues and expressing your preferences in the choices you make will result in greater eco-effectiveness than had you not considered them at all.
Many real-life decisions come down to comparing two things that are both less than ideal, as in the case of chlorine-free paper versus recycled paper. You may find yourself choosing between a petrochemical-based fabric and an ?all natural? cotton that was produced with the help of large amounts of petrochemically generated nitrogen fertilizers and strip-mined radioactive phosphates, not to mention insecticides and herbicides. And beyond what you know lurk other troubling questions of social equity and broader ecological ramifications. When the choice is consistently between the frying pan and the fire, the chooser is apt to feel helpless and frustrated, which is why a more profound approach to redesign is critical. But in the meantime, there are ways to do the best with what we have, to make better choices.

pp.178-179

Now we are doing more than designing for biological and technical cycles. We are recasting the design assignment: not ?design a car? but ?design a ?nutrivehicle.?? Instead of aiming to create cars with minimal or zero negative emissions, imagine cars designed to release positive emissions and generate other nutritious effects on the environment. The car?s engine is treated like a chemical plant modeled on nature or industries. As it burns fuel, the water vapor in its emissions could be captured, turned back into water, and made use of. (Currently the average care emits approximately four fifths of a gallon of water vapor into the air for every gallon of gas it burns.) Instead of making the catalytic converter as small as possible, we might develop the means to use nitrous oxide as a fertilizer and configure our car to make and store as much as possible while driving. Instead of releasing the carbon the car produces when burning gasoline as carbon dioxide, why not store it as carbon black in canisters that could be sold to rubber manufacturers? Using fluid mechanics, tires could be designed to attract and capture harmful particles, thus cleaning the air instead of further dirtying it. And, of course, after the end of its useful life, all the car?s materials go back to the biological or technical cycle.
Push the design assignment further: ?Design a new transportation infrastructure.? In other words, don?t just reinvent the recipe, rethink the menu."

Economic Democracy further Defined

Perhaps we're ready now to describe what economic democracy can mean. Economic democracy could take many forms. At least it must mean the exercise of basic human rights for each human person. At most it would mean local community ownership of the means of production. In between it would mean legislative control by the government of business, e.g., the Federal Trade Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Labor Relations Board, and other regulatory agencies or a system of holding corporations accountable to their charters. Now the above are weak and controlled by the corporations who should be controlled by the agencies.

I don't think we can say we have genuine democracy in our nation or in our world if there are not sufficient checks and balances on those with enormous wealth and power. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Multilateral Agreement on Investment only weaken and destroy those checks and balances. Why do people feel helpless, powerless to make a difference? Why do less than half of US citizens vote? Can people have a real input in both the political and economic decisions of our day? On the political side most citizens recognize that we need campaign finance reform. Some see that we need some form of proportional representation. But without some form of economic democracy people will not feel that they make a difference.

Who has more power? The governments of the US, Canada, Europe, and Japan or those who own and control the means of production? Who has more power? Citizens of "democratic" nations or the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund? Who in the US has made the decision to downsize corporations or move to the South, the West, and overseas? The Presidents of the US or those who own and control the means of production? Using the computer, billions of dollars are traded daily by multi-national corporations with little or no oversight by governments. Ownership and control of the means of production needs to be extended much more widely to all the citizens of the world. How this can be done is another question. But the idea is simple. Although very imperfect, now there is some semblance of political democracy in many parts of the world. This democratic process needs to be extended in some way to the factories and the farms. If many different interests are represented on a board of directors, for example, it is more likely that most of the time, there will be care for human rights and the environment. At present only a few of the stakeholders have any kind of input in the decisions that are made. "Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common." Members of the early Christian community were not without selfishness and individualism. But there was an ideal that bonded the early Christians together. Today as a society I think we need a clearer vision of what a commonwealth is. We could call a movement toward more humane structures today by some other name. We could call greater economic participation economic freedom, economic security, economic equity. For our purposes I'm going to call it economic democracy.

Economic democracy could be understood in many different ways.
1. A general meaning would be that all are participating adequately in the economy. Now there are billions of people who lack their basic economic rights.
2. Workers' unions would have real input in what happens in the workplace. "US unions have been reduced to shadows by employers' use of sophisticated union busters and by the corporations' government, whose labor-management apparatus chains down the right to form and maintain unions."
3. There is legislative control by the government of business, e.g., anti-trust laws, the Federal Trade Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Labor Relations Board, etc.
4. There is worker ownership of the means of production as at Mondragon, Spain.
5. There is widespread ownership of the factories and farms. Wealth is like manure. It needs to be spread around.
6. There would be emphasis on local community ownership. According to economies of scale some industries are much too large for local ownership and need to be dealt with at the regional level, confederations of communities, joint ventures, regional ownership, etc.
7. All consumers would participate in the fruits of production. Chiapas in Mexico produces more coffee and more oil and natural gas than any other state. It is the second leading producer of corn. Its rivers and dams generate 55% of Mexico's electrical energy. Yet a third of Chiapanecos don't have light in their homes; 60% of school-age children do not attend school. The vast majority make less than $4.00 a day.
8. Consumer or producers' cooperatives.
9. Each person enjoys the exercise of her/his basic economic rights. At the very least there should be a guaranteed minimum income which would replace social security and existing welfare programs. A guaranteed minimum income would also lessen the need for paid full-employment policies in labor-surplus societies. We now have social security, student grants, unemployment compensation, training assistance. Why not a more comprehensive system in which a certain portion of income is received as a matter of right?
10. There is more of a balance between competition and cooperation. Mondragon is a cooperative. But it's harder to learn how to cooperate. One becomes a cooperator through education and the practice of virtue.
11. There is a priority of labor over capital.
12. Universal share ownership plans. Spreading new capital to those who do not already have it. Most new capital is created by loans which are in turn paid off by expanded production. Why give this new capital only to those who already have it?
13. Progressive taxation according to ability to pay.
14. Limitations on amount of wealth and property individuals or groups can own.
15. Eminent domain.
16. Zoning of land and businesses.
17. Policy holders in at least mutual insurance companies be represented by her or his insurance agent who is an independent business person.
18. End ?corporate personhood? with a constitutional amendment reversing supreme court decisions since the 1886 Santa Clara decision.
19. Any other number of ways that would help to make the individual citizen to feel she/he had an adequate say in what was happening. Of course, everyone cannot have input on every small decision that is made. But every person could have a significant say in policy decisions, e.g., whether to preserve the rainforests, whether to reduce pollution of the environment, how safe products should be, the safety of the food we eat and air that we breathe, etc.

The opposite of democracy is dictatorship. The popes have not hesitated to call the world's present system an economic dictatorship. "A system has been constructed which considers profit as the key motive for economic progress, competition as the supreme law of economics, and private ownership of the means of production as an absolute right that has no limits and carries no corresponding social obligation. This unchecked liberalism leads to dictatorship rightly denounced by Pius XI as producing 'the international imperialism of money'"

An important question is the relation of economic democracy to political democracy. Can there be a political democracy in the midst of an economic dictatorship? Do not money and television dominate political elections? "Those with low incomes are inherently disadvantaged. They do not have the money to influence politics; their education does not give them as many skills; they don't have the time; and often fearful of losing their jobs, they prefer silence to speaking their minds." There must be free time during prime listening hours for diverse political opinions. We can no longer tolerate a few corporate opinions. Free press currently is hardly free. It's very expensive. Even media independently owned do not want to antagonize actual or potential advertisers. I think political campaigns must be financed publicly. Private and corporate donations vitiate the electoral process. Soft money contributions need to be eliminated.

How can economic democracy be achieved? First, I think American society must accept economic democracy as a value. Education and religion can help in this process.



  Just Proportional Support of Minimal Government Is Patriotic

 

One step toward economic democracy could be progressive taxation according to ability to pay. The 25th chapter of the book of Leviticus describes the Jubilee year during which wealth and property are redistributed. The earth is the Lord's. We are stewards of God's creation.

Jesus says: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's." (Luke 20.25) Jesus did not reject the principle of taxation. St. Paul wrote to the community at Rome: "You pay taxes not only to escape punishment but also for the sake of conscience, magistrates being God's ministers who devote themselves to God's service with unremitting care. Pay each one his due; taxes to whom taxes are due." (Romans 13.6-7)

Closer to our own day Pope Pius XII said: "There can be no doubt concerning the duty of each citizen to bear a part of the public expense. But the state on its part, insofar as it is charged with protecting and promoting the common good of its citizens, is under an obligation to assess upon them only necessary levies, which are furthermore proportionate to their means." (Pope Speaks 3 (1957) 327.) Pope John XXIII repeated this ethical standard: "As regards taxation, assessment according to ability to pay is fundamental to a just and equitable tax system." (Pope John XXIII, Mater et Magistra, No. 132)

The United States Catholic Bishops reaffirm this principle: "The tax system should raise adequate revenues to pay for the public needs of society, especially to meet the basic needs of the poor. Secondly, the tax system should be structured according to the principle of progressivity, so that those with relatively greater financial resources pay a higher rate of taxation. The inclusion of such a principle in tax policies is an important means of reducing the severe inequalities of income and wealth in the nation. Action should be taken to reduce or offset the fact that most sales taxes and payroll taxes place a disproportionate burden on those with lower incomes. It's not simply that the wealthy should pay a greater amount but that they should pay at a higher rate of taxation. The goods of creation are to be shared by all God's people." (Economic Justice For All, No. 202)

The more one has, the bigger one's stake in the common good, and the greater a person's interest in its soundness. Those who have more are more a part of the common good; they should be contributing more to its well-being. Tax breaks are not so great a good to the affluent as it is an evil for lower-income people who must take up the slack or suffer decreased services.

I think that beyond a certain level of income many people strive more for power and prestige than for money. But even if progressive taxation does clip a bit the ambition of a few at the top, the effect would be to make power and decision-making more democratic and open up more opportunities for everyone to be creative and competitive. There would be a fresh influx of inventiveness, ingenuity, and releasing of untapped potential. Moreover, mal-distribution of wealth and decision-making weakens solidarity and community. Scripture promotes community not selfishness. We are one human family.

"Jesus looking hard at him loved him, and said, 'One thing is lacking to you: whatever things you have, sell, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come follow me.' He was appalled at the word, and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. And looking around, Jesus said to his disciples, 'How hard it will be for those having riches to enter into the kingdom of God!" (Mark 10.21-24)

The human person needs a certain minimum to pay for basic necessities. The more a family has above the basic minimum, the less its absolute need for it, and the higher the rate of taxation it can bear. The intent of progressive taxes is not to afflict the rich, but rather to put the tax burden where it will cause the least suffering. Taxes on furs and jewelry are fairer than taxes on food and basic medicine. Moreover, there is a floor below which we should not allow the human person to fall. Thus some have advocated a "negative income tax" in which those below the minimum are raised to an adequate income level.

A regressive tax occurs when the less a person has of the thing taxed, the higher the rate of payment. Sales taxes on necessities, present welfare laws and utility rates are a regressive tax.

A proportional or flat tax is when everyone is taxed at the same rate without regard for means or ability to pay. This is equal but not equitable. If we want more revenue for Social Security, for example, then payroll taxes which currently in 2009 do not apply either to earnings above $90,000 or to non-wage/salary income (e.g. dividends and capital gains) should be raised. Currently a person making $300,000 a year pays exactly the same into the Social Security Trust Fund as someone making $90,000 because of the present ceiling. Social Security is financed in a highly regressive manner: above $90,000 the more you make the lower the percent of your income you pay.

Second, as many have pointed out, taking back some part of the huge tax cuts given to those at the very top by the Bush Administration could easily solve any problems which the system may possibly face down the line.

When we have genuine international law and order, we will have a world tax system. Presently our "foreign aid" tends to be paternalistic and to be used as a political weapon. A tax should be levied on those who use the seas, the polar regions, terrestrial atmosphere and space. Our one Creator has made and destined all creation--air, land, and sea, as well as human inventiveness--for the whole human family, especially the poor and the oppressed. Indeed, in an age of technological abundance, I see no need for anyone to be poor or lack basic necessities.

Some feel tax laws are deliberately complicated and obscure to conceal what they really say. Politicians pretend to be for progressive taxation but in reality do not want to offend the sources of their campaign financing. Corporations and the wealthy have the best of both worlds. They appear publicly to be paying an exorbitant amount, but actually pay much less than their share.

Critics of the present "welfare to the rich" say the capital gains preference is the greatest single source of tax reduction for the very wealthy. Only one in ten can benefit from capital gains. It would be unfair to tax profits from investments in property held many years as if the profits were made in a single year, and taxes on long-term investments can be spread out, but the present tax-break for capital gains is way too much.

Dr. Gar Alperovitz, in Rebuilding America, insists that tax expenditures are in the hundred of billions of dollars and could greatly reduce the federal deficit. If I cancel a debt that you owe, in effect I am giving you what I cancel. Tax breaks are a form of welfare that frequently goes unnoticed.

 

Blessing of the Taxes Posted Friday, March 09 2007 Network of Spiritual Progressives a Tikkun Project

Many thanks to Jim Burklo, pastor, Sausalito Presbyterian Church, for this prayer.

"Dear God, bless my taxes! Give me peace of mind as I struggle to fill out the forms and determine the right amounts I should be sending to Washington and Sacramento. Keep me calm, I pray, as I write out those fat checks on April 15. And whisper a reminder to me, Lord, of all the good reasons that I send my money to my government every year.

Remind me of the fact that I could not write this prayer if I had not received an excellent tax-subsidized education - my parents couldn?t have afforded fancy private schools or colleges. Gently show me that the Internet, through which I send this prayer to others, was created with taxpayer dollars. Help me to recall that my freedom to pray as I wish was purchased with the lives of soldiers and the tax payments of other citizens who defended liberty before I was born. Reveal to me, Lord, in my mind?s eye, the roads and the airports, the water systems, the magnificent parks and wilderness areas, the public health workers, the regulators of the environment and of commerce, the scientists, and all the other people and things that my taxes make possible. They provide safety and comfort, protect natural resources, and enable capitalism to flourish for the benefit of all. Remind me of how hard and scary life was for the sick and elderly before citizens paid Social Security taxes and received its benefits. Show me, dear One, just how expensive, difficult, and unpleasant life would be for me and everyone else without all the services and protections that are funded by my tax payments.

Dear Lord, remind me that, in fact, for all the good things that I and others receive back from our government, my tax payments are a bargain. Take me out of my selfishness and give me a spirit of gratitude as I write those tax checks. Inspire me to see that this is a sacred duty, and is a way that I serve others who are vulnerable, poor, or sick, and are especially dependent on public assistance.

O dear One, there are so many ways I wish my taxes could be spent differently. There are many things I don?t like about what my government is doing, there are ways that the tax system could be made more fair, and there are many important things the government leaves undone. I?m willing, O Lord, to pay even more in taxes if it would work for the common good: it could save us all even more money and trouble, in the end. So, more than ever, dear God, give me the strength and the vision to rise up and take action as a voter, pressing my government to act for peace and justice at home and abroad. My sacred duty as a citizen is only partly fulfilled as I write my tax checks. I ask for your guidance, God, as I join with others to change the priorities and values of our government, so that they reflect more of what we see of your will.

May your blessing rest on my Form 1040, dear Lord, and may my taxes well serve you and my fellow citizens! Amen."

Affluenza

 

"Christian commitment to build a more just society and to serve the needy, as well as a genuine holistic education, should preserve us from a middle-age regression to infantile narcissism. This issue is tackled head-on in "The Disease You'd Love to Have," an article about affluenza or sudden-wealth syndrome, which is described as "a dysfunctional or unhealthy relationship with money or wealth or the pursuit of it." According to one pioneer in this new school of therapy, "in terms of sudden-wealth syndrome, it is when suddenly our clients wake up one morning and they realize they don't have to work again, and after the excitement wears off they're thrust into an early identity crisis. They don't know what to do with their lives anymore." A colleague added: "They feel that somehow they don't deserve their wealth, because it's inherited or because it's new money that came to them too easily."

Another therapist, a millionaire who founded the Affluenza Project in Milwaukee, thinks that affluenza is "at the base of many of the other isms: alcoholism, shopaholics, gambling addictions. The making of the money is the score card by which they judge their success or failure. And wealth creates its own host of problems?from an inability to delay gratification to a false sense of entitlement to a loss of future motivation."

Sudden-wealth syndrome can trigger depression and anxiety. One therapist's response: "In the worst cases, I had to send someone to a psychiatrist for antianxiety drugs so they could stop the paralysis and move on with their lives and get back into the world and start reconnecting." How about a dose of Howard Fast's version of connecting, or of Viktor Frankl's logotherapy (healing by finding meaning in one's life) as found in his Man's Search for Meaning, or of Jesus' prescription for the rich young man (who went away sad)?

One of the cures of affluenza," according to one counselor, "is a turning away from the self." Now we're getting close to some fundamental truths and realities. This counselor acknowledges, however, that many clients are often "quite resistant to looking at money as the culprit."

Even this kind of therapy is part of the profit-making activity described in this special issue. "I think it will become a larger and larger industry," one counselor observed. "Major banks are involved. They know their clients are needing this and wanting this. Financial advisers are calling us; psychiatrists are calling us. I think we are at the very beginning." From the title to this last line, the article situates the entire issue of affluenza, even the therapy that goes with it, comfortably within the framework of the quest for affluence.

(See Blueprint for Social Justice, "Affluenza, According to the Times" Joseph E. Mulligan, S.J.)

Fair Distribution of Wealth

Another step toward economic democracy could be a fairer sharing in wealth and resources. In Populorum Progressio Pope Paul VI insisted: "Private property does not constitute for anyone an absolute or unconditioned right. No one is justified in keeping for his exclusive use what he does not need, when others lack necessities." No one should have more until everyone has enough. "Not that there should be ease to others and suffering to you, but that out of equality your present fullness should supply their lack, in order that their fullness may supply your lack, so that there may be equality." (St. Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians 8.13) No one should gorge herself/himself on seconds and thirds before everyone has a first helping. The goods of creation are destined for all. The common good takes precedence over an individual's right to private property. (Cathechism of the Catholic Church No. 2402,3. )

Some feel the rich deserve to be wealthy. But even bright young inventors do not operate in a vacuum. Inventions are unthinkable without the previous generations-- indeed centuries-- of knowledge, skills, wealth. "The inventor of the computer picked the best fruit of a tree that stood on a huge mountain of human contribution. . . We rarely explicitly recognize this 'community inheritance.' A new vision might make it a central feature, both morally and politically. Building on inheritance laws and public land precedents, we might slowly evolve our thinking so that substantial wealth might regularly be returned to the community that ultimately made the creation of the wealth possible." (Gar Alperovitz "Building a Living Democracy" Who Is My Neighbor? p. 113) Gar Alperovitz thus would restore wealth to the local community, provide economic democracy, and allow rational planning for the future.  See also Unjust Deserts.

Those who hold that the "free" market determines priorities need to remember that the wealthy can vote more times. Those who are poor can hardly vote at all. A free market that works supposes relative equality. Spending on luxury goods has grown by 21% while overall merchandise sales has grown only 5%. David Korten argues that corporations today do not internalize their own costs to workers or the environment and receive more in subsidies that they pay in taxes.

"Sell your possessions and give alms; make for yourselves purses that do not grow old, an unfailing treasure in the heavens where no thief comes near nor moth destroys; for where your treasure is, there too your heart will be." (Luke 12.33-34)

The wealthy also have greater influence on elected officials. If I contribute to both political parties, I am covered no matter who wins. "If you run as a Democrat as I did, you get a lot of support from the bottom but an interesting reception from the top. They would constantly tell me from Washington, 'We like you, we want to help you--but you've got to quit talking about money and politics. You've got to change your position on PAC money. And maybe most of all--stop talking about the humiliation of childhood poverty in the wealthiest nation on earth. . . both the Democrats and the Republicans are now pitching, first and foremost, to the folks at the top. For me, it's useless to have one party with two names, or two parties of one persuasion. . . you have to be either wealthy or have access to wealth to run for federal office in this country. . . Tim Wirth, our senator from Colorado for many years, says that day in and day out for a six-year term he spent more than 50% of his time asking people for money. In the year he ran it went up to 80%. . . Barney Frank says we like to pretend that our elected officials are the only people in the world who walk up to total stranger, ask them for thousands or now hundreds of thousands of dollars, get it, and are completely unaffected by it, achieving a state of 'perfect ingratitude.' But we know it isn't so . . . we demand elections, not auctions . . .We want the children to breathe the air to count as much as the polluters who fight clean air standards. . . We want the millions who need health care to count as much as the insurance companies that donate millions to thwart reform. As Americans we are heirs to a great legacy that teaches the key to success lies within our own hearts, and within the grasp of our own hands, a legacy that insists we're meant to be participants in this democracy, not just spectators, not just customers." (Gene Nichol, "Money Must Not Trump Democracy" Alliance Reports, August 1999, Volume 3, Number 2, p. 5)

United for a Fair Economy (http://www.stw.org) believes that 1. the economy should work for everyone, not just the very wealthy 2. people who work should earn a living wage 3. all children should have a fair chance in life, no matter what circumstances they are born into 4. great wealth should not control our nation's priorities 5. the rules governing our economy should create a level playing field--not one tilted in favor of large asset-owners and against wage-earners. The combined wealth of the top one percent of US families is about the same as that of the entire bottom 95%. (Holly Sklar, Jobs, Income, and Work: Ruinous Trends, Urgent Alternatives, 1995, p. 9)

Bill Gates has more wealth than the bottom 45% of American households combined. . . In fall 1997 Bill Gates was worth more than the combined Gross National Product of Central America: Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, Nicaragua and Belize. By fall 1998 Bill Gates was worth more than the Gross National Products of Central America plus Jamaica anad Bolivia. His early 1999 personal net worth is more than the combined GNP of Central America, Jamaica and Bolivia plus the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Grenada. . .
(Shifting Fortunes, the Perils of the Growing American Wealth Gap, pp. 18, 19, 1999)

"If someone earned the minimum wage (now $5.15 an hour) and worked continuously, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and saved every bit of earnings and didn't pay taxes, she/he would need to work for 1.6 million years to catch up with what Bill Gates has now. If one only worked 40 hours a week, it would take 6.7 billion years. Gates' wealth is double what the gold in Fort Knox is worth. If he weighs about 180 lbs, he's worth over $27 million an ounce. Michael Jordan (who made $35 million in his last year) would have had to play basketball at that salary for over 2,302 years to make as much as Gates. Bill could give each of the 760,000 homeless people in America $94,822.52. Microsoft was founded in 1975. Gates has been making since then $1 million per hour, around $300 per second." (Dollars and Sense, Jan/Feb 2000, p. 9) Although there may have been some initial ingenuity, most of Bill Gates money did not come as the result of work. He lets his money work for him.

Why don't we set limits to wealth and to ownership of land and factories as St. Thomas More advocates in Utopia? As sinners, we all need checks and balances. As persons, we all have equal dignity, value, and worth. For a few to dominate and bully the many is contrary to human dignity.

We use clever words to cover reality. Corporate and wealthy welfare are called entitlements. Programs for the poor are called handouts. Although we sit in judgment on the poor, we don't apply the same standards for the wealthy. "What we give to the poor is minuscule compared to our total domestic production. Government generously subsidizes those who don't need any help. An estimated $125 billion in federal subsidies are directed to corporations in the form of tax loopholes, direct cash transfers and subsidized access to public resources. This misdirected 'corporate welfare' benefits large corporations and affluent individuals. Government assistance should be focused on non-affluent households, small businesses, family farms and democratic enterprises such as cooperatives." (Shifting Fortunes, p. 62)

"Between 1979 and 1997, middle-income families increased their annual hours of work by 315 hours (equivalent to nearly eight weeks of full-time work). If not for the extra paid work load of women, middle-income families would be far worse off. Unfortunately, women who work full time still earn only 74 cents for every dollar earned by men." (Ibid. p. 30)

The assets of the three richest people are more than the combined GNP of all the least developed countries; the assets of the 200 richest people are more than the combined income of 41% of the world's people; a yearly contribution of 1% of the wealth of the 200 richest people could provide universal access to primary education for all. (Human Development Report 1999, p. 38.)

"A public trust to establish community ownership of common wealth--at the national, state, regional, and local levels--could in turn produce a stream of income, part of which might be used by the community as a whole to offset taxes and provide needed services and part of which might be allocated to provide direct economic stability and security to individuals in the interest of a new structural basis for human liberty and democratic participation. Public-trust control of substantial economic wealth could also help in the implementation of planning for more stable communities. A tiny group of Americans owns huge shares of the nation's wealth today. . .The moral case for this wealth being passed on through inheritance to those who do not even claim to have earned it is exceedingly weak. A major tightening of inheritance laws could become one important basis of a new approach. Major buildings and major land ownership might pass over time to the local community. Alaska has build up a large permanent fund from oil royalties that results in direct payments to each resident. An equal amount is allocated to publicly determined uses." (Gar Alperovitz, "Building a Living Democracy" Who Is My Neighbor? 113)

Federal Reserve Board

We also need to take a critical look at the Federal Reserve Board. (See William Greider, Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country) The Fed is a great power, unaccountable to citizens. "Every US recession since World War II has been caused directly by the restraining force of tight monetary policy . . . The Federal Reserve has been an engine of inequality. Its policies and long-term strategy have steadily generated greater disparities of wealth and income. . . The only visible price inflation was in the stock market. . Greenspan waved away critics urging him to use the Fed's regulatory tools to curb the easy credit available to Wall Street's high fliers. . .Only the Fed takes money from productive citizens and dispenses it to troubled banks or financial firms that have fallen on hard times." (The Nation, Jan. 1, 2001, pp. 11-18, William Grieder "Father Greenspan Loves Us All")

World Bank

International financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are not democratic. They need to be accountable to those who have to live with their abstract dogmas. (See 50 Years Is Enough: US Network for Global Economic Justice http://www.50years.org) A brief description of the origin of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development is found in Chapter 12 of the 2001 edution of Dr. David Korten's When Corporations Rule the World. "The public purpose of what became known as the Bretton Woods system was to unite the world in a web of economic prosperity and interdependence that would preclude nations' taking up arms." Unfortunately, the big nations have both veto power over certain decisions and voting shares in proportion to their share of the subscribed capital which ensures the ability of the large nations to set and control the agenda and establish a kind of corporate colonization.

Derivatives

Derivatives derive their value from something other than themselves, e.g. farmers sell their crop before they ever plant it. The Chicago Board of Trade and derivative prices determine other prices. Derivatives involve more than a little speculation. Fraud and the extent of the speculation should be monitored and regulated. When a bank goes broke, everyone is affected. Hedge funds are a fund for the wealthy.

Alternatives

"Come now you rich, begin to weep, crying aloud over your miseries which are coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and your garments have become moth-eaten: Your gold and silver have become covered with rust, and their rust will be for a witness against you. . You have lived in luxury and in self-indulgence. . You have condemned and murdered the righteous." (James 5.1-6)

Positively, I think society needs to be open to a rich variety of small-scale cooperatives, worker-owned firms, and neighborhood corporations. We have moved away from a capitalism of individual entrepreneurs to a system dominated by giant corporations. Yale political scientist, Charles Lindblom, surveyed the literature of corporate political power and concluded: "The large private corporation fits oddly into democratic theory and vision. Indeed, it does not fit." (Politics and Markets, The World's Political-Economic Systems)

The Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber, insisted that communities as a whole should own and benefit from wealth. Buber wanted not just worker cooperatives and consumer cooperatives but full cooperatives which included a total community. Such a community would become manageable at the local level. The nation would then become a community of communities. The local community must be sufficiently small that all can participate in decisions that affect them.

Dr. Gar Alperovitz thinks that the economic system we have now in the US is far different than what we had in the first days of our nation, more different than the difference between large corporations in the US and public centralization of production in socialist nations. Large US corporations shape legislation like NAFTA, influence the agencies which are supposed to regulate them, are an important voice in presidential decisions, and dominate campaign financing and the media. New technology is unthinkable without the previous generations, indeed centuries of knowledge, skills, wealth. We seldom acknowledge this community inheritance. "The inventor of the computer picked the best fruit of a tree that stood on a huge mountain of human contribution." (Alperovitz, "Building a Living Democracy" Who Is My Neighbor, 114) National Center for Economic and Security Alternatives (http://www.ncesa.org/)
(See also the EF Schumacher Society http://www.schumachersociety.org)

See also www.garalperovitz.com

www.Community-Wealth.com

The President of the University of Central America in San Salvador who was murdered by the Salvadoran military, Fr. Ignacio Ellacuria, S.J., feels the resources of the earth should be owned by everyone. "A new earth must be shaped with new human beings of principles of greater altruism and solidarity. The great benefits of nature--the air, the seas and beaches, the mountains and forests, the rivers and lakes, in general all the natural resources for production, use, and enjoyment--need not be privately appropriated by any individual person, group, or nation, and in fact they are the grand medium of communication and common living. If a social order were achieved in which basic needs were satisfied in a stable manner and were guaranteed, and the common sources of personal development were made possible. . the present order based on the accumulation of private capital and material wealth could be considered as a prehistoric and prehuman stage. . All are to have what is necessary. . The creation of a new heaven supposes achieving a new presence of God among us that will let the old Babylon be transformed into the New Jersusalem." Towards a Society that Serves Its People: The Intellectual Contribution of El Salvador's Murdered Jesuits, p. 76; p. 85.

Wealth in Scripture

In the Hebrew tradition the comforts of prosperity lead the people to rely on their wealth "forgetting the God who gave you birth" (Deut. 32.10-18) Wealth is the occasion, if not the cause, of unfaithfulness to God. Wealth is associated with fraud, corruption of the judicial process, and neglect of the laws instituted by God to prevent the means of wealth from being concentrated in the hands of a few. (Mic. 6.10-12; Isaiah 10.1-3; 3.14-15; Jeremiah 5.27-28; Amos 2.6; 4.1-2; Zechariah 7.14)

If wealth is shared, material prosperity can be a reward for labor and for being faithful. There will be an abundance of grain, wine, oil, flocks, for those who are faithful. (Lev. 26.3-10; Deut. 11:13-15; Is. 54:11-12; 60:9-16; Jer. 33.6-9) God promised that he would bring the Hebrews "into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey." (Exodus 3.8)

In the Christian Covenant, wealth can prevent a close following of Jesus. (Luke 18.18-30) Wealth can deceive us and choke the growth of the Word of God. (Matthew 13.22; Mark 4.19; Luke 8.14) Wealth can be a form of idolatry, a false god. "You cannot serve God and mammon."

(Mt. 6.24; Lk. 16.13) Our salvation is in God not in money. "Be on guard against every kind of greed, for no one's life consists in the abundance of things he has." (Lk. 12.15) "Money is the root of all evils"( I Timothy 6.10;17-19) Greed can lead to strife and murder. (James 4.1-2) "Woe to you rich." (Luke 6.24) "All your luxury and splendor are gone." (Revelation 18.9-19)

If we love God, we love each and every person even our enemies. "If your enemy is hungry, feed him." (Romans 12.20) "Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer. . how can God's love survive in a person who has enough of this world's goods yet closes his heart to his brother when he sees him in need?" (I John 3.15-17)

For a thorough exegesis of wealth in Scripture I recommend Sondra Ely Wheeler, Wealth as Peril and Obligation, The New Testament on Possessions.


 

Food and Farm Issues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NY Times

Big Food vs. Big Insurance

By MICHAEL POLLAN

Berkeley , Calif.

 TO listen to President Obama?s speech on Sept 10, 2009, or to just about anyone else in the health care debate, you would think that the biggest problem with health care in America is the system itself ? perverse incentives, inefficiencies, unnecessary tests and procedures, lack of competition, and greed.

 No one disputes that the $2.3 trillion we devote to the health care industry is often spent unwisely, but the fact that the United States spends twice as much per person as most European countries on health care can be substantially explained, as a study released last month says, by our being fatter. Even the most efficient health care system that the administration could hope to devise would still confront a rising tide of chronic disease linked to diet.

That?s why our success in bringing health care costs under control ultimately depends on whether Washington can summon the political will to take on and reform a second, even more powerful industry: the food industry.

 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three-quarters of health care spending now goes to treat ?preventable chronic diseases.? Not all of these diseases are linked to diet ? there?s smoking, for instance ? but many, if not most, of them are.

 We?re spending $147 billion to treat obesity, $116 billion to treat diabetes, and hundreds of billions more to treat cardiovascular disease and the many types of cancer that have been linked to the so-called Western diet. One recent study estimated that 30 percent of the increase in health care spending over the past 20 years could be attributed to the soaring rate of obesity, a condition that now accounts for nearly a tenth of all spending on health care.

The American way of eating has become the elephant in the room in the debate over health care. The president has made a few notable allusions to it, and, by planting her vegetable garden on the South Lawn, Michelle Obama has tried to focus our attention on it. Just last month, Mr. Obama talked about putting a farmers? market in front of the White House, and building new distribution networks to connect local farmers to public schools so that student lunches might offer more fresh produce and fewer Tater Tots. He?s even floated the idea of taxing soda.

 But so far, food system reform has not figured in the national conversation about health care reform. And so the government is poised to go on encouraging America's fast-food diet with its farm policies even as it takes on added responsibilities for covering the medical costs of that diet. To put it more bluntly, the government is putting itself in the uncomfortable position of subsidizing both the costs of treating Type 2 diabetes and the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup.

 Why the disconnect? Probably because reforming the food system is politically even more difficult than reforming the health care system. At least in the health care battle, the administration can count some powerful corporate interests on its side ? like the large segment of the Fortune 500 that has concluded the current system is unsustainable.

 That is hardly the case when it comes to challenging agribusiness. Cheap food is going to be popular as long as the social and environmental costs of that food are charged to the future. There?s lots of money to be made selling fast food and then treating the diseases that fast food causes. One of the leading products of the American food industry has become patients for the American health care industry.

 The market for prescription drugs and medical devices to manage Type 2 diabetes, which the Centers for Disease Control estimates will afflict one in three Americans born after 2000, is one of the brighter spots in the American economy. As things stand, the health care industry finds it more profitable to treat chronic diseases than to prevent them. There's more money in amputating the limbs of diabetics than in counseling them on diet and exercise.

 As for the insurers, you would think preventing chronic diseases would be good business, but, at least under the current rules, it?s much better business simply to keep patients at risk for chronic disease out of your pool of customers, whether through lifetime caps on coverage or rules against=2 0pre-existing conditions or by figuring out ways to toss patients overboard when they become ill.

 But these rules may well be about to change and, when it comes to reforming the American diet and food system, that step alone could be a game changer. Even under the weaker versions of health care reform now on offer, health insurers would be required to take everyone at the same rates, provide a standard level of coverage and keep people on their rolls regardless of their health. Terms like pre-existing conditions and underwriting would vanish from the health insurance rulebook and, when they do, the relationship between the health insurance industry and the food industry will undergo a sea change.

 The moment these new rules take effect, health insurance companies will promptly discover they have a powerful interest in reducing rates of obesity and chronic diseases linked to diet. A patient with Type 2 diabetes incurs additional health care costs of more than $6,600 a year; over a lifetime, that can come to more than $400,000. Insurers will quickly figure out that every case of Type 2 diabetes they can prevent adds $400,000 to their bottom line. Suddenly, every can of soda or Happy Meal or chicken nugget on a school lunch menu will look like a threat to future profits.

 When health insurers can no longer evade much of the cost of treating the collateral damage of the American diet, the movement to reform the food system everything from farm policy to food marketing and school lunches  will acquire a powerful and wealthy ally, something it hasn't really ever had before.

 AGRIBUSINESS dominates the agriculture committees of Congress, and has swatted away most efforts at reform. But what happens when the health insurance industry realizes that our system of farm subsidies makes junk food cheap, and fresh produce dear, and thus contributes to obesity and Type 2 diabetes? It will promptly get involved in the fight over the farm bill ? which is to say, the industry will begin buying seats on those agriculture committees and demanding that the next bill be written with the interests of the public health more firmly in mind.

 In the same way much of the health insurance industry threw its weight behind the campaign against smoking, we can expect it to support, and perhaps even help pay for, public education efforts like New York City's bold new ad campaign against drinking soda. At the moment, a federal campaign to discourage the consumption of sweetened soft drinks is a political nonstarter, but few things could do more to slow the rise of Type 2 diabetes among adolescents than to redu ce their soda consumption, which represents 15 percent of their caloric intake.

 That's why it's easy to imagine the industry throwing its weight behind a soda tax. School lunch reform would become its cause, too, and in time the industry would come to see that the development of regional food systems, which make fresh produce more available and reduce dependence on heavily processed food from far away, could help prevent chronic disease and reduce their costs.

 Recently a team of designers from M.I.T. and Columbia was asked by the foundation of the insurer UnitedHealthcare to develop an innovative systems approach to tackling childhood obesity in America . Their conclusion surprised the designers as much as their sponsor: they determined that promoting the concept of a ?foodshed? ? a diversified, regional food economy ? could be the key to improving the American diet.

 All of which suggests that passing a health care reform bill, no matter how ambitious, is only the first step in solving our health care crisis. To keep from bankrupting ourselves, we will then have to get to work on improving our health which means going to work on the American way of eating.

But even if we get a health care bill that does little more than require insurers to cover everyone on the same basis, it could put us on that course.

For it will force the industry, and the government, to take a good hard look at the elephant in the room and galvanize a movement to slim it down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Pollan, a contributing writer for The Times Magazine and a professor of journalism at the University of California , Berkeley , is the author of In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manif

 

 

Turning Point Project

 

Where there were once a hundred farmers using thirty acres each, there may now be one corporate farmer using 3000 acres. Nearly a billion pounds of pesticide are applied annually in the US. Half of the US topsoil has been lost in the last four decades of industrial farming. If the present system is ecologically unsustainable and socially repulsive, where do we go from here? A coalition of 60 organizations, the Turning Point Project proposed:

1. Return to diverse mixed crops produced for local consumption. Work toward community and regional food self-reliance. This will reduce chemicals, mechanization, and fossil fuel use, allowing people to farm who know and love the land. It will also reduce long distance transport of food, pollution of soil, air, rivers and oceans.
2. Reduce soil erosion to natural replacement levels by eliminating soil-depleting chemicals and heavy machinery. Return to natural nutrients, by composting and putting animals back onto farms. Close down factory farm concentration camps that create environmental nightmares and pollution of the underground water supply. Thousands of hogs in one factory farm creates as much waste as a city of 30,000 people.
3. Reintroduce time-honored safe practices for maintaining healthy soil: Mixed cropping, cover cropping crop rotation, appropriate technology, reduced use of irrigation through appropriate crop selection depending on the region and local climate.
4. Limit corporate farming. Corporate ownership of farmland is already restricted in Nebraska, North Dakota, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. Other states place limits on the size of farms. The ultimate policy goal must be to reduce the super-farm to a moderate-sized farm able to be handled by family farmers or small cooperatives.
5. Bring anti-trust actions to reverse corporate oligarchy in the food industry in which a few giant firms control seed, feed, farm machinery, and in which a few giant firms buy farm products and manufacture food and fibre. Appropriate technology and economies of scale would make the production of food more humane and ecologically sustainable.
6. Revive rural communities so that they can become strong again and diverse enough to support family farmers with services and supplies. Develop rural culture and community life.
7. Work with nature but not against the grain.

Kentucky farmer and author Wendell Berry: "Industrialism is a way of thought based on monetary capital and technology; agrarianism is a way of thought based on land. An agrarian economy rises up from the fields, woods, and streams. It is not regional or national, let alone global, but local. It must know on intimate terms the local plants and animals and local soils."

Genetic contamination of organic crops by genetic drift from farms growing genetically engineered crops must be stopped. There is a growing international call, endorsed by the British Medical Association among others, for a global moratorium on genetically engineered foods and crops.

Billions of pounds of pesticides and nitrate fertilizers are contaminating more and more of the nation's municipal water supplies. The US has a food and water-related cancer epidemic (48% of all males and 38% of all females in the US can now look forward to getting cancer). There is an even deadlier toll resulting from heart disease and obesity--directly related to our over consumption of junk food, meat, and animal products.
(Consult Pesticide Action Network North America http:www.panna.org They are dedicated to reducing the use of pesticides and promoting safer, more ecologically sound farming practices. They specifically oppose the commercial sale of crops genetically engineered to be herbicide tolerant.)

Global Warming or rather Global Climate Change

We need to reduce food miles. The average over-processed, over-packaged, chemically and genetically-contaminated food product in the US has traveled 1500 miles (burning up incredible amounts of non-renewable energy and releasing climate disrupting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere) before arriving at the supermarket. The single greatest cause of global warming and climate destabilization is industrial agriculture (i.e. non-organic, non-sustainable, non-locally produced).

"To grow corn that cheap, you need more than just subsidies. [When the farmer gets a fair price which includes care of the environment, there won't be any need for subsidies.] You also need vast quantities of fossil fuel. The food industry consumes about 20 percent of imported petroleum, much of which goes to fertilize cornfields. Corn takes a great amount of nitrogen to grow, and the way we make artificial nitrogen is to turn natural gas into ammonium-nitrate fertilizer. So something else you're eating in that McDonald's meal is fossil fuel. A pound of beef takes a half gallon of oil to grow. A bushel of corn also takes about a half gallon. It takes ten calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce one calorie of food energy that way. So to eat that McDonald's meal, we need to keep the oil flowing. . .transporting food from distant farms requires fossil fuel and technologies to keep food fresh. . . grasslands have plenty of biodiversity and help lessen the greenhouse effect by reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. All plants take in carbon dioxide, sequester the carbon, and release the oxygen back into the air. What's important about grasses is that they sequester most of that carbon in the soil, and very little in their actual 'bodies.'" The Sun, May 2006, pp. 7-8. [Thus our food delivery system is a major cause of global warming and destabilization of the climate.]

An Inconvenient Truth

In our present system our livelihood and success can depend on a particular industry that uses fossil fuels extensively. Our job can cloud our vision and affect our judgment. Global warming can be "an inconvenient truth." But global warming can affect the livelihood of all of us in a dramatic way. Examine the science at http://www.climatecrisis.net The spirituality of St. Ignatius Loyola can help offset a cloudy judgment caused by inconvenience.

In the New York Times Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2004 A 21 Duke University says: "It's time to get serious about global warming. Evidence from more than twenty years of peer-reviewed studies, including research by scientists from the Nicholas School at Duke, shows we are experiencing unprecedented environmental change. We, not nature, are the most significant agents of this change. On this, there is broad scientific consensus. Left unchecked, climate change will have far-reaching impacts on our lives . . .It is well past time for delay. Our children and grandchildren may look back one day and say the most controversial aspect of global warming was why it took us so long to do something to curb it."

Google Global Warming/Union of Concerned Scientists  for science versus some reactionary rationalizations.  Ignatian spirituality can help us minimize our self-deception.

A Sustainable Agrarian Economy?

Kentucky farmer and author Wendell Berry: "Industrialism is a way of thought based on monetary capital and technology; agrarianism is a way of thought based on land. An agrarian economy rises up from the fields, woods, and streams. It is not regional or national, let alone global, but local. It must know on intimate terms the local plants and animals and local soils."

Genetic contamination of organic crops by genetic drift from farms growing genetically engineered crops must be stopped. There is a growing international call, endorsed by the British Medical Association among others, for a global moratorium on genetically engineered foods and crops.

Billions of pounds of pesticides and nitrate fertilizers are contaminating more and more of the nation's municipal water supplies. The US has a food and water-related cancer epidemic (48% of all males and 38% of all females in the US can now look forward to getting cancer). There is an even deadlier toll resulting from heart disease and obesity--directly related to our over consumption of junk food, meat, and animal products.
(Consult Pesticide Action Network North America http:www.panna.org They are dedicated to reducing the use of pesticides and promoting safer, more ecologically sound farming practices. They specifically oppose the commercial sale of crops genetically engineered to be herbicide tolerant.

Agroterrorism

Floyd Horn of the US Department of Agriculture calls agroterrorism on our nation's farms or its agricultural research facilities quite plausible. Chemical or biological attacks against food crops or livestock would be substantially easier and less risky to carry out than attacks on people. There are at least twenty-two germ agents that are lethal or contagious to animals. Overuse of antibiotics and steroids has lowered the natural tolerance of animals to disease and bred drug-resistant strains of germs. We need to change current large scale farming and marketing strategies. We need to promote small farm agriculture, sustainable agriculture and rural social justice, natural farming practices, smaller concentrations of livestock, less reliance on single varieties of seeds, less reliance on heavy dosages of antibiotics and the development of markets for products closer to where they are produced. (See National Catholic Reporter Nov. 9, 2001, pp. 8-9)

Farmworkers

I deplore the struggle farmworkers have faced for so long. Cesar Chavez did much to make us aware of their plight. See the new web-site : http://www.ufw.org/cesarchavez. This simple visual site offers an array of information on Cesar Chavez, including video about the UFW founder, audio from Cesar Chavez?s speeches, Chavez photos and other research materials. Also included is a calendar of Cesar Chavez events across the country and photos and videos of past observances.

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO http://www.floc.com has been sucessful in negotiating three-way
contracts among corporations, farmers, and farmworkers. Farmworkers deserve fair wages and decent working conditions

Bishop F. Joseph Gossman of the Diocese of Raleigh, Bishop James R. Hoffman of the Diocese of Toledo; and Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati have all supported the organizing efforts of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee.

Gardening

For those who garden I recommend Spiritual Growth Through Domestic Gardening by Fr. Al Fritsch, S.J.

Bioengineered Seed

After World II, some scientists began what was called the "green revolution." Corporations produced hybrid seeds, built expensive farm machinery, manufactured chemical fertilizers and pesticides--all of which depended heavily on oil. It was an energy-intensive revolution. "Three kilocalories of fossil-fuel energy are required to produce just one kilocalorie of human food. Our soil is being eroded and our aquifers depleted at a cost of $17 billion per year. This does not include the more important social costs of farmers and the decline of whole rural communities." (World Hunger, Twelve Myths, p. 100) The green revolution increased the farmers' yield--at least temporarily. But critics bemoaned the depletion of the soil and often the degradation of the environment. They also questioned how healthy it was to eat food produced with so many chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

A small but significant number of farmers started to return to the traditional way of producing food "organically." Since organic farming was not as capital-intensive and energy-intensive, organic farmers felt their method was more sustainable in the long term, healthier, and better for the environment, more accord with nature than the green revolution.

The organic farming movement believes in a good livelihood for farmers and strong rural communities. Organic farming depends on energy from the sun and on natural biological processes for fertility and pest management.

Gene Revolution

As we enter into the twenty-first century, we are now faced with a "gene revolution." Traditionally, the movement of genes from one species to another has only been possible between closely-related species. Now scientists can remove genes from a trout or a mosquito and implant them into a tomato to delay ripening, or make for easier processing and shipping. Now scientists can take bacillus thuringiensis, the soil bacterium that produces the organic insecticide know as BT, and insert it into a potato gene. When a beetle eats a potato which now has BT inside it, the beetle dies. Although there might not be enough BT in the potato to kill us immediately, I can't imagine that a pesticide will be beneficial to us. At least I want to know I'm eating a potato with BT in it if I'm to make a reasonable choice. If a scientist can reassure me that eating a pesticide is not harmful to me, I'm all ears.

Organic farmers are concerned that pests will build up resistance to BT if it continues to be so widely used by the gene revolution. This will ruin the use of one of the few natural pesticides of organic farmers. Wind blows pollen from a field planted in bioengineered seed to a neighboring organic field contaminating it. The environment and ourselves become the guinea pigs for an enormous irreversible experiment.

Co-creators with God

I believe a farmer is a co-creator with God, a junior partner with God perfecting the original act of creation. Appropriate technology and organic farming works with nature, is regenerative and sustainable. I believe a scientist working to perfect appropriate technology and organic farming is also a co-creator with God.

We have the capacity to transform and in a certain sense create the world through our own work, but we can't forget that "this is always based on God's prior and original gift of the things that are. Instead of carrying out this role as cooperator with God in the work of creation, we can set ourselves up in place of God and thus provoke a rebellion on the part of nature." (Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, No. 37) "One cannot use with impunity the different categories of beings, whether living or inanimate--animals, plants, the natural elements--simply as one wishes, according to one's own economic needs. On the contrary, one must take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system" (Pope John Paul II, Solicitudo Rei Socialis, No. 34)

Is the vastness of this enterprise in accord with nature or "against the grain." (I highly recommend Lappe and Bailey, Against the Grain, Biotechnology and the Corporate Takeover of Your Food.) There is an order in nature which has evolved over millions of years. Without prejudging what's happening, in principle I think science needs to work with nature, respect nature, not subvert it. If we abuse and manipulate God's creation, we are not working with God but usurping God's role. We are not working with nature but against nature. How tell the difference? To me, that's a matter for group spiritual discernment.

Labeling of Biotech Foods

Do you know whether you're eating food produced by biotechnology? Would it make a difference to you? Personally, I consider freedom to choose what I eat a basic freedom. To make that choice, I need food that is labeled and a distributor that I trust. With the concurrence of the US Food and Drug Administration, the biotech industry has decided we don't need to know we are now eating food which contains genes that are pesticides. They argue that there has been no substantial change. Millions of acres are now planted with seeds produced through biotechnology. Such farms are not registered. The food produced by them is not labeled.

Critics wonder how we will be able to trace the health and environmental effects of the gene revolution. Bumblebees carry grains of pollen from biotech plants to neighboring fields. Biological pollution is not like an oil spill that eventually disperses but more like a disease. Will corporations be held legally responsible when one of its transgenes creates a superweed or resistant insect?

Biotechnology creates new kinds of food that have never been digested before. Starlink corn which had only been approved for animal consumption became mixed with corn for human consumption. Will corporations be held responsible for this dangerous experiment?

The 1918 influenza virus started in pigs and killed between twenty and forty million civilians worldwide, many more than died in World War I. Xenotransplantation breaks the species boundary and may cause new infections that could bring about a global pandemic. (See the Campaign for Responsible Transplantation 212-579-3477, action alerts at http://www.crt-online.org.)

"There are over 1,600 different species of microorganisms in a teaspoon of soil. Figuring out their interdependencies is a huge task." (Laura Ticciati & Robin Ticciati, PhD Genetically Engineered Foods, Are They Safe? You Decide. 1998, p. 49)

The European Union has passed a law that requires labeling of genetically engineered foods. Scientists from the US FDA itself suspect that genetic engineering could make foods toxic. FDA scientists also warn that genetically engineered foods could produce a new protein allergen or enhance the synthesis of existing plant food allergens. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that when a gene from a Brazil nut was engineered into soybeans, people allergic to nuts had serious reactions. Without labeling, people with certain food allergies will not be able to know if they might be harmed by the food they're eating.

Many biotech foods are modified with antibiotic resistant genes. People who eat genetically modified foods may become more susceptible to bacterial infections. The British Medical Association said that antibiotic resistance is "one of the major public human health threats that will be faced in the 21st century."

President Clinton was beholden to campaign monies from biotech corporations. He told the FDA not to be concerned about biotech foods since they weren't substantially different.

(See the Center for Food Safety http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org)

Organic Consumers

The Organic Consumers Association (http://www.organicconsumers.org) promotes food safety and sustainable agriculture. It calls for a moratorium on genetically engineered foods; wants to stop factory farming; works for at least 30% organic production in US agriculture by 2010.

American Academy of Environmental Medicine

In May 2009, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine called for adoption of the precautionary principle, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective meansures to prevent environmental degradation. The producers of bio-engineered see, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof that bio-engineered seed is healthy for humans, animals, and plants. (No one has to prove that the control of seed by a few corporations is dangerous to world democracy. That's obvious.) The AAEM also called for a moratorium on GM food, implementation of immediate long term independent safety testing, and labeling of GM foods, which is necessary for the health and safety of consumers.

The Union of Concerned Scientiests says none of corporations field trials have resulted in increased yield in commercialized major food/feed crops, with the exception of Bt corn. However this increase in Bt corn is largely due to traditional breeding improvements.

"Natural breeding processes have been safely utilized for the past several thousand years. In contrast, 'GE crop technology abrogates natural reproductive processes, selection occurs at the single cell level, the procedure is highly mutagenic and routinely breeches genera barriers, and the technique has only been used commercially for ten years.'

Despite these differences, safety assessment of GM foods has been based on the idea of 'substantial equivalence' such that 'if a new food is found to be substantially equivalent in composition and nutritional characteristics to an existing food, it can be regarded as safe as the conventional food' However, several animal studies indicate serious health risks association with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregularion, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system."

"Because of the mounting data, it is biologically plausible for Genetically Modified Foods to cause adverse health effects in humans." (See http://www.aaemonline.org/gmopost.html)

Action concerning Genetically Engineered Food

http://www.geaction.org

Below is a letter formulated by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. Go to http://www.dontplantGMObeets.org

It takes only a few minutes to go to Take Action Now.

"As a consumer, I am writing to urge your company to publicly oppose the spring 2008 planting of genetically modified sugar beets in the United States. You have the power to tell agribusiness firms that you won't buy sugar made from genetically modified sugar beets.

You should know that I am among the more than 50 percent of Americans who avoid genetically modified foods if given a choice. That means that if you publicly announce that your company will NOT use sugar from genetically modified sugar beets, I will be more likely to spend my hard-earned money with you. If you decide to use genetically modified sugar, I will avoid your products.

And I would take that one step farther: If you fail to label your food or beverage as not containing genetically modified sugar, I will have to operate on the assumption that it DOES contain the product ... and I will avoid it just to be safe. I am a big believer in consumers getting good information and having real choices. I do not want to be "forced" to eat genetically modified sugar either because it is sneaked into my food on an undisclosed basis or because it is added into virtually all food and beverages.

Sugar should be pure, not corrupted through genetic tinkering. I am very concerned about the sugar that would be created from genetically modified sugar beets. These would be sugar beets genetically engineered to survive direct application of the weed killer Roundup (or glyphosate). At the request of Roundup pesticide maker Monsanto, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently increased the allowable amount of glyphosate residues on sugar beet roots by a whopping 5000 percent. Obviously, that is not acceptable for people like me who want to enjoy sugar free from genetic modification.

I urge you, before planting starts in April 2008, to take a stand against genetically modified sugar beets. Please speak up for loyal consumers like me. Don't let them mess with sugar!"

Common Security

In February, 1999, a UN-backed summit of 174 nations met in Cartagena, Columbia, debating how to regulate trade in gene-engineered potatoes, cotton, grains and trees. Six nations blocked the rest of the world from agreeing on a treaty.
If we had democratic international law, citizens of the world could insure our common security. Now we have rule by the World Trade Organization which is a tribunal of corporate executives. Farmers in third world nations are being ruined.
Third world nations have to export more food to be able to pay their unfair debt. Now the US sets world prices.

Agricultural Diversity

Those who favor organic farming assert that agricultural ecosystems must become diversified again. Monoculture croping, growing acre upon acre of the same crop is unstable, subject to insect swarms, drought, and blight. Monocultures can only be sustained by intensive, expensive inputs of water, energy, chemicals, and machinery. Many see an urgent necessity of preserving biodiversity, in terms of food crops, animal breeds, and wild species.
(See BioDemocrtacy News # 25 http://www.purefood.org BioDemocracy Camapaign)

Economic Democracy

In Laborem Exercens, On Human Work, (No. 14) Pope John Paul II states that the moral title to ownership is legitimate only if capital and land serves the people, is democratically controlled, and is treated with responsible stewardship. If only a few own the land, we call for land reform. If only a few own the seed-if the seed is not democratically controlled-if the seed is not being handed in a responsible way, I think we should call for seed reform. A farmer can't grow crops without land. Nor can she/he grow food or fibre without seed. Today seeds are made by large corporations through biotechnology. These seeds are patented and controlled legally by these same corporations. Farmers can be and are prosecuted if they try to use seeds from one crop for the next year as they always have through the centuries. In fact, through terminator technology, second-generation seeds can now be made sterile. A major issue is control of our world food supply by a small number of seed corporations.

If you have absolute trust in corporations and our government, there's no need to worry. If you feel you have a responsibility as a citizen or a stockholder, I suggest for your reading Marc Lappe and Britt Bailey, Against the Grain; Biotechnology and the Corporate Takeover of Your Food. To work for genuine democracy in the important choices facing us, I recommend Alliance for Democracy. I wouldn't hold my breath, but you could also ask the Attorney General for legal action against seed monopolies: Attorney General, US Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, DC 20530

Many consider capital-intensive, energy-intensive farms of the green revolution as an enormous success if we consider the abundant yields the superfarm has given us. Others want democratic control of the land. They opt for appropriate technology and organic farming which is regenerative, sustainable, and safer for the consumer. Sustainable agriculture depends on energy from the sun and on natural biological processes for fertility and pest management. If the farmers lack fertile land, our supermarkets will be empty. At any one time we usually have about a two week supply of food. A blight or a man-made disaster like a nuclear war would empty our stores in a short time.

The US has ordered Iraqi farmers to buy bio-engineered seed from US corporations. The US has continually pressured Europe and Asia to use bio-engineered seed. These are other attempts to limit economic democracy.

Country of Origin Labeling

US consumers and independent producers have asked for many years that our food be labeled. Where is our food being produced and under what conditions? We know where our clothing is made. If our clothing is being produced in sweatshops, we want to know that. If our food is being grown in ways harmful to farmers, farm workers, the earth, not to mention ourselves, we want to know that. If animals are being treated cruelly, we want to know that. Country of origin labeling is required by most of our competitors. We should be proud to label all our food and farm products as Grown in the USA. If it isn't, we should know that.

World Hunger

Those who favor bioengineered food say the latter will solve world hunger. The chronic hunger of 800 million people doesn't make the evening news. Every day hunger and its related preventable diseases, kill as many as thirty-four thousand children under the age of five! That's twelve million children each year--more than the total number of people who died each year during World War II, equivalent to the number killed instantly by a Hiroshima bomb every three days! Hunger means the anguish of choosing between paying the mortgage and feeding your children. Hunger means the grief of watching people you love die. Hunger means humiliation and fear. I certainly want to end hunger as much as anyone.

What I suggest is research and social analysis beginning with the second edition of World Hunger, Twelve Myths by Frances Moore Lappe, Joseph Collins, and Peter Rosset with Luis Esparza. You may come to the same conclusion of the authors that the answer lies in economic democracy, local regions taking charge of their own food production and doing it in a sustainable way. The answer does not lie in self-deception and myths. "There's Simply Not Enough Food." "Nature's to Blame." "Too Many Mouths to Feed." "The Environment Would Suffer." "The Green Revolution Is the Answer." "Small farms are inefficient." "Free trade is the answer." "The poor don't have the know-how to feed themselves." "US aid can feed the hungry." "We will suffer if the poor are fed." "To feed the hungry means we have to give up our freedom."

Another book dealing with hunger and famine is Professor Amartya Sen, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economics, Development as Freedom. "Inequality has an important role in the development of famines and other severe crises. Indeed the absence of democracy is in itself an inequality." p. 187 "famines can occur even without a large--or any--diminution of the total food supply." "Hunger can coexist with a plentiful supply of food in the economy and the markets. . .Famines are, in fact, so easy to prevent that it is amazing that they are allowed to occur at all. . . What makes widespread hunger even more of a tragedy is the way we have come to accept and tolerate it as an integral part of the modern world as if it is a tragedy that is essentially unpreventable. . . What is really remarkable is the smugness and inaction that characterizes the world reaction to extensive hunger. . .not only is the problem of world hunger decisively solvable, the greatest barrier to achieving a solution is the defeatist and baseless fear that we shall not succeed against so big a challenge."

Global agribusiness corporations, including those involved in genetic engineering, are driving self-sufficient farmers off their land and increasing poverty and hunger.

?Thanks to science and technology, human society is able to solve problems such as feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, or developing more just conditions of life but remains stubbornly unable to accomplish this. How can a booming economy, the most prosperous and global ever, still leave over half of humanity in poverty? ?We can no longer pretend that the inequalities and injustices of our world must be borne as part of the inevitable order of things. Is it now quite apparent that they are the result of what we ourselves in our selfishness have done. . Despite the opportunities offered by an ever more serviceable technology, we are simply not willing to pay the price of a more just and more human society. . Injustice is rooted in a spiritual problem, and its solution requires a spiritual conversion of each one?s heart and a cultural conversion of our global society so that humankind, with all the powerful means at its disposal, might exercise the will to change the sinful structures afflicting our world. . . We need a sustained interdisciplinary dialogue of research and reflection, a continuous pooling of expertise. The purpose is to assimilate experiences and insights according to their different disciplines in ?vision of knowledge which, well aware of its limitations, is not satisfied with fragments but tries to integrate them into a true and wise synthesis?? Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J. spiritual leader of the Society of Jesus, Address at Santa Clara University, October, 2000.

Science and Biotechnology

From a report written by V.V. Raman at the Rochester Institute of Technology concerning the meeting of the Parliament of the World's Religions in Cape Town, South Africa, December, 1999. "The 'Walk Through Time' exhibit is a mile long tapestry of our planet's history, presented with colorful images, scientific depth, and consiousness-awakening commentaries. It highlights the fascinating geological and biological transformation that have occurred in this speck of ours in the cosmic expanse. Just inspecting it reminded me that there is something unique about our planet in that it harbors not just the throb of life, but a self-aware being, for in this creature called Homo Sapiens blind nature and the created multiplicity become beautiful, meaningful, and inquiry-worthy. Of what significance or charm would all this be were it not for an experiencing human spirit? The Walk, in which each foot corresponds to an eon, deserves to be displayed in every public school and mall across the country and all over the world. It adds poetry and majesty to the vision of science, and is certain to light a revelatory spark in any intelligent mind as to how humankind and microbe came to be.

Yet the exhibit also provoked a response to the effect that all this knowledge was wrought with grave danger. Genetic engineering and microbial manipulation could lead to irrevocable damage and disaster. This was a legitimate warning, but it was provoked by some misunderstanding as to what science is all about. Science is an effort to grasp and account for the multi-faceted splendor of the phenomenal world, not a project to manipulate knowledge for good or for evil. Scientists do bear responsibility towards the use of science, but so do philosophers, religionists, politicians, indeed all people who have any concern for the well-being of the human family and of life."

Scientists can be co-creators with God. Biotechnology has produced insulin for diabetes and medicine for those with heart trouble. It's not a question of being against all biotechnology in principle. It is a question of whether the gene revolution is going too fast, too soon, without being sufficiently tested, driven not by a desire to feed the world in a more nutritious and sustainable way but by a secret and elitist quest for greater profits.

I recommend the Union of Concerned Scientists (http://www.ucsusa.org), an alliance of 70,000 committed citizens and leading scientists who aim to "augment rigorous scientific research with public education and citizen advocacy to help build a cleaner, healthier environment and safer world." They study risks and benefits of the various applications of genetic engineering and support sustainable alternatives.

Responsibility of Farmers

Farmers should have the freedom to choose the kind of seed they will use and bear responsibility for the quality of the food produced and the effect their farming will have on the land and the interdependent systems in nature. Now the field planted by an organic farmer is exposed to pollen from a neighboring field planted with bioengineered seed. Now the monies given to extensive research in bioengineered seed are not matched by research into permaculture.

The National Family Farm Coalition has spearheaded a national "sign on statement" on genetic engineering in agriculture. Over thirty national, regional, and state farm groups have signed onto the statement. Demands include empowering consumers with the right to know whether their food is genetically engineered; banning the ownership of all forms of life including a ban on the patenting of seeds, plants, animals, genes, and cell lines; and ensuring that farmers who reject genetically modified organism will not bear the cost of establishing that their product is free of genetic engineering. The National Catholic Rural Life Conference joined farm groups from across the country in developing the statement. Farmers interested in signing onto the statement can find out more information from the National Family Farm Coalition at http://www.nffc.net

Farmers who use bioengineered seed are losing export markets since others nations have doubts about bioengineered food. Farmers have to sign an agreement not to plant their old seed since corporations have expropriated the expertise of centuries of peasant farmers who always chose their best seed from the previous year. Genetically engineered seed is easier for the large farmer who needs many farm workers. Crops from bioengineered seed will withstand sprays of Roundup Ready. Weeds or pests will not. But critics say pests will build up resistance to BT.

Should the perpetrator be able to fine the victim? See one family farmer engaged in a David vs. Goliath struggle: A law that punishes the victim and rewards the perpetrator has to be changed. Unfortunately the Supreme Court of Canada has given a mixed decision 5 to 4 against Percy Schmeiser (www.percyschmeiser.com) Percy does not have to pay Monsanto because he did not profit from the seed. However, the Court did rule that Monsanto owned the patent.

A former mayor and member of the Canadian Parliament, Percy Schmeiser has lost a life-time of saving seeds. "There is no such thing as containment of genetically modified organism farm production. There is no such thing as a buffer zone between a GMO field and a traditional field or an organic field. There is no such thing as co-existence of organic farmers and traditional farmers with GMO farmers." As human persons we should be free to make our own decisions about what kind of food we need to eat. The choice of consumers and of farmers has been taken away from them. GMO's will be able to contaminate the whole continent of Africa. GMO's result in reduction in yield, super-weeds and unknown environmental effects, and doubtful health and nutritional effects on the quality of our food. This massive GMO experiment which endangers the environment and human health has happened without the knowledge and consent of the American people or any people. This secret research often funded by the government enriches private individuals and gives five or six corporations control of the world's food supply. Seed reform is more important than land reform because it makes no difference who owns the land if a few greedy and ruthless men have control of the seed.

We have more than enough food to feed the world if we had a just economic system that provided at least the basic necessities for each human person. We need widespread and community ownership of the means of production, the factories and farms, the banks, insurance companies, the means of transportation, utilities. Research on basic life issues should be public and open.

Moral Evaluation

Thus how do we proceed to answer the moral, scientific, social issues involved? I would suggest a holistic, interdisciplinary, spiritual approach somewhat similar to that taken by Christian Life Communities and other faith-based or value-based communities. We are all sinners, prone to rationalization and self-deception. We all have vested interests. In a process of communal spiritual discernment we can better identify our inordinate attachments. A farmer next to a field which is using Roundup Ready can have her/his crops destroyed by pesticide drift. Roundup Ready can mean more money for the superfarm who hires many farm workers. Roundup Ready means more money and control for the seed company. Roundup Ready is simpler to use. On a short-term basis, biotechnology can be seductive both to the corporation and to the farmer.

Is the starting point of our reflection our love for God, our neighbor, and the earth? How we can make this a better world? Or do we begin with a desire for an expensive home, to be well-off financially, etc, and then say to ourselves, "Sure God won't object to my ambition."

Each of our eyes has a blind spot. Since the field of vision of our two eyes overlap, we have a large area of two-eyed vision. The blind spot in one eye is overlapped by s seeing portion of the other eye. If both eyes are open and functioning, there are no gaps in our visual field. We can have blind spots in our conscience also. St. Ignatius dealt with these with detailed procedures for spiritual discernment. We best do spiritual discernment with a companion or with a small discerning group such as a Christian Life Community. What we don't see by ourselves, others can help us with.

Jesuit theologian Fr. Karl Rahner, S.J. believes gnoseological concupiscencecan lead to immoral decisions. Theological Investigations, Vol. XIII, "Interdisciplinary Dialogue with Sciences" (1975) "Every scientist is prone to the temptation of failing to listen to others, or being willing to hear only what is confirmed for her/him in her/his own science. Hence the strange attitude of aggression which prevails among scientists even when it is concealed by a mask of conventional politeness." (p. 83) "gnoseological concupiscence is the mortal danger inherent in every science of according itself an absolute value and of supposing that the key which it carries within itself will fit every door." Rahner admits that theology also can fail to listen and not acknowledge its need for the sciences.

In The Challenge of Peace (No. 152) the US Catholic bishops deal with probability and risk in regard to a limited nuclear war. "The chances of keeping use limited seem remote, and the consequences of escalation to mass destruction seem appalling." The danger arises not only from the power of our technology "but in the weakness and sinfulness of human communities."

As I see it, the enormity of the risk in using bioengineered seed is not proportionate to the probability of success or the good to be achieved. Some feel the risks are minimal. In their minds, if we wait until we are absolutely certain, we may lose a whole technology, a new industrial revolution. But many scientists feel the risks are enormous. Until we have a greater consensus, as a world I don't think we should proceed on the massive scale that we have.

Jonathan Schell deals with biogenics in his chapter on "The Second Death" in The Fate of the Earth. Schell points out that by nature Einstein was "the gentlest of men, and by conviction he was a pacifist, yet he made intellectual discoveries that led the way to the invention of weapons with which the species could exterminate itself. " . . . "Only a few decades ago it might have seemed that physics, which had just placed nuclear energy at man's disposal, was the dangerous branch of science, while biology, which underlay improvements in medicine and also helped us to understand our dependence on the natural environment, was the beneficial branch; but now that biologists have begun to fathom the secrets of genetics, and to tamper with the genetic substance of life directly, we cannot be so sure."

As I have said, I think our weakness and sinfulness exposes all of us to self-deception, rationalizations, illusions, psychic numbing and false perceptions. The US Surgeon General has just pointed out the large number of Americans suffering from mental illness. Without being presumptuous, can I ask how many of us have some sort of psychological weakness that we cope with but would not be enough to classify as a disability? Indeed, some psychologists have even asserted that US culture has a kind of collective psychosis. (See Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, Indefensible Weapons, 1982) I certainly believe our culture suffers from massive self-deception. If any nation needs a truth commission, it's the US.

Should corporations be permitted to patent life? Where do they get the moral authority to do this? Should research into basic forms of life be public and open?

For further information check the following web sites: http://www.purefood.org
http://www.bio-integrity.org/
http://www.safe-food.org/ http://www.organicconsumers.org

US Public Interest Research Group http://www.pirg.org

How Would the Coordinated Vision Apply?

A global ethic could discern a safe course of action. Non-violence to our planet, animals, humans would be more cautious about bio-engineered seed. Participation in democratic structures would legislate and enforce fair and safe laws. The human family, animals, plants have a natural right to live and flourish. Widespread ownership of factories and farms, open disclosure of consumer products, would give all of us a reasoned choice of the kind of food that we eat. A democratic world federation would be able to legislate and enforce fair and safe laws for the human family, animals, and our planet.

WHY SHOULD GMO SEEDS NOT BE INTRODUCED INTO ZAMBIA?

The argument is straightforward:

Food security in Zambia for all Zambians requires sustainable agriculture.

GMOs will have a negative impact on Zambia?s sustainable agriculture.

Therefore GMOs should not be introduced into Zambia.

But would this not cause great hunger right now in Zambia?

The position is very clear:

The critical point of debate and decision must be that the very serious problem of food consumption (the presence of hunger) must not be dealt with in ways that create even more serious problems of food production (the destruction of agricultural infrastructure).
Do not deal with a serious short-term problem in ways that bring an even greater long-term problem

But is there any alternative to meeting the immediate short-term problem of hunger?

Yes, there is and Zambia should immediately act:

Contact African countries in the region that now have white non-GMO maize for sale, such as Kenya.
Request that any GMO-maize imported into the country as relief be milled outside the country.
But will not this cost extra money that Zambia does not have?

In a humanitarian crisis such as Zambia?s hunger situation, generous response can and should be expected:

Donors from Europe can be asked for immediate assistance and have already expressed their concern and readiness.
The USA can be asked to convert their ?donation? into the safe-way that Zambia wants and deserves, both by milling GMO maize and by purchasing non-GMO maize.

But will this not delay meeting our great crisis right now?

No, not if the Zambian government, backed by the Zambian people, make very clear both our demands to meet the present need for help and our desires to meet the future need of sustainable agriculture.
12 August 2002

SOME REFLECTIONS ON THE GMO MAIZE DEBATE IN ZAMBIA AND WIDER

KATC and JCTR began discussion about GMOs almost two years ago, with interest in what impact moving in this direction would have on the small-scale farmer, who produces 80% of Zambia?s food. Our concern was and is based on principles of the church?s social teaching such as emphasis on basic human rights, an option for the poor, the economy serving the people, participation in decision making, etc.

The specific KATC/JCTR study was commissioned over six months ago, long before the controversy about USA offer erupted. The focus of our study has been primarily on implications for sustainable agriculture in Zambia, the necessary prerequisite for food security in the country. We have not focused strongly on the food safety questions, as others have done that.
Our recommendation to Government to turn down the USA offer is based on our scientific study, which concludes that the acceptance of GMO ?relief? maize raises the clear and present danger of introducing GMOs into our agricultural system, with consequences for small-scale farmers? ability to maintain their contribution to Zambia?s food security, destruction of organic farming capabilities, and loss of European markets.

Operating on the grounds of the ?precautionary principle,? we therefore have urged that GMO maize be kept out of the country ? unless and until the aforementioned consequences to our agricultural infrastructure are adequately dealt with. That is why we have supported quicker action by Government into adopt a Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy.

Keenly aware of the current crisis of food shortage, we have supported Government?s efforts to source non-GMO maize, both within the country and from neighbouring countries (e.g., Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique). Moreover, we believe that major cooperating partners such as the EU and the USA can and should respond according to the Government?s commitments to protect Zambian interests. Only as a last resort would we consider ?milled? GMO maize being brought in ? we still have the legitimate questions about its safety

Indeed, we find perplexing and disturbing the current reaction to the Government?s decision by ?friends? ? e.g., castigation of the Government for not caring about the people, high-level pressures exerted both inside and outside the country to get the Government to change its position, outside media campaign against Zambia?s decision, etc.

Honest questions can surely be asked as to why the IMF is pushing so hard for a change, why the WFP is unwilling to accept Zambia?s position, why the USA will limit its assistance to ?loans made to commercial millers.?

We are aware that some of the anti-GMO debate has degenerated into name-calling and conspiracy theories and raises scientific points that can be legitimately questioned. But that should in no way be allowed to distract from the very substantial arguments being raised on keen scientific and ethical grounds. We therefore urge an open and accountable debate, with respect for the integrity of Zambia?s official position.
Pete Henriot, S.J. 26 August 2002

Patenting of Life

"The academic and research communities are primarily concerned about whether the patenting process would destroy the free and open exchange of information that has been the hallmark of excellence in research." Dr. Krishna R. Dronamraju, Foundation for Genetic Research, Texas, USA, Biological and Social Issues in Biotechnology Sharing
p.108 (See also pp. 66, 79, 88, 94)

How can we invent something that already exists in nature? Isn't it a discovery, not an invention?

Some feel that intellectual property rights should respect the rights of traditional cultures. Compensation is due traditional knowledge developed by peasant farmers, practitioners of indigenous medicine, and third world nations. Since in many indigenous societies property is communal, rewards can be collective.

"There are inadequate measures to compensate indigenous tribes and farmers in the developing countries who preserved traditional knowledge and biological resources for centuries. Such knowledge has been commercially exploited by the developed countries, at first under colonial rule and later through the multinational companies." (Ibid, p142)

Noam Chomsky feels that GATT and NAFTA protect the power of patents. "Patents are designed to insure that the technology of the future is in the hands of transnational corporations and they want to be publicly subsidized in research and development." "India can produce drugs at a fraction of the cost of what Merck would like to price to sell. In fact, drug prices are way lower in India than in Pakistan next door because India happened to develop its own pharmaceutical industry. The American corporations don't like that. . .They want more profit, which means more children die in India. They want to make sure that India doesn't produce drugs at less than the cost of American drugs." (Ibid. p. 147)
"For thousands of years people in the south have been developing crops. They don't own them. They don't get any rights from that. . .they have the rich gene pool and the thousands of years of experience in creating hybrids and figuring out what herb works. Then western corporations go in and take it for nothing. .They minimally modify it and sell it to them. They patent it. It is a scam designed to rob the poor and enrich the rich, like most social policy. . .The people who make social policy make it in their interest. They wouldn't be in a position to make social policy if they weren't rich and privileged. People suffer." (Ibid. p. 148)

A Decision for All?

Another group working for economic democracy is The Alliance for Democracy http://afd-on-line.org begun in 1995 by Ronnie Dugger, journalist and writer. The Alliance for Democracy is concerned that giant corporations will break free of community and democratic control, pursue wealth without limits, and ignore responsibility to the national and international common good. The Alliance for Democracy is concerned that we are now dominated by a corporate oligarchy which controls our food production.

Scripture and the teaching of the main-line churches have always emphasized the dignity, value, and worth of each human person as well as the integrity of God?s physical creation. Everyone should have the freedom to choose the kind of food they eat and bear the responsibility for the effect it will have on themselves, on those they love, and on the environment. Failing to respect the integrity of creation is a violation of the Seventh Commandment. (Cathechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2415.)

To make moral choices the people need adequate information, indeed a thorough and balanced educational program. I think the moral principle involved is proportionality. Are there minimal risks or enormous risks? Does everyone benefit or only a few? What kind of certainty or uncertainty do we have? Are there alternatives?

The questions involved are scientific but also social and moral. I think addressing these questions needs a wholistic, interdisciplinary, spiritual approach somewhat similar to that taken by faith-based discerning communities. We are all sinners. We all have vested interests. We need spiritual discernment to minimize self-deception and rationalizations.

If after loving and rational discourse a reasonable consensus is not reached, the greater the risk the greater the certainty needed before we proceed on a large scale.

The Catholic Church has said that we have the right to consumer property like the clothes we wear and the food we eat. The Church has also said everyone has the right to productive property like the factories which make clothes and farms that grow food. However, property has a social aspect as well as a private aspect. If I own an automobile, I have the responsibility not to drive recklessly. (See Pope John XXIII, Mater and Magister, No. 19)

We have the capacity to transform and in a certain sense create the world through our own work, but we can?t forget that ?this is always based on God?s prior and original gift of the things that are. Instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation we can set ourselves up in place of God and thus provoke a rebellion on the part of nature.?(Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, No. 37) ?One cannot use with impunity the different categories of beings, whether living or inanimate?animals, plants, the natural elements?simply as one wishes, according to one?s own economic needs. On the contrary, one must take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system.? (Pope John Paul II, Solicitudo Rei Socialis. No. 34)

For those willing to accept a challenge, Pope John Paul II has an excellent treatment of the priority of labor over capital in On Human Labor. No. 14 makes clear the primacy of work over ownership and the necessity for owners to distribute their product to all. "Property is acquired through work in order that it may serve work. This concerns in a special way ownership of the means of production. Isolating these means as a separate property in the form of 'capital' in opposition to 'labor' and even to practice exploitation of labor is contrary to the very nature of these means and their possession. They cannot be possessed against labor, they cannot even be possessed for possession's sake, because the only legitimate title to their possession--whether in the form of private ownership or in the form of public or collective ownership--is that they should serve labor and thus by serving labor that they should make possible the achievement of the first principle of this order, namely the universal destination of goods, and the right to common use of them. . one cannot exclude the socialization, in suitable conditions, of certain means of production." (See also Pope Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, No. 23)

In this context, should we permit private ownership of the genes that are the sources of life? Should private individuals develop these important sources of life in secrecy for private gain? Shouldn't such basic decisions be made by the people and not just the wealthy and the powerful?

Fr. Ignacio Ellacuria, S.J., one of the Jesuits murdered in El Salvador in 1989, thought that as a human family we have not yet reached the beginning, the starting line. The natural resources of the earth should be for all. "Only because of greed and selfishness, connatural to original sin can it be said that private ownership of property is the best guarantee of productive advancement and social order. Bu if 'where sin abounded, grace abounded more' is to have historical verification, it is necessary to proclaim utopianly that new earth with new human beings must be shaped with principles of greater altruism and solidarity. The present order based on the accumulation of private capital and material wealth could be considered as a prehistoric and prehuman stage." Ignacio Ellacuria, "Utopia and Prophecy in Latin America" Towards a Society that Serves Its People, 62,63)

Seed is productive property. Such an important commodity should be a common resource available to all. The quality of seed and the diversity of seed cannot be determined secretly by a few private individuals for their exclusive profit. The goods of creation are destined for all. The common good takes precedence over an individual's right to private property. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2402, 3)

(See International Center for Technology Assessment http://www.icta.org which studies sustainable agriculture, biotechnology, and intellectual property.)

Prudence Urged for Genetically Modified Organisms

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 12, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The field of genetically modified organisms "must not be abandoned, although it needs much care," said a Vatican official at the conclusion of an international symposium.

Cardinal Renato Martino, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, concluded the two-day symposium by saying that the Holy See will give its ethical judgment on the matter of GMOs. He said the pontifical council "will not fail to offer its contribution to enlighten consciences so that plant biotechnologies are an opportunity for all, not a threat." The symposium, held Monday and Tuesday, attracted 60 representatives of the world of science, politics, industry and trade, international bodies, and consumer associations. The pontifical council will keep, among other things, three elements in mind, Cardinal Martino said: "Solidarity in trade relations among nations; ? environmental safety and the health of all; ? [and] understanding between the scientific world, civil society, and political authorities at the national and international level." He said that "the symposium has been a first instance of study on a path which the Holy See hopes to travel with prudence, serenity and in truth, to respond to the widespread expectations present in the Church, the scientific world and in our society in general."

13-November-2003 -- Catholic World News Brief

JESUITS IN ZAMBIA PROTEST VATICAN APPROVAL FOR GMOS
Lusaka, Nov. 13 (CWNews.com) - Two Jesuit priests have sharply criticized the results of a Vatican seminar that gave cautious approval for the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as a source of food.

Fathers Roland Lessesps and Peter Henriot, both Jesuits working in Lusaka, Zambia, said that the Vatican seminar had been designed deliberately to approve GMO use. They argued that their own "deep concerns based on practical experiences" were not reflected by the international panel of 67 scientists who had discussed the issue in Rome.

The two Jesuits repeated arguments that they had introduced in the past, saying that GMOs could make Third World countries overly dependent on products from the industrialized world. They also suggested that the use of GMOs might produce environmental damage.

The Vatican seminar was convened largely as a response to these arguments. The GMO debate came to a head when Zambia-- under the influence of the Jesuits' arguments-- refused to accept food aid that included GMOs.

The Vatican seminar concluded that the potential for GMOs to ease problems of world hunger should weigh heavily in favor of their use.

Food for Controversy
Genetically Modified Organisms Under Scrutiny

By Delia Gallagher

ROME, DEC. 4, 2003 .- The recent Vatican conference on genetically modified foods (or organisms) brought together 67 international experts to discuss "GMOs: Threat or Hope" at a closed-door meeting at the Palazzo San Callisto.

The palazzo is the seat of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, which sponsored the event. Cardinal Renato Martino, in his opening remarks to the conference, claimed that even the Holy See felt the "pressures coming from multiple fonts and bearers of diverse, and in some ways incompatible, needs," on the question of genetically modified foods.

"We are fully aware," said the cardinal, "that what is at stake is high and delicate, for the polarization that divides public opinion, for the commercial contentions that exist at the international level, for the difficulty of defining, at the scientific level, a matter that is the subject of research in rapid evolution, for the complex ethno-cultural and ethno-political implications."

The conference itself suffered from polarization, according to some of the participants.

Margaret Mellon, an American scientist of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the conference was "weighed in favor of those in favor."

Doreen Stabinsky, a scientist for Greenpeace and one of the speakers at the conference, agreed.

"I was not initially invited to speak," Stabinsky told me. "Our executive director was invited and asked if he could send me, since he was not a scientist. He was initially told no."

"I think they [the organizers] wanted to have a panel with scientists who were in favor, and non-scientists who were not, so they could say that all the critics are non-scientists and make the position look weak," Stabinsky said.

"At this morning's session," continued Stabinsky, "there were five speakers and only one was critical of GMOs."

One critical speaker is Father Roland Lesseps, a scientist in Zambia who was for many years a professor at Loyola University in New Orleans.

Zambia, and the Jesuits there, were a catalyst for increased debate over genetically modified foods as a means to relieve famine. In the summer of 2002 Zambia rejected aid offered by the United States in the form of genetically modified corn. This refusal was encouraged by the Jesuit Center for Theological Reflection in Zambia, led by American Jesuit Pete Henriot.

"The Jesuits in Zambia," James Nicholson, U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, told me during an interview, "said better that 2 million die today, than 20 million in 10 years."

Ambassador Nicholson has been a fervent supporter of genetically modified foods in Africa. Though the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See was not involved in the organization of the GMO conference, it has held three conferences on the subject for Vatican diplomatic corps representatives this past year.

"Resistance is a mixed bag of hypersensitivity to food safety, and a European agenda of protectionism," continued the ambassador. "Meanwhile people are dying in Africa."

Father Lesseps sees things differently. In a summary of his presentation to the conference, he said that the question of GMOs is "frequently and mistakenly put as an either-or choice of feeding a hungry world."

"There are other and more suitable ways to feed a hungry world than adopting a potentially dangerous technocratic approach," Father Lesseps said. "Food is not merely another economic commodity governed in its production and distribution by the laws of the market."

According to him, "genetic modification does not meet the tests of the social teaching of the Church for genuine integral development that respects human rights and the order of creation."

While genetically modified foods may be hotly debated, one conference participant gave powerful testimony to the good that other organisms genetically modified, in this case cotton, can bring.

Thandiwe Myeni is a widowed mother of five and a school principal in Makhatini, South Africa. Since 1994, she has been a cotton farmer. In 1999, she began using insect-resistant BT cotton in addition to traditional seed.

"My experience demonstrated," said Myeni, "that BT cotton seeds resulted in 9 bales per ha [hectare], as compared to non-BT which produced 4 bales per ha. The BT plants had a significantly reduced cost in pesticide as well. Labor which would have been spent on spraying for the traditional seed, was able to be redirected to harvesting more cotton. This also reduced exposure to the toxic chemicals used in the spray."

According to Myeni, "Farmers in the Makhatini area are enthusiastic about the use of BT cotton, as it results in increased yield and profit for farmers, with less labor and time needed."

"The use of GM cotton seed has changed my life, allowing me to improve my home and farm," she said.

Such news may not appease critics who claim that the biggest problem with GMOs is that it creates a dependence of poor farmers on American companies who produce the seeds.

Ambassador Nicholson is not swayed. "They don't have to keep using it if it's not to their advantage," he said.

See Jesuit Center in Zambia http://www.jctr.org.zm/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOIL, NOT OIL: FOOD SECURITY IN TIMES OF CLIMATE CHANGE

VANDANA SHIVA

OCTOBER 28, 2009

 

Shiva's thesis is that multinational corporations which produce and sell bioengineered seeds are contributing to insecurity in the global food supply. Their promise of increasing food production to save starving humanity is a false one. What is needed the most is improving the world?s soils.

Argentine pediatricians have said that Roundup [a pesticide produced by Monsanto which kills weeds that are not bioengineered] is causing birth defects.

The cost of seeds in India has increased 100 times in recent years.

Diversion of food for biofuel [such as corn for gasoline] is responsible for 75% of the recent rises in the price of food.

US wastes 50% of food, since by the time it reaches its destination and is eaten, 50% is spoiled.

Bioengineered crops have not increased food production yields.

More than half of the billion people in the world who are hungry [560 million] are themselves farmers. They could produce their own food if their farms were not interfered with by unfair world agricultural policies, such as subsidies from governments in developed nations.

Resistance to the pesticide Roundup is a relatively simple genetic modification. Gene science could possibly make a substantial contribution if it could tackle bigger issues, such as producing strains of crops which would be resistant to droughts.

Fifty percent of people in the USA are involved in the food industry, but most of them are taking energy out of the soil, not adding value. These people would, in general, be those who are transporting the foods such great distances, expending fossil fuels in the process.

A forward-looking agricultural policy would ensure that local farmers can make a living.

Our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are over oil, but sustainable farming should bring peace.

A helpful website which Shiva recommended was:  http://www.agassessment.org/ for the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development.

 

 

Summary, Should We Redesign Life?

We all eat. How many study and investigate under what conditions our food is produced? Have we heard the stories of farmers, farm workers, food processors, factory farms, environmentalists?

Are students who graduate from universities illiterate concerning food and farm issues? If so, I propose that universities plan an interdisciplinary course centering on this crucial topic. Or at least that this topic be part of the Core Curriculum.

I have a vision of five major pieces, or pillars, that we need to focus on to build a just world: a global ethic; a culture of non-violence; basic human rights; new economic structures; a global democratic political entity. Seed reform would be part of all five pillars. In what way, if any, should we redesign life? Should we redesign structures that promote life? The context of this discussion of bio-engineered seed is a food delivery system that is dependent on fossil fuels.

1. Whether we should redesign life is not just an intellectual problem but a spiritual one. The purpose of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, is to make decisions in the Spirit, decisions not dominated by inner insecurities, self-deception, addictions, negative drives, or disordered affections. Science may be objective, but scientists are not. Scientists are human, imperfect, finite. Scientists have vested interests, can rationalize, be arrogant. Jesuit theologian Fr. Karl Rahner, S.J. believed gnoseological consupiscence can lead to immoral decisions. ?Every scientist is prone to the temptation of failing to listen to others, or being willing to hear only what is confirmed for her/him in one?s own science. . gnoseological consupiscence is the mortal danger inherent in every science of according itself an absolute value and of supposing that the key which it carries within itself will fit every door.?. (Theological Investigations, Vol. XIII, ?Interdisciplinary Dialogue with Sciences.?) We need more than one key.

The US Catholic Bishops add the dimension of original or group sinfulness. In regard to a limited nuclear war they say: ?The chances of keeping nuclear war limited seem remote, and the consequences of escalation to mass destruction seem appalling.? The danger arises not only from the power of our technology ?but in the weakness and sinfulness of human communities.? (Challenge of Peace, No. 152)

Because all of nature is interconnected, can we say wrongful manipulation of sources of life can lead to mass destruction? Responsible scientists see our food delivery system as a major contributor to global warming. As I see it, bio-engineered seed furthers monoculture, furthers the present system. All of us need enough spiritual freedom to be even open to food and farm issues. How can there be anything wrong with food that tastes so good, is so abundant, and is so cheap?

Do we have enough spiritual freedom to question our present food delivery system? We are all dependent on the present institutions. We?re used to it. We like it. Even if we see defects in our food and farm structures, it?s hard to find practical alternatives to the current institutions such as Community Supported Agriculture. We need prayer and God?s grace to give us inner freedom. Do we find our basic security in God?s love? Do we trust God?s plan for us? My main concern is that we have a process of open dialogue. Those who favor bio-engineered food are not talking to those who see dangers and risks. St. Thomas Aquinas rightly says that error is in the will, not in the function of our minds.

Vandana Shiva, eco-feminist from India says in regard to Genetically engineered Vitamen A Rice: ?Promoting vitamin A rice as a cure for blindness while ignoring safer, cheaper, available alternatives provided by our rich agrobiodiversity is nothing short of a blind approach to blindness control.? Redesigning Life? The Worldwide Challenge to Genetic Engineering p. 43. Whether we should redesign life is a spiritual problem.

2. Choosing seed that leads to healthy life and a healthy planet is a moral value. God wants us to take reasonable care of our health, of the health of others. God wants us to be stewards of the planet on which we live. God wants us to make basic decisions that promote life, our life, the life of our neighbor, indeed the life of the planet on which we live.

The European Union requires the labeling of products that contain any genetically modified substance, so that people can know what they are buying and make a moral choice. There is a reasonable doubt that bioengineered seed promotes human health or promotes a healthy environment. When in doubt we need to err on the side of life.

The production of healthy seed can be controlled by laws. The production of healthy seed can better be controlled by ownership. The source of life is a basic commodity which should be owned in common by all of us, not controlled by a few in secret for private gain. The oceans, space, water, seed, should be owned in common.

?The poorest two-thirds of humanity live in what can be appropriately called the biodiversity-based economy. As farmers, they select and save their own seeds. As healers, they protect and use medicinal plants. Both the knowledge and the resource are part of an intellectual and biological commons to which the entire community has free access, and there is a long-surviving tradition of free give-and-take.

Biopiracy, and patents based on it, are equivalent to enclosing the biological and intellectual commons, while dispossessing the original innovators and users. What was available to them freely and what they have contributed to is converted into a priced commodity, and they will have to pay royalties each time they use it. The duty to exchange and save seed is thus redefined as theft and an intellectual property crime.

The enclosure of the intellectual and biological commons through patents thus creates both material and intellectual poverty for two-thirds of humanity?the poor in the Third World.

For the corporations and scientist engaged in biopiracy, patents can become an immediate source of wealth.? Redesigning Life? The Worldwide Challenge to Genetic Engineering p. 283. Vandana Shiva.

Does patenting prevent free and open collective research? (Dr. Krishna R. Donamraju)

I question the morality of patenting life and the so-called free trade agreements.

A farmer is a co-creator with God, a junior partner with God perfecting the original act of creation. Appropriate technology and organic farming works with nature, is regenerative and sustainable. A scientist working to perfect appropriate technology and organic farming is a co-creator with God. We have the capacity to transform and in a certain sense create the world through our work, but we can?t forget that ?this is always based on God?s prior and original gift of the things that are. Instead of carrying out this role as cooperator with God in the work of creation, we can set ourselves up in place of God and thus provoke a rebellion on the part of nature.? The late Pope John Paul II, Centesinmus Annus, No. 37) ?One cannot use with impunity the different categories of beings, whether living or inanimate?animals, plants, the natural elements?simply as one wishes, according to one?s own economic needs. On the contrary, one must take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system.? (Pope John Paul II, Solicitudo Rei Socialis, No. 34) There is an order in nature which has evolved over millions of years. Scientists need to work with nature, respect nature, dialogue openly on what is in accord with nature, in an interdisciplinary way. We have a vulnerable food system. We need food security.

3. We will best address the issue of how our food is produced in a small faith-based community like Christian Life Community that studies all aspects of our food system in an interdisciplinary and open way. Questions to aid our analysis are: Who is making the decisions about how our food is produced? Who is benefiting from those decisions? Who is taking most of the risks of those decisions? Are there minimal risks or enormous risks? Does everyone benefit or only a few? What kind of certainty or uncertainty do we have? Are there alternatives?

Genetic engineering has given longer shelf life, higher sugar content, more controlled ripening of tomatoes, initially easier resistance to insects. Genetically modified organisms have made aesthetic changes in products to make them look better to the consumer. GMO?s make it easier to control weeds at least temporarily. GMO?s have made a lot of money for corporations and have given them greater control of our food system. There is doubt about the health and environmental consequences of bio-engineered food. There is no doubt about the risk to our democracy.

World Hunger

Those who favor bioengineered food say the latter will solve world hunger. The chronic hunger of 800 million people doesn't make the evening news. Every day hunger and its related preventable diseases, kill as many as thirty-four thousand children under the age of five! That's twelve million children each year--more than the total number of people who died each year during World War II, equivalent to the number killed instantly by a Hiroshima bomb every three days! Hunger means the anguish of choosing between paying the mortgage and feeding your children. Hunger means the grief of watching people you love die. Hunger means humiliation and fear. I certainly want to end hunger as much as anyone.

What I suggest is research and social analysis beginning with the second edition of World Hunger, Twelve Myths by Frances Moore Lappe, Joseph Collins, and Peter Rosset with Luis Esparza. You may come to the same conclusion of the authors that the answer to hunger lies in economic democracy, local regions taking charge of their own food production and doing it in a sustainable way. The answer does not lie in self-deception and myths. Each of the following myths are studied in detail. "There's Simply Not Enough Food." "Nature's to Blame." "Too Many Mouths to Feed." "The Environment Would Suffer." "The Green Revolution Is the Answer." "Small farms are inefficient." "Free trade is the answer." "The poor don't have the know-how to feed themselves." "US aid can feed the hungry." "We will suffer if the poor are fed." "To feed the hungry means we have to give up our freedom."

Another book dealing with hunger and famine is Professor Amartya Sen, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economics, Development as Freedom. "Inequality has an important role in the development of famines and other severe crises. Indeed the absence of democracy is in itself an inequality." p. 187 "famines can occur even without a large--or any--diminution of the total food supply." "Hunger can coexist with a plentiful supply of food in the economy and the markets. . .Famines are, in fact, so easy to prevent that it is amazing that they are allowed to occur at all. . . What makes widespread hunger even more of a tragedy is the way we have come to accept and tolerate it as an integral part of the modern world as if it is a tragedy that is essentially unpreventable. . . What is really remarkable is the smugness and inaction that characterizes the world reaction to extensive hunger. . .not only is the problem of world hunger decisively solvable, the greatest barrier to achieving a solution is the defeatist and baseless fear that we shall not succeed against so big a challenge."

Global agribusiness corporations, including those involved in genetic engineering, are driving self-sufficient farmers off their land and increasing poverty and hunger.

?Thanks to science and technology, human society is able to solve problems such as feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, or developing more just conditions of life but remains stubbornly unable to accomplish this. How can a booming economy, the most prosperous and global ever, still leave over half of humanity in poverty? ?We can no longer pretend that the inequalities and injustices of our world must be borne as part of the inevitable order of things. Is it now quite apparent that they are the result of what we ourselves in our selfishness have done. . Despite the opportunities offered by an ever more serviceable technology, we are simply not willing to pay the price of a more just and more humane society. . Injustice is rooted in a spiritual problem, and its solution requires a spiritual conversion of each one?s heart and a cultural conversion of our global society so that humankind, with all the powerful means at its disposal, might exercise the will to change the sinful structures afflicting our world. . . We need a sustained interdisciplinary dialogue of research and reflection, a continuous pooling of expertise. The purpose is to assimilate experiences and insights according to their different disciplines in ?vision of knowledge which, well aware of its limitations, is not satisfied with fragments but tries to integrate them into a true and wise synthesis?? Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J. spiritual leader of the Society of Jesus, Address at Santa Clara University, October, 2000.

Independent research has shown enormous risks to our health, our planet, and our democracy! ( Union of Concerned Scientists ?Gone to Seed? GE DNA is contaminating US seeds of corn, soybeans and canola. National Academy of Science:. Preventing contamination of non-GE crops is not possible in most cases. Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility. The usage of pesticides first falls but then climbs steadily as resistance increases. Monoculture is subject to insect swarms, drought, blight, and agro-terrorism.

People are fighting bioengineered foods for very real and very serious reasons. Evidence is growing that genetically engineered foods are not safe. At least one tragedy has occurred, when a genetically engineered dietary supplement approved by the Food and Drug Administration, L-tryptophan, killed twenty-seven people and injured 1,500 in 1990. (Fox, Superpigs and Wondercorn, p. 13) Even without the help of genetic engineering, agribusiness has already gained excessive control of the world's food system, compromised nutrition, poisoned the environment, and contributed to rising cancer rates. The full impact on human and environmental health of a genetically engineered food system is simply and undeniably unforeseeable. (Redesigning Life? Worldwide Challenge to Genetic Engineering, p. 63)

The US has ordered Iraqi farmers to buy bio-engineered seed from US corporations and has continually pressured other nations to use GMO's. Is that democratic?

Global agribusiness corporations, including those involved in genetic engineering, are driving self-sufficient farmers off their land and increasing poverty and hunger.

We have more than enough food to feed the world if we had a just economic system that provided at least the basic necessities for each human person. We need widespread and community ownership of the means of production, the factories and farms.

To me, the enormity of the risk in using bioengineered seed is not proportionate to the probability of success or the good to be achieved. Some feel the risks are minimal. In their minds, if we wait until we are absolutely certain, we may lose a whole technology, a new industrial revolution. But other more independent scientists say the risks are enormous. Not many doubt the risk to our democracy. Until we have a greater consensus, as a human family we should not proceed on the massive scale that we have. ?To minimize environmental degradation and health impacts, the precautionary principle is the overriding principle guiding action, shifting the burden of proof from one of proving environmental harm to one of proving environmental safety.? Principles for Global Corporate Responsibility The Corporate Examiner Vol. 31. No. 4-6. Two books that outline present risks are Marc Lappe, Ph.D. and Britt Bailey, Against the Grain, Biotechnology and the Corporate Takeover of Your Food; Redesigning Life? The Worldwide Challenge to Genetic Engineering, Edited by Brian Tokar Also see Fr. Peter Henriot, S.J. Sojourners Apr. 2, 2005, ?The Zambia Experience?

See Food First web-site under genetically modified food http://www.foodfirst.org/progs/global/ge/

The Independent Science Panel (ISP) released a report critical of genetically modified (GM) food and crops because of potential risks to human health and the environment, while making the case that better ways are readily available to produce food in a sustainable way.

Based on more than 200 references to primary and secondary sources, the ISP report, The Case for a GM-Free Sustainable World, is a complete dossier of evidence on the known problems and hazards of GM crops as well as the manifold benefits of sustainable agriculture. This report comes at a time when governments have failed to conduct adequate health and safety tests.

The independent Science Panel (ISP), http://www.indsp.org, consists of prominent scientists from seven countries, spanning the disciplines of agroecology, agronomy, biomathematics, botany, chemical medicine, ecology, histopathology, microbial ecology, molecular biology, molecular genetics, nutritional biochemistry, physiology, toxicology and virology. Food First Books:

Genetic Engineering in Agriculture: The Myths, Environmental Risks, and Alternatives

order your copy of the book © Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy 398 60th Street, Oakland, CA 94618 USA Tel: 510-654-4400 Fax: 510-654-4551 Email: foodfirst@foodfirst.org

Challenging Industrialized Ag and Biotech > 2003 Sacramento Ministerial > Voices from the South Debate on Agriculture, Hunger and Biotechnology Genetic Pollution in Mexico's Center of Maize Diversity Anatomy of a Gene Spill Case for a GM-Free Sustainable World

Genetic Engineering in Agriculture: The Myths, Environmental Risks, and Alternatives Voices from the South

The Third World Debunks Corporate Myths on Genetically Engineered Crops The battle over genetic engineering is being fought across the world, between those who champion farmers' rights to seeds, livelihood and land, and those who would privatize them. Food First, together with the Pesticide Action Network, has brought together a range of views from critics of GE food.

Table of Contents and Introduction Myth #1: Genetically Engineered Crops Are Necessary to Feed the Third World

Myth #2: Northern Resistance to Genetic Engineering Creates Starvation in the South

Myth #3: Golden Rice: A Miracle Rice

Myth #4: Patents are Necessary to Ensure Innovation

Myth #5: Biotechnology Increases Agricultural Biodiversity

Myth #6: People in the Third World Want Genetically Engineered Crops

A long struggle by Bishop Maurice Dingman to get Pope John Paul II to come to a rural area was going nowhere until the Pope himself heard the proposal and enthusiastically said yes, he wanted to go to farm country! Pope John Paul II visited Des Moines, Iowa, and on Oct. 4, 1979, began his remarks with the words of the offertory prayers at Catholic Mass: "Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, through your goodness we have this bread to offer which earth has given and human hands have made."

Wheat is planted in the earth, harvested, and made into flour. Flour is baked into bread and brought to the altar. The earth, our work become the Eucharistic Christ. But we have to grow a better grade of wheat and bake a better loaf of bread before Christ will come and consecrate the world fully into His body. If we bring the loaves of our efforts to Jesus, Jesus can multiply the loaves.

With Fr. Pierre Teihard de Chardin, S.J., I believe that the Eucharistic Christ is not just the spiritual center but the physical center of the universe. Gravitational fields, magnetic fields, indeed all of nature is interconnected and one.

Wheat is planted, feeds on the minerals of the earth, drinks the moisture in the soil, and grows. Human hands harvest the wheat, ground it into flour, bake the bread, and bring it to the altar. The wheat contains physical creation, past and present. Human work transforms the wheat into bread. If the eucharistic bread is produced in a way that disrupts the web of nature or in ways unjust to farmers and farm workers, I feel uncomfortable offering such bread to become the body of Christ.

The priest breaks the bread, a symbol of sharing. If there is someone malnourished anywhere in the world, the Eucharist is incomplete everywhere in the world.

Jesus transforms the bread into His body. In faith and love human persons, human work, physical creation are all united in the Eucharistic Christ.

 

Accept the eons of earth?s slow change
The millennia of the soil?s formation
The centuries of seed selection by peasants
The years of farmer cultivation of the land
The hours of millers and bakers, truckers and clerks
Divine plans, human hands, co-workers, co-creators
This earth, this work, this bread
One with you, our Creator!
One with you, our Bread of Life!

 

Fr. Benjamin J. Urmston, S.J. April, 2009

The Case for a GM-Free Sustainable World (Food First web-site) http://www.foodfirst.org/

1. GM crops failed to deliver promised benefits

The consistent finding from independent research and on-farm surveys since 1999 is that GM crops have failed to deliver the promised benefits of significantly increasing yields or reducing herbicide and pesticide use. GM crops have cost the United States an estimated $12 billion in farm subsidies, lost sales and product recalls due to transgenic contamination. Massive failures in Bt cotton of up to 100% were reported in India.

Biotech corporations have suffered rapid decline since 2000, and investment advisors forecast no future for the agricultural sector. Meanwhile worldwide resistance to GM has reached a climax in 2002 when Zambia refused GM maize in food aid despite the threat of famine.

2. GM crops posing escalating problems on the farm

The instability of transgenic lines has plagued the industry from the beginning, and this may be responsible for a string of major crop failures. A review in 1994 stated, ?While there are some examples of plants which show stable expression of a transgene these may prove to be the exceptions to the rule. In an informal survey of over 30 companies involved in the commercialization of transgenic crop plants?.almost all of the respondents indicated that they had observed some level of transgene inaction. Many respondents indicated that most cases of transgene inactivation never reach the literature.?

Triple herbicide-tolerant oilseed rape volunteers that have combined transgenic and non-transgenic traits are now widespread in Canada. Similar multiple herbicide-tolerant volunteers and weeds have emerged in the United States. In the United States, glyphosate-tolerant weeds are plaguing GM cotton and soya fields, and atrazine, one of the most toxic herbicides, has had to be used with glufosinate-tolerant GM maize.

Bt biopesticide traits are simultaneously threatening to create superweeds and Bt- resistant pests.

3. Extensive transgenic contamination unavoidable

Extensive transgenic contamination has occurred in maize landraces growing in remote regions in Mexico despite an official moratorium that has been in place since 1998. High levels of contamination have since been found in Canada. In a test of 33 certified seed stocks, 32 were found contaminated.

New research shows that transgenic pollen, wind-blown and deposited elsewhere, or fallen directly to the ground, is a major source of transgenic contamination. Contamination is generally acknowledged to be unavoidable, hence there can be no co-existence of transgenic and non-transgenic crops.

4. GM crops not safe

Contrary to the claims of proponents, GM crops have not been proven safe. The regulatory framework was fatally flawed from the start. It was based on an anti-precautionary approach designed to expedite product approval at the expense of safety considerations. The principle of ?substantial equivalence?, on which risk assessment is based, is intended to be vague and ill-defined, thereby giving companies complete license in claiming transgenic products ?substantially equivalent? to non-transgenic products, and hence ?safe?.

5. GM food raises serious safety concerns

There have been very few credible studies on GM food safety. Nevertheless, the available findings already give cause for concern. In the still only systematic investigation on GM food ever carried out in the world, ?growth factor-like? effects were found in the stomach and small intestine of young rats that were not fully accounted for by the transgene product, and were hence attributable to the transgenic process or the transgenic construct, and may hence be general to all GM food. There have been at least two other, more limited, studies that also raised serious safety concerns.

6. Dangerous gene products are incorporated into crops

Bt proteins, incorporated into 25% of all transgenic crops worldwide, have been found harmful to a range of non-target insects. Some of them are also potent immunogens and allergens. A team of scientists have cautioned against releasing Bt crops for human use

Food crops are increasingly used to produce pharmaceuticals and drugs, including cytokines known to suppress the immune system, induce sickness and central nervous system toxicity; interferon alpha, reported to cause dementia, neurotoxicity and mood and cognitive side effects; vaccines; and viral sequences such as the ?spike? protein gene of the pig coronavirus, in the same family as the SARS virus linked to the current epidemic. The glycoprotein gene gp120 of the AIDS virus HIV-1, incorporated into GM maize as a ?cheap, edible oral vaccine?, serves as yet another biological time-bomb, as it can interfere with the immune system and recombine with viruses and bacteria to generate new and unpredictable pathogens.

7. Terminator crops spread male sterility

Crops engineered with ?suicide? genes for male sterility have been promoted as a means of ?containing?, i.e., preventing, the spread of transgenes. In reality, the hybrid crops sold to farmers spread both male sterile suicide genes as well herbicide tolerance genes via pollen.

8. Broad-spectrum herbicides highly toxic to humans and other species

Glufosinate ammonium and glyphosate are used with the herbicide-tolerant transgenic crops that currently account for 75% of all transgenic crops worldwide. Both are systemic metabolic poisons expected to have a wide range of harmful effects, and these have been confirmed.

Glufosinate ammonium is linked to neurological, respiratory, gastrointestinal and haematological toxicities, and birth defects in humans and mammals. It is toxic to butterflies and a number of beneficial insects, also to the larvae of clams and oysters, Daphnia and some freshwater fish, especially the rainbow trout. It inhibits beneficial soil bacteria and fungi, especially those that fix nitrogen.

Glyphosate is the most frequent cause of complaints and poisoning in the UK. Disturbances of many body functions have been reported after exposures at normal use levels.

Glyphosate exposure nearly doubled the risk of late spontaneous abortion, and children born to users of glyphosate had elevated neurobehavioral defects. Glyphosate caused retarded development of the foetal skeleton in laboratory rats. Glyphosate inhibits the synthesis of steroids, and is genotoxic in mammals, fish and frogs. Field dose exposure of earthworms caused at least 50 percent mortality and significant intestinal damage among surviving worms. Roundup caused cell division dysfunction that may be linked to human cancers.

The known effects of both glufosinate and glyphosate are sufficiently serious for all further uses of the herbicides to be halted.

9. Genetic engineering creates super-viruses

By far the most insidious dangers of genetic engineering are inherent to the process itself, which greatly enhances the scope and probability of horizontal gene transfer and recombination, the main route to creating viruses and bacteria that cause disease epidemics. This was highlighted, in 2001, by the ?accidental? creation of a killer mouse virus in the course of an apparently innocent genetic engineering experiment.

Newer techniques, such as DNA shuffling are allowing geneticists to create in a matter of minutes in the laboratory millions of recombinant viruses that have never existed in billions of years of evolution. Disease-causing viruses and bacteria and their genetic material are the predominant materials and tools for genetic engineering, as much as for the intentional creation of bio-weapons.

10. Transgenic DNA in food taken up by bacteria in human gut

There is already experimental evidence that transgenic DNA from plants has been taken up by bacteria in the soil and in the gut of human volunteers. Antibiotic resistance marker genes can spread from transgenic food to pathogenic bacteria, making infections very difficult to treat.

11. Transgenic DNA and cancer

Transgenic DNA is known to survive digestion in the gut and to jump into the genome of mammalian cells, raising the possibility for triggering cancer.

The possibility cannot be excluded that feeding GM products such as maize to animals also carries risks, not just for the animals but also for human beings consuming the animal products.

12. CaMV 35S promoter increases horizontal gene transfer

Evidence suggests that transgenic constructs with the CaMV 35S promoter might be especially unstable and prone to horizontal gene transfer and recombination, with all the attendant hazards: gene mutations due to random insertion, cancer, reactivation of dormant viruses and generation of new viruses. This promoter is present in most GM crops being grown commercially today.

13. A history of misrepresentation and suppression of scientific evidence

There has been a history of misrepresentation and suppression of scientific evidence, especially on horizontal gene transfer. Key experiments failed to be performed, or were performed badly and then misrepresented. Many experiments were not followed up, including investigations on whether the CaMV 35S promoter is responsible for the ?growth-factor-like? effects observed in young rats fed GM potatoes.

In conclusion, GM crops have failed to deliver the promised benefits and are posing escalating problems on the farm. Transgenic contamination is now widely acknowledged to be unavoidable, and hence there can be no co-existence of GM and non-GM agriculture. Most important of all, GM crops have not been proven safe. On the contrary, sufficient evidence has emerged to raise serious safety concerns, that if ignored could result in irreversible damage to health and the environment. GM crops should be firmly rejected now.

Why Sustainable Agriculture?

1. Higher productivity and yields, especially in the Third World

Some 8.98 million farmers have adopted sustainable agriculture practices on 28.92 million hectares in Asia, Latin America and Africa. Reliable data from 89 projects show higher productivity and yields: 50-100% increase in yield for rainfed crops, and 5-10% for irrigated crops. Top successes include Burkina Faso, which turned a cereal deficit of 644 kg per year to an annual surplus of 153 kg; Ethiopia, where 12 500 households enjoyed 60% increase in crop yields; and Honduras and Guatemala, where 45 000 families increased yields from 400-600 kg/ha to 2 000-2 500 kg/ha.

Long-term studies in industrialized countries show yields for organic comparable to conventional agriculture, and sometimes higher.

2. Better soils

Sustainable agricultural practices tend to reduce soil erosion, as well as improve soil physical structure and water-holding capacity, which are crucial in averting crop failures during periods of drought.

Soil fertility is maintained or increased by various sustainable agriculture practices. Studies show that soil organic matter and nitrogen levels are higher in organic than in conventional fields.

Biological activity has also been found to be higher in organic soils. There are more earthworms, arthropods, mycorrhizal and other fungi, and micro-organisms, all of which are beneficial for nutrient recycling and suppression of disease.

3. Cleaner environment

There is little or no polluting chemical-input with sustainable agriculture. Moreover, research suggests that less nitrate and phosphorus are leached to groundwater from organic soils.

Better water infiltration rates are found in organic systems. Therefore, they are less prone to erosion and less likely to contribute to water pollution from surface runoff.

4. Reduced pesticides and no increase in pests

Organic farming prohibits routine pesticide application. Integrated pest management has cut the number of pesticide sprays in Vietnam from 3.4 to one per season, in Sri Lanka from 2.9 to 0.5 per season, and in Indonesia from 2.9 to 1.1 per season.

Research showed no increase in crop losses due to pest damage, despite the withdrawal of synthetic insecticides in Californian tomato production.

Pest control is achievable without pesticides, reversing crop losses, as for example, by using ?trap crops? to attract stem borer, a major pest in East Africa. Other benefits of avoiding pesticides arise from utilising the complex inter-relationships between species in an ecosystem.

5. Supporting biodiversity and using diversity

Sustainable agriculture promotes agricultural biodiversity, which is crucial for food security and rural livelihoods. Organic farming can also support much greater biodiversity, benefiting species that have significantly declined.

Biodiverse systems are more productive than monocultures. Integrated farming systems in Cuba are 1.45 to 2.82 times more productive than monocultures. Thousands of Chinese rice farmers have doubled yields and nearly eliminated the most devastating disease simply by mixed planting of two varieties.

Soil biodiversity is enhanced by organic practices, bringing beneficial effects such as recovery and rehabilitation of degraded soils, improved soil structure and water infiltration.

6. Environmentally and economically sustainable

Research on apple production systems ranked the organic system first in environmental and economic sustainability, the integrated system second and the conventional system last. Organic apples were most profitable due to price premiums, quicker investment return and fast recovery of costs.

A Europe-wide study showed that organic farming performs better than conventional farming in the majority of environmental indicators. A review by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) concluded that well-managed organic agriculture leads to more favourable conditions at all environmental levels.

7. Ameliorating climate change by reducing direct & indirect energy use

Organic agriculture uses energy much more efficiently and greatly reduces CO2 emissions compared with conventional agriculture, both with respect to direct energy consumption in fuel and oil and indirect consumption in synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

Sustainable agriculture restores soil organic matter content, increasing carbon sequestration below ground, thereby recovering an important carbon sink. Organic systems have shown significant ability to absorb and retain carbon, raising the possibility that sustainable agriculture practices can help reduce the impact of global warming.

Organic agriculture is likely to emit less nitrous dioxide (N2O), another important greenhouse gas and also a cause of stratospheric ozone depletion.

8. Efficient, profitable production

Any yield reduction in organic agriculture is more than offset by ecological and efficiency gains. Research has shown that the organic approach can be commercially viable in the long-term, producing more food per unit of energy or resources.

Data show that smaller farms produce far more per unit area than the larger farms characteristic of conventional farming. Though the yield per unit area of one crop may be lower on a small farm than on a large monoculture, the total output per unit area, often composed of more than a dozen crops and various animal products, can be far higher.

Production costs for organic farming are often lower than for conventional farming, bringing equivalent or higher net returns even without organic price premiums. When price premiums are factored in, organic systems are almost always more profitable.

9. Improved food security and benefits to local communities

A review of sustainable agriculture projects in developing countries showed that average food production per household increased by 1.71 tonnes per year (up 73%) for 4.42 million farmers on 3.58 million hectares, bringing food security and health benefits to local communities.

Increasing agricultural productivity has been shown to also increase food supplies and raise incomes, thereby reducing poverty, increasing access to food, reducing malnutrition and improving health and livelihoods.

Sustainable agricultural approaches draw extensively on traditional and indigenous knowledge, and place emphasis on the farmers? experience and innovation. This thereby utilises appropriate, low-cost and readily available local resources as well as improves farmers? status and autonomy, enhancing social and cultural relations within local communities.

Local means of sale and distribution can generate more money for the local economy. For every £1 spent at an organic box scheme from Cusgarne Organics (UK), £2.59 is generated for the local economy; but for every £1 spent at a supermarket, only £1.40 is generated for the local economy.

10. Better food quality for health

Organic food is safer, as organic farming prohibits routine pesticide and herbicide use, so harmful chemical residues are rarely found.

Organic production also bans the use of artificial food additives such as hydrogenated fats, phosphoric acid, aspartame and monosodium glutamate, which have been linked to health problems as diverse as heart disease, osteoporosis, migraines and hyperactivity.

Studies have shown that, on average, organic food has higher vitamin C, higher mineral levels and higher plant phenolics ? plant compounds that can fight cancer and heart disease, and combat age-related neurological dysfunctions ? and significantly less nitrates, a toxic compound.

Sustainable agricultural practices have proven beneficial in all aspects relevant to health and the environment. In addition, they bring food security and social and cultural well-being to local communities everywhere. There is an urgent need for a comprehensive global shift to all forms of sustainable agriculture.

Food First Books

Genetic Engineering in Agriculture: The Myths, Environmental Risks, and Alternatives

© Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy 398 60th Street, Oakland, CA 94618 USA

Tel: 510-654-4400 Fax: 510-654-4551 Email: foodfirst@foodfirst.org

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Water

In the Hebrew Scriptures, ?living water? meant water that is flowing free and pure; it is contrasted with water from wells or cisterns, which tended to be stagnant and undesirable. In the Christian Scriptures, Jesus appropriated the term living water to refer to himself as the source of genuine spiritual life. He applied this symbol to himself because he knew that people depend on water for their survival as individuals and as communities; that water slakes thirst and quenches fields and livestock as well as wild creatures. Water, used in religious ceremonies, gives life to our spirits too. It is the element used to symbolize spiritual cleansing and a sign of God?s grace conferred upon us.

Isaiah 44.3, 55.1: ?All you who are thirsty, come to the water! Your who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk!? Ezekiel 47. 1-12 saw water flowing from beneath the temple and becoming a river along whose banks trees grew abundantly. He added that ?wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live, and there shall be abundant fish, for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh,? Ezekiel?s vision is recalled later by the seer of Revelation 1,2.

Jesus was baptized by John in the flowing waters of the Jordan River (Mk. 1.9) At the temple Jesus exclaimed: ?Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture says, ?rivers of living water will flow from within him.? (Jan 7. 37-38) Water flowing from Jesus? side at his crucifixion is richly symbolic: by his death he offers eternal life to all (Jn.19.31-37.) Jesus told his followers to make disciples of all nations, ?baptizing them? with water.
(Mt. 28.18-20. The living water offered by Jesus for our spirit and the living water in God?s creation for our body are both life-giving waters?one natural, the other supernatural. (From twelve Catholic bishops of the US Pacific Northwest and southeastern British Columbia, Canada, Origins, Vol. 30, p. 613, Mar. 8, 2001.)

Pontifical Justice and Peace Council: Water, An Essential Element for Life Third World Water Forum Kyoto, March 16-23, 2003. ?Inadequate access to safe drinking water affects the well-being of over one billion persons, and more than twice that number have no adequate sanitation. This all too often is the cause of disease, unnecessary suffering, conflicts, poverty and even death. Water plays a central and critical role in all aspects of life?in the national environment, in our economies, in food security, in production, in politics. . .The human person can survive only a few days without clean, safe drinking water. . . Water must meet the needs of the present population and those of future generations of all societies. Water policy to be sustainable, must promote the good of every person and of the whole person. . . Respect for life and the dignity of the human person must be the ultimate guiding norm for all development policy. . . Powerful international interests, public and private, must adapt their agendas to serve human needs rather than dominate them.. . The earth and all that it contains are for the use of every human being and all peoples. This principle of the universal destination of the goods of creation confirms that people and countries, including future generations, have the right to fundamental access to those goods which are necessary for their development. Water is such a common good of humankind. . The few with the means to control cannot destroy or exhaust this resource, which is destined for the use of all.

Water management should be based on a participatory approach, involving users, planners and policy-makers at all levels. . . Solidarity is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good, to the good of all and of each individual. It presupposes the effort for a more just social order and requires a preferential attention to the situation of the poor.. Although the water issue is global in scope, it is at the local level where decisive action can best be taken. The engagement of communities at the grass-roots level is key to the success of water programs.

Agriculture cannot be sustained without sufficient water. The dominant use of water around the world will continue to be water for food security.

Existing international water law may be unable to handle competition for limited sources of water. . Conflicts focus on shared river basins and transboundary waters.

The use of water for industry and energy are of great importance.

'Hydroelectric power is an important source of clean energy. It provides approximately 20% of total electricity production worldwide.

Water by its very nature cannot be treated as a mere commodity among other commodities. Catholic social thought has always stressed that the defense and preservation of certain common goods such as the natural and human environments cannot be safeguarded simply by market forces, since they tough on fundamental human needs which escape market logic. Centesimus Annus, 40. Water has traditionally been a state responsibility and viewed as a public good. Being at the service of its citizens, the state is the steward of the people?s resources, which it most administer with a view to the common good. . There should be an efficient and reliable water service which provides for the poor and low-income families. Recycling principles create a new philosophy of what has been regarded as waste.

A people-centered, pro-poor policy on water management must address the question of water-related hazards such as floods, droughts, desertification, tropical storms erosion and various kinds of pollution. Many so-called natural disaster are in fact man-made in their roots, because of inadequate attention to the environment and the consequences of human actions or indeed inaction. It is the poor who suffer most when they are exposed to such dangers. But everyone?s security is at risk.. . Post-disaster reconstruction is not a question of reconstructing the past, but of building for a safer and more ecologically sustainable future.

Sufficient and safe drinking water is a precondition for the realization of other human rights. There is little that cannot be achieved technically. What is needed is political will and effective governance. Rights to food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, cannot be attained or guaranteed without also guaranteeing access to clean water. Without water, life is threatened. The right to water is an inalienable right.

Funds released through cancellation of debt can be used in improving water services. Water nourishes us. Water is a source of beauty, wonder, relaxation, and refreshment. People vacation near water to renew and regenerate themselves. Water has an aesthetic value.

Water is a sign of God?s favor and goodness. Without water there is no life. We need to respect the integrity of creation and an appreciation of the significance of water in God?s plan.


Christian Life Community: Bottled Water

Private ownership of water or privatization of water is a threat to our water security. One person in six does not have access to clean drinking water. The UN predicts that by 2025, two-thirds of the world's population will not have access to sufficient drinking water. Private corporations look at water as blue gold. Delegates from thirty-five nations formulated principles concerning fresh water: "Earth's fresh water belongs to the Earth and all species, and therefore must not be treated as a private commodity to be bought, sold and traded for profit. The global fresh water supply is a shared legacy, a public trust, a fundamental human right, and therefore a collective responsibility."
Annual sales of bottled water are more than thirty-five billion dollars worldwide. Much bottled water is appropriated by giant soft drink corporations. These transnational corporations buy up farms, wilderness tracts, and whole water systems. Plastic water bottles clog landfills. In a test of 1000 bottles, one third contained contamination, including traces of arsenic and E. coli. One fourth of bottled water is taken from the tap. Bottled water is subject to much less regulation than tap water.
What are we to do? If your tap water is questionable, consider using filters even though energy and materials are still needed for filter production and distribution and used up tilter components usually end in landfills where they can release toxins collected from the water back into the environment. Filters are a temporary solution and no substitute for proper watershed conservation and management--i.e. keeping our natural water supply clean..
See www.stellamarisretreatcenter.org/waterspirit or www.waterstewards.org
Taken from Harvest summer 2004 Christian Life Community Sylvia Picard Schmidt pp. 26 ff.
http://www.originsonline.com

See below from www.clc-usa.org CLC NGO at UN

FRESHWATER IS A SCARCE RESOURCE
Water makes up 60 to 70 per cent (by weight) of all living organisms and is essential for photosynthesis.
The total amount of water on Earth barely changes from year to year. The hydrological cycle of evaporation and precipitation circulates the Earth?s water between the oceans, land and the atmosphere.
Water covers 75 per cent of the Earth?s surface ? 97.5 per cent of that is salt water, only 2.5 per cent is freshwater.
Icecaps and glaciers hold 74 per cent of the world?s freshwater. Almost all the rest is deep underground, or locked in soils as moisture or permafrost. Only 0.3 per cent of the world?s freshwater is found in rivers or lakes.
Less than one per cent of the world?s surface or below-ground freshwater is accessible for human use.
Within 25 years, half the world?s population could have trouble finding enough freshwater for drinking and irrigation.
Currently, over 80 countries, representing 40 per cent of the world?s people, are subject to serious water shortages. Conditions may get worse in the next 50 years as populations grow and as global warming disrupts rainfall patterns.
A third of the world lives in water stressed areas where consumption outstrips supply. West Asia faces the greatest threat. Over 90 per cent of the region?s population is experiencing severe water stress, with water consumption exceeding 10 per cent of renewable freshwater resources.


FRESHWATER IS ESSENTIAL FOR HEALTH

Improved water management has brought enormous benefits to people in developing countries. In the past 20 years, over 2.4 billion people have gained access to safe water supplies and 600 million to improved sanitation.
Nevertheless, one in six people still have no regular access to safe drinking water.
More than twice that number (2.4 billion people) lack access to adequate sanitation facilities.
Those without access to adequate sanitation are the poorest and most vulnerable. The problem is particularly severe in remote rural and rapidly growing urban areas.
In Africa, 300 million people?40 per cent of the population?live without basic sanitation and hygiene, an increase of 70 million since 1990.
As much as 90 per cent of waste water in developing countries is discharged without treatment into rivers and streams.
Unsanitary water, which provides a breeding ground for parasites, amoebas and bacteria, damages the health of 1.2 billion people a year.
Water-borne diseases are responsible for 80 per cent of illnesses and deaths in the developing world, killing a child every eight seconds.
Half the world?s hospital beds are occupied by people suffering from water-borne diseases.
Almost 40 per cent of the world?s population lives within 60 kilometres of the coast. Disease and death related to polluted coastal waters alone costs the global economy US$16 billion a year.
In southern Asia, between 1990 and 2000, 220 million people benefited from improved access to freshwater and sanitation. In the same period, the population grew by 222 million, wiping out the gains that had been made.
During the same period, in East Africa, the number of people without sanitation doubled to 19 million.
The cost of providing safe drinking water and proper sanitation to everyone in the world by 2025 will be US$180 billion a year, two to three times greater than present investments.


FRESHWATER IS A SHARED RESOURCE

Rivers form a hydrological mosaic on the political map of the world.
There are an estimated 263 international river basins, which cover 45.3 per cent of the Earth?s land surface area (excluding Antarctica) and are home to more than half the planet?s human population.
One third of these 263 transboundary basins are shared by more than two countries.
Rarely do watershed boundaries coincide with administrative boundaries.
Many countries also share groundwater aquifers.
Groundwater aquifers store as much as 98 per cent of accessible freshwater supplies. They provide 50 per cent of global drinking water, 40 per cent of industrial demands and 20 per cent of water for agriculture.
On average, individual daily domestic use of freshwater in developed countries is 10 times more than in developing countries. In the UK the average person uses 135 litres of water every day. In the developing world the average person uses 10 litres.

FRESHWATER IS ESSENTIAL FOR FOOD SECURITY
Most of our freshwater is used to grow food.
While the daily drinking water needs of every person is approximately four litres, between 2,000 and 5,000 litres of water are needed to produce an individual?s daily food requirements.
Agriculture accounts for over 80 per cent of world water consumption.
It is estimated that between 14 and 17 per cent more water will be needed for irrigation by 2030 to feed the world?s growing population.
Sixty per cent of water used for irrigation is wasted.
A 10 per cent improvement in irrigation efficiency could double the drinking water supply for the poor.
In Africa, more than 20 per cent of the population?s protein comes from freshwater fisheries.


WATER IN THE FUTURE
Two hundred scientists in 50 countries have identified water shortage as one of the two most worrying problems for the new millennium (the other was climate change).
Since 1950, global water use has more than tripled.
On current trends, over the next 20 years humans will use 40 per cent more water than they do now.
The number of people living in water-stressed countries is projected to climb from the current 470 million to three billion by 2025. Most of those people live in the developing world.
To achieve the 2015 targets for freshwater provision, water supplies will have to reach an additional 1.5 billion people in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Nearly 200 million people in Africa are facing serious water shortages. By 2025, nearly 230 million Africans will face water scarcity, and 460 million will be living in water-stressed countries.
Water problems are more related to mismanagement than scarcity.
Up to 50 per cent of urban water and 60 per cent of water used in agriculture is wasted through leaks and evaporation.
Logging and land conversion to accommodate human demand has shrunk the world?s forests by half, contributing to increased soil erosion and water scarcity.
Between 300 and 400 million people worldwide live close to and depend on wetlands.
Wetlands act as highly efficient sewage treatment works, absorbing chemicals and filtering pollutants and sediments. Urban and industrial development has claimed half the world?s wetlands.
Sustainable development and poverty alleviation will only be achieved through better management of and investment in rivers and wetlands and the lands that drain into them.

Cuba Transformed!

Cuba is the first nation to go from chemical-intensive farming to sustainable agriculture! "To understand Cuban
agricultural development we must first look at the richness of detail in Sustainable Agriculture and Resistance: Transforming Food Production in Cuba. Then we have to step back and squint to capture the truly novel pathway of development that Cuba is pioneering. And then once again we have to focus in on the details, and glimpse the processes through which Cuba is creating something truly new and hopeful for all of humanity." Professor Richard Levins, Harvard University School of Public Health

Cuba's successful switch from chemical-intensive to sustainable agriculture carried the island nation back from the brink of a national food crisis brought on by the 1990 collapse of trade relations with the former socialist bloc. This fascinating case demonstrates that organic agriculture could actually work as the basis of an entire nation's farming sector, putting the lie to the oft-repeated myth that "organic farming could never feed the world," according to a new book-length report issued by Food First/The Institute for Food and Development Policy, a food policy think tank. The multi-author report, Sustainable Agriculture and Resistance: Transforming Food Production in Cuba is largely written by Cuban experts on agricultural production, and represents the first time Cubans have made public the details of this enormous agricultural transformation.

To discuss Cuba's unique national experience with organic farming and this report, Food First and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) are bringing lead author Dr. Fernando Funes, a key player in the Cuban transformation, on a nationwide speaking tour. Dr. Funes will be appearing at universities and book stores throughout the United States.

For 30 years Cuba had fully embraced chemical pesticide- and fertilizer-intensive farming methods to meet its domestic food and export needs. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, Cuba, a target of a thirty-year economic embargo by the United States, lost its biggest trading partner and its ability to import food and the chemicals and machines to grow it using conventional technology.

"Suddenly $8 billion a year disappeared from Cuban trade. Imports were reduced by 75 percent, including most foodstuffs, spare parts, agrochemicals, and industrial equipment," according to Dr. Funes. "Unexpectedly a 'modern' and industrialized agricultural system had to face the challenge to increase food production while maintaining production for export, all with more than 50 percent drop in the availability of [agricultural] inputs."

Sustainable Agriculture and Resistance: Transforming Food Production in Cuba explores the ambitious program Cuba embarked on during the ten years subsequent to the collapse of the Soviet Union, a program which fed the country's population. By 1999 Cuba's agricultural production had recovered and in some cases reached historic levels. While rural farms and farmers contributed greatly to this success, a key component was the emergence of urban farms and gardens as the principal source of fresh produce in cities. "In the early 1990's a strong urban agriculture was born in which thousands of people produce food using organic methods that help supply basic foodstuffs to urban families," said Dr. Funes. "The effectiveness of organic techniques in urban gardening has been clearly demonstrated, and it is here that we are possibly closest to the ideal of sustainable agriculture, due in part to the prohibition of the use of chemicals because of the proximity to dense human populations."

Sustainable Agriculture and Resistance: Transforming Food Production in Cuba includes the contribution of thirty-two of Cuba's leading agriculture researchers, plus three American experts on Cuban agriculture, including Dr. Peter Rosset, the co-director of Food First. It also includes a prologue by Professor Miguel Altieri of the University of California at Berkeley, and an epilogue by Professor Richard Levins of Harvard University. For more information about the book contact Dr. Fernando Funes-who speaks English-and/or Dr. Rosset or Nick Parker at (510) 654-4400 ext. 229, or at
nparker@foodfirst.org, or visit the Food First web page at http://www.foodfirst.org/cuba/.

Food First, also known as the Institute for Food and Development Policy, founded in 1975 by Frances Moore Lappé and Joseph Collins after the success of Ms. Lappé's book Diet for a Small Planet, is a policy think tank that carries out research and education-for-action. Food First works to identify the root causes of hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world, and to educate the public as well as policy makers about these problems and alternative solutions to them. Visit Food First's web site at www.foodfirst.org. rosset@foodfirst.org

http://www.foodfirst.org/cuba

Organica, the Cuban organic farming association, which has been at the forefront of Cuba's transition from industrial to organic agriculture, was named as winner of a major international prize, the Right Livelihood Award. One of four winners, GAO was chosen from more than eighty candidates from forty nations because it is convincing Cuban farmers and policy-makers that Cuba's previous high-input farming model was too import-dependent and environmentally damaging to be sustainable, and that the organic alternative has the potential to achieve equally good yields. (See The Greening of the Revolution, Cuba's experiment with organic agriculture, edited by Peter Rosset and Medea Benjamin.)

Eating in an Ethical Way

If we believe that our present food system is not in accord with God's hope for us, then our eating habits should follow our convictions. If we believe that food should be produced locally, organically, in a sustainable way, then we need to get our food from sources that grow food in an ethical manner. (See "The Ethics of Eating" National Catholic Reporter, May 24, 2002, pp. 13 ff) "Our stomachs are full, but paradoxically we are still hungry . . for the aesthetic value of real food, the satisfaction of eating together, the assurance that what we're putting into our mouths is both life-sustaining and safe. Our fears are about the hidden costs of 'cheap' food, one of which is a widespread and continuing loss of small family farms in the US."

Vegan and Water

New Yorker, Oct. 23, 2006, p. 64: "As people migrate to cities, they invariably start to eat more meat, adding to the pressure on water resources. The amount of water required to feed cattle and to process beef is enormous: it takes a thousand tons of water to grow a ton of grain and fifteen thousand to grow a ton of cow. Thirteen hundred gallons of water go into the production of a single hamburger; a steak requires double that amount. Every day, a hundred thousand people join India's middle class, and many have become affluent enough to eat out every week."

Related web sites are:
National Catholic Rural Life Conference: http://www.ncrlc.com/
Organic Consumers Association: www.purefood.org
Public Citizen: http://www.citizen.org/
Waterkeeper Alliance: http://www.keeper.org/
Grace Factory Farm: http://www.factoryfarm.org/
Coalition of Immokalee Workers: http://www.ciw-online.org/
Dealing with humane treatment of farm animals: Humane farming association: http://www.hfa.org/
http://www.foodcircles.missouri.edu/ Experimentation with animals http://www.saenonline.org

 

Date: 2003-11-12

"The use of GM cotton seed has changed my life, allowing me to improve my home and farm," she said.

Such news may not appease critics who claim that the biggest problem with GMOs is that it creates a dependence of poor farmers on American companies who produce the seeds.

Ambassador Nicholson is not swayed. "They don't have to keep using it if it's not to their advantage," he said.

See Jesuit Center in Zambia http://www.jctr.org.zm/

What Would Jesus Eat Today?

Jesus taught love, compassion, and humility. Jesus does not want us to harm the earth, our health, or mistreat animals.
Isaiah 11.6-9 depicts a world where the wolf, lamb, lion, cow, bear, snake and little child live peacefully together. The Community of Friends artist Edward Hicks has a classic series of paintings of Isaiah 11.6-9. Vegetarians believe that
a proper vegetarian diet is better for our health, kinder to animals, better for the earth, and can feed more people.
See Christian Vegetarian Association http://www.christianveg.com/cva

Animals

Part of the family pledge of non-violence is to treat "all living things, including our pets, with respect and care." The Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 2416 states: "Animals are God's creatures. God surrounds animals with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless God and give him glory. Thus we owe animals kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals."

The New Dictionary of Catholic Social Thought ("Animals, Rights of") says: "Scripture places a high value on animals. . . animals are part of the universal drawing together of all things in Christ's peace-bringing redemption. The Bible has a vision of a peace in a creation where humans and even all animals are vegetarian. . .wolf and lamb, lion and ox, child and poisonous snake, will live together without harm. . .the Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep."

World Council of Churches: "This is not a simple question of kindness, however laudable that virtue is. It is an issue of strict justice. In all our dealing with animals, the ethic for the liberation of life requires that we render unto animals what they are due, as creatures with an independent integrity and value. Precisely because they cannot speak for themselves, the Christian duty to speak and act for them is the greater, not the lesser." (Liberating Life. 1988)

Some feel we should be kind to animals but make human persons a priority. I think the two go together. The evidence is that if a child is violent to animals, she/he will be violent to persons. Animals, people, and the earth are part of a whole. Peace education must include love and respect for all of God's creatures. (See http://www.ape-connections.org
Animals, People, the Earth)

A double graduate of Xavier, Michael Budkie, has just written on animal experimentation Tear at the Jackethttp://www.all-creatures.org/saen/index.html

 

Animal issues include large factory farms in which chickens, pigs, calves, etc. are keep inside in small enclosed areas; animal experimentation for medical science; testing cosmetic enhancements on animals to judge the safety of the product; traping animals for furs; using animals for games. It's easy for me to see that acquiring supposed safer cosmetic products and luxury items are no excuse for cruelty to animals. I have major concerns about how meat is grown. Animal experimentation for medical reasons is perhaps the most controversial, but reputable doctors feel there are alternatives and that the transfer from the effect on animals to the effect on humans is often flawed. Because something is harmful to animals does not always mean that it will be harmful to humans and vice versa.

Christianity and Vegetarianism

Pursing the Nonviolence of Jesus , by Fr. John Dear, S.J. : Vegetarianism can help end world hunger. While people suffer and die of starvation in Central and South America, these regions ship their grain to the US to feed our cows, pigs, and chickens so that we can satisfy our desire for animal flesh, milk, and eggs." Genesis 1.29 "God said, 'See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.'" "But after the Fall people waged war, held one another as slaves, ate meat, and committed every atrocity imaginable. . . Leviticus strictly prohibits the eating of anything with fat or blood, and many argue that the law of Moses actually forbids the eatinhg of flesh entirely because it's impossible to get blood totally out of meat. .Daniel a nonviolent resister refuses to defile himself by eating the king's meat. He and three friends actually become much healthier than everyone else through their vegetarian diet. They also become ten times smarter, and "God rewards them with knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom."

The prophet Isaiah proclaims the vision of the peaceable kingdom, that new realm of God where everyone will beat their swords into plowshares, refuse to study war, enjoy their own vine and fig tree, and never fear again. Several passages condemn meat-eating and foresee a day when people and animals will adopt a vegetarian diet, when "the wolf shall dwell with the lamb and the leopard shall lie down with the kid. . They do no violence, no harm, on all my holy mountain." Isaiah 11.6-9.

In the US twenty times as much energy is required to produce a calorie of animal flesh as the amount needed to produce a calorie of vegetable food. We wastefully cycle 70% of all we grow, such as soy, corn, wheat, and other grains, through animals, rather than eating these foods directly. More than half of all the water used in the US is used to raise animals for food. The intensive production of animals for meat requires twenty-five times as much land as the production of the same amount of food from vegetable sources. The nine billion land animals that we raise for food in the US excrete 130 times as much waste as the enire human population of the US--130 times! Animal waste is swimming with bacteria, hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides. It's toxic waste, and is the number one source of water pollution.

The American Dietetic Association and the American Medical Association have concluded that vegetarians are actually healthier. Vegetarians tend to weigh less and suffer at a fraction of the rate of meat-eaters from heart disease, cancer, and stroke--America's three biggest killers. Meat is entirely devoid of carbohydrates and fiber but has heavy doses of artery-clogging saturated fat and cholesterol. On the Dr. Dean Ornish and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn programs, patients becaome "heart attack proof" to quote Dr. Esselstyn, by getting their cholesterol levels lower than 150, the level below which no one has ever been documented as to have had a heart attack. The average vegan cholesterol level is 128. Meat contains pesticides and other chemicals up to fourteen times more concentrated than those in plant foods.

Vegetarianism supports human rights as well as animal rights. Domestically, slaughterhouses are dens of death not just for animals, but for the people who work in them. Slaughterhouses have the highest rate of injury, the highest turnover rate, the highest repeat-injury rate, and the highest rate of accidental death of any industry in the country. Slaughterhouse workers have nine times the injury rate of coal miners. Slaughter houses are continually searching for relacement workers and have to bus people from Mexico and Central America to slaughterhouses in Iowa, Minnesota, and elsewhere.

The raising, transporting, and slaughtering of food animals entails enormous mistreatment and suffering of literally billions of creatures each year, in addition to the massive damage to the environment. Raising livestock is more destructive in depleting topsoil, groundwater, and energy resources than all other human activities combined, as well as causing enormous enivironmental damage such as clearing of forest, destruction of wildlife habitat, and pollution of rivers and lakes. see http://www.christianveg.com/ http://JesusVeg.com GoVeg.com http://www.veganoutreach.org/

The Liturgy and Food

 

Co-creators with God
I believe a farmer is a co-creator with God, a junior partner with God perfecting the original act of creation. Appropriate technology and organic farming works with nature, is regenerative and sustainable. I believe a scientist working to perfect appropriate technology and organic farming is also a co-creator with God. I believe the Network of Spiritual Progressives are co-creators. Working together with God; working with one another to make this a better world can be accepted by all.
We have the capacity to transform and in a certain sense create the world through our own work, but we can't forget that "this is always based on God's prior and original gift of the things that are. Instead of carrying out this role as cooperator with God in the work of creation, we can set ourselves up in place of God and thus provoke a rebellion on the part of nature." (Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, No. 37) "One cannot use with impunity the different categories of beings, whether living or inanimate--animals, plants, the natural elements--simply as one wishes, according to one's own economic needs. On the contrary, one must take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system" (Pope John Paul II, Solicitudo Rei Socialis, No. 34)
Is the vast enterprise in our midst of bio-engineered seed in accord with nature or "against the grain."? (I  recommend Lappe and Bailey, Against the Grain, Biotechnology and the Corporate Takeover of Your Food.) There is an order in nature which has evolved over millions of years. Without prejudging what's happening, in principle I think science needs to work with nature, respect nature, not subvert it. If we abuse and manipulate God's creation, we are not working with God but usurping God's role. We are not working with nature but against nature. How tell the difference? To me, that's a matter for group spiritual discernment.
A long struggle by Bishop Maurice Dingman to get Pope John Paul II to come to a rural area was going nowhere until the Pope himself heard the proposal and enthusiastically said yes, he wanted to go to farm country! Pope John Paul II visited Des Moines, Iowa, and on Oct. 4, 1979, began his remarks with the words of the offertory prayers at Catholic Mass: "Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, through your goodness we have this bread to offer which earth has given and human hands have made."
Wheat is planted in the earth, harvested, and made into flour. Flour is baked into bread and brought to the altar. The earth, our work become the Eucharistic Christ. But we have to grow a better grade of wheat and bake a better loaf of bread before Christ will come and consecrate the world fully into His body. If we bring the loaves of our efforts to Jesus, Jesus can multiply the loaves.
 Gravitational fields, magnetic fields, indeed all of nature is interconnected and one. For a discussion of the union of the universe with the body-person of Jesus of Nazareth see the writings of Fr. Pierre Teilhard DeChardin, S.J. Also Christopher F. Mooney, S.J. Teilhard De Chardin And The Mystery of Christ
Wheat is planted, feeds on the minerals of the earth, drinks the moisture in the soil, and grows. Human hands harvest the wheat, ground it into flour, bake the bread, and bring it to the altar. The wheat contains physical creation, past and present. Human work transforms the wheat into bread. If the eucharistic bread is produced in a way that disrupts the web of nature or in ways unjust to farmers and farm workers, I feel uncomfortable offering such bread to become the  Eucharist.
The priest breaks the bread, a symbol of sharing. If there is someone malnourished anywhere in the world, the Eucharist is incomplete everywhere in the world.
Working together with God; working with one another to make this a better world can be accepted by all.
Jesus transforms the bread into His body. In faith and love human persons, human work, physical creation are all united in the Eucharistic Christ.
For a Better World 2013, Poems and Drawings on Peace and Justice by Greater Cincinnati Artists Editor: Saad Ghosn. P. 77 ?Father Benjamin Urmston, a 66 years member of the Society of Jesus and 53 Years Catholic priest is Director Emeritus of Xavier University Programs in Peace and Justice. A host of the radio talk show Faith and Justice Forum for 28 years, he is also the producer of the Vision of Hope DVD found on www.xavier.edu/frben Contact: urmston@xavier.edu
p. 79
One with You
(By Benjamin Urmston)
Accept the eons of earth?s slow change
The millennia of the soil?s formation
The centuries of seed selection by peasants
The years of farmer cultivation of the land
The hours of millers and bakers, truckers and clerks
Divine plans, human hands, co-workers, co-creators
This earth, this work, this bread
One with you, our Creator!
One with you, our Bread of Life!
 
(Shorter version)

 

When Pope Paul II visited Des Moines, Iowa, Oct. 4, 1979, he began his remarks with the words of the offertory prayers at Catholic Mass: "Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, through your goodness we have received this bread we offer you, fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life." Wheat is planted in the earth, harvested, and made into flour. Flour is baked into bread and brought to the altar. The earth, our work become the Eucharistic Christ. But we have to grow a better grade of wheat and bake a better loaf of bread before Christ will come and consecrate the world fully into His body. If we bring the loaves of our efforts to Jesus, Jesus can multiply the loaves.

With Fr. Pierre Teihard de Chardin, S.J., I believe that the Eucharistic Christ is not just the spiritual center but the physical center of the universe. Gravitational fields, magnetic fields, indeed all of nature is interconnected and one.

Wheat is planted, feeds on the minerals of the earth, drinks the moisture in the soil, and grows. Human hands harvest the wheat, ground it into flour, bake the bread, and bring it to the altar. The wheat contains physical creation, past and present. Human work transforms the wheat into bread. If the eucharistic bread is produced in a way that disrupts the web of nature or in ways unjust to farmers and farm workers, I feel uncomfortable offering such bread to become the body of Christ.

The priest breaks the bread, a symbol of sharing. If there is someone malnourished anywhere in the world, the eucharist is incomplete everywhere in the world.

Jesus transforms the bread into His body. In faith and love human persons, human work, physical creation are all united in the Eucharistic Christ.

Accept the eons of earth?s slow change
The millennia of the soil?s formation
The centuries of seed selection by peasants
The years of farmer cultivation of the land
The hours of millers and bakers, truckers and clerks
Divine plans, human hands, co-workers, co-creators
This earth, this work, this bread
One with you, our Creator!
One with you, our Bread of Life!

Usury

In the Hebrew Covenant Israelites were not permitted to take interest in goods or money from fellow Israelites. Full remission of debts were given every seven years in Deuteronomy 15 and every fifty years in Leviticus 25.

Jesus had no words of praise for the official who put a fellow servant in jail rather than allow the servant to defer payment on a loan. (Matthew 18.35) In the spirit of Leviticus Jesus urges in the Our Father that we forgive monetary debts. (Matthew 6.5 Greek is opheilema. For a fuller discussion see Fr. Michael H. Crosby, OFMCap. Thy Will Be Done, Praying the Our Father as Subversive Activity, pp. 138 ff )

The church fathers, Tertullian, Cyprian, Chrysostom, Augustine, The Councils of Nicea, Carthage, Third Lateran, Lyons all condemned usury. Following Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas condemned usury as unnatural. Money was made for exchange. To get money on an investment or loan is to get wealth without creating anything of value. Interest leads to inequality. In 1524 Martin Luther said usury is "grossly contrary to God's word, contrary to reason and every sense of justice, and springs from sheer wantonness and greed." Pope Benedict XIV reiterated warnings against usury in 1745. Paper wealth is created without working, without producing anything of real value. (See Dictionary of Ethics, Theology, and Society, pp. 861,2) "The evil has been increased by rapacious usury, which, although more than once condemned by the Church, is nevertheless, under a different form but with the same guilt, still practiced by avaricious and grasping men." (Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII, No. 2.)

The last article the Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain wrote was "A Society Without Money" first printed in Review of Social Economy, 43 (April, 1985) 75-83 and reprinted in The Catholic Worker, June-July, 1989. "The Church, in its pure doctrinal teaching, condemned money lending as forcefully as did Aristotle. And during a long period civil legislation was in accord with the Church in considering a loan as something that should be essentially gratuitous. After all, this is the teaching of the Gospel. . . It has always been the work of man, and work alone, which has been productive and fruitful. To think once its fruit has been borne, that an additional sum, the fruit of the fecundity of money furnished by the investor, is due to the latter by the right of interest paid on capital, is a fundamental illusion. Money is not fecund."

The Quran insists that every human person has rights that must be respected and protected. Islam teaches strongly that one must do Jihad against her/his bad deeds. The Prophet of Islam calls this type of Jihad, Jihad Akbar, the greatest Jihad, a struggle against lack of respect of others, not forgiving others. God calls people who use usury as people in war with God and his Prophet. (bagh. 279)

Even if one allows a modest amount of interest to compensate for risk of losing earnings saved, our present system of enslaving the two-thirds world and lower-income wage-earners is highly suspect.

William Grieder's Secrets of the Temple, How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country argues that although capital deserves a just return, it cannot produce a toll that guarantees failure for the borrower. If interest rates are too high, economic stagnation is produced and there is further concentration of wealth as debtors fail and forfeit their property to the usurious lender. Usury ruins the borrower. (pp. 173, 707) Real interest rates exceed real economic growth. The share for the creditor is compounding faster than new wealth can be generated.

In economic democracy, we are equal. Each person has dignity, value, and worth. Although Adam Smith saw value in a mutually beneficial exchange, free enterprize supposes relative equality. Our economic system should not be an abstract mental construct by which we justify domination of many by a few. As sinners, we all need checks and balances. As persons, we deserve equal respect and dignity. There needs to be some way to reward extra labor, frugality, and saving. But I don't think that way now exists. We need to rethink what is currently happening, and creatively devise a new system that works, a plan more in accord with God's Word.

Dr. David C. Korten, Chapter 12 of When Corporations Rule the World, 2001 up-dated edition, says the present World Bank created customers for its loans rather than thinking of the needs of the two-thirds world. The US Marshall Plan provided rapidly dispersing grants or concessional loans to Europe. This is what the poorer nations needed. "From 1970 to 1980, the long-term external debt of low-income countries increased from $21 billion to $110 billion."

Usury and Globalization

In Jubilee Year 2000 we took a critical look at loans that never should have been made which today are multiplying at a dizzy rate while the children of the Two-thirds World suffer greater and greater malnutrition and death. (See Jesuits for Debt Relief and Development http://www.jesuit.ie/jdrad/ )

Although Zambia is being granted its HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) relief, it is finding cold comfort from the US congress providing $435 million to debt relief. Its debt payments are scheduled to increase from $136 million to $220 million a year following its HIPC deal. Fr. Peter Henriot, S.J. is calling for outright cancellation.
(See http://www.jctr.org.zm Jesuit Center for Theological Reflection) "Lend without expecting repayment." Luke 6.35

These were bad loans. The banks should pay for their mistakes--not taxpayers and certainly not the poor!

Perfect Crime

"The problem is a process of integration carried out since at least 1980 under circumstances of unsustainable finance, in which wealth has flowed upwards from the poor countries to the rich, and mainly to the upper financial strata of the richest countries. In the course of these events, progress toward tolerable levels of inequality and sustainable development virtually stopped. Neocolonial patterns of center-periphery dependence, and of debt peonage, were reestablished but without the slightest assumption of responsibility by the rich countries for the fate of the poor. It has been, it would appear, a perfect crime." (Daedalus, Journal of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Winter 2002, James K. Galbraith, "A Perfect Crime: Global Inequality" p. 25)

Common Economic Security

One approach to economic democracy is through greater distribution of wealth and ownership. If national governments have the will, fairness for all can also be helped by national social legislation. On the international level, structures to achieve a fair economy simply are not there. As citizens of the world, we have the moral responsibility to serve the common good of the entire planet. "In global economic relations no international institution provides social coordination and regulation of economic actors and institutions." Economic Justice for All, Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the US Economy, No.'s 322-325. I think international financial institutions should be held accountable to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. (See Citizens for Global Solutions) http://www.globalsolutions.org/

(See Centesimus Annus, Pope John Paul II, No's 35 and 52. "Just as there is a collective responsibility for avoiding war, so too there is a collective responsibility for promoting development. Just as within individual societies it is possible and right to organize a solid economy which will direct the functioning of the market to the common good, so too there is a similar need for adequate interventions on the international level."

The International Monetary Fund was originally conceived by the economist John Maynard Keynes "to be a lender of first resort to countries needing to borrow foreign currencies to purchase goods abroad. Had the IMF developed as Keynes intended, poorer countires would have more control of the terms under which they borrow. Rich countries would have been stripped of the economic power to force poorer nations into debt." Democratic control over the global economy can only be had if the IMF is no longer intensely secretive and top-heavy with US and European representatives whose allegiance to corporate interests is generally unquestioned. (See "Dollars and Sense" No. 224, August, 1999, pp. 13 ff)(Web dollarsandsense.org) International financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are not democratic. They need to be accountable to those who have to live with their abstract dogmas. (See 50 Years Is Enough: US Network for Global Economic Justice http://www.50years.org)

In When Corporations Rule the World (Chapter 20, up-dated 2001 edition) Dr. David Korten proposed that the
organizations agreed on in July, 1944 at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, which today are known as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization be brought back under open and democratic control of the United Nations. The Bretton Woods institutions need to be decommissioned, and three new UN agencies be created with roles nearly opposite of the present structures.

An International Insolvency Court hears cases brought by debtor nations to grant a stay of its debt repayments agreeing at the same time to incur no new debt. Bad debts which were not legitimately contracted or used for purposes that yielded no public benefits would be rescinded. Rescheduling, reduction, and cancellation of the remaining debt would be made on terms which would allow governments to provide essential social services. "Such plans would ideally take into account the implicit debt owed to the debtor country by creditor countries in the North for wealth previously extracted without proper compensation." Mechanisms would be put in place to keep the international accounts of nations in balance.

An International Finance Organization which would replace the International Monetary Fund will promote productive domestic investment and domestic ownership of productive resources. This new UN agency would maintain a central data base on international accounts and facilitate negotiations among trading partners to correct imbalances. It would help prevent the use of offshore banks and tax havens for money laundering and tax evasion.

An Organization for Corporate Accountability which would replace the World Trade Organization will assure "public accountability of international corporations and finance; break up concentrations of corporate power in banking, media, and agribusiness; prevent unfair competitive practices; decharter corporations with a history of regulatory violations; enable persons harmed by a corporate subsidiary in one country to sue the parent company for damages in another; set rules and standards for businesses; prohibit the patenting of genetic materials, life forms and processes, and indigenous knowledge; and access beneficial information and technologies from other countries on reasonable terms."

A Sustainable Global Economy

I recommend a small book by Hazel Henderson for the New Economics Foundation: Beyond Globalization, Shaping a Sustainable Global Economy: "Ever more problems and issues have become global--beyond the reach of national governments. . .Money itself has morphed into information, as debit cards, credit cards, and trillions of digitized bits flow between millions of computers. Money and information are now equivalent--we are already off the money and gold standard and on the information standard worldwide. If money-based transactions and credit-availability are not overhauled drastically, consumers, businesses, employees, and investors will simply go around banks and money-based transacting to pure information-based transactions such as high-tech barter, local scrip currencies and LETS systems, electronic commerce via e-cash, credit and debit cards, virtual banking, etc. (p. 51)

Many citizens' groups are challenging the practice of creating money as debt to banks who can lend money out at interest while only retaining a fraction (usually 8%) in reserves. There needs to be local credit-union, micro-credit, small banks devoted to local lending. (p. 52)

Cincinnati's Time Store was a bring and buy, local skills and labor exchange.

The most prominent example of sovereignty-sharing is the European Union. Power-sharing has not come easily, but operates effectively within the principle of subsidiarity: control retained at local or provincial levels where appropriate." (p. 3)

The light graced story of globalization includes the advance of citizen organizations and movements. More access to information has helped empower citizens, employees, socially responsible investors, and consumers.

The dark graced story of globalization includes the secrecy of corporations and banks. Corporations hide what they're doing by unreal accounting. It is not hard to make globalization look good if your accounting disenfranchises a significant minority, ignores the running down of natural resources (about 30% of Nature's productive capacity has been lost), and discounts future risks.

"Unpaid work (parenting, caring for old and sick family members, growing food for family and community needs, maintaining households, volunteering in community service, do-it-yourself home and community construction, and repair projects) is some 50% of all production in developed countries and 60 to 65% in developing countries." (p. 10)

The GNP "private" sector rests on the GNP "public" sector (roads, schools, etc) which rests on the Social cooperative Caring Economy (unpaid work) which rests on Nature's Layer (which absorbs costs of pollution, recycles wastes if tolerances are not exceeded, etc)

"Addressing the tasks of restructuring the global economy requires a multitude of disciplines and metrics beyond money--that is a systems approach. . . Systems theorists have shown that many of our social and environmental problems experienced at one level are generated at another level. The reductionist paradigm of solving problems, one at a time, in isolation, without an overview of the whole system is precisely what generates impacts elsewhere) Our global networked economy is composed of millions of daily actions and interactions at all levels--between governments, banks, investors, corporations, employees, and consumers--all nested in ecosystems. Sadly, many millions are increasingly left out of these networks. . . Almost the entire continent of Africa (except for South Africa) has been bypassed by the flows of the global economy as have inner cities and rural areas in many developed countries." p. 15.

"On an annual budget of less than New York City's municipal fire department, the UN has cajoled, networked and convened its member states to agree on a wide range of major global concerns. . .The UN is the most inclusive, open and democratic of the global institutions, the General Assembly of all member-states, as well as its International Court of Justice and universal Declaration of Human Rights. Partly due to this democratic structure, the rich, powerful countries and financial interests which dominate the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group (including the International Development Association and the International Finance Corporation) have pulled these Bretton Woods-created agencies away from UN control. Thus today the World Bank and IMF often act secretively and autonomously. These agencies need to return to the UN fold. . the independent World Trade Organization, largely dominated by corporate and "free market" agendas need to be reformed and democratized." (p. 26)

There needs to be a properly trained standing force of UN peace-keepers, a rapid-deployment humanitarian force, a reformed and expanded Security Council with restricted use of the veto, an end to global arms trafficking, an emphasis on a credible deterrent before conflicts break out. (p. 27)

International criminal trials should be televised before the ultimate court of world opinion.

We need public goods, knowledge, health, infrastructure, national parks, defense, police and justice systems, peace, equity, financial stability, and environmental sustainability. The Internet and cyberspace are global public goods. Nobel economist Amartya Sen treats global justice as a public good. A well-regulated, transparent, well-functioning system of financial markets is a global public good. "Financial instability is an international public bad."

People or companies who use these public goods need to pay their fair share of the costs. There needs to be equitable international taxation. Simple derivative instruments such as forward contracts would be easy to tax. The Canadian Parliament passed a resolution in April 1999 to study the international financial transaction tax proposed by economist James Tobin, a tax that would affect only wealthy institutions.

There needs to be a global version of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, a new Bretton Woods conference convened by the UN, a new accounting system that can better monitor ecological assets, human and social capital, and unpaid work in the caring sectors of all economies.

There needs to be an international central bank which could stabilize foreign exchange markets by maintaining its own currency as an international unit of account.

Prevention costs much less than coping with problems after they occur.

In 1998 violent weather (a well-documented effect of climate change) cost the world's insurance industry a record US $89 billion--more than all weather related catastrophes in all of the 1980's. (p. 30)

A World Financial Authority to oversee both private financial conglomerates such as hedge funds and global financial institutions needs to be democratically established and accountable to the United Nations. (p. 39)

Corporate charters need redrafting to reflect new realities, where knowledge is recognized as a key factor of production and social/environmental performance are benchmarked and audited. All stakeholders affected by the means of production, workers, the community, the earth, need to be recognized. (p. 46)

New Quality of Life scorecards would also measure toxic wastes, resource depletion, shrinking safe-water supplies, polluted air, unsafe streets, drugs, money-laundering, poverty, and global epidemics. (p. 56)

In developed nations the limiting factor now is time rather than money. The Attention Economy is turning off information overload and costly mass consumption and moving to more caring, attention-based health services geared to self-knowledge and prevention, eco-labeling and social seals of approval.

A global TV/Internet network is a reality (www.wetv.com) WE stands for "We the People" and the "Whole Earth"

Cultural diversity is as important as bio-diversity.

We must abolish nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and turn technology to positive good and to building our common
future.

We need to accept compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court and the UN Human Rights Committee; increase the Courts' powers of enforcement. Establish an International Environmental Court to enforce international treaties on the environment and protect the global commons.

Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.: "When we truly discover the power of love, it will prove more important than the harnessing of fire."

Focus on the Corporation and the Wealthy

The Washington Post's Ceci Connolly reports on the development of a new innovation in healthcare delivery: "boutique" or "concierge" coverage for the world's super-elite.

Leading medical providers like the Cleveland Clinic and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore are establishing special programs to give platinum service to the well-heeled. Depending on the program, the super-rich customers may receive massages and sauna time along with their physical, housecalls, and step-to-the-front-of-the-line service in testing facilities.

Using these services are a worldwide elite class of business executives and royalty -- the "winners" in a system of corporate globalization that is generating morally repugnant economic disparities.

Here are some other measures of the gains of the wealthy:

* Executive pay at top U.S. corporations climbed 571 percent from 1990 to 2000.

* There are presently nearly 500 billionaires worldwide.

* U.S. corporate tax payments are slated to drop to historic lows as a result of the tax bill enacted into law earlier this year. According to Citizens for Tax Justice, corporate taxes will plummet to only 1.3 percent of U.S. gross domestic product this year, the lowest since fiscal 1983, and the second lowest level in the last 60 years.

* More than half of the tax cuts enacted last year that are scheduled to take effect after 2002 will go to the best-off 1 percent of all U.S. taxpayers.

Even in the United States -- the nation that is supposed to be the biggest winner from globalization -- the average person has watched skyrocketing executive compensation and wealth accumulation, but has not been able to climb even a few steps up the economic ladder. Average real wages in the United States are at or below the wage rate of 1973.

Meanwhile, poverty remains pervasive in both the United States and around the world.

* One in six children in the United States live in poverty.

* In 2000, a full quarter of the U.S. population was earning poverty-level wages, according to the Economics Policy Institute.

* Around the world, 1.2 billion persons live on a dollar a day, or less.

* Tens of millions of children worldwide are locked out of school because their parents are unable to afford school fees.

* More than a million children die a year form diarrhea, because their families lack access to clean drinking water.

The Institute for Policy Studies has sought to put these disparities into perspective. The 497 billionaires in 2001 registered a combined wealth of $1.54 trillion, according to IPS, well over the combined gross national products of all the nations of sub-Saharan Africa ($929.3 billion) or those of the oil-rich regions of the Middle East and North Africa ($1.34 trillion). "This collective wealth of the 497 is also greater than the combined incomes of the poorest half of humanity," IPS concludes.

It's not very easy to wrap one's mind around the inhumanity of these numbers.

That is why it is so important to highlight anecdotes that put the problem in focus: the juxtaposition of concierge healthcare with the more than 40 million people in the United States who have no health insurance coverage at all, the contrast between the boutique care and the more than a million children dying each year because they don't have clean water to drink.

Sometimes, we need to recognize obscene social arrangements for what they are, and demand something different.

Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor, http://www.multinationalmonitor.org/. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1999;
http://www.corporatepredators.org/

(c) Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

This article is posted at: http://lists.essential.org/pipermail/corp-focus/2002/000116.html
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DEATH PENALTY SHOULD BE APPLIED TO CORPORATIONS THAT DEFRAUD GOVERNMENT, REPORT RECOMMENDS

The death penalty should be applied to corporations convicted of defrauding the federal government, according to a report released today by the Corporate Crime Reporter. The report ranks the top 100 False Claims Act settlements by amount of the settlement. It also lists the whistleblower's share of the settlement -- if known. The report calls on federal officials to seriously consider applying the corporate death penalty to companies convicted of defrauding the federal government. For the full story go to http://www.corporatecrimereporter.com/

New York Times Bestseller

John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, "The inside story of how America turned from a respected republic into a feared empire. 'Economic hit men are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. Their tools include fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder,' writes John Perkins. John Perkins should know--he was an economic hit man. His job was to convince countries that are strategically important to the US--from Indonesia to Panama--to accept enormous loans for infrastructure development, and to make sure that the lucrative projects were contracted to US corporations. Saddled with huge debts, these countries came under the control of the US government, World Bank, and other US dominated aid agencies that acted like loan sharks--dictating repayment terms and bullying foreign governments into submission. This extraordinary real-life tale exposes international intrigue, corruption, and little-known government and corporate activities that have dire consequences for American democracy and the world."

4/1/08

http://www.one.org/

http://www.makepovertyhistory.org/

 

?I was deeply concerned from my early teen days about the gulf between superfluous wealth and abject poverty. .Although modern American capitalism had greatly reduced the gap through social reforms, there was still need for a better distribution of wealth. ..there is always danger of being more concerned about making a living than making a life. We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to others.? Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Stride Toward Freedom, p. 73.

"There is nothing but a lack of social vision to prevent us from paying an adequate wage to every American [worker] whether he is a hospital worker, laundry worker, maid, or day laborer." Where do we go from here? - Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

King's dream included decent wages for all, not just blacks.. Raising the minimum wage was a demand of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his ?I have a dream? speech. When we adjust for inflation, there is evidence that the situation is worse in 2006.

?On the one hand we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life?s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make this journey on Life?s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs re-structuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries and say: ?This is not Just.? . .A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: ?This way of settling differences is not just.?? Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Beyond Vietnam . Address given at Riverside Church, New York City, April 4, 1967.