A New Human Age

Maria Branyas, survivor

In isolation at a care-home in Spain where she’s been living for 20 years, Maria Branyas (113) survived Covid-19. For The Guardian, she reflected on what the world may look like after the pandemic: “…I think nothing will be the same again, and don’t think about redoing, recovering, rebuilding. It will have to be done all over again and differently. … You need a new order, a change in the hierarchy of values and priorities, a New Human Age…”

The old order which Maria rejects is, of course, the economic system that informs and directs society. But the Oxford Dictionary defines “economy” as: 1) “the wealth and resources of a country or region, especially in terms of the production and consumption of goods and services” and 2) “careful management of available resources.” Note no mention here of an “order” or “system,” and “management” is simply an undefined process.

Our old order has been in place for millennia. Ever since humans lived in trees, on savannahs, or in caves, there’s been only one rule for management of resources: Take what you can get and keep it. The sole modus operandi for humanity’s economic activity has been private enterprise.

Since absolutely forever, private enterprise has been the only game in town. Political systems will sometimes tweak the rules—and simply complicate matters and magnify existing inequities and injustices. Maria is totally correct about doing it all over again and differently. We don’t need to change the rules of the old game but to start a whole new ball-game!

As the old order, private enterprise has now outlived its effectiveness for managing resources and providing for the common good. In a new ball-game, the wealth and resources of countries or regions can no longer be private property of individuals but public property. And the people can manage their resources themselves, with benefits accruing to the public at large.

A new order of public enterprise and benefit can focus on the common good, supporting, embodying and perfecting democracy. Vigorously and very likely violently opposed by the entrenched old order, such a systemic switch of values and priorities for a “New Human Age” will not come easily. And I’m certainly not the one to say how to make it happen.

After the pandemic devastates economically all but the (corporate) elite, for at least a decade, they say, the old order will try to redo, recover and rebuild. Fantasizing about a future on a global, monopolistic scale, the obsolete system of private enterprise will surely prove even less productive of common good then with the world’s population essentially infinite in number.

If it doesn’t kill us first, this wretched pandemic ironically offers us a now-or-never opportunity to birth a New Human Age. At this unprecedented crux in human history, maybe we can at last create a truly humane society.

Let’s do it!


Now Some Uncommon Sense

[If anybody knows how to bring my recent essay and this post to the attention of the President-Elect, I (and possibly the world) would be tremendously grateful.  I don’t “tweet” and hope I never have to, and besides these matters aren’t such as can be expressed in that limited medium.] 


            When I posted that rant the other day about public enterprise, I wanted to stop thinking about the political situation here in the US, but all the same I kept on thinking that this is the only way we’re ever going to fix our terminally infected system.

Otherwise, we’ll remain colonies of corporations until they’ve drained our personal lifeblood and absconded with all our national treasures, our common wealth.  Next, and this abomination is already in progress, they’ll try to do the same to the whole world.

Playing the cards they were dealt by the obsolete tradition of private enterprise and the short-sightedness of our Founding Fathers about economic psychodynamics, corporations have been running the Roman gambit to control and exploit their captive public:  bread and circus.

Corporate agri-business has been keeping the American populace too well fed (to judge by our obesity epidemic), and corporate media entertain us within an inch of our lives.  We are inundated and consumed by movies, politics, news, sports, sensationalism, nonsense, and most obnoxiously, the celebrity syndrome, video games, and social networking.

As a result, our people are stunned, hypnotized, and incapable of thinking for themselves or questioning our nation’s critically ill condition.  This sickness requires intensive treatment, even radical surgery, to set new rules of play.  In this life-and-death game of providing public benefit, the public good must always trump private interest, or it’s all over.

I haven’t been a supporter of President-Elect Trump for more reasons than I can count, but I have to acknowledge his election, however it was accomplished, and rightfully expect real results on his promises to “fix the system.”  He hasn’t explained what he hopes to do about it, but I maintain that this public enterprise ideology is his and our country’s best and perhaps only bet.  Besides, it’s also a sure way to renew our country’s greatness.

My uncommon sense says, counter-intuitively, that evolving this private enterprise economy into a dependable, productive system of public life-support will probably take an autocratically inclined oligarch who intimately understands it, is not beholden to any of its special interests, and has the courage and chutzpah to do what’s absolutely necessary for the public good.  Run-of-the-mill politicians wouldn’t even try.

Call me Machiavelli, but any presidential prince who would rein in the corporate nobility and their colluding politicians will have to use all and any strategies and tools available, within humanitarian and ethical limits, of course.  The American Evolution of our economy to public benevolence will be, without exaggeration, the biggest social advance in human history.

This new ideology of public enterprise will also serve well for any government with the best interests of its people at heart, be it a democracy, autocracy, theocracy, or whatever.  Modestly, I foresee our American Evolution inspiring the “benevolution” of economies around the world and bringing unprecedented global prosperity.  And seriously, I’d call the uncommon person who creates such a brave new world order a super-hero.

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Some More Common Sense

It’s been 240 years now since Tom Paine’s “Common Sense” came out, and it’s high time to apply some more of that to what’s going on here in America.  Paine’s little pamphlet helped spark the American Revolution, leading to an enormous step forward in human civilization.  We changed history by creating the first real democracy (only 2,600 years after that of ancient Athens), a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

All through history rulers have governed by totally controlling their people and all their activities, exploiting them like livestock.  Our Revolution then led into our great Constitution, also a total game-changer by proclaiming the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and promising not to control our thoughts, beliefs, and many individual rights.

This new form of government now controls our lives and activities, (ostensibly by our consent), treating us as citizens rather than subjects, serfs, or slaves, and our revolutionary model has since spawned many other democracies around the world.  But enlightened though it may be, after a couple hundred years, something in our exemplary system is apparently going awry.

Ideally our democracy should be governed by “all the people,” as was mostly possible in tiny Athens, but on today’s mega-scale of everything, that’s pragmatically highly improbable.  Consequently, for a long time our nation has steadily been devolving into a government of the many by the few, especially since fully half of our electorate in the past election was willing to leave their governance to the few.

Democratically speaking, our nation is suffering a severe skew to the few and losing the commitment of far too many.  To cure this life-threatening condition, we must curb, if not curtail, the corrupting influence of money (more exactly, of corporations, the media, and other vested interests), and find ways to engage and invest as many citizens as possible in the system.

Instead, in the last election through fear, demagoguery, and yes, misogyny, we the people handed our country over to the oligarchs.  That’s precisely what happened in idealistic Athens and led them into tyrannies, as has already happened to many of the world’s new democracies.  Just look how quickly the promising Russian democracy degenerated into oligarchy, and those poor people now suffer autocracy once more.

So why does democracy seem pathologically susceptible to the wealthy few?   The US is indeed a government of (nearly all) the people and by (some of) the people, and it claims to be a government for (all) the people.  In other words, the government’s purpose is to benefit us the people.  But there’s a terrible flaw in the system.

To provide those benefits, our nation relies on an economic system based on the concept of private enterprise (capitalism), a system inherited from millennia of common economic practice.  For all its wisdom, our Constitution simply took that for granted, never mentioning or defining an operating principle to be our life-support system.  Recently, for the first time in history, capitalism was threatened (unsuccessfully) by a new concept (communism), but it has since encountered no other rival system and meanwhile remains unexamined and unquestioned.

While our democratic purpose is to benefit the many, capitalism’s purpose is to benefit the few.  That’s a lethal disconnect between public and private intent.  There being no motivation stronger than self-interest, our private enterprise economy is reluctant, recalcitrant, and even unwilling to provide the public benefits which our government requires of it.  Instead, the wealthy few try to limit and control our government to preserve their profits and privileges.

The vast proportion of the profits of private enterprise are “earned” by exploitation of our publicly owned resources and of our citizenry as captive workers and customers.  As a result, our national treasures and we the people are treated by corporations as subject colonies, as sources of unimaginable wealth deserving only the overlords’ charity and forbearance.

Mr Paine said much the same thing about the American colonies under the harsh rule of England and proposed that those little colonies could manage their economy much more productively on their own, without the overlord.  Through our Revolution, we built a new social order, and now we’ve got an opportunity to create an even newer order to do the same.

We the people have empowered our democratic government to direct our activities, namely, our social and economic systems.  As a matter of national security and survival, it has the power to and must draw a formal distinction between private and public enterprise.  It is counter-productive and frankly, unconscionable for industries that exploit our national resources and the life-sustaining needs of us the people to be privately managed—for private benefit.

Our resources and public needs should be managed and benefitted by public enterprise.  While private enterprise must remain possible and be encouraged to provide the niceties and luxuries of personal life, our national treasures belong to us the people.  The time has come for an American Evolution out of capitalism into an economy of publicly managed enterprises.

Held in public trust, those enterprises will most effectively be structured and managed democratically, involving and investing everyone in the industry.  Logically, the government must still direct and coordinate them for national purposes, but the management of those industries must be the responsibility of and to the benefit of the people.

Unless we evolve our economy, our splendid democracy will die.  Call me utopian, but my common sense tells me that converting into a public enterprise economy will be the biggest giant step ever in mankind’s history, a brand new paradigm of human progress.  Our American Evolution will once again set an amazing example for the world—making America not only great again, but spectacularly successful.  We the people can do it.

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