Unless It Changes, Capitalism Will Starve Humanity By 2050 – Forbes

by Drew Hansen Contributor,  forbes.com, Feb 9, 2016, https://www.forbes.com/sites/drewhansen/2016/02/09/unless-it-changes-capitalism-will-starve-humanity-

Capitalism is unsustainable in its current form. …Even in the U.S., 15% of the population lives below the poverty line. For children under the age of 18, that number increases to 20% (see U.S. Census). The world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050 (see United Nations’ projections). How do we expect to feed that many people while we exhaust the resources that remain?…Human activities are behind the extinction crisis. Commercial agriculture, timber extraction, and infrastructure development are causing habitat loss and our reliance on

Capitalism has generated massive wealth for some, but it’s devastated the planet and has failed to improve human well-being at scale.

• Species are going extinct at a rate 1,000 times faster than that of the natural rate over the previous 65 million years (see Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School).

• Since 2000, 6 million hectares of prima• Since 2000, 6 million hectares of primary forest have been lost each year. That’s 14,826,322 acres, or just less than the entire state of West Virginia (see the 2010 assessment by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN).

• Even in the U.S., 15% of the population lives below the poverty line. For children under the age of 18, that number increases to 20% (see U.S. Census).

• The world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050 (see United Nations’ projections). How do we expect to feed that many people while we exhaust the resources that remain?

Human activities are behind the extinction crisis. Commercial agriculture, timber extraction, and infrastructure development are causing habitat loss and our reliance on fossil fuels is a major contributor to climate change.

Public corporations are responding to consumer demand and pressure from Wall Street. Professors Christopher Wright and Daniel Nyberg published Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations last fall, arguing that businesses are locked in a cycle of exploiting the world’s resources in ever more creative ways.

“Our book shows how large corporations are able to continue engaging in increasingly environmentally exploitative behaviour by obscuring the link between endless economic growth and worsening environmental destruction,” they wrote.

Yale sociologist Justin Farrell studied 20 years of corporate funding and found that “corporations have used their wealth to amplify contrarian views [of climate change] and create an impression of greater scientific uncertainty than actually exists.”

Corporate capitalism is committed to the relentless pursuit of growth, even if it ravages the planet and threatens human health.

We need to build a new system: one that will balance economic growth with sustainability and human flourishing…

The Increasing Importance Of Distributed Ownership And Governance…

Joint Ownership Will Lead To Collaborative Management

These are small steps toward a system that values the employee more than what the employee can produce. By giving employees a greater say in decision-making, corporations will make choices that ensure the future of the planet and its inhabitants.

 

Being LiberalUnless It Changes, Capitalism Will Starve Humanity By 2050 by Drew Hansen Contributor,  forbes.com

Feb 9, 2016, https://www.forbes.com/sites/drewhansen/2016/02/09/unless-it-changes-capitalism-will-starve-humanity-by-2050/?fbclid=IwAR3Eo6HTzeZqCF2QJBMjbKwN_hp5i0X1vgMlBSJwWYF1D73lVR2rYoyDHqE#2f3a4baa7ccc

 

Capitalism is unsustainable in its current form. (Credit: ZINIYANGE AUNTONY/AFP/Getty Images)

Capitalism has generated massive wealth for some, but it’s devastated the planet and has failed to improve human well-being at scale.

• Species are going extinct at a rate 1,000 times faster than that of the natural rate over the previous 65 million years (see Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School).

• Since 2000, 6 million hectares of prima• Since 2000, 6 million hectares of primary forest have been lost each year. That’s 14,826,322 acres, or just less than the entire state of West Virginia (see the 2010 assessment by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN).

• Even in the U.S., 15% of the population lives below the poverty line. For children under the age of 18, that number increases to 20% (see U.S. Census).

• The world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050 (see United Nations’ projections).

How do we expect to feed that many people while we exhaust the resources that remain?

Human activities are behind the extinction crisis. Commercial agriculture, timber extraction, and infrastructure development are causing habitat loss and our reliance on fossil fuels is a major contributor to climate change.

Public corporations are responding to consumer demand and pressure from Wall Street. Professors Christopher Wright and Daniel Nyberg published Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations last fall, arguing that businesses are locked in a cycle of exploiting the world’s resources in ever more creative ways.

“Our book shows how large corporations are able to continue engaging in increasingly environmentally exploitative behaviour by obscuring the link between endless economic growth and worsening environmental destruction,” they wrote.

Yale sociologist Justin Farrell studied 20 years of corporate funding and found that “corporations have used their wealth to amplify contrarian views [of climate change] and create an impression of greater scientific uncertainty than actually exists.”

Corporate capitalism is committed to the relentless pursuit of growth, even if it ravages the planet and threatens human health.

We need to build a new system: one that will balance economic growth with sustainability and human flourishing.

A new generation of companies are showing the way forward. They’re infusing capitalism with fresh ideas, specifically in regards to employee ownership and agile management.

The Increasing Importance Of Distributed Ownership And Governance

Fund managers at global financial institutions own the majority (70%) of the public stock exchange. These absent owners have no stake in the communities in which the companies operate. Furthermore, management-controlled equity is concentrated in the hands of a select few: the CEO and other senior executives.

On the other hand, startups have been willing to distribute equity to employees. Sometimes such equity distribution is done to make up for less than competitive salaries, but more often it’s offered as a financial incentive to motivate employees toward building a successful company.

The central difference lies in ownership: whereas nobody is sure who owns public companies, startups go to great lengths to define who owns what. Early in a company’s life, the founders and first recruits own a majority stake—and they incentivise people with ownership stakes or performance-related rewards. That has always been true for startups, but today the rights and responsibilities are meticulously defined in contracts drawn up by lawyers. This aligns interests and creates a culture of hard work and camaraderie. Because they are private rather than public, they measure how they are doing using performance indicators (such as how many products they have produced) rather than elaborate accounting standards.

This trend hearkens back to cooperatives where employees collectively owned the enterprise and participated in management decisions through their voting rights. Mondragon is the oft-cited example of a successful, modern worker cooperative. Mondragon’s broad-based employee ownership is not the same as an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. With ownership comes a say – control – over the business. Their workers elect management, and management is responsible to the employees.

REI is a consumer cooperative that drew attention this past year when it opted out of Black Friday sales, encouraging its employees and customers to spend the day outside instead of shopping.

I suspect that the most successful companies under this emerging form of capitalism will have less concentrated, more egalitarian ownership structures. They will benefit not only financially but also communally.

Joint Ownership Will Lead To Collaborative Management

The hierarchical organization of modern corporations will give way to networks or communities that make collaboration paramount. Many options for more fluid, agile management structures could take hold.

For instance, newer companies are experimenting with alternative management models that seek to empower employees more than a traditional hierarchy typically does. Of these newer approaches, holacracy is the most widely known. It promises to bring structure and discipline to a peer-to-peer workplace.

Holacracy “is a new way of running an organization that removes power from a management hierarchy and distributes it across clear roles, which can then be executed autonomously, without a micromanaging boss.”

Companies like Zappos and Medium are in varying stages of implementing the management system.

Valve Software in Seattle goes even further, allowing employees to select which projects they want to work on. Employees then move their desks to the most conducive office area for collaborating with the project team.

These are small steps toward a system that values the employee more than what the employee can produce. By giving employees a greater say in decision-making, corporations will make choices that ensure the future of the planet and its inhabitants.

White Christian Nationalism — Not Secularism — Is Destroying America –

By Stephen Mattson, Sojourners,  2-04-2019

excerpt:

Tens of millions of Americans — and most of its elected leaders — claim to be Christian, and yet we’re a country that’s completely broken.

This is the state of our “Christian” nation: Our government isn’t working, and when it does it’s on behalf of behemoth corporations and influential lobbyists. Elected officials are openly racist, sexist, and xenophobic — without consequence. Police continue to kill people of color and jails have become a modernized form of slavery. The military is mired in endless violence throughout the world, participating in wars far beyond the interests of our citizenry, and defense contractors reap the profits. Teachers are underpaid, schools underfunded, and students underfed, but our president wants to spend billions on a wall he promised our country would never have to pay for…

American Christianity brought us to this point. It preached nationalism and sanctified American imperialism — promoting Manifest Destiny as ordained by God. The prosperity gospel baptized capitalistic greed, its preachers vilified the poor, and its theologians manipulated scripture to rationalize global colonialism... the gospel became a message of gaining social power and control rather than a call to follow Jesus’ life of selfless service and sacrifice... To protect and maintain this self-serving religion, populist propaganda related to abortion, gun control, patriotism, economic uncertainty, crime, and terrorism are used as dog-whistles to fearfully manipulate Christians away from Jesus’ message of love towards one of exclusion…This isn’t new. The origins of Christianity in American are stained with genocide and enslavement. White Christendom’s legacy is one of moral failure and intentional evil, consistently being on the wrong side of history. But by refusing to acknowledge its past or educate current parishioners, the white church has attempted to minimize its role. With few exceptions, its built up a self-immunity to guilt, awareness, and dialogue, and any such attempt to confront its past and present failings is dismissed as “radical liberalism,” “progressive partisan rhetoric,” or “cynical complaining.” The pain and trauma caused by all of this cannot be overstated, yet white American Christianity relies on apathy, avoidance, and outright denial in its efforts to preserve its self-righteousness.

When their privileged status quo was recently threatened by the election of a black president, the rise of new civil rights movements, and the empowerment of traditionally maligned segments of society, a massive culture war pitted weakening religious factions against populations they no longer “controlled.”

So when LGBTQ individuals, people of color, immigrants, refugees, “foreigners,” Muslims, and others faced societal injustices, the white church not only was largely absent from defending them, but it was complicit to their persecution. Instead, it was secular institutions and organizations that fought for equal rights and empowerment, doing unto others what the church didn’t.

To maintain their economic, political, and social majority of white Christian nationalism, moral arguments and “biblical truth” once used to bash previous political opponents no longer applied. Truth is now relative, and God is used as a religious construct to push partisan agendas—no matter how anti-Christian they are…

The crises we’re currently facing was directly created by —and for the benefit of — the white American church… this is a call to confront the broken system that is Colonial Christianity. Violent, abusive, racist, xenophobic, sexist, homophobic, ignorant, corrupt, and legalistic, it looks nothing like Christ….Because this is what following Christ is: “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27), and to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and to “Love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:36-40).” So for the love of God and others, give up on Trump and start following Jesus — and abandon any form of Christianity that refuses to do so.

Stephen Mattson Stephen Mattson is the author of The Great Reckoning: Surviving a Christianity That Looks Nothing Like Christ. You can follow him on Twitter (@mikta) or on Facebook.

Commentary  - Full text

White Christian Nationalism — Not Secularism — Is Destroying America

By Stephen Mattson 2-04-2019  

Tens of millions of Americans — and most of its elected leaders — claim to be Christian, and yet we’re a country that’s completely broken.

This is the state of our “Christian” nation: Our government isn’t working, and when it does it’s on behalf of behemoth corporations and influential lobbyists. Elected officials are openly racist, sexist, and xenophobic — without consequence. Police continue to kill people of color and jails have become a modernized form of slavery. The military is mired in endless violence throughout the world, participating in wars far beyond the interests of our citizenry, and defense contractors reap the profits. Teachers are underpaid, schools underfunded, and students underfed, but our president wants to spend billions on a wall he promised our country would never have to pay for.

Despite mass shootings that have killed innocent lives, politicians have represented corporate interests at the expense of public safety, and though white American males are the predominant facilitators of these heinous crimes, partisan rhetoric — in spite of data, factual research, and truth itself — insists that immigrants, refugees, and “foreigners” are the real culprits.

American Christianity brought us to this point. It preached nationalism and sanctified American imperialism — promoting Manifest Destiny as ordained by God. The prosperity gospel baptized capitalistic greed, its preachers vilified the poor, and its theologians manipulated scripture to rationalize global colonialism. Salvation was no longer personified through Jesus, but was redesigned to be a political machine, fueled by its ability to control branches of government. This methodology was packaged as “Christianity,” and the gospel became a message of gaining social power and control rather than a call to follow Jesus’ life of selfless service and sacrifice.

The American church fell into the same failings as the Pharisees of old: obsessed with their holy scripture while completely ignoring the loving God it was intended to direct them to. Instead of focusing on Jesus, it propped itself up as its own deity — ruling, controlling, and judging according to loveless and legalistic doctrines. To protect and maintain this self-serving religion, populist propaganda related to abortion, gun control, patriotism, economic uncertainty, crime, and terrorism are used as dog-whistles to fearfully manipulate Christians away from Jesus’ message of love towards one of exclusion.

Flee from cross-laden buildings that excrete sexism, escape from cultish partisan rhetoric that spews racism and fosters xenophobia, and free yourself from bigoted communities that espouse hate.

This isn’t new. The origins of Christianity in American are stained with genocide and enslavement. White Christendom’s legacy is one of moral failure and intentional evil, consistently being on the wrong side of history. But by refusing to acknowledge its past or educate current parishioners, the white church has attempted to minimize its role. With few exceptions, its built up a self-immunity to guilt, awareness, and dialogue, and any such attempt to confront its past and present failings is dismissed as “radical liberalism,” “progressive partisan rhetoric,” or “cynical complaining.” The pain and trauma caused by all of this cannot be overstated, yet white American Christianity relies on apathy, avoidance, and outright denial in its efforts to preserve its self-righteousness.

When their privileged status quo was recently threatened by the election of a black president, the rise of new civil rights movements, and the empowerment of traditionally maligned segments of society, a massive culture war pitted weakening religious factions against populations they no longer “controlled.” Politically, many white Christians rallied around a man who personifies the American Idol of Nationalism, Populism, and Greed, and they enthusiastically preferred the rallying cry of “Make America Great Again” over the wisdom of “loving your neighbor as yourself.”

So when LGBTQ individuals, people of color, immigrants, refugees, “foreigners,” Muslims, and others faced societal injustices, the white church not only was largely absent from defending them, but it was complicit to their persecution. Instead, it was secular institutions and organizations that fought for equal rights and empowerment, doing unto others what the church didn’t.

To maintain their economic, political, and social majority of white Christian nationalism, moral arguments and “biblical truth” once used to bash previous political opponents no longer applied. Truth is now relative, and God is used as a religious construct to push partisan agendas—no matter how anti-Christian they are. To appear spiritually legitimate, a few church leaders and pastors would be required to support this charade, and to promote their own carnal desires and quell their worldly fears, to placate their parishioners and pander to their desires, this is exactly what many Christians did — and they continue to do so.

The crises we’re currently facing was directly created by —and for the benefit of — the white American church. It’s lost the right to pander moral clichés or offer spiritual platitudes to problems it produced, even though it will inevitably continue to do so.

This isn’t a plea to return to the church or give “Christianity” another chance, this is a call to confront the broken system that is Colonial Christianity. Violent, abusive, racist, xenophobic, sexist, homophobic, ignorant, corrupt, and legalistic, it looks nothing like Christ.

In the face of such injustices, Jesus became furious and overturned tables. He drove out the moneychangers and condemned the spiritual leaders of his day. We must now do the same, and drive out the many forms of “Christianity” that are oppressive and loveless.

If you can’t fight these forms of destructive “Christianity,” run. Flee from cross-laden buildings that excrete sexism, escape from cultish partisan rhetoric that spews racism and fosters xenophobia, and free yourself from bigoted communities that espouse hate.

If Christianity would rather build a wall to exclude migrants and asylum seekers instead of lovingly accept them, ditch it and don’t look back. If Christian leaders would rather deport their neighbors rather than generously accept them, have nothing to do with them. Because this is what following Christ is: “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27), and to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and to “Love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:36-40).” So for the love of God and others, give up on Trump and start following Jesus — and abandon any form of Christianity that refuses to do so.

Stephen Mattson - Stephen Mattson is the author of The Great Reckoning: Surviving a Christianity That Looks Nothing Like Christ. You can follow him on Twitter (@mikta) or on Facebook.

 

 

 

The Powell Memo: A Call-to-Arms for Corporations

The Powell Memo: A Call-to-Arms for Corporations, Moyers & Company, September 14, 2012

(bolding of text to draw readers to highlights done by P. Stenerson, site curator)’

In this excerpt from Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer — and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, authors Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson explain the significance of the Powell Memorandum, a call-to-arms for American corporations written by Virginia lawyer (and future U.S. Supreme Court justice) Lewis Powell to a neighbor working with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

In the fall of 1972, the venerable National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) made a surprising announcement: It planned to move its main offices from New York to Washington, D.C. As its chief, Burt Raynes, observed:

We have been in New York since before the turn of the century, because we regarded this city as the center of business and industry. But the thing that affects business most today is government. The interrelationship of business with business is no longer so important as the interrelationship of business with government. In the last several years, that has become very apparent to us.[1]

To be more precise, what had become very apparent to the business community was that it was getting its clock cleaned. Used to having broad sway, employers faced a series of surprising defeats in the 1960s and early 1970s. As we have seen, these defeats continued unabated when Richard Nixon won the White House. Despite electoral setbacks, the liberalism of the Great Society had surprising political momentum. “From 1969 to 1972,” as the political scientist David Vogel summarizes in one of the best books on the political role of business, “virtually the entire American business community experienced a series of political setbacks without parallel in the postwar period.” In particular, Washington undertook a vast expansion of its regulatory power, introducing tough and extensive restrictions and requirements on business in areas from the environment to occupational safety to consumer protection.[2]

In corporate circles, this pronounced and sustained shift was met with disbelief and then alarm. By 1971, future Supreme Court justice Lewis Powell felt compelled to assert, in a memo that was to help galvanize business circles, that the “American economic system is under broad attack.” This attack, Powell maintained, required mobilization for political combat: “Business must learn the lesson . . . that political power is necessary; that such power must be assiduously cultivated; and that when necessary, it must be used aggressively and with determination—without embarrassment and without the reluctance which has been so characteristic of American business.” Moreover, Powell stressed, the critical ingredient for success would be organization: “Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.”[3]

Powell was just one of many who pushed to reinvigorate the political clout of employers. Before the policy winds shifted in the ’60s, business had seen little need to mobilize anything more than a network of trade associations. It relied mostly on personal contacts, and the main role of lobbyists in Washington was to troll for government contracts and tax breaks. The explosion of policy activism, and rise of public interest groups like those affiliated with Ralph Nader, created a fundamental challenge. And as the 1970s progressed, the problems seemed to be getting worse. Powell wrote in 1971, but even after Nixon swept to a landslide reelection the following year, the legislative tide continued to come in. With Watergate leading to Nixon’s humiliating resignation and a spectacular Democratic victory in 1974, the situation grew even more dire. “The danger had suddenly escalated,” Bryce Harlow, senior Washington representative for Procter & Gamble and one of the engineers of the corporate political revival was to say later. “We had to prevent business from being rolled up and put in the trash can by that Congress.”[4]

Powell, Harlow, and others sought to replace the old boys’ club with a more modern, sophisticated, and diversified apparatus — one capable of advancing employers’ interests even under the most difficult political circumstances. They recognized that business had hardly begun to tap its potential for wielding political power. Not only were the financial resources at the disposal of business leaders unrivaled. The hierarchical structures of corporations made it possible for a handful of decision-makers to deploy those resources and combine them with the massive but underutilized capacities of their far-flung organizations. These were the preconditions for an organizational revolution that was to remake Washington in less than a decade — and, in the process, lay the critical groundwork for winner-take-all politics.

Businessmen of the World, Unite!

The organizational counterattack of business in the 1970s was swift and sweeping — a domestic version of Shock and Awe. The number of corporations with public affairs offices in Washington grew from 100 in 1968 to over 500 in 1978. In 1971, only 175 firms had registered lobbyists in Washington, but by 1982, nearly 2,500 did. The number of corporate PACs increased from under 300 in 1976 to over 1,200 by the middle of 1980.[5] On every dimension of corporate political activity, the numbers reveal a dramatic, rapid mobilization of business resources in the mid-1970s.

What the numbers alone cannot show is something of potentially even greater significance: Employers learned how to work together to achieve shared political goals. As members of coalitions, firms could mobilize more proactively and on a much broader front. Corporate leaders became advocates not just for the narrow interests of their firms but also for the shared interests of business as a whole.

Ironically, this new capacity was in part an unexpected gift of Great Society liberalism. One of the distinctive features of the big expansion of government authority in the ’60s and early ’70s was that it created new forms of regulation that simultaneously affected many industries. Previously, the airlines might have lobbied the Civil Aeronautics Board, the steel companies might have focused on restricting foreign competitors, the energy producers might have gained special tax breaks from a favorite congressman. Now companies across a wide range of sectors faced a common threat: increasingly powerful regulatory agencies overseeing their treatment of the environment, workers, and consumers. Individual firms had little chance of fending off such broad initiatives on their own; to craft an appropriately broad political defense, they needed organization.

Business was galvanized by more than perceived government overreach. It was also responding to the growing economic challenges it faced. Organization-building began even before the economy soured in the early 1970s, but the tumultuous economy of that decade — battered by two major oil shocks, which pushed up inflation and dragged down growth — created panic in corporate sectors as well as growing dissatisfaction among voters. The 1970s was not the economic wasteland that retrospective accounts often suggest. The economy actually grew more quickly overall (after adjusting for inflation) during the 1970s than during the 1980s.[6] But against the backdrop of the roaring 1960s, the economic turbulence was a rude jolt that strengthened the case of business leaders that a new governing approach was needed.

When he penned his influential memo, Lewis Powell was chair of the Education Committee of the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber was one of a number of business groups that responded to the emerging threat by becoming much more organized. The Chamber doubled in membership between 1974 and 1980. Its budget tripled. The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) doubled its membership between 1970 and 1979.[7]

Recognizing that lawmaking in Washington had become more open and dynamic, business groups remade themselves to fit the times.

The expansion of the Chamber and the NFIB signaled not only a rise in the collective capacity of business; it brought a harder-edged form of mobilization. Composed disproportionately of smaller firms, these organizations were especially livid about the rise of government regulation. Big companies had an easier time absorbing the administrative costs of complying with new rules, and more opportunities to pass the costs on to consumers. Moreover, business associations based on a multitude of small firms proved especially capable of mobilizing mass outrage, which would turn out to be a very effective political weapon.

Of course, big business fought back as well. In 1972, three business organizations merged to form the Business Roundtable, the first business association whose membership was restricted to top corporate CEOs. In part at the urging of Bryce Harlow, lobbyist for Procter & Gamble, this new organization combined two groups focused on relatively narrow business issues with an informal organization called the March Group. The March Group had grown out of a meeting with top Nixon administration officials and prominent executives and was designed to bring together many of the nation’s most powerful CEOs. Within five years the new mega-organization had enlisted 113 of the top Fortune 200 companies, accounting for nearly half of the economy.[8]

The Business Roundtable quickly developed into a formidable group, designed to mobilize high-level CEOs as a collective force to lobby for the advancement of shared interests. President Ford’s deputy treasury secretary Charls Walker, a leading corporate organizer about whom we’ll say more in a moment, later put it this way: “The Roundtable has made a lot of difference. They know how to get the CEOs into Washington and lobby; they maintain good relationships with the congressional staffs; they’ve just learned a lot about Washington they didn’t know before.”[9]

Keeping Up With the Naders

The role of the business community not only grew but expanded, shifting into new modes of organization that had previously been confined to its critics. Recognizing that lawmaking in Washington had become more open and dynamic, business groups remade themselves to fit the times. The expanding network of business groups would soon be capable of hoisting the public interest groups on their own petards. Using rapidly emerging tools of marketing and communications, they learned how to generate mass campaigns. Building networks of employees, shareholders, local companies, and firms with shared interests (for example, retailers and suppliers), they could soon flood Washington with letters and phone calls. Within a few years, these classically top-down organizations were to thrive at generating “bottom up”–style campaigns that not only matched the efforts of their rivals but surpassed them.

These emerging “outside” strategies were married to “inside” ones. Business organizations developed lists of prominent executives capable of making personal contacts with key legislative figures. In private meetings organized by the Conference Board, CEOs compared notes and discussed how to learn from and outmaneuver organized labor. In the words of one executive, “If you don’t know your senators on a first-name basis, you are not doing an adequate job for your stockholders.”[10]

Business also massively increased its political giving — at precisely the time when the cost of campaigns began to skyrocket (in part because of the ascendance of television). The insatiable need for cash gave politicians good reason to be attentive to those with deep pockets. Business had by far the deepest pockets, and was happy to make contributions to members of both parties. Clifton Garvin, chairman of both Exxon and the Business Roundtable in the early 1980s, summarized the attitude toward partisanship this way: “The Roundtable tries to work with whichever political party is in power. We may each individually have our own political alliances, but as a group the Roundtable works with every administration to the degree they let us.”[11]

The newly mobilized business groups understood that Democrats and Republicans could play distinct but complementary roles. As the party with a seemingly permanent lock on Congress, Democrats needed to be pried away from their traditional alliance with organized labor. Money was key here: From the late 1970s to the late 1980s, corporate PACs increased their expenditures in congressional races nearly fivefold. Labor PAC spending only rose about half as fast. In the early 1970s, business PACs contributed less to congressional races overall than labor PACs did. By the mid-1970s, the two were at rough parity, and by the end of the decade, business PACs were way ahead. By 1980, unions accounted for less than a quarter of all PAC contributions — down from half six years earlier. The shift was largest among Democrats, who were of course the most reliant on labor money: Nearly half of Senate incumbents’ campaign funds came from labor PACs in the mid-1970s. A decade later, the share was below one-fifth.[12]

By this time, however, business PACs were shifting away from their traditional focus on buttering up (mostly Democratic) incumbents toward a strategy that mixed donations to those in power with support for conservative political challengers. Such a pattern was evident in the critical election year of 1978. Through September of the election season, nearly half of corporate campaign contributions flowed into Democrats’ coffers. In the crucial weeks before the 1978 election, however, only 29 percent did. By the end of the 1978 campaign, more than 60 percent of corporate contributions had gone to Republicans, both GOP challengers and Republican incumbents fighting off liberal Democrats.[13] A new era of campaign finance was born: Not only were corporate contributions growing ever bigger, Democrats had to work harder for them. More and more, to receive business largesse, they had to do more than hold power; they had to wield it in ways that business liked.

Read the Powell Memo. (Download the PDF.)

Footnotes

  • 1. National Journal, 1974, 14.
  • 2. David Vogel, Fluctuating Fortunes: The Political Power of Business in America (New York: Basic Books, 1989), 59; R. Shep Melnick, “From Tax-and-Spend to Mandate-and-Sue: Liberalism After the Great Society,” in The Great Society and the High Tide of Liberalism, Sidney Milkis and Jerome Mileur, eds. (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2005).
  • 3. Lewis Powell, “Confidential Memorandum: Attack on the Free Enterprise System,” August 23, 1971, quoted in Kim Phelps-Fein, Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement from the New Deal to Reagan (New York: Norton, 2009), 158, 160.
  • 4. Thomas Byrne Edsall, The New Politics of Inequality (New York: Norton, 1984), 114.
  • 5. Vogel, Fluctuating Fortunes, ch. 8.
  • 6. Calculated from http://www.bea.gov/national/xls/gdplev.xls.
  • 7. Ibid., 198.
  • 8. Vogel, Fluctuating Fortunes, 198; John Judis, The Paradox of American Democracy: Elites, Special Interests, and the Betrayal of Public Trust (Pantheon: New York, 2000), 121.
  • 9. Quoted in Sidney Blumenthal, The Rise of the Counter-Establishment: From Conservative Ideology to Political Power (New York: Times Books, 1986), 80.
  • 10. Quoted in Leonard Silk and David Vogel, Ethics and Profits: The Crisis of Confidence in American Business (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1976), 65.
  • 11. Blumenthal, Rise of the Counter-Establishment, 78.
  • 12. Taylor E. Dark, The Unions and the Democrats: An Enduring Alliance (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999), 149.
  • 13. Vogel, Fluctuating Fortunes, ch. 8

Excerpt from Winner -Take-All Politics by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson
Copyright © 2010 by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc, NY. For more information please visit www.SimonandSchuster.com.

 

 

Feeling anxious? It’s not just you, it’s our philosophical era of neuroexistentialism

(bolding for emphasis done by Phyllis Stenerson, website editor)

Feeling anxious? It’s not just you, it’s our philosophical era of neuroexistentialism By Ephrat Livni, Quartz, January 25, 2019

 The philosophical crisis of the 21st century has its roots in the changes wrought by scientific discoveries, which, according to some professors, have dealt the final blow to notions of spirit, an immaterial soul, self, and agency.

It’s not easy being human. It never was, really, if William Shakespeare is to be believed. In the 16th century, the playwright noted that “life…is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Neuroscience is increasingly confirming this view. The more scientists learn about the human brain and how it operates, the more obvious it is that being human is no big deal. We’re just animals, complex biological systems operating according to the laws of nature—from physics to biology and chemistry. Many scientists, like the late Stephen Hawking, and philosophers like Duke University professor of philosophy and neurobiology Owen Flanagan and SUNY University professor of philosophy Gregg Caruso in a recent issue of The Philosopher’s Magazine argue that we have no soul, no fixed self, and no inherent purpose. We exist simply because we exist, tiny specks on a small planet in an infinite universe, and not because a god made the Earth for us. This conception, called “naturalism,” leaves many people feeling deeply uneasy—consciously or unconsciously—and casting about for meaning.

Collectively, whether we’re aware of the effects of scientific findings specifically or not, much of society is suffering a crisis of “neuroexistentialism,” according to Flanagan and Caruso. ”Today, there is a third-wave existentialism, neuroexistentialism, which expresses the anxiety that, even as science yields the truth about human nature, it also disenchants,” they write.

Waves of angst

Caruso and Flanagan define existentialism as the diminishment of the human self-image caused by profound social or political changes. These transformations provoke widespread malaise, ultimately prompting a rehabilitated and reconstructed view of what it means to be human.

The first such wave was expressed by 19th-century thinkers like Søren Kierkegaard, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Friedrich Nietzsche, who wrestled with the questions of morality in a world without a deity to dictate what is right and wrong. In the 20th century, following the Holocaust and World War II, writers like Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Simone De Beauvoir tussled with the meaning of existence after tens of millions of deaths and incalculable human suffering seemed to undermine notions that we value life or believe in a common good.

The philosophical crisis of the 21st century, however, is neither ecclesiastical or political. It has its roots in the changes wrought by scientific discoveries, which, according to Flanagan and Caruso, have dealt the final blow to notions of god, an immaterial soul, spirit, self, agency. They explain, “[N]euroexistentialism is caused by the rise of the scientific authority of the human sciences and a resultant clash between the scientific and humanistic image of persons.”

This contemporary angst arises from the growing body of knowledge that shows the existence we experience is a result of neural processes. The findings suggest that introspection, or self-knowledge, can’t really reveal the mind, and that death is the end for us all. If the brain’s processes give us our experience of life and there is no “immaterial spirit” or soul, then when the brain stops functioning, nothing follows life, and nothing “survives” us. Along with this understanding of ourselves as animals governed by natural laws and physical mechanisms comes another loss—the sense of agency or free will.

Not only is god dead, as Nietzsche declared, but if we’re operating thanks to physical processes that determine who we are, with brains making decisions rather than our spirits, it seems we can no longer forge lives using character as our aid. In other words, the übermensch that Nietzsche suggested could overcome the loss of god is also gone. And our very will to live—the determination expressed by existentialist playwright Samuel Beckett’s formulation, “I can’t go on, I’ll go on”—is now subjugated to a bunch of physical mechanisms.

Scientists conceive of us as organic, biological machines—a conception based on evidence—and this creates a new postmodern angst. “As the brain sciences progress and we better understand the mechanisms that undergird human behavior, the more it becomes obvious that we lack…’soul control,’” Flanagan and Caruso argue. “There is no longer any reason to believe in a nonphysical self which controls action and is liberated from the deterministic laws of nature.”

We don’t necessarily know why we feel adrift or blame science for this, but for many people who place their faith in knowledge and don’t believe in a god, it’s become more difficult to believe their lives matter. Scientific findings are undermining many traditional notions that previously gave people a sense of specialness, a feeling that who they are matters, and that the self is real. Increasingly, however, scientists are finding that the self is a kind of necessary illusion manufactured by the brain and often more fragile than we’d like to imagine.

Meanwhile, suicide, depression, and anxiety are on the rise. In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year revealed that deaths by suicide rose by 25% since 1999 across most ethnic and age groups. While there are many factors that contribute to mental illness, behavioral scientist, author and science writer Clay Rutledge argues that this trend isn’t just a result of lack of adequate mental health services. Rather, he says, we’re facing a new, contemporary “crisis of meaningless.” In a 2018 article in the Dallas News, he explains, “In order to keep existential anxiety at bay, we must find and maintain perceptions of our lives as meaningful. We are a species that strives not just for survival, but also for significance. We want lives that matter. It is when people are not able to maintain meaning that they are most psychologically vulnerable.”

The quest for significance is a result of “neurological machinery that has helped us survive has also rendered us distinctively ruminative,” according to Routledge. He believes that human brains evolved to seek meaning, but that it’s harder than ever to feel our lives matter for a number of reasons including increased alienation, smaller families, and a declining belief in religion. “Americans these days, especially young adults, are less likely to identify with a religious faith, attend church or engage in other religious practices. But as my research has shown, the sense of meaningfulness provided by religion is not so easily replicated in nonreligious settings,” he contends.

Caruso and Flanagan contend that “folk psychological attitudes” persist because outside of the scientific community, we don’t yet have an understanding of what this means for us as individuals or a vocabulary to discuss the new self-as-illusion. The old ideas are difficult to abandon because they have been around for thousands of years. The new, alternate view of humanity makes some people feel real bad, leading them to conclude that a meaningful life is impossible.

It’s all good

But don’t despair. Embracing naturalism doesn’t necessarily mean there is no morality or that we are all totally stuck, prisoners to mysterious processes we can’t comprehend through introspection. Just as existentialists of yore found new ways to explore the question of being human and new answers to why we might try to be good and live purposefully, so do today’s scientists and philosophers.

Caruso and Flanagan are the editors of a book, entitled Neuroexistentialism: Meaning, Morals and Purpose in the Age of Neuroscience (pdf), which examines the “foundational anxiety” that arises when “the mind no longer stands apart from the world to serve as a foundation of meaning.” In it, thinkers from a range of fields explore the contemporary angst and offer approaches to integrating evidence-based science into society’s psychology without losing hope about being human.

For example, California Institute of Technology cosmologist and physicist Sean Carroll’s essay surveys classical mechanics, quantum physics, time, and the nature of emergent phenomena, concluding that there’s no essential meaning in the universe, as evidenced by both its vastness and randomness. Yet he still argues that life matters on a personal and human scale, even if “modern science has thoroughly undermined any hopes for a higher purpose or meaning inherent in the universe itself.”

Carroll contends that our lives and societies matter simply because we exist and coexist and appreciate meaning. So we can act purposefully even if we are not part of some grand cosmic plan. He distinguishes between the determined human project and the universe’s seeming lack thereof.

Similarly, psychologist and cognitive neuroscience luminary Michael Gazzaniga, head of the University of California at Santa Barbara’s SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind, argues that there’s no problem presented by the naturalist view of humanity. We’re responsible and moral because our brains have evolved capabilities that allow us to be.

We reason, remember, perceive, and judge as a result of cognitive mechanisms. And because we have these abilities, we’ve also developed social practices that demand that we think and be responsible for each other. The universe may be random, and cause and effect may not always be related on a mechanistic level, but within the human experience, we have certain obligations and the capability to meet these.

As Thomas  Clark, of Brandeis University’s Institute for Behavioral Health explains in his review of Neuroexistentialism (pdf), we don’t need god to be good. There are scientific bases for moral behavior. Clark writes, “For one thing, science can explain why we are moral animals, moral to such an extent that no amount of science will end up debunking our hard-wired intuitions about ethics.”

There’s evidence that altruism, cooperation, compassion and affection are “biologically installed,” so we don’t require a higher power to force us to consider others’ needs. “The very worry about moral foundations is testament to the reality of our moral natures, so learning they are modulated by such humble (or is it noble?) chemicals as oxytocin and vasopressin isn’t likely to render us morally incapacitated,” he argues.

The human project

Caruso and Flanagan, as well as other contributors to their book, have a fairly sunny outlook. Rather than being dismayed by scientific findings, they propose “a constructive project.” That project involves working on the rehabilitation of the human self-image as prior waves of existentialists did, thinking through the tough questions together though there are no easy answers.

In their essay, the philosophers argue that we should “make use of the knowledge and insights of the behavioral, cognitive, and neurosciences to satisfy our existential concerns and achieve some level of flourishing and fulfillment.” Ignoring evidence isn’t going to resuscitate dated notions of god or the soul or the self or human specialness, and it won’t make life meaningful. Instead, we have to transform our anxiety, individually and societally, because at this point, as they put it, “naturalism is the only game in town.”

Liberals, This Is War

(bold for emphasis done by Phyllis Stenerson, website editor)

Liberals, This Is War By Charles M. Blow, Opinion Columnist, New York Times, Oct. 7, 2018 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/07/opinion/brett-kavanaugh-supreme-court.html

Excerpt

Yes, Brett Kavanaugh is on the Supreme Court. … view the entirety of the battle in which you are engaged, and understand that Kavanaugh is just one part of a much larger plan by conservatives to fundamentally change the American political structure so that it enshrines and protects white male power even after America’s changing demographics and mores move away from that power.

This, for them, is not simply a game about political passion and political principles. This is a game of power, pure and simple, and it’s about whether the people who have long held that power will be able to retain it.

For them, Trump is just a useful idiot, a temporary anomaly.

They are thinking generationally, not in terms of the next election cycle but in terms of the next epoch.

Liberals can get so high-minded that they lose sight of the ground war….it is important to prove to the rest of Americans, and indeed the world, that Trump and the Republicans who promote and protect him are at odds with American values and with the American majority….

Liberals have to look beyond emotions, beyond reactionary electoral enthusiasm, beyond needing to fall in love with candidates in order to vote for them, beyond the coming election and toward the coming showdown…when I think of [Constitutional] originalism, I think this: Many of the founders owned slaves; in the Constitution they viewed black people as less than fully human; they didn’t want women or poor white men to vote. The founders, a bunch of rich, powerful white men, didn’t want true democracy in this country, and in fact were dreadfully afraid of it.

Now, a bunch of rich, powerful white men want to return us to this sensibility, wrapped in a populist “follow the Constitution” rallying cry and disguised as the ultimate form of patriotism….that is also what voter disenfranchisement and Citizens United are about….But probably the biggest, gutsiest move is the call for a constitutional convention… now gathering steam among Republicans… people pushing for a convention “have commitments from 28 state legislatures. They need 34 to trigger the Constitution’s provision for a ‘convention of the states….: “If the convention is called, the disunion that has become a faith in some conservative quarters will run amok. Economic oligarchy will be established in law, and any political check on the powers of business likely will be eviscerated.”’

Stop thinking you’re in a skirmish, when you’re at war … view the entirety of the battle in which you are engaged, and understand that Kavanaugh is just one part of a much larger plan by conservatives to fundamentally change the American political structure so that it enshrines and protects white male power even after America’s changing demographics and mores move away from that power.

This, for them, is not simply a game about political passion and political principles. This is a game of power, pure and simple, and it’s about whether the people who have long held that power will be able to retain it.

For them, Trump is just a useful idiot, a temporary anomaly.

They are thinking generationally, not in terms of the next election cycle but in terms of the next epoch.

Liberals can get so high-minded that they lose sight of the ground war. Yes, next month it is important to prove to the rest of Americans, and indeed the world, that Trump and the Republicans who promote and protect him are at odds with American values and with the American majority….

Liberals have to look beyond emotions, beyond reactionary electoral enthusiasm, beyond needing to fall in love with candidates in order to vote for them, beyond the coming election and toward the coming showdown…

But, when I think of originalism, I think this: Many of the founders owned slaves; in the Constitution they viewed black people as less than fully human; they didn’t want women or poor white men to vote. The founders, a bunch of rich, powerful white men, didn’t want true democracy in this country, and in fact were dreadfully afraid of it.

Now, a bunch of rich, powerful white men want to return us to this sensibility, wrapped in a populist “follow the Constitution” rallying cry and disguised as the ultimate form of patriotism….an effort to preserve America’s white majority, against the statistical eventuality, for as long as possible.

And that is also what voter disenfranchisement and Citizens United are aboutBut probably the biggest, gutsiest move is the call for a constitutional convention.

Full text

What’s at stake is much more than a single Supreme Court seat.

Yes, Brett Kavanaugh is on the Supreme Court. Rue the day. Rend your garments.

Then, step back, view the entirety of the battle in which you are engaged, and understand that Kavanaugh is just one part of a much larger plan by conservatives to fundamentally change the American political structure so that it enshrines and protects white male power even after America’s changing demographics and mores move away from that power.

This, for them, is not simply a game about political passion and political principles. This is a game of power, pure and simple, and it’s about whether the people who have long held that power will be able to retain it.

For them, Trump is just a useful idiot, a temporary anomaly.

They are thinking generationally, not in terms of the next election cycle but in terms of the next epoch.

Liberals can get so high-minded that they lose sight of the ground war. Yes, next month it is important to prove to the rest of Americans, and indeed the world, that Trump and the Republicans who promote and protect him are at odds with American values and with the American majority.

On one level this would provide relief and release for a pent-up demand by most Americans to be heard and to calm some of the chaos. But, catharsis is an emotional response and an emotional remedy.

Liberals have to look beyond emotions, beyond reactionary electoral enthusiasm, beyond needing to fall in love with candidates in order to vote for them, beyond the coming election and toward the coming showdown.

For instance, the constant pining about justices who will interpret the “original intent” of the Constitution feels far bigger than single issues like gun control.

In July, Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the “constitutional originalist Federalist Society,” as RealClearPolitics phrased it, told Fox News:

“Any Supreme Court confirmation is transformative. This is a court that is often equally divided. At the end of the day, I think what’s really important to remember is that there’s been a movement on the court toward being more originalist and textualist. In other words, the idea that law means something, it has determinate meaning. And that’s the trend that I think this president wants to continue.”

But, when I think of originalism, I think this: Many of the founders owned slaves; in the Constitution they viewed black people as less than fully human; they didn’t want women or poor white men to vote. The founders, a bunch of rich, powerful white men, didn’t want true democracy in this country, and in fact were dreadfully afraid of it.

Now, a bunch of rich, powerful white men want to return us to this sensibility, wrapped in a populist “follow the Constitution” rallying cry and disguised as the ultimate form of patriotism.

We have to learn to see everything around us, all that is happening on the political front, through that lens. This is what the extreme measures on illegal immigration and even the efforts to dramatically slash legal immigration are all about.

This is also what the demonizing of the visa lottery program is all about. As the Pew Research Center pointed out in August: “In fiscal 2017, which ended Sept. 30, the largest number of visas went to citizens of African countries” while applicants from European countries and from Asia received fewer visas than before.

The effort to demonize the lottery program is an effort to preserve America’s white majority, against the statistical eventuality, for as long as possible.

And that is also what voter disenfranchisement and Citizens United are about. That is why conservatives cheer the moves by young liberals to densely populated cities. The move weakens conservative votes in the places they move to and strengthens it in places they move from.

As The Washington Post pointed out in 2016, “In the Electoral College, each individual Wyoming vote weighs 3.6 times more than an individual Californian’s vote.” The Post continued, “That’s the most extreme example, but if you average the 10 most populous states and compare the power of their residents’ votes to those of the 10 least populous states, you get a ratio of 1 to 2.5.”

But probably the biggest, gutsiest move is the call for a constitutional convention.

There are two ways that amendments to the Constitution can be proposed: One is by a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate, and the other is by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the states. The second method has never been used, but is now gathering steam among Republicans.

As Charles Pierce wrote in January in Esquire, the people pushing for a convention “have commitments from 28 state legislatures. They need 34 to trigger the Constitution’s provision for a ‘convention of the states.’”

Pierce continued: “If the convention is called, the disunion that has become a faith in some conservative quarters will run amok. Economic oligarchy will be established in law, and any political check on the powers of business likely will be eviscerated.”

Folks, Kavanaugh is only one soldier, albeit an important one, in a larger battle. Stop thinking you’re in a skirmish, when you’re at war.

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Charles Blow joined The Times in 1994 and became an Opinion columnist in 2008. He is also a television commentator and writes often about politics, social justice and vulnerable communities. @CharlesMBlowFacebook