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Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

Benjamin R. Barber is right. There is a "defect" that is "inherent in the system." But that defect is inherent in every economy that is much above hunting and gathering in its technology. For thousands of years of recorded history we have endured the consequences of this defect, and despite the attempts of scores of societies of many faiths and strikingly different cultures to resolve the problems that result from it, we have failed in every case to even identify the nature of the defect, let alone come up with a solution.

"The crisis in global capitalism demands a revolution in spirit..." but that demand will not be met by the suggestions that follow in the article. Mr. Barber, too, is trapped within the box without realizing it. But there is a way out.

If you visit www.nopom.info, a site without ads and with nothing at all to sell to anyone, you will find a complete description of not only the "defect" itself but a complete, detailed, explanation of the solution to remedying that defect.

Not only will this solution stop cold all our present economic problems completely eliminating such things as poverty, unemployment, government interference in the economy, debt of all kinds, inflation and deflation, taxes (yes, no more taxes of any kind at any level of government) and organized crime, but it also greatly increases production and almost eliminates discrimination. It even attains the ends which Mr. Barber claims to desire.

PS: This idea is not of any part of the present-day political spectrum. It is neither right- nor left-wing, though it attains the ends of both. It is not spiritual, though it will promote a great spiritual rebirth. It is simple, everyday, and practical. But it is so different from anything you have ever considered before, it will be difficult to hold in your mind at first, so read the book. You won't understand it after two minutes of reading, though the basic solution will fit easily on one page.

Larry K. Mason

Chapel Hill, NC

Feb 3 2009 - 3:13pm

Web Letter

Mr. Barber's article may be a sign that Americans are finally waking up to the reality that unbridled, uncontrolled, amoral capitalism is not in our best interests. Indeed, while it appears to be the best we have going on the planet right now, our form of capitalism--as well as our form of government--is deeply flawed. Even those who are benefitting from this flawed economic construct know in their spirit that what they are doing and what is happening is resulting in a bankruptcy of the spirit, a bankruptcy of our national conscience.

President Obama says things are going to get worse. I agree. And the team he has chosen, as Mr. Barber has noted, is not of the caliber to think out of the box.

But how can we when all we know is what we have?

As American people grow more discontented about our current economic construct, as it gets worse, that desperation will create--has created--a window of opportunity for new ideas. Consider these characteristics of our current system:

Two-party transactions of any kind are inherently unstable because power dynamics can be manipulated by the more powerful to gain more power.

The ability to transfer money and wealth from one person to another creates all kinds of social and economic problems, including the powerful incentive to try to take other people's money by force or fraud.

Our system is amoral, which means it perpetuates great good... and destructive negative impacts.

But what if free markets were built around positive impacts rather than making money? What if people were paid for the net benefits they produced rather than for ways that cause rampant consumerism? Think it's impossible? It is possible. And you will hear more about it soon.

Perry Gruber

Portland , OR

Feb 3 2009 - 1:01pm

Web Letter

Mr. Barber, thanks for your inspirational wisdom. America not only is waging a "fateful struggle for the soul of capitalism"--as you ably put it--but there also is raging a battle for the soul of the Christian faith in America.

As a progressive Christian, I'm appalled at the Christian Reich's upside-down version of Christ and Christianity--pro-rich and prowar. Thanks to America's Christian Reich, being "a Christian" has become a negative in the eyes of much of the world, and I can empathize with the increasing number of Americans--especially our youth--who have no use for Christianity.

As for me, I have chosen to stay and fight to reclaim my faith from those who use it to support right-wing economic policies and imperialism. Christianity remains a powerful weapon in American politics, and we abandon this weapon to the right at our peril.

This and much more is discussed in my book, The Bush League of Nations: The Coalition of the Unwilling, the Bullied and the Bribed--the GOP's War on Iraq and America (2008, CreateSpace Publishing, 448 pages). As a gift to patriots everywhere, the entire book can be downloaded for free. I ask for nothing in return, except that you consider using my book to help restore and build America.

James A. Swanson

Los Altos, CA

Jan 28 2009 - 1:23pm

Web Letter

Beautifully written article that gets to the heart of a fundamental flaw in capitalism. At our stage of evolution as human beings, it is to be expected that most, if given the chance, will be opportunistic and exploitative, rather than altruistic and compassionate. What Mr. Barber suggests requires the inclusion of "socialistic" elements in the overall social contract, similar to the models in Scandinavia or to a more limited extent in Canada. If I understand your new president, Mr.Obama, we are our brother's and sister's keepers, which implies fundamental social justice.

Since there tends to be an emotional response by most to anything smelling of socialism, I suggest to Mr. Barber that he could develop a framework for the change in attitude required, so as to contribute to the development of policies and programs by President Obama's administration that reflect a new social contract. Thus, exploitative laissez-faire capitalism can be buried in its proper place, in the twentieth century--which is definitely over, and let's all look forward to the twenty-first century with optimism so that there is much better real equality of all sorts and materialism will serve the spirit.

Sam George

Vancouver, BC, CANADA

Jan 27 2009 - 8:13pm

Web Letter

Government by the rich has its share of problems. You never know when they're crying "wolf," whether you can trust them or not and whether they're trying to fleece you.

It seems this stimulus package is an honest attempt to create some jobs. As Keynes used to say: to pay some men to dig a hole and others to fill it up puts money in people's pockets so they can buy, buy, buy. Which is what's needed.

But the banks are forever and are forever robbing you and me. Merrill and Lynch paid 4 billion of our tax money in bonuses after losing money? Huh? Can I get such a deal? And these Wall St. hot shots who make 20 million a year, whose money is it, after all?--suckers like you and me who bought a house or a 401(k).

It seems the biggest employers now are the military and Wal-Mart. Not good. We need a whole new ballgame where the rich don't rule!

Howard Kaplan

Belmont, MA

Jan 26 2009 - 7:14pm

Web Letter

There is much to be said for the value system Mr. Barber would like to see us adopt. I see two potential flaws that would need to be addressed for it to get my support:

(1) Class warfare uses material wealth as its yardstick. This thinking is deeply entrenched through endless repitition. It would seem inconsistent to say on the one hand that "money isn't everything" and on the other hand "but we (the poor) want more of it, so we're going to raise your taxes." If I make $100K per year and my neighbor makes $20K, and you assume I'm better off than he without knowing anything more about each of us, you are continuing to worship at the altar of the almighty dollar. You're doing exactly what you're saying we shouldn't be doing: putting a monetary value on happiness.

(2) I believe that laziness is without a doubt the most universal aspect of the human condition. Notwithstanding all its flaws, using a dollar as a rough measure of how much we (or our families) have produced in our lifetimes will keep people from doing what they secretly dream of doing the most: lying around all day playing video games, drinking beer and watching television (and writing letters in microscopic font to unknown websites). How are you going to keep people motivated to work when we no longer have a way to measure what they've produced?

Lou Filliger

Chatsworth, CA

Jan 24 2009 - 8:43pm

Web Letter

In my view, I am ahead of the curve, I am not a consumer, I do not shop for anything unless I need it. But I guess according to the economists I am the problem, because every payday, the first thing I do is take a quarter of my check and I deposit it into a savings account. And according to George W. Bush and all those that said in order to defeat the terrorists we must consume, I must be the biggest terror ally in this country.

The only things I buy consistently are food, organic food and gasoline, only because I need my car for my job, otherwise I would bike it. I bought about three shirts last year and they were all political in message and one of them is Union Made in the United States. That's another reason why I do not shop. I decided from here on out, well I actually decided this a little earlier than right here, but to only buy, when possible, such as clothing, American made. This is how we can boost the economy, not by going to Wal-Mart or Target and buying stuff made in China because it is cheap. And yes, it is cheap, it is disposable, probably toxic and it is more of a waste of money than it is a bargain.

Another creed of mine is "you don't need it, so don't buy it and if you do need it, make it!" Americans don't make anything anymore. It's sad. The only thing we really do manufacture in this country are cars, but we make SUVs, tanks, literally, Hummers! I personally hate extra large vehicles, they are a danger to other drivers and take up way too much parking space. Plus our American-made cars are usually crappy anyway, another disposable piece of American culture. I drive a 1987 Volvo, it's just about to hit 250 thousand miles and still going strong. Dependable, long-lasting, that's what I like.

That's another problem in my opinion, everything here is disposable. We do not, here or anywhere build things to last anymore. When we as a people get wiped out, our generations are going to leave nothing behind for future races to find. We make nothing to last, no stone buildings or statues. Everything is cheap and plastic and disposable. We need to change the way we build, consume and use our ingenuity in this nation and around the world for that matter, in my opinion. Don't shop for junk anymore. Be smart consumers. You don't have to be as anti-consumer as I am, but think about it, do you really need it?! Visit my blog.

KRISTOFER PASSAGGIO

North Hollywood, CA

Jan 22 2009 - 4:02pm