FROM STUART COOKE
The news media talks to the news media and not to laymen and what the film director Roberto Rosselleini called the spread of "semi-culture." Semi-culture is the fact that people talk about things they don't know. They use words like "inflation", "balance of payments", "unemployment", "communism", and "capitalism' but they don't know anything about them. (Me, too, haha)
Branko Milanovic defines capitalism as "privately owned capital, hired labor, and decentralized coordination". But before exploring this further, it's important to know or ask first, "What is Capitalism for?" It's a way to organize material things and services so that human beings can provide for their earthly needs. What's called a "mode of production."
To make it more concrete, the capitalist model requires: land, money, gold, other assets which are owned by individual entities—people or companies (private capital) combined with employees (paid labor) and a social/political environment where people are free to set up any business they like (decentralized organization).
The alternative models we've had up to now are the communist model and the feudal model. Both of those models failed because it did not produce enough of the the things and services people needed. (Will explain how other models might become possible 200 years from now, but for the time being capitalism is it.)
While economics has been around forever, it was Adam Smith, a Brit, who developed the general framework of what we think of as economics today in his 1776 book "The Wealth of Nations." He defined the inputs of economics as land, labor, land, and capital. Henceforward until the early 20th century, economics belonged to the field of what was called "Political Economy", meaning the work of economists and other thinkers focused on both money and politics, how the two could work together to provide maximum benefits for people. Afterwards the "political" part gradually disappeared and with it the field became focused on money only. (more on this later)
What's important i think to understand now is that capitalism or the free-market economy has run wild and free since it came into its modern form in the 18th century. It's raped the planet, produced global warming, killed millions of people, and produced world chaos and gross inequality. The reason is that there's not been a countervailing human, non-materialist, moral, value-based force to guide it. it's like a child in a toy store or in front of a table of desserts. It has no idea what it's doing. It grabs and eats as much as it can, not knowing it's making itself sick.
The only exceptions i know to this are in the northern countries of Denmark, Sweden, Holland, and the Netherlands where those governments have stepped in to prevent the excesses of the rest of the world though government regulation.
Me and Dad canoeing - in the early 80s I'm guessing. East coast somewhere near Washington DC.
My father Stuart Cooke lives in Jakarta, Indonesia where he works on urban planning projects, writes, tells stories and emails me answers to questions and thoughts on global politics, art and the human experience.
Some things are differences of opinion and beliefs.
Like how best to allocate our taxes. Or whether auto-tune mumble rap is better than Dr Dre, Public Enemy, Cypress, Busta, Cube or a Tribe Called Quest.
Then there are things that really aren’t just differences of opinion.
Like when George W Bush took us to war against Iraq based on lies. That is not close to the same as "wearing fur".
When people like Ellen or anyone else (no matter how much we might love them) takes pictures hugging Bush or takes the tone deafening stance that Bush just has different "beliefs", that is an assault on all of our humanity. We have never had a bi-partisan investigation and prosecution of the crime of the Iraq War. Nor have we done so for the genocide of Native Americans. Nor have we made reparations for slavery.
So it is no surprise we have not done a moral inventory for the war crime of the Iraq invasion. The hundreds of thousands killed. The torture. The killed and maimed Americans. The displaced families. The festering fertile ground for the creation of ISIS.
Only kicking and screaming do we on occasion amend our laws to accommodate basic human dignities in the face of decades of atrocity.
But the people and institutions that were really responsible — nor their victims and the children ever see justice.
When rich public figures like "Ellen" defend a friendship with a war criminal that is not about a difference of opinion or “being nice”. That is supporting the sick disease of denial, mass murder and racism that’s plagued America since its inception. It is sociopathic elitism at its grossest. And it's shameful.
EMAIL FROM STUART COOKE:
Branco Milanovic [brilliant American economist and development and inequality specialist] analysis of capitalism, how it has become the single system, which rules the world:
Capitalist system cannot be changed. The dominion of hyper-commercial capitalism was established thanks to our desire to permanently keep on improving our material conditions, to keep on getting richer, a desire which capitalism satisfies the best.
This has led to the creation of a system of values that puts monetary success as its top. In many ways it is a desirable evolution because “believing” in money alone does away with other traditional and discriminatory hierarchical markers.
In order for capitalism to exist it needs to grow and to expand to ever new areas and new products.
But capitalism exists not outside of us, as a external system.
It is individuals, that is, us, who, in our daily lives, create capitalism and provide it with new fields of action—so much that we had transformed our homes into capital, and our free time into a resource.
This extraordinary commodification of almost all, including what used to be very private, activities was made possible by our internalization of the system of values where money acquisition is placed on the pinnacle. If this were not the case, we would not have commodified practically all that can be (as of now) commodified.
Capitalism, in order to expand, needs greed. Greed has been entirely accepted by us.
The economic system and the system of values are interdependent and mutually reinforcing.
Our system of values enables hyper-commercialized capitalism to function and expand. It then follows that no change in the economic system can be imagined without a change in the system of values that underpins it, which the system promotes, and with which we are, in our everyday activities, fully comfortable. But to produce such a change in values seems, at present, to be an impossible task. It has been tried before and ended in the most ignominious failure. We are thus locked in capitalism. And in our activities, day in, day out, we support and reinforce it.
He says in his new book, Capitalism Alone, that while capitalism (liberal meritocratic capitalism in the West, and the authoritarian political capitalism of China) has raised global income, it has increased inequality within every country. This can be fixed through three policies:
First: de-concentrating capital ownership through tax advantages for the middle class and a corresponding increase in taxes for the rich, as well as reinstating high taxes on inheritance. Reducing the concentration of wealth would also reduce the concentration of income and give the middle class a much bigger stake in the financial ownership of capital.
The second element is enhancing public education and equality of opportunity by increasing funding for and improving the quality of public schools.
Despite individual cases of people who are poor being able to go to top schools, the number of such cases is small and of no statistical importance.
Moreover, the high cost guarantees that top schools essentially cater to the rich. In other words, the extremely high cost of private education is used as a tool by the rich to reduce competition faced by their children.
The third part is changing the financing of political campaigns to reduce the ability of the rich to control the political process.
These three elements can be broken down into a number of policy options—some of them very radical—which in my opinion would be able to stop the slide toward plutocracy [a society that is ruled or controlled by people of great wealth].
These are essentially the most salient excerpts from an interview with Branko you can read here:
[side note: Bernie Sanders has just released a plan (Oct 7) to end all corporate giving in federal elections.]
ME: Why do you think millions aren't in the streets demanding Trump's resignation?
DAD: They don't get it. It's not like the young people in Hong Kong who can see the future clearly. Or many in Britain.
The citizens of the U.S. including the young, have been brought up to believe that America is essentially good, that it's system of government is the best in the world, that no president can ever do anything really bad.
They've been brainwashed by their textbooks and teachers since grammar school to believe these things. That belief is actively supported by a supine media which bows before these American idols. It is terrified of saying the obvious, that the King (America) has no clothes.
Over and over again the media, left, middle, and right repeats this mantra by what it chooses to report and not to report, and by how it reports its choices. It's an underlying theme. They're American boosters. It's a chronic condition, one that will take 50 years or longer to cure.
(One searing example of this is that there is not one popular program on broadcast TV, cable, or radio, and not one major newspaper — NY Times, Washington Post, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, etc., which has a section on labor or regular programming on labor.
Labor, working class people (even if they call themselves middle class) make up the majority of America's citizenry and its electorate.
The gap in the media's reporting is so wide, we cannot fathom the stories we've missed or what we've not learned about our country.)
For these reasons and despite the huge number of detailed reports of the president's bad behavior and incompetence, most Americans think and feel it's not that bad. America is ok. It'll be alright in the end. There is no crisis. So only a few are aware enough to go into the streets to protest
I would like to respectfully help you understand the left and dispel the myths that have lead you to believe our very existence is a threat.
This should be good news to you because according to Pew 38% of Americans describe themselves as independents (the majority leaning left), 31% are Democrats and 26% call themselves Republicans.
That means the majority of the country leans left.
And if the majority of the country hates you and hates the country we’re all in trouble.
The good news is that’s not true.
So lets clear up some things that the powerful elite are continuing to misinform you about:
COMMUNISM… is an ideology which believes ALL property should be "publicly owned".
SOCIALISM… means a range of things depending who you ask but in general, modern day socialists believe government should provide basic services to every citizen in exchange for citizenship and taxes.
Not so scary.
Some like Bernie Sanders use the term "democratic socialist" to make sure you know that's what he's talking about — not a system where all property and income are under authoritarian control.
Powerful elites like to use COMMUNISM and SOCIALISM interchangeably to strike fear into the hearts of anyone fearing government over-reach into every aspect of their lives.
The good news is NO DEMOCRAT IN CONGRESS NOR ANY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE SUPPORT COMMUNISM NOR EXTREMIST SOCIALISM. Not Pelosi. Not the Squad. Not Bernie Sanders, Not Elizabeth Warren, not me, nobody.
Elizabeth Warren is considered one of the democratic candidates furthest to the left by your party. But she is hardly radical.
Regarding immigration she is for “cost-effective border security”. That is a quote.
She does NOT support "OPEN BORDERS." In fact you should be pleased to hear that no democrat in government supports “open borders”.
Warren proposes a nuanced legal change that removes the requirement for law enforcement to unnecessarily put illegal immigrants in detention centers or separate them from their children.
But illegal immigrants could and would still be deported. The intention is a more efficient, more orderly, more humane system with less government costs. Smaller government. NOT an open border.
The only losers under a Warren plan would be private detention centers making profits off misery and lobbying you to believe we need the army and that democrats want open borders.
Thank goodness it’s not true.
Another item to relax your fears is that undocumented immigrants slipping past our borders do not increase crime. The Marshall Project compared Pew Research Center and FBI numbers to satisfy this concern. You can look up this data.
And you will be happy to know Elizabeth Warren has proposed: “focusing the agencies’ [Customs and ICE] efforts on screening cargo, identifying counterfeit goods, and preventing smuggling and trafficking.”
Very sensible. Whether you agree or disagree with the nuance of her policies she is for efficiency of government and restoring order to the border. More good news.
I am not endorsing Warren — but I’m also not afraid of her nor think she hates America. That would be false and keep us divided.
Moving on to the issue of anti-Semitism.
You should know that ISRAEL has a government which provides universal healthcare paid for by taxes, government subsidized college, legal (often free) abortions and that the majority don't accept Jesus as the messiah.
Most republicans oppose those policies... so would we say Republicans are anti-Semitic? No.
In fact, Republicans supported $38 billion in military aid to Israel in 2016 — the largest in our history. Does that mean republicans support abortion and the rest? Not intentionally!
Many democrats criticize Israeli government policy. Bernie Sanders for example.
Bernie is Jewish. I also criticize the Israeli government. Half my ancestors are Jewish.
Half of Israeli's disagree with their current Prime Minister. They aren’t anti-Semitic either.
Now let’s talk about who loves so-called Islamic radical terrorists.
In May, the Trump administration tried to make an $8.1 billion arms deal to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan without congressional approval.
I assume you remember that 15 of the 19 terrorists who attacked us on 9-11 were from Saudi Arabia, and 2 were from the United Arab Emirates.
And we should all be clear that Saudi Arabia is a monarchy which follows a radical distortion of Islam that violates basic human rights, does not support what we think of as freedom and has killed at least 6500 civilians in Yemen as of August.
Saudi attacks have hit homes, markets, hospitals, schools, places of worship, weddings and funerals. Some call it a humanitarian disaster and some a genocide.
And you are aware that Christianity is not allowed to be practiced openly in Saudi Arabia?
Does that mean Trump supporters knowingly support the 9-11 attacks, genocide or hate Christianity? I’ll let you answer that.
Does democratic opposition to the Saudi arms deal mean democrats hate America? Of course not.
We should be allowed to disagree over policy without fear that we want to destroy each other.
But thinking that way is surely a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The president is continuing to accuse Minnesota Congresswoman Omar Ilhan of hating America. And he is making up stories to convince you that’s true.
Of course she has condemned terror and violence calling them “evil acts”. Of course she condemns anti-Semitism while disagreeing with some Israeli policies and political groups.
You also should know that the Arabic word for “God” is Allah.
Arab speaking Christians and Jews also use the word “Allah”. The word was used as the name of God before Islam existed. It is a contraction from al-ilāh, which means "the one and only God", and is related to El and Elah, the Hebrew and Aramaic words for God.
Aramaic is the language scholars believe Jesus and his disciples spoke.
So you do not need to fear when people use the word “Allah”. They just mean “God”. It’s as harmless as when people say “hola” to mean “hello”.
And you don’t need to fear Islam (the religion of 24% of the planet in various forms).
Religion historian Philip Jenkins did fantastic exhaustive research for us and to his “surprise, the Islamic scriptures in the Quran are actually far less bloody and less violent than those in the Bible”.
Violence in the Quran, he and others say, is largely a defense against attack.
In any case, the good news is that most Muslims are peaceful people who believe in Jesus and God and getting along and not judging. Just like most Christians.
More good news is America celebrates freedom of religion.
Our Islamic congresswoman Ilhan Omar is a normal American citizen democratically elected and representing Americans in Minneapolis.
She's an advocate of a living wage, affordable housing and healthcare, student loan debt forgiveness for ALL Americans. She also believes we should treat immigration with less focus on law enforcement to increase order, efficiency, and better treatment of human beings.
While you may disagree with some nuance of how she wants taxes spent she does not wish you harm.
And I’m going to be more direct.
The left wing in government does not hate white people.
They do not hate men. They do not hate Christians or Jews. What they hate, is hate.
From Congresswoman Ilhan’s mouth: “Every single statement we make is from a place of extreme love for every person in this country… we are fighting every single day for a more perfect union.”
To pretend she hates America or is a communist are not only blatant lies, they are lies designed to make you fear Americans who want to love you and represent you and your interests to unite us all against tyranny.
When people fear each other they say and do horrific things.
People in power will also say and do horrific things to get people to fear each other.
Let’s really think about what makes someone anti-American.
Anti-American is if you when you have prejudice or antagonism directed against other Americans because they are a different race or outlook on life because you think you are superior.
That is also the definition of racism.
If republicans feel superior they should bear in mind that left-leaning Americans make up over half the country. That is by definition, anti-American.
Anti-American is also when you imply “real” Americans only come from Europe or Norway. Or are white. Or Christian.
We all know Trump would never tell Bernie Sanders to go back to Poland. Or to go live in Israel. And Bernie would never tell Trump to "go back to Germany".
We all know when Trump says “go back to your original country” he is telling the democratically elected representative of Massachusetts, Ayanna Pressley (born in Chicago, Illinois) to go back to Africa — a continent Trump previously referred to as a “shithole”.
I think you can understand this would be offensive to most of America now.
That is why most on the left also criticize the word NATIONALISM.
Nationalism does not mean you love your country. Loving your country is lovely.
Nationalism means identification with one's own nation ESPECIALLY to the exclusion or detriment of other nations. It’s the superiority complex that leads to mistreatment of our fellow human beings.
You know our country has an ugly tradition of racism and nationalism.
Not just the devastation of Native Americans. Not just the building of our economic superpower on the backs of a brutal African slave trade.
The people of the USA did not welcome Jewish refugees from Europe when World War 2 started against the Nazis.
In 1939 (the start of the war), 83% of Americans were opposed to the admission of refugees.
Leaders like Father Charles Coughlin, known as “the radio priest,” the Christian preacher who reached millions of people with each broadcast and accused Jews of manipulating financial institutions and conspiring to control the world.
Industrialist Henry Ford was another anti-Semite.
I could go on… but even now the problem remains that the United States is filled with people who think their religion, political philosophy, way of life is not just superior but makes their own value as a human being superior and “other people” value-less.
The reality is the left and right want the same things: a good and peaceful life.
And the argument most “far left” progressives WANT to have is over policy — meaning where our tax money goes.
The left thinks tax dollars should be invested in people’s success and that the free market leads to a kind of social Darwinism where a tremendous amount of people are taken advantage of by the super wealthy.
Do you think that means they hate you or hate America or want to abolish private property? It does not.
The reality is that human beings need each other. We need to work together and in harmony. If we do that we can accomplish anything.
Is there corruption in the democratic party? Of course! Most of us want to root it out.
The squad wants to root it out.
We can go over details but we can’t accomplish anything if you continue to believe the propaganda campaign we’ve just debunked above.
And that is why we condemned the words of the president. And that's why a majority of Americans want him impeached and removed (according to the latest FOX News poll).
Remember this fine concept: One nation with liberty and justice for all. We’re into it. You down?
Our survival depends on it.