2005. People’s stock ownership

We need new economics sufficient to make a significant difference. In provocation #129 I appended a short paragraph that proposed that we enter into a new stock plan for the nation (and as a model for others to follow).

The plan is simple and as I tried it out with people during the week I got a surprising amount of encouragement. 

It starts with two facts:

1. Few people feel part of society. To live in a society where you don’t own a part is pathetic. The people should own their own society.

2. Capitalism is once again  feeling the punch of serious criticism, since it has engendered oligopoly, climate change, and increasing inequality (Piketty 2018) .

Can we include the people and save capitalism?

The idea is simple: requisition ten percent of all the stock ownership in the US (that would be about $3 trillion in value) and put it in a federal holding agency paying dividends once a year to every citizen in the country. (Payout would be,   given  total stock of $30T, ten percent of that is 3 trillion and earning about 2% pay out to each person would be about $2,000. Family of four would be $8,000. (This idea is  a modification of Peter Barnes, first in his Capitalism 3.0, which is based on the Alaska citizen’s fund, and further back, to Henry George, Progress and Property)

The holding agency would not have to do any management beyond being a holder. Normal corporate management would be left in place. But the managers and regular owners would feel the national pressure, now that ownership is spread to all the people  to make decisions in the long-term interest of the country. Since we have to move  the economy in a green direction, now there would be a large constituency coming to bear on the corporations to have sensible polices, including reasonable executive compensation plans. 

This would eliminate some welfare needs and shift people from being welfare recipients to being owners.  I am more willing to sacrifice (say in response to  climate change) if I anticipate that I will benefit

Meanwhile the morale of the country would go up and everyone would be a capitalist, not welfare recipients,  in that they actually are collectively owners of stock that pays out

An advantage of giving dividends rather than stock is that many people would, pressured by economic necessities  sell the stock, as happened in Russia. Provisions would have to be made to keep them however for selling future anticipated payout for current cash. There are probably other pitfalls and corruptions to cope with. The banks obviously would try to turn that stream of income to themselves.

The one percent, the primary losers in this transaction, have to compare this loss to the loss of social upheaval and much stronger taxes and potential loss of everything through social system collapse. Ten percent seems politically feasible because it is reasonable. 

This can be justified by returning to older values of equality,  as Emma Rothschild writes

For Arthur Condorcet O’Connor, the Irish general who married Condorcet’s daughter Eliza, “the Turgots, the Condorcets, the Smiths” were the “fathers of the science” of political economy, whose principles, including “the eternal principle of equality,” had been overturned by the “new sect of so-called economists” of the post- Revolutionary reconstruction. (Economic Sentiments page 4) 

Capital begins with the fruits of cattle breeding. The new head, cap, is new surplus and can be re-bred. The question since Mesopotamian times has been,  how is the herd and it surplus to be managed? The “divided”, the divided, is part of the answer, but how distributed is the key, to social morale.The use of the word “stock” is inherited from  that cattle culture.

1999. Bureaucrats and war.

Professionals assume that the outcome of their work is some effect of their part of the bureaucracy. Those who plan for war assume war. The result is that the future is predictable: it is what the segments of the bureaucracy are working to make happen.

Given the way the press is handling China-US rivalry  war seems to be the only possible outcome.  We need to treat China as a co-worker with us focused on the world’s problems. No co-worker is perfect (twin of ourselves) but we have to make do, and can. Trump’s way of seeing the world as bullies and losers is very dangerous. These are countries, not corporations.

1993. school and prison

There are many good schools, many good teachers and many children learning and actually have a good time. But even the best schools a time feel like prison. I remember it from my own childhood and there are testimonies like Albert Schweitzer and Jean Pisget who wrote about their own difficult time with school and their yearning to escape. One of our local schools just got shut down because threatening language was discovered on the bathroom wall. It’s important to realize that even the best mannered and intended children learn a certain hostility to authority and its irrationalities through the process of going through the school system. Part of the awareness among children of the school – gun situation is that children are more tempted to express their hostility than they would in normal times. Over reacting will only make the problem worse if children see adults as being anxious, defensive and irrationally angry. Important to remember to that for the vast majority of children there is no outside that they are any longer allowed to vacate to. We do not have a child friendly, nor a society always thinking kindly toward parents nor teachers.

My own view is that putting more guns into the situation makes school feel like a bad western. Better is to have a society without guns so it feels more like a domestic comedy.

1946. The psychology of shooters.

The psychology of shooters. A shooting requires at least three things. a shooter, a victim, and a gun.

But a shooting takes place in a cultural context, in an atmosphere, a feeling for how things are. The question for young people forming their identity is who am I , and the crucial question is what do I move towards in society? Obviously we live in a time when there is very little political power  and for most young people economic power seems far away. So the locus of power in society now is in guns. Imagine the landscape, perhaps the county,  where you live. It is richly dotted with guns and each gun is a locus of potential power. As much in imagination as in physical reality but nevertheless fully real and felt by young people to be realizable.

So, yes, It takes a shooter, a gun, a victim, and an atmosphere.

The shooter has a young lifetime of alienation from the community of adults, parents, and friends.

Victims are easy. The world is filled with other kids and authorities.

Guns are always a problem and their presence is a magnet. My  view is that they should have far less presence within a society bordering on zero.


The atmosphere is a combination of parental success,  optimism about the future, integration into schools and peer groups and above all a sense of what worth life is about.

Churches used to be present in  most communities and or a constant if dull reminder of an orientation to life. We have not yet found a way to match that.  when we have a president and teenagers who share the psychology of winning is everything, weapons are cool, people are either winners or losers, we have nearly lost it.



1938. Trump Alternative?

Provocation 124. Trump alternative?

Without a meaningful alternative to Trump the president’s job approval must stay relatively high (currently hovering between 45 and 32 %) because the question “do you approve of the way the President is doing his job?” is implicitly comparative. Without an alternative to Trump, responsive to climate, automation, inequality and governance – we (not you and I but the winning power-block) will continue to stick with the more sullenly organized Trump-supporting minority Republican Party (we only have minority parties). With increased violence, increased poverty, increased health problems, failing in education and an economy we will not able to use effectively new paradigms such as teamwork, automation and greening. China, precariously, wins and the US, deeply mired, loses. The possibility of cooperation rather than competition among China the United States and Europe (we are all in the same boat) fails to materialize.

The absence of mature leaders with some wisdom, broad education and gravitas, is alarming.

Creating a viable alternative to Trump (and the rest of the Young Republican alumni) seems to me to be crucial. This means politics as well as economics. Economics tends to seek harmony through equilibria. Politics is the management of conflict, conflict left out of economic thinking.

Note, the argument “look at how well the immigrants are doing! No crime, great jobs,” shows how we fail in empathy with those in the US who feel bypassed by urban technocratic society that has no path for them to participate. . These are exactly why so many are opposed to immigration: the immigrants are better motivated (going up rather than going down) and take the cream – from our kids – leaving them with broken family life, no expectations, crime, drugs and unemployment .” Tying immigration to economic success is more cynical than humanitarian solidarity.


1890. Politics in an age of global warming

How to face the issues we are now confronting? What policies, what politics, what action?   People generally seem to think that the right idea will save the situation. But real history is always the playing out of forces, aided by ideas, in conflict where the outcome has gone to the stronger.  This implies that we need a system of give and take, not violent but expressive, arguing, convincing, until a path emerges. This has been the hope of the humanist side for a long time.

Adam Smith (in Gavin Kennedy’s Adam Smith a moral philosopher)

He believed in working through the governing arrangements of society. In a passage remarkably relevant for today, he called on those ‘prompted by humanity and benevolence’ to ‘respect the established powers and privileges even of individuals, and still more those of great orders and societies, into which the state is divided’ and suggested that a reformer be contented ‘with moderating, what he often cannot annihilate without great violence’, and above all to remember that ‘when he cannot conquer the rooted prejudices of the people by reason and persuasion, he [must] not attempt to subdue them by force …’.

Greg and Paul Davidson in the book entitled Economics for a civilized society asks simply for a balance between conservative or a liberal principles worked out through a political process.

But  by the hurricanes in the Gulf and Asia we are being pushed by climate change amplified by  through human decisions made over a long time period, perhaps the whole of human existence, to take on a more authoritarian approach because the normal process of politics in a quasi-democratic society is too slow.In the past we could always afford a more conversational, diplomatic and non violent approach – even though we often took violence as the solution,

I sense that under the pressures from Trump within politics and the effects of climate change coming from nature we are squeezed and time is not on anyone’s side.

1889. Houston and beyond

I have followed much of the reporting on Houston, Harvey and earlier, Katrina, Iraq, the California drought and rains.  Obviously we are slow to imagine the scope of these events. As citizens and as governments. Houston faces the problem of – how many people displaced? We have two middle class family friends who live in Houston. Houses destroyed. Houston has 2.3 millian and the surround area adds up to over 6m.  Food? Heath? These are obvious problems along with just getting dry. But schools? Jobs? Vehicles? Animals? Migrations out to other parts of the country? I don’t see much reflection that imagines into the future in what will turn out to be have been accurate.  Why? fear of saying the obvious is part, but failure to imagine , failure to grasp scale, failure to grasp our human vulnerability also seems important. Our biological body which can only see at best most of the  time about thirty feet without technology is not terrific at long-term big scale perception nor imagination.

I have spent time recently looking at the 1906 earthquake, not in San Francisco – we sort of know that story, but 60 miles north in Santa Rosa and up on the Russian River where I live. Mucho destruction, loss, ruin. Worse was the 1861 flood that took out half the state’s economy and turned the central valley into a continuous lake, deep enough that we did not get islands. Staggering death, half the cattle in the state drowned. Memory? Even hard to find in wiki if you don’t what you are looking for – and even then.

It seems to me utterly given that we will have another earthquake of 1906 size, and another rain -45 straight days = like 1862. But we hardly are aware. About the flood

The Great Flood of 1862 was the largest flood in the recorded history of Oregon, Nevada, and California, occurring from December 1861 to January 1862. It was preceded by weeks of continuous rains and snows in the very high elevations that began in Oregon in November 1861 and continued into January 1862. This was followed by a record amount of rain from January 9–12, and contributed to a flood that extended from the Columbia River southward in western Oregon, and through California to San Diego, and extended as far inland as Idaho in the Washington Territory, Nevada and Utah in the Utah Territory, and Arizona in the western New Mexico Territory. Immense snowfalls in the mountains of the far western United States caused more flooding in Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico, and Sonora, Mexico the following spring and summer as the snow melted.

From Wikipedia  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Flood_of_1862 and the article says every hundred years average.  It will happen here.

And for Santa Rosa. https://www.c-span.org/video/?328273-1/1906-earthquake

I have been noticing that city,  state and regional planning move toward the future as though it is  like the present plus ten percent. Like the present: sunday day, people going about their lives. But the planning is not discussing the inevitable earthquake nor such serious flooding.

I have the feeling that building for a future with earthquakes and floods would actually lead to better planning and building, not just for the future, but for the present. We would build for recoverability, flexibility and less loss of life and assets, and this would be better building anyway.

Of course we can expand this point of view out to include the planet and its people. Look at your current planning.  Will it look pretty stupid post event?