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.

2003. Petra.

https://www.bbc.com/ideas/videos/welcome-to-petra-a-little-bit-of-heaven-on-earth/p05zn715

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The blend of architecture and greening. Then we have

Writing early in the first century A.D., the Greek historian Strabo reported that while foreigners in Petra are “frequently engaged in litigation,” the locals “had never any dispute among themselves, and lived together in perfect harmony.” Dubious as that may sound, we do know that the Nabateans were unusual in the ancient world for their abhorrence of slavery, for the prominent role women played in political life and for an egalitarian approach to governing. Joukowsky suggests that the large theater in the Great Temple that she partially restored may have been used for council meetings accommodating hundreds of citizens.

Strabo, however, scorns the Nabateans as poor soldiers and as “hucksters and merchants” who are “fond of accumulating property” through the trade of gold, silver, incense, brass, iron, saffron, sculpture, paintings and purple garments. And they took their prosperity seriously: he notes that those merchants whose income dropped may have been fined by the government. All that wealth eventually caught the attention of Rome, a major consumer of incense for religious rites and spices for medicinal purposes and food preparation. Rome annexed Nabatea in A.D. 106, apparently without a fight.

Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/reconstructing-petra-155444564/#HhkZ84fTQEhbOPzh.99

2002. Picasso’s Woman throwing a stone.

Intersting puzzle. Commentary on today’s identity politics.

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we have from Zizek’s Return To Plato As Materialist?

A Woman Throwing a Stone, a lesser known painting by Picasso from his surrealist period in the 1920s, offers itself easily to a Platonist reading: the distorted fragments of a woman on a beach throwing a stone are, of course, a grotesque misrepresentation, if measured by the standard of realist reproduction; however, in their very plastic distortion, they immediately/ intuitively render the Idea of a “woman throwing a stone,” the “inner form” of such a figure. This painting makes clear the true dimension of Plato’s philosophical revolution, so radical that it was misinterpreted by Plato himself: the assertion of the gap between the spatio-temporal order of reality in its eternal movement of generation and corruption, and the “eternal” order of Ideas.

 

We ned to nudge our thinking into .   terrains.

2001. The political regime is the major product of the economy

The political regime is the main product of an economy.

Most are aware that the history of economics since the marginalists and classical economics has striven to separate the political from the economics.  Economics is the realm of balance and equilibrium and politics the realm of messy conflict. Also fairly well-known, if not affirmed, the motive has been to keep economics “simple” so it can be subject to the mathematics of the dynamics of just a few variables. 

The problem for us as we enter a twilight zone of obscure complexities involving climate, inequality, automation and the weakness of the governance of nations is that we have to face the fact that – 

the politics we have, the regimes, are the main product of  the economy, producing narrow ownership and political power in the hands of people with money – not so often direct but  through representatives and lobbyists who owe their careers to the money of the major asset holders. It really is a plantation model obscured by a vulnerable middle class.

In this sense the economy, aided by economics – has done what it was supposed to – protect “private property.”  Of course the idea that a chain of factories across the world, or digitalized assets in the world’s computer banks are “private” is fairly ludicrous.

Amazing how economics has avoided a more straightforward analysis of debt, ownership, and the supporting politics, but there are hints this is changing. 

The state of affairs produced by the economy:  climate damage, wars on the horizon, inequality, bad government, all make us feel that we need to do better. The danger is that wealth will circle the wagons and co-opt the political budget for defense of enclaves.

Yet we hold on to keeping politics separate from economics. We could start modeling what a major disruption could look like, a world where corporations have more power than states, a world where migrations throw land ownership into deep disarray, a world where a thousand variables come into play simultaneously , where prediction is not possible and attempts at prediction show more about old ideology than emerging reality, 

 We might model policies preferring flexibility in everything we do to defensible but breakable  rigidities we are building in most of our systems..

Recent articles like the Guardian’s. 

The demise of the nation-state http://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/apr/05/demise-of-the-nation-state-rana-dasgupta

and books like

Climate Leviathan: A Political Theory of Our Planetary Future

Point to the scale of the problems we face.

———

Here is a simple idea, still schematic, but suggestive. How much of our problems could be solved if we distributed ownership of stock broadly, making everyone a partner in society and its economy, everyone a part owner, everyone a capitalist? Just appropriate existing stock,  say ten percent, and putting those stocks in a federal fund that pays out the accumulated dividends to all citizens an equal amount? After all, most companies, take Apple, are built on public property like patents on military technology, and thousand of people participated as employees. Those employees were mostly educated at public expense, The customers are part of society and supported by society, yet the corporation benefits.. Why should not all who participate also be owners?  As it is, we have  that a small sub set of society can own the whole society. 

(There is some parallel thinking with Peter Barnes. 

With Liberty and Dividends for All: How to Save Our Middle Class When Jobs Don’t Pay Enough

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.

1997. as california goes…

He is saying that those that lose out in the political divide are likely to rebel and if strength is on their side prevail, And that the death of the Republican Party in California is likely to be followed by the rest of the country. He puts the timeframe of 15 years on this development but I don’t think we have 15 years.

https://medium.com/s/state-of-the-future/the-great-lesson-of-california-in-americas-new-civil-war-e52e2861f30

The Great Lesson of California in America’s New Civil War

Why there’s no bipartisan way forward at this juncture in our history — one side must win

1996. Trump

We all need to take a principled stand. The Democrats when in power let the country slide, climate got worse, inequality expanded, there was no critical thinking, only coping. Obama, for all his excellent qualities (the right never gave him credit for good family life) seemed to dodge the key issues and failed to develop the Democratic party. The Republican party, has descended into a mess. I remember people like The Young Republicans, trained in brutality  and lying   in  60’s and  now are a major fact of political life and have no interest in good government, only in using  the game of destroying the government with their weird notion that good could come from this. I just see the outcome as us all covered in blood.

But  Trump  goes beyond just an extrapolation from the recent past.  a culmination of trends, merges a bully with a world full of weapons – and the situation is deteriorating.

Trump only understands bullies – whom he admires – and those who can be beaten, the losers in his game – whom, if not scared into supporting his plans, then are  to be marginalized.

His approach to the world now: china and Russia being characterized as enemies – is really stupid. We are witness to a total de-profressionalization of diplomacy and economics.  and most other spheres of life and government.  I don’t care how pissed off your are but we need to build better, not tear apart. It is just too dangerous.We could lose that fight, and even winning leaves a less civilized world. When Trump won the  election Russia was a minor player on the world stage His actions gave it credibility and importance it did not have. His approach to China, which in many ways is quite sane, he turned into an enemy to be squeezed. We should be looking for ways to partner with China, not compete. We share many problems and could work them together. Russia now, with the participation of Russia in the election of Trump, has become much harder, especially as Trump treats them as a world player.

His language, posture, attitude, are demeaning of the country and the presidency. He has no sense of decorum, of grace, of compassion, of interest. He seems to know very little history, nor interested in art or culture beyond glitz.

So we have the problem, how to respond. My sense is that electoral politics takes too long an we are hemmed in by checks and balances and view of government from the Constitution that no longer serves the kinds of problems we now face – and might just become irrelevant through entropy of decay.  How can we do better?

1952. Quote re from Climate Leviathan

Powerful book saying that we do not have any solution to climate change and that the elites are likely to organize it into a Hobbesian bureaucracy. . The challenge for us is what to do about it

Another critical stream of recent literature takes a darker view of the prospects for social and ecological transformation. In marked contrast to Klein, philosopher Dale Jamieson argues that the window of time for Blockadia-driven changes has already closed; the world is firmly committed to climate change. If we are to generate an ethical response to the Anthropocene, he claims, we must learn to accept where we stand historically, which is at the end of a period when climate science generated insights that could have led to dramatic political-economic change, but did not.”

Excerpt From

Climate Leviathan: A Political Theory of Our Planetary Future

Joel Wainwright and Geoff Mann