Climate Change, Economics, Personal statements, Politics, Religion

Threatdown, Human Species Edition: Climate Change vs Religion

I’ve been wavering between two opinions for the past few years. It has to do with the delicate position in which the human species finds itself. We are perched, as it seems, on the razor’s edge of extinction by climate change phenomena we ourselves are causing. I am very much a fan of humanity, and would like to see us thrive, prosper, and one day leap across the divide to other planets and colonize the galaxy. (I dream big; blame Isaac Asimov).

The first opinion I hold is that climate change itself is the greatest threat to our existence. Given the alarms being sounded by the planet’s scientists observing and measuring our global climate, this is not a particularly original or controversial opinion. Lucky for us humans, it is an imminently (though not easily, as it turns out) preventable disaster, a slow-motion train wreck with time still to stop it before impact.

However, a great number of very influential leaders in business and government refuse to admit that the threat is real. They profit handsomely from this attitude. They literally earn more money and votes by denying climate change than they would by admitting it. Despite this being incredibly short-sighted, singularly self-serving, and based on nothing more than brazen greed, they have nevertheless enlisted the help of many allies to spread this denialism. Their allies include their media outlets (Fox News, the Washington Post, Rush Limbaugh) and their lobbyists and PR machines (Anthony Watts, Joanne Nova, American Petroleum Institute).

Religion inserts itself as an influence into this group of deniers in a variety of ways, probably, but there is one way which has presented itself to me recently. Religion has become an ally of deniers of climate change because one belief that most religions hold in common across the great varieties of faith traditions is that there is something more to human beings than our brief lives here on our home planet, Earth.

This is why I refer to all (or, at least the majority of) religions with the initial capital, Religion. I’m aware of the danger of generalization and stereotyping, and yet I think I’m on solid ground with my claim that most religions hold a Paradise doctrine in common, if we just take the belief in a better life laying beyond death alone, without getting distracted by differences in specific descriptions of the belief. I use the capitalized word Paradise as shorthand for the life-beyond-death belief, letting it stand in for the multitude of varieties of afterlife traditions.

Denialists’ most influential ally is Religion because of this very widespread, very damaging doctrine: Death is an illusion, and a better world awaits us on the other side of it. This belief in Paradise is damaging, because it makes it easy for believers to shut down rational demands for evidence or facts. After all, they didn’t require evidence to accept the Paradise dogma. They require no evidence to believe any of the claims and dogmas of Religion. When scientists and their allies in business and government present facts as evidence that the human species faces an extinction-level crisis, Religion offers little more than a bemused yawn in response.

Think about it from their perspective: If all (or, as they would prefer, any particular one) of their religions were true, and God will fix every mistake humans can possibly make, then what good reason can anyone put forward to worry about climate change, even if it ends up killing off humans at an alarming rate?

In their faith-addled, religion-poisoned reasoning, if the human race ends up down to the last two remaining people, huddling on top of the last patch of dry land, about to starve to death or drown, and one of them happens to be a believer, the last words of the human species could conceivably be: “Don’t worry, man; God’s gonna remake heaven and earth and start over again, anyway. A resurrection is coming!” Or, if the other person happened to be me, the last words will actually be, “Will you shut the fuck up and let the human race die in peace?!”

Some believers even go the extra mile in cooperating with their greedy denialist allies (Christians are good at going the extra mile; Jesus did, and taught them to go and do likewise). They actively cast doubt upon science itself, and deny their children access to it, replacing it with creation science and a profound anti-science fear of anything that casts doubt upon their Paradise dogma. Thus they ensure that whole new generations of religious believers are on their way to becoming denialist allies.

It’s easy to imagine that most denialists within Religion are such unwittingly, as out of touch with scientific facts as they prefer to be. Faith trumps fact in the formulation of their opinions and values. They trust their religious leaders and the media outlets referred to above, and they vote accordingly. They don’t feel the same danger nonbelievers feel at the prospect of climate change, since their faith in a Creator who controls history and, indeed, the weather, dulls their perception of the threat. A threat only feels threatening when it is perceived accurately as a threat. One who believes in the Paradise dogma cannot accurately perceive a threat in climate change.

This paralysis in the face of danger makes believers and other deniers uniquely UNqualified to make decisions bearing on climate change issues, or to wisely vote for representatives to deal with these tough calls. UNqualified though they are, they are unfortunately not DISqualified thereby; they go on voting into office deniers, becoming heads of environmental and science committees in legislatures (Sen. James Inhofe, head of the Senate committee on the environment, and Rep. Lamar Smith, head of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee).

So, the second opinion I hold is that the greatest threat to the future of the human species is belief in the Paradise dogma, which is another way of saying Religion, I guess. Nonreligious deniers, at least, have nothing except their greed barring them from becoming convinced by the facts; they have no hope in a cosmic do-over preventing them from taking seriously the fearful facts daily piling up, warning us to slow down climate change.

The religious deniers, on the other hand, are handicapped in the arena of facts, warnings, and threats to human existence. Their denial of climate change is bolstered by their belief in an afterlife; even when they are forced to agree with inconvenient truths about the climate, their religious dogma trumps facts because they believe their deity will save them in the end. They are notoriously well entrenched in their dogmatic doctrines. It is almost impossible to educate them out of their ignorance of the facts while their critical thinking faculties remain so impaired by the incrustation of faith-claims.

And so I waver between the two opinions about which is the greater threat to my own species: Is it Climate Change itself which deserves our full and aggressive efforts to slow down, or is it Religion’s Denial-Fueling Paradise Dogma we should be working hardest to defeat? Which campaign will more effectively solve the crisis of our day? And what strategies and solutions would you offer to meet the demands of either campaign?

I’m interested in your thoughts, and hope you feel motivated to share them in the comment section below.

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Economics, Ethics, Facebook discussions

Single Payer Healthcare Please!

UPDATE (02/02/2015): What It’s Like When You’re an American Using Britain’s NHS 

UPDATE (11/19/2014): Canadian woman hit with $950K medical bill after unexpectedly giving birth in US hospital

UPDATE (6/21/2014): US Doctors migrating north to escape dysfunctional US health insurance system. pnhp.org/news/2014/june/us-doctors-migrating-north

UPDATE (05/16/2014): Canadians love their system, contrary to  US health insurance lobby propaganda: pnhp.org/news/2014/march/doctor-who-schooled-us-senator-thrilled-by-canadian-support

UPDATE (12/31/2013):  Outrageous costs of U.S. healthcare: viralnova.com/hospital-bill/

UPDATE (10/31/2013): LISTEN TO REASON! The following two links both let you listen in on an intelligent conversation between host David Feldman and Dr. Paul Song and Dr. Nancy Niparko from Physicians for a National Health Program. They explain why America needs a single payer healthcare system right now. The first link is the most important five (5) minutes of the show. The second is the entire show.

Link #1 (4:48 mins): youtu.be/tcmfgR25VnQ
Link #2 (90 mins): davidfeldmanshow.com/obamacare-isnt-enough/

UPDATE (10/3/2013)  Another release of damning statistics which prove the U.S. system of healthcare is extremely dysfunctional: huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/03/health-care-costs

[Note: first published at Hubpages.com on 06/21/12; the comments immediately following were copied from that location for reference. Please comment here on blogspot.com.
Updates to this post will continue to appear above this line]

Single Payer Government Run Healthcare Q&A: Some interesting questions arose when I asked my Facebook friends if they were as ready for a single payer system as I am. I decided to answer them here, on my blog, so a potentially wider readership could chime in, too…

Disease-care, or Healthcare?

Have you checked your blood pressure today? I did.
Have you checked your
blood pressure today? I did.
Source: © cienpies.net

The following statistic speaks volumes:

“52 percent of doctors would get out of medicine if they could. So many young doctors are recognizing how broken the system is…”  –from Escape Fire, a new healthcare documentary; read the interview with the maker here.

Do Canadians come here for important health care needs (in statistically meaningful numbers)?

Are Canadian doctors leaving Canada to practice in the United States (in statistically meaningful numbers)?

Has an elaborate, private-insurer-supporting mythology emerged surrounding the supposed evils of the Canadian system?

Insurance industry lobbyists are like this scary clown: they wear suits, they have the blood of innocents on their hands, and they are deceptively masked. And they don't sleep well at night.
Insurance industry lobbyists are like this scary clown:
they wear suits, they have the blood of
innocents on their hands, and they are
deceptively masked. And they don’t sleep well at night.

It’s reminiscent of misguided corporate/political PR campaigns of days gone by:

The Finnish love saunas,
public schools,
Nokia phones,
and universal healthcare!
Source: http://www.sxc.hu/profile/_marta

Would an increase in welfare state measures be bad for the economy?

No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus, but every December, at noradsanta.org, the North American Aerospace Defense Command will use your dad's taxpayer dollars to mock this childish fantasy of yours!
No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus,
but every December,
at noradsanta.org,
the North American Aerospace Defense Command
will use your dad’s taxpayer dollars
 to mock this childish fantasy of yours!
photo source: Jim Miles

Doesn’t the U.S. Government always screw up everything it does?

See Myths, above; but for the patriots, here’s a very partial list:

Now, if the question is whether modern campaign-cycle-frenzied U.S. politicians screw up more often than not, I might tend to agree there.

The one sector of the economy with the most to lose in the switch to a single-payer, government-run healthcare system is the current private health insurance industry. Expect the most vehement lobbying/mythologizing from those mega-corporations and the media outlets they support and the candidates and elected officials they support. But that’s just common sense, right?

Newsflash Headline: Campaign-Addicted Politicians May Not Make Good Decisions!

Good Ideas for a Single Payer system for the United States

What would Jesus do... about your pre-existing conditions?
What would Jesus do…
about your pre-existing conditions?

Penultimate question:

What’s a good place to start browsing information about proposals for a single payer system for the United States?

(Disclaimer: I am NOT affiliated with any of the pro-single payer organizations linked above or below!)

Is Canada The Only Country That Does This?

UPDATE (8/13/2013): GREAT NEWS!

The Senator who leads the majority party in the United States Senate just made some amazing comments about single payer healthcare. He has basically predicted that eventually we will have it in this country. He calls Obamacare a necessary step toward single payer.

Please read the following story of Harry Reid’s recent ground-breaking comments:
pnhp.org/news/2013/august/harry-reid-congress-someday-will-end-insurance-based-system

[Editorial note: the comments directly below, ending with d.william, were added to this essay as it appeared on Hubpages.com, through November 25, 2013. Dates of each comment are as of November 28, 2013. Current comments continue below, here at blogspot.com]

davidlaw2 profile image
davidlaw2 17 months ago
I flat out believe that the current Republican attack on universal health insurance is a conflict between the wealthy and the working class who need the insurance.
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JimMiles profile image
JimMiles 17 months ago from Orlando, FLHub Author
I agree, David. Thanks for contributing to my Hub.
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JimMiles profile image
JimMiles 17 months ago from Orlando, FLHub Author
This article is timely, given the waiting game we’re all playing, until the SCOTUS decides what to do about ACA:
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davidlaw2 profile image
davidlaw2 17 months ago
Hello JimMiles: The people who need this program are people who earn $80,000 or less per year. They are also the people who pay, without corporations, the largest amount of income tax. The people who are against the insurance earn over $250,000. Most if them are the people that have more than $100,000,000. They are the ones who pay to spread untrue informating to get the public to vote against what they critically need. I included your name so this would go directly to you.
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JimMiles profile image
JimMiles 17 months ago from Orlando, FLHub Author
Good point, David. I guess I can’t blame those with wealth looking out for their own interests; but so much of the new anti-middle class legislation feels truly cruel. I hope we’re better than this, as a nation; hopefully, the history books will be able to say that about this chapter…
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davidlaw2 profile image
davidlaw2 17 months ago
Hello again JamesMiles” I don’t blame the rich for being rich. The problems have been developing with TV and the huge amounts of money paid by the super rich on ads to get their candidates elected. The tactics of spinning facts and flat out lying when it will not be checked out and exaggerating facts has become the problem. The news papers, Fourth Estate, historically was to catch on-truths and exaggerations and supply correct facts independently without taking political sides. The new media does not do this anymore. Most everyone is doing commentary that belongs on the editorial pages or editorial programs and not programs disguised as news. When I listened to a recent programs, three flat out lies were stated by commentators. I am working on an article designed to plant the seed to develop non partisan committees to evaluate the information presented by politicians and present the facts to the public through a website. This site will not be an anti government or free-press format. The committee will be made up of paid researchers dedicated to tell the truth. The goal will be to do what the current news media can’t do because they are owned by people with political interests. Please excuse any errors in this comment. I just came out of surgery a few hours age. My major in school was journalism. Very little of what is called news resembles what I was taught that news must be.to be news. I would like your feedback on developing this program.
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JimMiles profile image
JimMiles 17 months ago from Orlando, FLHub Author
Hope your recovery is speedy and complete! Thank you again for your work in this area, and I look forward to a website like you describe which can perform a watchdog function largely left undone by popular media. Ever heard of http://www.fair.org?
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davidlaw2 profile image
davidlaw2 17 months ago
I had not heard of the site but I will check it out. Thanks.
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mio cid profile image
mio cid 17 months ago from UruguayLevel 1 Commenter
I will start right now writing the hub you spoke about in the meantime let me share a couple of hubs with you.http://mio-cid.hubpages.com/hub/Cuba-Ozzie-Guillen
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wetbaknproud profile image
wetbaknproud 17 months ago from new jersey
hello jim,I will gladly make a hub about a subject that i love as is politics, and the reality of the socialist ideology which by the way is very present and has been present in american domestic policies since the beginning of the twentieth century .
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davidlaw2 profile image
davidlaw2 17 months ago
I am amazed at how many people don’t know what socialism is. The Preamble to the Constitution would be considered Socialist by a large percentage of the population because it says that the government is to promote the general welfare: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
A survey was taken a number of years ago as to what people thought the first 10 amendments to the Constitution were. Far to many people thought they were part of a communist plot. Programs to assist the population are in no way socialist or communist. People are lead to believe they are by the use of propaganda tactics by our political leaders. It is an attempt to limit the amount of money the wealthy have to contribute.
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JimMiles profile image
JimMiles 17 months ago from Orlando, FLHub Author
Thank you, mio cid and webaknproud, for commenting and I look forward to your upcoming Hubs.
davidlaw2, that’s so true. That’s the frightening power of the modern PR/message management industry. Whoever controls the narrative in the minds of the majority of people, controls the public’s memory of history. The actual facts of history do not matter. What matters is what the majority of people THINK are the facts.
This has to do with disinformation. This is also related to psychological warfare, which used to be called winning “hearts and minds,” or propaganda campaigns.
Now that public education has degenerated to a short-term memory exercise in teaching to the test, everything learned is quickly forgotten, cut up into tiny segments that fit into a multiple choice question. There is no longer any such thing as deep contemplation of large issues. Attention shrinks to such a microscopically small span of time, for teachers now, too, increasingly, that technology is moving from the crutch to the “fascinating” center of so-called cutting edge educational technique. It’s never stopped being a crutch; we simply cannot see our addiction to it replacing any desire to connect with the stream of big ideas of our historical ancestors or do the hard work of thinking through the origins, progress, and solutions of our society’s big problems.
America is one or two generations away from a fatal vulnerability to foreign domination. Most other nations are continuing to teach their children how to think; we have not successfully imposed our dumbing-down regime on almost any other Western nation. What will happen when America’s military is fatally corrupted by the softness eroding away the strength of the larger society? The nation’s leaders have cried wolf too many times in the name of “national security;” soft-minded Americans won’t be able to even hear the final call to arms if and when a hungry, jealous foreign power decides they are ready to be the next superpower, and to do it from the platform of this land of ours.
Wake up, people!
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Mighty Mom profile image
Mighty Mom 16 months ago from Where Left is Right, CA
Winning hearts and minds, indeed. And the American sheeple are willingly dumbing themselves down and hardening their hearts to make that winning over job even easier.
Thank you for this hub.
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Jean Bakula profile image
Jean Bakula 16 months ago from New JerseyLevel 6 Commenter
Good job Jim. It is truly scary how people believe the lies that the polititians spread, and do not research or think for themselves. I fail to see how a health care system as Obama has outlined (it needs some clarification) can hurt our country. It seems the moral and sensible thing to be sure every citizen has access to health care. Our young people are getting terrible eductions. My son is a kindergarten teacher, he wanted to start at the foundation, before children start to dislike learning. He says he may as well have been home schooled (he wasn’t) because although he always got straight A’s, he insists it was because of his own reading and what we taught him as parents. Basic civics and even any helpful tech classes have been eliminated from curriculums. I think since young people take their SATS and HS is pretty much over in Jr. year, Sr. year should be about wood and metal shop, car repair, cooking, childcare, sewing, basic economic and budget planning, and general life experience. Our country does not make anything anymore, and the schools are not preparing them for life or skills they will need. Having a degree from college doesn’t make you stand out anymore, and at the huge costs, parents are paying more to send their children to college than they will make in the career of their choices. I think the trades must start to be taught in America again.
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JimMiles profile image
JimMiles 16 months ago from Orlando, FLHub Author
Good perspective on the difference between having babies in the US vs Canada. “How I Lost My Fear Of Universal Health.”
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phdast7 profile image
phdast7 15 months ago from Atlanta, GeorgiaLevel 7 Commenter
Wow! How have I missed your hubs all this time. Even your comments on this hub alone make you worth following. Great research, great information. Thank you very much. Looking forward to reading more. Sharing with followers. 🙂
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JimMiles profile image
JimMiles 15 months ago from Orlando, FLHub Author
Thanks for helping to get the word out, phdast!
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JayeWisdom profile image
JayeWisdom 15 months ago from Deep South, USALevel 7 Commenter
I’m so glad Theresa shared this terrific hub, for I’ve not seen your writing before. I will be reading you regularly now as a follower. You’ve provided a wealth of information that I will bookmark to re-read at leisure.
It is so sad that the people who need universal healthcare the most believe the propaganda against it. That’s one of the major problems in the U.S.–a lack of understanding by the poor, mostly uneducated or under-educated, and vulnerable to lies that cause them harm. I’m still reading about Americans who believe the president’s program has “death panels” to decide who can have life-saving healthcare. The elderly are particularly vulnerable to this type of propaganda (pardon me) crap.
I actually raised my voice at a friend on the phone a few days ago when she referred to the healthcare act as “Obamacare”, a term that;s used in a derogatory manner, causing my blood pressure to rise and making me want to spit! My friend is constantly worrying that the healthcare act will cause her to lose Medicare benefits. (Unfortunately, she doesn’t believe Medicare or Social Security are in danger from Republicans, which is much more cause for alarm.) These harmful rumors are believed as truth, and the insurance industry continues to shell out barrels of lobby money to keep that rumor mill running.
Thanks for this hub, and I’ll check out your others this weekend.
Your new fan,
Jaye
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phdast7 profile image
phdast7 15 months ago from Atlanta, GeorgiaLevel 7 Commenter
Still an excellent a informative hub on the second read. I hope readers will follow some (or all!) of the links. Their is a wealth of information out there. I appreciate your efforts on all of our behalves. Theresa Sharing of course!
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JimMiles profile image
JimMiles 14 months ago from Orlando, FLHub Author
Thanks for all the love, phdast7, JayeWisdom, Jean Bakula, and Mighty Mom! Now, more than ever, the lies about health care are spreading in campaign ads. I just saw a testimonial-style ad by a Republican Super PAC in which a Canadian woman claimed that she had to come to the US to get emergency cancer-related surgery, or else she would have died because of the “broken” Canadian system. It then said that Obamacare is moving us in that direction.
The Supreme Court really damaged political discourse with their Citizen’s United ruling, allowing unlimited LIE money to pour deceit into the public airwaves, which too many intellectually lazy citizens will swallow hook, line, and sinker. False advertising banks on the truth that there’s a sucker born every day.
Keep showing the truth to those born suckers out there, and get them to wake up to the lies they’ve been feeding on.
Single-payer healthcare NOW, PLEASE!
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Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 14 months ago from Ontario, CanadaLevel 2 Commenter
The Canadian system does have some fixes that are direly needed but my finding as a Canadian is that when My family and I need care it is there. We are not turned away and we do not rack up excessive debt for basic health care needs and general surgery. Unfortunately, the population of Canada is aging so the incidence of cancer and more serious illnesses are on the rise. It does make wait times longer. Is our health care system broken? No. Does it needmodifications? Definitely so
Unfortunately change takes time, most of us balk at change.
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JimMiles profile image
JimMiles 14 months ago from Orlando, FLHub Author
Words of wisdom, @Teresa Coppens. The hyperbolic rhetoric coming from the political right wing in the US, and from the corporations who have the most power and the most to lose (health insurance, INC) by such a single-payer improvement, is so obviously obstructionist that it’s a dead giveaway– these interest groups have NO interest in the public good, only in their own profits.
Out of one side of their mouths they get elected by screaming “WE BUILT IT, WE CAN BUILT ANYTHING!”, but when you suggest building a system improving upon the strengths of Canada/UK/Scandinavian nations, all they can say (as they protectively shield their wallets) is “WE CAN’T BUILD THAT!”
Greed and hypocrisy. It’s the only message I can get from Rightwing USPolitics, INC!
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ib radmasters profile image
ib radmasters 14 months ago from Southern California
you can put all the links you want but that won’t change the truth.
Waiting two years to get knee surgery, in Canada.
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JimMiles profile image
JimMiles 14 months ago from Orlando, FLHub Author
Well, I’m sorry about that, but you cannot say that just because your system makes you wait (which, being still alive, it obviously was no emergency), that the system is bad, broken, or hopeless. Which is exactly what the US propagandists say, and worse. They conveniently forget their own supposed genius for improvement, innovation, and invention, as if there just could be no way for the U.S. to build a better system, in which people did not have to wait!
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Mighty Mom profile image
Mighty Mom 14 months ago from Where Left is Right, CA
It’s fascinating (like a train wreck) how they are changing the complexion of the lies. Have you noticed? I can tell when the propaganda machine is busy by what I read in the forums. The current big lie is how Obama is taking money from seniors (Medicare) to fund Obamacare. If you think about that for half a second you realize how utterly crazy such a strategy is. Healthcare for ALL.
All we can do is calmly correct the misinformation whenever we see it. Quillographer recently did a sweet rebuttal in one of the forums. Hammer with facts. We don’t have and never could have Super PAC funding. But we have Hub Pages! Keep up the good work, JimMiles! MM
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suzettenaples profile image
suzettenaples 14 months ago from Naples, FLLevel 8 Commenter
Thank you for a very interesting and informative article.
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AudreyHowitt profile image
AudreyHowitt 14 months ago from CaliforniaLevel 6 Commenter
Very nicely done! Thank you for including so many sources!
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Jenna Pope profile image
Jenna Pope 14 months ago from Southern California
Interesting Hub. Excellent documentation. I am going to read it a couple more times before I express how I feel. Voted up!
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Sooner28 14 months ago from OklahomaLevel 2 Commenter
Human beings have become able to now provide health care as a basic human right. The U.N. has affirmed this, and most other industrialized nations. The United States is committing a moral travesty by not passing a universal system into law. Whoever is to blame will someday be looked at in history as cruel and unusual to their fellow humans.
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JimMiles profile image
JimMiles 13 months ago from Orlando, FLHub Author
http://www.escapefiremovie.com/ just out October 5, promises to reignite the discussion. We must keep healthcare at the top of the list; it’s life or death, people.
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JimMiles profile image
JimMiles 12 months ago from Orlando, FLHub Author
Jon Stewart destroys Papa John’s CEO: Should’ve pushed for single-payer
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JimMiles profile image
JimMiles 11 months ago from Orlando, FLHub Author
Another bit of data proving that government can insure healthcare more efficiently than the private sector can.
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junko profile image
junko 11 months agoLevel 3 Commenter
Single Payer healthcare is anti-capitalistic. It would be less costly because stock owners, executive bonuses, and continued yearly profits forever wouldn’t make America’s health cost the highest in the world. Healthcare in America drives the cost of the federal debt almost as much as the defense Dept. Single payer would go a long way at solving the debt crissis, and a 15% cut in defense for one year would solve the crissis.
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Josak profile image
Josak 2 months ago from variableLevel 4 Commenter
Nailed it, single payer is by far the best system and ALL the data from the UN to the CDC reports to the G20 back it up.
Great hub, voted up, interesting etc.
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d.william profile image
d.william 3 days ago from Somewhere in the southLevel 6 Commenter
Interesting hub, and i am surprised that so many agree with the single payer health system idea. They are obviously NOT republicans.
Those who oppose it and the new Obamacare (Affordable Health Care) are irrational and object just for the sake of objecting to whatever this president stands for. I have never seen anything like the current level of obstructionism in this country. The objections are totally irrational, illogical and certainly not based on any kind of factual data.
A single payer health care system would be the best thing that could happen to the American people.
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Economics, Ethics

Economics As Religion

Economics As Religion
Curious people who peer behind the scenes of the bureaucratic battles 
for control of the direction of our well-worn social institutions do so at the risk 
of losing their ability to easily place their trust in their economic and religious 
thought-leaders. Comfortable certainty may be replaced by the never ending 
quest to form one’s own informed conclusions 
about what is best for themselves, and for their world.

Economics = Religion

If we allow the term “religion” to stand for rituals and doctrines binding faithful believers into distinct groups, we can see important similarities between economic theory and religions such as Christianity. These two ancient social organizing principles- religion and economics- are not often compared. In the United States, an intersection of the two is emerging in a third ancient institution: politics.

Before politics enters this discussion, it must be understood that there is little difference in practice between religious systems of belief and economic systems. What are sometimes labeled Schools of Economic Thought function more like religious institutions than academic ones. Economics is a religion, and that is not a terribly controversial idea, or a particularly new one. Both religion and economics train high priesthoods who master bodies of fairly obscure doctrine which go largely unquestioned by their loyal followers. These masses of trusting followers are mostly immune to the constant in-fighting between their beloved guides, settling instead for the over-simplified generic party platforms and creeds that comfort them in their quest for certainty in uncertain times.

Students who peer behind the scenes of the bureaucratic battles for control of the direction of these well-worn social institutions do so at the risk of losing their ability to easily place their trust in their economic and religious thought-leaders. Comfortable certainty may be replaced by the never ending quest to form one’s own informed conclusions about what is best for themselves, and for their world.

Questioning the Status Quo = Progress

Both religious and economic doctrines should be questioned and reevaluated by their faithful believers; sometimes, the questions a Martin Luther or a Karl Marx raise echo down through history. Occasionally such challenges yield reformation movements, which split off new groups from the orthodox teachings, often causing reform or reaction in the unyielding Establishment. The Council of Trent codified the Catholic Church’s utter rejection of Luther and all Protestant heresy. The Chicago School became the headquarters for the denomination of believers in Laissez-faire economics, in conscious reaction against the Keynesian experimentation of the New Deal era.

These heretical new twists on old beliefs themselves evolve through predictable stages of revolution, institution-building, and eventually form orthodoxies of their own. Even churches still in relative infancy (from the long view in historical perspective) like the Mormons and the Seventh-day Adventists have already spawned Reformed splinter denominations.

Adam Smith’s model of capitalism, nearly as young as those two American-born churches, had detractors so determined to improve upon capitalist dogma that blood was shed, and their manufactured revolutions gave violent birth (Labor pains vs Management gains) to short-lived national experiments. Other nations around the world found middle ground between strict Social Darwinism and dogmatic socialism.

The United States is a frontier-obsessed nation which values innovation and exploration, and has thus become a vibrant ecosystem for both religious and economic experimentation. But its religious and economic orthodoxies hang on to the reigns of power and tend to exert the greater influence over the direction the nation takes. This is where politics enters the discussion.

The Politics Side of the Coin

The coin of the realm of politics is religion. The religion morphs between Christianity and economics, depending on which crisis their 24/7 media chorus is presently manufacturing for them. If the public is currently scared of foreigners, politicians spend their religion coins fomenting nativist sentiment, usually by invoking mantras and creeds and mottoes perpetuating the mythology of The United Christian States of America. Of smoking guns, and mushroom clouds, there shall be no end of anti-Christian phantoms to inspire the publics to vote their fears and not their best interests.

If there is any possibility of blaming an economic downturn on their political opponents, the coins of the economic priesthood start dropping into the media vending machine. “Which obscure theory do you need us to sell as prophecy to the masses today? For bubbles, press A1. For trickle-down, B2. For fascist socialist meltdown, C3. For tax terrors, press W2. For Ann Coulter, 666. Deposit 10 PhDs, wait one full media cycle, then repeat the message on C-Span as if it had come to you straight from your constituent voters back home.” After a few polls can be taken reflecting the fears that the political machine needed to act on, voters will vote their desperation instead of their best interests.

The coin of religion purchases the same result whichever denomination is spent: a faith in the prophecies of doom turning votes, donations, and airtime into policy. American Christian religions and the PhD priesthood of economists may seem disconnected on the surface, and the two realms are almost certainly ignorant of their similar utility to the political class. However, the dependence of both on the trust and faith of their followers is more alike than different. Religionism is a big enough umbrella term for both forms of belief in faith-based assertions.

Media manufactures the consent of the faithful, who love praising God according to their respective spiritual guides, and who love praising the interpretation of their Constitution and Founders according to their respective economic guides. In order to obtain and protect the only kind of power they have– voters’ consent– modern media-created politicians practice their own brand of voodoo, secretively manipulating forces that most voters refuse to take an interest in, including science falsely so called.

The Business End of the Coin

The coin of the realm of business is scientism. That’s a new term, but less vague than “Science.” As the coin of business, scientism morphs into many forms, but they all share a common effect on the practitioners of scientific research and on the publics who pay for it. The paying part refers to money granted toward research outcomes and to the intended and unintended consequences of applying the research. A bigger profit margin no matter the consequences is the common effect of the scientism coins spent by business (especially Big Business; but all businesses tend to aspire to ubiquity, and a few make it).

The moral code in the realm of the free market (i.e., the traditional American business environment as perceived by the supporters of the economic priesthood) is: There is no moral code! Anything goes, but don’t think beyond your own self-interest, and don’t talk about the code! Let the experts do that (in specially crafted PhD-encrypted code language) within the safety of pro-business echo chambers, such as Rupert Murdoch’s media chorus. Profitability depends upon freedom from intervention from those who would attempt to hold business accountable to any code conflicting with their own.

Therefore, when it can protect or grow profitability, business purchases scientific research. Scientists on corporate or pro-business government payrolls create legal protections against adverse effects and the resulting risks to profits that lawsuits about those effects can provide.

It’s helpful to remember that most business practices and products now deemed illegal and/or injurious began as decisions taken by these uniquely amoral fellow citizens of ours, who were only amoral when carrying out their legally binding roles as shareholders in their business, who were simply operating by their code. It has been argued that the modern institution of The Corporation can be diagnosed as a psychopath, given the tendency of Big Business to avoid accepting responsibility for negative externalities. The current protections against those dangerous business decisions came into existence only after the industry lost a legal battle, generically known as “The (health and welfare of the vulnerable) People versus (The Bloodsucking) Business.”

It’s also helpful to recall that battles teach adversaries how to defeat the enemy if they ever get the chance to fight again; armies of shrewd legal warriors adapt their strategies in order to prevent future losses to business profits. It’s helpful to remember that the practitioners of legal battles (lawyers) have made their profession into the most highly influential and profitable industry, bar none. The lawyer class outranks even the economic priesthood, since it is from the legal professions that most legislators come, and they have the final say in every court of final appeal. Government at the highest level consists of the decisions of lawyer-legislators being advised by economists and other lawyers, especially those lobbying on behalf of big industrial interest groups.

Remember also that, thanks to sometimes amoral and profit-driven armies of lawyers, business and industry did not always lose their legal struggle to protect their bottom lines at the expense of public health, safety, and welfare. Fluoride propaganda provides a relevant case study in the dangers of inflating the authority of scientific research, a.k.a. scientism. Water fluoridation is what happens when The People lose the legal battle before it even starts.

The fluoride produced as a waste by-product of phosphate mines and industrial metal forges is a dangerous neurotoxin, even at low exposure over long time periods. This is a well-hidden, but factual, scientific conclusion.

But Science hides nothing in the single minded pursuit of empirical evidence. Right? Not always. Not when they make the evidence support the conclusions supplied to them before the research begins. Or else face career-ending punishment for defying the current orthodoxy. Thus, we have our own, trusted, American Dental Association colluding with our own FDA and NIH to engage in forced medication of entire populations (water fluoridation).

The government that had endangered their own employees and citizens by allowing toxic exposures to fluorine and fluoride during atomic weapon production in the early Cold War against that modern economic heresy, Communism, that government of laws created a cloak of legal invisibility to hide these potentially devastating breaches of the consenting public’s trust. That cloak consists of the on-going manipulation of scientific results and the transformation of “Fluoride, the skeleton-corrupting, IQ-killing toxin of nuclear bomb factories” into “Fluoride, your dentist’s latest, greatest weapon in the made-up war on tooth decay.”

If scientism and religionism are two sides of the same coin, then who is supplying this currency, which seems only to be used to manipulate voters and keep them ignorant of their best interests? Since The People, the voters– the willfully ignorant followers— are the ultimate source of power for these groups, the responsibility for making this currency of manipulation a useful tool in the hands of abusive authorities lies with them.

Without The People, the consumers and producers of an economy’s products and services, business ceases to exist; if only the consuming, laboring public knew how much power they had at their fingertips, as they reach for that delicious new item on the literal or virtual shelf. They’ve ingested the message of the ad campaign; they’ve allowed themselves to believe this want they’re experiencing is a need; but when they remember that they don’t have nearly as many true needs as they have desires, they know that they have the power that advertisers and PR firms desperately try to keep consumers ignorant about: THE POWER TO CHOOSE. If they remember that businesses and their market tools closely track each economic choice (Economics is the study of how spenders choose to spend the scarce resources that producers choose to supply), they will know the messages they feed back to those who create the products and services. Those messages amount to one of two mandates: Give Us More, or Stop Making This.

Without The People, the governed people, the government ceases to exist; if only the voting public knew how much power they had at their disposal, which power extends beyond their votes and into their freedom to speak their minds to power, whether alone, or in lawful assemblies. The only time history has ruled in favor of the best interests of The People is when they said to each other “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore.

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Think About It

Given their spotty track record, wouldn’t it be wise stop accepting everything that “experts” say and learn how to check the facts for ourselves?

Especially since so many outside your situation have so much to gain from you NOT doing just that, and instead take their word for it?

What can average people do to exert as much or more pressure on their elected legislators as lobbyists from industrial and corporate and financial power brokers?

What do you need, actually need, as compared to what you honestly just want or desire?

What legacy do you want to leave behind in the minds and characters of your children or other loved ones after you leave this world behind?

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Economics

Power Junkie Nation

Power 
is a lot like a drug. 
We all have a deep-seated need
to control our lives, to achieve goals,
to accomplish and succeed; that is a healthy
and normal human need. But needs can be corrupted
into unhealthy obsessions. When the power need corrupts
a man, it corrupts absolutely, and overrides his common sense
and morality, just like drugs and alcohol can do. It maximizes his selfishness.

It’s like a drug. There’s a rush. A feeling of euphoria.

Power intoxicates. When a man cherishes the rush of adrenaline from the exercise of power, and fancies himself to be powerful, instead of distrusting his own deceptive nature, he succumbs to this ancient addiction. He is drunk with power. A power junkie is born.

And the world takes note of him, begins to size him up, judge him, evaluate his threat level.

Power is a lot like a drug. We all have a deep-seated need to control our lives, to achieve goals, to accomplish and succeed; that is a healthy and normal human need. But needs can be corrupted into unhealthy obsessions. When the power need corrupts a man, it corrupts absolutely, and overrides his common sense and morality, just like drugs and alcohol can do. It maximizes his selfishness.

And many in the world take notes from his success, applaud him, and then target him for destruction (competition, merger, acquisition). Their power addiction is threatened by his power addiction.

Once he’s hooked on it (or maybe it’s got him, like a fishhook in his brain), he’ll do anything to keep it and grow it, to protect his power-supply from those who would deprive him of it. Fortunately (as in good fortune, and Fortune 500) for him, wealth and power reinforce each other. Ever since bullion metal superseded all other measures of nationalistic greatness, power has attracted wealth like iron to a magnet. And conversely, power and influence are for sale to the highest bidder. So with wealth comes power. With power, comes wealth.

Double threat!

If he is very fortunate, the powers-that-be will allow him to climb up the rungs of the ladder, and plug his power/wealth/addiction into their larger network of power-dealers, their marketplace. The more power you have, the easier it is to keep it, and to get more of it; the power-addict’s “drug of choice” has never been illegal. In many places, it’s a social norm, the best measure of success. Even if it was somehow made illegal to accumulate power, the wealth that comes with power can buy a busted power junkie the best lawyers, judges, and legislators, the real version of a get-out-of-jail-free card.

The newly-minted wealthy and the newly-elected powerful attract the attention of those who make it their business to either elevate or exploit and discard these potential usurpers, these threats to what those on top treasure the most: status quo. These super-powerful addict-dealers call themselves “brokers,” a strangely appropriate term, when you think about it. Go broke, go for broke, brokerage firms, broken down, broken spirit. The sense of the word, the feel of it, is: “it could go either way for you, and that part is up to me.” Some of these powers-that-be hold government offices, others are in finance, and others own large corporations. Some are found in academic institutions and religious organizations, too. Many of them hold power in multiple arenas. All of them are power-brokers: men who have succumbed to this peculiar addiction and sit as gate-keepers to their own elite, members-only club.

[Note to the observant ones from your author: Since the gender of those sitting as kings of these hills is almost universally the masculine one, the pronouns used in this discussion may safely remain in harmony with that unfortunate reality. Disclaimer: I try not to be biased, but I have noticed that the people I trust the most tend to be those of that gender a man once labeled as the “weaker” sex, though experience has shown me that weakness has nothing to do with it].

The “Power Corrupts” Axiom

Power is corrupting and insidious, like toxins and additives and harmful drugs are to the body. While it is certainly possible to make use of power in purely good and benevolent ways, that is neither the first nor the usual inclination of most powerful men.

This is because of the genetic material we all carry. It’s called “evolutionary advantage.” People are naturally inclined to look out for themselves, to survive, to compete. Our infantile impatience to get what we need (an infant’s cries, I want, I need, NOW!) is overlooked as strong survival instinct by that other gender, the mother gender, the one with the nurturing, mothering instinct. That self-centered “me-first” orientation which good mothers train out of their children, and societies that value competition and self-interest train back in to them, is enshrined in the hallowed halls (and towers, and foundations, and, that modern shrine, the brand name) capitalize on a universal human trait– selfishness. Evidence of our genetically shaped evolution abounds.

The historical record immortalizes the corruptions of many power junkies who are buried under prominent monuments: dictators, kings, emperors, caesars, czars, governors, generals, presidents, chief executive officers, and countless other self-important titles with which men have crowned themselves. So many of them guilty of letting the power in their hands go to their heads, and exploit or abuse those under them, those who consented to follow their leadership, or who had no other choice. It happens so often, it seems inevitable. The few exceptions– the benevolent dictator, the good king, and benign business person– prove the potency of power addiction by how rarely they grace our history books with their inspiring stories.

The corruption that accompanies power is evidence of the flaw in man’s inherited natural makeup. Religious movements have attempted to awaken people to this warp in human nature, and give them tools and motivation to deal with it—Hinduism’s karma and dharma and reincarnation; Buddhism’s four noble truths and eight-fold path; Islam’s disciplined fasts and prayer times; Judaism’s Yom Kippur; Catholicism’s sacraments; Protestantism’s new birth conversion. Unfortunately, religious truth is largely obscured from objective examination, buried beneath institutions which start out intending to promote their study, but succumb to the same obsessions that befall the power-addict: self-preservation, elimination of the competition, and world domination.

The Cult of Power

Power-junkies abound in all religions, and some of the most violent and dangerous men shield their toxic addictive behaviors beneath a cloak of self-righteousness. The sacrilegious abuse of spiritual power is all too painfully understood by the victims of corrupted religion. The “cult of power” is a phrase with many shades of meaning, all of them dark.

Not so long ago, power was easy to see and to follow as it collected into the hands of the wealthy and strong. It was simple to see that the guy with the biggest house and healthiest family, the one who was always talking up front and leading people to do things, the one whose name everybody knew—he had the power; his was the most powerful family. Modern society has stratified in complex ways, multiplying and diversifying the institutions which accumulate and bestow power. Intelligent citizenship in a world full of power brokers, all intent on maintaining their hold on society’s mental boundaries, is a challenge. It demands a level of attention to detail and a commitment to learning not required of generations past.

The powerful seek to control academic, legal, and research institutions because no one knows better than power brokers that information is power. “The pen is mightier than the sword!” In the pre-industrial past it was relatively easy to maintain power if you were on top of the power pyramid (wield the sword); it is trickier now that information flows fast in the global digital commons. It’s trickier still if you live in a society which cherishes freedom of expression, the free exchange of ideas, and democratic values like the rule of law, all of which tend to pull power down from the few at the top of the pyramid, empowering the weak below, who crave equal opportunity. It may be trickier, but modern power-brokers are up to the challenge; they study history, and learn from it. The most breath-taking tricksters that ever lived are found in modern political machinery, and the corporate advertising industry; public relations wizardry, and the high priesthood of economists; in the mass media, with their shock-and-awe campaigns, and in trans-national conglomerates soaring above the rule of law, beyond the reach of any single nation’s laws.

The modern war on the drug of power is being won by the power-addicts, not those seeking a cure; the greatest concentrations of wealth and power ever witnessed on planet Earth are re-concentrating at the top of that ancient metaphorical power pyramid. The advantage of numbers belongs to those at the bottom of the pyramid, but the advantage of resources is all at the top. Dissenting citizens are invisible to the power-brokers up at the top, who thrive as long as the multitudes down below– the true source of all power and wealth, according to the economic priesthood– believe that protests and political parties and votes might someday sober up the power junkies in charge of their world. That’s why revolutions rarely change the established order of things.

Related Insights In Other Places

Inequality.org 

Your portal for news, data, and statistics on economic inequality, health and inequality, income inequality, social inequality, poverty and inequality, and global inequality.
The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute is dedicated to improving the scope and overall quality of investigative reporting in the independent press and beyond.
Revealed – the capitalist network that runs the world
…[T]he super-entity is unlikely to be the intentional result of a conspiracy to rule the world. “Such structures are common in nature.”
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Economics

Amok Capitalism Time

When you measure the promise of capitalism against its actual historical progress in the United States, it needs to be given the proverbial pink slip. Its resume & references were obviously inflated to the extreme. Adam Smith made us believe that an Invisible Hand would magically guide all participants in the free market to the best possible outcome for all involved. He lied! That invisible hand is more like a pickpocket’s than some benign, divine mathematician’s. It’s not the hand of God, it’s the hand of Greed.

A society duped into allowing a principle as violent and corrupting as Greed to be their basis of interacting with each other gets what they asked for: a proper fleecing by the wealthiest among them.

Apologists for the Greed system (who generously provide their free PR for those who don’t need it) nowadays blame capitalism’s failures on the measures adopted by previous generations to slap back that pickpocketing hand. Just get rid of those nefarious socialist measures which cripple the Invisible Hand, and the rising tide will raise all boats, they claim. (Never mind the facts about how expensive those big ol boats are, leaving so many treading water, and losing strength fast).

It’s not the safety net’s fault that people fall; they are walking the tight rope assigned to them by a system inherently corrupt and riddled with logical contradictions. Go ahead, get rid of the safety nets of socialist policies, but not before you replace the tight rope with a four lane highway! Ah, but that’s a little too much opportunity for their comfort; too much equality is the worst enemy of the Survival of the Wealthiest system.

Capitalism promises that everyone will benefit from free market activity. History demonstrates that what has always applied to the dynamic of the wealthy ruling (rule-making) classes vs the poorer working classes also applies when all of them drink the capitalist’s koolaid. Namely, that the rich remain on top by putting their own interests above that of all other classes; that poorer classes have two choices regarding their upward mobility: 1) sacrifice it so those already on top of the wealth ladder get to remain up top, or 2) take an axe to the ladder and chop everyone down to the ground.

But those up top abhor the idea of level playing fields. That’s why they got everyone to create a new kind of do-nothing royal class, the “successful capitalist.” The way they’ve duped the working classes, drowning in sink-or-swim wages, into becoming their loudest cheerleaders even as their Capitalist Invisible Hand is robbing them of any real chance to experience economic freedom… That’s the most disgusting part of the whole charade.

Capitalism looks so good on paper. In theory, it might work for a small society of truly equal peers who all knew and respected one another. At the global international scale of modern capitalism, however, the tactics of those who control the vast majority of the wealth (which they increasingly use simply to accumulate more of it) are much too sophisticated for those without the means or the opportunity to compete fairly.

And just like the US military has learned to Never Fight Fair, never entering a battle without stacking the odds overwhelmingly in favor of victory, those whose families are already overwhelmingly financially successful have asymmetrically powerful measures to remain right where they are — on top of the world.

A personal note: to me, this discussion is of little practical utility, like fiddling while Rome burns. But I enjoy fiddling, and remain quite content with the little I have. I don’t envy the wealthy their lifetime of warfare against the popular forces clamoring for equality of opportunity, level battle fields, and those expensive safety nets. I’m a pacifist in the class war. What makes me speak up is when people write, speak, vote, and spend against their own well-being, playing right into the tactics of people who do not have their welfare in mind. I do not blame those who inherited a toxic and harmful system for doing what that system demands of them. I blame the system! And I try to do my part to advocate for alternative systems, or at least to guard our necessary freedom to create and discuss improvements to the system we inherited. Too many adopt a tone which tends to shut out discussion of alternatives, as if we have a moral obligation to any particular economic system. (We don’t!).

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