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Why be Interested in a Better Future?

by John Brian Shannon | August 15, 2016

Why build a Better World?

Imagine for a moment the unforeseen has occurred, and lying in the middle of the road is your body covered by a white sheet.

Yes, you got hit by a bus only minutes ago. And now, body-less for the first time in your existence, your spirit is hearing the words of the ‘keepers of spirits’ as you watch the paramedics put your body into the Ambulance.

They tell you that you’ll sleep for 20-years and then be awoken in time to be born in the normal manner, but to a different set of parents, exactly 20-years from today. Happy Birth Day!

Oh, and, this part is important. You won’t have any of your present memories, you may be born anywhere in the world, you may be a different ethnicity or gender, you may be born within any socio-economic group — and your parent or parents might be the poorest on that particular continent or the richest, or anywhere in between. All these variables and more will be matters of chance.

For now, let’s assume that the above paradigm is true.

But what if you died and came back tomorrow?

‘Well’ you say, ‘It depends where I was born, and how highly my parents rank in that country.’

If you came back tomorrow; There’s only a 1 percent chance that you’d be a brand new member of the 1 percent. Did you know that the 1 percent manage to exist on more than $1179. per day, per person? How do they manage it?

Some 29 percent of the people alive today live between $10. and $1178. per day, per person.

And there’s a 71 percent chance that you’d be born into a family that lives on less than $10. per day, per person.

That’s our world in 2016.

Know your annual income?
Find out which percent group you belong to on this interactive CNN chart

You found your goat! Image courtesy of Mongolia on Pinterest.

You found your goat! Image courtesy of Mongolia on Pinterest.

Today, you’re more likely to be born into poverty, maybe living on the desolate Mongolian steppes.

Hey! In your previous life you always liked goats and always wanted to pet one. Now you can be a goat-herder for the next 64 years! Which is the average life expectancy of Mongolian males who live in yurts (tents) on the edge of the Gobi Desert.

Or maybe you’d be born as one of the Roma (formerly called gypsies) the poverty-stricken people who roam all over Europe, in sight of luxury every day, but never able to experience it.

Or maybe you’re born into a Muslim family trapped in present-day Syria. Better start studying that Koran as soon as you learn to read, I hear they don’t tolerate slackers there.

On the bright side, you have a 29 percent chance of being born into a family that exists on anything between $10. per day, per person and $1178. per day, per person. You rock!

Just remember that you won’t get to choose any of this, nor prepare for it in advance. It’ll be completely random. Nor will you have any memories of your previous life.

What if you came back 20-years from today?

One wonders what kind of world will exist 20-years from now. Hopefully, you’ll be one of the people who used your time wisely in this decade to help create a better future for all humanity — not only for yourself and your immediate family — but for people who are being born on every continent, at every economic strata.

If you knew today that you were going to be reborn in 20-years with a family and country chosen for you at random, what would you do today to help create a better future for all humanity?

In 2016, 7.4 billion people live on this planet and 1 percent of the world’s population own more than 50 percent of the world’s total wealth.

But in 2035, 8.8 billion people will live on this planet; And if present trends continue, the 1 percent will own more than 80 percent of the world’s total wealth.

Leaving only 20 percent of the world’s total wealth to be distributed between the remaining 8.7 billion in 2035.

If you expect to be alive in 2035, let’s hope you’ve used your time wisely in this decade to help create a better future for all humanity.

Share of the world's total wealth for the Top 1 percent and the Bottom 99 percent. Image courtesy of OXFAM.

Share of the world’s total wealth for the Top 1 percent and the Bottom 99 percent. Image courtesy of OXFAM.

The 1 Percent are ‘In’ and for Obvious Reasons

by John Brian Shannon | June 16, 2016

The 1 percent are already ‘In’ and for obvious reasons. Now, what about the 99 percent?

The 1 percent

In 2016, the richest 1 percent will have more wealth than the rest of humanity combined. Image courtesy of Oxfam International

Widespread dissatisfaction among very large numbers of people is manifesting itself in various ways around the world.

We’ve seen it in regards to the Occupy Wall Street protests, the Scottish referendum, Arab Spring, Syrian uprising, in the deepening distrust of globalization and free-trade agreements, lower voter turnouts, and most recently, in the potential for Grexit and Brexit from the European Union.

But it wasn’t always that way. In the postwar world, people from all walks of life and in every country ‘pulled together’ towards a common and better future. Sure, the Cold War interrupted that mood. But if anything, and in the broadest possible context, the Cold War served to sharpen competition and increase the overall flow towards a better civilization.

When the Cold War ended, Earth’s then-population of 6 billion took a collective deep breath and said; “Now we can get somewhere!” — in regards to creating the kind of world anyone would be proud to live in.

But 26 years on, we have fallen massively short of those aspirations. And it’s becoming more apparent and it is grating on people, moreso with each passing year.

Instead of a giant leap forward for the human race, we had trillion dollar wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that were based on falsehood (the U.S. Iraq Study Group said so) a major recession caused by the unethical and perhaps illegal actions of ‘too big to fail’ financial institutions (but only one person has gone to prison) we had democratic voices being dragged away from peaceful and legal #OWS rallies, we have dangerous people trying to re-ignite the Cold War because it used to be good for the military-industrial-complex economy (so why not try that again?) we suddenly have a 1 percent cohort that owns more than HALF of the world’s wealth (by 2030 they will own 76% of the world’s wealth if measures aren’t taken) we have more outsourcing of jobs (and therefore a larger proportion of low-paying jobs) and we have unelected, elitist, bureaucrats in Europe telling the rest of the continent where to go and what to do.

And that isn’t the half of it.

“It is time for the global leaders of modern capitalism, in addition to our politicians, to work to change the system to make it more inclusive, more equitable and more sustainable.  

Extreme inequality isn’t just a moral wrong. It undermines economic growth and it threatens the private sector’s bottom line.  All those gathering at Davos who want a stable and prosperous world should make tackling inequality a top priority.” 

Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, Chief Executive Officer of E.L. Rothschild and chairman of the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism, who spoke at a joint Oxfam-University of Oxford event on inequality in 2015

(So far, not a single recommendation has been implemented)

Consequently millions of people are losing faith in and blaming globalization when in fact globalization isn’t the problem.

Twenty-six years after the Cold War has ended, our civilization is so much less than it could be that it boggles the mind.

The 1 percenters and their acolytes can’t understand what all the fuss is about.

And I understand that! Their lives are so far removed from reality that; Let the peasants eat cake.” doesn’t begin to describe the disconnect they have with the other 7.2 billion people on the planet.

(For the record, none of it was caused by the 1 percent — they are merely the beneficiaries of the trickle-up economy — therefore, we can never blame them for the problems of the 99 percent)

Ongoing troubles with Russia, China, #OWS, the global economy, Brexit, etc. are just the beginning of our problems. Five years out and ten years out, we will look back longingly to the 2010-2016 timeframe where we had these relatively minor problems to contend with!

We need a new global vision, one that is orders of magnitude better than the present mediocre vision, so that 7.2 billion people will say to themselves, Now this, I can support and work diligently towards.”

The present vision of; Let’s keep making corporations and the 1 percent richer and richer at our expense, getting into conflicts with Russia and China for no reason good enough to justify the risks involved, and unelected and elitist technocrats ruling the Earth (seems to be a growing trend) all so that we can feel grateful to have a low-paying job and a declining middle class?

That’s not a vision! That’s the path to economic suicide!

While there won’t be revolutions there is likely to be widespread voter dissatisfaction and a much lower level of ‘buy-in’ to our civilization from everyday citizens. That alone, is enough to cause irreparable damage to our world.

Everyone has a different idea about why the former Soviet Union failed;

Some say it was the sudden drop in oil prices (not really, that was merely the straw that broke the camel’s back) some say it was Western plots (slight attribution there, IMHO) while some said its fall was due to their failure in Afghanistan (embarrassing, but not Warsaw Pact demolishing by any standard) or by other, unspecified means.

But no, the real reason for the failure of the former Soviet Union was passive defiance by Soviet workers, whose favorite (quietly-spoken) saying was;

“As long as they pretend to pay us, we will pretend to work.”

And that is everything!

Once it became obvious to Soviet workers that the Soviet Union was ‘no longer working’ for their best interests, they employed a sort of ‘passive defiance’ in return for the crass neglect they felt they had endured, which lowered the USSR’s productivity to such an extent that all it took was a few months of low oil prices and some sniping from U.S. politicians for the whole thing to implode.

Now, 26 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, Western workers are beginning to think in terms of ‘passive defiance’ and may soon follow the path of those Soviet workers.

Long story short; There are very real reasons for the growing dissatisfaction and the disconnect between 7.2 billion people on the one hand — and the 1 percent, their acolytes, and the elitist technocrats that serve them, on the other hand.

The grievances of that many people can’t simply be waved away in a ‘Let them eat cake’ kind of way.

We need a grand and new vision, one that is orders of magnitude better than the present non-vision, and one that 7.2 billion people will urgently wish to support.

Anyone up for that?

If not, we’re already on the path to lose everything we’ve built.

Related Article:

International Trade Agreements: Win-Win or Lose-Lose?

by John Brian Shannon | June 11, 2015

The secrecy surrounding these agreements is a complete non-starter for me.

The obsessive secrecy is enough to tell me everything about this being a corporatist agenda on the one hand — and a latter-day containment policy concerning China (or any country that crosses the U.S.A.) on the other.

It really muddles the difference between trade and governance as many commentators have said.

Elizabeth Warren, as usual, has it right; “If transparency would make it harder to sell the final product to the public, it raises serious questions about the desirability of what is being negotiated.” — Elizabeth Warren (paraphrased by Professor Dani Rodrik)


Yet, having said all of that, I’m strongly in favour of international trade agreements!

TTIP protest in London, UK

TTIP protesters in London, UK (Aug 2014)

What NAFTA could’ve been, vs. what it became

To this day I’m a strong proponent of NAFTA — but NAFTA had the potential to be so much more.

Instead, some of the more mediocre minds took over what was a grand overriding vision of peace, order, and good governance for all of North America — and one of the vehicles to help make that happen was the original NAFTA agreement, which was to be followed up by additional agreements, e.g. NAFTA II and NAFTA III.

But because it was handled so badly, the public mood turned against NAFTA and all talk of later NAFTA agreements were dropped like a stone

To state it a different way; The corporatist agenda greedily precluded the long term interests of North America.

And what did we get in exchange from corporations for opening up the North American market thereby allowing corporations to make additional billions per year?

They took their NAFTA windfall profits they had earned in North America to Asia, and 2/3rds of North American manufacturing jobs went to Asia, as well.

Thanks for that.

But it’s not the fault of corporations. They’re in business to make money for their shareholders — which increasingly, means the 1 percent.

To one person, the actions of these corporations might seem profoundly ungrateful to North America — while to another person, these corporations acted in their best interests.

It depends who you work for, I guess…

If you’re a person who works for 1 percent of the population, then this result is acceptable to you. If you’re a person who works for the 99 percent, then this is a wicked bit of business indeed.

Occupy Wall Street protests and other anti-corporate sentiments didn’t materialize out of thin air.

The Occupy movement happened because 99 percent of the population suddenly realized that both the corporations and government were ‘against’ the little guy — you know, the people who actually pay the bills and fight in wars — not the cabal of the 1 percent and their government acolytes

If we pass TTIP and TPP in a shroud of secrecy to further satisfy the corporatist agenda the #OWS protests will seem a minor historical disruption by comparison. (Just a friendly warning from someone who believes in trade agreements)

Some look for advantages between signatories of trade agreements

Which completely misses the point.

In the NAFTA example, many people were spending endless hours trying to decide if the NAFTA agreement benefited Canada? Did it benefit the U.S. more? Or perhaps Mexico was the main beneficiary?

NAFTA was about lowering barriers to improve the free flow of trade between the North American partners with the goal of making North American products and services more competitive in all respects — against other trading blocs or nations. Not against each other.

THAT is what NAFTA was about. Which many people missed originally, or have since forgotten.

It’s too bad that the subsequent windfall profits ended up strengthening the Asian economy instead of the North American economy where all of those profits had been earned

So; Are those corporations ‘traitors’ to North Americans — or are those corporations ‘heroes’ to their shareholders?

The answer is glaringly obvious.

If you’re a one percenter (or a government acolyte of the 1%) then these corporations were ‘doing their duty to shareholders’ under legal boundaries set by government policymakers and financial regulators, even though the optics look incredibly bad for both corporations and government policymakers.

If you’re a ninety-nine percenter you probably view these corporations as ‘traitors’ to North America — even though these corporations followed the letter of the law. Everything else is just spin for you.

A summary of NAFTA?

1. It could’ve been so much more.

2. The corporations made additional billions (maybe even trillions) due to NAFTA, and in that respect it scores a clear win for corporations — but they have lost much of the support and good will of ‘We the People’ in the process.

3. The additional revenue made by corporations due to the NAFTA agreement are now in China not doing a damn thing for the North American economy where those windfall NAFTA profits were earned, making NAFTA the third-largest transfer of wealth in modern history.

(a: The largest wealth transfer in modern history was from the Old world to the New world, b: the second-largest wealth transfer in modern history was from the West to the oil rich Kingdoms, since 1932)

4. NAFTA was a major instrument in the creation of the 1 percent and the societal problems that have since flowed from rising inequality.

Unprecedented in modern history, the 1 percent own more wealth than 1/2 of the world’s population and by 2030 the 1 percent will own 3/4 of the world’s total wealth.

Leaving only 1/4 of the world’s wealth for the 99 percent to exist on, going forward…

Can you say… inequality? Or how about… protest marches? This time with billions of protesters.

As productivity has only little room for improvement in the developed world, the only other factor to allow the present economic paradigm to continue is falling incomes for the 99 percent

If you don’t recognize that as a looming societal apocalypse, you’re not an economist.

If you are an economist, I apologize in advance for your nightmares.

It looks like it’s up to citizens to stop policies that are clearly skewed to benefit the 1 percent and are increasingly detrimental to the 99 percent.

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