Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Population growth and climate change

The United Sates Census Bureau predicts that the population of the United States will grow by another 100 million in the next forty years. In his book The Next 100 Million: America in 2050 Joel Kotkin sketches a mostly positive outlook on how  diverse and optimistic Americans will cope with this population increase

Mr. Kotkin’s text is a serious study and richly footnoted. His anti new-urbanist view is in apparent. He puts forth that even with this new growth the density of the United States will still be many times less than the population density in Europe. His position on the growth of new extra urban mini-metropolises throughout the heartland of America, supports my view that telecommuting and information transfer technologies will make living in major urban environment a life style not a career driven decision.

If we take as a given that Climate Change will be upon us sooner than later, where ill those people live and what will this population growth mean to the rest of us.

While no one for certain, can say what areas of the United States will be suitable for human habitation in fifty years, one thing for certain some places in America will get better for humans and others will get worse. If you read, and fully believe Dianne Dumanoski’s book The End of the Long Summer you might not be so optimistic. However, as I  believe that we are past the climate change tipping point, its a moot point. The population of the United Sates will grow significantly and climate change will shift our industrialized focus.

What does that mean to our future economy. Less consumer spending of scare resources and more group purchases or redistribution of resources through government. We will have to build new infrastructures to support our increased population and new infrastructure to support it where it lives.

Where will the new population go. No one knows for certain, except that it will go where the weather supports growth and to places (urban or otherwise) that provides for the spiritual and physical needs of Americans.

What does that mean?

More Local Everything

New villages, cities and towns that provide green economies in places that have good weather, rational water supplies and the potential for growing crops.

More small city growth where transportation and infrastructures can be funded locally without mega grants from the federal government.

More villages, cities and towns in areas with abundant green power of hydro, wind and direct solar.

More communities that provide local entertainment and opportunities to recreate in the outdo

Where will this take place?

Your guess is as good as any, my guess: the hill country of Texas, interior North and South Carolina, possibly Arkansas, Oklahoma and the Dakotas as well as the Intermountain West. It is unlikely to take place in the coastal states or anywhere with mega city growth has reached practical commuting and social management limits.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A reason for optimism for the United States

I am mostly an optimist. I worry just a little about prosperity for future generations of Americans. As a post consumerist, I might define prosperity differently than a consumerist, but prosperity is a rational desire for either.

The population of Europe is stable or declining. Russian and China’s population are also stable or declining. European Union nations face a need to create prosperity without growth. This is a daunting proposition.

The United States, on the other hand, will grow by as many as 100 Million people during the next 40 years. Much of that growth will be through immigration. Many immigrants come to the United States as an affirmation of hope in the future for themselves, and for their children.

Although the trend is slowing, Americans are much more likely to have children than people in other developed countries. It is my optimistic belief that population growth will drive our economy during the rest of my lifetime (and then some).

Americans are are among the most religious and spiritual people of the developed world. We are much more likely to attend worship than Europeans or Russians. Religions of all types offer a reason for hope in the future and encourage families to have children. Hope and faith in our ability to meet the challenges the creator tests us with are among the greatest strengths of Americans.

The United States can expect that population growth and our hopeful optimism will drive our economy for the reasonable future. Other countries will not enjoy this gift.

We will face serious challenges, but our hopeful outlook will help us to confront those challenges head-on. I believe our spirituality will quickly bring us to a place where we will value human advance over acquisition of plastic goods. Our growth will be shared resources rather than personal acquisitions.

This post consumerist is optimistic about our shared American future, even in these dark days.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Blowing ourselves up with non-biodegradable plastic Chinese Fireworks is not the only way to show patriotism!

Now that the Fourth of July celebration has come and gone from our small town in the Pacific Northwest, I am certain of the following.

  • Professional grade fireworks are legally bought and fired off by individuals in the State of Washington, in very large quantities.
  • I love our old fashioned parade for kids.
  • I enjoy watching fireworks with adolescent children.
  • I am appalled that community volunteers have to clean 25 TONS of Chinese made plastic crap off the beaches after the fireworks.


I was interested in finding out how much personal fireworks were sold in our state. I did a web search; I wasn’t able to get a complete handle on that piece of information, but we are talking millions.

I discovered:

  • That thousands of citizens on this great country are injured and permanently maimed  by fireworks each year. This year a man in New York lost an arm to fireworks. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that In 2009 there were over 8,800 fireworks injuries treated at emergency rooms and two deaths from fireworks in 2009. (Eight deaths in 2008). With a conservative addition for non hospital treated injuries we are talking some serious damage. 75% of injuries were to men and 39% to CHHILDREN
  • Fireworks manufacturers and wholesalers invariably advertise wit the “Show your Patriotism” motto! They fail to say “Show your patriotism by polluting the environment of America”  These armaments contain millions of pieces of plastic. This plastic is small, never breaks down, and is now in the environment and will enter the oceans, eventually and find its way to your children's plates through that can of tuna fish. I don’t think we should ban fireworks, just may be regulate them back to paper or biodegradable pieces. We are not talking lost jobs in the USA here. Fireworks sales in the U.S. is a $1 Billion dollar industry, but less than 10% of the sales are from U.S. manufacturers.
  • In our state, and judging from the fireworks manufacturers and wholesalers web pages, most fireworks are sold to consumers through non-profit fundraising. So while the church youth group gets to have a fellowship trip, the concerned citizens get to clean up the mess made by the buyers. Now I have no quarrel with the sellers, but maybe they ought to be on the forefront of the cleanup.

I am certain that fireworks will continue, but maybe we can hope they change to biodegradable, and the industry should consider this before the EPA gets into the act.

I am also certain there are many ways, other than blowing ourselves up with small armaments made in China, to show patriotism.

I suggest that patriotism is shown by ACTIVE involvement in community. That can include voting, being a church volunteer, making donations of time and money to local and national service organizations, being a scout leader, or just going out and helping clean up the mess that the self described “super-patriots” made on your beach.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Looking for little signs that mark the way to post consumerism.

As observation and positive feedback is rarely a bad thing, I am always looking for large and small signs that we are emerging from the economic doldrums in the direction I have predicted.

When I was much, much younger, I learned that you find interesting things when you turn over rocks and logs in the woods. I rarely look for the obvious with my head up.

Today is June 26, Hands Across the Sands Day. Saying no to continued offshore oil drilling and yes to renewable energy sources. The oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico might have awakened us. The former Shell Oil executive John Hofmeister’s book Why We Hate the Oil Companies, is a good example of a rock to turn over.

Mr. Hofmeister makes no bones, that extracting oil is a nasty dirty business, that most of us do NOT want to know about how it is done. We want our cars and heat and light, but we do not want to know where it comes from. The oil spill in the Gulf is forcing us to to take a hard look at our addiction to oil. Mr Hofmeister states that while many oil companies are interested in renewable sources for fuel for the personal mobility industry (cars), it is up to Government to make the hard decisions, (forced by we the people, my comment) and set the policies that will take us towards renewable energy.

We just might be seeing the start of a small shift in the government in reaction to our changing outlook.

In a past blog, I predicted that everything will become local again. That also means that we will see changes locally first.

In my small home town of a few thousand souls, we hold a few touristy type “fairs” each year. I attended one last weekend. The turn out was as good as ever, and the number of vendors seemed to be stable from years past. Those would be signs of a stable local economy. However under the surface I noticed something different.

Fewer non essential type vendors, more clothes sales, utility items, more “green” items, more cash sales, with fewer vendors accepting credit cards. I asked a few vendors, if they had used credit in the past and they said they had. I asked why they didn’t now. COST and return. They believed that the cost of offering the credit was greater than the return. So these smaller than small entrepreneurs have returned to a cash basis economy (they did accept checks).

The most recent indications to me that we are inching away from a credit and consumer based economy.

  • An awakening about the fossil fuel economy.
  • A change towards thoughtful purchase of useful items rather than impulse no need consumption.
  • Fewer credit card purchases.


Monday, June 14, 2010

The season of dashing our children’s hope!

Now that the college graduation season has just ended. it’s the season to dash the next generations hope.

I didn’t start out my work life in an academic career, I ended up there because of night of drinking (but that’s another story!)

For parents of recent graduates seeking careers in areas such as: global finance, international aid work, urban planning, architecture, sociology, history, etc., etc. and for teaching (this year). If we, the teachers, cannot perform simple mathematical equations, how can we expect our students to do the same.

If there are 500 corporations in the Fortune Five Hundred, how many CEO’s positions are available. 500 right!

How many business degree students do we graduate every year? In 2007/2008,  335,300 individual bachelors degrees in business were granted in the United States, that number does not count the tens of thousands of MBA granted.

Factoring that we graduate that many each year, and that CEO jobs come up about every five years or so, the realistic probability that your son or daughter will even get a chance to read that the CEO position has been filled for their Fortune Five Hundred CEO job sometime in their career is about .00007 or 7/1000 of 1 percent.

You can do the same math for most industries, and for many industries the question is not CEO positions, its just getting a job. In today’s economy, where approximately 50% of practicing architects are un or under employed, the chances of even finding a paying job as an apprentice architect are pretty slim.

I am not in the business of discouraging an individual’s hopes and dreams, but I am in the business of setting realistic expectations and goals for ourselves.

When I graduated from college with a Masters Degree in Engineering, I “hoped” to find a job (not a career) in the construction industry somewhere in the United States. I sent out 200 resumes, got three interviews, and then three job offers. I accepted the one with the best location: Flint Michigan. (The others were serious backwaters.) I was living in Massachusetts at the time, it was almost a 1000 mile move. I was happy to have work.

Yes, I know it was colder then, and we walked up hill both ways to school but: we as parents and educators have an obligation to encourage our children to reach high, but take a gentle slope, and for our children to be open to what opportunities the world presents them with (good and bad).

In our over enthusiasm, during the last decade, we have created a culture of unrealistic expectations for what the work place can bring us. For the most part, work is hard, mostly boring and does not pay much. The chance to strike it rich is still a possibility, but a small possibility. It is much more likely that we strike it rich by taking advantage of what is offered us and doing our best year over year. Seeking out opportunities for incremental advancement to our ultimate goals. Even with the recent disruption in the economy, incrementalism worked positively for many of my generation, and will work at for our children.

We need to remind ourselves and our children that our lives are incrementally lived and that we can continue to pursue our dreams as we stay open to new possibilities.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Some small prognostications

Change is coming, as it always does. Just look back 26 years. In 1984 Canon introduced the digital fax machine and everything changed. We began to expect perfect information instantly. Within a decade we had the internet, and now fax machines are becoming harder to find than an honest politician.

As I work more and more from home, I have become a little more conscious of some of the good things that technology is bringing, which help us to become less “thing” oriented. Just a few things: no more massive stereos; music is electronically downloaded not shipped and stored in piles of vinyl or acrylic; no more need to shop for stuff, you can do it on line, and not buying something is easier.

Things to expect to go away within a generation:

  • Books, bookstores and libraries (as we know them today).
  • Cash money and checks.
  • Wrist watches.
  • Music companies, CD’s or any non-internet delivery of music.
  • The US Post Office.
  • Land line telephones.
  • Keyboards of any kind (voice recognition is coming soon to you)
  • Broadcast television.
  • Free unfettered news.
  • Daily commuting to work.
  • Travel agents.
  • Real estate agents.
  • Investment advisors (no money no need!).
  • Garage door openers and other remote controls (replaced by iphones).
  • Nearly free internet and broadband access.
  • The desk top PC.
  • Privacy (already gone)

Things that we can expect to decrease as a part of of “self evaluation” factors

  • Constant travel. (It becomes a seldom used luxury).
  • New gasoline powered automobiles.
  • Useless consumption.
  • $8 Lattes.
  • Our real estate portfolios.

Things that will never go away

  • A good pair of shoes.
  • The little black dress.
  • Sunscreen.
  • Cats and dogs.
  • Beer, wine and whiskey.
  • Movie theaters or their descendants.
  • Death and taxes.
  • Sunrise and sunset.

This has been a fun game, and I will play it again some time.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Prosperity without Growth

I have been gone awhile, mostly doing optimistic things; like setting in gardens and starting up a new business venture. During that time lots of awful things have been happening to make one a little less optimistic for the future. (Oil spill, tornados, earthquakes, foreclosures) However there is one thing I am certain of: The future is always better than the past.

Human beings are pretty resilient; the future will bring the answer to our most complex questions.

To build consensus and begin to solve some of our non sustainability issues, an essentail questions is: “How can we have prosperity without growth”.

One of the sides in the U.S. political debate is focused on growth of consumption as the only way to create wealth. Those folks are well know for their mantra “Drill baby drill” and selected ignorance of the causes for global climate change.

For individuals, who use science as a rational guide to making decisions, it is clear: we are over accelerating the consumption of scarce resources in an accelerating way. The world wide economic slow down may be a good interlude to think about what we are doing to our grandchildren. The oil spill (certainly human caused) in the Gulf of Mexico just might be the unifying call to stop and think and maybe reset.

We can have prosperity without growth, but several things must happen, among them:

  1. Have an honest and generous discussion about economic social justice issues.
  2. Reset to a fully “green” economy, without fossil fuels.
  3. Accept some reallocation of wealth from the very very rich to jump start a “green economy” (This cannot be done on the back of the least among us)

Being a loaves and fishes sort of person (see my post January 18, 2010, “Giving your home away……”), I don’t see any downside for the haves vs the have not’s. When wealth is created it always favors the wealthy.

My advice for everyone in the United States, focus on our future and make the personal and political changes that favor our grandchildren. If we continue to bicker, we will bicker away any possibility that the 21st Century will be good for Americans.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Watching a slow train wreck, and reducing travel.

I have been falling a little behind in my postings, and my only excuse is that I live in Arizona and its like watching a slow train wreck. You can’t turn away even if the outcome is inevitable and horrific. This week Mexico recommended that its citizens not travel to Arizona as they would be subject to harassment and detention if their papers were not in order. I keep flashing to Claude Rains as Captain Renault in CasablancaclauderaisnhumphreybogartRick, there are many exit visas sold in this cafĂ©, but we know that “you've”  never sold one.  That is the reason we permit you to remain open.

I am wondering if I will need an exit visa to leave Arizona.

But I digress:

I wanted to post about  the concept of “authentic consumption”. A couple of decades ago it was called  “conspicuous consumption”. Consumption that reinforces your societal status. At the core, both ideas are about “showing off” by having something expensive, doing something different, or knowing someone who is cool.

“Authentic consumption” may be a fishing trip to the Yukon where you skydive in and you trek or are helicoptered out;  it might be “eco-tourism” (to me that’s an oxymoron) or a trip to Antarctica. Call it what you will, consumption is consumption, and most consumption with travel attached is the most non-sustainable activity you can partake in. I suspect in the post-consumer economy its going to get a whole lot more expensive. I am starting to see the future, and I am more and more convinced that we are going to be group consuming stuff but still in a capitalistic way. I expect that we will start telling manufacturers and politicians what we want as groups rather than individuals. Sure their will be fashion clothes and other electronic gadgets, but consumption of individual automobiles will be replaced by consumption of buses and trains.

I recently read a report form a major university on how they would become carbon neutral by the year 2020. The biggest single challenge to the institution: how to cut a significant portion of their faculty airline travel. Without attacking this head-on, the institution didn’t believe they would ever become carbon neutral.

Buildings of all sorts and living in homes that use fossil fuels to heat cool and run them are our most wasteful activity. Travelling, of all sorts, is the second most wasteful activity we engage in. You might say travel is worse, because, fundamentally we do need shade and shelter to survive, maybe we don’t need as much and we seldom are forcibly made to travel., and for business and trade their are now options.

I have known, through my heart, rather than my brain, that travel by car or airplane is my single most  wasteful activity.  I knew I couldn’t stop myself from the seduction of travel by “cold turkey” action, so I set out to find a way to reduce my travel over a significant period of time.

In my corporate days, annually, I would travel at least 250,0000 miles by commercial air carrier air and about 30,000 miles in cars. A decade ago I set out to significantly reduce that. This year, I will travel by air twice (maybe three times) less than 10,000 miles  and by car less than 6,000 miles including shared ride miles.  No brag , jsut fact, and anyone can do it with just a little will and planning. Many Americans travel even less than I do. I just mad a small effort to put a value to society vs. my selfish desires on all my travel. Wasteful travel dropped off, and I found myself with more time for recreation and thinking. If you want to start, I suggest making a through to-do list daily and limiting your shopping trips to things on the list. Pretty soon you won’t be nipping out for a jug of milk at midnight.

So what will the travel starved post consumer and post “authentic” consumer do:

Lots more telecommuting, or work from or near home .

Lots more local recreating. If the fishing isn’t any good, work on cleaning up your local streams.

Teleconferencing for academics and scholars.

Lots fewer national trade shows. (There already a trend towards smaller regional venues)

Electric cars that don’t go very far.

More shared commuting by buses, and trains and “other modes”

I hope for a resurgence of national train travel, a calmer method of travel, and with wireless networks, lots of work can be done, and and classic and relaxing travel will return.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Tea Party is looking a lot like 1960’s street theater

Just for some fun:
Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmanimage
the 21st century replacements for the late
Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman
Are they the reincarnation of 1960’s street theater movement that eventually brought down the republican government of Richard Nixon? Is the Tea Party, the 40 year old payback by the Republican Party? Maybe, maybe not, but this year’s street theater is not about bringing down an unpopular government over an unpopular war, its about trading one ruling party for another.
You got to wonder? Alaska has a medical marijuana law and possession of one ounce or less of marijuana in the privacy of your home is legal. You can grow 25 marijuana plants in privacy, protected by the Alaska Constitution. They also have a no need to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon law. Arizona just passed their version and Vermont has one driven in from the left.
So lets hope that Sara Palin and Michelle Bachman are just exercising their right to street theater in the great  American tradition. I do hope that Sarah and her family exercise their constitutional right, in Alaska, to grow and light up while carrying concealed weapons
Don’t get so upset. Members of the  Chicago seven, eight or ten, depending on your view, were masters of the genre and used tactics similar to the tea parties. Outside financial support, and small numbers and gigantic big media wallop.
Let’s just hope no insane local or state government will gin up goofy charges against Governor Palin, or we will really have a circus. As a matter of fact, I expect the Arizona Territorial government might just do it to give the Tea Party a new platform.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

It won’t be pretty but it will be ours.

The post consumerism capitalistic world in the United States might not be pretty, but it will be ours.

Here is a truth, the working folks in the United States, who earn wages, pay more than their fair share of taxes. Just about 50% of the governments revenues come from wage taxes including social security. Another factoid: the top earners in the United States are (as you would expect) the top tax cheats. Its hard for we, who get wages, to steal from Uncle Sam when our employers withhold the cash and send it direct to Washington DC.

What does that mean: The Tea Party folks are right about reallocation of wealth by the government. They just have the direction wrong. We do not subsidize the poor, we subsidize the rich.

The working class and working poor pay a bigger portion of their earnings for taxes than the wealthy. I guarantee that Glenn Beck pays a smaller portion of his earnings in taxes than I, or you do. He surely pays more tax (I hope), but I give a bigger portion of my earnings to taxes, and I have little left for large houses or limos or even savings. (Sending off a check this week of April 15th so I rant a little.)

But hey! this a great country! Where else would workers have the opportunity to subsidize the ruling class, all the while thinking that their wage taxes go to support lazy non-workers.

Any way, as much as the demagogues rant about socialism invading the country, I have just read the constitution again, and we have the right to change our form of government through legislation and amendments so lets do it.

Lets get a 28th and 29th amendment.

The 28th limiting congress from exempting themselves from laws and the 29th to define that corporations are not “people”.

Now that “corporations” are people with rights, do they have the right to arm themselves under the second amendment? The Fox Network Militia vs. the MSNBC Militia to protect themselves. They could develop nukes!





Monday, March 29, 2010

The end of “Extraction Capitalism”

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in regulated capitalism as a means of betterment for all. However, “Extraction Capitalism” is a means of betterment of the few at the expense of the many.

There is an evident fact that the mining and other “extraction” industries move away when the mineral resources is depleted.

But where do extraction capitalists go when they have wrung the last cent out of the many? They become extinct!

Let me step back and define “extraction capitalism”. Extraction capitalism is not about making products, or improving society, or about making jobs. Its not even about making money. Its about moving wealth from one class of citizens to another. In our present case its about extracting wealth from the poor, the working poor, and the former middle class. The “extracted” wealth is then moved to the media/governing/banking class. I do not use that class term lightly. The media class is dependent on the governing  class for something to do  and the governing class is dependent on the banking class for financing its survival..

How does the media/government/banking class reallocate your wealth. Its simple, every time there is a monetary transaction on the planet the banks “extract” a share of the transaction. Because the banks “extract” a fee from your grocery store for credit card and debit transaction, all groceries are more expensive. The banks “extracts” wealth from you when you buy groceries. They extract wealth  from you whenever you buy goods and services. They extract wealth from you when your put money in even the safest “savings” accounts. They extract wealth if you invest in stocks and bonds. They extract wealth from you when the government “borrows” money to keep the media/governing/banking class operating.  I even pay a fee to pay my taxes with a credit card.

How can it be that the banks had their best year ever last year, when everyone on Main Street “lost” a significant segment of their wealth. Most of your wealth was not “lost” it was transferred to the media/government/banking class,

I watch the “Tea Party” movement and on TV, they are mostly middle aged and older and white, and I ask myself, how  much of their wealth are they willing to give to Fox News, Sarah Palin and their bankers before they realize that the “other  side”-the bad guys, the young and diverse are in the same peril of giving their wealth to the same media/government/banking class from the opposite direction. Either way the wealth, has been, and continues to move away from Main Street.

The bright side is that, like all “extraction” industries, extraction capitalism will just go away when the resource has been depleted. So when the money is gone from Main Street and there is no where for the “extraction” capitalist to look for wealth, the “Tea Party” members and the “Left Wing Socialists” on Main Street might just have to sit down together and figure out where we would like “capitalism” to go in the future.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Healthcare and Weekly RATS. We are now officially part of the way there.

Having recently returned from a vacation, without television or regular news, I need to get back into the swing of things.

Sunday brought us a good way towards some rational national health insurance system. The rest of the world laughs at us: “How can you have small business women and men making jobs when their jobs come with crappy pay and no healthcare”.

As much as the conservative insist the end is nigh, and socialism is run amok, this country needs some social purchases. As rugged independent individuals, we have been unable to build a system that cares for the sick, aged and dying. To build a good system for that, we will act together, much like Medicare and Social Security. yes it will take taxes, but we are among the least taxed people in the world and we get what we pay for.

Any way, the world as we know it is not coming to an end, and we will explore health insurance for at least a generation before we get it right.

Here comes “Weekly Rats”.  All is not good on Main Street in my town. A local roadside motel is advertising "weekly rats".


I can’t be sure if that’s a benefit, or an offer to reduce rates to meet the lousy prospects on our Main Street.
I can tell you, on our main street , jobs are still being lost, wages are being reduced and we are resetting how we go about living the “good life”

Monday, March 8, 2010

Who is that man behind the curtain?

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain… says the mighty OZ to Dorothy.

Who is that man behind the curtain? By now everyone who is not a member of the media/government class knows there is no one behind the curtain and we are on our own. Rationalizing your life style is not what corporations want. They want you to spend and buy in a credit less economy.

Banks are making money and its almost impossible to get a loan for a home. How is this possible?

This morning I did get a home loan, but as an investor not as a homeowner. I wasn’t exactly planning to buy as an investment, I was trying to buy a smaller home to move down.

I found a home that needed to be gutted and rebuilt, but that fit our near and far term needs better than our present larger and more expensive home. This morning I discovered that moving down market is considered an INVESTMENT move and not subject to the tax credits you get for moving to a new home, which only apply when moving up in price. In addition the term rates and down payments etc are higher for investment mortgages than owner occupant purchases.

I am pretty sure that I won’t get to buy this gut and remodel unit because of other bidders, but who knows? Now I have credit to buy another property in the near future if we find one that suits our needs.

The point of the matter is that everything the government, banks, financial institution and wall street are doing is an effort to rebuild a “consumer” economy.

I am pretty certain that without credit, consumer capitalism is dead in the water, so don’t count on either the Mighty Oz or the man behind the curtain, neither of them have a clue whats going on on Main Street..

Thursday, February 25, 2010

American Capitalism Is Not Designed to Create Jobs

American capitalism is designed to MAXIMIZE SHARE HOLDER WEALTH not to create jobs.

Never in the history of the world has so much wealth been transferred to so few for so little work, and the amazing thing is it continues.

Yes, we are having a recovery, but by the evil genius design of our system is that livable wage jobs will not become part of that equation. 

During the years leading up to the CRASH of 08’ the financial industry set up a system (intended or not) to redistribute wealth to the banking class elite from the working classes. They succeeded in transferring massive amounts of wealth and then driving the system into shambles that put EIGHT MILLION families out of work. The wall street geniuses then convinced the governmental class that the fault and damage should be laid on Main Street leading to the bailout of the banking elite class. Over a year later little if any help has arrived on my Main Street. We are being subtly blamed for the crash and punished for our wrong doing.

This is CLASS WARFARE in its most insidious disguise.  The U.S. citizenry has been complicit in the largest and quickest transfer of wealth in the history of the planet. Jobs will not be coming back any time soon as our system is meant to reduce costs and increase profit not make jobs.

So if you can make l=oodles of money with no employees why hire the pests? U.S. financial institutions are again wealthy enough to hand out massive bonuses, while families struggle against their own economic self interest to stay in their homes, borrowing against hope and destroying their financial futures.

Low wage, no benefit jobs will become the norm. Healthcare, if it is not fixed now, will become a privilege for the rich and all others will die early and hard.

Profit over people is NOT a sustainable governance method.

One doesn’t have to look too far back to see what happens when the government no longer serves the people. When the USSR unraveled, the USSR central government lost its credibility because it could not serve even the basic food and shelter needs of the masses. Orders were given and bureaucrats, soldiers and police refused because their mothers, fathers and brothers were in the crosshairs. The undoing of the USSR was a civil disobedience action that rivals the one led by Mohandas Gandhi in India.

Government unraveling can happen here in the United States. It will be assured if more livable wage jobs are not forthcoming, but our system is not made to make jobs but to transfer wealth and that’s its fatal flaw, that we must fix. How do we convince our lawmakers to take a hard look. They usually just react when crisis cannot be avoided. So maybe when bands of highly educated, unemployed, undernourished and drug addled young citizens take to the streets we might have some change, or at least some fun.

PS I am not without hope. I formed another LLC yesterday, but as a small business owner I guess that I might be making maybe one part-time no-benefit  job for a friend or relative.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Myth of Small Business Creating “JOBS”

First let me tell you I am a free market capitalist, and that I admire entrepreneurs and small business women and men. I support government aid for small business.
However, the major media (including FOX) and the federal, state and local governments are foisting a complete fraud on the American people. Although small business do make jobs, many of those new jobs come with low wages, no health care and statistically shaky career prospects.  So when they talk about helping small business make jobs, they are not really talking about the florist down the street, they are talking about the “larger” small business. They are pandering to all the really small business men and women who will not survive this recession, in the hope for their votes. (both parties are guilty here.)
Here are some facts, make your own decision about my points.
Small business are defined by two things (see SBA). The first is $ volume of trade and the other is number of employees.
A SMALL BUSINESS CAN HAVE 500 EMPLOYEEES, in some categories as many as 1000 employees. In construction a home builder is a small business until they build $33,500,000.00. That is not a “small business”  in my mind.
Some other statistics from the SCORE Website:
Small Business Openings & Closings in 2008:
  • There were 627,200 new businesses, 595,600 business closures and 43,546 bankruptcies. (THATS A NET NEGATIVE in 2008, 2009 must be worse)
  • Seven out of 10 new employer firms survive at least two years, and about half survive five years. (That means lots of employees employed for short durations, a cup half full or half empty)
  • Findings do not differ greatly across industry sectors.
Other statistics.
  • The estimated 29.6 million small businesses in the United States
  • Employ just over half of the country’s private sector workforce  (Remember what the definition of a small business is)
  • Hire 40 percent of high tech workers, such as scientists, engineers and computer workers (That’s a good thing,  but my guess is that they are employed in the “larger" type small business, not in the cottage industry down the street.)
  • Include 52 percent home-based businesses and two percent franchises
  • Represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms  (So 0.3 % of employers employ just under half of the nations employees. )
  • Generate a majority of the innovations that come from United States companies (That’s a great thing, but my guess is that larger businesses then swoop in and either steal them or buy them at deep discount.)
The final take away 0.3% of employers (the big guys) in the US employ almost 50% of workers. These few firms have the resources to make work and sustain employment. Half of all start up bsuiness close (for a variety of reasons, not always failure) within five years.
Now here is something you do not hear:
Really small business CAN NOT SOLVE the unemployment problem and they certainly cannot help in the long run without a national health care system to support their activities.
I love the folks down the street who start a plumbing or high tech bsuiness and I wish them the best as they do their small part to help, but it is absolutely unfair for the government to insist that they will save the day!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

“Living the Good Life”

Seventy-eight years ago Helen and Scott Nearing left New York and moved to a farm in Vermont. The Nearings left the city for political and social reasons during the height of the “great depression”. They were seeking a simpler life.

Here is a quote from “The  Good Life”. My how things have not changed a whit in over 3/4 of a century.

…. demonstrating one possibility of living sanely in a troubled world. The ideal answer to this problem seemed to be an independent economy which would require only a small capital outlay, could operate at low overhead costs, would yield a modest living in exchanged for half –time work, and therefore would leave half the year for research, reading, writing and speaking.

Sounds good to me.

I remember in the early 1970’ listening to a speech by Scott who spoke while Helen sat on stage knitting. I can’t remember if she sat in a  rocking chair or not, but she was definitely knitting.

Scott had to be at  least 90 years old then; he lived to one hundred years. Helen lived a shorter  life passing away in her 90th year.

The Nearing’s were perfect for the 60’s as the gurus of “back to the land”, but they were really not about abandoning the world. They were about eliminating the…. obstacles to a simple quiet life-complexity, tension, strain, artificiality, and heavy overhead costs.

I highly suggest you pick up a copy of  “The Good Life”. I don’t suggest you quit your job and move back to the farm, but you might just find something here that helps you simplify, and the Post Consumerism blogger is all about simplifying.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

“We have met the enemy and he is us”: Economic crises, an essential part of consumer capitalism.

The more I read and study about consumer capitalism, the more certain I become that recurrent economic crises and near collapse are an integral part of the capitalist system. These crises are even more essential to economic systems based on personal consumption. These crises act as a sort of “dead person” switch that shuts the engine down when no one is tending the accelerator pedal. Economic crises protect us from ourselves. From the immortal words of Pogo..”We have met the enemy and he is us”


Wall Steet and Bankers see themselves for the first time! Or is the mirror of Dorian Grey?

Since humans first came down from the trees (or were expelled from Eden, and either scheme works for me), all economic hierarchical systems have been about redistribution of wealth and power. The direction of redistribution cycles between redistribution to the wealthy and then redistribution back to the poor when the economic disparity results in the worker class having too little of the wealth. The workers withdraw  their labor from the system, and eventually the system resets or the wealthy acknowledge that to keep their wealth they need to share it. (Witness the French Revolution in all its parts). True lasting slave systems do not build sustainable economic systems, although slavery can build a temporary aristocracy (see pre-civil war U.S. History and history of the Roman Empire for examples). I look at wage, wealth and power disparities not slavery as teh fundamental economic driver.

Our most recent crisis (that will continue for a least five years) represents a tipping point, I think, towards redistribution towards the worker class. For a generation workers have not been sharing in productivity increases in the western industrialized countries. This is a redistribution towards teh wealth owning classes of society. Right now it looks like bankers are getting away with the same old crap, but that should rectify itself within a short duration by another crisis. (Witness the 1937 economic collapse).

As an aside: Systems seek balance. Astute observers try and predict how systems work so that they can harness the system for a variety of reasons (both good and bad).

Why should we expect a crisis and a reset of our economic system?

In 1962 Ed Thorpe figured out how to beat the Vegas Black Jack Tables. In 1967 he devised a system to beat the stock market, and it works. Others followed and we suffered Black Monday, October 19, 1987 and again we suffered in our most recent meltdown and near collapse of liquidity. However, as Scott Paterson recounts in his book The Quants: How a New Breed of Math Wizards Conquered Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed It. Ed Thorpe is a worrier, he knows instinctually that any time you try to outwit a system, you change the system by your actions. You create a feedback loop that consumes the observer into the system. The observer lives in the fantasy world of the system with the feedback loop providing constant positive reinforcement until the systems blows up and deflates.(Like a bubble)

Essentially all bumble economies are the same, those inside the system are unable to see that the system is failing until it has completely collapsed. Many who live the fantasy of the bubble continue to believe in spite of hard empirical evidence to the contrary. (The present case of Wall Street and Washington D.C.)

As I sit here: Wall Street pundits, economists, and elected officials are living in a fantasy world. They keep telling us that if we would just go out and spend money on things, everything will be all right. That won’t work, Main Street has less to spend and our employers are sending signals that we should expect even less in the future. However, it might be better if we just let the crises continue their trajectory and we reset to a new “post consumer capitalism” system.

Like many, many people on Main Street, my discretionary income is down about 20%, my health care and insurance costs are soaring and my nest egg (life savings) is down 30% or more. I am 58 years old, where am I going to get more money to spend on useless or even senseless consumer products? I am an average person who will get by nicely, I will thrive in the future, but I won’t judge my success by how much I consume beyond my needs for food, medicine and shade and shelter.

I don’t begin to know what our new system will look like. I am pretty sure that the politicians and Wall Street won’t recognize it when it bites them, but as I read history: humans are resilient and we will build a survival system that suits our needs.  I am not sure that the new system will suit the needs of consumerism capitalists or even  support the current scheme of governance in the United States, but it will be interesting to watch for the next twenty years.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Any one for more legroom on an airplane?

The post consumerism blogger doesn’t travel as much as he once did, so my recent cross country trip from Portland, Oregon to Boston, Massachusetts and return, was full of surprises.

First surprise: Much smaller crowds at the airport terminals, shorter lines and less harried customer service agents.

Second surprise: Shorter or non existent lines at vendors kiosks and restaurants. (My mouse went south, so I needed to get to the electronics kiosk. Another positive: I had a an amusing conversation with the kiosk clerk.)

Third surprise: Fewer delays. (Due to a significant reduction in domestic flights.)

Fourth surprise: United Airlines offers an upgrade to what they call “Economy Plus” which provides 5 inches more leg room with 6 across the row vs 4 in first class. For my own justification I calculated the upgrade as $10 per hour ($40 from PDX to ORD, the airlines website quotes Denver to Seattle as $49). An added benefit was that there were very few takers for the upgrade and on all four legs the middle seat was empty. I arrived fresh and returned home fresh and the $200 round trip upgrade was well worth the reduced wear and tear on my body and mind.

The economy section was full six across in every row. They looked cramped back there.

I don’t travel as many miles as I once did, one of the big benefits of a post-consumer world to all sectors of society. Travel had become stressful and really, really resource wasteful, in my personal view. Changing careers and working on-line was both a health and personal life style choice for me. (that choice  turned out great.)

In the post-consumer economy where we buy fewer goods and services I expect (hope) that businesses will reset to smaller volume operations. We can expect companies to try and extract small premiums for small luxuries. I really hope that more business will look at being more profitable through added value services and providing goods with a longer life expectancy rather than just squeezing us more.

I look forward to a less stressful non consumptive (irony?) life style.

PS: I am all for added baggage fees. Being a former professional traveler, like learning to ride a bicycle, I have not lost the ability to pack light. One small overhead with my notebook PC for a week on the road. I found that I took too many things.

PPS: I enjoyed breaking out my wonderful Italian fine wool overcoat, purchased over a decade ago and using it. During the winter months, back east, men still wear overcoats, so I didn’t look silly or out of style.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Giving your home away for charity and the "loaves and the fishes".

Hannah Salwen (Chronological age: 17, Wisdom age: ancient) and her father Kevin have a new book, "The Power of Half" due out from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on February 10th. You can already order at Amazon.

Without giving away the details ( I read them in the Jan.17th  Parade Magazine), Hannah and her family sold their McMansion and moved into a house half the size of their dream home. They gave the profits to "The Hunger Project".  The book recounts their journey to half size their lives. Funny thing happened, their lives actually grew exponentially when they de-linked happiness from ownership of a precious thing (the dream home).

Today I fiddled with another of my throw-away gadgets that cannot be fixed, and I struggled again with how wasteful I have been in my life. I am certain that compared to my peers and colleagues that I have been exemplary, but that doesn't rid me of the nagging thought that I can do more as far as getting rid of "stuff"

In prior posts you have read how my wife and I are on a simple journey to a place with "just less stuff",.

The Salwens embarked on a journey of Odysean proportions. They have learned that stuff just makes you miserable by separating you from the people you love and from doing the things that bring you the most joy. I don't think cleaning a large house, or worse yet supervising the household help brings joy unless you are really bored and not too, too bright. I am certain Hannah Salwen registers high on the brightness scale. Kevin related that the family had been more "lucky" than most. (Kudos for the reality check) His children are capable of complex thought.  If your children are not capable of complex thought, do not despair. I caution patience, expect it to happen after age 21. I will post, what I have learned recently, about neurological science and learning. (Academic types had it about half right, stay tuned to the post on learning skills and complex thinking).

Well anyway, here is my tale of caution for the Salwens; From the Gospel of John (Please don't read anything in here, just because it's Biblical doesn't mean it lacks truth for our time)
The crowds followed Jesus on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a remote place, and it's already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food."
Jesus replied, "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat."
"We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish," they answered.

"Bring them here to me," he said.

Jesus directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
My wife and I believe in "the loaves and fishes". We have seen it time and time again. The simple truth is that the more you give away the more you get back. People see you giving and give to the community and you get rewarded with more stuff to give away. The cycle then continue unless you break it.

The Salwens are on the second half of the cycle and they have already received immensely in their personal lives. They are heading further into the payback period, with book sales earnings, speaking gigs, personal appearances, endorsements (yes! for good services and not for stuff I hope) and offers of full ride scholarships for Hannah and her brother Joseph.

I begrudge them nothing, they did not set out to make a movie or even think about profit, but they will profit materially. I sincerely hope that they recognize the best way to keep what they have earned is to keep giving it away.

Good luck to Hannah and Joseph, I hope they remember "the loaves and fishes" throughout their lives.

PS: The Salwens were given a great gift in their timing. If most of us sold our homes for charity we would be asking the charity for the credit check to satisfy the mortgage, and yes I understand that Kevin is a journalist and this was a good story to boot.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

"You want your actual life back?-sign out." Suicide merges with The Mafia Boss and takes over Second Life.

Eliminate yourself from the virtual world of the web and re-enter reality. Please!

I will confess I make a significant portion of my living on-line. I have a Facebook page for friends and a LinkedIn site for professional colleagues. I get many of my ideas for blog postings from newspapers, but I search for the latest information on-line.  I spend less than 3 hours per week in causal web interactions, including the time to write weekly postings for two different blogs. With that confession:

"You want your actual life back? Sign out." Those are two of the scrolling headlines on an exciting new web site.

Web 2.0 Suicide

As a recommendation to check it out, Facebook has banned their access to Facebook.

The premise of the organization is to gain back your pre-web lives and as another quote suggests "actually meet your neighbors."  The owners of the site make the claim that it takes more than 9 hours to manually remove yourself from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other "social networking" sites. To see and hear the full NPR story on Machine Suicide try: "Erase your virtual life".

One beautiful things about posting a blog, is the ability to point out connections. Just a week or so ago USA Today had a story about sales of "goods" in the virtual world. If you are unfamiliar with (as I was) of sites like Second Life its seems that people create avatars who are their alter egos and then build a fantasy life. Others in second life create goods and services for avatars, and real cash is exchanged for those Prada Like shoes that your avatar wears. Aside: I wonder if counterfeiting that Gucci Bag on Second Life will get you time in the virtual slammer?

For the full story see Unlike reality, virtual retail sales are hot, especially for avatars. Here are some excerpts that provide story color.

LaWanda Johnson loves buying virtual jewelry gifts for her online avatar friends and beams with pride when she sees them wearing necklaces she bought. Johnson, who is on disability in the real world, can be far more generous in the mobile social and gaming community Cellufun, where she can spend less than $1 or earn credits to buy for others, create a wardrobe and decorate her "home" for Christmas. The attraction of that proposition has made avatar fashion and possessions including most everything you'd buy or want in the terrestrial world must-haves for millions of people who play games on Facebook or dabble in virtual worlds such as Cellufun or Second Life.
"Virtual goods cost a fraction of what goods cost in the real world," Kingdon says. "You can get a beautiful pair of white ice skates for … less than $2."

Still, virtual commerce can be confounding to non-participants. From pets to pretty eyes, everything's for virtual sale. Sure, if you're OK with a dressed-down avatar with no stuff, you can play without paying in most worlds or games. But, hey, this is America, and everyone's keeping up with the virtual Joneses.

I am certain that if we all committed virtual world suicide, when we get up and look over the top of the monitor, we might find there is a great deal to see, learn and do. I do not denigrate those with a real need to "connect" through virtual reality such as Ms. Johnson, but I am pretty sure there are tens of thousands of individual web denizens who have become lost in the Internet and who have forgotten the value of real relationships, and real service to others. I humbly suggest that some of the time spent on line by the lost, might be used in face to face interactions with shut-ins and disabled. Meals for Wheels comes to mind. Simply asking the elderly neighbor lady if she would sit on the porch and chat with you occasionally. See that as a privilege not a duty, and it really becomes something of value. 

There is an on line gaming community called The Mafia where you don't have to you can just rub out others. Below is the lead in from the Mafia Boss website:

Enter the The Mafia Boss World, where you will become a boss of a crime gang. You have the choice to collect money from your casinos, whorehouses, loan sharks and gambling dens. You could also produce drugs, liquor and Counterfeit money. You will use bribes, and minor crimes during your daily routine. You will embark in street wars against other gangsters for control. You can bring your gang forth to join a Crime Family with a well structured hierarchy or even form your own Crime Family. The options are endless under a proven business logic with extra scope for illegal businesses and use your legal businesses to clear out the money.

Anyway here goes the suggested connection:

Suicide merges with The Mafia Boss and takes over Second Life. If you want you put out a contract on yourself, someone else gets to "rub you out" for pay (sort of virtual suicide by proxy). You can rub out those avatars you hate or who "disrespect" you or hire some else to kill them off. A virtual "Hit Man". How about "protection" fees for the local Crime Boss. The ideas are endless. New super heroes emerge, and a Rudy Guiliani avatar.

The idea of a $1Billion plus market for virtual stuff for you avatar deserves a whole posting for itself. $3 Billion will feed the hungry of the world.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Some post-consumerism suggestions for your New Year resolutions.

Its that time of the year (or was a few days ago) to make resolutions for the new year.

Here is what I resolve to do and how I will go about making it easy.

I resolve to:

Buy less stuff this year by earning less money, by not working as smart or hard as I have in the past. I vow to stop acquisition as a measurement of goodness. U.S. employers are making it easier to make less money by furloughs, wage freezes and benefit cost increases.

Invest more in the individual betterment of others through peer to peer lending or through organizations such as This is easy and done on-line.

Move my money to a local community bank or credit union. This might take some time because I have bundled almost all my bill paying to be done automatically on-line. See Move Your Money for some inspiration. I will strive to get this done during the summer months when I have some time and "extra" cash. See Newsy on this issue.

Give to away more things away for a "second life". Things that I own, that I deem not essential for my care and comfort will be donated to charity or given to friends. I have been doing this over the last few years, but I will accelerate this year. My wife and I give to charity, two items of clothing for every "new" clothing item we buy, our closets are getting cleaner and "newer".  I am mildly obsessed with cleaning out the garage and closets. (We have no basement or attic, making it easy, "no heavy lifting". The new house we built has no attic, basement, garage nor storage shed.

Spend more time with my friends or just in a coffee shop.