Comments on: Progressives are progressing toward what, exactly? Wed, 13 Apr 2016 01:13:45 +0000 hourly 1 By: MaggieMP Thu, 12 Jul 2012 17:50:07 +0000 @ eleno

In the US, “big government” restrictions to citizen initiatives are often designed in support of “big money” interests. Our lobby industry (it *is* an industry) pours money into Washington. Our present election is totally driven by big money – vast fortunes are being spent by a relative few so immensely wealthy that they scarcely notice the dent in their cash-stash. They do so as an “investment” – they hope for election outcomes (payoff on investment) that will give them access to publicly operated and held resources. Most of these ultra-wealthy pay no or minimal taxes which might support quality life opportunity for the population, (water, health care, education, etc.).

I don’t know enough about Greece’s politics to know how similar this may be.

By: MaggieMP Thu, 12 Jul 2012 17:25:33 +0000 With the above listed demonstrations of “progressive” human activity, I meant to also include one example of a “for profit” company that offers top quality service at affordable price. So far as I know – this company has avoided side-tracking onto a chase for “power, wealth, and prestige”. These smaller for-profit companies can also model what the 21stC needs – a “people over profit” ethic.

Also meant to say of the 3 listed in previous comment – all include “earth stewardship” in their ethic. (No awareness of this re the for-profit company, but entirely possible they also share an earth-care ethic.)

By: MaggieMP Thu, 12 Jul 2012 17:12:27 +0000 Three among countless highly successful demonstrations of “progressive” human activity. All three are rooted in strong commitment to create real products to serve real human needs.

Non-profit cooperative internet service provider emerges from group interest/effort: om_content&task=view&id=13&Itemid=27
“Social enterprise” company is rooted in inspiration and commitment to serve – brings electricity to rural communities; (includes “angel financing”):
http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes .com/2012-07-06/news/32566187_1_renewabl e-energy-innovation-pilferage
Single individual’s inventiveness and dogged determination results in fantastic achievement despite tremendous odds against success, (brings electricity): 012/01/26/the-boy-who-harnessed-the-wind -zinon/

None of these emerge from government or “big money” leadership. All “provide means and access” that uplift lives and opportunity for the people served.
All are dependent on access to education.

These and other grass-roots initiatives inspire and model what the 21stC needs. They will succeed to the extent they reject pressure and temptation to shift to “accumulating power, prestige, and wealth”.

Progressives within “the system”, especially those active in the realm of “power, prestige and wealth”, can assist by assuring that legislation supports, rather than hinders, goals and opportunity for individuals and groups such as those I’ve linked.

By: eleno Thu, 12 Jul 2012 14:12:10 +0000 The article takes it as a canon of faith that the left is correct in their assumption. And it assumes that the problems have been caused by markets.

But it is sorely mistaken. The problems have been caused by government interference in the markets and the lunatic spending of the left on one or other social problem to right a perceived wrong.

Rule after rule is applied. For crying out loud in Greece it takes almost two years of fighting government red tape to open a simple store. Rules and regulation are everywhere and leftists (not progressives – for they are only for their form of progress) continue to tie up economies with more and more red tape.

By: MaggieMP Thu, 12 Jul 2012 09:11:59 +0000 @OneOfTheSheep

Thanks for the econfaculty.gmu link. Intensely descriptive of deep malady with figures to support. It’s very good info for me as I’m not exposed to those realities in daily life and tend to simplify them. I’ve familiarity with impoverished cultures in small community context. I’ve only brief exposure to what is described, and distinguished it as “deep urban” – differences in style even when population sizes may not be that different.

I’ve had training in poverty work (based on research done in US) and learned some very interesting things about “the culture of deep poverty”, especially “trans-generational”. Too big a theme to tackle here. I was a teacher for 20 years, mostly in a “high-needs” school (elementary). I’ve seen what can be done to help families toward healthier, more prosperous, lives. (A small town. We ran development programs with parents while also serving whole child needs – academic, esteem, etc. Parents were involved in running the programs once they were underway. It was a profoundly gratifying time. I learned a lot, and I treasure the experience.)

I’ve tracked American urban community-building a bit. If I had to say what approaches seem most promising – I’d say those that “emerge from within.” A few “natural leaders” may begin, attract others, and are followed by outside support, (churches, community programs which may be govt based or not, etc.). Consensus solution-finding as a process has astonishing community development potential, and is becoming more common, I think(hope). All of us are more likely to “take ownership” of a community situation when we experience participation that also has some authority. I imagine something like this for the people in the article.

Obviously I’m not inclined to blame schools – sufficient funding is critical, especially for those serving high-needs communities. They need lowest possible adult-student ratio (as funding allows), teachers and other staff trained for developmental as well as academic learning, decent libraries, science and computer labs, etc. Two-parent families are not one of my first concerns, but clearly the kids benefit if there are 2 parents, both good and reasonable people!

Once a community has effectively lost its moorings – as described in the article, (I’ve heard similar re some communities within US and Canadian cities), then a process of “re-awakening” to healthier lives might take some time. (By healthier I mean in outlook, choices, enjoyment, etc.) It’s a multi-year project, but once underway I’d expect some very noticeable positive outcomes within 2 years.

I’ve thought of something else however – what is described in the report could be considered a “low-income version” of what we also see in other sections of society: complete separation from any larger or more profound sense of “human community”. “Why should I care?” and “I don’t want to do that, I want to do this” seem much the standard from top to bottom. I’ve not thought this through so maybe it wouldn’t hold, but it surely does seem that, generally speaking, deep disregard for larger community is afoot in many aspects of human activity, and at every “level”.

I think we – and our earth – are in considerable trouble. Many “pockets” (subcultures) are thinking and working on behalf of improvement – some specialized, some attempting a more comprehensive scope. I think a comprehensive approach, (at least awareness), with good communication and effective planning between groups is necessary. Because these groups operate outside governments, are often staffed in large part by volunteers, are donation financed, and do not attract interest of large media – they are a fairly significant progressive element that doesn’t show “on the radar”.

Thinking of “comprehensive scope” brings me back to economists not bringing externalities into their analysis. Thank you for adding a note on that! Especially because of extreme earth degradation, I think it’s essential that economists include externalities. I can only imagine that many of them realize this, and have “compartmentalized” their thinking in order to not be constantly ill-at-ease. (Margaret Heffernan – “Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious…” should offer something on this; others have spoken of this human psychological “strategy” also.)

IMO, factors that have brought us (humanity) to where we are in 2012 – regardless of location on this globe – are multiple and historically rooted. They can also be psychologically explained, and on that count, psychologically based influences, without our full awareness, have been with us all along, they always are. Most of us only partial realize how we came to believe whatever we believe, and have only partial awareness of impact of our choices on the larger community. A few have tremendous impact on the whole; others play quite minor roles – but “we’re in this together” and have been all along, (IMO).

Buckminster Fuller observed of humanity: “Humanity’s situation is touch and go; without integrity we won’t make it.” (paraphrased). I’d hate to hear what he’d say now! (He was an optimist to his core, so perhaps he would reassure).

I should wrap up – perhaps with a thought on where progressives are headed. It’s understandable that it’s hard to summarize where this might be. There’s a lot to address! I think that within governments and legislatures progressives are very much a minority voice. I consider the groups described a few paragraphs up to be a critical and sizeable progressive force.

Long post! I do want to thank you for taking time to engage in discussion, and thank you again for the linked report. I’ve read it 1x, will read it again and do some followup. The situation described sounds close to “impossible”, the patterns too ‘set’. And I’m sure can’t change much without “stirring from within” as per paragraph above with thoughts on community development.

By: stanrosenthal Wed, 11 Jul 2012 15:29:19 +0000 @MaggieMP

Why do analysts not bring the externalities covered in our comments into their analysis? Because they are paid to do their their analysis on the basis of business-as-usual not on the basis of business-as-it-might-be if we don’t pull our fingers out.

They are like generals who fight their wars according to what was done in the last war.

By: OneOfTheSheep Wed, 11 Jul 2012 04:56:23 +0000 Correction: “No job that can be segmented such that a worker can be taught everything they NEED to know to do it in two weeks “on the job” is going to pay more than minimum wage (nor should it).

By: OneOfTheSheep Wed, 11 Jul 2012 04:54:07 +0000 Hi MaggieMP,

One thing Europe does better than the U.S. is construct their dwellings and larger buildings to be useful for centuries, and your speculation is more reasonable there. It may be that the WW II razing of much of their older infrastructure has resulted in a “fresh start” there.

In the U.S., “we, the people” accept that our cars and air conditioners need the “economies of scale” possible with standardization (to some degree, at least). Unfortunately, we continue to build our buildings and dwellings stick by stick and pour by pour, every one “custom”. That’s wasteful and stupid.

Our “manufactured housing” is mostly trailer houses of substandard design, materials and longevity. They (and many of our “stick-built” houses are UNSAFE in weather common to many parts of the U.S. where built.

It is frequently impractical to deal with the lack of insulation, poor (or no) flashing materials and workmanship, old single-pane energy-wasting windows, poor roofs (materials and workmanship) that leak. There is also the problem of asbestos and lead paint (now largely outlawed).

Being a die-hard capitalist, “human labor” is, in a free market, “supply and demand. No job that can be segmented such that a worker can be taught everything they NEED to know to do it is going to pay more than minimum wage (nor should it).

Minimum wage for a single-parent household is NOT a “living wage” (following a “full time” 40-hour work week), nor should it be. To expect otherwise is to facilitate expectations in civil society we should not that are socially undesirable and fiscally unsustainable.

The following article explains why far better than I can: 12/TheUnderclass.htm

By: MaggieMP Wed, 11 Jul 2012 02:49:25 +0000 @OneOfTheSheep
I was composing while your comment was posted but it seems we both want the conversation on economic recovery to “get real”. I thought about the population issue but my post was long enough as it was.

Also, researcher/activists like Francis Moore Lappe continue to press the point that earth resources, including food/water and more, are actually quite sufficient – allocation and restricted access is involved in impoverishment and famine deaths, (nearly every famine story has a component of “foods shipped to export markets” from affected regions.) I also continue to hear statements of how much land is actually “theoretically” available for populations greater than 7B (again with emphasis on distribution, access). Thirdly I recently heard something along the lines that earth’s carrying capacity might be “OK” to as high as 9B – with a related observation that there’s a trend to birth rates dropping even in typically high births/family cultures.

For those reasons I didn’t include population – but it’s by no means a trivial consideration. (Current wisdom says the evidence points to lower birth rates when women are given education and opportunity to develop more skills of interest.)

Another ‘concept’ frequently on my mind is related to energy use in construction – especially of homes and commercial buildings. Presently we use huge amounts of energy to operate huge machines to tear up the earth (destroy habitat which means we destroy “earth dynamics”) to access raw materials. These materials are hauled for processing, then for delivery, then to construction sites. These construction sites are themselves located on “former non-human habitat portions of land” – or – the construction sites *did* have existing buildings which have been removed by use (again) of huge machines using lots of energy to rip them apart and haul them off as “trash”. Large-scale energy use from start to finish!

The energy consumption of these construction activities may not be necessary. What if – in many cases – the building could either be retrofitted (not always as convenient as the work has to accommodate buildings out of square, etc. but so what.) OR people could be hired to take the existing older building apart piece by piece, with maximum salvage for re-use?

It seems that if older buildings are torn down and hauled away, the earth has to “pay the cost twice”. Every building represents lost habitat, and represents lots of energy already expended to create it. What if we “get over” our “need” for “maximum convenience and speed” and approach construction with a view to maximum conservation and minimal earth destruction? Presently we say “it’s too expensive – cheaper to tear the building down and re-build” – but isn’t that only because we don’t place value on externalized costs related to energy consumption?

It appeals that we’d avoid full construction costs, including externalized costs, if we used human energy. We’d pay “demolition/salvage” crews very well, (and we’d practice this paradigm shift with other labor intensive work whenever possible). The work “should” (in my vision) be not only well paid, but would have reduced hours. The person who spends 5-6 hr days tearing a building apart should have evenings and weekends off without being exhausted or poor. This would allow the person to study other interests also, perhaps eventually leading to other work but maybe not. There’s no reason a demolition worker can’t also be an inventor or scholar or take an active part in civic affairs, (IMO). I think society would benefit!

By: MaggieMP Wed, 11 Jul 2012 01:57:40 +0000 I usually fall in with the “progressive” approach to societal development but I think my definition of “progress” is different. And that brings me to a question I’d like to ask.

Maybe someone reading/commenting here can help me understand something. I can not, for the life of me, figure out how it is that even progressive economic analysts continue to visualize economic health as driven by demand/spending/consumption.

Just minutes ago I heard a podcast from an analyst reviewing explanations for why “we’re not spending enough to get the economy running again.” Not a hint of interest in the condition of the earth that sustains all life. I find lack of interest in “whole picture” common to economic analyst statements.

I *do* understand how we managed to convince ourselves for decades if not centuries that the system we’ve had would work. But that was then, and now is now.

We’re presently dealing with a nearly ruined earth that cannot repair/restore itself at the rate we tear it apart and/or deliver toxins and trash. We’re looking at extreme climate conditions which impact food production, with strong confirmation the cause is high consumption lifestyle. We are further wrecking earth in a scramble to extract more energy to support “energy-intensive everything”. And we’re watching Fukushima unfold as a spectacular toxic disaster while beginning to confront the realities of the spent fuel dilemma, as well as realities of irreparable harm to life from nuclear radiation – harm even from “small” leaks routinely occurring from plants and military use. There’s more: species losses on land and water – flora/fauna – disappearing at a rate hard so extreme it’s hard to repeat (200/day??); water diverted from needs of human and other life – very often for “energy extraction/production” activities; and ocean’s becoming acidic (the north Pacific now also nicely radiated.)

I think the list of “civilization/earth at risk” conditions would be considered “externalized costs”. But these are not just any externalized costs – they are directly linked the end of earth history as we’ve come to understand it.

I’m old enough, and have thought about this enough, to no longer be alarmed or frightened. In fact, I believe humanity has within ourselves capacities we can use to change course. I will go further – I believe *if* we attend to “who we are” (including our capacity to empathize and cooperate) we can dream up something very fitting for the 21stC and generations to come.

I draw inspiration from a range of studies and sources, one of them Buckminster Fuller. To any not familiar, I recommend studying his concept(s) of earth, humanity, and resource allocation/use. I think “who we are” is the new frontier – with one problem,(disturbing to many?) – it’s not an exploration that supports wealth accumulation and buying stuff.

I understand aspects of our psychology that may prevent us from changing course. But I remain astonished that I do not hear economic analysts, (obviously very clever thinkers), and especially “progressive” analysts, bring externalized costs into their calculations and musings. I think I understand why they don’t publicly say: “Look, folks, this system isn’t going to carry us any further” – but if they’re thinking it, maybe they can find a way to nudge the population and it’s decision makers into present day reality with an eye to the future.

I think it would help if they did. When they continue a recovery conversation based on long-held, entrenched, patterns of resource allocations and use, it slows down the necessary “awakening” at all levels of society for us to take charge of ourselves. (Or so it seems to me.)

Can anyone explain why these analysts don’t bring in all factors for analysis? …Thanks!