Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Bearing Witness

A very few of us now living lived through The Great Depression; only a very few more of us lived through WWII; some more than that of us lived through the Korean War; more yet of us lived through the Vietnam Era; and so it goes up until now. All of us now living may have thought of the possibility of seeing another war, pestilence, the disaster of Climate Change, … , may have even thought of the possibility of experiencing a pandemic; but who amongst us thought of witnessing the concurrence of a Trump presidency and this once in a century level COVID-19 Pandemic? In the past five years, each of us have witnessed a lifetime of history. These past five years have been equal several normal lifetimes.

On January 6, 2021, the unthinkable nearly happened. On that day in infamy, our venerated constitution barely survived to live another day. We are not out of those dark woods yet; our democracy is still very much on the block. A majority of one of our two political parties has chosen one-man rule over democracy; has joined the Trump cult. Of course, this didn’t just happen over night; fully one-fifth of those of us alive today have gotten to watch most of this unfold. Few, if any, of those one-fifth of us understood at any point what was going on during this time. Thus it was that Trump came as a shock to us, to the world. In the 20/20 of hindsight, it shouldn’t have. Enough was known. — How We Got Here

Self-sufficiency

Trade is great; trade is good.

Since at least 2000 BCE, since the first inter-tribal (what was to become international) trading of horses, gold, silver, silk, foods, oils, wines, knowledge, technologies, …; trade between peoples has enrichened the lives of humans everywhere. Traditionally, trade was the great cross fertilizer. Without trade, our world would be a lot more like it was 4000 years ago than what it is like today. But first, before there was trade, there had to be enough self-sufficiency (self-sufficiency being relative to a given civilization at a given time) amongst the peoples, the tribes, trading for them to feel that they could afford to part with a goat, a horse, a bit of gold, … in exchange for something different they would more like to have.

Not all trade is great, or good. Certainly not the selling of weapons to warring nations. The exploitation of less developed people by more advanced people clearly wasn’t good for the less developed people. The trans-Atlantic slave trade was itself fueled by trade; trade that was intended to enhance the wealth of the then first world England, Portugal, Spain, Holland, and France. Did so indeed; at horrendous expense to the Africans enslaved and traded, and to the indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, and Southeast Asia. The enslaved Africans produced the tobacco, rice, cotton, and sugar that made their enslavers, and these enslavers’ international trading partners, wealthy. It was this pursuit of wealth that fueled the slave trade. Trade from which they, the enslaved, got but hardship and death. The pursuit of land on which to grow these crops for trade fueled the displacement and murder of indigenous people throughout the Americas, Africa, and Southeast Asia. The slave trade was a very unbalanced equation; the abducted were enslaved. This misappropriation of the natives’ land was theft; not trade. What is happening today, in this the 21st century, on palm oil plantations in Southeast Asia, is little different.

Cause

Before Science, treating the symptoms of an illness was all we had. Along our way, using trial and error, we found a few things that worked. The big breakthroughs came when we started to look for the causes of an illness. The association of an illness with toxins was deducible. Then, as we knew more and could see farther, we found that most of our physical illnesses were caused by such other things as bacteria, and viruses.

Still and yet, we see attempts to treat illnesses symptomatically. It wasn’t that long ago President Ford wanted to the nation to deal with the swine flu by treating the symptoms. Only yesterday, President Trump wanted us to treat the symptoms of COVID-19 with whatever occurred to him. At first look, it might seem that this approach could be cost effective. That look was 300,000 dead wrong. The most proximate cause of all these deaths was a Corona Virus, COVID-19. The cause next proximate was the refusal to acknowledge the first. The President didn’t want to acknowledge the reality of the pandemic. The people didn’t want to make the necessary changes to their lifestyles. Those 300,000 and more unnecessary deaths could have been prevented by acknowledging and addressing the pandemic, the cause.

Economics was the reason most often given for not addressing the cause of these unnecessary deaths. But good economics would have mandated the expenditures necessary to quickly produce one-billion N95 face masks, and install needed workplace safeguards. Just as good economics would mandate looking to the cause of our inequities and disparities in income and wealth.

Politics is another area where looking to the cause is of utmost importance. With such matters as the electoral college, the inherently unrepresentative Senate, and qualifications for the office of President; treating the symptoms of these flaws in the constitution isn’t even a short term solution. The Senate impeachment vote is a case in point: 34 GOP senators representing 34% of the Senate votes but just 14.5% of population could have blocked the conviction of a president who tried to violently overthrow American democracy. The flaws in the electoral college, not the people, selected Donald Trump in 2016.

The treating of social ills seems to bring out the worst in us. We are want to treat the consequences, the symptoms, of poverty, disparity, and injustice with increased policing, incarceration, …, when we should be looking to the causes.

If we are to successfully deal with climate change, we must address the causes of climate change.