Corrupt Governance

Suggested reading, especially for our so-called president, and for the political activists who call themselves libertarians

Libertarianism has never worked and it never will.

The words of Jeffrey D. Sachs – “The Price of Civilization” –quoted in my soon-to-be-published book – “Greed Disease.”

Sachs is widely considered to be one of the world’s leading experts on economic development, global macroeconomics, and the fight against poverty.

“At the root of America’s economic crisis lies a moral crisis: the decline of civic virtue among America’s political and economic elite. A society of markets, laws, and elections is not enough if the rich and powerful fail to behave with respect, honesty, and compassion toward the rest of society and toward the world. Without restoring an ethos of social responsibility, there can be no meaningful and sustained economic recovery. The economic crisis of recent years reflects a deep, threatening, and ongoing deterioration of our national politics and culture of power.”

“We have entered an age of impunity, in which rich and powerful members of society – CEOs, financial managers, and their friends in high political office – seem often to view themselves as above the law.”

“Our challenges lie not so much in our productivity, technology, or natural resources but in our ability to cooperate on an honest basis. Will the super-rich finally own up to their responsibilities to the rest of society?”

Sachs joined the faculty at Harvard in 1980 in the start of the “Age of Milton Freidman” when Ronald Reagan became president. “The main effect of the Reagan Revolution was not the specific policies but the disdain for the poor who depended on government for income support, and a new invitation for the rich to shed their moral responsibilities to the rest of society. ……. that he released their entrepreneurial zeal by reducing their taxes is debatable, but there is little doubt that a lot of pent-up greed was released, greed that infected the political system and that still haunts America today.”

“Fairness entails not only the distribution of income within society at a point of time but also the distribution of income across generations, concepts that economists call sustainability, If the current generation depletes the earth’s scarce natural resources, by using up its fossil fuels and freshwater aquifers, or acidifies the oceans through carbon dioxide emissions, or drives other species to extinction, it severely diminishes the well-being of the generations to come. Those future generations can’t defend their interests today, since they’ve not even been born.”

“A small number of Americans reject the very idea that government should promote fairness or efficiency through taxation. In that philosophy, known as libertarianism, individuals have absolutely no responsibility to society other than to respect the liberty and property of others. This extreme philosophy has been embraced by some of America’s richest individuals, such as Charles and David Koch, based on an inheritance, to try to instill their libertarian views throughout the society.”

“Libertarianism is based on three kinds of arguments: every individual should be free from taxes, regulations, or other demands of the state, that only free markets protect democracy from government despotism, and that free markets alone are enough to ensure prosperity. Such an approach ….. is a dangerous illusion.”

“… the fairness of the marketplace should not be exaggerated. Many people are simply unlucky. Market forces such as foreign competition may turn against them. Others are born poor to parents who lack education and skills to escape poverty. Still others have disabilities and diseases that are no fault of their own. Some live in places hit by earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts, floods, or other hazards and depend upon government to survive and recover. The marketplace can be brutally unsentimental, leaving the poor to starve or die from illnesses and neglect, unless society steps forward through government or charitable relief.”

“ …. the market by itself is not equipped to achieve the triple bottom line of efficiency, fairness, and sustainability. The market system must be complemented with government institutions that accomplish three things: provide public goods such as infrastructure, scientific research, and market regulation; ensure the escape from poverty; and promote sustainability of the earth’s fragile resources for the benefit of future generations.”

“ …. there is vast gap between what Americans believe and what the mass media tells us to believe. Americans are mostly moderate and generous in spirit, though the media tend to emphasize and even promote extremes. And the politicians vote along with the rich and their specific interests. America can be much better than it is today if public policies begin to follow American values, not the values that corporate-driven media pretend to be American values. ….. politicians play for campaign contributions instead of the well-being of their grandchildren.”

“ ….. the United States is privately rich and socially poor. It caters to the pursuit of wealth but pays scant attention to those left behind. … the focus does not lead to greater happiness.”

“ ….. with 7 billion people trying to gain or maintain a foothold of prosperity on a crowded planet already under unprecedented ecological stress, only advanced technologies – such as high yield food production, renewable energy sources, sophisticated recycling of resource use – can hope to cope. We will have to learn to work hard and fast, and with the technology tools, to achieve a planet that is prosperous, fair, and sustainable.”

“We have reached, or soon will reach, dangerous thresholds of human activity that fundamentally threaten life on the planet. The earth’s air, water, land, and climate are all under threat. It almost seems that humanity has a death wish. The ignorance and shortsightedness can lead us to disaster, but the greed of powerful vested interests has been far more consequential than public confusion or shortsightedness. Americans impose the highest per capita impact on the planet yet show the least regard for their actions.”


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