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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/14/13

The Activism Blues

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Is the Money Tree Healthy?
Is the Money Tree Healthy?
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I've spent most of my admittedly short activist career (5 years) trying to bring forth complicated and counter-common-understanding messages to the general public.  I even boiled what I believe are the 5 most essential economic reforms to single 2-sided flyer (see here and here).  Another flyer explains debt-free money.  These flyers were fine for handing out - by the hundreds - at Zuccotti Park when it was Occupied, at 2 NYC Earth Day events and at a table at 2 Pace University Left Forums, etc. but obviously more is needed.  I've written over 150 articles, mostly on economic issues, for Opednews, available here and on Huffington Post here.  Sometimes I aim for a more scholarly crowd, like with my peer-reviewed paper on Henry George's view of money, here; it turns out there is more in common with Georgists and monetary reformers than is commonly believed!  I've been interviewed on public access TV twice and radio three times and was even on the voluble but brilliant Max Keiser show once.   This is in addition to serving as president of Common Ground-NYC and NY Coordinator for the Public Banking Institute.  I even set up some e-petitions (see here).

As many of you probably know, the world is long on solutions and short on access to those in power to implement them (well, many of those people don't WANT to offer solutions - that is part of the problem!).
It also doesn't help, that people who ought to be complimentary forces - like Public Banking advocates and Monetary Reformers - find themselves at odds over issues that to the general public might seem arcane or even trivial.  The Georgists don't get along with the Monetary Reformers, who don't get along with the Public Banking Advocates, who sometimes get along with the Monetary Reformers, but never heard of the Georgists...etc, maddeningly etc.

There are a lot of good smart people out there, some groups getting more, or less, traction with the general public, and of course, the protests are only getting louder, bigger, and more frequent.

Yet the elites seem to be gaining ground, ignoring the will of the people and even doubling down on their crazy, unsustainable policies.  It's not like the politicians aren't aware that they face historic unpopularity (Congress' approval rating hovers around 10%.  Numbers like that reflect those die-hards that give approval virtually no-matter-what, short of species genocide...maybe).  The president isn't doing much better.  Even if they don't understand the issues or even the problems, they certainly know how to read polls and Obama especially knows the difference between words that please and actions that don't.  It is most puzzling! 

I am coming to the uncomfortable belief that people at all levels want to hold onto their comfort zones, to the familiar, even when it hurts them .  We're all familiar with self-destructive acts, but it's beginning to look like this is not the exception, but the rule, when it comes to human behavior.  To give one example, why do people insist that the government can "run out of money" in a fiat economy (even leaving aside for the moment that we've outsourced money creation to a network of private banks and a private Central Bank whose main purpose is to bail out the TBTF banks, not the U.S. economy)?  Why do people believe the president when he talks about "balancing the federal budget the same way as every family has to balance their budget" when clearly only one can tax and "coin Money" (Art. 1, Sec. 8, Clause 5 of the constitution, SCOTUS affirmed in Julliard v. Greenburg, exemplified for most of U.S. history in debt-free United States Notes (1862-1996))?  It has to be because they want it to be true .  That is, because American families have to balance their budgets, it is simply too uncomfortable to imagine that the government has other options (I'm not saying we can ignore inflation, but that by every responsible economist and expert's opinion, Right or Left, we are producing WAY below our capacity, and one of the major reasons is lack of effective demand - the kind of demand that could be increased by public works jobs).  It is too difficult to imagine.  
Similarly, I've had people tell me flat out that without speculation on land, no one would ever build (Real Estate people especially, hold this position).  Never mind that people could speculate on actual buildings all they want, while leaving the land rent to society, whose demand created it in the first place (land rent is zero on Robinson Crusoe island since there is no one to fight over land!).  That is how it's always been, they'll say, even though in actuality, the private enclosure philosophy is both modern and specific to Western civilization (see John Kelly's "The Other Law of Moses" for how the biblical land law was implemented starting 5,000 years ago).  The victor gets to write history, I understand, but not for other, prior, civilizations too!  It's part of the social pathology of our times that we forget what is right in front (or behind) us.  That we attribute to "the natural condition of Man" what are really just responses to sick economic and political incentives.

At this point in this screed, I guess I'm supposed to come up with solutions, but frankly, it really seems like a breakdown is coming before a rebirth.  I hope it'll be along the lines of something good and sustainable, but history suggests otherwise.  Just look at the recent set of revolutions in the Middle East, which have just led to a series of despotic regimes. It's a work in progress, I understand, but it's not going well.

It is, of course, entirely possible, that Humankind cannot transcend it's selfish, stupid, aggressive, short-sighted, ego-centric, fearful, tendencies, and that we'll go the way of 99% of all species that have passed through this planet (why should our big brains, only slightly better than a Chimpanzee's, make us any different?  That too, is mere hubris).  That may be the last uncomfortable truth people will ever learn.  The terrible tragedy will be that there were solutions, right there for the taking, but we refused to grab them, preferring the short-term comfort of the familiar to even our long term viability.

Meanwhile, we press on, because we must...

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Scott Baker Social Media Pages: Facebook Page       Twitter Page       Linked In Page       Instagram Page

Scott Baker is a Managing Editor & The Economics Editor at Opednews, and a former blogger for Huffington Post, Daily Kos, and Global Economic Intersection.

His anthology of updated Opednews articles "America is Not Broke" was published by Tayen Lane Publishing (March, 2015) and may be found here:

Scott is a former and current President of Common Ground-NY (, a Geoist/Georgist activist group. He has written dozens of (more...)

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