Al Rogers

Life does Not Exist and Other Ideas

  The following are ideas. They are not theories, or facts, or in any way validated by scientific research. I have chosen to state them positively in order not to constantly write “in my opinion” or “I believe”. My purpose is to stimulate the reader to consider alternative viewpoints to commonly accepted conclusions. These are my beliefs. I doubt that anyone who reads this will share all of them. Many will not share any.


Topics


Life Does Not Exist

Life does not exist in the sense that life is not absolutely different from non-life. The difference between life and non-life is like the difference between plants and animals. A recent article in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that bacteria locked in Antarctic ice for 100,000 to 8 million years resumed growing when given warmth and nutrients. Could they have been alive for all that time? Could any life processes been going on for that period? If not, can a living thing spend an intermittent part of its life as a non-living thing? I think this is incongruous with life and non-life being absolutely different. During the frozen period all the conditions for life, including the DNA existed, but life did not exist. More commonly many seeds remain viable for many years under certain conditions. They go through a life cycle in part of which they are not alive. Can a living thing be not alive during part of its life?

The Wikipedia defines life as “being manifested by growth through metabolism, reproduction, and the power of adaptation to environment through changes originating internally”. It also states that “the capacity for descent with modification is often taken as the only essential property of life”. This more narrow definition includes viruses which are excluded from the previous definition because they are only able to reproduce within other cells. Scientists working in the field of “wet artificial life” believe they will be able to create life completely from synthetic materials. The line between living and non-living is vague and inconsistent.

 Ray Kurzweil in “The Singularity Is Near” proposes that the brain can be reverse-engineered and programmed into a computer combining the intuitive strengths of the human brain with the vast memory and computation strengths of the computer to produce a superhuman computer capable of designing ever more intelligent generations of computers. In this scenario life and non-life are indistinguishable.

I believe our conception of what is living and what is not living has been based primarily on time and complexity. A mountain range may be considered to have a life cycle. It grows from relatively flat land to gigantic peaks, then returns again to near flatness. In the life time of man however nothing noticeable happens. The process takes hundreds of millions of years. Man has never conceived of a mountain range as living. Pre-civilized men have probably thought “Old Faithful”, the erupting hot spring to be alive because it shows dramatic movement, seemingly of its own volition. We have not considered this to be alive because we understand exactly how this happens. We have difficulty understanding how what we would now consider a chemical reaction could have evolved into the complete human writing this sentence because we are incapable of understanding the immense amount of time it took this to happen. The process by which lipid bi-layers formed phospholipids spontaneously into a cell membrane under conditions existing on early earth are not yet understood, but this would have happened 3.5 to 4 billion years ago. But even if the life cycle of these living things were a whole day there would have been 365 million cycles in only a million years, or 3.5 to 4 thousand times 365 million cycles until now. The tiniest random change would produce the complex single celled organisms we see today and similar random changes have converted the first multi-cellular animals to us.

If life does not exist, if the difference between life and non-life is only complexity, what about the value of human life? Is destroying human life no different than destroying a non-living object? No. If the last Stradivarius violin were to be identified we would value and protect it and care for it, because it would be something we could never replace. This is true of every human. Each of us is the result of a unique combination of DNA that cannot be replaced. Strangely, denying the existence of life would not change moral conceptions of valuing human life (and perhaps other life as well).

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THE EARTH CANNOT SUPPORT THE CURRENT ECONOMIC SYSTEM

 Current economic systems, both capitalist and socialist, depend on ever increasing production and consumption. Without these increases they fall into recession.

 As civilizations emerged from the hunter gatherer groups that were the first 95% plus of human existence various economic systems developed. Those that favored increased consumption and increased production had many advantages. As population increased more rapidly most of the population lacked basic needs. The wealthier class would rather increase total consumable products than share what they had, so the direction of the economy was always to convert natural resources into human products. Short term this policy worked so well that it was unquestioned. Besides providing a means for individual enrichment, it seemed to best fit the needs for sustaining a growing population. In an under-populated world destroying the environment in one area meant moving to another. Also, the actual destruction occurred over such a long period of time in relation to the human life cycle, that cause and effect were not realized. When deforested mountains became wasteland, it was perceived to be a natural rather than human caused disaster.

The production-consumption economy became so firmly established that its other defects became accepted as an inevitable part of the system. As industry developed the bottom-line philosophy became ingrained. If employing children long hours in crowded factories produced better profits, then any sensible businessman would do this. If industrial production concentrated people in cities, with huge increases in crime and poverty and social unrest, this was something an industrial nation had to accept. Production and consumption have become self-perpetuating without relationship to human need. Technological innovation has enabled man to work very little to satisfy his real needs, but the economy that runs us functions well only when production and consumption are continuing to increase. It has been necessary then, largely through advertising, to train people to want what they do not need. We must work to consume, and consume that we may work.

Advertising is the life-blood of our economy. Without advertising demand could not be established for new products or enhanced or even maintained for existing products. Our economy is driven by consumption and consumption is largely created by advertising. Few of our “necessities” are real needs. They are creations of an advertising industry which has propagandized our nation on a scale similar to that of Maoist China. Not only has advertising created needs where none exist, it has created a pervasive consumption philosophy. People enjoy buying simply to buy. Shopping is an end in itself. It is a favorite pastime of much of the population. What is bought really doesn’t matter-the joy is in the buying. A nation neglecting its looming environmental problems, a nation struggling to provide health care to its citizens, a nation with formidable infrastructure problems, is spending its wealth on junk, just for the sake of spending it.

Clothing is certainly a need, is it not? We must stay warm and decent. Now look in your closet. How many of those clothes, jammed tight between those closet walls, do you need to stay warm and decent? Advertising creates styles. Styles are ways to sell you things you don’t need every year because they are different from the things you bought last year that you didn’t need. The more stylish you are., the more propagandized you are. Luckily there are thrift shops where people can take their unneeded clothes to make room in their closets for more clothes they don’t need.

Transportation is a need, but automobiles don’t have to be built so that in ten or twelve years a twenty-five thousand dollar car is a rusting hunk of metal obliterating the landscape. Some societies also manage to move around without every citizen over sixteen years old driving his own vehicle. Mass transit makes more sense and is clean, fast, safe, and efficient in some areas of the world. The money spent buying cars and building and maintaining highways could be buying a better system.

Advertising is supposed to foster competition. Many of its results are anti-competitive. Manufacturers commanding large market shares can spend the huge amounts which television or internet advertising requires and dominate smaller rivals, regardless of quality of product. Television ads are also produced to reveal very little of the competitive qualities of their products. Automobiles are shown beautifully shined, maneuvering easily on two lane country roads with attractive models at the wheel, usually without a word about such mundane qualities as longevity, engineering advances, mileage, or maintenance costs. Medicines are advertised in ways which are designed to confuse the customer rather than educate him. In an economy dependent on every-increasing production, consumption, and employment, advertising is the ever-necessary ingredient.

The vital, life-threatening world-wide environmental problems we face are probably unsolvable under our present economic system. Unless we develop a system totally alien to what we have known, one of continuously less production and consumption, the economy which has captured us will destroy us.

A visitor to the United States from outer space would find a country destroying its own environment. Our water supplies are shrinking. Our air is contaminated with gases and particulate matter that acidify the rain, destroying forests, causing unknown damage to our lungs, and causing a greenhouse effect that will drastically affect our sea levels and climate. Our topsoil is eroding at an alarming rate. Huge areas of our oceans are covered by floating plastic which will not decompose for hundreds of thousands of years, if ever. The aquifers which supply irrigation water for much of our food production are being rapidly depleted. Our population is consuming massive quantities of tranquilizers and antidepressants legally, and unknown quantities of illegal drugs to ameliorate the anxiety and depression attendant to our life-style. Our outer space visitor might suggest that we control and cut-back on production and drastically reduce our work week to control and reverse this human and environmental destruction. Horrors! Our economy would not stand for this. Our economy demands ever-increasing consumption, ever-increasing production, ever-increasing employment. “Why then”, our visitor must ask, “Do you not change your economy to one which works for your planet’s benefit?” Why not, indeed? 

Moving from our present economic systems to one of increasingly less consumption and production will be extremely difficult. The tenets of our present system are deeply embedded in our individual beliefs and culture as well as our powerful economic system. Wealth is value in our system. Success is determined by wealth. Mother Theresa may be considered a better person than a successful entrepreneur but she is not considered more successful. The mailman at the class reunion may have contributed more to human happiness than the CEO but he will not be considered in the same league as far as having led a successful life. Changing these attitudes with a top-down approach of government dictates is nearly impossible under a democracy and counter to the interests of a dictator. All that is left is bottoms up, individual by individual change. What kind of changes in our present system would motivate an individual to change in a way that would alter the system?

When I was growing up in the thirties and forties in a median income American neighborhood my mother got a call from Sam Steingart, our local grocer saying what he had fresh and on sale and Mom ordered what she wanted for supper. A delivery boy brought the food to the house and put it on the kitchen table. Most mothers in the neighborhood worked only at home. When my brother or I got into trouble it was one of this army of mothers(busybodies to us) who phoned my mother to let her know. They not only policed the neighborhood for juvenile delinquency and gang control, they also protected us children from potential predators. These mothers no longer exist. Mothers in these neighborhoods are now working outside the home. The Sam Steingarts have long gone out of business. What have we received for this incredible, society changing loss? We have a vast array of electronic doodads that no one needs but we all want. We have transportation to every destination no matter how short so that we can become fat and unfit. We have “stylish” clothes. We have big houses we can furnish and re-furnish at ever shorter intervals and we have huge closets and storage areas for all the things we don’t need. We eat more meals outside of the home because we are too busy making money we don’t need to prepare our own meals. The price we pay is lack of control of our children, destruction of our neighborhoods, and an economy which controls us instead of one which is our tool. How do we get back what we have lost?

 Each person in the developed nations of the world should question whether they would prefer the bigger house, the bigger car, the stylish clothes, the electronic doo-dads, to the time their household must spend to purchase these things. If they decide they would rather have the time they will contribute enormously to alleviating this problem and they will add to their quality of life. Liberation from a money driven economy will unlock access to areas of creativity previously unattainable. Time will be available not only for spouse and children, but also for study, art, sports, writing-innumerable creative pursuits. If all wage earners in a family find their jobs highly rewarding they might consider surrendering higher pay for better working conditions or longer vacations. On a governmental level we should have shorter work weeks, a ninety percent income tax bracket for incomes over a million dollars, and taxes on basic materials and non-renewable energy. Shorter work weeks would inhibit both consumption and production. A ninety per cent tax bracket would discourage greed and excess consumption. A tax on materials and energy would discourage throw-away products. Once the concept of a low production, low consumption economy is accepted much better minds than mine will develop ways to realize it.

Given even the deficiencies of our present system, why change it now? With all its weaknesses it continues to provide the necessities of life to more people world wide. That in fact is the problem. According to Worldwatch Institute, the United States, Canada, and Western Europe consume 60% of the world’s goods and services and are less than 12% of the world’s population. East Asia and the Pacific consume 21.4 % and are 32.9 % of the world’s population. The economies of China and India are growing at close to three times the rate of the United States and Europe. If this region were to consume in the same relationship to its population as the United States and Europe world consumption would double. Add to this increased consumption from population growth and increased relative consumption in the rest of the world and the earth could not supply the materials and energy or sustain the environmental impact.

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THE UNITED STATES IS ON GLOBAL WELFARE

The United States runs a monthly trade deficit of between fifty and seventy billion dollars. When the present world monetary system was devised and the gold standard abolished, floating currency rates were established. It was assumed that if a country ran a trade deficit with another country its currency would fall and the other country’s currency would rise on the global market. The United States’ 700 to 800 billion dollar annual deficit is with China, Japan,South Korea and other nations. Despite the recent fall in the dollar we are no where near evening out this deficit. The reason this has not happened is because we are also the world’s largest debtor, having run up about nine trillion dollars in our national debt. More than half of this has been purchased by foreigners. This inflow of money for debt has balanced our trade deficit and propped up the dollar. This situation is both unfair to United States products and labor, and dangerous to the economy. Products produced in the United States and United States labor must compete globally on the basis of an overpriced dollar. Should foreigners stop buying our debt or start redeeming it, a precipitous drop in the dollar would cause a rapid rise in inflation as foreign goods became more expensive and interest rates spiked because there was no market for our debt. Our government should be working to steadily but slowly weaken the dollar and increasing taxes on the wealthy to eliminate our national debt.

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A PLAN FOR REDUCED DRUG PRICES

Prices for prescription drugs have been rising for decades at a much higher rate than rate increases of inflation. Efforts to ameliorate this rise have included plans to import drugs from other countries to a national health plan with drugs vying for a formulary slot. Criticism of these efforts is that drugs require large research expenditures and companies would not take this risk without reasonable expectation of a lucrative market. If the government granted pharmaceutical companies tax credits for legitimate research expenses and withheld patent protection for new drugs the problem might be solved. Drugs would then be priced on the cost of manufacturing them. Research would be paid for by the nation but conducted by pharmaceutical firms. Prices would be modest and declining as manufacturing efficiencies evolved.

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THE PRICE OF FUNDAMENTALIST BELIEF IN THE MIDDLE EAST

After the 1967 Six Day War Israel retained part of Jordan which she had conquered in the war-the West Bank. Much of the population of this area were refugees from the Israel war of independence, who were not permitted to return to their homes in Israel. At that time the population of the area was almost 100% Palestinian. Israel then settled about 250,000 fundamentalist Jews in scattered colonies in this area. This crucial foreign policy error on the part of Israel and the United States’ unwavering support of Israel is the primary reason for Moslem hate of the United States and Israel. Fundamentalist American Christians have supported Israel in the belief that Israel must be returned to Biblical borders before the second coming of Christ. Fundamentalist Moslems have become suicide bombers in the belief that they will be richly rewarded in a life after death. As George Bernard Shaw said, “Beware of the man whose God is in heaven”.

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WHO OWNS STOCKS

Publicly-owned companies are owned by their stockholders. You would assume from this statement that stockholders have the right to control the management of their property. If I as an individual own a company I have absolute control of management. Stockholders however control management through a board of directors whom they elect. The election process however is a farce.

I have owned stocks for over thirty years and have yet to receive a proxy from an American company in which there are more candidates for board positions than there are vacancies. This is the way they elect presidents in Cuba! In essence the CEO and board appoint their own fellow members. The owners of the company, the shareholders, have nothing to say about it. In most companies even resolutions on proxies (changes of company policies) can be ignored or accepted regardless of how shareholders vote. As a result most boards are composed of present or former CEOs. Guess how likely they are to moderate or reduce CEO pay? CEO pay is then determined by a compensation committee of this board which regularly determines that the compensation must be competitive with similar positions determined the same way. This exercise in circular thinking results in American CEOs being paid much more than they are in any other country. And how well have these overpaid people done? During the economic bubble of the late nineties very few of these geniuses cut back on expansion or reduced company debt in expectation of the inevitable downturn. Very recently two top financial firms paid 48 and 25 million dollars to CEOs who were responsible for buying bonds based on low quality mortgages.... Managers of pension funds and mutual funds should be put on company boards. Stockholders should choose board members from a selection of candidates. CEO pay and company resolutions should be determined by shareholder vote. Publicly-held companies should be in the control of their owners. Until this is done stockholders should refuse to vote proxies until they are given a meaningful choice of directors.

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INDIVIDUAL VERSUS COLLECTIVE

In hunter gatherer societies individual achievement was always to the betterment of the group. If someone was a good hunter the group had more food. If someone was a gifted tool maker the group had better tools. If someone was a better mother the group had healthier children. With the rise of civilization this relationship changed. Individuals could now control others to their own but not the group’s advantage. As surplus goods were produced those who controlled this surplus gained power over those who didn’t. Individual actions were not always for the common good. Civilizations have been characterized by a small group which controls wealth and government and the large majority who are controlled. It is not surprising then that wealth has become the primary value in these societies. This attraction by the individual to wealth has resulted in a lopsided apportionment of resources. In this country we individually spend vast amounts on electronic toys, cosmetics, perfumes, and stylish clothes while starving our real needs for health care, infrastructure , and quality time with family and friends. Although we act individually to expend our resources we do so as instruments of the economy we have created. We are propagandized by the economic values we have created. What should be our tool is our master. Were we true individuals we would not be subject to advertising, style, or competitive desire for wealth as a measurement of worth. Freed from this culture most people would probably choose to earn enough to meet their real needs and have their remaining time to spend as they wish. This would benefit not only the individual, free to develop his own interests and abilities, but also society in general, producing and consuming less and causing less damage to our environment.

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ADAM AND EVE

As related in the Bible the story of Adam and Eve is about the first woman and first man who live in the Garden of Eden, doing no work but provided by the garden with all their needs. Eve, however, offers Adam an apple from the tree of knowledge, a fruit forbidden by god. Because of this they are expelled from the garden and must toil to earn their livelihood. I think this ancient tale refers to the change from a hunter gatherer life style to that of agriculture. In the biblical story, why would god be opposed to knowledge? Is this an evil? In the other perspective, hunter gatherers , especially in fertile areas did not spend long hours or do back breaking work to procure a living. In areas like the Nile Basin it is likely that population increases resulted in conflict. When it was discovered that preferred foods could be grown by scattering seeds at optimum times the area could support a much larger population. As population increased again and migration to surrounding dessert areas was unappealing, digging irrigation ditches and doing much more labor intensive work became the norm. Those who heard stories of the pre-agriculture hunter gatherer days would consider that the Garden of Eden and the reason it was lost would have been the knowledge of agriculture. This story could have begun in the Nile Basin or the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in present day Iraq.

Another Biblical story that is common in the Middle East and far pre-dated Jewish history is the story of the flood. Ian Wilson in “Before The Flood” writes that about 5600 BC the previously freshwater Black Sea was inundated with salt water when the connection to the Mediterranean was opened, probably by an earthquake. Ten cubic miles of water poured into the Black Sea every day! The sea would have risen by six inches a day. By the end of the event 60,000 miles of coastline would have been inundated. In some places the previous coastline would be hundreds of feet from the present water’s edge. Civilizations around the sea would have been wiped out. If these civilizations were as advanced as that uncovered at Catalhoyuk in central Turkey, which was inhabited between 7400 BC and 6000 BC, they may have been the most advanced civilizations in the world. People fleeing the flood may have brought their advanced culture to Mesopotamia. At any rate the flood story is common in the Middle East and is very likely the origin of the biblical flood story.

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CULTURE OBSTRUCTS REALITY

 Our culture is our way of life built up over time by our acceptance of values, our acknowledgment of skills, our approach to problem solving-all of the things that make up the core of our identity as a people. This is passed on from generation to generation and is rarely seriously questioned. It is “the way things are”. It changes only gradually over long periods of time. In recent years technological change has been rapid and accelerating. Culture has not kept up and is increasingly divergent from reality.

 We are now able to alter the climate of our planet, yet this is something we were previously unable to do and we do not accept that we can do it now and are therefore unwilling to make sacrifices that the new situation demands.

We are now capable of creating and using weapons which can destroy all human life on earth, but we are not fully convinced that this is true and compelled to avoid it. Our progress in developing destructive weapons has far exceeded our progress in universal governance and as this trend continues our future existence is very precarious.

 We have used religion to answer questions we could not answer, but as science has provided answers to these questions we have held to our religious beliefs. These beliefs exacerbate national aggression and war, retard scientific progress, create and enhance intolerance, and provide a rationale for suicidal and other terrorist attacks.

 We have relied on an economic system which depends on increases in production and consumption to function properly. At least in developed nations we have met our basic needs but are driven by the system itself to produce and consume more. If even the current level of per capita consumption is achieved in the under developed world the earth will neither be able to supply the materials and energy nor survive the toxic effects of this production.

 We have learned to be wary of the danger to our personal freedom from oppressive governments but remain totally ignorant of the dangers of a suffocating economic system.

 In many parts of the world we have accepted limitations on the rights of women although they have shown themselves to be at least as capable as men in all but a few endeavors (weight lifting for instance).

 In the past it was wise to have as many children as we could raise, because the large majority did not survive to maturity. Improvements in medicine and nutrition, at least in developed countries, now make survival of all children the norm. Yet many families choose to have more than two children and some population groups continue to believe that they must have more children to ensure the parents’ security in old age. The result is an unsustainable population growth which threatens quality of life and the health of the planet.

In the more than 99% of the period of human existence spent as hunter-gatherers it was important for survival to eat food whenever available and to process it as efficiently as possible. Now however food is readily available to a large part of the human population. Those of us in that group are left with the difficult task of eating what we need rather than what we want and is readily available. Our culture continues to encourage over eating. Obesity has become a major health risk.

 These are just a few of the ways in which our culture prevents us from confronting realty and adjusting our life styles to our new conceptions.

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SENTENCING FOR LEGALLY INSANE

In cases where a defendant pleads legal insanity the jury should be empowered to find a verdict of guilty with flexible judicial sentencing. This would allow a judge to impose any sentence he thought to be fair. This might be confinement to a mental institution followed by prison or probation or any combination the judge thought necessary to protect society from the actions of the convicted person. In these cases the jury would not have to consider motive or intent. They would only have to decide whether or not the person performed the criminal act. No one who committed a crime would be found innocent, although the judge could impose a very light sentence if this resulted in no danger to society.

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LIFE AFTER DEATH

We do not know this for sure but most likely all animals other than ourselves live only in the present and past. Some have instincts that prepare them for the future, like storing food, but they are not able to conceptualize a time period other than the one in which they currently exist. They experience anxiety but only because of present threats. Because we can visualize the future we worry about the future. Because we worry about the future we seek assurances of what the future holds. We do not want to face permanent separation from someone we love and we do not want to envision a time when we no longer exist.. We are therefore very strongly psychologically disposed to believe in life after death. Most religions include this belief and it is one of the most important attractions of these religions. It sets us apart from other animals. We believe because we can believe.

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THIRD PARTIES

Attempts have been made by a third party for the presidency by Teddy Roosevelt in 1916, by Anderson in 1988, and most recently by Ross Perot. Although some have won many votes, they have not won any meaningful representation in the Electoral College. It is also questionable how they would have governed even if elected without party support in Congress. A better third-party approach would be to try to elect independent or third party members of the Senate. A small number of independent or third-party senators would exert great influence in a closely divided Senate. It is also possible for a well known, highly respected person to be elected in many states without party affiliation. A third party presidential campaign could be attempted after substantial support had been built up in the Senate. In the case of independents, a meaningful group in the Senate could moderate the majority party strength and encourage non partisan policies.

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SENATE REPRESENTATION

When the constitutional convention first considered the creation of a United States Senate the states had very recently been independent colonies. They had had their own currencies and governments. It seemed appropriate to give each former colony equal representation in the upper chamber of the legislative branch. As states have developed vastly different populations this decision has had a very undemocratic outcome. For instance, Delaware has one congressional district and two senators, whereas California has fifty-two congressional districts and two senators. If you live in Delaware you have fifty-two times the representation in the Senate as you would if you lived in California. Since three-quarters of the states must approve a constitutional amendment this situation will never change but it gives small states a very great advantage over large states in the governance of our nation.

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LOVE AND SEX APPEAL

The attraction between a man and woman which we commonly call love is sex appeal. Love is when someone makes another person a part of his self, so that the other’s pain is his pain, the other’s joy is his joy, the other’s welfare is his welfare. This fundamental value is most strongly felt in the love of a parent for a young child. It is not dependent on reciprocal feeling or any other reward. Most marriages start with sexual attraction and hopefully develop into love. Love can extend to humans, animals, even things. It usually extends in a weaker form to all of humanity. Sexual desire and love can co-exist but are two different things..

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GLOBALIZATION

As trade barriers have been reduced or eliminated worldwide markets have broadened into what has been called globalization. Producers of goods and services are now competing not only in national but also in international markets. This change has been a competitive advantage to low-wage developing countries and a disadvantage to high-wage developed counties. The United States however has suffered an additional disadvantage. We have been running very large budget deficits and very large trade deficits. The countries with whom we have been running the trade deficits have been buying our budget debt (bonds), thus sending dollars back into our country. Our dollar should have depreciated with the large trade deficits but has not because of the sale of our debt. This has caused our dollar to become very much over-valued on the global market. This means that our products and our labor are over-valued and at a distinct competitive disadvantage on global markets, and foreign products and services have an additional advantage in our markets. Correcting the overvalued dollar will be a very unpleasant affair because it will mean large increases in the price of everything imported into our country. While this is happening we should adjust our tax system to compensate for the advantages and disadvantages of the present system. The strong dollar has been a big advantage for corporations who out-source manufacturing and services. It has been a great disadvantage for American workers and companies that provide goods and services produced in this country. I would suggest eliminating the income tax on the first 50 thousand dollars of income, thereby eliminating income taxes for over half of US households. I would also eliminate all taxes on business (Most large businesses have numerous lawyers working to find ways to avoid taxes anyway-this would give small business a more level playing field). People making over two million dollars would be taxed at the World War Two and Eisenhower rate of 90 per cent. Social security taxes would be collected not only on every cent of those making less than 97 thousand dollars but also every cent of those making more. These measures would cushion the effects of globalization and help restore fiscal responsibility without resorting to isolationist policies. As the dollar began to weaken, American products and labor would become more competitive and our economy stronger.

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IMMIGRATION

We should allow unlimited immigration from Mexico for a period of three to five years. These people should be processed the same way as any other legal immigrant. They could work toward citizenship or become resident aliens. Current undocumented immigrants would have the same options. They would pay taxes and receive at least minimum pay, the same as any United States citizen. At the same time we should put pressure on the Mexican government to revolutionize their tax system to provide a better distribution of wealth. Half- way through the unlimited immigration time period we could evaluate Mexican efforts to provide jobs for her citizens and the likelihood of further immigration and if need be construct a physical barrier to illegal immigration.

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A PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY

About fifty years ago, just before my twenty-fourth birthday, I decided I could no longer believe in the supernatural. I gave up the Christian religion I had embraced to that point in my life. This act presented a dilemma. My values were derived from my Christian faith. Without it they had no foundation. What was important in life and for what reason was it important?

 If there is no life after death then the most important value is to be happy in this life. Happiness is however a very difficult concept. It is not pleasure. Pleasure is short term. It can make a peripheral contribution to happiness but it cannot be its basis. Creativity contributes to happiness. Creativity can range from finding the cure to cancer to finding a better way to get to work. Beauty contributes to happiness. Beauty can be anything from a member of the opposite sex, to a sunrise, to music, to a painting, or a photograph, to the smell of a new mown lawn.

Easier to recognize than what promotes happiness are the things that detract from happiness. Ill health is near the top of the list-pain, disability, depression, anxiety. Loss of a loved person or animal or even a loved possession is on the list. Poverty- being hungry and homeless and dirty and without self-respect is there. Insecurity-constant fear of crime or war or natural forces is anti-happy.

 Expanding the scope of happiness is the human capacity for love. Love is the ability to expand yourself to include others. It is making another’s joy your joy, another’s pain your pain. Its best example is the relationship of a parent and a new born child. You do whatever you can for this totally dependent child and ask for no reward but are filled with joy at a smile or sign of recognition. This is the strongest of a ripple reaction that extends to all humanity we even feel some love as compassion for victims of calamity whom we have never known.

 Given this foundation, how do these values determine a life style? You do not murder or steal or rape or cheat or lie because you would not be happy in a world where people did these things. You recognize that you need to acquire enough wealth to provide for your real needs and personal security but you also realize that you have one life of indeterminate length which you should not waste on acquiring something you do not need. You realize that in present industrialized countries people are choosing or being propagandized to choose inconsequential individual purchases instead of collective needs which would be better for all in this value system. You realize that if present per capita consumption worldwide continues the earth may no longer be able to sustain our species. Let me discuss these conclusions in more detail.

 If it were called a religion wealth accumulation would be the predominant world wide religion. People spend their whole lives in its pursuit regardless of how successful or unsuccessful they are in it’s achievement. For many no amount of wealth is enough. Perhaps the most talented man playing baseball today recently opted out of a 25 million dollar per year contract to get more money. Making 25 million dollars one time is enough to provide a luxurious lifestyle for the rest of a person’s life. He could have signed a one year contract for a nominal sum with any team he wished. He could have tried to bring the Cubs their first World Series win, or seen what a difference he might make for the Marlins or Brewers or any struggling team. He could have negotiated time off if his wife had a baby or a child or parent became seriously ill. Any number of things would appear to be more important than the money he does not and almost certainly will never need. I doubt that he made this decision out of greed. More likely is the prevailing belief that you can never have too much money and the prevailing lack of valuing the freedom to use our limited lifetime as we please. On a lesser scale many of us trade over sized homes, impressive cars, stylish clothes for limited precious time.

 According to the Worldwatch Institute in 2000 people spent 18 billion dollars on makeup, pet food sales in the US and Europe were 17 billion dollars, perfumes 15 billion, ice cream in Europe 11 billion. At the same time many collective needs, especially in the United States were unmet. Our transportation system is dangerous (one hundred auto deaths a day), poisonous to the atmosphere, slow, and aggravating to use. Our health care system is the most expensive in the world but the state of our health falls only in the middle of that of industrialized countries. Our crime rate and drug use are close to the worst in the world. Why do we neglect collective needs and waste money on individually chosen frivolities? Because we have a culture which extols individual control of wealth and abhors collective control. Why do we have such a culture? The answer to this is more complex. Partly our hate of taxes comes from the time of aristocracy when fees and taxes were used for whatever the overlord chose. This choice more often was personal gratification than public good. Partly the reason is because it is human nature to buy candy rather than donate to a class project. Mostly the reason is because most wealthy people prefer not to subsidize general national needs which they can well afford to provide for themselves.

Using 2000 figures the US and Canada, 5.2 per cent of the world’s population consume 31.5 per cent of its production. Western Europe, 6.4 per cent of world population consumes 28.7 per cent. Therefore 60.2 per cent of the world’s production is consumed by 11.6 per cent of the world’s people. If our per capita consumption freezes and population does not increase consumption would increase by 600 per cent if the rest of the world caught up! This increase in per capita consumption has been happening for some time in Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea and is beginning in India and China. Where would the energy and raw materials for this conversion come from? Where would the toxic by-products of this production go? What kind of hostility will the competition for these commodities produce? If we don’t fundamentally change our economic system the human experiment on earth may well end. We need an economic system which discourages consumption in favor of free time in industrialized countries but encourages production of necessities in under developed countries. Changing the system is a gigantic problem. Humans are capable of the brilliant abstractions of theoretic physicists. They should also be capable of solving this dilemma.

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PREJUDICE

Many normal human traits are not advantageous to collective human societies. I believe humans are naturally prone to violence, lying, stealing, aggressive feelings toward those not like themselves, and other aspects of behavior not acceptable in communal living. Parents and societies must actively counter these traits by education and example. This view is the opposite of the Rodgers and Hammerstein song’s message that we must be taught to hate the people our parents hate. We must counter a natural tendency to hate or fear or dislike those different from ourselves. This feeling is not only toward those of a different color, but also those who are fatter or thinner ,those from a different socioeconomic status, nationality, religion, politics, almost anything that makes others seem different than a group of which we are a member. Prejudice is a natural quality which will exist if it is not corrected.

There are other traits natural to individuals but harmful to groups which should be untaught. I believe violence is natural. Currently this trait is discouraged in some ways but encouraged in others. Violence is encouraged in some sports, in electronic games, in movies and plays, and in other ways. We should realize that these activities encourage a natural tendency detrimental to society. Greed is another trait natural to individuals which may be either detrimental or useful to society and this should be recognized and accounted for.

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