Anthology – Peoples’ Plan for Life, Now and Forever …
“Concern about running out of natural resources like wood spawned a conservation ethic called utilitarianism. Theodore Roosevelt sent utilitarianism into the forests by appointing Gifford Pinchot head of the U.S. Forest Service. The utilitarian philosophy is ‘To provide the greatest good for the greatest number over the longest time.’ Pinchot defined forestry as ‘the art of handling the forest so that it will render whatever service is required of it without being impoverished or destroyed.’ Utilitarian thinking underestimates interrelationships of nature and processes like evolution; but still, it isn’t bad strategy. Pinchot eventually clashed with his contemporary John Muir, who believed both that nature has an intrinsic right to exist and that protecting wild nature is essential for the human spirit. Twining their strands, you get something like: the world is ours to use, never ours to harm. In his 1864 book Man and Nature; or, Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action, Marsh had written, ‘Man is everywhere a disturbing agent. Wherever he plants his foot, the harmonies of nature are turned to discord.’ He concluded that rebuilding nature ‘must await great political and moral revolutions in the governments and peoples.’
“Right he was. Wait we do. But one doesn’t wait for a revolution. One becomes it.”
…“Though the shopping mall has largely driven Main Street out of business by usurping its commercial intercourse, it rejects Main Street’s civic discourse. A friend reports that in his nearby megamall, people handing out anti-war leaflets were arrested. Free speech has no place on private property’; it could distract those in the consumer caste from their main task and sole worth. Just keep that lite jazz playin’. A generation or so ago – one tends to forget – these same people were citizens in a democracy.
…“More choice than ever brings ever more conformity. Our unifying purpose: to purchase. The cost: our freedom to imagine and to originate.
“That might not seem like much to lose when there’s so much stuff to get. But while we were shopping, corporations tiptoed in and hijacked our country. In much of the world, when people try to make government officials respond, they run up against a problem: government officials are corrupted by bribes. In the United States, on the other hand, bribes are called campaign contributions. It’s not corruption because it’s legal. But it’s corruption. We can’t really have free and fair elections. Money has radically reordered our country’s priorities from the original idea of America.
“If the social contract is that people voluntarily relinquish some libertarian liberties so that a citizen-run government can serve public interests, well, America has been largely turned inside out. We sold the truths that seemed self-evident. Government now largely serves corporate interests. This is government exactly backward. It’s government of and buy the people. Those in government who say they ‘hate government’ often seem to do their utmost to bend government into serving large corporations. They know where their bread is buttered – and who is really paying attention – so they abuse the trust they’ve been hired to keep. Between 1975 and 2005: corporate political-action-committee spending exploded fifteenfold, from about $15 million to $222 million. The number of multinational corporations ballooned from 7,000 to 65,000. About 35,000 lobbyists currently stalk the halls of Congress. They trudge back to their caves carrying big game: subsidies, tax dodges, low- or no-interest loans, dirt-cheap mining access, free access to ocean fish populations, forest giveaways, relaxed oversight of oil drilling, and laws limiting liability for oil spilled – the list must be 35,000 items long.
“Meanwhile, remember, public interest groups are forbidden by law from either making campaign contributions or spending significant time lobbying. If you don’t represent a special interest trying to make money, you can’t participate in democracy. If you’re a not-for-profit organization representing a little of the public’s interest – as government itself is supposed to do, anyway – you can’t free-speak to your elected officials. This coup d’état is basically why government fundamentally fails to guide the economy toward the public good. It’s basically why we’ve had such poor ‘leaders.’ In the United States, at least, government is supposed to be the system that immunizes the public interest from virulent personal greed. But, wow, how it’s failed us. Because we let it.