Mort Mather Author Writer Organic Farmer Philosopher Thinker Restauranteur

How to improve your life and save the world.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Political change

My sister, Christie, living in New Zealand asks “In my whole lifetime and I am fairly sure in your whole lifetime, no change has been made. We are doomed to a mediocre world when we could have so much more. Why can’t we live in a perfect world?”
Dear Chris, There has been a lot of change during my lifetime. I was born at the end of the great depression. Franklin D. Roosevelt was president. He had instituted many programs to bring the country out of the depression and regulations to keep it from happening again. The 1950s was a decade of good times as depicted in television shows like Father Knows Best, Ozzie and Harriet and Leave It to Beaver—the good old days when one wage-earner could support a family. Interestingly, and I think it is related, income of more than $1.3 million was taxed at over 90%. In other words, someone earning $2.3 million only got to keep less than $100,000 of that last million. What would be the incentive to make more than $1.3 million if you could only keep $100,000? This question is usually asked with the assumption the high wage-earners are those who create wealth by creating more businesses, more employment etc. That’s not the way it actually works, however, as we see today in the multi-million dollar salaries and bonuses of CEOs of individual companies.
Let’s look at a very public business owning a sports franchise like the New York Yankees. The owners of sports teams don’t go out and create new teams. They may build a new stadium (or get the local government to build one for them) but the business is largely the expenses of paying team members, paying the people who sell hot dogs and the like. The income side is from ticket sales, sale of broadcast rights and advertising. If the owner had to pay really high taxes on really high income thus taking away his incentive to make gross amounts of money; he would have no incentive to keep salaries low either to players or other workers, no incentive to raise ticket prices. In fact the tax would have the exact opposite effect. Why raise ticket prices and why not pay higher wages and bonuses? Star athletes would have little incentive to hold out for an outrageous salary making it likely the other athletes on the team would get higher salaries. Now we have more people with a high enough wage to support a family. Isn’t that what family values are all about?
The change from the 50s has been gradual, wealthy people exerting more and more influence on politicians. I remember when Congress removed restrictions on banks allowing them to get into all sorts of other businesses; just one of many changes from the regulations that FDR put in place to keep the country from going into another depression. Reagan did the major drop in taxes for the rich which has created the super-rich who can exert even more influence on our political system.
You want a change away from rule by the greedy? It will come. It will get worse before it gets better but it will come.

I’m reading The Story of Civilization by Will and Arial Durant, 11 volumes averaging about 1,000 pages each. I read the last two first Rousseau and Revolution and The Age of Napoleon before beginning at the beginning. I’m about to finish volume IV now, six down and five to go. I admit to being proud of my accomplishment but it is not a chore. I’m having trouble putting them down (I’m also having trouble holding them up as they are heavy.) Every large society has gone through changes from caring about the people to focus on wealth and the power of the wealthy over the rest of society. Greed is really interesting, much like a disease. People who have it can’t get enough. They think that more—more money, more power, more things—will bring happiness yet when they get more they think they are happy yet a hunger for more persists. Rather than consider the possibility that the more they have been chasing is like the donkey chasing the carrot suspended in front of him on a stick tied to his back, they keep chasing the carrot rather than looking around to see if perhaps there is something other than money and power that would bring them contentment.
Obama did bring change. He brought us back from the brink of a depression. The loudest voices are those of the greedy who override voices of reason. Change takes time. We are a society of the instant—no patience, no foresight.
As for a perfect world, it may exist right now waiting for us to perceive it. Would a video game be perfect if everything went along easily? Would chess be fun is the opponent always made the moves you wanted? Perhaps all we need to live in a perfect world is the ability to accept this world as it is and play the game it presents to the best of our ability without unrealistic expectations.

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