For me, the writing of this book has been a long struggle of escape from habitual modes of thought and expression—and so it must be for the reader. The new ideas expressed here are extremely simple and should be obvious. The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones, which are now intertwined in every corner of our minds, and do not wish to be disturbed.
Why I Wrote This Book
At the end of World War II my father and other young men came home, and our quiet world of waiting, worrying women and children became one of joy, excitement, vigor, and optimism. For a time many of these veterans would gather at our house to talk about what they had seen and done. But mostly they talked about the future. They were all children of the Great Depression, so they talked about how America would fare economically. They talked about what it would take to keep us safe. They talked about political philosophy, jobs, sports, religion, education, world affairs—they were, for me at least, a wonderful window on the world. I was permitted to sit with them and I could even ask questions which they would patiently answer. But eventually most of these men moved away from our small town to jobs or colleges in Fort Worth or Waco, both cities about seventy miles away. My father, three uncles, the husband of my mother’s cousin (whom I called, “Uncle John”), and a few family friends remained. For more than a decade they would meet often and spend an hour or two conducting a seminar that my mother called, “Solving the World’s Problems.” It was fascinating for me.
I admired all those veterans very much then, and I still do. They were confident in themselves and satisfied with the many mighty things that they and millions more had accomplished in World War II. They thought that they and America would build a better world. Who is to say they were wrong? But they could not live forever and, ultimately, they had to pass America to their children.
From these experiences I developed a deep interest in how our institutions worked. In high school I determined to study them to see if I could devise ways to make them better. I realized that I would have to study them throughout my life because my point of view would change as my age and circumstances changed. I further vowed that upon reaching retirement age if I had learned anything useful I would write about it.
Let me be explicit. “Better” meant “better for ordinary people, first, last and always.” Those veterans—those young, wise, and caring men—taught me that the purpose of government was to serve all of the people. They were very clear that government, above all else, must help those who need help, protect those who need protection, and recognize and cherish those who have served and sacrificed. The systems I propose in this book are intended to serve those goals.
I am now thirteen years beyond retirement age and I was right to wait. In 1965 I saw the movie The Cincinnati Kid. I identified with Steve McQueen’s portrayal of a brash, young gambler. I wanted McQueen’s character to win the big game against the old gambler played by Edward G. Robinson. Thirty years later I saw the movie again. Then I thought McQueen’s character was a fool, and I wanted Robinson to win all his money. Many things changed over time.
I became a teacher of math and German in a large Texas high school and later entered the world of computers just when they were starting to be widely used by American businesses. From 1965 to 1995 I worked as a designer and developer of large-scale computer systems. Updated versions of some of the systems I helped develop are still in use, and they directly affect the daily lives of millions of Americans.
The years of my working life were exciting in that our nation was undergoing tremendous change, and I, in a small way, helped structure that change. In my segment of that world, computers were being applied for the first time to all aspects of a business: accounting, marketing, personnel, analysis, customer service, billing, product support, and much more. We called this process “developing application systems.” We followed a simple procedure in each new situation. First we had a data-collection step, followed by analysis and design, implementation, and operation. My work permitted me to continue with my hobby of imagining ideas for improving our institutions. In some cases my ideas were actually implemented, and I got to see how they worked.
Upon reaching my 65th birthday, I decided that I had learned some worthwhile things, and I offer them here. I am not a scholar. I am simply a former schoolteacher who became a computer programmer—I am an ordinary man, or as my father would say: “a common man.” I was raised a Southern Baptist, graduated from Baylor University, then the largest Baptist school in the world, and have lived all but four years of my life in Texas where (as the old joke goes) there are more Baptists than people. At Baylor, some of my minister-in-training friends informed me that because of a technicality I was not a Christian—I had failed to be baptized. So, I became a golden-rule concretist, one who believes in making the Golden Rule of Reciprocity a concrete thing—a working system of government that implements the self-evident truth that “all men are created equal.” I lived one year in each of the following places: New Orleans, Salt Lake City, Mechanicsburg (Pennsylvania), and Greenwich (Connecticut). They were all nice places with nice people.
I admired my father and mother very much. They were smart, logical, and deeply analytical. My father went only to the eighth grade, but he knew so much about so much. I am still amazed by it. My mother finished high school; in fact, she and I graduated from the same high school 21 years apart. She told me how she had read all the books in the small school library when she was a student, and she challenged me to do the same. In my senior year I was looking through the shelves to find a book I had not read and came upon a small volume of poetry. I took it to the checkout desk and there discovered that the last person to take out that book was my mother twenty-one years before. She and I shared a big laugh about that. She had an intuitive grasp of mathematics. When I was in college I would talk to her about the math courses I was taking. She would understand things immediately, and she often helped me to understand them as well. One of the most interesting mathematical discussions I ever had with her was when she started talking about mapping the rich inner lives we all have onto the poor actions we are allowed by nature and society. I talked with my father about everything else—but mostly I listened to them both.
So what I have to say is drawn from ordinary experiences in ordinary jobs while I was living an ordinary life, but with extraordinary parents. In the writing of this book, I have used the same approach that I used to design computer applications. I frankly hope that my ideas make it to the light of day, and I expect that they will provoke anger and resistance. Throughout my career of introducing change, I saw that such reactions were the leading indicators that we were on to something good.
I have presented my ideas informally to many persons and a good many of the reactions I have received would cause a practical man to abandon them. But I have had some encouragement from friends and family. One friend has been steadfast in her belief that things can, and must, be improved. Her insights into our society in general and into the baseless hypotheses put forward by industrial agriculture, corporate medicine, and the criminal justice system in particular, have kept me on the right path. Two lifelong friends and classmates read an early version, and while they did not agree with some of the things I wrote, they nevertheless gave me valuable suggestions and encouraged me to continue. For example, one of them taught me that there are many good lobbyists—the problem is that our system rewards the bad ones. Last, but not least, another friend has taught me two things. First, love is the answer to most human problems, and second, life is simple, but people make it complicated.
My brother read the book as it was being developed and he corrected my many mistakes, sharpened my poorly expressed ideas, offered his own ideas, and reinforced my love and admiration for our parents. In fact, he pointedly reminded me that the heart of this book is based on the ideas, attitudes, beliefs, and actions of our parents. He is right. No matter what differences nature and nurture may have produced between us two brothers, we are definitely our parents’ children. We two apples fell in the comforting shade of the tree, and we are glad of it.
So I, a weary old man, wrote this book to make good on the vows made by that earnest young boy in the spring of 1956—and I aimed this book at the earnest young people of today. But I also wrote it to honor my ancestors, and all the other Americans like them, who, through the way they lived their lives—their hard work, their independence, their self-reliance, their clear-eyed view of the world, their high intelligence, their strong voices and their fearlessness in using them, their sense of right and charity, their drive to leave the world a better place than they found it, their fairness, their love of family and country, their belief in education, their conscious practice of the Golden Rule of Reciprocity, their willingness to sacrifice, to do their part, to expect no more, and no less, than what they deserved, and all the rest they did—defined for me the “American Way.”
Many persons and organizations lay claim to the term “American Way.” I include in it all the things that my parents’ generation fought for in World War II, and the things that those of us who stood and waited for our loved ones’ safe return dreamed about while the battle raged. All the ideals from those long ago days, whether fully realized or not, are the ideals that I hold, and against which I measure our systems and institutions. Those ideals, for me, are the true American Way, chiefly because they include all Americans. We are all in this thing together, and I wouldn’t have it any other Way. I devote this book to an effort to reestablish the American Way, because I fear it is racing away. I think it is essential that we Americans agree on what the American Way means to each and all. It is essential that we agree on what each of us must do in order to do his duty. For too long we have gone our separate ways as we tried to find our way. The new way will focus on common destinations and common ways to travel to them. It is essential that we assume responsibility for our national government and all of our other major institutions, and once we agree on what they should do to build a better world, we must bend them to our will.
The essential ingredient of the original American Way, the ingredient that built, defended, and when necessary, rebuilt America is the people. In this book I offer a system that will enable us to sharpen the definition of the American Way, and will enable us to make it a reality. I call this new system, “Faction-Free Democracy.” In the new system, the people will express their will in clear language and then they will use their absolute power to carry it out—there will be no middlemen. Faction-Free Democracy is truly government of the people, by the people, and for the people—and through Faction-Free Democracy we can establish an America where all persons can live long lives, and their lives will be worth living.
My father, who had the outlook of a philosopher, used to say that there are three eternal questions which engage humankind: “Where did I come from? Where am I going? What should I do while I am here?” My mother, who had the outlook of an engineer, would counter with her four eternal questions: “Where do we stand? How did we get here? Where do we want to go? How do we get there from here?”
I would often talk with my father about the myriad answers to his questions, and it was lots of fun. But he would usually close the discussion with a reminder that I should answer his third eternal question, “What should I do while I am here?” by trying to answer Mother’s four eternal questions. That is exactly what I have done for the past six decades, and this book is a summary of my answers to her questions.
Finally, when I was approaching adolescence I became a little too smart for my own good. I was cracking wise one day and my mother patiently said something like this, “Jerry, I had a dream about you last night. I saw you standing in a dark place with a bright light shining on you. Behind the light I could see many pairs of eyes watching you. I could not decide if you were addressing a large group of people who had come to hear what you had to say, or if you were leading a prison break and the guards had caught you in their searchlight. Things can turn out either way, and it is all up to you.” And my father often said, “All of us are born ignorant, but not all of us overcome it.”
To my father I say, “Poppa, I have tried my very best to overcome my ignorance.” And to my mother I say, “So far so good, Momma, so far so good.”
We Earthlings, We Astronauts
In May of 1956, when I first started thinking about this book, I had no inkling of the dangers that fossil fuels posed for our planet and our species. In October of 1957, I was in college when Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, was launched by the Russians. I watched it fly overhead from the balcony of my dormitory. I was excited as were billions of other earthlings. We all wondered what it meant, we wondered what would happen next, and we wondered what changes it would bring to the world. Then, in May of 1961, the worldwide excitement was increased when newly-inaugurated President John F. Kennedy declared that America would send men safely to the moon and back—and it would be done before the end of the decade.
When the moon missions were laid out the risks to the astronauts were easy to see—they were many and continuous. I thought that the greatest dangers they would face would come at lift off. If they could survive the initial rocket ride, and if their on-board life support, propulsion, and guidance systems and their lunar landing module functioned properly, and if their heat shield protected them from the high temperatures generated by their re-entry into our atmosphere, and if their capsule did not sink, they would be safe. They, like all earthlings, would then be protected by the natural life support systems of our planet. I never thought for a second that our nation and the entire world would be facing the same kinds of dangers as our astronauts. At that time, I thought that our planet would always be a safe haven for astronauts. If they could make it back to the home planet all would be well. But I was wrong.
We are all earthlings, we are all astronauts, and we are all in danger.
Apollo 1 was meant to be the first in a series of manned spaceflights that would ultimately lead to a moon landing. It was designed to test the Command/Service Module and it was scheduled to launch on February 21, 1967. But it never made the launch because of a deadly cabin fire during a rehearsal conducted by the flight controllers and the three-man crew of Virgil Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee. The fire was sudden and moved rapidly—all three men were lost in less than thirty seconds. Even though outside technicians raced to open the hatch, they were too late—they had run out of time. A subsequent investigation was unable to determine the cause of the original spark or the material that was the first to ignite. Engineers designed and installed a new hatch door that was easier to open and they added nitrogen to the atmosphere, which made it much less likely that combustible material would ignite.
The missions continued and on July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 made the first successful lunar landing. The crew members all returned safely. They were Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins. Apollo 13 was launched on April 11, 1970—the crew members were James Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise. About two days into the mission an oxygen tank ruptured on the Command Module and caused substantial damage. The lives of the crew were in jeopardy. Heroic efforts by ground support teams succeeded in bringing all three men safely home. But it was a very close call.
Gene Kranz worked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) from 1960 to 1994. He served as Deputy Flight Director on Apollo 1 and Lead Flight Director on Apollo 13. In his autobiography, Failure is not an Option, Kranz discussed an important difference between these two events. In the case of Apollo 1, he stressed that rescuers did not have enough time to react to the danger. However, in the case of Apollo 13, there was a window of time that offered some slight chance that the astronauts could be saved. There was no guarantee, but there was a chance.
He then described the process followed by NASA personnel and contractors as they identified the critical-path problems and devised procedures and “workarounds” to solve them. These ground-based engineers and technicians drew on a wide range of skills to formulate ideas and turn them into action plans which were then “voiced” to the astronauts to be carried out at the proper time and in the proper sequence. The more one digs into the work performed by these men and women, the more one can see the hallmarks of evolution by cogitation. The astronauts of Apollo 13 were saved by the sustained, cooperative, and rational acts of people who had developed over many years the skills and knowledge that they could translate into a human-made miracle.
As I started to write this Introduction, a movie called The Martian was playing across the nation. It is a fictional account of the adventures of a lone American astronaut who is marooned on Mars. His fellow astronauts, believing that he had been killed in a fierce sand storm, left Mars in their rocket-powered transport to return to Earth. I have seen the movie, and I have read the book, and they are exciting. The story is just one long example of evolution by cogitation. The marooned astronaut, his fellow astronauts on their way back to the home planet, and the people of NASA, engaged in sustained, cooperative, and rational acts which produced another human-made miracle.
All three of these dangerous situations, two real, one fictional, have much to teach us about our present predicament. For example, we humans are earthlings. We have evolved to live on Earth in an environment that supports our lives. We are exquisitely adapted to our planet’s atmosphere, temperature, water supply, food supply, shelter, and the like. None of these resources evolved to conform to our needs, but we evolved to fit into Earth’s geophysical and biological environment. Earth came first, and we evolved to fit in. Our environment, within a narrow range of variations, is essential for our survival—to change it is perilous.
Whenever we leave our planet, we must take air, water, food, temperature control, sanitation, power, and all the rest, with us. The Apollo Command Modules were little Earths that could sustain a few human beings for a very limited time. Any significant variation in the internal environment of those little Earths could be fatal. For example, we human beings exhale carbon dioxide gas (CO2). Each Apollo capsule had to have a system for removing this gas from the breathable atmosphere. Too much carbon dioxide would have been fatal. Everyone at NASA understood the dangers of too much carbon dioxide in the capsule’s atmosphere.
Fortunately for the Apollo 13 astronauts, they had a safe haven to return to. They knew that if they could manage to reach their home planet all would be well. We earthlings do not have a safe haven to return to.
It is obvious, but, in light of the crazy way we conduct our national affairs, I feel the need to say it—if we destroy the natural systems that support human life, there will be no human life. The best we can ever do is restore and protect the essential systems that Nature has given us.
If we humans could simply change our biological needs to fit any environment, then our survival would be no problem. If we could eat dirt or stones or lava, if we could breathe any atmosphere, or no atmosphere, if we could tolerate any temperature, if we did not need water, then we would be free to burn every molecule of fossil fuel that we could get our hands on. But, unfortunately, we humans, we earthlings, cannot easily evolve to meet extreme climatic conditions. If our planet falls into an extreme ice age, or if extremely high temperatures destroy our food and water supplies, we will have to make extreme adjustments in order to survive—that is, if we can. Right now we are on a rapid course toward a world of extremely high temperatures—higher than our species has ever known. If we do not do something within the next few years our course will be irreversible.
We earthlings are also astronauts. Like a spaceship, our planet carries us through the universe, and at one time it automatically maintained the resources we need to live—but, thanks to our stupidity, it protects and serves us no more. We have overridden our natural life support systems—they no longer can keep us safe. As our life support systems continue to degrade, our chances of survival are diminished. If we continue to burn fossil fuels we will begin to suffer from carbon dioxide poisoning. As we breathe in an excess of carbon dioxide the following symptoms can be seen: deeper breathing, twitching muscles, increased blood pressure and pulse rate, headache, loss of judgment, labored breathing, unconsciousness, and death. Unconsciousness occurs when concentrations reach about 10%, and death occurs at concentrations of 20-30%. NASA was concerned that some of these negative effects would be felt by the Apollo 13 astronauts as the concentrations of carbon dioxide built up in their breathable atmosphere.
But other, much smaller, concentrations of carbon dioxide can produce worldwide catastrophe—and these concentrations of CO2 are the ones that threaten us earthlings, us astronauts. Right now, the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is more than 400 parts per million. It doesn’t sound like much, but we are already seeing rising temperatures, extreme weather such as droughts and unusually heavy rainfalls, rising sea levels, melting of the polar ice deposits, acidification of the oceans, and more. As we disperse more and more CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, conditions will only get worse. Climate scientists from around the world have warned us for years that we are causing ever greater and long-lasting damage to our world. If you want to know more about these dangers, search the Internet for “global warming dangers.”
One difference between our present situation and the situations described above is that we do not seem to be concerned with the threat of global warming. The Apollo astronauts and their ground support teams were acutely aware of the dangers posed by fire, or by high concentrations of carbon dioxide—those men and women were quick to respond to the dangers, while we do nothing except make matters worse. If we dig up and burn all of the fossil fuels that we now believe are in the ground, we will destroy our way of life—in other words if we do not eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels by 2050 we will destroy our civilization. And between now and 2050 there are many intermediate deadlines, and we must meet, or beat, all of them.
We do have a chance, but the window of opportunity is closing. We still have NASA scientists, technicians, and engineers who have the skills and knowledge that can help save us from ourselves. There are thousands of other men and women all over the world who have similar skills and knowledge and can help us survive. There are millions of others who can be trained to do the work needed to restore our planet to the friendly place it once was. But none of these people have the power to take action. They cannot command the money and other natural resources that are needed. The power to save Earth rests in our hands—I mean in your hands and in mine. We must rely on evolution by cogitation to organize, plan, fund, train, and deploy the human and natural resources needed to carry out the largest human project ever—and the most important. We must go to work today—and even then we may be too late. We earthlings, we astronauts, may have already run out of time.
Things did not have to be this way. We were given at least two very clear signals that we should change our ways and start to protect our natural systems. First was the theory of “peak oil” published by M. King Hubbert in 1956, and second was the book, Silent Spring, written by Rachel Carson and published in 1962. Each of these analyses of our important natural systems provided ample warning that we were being careless in our exploitation of our natural systems and resources. We were placing our future in jeopardy.
M. King Hubbert was born in San Saba, TX, and received his PhD. from the University of Chicago. He worked for Shell Oil Company for more than twenty years before retiring in 1964. He studied the size of oil fields and their rates of production. He said that the production of a field would generally take the form of a bell curve. Production would increase in a new field as new wells were brought on line and while the pools of oil were still full. As time passed, the number of new wells would decrease, and the pools of oil would naturally contain less and less oil. He said that the production of oil in a given field would reach a “peak” at some point, after which production would decline sharply, thereby producing the bell curve.
In 1956, he famously predicted that U.S. oil production would “peak” sometime between 1965 and 1970, assuming that production methods were not improved and new fields were not discovered. I learned of this prediction from my father who brought it up at one of the frequent meetings with his friends. To them, Hubbert’s theory seemed rather straightforward, and I agreed. One thought that came to me at that time was that even if Hubbert was wrong as to when “peak” production would occur, he nevertheless was correct that there was a finite amount of oil in any given well or any given field—and there was a finite amount of oil in our planet. At the time it seemed obvious to me, a high school junior, an adolescent male, a kid, that our government should take measures to conserve our oil and work to develop new sources of energy. It seemed to me that running out of oil would jeopardize our national security.
Since that time I have watched as our national government has essentially done nothing to develop new sources and it failed to do so because it has been controlled by the fossil fuel industries. Our government has allowed the oil industry to open new fields of dirtier and dirtier oil while these industries deliberately lied about their reserves and about the pollution their products spew into the atmosphere. One of their most blatant, and most cynical, lies is the proclamation that they have developed “clean” coal. So, our nation and the world were put on notice about the finite nature of fossil fuels in 1956, and our nation has done nothing since except enrich the tyranni who control our systems.
Rachel Carson opened her 1962 book with these quotations:
Albert Schweitzer: Man has lost the capacity to foresee and forestall. He will end by destroying the earth.
John Keats: The sedge is wither’d from the lake, and no birds sing.
E. B. White: I am pessimistic about the human race because it is too ingenious for its own good. Our approach to nature is to beat it into submission. We would stand a better chance of survival if we accommodated ourselves to this planet and viewed it appreciatively instead of skeptically and dictatorially.
When I first heard of Carson’s book I was jolted by its title. I was and still am an avid birder. I could not imagine a world in which there were no bird songs. I try to make an annual trip to High Island, a great place on the Texas coast to watch the birds coming back from Central America on their way to their North American nesting grounds. Every time I go there I frequently think of Carson’s book. The beauty of life as it bursts out in the Texas spring is something that should always be. But, we human beings are hell-bent on destroying all life on earth—and the most vulnerable species will die first.
In any case, Rachel Carson was a true pioneer. Not only was she a woman who wanted to be, and against all odds, became, a scientist, but she also invented, or at least legitimated and introduced to the world, a new field of science now known as ecology. The chemical industry assaulted her in several ways because her ideas threatened their profits. She saw the great dangers of widespread spraying of DDT and her work led to its control. Tyranno-capitalists do not like anyone who threatens their profits, especially the women who do.
I still remember very clearly the “fog” machines that sprayed DDT in the roadside ditches of my hometown. We were warned to stay indoors while the fog was still visible. It was an attempt to ward off polio. The spray was literally a fog of poison. So, Rachel Carson warned us of our insane practices, and they have been improved a little, but not nearly enough.
It is grotesque, but true: the decisions by our national government to either reduce or increase the human factors that cause global warming, such as the burning of fossil fuels, will be determined by three of the most incompetent, science-illiterate, selfish officials in modern history: President Donald Trump, Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Rick Perry, Secretary of Energy. All three of these men are on record, repeatedly, as believing that global warming is not a looming, catastrophic danger to the planet—and they are on record, repeatedly, that government regulation of the fossil fuel industry must be reduced—if not eliminated. There is a wealth of material available on the Internet that will inform any interested party of the dangers posed by the avowed policies of these three men.
By my count, our space program has had fifty astronaut-training classes from 1958 to 2017. More than 500 people have been trained. Their qualifications have changed slightly over those years, but they always focus on scientific knowledge, technical skills, and experience related to flying high-speed vehicles at high altitudes. Here are the current minimum requirements that someone must meet before submitting an application:
- Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science or mathematics.
- Degree must be followed by at least 3 years of related, progressively responsible, professional experience or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft.
- Ability to pass the NASA Astronaut physical.
Just imagine how different our nation would be if any of these 500 astronauts had been asked to manage our energy systems. They would have followed a scientific, technological, engineering, mathematical approach. They would have hired specialists in many of the STEM disciplines and we would have seen substantial changes that would ultimately have worked for the common good. Today, we have science questions to answer, new and improved technologies to be developed and deployed, and engineering projects on a vast scale to be implemented. There is no way that Donald Trump, Scott Pruitt, Rick Perry, or any of the other tyranni who how hold power in our failed government systems will solve our problems—even if they try. They simply are not up to the task. Decent, rational men would admit their shortcomings and step aside, but Trump, Pruitt, and Perry are not decent, rational men—they are extreme tyranni.
Our Madisonian Republic’s greatest flaw is revealed for all to see: we have placed too much power, in the hands of too few people, for far too long a time. We delegate our power by means of corrupt, partisan elections, and, once power is delegated, it is virtually impossible to recall it. We must correct this deadly situation as soon as possible. Trump, Pruitt, Perry, and their lackeys in Congress are literally destroying our natural life support systems. Our fate is in the hands of some of the most deluded people in the world. We must replace them with people who follow the rational paths of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Our fate depends on it. As they currently stand, the STEM institutions can save us—all we need to do is give them the freedom and the resources they need to apply their skills and knowledge. But, unless they are restructured and refocused, the GREEB institutions—government, religion, education, economics, and business—will destroy us.
So, as you read this book please put aside your politics, please reject the dogma of “my party, right or wrong,” please open your mind to the idea that our government is not the best one possible, please open your mind to the possibility that our government is not a democracy, please put on your thinking cap—your scientist, technician, engineer, mathematician—cap, please accept the responsibility of saving the world for “ourselves and our posterity” and please be rational. I ask you to please work for the common good. Let us cogitate together.
Throughout our history we humans have successfully, painfully, and violently obeyed the fundamental law of evolution by natural selection. Nothing has changed. We must adapt or die.
Where do we stand?
We stand in a world shaped by evolution by natural selection. It has two sides—on one it creates new life forms; on the other, it destroys them all. It has ruled our species since the beginning. It is mindless, purposeless, relentless, merciless and amoral—it is a force of nature. It has produced two living varieties of our species—tyranni who are aggressive and selfish, and democrati who are timid and unselfish. Tyranni, such as Donald Trump, naturally, irrationally, work against the common good. Democrati, such as Jimmy Carter, naturally, rationally, work for it. These varieties are locked in a relentless, Darwinian struggle for survival. This struggle is cyclical.
The Cycle of Human History
- Tyranni naturally, aggressively, selfishly push forward to take power.
- Democrati naturally, timidly, unselfishly step back to let them pass.
- Tyranni naturally use their power to indulge their selfish urges.
- Innocents (tyranni and democrati alike) suffer and die unnecessarily.
- A great commotion occurs—from elections to wars.
- Tyranni-outs seize power from tyranni-
- Innocents continue to suffer, but under new rulers.
- And the cycle renews.
But because Nature has been so bountiful, because democrati greatly outnumber tyranni, and because humans are so resilient and so creative, this brutal process could not stop progress—very costly progress, often needlessly tragic and unevenly distributed, but progress nevertheless—of that there is no doubt. However, we are now dangerously near the end. Nature’s bounty is nearly exhausted. She can no longer heal our self-inflicted wounds, she cannot replenish what we take from her—she cannot forgive our greed.
Without the assistance of Nature, we humans are finally on our own. Our millennia of adolescence are over. It is time to grow up. We can no longer afford to indulge our selfish urges—we cannot afford to just do what comes naturally: act reflexively, act without thinking, play political games instead of doing the hard work of facing and solving the immense problems we have created for ourselves. If we continue to follow the instinctive natures given to us by evolution by natural selection we will go the way of countless other species—we will decline, even become extinct—and it will be sooner rather than later.
Tyranni have done much harm to our societies over the millennia. They naturally seek power and wealth. Large institutions have power and power leads to wealth. It is usually beyond the ability of a single tyrannus to gain control of a large institution. He must have allies. Recognizing this fact, tyranni are prone to form groups in pursuit of power and wealth. They work together to dominate those who do not belong to their alliance, while they intrigue against each other as each seeks to become the ultimate ruler, the supreme tyrannus. Such groups of power-seeking tyranni are factions, and they have been commonplace throughout world history. Once they gain power, once they control a large institution—from state legislatures to Wall Street banks to national governments—they irrationally push their power as far as it can take them—even if it leads to the destruction of themselves and the institutions they control.
The most powerful institutions are national governments, and they take on many forms. They are called monarchical, fascist, communist, socialist, democratic, republican, etc. I suppose that such classifications are important, but the most important category is omitted from the discussion. Governments are either tyranno or democrato. They should be measured by how they treat their people. Those that serve the common good are democrato and those that do not are tyranno. For example, several tyranno-governments have plagued us in our history. The monarchies were Great Britain under King George III, and the Empire of Japan. Nazi Germany was socialist. The Italian government of Benito Mussolini was fascist. The U.S.S.R. under Josef Stalin was a collection of socialist republics, and it was called communist as well. The Chinese government under Mao Zedong was called a republic and communist. The Confederate States of America was called a republic, as were the states of the unrepentant, postbellum South. The government of North Korea, I suppose, has its own specific identifying term, but I don’t know what it is, and I really don’t care. I only care that all of these governments treated their people badly. They were controlled by factions and they worked constantly to widen and increase their power over others. This tendency is natural for tyranni. But as they pushed and pushed their power, these nations finally met resistance and they had to obey a natural law, the law of evolution by natural selection—they had to adapt or die.
Great Britain lost its American empire because it could not adapt to the demands of its colonies. The Confederate States of America was formed because its founders believed that they could force the world to adapt to them. They thought that they could force the rest of America to accept their false hypotheses of white supremacy and chattel slavery. Such fantasies ultimately are fatal. The world is a natural place, obeying natural laws, not an ideological playground for the indulgence of false hypotheses. The Confederacy’s only hope was to adapt to the rest of America and to adapt to the world. But it was not to be. The Confederacy’s lack of adaptability caused it to belligerently self-destruct in four years of fratricide, which killed more Americans than all other wars combined. But for more than a century after this great tragedy, the faction of white supremacy controlled the southern states, and violence against black citizens continued. At long last, after another great shame had marred our history forever, America moved closer to its ideal, and not-white Americans finally were able to begin to claim, little by little, some of their long-overdue rights—but the struggle is far from over.
Nazi Germany tried to force the world to adapt to its false hypothesis of Aryan supremacy and was blasted off the face of the earth—and a benign government rose in its place. The Empire of Japan tried to force its own racism on the rest of the world and it, too, was destroyed and then replaced by a more peaceable system of government. The U.S.S.R., because of its belief in the false hypothesis of totalitarianism, and because it could not adapt to the outside pressures first applied by Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy, eventually crumbled. Even now many nations struggle along, unable to adapt to the intertribal problems that have plagued them for centuries—for them, catastrophe is always near.
If we look carefully at our nation it is clear that we share too many characteristics with these tyranno-governments. We do not work for the common good. Our government is ruled by a small group of wealthy elite men who hold all of our nation’s power. These men hold power for decades, and it is very difficult to remove incumbents. The people have a small voice that is almost never decisive. Through their tight control of the election system and the two-party system, those in power decide who is to be granted access to power. Our rulers listen only to their own ideas, or to the ideas of sycophants, or to the ideas of those who give them money. Our rulers substitute their own wishes for the wishes of the people, and our rulers use our power primarily to benefit themselves. And, unfortunately, with regard to the economy, energy, inequality, and extreme weather, our rulers are pushing us beyond safe limits. It is safe to say that they are not following a policy of “safety first” in these four dangerous areas. The governments I named above were controlled by factions. Our government, like the other governments just described, works against the common good. Our government is a tyranno-government; it is not a Faction-Free Democracy.
Seven Favored Groups vs. Seven Hated Groups
Throughout this book I talk about the “seven favored groups” and the “seven hated groups.” The “favored” groups are treated, or thought of, with great kindness or partiality, and are believed to be endowed with special gifts, talents, or advantages—they are regarded as being worthy citizens. Our systems of government and economics work for the seven favored groups: white, male, Christian, heterosexual, well-to-do, native-born, and the abled.
The “hated” groups are treated with contempt or scorn—and are believed to be devoid of talent, have no special gifts, and no advantages—they are regarded as being unworthy, even dangerous, citizens. Our systems of government and economics work against the seven hated groups: not-white, not-male, not-Christian, not-heterosexual, not-well-to-do, not-native-born, and the disabled.
I make no claim that these groupings are complete, so feel free to adjust them as you wish. In general I mean that the favored groups have access to the best that our society has to offer, while the hated groups have access to much less, if they have any access at all. I also mean that the treatment of the members of each group is often unjustified. Worthy, and unworthy, citizens can be found in any group. The greatest divide between these groups is their access to rights, resources, opportunities, and protections. The favored groups have access to all of these necessities of a successful life, while the hated groups are often denied access based on irrational prejudices and biases such as racism, misogyny, religion, wealth, and the like. So, hereafter, when I use the terms “favored groups” and “hated groups,” you will know what I mean.
We stand in a world where the survival of our civilization, even the survival of our species, is in doubt. The systems that mistreat the seven hated groups are the same systems that have failed to protect our planet from the deadly consequences of burning fossil fuels. Scientists who are experts in the various aspects of extreme weather due to global warming, are virtually unanimous: we must do something now to stop the burning of fossil fuels. We are committing suicide. We, the people, through government, religion, education, economics, business, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, must urgently respond to the onrushing catastrophe of global warming. In short, we must adapt or die.
How did we get here?
We got here because tyranni naturally seek power and wealth. They are very aggressive and very successful. They gain both power and wealth in proportions far greater than their presence in our society. They have exercised great power in our governments, in the slaveholding South, in our religions, in our political parties, and in our system of economics.
We got here because the Framers chose the wrong system of government. Hold on, I must amend my statement. I should have said that we got here because the Framers chose a system of government that was right for them and others of their class, but wrong for the rest of us. No, that is not quite right. I should have said that the Framers designed a system of government that was right for them and for others of their class, but wrong for the rest of us. They designed a Madisonian Republic instead of a democracy, and, in so doing, they excluded the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence. They designed a system of government that excluded the majority of Americans. The Framers designed the wrong system of government.
We got here because the extreme tyranni who ruled the slaveholding South lost control of themselves when Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860. They foolishly declared war against the North. The South was at a great disadvantage with respect to men and materiel. In order to win against the more powerful North virtually every tactic, every cannonade, every cavalry and infantry charge, every bayonet thrust would have to favor the South. Clear-thinking men would have realized that the South faced long, probably insurmountable, odds. The tyranno-leaders of the South recklessly disregarded the safety of themselves and of the citizens of the South. These tyranni knew or should have known the strength of the North. After all, the South had many high elected officials serving in Washington, D.C. Robert E. Lee was offered command of the Union army, so he should have known its strength. Either the southern leaders did not compare the strength of the North to their own, or they relied on their tyranno sense of superiority to make them confident of victory. But flying minié balls and exploding artillery shells do not recognize the invincibility imagined by their human targets. Delusion, no matter its inspiration, does not make the fanatic immune to the laws of physics or to corporeal insults.
So it is clear—the southern tyranni did not act wisely and they did not think clearly; instead they acted like men who were uncontrollably angry—just having a gargantuan, grotesque, group temper fit—an overpowering outburst of aggregated, aggravated, aggression. They were being denied their due—their almost divine right to rule. They “knew” they were right in all things and they believed that they had a right to spread their power, and their “peculiar” institution of slavery, across the continent. What right did some self-righteous, democrato-northerners have to interfere in the tyranno-version of manifest destiny? One of the most important characteristics of tyranni is that they are willing to use force and deception to make others live their lives the way they, the tyranni, want. Another defining characteristic is that tyranni, in the extreme form, are willing to take the lives of others. The tyranno-leaders of the southern slaveholding states definitely exhibited both these characteristics. They wanted blood, and they got it.
Christianity is a source of great power and is irresistible to tyranni. When Christianity, like any other institution, is controlled by tyranni it becomes an organization that works against the common good. This should not be surprising to anyone, especially to Christians, because they know that Jesus was pursued by men who worked against the common good—he and others suffered at their hands. The men who killed Jesus were tyranni. It should not be surprising to anyone that tyranni are alive and well today.
Tyranno-Christianity is more powerful today than is the tyranno-South. In addition to the faction of white supremacy, tyranno-Christianity has other factions within its kingdom. One is the faction of theocracy—and another is separatism, such as in the public schools. Federal funding for religious programs, dabbling in electoral politics, creationism, sexual abstinence, anti-progress, anti-knowledge, overt discrimination against certain hated groups, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, inerrancy, and anti-science are some of the most active factions at the moment.
Political parties come in the two varieties you might expect: tyranno-parties (factions) and democrato-parties. Like the generations of tyranno-parties who supported slavery and later supported Jim Crow laws and “separate but equal” schools and societies, modern tyranno-parties still fight to rule over others and to deny equal rights to certain hated groups. There is no way to explain their habit other than to say that such hatred is natural to them. They like to do it. But in order to do it they must have some sort of cover story, some rationale, so they can keep getting enough votes to keep power. So they develop ideologies. They base their policies on false or unsubstantiated or unprovable hypotheses that appeal to prejudice and emotion.
As you will see in Chapter 3, the slavers of 1790 used racist hypotheses that were untrue when they responded to Benjamin Franklin’s petition to abolish slavery. Some, perhaps most, religions are based on unsubstantiated, unprovable hypotheses. They are authoritarian, and they like to tell others how to live their lives, so they are natural allies of tyranno-parties. But in addition to exploitable hypotheses, tyranno-parties need something else to keep power—they need money for election campaigns, so they sell their votes to the highest bidder. But in spite of these obvious failings, some people think political parties are good—just ask the man who owns one, or who profits from one. On the other hand, my grandmother once told me that political parties “are not worth the powder it would take to blow them to bits.”
Slavery was monstrously cruel in many ways: masters whipping and murdering their slaves, raping them, breeding them and selling their children, breaking up families by selling a parent or a child down the river—the horrors were many, and they are eternally sickening. Slavery was a business model, the original form of tyranno-capitalism. The slave owner was no rocket engineer—he was a tyranno-capitalist. By becoming a slave owner, he had satisfied one of the two primary desires of tyranno-capitalists—he had power over others.
To satisfy the other desire, to become wealthy, he understood what he had to do. He had to put his slaves, his capital, to work on some task that would produce something that could be sold for a price that would exceed the costs of running his plantation, including the minimum expenditures necessary to keep his slaves alive and strong enough to work as long as there was light to see.
For a while plantations did not pay very well because there was no crop that would produce the profits the master wanted. But Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin which reduced the labor needed to produce a bale of cotton. Tyranno-capitalism flourished. The cotton planter was wealthy and he had power over others.
Unfortunately, tyranno-capitalism is still the major business model in America. Since the beginning, most of America’s growth has been financed by unpaid slaves and the underpaid laborers who succeeded them. This resulted in an unfair transfer, a theft, of wealth from the slave and the laborer to the benefit of the tyranno-capitalist. After a long, long time American workers were able, for a short while, to demand and get better wages and benefits. But the tyranno-capitalists, in their fevered pursuit of profits, busted unions and sent jobs overseas to countries that paid very low wages. Even though the mass of American workers, underpaid as they are, cry out for resources and opportunities that will give them a better standard of living, the tyranno-capitalists manage to keep wages very low, and they manage to let the infrastructure erode as they pollute and plunder the planet—birds do not foul their nests, but we do. Thanks to tyranno-capitalists, we are fatally fouling the only nest we have.
Where do we want to go?
We want to move to a world where all groups: white and not-white, Christian and not-Christian, male and not-male, heterosexual and not-heterosexual, well-to-do and not well-to-do, native-born and not native-born, abled and disabled are treated the same. Such a world will provide equal access to rights, resources, opportunities, and protections that will give any member of any group a fair and equal chance to go as far as her talents and efforts can take her, and give her a fair and equal chance to build a long life worth living for herself and her loved ones.
We want to move to a world that does not burn fossil fuels. We want to do all the things necessary to stop the warming of our planet, and we want to establish international systems that will preserve and protect us. Earth is the only planet we have—it is the only planet we will ever have.
How do we get there from here?
We must adapt the seven superior ideas of Athenian Democracy.
We must strengthen the wall between church and state, we must remove ideology from education, and we must change our business structure to one that is driven by consumer demand.
We must replace our Madisonian Republic with Faction-Free Democracy and replace tyranno-capitalism with democrato-capitalism.
We must face the facts, and we must keep groups of tyranni, factions, from gaining disproportionate institutional power over our systems of government and economics. We must recognize and control the adverse effects of factions.
Factions Currently at Work
There are many factions at work today in America. The faction of states’ rights has done immense damage to our society, and it is still at work. The faction of white supremacy, which was the basis of the government, religion, and economy of the tyranno-South, is alive and well. It can be found throughout the nation and is concentrated in several large sections of our country. Misogyny is actively at work everywhere. It can be seen in the practice of paying women less than men even though they are doing equal, and often better, work. It can be seen in the medieval practice of denying women the right to control their own bodies—many state legislatures, overwhelmingly in the control of tyranni, have made it clear that they think women are second-class citizens, and must be kept in their place—subordinate to men in other words. The Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention treat women as second-class citizens. These two large religions clearly, and irrationally, believe that women are inferior to men, and should be subordinate to them.
Our political parties use factions to stir the passions of ordinary citizens. For example, some of our current leading political figures use hateful language to vilify non-Christians, non-whites, foreigners, and the poor, thereby garnering votes and campaign contributions. Their disparagement of non-heterosexuals has just now been muted by a recent Supreme Court decision declaring that same-sex couples have the same right to marry as everyone else. But, knowing human nature as I do, I am sure that this period of quiet will not last long and the bitter attacks will resume.
Anti-science and pro-ignorance are really two sides of the same faction. Americans who favor these two manifestations of irrationality seek to gain control of the public schools so that they can become theological seminaries from the first grade upwards. When they are unable to achieve this goal they move to the faction of separatism, and create their own schools so that anti-science and pro-ignorance can be taught to their children. And we must not forget capitalism. The form that we practice today is one of the strongest and one of the most dangerous factions. If left unchecked, it will destroy our civilization.
The Seven Superior Ideas of Athenian Democracy
The only way for democrati to win is to take control of the ideology-based institutions—government, religion, education, economics and business (GREEB)—and restructure them so that they work for the common good—which, thank goodness, has a rational basis. We will use good ideas wherever we find them, and the system that is rich with good ideas is Athenian democracy. This ancient, first, democracy was a great success, and there are seven reasons for that success:
- Power Management—the Athenians understood that there are two kinds of government power: administrative and transformative. They understood that administrative power can be delegated but transformative power cannot, except in very limited, tightly-controlled cases. Unfortunately, we foolishly mismanage our power. We delegate too much—to too few people—for far too long a time. And we delegate our power through the corrupt system of parties and partisan elections.
- Government of, by, and for the people—the Athenian government was of the people, by the people, and for the people. Our government is of the people, by the plutocrats, and for the plutocrats.
- Liturgies and Public Works—the Athenians had ways to persuade the wealthy to willingly spend their wealth for the common good. We don’t even ask the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes.
- The Oath of the Ephebes—the Athenians taught their youth that they had a duty to act on behalf of the common good—we should do the same. And we should give them a way to do it.
- Evolution by Cogitation—the Athenians formalized this process for managing the evolution of civilization. It relies on the sustained, cooperative, rational acts of humankind. It depends especially on the most important of our intellectual gifts: the power to make something out of nothing but an idea. We will think our way forward. We will use our intellects together. We will ponder important matters with purpose and objectivity. Unfortunately, many powerful factions within our GREEB institutions have largely ignored this form of evolution. They reject knowledge, science, rationality, inclusion, and progress in favor of ideology, prejudice, willful ignorance, exclusion, and irrationality as the tools of governance. And, unfortunately, they have enough power to do great harm to our civilization—they could even destroy it.
- The Silver Mines of Laurium—the Athenians knew how to manage their money supply. We don’t know how to manage ours—but, if we apply our intellects in rational ways, we will quickly learn.
- Investing in the People—the Athenians thought it was so important for the people to participate in their democracy that they compensated the poor for the income lost when they attended the Assembly. Without this payment they would have been unable to participate.
Here are some of the ways we should adapt these seven ideas:
- Change the way we choose our representatives.
- Change the way we manage government power. To the extent possible, all groups that wield transformative power must be large enough to be made up of tyranni and democrati in the proportions they occur in nature. In general, power should be delegated by random selection, for short periods, for specific, limited purposes, to thousands or even millions of citizens, and its use should be subject to review by the people. However, if the authority wielding transformative power is so small that it cannot be made up of tyranni and democrati in the proportions they occur in nature—such as one or two police officers on patrol—then special oversight procedures are required.
- Change the relationship between the national government and state and local governments—replace states’ rights with American rights. Only the national government can enact laws that limit or deny the rights of the individual. State governments will primarily carry out administrative functions. State legislatures can pass laws, but they will be limited to regulations and rules. Laws that criminalize the behavior of citizens can be enacted only by the national government.
- Change the way we treat the seven hated groups, and call on all citizens to serve in our Faction-Free Democracy.
- We should as a society devise and implement ways to favor rationality over irrationality, facts over ideology, knowledge over ignorance, inclusion over exclusion, progress over regression, and love over hate. As a matter of course our society should favor evolution by cogitation.
- We should gladly accept the fact that we have an unlimited supply of money and apply it to serve all of us. We should replace tyranno-capitalism (a system of economics that works only for a few) with democrato-capitalism (a system of economics that works for all of us). We should build a new system of economics as well as a new system of government.
- We should invest in the people to the tune of $36,000 per person per year from birth to death so they can do the things that will build a better America. These include taking care of their children, staying in school, staying out of jail, serving in the government when they are called upon, taking care of their health, their homes, and their local communities. In addition we should pay certain professions for providing invaluable services to the people: military personnel, teachers, health care givers, lawyers, police officers, firemen and other emergency responders, infrastructure and sanitation workers, and the like. They should be paid a premium by our Faction-Free Democracy.
- We should use our unlimited supply of money to change our economy from one that redistributes money to one that distributes No longer will we take money from one citizen and give it to another. We have enough money to provide resources and opportunities to everyone without reducing them for anyone. This means that taxation for the purposes of redistribution will be eliminated. We will need a few sin taxes, and we will need to use a special form of taxation to drain excess money from our system in order to control inflation, but essentially, we will lead tax-free lives.
- We must use our unlimited supply of money to fund the many projects that will be needed to deal with the effects of global warming.
Let me be clear. I am not suggesting that we should replace our entire system with the ancient Athenian system. We could do that, I suppose, but that would be foolish. It is much easier to adapt the seven superior ideas of Athenian democracy into our Madisonian Republic thereby transforming it into our Faction-Free Democracy. In so doing, we will finally make the fact of America match the myth—we will finally be a real democracy.
I wrote this book to offer ideas which, if implemented, will finish what the Founding Fathers started. They won the Revolutionary War (with the indispensable help of the people), and they established our Madisonian Republic, both of which they meant to do. But by writing the Declaration of Independence they unintentionally started us on the long road to democracy which still lies beyond the horizon. There have been many missteps along the way, particularly James Madison’s “scheme of representation,” but we can see clearly now, we know where we want to go. It is time to make, and carry out, our own plan to get there from here. The following lines from a famous song raise an important question about the nature of that plan:
So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key.
We, the people, have lived our lives in chains—some of us literally. Things are better now than they were in the early parts of our history. But they are not good enough—and they are getting worse. It seems that we, the people, are constantly trying to improve America. We have tried to do it through the political process. Some of us have run for office. Sometimes we have marched in the streets, or registered new voters, or conducted sit-ins. We have written letters, books, plays, and songs. The civil rights battles of the 1950’s and 1960’s show that deadly and hard-fought victories can be won, but those victories were not complete and the battle still rages in many places and in many ways. We have tried many things in order to throw off our chains, and we still are not free. What will work? Are these words from that song correct? Do we have the key? Yes, we have always had it but we did not believe it. We, the people, are the key. We can join our hands, hearts, and brains and do a mighty thing. We can ordain and establish a Faction-Free Democracy.
It is irrational to ignore or worsen the dangers of global warming.
We must be rational.
We must replace our systems of government and economics.
We must adapt or die.