It has become more obvious than ever that the way we as a nation of these United States of America manage our economic system is skewed heavily in favor of the very wealthy, often referred to, since the onset of the Occupy Movement, as "the 1 percent." While I don't think that's fully accurate, but probably closer to 5 percent, the imbalance is staggering and out of sorts with any sense of workable economic equity or balance.
The control of the few, not only over the economy but over government, in this country, has probably never been this extreme. A case could be made that the industrialists and robber barons of old exerted massive influence over government historically, but it would probably be too much to say "control."
Now, however, a different case I believe could be made. With the lobbyists in Washington, D.C. significantly out-populating all of Congress, with the money with which they are awash, and then with organizations such as ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) which is composed of a good many of the Fortune 500 companies as members, composes and submits legislation for our legislators at all levels of government, from City to State to Federal.
After the debacle in September 2008, sometimes referred to as "a financial 9/11", it became obvious even to mainstream America how the banking system virtually controlled several branches of government, from the Treasury Department, the Oval Office and the Justice Department: to this day, even after so much evidence has surfaced, even after the documentary film Inside Job won the Academy Award for "Best Documentary" of the year, after 60 Minutes and Steve Croft did several segments exposing the fraud in the banking and mortgage industries repeatedly, not one Wall Street prosecution from that crash occurred. Robo-signing of foreclosure documents, evictions occurring because people got 'caught' in the banking foreclosure net, has led to millions of people removed from their homes since 2008.
In brief, the banking industry was found to have been breaking the law so rampantly that to de-construct it apparently proved to be too massive a job for the Justice Department which seemingly decided to give them a "Pass" with the motto: "... too big to fail and too big to prosecute." Remember that over 17 million children go to bed hungry in our wealthy nation, a number vastly increased from the 9/08 banking debacle.
It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that "casino capitalism" is one of the very worst and lowest expressions of the human spirit. In human civilization, we have achieved some of the most extraordinary acts of love, art and heroism for millennia.
Let's get to the bottom of this: what parent would feel proud to know that the son or daughter they raised with love and a good sense of values would be pleased to learn that their child grew up valuing money over human life, or digits on a spreadsheet more than a family having a roof over their head? Casino capitalism, in effect, a collective gambling addiction, exemplifies nothing of anything that anyone could really feel proud of.
On the other hand, capitalism practiced with an attitude of compassion, can be a powerful system of empowerment and establishing a society based on higher human values such as peace, patience, respect, empathy and cooperation. It could lead to establishing a harmony between inner and outer eco-systems and our economy could reflect this congruence.
Wise and prudent, renewable use of resources leading to sustainability could be the theme instead of endless exploitation of resources which more often than not, leads to the uprooting of indigenous people who often live in areas where these resources are found, from Africa and the Amazon to America. A refreshed relationship based on respect with our own "Spaceship Earth" as Buckminster Fuller called it, could be the revival that keeps our species -- and others -- alive and sustained.
How would a businessperson's life be substantially changed if, instead of making a profit of 200 percent, he or she made half or a quarter of that? Instead of "making a killing" that is killing us, be it on the stock market, in commodities or in real estate, we deliberately and consciously relaxed "maximum profit" to "medium" or "moderate" profit, I suggest that the biggest difference shows up, not in lifestyle choices, not in not being able to pay the mortgage, but in giving space for others to do same.
It would result primarily in different numbers in the black on a spreadsheet on some accountant's desk. It would result in a quarterly dividend share, instead of being $2.50 per share but $1.50 per share, but a lot more people able to breathe at the end of the month. We'd also be reducing our carbon footprint and our impact on global warming and climate change.
In place of a landlord collecting the top of what they believe the market will bear, they charged 25-50 percent less than that but are still able to do reasonably well, I'm suggesting that if we all did this in our respective roles in society, we would ease the stress and tension across the board and everyone's lives could be more fluid. Underlying principle: more is not better and not infrequently; it's burdensome.
Along with the example of the landlord, taxes would have to be commensurately lowered, which would be simpler than imagined because new technology in the green and energy-efficiency-renewable energy sector reduces the cost of delivering electricity, heat, A/C and clean water to the resident.
In short, we're talking about greening our economy, our lifestyle, lightening our collective commitment to money-as-God and embracing a larger, higher value system which can govern all aspects of our lives.
Buildings are being built more energy-efficient as well so the overall operating cost of government, if we're willing to give up the addictions to waste, war, self-destructive patterns in exchange for an overall wellness model across the board, we could move from the Wild West to a life of greater simplicity (as exemplified in the age-old Voluntary Simplicity Movement re-stoked and formulated by Duane Elgin through his book published in 1981), happiness (as measured in Bhutan on a national scale) and well-being, something we should be measuring in the West with our vast abundance of wealth and resources.
Being materially wealthy but spiritually impoverished does not lead to a happy or fulfilling life as we have seen over and over, but changing the wealth-building paradigm from "the extreme to the middle", while not an answer in itself -- it must be coupled with a very different connection to the nature of life itself -- could offer a healthy start. Stress, as we know, is a big killer: What about helping a lot more people reduce it and relax?