Medicaid Expansion: HELP-Mixed Mission ensures failure  (last edited Aug 1, 2016)

Green Libertarianism, Health Care

The following was an attempt to respond to Sen Buttrey’s “HELP” act to expand Medicaid in Montana.   I’m publishing it now in hopes of maybe somebody who is a “Republican” or “Conservative” will have some inkling of how such principles might be applied to a universal public health care system, or several optional alternatives.  –PHS, 7-14-17.  Bastille Day

HELP-Mixed Mission ensures failure  (last edited Aug 1, 2016)

“The cost of health care will never go down- that’s a given….”

I’ve long maintained that a couple of good economists could, in a matter of days, design an excellent health care system on any scale which would be far less expensive and more comprehensive than anything proposed, today. Medicine is now run as a “business” rather than a public necessity, like police, fire, the military, or whatever – the core “institutional infrastructure” of a humane and sustainable society. And so, it is entirely the business (and even financial interests) of the “stakeholders” which is under consideration.

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I’m watching a rebroadcast of the MT Health Care Forum which took place in Great Falls on Dec 3, 2015.  This is a project of the Montana Health Care Foundation, which is funded by the buy-out of the formerly non-profit Blue Cross-Blue Shield when they were “acquired” (with no objections from State insurance regulators) by a for-profit Chicago outfit which now does business in 41 states, I think they said.

Anyone could have attended this “forum” by “enrolling” at a cost of $65, or some such thing. I had thought of going, and I would have learned a lot, as these rebroadcasts demonstrate. I feared, correctly, that it was basically a PR deal to “explain” the new HELP law which provides an insurance-style Medicaid Expansion for Montanans (or, rather, for the Montana medicine “industry”). And very strangely, the recordings of the proceedings have been considerably edited, in such a crude fashion that most people might suppose it was “technical difficulties” of some sort.

Much of the difficulty was in the convoluted and often contradictory statements and discussions among the participants, which resembled the Legislature hearings we’ve become used to in recent decades, where neither side cares to address the real issues, but instead blames the other party for “obstructionism” or whatever, with a lot of coded terms basically expressing contempt for each other, and for the population in general.

Most of the video was as much as several minutes out of sync with the sound, and large portions of the discussion were available only to lip-readers, which could have been intentional. Most video recorders automatically sync the sound with the pictures – they’re all on the tape or disc as separate “channels” or whatever. So, to create a tape like we were shown had to be intentional. The machines simply don’t work that way, or fail to work with that result.

So, immediately the whole HELP program comes under intense suspicion, as it should have long before someone like the CEO of Benefis, Mr Goodnough, was appointed to chair it. And Mr. Buttrey, whose previous businesses were involved with military contracting, proved himself to be an expert in government-funded bureaucratic protocol, but little else. Most of the same perverse incentives in the welfare system are perpetuated, along with the premise that any low-income person only needs to get a paying job in order to “pay back” whatever welfare services and funds she has received, and thus become “independent.” Good luck with that. The only way for a poor person to be independent is to live on the streets or otherwise outside of “government programs.”

It’s like watching the Regents Meetings or the State Board of Public Education meetings, both of which appear on this same HVCT station in Helena which broadcasts Legislative hearings, the MT Supreme Court, and various other public interest events and programming. To listen to these “legislators,” lobbyists, and corporate stakeholders try to come up with a workable solution is painful beyond description. Sometimes, they have public hearings, or public comment, but that usually amounts to some lesser stakeholder pleading his or her particular interests, not an attempt to actually come up with a workable system.

The Republicans decide everything in caucus, at the behest mostly of ALEC and other monopolists while the Democrats rely on the “professional class” and public emploee unions whose careers and livelihoods are utterly dependent on an expanding state bureaucracy. Therefore, we are presented with plans and “choices” which never amount to more than which of the above will “get the contract” or otherwise reap the fruits of their lobbying and “corporate sponsorships.”

Above all, never allow the “other party’s” plans or policies prove successful. We really have a government of sabotage rather than constructive public policy. We could see this most clearly with the Republican’s visceral hatred of Barak Obama, making sure than nothing he could claim as a “victory” would work, or encourage anyone to vote Democrat in the next election. Seriously, this is the bottom line for nearly everything Congress and our State Legislatures do. They are not parliaments; they are “Legislative Exchanges” where laws are purchased like the sausage they are often compared to.

There is little or no “access” for alternative ideas, policies, or programs, like the Green Party’s Single Payer, Medicare for All programs or some sort of National Health Service which would provide basic healthcare to all at sliding scale fees. Although there is a lot of support for small-scale, cooperative schools and other institutions, the big teacher’s unions, School Board Associations, and even such local businesses as bus contractors retain an iron grip on the large-scale factory-style (and increasingly prison-style) monopoly State Schools.

To call them “public” is laughable. Every year dozens of parents in Great Falls find their kids marginalized, punished, abused, and otherwise treated like they were criminals and prisoners, not young minds being shaped for some sort of healthy and sustainable future – one, incidentally, which does not require a local nuclear strike force to “save the economy.”

If medical products and services were properly priced, without the monopoly protections they now receive, most people would be able to afford them, and “insurance” would be nothing more than a small charge and required examinations and follow-ups to make sure that people were getting the health care they were paying for.

The present disaster is, in part, a legacy of the battle between Church and State. It needs to stop right now. If the State is going to use public money for things like education and health care, which are fundamental to our individual and social well-being, then it must provide fairly and equitably to those who may support differing “education” or health care philosophies and practices.

I’ve long maintained that a couple of good economists could, in a matter of days, design an excellent health care system on any scale which would be far less expensive and more comprehensive than anything proposed, today. Medicine is now run as a “business” rather than a public necessity, like police, fire, the military, or whatever – the core “institutional infrastructure” of a humane and sustainable society. And so, it is entirely the business (and even financial interests) of the “stakeholders” which is under consideration.

These “stakeholders” turn out to be, not the doctors, nurses, and patients utilizing the health care, but some 3rd party bureaucrats and for-profit “insurance” companies as well as huge and powerful Drug Cartels who have no concern with the medical aspects of their “business” at all. They are simply corporations with a lot of monopoly power which is fungible. The more they rip off the customers, the government which funds health care, and anyone else, the more their stock rises, and the more valuable they are as a corporation.

If a small company invents a new miracle drug (as recently happened with a cure for the previously incurable Hepatitis C), it is quickly taken over by a hedge fund or some other non-medical entity which then charges “the market price” for a treatment which costs them $200 to make, for something like $70,000. And this even happens with old drugs which are still under patent, as we learned with an AIDS drug which used to sell for $17, and after being “aquired” by a Hedge Fund (whose manager is now in jail for various financial frauds) now sells for $thousands, and there is no shortage of lawyers and public policy “experts” who will defend this abuse of “property rights” and the totally fictional idea of “intellectual property,” which belongs to those “fictional persons,” corporations, which now own and control practically every part of the government and “the public sector” in general.

When Darwin and Wallace argued over who “discovered” or first enunciated the Theory of Evolution, it wasn’t over “property rights.” It was over intellectual pride, and such “rivalries” rarely resemble the popular dramas based on them. Often, the protagonists are good friends, and freely recognize the other’s contributions. The very fact that there’s a word, “evolution,” indicates that the process was very well-understood since Aristotle, at least..

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HELP is our new state (Montana) Medicaid Expansion program, and it differs significantly from what was envisioned in the ACA which most other states have adopted.

It was Ed Buttrey from Great Falls who actually put the package together and got enough Republicans to support it as a “conservative approach” to Medicaid expansion, meaning it is corporate-run (by the now for-profit “Blue Cross/Blue Shield”), and still maintains the structure of the “insurance model” of micromanaging the cost and appropriateness of every particular drug or medical service being billed. And it includes premiums and co-pays, which are anathema to the whole idea of Medicaid, even if they are quite reasonable, which they are.

Had the HELP program been offered independently of the ACA , it would have been hailed as a major “reform” toward something like the Canadian Single Payer system, which has the highest approval rate in the world, or did until the Neo-cons “introduced” private insurance and other rackets into the Canadian system, plus letting a third or more of their government-trained doctors and nurses move to the US where they could earn 2-5 times more.

Medicare and Medicaid are “socialized medicine”, which is public provision of medical products and services. Medicare and Medicaid are considered “Single-payer” systems, meaning that that the state or other government agency pays the providers, out of general tax revenues or out of some special tax and funding allocated to that purpose.

Although this is often contrasted with “Single-provider” systems (Britain’s NHS) which most developed countries maintain, this is the old view of “socialism” which is centralized and directed by some sort of planning board, rather than being “market-directed.” Medicare and Medicaid are very “market-driven”, or would be if any sort of competition were allowed between the various providers. Wherever there is a healthy multi-provider “marketplace” for medical products or services, prices stay reasonable, but there is a strong financial (and political) incentive to create monopolies and reduce services, while always raising costs which are separated from real costs across the board.

Instead, under our present system, the government reimbursements through Medicare and Medicaid are largely determined by the providers, and the amount of graft and false-billing is huge – not to mention the “false billing” done by every provider for the products and services they provide. The best luxury hotel suites in the world cost less than the typical hospital stay, which can hit a million $ in a few weeks for what used to be considered routine illnesses which simply required long hospital stays.

There is no relationship between prices and costs, and most of the profits are plowed back into corporate deals which further restrict competition and increase costs. Even staff and services are often cut in these “deals” (like the Benefis merger of two century-old community hospitals) – not to improve service, but to cut costs in accordance with the Enron-style Arthur Andersen plan they were sold as Boards, with the support of the School District (probably their largest customer, paying well), the Chamber of Commerce, and the military/retiree communities who need the services the most, but have access to all the VA facilities and Base clinics.

There was a huge organization of all sorts of people to oppose this dastardly scheme. More than 200 doctors testified against it. Everyone I knew in the peace and justice movements opposed it. The only people who favored it seemed to be the Deaconess Hospital Board, chaired by Dr. Gelernter, a psychiatrist known for his use of electro-convulsive “therapy” in the 1970’s and before.

Somehow, Arthur Andersen had gotten in the door, and had a “plan” which promised to reduce health care costs while improving “profitability.” It was a major point of contention, since both hospitals were profitable (how could they fail to be?), low-cost, provided a lot of charity care, etc. But the Columbus, run by the Sisters of Providence, gave much better service – especially to the Native American community.

I’m not even sure that the name “Columbus”, which had become unpopular and a symbol of slavery and oppression, didn’t have something to do with it. Plus, the newly-merged Benefis was actually run, under some sort of contract, by Providence Health Services, the umbrella organization, and still Catholic, so the “threat” of abortions was averted, or moved to a neighboring building. (Another major complaint against the Deaconess was that it provided therapeutic abortions, while the Columbus didn’t, so there was an alliance between the Right to Life evangelicals and the traditional Catholics).

It turned out they were all fooled. After a decent interval had passed, Benefis announced it was pulling out of Providence. OK, so give us the Columbus back. No way! It’s a done deal. We’ve already taken out the ER and OR. It’s an annex with professional offices, now, and a treatment center. Sorry! It went to court or mediation, and Benefis ended up paying the Diocese $10 million (for a facility which the whole Catholic community relied on) to shut up about it. And of course Pope Benedict was happy to sign – it actually goes that high – probably some Vatican functionary, not anyone listening to the local Priests or faithful.

We should all remember that virtually every doctor, every patient, every family who had contributed to the Deaconess and Columbus endowments (now controlled by Benefis) opposed the “merger.” And every clerk and janitor who worked for these hospitals could count on its care for themselves and their families should they fall ill. Not so anymore!

Remember what the word “hospital” is supposed to mean? It was like that. And any sick or dying person could just check in, under a doctor’s care. You didn’t need to prove you had “insurance” – which, if you did, was a sure ticket to getting vastly overcharged. Only the wealthy wanted or needed insurance. The rest got what they needed – health care.

In effect, it was “socialized medicine” in the same sense that the Catholic Church is “socialist.” And one hospital was owned by the Church, while the other was founded by Brother Van (along with 12 others around the state, and more than 100 Methodist Churches.) The main point is that their “mission” was to heal the sick and reduce suffering – “harm reduction” – which is also the first principle enunciated in the Hippocratic Oath – “Do no harm”.

“Obamacare” was attacked as being “Socialist” mainly because people are forced to participate in it, and the workers bear the full burden of a system which costs at least 4 times more than it should. If this is “socialism”, only the insane will want to participate in it, unless they’re Democrats, and told that this is the price they must pay for supporting the first African-American President.

What’s wrong, then, with this “charity” model for health care? The rich would like better quality, so they don’t want to be in “the charity ward”. They want to go First Class. But, no, everyone wants to go First Class. The reality is that NO society, system, “insurance plan” or any other “provider” of health care services is going to pay for everyone going First Class. And since the physicians and other health care managers and providers make the most money off of the present system, it’s not likely to change – especially if you put them in charge of changing the system. How many times have we learned that lesson in Montana (without, however, learning anything)?

 

 

 

 

Before Television – BTV

Green Libertarianism, Young Person's Guide.. chapters

What Have Computers Done to Our Minds?

A brief discourse on technological progress

BTV = Before Television

My own early childhood was part of the last generation to develop its consciousness before the advent of television. I did not experience television until I was six years old, and we didn’t own one in our home until I was nine. More importantly, all of the adults in my life, including parents and teachers, were raised and educated BTV – before television. Television, and then computers, the internet, VCR’s, DVD’s, and the national corporate media have completely changed our consciousness during the past 50 years, and this New Age of electronic media closely parallels the rise of science fiction as literature and the obsession with an alien presence, here. The effects have been highly political, drastically changing the economic, social, and cultural life of nearly everyone in this country who is in any way “plugged in” to them.
Few Americans now in their teens or 20’s, unless they have lived in a remote place, have experienced anything like the personal freedom, connection with nature, and sense of local community which I experienced as a child. Is this really a problem? No, because it has no solution. It is a change which we can make ourselves aware of, and in certain respects compensate for with our personal lifestyle choices. What we need to do is understand both the positive and negative implications of these changes, and attempt to direct our individual and community lifestyle choices in a healthier, freer, more natural and humanistic direction.
Some parents have actually made the choice of having no television in their homes, encouraging reading, crafts, and hobbies of the same kinds which nearly everyone practiced when I was a child. Others have opted for high-tech, internet-based home schooling, intensive sports programs, music, dance, skating, art, and other kinds of private or group instruction, and so forth. Forming an intentional community of some sort (most are religiously based, but that needn’t be the case) is highly desireable, both for the nurturing, health, and sanity of children, and to maintain the sort of lifestyles which are good for people of all ages. But the vast majority of Americans simply haven’t done it, and aren’t about to do it.
If you were raised in the average environment of public schools, lots of TV and video games, computers, Top 40 radio, fads in clothes, cars, hair, and gadgets, you will probably see no reason to make any radical changes in your lifestyle. You are probably interested in having a good job, owning your own home, marrying someone you love and with whom you share many or most interests and aspirations, and raising children to be pretty much like you are. This book might lead you to question some or all of these goals, and to re-think or make some better choices. Whatever happens, I have tried to provide some alternatives to the present assumptions which underlie American society at the beginning of the 21st century. This book is more for those who are unhappy with the current state of affairs, and wish to head out in some different direction. It is only by defining and understanding where we are, today, that we can even think about being somewhere else. These are personal choices which all of us must make for ourselves.

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A Brief Discourse on Technology

We live in a highly technological age, and virtually no part of the world is free of its attractions and liabilities. Even the most isolated and “pre-industrial” civilizations now rely on automobiles, power boats, farm machinery, and now, of course, computers, cell-phones, and every other kind of modern technology. And every nation, no matter how poor or disadvantaged, wants to spend an inordinate part of its national income on military, police, and other repressive and destructive institutions. More than 70% of our “foreign aid” over the past century has been devoted to military and “internal security” purposes.
The U.S. government spends 20% of its budget on direct military spending; another 20% or so on interest on the national debt which is almost entirely attributable to past military spending; and another 10-15% on health care, pensions, and other services for veterans of past wars. At the same time, spending 1% of the budget on aid to families with dependent children was considered to be an unconscionable waste of the taxpayer’s money, and 50 cents per taxpayer spent on support for the arts, and another 50 cents for public broadcasting are under continual attack by “conservative” senators and congressmen.

I. The Abuse of Science, Sociology, and Mathematics

In defending a radical, logical opposition to today’s technocracy, it is important to distinguish the human uses of new science and technology from its abuses. Most of the criticism of technology and techno-think is directed towards its rampant abuses, not its utilitarian values.

The primary abuse of physics is the nuclear arms race. The primary abuse of rocket science is an ICBM nuclear arsenal (which I live next to here in central Montana). The primary abuse of economics is its role as apologetics for the multi-national corporate aristocracy. The clearest abuse of mathematics may be seen in the actions of another Montanan-by-choice, Theodore Kaczynski.

If we include theology, then its abuse may be seen in monotheistic fundamentalism, whether Christian, Islamic, or Judaic; and its resulting conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere based on putting one faith above nature, and creation as a whole, in being “the one true faith” and the only accurate representation of God’s scheme of things.
Is it wrong (“Satanic”) to teach children calculus and quantum theory? Evolution? The Marxist theory of historical development? Of course not! Should we attempt to indoctrinate our teachers and schoolmasters in some particular faith or ideology? Or should we encourage diversity and choice? These are the vital issues surrounding another great abuse: the abuse of education by brainwashing, “training for capitalism,” racism, imperialism, genocide, or whatever. Liberal education, it would seem, has suffered even greater setbacks than liberal politics or religion.

What about high-tech terrorism based on our utter dependence on massive, energy intensive machines, buildings, and other accessories of civilization? As this is being written, we have just witnessed the first major, successful attack on the 48 states since the War of 1812, accomplished by 18 men armed with pocket knives, but in control of 4 airliners which were used as guided missiles against some of our tallest and most important government and financial buildings. The death toll is now estimated to be approaching 7000 — more than Pearl Harbor and the Titanic, combined. (A few years later, we know the 9-11 death toll was some 3500, and at least 2 of the four airliners are believed to have been shot down or otherwise disposed of by our own military forces. The strike on the Pentagon is now believed to have been a military aircraft or missile, not an airliner. And instead of 3500 deaths, the number has now multiplied to millions of casualties in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other parts of the world as a consequence of the U.S. “response.”)

In the 1970’s, a movement known as “appropriate technology” emerged, led by counter-culture leaders such as Stewart Brand, who founded the Whole Earth Catalog and associated enterprises and publications, and E. F. Schumacher, a British economist and former bureaucrat in Britain’s state-owned coal industry who wrote a charming little book called Small is Beautiful which became an international best seller. The gist of this movement was that we need to free ourselves of technological domination by governments and large corporations by regaining control of our economy, our tools, and “the means of production.” Children of the upper middle class “dropped out” to form rural communes, urban collective businesses, schools, community centers, and all sorts of other humanistic, more or less anti-corporate and anti-technological endeavors.

Much of the recent policy debate between advocates of “appropriate technology” and those who believe that no one should attempt to control its development and evolution centers around this question. In the 1930’s, there was an explicit political movement – the Technocrats – who believed that all social problems could be “re- engineered” by science and technology to correct or eliminate them. Much of Nazi ideology had a similar “scientific” aura and rationale. Marxists called their system “scientific socialism” to distinguish it from the softer “social democrats” or “Utopian Socialists” – a term which Marx originated. Yet, his followers would also rely heavily on the French tradition, with its Phalanges and rule by scientists and engineers.

The classical Liberals – the laissez-faire, free trade, rule of law, parliamentary democracy advocates – often had a different view based closely on emerging evolutionary biology. A healthy society must not overprotect its weakest members; captains of industry are like ecologic dominants, evidence of the perfect working of the principle of the “survival of the fittest.” Technology, for them, was just one part of this process. Clearly, we must leave entrepreneurs free to develop and experiment with any and all technology. We must protect their right to exploit their discoveries and inventions, a principle which was later severely questioned by libertarian purists. Since studying their arguments, I have been able to find little social value in granting monopoly protection to most scientific patents and discoveries. Although “trade secrets” and the fruits of well-financed research and development programs are known to be keys to success in the marketplace for new technologies and products, the fact that pharmaceutical companies spend far more on advertising and promotion of their products than they do on research indicates their arguments in favor of monopoly profits resulting from patent “protection” are bogus.

In the United States, the latter position has obviously had the upper hand for the past couple of decades, if not before. Although the American natural environment is less ravaged than Europe’s or the heavily populated parts of Asia, we now lag behind the rest of the world in international initiatives to address global ecologic problems. Indeed, we are as reactionary as the Vatican or Islamic Republics on many of these issues – especially those pertaining to population control.

Clearly, we must begin to address such issues as overpopulation, land use, and non-renewable resource exploitation sooner rather than later. The human species is rapidly approaching some form of negative utopia in which life has lost all meaning, and in which the physical conditions of most people’s existence has again fallen to a level of barest subsistance on a day-by-day basis. All the advances of science and technology, the arts, culture, and human understanding will be swept away in a radioactive holocaust, genocide by genetic engineering, and total management of all information sources and political responses. This happened under Nazism and Bolshevism, and can just as well happen under a theocracy or rule by some other rigid, rigorously-enforced ideology. We may also be reaching the point where for a great many people, violent revolution carried out by small, autonomous groups (AKA “terrorism”) is seen to be the only practical recourse.

Americans have traditionally preferred fighting to switching. We remain an essentially warrior culture – something which all the liberal panaceas in the world will not change. They can weaken us, or deceive us temporarily, but eventually we will rally to face any threat – foreign or domestic. We have finally “met the enemy, and they are us,” as Pogo so cogently put it.

We’ve got a tiger by the tail, to use another metaphor. If we let go, it will turn and rend us. If we hold on, we will be dragged to our death. We can continue the American vision of post-World-War II global supremacy – a program no one understands or wishes to pursue any further – or we can let go, and find ourselves immersed in a seething caldron of nuclear terrorism (which we invented) or the Old World imperialistic struggles for resources and territory, as well as religious wars (which we tried to avoid, but have now finally caught up with us).

We Americans have the distinction of having supplied the nuclear technology to make what has always been a hopeless struggle into one which threatens human civilization, itself. We may, indeed, be recognized by future explorers and archaeologists as the civiliation which destroyed itself – Western, Christian, Scientific, Humanistic civilization. If any people survive, they are likely to be at the very margins of today’s scientific, technological civilization, uncontaminated by its technology and values.

II. What are Computers Doing to Our Minds?

When I first encountered computers on a direct, personal level, I was a graduate student in philosophy, with special interests in what was then called “cybernetics”, philosophy of mind, and the relationship between human and machine thinking – the field now known as “Artificial Intelligence.” Although I soon found myself both out of school and unemployed, the subject continued to interest me. I had been working as a computer operator in a large computing center of a prestigious, research-oriented university – UCLA – where I had recently graduated and was facing the choice of continuing my education there, or moving elsewhere in pursuit of an academic career. The choice I finally made was neither; instead, I quit school entirely and returned to Montana, vowing that I would never again take a course for academic credit.

Part of my revulsion was based on my research in the economics of education, and the seeming counter-productivity of most formal schooling. The rest was based on a then common fear or suspicion of technology, although I was more scientific and better-trained academically than most of the so-called “counter culture.” My newly-acquired knowledge of computers and how they were becoming ubiquitous and essential to the American way of life made me wonder just where we were headed, and as an avid reader of science fiction, I was very future-conscious and future-oriented.
I was especially concerned about the computer’s role in government, for I was also a political libertarian. The libertarian left (much of which is also called “anarchism”) was beginning to shape my thinking about social philosophy. It was just at that time in my life that I was familiarizing myself with that rarified part of the political spectrum where left and right overlap, and for those who find themselves in this territory, the history of our political life can easily seem to have been one long, unmitigated disaster – the gradual erosion of a free society into an empire or other elitist, totalitarian state.
The idea of governments armed with massive, powerful computers regulating, structuring, and evaluating the most minute and private aspects of our lives filled me with horror. I knew that we were living in an age of declining freedom and social morality, overpopulation, environmental degradation, and the imminent danger of complete annihilation from nuclear war. We were losing, or had already lost, the ability to plan and determine the course of our individual lives. It appeared that governments everywhere were becoming totalitarian.

Computers were an obvious tool for oppressive governments, and at this time, governments were the main impetus to computer development. The very first computers in the United States were actually built to do the numerous and complex integrations required for artillery trajectories. Later, they were to be employed in the Manhattan Project in the development of the atomic bomb. The first commercial builders of computers could hardly imagine any business applications, and estimated that only a dozen or so computers could ever be sold — mainly for record-keeping functions, accounting, and the like. Thus, digital technology remained primarily a government domain for a decade or two, where tax collection, the census, and similar functions might provide a likely application for magnetic or other coded information storage, and electronic data processing.

Military applications proceeded apace. It was widely believed in the late 1960’s that the main benefit of the Apollo Program (to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade) was the impetus it gave to computer development and design. Because governments had ordered and paid for their development, generally for purposes of defense and scientific research, engineering of weapons systems and other military and aerospace applications, computers were not yet recognized as a means of personal empowerment.

Those of us who worked in computing centers soon found that we were empowered simply by our access to computers. This was where the really smart people worked, and in order to continue our work, we had to adjust to an authoritarian setting, knowing universities were the least oppressive and most amenable to creative, divergent thinking. We became something like a new priesthood, serving the machine-gods who had become a sort of oracle or Divine Presence. If you’ve seen the original film of “2001, A Space Odyssey,” you’ll know what I’m talking about. Although no such computers existed in the late 1960’s, the fear was already there, and by 2001, “virtual reality” and the internet far exceeded those earlier predictions.

If you were an engineering or science type, you designed, built, and thoroughly understood digital technology. If you were a business type, you may have sold computers, programmed them, or otherwise employed them in your business planning and administration. If you were an artist or an academic, you could begin to computers to create new patterns of light, line, or sound; or in research, which might be textual analysis of a great novel, or to decipher ancient, previously untranslated texts.

If you were an urban planner, computers would prove very useful, and economic planning was supposed to have been revolutionized by the development of computers. In short, almost any field was open to the development of computer programs which would inevitably change the ways we worked, solved problems, and carried out the everyday tasks of production, distribution, and the applications of theoretical knowledge and information to our everyday lives.

In the late 1960’s, the personal computer, so far as we knew, did not yet exist — even in the science fiction where most futuristic technology first appeared. Shows like “Star Trek” had a ship’s computer which could answer questions (this was even anticipated in a charming 1957 film called “Desk Set” with Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn). But the impending horror of a totally centralized, computerized and thus “regulated” society seemed to be the real prospect we were facing. In the epic science fiction novel Dune, by Frank Herbert, computers have been outlawed in that distant future, feudalistic civilization, to be replaced by human “mentats” – carefully trained logical thinkers who could evaluate complex data and make probabilistic predictions from it.

Thus, the decade or so before personal computers became widely available was the last time that a principled – if hysterical – opposition to the further development of computers and their intrusion into our everyday lives was expressed. Student radicals had actually taken over university computing centers (including the University of California, Santa Barbara, the year before I began working there) and in one case, totally destroyed a large, multi-million dollar system at a Canadian university. For awhile, working in a computing center could be seen as “hazardous duty” – even on a university campus! Ted Kaczynski’s so-called “Unabomber Manifesto” expresses this period and thinking very well, although in a rather convoluted and distorted fashion, representing the mental state of the author.

The computers we used in those days should be described for the benefit of younger readers who’ve never seen a computer which wouldn’t fit on a small desk or in a briefcase. The IBM 360/91 I operated cost more than $5 million ($35-40 million in today’s dollars), and filled a large room – perhaps 1500 square feet, carefully air-conditioned, and kept immaculately clean. The computer itself (CPU – central processing unit – and RAM, or Random Access Memory) was water-cooled with a radiator system holding more than a hundred gallons of distilled water. RAM then cost about $1.00/byte, so that a 4 MB (4 million byte) memory like we had (one of the very largest in use at that time) cost $4 million in 1969 dollars, and was most of the cost of the entire computer system. Now, it would cost about 10 cents per MB, and a giga-byte or more is commonly found on a chip about the size of a postage stamp inside of a flash drive or on a memory card.

In the 360/91, 4 MB filled several large cabinets roughly the size of supermarket coolers – roughly 4 X 4 X 20 feet. They contained millions of wires and transistors, which had to be hard-wired into place. The original memory location “bit” was a bead-sized doughnut of ferrous metal with three wires going through it. A current along one of the wires would magnetically polarize an individual doughnut either positively or negatively. The other wire would reverse the polarization, changing a 1 to a 0, or vice versa. The third wire was a “read” wire, to tell the CPU whether that location was presently a 1 or a 0. All “binary” digital computers work on the same principle, but today’s hardware looks very different, and billions of such “doughnuts” are microscopically “printed” on a single memory chip.

Similar developments can be seen in graphics, programming, speed, and “user-friendliness.” To use a computer for any obvious task then required hundreds or thousands of hours of “programming”, usually in the form of mathematical symbols or formulas. FORTRAN was the language of choice. Crude word processors, graphics displays, music synthesizers, and remote terminal access were just then being developed. The business “spread sheet” was practically unheard of, but CAD (Computer-Aided Design) was beginning to be used in engineering to do routine and repetitive calculations, and to graphically display drawings of parts or whole systems.
Computers were also used in accounting (payrolls, billing, inventories, etc.). In fact, this last was by far their largest commercial application, usually in banks, insurance companies, and other large corporate enterprises. Soon, very large offices which had once been filled with rows of bookkeepers with adding machines (like Jack Lemmon in the 50’s film “The Apartment”) were replaced by a single mainframe computer and a cadre of keypunch operators.

What is now called a “data entry clerk” was then a “keypunch operator,” for that is exactly what they did. Instead of just “scanning” in data from barcodes or whatever (they were also just then being developed), the “keypunch operator” typed in data or program codes on punched “IBM cards” – something which today’s computer users may have never seen. I still find old ones placed as bookmarks in some of the books I owned at that time. They were also good for taking notes.

As a single line of characters was typed along the top of the card, a coded sequence of holes beneath it translated the characters into “machine language.” This consisted of a set of electrical impulses corresponding to the codes punched through the cards, generated as the cards were run through a “card reader” and thus transferred into computer memory.

All computer programs were at some point “keypunched” on these unwieldy cards. Each card contained a single line of code or data in a computer program, and a typical program might use boxes of them, at 500 to the box. Keypunch machines and card readers were very expensive, and prone to failure. A typical academic computer user might hire both a programmer and a keypunch operator if there was much programming and data to record.

The impact of the Apollo Program could be seen very clearly in the computer center where I worked at UCLA. IBM made less than 20 360/91’s like ours, and NASA owned most of them, and used them in the Apollo Program. In fact, I had the pleasure of watching the live television coverage of the first landing in the Sea of Tranquility from the machine room of our own 360/91. All the rest were bought by large research universities, including Stanford and Princeton. UCLA had two – one for general use, and the other for its large biomedical research facility in the School of Medicine.
Silicon chips were the technological breakthrough which in the early 1970’s made every previous generation of computer immediately obsolete. Instead of being a large bundle of wires and transistors, very slow, and very costly to manufacture, any microprocessor could now be more or less photographically “printed” on silicon wafers at a scale so tiny that powerful microscopes were required to see the circuits and junctions. Random Access Memory (RAM) chips containing 4K (4000) memory locations were soon developed, and reduced in cost to a few dollars apiece. Thus, the greatest expense in making computers was drastically reduced.

By the mid-1970’s there were single-chip CPU’s or “micro-processors” such as the Motorola 6200, the Zilog Z-80, and later, the Intel 8086 – the first processor used in the IBM PC or Personal Computer. RAM chips “grew” every few years by a factor of four: from 4K to 16K to 64K to 256K to 1MB to 4MB, and so on. Now, 256MB costs less than $50 as part of a “memory board” that can be plugged into a personal computer (2006). Today (2017), you can buy a 32GB USB memory stick (“thumb drive”) for about $10.

“Silicon Valley” sprang into being, and beginning with the Apple, the powerful desk- top personal computer became a reality. Since that time, the formula, known as “Moore’s Law” after one of the founders of Intel, has been that each year, a given quantity of computing power and speed will cost 30% less than it did the year, before. This is a rapid rate of development which probably cannot be sustained (they said that ten years ago, too) but it is a tangeable form of “progress” which has never been equalled in all the history of technology. Even Henry Ford’s remarkable reduction in the price and availability of automobiles by mass production pales in comparison.
III. The Idea of Progress in the Evolution of Digital Technology

The Idea of Progress, an issue dear to the hearts of important thinkers in the mid- 20th century, seems to have been stood on its ear in what can now only be called “the Cybernetic Revolution.” It’s already over, or in its final “set a long-term course” phase, and many believe it will almost cease to be an issue in the new Millenium. I concur with this prediction. Technics do, indeed, shape civilization and all its art, culture, and intellectual content and direction. Many seemed to understand this in mid-century. My father read books and journals at that time, when I was growing up, and there were sarcastic references to “an air-conditioned nightmare” and a nation of imbeciles “dumbed down” by television and other commercial mass media.

The same Louis Mumford who wrote The City in History and Technics and Civilization also wrote an impassioned plea for nuclear disarmament, In the Name of Sanity. Bertrand Russell provided a similar humanistic perspective tempered by fears for a future dominated by Stalinesque leaders with nuclear arsenals. Yet, the wonders of technology, exemplified by the slogan “Atoms for Peace,” became a dominant theme in popular and commercial culture during the 1950’s. The United States attemped to become, again, the Empire it had abandoned two centuries before. The “100% American” of the 1950’s took more pride in his nation and its recent victory over tyrants and dictators, even as our leaders were protecting and installing tyrants and dictators around the world. The 1950’s, like the 80’s and 90’s, was an age of upward mobility and professional success – suceess being counted mainly, but not exclusively, in material terms. Much of popular culture was reinforced and enhanced by a Yuppy-esque pursuit of wealth and beauty.

Yet, everyone was not benefitting equally or proportionately. Here are the roots of the Black Revolt in the 1960’s; the peace and social justice movements which accompanied and reinforced a larger Third-world Liberation and anti-colonialist impulse. It is to this post- war period of euphoric ambition – the GI Bill and the amalgamation of the working class with intellectuals – that we can also trace the roots of the Counterculture in the Beats and Jazz scenes who were predominantly ethnic (i.e., of non-British ancestry).

Whenever we visited foreign countries, or listened to fine arts and educational radio and television, we understood how limited American popular culture had become – how the “melting pot” had consistently denied our individual characters and heritage, leaving us a rootless, history-deprived society. In our family, religion got much of the blame for this, even as we respected and encouraged the moral foundations of traditional Christianity and western European civilization.

It was in this context that computers emerged. The classic film “Deskset” (mentioned above) with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn is one of the few brilliant insights into the effects computers were having on our daily lives. The fact that it was made in 1957, which is extraordinary, qualifies it as “science fiction,” for there was then nothing like this computer in existence. Basically, the story describes a computer programmed with all of human knowledge, and thus becomes an infallible source of truth and guidance – a kind of oracle which exposes and makes fun of contemporary American culture. The ironic title, Desk Set (sub-titled “His Other Woman”) reminds us of our own obsession with the latest desk-top computer technology. Although this computer was not a desktop, it became the accessory of a “smart working girl” and her greedy boss.

Now, the Internet has become the oracle for all knowledge and information, the “world-wide-web” which connects all the computers and data-bases in the world! Computers are the one known area where the technology has actually exceeded the wildest expectations and imaginary machines of the most optimistic science-fiction writers. In contrast, we are still far behind the science fiction standards in robotics and propulsion systems – even with respect to what was written half a century or more, ago.

IV. How lives changed at the Dawn of the Cybernetic Age

The largest threat posed by computers was evident to me from the beginning (say, 1970): what would they do to the way we think? Students from “Third World” underdeveloped countries often remarked that computers posed a real dilemma for those of them who were learning science or engineering with the help of computers, but planned to return to their own countries and do their work without computers later on. Even the pocket calculator was yet to be developed, and those who didn’t have computers could only look forward to doing calculations with slide rules!
People in their 50’s and older may remember the large $30-$50 logarithmic slide rule, with 20-30 different scales, and carried in a leather holster like a large sheath knife by the rather awkward-looking science and engineering students. The handwriting was on the wall when I could go to a campus lost-and-found auction and buy as many of these antiques as I wanted for two or three dollars apiece!

If we were to become dependent on computers, what would happen if the computers were somehow not available? Obviously, this was a real problem so long as computers filled large rooms and cost millions of dollars. When I returned to Montana in 1972 and lived 30 miles from a city, and the same distance from any usable computer, I called the phone company and asked what it would cost to install a phone line that could handle a remote computer terminal. It would have been necessary to extend a private line (our normal rural phone used a noisy 8-party line not well-suited for modems!) for about 8 miles, at a cost of several thousand dollars per mile – not an economically feasible proposition. In fact, the Mountain Bell representative seemed amused that anyone would even consider such a thing.

Another aspect of this dependency was observable in the computer centers where I worked. Those who were really dedicated to the newest incarnation of the God of the Machine often seemed to lose other aspects of their humanity. Staring fixedly into CRT displays which more resembled oscilloscopes than modern color monitors; forgetting to eat, wash, change clothes, and otherwise interact with friends and families; these “hackers” turned out to be next year’s millionaires or literal “rocket scientists”. Some went mad, or disappeared into the counterculture, never to be seen or heard from again.

We know, now, that this was a form of addiction, or obsessive-compulsive behavior. Denial was a large aspect of the problem. I can still remember a young man, ambitious and clean-cut, who over several months turned into a kind of Dr. Jekyll before our very eyes. On one occasion, his aging father, an immigrant from some European country, came to the computer center to rescue his son from the infernal machines which had somehow captured his soul. All entreaties were in vain, with the old gentleman finally leaving in tears, leaving his son to complete the work of genius he was performing.

Anyone wishing to deal with computers had first to deal with the new priesthood of the Cybernetic Age. They resembled Ross Perot. Even the lowliest technician from IBM wore a three-piece suit and tie to the shop in the back of the machine room, where the coat might be hung on a chair and sleeves rolled up, but vest and tie stayed on. One could have easily mistaken them for FBI agents. They knew nothing about programming or what the computer was doing, but they had the ability to locate, replace, or adjust any defective part or mechanism in what was undoubtedly the most complex machine ever built. Basically, they were glorified mechanics, usually trained in the military or according to a military-style regimen.

One of my friends wrote an article for an underground paper entitled “Cyborgs” in which he “exposed” this new class of machine-bound humans. Even a person driving a car, he maintained, is a cyborg – half human (or less than half), and half machine, plunging headlong into an unknown future which, when contrasted with the “flower children” of the 1960’s, began to resemble H.G. Wells’ future technocracy of Morlocks in The Time Machine. But most social criticism of the dawning Cybernetic Age was restricted to the infuriating unresponsiveness of trying to deal with computers, and the form-letters which they were already generating in a blizzard of meaningless paperwork. Someone would get a bill or other document from a company or the government, and assuming that it was from a real mind and a real person, would call or write to straighten out the problem. Soon, the unwitting customer or client would discover that no person had written or even seen the letter, and that the problem would be identified as a “computer error” for which there was likely to be no redress or adjustment very soon.

“It’s the computer” became everyone’s favorite excuse for mistakes or inaction. This was the time when the phrase “Do not fold, spindle, or mutilate” became a cliche’ – not with respect to people, where we sometimes hear it today, but with respect to one’s phone bill or other document, itself a punched “IBM card” which would at some point have to be read at very high speed by a card-reader, the slowest and weakest link in the flow of “information.” Any damage to the card might cause a jam in the card reader or loss of valuable data.

It was at this point that some of us began to see that computers were not just machines, but harbingers of the beginning of a new era in culture and belief; that computers had already become the newest oracles of what we now might call a “virtual” religion; and that we should properly speak of computer theology rather than computer science.

There was also an ecological aspect to all this. The evolution and proliferation of computers constituted an ecological system, subject to most of the same rules identified by the investigators of living systems. There were many extinctions and dead-ends in the evolution of new computer species. And some lay dormant for years or decades until someone figured out a way to utilize them.

The “mouse,” for example, was developed by Xerox in the early 1970’s, but didn’t become a common feature of computers until a decade or so later with the advent of the Macintosh. The punched card technology became entirely extinct, as did many other forms of data storage and retrieval. Dot-matrix printers replaced the costly and complex line printers, only to be superceded by laser and ink-jet printers which continue to become cheaper and better with each passing year.

But it was the advent of the personal computer which totally changed the game from one of centralized authority and superstition to the age-old American ideal of individualism and “do it yourself” technology. Once computers became affordable to the average professional or working person, the mystique was gone. Although computers no longer seemed to pose the same totalitarian threat they had, before, other potential dangers lurked in the shadows.

For one thing, computers in the workplace were not entirely the labor-saving devices they were intended to be. They may have saved certain kinds of labor costs for employers, but they also imposed heavy costs on many of the users, including the still-controversial effects of CRT radiation and the damage to fingers and tendons (carpal tunnel syndrome) from long hours of steady typing, uninterrupted by inserting paper, erasing, or other more natural and spontaneous movements once required of typists.
In terms of labor relations, many once-salaried and low-pressure jobs became piece-work nightmares, in which each worker’s productivity could be precisely monitored and measured. Slower typists were demoted or fired, regardless of their other talents or value to the firm. Those who refused to become “computer literate” found their employment opportunities severely curtailed.

As computers became more and more essential – not only to the completion of repetitious typing or calculating tasks, but to the creative end of business, such as design, layout and typesetting, and the robotics found in manufacturing – the standards for products and productivity improved or increased at what seemed to be an accelerating rate. Those who could use computers effectively had an immediate and enormous advantage over their competitors who could not. Soon, it began to appear as though computers were becoming a kind of magical “answer” for every workplace or industrial problem.

The marketers and vendors of computers and computer accessories became the new prophets of the cybernetic religion. In government and other large-scale institutions, the rate of mechanization and replacement of already advanced and successful technology snowballed, costing hundreds of thousands of jobs with little or no increase in productivity or service to the clients or customers. Somehow, the American way of doing business was no longer proving to be effective, and was being replaced by an attitude which began to see computers and other high technology as ends in themselves, regardless of their negative impacts on the average person.

V. The Idea of Progress – Computers

The message we’ve been sold is that everything is getting better every year – just like the machines, themselves. More computers means a higher standard of living. Ever more costly and complex gadgets are somehow believed to have improved “the quality of life.” Yet, most of us cannot afford to upgrade our equipment every couple of years, and re-learn the software. Most of us couldn’t even figure out how to program a VCR, until screen “menus” (again, based on micro-processors) simplified the process to the level of a complete idiot.

But more love and care is not being put into products, yet. “Quality control” is still seen as primarily a technological or economic issue – not a matter for human aspirations. “Efficiency” is no longer the Puritan virtue it once was. It means, instead, dehumanizing the workers (or the customers) for the sake of corporate profits. It means cutting public services by governments, not improving them. Being “cost-effective” doesn’t mean that we should get maximum value for our money, but that we should spend a minimum of money for anything except our own immediate material desires – the next generation of gadgets, in other words.

Talk to college business students or recent MBA recipients and you are likely to be in for a shock. Not only are most of these people not knowledgeable about philosophy, the arts, or broader community issues; in most cases, they are not the least bit interested, either. They hope to make a lot of money for themselves, so they can then purchase “leisure,” apparently. Or gain power over others, attract suitable members of the opposite sex (as many as possible, it would seem), or perhaps just become “rich and famous” so that they might be featured on some TV “lifestyles” segment.
They’re not actually interested in enriching their lives and minds, or improving their cultural awareness, and certainly not intersted in helping others to do so, or in creating a society in which all may achieve and prosper. In fact, most of them seem to think we’re playing a zero-sum game, in which one person’s gain must necessarily come at someone else’s expense. Our victory must mean someone else’s defeat – hopefully someone of a different race and culture. Ultimately, it become a “casino model of society” or “party culture,” where self-destructive behavior makes a few people rich and comfortable at tremendous human costs to a much larger number of people.

Fortunately, computers are no longer restricted to a wealthy elite. They may, indeed, become the “great equalizers” and the ultimate expressions of an Open Society in which no one group or faction can control the future, or abuse those with less power and influence. Although I am not inclined to use computers more than is necessary and beneficial, I feel fortunate, indeed, to have a small, affordable computer which performs all the functions which are useful and beneficial to me. It is, indeed, an empowerment tool of great flexibility and utility. The fact that civilization reached the high level it did before they were invented is almost more miraculous than the fact that computers were invented at all, and perfected to their present level.

VI. Cyber-linguistic Socialism

How do we explain the fact that the American people and our intellectual and moral leaders have virtually no standing in the policy decisions of this country? If it is truly the case that the most legitimate and pressing issues are not even on the table, or have been long since discarded from active consideration, how do we explain this fact, or maintain our illusions that we live in a society with principles, and that the democratic process actually works to bring forward the best ideas and policies?

Of course, we can admit that we no longer have a democracy, and that the corporate media refuses to consider or discuss the real issues of poverty, racism, sexism, the nuclear threat, envirornmental crisis, or whatever. Even when they do discuss these issues, there is a nearly complete censorship in their reluctance to publish certain writers or schools of thought.

Now, thanks to the internet and a new wave of popular activism bolstered by other telecommunications including public broadcasting, cable, CNN, C-SPAN and various other channels and networks, all of us can publish and read exactly what we like. With all sorts of related progress in the epistemology of political rhetoric and action, a true participatory democracy is beginning to arise. Is it enough, yet, to swing an election? Sometimes, in some places. But more importantly, it is changing the consciousness of the average news reader or viewer; changing the media, itself; and changing the way that elected officials manage or “coordinate” government functions and public policy.

Amazingly, all of this has not much shifted the balance between right and left, which was already very heavily weighted towards a more or less constantly rightward-moving Center. The Internet, itself, is a scientific, academic and political instrument, developed under government contracts in support of defense research and other kinds of academic, scientific endeavors like the National Science Foundation, NASA, and a number of other agencies and institutions. Soon, it would become a library resource, publisher of academic journals, a medical management tool, and so forth. Computers had been developing concurrently to serve all the various academic, scientific, business, consumer, and entertainment functions, and it was a natural development in “cyber-ecology” to expand the WWW to encompass all these applications, and many more, besides.

But few imagined, or had any idea, what the political consequences might be. With the advent of the personal computer, most fears of a computerized dictatorship were tossed out the window. Both Right and Left saw in computers a means of personal and community liberation, and perhaps even the demise of the giant nation-state and centralized governments of all kinds. Legislators could immediately access all the research, news, and opinions they could possibly assimilate, and the public consciousness became a concrete, quantifiable reality which could be “studied” and interpreted with a pseudo-scientific exactness which brooked no argument or refutation.

It is now possible to have national referendums and town meetings to decide every kind of issue, and some progress has been made in that direction, but there is little progress, yet, in actually moving in the direction which socialist or social democratic activists might favor.

The fact is, there is now probably two or three times as much Right-wing activity and propaganda on the WWW as there is Leftist, and the class division, which made computers accessible to the professional class long before working class people hardly knew what they were, has had grim consequences politically.

But it is in education and the media that computers have had by far the greatest social impact. How terribly insecure and impermanent our young people must feel, seeing yesterday’s most glamorous technologies thrown on a junk-heap of the obsolete and over-costly. For the educated and elite classes, it is Brave New World — light, sexy, and scientific. For the working poor, it is 1984 — bleak, frightening, and dictatorial. Meanwhile, there is a growing incidence of irrational violence and other destructive behavior directed not at the system, but at anyone and everyone within reach.

These “flavors” — entirely refuted and unwanted — have nevertheless come to dominate our national consciousness. In spite of all the technological savvy, greed, and ambition, there is very little critical thinking or what the Right calls “Secular Humanism” (academic, scientific, progressive philosophizing) going on in either our public or private media and education systems.

So what is our new paradigm of cybersocialism going to look like? And what sort of education systems and media will it foster and maintain? What I discovered as an economics student (most interested in the history of economic thought and comparative economic systems) is that the science of economics has defined its own boundaries so narrowly that it is up to social philosophers (who hopefully thoroughly understand economic theory) to actually define the ends of human civilization, and the means to attain them. Thus, any sort of economic system is essentially meaningless and irrelevant unless it reflects a deeper set of social values and (natural) scientific understanding. That’s why work of people like Noam Chomsky and other progressive, humanistic Leftists is so valuable, and so under-appreciated in our centralized, totalitarian corporate state.

 

Law, Legislation, and Liberty: Hayek’s enduring contribution to political sanity

Green Libertarianism, Hayek Studies

What is “legislation”, and do we really need more of it?

Five maxims for state legislators

I was hoping to give some advice to state legislators, who have been fed a toxic brew of corporate lies and propaganda by an organization called ALEC since the 1980’s. These are some of the same people I knew as Young Republicans. I didn’t like them, then, and needless to say, having more wealth and power has not improved the quality of their leadership and “model legislation. ” So, here is the “anti-ALEC”:

1. Even if you run as a Republican or Democrat, do NOT join or participate in your local party organization. You don’t have to. You don’t even have to join your party caucus in the legislature. Call yourself a public servant, and that’s it.

2. As soon as you have been elected, declare yourself free of party influence, and instead, form a local coucil of people from your district who voted for you, and who are known to you as being honest and public-spirited.

3. Learn some basic economics. This is easier said than done. If you’re a “liberal”, you’ll end up thinking that Keynes was God, and that perpetual deficit spending is the only way to prosperity. If you’re a conservative or otherwise “free market,” you’ll be told that welfare is evil, corporate criminals are your only friends, and the only people responsible for “creating jobs” and “balancing the budget”- unless you happen to live in a military town, in which case you’ll be told that the more money spent on weapons and killing people, the better-off we’ll all be.

4. Military people tend to see everything in military terms. They can’t conceive of a society which isn’t dominated by military discipline and “order.” They can’t conceive of a world without “enemies”, and the duty of a soldier is to kill anyone the President and Congress designate as “enemies.”

Congress has abdicated its responsibility, over and over again, to maintain cordial relations with other nations in the world. The President and the “secret government” behind him is totally subservient to military lobbies and “strategic thinking” based on “Mutually Assured Destruction” and “Full Spectrum Dominance”.  And it’s like pro-sports. It’s all about “us vs. them” and maximizing profits. Legislators must take back their constitutional authority in this respect, and refuse to allow state troops (the National Guard) being deployed on corporate missions to loot and destroy other countries overseas. Several states have alreay done this, and there is wide public support for it.

5. Simple sanity. This is another standard which only a few understand, and many misuse or mis-represent. For example, you don’t give psychoactive drugs to school children. If they need drugs, they shouldn’t be in school, and the schools should certainly have nothing to do with cooperating in such a program.

Public Schools and Universities – the importance of choice and moral values

Any group of parents, for any reasons, should be free to educate their own children in their own way,  with the same taxpayer support which the large prison-schools receive. We already reimburse local school districts according to attendance, so we can just as well pay alternative schools for the students who attend them. Whatever “regulation”, testing, or other standards are needed may be applied, to make sure that they are real schools or other learning places, and real learning is happening, with the full participation of the parents and students, themselves.

Although many might object, the decision to give taxpayer money to private, religious schools is “normal” and “reasonable.” Most other countries with large independent school systems also support religious schools, and deciding what are “real religions” and what are merely “cults” is difficult. The large, “consolidated” public schools, although they sometimes work well, only do so if they have the full support of the parents and local communities. In today’s fractious climate of corporate gang warfare and suppression of any and all free inquiry by authoritarians of all stripes, a bureaucratic, centralized, rule-bound public school bureaucracy is nothing less than the final stage of dictatorship.

Health Care and Social Safety Net

One thing that still puzzles me is pricing and other cost-accounting for government, taxpayer-provided services. Like health care, there is no provision for ordinary people purchasing what they need in an open market. It’s all about monopolies, licenses, corporate lobbying and extortion, med school bottlenecks, Federal programs and kick-backs, vast disparities in pay even among those who work in the same fields, etc. How did we ever get to this? Who can possibly believe that this kind of system is workable or good for us?

Basic primary care is very cheap – even if doctors are paid $200K a year. With nurse practitioners, who make somewhat less, but may be better primary care providers, it costs even less. We needn’t get into the thorny topic of medical politics and elitism – apparently, it’s always been that way. But we know that real health care (as opposed to the “health insurance” racket) is charitable, spiritual, and otherwise real medicine and “hospitality”, not some sort of protection racket which says: “Your money or your life.” “No insurance? No credit? No shoes? No service.” “There’s a hospice across the street. They’ll let you die, there.” “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

And with this kind of “system”, we pay anwhere from 2-5 times more in the name of health care (most of which is simply stolen or extorted) than any other country, and we’re the least healthy in the whole OECD (the so-called “developed world”).

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Background: Hayek and the Rule of Law

Friedrich Hayek, who visited my neighborhood for about 5 months in 1968, wrote a very good book at that time called “Law, Legislation, and Liberty,” published in three volumes by the University of Chicago Press. By some dialectical perversity, I actually sat in on and got credit for the initial presentation of that work in a UCLA philosophy seminar. They didn’t even put professor’s names on our transcripts in those days, so everyone here thinks I made it up – obviously I couldn’t have studied under such a famous conservative – or counter-revolutionary, to some of my Marxist friends.

There’s a lot more to it than that, and why Hayek should have been there, doing that, at that time. His title, which no one now remembers, was Visiting Flint Professor (of Law, Philosophy?) I don’t know who Flint was – I should google it, but UCLA was ranked 4th in the country, then, in Legal Philosophy, and there were a couple of professors who also taught in the Law School. I was an economics-philosophy major, and later tried being a grad student in philosophy, which only lasted two quarters, during which time I took psychedelics and became “enlightened”. Professor Yost and other senior faculty actually taught “expanded consciousness” with such texts as William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience as well as the more recent psychedelic literature, which by then inclulded Aldous Huxley, the Beats, etc. Woodstock Nation was being born at that very time, and of course LA and UCLA was one of the hubs of this New Consciousness.

The fact that I used psychedelics AFTER studying with Hayek totally negates his influence, right? The slate was wiped clean. But they don’t really change you that much – especially in an academic setting. We used to say that the only thing psychedelics do is bring out the “real you” – they liberate us from our family and cultural biases and presuppositions, although we quickly learn that most of what is old, is good. Experience matters. So, nothing much really changed except that we became more “old fashioned”, “folksy”, or otherwise “down home,” (and anti-science and technology, in many cases) and those of us closely tied to the land and a particular regional history soon returned home. “All the Buffalo Returning,” so to speak.

About the first thing I did when I returned to Montana in January, 1972, was request a catalog and application from the UM Law School. In part, this was due to my having been “profiled” (as a hippy), arrested, charged with spurious crimes, and otherwise fallen victim to an “establishment” which I had previously thought I was part of. I had been Vice President of the Bruin Young Republicans. I was a libertarian. I read all of Hayek’s books in anticipation of his coming to UCLA. And after these seminars, I really understood what “the Law” is, what is good about it, and what is wrong.

Briefly, Hayek’s view was that there are two kinds of law – Nomos and Thesis. One is “exogenous” or imposed from without by “authority”. The other is “endogenous” or internal, built-in, etc. We come hard-wired with moral principles, which can either be accentuated and reinforced by parental guidance and childhood experience, or negated by that later “training.”

The English Common Law is a good example of how people, over centuries, establish the rules and principles for civilized and harmonious living. This is the real Law. The stuff that legislators do is purely administrative – how to tax, provide public services, “provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and ensure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

The two kinds of law are very different, yet in the American system, they are totally confused and conflated. And “coalitions of organized interests” (Hayek’s expression) control the Congress and State Legislatures almost totally. So, what we needed (and still need) is a Constitution which recognizes these two kinds of law, and keeps them separate.

Hayek proposed a two-house Congress in which the House of Representatives would be the main unicameral “legislature” or Parliament, and another “Upper House” would be something like the British House of Lords, in which members would be elected for life (at the age of 40, and only by their own age-cohort – the other 40 year-olds in that year). This body would deal with broader issues and long-term consequences, creating overall policy and even acting (as the Lords does) as a Supreme Court determining the validity and appropriateness of whatever the main Parliament passes on.

I don’t know if Hayek ever studied the Iroquois Confederation and its system, which our Framers did. They also have a three-council government, with the “fire keepers” being a kind of buffer or referee between the other two (which could easily be geared to gender or other function – labor/capital, military/civilian, or some combination of these). I’ve long believed that we should either have a Women’s House and Men’s House, or else one man and one woman being elected from each district. For some strange reason, I’ve never met a feminst who supports that!

All of these should have been discussed in Montana’s Constitutional Convention of 1972, and I was prepared to go and participate, but not having been elected, and our neighbor Bob Woodmansey having been, I was out. I had been arrested a couple of times as a teen-ager in Great Falls. But I never thought of myself as “an enemy of society” or threat to anyone. Indeed, I was often bullied and punished in other ways for things I had no connection with at all.

By 1972, I was a political radical. But I didn’t consider myself either a Leftist or a Rightist. I was a Survivalist – something I probably learned from Boy Scouts and just growing up in a heavily militarized post WWII environment.

Still, being arrested after earning a college degree and having done some notable, worthwhile things, was a major wake-up call. Suddenly, I became very interested in the plight of the poor and minorities, as well as gays, atheists, and other traditionally persecuted minorities. What the psychedelics had done was to have removed my fears and inhibitions – “the thin veneer of civilization” which had prevented me from violating the delusions of the middle class. Being arrested and getting to hang out with murderers and mafia-types for awhile was worth a law degree in itself, and I didn’t need to go to school anymore.

Like most universities, UCLA had a large pool of acadmic hangers-on who were neither students nor teachers. They used the libraries, visited lectures, and otherwise “crashed” the system which they (correctly) believed, belong to the people. Sometimes they worked for the university (which I did for more than 2 years after I graduated). UC was tuition-free in those days, so there was no need to fight for “scholarhips.” Just having an interest and showing up was sufficient (of course, it was difficult to get admitted to student or graduate status, but not nearly so much so as it is, today. I had excellent test scores – they were APTITUDE tests, in those days, and no one studied for them).

 

 

 

The 2016 Peace and Freedom debates

Green Libertarianism

 

Green Libertarianism: the 2016 Stein-Johnson Debates on Tavis Smiley

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/tavissmiley/interviews/presidential-candidates-dr-jill-stein-gary-johnson-pt-1/

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/tavissmiley/interviews/presidential-candidates-dr-jill-stein-gary-johnson-pt-2/

I define myself as a “Green Libertarian” (slightly modified from an earlier system I defined for myself, Social Libertarianism.). I wrote part of this Wikipedia entry, but it needs to be completely redone elsewhere, since the Wiki parameters exclude any original material. But some of the concepts are presented well enough.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_libertarianism

I thought that it was better for Greens and Libertarians to have their own debates rather than participate in the charade of the “official debate” which debated nothing of any importance or relevance to the present campaigns, or the current state of the world.

Stein is a sort of “composite candidate” – the best the fractious Green Party could come up with, and she’s a good example why we probably shouldn’t be running candidates for President – at least until we have a couple of dozen members in Congress (and that simply isn’t going to happen short of a major revolution or different Constitution).

I’ve grown pessimistic about the prospects for any sort of electoral outcomes that aren’t profoundly negative. There simply aren’t any good guys out there, and when they try, they usually don’t get to 1st base. So, the best thing to do is keep trying, and make every campaign an educational one, devoted to exposing the extreme dangers we face from nuclear war and an environmentally ravaged planet. And in this case, Jill is proving to be a very useful “foil” either to Gary Johnson or to Hillary, who shares much of her class and intellectual presuppositions.

Step forward, Gary Johnson. When I first read about him, he didn’t sound very libertarian at all – he seemed like a moderate, sane Republican, much like the Cobb’s in Montana, or the Jeanette Rankin Brigades. Now, most of those people are Democrats, but nothing like the great ones of the past. Usually, they can’t even get a credible candidate to run for Congress.

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After watching both parts of the debate, let me see if I can “iron out” (pun intended) some of the rough spots in the Stein-Johnson campaigns. This is really “a pair to draw to” for our side. (I used the same expression when Ted Cruz chose his “running mate” – Carly Fiorina – the woman who destroyed Hewlett-Packard.)

Jill is really doing well, and needs to be freed of any committments to support some obsolete socialist “line” that more subsidies and “government programs” are going to solve these problems. Academia (and the public employee unions) have had a lock on government policy since long before I was in college at UCLA in the 1960’s. Indeed, UCLA was seen as one of the pre-eminent “trainers” for the elite bureaucratic class – “The Country Club of the liberal jet set,” as one of my YR comrades put it.

So, I know the drill. The Ivy League vs. The Rest of the Country. In the West, it’s more diverse, and universities have their own agendas and alliances. So, we’re the perpetual “outsiders” (isn’t “Utne” Norwegian for that?).

As a Montanan, I’ve been building strong alliances with New Mexico since the 1970’s when I worked with a guy I won’t name from one of the old Mexican families. Taos artists and our own CM Russell were tight – and there’s always Los Alamos, one of the largest Unitarian-Universalist congregations in the Mountain-Desert District. Santa Fe (along with Cut Bank, Montana) is a center for the arts, music, and culture. Is Montana doing its part to advance a truly esthetic and humane lifestyle and agenda for the American West? We hope so.

Gary Johnson was apparently a popular governor (of New Mexico), for he was re-elected. He also vetoed more bills than probably any other governor in history, or so he claimes. He’s a “casual,” hip Westerner – the New Model for a 21st Century President. He doesn’t want war or confrontation. He doesn’t want to build walls. He wants to restore the ancient borders of New Spain, or else remove all borders entirely – the preferred strategy, I believe.

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Libertarian history – more Green than Republican

Prior to, say, 1945, “libertarian” was equated with traditional communitarian anarchism, pacifism, nature worship, and the values and traditions of indigenous people – essentially what the Green Party was originally conceived to be.

The “libertarian” label is ancient – a believer in liberty, not capitalism, wealth, the stock market, or the 1%. It means small, local, self-governing communities, not an empire which encompasses hundreds or thousands of such self-governing communities, and exploits them for political and economic benefits which are rarely shared or “worth the cost.”

People should intentionally govern themselves and their communities instead of being owned and controlled by the State – a respectable theory which maintained that strong central governments and standing armies were inimical to human freedom and prosperity, not to mention survival, itself. Seems harmless enough, doesn’t it?

Except that the politcal/military/imperial forces of both the Left and Right are based on the premise of a Totalitarian State. If any opposition is allowed, the State will collapse. And that is what we have, today. Were it not for Tavis Smiley and an unannounced appearance on American Forum from the University of Virginia (both on PBS), there would have been no national appearances for Johnson at all, and he is on the ballot in nearly every state.

Stein, with a strong base in New England among the highest intellectual elites, hasn’t done any better. In the West, she’s basically unknown, and in Montana, at least, an above-ground Green Party is basically non-existant, although I still try to keep up appearances, just in case a Jill Stein should happen to show up.

I vetted the idea of a Stein-Johnson debate to several GP leaders, including both of her campaign managers, and they encouraged me to contact the Libertarians, since they weren’t about to do that, themselves. So, I asked Ron Vandevender, a leading local Libertarian, if he might present the idea to his party leaders. Next thing I know, abracadabra, it’s on Tavis Smiley. And Tavis did a great job in the limited time available.

There was no posturing or attacks – just a solid discussion of the real issues – peace, military spending, foreign policy of fomenting wars and terrorism, etc. And there was remarkable agreement on most of these. Obviously, these two candidates (and Parties) are on the same side, just as the Republicans and Democrats are on the same side – for total destruction of the planet, just so long as they maintain the 1% monopoly on wealth and power.

========================

My two closest contacts (not exactly “comrades”) in the Green Party have been Jill’s campaign managers in the past two campaigns – David Cobb and Ben Manski. Cobb, the 2004 Presidential candidate (and General Counsel for Nader in 2000) had previously worked for the Jerry Brown and Jesse Jackson campaigns, and still maintains ties to the PDA. He also started the Move to Amend and Democracy Unlimited in Humbolt County, CA (against corporate power). Ben Manski (recommended to me by Cobb) was a leader of the Campus Greens (at Wisconsin, Madison) when I first became active in 2000. Now he is 42, and a professor at UC Santa Barbara, where I also worked for time.

Ben Manski managed the 2012 campaign, which used as its centerpiece a “Green New Deal”, which is a widely-used metaphor for what we should be doing. Both Clinton and Obama used it (or something similar) as a talking point, but the Obama version sank with a large subsidy to a solar producer which went bankrupt, costing taxpayers $1 billion or so.

Jill and her spokespeople keep saying they can make it work, but after the revelations in Part 1 of the debate on Tavis Smiley, it seems my worst fears were realized.

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/tavissmiley/interviews/presidential-candidates-dr-jill-stein-gary-johnson-pt-1/

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/tavissmiley/interviews/presidential-candidates-dr-jill-stein-gary-johnson-pt-2/
Now we know, as the Daily Beast reported, Jill is a certified capitalist, with an extensive portfolio including many bad companies, which she only recently “divested” from (her word), while her husband is still active in Merck and other major corporate brands. And she advocates all sorts of spending and government programs to address climate change, “picking winners and losers”, as Gov. Johnson puts it (and all Libertarians oppose) – a strategy which is absolutely doomed to failure, as are any sort of taxpayer subsidies to private companies or other “producers.” This is also obvious to the critics of the ACA, which is a vast scheme of taxpayer subsidies to fund compulsory corporate racketeering (in the guise of “Health Insurance” which is nothing of the sort.)

The same is true of producer subsidies anywhere else – agriculture is probably the worst offender. Those who really defend “free markets” (and most Republicans say they do), must be made to understand that any sort of taxpayer subsidies to private corporations totally negates free-market principles and the possibility of a beneficial market economy. Gary Johnson understands this very well, while Jill is still mired in “New Deal” fantasies of “minimum wages,” “full employment,” universal health care and free K-PhD public education.

Doesn’t this require a totalitarian surveillance over all economic activity (just as long as it stays out of our bedrooms and libraries, I suppose), and confiscation of the “social surplus” which is being stolen from the people by corporations? Or is it to promote some ill-defined “social justice” – usually more “government programs” or other state-directed policies to politically benefit those who support the Party, all the while protecting and bailing out the corporate elites. This is where libertarian principles can really make a difference.

The best policy in every case is to tax or prohibit the bad things (nuclear and fossil fuel industries, in this case,) along with chemical agriculture, the Military-Industrial-Education-Medical complex, and other major parts of “government” which are killing and enslaving us on a daily basis. This allows individual firms and co-ops to act as they see fit, subject to the usual general rules of accounting and business practice, torts (they cannot injure their neighbors, workers, or customers), etc.

If anyone needs subsidizing, it’s the poor who have no means to participate in the market economy. Give them some chips so they can play, and provide them with the necessities of life (food, clothing, shelter, health care, cultural enrichment, etc.) Then they won’t be forced into lives of crime, drug abuse, prostitution, and other rackets which depend on poverty and deprivation.

By outlawing all these things, a “black economy” is created based on exploiting others. And our present rules don’t distinguish criminal activities from an “informal economy” of barter and exchange, “under the table” wages, etc., which is absolutely essential for the survival of those excluded from the corporate state and its police power.

Most people only ask to be left alone to do their own thing. They’re not interested in politics, and if they participate at all, they’re usually led by some party officials to vote against their own (and everyone else’s) best interests. Fear is a strong motivation, and that is what the major parties use to maintain their power, along with some grandiose vision of American Full Spectrum Dominance over the entire planet. And that is what is costing us our freedom and threatens our very survival as a species.

“Natural Law” may in this case be taken literally – Nature is sovereign. We, as humans, cannot do anything which permanently alters and destroys the ecosystem on which we all depend for survival. This fundamental principle of Green Libertarianism follows Hayek in distinguishing between two kinds of law, and leaving most human activity to follow general rules and principles (enshrined in the English Common Law and other traditional systems) rather than a myriad of specific laws and regulations which no one knows about or understands.

If we are to be law-abiding, the laws must be simple and self-evident -not created by sold-out and ignorant legislators at the behest of corporate bosses, ALEC, union bosses and other special-interest groups and the courts which are now utterly dominated and overwhelmed by them….

====================

The Green New Deal

http://www.jill2016.com/greennewdeal

So, what’s wrong with the Green New Deal? I’ve written a lot about it, largely based on Gabriel Kolko’s “Triumph of Conservatism” (describing the original New Deal). But free market economists have always been critical of it, along with the phoney “Keynesianism” which they think underlies it.

In the first place, it’s blatant stealing (or at least unauthorized “borrowing”) from FDR’s New Deal. The Democrats have always charged that Greens are “stealing our votes” and trying to recruit members from within the traditional supporters of the Democratic Party. Now, Jill is verifying that charge.

The Greens are definitely the “idea party” with voluminous solutions to ever policy issue or question. Yet, Stein, acting as though she’s “really just a New Deal Liberal,” piggy-backs on something which all working people, minorities, and leftists in general once identified with. Even WWII veterans and those who think we somehow “won the war” because of FDR’s wise and skillful leadership, will automatically support a “Green New Deal,” won’t they? Not necessarily. That’s traditional political thinking, not Green Politics.

In any case, such people are largely gone. Even in the 1950’s and 60’s, the New Deal didn’t seem like such a good deal after all, so we had a “Fair Deal,” “New Frontier”, “Great Society” (actually a concept taken from Adam Smith), etc. And another war (or series of them) which FDR (an anti-imperialist) would have vehemently opposed, but which Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson pursued “with vigor.”

East vs. West

“Frontier” was the key metaphor in the West, and we continue in that frame of reference, whether it’s in biomedical resarch or space exploration. We don’t want to be “centrists.” We want to be on the edge (das Rand, in German), whatever we’re doing. We want to be unique individuals who work with other rational people for mutual aid and benefit, not to exploit the poor or enslave minorities, or be part of some unthinking herd called Democrats, Republicans, or “the majority.”

The words “New Deal” must always represent State Socialism and a strong central government which will overcome all the evils which exist in the backward rural areas and inner cities – primarily by disarming and imprisoning everyone who resists. Economically, the New Deal is widely reccognized today as American Fascism, and the opposite of anything really Green (“grass-roots Democracy”). It was a corporate deal to save capitalism from the surging socialists and populists who were outraged by the abuses of the 1% and the gangster fiefdoms created by alcohol Prohibition and the establishment of the FBI – a completely unconstitutional abuse of federal power… See any parallels with today?

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Vote your conscience, not your fears…

OK, forget the label “Green New Deal.” Am I voting for Stein? I wouldn’t if I thought a vote for Gary Johnson would be more “effective” or whatever in re-establishing National Sanity. I’ll let you know how I voted after the election. And I would encourage others to vote Green in every case – even if they offer a badly misinformed and misleading candidate. (People thought Obama was essentially Green, anti-war, pro-justice, etc., so few voted Green that year). I will even vote for a good Republican (we still have some in Montana – I need to talk some more with Ed Buttrey) over a bad Green or Libertarian.

Most of what is wrong with Stein is due to her Harvard education (which I must say, has also badly contaminated Denise Juneau, the Democratic candidate for Montana’s lone seat in the House). Indeed, they sound much the same on issues involving the academic elites, the need for more government spending, aggressive foreign policy, and more “success” in the existing educational and other public institutions.

Do we really want our schools and prisons to be more “successful” in establishing a Totalitarian State? That’s a distinction which Juneau, at least, seems to have missed, since she still supports fossil fuels and “Nuclear Deterrence” – easily among the top 5 threats to human life and civilization, and especially indigenous peoples everywhere. The idea of forcing people to spend more time in a dysfunctional “school to prison pipeline” is certainly nothing to be proud of.

I’ve heard nothing from her about less spending on prisons, the military, Homeland Security, or any other aspects of the National Security State. She seems to think she’s “supporting our Warriors” or something. Whatever “Peace Democrats” used to exist in Montana have largely been hunted to extinction. That’s simply not part of their platform anymore, and that’s why we desperately need for the anti-war candidates, whether Green or Libertarian, to be listened to and supported.

Meanwhile, the Montana Democrat and Republican parties continue their insane demands to foment more and more social crises with the War on Drugs and other ALEC initiatives to destroy the environment and any sort of independent politics and media. This is all in the name of “creating jobs” to make sure Montana-educated kids have jobs here at home – except that the most important ones, like manning the nuclear Doomsday Machine, are exclusively under Federal control. I imagine it’s much the same in New Mexico, yet their governor has allied himself with the forces of reason, culture, and peace, instead of the Military-Industrial-Complex.

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My home town of Great Falls, MT is presently being occupied by the most horrendous Doomsday Machine in history – 150-200 strategic nuclear “Minuteman” missiles which can deliver a couple of hundred thousand tons of TNT-equivalent almost anywhere in the world, in less than an hour (hence the name).

Imagine what people think and believe growing up in the midst of such a facility. “It’s just for Deterrence,” we’re told. “They’ll never be used.” But we should spend another trillion dollars to keep a “better version” for another 50 years? Only if we plan to use them, which is the big news apparently being suppressed for election purposes.

The following article from Global Research, a Canadian foreign policy institute, makes specific reference to Montana’s nuclear capabilities, but the numbers and technology is from the 1990’s. Half or more of the world’s nuclear arsenals in Russia and the US have been dismantled, but now there is another nuclear arms race underway….

http://www.globalresearch.ca/war-between-us-and-russia-could-be-sooner-than-later-the-danger-of-a-nuclear-war

Joachim Hagopian
Global Research, October 18, 2016
Region: Russia and FSU, USA
Theme: Militarization and WMD, US NATO War Agenda
In-depth Report: Nuclear War
PHS comments/corrections for this article…

When MIRVed, our Minuteman IIIs had three warheads each, not 8. It is Trident and MX missiles (once deployed in Wyoming, before being cancelled) which carry 8-10 IRV’s, and I believe that treaties have also cut down that number, perhaps to one per missile. Non-MIRVed ballistic missiles are much less destabilizing, since it’s a one for one deal (hard to explain, but everything about strategic nuclear warfare depends on “balance”, counterforce, and the preservation of a “deterrent” – which is really just a mental construct, not an actual military strategy).

Every military operation involves threats to a real or potential enemy. That is what “deterrence” literally means. But if a country is already in a state of hostilities like the fabled “Cold War” between the US and USSR, “deterrence” has no meaning. It becomes, in Helen Caldicott’s pithy phrase, “Missile Envy.”

Which guy has the biggest stuff? Who can intimidate the other in a cosmic game of chicken? That’s really all it is. And when we politicize it, and put it in the hands of the corporate crime syndicates posing as Republican and Democratic Parties, we are certainly asking for disaster, and probably suicide as a civilization, if not the human species, itself.

At some point, we must choose between supporting a military government, coup, or revolution which ends these policies, or the actual Doomsday which Democrats/Republicans are preparing for in the name of “National Security.”