Today we feature our weekly Retake Conversation, a fascinating exploration of bitcoin and its devastating impact on our efforts to combat climate change, plus a preview of our exploration of expanding the role of government. This is becoming a major focus of our research as Rethink explores alternatives to our current economic and political systems.
What We Are Reading
From The Natural Resources Council of Maine two pieces with an identical title: “CMP (AKA Avangrid) & Hydro-Quebec Have Spent Record-breaking $16.78M on Campaign for the CMP Corridor.” $16.78M in nine months is $62,000 every day for 271 days. This is what NM faces in its battle to prevent the megacorporation, Avangrid, from invading NM. You can bet that this kind of out of state, dark money will be flowing into NM soon, not just for ads with misinformation, but in donations for both parties. Stay tuned.
From Common Dreams: “$152 Trillion. That’s How Much Wealthy Countries ‘Drained’ From the Global South Since 1960“. This article focuses on the concentration of wealth over the past 60 years and illustrates just how pernicious our current economic system is.
From Inequality.Org: “Covid-19 and Inequality.” The article is certainly illuminating, but the two graphics below from the piece illustrate the obscene manner in which our economic and political systems have responded to Covid-19 both in terms of wealth distribution and vaccine distribution. If these two graphics, don’t convince you it is time for seriously rethinking how we organize our resources, I don’t know what will. This is obscene and as the quote from The Democracy Collaborative that follows describes, this is something we decide, this is not something that just has happened to us. Over many decades we have elected the folks who mediate how we share or hoard our resources.
Notice a trend? It is time to rethink this mess. See below for a preview.
Going Public: How Reversing Privatization & Rethinking the Role of Government Can Restore Economic Democracy
Reading matters. Over the past 2-3 weeks, I have devoted a good deal of time to deep reading. I finished Nick Estes’ Our History is the Future a remarkable historical retrospective of American imperialism and colonialism and Getting to Yes, a highly useful book on how to successfully conduct “principled negotiations” rather than “positional negotiations.” The latter will be most instructive in how we frame our arguments for legislation in the Roundhouse.
I’ve also been reading an array of research from Next City and The Democracy Collaborative focused on significantly expanding the role of government, reversing privatization, and developing initiatives such as publicly owned utilities and public banks. Finally, the reading that is pulling all this together is a book that Roxanne gave me for my birthday: Less is More by Jason Hickel. Look for a post on this book next week and we are going to launch a book club conversation for Less Is More for early June. We want to give folks time to purchase the book. For today, the graphics above and the quotes below frame the need for government playing a greater role in our lives. We need an authentic democratic process that can vastly expand the role of government, reverse privatization, and ultimately replace capitalism. From The Democracy Collaborative.
“By almost any measure, we are at a critical juncture. The pandemic has underscored both the need and possibility of deep, transformative change; and the many compounding dangers ahead. Stemming in part from capitalism’s damaging entanglement with the Earth’s natural systems, the pandemic has hit societies across the world with devastating effect. With state capacity hollowed out after decades of austerity, outsourcing, and privatisation, and labour markets shaped by insecurity and power imbalances, Covid-19 metastasized longstanding racial and economic inequalities and unequal outcomes, both within the UK and US, and globally. The virus may not discriminate, but our societies have been proven to, both structurally and systematically. The crisis has also accelerated the signature note of contemporary Anglo-American capitalism: the politically mediated upward redistribution of wealth.“From The Democracy Collaborative & Common Wealth: “Covid-19 and 21st Century Public Ownership”
The bolded text above is ours, as we want to reinforce that in so many ways we-the-people have watched the acquisition of the democratic process by the millionaires and billionaires and through that, the unleashing of an unfettered, greed-driven capitalism that is devouring our resources while hoarding obscene amounts of wealth. In Covid-19 and 21st Century Public Ownership The Democracy Collaborative points to how this transition from privatization to publicly owned industries and services can be effected.
“Public ownership has a key role to play laying the foundations of a transformative and prosperous twenty-first-century economy as we emerge from Covid-19, challenging the increasingly extractive, financialised, consolidated corporate form of ownership that is at the heart of these crises, and delivering real materialFrom The Democracy Collaborative & Common Wealth: “Covid-19 and 21st Century Public Ownership”
benefits to workers, citizens, and their communities.”
We will begin sharing the research we have been assembling about the options for public ownership, first with a deeper dive into “Covid-19 and 21st Century Public Ownership as it goes in to how having government eliminate patents on intelllectual property, assume management of the internet, and our media are all explored. We will then explore an outstanding piece on public banking from Next City. Finally, we will offer more from Less is More. So Stay tuned. And before you check out, please review What We are Watching as we offer two very different and very interesting videos.
What We Are Watching
5.8.2021. Retake Conversation with Yvonne Taylor, Co-Founder of Seneca Lake Guardian and Gas-Free Seneca. Taylor’s family has lived on Seneca Lake for seven generations. The lake is part of New York’s upstate Finger Lakes, a beautiful vacation spot centered around the wine industry, an industry that is being threatened by two Connecticut entrepreneurs, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. The Winklevoss brothers are identical twins and Olympic athletes, who were portrayed in the film “The Social Network” as a privileged pair of Harvard jocks who believed classmate Mark Zuckerberg stole their idea for Facebook. They have joined Zuckerberg in the billionaire’s club with their creation of the bitcoin.
I hadn’t known much about bitcoin’s, viewing it as some kind of elaborate Ponzi scheme. But in conversation with Yvonne I found that bitcoin “mining” is a threat to the Finger Lakes. The process of mining and securing bitcoins requires millions of gallons of water every day, drawn from the Seneca Lake to cool the thousands of computers used to create the coins. The water is then returned to the lake at 107 degrees. This overheated water poses an immediate threat to the trout that live in Seneca Lake and given the enormous amount of energy used to mine the bitcoin, it even poses a threat to New York’s and the nation’s capacity to reduce its energy use. It is that big an operation.
This is a fascinating story of a woman who had no history in advocacy, but who got active, co-founding Gas-Free Seneca and Seneca Lake Guardian to fight threats of industrial pollution to the rural community of the Finger Lakes. Gas-Free Seneca successfully fought an 8 year battle, defeating a proposed gas storage and transport hub along the shores of Seneca Lake in the heart of the Finger Lakes, which would have jeopardized a drinking water source for 100,000 people and severely damaged the community character of the Finger Lakes region. But now Seneca Lake faces an even more threatening industrial polluter from the Winklevoss brothers who created a bitcoin mining operation at the plant. Don’t look now, this is a trend among bitcoin operators who seek out old dilapidated coal fired plants throughout the country to convert into water guzzling bitcoin mining operations. This is a most interesting interview. When done watching, you may want to review this recent article from Motherboard that lays out how bitcoin is expanding to other communities with retired coal fired power plants. Look out San Juan!!
On Capitalism a Conversation with Yanis Varoufakis,
Formerly the Greek Finance Minister
Richard Welker frequently comments on the blog, especially on issues related to the economy. He offered up this comment and link to the Varoufakis talk in response to our recent post on capitalism and colonialism. He offered up what he feels is one of the best commentaries he’s heard on the subject of capitalism, a recent interview recently the former finance minister of Greece, Yanis Varoufakis. He suggests that the system we have now is not really capitalism but instead, post capitalism, nothing like the capitalism imagined by Adam Smith or later economists. It is actually a techno-feudalism, where everything is essentially owned or controlled by a very few major players whose relationship to government is synonymous. Since the financial meltdown of 2008 (along with the crash of 1929) the world has fundamentally changed. The financial sector has been completely decoupled from the commercial sector making the production of money far more lucrative than making things, products and services.
This decoupling has resulted in unbelievable amounts of money being ordered up by Congress to be printed by the Central Bank, distributed at negative interest rates to banks, who then practically give it away at zero or very miniscule interest rates to corporations, who in turn buy back their own stock, resulting in the value of their stock rising dramatically which in turn is tied to massive pay raises to the CEOs, an increasing spiral of income inequality and an ongoing demand for austerity policies that don’t work. He says we need 10 trillion a year to begin to address climate change and pandemics etc and the system is simply not going to do that with it’s focus on financial profits. Even taxing the rich is not going to fundamentally change the system. His proscription of examining who owns the corporations is among other things, very eye opening. Check out a most interesting exploration of the economics of post capitalism.
In solidarity, hope and gratitude,
Paul & Roxanne