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How Much Money is Out there?

18 Dec

PILES-OF-AMERICAN-MONEY

By Mike McGee

There’s a LOT more money floating out there in the United States (as well as in the rest of the world) than what is captured and quantified by the existing monetary measurements of the Federal Reserve (and other central banks). I call the real money and assets not measured by the Federal Reserve the “Second Economy.” Here I will focus on the United States, though the same logic may be applied to any other country which has a robust central banking system. Continue reading

Bush 43’s Biggest Mistake

18 Nov

Historical_Mariginal_Tax_Rates

By Mike McGee

The biggest mistake made by President George W. Bush was that he did not insist that the US congress impose a temporary war tax or surtax as a way of financing the incursions into Iraq and Afghanistan and the international War on Terror (including Homeland Security) after September 11, 2001.

A cursory review of history shows that at least from the time of the US Civil War in 1861, a temporary war tax or surtax was imposed by the president or by congress to pay for each American war. This includes the relatively insignificant Spanish-American War, when tariffs and other taxes were raised substantially, and temporarily, to pay for that little conflict. Continue reading

Philanthropy: To Boldly Go Private Sector, Part Five

2 Jul

From www.mcgeepost.com .Copyright © 2013 Michael H. McGee. All rights reserved. Please feel free to share or re-post all or part non-commercially, hopefully with attribution.

In Parts One through Four of this series we have set up the nature of the problem with philanthropy and the quest for solutions. It will be easier for you to understand this concluding Part Five if you have read the preceding three parts. They are long, yet worth the effort.

Don’t let your death bequests be the measure of your generosity. “What are you doing for the rest of your life, the north and south and east and west of your life?”

The big challenge is: what do you do with all that money you’ve made. Once you reach a certain level of wealth there’s really not much to spend all that money on but more of the same. There’s been a great accretion in money over the last fifty years, but not any concomitant increase in what you can buy with it.

I’ve generated the term “accretion” to describe the phenomenal growth in the supply of money over the past fifty years. “Inflation” is a specific increase in the level of consumer prices over time.

The massive accretion of the available supply of money has made a lot of new billionaires and multi-millionaires. Yet the value of this vast accretion of money is highly questionable. Once you have your life-line stash set aside, then all the other dollars or euros are almost as useless as measures of “value” as the green leaves on trees, which turn brown and fall off each autumn.

For most wealthy people, those extra accreted green-backs are little more than toys on a board-game. All you can really buy with them is more of the same of what you already have. This is why you’re so eager to give this extra money away to charity at your death. They mean so little to you now except as a score-card. www.thegivingpledge.org is a death list of the wealthy, who with their on-line pledges are erecting their tombstones now.

Yet to the economy as a whole, those leaves on the trees are the foundation of the stability of the United States as a nation, or the stability of whatever nation you are from. Your “toys” are the vital blood and bone of the nation as a whole. Think of this larger picture instead of feeling the uselessness of simply “having.”

I’m not saying twenty first century philanthropy should ignore the rest of the world and focus solely on your own country. What I’m proposing is the well-known truth that a person or a country cannot help another person or country unless the helping person or country is strong and healthy in its own right.

First-world countries around the globe, including the US, are doing great harm to themselves with their own internal financial stability crises. How can a floundering nation actually provide either charitable or market-based solutions for the developing world, if we can’t manage our own markets and put our own people to work? The G-8 and G-20 need to take care of these First Things first, and the rest will follow naturally as a benefit to the whole world.

The first thing you can do to give more meaning to your wealth is to get actively involved, using your money, clout and financial acumen, in working to repair the great debt and liquidity messes which are now plaguing the G-8 and G-20 nations. If 105 billionaires applied themselves to the current financial mess in these nations, in a creative and intelligent way, stability would return to the world markets in a much shorter time than with the current chaos.

Next, “give away” more of your fortune within the private sector. Use some of your personal wealth as tax-deductible grants to your companies to give pay raises and substantial bonuses to your employees – all of them. Owners of Wal-Mart, pay close attention here.  Direct that your companies give pay raises, bonuses, and better benefits out of corporate funds to all the employees in your home country. This increase in wage costs may cause a temporary distortion in stock prices, yet things will settle as your employees are able buy more consumer goods, or pay off student loans faster: or, they get more invigorated with energetic loyalty to their employer and produce better results.

Those at the top who generate the results in your companies are not just the CEO. There are at least five levels down in management where results are either made or lost, plus many technical people who are absolutely critical. All of these management and technical people should have substantial increases in pay and bonuses and benefits, which reflect their critical part in the results obtained.

It is really horrible from a true business point of view that the ignorant public and the so-called “Occupy Wall Street” protesters have made it more difficult for financial employers to give large bonuses to their traders and other executives. Such large payments, and similar activities, are a core part of twenty-first century philanthropy: paying people for the value they bring to the enterprise, rather than bidding salaries and wages solely at the lowest market rate.

Bill Gates has already proven beyond a doubt that paying people more than market wages and bonuses is a turbo-charged wealth creator. Thus he’s one of the harbingers of twenty-first century philanthropy: releasing great sums into the private sector and profiting thereby.

Twenty-first century philanthropy also involves improving tax-paying employment and consumer prospects in the United States (or in your native country, if another). In the last fifty years the United States has virtually ceded the playing field for manufacturing to the rest of the world. Now is the time to take it back.

Those manufacturers in China and Bangladesh and other emerging nations will not have to suffer too much. If they raise the wages in their own factories, then they’ll be able to sell their manufactured products to their own people. If they don’t figure this out, then they will suffer at their own hands. It’s not our problem.

We have no moral obligation to “assist” third world countries by throwing money at them and buying their products, regardless of what Angelina Jolie and George Clooney say. Investments should be made only if they can produce a profit: and twenty-first century philanthropy says we have a “moral obligation” to assist the economy of our own country, which has taken a real beating lately; and our unemployed and poorly paid citizens.

Bill Gates and Larry Ellison and Paul Allen and the other tech billionaires could start building factories inside the United States to make the machinery and equipment which is necessary to build electronic parts. The next step is to build factories in the United States to assemble these electronic parts, and facilities inside the United States to package and distribute the assemblages at a wholesale and retail level.

Intel is already leading the way by chunking more than $10 billion into constructing the one-million-square-foot state of the art Fab 42 plant in Arizona, building another major manufacturing plant in Hillsboro, Ore., and upgrading other facilities in Arizona, Oregon and New Mexico. See http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/tech/news/2011-03-28-intel-manufacturing.htm .

Intel is going against the grain of twentieth century thinking by not worrying too much about any added costs of making their products inside the United States. They will succeed mightily. They will succeed even more fully if other electronics makers follow their lead and choose the United States as the place to build their manufacturing plants.

The Walton family has up to now succeeded with Wal-Mart primarily by buying manufactured goods from China and other developing countries at the lowest possible price. Then they foist off these cheap goods onto a public which can’t afford to pay more because either their own wages are depressed, or they are out of work or otherwise struggling to make ends meet. This is the classic twentieth-century principle of hollowing out the economy, and then selling cheap to the hollowed out people.

Many of the Walton family members also, admirably, practice twentieth century philanthropy. They set up non-profit foundations, give to local charities around the country, and show a quite decent level of generosity. What I want to do here is to push them, and other retail giants, to look into the possibilities of twenty first century philanthropy as an outlet for their inherent generosity.

It’s definitely not just Wal-Mart. It’s absolutely amazing how many of our sellers of consumer goods are forced by the market to put on their shelves only goods manufactured in developing countries. I was shopping in a local neighborhood Ace Hardware the other day, when I began to look at the labels. I was shocked to see that almost every product on the shelves was manufactured in China. This would not have been the case even five years ago.

Twenty-first century philanthropy for retailers involves, among other things, improving tax-paying employment and consumer prospects in the United States (or in your native country, if another). In the last fifty years the United States, led by Wal-Mart, has virtually ceded the playing field for clothing and other retail goods to the rest of the world. Now is the time to take it back. Wal-Mart will need to lead the way, since no one can really compete with them by being the first to raise wages and prices.

Start, Wal-Mart, with raising wages and benefits for your retail store employees and managers, all the way to the top. Then stop playing games with the grocery business; it’s not your core competency. It will hurt you in the end, but not until it seriously impairs a thousand retail grocery chains. Then set your best and brightest planners and managers to a new task which is absolutely within your core competency, and will represent twenty first century philanthropy.

Since Wal-Mart and Amazon and others know retailing, and already inspect quality and set standards in factories around the world, building and operating manufacturing plants inside the United States should be a no-brainer. Start by building factories inside the United States to manufacture the machinery and equipment which is necessary to install in factories to weave and sew textiles and make rope and plastic goods and other things.

The next step is to build state of the art textile mills and dye houses and cut and sew facilities inside the United States. Also build plastic stamping plants and facilities to make rope and paint and other goods, inside the United States, and facilities inside the United States to package and distribute each of the finished products at a wholesale and retail level.

Knowing something of the company’s supply-chain philosophy, Wal-Mart may be more comfortable with making investments in other enterprises inside the United States to make these products locally and sell them to Wal-Mart. In any event, even if Wal-Mart shrinks temporarily on the retail side, the manufacturing side will increase profits in the long run.

It’s really hard to imagine having “textile mills” in the United States again. I grew up in North Carolina and textile mills were a way of life, and a part of the lifeblood. Now I doubt you could find even one textile mill in North Carolina.

The Walton family members may want to use some of their individual wealth in building or funding these manufacturing plants inside the United States. In any event, put the money to work in a way that will make a difference to your country and your people, and still make a profit.

Kurtis Lockhart, an economist and writer in Vancouver, Canada, says “he truly believes that social enterprises – using market-based solutions to address social problems – will begin to replace traditional philanthropy and conventional corporations in the 21st century.” Although his views may be somewhat extreme, his thesis that “market-based” solutions are necessary is consistent with what we’ve been writing here.

He focuses on third-world countries and how social enterprises may help them. I have a very different focus, however. My focus is that our own country, the United States, will have continuous bumpy economic conditions over the next years unless we apply “market-based” solutions to our own economy. We are a very strong country, yet we are not invulnerable. There’s plenty of kryptonite out there, and we need to get our twenty first century philanthropy in gear sooner, rather than later, to give our country the chance it needs to ride smoothly through the next hundred years.

And only if the United States and the other G-8 and G-20 nations are strong and prosperous, will developing and third-world
nations find any traction in their own serious efforts to move ahead economically. Only the strong can help the weak. It’s that simple.

 

Philanthropy: What To Do In Its Place? Part Four

1 Jul

From www.mcgeepost.com .Copyright © 2013 Michael H. McGee. All rights reserved. Please feel free to share or re-post all or part non-commercially, hopefully with attribution.

In Parts One through Three of this series we have set up the nature of the problem with philanthropy and the quest for solutions. It will be easier for you to understand this Part Four if you have read the preceding three parts. They are long, yet worth the effort.

As we’ve already mentioned, Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet have set up a challenge to the wealthy of our time to give away at least half their assets to charitable and other non-profit organizations by gift or bequest. This challenge is described in the Internet site www.thegivingpledge.org . As of now at least 105 billionaires have signed this pledge, which is not binding yet illustrates the generous nature of those signing.

I’ve shown how doing so will unbalance the overall economy even more than it’s now already unbalanced. If this pledge is fulfilled, then the “dead hand” or mortmain burden on the economy will grow to where it becomes stifling to the living, breathing, private enterprise part of the economy.

So therefore I suggest that The Giving Pledge recur to a philosophy which has proven effective through almost three thousand years of history. The pledge should be for billionaires to give away at least ten per cent of their assets to charitable or non-profit purposes; and to find ways to use at least half of their assets to engage in creative yet profit-making projects which involve some degree of risk in return for possibly pumping up their country’s private economic base. Remember that if your country’s economic base falters, your wealth will falter also.

Cease the nineteenth and twentieth century ideas of ensconcing all your generosity in your dead body. Not only is it rather morbid to do so, it deprives you of much present pleasure in the life you have yet to live. We’ll show you how to first feel safe, and then let your generosity drive your daily life. You can make generosity a part of your DNA right now, and for as long as you live. We’ll give you several twenty-first century principles, and many examples, of how this may be done.

A first principle of twenty-first century generosity is to love your government in a tangible way, and pay your taxes. We will again approach the second concept laid out by the greatly respected New York industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper (1791 – 1883) in his 1871 address to Cooper Union students:

The individuals to whose lot these fortunes fall . . . should never lose sight of the fact that they hold them by the will of society expressed in statute law….

Those who are eager to give away charitable money as a “tax dodge,” to prevent the government from getting their greasy hands on their money, are engaged in very short-sighted thinking. It is the very existence of our federal, state and local governments which has made it possible for us to have a stable social and economic society where wealth may be accumulated in vast amounts.

America is still the Land of Opportunity. A strong and stable government, under our Constitution and laws, and our reasonably adequate tax revenues, are the primary basis for the opportunities which are presented to our citizens to make large amounts of money.

Even in other countries such as China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, India, Russia and the European democracies, there is no certainty of holding onto wealth where the government is weak and unable to generate stability in either daily life or in financial transactions. For a government to be strong requires a steady flow of tax money. (Borrowing alone – issuing government bonds – will not forever preserve the steadiness of our or any other government.)

At least 95 per cent of the 1,342 on the Forbes 2013 list of billionaires operate in countries which have reasonably stable governments and reliable tax revenues. See for yourself at the site:  http://www.forbes.com/sites/luisakroll/2013/03/04/inside-the-2013-billionaires-list-facts-and-figures/ . Trust me, though; it was quite tedious to go through that whole list.

If the owners of great wealth continue to be as stingy with taxes as they have been, a weakened central government will undoubtedly take a great toll on their ability to hold this wealth, as time goes by. Step up and pay your taxes as they are due. Stop hiding all your assets in the Caymans or in other tax havens to avoid taxes. Cisco Systems, stop holding all your cash outside the US to avoid paying legitimate taxes on repatriation of the funds.

Don’t try to chisel the tax-man. Don’t fight so hard for loopholes, or to keep tax rates on the rich at super-low levels. Such chiseling is no more than a way of saying that you don’t like our system of government and would rather see it go away. It’s simply not patriotic. If we are going to have a country to be patriotic about, we need to pay the bill.

One who chisels the tax-man is really not much different in philosophy and effect than a communist agitator or a radical militant who wants to destroy us. Such a person is definitely not a patriot. It really irritates me that great flag-wavers want to prevent the government from getting enough tax revenues to avoid having to borrow so much from China. It’s not patriotic; it’s subversive, and contributes to government instability.

Even Carlos Slim Helu, one of the world’s richest men, will not be likely to be able to hold on to his wealth if the Mexican government collapses from want of revenue or descending into chaos. Mexico is one of the countries where the government is unstable and tax revenues are unreliable. The country is almost a war zone. Carlos Slim, watch out. Pay your taxes or you’ll lose your shirt. When your government falls apart, who will be there to sustain the legitimacy of your vast telecom monopoly?

Mr. Slim, look at the example of Bill Gates. Use your influence to help drive out corruption and drug cartels. Lower your monopoly prices, and pay your employees enough for them to live full lives. Acting alone, like Henry Ford did a hundred years ago for the US, you, and you alone, have the power to begin the development of a stable middle class in Mexico.

This change in the direction of stability will not come about from you making charitable contributions. It will come about from your assisting the government and paying taxes; and from using some small part of your wealth as payroll to generate a middle class in your home country. With the current instability in Mexico, you may be in the situation of “use it or lose it.”

Now let’s turn our attention away from taxes and toward the best principles of wealth for the twenty-first century, and how they play into the desire to be charitable. Remember here that we’re talking about those individuals who have considerable personal wealth. We need to show in some details the emotional issues that get in the way of a genuine charitable impulse.

The greatest barrier is fear of loss. This prevents most wealthy persons from being generous in their current use of their wealth for creative and fun profit-making projects. Getting creative and having fun is the anodyne for fear. Focusing on giving away money at death is the handmaiden of fear. So we must go into these two psychological issues before we can get to the fun part of using large sums of money now for creative and pleasurable projects, rather than focusing on death as the trigger for the first outpouring of generosity.

You will NEVER be in a position to intelligently play with or give away your money or any part of it during your lifetime unless you feel more secure in your personal life, and feel free from the possibility of losing everything. Being serious about everything is for fearful and anxious people. When you already have a lot, you can fearlessly use what you have to play with investments or to fund good ideas. You and your family can also freely enjoy the good things in life, as long as you aren’t constantly obsessing about fear of loss.

I’ll bet your wife and children and other relatives will like you much better if you can be more playful and feel more freedom in your life decisions. Then you can bequeath the bulk of your assets to those you love, knowing that they may care more about your purposes and intents than they did when they hated you for always being gone or always being in a foul mood.

I’ll bet that a lot of cocaine use and abuse of uppers, even excess drinking, comes directly from the fear and anxiety about imagined losses. If you can be calmer in general, you won’t need to pump yourself up so much and cause the personal damage attributed to the use of high-voltage drugs and alcohol.

The first principle is that charity begins at home. It’s my experience that most individuals with great personal wealth are always afraid of The Next Thing that will wipe them out and leave them living in a poorhouse. Actually, most people feel this way; it’s fairly normal. However, those with wealth feel it more acutely. They have a serious standard of living to protect, and they are more aware of the vicissitudes of the market place due to having participated in it at a high level.

There are several things Benjamin Graham’s book The Intelligent Investor has to say about the psychology of wealth. The first is a quote from financier Nathan Mayer Rothschild: “It requires a great deal of boldness and a great deal of caution to make a great fortune; and when you have got it, it requires ten times as much wit to keep it.”

So the primal psychological burden of wealth is that each person who has actually made a fortune knows, deep in the gut that “when you have got it, it requires ten times as much wit to keep it.” This knowledge is a deep and intractable burden. I’ve got to be ten times as good as I already was, in order to keep what I have. I don’t know if I have that level of drive and intelligence in me. So I face the bleak prospect of ending up losing everything and ending up in the poorhouse, no matter how well I’ve done in the past at wealth-building.

The second psychological burden was identified by Kahneman and Tversky, who have shown in academic studies that the pain of a financial loss is more than twice as intense as the pleasure of an equivalent gain. So once you have it, the prospect of losing it looms twice as large in your emotional makeup as the joys associated with what you’ve already done to create your wealth. This generates a fear that will never to be entirely overcome once you reach the upper reaches of finance.

The third point from Graham’s book is on a more positive note. “The whole point of investing is not to earn more money than average, but to earn enough money to meet your own needs.”  And as your wealth grows, your and your family’s needs increase, and this is normal and natural.

Yet you will always need to keep a distinct focus on meeting the natural needs you and your family have developed due to your increase in wealth. It can keep you looking over your shoulder to make sure that aggressive creditors are not suddenly foreclosing on the wonderful homes you have in New York and Denver and Hong Kong.

So the first point is that each individual person of wealth needs to set up an ultra-stable “life-line” fund, grouped in his or her own name and in the names of family members, or in trust for the same. At a minimum the fund will be $100 million dollars; and the maximum might be ten per cent of individual wealth, i.e. $7 billion equals a life-line of $700 million.

Those with less yet significant total wealth may need to put more than ten per cent in their life-line fund. For example, a person with $50 million would probably want to put $10 million into the fund, or twenty per cent of assets. This may limit his or her future abilities to grow by tying up part of the wealth, yet having a settled mind and a secure sense of the future is well worth the sacrifice.

In any case, this life-line will assure than even if every single dollar of other funds is lost in a major financial debacle or through an imprudent fling with a Bernie Madoff, you and your family will for the rest of your lives have enough to live on, even if not quite at the same level as before. You’ll never be poor again. You’ll never again have to worry about sinking into the poorhouse and begging on the street corner.

The life-line fund should be totally separate from any other assets. The money should be invested only in ultra-safe assets such as government bonds, or whatever other ultra-safe assets you can think of that I don’t know about because I’m not in the business. Don’t let your desire for quick increases guide these investments. The benchmark should be safety of principal only.

Use this life-line only if some enterprise may fail but for a small immediate withdrawal (to be repaid soonest), or if the rest of your fortune goes away or gets tied up in some very damaging way.

After establishing these funds, consider deeply the true promise of these funds, until you are satisfied according to your own feelings that you and your family will never again be without significant resources, no matter how bad your future business ventures go. Then let go of the fear of loss of everything. You’ll be surprised how much anxiety will be eased and fears erased once you’ve conquered your fear of loss and degradation.

I’m sure some of you have already set aside life-line funds, or have significant family trusts. Yet have you gone through the emotional process of lessening your anxiety over the prospect of total loss? One man who seems to operate rather fearlessly is Sir Richard Branson. I don’t know his internal fears though. He may just be putting on a good front.

There is a part two to the formula for protecting your “life-line.” It involves making sure that you or your family cannot incur personal liability for business ventures made with the rest of your money, some of which are bound to go south over time.

Part two involves making sure that all the rest of your money is isolated in separate corporate or partnership or trust forms that do not implicate your personal assets. The only way to be dead-certain that a creditor cannot “pierce the corporate veil” is to make sure that each of the many corporate or other entities you set up are well-funded with part of your remaining money, for the purposes for which they are intended.

Most of the time, when the veil is pierced and personal assets are attached by creditors, it is because an operating company is only a “shell company” with little or no personal funds of the investor at risk. As a wealthy person you have enough money to make sure that each of your working entities is provided with a meaningful share of your money, consistent with the business purpose of the working entity. Then you can borrow more, or issue stock, without fear it will come back against your life-line funds.

A second and equally significant concern must be taken into account. Never, ever, establish a retirement or pension fund for any of your employees, except for special circumstances, where you or your company are guaranteeing the value of the funds or the payout at maturity. Always grant such funds to self-directed employee accounts such as 401k’s, or into separately managed fund accounts that do not impose any performance obligation on the part of yourself or your company.

One thing the twentieth century has demonstrated for certain is that well-intentioned efforts on the part of companies or individuals to guarantee retirement benefits for employees are doomed to failure, and these obligations can bring down even the best-run enterprises. Just don’t do it. Ever. Resist any and all union efforts to impose such an obligation as you would resist walking into the cage of a wild tiger.

Once you’ve established your life-line funds and managed your fear of failure, you can go about being much more creative in the investment of your remaining very sufficient funds. For example, Sir Richard Branson has founded Virgin Galactic, an airline to take people into low space orbit for a fee. I assume he intends to make a profit from this business, yet if he doesn’t, at least he’s had some fun with the resources available to him.

In summary, put a value to your comfort, and protect that value. Then invest for profit in things that are fun or are dear to your deepest longings. We all have inside us a set of half-formed wishes. Often we suppress those wishes out of fear of losing everything we have. It’s a vicious cycle: it’s time you stepped off your self-imposed circular stairway to the stars.

There are many things you can do with your money as a substitute for philanthropy. I’ll give you a few tastes here; then wrap up a comprehensive theory of profit versus philanthropy in the twenty-first century in the next and final part of this series.

Here’s an idea. Set up the first company to build a nuclear-powered desalination plant. Put it on the coast of Texas. Pipelines could carry the potable water from the plant across Texas and Oklahoma and New Mexico, to the areas where drought is most prevalent. Electrical companies have made profits from nuclear generated power. Why shouldn’t nuclear generated fresh water be able to make the same level of profits over time?

Similar nuclear-powered desalination plants could be built in various desert areas of the world, as long as the technology is protected from conversion into explosive nuclear weapons.

Here’s another idea. Buy tangible assets such as buildings from the US or state governments, with the stipulation that the purchase price must be applied against government debt first. At the same time negotiate a long-term lease; say thirty years, which is supported by the full faith and credit of the government.

Or, buy a US airline and turn it into a consistently profitable enterprise. This Holy Grail seems to have eluded most business leaders since the 1940’s.

Here’s another idea. Hire a group of extremely smart individuals, pay them very well, and give each of them a part of the executive authority for your companies or holdings. You will keep control of the big picture and make the moves that are your signature ways of making money that others don’t have.

Yet it’s probable that seventy-five per cent or more of the things you do on a daily basis have little to do with the core competencies which helped generate or hold your fortune. Let the others do these things, and spend more time with your family and friends, and doing those unprofitable things which may be your heart’s desire.

But you must be certain that I am not the best fountain of business ideas which are novel and which might even be fun to work on. Your own business sense is the best guide as to what to do. What I’m demanding is that you release yourself from the fear of loss. Then your own ideas will tumble out, creatively and even playfully at times; and you will have the resources to make them happen.

We’ll continue with more ideas, and cement the relationship between wealth and twenty-first century philanthropy, in the fifth and last installment, at https://mcgeepost.com/2013/07/02/philanthropy-to-boldly-go-private-sector-part-five/

Philanthropy: First Take, then Give! Part Three

25 Jun

From www.mcgeepost.com .Copyright © 2013 Michael H. McGee. All rights reserved. Please feel free to share or re-post all or part non-commercially, hopefully with attribution.

How easy is it today to justify paying the lowest possible wages and charging the highest possible prices, only to accumulate a huge amount of money which you fully intend to give away? Take what you can, in the rough and dangerously competitive world of business. Then, later, be the benevolent and respected bearer of charity to those less fortunate than yourself.

This philosophy was developed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as the very model of a modern businessman and his relations with those around him. The principles did not derive from any natural law; they came from the fertile imaginations of the new rich of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Some believed that they were following a “moral law,” yet there is no sustained basis for such a moral law as “take and give.” It was simply these men’s justifications for their actions in regard to their money.

Andrew Carnegie, described in my last post, was one of the authors and proponents of the described philosophy, which has endured until now. Now is the time to re-tool this able and yet entirely imagined (as opposed to, say, spiritual) philosophy, to be in tune with the needs of the twenty-first century.

Note well that the principles I’m proposing here are also entirely imagined. There needs to be a reasoned and wide-ranging debate over what new principles are appropriate for the twenty-first century. Obviously I don’t have all the answers. I’ll give you my take on things. I’m sure there are many others who are better informed than me who will have much to say. Any useful final well-imagined philosophy will be a synthesis of the best ideas from the best persons.

Please let me tell you a story which will illustrate the underlying capitalistic principle of the ownership of money, which I adhere to and which informs what follows. I was an arbitrator in a case where a man with an $85 million net worth had entered into a contract with a producer of goods who had little money. The deal was that the wealthy man would buy the entire output of the man for a good fixed price per unit, which would be beneficial to the producer.

Within a few months the producer was sending mostly lesser quality goods to fulfill his contract, and had arranged to sell his better quality goods on the open market outside the contract. At the arbitration the producer’s explanation was that the wealthy man didn’t really need the money, so he was justified in what he did, and the contract should continue. The wealthy man was very angry, and said that whatever money he had was his, down to the last dime. The producer had no right to assume he would not miss a few thousand dollars funneled outside the exclusive contract.

I ruled in favor of the wealthy man and against the small producer of goods, and the contract was voided. This producer was then angry at me, since he had a sense of entitlement to the right to siphon off part of the goods he’d contracted to provide to the wealthy man.

To this day I am confident that I made the correct decision. No one, and I mean no one, has the right to take another person’s money without that person’s permission: even down to the last dime. I use this rather commonplace case to let the reader know that even when I’m throwing out barbs, I’m not trying to say anything intended to take away the right of a person to decide how to use each and every dime he or she has. What I’m doing is suggesting new alternative uses for wealth, and encouraging new ideas. It’s entirely up to the person with the money to decide if he or she likes these ideas or not.

Let’s go back again to the nineteenth century. Another man who propounded the “take and give” imagined philosophy was the greatly respected New York industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper (1791 – 1883). Among other things his wealth came from designing and building the first steam locomotive in the U.S. He also founded the non-profit Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in Manhattan, New York City, which is still a major force for good.

In his own giving, he relied on the “take and give” principle of the time that it noble for a wealthy man to use “for the benefit of society” much of the wealth taken from the sweat of the brow of thousands who worked for him. Are those who depended on him for wages any less members of “society” than the beggar in the street?

Cooper and Carnegie, and thousands of others, had no hesitation in paying the lowest wages possible, so as to be able later in life to give it all away to other unfortunate persons. There is something vaguely capricious and mendacious about “taking” (low wages, no benefits) from those who rely on you, so that you can “give” (graciously charitably) to those who may not have the necessities of life because they were unable to get anything but low-paying jobs.

There is also something a little contradictory about an owner spending a lifetime earning great “profits” from the sweat of his own brow; and then turning his profitable results over to the “non-profit” sector. I can’t even begin to understand the psychology which generates such an incongruous and conflicting view of life. Yet it remains as soothing as mother’s milk to the wealthy.

Peter Cooper was not afraid to preach the imagined philanthropic philosophy, which also influenced men like Carnegie. Cooper probably didn’t, though, realize that in one of his more famous speeches he was pointing the way to the future.

In an 1871 address to Cooper Union students, Cooper said, “I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that the production of wealth is not the work of any one man and the acquisition of great fortunes is not possible without the cooperation of multitudes of men; and that therefore the individuals to whose lot these fortunes fall . . . should never lose sight of the fact that they hold them by the will of society expressed in statute law, so they should administer them as trustees for the benefit of society as inculcated by the moral law.” (Emphasis added)

There are two lasting concepts in this remarkable paragraph which we may be able to use for our instruction today in our new analysis of charitable giving. I will take the principles one at a time and analyze each separately.

First, Cooper said, “The production of wealth is not the work of any one man and the acquisition of great fortunes is not possible without the cooperation of multitudes of men.” Here is one of the principles which may well guide a twenty-first century philosophy of giving.

Bill Gates seems to have always worked from this principle. No matter how much he distributed terrific salaries and munificent bonuses to his many employees, people kept throwing money at him and his wealth grew in an almost uncontrollable manner. It is easy to see that Mr. Gates fully understood the principle that his fortune was based on the cooperation of multitudes of men (and women); whether they were employees, or contractors, or buyers of the product, or the lowly tax collectors.

Now let’s look at Warren Buffet. He is one of the richest and at the same time most beloved men in America. Warren Buffet has likely never mistreated an employee, and never paid them too little for them to live comfortably; even though on the surface he seems more beholding to the old “take and give” philosophy.

I doubt there are very many who begrudge him his wealth. He earned it the old fashioned way, and he approaches the world with a deep humility and a ready smile. So as you might imagine, my discussion of his alternatives comes only from respect and admiration.

He’s already announced that at his death most of his $53 billion dollar fortune will go to charity. Specifically, his money will combine with that of Bill and Melinda Gates to make a formidable world-wide non-profit institution. As I’ve said, this is a good thing for him to do. His brilliant idea of combining assets should go through, in a modified form. As I’ve also said, we should not encourage other billionaires to follow his example.

This description is intended to introduce some of the new principles which should be applied to twenty-first century charitable giving, and give them form by applying them to one man’s situation.

I feel that Mr. Buffet has lived his whole life in an attempt to avoid public praise which would result in too many people idolizing his works and treating him like a rock star. In that respect he is a little like the most fabled detective of the nineteenth century, Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had Dr. Watson describe Sherlock Holmes as follows:

In recording from time to time some of the curious experiences and interesting recollections which I associate with my long and intimate friendship with Mr. Sherlock Holmes, I have continually been faced by difficulties caused by his own aversion to publicity. To his somber and cynical spirit all popular applause was always abhorrent, and nothing amused him more at the end of a successful case than to hand over the actual exposure [of the perpetrator] to some orthodox official, and to listen with a mocking smile to the general chorus of misplaced congratulation…. My participation in some of his adventures was always a privilege which entailed discretion and reticence upon me.

So I feel that Mr. Buffet has avoided the blatant giving away of money to charity because he couldn’t handle the praise and the acclaim which would follow his doing so. His emotional makeup is such that he really can’t handle a lot of personal praise. He wants the praise deflected to others, while he goes about being the genius behind the scenes.

Among other things he created GEICO, which has offered unusually low auto insurance rates to consumers, and at the same time forced down the insurance rates charged by other insurance carriers. He’s handed over the actual credit and public exposure for this activity to a green gecko, and carried a mocking smile at the degree to which consumers actually identify this green gecko as the source of their lower rates.

Likewise, all throughout his career the employees and managers of the companies he owns have been paid enough that they are almost always glad to work for him, or for Berkshire Hathaway. He can explain to his stockholders that it was the financial markets which were responsible for the increase in the value of their stock, not his own personal genius.

All this dodging and humility have kept him out of the limelight except as a mythical figure who still lives in the same house he started in, and who takes a hamburger takeout bag to a dinner among the movers and shakers; and who never takes personal credit for what he quietly does from day to day. He’s not a miser; he is just constitutionally unable to accept praise for giving things away.

So he wants to give to charity, and yet he can’t bring himself to give anything away during his lifetime. After he dies he won’t have to recoil in horror at the honors stacked to his name by his generosity. He can go in peace, and only after going let the chips fall where they may.

So, using twenty-first century principles of charity, and combining these principles with a desire to avoid personal glory (as well as preserving the existing Gates-Buffet charitable partnership) what can you do right now, Mr. Buffet?

Take about half of your personal fortune and parcel it out to your various operating companies. Your instructions will be that this money is to be given by the companies (not by you) as bonuses and service rewards over a two or three year period to the employees of these companies at every level, from top to bottom. This money should be tax-deductible to you as going toward the operating expenses of your companies.

In this manner you will be able to implement the timeless principle expressed by Peter Cooper: “The production of wealth is not the work of any one man and the acquisition of great fortunes is not possible without the cooperation of multitudes of men.” In addition, this money will return to the private sector and be recirculated in the private taxable economy, and not be held out as a non-profit burden on the profit-making sector.

Then, set aside a meaningful amount, several billion, of your remaining personal wealth. Make either gifts or bequests to your family and friends and others closest to you, along with those you have admired who may have fallen on hard times (think Muhammad Ali). If you give it to them directly you may have to endure their voluptuous admiration and thanks; so you may want to make some of this in the form of bequests.

To avoid direct giving, set up a separate company, now, to hold the funds involved in present-day gifts to family and friends and those you admire. The corporation would make the gifts anonymously and pay the gift tax.

Your separate company could even make gifts to individuals to whom you have no connection. I’m sure you remember the 1950’s TV show The Millionaire. Each week John Beresford Tipton, whose face was never seen, gave Michael Anthony a check for a million dollars to deliver to a stranger. (One million dollars in 1955 had the same buying power as 8.45 million dollars has today.)

Then, once all these things are done, bequeath the rest of your estate, maybe $22 billion, to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Remember, earlier I stated that in the future, billionaires should not give the majority of their estates to non-profit purposes. However, the partnership already forged with the Gates Foundation is a necessary part of creating a world-wide charity which can take on the really big problems of our time. I’m sure they will be happy to get $22 billion, instead of $53 billion. This will still be one of the world’s largest philanthropic organizations, even if you cut your bequest in half.

With respect, one small final thing, Mr. Buffet. My consultant’s fee for this assistance to you in dividing your assets according to modern principles is 22 million dollars. You may email me at mm@mcgeehome.com to get the mailing address to send your check to me. I will use much of what you send to expand the minuscule writing and scientific projects I’m currently working on, and to help my daughter, and to attain the freedom for me and my family to do as we want to do. Yes, I’m a good person, so there will be no waste. And I won’t gush. You’ll get a two-line handwritten thank you note for whatever you send, as is required by propriety, for helping to fulfill my daydreams.

We’ll continue in the second of five parts of this essay, at https://mcgeepost.com/2013/07/01/philanthropy-what-to-do-in-its-place-part-four/

Philanthropy: Bill Gates and Mortmain, Part Two

19 Jun

From www.mcgeepost.com .Copyright © 2013 Michael H. McGee. All rights reserved. Please feel free to share or re-post all or part non-commercially, hopefully with attribution.

We established in Part One of this series that the twentieth century concept of charitable giving was a most elegant and powerful way to address the problems of society. The blessings granted to our country and world-wide by charitable giving are without doubt of the highest order of magnitude. There was no caution, nor necessity for caution, in the unlimited and vast charitable giving to non-profits in the twentieth century.

We also asserted that at the present time in history, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, we must exercise great caution in the encouragement of individuals and companies to continue to contribute vast sums to non-profitable charitable institutions. The basic problem is that the size of the non-profit sector of the economy has grown so large that it threatens to put a drag on the free-enterprise capitalist economy, and on the ability of government to function.

With about 13.3 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the United States now in the non-profit sector, we can identify some of the drags on the economy. One of these drags is that this portion of the economy is forever taken out of the tax-base of the nation, thus reducing the ability of the governments at all levels to raise money for necessary public purposes. For some givers there is great pleasure in the “tax dodge.” Unlimited tax dodging, though, will weaken our nation; and it is our nation which gives these privileged individuals the ability to make such lavish sums of money for themselves. Think about it.

Another drag on the economy is the mortmain, or “dead hand,” which I explained in Part One. An estimated 36-40 per cent of the GDP is currently pulled out of the private sector by the federal, state and local governments. When combined with the estimated 13.3 per cent of the GDP pulled out of the private sector by non-profits, the “dead hand” of frozen economic activity reaches an estimated 49.3 per cent of the GDP.

The government has been about the same size for a long time. Of course we should make sure that the government does not grow, and cut it back if possible. In this series, though it is the additional growth of huge and vast assets in the non-profit sector which is of concern, as it threatens to put us over the fifty per cent mark in the “dead hand” portion of the overall economy.

It’s as if during the twentieth century we were playing with a non-profit sector which was like a tiger cub; cute, playful and certainly not dangerous. Now, in the second decade of the twenty first century, the cub has grown into a full-size tiger; which will engulf us and tear us apart limb from limb if not kept caged. Yet most of those among us still see the non-profit sector as the playful cub; ignoring the growth in size, strength and unpredictable danger inherent in the full-grown beast.

I claim that the efforts of Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates to encourage the rich to give away the majority of their vast fortunes over into the non-profit sector, including and especially through their site http://www.givingpledge.org , are tantamount to playing with a dangerous grown tiger which has the strength to engulf the nation in a “dead hand.” No one wants to believe mortmain will occur, yet history tells us otherwise.

England over its existence of a thousand years has had to deal with the problem of mortmain, the “dead hand,” at many points in history. I assert that now may be the first time in the more than 200 year history of the United States when the question of mortmain really does need to be dealt with. English history confirms that the problem when it arises is serious and worthy of the most vigorous efforts to contain it. Such is the case in the United States right now.

Throughout the history of the country many of the wealthy have given large portions of their assets to charity. It’s just that until now there haven’t been quite so many wealthy persons; and those with wealth didn’t have so much money as now. The excessive accretion of assets in the non-profit sector over time has not been a problem. Well, all these things are a real problem now; and are beginning to threaten the very basis of private enterprise, and the growth of individual wealth by new and vigorous entrepreneurs.

Let’s look at two stories of storied philanthropists, to see how things have changed. The first is Andrew Carnegie, who grew to fortune in the last years of the nineteenth century. The second, Bill Gates, grew to fortune in the last years of the twentieth century.

I take much of my information about Andrew Carnegie from the 2002 book Carnegie, by Peter Krauss. He was not much of an admirer of the man, yet set aside the editorializing and his facts seem fairly accurate.

Carnegie made his fortune in the late nineteenth century steel industry. Almost all the forward innovations of this time required steel as their basis, so he was a primary technology provider of the day. He worked tens of thousands of men for long hours under dangerous and unsanitary conditions in his steel mills, and paid them the least amount he could get away with. Many of his best men lived in small shacks with hardly enough to support their families, and many died young from the stress of the steel mill.

Carnegie never wavered in his intent to keep wages and other costs down, and make the greatest profit possible for himself. He was known as one of the “robber barons” of his time. Yet the industries he built created the very soul of the modernization of America in the last decades of the nineteenth century. He was truly a great man and a very rare innovator, and of course he had a free-market right to make as much profit as he could squeeze from his businesses. He became one of the world’s wealthiest individuals of his time.

At about the end of the century Carnegie sold off all of his holdings, in return for $300 million dollars in gold-backed bonds, which he kept in a vault in New York. At the same time he announced that he intended to give away to charitable purposes almost all of this money he held in the vault.

Using only a CPI inflation measure from 1913 to the present, at www.inflationcalculator.com , the current value measure of his gold bonds would be more than $7 billion dollars. He did what he said he was going to do, establishing libraries and schools and other charitable endeavors all over the country. $300 million dollars was a fantastically huge amount of money at the time, so it took him a great deal of time and energy to find various ways to give most of it away. And as with everything else he did, he succeeded. His greatness as one of the mythic figures in the history of the United States is still at this time beyond debate.

And yet look at the paltry nature of the fortune he gave away, $7 billion in today’s dollars. In looking at the 2013 Forbes list of billionaires, he would be about number 153 on the list with the “great wealth” he possessed back in the year 1900. The world was very different back then, and really even throughout most of the twentieth century. Wealth and charitable giving had a much different meaning when one was giving such small sums of money to non-profit purposes. The non-profit, or mortmain, sector of the economy thus grew very slowly in the twentieth century.

The second storied philanthropist is Bill Gates, along with his wife Melinda. Gates made his fortune in the late twentieth century computer industry. Almost all the forward innovations of this time required computer technology and programming as their basis, so he was one of the primary technology providers of the late twentieth century.

He worked tens of thousands of men and women on comfortable Microsoft campuses around the country, and paid them very high wages. His bonuses to all employees were legendary. It is said that in one year in the 1990’s he paid out $25 billion in bonuses to his employees, and yet at the end of the same year his net worth had increased by $35 billion. His company still gives out over $1 billion a year in bonuses, and most of his company’s employees are loyal and also very comfortable in their personal circumstances. He’s fairly easy to get along with, and always has a smile.

Thus he is one of the legendary businessmen of the late twentieth century, and will remain so in the history of the times. The industry he built created the very soul of the modernization of America in the last decades of the twentieth century. He was truly a great man and a very rare innovator. He had a free-market right to make as much profit as he could squeeze from his businesses, yet he shared the wealth with his employees and kept down the prices of his products as much as possible. He remains one of the world’s wealthiest individuals of his time.

His present net worth, again according to Forbes, is $67 billion. Remember, this is his and Melinda’s personal net worth, not counting his charitable work. So over many years he shared the wealth with his employees and contributed heavily to charity, and he still has this much left over.

In the 1990’s he established what is now the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a non-profit entity which grew until it now has about $37 billion in assets, according to the Foundation’s Consolidated Statements of Financial Position, dated December 31, 2012.

Early in the twenty first century he retired from Microsoft to devote most of his energies to charitable work. He and Melinda have joined together with Warren Buffet to manage the foundation. Buffet has already given money to the foundation, and has pledged to give much of his $53 billion net worth to the foundation at the time of his death.

Buffet’s addition will create what will undoubtedly be the world’s largest non-profit charitable organization. As I said earlier, this is a good thing. We need one or more über-foundations to take care of the largest problems in the modern world, which is now populated with 5 billion more people than at the turn of the twentieth century.

Look at how things have changed between the times of Carnegie and Gates. The amount set aside by Carnegie for charitable giving was a paltry $7 billion in today’s dollars, and this amount represented most of his personal net worth. The amount set aside by Gates for charitable giving is right now $37 billion, and he still retains a personal net worth of $67 billion.

Thus the stakes in the charitable giving game have gone up phenomenally throughout the twentieth century, until right now the amount of money currently set aside in the non-profit, or mortmain, sector of the economy is so significant that it could affect the future of capitalism and free enterprise, and erode the tax base of the nation.

So what can we suggest to do with all this money these billionaires obviously want to give away – if it’s not given to charities and other non-profits? There are two avenues of approach. First, tax legislation is probably quite necessary. Second, we must offer alternate means of giving which will serve some of the generous and eleemosynary intentions of wealthy givers. We’ll explore these questions in the next portion of this five-part series, at https://mcgeepost.com/2013/06/25/philanthropy-first-take-then-give/

Philanthropy: No Longer the Answer? Part One

17 Jun

From www.mcgeepost.com .Copyright © 2013 Michael H. McGee. All rights reserved. Please feel free to share or re-post all or part non-commercially, hopefully with attribution.

The gurus of twenty-first century philanthropy are Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet. Between the two of them they have made plans for merging their wealth and creating the largest charitable foundation of our time. This is a good thing. There is a need in each historical period one or more charitable organizations of overwhelming size. Many of the social needs of our time demand large infusions of money from a single organization if the problem is to be overcome or even if it is to be addressed at all.

buffett_bill_melinda

Yet these three are also engaged in another activity which is not such a good thing. They’ve formed a group called www.thegivingpledge.org . The purpose of this group is to encourage all other wealthy people to give a majority of their assets to charitable purposes either during their lifetime or at the time of their death. As of April 2013, 105 billionaires have signed the pledge.

There is a huge and growing economic and social danger in encouraging these wealthiest of individuals to place so many more billions, even trillions, of dollars into the charitable sector. Especially when so many hundreds of thousands of other – not quite so wealthy – people are placing an aggregate of additional billions in the charitable sector at the same time.

The idea of unlimited charitable contributions was a very salutary and most excellent principle throughout the twentieth century. Why is this same patently good thing not so great in our current times? In this series I will first describe the problem in as dramatic a way as is possible when discussing accounting principles. Then I will offer alternatives to charitable giving; and in these alternatives you will see the new direction I am attempting to take charitable givers.

The danger is that the non-profit sector of the economy may grow so large that it will impair and erode the ability of the overall profit-making and individual enterprise share of the economy to function in the way that capitalism was designed to function.

All these massive new infusions into the non-profit sector will soon be competing with the private sector, eroding the tax base (non-profits are not taxed), and making it difficult for the individual to succeed unless he attaches himself passively to either the government sector or the non-profit sector. As a first thing to look at, note that the rise in the size of the government sector is legitimate yet excessive, and needs to be controlled and limited just the same as the non-profit sector.

Let’s look at the numbers. I think we will all agree that the government sector of the economy is not engaged in private enterprise except when contracts are let to private companies. The government sector also pays no taxes on its income, assets or other revenues. Right now about 26 per cent of the overall economy is in the federal government sector. When you add the state and local government sectors the percentage could go as high as 36 to 40 percent of the overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which is not engaged in private enterprise or paying taxes.

The below chart shows one person’s estimate of government spending. The term “f” means federal spending; the term “l” means local government spending; the term “s” means state government spending.

I cannot vouch for the accuracy of this information or these statistics. It is true, though, that many thoughtful people are very concerned about the growth in overall government spending and want to do as much as they can to either stop the growth or shrink the percentages. As the percentage of the GNP in the government sector grows, the economy becomes more of a mixed socialist state and less of a free-market capitalist state.

us_total_spending_full

So if we add the government spending numbers to the volume of the economy in the non-profit sector, then the portion of the economy in the free-market capitalist sector declines even more. As we will see as we go along, the non-profit sector is absolutely not a part of the free-market economy, and presents challenges to the continuation of our capitalist society.

It is very difficult to get exact numbers for charitable and religious and other non-profit organizations (non-profits), since their reporting is not uniform. An estimate is that at the present time about 10 per cent of the GNP is in the non-profit sector. In 2010, public charities reported over $1.51 trillion in total revenues. (I assume a total GNP of about $15 trillion.)

This reported figure does not include all non-profits, and includes almost none of the religious non-profits, which are not required to report to anyone. For this computation I have abstracted the assumption that combined religious organizations, including churches, have revenues of another 33 percent, another half-trillion dollars; for a grand total revenues of about $2 trillion dollars in tax-exempt non-profits of all kinds.

This addition brings our total percentage of the GNP in the non-profit sector to about 13.3 per cent of the GNP. When combined with the government sector, the total  revenues come to at least 49.3 per cent of the GNP.

(Further, the total value of fixed and tangible assets (as opposed to revenues) of reporting non-profits in 2008 were $4.34 trillion. Again, this does not include non-reporting non-profits, nor does it include religious non-profits. I’m sure assets have grown since then, though I can’t find the numbers.)

Such an exalted ascension of the charitable sector at the present time in history thus threatens to undermine the profit-making sector and individual enterprise, which is at the core of what has made America great.

I offer the example of England. In the Middle Ages there came a time when charity was so exalted that the church ended up owning as much as a third of the property in the country. Gradually the rulers began to realize that such non-profit, non-taxable ownership was sapping the will of those who would grow the economy and those who would labor as well.

The property and money given to the church was permanently in the hands of the church and could not be sold or transferred to anyone. There was no way for individuals outside the charitable sector to either gain ownership by purchase, or to pass on such property to the next generation by way of descent. Such property in the end became a “dead hand” on the economy of the nation.

This problem became known as “mortmain,” and became abhorrent to those who knew that the growth of the nation depended on the free transfer of assets and by passing on assets to the new generation. In English law, the state of land being held by the “dead hand” (French: mort main) of a public entity or charitable group, became an important condition to limit and control.

In feudal days a conveyance of land to a monastery or other public entity deprived the lord of many profitable feudal incidents, for the public entity or other charitable group was never motivated to sell, was never a child or an adult, never died, never committed a felony, and never married.

Statutes were consequently passed between the 13th and the 16th century seizing many mortmain assets and prohibiting the transfer of land or other assets into mortmain without license from the crown. Modern English law is contained in the Mortmain and Charitable Uses acts, 1888 and 1891, and in a number of acts that authorized some non-profit companies and some other entities to hold land without license in mortmain. An unauthorized conveyance into mortmain made the land liable to forfeiture to the crown.

This mortmain law is very similar and yet much more restrictive than the current US law which requires that a charitable organization register with the Internal Revenue Service and be granted a license to engage in non-profit, non-taxable activities. In fact the current American laws are so lax that almost anyone can create a non-profit, non-taxable entity, as long as they fill out the forms using the right catch-phrases and recitations.

The Internal Revenue Code describes approximately 30 types of tax-exempt organizations. Examples include universities, hospitals, charitable organizations, social welfare organizations, religious activities, labor unions, trade associations, fraternal societies, and certain types of political organizations. There is a great deal of heft in the tax-exempt portion of the economy.

Mind you, I do not intend to come across as being against public and private charity. Many non-profits have been a part of what have made our country great. Other non-profits have reached out to the world and helped to correct problems which government and private enterprise could not address.

I am solely addressing the current twenty-first century trend toward all the wealthy giving a majority of their assets to the non-profit sector, and the unchecked growth of the non-profit sector, and the effects of such growth on the economy of the nation. Such unchecked growth is a valid twentieth-century phenomenon, which promises to throw the economy out of whack if the concept is not adjusted to account for present conditions here in the twenty-first century.

There will eventually be a high price to pay in the ascension of the mortmain “dead hand” as a portion of the economy. Right now about 13.3 per cent of the GDP is in the non-profit sector; non-taxable and non-transferrable.

Also, right now approximately 36-40 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is in the governmental sector at all levels. This property and revenue is not subject to taxation, and cannot be transferred at will in and out of the private sector. I consider the government, however, to be just as much a “dead hand” as the non-profit sector, as we have defined it.

This means that at the present time at least 49.3 per cent of the GDP of the United States is currently operating under a “dead hand.” It cannot be taxed, and cannot be transferred at will in and out of the private sector. This large proportion of the economy of our country is entirely outside the reach of the private sector, and cannot really contribute to the advancement of capitalism except as it spends money to hire people and buy services from the other 66 per cent of the private economy.

Sources of these statistics are the Urban Institute, National Center for Charitable Statistics, Core Files (1998–2008); the Internal Revenue Service Business Master Files, Exempt Organizations (1998–2008); and “The Nonprofit Sector in Brief:” Public Charities, Giving, and Volunteering, 2010, Kennard T. Wing, Katie L. Roeger, and Thomas H. Pollak; “2011 Index of Economic Freedom,” by The Heritage Foundation.

So right now our private capitalistic economy really has an input over only about 50.7 per cent of our total Gross Domestic Product. As a direct result, the private sector is becoming more and more dependent on the “dead hand” portion of the economy to create income and profits. People must passively find work within the “dead hand,” and become dependents within the economy, rather than entrepreneurs or individualists.

Do we really want to make it worse? We’ll continue in the second of five parts of this essay, at https://mcgeepost.com/2013/06/19/philanthropy-bill-gates-and-mortmain-part-two/

Global Warming, Part Four

2 May

From www.mcgeepost.com .Copyright © 2013 Michael H. McGee. All rights reserved. Please feel free to share or re-post all or part non-commercially, hopefully with attribution.

To summarize, there is significant evidence that there is not a big danger for the earth as a whole from global warming or population increase. According to the World Meteorological Organization www.wmo.int, globally-averaged temperatures in 2011 were estimated to be .7° Fahrenheit (0.40° Celsius) above the 1961-1990 annual average. The WMO does acknowledge that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are at historically high levels. The combined statistics, though, seem to be saying that greenhouse gases are not a major threat to the planet.

A significant portion of this small increase in globally-averaged temperature increases can be attributed to natural fluctuations such as population increase, changes in weather patterns around the globe, and even to very small changes in the tilt of the earth as it rotates.

Even so, the public is inundated by charts showing catastrophic geometric progressions of warming, destruction, and chaos. All these projections are entirely speculative in nature, and have no basis in reality. Most of us humans can’t really say with certainty what will happen tomorrow, much less next year.

Although we have no Starship Enterprise, nevertheless we boldly go where no man has gone before: setting up secondary markets for carbon credits, shutting down or hobbling legitimate manufacturing facilities, establishing ever tighter emission controls for motor vehicles. All these and more are expensive, short-term, popular, and unproven solutions to very ill-defined problems.

The short-termism can be seen as coming from the “Information Age” where every opinion (including mine) and every catastrophic event is presented in real-time to everyone in the civilized world. Worried people demand immediate action on these fragments of information.

I urge those who believe we are on the edge of the extinction of mankind to look deep inside your own soul and face what you fear most in your own life. Get past these personal fears in your own life, and you’ll get to a place of YOUR OWN harmony with the earth.

Don’t be so quick to blame corporations and plastic bags and the burgeoning multitudes of souls for the woes of the earth. Be very slow to blame all the natural phenomena which are arising as nature adjusts in its own way, a way which we can’t control. Try to stop focusing on doomsday and the need for quick, unproven and very expensive “fixes” for the earth.

There’s more than a little delusion of grandeur within individuals, when they believe they and their politicians can “save the earth” from ultimate destruction. The earth will adjust as it will, and magnificent policies and billions in spending won’t change a thing. The changes which are ultimately needed are changes within ourselves which will remove fear and restore personal harmony inside our bodies, in our relationships, and in our communities.

The “New Earth” requires new visions, not new rounds of blame and finger-pointing. The first vision must be stirred within each of us. Only then can we find adequate solutions for the actual problems which confront us with regard to global warming and the environment.

Let me give one example of “New Earth” thinking. We can say with some degree of certainty that there will be a rise in sea levels due to global warming. So why isn’t anyone looking at the coastal areas in the United States and around the world that will be inundated or flooded by the rise in sea level? We need to begin right now to find ways to encourage people to relocate from areas which will be inundated by the ocean over the next fifty years. If we start now, the long-term consequences will not be severe.

Governments can stop issuing building permits for areas within zones likely to be affected by the rise in sea level. The government and private insurers should phase out the issuance of flood insurance policies in these areas. Banks should avoid giving thirty-year mortgages in such areas. Planners should begin founding new city centers on higher ground not far from the old cities which are in these areas. It takes all of us, working together, to adjust with the least amount of pain to the rising sea levels.

New Orleans is a prime example of an urban area which will be significantly affected by the rise in sea levels. Brad Pitt should stop encouraging the rebuilding of New Orleans, and should never have started doing so. There should never have been any rebuilding. The city should have been, and still should be, moved to higher ground. When coastal floods such as Hurricane Sandy wipe out homes there should be no new building. Find a location on higher ground, and flood insurance proceeds can be used to build in the new location. The government should begin to phase out new construction of levees in flood plains, and mortgage lenders should stop approving new mortgages in flood-prone coastal areas. And so on. If we all work together, the relocations will not hurt too much.

More significantly, governments at all levels should announce right now that they will not use tax money to pay for private losses due to rising sea levels. Give people advance warning that they are on their own if they persist in coastal flood plain building. The rising sea levels are an entirely natural phenomenon. The government didn’t create the problem, and tax money paid out to those who ignore the warnings is a grave misuse of the system (except for help with immediate disaster relief).

There seems to be a lot of male testosterone flaring up in the current “solutions” to global warming. We have to tear down smokestacks, spend money to dig and bludgeon the earth into submission. There needs to be an infusion of feminine energy in the process, to achieve a spiritual balance in the process of reaching toward the “New Earth.” Here’s a quote I found in John Steinbeck’s classic novel, THE GRAPES OF WRATH:

“We got nothin’, now,” Pa said…. “Git so I hate to think. Go diggin’ back to an old time to keep from thinkin’. Seems like our life’s over an’ done.”

“No, it ain’t,” Ma smiled. “It ain’t, Pa. An’ that’s one more thing a woman knows. I noticed that. Man, he lives in jerks – baby born an’ a man dies, an’ that’s a jerk – gets a farm an’ loses a farm, an’ that’s a jerk. Woman, it’s all one flow, like a stream, little eddies, little waterfalls, but the river, it goes right on…. We ain’t gonna die out. People is goin’ on – changin’ a little, maybe, but goin’ right on.”

“How can you tell?” Uncle John demanded. What’s to keep ever’thing from stoppin’; all the folks from just gittin’ tired an’ layin’ down?”

“Hard to say,” she said…. “Just try to live the day, just the day.”

Let’s now summarize what we’ve learned about global warming and population. First, the “New Earth” is a warmer place than at any time during human history, and greenhouse gases are here to stay. Second, the “New Earth” will always have a greater population than it’s had at any time in human history.

There’s an old expression, “If you can’t beat ‘em, then join ‘em.” Trying to roll back global warming, through megalomaniac efforts to stop industry, commerce and transportation from releasing carbon into the atmosphere, is not feasible. We now have in place sufficient laws, rules and regulations to prevent or reduce most of the preventable noxious discharges. Adding more of the same will impose an intolerable burden on industry and commerce and will have little or no effect on global warming and carbon emission.

Much of what now passes for environmental activism is actually untethered fear-mongering. “Sensationalism, whether for good or ill, sells,” says Robert J. Samuelson in his 2010 book The Great Inflation and its Aftermath. “We may weaken our productive machine by…. an uncritical reaction to the possibility of global warming that may cause us to undertake costly policies that, in the end, do little to affect global warming but do weaken our economy’s performance.”

Dr. Bengt Skarstam has said flatly that global warming may be a good thing. HOW CAN THAT BE????? First, Dr. Skarstam lives in Sweden, which is a very cold country. From his perspective a warmer Scandinavian region may make life a little more comfortable for himself and all his fellow countrymen :>)

Yet there is a great deal more insight involved in Dr. Skarstam’s statement. First, we can’t reverse global warming. So let us re-cast it from being a “problem;” make global warming an active part of the “New Earth” solutions which will inevitably emerge from the fertile and sometimes febrile imagination of the scientific community. With the active acceptance of global warming, new political and social ideas will inevitably arise which do not involve the repression and destruction of commerce and industry. With seven billion souls on the planet, we need huge increases in commerce and industry in order to alleviate the poverty which strangles so many of our fellow planetary citizens.

I’m not trying to gloss over the difficult changes we will see as a result of global warming. I’m simply trying to point out that there are some benefits the planet will gain. We are already seeing that the melting of the Arctic ice cap is opening access to vast new deposits of high value ores and oil reserves, which could be sufficient to supply a warmer world for the next hundred or more years beyond our currently identified available resources.

What if all the ice on the island of Greenland melts? According to the CIA World Factbook, Greenland consists of 2,166,086 sq. km (410,449 sq. km ice-free, 1,755,637 sq. km ice-covered); a land area slightly more than three times the size of Texas. It is owned by Denmark, which has a total land area of 43,094 sq. km. Assuming there are oil and ore deposits under the Greenland ice pack, little Denmark could become a major world economic player as a result of global warming.

It’s also fairly certain that mankind will evolve or adapt in a fairly short time to the increased levels of carbon and heat in the atmosphere. We don’t know exactly what this Darwinian evolution will look like, yet it will happen, and it’s an established scientific theory that most of the evolution of our species has been in the direction of greater strength and intellectual capacity.

One of the many problems created by increasing population and global warming is a greatly increased worldwide competition for increasingly limited supplies of fresh water. Some of our more evolved and febrile scientists will inevitably come up with economically feasible ways to desalinize sea water and remove contaminants from industrial and human waste water. Current methods are just too expensive for widespread use. Although the developed world does a good job of removing contaminants from waste water, there is not any structure at all in place for the most part in countries like India. And even the developed world is struggling with the negative consequences of too little fresh water per se.

One possible near-term solution is to set up thousands of acres or even hundreds of square miles of sea-water evaporating pans; which will be heated by sunlight to remove the largest part of the salt or contaminants by simple distillation. Then powered plants will only have to remove the “last ten per cent” of the salt or contaminants, making them not so expensive. Huge fields of warming pans could be set up in central Texas, or even in the deserts of Iran. Ocean water could be pumped to the distillation fields. The resulting fresh water could be distributed using networks of pipes like the spokes of a wheel.

The point is, if we accept the inevitability of a warmer and drier earth, even embrace it, we will inevitably find solutions to the problems which must be solved. As long as we spend our money and energy on fighting the problem, and relying on the sensational, we will overlook things which can make the “New Earth” a better place for life of all kinds to exist and flourish.

So it’s mostly fearful thinking and feeling which separates us from the benefits of global warming. Living in fear is also one of the characteristics of an unhappy person. If we can evolve to a loving acceptance of these things we fear, our lives will be much more contented. We will also be in a better position psychologically and emotionally to make the best of the world we have and to create the “New Earth” we all so ardently desire.

To use the language of Robert J. Samuelson in a different context, the real source of our environmental errors is in the prevailing doctrines. Blaming industry and commerce for the increase in global warming results in a smug and ruinous complacency, which allows us to lash out at a scapegoat rather than looking at what we can do right now with what we have right now.

Once we reduce our fearful and desperate quest to stop global warming and population growth by our “righteous” and simplistic attacks on industry and commerce, we can clear our heads and concentrate on ameliorating its effects. Most of the time, the demonstrable things we can actually do to “dance with” global warming and population growth are ignored, in the rush of panicked thinking about stopping global warming and population growth, which we can’t do.

A global rise in sea levels is one of the most certain consequences of the “New Earth.” Yet most opinion leaders and scientists have nothing to say about what actually needs to be done when sea levels rise. There is a huge mental disconnect brought on by fear of the loss of property values in coastal properties and low-lying cities. Planners can begin by drawing boundaries around coastal areas which are projected to be flooded or unusable if there is a three-foot rise in sea level.

Drawing these boundaries, though, will result in an immediate and irreversible loss in property value for all buildings and land inside the three-foot boundaries. These losses in value can be ameliorated to some extent if these same planners give projections that the three-foot sea level rise will not occur for fifty years, or for whatever is a responsible and supportable time frame.

Probably more than half of all the homes and buildings in the three-foot zone will already be twenty or thirty years old, which means they will retain value for most of the rest of their useful life. Raw land and the land under existing structures will not retain much value, though. There will be considerable financial losses for coastal land-owners and developers. Planning will need to include refusal to issue building permits for new structures.

Perhaps the government could set up a fund such as the FDIC, and owners can pay in each year, with some payout to be made when land or a building is actually lost. The government should not be looked to as responsible for paying for these natural losses which are the inevitable result of a warmer planet. By starting now, though, the private losses will occur over a long period of time and will be more manageable.

Right now almost no one is looking at the obvious and knowable actions that need to be taken. Simplistic battles against the earth as it is make better headlines, and are easier to deal with than absorbing the more complex strategies necessary to adjust to the changes which will happen within the lifetimes of our children. It’s easier to devote ourselves to despair than to look with love at the world we actually have, and live on it gracefully.

This is part four of a four part series.

Global Warming, Part Three

1 May

From www.mcgeepost.com .Copyright © 2013 Michael H. McGee. All rights reserved. Please feel free to share or re-post all or part non-commercially, hopefully with attribution.

Thus it may be deduced that global warming caused by population increase is a natural process, and not an artificially induced phenomenon. Global warming may actually be an integral and necessary part of the “New Earth.”

Such acceptance is an advanced form of wisdom. We would not have the world we have today without the great increase in population and global warming. The population increases, and the warming of the planet, are keys to our current existence.

Before 1927, when both these natural phenomena began, there was really no way to confirm our existence on a planetary scale. All our existence was fragmented and for the most part local. The current tribalism evident in Afghanistan and other societies underscores the local nature of earlier existence. Communications were difficult and travel from one place to another was to take your life in your hands. It was probably somewhat colder in places like Sweden and the Arctic than it is now. Being warmer can be a good thing, therefore.

Even more so, without the population increase, there would not likely be a sufficient “customer base” for the launching of new technologies such as fast cars on fast highways, oil, gas and water pipeline systems, and the Internet and cell phones and crowd-sourced computer applications; not to mention ground-based rapid transit systems and the fastest travel by airplane. We would likely never have put a man on the moon; South Africa would still be a primitive apartheid-based society.

And without population increase and global warming, both of which are natural processes, our scientists and innovators would not be motivated to develop more efficient methods of energy production and use, and better ways of marshaling the resources of our planet. We would not even be having this discussion if the population were still two billion. Furthermore, it’s not likely this discussion would be propagating globally via the Internet if the population were still two billion souls.

Another major issue which is brought to the forefront by population and global warming is the subject of corporate responsibility for emissions and pollutants. Corporate responsibility was not even a term in use back in 1927 when the population was only two billion. The dumping of the detritus of production at the factory gate was the norm back then.

I remember when I was a child, in about 1955. There was a creek that ran through an area of woods where I played, in the small town of Lexington, North Carolina. I was amazed by the rainbow of colors in this creek. One day it would be bright red, the next day bright green, and another day it would be bright yellow, and so on. Fortunately, I was just concerned enough to stay out of the water. There was a fabric dyeing plant nearby, and they were dumping their untreated dye residues directly into the stream.

Most corporations inside the United States are doing considerably better at handling their wastes and runoffs than they were back in 1955. They are showing at least some degree of corporate responsibility, and it is appreciated. So in this essay I’m not going to hammer too much on corporations. I’m going to look at the flip side of the problem: the politically correct and seemingly magically effective solutions offered up by the environmental establishment: the green advocates.

If only we could get our government to agree on forcing companies to meet carbon reduction targets, and to buy and sell carbon credits. If only we could spend multi billions of government and private dollars on wind and solar power. If only, if only. The list of impractical and expensive solutions goes on, and no one seems to be questioning the long term effectiveness of these more or less academic ideas; and no one is really questioning whether we even need to do these things.

No one is asking whether any of these environmental “solutions” will “cure” the “disease” which may actually be a natural process, which we can live with if the genius of our scientific and political leaders is applied to direct solutions such as increasing the efficiency of internal combustion engines and reducing the weight of vehicles and other equipment used for freight and personal transportation.

After we accept the reality of a changing earth and an increasing population, what we need is to find ways to imagine actual scenarios in the future and begin to invent processes and things right now to cope with these grounded visualizations of the next thirty to fifty years of the earth.

The “New Earth” we live on demands us to care deeply about how we spend our money, and how we adjust to the changed living conditions which did not exist even 85 years ago.

What about those who believe in their hearts that global warming and environmental pollution is the greatest disaster the world has faced, and the world must act decisively to combat these threats to our planet?

Marinette Forbes-Magno has a master’s degree from the Asian Institute of Technology, and has researched energy issues in Thailand as a professional. She’s a member of my family and is visiting in my home as I write this. She says that global warming brought about by massive population increases will inevitably lead to major environmental disasters. These natural disasters will wipe out the excess population and only after this happens will we return to a more normal way of living. This is not necessarily the way it will happen, she says, yet it’s one way to look at it.

She’s worried, that’s for sure. Yet she’s not a doomsday prophet, she’s simply a well-informed concerned citizen. The label of doomsday prophet belongs to the loud and robust environmental activists and politicians –think Al Gore – who are constantly bombarding us with messages that we have to do what they tell us to do; and spend billions to implement schemes of dubious or unproven effectiveness to “reverse global warming” (Bill Clinton’s words).

The label of doomsday prophet also belongs to the lurid and showy television pundits, and the networks with 24-hour news cycles which must be filled with words and pictures – think CNN. They get better ratings if they really scare people with the rash predictions made by interviewees with personal agendas, and the endless loop reporting on every storm and earthquake on the face of the earth.

My daughter Michelle Kathryn McGee, www.healinggeneration.com is concerned that what I’ve been saying about the environment in my series of blogs is a convoluted justification for constant striving rather than constant being — which means being willing to face contradiction fearlessly at every turn. She is personally concerned about the degradation in the quality of life brought about by global warming, yet global warming per se is not the problem. There is, she says, a bigger need for a raising of human consciousness, and she wants each person to take on BEING the solution to a different, more important set of problems. It’s not our planet that is the problem, it’s the level of consciousness and awareness each of us brings to our everyday living that is the problem.

The environmental activists are pushing a hundred doomsday scenarios; rivaling the preachers of the “end times” rapture, where only the saved will be taken into heaven. These dramatic doomsday scenarios are endlessly looped to the public and to the politicians, until everyone believes in them regardless of the evidence to support them. Believing in such disasters is much easier than if someone says we must examine our own personal levels of consciousness to find our way home, and take personal responsibility for our part in what happens next.

Pushing “easy solutions” – which claim to have the remarkable ability to totally head off the natural and artificial disasters threatening our planet – seems to be the most popular way of addressing the claims of environmental degradation. That these easy solutions, such as solar and wind electrical power, carbon offset credits, and battery powered cars, are incredibly expensive, and are so far unproven as primary methods of carbon emission reduction, doesn’t stop us from embracing them as tightly as is they were our first-born child.

The popular culture seems utterly captivated by movies and other media, where the whole earth is threatened by monstrous outside forces, and one person – think Ironman – comes along and saves the whole planet from destruction. (Interestingly enough, this typical movie plot is a direct rehashing of the Biblical New Testament, where one man saves all humanity from the malevolent forces of evil.)

There are even people out there who are persuading us to spend huge amounts of tax dollars to set up a system to predict when a rogue asteroid or meteor might crash into the earth, so we can take defensive measures. This could happen at any time, they say, or at least within the next thirty thousand to a million years from now. Budgets are already being prepared for submission to governments.

Our collective disaster-consciousness is a big step away from reality, and from the true measure of human consciousness, which is: who are we BEING right now, in this moment? How can we be a part of generating peace and awareness within ourselves? How can each person, from elected official to corporate officer to hamburger-flipper, take responsibility for our own part in the ongoing “drama” of daily life? How can our systems be re-calibrated to move our thinking away from disaster and into the fullness of a well-lived life?

For example, what is the primary obstacle to our doing our daily driving around town and to and from work in golf-cart sized battery-powered vehicles made of light plastic parts? It is this: If I tried to drive out into the traffic on the local road right out in front of my home in a “golf cart” type vehicle, I’d be terrorized and traumatized by all the big-engine roaring steel cars going as fast as they can, almost bumper to bumper. I probably wouldn’t make it a hundred feet before I gave it up and parked the little plastic buggy and walked back home to get my full-sized car, to protect my life and sanity. If I continued driving along in spite of my fear, I’d probably be arrested by the police for blocking traffic and being on a public road in a nuisance vehicle.

Far more than half of the driving in the United States is for distances of thirty-five miles or less round trip. These trips could easily be made in golf-cart sized vehicles, if such vehicles were allowed and provisions were made for their safety, and they were cheap enough. Most people would still want another full-sized car, for longer trips and on bad-weather days. Why is there no public dialogue about smaller light-weight vehicles?

First, in our country the road still offers more freedom than frustration. Three-quarters of Americans say driving often gives them a sense of independence, and nearly half say it’s often relaxing. Four in ten love their cars — not just like them, but love them. (This is from an ABC News Analysis by Gary Langer, February 13, 2005.) I’m definitely one of those freedom-lovers. I’m also one of those four in ten who love my own big heavy car.

I’ve already made the internal shift to driving a small car with a small fuel-efficient engine. It would take a further cosmic change within me before I’d emotionally adapt to driving around town in a golf-cart car. Can I adapt? Yes. I. Can. Will I adapt? Only if the whole system of traffic is re-calibrated to make me feel safe and wanted in my light-weight golf-cart sized car.

And yet I don’t see or hear any politicians or environmental activists howling for a new traffic system that will accommodate light-weight individual vehicles. Any such vocal activists would probably be opposed by the auto industry and the highway construction industry. Maybe we could make it more palatable by promoting light-weight car lanes as a new infrastructure project which will help create jobs to get us out of the recession. You think?

This is part three in a four-part series.

Global Warming, Part Two

29 Apr

From www.mcgeepost.com .Copyright © 2013 Michael H. McGee. All rights reserved. Please feel free to share or re-post all or part non-commercially, hopefully with attribution.

Given the current population, there is really no way to go back to a simpler lifestyle or a local economy. The only way to feed the world we have now is to cultivate giant corporate farms and food processing facilities. The only way for the population to stay on the move is for giant factories to build more cars, trucks, and other vehicles with internal combustion engines.

To provide the normal facilities of life for the current global population, oil and gas and steel and aluminum and copper and bananas and other daily commodities require large facilities. Building factories and warehouses and generation plants and highways and airplanes must be done on a massive scale.

The only way to wrap and package things with minimum weight to distribute to the massive population around the world and from stores to consumers is to use plastic containers, wraps and bags. Giant oil ships and container ships can’t be built or managed locally. And so on.

It’s rather much the same for social issues. With more people crowded together there will be more crime and more need for government which reaches to the local levels. Reducing crime to the levels of the 1920’s and 1930’s is pure fantasy, when you consider that the world population was only two billion back then and people didn’t have to bump into each other nearly as much as they do now.

I know there are a lot of people out there who sincerely and honestly want to eliminate mega-factories and overbuilding and billionaires, and deeply desire to make the world a simpler and greener place. This is a dream which is extremely conservative in nature, and it’s natural for people to want to go back to the way things used to be before we were inundated with the massive structures of modern society which are needed to provide for the whole of the seven billion inhabitants of earth.

The “New Earth” we live in is simply unable to provide for those dreams of simplicity. We are now a crowded planet, and we must have structures designed to provide for the crowd. Turning away from the reality of the crowd is a retreat from reality. It is an attempt, like that of the Amish communities, to claim a world which no longer exists, except in extremely restricted areas which must be maintained with an almost religious fervor against the outside crowd.

The real way forward is to join the crowd which makes up the “New Earth.” Accept the inevitable and seek ways of living with that which we cannot change. It’s likely there are a lot of solutions out there which are just waiting for discovery, ways to live with the new conditions which actually exist on our planet.

Let me advance one speculative idea, as a way of demonstrating the possibility of solutions which are actually in line with the problems. I don’t claim to have answers, yet I am good at speculating.

Most climate scientists say that we could have a world-wide rise in sea level of as much as three feet (1m) over the next fifty years. This means that any areas where there are cities or other houses or buildings which will be underwater in the event of a three-foot rise in sea level must be identified right now.

Officials must declare a complete moratorium on new buildings or settlements in the affected areas. There is no need to worry too much about existing structures, since in fifty years most of them will be near the end of their life cycles. Then new building and settlements could be encouraged on nearby areas which are on land located above the fifty-year estimated three-foot new high water mark. These would be extensions of the current cities, only on higher ground.

For example, the recent activities of Typhoon Ondoy in Manila and of Hurricane Sandy in New York City have shown that these cities among others are vulnerable to even small increases in the mean water level brought about by global warming. So in New York I speculate about stopping new construction in the five boroughs. Extend New York City by way of new construction on the higher ground on the other side of the Hudson River. People could commute for the next fifty years from the old city to the new city and back by means of overhead trams into Manhattan and the other present boroughs.

Actually, I rather like the idea of using overhead trams to replace the subway system in New York City, or any other city. It was not until Hurricane Sandy that we began to see the huge vulnerability of the underground systems of the Big Apple. As sea levels rise, the vulnerability will only increase.

Going airborne with trams suspended from tall towers may sound science fiction right now, yet it could be best way to get around in any city by the sea anywhere on the “New Earth,” or even on any city anywhere. Subways are really twentieth-century technology, much too difficult to dig and always needing huge air exchange systems to make it possible for the massive number of riders to be able to breathe.

Meanwhile, you probably have ideas of your own which are better than mine, so let your imagination run free and look for ways for all of us to live together in peace on the “New Earth.”

Both my daughter Michelle Kathryn McGee, www.healinggeneration.com, and Bengt Skarstam‏ of Malmo, Sweden, www.reshape.se, take issue with my analysis by pointing out that correlation is not the same as evidence. To them I say that I am a commentator, not a scientist. There is a correlation between population and global warming. I’ve offered some scant evidence, yet probably not enough. The absolute need to feed, clothe and house the new five billion souls on the planet is evidence, as are the facts I’ve stated up to now. I firmly believe in all the positions I’m taking on my blog, yet I may not have all the details. I welcome any new information, and I give my thanks to my daughter and to Bengt Skarstam for weighing in with significant points.

Finally, poetic language can often convey the emotions associated with new conditions such as the absolute qualities of the emerging destiny of the “New Earth.” I offer you this quote from the 2008 historical thriller novel Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith:

“The railroad tracks opened out into a clearing – sprawled before them was a vast assembly plant, tall chimneys, interconnected warehouselike buildings suddenly appearing in the middle of a wilderness. It was as though a god had sat on the Ural Mountains, smashed his fist down on the landscape before him, sending trees flying, and demanded that this newly created space be filled with chimneys and steel presses. This was the first glimpse of their new home.”

I invited Dr. Bengt Skarstam of Malmo, Sweden, to make formal comments as a part of my discussion of the “New Earth.” He has a PhD in Solid State Physics, a long corporate career, and is now Senior Adviser and Facilitator, Reshape AB, www.reshape.se . He’s also the father of two children; is married to Ann-Marie, a mother of one child; “and is a fan of life, understanding, Formula 1, and interactions between people.”

Thank you for the very profound perspective you have articulated on global warming, Dr. Skarstam, and for your unique celebration of the earth we actually have, as opposed to the usual wishful thinking of wanting a different world than the one we now have. Here’s what he has to say:

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

“I agree with your description of the consequences of a warmer globe and my point is that we need not so much focus on the ‘human element’ since I am convinced that a more pluralistic approach will guarantee a better solution to the fluctuation in the states of our globe. According to system theory we might do things worse since we have focus only on the human factor so we might solve the wrong problem….? Compare reducing pollution from cars instead of finding new ways of designing engines (fuel cells?).

“If we spent the money we are now spending on wind and solar power, on finding more efficient energy storage ‘media’ (better batteries or some new source of storage) we would be better off. Currently wind and solar power need continuous back up sources of traditional electrical generation OR a highly developed battery storage capacity, to support a continuous flow of power even when the sun is down or the wind is not blowing.

“This need for constant backup is the great weakness inherent in the now popular ‘new energy sources.’ The wind and solar supporters are engaging in short term “popular action,” and solving the wrong problem. If we as individuals took a ‘stakeholder’ and long term perspective on what we are doing, we could be very much better off!

“I ask a question to people who say that they cannot take a long term perspective: do you have children? Your children and grandchildren are a long term project which will last for the rest of your life!!!!

“The greenhouse effect is a natural good thing. It’s not a ‘side effect.’ It’s a basic expression of the vastness of the new human life on our planet. Before the greenhouse effect we were non-existing. The fluctuations were measured in the time scale of hundreds to thousands of generations, and over these time scales we had no consistent way of describing such phenomena. Since science has evolved, technology is refined and our mindsets are thereby changed.

“Changing mindsets: what would happen if every car manufacturer had to take the used car back and dismantle the car and be heavily taxed for the difference between cars produced and used cars received: do you think that a car would be designed as it is today?

“My final point is about personal responsibility: this is the most crucial concept that individuals, politicians, business leaders and parents can start applying (consider the stakeholders involved and the time span of your actions), and acting from this perspective can change the world

“My definition of personal responsibility: ‘An individual’s open, wise and ethical engagement with the world for the sustainable good of all.’ – from Hopkins and Skarstam (2012).

“I have also attached some lines from the novel CANNERY ROW by John Steinbeck, a conversation between ‘Doc’ and ‘Richard Frost’ which points to the severity of our challenges:”

“It has always seemed strange to me,” said Doc. “The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.”

“Who wants to be good if he has to be hungry too?” said Richard Frost.

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

So, in order to fully comprehend the “New Earth” we must look on the natural increase in population to seven billion souls as being a good thing for humanity. Further, we must look on the increase in greenhouse gases and global warming, whether due to mankind or to other natural phenomena, as an acceptable thing. Accept that the increase in global population is a natural phenomenon, and that this population increase is exactly the same as any other natural process.

This is part two in a four-part series.