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Category: Politics

I’ve been having some doubts about it recently, and now I’m convinced. Civilization has become obsolete.

Oh, I acknowledge that it has advantages over other forms of group living. The hunter-gatherer system has a certain romantic appeal, but who wants to live like a wild animal? An agricultural society would be placid but numbingly dull. Civilization, on the other hand, gives us plenty of choices. It produces tons of cool stuff. It’s fun, it’s sexy, it’s edgy. Plus, I really believe that this is the kindest, most polite, and least murderous time in human history. On balance, that is, all things considered, relatively speaking.

But look at the downside. Along with that cool stuff created by technology comes more ingenious and deadlier weaponry. Civilization has spurred overpopulation, so that humanity itself threatens to be a plague upon the earth. And now, civilization’s dependence on commerce and consumption has involved us all in a slow motion self-immolation — a long, lingering death for us and half the life forms on earth.

So there’s that. What’s more, my belief that we live in the kindest and gentlest world ever is based on per capita calculations. Since the earth’s population has septupled over the last 200 years, the absolute numbers for these variables have actually been quite horrifying. Civilization, perhaps the greatest invention in human history, looks like it may be on course to self-destruct before the end of this century.

That gives us only eighty-six years to fix it. Or we’re all dead. But hey, no pressure. We don’t have time to invent something new to replace civilization, so we’ll need to do some drastic tweaking on the fly. Here are my top three recommendations:

Cut back. I guess we’re stuck with commerce and free enterprise, but who needs all this consumption? Just a little would be fine — enough to be comfortable, but not enough to tap out the planet’s resources. Violators, I’m afraid, will have to be disciplined.

Eliminate private wealth. It’s also time to admit that large concentrations of money tend to breed all kinds of bad outcomes. People just can’t be trusted with all that moolah. Much better for the greater good to have everyone own everything. All of your other freedoms, of course, would remain intact.

Stop having intercourse. It only leads to more people, you know, and we’re crowded enough already. Fortunately, civilization itself has already provided the answer to this problem. The digital revolution has birthed this weird self-centered universe where we can be alone and all together at the same time. Sure, it’s creepy, but at least people aren’t actually touching each other, and that’s a good thing. Perhaps the development of fully functional robots might also be part of the solution.

Maybe “obsolete” is the wrong word. Clearly, however, civilization needs a serious upgrade. And while we’re at it, it’s also time for us to grow up. If a One World Government is necessary to make all this happen, then that’s what we'll have to create. We can no longer afford to cling to such childish notions as patriotism. To do so would be uncivilized.
A Million Dollar Idea
The fantasy of tax reform is always beckoning to politicians on both the left and the right. They are on high alert now, because a moment is approaching during which something major might actually get done about our current tax system. There will be talk of the flat tax again, and the national sales tax, and its cousin the VAT — all of which will shine briefly then die of suffocation in Washington. It is into this vacuum of hopelessness that I would like to introduce my own humble vision of a kinder, saner tax system.

I call it the Million Dollar Idea. It envisions a system under which individuals would be limited to a net income, after taxes, of one million dollars. To enforce the limit, we’d return to a steeply graduated income tax. I see that sliding scale beginning to slide at about $20,000 then get steeper and steeper until it gets to the million dollar mark and hits 100%.

Deductions would be allowed, but I think this might be a good time to rethink that whole system as well. In my view, charitable contributions, including donations to non-political non-profits, should still be honored. I am open to negotiation on other deductions, but the simpler we keep it the better. We must be very careful, in any case, not to allow any loophole that might undermine our goal of limiting income.

I will also negotiate on the million dollar limit. If our leaders, in their wisdom, wanted to make the limit lower, then they would have my blessing. At a million, I think we’re being quite generous. I’m not rich myself, so my point of view might be skewed, but that seems like a very large amount of spending money to have available over the course of a year. Plus, it’s a nice, round number that would work well on a bumper sticker.

If we even need bumper stickers, that is. I am confident that the wisdom and the moral righteousness of the Million Dollar Idea would be immediately evident to most of us. Not only is a tax-free million plenty of money to get by on, I think a lot of people would say that taking more would be a sinful.

Yes, sinful. Greed is still a sin, isn’t it? We tax cigarettes and liquor and marijuana, why not avarice? The current system encourages and rewards greed; that cannot be healthy for our society, much less our immortal souls. Ask Pope Francis; he knows what I’m talking about.

If you’re concerned about how this unusual stricture might affect our economy, you shouldn’t be. There might be a little chaos at first, but that would be just the kind of problem that markets would actually be good at solving. The only pain caused by the new system would be experienced by the rich, and that would be a refreshing change of pace. I’m not certain, come to think of it, that we could even call it pain; a mild tingling sensation would be more like it.

Meanwhile, the gap between rich and poor would narrow, and maybe — just maybe — we might all begin to see that our fate and fortunes really are tied together. And who knows? A greed tax might just head off the coming revolution and save the lives of a whole lot of investment bankers. You see? Everybody’s a winner.

Okay, so maybe it isn’t such a humble vision after all. I want to revamp the tax code, salvage our free enterprise system, and save the soul of capitalism. Not that Washington cares much about humility. Or greed, for that matter. It’s money that gets the most attention there, and with billions of dollars at stake, I guess the Million Dollar Idea has as much chance as any other tax reform proposal — which is close to none.
The Party's Over
I’m concerned about the Tea Partiers. Yes, in the way you’re thinking, but also in a broader sense. I’m worried about what will happen to these poor wretches after the current ugliness blows over.

Someday soon, they will be thrown overboard by the GOP establishment in a desperate effort to save that party’s foundering ship. Ironically, those same Republican leaders had welcomed them on board for that very purpose in 2008, but now the newcomers have proved to be more trouble than they are worth. Once ejected, these demented creatures will be left to sink or swim on their own, and their prospects for political survival are not bright. They will sink to the bottom like stones.

Even so, they will still be with us…a full quarter of the population, completely at the mercy of their emotions, especially fear. Fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of the Other. Are they not clinically insane? And they could rise again, summoned by the next demagogue to come along. That’s why I’m concerned. These people are our fellow citizens, but as we’ve just witnessed, they are dangerous and unpredictable. Like an unexploded bomb. Shouldn’t we do something to, uh, help them? If only to protect ourselves? Even if they are sick puppies, aren’t you supposed to take care of sick puppies?

Maybe Obamacare will help.
Fair Is Fair
Life is unfair. The universe owes us nothing — no particular outcome and no explanation for what it does. That’s just how the universe rolls, and sometimes we end up as road kill.

If the universe has no duty to us, then, should we expect any better from ourselves? I’m going to say yes, and I’ll tell you why: because humans, unlike the universe, have expectations. We do care; that’s why we have governments. Let me suggest, in fact, that the highest aspiration of government should be to make life fair for all of its citizens. It’s not about love, or religion, or a brilliant idea, but rather about simple fairness. The closer our institutions come to giving it to us, the better off we will all be.

It’s an impossible task, of course. We are only human; the all-powerful universe can be unfair if it pleases. But that doesn’t mean we have to be.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon