Population, Progress, Ethics: Why Things Look so Haywire

Population, Progress, Ethics: Why Things Look so Haywire

by Stephen McKevitt

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Overview

Population, Progress, Ethics addresses a number of critical problems America currently faces. First, and most importantly, this book tackles the huge issue of human overpopulation, a crisis now affecting everyone on our planet. The worlds human population has tripled in the authors lifetime, to more than 7.5 billion, creating significant challenges around the globe.

The book next examines the changing conditions that our present-day environmental difficulties are posing to society. More broadly, the author reviews the current economic and social troubles currently ailing the United States, but not in a strict economics textbook manner. His book posits that the routine rhetoric and stance of those on both the left and the right of the political spectrum are often reflexes, and of limited usefulness in the face of the grave issues facing the nation and the rest of the globe.

On a positive note, Stephen McKevitt crafts a reasoned, passionate argument for communities and professionals to unite in solving these problems. The author comes up with a to-do list for his readers, offering a number of possible and reasonable steps that the citizens of our nation can take to better the lives of us all, and the rest of the world, too, as we head into the future.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781532028601
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 11/28/2017
Pages: 230
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.48(d)

About the Author

Steve McKevitt was born in Washington, DC, and grew up in nearby Maryland. After many years working for the federal government, he has recently retired and is now engaged in some explorations into the fascinating civic and cultural history of the Unites States. He is also the author of Meridian Hill: A History, published in 2014.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

OUR SOCIETY

History, the memory of our near and distant past, is vitally important to a real understanding of our current world. But just as necessary, for all of us, should be the awareness that what is happening right now – in so many areas of our humanly-created world – is without precedent, is enormous in intensity, and is thus fraught with extraordinary danger. This risk of catastrophic harm has to be fully appreciated by everyone. We need to look, to see, and to plan well. The sheer size of the global impact that mankind is having today makes much of what is occurring – and what will likely be occurring shortly – irreversible. All the more reason to act with care. But on the other hand, and more optimistically, the changes that we must undertake will open up the potential of our fashioning a future with a happier, more mindful time ahead.

If we consider the key events and thoughts that have defined our wonderful country, and then add in the ideas that are percolating today – what do we have circulating at the top of our collective minds in the present intellectual landscape? Plenty that is negative and divisive. Is this any way to live? Of course not. I propose that much of this is happening in part to create a certain mindset, and to scatter any effective opposition to the current way in which our society is functioning. We need to look at our options. Asking: How can we get a positive spirit, some fun, and genuine joy back into our nation, within its regular operations? A basic question.

So it is sensible that we should now be examining some of the key social problems that require attention. One issue that we definitely need to fully look at, to fix, and to move beyond, is the legacy of slavery; by effectively completing the circle, and eliminating the harmful remnants of this damaging practice from our country's society. The unfinished matter of slavery has to have a clear resolution; with a clear vision that recognizes the large amount of work this is still necessary. It cannot be overstressed – and we have to keep in mind – that at the time of our country's founding, slavery should have been abolished. But now today, we need to end the residual effects of this terrible concept, and to stop merely talking about how this continuing issue is such a problem for our society. It is a problem, of course% the solution should therefore be deliberately planned. First, there is the job situation. Without enough jobs to go around, those at the bottom will always be losing out. So, as I will often repeat here, regarding jobs: All adult individuals who are willing and are able to work should have the reality of a proper job available to them, a job to dive into. And for those individuals who need assistance, adequate real assistance must be effectively provided. This is the first step, and one that will go a long way in helping to end inequality.

An additional point that many people have previously discerned and discussed is this: There are a good number of individuals and groups who are quite happy right now to have cultural and racial conflict out active in our country. This is part of the old control practice of keeping a people split, divided, and squabbling among themselves, so that they can never quite get together as a group, to effectively take up the larger common concerns. Fragmented is, unfortunately, too often a continuing condition of our society.

With so many issues now flowing within our country, we can often get sidetracked and not see the main problem – the overarching danger – facing our civilization today. Again, it is overpopulation. The human species, and our home – this wonderful Earth – have never before experienced the situation that we have now created. We are today in the middle of this crisis of too many people, and we are not really even properly engaging the majority of our citizens, so that they can study the issue. Such of this avoidance this delusional staring at the ceiling – is being initiated, sadly, by some of the diverse branches of the Bible-based religions, many of whom are apparently disinclined to even discuss the matter.

And it is clear that at present there are very many people who are content – or even quite pleased – with the existing conditions here in our country, and particularly with the steady promotion of some strict fundamentalist Christian values that is being done by our media. These people are generally now thriving, and these values which they see being espoused mostly suit them just fine – matching their own beliefs and wishes. But, to my thinking, they are not sensibly considering the longer-term implications. Our nation's citizens should be looking forward, warily, to where this harsh mindset, with its lack of curiosity, is taking us.

Those who are caring people, those with progressive ideals, would appear to have an obligation to speak out if any serious social problems should arise, including such difficulties that might be caused by some steadfastly inflexible religious groups. These same caring people should then be looking for reasonable and effective solutions. This can mean making fresh examinations of evolving situations, even if describing the reality runs counter to the various agendas and wants of some major national groups and religions.

Regarding another subject, I also believe in this major point: In our country, there should be room for the rich – but not for the gangsters. We definitely do need to return to a system of truly progressive taxation. Basically, I endorse the recent proposals that we should craft a simple progressive income tax plan, one which will set a considerably higher rate for the very wealthy, but which will also be a system that will allow those who have gained wealth in our society to remain reasonably – and perhaps even more than reasonably – rich. An issue that is discussed further, later on.

This first chapter is, in part, a compilation, an overview, looking at some topics that are covered in more detail in the chapters ahead.

So, looking, here are some questions about us, for us to consider:

1. How do we go about even beginning to fix the problems of our current condition, this tangled situation:

2. How nasty is nasty enough? Why has so much of our society become mean-spirited? We need to take a broad look. Even Ayn Rand had some humanity in her writings, where she famously promoted the idea of selfishness.

3. What might have been missed in our general recollections of the earlier pieces of our country's history?

4. Our government is us% we make it. How did it come to be seen as an enemy by so many of our fellow citizens?

5. Where, at specific points in our history, has it happened that we, as a people, have taken a step or two away from our democratic ideals? That is, gotten sidetracked. How can we now, eyeing where we still need to go, get back onto the honest track, the better path?

6. Uh-oh. There are sure to be some tricky curves ahead. How should we be looking out for the likely, to-be-expected, obstacles – ones triggered largely by our human imperfections – that may cause trouble in the future?

7. Where we are right now? "We should put aside away the usual statistics, and take a fresh look.

8. What does the right-wing political movement in America want today? And why? How about the future; what do they want to happen:

9. And finally, facing the future, what are the various actual possibilities which are reasonably open to us?

There are certainly times when it is more helpful to probe beneath the usual topics that are always appearing in the popular news.

In assembling the material for this book, I set out to survey many of the larger social, political, and economic pieces of our present-day country – trying to see just why we have fallen, basically, into several bad mental misconceptions; and to see, as well, what we can possibly do to help ourselves. To save ourselves, really. The What can we do?" part is challenging, given the powerful issues – national and global – that are now intersecting to affect us in major ways. And as massive as this task may appear, I believe that it is something that all of us, as citizens, need to be working on.

One benefit of today's easier access to our now vast, and growing, information base – much of it directly open to us – is that some of the different social ideas, and possible alternative civic formations, are becoming more widely noticed, and more of these are being freshly considered by an increasing number of people; many of whom are looking at, and assessing, our current situation, and their own futures. They can see that having a decent quality of life for everyone in our country is a key factor, always; but that simply providing for a functional existence, which can frequently only be superficial, may not be enough for good personal growth. The various possible joys of existence need to be explored. Although often, the distinct existence of these options can easily get lost in the jumble of daily life, with so many voices speaking. And the major media outlets of our society normally offer only a limited range of information and news to the people of our country.

So it makes sense to look more closely at just how our constructed world has evolved, and how it is being deliberately modified today. Which is a basic point of this book: Important changes continue to now occur in our country frequently without a direct announcement, without explanation, and without any significant general discussion. We need to take stock, to stop and consider all that we are; at all that we have. The usual metrics that are passed around today are very often not really accurate, or are not useful as measurements of the well-being of our nation's citizens.

*
About mankind. Underlying many of the issues which are now facing us is this relevant point: Humans are mammals – designed through evolution, as most mammals have been, to live and to thrive in small social groups. Years ago we moved to cities, but even there, we worked to construct our lives as individuals, with circles of friends, in neighborhoods. But now, we are essentially living in swarms, huge swarms, tied together as never before, and this is a situation that we need to acknowledge and discuss. Plus, we should look into the important subject of just how people are relating to this modern world; and how they are being organized and managed.

A comfortable and pleasant home: is a normal and reasonable objective for any human, and something that most people strive to obtain. If we are indeed moving into a swarm-like type of existence, we will need – every one of us – to look at the details of what this means, and at how some previously-possible personal opportunities may soon be closed off to most people. A swarm is directed by relatively few cues, and usually by just a very few individuals. Who will lead? Large numbers of our younger citizens today seem to expect that some of the owners of the newer U.S. tech companies – such as Amazon's Jeff Bezos might become the new leaders. We certainly need to be very careful with this, and to look at where it could take us.

*
Sustainability. As economist Herman Daly has so astutely written, when explaining our world: Just as nature recycles itself to be able to continue on with its existence, so mankind needs to do the same. Specifically, by creating and living with a constructed human world that has to be deliberately set up to operate, over time, in a sustainable and renewable manner.

Mankind, and mankind's civilization, exist together as a package deal.

Herman Daly, noted economist, has written several fine books about our modern society, notably, Beyond Growth, where he points out that an ever-expanding economy is mathematically impossible. The following excerpt is from Daly's article, "A Population Perspective on the Steady State Economy" published by CASSE Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy):

"The population problem should be considered from the point of view of all populations – populations of both humans and their things (cars, houses, livestock, crops, cell phones, etc.) – in short, populations of all 'dissipative structures' engendered, bred, or built by humans. Both human bodies and artifacts wear out and die. The populations of all organs that support human life, and the enjoyment thereof, require a metabolic throughput to counteract entropy and remain in an organized steady state. All of these organs are capital equipment that support our lives. Endosomatic (within skin) capital – heart, lungs, kidneys supports our lives quite directly. Exosomatic (outside skin) capital supports our lives indirectly, and consists both of natural capital (e.g., photosynthesizing plants, structures comprising the hydrologic cycle), and manmade capital (e.g., farms, factories, electric grids)." (Steady State Economy Newsletter, January 15, 2015)

Sustainability is an underlying necessity for our continued success. 2s our country and the civilized world, generally, have grown, most of us have – almost naturally – assumed that continued civic development, with more stuff, is automatically the right way to go. We need to rethink this view, given where we now are, inhabiting this very finite planet. Mankind and mankind's civilization have to be considered as a joint package deal, one which needs some real planning – planning that must be done by us.

Overall human use of the planet has become acutely more chaotic, with human overpopulation being the triggering-cause of the great majority of our environmental problems. We can no longer ignore the consequences. Because this calamity is already now unfolding, we need to take prompt action. After weighing all the options, we have to lay out a clear, well-defined operating plan; this is further discussed, later. But consider: Such of the manner in which we are thinking about our future is sadly akin to the way that a family, while on a family car-trip, is looking inward and concentrating on searching for the best radio station, and meanwhile their car is heading on a path that will take it over the edge of a sheer cliff.

The Recent Past

This book is concerned in particular with the last thirty-five years of our nation, since about 1980 – which, interestingly, also happens to be the beginning of the Ronald Reagan presidency. It then focuses, with some closer scrutiny, on the last ten years – which covers the time of the current serious economic malaise that has enveloped us; and is where the more pronounced social changes have occurred. Reagan has been deified and vilified, but here we will look less at him and more at what he promoted, and will look at some of the less-discussed facets of the mostly-quiet planning that was set in motion during his time in office.

Throughout our modern history, there has always been a certain dynamic, a push and pull of ideas, of the diverse "wants" relating to our social constructions and behaviors. These various political stances, competing and typically at odds, have usually been assessed and compared within our society's intellectual media – in the communications vehicles of their day. At first occurring in the nation's books and newspapers, a wide range% and then later in the added world of electronic correspondence – which quickly developed into today's enormous and well-connected internet system, with its huge influence. This vibrant ongoing discussion, although at times of seemingly minor consequence to the routine lives of most folks, has been healthy for our democracy.

But since 1990, the political right has, piece-by-piece, essentially taken over the country's major media outlets. This has been done fairly swiftly, and with little mass-media discussion or complaint. Thus our country is now in a situation where a politically and socially conservative bloc controls the bulk of the nation's news, and much of the nation's entertainment. And I believe that this small group of people are actively using this control to steadily send out their message. We the citizens should all be looking at what we are now being told. How did this happen? Well, to perhaps oversimplify: The older generations were basically too complacent and overly comfortable; that is, with not having any special need to get involved, they simply sat back. And the newer generation – the Millennials – although well-schooled, may be just too inadequately-educated and too politically-hoodwinked, and, finally, too lost in themselves, to see the situation. So with the larger media conduits now taken over, the smaller pieces of the nation's media – even when operating, and when presenting the viewpoints of the left and of the other alternative social options – are often seen as a bit strange, and are frequently not accepted as being a proper way of thinking. As these other viewpoints are squeezed off, more and more, the strength of the corporate right increases. We can see how the power of ownership begets more ownership. (Chapter 12, The Media, looks at this in more detail.)

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Population, Progress, Ethics"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Stephen McKevitt.
Excerpted by permission of iUniverse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements, 5,
Introduction, 7,
Chapter,
1 Our Society, 15,
2 The Population Crisis, 39,
3 The Environment, 45,
4 The Draw of Modern Socialism, 57,
5 Our Country / Our Government, 61,
6 The Economy, 69,
7 Infrastructure, 77,
8 Our Homes, 81,
9 Community Growth, 85,
10 The World / And Those Other Countries, 87,
11 Taxation in the U.S., 95,
12 The Media, 99,
13 A Changed Hollywood, 109,
14 The News and You, 115,
15 Personal Lives / Personal Information, 117,
16 Religion, 121,
17 Ethics, 127,
18 Capitalism, 133,
19 Corporations, 137,
20 Early U.S. Economic Growth, 141,
21 Employment and Jobs, 145,
22 Labor /Unions, 149,
23 Race and Fairness, 153,
24 The Poor, 155,
25 Immigration, 159,
26 Personal Money, 165,
27 Education and Personal Growth, 169,
28 Higher Learning / Student Debt, 173,
29 Technocracy, 177,
30 Corruption, 181,
31 Contractors, 183,
32 The Military, 187,
33 Political Choices / Political Parties, 193,
34 The Political Right and the Future, 199,
35 A Tax On Stock Market Transactions, 203,
36 The Planet, 205,
37 Our Government Revisited, 209,
Proposals,
38 Thinking About the Future, 211,
39 More, What To Do For the Future?, 215,
Index, 221,

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