Thursday, June 24, 2004

McMurtry's "Unspeakable Propositions"

A truly free, open society would be one in which the
following propositions offered by John McMurtry
would be widely debated. McMurtry teaches philosophy at
the University of Guelph in Canada.

1. Taking more out than you put in as a regular practise—as in money
profits—is morally wrong.
2. The capitalist workplace is anti-democratic.
3. General Motors, Dupont, IT&T, Standard Oil and Ford Corporations all
produced military supplies for the Nazi armed forces during World War II
while the United States was at war with Germany.
4. Unearned wealth should be abolished as a matter of just public
5. The government needs to regulate the investment of Canadian/U.S.
capital abroad to societies with poor human rights and environmental
standards, so as to protect these standards in both North America and
the developing world.
6. The free market means that those without money to buy what they need
do not have the right to live.
7. The major player in the international drug trade since the Second
World War, using drug enforcement laws to maintain its monopoly, has
been the United States government to finance internationally illegal
foreign interventions.
8. Over 70 of eligible U.S. and British voters did not vote for Reagan
or Thatcher [in their] "landslides".
9. The arms race and international wars are very profitable for most
multinational corporations.
10. The long-term pattern of U.S. and Canadian foreign policy in the
non-white world has been alliances with fascist-type governments rather
than their opponents.
11. The "free world" is not truly free because its citizens do not have
the effective right to criticize the capitalist system.
12. The history of Western civilization is largely a history of genocide
against non-white peoples and cultures.
13. The greatest danger to Canada's l freedom and security comes from
the United States.
14. There is no correlation between people's wealth and their merit.
15. In many cases, social ownership of major industries is sound
social policy.
16. The very rich ought not to be admired, but rather condemned for
their acquisitive self-interest at others' expense.
17. A small minority's monopoly ownership of society's means of
production is an issue that needs to be carefully examined.
18. Pollution/poverty are specially advantageous to the major
shareholders of private enterprise.
19. Our major social problems are caused by the profit imperative
overriding all other values.
20. The belief that God sanctions our social order or our state at war
is a superstition.
21. There may be better alternatives for long-term sexual union than the
private property structure of state-regulated marriage.
22. The Soviet Union pays significantly more than the world-price for
imports from the countries of East Europe, and charges significantly
less for its exports.
23. Socialist revolution has been by and large beneficial for the living
standards of most citizens in societies where it has occurred.
24. Over 90 of Canadian citizens are not capitalists but members of the
working class who depend for their living on wages or salaries.
25. Unions have historically led the struggle for improvements in health
care, working conditions and social security for the population as a
26. The business community has excessive political and economic power in
our society.
27. Our schools do not train the young to think critically, but to obey
corporate or office authority without question.
28. The President and his leading advisors are provable war criminals.
29. Christianity calls for the redistribution of wealth.
30. The mass media are essentially a joint-stock company of profit and
advertising for major private corporations.

Originally published in Informal Logic, X,3 Fall 1988.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Save Vermont! -- State Declared "Endangered" by Wal-Mart Expansion

Following upon several successful instances of resistance
to the Wal-Martization of America, including the successful
"no" vote on the company's plans in Inglewood, CA, the National
Trust for Historic Preservation has placed the whole state of
Vermont on its list of "most endangered historic places." I
consider this an important turn of events, one that will help
people striving to save this wonderful piece of New England from
the sprawl of big box shopping malls and auto-centered development
that has made a chaotic hash of the American landscape.

Watch for Falling Prices!
Watch for Falling Wages!
Watch for Falling Environmental Standards!
Watch for Plywood Boarded-up Shops Downtown!
Watch for the Collapse of Communities Near You!

According to one news report:

"Officials for the Trust, a nationally recognized group that
helps save historic sites, said they put Vermont on the list
because the planned opening of so many Wal-Mart stores there
in the next few years threatens the state's small-town quaintness.

The state has four Wal-Mart Stores now, and seven more are
planned, company officials said, with about 1.3 million square
feet of total space. Trust officials blame the gigantic retailer,
with its vast boxy stores , for squeezing out mom-and-pop
operations and changing the character of Vermont.

'That will have a very large consequence, not just for the
communities where the Wal-Marts will be located, but for
the entire state,' said Richard Moe, president of the Trust,
a nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C. 'The unique small-town
character of the state and the fragile countryside will be
overwhelmed by their size.'"

* * * * *
[Of course the Wal-Mart flack, Mia Masten had a ready response
(I wonder how much they had to pay Mia to say this stuff)]:

"'Blaming Wal-Mart is a bit far-fetched,'" said Mia Masten,
Wal-Mart's community affairs manager for the Eastern region.

She said that the stores provide jobs and economic activity
in areas that need it.

"'It sounds as if we're trying to go and push our way in,'"
Masten said. "But we are asking for and getting local input.
We want a project that everyone likes at the end of the day.'"

* * * * * * * *

At a meeting in Albany recently I ran into a woman from a town
in the Hudson Valley who talk enthusiastically about Wal-Mart
"community affairs." She exclaimed, "Even before the final plans
for the store were approved, Wal-Mart managers called a meeting with
a couple dozen community groups and gave them each a check for $1,000!"

This reminds me of the kind of penny ante bribery we've seen in
battles with St. Lawrence Cement in Columbia County, New York. While
permits are pending, the company has been lavish in its "gifts" to the
community. When my kids were in Little League several years ago
they would ask, "Why are all the other teams wearing uniforms from
St. Lawrence Cement?" Fortunately, we've had some success shining
a bright light on these phony acts of charity and the risible, glossy
advertising campaigns the company has launched.

Good luck, Vermont! Give 'em hell!
Save Christiania! -- An Alternative Urban Community Avoids Destruction

Earlier this year the right wing political authorities of Denmark
threatened to dismantle Christiania, the hippie-style commune that
has existed in the middle of Denmark. Following police raids that
evidently smashed the drug selling business in the village, discussions
continued about what to do with this odd national landmark. Evidently,
a deal has been worked out that will save much of Christiania and its
alternative lifestyles. The BBC has a good report on a story not
likely to get much press in the neo-Puritan U.S.A.

"The new law, agreed on Tuesday, leaves open the possibility
for an independent committee to take charge of Christiania,
a plan favoured by many residents.

A police spokesman said the illegal drug market that had
flourished in Christiania would not be allowed to develop again.

Under the new law, several houses built on the site of an old
naval fort will be torn down, while an extra 300 houses will be
built elsewhere on the site.

The 1,000 residents will also have to pay a fixed rate for
utilities such as gas and electricity, much of which they have
been using for free.

Christiania is one of Copenhagen's biggest tourist attractions."