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We are the 99 percent



How bad will things have to get before you take healthy action?

Some of the world’s problems impact you directly. Others you only hear about in the news. But what are the underlying problems? And what are some lasting solutions? These problems won’t go away on their own. And in many places, they’re getting worse, especially with globalization. So let’s better understand them — and let’s look at some lasting solutions.

First and most importantly, use only legal and peaceful ways to improve things.

SELF-IMPROVEMENT. We can solve some social problems by doing things like improving democracy. But things like this will be much more successful when we also improve ourselves — because societies and governments are made of individuals. Self-improvement begins with your thoughts, and the power of thought is very great. There are effective ways to use thought for self-improvement, such as using well-constructed affirmations.

WISELY SPEND MONEY. Don’t spend your money on things that harm you or others. If you don’t like businesses and governments that harm people, don’t buy from them or invest in them. Spend tax money more effectively. Spend it to make all kinds of post-high school education at very low cost for all. Make access to the Internet free — or at very low cost — for all. Make transportation and communication more affordable for all.

CONTINUOUSLY IMPROVE DEMOCRACY. Continuously invent and conduct new experiments in democracy — and see which ones work best. First try them in a few cities, and try the best of these at higher levels. Residents of places trying the experiments can vote on the results. In conducting new experiments, we should try some of the following. Use combinations of lotteries and elections to select officials. Have term limits for more offices. Strictly limit campaign contributions and give equal mass media time to all qualified candidates. Require candidates to advance through government one level at a time.

Almost two thirds of the world’s people are governed by some kind of democracy. But many of these democracies are corrupted by corporate greed. Democracy is also in danger from the growing number of ignorant people. Many don’t care enough to vote, and some don’t learn enough about the people or things they vote for.

In today’s democracies, people use only voting to choose their representatives. This leaves democracy wide open to corruption. In the first representative democracy (Athenian democracy), people used mainly lotteries to select their representatives, as the best way to protect democracy from corruption. Today democracy is much more at risk because: the rich are many times richer (51 of the world’s largest 100 economies are those of corporations); election campaigns cost much more; and modern mass media has much power. Today people still use lotteries to select trial jurors. Why is it still good for personal justice but not social justice? When using lotteries as part of selecting representatives, the following happens. It’s more difficult for extreme wealth to corrupt government. There’s reduced need for political parties — which saves money and reduces social discord. More people have a chance to serve in government. So, there’s more diversity in government; and there’s more respect for one another, the laws we make, and the people who enforce our laws.

IGNORANCE. More than 80% of adults in the world can read. But many are ignorant. They don’t use their freedoms to question, reason, invent, speak out, think for themselves, and act on their own healthy ideas to make things better. Some are so ignorant they harm themselves and others. Some leaders want people to be ignorant, so they can gain more money and power. At times, some religious groups, schools, and families want people to be ignorant — so they are submissive. They fool people into doing the following: giving unearned trust, being afraid, being weak inside, being filled with false pride, and blindly obeying. We must pay to fix problems made by the ignorant. We pay with taxes, and we pay in other ways. When enough are ignorant, it’s easy for others to take away an entire society’s freedoms. Many are still learning that societies can’t be ignorant and free at the same time. When people are free from ignorance, they make their sense of right and wrong stronger — and they govern themselves better. They make their lives better. And society needs fewer government workers to help them, and to make and enforce laws.

Solutions. Self-improvement: Effectively use the power of thought. Wisely spend money: Send more tax money on education and Internet access for all.
OVERPOPULATION. Overpopulation happens when a population exceeds the carrying capacity of its environment. The number of people in poor countries is growing the fastest. And in most countries, the poor are having more children than any other group. Many of them have more children than they’re able to care for. As populations grow, and as more people in industrializing countries can afford to consume more, earth’s limited resources are consumed faster. China and India are industrializing, and they have more than one third of the world’s population. In industrialized countries, many can still afford lifestyles that consume at very high rates. As resources are consumed, it gets more difficult and expensive to find and take what remains.

As overpopulation worsens, the following things happen around the world. Wages remain low. Prices rise for almost everything. In countries losing jobs to places paying lower wages, unemployment increases, more lose their homes and go bankrupt, and more fall into poverty. Taxes rise to make up for lost income tax, property tax and business tax.

As poverty grows in rich and poor countries, more go hungry. More get ill and spread disease. More abuse alcohol and drugs. More commit crimes, and crimes become more violent. People with assets spend more protecting themselves and their property. More lose respect for laws and police. Public protests grow and become violent. The gap between rich and everyone else becomes more visible. Taxes increase as the number of poor needing help grows, as public services get overloaded, as more tax breaks are used to attract businesses for jobs, and as government operating costs increase. There’s more war and border fighting over resources, which usually enlists the poor and distracts the rest.

- Have accountability: Keep religions, cultures and governments accountable for approving and promoting overpopulation.
- Wisely spend money: Boycott products made in countries with the fastest growing populations. You will likely pay more for products made elsewhere. So, people on limited budgets should be willing to consume less. Spend more tax money on education for all; some overpopulation is due to ignorance.
- Reform democracies to enable the passage of laws to: reduce trade with overpopulated countries until they reduce their birth rates; have a global minimum wage of $5 per hour for people employed by companies based in nations having an equal or greater minimum wage — to discourage companies from moving jobs to overpopulated countries with lower wages. As a result, prices of goods and services will rise. So, people on limited budgets should be willing to consume less.
CORPORATE GREED. People need healthy concern about themselves to survive. Having too much of this is greed. Having too much of anything usually harms the person having it, and it harms others. Since the early 1900s, ignorance and weak governments allowed corporate greed to grow. It harms more people and things every day. In a selfish and often reckless way, it makes as much money as fast as it can. And it makes the following lasting problems as it does this. It consumes earth’s resources without having things to replace them. It uses them in ways that pollute land, water, and air. It treats animals with cruelty. It makes unsafe working conditions. And in some places, it treats people worse than animals. It starts wars. It sells weapons to dangerous rulers and groups. And it uses money and mass media to take away people’s power to govern and protect themselves.

- Wisely spend money: Boycott the greediest corporations.
- Reform democracies to enable the passage of laws to require corporations to rewrite priorities in their corporate charters, so that the public interest is placed ahead of profit — as it was in the first charters made in the 1800s.
WAR. Today there are wars over oil. Next there may be war over clean water and farm land. And as the gap between rich and everyone else widens, there may be outright class war within nations. Currently, a low grade "class war" is starting in some nations, with increasing crime by some of the poor against people with assets. In wars during the past two centuries, more than 100 million people died and hundreds of millions more were hurt and impoverished. In every war, the many pay and the few profit.

Solutions: Reform democracies to enable people to have a greater voice in preventing illegal wars.
For more information, and to send comments, visit www.improvingourworld.com.

www.thebalancedrepublic.com presents a way to use random selection in choosing the US House of Representatives. Basically, 300 volunteer registered voters from each Congressional District are randomly selected, quickly assemble, spend time getting to know one another, and pick their District’s Representative(s) from among themselves.

A Citizen Legislature is a short book (at www.well.com/user/mp/citleg.html) that examines the benefits and drawbacks of using random selection to pick the US House of Representatives.

Let’s Toss for It: A Surprising Curb on Political Greed is a research paper (at www.constitution.org/elec/sortition_knag.htm) that discusses the characteristics and effects of using random selection, as well as its potential for present-day use. It also discusses its history and offers applications in the American political system.

Casting and Drawing Lots: A Time Honoured Way of Dealing with Uncertainty and for Ensuring Fairness is a research paper (at www.jameslindlibrary.org/essays/casting_of_lots/casting.html) that discusses using random selection from a historical perspective, including Biblical references and its use in military service.

Random Selection in Politics is a book by Professors Carson and Martin. It offers a college-level discussion on the benefits and drawbacks of using random selection to choose representatives in government.

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