The Power of Money

Explain to me this.

Economists and modern economic theory have crashed the figurative Titanic. So why are we expecting them to fix it? I’m pretty sure they didn’t mean to crash it in the first place, so they apparently don’t know as much as I do about why it crashed.

What I know, and any farmer or rancher knows, is that nothing can grow forever. Even Jack’s beanstalk stopped growing when it got to the castle, and that was magic. Modern economists can not do magic. Modern economic theory, according to the one course that I took, is firmly grounded in the shifting sand of non-sustainable growth. Money is not magic; nothing on this earth can grow forever.

Ask Madoff.  Or Stanford.

So why are we surprised when it doesn’t?

THE Power

Today is so fine, the elm trees in full bloom and I look and see and say:

“Could you make an elm tree?”

What is more powerful than man and all his works? The closest thing I know is the ecosystem.  I know I couldn’t be here without it and I can’t change the way it makes an elm tree, and nothing can stop the Springtime.

090215_dsc8903ls2And then this evening I stood on my back porch,

and this is what I saw, and I wondered again:

“How did the ecosystem get here?”

It’s worth studying,

because apparently we have the power to mess up this fine gift.

The Power of Knowledge

Up to now I haven’t mentioned what I believe is the most important source of power, and that is knowledge.

Dot Earth is a very good site for keeping up to date on current knowledge about biology and other sciences that are relevant to the political issues we face. Today’s report very neatly describes why conflicts within countries are seldom solved when the “root cause” of the problem is scarce natural resources. You would think that would be obvious, wouldn’t it? Not enough to eat, people fight over what is available, but now we know from both the obvious and from the statistics and from the United Nations Environment Program. So why haven’t we solved the problem?

Probably because we need more than knowledge to solve problems. We must also exercise the power of our own choices, first to listen to factual reality and think about it as it is (not as we are), and then to do something. And that’s when we get all wound up in the political problem of trying to decide which is more important — the politician or the long-term welfare of the people.

Who’s Power?

It looks like the Feds have uncovered another pyramid scheme, and a whole new crowd of people who were at the bottom of the pyramid are out of luck and out of their money and the fruit of their lives that they invested in it. You have to wonder why they were so deluded as to believe in something “too good to be true.” Something that feeds the power — if money is power — of the man at the top of the pyramid.

Of course, that is why it’s referred to as a pyramid (aka Ponzi) scheme. Lots of little folk at the bottom willingly give their money into the coffers of fewer and fewer, the higher one climbs on the pyramid, until the fellow at the top gets access to all the money to pursue his own aims. It works very well, as long as the resources never run dry. The resources are of course the folks at the bottom of the pyramid who continue to donate their money.

Catherine Rampell of the New York Times says that pyramid schemes are mathematically “doomed,” and claims that “anyone sophisticated enough to concoct a Ponzi scheme . . . must be sophisticated enough to do the math here.”

But from where I sit the entire United States economy, and our economic theory, are based on the fallacy that our economy can grow forever in the absence of a base of growing resources.

Isn’t that the same thing?

The Power of Money

The New York Times , showing a photograph of a very happy new Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, points out the risks that accompany the power of disbursing a $54 billion stabilization fund that is “intended to prevent public sector layoffs, mostly in schools.”

Mr. Duncan has said: “I want all of us to work hard enough and smart enough to take full advantage of this, because it’ll never happen again.” Those are very nice words. I wonder, however, what he really means by “take full advantage.” He has the option to use the money to accomplish short-term goals or long-term sustainable goals, and the two often are not compatible. I hope he knows that the difference between these goals often parallels the difference between “me” and “us.” Pres. Obama seems to know the difference; I hope Mr. Duncan knows; I’m pretty sure most of the congress does not.

The Power of Communication


If power is the ability to influence people, then power must include the ability to communicate with people, one way or another — with force, with your words, with your body language, or your hysterics, or your suffering. The most harmless and yet precise of these methods of communicating is with words. However, we can’t communicate anything with a word so long as you think it means one thing and I think it means a different thing. Did you know that the word “uma” means “horse?”

If we want to influence people toward a common goal, we must define our terms.

Almost nobody does this; almost everybody assumes that everyone else uses the same words the same way; almost always they don’t, even when they are speaking the same language.

I say the real definition of science is: “the study of measurable facts using the scientific method.” If someone tells you their particular brand of hogwash is “scientifically proven,” you should ask them to show you the measurable facts and/or the scientific method involved in the “proof.” Or, more bluntly, ask them to precisely explain what they mean by “scientifically proven.” Because if the proof does not involve measurable facts and the scientific method — then by definition it is not scientific and they are talking about something different from what you are thinking about.

If they want to change the definition of science, well that’s discussable, and you would both be on the same wavelength, but it’s quite a different subject.

Arguing over Something that Doesn’t Exist

Rather than argue over whether or not we should exclude science/include religion in the biology classroom, what do you think about this approach?

1.  First we should define Science, because without that definition we are indeed arguing over something that doesn’t exist.  That’s easy.  Science is a method of evaluating measurable facts using the scientific method.  The energy we spend arguing against science might be better spent learning to understand what science is before we decide whether or not to pitch it out

2.  Next if we want a useful learning experience for our young, we should define our goals for teaching science so that we can all discuss and debate with the same goals in mind.  Below is my biased list of questions for discussion:

a.  Do we want to teach the scientific method?  This is a non-question.  If we want to teach science we must teach the scientific method.  If we don’t talk about science in the classroom we are not teaching science; we are teaching something else.   What else would we want to teach in a science class?

b.  Do we want our students to graduate from our schools with the knowledge that is required to compete for jobs in science and technology?

c.  Do we want to remain competitive in the economic marketplace that depends so heavily on whether or not we can effectively use science and the scientific method?

3.  And after we have done the necessary preparation, then we should sit down together and engage all the power of our enthusiasm and love of this land and its children to figure out how best to teach the scientific method in science classes.

And teach other things in other classes.

That makes sense to me.

Arguing over something that doesn’t exist is a huge waste of the power of our time that we could be using to build a rich and fruitful community for our young.