What should we be talking about?

Let us know what you think we really should be talking about. Any and all suggestions are welcome. If the idea seems good, we'll post it for another chapter of debate.  

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NG Allen, China

A really successful single market necessitates more than an absence of tariff barriers; it surely needs to operate in a single language as well. The USA does this advantage, as does China (for the written language, at least), but the EU seems intent on putting itself at a deliberate disadvantage. That Portuguese needs to be translated into Latvian at EU meetings or the draft Constitution has to be issued in Maltese makes the EU appear ridiculous in the eyes of the outside world. Isn't it time for the EU to adopt a single language both for its internal business and for its cross border communications?

Kenneth Perry, Natural Born Englishman

The Singe Currency or adopting the Euro.

A common currency has nothing to do with political affiliations. I remember my Grandfather showing me Golden Sovereigns in 1923. The Gold Standard was a global common currency for centuries. When it was abandoned the value of all currencies, including the Pound simply depended & depends on their acceptability as a tool of barter. My Pound as a pensioner goes much further here in Somerset than in London where I was born. But it is the same Pound.

Steve Garcia, Illinois, US

What we really need to be talking about are the following points about the Arab world:

1. What IS it that so infuriates Arab men that they would blow themselves up in order to get our attention?
2. WHY do they think they need to get our attention?
3. What IS it that they don't think we are hearing?
4. Is there any Win-Win scenario available at all in the Middle East? (I think there is, believe it or not.)
5. Why is it that the U.S. uses miitary options as a first option against Arab countries?
6. Why is it that the U.S. uses negotiation as the first option with other nations?
7. Is there ANYTHING that can be done in Iraq in particular to heal the West-Arab rift?
8. If the U.S. reasons for invading Iraq have been found to be erroneous, what shall the world DO about the illegality, in terms of holding the U.S. leadership accountable?
9. If the U.S. reasons for invading Iraq have been found to be erroneous, what shall the world DO about the illegality, in terms of reparations to Iraq?

There are more, but those I think can be a starting set of questions.

Mathew Cameron, Scotland

One question that has bothered me right from the very start of our so called war on terrorism is simply this.
What are the reasons why people such as Bin Laden and his ilk wish to harm western democracies especially the U.S.
No one has yet given a convincing argument to that question. After all it was not that long ago that many of these terrorists were our allies and considered freedom fighters by us and so we supported them financially, gave them training and supplied them with intelligence from our various security agencies. What changed? One thing I do know is that they have not just turned on us on a whim. What are the motivations behind these attacks? Perhaps it is time that we in the West especially America stop meddling in the affairs of The Middle East and let them sort out they're own problems. In the end it is only then that they can find the solution.

Josh Rugumire, Rwanda

Since the political game showdown of Sept 11, Britain has become a political punch bag of USA's blood thirsty foreign policy. Labour party has forgotten its agenda and what it does now is implimenting the whitehouse policies. Today's topic should be why Britain has turned from its acclaimed confident nation to a drug addict like paranoid nation.

Why should Labour party keep on drawing policies of which to my own opinions does not suit the citizens who work so hard to keep their image as " We are British" the great. Should ther norm change to " We are British " the paranoid political underwears of Americans.

Stephen Irving, Ontario, Canada

Steve Garcia and Mathew Cameron might begin to find the answers they're looking for by surveying some of the many alternative media resources:


And there are probably countless others... These websites are of course rife with rhetoric of their own much like mainstream media, but they might enable those unclear on the motives of anti-Western terrorists to develop a more informed and balanced perspective. Just a quick suggestion.

Mathew Cameron, Aberdeen, Scotland

Thank you to Stephen Irving for directing me to those different sites, however my statement was more rhetorical in nature.I was merely decrying society's total ignorance and complete acceptance of what our governments tell us and the unwillingness of people to discover for themselves the true nature of this "war on terror".
Firstly, Al-Qa'ida never existed as an entity, it was merely an invention of the U.S. Justice department. Doing this helped to prove the existance of an organised international "terror network". The sad truth is there never was one. In the U.K. 1600 people have been arrested in connection to terrorist activities post 9/11.Not a single person has been tried or convicted.
Osama Bin Laden's group in Afghanistan has all but been destroyed,mostly by the Afghans themselves.
Why would a government invent such fiction. The answer is two fold. One, focus the public's attention.Make them scared and fearful.Secondly, divert people's attention away from the true reasons behind the lie.
Some years ago an American right-wing think tank wrote an open letter to Bill Clinton urging him to get tough on Iraq. In 2000 George Bush won a dubious election. 7 out of 9 of Bush's inner circle were signatories in that in that letter. Nearly all have financial and business connections to arms companies or oil companies or both. Coincedence? Unlikely. So the war in Iraq was born. Bourne out of the fear of terror, even when Iraq had nothing to do with Bin Laden. Ironic is'nt it.
To keep up the fear level we are fed a daily dose of information in the media about imminent terrorist attacks. Threats which do not hold up to scrutiny. Take the dirty bomb for example. Sounds pretty scary dosen't it. Garbage. The truth is ,as any phyiscist worth his salt would tell you, this is the possibly the most ineffectual delivery system of radioactive material there
is. Simply the blast itself would disperse the material so far and wide that the effect is almost nil. As long as the area was properly cleaned there would be no risk to anyone. You would have to stand a FULL YEAR in the blast site and maybe then it might have an effect and a negligable one at that. Same go's for the biological agents to.
Creating a climate of fear suits the politicians who stand to gain from this "war on terror". Shamefully we swallow every word, accept our goverment's decicions and watch as we kill thousands upon thousands of innocents in a phony war. What a world we live in.

George the taxidriver, Australia

The problems of the world are very simple to state but very difficult to solve. For example; the dominant power in the world, the US, is committed to making eternal war on some enemy or other, or even, in the case of the so-called war on terror, on an imaginary enemy.
The reason for this, as has been pointed out by such wise and experienced America watchers as Noam Chomsky and Gore Vidal, is to move vast amounts of money from the public coffers to private hands by means of "defence" spending.
Since the US is unassailable militarily, the only hope the world has to free itself from this scourge is to motivate internal opposition to this process within the US. Vote out the right wing extremists for a start and then try to clean up the political system to break the network known as the military industrial complex.
BUT, the US is characterised by an education system designed specifically to produce stupid and compliant people who are easily governed by despots. In addition, the mechanisms of mass propaganda used to sway the inclinations of this stupid and compliant populace are very advanced.
What to do? Well I think flying planes into the world trade centre was a good start.(1) it gets their attention and causes them to ask themselves why people hate them. (2) it gives them a taste of their own medicine.Perhaps, they may think, killing large numbers of innocent civilians for no good reason is not a good thing? Perhaps we should entreat our governments to stop doing it to various civilians around the world? Perhaps we should try being apologetic for doing so much of it in the past?
Sometimes the extreme solution is the right solution.

Juliet Wittman, USA

There are a lot of us here in the U.S. who are not at all convinced that this was a fair election. Votes cast on the Diebold machines and other black box computers--widely used in both Florida and Ohio--are impossible to verify. I seem to remember a columnist, possibly Paul Krugman, saying that the only way we'd know if someone had jiggered the numbers was if the exit poll numbers failed to line up with the final results. And, as I understand it, so they haven't. Krugman also said that the worst result he could imagine was that the Democrats would win the election, but never know it.
I hate to seem paranoid, but in the light of the dedicated attempts at voter disenfranchisement by the Republicans, it's hard not to be.
And even if I'm completely wrong, I'd like to see this possibility get a serious airing.

Michael Remler, United States

Why is an economically advanced economy appear to be closely correlated with a female fertility of less than two; that is less than replacement. Is one cause and the othere effect? and which is which? What does this mean about the future of European culture with large scale Islamic immigration? When Rome became ethnically Visagoth the name was changed to Italy. Will we need to change the name of France when it is ethnically Algerian? Whither Japan?

James Howard, UK

Without doubt we should be talking about the social and economic consequences of oil depletion. Many senior oil geologists are coming out and saying that there is not as much oil as was previously thought - indeed, the peak of production is looking increasingly likely to be within the next decade.
Are we utterly dependent on oil? Yes, to an extent most people wouldn't image.
Are oil prices going to rise? Yes, as demand increases and reserves decrease.
Can we guarentee long term supply of oil? With nearly two/thirds of oil coming from the middle east, as long as we continue to aggravate the area, it cannot be guarenteed.
Are there alternatives? For some things yes, for other things no, but none as cheap as oil and none that do not require monumental investment that just isn't happening.For more information:
or google 'Peak Oil'.

Seamus, USA

Issues that need to be dicussed include:
Why are the links between large corporations and politicians not scrutinized for their effect on governmental policy?
Why is the Third World an afterthought until genocide occurs or people start asking where terrorism came from?
How can you declare a world war on a word? Terrorism has never been used to describe the political motive behind violence but the violence itself until now?
Who decides the difference between a terrorist and a freeom fighter?
Can there never be a revolution again, given that all any sovreign government has to do is accuse the revolutionaries of being terrorists?
Why does the issue of abortion help decide the US election when more children die daily from poverty and malnutrition than will from abortion in any year?

Michel Bastian, France

Well, the obvious question at the moment is: Quo vadis, Palestine? What is going to happen now, after the death of Arafat, and what should the parties involved (i.e. Israel, the Palestinian government, the US and the EU) do next?

Herb Kimiatek, USA

The Arab world makes the false claim that their major reason for having this hostility towards the western world is the Palistinian Israeli conflict. Since they do not feel the palistinians are at fault ,then it is just the Israelis which is really just the Jews. This is tha age old problem that the Jews are the cause of conflict in the world.
I guess we have to go along and try to fix this conflict and when it is fixed wait for the excuse the Arab world gives for the continuing unrest.
An idea I would like to express is that Israel and palistine come to a final territory resolution of what is Isael and what is Palistine. Then the settlements do not have to be disbanded, those Jews become palistinians, and Israeles if is Israel wants them. Why should Palistine be Jew free.

Charlie, USA

we need to talk about the major differences in wealth accumulation between those countries like the USA and those countries that are extremely poor. We need to know that poor folk have a right to organize to improve their standards of living, without having some right-wing *freedom* gangsters, calling them terrorist or communist, or socialist. Mostly when people organize its does out of the need for self determination or nationalism . We need to see this. Also the injustice of the Palistianin question needs to be resolved and we need to look at the state terror of the Israelis, backed in full by the United states.
If we want a peaceful world we have to act like peacemakers not jinogist. Its always easier to strike out, calling others terrorist so then we can use force on them. In America, my home, we have failed in our education of our citizens, since, we fail to understand that violence begets violence.We also fail to appreciate that democracy can't be brough to others it has to arise from the needs of the people, the people have to determine how they are going to living and which form of goverment they desire.
I think the right is basically flawed, since if we live with the market there will always be groups of people who are hurt by it, who can't prosper by it, so we need government to be responsible for all of its citizens not just the powerful who write the tax and civil laws. Capitalism always needs to be regulated, if not outright changed to a democratic socialism. THe problem is that the people who could benefit from a democratic socialism, act as if they were from the ruling elite and see it as a dictatorship which it is not at all, dispite the name sake of the soicalism in the soviet union which was not democratic.
In reality we are in for a long stuggle because those in power are only concerned with their own political advantage and not with the greater good for all. They have the world, what more do they want?

Henry James, UK

For me the most exciting thing about my recent discovery of this web site is contained, microcosmically, in this debate on its own- simply that, on this page are enumerated the most important issues facing our planet's immediate and long-term future: described succinctly, objectively, dispassionately, but with caring. While being conscious of the fact that the people writing here for the most part share my position in the political spectrum (centre-left, liberal), I could assert (therefore not unbiasedly) that people writing here are reasonable, intelligent, thoughtful, and are careful to take as broad and unbiased a view as they can (and it is with the same qualities that Timothy Garton Ash wrote his book).
My point, leading to my suggestion for a subject for further debate, is, are they ways we can process the implications of this, take it forward?
Are there ways we can crystallise, systematise, relativise viewpoints on these issues, position them in a scale of objectivity and fairness? So that regardless of overly-fetishised religious and other stances on certain 'flag-bearing' issues (gay marriage), are they ways of viewing aspects that affect all of us (the environment, Kyoto), viewing particular opinions and suggestions about them in order of 'enlightened-ness', for example so that if a particular stance or response concerns only one country's best interest, and another takes into account all relevant parties' interests, the latter can objectively be stated to be more 'enlightened', more globally valid? Or if one stance concerns itself only with an immediate future, and the other with both immediate and long-term future, again the latter is objectively and dispassionately described as 'better'?
I'm sure you will see what I am getting at here; if there were a way to move the 'conversation of ideas' in politics on, so that people who espouse narrow national interests can at least see that this is what they are doing, and understand that this is on a fundamentally 'lower level' (or less globally appropriate) than concern with universal interest.
I realise this is pie-in-the-sky. I've just been excited to see so much reasonable comment on this page.
Another point to consider perhaps is how these memes spread? How does a person become an 'enlightened' (that word used unhistorically again, apologies), objective person? And equally important, how can those people then go on to work usefully and productively together?
I would posit, in answer to the first question (what makes a person enlightened), rather controversially, that the answer lies in a reasonable level of intelligence and curiosity, allied with removal from identification with any particular interest, whether national or commercial etc. A head of a country is simply not free to act or speak in the interests of all the parties to a situation ahead of his/her own nation, but must protect his/her own military, commercial or political power base. Other people, while not having these particular constraints as a result of their function, nevertheless choose to identify with them, and become similarly affected (Telegraph readers).
Therefore, almost tautologically: people who think intelligently, compassionately and globally-objectively come to the conclusion that the best must be done for all the world, all the parties to a situation - although of course there may be disagreement on how to do this. All people's views can be adjusted for distortions inherent in their particular strong identification with any one nation, religion, economic sector, social class, ethnic group, etc.
In our freedom of being able to choose our perspective (assuming no-one reading this is a head of state!), I suggest (perhaps unoriginally) we must act as the conscience of the world, of our leaders, perhaps as its impartial 'consultants'. Therefore how best to do this? How best to move the battleground of debate and the locus of consensus away from narrow interest to human objectivity?

Can Am

As a Canadian living in America, I suggest we begin talking about (on the international stage), America's treatment of its Native or Aboriginal Peoples. Native Americans have become the most insidious example of American imperialism and just how "forgotten" a people will become once American Manifest Destiny is done with them. The tradition of falsely negotiating peace terms; waging brutal and over-powering war; marketing the upside of atrocities to the electorate; and then distracting dumbed-down consumers with promises of a rich life while post-war reservation life suffering goes on unabatted for decades and centuries is what requires open and honest dialogue. For once, the tough questions need to be asked and asked again until and actual answer bubbles through the marketing (what used to be rhetoric). The rest of the free world could help America by pointing it in upon itself for awhile.
We have little in the way of a truly successful "Free" America to offer the world.
Let's keep America honest on the world stage by challenging Americans to clean up their own backyard.

Phil Harris, England, GB

Timothy Garton Ash mentions 'enlightenment values' in today's Guardian, 18th November. Jefferson, Voltaire. I guess the best we can do is to continue to try to get our thinking straight - as on this page. Even now we continue to hope we can improve things.
For most of us our contribution is likely to be limited. I have an ex aerospace engineer friend who spent the early years of his retirement promoting high quality performers of music at a local venue. He had no money of his own to speak of, but was successful. Public recognition of his role was not a big thing for him. As he lost physical mobility he moved over to promoting local 'green' housing and encouraging a number of young people in plying ideas and skills to produce high value outcomes.
Considering the large scale, I quote some recent material I came across recently while researching for a piece of writing, which suggested the importance of non-economic societal forces. Gender parity is a critical matter as we look for an honest approach.
In 1984, quote - „A systems dynamics simulation study of the interaction of various social subsystems in the People's Republic of Bangladesh ∑ [can] address integrated planning concerns. It is concluded that one should not underestimate the potential of ∑ [Study results indicated that the following could decrease the population growth rate to year 2002.] 1) Reducing the school dropout rate for females. 2) Expanding the educational infrastructure. 3) Increasing adult educational opportunities for females, 4) raising the legal marriage age. 5) Increasing family planning and health services. 6) Expanding job opportunities for women. 7) Promoting the development of labour intensive production, and 8) increasing food production.‰ Behav Sci 1984 Jul; 29(3): 145-61.
Twenty years on in 2004, quote - Bangladesh has one of the higher population densities in the world and higher agricultural to urban employment ratios than the regional average, but crude birth rate and births per woman have reduced markedly and are lower than the regional average. Female participation in education has increased markedly and is close to the regional average. Maternal and infant mortality remain high. Sustainable Development Networking Programme (SDNP) E-17 Agargaon, Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, Dhaka-1207, Bangladesh. Further focus on women‚s empowerment and reproductive health, aims to stabilise population by 2060 at 216 million (currently around 130 million). www.chinaview.cn 2004-10-19 12:58:37
I keep remembering in the corner of TV shots, people in old jeans moving fast in the background of the peaceful transition in Central and Eastern Europe at the end of the Soviet era. I guess Europe owes them a lot. It could have been a lot worse. They never took any kind of power - not surprisingly, even counting Havel. Has anybody ever assessed fully their role or story? Enlightenment values in action?

Blue USA

Let's not forget the Earth we all stand on!

Susan Murray, USA

"No one has yet given a convincing argument to that question. After all it was not that long ago that many of these terrorists were our allies and considered freedom fighters by us and so we supported them financially, gave them training and supplied them with intelligence from our various security agencies. What changed? One thing I do know is that they have not just turned on us on a whim. What are the motivations behind these attacks? Perhaps it is time that we in the West especially America stop meddling in the affairs of The Middle East and let them sort out they're own problems. In the end it is only then that they can find the solution."
I don't believe they were ever our allies, more like enemies of our enemy. Bin Laden and the fundamental Wahbits were outraged that the American military touched the sacred soil of Saudia Arabia. It was the most egregious sin (in their eyes) and had to be punished. Read the writings of Osama bin Laden. We also support Israel, probably a more egregious sin. Osama says:
"God knows it did not cross our minds to attack the towers. But after the situation became unbearable and we witnessed the injustice and tyranny of the American-Israeli alliance against our people in Palestine and Lebanon, I thought about it. And the events that affected me directly were that of 1982 and the events that followed -- when America allowed the Israelis to invade Lebanon, helped by the U.S. 6th Fleet.
In those difficult moments, many emotions came over me that are hard to describe, but that produced an overwhelming feeling to reject injustice and a strong determination to punish the unjust.
As I watched the destroyed towers in Lebanon, it occurred to me to punish the unjust the same way [and] to destroy towers in America so it could taste some of what we are tasting and stop killing our children and women.
We had agreed with the [the Sept. 11] overall commander Mohamed Atta, may God rest his soul, to carry out all operations in 20 minutes -- before Bush and his administration could take notice.
It never occurred to us that the commander in chief of the American forces would leave 50,000 citizens in the two towers to face those horrors alone at a time when they most needed him because he thought listening to a child discussing her goat and its ramming was more important than the planes and their ramming of the skyscrapers. This gave us three times the time needed to carry out the operations, thanks be to God. . . . "
Obviously, we're not dealing with rational people, in the European sense of the term. This is an ideological struggle and can't be resolved by any attempt to enlighten.

Bill George, Germany

Last year I puchased a book called "The Dollar Crisis" which predicted in some detail what is now happening to the dollar and consequently to the American economy. While I too am shocked by the apparent ignorance and stupidity of those who can re-elect a man like George Bush, I am also concerned at the prospect of the imminent collapse of the world's most powerful nation (what happens if the next auction of US Bonds fails to attract enough buyers - something which has happened to other countries often enough?) The fact that the USA also depends so heavily on a greedy consumption of energy resources only reinforces the gravity of the threat. As I am NOT writing a book, I will not continue ...

Alex, USA

What we should be talking about: are we justified in spreading liberal values through force? Leaving aside our assesment of the Bush administration and the neocons, should liberals be willing to use force to end tyranny and oppression in the world?

annibal, pt

Should Europe choose USA&Canada or Brazil&Argentina?

Luca Cittadini, Italy

Are the so called red americans hating the so called blue americans for the same and opposite reasons why the blue americans are hating the reds? in other terms: is your country falling in an ideoligical war of different stereotypes? do you think that tha actual situation drives to build stereotypes of each other? including french, germans, arabs, italians, and excetera? Who is in the right? the stereotype of the red think the blue are omosexuals who want to have children in a strange chemical way i don't understand and the blue think those ignorants should not have the right to vote. and the stereotype of the arabs ( who are they?) think all the western people are close to the devil. I am sorry if i sound naiv but i am writing from italy (sounds funny, doesn't it?). My opinion is anyway that we should talk to each other with the target of understanding other people's thoughts and questions and needs, and the best people of this era should start any conversation with the wish, the hope and the target of understanding each other, because the world is babylon at the moment, and we have to find the language of mutual comprehension to restart to call ourself human beings. with devotion.

Luca Cittadini, Italy

i have been reading many many opinions, and you can understand it is like travelling in a foreign country, with all the excitment that is guaranteed to the foreigner. my naiv thought is that the right side of america, which could be the left side but not the wrong side, has all the arguments and the seeds of a culture able to come out in a positive way from your crisis and keep your role, but you all should become more open to the others. generally speaking. Because what i see inbetween the lines is that the politically correct people overpassed a deadline, the hercules columns, where you start to hate the people who does not think like you, which sounds to my ears that you hate them because they don't love human beings like you do. which is an obvious contradiction. and ulysses, who goes forward, finds his death. but he does it for the knowledge of the world. Mr gandhi was so powerful in india not because he had media, but because he was going in every single village asking what they needed and what they thought. he knew not every single man or question or need was right, but he was asking, instead of saying. and by the time he started to ask to poor people to follow him in his refusal of food against english occupation of a sovereign country, the news were going from village to village on the feet of somebody, faster than trains. because he was a listener. the people who want a more peaceful world should start from understing the people of their own country who are bigot, negative and think they know the truth. it's too simple and unacronistic to understand only the people who think like you, red or blue you are. the world is on fire. only a real dialogue will put a shade of red on liers faces. liers are guiilty, not the humans of goodwill, wherever they live, whatever they think. it's simple. if we as citizens want to have a role we have to follow the road of comprehension, which does not mean indulgence. Means who are you and how are you living your life in this world? what do you need, what do you have? what do you know about my problem? could we live in peace if power had less poower? honestly yours

Bob Powelson, A Canadian in Korea

There are a lot of lefties on this one.
Someone spoke of the Dollar crisis. If the low value of the US dollar is such a crisis why is everyone in Europe and Asia complaining so loud about the "unfairness" of the low dollar?
It is simple really, it make the thing they sell to the US too expensive and the US goes elsewhere and the Japanese and European economies suffer more than the US.
Does anyone remember the two oild pricing crises? Oil got expensive the US borrowed trillions. The money came from Europe, Japan and the Middle East to the US.
What happened then? The owners of the money invested in the US. The Saudis bought real estate which dropped in price and the US essentially got it back for about 24 cent on the dollar.
Japanese manufacturers set up factories (Sony, Toyota, Honda and etc.) Their concern for those factories made them become nearly American - in some case the ownership actually shifted. Again the US got their money back at about 40 cents on the dollar after a couple of recessions.
Never, never sell the Yankee trader short. He will whip you every time.
Latest episode. Mercedes buys Chrysler. The German Economy tanks and the guaranteed job system has hurt Mercedes very badly. Part of their problem is the low dollar.
Next step Merceded divests itself of the American Chrysler holding for about 25 cents on the dollar.
Europe is a spent force and Social Democracy is a failing system.

Johanna Moren, Sweden

I think we need to ask ourselves a simple question.
Why is it alright for us to have Nuclear weapons?
Who is it that has used them? Who has used biological weapons?The very country that has used them is going around the world telling people if they try to get them they will put sanctions on them. Why don't we put sanctions on the U.S.A. They not only have them but they have used them and I have no doubt they would use them again. If this makes sense to you, it doesn't to me.I was out on the street in 1946 against the bomb.
for that they called me a Communist. I joined the environmental movement...I was a communist. Peace movement a communist. Now I guess they would call me a terrorist. Stangely enough I was born a Catholic.
I think you young people have got to ask the right questions. I have seen the wrecks of soldiers that have come back from too many wars.This one I imagine will have a devastating effect on them.

Susan Starke, USA

Canadian columnist Mark Steyn has said that for many countries, the "free world" is a "free ride" on the military might of the United States. True or false? What should the role of the military be?

Francisco J Aguilar, Chicago, Illinois, USA

One Earth, too many people!

Bruce the Canuck, Canada

"the "free world" is a "free ride" on the military might of the United States. True or false? What should the role of the military be?"
False. Remember that Europe has its own nuclear weapons. Not as many as the US, but it only really takes a few dozen, and they have a lot more than that. As much as I hate to admit it as a "leftie", is why the "developed world" has by and large been at peace internally for two generations.
The USA's conventional-arms military might exists to maintain its oil supply. Conventional arms are next to useless except for "sparring", messing around in smaller countries, and shooting your own citizens if they get uppity. Nukes are the cheapest defensive security around, which is why small countries with dangerous neighbours want them. Iran doesn't want nukes so it can bomb Israel, or hand them to terrorists - it wants them to keep the US from invading them (by threatening to bomb Israel).
Europe, etc, have less oil-intensive economies, and so can be energy-secure through market-based means alone. This is also why the EU embraced Kyoto; their perception of the risk to climate change isn't necc higher. It's that the costs are lower to the EU, and they'd like to further reduce reliance on oil anyways, to avoid the trap they see the USA is in now. If the white house were really concerned about promoting freedom and quality of life, they'd be messing around in Africa, not the middle east.
There are other contributing reasons, such as smaller families, which in a democratic country leads to a strong reluctance to risk your only child to invade a neighbour.
So if you want peace, promote democracy, nukes, and birth control, in about that order. Unfortunately, while nukes reduce the frequency of large-scale war, they vastly increase its cost.
I think a useful topic might actually be, "Why isn't anyone afraid of the large nuclear arsenals any longer, especially when China is so ambitious and undemocratic, and Russia is near-totalitarian and a failing state?"
Nukes terrify me. But until Russia and China are true democracies, it'll be hard to get rid of them.

Furgaia, Canada

It is so terribly depressing travelling through the bloggosphere and visiting places on the Internet. So many ideas, so many discussions, so much talk! Yet everything sooner or later disappears as if through a black hole or gets drowned in the babel of voices struggling to be heard (including this one!). There is nothing left. No light! Most of us remain if not as ignorant, at least as impotent in the face of the challenges and threats we face today and those we will be facing tomorrow, as when we first embarked on this "electronic" search for a better world. Blogging, as it is presently, is indeed a very passive activity but it has a dark side to it also in that it lulls us into a false sense of comfort and satisfaction. I am thinking that perhaps there is a need for more "active" blogging. Not that discussion and pondering and ranting are no longer useful and should be thrown on the scrap heap. What if along with all that there was also sharing of the concrete actions that one is taking in one's own particular life for the advancement of a better world. For example, along with ranting against the big bad US invading Iraq for oil, why not also add what one is doing PERSONALLY to reduce one's own oil consumption - SUV or hybrid? What group have we joined and what concrete steps is it taking for a better world? How can others join? I fear that unless we learn of creative ways - or share them if we already have them - to transform today's "echo chambers" (which is what the Internet and the bloggosphere for the most part have become) into some kind of "launching pads" towards real activism in the real world, we will remain trapped with each other, albeit in a "wonderful world of intelligent discourse", talking to each other, across each other, about what we should be doing or what we should be thinking, instead of going out there and really tackling the problems. It would be interesting, for example, to have on this site maybe a listing (or links to listings) of TRUE activism (community, grassroots) instead of COUNTERFEIT activism (corporate-backed or government-backed activism disguised as the former !). In other words, action (and ideas always of course!) but not just talk. Talk is cheap! We can't afford it anymore!

Bob Powelson, A Canadian in Korea

text: Steve Garcia asks a few questions that I will try to answer from my, admittedly personal perspective.
1. Why do Arab men blow themselves up? The only thing I can think of is sheer stupidity. It gets our attention in a totally negative way.
2. Why do they try to get out attention? I have the same answer a 1. above. We generally haven't listened to them because we have already chosen sides. We prefer Israel. To those that haven't chosen side they appear to have noothing rational to say.
3. Why don't they thin we are hearing? We hear, we just don't agree.
4. Is there any "Win - Win" solution in the midddle east? Other than Armageddon I doubt it.
5. The US uses military options because after 50 years of discussing things between Israel and the Palestinians it has clearly been a waste of time and effort.
6. Sometimes the US negotiates sometimes it doesn't. Diplomacy is the art of saying "nice doggie" until you find a big rock.
7. The Arab/Western rift in Iraq is more a Sunni and everyone else rift. The Kurds are happy and the Shiites fairly content.
8. The US invasion of Iraq was not erroneous. Weapons of mass destruction or not, Saddam needed to be removed. Next he needs to be convicted and executed. How do you propose to hold the US leadership accountable? As the Alpha male of the world wolf pack armed with nukes there is no way to hold the US accountable and the leaders have just won an election. Enforcable international law in relation to the only superpower is and idea that comes from smoking funny cigarettes.
9. Iraq is getting a lot of reparations it is called rebuilding. Should the former system in Iraq be brought back? Not in my lifetime.
The world really is in a clash of civilizations and the sooner we accept that reality the better off we are. Bush and the US have chosen sides and my repsponse makes it clear that I have also chosen. Osama bin Laden opened the bottle and let the genie out> I want the western system to prevail.

John, American living in the UK

What Europe,America and the rest of the 'free world' should be taking about is that the free world cannot survive with the US the way it is today.The government of the world's only superpower is completely controlled by those whose ideology is an unprecedented and dangerous mixture of fascism and fundamentalism.There are however two different countries,geographically and culturally,in America today and they are increasingly incompatible.Thanks to the election,we at least know what their borders are.One(Blue State America) is similar to Canada and Europe in attitude and outlook.The other(Red State America)is more like Saudi Arabia or Iran in its character.At some point both Americas need to reach the conclusion that they must agree to a partition,as in the case of India/Pakistan,or Czech Rep/Slovakia,just to name two instances.

Robert B Elliot, USA

text: Dear Friends,
I've just found your site and the hour is too late for the sort of commentary I would normally offer. For now, let me just state that there will never be a free world in the absence of free children, who are able to learn and develop optimally. Freedom, liberty, autonomy, and responsibility are learned and they are only possible if one's mind is free. As long as schooling is substituted for authentic educational opportunity and as long as schooling is mandated by laws, children will be, in effect, "brainwashed" or indoctrinated by the state and rendered inept by the school bureaucracy. I will attach a list that I wrote months ago. It spells out my specific objections in some detail.
The ancient premises and promises on which compulsory school attendance is predicated are ALL patently false. No one can come up with a single justification past or present for this travesty against children that will fly for a single second. The following briefly summarizes a number of specific issues or arguments relative to these questions, each of which will be more thoroughly discussed in separate articles of this series.
1. To function adequately as responsible and mature adult citizens in a free democratic system, people must necessarily first experience real personal choices, real freedom and liberty in their purest form, and extensive real opportunities to practice and experiment with their own decision-making skills and discretionary abilities throughout their childhood. Having freedom for the first time at graduation is like being given a 747 to fly, without ever having been near one.
2. Schooling that is forced upon students cannot possibly be seen by them as a privilege and an honor, nor can it ever result in authentic education. A privilege by any sane or logical definition involves initiative, free will, self-determination, personal goals and objectives, and independence from mass conformity and manipulation. The same is true in spades for an „education‰. No credible definition of education includes subjugation, dependence, confinement, the memorization of trite and trivial factual material (for the sole purpose of passing tests), massive standardization, bureaucratic gridlock, and the endless confusion of behavioral demands and discipline with academic discipline and excellence.
3. Values, morals, principles and ethics cannot ever be integrated in whole or in part into an official institutional curriculum or transmitted from a public school teacher to a diverse and variegated group of children, without stepping into the territory forbidden by the church-state separation requirement of the US Constitution. To try to create a middle ground or a watered down version of values and morals satisfactory for mass consumption is to render them meaningless and impotent. A choice has to be made between education and indoctrination. It is impossible to contribute significantly to positive character formation, without super-imposing essentially philosophical or religious viewpoints or without purposefully exercising undue bias in social or political influence. An institution of this nature must be totally free of any state or other external domination or control of any kind.
4. The popular and controlling conception of knowledge as information, data or subject matter, that can exist in some tangible form external to a human being, and that can be somehow transplanted, transferred or injected into a student‚s brain or mind through an „educational‰ process is in direct contradiction to any credible contemporary psychological theory. This view of knowledge and learning is anachronistic and misanthropic in the extreme. Knowledge (knowing) can only exist when it is part of an integrated whole within a living person‚s brain and nervous system. Knowledge must be methodically and voluntarily extracted and extrapolated from accessible sources by a living, breathing, and fully engaged student. This misguided mass and indiscriminate immersion in and exposure to information, presented arbitrarily and in uniformity is by definition something other than education. Education originates with the intrinsic desire of the individual to expand upon and incorporate what only that individual can perceive and recognize (re-cognize) in her or his personal phenomenological field. This is not Pollyanna theory. It is demonstrable fact.
5. A state government invariably wields overwhelming power with respect to private individuals. When school authorities usurp the responsibility of parents to educate their children, those authorities are automatically obliged to define both legally and practically the parameters of education in the process as an agent of government. They also automatically establish a need at all levels to assure compliance, loyalty, tacit acceptance, legitimacy, surrender and servility on the part of children and parents. They must sell what they offer and it must continually justify their use of power and its ineffectiveness. This effort then necessarily becomes nothing more than naked propaganda, pandering, mind-control, rationalization, PR, indoctrination, subtle and not-so-subtle persuasion, intimidation of parent and child, Blaming The Victim, nostalgia baiting, outright lying and everything else, but education.
6. The belief that it is possible to pre-ordain a set curriculum that applies uniformly to large numbers of succeeding classes of students is absolute folly. Curriculum is the list of wonderful and specific intentions, emanating from pretentious or presumptuous scholars, with which the road to hell is paved. A curriculum sets in concrete things that are never, ever the same for two students or teachers; things that are fluid and changing by definition, and things that are always contingent on exponentially varying experience and perception. Curriculum, beyond the level of a single teacher on a single day, is a stone that weighs around the necks of teachers and students alike, sinking all of them into a non-navigable sea of slime.
7. When we try to do the impossible and especially the impossible on a grand state or national scale, we cannot help but misallocate resources, misdirect our time and energies, and make major mistakes in policy and practice. This is nowhere more evident than in the profound neglect in schools of the verified needs of students for constant physical movement and exercise; for occasional peaceful tranquility; for diversion, variety and stimulation; for artistic experience and exposure; for quiet solitude and contemplation; for vigorous social interaction and identity formation, and for the manipulation and exploration of objects and ideas involving unlimited spatial and mental configurations. Schools must concentrate on „academics‰ at the expense of everything else and at the expense of the child‚s welfare, since academics are their alleged over-arching purpose. Unfortunately, however, even academics are doomed to failure under the conditions of coercion and exploitation in these highly contrived, confusing and sterile environments.
8. The relationship of children to their parents and guardians is as close to a sacred trust as anything gets in the estimation of most American citizens. But the quickest way to undermine and compromise that precious relationship is to arbitrarily make parents into tough truant officers for the state or for one of its bureaucratic agencies. The same thing can be said about making teachers the enforcers of anonymous authority, which in this scheme of things is unavoidable. A child might well voluntarily attend a school where the parent is intimately involved; where his or her perceptions, experiences and feelings are taken into serious consideration by the staff, and where the parent is able to articulate a sincere and convincing rationale that corresponds to the actual events and potential benefits that can be seen daily by the child. Given these state laws and the total disconnect they create however; parents are thereby pitted against their own children and alienated from them and their peers, often irreparably.
9. Children came to represent little more than a given number of dollars to a given locality the second the first law was passed requiring attendance in a school ˆ any school. Incredible pressure is applied on parents, teachers and the children themselves to keep those seats occupied and the money flowing to the institution, regardless of the inimical effects on all concerned. Children have become chattel in such a system and are treated more as resources to use and property to control, than as important and fragile new members of the larger community.
10. If genuine educational opportunities were offered at no cost or at an affordable cost to parents, there would be no need to force any parent to enroll their children in such a beneficial and productive program, nor are there likely to be children who would not embrace their chance to receive the universally recognized benefits of such a splendid program, except in the most rare instances. Those few instances and exceptions that would occur in which parents are negligent are covered by existing child welfare laws. Children of all ages would be fighting to gain access to places where real learning was taking place and real opportunity for becoming productive and competent was evident.
11. Let‚s ask ourselves, fifty years after the Civil Rights movement; after The Brown „separate and unequal‰ decision and the Cole Report and many Blue Ribbon studies; after major legislation aimed at ending hate crimes and discrimination of all types; after innumerable programs, both in schools and out, having to do with tolerance and „multi-culturalism‰ and justice and awareness, why are we seeing an increase in the terribly nasty and petty things of this nature that we had hoped were behind us? The clear answer is because we have been unable to do anything about the institutionally caused insecurity; the inherent barriers to the formation of a positive and affirmative identity; the incapacity for understanding and tolerance resulting from school methods and structures, and the irresponsible failure to properly inform and educate our youth with respect to our history, our mistakes and our discoveries. Children who are pushed into long-term schooling that they find degrading, demoralizing, frustrating, meaningless or oppressive, where they must compete for favor and attention, do not usually respond well to messages about tolerance or develop an appreciation for diversity, charity, brotherhood, fairness and sharing the wealth.
12. The idea that there is no better way and no affordable alternative is absurd. The idea that twelve years of formal schooling for 180 days per year is necessary is even more absurd. For thousands of years, if not generations, children learned what they needed to know in a fraction of the time, without schooling, forced or otherwise. „Basic skills‰ are still basic and sophistication still relies on the love of learning. Before forced or formal schooling the rate of literacy, even among the rural and poor was higher than it is today and there was a much greater respect and admiration for authentic learning and intellectual development.
13. Among the driving forces behind the establishment of laws requiring school attendance were and are still religious concepts that have no place in public policy. These disgraced and unsubstantiated „theories‰ conflict directly with many current religious beliefs and with solid scientific research results. The idea that the child will do the wrong thing or act in a selfish or „sinful‰ manner (the theory of original sin) without being dragged into a school and reprogrammed by right-thinking adults is the prime example of a terribly backward and ignorant notion, in what is becoming a terribly backward and ignorant nation as a direct consequence. Children compulsively seek knowledge, unless criminally discouraged and they return respect in proportion to the respect they receive.
14. The unrealistic popular hope for salvation or for a social panacea and a utopian future has historically been a prominent motivating factor in equating schooling with education and has brought nothing but grief and abject failure. If universal education is truly the means to a better tomorrow for mankind, as it most surely is, then the sooner we relinquish the foolish pipedream of fine-tuning this misanthropic misery machine of schooling throughout the period of youth, the sooner we will see a significant increase in authentic education. Society cannot be improved by regarding children as sub-human conscripts in need of brainwashing.
15. One frequently hears the explanation that school is preparation for life and that kids must experience the unpleasantries of work, study, punching a clock, taking orders and boring drudgery, in order to be better able to deal with these things later as adults. What hogwash this is! If life were like school, we would all commit suicide long before we reached adulthood. Young people are not better prepared by being made to feel imposed upon; by feeling like victims of injustice and abuse; by comparing themselves to workers in a dead-end and unproductive factory, by having the sensations of worthless or insignificant prisoners of sadistic guards, or being treated as uniform cogs in a square wheel. Human beings all deserve better at all ages. One lives life; one doesn‚t prepare for it!
16. The „state of the art‰ psychological conceptions of basic learning processes, multiple intelligences, moral and social development, supervision and intervention needs, methods and materials for mental improvement, etc., have all changed radically in recent decades with the advent of various technologies, sciences, tools and techniques. Yet, corresponding changes in how things are done in schools and in removing the shackles from children and their teachers are not even on the drawing board. Why is this? Because the law and the structures that it necessitates are all that are needed to discourage and defeat anyone who might try to take any substantial initiative in moving ideas and proposals from the temporary, limited and experimental to the permanent, expanded and applied.
17. „Schooling‰ and „learning‰, and „system‰ and „education‰, are terms that are primarily antithetical to each other ˆ people do not learn well in groups or institutions, or with constant auditory input (lectures and speeches), unless the subject matter pertains directly to the group or to the group process and unless sessions are short, direct and highly stimulating. No system can accommodate the unpredictable and variable needs of large numbers of individual learners confined in space, mobility and scope of thought and vision. School, meaning the clustering of sizable numbers of children into a classroom, is bad for kids, except in extremely limited doses, with ample recovery time in between. The brain is NOT a passive computer and the child is not just an inert, disembodied brain.
18. Despite the wishes of many well-meaning teachers and school personnel, and despite the lip service paid by many official spokespersons, active and consistent parental participation is not actually desired in school, except in enforcing rules, affirming authority (including, or perhaps especially, the authority of officials and others over the parents themselves) supervising homework, and reinforcing the omnipresent messages of guilt, shame, intimidation, inferiority and the like. This is one other direct consequence of power and superiority invoked by the law. If school is required, appointed „experts‰ must assert their superiority over parents.
19. Much, if not most of current „educational‰ practice, as well as compulsory attendance in school itself, is founded on the highly antiquated but pervasive perception of the child as a blank slate or an empty container to be filled via teaching, by a master in a given subject area or in pedantry. Recent studies, as well as settled and verified sciences reveal, however, that the child builds on a surprisingly sophisticated and complex cognitive foundation from birth. The active and exploratory nature of the child demand that the child not be inhibited and frustrated by an environment that is hostile to his or her enthusiasm, curiosity, competence and independence.
20. Americans have a very long tradition of rejecting any plan or system where the ends is alleged to justify the means. Yet, when it has come to children, that prohibition has somehow been rendered unimportant. The ends have never justified anything, let alone the mean means in schooling by fiat. The reasons why this is glossed over and denied habitually are several, primary of which is the facile ability of the schools to blame their victims for their own failures and the tendency of the victims to blame themselves. Resentment that has no logically explained cause and no accessible means of expression or visible target is turned inward. Compulsion in education (the means) is never justified by the ends, i.e., mis-education, indoctrination, programming, etc., since by definition, education requires liberty and autonomy as well as leadership and voluntary participation. This is not ivory tower theory. This is reality. Read the statistics and weep.
21. Authoritarian structures derive their existence from metaphors that are nearly universal within a culture. We have, for example the „strict father metaphor‰ which originates in the construction of the traditional family and which affects our institutions in a major way. While this metaphor has its utility within the typical family and has been functional to some extent historically in societies, it is not a sound basis for a state and national educational policy framework in today‚s world. Authority in education must be based on daily-demonstrated competence, on valid and verifiable knowledge and on the ability to teach and inspire, without resistance. Arbitrary authority, especially when anonymous, engenders resistance, resentment, defiance, politicking, jealousy, favoritism, subversion, etc., etc., etc. Authoritative relationships are far superior to authoritarian relationships.
22. Schools that owe their existence or survival to a captive and largely unenthusiastic audience have a strong tendency to become progressively anti-intellectual. There are dozens of factors that contribute to this sorry result. One is the least common denominator effect, due to wide variation in interests, aptitudes and ability. Another is the fear factor, which inhibits teacher and student alike in their pursuit of knowledge and truth. The most significant factor however is that schooling by legislative decree is not about the intellect at all, since conduct, attitude, deportment and attendance must always take priority to ensure absolute conformity to the law.
23. Community is of extreme importance to the American way of life and schools have always been regarded as central to community life. Yet, schools which serve the state as factories to produce a quasi-human „product‰ for its own supposed purposes are inhospitable to the idea of community in many respects. Children and parents find no comfort there and are too often loathe to return there for any reason. Schools have found it necessary to consolidate and expand, due to budgets strained by waste, bureaucracy, corruption and excessive focus on accountability. The voracious and conscienceless bureaucracy meanwhile has little or no affinity for or loyalty to the local community. And, citizens leaving these schools are typically cynical and bereft of any genuine interest in their community or of confidence in their ability to speak on issues or to influence change. Twelve years of disengagement and powerlessness leaves them alienated and cynical.
24. The futility with respect to change and with respect to the effective application of proven scientific principles that characterizes „lower education‰ has infected „higher education‰ to a shocking degree. What we now see is merely „lower‰ schooling and „higher‰ schooling and mis-education at all levels. Teaching as a profession is no longer held in high regard. We see students who have not grown and who still find it extremely difficult to think or act independently, courageously or conscientiously, even long after they have graduated or dropped out. Even masters programs are more about being politically correct, spouting the party line as it is pronounced in selected texts and materials and conforming to the behavior and expectations of authority figures, than about the pursuit of knowledge and performing with dignity and conscience. Autonomy is a foreign concept in the typical university. Few college level students have a true love for discovery and research. The research that is performed is duly reported in thousands of journals, which are only read by a small handful of professionals, if they are read at all. Litigation is required to change the simplest things.
25. Attempting to force a child to learn is like trying to force a fish to swim. Nevertheless, we blindly go on about trying not only to superimpose our knowledge but also to measure and quantify how much we have force-fed our wards in these windowless prisons called schools. Grading and evaluation according to behavior and performance are absolutely indispensable, of course, as are the typical proportions of successes and failures in any competitive system. Likewise, all manner of other intrusions on the lives and minds of children are required, such as endless testing; intrusive homework; rushing about from class to class in rat-race fashion; rigidity in teacher responses and routines; restrictions and parameters set on everything, including discussion and debate, and bells, buzzers and whistles marking the beginning and end of all the things that should rightfully have continuity and connection. We have turned learning into drudgery and discouraging work for children who learned automatically prior to school.
26. Swimming might be an apt metaphor for learning (to continue with the aquatic metaphor). Once learned, aquatic activities can occur almost anywhere there is water, just as the more intellectual and academic processes can occur almost anywhere there is some source of information, with or without a classroom or teacher. But creating a law that requires school attendance, a curriculum, a particular set of standards and accountability rules, etc., is like freezing the water to some depth and trapping the victims in the ice or below the surface. Suddenly, there is a rigidified hierarchy with political and economic interests to protect. Suddenly, there is an adversarial relationship between the naturally hyperactive student and the institution and a need to promote the status quo and the interests and the perpetuation of the institution over the interests of the student. The ice can only get thicker and deeper, while the less hardy or competitive swimmers become frozen and die. And, even those with the most advantages develop a jaded and unbalanced view of the world.

Ricardo Amon, California

All the subjects you are covering are relevant and important to humanity. I would also like to see a discussion about the plight of indigenous people around the world. Many of them, be it in Colombia or Brazil are being persecuted or assasinated by land settlers, paramilitary groups or armed bands to stop them from complaining or demanding that their land be preserved, that their culture be respected, that their rights to life be granted like it is meant to be to all people. Please open a discussion group on this subject, before indigenous people become extinct.

Jan Paul, USA

John, American living in the UK
Your Red Blue assessement is in error since if you look at the Blue states you find that with the exception of only a very few NE New England states, the rest of blue states like New York and California, Pennsylvainia, Mich, etc. only had major cities voting predominately for Kerry. Michigan for example had Kerry win the state by 167,000 votes or so. Yet he won Detroit by 300,000. Out of 83 counties only 16 voted for Kerry and the those 16 counties found all their votes lost to Bush votes in the other counties plus almost half of the Detroit vote. New York? same deal. New York city and and a few other counties carried the state for Kerry while most of the counties went for Bush. All the west coast states were the same with only the major cities carrying the state while most counties voted for Bush. What we have occurring here and in Europe is a struggle between socialism and capitalism.
On this site have been many comments about the government catering to the business and oil people. Probably true since these are the things that keep the economy going. Fair? Probably not, but the countries that have tried to avoid this usually have problems with high unemployment. Capitalism by its nature is a top down system while socialism tries to be a bottom up system. Unfortunately the poor don't hire and create the dynamics needed for economic success. Look all around the world and the countries doing the best right now, and the U.S. isn't one of the top ones, you will find corporate tax rates at half that of France, Germany and the U.S. Look at real GDP growth rates and you will find these three countries way down the list, even behind some just emerging from communism and using tax cuts, privatized social security, flat taxes, and incentives for wealthy to come and live or invest. South Korea in 1975 had high unemployement and now have lower unemployment than these three countries and wages have gone up 2,800% and their buying power even at current lower pay scales is probably higher than ours becasue they can buy their goods at lower prices than we can. Their positive business environment has done what no amount of "aid" had done. China now since adopting many of the Hong Kong business techniques, has a middle class population larger than the entire population of the U.S. which of course is still a small percent of their total population, but look at the direction they are moving and how fast they are moving with their positive business environment and catering to the wealthy. China also has a business tax rate of almost half of France, Germany and the U.S.
Speaking of wealthy. Think catering to the rich is just a U.S. thing. France, Germany, and many other countries like them have wealthy people. And many of them get their wealth the same way some do in the U.S. - with government contracts. It is like in Russia under communisim where everybody was equal. Except, if you were an average citizen you waited hours in bread lines and if you were high in the party you ate caviar, vacationed in State Owned resorts, on State Owned yachts and drove State owned cars and lived in nice State owned homes. They weren't yours, but so what you still lived better than most. Even in the classless societies we find classes and government catering to the upper class becasue that is where jobs are created and business deals are cut that create the jobs, products and services that in turn create GDP which in turn creates tax revenues. In some respects all of these governments have some striking similarities regarding the "wealthy." Since all taxes are paid by citizens as business has to add all taxes into the cost of products and services, all we do by creating tax system that try to tax these businesses is create a more expensive way of colleting taxes from the working guy and gal buying the products. This is true in communist and socialist countries too. However, in communism the wealth is better hidden through State owned property and thus the upper class don't even have to pay for living better.
has some interesting stats
For every government person we add to collect a new business tax, we have to pay for their salary, benefits, office space, office equipment, office supplies, Heat, A/C, phone, lights, custodians, maintenance and landscape personnel. Since there are taxes on those bills and supplies, some obvious as in phone and some hidden as in the cost of office supplies and we use tax dollars for them, we are paying taxes for taxes. As little as 1 in 8 tax dollars go for actual funds used by some programs while the rest goes for administration. On average about 1 in 4 tax dollars is for the programs intended and the rest is the cost of government. 100,000 IRS employees. 700,000 government employees that do nothing but , control, check up on, or audit other federal employees
18.7 million government employees and only 18.1 million in all of manufacturing.
Amount of money spent by the government on the ''War on Poverty'' since 1965: $5 trillion
Percent of Americans below the poverty line in 1968: 13%
Percent of Americans below the poverty line in 1994: 13%
Number of jobs lost (including jobs that were not created) because of 1977-1981 increases in the minimum wage: 664,000
Daily Labor Report, March 26, 1987
Number of jobs lost by teenagers because of 1989 increase in the minimum wage increase: 240,000
Texas A&M professor Finis Welch, Jobs and Capital, Summer 1993.
In other words a lot of government and government policies don't actually help the poor and the workers. Higher wages don't mean much to the people who lose their jobs becasue of higher wages.
Tax the wealthy. John Kerry's tax returns proved the futility of that. He paid 12% because of tax free investments. The wealthy if taxed above what THEY consider fair will simply move their investments from equities in business to tax free investments, move their wealth to better tax countries, or move themselves to better tax countries. History has shown this happening in France, Germany and to some extent here in the U.S. although not as much, YET. Fair? Of course not, but it is reality in world where other countires are willing to compete for the wealthy and business. They get the jobs and the tax revenues for their social programs and we get the higher unemployment rates and increased welfare payments. Socialism works in near utopian situations. Capitalisms caters to greed, power, and egos in the rest of the world and tries to set limits on those "sins" while at the same time creating strong economies that benefit all economic levels like they have in So. Korea. Look at the number of Asians vacationing all over the world now from places like So. Korea, China, and other economically strong nations. Look at the rankings of countries on this web site
What should we be talking about. How about what works best for all people at all income levels in a competitive world? How about talking about getting rid of all these government programs that sound good and have good intentions but don't work? How about talking about how to get parents to prioritize education to the level that they won't tolerate their children coming home with low grades. In the U.S. we find some minorities that can come home with C's and not be in trouble. American kids on average can come home with B's and not be in trouble, but heaven help the Asian kid that comes home with less than and "A." Currently the best engineering college is in India and 90% of U.S. students can't even pass the entrance exam. However, the school is so well respected that the top 10% are guaranteed jobs in the U.S. Industry is finding better educated, smarter working employees in other countries and countries that often have better tax policies to boot. What should we talk about? How about realities in the business world? If you owned a business and had to make a profit where would you go. A U.S., French or German company now has to make a 45% higher profit to give shareholders the same return the same type of company in Ireland has to because of their 12.5% corporate tax rate and the U.S. rate of 40% and Germany and France's corproate taxes close to that rate. You want to talk about "fair" in an ideal world and I want to talk about what works in a real world. Someday your utopia may get here but you can't operate on dreams and wishful thinking until it does. Instead of making the world "fair" for the poor, we need to make it possible for them to overcome the "unfairness with better education and a "hand up" instead of a "hand out." If you dont' believe it look at the countries that have put a priority on educating the children of the poor and demanding high standards not just "get by" standards. Yes, the suicide rates are higher in some of these students who bring shame on their families for low grades, but the nations are better off and their people are better off in the long run by having highly educated people enter the work place, government, and leadership positions. The downside is that they compete like "hell" with nations that don't set these high standards and "win" business and jobs away from them. They insource while the others outsource. The U.S. is currently on the fence. Which way will it tip? Socialism or Capitalism?

Ishtark, Spain

Dear Mr. Garton-Ash,
I would like to hear your opinion on why the European constitution should be submitted to a nation-based referendum? If it is a matter of being all considered Europeans, why don't we carry out a Referendum according to other permises, like for example, alphabetical order?
Can you imagine, next month, UE citizens whose last names start from A to D vote yes or not. It would be great to reach some conculsions on Europeism without enclosing them into nationalisms.
Please let me know what you think!

Giya, Australia, World Citizen for peace

We should be talking about the reality of the situation in Iraq and the obscene situation there. Apparently there are only a couple of independant journalists ib the country. A third is donna Mulhearn who's reports are available almost daily at her website. Type in "The Pilgrim Donna mulhearn" and join the yahoo groups website. She is an aid worker and journalists. Get the real stories from the lips of Iraqis. This occupation should not be tolerated and would not be tolerated by the general public if the truth was broadly known. Check it out. Giya. Australia


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