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Capitalism tends to throttle real free enterprise, producing monsters

like Exxon, Enron or Citibank, in which the surplus value

created by thousands of workers is creamed off  . . . by the managers

who have taken control of companies for their own benefit



 Book by John Maxwell

How to Make Our Own News: A Primer for Environmentalist and Journalists

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Time Longer Than Rope

"The duty of a leader is to Lead"

By John Maxwell


Nearly 50 years ago in answer to a question I had asked him, Jamaica’s founding father, Norman Manley replied: “The duty of a Leader is to Lead.” And, if the duty of a leader is to lead, the duty of a government must be to govern, and government, according to the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, consists in securing for the people, their lives, their liberty and their ability to pursue happiness

Doesn’t sound like much.

According to the present government of the United States these aims may very well be “entitlements” – pernicious guarantees and subsidies to which ordinary people should not be entitled. They are in effect, improper interferences with the principles laid down by Ayn Rand – the only real virtue is selfishness; in a well ordered world, it is every man for himself and the devil take the women and children. Entitlements interfere with capitalist orthodoxy; they get in the way of the market forces, distorting reality and creating unfair advantages  to poor people and “minorities” – including women.

The English recognised in the Poor Law of six or seven centuries ago, that societies, communities, needed to make some provision, however meagre, for those less than perfectly equipped for the struggle for survival. Since then, politicians as disparate as  Otto von Bismarck, Lenin, Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy  recognised that the world is not flat and  in Kennedy’s words

If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

Disorderly weather

Hurricanes, it seems, do not respect gated communities.

But hurricanes tend to destroy more of the houses of the poor than of the rich, simply because the poor cannot afford the kinds of houses or the kinds of locations which are safe from hurricanes.

And, in rigidly stratified societies, such as the United States of America and Jamaica, the poor tend to be restricted to unsafe locations, former swamps, river-beds and similar places.

Four decades ago, John Kennedy, in his inaugural speech, also said:

Let [us] seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce. Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah—to "undo the heavy burdens ... and to let the oppressed go free.

Three decades before Kennedy, another American president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, began to rescue the United States from its disastrous experiment with Neanderthal capitalism. That had ended in the catastrophic Great Depression. Roosevelt's  New Deal was the basis for the beginning of an American Welfare State. A welfare state is simply  a state in which the resources of the entire society are employed to ensure that no member of the state should be so economically disadvantaged that he can no longer be considered a functioning citizen.

No matter how poor you are, Roosevelt thought, you should still be entitled to life, liberty and the opportunity to pursue happiness.

Roosevelt liberated the majority of the working class of the United states. He did not however live long enough to liberate the black working class, consigned to the bottom since the violent conservative reaction to Reconstruction. Part of that initiative was John F Kennedy’s legacy to his successor, a Texan named Lyndon Baines Johnson. Johnson was overtaken by the Civil Rights movement.

The Civil Rights movement before it was decapitated, wanted more than the slow-moving American consciousness was willing to concede. Between them though, Johnson and the Civil Right movement transformed the situation of America for blacks. Instead of slaves they became simply sweated labour.

Even that minuscule advance was too much for those who considered Roosevelt a Socialist and a traitor to his class. Moreover, they had become even more powerful and confident because of the riches they had made in the Second World War,. They were so powerful that a Republican  President, (former General) Dwight Eisenhower, warned his countrymen “in his final speech as President” about the dangers of political power in the hands  of the “military industrial complex.”

Contrary to belief, capitalism is not the same thing as free enterprise; the monopolistic tendencies built into capitalism tend to throttle real free enterprise, producing monsters like Exxon, Enron or Citibank, in which the surplus value created by thousands of workers is creamed off  not by the shareholders, but by the managers who have taken control of companies for their own benefit.

This explains why although GNP in the US has grown considerably since 1975, the average economic benefit for 90% of Americans has remained at the same level as it was thirty years ago. Meanwhile, the people they hired to manage their companies have become members of an entirely different class, even perhaps, an entirely different nation.

The average Citigroup worker, for instance, would have to work nearly 1,400 years to earn as much as their CEO took home last year – just under $20million. The Aluminum Company of America, which a couple of years ago demanded and got an “ease-up” on its taxes from the Jamaican government, pays its present chief executive 9.6 million US dollars annually, or nearly 400 times as much as the average American worker in Alcoa. If applied to the Jamaican budget it could run the entire educational system for about a month and would pay the annual  minimum wage of several  hundred thousand workers.

Companies like Alcoa and Exxon have recently been given some enormous tax breaks by the Bush administration – Exxon alone will reportedly pocket some $15 billion, more than Mr. Bush promised to spend on overseas development aid  to the world’s poorest countries, for the next ten years.

Mr. Bush admits Responsibility

President George Bush has now admitted that he is responsible for the debacle caused by the slow response of the US federal government to the Katrina disaster on the Gulf Coast. Although this is a welcome development and totally unprecedented, I am not sure that Mr. Bush understands the enormity of the charge that he has taken onto his shoulders. 

Although he maintains that race was not a factor, every account makes it plain that race was the main factor in the destruction of the social fabric in New Orleans. It is clear that Michael Chertoff, head of the Homeland Security Department and his deputy, the now resigned and discredited head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA], played around with people’s lives when they should have been saving them.

Instead of decisive action there was deliberate paper shuffling – what the Jamaican civil service used to describe as “masterly inactivity”. Because of that, people died unnecessarily, families were brutally separated by unthinking functionaries and a bad situation made very much worse.

There are volumes of evidence now on the web and elsewhere about what went wrong and why. But the fundamental reason is the fact that the Administration of George Bush regarded emergency management as just another entitlement and therefore, of no account except as a place to park idle friends.

Stories abound of essential services blocked by arguments about who was to pay which bill; while the private sector generally behaved as predators are expected

to. Insurance companies, for instance, have been telling their policyholders that their houses were destroyed not by the hurricane, for which they were insured, but by the storm surge an entirely separate phenomenon..

One private sector hospital chain was forced to hire helicopters from as far away as Montana, which in Jamaican terms would be like evacuating  hospitals with helicopters hired from Brazil  or Ecuador.

Mr. Bush has now promised to remake New Orleans and the remaking has already begun, with of course, Mr. Cheney?s company, Halliburton, at the top of the list of indigent capitalists needing urgent  public assistance.

Then there are the speculators who, like vultures eying starving children in Ethiopia, are already on the ground to “bags” first bite. Displaced people are being rushed to sell their homes while they are still disoriented and shell-shocked. A new, whiter and less 'ethnic' New Orleans is the goal.

Mr. Bush’s decision to take responsibility may have a deeper motive than actually acknowledging error. His ambitious schemes to cut government down to its bare, capital-friendly skeletal  essentials depend on whether he has enough clout to see his programmes through in the Congress.

This of course, depends on how broad his coat-tails are – if Republicans think he has become an albatross, they won’t pass his bills. Lacking a fault-free occasion for posturing as in 9/11, he has to repair his image and his ratings. Becoming a “big man” who can admit error may be the course his handlers have advised.

This strategy may collide with an American press newly aroused from its long slumber. Journalists have rediscovered that they may actually represent ordinary people and some of the most unlikely  have leapt onto the anti-Bush bandwagon with a vengeance. It helps that his poll figures are in the basement.

And the hue and cry has produced one of my favourite headlines ever, in the Los Angeles Times on Thursday: “Bush plans Speech; Death toll rises”

Meanwhile, in Haiti

While Kofi Annan and George Bush were prating about democracy at the UN a few days ago, the Haitian sub-agency of the Bush administration made a significant announcement. In the coming elections the nominee of the Fanmi Lavalas will not be allowed to run. Reason: he cannot register in person. Reason? he is in jail, Why is he in jail? Only the Shadow (or perhaps, Mr Bush) knows?

Copyright©2005 John Maxwell  COMMON SENSE # 493

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

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#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

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#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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The Warmth of Other Suns

The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

By Isabel Wilkerson

Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper's wife, left Mississippi for Milwaukee in 1937, after her cousin was falsely accused of stealing a white man's turkeys and was almost beaten to death. In 1945, George Swanson Starling, a citrus picker, fled Florida for Harlem after learning of the grove owners' plans to give him a "necktie party" (a lynching). Robert Joseph Pershing Foster made his trek from Louisiana to California in 1953, embittered by "the absurdity that he was doing surgery for the United States Army and couldn't operate in his own home town." Anchored to these three stories is Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wilkerson's magnificent, extensively researched study of the "great migration," the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an "uncertain existence" in the North and Midwest. Wilkerson deftly incorporates sociological and historical studies into the novelistic narratives of Gladney, Starling, and Pershing settling in new lands, building anew, and often finding that they have not left racism behind. The drama, poignancy, and romance of a classic immigrant saga pervade this book, hold the reader in its grasp, and resonate long after the reading is done.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 17 September 2005 




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