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CHAPTER 14 Unequal Protection from Risk

Thom Hartmann Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Corporations are neither physical nor metaphysical phenomena. They are socioeconomic ploys—legally enacted game-playing—agreed upon only between overwhelmingly powerful socioeconomic individuals and by them imposed upon human society and its all unwitting members.

—R. Buckminster Fuller, Grunch of Giants

WHEN CORPORATIONS GAINED THE PROTECTIONS THAT HAD BEEN WRITTEN for persons in the United States, a substantial shift began in who bears what risk, resulting in an imbalance that now affects virtually all parts of the world. Most companies handle risk responsibly, but many corporations are legally allowed to avoid responsibility in ways that would never be permitted for an individual.

Risk is a matter of who suffers when something goes wrong. Corporations and their shareholders may risk loss of income or even loss of their investment, but that pales in comparison with the risks that humans share as a result of a corporate activity—such as degradation of the environment, higher rates of cancer and other diseases, job-related disfigurement or death, community and family breakdown after a factory is closed and jobs are shipped overseas, and even a life with no income or health insurance if we choose not to affiliate with a corporation.

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Chapter 5 How Feeungs are Anchored

Thom Hartmann Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Put the argument into a concrete shape, into an image, some
hard phrase, round and
solid as a ball, which they can see and handle and carry home with them, and the cause is half won.

— RALPH WALDO EMERSON

If you want to know how some politicians gained so much power through the 1990s, you can start with my former congressman, Newt Gingrich. Gingrich studied the way language and the brain work, cracked the communication code, and then set out to teach that code to his fellow Republicans.

Here’s the key message from his 1996 memo (and later video) with the Orwellian title, “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control.”1

Often we search hard for words to define our opponents. Sometimes we are hesitant to use contrast. Remember that creating a difference helps you. These are powerful words that can create a clear and easily understood contrast. Apply these to the opponent, their record, proposals and their party.

The words that follow in Gingrich’s essay are designed to trigger the submodality filing system in our brains. They are all words heavy with emotion. The first set contains words Gingrich urged Republicans to use against their Democratic opponents:

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Democracy Is Inevitable

Thom Hartmann Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

From What Would Jefferson Do?: A Return to Democracy

IF DEMOCRACY IS THE NATURAL STATE OF ALL MAMMALS, INCLUDing humans, it must be something purely temporary that has prevented it for so much of the “civilized” period of the past few millennia (even though it has continued to exist throughout this time among tribal people). The force that slowed its inevitable emergence was a dysfunctional story in our culture, which led to thousands of years of the sanctioning of slavery, the oppression of women and minorities, and the deaths of hundreds of millions. It was the story that our essential nature is sinful.

Thomas Hobbes and others have assumed that we’d need a time machine to know how bad life really was 20,000 or 50,000 years ago. But there are still humans living essentially the same way that your ancestors and mine did, and if we look at their lives we find, by and large, that Hobbes was mistaken.

I remember vividly the first time I experienced this. I was sitting around a campfire with half a dozen or so men who were members of a southwestern Native American tribe. We’d just done a sweat, and after some of the heavy talk and ritual associated with that sacred ceremony the conversation gradually turned to “guy talk”: telling stories, making each other laugh, and poking fun.

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CHAPTER 19 Unequal Wealth

Thom Hartmann Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

I care not how affluent some may be, provided that none be miserable in consequence of it.

—Thomas Paine, 1796

IN THE ABSENCE OF THE CONTROLS RECOMMENDED BY THE FOUNDERS AND early state regulation, corporations have continued to grow in size and power without limit. But they haven’t done it just by creating new wealth in the economy. Much of it, instead, has been accomplished by increasingly consolidating existing wealth, moving it out of the hands of the middle class and into the hands of the top few percent of Americans economically. Of course, some new wealth has been generated, but nowhere near enough to explain the observable facts.* The past thirty years has, in fact, seen the largest transfer of wealth from working people to the rich and very rich in the history of both this nation and any nation on earth.

If you were to define and rank nations according to their gross domestic product, fifty-two of the world’s one hundred largest “nations” are actually corporations. Tracking the growth of the largest companies can be problematic because they’re constantly merging with or buying other companies. This trend has accelerated in the decreased regulatory environment of the 1980–2010

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Thom Hartmann Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

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