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william clegg

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what has been your experience with the dark and ugly side of capitalism?

The "invisible hand" is supposed to "raise all boats" and the "marketplace knows best" are fundamental premises of the capitalist rhetoric.

But like all ideologies that have come down the pike capitalism has a dark and ugly side which its proselytizers never mention or ever want to look too closely at. Namely that its advocates prefer to ignore the proliferation of fraudsters who betray the trust of investors and the gullible, or the hoarders who take wealth out of the system using it to make more wealth or all the criminals who simply take and only give back pain and misery.

In fact, criminal enterprises may well be the most profitable businesses to go into since the principle cost for the criminal is simply time and a very limited amount of energy when compared to the time and effort expended by those they steal from.

Criminals have little to no overhead, are highly mobile and adaptive, pay no taxes on their plunder and, in many cases, fraudsters, swindlers and con artists alike are let off with what amounts to a slap on the wrist if they are ever prosecuted at all while still retaining much of the plunder they obtained. From street corner muggers, to contractors that take the money and run or go bankrupt, to "investment counsellors" who call you back later to say "you lost it all" to some offshore account of theirs.to those employers who enforce slave-like conditions, , honest citizens do not stand a chance against those who have nothing to lose and everything to gain. .

Meanwhile the successful criminals are able to enjoy all the benefits of capitalism while also avoiding any of the responsibility of citizenship or the Law and can simply spend they lives indulging as many pleasure centers as they can as often as they can, ad nauseam. .

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Closing Statement from william clegg

here are the highlights:
- disparity in the pay scale and the lack of a living wage
- Major General Smedley Butler " I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism."
- The darkest part of capitalism, as practiced, is that the primary focus is on making as much profit as possible.
- Enter "Merkers Salt Mines" in a Google Images search to see what made the US a superpower.
- the majority of people either don't care about, or aren't willing to pay extra for, coffee which doesn't exploit developing countries.
- It's not only the industrial revolution but capitalism too which are to blame for the massive spike in carbon emissions and the onset of climate change
- When we see real punishment for the evil bastards that hurt others for their own gain without a second thought....that would be good start at making things better
- include money among the gods we have created
- this business model promotes mediocrity through its planned obsolescence of products and services, but it also promotes greed, groupthink, and cut-throat business practices where the primary focus is profit over valuable contributions to society
- Who Rules America" by William Domhoff, sociologist, U Cal, Santa Cruz -
http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html
- the decline in wealth of the 99% is an ENGINEERED phenomenon that required a conspiracy of power on many levels

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    May 2 2014: Capitalism is a just economic system, and like all systems and tools it can be misused with ugly results.

    Name me something that has not been misused by people to do ugly things.
    Does a hammer have a dark side, when someone uses it to kill?
    Does a mathematics have a dark side, when someone uses it to steal?
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    May 27 2014: Hi, William -

    Our good friend Rodrigo Feliciano supplied us TEDsters with this wonderful link a while back in another conversation- "Who Rules America" by William Domhoff, sociologist, U Cal, Santa Cruz:

    http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html

    The table I found most interesting is this one, Table 4, which clearly shows that the decline in wealth of the 99% is an ENGINEERED phenomenon that required a conspiracy of power on many levels. Note the natural, random, rise and fall in the percentages of wealth between 1922 and 1975. Then notice the unnatural and non-random, slow and steady decline of our (We the People) wealth since 1976! It is no coincidence that the decline started when we reached a high of 80% of the wealth. The super rich clearly decided that that was unacceptable to them!

    The key words here are slow and steady: Put a frog in hot water and he will hop out of the pan. Put him in cold water, heat the pan slowly, and he will sit there and die. This is why there has been no revolution here when there should be one.

    Table 4: Share of wealth held by the Bottom 99% and Top 1% in the United States, 1922-2010.

    Bottom 99 percent (left)

    Top 1 percent (right)

    1922 63.3% 36.7%
    1929 55.8% 44.2%
    1933 66.7% 33.3%
    1939 63.6% 36.4%
    1945 70.2% 29.8%
    1949 72.9% 27.1%
    1953 68.8% 31.2%
    1962 68.2% 31.8%
    1965 65.6% 34.4%
    1969 68.9% 31.1%
    1972 70.9% 29.1%
    1976 80.1% 19.9%
    1979 79.5% 20.5%
    1981 75.2% 24.8%
    1983 69.1% 30.9%
    1986 68.1% 31.9%
    1989 64.3% 35.7%
    1992 62.8% 37.2%
    1995 61.5% 38.5%
    1998 61.9% 38.1%
    2001 66.6% 33.4%
    2004 65.7% 34.3%
    2007 65.4% 34.6%
    2010 64.6% 35.4%

    Sources: 1922-1989 data from Wolff (1996). 1992-2010 data from Wolff (2012).
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    May 27 2014: The darkest and ugliest side of capitalism that I've seen is that publicly traded companies tend to cater to their shareholders within the board of directors over their customers (both internal and external). In most of these cases, internal customers (employees) at the bottom tier of the business hierarchy tend to do most of the actual productive work and get compensated the least, while those at the top of the hierarchy are heavily compensated for the work done by others. On the other side of the aisle, external customers are generally coerced into purchasing products and services that they don't really need through advertising schemes which make these products and services seem more valuable than they really are.

    All in all, this business model is by far one of the darkest and ugliest sides of capitalism. Not only does this business model promote mediocrity through its planned obsolescence of products and services, but it promotes greed, groupthink, and cut-throat business practices where the primary focus is profit over valuable contributions to society.
    • May 30 2014: Hi MIchael,

      I understand your concerns and agree in part, but also think executives are sometimes unfairly criticised for a level of pay which is fairly earned. I think sometimes the focus is lost when it comes to executive pay; do people deserve to be paid more because their work is 'productive' and produces the final good, or is it more about responsibility and competence? A cashier at McDonald's, for example, is performing 'productive' tasks that most people are capable of, and if he makes a mistake he could at most maybe lose a regular customer. Those at the top of the hierarchy, however, frequently work longer hours, deal with very complex problems and make decisions that could cost millions. Here, isn't a huge pay gap to be expected?

      I do have a problem though when people at the bottom aren't getting a fair wage, like at McD's. I like something like the 1:12 initiative (http://www.bbc.com/news/business-25076879), where executive pay is somehow proportionate to lower level pay. That said, for bigger companies 12 might be too small - a McDs cashier earning €40,000 (a lot) would allow a CEO to earn €840,000 (quite small for one of world's largest companies).

      As for advertising, I agree that it is becoming problematic in areas like beauty products, trying to make people feel ugly. But more generally I think coercive is a bit of a leap; you can't treat everyone like children. There are laws in place that prohibit misleading ads. But for companies like Apple who are just saying 'you should buy an iphone', people should be trusted to decide whether they need one. Apple are obviously going to show why you an iphone might be valuable, but you can't blame them if a customer misjudges how valuable an iphone will be to him as an individual.
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    May 3 2014: The darkest part of capitalism, as practiced, is that the primary focus is on making as much profit as possible. This means that the real costs of producing products or providing services are not really paid by the capitalists. And they are also not paid by consumers.

    The negative results are many: theft of public natural resources; unnecessary abuse of Mother Earth; degradation of our land, water and air (which are also public resources); wonton waste of public natural resources; abuse of human resources; abuse of public infrastructure; abuse of our political system; abuse of our justice system.

    The reality is that the resources of Earth are "owned" by all beings on Earth: all humans, non-human animals and plants. In spite that, the actuality of how our system has been functioning means that a few individuals take over ownership of valuable resources to use and abuse as they please. Any "ownership" costs paid are a ridiculously tiny token in proportion to the value they gain, and no one else gets a chance at "ownership" or real profit.

    Capitalists behave as though they also "own" human resources, meaning that workers are abused by being compensated with as little as possible while as much work as possible is extracted from them. Then goods are sold to the consumers/workers as much profit as possible for the capitalists. Yet, the price of the goods does not include the real costs of the resources and environmental damage caused by extraction, refining, production, transportation, etc. that has gone into making the products.

    Big Ag has similar problems: "ownership" of land; abuse, destruction and pollution of resources. Yet the real costs of producing food products are not included in the prices paid by anyone, capitalists or consumers.

    The real problem is with our behavior rather than capitalism.

    The truth of the matter is that we all belong to Earth and we are all in this together. All beings are intimately and inextricably interconnected and interdependent.
    • May 7 2014: "The real problem is with our behavior rather than capitalism"
      It is the system that encourages bad behaviour. Much of any guilt by perpetrators can be duly negated by the "doing it for the family".
      The media inhibit any discussion on alternative economic models, turkeys don't vote for Christmas.
      It would appear, IMHO, that advocates of our current system have a perverse notion that we live in a meritocracy.
      Maybe things need to get a lot worse before we see a change.
      Current economic forecasts suggest that in the near future we will not be able to afford to keep the elderly, due to the basic concept of no longer being "economically viable".
      I've never seen a piece in the mainstream media on the work of Howard Scott and the other technocrats who devised a way of eliminating money and using energy accounting back in the 1930's.
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        May 8 2014: People with "bad behavior" designed, promoted and perpetuated "the system" to encourage continued "bad behavior" by people who are unaware of a better way. But that's no excuse, it's only a reason.

        Money is only a symbol of energy, although the amount of energy per dollar put into accumulating vast sums by the super rich is negligible compared to the amount of energy per dollar invested by the middle and lower economic class folks who actually work for a living. So, inequality of energy per dollar has contributed significantly to inequality of income and wealth.

        Eliminating money isn't an answer; reducing and eliminating inequality is.
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    May 2 2014: Hi, William-

    I always enjoy your posts and like the way you think. As a deep historian I have been following the Money Trail for decades now, ignoring rhetoric from left and right, rich and poor. The big bucks in thievery, and I mean really big bucks, is in government, which you failed to mention here.

    On September 10, 2001, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told us on CBS Evening News that the Pentagon could not account for $2.3 trillion taxpayer dollars - about 25% of its total budget since it was created. The next day, everyone except those who care about such things forgot all about it.

    Instead of being taken to task for that little bookkeeping discrepancy, the Pentagon was flooded with hundreds of billions of more dollars. And what did they do with that money? Let's see... after the US bombed Iraq's infrastructure of power plants, bridges, dams, schools, hospitals, etc., with taxpayer dollars, the gov appropriated more billions of taxpayer dollars to rebuild their infrastructure. In the parlance, that is known as "job security," right? Problem: 96% of those appropriated funds vanished and only 4% - repeat 4% - was used to "rebuild" Iraq.

    So many similar true tales to relate and so few characters to do it with, William. In his famous book, War is a Racket, USMC Major General Smedley Butler, the most decorated Marine in history, said, " I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism." And, " Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents."
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      May 2 2014: Thanks Brendan for the reminder of how Capitalism has seconded a "government of the people" and turned it a "government of the arrogant, the corrupt and the greedy". I suspect your experiences in this regard constitute the makings of an excellent book but it would probably have to be published in a different country.

      You are right, it was an oversight and I thank you for pointing it out since getting "their people" into positions of power and authority provides the malevolent with the tools - the legislation or lack thereof - by which to practice their dark arts.
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    May 11 2014: Does anyone else find it interesting that human beings are always glad to see improvements and by and large there seems to be nothing human made that has not and cannot be improved upon further.

    But at the same time there are those who benefit greatly from the status quo, and - especially when it comes to ideology - "true believers" who will fight with anyone that even suggests that change is necessary never mind possible.

    It seem to me that change is inevitable, everything is in transition, from the atoms of our bodies to the universe itself. Although it does seem odd that, with all the supposed intelligence human beings possess, It is indeed odd how fervently some will nonetheless resist that change. .
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      May 12 2014: We rejoice at mass production because it brings us a low priced item. Riding in a car that is not a death trap is a great feeling. And yes they can all be inproved on ... that is great .. capitalism has been a blessing.

      However, when attempts to change our country to a Godless, valuless political philosophy lacking in social or economiic foundations ... then we should take care and indeed be cautious.

      It would depend on what the "supposed Intelligent" are basing their objections on. In my case I reject the liberal socialist communist direction that the current administration is taking us ... why because I can read and take note of history and the failures that this system represents .... because I am capable of understanding that the Keneysian economic system of big government and uncontrolled spending have placed us in a critical situation ... because when more is going out than coming in it ain't good.

      People do not fight when change is suggested or as you say even possable ... people fight when change that has been proven bad for people, countries, economies, etc .. is repeatedly suggested and often forced upon them ....
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      May 12 2014: Willy,
      I think we are past formality.
      You are correct..... all.... is in a constant state of flux. The universe is expanding, living creatures are evolving. I often wonder what the next reiteration of mankind will be....

      Having said that, improvement is not always needed or necessary, especially with what man has created. Would you have us redo the Sistine Chapel? Paint over the Mona Lisa? Let's rewrite all 33 of Shakespeare's plays... or whom ever wrote them? I am sure that the Great Pyramids can be made better...

      There are things that are done. And should not be improved
      When it comes to ideology, as with things.... if it ain't broke, why fix it? So, what ideology out there that is better then the status quo... which if I read my history correct is also in the state of flux.

      As I look back the last 12000 years, mankind has tried just about every ideology that could be imagined and dozens of variations. There has been living gods, emperors and kings, dictators, oligarchies, fascists, communists, theocracies, anarchies, and probably a dozen more to list.
      The one that I have liked is that which is base on individual freedoms and determinations.
      If you are proposing that we need to improve for change sake... I'll go with the status quo.
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        May 27 2014: Hi, Mike-

        You forgot to include money among the gods we have created. A rather large omission, my friend! Both money and gods are mere abstractions/figments of our imaginations. Since we (and everyone else) went off the Gold Standard, the money we use is worth no more than the paper and ink it is made of. But what power it has... the power to heal or to kill in ways that no other god we have created can; thus it is the most powerful god of all.

        Hey- did you read that Iran executed a billionaire for a huge bank fraud? 39 others were sentenced, four received death sentences and the others received long prison terms. My wife objected to the death sentences, but I pointed out to her that when tens of thousands of people are robbed of their life savings, ala Bernie Madoff, many of those people's lives are shortened: Loss of medical insurance, suicide, divorce, extreme stress from loss of homes and property. Here is an article about it. Think its time for a little equal justice here in the USA? Think the Mullahs can teach us a thing or two about moolah?

        http://usspost.com/iran-a-billionaire-executed-90166/
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          May 27 2014: Point taken. I have thought that money was the hammer of Thor, the tool that people have used to harm other people.
          I have no problems with people who have acquired money legitimately. Win a big lottery? Lucky you. Invent a better mouse trap? Why didn't I think of that.
          In my town, a wealthy real estate investor built an amusement park for handicapped kids with rides that are specially adapted. Another individual gave millions to a local university and declined to have his name on a building or receive an honorary degree. Our local PBS station is as well endowed as any.... and the list goes on.
          It's the people you have mentioned that use wealth to hurt others that we can join to pull the switch. They are why I support capital punishment.
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          May 27 2014: Thanks Brendan for breathing some fresh air into the thread. Isn't it interesting that no Western media have run with the idea of applying such sanctions here.

          However, I would suggest that, in Western culture, the "gods" are the wealthy since they are the ones that are actually worshiped while the money is our holy sacrament :). Does that make Casinos or the offshore banks the new Church of the Rapacious or are they simply competing theocracies?

          I am especially appreciative of the reminder of the millions of people whose lives were torn asunder when their life savings, their homes, their health and their futures were stolen from them by the greedy bas*$$ds.
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    May 8 2014: Oh yes, the curse of all mankind is capitalism, last week it was fossil fuels and next week? ..... surprise me.

    Martin was correct.... it s the damn humans.
    And then he went on to postulate about capitalism and the end game.... there is no end game. If one man had all what would he exchange of equal worth and value.
    Again, capitalism is a economic system that is based on an exchange of goods and services between people. Legally, it meets the terms of a simple contract. He is correct, it is the simplest way of doing business.
    Further, it is those damn humans.
    There is a dark side to man. Individually man will seek power, control, and a hundred other synonyms over his fellow man. As man formed societal orders, rules of conduct were established to control these impulses. If you murder someone, you could be put to death. How has that worked out, many killings happen even without the social approval called war. There has almost since the beginning a social no-no called stealing. It also used to be a capital offense until man became civilized.... and since there is no longer the restraint on recidivism by capital punishment, there are now as many ways to steal as there are people to do the stealing.... some with guns, some with embezzlement, some with swindling. The list is long.
    So as Martin has implied, we shouldn't give guns to bank robbers or banks to swindlers....makes sense. So why are we?
    Wait a minute, the people don't seem to care.
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      May 8 2014: Mike, I so agree with you, except for one comment. "If you murder someone, you could be put to death." Not if you have a good lawyer! Emmet commented on risk of punishment vs. benefits of the crime. In the good old days, when your hands were cut off for stealing, me thinks it may have been a little better of a deterrent than 30 hours of community service, but that' just my opinion. When we see real punishment for the evil bastards that hurt others for their own gain without a second thought....that would be good start at making things better. What we have now is an incarceration system where you get three hots and a cot, free education, free medical, free legal counsel and the right to sue if you are not happy with the consistency of your peanut butter. And by the way, that would include the little bastards in schools with the guns, or knives, or whatever they use to hurt someone else. Going to juvenile detention for 6 months is not a deterrent. Chopping off a finger or two just might be.

      By the way, just kidding - I agreed with your whole comment.
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        May 8 2014: Amy,
        I lived in Arabia for short time. They still use beheadings as a form of capital punishment. They are conducted in an outdoor amphitheater and only open to citizens of Arabia. While I was there, a young princess and her non royal boyfriend were executed. He was beheaded while she watched and then she was given a coup de gras shot to the head. I wasn't there but it was described by a witness. Now why am I relating this story, these were not great crimes in our minds but capital offenses there, as are our minor drug offenses. Yet not even beheading is a deterrent. Arabia reportedly puts more people to death then Texas, if you can believe.
        I have come to believe that the desire, need, whatever are more powerful to commit crime then most any deterrent.
        I have never heard a criminal say that he hesitated for a moment as he contemplated the punishment if he got caught.
        PS, I have heard people from "hood" say that they commit crimes to go to jail as it is a much better life even considering the lack of mobility
      • May 11 2014: Amy, you're probably right about there not being enough of a deterrent.

        There's a good ted talk which touches on this (there always is!) http://www.ted.com/talks/steven_pinker_and_rebecca_newberger_goldstein_the_long_reach_of_reason . About 9 minutes in they discuss the old punishment of breaking people on a wheel, and that after a year it had become no more deterrent than the punishment before it. The reason given is that:

        'For a punishment to achieve its objective, it is only necessary that the harm it inflicts outweighs the benefits one can derive from the crime'.

        That might be going a bit far, but I do think that, once chopping off fingers became the norm, it would be no more of a deterrent than a prison sentence. That's not to say that tougher sentences aren't needed.

        As for prison conditions, I think that always calls into question what is the point of prisons - punishment or rehabilitation? It needs to be threatening enough to be a deterrent, but unless everyone is serving a life sentence, I'd prefer them to leave prison rehabilitated and less likely to commit a crime than punished and unchanged (perhaps even worse). I think it's all about striking a balance. Of course, easier said than done.
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      May 9 2014: Oh MIkey, I am afraid your being obtuse does not equal insight.
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        May 9 2014: Willy,
        I never claimed to have insight. Can't you allow me a little obtuse?
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    May 8 2014: Hi WIlliam, Since you asked for the readers experience, here is mine...There is one particular problem that I would like to address about capitalism and that problem is called charity. Now, while you are scratching your head, I shall explain. -

    The problem is that nobody wants to challenge any charitable entity that may be doing some good, regardless of how little good that is, and how much money they steal in order to do that good. I will explain. There is a former VP of Goldman Sachs who started a "charitable" organization. This entity exists for one purpose only, and that is to launder money for the rich as tax write offs. In one instance, this entity would auction off a pair of concert tickets, with a meet and greet to follow. The price of the tickets was $30,000. The entertainer would receive a write off for the value of his donation. The payor who would attend the show would receive a write off for his $30,000 check. The entity would write off the $30,000, as they did not profit, but turned over the tickets, and the "charity part of this whole deal, well the entity sends over about $1,000 worth of dry and canned good to the food bank, thus qualifying them as a charity. So here we have $90,000 worth of tax write offs, for $1,000 worth of canned peas, and who picks up the tab on the loss to the government on all of these write offs - YOU DO!!!! The government deficit grows and taxes go up for the average joe as a result of the very rich, as well as corporations using these write offs to avoid paying their fair share. The problem with charity is that there are far too many dishonest ones, and some use as little as 2% of the donations to help their "cause". And no one will investigate or punish these people, after all they are giving away a few cans of peas, and so long as there is someone who needs those peas, anyone that challenges them will be the bad guy. Therefore, this very organized from of crime will unfortunately continue.
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      May 9 2014: Amy, thanks for tis very insightful look at yet another example of how, once again, the profit takers are gaming the system, all the while sneering at the very concepts of ethics and principles. The deal you describe involves a charity only in name while actually being deficient in intent, practice and integrity.
    • May 11 2014: You touch on an important issue; the charitable sector can be very inefficient and given the important issues they are often taking on and the money pumped into them, there should be more focus on making every penny count. There is a good talk on how individuals can do this in their own charitable giving(https://www.ted.com/talks/peter_singer_the_why_and_how_of_effective_altruism), but I also think there should be tougher statutory professional standards on organisations if they want to be given charitable status.

      I believe though that the problems in the sector are caused more by people's desire to do good on their terms than evil intentions. You see this, for example, with anti-suicide organisations - often when such a death shocks a community, rather than fundraise for an existing organisation they sometimes feel the need to start their own - tackling the same issues as existing organisations but with the extra costs of another building, another set of staff, etc.

      There should be tighter regulation to maximise returns on donations, but as you said no one wants to challenge them and be seen as 'the bad guy'. The solution is possibly a requirement for a minimum effect per dollar/pound/euro spent.
  • May 8 2014: Yeah, Capitalism is perfect, except for the damm Humans.

    The way I see it, the end-game of Capitalism is one person controlling all the wealth and resources, with the rest of us as slaves. That's not a very noble goal nor should we be trying to accomplish that. Unfortunately, we have yet to come up with something better. Meanwhile, the current march towards that one-person has created much competition for the spot, with the result that many have achieved some measure of success. More than other systems have. Therefore the Capitalist experiment has not YET failed, indeed its the best we've come up with so far.

    I have difficulty with arguments which attempt to solve ALL the problems, work for EVERYBODY, or promote Equality. Not only are they impossible to implement, given that Free Will seems to exist, but I would argue that they SHOULD NOT solve every issue. Diversity should be the goal, not uniformity. What that means in the practical world is that you will never solve 100% of any problem. And that is a GOOD thing, as it is the people on the fringes which create the ideas which transform humanity.

    I firmly believe that we need both Hitlers and Ghandis. Doing away with one, or both, would result in stagnation. Capitalism and the marketplace reward ideas which move humanity in the direction that most have chosen to move. It does not, however, have any other 'good' qualities. In fact things like Morality, Equality, Fairness or Compassion are actually enemies of Capitalism. It most certainly is NOT intended to improve everyone. In fact it is incapable of improving everyone as its core is the exploitation of resources/people for the benefit of a few.

    So there is your Dark Side. When exploitation is the goal don't be surprised that some exploit the exploiters. Criminals are the least of our worries: successful Capitalism does generational damage to entire populations. Give a man a gun and he'll rob a bank; give a man a bank and he'll rob the world.
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      May 9 2014: Well said sir. There is much talk about multi-cultural, multi-national, multi-racial, multi-lingual but when it comes to economies its monotheist, one size must fit all, everywhere, for everything and all the time. .
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    May 5 2014: William, Yes there is a dark and very ugly side to capitalism ... In the United States we call it politics.
    • May 8 2014: Bob,

      That is one but business leaders have sold the public down the river, dumping or pure out right stealing - Bernie Madoff comes to mind but there are many others.
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        May 8 2014: Wayne, most of those have the blessing of legislators who endorse laws that allow for fleecing the public ... Martha Stewart went to jail for what Nancy Polsi did and bragged about ... she held her vote .. bought stock in VISA ... cast her vote knowing the outcome and made millions ... look at the billions in stimuluses that have occurred and the money that was quite simply political payback and had not a chance toward success ... "We the People" lost millions on funding GM and perserving union jobs ... political payback for union support. We didn't get to be 17 trillion dollars in debit by making smart investments.

        You mention Bernie Madoff ... the largest ponzie scheme in the world is Social Security .... and that is being raped by politicians also.

        Is there bad private sector "capitalists" ... you bet. Some get away with it some do not ... they play for thousands / millions .... the really big crooks play with "OUR" money in the trillions and protect themselves with laws they make and rake in personal profits ...

        It is common practice to cut the head off of the snake and then the body will die. When curruption is stopped at the top then much of what occurs at the bottom will also dry up like unions and lobbys.

        Reduce the size of government ... get rid of programs that are ineffective and costly ... hold politicans accountable ... return power to the states .. etc ... and save trillions.

        It really is a simple choice ... go after those looting thousands ... or those looting trillions of the "peoples" money. I vote to go after the liberal / socialists elite in office currently raping us.
  • May 5 2014: The risk of punishment/imprisonment is supposed to be the check on criminal behaviour. The point of criminal sentences is to inflict enough harm to outweigh the benefits that derive from the crime. So while you could say criminal enterprises are the most profitable businesses, risk of a greater punishment is (in theory) supposed to act as a counterbalance.

    Of course like others here my chief gripe with capitalism is the neglect for the environment and other social goods which its profit-driven consumption model entails. It's not only the industrial revolution but capitalism too which are to blame for the massive spike in carbon emissions and the onset of climate change. Another flaw is that capitalism only works if people are kept wanting, jealous, unhappy; if everyone was content and wanted nothing more than they had, whole industries would fall.

    All that said there are some redeeming features of capitalism, the possibility of social mobility being my favourite; there are fewer ceilings on what a skilled and determined individual can achieve. So many silicon valley millionaires started off in their garages with nothing. Also, the free market is in many respects an embodiment of the will of the people, warts and all. The reason that all coffee isn't Fair Trade is not because of corrupt governments or powerful corporations; it's because the majority of people either don't care about, or aren't willing to pay extra for, coffee which doesn't exploit developing countries.
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      May 5 2014: As we have witnessed, not all criminal acts are treated equally and Goldman Sachs stands as the best example of that when a bunch of corporate scam artists - laughingly called investment firms - robbed the U.S. economy of trillions of dollars and then their political flunkies conned the public into believing the government should add to their crimes by giving them more billions in bail out cash.

      Emmet you are absolutely right about the mindless consumerism and environmental degradation. But the lack of any mass public disgust with the practices is mind boggling in its absence. It seems the governmental brainwashing has been highly effective in this regard.
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        May 8 2014: Good points all, BUT and you knew there was a but.... you are "disturbed" that there are crooks out there who are getting away with economic murder. Further, your frustration is with no actions being taken. And you finally point out that the mass public appears uninterested in resolutions.
        However, your solution is to go after the weapon of these crooks. You fall into the trap of if we take away their weapons, they will repent and play nice. Looking at history, has this ever happen?
        In the last years there have been horrendous actions that have resulted in schools shootings. Due diligence and it is now almost impossible to get a gun into a school. As a result, the most recent school attacks involved knives. So, we go after the knives, what next, garrotes? My point?

        It's the people.... and until the people get involved.... you are whistling in the wind.
        So, leaving the berating of capitalism aside, what are you proposing to get people involved?
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          May 9 2014: Oh Mikey, here you are again I see. This time I got an example that I think even you can understand.

          I live in a community consisting of about 4,000 folks and like most of us here I maybe know a few dozen of them to speak to and few dozen more by sight. Many homes here stand unoccupied for weeks at a time since the owners travel for work or leisure while vacation homes can go months. .

          Last year one person found they had been burglarized and mentioned it to a neighbour who remembered another person in the area with a similar complaint some weeks earlier. One thing lead to another and soon people started putting together a series of robberies that had been carried out over the past couple of months. involving minor thefts for the most part but nonetheless where invasions of privacy and criminal in nature. The police were called but little evidence was found. One enterprising resident of the suspect area put in cameras and eventually had footage of the culprit and once the police had that order was restored to the neighbourhood.

          In other words, first the community had to come together and realize their common problem before they could collectively find a way of resolving the problem. You, know "the people" you where asking about?
        • May 11 2014: Mike, addressing the specific example you gave of school shootings, I disagree that going after the weapons is the wrong move, that we should focus only on 'changing the people'. While school shootings are more common than we'd like, the perpetrators still amount to about one in every 20 million. When the cases are that rare it's very difficult, and definitely impractical, to go about 'changing the mindset' of such a tiny and unidentifiable minority of the population. What we can do is limit the power of one person to go in to a school and wreak havoc and misery on so many victims. No one should have that power; there should be more barriers preventing a person's ability to cause such devastation than the mindset of any individual. Will taking guns out of the picture eliminate violence in schools? No, Can it prevent someone going on a killing spree with relative ease? Yes.

          You can apply similar logic to more white-collar crime. You can't stop everyone in the world from wanting to steal and swindle; there will always be those who will do so. What you can do is limit the tools and weapons at their disposal to do so, and ensure the punishment Is proportionate to the crime, so as to minimise the incentives to commit these crimes. You might win over 99.9% with morality; the other 0.1% need another incentive.

          I do agree, though, that berating the problem is not very useful without suggesting an alternative. But if you find capitalism damaged as opposed to broken beyond repair, debating its bad points can reveal how to get the kinks out of the system.
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        May 9 2014: William,
        I sorry that I have been more clear. I fully realize the power of the people. I am also aware of a number of bad players out there. I can't speak for your country, I can only address mine.
        I have in other conversations made myself very clear on what I wish would happen here.

        First, I would want every American voter vote against the incumbent in every election. I was told that it would mean that a voter would have to vote for the "other" party. I said, that's ok another voter would have to vote for your party... his "other" party. In a few elections, all the entrenched old hands will be gone. And then we tell the new guys that unless they get a term limit approved they are gone at the next election. Second, the 17th amendment to the US Constitution should be repealed.

        The 16th Amendment will be changed to limit the power of congress to raise taxes and to hold to a balanced budget, which would limit the Administration to fund only a singular office for providing public services... no duplication of services. Second, each Secretarial Department will be given a sunset. For example, if the Secretary of Education can not demonstrate an improvement in the level of public education to the congress, then that agency will be disbanded.
        Further, I would like to see a flat tax.... the same tax rate for everyone.
        While we are at it, lobbyists and crony capitalists at the US capital should be considered as appropriate under bribery laws.
        There are laws that address civil servants from engaging in political activity. That law has in the last twenty years fallen aside. The law should be enforced and be grounds for immediate dismissal.


        I can keep expounding in this vein, but I think you see the content of my position.
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        May 27 2014: Hi, William-

        How about a little Iranian justice for the worst corporate thieves? I mention this in my reply to Mike, above, too:

        http://usspost.com/iran-a-billionaire-executed-90166/
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      May 12 2014: Emmet,
      I used those illustrations to demonstrate taking overwhelming actions to address a an issue that is focused on a few. 99.9% are good but that last 0.1% shoot up a school. One thought is to end all gun ownership and that 0.1% won't shoot up schools. As I noted, guns be damned, they brought knives. Here is my point, do we want to burn down the house to get rid of a mouse? Most people who engage in capitalist enterprises are open and honest with the hope of providing goods and services in a competitive market at a price that would provide a profit that would sustain his enterprise. Then there are those few who embezzle and swindle and steal from their markets, some even go to a further step to buy political influences to legitimatize their shady operations. So, the solution is to end the capitalist system and use a fascist system to control all means of production and distribution.
      I would refer you to my response to William. I have no final answers, but I would believe that these are some solutions to some problems, at least for the stealers and the swindlers. I am still not fully cognizant of a method to find and stop that one nut who is intent on going into a schools and killing students.
      • May 12 2014: Sticking with the school example, yes that 0.1% (its a smaller proportion really,that was just used for convenience) is the problem, but people in any system will slip through the cracks, no matter how you prioritise them. That 0.1% exists in other developed countries too, the reason we don't see school massacres on the same scale is because there is tighter gun ownership laws. If knives are substituted, they will cause far less damage than guns, one person wouldn't find it as easy to kill 20 people on a whim. But I digress, this debate is not about guns.

        I agree wholeheartedly with your point on not burning the house to get the mouse, and I would not scrap the entirety of capitalism to get at the embezzlers and swindlers. The reasons I would possibly consider ending the capitalist system are mentioned in my initial comment, which I consider to be more conceptual, fundamental flaws with capitalism as opposed to curable defects.

        I have read your suggestions to William, and I hope you're not offended but I don't see them as practicable. I think the logistics of putting your suggestions into practice would be impossible, and suggestions such as the sunset I would consider undesirable even if possible.
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    May 5 2014: Hi again, William-

    I can think of no better example of the dark and ugly side of capitalism than this, and those familiar with my posts and TED profile that explores the genetic and epigenetic origins that made and make us the darkest and ugliest of animals know that I will not be invited to speak at the Optimists' Club any time soon. Here is the World War Two Money Trail at the quickstep:

    Worldwide Depression in 1930s, Germany worse off than most, paying massive reparations for WW I. Both Germany and Italy near anarchy and ripe for dictatorships. Rather than pump money into the US economy, many US businesses pumped a lot money into those countries and created the dictatorships that arose. Henry Ford gave a young Hitler $70 million at a time when that was a truly staggering sum, and that is but one example. Hitler forever after was Ford's lap dog, idolizing Ford, adopting Ford's virulent anti-Semitism, manufacturing Ford trucks for the duration of WW II, etc. Dictators are much cheaper to buy off than Congresses - it took decades and many billions of dollars for corporations to buy off today's US Congress, Supreme Court and Executive Branch.

    The events of WW II are what made that later vast buy-off possible: Banks and corps only make money when money is in motion and nothing keeps money in motion better than war. Billions in assets were being hoarded by European Jews and not in motion in the ailing world economy. The Holocaust was merely the greatest of dozens of pogroms against Jews in many nations that robbed them, killed them and expelled the survivors. Nazis robbed and killed them and the Allies did nothing to slow the mass murders of Jews - we knew of the dozens of camps fairly early on and could have bombed rail lines going to them, but chose not to. Why? So the Nazis could amass the stolen wealth so we could much more easily "appropriate" it from the Nazis:

    Enter "Merkers Salt Mines" in a Google Images search to see what made the US a superpower.
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      May 8 2014: Breandan, this was so interesting. By the way, do you know that the company Krups also sold Hitler the ovens to gas the jews, knowing full well what they were to be used for. So in this regard, capitalism, socialism or communism all have something in common - anything for a buck!
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    May 2 2014: William, for me?
    I studied the organization of the Italian Mafia in my Master's program, got an "A". Very Proud.
    The mafia had one of the simplest and most effective organizational system ever. There were perks . Of course, if you were fired from your job, you were fired. The end of the story is when mob bosses tried to go legit, they got caught up in the Governmental Controlled Capitalist System.

    Here is why I challenge your position. You are finding fault with a thing. I would guess you find guns a problem. You find an economic process a problem. I appreciate you are seeing problems and are looking for resolutions.
    But I will say it again, things don't cause problems, people cause problems. You have describe problems you claim were caused by the "Rich" using capitalism. Further you have implied if the Rich didn't have capitalism things would be better. Ok, but what about those Rich, you have said if we take their tools of destruction, an economic system, they would be powerless, but would they? Then the other problem, if capitalism is gone, how do we exchange goods and services in a fair and just manner. Look at it this way, people use knives to kill people, if we do away with knives, how do we cut bread?
    I know this is a simplistic point of view, but as you know, I am a little simple...
    Tell us how you would punish the wrongdoers and have all turn out well.
  • May 2 2014: My limited experience with the ugly side of capitalism has been with the few corporations I have worked for. It was mainly a matter of the disparity in the pay scale and the lack of a living wage. It seems that at the very least, if a person is working full time they should make enough to support themselves and their family. It doesn't seem too much to ask.

    I think pure capitalism is a great system. All we are born with is time and the ability to exert energy. If we can trade this time and energy for food, shelter, and medical care it would be a fair trade. This is only vaguely related to what capitalism has become though and far too many people have to work two and three jobs to make ends meet.
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      May 2 2014: You are right of course, but then again you are talking about equality and fairness, two concepts that collide with the exploitive and self serving Nature of Capitalism.

      However, I would argue that "pure" Capitalism is the system you have been disappointed by.

      All human made systems must have checks and balances to constrain and guide them, just as our laws and courts define and balance our Justice systems and banking and investment regulations used to constrain their excesses and protect their investors but no longer serve that function because of de-regulation.
      • May 2 2014: I'm only 33, so my experience is limited, but it seems that "capitalism" has undergone some big changes over the last few decades as the corporate model has been adopted by most businesses out there, but it seems that there was a time when small businesses were relatively strong and employees were valued/appreciated and paid a reasonable wage. To be honest I have only a limited understanding of the ins and outs of all that capitalism includes so maybe I'm just being naive.
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          May 2 2014: The BIG change happened when corporations were given "status" by governments that made them - under the law - equal to a human being rather than just another "thing" that had to be regulated to ensure its safe operation like a car, or a bank or a gun.
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    May 1 2014: Socialism is immune to fraudsters and criminals? History disagrees with you, William.

    Since Socialism has these problems also, along with it's own, I'm failing to see your point.
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      May 2 2014: Lawren, nowhere in William's commentary did he ever mention socialism. You have totally projected that into what he wrote.

      In fact, William's statement that "But like all ideologies that have come down the pike capitalism has a dark and ugly side which its proselytizers never mention or ever want to look too closely at." might actually be interpreted to suggest that the ideology of socialism also has a dark and ugly side.

      It's no wonder you are failing to see his point - because you have apparently completely missed it by instead trying to make your own point.
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        May 2 2014: What else are we comparing Capitalism to if not its opposite, Socialism?

        William was attempting to make the point that the weakness of Capitalism was "fraudsters and criminals." If fraudsters and criminals are not unique to Capitalism, then he has no point.
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          May 2 2014: Again you are projecting your antipathy for socialism onto William's commentary. I don't see anywhere in what he wrote that he is "comparing Capitalism to" anything.

          What I do see is that he is asking people to share their experiences of the dark side of capitalism.

          In another comment on this topic, Jacob Warren wrote "I think pure capitalism is a great system." He also wrote a bit about his "limited experiences with the ugly side of capitalism."

          Jacob obviously understood what William's question and invitation to us actually is, whereas you still seem to be missing the point due to your own agenda.
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          May 8 2014: Lawren, Pardon me, but I always thought that the opposite of Capitalism was Communism, not Socialism. I have a dear friend in the Netherlands, and she has explained that a socialist way of life still requires input of the people who care to share in the benefits of that system, and there are no free handouts, only sharing for those in true need.

          Nonetheless - Good answer Carl!!!
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      May 2 2014: Thanks Carl, you are right on all points. Sadly there are always going to be those who cannot see the forest because there are so many damn trees in the way.
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        May 2 2014: You're welcome, William.

        But the trees are the forest,
        and the forest is the trees.

        And it it possible to see everything at the same time.

        It's really (pre-) determined exclusive focus that gets in the way,
        a.k.a bias, prejudice, intolerance, narrow-mindedness, closed-mindedness, intolerance.

        The antidote is attentiveness, open-mindedness, openheartedness, tolerance, inquisitiveness.
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    May 31 2014: Hi, William-

    Nearly every day I drive by/through the old Hungarian - American Kossuth Colony site here in Dayton, Ohio. Many folks are familiar with the monopolistic company towns that existed (exist?) in the coal, oil and timber regions of North America. But I think it is interesting that such a thing could exist in the middle of the then thriving (now dying) industrial town of Dayton, "The Town of 1,000 Factories," as it was touted as in the early 20th century, in which in 1905, 53% of voters voted for the American Socialist Party.

    In fact, abominations like the Kossuth Colony CREATED the American Socialist Party that created the unions that created the now-dying middle class. From the link below:

    " The most striking aspect of Jacob Moskowitz’s miniature city was a twelve foot high wooden fence which completely surrounded the Colony. The only entrance to the Colony was located at what is now Notre Dame Avenue and Leo Street. At the entrance was situated a Watchman’s Shack and also a large sign, on which was written in English: “NOTICE: Public Welcome To Visit This Colony At All Times.” Because of the fence, the Colony soon was referred to by outsiders as “The Stockade.”

    " Certain rules were established by Mr. Moskowitz which all the inhabitants of the Colony were expected to follow.

    The first rule was that all the workers in the Colony had to be employed at the Barney and Smith Car Works. No one could work in any other factory and live inside the Colony." "... If a person was fired from the Car Works, he was automatically evicted from the Colony.

    The second rule was that the inhabitants were required to make all their purchases, with the exception of furniture and other miscellaneous items from the store which Mr. Moskowitz operated inside the Colony."

    http://www.daytonhistorybooks.com/the_kossuth_colony.html
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      Jun 1 2014: And now that process is nation wide and becoming world wide. Either you take the jobs they offer you or you do without - everything. Either we buy the inferior "sale" products or you do without, that is unless you can pay the freight on the "upscale" stores and then the stores will simply "gift" their stuff to celebrities if they promise to wear/use the stuff as living advertising.

      It seems the "middle" class was a big disappointment to the "ruling" class. Instead of taking solace in their new found comforts and opportunities and simply basking in lives replete with a limited level of excess they started insisting on things like equality for all, voting rights for women, people of colour and even immigrants. They championed education for all, an end to poverty, decent health care, fair wages and social programs that the ruling class see as simply wasting money on "those people", namely those the current band of robber barons look down upon.

      Well that middle class is now the new indigent class and paying the real price for their hubris towards those with wealth and power. .
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    May 30 2014: Hi Willy,
    I have been following this along, without comment, but as it is coming to an end, my last comment....
    Most of your commenters have besmirched capitalists in broad sweeping strokes, even I will admit there are criminals out there who have embezzled money and stole wealth. But they are few.... even those overpaid CEOs who make hundreds of times the salaries of the janitors in their offices.... by all counts there are but a thousand of them in America out of over 300 million.... I will say that most businesses are run by capitalists who are honest in their activities and looking to kept their businesses. What I will add, is that every job I have ever had was given to me by a businessman. Not by a college professor, philosopher, or a political commentator.... admittedly, I never ask them for a job.... did I miss something?

    Until your next foray into the sublime, I remain.....
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      Jun 1 2014: Actually, Mikey, the subject here was one of inquiry and I have enjoyed the feedback from those who actually chose to respond to that inquiry with their own insights and experiences. Surely you are not attempting to diminish the words or the experiences of all these respondents?

      Of course it is easy to sit in the bushes and then to snipe at all those who come into sight. You are not alone in that vocation. Anyone can be critical and sarcastic when the spirit moves them. And there will always be those who blindly support the status quo.

      But make no mistake, there is no job being offered unless someone else is going to profit from that labour and, today, the price of labour - the wages of those who are most responsible for all the production - is indeed a very poor test of the worth of a human being. Those who think our lives should revolve around the value of our labour and nothing else have no idea of the real worth of a human being other than as something to be exploited for personal gain. .

      Nonetheless, the hard truths will continue to be said and the desire for improvement of the human condition will not be stifled by those who lack vision and understanding because those who seek equality of opportunity and quality of life for all are not going away, ever.
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    May 19 2014: William,
    Your conversation about the dark side of capitalism and you address the criminals that get away with it. I of course have taken a differing point of view, I don't blame the process, or the tool, or the idea.... I blame the perpetrators who abuse the process, tool or idea. I know of no economists who postulate how to prostitute the system to rip off investors and the gullible. How about my solution.... currently in the US, if you use a gun in the commission of a crime, you will get additional jail time when convicted. In some states, if you commit murder with a gun in the commission of another crime it is a capital offense. Let's do the same thing for criminals who use capitalism for a weapon. I can believe that a swindler can do as much damage to a person as a gun.
    I am sure that in Canada, the legal system doesn't let criminals who use capitalism as a weapon to get away with it like here in the lower 48....
  • May 8 2014: We fight capitalism or communism or socialism, while militaristic monopolism destroys humanity.
  • Comment deleted

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      May 4 2014: While I can easily understand your sincere intentions I cannot, in good conscience, accept the accolades since your response surely must take the prize in that regard :)
  • May 1 2014: Degraded environment.
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      May 2 2014: yes, the very environment that we all depend upon for our very existence.