Living the Evolution

Suriving, thriving and helping others in a
troubled world

by Mark Mason

Go straight to Chapter 2 on how the ruling elite works

Chapter 1: Cascading Catastrophies

Perils the world faces—why they are not addressed

Gandhi said, ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’ If you are reading this book, you probably share with me the desire to do this. Most of this book will look at how we can live our lives in such a way that we thrive in happiness and also have the feeling of accomplishment of contributing to the overcoming of some of the serious problems threatening humanity. We can live the evolution we wish to see happen, and our example will show others we can live very satisfying and rewarding lives in the process of being a part of the answer, not a part of the problem.

Before we look at how to do this, though, let’s briefly survey the scope of the danger we face, as individuals, families, communities and as a planet, looking at each of a number of perils that threaten to converge into a ‘perfect storm’ for humanity if we fail to come to grips with them. We will also look in this chapter at what governments could be doing about the problems, and why they are, in fact, doing very little. Chapters 2 and 3 look at how ruling elites control and exploit us, so we can learn how to sideline them out of our lives. After that, from Chapter 4 onward, we’ll look at what we, ordinary people who care, can do by how we live our lives, both to lessen the impact of these problems and to adapt to the new living conditions they will present us with.

The Perils

1/ Climate Change:

Emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), the main greenhouse gasses, are causing our planet to warm up, and this warming threatens many aspects of our lives. Our polar ice caps are beginning to melt, and already, between 1870 and 2015, there has been a sea level rise of about nine inches. Scientists tell us that by 2030 the sea will rise by an average of another two inches, and by 2050 another five inches. This will begin to flood some of the world’s coastal cities that are barely above sea level now. By the end of the century there will be at least another two feet of sea rise, and there could be as much as four feet.[1] Even a three foot further rise, which is very likely, would inundate many coastal cities, and make hundreds of millions of people homeless. It would also flood with sea water large areas of land used to grow food crops. River deltas are amongst the world’s most fertile land, but they are close to sea level, and will be lost. Increasingly destructive storms, life-threatening heat waves, wildfires and other extreme weather such as droughts affecting our ability to grow food are the other biggest likely impacts of climate change.

United Nations’ figures show about half the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from our food production system, including agriculture, animal husbandry and proces­sing, packaging and transport of food,[2] yet when countries meet to talk about what to do about climate change, as in Paris recently, farming and other aspects of food production always seem to get a pass, and only fossil fuels are talked about to any extent. One can only assume this is because industrial agriculture insists on it, saying it can barely feed the world as it is, and would not be able to do so if it had to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We will see later that agriculture can be done in a different way, in a word, organically, that would almost totally eliminate its greenhouse gas emissions. Big agricultural chemical com­panies, of course, don’t want to lose business, and they, like other corporations, give large campaign donations to politicians. One of the things ‘Big Food’ appears to want in return for its campaign donations is that agriculture is off the climate change agenda. So, no wonder we are getting nowhere with reducing global warming! There are some very rich, very selfish, people out there getting in the way of the process so they can continue to get even richer. And, of course, industrial CO2 polluters have similarly used the power of the purse to make sure governments, Republican or Democrat, require very little of them—so much so that since the first climate convention in 1992, worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, from all sources, are up by 57%![3]

Meanwhile, the melting of polar ice is exposing methane hydrate locked in the ice, and releasing methane in large quantities. The more methane gets released the quicker global warming will progress, as methane is over thirty times as potent a greenhouse gas as CO2, and the more the polar ice melts due to this increased global warming, the more methane will be released. We are already close to the tipping point when this positive feedback loop would go out of control and lead to very serious climate change.


2/ Water and Food Shortages:

There are many threats to the world’s future food supply, and indeed huge numbers of people are already going hungry and starving to death around the world. One of the main factors that will limit our ability to grow enough food for everyone will be a lack of water. It takes a lot of water to grow food, especially using industrial agricultural methods. 92% of all the world’s fresh water usage is for growing food.[4] Organic farming uses less water and gives higher yields in drought conditions[5] because the humus it creates in the soil soaks up water which can then be gradually accessed by plant roots, whereas in artificially fertilized soils, that have far less humus, much of the irrigation water drains right through to the subsoil and the water table, and leaches minerals from the soil in the process.

Many of the foods we most like to eat take huge amounts of water to grow. It takes 1,847 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef, 1,056 gallons for one gallon of brewed coffee, 1,729 gallons for a pound of olive oil, 2,061 gallons for a pound of chocolate and 15,159 gallons for a pound of vanilla beans. On the other hand potatoes and broccoli take only 34 gallons per pound, tomatoes only 26 gallons per pound, and strawberries, pineapple and watermelon each take less than 50 gallons per pound.[4] What we eat can cert­ainly make a difference to the world’s ability to feed itself. And some of the most delicious and healthy fruits and vegetables are also the most sustainable for the planet.

Much of the world’s agriculture has been relying on using water from huge underground aquifers which once used up will only replenish over geological time (thousands of years). Most of these aquifers are becoming depleted, so every year they can water less land. A good example is the Ogallala Aquifer, below eight states in the Great Plains of the United States, that produces about 30% of all the irrigation water used in the whole country as well as house­hold water for 2.5 million people. Since intensive irrigation began in the 1940s, the water level has dropped by as much as 300 feet in parts of this aquifer, and much of the land formerly watered by it has reverted to desert. Rainwater only replenishes the Ogallala aquifer by an average of about one inch each year[6], so, assuming an average drop of 100 feet in the aquifer, 1,200 years of water have been used up in just 60 years. Other similar aquifers in China, India and around the world, are also becoming depleted, many even more severely than the Ogallala. This groundwater situation is obviously going to become increasingly bleak, and will make careful water management essential. Yet despite the fact that organic farming uses less water, conventional ‘industrial’ agriculture continues to get nearly all of the Farm Bill agricultural subsidies, since it has much more lobbying clout and has the resources to give large campaign donations to politicians—less than 1% of the richest holding our world to ransom so they can make even more money.

And big agriculture is sabotaging our food future in more ways than just wasting water. Honey bees and other pol­linators are dying off around the world, often due to pesticide use, and in particular due to a new widely used class of insecticides called neonicotinoids, or ‘neonics’—bees and most other pollinators are insects, after all.[7] And they pollinate many of our most desirable and important food crops. Yet chemical companies continue to make huge profits from pesticide sales, and there is very little that government does about it. Such is the influence of this industry on government through its economic might.

Plowing, a mainstay of conventional agriculture, is causing our topsoil to rapidly blow away. It has been estimated that for every bushel of corn harvested, two bushels of topsoil are blown away because of plowing.[8] And once this topsoil is in the air, sunlight converts the nitrates in it to nitrous oxide, a particularly potent green­house gas. Over fishing of the oceans and continued popul­ation growth also threaten our future food security. We could be converting to different agricultural methods such as org­anic farming, and governments could be encouraging this with subsidies, but they are doing very little. Instead, big agriculture continues to get the lion’s share of agricultural subsidies because of the political power it gains through  extensive lobbying and giving campaign donations to politicians. The situation in Europe is not so bad, which gives us some hope. There GMO food is either banned or has to be labeled as such, and pesticides that kill bees, such as neonics, are more strictly controlled. Particularly notable for its progressive stand on food quality is Russia, which in 2014 banned the import of all GMO products. Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s prime minister, commented on this ban saying, ‘If the Americans like to eat GMO products, let them eat them then. We don’t need to do that; we have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food.’[9]

3/ Economic Growth, Overpopulation and Huge Wealth Disparities:

We live on a finite planet, which means our population, and the amount of material things we make and use, cannot keep growing forever. In fact, we are already close to, or even past, sustainable levels of both population and industrial output. Further growth can only damage our long-term prospects for occupying planet Earth. Climate change is just one of a number of unfortunate consequences of continued growth. So why can’t we settle down to zero population growth and a ‘steady state’ economy that doesn’t grow?

Economists keep telling us that we need to have about 3% economic growth each year to maintain close to full employment, and, as a result, such growth has been seen as the holy grail of economics. The reason economists say this is that over the last 60 years or so, productivity has been increasing at an average of about 3% a year. This means that each year we can make 3% more goods and services in the same amount of time than we could the previous year. This is the 3% growth in output. They say that if we didn’t make 3% more goods and services then we would need 3% less workers and there would be unemployment increasing by this amount each year. This has been seen as a compelling argument, but it completely ignores the fact that a 3% increase in productivity can also, if we want it to, mean that we can make the same amount of goods and services in 3% less time, and so reduce the work week by an average of 3% per year while keeping pay levels the same. This is the steady state option. With this option the benefits of produc­tivity increases would be shared by all through needing to work less. With the growth option, however, the extra goods and services produced could either be shared equally by all, or could be largely appropriated by the rich and powerful.

What has happened over the last 60 years is that productivity has more than tripled, but most workers have seen little increase in living standard. Indeed, most families now need two incomes to get by, whereas 60 years ago one income was typically enough. So where has all this tripled amount of productivity gone, since virtually none of it has gone to workers? To the rich and powerful—all of it! This is why for many years the rich have been growing richer and the poor poorer, and the wealth disparity is at record levels. We have reached the point where half the world’s wealth is owned by just 1% of the population,[10] and the top 350 American CEOs earn at least 300 times what median paid workers earn (up from 25 times in the 1970s).[11]

You have heard of the ‘great train robbery,’ well this is the ‘great productivity robbery.’ All this productivity has been stolen from the people who actually produced it. But what is even worse is that the manufacture of all the unnecessary things, produced as our productivity increased, has polluted our planet with greenhouse gases, smog and garbage, and used up so much of our fossil fuels that we are now facing a situation where we may not have sufficient safely-useable energy left to manufacture the renewable energy infrastructure we need to have enough energy in the future.

So, knowing this, why do governments still strive to have at least 3% growth each year? It’s for the rich, of course. They are getting richer under the growth option at the expense of everyone else, including their own children and grandchildren who will inherit the Earth they are trashing. And of course the rich give campaign donations to polit­icians who are thus obliged to keep the growth option going. The rich also own most of the media and publishing houses, fund think tanks that feed conservative propaganda to the press they own, and donate heavily to universities, so they can also make sure news reports, books and university courses on economics don’t mention the steady state option of reducing the work week at the same pay when productivity goes up.


Some governments have made attempts to keep the population of their countries under control, notably China, but most do very little. Overpopulation is a severe problem in the Philippines, largely because it is a Catholic country and the church opposes birth control. Their government is beginning to promote birth control in opposition to the church, but it is a mammoth task for them.

Since we are close to the carrying capacity of the Earth, either we have to voluntarily reduce our birth rate, or cascading catastrophes will increase the death rate, as is already beginning to happen in some parts of the world such as Africa and the Middle East.

It has been shown that young women who have at least some education, some prospects in life, and access to birth control, have fewer children than their uneducated, poverty stricken sisters. So aid organizations that work to educate children and provide better economic prospects for com­munities can, if they also provide the means for birth control, greatly help communities control their population. One major problem is that Catholic and some other religious aid organizations oppose the use of birth control, and since aid organizations work together in many ways, this tends to shift the focus of most aid organizations and governments away from providing contraceptives. The sad fact is that many otherwise successful aid efforts to improve the standard of living of communities are undone in quite a short time by population increases that lead to them again having not enough food for everyone. Since the education and improved economic prospects of such communities would have made them open to using birth control, it is doubly sad that in many cases contraceptive help is not provided for ‘religious’ reasons. A well known example of this is the work of the Catholic Mother Theresa in India. Although she helped many poverty stricken people, the value of her good work was largely, if not completely, undone by her implacable opposition to the use of birth control.

Another problem is that some religious and ethnic groups, that perceive themselves under threat, want to grow as quickly as possible to increase their political and military power. Indira Gandhi, a former prime minister of India, introduced a birth control education program in 1972. It was met with vehement opposition, however, from both Hindus and Muslims. Both groups felt it was an attempt to reduce their numbers and political power. They even accused her of cultural genocide. Many people believe her assassination twelve years later was because she introduced this program. After her death her birth control education program was shut down, and the issue of birth control has never again been successfully raised in India.[12]

One thing we can do to help this situation is to make sure our charitable giving goes to organizations like Oxfam that concentrate on all three of the vital areas of aid: educating children, improving the economic prospects of communities, and making sure birth control is available. Governments could be doing this, too, in their foreign aid, but, as usual, various powerful special interest groups—particularly religious organizations in this case—are, more often than not, steering them away from doing so by their undue influence.

4/ Fossil Fuels Running Out:

It takes the energy equivalent of about 70 barrels of oil to make an average car,[13] as much as it uses to drive 117,600 miles (at 40 mpg), so imagine how much energy it takes to make one of those huge windmills that generate electricity—the equivalent of 500 barrels of oil? or 1,000 barrels? People say there’s no great rush—when the oil finally runs out we can just make a bunch of windmills and solar farms to supply our energy. But if it takes such a huge amount of energy to manufacture the renewable energy infrastructure we need, then we won’t, at that point, have the energy left to make enough of it, will we? That’s what most people don’t realize. Humanity was lucky enough to get an easy-to-harness, cheap fossil fuel ‘inherit­ance.’ Whether we invest a large part of it in creating a renewable energy infrastructure that will keep supplying us with energy forever, or whether we use nearly all of it for our current energy needs, is up to us.

It’s like two brothers who inherit a million dollars each. One brother invests most of his million in rentals and the stock exchange, and has a perpetual income he can live quite well on. The other brother keeps spending his money on extravagant living until he has only $100,000 left before looking around for investments of only that amount that he might live on. Which one of these brothers will humanity be like with respect to our fossil fuel inheritance? We’ve already used up about half of our fossil fuel inheritance—that’s like one of the brothers only having $500,000 left. At this point it becomes imperative to invest the rest or inevitably face living in the poorhouse. So if we are to avoid being in an ‘energy poorhouse’ for generations, we need to start investing big time in renewable energy infrastructure, while we still have enough energy to do so.

Unfortunately, there is a big problem facing the world even if we do seriously start using our remaining fossil fuel to create our renewable energy infrastructure. We have been busy for the last 60 years making far more things than the world needs by pursuing the ‘economic growth model.’ This has created a serious climate-change problem that will only be exacerbated, perhaps critically, if we use a lot more fossil fuel derived energy to manufacture the renewable energy infrastructure we need. Naomi Klein, one of the greatest climate change activists of our time, has noted with dismay that Germany’s CO2 emissions actually went up in 2012 and 2013, despite Germany’s record high levels of conversion to renewable energy during those years.[14] This dismay of hers shows how little understanding there is of the reality that manufacturing renewable energy infrastructure takes a huge energy investment from other sources of energy such as oil and electricity from coal, and that we should expect emissions to temporarily go up, as they did in Germany, perhaps quite substantially, while we create the renewable infrastructure we need.

Some people have suggested the way out of this dilemma is to use nuclear power to make the transition to renewable energy, since it doesn’t produce greenhouse gases. After the serious problems in Chernobyl and Fukushima, however, we can see that nuclear energy is fraught with even more serious problems than climate change is, as it could threaten the very existence of life on Earth. Have we then, through overusing fossil fuels to pursue unnecessary and wasteful growth, put ourselves in hole we can’t get out of? Thankfully, there do appear to be a couple of possible ways out.

One way would be to revolutionize the way we do agriculture to eliminate the nearly one half of greenhouse gases it causes, so we could invest energy into creating renewable energy infrastructure without exacerbating climate change too much. We will look further into this option in Chapter 5.

Another way out of the hole would be if we could dev­elop a safe form of nuclear energy as a transitional source. This is, of course, why scientists are pursuing nuclear fusion—the energy source that powers the sun. It is unlikely, however, that fusion will become viable any time soon, if ever, so we cannot rely on it. A new type of nuclear reactor that is currently being developed, called a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR), might, however, fit the bill, if it ends up meeting the expectations of its proponents, something we may well be somewhat skeptical about. According to these proponents, LFTR reactors (which I’ll also call thorium reactors from now on) cannot have ‘melt­downs’ like happened in Chernobyl and Fukushima, since their reactor cores are already in a liquid form that automatic­ally drains away to a safe storage vessel if control of a reactor is lost. It is also claimed they don’t need to operate at huge pressures like uranium reactors, produce a much smaller amount of radioactive waste than uranium reactors, and that this waste has such a short half life that it would all be effectively gone after only 300 years. By comparison, the extremely toxic plutonium produced by uranium reactors has a half-life of 10,000 years, and it would take over 100,000 years to dissipate. Apparently, a certain amount of the plutonium produced by uranium reactors can even be used up by thorium reactors and converted to its less toxic and much shorter lived waste. Finally, there is four times as much thorium in the world than uranium, and thorium reactors are said to be 200 times more efficient at getting the energy out of it, so there could be 800 times as much energy available from thorium than from uranium. This would overcome another problem with uranium reactors—that we can’t get enough energy from them, anyway, to fully make the transition to renewable energy.

The USA had a working molten salt reactor, which used similar technology to a LFTR thorium reactor at Oak Ridge Tennessee, but President Nixon closed it down because it didn’t produce plutonium, and he wanted more plutonium to make more nuclear weapons![15] The Chinese are now working on a LFTR type thorium reactor, and hope to have a com­mercial model up and running by 2020.[16] Why, then, are governments around the world not investing in thorium reactor research? The current nuclear power industry and nuclear weapons manufacturers, of course, have a vested interest in the status quo, and like other large corporations, give campaign donations to politicians to make sure things don’t change. We shouldn’t, of course, be relying on thorium reactors to make the transition to renewable energy, as it is yet to be shown that they will actually work and be safe. Changing to organic agriculture would seem to be a much better strategy.


5/ The Waste and Danger of War:

Around the world, $1.75 trillion a year is being spent on wars and other military spending,[17] nearly half of this by the United States alone, which has put it into the uncontrol­lably huge amount of debt of $21.19 trillion (on July 3, 2018 and increasing by just over a billion dollars a day). This goes up to $113.8 trillion (increasing by about ten billion dollars a day) if unfunded liabilities are included.[18] Also, huge amounts of oil have been used by the world’s militaries, releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gases that exacerbate global warming. Imagine if we had put all of this effort and energy into producing renewable energy infrastructure! We would be close to having the infrastructure set up by now. Regrettably, we have instead produced enough nuclear weapons to end all life on Earth if even only a small portion of them are used. Many of these nuclear weapons are in the hands of unstable or belligerent countries like Pakistan and North Korea, where the chance of them being used deliberately or by accident is significant. Why has humanity been so stupid as to do all this?

People say they have to be able to defend their country against enemies, and that is why we need to spend more and more on ‘defense.’ Unfortunately, there is some truth to this. A country that totally disarmed when other countries didn’t would be at great risk the way the world is at the moment. But countries could safely decide to disarm most of their offensive weapons such as aircraft carriers (which for the rest of their nuclear-powered lives could be used as cargo ships that wouldn’t emit carbon dioxide), close their military bases around the world, bring home all their troops, and concentrate on just having a military that could effectively defend their country against an attack on its own territory. Many countries already have this approach to defense. If the United States, unilaterally or with a few other countries, decided to do this as well, many other countries around the world would soon follow its example. And by doing so, the USA would only need to spend about 25% of what it currently does on its military to fully protect itself, and could reallocate the money saved to paying off national debt, renewing critical infrastructure, creating renewable energy infrastructure, giving foreign aid to generate international goodwill, providing free college education and fee health care for everyone, and improving the economy in many other ways that would benefit everyone in the country. Retrenched military personnel would have just the right skills to help build the renewable energy infra­structure we need, and could be employed to do so.

Ironically, the USA would then be in a better position to defend itself than it is now. This is because history shows that countries with strong economies nearly always win wars fought against countries with weaker economies but initially stronger militaries. The American Civil war was a good example of this. The North ended up decisively defeating the South because of its industrial might, even though the South had by far the best general in Robert E. Lee, who won nearly all the initial battles. Likewise, Germany started WWII with a huge military advantage, but lost the war because of its economic weakness and the economic strength of the Allies, in particular the Soviet Union and the USA.

If economic strength is the most important part of a country being able  to defend itself, then why does the USA keep spending more and more on its military, while spiraling deeper and deeper into debt? The answer is because of the stranglehold of the military-industrial complex Eisenhower warned us about at the end of his presidency. This military-industrial complex is made up of companies such as munitions manufacturers and banks that make huge amounts of money from war, and get their way with government due to the campaign donations they make to politicians. Being a five-star WWII general and also a Republican president of the USA, Dwight D. Eisenhower knew a thing or two about defending his country. This expertise led him to say, at the beginning of his presidency in 1953:


Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals… We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people… This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.


This points out, from a position of great authority, how damaging war is to humanity, and the pressing need to reduce military spending to the minimum level needed for countries to defend their own shores. The ruling elite knows, however, that a frightened population is, overall, a more compliant population, and that, as a result, having frequent wars is important to it maintain­ing its position of power and privilege in society.[19] So, don’t expect governments to do anything about this problem any time soon. We, as individuals, can, however, do something about it. If we live simply, get out of debt, grow some of our own food, and share resources with each other as this book proposes, we can live very rewarding lives on incomes low enough that we will pay little or no war tax, otherwise known as US Federal Income Tax. This is the most effective way of doing war tax resistance, precisely because it is perfectly legal, helps reduce climate change and gives us the time we need to nurture our creativity, build community, promote social justice and spread the word about this better way of living.

If the governments of the world wanted to do something really useful with their militaries, they could cooperate on a plan to protect the Earth from an asteroid strike such as the one that caused the mass extinction of species on Earth in which the dinosaurs died out. It is known that many asteroids will be passing close to Earth over coming years, but we have yet to assemble and test the hardware needed to divert one from a direct strike.

The Ruling Elite Problem

There are other problems that threaten us, of course, such as corruption in the health and pharmaceutical industries, which we will deal with in another chapter. The overarching problem though, as we have seen in this chapter, that is preventing governments from dealing with any of the other great problems, is a ruling elite problem. The ruling elite, a group of billionaire families, often operating independently from each other, controls governments by giving campaign donations to politicians, and most of its members don’t care about having a sustainable planet or about other people living sustaining, fulfilling lives—they only want to get richer and more powerful. This is not just an idea of mine. Many people are saying it these days, including, of course, Bernie Sanders. For instance, climate activist and author John Atcheson wrote recently that any of our problems, if traced back their roots, will be seen to involve the undue influence of money in politics.[20]

The next two chapters will examine the ruling elite in some detail, to gain an understanding of how it works. Then in Chapter 4 we will begin to outline how we the people can, by how we live our lives, sideline the ruling elite and work toward building a sustainable and sustaining future for all of us.


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Chapter 2: A Brief History of the Ruling Elite

Since the agricultural revolution spread around the world, about seven thousand years ago, ruling elites have controlled the human race. The transition from hunting and gathering to farming led to the concept of ownership of land. Considering the large amount of work needed to establish farms, it is not surprising that the people who did this often laid claim to owning them. This in turn led to them exploiting nature and their fellow human beings in their pursuit of wealth. Hunter gatherers had, and still have in the few places they remain in the world, the consciousness that they are a part of nature and their fellow beings, and that their fellow beings and nature are a part of them, so that what is good for nature and people everywhere is also good for them.

With the agricultural revolution, however, an attitude emerged amongst farm owners that the land they worked and the people they employed were 'other,' not a part of themselves, so could be exploited to make themselves rich and powerful. Since this attitude change at the time of the agricultural revolution there has been continual slavery, warfare and exploitation of people on planet Earth, and huge areas of fertile land have been laid waste to and become deserts because of exploitation of the land.

Land owners, the people who had the audacity to occupy and claim ownership of the land that had been shared by everyone, became the ruling elite, which soon took the form of aristocracy and royalty. The rest of us became slaves, serfs, workers and outcasts. Before we can have a sustainable economy and sustaining lives for all, we need to become aware once again that nature and our fellow beings are an integral part of us, and that we are a part of them. We need to cooperate and share and love rather than compete and hoard and fight if we are to survive on Earth. This will need to not only be a change in our own attitude, but a calm but firm insistence that the cruel and destructive practices of the ruling elite will not be tolerated by us any more either   that we will live our lives in such a way as to sideline all those parts of the ruling elite that threaten humanity. Before we can do this, though, we need to learn a little about how the ruling elite operates, so we will know how to counter it. The rest of this chapter will concentrate on this.

The Origins of Banking .

From early times, the ruling elite, in addition to owning land, moved into the realm of banking. During the middle ages and the Renaissance their banks became more and more powerful, until today banks are at the core of the ruling elite‘s money making machinery. Throughout most of history, royalty and aristocracy were the ruling elite. This was none too subtle; it was just 'might is right' combined with the use of religion to control people through guilt and fear. But when we got to the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, people began to demand liberty, and more subtle methods of controlling the people and appropriating their wealth to themselves became necessary. And this is where it gets interesting.

With the Renaissance there emerged the beginnings of a sophisticated banking system, which had been gradually developing since Europe came out of the Dark Ages. From this time onward banks began to finance both sides of all major wars on Earth,[1] and came to control society in many other ways. The currency of that early post Dark Age period was gold and silver. To keep it safe, owners began to deposit their precious metals with goldsmiths, who had strong rooms to securely store it. The goldsmiths would issue paper receipts for the gold and silver deposited with them. Initially owners withdrew gold as necessary to pay their debts, but this was obviously a complicated and insecure process that left the gold open to theft if it was not carefully guarded as it was moved about. Before long the paper receipts became accepted as currency for paying debts, as they were much easier and safer to move about than the gold they represented.[2]

After a while, the goldsmiths and other strong room owners came to realize that only a small fraction of the gold was being withdrawn by owners at any one time, and they soon figured out how to exploit this to their advantage. They found they could issue gold receipt notes (that is, money) to people who didn't own any gold, and charge them interest on the notes.[3] Thus usury, long held by both Christianity and Islam to be unacceptable, got a foothold in Europe, and the profession of banking began to flourish. Initially, these banks may well have only lent out notes for gold that was actually deposited for a fixed term in return for the bank paying part of the interest to the depositor, so all their notes were covered, but this did not last for long. They soon began to take advantage of the fact that only a small fraction of the gold was being withdrawn at any one time, and started lending notes in excess not only of what was covered by 'fixed term' deposits (now called CDs in the USA), but greatly in excess even of all the gold they had deposited with them.[4] They soon were issuing paper notes for gold and silver which didn't even exist, and charging interest on this non-existent money. This interest, however, along with the loan repayments, had to be paid to the bank with real money, usually earned by doing real work. A regulated form of creating money by issuing loans is used to this day—it is called the 'fractional reserve system,' meaning banks only have to cover a small fraction of what they have lent out with reserves at their bank or lodged with the Reserve Bank. Typically, in the modern banking system, this 'reserve ratio' is only about ten percent,[5] meaning the banks can create and lend out about nine times as much as they initially get in deposits.

How this works in practice is that a bank puts its deposits into reserve, and can only lend the money it has in reserve in excess of the 10% it is required to keep in place. Although some of this reserve is 'vault cash,' money held at the bank for its daily transactions, most of it is deposited in Federal Reserve Banks (of which there are a number, in different parts of the country). When a bank makes a loan, it is not required to withdraw the money from the Reserve Bank to make the loan. Rather it is allowed to create money out of thin air for the loan, and as the loan is paid back they destroy the money again.[6] Meanwhile the deposits with the Reserve Bank remain intact (although they vary as checks are drawn or deposited by customers).

How the Fractional Reserve System Works.

At this point I'm going to give you an example of how the fractional reserve system works, using easy to follow amounts of money. If you can read through it, it will give you a rewarding insight into how banks work. If one or more parts of the math are too much for you, however, feel free to skip over them to the next sentence, and likewise for future sections in this chapter with math in them. If, however, you know how to add up your money, you shouldn't find the math too hard.

So, say a new bank starts up and gets deposits from customers of $100,000. Although a small amount of this will be kept as 'vault cash,' nearly all of it will be deposited with the Reserve Bank, so for the sake of simplicity we will assume it all is, as it is all a part of the bank's reserves. The bank can then, through making loans, create $90,000 of new money (all but 10% of its reserves). Let's look at how this works. We will assume this is one loan to Customer A. The $90,000 is written into Customer A's checking account. Customer A then writes a check for whatever he wants to use the loan for. In time, Customer A pays back the loan, the $90,000 created to make the loan is destroyed, and the situation is back where it started.[7] There has been no net creation of money in these transactions, and the money lent out to Customer A does not increase the money supply and cause inflation, as it is balanced by the deposited money held in reserve at the Reserve Bank. The bank has effectively earned some interest by lending 90% of the money it has on deposit, part of which is probably being returned to depositors as interest on their accounts, and the rest is how the bank makes its money to pay its staff and some profit to pay its shareholders. It also gets this money into circulation again, which is a good thing. It is effectively the same as if the bank directly used 90% of its deposits to make the loan ' just a convoluted accounting-profession way of doing the same thing, that has something to do with government regulation of the banking industry. So far there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with this.

So why do banks go through this whole process of depositing money with the Reserve Bank and 'creating' and 'destroying' money if it isn't necessary? There is in fact a very good reason why they do it, which is vital to the banking system's ability to exploit society in a big way, and is also so obscure in the way it operates that very few people understand it or realize how audacious it is. In a nutshell, it provides a certain amount of real regulation, and the appearance of even more regulation, of the ability of banks to lend out the same money again and again—many times over—earning interest on every loan, and greatly increasing the money supply with a considerable inflationary effect that counteracts what should be the effect of productivity gains of lowering the prices of products, and allows the ruling elite to scoop off the productivity gains for themselves without sharing them with workers. And it allows the banking system to do all this without appearing to be doing anything untoward at all. The banking system talking about how it is creating money by issuing loans, but that this is OK because it destroys the money again when it is paid off, is a red herring that draws attention away from the fact that the real way it creates money is not on the first loan, which, as we saw in the previous paragraph, is all aboveboard and reasonable, but in the fact that they end up lending the same money many times over, which is a wealth transference scam.

So how does the Fractional Reserve System enable banks to do this? To explain it, let's continue on with the example of the bank with $100,000 in deposits that lends Customer A $90,000. People get loans to buy things, so Customer A might, for instance, write a check for $90,000 to Customer B for something he wants to buy from him. Customer B then deposits the check into his account at his bank. This bank, which may or may not be the same as Customer A's bank, now has a new deposit of $90,000 which increases its reserves by that amount. As far as the bank is concerned, money is money—there is no sticker on the check saying 'This $90,000 was not earned, but is just loan money, loaned to this customer by such and such a bank.' The bank can now write a loan for 90% of that amount to Customer C, creating $81,000 of new money out of thin air. With this loan, Customer C buys something and the person who sold it to him, Customer D, banks the check into his bank account. This bank now has a new deposit of $81,000, which it can use as reserves to make a loan of 90% of that amount, thereby creating $72,900 of new money out of thin air. At this point 90% of the original $100,000 has been lent out 3 times. Along with the original $90,000 loan that was earned by providing valuable goods and services, banks have created $81,000 + $72,900 = $153,900 of new money as loans. This process can, and does, go on and on until the original $100,000 is very close to being exhausted by being reduced by 10% each time a loan is made. At the end of this process (perhaps 50 loans) close to $900,000 of loans will have been made from an initial deposits of earned money of only $100,000. Thus nearly $800,000 of new money will have been created and put into circulation in addition to the originally deposited $100,000 that was actually earned by doing some valuable work.

Economists call this the 'multiple-deposit expansion' of the money supply, and the 'monetary multiplier.'[8] And the speed at which this whole process takes place helps create what economists call the 'velocity of money'—the number of times the average dollar in the economy gets spent each year.[9] I have not come up with this analysis on my own—it comes right out of the university economics textbook I have been referencing.

Note that this analysis assumes all money lent out in loans is deposited back into bank accounts, rather than being in someone's wallet or cash register. This is a reasonable assumption because, overall, the amount of cash in circulation remains roughly the same. If some part of a loan ends up in someone's wallet or under their bed, somewhere else someone's cash savings get deposited into a bank account.

Banks in many countries also have a capital requirement, limiting the amount of risky loans they can make. Typically, at least 8% of their 'risk weighted assets' (which is a lot less than 8% of their total assets) need to be covered by capital invested in the bank (as distinct from deposits). This encourages banks to make safe loans, but is not much of a restriction on a well-run, well-capitalized, bank's ability to create money by lending the same money out again and again.

The Problem with Lending Money.

It should be noted, however, that this 'lending the same money over and over again' scam is not a function of the Federal Reserve's 'fractional reserve' system. It results as an inevitable consequence of simply lending money. Indeed, the fractional reserve system acts to limit how much can be lent out. Without it there would be no limit on how many times the same money could be lent out.

So the Federal Reserve Bank's fractional reserve system really is acting to regulate the banking system, and puts at least a 10% brake on banks' ability to lend money. The villain is not the fractional reserve system itself, which could be used with any reserve ratio. The villain is the very practice of lending money unless it is strictly regulated.

The Fed's fractional reserve system is a mechanism that could properly regulate the banking system, but it is only being 'fractionally' used, allowing banks a lot of scope to exploit the monetary system. If the reserve ratio were set at 50% instead of 10%, then banks would be able to lend out 50% of their reserves and that 50% would find its way back to banks to be re-lent, and it turns out the total amount of money out on loan would then equal the amount initially deposited, and there would be no net creation of money. This would ensure that depositor's money would circulate through the community, but without the exploitative scam of lending the same money again and again: each deposit of earned money would be effectively be lent out exactly one whole time, although it would be spread over a number of consecutive loans. First half would be lent out, then half of that, or a quarter of the first amount, and so on, and it turns out that ½ + ¼ + 1/8 + 1/16 + 1/32 + 1/64 + 1/128 + ...etc., adds up to a number that, although always infinitesimally smaller than 1, is in effect 1. (If you add them up you will see that just these first seven numbers in this series, listed above, add up to 0.9922, quite close to 1. The first 20 terms add up to 0.999999 and lending the same money out 20 times is easy for a bank).

In short, the 'fractional reserve' system could be used to regulate the banking system to make it fair and useful to society, if there were the political will to do so. This would be done by setting the reserve ratio to about 50%, which would keep the money supply constant, as would be needed in a steady state economy. At the moment, though, through the 'reserve ratio' being only about 10%, it is being used to regulate the system for the benefit of the ruling elite who own the banks and use them to exploit the rest of us.

Effect of Artificially Expanding the Money Supply.

With a lot of lending taking place, there is a lot of 'fictitious money' in the system that nobody ever earned by doing valuable work creating useful goods and services. But, you might say, people who borrow this fictitious money can actually spend it. In that sense it is real money, isn't it? But how can they do that: get money out of thin air, then actually give it real value? The answer is that they've taken that value from all the people in the economy who do valuable work. Money should, and to some extent does, serve as a means of exchange for valuable goods and services provided. To the extent that people can get money without providing valuable goods or services in return for it, they are stealing from those who actually do the valuable work. It's like arriving at a potluck without a dish to share and eating sumptuously at it anyway.

To do this 'get richer without providing society with any valuable goods and services in return' the already rich of the ruling elite need to:

1) Ensure more goods and services are produced through productivity increases, rather than having a shorter working week, so those goods and services are there for them to buy. This is the 'growth model' discussed in Chapter 1;

2) Expand the money supply even faster than the economy is growing (by creating money through bank loans) so they can get their hands on money without providing anything in return and not appear to be stealing from everyone else. Expanding the money supply, however, causes inflation, due to more money chasing the same number of goods. This means everyone else can buy fewer goods and services with the money they have earned, and the elite gets to buy them instead with all the extra money that has been created and which ends up in their hands. Effectively they are, through this process, stealing from all productive people—appropriating their increased productivity to start with (the Great Productivity Robbery talked about in Chapter 1), then taking more of their buying power on top of that.


Anytown—a model to illustrate how the economy works.

The way our economy works is very complicated, and this is used to confuse us and make us think we are doing OK, when in fact we are being stolen from. To try and simplify it, so I can explain what is going on, I am going to set up a model of how our economy works, called Anytown.

Anytown is initially in a state of unexploited innocence—it doesn't have any banks at all! In this initial state, Anytown has 1,000 families with an average income of $10,000 per year—a $10 million per year economy. Anytown's workers each produce an average of $10,000 worth of goods and services each year. To simplify this we will say they produce only AGS, Average Goods and Services, which are worth $10 each. Their productivity is such that on average each worker produces 1,000 AGS a year working a 40 hour week per family. Since they can also buy 1,000 AGS a year, this means that workers in Anytown can buy back the same value of goods and services as they produce. In other words, they are not being exploited; in Anytown, money is serving just its basic function of a means of exchange for valuable work.

Anytown in this initial state is, I believe, how an economy should work. If the productivity of its workers goes up so the average worker could produce 1,250 AGS a year, they could choose to reduce their work week to 32 hours and still produce 1,000 AGS because that is all they need to be happy, and they don't want to overburden their environment. They would rather have a shorter work week at the same pay so they can enjoy more quality time with their family and friends and go hiking in nature than have extra income to buy more things they don't need. Anytown is, in other words, a steady state economy that does not have a need for 'economic growth.' And there is absolutely no reason why an economy based on this simple model shouldn't work very well.

When some members of the ruling elite happen upon Anytown, however, they are appalled! No one is exploiting the workers, and although everyone is quite prosperous and there is no homelessness or poverty, there are no millionaires! If this sort of idea spread across America they would be out of business! A few of them also notice that the productivity of Anytown workers shows great promise of significantly increasing due to new technology developed by the local university. They decide to exploit this situation and move into Anytown and set up a bank, a TV station, and some new businesses creating glamorous new consumer products previously unknown in Anytown. It is easy to convince most of the people of Anytown that all this new investment in their town will lead to a great increase in prosperity and opportunity, since they are still in a state of gullible innocence.

Soon the new elite has used their TV station to create the desire in the people of Anytown to buy a whole lot of things they have manufactured, which have been made to look glamorous and which promise them even more happiness than they already have. Since they are not paying the workers any more than they used to get, despite their increased productivity, one would think they might have a slight problem: how are these workers going to be able to afford to buy all these glamorous new products? But to bankers this isn't an obstacle at all, it's an opportunity! They saturate the TV with ads and programming showing how glamorous and 'cool' it is to get credit cards and/or mortgage their houses to buy all this stuff. Why wait, when you can have it all now, and pay for it later?

By lending this money to the people of Anytown, within the constraints of the Fractional Reserve System, the new banks create $5 million each year of new money that begins circulating in the community. After ten years they have created $50 million of new money and expanded the money circulating in the community each year from $10 million to $60 million. Over this time the number of AGS produced in Anytown actually goes up from 1 million to 1.5 million due to productivity increases, but because $60 million is now chasing the 1.5 million AGS, the price of an AG has risen from $10 to $40. Inflation has hit town! The workers, feeling the pinch of the higher prices, go on strike for higher wages, and, over the ten years, achieve a 2.5 times increase in wages. This is not enough to compensate for the four-fold increase in prices, however, so people start working 20% longer hours per household. Wives who used to manage the home and nurture the kids go out to work. The ruling elite manages, using its TV station, to brainwash women into believing that by leaving their homes and going out to work for them, they can achieve 'equality' with men. The breakdown in community which results from this plays right into the hands of the elite. Some men happen to believe that they could get equality with women by sharing the money-earning work with their wives so they can spend more quality time at home with their kids, but the elite certainly doesn't want this idea to take hold, so it makes sure the opposite idea saturates the airwaves.

Together with the increase of 2.5 times in the hourly rate, this 20% increase in the hours worked per family raises the average annual family income to $30,000. This three times increase in family income still doesn't compensate for the four times increase in prices over the ten years, especially as they are paying a greater percentage of taxes on their new incomes due to 'bracket creep.' But most people see the dollar amount of their wages steadily growing, and are able to buy what they want on their credit cards, then take mortgages on their houses to pay off the cards, so they are happy enough. All this 'prosperity' looks like it could go on forever. The inflation caused by increasing the money supply with loans, and the availability of loans to tide people over, work together to disguise the fact that the buying power of people's wages has declined.

So let's recap how the money is distributed in Anytown at the end of this ten years of ruling elite exploitation. Recall that at the beginning of the ten years the average family worked 40 hours per week for $10,000 income and could buy 1,000 AGS a year at $10 each. At the end of the ten years the average family works 48 hours per week, AGS cost $40 each, and the average family income is $30,000, so the average family now works 8 more hours per week to buy 750 AGS per year, 25% fewer, despite a 25% increase in worker productivity, which along with the 20% increase in work hours means the number of AGS produced per year is now 1,500. But, hold on! The workers only have enough money now, as we just said, to buy 750 AGS per year—where are the other 750 AGS going? In the short term, some of them are being bought on credit by people, but this doesn't last for long, as they have to pay back these loans plus interest. The one percent of the ruling elite who own the banks and the TV station and some of the new factories, are soon consuming all of them, in their opulent new wealth. This one percent of the population (ten people) is now consuming half the wealth of the community or $30 million per year. The richest 1% in Anytown now earn $3 million a year each, while the average annual income of the rest is $30,000. Sound like any real place you know of?


Let's now look more precisely at where the ruling elite in Anytown is getting this huge amount of money from. About 20% of the ruling elite's income in Anytown comes from banking, as previously described. The other 80% comes from a variety of sources, including rent on real estate owned. But how can this elite get hold of a large amount of real estate? Simple! They engineer a recession at least once every ten years. At this time anyone who has borrowed too much money and loses his job will very likely be unable to meet his mortgage payments, and the bank will foreclose on his mortgage. His house will then be auctioned off at a fire sale price, and a member of the ruling elite will buy another rental house to add to his rapidly growing portfolio.

Another source of ruling elite income comes from speculating in currencies, commodities and land. Speculation is another way of putting money into your pocket without having to earn it by producing a useful product or service—a favorite pastime of the ruling elite. And since the total amount of money in an economy has the value of the total goods and services produced by the economy, no more, no less, anyone who gets money from the economy without providing anything valuable in return takes this value from all the people who do valuable work. Speculation is a legal form of theft, and the time will come when it will be seen as such, and be outlawed. Imagine if the owner of the business you worked for played poker with some other rich people and bet 10% of your wages on the cards and lost, and passed the loss on to you, saying, 'Sorry folks, you know that's the way it is in this world; you get less wages this week!' Then next week when he wins, your employer keeps the winnings and says, 'We did well this week! I can afford to pay you your full wages again.' Speculation, whether it be in currencies, commodities or land is a game that rich people play by gambling with our assets, in which over time they always win and we always lose. It is 'Heads I win, tails you lose.'

Take speculation in currency. You move to a new country, sell your house in your old country and wire the money to your new country to buy a house there. You have little choice but to accept the going exchange rate between the two currencies at the time you need to pay for your new house. The currency speculator, on the other hand can sell large amounts of a currency when it is high, thus helping to drive down the price, then buy it again when it is low. People like you and me who are often forced to buy when it is high, or sell when it is low, because that is when we need to transfer our money, instantly lose part of the value of our lifetime of work to currency speculators who don't produce anything valuable, but just make money by preying on us. This very thing happened to me when I moved from Australia to the USA.

Speculation in land is even more insidious. No-one made the land on Earth; it is a part of the planet we all inherited, and traditionally people just used the land they needed to hunt or gather food. If money is a means of exchange for work we do to produce valuable goods or services, then how can we say land has a monetary value when no-one ever did any work to make it? Speculation in land happens when some rich person buys up a lot of land on the outskirts of town and just sits on it. The relative shortage of land this monopolizing of it produces soon drives the price of it up, as people wanting to buy land to build a house to live in are forced to compete for the few available lots. Once the price of the land has doubled or tripled, the speculator will sell it and make a huge profit. This profit all comes from the increased prices home owners are required to pay for the land their home sits on. While the already rich speculator gets richer still, ordinary folk struggle for most of their working lives to pay off huge mortgages. Many don't make it, and lose everything they gained through a lifetime of work when their property is lost to foreclosure. Some even end up homeless, while the wealthy speculators and bankers get even richer. That's the way it is in our exploitative society. Huge increases in the cost of housing, caused by speculation in land, has been identified as one of the main causes of the tremendous growth of poverty in America over the last few decades.

Rent a Slave.

Anytown could be any town in America. This model shows how the one percent of the wealthiest appropriate to themselves about half of the wealth generated by working people, bringing many of them into dire poverty in the process. It is economic exploitation, pure and simple, the modern form of slavery: rent a slave.

And although the average family may be just getting by, because of the huge disparity of wealth created by this system many families on minimum wage may be living in a terrible state of poverty, while the rich whoop it up on their yachts. You know how this works.

So why haven't most Americans gotten smart to this exploitation, and refused to go along with it? The answer to this lies in various techniques the ruling elite uses to brainwash us and control us through fear and economic domination, some of which were mentioned in the description of the exploitation of Anytown. We will elaborate on these in the next chapter about how the ruling elite gets away with doing what it does. But for now, I will just mention one of the more insidious techniques the ruling elite uses to divert attention from their exploitation, and that is to suggest some group among the working classes themselves is to blame for all their problems. For instance, they suggest trade unions are making businesses uneconomic leading to job losses when they close. Another is the suggestion that illegal immigrants are the cause of working class poverty because they take jobs away from locals. In times of hardship it is understandable that some people buy into such scapegoating, false as it may be.

Donald Trump's presidential campaign appealed to justifiably angry people who were never able to realize the promised 'American Dream,' and wanted to take action to improve their lot by eliminating apparently evil competing groups such as illegal immigrants and the influence of other countries our jobs have been outsourced to. Of course they still hadn't woken up to the fact that it was their own ruling elite that outsourced the jobs to boost their profits, and that there would be plenty of well-paying jobs for everyone, including illegal immigrants, who after all, largely fill jobs Americans don't want to do anyway, if it were not for the gross economic exploitation of us all by the ruling elite. By contrast, Bernie Sander's presidential campaign attracted those who correctly see that ruling elite exploitation is the cause of their own economic problems and those of most people.

There's a joke that rather nicely nails the sheer brazenness of this ruling elite scapegoating to divert the blame from themselves. It goes like this. There are three men around a table at a potluck, a corporate CEO, a trade union representative and a farmer. When a plate of twelve delicious cookies is brought out and put on the table, the corporate CEO scoops up eleven of them then says to the farmer, 'Watch out for that trade union rep—he's got an eye on your cookie!'

From: Living the Evolution by Mark Mason
Copyright © 2020.

Purchase the complete ebook of Living the Evolution for $5.00

Table of Contents of Living the Evolution:
Chapter 1: Cascading Catastrophes
Chapter 2: Heads I Win, Tails You Lose
Chapter 3: Elite Control Strategies
Chapter 4: Being the Change
Chapter 5: Food
Chapter 6: Taking Care of our Health
Chapter 7: Building Community
Chapter 8: Shelter
Chapter 9: Travel
Chapter 10: Astute Political Activism
Chapter Notes

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