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Systemic Problems Require Systemic Solutions: Time to Talk About the Next System


Systemic Problems Require Systemic Solutions: Time to Talk About the Next System

James Gustave Speth

The following essay first appeared at The Leap, the recently launched blog for the This Changes Everything project:


This group - the Democracy Collaborative - have hired some good graphic designers and generally present a very polished, respectable progressive image. A three second google search will tell you their funding comes from the Rockefeller, Carnegie, Ford foundations, and some other plutocratic philanthropies. What a wonder then that the major stopgap to systemic change - violent, entrenched, elite control of all major social institutions - is not part of the program here. Instead we get this weird, ahistorical stuff that doesn't call an empire an empire.

"Our current system is simply not programmed to secure the well-being of people, place, and planet. Its priorities instead are GDP growth, corporate profits, and the projection of national power—typically military."

Whose priorities are those? The antecedent of "its" is the "current system" but in reality, whose priorities are the projection of military power and the accumulation of corporate power? Why, the global elitist class that cannot ever be discussed without the conversation devolving into paranoia and/or paranoid accusations of paranoia.

"As long as society’s real priorities remain growing GDP, generating corporate profits, increasing the incomes of those who already have plenty, and sustaining our consumerist lifestyles, addressing climate disruption will be like trying to run up a very fast down escalator."

The escalator image is nice. But that bolded section is so maddeningly bland. The Waltons have "plenty?" How exactly are our "society's real priorities" decided? What a deceptive construction, as if we all vote on the paradigmatic values of the Western capitalist world. The important rules are made by the elite. So - what this sentence ought to say is that - "As long as the elite remain in control and our society is tailored to elite agendas, the planet is doomed." Instead, there's this illusion that somehow we have chosen to live in an oligarchy.

We do not all share an equal responsibility for the destruction of the biosphere. Notice that if Dimon, Blankfein, Murdoch, et al. all went on some kind of peyote vision quest and then announced on TV, "We have seen the error of our ways! Starting today, the neoliberal regime of war and resource extraction will end!" then it would end. Those guys (global capitalists) have the most direct agency for what is happening. Because they obviously aren't going to give up being billionaires, then millions of people have to actually strike, take over buildings, set up councils, i.e. have a revolution. But professional progressives can't say that.

It's really depressing to read this kind of half-cocked progressivism. When smart people who have a desire to make the world a better place refuse to drop the blinders that come from being a comfortable citizen of a central imperial state (U.S., Canada, U.K.) it bums me out. How can there be systemic change when we can't accurately describe the system we already have?


If we could read the content of Obama's Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and its Atlantic sequel (TTIP) "the next system" would be clearly delineated and perhaps it will be "time to talk about the next system". Based on leaks the only conclusion an honest person can draw is that the "next system" will elevate corporate control of government, the 99% and the environment to establish a neofeudal system.

Once again the system that the 99% have to live with will have been contrived by the 1%. Is there anything more to "talk about" ?


Good looking out, panegyric. Yes, there is something discomforting about this whole Next System Project and, if I could point to one thing, it doesn't seem to want to end control of the elite and economic slavery. If you read their literature, you can see hints of who they are and what they are missing. They are not veering too far from the basic capitalist framework which is the very thing that needs to change. And they are exclusive in who they will allow to have a say in their project, so there it that. I did not know the Democracy Collaborative was funded by those "foundations" but I'm not surprised. To be sure, we need a completely new economic system, social infrastructure and culture change but it will have to be done at the level of community to community and form a global movement. I don't think this group will like what the people come up with. And we had better get on it because Winter is Coming.


Your second statement shows your own lock-step conformity with the existing orthodoxy. There are a myriad of other models other than that of Dominators-Militarism. It's fools who argue for that twisted version of human experience, exclusively.

Since conservative-corporatist interests understood the value and importance of a good "cover story," (a/k/a the best deception cum PR that money can buy), they funded think tanks. Allotting them elite-sounding imprimaturs and bona fides, the philosophy peddled from these Influence-Making entities shaped much of the national dialog to thereby wounded its possibilities for expanding upon the existing paradigm.

Following the logic of Margaret Thatcher, these entities (and paid posters like "Andrew boston") push the idea that there IS no alternative to the existing status quo. It is very important to disable new possibilities before, like seeds, they get a chance to sprout and take root ... to grow.

This NEXT idea, as a think tank for OTHER than status quo rationales, objectives, and metrics is a VERY wise step. I plan to contribute to it.


You are a paid quasi-skilled expert in spouting disinformation.


In "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich", William L. Shirer's history of Nazi Germany, he writes of the Hitler Youth, woman's and workers guilds, flying clubs, and the like as being there not exclusively for the purpose of indoctrination with Nazi propaganda, but to distract the minds and energies of as many people as ;possible and keep them going at such a clip that they did not have much time for anything else other than to eat, sleep, and do their work.
Not in Shirer's book, but also a factor, was the lavish funding given to the Nazi's for their various social experiments and preparation for the next war by the likes of the Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Ford foundations . Some was done because of the enchantment of multinational corporations with the fascist way, but mostly these groups realized that another war with a more able and modernized foe presented the opportunity for explosive profits for the businesses that funded them and could make money selling to both sides (through their wholly owned foreign subsidiaries). They also saw in the Nazi movement the chance to try out their theories on societal control for the purpose of refining them for a much larger roll out in other developed countries
Today, the American culture is mesmerized by colossal time wasting enterprises such as talk radio, pro sports, celebrity gossip, and endless choices of satellite delivered TV channels showing and promoting all manner of useless crap. As a result our mental focus has been blurred, our righteous indignation is spent on trivial nonsense, and our energies are spent on useless demonstrations and movements that accomplish exactly nothing but the distraction of people from focusing on their true enemies.


The systemic problem is capitalism -- a system of corruption.


I don't believe that we can find a solution until we actually understand the problem. Set aside the well-marketed talking points and academic analyses of the mess we're in, and consider the bare-bones reality of what's happening: Right now, the rich are doing to the middle class what the middle class already did to the poor.

Today's generation so strongly believes in the success of the corporate state that they think everyone is able to work, there are jobs for all, therefore no need for poverty relief. In other words, they ARE the systemic problem. Where can things go from here, when we simply ignore the consequences of the failure of our deregulated corporate state -- our poverty crisis?


The ongoing liberal pep rally for the middle class -- the segment of the population that have benefited from the current system -- confirms their support for deregulated capitalism.


I personally don't see it that way. I think such distractions (entertainment) helps us keep our sanity. What drives our culture, and ensures compliance with the corporate state, is the ongoing promotion of middle class elitism. It offers the "promise" that if we "get up every morning, work hard and play by all the rules," all will be swell. Instead of recognizing our poverty crisis as the inevitable consequence of our socioeconomic agenda, we now regard poverty as a behavioral issue. If people just learn to behave (obey), they will be rewarded with the middle class lifestyle.


Aparently there is because the climate to achieve change we can believe in does not yet exist. The driver for change can be rational discourse and legislation or it can be barricades and riots with para military forces on both sides. I personally would choose the former but without even the power to choose my legislators I am not the one to make that choice, it falls to those who think that more power will allow the status quo to continue to escalate until the time for discourse is ended.
It has been ever thus as evidenced by the bones of past societies but never before on a global scale. The death throws of the current path will be beyond any brutality one could ever imagine.


Sorry but whom do you see as "middle" class. Traditionally it was the blue-collar worker who worked at a trade. The person who punched a time clock and received compensation equal to the value of his or her effort is of that class. That "middle" class has definitely been loosing ground for over fifty years while the white-collar workers have also lost as much or more. It is the supervisors and bankers, those who use money to make money offering nothing but the availability of money that have prospered in the last thirty years, or the insurance companies who gambol that your success will be stronger than your fears and are usually right. You bet on an accident or your house burning down and are happy you lost the bet. Those who produce nothing are the real winners.


Perhaps an Advanced Industrial Ecosystems may work like the Basic one did for China?

"The United States faces a systemic crisis, not simply
political and economic difficulties. The economy is
stagnating. The political system is stalemated. Communities
are in decay. The lives of millions are compromised
by economic and social pain. Violence is endemic
among individuals, communities, and nations.
Civil liberties are eroding. Near-record numbers of
citizens remain incarcerated. Underemployment, inequality,
and ecological despoliation deepen day by
day. The planet itself is threatened by climate change.
A generation of young people expects to be worse off
than their parents. The very idea of building a cooperative
community of caring responsibility has faded
from common understanding."


Let's face it sports fans, we're doomed.

Unsolvable problem #1: world population growth.
Unsolvable problem #2: greed. = sub-problems: capitalism (everybody wants to own a small business and get rich); consumerism, celebrity, entertainment, corruption, profiteering; wars for "national interest" (i.e. oil, lithium etc.) and power structures to protect the wealthy plutocracy.

This country has a long tradition of utopian societies from the Shakers down to Twin Oaks, but very few have survived.

Yes, a new system to replace predatory capitalism is desperately needed, but no one has come up with anything yet that can transform the U.S. empire into something more benign and benevolent. And even if that happens, how are we going to put a cap on the world's population someday?


The term "deregulated capitalism" is misleading if it is not labeled or footnoted for what it really is...DECRIMINALIZATION !

From 1978 when the US Governrment decriminalized securitization of mortgages without any meaningful regulations attached, until today when so many "business" activities that were crimes are now enabled by the government and subsidized by taxpayers.

More than 1,000 bankers served jail time for their roles in the 1980s savings and loan scandal, while no banker has even been indicted for the 2008 meltdown, an event that negatively impacted the 99% a thousand times greater than the order or magnitude of the S&L scandal.


Corruption: "dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery."

Corruption exists in every economic system, not just capitalism. So claiming that capitalism is corrupt makes as much sense as saying bachelors are unmarried. It is also a logical fallacy called a category mistake (ascribing a property to something it cannot possibly have). The statement money is speech is a category mistake. Only humans have speech and only humans can be corrupt.

The problem with capitalism is that it is predicated on Adam Smith's hypothesis that when humans act out of rational self-interest, the invisible hand of the market produces the best outcomes. But when humans are motivated by self-interest, the result will be "greed is good" (Gordon Gekko in the movie "Wall Street") and "selfishness is a virtue (Ayn Rand).



Marx got many things wrong. He thought that workers of the world would unite and overthrow the bourgeoisie producing a classless society. However, during WWI, German workers were too busy killing French workers (and vice versa) to kill German capitalists (or French capitalists). Orwell lampooned the "classless" society in the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin in "Animal Farm": "All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others." The same thing could be said of the "classless" society under Mao in China.

The one thing Marx got right was his definition of justice: "from each according to his ability; to each according to his need." He got this right out of the Christian New Testament: "All whose faith had drawn them together held everything in common: they would sell their property and possessions and make a general distribution as the need of each required." (Acts 2: 44-45)

A lot of people will die in a violent revolution. The only early christians who died were those who were killed by the Romans because the Romans thought they were crazy (they worshipped in secret and practiced cannibalism: they ate the body and drank the blood of Christ). Since the Christians went meekly to their deaths in the arena, they didn't have a very powerful God (the Romans liked powerful Gods; that is why they respected the Jews; their God Yahweh was always whacking people who displeased him--he would have made a good Mafia don).

The problem that needs to be addressed is the fact that concentration of wealth in a few hands is inevitable under capitalism. Teddy Roosevelt (by no means a socialist) understood that concentration of wealth in a few hands was bad and proposed steeply graduated income and inheritance taxes to redistribute the wealth. This would do far more for we the people than a violent revolution.

The best argument against capitalism is this statement by Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis: "You can either have concentration of wealth in a few hands or you can have democracy, but you can't have both."


American elections were invented about 220 years ago. They were better than having hereditary kings, but like any 220 year old product, it doesn't work that well.

American elections keep giving us exactly two candidates and occasional "spoilers". The two candidates are almost always crooks. We're always, always required to pick the "lesser" of two evils. That's not an election, it's a coronation of evil.

The Franklin stove, a wood stove invented by Benjamin Franklin, was an energy-efficient wonder of its day. Today it's outdated. So is our corruption-feeding 51% election system. Consistently corrupt elections are at the root of our systemic bad government.

We can do better, much better. Anyone not locked up in a prison's solitary confinement unit can try to look up some less corrupt forms of election. Don't look at me, go look them up yourself. You're the citizen around here!


Please get your facts straight. Securitization of mortgages means derivatives. The derivatives market has always been unregulated. Brooksley Born warned Slick Willie Clinton that the unregulated derivatives market was a house of cards (in effect she predicted the collapse of the housing bubble about 10 years before it happened). Since people were making a lot of money trading derivatives, Clinton's economic gurus (Greenspan, Rubin and Summers) didn't want to kill the goose that was laying the golden eggs, so they called Born an abrasive woman and Clinton sided with them and the derivatives market was not regulated. Congress also stupidly repealed Glass-Steagal (this prevented main street banks from investing depositors' money in the unregulated derivatives market. So, when the housing bubble burst, so also did many main street banks tank. The bank that held my mortgage went belly up because the geniuses in management went hog wild investing in subprime mortgages (CDOs) after Glass-Steagall was repealed. The big Wall Street banks (except for Lehman Brothers) were bailed out by TARP.

Laissez-faire capitalism is predicated on absolutely no government interference in the economy (i.e., no government regulations). The theory is the invisible hand of the market can do what government cannot do. Alan Greenspan testified before Congress after the collapse of the housing bubble and was asked why the invisible hand of the market did not prevent the irrational greed on Wall Street that created the housing bubble in the first place. His answer: "There must be a flaw in the system." A flaw! Is the pope Catholic?