The E-Newsletter of

Vol. 4, No. 8, August 2008

Luis T. Gutierrez, Editor

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Editor's Note: Human history is at a multi-dimensional turning point, and the political dimension is key. The invited paper last month, by Robley E. George, defined tools that could be used to enhance democracies so that they can ensure not only political freedom but policy-making principles and practices pursuant to social and environmental justice. The outline of the paper was as follows (readers may want to revisit Part I before proceeding to Part II) :


Political Platforms
Democratic Socioeconomic Platforms
Essential Aspects of Socioeconomic Democracy
Economic Elements of Socioeconomic Democracy
Economic Incentives Created by Socioeconomic Democracy
Democratic Resolution of Socioeconomic Problems
References and Links
Suggested Further Reading

This month, George offers Part II of his paper on "Democratic Socioeconomic Platforms." In the second part he endeavors to apply the essential principles of Socioeconomic Democracy (SeD) to specific areas of political decision-making. Democratic governance must be equipped to handle the newly emerging challenges, such as managing the transition from unsustainable to sustainable development in many different areas. How can the democracies become sustainable? The answer is basically that democracies must be pro-active in both defending human rights and fostering social justice. At a time when environmental issues are pointing toward the eventual need for some form of global governance, how can global governance be reconciled with national and local democratic governance? George uses case examples to show how the essential SeD principles and tools described in Part I can be tailored to a variety of politically sensitive situations at the global, national, and local levels. The "nuptial covenant" between humanity and the human habitat, between consumption and conservation, between Western and Eastern peoples and cultures, can be sustainable only if the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity, and sustainability are applied in the context of fully participatory democracy. No final resolutions of issues are to be found in Part II, just as no cookbook of political principles and tools was found in Part I. George's work is breaking new ground, and breaking new ground is always risky. But fine tuning democracy for the 21st century is something that must be done, and we better get started: "Caminante, no hay camino; se hace camino al andar" (Antonio Machado).

in search of a

Robley E. George
Center for the Study of Democratic Societies
26 July 2008


Foreplay [back]

In Part I of this Democratic Socioeconomic Platform, following an appropriate Prelude, we first briefly reviewed some of the purposes, functions and characteristics of political platforms in general. Then, we considered some of the possibilities of democratic socioeconomic platforms in particular.

The concept of Socioeconomic Democracy was introduced. Recall that Socioeconomic Democracy (SeD) is a theoretical, practical, and realizable socioeconomic system wherein there exist both some form and amount of Universally Guaranteed Personal Income (UGI) and some form and amount of Maximum Allowable Personal Wealth (MAW), with both the lower bound on personal material poverty and the upper bound on personal material wealth set and adjusted democratically by all participants of a democratic society.

The definitive document describing Socioeconomic Democracy is the book Socioeconomic Democracy: An Advanced Socioeconomic System (Praeger, 2002) [1]. The website of the Center for the Study of Democratic Societies provides a wealth of further information regarding Socioeconomic Democracy [2]. The specifically defined idea of Socioeconomic Democracy was first presented in this writer’s initial, self-published book in 1972 [3]. The subject of Socioeconomic Democracy is now conveniently discussed on numerous websites and Internet newsletters and journals, locatable by the usual procedures. See, for example, [4-20]. A sampling of supportive or related material for the various ideas of Socioeconomic Democracy may be found in the much abbreviated further reading list [21-37].

Part I of this Democratic Socioeconomic Platform (DSeP) carefully defined and described the economic and democratic aspects and resultant theoretically possible variations of Socioeconomic Democracy. In the referenced material and elsewhere will be found anthropological, historical, philosophical, psychological and human rights justifications for various locally appropriate forms of Socioeconomic Democracy.

Numerous Practical Political Approximations to the ideal theoretical democratic socioeconomic system model have been outlined or detailed. One simple, obvious and meritorious political approximation to the theoretical model is characterized by different political parties advocating different amounts for the two tolerable socioeconomic boundary parameters, with the "winning" political party, or coalition, then implementing their particular understanding of the General Will of that particular democratic society.

It has been noted that there are striking similarities and two intriguing minor differences between SeD and Zakat, one of the Five Pillars of Islam, that have been indicated and internationally discussed. Simply developing this relationship logically can cause considerable progress.

Relative costs and benefits studies for the four basic generic forms of SeD, as well as important considerations of the effect of variations in the particular magnitudes of the democratically set tolerable bounds on personal material poverty and personal material wealth have likewise been provided.

System realizability, feasibility and implementation requirements have also been identified and shown to be quite satisfiable. Again, essentially all that is required is a thoughtful democratic society.

The Economic Incentive created by such a Democratically Set Personal Material Wealth (MAW) and Poverty (UGI) Boundary Controller Subsystem was next described. It was seen that this economic incentive provides considerable motivation to address and reduce or resolve the full spectrum of society’s and humanity’s psycho-politico-socioeconomic problems.

Briefly reviewing the important effect of a democratically set MAW limit, we observed that, by definition, all wealth above the democratically established upper bound on personal material wealth could either be given to the government as taxes (to either enhance the General Revenue Fund or be mandated for specific projects and purposes) or be disposed of as the present wealth “owners” so choose (satisfying reasonable, democratically established societal restrictions and opportunities).

In either case, all rational, self-interested and insatiable (as the current dominant-though-fortunately-fading neoclassical economic assumptions/theory goes), extremely wealthy, law-abiding participants in the democratic society with its democratic socioeconomic system, who still desire increased personal material wealth, would be economically motivated, that is, have economic incentive, to actively and seriously work to increase the true welfare and well-being of the less well-off members of society. Only in this manner can these (still-wealthiest) participants persuade a majority of the citizens/participants of the democratic society to see the wisdom in and democratically vote to raise somewhat the legal upper limit on allowable personal wealth -- everything considered.

There is, in fact, strong economic incentive for those who are at or near the democratically set upper bound on allowable personal material wealth to be successful in improving the General Welfare. For if the current level of MAW is not producing sufficient improvement in the General Welfare, as democratically determined, there is the possibility and probability that the democratic society will democratically decide to reduce the MAW limit even more, in order to enlist even more still-wealthy participants and their extra wealth in the proper and noble task of seriously improving the welfare and well-being of all society, humanity and posterity.

This information and insight was then used to seriously consider the possibility, desirability and implementation requirements of a Democratic Design of Society’s Socioeconomic Systems, in order to efficiently, effectively and peacefully reduce or resolve present needless but shuttering, stuttering and shattering socioeconomic situations.

In Part II of this DSeP, we shall take a necessarily brief look at some of the many specific Desirable Ramifications of this Democratic Socioeconomic Platform. The below-described properties, implications and ramifications of Socioeconomic Democracy are admittedly and unquestionably only partial sketches of portions of the desirable impact of a democratic socioeconomic system on just a few of society's many serious but unnecessary problems.

Confident that anything, taken to extreme, turns into its opposite, and that all things are related, and therefore multiply related, let us now take a tour of the simultaneous transformative possibilities of a Democratic Socioeconomic Platform.

Anticipated Mitigation of Socioeconomic Problems [back]

Automation, Computerization and Robotization    [back]

“What is to be done,” now that automation, computerization and robotization are increasingly able to produce almost everything the whole of humanity could possibly need, and a good bit of what humanity could reasonably want, while requiring (partially for higher accuracy, productivity and environmentally friendly vacation time) next to nobody to push the buttons?

A thoughtful, democratic society (the kind hypothesized in this DSeP) could easily adopt Socioeconomic Democracy and thereby guarantee universal direct personal benefit from Humanity's Heritage of Advancing Technological Capability.

And if this is considered by some as yet another justification “for” some form of UGI, well, so be it.

It is emphasized that this proposal in no way necessarily conflicts with, but rather can synergistically correlate with, encourage and help facilitate the necessary resurgence of local, satisfying and sustainable community living, globally. At the same time, this DSeP can assuage the

The Common Technological Heritage of Humanity has been reinvested time and time again, accruing compound interest over years, decades, generations, centuries and millennia. “Wealth,” as Bucky Fuller famously observed, “is knowledge utilized.” There is sufficient accrued technological wealth to provide a satisfying material and spiritual existence for every member of humanity, and the fact that this is not (yet) realized is the direct and predictable result of the economic incentives created by contemporary sputtering politico-socioeconomic systems.

The obvious and blatant violation of this intended inheritance and birthright of all humanity to benefit from properly directed science and technology is unconscionable, predictable and soon to be eliminated, democratically.

Budget Deficits and National Debts    [back]

Suffice to say now that Socioeconomic Democracy would derive necessary funds from, and provide societally synergetic economic incentive for, the materially wealthiest members of society to rapidly reduce and eventually eliminate harmful governmental budget deficits and more harmful governmental debts. National surpluses, not only for rainy but even sunny and exploratory days, would and should be possible.

The typical intergenerational injustice of accumulating and bequeathing staggering debt to future generations could finally be terminated. And all of those who presently obtain their personal income by the care, feeding and milking of huge governmental debt would still have at least their subsistence needs met with a UGI -- democratically set, it would be hoped, at a sufficiently high level to help guarantee not only basic survival but some sense of satisfaction in life.

Bureaucracy    [back]

Save perhaps for a bureaucrat, bureaucracy is generally considered a significant societal problem -- often most prominent in "developed" and “overdeveloped” socioeconomic systems. For the bureaucrat, it is not infrequently a dull-to-absurd, but seemingly necessary, means to a guaranteed personal income. SeD would be most effective in reducing societally expensive, unproductive, intrusive, inefficient and generally undesirable bureaucracy.

For example, with SeD, practically all present social welfare bureaucracies, which administer myriad uncoordinated and frequently competing, wrongly incentivized General Welfare programs, including Food Stamps, AFDC (Aid For Dependent Children and Corporations), Unemployment Compensation, robbed and worthless Retirement Plans, Promises and Old-Age Pensions, even Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and all those other near bankrupt mega systems of the federal government which now or will soon require complete restructuring, would no longer be necessary and could be carefully and systematically eliminated while simultaneously better satisfying all legitimate human needs during the transition and transformation.

These bureaucracies could either be independently restructured without acknowledgement of, and coordination with, the necessary restructuring or elimination of all the other subsystems in society's presently sputtering General Welfare System or, as a result of SeD, the problems the bureaucracies have been erected ostensibly to solve will be solved universally, democratically and far more efficiently. One way or another, the bureaucracies and the programs should change fundamentally and soon.

In like manner, it can be (and has many times been) shown that forces, both economic and otherwise, would be generated by SeD to reduce the undesirable and harmful bureaucracy in other areas such as education and the military. Hence governmental, i.e., societal, regulation would at once be significantly reduced and made far more effective, so far as societal well-being is concerned.

Children    [back]

Children. Whether speaking of the continuing conditions of children in the USA, which significantly “leads” the rest of the industrial nations in the high rate of child poverty, or in the rest of the world, where many children in many countries labor and languish, malnourished and mobilized for war, the right to (not to more than mention desirability of) a healthy childhood is as violated by the long reach of contemporary economic systems as by past economic systems.

Whether children are forced into slavery, corporate profit-motivated labor, prostitution, or crime for survival on the street is the shame of us all. It should be clear Socioeconomic Democracy would go a long way toward eliminating the violations of the rights of children -- nationally and globally, and for a variety of reasons.

Having solved the national debt problem with SeD ipso facto reduces undeserving debt and a filthy-to-toxic environment saddled upon future generations of children because of the excesses, cowardice, stupidity or simply relative unconsciousness of past and present generations of adults and economists.

Crime and Punishment    [back]

While there certainly are Many Faces of Crime, it should be immediately clear that SeD is capable of democratically differentiating between Crimes caused by Need and Crimes caused by Greed. Certainly, SeD can and does eliminate need (at least as democratically determined) and therefore any and all crime caused by it. At long last, society could really get tough on the remaining crime mostly caused by greed, without being concerned at all about any possible twinges, pangs, outrages of conscience or expressions of concern for those committing “crime” out of need.

It can even be anticipated that overwhelming majorities of law-abiding, sensitive citizens might coalesce to form a consensus supporting a solution to the far more important and harmful crime problem (crime caused by greed) by throwing all people apprehended and found guilty of crimes caused not by need but by greed into a jail equipped with only such amenities as can be afforded by the prisoner's forfeited UGI during his (or her) residency in jail. This, as opposed to present-day Country Club Confinement currently reserved for many wealthy and successful corporate criminals and government officials convicted of crimes of greed.

The sheer terror (that good ol' "economic incentive") often associated with being fired, laid off, terminated, downsized or outsourced in a global market where there are far more people than worthwhile jobs would, of course, no longer be experienced with SeD (since at least the individual's subsistence needs would be guaranteed). Hence, far fewer people would become so desperate, distorted and “demented” after being fired (for any of a variety of reasons, again) as to massacre former employers, fellow employees, innocent bystanders, shoppers in malls, citizens in Post Offices, school children in schoolyards and college children in colleges, ad infinitum.

Perhaps needless to say, the contemporary “growth” and presently profitable Incarceration Industry (profitably supplying an obvious need), most notable in the USA, and devoted in the USA to attempting to warehouse (certainly not rehabilitate) the highest number and proportion of incarcerated individuals on this glorious globe, could and would be reduced, with surprising billions saved. Indeed, the present cost of one prisoner in jail (food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, supervision, gym equipment, etc.) is far more than society “freely” provides its hard-working, law-abiding, honest and well-intentioned citizens. The fact that that doesn’t “figure” figures, considering contemporary socioeconomic systems and the malignant economic incentives they can create.

It is true that the USA Incarceration Industry might be expected to take a “hit” from such a policy, but again, there is the democratically set UGI to provide at least sustenance for all the no-longer-needed Human Warehouse Guards and Human Warehouse Entrepreneurs until they get back on their feet and find another job to contribute to their healthy personal growth and that of the now-democratic society.

Development    [back]

At the outset, it is observed that the whole world is in development. The dimensions of development include at least its physical, environmental, scientific, technological, economic, social, psychological, political, ethical, sustainable, spiritual and cosmic aspects. Different societies -- as different individuals -- have developed to different degrees down these different dimensions.

Both the democratically set maximum allowable personal wealth limit and the democratically set universal guaranteed income contribute, in significant ways, to healthy development along essentially all these dimensions, as the interested reader is invited to verify for her or himself if so inclined. If not, see the referenced material on, for example, Socioeconomic Democracy and Sustainable Development.

While much good work has been done by the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), it is becoming clearer that satisfaction of many of the eight basic goals will not even be approached by 2015, the year of accounting and reckoning, at least without fundamental and universal change, and in a positive direction. And then, of course, the MDG attempt is only aiming at reducing by one half the number of humans now living in poverty. Much more requires doing and can be done.

These two limits (UGI and MAW) would also provide a societal "future shock absorber" which is at once simple and societally controlled. For the "developing" nations of the world, many of whom continue to seek alternatives to the strict “capitalist” and “socialist” development models, SeD would allow all the peoples of these nations to democratically control the rate and direction of societal development -- heretofore almost always an ugly and inhuman process. In the "developed" countries, where fundamental technological change is bound to take place one way or another, further healthy development would be realized by the economic incentive created with the two democratically set boundaries on personal poverty and wealth.

Ecology, Environment and Pollution    [back]

Neither the well-being (welfare) of society in general nor the well-being of individuals of society are well served by presently profitable polluting practices promoted by the economic incentives created by contemporary socioeconomic systems. Socioeconomic Democracy would do much to reduce further pollution and in fact would provide strong economic incentive and opportunity to help restore the presently degraded environment -- throughout this polluted planet. Serious, meaningful concern (and love) could then be shown not only for our immediate children but also for that seventh generation.

From a universal, democratically established and set, societally guaranteed income, at least four benefits are immediate. First, this guaranteed income could financially allow people to refuse to work in industries that significantly pollute the environment. This reduces pollution. Second, the guaranteed income could sustain people while they demanded nonpollution-producing jobs and even jobs to reduce present pollution. This reduces pollution even more. Third, the democratically set guaranteed income for all would allow more people to refuse to buy the significantly polluting products of industry. Pollution is thereby reduced even further. Fourth, this democratically set universal guaranteed income would allow more people to demand nonpolluting products from industry and even products and processes which ecologically complement other existing products and processes. All this contributes to the well-being and welfare of everyone and everything -- including the environment, solid, liquid and gaseous.

Consider next the basic effect on pollution of a democratically set and adjusted maximum allowable personal wealth limit. Any self-interested, rational participant at or near the upper bound on allowable personal wealth would no longer be economically motivated to attempt to generate personal profit, by means currently legal or otherwise, at the expense of significant environmental pollution or damage, i.e., at the expense of other members of society.

This is because society could pay for the added costs of properly cleaning up the pollution with funds obtained by democratically reducing the allowable wealth limit even more. Further, such societal control would be most effective because it would be operating at the source of the pollution, rather than attempting to repurify the total volume of the polluted medium -- a societally expensive suggestion frequently offered by those proposing to manufacture and market technological fixes.

The Gospel of Consumerism, catchingly (and now, desperately) scored by presently motivated corporations, aided and abetted by slick-and-thin advertising, would be transformed into a Gospel of Conservation, equally enticingly promoted by equally transformed and redirected corporations operating in a democratic society and democratic socioeconomic system dedicated to the General Welfare of All.

It remains to be seen if the color green will prove to be anything other than another campaign slogan, political or corporate, pitching for a sell to a segment of the demographics.

Of course, the appropriate primary purpose of any current serious Green Political Party, which necessarily implies now being a “minority” party, is not to win elections so much, though that can be encouraging, as to interject intelligence and synergetic new ideas into the stumbling and bewildered contemporary public political discourse.

Education    [back]

SeD would effectively resolve the problems of financing, providing and rewarding dedicated quality teachers for, and successfully imparting to students the importance and joy of, a meaningful education for all.

It is assumed that at least one of the more important goals of education is increased clear thinking capability on the part of students and ultimately the adult participants of the democratic society. To realize Socioeconomic Democracy, people will have to start thinking -- it will be an education in itself.

With SeD, there is strong economic incentive for the still wealthy, pegged at the democratically set upper bound on allowable personal wealth, to see that this goal of quality education is indeed accomplished. And (some form of) a universal guaranteed income at least helps to guarantee everyone the opportunity for further education of personal choice, when and as desired.

The essential participation of parents in the education of their children (always recognized as important, but because of the stresses and conflicts caused by inefficient contemporary socioeconomic systems, often insufficiently provided) could far more easily be provided with SeD in place.

Elderly    [back]

The rapidly approaching bankruptcy of the many mega systems societies have designed to express at least partial gratitude to previous generations for bearing and nurturing them does seem a shame. But as Occidentals all surely have learned by now, a crisis is an opportunity. In this case, with SeD, it is the opportunity to eliminate the financial, intellectual and moral crises in the quality of life for all the elderly, by democratically creating a more advanced, efficient and effective socioeconomic system to universally accomplish the most appropriate task.

Gender Justice    [back]

Socioeconomic Democracy clearly satisfies numerous legitimate demands articulated by or for the feminine majority of humanity. For example, SeD would guarantee all people the opportunity to participate meaningfully in the socioeconomic sphere. All poverty, including the major portion experienced by women (and their children), would be eliminated democratically.

No longer would there be such a thing as "unpaid labor." Indeed, guaranteed income for all would cover all women who frequently labor totally unpaid to bear and rear the prevailing patriarchal socioeconomic system its next generation of laborers and warriors. Thus finally would maternal nurturing be acknowledged as crucial to human existence, survival and sustainable development, not in more glowing words but with something a little more substantial.

If it is the democratic preference of a particular society, SeD certainly could cover all human embryos (female and male), regardless of, or depending upon, the circumstances of conception. In any case and far more importantly, with all women guaranteed some measure of economic independence, SeD certainly would dramatically reduce the number of unwanted, unnecessary or harmful pregnancies and births. Hence, the desire of those who claim a "right to choose" would converge with the desire of those who currently claim a "right to life" but evidently merely mean at present a "right to birth," regardless of the lifetime of consequences.

Democratically set guaranteed income for all would be the universal safeguard against any significant economic hardship experienced by anybody (most often by women and children) as a result of changing family relationships. No longer would a woman -- or a man -- be forced to prostitute herself -- or himself -- in order to obtain what a majority of the members of society consider a satisfactory subsistence. Highly priced prostitution, in the oldest as well as all more recently established patriarchal professions, including economics, would also tend to be reduced, as the interested reader is urged to thoughtfully and thoroughly verify for herself.

Inflation    [back]

Now, some form of democratically set, societally guaranteed income for all would make that portion of present society which is most adversely affected by inflation essentially immune thereto. For if inflation exists, for any reason, the democratically set UGI could simply be increased by subsequent voting to match the higher cost of living. This procedure could ultimately be automated, thus eliminating need of frequent voting during periods of high inflationary rates, by employing a "cost-of-living index" to appropriately adjust a periodically reset UGI level by ballot. Note that such a societal safeguard against inflation basically provides guaranteed minimum purchasing power during periods of high (as well as low) inflationary rates. Implications for a true and actually beneficial "free and fair market" are enormous.

SeD would eliminate (or significantly reduce) all "wage push" inflation because there would then be reasonable and democratic control over the extremes in the distribution of wealth and income. “Wage earners,” “workers” and all those other glorified-then-ignored individuals would for the first time have their just economic reward and there would be no need for labor to "push" for their just economic reward. No longer would workers be held hostage by economic incentive operating off contemporary income and wealth distributions and no longer would they be forced to accept wages many orders of magnitude lower than others who clearly do no more good for humanity. As noted later, this also eliminates societally disruptive but presently necessary labor strikes.

A democratically set maximum allowable personal wealth limit would do much to ease inflationary pressures. Among many other important effects, it would provide economic incentive for the still-wealthy near the democratically set upper bound on MAW to find out just what really is inflation (which leads to what is money?), what causes inflation and to put a stop to it, because until they do, the democratically set UGI can be raised to keep up with inflation and the democratically set MAW limit can be reduced to help pay for it.

International Conflict    [back]

The enhancement of societal well-being made possible with Socioeconomic Democracy ipso facto provides an effective and positive deterrent to international warfare, here assumed undesirable and to be eliminated. The simultaneous resolution of a large number of these other serious societal problems, as described here, eliminates at once many causes of -- and perhaps more importantly, many excuses for -- war.

Beyond this, other significant beneficial effects can be anticipated. For example, those participants in the democratic socioeconomic system who are personally at or near the societally set upper bound on allowable personal wealth would no longer have personal economic incentive to promote war or military intimidation, whether involving their own country or other nations. They could no longer gain personal wealth by such action and could well lose it, especially if their society democratically decided to further reduce the allowable personal wealth limit to help finance involvement in any necessary hostilities.

A democratically set, governmentally guaranteed personal income for everyone also provides many direct deterrents to warfare. Among other strong effects, it would eliminate any economically "handicapped" class, which, of course, has historically provided warring nations with a convenient pool of combatants. Such guaranteed income also solves the very real and almost always neglected problem of necessary income for all those who presently derive their personal income and wealth from warfare, its threat, preparation, propagation or promotion, either directly or indirectly.

All this reduction in “war” makes available, among other things, needed funds for Sustainable Development for All. Far more importantly, perhaps, it provides a fundamentally different and far healthier Mindset for Human Relations.

Yet if some war is absolutely “necessary,” both democratically set MAW and UGI bounds, and the economic incentives they create, would go a long way to insure that all military personnel are provided adequate care (financial, medical, psychological, educational, therapeutic and otherwise) to meet their requirements for attempting to salvage a deservedly respected, dignified and healthy life, both during and after their military service -- as opposed to not-uncommon current conditions. The veteran suicide rate, estimated to be about 18 per day in the USA, but certainly a universal phenomenon, is to be expected considering contemporary socioeconomic systems and the economic incentives they create. That same suicide rate could be essentially eliminated, with Socioeconomic Democracy.

Intranational Conflict    [back]

Whether intranational conflict has components of cultural differences, color, gender, age, religion, class, caste and/or whatever else people manage to quibble about, a common thread is almost always economic. But with Socioeconomic Democracy, that common cause of intranational conflict is simply and democratically eliminated – or at least significantly reduced. Forthrightly, the proposed just and democratic society will have publicly acknowledged and declared its commitment to the all-inclusive General Welfare. Here again, we assume that intranational conflict is undesirable and to be eliminated -- in spite of all the presently highly paying jobs, guaranteed income, wealth concentration and increasing GDP that intranational conflict and its concomitant problems create.

As a single specific example of the harm caused by present intranational conflict (and international conflict, for that matter), consider the lowly landmine. Economically produced by the millions (in contemporary socioeconomic systems with contemporary economic incentives), these and similar creations of scientifically trained and, no doubt, highly paid minds could, of course, also be discussed under the Problem of Pollution, which is what they are for everyone else after the boys are done playing war and have gone home or been buried. To be sure, they are a rather deadly form of pollution; but then, in the long run, what pollution isn't?

Or landmines could be discussed under Medical Care for instantly, if crudely, amputated limbs and lives. Or they could be discussed under Involuntary Unemployment, which is what is produced if the victims somehow survive the explosion and then have to try to figure out a way to compete for survival in a personal-profit-motivated global marketplace. Landmines could be discussed under Drug Abuse, which is certainly one unfortunate but predictable and understandable ultimate result of seeing one's surviving loved ones or oneself limping about on crutches or trying to get around in wheelchairs because of the stupid wars, the stupid war promoters and the stupid landmines.

Perhaps all these and the myriad other ultimate ramifications of profitably produced, distributed and abandoned landmines, depleted Uranium artillery shells, general spraying of CBR weaponry and other abandoned obscenities will sow the seeds for the next conflict, which can then kick start a sluggish and uncompetitive economy, bringing again momentary prosperity for some with the economic boom accompanying the next intra- and/or international conflict.

Involuntary Employment    [back]

Whether rooted in the requirement to "work or be shot" or "work or starve to death," involuntary employment, if not identical with, certainly shades into slavery. A most important characteristic of any societally satisfying economic system -- and one totally ignored by practically all contemporary economic systems and systems theorists -- is therefore the ability to eliminate or substantially reduce involuntary employment. It bears reemphasis; it is here assumed that involuntary employment (or, for that matter, involuntary anything) is undesirable and to be minimized or eliminated throughout society.

Socioeconomic Democracy does well in this regard. A democratically set, universally available guaranteed income, placed somewhere around subsistence level, would allow most of those presently involuntarily employed to terminate personally unsatisfying and/or societally detrimental employment. Note that the amount of income guaranteed everyone and set democratically would determine just how much involuntary employment could be eliminated, with effectiveness increasing as the societally set UGI level is increased.

On the other side of the wealth spectrum, those near the democratically determined upper limit on allowable personal wealth would be economically encouraged to help make all truly necessary and desirable societal work personally satisfying for, and voluntarily sought by, those who are willing to perform such work. The percentage of the population enlisted in this societally desirable endeavor increases as the level of the democratically set allowable personal wealth limit decreases.

Involuntary Unemployment    [back]

Socioeconomic Democracy would also be an effective safeguard against the problem of involuntary unemployment. Quickly reviewing, if a person is involuntarily unemployed, for any reason and for any duration, that person's basic needs, democratically determined, would still be satisfied. This necessary minimum income would be available regardless of whether the unemployment was frictional, cyclical, structural or simply theory-impaired. Indeed, this income, guaranteed against the shortcomings of economic theory and theorists, not to forget the onslaught of work-eliminating technology, would eventually neutralize the negative social connotations of "unemployment" -- something no current scarcity-assuming (actually, scarcity-producing, scarcity-maintaining and scarcity-glorifying) economic system can do. Until that time, those at or near the democratically set maximum allowable personal wealth limit would have considerable monetary motivation to see that acceptable, satisfying, reasonably remunerated and societally beneficial work is made available for all who desire such structured activity.

Labor Strife and Strikes    [back]

Societal inconvenience and disruption caused by labor strikes are, of course, experienced only in those politicosocioeconomic systems wherein this particular form of request, protest, and demand for redress are tolerated, permitted and employed. A valid solution to the very real societal problems caused by labor strikes must clearly contain, among other things, the legitimate goals of the strikers. Equally important, a truly valid solution would accomplish these goals at no illegitimate expense or inconvenience to any other members of society. A general and efficient solution would simultaneously realize the same degree of legitimate socioeconomic redress for all members of society.

Socioeconomic Democracy renders labor strikes more or less obsolete and would unquestionably significantly reduce their occurrence. This is so because practically every legitimate goal of labor, yet articulated or not and succinctly summarizable as a just demand for democratic participation in society’s socioeconomic system, is realized with SeD. The causes of a large number of labor strikes would therefore be eliminated. Further, all other participants in the democratic socioeconomic system could only benefit from the elimination of societally disruptive yet presently necessary though frequently ineffective labor strikes.

Medical and Health Care    [back]

We have elsewhere observed that some universal guaranteed medical and (for efficiency's sake) health care is a very real form of (partial) UGI -- as is universal schooling. When the amount of UGI is democratically set, the amount could be adequate to provide and guarantee, individual and societal, physical and psychological health.

We here merely observe that SeD (especially the democratically set MAW limit) would encourage and cause a desirable and fundamental metamorphosis in the economic motivations and incentive within the medical professions and much more importantly within the medical business professions (economically motivated, as they are, just as most every other business), which currently frequently attempt (and are legally bound) to package and provide medical, dental, pharmaceutical and psychotherapeutic care primarily for personal profit, rather than overall societal health.

Military Metamorphosis    [back]

The metamorphosis of the military has been taking place for many years now but has of late accelerated. Accompanied by lively discussion, to be sure, there is the metamorphosis of the relationship of women to the military (including inter alia both the expanding roles of women serving in the military and the various "uses" made of women in both friendly and occupied territories by the still-mostly male military). There is the metamorphosis of the purpose of military capability from solely controlled or wanton destruction and dominance to increasingly peacekeeping activities (a service as dangerous and courageously performed as old-fashioned frontline, face-to-face trench combat) and on to the increasing use of specialized military forces for rapid rescue, disaster relief and general humanitarian missions (again requiring courage and commitment).

This military metamorphosis is taking place at the same time as the complementing metamorphosis in the meaning and understanding of national security. Certainly governmental departments concerned with the interior, the environment, the economy, medicine and public health, education, etc., are all significant parts of a metamorphosing department of defense, intelligently concerned with true national and international security. Then there is the by-no-means resolved, but certainly evolving issue of "gays", "straights" and “whatevers” having the opportunity or obligation to serve their country in its military.

Socioeconomic Democracy would encourage and help facilitate the healthy metamorphosis of the military. As the reader is seeing, SeD would simultaneously reduce or eliminate many of the causes of and excuses for war. The proud tradition of the military and the warrior would certainly not cease with the diminution of war. All of the above-mentioned changes and other new ways to serve would be developed and expanded. A National Service Corps, obligatory or voluntary, associated with some approximation of SeD, could eventually grow within and become a proud part or branch of the military service. Throughout the global metamorphosis of the military, the military personnel of all countries can, should and will continue to serve their countries with courage, strength, intelligence, compassion and good humor.

Natural Disasters    [back]

As the experience of the unfortunately feeble and financially constrained, whether or not valiant, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) efforts in the USA to socialize some of the costs and benefits of widespread natural disasters emphasizes, almost all such efforts have in the past been partially helpful but too often too little and too late. These formal governmentally organized responses to natural disasters have been both too little and too late primarily because society has not yet made an unquenchable commitment to the general welfare of all its citizens.

In the hypothesized just and democratic socioeconomic system, as defined here, all (or at least a majority) of the participants will have made such a commitment. A balanced budget, reduced societal debt (both public and private) and reduced expenditures on society's other shrinking problems will make available far more funds and capabilities to maximize beneficial response to, and minimize harmful effects caused by, the predictably continuing sequence of multibillion dollar "unexpected" natural disasters. The metamorphosis of the military provides enormous potential for further rapid, effective and massive response capability during and after, as well as anticipatory preparation prior to, natural disasters.

Do consider the possibilities. From asteroids and comets slamming into the planet (Jupiter, thank you, and praise be to God!), to hurricanes, tornadoes, cyclones, earthquakes, tsunamis, tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, blizzards, floods, mud slides, droughts, fires, periodic El Niños y La Niñas, melting polar ice, rising tides flooding all coastal communities and cities, shifting oceanic currents and all the other impressive natural processes, they will all continue to occur even if humanity does not, by its actions, affect by one iota Gaia's health and well-being.

On the other hand, and being realistic, rational and responsible, it could be acknowledged that some detrimental effects of human action have already taken place, more are to come, and it is by no means clear just how harmful things really are or will get and just how big a “natural” disaster humanity will really manage to create and personify.

Pay Justice    [back]

As surely as an Iowan Whirlwind merits respect, so Pay Justice merits respect, about the globe. And just as an unexpected, suddenly appearing, beautiful, powerful and determined Iowan Whirlwind demands immediate action, so Pay Justice demands immediate action, about the globe. No need for further fancy definitions, detailed discussions, governmental gibberish, rewarding research, subtle slavery, obligatory oratory or academic alibis. Pay Justice Now!

It is no doubt quite clear, this far along, just why and how Socioeconomic Democracy would help realize a significant increase in Pay Justice, about the globe. From Pay Equity to Appropriate Pay, it is quite simple: Pay Justice!

Planned Obsolescence    [back]

The determination of the multidimensional beneficial impact of Socioeconomic Democracy on the personally profitable and societally detrimental practice of planned obsolescence is confidently left to the reader, gentle or otherwise. And while one is at it, one should definitely simultaneously consider the related problem of promoting addictive consumerism, blatantly and vulgarly encouraged everywhere possible, with its resource-raping, pollution-producing and thought-stultifying ramifications.

Political Participation    [back]

It should be clear that the almost ubiquitous problem of voting, whether that problem be manifest as an oppressive requirement to vote, a present lack of the opportunity to vote, or merely a growing majority not bothering to vote, would be substantially eliminated if the questions to be decided at election time were the democratic determination of the bounds on universal guaranteed minimum income and maximum allowable personal wealth. The political apathy expressed by many tens of millions of Americans (and certainly others throughout the world) who do not vote has, of course, little to do with the alleged inconvenience of registering and voting and far more to do with the disenchantment with the seemingly near meaningless-to-bankrupt political process providing next to nothing worthwhile for which to vote.

Some have argued for a Basic or Citizen's Income on the grounds that the UGI would be, among many other things, appropriate payment to participate meaningfully, wholeheartedly and thoughtfully in society and its politicosocioeconomic system. The UGI can be viewed, employing neoclassical free-market theory, as a necessary and just salary providing economic incentive for everyone to participate in the finally relevant ritual of voting. Buckminster Fuller referred to something similar as a highly desirable “Lifetime Fellowship.”

One alleged geographical obstacle to, or problem with, increased political voting (what with electronic feedback of election results instantaneously radiating westward across, say, the United States) is the projection and/or reporting of election results prior to all voting polls closing. A not uncommon complaint comes from California, though the Great State of Hawaii sees the sun for many hours after California and the rest of the country are wrapped in darkness. And then there is Russia!

In any case, when voting to democratically determine the two bounds of SeD at a federal level, each vote, whether the first cast, the last cast or any of those cast in between, would be of equal weight and impact on the final outcome -- and would, as observed above, in all likelihood be eagerly cast. Then, while at the polling booth or filling out the mail-in ballot, the participant might even bother to cast a vote for some promising politician or political initiative worthy of consideration.

Another aspect of the improvement in the political process resulting from adoption of SeD is the increased public focus on the meaning, purpose and realization of democracy. The whole concept of “representative democracy” clearly needs a steam bath, under high pressure. At a minimum, Proportional Representation (PR) will replace, or rather evolve from, presently poorly performing “Representative Democracy” under “Majority Rule.”

Poverty    [back]

The myriad manifestations of the ubiquitous problem of poverty assault our senses daily. It is of moral and visual interest to eliminate poverty. But if we are serious about the desire to eliminate poverty, it behooves us to pay appropriate attention to the meaning of the word. From almost unbelievably obliging dictionaries, we are given the following apropos phrases illustrating meanings of the word poverty:

(1) State or condition of having little or no money, goods or means of support, as in broke.
(2) Lack of something specified, as in poverty of intellect.
(3) Deficiency of desirable ingredients or qualities, as in poverty of charity.
(4) Scantiness or insufficiency, as in poverty of the "Safety Net."

Beyond these more or less common definitions and interpretations of the word poverty, there is the poverty of practically everything else. There is the Poverty of Affluence and the Poverty of Progress. There is the Poverty of Liberalism (18th, 19th and 20th century versions; 21st century version DOA/RIP), the Poverty of Socialism (ditto), the Poverty of the Welfare State and the Poverty of Mixed(-up) Economies. There is the Poverty of Education and the Poverty of the Academic Community. There is the Poverty of the University Economics Departments, that can't or don’t want to figure out a better economic system to eliminate the poverty they and everybody else daily experience, ignore or guarantee their personal income by "working on." Certainly Hope, Confidence, and Care for the Future of Humanity appear impoverished. Perhaps most important of all, there is the Poverty of Ideas to solve, once and for all, the Unnecessary Planetary Problem of Poverty. The terrifying Tsunami of Poverty, engulfing the globe, can and should be ended with Socioeconomic Democracy.

Racism    [back]

Consider next the impact of Socioeconomic Democracy on that variegated problem of "racism." First, it should be observed that according to recent scientific discovery and understanding, not to mention common sense, there is but one race -- the human race. Further, we all share, scientifically speaking, a common GreatMother, who lived hundreds of thousands of years ago in Africa -- and who, no doubt, thought about, cared and wished well for all her GreatChildren to come. So whatever the squabble among humans, it is and indeed definitely displays the characteristics of a “family fight.”

As an aside, it is noted that with our common GreatMother from Africa, that makes most all “Americans” African-Americans, with any differences of note simply being on which ship, deck and in-or-out of chains their ancestors come over in. Native Americans are an exception, and could mostly be referred to as African-Asian-Americans, quite respectfully. Thus, with only one human race, there can really be no real problem of racism that isn’t utterly stupid.

Admittedly, however, this simple scientific fact has evidently not as yet penetrated general consciousness or persuaded a large number of people from behaving in ways that display and dramatize their continuing confusion concerning the matter. But both those who play the part of "Racist Pigs" (whatever the "Race" and what’s wrong with Pigs? They are intelligent!) and those whose roles so far have been to suffer the constant pangs of, and rebel against, real "Racism" are thereby distracted, perhaps as intended, from the resolution of their easily resolved and far more important common problem of economic exploitation, economic injustice and/or simple economic oversight by simple economists. Resolve the important problems, the economic distribution and incentive problems, and "racism" as we now know it should almost vanish.

Any residual "racism" (after Socioeconomic Democracy has universally solved the really important economic distribution and incentive problems -- and, for that matter, the production, productivity and productiveness problems) will certainly not be something to fear, dread or even get bent out of shape over. Rather, any vestiges of "racism" would then be something to ridicule, or at least laugh at, or, more thoughtfully yet, pity, or, more thoughtfully yet, ignore, while paying attention to the far more interesting, delightful and fascinating aspects of life on this beautiful Planet Earth -- home of this beautiful Human Race.

Sexism    [back]

The “problem” of "sexism," we respectfully submit (and portions of the tradition-shattering 2008 USA Presidential election run-up dramatically displayed), is very much like the “problem” of "racism" -- at least in certain crucial aspects and structure. Indeed, with only one human race, there can really be no real problem of sexism that isn’t utterly stupid. It will become apparent that a significant portion of practically anything that could at all reasonably be referred to as harmful and undesirable "sexism" would be eliminated when the current decidedly undemocratic and patriarchal socioeconomic system has been replaced with SeD. It is reserved for the reader to think of literally dozens of reasons why this will be so and dozens of examples of what might be expected with a locally appropriate democratic socioeconomic system.

Untamed Technology    [back]

As will be seen, SeD reduces the societal problems caused by presently motivated and incentivized technology, as well as provides incentive for the redirection of technological development towards greater satisfaction of human needs. That is to say, Socioeconomic Democracy would help realize the desirable but unrealized promise of technology, as well as reduce and help eliminate the undesirable but unfortunately realized harmful potentials of technology.

Being guaranteed an income -- minimal though it may initially be -- people could, and some portion of them would, refuse to work on technological projects not clearly dedicated to the well being of all society and the environment. The relationship here to involuntary employment should be clear. Further, this guaranteed income could, and at least a portion of it would, be devoted to the development of societally profitable appropriate technology -- as opposed to personally profitable but societally detrimental technological development economically encouraged by many present socioeconomic system arrangements and incentives. As with other societal problems, the beneficial effects of a democratically set universal guaranteed income, in taming technology for the unequivocal advantage of all humanity, depend upon the magnitude of that income. If that magnitude were democratically set at a subsistence level, the impact would be quite significant and beneficial.

Just as important, those at or near the democratically set maximum allowable personal wealth limit would be economically encouraged to give appropriate thought to the trade-off between short-term personal gain and possible long-term societal loss resulting from an exploited potential of technology. For if, overall, society is harmed by particular technological developments (as is frequently the case, presently), society could increase its democratically set guaranteed income to offset the added expense of rectifying the harm.

Conservation would then logically imply societal reduction of the maximum allowable personal wealth limit to finance any actual increase in societally determined and provided minimum income guarantees. On the other hand, technological developments that significantly benefit society in general would at the same time tend to personally benefit the still-wealthy participants in the hypothesized democratic socioeconomic system, since these developments hold the promise of eventually raising the MAW limit.

Welfare Reform.     [back]

If the reader (gentle or not, but certainly diligent) has gotten this far, it should be “perfectly clear” by now that a fully blossomed Socioeconomic Democracy would indeed “end welfare as we know it." In its place would be an advanced socioeconomic system that would allow society to much more easily, realistically, productively, satisfyingly, efficiently, effectively, ecologically and democratically attempt to guarantee the General Welfare of a Democratic Society, Humanity and Posterity.

Conclusion [back]

Change is inevitable. But change to what, and when, and how? The changes that are needed are those conducive to social and environmental justice. These changes take time, and human institutions tend to resist rapid change. But there is also a legitimate concern about ignoring human needs while changing things too fast, as I have expressed at the very beginning of my poem, Rapids of Change:

The River of Change flows ever on;
What's here today may soon be gone.
The River of Change runs fast and slow.
Still, some may not know about
      The Rapids of Change.

We're all adrift on the River of Change,
Through an unknown land ever new and strange.
Currents tell of Change to come;
The nearness of Change will frighten some, driftin' toward
      The Rapids of Change.

Nevertheless, the interested reader is urged to develop and extend for herself the ramifications and implications of Socioeconomic Democracy in those areas of particular personal interest. Contemporary socioeconomic systems are truly prolific so far as producing problems; work remains to be done. Then, of course, there is the whole new realm of desirable future democratic possibilities, which beckon and beg to be thought about, explored and satisfyingly lived.

References and Links [back]

[1] Socioeconomic Democracy: An Advanced Socioeconomic System. Westport: Praeger, 2002. (Praeger Studies on the 21st Century.) [back]

[2] Center for the Study of Democratic Societies [back]

[3] Common Sense II: On the Further Design of Government in General. Jericho (NY): Exposition University Press, 1972. [back]

[4] “Socioeconomic Democracy and Sustainable Development”, Solidarity, Sustainability, and Non-Violence, v.3, n.12, December 2007. [back]

[5] “Socioeconomic Democracy and Sustainable Development”, DEVELOPMENT 4 ALL.

[6] “Socioeconomic Democracy & Energy”, Synthesis/Regeneration. No. 43 (Spring 2007).

[7] “Share the Wealth … with Socioeconomic Democracy”, Physics – Economy – New Energy, March 2007.

[8] “Socioeconomic Democracy”, New Paradigm. v.1, n.2 (Sep. 2006).

[9] “Socioeconomic Democracy: A Democratic Basic Income Guarantee.”, Paper presented at the USBIG (US Basic Income Guarantee) Congress. New York, March 2005.

[10] “Utopia or Oblivion”, Future Positive, March 2004.

[11] “SOCIOECONOMIC DEMOCRACY: A Realizable Democratic Socioeconomic Utopia”, Utopian World Championship 2004.

[12] “Socioeconomic Democracy.” ahp Perspective, Association for Human Psychology, Dec. 2003/Jan. 2004 (17-19).

[13] “Futures of Socioeconomic Democracy.” Journal of Futures Studies, v.5, n.4. Tamsui (Taiwan), Center for Futures Studies, May 2001 (31-48).

[14] “Socioeconomic Democracy and the State of Welfare.” Democracy & Nature: The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, v.5, n.3. London, Carfax Publishing, Nov. 1999 (469-484).

[15] “Socioeconomic Democracy: A Synergetic Amalgam of New and Ancient Ideas in Political Economy.” Paper presented at the 5th International Congress of the International Society for Intercommunication of New Ideas (ISINI), Mexico City, August 1999. In Ortiz, Edgar and Alejandra Cabello (eds.), Economic Issues and Globalization: Theory and Evidence I: Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, 1999. Article essentially reproduced at CSDS website.

[16] “Socioeconomic Democracy and Islami Economics.” Some Significant 21st Century Trends and Issues: Poverty, Population, Peace and Sustainability, Dr. Ikram Azam, ed. Islamabad: Pakistan Futuristics Institute (PFI), 1998.

[17] "Socioeconomic Democracy." In Pak Futurist 6. PFI, Sep/Oct 1992.

[18] "The Developing World and Socioeconomic Democracy." Paper presented at First International Pakistan Futuristics Institute (PFI)/World Future Studies Federation (WFSF) Conference entitled The Future of Democracy in the Developing World, Islamabad, October 1992. Later in PFI/WFSF First International Conference Special Souvenir. Islamabad, October 1992.

[19] “An Introduction to Socioeconomic Democracy.” Journal of World Education, v.16, n.3. Association of World Education, July 1985 (7-10).

[20] For a more complete historical development and presentation of the ideas of Socioeconomic Democracy, starting in the early 1700s, please see the CSDS Bibliography.

Suggested Further Reading    [back]

[21] Paine, Thomas. Everything you can get your hands and eyes on. He remains at once current, prophetic and empowering. [back]

[22] Kuhn, Thomas, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd Edn. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1970.

[23] Black, Duncan, The Theory of Committees and Elections. London: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1958.

[24] Arrow, Kenneth, Social Choice and Individual Values, 2nd Edn. New York: Wiley, 1963.

[25] Ulatowska, Lisinka, FEARless: Ordinary people doing extraordinary things in a world gripped by fear. Bloomington: AuthorHouse, 2005.

[26] “Health and Illness in Relation to Dignity and Humiliation in Times of Global Interdependence”, by Lindner, Evelin G., Solidarity, Sustainability, and Non-Violence, v.4, n.6, June 2008.

[27] “About Altruism” by Lichtenberg, Judith. Philosophy & Public Policy Quarterly, v.28, ns.1/2. Univ. of Maryland: Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, Winter/Spring 2008 (2-6).

[28] “Can Democracy Save the Planet?” , by Elkington, John & Lotherington, John. Open Democracy: free thinking for the world. (21 April 2008).

[29] DoWire/Democracies Online

[30] Democratic Governance Practice Network (MDG-Net)

[31] “Too Much: A Commentary on Excess and Inequality”

[32] Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN)

[33] U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network (USBIG)

[34] Livable Income For Everyone

[35] Alaska Permanent Fund

[36] Income Security Institute, Washington, DC.

[37] Maslow, Abrahm H. and Honigmann, John. “Synergy: Some Notes of Ruth Benedict.” American Anthropologist 72, 1970.

Robley E. George, Director
Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions

Copyright © 2008 by Robley E. George


Robley E. George, Founder and Director of the Center for the Study of Democratic Societies, was born in Indiana in 1931 and was graduated from Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis. He then studied engineering at San Diego State and Sacramento State Colleges and was graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a B.S. Chem. Engr. in 1954. After serving in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, he entered Purdue University and was graduated with a M.S. Chem. Engr. in 1957. He completed his formal education at UCLA, specializing in applied mathematics, automatic control theory and nuclear engineering.

Mr. George entered the aerospace industry and participated in the conception, design, analysis, implementation, operation and maintenance of various sophisticated computerized systems. His work through much of this period was classified, though scientific articles did result in the general area of mathematical optimization, specifically nuclear rocket thrust optimization and complex scheduling algorithms.

In 1969, Mr. George left industry to create the Center for the Study of Democratic Societies, a research and educational institution dedicated to the examination and explanation of the properties and possibilities of democratic societies. Mr. George has lectured, presented workshops and short courses as well as given TV and radio interviews on various aspects of present and potential democracy and advanced, democratic socioeconomic systems. He has presented his seminal work on Socioeconomic Democracy at a number of international conferences and is the author of numerous articles published in the U.S. and abroad. He has further developed the concept and discipline of Economic Engineering, first articulated by Keith Roberts. His honors include the Dr. Khurshid Ahmad Khan Memorial Award from the Pakistan Futuristics Institute for his "long-standing services to the Futures Field".

Feedback is kindly requested: Robley E. George

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