The Ghosts of 1913

  In response to Hal Rothman’s letter: "Solving the West’s Water Problems with Economic Progress" is a beguiling tune, if you’re attracted to that sort of music, but this is the one I hum: Economic growth IS the problem (HCN, 12/26/05: Letters).

Consider this: John Muir, the great naturalist and writer, won many noble battles but lost the war when, in 1913, President Woodrow Wilson authorized a dam to flood Hetch Hetchy Valley near Yosemite so the San Francisco Bay Area could grow and prosper. That solved the Bay Area’s urban problems? No. But it polarized the field into those who calculate their values in dollars and more dollars, and those who calculate them in clean water, fresh air, and a good night’s sleep.

In the same year, 1913, President Wilson also established the Federal Reserve System, which has come to represent the soul of the United States, and declares its dual mandates as stability and economic growth. I may stand alone here, but I believe that these are mutually antagonistic propositions which cannot exist in the same place at the same time. Economic growth trumps stability. It’s that simple.

Further, the 16th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in the same year, giving Congress the power "to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived …" providing them an inexhaustible source of great wealth. Personally, I wish I could get my hands on some of those income taxes that I worked so hard for that are being squandered away on things dear to a distant Congress in the name of Economic Progress.

The ghosts of 1913 have come home to haunt us. They are real, they jump to frighten us at every turn, and they are having a ball!

Ray Cook
Mill Valley, California

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