As I listen to the accounts of what was on the computers in the compound where Osama bin Ladin was living, including ideas for attacking American commuter railroads, my mind turns to why people in other countries might have such hatred for America.
Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that we are using, month in and month out, such a disproportionate share of the world's finite natural resources, and our corporations (and multinational corporations, too) are profiting hugely from withdrawing those resources from land around the world without adequately compensating the peoples of those countries -- not the current leaders but also the future generations of peoples -- for what is being taken out. In our name.
Then my mind turns to the distribution of those benefits in this country. Ads from the Petroleum Institute remind us that half of us own stock, and suggest that if we own stock, we benefit from letting that industry have its way. Well, sort of. But it is worth noting that stock ownership in publicly held companies is rather concentrated in the top 5% of our population [data source: 2007 Survey of Consumer Finances, Federal Reserve Board], who own 66.5% of the value. And just as important, the value of privately held companies is even more concentrated, with 88.1% residing in the top 5%. The latter category is actually larger than the former, in terms of household wealth. [Some might argue that pension funds hold stock for bottom 95%-ers -- but relatively few of us have defined benefit pensions any more, and we ought not to be swayed by that one!]
Why do they hate us, if they do? Because we are consuming 2 to 4 times our per capita share of the world's resources, and there are others who can't get their per capita share as a result. And maybe because some might have reason to suspect that the extremes of weather that many parts of the world seem to be experiencing are a result of our disproportionate pollution of the environment.
So how do we revise our incentives so that we structure things better?
To the best of my knowledge, the answers lie in the ideas commonly associated with Henry George. Explore this blog. Explore wealthandwant.com. Read George's books, "Progress and Poverty" and "Social Problems" (a collection of essays) online. Explore Mason Gaffney's website. See what you think. Is there a better way? Is there a way to better organize things to create a better, more peaceful, more just, more sustainable world, in which all of us can prosper, and none can reap what others sow?