BECK index

A Philosopher's Vision

Sanderson Beck

This has been published in the book PEACE OR BUST. For ordering information, please click here.

Free will
War and peace
Nuclear deterrence
Nuclear disarmament
World democracy
Campaign financing
World legislature
World executive
World judiciary
Human rights
Individual responsibility

Capital punishment
Penal reform
Gun control
Meat eating
Sustainable living
Noise pollution
Nuclear energy
Natural environment
Information media
Health care

Progressive tax
Free market
Public prayer
Aquarian age
Political action
U. S. Militarism
War tax resistance
Nonviolent protest
World law

QUESTIONER: What is the purpose of this book?

PHILOSOPHER: I intend to show people a vision of a better world and how we can get there from where we are now in the late 1990s. I'll describe how good life could be about a hundred years from now if we as humanity act in intelligent ways. I don't intend to focus too much on the negative aspects of the problems and possible disasters we face, because much has been written about them already; but being aware of them I want to explore practical solutions that will enable us to alleviate suffering and design life-styles that are happy, loving, just, free-spirited, prosperous, sustainable, and conducive to personal development.

Q: What qualifies you to propound this vision?

P: Nothing in particular. I don't claim to have any special religious, moral or academic authority, but as a philosopher I love wisdom and have been seeking it for many years, if not for many lifetimes. I love to learn and am deeply concerned about the future of humanity and this planet. I want to do everything I can to make this world a better place. I am not asking people to adopt my ideas because of any authority. I do hope that people will consider them, question them, test them, find what is useful, and apply what they like in their own lives.

Q: What is your definition of wisdom?

P: A very good question! I define wisdom as not only knowing but also doing what is for the highest good of all concerned. To know what is good without doing it may be a kind of knowledge, but to my way of thinking the truly wise will act on their knowledge, will "walk their talk" as they say. To do what is good without knowing that it is good may be good fortune or even divine guidance, but it is not complete wisdom.

Q: Do you believe in God?

P: Yes.

Q: Isn't that a rather short answer to a big question?

P: If you want a more complicated answer, then ask the question in such a way as to elicit that.

Q: Why are you using this question-and-answer format anyway?

P: I think it may prove more interesting than continual expounding or a long lecture. Philosophy always seeks more knowledge and wisdom through a process of questioning and experimenting. A true philosopher will keep the mind open and be willing to accept any challenge to one's ideas. Wisdom has also been defined as the ability to defend ideas and principles by reasoned arguments. In the dialectical method we are able to examine issues from many points of view and assist those who are seeking greater wisdom perhaps to find some. I don't claim to have the final answers, but I hope that by making the effort we can make progress toward a better life.

Q: All right then, how would you describe God, the universe, this world, human beings?

P: Wait, one question at a time. Perhaps it is appropriate to begin with God, since "God" is the word or concept we use to describe the total reality, the Creator, the beginning and the end, the eternal truth, power, being, consciousness, and so on to infinity. Obviously people have many different concepts of God. This is a fair question, since a philosopher will not limit the discussion and must be prepared to explore any issue. Therefore you have the right and are encouraged to ask difficult questions.

First of all, I suppose I need to acknowledge the limits on my awareness. I realize that I am not conscious of everything all the time. Though the contents of my consciousness are always changing, they are limited. I get tired and need to sleep, for example. Yet humans have this peculiar ability to think and consider ideas that are beyond our physical and instinctive drives. I have found that the concept of infinity can take us into a transcendent awareness as we consider that there is probably no limit to time and space and all the potentials of energy, life, and consciousness. That is not to say that this particular physical universe may not be limited in any or all of these categories, but who is to say that this physical universe, which may only be eight billion years old as has been recently postulated, or fifteen to twenty billion years as previously thought, is the only universe that exists or has ever existed or ever will exist?

Q: But where did this universe, or others for that matter, come from?

P: It seems probable to me that this universe has a Creator who is greater than all the power and consciousness in this universe. Being greater than this entirety, I think it likely, based on my own mystical experiences and those of countless others, that this great Spirit is also aware of all that goes on in this universe. It is even possible that there could be and probably are Spirits or a God or Gods or Goddesses greater than the Creator Spirit of this universe and so on. Why not?

Q: But what does that matter? Aren't we getting awfully far afield here?

P: Yes, I suppose so, but as a philosopher I am free to speculate about such things. I do feel it has some value, because it helps us to expand our minds and beliefs as to what may be possible. Obviously there are great differences in awareness among people on this Earth, and some have claimed to have religious or revelatory experiences that can help to guide humanity.

Q: What about prophecy? Can the future be foretold?

P: Certainly history has provided many examples of prophecies which have come true to some extent or other. I think it is possible, but at the same time I am skeptical since most of them have either proven to be false or are so general as to be of little value in guiding our lives. Current periodicals are strewn with various prophecies of disasters such as earthquakes, floods, wars, and famines or of revelatory openings which enable people to grasp new awarenesses. Other than the Old and New Testaments of the Judeo-Christian Bible which were written nineteen hundred and more years ago, the most widely interpreted prophecies are those of Nostradamus who wrote about four hundred years ago. Yet his prophecies only go to the year 2000. Edgar Cayce also referred to a great period of transition from 1958 to 1998. So soon we shall be entering a period which may be able to give us something of a fresh start.

Q: Do you consider this book a prophecy?

P: Traditionally a prophet is someone who speaks for God. In that sense I do not claim to speak for the Almighty nor do I pretend that my writings are infallible. Modesty does not allow me to claim such things. However, I do believe in the power of prayer and the guidance of the divine. I do pray and seek such guidance. I am attempting to write about what will be best for everyone, which could also be defined as the divine will; but whether the conclusions I come to in this book turn out to be prophetic, I leave for others to decide as time unfolds. I think it is important to examine everything on an individual basis. So it is likely that, as with most teachers and teachings, some may prove to be truer and more helpful than others.

Q: How are we to know what is going to be true and what isn't?

P: As a philosopher I ask the readers to think along with me, to question what I write, to compare it to your own experience and imagination of what is possible and probable, and to apply it in your own life as it may work best for you. We each are centers of consciousness, and we all exist in relation to the whole. Although we may have similar views from common experiences, nonetheless each of us is unique, and we each decide how to play our own role in the great cosmic drama. So ultimately each of us must decide for ourselves what is right for us.

Q: Since my role is to ask questions, let me ask you, what is the future? How does it relate to the present? Do you believe the future is pre-determined, or do you believe in free will?

P: These are important questions which depend on our concepts of time and causality. In the newest science of relativity, time has been found to be integrally related to space in a continuum. In other words we experience time and space together, and neither makes any sense without the other. Even the three dimensions of space can be seen as conceptually created by the movement of a point in time to make a line, the movement of a line in time to make a plane, and the movement of a plane in time to make three-dimensional space. We live in a three-dimensional space which seems to move in time from the past into the future. If we could comprehend from the beginning of time to some arbitrary end, then we would be perceiving the fourth dimension, or to be more specific, a fourth-dimensional object would be its entire history in space-time.

Q: But how can we comprehend the future which hasn't even happened yet?

P: If you look at any three-dimensional object, you will not immediately see all sides of it but only the parts facing your line of sight. However, in time you can move around and examine the back of that object in order to comprehend it more completely. Thus as time unfolds, what was the future before it happened becomes present and then after it happened the past. What occurs in space-time are events, which then pass into the past as facts which can no longer be altered. Of course knowledge, attitudes, and opinions about past events can be altered but not the events themselves. Thus consciousness of events tends to transcend them. As a philosopher I find it useful to be aware of the distinction between facts and our beliefs about them.

Q: Why do you find that distinction helpful?

P: Because individuals may confuse people by claiming that their beliefs about some facts are facts themselves and therefore not subject to question or disagreement. When we are making choices, which we must do constantly in every action, we are inherently making value judgments as to what we consider good or worth doing. Although we may consider facts in our thinking process and there are various influences shaping our conscious and subconscious process of deciding, nevertheless I believe that we can make conscious choices and that we are not merely automatic machines completely programmed by our past.

Q: Are you sure? Surely we are programmed by our genetic pattern and our environmental upbringing to a great extent?

P: I don't deny those levels of programming, but I don't believe they are totally determinative. My experience is that I can transcend those influences by being somewhat aware of them and decide for myself my course of action. Nevertheless once I act, I also realize that I am responsible for the consequences of my action. Even though past influences shape my decisions, I am still the one who goes one way or another and must live with the results. The past influences which impinge themselves on us can be seen as the results of previous choices by ourselves and others. In other words from a spiritual perspective, spiritual beings are freely acting in the universe all the time and may together be perceived as making up all the agents of causality. I believe, for example, that even our parents were chosen by our souls with the advice of other heavenly spirits before we were born. Thus if this is true, even our genetic pattern and childhood environment were chosen by us.

Q: If events occur in the present and then become past facts, what are they in the future before they have happened, if you believe that we can freely choose?

P: Possibilities and probabilities. Although we all can choose freely, we can also see that there are strong patterns of conditioning and habits, which often can be predicted. Nevertheless they can only be predicted as probabilities. As physicists have discovered, even the smallest and most mechanical aspects of the universe cannot be definitely predicted with certainty. In other words as far as the scientists can tell, what they call chance and I call freedom does exist in the universe.

Q: How can random chance and freedom be the same thing?

P: If things cannot be predicted they appear random or due to chance. That merely means that the scientists cannot pin down the exact sequence of causes. If the causes are spiritual or the result of a freer process of consciousness, they are more difficult to predict. As a philosopher I have observed how this freedom seems to increase in beings with more awareness. Only living creatures appear to be self-motivating, and animals seem to have more choices than plants, and more intelligent animals even more choices. As humans we have become the most creative, which also holds the danger of being the most destructive as well.

Q: So are you saying that the human future is the least known, if we are the most free creatures on this planet?

P: Let us just say that the fate of other species on this planet will be more affected by what humans do than vice versa. Already mankind has destroyed thousands of species. We can see patterns and thus estimate probabilities of future behavior; but at the same time we have the ability to change those patterns if we decide there is a better way of acting. This quest for the good, which philosophically in enlightened beings evolves into a quest for the highest good of all concerned instead of merely for one's own selfish good, is the essence of our spiritual endeavor and the educational process by which we learn how to become responsible creators and one with the larger whole. This is my quest, and this book is an expression of that effort.

Q: If I understand you correctly then, you are not trying to predict what will actually happen, but rather you are making suggestions as to what would be best for humanity to do in the next one hundred years. Is that correct?

P: Yes. You understand very well. This is a vision based on my own understanding at this time, which I hope will be able to guide us or at least stimulate a healthy discussion as to how we can best live together on this Earth. I hope that others with greater knowledge and wisdom than mine in many of these areas (for who can know everything about everything?) will participate in this discussion and offer their suggestions for improvements on my initial ideas. Obviously this topic is as vast as life itself, and there are many important issues to discuss.

Q: You began with God. Do you want to go into the future of religion? Where do you want to start?

P: I think it is good that we began by acknowledging higher consciousness and with a prayerful attitude. Yet I would rather discuss religion later. It seems to me that humans often tend to get sidetracked or bogged down in the discussion of religious and theological questions. So I would prefer to start with more practical concerns that are currently pressing hard upon us and present more immediate dangers, such as the issues of war and peace and how we can learn to live together without destroying each other and the other life forms on Earth.

Q: Why do you want to start with war and peace?

P: For about fifty years we have had nuclear weapons with the capacity to destroy the human race and perhaps all the mammals on Earth, if not all of life. I put a high priority on this problem, because until we find a way to establish peace that does not have such a high risk of devastating war, humanity will never be secure. Also once we are able to eliminate this threat of total war, we will have many more resources available as well as more trust to build on in creating a better life.

Q: Do you think it is possible to completely eliminate this threat? Once the nuclear genie is out of the bottle, as they say, can it ever be put back?

P: You are right in the sense that once we have discovered the knowledge and skill to make such weapons, it is always possible that they could be made and used again. Even if the knowledge were lost, we know that a future civilization could re-invent them. Nonetheless we don't have to live constantly under this threat of thousands of nuclear weapons armed and ready to be fired at a moment's notice. We can dismantle and destroy all of the weapons, abolish them, and make sure they are not re-built. Yet the problem of the nuclear material from the bombs as well as the waste from nuclear power plants still would exist. Unfortunately our generation is leaving a legacy to the world that must not be forgotten for thousands of years, since the waste sites must be carefully monitored for public safety and to prevent abuse.

Q: Is there no way to get rid of the nuclear material?

P: One idea is to put it on rockets and send it into outer space, but this of course does not eliminate it but rather sends it out into the larger universe. Given the amount of "empty" space out there, this may not be a problem. However, it goes against the ecological concept that nothing can actually be thrown away, because there is really no "away." A greater concern is in the safety of the disposal, since a rocket explosion involving high-level nuclear waste could cause a radioactive disaster of unprecedented proportions. I'd like to come back to this issue of the waste when we get into other environmental concerns.

Q: All right. I'm curious to know how you think we could go about abolishing nuclear weapons. Doesn't the presence of nuclear arsenals deter total war?

P: That is the rationale, but I believe it is faulty and an extremely dangerous policy. This nuclear "brinkmanship," as it has been called, is really a form of gambling. The idea is that a nation's government is willing to go to nuclear war to prevent another nation's government from attacking their security. Yet such attacks have been occurring frequently in the nuclear age and so far have not drawn a nuclear response since the world became aware of the existence of the atom bomb. People seem to forget about moral self-restraint, which I believe is the main reason why nuclear weapons have not been used since Nagasaki.

Q: How does this moral self-restraint affect the gambling of deterrence?

P: From this point of view it actually messes up the deterrence, because the nuclear powers morally restrain themselves from using nuclear weapons against an attack when they can use other military means or decide to ignore it if it is not much of a threat to their security. This enables countries, including nuclear powers, to gamble that a specific attack or maneuver may not be met with a nuclear response. The danger of these smaller wars escalating into a nuclear conflict is a mathematical probability which may be much greater than people imagine. Thus in the perverted logic of deterrence, moral restraint seems to work against the interests or power of a country.

Q: What do you mean? Why is deterrence perverted?

P: In nuclear deterrence the leaders of the most powerful nations are expected to be perfectly willing to murder millions of people in a few minutes, while anyone who does not believe in such mass murder is considered unqualified to be such a leader. In being willing to go to the brink of war in this strange kind of bluffing poker game, a leader can gain power for one's country. It is actually more like the game of chicken which teenagers used to play by driving their cars toward each other at a high speed to see which one had the most reckless "courage" and which one would be the coward and "chicken out." In reality the winner is the one who is more suicidal than the other; but if both are determined to win this bizarre contest, then the result is likely to be mutual suicide. Was a more stupid game ever invented, except perhaps Russian roulette?

Q: But the longer this deterrence gamble goes on, isn't it really like Russian roulette?

P: Yes, because the mathematical probability, though small, continues year after year. So let's say that the chance of a nuclear war breaking out under this system is on the average about one or two percent per year; or if we used dice, let's say one in thirty-six. In other words every year we roll the dice, but there would not be a nuclear war unless we rolled snake eyes. As long as we continue to roll the dice every year, eventually snake eyes is bound to come up. Each year we are betting that a nuclear war will not occur, because everyone will be deterred. So we may appear to be winning so far; but when the war finally does occur, we will actually lose far more than we won. In fact deterrence does not even work well when it supposedly works, because the cost of the weapons and their nuclear material are a constant drain and harm for our society.

Q: So how do you abolish nuclear weapons?

P: Very carefully. In order to convince people that nuclear weapons should be abolished, we need to have a better system of security for resolving international conflicts, one which people can trust. With the end of the cold war between the two nuclear superpowers we now have a great opportunity to progress toward peace. Although some reductions were agreed upon after the insane arms race of the 1980s, there are still thousands of nuclear weapons.

Q: Wait a minute. Why do you call the arms race insane?

P: Nuclear deterrence is known as Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), and many critics have agreed that this is not a sane policy which with a few mistakes could destroy the human race. The mutual fear and paranoia between Communists and capitalists was a symptom of a sick society. Now that Soviet Communism has collapsed, and Russia and the other former Soviet states are floundering around experimenting with market systems, a great cloud of fear and mistrust has been lifted from the human race. Yet in spite of the danger of an unstable Russia with many nuclear weapons, and instead of using this opportunity to move toward real disarmament, the nuclear nations' leaders seem to be resting from the cessation of the struggle without going forward on the reforms we really need.

Q: Why not?

P: They have other concerns, and so far no one has been able to show leadership outstanding enough to convince people to take the path of disarmament. Mikhail Gorbachev tried for a while; but he was not supported enough by his own people, and leadership in the United States was very resistant. Now the USA is in the position of being the dominant superpower, and the easiest path seems to be to maintain its military might so that it can exert great control over most international affairs. It will take the greatness of a Gorbachev or a George Washington to renounce power after the major battles are won.

Q: What did Washington do?

P: Twice he renounced power when he easily could have held on to it. After the War for Independence was won under his command, he could have assumed political leadership of the new nation as has been done so many times in the past by Alexander, Caesar, numerous kings, Cromwell, Napoleon and others. Instead he retired to his farm. Then after helping to facilitate the acceptance of a constitutional form of representational government and becoming the first elected President, he retired again after a second term rather than dying in office so that a peaceful transition by election could occur.

Q: Are you implying that the United States should renounce its superpower status?

P: Yes, but not before we make sure that there are effective democratic and judicial procedures for assuring the safety of the disarmament process and for settling international disputes. If we believe in democracy and constitutional government by laws rather than by the whims of leaders, then we ought to be able to support replacing a system of "might makes right" with nonviolent, judicial means of determining what is right.

Q: What about the United Nations?

P: Unfortunately the United Nations, like the League of Nations before it, has not been given enough power to make it effective in settling disputes. The United Nations was formed by and named after the allied winners of World War II, and the nation states have given over to it precious little of their own powers. The UN delegates represent their national governments more than the people, and the General Assembly has practically no power at all except as a debating society. The Security Council, which has some power for peacekeeping, is dominated by the five major nuclear nations which won the last world war (Russia, China, France, Britain, and the USA), and any one of them can veto Security Council resolutions. The International Court of Justice is only voluntary and is usually ignored by offending nations, nor does it enforce its decisions. Essentially international anarchy has always existed in our human history which has been one war after another.

Q: Can this pattern of human nature be changed?

P: We can, and we must change this bad social habit, if we are to survive on this planet; for there is nowhere else for us to go, and our technology has become too destructive.

Q: What do you recommend instead?

P: To establish a secure and healthy peace between the nations of the world we need to construct a system of justice that will protect human rights and prevent wars. There are many aspects to this problem and its solution. I would like to begin by discussing democratic, federal world government.

Q: Don't you think that a world government could be dangerous and oppressive also?

P: Certainly it could, if it was not well designed or got out of control. Yet the horrible wars of this century have shown that the nation-state system is disastrous. Nevertheless at the same time we have seen how constitutional democracies such as the United States (with the exception of the Civil War over slavery) have been able to settle disputes effectively between their own states by forming a larger unity. Governments can be designed with power distributed by checks and balances so that no one person or small group of people, if corrupted, can abuse the whole system. Many nations have succumbed to dictators or oligarchies when these principles have been ignored or violated. Now unfortunately there is no safe check against the abuse of power by the leaders of the nuclear nations nor a very well organized check against the leaders of other militarized nations.

Q: What are these principles of checks and balances?

P: The five main ones that I want to discuss are constitutional law, democratic elections, independent branches of government, federalism, and protection of human rights. This may seem a bit like high school civics; yet these principles are very important, and they can work.

Q: How does constitutional law work?

P: In past history, human societies would either trust leaders such as kings and emperors, or they would suffer under warlords and dictators or some combination of these. Even ancient democracies and republics in Greece and Rome could be abused by oligarchies and dictators if there was no constitution or the people allowed the violations. The idea of "government by law instead of men" (for it was usually men who dominated then) developed as a way of holding the leaders to account to some principles of justice and good government instead of blindly trusting them. The main concept (which is stated as the third Nuremberg Principle) is that even a head of state or responsible government official is obligated to obey the law and is considered a criminal for violating law.

Q: How does a constitution come into it?

P: A constitution is a contract which a society draws up in order to agree on how the government should operate, what powers each part of it shall have, how laws are to be made, enforced and judged, what rights are to be protected and how, and what remedies are available to solve problems. Basically it is the document which authorizes the government to exist and use its powers.

Q: How does a constitution prevent abuse?

P: Being written down it is an objective standard which can be consulted whenever there are disagreements. A good constitution establishes nonviolent procedures by which humans can learn how to live together and settle their conflicts in intelligent and peaceful ways. Many nations, states and other organizations now have constitutions which usually work fairly well, although the degree to which they work depends on how well they are designed, how much respect the people have for them, and of course whether the people allow them to be violated.

Q: What about the United Nations Charter? Is that a constitution?

P: Not a very effective one, as I said before. It may have some good principles and noble sentiments in it, such as Article 2, Sections 3 and 4 which read,

3. All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.
4. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.

But there are no effective procedures to make these principles real, and consequently they are ignored by the nations whose massive military arsenals and frequent wars make a mockery of them.

Q: So how could an effective constitution for a world government be established?

P: I believe that eventually humanity will see the need for either a major revision of the UN Charter or for the writing of a new constitution for a democratic, federal world government. Just as the thirteen states of the newly independent United States of America sent delegates to a constitutional convention in 1787, so too all of the nations of the world today could send delegates to a constitutional convention that could go through the difficult political process of designing a government that would be good for everyone.

Q: What do you think that constitution should contain?

P: To answer that I need to discuss the other four political principles: democratic elections, independent branches of government, federalism, and human rights. For elections to be truly democratic there must be universal suffrage for all adult humans. This is the ideal, but whether the world authority would be able to enforce it immediately in every country is questionable. For example, in some Muslim countries women are not allowed to vote, and even in the United States convicted felons cannot vote. How these questions are decided often depend on compromises and gradual social evolution.

Q: Would people vote on every issue, or would they elect representatives to vote and act on their behalf?

P: Although universal, participatory democracy is theoretically possible, I doubt that most people would want to be bothered with voting on every issue, law, and action of government. Thus republican forms of government have become popular whereby people periodically elect representatives to vote for them and administer the government. Nevertheless the recent prevalence of opinion polls is, I believe, a good thing, because if they are scientifically and fairly conducted they enable our society to let the politicians know what the people are feeling and wanting.

Q: So, do you recommend a republican system?

P: Yes, I think it is more practical, because the implementing of good government takes a lot of work which must be done by actual persons. However, I do believe that the elections need to be rather frequent with many safeguards to prevent the establishment of an elite class of career politicians who maintain their privileged positions by serving special interests, usually by financial means. In other words, elections need to be purified from the corrupt plutocratic process whereby the money contributed to campaigns buys influence with the government. I believe in government of, by and for the people, not by and for just the rich and the corporate powers.

Q: Then how would you finance the campaigns?

P: Candidates who obtained a certain number of signatures in their districts would be given equal opportunity to print and mail campaign literature, to debate the other candidates in the media, and to speak in public to the people who are interested. Without limiting what the issues are, I believe that this nonetheless would allow candidates to focus more on the real issues of government. Ultimately it is the intelligence and education of the voters as well as the candidates which determines the level of the campaign. To improve the overall situation then, we need to improve education.

Q: Wouldn't it cost the people more in taxes to have publicly financed campaigns?

P: The small cost of giving each candidate an equal chance and providing for real debate would be paid for by government; yet in the long run many billions of dollars would be saved because the corruption of the financial interests getting their way would be greatly reduced. Thus government would operate much more efficiently and fairly.

Q: But would you ban political advertising by special interests? What about freedom of expression?

P: No, I would not ban nor censor the freedom of expression; but this would have little influence if voters had the opportunity to read the views and witness fair debates by the candidates on the issues. In the future, as we shall see later on, the whole commercial advertising system is going to be reformed. People don't want to have their time and attention wasted seeing and hearing advertisements on products or things they are not interested in, and in the future they won't have to.

Q: Would people vote by nation or what?

P: Ultimately I believe that every individual is autonomous and to be respected, though we cannot ignore the deep traditions of the national entities either. For the world legislature I recommend that the lawmakers represent equal numbers of people but from a specific country. In other words, no district would contain people from more than one country, and each legislator would be representing a country, but even more particularly the people in the district if a country has more than one district.

Q: How many people would there be in each district?

P: This can be determined by deciding about how many people can work together effectively in the legislative assembly or congress. I would estimate that a number between 500 and 1,000 might be workable if there were only one house for making laws. If the current population of the world as of 1995 is about 5.7 billion (and likely to increase gradually to perhaps ten billion before it levels off or decreases), then districts of ten million people would elect about six hundred or so representatives.

Q: But there are many nations that have less than ten million people in them. Would a nation with 9.9 million have the same representation as a nation of 100,000?

P: Obviously that would not be very fair, nor would it be fair to give a nation of 10.1 million double the representation of a nation having 9.9 million. Therefore I have thought of a way of equalizing those differences for the most part. In each nation there would be one odd district that is composed of less than ten million people. The legislators elected from these districts would have the full rights of speaking and working on committees, but their vote would be rounded off to the nearest one-tenth according to the population in the district being rounded off to the nearest million, with one-tenth of a vote being the lowest fraction even if a nation has less than 500,000. It could also be decided that nations with five or more districts would not need to have a fractional district.

Q: That would mean that countries like China and India would have about a hundred representatives each, and with a few other Asian nations would have a majority. Do you think the western powers would accept such a system?

P: I think it is acceptable if we truly believe in majority rule and democracy. It seems to me that history shows that we don't have as much to fear from India and China, as they have to fear from the western powers; for they have suffered from western imperialism. In spite of their great antiquity neither India nor China has tried to take over large areas of the world. Japan did earlier this century, but they have a smaller population; and that was after they became westernized. Perhaps one of the main reasons why India and China have larger populations (other than the nutritional wealth of rice) is because through their long histories they have not been as aggressive and warlike as western civilization.

Q: But aren't India and China becoming westernized by technology and capitalism, and aren't they therefore in danger of becoming imperialist too?

P: Yes, which is why we need to develop better ways of preventing imperialist aggression in the entire world. If we are not able to solve the human problems, which when unsolved lead to conflicts and wars, then the world will have much to fear from large nations like China and India. Either way we must face up to the realities of the great numbers of people in that part of the world.

Q: Still wouldn't Asia be able to dominate with its majority in the legislature?

P: Not if there are other checks and balances to safeguard the process, such as the independent branches of government. The executive branch could also be given some influence over the legislative process, just as the United States President can veto laws passed by a simple majority.

Q: You don't recommend a president of the world, do you?

P: No, I think it would be foolish and asking too much of anyone to concentrate so much power in a single person. I suggest a council of nine presidents that would be elected by North America, South America, Europe, Africa, West Asia, North Asia, East Asia, India, and China. You see that in this proposal the influence of China and India would be reduced from the approximate 40% of the population to 22% of the vote on the presidential council. Legislation might require a confirming vote of two-thirds of this council in order to become law, so that even all of the Asian nations with Russia of North Asia would still not have two thirds. It might also be decided that this presidential veto could be overruled by a two-thirds vote of the congress.

Q: What about Mexico and Central America? Would they have any chance of electing a president of their own if they are combined with the United States and Canada?

P: This is the type of thing that could be negotiated at the constitutional convention. Perhaps a vote could be taken in Mexico and the Central American countries to see if they preferred to vote for President with North America or with Latin America. Similar compromises would have to be made to determine which nations are in Europe, West Asia, North Asia, and East Asia. The idea is to have approximately equal divisions with the exception of China and India.

Q: What about the judicial branch? Would the judges be elected also?

P: I think history shows it might be better if the judges are not so caught up in popular and political sentiments. A Supreme World Court of nine judges could be appointed, one by each of the nine presidents, but they would each have to be confirmed by a majority vote in the congress. These judges might serve a single term of nine years, and each year a new judge would be appointed so that the court would have continuity. Not having to face re-election or even re-appointment, the judges could be independent of political winds and power influences so that they could interpret the constitution and the laws objectively and decide what they each thought was truly best for the world. Also a limited term would prevent them from staying on the court into dottering old age.

Q: What about the check of having a bicameral legislature as is common in the United States?

P: I'm not sure that this is necessary for a number of reasons. Historically, giving states an equal representation in the United States Senate regardless of population was a compromise agreed to because the smaller states were refusing to approve the Constitution otherwise. I believe it is rather unfair and tends to give a large group of western states with relatively few people a disproportionate influence, resulting in less democratic policies and is unfairly advantageous to their special interests. Also having two legislative houses is rather cumbersome, resulting in much wrangling and political dealing, which is unnecessary if one house is democratic and is checked by the other branches.

Q: What about having a senate or assembly where each nation had one vote as in the UN General Assembly?

P: I don't think that is a good idea, not only because it is unfair in regard to population, but because it would encourage the formation of more small nations which could cause conflicts in the future. Already we are seeing such divisions causing violent confrontations as in the former Yugoslavia and Soviet republics.

Q: Isn't there a current proposal to revise the United Nations by requiring a "binding triad" vote? What do you think of that?

P: As I understand it, in that system laws or resolutions would have to be passed by three different majorities as determined by population, by nation states, and by financial contribution to the UN. I believe this is doubly bad, because it allows wealth a greater influence as well as the small nations. My observation of history is that wealthy influences on government tend more to corrupt than to help, but of course I can see why the capitalist class which currently dominates world affairs would want to have such a system.

Q: Would there be any other check on this single democratic congress?

P: Yes, perhaps the most important check is from the principle of federalism which distributes power on different levels of government. In the United States system, for example, there is a national government, state governments, and then county and city governments on local levels. The U. S. Constitution delegates specific powers to the federal (national) government and declares that all other powers are reserved to the states or the people. Historically the governments of the original thirteen states were what the people knew, but to form a larger and more efficient unity they gave some powers to the United States Government. Now we are in a situation where the national governments have become very powerful, and without an effective way to keep peace between them the entire world is endangered by wars.

Q: What powers would the new world constitution give to the federal world government?

P: Primarily the world authority would be responsible for settling international problems. It could oversee the process of disarmament, make sure that international conflicts are peacefully decided by the judgments of the world court of justice according to the world constitution and the world laws passed by the world congress. People may decide that they want the new world authorities to protect basic human rights in every country, but for the most part I think that people would rather have domestic and internal issues of economic and social systems decided by national, provincial, and local autonomy. The more power that can be distributed and localized, the less chance there is for serious abuse.

Q: What about international trade, standards and measures, environmental concerns and other such issues?

P: As we become more of a global culture with a global economy, these issues are bound to come up and could cause problems if we do not have fair and nonviolent ways of solving them. These are further arguments why we need a world government and one that is democratic. I think eventually people will agree that the most efficient way to regulate these for the greatest good of all is through a democratic and global process. Thus the world constitution could give the world congress power to pass laws regulating various international activities, establishing universal standards and measures, and protecting global resources such as the oceans, the ozone layer, the climate, etc.

Q: Would the world government be capitalist or socialist?

P: Actually neither, because the world government would allow each national government and localities to decide for themselves what kind of economic and political systems they want to use for such issues as health care, education, and other social services. However, I do believe that the world government should make sure that no nation is fascistic, militaristic or oppressive of people's basic rights. Other than the specifically delegated powers, I believe that all other powers should be reserved to the people who can authorize their national governments or other levels to deal with them.

Q: What human rights do you believe the world government should protect?

P: This is actually quite a difficult question because different cultures and even individuals often disagree on what are essential human rights; and even when there is general agreement, it still must be decided which level of government is responsible for enforcing them by bringing violators to justice. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948 is a marvelous statement of human rights, but it wasn't until the 1970s that they were codified into two covenants of political and civil rights and economic and social rights. Unfortunately these are still not really enforced and exist primarily as moral guidelines.

I think the world government might begin carefully by intervening only in those areas where international peace and security are threatened or where individual's basic rights are clearly being violated, and national and other authorities are not doing anything about it, such as murder or torture or clearly unjust imprisonments by authorities. Also world authorities would be responsible for overseeing the world elections, and universal suffrage could be insisted upon at least in these elections. Mostly the role of the world government would be to keep the national governments from acting in criminal ways.

Q: So do you see the role of the world government being to protect people from abuses by other levels of government?

P: Yes, that is a good way of putting it. Criminal behavior by individuals or groups who do not claim to have any political or social authority to justify their actions can, I think, be handled by local or national law enforcement authorities. The problems that are difficult to solve without a higher world authority are when the governments themselves are the abusers or are in conflict with each other. This is also why it is difficult to get the politicians of the nations to accept an effective world government, because they are the ones who would be held to account by it. "Sovereignty" is usually the word that is used to justify the nations in doing whatever they please. In the 1787 constitutional convention George Washington expressed anger at hearing this word so often.

Q: Do you think the sovereignty of the nations should be taken away from them?

P: Governments are intended to operate with the consent of the governed, and they have the authority to act according to their constitutions and laws in their own territory, but unfortunately nations have often arrogated to themselves the power to act beyond their own borders. In my opinion governments have sovereignty within their borders as long as they do not violate human rights, but they do not have any legitimate sovereignty outside of those borders. Unless a world government is given this authority, there is essentially anarchy in those international areas, and the conflicts of competing "sovereignties" can be utterly devastating.

To have world peace, we must have world justice. To have world justice, we must have world law. To have effective world law, we must have world government. No nation has the right to impose its own concept of order on others. If we want a new world order which is just, then we must have a new world government.

Q: Isn't this all rather utopian? Do you think the great powers will go along with this? What will make this world government any more effective than the League of Nations or the United Nations?

P: To make this work the nations must give up their international sovereignty to this new constitutional system, which has never really been done before on a world scale. It has been done in federal nations, like the United States, and it is starting to be done in Europe. I believe that eventually mankind will realize that such a system is in the best interests of humanity as a whole and so will adopt it. How long it will take for us collectively to realize this depends upon how wise we are and how much people must suffer from the warlike ways that do not work before we learn.

Q: Your proposal is rather specific as to the form of the world government. Does it have to be this way, or are there other options?

P: I am presenting a specific design so that people can visualize better how a world government might work effectively. However, I realize that the form a new world government takes will depend upon many factors and intense political negotiation. No, I am definitely not trying to say that my plan is the only good one or that it is the only one that will work. I would be glad to see any improvements or better ideas that others might have.

Q: But how would a limited world government ever have enough power to control the great military forces in the world today which the nations possess? Would this world government be even more powerful than the superpowers, and wouldn't that be even a greater danger?

P: The answer to that is disarmament. In my opinion world government will be able to bring about peace and justice only if the nations renounce the military means for solving problems and agree to abide by nonviolent and rational judicial procedures for settling disputes. This is really so much more intelligent a way to solve problems that sometimes it amazes me that we are still using the old barbaric methods of "might makes right" in our international relations as well as in civil wars within some nations.

Also the military forces in the world today are costing us tremendous amounts of human, financial, and technical resources even when violence does not break out and destroy human lives, cities, and the natural habitat of the Earth. Eventually people must realize the immense waste of this. Perhaps even more importantly from a spiritual perspective, the psychological and social attitudes that must be perpetrated to promote this barbaric system are extremely unhealthy and destructive to people.

Q: If it is so obvious that we should do this, then why haven't we done it already?

P: This is a very complicated question which gets into many of the deep problems of our society. At this point let me just summarize it by saying that the politicians are corrupted by vested financial interests, the mainstream media is controlled by similar interests, and because of the power of these over education and communications, most people don't even get the opportunity to hear, see or read about such alternative visions as this one. Social traditions are very powerful and difficult to change, and the human habit of war-making has been going on for so long and has been supported by so many powerful institutions in government, religion, education, and family that most people don't even question them. People like me are attempting to bring these ideas out for debate and discussion. I am an optimist and believe that once people get a chance to hear the truth that it can eventually overcome the prejudices and conditioning, if not among those old and set in their ways, at least among the young whose minds are fresher and more open.

Q: All right, for now assume that people can be convinced of the need to disarm; how would it work?

P: It is important to consider these questions, because one of the main reasons why people dismiss such proposals out of hand is because they assume that they will never work. Yet if we can show people intellectually that there are procedures that can be safe and effective, then that prepares them to accept them as policies.

Since there are so many military weapons and forces in the world, the process of disarmament would naturally take a period of time and would be done in stages. In fact we may even have turned the corner toward disarmament in the late 1980s when the United States and Soviet Union agreed to the first major reductions of nuclear weapons. Progress has also been made on biological and chemical weapons. Previously disarmament had not occurred, but arms limitations were the best that had been achieved. Although this change of direction is very significant, nonetheless it was a fairly small step, and we have very far to go.

Q: What would be the first major stage of disarmament?

P: In addition to the elimination of biological and chemical weapons we need to completely abolish nuclear weapons. These weapons are so destructive and devastating to the environment for such long periods of time that no sane person would ever consider using them. Thus in my opinion such a useless weapon has never been invented before, and certainly more money has never been wasted.

Actually the nuclear powers are already legally obligated to disarm all nuclear weapons by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons that was agreed to in 1968 and ratified by the United States Senate in 1970. In this treaty, which is known primarily by the agreement of non-nuclear nations not to develop nuclear weapons, the nuclear nations are obligated to work toward not only the abolition of all nuclear weapons but complete disarmament as well! According to the U.S. Constitution ratified treaties are the supreme law of the land. The exact words of Article VI of this treaty are as follows:

Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.

Q: But who will check and make sure that no one cheats and hides away some nuclear weapons?

P: Certainly the procedures for inspecting the disarmament must be carefully planned and thoroughly implemented. Probably this would be done by a treaty leading up to a world constitutional convention, for it is likely that the early stages of disarmament will precede the forming of a new world government. Some progress on disarmament would help to build up trust between the nations that nonviolent solutions are workable, once the nations are willing to give up their military power and accept them.

The inspection teams would be made up of experts from various countries, and they need to be allowed to inspect wherever they have the least suspicion nuclear weapons might be held. All uranium would have to be monitored from its mining to the operation of nuclear power plants still in use to the final depositing of the nuclear waste. Eventually all the delivery systems that were used for nuclear weapons would likewise have to be dismantled, including missiles, submarines, and bombers.

Q: What about the sophisticated conventional weapons of today? Surely they are capable of waging wars at least as deadly as the world wars, if not more so.

P: I agree that conventional military weapons need to be disarmed as well, and this stage would follow the complete disarmament of nuclear weapons. Since these steps would take months at least and perhaps even a few years to complete in a safe manner that people could trust, by this time a new world government may be formed. Then the new world authority could take over the supervision of the inspection and monitoring teams. As the conventional weapons and numbers of troops are reduced, a few small weapons could be given to the world authorities for limited use in case of an emergency.

Q: Wouldn't this still leave open the possibility of wars between the world government and nations or other groups?

P: There is always going to be some level of conflict in human affairs on this Earth. The idea is to reduce the virulence of such conflicts. The more complete the disarmament can be, the less forces will be needed by the world authority in case someone tries to cheat on disarmament or build back their forces. If we can disarm all of the national armies, navies, air forces, marines, special forces, and coast guards, leaving local communities with their police intact for law enforcement within nations, then the world authority would not need much of an army at all. A few small weapons kept under guard could be maintained so that there would be enough to quell any uprising against the world authority that might crop up.

Q: But isn't this still the "might makes right" idea with merely the might changed to a new organization?

P: Not really, and I'll explain why. These weapons would rarely be used and then only if some individual or group was violently resisting a nonviolent arrest for charges of violating world law. In such a situation law enforcement has the legal authority and is right in using whatever force might be necessary to bring suspected criminals to justice for a fair trial.

In this truly new world order nonviolence would be the great foundation upon which it is built. People would be taught and trained in nonviolent methods for resolving conflicts. Usually all arrests for charges of breaking world laws would be made in a nonviolent manner without the use of any weapons at all. Only if such an arrest process were violently resisted such that world authorities may have been injured or killed would the world authorities have to resort to the limited use of some weapons.

Q: Wouldn't these world authorities need a lot of courage to be willing to arrest criminals without any weapons to protect themselves?

P: Yes, they would need great courage, and from this we can see that nonviolence actually requires more true courage than killing in war. Those who feel the need for deadly weapons are actually those who are afraid that disputes cannot be settled without violence. This is the fundamental point that people need to understand - that violence is barbaric and tends to perpetrate more violence, while nonviolence encourages trust in human processes and reduces the hostility, fear, and other negative feelings. By strictly avoiding violence then others realize that they need not be afraid and thus will not be so inclined to turn to violence to "protect themselves."

Q: But what if some dictator like Saddam Hussein refuses to give up his armies and weapons? Would you go to war with his nation, or would you try economic sanctions against them?

P: A key point here is to insist on individual responsibility and not sloppily go about punishing whole groups of people rather than only those who are responsible for the crimes. I'm afraid that economic sanctions are not very effective against militaristic leaders who have plenty even while their people suffer. Instead the sanctions punish the people of the country who are not necessarily to blame for their leader's policies. At the same time by punishing an entire nation in this way, the people tend to rally around their leader even stronger as has occurred in Iraq and for so many years in the face of the very unjust U.S. embargo against Cuba.

Q: But didn't sanctions work against South Africa?

P: In some cases I think that sanctions can be more fair and effective if the overall society itself seems to be at fault rather than merely its leaders. The apartheid system was supported by most of white South Africa, and since the blacks and coloreds were already suffering so much from that, it was not unreasonable to use boycotts to attempt to transform the whole system. Similar cases might be found when the majority of the voters in a state or nation decide to persecute some minority.

Q: Then if you don't use sanctions, would you go to war against resisting nations?

P: Again I must insist on individual responsibility. We live in an age in which communication is readily available in various forms so that the people of the country could be informed of what the law is and what the alleged violations are. Only those individuals who supported the violent resistance would be targeted or held to account for their crimes. This intelligent discernment or weeding process would give every individual the choice of whom to support, either the leaders who are being charged with crimes or the world authorities who would be moving in as nonviolently as possible.

Q: Then there could be some killing if there were violent resistance to the world authorities?

P: I'm not saying that it can't happen; but I think that once we get most nations to agree to this process, the likelihood of smaller ones attempting to hold out would be small because of the futility in trying to stand against the whole world. As Bahá'u'lláh once suggested: if any country tries to make war, then all the other nations of the world should join together and put a stop to it. By having a definite legal process these violators would be treated as the criminals which they are. Yet they would be encouraged not to resist arrest, because those captured would be given fair trials, nor would there be a death penalty if they were convicted.

Q: Are you opposed to capital punishment even though the current popular trend is strongly in favor of it?

P: Yes, I am. This is the same perverted philosophy of deterrence which is the basis of nuclear weapons. I don't think potential murderers are influenced very much by the fear of being executed when they commit their crimes. Even if they are, it can be argued that they are also likely to become more violent when in danger of being arrested if they know that they may be executed if caught. In other words they may be more likely rather than less likely to kill law enforcement officers. Much more important than this is the moral repugnance and hypocrisy behind the justification for killing people.

Q: I can understand the moral repugnance of killing, but how is capital punishment hypocritical?

P: Is not capital punishment used primarily against people who have killed someone? If killing human beings is wrong, then the state by executing is violating the very principle it is condemning. Capital punishment essentially says, "We kill people in order to convince people who kill people that killing people is wrong." I would even go so far as to argue that capital punishment is first-degree murder because it is coldly calculated and pre-meditated. Such retaliation turns the entire society into murderers and is similar to the whole war philosophy. It seems to me that two wrongs don't make a right, but rather they double the wrong instead of remedying it.

Q: Getting back to the enforcement of world law and disarmament, how would the world government decide whether to use force or not?

P: Nonviolent arrests would not need a special vote because they would go through a normal judicial process. If there were violent resistance, then the use of force could be authorized by the council of presidents, probably by a two-thirds vote.

Q: Isn't that rather like the UN Security Council now?

P: Yes, but there are significant improvements. Action could not be blocked by a veto from a single power. The council of nine presidents would be a more fair representation of the people of the world. The world authorities enforcing the law would be clearly under and loyal to the world government rather than any national governments, and the individuals in this force would be drawn from as many countries as possible. Probably most important, disarmament of the nations' forces will enable the world authority to be able to control any uprisings that might occur by arresting the violators, rather than merely being "peacekeepers" observing a war as has happened in Bosnia and other places. Also warlords would not be encouraged by the kind of diplomacy that ends up giving them sweet deals in order to bribe them into stopping a war. I believe in being very tough on violent crime, not in rewarding the worst criminals.

Q: What is your approach to crime?

P: I believe that the United States has been moving in the wrong direction in its recent trend of incarcerating more and more people, while practically giving up on efforts at rehabilitation. It is not only ironic but perhaps telling that the two nuclear superpowers have a higher percentage of their citizens in prisons and jails than any other country. Nevertheless I don't think violent behavior should be tolerated, which is why I want to begin by stopping the most violent behavior on the planet, namely the war-making.

However, most of the people imprisoned have not committed violent acts. With its war mentality the United States has been waging a "war on drugs." A majority of the "crimes" in this country are related to the drugs which have been declared illegal. Yet many times more people die and are injured from their use of either nicotine or alcohol alone than from all the prohibited drugs combined.

Q: How would you deal with the drug problem?

P: The use of drugs is a health problem which has been turned into a criminal problem by their prohibition. As with the "great experiment" of banning alcohol in the 1920s this has not stopped the use of the drugs, but has made that business a criminal activity. People who use drugs do not need punishment but treatment. We could begin by decriminalizing the use of the less harmful drugs such as marijuana. This would also permit the vast industrial uses of the marijuana or hemp plant, which is extremely valuable as a source for paper, rope, building materials, food, etc. Gradually all drugs could be decriminalized, although we may choose to make some of them available only by a doctor's prescription.

Q: What about the kids? Should they be allowed to use these dangerous and habit-forming drugs?

P: No, I do think it would be prudent to have laws against the use of drugs by minors under the age of eighteen, and adults who give or sell drugs to minors should be prosecuted. This is especially important in regard to tobacco, for most smokers develop the habit while they are teenagers. We need thorough drug education in the schools so that our future generations can make intelligent choices about what they are going to put in their bodies.

Q: But would you legalize all drugs for adults eventually?

P: I very much believe in individual freedom and responsibility, and I don't think that we should try to legislate morality in instances that do not harm other people. It is true that people can harm themselves by using drugs; but if they are adults, we need to respect their personal autonomy and opportunity to learn from life in their own way. At least by legalizing drugs they can be regulated so that they are safer and not part of a criminal underworld. Instead of punishment I do believe it would be in society's interest to provide treatment programs for people who do want to break the habit of using drugs.

Q: What about other moral issues such as pornography and prostitution?

P: Likewise in regard to freedom of communication I don't like to see government restrictions except for the protection of minors, nor do I think that sexual acts between consenting adults should be prohibited by government. This does not mean that we are encouraging such activities or even approving of them, but we are allowing people individual choices and responsibilities for their own behavior. Certainly prostitution can be seen as exploitation, but so can many other economic relations. I don't think that people's psychological problems about sex, whether personal or from religious indoctrination, should impinge themselves against other people who may not share those particular beliefs.

Q: What about rape?

P: Definitely any act which violates the personal autonomy of another human being should be illegal and must not be tolerated. Forcible rape is a serious crime, because it is violent, not because it is sexual. In regard to statutory rape or sexual intercourse with a minor, again I think that minors need to be protected, even though they may want to give consent, until they are eighteen years old. As far as sex between minors goes, it is apparent that many youths are going to do it before they are eighteen, because they may be in love and feeling the urges for such intimacy. Parental guidance may or may not help, but I think the state should stay out of such affairs.

Q: But what happens to the young couple when one of them turns eighteen? Does the older one suddenly become a criminal?

P: Some allowance could be made for such situations by deciding that statutory rape does not occur with a seventeen-year-old if the partner is eighteen or nineteen nor perhaps with a sixteen-year-old if the partner is eighteen. Thus young romance would not be persecuted, yet youths would still be protected from older adults.

Q: Would you allow other activities in which the only victim is usually the person choosing the activity, such as gambling?

P: Yes, this again allows regulation and honest business rather than a criminal element. Recently state and local governments have taken to using lotteries to raise money for themselves. It seems rather hypocritical to me that a state could prohibit gambling except for itself. That seems more like a monopoly of a lucrative business. Again, allowing these activities does not mean that we have to promote them. Thus I oppose state-operated gambling, because then the state is promoting such activity. Although this may be a kind of voluntary tax, which is a good idea in some ways, nonetheless often the poorly educated underclass throws some of its needed money away on these false hopes of gaining riches as though clinging to straws. They are false hopes, because the odds are against their winning (otherwise there is no profit in running a gambling business), and it turns out to be a rather regressive tax against many who can least afford it. Yet informal gambling with friends and associates that is done privately rather than through a professional business is actually more fair, because no one is skimming off a profit. Yet this is often the type of gambling that gets criminalized unnecessarily.

Q: What other nonviolent crimes can be adjusted so that we won't have to pay so much to keep people in prison?

P: For nonviolent crimes fines, community service, and probation can be ways of holding people to account without putting them into institutions that are often schools for crime. Eventually society will understand that deterrence by imprisonment doesn't work well either. Punishment tends to make people worse rather than better, because of the psychological damage caused by inflicting hurt on people. Many violent criminals were formed in childhood by harsh punishment. Punished criminals released into society often commit more crimes to get back at the society which punished them, and so the vicious cycle goes on.

Q: What about "three strikes and you're out" sentences for repeat offenders?

P: This is another shortsighted trend in our society that is likely to have burdensome long-term consequences if it is not reformed. Statistics show that most crimes are committed by people between the ages of 14 and 24; by the time one is 30 or so, people often mature enough that they stop committing crimes. If we take reckless youths, who may commit several crimes because they lack economic opportunities, and put them in prison for life or even long periods of time, they are going to be miserable, and it will cost society a tremendous amount of money and effort. Such a policy is cruel and foolish. With the reforms I foresee, our entire judicial system is going to change tremendously in the next hundred years.

Q: How would you reform the penal system?

P: Even the term "penal" is a problem, for as Karl Menninger wrote in his book, The Crime of Punishment, punishing people harms them psychologically. The responses of society to such problems need to be appropriate and well thought out for the long term; we should avoid retaliating out of frustration. Many of the reforms I am discussing in this book will serve to prevent much of the crime which we have today because of the current social injustices and lack of opportunities for constructive living.

Nonetheless it is essential that we have ways of teaching people that harming others is not to be tolerated. The crimes of the upper and middle classes involving fraud and cheating should be at least as severely prosecuted as the thefts and burglaries of the lower classes, for they often involve much larger amounts of money. Crimes related to money and property are usually more appropriately dealt with by fines and community service rather than imprisonment. The point is partly to deter crime—

Q: Just a minute, are you now going to say that you do believe in deterrence?

P: I don't deny the effect of deterrence in any kind of situation; but I have questioned its use in threatening violence against those who commit violent acts because I believe it is hypocritical and counterproductive. However, deterrence can be used very effectively for minor and nonviolent offenses by making people pay fines or do community service. In these cases it is not hypocritical, because these are not harmful punishments but merely ways to make people actually pay for the consequences of their actions by doing something good for society or even for the individuals they may have treated unfairly. If there was a way that we could make a murderer bring someone back to life, I would be all for it. Neither does imprisoning people help society; rather it costs us a lot. Yet we can make those who steal return the money and pay more beyond that as a legitimate penalty to teach them the lesson not to steal and to deter people from trying it. Similarly fines for traffic violations make people contribute to society for their recklessness and discourage such behavior.

Q: But assuming you would still imprison violent offenders, how would you reform the prison system?

P: Those who have shown themselves to be dangerous to others may need to be separated from society for a time, but they need to be treated with compassion and understanding not with meanness. According to my philosophy everyone is doing the best they can with what they know; no one intentionally acts against what they believe at the time is their best interest. Certainly they may be ambivalent, and some desires may go against other moral or intellectual concepts; but in some way people are trying to gain something they want or value. In other words I don't think people are just plain malicious. Crime then results from people who are in difficult circumstances and whose values and moral attitudes have somehow been perverted into a psychologically and socially unhealthy situation.

Consider the concept of the "not guilty by reason of insanity" defense in murder trials. Somehow judges in the past have made a distinction between murderous acts which are somehow rational and others which are a result of passion or psychosis. Yet is anyone who kills another human except in self-defense really sane? Is murder while committing robbery sane? I suggest that anyone who commits a violent act against another human being has a serious psychological problem, which severe punishment may worsen.

Q: So how would you treat these psychopaths and sociopaths? Don't they need to learn to be responsible for their own actions?

P: Yes, absolutely; individual responsibility is fundamental, but so are our social responsibilities to other people. Violent criminals are in need of therapy and rehabilitative care. People complain that it costs more to keep a person in prison today than it does to send someone to college, and out of indignation there is a tendency to cut out all the "frills" of prison life and simply warehouse people, rather than wasting money on the "undeserving." Yet I argue that society has a responsibility to all of its people. Certainly therapy is much more difficult and expensive than education, because not only do you have to teach them, but you have to correct what is wrong as well, which is much more difficult. The compassion of a society can be judged not by how they treat the deserving but by how they treat their undeserving. And who are these "undeserving" people? Where do they come from, and how did they get that way? Prisons represent our failures as a society. If we provided better education, better economic opportunities, more healthy recreational options, and so on, then we would not have as many people turning to crime out of frustration and inability to succeed in law-abiding ways.

Q: Granted, most of our efforts need to be put into improving our social system in order to prevent crime. But until that utopia is established, how are you going to treat these failures?

P: Institutions of correction and rehabilitation should be what those names imply. Sentencing and decisions regarding probation and parole should be decided by trained psychologists, counselors, sociologists, and social workers who from experience can tell how dangerous a person is to society and what therapy and reconstructive activities may be needed to bring individuals back into a healthy consciousness.

Q: Do you mean that judges and juries should not decide the sentences?

P: Judges are experts in law and make good referees during the trial, and juries are the best way to achieve a fair judgment of guilt; but the treatment needed by violent criminals is a very complicated problem. An expert in criminology and its treatment could investigate each case thoroughly, observe the trial if there is one, and then give their careful evaluation. We have many intelligent people in our society who could be helping to rehabilitate those who are mixed up and less fortunate.

Q: How would this work in prison?

P: Inmates in these institutions may be allowed to work and participate as much as possible in their own lives and care, which will reduce the need for outside workers. Intensive therapy and counseling sessions as well as extensive education can be applied to those who are willing to work on their own improvement. I even think that it would be more healthy to mix men and women, instead of depriving them of normal social opportunities. Of course convicted rapists might be denied such privileges until they were deemed cured; then such limited privileges while still in the institution could be a testing opportunity to see how they are doing before releasing them into society.

Q: But aren't there many more men than women committing violent crimes?

P: Yes, there are, but at least there would be some opportunity for a more normal life and another incentive for people to improve themselves so as to win the esteem and affection of others. Also more liberal visitation rights could be granted for spouses and friends whose risks would be voluntary, which would also help the inmates in their transition back into society.

Q: But what happens when criminals who were deemed "cured" go out and commit even worse crimes? Doesn't the public have a right to be outraged by this, and aren't they justified in demanding protection from such people?

P: In this world mistakes are bound to occur, but these things can be monitored and evaluated so that if it is found that too many criminals are being released prematurely, then adjustments can be made. Yet it is not fair either to demand perfection here, when other aspects of society may be allowed a higher failure rate. Recently some politicians have publicized certain sensational cases in order to advance their own political careers.

Transferring the use of drugs from a criminal concern to a health problem will greatly reduce the prison population rather quickly. Of course drug treatment programs will be increased, but they all don't have to be residential facilities. Also as military disarmament becomes accepted in the world, the military-type weapons in private hands can also be eliminated, which will also reduce violent crime.

Q: What is your position on gun control?

P: I believe that the huge number of guns in our society is a symptom of a sick society. Surely we can begin by banning the assault weapons whose automatic firing is as deadly as the machine guns of World War I. Does a sporting hunter need such a weapon? Does a woman home alone need such a weapon for self-defense? I don't think so. Eventually I believe that there will be no need for semi-automatic weapons either. Most people will realize that guns are dangerous to have around the house and even more dangerous to have in the streets.

Q: Would you take away the right of a person to have a gun for self defense?

P: No, for those afraid of intruders into their homes I would not deny them a small gun adequate to protect themselves from a forcible assault, but I do think that laws could be made against the carrying of any loaded firearm outside of one's home.

Q: What about hunting?

P: Eventually I think that people will want to ban the brutal killing of animals for sport as a barbaric relic of the past. However, the real sport of hunting could go on with the use of cameras. Such hunters could shoot pictures and gain a trophy to show how close they got to a wild animal, which would actually take greater courage than to kill.

Q: But how would people be protected from dangerous animals?

P: On the nature reserves where the remaining dangerous animals would live, there would be licensed rangers who would be armed with rifles or pistols in order to protect photographic hunters and other visitors, but these weapons would only be used in an emergency when someone was in imminent danger of attack.

Q: What about hunting for meat or to control populations that might become too numerous if they were not hunted, such as deer?

P: People will decide how long these practices are to continue. When I see these practices disappearing, it is farther off in the future. As the human population increases, people are likely to become less comfortable with guns being fired out in nature where others want to hike and camp. Gradually areas where hunting is permitted will decrease until eventually the sport will go out of fashion as people evolve in their consciousness toward greater sensitivity and compassion for living creatures. Scientific methods of birth control can be used for large animal populations in order to maintain a balance appropriate to the environment. With deer, for example, the joy people will get from being with them in the wild when they are no longer terrified of being killed by humans will far outweigh the loss of brutal hunting.

Q: How will you get the millions of people in the National Rifle Association to agree to this?

P: Certainly the NRA and other organizations have had a tremendous influence on politics in the United States recently, as noted in the 1994 Congressional elections which were won by so many Republicans. Yet as the power of money and lobbying is purified out of politics, these special interest groups will not be allowed to dominate, although every group and interest will still be able to vote its proportion. The corruption of allowing these groups to essentially buy the politicians' votes on their issues has seriously distorted the so-called democratic process into a plutocratic system of rule by money-giving interests. Nevertheless mostly what will lead to these reforms regarding guns are the changes in consciousness which will enable people to see things in a different light as their hearts open more to other people and even other species.

Q: What about the eating of meat?

P: This is another big change I foresee occurring in the twenty-first century. Modern science has discovered that animal products, especially the red meat from mammals, while nutritional enough to provide nourishment and keep people alive, is not very healthy over the long term. Cholesterol, which is only found in animals, is not well digested by humans and can cause various diseases related to the heart and circulation of the blood as well as cancers. Studies have found that on average vegetarians live longer and healthier than anyone else, and that often even the poor, in China for example, have longer lives than wealthy Americans, Europeans and Japanese, because they eat very little meat. Perhaps even more significant in the long run is that we cannot afford to waste so much useful land to graze cattle or to raise the extra grain needed to feed stock animals.

Q: We seem to be doing it now. What is the problem?

P: A small percentage of wealthy people are using a large portion of the agricultural resources to feed their meat-eating habits. In this process many poor people are being pushed off their farm lands, and valuable rain forests are being chopped and burned down to provide more grazing lands so that meat can be exported for profit. Poor countries are being forced to do this in order to pay the interest on the large debts that were given to the capitalist class in their countries through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Even in rich countries like the United States, powerful western states have gotten large land and water subsidies from government to maintain the meat and dairy industries by enabling them to charge prices far below the actual cost of their products. In other words the tax payers make up the difference. It has been estimated that without these subsidies the cheapest hamburger meat would cost the consumer about thirty-five dollars a pound.

Q: But how will people get the protein they need to eat?

P: Grains, vegetables, nuts and seeds have plenty of protein to meet our nutritional needs quite easily. In fact people who eat meat tend to be less healthy because they get too much protein. The long digestive tract of humans, unlike the short one of carnivorous cats and dogs, is not really designed to handle large amounts of meat, although meat can be consumed for survival in an emergency. Soybeans, for example, can be made into various products which are quite similar to hamburgers, milk, cheese, and so on. Once they are mass-produced, such products will be far cheaper, more healthy and, by using various combinations of seeds, nuts, vegetables, and spices, much more tasty as well. A century from now people will look back on the eating of animal flesh as another barbarism from the past.

Q: I'm beginning to see a pattern in your ideas. You really seem to think that we are barbarians today, don't you?

P: Only in comparison to how much better things will be in the future. When we learn how to make this world into a paradise where every person and living creature is loved and respected, past history will seem like some kind of a nightmare from which we have awakened. Perhaps it's like the story of the Garden of Eden; but in this case we are going back into the garden, this time with the knowledge of how to maintain it as a paradise, rather than stupidly destroying so much through selfish and short-sighted domination.

Q: I can see that you're going to be getting to the environment too, but first let us go back to meat and dairy products. What about calcium, for example? Don't older women get osteoporosis if they don't have enough calcium in their bodies, and therefore don't they need to take in dairy products?

P: Osteoporosis will occur if there is a lack of calcium, but studies have found that the key to this problem is not so much in taking the calcium into the body, but in retaining the calcium. By eating too much protein the body is actually robbed of its calcium in the effort to digest excessive protein. Even women who drank extra milk every day were found to have less calcium at the end of the testing period, because the extra protein of the milk actually caused a net loss of calcium. Various vegetables, grains, seeds, and nuts have plenty of calcium which will be better retained in a more healthy vegetarian diet.

Q: If people become vegetarians, what will happen to all the cattle and pigs and other farm animals?

P: If you could see the misery of how many of these animals are forced to live confined in small spaces and then die violent deaths while still in their prime, you would understand why drastically reducing their populations by controlling the birth rates would be better for everyone. As with chickens, if they are allowed space to run around and have a normal social life, it is not as bad as the small cages where they are treated as egg machines and meat products. Thus some animals can be retained on "old-fashioned" farms and ranches, which could be used for making movies about historical periods and also be visited as museums of life in the past.

Q: What about the environment? How are we going to eliminate pollution and have enough energy for the ten billion people you say there could be on Earth in a hundred years?

P: These are vast and complicated problems that are going to take quite some time to solve. However, unlike the threat of nuclear war which could destroy us in a day right now, our exploitation of unrenewable resources, pollution of natural resources, the dangers to our health from the build-up of toxic substances and waste, and of course the increasing human population needing to be sustained on an Earth whose size is staying the same all present serious problems that are gradually and unrelentingly becoming worse. Certainly we need to be working on all of these problems at the same time, not only to prevent our quality of life from deteriorating, but in order to find the solutions and change our living patterns toward a life-style that will eventually be sustainable and balanced without robbing resources and building up problems for future generations.

Q: Why don't we start with population? Do you really think we want to have ten billion people here at a time?

P: What we want always needs to be evaluated in relation to the other probable choices. A terrible war or horrible plagues and famines could reduce population tremendously, but I don't think we want any of those. Barring such catastrophes we will have to learn how to gradually reduce our birthrates. There are already nearly six billion people on Earth, and the population is increasing by about one billion every ten years. This actually represents a slightly declining growth rate, because if the growth rate was staying the same the growth every ten years would be increasing. Fortunately the trend of an increasing growth rate has been turned around in the last generation. Large countries like China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, and Mexico, which did have fertility rates in 1960 of six or seven children per woman, have reduced those to three or four, China to as low as 2.4.

Q: But how are we going to get down to zero population growth?

P: We definitely need to encourage and support the efforts for family planning and birth control that are spreading throughout the world. A high birth rate can cause enormous misery in a poor country. For example, in 1994 Rwanda had the highest birth rate in the world and experienced a bloody civil war in which nearly a million people were brutally murdered. Experience has found that good education and health care both tend to encourage family planning. In the past the poor often had numerous children so that they could help with the work and provide some security for the parents in their old age. The net result, however, was that more people were poorer.

Q: But doesn't good health care keep more children alive?

P: Of course it does, and much human misery can be prevented by having clean water and sanitary living conditions with proper pre-natal treatment and available doctors and nurses throughout life. When these conditions are present, people realize that they don't need to have more children to make up for the ones that die. They can be more confident that the one or two children they have will have good care and a high-quality life. If the society has organized a collective insurance system to give security to its old people, then they do not have to worry about having extra children to take care of them.

Q: How does education come into it?

P: All these things need to be explained and understood. Successful and healthy methods of birth control also need to be made available and used correctly. Educated people tend to have more diversified interests in addition to the basic family life, and they tend to realize that children are a big responsibility deserving of special care and attention. Some say that each child deserves the full attention of one adult and that even though large families may seem fun, actually such children are often neglected. Also education helps people to understand the large picture and concerns of society as a whole. In this global crisis each of us has a responsibility not to take more than our share of the limited resources. Since most people do want to have children, it is only fair that everyone be concerned about not having too many.

Q: Do you favor laws to keep people from having too many children or laws to prevent people from eating meat, for example?

P: No, as with drugs, sex, and gambling, I do not favor trying to legislate morality. Primarily only definite harms to others need to be prohibited by law, in my opinion. Yet each society can decide how they wish to handle these situations. In some countries, like China where the population density is very high and the danger of starvation and other problems very real, they have decided to experiment with laws that reward parents for only having one child, take back the reward if they have two, and penalize them for having more than two. Such incentives and deterrences may seem harsh when you consider that the more children the less they have makes it especially hard on those children, yet the alternative may be much more misery if some such deterrent is not adopted.

Q: What about abortion? Do you want to respond to that controversy now?

P: Certainly; it needs to be discussed some time. First of all, abortion is a very poor method of birth control. Only infanticide is worse, especially the infanticide that discriminates by sex. In cultures where boys are preferred and female infants are killed or aborted, this results in an unequal ratio between the sexes, undue competition between males for wives, and a generally unhealthy society. These practices must be stopped, and I do believe that education and counseling will correct these barbaric practices.

Q: Do you believe that abortion is murder?

P: No, I do not define it that way. An abortion is an admission of a mistake and a way of correcting it. No one wants to have an abortion in the sense that they go out and get pregnant so that they can have one. If we want to reduce the number of abortions in our society, then we can promote those things which will prevent them from occurring, such as sex education, conscious communication between lovers regarding their parental responsibilities, promotion of birth control devices, and facilitation of adoption procedures.

Q: Why isn't abortion murder? Isn't it the killing of a fetus which is growing as a human being?

P: Yes, it is that, but a fetus is not yet an independent human life until it is born and begins to breathe its own air. A fetus in the womb is a part of the mother's body. She is breathing and eating for it, and without her it could not live. If it is developed enough to live on its own, then we could say that it is potentially an independent organism. I would agree that abortions should not be performed that late in the pregnancy unless it is a question of choosing between the life of the mother and the life of the child. This choice I would leave to the mother if she is conscious, and to the father and the doctor if she is not.

Q: So would you allow the mother the right to choose an abortion in the first and second trimesters of pregnancy?

P: Yes, I believe that a person has sovereignty over her own body. As long as the fetus is in her body and completely dependent on her, she has the right to make medical decisions about what is in her own body. I don't think either the state or religious authorities should force their beliefs onto women. This is a fundamental point of human rights, and it is no wonder that it has become a central issue in the feminist movement, which I support. For centuries men dominated society and especially women, treating them as property and possessions, often neglecting to listen to their concerns or recognize their rights as equally human beings. The liberation of women and the protecting of their equal rights is one of the great movements of our time, leading toward a more healthy, balanced, and harmonious society.

Q: But you are so opposed to killing and violence of any kind. What about that part of it?

P: I already have suggested how we can reduce the number of abortions. Obviously the meaning and significance of an abortion is a controversial issue, because people have differing beliefs about what it actually is. Since there are reasonable doubts and differences of opinion as to whether this is murder or not, I do not think the state should interfere with the force of law on one side of this controversy by assuming it is murder. When there is doubt or uncertainty, I am for allowing people to freely decide for themselves.

Q: As a philosopher what is your opinion about when human life begins?

P: I think that understanding this from the perspective of the soul can be helpful. As I understand it, the soul is a part of divine energy or God and thus has no beginning as a creature and therefore no end, being an eternal reality in its oneness with God. Somehow souls are formed out of the essence of God and achieve some kind of individuality. Before a soul can incarnate into a body, it must be decided which body it will enter. Thus whenever there is a pregnancy, plans must be made in the spiritual realms for a soul to inhabit that body.

Q: When does the soul actually enter the body?

P: Souls are free to do what they consider is best, and so it is possible at one extreme for a soul to enter into a small fetus in the womb or on the other to merely extend life energy into the baby without completely entering even after it is born for several years. However, clairvoyance has found that in most cases the soul enters the body at birth when the baby begins to breathe. It is not necessary for a soul to be in the fetus while in the womb, because the soul of the mother is providing the needed functions, and there are no major decisions to be made or lessons to be learned which would require the incarnation of the soul in the womb. It has been observed that within a day of conception a lower self or basic-self consciousness, or subconscious mind if you will, is in the fetus and involved in the development of the body.

Q: So it is possible that an abortion could be a disruption of these processes?

P: Yes, but keep in mind that the soul and the heavenly guides that plan these things are quite aware of what is occurring in the consciousness of the parents. If the parents do not want a child and intend to get an abortion, they will be aware of that. Sometimes the parents may not think they want a child but find when pregnancy occurs they change their minds, because spiritually there is a soul who wants to be born to them then, and they may realize that it would actually be good for them spiritually too. Such parents may change their minds and not want to have an abortion.
Parenthood is a free choice and a very serious responsibility. It is usually better for souls to have an opportunity to be born into families that want them, rather than forcing women to bear children they do not want to raise. In any case, no one can kill the soul.

Q: Yes, but isn't that also the case with murder?

P: Certainly the soul survives death whether it is a murder or not, but murder of a functioning human being is a much more serious disruption of human life. It could be argued on one extreme that to use any birth control at all deprives souls of the opportunity to be born. Yet no one seems to argue that killing sperm in the womb is murder. At the other extreme most agree that killing an infant after birth is murder. In between is a gray area, and somewhere the line must be drawn. Now there is a "morning after" pill which causes a very early abortion of a tiny fertilized egg. Are religious fanatics going to call this murder too, when there is really very little disruption of the spiritual process involving that potential life? Why are not these fanatics more concerned about the murder of fully functional human beings in war? Why are they not concerned about the brutal slaughter of fairly intelligent mammals?

Q: What does the killing of animals have to do with abortion?

P: This may seem farfetched to some, but I think there is an analogy related to the evolutionary theory that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, which is that in the development of the fetus the evolutionary pattern is reproduced, going through a fish-like stage with a tail to an amphibian and so on into human form. As a philosopher I notice that perhaps the soul entering the human body at birth corresponds to the evolutionary stage when souls began to fully incarnate in the advanced primates we call homo erectus. In other words, killing a human fetus at an early stage may be analogous to killing an animal of another species. This is only an analogy, and please do not take it too seriously. However, it could perhaps give some perspective on this issue and its relation to animal rights issues.

Q: Do you think that population will stay at ten billion people once the growth rate levels out?

P: This will be decided by people at the time. If they find that the world is too crowded, and they want to decrease the growth rate below zero in order to improve the quality of life for future generations, then the population can be gradually reduced as far as is considered desirable. There will always be children to be cared for, and in the future I think there will be more flexibility in regard to the parenting roles so that people can have the experience of helping to raise children without producing them themselves. Many people believe that there are already too many people on Earth now for a sustainable and beneficial life for all living creatures.

Q: Then how can ten billion people live on Earth in a sustainable and prosperous way as you claim?

P: There are going to be major changes and improvements in the way we live in the future. Our society today is rather wasteful and inefficient in its use of energy and resources. We are just beginning to learn how to recycle materials, for example, and only a very small percentage are used again. We manufacture tremendous amounts of toxic substances in agriculture, industry, and many other fields. We throw away large amounts of trash every day; and since there is no "away" from a global perspective, this is piling up and must be handled eventually, if that space is to be utilized. Our reliance on fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas results in air pollution and various by-products such as plastics which are not readily biodegradable.

Q: What do you mean by biodegradable?

P: Substances which will degenerate in a reasonable period of time into the kinds of molecules that can be used by the various life forms in an ecosystem are considered biodegradable. Complex polymers and large molecules, such as plastics, which do not break down unless burned can be harmful to wildlife in addition to being ugly trash in our environment. If burned, they release toxic substances into the air, water, and land, causing cancers and other diseases. When future generations look back at the history of our time, they will probably see the fossil-fuel age as the era of pollution as well as the climax of horrendous wars and militarism.

Q: How can we get through this era without making it much worse than it already is?

P: As a society we need to be much more vigilant and conscientious by drastically reducing the poisons we are producing. Governments can play a role in severely limiting and monitoring toxic releases, not only by prohibition of the worst but by tax incentives for environmentally friendly procedures and tax deterrents for polluting practices.

Q: Isn't this punishment for polluting industries and business, and won't it hurt the economy?

P: It is not punishment to hold people accountable and responsible for their actions. By carefully evaluating the effects of pollution and waste on the whole society, the proper costs can be ascertained. In laissez-faire capitalism business and industry have been getting away with murder, if we consider all of the deaths and diseases caused by their actions. If we permit some individuals to reap unjustified financial rewards for harming others, then such practices will continue because of those selfish incentives. People through their governments have the right and the responsibility to protect the health and well-being of their citizens from such exploitation and to make individuals and businesses be responsible for their actions.

The word "economics" derives from the Greek word for household management. A good economy is what is beneficial to the people, not what is harmful. It is our collective responsibility to manage economic relations so that harm to people and life does not occur. Taxes can be an effective way to regulate business so that harmful practices are deterred, and beneficial procedures are encouraged.

Q: How would these taxes work?

P: In addition to the high taxes placed on direct pollution to cover all of the health liabilities and cleanup costs with perhaps a small penalty added on as a deterrent, taxes could also be placed on products and consumer goods which are not biodegradable or benign for the environment. Packaging, for example, has proliferated to the point where the product's package often costs and weighs more than the product itself. Yet often the consumer immediately disposes of the packaging soon after purchase. All of these materials as well as the product itself can be evaluated and taxed appropriately to discourage such waste.

Q: But won't these taxes just be passed along to consumers in higher prices?

P: Yes, but consumers are also responsible for what they buy. By taxing wasteful products people will have the incentive of lower prices to buy the products that aren't wasteful, and the manufacturers will have the proper incentives to produce healthy and efficient products that do not pollute the environment. The taxes should be designed to reflect the true costs of having to dispose of or recycle the materials that are not either useful or biodegradable.

Q: What about tobacco and alcohol? Do you think they should be taxed to pay for the health problems they cause?

P: Yes, definitely; I have been saying so for years. A recent study has determined that the health costs of smoking cigarettes amounts to about $2 per pack, which I believe should be the minimum tax on cigarettes. Why should the rest of society have to pay for the health problems of those foolish enough to smoke, while the tobacco industry makes large profits on this misery? The air pollution from smoking tobacco is also a problem, especially in enclosed spaces. Fortunately the public is finally awakening to this issue, and regulations are being instituted.

Q: You mentioned that fossil fuels are running out. What are we going to use for energy in the future?

P: Much of our air pollution comes from the burning of fossil fuels; so we need to be sparing and efficient in our use of them anyway, even while they last. Conservation with these will also give us more time to develop the alternative energy sources which will replace them. Solar energy from direct sunlight is perhaps the cleanest, most long-lasting and dependable energy we have. Already the technologies for turning solar radiation into heat and electricity are beginning to improve, but we have far to go in developing and using this technology. Eventually solar energy should be able to power most homes, offices, and stores by providing heat and electricity.

Q: What about people who live near the Earth's poles where the sunlight is limited and less intense in the winter?

P: Certainly more people will continue to live in the regions near the equator, and very few people will try to exist in the frozen regions. Yet even fairly high latitudes can still get sufficient solar energy if it is well designed, and of course there are other alternatives for supplementing it, such as water power, wind power, geothermal energy, and fuels from plants and trees that can be farmed. The supply of coal apparently is going to last longer than the oil and natural gas; so it can also provide a transitional energy.

Q: But what about our automobiles and transportation systems?

P: These are going to require some adjustments of our habits, particularly in North America where we depend on personal cars so much. I foresee a combination of electric cars and rail transportation systems. The cars would be small and efficient, because they would not have to travel at high speeds nor carry much weight nor make long trips. The long trips and freight would be taken by the trains.

Q: How would these cars be powered?

P: Primarily they would use solar energy, although this could be supplemented if necessary by recharging the batteries from another power source. The cars would have solar panels on their roofs and hoods, and even while parked solar panels could be slid from the inside of the roof to the front and back windows, serving to protect the inside of the car from the sunlight and getting more energy at the same time. The cars would virtually never miss any sunshine, either while being used or when parked.

Q: Would people still own their own cars?

P: People could experiment with different systems. Now of course most automobiles are owned privately or by businesses, and people can hire taxis or rent cars. Some communities might want to experiment with public cars that would be available to everyone much in the same way as shopping carts are used in markets. One would simply get into an available car and leave it at one's destination, all within a local area of course. Or taxi drivers could be hired to help people with their local trips. Cities and towns would be well connected by rail systems, some of which might be very high speed for long trips.

Q: What about bicycles? Aren't they more energy efficient?

P: Of course bicycles would be encouraged. The smaller and less dangerous electric cars will be more compatible with bicycle riders on the local streets. I foresee also three- and four-wheeled cars that can be human-powered like bicycles for people who want the exercise and perhaps have more to carry with them. Also a second and perhaps a third person could also help pedal. Combination cars could be designed so that those who want exercise could pedal whatever amount they wished.

copyright 1996, 2008 by Sanderson Beck

This has been published in the book PEACE OR BUST. For ordering information, please click here.

THE FUTURE AND HOW (second half)

BEST FOR ALL: How We Can Save the World
WORLD PEACE MOVEMENT Principles, Purposes, and Methods

BECK index