Thursday, December 29, 2005

How We Got Robbed Part 1

All living creatures have a hierarchy of needs. For us humans the primary needs - without which you can easily die - are food, water, shelter, medical care, and heating and clothing in cold climates. We have a second order of needs, such as basic furniture, utensils, transportation. While uncomfortable, it won't kill you to walk to the store, patch your old jeans or use a packing crate for a table, but the secondary order makes life livable, more than just a bare survival level of existence. The third level is what one might call common luxuries - refined foods, designer clothing, computers and other electronic gadgets. These luxuries are for pleasure and are not basic needs. No one ever died because they didn't have a TV, a VCR or an SUV.

The greatest first order expense is housing and this has increased far more than any other item. The cost of food has been stable or declined somewhat. (1) Heating has gotten more expensive due to the rise in gas and petroleum prices. The possible destruction of medicare threatens to cause medical expenses to rise. The largest second order expense is transportation, which has also risen rapidly. Many other second order goods have declined in price. Common luxuries, on the other hand, have dramatically fallen in price. We have a bizarre situation where you can buy a TV for $50 from Wallmart, but the rent for the apartment you watch it in in costs $1000, the inverse of life in 1965.

From 1935 to 1960 rent and transportation costs rose at a slower rate than other consumer items. (2) This changed over the next three decades. In 1969 the average household spent 15.4% on rent, 12.3% on transportation, (3) by 2001 the average household spent 20% on shelter and 13.5% on transportation. (4) This situation is much worse since in the 1960's most households were single income, whereas today the vast majority are double income. If you examine the 2001 figures in terms of individual income alone, housing costs would rise to 36% and transportation to 26%. The second income is being gobbled up in housing and transportation costs. If households paid rent and transportation at the same rate and manner as the 1960's they would save more than $11,000 per year!

Let's compare rent and income over the last 45 years or so. In 1961 the average income in Canada was $78 per week and average rent was $65. In 1971 the average income was $138 per week and the average rent was $110. By 1996 average income was $555 per week and the average rent was $657. What this means for the renter is that in 1961 it took slightly more than 3 days work to pay the rent, in 1971 it took 4 days and in 1996 it took 6 days, a situation undoubtedly worse in 2005. (5)

For the people at the bottom it is unbelievably bad. In 1971 the average Canadian minimum wage was $1.36 per hour, or 81 hours to pay an average rent. The minimum wage earner of 1996 would have to shell out 100 hours. But this isn't the only problem. While minimum wages don't vary from city to city, rents do. Rents in Vancouver or Toronto are well above the national average. Furthermore, there were many inexpensive rental units in the past. Back when an average rent was $65, the poor could find places for $25. The equivalent does not exist today.

1. I think food should be more expensive, but that's a matter for another column!
2. Historical Statistics of Canada, p. 304
3. The 2001 shelter figure includes mortgage payments not just rent. Figures from Statscan web site.
4. Canada Year Book 1976
5. Canada Year Book 1965, 1976, 1999

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Peaceful Primates?

Dick Martin passed me an interesting article, called “A Natural History of Peace” which appeared, in of all places, FOREIGN AFFAIRS.

Summary: Humans like to think that they are unique, but the study of other primates has called into question the exceptionalism of our species. So what does primatology have to say about war and peace? Contrary to what was believed just a few decades ago, humans are not "killer apes" destined for violent conflict…

To read more
click here

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Localization As The Solution

In “Ireland: Energy Scenarios and Beyond…”
localization and thus decentralization of the economy is seen as the only viable means to overcome the impending crisis brought on by Peak Oil.

More Info On The Petroeuro Threat To US Imperialism

“Current geopolitical tensions between the United States and Iran extend beyond the publicly stated concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear intentions, and likely include a proposed Iranian “petroeuro” system for oil trade.” Click HERE to continue this story by William Clark taken from “The Energy Bulletin”

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Climate Change And Human Society

There is a growing body of evidence that climate factors played a major impact in human social evolution. The book, SAHARASIA
shows how authoritarianism and class society developed from destertification.
The latest findings in Africa show how drought drove humans out of that continent to populate the rest of the world. See the following
BBC story

The State Socialism Of the Rich – Again

See George Monbiot’s latest
Guardian article on how corporations get more in government handouts than the profits they make. Ah, free enterprise…

Sunday, December 11, 2005


We need self-transcendent passions. They don't have to be artistic or intellectual. Could be golf or skiing - anything that consumes you, takes you out of yourself. Something you would rather do than anything else and no excuse will stop you from doing it. The passion lives thru you. You are never bored if you have that passion. Nor are you ever alone. Others share your passion and thus your life. The people with passion are the ones who make the world go round, while the passionless are the voyeurs, the followers, the sheeple.

All children are passionate. They attack life with fervor. The root of this fervor is imagination, a faculty all are born with. For many people the imagination is crushed early in life and the passion dies. Imagination and therefore, self-transcendent passion, is strangled by authoritarian parenting, the boredom that is skool and the emptiness of Korporate Krap Kulture, day and night shoved down the throats of children. But some of us always escape and maintain that childlike imagination and energy throughout our lives.

People who don't have a self-transcendent passion are wrapped up in themselves. They need to be entertained, and by other people. Their needs cannot be filled from within. The passionless do not understand the passionate. "Why does she go to meetings all the time and not stay home and watch TV with me?" "Can't he think about anything but fishing?" In their passionless ignorance they seek to control and even destroy the passionate. "You want to be an artist? Don't waste your time - get a real job!" "There's no money it what you are doing, you know!" "Put down that book and do something useful!"

You can't blame the passionate for at times feeling like Gulliver tied down by the Lilliputians.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


“Preparatory measures taken to sell oil in euros TEHRAN, Dec. 2 (MNA) - The Chairman of the Majlis Energy Commission, Kamal Daneshyar said here, on Friday, that preparatory measures have been taken to sell oil in euros instead of dollar, adding that such a measure is quite positive and should be taken as soon as possible. Speaking to the Persian service of Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), he went on to say that Iran should at the first phase sell its oil in both Dollar and Euro, and then gradually move toward Euro. as the mere source.” Quote from

The beginning of the end for the Yanqui Dollah? Perhaps if other countries, say Russia, Venezuela and Mexico move to Euros.
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