The author makes an interesting and pretty convincing case for Japanese travelers making their way (accidentally or on purpose--probably both over theThe author makes an interesting and pretty convincing case for Japanese travelers making their way (accidentally or on purpose--probably both over the course of the centuries) to North America by boat and integrating into Native American societies. She focuses on the Zuni of New Mexico, in whom she sees an especially strong Japanese influence. Her larger purpose, though, is to make the general case for modes of arrival other than the Bering land bridge for Native American inhabitants. She feels that anthropologists have been unduly fixated during the 20th century (the book was written in the 1990's) on that one entry point, to the point that the prevailing hypothesis for population of the Americas included no other points of entry or means of arrival. She feels that that hypothesis (peopling of the Americas beginning in Alaska, with populations gradually migrating south from there) flies in the face of LOTS of existing evidence to the contrary and is overly simplistic....more
This is a book that I started reading last year sometime but never finished before it was due back at the library. I enjoyed what I read of it, thoughThis is a book that I started reading last year sometime but never finished before it was due back at the library. I enjoyed what I read of it, though, and the concepts that the author introduced have been floating around in my head lately as we experience our current market meltdown and people (myself included) are asking where we should go from here. I'd like to look it up again and actually read the whole thing this time. His main suggestions have to do with creating public trusts in order to protect things like the environment, the arts, etc. (I can't remember all the examples) that have very little protection under current corporate law, but that are important to the common good of a society. (Warning: the following summary is based on what I can remember from reading part of the book more than a year and a half ago, and may be mingled with ideas that I've picked up other places.)
He argues that the capitalism that we live with today was born in an era when resources were scarce for everyone, largely due to a lack of technology. It worked then because resources were universally difficult enough to obtain (and to process into useful goods) that growth of capital was always a good thing. Today we have the technology to rape the earth, and are doing just that because the capitalism we live with still values growth of capital above all else. It's written into our very laws.
He tells a number of stories of corporations that have been sued, and lost in court, for putting other interests (being nice to the earth, being nice to people, etc.) above the bottom line. Corporate law says that corporations must be operated in such a way as to do their very best to increase the value of the company so that as much money as possible gets sent back to the shareholders. Any other consideration is secondary to that goal. Even corporations that write other goals and priorities into their charters may be sued for not growing the company enough, and even if that doesn't happen, they're usually bought out in the end by large multinationals that have no qualms about slave labor or dumping of toxins, as long as it's not in the CEO's neighborhood.
The author, therefore, advocates setting up some legal protections for the commons. He uses (interestingly enough) the Federal Reserve Board as an example of an institution set up in our country to advocate for a specific piece of our civilization that's important to the common good: the smooth running of our country's economy. Current financial crisis aside, this board is set up in such a way that experts in that field advocate for that particular thing, with no real opportunity to personally benefit from the policies they advocate or don't advocate. The author suggests forming similar bodies to advocate for other sectors.
My list of GoodReads friends runs the political gamut, and I'm interested to hear other people's takes on these ideas. Please comment if you have anything to say!...more
This was an absolutely amazing story, wonderfully told by David McCullough, of several working-class towns in central Pennsylvania that were wiped outThis was an absolutely amazing story, wonderfully told by David McCullough, of several working-class towns in central Pennsylvania that were wiped out in 1889 in a matter of minutes, in a catastrophe that was caused by the neglect of people much more powerful than the factory worker residents. It's a story reminiscent of Hurricane Katrina. McCullough really brings to life the experiences of those who lived through the event, as well as some of the thousands who died in the flood....more