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Collectively Speaking

the notion of a phantom coalition
by Antone P. Braga

My mother packed my lunch, gave me $2 and that set me for the day. No, not a day at the park. Well, a park of another sort—Fenway Park. It even included the 100 mile round trip bus ticket and admission to the ball-park to see the likes of Ted Williams. Professional baseball was well within reach as were most things in life. Money was not in great supply, but it didn't take much to enjoy life's pleasures—simple and otherwise. There were occasional increases in the cost of living in the 1950's, though only in small increments and above all it meant having a fairly even and easy life.

I remember the shock of getting off at my regular freeway off-ramp one day to buy gas. Not only had the price of gas doubled overnight, we now had to wait in line for the privilege of making the purchase. The time was the early '70s and the start of very serious changes. The oil embargo marked the time when universal attitudes altered dramatically. Nearly every industry it seemed, had some increased cost because of the sharp increase in the price of energy. Our family had previously budgeted our income so that we could take regular automobile trips that included boating. Now however, the basics became difficult enough, never mind the extras that had been taken for granted. Suddenly the cost of driving to and from the recreational area doubled, as did the cost of fuel for the boat. The trickle down effect also became immediately evident. The cost of food and services along the way also jumped, right down to the price of a hamburger.

I recently saw figures for the price of gasoline between 1939 and 1957: $.16 per gallon to $.23 per gallon—an increase of $.07 in all those eighteen years. In today's world the $.07 swing in price is more likely to happen in eighteen minutes. Even businesses not directly effected by the energy grab have joined the bandwagon. Apparently the personal reduction in buying power has required higher salaries, and in turn higher prices for products and services in order to compensate. No longer can we afford near as many trips, and of course no longer can we spend as much along the way in restaurants and for all the miscellaneous expenses of travel. And, those businesses have a shortfall of dollars to exchange in the economic domino effect. Whatever this or that market can bear, has fast become the new benchmark for the amount charged and the amount paid—leveraged price, the substitute for stable balance.

Foreign oil forces have combined their mutual interests into a cartel so that those dependent on oil (the world) can be leveraged into paying more for oil. So, in a very short span of time nearly everyone likes to think their services and products are worth considerably more and they take a shot at trying for all the market will allow. Of course some markets have the advantage of a much greater hold on the masses. The medical and legal communities have little trouble reaching for the gold ring, thanks in great part to the public's dependency on having middle-men (insurance and subsidy) foot the bill.

Nowadays we hear a lot about the housing crisis being the cause of the economic collapse that brought the system to its knees. However, it is merely a symptom, not the cause. The high increased cost of energy tips the scale so that people have no way to keep up with the increased price of everything and many dig a deeper credit hole. Propping up banks for more credit may be necessary, although it simply addresses the symptom.

We only want the right to let the market determine the amount we should be paid. . . The player representative seemed to have no problem justifying what only seemed reasonable. After all, the owners are not limited in the money they can make. So what could possibly be wrong with getting all you can in a free society? The very same thing that is wrong with the insurance industry wanting all they can get from policyholders. You see, baseball and insurance, oddly enough, are immune from federal anti-trust laws. These monopolistic industries legally combine their forces to get their way. However, both these industries have commissioners protecting the public, in a manner of speaking. Under the circumstances it is asking quite a lot of the commissioner system, considering the powers' extended latitude and quest for dominance.

If insurance companies can put their heads together, oil interests join forces, team owners use collective bargaining and ballplayers have their players' union, how about the notion of a phantom coalition: "United Public." There are no union dues, ticket prices or premiums to pay and membership is automatically effective in exchange for a willingness to participate. The public has never been united in any such union or pact. In a free-for-all, perhaps all we need is to better recognize our own individual authority and collective impact.

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Loose Cannons, a verse

It [civilization] is the learning the secret of cumulative power, of advancing on one's self. It implies a facility of association, power to compare, the ceasing from fixed ideas.

What is your philosophy: drive or be driven? I happen to think we are wise to keep our drive alive.

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