Where the Present Road Is Leading
IS THERE a means for us to know which way this world is heading? Yes, there is. Part of the answer comes from the evidence that is seen in every avenue of human activity.
But, first, what is the way the world claims it is heading? Read the newspapers, listen to the radio and television, and it is plain that world leaders claim to be moving toward a more peaceful, prosperous state. Yet is that really the case?
Suppose you were in a caravan of vehicles the leaders of which said they were leading you to a beautiful, fertile, warm land. They told you that the road might be rough at the start but would soon improve; that, though hilly to begin with, it would soon level out; and that, even though supplies might be quite scarce for a time, they would become more abundant the farther along you traveled. But if the road kept getting rougher instead of smoother, if the hills became, not plains, but mountains, if supplies became ever harder to come by, and if, instead of seeing greater beauty, fertility and warmth, you found things becoming more and more desolate, barren and cold—how long would it be before you began to question whether you were heading in the right direction?
If others in the caravan insisted on going on, denounced any other view as “pessimism,” called for greater faith in the caravan’s leaders, would this sway you? Suppose signs warned of grave danger ahead, a bridge out, a landslide or a cave-in of the road—would you still risk your life and that of those with you because the majority determined to continue on?
Do we face a similar situation today earth wide? Look at, not just one feature of the conditions we are passing through, but the whole pattern of things. See what they add up to, what they tell us as to the direction in which this world is heading.
What Trend in the World’s Food Supply?
For life in happiness one of the most basic things people need is a good diet. Mankind has been at the business of producing foodstuffs for thousands of years. Agricultural methods have been scientifically studied and highly developed over many decades. But what is the clear trend in the world food supply today?
You, of course, know that in some areas people do not have enough to eat. That is not new. Throughout history, people in various lands have had problems getting enough food. But an ominous trend has been taking place in this century. During and after World War I, more people on earth were affected by food shortages than ever before. With World War II the problem has expanded.
True, in recent years food shortages have hit a few nations here or there at one time or another. But today the situation is different. Now the entire world is affected!
In fact, nothing in history matches the crisis condition now shaping up regarding the world food supply. What makes it more significant is that it has come in spite of all the advances of modern technology.
Late in 1972 U.S. News & World Report said: “World food productions . . . has suddenly shrunk close to the point of global crisis.” For the second year in a row, food production decreased in the poorer countries, the very lands where food was most needed. A. H. Boerma, director general of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, said:
“One can regard the failure of a single year as exceptional. But two failures in successive years . . . cannot be shrugged off as a temporary misfortune.”
During 1972 world food production dropped by 4 percent. The situation grew more critical during the winter of 1972-73. By the spring of 1973 Progressive Farmer magazine carried the headline: “Are We in a World Food Crisis?” It answered, Yes, and described the situation as “highly explosive,” adding:
“That’s the only way you can describe the world and U.S. feed grain and wheat situation. . . .
“For the first time in years, the words ‘starvation’ and ‘mass famine’ are being seen and heard. . . .
“Never before in recent times had so many forces suddenly come together. The result was near panic.”
What is now developing on a global scale was predicted several years ago. For example, among others, William and Paul Paddock in their book Famine 1975 had warned that world population growth was running ahead of food production and that a crisis could be expected in the mid-1970’s. In May 1973, a New York Times editorial commented: “It appears that the Paddock brothers’ prophecy for 1975 could begin to become a reality as early as 1974.” But the symptoms have already appeared before 1974.
Why the Shortages?
Why the food shortages? Hopes were so high just a few years ago due to ‘miracle seeds’ of rice and wheat. Yet, at the same time, world population continued to “explode,” especially in the very countries where food was already short. No matter how much of a “miracle” certain seeds may be, an acre planted in them will feed only so many people. And when people multiply faster than food, famine is inevitable.
Then, in the past two years, severe droughts, floods, adverse winter weather and bad management cut production. Among many other lands, the Soviet Union was hard hit. Their 1972 crop was, according to a Soviet official, “the worst harvest in 100 years.” They were forced to buy twenty-eight million tons of grain, much from the United States.
That, and purchases by other nations, along with increasing demand and poor weather in the United States, exhausted the U.S. government’s grain reserves. And this is what makes the present condition different from any in recent times. As Newsweek observed: “This latest food crisis is occurring at a time when once-massive agricultural surpluses elsewhere in the world—notably in the U.S.—are beginning to dwindle.” A commodities exchange official in Chicago said: “There is no more grain to give away.”
In Africa, a critical situation developed. A huge belt of land, stretching about 2,000 miles across the continent, experienced severe famine in 1973:
“More than six million people face death from starvation in the drought-stricken western and southern Sahara region.”—New York “Post.”
“Nearly 40 per cent of the livestock in Niger, Mali, Chad, Upper Volta and Senegal—and 80 per cent in Mauritania—have perished. ‘In places there are dead animals on the roadside every 200 yards,’ says one diplomat.”—“Newsweek.”
An expert of the European Common Market said that this entire region of Africa faced “a disaster of a magnitude which we still cannot measure.” At one point the food crisis was so severe that a United Nations official said: “If the problem is not solved in two months, nearly 6 million people may die.”
Drought was a main factor, but so was mismanagement. The livestock population was increased too fast, so the ground was overgrazed. Stripped of cover, the ground began turning into desert.
India’s food production also dropped in the last two years due to drought and other factors. Yet her population increased about twenty-five million in those same two years! Newsweek reported that in the affected areas “some 200 million Indians face the threat of a disastrous famine.”
Many other lands are affected by exploding populations that are outracing food production. Because of this worldwide crisis, the New York Times declared:
“Two-thirds of the 800 million children on the three continents [Africa, Asia and Latin America] are affected by malnutrition, according to experts in the United Nations and elsewhere. Six years ago, the United Nations warned of an ‘impending protein crisis.’ Today, the experts say, the crisis has arrived.”
The Trend Is Clear
The trend is clear—world food production is unable to keep up with population growth. True, there may be temporary reversals of this trend. The nations may seem to patch up the problem for a time.
But we simply cannot escape the fact that the overall picture since World War I is that of a world more and more unable to feed itself. Under present systems, then, temporary periods of relief are certain to be followed by other crises—of greater magnitude.
But why not simply put more land into food production? Also, how about eating more fish? The Wall Street Journal answers:
“The area of new land that can easily be brought under the plow is shrinking while the demand for food grows larger each year. Adding to the problem, more and more agricultural land is being abandoned each year, some because of erosion but also because of the encroachment of highways, factories and human dwellings. . . .
“The catch of some table grade species [of fish] is declining as a result of overfishing. Many marine biologists now believe that the global catch of table grade fish may be very close to the maximum sustainable limit.”
Thus, in spite of all his advanced technology, man is not finding an answer to the world food problem. It grows worse at the very time that world population is increasing at the fastest rate in all history. Now, each year sees a net increase of about seventy-five million people on this earth!
You may live in a country that presently does have food. Yet that food is likely getting more expensive as the demand grows world wide.
What does all this mean to you? If the present systems that this world has developed are failing to cope with man’s most fundamental problem—his food supply—does not this show there is need for a vast change on earth?
Yet this is but one of many “landmarks” pointing to the direction that this world is heading.
Where Is the World Headed Economically?
There is an old saying that ‘money is what makes the world go round.’ The present world systems are indeed patterned on that principle. With what result for us today?
Modern national economies are so interwoven that a sudden slump in the value of just one powerful nation’s money can virtually paralyze trade world wide. Devaluation of money or runaway inflation can convert many people into paupers. The book Money and Economic Activity, by Houghton Mifflin, says: “In Germany at the end of 1923 it took 1,200,400,000,000 paper marks to buy what only 35 marks could purchase just two years earlier.” Just three years (1946-1948) of the civil war in China so devastated the value of Chinese currency that workers carried their pay home in huge bundles of money, and people often used smaller denominations of money to light kitchen fires.
Is it any less dangerous for us to place our trust in the money of today’s nations?
How Much Will Your Money Buy?
Which way is the value of your money heading? Food keeps costing more, of course, but what about other items—clothing, housing, fuel, electricity, transportation and recreation?
You know the answer. No matter where you are, the cost of living keeps going in the same direction: up—up—up. Is there any end in sight to these rising prices?
In Canada food prices alone went up 11 percent in a year. Germany and Switzerland, considered islands of economic stability, both suffered an 8-percent rate of inflation. In most other lands, the situation is much worse.
The drop in purchasing power in the richest nation on earth, the United States, is shocking. It now takes about $5 to buy what $1 bought in 1900!
A Zurich banker said: “The inflationary psychology now is widespread and deep-seated all over Europe. Drastic action is needed to check inflation, even if we have to risk a recession and higher unemployment.”
That is why, although at present there is what some call a worldwide “boom,” or “prosperity,” the Swiss banker said: “This is a gloomy boom.” And U.S. News & World Report noted: “There is a gnawing fear that the boom may, in the not too distant future, be followed by a ‘bust.’”
Why Such Inflation?
Why such persistent inflation? The biggest reason is that both people and nations are not living within their incomes. They are in a frenzy of wanting to ‘get now and pay later.’ This has resulted in a tidal wave of borrowing money that is unequaled in history.
Thus to a very large extent, today’s “prosperity” is unreal because it has been financed by borrowed money. It is like a person making $100 a week and then borrowing another $100 each week. Certainly he will live better for a while. But someday there has to be a reckoning—he must begin living within his means and pay back the debt, or go bankrupt.
But nowadays, most governments hardly consider living within their incomes. Politicians want to keep popular, and so usually they do not take the needed measures to check inflation. They feel it is politically expedient to keep borrowing and spending to boost “prosperity.” The mood seems to be, ‘Let the next person in office worry about it.’
But governments are no different from individuals who cannot pay their debts: they too can go bankrupt. As the Economic Education Bulletin, published in the United States, warned:
“A boom artificially stimulated by inflating is not sound prosperity. There have been several such booms in the Nation’s history, and all have been followed by severe depressions. Never have managers of a ‘managed irredeemable money’ [paper money not backed by assets such as gold] been able to create a sound and lasting prosperity.”
What makes the situation much worse is the financial condition of the United States, the foundation of the Western world’s economic system. For many years now, it has been spending overseas much more money than it has been making. Why? The Economic Education Bulletin gives the reasons:
“First, for many years the U.S. Government has disbursed [spent] abroad more U.S. currency and credits than it has received from abroad. Through its vast and overly generous foreign aid program and through large military expenditures in other countries, it has placed these claims against it in the hands of foreign governments, central banks, and individuals. . . .
“Second, the United States has indulged in marked and prolonged inflating . . . for more than three decades. . . . It also has resulted in such a marked increase in prices [of U.S. products] that many U.S. processors no longer could compete in world markets.”
The arrangement agreed to by Western nations after World War II was that international debts would be paid off in gold. But by 1971, because of United States spending overseas, there were about six times as many dollars in the hands of foreigners as the United States had gold to pay! It was like a person’s owing someone $6,000 but having only $1,000 in assets to pay off the debt, with the debt growing all the time.
Then came August 1971. At that time the United States abruptly closed its ‘gold window.’ It refused to honor its promise to pay gold for the paper dollars foreigners held. But what does it mean when someone says he will no longer pay off his debts as he said he would? The above-quoted publication shows what it meant:
“The closing of the gold window constituted acknowledgment that the U.S. Government . . . was internationally bankrupt.”
The United States has become the greatest bankrupt debtor in the history of the world! And since 1971 the situation has worsened. Now, in 1973, the overseas debt of the United States is eight or nine times the value of the gold it has.
Adding to the Problem
Is there any likelihood that this trend will be reversed? Editorial writer Joseph Alsop stated:
“What threatens us—what has started already, in fact—is a permanent currency crisis, which also may mean a permanent inflation crisis.
“In three years, on present projections, our dollars cannot be anything like what they seem today, although a dollar is now worth little enough.”
Most observers agree. But what makes them so certain? It is the fact that there is an ‘energy crisis’ in many parts of the world. Especially is this so in the United States. It uses oil much faster than it can now find and produce it. And the demand soars each year while its reserves dwindle. As a result, the nation must import more and more oil from overseas. That means spending more dollars in other countries.
Editor Alsop called the economic prospects for the immediate future “ghastly.” We can see why by examining a few figures. In 1970 the United States paid other countries about $2 billion for its oil imports. This year, 1973, it will import over $7 billion in oil. Estimates are that in 1975 oil imports will come to about $15 billion. By 1980 that figure, it is said, will skyrocket to about $30 billion—and much higher after that. All of this comes while the balance of payments already has long been in the red! Alsop added:
“The figures also mean an energy crisis, of course. . . . Yet inconvenience for many and heavy loss for a few are mere trifles compared to the national tragedy of a dollar with ever-lessening value.”
Hence, based on the evidence, what do you think? Is the world’s present economic system likely to solve its problems? Do you feel that it would be safe to expect that and to put your hope in it?
It is apparent to reasonable persons that the economic system has grave defects, is breaking down. Indeed, in its present course, it is heading toward collapse. Though temporary improvements or relief may appear, it is evident that huge changes must be in store for the near future.
In reality, the world’s economic system is built on a false foundation. Nations operate with huge debts, by “deficit spending.” Their citizens do the same, buying more and more on credit. This building on an ever-growing extension of credit produces an effect like that of the well-known “house of cards.” The structure has no real strength and any added pressure can cause the whole thing suddenly to fall flat.
What Is Happening to Your Personal Security?
Every person wants to feel secure, safe. No one wants to be the victim of a “mugging,” or have his home burglarized. Women do not want to be raped. The desire for honest, decent neighbors is universal. And all people want to see the quality of life improve.
But are cities, towns and rural areas becoming safer places in which to live? Is the quality of life improving?
If you are an adult, think back to the way things were ten, twenty or more years ago. Do you consider life and property more secure today than they were back then? Do you trust people more these days? When answering a knock on your door at night, do you feel safer now?
The vast majority of people say that the opposite is true. They feel that there is far more danger to one’s safety now than they can ever remember.
All the evidence from law-enforcement officials agrees. Nearly every country on earth has experienced a shocking increase in crime and violence in recent years. Lawlessness has grown so much that it has become one of the most serious problems of our time.
Arnold Toynbee, the respected British historian, was reported by the West Australian as concluding that there is “an obvious decline in common honesty, an absence of common purpose.” The publication also stated: “He thinks nations rise or fall in relation to the moral unity of the family and the moral purpose of the State, and he sees in the West a decline in both.”
In the very lands considered the most “advanced,” security decreases fastest. A Canadian police official of Hamilton, Ontario, blamed the crime wave in that country ‘on society’s moral breakdown,’ and referred to Canada as “a sick society.” In Toronto twice as many people are now caught shoplifting as was the case just a few years ago. Yet the Toronto Star said: “Even this is believed only a fraction of the number of shoppers and store employees who stole.” A director of security for forty stores in that city observed: “We’ve caught everybody—a doctor, a lawyer and a judge’s wife.”
In Britain the increase in vicious assaults has appalled experienced police officials. A Scotland Yard detective noted that crimes of violence are soaring, and that criminals now “are utterly callous and show no remorse.” In London, the Daily Mail related, robberies after assaults increased a massive 129 percent in just four years! And the Daily Telegraph stated:
“Lord Hailsham, the Lord Chancellor, . . . asserted, and few would care to dispute his point, that if indictable crime continues to grow at its present rate the judicial system will break down . . .
“It used to be thought by many progressive thinkers that the cause of crime was poverty. How is it, then, that crime has increased as we have become more prosperous?”
In the United States there has been a crime wave of immense proportions in the last decade. In most areas of the country, major crimes have increased about ten to fifteen times as fast as the population. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, a resident who had his home burglarized four times in five years declared: “I’m sitting in my house like Kit Carson inside the fort afraid to leave because some . . . hoodlum may crawl through my possessions.”
In another part of the United States, the owner of a ‘high security’ apartment-house complex said: “We even have to bolt down the furniture and pictures,” because so many were being stolen. A contractor who sells automated systems for preventing burglaries had expensive equipment stolen from his own truck!
The Los Angeles Times said that crime statistics “read like a battlefield report, but the battle, with no hope in sight of a cease-fire, is raging in the towns and cities across America.” Especially have violent crimes—murder, assault, rape—risen sharply.
Even in small communities, there is less security. A store manager in a small Virginia town said of crime: “We’re noticing in small towns that it’s increasing. We never had a robbery around until the last few years, and now that sort of thing is happening all the time.”
Official crime statistics are chilling enough. But the New York Times revealed: “In some categories the number of crimes committed could run as high as five times the number officially reported by victims.”
Breakdown of Institutions
Along with this vast increase in crime has come a breakdown in the very institutions one would normally look to for help. Government, world religion, science—all have failed to stem the tide. Nothing seems stable, reliable. Even the vital family unit is breaking down swiftly.
For instance, last year there was an all-time high in the number of divorces in the United States—839,000! They increased more than twice as fast as marriages. Now about one out of every three marriages ends in divorce. It is similar in other lands. In the Soviet Union their magazine Sputnik says:
“The divorce rate is growing in the Soviet Union and is having a serious effect on the country’s birthrate as well as on social and economic aspects of life. . . .
“In 1950 there were three divorces per hundred weddings, in 1960 the figure had risen to ten per cent, and in 1967 it had reached 30 per cent. . . .
“A feeling that the family unit is unstable is generated even among couples who are not thinking of divorce.”
Can people look to leaders in government to stem the general breakdown of society? The very fact that the problem increases decade by decade shows that they are unable to halt the decline. Furthermore, people increasingly doubt the trustworthiness of their political leaders.
Thus, in a recent interview, George Bush, Republican National Committee chairman in the United States, admitted that “there is a wide feeling in the country, independent of party, that politicians are corrupt.” This is but typical of the feeling world wide. The breakdown in respect for government officials can only quicken the pace of lawlessness and disorder among common people.
Nor have the leaders in science and industry proved to be a real blessing to mankind. While there have been impressive achievements in technology, has this really improved the overall quality of life? Modern technology is responsible for pollution, overcrowded and dangerous highways, monotonous work at machines, horrible weapons of mass destruction that each year cost a fortune. It is little wonder that a professor of physics at the University of Texas answered the question, “Can science save us?” by stating flatly: “No.”
Even the spectacular space achievements are proving shallow in their effect. More and more people have come to feel that these ventures have no relationship to earth’s problems. The enormous sums of money spent are now considered by many to be largely wasted. They feel the same as the individual who wrote to the New York Times, and said, in response to a claim that great benefits flowed from space exploits:
“We are told that our country’s investment in space has ‘bolstered the economy, improved the quality of life of our people, increased our national prestige, and contributed to our national security.’
“I wish he had told us how. The economy is desperate, our prestige is a sham, our quality of life is decaying and our national security is already at ‘overkill.’ . . . We ‘earth people’ are crying, just crying.”
‘Retreat into Barbarism’
If you face the truth squarely, you will have to see that, regardless of what world leaders have tried to do, security and the quality of life continue to deteriorate. That has prompted historian Toynbee to say that ‘today civilization is clearly beating a retreat’ into barbarism.
A reflection of this insecurity is the following item from Time magazine: “A panel of experts . . . calls depression ‘the most common form of mental disorder.’ Every year doctors treat some 4,000,000 to 8,000,000 Americans for it.” And another evidence of insecurity is the tragic rise of heart disease. The World Health Organization said that it has reached staggering dimensions around the world.
It is obvious that, before long, something in society must “give.” Things cannot continue this way without a vast change taking place. But is there a way out of these gigantic problems? Will people somehow be able to reverse these trends that are so deeply established? Or could it be that a completely new order is the only way to avoid disaster, one that starts afresh, right from the ground up?
[Box on page 9]
Root Causes of Economic Problems
“Everyone seems hell-bent on getting as much and giving as little as possible, on contriving shortages and disrupting production, and finding easy substitutes for honest and hard work. Everywhere there are signs of strife and unrest, among youth, among workers in factory and field, and most ominous of all among those who run the Government.”—“The Times of India,” as quoted in the New York “Times,” August 16, 1973, p. 10.
[Box on page 12]
The Fading of Optimism
“Nothing remains of the somewhat naïve optimism of the nineteenth century when science and progress were expected to abolish all evils, both individual and collective. All traditional certainties are collapsing; cultures and civilizations are breaking up; humanity as a whole has become aware of the extreme precariousness of its existence.”—From the preface of the book “La Mort et Ses Mysteries” (“Death and Its Mysteries”) by French psychologist Ignace Lepp.
[Graph on page 5]
(For fully formatted text, see publication)
WORLD POPULATION GROWTH
WORLD GRAIN PRODUCTION
Result: 6-percent average drop in grain supply per person
[Picture on page 4]
How much evidence does a person need to prove he is going in the wrong direction?
[Picture on page 6]
What $1.19 bought . . .
BREAD AND BUTTER, 7 3⁄4¢
FRUIT CUP, 7¢
SALAD, 16 1⁄4¢
BEVERAGE, 5 1⁄4¢
PEAS, 5 3⁄4¢
MEAT, 58 3⁄4¢
POTATO, 2 3⁄4¢
DESSERT, 15 1⁄2¢