Over the last week we’ve been mourning the loss of one of the greatest minds of our time. The world knew Stephen Hawking primarily for his research on the cosmos, but his brilliance extended to our daily existence here on Earth as well. Hawking challenged war and oppression, advocated for universal health care, and fought inequality at every opportunity.

“Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution,” Hawking, for instance, warned when asked about artificial intelligence.

“With resources increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few,” Hawking added after the voting that gave us Brexit and Donald Trump, “we are going to have to learn to share far more than at present.”

We can destroy our planet, Hawking helped us understand, but we can’t escape it. In this week’s issue, we look in on a science-savvy billionaire who, against Hawking’s advice, is scheming to escape Earth’s orbit. We also hear from a veteran with far more practical thoughts on saving our home planet — and each other.

Chuck Collins, for the Institute for Policy Studies team
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Why We Need to Transform the War Economy
This week marks the 15th anniversary of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. We still have no official count of Iraqi casualties, but some estimates put that figure in the millions. Meanwhile, a relentless military-industrial machine has spent years stuffing billions into the pockets of corporate war profiteers. For many Americans, the endless wars abroad have become either invisible or seemingly intractable. But not for veteran Brock McIntosh, who sees the poison inherent in militarism. We must demand better opportunities, McIntosh writes for us this week, that don’t involve working-class people killing other working-class people.
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Standing Up for the Freedom to Golf (in Style)
Three years ago, the California billionaire Ric Kayne opened “New Zealand’s first-ever American-style private golf club.” Earlier this year, Golf Digest ranked Kayne’s 18 holes the sixth-best golf course in the entire world. But poor Kayne can’t enjoy that distinction. He’s too busy fuming at New Zealand’s new Labour government. Labour is trying to tamp down the speculation that’s sent Kiwi home prices soaring since 2007. The government wants new regulations that would prevent wealthy foreigners from buying up residential property. Labour’s plan, says Kayne, would shrink the market for the luxury “cottages” he’s building along his golf course, and he’s lobbying loudly to kill it. Says the investment firm kingpin: “The vision we have for what we would like to contribute to New Zealand is now being threatened.”
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This ‘Genius’ Sees Martian Bars in Our Future
Elon Musk, the billionaire CEO of SpaceX and the Tesla electric car company, has been warning us of late that a new “dark age” may be descending on our precious Earth. Another horrendous world war appears “likely,” he fears, to place humankind on the brink of extinction. Mars strikes Musk as our ideal refuge — and potentially a fun place to boot. He’s now rushing to put people on the Red Planet. But if we really want to avoid apocalypse, recent research on violent conflict out of Norway suggests, we’d concentrate first on undoing the gross inequality that has cascaded billions into the Musk man’s pockets.
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This week on 

Colin Gordon, Growing Apart: A Political History of American Inequality. An interactive project grapples with the roots and consequences of inequality in the United States.

Aida Ponce Del Castillo, How the Technology Developed for Bitcoin is Changing the World of Work. It remains to be seen how Blockchain, which favors direct transactions between individuals, can serve workers rather than undermine collective action.

Sarah Anderson, Eleven ‘Small’ Banks that Would Gain from the Senate Banking Bill Sport Hefty Pay Gaps. True community banks don’t have CEOs making 146 times their worker pay.

Chuck Collins, Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line. A growing number of corporate leaders say it’s time for public policy to lessen our economic divide.

Negin Owliaei, West Virginia’s Teachers Score a Win. Now other states are understanding that tax cuts for the rich mean underfunded schools.

Elsewhere on the web 

Sarah Anderson and Sam Pizzigati, No CEO should earn 1,000 times more than a regular employee, The Guardian. A movement is building to ensure U.S. companies share the wealth with their workers.

David Lay Williams, What Steven Pinker gets wrong about economic inequality — and the Enlightenment, The Washington Post. A take-down of the latest academic bid for prime space on the billionaire bookshelf.

Pedro Nicolaci da Costa, Extreme inequality in the US is making a major economic problem even worse, Buisness Insider. Researchers at the Chicago Fed fear that the concentration of wealth at America’s economic summit has intensified and lengthened the Great Recession.

Despite cold, dark, Finland tops 2018 global happiness index, Associated Press. The latest world happiness rankings have the deeply unequal United States falling four spots to 18th place.

For A Fairer UK: Equality Trust Releases New Manifestos. Britain's leading egalitarian group has new guides out on action people can take at the individual, local, and national levels.

Hamilton Nolan, I Thought We Were All In This Together, Splinter. You don’t need a degree in accounting to know it’s unfair for the CEO of your company to make in one year what you have to work 300 years to earn.

Jim Hightower, Forget the Dow Jones. How’s Doug Jones? OtherWords. The stock market tells us little about how ordinary Americans are doing.
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