Starting Small

Community-Supported Models A C.S.A refers to a community-supported agricultural group that encourages its members to upfront funds to a farm that be drawn upon to pay for a portion of its future harvest. It also permits the farm to cover its costs during the slow growing months.

The Times recently reported an extension of the model for a bookstore—a C.S.B. It describes a bookstore in a coastal city in Maine that has a small population of residents during the winter, but much larger number during the summer months.

Like the C.S.A. model, C.S.B. members can “invest” various amounts of money to draw upon to buy books throughout the year. At the same time, the bookstore is able to sustain itself during the slow months.

In a way, it’s like owning a portion of the farm or bookstore or whatever other type of organization adopts the concept and thereby establishes a closer relationship between members and the business than otherwise be possible.

Tax the Rich Late last year in an attempt, albeit modest, to confront the growing economic inequalities in this country, the Portland City Council adopted a plan that imposes a surtax on companies whose chief executives earn more that 100 times the average pay of their workers.

Said to be the first of its kind in the nation, the companies are required to pay an additional 10% of their regular business tax, if their executive salaries are 100 times the median pay of their employees, or a surcharge of 25%, if they are paid more that 250 times the median employee pay.

At the time the city of Portland, was the first to impose such a tax. Thomas Piketty, the author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, said he was in favor of the tax as a “first step.” The Portland mayor at the time echoed Piketty’s view, acknowledging that while it is a small attempt to address the nation’s income inequalities, “…it is a start.”

(And not long after, Seattle became the second city to require a tax on the wealthy. The new measure requires individual city residents to pay a 2.25% tax on any income beyond $250,000 annually; couples who file jointly will pay the same rate on earnings beyond $500,000. The Seattle Times reports the tax is designed to support the city’s affordable housing, climate change, education and transit efforts.)

Offshore Wind Farms In the quest for renewable sources of energy, offshore wind farms hold considerable promise. The wind never stops blowing off the coastal states of this country. Harnessing it could provide an almost inexhaustible source of energy that might eventually make a significant contribution to reducing the nation’s pollution.

The first commercial offshore wind farm in the US is located 3.8 miles off the coast of Rhode Island. Known as the Block Island Wind Farm, it was launched last December and consists of five turbines capable of powering about 17,000 homes.

About 50,000 wind turbines have been installed in this country that provide roughly 5 percent of the nation’s electric power and even more in particularly windy states such as Kansas and Iowa. The turbines are much less costly to install on land than at sea, but the wind is also much weaker on land.

Like the two other projects I’ve mentioned, the Block Island Wind Farm is a relatively small project. At the same time, it could mark the start of much larger projects off the coastal waters of this country. The chairman of the company that built the turbines, said, “I do believe that starting small has made sense.”


Linda said...

I love the "Starting Small" concept - is probably our only hope in many areas. I especially like the application for the small Maine bookstore (but by patronizing Amazon, I guess I've contributed to independent bookstores' demise - but that's another discussion).

Tax the Rich is also effective - am amazed that Portland and Seattle got that passed, but if any cities could, they would be Portland and Seattle. One of the good things I can say about Florida is the significant property tax imposed on the "snowbirds" who buy homes down here but only occupy them for a few months in the winter, but I'm not sure if it adequately offsets the negatives to the communities of absentee homeowners - another day's discussion.

And renewable energy sources are really gaining economic ground, which I think is exciting - in spite of ______s (you fill in the blank) like Rick Perry, recently touting all the benefits of fossil fuels, including keeping the lights on at night to deter sexual harassment. Seriously!!

Richard Katzev said...


I'm glad you like the concept. It is similar to the Experimenting Society notion. Try something on a small scale. If it works, retain and expand it. If it doesn't, discard it and try something else.

All too often we error in beginning with a large scale program, where it is difficult to evaluate if it works or doesn't or to identify what components work and what don't.