Chapter 11. A Reformed Society with a Natural Economy
In a book that proposes a new political theory it seems reasonable to discuss existing political theories. I apologize in advance to the adherents of the political theories that are not discussed. Also, I hope I have interpreted theoreticians correctly. [Note in proof (5-10-96). The Unabomber Manifesto  should be discussed either here or in Chapter 5 under “Models of Society”. Unfortunately, time constraints forbid. I shall provide a separate analysis of that remarkable document soon.]
While it is recognized that the old labels – conservative and liberal, right and left, etc. – do not apply perfectly in today’s political climate, it still makes sense to speak about a generic political conservatism. The Random House Dictionary  defines conservatism as “the disposition to preserve what is established and to resist change”. This is not quite a fair assessment of American conservatives, some of whom would like to roll back the clock and re-establish some principles long abandoned by most people. Some of these principles make good sense, e.g., reducing the size of government; however, conservatives want to reduce the size of government in a manner that would be injurious to poor and powerless people as well as most species of animals and plants. Naturally, not every conservative policy is bad. I have indicated some conservative policies that I support, usually in an altered form and usually not for the same reason that they are supported by conservatives. However, it is important to discredit the bulk of conservative political doctrine because, in particular, it is “soft” on capitalism and markets or, as Noam Chomsky would put it, “mercantilism” . Also, it is not difficult to see that, while mocking “bleeding-heart liberals”, conservatives reveal the meanness and lack of compassion that traditionally invites liberals to despise them.
It is easy to criticize conservatives because the flaws in their thinking are under our noses. The difficulty, however, lies in remembering, for comparison, a time when the evils of conservatism were not upon us – mainly because there were no “happy times” that might be “here again”. By definition, the world has always been conservative. History may be viewed as the overthrow of one conservative doctrine after another – not always with happy results (for instance, the view that the atom is indivisible is a conservative view, albeit outside politics). The criticism of other American political views requires speculation. [Note in proof: Bill Clinton is now president of the U.S. It is difficult to classify him politically, but it is easy to predict in May, 1993, that nothing he does will work, i.e., conditions in the United States will get worse.] [Note in proof: A sub-headline in the Houston Post today, October 7, 1994, reads, “Census: More poor in U.S., but rich getting richer”. So, what else is new!]
Conservatives believe in respect for authority in various forms and in various degrees, namely, the nuclear family with the man in charge, the law, the government, one’s employer, the church, etc. Presumably, conservatives differ in their support of feminist ideals, which, clearly, would prevent men from assuming traditional head-of-household roles; but, among those who most wish to preserve the nuclear family, one does not hear objections to the economic conditions that require both senior partners to be employed to earn a living wage between them.
In the United States we have legal chaos. The laws are designed to preserve the power and privilege of the rich, to protect the rich from the poor, to appease the superstitions of the masses, and to create an appearance of justice. Occasionally, therefore, a rich or powerful person becomes a scapegoat in a charade designed to reinforce the myth of “equality before the law” and to provide circuses for the people. Usually, when a conflict at law arises between a commercial interest and a public interest, the moneyed interest wins. It is nearly impossible for a person of average means to get satisfaction in a grievance against a corporation or a rich person. So, why should anyone respect the law? The government itself is exempt from its own laws – including the law against murder!
Employers, for the most part, are interested in profits and don’t give a damn about their employees. Why should we respect our employers?
The churches seem to be in league with the corrupt ruling class (defined in the appendix to Chapter 1) and basically treat their flocks as sheep to be shorn. Churchgoers are told whatever they want to hear as long as the collection plate is full. The fundamentalists are dangerous, but one has to be pretty stupid to fall into their trap. The televangelists are stealing millions. So much for respect for authority.
Conservatives are “tough on crime”. However, they do not wish to address the social problems that cause crime, many of which can be traced to conservatism itself. I have discussed this in Appendix II and in one of my collected essays.
Conservatives believe in the old-fashioned values of responsibility – of a man to his family or to his employer, say, and duty – of a man to his country, say, but these values are used against the people as weapons. For example, a man who hasn’t had a good chance to support his family outside of jail is put in jail where he has no chance at all. In my system, one has a duty to do as he pleases only. “Duty” rendered in any other way seems to me to be without honor.
Conservatives believe in a day’s work for a day’s pay and they believe that what constitutes a fair day’s pay should be determined by a free market. But the employer always has the advantage of less urgency in a labor market. Just imagine – a market in human souls – and it is essentially the soul that is for sale. If we define the soul to be the totality of events, both physical and psychical in the life of a human being, we see that the entire soul is altered when any part of it is altered and it is precisely the time and events of a person’s life that are in the bargain.
Conservatives believe in a political system that permits each man (or woman in the case of some conservatives) to rise as high as he can rise in the scheme of things based on his own merits and efforts. But, the scheme of things provides an extremely tilted playing field. The advantages of a rich kid with a large inheritance who has attended expensive schools are not to be compared to the advantages of a child of the ghetto. [Note in proof: Just now (May, 1993), in Texas, conservatives are battling to prevent money raised in rich school districts from being shared with poorer school districts, thus helping to ensure that, if a child be born poor, less money will be spent on his education and, presumably, the likelihood of remaining poor will be greater, unless, of course, material success is unrelated to education or the quality of education is unrelated to its cost.] Nor is a person’s rise determined by a person’s merit, but rather by who thinks he has merit, where, by merit, is meant being the “right sort of person”.
In America we claim that we are free; but, if one wishes to be considered the “right sort of person”, one’s thoughts are circumscribed narrowly. (One stray insight crosses your brain and you’re down in Greenwich Village smoking grass and shooting speed before you know what hit you! Do I exaggerate? How do you suppose a person gets on one path rather than another?)
For the sake of argument, however, let’s suppose that everything is fair and above board. (Suppose life is a proper game.) Why should a person benefit from an accident of birth, even if that accident of birth is superior intelligence, a devastating will, or even good character? What sort of person would want to benefit from these accidental advantages? And, even more importantly, why should a decent, civilized person want to rise as high as he or she can under the circumstances that prevail in American society?
On Page 37 of The New Yorker of January 13, 1992, we find a cartoon by Warren Miller in which a man who, presumably, has just been promoted is answering his colleague as follows, “Actually, Lou, I think it was more than just my being in the right place at the right time. I think it was my being the right race, the right religion, the right sex, the right socioeconomic group, having the right accent, the right clothes, going to the right schools, ...” It wouldn’t be funny if it weren’t true. So much for meritocracy. Meritocracy would be an improvement but not a solution.
Conservatives support the work ethic, which encourages three harmful notions: (i) a person who doesn’t work shouldn’t be allowed to live, (ii) provided a person does work, a person should be allowed to do anything to earn a living (provided he or she pays taxes), and (iii) if it’s not onerous, it’s not work. The work ethic is denounced in my essay “On the Work Ethic”, available in my collected papers , which might serve as a companion volume to this essay. Please, figure out how to obtain a copy and read it!
Conservatives feel that it is harmful to the individual to be permitted to get by without pulling his (or her) own weight and, in many cases, this is true, but we have a non-negligible class of individuals who are really not cut out for work – at least the sorts of work that are available in Western society. Perhaps, if a truly broad range of activities were provided for a broad spectrum of individual characteristics, this notion might make sense, but workers in the U.S. are forced to be clones of one another to an alarming extent. Moreover, the idea of forcing everyone to work is mean-spirited at best. People can be educated to find activities toward which they are intrinsically motivated; and, in a nonmaterialistic world that takes the best advantage of humanistic technology, it is not necessary for everyone to be doing something useful. The means employed now to ensure that creative people working at the arts are doing something useful are cruel and probably diminish the quality of art produced, since every artist must cater to the system to some extent.
But, more important, the people at the top don’t pull any weight at all. Many people in the United States, perhaps most people, earn a living by “counting beads”, “shuffling paper”, devising schemes to get a bigger slice of the pie for themselves or their employers, or telling other people what to do. This is, in part, the change to an “information society”. Well, we can’t eat information, as we shall soon discover. People who devote their lives to the pursuit of money and wealth, mostly in business, have been guilty of incredible crimes against society; but, for the most part, their punishment, in the unlikely event that they are prosecuted, has not driven them from the wealthy classes. [Yesterday, May 25, 1993, Teledyne Corporation was indicted (Houston Post, May 26), but will its officers be asked to resign from their clubs! What do you think?]
People perform best when they are doing something because they want to do it; but, in the American workplace, even in high places, most people are doing what they do because of ulterior motives, primarily because they need the money, if that can be considered an “ulterior motive”. To understand how little respect people might get for doing what they want to do, one has to consider the case of aspiring artists only. If they succeed, they go from being “bums” to being “geniuses” – overnight”, cf., the great writer Henry Miller.
Conservatives believe in equal opportunity, but they also believe in the right of a man to do as much as he can for his children to give them an advantage. They claim that a “person of quality” can overcome any disadvantage incurred because his parents were not able to give him the same advantages that the children of the privileged had and they can cite a number of examples of people who have tended to prove this rule; but, to be fair, the examples are few and far between. The horrible truth is that most people in the United States start out with reasonably high hopes, particularly if they are white, but they end up disillusioned. Failure – not success – is the norm. Nearly everyone fails!
Conservatives believe in the rights and privileges of the ruling class provided they were fairly gained and they believe that the ruling class is open to anyone with the gumption to get into it. (A working definition of the ruling class is given in the appendix to Chapter 1.) This suggests a number of questions: Do some people have the right to rule others? If so, why not have done with the notion of equality of all “men” and abandon hypocrisy in favor of forthrightness? In order to have the right to rule one must have acquired power fairly. Also, one would have to exhibit moral and ethical behavior above reproach. I believe it is fair to doubt that either of these conditions are met.
Further, one may well ask if the rulers rule well. The persistence of injustice and the other overwhelming problems listed in this essay indicates that they do not. Also, it is clear that the ruling class is closed to nearly everyone. Nor may one enter it with a clear conscience if one is at all thoughtful. I think it would be fun to refer to the conservative tenet stated at the beginning of the previous paragraph as the Marcus Aurelius Myth. Contrary to our delusionary “meritocracy”, only the most barbaric and morally depraved individuals possess the lack of scruples necessary to rise to positions of importance, status, and, conceivably, a share in the ownership of the world – normally denied to nearly everyone regardless of moral condition. Even the super-rich rarely climb to such dizzying heights – or should I be serious for a moment and refer to the plutocracy as having descended to incredibly abysmal depths, which best describes the real world as it actually is.
Conservatives tend to be suspicious of social programs and, indeed, most social programs sponsored and implemented by a massive bureaucracy tend to become victims of the law of unintended effects if they weren’t simply schemes to defraud the taxpayers at the outset. But, conservatives are much given to the type of reasoning described by Jeremy Bentham in his Book of Political Fallacies  whenever they wish to oppose social reform of any type, even when desperately needed. They exhort us to rely on private charity to correct the cruelest conditions resulting from competition for wealth, but the institutions of private charity have become just like every other commercial enterprise. Government programs are inefficient, but private charities are inefficient too, especially when they are run for the benefit of their hierarchies. (The president of the Houston United Way earns in excess of $130,000 per year. Moreover, the United Way essentially extorts money from people who live on the edge of poverty by contriving to make contributions a matter of record within large companies.) Most hypocritical of all, though, are the big-time formal charity balls, which expend a fortune on ostentatious festivities for the privileged few putatively to contribute a pittance to those with essentially nothing. How many dollars do they spend on themselves for each dollar given to the poor in these great displays of public charity, replete with media coverage contrived to exalt the parasitic “upper” classes?
Conservatives are fervently patriotic and, in most cases, believe that, if America should go to war, God would be on her side. They tend to support free trade and the right of the United States to have interests worth fighting for in foreign countries, particularly in countries in our so-called sphere of influence. [Note in proof (1-23-96): According to Noam Chomsky  the heads of trans-national corporations (presumably conservative) do not permit the inconveniences of the market or “free” trade to hamper their own particular trading ventures, which they arrange to be protected from market influences whenever expedient to do so. However, this essay does not depend upon detailed knowledge of corrupt business practices. Public information known to anyone who wants to know (virtually everyone) is sufficient to make my points – whenever they cannot be made by a priori logic alone.] The typical conservative might drive an expensive European car. This is one of the rewards he reaps for his shameless exploitation of the natural resources and human labor in this country and wherever the United States has “interests”. Regrettably, the American flag has become the symbol of conservative values including America’s “God-given” right to exploit whomever she pleases. When a symbol becomes corrupt, we are obliged to disrespect it. But the worship of icons and totems is a foolish primitive ritual even when the icons and totems do not represent absolute evil.
The attributes of conservatives that I respect the least are their stupidity and naiveté if they are not beneficiaries of the policies they advocate and their viciousness if they are. Of course, the possibility remains that man be capable of great evil of which he is unaware. On the other hand, he may be just a damn liar. William Buckley has described the conservative agenda in a little pamphlet that I have seen fit to criticize in my essay “On William Buckley’s ‘Agenda for the Nineties’ ”, available in my collected papers Vol. II , the companion volume to this essay. (I sent it to Buckley, but he did not respond. Perhaps he didn’t read it – although he read as much of another essay of mine “as he had time for”. No one can accuse me of preaching only to the choir.) William Bennett’s conservatism is denounced in “On American Myths and Higher Education” (renamed “A Litany of American Myths”), also in Vol. II of the collection of my papers.
I am always faintly amused or to a large degree sickened (depending on my mood) when I hear American conservatives championing freedom. Even the old-fashioned phrase “free world” is a nasty joke because every policy of so-called conservatives puts the ruling class in a better position to rule totally. Even the populist republican or the libertarian espouses indefensible political positions built on myths.
Indeed, every conservative position is eventually overthrown, whether it be the flat earth, the earth as the center of the universe, the divine right of kings, the inferiority of the “colored” races, etc. After each such defeat, the conservatives pretend they never held such a position and go on to defend the latest claptrap. Conservatism is the defender of falsehood.
The Libertarians do not recognize the right of the government to regulate the affairs of mankind, particularly as government has traditionally done, namely, in its own interests or in the interests of monopolists, of whom Libertarians do not approve. But, by personal liberty, Libertarians include the liberty to exploit other people for profit. Whereas they deny the right to consume wealth in proportion to one’s skill at warfare, they accept the right to consume wealth in proportion to one’s skill and success in what I have called the money game. Thus, by medieval standards they are liberals. They defend the notion that some individuals may rightfully control vast portions of the earth’s surface while other individuals control none, depending, of course, on the individual’s success in the money game or other unfair or arbitrary circumstances. In addition, they imagine that owners of private property hold the right to earn money solely by virtue of that ownership, by collecting rents, say, or even by despoiling the natural beauty and suitability for wild animal life of their own land by logging, strip mining, or hunting, to mention only a few abuses. Undoubtedly, they believe in the right of every family to have as many children as it can afford, but I am not absolutely certain of that. As shown in this essay, these liberties impose directly upon the liberties of others and, therefore, are not exercised by thoughtful and considerate people. Libertarians are approximately half-way between (i) the ethics espoused by feudalists, imperialists, and other reactionaries who agree that the state may assist rich and powerful people in their quest for even greater wealth and power and (ii) the philosophy advocated in this essay. While they will defend my right to choose whatever lifestyle I prefer, they will not protect my fair share of the earth’s surface and natural resources from predators, which may cost me the use of a fair and equal share of the earth’s dividend sufficient to live at all.
According to the Random House Dictionary , a liberal favors “progress or reform” and “concepts of maximum personal liberty ..., especially as guaranteed by law and secured by government protection of civil liberties”. A liberal favors “freedom of action, especially with respect to matters of personal belief or expression”. A liberal is “free from prejudice or bigotry”, is “open-minded or tolerant, especially free of or not bound by traditional or conventional ideas, values, etc.”, and is “characterized by generosity and willing to give in large amounts”. (Conservatives would say “willing to give other people’s money in large amounts”.)
On the face of it, it would seem that everyone should be and would want to be a liberal. Unfortunately, most people who are characterized by themselves and others as liberals do not meet many of the dictionary’s criteria. Almost nobody is open to new ideas. While it is true that so-called liberals wish to address social problems usually by legislation, all they are hoping to achieve is to provide a safety net to prevent the most horrible catastrophes and to address the most egregious examples of public corruption by even more laws. Typically they are not in favor of making the essential changes advocated in this essay to get to the root of the fundamental social problems. They are barely distinguishable from conservatives. I find it amusing, whenever I have the opportunity to speak among them, to refer to them casually, in an offhand manner, as – conservatives (or even reactionaries). A section of Chapter 2 on thermodynamics, emergy, and economics is devoted to indicating, by means of system diagrams, why liberal policies to help the poor won’t work – principally because of government overhead.
Fundamentally, socialists accept the theories of Marx, which are certainly correct as far as they pertain to the past. We have already seen that Marx appreciated the defects of capitalism one hundred and fifty years ago. Most of his predictions have been amazingly accurate. People who wonder about the disorder in our cities and the alienation among our urban youth obviously haven’t read Marx! Unfortunately, no one can predict the future with perfect accuracy. I like to say that Marx understood capitalism perfectly (in fact, he may have coined the term), but he didn’t understand Marxism at all. This is understandable. (I probably don’t understand Wayburnism as well as I might. Dear reader, that is up to you.)
Socialists accept the ownership of private property by the government, which usually arranges itself into a large unwieldy bureaucracy that affords privileges to itself that are denied the ordinary citizen. Most socialist governments have gravitated toward what might better be called – state capitalism. It is important to show that the system advocated in this essay does not suffer from these defects. Socialism is discussed further in my essay “On Socialism, Utopian and Scientific by Frederick Engels”, available in a collection of my papers . [Note in proof (3-15-96): Noam Chomsky  pointed out recently (and perhaps earlier) that the Soviet government set out to crush socialism wherever it could as soon as it (the Soviet government) had acquired the power to do so. In particular, on Page 37 of Ref. 3, we read, “Abroad, the USSR was not a major actor, though its leaders did what they could to undermine socialism and libertarian tendencies, their leading role in the demolition of Spanish libertarian socialism being a prime example”.]
The Socialist Workers Party (SWP), for example, is asking only for jobs, housing, health care, education, human rights, and self-determination, an end to racism, bigotry, intolerance, and pollution, treatment of drug abuse, and dismissal of third-world debt. Sounds good, but the goals are inconsistent and not nearly good enough to save the world, except that to achieve self-determination the measures recommended in this paper will have to be adopted, but they are not stated specifically in the SWP agenda. The SWP does not favor the socialism of William Morris , which advocates only “preaching and teaching” as opposed to running for office, passing laws, etc. I believe I prefer the Morris approach. Nothing can be done until we know where we should be going. Perhaps nothing will come of debate, but debate we must have.
Capitalism is an undesirable form of materialism; but socialism, as it actually is found in countries that claim to be socialist countries, is a form of materialism too. Therefore, I reject it. (Noam Chomsky, in a television address or in one of his books that I actually read [3,7,8], stated that, under true socialism, the workers would own the means of production. This is not the socialism to which I am referring. By the way, he does not state whether true socialism would be materialistic or not. As far as I know, he is not familiar with the concept under any name.) In any case I had this to say about socialism in a letter to Ted Turner written the day after he interviewed Jimmy Carter. (I think I was too lavish in my praise of Jimmy Carter. I say that mainly because of what Chomsky said about him, if it be true. Also, I am not thrilled about the architectural ideas of Habitat for Humanity.)
Last night I saw and heard your interview with Jimmy Carter. He certainly is a credit to the office he held, but his recommendation that Soviet agriculture be conducted as free enterprise is flawed. Ultimately a system based on a negative emotion such as greed or even a nearly-neutral emotion such as self-interest, but divorced from charity, will lead to more problems than it will solve, as enumerated in [Chapter 5]. This is virtually a spiritual law.
The main problems with Soviet agriculture, as far as I can tell without having seen them first-hand, are: (i) centralized control by a large, inept, inefficient, self-serving bureaucracy and (ii) cynicism that comes from knowing that the wealth is not distributed equally or even fairly, that the big-city manager is getting a much bigger slice of the pie than the peasant on the land who produces real wealth.
Both of these problems can be overcome by my system. Taking the last first, the farmer will stay up all night with a sick hog if he knows he is getting his fair, equal share and is contributing to the people, not to some ambitious commissar in Moscow who doesn't give a damn about farmers. Moreover, the farmer will produce more than enough if he has complete control over the day-to-day internal operations of his farm, or rather if the farmers have complete, democratic [isocratic] control of the farm since very few farms are operated by only one farmer. Even the farmer's wife had better get a vote and, if a leader (manager) must be chosen, i.e., if the farm cannot be run by consensus, then let that leader be chosen, for a term of fixed length, by unanimous vote or by some truly random process that selects from among those who are willing, and are qualified as determined by education and past performance, to serve. What good is a democracy if everyone still has to put up with an externally chosen boss in nearly every aspect of his daily working life! "No one is good enough to be someone else's master."
The role of centralized control or planning should be to determine statistically how many beets are desired, plus a reasonable surplus, and then apportion the growing of beets according to the abilities, inclinations, and locations of the farms and farmers so as to minimize waste, effort, and inconvenience and to ensure congruence with the natural resources of the nation and with reasonable forecasts and probabilities of good or bad weather. This is a problem in applied mathematics, not in applied politics, and if the right people are allowed to solve it, namely, scientists with no ax to grind, the results should be completely felicitous. The farmer has complete control over how his work is to be accomplished and has only to notify the central-computer database what things he has need of to produce the unit beet. As technology improves, the farmer can spend more and more time practicing the French horn and relegate the drudgery to robots and other machines. He knows he is getting his fair share of all improvements and he is motivated primarily by his love of the land and by his generous feelings toward his fellow man.
This isn't just naive idealism. This is a practical way of making things work and, perhaps, the only practical way.
January 6, 1990
At a meeting of the Texas Populist Alliance a follower of Lyndon LaRouche rose to speak and was applauded – even – for his initial remarks; but, when, without making any other statements of substance, he announced his affiliation with LaRouche, he was immediately hooted down. I and a few others protested the denial of his right to speak but to no avail. (The LaRouchites believe many things that make sense, but LaRouche’s own book  denies the validity of the three laws of thermodynamics without saying what they are. Also, it refers repeatedly to Dirichlet’s Principle without stating it. When I asked Harley Schlanger, the LaRouchite candidate for Senator from Texas, if he understood the book, he said yes. But when I asked him to state Dirichlet’s Principle, he could not do it. (I can, but most folks wouldn’t enjoy it.) This suggests a little bit of phoniness on the part of LaRouchites, but it is still necessary to repudiate their doctrines one by one. This is actually done in this essay but without identifying the doctrines as those of LaRouche because, in most cases, they are shared by others.)
I have discussed the positions of most candidates one finds on the ballot in the United States. Regrettably, space does not permit a discussion of other political positions here. My position is never represented on the ballot and, I must confess, I resent it, therefore I am sympathetic with other minorities who are never taken sufficiently seriously to have their doctrines repudiated – even. Perhaps in another edition (or a later draft) I will discuss the views of political minorities, especially if they will take the trouble to make me aware of them. (I intend to make myself available to my readers – except in the unlikely event that they are too numerous to carry on discourse with individually.)
To the conservatives, who do not recognize the need for a complete transformation of society in which an entirely new social-economic-political system is constructed from the ashes of the corrupt and obsolete institutions of the Western world, to the Libertarians, in fact, to anyone who still accepts any form of the current world economic system, I must address a number of questions:
Question 1: Who owns the sky? The oceans? The other waters (including the aquifers)?
Undoubtedly, most people would agree that no one owns the sky and the oceans, but they may not have deduced that the entire human race holds them in custodianship for the rest of the earth’s population and may use them only in a nondestructive and nonexhaustive manner. Wars have been fought over the use of inland waterways, especially if they provide sustenance, e.g., the River Jericho, the Colorado River. It is not a difficult leap of logic to recognize that the same principles of commonality apply to inland waterways and the oceans.
Question 2. Who owns the natural resources of the earth?
Again, although industrialists would like to draw a distinction, no essential philosophical difference lies between the use of the natural resources of the earth and the sky. The members of species other than our own, presumably, would not be able to exercise their natural proprietorship over the natural gas, say, and rights that cannot be exercised are not valid. Ecologists may wish to correct me on this point.
Question 3. Since all natural resources are bequeathed by Mother Nature to all of humanity in common, are we not all communists in this sense? Also, on the question of health care, as a conservative commentator pointed out recently, “No one will stand for someone else’s child getting better health care than his own. When it comes to healthcare, we are all communists” [quoted loosely].
Question 4. Does posterity have rights?
Actually, we are all communists; and, clearly, posterity does have rights. This is not arguable. We must find a way humanely to restrain those who believe otherwise, as we cannot continue to let them put their “all for us and nothing for anyone else” philosophy into practice – as they are doing currently. It’s impossible to do useful work without exploiting the global commons. Moral people find a way to restore whatever they take, repair whatever damage they inflict. This is a moral axiom. Now, where does that leave the Libertarian, who is willing to let me starve while he exploits my share and my posterity’s share of the global commons! The global commons is Mother Nature’s bequest to all of humanity and other living creatures for all time and in equal shares. The age of conquest (and genocide) is over. No philosopher will defend it as a present-day policy regardless of what wicked or stupid men do.
Question 5. Since posterity cannot express its wishes, how are we to protect the rights of posterity and who will do it? How will posterity’s share of the earth’s resources be used? Who is the rightful guardian of the rights of posterity to the earth’s natural resources?
I guess we all are. I wish to propose an interesting possibility for the edification and amusement of the reader: We all know that we have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, etc. That means we ought to have over one trillion ancestors only fifty generations ago. But the population was smaller formerly not larger, therefore many of our antecedents must have been the same people. Now, suppose my wife and I have (the maximum allowable) two children. These in turn take mates (assuming monogamy, etc., persists) and each couple has two children. If I count my in-laws as part of my posterity, after n generations the number of my posterity is – assuming everyone lives in the youngest two generations, that is, no one dies before his grandparents, everyone reproduces, etc. Now further suppose that the carrying capacity of the earth is ten billion souls. Then, taking P = 10 and solving for n, my posterity will exceed ten billion souls, the carrying capacity of the earth, in only 32 generations, or, allowing 25 years per generation, 800 years. After only 800 years, all of posterity could be my posterity. I wish to have a voice in defending the rights of my descendants!
Question 6. In view of this possibility, how much input should I have in decisions concerning the use of these resources?
I must exercise the veto power at the very least, but this discussion is far from over.
Question 7. In a market system what is to prevent clever players of market games from usurping excessive amounts of the earth’s resources – beyond what is replaceable during their lifetimes? At a recent talk at Rice University, Dr. Herman Daly suggested a tax on natural resources. This won’t work. They taxed coal (probably still do) in Wyoming to provide a resource when the coal is gone (or the market collapses), but coal extraction increased and they spent the money right away rather than saving it for a posterity without coal. It is easy to see that a tax on natural resources won’t work and I’ll leave the reasons as an exercise for the reader. (Daly thanked me cordially for making him look like a moderate. We both laughed.)
Question 8. Isn’t this the same as deficit spending?
I hope I have made that abundantly clear in Chapter 2.
Question 9. In a system that permits competition for wealth and power what is to prevent successful players from damaging the sky, the oceans, etc., which are owned in common by all species? – especially if the government does not have strong, extensive, and expensive regulatory powers, which none of us seem to want?
Question 10. Whereas they produce no food, clothing, shelter, health care, etc., how do businesspeople justify their lavish consumption? Is this ethical?
They imagine that they produce jobs for those who actually do produce the things we need to live. This shows a complete misunderstanding of the purpose of an economy. The time spent on the job – although regrettably excessive – and the money earned are the least important factors in the economic equation. The products that sustain life and at what cost to the environment are the real issues. Jobs are an anachronism – as shown earlier.
Question 11. Why should people who produce nothing have more than those who produce useful things?
Question 12. Why must I, for whom I feel qualified to speak, spend a non-negligible percent of my time engaged in activities that provide remuneration, which are, perforce, dull and boring since useful and interesting activities offer little or no remuneration, as society is set up to prevent me from getting out of the money game entirely. Even if I provide everything I need to live by my own efforts on my own land, I must come up with property taxes? Why don’t so-called Libertarians recognize that by supporting any materialistic economic-social-political system they force me into remunerative activities, which is the opposite of libertarianism – it is slavery? Why do members of the Libertarian Party shun isopluty (equal sharing of wealth), which they imagine will lead to totalitarianism (all societies that tried to institute isopluty were totalitarian to begin with) according to some magical and unexplainable supernatural law, whereas they embrace materialism, which is guaranteed to lead to totalitarianism according to the simple logic employed in this essay, which doesn’t resort to anything unknown or mysterious? Why must I concern myself with money (to hold my own in an improper game) simply because you insist upon living your life under a cloak of greed and fear?
Question 13. Why should a talent for making money allow people to control more of the earth’s surface, and the ecology dependent upon it, and influence the affairs of their communities more than people with talent for natural philosophy, art, music and other nobler pursuits? How will you prevent this from happening without abandoning materialism?
Question 14. In a world where the average consumable wealth (on a sustainable basis) is barely enough to avoid misery (as I showed, in Chapter 2, was probably the case for this world, namely, ten billion people living on an energy budget that is likely to be less than ten terawatts per year (1 kilowatt per person) because of the exhaustion of high-grade fossil fuel reserves), how can you justify letting billions live in misery and poverty – even starve to death, simply because the free-enterprise market systems permit inequality in consumption?
Question 15. Why should we accept free markets when we know the rule about all players having equal strength is never satisfied?
Question 16. How can you justify selling the time of one’s life for money? Can’t you see the other contradictions in the institution of employment, cf., allowing the extinction of an entire species to save the jobs of only seventy workers, who will soon be out of work even if they do kill all the spotted owls? Keeping a useless military base open and operational because the nonmilitary residents of its community depend on it for a livelihood. For that matter, what distinguishes those hard working people from welfare recipients?
Question 17. How will you prevent monopolies like the one Bill Gates will have achieved as soon as he drives software for the Macintosh off of the shelves of nearly every software retailer? (He already has reduced the space allotted to software that runs on the Mac to less than 10% and, probably, closer to 5%.) I suspect that he employs illegal and immoral methods, but I can’t prove it. This is not an accusation, so forget about a libel suit, Bill.
Question 18. If you are opposed to the use of violence to achieve political goals, how can you justify large multi-national corporations that sometimes exercise more tyranny than sovereign states?
Question 19. Why would Libertarians imagine that dematerialism (defined below to coincide with the reforms advocated by the author) involves violence when, by definition, dematerialism requires consensus and voluntary institutional change?
Question 20. Why don’t Libertarians recognize that by supporting artificial economic contingency they force virtually everyone including themselves to participate in remunerative activities to the exclusion of activities that are interesting and useful and permit us to get into the flow of life whereas they do not provide remuneration, e.g., spontaneous scientific and mathematical investigations, poetry, music (art is useful; it teaches scruples and satisfies essential spiritual needs)? Those who tolerate the playing of the money game, which makes life a game and dominates this strange and improper so-called game of life (now virtually congruent with the money game down to seemingly insignificant flirtations in the sexual arena), force others to play the money game even if those others despise it.
Question 21. If Libertarians are willing to use force to prevent people from murdering their oppressors, why are they not willing to use force to prevent people from usurping a disproportionately large share of posterity by procreation – especially when those usurpers are motivated by a desire to obtain converts to their religion from among their own pre-reason children, who are easy prey to fallacies, superstitions, and myths?
The plain fact is that no political philosophy discussed publicly other than the philosophy presented in this essay, which has been discussed publicly on a few occasions but only in Houston, (and to a very slight extent socialism) even begins to address the hundreds of social problems from which we all suffer, whereas this philosophy is guaranteed to solve virtually every social problem. No one can stand up to me in protracted debate. (In view of the life-and-death importance of the subject, it does not seem excessive to spend one week in debate.) Other political systems of which I am aware don’t even make a pretense of solving social problems. They are wrong and worthless.
Question 22. Why is Libertarian “philosophy”, for example, so ineffective in solving social problems such as those listed in Appendix II? Would not my philosophy, on the face of it, seem more complete as well as more reasonable, beautiful, and practical? Of course Libertarians and other conservatives will answer that my philosophy is completely impractical, but their “proof” will be the recent history of Eastern Europe, the Former Soviet Union, and China. But, this is no proof at all as there were no controls and the armed might and expensive propaganda (television, motion pictures, and pseudo-music extolling consumption) of the West was set against these nations to ensure the failure of whatever social experiments were tried. If the West had said, “What a beautiful idea; let’s see what we can do to increase the chance of its success”, that would be an entirely different matter – not a proof but a reasonable plausibility argument if these systems still failed with every aid we could afford to provide them. The same question applies to any conservative political ideology. Most conservatives, however, don’t seem to have any philosophy at all. Aside from some vague notions and prejudices, they don’t seem to think anything!
Question 23. And, by the way, how do you intend to address the population problem? By denying its existence?
Question 24. How will you prevent chemical companies, say, who are in competition with chemical companies in other nations with different laws or with unscrupulous companies in their own nation from giving themselves the advantage of making less effort to protect the environment and to protect the public from hazardous wastes and other forms of pollution, as much as they would like to do it, when they may actually be driven out of business if they make that extra effort, which most of their competitors avoid in one way or the other? Certainly, allowing emissions has only a minimum effect on the value of the property of the polluter. Small reductions in pollution can lead to economic savings, but we can prove that, in a market economy, it is still more efficient economically to pollute unacceptably than not to pollute beyond acceptable limits.
Question 25. What do you intend to do about the homeless, the disenfranchised, the welfare class, the working poor, the millions of Americans who are not covered by adequate health insurance, and the intolerable conditions in the Third World?
Question 26. How do you intend to address the intolerable injustice of two legal systems – one for the rich, another for the poor – and what about the incredible disparity in legal clout between corporations and ordinary individuals?
Question 26. How are you going to eliminate the threat of war while retaining materialism?
Question 27. In view of the high probability that the winner of campaigns for elected office will continue to be the candidate who spends the most money on advanced scientific marketing techniques, how do you intend to restore democracy to America?
Question 28. Finally, and here is a little social problem for the rich, how are you going to protect yourselves from an enraged “criminal” (soon to become “terrorist”) class? Do you wish to be a murderer? Do you wish to participate in another holocaust that will dwarf all past atrocities put together? On the other hand, do you wish to be murdered in your sleep?
The questions for conservatives have been asked or could be asked of Libertarians, who claim to be conservative only in economy; but, in reality, are conservative in their social outlook and their lack of compassion for the losers of the rigged game they – the losers – have been forced to play by the armed force of the state, i.e., by tyranny backed up by the biggest and most expensive lies ever manufactured and supported by technology beyond the wildest dreams of George Orwell. Goebbels, the Nazi minister of propaganda, would have been impressed – if I may borrow a Chomskian witticism. However, almost nobody in America can fail to be at least slightly embarrassed by these questions – except that shame has been virtually banished from their emotional repertoires by the multi-billion dollar feel-good-about-yourself personal-salvationist industry.
We are not fond of -isms, whether it be Communism, Socialism, Paulism, or Wayburnism. It will not help to call it an -ology. Isms, if I may abuse a suffix slightly, seem to put a box around a set of ideas and paralyze subsequent thought. It is as though one could bottle wisdom. I am not particularly happy with my choice of the term dematerialism to describe a specific notion, let alone an entire philosophy, despite my cautionary remarks. Nor did I like the term decompetitionism when that was my term of choice. Actually, I am not against competition in every context. It is important to distinguish between competition in what I call proper games, like tennis, gin rummy, and baseball (if the strike zone were the same for all hitters and pitchers), and competition in improper games, like business.
[Note in proof 8-6-95, revised 5-12-96: Baseball is not quite a proper game as a pitch to a veteran superstar will be called a ball, but would be called a strike for a rookie. This is not in the rule book. One is reminded of the rookie pitcher who complained to the umpire that many of his pitches to the great Rogers Hornsby were being called balls even though they seemed to be decidedly in the strike zone. The rookie was informed by the veteran umpire, “When you throw a strike Mr. Hornsby will let you know.” This, of course, is a de facto rule as opposed to an ad jure rule, which is improper. In my essay “On Sports”, which may be found in a collection of my essays (eventually), I will discuss the introduction of an automatic, balls-and-strikes caller, employing technology readily available in 1995. This would not, I repeat not, put an umpire out of work.]
Despite our dislike of -isms, we find it useful to supply names for things. Somehow even knowing the name of a plant increases our joy in contemplating it, although a rose by any other name would still be a rose. In this essay I have taken my rejection of materialism, i.e., artificial economic contingency, defined to be the notion that our personal material well-being should depend on our behavior, combined it with a few additional ideas that I believe are necessary for the survival of humanity, and named the personal point of view derived therefrom “dematerialism”, for better or for worse. I am not satisfied with the term, and I have seriously considered changing the name to “anti-materialism” or “non-materialism”. (Lately I have been toying with the term natural economy.) Perhaps I should just refer to “the reforms recommended by me”. (Calling my ideas Wayburnism is more humble than calling my ideas something fancy like dematerialism because the term Wayburnism reminds us all that these ideas are, after all, only my ideas. But no one is going to buy that line of thought, so I had better stick with dematerialism. Nevertheless, when people ask me whether I am a Democrat or a Republican, I always answer, “Neither, I’m a Wayburnian.”) Hopefully, no one will wrap these ideas into a neat little package and apply them thoughtlessly. Just as we must reject leadership in the usual sense, we must reject the idea that anyone can do our thinking for us. God forbid that we should resolve our conflicts in living by referring to a book whose authors are dead and cannot elucidate the meaning of what they wrote. Even as I write these words I am undecided as to what to name the theory or the essay. If I weren’t concerned about someone else naming the theory for me, I might be more strongly inclined to give it no name at all.
It is entirely possible that ideas identical to those described in this essay have been presented in the past in another context or even recently. I have not read everything. I have not read Saint-Simon or William Morris. It has been so long since I read Thomas More that I remember nothing of what he said. I don’t think it matters. [Note in proof (1-24-96). Recently I reread Utopia . I was horrified, but More never heard Billie Holliday sing – even. For readers who don’t know what I mean by that cryptic remark, I am speculating merely that one can learn more philosophy from great art than from great philosophical writings, if any exist.] No matter what I hear or read I have to figure it all out for myself all over again anyway. There is no substitute for independent thought. With this apology I continue to discuss what I regretfully have chosen to call dematerialism.
Definition (Dematerialism). Dematerialism is shorthand for a collection of reforms that are intended to prevent gradients (differences from person to person) in status from existing or arising. (Status, you remember, is a technical term chosen to subsume (i) wealth, (ii) power and negotiable influence, and (iii) negotiable fame.) Dematerialism might just as well be called anti-materialism or non-materialism or something else or nothing. (Perhaps it would be better if no term at all were employed, but that would be inconvenient for writers.)
We must abandon materialism as defined above. People must voluntarily stop competing for status. This means, perforce, that all human beings will enjoy equal status. The type of fame that a great artist or scientist might accrue could not be exchanged for power or wealth, therefore it is not what I mean by ‘status’. (Most people say they would like this, but no one else would! Does anyone else see the irony in this? I quickly point out that I am not asking what others would like; but, clearly, many people, even self-styled conservatives, would prefer to live in a world without materialism. We may even have a majority, especially if it’s explained properly.)
We must stabilize our population. I believe these reforms will facilitate a stable population without coercion (or famine, war, and epidemic disease). People tend to have fewer children when they expect all of them to live and when they do not intend to rely upon children to support their old age or assist them in their middle years. More importantly, we need a strong quasi-steady-state economy (defined in Chapter 3), which cannot be achieved without a stable population. Also, it would be desirable to replace giant national bureaucracies by nonintrusive part-time communicators to manage relations between (among) small decentralized communities that barely recognize national borders but rely upon practically nothing that is not within walking distance. The main business of communities, once they are self-sufficient, or nearly so, is to cooperate with other communities in managing the ecosystems wherein they reside, which, normally, will be much larger than the area occupied by a single community.
The minimal changes required to save the world, then, are equality of wealth and power in a quasi-steady-state world (with a stabilized or shrinking human population). To achieve these goals, I suggest the following:
1. The elimination of materialism, which might be achieved most easily by abandoning money and other fiduciary certificates that facilitate the hoarding of (surrogate) wealth that can be converted into real wealth as long as people believe that it can. Abandoning business, trade, commerce, “free” enterprise employing wage slaves (anyone who has sold the time of his life for money whether or not he enjoys his work), capitalism, or whatever you want to call it.
2. Worker custodianship, in equal shares, of the means of production. (I have not used the word syndicalism to describe dematerialism because syndicalism sometimes connotes trade unionism, which requires conspiracies among workers engaged in similar activities but in different enterprises. In this system, trade unions would be unnecessary; but, as in syndicalism, workers would own the means of production.) I subscribe to Schumacher’s view that “small is beautiful” . I hope that the gigantic factories will disappear to be replaced by production facilities that can fit in a two-car garage, say, and need be staffed by at most a half a dozen workers.
3. The abandonment of “leadership” and traditional management and the replacement of leaders and managers by communicators selected randomly. (People who are emulated by others or whose suggestions are solicited frequently and followed voluntarily are not the “leaders” I have in mind. Elected officials, corporate and military officers, and demagogues exercise power over people who do not wish to have that power exercised. This is tyranny. Perhaps I should not refer to it as leadership, but that’s what it’s called in common parlance.)
4. The replacement of a corrupt and incomprehensible system of laws based on taboos, superstitions, and lies by rational morals derived from moral axioms and abandoning the institutions of punishment and revenge. The adoption of the Minimal Proper Religion discussed in this essay as a social contract.
5. Reducing the size of government to practically nothing.
6. Establishing small decentralized, nearly self-sufficient eco-communities with planned economies lightly coupled to one another (by single-track rail or by something even simpler, e.g., man-drawn barges) to effect a few minor economies of scale.
First physicist: “I’m going to really get back in shape this year by hauling the St. Clair Shores / Wyandotte barge.”
Second physicist: “You’ll never make the team. I know two dozen guys from our lab alone who applied months ago. And they’ve been pumping iron (working out with weights) all year!”).
7. Residences and residential property of equal or nearly equal value per capita. The notion of selecting new residences by lot every few years has some merit, but I prefer the notion of “the old family place” passed on by lot to one of at most two children. New concepts of family should be expected, however. (Waterfront property should be reserved for industrial or recreational commons, i.e., owned in common and used in shares.)
The results of these reforms should be:
1. Replacement of employment by involvement, replacement of coercion by volition, replacement of greed by generosity, replacement of fear by love, and replacement of ignorance by knowledge.
2. Renewed respect for leisure and a vast improvement in the quality of life such that the word education would take on a useful meaning (actually its dictionary meaning).
3. Quite naturally, the equilibration of wealth and power, hopefully with sufficient abundance of life for everyone, but not the lavish and wasteful lifestyles of middle-class Americans.
4. The establishment of a strong quasi-steady-state environment.
5 Nearly universal happiness until the sun burns out or a similar astronomical catastrophe occurs. I believe I have proved in my essay “On Space Travel and Research”, in Vol. II of my collected papers , the inadvisability of attempting to preserve the human race beyond such a time.
I hope no one rejects these ideas without showing in detail why they are wrong. If we do what is only “realistic”, we may end up doing something that is useless or harmful. Of course, no one knows what the actual results of these reforms might be, therefore I suggest introducing changes one at a time to anticipate and deal with unintended effects. No one can predict the future!
A man A and his brother B were marooned on an isolated island, such as Jules Verne’s Mysterious Isle. A, wishing to survive, began to extract a living from the earth. His brother, B, did nothing except wander through the lush forests of the island. When harvest time came and A had built suitable shelter against the approaching harsh weather; he shared everything equally with his brother without conditions or reproaches – because he was a generous man (perhaps a follower of the Sermon on the Mount), and one’s brother is, after all, one’s brother. (To be perfectly honest, the thought did not escape him that it might be unwise to create a grievance against himself in such a remote region far from the courts and the laws of man.) What do you think of the behavior of the brothers so far?
The industrious brother, A, prospered and the “lazy” brother, B, continued his idle wanderings with A’s tacit approval. One day A fell dangerously ill with malaria. Normally, he would not have survived; but, as it happened, his brother, B, in his wanderings, had discovered a patch of quinine and B engaged his skill in chemistry, learned years ago at the university, to save A’s life. Clearly, then, it is impossible to evaluate a person’s worth until after his life ends and, perhaps, not for hundreds of years after his life ends – if ever.
This is an example of a small isolated natural economy; but, after all, we are all brothers and sisters and this small isolated circumstance should be the natural state of the world. The people who claim this is inconsistent with human nature are claiming much more complete knowledge of human nature (under every circumstance and with every sort of upbringing) than anyone possesses about anything. I have not dared to make such an aggressive assumption about any hypothetical world I have considered. Moreover, I would surmise that such people, i.e., detractors of my view of humanity, imagine it is reasonable to be happy while others are miserable (in contradiction with my Fundamental Premise). Perhaps they find the misery of others, particularly members of “undesirable” races, strangely and perversely satisfying; but, undoubtedly, this is an unfair assessment. If I have guessed rightly, though, I would ask them to look deeply into their own “hearts”, as the metaphor goes. I propose that one’s reaction to the Fundamental Premise divides people into two distinct classes – from my view the only useful class distinction we have. For the sake of convenience, I shall refer to people for whom the Fundamental Premise is true as people of good will. I’d rather not name the other class.
In a natural economy people are motivated intrinsically to do what interests them or what gives them great pleasure by being of use to those whom they love. Either mode of behavior is admittedly consistent with self-interest. Why would one wish to act on any other basis? People are motivated by love and generosity (as opposed to greed and fear) – sometimes the love is of other people; often it is the love of a pleasurable activity such as an act of creation. No one accepts compensation for anything one gives, does, or says. That would create contingency, which diminishes personal freedom, and, in turn, happiness and the enjoyment of life, according to the theory of Deci and Ryan , which obtains in , a hypothetical world similar to this world. Other aspects of status would be rejected as compensation quite as readily as wealth. On the other hand, excellence is bound to be noticed and so long as no one uses that recognition for an extrinsic purpose, I see no reason why some people might not be noted for talent, genius, good behavior, honor, nobility, friendliness, or just being good company.
It should be noticed immediately that in a natural economy it is impossible for large accumulations of “paper” wealth to occur; moreover, wealth is guaranteed to be divided essentially equally. While one man may own an expensive tool – a grand piano or a microscope – his housing, clothing, consumption of food, availability of health care, and access to information are bound to be roughly equivalent to that of every other person, especially if the infrastructure is in place to ship essential natural resources from resource-rich regions to resource-poor regions under a weak world-federalist organization, say. In a natural economy, political power and fame tend to be distributed evenly too. Power over other people would be unthinkable.
Of course, in a natural economy people will still be faced with natural economic contingency such as drought, forest fires, and floods; but, with proper planning and sharing of resources (with no strings attached), things ought to be much better than in an economy where people must cope with artificial economic contingency as well.
Excess wealth leads to excess political power, moreover the path of materialism leads directly to doom because materialism promotes consumption in a world of scarcity where stockpiles of high-grade energy are being depleted rapidly as shown in Chapter 2; therefore, money and commerce must be abandoned as soon as nearly everyone wants to have them abandoned. Whereas it may be possible to eliminate materialism, as defined above, without abolishing money, clearly materialism cannot survive when money no longer exists and all goods are free, which, incidentally, would eliminate a host of inconveniences. In a dematerialist (anti-materialist or non-materialistic, natural) society, housing will be distributed equitably. Food, health care, communications, tools, household goods, clothing, and the few standard luxuries that take the drudgery out of life will be free, with some temporary limitations. In a scarcity situation, we, all of us, might employ temporarily some sort of rationing, implemented by means of a community credit card that accounted for material goods individually to discourage excessive consumption and hoarding – not without some danger. Goods might be denominated in currency units (perhaps emergy units, cf., Chapter 2); but, to facilitate the necessary change, it might be better to abandon the concept of money altogether. In a non-scarcity situation, we might dispense with individual accounting. In an amusing twist of fate, former members of the business community might be well-suited to help us accomplish these goals by applying techniques (such as real estate appraisal) that were intended originally only to make money. Thus, help might come from an unexpected quarter.
If our inclinations become more spiritual, presumably because of education in the humanities and exposure to great art – or, if our inclinations become, at least, more rational, we might decide to use the savings effected by eliminating business and improving technology to reduce our impact on the environment rather than to increase our material abundance. Always, we should seek innovative social reforms that encourage us to consume less of every resource.
Leadership, which constitutes, a priori, the abridgment of the freedom of the nonleaders by the leaders, leads to materialism because many of us must respond by trying to increase our own share of the power over our own lives. Also, leaders are well-placed to appropriate an unfair share of material wealth to themselves and their friends. Moreover, power corrupts! Therefore, let us reject leadership and give our children the education they need to take charge of their own lives, rather than a twentieth-century education that inculcates docility, stupidity, and conformity; and, thus, prepares the graduates of today’s elementary schools, high-schools, colleges, professional schools, and graduate schools to be dominated. Leadership was discussed in detail in Chapter 6, “On Tyranny”.
Since big government leads to bureaucratic tyranny, we shall privatize all but a minimal government – hopefully a government that consists of reasonably small and independent committees formed on an ad hoc basis to take care of such needs of the community as may, from time to time, require concerted action such as building a bridge. To prevent the rise of “natural leaders”, it might be wise to select public servants by a random or quasi-random process for reasonably short terms of service or, perhaps, until they are voted out of office, whichever comes first, after which they are exempt from public service for a reasonably long period of time. The Freedom Axiom guarantees the right to refuse to serve. In a natural society, when public service ceases to be a profession or a career, most people should be able to gain spiritually from failure at one or another task to which one has been appointed accidentally and relieved of by popular request. Everyone fails at something; no one can do everything. Natural people treat failure as useful information.
It is easy to see (by a simple process of elimination) that private enterprises should be owned in equal shares by their workers with all participants sharing power equally. It seems reasonable to select organizers and communicators as above. Perhaps neighbors, consumers, and other stakeholders should be empowered as well, provided, of course, that conflicts of interest do not arise. More details are given later.
Since our material well-being will be independent of what we do, no one can coerce us or exploit us. It will be difficult, if not impossible, for one person to acquire power over another. People who wish to dissent will have the same access to the media and the minds of children in school as everyone else. The idea of this system is to replace coercion, hierarchy, and privilege with freedom, equality, and justice by turning the way we think about wealth inside out. Dematerialism is really nothing more than faith in the essential goodness of man, for which, I suppose, we will need to provide some sort of scientific proof. I find it amazing that people believe in God, but they don’t believe in Goodness.
Quite obviously, the average American is strongly disposed to believe that political and economic systems involving equal incomes and equal wealth are guaranteed to fail because of human nature. This, after all, is the official party line with which he has been indoctrinated since birth. I have indicated a number of reasons for taking the contrary view. I believe I proved the opposite view in the last chapter, therefore I would like to consider the matter settled. I believe the previous discussion and proofs should satisfy a reasonable person. (I proved the Fundamental Theorem in Chapter 10. In the preface, I gave a good plausibility argument for the Fundamental Premise, which, in Chapter 4, we agreed to accept as an article of faith in the absence of a rigorous proof.) Unfortunately, we have been brainwashed to the point where even very intelligent people lack what used to be called common sense! Therefore, we shall state a few more reasons why we reject materialism even in this next-to-last chapter.
The type of economics we learned from Samuelson  is scarcity economics. It assumes that nature and society cannot provide enough emergy to satisfy everyone and that people will compete for what is available. And yet, the establishment teaches small children that, if they stay in school and behave according to accepted norms, they will still be able to live the “American Dream”. The establishment has done a pretty good job of spreading this idea beyond the schools because our borders are besieged by thousands of illegal immigrants who believe they have a reasonably good shot at the American Dream. They are willing to risk their lives for that chance, which they must imagine is better than it can possibly be.
But, haven’t we forgotten that this is a scarcity economic system! Not everyone can live the American Dream. Actually if more than about 20% of the world’s population did, the rest would starve to death as shown in Chapter 2. The American Dream can be shown to involve vast overconsumption of scarce resources. But, there is no danger of the American Dream coming to all of America. We must have poor people who will continue to be exploited as they have always been. From this disparity between the rich and the poor – not just the rich and poor of our own country – comes increasing social disorder. The person who shoots your wife and takes her car doesn’t earn as much as do you. Whose fault is that? The system itself and its propaganda is bound to engender enormous conflicts – not just between the rich and poor of our nation but between the rich nations of the world and the poor nations.
[Explain to me just why you think you are entitled to consume more than someone else. What was that? Now, you don’t believe that, do you? I didn’t think so. In any case, you would not fare well in protracted debate with me. I hope you didn’t think we were going to debate in sound bites. We are not running for President of the United States; this is important!]
In Chapter 2, we showed that a population of about ten billion human beings can afford to spend about 1 kilowatt per capita. This is more than three times the subsistence expenditure of 0.3 kilowatts per capita and, probably, will permit adequate food, clothing, shelter, comfort heating and cooling, global communications, health care, etc. (We must assume that a 1 kilowatt per capita society is possible if we wish to consider the sufficiency part of the Fundamental Theorem proved; i.e., this assumption is true in hypothetical world, , described in Chapters 1, 4, and 10.) Of course, if someone exceeds this average, someone must do with less and conflicts are bound to arise. Thus, we may assume the necessity of equality of wealth as essentially proven. “One can never prove a theorem too many times, especially if no one believes it.”
We like to brag about freedom in America. I never cease to be astounded at how readily the American people swallow this absurdity. If you have a job, you must do as someone else wishes – whether the plain fact of the matter is evident or not. (Perhaps you think you are “empowered”.) If we are not free when we are at work, we are not free people. Period. But, the theory of intrinsic motivation shows that autonomous workers will produce effectively. We can replace employment by more humane and efficient institutions.
“The Parable of the Two Ship-Wrecked Brothers” provides a scenario wherein people have lived successfully without jobs or, in fact, any type of artificial economic contingency whatever. It is easy to extend this to an entire community.
The Founding Fathers hoped to make America a nation where no one would have to violate the dictates of his conscience to live. We have fallen far short of that goal. For example, many people consider it immoral to accept a reward or any compensation whatsoever for anything done, given, or said. I believe Jesus was one such person. I know that I am another. And, yet, it appears that I am forced to violate my (proper) religious convictions – at least occasionally. Lately, though, the idea has entered my mind to do as Jesus advised and refuse payments for what I produce. I wonder what would happen. Could this be the answer? To follow such an honorable policy for an extended time would require tremendous faith in ultimate Goodness. (Also, what would my wife say?!)
As far as non-monetary awards go, I would like to cite two cases where, apparently, awards poisoned intrinsic motivation. (1) In 1987, I won the Ted Peterson Award for the best paper written by a student in the field of Computers and Systems Technology (CAST). This was presented by the CAST Division of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. (The award included a $500 check, but I think the money was too small an amount to have had the effect I am about to describe.) Since winning that award I have not written an original paper in that field. (2) In his book Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman , Richard Feynman tells the reader that, after he had a one-man show of his graphic art, Maurice Tuchman said, “You know, you’re never going to draw again.” When Feynman expressed surprise, Tuchman explained, “Because you’ve had a one-man show, and you’re only an amateur.” For all practical purposes, Feynman tells us, this turned out to be true. Naturally, I shall have much more to say about awards – both monetary and non-monetary. See, for example, my essay “On Awards” in my collected essays , if it becomes available. (As long as I am able, I will accommodate people who write me to request essays.)
Recently, I completed a year as a visiting professor at the rather new chemical engineering department of an old Historically Black University. Out of a class of 20 juniors studying separation techniques (such as distillation) I was forced (by my own numerical recipe for determining grades) to fail five students who did not have the foggiest idea of what was going on. I don’t know whether they had insufficient time to study because of large course loads and outside jobs (all too common in this university) or they really have no talent for the profession of chemical engineering, which, by the way, is very difficult and demands the best and the brightest – with sometimes catastrophic results in case incompetents slip through the degree and licensing process. In any case, I encountered serious indignation from some students who received Ds and Fs. They went to the dean and demanded a hearing before a special panel, which they received. Now, suppose I was a lousy teacher. Then, they could have learned the material from the book. (Very little material was covered.) Suppose it was a lousy book. In that case, they could have learned from another book or from each other. The dean, who is Black, refused to change their grades despite the recommendation of the panel.
My interpretation of these events is as follows: The students recognize that the world owes them a living. I would be the last person to employ the old saw and claim it didn’t. After all, they stayed in school; they stayed off drugs; they paid their tuition; and, probably, they went to church (which could be part of their problem). Their local society has virtually contracted with them to provide, if they do all these things, the American Dream – a house, car, clothing, jewelry, luxuries, and plenty of dough.
So far, so good. The world owes them a living – one way or the other – either because society owes everyone an equal share of the social dividend or because they were in effect promised it by their local society. But, if they are to attain the American Dream, they must have jobs with good pay – presumably in chemical engineering. But, if they are to get jobs with good pay in chemical engineering, they must get degrees and reasonably high grades – because, nowadays, companies are loath to hire C students. (Of course, this has resulted in grade inflation. I have read that the average grade at Harvard is B minus. Wait a minute. Everyone knows the average grade is C.) Therefore, the course material is viewed as a barrier toward achieving their goals in life rather than as an end in itself. They try to get the best possible grade while learning the least possible course material.
Now, I agree that the world owes them a living, but it does not owe them the certainty of becoming chemical engineers while remaining ignorant of the fundamentals of chemical engineering. That’s way too dangerous. So, we have a conflict. Where does the conflict come from? I believe the mistake is to assume that a job should be a prerequisite for economic well-being, i.e., abundant life. However, by abundant life I am not referring to the excesses of the American Dream. As early as Chapter 2, I stated approximately how abundantly we might live – from a material perspective. Of course, spiritually there are no bounds.
Thus, I believe I have touched upon an intrinsic inconsistency in the institution of the job. This is felt by the students who flunked my course – or got less than Bs and As; but, this inconsistency in the institution of “job” is not understood by them or, for that matter, anyone else. To make the case for dematerialism, I must continue to discredit the notion of a job. But, that is easy to do, because the institution of employment is riddled with inconsistencies. In fact, it’s a joke. For example, an entire species of owls could be wiped out to save about seventy jobs that will be lost soon enough anyway. Army bases that are not needed are kept open to provide a few jobs for the people who live in the closest town. I’ll bet that it has not yet occurred to the people who are supported by those jobs that they are essentially parasites. Probably they despise welfare recipients. The reforms advocated in this essay solve this problem completely. In my system, the students would be free to pursue appropriate ways to be happy and effective members of society.
The rest of the argument is easy. If we are to maintain equal wealth, we must share power equally. Otherwise, powerful people will use their power to attain greater wealth. Similarly, to have equal wealth, we must replace the market system with some sort of planning (hopefully decentralized); but, in a planned economy, it is easy for the planners to become powerful – if they are the leaders of society. (If they are ordinary workers, that danger disappears.) We must prevent planners from becoming powerful leaders of society. The only sensible way to achieve that is by dispensing with leaders. No one can become someone else’s boss if there are no bosses. With equal distribution of wealth and power all of the evils of society faced by America, Western Europe, the Pacific-Rim nations, and the Former Soviet Union disappear. It is easy to show that, in the most likely scenarios, new problems will not arise; or, in the unlikely case that problems do arise, they will have to be extremely strange and completely unexpected problems if they cannot be dealt with by simple procedures that do not require massive government intervention. Of course, no one can predict the future precisely.
Conservatives (and religionists) lose position after position as time goes by. At one time conquest by the sword was defended by conservatives and deplored by liberals. It is accepted by virtually no one nowadays and conservatives will tell us that they never accepted it. (Of course, these conservatives didn’t, although their support of privately owned mineral deposits amounts to the same thing.) The divine right of kings met the same fate, followed by hereditary leadership, serfdom and slavery, prohibition of women’s suffrage, segregation, denial of women’s right to work and to receive comparable pay. Please don’t tell me that the support of slavery was not a conservative view in its time. Do not the supporters of apartheid acknowledge themselves to be conservatives nowadays? Currently, homosexual rights are in dispute. This is a battle that the conservatives are guaranteed to lose – eventually. Homosexual rights is a liberal (or progressive) idea and liberal ideas always drive out conservative ideas eventually – almost by definition – whereupon conservatives embrace the new idea and claim they have always supported it. That’s the nature of conservatism. One wonders, then, why any intelligent person would ever admit to being a conservative. (For that matter, the single-issue suffragette becomes a conservative instantly upon women receiving the vote.) Presumably, wage slavery, economic imperialism, electoral politics, and materialism itself will someday be looked back upon as unthinkable relics of a by-gone age by conservatives and liberals alike.
People who are intelligent enough in dealing with the mundane affairs of their lives not only admit to being conservative; they judge the merit of an idea depending on whether or not it is conservative. A good idea is rejected without further discussion because it’s not conservative. What in the world does that achieve? Nevertheless, nowadays, conservatives espouse an extremely progressive (liberal?) idea; but, of course, for all the wrong reasons. Namely, conservatives wish to see the size of the federal (and perhaps local governments) reduced substantially. Businesspeople hope that, without regulation, they will be able to exploit other people and nature itself to maximize profits. Of course, they don’t view the activities of business as essentially exploitative, but the main point is that they favor small government. This view is shared by so-called Libertarians and, naturally, by anarchists! (I think that conservatives basically want government to leave the rich alone but to continue to protect the rich from the poor and to support the biases and superstitions of the masses.)
But, clearly, in a free-enterprise system, business cannot be left alone. Even the more prudent among the businesspeople know that business would run wild and commit all sorts of atrocities including the spoliation and plundering of the earth. (I have given ample evidence of this in the chapter on the environment and elsewhere.) The only safe way to reduce the size of the government substantially is to eliminate the institutions that permit people to profit from such evil deeds; i.e., eliminate materialism. But, then, to replace the price-setting function of the market, we would need at least a modicum of decentralized economic planning and we would again be faced with the problem of how to prevent the planners from gaining power over us. The reforms suggested by me, or essentially equivalent reforms, would have to be instituted to preserve democracy and to prevent the rise of tyrants.
Most of the next three sections and a good deal of the next chapter have been taken from the essay “Social Problems and Solutions”, which may appear in a collection of my papers. I believe these sections serve useful purposes in both contexts – repetition be damned. [It won’t hurt anyone to read them twice. In fact, in my opinion, this essay cannot be understood in a single reading, except, perhaps, by a reader who is much more astute than the author – or you, dear reader, with all due respect – and the highest possible regard. (The scholar who doesn’t need to read it twice will read it twice as a matter of course; thus, anyone who doesn’t read it twice should have!)]
Let’s imagine a world first without money then without leadership. Money is already nearly obsolete in a certain sense; i.e., we have nearly replaced it with plastic cards. In another sense, it is failing to serve its purpose as a measure of value as both prices and currencies themselves approach chaos through greater and greater instability. Perhaps the most conservative monetarists among us had better start thinking now about how society will survive a complete monetary and banking collapse.
We must begin by asking an extremely fundamental question: In a strong quasi-steady-state world, i.e., a world in which natural ecology is in equilibrium and in which the reserves of high-grade energy are being replaced as fast as they are being consumed (although the exact makeup of the inventory of stored high-grade energy might be changing), in short, a world in which the presence of man is not a burden upon our fellow creatures and upon our own posterity, would there be an abundance of material wealth or a scarcity of material wealth? And, if there were scarcity, would man be able to address it through the mortification of his own greed and to turn his acquisitiveness toward the domain of the spiritual? Suppose, for a moment, that either the answer to the first question were “abundance” or the answer to the second question were “yes”. Then let us contemplate the joys of living in a world without money.
I believe that it is a conservative estimate to suppose that in excess of 70% of human effort in the United States is directed toward the manipulation of money. (Elsewhere I have used the figure 90%; I don’t think the exact number affects my conclusions.) This effort might be abandoned and the time saved could be devoted to useful labor and to leisure, which might be less distinguishable from useful labor than it is currently – mostly because of the objectionable nature of most jobs. We might then abandon the dreary business of counting money. For starters, imagine, if you will, a supermarket without check-out lines, if supermarkets are indeed the best way to distribute food in a world where money is quite literally – no object. We may dispense with taxes, insurance, banking, accounting, sales, investing, brokers, auctions, advertisements, deal making, wages, prices, gambling, borrowing, lending, comparison shopping, haggling, and telling all the terrible lies that people tell to get money. Lately the “problem” of counterfeited money and other financial instruments has been exacerbated by the invention of color copiers and other high-tech equipment. This could be a blessing in disguise if we abandon the attempt to stay one step ahead of the “thieves” all the sooner. (In point of fact the robbers are always one step ahead of the cops. They devise a method to beat the system, after which the system tries to plug that loophole, but the robbers have by that time found a new one. Good for the “robbers”.)
We might stop prostituting ourselves and making all sorts of compromises for money. Look at the compact list of evils given in Appendix II and ask yourself how many could persist in the absence of the institution of money. We could stop worrying about money, arguing about money, scheming, planning, and dreaming about money, carrying money, being cheated, robbed, and defrauded of money. The love of money can’t be the root of all evil, because, before the love of money, came money itself, which must logically precede the love of money and, therefore, must be closer to the root. I hope to convince the reader that the earth would continue “going ’round” without money, but the well known “old saw” goes to show the central role accorded money and corroborates my choice of money as the central feature in my model of human society.
Chapter 6 was devoted to the defects in the concept of leadership. But, for a moment, imagine being financially independent and beholden to no one, i.e., no bosses and no clients – and, I almost forgot, no parents as providers. Perhaps one might be inclined toward frivolity for the space of a few days as one got one’s first taste of freedom. But sooner or later the serious sides of our natures would emerge and our natural inclinations would direct us toward useful activity. I find it amusing that the most religious among us exhibit, in many cases, the least faith with respect to this obvious quality of nearly every educated person with whom we have ever been acquainted. Some of us can hardly wait to get home on the weekend to begin building something, or fixing something, or engaging in some artistic pastime.
But will we manage to cooperate in the carrying out of tasks that require the participation of large numbers of workers? I believe that managers, as we presently encounter them, are an obstacle to the accomplishment of anything. “No one is good enough to be someone else’s master.” But, I have observed (in, of all places, a model-railroad club) free and equal individuals cooperating in the carrying out of a complicated project with ideas coming at one time or another from nearly everyone and the good ideas embraced, after a short discussion, by nearly everyone. Some people like to work alone. They know what needs to be done. They simply announce to the group what they are going to do, and, as there are no objections, they do it. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. If it works, nobody complains. Some people are good at making plans. The plans are circulated and, perhaps, amended. The person who produced the plan has made an important contribution, but he (or she) is not the boss. The implementation of the plan is crucial and the person who contributes the most good work may bask in the admiration of his fellow workers, but that doesn’t make him “better” than anyone else. Everyone is happy to acknowledge admirable effort because no one has anything to lose by it. The best workers don’t acquire power over anyone. People do what they do because they enjoy doing it and they are being rewarding by making their effort. If they don’t feel like doing much, that’s OK too. Maybe on the next project they’ll find something that “turns them on”. No one resents someone who doesn’t contribute; but, since they get their own rewards in the actual doing, they wish everyone could enjoy similar rewards.
[Note in proof (1-17-97): After observing so much cooperation over a long period of time, eventually something sinister crept into this organization, just as it seems to creep into every other organization that I have had the opportunity to watch closely. I can’t describe the details as I was not participating actively at the time, but animosities arose and, if I am not mistaken, the crux of the matter was money. Thus, the poison that seems to flow through the veins of our materialistic society finally reached the happy little model railroad that had never had a problem to speak of until the poison came. Perhaps, all organizations eventually come to a bad end. In this case, however, the club survived, but a lot of feelings were hurt badly and things will never be the same. Naturally, I am concerned to understand what went wrong and to decide if something similar could go wrong in a dematerialistic enterprise carried on by people who are doing only what they enjoy doing and only what interests them.]
The goals of dematerialism are freedom, equality, happiness, and permanence for all of human society and for animals as well insofar as that is possible. Freedom of the individual must be tempered by respect for freedom of others, therefore the freedom to reproduce without limitation must be discouraged. Also, the commonly accepted idea of freedom of commercial enterprise must be abandoned as that divides society into exploiters and exploited. Please note that I have used the term “abandoned” rather than “abolished”. We prefer volition to coercion. In fact, we insist upon it.
I have used the term “equality” as a temporary surrogate for the concept of noncomparability, a new term that expresses the conclusion of a chain of reasoning: It is no more possible to assert that two people are equal than it is to assert that one person is greater or less than another without narrowing the scope of comparison unacceptably. One may say that person A has more money than person B or that A scored higher on a standardized test than B, but one cannot claim that A is worth more, or is more deserving, than B. Human beings do not belong to what mathematicians call partially ordered sets (or lattices) wherein such relations as “greater than” or “equal to” make sense. Human beings cannot be parameterized with fewer than an uncountably infinite number of parameters, which makes the possibility of such judgments absurd.
Thus, we have established the noncomparability of human beings. But more is needed. We wish to characterize our conviction that they ought not be compared and that differences between them that permit comparisons, such as differences in wealth or measurements of intelligence, should be abandoned. Thus, the concept of noncomparability arises and, with it, the rejection of differences in wealth and the rejection of hierarchy, authority, and, indeed, the institution of leadership itself.
One exception is the distinction between adults and children. I do not see how we can avoid this distinction. We do not wish to encourage people to have as many children as possible so as to acquire the equal wealth to which the new human being is entitled. In fact, age is the one absolute metric that we may apply reasonably to aid us in making these distinctions. (We would not choose weight!)
By happiness we do not mean a continuous state of bliss. Nor do we mean total escape from disappointment, bereavement, and the multitude of sorrows to which our psyches are susceptible. We mean a general condition of happiness, or the conditions under which happiness can be nurtured and can flourish, in particular, freedom from the institutions and social conditions that guarantee unhappiness such as drudgery, crowding, unhealthy environments, restricted behavior, war, epidemic disease, and the countless other ills manifest in a materialistic society. Happiness was defined in Chapter 1.
The professed purpose of the political system put forth in this essay is sustainable happiness for all of humanity. We have stated that happiness, in the sense meant here, consists of autonomy, effectiveness, and relatedness, provided, of course, that our tissue deficits are satisfied and that we are reasonably assured that they always will be and that the other conditions of our happiness are guaranteed in perpetuity (or until the sun burns out). Undoubtedly, we have much to learn about human happiness. We believe that it has been poorly understood by the theoreticians who have preceded us. Why should we imagine that we have finally gotten it right! It is, in fact, part of the goal of philosophical speculation and discovery to determine what human happiness really is, even though each of us has a reasonably accurate intuitive notion of what we mean by happiness – especially when we are happy. Perhaps human beings require a modicum of risk and danger in their lives to be truly happy, in which case we have left something out of account. We must pursue this idea further and see if it has merit and, if it does, determine how it might affect our theory. We have no objection to skiing, for example, or even sky diving, so long as it does not imperil others.
By permanence, we mean a human society that does not come to an end other than for astronomical reasons. We believe this necessitates a quasi-steady-state environment, including essentially zero population growth, zero economic growth, etc. Of course, we recognize that for a long time to come we will need to see economic shrinkage to bring the environment, including the atmosphere and the oceans, into quasi-steady-state. We defined quasi-steady-state in both a weak sense and a strong sense in Chapter 3. To reiterate, this theory attempts to achieve freedom; equality, by which we mean noncomparability; happiness; and permanence. [These are not mutually independent; i.e., freedom implies equality and happiness implies freedom.]
The prevalent belief is that a society based upon materialism is necessary because human nature is flawed to the extent that most people will not perform in an economically useful way without what is euphemistically called – incentive, by which we mean greed or fear. While it is possible that we might be motivated – deeper down – by a desire to be loved or admired, it is clear that tasks are performed most satisfactorily when we are motivated by our love of the task. This is called intrinsic motivation. In this essay, we ask the reader to look within himself (or herself) and to study the literature in the special bibliography at the end of Appendix III to convince himself that an economic system based on intrinsic motivation will lead to freedom, equality, happiness, sustainability, and justice because the effort that is spent competing will be redirected toward useful ends and the incentives for antisocial behavior will be removed. No one will commit a crime, cheat in business, or lie in politics if everything people need to live is free (and no one has any more of it than anyone else – unless there is some compelling need recognized by everyone). Perhaps material goods will have to be rationed for awhile until people redirect their longings from materialistic pleasure toward spiritual pleasure. Business itself will disappear and all of the creative energy dissipated in business will be available to end deprivation. Perhaps this thesis does not constitute a prediction of the future of human society, perhaps it does not constitute a prediction of what will happen if these changes do not occur, but perhaps it does.
Laws will be replaced by rational morals; government will virtually disappear except for a few communicators who will be selected at random from the population at large and who will not move from position to position of increasing power. People involved in productive enterprises will own the means of production in the sense of custodianship. Coercion will be replaced by volition and dissent will be treated with respect. Society will be constructed on a rational basis because no one will have anything to gain by lying to school children and controlling the minds of adults by means of inane political speeches and other media events. At last, we can have a quasi-steady-state world with a stable human population because no one will have anything to gain by encouraging people to procreate to provide cheap labor or to promulgate their beliefs and parents will neither fear the deaths of their infants nor imagine a need to be supported by numerous children in their old age. Frivolous and destructive activity will cease and leisure will be given its rightful respect. This will facilitate the decentralization of the world, including the breakup of the environmentally undesirable giant metropolitan areas, which will no longer be needed for business, and, finally, will no longer be needed to accommodate the clustering of artists, who will now become numerous due to the increased leisure time. Less work to achieve adequate material comfort for all and diminished enthusiasm for frivolous luxuries will relax the stress on the environment by orders of magnitude.
Perhaps a hypothetical omniscient deity could identify a single event in the prehistory of humanity that was the initiator of sin and evil, but it is unlikely that the consequences of the event could be passed on genetically. Much more likely is the possibility that the unlucky event resulted in the perversion of an institution or the creation of a new institution through which evil, which may have started out as simply bad luck, is perpetuated. Indeed, we perpetuate the evils of society through our institutions, which, apparently, have been adapted to facilitate domination and depredation. These institutions are doomed, because they facilitate the worst in man. (If they are not replaced, all of human society is doomed.) What is suggested in this essay is that existing institutions be replaced by institutions that are impervious to evil. (Presumably, after some time the new institutions would themselves become corrupt and have to be replaced. Thus, nothing absolute or final is suggested.) To survive, man needn’t be perfect. Perhaps no one can avoid an occasional thoughtless or inconsiderate word or deed. But why must we institutionalize evil, i.e., in cold blood, create, in the face of obvious alternatives, social machinery that is guaranteed to result in unnecessary human suffering and environmental destruction! Man should be good enough, at least, to reject evil institutions and replace them with institutions that make allowances for the defects in his propensities, which have arisen because he was born and raised in a society whose institutions were developed to create and perpetuate evil. This can be done deliberately by planning. Nothing in the world or in our natures can stop us from doing it if we want to do it and we can agree among ourselves to do it.
The careful reader may have noticed a difficulty here – perhaps a contradiction. On the one hand, I have said that, in cold blood, we may replace our corrupt institutions with better ones. On the other hand, I advocate gradual change according to the “method of perturbations” so that we may retreat from any position if the law of unintended effects becomes operative and things begin to go badly. The idea is not to make too large a change so that even if it goes badly it will not do so catastrophically. We are trying to approach reversibility by making the changes small. (I am aware that some of the reforms I am advocating will have to be divided up into smaller changes to achieve this. Moreover, gradual change may not be feasible in some cases.)
Now, what is to stop us from reversing all of the changes made in cold blood later on – in hot blood? Suppose we make it illegal to buy or sell an entire corporation. What is to prevent an interested party from declaring this a calamity and, if he be powerful enough, repealing the law? These decisions must be under the purview of a large proportion of the community and it is not likely that everyone will lose his head on the same day. We must depend on a general consensus of reasonable people watching our progress carefully. One person who really needs to sell his company would not be able to overturn that consensus even if he has a buyer. This is an important point. We could construct some scenarios where reforms are endangered by premature fears of failure and imagine how we would handle ourselves in those situations.
The situation is analogous to a binge buyer who cuts up his credit cards in cold blood but can replace them in 24 hours by making a phone call when he finds out he doesn’t like not being able to buy whatever he wishes. He must put the machinery in place to prevent that from happening during the short period when he is in his right mind.
Below, a lengthy section is devoted to some speculation as to what “good” institutions might be like. Naturally, this is only day dreaming on the part of the author. It is up to the people who will have to put up with the institutions of the future to decide what they should be. I wish only to indicate that it is possible to conceive of new institutions to replace the failed institutions of the present day.
Like some religions, the social-economic-political system proposed in this essay is based on morals. Unlike most religions, it makes no absolute claims for itself. It encourages doubt in human institutions and faith in human nature, but it does not insist upon the existence of a deity. If, as Shaw may have believed, religion is necessary to create community, one can only hope that religion can be built on reasonableness, aesthetics, and utility. Curiously, the early doctrine of Jesus, according to Shaw , was comprised of the following tenets:
1. The kingdom of heaven is within you. You are the son of God; and God is the son of man. God is a spirit, to be worshipped in spirit and truth, and not an elderly gentleman to be bribed and begged from. We are members one of another; so that you cannot injure or help your neighbor without injuring or helping yourself. God is your father: you are here to do God’s work; and you and your father are one.
2. Get rid of property by throwing it into the common stock. Dissociate your work entirely from money payments. If you let a child starve you are letting God starve. Get rid of all anxiety about tomorrow’s dinner and clothes, because you cannot serve two masters: God and Mammon.
3. Get rid of judges and punishment and revenge. Love your neighbor as yourself, he being a part of yourself. And love your enemies: they are your neighbors.
4. Get rid of your family entanglements. Every mother you meet is as much your mother as the woman who bore you. Every man you meet is as much your brother as the man she bore after you. Dont waste your time at family funerals grieving for your relatives: attend to life, not to death: there are as good fish in the sea as ever came out of it, and better. In the kingdom of heaven, which, as aforesaid, is within you, there is no marriage or giving in marriage, because you cannot devote your life to two divinities: God and the person you are married to.
I can accept nearly all of this, except that I would avoid the use of the word God, since it has too many meanings. E.g., what sort of “spirit”? I never know what people are talking about when they use the word. (Although it might offend my atheist friends, I must admit that I use the word God when I talk to myself. As far as atheists are concerned, I wonder what it is that doesn’t exist.) Also, I have developed a particularly simple method for sharing property based on the notion of dissociating one’s work from money payments, in fact, abandoning money altogether. I believe this is superior to throwing one’s property into the common pool as it solves the problem of who will manage the common pool. Finally, I might address myself to women as much as to men.
I think the above interpretation of the philosophy of Jesus fits into my theory rather well and I think Jesus would agree that the interpretation is fair. Therefore, reasonable Christians should embrace these reforms. I have gone further and suggested that we should lead ourselves. I believe Jesus would interpret this as living by the word of God alone rather than by the word of a distinguished human leader. (Probably, some Christians will wonder how I get the nerve to decide what Jesus would think. I read the Bible and think about it. Now, let me turn the question around. What gives them the right to decide what Jesus would think!)
Schumacher does not address the problem of natural leaders, as discussed by Shaw in the Preface to The Millionairess . Those of us who are not natural leaders may not wish to be dominated by those who are. I hope that no one believes that a rich and powerful leader does not impose upon the freedom of an ordinary person.
The history of society can be analyzed in terms of cycles of corruption and reform. People become powerful. Power corrupts. Forces for reform gather. The powerful are swept away and replaced by reformers. The reformers grow powerful. Power corrupts and the cycle repeats. It seems as though the cycles will never end. Permit me to suggest that the way to break the cycle is to get rid of the leaders. Leaders, after all, are characterized by a talent for becoming leaders and a preoccupation with retaining power. We don’t need anyone to boss us around. As William Morris observed, no one is good enough to be someone else’s master.
We trust a random process to select juries that determine whether a human being lives or dies. Rather, let us employ some sort of random or quasi-random process to select public representatives for our government and private representatives for private enterprises for terms of finite length. This will prevent the establishment of a governmental class or a manager class or a ruling class. The electoral process might be relegated to removing people from office. Descartes said, “Good sense is of all things in the world the most widely distributed, for everybody thinks he is so well-supplied with it that even those most difficult to please in all other matters never desire more of it than they already possess.” What makes this funny is that people believe they have good sense whether they do or not, but what I believe is that they usually do. Nearly anyone in possession of the best information, rather than state-sponsored lies, is capable of making good decisions. Public servants selected randomly might not be worse than what we have now! If they were selected from a universally educated population, if they were not required to keep the people ignorant of their hidden agendas because they were servants of the rich and other special interests, and if the scope of their activities were properly limited, they would certainly be better than what we have now!
As most of us realize by now, electoral politics is not a useful route to democracy; moreover, representative democracy is a contradiction in terms. The transition to a small nearly nonexistent government with only a few spokespersons chosen randomly is discussed elsewhere. Eventually the notion of the sovereign state will disappear in favor of small eco-communities governed by consensus (if at all). This is discussed under Decentralization.
In the case of government, randomly selected representatives will interpret the will of all of the people, as expressed frequently by modem or phone, while respecting the rights of minorities. They will represent us in international relations and coordinate the relations between a very small nonintrusive government and the private institutions that compute various economic plans and perform other services formerly performed by bureaucrats. In private enterprise, the representatives will interpret the will of the workers. I am not too concerned about the details of the random or quasi-random process of selection. People should not be elected to a sequence of increasingly important offices. We are trying to prevent the rise of leaders. This was covered in Chapter 6. People could be removed from office before the end of their terms by referendum, which should be easy to initiate in case someone isn’t working out. In a changed world, this might not be as ugly as an impeachment. If our attitudes changed, it might be painless. Short terms of office might make the learning period seem disproportionately long and long terms might make it excessively difficult for representatives to return to “normal” life. In any case, no matter how popular or successful a spokesperson might be, after a fixed term expires he or she must return to “private” life. Perhaps institutions might afford a learning period before and a readjustment period after. Perhaps office holders might be selected from among people who had received a suitable education, but that could lead to abuses.
But, is there a practical first step that could be taken now by people who accept this theory? In a sense, steps have been taken already. Rural people in Massachusetts have begun issuing Farm Dollars, backed by the full faith and credit of farmers’ future crops, to cut the federal and local governments out of their lives . (If they began to trust each other and had enough faith, they might someday stop counting even the Farm Dollars.) Also, Deli Dollars have been introduced elsewhere . Clearly, government maintains its principal hold on us through taxation as the police and army cannot be everywhere. Nor, is it clear that the majority of American military personnel would allow themselves to be used against the American people. So, we could drop out.
Nowadays, accountability within industry is divided among the shareholders, the boards of directors, the managers, and the workers. This is a scenario ripe for abuse as each group has its own agenda, which may be at odds with the best interests of the consumer, the neighbors of the facility, the suppliers of raw materials and other needs of the enterprise. Also, blame-shifting occurs. [Note in proof (11-3-96): In academia, the trustees, administration, faculty, chairmen and deans (who are both faculty and administration), staff, students, parents, and neighbors have conflicting agendas, which results in the worst conceivable human behavior, as discussed in “On Education” in my collected papers, Vol. II . Academia is a cesspool!] The only group that is indispensable is the workers and that is the group we should retain and vest all responsibility and control in. (Additional stakeholders are the consumers and the neighbors of the enterprise. The workers will wish to consider the interests of the neighbors and the consumers. The priorities of the workers should be (i) do no harm, (ii) ‘have fun’ provided (i) is met, and (iii) produce a quality product provided (i) and (ii) are met. Profit no longer enters the picture, even when (i), (ii), and (iii) are met.) In case of environmental nuisance caused by the enterprise, the neighbors hold the veto power – in keeping with the Freedom Axiom and the Environmental Axiom. Consumers can make their wishes known easily – directly or indirectly!)
Workers will own the means of production personally but in the sense of custodianship. This is not the sort of ownership that can be transferred. Workers might elect managers from among themselves or managers might be chosen by their performance on standardized fair tests. Someday every worker will be qualified to manage because of universal education and because people who cannot cope will no longer have to participate in economic enterprises as they must do now for economic (extrinsic) reasons, i.e., to make a living. When this new ideal is achieved, managers, who might by that time be mere spokespersons, should be chosen randomly to prevent injustice. We see how badly elections fail to assure democracy in our political system and that failing should be addressed too.
The compelling reason why this system might be instituted without the abuses we now observe is that enterprises, including collective enterprises, can be simplified tremendously in a decentralized society. Nowadays, the building of a bridge across a river in Vermont may involve the input of thousands of people directly – legislators, entrepreneurs, lawyers, activists, special interests, engineers, construction workers, judges, etc. – and millions of people indirectly – who might vote in a referendum. In a decentralized nonmaterialistic world those who want to use the bridge are free to build it. They would have no reason to ignore the advice of ecologists and other forecasters, which would be available freely and on a volunteer basis. Gone would be the adversary nature of such a simple enterprise. One merely arranges for the materials to be appropriated from the economy and delivered to the construction site and follows the plans provided by the engineers who, presumably, are interested parties and will play a direct role in performing the labor of building a bridge. No one may be compelled to build a bridge to feed her children. People who build bridges intend to use them. Thus, management is replaced by consensus and government is replaced by the advice of professionals. We really don’t need politics to build a bridge.
The measures taken by ordinary people discussed under Equality of Wealth could be employed to facilitate equality of power now. I would like to see at least one activist or so-called grassroots organization actually operate on an egalitarian basis as discussed above. In the Future Forum, here in Houston, we managed to employ random methods for the period of existence of the group. The purpose of the group, however, was merely discussion, therefore the experiment was not very important. (An essay “The Future Forum: A Final Report” appears in the collection of my papers ).
Regardless of what the reader may suppose, I am not interested to say what the institutions of society should be. That is something the people of each community will decide by direct participatory democracy. What I wish to do here is suggest a possible solution to many institutional problems at a fairly detailed level to assure the reader that the reforms suggested by me need not leave a vacuum. These are only suggestions; but, they show that it is not hard to think of ways of doing things, in a natural economy, to satisfy the needs of our communities. I begin by suggesting how political boundaries might be redrawn. In a materialistic world, this problem might be solved by warfare. In a cooperative world, it can be solved by good judgment in a way that does not encourage dispute.
A former colleague of mine, Prof. Jorge Gabitto, pointed out that political borders are drawn precisely in the wrong places, namely, along bodies of water, especially rivers. The border between Mexico and the United States is, in part, the Rio Grande River. The border between Texas and Oklahoma is the Red River. The border between Indiana and Kentucky is the Ohio River. And so on. But, rivers are the hearts of distinct ecologies and ecologies should be managed by a single sovereignty (or, in the worst case, by a committee of people from different sovereignties with identical agendas). Many people believe that the management of ecologies should be the principal function of government or, rather, public enterprise. The borders of distinct eco-regions are the tops of mountains that determine into which river or other body of water the precipitation in each eco-region drains. Each separate drainage region is a distinct eco-region, reasonably independent from other drainage regions as water is the primary medium by which nutrients are transported. The worst possible arrangement imaginable is an eco-region that drains into a river that is the joint responsibility of two sovereign nations with disparate agendas and sharp conflicts with respect to the use of the river.
The most intractable problem in a cooperative society with decentralized political sovereignties that are small enough to facilitate direct participatory democracy, assuming virtually no motorized transportation (which is what is really killing the environment) is the vast size of some eco-regions, perhaps most eco-regions, e.g., the Mississippi Valley. The management of a huge eco-region by people who do not travel farther than walking distance from their homes (but who have advanced high-tech communications) requires an admirable degree of disinterested cooperation. The next section but one will discuss this problem, but not in much depth. This I will leave to the experts.
The problem of redrawing the political boundaries is practically a non-problem since political boundaries will play a negligible role in the ordinary affairs of a decentralized community. Why should anyone care about a line on a map that is too far from his home to visit, much less cross! (If he lives on the border (the top of a mountain), he naturally inclines to dual citizenship; but he is unlikely to play a large role in the affairs of either region. After all, he is practically a hermit as who else will live on the top of a mountain!) Nevertheless, he ought to participate in public decisions in at most one community at a time, I would imagine.
The boundaries have virtually no economic impact except insofar as they affect the management of the eco-region, which may be a single community or a federation of communities that share this one abiding vital interest. They survive or become extinct depending on the health of their mutual eco-system. Therefore, political responsibility is still a matter of life and death.
Since all governments by definition are tyrannies and generally impractical and undesirable, I think we should aim at a society without government, in the sense that government is generally understood and experienced, as soon as nearly everyone knows right from wrong and understands the overwhelming (and really quite obvious) desirability of doing the right thing, which, by the way, is always easy to do, despite what people think in these wicked times. By government, I mean a commissar class of people elected or appointed who create, administer, and adjudicate laws that impinge upon most people’s autonomy.
Rather than government, what I wish to describe here is a few public duties that are best discharged by the community acting in concert rather than as individuals. Sometimes this will remind us of government, but I am picturing a setting where no one can tell anyone else what to do. What I am talking about has nothing to do with telling people what to do or what they may or may not do or collecting taxes, building roads, fighting wars, delivering mail, distributing welfare, operating hospitals, punishing “criminals”, regulating enterprise, educating children (or adults), sponsoring science or art, or any of the other things governments do. Since this is an evolutionary theory, I recognize that government must “wither way” as function after function is dispensed with or turned over to a collective of private persons who must be selected as an integrated team by isocratic methods, i.e., every adult making his choice by using his (or her) communication device (which will be described below as a combination of telephone, television, cable, computer, “stereo”, library, scanner, camera, copier, fax, etc.) or by random methods to prevent the abuses connected with personal charm, natural leadership qualities, or naiveté.
Why should government “wither away” in a nonmaterialistic environment when it did not under Stalin, Mao, and Castro? The first reason is that Stalin and Mao had no intention of introducing Marxism, socialism, communism, or anything like it. (I don’t know about Castro.) This is sufficient reason to dispense with the other reasons, but I shall pretend that the USSR, China, and Cuba were really Marxist countries. The second reason is that dematerialism is contrived to prevent the rise of leaders who have a vested interest in the continuance, perhaps enlargement, of government. The third reason is that everyone will understand or believe because of early indoctrination that it is undesirable for some people to rule others. Since the principle is true, it does not matter that it was inculcated in children before they reached the age of reason. We always raise our children with an automatic sense of right and wrong – as we have understood right and wrong. In America, we have been provided with a singularly debased view of such things by means of scientific techniques developed to sell merchandise that go far beyond what Orwell predicted in 1984. But, after all, this is 1996 and the world is moving at monotonically increasing apocalyptic speeds.
Let’s get one thing straight. Despite all of this, the common people are a lot smarter than educated people give them credit for. I think the really stupid things done in the United States are, for the most part, done by educated people. A normal undiminished person, i.e., without Down’s Syndrome or Alzheimer’s Disease, with an education comparable to that which I received in elementary school (without the lies), is capable of managing any political crisis that is likely to emerge in a community whose citizens are informed by the moral axioms enunciated in Chapter 3. In a natural economy, we shall find people a good deal less wicked than they appear to be in a dog-eat-dog materialistic society. The role played in each community by randomly chosen public servants will not be beyond the capacity of any adult who is not handicapped mentally (or excessively handicapped physically).
Deciding which group of professionals will plan the economy and, what amounts to practically the same thing, the ecology in each eco-region (or sub-eco-region if necessary), can be left to chance with the plebiscite reserved for the removal of incompetent or unlucky scientists from positions of responsibility after a fair hearing with all sides represented. Those not chosen will simply devote more time to research, which might be very much to their liking. Even removal from such a task has its compensations since no increase in tissue deficits occurs as in firings nowadays and people ought to develop more relaxed attitudes toward a personal failure, which after all is an opportunity to learn, if we treat it as information. (We learn from our mistakes!)
Other public duties for which we have been chosen randomly do not carry a heavy stigma associated with failure since in these nonprofessional duties no one professes to be a public servant. No one cares if he is chosen or not or rejected or not. No one is “running for office”. Public service is an accident. Consider duties of a diplomatic nature that entail communicating with other communities. For example, we need someone in the Galleria area of the former Houston to answer the phone in case his counterpart from the City Creek area of the former Salt Lake City needs assistance in case of unexpected serious flooding. Normally, help will be closer at hand, but one never knows.
Rob Lewis  suggested that using telephones and computers to permit the entire community to make its wishes known in a direct participatory democracy would be abused – by hackers, presumably. I agree – in a materialistic political entity. But, in a body politic not plagued by artificial economic contingency, i.e., in a natural economy, I don’t anticipate any difficulties with this mode of full participatory (not representative) democracy. (I am tempted to call it simply isocracy, since “representational democracy” is a contradiction in terms – what is called, incorrectly, an oxymoron in a language fad currently annoying people who actually know what an oxymoron is, viz., a figure of speech employing two apparently contradictory terms that, in fact, are complimentary in the context in which they are used. What is contradictory about “representational” and “democracy” is that democracy requires one’s participation in political decisions and “representational” implies that one delegates those decisions to others and does not do the “governing” himself.)
Undoubtedly, the management of eco-systems will consist of observation primarily. With eco-systems, the less done the better. But, as we shall be engaged in agriculture and, in a cottage industry mode, manufacturing, we shall have a non-negligible impact on the environment. Also, we shall be harvesting a number of living things, including forest products, plants, and, until we all become vegetarians, a few animals. (I don’t recognize the right of humans to use animals for human purposes – for transportation, sport, or, worst of all, for scientific experiments.) When we farm, we draw nutrients from the soil. This has an ecological impact, of course. Highly skilled scientists must compute carefully the extent that we can safely carry on these activities. Research needs to be done to determine precisely how to do these calculations. We need to achieve a quantitative understanding of sustainability.
I don’t know much about ecology. I suppose it’s about time to learn more, but that will have to wait until I finish this book. Therefore, I have very little to say on the subject. Instead, I would like to refer the reader to the works of Howard Odum [19,20,21] whom we met in Chapter 2.
I am not a big fan of world government. I have developed a lively contempt for the United Nations and its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, discussed in one of my collected essays. I suggested earlier, though, that we need a loose world federation, without the capability of passing or enforcing laws, to ameliorate the inequities in the distribution of natural resources throughout the earth. I argued that, as we despise the notion of material abundance depending on accidents of birth, we should recognize that having settled by chance on a piece of land rich in a particular resource does not give the people of a sovereign nation ownership of that resource. Communities need to make themselves aware of the needs of other communities (because of the need for relatedness in in keeping with the Fundamental Premise); therefore, they will transfer resources to neighboring (preferably) or distant communities willingly and without strings attached, i.e., expecting no compensation and rejecting any putative future obligations simply to prevent misery anywhere in the world. Of course, the matching problem, mentioned in Chapter 2, must be solved first so that we will know which resources we need to redistribute.
An interesting example of how resource transfer could be done in a specific and specialized case occurred to me when I was considering solar energy as a primary energy source. Howard and Elizabeth Odum  have stated that photovoltaic cells are net energy consumers. With all due respect to the Odums, I never accept a scientific conclusion until I have checked it personally – unless, of course, it has a long history and its limitations are well understood, in which case I merely repeat the mathematical derivation. Normally, this was done in graduate courses in mathematical physics when we were students. (After a particularly long, frustrating, and fruitless derivation, I admitted to the professor that I was beaten and would like to be supplied with the proof. “I haven’t got it,” quoth he, “it’s never been done.”) However, getting back to photovoltaic cells, even if they are a dead loss as an energy provider, they may still be used as an energy transporter from a region-rich in biomass from which the cells can be produced to a biomass-poor region with direct sunlight all the year round (and no shade), e.g., a desert. This would be done with no strings attached and no obligation on the part of the receiver in the manner of which all moral persons approve: “Let not your right hand know what your left hand is doing.”
Again, I must emphasize that I indulge in mere speculation simply to show that a low consumption decentralized society is at least conceivable. People’s conceptions vary and dozens if not hundreds of innovative ideas are bound to bear fruit intermixed with a fair portion of failures, which, in the long run, may teach more than the successes. That said, it is now time to exercise what might be called, for lack of a better term, my dreamer’s prerogative. Yes, I shall give my imagination free rein and the reader should recognize what is essentially science fiction – if it can be said to be at all “scientific”, and I believe it can, as I have some credentials in that area, which is more than can be said for most authors who fantasize on the printed page and sometimes call themselves city planners even.
I have grown fond of the Wessex novels of Thomas Hardy and, simultaneously, I have created a mental picture of Hardy’s town of Casterbridge and have grown to love it as though I had actually lived there. Casterbridge is Hardy’s name for nineteenth century Dorchester, England. This is a city, if it is large enough to be called a city, whose sole function seems to be to serve the surrounding agricultural society. Of all of our modern institutions, I find agriculture at least as tolerable as most. Perhaps monocultures and commodity farming should be discouraged, but even a community in which most families grow most of the food they consume as well as a surplus for storage and giving of gifts according to their tastes and the limitations imposed by the climate, the soil, etc., might find in its midst an enclave of small industries that are too specialized to fit easily on every family homestead. Among these might be a machine shop, a textile mill, a grain elevator, a physics laboratory with expensive equipment where anyone in the community and within walking distance of the community can perform useful or interesting experiments, libraries whatever form they may take in the future (probably a facility that no one need enter or even approach except, of course, when the software fails, a well-equipped hospital, a fire station to put out really big fires, educational institutions (if academies need a place in “real” space in addition to a place in cyberspace), television stations, theaters, concert halls, military facilities that citizens would operate in the unlikely event of an invasion (unless the probability of war goes to zero – I hope we can dispense with designated warriors and police by 2050), a train station (or barge depot) to receive (or disperse) those very few items the manufacture of which, to effect economies of scale, should be done in facilities large enough to serve an area the size of Indiana, e.g., bridge girders for a bridge to cross the Ohio River. The reader or her children might draw a map of “Casterbridge” just for fun. Motorized transportation would be used for emergencies only; and, perhaps, with appropriate advances in medicine, fire prevention, etc., they may not even be needed for emergencies. Would it not be wonderful if wild animals (all vegetarians now) could walk about and mingle freely with human beings even in the hearts of cities! Who needs zoos!
Schumacher  imagines a community of around 100,000 souls. Perhaps a nearly self-sufficient community might have as few as 500 folks, which would make direct participatory democracy possible as everyone could belong to parliament and vote on every issue of interest to the community. This size corresponds roughly to Aristotle’s ideal community, which Russell  tells us “should be small enough to be surveyed in its entirely from a hill-top”. I imagine that by the mid-twenty-first century the age of specialization will be winding down and many citizens (villagers) will have a practical knowledge of a number of crafts. I wouldn’t be shocked to find physicians with a good understanding of practical chemistry including the ability to compound most of the pharmaceuticals they use – even a good understanding of metallurgy. Would the kitchen be a good location for a home chemistry lab? (I see advantages and drawbacks – but nothing that couldn’t be overcome by prudence, patience, and care.) I can imagine that the average intelligent person would be able to assemble a computer, install and maintain plumbing and electricity, build a house, and produce adequate furniture and clothing. In 1996, I can handle everything but the clothing; and, with patience, my wife could teach me how to make clothes. (She taught me how to iron shirts, something I imagined would always be beyond my limited ability.)
I picture, then, each dwelling close enough to farm land or forest land under the private custodianship of the individual dwellers or in the form of appropriate shares of commons. One wonders whether each dwelling should produce its own high-grade energy either by pyrolysis and reforming of biomass and generation of appropriate amounts of electricity (in accordance with a rational solution of the matching problem mentioned in Chapter 2) or by some other method. Should each household produce its own clothing? Should sewerage be shared? Hardware and tools should be made locally, but probably not by each household. Ditto electronics. Each community will need adequate recycling and repair facilities, which might be shared by several households or by the entire community.
We would like to build family homes to last a thousand years if not forever and to consume as little energy as possible while providing a comfortable interior temperature and humidity as well as adequate hot water for bathing and energy for cooking. Some techniques that might not be at all satisfactory to provide centralized power for an entire community may be ideal for a single family. Skeet Kelly used a tiny water wheel in a mere trickle of a creek to mill flour for bread. He thought it was worthwhile and that’s good enough for me. I believe passive solar energy should be used to raise the temperature of water to reduce the cost of heating water for bathing and washing and, perhaps, to assist comfort heating, as the sun shines brightly in the winter, too. Paradoxically, I might like to try putting a pool of water on the roof of my dwelling (if the structure, which, if you remember, is designed to last forever, can sustain the load) to prevent leakage while heating the water at a height above ground such that it can flow into the house by gravity. Now we can’t have our passive solar heater leaking, therefore the roof can’t leak either; but, from what material shall the pool be constructed? I would guess plastic, but a plastic that is self-sealing as some automobile tires claim to be. If the pool is not too heavy or massive, it may not need to last a thousand years as it may give itself up to energy production periodically and be replaced by another pyrolysis product. Clearly, it would be convenient if these pools, and other expendables, could be manufactured in our family workshop or in a neighbor’s family workshop, or, failing that, in a workshop operated by a dozen families. In any case, I heartily subscribe to Schumacher’s dictum on manufacturing, namely, that Small Is Beautiful .
To save paper and ink other suggestions for family dwellings shall be listed rather than described:
Wind-powered water well. This is the way it was always done.
On-site pyrolysis and reforming (reacting with hydrogen) of biomass (mostly agricultural waste, forest debris, and garbage – perhaps even sewage to some extent). This can supply diesel fuel for a tractor; but, to avoid the temptation to use the tractor for personal transportation, I would design it without a seat for the driver who would operate it quasi-remotely by walking next to it. Also, diesel fuel from pyrolysis of biomass might be used to generate electricity cleanly, perhaps by a fuel cell when a fuel cell that operates on such large molecules has been developed, if ever. Otherwise, the old-fashioned motor-generator set will have to do. Probably, though, the pyrolysis and reforming of biomass will consume more energy than it produces! Nevertheless, it might be necessary to do it anyway (at a loss, i.e., a negative energy efficiency) because of all the farm machinery throughout the world that runs on diesel fuel and nothing else.
Thus, if we wish to avoid widespread famine, we may have to produce diesel fuel from biomass even though an equivalent amount of energy could be produced by some other way more efficiently. Do you remember the matching problem that was mentioned briefly in Chapter 2? Here is an example of matching diesel fuel to diesel engines that had not been considered when Chapter 2 was written. Thus, we do not solve our energy problem, but we partially solve our matching problem – at a loss. It follows, then, that we would not use diesel fuel produced by treating pyrolysis products with hydrogen to generate electricity. That solves nothing, unless my guess about the energy efficiency of that particular technology is far too pessimistic.
In any case, because of the problem of providing fuel for diesel engines that already exist and cannot be replaced (rapidly enough to avoid widespread famine), if for no other reason, pyrolysis and reforming of biomass are important research topics [24,25,26,27]. These references are just samples. I have a large stack of research papers. Biological conversion of biomass is also a big research topic [28,29,30].
I wish that scientists understood the supreme importance of this research (and the continued search for at least one viable renewable primary energy source, i.e., an alternative primary energy producing technology with a positive energy efficiency) as opposed to the triviality of efforts to put men in space, one of many examples of silly science, some of which is downright wicked. I wish I could convince the scientific community that not even one sustainable energy technology has been shown to have a positive energy efficiency when all of the indirect energy costs are considered! We discussed this thoroughly in Chapter 2. The blindness of the engineering and scientific community is simply heartbreaking!
The house can be designed so that it need be heated or cooled only in such parts of it where human comfort is a priority. In the stacks of one’s personal library and family archives, for instance, only dehumidification is necessary as books and papers are not sentient beings.
Biogas from sewage for cooking. This is a safe, clean, proven technology; and, as we all know, cooking with gas is best.
Heat pump to and from underground heat pipe. Throughout the year, the temperature underground doesn’t vary much from a moderate temperature. Summer cooling might be free or even a net producer of energy, depending on the capital costs.
Four-foot thick adobe walls would provide temperature stability for the house and increase the longevity of the structure. I was a guest in a thick-walled adobe house that was older than New York City. Also, extremely thick walls would provide the necessary strength for a massive ceiling at the expense of increased difficulty in supplying the house with daylight. Now, if the passive solar heater could be translucent ...
Personally, given an average home on an average lot, I see no reason why a talented home owner cannot use his spare time and creative energies to improve upon his home in any way that he sees fit. Obviously, he is limited by the lot size and the height of the house, but I don’t think personal home improvement should be discouraged. Friends might even help each other. The home owner should exercise good taste in making certain that his home blends harmoniously with those around it, except in the case of a home that is completely isolated. Also, he should stay well within an appropriate emergy budget, therefore he will probably have to give up an expense in some other category. But, that’s pretty much up to him – within reasonable bounds.
At this time, I would like to say a few words of praise in favor of two architectural practices I would like to see tried, although I am not an architect. It seems to me that, in the typical home, electrical conduits and plumbing are placed generally in the worst possible places, namely, between walls where they are difficult to reach to do repairs. May I humbly suggest that all equipment that will eventually require maintenance be placed in plain sight where it is easy to get to. Let the equipment justify its high visibility by its aesthetic design and creative finishing even if it’s only paint. Secondly, regardless of the greater heat transfer area, I believe that a dwelling place composed of many small buildings, each with appurtenances specific to its purpose, is more economical than one large building. Some of these buildings can be prefabricated regardless of what I said before in praise of local construction. (Let them be prefabricated locally.) Thus, the aforementioned storage building does not require windows or running water – only a low-watt electric line for the dehumidifier and a few lights. Similarly, the building chosen for the kitchen and bathrooms is the only building that need have running water! Also, buildings need comfort heating and cooling only when they are in use. Thus, a building solely for bedrooms need have comfort heating and cooling only at night, at which time many people dispense with such luxuries in favor of comfortable bedding. Of course, one has to face the wintry night in case of a nocturnal visit to the bathroom, but that serves only to make one’s bed more delicious upon one’s return. I leave the rest to the reader’s imagination, but I would like to try it.
Much waste can be recycled, especially metals. Much garbage and nearly all sewage make prime candidates for pyrolysis and reforming or bioconversion; however, no one knows if it can be done with a positive energy efficiency. I hope no one has forgotten the lengthy discussion above. This research is of fundamental importance and more scientists had better realize it because we are going to have problems with exhaustion of petroleum and, even before that, redistribution to the Third World, which is growing impatient.
The interesting thing about pyrolysis of biomass, including garbage and sewage, is that the product depends on the temperature at which the process is conducted and the residence time, but not the feedstock. No matter what you put in, you get practically the same thing out, therefore one can dump garbage, sewage, agricultural waste, forest waste, etc. into essentially the same process. (Perhaps the front end of the process will have to be a little different for each category because of size considerations, but that’s the only adjustment required to account for variations in feed stock.) This is an extremely attractive situation from the viewpoint of the engineer. If only it can be made to pay for itself (in terms of energy of course as money means nothing) ...
Communication is cheap (0.1 kW per capita according to my estimate in Table 2-3 in Chapter 2); transportation is expensive (beyond the means of a rational earthling). My only concern is that our communication system will be so good that people far distant from one another will fall in love and have to meet. Well, if love be true and strong, it should survive a walk of no more than 10,000 miles and approximately two years. Hello, young lovers wherever you are.
A Mark I economy is an economy populated by beings who have a single need only, namely, to eat. With this simplification it might not be difficult to compute all of the input-output matrices for agriculture, including irrigation, fertilization (hopefully “natural” or “organic”), pest control, waste water clean-up, and other ancillary activities. One then could get a reasonably good grasp of what is entailed in planning a complete realistic economy for human beings. The Russians may be able to help us with this. Actually, our own commerce department knows a good deal about economic planning. My difficulty is that I haven’t the money to pay the price they ask for their data, which, in fact, is for sale. Perhaps, this book or some other book I write will draw enough attention to the American Policy Institute that a grant might be forthcoming. One can only hope. I could certainly use the assistance of a post-doctoral student or an extremely talented graduate student. Perhaps an experienced scientist will join me or do some of these calculations on his (or her) own. I am not seeking fame. I just want to see the work done (especially the work on renewable energy – compared to which economic planning is duck soup).
Nowadays, our food, at least the food that is not imported, is produced by about 3% of the population, most of whom work for giant agri-businesses and specialize in a single commodity crop. I believe commodity farming may have some merit in the production of wheat and a few other grains; but, in decentralized communities where motorized transportation is used for emergencies only, it simply will not do. Nature loves diversity and commodity farming is the opposite of diversity. One could get wiped out completely by a single phenomenon (a plant disease, say) to which not every crop would be vulnerable if one had more than one crop.
The idea that most people will produce most or all of their own food is extremely appealing to me. I recall the creative thrill of tending a Victory Garden during World War II. We canned what we did not eat or give away and some of the Bell jars (used in canning) were still on the shelf three years after the war ended. Thus, vegetarians can account for most of their diets in both the Summer and Winter. (The reader is familiar, by now, with my partiality to vegetarianism, in keeping with the Environmental Axiom.) Some commodity farming, particularly of grains, will probably persist. Those who do not wish to garden will provide recipients for those of us who are certain to grow much more than we can eat. (Sometimes it’s hard to find someone to take the excess off one’s hands and the eager giver might make a nuisance of himself.)
I think that it is most urgent to reduce the distance that food travels before it is eaten, accounting appropriately for the distance that seeds travel. Some people argue that such good health as the Chinese do enjoy can be accounted for by the fact that they eat mainly indigenous food! On the other hand, the average bite of food consumed by an American travels over one thousand miles, according to my information, which accounts for the expenditure of a lot of fossil fuel. This has got to cease. Undoubtedly, future generations will be accustomed to eating from a much shorter menu, unless techniques are developed for growing many imported foods locally – at a reasonable emergy cost.
Naturally, one will want to provide a system for storing food against natural economic contingency either locally or elsewhere. If a natural catastrophe strikes, succor should not be long in coming from the nearest community able to provide assistance, in which case restrictions on the transportation of food do not apply. (Otherwise, each community should be self-sustaining.)
Finally, agriculture must be carried out on a sustainable basis, which means that, ultimately, farm land may not be permitted to deteriorate. Probably, crop rotation will be employed and dozens of other techniques of which I am unaware. Also, water that is used for irrigation must be returned to its original condition as supplied by nature. If chemicals are employed, this must perforce entail some sort of purification process, the emergy costs of which must be properly budgeted. (To chemical engineers: If the activity coefficients of the species to be separated are not too much less than one, the reversible work for these separation processes is small. The actual emergy costs have not been calculated.) If we provide calculations for a Mark I economy, we shall have a complete emergy analysis of a typical agricultural operation. Unfortunately, this will have to wait until the post-publication stage of this essay.
Economic planning will be done by small local collectives of professional planners who have been trained in applied mathematics – not applied politics. One private group of scientists and technologists out of several groups will have created the plan. The implementation of the plan will fall to the same group or a different group. These groups will be chosen by the government through its elected representatives, or by the people themselves, by direct referendum, because of past successes or because they have convinced people that they have the best methods.
Alternatively, in order to avoid the worst pitfalls of democracy, they can be chosen by some sort of random drawing. In any case, they will be replaced by a new group of similarly chosen people, who have devoted their scholarly lives to such matters, after a term of fixed and finite length, e.g., six years. The group being replaced will return to pure research and develop further the methods that will be used by future economic planners, perhaps themselves.
To minimize the possibility of personal or political corruption, a particular group can be relieved of responsibility without shame by popular referendum at any time. (Providing everyone with a computer and modem makes direct participatory isocracy a simple matter.) As stated earlier, it is crucial that economic planners do not acquire power. They must practice their craft in all humility – motivated intrinsically, of course.
Since the technology of economic planning will be widely disseminated, nearly every group of economic planners will be using the same methods and most economic plans will be quite similar. Therefore, it might be possible for different enterprises to choose different planners without upsetting the economy, or even affecting economic outcomes appreciably.
The steps in the distribution process include the following: (i) each family provides a supercomputer with the actual consumer goods, including food, that they are calling for (perhaps on a daily basis so that the computer can work with the latest information), (ii) each producer of consumer goods and production goods supplies the supercomputer with the list of materials required to produce each unit, and (iii) the supercomputer solves the large (linear) problem that determines exactly how much of what is needed where and when. The computer apportions the production and the services to the various private cooperatives in such a way as to reduce transportation costs and to prevent the people taking part in the production process from being inconvenienced, i.e., having to move from place to place, work irregular hours, etc.
Households may consist of any number of people of whatever gender. Decisions as to preferences within the household can be managed in any way the members choose, provided only that it lies within the social contract, which, if you remember, is a minimal proper religion. Flipping coins comes to mind if consensus can be reached in no other way.
The idea of choosing dwelling places by some random process has much to recommend it, namely, fairness. However, of two children in a family, I believe one of them ought to maintain the old family homestead. The question of which one is open. The lottery, then, would have to be confined to situations where an “old family place” is not available, in some cases only until the parents no longer need their home. (Dead, you know.) Moreover, taking account of personal choice, random chance need be employed, to resolve conflicts, only when personal choices coincide. Of course, these are only suggestions. For my purposes, they constitute thought experiments that prove an appropriate mechanism for distributing housing fairly is imaginable, at least. The possibility exists of re-entering the lottery after an appropriate period of residence at the property selected by the previous lottery in which a given household was involved.
Architects, economists, and real-estate appraisers should determine how much emergy ought to go into the typical family home and, of course, the typical home for a confirmed bachelor as well. It is the business of the architect to ensure that one’s fair share of the emergy budget for housing, whatever it turns out to be, is not exceeded appreciably. The religious nature of the new society is apparent when we realize that each person will wish to consume as little as possible. This will require a complete conversion from our present acquisitive ways.
Probably, ocean, lake, and river front property should be reserved for public use. In the case of lavish housing that has been retained from the present era of sanctioned opulence, mansions should be renovated to produce appropriately sized multiple dwellings.
I see no reason why members of the household should not improve the property by their own efforts if they keep their emergy expenditures within reasonable bounds, set by scientific calculations, good taste, and high morals. Since the area of the property is bounded, natural limits on the consumption of emergy are already in place. The height of the buildings should be determined by taste and a natural desire to harmonize with the surroundings. As discussed elsewhere, the size of the buildings sets a natural limit on acquisition. Tools should be given a preferred status in determining the optimal emergy consumption. Of course, the opinions of one’s friends and neighbors are operative, but I do not anticipate the need to police these home improvement expenditures. Each household should be the judge of what is reasonable and fair. After all, we said that people will govern themselves.
An ideal solution to the health-care crisis is a case in point that could be implemented quite soon. We must decide, first, who belongs to the health-care sector: the doctors, nurses, hospitals, clinics, ambulances, and their drivers, of course, but also the manufacturers of medical equipment, even surgical steel, the producers of pharmaceuticals, the designers and constructors of their plants, and so on. I do not believe that the health-care sector should have its own electric power plants, water suppliers, or iron mines, therefore these facilities must supply the health-care sector at no charge and pass on the cost to the other sectors. Now, health care can be free (but rationed – we wouldn’t spend 10% of our budget on the last week of a doomed man’s life) and every member of the health-care sector may have his or her fair share of the production of the other sectors without paying. At first, it might be necessary for health-care workers to carry a national credit card to keep track of their expenditures in units of emergy, say. We might have to allot a little more for the highly skilled surgeons until everyone gets used to the idea of equality, after which people would be ashamed to consume more than the least they can get along with. The difficulty with this solution is tremendous, namely, the difficulty of getting people to accept something new especially when they perceive disadvantages to themselves by so doing.
But, after all, who better than physicians and surgeons to take the first step toward renouncing wealth? Presumably, physicians are more intelligent and better educated than most of us and consequently they are (1) better qualified to understand the importance of giving up wealth, (2) more qualified to live life abundantly while minimizing consumption (it takes brains to live well without money; any idiot can live well if he is rich), and (3) physicians are better positioned to retain the respect of their worldly friends without wealth (I dare say Doc Feelgood would be allowed to retain his membership in the River Oaks Country Club, since some of the members may need to entrust their lives to him one day). Moreover, they need to make a show of good faith in this national crisis to retain the respect of the general public, who are beginning to regard them as vultures and parasites. (Marian Hillar has pointed out that, nowadays, what passes for education rarely prepares one for the austere life of the contemplative person. The first reforms will take place where they are needed most, namely, in education.)
This is the difficulty faced by my entire philosophy. It applies to only part of society, but if successful there, it might be easier to implement it elsewhere, and, finally, everywhere. Indeed, this solution can be applied to every sector of the economy and we will have achieved the cashless economy we desire. When, in addition, it is no longer necessary to keep track of who consumes what, we will be able to escape from the tremendous burden of accounting under which we now suffer. (I would like to describe in detail the sequence of payments and trail of paperwork generated by one visit to a gastro-enterologist, but the reader can easily imagine such a nightmare. Now, for a moment, imagine medicine without the process of acquiring insurance, deciding among competing plans, paying for insurance, accounting for the payments to and from the insurance company, correcting the clerical errors, following follow-up letters with still more follow-up letters only to have a claim denied for no particular reason. I have seen my doctors’ medical files on me. They are about one-third as voluminous as my own files accounting for my payments. Money takes more paperwork than medicine?!)
I believe that it is not far-fetched to claim that, in a natural economy, ill health will be much less common than it is presently. Natural economies are virtually free of stress, which, in my opinion, is the chief cause of disease. Also, let us repeat our contention that it is unseemly to spend ten percent of our health-care budget on the last week of a dying man’s life, whatever his accomplishments or virtues may have been. On the other hand, it is cruel and inhuman to spend nothing to assist the terminally ill in departing this world in as dignified and painless a manner as possible. Thus, we mathematicians observe that an optimal expenditure must exist even if we have no way to compute it. Common sense and the opinion of everyone must be taken into account in rationing medical care. Unfortunately, under some dire circumstances, people will have to learn to die well. The Oregon Plan must have some merit. Perhaps we should look into it. In any case, a scheme for dividing scarce resources must be created and with not much theory to employ in its creation. This is a difficult problem, but not a problem that can be avoided by choosing an economic system that tolerates Artificial Economic Contingency. What could be worse than giving out health care only to those with the money to pay for it? That alone would force all prudent people to pursue the Money Game, much to the debasement of humanity.
The control of epidemics is a problem that affects everyone. Epidemics should be treated as emergencies. Fortunately, small communities are less vulnerable to epidemics than are global societies; but, from time to time, unlucky communities will require assistance from those spared by dreaded epidemic disease. Under these circumstances, people have never shirked their responsibility toward their fellow creatures, even at the risk of their own lives. Also, medical research on the control of epidemics should continue; but, as stated in my essay “On Honor in Science” , the funding should be equitable and should not occupy the efforts of scientists. (Even in a cashless society, the question will arise: How much emergy should a scientist consume? The answer may not be simple.) Also, I should mention in passing that, probably, we should not use antibiotics frivolously, as they may become ineffectual when we really need them; but doctors must know best and had better behave responsibly. Fortunately, they will have no incentives to do otherwise, I hope.
The primary agenda of the fashion industry is to get you to buy new clothes before your old ones wear out! That must cease and it will. Still, something can be said for individuality in style and appearance, which, of course, depends on the universal propagation of good taste. (Good taste should follow naturally from a good education, which is discussed below.) Suppose, then, that people are likely to choose their clothing wisely and economically with the importance of sustainability and the folly of conspicuous consumption firmly in mind.
In the next section, as an example of starting a new enterprise without risk, I discuss a method of providing perfectly tailored clothes for everyone. This would have the secondary effect of making retail stores unnecessary, as, currently, the only thing we can’t pick out of a good catalogue (or an on-line database) is clothing, which, somehow, must be made to fit. That problem solved, retail stores are an anachronism, missed by some but gladly dispensed with by others, especially in the form they are beginning to take, such that no “sales help” is available – perhaps no one to tell you where an item can be found. (This deplorable lack of service in retail stores, presumably to save wages, is one of the social problems listed in Appendix II.) Thus, I imagine clothes that are not made in one’s own home or within walking distance of one’s own home will be “mailed” from the manufacturer after having been manufactured automatically to one’s precise measurements. Why would not everyone wish to take advantage of this type of convenience? To be effective in making one’s own clothes, that’s why? For the simple satisfaction of doing it! The form that mail might take is open to speculation. Probably, very little of the mail will consist of messages as electronic methods are faster and more conservative of scarce resources, I would guess. However, packages of all sizes will have to be delivered at least once in a while. Is it possible to have a system of pneumatic tubes, or the high-tech equivalent of such a system, connecting easily accessible points in every community? We shall see. (Or, rather, our children will see.)
An important question is: How will new products be brought to the public? The excuse for capitalism is that it provides investment capital to bring new products to market. It cannot be justified as a means of transferring wealth from the poor to the rich. However, if there is no accumulation of excess wealth, there will be no venture capital to promote new products. In order to provide the means for bringing new products to market and for developing the ideas of creative people without exposing them to economic risk, three economic institutions must be present in society: The first is a natural consequence of dematerialism, namely, a free and economically independent people who can embrace any project they wish. The second of the two things is a database where people can place proposals for producing new products. This would establish credit for origination, not that anyone needs more credit than they get for being a decent human being. The third institution that is needed is a system of small shops where prototypes of new products can be made. With advanced tools, integrated circuits, computers, and other instruments, prototypes often can be built in the homes of private people. Also, computer simulations can “prove” new ideas and the simulation can be included in the database.
Suppose I wish to provide the economy with new technology for supplying people with custom clothing automatically, as in the famous Woody Allen movie, except that this technology will really work. It is to consist of machinery that measures people for clothes optically, taking hundreds of separate measurements. These measurements, along with the answers people supply to questions about style, tightness or looseness of fit, etc., are to be sent to computers that operate a system of robots that make the patterns, sew the clothing, package it, and send it to the consumer automatically. Everything from socks to fancy dress suits (if we can afford them and anyone wants them) will be made this way. No one will ever have to put on a shirt that is too tight or step on one's pajama cuffs again! People will order clothes by home computer without leaving their homes except to adjust their dimensions and other requirements from time to time. The computer program could provide moving pictures of the consumer wearing whichever garments he selects. He can see himself in a variety of situations and observe the effect of whatever changes he makes in the important parameters. Eventually, he might learn how to intuit comfort from appearance. [Every product in the world, from a thumb tack to a power plant, can be completely specified in a single database – accessible to everyone.] Do you think men and women will be sorry to give up the pleasure of shopping? If the retailing business continues on the path it is taking now, I think not. [In fact, it is the difficulty of getting clothes that fit that represents the only real stumbling block to eliminating all of the waste associated with retailing. Obviously, a product, by itself, can be moved more efficiently than can two people, an automobile, and the product. Moreover, the product makes but one trip, whereas the people and the car make two.]
Nowadays the difficulty of raising capital for such an enterprise would be so overwhelming that no one would attempt it unless he or she were a person of tremendous personal resources with a proven reputation for carrying off tremendous projects. It would be like building a tunnel under the English Channel or worse. But, in a dematerialistic world, it could be done without having greater financial resources than anyone else. First, one would draft a proposal and send it to the database over the telephone lines with a modem. The proposal could be fairly short to see if anyone at all is interested. Since it is a new proposal, it would appear in a prominent place in the database (under recent proposals) and its keywords would be entered into the proper data retrieval scheme. Suppose 31,000 people read the proposal and twenty-three people thought it was good enough to stop doing what it was they were doing and embrace this new project. These twenty-three people wouldn't have to leave their current commitments until the proposal had been considered in much greater detail. All they would have done so far is express serious interest. There would be some teleconferences and a number of proposals and counter-proposals exchanged among the participants. Suppose two of them are image-processing people, seven are robotics experts, two are applied mathematicians, four are computer scientists, three are machinists, one is a telephone linesperson, and four have no previous relevant experience. It looks like the last four will be the managers, eh? No, they will all have to manage quite a few things at the outset. If they decide to go ahead with this project, it will be necessary to build a lab and develop a working model. In the meantime, new people have expressed interest and some have dropped out. After a few months, they have decided to go ahead with the project and they have selected a location where the research and development will be carried out. It is now time to give notice and dispose of their interests in their present organizations in a canonical way. They will have to talk to the private company entrusted by the people to distribute real estate in the region they have chosen in order to find homes and to get a building in which to work. This can be done without money because of the way the economy is set up. If a new building must be built, the economic planners arrange for it to be done. Naturally, there must be some checks to prevent the pursuit of frivolous projects, but undoubtedly a new research building would find some use if this project went belly up. Perhaps a private company will oversee new enterprises just to make sure nothing silly is done, but I see no reason why the entire community should have to vote on every little thing, although maybe this is big enough that a public referendum is called for.
In the meantime detailed plans have to be drawn up not only for equipment that we know how to build but for experimental equipment that is needed to find out how to build the equipment we don't know how to build. Dozens of small private groups, companies, cooperatives will be asked to supply a little of this and a little of that, including technical expertise. The core group will manage itself isocratically, by drawing lots if necessary. (What could be more isocratic than drawing lots!) New people will be brought in. There will be some dog work, but everyone will own the enterprise in equal shares. The workers will continue eating, buying clothes, going to the movies, and carrying on normal lives just as if they were working in a steel plant or any other company or were unemployed. The details are beginning to get complicated, but I hope the reader may have an idea, from this thin sketch, how the project might progress.
We have solved the problem of distributing clothing. The problem of distributing other manufactured goods (provided we, the human race, can afford them – for everyone) is easy. All such goods should appear in a universal on-line database that is available to everyone. The rest is simple – unless the object be very large, in which case the single-track railroad lines (or barges) will be used; however, the total emergy consumed, directly and indirectly, must be charged to the recipient, who may be a scientist doing important research. If his normal (average) emergy budget be exceeded, the approval of the entire community should be required.
Electric power lines are a very attractive method of transporting energy over moderately long distances. I very much doubt that high-temperature super-conductors will be of any use to save emergy in such an application – unless suitable materials can be found that conduct electricity without resistance even at 100° Fahrenheit. [Note in proof (10-28-96): A couple of weeks ago I made some rough calculations of heat transfer rates to pipes full of liquid nitrogen. I was surprised by how low the transfer rates were. I may have to eat my words on high-temperature superconductivity.] I have already mentioned solar cells as transporters of energy. Some people want to make pipelines for hydrogen to be used ultimately in fuel cells.
Nevertheless, I hope that high-grade energy can be produced locally. Perhaps a device could be built that would supply a single household efficiently. It would be marvelous if a device no larger than a washer and drier set could be designed that would convert garbage, agricultural waste, and forest waste into diesel fuel with which to run a tractor or other agricultural machine or 60 Hz 110 volt AC power! This is my dream, but no one has the slightest idea if it is feasible or not. The needed research is long overdue.
A minimal proper religion is subsumed normally by the basic tenets of any normal religion. As stated previously, any additional religious beliefs or practices one wishes to adopt are of no concern to anyone but the person who adopts them. Thus, this society can accommodate any normal religion, i.e., a religion that is not in conflict with the social contract. The only difference between this and the current situation in America is that the social contract will be rational. Thus, we should not expect to see a large class of people in opposition to it. In particular, we should not expect to find virtually every teen-ager in opposition to it! Thus, freedom of religion is preserved.
Occasionally, a religion arises (calling it a cult won’t help) the beliefs and practices of which are so bizarre that, if they don’t violate the social contract itself, they offend the sensibilities of nearly every reasonable person. What is to be done about such a religion?
Case 1. The religion does not violate the social contract. In this case, the people will be given yet another opportunity to practice tolerance. This religion will be treated in the same way we treat political dissenters, namely, with every possible respect!
Case 2. The religion does violate the social contract by demanding the periodic sacrifice of live animals by torture, say, to make this case interesting. Now, we have a problem. This religion must be discouraged. But how? Neighbors and friends can speak to the practitioners of the bizarre religion to express their disapproval, which may have little effect. If the religion persists in the face of adverse social pressure, it may be necessary to institute boycotts and to isolate the members of the religion in various ways. Caretakers of animals can refuse access to animals to known members of the religion. People can refuse all social intercourse with members of such a religion, which might mean that they will begin to be deprived of the necessities of life, which, if you remember, are given freely, but which may be withheld from violators of the social contract under certain conditions. Of course, such violators still retain their personal sovereignty and are therefore free to retreat to land designated for their custodianship and, so long as they do not abuse the land, they may abuse each other, say. But, if they are killing animals that wander onto their territory, we, the normal members of society, must find a way to prevent animals from going to such a dangerous place. If necessary, we can build a fence well outside the perimeter of their territory to prevent animals from entering. Of course, reasonable persuasion is our most desirable tool and we can only hope that it will be sufficiently powerful even if it takes time.
I believe I have said enough on this subject. It will be up to the people of that era to decide what to do. I am only speculating and indulging myself in some (hopefully) harmless day dreams.
I believe the schools are very bad, currently. And I mean all of the schools – from the most elite preschool to Harvard. (With the greatest regret I must include even Michigan (the Maize and Blue) in the category of very bad schools.) In my essay “On Higher Education”, available in the collection of my papers , I explain what’s wrong with the schools. They teach useless pursuits like marketing; they do not teach good ethics; they engage in many unethical practices on a faculty and administration level; they encourage cheating; they have reprehensible athletic programs that are unfair to everyone and that encourage gambling. This is only a small part of the story, which, indeed, requires an entire book and can be summarized only in an essay. I shall have the temerity to say what the schools should be like, however the reader will remember that this is only one man’s opinion. The form of the schools of the future will depend on others.
I subscribe to a modified version of Goethe’s plan in William Meister’s Apprenticeship and Travels . I believe that a child's schooling should begin with languages, by which I mean three types of language: (1) the verbal languages, i.e., what we normally refer to as language, (2) music and, to a lesser degree, the graphic arts, and (3) mathematics, with geometry, including topology, first – followed by algebra (not merely arithmetic with letters), logic, probability and whatever else the scholar considers mathematics if geometry, algebra, logic, and probability do not encompass the whole of mathematics.
It is not necessary to teach “facts”. Young students should be indoctrinated in the tenets of the social contract if a rational social contract, such as the theory presented in this essay, can ever achieve consensus. This is a dangerous point. I can very well imagine a demagogue convincing all but the most astute that a highly flawed system such as we currently enjoy has all of the attributes I claim for my minimal proper religion when, in fact, it is guaranteed to allow the power to concentrate in the hands of the very worst people on earth. Perhaps, indoctrination should be left to parents and guardians. This is an open question.
In particular, I believe that even the most promising scientific theories can be deferred until the child can read, write, and speak Latin, classical Greek, English, Russian, Mandarin, Japanese, French, Spanish, German, and Italian, at least, until the child can sight read difficult musical pieces, recognize intervals, chords, scales, and take dictation rapidly, is reasonably familiar with musical scores, can play the piano, one of the string instruments, and two or three other instruments representing the major families, i.e., brass, percussion, woodwinds, etc., until the child is familiar with most mathematics up to the level of functional analysis and algebraic topology. History, which is mostly incorrect, can wait until the child develops proficiencies in the three types of language, which enjoy the virtue of actually being “true”!
After the languages, well-known theories in science, the most accepted versions of history, and whatever he seems drawn to await him. His mind is already highly developed and he can handle information that may or may not be true. By all means, the patriotic propaganda and the meaningless lies must be purged ruthlessly from the schools, e.g., the Pledge of Allegiance. That is all I have to say in this short passage.
The idea that an autonomous community of people “should be small enough to be surveyed in its entirety from a hill-top” should make the difficult problem of attaining consensus a good deal more tractable. I would like to quote Bertrand Russell  again to give the reader an idea of what Aristotle thought of democracy.
He [Aristotle] is emphatic in distinguishing oligarchy and democracy by the economic status of the governing party: there is oligarchy when the rich govern without consideration for the poor, democracy when power is in the hands of the needy and they disregard the interest of the rich.
Monarchy is better than aristocracy, aristocracy is better than polity. But the corruption of the best is worst; therefore, tyranny is worse than oligarchy, and oligarchy than democracy. In this way Aristotle arrives at a qualified defense of democracy; for most actual governments are bad; and, therefore, among actual governments, democracy tends to be best.
The Greek conception of democracy was in many ways more extreme than ours; for instance, Aristotle says that to elect magistrates is oligarchic, while it is democratic to appoint them by lot. In extreme democracies, the assembly of the citizens was above the law, and decided each question independently. The Athenian law-courts were composed of a large number of citizens chosen by lot, unaided by any jurist; they were, of course, liable to be swayed by eloquence or party passion. When democracy is criticized [by Aristotle], it must be understood that this sort of thing is meant.
Quite obviously, with all its faults, this is the type of democracy I prefer. Moreover, I believe that after the appropriate educational reforms the faults will be much less in evidence. I reject party politics as pernicious conspiracies and I hope that they will disappear from public affairs soon. Incidentally, I have just finished a two-year term as Precinct Chairman and County Executive Committee member of one of the two major political parties, i.e., the only two parties that are permitted to win elections. I can assure you that my opinion of party politics did not improve during that period; but, rather, my original suspicions were corroborated.
I can imagine that consensus might be attained on even the most difficult public decisions after an all-night session of the entire adult population of a small community. Natural leaders won’t cut much ice with educated people who will know how to put anyone in his proper place who thinks he is exalted. I would hope that, among educated people, good judgment would prevail in all but the extremely rare case. Undoubtedly, a solid community can survive an odd mistake or two. We do.
Nevertheless, we always have a few people among us who cannot conform to anything. If everyone else is for it, they’re against it. I have no idea what childhood mishap or other circumstance, other than the workings of random chance, accounts for their existence. Anti-social people, who are still sovereign lords of their own beings, must be treated like captured heads of state. If they must be restrained, they must be restrained under the most humane and comfortable conditions possible. We simply have to treat them better than we treat ourselves. Who knows but that might change them. They may not be forced to endure “counseling” except insofar as they initiate conversations themselves. We have discussed this issue before and it will continue to remain a topic for further discussion.
Much of what we said about anti-social people applies to dissenters who violate the social contract. In any case, dissenters must be given an outlet through which they may express their heretical opinions. After all, they may be right and we may be wrong. We had better listen to them carefully, too!
We said that this system will replace employment with involvement. People will have to find something to do to be effective and, thereby, happy. This is not a problem but an opportunity.
Noam Chomsky  points out that nearly everything that has the word free attached to it in politically correct doublespeak involves tyranny rather than freedom. Free enterprise, as it is currently understood, is no exception. For every boss who is engaged in free enterprise, there is a number of employees who are wage slaves. The chattel slaver had to be concerned about the well-being of his slave, as his slave was his property. Not so, the wage slaver. When he’s done with his slave, the hell with him. That’s why company loyalty has disappeared, even at the highest levels. (Don’t forget that Lee Iacocca once worked for Ford.)
Free enterprise means different things to different people. To some it means the opportunity to devote one's creative and productive energies to worthwhile social goals; to others it means the opportunity to amass wealth without restraint regardless of the effect on society. Competition, too, can cut both ways. Competition for excellence can be justified in an atmosphere of cooperation if it doesn't lead to the exaltation of one person over another. (People do not belong to partially-ordered sets to which the relations “less than” and “greater than” can be applied.) It is not hard to show that competition for wealth and power is the cause of most of our troubles. Also, it is easy to see that anything that can be done well with competition can be done better without it. The ultimate competition is war. Free enterprise and competition are supposed to lead to greater efficiency due to freedom from cumbersome bureaucracies, greater opportunities for innovation, and increased incentive, but sometimes the efficiencies of private enterprises turn out to be atrocities. Some giant corporations have bureaucracies that dwarf those of small nations. Also, if competition gets too heated, the costs of competition (sales, marketing, advertising, etc.) wipe out the gains.
In a society where competition is moderated by an atmosphere of cooperation, even between groups engaged in the same endeavor, free enterprise can be tolerated, provided each and every participant in the enterprise takes part on the same basis. When free enterprise degenerates into a hierarchy of bosses and slaves, it ceases to be valid. “No one is good enough to be someone else's master.” People should be allowed to contribute to the group enterprise according to their own talents and inclinations, not according to the whim, or even considered judgment, of a “superior”. Have you ever noticed how much better people perform when they are doing what pleases them? They might even get “in a zone”. (“In a zone” is an expression from sports that connotes an effortless and flawless level of excellence in the playing of a game.)
Some people believe that the founders of enterprises deserve greater rewards because they have taken greater risks including (i) almost always the sacrifice of income during the start-up phase of the new company, (ii) usually the expenditure of their own money, and (iii) sometimes the offering of their own homes as collateral for loans. I do not see anything good or noble about risking one's future or the future of one's family. Do we not discourage gambling in other contexts? Is not gambling a vice? Starting new enterprises without risk, as discussed above, is much to be preferred. In this way, all justification for excess rewards for the founders is eliminated.
Most Americans have grown accustomed to the idea that achievement or seniority should be rewarded with higher wages and greater corporate power. This is supposed to act as an incentive for good performance, but it leads to many undesirable consequences, not the least of which are dishonest and unscrupulous conduct, cut-throat competition, the dog-eat-dog corporate ladder, and the disillusionment of those who are treated unfairly. What people really want and need is satisfaction, which comes only from spiritual growth and creative endeavor. One need only observe the behavior of people who are actually achieving satisfaction to verify this spiritual law. (In their theory of intrinsic motivation, Deci and Ryan  use the term effectiveness, which presumably gives satisfaction. The above section was written before I was aware of Deci and Ryan.)
Nevertheless, if the system advocated in this essay is adopted, enterprises could be truly free. Let us describe a model enterprise, which, because of familiarity, I shall take to be a chemical plant. Despite my chemical engineering background, I am likely to slide over one or two essential details necessary to make the plant run, but I hope to get my main ideas across.
Let us suppose that the purpose of the plant is to obtain hydrogen for reforming pyrolysis products to make diesel fuel. Further, suppose that the plant is already built to carry on the well-known water gas reaction whereby carbon monoxide is converted to carbon dioxide at the expense of the single oxygen molecule in a water molecule, thereby producing one hydrogen molecule for every water molecule so reduced. We shall not concern ourselves about the origins of the feed.
Naturally, the plant will be small. Since the equipment consists of only one reactor, a high-pressure absorber, two compressors, a turbine, a heater, a condenser, a decanter, and a pump, very few operators will be required, the reactor and absorber requiring, perhaps, the most attention. Compressors are expensive and we shall have to decide if a spare can be kept in the system already piped up in case of failure. Perhaps three operators on four shifts, if great inconvenience should be attendant upon shutting the plant down nightly. Otherwise, three people might manage nicely by producing four times the output per shift of a continuously operating plant on a single shift of a plant that operates intermittently. We had better add a machinist and an accountant to make a total of five equal partners who will have an equal say in all decisions. Conflicts that remain after lengthy discussion could be resolved by random chance or by calling in an outside adjudicator who is familiar with such plants. We shall not be concerned with the technical details here, nor do I know if such a process is still feasible at this late date. (I found the flow diagram in a 1954 version of Hougen, Watson, and Ragatz .) The product will be sent to a pipeline that services everyone in the community who is reforming pyrolysis products to produce diesel fuel or, in a different scenario, to everyone who is producing electricity in a fuel cell. Normally, those making diesel fuel will be more than casual gardeners. The building of the hydrogen pipeline is another matter.
When a part fails, the appropriate spare component is brought into service and the machinist informs the accountant what sort of stock he will need to replace the spare or, in the event that the manufacture of the spare is beyond his means, he so informs the accountant. The accountant, who manages the normal input/output matrix for the plant, now must find a supplier for whatever is needed. Probably, he will need to contact a professional economic-planning collective. They will arrange for the production and delivery of the needed items, naturally without charge. The accountant accounts for things not money. (Now that I look at the accountant’s job description, I think he should have a degree in chemical engineering – or whatever degrees evolve into.)
The machinist is kept pretty busy because little things are breaking all the time and he is responsible to keep the plant running. Also, he may wish to introduce improvements and economies in the operation. The three operators keep the plant running under normal conditions, i.e., when nothing is broken. Also, when parts fail, they are responsible for the smooth switching to the appropriate backup, which may amount to no more than turning a valve, as chemical plants are built with the spare pieces of equipment in place and ready to run. Also, the three operators are responsible for the safe operation of the plant. After all, they are the ones most likely to be harmed if the plant blows up! Notice, though, that the plant will be sufficiently small that no one else will be injured in case of an accident, except, perhaps, in an extremely rare and bizarre case, i.e., a genuine freak accident, which cannot be ruled out absolutely even in the best run plants. Wherever dangerous chemicals are around, we have danger.
For the sake of argument, let us assume that traditional marriages persist in this society. Of course, most people will have sex with prospective marriage partners before they get married, therefore unmarried sex will continue. Personally, I consider every opportunity to have sex that is lost an irreparable loss of something that is precious. The notion of young girls “saving themselves” for marriage is ludicrous. They are not “saving” something, rather they are wasting something that can never be replaced. Personally, I hope that AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases are conquered quickly, so that we can get back to libertinage. Perhaps, the most harmful aspect of certain religions is their morbid attitudes toward sex. I am with Bertrand Russell on this one .
Thus, the only unusual sex practices that the community need be concerned with are sex practices involving the violation of a moral axiom. Now, the only axioms that are likely to be violated are the Freedom Axiom and the Truth Axiom. Therefore, everything is permissible unless it deprives one or all of the participants of his or her freedom or it involves some form of falsity such as a promise that the one making the promise doesn’t expect to keep, some sort of misrepresentation, or some other type of falsity. Clearly, rape is forbidden as it violates the Freedom Axiom. Sex crimes are dealt with like any other type of crime; but, in a liberated society, they ought to be rare. Also, the disappearance of sexually oriented advertising should help eliminate sex crimes. Actually all advertising will disappear as it will serve no useful purpose in a world with a universal on-line database describing in detail every manufactured object. However, pornography is not likely to disappear as long as some artists consider it a legitimate art, in fact the only art that cannot be faked.
A good deal was said about raising children in Chapter 3 “Toward Axiomatic Morality”. This section will be brief. The reader should be able to supply much of what is missing.
The author’s essay “On Education” in the collected papers  covers this subject adequately. Also, I said a few words on education earlier in this chapter.
How many times did your father say to you, “You’ll do as I say as long you’re living at my expense”? That was a form of extortion, wasn’t it? But, no more. In a world where everything is free, parents can’t pull that stunt. Children can easily walk out on their parents, once they have reached the age of reason, and (i) live on their own, (ii) find foster parents, which someone will be happy to help them do, or (iii) live with other children with any degree of adult supervision they choose to put up with. I, personally, will be glad to see the tyranny of parents end. The reader may form his own opinion. It won’t be up to me in any case.
Children must be educated completely concerning the truth about sex and childbirth. This is an exception to what I said above. Child pregnancy should be rare among well-educated children, however occasionally a child will wish to become pregnant, in which case, unless the father gives up his token, she will have given up hers. This is fine and nothing in the economic system prevents her from the full enjoyment of life as a result of that decision. However, the Token Theorem is absolute and she may regret her haste in the future. Moreover, if she violates the Token Theorem, she will be treated like any other criminal, which might not be too bad.
Neither scientists nor artists need acquire funding from anyone. This alone should improve the quality of the life and work of artists and scientists enormously. If a scientist needs to overspend his emergy budget appreciably, he must get the approval of his community to do so. This might be difficult in which case we should see less big science, which suits me fine, as the reader knows if he has read my “On Honor in Science”. Nothing stops artists or scientists from forming collectives, either to pool their emergy budgets or for some other reason. Science and art are suitable leisure activities for anyone. No one needs a degree or a license to do either.
Travel is fine and ought to be especially rewarding as the only mode of transportation that should be available is walking. Therefore, the traveler might actually see something. Also, this mode of transportation encourages long stays, which are absolutely necessary to learn anything useful about a foreign culture. Of course, small bodies of water can be crossed by sailing vessels, which are very fine indeed; and, surprisingly, very few places in the world cannot be reached by crossing a very short stretch of water. Look at your globe.
Naturally, some difficult situation will arise in every society. Below I will cover gambling and collecting, which are considered pathologies by many people.
Obviously, nothing of value can be gained by winning a bet. Inveterate gamblers might gamble for non-negotiable points, which might grow to have meaning within the narrow society of gamblers. Otherwise, they will have to make do as best they can. If they violate the rule against materialism, they will be treated like any other criminal, which might not be so terrible as I said before. See my essays on crime and punishment in the collection of my papers .
Collectors of many things of low emergy value need not be disturbed. Collecting jewels and works of art might pose problems if other people are deprived of seeing things they would like to see. I would encourage inveterate collectors of valuable and rare objects to make themselves museum curators, which should solve the problem to the satisfaction of all, as collectors enjoy nothing so much as showing off their collections.
January 13, 1995
Revised February 17, 1995
Revised February 25 - 29, 1995
Revised October 28, 1996
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