Chapter 12. How Social Change Might Occur
Many people believe that communism is pure totalitarianism and capitalism is pure freedom and that we must choose one or the other. The notion is sweeping the world that, since planned economies have failed, market economies represent the only hope and, indeed, the only possibility. These are very dangerous beliefs as far as the preservation of Earth’s remaining species is concerned. It rules out every idea that has a chance to work and makes the extinction of life on earth very likely. No one will escape to outer space for a number of reasons chiefly related to those who won’t have that option.
If, following E. F. Schumacher , the famous economist, we make strict binary choices between (i) freedom and totalitarianism, (ii) market economy and planned economy, (iii) private ownership and collective or state ownership, we get, not two only, but 2 to the 3rd power or 8 pure political-economic systems. I reject totalitarianism on humanistic, utilitarian, and aesthetic grounds and I have already shown why I reject market economies. This leaves two pure systems: freedom-planning-private and freedom-planning-state.
Table 12-1. Schumacher’s Chart
I believe we are in a position, now, to reject state ownership because it leads to the concentration of power into the hands of a large, inefficient, corrupt, and tyrannical bureaucracy that appropriates an unfair portion of the wealth to itself, which, in turn, demoralizes everyone else. The last thing a bureaucracy has in mind is to “wither away”. I believe that the means of producing goods and providing services, including services we normally think of as government services, should be owned by the people as private individuals – but in the sense of custodianship. Workers would own the enterprises for which they work. One worker – one share; one share – one vote. This sort of combination of private and collective ownership differs from ordinary ownership in that it cannot be transferred by sale; moreover, it must be forfeited by individuals who voluntarily abandon the enterprise. Due to these and other complications we shall refer to capital as generalized private property. [Note in proof: As of October 3, 1993, it appears that Russia is headed toward totalitarianism, a market economy, and private ownership.]
The conservative viewpoint of the world is that society is fine the way it is or requires only minor adjustments. [Note in proof: Conservatives want to let business operate with virtually no regulation and roll back social progress. These changes might not be so minor.] Among those who recognize the intolerable circumstances in society one can distinguish at least three separate views as to how change should be or will be effected. The Christian or Paulist salvationist believes that the stars will fall from the sky and that Jesus will come walking on the clouds, i.e., change will come suddenly. The revolutionary believes that the oppressed people of the world will eventually gain control by force of superior numbers and will establish a more righteous system. The evolutionist believes that man either will become sufficiently well-educated or will evolve into something more than human and, thus, will be ruled, at last, by reason.
Dematerialism is an evolutionary doctrine, but it does not accept the notion that we can afford to wait for biological evolution. Natural selection takes place over lengths of time that are prohibitively long given man’s power to destroy himself. It is possible, however, that man may play a role in his own evolution. Lately, some scientific evidence has appeared to support that possibility, but the theory presented in this essay does not depend on permanent changes in man’s genetic makeup.
The Christian outcome seems highly unlikely on the face of it, especially given that promises of the Second Coming have been broken repeatedly, beginning with the promise by Jesus himself that it would occur during the lifetimes of some who heard him make the promise.
The revolutionary scenario is likely, despite temporary reversals, if they are indeed reversals. Revolutions can be bloody and protracted when the population is divided into opposing groups of roughly the same orders of magnitude. When nearly everybody is ready for a change, revolutions can be swift. In either case, they rarely avoid bloodshed, which cannot be entirely good.
On the other hand, a long process must occur before society is ready to take the first step in a long series of steps to transform itself into something from which we can hope to build permanence. That process is education – not propaganda. (However, to express my unbounded disgust with those who refer to everything they wish us to believe as “education”, even though it has no basis in physical evidence or a priori logic, I refer to whatever I tell you as “propaganda”, even though I, personally, believe it is entitled to a nobler appellation.) This process, whatever it’s called, must begin with the education of a handful of philosophers who can educate each other and who can educate teachers, who can educate even more teachers. Teachers will educate graduate students first, or, perhaps, new kinds of students who will supplant graduate students in the wake of the realization that academia has failed. Presumably, understanding will come to younger and younger people as truth diffuses through the population according to natural social processes.
But, even when nearly everyone is ready to make a change, we must realize that society suffers great trauma when institutions upon which we depend are abolished suddenly. The breakdown of the orderly conduct of life is certain, and catastrophes, including famines and epidemics, can result. On the face of it, it seems reasonable to change society by a series of small, nearly reversible perturbations, the effects of which can be observed and assessed before proceeding to the next small change. This is all the more desirable when nearly all of society is committed to a new vision of an ideal world that is not likely to be abandoned because of a few minor setbacks. It is only when the confidence of the people in the vision is based on flimsy reasoning and emotional rhetoric that revolutions must occur suddenly so that people do not have a chance to reflect deeply. Thus, we anticipate gradual processes of change both before and after the common acceptance of these ideas – or, even better, ideas that might solve our problems in a better way.
Presumably, this philosophy will be embedded deeply in the hearts and minds of the American people after generations of solid education in fundamentals before steps are taken to abolish money, trade, governmental bureaucracy, and leadership. But, even by that time, a small group of people will be willing to go to any lengths to preserve their power and privilege, even if such a course of action is suicidal. One can only hope that this last irrational act will be relatively painless. Eliminating the last vestiges of the power elite by institutionalized murder or, for that matter, by any inhuman act whatever can never be justified; but, the power elite must be separated as gently as possible from the portion of the earth, air, sea, and sunlight that belongs rightfully to others, although they may be permitted to carry out their lives as sovereign lords of their fair share of the earth under any political system they choose so long as they do not interfere with our political system. The chain of violence must end somewhere. Let it end with the heirs of this system of thought.
It is obvious that equality of wealth will eliminate most social problems, in particular poverty and crime – crimes committed by poor people and crimes committed by rich people to become even richer. Also, equality of wealth will eliminate the overhead associated with dividing up the pie, which might be consuming nearly 90% of our production capacity. Finally, equality of wealth will eliminate fear and danger. But, how in the world can we get rid of this absurd economic system that no one understands and that controls our lives like a vicious tyrant?
The best way to eliminate gradients in wealth and, perforce, competition for wealth is to abandon the institutions of money and other fiduciary instruments capable of representing wealth stored symbolically or abstractly. We must show that people will produce wealth simply to be effective and hence happy. They will share this wealth equally and refuse compensation for it because that would create a contingency that would diminish their own personal freedom. This is a new way of looking at motivation. It requires a thorough discussion and more research. If the reader were to read only one of the references at the end of the chapters, I would hope that it would be Deci and Ryan .
When everyone has a house no bigger than what he or she can manage to take care of without hired help (as who would submit to such employment when everything is free), equality of wealth will essentially take care of itself. One can fill one’s house with TV sets if one wants to, but that would not leave too much space for anything else. Also, one’s neighbor might comment on the folly of so doing. The size of our houses will supply a natural limit on hoarding of wealth even for those who are not dedicated to consuming as little as possible in keeping with common sense. Of course, there are always precious jewels and objects of art for the incurably acquisitive. These belong in museums or could be loaned on a temporary basis. The solution to this problem by turning collectors into curators was mentioned in Chapter 11.
In very small communities of fifty people, say, scientific planning is not required because people can make their needs known and it is obvious what their shares consist of, but in a larger community consisting of ten thousand (or, in the worst possible case, ten billion) advanced scientific planning would be necessary. We must try to keep the size of the community as small as possible, decouple the economic sectors as much as possible (make the separate economic sectors as independent from one another as possible), and, for the rest of it, show that advanced economic planning is possible without concentrating power. We can begin research in economic planning immediately. Actually, economic planning and research in economic planning go on all the time, some of it by the Department of Commerce.
We might suggest that the Department of Commerce develop an Emergency Economic Plan (EEP) in case of a complete collapse of the international monetary and banking system, which, by the way, is not all that unlikely. (A minor crisis occurred in Europe lately .) People will be informed to go about their business as if nothing had happened. They will be permitted to charge purchases to their social security numbers on a more or less equal basis and dematerialism will have begun. This is completely appropriate in a situation where nothing has changed except that the currency has failed (unlike 1929 where crops had failed as well). Every quasi-capitalistic society should have an EEP. I hope to find some space to discuss the EEP in this book or in another essay.
As a step toward eliminating money (and other forms of paper wealth) by delegislation, I suggest that we immediately prohibit the selling of entire companies. The limit, for now, might be a cash amount or 10,000 shares or some other limit. The limit could be reduced gradually to 100 shares, say. Later still, stock might be sold legally only to a worker actively engaged in the enterprise represented by the stock. The value of the stock would go down, but the value of the company would go up, thus replacing money by value. This would not be harmful to old folks who are depending on dividends to support their old age. Eventually, the policy of one-shareholder-one-vote should be instituted (except that no one may vote who has a stake in a competitor). Imagine the volume of investment law, tax law, and corporate law with which we could dispense. This is a step toward equality of power as well as equality of wealth.
Before the legislation suggested in the next paragraph could be enacted, there is something that ordinary citizens could do without a change in laws and without relieving the rich of their money and power – although that must be done eventually, as the reader certainly understands by now. Suppose a group of us organized an enterprise wherein wages were distributed equally regardless of contribution. This might present overwhelming problems for ordinary Americans; but, for an exceptional group of dedicated people, it might teach the rest of the world a lesson in intrinsic motivation. The Ben and Jerry Ice Cream Company already has a plan that tends toward that goal. Nothing stops someone else from going further. I shall devote this chapter to possible paths toward a noncompetitive society. (Suppose, as a walking and talking real-life object, a person refused remuneration in excess of that given the lowest paid worker in the enterprise. Suppose he refused any remuneration whatever. I admit that this might entail ethical conflicts in the old ethics. One might be accused of being a scab. Perhaps, for now, accepting no more than the lowest paid worker is best.)
Until a cashless society is achieved, we might do the following in accordance with our policy of delegislation, to be described below: we might establish a national salary ($1000/per year times one’s age in years, say) and place a limit on stored wealth ($10,000 times one’s age in years, say). This could be established by law until people abandoned hoarding wealth voluntarily and until they began to pride themselves on how little they consume. At last, people would no longer be required to labor under conditions that do not suit them. Employment would be replaced by involvement and people would not be able to become involuntarily uninvolved with an economic enterprise without being convicted in a trial, but this would amount to no more than being suspended with full pay. Workers would be free at last! Now “all” that remains is to convince everyone that this will work! One law would replace literally thousands of laws. Any such step toward eliminating all laws shall be termed delegislation.
Currently (August 4, 1993), we are in the midst of a debate on deficit reduction. May I suggest the following solution. I think it’s a good solution and I don’t care how bad the people were who tried this solution in the past. I think that’s irrelevant. I suggest that we repudiate the national debt except that we make sure that retirees and poor widows who are depending on the interest from a small part of it do not suffer. This is a slight complication, but it can be worked out in a way that cannot be abused by the rich. This solution has the desirable feature that no one will lend us money anymore, so we are guaranteed to balance the budget in the future. Government workers who can no longer be paid will receive cards that entitle them to make purchases that are paid for by increasing the prices paid by the rest of us. We should cancel all foreign debt completely in such a way that schemes to transfer foreign debt to Americans fail. Let our foreign debt holders take care of the “poor widows” in their own countries. Since we are confiscating the fortunes of rich Americans anyway, nothing new occurs there. The government will seize the records of pension funds and mutual funds without warning so that only American’s who really need the money will be paid. They could be paid off immediately, in the first year, or over a few years. If your net worth exceeds $10,000 times your age in years, don’t expect a cent. Why should people who gained nothing from the government going into debt pay the debt? For all we know, without the extravagant expenses of the military-industrial complex, we might be enjoying the benefits of communism now. It would be a lot easier to reform that system than this one. But, frankly, I don’t believe the “defense” budget had any political effect whatever – except to make the rich richer. [Note in proof (8-22-04). A drastic action like repudiating the national debt or even part of it requires careful scientific study, including extensive computer simulations, before implementation.]
People are afraid that no one would work without the incentive to amass wealth. I can give a dozen reasons why they would – why involvement will be more highly valued than employment ever was. I would work. You would work. Remember, without the money game, barely one-tenth of the work would remain to be done. Work would be at a premium because supplies of high-grade emergy must be conserved, but one area of human endeavor would still be attractive to labor intensive (unmechanized) activity, namely, the improvement of one’s own home!
Clearly, it is harmful to have people migrating all over the globe for other than personal adventures that would return them to their places of origin, therefore I do not favor immigration. People emigrate (permanently) for a number of reasons including (i) chasing their money if they come from a country that has been victimized by U.S. imperialism, (ii) to escape political persecution, in which case they should be spending their time arranging the overthrow of the unjust government in their land of origin, to which they plan to return, (iii) to exploit the people of the country they are invading, (iv) because they have been invited by people who hope to hold down the wages paid to natives doing the same work, especially science and engineering, and (v) “to live a better life” by which they mean “to consume more”, as if over-consumption weren’t bad enough already.
In view of (i) above, Americans must cease imperialist ventures at once. It should be illegal for Americans to do business in foreign counties (imperialism) and for foreigners to do business in America (colonization). Clearly, ownership of any kind constitutes doing business. American citizens doing business in-person overseas should be refused re-entry into the United States and all of their domestic assets should be confiscated. All foreign assets in the U.S. should be confiscated and assigned to the workers if that makes sense or divided among American citizens if that does. (Constitutional quibbles about “due process of law” or “just compensation” can be managed appropriately.) Foreign trade must be banned as it is always unfair (except in the singular case of trades of equal emergy, in which case it is unwise because of the (emergy) overhead of transportation). [Naturally, though, trades of equal emergy from one side of the Rio Grande to the other are more sensible than trades of equal emergy between New York and Los Angeles.]
Clearly, trading one’s natural resources for currency is a bad deal, as the price never accounts for the work done by nature. The citizens of the selling nation could generate greater real wealth by processing the raw materials at home if they be not wise enough to conserve them. Trade of manufactured objects is unfair to both buyer and seller. Why should Indonesians make shirts for me? Why should I rob an American of the opportunity to practice the craft of shirt making? We brag that our net export of chemicals helps ameliorate our trade deficit, which, clearly, is a problem as it contributes to colonialism, but why should we breathe air polluted to make chemicals for Germans?
Either in elementary school or high-school, I was taught that we have foreign trade because of comparative advantage, which is a term we have all heard. Most of us, though, have noticed that comparative advantage no longer applies. Watches can be made in Detroit as well as they can be made in Zurich. The exceptions are so small in number that I do not know of any and even these could be corrected by universal education and sharing of natural resources when it is absolutely necessary to do so to ensure equality of wealth. Amusingly, we once thought that good marijuana had to come from abroad, but now the best quality “pot” is grown right here in the good old USA. Mightn’t the same be true of coffee, assuming people prefer it over coca leaves or more efficacious artificial “speed”? Some people attribute such good health as the Chinese people do enjoy to the fact that they eat only indigenous foods. That might argue against the necessity to transplant foreign crops!
Obviously, natural resources are distributed unequally around the globe and perhaps we need some sort of weak world federalism to help us correct these inequities with no strings attached, i.e., without payments or obligation of any kind. This requires a widespread consciousness, practically a religious feeling, of the brotherhood of all mankind. A weak world federalism to distribute essential natural resources without payments should be considered. It is very important. By “weak” I mean without the power to pass or enforce laws. (In contradistinction with the prevalent view that the United Nations is too weak, my view is that the U.N. is way too much government. Aside from Chomsky’s observation  that the U.N. serves the “interests” of the rich men of the United States with barely a murmur of discontent from the nations upon which U.S. businessmen prey, The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not even reasonable – let alone universal! This is discussed in a little essay, included in my collected papers , which was taken from a letter to Robert Fleisher, a fine artist and a second cousin of mine.)
Eventually national borders will disappear, but by that time the world will be divided into small decentralized eco-communities and the evils of trade and imperialism will not create significant difficulties as they do now. Clearly, it is the intention of multi-national corporations with allegiance to no sovereign entity other than themselves to take over the world and reduce it to the Orwellian nightmare. I have explained why I believe this is true. Chomsky comes to the same conclusion based upon microfacts (detailed historical accounts) to which I do not appeal.
I have explained how imperialism and colonization works and why even foreign aid is a tool of depredation. The emergy analysis developed in Chapter 2 on emergy and economics will be an enormous aid to understanding this. Compared to the evil done by the American Empire, the Roman Empire was a mere shell game. The renunciation of imperialism will permit the United States to dispose of its huge military machine and eliminate the temptation to indulge in military adventurism abroad, which will no longer serve the economic agendas of the acquisitive power elite among us. By following this morally correct agenda we will rid ourselves of the threat of terrorism in a single stroke. But, first, we had better disarm Germany and Japan as we are entitled to do as the victors in World War II. I am assuming that Japan and Germany will continue to have dangerous dreams of empire, which remains to be seen. Also, we needn’t be afraid of terrorism when we are no longer doing anything that makes people want to hurt us, so we wouldn’t have to violate the Fourth Amendment at airports. I hope the reader has come to terms by now with the proposition that air travel will soon become infeasible due to irremediable shortages of petroleum.
The compelling reason for decentralization, then, is the disappearance of our storehouses of high-grade energy, especially petroleum. Sustainable energy cannot supply more than about fifteen terawatt years per year and that is a hard technological limit not likely ever to be exceeded. The best we can do is more likely to be between five and ten terawatt years per year, realistically speaking. Only about one hundred terawatts goes into photosynthesis. Is it imaginable that we could harvest 10% of that? Is it conceivable that man will ever develop a solar collector more efficient than a tree, which has taken millions of years to evolve. (Alfred) Joyce Kilmer’s famous poem takes on a new scientific metaphorical meaning! (The fraction of incident solar energy absorbed by a tree may be small, but it maintains itself, reproduces itself, etc., which a non-living device may not do; therefore, its economic efficiency will be higher in the sense of emergy analysis.)
In any case, it seems unlikely that we can afford energy for transportation. We should, therefore, phase out the building of roads, drilling for oil (except to help eliminate the need for oil), airports, steamships, automobiles, airplanes, and limit considerably the manufacture of railroad equipment, although we will need a few single-track lines connecting our eco-communities to effect economies of scale (if we don’t opt for man-drawn barges, which might turn into a sort of athletic competition). We must budget some of our declining petroleum reserves to help people from large urban areas move close to farms and forests (deurbanization). We might begin with the voluntary relocation of the victims of severe floods, earthquakes, and other natural disasters that indicate the folly of living where they do.
We must do much more research on sustainable energy, economic planning, and community planning. We shall not give up our knowledge of electronics, quantum theory, and higher math, but we had better begin to salvage what we can of the tribal wisdom that we will need to tread lightly on the earth like Indians living in harmony with nature. Thus, we had better begin trying to learn from the few tribal people upon whom we have not yet committed genocide. We must begin to treat them as valuable endangered resources as well as brothers and sisters. Clearly, our lives might be enhanced by scientific knowledge, but we had better stop using it to subdue Nature rather than to create a partnership with her. This will provide opportunities for many participants whose work in business, commerce, government, and the military will no longer be needed.
[Note in proof (5-30-96): The Unabomber’s Manifesto has been available on the Internet for several months. I believe the Unabomber is incorrect in his presumption that we must eliminate all technology and burn the books even. We need technology to eat. Chewing food is technology. The Unabomber has failed to draw a line between “good” technology and “bad” technology, which must be done somehow. I agree with much of what he says in principle. To go much further, I consider him one of the most important intellectuals alive today. To execute him, in the unlikely case that we identify him correctly, would be ultimate folly.]
This is an important aspect of our theory and asks for a significant change in the point of view of many readers. We have classified the prohibitions on accumulation of wealth and power, imperialism, and colonization as delegislation because a few laws can eliminate thousands of laws – if not millions of laws. Most of The Law protects the Haves from the Have-Nots and supports the biases and superstitions of the masses. Eventually, we wish to replace laws with rational morals. With wealth equilibrated and no way to accumulate more than anyone else, most laws are unnecessary, but we can still expect some people to violate even rational morals. I suggest the following program: (i) legalize the victimless crimes, namely, drugs, prostitution, all kinds of consensual sex, gambling (which will soon disappear anyway as will prostitution), (ii) abandon capital punishment (the argument for this is irrefragable and was given in the essay “On Crime and Punishment” in Vol. 2 of the collection of my papers ), (iii) gradually eliminate jails (remember, the incentives for crime will be disappearing) and reject the notion of revenge or punishment, and, finally, (iv) treat violators of commonly accepted rational morals like captured heads of sovereign states, i.e., better than we treat ourselves. This may seem very strange, but I hope the reader understands why it is necessary. We cannot afford to punish people who may be more advanced morally than ourselves. Obviously, I believe that my morals are more advanced than those of mainstream America, in particular the morals that are represented by our legal code. Nevertheless, I could go to jail without doing anything of which a rational person would disapprove.
In keeping with this progressive point of view, I suggest that we create easy access to forums of dissent, i.e., open TV stations, journals, and newspapers (if indeed newspapers have not been replaced by computer bulletin boards). (I have heard it mentioned that the computer, the newspaper, television, radio, and the television will all be replaced by one instrument that will be centered around the telephone, which, after all, links many people in the world already. I only hope that we can spare the energy, or rather the emergy, for such an enterprise.) Freedom of dissent is the cornerstone of liberty as no one is obliged to accept any system of morals – including, of course, the morals presented here.
We might recapture our country and, indeed, our lives from the super-rich of our own and other countries by abolishing competition for wealth and replacing it with intrinsic motivation (the desire to perform a given economic act solely for the satisfaction derived from performing it). This might be done by passing a sequence of laws contrived to move us closer and closer to an economy based on intrinsic motivation or, as Skeet Kelly puts it, involvement rather than employment. Typically, however, people do not obey laws they do not favor, whereas, if they do favor a particular way of doing things, they don’t need a law. For example, we could pass a law that repealed the rights of people to trade in what is commonly called real estate, that is, portions of Mother Earth that represent the common inheritance of every single human being. This law would repeal thousands of other laws and, thus, could be considered delegislation without stretching a point. But, to break the seemingly endless cycle of reform followed by more corruption, somehow we must achieve reform, this time, without leaders! Leaders are too dangerous. They acquire power and power corrupts. But, how in the world can we achieve reform without leaders?
[Note in proof (1-22-96): I believe this is a reasonably novel idea; however, in the movie Easy Rider, Jack Nicholson’s character mentions, in passing, a hypothetical society that has no monetary system and no leaders. I read the script of this movie long before this essay was begun, so I can’t be sure that I didn’t get the idea there – even though I had no recollection of it when I saw the movie for the first time recently. Imagine my surprise!]
Socrates needn’t be a leader – merely a teacher, as if teachers came down the road as often as buses. (Great artists constitute a special class of teachers.) Delegislation is the process by which numerous laws are replaced by only a few laws – in the theory advocated here by three moral axioms. Remember, almost nobody’s behavior is affected to any significant extent by laws! People obey the laws they wish to obey and break the laws they find inconvenient. The reason why the driver approaching you at 55 miles per hour on a country road does not swerve into your lane is not because it’s illegal to do so; but, rather, because of the expectations of the great majority of society – even in the unlucky case where he is suicidal. The great majority of society expects that he will not and he knows it. This is something like social pressure. Certain things are not done.
As our mind sets begin to change in accordance with new generally accepted principles based originally on logic, but received by many as indoctrination before they are old enough to reason for themselves, people will begin to behave according to the new morality advocated in this essay. Laws will change in a democracy and finally disappear. Of course, the United States is not a democracy; but, hopefully, people will no longer accept tyranny after a chat with Socrates. Then things can happen quickly.
I believe that volition is more powerful, more beautiful, and more practical than coercion. In my opinion, the best way to effect social change is to change the hearts and minds of the people. One way of doing that might be to establish, within the prevailing culture, successful enterprises based on these principles. The success of such enterprises might attract imitation, but many circumstances mitigate against success. The ambient culture might recognize social experiments as threats to itself and attempt to use the full force of its propaganda machine to destroy them. Also, such experiments tend to self-destruct because the experimenters bring with them to the experiment too much of the prevailing culture.
Many politicians and some activists attempt to achieve social reforms by manipulating people’s minds using techniques not unlike those employed by Madison Avenue, i.e., the standard marketing techniques used by industry, business, commerce, and, more recently, political parties. These techniques usually involve some deception, half-truths, and emotional appeals to what we might call the “right brain”, sometimes in the form of music, theater, and even comedy (although genuine comedy as espoused, for example, by G. B. Shaw simply tells the truth).
I do not believe manipulative or “right-brained” tactics will be effective in the long run. It is easiest to reach a consensus on facts and principles supported by logic. It is essential to have a logically consistent theory. Thus, I advocate employing the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth as determined by observation and reasoning, with one’s assumptions stated clearly. Also, to achieve consensus, it might be helpful to cite macrofacts as opposed to microfacts or detailed case histories (except when case histories are employed in thought experiments). In addition, one may employ art provided it be true art, since true art is always consistent with reason. [This is either a definition or a theorem. In the latter case it should be proved.] Clearly, it may be difficult to appeal to the majority of Americans or the majority of people anywhere, most of whom are not susceptible to reason. But, as I implied earlier, it may be sufficient to reach one person at a time. Normally, a few thinkers eventually influence entire societies.
Someone is bound to claim that this approach is inconsistent with egalitarianism. I do not think so. On the contrary, movements aimed at everyone tend to be elitist and to foster mediocrity, cf., television (those who appear on television are an elite class, but television itself remains mediocre). This essay, for example, could be made available to the most elite publishers who publish only mediocrity, but it will probably find its way to a tiny egalitarian press that publishes only quality. In my quest for equality, I have never given up on excellence – for everyone. The best things in life aren’t “free”, but they consume less emergy than do the most harmful things in life.
[Note in proof (7-22-96). When the above was written (ca. July 29, 1995) I believed I had said enough to discourage believers in what I now call the Madison Avenue approach to social change. But, lately, I have run into a large group of people who support tactics that fall under that banner. (This was discussed in Chapter 3 in the third level section “Utility” under the second-level section “Justifying the Truth Axiom According to the Three Criteria”.) In particular, to attain drug legalization, these people, who are intelligent enough when it comes to buying a home or car, intend to ask for only a few minor changes in the existing system, namely, legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, needle exchange to prevent the spread of AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), more emphasis on prevention and treatment and less on law enforcement, a discussion (only) of laws that would facilitate physicians prescribing currently illegal drugs to registered addicts in a tightly controlled manner, and such-like half-way measures that many compassionate people who are completely intolerant of serious drug users already support.
These people not only do not favor what I call the “honesty is the best policy” approach. They are terrified that I will make a public statement (which I have already done) demanding the reforms that are consistent with the moral system espoused in this essay and therefore must be adopted to end the drug war. My detractors have vilified me and have advocated essentially kicking me out of their group, which I have saved them the trouble (and disgrace) of doing. Thus, they, themselves, have replicated, within their little group, the evil they wish to eliminate in the larger society. This is a profoundly interesting phenomenon, which I need to study and analyze thoroughly as it is a tremendous impediment to progress and it is more likely to occur among social activists than not. I am planning an essay explaining what is wrong with the Madison Avenue approach to social change and why I believe honesty is the best policy and, further, why I believe my approach is the honest approach. That essay should be ready in time for Vol. III of my collected papers. I hope the rest of the chapter does not need such extensive justification, but time will tell. Undoubtedly, I have not written the last word. We now consider leadership and social change.]
I do not advocate relying upon a great leader to effect social change – a John Kennedy or V. I. Lenin, for example. A great leader may become a benevolent despot and I do not see how one can achieve freedom by surrendering it. This is not one of those odd cases mentioned by Bentham  where the end justifies the means.
I believe one can achieve a consensus of people (informed by a common philosophy) one mind at a time by “teaching and preaching” [William Morris], free forums, one-on-one conversations, and letters to friends and strangers. One should always be on the lookout for reasonable people, i.e., people who have discovered these principles (or better principles) or who may be swayed by reason.
A sequence of events that we might hope for would be: (i) a consensus of understanding people who would make a difference whenever they could without the benefit of legal standing, (ii) delegislation accompanied by the internalization – among new-born children – of rational morals, a process referred to by psychologists as identification (as opposed to introjection, in which “values” are foisted upon people), and (iii) the beginning of reforms based not on laws but on the rational and humane institutions suggested in this essay. Of course, no matter how impervious to corruption we design our new institutions to be, eventually they too will become corrupt and have to be replaced with even better institutions – if we wish to make progress. I have no delusions of absolute perfection – unlike some political theoreticians and most religionists.
Recently, Eastern Europe and even the Soviet Union appear to be experiencing sudden political change. Before I make use of these occurrences to express hope that sudden political change can occur in the United States, I would like to express some reservations about the so-called Marxist countries. First of all, Marxism has not really been tried in these countries anymore than pure capitalism, as espoused by the Libertarian Party, has been tried here. The “communists” might have tried equal wages for everyone the same age – at least. Second, very likely the changes that have taken place “behind the iron curtain” have not been as profound as one might imagine: (i) the makeup of the ruling class may not change appreciably, (ii) probably, the bureaucracy inherited by the Bolsheviks was identical to the bureaucracy of Czar Nicholas, perhaps composed of precisely the same people and the bureaucracy of today is their legacy (everyone understood that the bureaucracy – not the Czar – ran Russia), (iii) with few exceptions, the rich will remain rich and the poor will remain poor, except that, possibly, the rich will get richer faster and the poor poorer faster, with occasional – inevitable – role reversals. This might account for the ease with which “change” has been accomplished. Things may not really have changed very much at all. For that matter, the differences between the Communist Bloc and the so-called free world may not have been as great as we thought.
Whether Marxism has ever been tried or not and whether it would work if it were tried or not are academic questions in June of 1991. Marxism appears to have failed – with a great deal of help from the industrialized capitalist nations, who, rather than encouraging a great human experiment, have stopped at nothing to prevent its success. I wonder what would have happened if France had reacted similarly to the great North American experiment in democracy, which itself is over and stands as empirical “proof” that electoral democracy doesn’t work. Of course, where were the control experiments! Anybody who believes that anything has been proved by the recent events in the Communist Bloc obviously doesn’t know what constitutes a proof.
[Note in proof (5-30-96): The reader knows by now that the above passage, written as early as 1990, is exceptionally naive. Noam Chomsky  has opened my eyes to the realities of anti-socialism in the U.S.S.R. Marxism was never part of the equation, except, perhaps, as something to be employed after a long time and after many events had occurred that are almost never discussed. This section continues with my older views, which are somewhat modified nowadays, but not so drastically that I must do a rewrite.]
All that [the two paragraphs before the note] said, I think it is possible that a sudden change of mind and heart has occurred within the people of those countries, but that change of mind and heart may not bring about genuine economic improvement there. The changes appear to be changes from bad to worse; but, if a change as profound as the change imagined to have taken place in Russia and Eastern Europe were actually to take place in the hearts and minds of the people of the United States, we might hope for a bloodless revolution from the corrupt American political and economic system to a system based on the ideas expressed in this essay – or, as I always say, better ideas. However, as I have stated repeatedly, I am advocating gradual change. As is apparent now [August, 1992] many of the changes (and some of the changes were real changes) in the former Communist Bloc occurred too fast.
What I hope is that eventually nearly everyone will recognize the principles presented here and, when that happens, change will occur spontaneously, gradually, and, hopefully, without bloodshed, in a manner that will be an improvement upon the way change has occurred recently in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. In particular, the change will not be from bad to worse. In the meantime, I recommend that, as William Morris put it, we continue to “preach and teach”. Indeed, I hope to see, virtually in every neighborhood, forums of free discourse, in which the problem of the future of society can be debated without restraint. We need to hear some ideas that sound crazy as well as ideas like mine that (just ask me) make sense. (On television, we are hearing ideas that don’t sound crazy but actually are.)
Probably no one is convinced by slogans and banners, but almost no one is convinced by reason either. Nevertheless, our hope is to infiltrate the collective consciousness of humanity with a more reasonable view of society than it has hitherto absorbed. The few reasonable open-minded people will be the first to adopt new ideas. Perhaps, propaganda and other forms of indoctrination will play a role, but I favor internalization of rational morals, a process known by some psychologists as identification. This is the next best thing to having thought it up oneself and it is definitely on the voluntary side of the spectrum of schemes to bring about social change.
One ought to be wary of utopianists and theoreticians who claim to have discovered panaceas for social ills, but one ought to be open-minded toward new ideas or old ones recycled. The thing that makes this theory different is that it illustrates the urgency of the situation by looking at the thermodynamics of the earth. One either believes in scientific reasoning or one doesn’t. It will be difficult for a LaRouchian scientist, a Mormon scientist, or even a Nazi scientist to reject this view without rejecting everything he or she has worked for. The main facts should be apparent to an intelligent layman of any persuasion whatever. Thus, people who reject this theory are the idle dreamers (reminiscent of the frog who was boiled because the temperature of the water was raised slowly) while the “idealist” who accepts it can stand upon the solid ground of scientific skepticism.
Despite the difficulty of achieving a society where wealth is distributed equitably, it should not be imagined that, as is often said, the same people would end up with most of the money shortly after equality was achieved, at least not if competition for wealth were abandoned, which is what I am advocating in this essay. Competition for wealth separates us all into relative winners and losers, which, in turn, causes the great social evils we have witnessed. We have created an economic system that is robbing us of our birthrights and is destroying the world. No one understands the so-called free-enterprise economic system, not even the wealthiest members of the ruling class, who themselves are victimized by it from time to time, and it was designed to serve their interests.
We do not have to put up with the tyranny of the rich. There are more of us than there are of them, although they have most of us so “brainwashed” that we don’t know what we are doing. (Perhaps we should employ the word brainstuffed; we really do need to have our brains washed in the sense in which the term was originally intended to be used before it began to be used ironically.) Rich people control the media. Even the less affluent purveyors of attitudes know what is expected of them without having to be told. No one tells the writer of a television situation comedy to glorify consumerism; he (or she) does it without being told. Some poor people actually identify with the rich because their imaginations have been captured by the propaganda that is television. (We know that movies about high society entertained the huddled masses during the Great Depression and they were grateful for them because the movies let them forget their own troubles momentarily. But, it is doubtful that movies justifying and glorifying the upper classes, or even humanizing them, were useful to the starving workers in the long run. Communist propaganda would have been more helpful. A communist America following World War II might have been easier to reform – and it sure as hell would have been a lot cheaper – saving the expense of the Cold War.)
This essay suggests viable alternatives that are within the power of well-informed people to implement. The key word is well-informed. We need to educate ourselves and disseminate new ideas in every way we can. [Note in proof: The author has a real problem here because he claims to be informing the reader while his political opponents are merely indoctrinating. What they call education is only propaganda. But, why should the reader believe him and not them? I have employed well-established scientific theories, in particular balance equations; I have restricted myself almost exclusively to macrofacts; I have stated my premises and employed rigorous logic; and I have taught techniques for reasoning about society. Now, all that said, let me admit that much of what I say is propaganda too.] This book might be a step toward replacing the old failed ideas, which are really no better than superstitions. The rich and powerful will resist, but truth is more stable than superstition; so, eventually, it will prevail. Once we found out that the world was round, it became very difficult to convince us that it was flat. Hopefully, we can sweep away the lies and superstitions that keep us enslaved under a humiliating, immoral, and intolerable tyranny. Perhaps this book will play a small role. It is difficult to know what people in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union were thinking before the changes we know about began to occur, but it is conceivable that many people did in fact change their minds suddenly. I think it is encouraging that people can change their minds at all!
But it won’t be easy. Religionists promote absurd doctrines that soften the minds of believers to the extent that they believe that a finite world can sustain permanent growth in both the population and the economy. People retain a religious faith in market economies despite the seemingly insurmountable problems that are associated always with societies based upon buying and selling. They both believe and don’t believe that the great American experiment in democracy has failed. Unwillingness to believe in the failure of the American system has been facilitated lately by the apparent failure of another great social experiment. But the leadership of the United States has sunk to a level of absurdity lately such that practically no one can fail to recognize the failure of our system.
July 29, 1995
Revised July 30, 1995
We are told that at most six personal connections separate each of us from everyone else in the world. A personal connection between me and you means I know you and you know me. For example, I wish to establish a connection between myself and a certain shepherd in Nigeria. (Please don’t quibble that Nigeria has no shepherds. That’s not the point. Let us presume the existence of shepherds in Ethiopia.) Now, when I was a visiting professor at Prairie View A & M University, I became friendly with a Nigerian student. That’s one connection (or degree of separation). It turns out that his brother is a doctor in Nigeria, who knows a certain merchant. That’s two more. The merchant deals frequently with a man whose sister is married to that shepherd. That’s three more, making six degrees of separation.
Suppose that a modern-day Socrates who is a devoted advocate of Dematerialism embarks upon a campaign of preaching and teaching, on a one-to-one basis, the principles of Dematerialism and infallible methods for imparting them. If he were able to produce, at a rate of one every four weeks, additional advocates who were capable of doing likewise and who were well-disposed to do likewise, the number of such advocates would double approximately thirteen times a year. Thus, at the end of the first year, Dematerialism would have over 8000 such well-disposed and capable advocates. By the end of the second year, the number would have soared to over 67 million if it were not for the advocates encountering so many converts during their campaigns to spread Dematerialism.
Of course, he and his disciples and their disciples would begin running into one another pretty soon. By now they would need to switch techniques despite our preference for one-to-one relationships. All of this is wishful thinking, though; and, under the best of circumstances, I don’t imagine we can approach anything like these numbers. Nevertheless, a few thousand well-informed, intelligent, articulate teachers would go a long way toward effecting the political sea change Dematerialism requires.
Basically, I abhor violence. Nevertheless, I believe the reader should give long and serious thought to violence and all of its ramifications. To make it easy on ourselves, let us begin our contemplation of violence by grading the various forms of “direct action”, i.e., killing, on a moral scale. Violence simply cannot be left out of the discussion.
I have no doubt that the single most wicked and cowardly manner in which a human being can kill one of his own species is by means of the death penalty. My essay “On Crime and Punishment” in my collected papers outlines my position completely, but imagine how cruel and sinister a person must be to take the life of a person who is completely under his control. To my mind, the second worst method of killing is the bombing of an enemy nation from a height so great that one is in no personal danger of retribution. This was done as recently as Desert Storm in Iraq.
I shall skip all the modes in between and go immediately to terrorism, which strikes me as worse than selective assassination, which, in turn, is worse, than single combat, the person-on-person duel, which is the most honorable form of killing that I can think of.
People like to mention Ghandi and Martin Luther King when they espouse non-violence, but neither of these personalities would have been effective, if, indeed, they were at all effective, without courageous men and a few women too who were willing to lay their lives on the line and carry on some kind of violent combat with their oppressors – sufficiently extensive that it put the fear of Death in the oppressors mind and heart. You have to get their attention and respect. And the only thing they pay attention to and respect is VIOLENCE. That’s not likely to change any time soon. Ross Perot will hire thugs if he thinks we are going to take away his wealth by passing appropriate laws, actually what I call delegislation. Delegislation as a means of social change was discussed earlier.
As I said, I prefer selective assassinations to terrorism. Obviously, old-fashioned single combat is out of the question. These are money grubbers not Knights of the Round Table. Of course, you don’t have to actually kill a predatory businessman to make your point. A kidnapping complete with a lecture and. finally, freedom – stark naked on Wall Street during lunch hour – will do fine. Or how about painting huge signs on the culprit’s mansion detailing his crimes in graphic language. What will you get if you’re caught? Six months, damages, and court costs? Well worth it. But why get caught? [Note in proof (1-17-97): I no longer believe that these “non-violent” practical jokes will have the desired effect. Harmless pranks will not inspire sufficient dread; and, as these people are not susceptible to reason, they will not understand your message until they experience stark terror and a genuine threat of death, which, at some point, must be made credible.]
I can imagine a work of fiction in which an ingenious political activist (direct activist) sends letters to television stations and newspapers and to the person involved demanding certain reforms within a fixed and rather short period of time followed by an assassination in case of non-compliance. He might even assassinate the Forbes 400 in numerical order, each assassination employing an entirely different method from any which preceded it, employing biological weapons, poisonous insects, planned accidents, etc. Each murder would be so cleverly orchestrated that the book would be guaranteed to hold the reader’s attention and, who knows, inspire copycats maybe. Personally, I think selective assassination should be the last resort and absolutely the most desperate deed done to achieve social change. But, they sure don’t understand logic, do they?
I dislike terrorism, especially when selective assassinations is available as an alternative. But, unlike selective assassinations, terrorism can be carried on without bodily harm to anyone. Abby Hoffman carried on a mild sort of terrorism replete with humor and irony. These are necessary ingredients. For example, one could spray a large crowd with dog feces dissolved in dilute nitric acid. When I was a kid, we employed such substances on Halloween. The telephone can be used as a weapon too. Lord knows, telemarketers do it. Pirate radio and television broadcasts can be fun. Orson Wells must have enjoyed his measure of revenge on a society that mistreated him with “The War of the Worlds”. Also, I appreciate George Hayduke’s books such as Getting Even ; and, like George Hayduke, I wish to say here and now that any suggestion of an illegal act of any kind is meant strictly as humor and is intended solely for the entertainment of the reader. None of these suggestions is to be carried out.
Revolution and civil war are a distinct possibility. Who knows what the issues may be! I believe the United States is closer to this than most people suspect. “Every revolution is impossible until the night before it occurs.” Probably, though, it will come from the right and the improper religions. Good. That would give us an opportunity to get rid of them. They are too stupid to fight a war effectively, regardless of their militias and other preparations. Our revolution, if it becomes necessary and if it occurs, will be short, peaceful, and end with general amnesty toward the losers, who, presumably, will be the moneyed class. Why not grant them stipends and small but comfortable living accommodations? I have no interest in killing the vanquished, although a graduate student from Bangladesh considered that a mistake because, in his country, the vanquished regained power and revenged their previous defeat savagely. I think we can prevent that from occurring here. Undoubtedly, some of the rich will not see the wisdom of cooperation, but such people would have to be totally irrational and completely unaware of their own self-interests. These are two characteristics that are not conducive to either acquiring or retaining large fortunes. Since we must multiply the probability of being irrational by the probability of being unaware of one’s own best interests to get the probability of resisting a revolution of an overwhelming number of people with a just cause, we can expect very few resisters. Fewer than a dozen, even? Of the people who support the rich even though it is not in their interests to do so, we can disabuse them of their folly by any number of means – if, indeed, Socrates hadn’t done it before the war began.
Admittedly, the improper religions are a big stumbling block. Apparently, they will have to be defeated and driven out of business somehow. I hope protracted civil war is unnecessary. But, when people say “Visualize World Peace”, I can imagine only the numerous battles yet to be fought.
That said, I shall retain the naive assumption that we can win the hearts and minds of the vast majority of people by valid reasoning and extremely compelling (and noble) moral principles. In Appendix III, some reasonable objections are considered. If you know of additional objections that I have failed to consider, I hope that you will take the trouble to make me aware of them and give me a chance to consider them. (I will deal with people individually as far as I am able. In the unlikely case that the number of respondents is overwhelming, I will teach my computer to answer your e-mail, fax, or letter automatically and explain what has happened. I will never imagine that I am too important to communicate on a personal basis with whoever wishes to communicate with me.) Who knows? I may agree that you are correct and that my thesis is untenable, in which case I will abandon it immediately and print a full retraction. I know that you don’t expect anyone to admit that ten years of thinking is wrong. But give me a chance. If you have proved I am wrong, I will thank you for it.
Revised July 30, 1992
Revised October 6, 1994
Revised May 30, 1996
1. Schumacher, E. F., Small Is Beautiful, Economics as if People Mattered, Perennial Library, Harper and Row, New York (1973).
2. Chomsky, Noam, World Orders Old and New, Columbia University Press, New York (1995).
3. Wayburn, Thomas L., The Collected Papers of Thomas Wayburn, Vol. II, American Policy Inst., Houston (Work in progress 1998).
4. Bentham, Jeremy, Bentham’s Handbook of Political Fallacies, Ed. Harold A. Larrabee, Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore (1952).
5. Hayduke, George, Getting Even: The Complete Book of Dirty Tricks, Lyle Stuart Inc., Secaucus, NJ (1980).