Materialism and Dematerialism

The following is taken from “The Case for Drug Legalization and Decontrol in the United States”, which is hyperlinked here and below and was completed in April of 1990.

For the purposes of the discussion that follows I must say what I mean by materialism and dematerialism.  Materialism can be defined as the use of material wealth as a measure of success, a reward for achievement or effort, or as an inducement to behave in a certain way.  Materialism leads to unequal distribution of wealth, which, in turn, results in economic and social strife.  Only a (usually undeserving) minority, whose particular talents and inclinations correspond to making (or preserving) money, can depend on enjoying a comfortable old age.  In order to have a flexible supply of human resources, in order to cope with the business cycles, inevitable in a quasi-laissez-faire economy, and to keep the price of human resources low, according to the laws of supply and demand, it is necessary that there be a pool of unemployed persons.  These people are susceptible to both sides of the drug market, because of boredom and despair on the one side and because of the lack of any other opportunity on the other.  Of course, many people who are not reduced to such circumstances elect to deal drugs, partly, at least, because materialism teaches that only those who acquire large amounts of wealth are "winners".

Many people are upset (and frustrated) because materialism, as it manifests itself in a quasi-laissez-faire, free-enterprise, capitalistic society, has created a large number of social ills, many attributable to poverty itself, one of the least desirable consequences of materialism.  They see reduced standards of living, senseless crime, bizarre behavior (and dress), dishonesty in business and government, the decay of family values, hopelessness, and cynicism marked by a new hedonism among the youth as signs of the decay of everything they value.  These people are easy prey to mass hysteria and crowd madness.  They are looking for scapegoats.

An alternative to materialism is dematerialism.  By dematerialism, I mean libertarian wealth-sharing, not the socialism of Russia or China.  Dematerialism requires the equal distribution of wealth, modified slightly to account for differences in needs, and the production of wealth in a cooperative setting according to the abilities of the individual, allowing for the need for abundant leisure.  An education that is consistent with the aims of dematerialism provides people with the ability to enhance the material wealth and prosperity of society, viewed as a collection of private individuals; but, more important, it teaches people how to enjoy leisure in a manner consistent with their development as human beings, through the arts and sciences, sports, and other recreation, which might include the use of drugs.

Materialism feeds on itself and leads to a large authoritarian government to control a society that is essentially unstable because of large differences in wealth.  A properly-constituted, democratic, privatized, libertarian, wealth-sharing society, such as might exist under our Constitution, would require only a small government because a nonmaterialistic society is essentially stable.  The successes or failures of experiments in Capitalism, Socialism, Communism, and all of their "practical" implementations notwithstanding, the truth of the above assertions can be proved in the context of an appropriate system of ethics, modulo undecidability; that is, the above statements can be proved at least as rigorously as social propositions are ever proved.  That is the subject of another paper.  For now, the above statements must be regarded as the author's point of view, a point of view that is entitled to as much respect as any other.  Although the postulate that materialism is unethical is not needed to advance the thesis of this paper, namely, that drugs should be legal, it is useful to recognize that materialism may be the root cause of most of the drug problem including the laws against drugs themselves.


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