A Letter to the Reader

Dear Reader,

To evaluate the desirability of a proposed political action, one must understand the future vision of the person or group proposing the action.  If the success of the proposed action depends on a large number of people embracing the vision, it is essential that the vision be based on a derivable theory.  For example, Marxism can be said to have been a successful derivable theory, although not a scientific theory.  Marxism addressed inequities in wealth, but it did not address the accumulation of power, except obliquely.  The future vision described here depends on the thesis that continued competition for wealth and power in all of its aspects, including employment, trade, markets, "free" enterprise, acceptance of rewards for what we do or give, hierarchies in business and government, whether appointed from above or elected from below, must inevitably lead to a totalitarian Orwellian nightmare or the complete annihilation of mankind, whereas voluntary abandonment of competition for wealth and power will lead eventually to the highly desirable future to be described momentarily.  We may state this as a Fundamental Theorem:

Fundamental Theorem:  The abandonment of competition for wealth, power, and fame (except for non-negotiable influence and fame) by all of society is a necessary and sufficient condition for sustainable happiness for all of humanity.  (“Wealth”, “power”, “sustainable”, “happiness”, and “non-negotiable influence and fame” have technical definitions.)  I prefer the discussion of the Fundamental Theorem on my wiki at http://dematerialism.wikispaces.com/.

Premise:  It is unreasonable to be happy when others are miserable.

Notice that I said unreasonable rather than impossible.  If I add the above premise, concerning which we should have some debate, I can deduce the much more powerful result:

Corollary:  The abandonment of competition for wealth, power, and fame by all of society is a necessary and sufficient condition for any reasonable person to be happy.

Discussion of the Premise:  Clearly, a human being would have to be diminished considerably to be happy in the presence of an extremely miserable person.  I do not refer to comic or false misery.  I refer to starvation, extreme pain, the horror of impending painful death, extreme mental anguish.  The question is: How far away does the misery have to be for a reasonable person to be happy?  Down the street?  Across town?  In the next county?  In a far-flung principality?  We are discussing moral distance.  The physical distance beyond which a person aware of misery no longer feels responsible for it, i.e., the responsibility of a brother for a brother, a sentient being for his fellow sentient being.  I claim that for reasonable people there is no moral distance sufficiently great.  They are aware of suffering in India; they are unhappy.  Their awareness does not attenuate with physical distance like a radio signal.  I believe the way in which we respond to this premise divides us into two distinct classes.  It is the most important distinction between human beings that one can name.  In my viewpoint it distinguishes homo sapiens (reasoning man) from incipient homo absurdus (irrational man).

The vision of the future described below is based on three simple moral axioms, namely, respect for the freedom of oneself and others, respect for the environment, including plants and animals, and respect for truth.  These moral axioms are based, in turn, on our innate judgments of aesthetics and reasonableness and our experiential judgment of utility.  One may suspect the author’s aesthetic judgment and reasonableness, but I shall deduce scientifically the consequences of avoiding the recommended reforms.  The theory can be sustained on utility alone.  In this way, it becomes a scientific theory subject to falsifiability.

These ideas will be seen as utopian by those who are the true utopianists in the sense that the man who won’t quit smoking because by the time he gets cancer a cure will have been found is a utopianist.  To whom do these remarks apply?  To everyone, but especially to those who think that they do not apply to themselves.

It can be shown that competition for wealth and power (or, what amounts to the same thing, inequality in wealth and power) leads to tyranny, the destruction of the environment, and all types of falsity, including repression of dissent and Orwellian doublethink; whereas equality of wealth and power is beautiful, it is reasonable (every other arrangement can be shown to be unreasonable), and it is practical (inequality causes poverty, crime, war, and other modes of human misery).  Without equality freedom is impossible and without freedom sustainable happiness is impossible.  (In this theory, we suppose that the prerequisites for happiness are (1) satisfaction of tissue deficits and (2), following the behavioral psychologists Deci and Ryan [Deci, Edward L. and Richard M. Ryan, Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behavior, Plenum Press, New York (1985)], autonomy, effectiveness, and relatedness.)  We should not expect to get out of the mess we are in now without replacing the traditional institutions of money (paper wealth) and trade (particularly trading the time of one's life for money), the idea of "working oneself up," leadership, law, government, and even the sovereign state itself.

I now wish to describe a state of human society that might be approached after a long series of small changes.  These changes are necessary and sufficient conditions for the sustainable happiness of all of humanity.  First and foremost, the population density would be steady near its optimum.  Since we must reduce our use of energy by 90% or more, people would be living in small decentralized communities with everything within walking distance except for a few light links to nearby communities to effect economies of scale.  Mankind would live in harmony with nature with the compositions of the atmosphere, the oceans, and the soil varying only slightly about desirable steady states.

Economic enterprises, including the collectives of applied mathematicians who plan the economies, would be owned in equal shares by their participants who would be all of one class.  Communicators within the enterprises would be chosen randomly; decisions would be made democratically or by professionals who enjoy no special power or privilege.  These isocratic enterprises would follow the economic plans of their choice.  We would create institutions to encourage enterprise without economic risk.  (Why should we encourage gambling in industry when we deplore it elsewhere?)

Our vast systems of law are ridiculous.  Laws would be replaced by a few simple moral axioms from which right action could be derived easily, perhaps by expert systems.  We would embrace rational morals that anyone can follow as opposed to religious superstitions and sexual and pharmacological prudery that no person of spirit can live by.  Dissent would be tolerated and even those who do not accept our rational morality would be accorded the dignity of sovereign heads of state.  Government would be nearly nonexistent except for a few randomly selected spokespersons.  In a planned economy it is crucial to prevent "natural" leaders from arising.  To break the endless cycles of leaders coming to power, becoming corrupt, and being replaced by new leaders after war or revolution, we should abandon the institution of leadership.  Isn't that obvious by now?

People would enjoy contrasts between positives rather than, for example, enduring drudgery to enjoy leisure.  (Presumably, Einstein enjoyed playing the violin without drudging at physics.)  People would not be concerned with what's in it for them, but, rather, with what is interesting to do (to be effective and, therefore happy).  This would liberate for useful endeavor the 90% of all working people who currently are concerned exclusively with how the pie is sliced up.  We would have a smaller but better tasting pie.  Generosity, equality, freedom, and intrinsic motivation would replace greed, hierarchy, tyranny, and fear.  Money would be obsolete.  Can you imagine how much more leisure you would have if you did useful work but did not have to be concerned with money – no checkout lines, no tax forms, no insurance, no checkbooks to balance, no comparison shopping, no commercials on TV, … ?

No one would be required to do anything in order to live that he or she did not want to do; that is, one’s livelihood would not be contingent upon anything but natural disasters.  Under these conditions of autonomy (necessary for happiness), we could expect tremendous variety in opportunities for involvement to accommodate everyone's need to be effective.  Naturally, the arts and science would flourish.  Unpleasant jobs would be made into interesting activities or would be eliminated, perhaps by robotics.

I can't discuss how to convince the entire world that my theory is correct because I don't know how to reach the entire world.  For now, I would be satisfied to convince one other person to pursue the line of thought I have introduced, to pester me for the proof that the abandonment of competition for wealth and power is a necessary and sufficient condition for sustainable happiness or to prove that my thesis is incorrect.  Obviously, it is insufficient to ignore this thesis merely because it does not correspond to one's preconceived notions.


Tom Wayburn, PhD in Chemical Engineering

Houston, Texas

March 20, 2007