“On the most exalted throne in the world, we are still seated on nothing but our arse.”
“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves.”
Abraham Lincoln 1862
Let’s go beyond our democratic idea that all men are created equal. Let’s say instead that all men are equal. What is the difference between the two ideas?
The first says that all people start with the same societal potential, but it implies that they all don’t reach that potential. The second says they all begin and progress similarly. Why don’t all people reach the same societal potential? And what is societal potential?
In our capitalistic society, societal potential is becoming wealthy. This brings up the idea of class. Class as we know it, and as it has always been understood is the idea of difference in people according to material wealth or power, either in land or monies or influence. The old Romans, the original founding fathers of the Roman state, understood wealth as being the reward of hard work and diligence, and innovation. Thus the leaders were wealthy as they formed the brains and brawn that formed the state or society. It incurred a duty to those that were not wealthy, thus they formed the client system to help those, less fortunate. We see here the beginning of what I term “human bondage”, the idea of inequality of people. As I have shown elsewhere, leaders were needed in society to make decisions and become the ordering factor in human society: in essence the law. Law, and its enforcement, was needed, in order to allow for the cooperative production of resources (necessities), and their equitable distribution. This instead led to the creation of power and factions in the state, and the idea of “might makes right”. This in turn led to the formation of classes, the wealthy and the poor.
Leaders created a power caste in the state and became wealthy through the enforcement of privileges that they took through force; instead of the cooperative production of necessities that society expected of them, through bondage, they turned the labor of the poor, and their wealth in lands, into the capital they used to produce the necessities of society. Instead of the equitable distribution of these necessities to all, only those that labored in production, or were clients received the necessities. Ownership of capital was allowed only to the leader and his group, and soon became hereditary. This progressed into the growth of the nobility, and later into the emergence of a third or middle class of lower capitalists, which facilitated the wealthier in their acquisitions. The growth of powerful states created wars over the rights to resources and the acquisition of more labor. Thus slavery was instituted as the fruit of war. Now there were two classes in bondage: the slaves and the poor free peoples. The ruling classes became gradually more dissociated from the actual production, which they gave over to the middle classes, and this in turn brought about the separation, in theory, of the economy into a separate societal function, no longer visibly tied to government.
Another class also grew out of this, the criminal class, which in itself had a caste system and mimicked capitalism. The bound classes here were the prostitutes and petty thieves, and later the junkies that were under the bondage of the capitalistic crime lords.
Thus the emergence of all human bondage originated from the growth of the capitalistic economy.
But lets now suppose that people were not just created equal but were all, equal. That society, in the form of its government, had control and ownership of all the resources for the cooperative production of necessities for all, and distributed these resources fairly to all; that there were no more classes, based on wealth. That society still allowed private property or wealth, but that it could not be used to create capital for the production of resources or wealth. All people worked for the society, and all received the same wage, regardless of job, from leaders on down. Minimum security 1 was ensured for all through the state, and there were no more taxes, charities of any kind or poverty, or even unemployed, or any need for them. Extra wealth might be gotten through working longer hours. People no longer needed credit or credit bureaus since the ownership of property was absolute and, no taxation or leasing on ownership existed.
Does the above sound far fetched, or ridicules? Does it seem unfeasible in any way? All bondage is eliminated, as is classes; there is also no real need for crime, as all envy and motivation for it are eliminated. Also, all special privilege, and desire for it are eliminated. The struggle for power doesn’t exist anymore; instead competition for service is encouraged and endorsed. People find satisfaction in service and usefulness to society, and all are encouraged in creative and enriching pursuits in their free time. Addictions and vices are lessened since their pursuit for reward has been eliminated. Greed has not been institutionalized, as it is today. There is no loss of freedom, but a gain of freedom, a freedom from want and envy of others. The result is a society without losers.
What it does away with is greed, and all the misery that springs from it. Since there is no longer competition, people can work together to create, invent and actually enjoy life. Leisure is now an institution, in that there are no more worries over survival, or cares about making ends meet. The family can once again grow into what it once was, and schools can become real places of learning as Plato once envisioned his Academy to be. Trust between people, and people and their governments are restored. Excessive regimentation and the police state are done away with. Cooperation and equity have once again become the foundation of society. The trust between neighbors becomes the trust between nations, and the mutual aid between friends, not the envy and hostility between competitors looking to further the enslavement of people for gain.
When stated in this way, capitalism no longer is the paradise it was thought to be, but the Hell it actually is. We see that we aren’t consumers, but people, with even the possibility of creating a real culture again. When we break down all the actual corruptions and their results, that capitalism entails: social classes, poverty, slavery, discrimination, prejudice, envy, resentment, crime, addictions, political corruption, power struggles, loss of privacy and trust, and familial breakdown; we finally open our eyes to the “why” of all the misery humanity has endured, and the source of all the troubles of the world since man first formed societies.
Can we achieve this seeming ideal? Of course the winners today will not want it because they will lose the advantage they have worked so hard to achieve. What they don’t understand is that the world they have created is destroying itself. If it continues, they will not be able to go out of their doors unarmed, or the police state they have created will eventually take it all away from them, as it always has in the past. The original primary roll of the Churches was the enlightenment of people to this, but it has also failed; and they have merely become the same as the greedy governments they mimic. True spiritual enlightenment has been eaten up with charity and donations; thus they march to the same drummer, and preach the fables the rich want to hear. They preach against Satan, but they fail to see that the greed they endorse is, in fact, Satan himself. As I write this, the world is again rearming into two separate camps east and west, not because of separate ideologies, but because of competitive greed. The Balkans has again turned into a powder keg that threatens the whole world with senseless war, as it did in 1914. Will the stupidity greed breeds never end?
What I have described above is not a utopia or unachievable ideal, but the way things should have been. Man has learned the knowledge to make it work, and make it real, but he has been blinded by his own greed, and his search for unlimited gain. Too much is never enough for him. Man, himself, has brought forth on this world all the misery and privation he experiences; and the constant destruction he creates. He rationalizes away his real motive with words like democracy and freedom and prosperity; and shuts his eyes to the failure all around him, and its real cause that he never seems to grasp. Both rich and poor share this guilt, for either in attainment or desire; they all still suffer from the same disease – greed! We must finally “disenthrall ourselves” as Lincoln says above; and then notice that that, upon which we sit, is common to all.
1 See the essay "Utopia of the GOOD" for more on this concept of minimum prosperity or security See Additional Notes in Errata
When I wrote this early essay, I was still much the idealist. What I say here is not really achievable, except in a “Utopia”, which I now realize mankind can never achieve. Much better is to fix the real problems, by keeping the capitalistic substructure; because this is really the best humanity can achieve. In much the same way that Ayn Rand’s individualist philosophy was an overdone, extreme reaction to the tyrannical collectivist society of the Communism, she was raised in; so too, I went too far back to an ideal that collectivism could never achieve except in theory. The “right way” is the middle road, combining the two (both individualism and collectivism) into something achievable that avoids the pitfalls of each extreme. In this way, we can achieve a workable and meaningful capitalism that still allows the freedom of the individual and the prosperity of society by never losing track of that ALL that is the basis of democracy.
Originally Published:October 11, 2007
Revised:October 26, 2015