CHAPTER 2: Freedom and Equality
TOWARDS A DEFINITION OF FREEDOM
In this chapter we examine the concepts of freedom and equality and seek to define these concepts in concrete terms. We will examine the contrasting ideas that different philosophers have had on the subject. We start out by postulating an overall concept about what freedom is and then examine this model in detail. Our basic premise is that freedom consists of making a choice among a number of alternatives. Hence, freedom is essentially "freedom to"i.e.the individual capacity to make a choice among a number of alternatives that is in the best interests of the individual. We see "freedom from" as a way to enlarge the set of alternatives. For example, freedom from slavery means essentially that we are not confined to one mode of economic existence but have a wider number of alternatives available to us. Once the external condition is removed that prevents us from having access to a wider variety of alternatives, then we say we are free from that condition. But at the same time we are free to avail ourselves of a wider set of alternatives that the external condition was blocking. Thus the external condition, whether of a political nature or an apolitical feature of our environment or the result of ignorance, can be seen as constraining or constricting the set of alternatives that are available to us. The removal of this condition represents freedom from that condition. External conditions can constrain the alternative set to only one choice in which case we are forced into a certain situation in which we have no choice. Or external conditions can shape and restrict the set of alternatives such that we do have several choices, but the choices available to us may or may not be desirable from our individual perspective.
The restriction of an option set by an external authority is not necessarily a negative thing. Parents restrict the option sets of their children in what may be called a benign paternalism in order to weed out options which may be harmful or hazardous to their children. In the same way governments may try to weed out certain options for their citizens, for example the use of drugs, by making them illegal. On the other hand external authorities may act despotically by creating option sets for their citizens which are not in the citizens' best interests and which represent tyranny.
We define freedom as the capacity to act or to choose in such a way as to produce a desired result. One's act or one's choice may in actuality produce or not produce the desired result or, to phrase it somewhat differently, the degree of desirability of the result may vary. We can make this more concrete by defining the satisfaction of the result as the degree of desirability of the result. In general, if one is totally satisfied with the result, the satisfaction would be 100%. If one is totally unsatisfied, the satisfaction would be 0. We can quantify the concept of freedom by noting that the number of choices available or actions possible can be a variable. In general the greater the number of choices or possible actions, the greater is the amount of freedom that exists. Of the possible choices or acts, we define an individual's preference rating as a complete specification of the individual's perceived satisfaction over the options. Normally, if an individual has complete control over the selection process, he will choose the option which represents the highest satisfaction for him. If there is a gap between the actual satisfaction of the result and the perceived satisfaction, then a learning process will have taken place involving the reassignment of values in the individual's preference rating. Another option might then be selected which would result in a higher actual satisfaction. One definition of intelligent behavior might be the process of sequentially selecting options so as to increase the satisfaction of the results. A learning process is taking place as to what options are in actuality more desirable.
If the individual does not have complete control over the selection process, then the result which is produced may be one that is less desirable or has a lower satisfaction than the individual's first choice. This may be the case when an individual participates in some kind of political or economic (market) process in which the results that accrue to him are not necessarily those with the highest satisfaction for that particular individual. There is then a gap between the satisfaction of the actual outcome and the satisfaction of the optimal outcome. How big this gap is will determine the individual's relative satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the results and even the selection process (political or economic system) itself. Therefore, there are three ways that an individual may be frustrated in his selection process or three ways in which his freedom is diminished. One is the constraint, whether natural or artificial, of the alternatives available. Secondly, he may not have complete control of the selection process and wind up with an alternative that isn't his highest preference. Third, he may wind up with his most highly preferred alternative but then find by experience that it is not as satisfactory as he thought it would be.
One way to increase the potential satisfaction is to increase the number of options available. This may be referred to roughly as increasing the freedom of a situation since a person choosing from a limited set of options is arguably less free than a person choosing from a larger set of options. Note, however, that the perceived satisfaction of the most preferred option in a larger option set may be lower than the perceived satisfaction of the most preferred option in a smaller set so that the size of the option set which corresponds to the freedom does not necessarily correlate with the amount of satisfaction to be derived from choosing the option of highest perceived satisfaction within that set. Choosing from a large option set of low quality options is not nearly as satisfying as choosing from a small option set of high quality options. The purpose of enlarging the option set should be to introduce higher quality options than currently available, not to increase the number of choices for variety's sake alone.
There is a tendency in highly developed capitalist societies to proliferate the options available in terms of the number of consumer products. However, many of these choices are bogus choices in that they represent essentially the same product with different labeling and packaging, or they represent products that a person really doesn't need or may be harmful to him, or they may be "old" products packaged up as "new" products. The essential feature is the proliferation of low quality options and the larger quantity of options available is touted as proof that there is more "freedom" than in a socialist society, for example, in which the variety of consumer goods is more limited. However, one must examine the premise that because fifty different brands of the same product are available, there is more freedom in that society than in a society in which only five brands, shall we say, are available. We must examine the quality of the available items. We must ask whether items such as low-cost housing and medical insurance are available or only a hundred different types of transistor radios. A proliferation of low-quality options does represent in some sense more freedom, but we must look at the limitations of freedom and ask is having more freedom really worth the price in some instances, and wouldn't we be perhaps better off with a smaller option set of higher quality option sets, options that are really meaningful in terms of real human needs and priorities. Many options are artificial in the sense that there is an attempt made to create an artificial need in the consumer through advertising for a particular product. In capitalist societies there is no real attempt made to critically evaluate the merits of a particular product so that the consumer has this information available so that he can make an intelligent choice. There is no set of checks and balances available in the economic arena such as there is in the political arena. An independent evaluative mechanism that had the economic power to counteract TV advertising would help to keep manufacturers and promoters honest. Having manufacturers advertise their own products is similar to having a government in which the executive branch passes judgment on itself. The weeding out of low quality options is a function that should not be left up to the individual consumer since he is relatively powerless compared with the financial and persuasive power of large corporations. Ralph Nader's Consumers Union is very much a step in the right direction, but they don't have the financial power to counteract the effects of TV advertising.
Just as the concept of economic freedom has been circumscribed, vitiated and undermined, the concept of political freedom has been debased. In an article entitled, "Disarmament: Beyond Illusions of Freedom," which deals with the subject of how we are conditioned to believe we are free when we are not, we find the following:
"Bounds of our freedom are routinely glorified in North America. Mass media and politicians stress what can be done within accepted boundaries. Like habitually-leashed animals, we may believe we have no rational reason to roam. Unfortunately, what has been made to look like freeedom and sound like freedom can turn out to be little more than a long leash, extended by a power structure bent on maintaining nuclear escalation and overall militarism.
Inevitably, lofty rhetoric accompanies the cheapening of meaning-witness the heavy use of words like 'freedom' and 'liberation' in ads for products ranging from new cars to minipads to bank accounts. The vitality of the words is de-fanged and the concepts housebroken, trained to become docile if sometimes troublesome pets of ruling elites." [When the US government conducts a secret foreign policy as the Reagan administration has, political freedom in terms of the ability of the populace to affect what's going on, becomes a complete sham. At the same time, the illusion that the US is a bastion of freedom is maintained. The taking away of our freedom is done in the name of preserving freedom. Our freedom is being destroyed, supposedly, to save it.]
The article continues: "Approaching global holocaust, the illusion of freedom keeps us sanguine about our own willingness to adhere to inculcated political practices: A symbiosis of thermonuclear Pax Americana and proud domestic complacency. Perpetual self-praise about our 'freedom' functions as a smug anesthetic inside US borders-at the core of a wider 'Free World' encompassing numerous nations where governments conduct systematic political murder and torture amidst grinding poverty and elite opulence. 'Free Enterprise World' would be a more accurate term, with FEW an appropriate acronym. The Free (Enterprise) World denotes the diverse countries which provide hospitable conditions for corporations seeking maximal profit margins for investment dollars; geopolitical military positioning for the US government usually runs parallel."1
Note also that a person who is in the position of choosing from a larger set of options may have a longer learning process or may have to relearn if his set of options is suddenly augmented since he may not be aware of his preference ratings for the larger set or the augmented set. The expansion of a person's option set may come rather easily as in the case of an unexpected financial windfall such as winning the lottery, or it may come only with the exercise of considerable self-discipline as in the case of a musician or dancer who through constant study and practice increases his repertoire and facility allowing him more options in and, hopefully, more opportunities for performance. Another example is the person who through diligence becomes fluent or "free" in a language. An example of a reduced option set would be the case of a person who has had a financial reversal or who through the aging process has lost some of his facility as a musician or dancer.
One of the processes of education and, hopefully, of evolution is the winnowing out of the option set those results that have negative satisfaction. Negative satisfaction may be dedfined as the satisfaction of a result which, having been chosen, leaves a person worse off than he was originally or a result not in the person's best interests. Sometimes options seem attractive and we may attach a lot of perceived satisfaction to them, but, in the final analysis, they ultimately are not conducive to our health and welfare broadly speaking. Such an option might be eating candy or smoking, options which are very attractive to a lot of people. However, dealing with the consequences of a lifetime spent overindulging in the consumption of sugar and tobacco is not pleasurable since there are serious health costs involved.
Another process of education should be the encouragement of individuals to think creatively in order to expand their own option sets. A person has first to visualize or imagine a situation or alternative before he can even think about having that alternative be a viable option for him. A person has first to imagine a better life for himself or a better world to live in before he can even think about taking the steps necessary to achieve the result of making that option a reality. A person has to think creatively to see other options that are possible in order to overcome the dictation of option sets that come about through advertising or conformity or by the discouragement of change by vested interests. And then a person has to think critically in order not to be duped into choosing certain options that he may be encouraged by advertising to choose which are not in his best interests.
A person may be encouraged not to think about options that he might prefer either by political or economic vested interests who wish to maintain the status quo either in terms of the consumption of certain products or in terms of the maintainance in office of certain politicians or a certain regime. General Motors does not want to encourage the car buying public to think creatively in terms of buying the best car available to suit a person's particular needs. Their interest is to restrict one's option set inasmuch as possible to just the consideration of General Motors products.
Erich Fromm has written: "With regard to all basic questions of individual and social life, with regard to psychological, economic, political, and moral problems, a great sector of our culture has just one function-to befog the issues."2 Fromm considers freedom in terms of spontaneous expression, the "spontaneous activity of the total, integrated personality."3 He sees free expression as mainly carried on by artists. "As a matter of fact, the artist can be defined as an individual who can express himself spontaneously."4 Spontaneity could be defined as the ability to choose instantaneously from a large variety of alternatives. The free person has at his command a large set from which he can choose. The point here is that our basic definition of freedom being the capacity to choose from an option set still holds, and that for Fromm and others this option set consists of internal, psychological options rather than external, material options. "There is no genuine strength in possession as such, neither of material property nor of mental qualities like emotions or thoughts. ...Ours is only that to which we are genuinely related by our creative activity, be it a person or an inanimate object. Only those qualities that result from our spontaneous activity give strength to the self and thereby form the basis of its integrity."5
So in a sense the learning process is a process of becoming less free in that it is a process of eliminating certain options from the set of choices on the grounds that they are not conducive to one's well-being. This is not always easy to do-especially in a culture in which vested interests may be tied to the continued consumption of products which are known not to be in the best interests of the consumers. Considerable psychological pressure is brought to bear through advertising to create a climate in the consumer's mind that the product will enhance his or her sex appeal, glamour or status which are all good reasons, it is suggested, for the continued consumption of the product. Advertising is a powerful tool and is a form of propaganda which is promulgated not in the best interests of the consumers but in the interests of selling products which is ultimately in the best interests of the producers. At the same time, it seems natural that we should be concerned with increasing our freedom by adding choices to our option set on the grounds that at least some of them, once chosen, may result in a genuine greater utility or satisfaction than the ones currently available. Therefore, innovation and trying new things is highly desirable.
A libertarian may be defined as someone who believes in the desirability of creating new options and expanding option sets. A further distinction could be made between a selfish libertarian, who is only concerned about expanding his own option sets and hence his own freedom and an altruistic or socially responsible libertarian who is also interested in expanding the options sets of others or, perhaps, of an underprivileged or oppressed group within or without the society. Thus one may be for more freedom for oneself or more freedom for people in general. The creation of new options can be undertaken by individuals or by society at large through the subsidation of certain projects or a combination of both. So it is possible to imagine a socialist society in which the expansion of freedom for the members of the society is undertaken by the society at large. Thus the ideals of freedom and socialism are hardly incompatible. One may be a good libertarian and a good socialist. Inventors represent a good example of people who are in the business of creating new options. Artists are another example. A true libertarian, one who is most concerned with the ideal of freedom, may be thought of as one who actively promotes the creation of new and meaningful options. A socially responsible libertarian then would be one who is interested in seeing the proliferation of the newly created options to as many people as possible.
The process of winnowing out of the option set options which are not conducive to the individual's well-being in addition to being undertaken by the individual can be undertaken by society and mankind at large. In fact history can be thought of as a process in which man decides not to choose options which have been shown to be mistakes in the past, not to repeat errors. Societal knowledge can be used to rule out certain options either for the individual or for the community which have clearly been shown to be in error. In this way each individual does not have to repeat all the mistakes of his forbearers and can rule out certain options without having actually to have experienced the negative consequences of those options.
A good example of how society can get involved in countering the power of vested economic interests when it has been shown that their products are dangerous for the consumer is the current campaign to dissuade people from smoking in the US. Through research it has been shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that smoking is harmful to a person's health. This has been a historical process in which information has been gathered over a period of time. A significant step was taken when TV advertising for smoking was banned. Also TV countersmoking commercials are being aired. Thus society is acting in order to tip the balance in favor of non-smoking and acting to thwart the power of the tobacco producers. This is the way that society should use its collective power to thwart the victimization by powerful economic interests of its citizens in general.
We further define actual freedom as a measure of the choices currently available, of choices capable of immediate actualization. We define potential freedom as a measure of a set of choices which might become available in time if a certain course is followed. For example, a medical doctor is free to practise medicine. This represents an actual capacity, actual freedom. A person who has the opportunity to enter medical school and who is willing and able to pursue the course of study and do the work involved to get his degree has the potential freedom to practise medicine. Note that a person's potential freedom to practise medicine might be limited by his ability to pay for his schooling or by his ability to do the coursework.
Freedom of opportunity is potential freedom. Freedom to walk into a 7-11 and purchase whatever is on the shelves, providing you have the money to pay for it, is actual freedom. We have to assess how realistic the opportunity actually is in assessing the quantity of potential freedom. If it is just a matter of pursuing a certain course, exerting a certain amount of effort with the results guaranteed, then the potential freedom is real. If the probability of success is less than assured even if the course is pursued, then the effective freedom of opportunity and the potential freedom are correspondingly diminished. Potential freedom is freedom which has a probability associated with it. The key question is how large this probability is. In times in which people found themselves with a high ratio of land and natural resources to population, it was reasonable to assume that an individual who was willing to work could better his economic circumstances. Land and top soil was there for the farming of it. Therefore, the probability of success and the potential freedom were quite high. The situation for a poor child living in a ghetto is quite different. Or for a poor peasant in a country where a small elite has controlled the land and resources for generations, in which there is no frontier. There is some probability associated with such a person's becoming a doctor or bank president but, in his realistic assessment of this probability, he must of necessity perceive it as quite low. The problem of selecting an alternative is made more complicated by the introduction of probabilities associated with different alternatives.
For example, let us say an individual has a certain amount of money to spend on a car. He would like to have a Porsche but he only has enough money for a used Ford. However, he could take his money and play the lottery in the hope of winning enough to buy the Porsche. The only problem is, if he loses, he winds up without any car at all. So the options are: 1) winning the Porsche, 2) buying the Ford and 3) winding up without any car. The individual has to decide what his preference rating is over these alternatives. It obviously depends on how much he wants the Porsche compared to the Ford, how much he doesn't want to wind up with no car whatsoever and what the probabilities are of the various events. If the probability of winning the Porsche is very low, then the liklihood is that, if he plays the lottery, he will wind up with no car whatsoever. Let us define the utility of an option as the expected value of the satisfaction of an outcome. The expected value of the satisfaction of the option of playing the lottery in the hope of gaining the Porsche would be the probability of winning the lottery times the preference rating of the Porsche plus the probability of not winning the lottery times the preference rating of having no car whatsoever. If this utility value were greater than the preference rating of buying the Ford, then the individual should play the lottery and take his chances. If the preference rating of buying the Ford were greater than the utility value of playing the lottery, then he should go out and buy the Ford. This would be a rational way of choosing in a situation in which the alternatives had a lack of certainty or a probability associated with some of them.
Under these circumstances it is crucial to accurately assess what these probabilities are and what the potential freedom associated with each option is. As the probability associated with an outcome decreases, the potential freedom of selecting that result as a viable alternative declines. When the probability becomes negligible, that option ceases to be a viable option which is to say that the utility of the option approaches zero. One of the biggest political scams is perpetrated by a society which tries to convince its citizens that they are free just because a particular option or options are not prohibited by law when in fact the chances of those citizens manifesting that option or options in their lives are negligible due to circumstances which prevail in the society over which they have no control. It is crucial in deciding whether freedom of opportunity is a fiction or a reality to assess what the actual chances are for a person to avail himself of a particular option. This is the situation confronting the poor person living in the ghetto: is there any hope for improving his circumstances? There may be some small probability that he will become President of GM just as there is some small probability that a citizen of the USSR will become a wealthy capitalist, but, if this probability is sufficiently small, the person will probably choose a life in which he avails himself of more likely although perhaps more unsalutary options. Thus it is easy to see that, if the probability of bettering one's circumstances by working hard and obeying the law is sufficiently low, one will probably choose a life of crime in which the chances for bettering oneself, even considering the option of going to jail, are considerably higher. Also a person whose life seems to be hopeless may choose to use drugs in order to experience some joy even temporarily rather than have a life which is a monotone of dreariness. If this person has some real options available, he may not choose a route in which temporary joy is followed by increased suffering.
In the rest of our discussion we will eliminate the probabilistic aspect of options and assume that all options under consideration are non-probabilistic. Therefore, utility and satisfaction will be used interchangably. We, therefore, in our proposed model have an option set consisting of a number of alternatives, an individual preference rating which denotes the perceived desirability of those alternatives and a satisfaction or utility rating which measures the desirability of the alternatives once they have been chosen and experienced. For the purpose of simplification, we will assume that the utility rating is the same as the preference ratingi.e.that the individual has perfect knowledge of the satisfaction to him of each alternative in advance.
Finally, we consider the meaning of unfreedom. We define unfreedom to be a situation in which a certain option or option set is actually prohibited. The most common example of this is the case in which laws are promulgated and enforced by society prohibiting certain types of behavior and activities. Certain of these laws such as, for instance, the laws prohibiting murder and stealing, represent manifestations of the knowledge that these activities are not conducive to the well-being of individuals or society. A normal individual does not feel deprived by having these things prohibited. On the contrary, he feels protected. On the other hand many, if not most, individuals would feel that a law prohibiting free speech would be repressive.
It has been traditional in the US to not prohibit by law certain activities which an individual voluntarily participates in but which, nevertheless, may be harmful to that individual. The repeal of the prohibition of the consumption of alcoholic beverages is a case in point. This opens the door for the purveyance of all sorts of products and services the purchase of which is a decision individually and voluntarily determined, but which may have an adverse effect on the purchaser's well-being. To complicate matters, there are some products which, when consumed in moderation, may have a salubrious effect but which, when consumed in excess, are harmful. Certainly education rather than the propaganda of advertising is called for so that a person can consume intelligently and stay away from those products and services which quite likely may have a deleterious effect. In addition, products which have been found to have a high probability of injury and to have very little in the way of redeeming value after having been researched by highly qualified, unbiased and professional people should be carefully regulated if not legally banned. The legal process should be used to protect people from their own ignorance and self-destructive tendencies. At the same time it should be used to protect people from the rapacious greed of people who would not hesitate to sell and, through advertising, create a false need for a product whose effect on the consumer is negative.
It is debatable whether or not a society should make the consumption of certain products illegal thus diminishing the individual's freedom for the purpose of protecting his well-being. This has been called legislating morality. On the other hand a society can choose to educate and/or use advertising (propaganda) to discourage its citizens from consuming products which are injurious to them. This is the route being taken with cigarette smoking and is probably the more effective way to go. As we can see, making a product illegal has nothing to do with the availability or usage of a product as is the case with drugs. The only effective route seems to be education and dissuasion through advertising/propaganda. Also the government can go after the producers in one way or another.
We quote from an article entitled "Being Good or Being Free" by William Schneider: "We are a free people. ...That...freedom has a darker side, however. We are also free to indulge our appetites and seek material for sensual satisfaction in any way we see fit-so long as we do not encroach on the rights of others or endanger the publice welfare. After all, we are the only society founded on the principle that the pursuit of happiness is an unalienable right. This cult of freedom, which came close to idol-worship on July 4, explains much of what is great about American society as well as a good deal that is disturbing. The same freedom that gives our society its economic vitality also produces rampant drug use and shocking pornography." Schneider contends that we, as Americans, have decided not to legislate morality. So be it. But this does not mean that we as a society cannot seek to educate people not to harm themselves. Ultimately, if a person chooses to abuse, harm or destroy himself, providing he hurts no one else, as a libertarian I would say that he should probably be free to do it. Schneider goes on to say, "More than a few observers have noticed that crime and violence are far more prevalent in the US than in other societies of comparable development. Nothing seems to explain these differences except the competitive and success-oriented nature of American culture.
"...Americans' radical individualism often comes into conflict with a second, equally powerful and deeply rooted strain in our culture-namely, moralism. Just as radical individualism derives from our politics, moralism derives from our religion. The dominant religious values in the US are those of sectarian Protestantism. In other Protestant countries like England and Sweden, there are established churches. The Protestants who came to the US were mostly minority sects opposed to the status and privileges of established churches. Their religion was pietistic, demanding moral fervor and personal salvation through faith.
"The two radical home-grown cultures, one moral and the other political, exist in a constant tension. Americans are always trying to reform, improve and convert each other. But we believe, equally strongly, that people should not use the power of government to impose their values on others and tell them what to do."6
What Schneider does not say is that being good has less to do with whether or not we indulge/abuse ourselves than it does with whether or not we help our fellow man who is suffering and living in poverty. He is right when he says our religions are pietistic; that is precisely what's wrong with them. They are more concerned with an individual's sins of commission in terms of overindulging his appetites than they are in his sins of omission in helping his fellow man. The emphasis on personal salvation through faith lets us off the hook as far as our responsibility to our fellow man is concerned. It also leaves us free to exploit our neighbor in the competitive, economic arena. In fact, the whole issue Schneider considers is by and large a lesser issue than the issue of freedom and goodness with regard to our fellow man. Here the issue of being free has more to do with our right to engage in competition and rivalry with our fellow man in order to win from him in such a way as to enrich ourselves and impoverish him. This is the kind of freedom we must relinquish, to be replaced by a concern for the welfare of others, if we are to become good. The kind of freedom which allows some of us to be considered "fair game" to be beaten in the competitive arena is the kind of freedom that must be diminished if we are ever to become truly Christian-truly loving our neighbors as ourselves. What happens here is the expansion of one person's freedom at the expense of another's. One can still consider himself a libertarian and not condone this kind of freedom. In fact condoning the individual's right to abuse or harm himself so long as he does no harm to others is perfectly compatible with not condoning an individual's supposed right to advance himself at the expense of others in competitive situations. As a libertarian one can stand for the expansion of both individual and social freedom in ways that take no advantage of others.
It can be seen that there is a whole spectrum of types of freedoms ranging from complete unfreedom which is the case in which a certain option set is prohibited, to complete freedom, which is the case in which any option in a given set is readily and immediately available. An interesting case is the situation in which the potential freedom diminishes to the point that, regardless of how much a person may effort, the probability of his obtaining the desired result is negligible. However, the result is not actually prohibited by law. This may be defined as a situation of zero freedom, and might be described as a situation of hopelessness or despair. An example would be the situation of the people in Africa who are experiencing a calamitous famine. Eating is not actually prohibited by law but, try as they might, it is practically impossible to obtain food through their own efforts. It is not a question of their not being willing to work (translating potential freedom to actual freedom) or to take responsibility for their own plight. Their lack of freedom is inherent in their situation.
Erich Fromm has written about this lag between "freedom from" and "freedom to": "The result of this disproportion between freedom from any tie and the lack of possibilities for the positive realization of freedom and individuality has led, in Europe, to a panicky flight from freedom into new ties or at least into complete indifference....
"...[We must recognize] the ambiguous meaning of freedom that was to operate throughout modern culture: on the one hand the growing independence of man from external authorities, on the other hand his growing isolation and the resulting feeling of insignificance and powerlessness,"
HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE CONCEPT OF FREEDOM
Historically, American notions of freedom have been shaped by the 19th century philosopher, John Stuart Mill, among others, who in his classic book, "On Liberty," says:
"This, then, is the appropriate region of human liberty. It comprises, first, the inward domain of consciousness, demanding liberty of conscience in the most comprehensive sense, liberty of thought and feeling, absolute freedom of opinion and sentiment on all subjects, practical or speculative, scientific, moral or theological. The liberty of expressing and publishing opinions may seem to fall under a different principle, since it belongs to that part of the conduct of an individual which concerns other people, but, being almost of as much importance as the liberty of thought itself and resting in great part on the same reasons, is practically inseparable from it. Secondly, the principle requires liberty of tastes and pursuits, of framing the plan of our life to suit our own character, of doing as we like, subject to such consequences as may follow, without impediment from our fellow creatures, so long as what we do does not harm them, even though they should think our conduct foolish, perverse, or wrong. Thirdly, from this liberty of each individual follows the liberty, within the same limits, of combination among individuals; freedom to unite for any purpose not involving harm to others: the persons combining being supposed to be of full age and not forced or deceived.
...The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs or impede their attempts to obtain it."8
The essential point here is that man should be free to do anything he wants (even if he harms himself) providing he does no harm to others. The point of contention here is where precisely is the line and what precisely constitutes doing harm to others. In a competitive society, do the winners do harm to the losers? If so then perhaps the subject of competition needs to be reexamined and perhaps some of the freedom in such a society limited in order that harm not be done by some individuals, in the pursuit of their interests, to others.
The main purpose of freedom, according to Mill, is the growth and development of the individual. "If it were felt that the free development of individuality is one of the leading essentials of well-being; that it is not only a co-ordinate element with all that is designated by the terms civilization, instruction, education, culture, but is itself a necessary part and condition of all those things, there would be no danger that liberty should be undervalued, and the adjustment of the boundaries between it and social control would present no extraordinary difficulty.
...Among the works of man which human life is rightly employed in perfecting and beautifying, the first in importance is surely man himself."9 Since Mill sees the end of freedom as the self-development of the individual, he agrees totally with Marx whose purpose in organizing societal production in a rational manner was to reduce the work week in order to create free time with the ultimate end of the "flowering of the individual." Hence Mill's idea of the freedom to develop our individuality is in marked contrast to the American notion of freedom which consists mainly in the freedom to consume, in which individuality is manifested mainly by the choice of products. Self-actualization or self-realization was the goal for Mill as well as Marx as well as the modern day humanistic psychologists.
Although Mill has written the definitive work on liberty, he doesn't believe human beings should be completely selfish and unconcerned about their fellow man and only concerned with private pursuits. "It would be a great misunderstanding of this doctrine to suppose that it is one of selfish indifference which pretends that human beings have no business with each other's conduct in life, and that they should not concern themselves about the well-doing or well-being of one another, unless their own interest is involved. Instead of any diminution, there is need of a great increase of disinterested exertion to promote the good of others." This is very interesting since many latter-day champions of freedom would have us believe that the pursuit of our own selfish interests without concern for others will eventually lead to the good of society as a whole. This is the classic notion first advanced by Adam Smith of the invisible guiding hand which produces the good of all when each individual pursues only his self-interest. This amounts to a belief or a faith much more than an actual analysis of any given situation as to what actually happens when each individual pursues only self-interest. In this book we attempt to demonstrate the opposite belief: that, when only self-interest is pursued, there is an ever-increasing concentration of power in the hands of the stonger at the expense of the weaker and, consequently, an ever-increasing marginalization and eventual impoverishment of the weaker. Looked at in terms of system theory, a society,in which each individual pursues self-interest and only self-interest, is unstable and will eventually breakdown like any unstable system. What is necessary to stabilize such a society is the "negative feedback" (negative in engineering terms not in human terms) of the funneling of some resources from the strong to the weak, from the top to the bottom, from the powerful to the vulnerable. This has been shown to be true in Keynesian economic terms in order to avoid depression (putting dollars in the hands of those in need fuels consumption, hence production, hence the economy as a whole), and, we suggest, this is an even more general principle which applies much more comprehensively to society as a whole. The general principle is that compassion is necessary in order to stabilize society.
Mill saw no conflict between individual freedom and the cooperative integration of individual efforts and enterprises in order to benefit society as a whole. He is also saying that we should be concerned about our fellow man and not just self-interest. We should be concerned about everyone's freedom and not just our own. In particular concern for the freedom of the weaker members of society means that their freedom has to be protected from predation by the stronger members of society.
It is interesting how closely Mill's ideas on freedom agree with Marx. "For Marx the aim of socialism was the emancipation of man, and the emancipation of man was the same as his self-realization in the process of productive relatedness and oneness with man and nature. The aim of socialism was the development of the individual personality."11 Marx saw that the free development of the individual personality was impossible as long as the worker was in bondage to and being exploited by a capitalist system in which he was forced to do meaningless, alienated labor. "Marx's concept of socialism is the emancipation from alienation, the return of man to himself, his self-realization."12
Marx's critisism of capitalism was not so much that it was unfair to workers as that it destroyed man's sense of his own individuality. "Again it must be emphasized that Marx's aim is not limited to the emancipation of the working class, but the emancipation of the human being through the restitution of the unalienated and hence free activity of all men, and a society in which man, and not the production of things, is the aim, in which man ceases to be a crippled monstrosity, and becomes a fully developed human being."13 To Marx freedom lies beyond the realm of necessity, beyond those things that are necessary to do in order to produce what man needs. This realm can be expanded by organizing the realm of necessity rationallyi.e.in such a way as to minimize, humanize and expedite the work necessary for production. "Marx expressed the aim of socialism with great clarity at the end of the third volume of Capital: 'In fact, the realm of freedom does not commence until the point is passed where labor under compulsion of necessity and of external necessity is required. In the very nature of things it lies beyond the sphere of material production in the strict meaning of the term. Just as the savage must wrestle with nature, in order to satisfy his wants, in order to maintain his life and reproduce it, so civilized man has to do it, and he must do it in all forms of society and under all possible modes of production. With his development the realm of natural necessity expands, because his wants increase; but at the same time the forces of production increase, by which these wants are satisfied. The freedom in this field cannot consist of anything else but of the fact that socialized man, the associated producers, regulate their interchange with nature rationally, bring it under their common control, instead of being ruled by it as by some blind power; they accomplish their task with the least expenditure of energy and under conditions most adequate to their human nature and most worthy of it. But it always remains a realm of necessity. Beyond it begins that development of human power, which is its own end, the true realm of freedom, which, however, can flourish only upon that realm of necessity as its basis."14
It is interesting that Marx, John Stuart Mill and Jesus saw the expansion of freedom not in terms of expanded material options but in terms of expanded options brought about by personal and spiritual development. Marx wrote at a time when labor was a decisive element in production, and, therefore, organized labor was potentially a power of significance for societal change. Now with the mechanization and automation of production, with the introduction of robotization and computerization, the value of human labor in terms of the quantity of it necessary for a given amount of production has been downgraded. Also present-day demographics are such that the most populous human "class", the global underclass, is not labor but the essentially unemployed, the marginally employed. As a consequence, the masses in global terms do not have the decisive economic power that labor once did. Now, more than ever, Marx's vision that, if the necessary human labor were organized rationally and distributed more or less equally among all human beings and the fruits of production were distributed more or less equally to all human beings, then the realm of necessity and hardship would be tremendously diminished and the realm of human freedom and individual self-development would be concomitantly increased, is a real and viable possibility. What has changed is not the possibility of Marx's vision-that is even more viable now then it was when he wrote-but the importance and the decisive role he attributed to human labor as an instrumental force for change. The proletariat is not the working class but the masses of marginally employed.
Marx's concept of socialism had to do with a society in which the workers have a role in the decision making process as well as the execution of the work and as such constituted an economic as well as a political democracy. "Marx expresses here all essential elements of socialism. First, man produces in an associated, not competitive, way; he produces rationally and in an unalienated way, which means that he brings production under his control, instead of being ruled by it as by some blind power. This clearly excludes a concept of socialism in which man is manipulated by a bureaucracy, even if this bureaucracy rules the whole state economy, rather than only a big corporation. It means that the individual participates actively in the planning and in the execution of the plans; it means, in short, the realization of political and industrial democracy. Marx expected that by this new form of an unalienated society man would become independent, stand on his own feet, and would no longer be crippled by the alienated mode of production and consumption; that he would truly be the master and creator of his life, and hence that he could begin to make living his main business, rather than producing the means for living. Socialism, for Marx. was never as such the fulfillment of life, but the condition for such fulfillment. When man has built a rational, nonalienated form of society, he will have a chance to begin with what is the aim of life: the 'development of human power, which is its own end, the true realm of freedom.' Marx, the man who every year read all the works of Aeschylus and Shakespeare, who brought to life in himself the greatest works of human thought, would never have dreamt that his idea of socialism could be interpreted as having as its aim the well-fed and well-clad 'welfare' or 'workers' state. Man, in Marx's view, has created in the course of history a culture which he will be free to make his own when he is freed from the chains, not only of economic poverty, but of the spiritual poverty caused by alienation. Marx's vision is based on his faith in man, in the inherent and real potentialities of the essence of man which have developed in history. He looked at socialism as the condition of human freedom and creativity, not as in itself constituting the goal of man's life."15
Fromm touches on a couple of points here worth elaborating on. First, it is a human need not only to consume, but also to produce. Human beings want to have a stake in the production as well as the consumption of things. Thus with production becoming more and more mechanized and automated, the chances for productive work regardless of the possibilities for consumption are decreased. A welfare state which simply distributes the material goods necessary for consumption without creating the opportunities for its citizens to have a stake in the productive work of society is creating the preconditions for a spiritual poverty and malaise among its citizens. People want more than just to be maintained materially. They want a stake in the productive work as well as the consumption of society. In addition to this opportunities for self-development, recreation and fulfillment outside of work, the arena for truly free expression, must be available. Also we must mention the fact that it is not necessarily the case that all production under socialism will take place collectively. In some cases it may be more "rational" to produce collectively because output can be produced more productivelyi.e.the least amount of labor is required for a given amount of goods; however, there may be other psychological or spiritual factors involved that would lead some individuals to want to produce under other conditions even if it meant more work for themselves personally. For instance, it might be more productive to farm collectively using a high degree of mechanization. On the other hand some individuals might prefer to be individually responsible for a family farm, a more individualized enterprise even though it would mean more work for them. There would be a trade-off between the less work required, say, on the collective farm, and the greater satisfaction obtained on the family farm. There is no reason why choices such as these should not be left up to the individual. Some might prefer one mode of production; some, the other. There is no need for "progress" to mean the relentless march toward centralization that has occurred in both capitalist and communist economies. De-centralization should occur to the extent that it makes for a more satisfying lifestyle for some individuals.
In Chapter 3 we develop an extended theory of democratic choice, which can be applied to both political and economic decision-making, which we put forward as the rational organization of the production process which Marx sought. The decision-making power is not vested in a bureacracy or an oligarchy but democratically in the people themselves. A breakthrough in political theory involving the decision-making process for multiple decision-makers and multiple alternatives is involved.
Marx could wax practically fanatical in the name of freedom, something which might have given pause to his slanderers and defenders of the "free world" if only they had read him. (Fromm,pp61-62): "That Marx could be regarded as an enemy of freedom was made possible only by the fantastic fraud of Stalin in presuming to talk in the name of Marx, combined with the fantastic ignorance about Marx that exists in the Western world. For Marx, the aim of socialism was freedom, but freedom in a much more radical sense than the existing democracy conceives of it-freedom in the sense of independence, which is based on man's standing on his own feet, using his own powers and relating himself to the world productively. 'Freedom,' said Marx, 'is so much the essence of man that even its opponents realize it. ...No man fights freedom; he fights at most the freedom of others. Every kind of freedom has therefore always existed, only at one time as a special privilege, another time as a universal right.'"16 It is important to recognize that one man's freedom may be another's unfreedom, and that the struggles of oppressed peoples to be free may result in a diminution of the freedom of the oppressing peoples; the struggle for freedom in the world is a struggle for a balance of freedom, an equality of freedom, so that one person's freedom does not come at the expense of another person's.
Marx was well aware of what we have called the proliferation of low quality options in capitalist societies. He makes the distinction between true needs, those needs which are essential for healthy growth and realization as a human being, and false needs, those needs that are created by the advertising/propaganda establishment, in order to advance the interests of the capitalist/producer. Marx is aware of society's responsibility to educate its citizens in order that they may make informed choices in their consumption patterns and not be at the whims of people who would sell them things which aren't conducive to their health and welfare. "Often man is conscious only of his false needs and unconscious of his real ones. The task of the analyst of society is precisely to awaken man so that he can become aware of the illusory false needs and of the reality of his true needs. The principle goal of socialism, for Marx, is the recognition and realization of man's true needs, which will be possible only when production serves man, and capital ceases to create and exploit the false needs of man."17
The conservative economist, Milton Friedman, in his book, "Capitalism and Freedom," espouses yet another view on freedom. "The thesis of this chapter is...that there is an intimate connection between economics and politics, that only certain combinations of political and economic arrangements are possible, and that in particular, a society which is socialist cannot also be democratic, in the sense of guaranteeing individual freedom."18 I agree that there is an intimate connection between economic and political arrangements, but Friedman forecloses the possibility in advance that certain types of societies will work. He seems to seal off the possibility that mankind's knowledge will develop to the point that new and more desirable social arrangements will become possible. It hardly constitutes a proof when Friedman flatly states without any corroborative material that socialism cannot be democratic. He might have stood a better chance of proving that socialism as it exists today in the world is not democratic although even this would be hard to prove. Israel, for example, is socialist and democratic in the sense that they have a democratically elected deliberative body, the Knesset. For Friedman to say that a socialist society cannot also be democratic is tantamount to a 19th century person saying that man will never learn to fly. We also see in the above statement the tendency for conservative spokesmen to speak of democracy and freedom as if they were synonomous. They are not. Democracy is a system which limits individual freedom in the interests of the majority. It is a system in which the majority are presumed to be better off. Individual freedom has been diminished in favor of majority rule. The same can be said for socialism. Whereas democracy is a political system-one man, one share of the political decision-making power-socialism is an economic system-one man, one share of the economic decision-making power. On an abstract level, democracy and socialism are essentially identical. It is not an inherent feature of democracy that it guarantees individual freedom. The feature of guaranteeing individual freedom is seen as essential in some political systems such as the US in order to prevent the excesses of democracy, in order to prevent a tyranny of the majority. It is a check on democracy that guarantees the individual certain political or civil rights that the majority cannot violate. This is the relationship of freedom and democracy in a political system such as the one set forth in the US Constitution. Similar to political rights there are also economic rights such as the right to a minimal humanly decent standard of living, the right to a job with adequate compensation etc. These can be seen as providing the same function as political rightsi.e.guaranteeing that a certain sector cannot gain so much power, whether a majority or a minority, that they will run the society in their own interests effectively squeezing out other individuals.
Far from being incompatible, it makes sense that, if one is concerned to protect the political vulnerability of individuals by guaranteeeing them individual political or civil rights, one would, by the same token, be concerned to protect the economic vulnerability of individuals by guaranteeing them individual economic rights. Similarly, if one is a proponent and champion of democracy, it seems that its virtues should be manifested not only in the political sphere but in the economic sphere as well.
Friedman seems to think that economic freedom in general and capitalism in particular fosters and promotes political freedom. "Viewed as a means to the end of political freedom, economic arrangements are important because of their effect in the concentration or dispersion of power. The kind of economic organization that provides economic freedom directly, namely, competitive capitalism, also promotes political freedom because it separates economic power from political power and in this way enables the one to offset the other."19 Friedman is nieve if he thinks that political power will act as a check on economic power and vice versa. In fact what happens is that the same people who achieve economic power also achieve political power and vice versa so that instead of one acting as a check on the other, the two are in collusion. Certainly when a US Senate race requires the expenditure of millions of dollars, only millionaires or people with access to millionaires populate the high and even low political offices of the land. Besides capitalism doesn't separate economic power from political power. To some extent the US Constitution does.
In a democracy freedom has a certain and circumscribed meaning. It means 1) the right to vote; and 2) poltical rights which protect the vulnerable and can't be overridden by the majority. There is no general freedom to amass political power. In fact the freedom to amass power is severely restricted both by majority rule and by individual rights. To hear conservatives like Friedman tell it, you'd think that the only freedom worth preserving is the freedom to amass power. And to argue that capitalism promotes a dispersion of power because it separates political power from economic power is specious. First economic freedom in the sense of laissez faire capitalism results in the concentration of power precisely because the strong are free to pursue their advantage over the weak. And because it requires wealth to run for office, economic power translates into political power. Freedom in terms of the rights of the vulnerable is completely lost sight of in all the bally-hoo about the freedom to amass economic power and become wealthy. We have to decide which type of freedom we stand for: freedom for the vulnerable or freedom for the powerful, the rights of the strong or the rights of the weak. These two sets of freedoms and rights are in conflict. It is the purpose of democracy to limit the freedom to amass political power just as it is the purpose of socialism to limit the freedom to amass economic power. The intention is to cause a dispersion, not a concentration, of power and to set things up so that that dispersion of power is not malleable-is not capable of being transformed into a concentration of power. That degree of freedom is eliminated. Also the intent is to protect the rights of the vulnerable, both political and economic.
Friedman tries to circumscribe possibilities and limit us in our thinking to the dichotomies of his particular mind-set. "Fundamentally, there are only two ways of co-ordinating the economic activities of millions. One is central direction involving the use of coercion-the technique of the army and the modern totalitarian state. The other is voluntary cooperation of individuals-the technique of the market place."20 First of all there are more than these two possibilities. In Chapter 3 we develop a market-oriented system in which the coordination takes place in a non-coercive way but in a way that limits the economic power that any individual can gain over another. In other words we develop a socialistic system which is market oriented rather than centrally planned. We need to take a deeper look at what Friedman means by voluntary co-operation. "The possibility of co-ordination through voluntary co-operation rests on the elementary-yet frequently denied- proposition that both parties to an economic transaction benefit from it, provided the transaction is bi-laterally voluntary and informed.
"Exchange can therefore bring about co-ordination without coercion. A working model of a society organized through voluntary exchange is a free enterprise exchange economy-what we have been calling competitive capitalism."21 First a comment about Friedman's first alternative, the "central direction involving the use of coercion." I assume that he is referring to a Soviet-type system involving central planning. In theory even though these decisions are not made democratically but bureaucratically, they are supposed to be made in the interests of and for the benefit of the people-sort of a benign paternalism. Theoretically, in time, there will be a withering away of the state at which time, supposedly, the people will control their own economic decisions presumably in a democratic manner. Note, however, that even if economic decisions were put up to a democratic vote and voted on by the people, they still will have been made collectively. The system would still not be reponsive to individual demand although it will have been made fair and each person will have been given one share of the economic power. What we propose in Chapter 3 is a system in which each person has one equal share of economic power and which is also responsive to individual demand-in fact, much more responsive to individual demand than the market system of advanced competitive capitalism which is geared to producing for mass markets and then creating the demand.
Some would argue that the well-entrenched Soviet bureaucracy will never turn power over to the people, and others would argue that the evolution of any economic system is not entirely predictable and that it may very well happen that, as time goes on, a greater and greater share of the decision-making power is exercized either directly or indirectly by the people. After all, only a few years ago it was inconceivable that political riots in the USSR would be reported on Soviet TV or that political dissidents would be allowed to return from exile to Moscow and continue their criticism of the government.
For Friedman to characterize competitive capitalism as a system of voluntary cooperation is literally a contradiction in terms. Is it competitive or is it cooperative? It can only be voluntary if the parties entering the transaction are on a par economically, are approximately equal in economic power and have other alternatives. I'm sure that somewhere, sometime, this has been the case, but, for the most part, economic transactions are carried on between people with vastly unequal amounts of economic power. For example, let's consider the plight of the "illegal aliens," people from Mexico and other countries who enter the US illegally in search of work. Most of them work for sub-minimum wage, sleep in the fields, have no political rights and generally live in deplorable conditions. Was this a transaction of voluntary cooperation when they agreed to work in the tomato fields for $10 a day? Hardly. And yet Friedman would argue that they are better off than they would have been had they stayed in their own country which is true. There they would have starved; here they just have deplorable living conditions. There they would have starved; here they're just exploited, but even manage to send money back to their relatives. It's a sad day when the only voluntary choice one has is between starvation and exploitation. The point is that, when these are the choices, there is no way that the transaction between worker and employer can be described as one of voluntary cooperation. The voluntary choice is that one alternative is less odious than the other.
Friedman thinks that the market provides the goods that people want. "It gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want."22 But the people don't really decide what is produced. The producers decide what is to be produced in terms of what can be readily mass-marketed. Individual tastes are not catered to unless one is extremely wealthy. For the average consumer, his tastes are shaped by commercial advertising so that he is persuaded that he wants what in fact the producer wants to sell him. Is this really better than having a group of men decide what is to be produced operating from benign paternalism? The point is that it is not profitable to cater to individual tastes much less to cultivate them. Tastes have to be made to conform to the mass market; demand for products has to be carefully regulated in order that profits can be maximized. Otherwise we would have taste anarchy which would result in small producers producing for individually-tailored needs. The large, powerful mass producers for mass markets would have a problem. For them a well-regulated consumer is their best asset. The purpose of mass advertising is not to create a need for a product like the one being advertised but to create a need for the specific product advertised. Creating a need for a product like the one advertised would be creating a need for one's competitor's product.
Friedman seems to think that people in a capitalist society are free to advocate socialism but that the reverse is not true in a socialist society. "It is a mark of the political freedom of a capitalist society that men can openly advocate and work for socialism. Equally, political freedom in a socialist society would require that men be free to advocate the introduction of capitalism. ...
"In order for men to advocate anything, they must in the first place be able to earn a living. This already raises a problem in a socialist society, since all jobs are under the direct control of political authorities. It would take an act of self-denial...for a socialist government to permit its employees to advocate policies directly contrary to official doctrine."23 Wouldn't it take an act of self-denial for General Dynamics not to "let go" one of its employees who actively advocated a reduction in military spending and spoke out against the military-industrial complex? If Friedman thinks that American employees of large corporations are "free" to advocate socialism in full view of their employers, he's got another think coming. What Friedman fails to realize is that any employee, capitalist or communist, who fails to follow the party line is going to find himself out of a job.
Friedman thinks that the market is a more perfect decision making mechanism than are political processes. "...the role of the market...is that it permits unanimity without conformity; that it is a system of effectively proportional representation. On the other hand, the characteristic feature of action through explicitly political channels is that it tends to require or enforce substantial conformity. The typical issue must be decided 'yes' or 'no'; at most, provision can be made for a fairly limited number of alternatives. Even the use of proportional representation in its explicitly political form does not alter this conclusion."24 In fact proportional representation does not produce conformity but allows different alternatives to be taken by different groups which favor those particular alternatives. It's true that many voting systems do produce a 'yes' or 'no' rather than a broad range of possibilities. For instance, the American system of winner-take-all elections produces political campaigns that boil down to a contest between two candidates. One of the purposes of this book, however, is to present a voting system that allows for selection among a number of alternatives such that different selected alternatives apply to different segments of the population. This would produce the unanimity without conformity that Friedman attributes solely to the market mechanism while also producing the fairness resulting from an explicitly democratic system. In fact a political voting system can be devised which acts like the capitalistic market mechanism in that it provides different alternatives for different people while at the same time guaranteeing justice for all which the capitalistic market mechanism cannot do. This same system can be extended to the economic arena resulting in a democratic market mechanism in which different alternatives are selected by different individuals-there is no need for a single alternative to be applied to large numbers of people-and there is economic justice since each person has an equal share of economic power.
Even Friedman recognizes that it is government's role to regulate freedom: to limit some types of freedom while expanding others. "The need for government in these respects arises because absolute freedom is impossible. However attractive anarchy may be as a philosophy, it is not feasible in a world of imperfect men."25 And since the institution of democracy was implemented to limit the concentration (and hence the freedom) of political power, doesn't it make sense that it is necessary to have economic democracy to limit the concentration (and hence the freedom) of economic power? Furthermore, the concentration of power in the majority, itself, was further limited by the institution of individual, political rights which guaranteed a certain amount of political freedom to each individual which the majority could not take away. Doesn't it make sense to embody the notion of freedom in an economic democracy in the basic individual economic rights of the citizens such as a minimal guaranteed standard of living which the majority cannot take away?
Friedman himself admits: "Exchange is truly voluntary only when nearly equivalent alternatives exist."26 What he means to say is that voluntary exchange exists only when the parties involved are relatively on a par with respect to economic power. A person, for example, could be presented with two equivalent alternatives both involving working at sub-minimum wages. His acceptance of either alternative does not mean that he did so voluntarily if no other more attractive alternatives are available. If a person exchanges his labor for wages in a truly equivalent exchange, then this presupposes that the economic power of the worker is equal to the economic power of the person who hired him. This is rarely true in a capitalistic society in which the disparities in economic power between workers and owners is usually quite great.
Finally, Friedman has this to say about power. (p39): "A liberal [what he calls himself] is fundamentally fearful of concentrated power. His objective is to preserve the maximum degree of freedom for each individual separately that is compatible with one man's freedom not interfering with other men's freedom. He believes that this objective requires that power be dispersed. He is suspicious of assigning to government any functions that can be performed through the market, both because this substitutes coercion for voluntary co-operation in the area in question and because, by giving government an increased role, it threatens freedom in other areas."39 The thing that is precisely so fearful about the capitalist system is that it allows for the concentration of power not so much in governmental hands as in private hands where there is even less of a check than there is on a democratic government. If Friedman's intent is to preserve individual freedom and he believes that this requires that power be dispersed, the only way to maintain and guarantee that power is dispersed is to change the capitalist system, to limit the freedom inherent in that system to amass power. Such a system would be an economic democracy which would protect individual freedom by limiting the freedom to amass power. Any societal organization limits certain kinds of freedom in order to enhance others. The freedom of a few to amass power needs to be limited in the interests of the freedom of the many to retain a certain share of power over their own individual lives. Just as the purpose of a political democracy is to limit the freedom of a few to amass political power over the many and thus to empower each individual with a certain equal share of power, the purpose of an economic democracy would be to limit the freedom for a few to amass and concentrate economic power and to usurp the economic rights and well-being of the vast majority. Each individual must retain his equal share of economic power and if this must be obtained and preserved at the expense of limiting the freedom of a few to amass power, so be it. The Jeffersonian democracy consisting of large numbers of small farmers and craftsman who shared more or less equal economic as well as political power has not been able to perpetuate itself because of the inherent dynamic of competitive capitalism to sort out the winners and losers in the economic arena and to award the spoils as well as a greater share of economic power to the winners. This results in the concentration of power in the hands of a few and the marginalization of the many. The Jeffersonian democracy, to the extent that it actually existed at one time, was inherently unstable and unable to sustain itself. It still remains a noble ideal, but, to recreate it, requires a much more comprehensively thought out system of economic democracy. For a fuller discussion of economic democracy and the mechanics thereof, please see Chapter 3.
Government does not, necessarily, have to be coercive, and the market does not always involve voluntary cooperation but does, in fact, contain a great degree of coercion. One could equally argue that, by giving the capitalistic market an increased role, freedom would be threatened. What has been lacking is a political mechanism which would act impersonally as the market does that would guarantee economic democracy and not leave the situation up to the good intentions of men, Adam Smith's "invisible, guiding hand," or the historical conditions of a certain era that happened to create a Jeffersonian democracy. What is needed is a market place as well as a government of laws and not of men.
"Habits of the Heart" is a very excellent study of American attitudes mores and beliefs. "[Most Americans think] of freedom very much as freedom from- from people who have economic power over you, from people who try to limit what you can do or say. This ideal of freedom has historically given Americans a respect for individuals; it has, no doubt, stimulated their initiative and creativity; it has sometimes even made them tolerant of differences in a diverse society and resistent to overt forms of political oppression. But it is an ideal of political freedom that leaves Americans with a stubborn fear of acknowledging structures of power and interdependence in a technologically complex society dominated by giant corporations in an increasingly powerful state. The ideal of freedom makes Americans nostalgic for their past, but provides few resources for talking about their collective future."28
Finally, we give the last word to Erich Fromm: "The victory of freedom is possible only if democracy develops into a society in which the individual, his growth and happiness, is the aim and purpose of culture, in which life does not need any justification in success or anything else, and in which the individual is not subordinated to or manipulated by any power outside himself, be it the State or the economic machine; finally, a society in which his conscience and ideals are not the internalization of external demands, but are really his and express the aims that result from the peculiarity of his self. These aims could not be fully realized in any previous period of modern history; they had to remain largely ideological aims, because the material basis for the development of genuine materialism was lacking. Capitalism has created this premise. The problem of production is solved-in principle at least- and we can visualize a future of abundance, in which the fight for economic privileges is no longer necessitated by economic scarcity. The problem that we are confronted with today is that of the organization of social and economic forces, so that man-as a member of organized society-may become the master of these forces and cease to be their slave."29 This rational organization of social and economic forces in the service of man we believe to be the rational organization of the decision making processes themselves regarding production and consumption. The social decision making mechanism developed in Chapter 3 allows collective decisions to made which are responsive to individual demands. The collectivization involved is not one of endsi.e.the outcome of the process for each individual which is responsive to his individual preferences, but one of means, the best organization of productive resources is automatically identified which results in maximally enhancing each individual's outcome or results. Thus the system represents a high degree of synergy.
When we become involved in interpersonal comparisons, the concept of equality comes into play. In general equality can be defined as the situation that obtains when two or more people have exactly the same option set available to them. For example, if two individuals have the same capabilities as musicians or dancers, we say that they are equal with respect to their artistic abilities. If the citizens of a society all have the same voting rights, we say that they are equal with respect to their right to vote. They may not be equal politically since political equality encompasses more than just the right to vote. If all citizens of a society are treated exactly the same way in all legal situations, we say that they have equality before the law. If one musician has more ability than another or if some people can vote and others can't or if justice is meted out differently depending on a person's financial ability to hire a crackerjack lawyer, then a situation of inequality exists.
Inequality can be defined as the situation that exists when two or more persons have different numbers of and different kinds of options in their option sets. They then have different amounts of freedom. Thus inequality has to do with freedom itself and the comparison of option sets or roughly the amounts of freedom from person to person. Different persons with equal option sets may have in fact chosen different options, but the crucial point is that, if they are equal as persons, they have the same option sets available to them. Thus equality has nothing essentially to do with sameness. Sameness has to do with everyone choosing exactly the same option either because it is the only one available to them or out of a desire to conform. So there is no inherent conflict between the expansion of freedom and the expansion of equality. Expanding freedom means expanding the number of options in an individual's option set; expanding equality means extending the same option set to each individual. This does not lead to sameness since each individual can choose according to his tastes or preference/utility ratings. Thus a very diverse and colorful situation might emerge in a society which is very egalitarian and in which the individual citizens are very free in the sense of having mny options available to them. The measure of total freedom in a society could be the sum of the options in all of the individual's option sets. Thus a society in which some individuals are very free while a large number have quite limited option sets might be a less free society as a whole than a society in which each individual had an equal but fairly large option set. Hence an egalitarian society could be a more free society than a "free" society in the sense that a few individuals have virtually unlimited option sets while the many have very limited ones. The problem in the past has been that societies which have been very free in the sense of having very few restrictions have not been very egalitarian, and societies that have been very egalitarian have had very limited option sets available to each individual. A democratic society would seek to expand societal freedom by expanding the content of each individual's option sets in a balanced and equal way. Then the power of each citizen is about the same and power is very dispersed in the society as a whole. Individuals would not be free to expand their option sets in such a way as to contract the option sets of other individuals and hence to reduce the amount of freedom that exists in the society as a whole. In other words individuals would not be free to diminish freedom as paradoxically as that might sound.
Inequality in America is on the rise. Michael Harrington writes the following in an article entitled "Inequality Haunts America as Taxes Favor the Rich, Penalize the Middle Class":
"America is a more unequal society today than it was 10 years ago. This does not just refer to the increase in poverty since 1979. Most people have at least some idea about that outrage. This particular inequality confronts the middle class.
The United States faces a curious situation today: The middle class is under assault and doesn't know it. One reason: A prime source of the problem is located in the Internal Revenue code, one of the most important, least understood and even mysterious instruments of social policy in the United States. A majority of the people have been hit by fine print they never read.
Consider just a bit of data from last fall's Congressional Budget Office report. Primarily as a result of the 1981 Tax Act-the quintessential 'supply side' program of the Reagan years-taxes of the poorest 10% of the people went up by 2.5% between 1977 and 1984, while those of the richest 1% went down by a whopping 7.8%. That is a fairly routine irony of recent years: The most vulnerable are punished by government policy, the most secure are made more secure.
And the great middle, neither rich nor poor? The 80% of Americans between the top and bottom either got a tiny tax cut of less than 1%, or, in the case of one group, a tax increase of 1.2%. Since the wealthy got that 7.8% bonanza, the burdens of paying for government were shifted from the top down and public policy made all the more unequal.
But then didn't the 1986 tax law supported by the President make amends for the Robin Hood-in-reverse policies of 1981? Hardly. Despite all the media hype about fairness, and even though there was significant relief for the bottom 20% of the taxpayers (who advanced all the way back to where they were under Jimmy Carter), federal taxes this year will still hit the middle class far harder than the rich.
...Add to these direct consequences of government policy the fact that the Reagan recession of 1981-82 and the huge lay-offs since have put labor on the defensive and held wage increases to less than the inflation rate. And with the exception of the recent growth in manufacturing employment-which does not begin to offset the losses in that sector since 1979-most of the new jobs in the United States have been in low-paid, non-union positions.
Small wonder, then, when the Bureau of the Census reported last fall that between 1980 and 1986 the share of household incomes of the middle 60% of America went down by 1.6% while that of the highest 20% rose by almost 2%.
The problem is, most Americans do not 'feel' these numbers. They know that they have to run very hard just to stay in the same place, but their 'share' of total wealth is an abstraction and not a fact of their daily lives. The middle class hasn't been pushed down into poverty so the new inequality does not hit the members where they live.
...The economic justification for Reagan's massive welfare payment to the rich in 1981 was that they would spend their tax savings to finance a 'supply side' boom, investing in the new plants and machines that would create jobs for the workers and competitiveness with the Japanese. Only there was a recession instead. More to the point, the wealthy put that money into speculation and inflation hedges. It was used, among other things, to pay for the fun and games on Wall Street which bid up stock prices out of any proportion to the real world of the economy and prepared the way for the crash of Oct. 19.
...Sooner or later-no one knows exactly when, but 1988 is certainly a possibility-the attack on the middle class will stop being a mysterious statistical trend and turn into the cause-or at least the aggravation- of an economic downturn that will hit millions of people in the most unsubtle ways."30
The problem with the concept of freedom which is currently in effect in the US is that it has to do more with the concept of free competition than it has to do with the essential concept of freedom, and the concept of equality has more to do with the concept of the equality of participants at the outset of a game or contest than it has to do with equality per se. Thus the concepts of freedom and equality currently in effect have to do intrinsically with a game situation. In a game situation what takes place is a transfer both of stuff and of power among the participants such that at the termination of the game there is an unequal distribution of both power and stuff. At the termination of the game some have more freedom and some have less; some have expanded option sets and some have diminished option sets. There is an inequality of post-game option sets that is created by the game, by the very nature of the gaming situation. We have to refute the idea that it is "fair" for some people by virtue of their superior strength, talent, ability or luck to transfer assets and power to themselves from people of inferior strength, talent, ability or luck. This notion of fairness-that some people are "fair game" for others-is essentially a Nietzschean idea. In fact the very notion of competition itself is a Nietzschean concept in that whether or not the rules are fair or unfair, some people wind up with the spoils and the power and some people wind up being marginalized under the best and fairest of circumstances. Unfortunately, this empowerment of some individuals and marginalization of others is the very essence of competitive capitalism, not Adam Smith's concept of the "invisible, guiding hand" which miraculously makes everything turn out OK. And as some individuals gain the upper hand in the contest for power, they are able to control the destinies of larger and larger numbers of people who are reduced to a marginal status. There is no inherently limiting dynamic so that as the process proceeds the most logical outcome is that all the power and all the spoils wind up in the hands of a very few, if not one, people, and the vast majority of people are marginalized. This is especially true in a closed societyi.e.one without a frontier. So the ultimate result of anarchy is the same as the ultimate result of a competitive system with a lot of rules to make it fair: the triumph of the strong over the weak and the ultimate triumph of Nietzschean ethics.
"We have committed what to the republican founders of our nation was the cardinal sin: we have put our own good, as individuals, as groups, as a nation, ahead of the common good.
The litmus test that both the biblical and republican traditions give us for assaying the health of a society is how it deals with the problem of wealth and poverty. The Hebrew prophets took their stand by the anawim, the poor and oppressed, and condemned the rich and powerful who exploited them. The New Testament shows us a Jesus who lived among the anawim of his day and who recognized the difficulty the rich would have in responding to his call. Both testaments make it clear that societies sharply divided between rich and poor are not in accord with the will of God. Classic republican theory from Aristotle to the American founders rested on the assumption that free institutions could survive in a society only if there were a rough equality of condition, that extremes of wealth and poverty are incompatible with a republic. Jefferson was appalled at the enormous wealth and miserable poverty that he found in France and was sanguine about our future as a free people only because we lacked such extremes. Contemporary social science has documented the consequences of poverty and discrimination, so that most educated Americans know that much of what makes our world and our neighborhoods unsafe arises from economic and racial inequality.
But the solution to our problems remains opaque because of our profound ambivalence. When times are prosperous, we do not mind a modest increase in welfare. When times are not so prosperous, we think that at least our own successful careers will save us and our families from failure and despair. We are attracted, against our skepticism, to the idea that poverty will be alleviated by the crumbs that fall from the rich man's table, as the Neocapitalist ideology tells us."31
The idea that freedom consists in the permission for some people to appropriate a greater proportion of the stuff which is a part of some situation to themselves and that equality consists in the fact that the rules are the same for each player needs to be examined, questioned and in the final analysis rejected as a concept that allows the strong to exploit the weak. Eliminating this form of freedom does not mean that one is not a libertarian. One can still advocate the value of freedom and the expansion of freedom; one just does not advocate the type of freedom that allows some people to expand their freedom at the expense of the freedom of others just as one disallows the freedom to murder or to steal. In other words one does not advocate that some people are able to expand their option sets while causing the diminution of other people's option sets no matter how "fair" the situation is in which this transfer takes place. It can be seen that it is possible to be a libertarian and an egalitarian simultaneously in that one is for the expansion of the option sets of all individuals in such a way that at any point the option sets are still equal.
We need to take a deeper look at the gaming aspects of social organization because it is these aspects that legitimize much of the exploitation of the weak by the strong under the guise of fairness and competition. Social organization and in particular economic activity can be seen as a game in which individuals participate either willfully or unwillfully. The nature of this game is different under different economic systems. Notions of the fairness of the game are also different. The ideas of freedom and equality are defined in terms of the conditions under which the individual participates in the game. In contemporary American society and throughout most of American history, the idea of equal opportunity in playing the economic game was the justification that the situation was fair. Also the idea that everyone played by the same rules. The individuals were seen as starting out at the starting line from equal positions, competing freely in the market system and then ending up with different shares of the spoils based upon their efforts and abilities. So we proceed from a situation of equality at the start to a situation of inequality at the finish.
What this model ignores is the fact that not everyone starts with equal capacities or abilities for playing the game. People are not all created equal despite what the US Declaration of Independence says. There is an unequal distribution of natural abilities as well as an unequal distribution of resources going into the game. The cards are stacked in favor of some and against others. Therefore, there is an unequal distribution of power, and the less powerful are fair game for the more powerful. It is by some people thought to be "right" that the more talented, able and stronger people wind up with a larger share of the resources than the less talented, less able and weaker. This is thought by some to be the natural order of things and the way it should be. The "better" should have more. This contradicts fundamentally the Christian notion that the person who is "better" is not the person who has more but who gives more, and also the Christian notion of compensation to "the least of these my brethren" in order that everyone can enjoy the same quality of life. This principal might mean that more resources should be allocated to someone, for example, who was born with a congenital disease or handicap in order to alleviate that person's suffering so that that person might be able to approach the quality of life enjoyed by someone who was not born with the disease or handicap. In this case the weaker person would be compensated and the stronger person would be expected, according to Christ's teachings, to give up something, to give of himself, in order that the less fortunate person might be compensated. The stronger person, out of his abundance, should give so that the weaker person can be compensated for his lack and approach the abundance (on a psychological or spiritual level) of the stronger person.
The game itself may be either zero-sum, positive sum, or negative sum. In game theory this has to do with the "pie" that is to be distributed at the outcome of the game. What the game is all about is how the pie is to be sliced up among the participants. In a zero-sum game, the positive results which accrue to some have to be balanced by the negative results which accrue to others in such a way that the total results add up to zero. This would be the case, for example, in a poker game in which everyone started out with no money and the results were tallied up on paper so that at the end of the game, the amount of winnings won by the winners would be exactly equal to the amount lost by the losers who would then be in debt to the winners by exactly that amount. A positive sum game is a game in which there are a certain amount of assets that are either available at the outset or are created in the course of the game, and, again, the game is played to determine the distribution of assets at the end of the game. In this case the assets could be divided up equally and everyone would have a positive outcome or there might be a rule that prevented anyone from winding up with negative assets-a floor under standard of living-or some people could wind up with positive results and some with negative resultsi.e.some people could actually wind up in debt as in the zero sum game. So even in situations in which there is enough to go around for everybody, a competitive system can result in a situation in which a few people wind up with a disproportionate share of the assets and the many wind up with nothing or less than nothing.
The negative sum game is one in which the overall sum of the results of the game is negative. However, the negative results are not necessarily shared equally by everyone. The winners could have positive results as long as these are balanced by the increased negative results (over that amount if the results were shared equally) of some of the losers. A society in which production is going on is most closely akin to a positive sum game since assets are being created in the course of the game. How the social decision is made as to how to distribute the assets determines the type of economic system the society has or the type of game that is being played. A synergistic game or social system would be one in which the total amount of assets produced was optimal, the total amount and distribution of work required was optimal and the distribution of assets was optimal. In addition, additional positive results should accrue due to the fact that the social organization of the game is such as to optimize productivity. Just as the optimal mechanical system is one in which the results are achieved with the least energy wasted in friction or in other ways not conducive to achieving the final goal, a synergistic social system would be one in which people's efforts could be coordinated in such a way as to produce the maximum results with the least expenditure of human energy and natural resources. The implication is that this extra dividend of productivity would be inherent in the form of organization of the social system or in the structure of the game. Further it is suggested that competitive systems waste a lot of human energy in "friction" while cooperative systems could result in more production for the same relative expenditure of energy, provided that they were organized properly.
In a competitive game, all things being equal, it is the relative power of the participants that determines the distribution of the outcomes. This type of game which is endemic to our culture legitimizes the concept that the vital interests of people are up for grabs and that it is fair for one person to accumulate more than he needs for his welfare at the expense of another who winds up with less than what he needs. It also legitimizes the Nietzschean concept that the strong should exploit the weak. We have just interposed the notion of a fair game to make the process more civilized. Thus even if there is more than enough to satisfy everyone's needs if divided equally (as in a positive sum game), in a competitive system or game, some may wind up with much more than what they need and some with much less. The process of playing the game, itself, may augment, diminish or have no effect on the size of the pie.
In a feudal society there was not the competition and hence the anxiety of our present culture. Everyone was unequal going into the game and the outcomes were unequal, but at least people were secure in what they had and where they stood. A person's well-being wasn't up for grabs.
Let us consider a social system which instead of "free" competition in the market, is based on cooperation. In this situation, the freedom to take away what another has in "fair" competition is restrained. Therefore, the "freedom" to exploit one's neighbor is restrained. The basis for individual gain is solely the quantity and quality of one's own work, and education and work opportunities are guaranteed by the society to all. Here freedom is inherent in the right of all to qualify for higher paying jobs by pursuing their education which is available without charge to all and in the right to work at any job for which a person is qualified. Equality is inherent in the fact that educational and work opportunities are guaranteed to all and are not a function of ability to pay. In such a society there would still be an unequal distribution of outcomes because of the unequal distribution of natural abilities. What is different here is that the relatively weak in terms of natural abilities do not have what they are able to produce for themselves taken away by virtue of having to compete in a "free" market situation with stronger and more powerful people. They are no longer "fair game." We wish to distinguish this type of system from a meritocracy in which the meritorious may assume a greater share of power and then use this power in a gaming situation to take away assets from weaker people or to appropriate a greater share of social assets to themselves. In the cooperative system under discussion, an individual's economic power is limited and circumscribed by what he creates with his own work, and he cannot assume power over or a legitimazation of his taking away the product of someone else's work.
We may imagine another type of system: one that compensates for the uneven distribution of natural abilities by redistributing the social product so that everyone winds up with an equal share. In this system product is taken away from the naturally strong and given to the naturally weak. However, instead of talking about the redistribution of product or material goods, we can talk about a system which redistributes options so that people wind up with equal option sets. In this system we have an unequal distribution of abilities at the input and an even distribution of product or option sets at the output.
Finally, we consider yet another kind of system in which products and/or options are redistributed according to need. This system has an uneven set of inputs representing the uneven distribution of natural abilities and an unequal distribution of outputs based on the needs rather than the abilities or the power of each individual. We call this a compensating, compassionate system. In this system there would be a redistribution from the naturally more able to the naturally less able, but there would still be an unequal distribution of outcomes. The needy would be compensated, but, beyond that, the naturally able would keep what they created with their own work. This seems to be the system most in keeping with Christian principles since there is a primary concern for the weak and needy, a "preferential option for the poor" in the words of the Catholic Bishops pastoral letter.
Let us consider the issue of free speech. Let us examine a society such as the US where this freedom is a constitutionally guaranteed right. We first ask the question: why is freedom of speech desirable or important? My answer would be that human beings have an inate need and desire to freely express themselves to other human beings. This expression might involve the sharing of original ideas and insights or the attempt to convince or persuade others to hold the same opinions or beliefs. There is definitely a need to speak freely without fear of negative consequences regardless of how preposterous or outlandish the ideas or opinions might seem. There is also a need to hear others hear what we are saying, a need to communicate. What is the option set involved here? Indeed, is there a set of choices involved at all? First, there is a choice involved in what one says or expresses. Here, one is pretty much constitutionally guaranteed actual freedomi.e.he can choose from among the entire range of things he might say quite freely as long as he doesn't slander someone or yell "Fire" in a crowded theater. There is also complete equality as any citizen has the same right in this regard as any other. The other aspect of free speech has to do with the effectiveness of the communication process, the need to have others hear what we say. This might vary tremendously from the need or desire to have one significant other person hear what we have to say to the need or desire to have the entire citizenry hear what we have to say. Let us assume that our need is to communicate efectively to as many people as possible. So our option set consists of a number of choices including
1) the entire citizenry of the world
2) the entire citizenry of a certain country
3) the entire citizenry of our state or district
4) the entire citizenry of our community
5) the entire citizenry of our church
6) our entire family
7) our dog
8) the passers-by at a judiciously selected street corner.
Obviously, there are only one or two people in the world, if that, who have actual freedom over this set, namely, the Presidents of the US and the USSR. So, for most people freedom of speech when considered in its entirety and where it's not prohibited by law, is a potential rather than an actual freedom to some extent. Obviously, some people are in a better position than others to communicate their ideas and opinions to a large number of people. Ministers and religious leaders have a certain audience which can be enhanced by having a TV ministry. However, clergymen are restrained in their free speech by the need not to say anything offensive to their superiors in the church organization and also by the need to attract a congregation without whom they would be out of business. Politicians have a certain audience, but they are restrained in their free speech by the need to attract enough voters to get them elected. So they don't say what they think which would be free speech, but instead each says what he thinks will win him favor with the voters and with his associates. Employees don't speak freely since they don't want to say anything offensive to their employer who can fire them. The town drunk, on the other hand, probably speaks the most freely of all because he doesn't have to impress anyone. He doesn't have a constituency or vested interests.
Very wealthy individuals can buy time on TV or take out full page newspaper ads and thereby communicate their message to a fairly large audience. The President of the US has the capability of communicating his opinions, ideas and beliefs to an extremely large audience. Some people have more options in reaching audiences available to them than others. While everyone has some degree of potential freedom available to him in this regard, not everyone has the same actual freedom. Hence, there is a great degree of inequality involved. The wealthy individual can buy a newspaper and can communicate his biases and prejudices to an entire community. The average workingman can in general only hope to communicate effectively with his family, friends, co-workers and bowling team not to mention his dog.
An article in the LA Times entitled "Justices OK Censorship by Schools" reported that the US Supreme Court has decided that school students do not have free speech in their own school newspapers.
"We hold that educators do not offend the First Amendment by exercising editorial control over the style and content of student speech in school-sponsored expressive activities so long as their actions are reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns," Justice Byron R. White wrote for the court. [It seems that the way to teach students about their Constitutional rights is to deny them to them. Or is the message that they will have them when they are adults?] In dissent, Justice William J. Brennan Jr., the court's liberal leader, blasted his colleagues for endorsing 'official censorship' by government officials.
'The mere fact of school sponsorship does not...license thought control in the high school,' Brennan wrote. 'The young men and women of Hazelwood East expected a civics lesson [in their journalism course], but not the one the court teaches them today.' ...
'Such unthinking contempt for individual rights is intolerable from any state official,' Brennan said of the principal's action. 'It is particularly insidious from one to whom the public entrusts the task of inculcating in its youth an appreciation for the cherished democratic liberties that our Constitution guarantees.'"32
So much for the encouragement of free speech among our youth. When they are older, they will learn how to self-censor themselves. Until they do, they must be given some direction in that direction.
Let us consider the example of an applicant for medical school. We have already discussed the fact that a person who enters medical school and who has the ability and willingness to work hard has the potential freedom to become an MD with all the rights, privileges and prerogatives thereof. However, some people may not have the ability to get through medical school or even to get accepted. They do not even have the same potential freedom as someone that does have the prerequisite ability. Some inequality, therefore, exists due to this fact alone. Next let us assume that, for all those who meet the requirements, society will foot the bill for their schooling. Then, clearly, all these individuals have the same potential freedom to become doctors, and a situation of equality exists among them. This equality does not exist among all members of society at large due to the fact that some people do not meet the admissions standards. Now, if only those people who can pay their own expenses can go to medical school, the potential freedom of those who are qualified but cannot pay their own way is greatly diminished and further inequality is introduced. This inequality can be diminished somewhat by the provision of scholarships for academically qualified but economically disadvantaged students. Further inequality is introduced if there are only a certain number of slots available for beginning medical students and this number is less than the number of qualified applicants who can pay their own way.
Let us consider another example which might seem a little strange to discuss in the context of the principles of freedom and equality: a cure for cancer. There is no law prohibiting anyone from discovering a cure for cancer and yet there is no actual freedom to have a cure in the sense that, if we happen to get the disease, we can avail ourselves of an immediate, effective cure. So we don't have the actual freedom to be cured from cancer. However, we do have hope that with a sufficient amount of research, with a sufficient amount of diligence and work, someday there will be a cure. So there is some potential freedom in this regard. Let's look at the equality issue. Cancer seems to strike randomly without regard to financial status, social position or standing in the community so in that sense there is equality among people insofar as the contraction of the disease is concerned. On the other hand, there is considerable proof that people who smoke, have certain diets, lead certain lifestyles or are genetically predisposed have a statistically greater chance of getting the disease. In a sense these people have less freedom from the disease and there is a certain amount of inequality over the whole population.
The value of equality in human relations stems from the Christian ethic- Love your neighbor as yourself- and the Golden Rule-Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It's interesting to note that there is a very activist kernel to this exhortation. There is an exhortation to initiate the doing, the loving. Not to sit back and be passive and wait for the other guy to make his move first. This is the equivalent of a "first strike" policy-but a first strike of love and kindness and friendship. There is both a masculine and a feminine component here, if you will. The feminine component is the content of the action, the loving, the nurturing. The masculine component is the initiating of the act-the actively initiating as opposed to passively responding. To do this requires strength. This is a different kind of strength than military strength. The use of the word strength has been so associated with military capacity, with the ability to inflict damage, that we need to redefine it, we need to change the semantics to allow for the kind of courage and strength required to do unto our neighbor as we would have him do unto us. In fact, I would argue there is a lot more real strength required to initiate peace than there is in pulling a trigger, pressing a button or dropping a bomb.
Erich Fromm has indicated a revised direction for the concept of strength rooted in individual capacities as opposed to control of material resources. "In all spontaneous activity the individual embraces the world. Not only does his individual self remain intact; it becomes stronger and more solidified. For the self is as strong as it is active. There is no genuine strength in possession as such, neither of material property nor of mental qualities like emotions or thoughts. There is also no strength in use and manipulation of objects; what we use is not ours simply because we use it. Ours is only that to which we are genuinely related by our creative activity, be it a person or an inanimate object. Only those qualities that result from our spontaneous activity give strength to the self and thereby form the basis of its integrity. The inability to act spontaneously, to express what one genuinely feels and thinks, and the resulting necessity to present a pseudo-self to others and oneself, are the root of the feeling of inferiority and weakness."33
The more technologically sophisticated our weaponry, the less human strength, the less strength of character is required in the exercise and manifestation of that military strength. The more the promulgators of war are removed from actually facing the consequences to themselves and others of doing battle in a very real rather than remote way, the more we are faced with the spectacle of very weak, paranoid men reigning destruction while they remain behind protective barriers. In the same way that as individuals we may seek to make ourselves invulnerable to the hurt of human relationships by retreating behind a protective shield of character armor, the modern militarist has retreated behind his military shield from thence to press a button in order to destroy his enemy. Christ said: "Love your enemies." How much more strength is required to love our enemies, to step out from behind the protective shield, to make ourselves vulnerable, how much more courage and bravery is required to do this than is required to remain ensconced in our protective shield with our finger on the button. Just as in personal relationships we must gather up the courage to lower our guard, to make ourselves vulnerable, even if we have been hurt, if we are ever to experience love again, if we are ever to have a close, meaningful human relationship again, so we must be willing as national entities to summon up our courage and strength to trust again. Christ might have said, "Love your enemies-you might end up enjoying it." Or "Former enemies make the best lovers." How's that for a bumper sticker! Remaining inside our personal and national bunkers may seem more safe, but it is also a guarantee that we will never experience life or love to its fullest. Our lives will become increasingly meaningless until finally we have nothing but a living death. To experience life to its fullest we must have the strength and courage to make ourselves vulnerable, to enter into discourse and intercourse with other people. To do otherwise is to let our humanness, our capacity to love and experience life, to experience the beauty of nature atrophy as we remain in our bunkers, afraid to come out, convinced that we are manly because by pressing a button we can blow up other human beings whom we have defined as our enemies even when they are defenseless women and children. This seems more like cowardice to me. A policy based upon destroying countless millions of innocent lives which Mutual Assured Destruction assuredly is, is cowardly. It's a perverted notion of what strength really is. When are we going to learn that we can't destroy our enemies without destroying ourselves (literally true in the nuclear age) and that the only way to get rid of our enemies is to make friends out of them?
How do we feel about an individual who is paranoid, who doesn't trust anybody, who remains encased in character armor, who won't love or let himself be loved because by so doing he would be making himself vulnerable, who lives in a windowless, cheerless personal bunker never resting since he's constantly vigilant and on guard against his perceived enemies, who stalks and kills innocent women and children to prove to himself and to the world that he is strong and manly and has power? If we are charitable, I think that we would say that such an individual is very, very sick. If we are not charitable, we would probably say that he is the lowest, most despicable, cowardly scum who ever walked the face of the earth. And yet how close is this portrait in describing the stance represented by our foreign policy? We see enemies everywhere-endless enemies in fact. We have a national policy which envisions the destruction of millions of innocent people even the possible destruction of every life-form on the face of the earth. We even have scenarios for doing this without provokation, as a first strike, as I suppose that the paranoid killer who stalks innocent women rationalizes that he better get them first before they get him.
May I suggest that in order to create enemies in the world, it is only necessary to be indifferent to the well-being of the people who populate it, and in order to create friends, it is only necessary to care about the people who populate it. By only being concerned about vanquishing our enemies and not being concerned about helping the vast majority of the world's population who live in poverty and squalor-even though we clearly have the capacity to have some impact on this situation, we have created enemies out of people who would just as soon have been our friends. Bu only being concerned about "American interests" abroad instead of the interests of the poor and downtrodden people of a particular country, we have again and again demonstrated our unconcern for the people of the nations we deal with. By propping up regimes friendly to "American interests" but hostile to their own people, we have demonstrated that we don't care about the suffering and poverty-stricken peoples of the world in the same way we don't care about the poor and homeless in our own midst. We only care about "American interests." And what are "American interests?" They're the interests of the American power structure; they're the interests of wealthy Americans. And those interests are in preserving their own commanding lead in the game, not in helping the poor up and thereby creating someone who is on a comparable competitive footing as themselves and hence diminishing their own power and competitive position. With the vast majority of the world's people in poverty, look at how many people the rich and powerful are ahead of! Look at their commanding lead in the game of life. Look at the human resources which can be called upon to do their shitwork. Look at how much easier it is to govern them than it would be if they were all on an equal footing with the governors. We have created enemies out of friends when it would have been possible, and indeed still is possible, to create friends out of enemies. As Richard Nixon has said, "At least the communists talk about the problems whereas all we do is talk about the communists." And American interests.
Getting back to the idea of equality stemming from "Love your neighbor as yourself." Christ did not say, "Let your neighbor have the same political rights as yourself" or "With regard to the law, consider your neighbor the same as yourself." Loving your neighbor as yourself includes all of these but it includes much more. It is a general concern for your neighbor's well-being and is all inclusive of things pertaining to his good. That goes beyond his rights to free speech, his rights to political enfranchisement, his right to fair treatment before the law. It extends to such things as whether his kids suffer from malnutrition, whether he has a home or is homeless, whether he and his family have adequate medical care regardless of whether or not they can pay for it, whether there are jobs and educational opportunities and the wherewithal to live a happy constructive life-not only as a consumer but also as a producer, whether in the final analysis he can live with dignity. We hear our government being concerned about the political rights of people in other regions of the globe (which to be sure are important) without expressing the least concern about the fact that their children are dying from diseases which have been eradicated in this country for years, that people are dying for lack of a clean drinking water supply, that people do not have even the most basic level of economic well-being that would allow them to live with dignity. As Billie Holliday once said,"People got to have a little food in their belly and a little love in their heart before they can sit still for anybody's sermon." We have been preaching to people about the virtues of democracy and the free enterprise system without being concerned about much more basic and crucial matters of life and death, matters which are much more relevant to much of the world's population and which supersede the matters contained in our sermons and preachments. In addition the free enterprise system based on a competitive race among people who all start out equal and together from the starting line has no relevance in areas of the world in which powerful oligarchies have been entrenched for decades. The inability of American capitalism to come to grips with and address the economic needs of the majority of the world's peoples has made the American "model" increasingly vacuous and irrelevant. The Third World debt crisis represents the abject failure of American foreign policy in addressing the needs of poor Third World people.
We propose a new definition of equality, an equality not based on the equality of competitors at the beginning of a race, but a post-race equality, an equality based in Christian ethics, a compensatory equality that is concerned that each individual's experience of life is, insofar as is possible, of as high a quality as any other's. This means that some who are very well off may have to give up something so that someone else who is not can approach not just his standard of living but his standard of being. It might require more resources for people with special needs, with handicaps, either mental or physical, to live at the same level as others. We define equality in terms of final results, in terms of outputs and outcomes, rather than in terms of initial conditions or inputs or competitive opportunities. This is the type of equality that Jesus prescribed and our definition is rooted in Christian ethics. The spiritual and psychological state of well-being for all people should be as great and as equal as possible, and the reallocation or redistribution of resources on the material level should support this goal. It is compassion that is the motivation behind the desire that every human being, to the extent that it is possible, experience life equally as well as any other.
In a competitive society, the notion of love for one's neighbor and hence the whole basis for the value of equality itself is undermined. "It is obvious that the relationship between competitors has to be based on mutual human indifference. [The relationship between employer and employee is also filled with this loveless quality.] "It is not a relationship of two human beings who have any interest in the the other outside of this mutual usefulness." 34
Loving your neighbor as yourself is not the same as martyrdom in which you love your neighbor more than yourself or self-interest in which you love yourself more than your neighbor. What this admonition implies is that, in resolving a situation, or determining an outcome, or settling a dispute, one should consider everyone's interests equally including our own. This is what loving our neighbor as ourself implies-equal consideration of everyone's interests including one's own self-interest.
INDIVIDUAL VALUE SYSTEMS AND SOCIAL CONTRACTS
An individual value system is a value system that an individual operates under in the conduct of his everyday life. A social contract represents a value system which an individual agrees to cooperate with by virtue of the fact that he lives in a certain society. For instance, an individual might live in a society which politically is a democracy so he agrees that all men are free in their right to vote and that all men are equal in the sense that all have one and only one vote. Whether or not all men are created equal has nothing to do with it. What we are agreeing to is a certain balance between freedom and equality. Both freedom and equality are values, and they are manifested in a certain way in any particular political system.
In his individual conduct, however, our Mr. John Q. Citizen may not view all men as equals even though he accepts that principle for voting purposes. He may in fact have a high degree of self-interest and in any given situation give much more consideration to his own interests than to the interests of the others who may be involved. What this means is that to the extent that he has control over the situation, he may give himself many more votes in deciding the outcome than he gives to the others if he considers them at all. He may tend to maximize his freedom and equality while ignoring or diminishing that of the others.
On the other hand, a martyr might not consider his own self-interest at all and consider only the interests of the others involved in arriving at a decision. Then there is the type of person who would abdicate whatever power he might have in the situation to another party who might be anything from a tyrant to a saint taking whatever was doled out to him as a solution in return. The person who shies away from the legitimate use of his power which could result in some good being accomplished has as little social conscience as the person who seeks power only for his own aggrandizement. In any situation there will be some distribution of power among the people involved. Some may have more than others for whatever reason. There also may be a distribution of the amount or lack of self-interest among the people. Some people may be very self-interested while some may be altruistic. If everyone is self-interested, and everyone has a more or less equal share of the power, we may assume that there would be a lot of competition involved in determining the outcome. If everyone is more or less altruistic and has an equal share of power, we may assume that there would be a lot of cooperation in determining the outcome. If some people are selfish and some altruistic again with a relatively equal distribution of power, we might assume that symbiotic relationships would form voluntarily between the givers and the takers. If power were concentrated in a few hands and these people were despotic, we may assume that these people would use their power to further their own interests at the expense of the others if need be. If power were concentrated in the hands of a few people and these people were altruistic, then we might have a case of the benign dictator or oligarchy who rules in the interests of the people. We might mention one more case: a situation in which the people involved were selfish to a certain extent and altruistic to a certain extent and there was an equal distribution of power among them. In this situation there would probably be a high degree of cooperation in determining how the people could best work together in such a way that the self-interests of each would be enhanced without sacrificing the self-interest of any. There would be a respect for the individuality and differences of each person and there would be cooperation among the group as a whole in order to further the cause of each as an individual in a just and fair way.
From the concept of equality springs the concept of democracy-equal consideration of interests. There is a difference, however. In a democracy the equality is built into the system by having an equal distribution of power, mandated by law and inherent in the mechanism of the voting system. It is not absolutely necessary to have a democracy in order to have a "good" society. If all individuals in a society operate from a "good" ethical basis, then it doesn't matter what the distribution of power among individuals is. The results will be the same. Even in a dictatorship, if the dictator is operating out of love, out of an equal consideration of everyone's interests, not valuing his own interests higher or lower than others, the results should be the same. By setting up a social structure in which everyone has equal power, we are making the society more stable and not depending so much on the goodness of men in positions of power. So the purpose of democracy is not so much goodness as it is stability-the prevention of the usurpation of power by someone who is not good.
The freedom dimension enters into the equation in the sense that, insofar as is possible and considering everyone equally, everyone's self-interest should be maximized. That is to say that everyone should be given his highest preference consistent with an overall solution. We can define a democracy, therefore, as a society in which everyone's interests are taken into account equally, and, in setting policy, we choose the solution which maximizes the total utility considered over all possible solutions and over the entire population. This is not the same as the utilitarians' maxim, "the greatest possible good for the greatest possible number." This maxim is self-contradictory since it involves the maximization of two criteria simultaneously. The criterion we are advocating is, when everyone's interests are considered equally, "the greatest possible good period." It should be noted that this definition of democracy includes both political and economic aspects. The idea of democracy is extended to include not only political democracy based upon the idea of "one man-one vote" but also economic democracy based upon the idea of "one man-one share in the decisions involving the production and consumption of goods and services." Broadly speaking and for the purposes of our discussion, we consider economic democracy to be synonomous with socialism.
Our definition of democracy owes a lot to the British philosophy of utilitarianism as expounded by John Stuart Mill and others. "The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals 'utility' or the 'greatest happiness principle' holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain and the privation of pleasure. To give a clear view of the moral standard set up by the theory, much more requires to be said; in particular, what things it includes in the ideas of pain and pleasure, and to what extent this is left an open question. But these supplementary explanations do not affect the theory of life on which this morality is grounded-namely, that pleasure and freedom from pain are the only things desirable as ends; and that all desirable things (which are as numerous in the utilitarian as in any other scheme) are desirable either for pleasure inherent in themselves or as means to the promotion of pleasure and the prevention of pain."35 For Mill as for the framers of the US Constitution, happiness was something to be pursued and/or expedited by the social system itself. It was also something to be extended to all mankind and not just to the privileged few. "According to the greatest happiness principle, as above explained, the ultimate end, with reference to and for the sake of which all other things are desirable-whether we are considering our own good or that of other people-is an existence exempt as far as possible from pain, and as rich as far as possible in enjoyments, both in point of quality and quantity; the test of quality and the rule for measuring it against quantity being the preference felt by those who, in their opportunities of experience, to which must be added their habits of self-consciousness and self-observation, are best furnished with the means of comparison. This, being according to the utilitarian opinion the end of human action, is necessarily also the standard of morality, which may be accordingly be defined 'the rules and precepts for human conduct,' by the observance of which an existence such as has been described might be, to the greatest extent possible, secured to all mankind; and not to them only, but, so far as the nature of things admits, to the whole sentient creation."36
Thus Mill is not only the consummate libertarian seeking to expand both the quantity and quality of enjoyments and pleasures (we would say options), but is also the consummate egalitarian seeking to extend these options to all mankind and even to the animal world! Mill is very aware that there are high quality and low quality pleasures and of the need for some way of distinguishing among them, thus his stipulation of a judiciary of some sort composed of men "best furnished with the means of comparison."
Mill, ever the optimist, thinks that a happy life is possible for all if only the social mechanisms preventing it were changed. "The happiness...was not a life of rapture, but moments of such, in an existence made up of few and transitory pains, many and various pleasures, with a decided predominance of the active over the passive, and having as the foundation of the whole not to expect more from life than it is capable of bestowing. A life thus composed, to those who have been fortunate enough to obtain it, has always appeared worthy of the name of happiness. And such an existence is even now the lot of many during some considerable portion of their lives. The present wretched education and wretched social arrangements are the only real hindrance to its being attainable by almost all."37
Mill takes much pleasure in life, in people, in the cultivations of the mind. He sees selfishness as inherently self-limiting; a life lived selfishlessly is a life devoid of the pleasure of affection for others.
"When people who are tolerably fortunate in their outward lot do not find in life sufficient enjoyment to make it valuable to them, the cause is generally caring for nobody but themselves. To those who have neither public or private affections, the excitements of life are much curtailed, and in any case dwindle in value as the time approaches when all selfish interests must be terminated by death; while those who leave after them objects of personal affection, and especially those who also cultivated a fellow-feeling with the collective interests of mankind, retain as lively an interest in life on the eve of death as in the vigor of youth and health. Next to selfishness, the principle cause which makes life unsatisfactory is want of mental cultivation. A cultivated mind...finds sources of inexhaustible interest in all that surrounds it: in the objects of nature, the achievements of art, the imaginations of poetry, the incidents of history, the ways of mankind, past and present, and their prospects in the future. ...
...As little is there an inherent necessity that any human being should be a selfish egotist, devoid of every feeling or care but those which center in his own miserable individuality. Something far superior to this is sufficiently common even now, to give ample earnest of what the human species may be made. Genuine private affections and a sincere interest in the public good are possible, though in unequal degrees, to every rightly brought up human being. In a world in which there is so much to interest, so much to enjoy, and also so much to correct and improve, everyone who has this moderate amount of moral and intellectual requisites is capable of an existence which may be called enviable."38
Mill seems to see happiness not in the accumulation of things but in the pleasures of an active, caring and interested mind much as Marx and Fromm see freedom as providing a chance for the "flowering of the individual" rather than the accumulation of things. Mill sees the elimination of poverty, disease and suffering as the great quest of mankind. "Poverty, in any sense implying suffering, may be completely extinguished by the wisdom of society combined with the good sense and providence of individuals. ...All the grand sources, in short, of human suffering are in a great degree, many of them almost entirely, conquerable by human care and effort; and though their removal is grievously slow-though a long succession of generations will perish in the breach before the conquest is completed, and this world becomes all that, if will and knowledge were not wanting, it might easily be made-yet every mind sufficiently intelligent and generous to bear a part, however small and inconspicuous, in the endeavor will draw a noble enjoyment from the contest itself, which he would not for any bribe in the form of selfish indulgence consent to be without."39
The ethical sub-stratum of Mill's system is based on the Christian notion of loving our neighbor as ourselves and hence equality is the paramount value and is on a par and in balance with happiness and freedom. "I must again repeat what the assailants of utilitarianism seldom have the justice to acknowledge, that the happiness which forms the utilitarian standard of what is right in conduct is not the agent's own happiness but that of all concerned. As between his own happiness and that of others, utilitarianism requires him to be as impartial as a disinterested and benevolent spectator. In the golden rule of Jesus of Nazareth, we read the complete spirit of the ethics of utility. 'To do as you would be done by,' and 'to love your neighbor as yourself,' constitute the ideal perfection of utilitarian morality. As the means of making the nearest approach to this ideal, utility would enjoin, first, that laws and social arrangements should place the happiness or (as, speaking practically, it may be called) the interest of every individual as nearly as possible in harmony with the interest of the whole; and, secondly, that education and opinion, which have so vast a power over human character, should so use that power as to establish in the mind of every individual an indissoluble association between his own happiness and the good of the whole, especially between his own happiness and the practice of such modes of conduct, negative and positive, as regard for the universal happiness prescribes; so that not only he may be unable to conceive the possibility of happiness to himself, consistently with conduct opposed to the general good, but also that a direct impulse to promote the general good may be in every individual one of the habitual motives of action."40
Mill in his emphasis on utility or happiness rather than an emphasis on freedom is emphasizing the outcome of the social process rather than the input to the social process, and, along with his emphasis on equality and Christian neighbor love, bridges the gap between Easten and Western political thought (if one chooses to classify the work done by Marx, for example, in the British Museum as "Eastern thought.") The worth and sanctity of the individual manifests itself in his system not only as individual rights but as a concern for the welfare of each individual. The concern for the welfare of the individual and not just his rights puts utilitarianism in the world of socialist rather than capitalist philosophies. The interesting point here is that it is essentially a moral or even religious point (loving one's neighbor as oneself) that distinguishes this philosophy and most socialist philosophy from capitalist philosophy which is based on the fact that one should pursue his own selfish interests without regard to his fellow man. Capitalism, per se, has no place for loving one's neighbor as one's self; utilitarianism as well as socialism does-built right into the system. Even though the socialist world has rejected the pietistic approach to religion of the Western world, it is more essentially Christian in its concrete manifestation. The following quote from Mill could be used to defend socialism and communism as well as utilitarianism. "If it be a true belief that God desires, above all things, the happiness of his creatures, and that this was his purpose in their creation, utility is not only not a godless doctrine, but more profoundly religious than any other."41
The extent to which Mill goes to underpin his system, scrupulously and assiduously, with moral and ethical considerations is almost mind-boggling. One can only speculate that, if Marx had been so concerned to make the connection between his philosophical outlook and the obvious underlying Christian value system, communism might not have been the victim of the bum rap it has been given as a godless, atheistic system. Mill was concerned not only for the rights of individuals, not only for the preconditions, but for the happiness and welfare of all individuals.
"But there is this basis of powerful natural sentiment; and this it is which, when once the general happiness is recognized as the ethical standard, will constitute the strength of the utilitarian morality. This firm foundation is that of the social feelings of mankind-the desire to be in unity with our fellow creatures, which is already a powerful principle in human nature, and happily one of those which tend to become stronger, even without express inculcation, from the influences of advancing civilization. The social state is at once so natural, so necessary, and so habitual to man, that, except in some unusual circumstances or by an effort of voluntary abstraction, he never conceives himself otherwise than as a member of a body; and this association is riveted more and more, as mankind are further removed from the state of savage independence. Any condition, therefore, which is essential to a state of society becomes more and more an inseparable part of every person's conception of the state of things which he is born into, and which is the destiny of a human being. Now society between human beings, except in the relation of master and slave, is manifestly impossible on any other footing than that the interests of all are to be consulted. Society between equals can only exist on the understanding that the interests are to be regarded equally. And since in all states of civilization, every person, except an absolute monarch, has equals, everyone is obliged to live on these terms with somebody; and in every age some advance is made toward a state in which it will be impossible to live permanently on other terms with anybody. In this way people grow up unable to conceive as possible to them a state of total disregard of other people's interests. They are under a necessity of conceiving themselves as at least abstaining from all the grosser injuries, and (if only for their own protection) living in a state of constant protest against them. They are also familiar with the fact of co-operating with others and proposing to themselves a collective, not an individual, interest as the aim (at least for the time being) of their actions. So long as they are co-operating, their ends are identified with those of others; there is at least a temporary feeling that the interests of others are their own interests. Not only does all strengthening of social ties, and all healthy
growth of society, give to each individual a stronger personal interest in practically consulting the welfare of others, it also leads him to identify his feelings more and more with their good, or at least with an even greater degree of practical consideration for it. He comes, as though instinctively, to be conscious of himself as a being who of course pays regard to others. The good of others becomes to him a thing naturally and necessarily to be attended to, like any of the physical conditions of our existence. Now, whatever amount of this feeling a person has, he is urged by the strongest motives both of interest and of sympathy to demonstrate it, and to the utmost of his power encourage it in others; and even if he has none of it himself, he is as greatly interested as anyone else that others should have it. Consequently, the smallest germs of the feeling are laid hold of and nourished by the contagion of sympathy and the influences of education; and a complete web of corroborative association is woven round it by the powerful agency of the external sanctions. This mode of conceiving ourselves and human life, as civilization goes on, is felt to be more and more natural. Every step in political improvement renders it more so, by removing the sources of opposition of interest and leveling those inequalities of legal privilege between individuals or classes, owing to which there are large portions of mankind whose happiness it is still practicable to disregard. In an improving state of the human mind, the influences are constantly on the increase which tend to generate in each individual a feeling of unity with all the rest; which, if perfect, would make him never think of, or desire, any beneficial condition for himself in the benefits of which they are not included. If we now suppose this feeling of unity to be taught as a religion, and the whole force of education, of institutions, and of opinion directed, as it once was in the case of religion, to make every person grow up from infancy surrounded on all sides both by the profession and the practice of it, I think that no one who can realize this conception will feel any misgiving about the sufficiency of the ultimate sanction for the happiness morality."42
There is one glaring weakness in a democracy with decisions taken by majority rule which can be redressed through an application of Christian ethics. It's interesting that, economically speaking, communism is the redress to socialism which includes this ethic, but there is no widely acknowledged equivalent redress to democracy on a political level. The weakness is the fact that in a democratic process a minority may be excluded so that the outcome, while democratic in the sense that everyone has been considered equally and, even though social utility has been maximized, imposes severe hardship on some minority or minorities or even some individuals. The same thing could occur economically under pure socialism. Communist ideals, then, can be seen as the secular embodiment of Christ's teachings in that, considering those who are excluded to be "the least of these," the ones left out by the majority process are given special consideration so that they cannot fall below a certain welfare level. The notion of individual civil or political rights protects the individual from the majority in the same way as the notion of individual economic rights protects the individual economically. The notion "to each according to his needs" goes even farther since in addition to placing a floor under welfare for "the least of these"i.e.the worst off, it attempts to meet all needs even of those who are well off.
Individual political rights can be seen as a redress to democracy which insures that everyone's minimal political needs will be met. It places a floor under political needs. Socialism with individual economic rights is the mirror image of political democracy with individual political rights. Economic rights are a means of placing a floor under economic needs and guaranteeing that minimal economic needs will be met regardless of how the economic process sorts itself out. Everyone's needs are not necessarily met-just the needs of the neediest members of society whether political or economic.
The introduction of the Christian ethic of special caring and compassion for the weakest and neediest members redresses the balance in the same way that "From each according to his abilities" redresses the balance in socialism becoming communism in the process. In fact when Christ said, "If there is one among you who would be great, let him become your servant," he was expressing the same sentiment. For the great to serve is the same as for the capable, the strong, to give according to their abilities. In fact the expression, "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs," is totally in accordance with Christ's expressed sentiments and could just as well have emanated from his mouth. The preponderance of Christ's sentiments-the concern for the poor and downtrodden, the disdain for the pursuit of money and material things as ends in themselves, the disconnection of the link between production and consumption, the emphasis on equality and brotherhood, are exactly the same as the predominance of communist ideals. Communist ideals, then, can be seen as the embodiment of Christ's teachings. Not once did Christ express a positive sentiment concerning the things that Western democracies hold so dearly-free speech, democratic elections, free enterprise. Could it be that the system which the West has decried as atheistic is, in its professed ideals, more closely a manifestation and a realization of Christian ethics than are the systems which hold sway in countries which profess to be Christian nations?
Just as we have extended democracy to include both the political and economic systems, we might extend communism to include not only the economic but also the political system as well. Coming from the opposite direction, we might extend the concept of constitutional government to include not only the political but also the economic aspects. What the extension of both these concepts would mean is the constitutional guarantee of basic rights-both economic and political. In addition to the constitutionally guaranteed political rights such as free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion and democratic voting rights, such as we have in the US, there would be constitutionally guaranteed economic rights such as freedom to work, freedom to have basic food, shelter and medical care such as we have in the USSR and freedom of education which we have basically in both countries. These rights are guaranteed regardless of the outcome of the political processi.e.they cannot be voted away by a majority in a democratic election, and regardless of the outcome of the economic processi.e.they cannot be taken away due to an inability to pay. It means that, regardless of the outcome of the game which is what a social decision-making process can be considered to be, there is a certain level of satisfaction or utility which is guaranteed even if that means reducing the utility levels of some or all of the other individuals which is what a progressive taxation process usually does. It does not mean that these things are just given to people without requiring anything in return or regardless of need. Those who can provide for themselves should do so. Those who cannot should be given the opportunity to contribute something-if they are capable-in return for having their needs met; and those who cannot contribute anything-cannot work-should be taken care of unconditionally.
Looked at in another way, extending communism to the democratic political process would be equivalent to multiplying the number of possible outcomes of the political process so that each person gets an outcome more individually tailored "according to his needs," rather than one outcome which applies to all. "To each according to his needs" is a very individualistic ethic due to the fact that each individual's needs vary and are personal to him. On an economic level it means a solution for each individual exactly tailored to that individual's needsi.e.a package of goods and services that meets that indvidual's needs as specified by that individual. Politically, we would need a democratic voting system in which there were many possible outcomes and in which each individual would have an individually tailored outcome. This would represent a political market system in that it would be individually responsive to individual inputs and not just collectively responsive to individual inputs.We develop such a system in Chapter 3.
On December 10, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We quote from the preamble:
"Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in cooperation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,
Now, therefore, THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and nations..."
There are 29 Articles to the Declaration. Some of these concern political rights such as the right to life, liberty and security of person, the right to non-discrimination because of race, color, sex, religion etc., the prohibition of slavery, the prohibition of torture and cruel punishment, the right to equal recognition and protection before the law, the right to free assembly, the right to privacy, the right to marry and raise a family, the right to own property, the right to freedom of religion and of opinion and expression, the right to participate in the governance of one's country.
Let us examine some of these rights in more detail.
Article 1: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."
The important point here is the assertion that all human beings are born equal in rights. There is a social contract here in which it is the obligation of society to guarantee the rights of every human being. Every baby born into society should have these rights guaranteed him as his birthright. Notice that Article 1 does not say that all men are created equal. Obviously they are not. To be pointed about it, some are born with birth defects. And to say that they are created equal is a cop-out in a sense because what is pertinent here is not some vague and practically meaningless assertion, but how individual human beings are to be regarded by society. Actually the phrase, "all men are created equal," iterated by the venerable Abraham Lincoln implies sort of a race in which all babies line up at the starting line and then "They're off," all presumably having an equal chance of winning. It is only society's responsibility to guarantee a fair start. Society, the man with the starting gun, is standing there, his gun raised, making sure that no one gets off the blocks early. In actuality there is a wide range of natural endowments ranging from handicapped to gifted not to mention the individual economical and psychological circumstances into which a baby is born. To say all men are equal in rights is much more meaningful because then you can examine exactly what those rights are and then you know where you stand.
It is also interesting that Article 1 mentions that human beings should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood, a very Christian and Muslim notion that one rarely hears mentioned in capitalist countries these days. One wonders why as in the rallying cry of the French Revolution, "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," the fraternity or brotherhood part has been dropped in non-communist countries. The "Equality" has also been dropped for the most part at least in the US which seems to be basing its whole social philosophy to a greater and greater extent on Liberty or Freedom. Evidently, there is some sort of polarization occurring between East and West in which the West is allying itself totally with the concept of Freedom while the East, presumably, is coming to stand solely for equality and we might throw in brotherhood or cameraderie along with that since, presumably, free men are too busy trying to best each other in the competitive arena to devote much attention to the idea of brotherhood-except, as in the TV commercial for having a beer after the game. It should be mentioned again that the essential Christian message was one of brotherhood and equality with freedom taking a relative back seat.
Now it should be noted that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights contains both political and economic rights. The notion of economic rights is somewhat alien to the non-communist world while the same holds for the notion of political rights in the communist world although there has been movement in a positive direction lately with Gorbachev's policy of Glasnost. The communist world tends to have an economic democracy and a political aristocracy while the capitalist world tends to have a political democracy and an economic aristocracy. It should be emphasized that people in the "free" world who feel that society should guarantee them economic rights as well as political rights should stand up and be counted. There should be an economic Declaration of Independence which demands that in the most advanced industrial nation in the world, a nation which can produce the technology to put a man on the moon, not to mention cruise missiles and Pershing Twos, that in such a nation our children should have the right to live above the poverty level. They should have the right to an adequate diet, adequate housing, adequate medical care. Today one in four children in the US lives in poverty. Obviously, they don't have any economic rights. At a time when the wealthy are collecting Social Security and we have an immense budget deficit and National Debt, we have socialism for the rich and social Darwinism for the poor. Rich people and people that can afford to take care of themselves should do so. Public beneficence should benefit the poor and helpless not the rich and the able. There shouldn't be entitlement programs in which money is doled out by the government to people who don't need it. This is communism of the worst sort practised by the most arrogant capitalist nation on the face of the earth. To each person over 65 whether he needs it or not. It is not a wise policy for public monies to go to people who can afford to help themselves. This is sheer fiscal irresponsibilty in an era of gigantic budget deficits while at the same time poor children and homeless people do not even have their most basic needs met because they have no political power.
Public monies should go to people who can't help themselves such as malnourished and diseased children who are languishing in the world's richest nation while some senior citizens with their investments and annuities, their stocks and bonds, their IRAs and trust deeds sit back and collect their social security. There should be a comprehensive program of socially guaranteed economic rights which benefit all people in need regardless of age.
Getting back to the economic rights as promulgated by the General Assembly of the UN in their Universal Declaration of Human Rights, let us examine Article 22: "Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international cooperation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality." We note here that everyone, not just the elderly, has a right to social security, and is entitled to economic rights. Article 23: (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work. (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection." We note that the USSR has a constitutionally protected right to work. The US does not. One might ask why does the US not have a right to work law (not to be confused with the meaning attached to "Right to Work" laws in the US which has nothing to do with finding jobs for those who can't find them themselves. The US Right to Work laws have more to do with the rights of the employer to hire a non-union individual then the rights of an unemployed person to a job.) becoming the employer of last resort, putting people to work who otherwise cannot find jobs but are capable of working, and guaranteeing everyone at least a minimal standard of living above the poverty level. The answer is that this would drive up the price of labor and the government would be to some extent competing with the private sector. But this is not necessarily the case. If the government paid minimum wage with the minimum wage pegged to support basic needs above the poverty level, the net flow of labor would be towards higher paying jobs in the private sector. However, if unemployed and poor people were put to work building low-codt housing for themselves, growing food for themselves and otherwise producing the means for providing their own needs and raising themselves above the poverty level, they wouldn't be available to the private sector as consumers. They would be taking business away from the slumlords and supermarket chains, and this would tend to have the effect of lowering prices. This is something no capitalist can bear the thought of. By ensuring poverty as an integral part of the capitalist system, we ensure not only an industrial reserve army of laborers willing to work for whatever the capitalists are willing to pay them, but also a consumers reserve army who, armed with their welfare checks, will be forced to spend their money with established business interests at the highest possible prices.
Conservatives say they are against doling out public money to poor people. I am against that too. I think people who are capable of working should work. Working is much more dignity-enhancing than receiving a dole. It's a different situation if, for some reason, people can't work or can't find work. The point is that wealthy business interests would much rather have poor people not working and receiving a dole to be spent at inflated prices in their place of business than to have poor people working producing the means of their own sustenance. Working, creating value, is a dignifying experience providing one is compensated justly and the working conditions are dignified.
The problem for capitalist governments is that the value created would either become the property of the poor people themselves in which case customers for private business interests would have been eliminated or the value created would become the property of the government which could then sell it or rent it back to the people who created it. This would diminish the transfer of wealth in the form of taxes necessary from the better off to the poor, but would put the US government in the business of competing with private enterprise which stands to lose a buck if whatever money the poor have isn't spent with them. So I am conservative in the sense that I think welfare recipients and unemployed should be required to work for at least part of what they receive if they are capable of working, and I don't believe Social Security should go to everyone, only the poor and needy. However, work that is required of an individual should be compensated at a rate that is sufficient to provide for a basically decent lifestyle and the government should provide the jobs if the private sector cannot. Government should be in the business of creating the conditions and enterprises and jobs which will allow the poor to provide for their own needs as opposed to just encouraging them to get a job in the private sector if the private sector is not capable of providing enough decent jobs to go around.
This principle holds also for eliminating poverty in the Third World. Top down aid in the form of loans to established business interests only creates more poverty by empowering the rich relative to the poor and only results in increased marginalization for the poor. Bottom up aid, helping the poor to become self-sufficient at the level of technology which can be used directly by them, allows the bottom segment of society to deal with its own immediate situations directly instead of depending on the good graces of some large corporation for which they provide their labor. Job creation by giving loans and incentives and tax breaks to the rich only creates menial jobs for the poor. A rising tide raises all yachts and shipwrecks the dinghis on the shoals of increased relative disadvantage. In the competitive struggle, giving advantages to the strong further disadvantages the weak.
Fiscal responsibility demands that the two principles enunciated here be implemented, namely: (1) Social Security go only to those in need; (2) the government creates the conditions whereby the poor who can work are provided with the wherewithal to provide for their own needs directly using their own labor. Established interests which would lose cheap labor and readily available consumers would lose out and will lobby incessantly to see it doesn't happen. Poor people and tax payers will be better off.
Article 24: "Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay."
Article 25: "(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livlihood in circumstances beyond his control. (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock shall enjoy the same social protection."
Article 26: "Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace. (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the education that will be given to their children."
Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality... Today in the US education is increasingly technically directed and oriented. Art, music and the humanities are being downgraded if not dropped altogether with the emphasis being focused more and more on science, math, computers and technology. There is an education race with a psychology similar to the arms race. Competitive students are led to believe that they must study ever so diligently in order to get the best grades in order to get the best jobs. The alternative to this is to end up a second rate person economically and socially. The Japanese are even more fanatical about this. Also American citizens feel we have to keep ahead of the Russians through our superior study and diligence so that we don't become a second rate power. Is it any wonder that those students involved in the educational arms race end up in the military-industrial complex? The anxieties and compulsions which drive them to win in the educational arms race are the same anxieties and compulsions which drive the US to win the nuclear arms race. In the process, all humanizing education, education which promotes "understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups," education which would develop the "feminine" qualities of love and caring and nurturing, education which would develop the right hemisphere of the brain as well as the left, this sort of education is lost in the shuffle. Since a preponderance of university research is funded by the Defense Department, they set the agenda and define the limits of what kind of research projects will be pursued by graduate students. These students are then prepared to step into high-paying jobs with the nation's top defense contractors such as General Dynamics, Hughes Aircraft, Lockheed, Rockwell and General Electric.
At the same time PhD's in philosophy, literature and the arts end up driving cabs and working as bus boys in restaurants. So much for education in the US which promotes the cause of the "maintanance of peace." The educational system in the US is set up and geared to produce one-dimensional technical specialists, scientists and engineers, who have the knowledge to develop new weapons systems to keep the arms race spiraling ever higher, while at the same time they have no knowledge or training or sensitivity or awareness of moral values, of human considerations, of respect for the environment, of the beauty of nature, art or peace.
Article 27: "(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits." To share in the benefits of the community presupposes that these benefits are of a social as opposed to a purely private nature. If the benefits of the community were purely private, then no one would have a right to share in them. By the same token, if one has a right to share in the benefits of the community, it stands to reason that one has an obligation to share one's own creations and productions with the community. A person who is educated in public schools should not feel that his knowledge and invention is purely a private matter. One's creations are to some extent private because they come about as a result of individual endeavor but they are to some extent public because a person's background which enabled him to create something of value is to some extent public and social.
The US is fond of pointing out to the Soviets their human rights violations with respect to abridging the political rights of certain dissidents. But let's face it: human rights include economic rights also. And with one child out of four beneath the poverty level in the US, the world's richest nation, as of 1985, is not that a violation of human rights on a much larger scale? Certainly many more people are involved whose economic rights are being violated in the US than there are people whose political rights are being violated in the USSR. Let's not be hypocritical. Let's not be the US kettle calling the Soviet pot black. Let's first remove the beam from our own eye before we start trying to remove the mote from our brother's.
We might amend Christ's maxim to love our neighbor something like this: All else being equal, love your neighbor as yourself and by all means strive to improve your own lot, and, if you can do so in conjunction with improving your neighbor's lot also, so much the better, but at least don't improve your own lot at his expense. However, if your neighbor is considerably weaker or more needy than you, it might be necessary for you to give a little extra in order to help him keep his head above water. Another way to look at this is to modify the communist maxim. The socialist maxim, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his work," would result in people with little ability or capacity for work being disenfranchised. The communist maxim, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need," might result in very talented and productive but unneedy people receiving very little and very untalented, unproductive but needy people receiving a lot. This would be ideal in the Christian ethical sense, but perhaps we should start the process at a point which acknowledges that human selfishness is not something to be wiped out overnight. What we are proposing is somewhere between these two value systems. How close to one or the other we choose to be depends on where we draw the line below which no one is allowed to fall. So that people receive basically in accordance with their work and their talents and needy people receive up to a certain level regardless of their work or talents.
What we are advocating is sort of a modified democracy. There is love or altruism or idealism introduced to the extent of guaranteeing basic rights both political and economic, to everyone. Beyond that and beyond the basic notion of equality stemming from "Love your neighbor as yourself," people would be free to operate out of self-interest in improving their individual well-being as long as they don't do it at someone else's expense. We would define a synergistic society as one in which people pursued their self-interest in ways which contributed to the well-being of others, for mutual gain but at least not at some individual's loss, while there would be special dispensation to the poor and needy. In terms of game theory, we are talking about non-competitive, positive sum games in which everyone benefits to some degree although some benefit more than others, but at least no one's benefits are negative as they are in a zero sum game in which the players operate competitively and the winners' gain is the losers' loss.
FREEDOM-EQUALITY CONCEPTS APPLIED TO CURRENT SOCIETY
In a competitive and "free" society, many options are created for us which are not in our best interests. Options are created mainly in terms of goods and services which may or may not be good for us. Options are also created in terms of ideas which are "sold" to us by politicians in much the same way goods and services are. If these options are created out of love, then they probably are in our best interests. If they are created out of greed, then they probably are not. We have the illusion of having many options in this society, but whether they are options which are conducive to our well-being or whether they are options whose main purpose is to entice us to part with our money is a very pertinent question. By and large, options are created and promoted, "needs" are created and cultivated, not out of a desire to serve our well-being, but in order to get our purchasing dollar. The options are created by people with economic power, people who figure to make a buck, and that is why our entire culture and society is being trivialized. People who create out of purely altruistic or artistic or humanistic or loving motives can't compete with people who create out of purely business motives because
a) they do not have the economic power to persuade people,
b) they do not sugar-coat their product to make it more palatable.
The product produced out of humanistic or spiritual motives may not be immediately accessible to the consumer. It may require some work, some education, some efforting on the consumer's part to reap the value. Hence the difference between art and entertainment.
We have equated convenience with freedom, instant gratification with freedom, infinite variety with freedom, lack of effort with freedom. Businessmen have exploited our penchant for freedom by creating enlarged option sets containing options none of which are conducive to our well-being but all of which promise immediate and instantaneous gratification without any effort on our part. The discipline and work involved in truly enlarging our freedom by enlarging our capabilities is negated in a hedonistic and materialistic culture precisely because the effort is individually based, and there is no money in it. A fad is a boon to capitalist society precisely because it involves the marketing to a mass audience of a product which is collective and conformist in nature. There is no money in catering to individual tastes-only to mass collective tastes. Therfore, capitalist society does not value the individualistic consumer but rather the consumer whose tastes can be made to conform to a mass market.
People need to be taught to be intelligent consumers. But more than that people need to realize that to be truly free they must be in a position to set their own consumption agenda and not have it set for them by powerful corporate interests who give them the illusion of freedom by giving them a number of choices. The fact is that no corporation will develop a product for the market unless that market is a mass marketi.e.there must be enough potential consumers to make the product profitable. Therefore, in its very essence, product development is not for individuals but for collectives, for masses because it would be unprofitable to cater to intelligent, individual tastes. We will not have a market-place that is truly responsive to individual demands until the mechanism of the market-place is changed. In Chapter 3 we develop a market system that is truly responsive to individual demand as an alternative to the present market system which is responsive to mass demand.
The systematic deterioration of culture and art is a ruthless ploy to profit from the fact that people will spend money on things which are immediately palatable but not on things which require some expenditure of effort on their part. The truth is that increased freedom results from the self-development of an individual's potential and this requires self-discipline and work. In present day society, options are not presented to us out of love but out of greed and self-interest. Nor do we truly get to choose what options are to be created for us. It's almost predictable that the next rock star will find some angle to exploit involving sex or violence or a fusion of the two which goes beyond the standards of bad taste set by his predecessors. We are titillated by a barrage of disinformation concerning sex and violence in which a perverted notion of progress mandates that the new star is grosser and more vulgar, more outrageous and shocking than the old. Already sex and violence are being sold and purveyed to eight-year olds through the media which makes the campaign to stop child abuse in this country seem hypocritical. One of the biggest child abusers is the telephone company which makes approximately $20 billion per year selling pornography over the phone to children! Rape is glorified in some rock songs. Another glorifies thrill-killing. An album cover depicts a woman lying beaten and bloody in the gutter while a man hovers over her in victory. This is cultural fascism!
Our children are being taught, because there are profits in it and for no other reason, that the degradation of women is perfectly acceptable, that murder is acceptable, that rape is acceptable, that using hard-core drugs is acceptable , that irresponsible sex is acceptable. Turning Santa Claus into a psychopathic killer as in the movie, "Silent Night, Deadly Night" is acceptable as long as it sells movies. The point is that our children are being disinformed, miseducated and preyed upon by commercial interests who will tell you that they are breaking no laws and are operating legitimately within the economic system. They will tell you that their right to purvey this material is protected under the First Amendment guarantees of free speech. The depiction of any act regardless of how violent, how degrading, how sadistic, how insensitive is perfectly OK because it is a free country. The bombardment of children with sexual messages which glorify irresponsible sexuality is probably responsible for the growing teen-qge pregnancy rate at a time when other countries, whose teen-agers are no less sexually active, have a declining rate of unwanted teen-age pregnancies which, by the way, most often doom mother and child to a life of poverty. While the girlfriends of rock stars offer themselves as role models as they have children out of wedlock, impressionable young girls who are less well-heeled get pregnant and trip the trap door of poverty. Information on birth control is widely available. That is not the problem. The problem is that the megatonnage of the propaganda being disseminated into our culture which glorifies a perverted and irresponsible approach to sex and violence which is being promulgated by commercial interests with solely profit in mind is not being matched by a similarly determined effort to inform people of healthy and responsible approaches to sexuality and of alternatives to violence and even war.
Just the fact that the need is felt to combat the unhealthy messages of advertising by counter-advertising is an indication of a fundamental failue of social institutions. There should be no need of media advertising to teach people to be sexually responsible or not to use drugs. That should be the function of the educational system. It's an indication of how much society has fallen sway to commercial forces, how much power over us the media powered by corporate interests, has. The message is that the educational system doesn't have the power to inform and educate people that the media has and that, if we wish to dissuade smoking or drugs or unwanted pregnancy, we must do so by using the media in the form of commercial advertising. Recently, a non-profit group produced a video sequence which they proposed to the major networks for a Public Service Announcement. It was turned down by all three major networks. The aim of the sequence was to persuade teen-age girls not to throw their futures away by becoming pregnant. The networks said the subject matter was too controversial. Of course these same networks have soap operas in which everyone is hopping into bed with everyone else and nobody gets pregnant, but that's not controversial. I imagine that what the real controversy is is that the sponsors of such blatantly sex-selling shows as Dallas might object to a 60 second message which might cause someone to question the good intentions of a show which uses sexual propaganda to sell products. We question the value of sex education at the same time as we defend the rights of commercial interests to exploit ourselves and our children. That's a sure formula for catastrophe. There are only two ways out of this morass:
(1) restrict the right of purveying material over the mass media which is exploitive and demeaning and represents the perpetration of disinformation and misinformation and
(2) an educational campaign in the school system to inform people of the healthy and responsible exercise of their sexuality and also of the healthy alternatives to violence.
The point is that the educational system should not have to be put in the position of deploying enormous resources to counteract unhealthy trends and tendencies encouraged by commercial interests through the media.
We are a society that is hooked on thrills and frills and unwilling or unable to see the destination at the end of the road we are being led down. Why does negativity sell? Why is their so much violence on TV and in the movies? Because negativity and violence have an immediate and obvious impact. In an interview published in Mother Jones magazine, in the August/September 1985 issue, Laurie Anderson said: "I think it would be quite amazing if artists were able to create images that were the opposite of destruction and fear. Those are the horror shows that make your heart beat faster: a plane wrecks and it's exciting. Someone builds a house and maybe it's not that thrilling. Your heart doesn't pound like that. Bucky Fuller tried to make your heart pound like that. Utopians have always tried to excite people with visions of a full and peaceful future, but it's hard to compete with images of destruction. I know a Vietnam vet who got a job shoveling snow, and every time he shoveled, he couldn't forget his '2-4-6-8' mutilation cheers that he'd learned in boot camp. There is no equivalent for that kind of [indoctrination.] Well, what would it be? Someone swings a golf club and tick goes 'peace on Earth. Goodwill towards men' tock. (Laughs.) What I'm saying is that fear and horror are powerful. Peace and kindness are not thrilling. And if they could somehow be made amazing in that way, it would be wonderful."43
What a sad commentary on our culture when it's hard to compete with the images of destruction, when the winner of the competition is the one who is the most violent, the most destructive. We must question the value of thrill-seeking when peace and kindness are not thrilling. In a review of the movie, "Dune," David Ansen says: "We see sinister punks with their ears sewn tight; the baron's mad doctor takes delight in lancing his festering facial boils. This is gory, kinky stuff, but it's also funny-the kind of gross-out humor that children love. When the mad, cackling baron, who hovers in the air on 'suspensors,' descends on one of his pretty male victims in an ambiguous unseen act that is part vampirical, part sexual and decidedly murderous, 'Dune' reaches a peak as perverse as any in a midnight cult movie."44 May I ask who has taught children to love "gory, kinky stuff" as opposed to wholesome uplifting stuff? And what of the hypocracy of a society that creates entertainment for children involving acts which are "part vampirical, part sexual and decidedly murderous" and then wonders why there is an epidemic of child abuse. If children are fed as "entertainment" acts which depict the very abuse that society is alarmed about and then are expected to accept this with equanimity, to be amused by it, are expected not to react with alarm, then entertainment has descended to the depths of passing off as everyday occurrences behavior that is universally condemned as morally reprehensible when it occurrs in reality. This is dangerous. Our fantasies are being fueled with images of atrocities that are illegal to act out. And yet the climate created is "Well this is no big deal. These things are happening all the time. This is fun!" Complacency instead of alarm. Acceptance of gory, kinky stuff and murderous acts as part of our cultural fabric instead of repudiation. In this cultural milieu it becomes thinkable, in some people's minds, to act out their destructive fantasies. After all they saw children laughing at these same acts when they were depicted on the screen. There was an acquiescence rather than a refusal in vicariously participating in these acts as they were being depicted and as they were happening to others. It is only a small step from there to the acceptance of and acquiescence in the manifestation of these acts in reality especially if the distinction between reality and fantasy has been blurred by drugs. And then without blinking, a movie's peak can be said to be the moment when it is maximally perverse, all moral and healthy values have been shoved aside and the only consideration is how cleverly the movie titillates us.
The point is that art or entertainment should represent an ideal to be lived up to rather than a level of depravity that in reality we must not sink to. The images that we take in from our cultural environment should not be ones that we can vicariously participate in but must not live out; rather they should be images that we can wholeheartedly endorse and can be encouraged to emulate. They should pull us up rather than pulling us down.
The impact of the portrayal of negativity and violence comes about because there is no need to digest or assimilate this information. There is no efforting involved to appreciate it. It is not something to be mulled over, and for which the implications need be discussed. It is powerful and direct. And power and action are much admired in this society as opposed to the values of caring and contemplation which aren't given much more than lip service, if that. Like heroin, negativity goes directly into our nervous system and registers there with no effort on our part.
In the May 6, 1985 issue of Newsweek, Kandy Stroud quotes the lyrics of Prince's song, "Darling Nikki":
"I knew a girl named Nikki
I guess u could say she was a sex fiend
I met her in a hotel lobby
masturbating with a magazine" and goes on to say: "Unabashedly sexual lyrics like these, augmented by orgasmic moans and howls, compose the musical diet millions of children are now being fed at concerts, on albums, on radio and MTV. ...I confess to being something of a rock freak. I may be a singer of sacred music, but I've collected rock since its birth in the 50s. I've danced to it and now I do aerobics to it; I love the beat and the sound. But as both parent and musician I am concerned about the number of hit tunes that can only be called porn rock, and about the tasteless, graphic and gratuitous sexuality saturating the airwaves and filtering into our homes. ...On the album, 'Defenders of the Faith,' the group Judas Priest sings 'Eat Me Alive,' which deals with a girl being forced to commit oral sex at gunpoint. ...In concert, W.A.S.P.'s lead singer, Blackie Lawless has appeared on stage wearing a codpiece with a buzz-saw blade between his thighs. During 'The Torture Never Stops,' Lawless pretends to pummel a woman dressed in a G-string and black hood, and, as fake blood cascades from the hood, he attacks her with the blade."45 This is hardly ennobling entertainment. It is entertainment which appeals to the dark side of human nature. The value in this kind of entertainment rests solely in its ability to excite, and, since this value has superseded all others, this music is successful. It sells. Ms. Stroud goes on to say: "Aristotle said music has the power to form character. The Bach B-Minor Mass can be a link with the eternal. But while music can ennoble and inspire, it can also degrade. ...If distillers can voluntarily keep their products off the public airwaves, then the record industry can also curb porn rock-or, at the very least, make sure that kids under 17 are not allowed into sexually explicit concerts.
"And what about the musicians themselves? If 46 pop superstars can cooperate to raise millions of dollars for African famine relief with their hit 'We Are the World,' why can't musicians also ensure that America's own youth will be fed a diet of rock music that is not only good to dance to but healthy for their hearts and minds and souls as well?"
What we are seeing here is a convergence of unbridled greed with the willingness to perpetrate horror, violence and sadism. It is as if these negative values feed upon and reinforce each other. The person who cares about nothing except making a lot of money in the rock world also cares nothing about the impressionable and perhaps unstable people who might take his music seriously and try to emulate the values contained therein. We also have a convergence of cultural and national values here. We have a culture bent on the perpetration of horror and negativity and violence as a way of exploiting the market and making money, and we have a government which uses the horror of nuclear devastation as a policy tool, the violence in a policy of playing nuclear chicken, as a way of life in order to maintain an order in the world in which we can make money to say nothing of the exporting of arms as a means of generating revenue. So horror and violence permeate both our culture and our national policies and serve to reinforce each other.
The goal and content of entertainment becomes identical with the goal and content of TV commercials. Both seek to sell a product by seducing and manipulating us psychologically, by turning off our ability to think critically, and by encouraging our passive acquiescence in the consumption of their product. They want to "get to us" at a level of our being which is pre-critical, at which we are likely to be motivated solely by emotional pitches. Just as Hitler moved the masses by his appeals to the worst in a German nation which had produced the most brilliant minds by providing excitement for people who felt basically powerless and anonymous, contemporary manipulators of the mass psyche whether in the form of TV commercials or entertainment are using the same psychological mechanisms in order to sell products whether those products are albums, tapes and tickets in the case of entertainers, or cars, beer and deodorants in the case of TV commercials. Political spots have also resorted to the same use of the negative, non-informative commercial. The techniques of mind-manipulation are being used in every arena-political, economic and cultural. Even TV performers who lose their shows due to low ratings can self-produce their own commercials and get right back on TV hawking a product instead of a message. Richard Simmons now sells Deal-a-Meal using the same techniques that he used to advocate weight loss and exercise. He probably makes the same amount of money either way and his message is essentially the same either way.
A society infused not with love but with greed and negativity can well be said to be alienated both from itself and from the rest of the world. Erich Fromm had this to say.
"Marx recognized what becomes of human needs in an alienated world, and he actually foresaw with amazing clarity the completion of this process as it is visible only today. While in a socialist perspective the main importance should be attributed 'to the wealth of human needs, and consequently also to a new mode of production and to a new object of production,' to 'a new manifestation of human powers and a new enrichment of the human being,' (Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, p140) in the alienated world of capitalism needs are not expressions of man's latent powers, that is, they are not human needs; in capitalism, 'every man speculates on creating a new need in another in order to force him to a new sacrifice, to place him in a new dependence, and to entice him into a new kind of pleasure and thereby into economic ruin. Everyone tries to establish over others an alien power in order to find there the satisfaction of his own egoistic need. With the mass of objects, therefor, there also increases the realm of alien entities to which man is subjected. Every new product is a new potentiality of mutual deceit and robbery. Man becomes increasingly poor as a man; he has increasing need of money in order to take possession of the hostile being. The power of his money diminishes directly with the growth of the quantity of productioni.e.his need increases with the increasing power of money. The need for money is, therefor, the real need created by the modern economy, and the only need which it creates. The quantity of money becomes increasingly its only important quality. Just as it reduces every entity to its abstraction, so it reduces itself in its own development to a quantitative entity. Excess and immoderation become its true standard. This is shown subjectively, partly in the fact that the expansion of production and of needs becomes an ingenious and always calculating subservience to inhuman, depraved, unnatural and imaginary appetites. Private property does not know how to change crude need into human need; its idealism is fantasy, caprice and fancy. No eunuch flatters his tyrant more shamefully or seeks by more infamous means to stimulate his jaded appetite, in order to gain some favor, than does the eunuch of industry, the entrepreneur, in order to
acquire a few silver coins or to charm the gold from the purse of his
dearly beloved neighbor. (Every product is a bait by means of which the individual tries to entice the essence of the other person, his money. Every real or potential need is a weakness which will draw the bird into the lime. Universal exploitation of human communal life. As every imperfection of man is a bond with heaven, a point at which his heart is accessible to the priest, so every want is an opportunity for approaching one's neighbor with an air of friendship, and saying, 'Dear friend, I will give you what you need, but you know the conditio sine qua non. You know what ink you must use in signing yourself over to me. I shall swindle you while providing you enjoyment.' The entrepreneur accedes to the most depraved fancies of his neighbor, plays the role of pander between him and his needs, awakens unhealthy attitudes in him, and watches for every weakness in order, later, to claim the remuneration for this labor of
All this was written before the drug crisis in the US, but it is easy to see how accurately and completely Marx captured the spirit of the depravity that ensues when one will sell anything to one's neighbor for money-even that which will destroy him. Marx has foreseen that freedom in capitalistic societies is interpreted as the freedom to consume as opposed to the freedom of self-development. He also hints at the fact that there is a tendency for legitimate products, ones which enhance the quality of life rather than denigrate it, to be overshadowed and forced out of the marketplace by products which appeal to the darker side of human nature, are more exciting, but ultimately are degrading to producers and consumers alike. This is especially true in the world of art and entertainment as we have seen.
Marx's concept of freedom had to do with the flowering, the free self-development, of the individual outside the realm of necessity, of work. To this end socialism, the rational organization of the means of production to satisfy man's true needs with the least expenditure of energy, was the precondition for freedom. "Beyond it [the realm of necessity] begins that development of human power, which is its own end, the true realm of freedom, which, however, can flourish only upon that realm of necessity as its basis. The shortening of the working day is its fundamental premise."47 Freedom is seen by Marx as free time rather than free selection among a variety of consumer goods. The purpose of this free time was the overcoming of alienation, alienation from self, alienation from one's fellow man, alienation from nature. Quoting Fromm: "Socialism for Marx was, as Paul Tillich put it, 'a resistance movement against the destruction of love in social reality.'"48 As we have seen, even the free selection of goods in the marketplace in a capitalistic society is an illusion since goods which are conducive to human well-being get forced out of the marketplace by goods which cater to a quick fix. Thus the only freedom of selection we have is among products which are available to us and these tend to be, almost by some invisible and inexorable law, products which produce alienation-an alienation from the values of love and kindness and gentleness and peace-because these things are not exciting, do not provide a rush of adrenalin, are not a quick fix. Also it must be stressed that products available in the marketplace are products provided for consumers by producers, by economic power centers, in the interest of making a profit. The option set available over which the consumer has supposedly "free choice" is not the same as the set that might be specified if the consumer had direct control and could specify which products should be produced and made available in the first place.
It is interesting that John Stuart Mill, one of the great original thinkers of the Western world regarding the value of freedom, had much the same concept of freedom as Marx. In his monumental work, "On Liberty," he writes: "If it were felt that the free development of individuality is one of the leading essentials of well-being; that it is not only a coordinate element with all that is designated by the terms civilization, instruction, education, culture, but is itself a necessary part and condition of all those things, there would be no danger that liberty should be undervalued, and the adjustment of the boundaries between it and social control would present no extraordinary difficulty. ...Among the works of man which human life is rightly employed in perfecting and beautifying, the first in importance is surely man himself."49 This emphasis on the development of man's inner resources as the true aim and expression of freedom goes counter to the concept of freedom which has been meticulously cultivated in this society. To a large extent, TV commercials have identified their products with the country itself and with the values of the society, chief among them in the US being the value of freedom. In order to use the concept of freedom in the service of selling their products, however, it must be changed from its historical meaning and given a new meaning consistent with the goals of the businessmen who wish to sell their products.
So freedom has come to consist, to a large extent, in the choice among a multitude of products as in the slogan of 7-11, "Freedom of Choice," that is in the selection of their products. There is also the freedom of exhilaration you will feel when you consume certain products as they are hyped. The American way of life has come to mean, for a lot of people, the freedom to have a large selection of consumer goods available to them. This is the American value that we will fight and die for and nobody better tamper with. However, it is precisely this value that places us in an adversarial relationship with most of the rest of the world's population who either live in poverty or at a fraction of the level of material affluence of most Americans. The US has 6% of the world's population but consumes 40% of the world's resources. We literally take their stuff and haul it back here to consume it often using their cheap labor to process it for us prior to our consumption. To protect and ensure our freedom, our way of life, which consists in appropriating an unfair share of the world's resources to ourselves, we are willing to fight and to die. It is unthinkable that we should be willing to lower our standard of living so that there would be a more equitable distribution of material resources around the world and so that the rest of the world's population who are living in poverty should be pulled above the poverty line. So our freedom to consume conflicts with the freedom of the poor of the world to consume. In the Reagan era, American consumption has gone on unabated. The only difference is that we are going into hock via the national budget and trade deficits to maintain it. Thus foreigners are gaining control over the American economy and industrial base simply by catering to our propensity to consume and extending us credit. Thus not only are we not using our wealth and cutting back on our consumption to help other less fortunate nations, we are losing our wealth in order to maintain our addiction to consumption.
Again Mill is saying the same thing as Marx in only a slightly different way and that is that the purpose of freedom is self-development or the full flowering of one's individuality, and that freedom itself consists of the free time and the means to do this. The implication here is that some work, some efforting is involved if one is to develop his individuality. This is at odds with the prevalent more that one is doing his patriotic duty by sitting back and passively consuming products, products which are guaranteed to give us a rush of immediate excitement here and now. By contrast, the development of some skill or ability may be somewhat boring and the gratification to be gained from the exercise of that skill or ability may be somewhere down the road. "Having said that the individuality is the same thing with development, and that it is only the cultivation of individuality which produces, or can produce, well-developed human beings, I might here close the argument; for what more or better can be said of any condition of human affairs than that it brings human beings themselves nearer to the best thing they can be."50
The notion of freedom in our society has been distorted from the traditional Western value to mean the freedom to have even at the expense of the have-nots. Protecting this fact is what protecting American interests around the world really means. In actuality there is no inherent conflict between Eastern and Western values. The ideas of Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill regarding freedom are essentially the same. Christian values underpin societal values in the East and are adhered to in principle-but violated in actual fact-in the West. The conflict between East and West is really a conflict between the national interests of the US and the USSR rather than a conflict between two different value systems.
THE TWO COMPETING VALUE SYSTEMS
The notion of freedom in the Western world seems to be basically that freedom consiste of the freedom to havei.e.to possess material objects. One is more free in proportion to the quantity and quality of material objects which he may possess. Since all that is required for the possession of material objects is money, one's freedom is proportional to the amount of money one possesses. Hence one pursues freedom by pursuing money. An increase in the number of hours per week spent working is desirable in order that one may make more money, be able to have more things, and hence be more free. We have already seen how this concept, while purported to be the embodiment of Western values, is actually a perversion of Western values and how one of the main architects of Western values, John Stuart Mill, is actually in agreement with Karl Marx that the essential notion of freedom consists in the free development of individual capacities and talents. This is true freedom, and the possession of material objects resulting from the prior accumulation of money would be considered an alienated form of freedom.
Marx's concept was that freedom begins where work or the struggle for survival ends. Freedom consists of the flowering of the individual in an unhampered and unfettered way, in the circumstances required for one to reach and express one's potential as a human being rather than in the ability to possess things. The possession of things is an alienated form of freedom because true happiness is the result of the self-directed development of one's innate capacities, and unhappiness results when the urge towards the development and expression of these innate capacities is frustrated or blocked, whether that comes about due to external restraining forces or due to self-imposed restraints. The blocking of the development of innate individual capacities may be political or governmental or it may come about by the manipulation and encouragement of a passive, consumption-oriented lifestyle by TV advertising. In either case individual freedom is reduced. It should be pointed out that, while there is a natural urge towards the development and expression of one's innate capacities, doing this requires some work, some expenditure of energy on the individual's part. Self-discipline is required and laziness must be overcome. It is easier, but ultimately less rewarding, to sit back, spend money and possess things. But there is an inner emptiness, a hollowness, in the individual who neglects his inner development and seeks happiness in the possession of material objects.
In the Marxian value system, reduction in the quantity of hours spent working "for a living" is desirable. The work necessary to produce the necessities of life should be organized in the most logical, efficient, effective and rational manner in order to minimize the necessary work and in order to create and enlarge the amount of free time-the time within which one can develop his capacities as a civilized, cultured, self-actualized and transcendant human being. Where this concept of freedom involving self-development meets with resistance has to do with the fact that this process requires some self-repression or self-discipline on the part of the individual. While rejecting external repression imposed by outside forces such as nature or the State, the individual must choose, although the form and circumstances are freely chosen, to impose repression to some extent on himself, paradoxically enough, in order to become free, in order to overcome alienation, in order to be at one and at peace with himself and his fellow man. The unwillingness to impose some measure of self-repression predisposes one to seek to make money and things the repository of one's happiness, to find happiness not in an internal state but in an external object. This leads to alienation and disillusion and to a lack of being at one and at peace with one's self and one's fellow man since things aren't the source of our happiness. A vicious circle develops. The more we try to find happiness in external things, the less happy and at peace we are, the more we need more external things in a desparate strategy that we will be happy if only we have more. This leads to a preoccupation with controlling and self-appropriating the external world, and since we are not at peace with (in fact we are alienated from) our fellow man, and they are presumably vying for the same resources, we must be concerned about controlling them too. Being unwilling to impose self-discipline on ourselves leads to the attempt to control the environment and our fellow man which leads ultimately to war. This veritable addiction to material things is similar to addiction to drugs.
The Marxian value system and concepts concerning freedom, alienation and happiness are very similar to those held by people in the human potential movement. Abraham Maslow in "Towards a Psychology of Being"51 talks about a hierarchy of needs with D-needs at the bottom and B-needs at the top. D-needs (deficit needs) are the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter etc. Once these needs are fulfilled, so the theory goes, the individual will be motivated to go on to fulfill the higher order or B-needs (being needs) which have to do with more fully expressing his potential as a human being. Maslow's D-needs and B-needs roughly correspond to Marx's socially necessary work (the work necessary to provide the basic necessities of life) and the activities entered into in one's free time which result in the "flowering of the individual." The two concepts of human needs are very similar as are the two concepts of freedomi.e.freedom to develop one's potential (B-needs) rests on the necessary work required to produce the necessities of life (satisfaction of one's D-needs). When the satisfaction of a need is blocked at any level, one's growth and flowering is blocked also and one is fixated on that need until the impediment is removed as is necessary so as to satisfy the need and move on to the next stage. The impediment may be external such as a repressive or manipulative society or internal such as a fixation or neurosis. The individual's growth is stymied and he is unable to satisfy higher order needs and to fulfill his potential. A revolution in the external world or an important insight or revelation in one's internal world might be, depending on circumstances, the therapy required to remove the block so that the individual may progress in his development. People who are free from external restraints but yet are unwilling to progress in their self-development, may become fixated at the material level attaching an exaggerated importance to the value of material things and projecting their self-alienation onto their enemy. These people, sensing their own inner weakness, seek to become strong in the same way they seek to become happyi.e.in the possession of external things-in this case armaments and weapons, most notably nuclear weapons. There is an attempt to assuage the inner emptiness by the possession of more and more things while the assuaging of the inner weakness is attempted by the possession of more and more nuclear weapons. The reasons for the inner alienation and lack of peace are projected on one's enemy, namely the Soviet Union. The weaker one feels as an individual, the more is the need for external armaments, the greater is the need to procure one's sense of security by buying it with money, by spending more and more money on the Defense budget.
This at least is a plausible explanation for the arms race. No matter how many weapons we have, no matter if we have the explosive power of 1000 tons of TNT for every man, woman and child on the face of the earth, we never feel secure because it is a law of human nature that we can never feel secure in this way just as we can never find happiness in the possession of more and more material things even when we know that overconsumption and underactivity lead to cancer and heart disease. In the same way we place our reliance on nuclear weapons even when we know that, objectively speaking, we are hastening the day when the death of the human species wil occur.
There has been much written to suggest that unless we come to terms with our real needs and desires and attain a degree of psychological health, our energy will flow into unhealthy and morbid channels. From "Life Against Death," by Norman O. Brown: "It also begins to be apparent that mankind, unconscious of its real desires and therefore unable to obtain satisfaction, is hostile to life and ready to destroy itself. Freud was right inpositing a death instinct, and the development of weapons of destruction makes our present dilemma plain: we either come to terms with our unconscious instincts and drives-with life and with death-or else we surely die."52 So long as we are bombarded by false messages in a society in which advertisers have a vested interest in obfuscating what our real needs and desires are, our becoming healthy individuals and hence a healthy society is made that much more difficult. The frustration of our real needs by our co-option in the pursuit of false needs created by advertisers leads to a perversion in which we become more and more at the mercy of the Death instinct and more and more willing to entertain the acceptability of the notion of nuclear mass destruction.
Again, Brown corroborates the deliberate confusion of the consumer through advertising: "Modern economic theory, which accepts as given and unquestionable the demands that appear on the market (the 'randomness of ends'), is accepting as given and unquestionable the irrationality of human demand and consumption patterns. Once again we see the spurious character of modern 'rationality.' What the elegant laws of supply and demand really describe is the antics of an animal which has confused excrement with aliment and does not know it, and which, like infantile sexuality, pursues no 'real aim.' Having no real aim, acquisitiveness, as Aristotle correctly said, has no limit. Hence the psychological premise of a market economy is not, as in classical theory of exchange, that the agents know what they want, but that they do not know what they want. In advanced caqpitalist countries advertising exists to create irrational demands and keep the consumer confused; without the consumer confusion perpetuated by advertising, the economy would collapse."53 Brown's point is that the more we deny our true needs and desires as human beings and instead acquiesce in the pursuit of things as we are encouraged to do by advertising, the more devitalized we become, the more preoccupied with death and destruction we become and the more life comes to resemble a quasi-death. "The more the life of the body passes into things, the less life there is in the body, and at the same time the increasing accumulation of things represents an ever fuller articulation of the lost life of the body. ...The transformation of life into death-in-life, which is the achievement of higher civilization, prepares mankind to accept death. ...This withdrawal of Eros hands over culture to the death instinct;..."54
Herbert Marcuse has recognized the extent to which modern capitalism is dependent on convincing people that the false options it offers are really worthwhile and, what's more, are really the only ones available. "Still, the guilt is there; it seems to be a quality of the whole rather than of the individuals-collective guilt, the affliction of an institutional system which wastes and arrests the material and human resources at its disposal. The extent of these resources can be defined by the level of fulfilled human freedom attainable through truly rational use of the productive capacity. If this standard is applied, it appears that, in the centers of industrial civilization, man is kept in a state of impoverishment, both cultural and physical. Most of the cliches with which sociology describes the process of dehumanization in present-day mass culture are correct; but they seem to be slanted in the wrong direction. What is regressive is not mechanization and standardization but their containment, not the universal co-ordination but its concealment under spurious liberties, choices and individualities. The high standard of living in the domain of the great corporations is restrictive in a concrete sociological sense: the goods and services that the individuals buy control their needs and petrify their faculties. In exchange for the commodities that enrich their life, the individuals sell not only their labor but also their free time. The better living is offset by the all-pervasive control over living. People dwell in apartment concentrations-and have private automobiles with which they can no longer escape into a different world. They have huge refrigerators filled with frozen foods. They have dozens of newspapers and magazines that espouse the same ideals. They have innumerable choices, innumerable gadgits which are all of the same sort and keep them occupied and divert their attention from the real issue-which is the awareness that they could both work less and determine their own needs and satisfactions."55 Marcuse sees that the "rational use of the productive capacity" leads to freedom, not enslavement, because
1) it leads to less work and more free time and
2) it leads to production for real human needs and wants instead of production for which the need is created through advertising.
What this society has produced and intends to produce is a malleable consumer and a docile worker: a consumer whose consumption patterns can be dictated and altered to suit the exigencies of corporate suitability and a worker who accepts the terms and conditions of his employment-a non-critical attitude towards the nature of his employer's business and a work week that consumes the energy and time that might have been put into the development of his individual capacities for life.
We have seen how the positing of choices by the corporate power structure creates false choices for the individual and deceives him into thinking he has a "free" choice over the options available to him in either production or consumption. In the next chapter we develop the theoretical underpinnings for a system which truly allows the individual free choice because the choices originate with him and not with the corporate power structure which then offers them to him. Our contention is that a way out of the current impasse and rivalry betwee the superpowers which has brought us to the verge of extinction as a species is to see that
1)both of the societal systems of the US and the USSR are flawed, incomplete and in the process of historical evolution and, therefore, are not inherently worth a nuclear war in order to project the values of the one society on the other and the rest of the world, indeed, if there were any people left on whom to project those values;
2) we are at a juncture in history at which a synthesis of these two rivalling social systems can be visualized which incorporates the positive aspects of each while respecting the negative aspects.
We have shown that a social system which incorporates the economic rights of the USSR and the political rights of the US would be more in accordance with the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This system would eliminate what remains of the political repression of the USSR while eliminating the economic repression and poverty of the US.
We also envision a social system in which the political concept of democracy is extended to the economic realm and the economic concept of communism is extended to the political realm; in which the economic concept of the market is extended to the political realm and to the realm of socialistic economics. "To each according to his need" becomes synonomous with free individual choice; central planning and corporate choice-setting become replaced with individually generated choices and preferences; political and economic markets become responsive to individual demands instead of shaping the domains of choice which are then imposed on individuals. Economic democracy does not mean that economic solutions collectively chosen by democratic means are then collectively applied. It means that each individual has one share of economic power. By interposing the word "market" as in economic market democracy, we mean to imply both that economic power is shared equally and that economic solutions, while arrived at collectively, are responsive to individual choices or demands and are applied individualistically. Similarly, political market communism implies that political solutions arrived at collectively by means of a democratic procedure can be individually tailored to each according to his needs, choices and demands. Choices made collectively do not have to be applied collectively, and the overall social choice can be the sum total of individual choices arrived at via a collective procedure.
Command economies and corporate planning for mass consumption mean that the individual has been disempowered and that decisions are being made for him by corporate and political entities and power structures. Individual values demand that the individual be reempowered and reenfranchised and that societal structures become respponsive to individual demands, choices and preferences. Developing a societal structure capable of doing this is the task of Chapter 3.
The important point for the Western world is that the concepts of freedom, equality and justice which are inherent in democracy should be extended to the economic realm. Likewise, for the Eastern world, those same concepts which are inherent in socialsm and communism should be extended to the political realm. A society which encompasses both political and economic rights as well as the just and fair democratic social decision making mechanisms which are incorporated in democracy and socialism, can be visualized today. Such a society can not only be visualized but can also be described with a great depth of theoretical detail.
The ensuing discussion will be an attempt to concretize and generalize the concepts of freedom, equality and democracy. We then show how these concepts of social decision-making carry over into the economic realm and become a generalization of socialism. To do this we need to get quite technical, even mathematical, in our discussion. One of the things we are attempting to do in this book is to merge and integrate the technical and polemical literature, the artistic and the scientific.
END OF CHAPTER 2