to the Problems of the Present Day
A Blueprint for International Prosperity and World Peace
Copyright © 1992
The Evanescent Press
The Source of Authority
The Church of the Living Tree
Thomas Jefferson and his compatriots who so well declared the principle that all authority resides ultimately with the people, rather than with established governments, would be turning over in their graves if they thought that the Constitution which they created in response to the needs of the times were to be worshipped as holy writ forevermore.
In the words of Thomas Jefferson from the Declaration of Independence, “it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security.” “that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” It is the responsibility of each generation to arrange their own affairs.
The world has changed enormously just over the past few years, with the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, movements towards ever more coherent unity in Western Europe, and volatile shifts in economic balances according to the fortunes of oil, water, booming economies in Asia and Western Europe, collapsing economies in Eastern Europe, tottering economies in North America, and the fortunes of war in the Middle East, Iraq, South Africa, Yugoslavia, Georgia, Ireland, Algeria - (insert today's news). Considering all the changes which have taken place in the world since the Declaration of Independence was written in 1776, maybe it is time to consider a fresh political arrangement more in keeping with the needs of today’s world.
Some of the more ingenious visionaries are finally realizing that economic strength is a far more reliable indicator of national strength than mere military power, however formidable. The price one pays for military strength is economic poverty. One reason for the prosperity of post-war Japan was the absence of a fat military budget.
And we all saw what finally happened to the might of the Soviet Union after the screen fell over: Oz was just a helpless old man: a humbug, after all, who didn’t really know what he was doing, and whose people couldn’t even feed themselves. Now the United States is not necessarily so far behind. We are living under a pyramid of debt that has a physical weight of its own, and will not go away any time soon without crushing whatever is underneath.
But, on top of this, so much of the worthwhile production of our labor is lost to hordes of inefficient demons and monsters, overloaded with so much chaos and confusion that it feels like we are laboring in the garden while wearing 400 pound suits of armor. There is no reason why we can’t all enjoy good health and long life in a world of peace and plenty, if only we can simplify our lives, slough off the armor, beat our swords back into plowshares, and live happily ever after, tending our trees and our gardens.
I have designed a theoretical integrated program of political, economic, and social reform that is designed to be implemented world wide, but whose principles can also be implemented by any local government or region.
There are several main areas where I propose new arrangements quite different from our present situation:
Most of my suggestions are based on a fundamental premise: that the present system is so frightfully wasteful of resources that we are squandering the accumulated wealth of the world, sliding down into poverty and despair, tension and warfare, toxic pollution and disease. If the world’s resources were more sensibly managed, it is surely possible for everyone to live a comfortable life in peace.
The miracles of endless credit allow for a system to whirl around with a life of its own greatly in excess of its theoretical balance. The pattern is for bills to come due suddenly. Most of what passes for “happening” in the world “happens” to the people who have money. But that doesn’t help the others much. Right now there are plenty of people who are broke, without funds, employment, or both. Companies are broke; federal, state, and local governments are broke. A great many individuals, companies, and governments are operating from debt. What this means is that most people and institutions are spending wealth faster than they are creating it. The present economic mess is so inefficient that we are just sliding backwards and downwards into chaos. I will never forget the amazement I felt when first confronted with the machinations of gross inefficiency masquerading as business as usual: in my youth I was briefly employed to stuff envelopes for a direct mail campaign for funding. Here were all these stacks of slickly printed promotional brochures which I was collating and stuffing into printed envelopes, and sealing. In the course of the job I learned that they did one of these direct mail campaigns twice a year. It cost them about $30,000 each time for all the printing, postage, etc. (including hiring people like me), but then they predictably received about $35,000 with each mailing. That left them with a total of $5,000 each time or $10,000 per year, which funded their activities. Free money! I was appalled. It made me sick to think of all that commotion of waste just so that a tiny film could be skimmed off the surface for their needs.
All the bureaucracies of the federal government resemble the direct mail campaign in all essential particulars. The whole whirlwind of taxation is such a commotion of waste that it just disgusts me. Never mind, for the moment, that once the government gets their hands on our money they waste it in the most foolish or criminal ways imaginable; let's just consider the whole industry of taxation in the first place. What does it cost to regulate and administer all the provisions of the tax codes? How many forests are cut down to produce those stacks and stacks of forms and bulletins and announcements? How many very expensive attorneys are grinding away their services in the toils of the taxation swindle? What is the cost for businesses to comply with all of the endless requirements of forms, busywork, and tax collection, not to mention the payments themselves? Add to all this the ongoing parade of tax tinkering shell games to obscure the facts of where the money actually comes from and where it goes. Then there’s the lobbying, the politics, the compromises, the power maneuvering, the gimmicks, the fraud, and the lies. Finally there are the armies of IRS collectors, investigators, and purveyors of confusion. And what is it all for? Does our tax system end up being “fair”? Has anything changed since the Ancien Regime in pre-Revolutionary France? It is the poor who always pay taxes, not the rich. The whole thing disgusts me. I propose to sweep it all away.
Most of the activities of government should be simply discontinued altogether; most remaining activities that are found to be useful ought to be parceled out to independent, self sufficient entities. The post office should be self sufficient, for example. All expenses of mail handling should be borne by the users. Discontinue, or greatly reduce the discounts for junk mail, and the Post Office could easily balance its budget without another rate increase, while the rest of us would be spared the tremendous waste of paper that sweeps through our post offices every day.
Expenses of the courts, police, and military establishments should be paid for by persons (or States, companies, etc.) convicted of serious crimes. Most of the expenses of maintaining military establishments, including all local police forces, should be obtained from penalties for infractions. Serious crimes could be combated with an aggressive confiscatory policy; depending on the crime, some, most, or all of a person’s wealth could be confiscated. In the case of crimes by the indigent, they could be put into labor camps until their penalties and costs were worked off. Areas of low crime would need few police; high crime areas might have the “business” to support larger police units as necessary. Unfortunately, police forces seem to be notorious for abuse of power, and need to be independently supervised.
One time I saw a pie graph of the federal budget and found it very illuminating. It was divided into three main sections plus a fourth tiny sliver. The three main sections were, in order: the military, welfare, and service on the debt. The remaining sliver represented all other functions of government. I want to slash all three main categories of expenditure to reduce the government’s voracious need for money in the first place. There is an economic role for a central government, but it doesn’t need such major budgets for such worthless programs.
The problem of military expenditures is of paramount importance, but must be addressed on an international level. Other recommendations presented here may easily be implemented by any sovereign state, but the problems of war and military expenditures can never be solved without involving all the peoples of the Earth in a negotiated solution. This may appear to be a tall order, but, with the recent collapse of Communism, there appears to be some sort of consensus emerging about the role of government. To date, no major departures from the principles of private ownership of property and a free market economy have managed to endure for very long. It may not be unthinkable that some sort of international co-operation might be reached along the lines of the proposals presented here.
Transfer payments for Welfare, Health Care, etc. represent an enormous expense, not only for the payments themselves, but also for the bureaucracies which administer the system and collect taxes to pay for it. But the payments rarely provide any real solutions for the recipients. It is always worth while to feed hungry people, but without some provision for their future welfare, they will just be hungry again in a few hours. One of the principle ideas behind the Free Farm idea, elaborated later on, is that the community of a Free Farm would constitute a kind of melting pot, where people would have an opportunity to change their lives. Where welfare payments simply provide the means to continue a lifestyle that is unproductive, the Free Farm would present opportunities for new social and economic arrangements leading to a resumption of life in “the wild world.”
The weight of inertia opposes any change (such as going to a free farm), but some such change may be advisable for persons who come into a situation of need. But instead of advocating the immediate cancellation of traditional transfer payments, I would advocate a parallel establishment of Free Farms as an alternative. Whatever the number of people who take advantage of the Free Farm arrangement, it would result in savings for the tax payers. If the Free Farm becomes a popular alternative to the welfare treadmill, it could lead to a gentle transition to a new social and economic alternative for new generations.
The National Debt is nothing short of an outrageous rip-off. Deficit financing is a scheme where bankers declare profits today by assigning the bills to future taxpayers. That is an unconscionable Ponzi scheme that does nothing productive at all. It is as bad as the direct mail solicitation scam - a big inefficient waste of money. Who do they think they're fooling? Taxpayers are justly resentful of paying taxes when so much of their money is siphoned off by moneylenders. Sure the money goes round and round, but like any machine, the more friction in the system, the more energy is lost. I want to refuse payment; the debts are not mine. Let’s unload all the monkeys from our backs, pay the cost once, and be done with it. Of course, actually paying off the national debt by printing up those million dollar bank notes would produce a hilarious situation, but it would be an instant cure; the transfer would be a swift and devastating one-time tax on players of economic musical chairs who are caught holding cash when the music stops. The World Bank would have to require payment in its own currency, and set its own rates for local currency exchange.
My solution for the remaining expenses of government that can’t be eliminated or covered in any other way is to rely almost exclusively upon a property tax. A property tax would be one of the easiest to administer and enforce, and ultimately the most equitable way of distributing the burden of taxation. There are numerous advantages of this proposal. First, it would be very easy and straight-forward to administer in a uniformly reliable way throughout the world: since the ownership of private property is one of the economic cornerstones for which there now appears to be an international consensus, there will always be records of ownership. A tax based upon the value of land would be the utmost in simplicity.
This is not, of course, a new idea. It is an ancient idea harking back to the very origins of civilization. The actual land of the Earth represents the ultimate source of wealth, after all; it makes sense that it should be the basis of taxation. It becomes a kind of rent payable to the state as the ultimate landlord. In fact, for most of recorded history, some sort of feudal, land-based economy has been the basis of wealth. It is really only in the last hundred years or so that money has been considered a commodity independent of any real attachment. If money were based upon land, there would always be a fundamental reality underpinning the system.
Of course, setting the amount of the tax on property is of the whole importance; the authority for setting these rates would be among the most important functions of the World Court and the Judge, to prevent the very common abuse of power by greedy despots, tyrants, and landlords. (At the local level of rent on private property there would be no regulation; like everything else, the free market rents would work out to a representation of the actual “value” of the land.) The tax could be collected by the World Bank which would disburse funds in accordance with budgets arranged by the States, the World Bank, and the Judge.
In each region someone has to conduct the central affairs of maintaining the roads, schools, free farms, police and fire protection, etc. They would suggest a budget for those costs which would be considered in assessing their tax rate. The World Bank, with the approval of the Judge, would accept or modify these budgets and assess the rate for the property tax. In general, it would be assumed that the cost of local services would match the local tax revenue, but there are times when an impartial, international Judge could make adjustments for special situations. For example, a devastating earthquake might ruin a region’s economy for quite a while, but the Judge might temporarily reduce or eliminate the tax assessment while still funding services. The difference involved would be made up by the wealthier nations. This tool must be used sparingly. It would not be necessary or politically popular to try to equalize the wealth of the world overnight by levying a tax - the ordinary workings of free market economics should eventually raise the living standards of the poor countries, as long as their labor be cheaper.
In general, this economic plan would not have to interfere with the ways in which each separate State or Country manages its ordinary affairs, except to safeguard freedom and prevent the abuse of power.
While the universal land tax would be the fundamental source of tax revenue, additional taxes might be levied by the same authority to modify the free market cost of resources. This means that a tax could be placed upon the extraction of resources (oil, trees, water, etc.) to reach whatever level of conservation and renewal were required. Further taxation would be imposed upon destructive activity of any kind: producers of pollution would be taxed at progressively higher rates until essential targets of pollution abatement were reached. The point is that the taxation would not be used to generate revenue, but to regulate destructive activity and promote an evolution towards sustainable and non-destructive lifestyles. At some point, the distinction between “destructive activity” taxation and financial judgments from the criminal/legal system might become moot.
The role of taxation to discourage activity is the basis of my proposal to liberate economic activity from all of the burdens which have been placed upon it over the years. If all these burdens were lifted, just think what an enormous boost it would be to commercial productivity in every way. Leaving all economic activity wide open to the action of free markets would eventually solve all economic problems, and do so pretty quickly.
Obviously, there would entail some changes in the relative balance of economic realities, but ultimately, when the dust settled, a fair and simple system would evolve that would benefit everyone. Initially, it may appear that landowners would be forced to bear a much larger burden than they currently do, since all other taxes (other than resource depletion and pollution taxes) would be eliminated, and the government would balance its budget solely with revenues from landowners. But rents would be raised to cover any additional cost of owning land. The cost of food production as well as all manufactured goods would be affected in the same way. The net effect on the economy as a whole would be the savings accomplished by simplifying the whole system. That is, any increase in land tax or rents would be more than offset by the elimination of all other taxes. Since the primary idea is to greatly reduce the total amount of taxation required in the first place, landowners would surely join in the feeling of general relief from the burden and waste of our present irresponsible tax-and-spend fiasco.
The only persons not joining in the celebration would be those involved in industries found to be harmful to the environment in some way. The resource depletion and pollution taxes would have effects ranging from minor changes in industrial activity with small loss of profits, to being totally wiped out by an unacceptable tax liability (e.g. the tobacco industry or the nuclear power industry - once the full cost of nuclear power be realized and accepted, all other forms of energy generation would be found to be much more cost-effective; any alternative would be cheaper than the true cost of nuclear power: one might cultivate oak trees to feed acorns to squirrels running on treadmills, for example.)
It may be argued that one consequence of eliminating taxes on profit or income would be to allow the few to become very wealthy at the expense of the many. But any economic activity that was making its promoters rich would be quickly copied. Competition would bring prices down to reasonable levels. Of course, many individuals and companies would become very rich when their businesses prospered, but that is the incentive for the activity! If these policies were adopted world wide (and no one else could compete who had to operate under the burdens of restriction or taxation) then all economic imbalances would eventually work themselves out.
Since most wealth really does eventually come down to the land as its ultimate source of value, the real holders of wealth, the land owners, would end up paying the tax. Renters would pay the tax at second hand, so there would remain the incentive to own the land. Businesses usually have a land base of some sort that would be taxed, but for the rest of it, let them keep their business profits! This is a considered policy. If businesses were allowed to retain their profits, without any taxation or paperwork, whether of payroll or profits or income or capital gain or anything else, then the energy and ingenuity of the liberated human spirit would galvanize the economy back into high gear real fast. If this policy were to be adopted in the United States, there would be no further problem about competing with Japan! In fact, it would quickly become imperative for every country to follow suit or else get left behind. Inevitably there would be some winners and losers whenever such major changes are made to the financial system, but I am sure that when the system adjusts to the changes and finds a new equilibrium almost everyone would feel that a great weight had been lifted.
For a long time now I have been having ideas about freedom. I keep thinking how central Freedom is to the solutions to all of the problems of the world. I keep thinking of what a radical idea it is to be Free!
I am not only thinking of political freedom here. Of course I believe in the importance of real freedom in every sense of the word, but I keep thinking about the possibilities of what it means to be Free, even when applied to the concept of money. What if everything were Free?
Of course you are thinking that this is so useless that you are probably not even reading this far. It is such an axiom of fundamental truth that everything must be measured by money. “Of course, if everything were free, then no one would do anything and everything would fall apart.”
Well, perhaps that may be true. The spirit of Freedom has raised its head time and time again, only to be beaten back by the grim face of reality. The enthusiasm of the Diggers, who wanted everything to be Free, struck a resonant chord that many of us have felt. I am an original hippie, and I am old enough to have seen the disillusion as one fragile vessel after another was cracked by the inertial entropy of the real world.
But I still believe in Freedom, and I believe that it is possible to extend the range of freedom so that more and more things can be free. Giving something away for free is a very radical act. It is as radical as loving everyone, which is another holdover 60’s myth. But as a matter of fact, loving everyone and giving everything away for free are related ideas.
There are two trends in physics: sharpening and leveling. You can call it Yang and Yin. The sharpener wants to get more for himself and less for his neighbor, and accumulate the advantage for himself. The leveler wants to nourish all life and cultivate the garden. The Sharpener wants to emphasize distinctions and select the best for himself, while the leveler emphasizes the unity and wants to share the wealth.
I think it is very liberating to give things away for free. The world is so heavily cemented into the bonds of the financial imperative that Freedom almost doesn't fit into the equation. Yet if enough of us start giving things away for free, then the market will eventually collapse. We see it on the Internet. So many people are trying to figure out ways to make money on the Internet and they are constantly frustrated because there are so many other people offering services for free. You can’t sell software anymore, because there is so much of it everywhere that is entirely free. You can’t charge for services anymore because there is someone else offering it for free. I remember when they thought that people would pay something for every visit to their site! The wealth of information and services offered for free staggers the imagination. I have published some of my books on the Internet, and what do I care if no one needs to buy my bound copies? I wasn’t publishing them to make money in the first place, and I should be (and am) delighted to save myself the trouble and expense (and waste of the earth’s resources) of actually manufacturing a physical book and sending it to someone by the Post. So there is no need to go to a site where you need to pay any money!
I want to give away food and housing. Once a Free Farm is set up, it ought to be self-supporting enough so that at least there will at least be enough food so that everyone can eat, whether or not they contribute anything to the operation of the farm. If there are enough people willing to work in the house and garden, then perhaps life will go on.
One of the major problems of our present economic system is that you really have to be part of it in order to survive. Everyone needs to have money, therefore everyone needs to have a job. Recently I heard some politician-without-portfolio (and no constructive ideas at all, simply negative ones) shouting that the Solution (to any or all of the problems of the world) was Jobs. To which I immediately came up with the response: Jobs are not the Solution; Jobs are the Problem! The way the world is evolving right now, there just aren’t enough “jobs” to go around. The necessity for everyone to have a Job, or some source of income, not only drives the fringes into robbery, murder, drug trafficking and the like, but also sets up the situation for a great many people to involve themselves in useless (or worse than useless) activity just to come up with useless products which they can advertise and promote in order to generate profit for themselves, without producing anything worthwhile. The paradox is that the very successes of the industrial and technological revolutions have created a situation in which the insufficiency of available jobs is causing the collapse of the economic system! But if non working members of society were allowed to live the simple life in peace on the Free Farm, and the remaining economic establishment were free and untaxed, the whole of civilization could enjoy a Renaissance of creative flowering.
A major chunk of government spending goes for welfare payments of one sort or another. This whole system is a failure and a fabulous waste of money. So much money gets drained off into payments that go nowhere. In fact, few of the problems for which the payments are offered are ameliorated at all by the funds. The poor and hungry and sick and unemployed remain poor, hungry, sick, and unemployed.
There are a great many reasons for poverty and financial distress: accidents, ill health, bad luck, bad judgment, changing economic climate, advancing age, or even the burden of raising a child without financial support. For a great many people, there just aren’t any jobs available. For all of these persons I would introduce a whole new economic arrangement: the Free Farm where the poor or unemployed always have the option to live at peace in a free community until such time as they wish to re-enter the competitive jungle of the free market.
Many times the stress of poverty is the major problem in a person’s life. Living a simple life with no concerns about money may allow these people to relax and become re-centered in their personal lives. Artists, writers, and many others just may not be interested in the pursuit of wealth and comfort, and would rather be free, living the simple life, to express their artistic flowerings at leisure. On the other hand, many people would probably opt for the chance to maintain their own place in the world, at a higher standard than that afforded by the free farms. The proportions would work themselves out exactly: whenever there were useful work to be done that others were willing to pay for, someone would come forward to do it, at the right price.
My conception of a Free Farm is a place in the country where everyone is welcome and everything is free. Absolutely no paperwork of any kind should be required of anyone at any time. Wander in, wander out, eat, sleep, or just lie in the sun. You may think too many lazy people would be seeking refuge at the Farm, but I don’t think so. At first there may be a lot of people checking them out, but I think most people would prefer to live by their own enterprise if they could. The facilities of the Farms would of course be very basic: dormitories, cafeterias, recycled used clothing, essential medical care only, etc. Eventually the lure of the “great wild world” might inspire someone to check into one of the available slots back in the working world.
Why should someone who is unemployed occupy expensive space in a city? And why would anyone want to live in a city anyway, unless he were tied to some employment? I think operating Free Farms would be vastly cheaper than the whole bureaucracy of welfare payments and paperwork. If the whole thing were totally free, how simple it would all be.
The farms would actually function as working farms, although they may have any other additional economic base. Anyone who is able to work may volunteer to do anything useful: planting trees (my own priority), gardening, construction, maintenance, cooking, or participation in commercial activity. All proceeds from commercial activity would go to the general fund for farm expenses.
The theory is that anyone who would remain in residence at a free farm indefinitely without doing any work at all must be just totally helpless. I think that, sooner or later, most people would want to do something useful, and later on many would prefer to move on and take a paying job outside (the farms would be natural centers for employment agencies).
On the other hand, there has never been any shortage of the totally helpless, but it would be better and certainly vastly cheaper even in the short run, and certainly in the long run, to let them live their lives in peace, than for the rest of us to be subjected to the social problems of theft, violence, madness, and despair.
In order to provide some incentive for participation, an organized core of farm members (who would make all the decisions) would be distinguished from non-member residents. Better lodgings and other benefits would provide the incentive for a resident to participate at a level that would allow for his possible election as a member after some minimum time of residence.
Since the farms would be non-profit, they would not be taxed at all. Once they were totally set up, it is possible that they might operate with little or no additional funding. In fact, well run communities, with, perhaps, a product to sell to independent individuals or companies, might do very well. Their expenses would be minimal; much of their food would be grown on the spot, labor would be volunteer. It is entirely possible that residents of prosperous communities might enjoy their lives better than they ever dreamed possible. Liberation from the stress of constant worry and hassle over money could lead to a great relaxation of tension.
In many ways this idea of the free farm is a very old socialist idea. The significant difference of my idea is that a well rounded economic and social system requires both opportunities: an untaxed free enterprise system which allows for the flowering of commercial activity for those persons who wish to obtain personal wealth, and alternative economic and social communities for those who don't.
The communities which would form around the various avenues of arrival to the free farms might enjoy considerable advantages compared with the present system. For example, single mothers, for whom raising their children is full time work (in the case of infants, of course, it is full time work for three, doing eight hour shifts), may greatly prefer to live in a free, rural environment with other mothers and children than to live on welfare in the city. The advantages of shared childcare, free local schools, and the sharing of domestic chores, might be an ideal situation. And free communities of the retired elderly might find their needs served so well that they may prefer to live on the farm even when they are not at all indigent.
If work really were voluntary, then I think there are a lot of people who would do very little work. There will be many people who will not go to the trouble to learn how to play a Baroque oboe, either. It is their loss. If they are allowed to live their lives as they wish, and the work will be done entirely by those people whose love of the earth and its people, plants, and animals impels them to contribute their part, it just may be that there will still be enough for all.
Of course I know very well that this is not for everyone. The majority of the earth’s population is composed of sharpeners, after all, and they would have no interest in any of this. The sharpeners will go on living in the Big House, and will be very satisfied with their share of life’s blessings, but I want to encourage the levelers in any way that I can, and help to set up communities where they can live in freedom and in love, cultivating the earth’s resources rather than exploiting them.
The Source of Authority
Along with Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Teilhard de Chardin, and many others, I believe that no further evolutionary progress can be made until all life on Earth is united into a single organism. In order to cultivate the garden of the Earth to its greatest potential, it is necessary to recognize the source of authority as the center of perspective which integrates the whole. The Source of Authority is obviously a theological postulate: there must be an attempt to link the final Authority with the Way, or the path of God, or that pursuit of perfection at rest in the center, as opposed to the field of confusion humming around it. In order to bring this about, a planetary consciousness must replace parochial consciousness, whether of family, state, nation, race, species, or religion. There will have to be an international language and currency, although local languages and currencies would continue in use as long as they were useful.
The agenda of a world government would be to cultivate the Earth as a garden. As a direct analogy to the individual life of a person, the life of the planet must strive first to survive, then to grow. One thing this means is that warfare has to be considered an unacceptable way of settling disputes. All hostilities must cease forthwith. International disputes must be settled through a legal process as an eco-logically friendly alternative to warfare. If the disputes of the world were resolved by a World Court with final international authority, and the peace retained by international guards, it would only be necessary to maintain very small military establishments other than local police, saving an enormous world-wide expense on so many levels.
While there are plenty of regions on the planet with obvious and uncontested boundaries, there are many spots around the world where borders and land use are hotly disputed. It may take many years to evolve solutions for some of the most troublesome spots, e.g., the Middle East, but if the legal framework of formal consideration is set in place as the Theater of Change, military confrontations would no longer be tolerated or useful. Violent demonstrations would simply impact badly upon the case of those responsible. Disputing parties would devote their efforts towards presenting their case as effectively as possible before the scrutiny of the international World Court, rather than squandering their resources and credibility in bloodshed and violence.
The international “peace dividend” that would result from a new world order based upon a final authority, would be so enormous that it would independently ensure a period of unprecedented global prosperity.
Historically, the usual way of creating political units was through conflict and conquest: “authority” was merely a variation of “power.” The history of the human race is largely the record of the abuse of power and the recurring failures of cohesion, but it is important to remember that many governments, cultivating their patch of the garden as best they could, have managed to provide, at least for brief periods, relatively favorable conditions for life to flourish.
Within comparatively recent times (the last 200 years), an experiment in democracy has been going on in the United States. In spite of the discounts which must be considered for exceptional starting advantages (the opportunity of making a fresh start with a wealth of natural resources and fertile soil), it is clear that the infant nation that followed from the designs of the founding fathers was healthy, and robust with vitality. However, as the nation begins to show signs of age, two main faults have been growing in significance: a sharpening of the inequalities of power and advantage, and an inadequate flexibility to deal with the rapidly changing requirements of contemporary problems. “The Government” is alive, and, like any living thing, it wants to grow as much as it can. Big Government has now grown so big, fat, and ponderous, feeding upon the vitality of the nation, that the people underneath it all are suffocating.
Deal the cards out however you will, the longer the game goes on, the more the gap measuring variations in relative advantage will widen and solidify. The favored group is “The Establishment” and it has always happened this way and always will happen, regardless of the political system or varieties of control. In fact, the realization of the inevitability of this pattern prompted Thomas Jefferson to suggest that a fresh revolution was necessary every twenty-seven years (the average age of a generation).
Hierarchies of wealth, power, and privilege are inevitable, but they may be flexible and moderate rather than rigid and sharp. Everyone wants to make his own life as agreeable as possible. There is also commonly a desire in good times to spread wealth to one's family and friends, and, in times of prosperity, to the rest of the world.
The best arrangement of society is one which follows all of the basic natural laws, but which is responsive and flexible. There are two principle functions in the equation of distinction: there is the degree of difference between the extremes, and the rate of change. In many parts of the world there are small civilizations of wealthy elites in the midst of large populations of downtrodden poor. Other civilizations are more equally distributed. Some of these regimes are stable, others are highly volatile. Sharpening describes the process of widening the gap; leveling describes the narrowing. A certain amount of sharpening is valuable for the pursuit of excellence, but excessive sharpening leads to instability, loss of balance, and confusion. On the other hand, the rate of change in any microcosm follows a similar pattern: more rapid change is dynamic and interesting, but if change is too rapid, confusion and chaos may follow.
In the abstract pattern of this process, there are four cardinal points of varieties of distinction: sharp and slow, sharp and fast, level and slow, level and fast. As a civilization fluctuates between these variations we see a correlation to the relative prosperity of the civilization as a whole. That is, in times of dwindling prosperity, distinctions of advantage tend to sharpen. In times of improving prosperity, distinctions tend to be less severe. Usually, it is the poorest countries that have the sharpest distinction between rich and poor. As the United States approaches the close of the second millennium, we are not surprised to discover that the gap between rich and poor is widening - it is a prime symptom of the underlying reality of a general decline in the overall prosperity of the country, both in comparison with the rest of the world, and also with its own recent history.
From time to time, capable leaders come to power one way or another and for a period of years of peace and prosperity civilization seems to fulfill its promise. Then, with the passing of the particular hero or statesman, the old confusion supervenes. The American experiment attempts to ameliorate that problem by a practice of rapid turnover of national leaders, to prevent anyone from taking advantage of a position of power for very long. Unfortunately, that has come to mean a succession of confused and blundering presidents whose vision is just too shallow to measure up to the challenge of their office.
The greatest problem with the democratic process is its tendency to produce a breed of professional politicians. What it comes down to is that the qualities necessary to be an accomplished and effective politician are entirely different from the qualities required of a competent national leader. The political presence is so close to the surface that political authority fluctuates like a daily stock quotation. At a time when it is absolutely essential for any national leader to consider as large a context of time as possible, we have a situation where every president spends half of his term of office campaigning for re-election. When it is necessary to have a detached, objective viewpoint to conceive coherent long term designs involving the whole Earth, we have politicians dependent on the whims of every special interest of the moment backed by money or influence. What this means is that we do not have a government with sufficient integrity and authority to correct the abuses of advantage which the greedy and ruthless have been quietly accumulating over the years.
When the American constitution was written, its authors could not possibly have foreseen the circumstances which exist in the world today. Thomas Jefferson may have been overzealous with his revolution every twenty-seven years, but it certainly seems to me to be time to design a new system of social, economic, and political order encompassing not only the entire family of the human race, but also the entire life force of the Biosphere of the whole planet.
Plato suggested long ago that national leaders should be selected in advance and given the most careful training from their earliest youth. The kind of perspective required for exercising primary responsibility for the welfare of a large state is a very specialized one. The only way to ensure that a national leader would be prepared to handle the requirements of his office is to provide specialized training and education beginning as early as possible.
All of the various functions of government would be performed by trained professionals; the function I have in mind for the Seminary is to produce the keystone of the arch, the final Judge, who must develop a total world view which would include every aspect relevant to life on Earth. I see a need for someone who can rise above the level of personal interest, and identify himself not only with the fate of the whole of humanity, but also with the entire field of life energy on Earth.
In order to cultivate this attitude, which is clearly theological, I imagine a kind of Seminary as a training ground for all the qualities most essential for world leaders. This would be a small school, perhaps one or two hundred students. Admission to this school would be by invitation of the current Judge, with the effort made to achieve wide international representation. Students might be admitted at any age, but the younger the better. The school would be generously funded, but students would not be allowed to accumulate personal wealth. There may perhaps be a trial period of a year or so during which time the Judge might expel a student, but after that trial period, each student would acquire a tenure that guarantees his status, independent of any political pressure.
The Seminary may convene at any time and elect one of their number as the Judge, according to some formula. For example, the new Judge may be elected by a simple majority (after a death or recall), but three-quarters might be required to recall his authority. It would be expected that all students would know each other well, and would make the right choice. It may be advisable to elect a line of succession at some time in advance, to guarantee a smooth transition to the chair of authority.
Some of the remaining members of the Seminary might arrange themselves into various advisory committees, while others may become instructors for the new students who would be entering the college in an ongoing cycle. A University of International Studies would grow up around the Seminary, and form the basis for preparing the decisions of the Judge. After a few generations, this specialized environment may attain more and more of an objective world view and become a powerful institution independent from and above parochial interests. The location of the school might be a secluded mountain top somewhere, although every advanced student would take frequent sabbaticals to live in some location of the real world in order to experience as wide a range of life as possible.
This whole program of reform may sound like a pipe dream, but we have seen how quickly events in the world can make yesterday’s news seem like last year’s snow. This is a time of turmoil and uncertainty. All over the world we are seeing small ethnic groups trying to forge their own political identity independent of the accidents of History. These are actually just the right conditions to favor a new ultimate unity. The alternations of Solve et Coagula (separation and union) represent very powerful natural laws. (The convergence of the forces of life on Earth into a planetary union is one example of the Omega point described by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.)
While the present ideas are designed as a whole package to reform the political, economic, and social arrangements of the world, it is possible to implement many of the ideas on a local, or at least national, basis. For example, in our own country, some of the economic reforms suggested here could dramatically improve the present situation. If they revitalize the local economy, other countries may follow suit, and the visionary goals of world union may not seem so far away.
(The printed edition of this book includes at this point an introduction tothe Church of the Living Tree. Select this link if you wish to view this information now.)
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