Response to Two Objections to Free Farms

Roland Stahl
May, 2020

     My proposals for the total makeover of the planet may seem to strike some people as pretty radical.  To be sure, my solutions suggest alternative social, economic, and political arrangements that are entirely new, and this strains the limits of tolerance for Novelty.  I know that I have long ago exceeded my quota of novelty, and yet novelty continues to interest me.  Radical literally means going to the root of a problem to make changes.  That’s what I want to do.  

     My most radical idea is not the concept of a Seminary of candidates, enrolled from early youth to form a very special school which will hold the sovereignty of the earth in trust, and will select one of their number to exercise the authority, as coming from God, or Gaia, to direct the unfolding evolution of the planet.  No; while a bit rare, it is not without precedent ~ the original inspiration was the Dalai Lama of Tibet, simply expanding the single selection into a small school to safeguard against abuse or failure of the idea.  A closer analogy is a hive of bees.  A small number of ordinary worker bees are selected to form a special school, raised on an extra rich environment of “royal jelly” so that they grow into queens.  Then, one of that school of queens finally takes on the role for life.  That matches my idea very closely.

     No; the truly radical idea is the new concept of the utility and meaning of “money.”  In my contemplative moods, I have thought of “money” as a sort of universal abstraction, like “time” ~ it is simply a way of making measurement.  Any system can be best understood by the movement of money, in the same way that an electrical appliance can be understood by following the trail of electric current.  One of the applications of this idea is that almost any “problem” can be addressed most effectively by a judicious application of the principles of money.  A case in point is my “resource depletion tax.”  Rather than come up with all kinds of complicated legislation protecting trees and other resources in one way or another, a simple tax can be employed to accomplish the environmental objectives in an efficient and targeted manner.  

     Another example is the criminal justice system.  Instead of locking people up in jails at great public expense, offenses can be payable in cash, and judgments might be made in terms of percentages of net worth, rather than set amounts (or, for poorer people, a high set amount can be charged against their permanent account at the Bank).  For major crimes, total confiscation of all property might ensue (with additional charges possibly added to the offender’s account, keeping them effectively confined to the free farms, like house arrest, since, without a credit account at the Bank, your identity card wont authorize any transaction anywhere).  So there would be no need for jails.  Ne’er-do-wells might often wash up on the shores of the free farms, but if they are simply allowed a place to live in peace, they may not need to develop other problems.  One of the arguments in favor of the free farm is that it prevents the whole host of gremlins that are caused by the need for money.  The social costs to society from the root cause of poverty ~ everything from theft and murder to fraud, prostitution, drugs, and gambling ~ are huge annual expenses.  The free farms may not make all of that go away, but it will greatly reduce the need for any of it.  

     In fact, a lot of the problems world-wide could be solved by implementing these free farms everywhere.  Suppose you go to Syria and say that you want to set up free farms immediately where everyone is welcome to come and live in peace, with free food forever.  The only condition is that all warring parties give up their disputes, and forget about it (“leave your guns at the door”).  Everyone just retires, and goes off to live in peace at the free farms springing up everywhere.  People might literally be using their weapons as agricultural implements, as they live the good life on the farm, being housed and fed by their gracious hosts.  

     Suppose there were a broker at the high stakes table auctioning off the cost of war.  If you could buy that debt at a futures price, and then you feed all of those hungry people, you could cash in your war bonds at enormous profit.  Offer that deal in Yemen, for example ~ end of story (quod erat demonstrandum).  Give me five years of a war budget in advance for Yemen, and then I would just feed everyone, and keep the money.  That’s a deal I think anyone in Yemen would take on the spot.  It’s cheap, I tell you ~ just feed them.  It’s no different in Chicago.  

     But my radical spin on the power of money is to consider “money” not just to be a medium of exchange, and certainly not some manifestation of debt.  (I really have to laugh at the joyous enthusiasm of bankers who are eager to explain to you how money can be understood as being all based on debt! The Bankers of the world have their thumbs on the scale, laughing all the way to the Bank.) I consider that the most useful concept of money is that it is an expression of the manifestation of God.  Specifically, when the Bank issues funds for any purpose ~ buying food for the Free Farms, paying the people planting trees all over the planet, cultivating the earth as a garden ~ those are funds which may be used to pay the property tax, which will be collected annually by the Bank from all owners of property.  This annual taxation on the owners of property will maintain a demand for the currency, stabilizing its value.  

     This puts the State into the position of having unlimited funding for any purpose whatsoever!  Funding, in other words, would no longer be an issue, since it would be created by fiat by the Advocate for the Tree through the Bank.  There is no “cost” at all associated with any of the projects of the State ~ the free farms, the roads and bridges, education, transport, health care ~ in every case, the Bank simply issues payment for whatever needs to be done.  This money can circulate, and, through the “Thomas Jefferson Effect” (by which wealth and power always tend to accumulate upwards), it ends up in the hands of the wealthy and powerful, whose property and other wealth will be taxed as needed to balance the money supply (in balance with the funds created by fiat, the taxed amounts would be simply erased).  What all of this means is that the wealthiest few at the top will be the ones who will ultimately pay for the planting of billions of trees, free education, free health care, free infrastructure and transport, and the free farms, where the poorer members of society will always be sure of a place to live in peace for free.  

     Let me address directly those very holders of wealth and power: I don’t want to confiscate your wealth, or put an end to free enterprise.  All I want you to do is to shoulder the burden, and pay the tax!  Not only will the cost of all of this be slight to you with your billions, but the extended peace and stability of society will greatly stimulate trade and all economic activity.  A brave new world something like I am suggesting will herald in a new Golden Age, with a burst of prosperity and creative evolution on every hand.  These times will represent great opportunities for prescient capitalists to devise new ways to hoover up all of this money the Bank is putting out.  (I think somewhere I mentioned the image of the huge armored trucks leaving every day from the provinces to Manila, carrying the day’s take from the lottery, in the Philippines ~ the stark reality impressed me profoundly at the time.  Why do so many people line up to pay the “stupid tax”?)

     And, as for you third-generation billionaires who are just trying to hold on to what you have, as long as your business ventures are not liable to the clutches of the resource depletion tax (which may be broadly interpreted to deal with new issues as they come up, and in some instances may seem to be quite confiscatory), “you will be free to carry on with your business as usual.”  ahem

     I can’t help being long-winded; I have long-winded ideas, after all.  I am just finally coming around to the topics of the present essay, the objections to the Free Farms.  One objection is that if anyone can just go and live for free at the Farm, no one would do any work, and everyone would just lie in the sun all day.  But the objection is a non-sequitur.  Life on the Free Farm might be a good choice for a great many people, but there will always be plenty of others who will want to rise above the herd, and live at a higher level of comfort.  In fact, here comes a major digression into the social distinctions between Sharpeners and Levelers (cf. two articles from More Laughter ~ A Review of Zeitgeist, and The Apple of Discord).  

     In broad distinction, Sharpeners live in a world in which they try to maximize advantages for themselves.  They make distinctions, and they make judgments of value.  Levelers, by contrast, are more into living together in harmony as one (literally, “one love”).  These categories apply to metaphysics as per Sharpeners representing the Yang direction of energy outward, away from the center, and Levelers representing the Yin direction of energy inwards, towards the center.  We have seen movements in history which may be seen clearly in terms of the influence of sharpeners or levelers.  We have seen the recent swings of extreme yang energy, and some pretty extreme sharpening, brought suddenly to its knees, as everyone stops what they were doing, and goes in again to the center, to their own life and home.  For the present, the huge whirlwind of yang sharpener energy has all stopped, and the air and water is cleaner for it, and no one wants to consume any more oil (I was there, in May, 2020).

     And so it may turn out that a large part of the world’s people will simply choose to live happily at peace, tending the garden on the free farm.  If half the world’s people want to lie in the sun or make music or make love (but we will have to get to the issue of babies), that is great ~ how much more gentle on the earth that would be than the present scramble for money.  No one should have to sell chewing gum or batteries on subway cars ~ just retire, and go live on the free farm.  There is enough food capacity on the planet to feed everyone.  

     Here is a very simple idea of free farm structure ~ there are only two classes of people ~ the Stewards, and the Volunteers.  The Stewards are the responsible core who take care of the land, and the Volunteers are just that, and will work under the direction of the Stewards.  Work will be entirely voluntary.  There are plenty of totally helpless people in the world who just can’t cope with it enough to take any responsibility at all, and the simple solution is to just let them lie in the sun and sleep it off.  There should be enough volunteer help to maintain the physical environment of the farm as a well cultivated garden.  There should actually be little additional cost that might be needed to maintain the farms.  There is so much available “free merchandise” in the world, that there is no real cost associated with sending it all to the free farms ~ used clothing and donated merchandise of all kinds ~ manufacturers’ outdated merchandise, etc.  Even food should be plentiful enough, if the State simply pays generously to organic farmers for their produce, and distributes it through the non-profit food stores (which could even sell some food below cost, avoiding the fluctuations of market swings) and the free farms, some of which might be net food producing.  The Free Farms would pay no tax.  

     But, on the other side of the tracks, there will always be plenty of Sharpeners in the world.  In general, the poorer the people, the more densely they are housed.  At the farms, a bed will be found for everyone, but they will just be dormitories, even for the Stewards, unless the eventual prosperity of some of the farms allows them to develop more personal space.  Healthy and nutritious food will be available for everyone, but if you want the Maine lobster, or the January strawberries, à la Marie Antoinette, you’re on your own.  Some people will not want to eat with others in general, either cafeteria style or more gracious dining, but will want to maintain their own place where they can offer greater comfort for their guests.  The whole yang world of Sharpeners will always be with us, just like the Poor (but not all Levelers are necessarily poor), and they will always be part of some of the most interesting aspects of evolutionary civilization.  In contrast, from the sharpeners’ point of view, “Here are all of these stoned-out free-farmers doing nothing but playing music and making love all day,” at least when they are not working in the garden.  Travelers all over the world would always find a welcome to stay for free at any of the free farms.  It sounds like fun.  I’m ready for the flowers, the tinkling bells, the guitars or violins, or that Baroque oboe.  

     Life will be very much different in the two different worlds ~ a world of Sharpeners, and a world of Levelers.  The Sharpeners would be mostly in the cities, while the Levelers would feel more at home in the country.  Of course, there will be plenty of cross-overs.  Perhaps a tired, burnt-out, or bored sharpener wants to just give it all up and live a simple life in the garden.  And perhaps, after some time at the Free Farm, someone will want to try his hand sharpening again, and there will always be employment offices at every farm, offering wage jobs to anyone who wants to work.  

     But there is a second argument too.  Sometimes the Sharpeners don’t like the idea of supporting all the Levelers.  They work hard, sharpening all day, while the free-farmers just loaf around, doing little or nothing (distinguished from more industrious commercial farmers, whose property would be taxed).  But it shouldn’t really cost all that much to feed the hungry ~ once a farm would reach a certain maturity, it would probably be close to self-supporting.  In fulfillment of the Leveling philosophy, the net profit or loss of the Farm should end up being pretty close to zero.  

     But it even goes beyond that.  In a world which has clearly way surpassed its allowable limit of human beings (and falling desperately low in the biological health of the surviving plants, animals, and people), there is the issue of how to deal with the birth rate.  Taking the idea of money as a universal abstraction, I can suggest that putting a simple “resource depletion tax” on babies could adjust the birth rate as needed, with the amount of the tax varying as needed to maintain the birth rate within the targeted range (a gradual reduction of numbers from 7 billion down to 2 or 3 billion, or whatever seems sustainable).  

     One of the consequences of this baby tax is that it would be something you need money for, in order to pay the tax.  So that means that most free farmers, unless they have their own resources, will not be able to pay that tax, or will not be willing to go to work to earn the cost of the tax.  Meals and lodging, used clothing, and access to tools and merchandise could all be free, at negligible cost to the rest of society, but the baby ticket would have to be extra.  Perhaps it will be a major incentive to sharpeners who want to have children and provide for them, so they will want to earn enough money to do that in comfort.  

     Using money in this way as a universal abstraction to address problems, the problems will effortlessly diminish towards zero, or balance, as the planet stabilizes at the highest level of human habitation that the planet can support.  And if the whole planet be systematically cultivated as a garden, as the prime directive of the head of the Bank, the whole earth should see its biological environment gradually evolve into something more sustainable, something much more green.  Think bicycles and family farms.  If enough trees be planted soon enough, the climate should eventually stabilize, and life can go on.  

     Literally every square and cubic meter of the planet should be mapped in a database which includes recommended land use evolution, maximizing the cultivation of the most valuable trees that any region and its water systems can support, along with secondary vegetation, animals, and people.  The biological health of the land itself, the planet Earth, Gaia, will always have to be of primary importance for the Advocate for the Tree, as head of the Bank.  Priorities will be given to land use improvements that will have the most important beneficial effects, or mitigate the more harmful effects of biological degradation, like soil erosion or oceanic necrosis.  As always, apart from feeding hungry people, it all comes down to planting more trees as fast as we can.  Our survival depends upon it.  

     To me, this looks like turning darkness into light.  I don’t think there has ever been a time in human history that looked as dark as the present day, with climate change, international economic and political instability (euphemism for chaos), and a raging maniac in the White House all converging at the same time as this pesky virus.  And yet, it could all be turned around in a moment.  

      Well, perhaps this may actually take a few hundred years or so to turn around ~ only a geological moment ~ but all the more reason to get started immediately, while we still have a choice about how the rest of it unfolds.

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