Chapter 6. Tyranny
Lord Acton’s dictum that power corrupts gives no idea of the extent to which flattery, deference, power, and apparently unlimited money, can upset and demoralize simpletons who in their proper places are good fellows enough. To them the exercise of authority is not a heavy and responsible job which strains their mental capacity and industry to the utmost, but a delightful sport to be indulged for its own sake, and asserted and reasserted by cruelty and monstrosity. – George Bernard Shaw, Preface to Geneva.
This chapter and the next two chapters discuss violations of the three moral axioms stated formally in Chapter 3.
Violations of the Freedom Axiom are termed simply tyranny, even when the violation amounts to no more than excessive procreation, i.e., more than one child per parent. I take this to be a form of tyranny, but the term is supposed to refer primarily to man’s domination of man. The domination of a person is an imposition upon that person’s freedom – by definition. Thus, the domination of one person by another is a violation of Axiom 1, the Freedom Axiom. We should expect to find enormous harm resulting from this violation and, of course, we do. The killing of thousands of people in wars is the most obvious example but perhaps not the most terrible. The enslavement of nearly all of humanity in corrupt and obsolete economic systems is not exactly irrelevant. (“What is the murder of a man compared to the employment of a man,” quoth MacHeath.)
“The history of all hitherto existing societies [not including prehistory] is the history of class struggles.” So wrote Marx and Engels in 1848. Whatever one thinks of Marx and Engels, this view of history, unfolded in Chapter 1 of The Communist Manifesto , would be difficult to refute. I do not believe that anyone can predict the future with anything like precision, but a valid analysis of the past is not beyond the abilities of an average good mind. Marx had a better than average mind and his analysis is accordingly more astute than other analyses. His analysis was so good that it appears to have predicted the future for over one hundred years after it was written, but most of the social institutions that have affected the years since 1848 were operative at the time of his writing.
One can go further and argue that human society has been characterized by struggle between individuals who are subjugated and individuals who dominate – in politics, on the farm, in the workplace, at the beach, and in the home – punctuated by occasional battles between equals that seesaw back and forth with first one then the other combatant in ascendancy. Some struggles end in stalemate or détente. Our daily experience of family life is characterized by the successive dominance of first one family member then another. Rarely is a single dominant person able to retain power throughout an entire day, let alone throughout the duration of a marriage or the childhood of an offspring. From time to time the entire family is dominated by the youngest child. The dominated child who grows up to be the family tyrant is a proverb.
I am now ready to identify the domination of one person or group of people by another person or group of people as one of the three principal evils of society associated with materialism. It is the source of social strife within families and on the playground as well as between nations. It is the major obstacle to peace. Whenever I see one of those bumper stickers that reads “Visualize World Peace”, I visualize the horrible spectacle of an entire world of people entirely and totally subjugated by a handful of ruthless plutocrats, probably the heads of multinational corporations. Hardly a pleasant vision. As long as a single person is dominated by another there is no reason to hope for peace. What is especially relevant in 1990 is that a single abused and subjugated person who is unwilling to tolerate his situation is capable of destroying an entire city if he puts his mind to it. The world can no longer tolerate inequality and injustice. It is not clear that the “will to power” was caused by materialism, but it is certain that materialism is the principal institution that permits one person to dominate another.
Normally, widespread tyranny that is not absolute is referred to as authoritarianism. When it becomes absolute, we call it totalitarianism. But totalitarianism can arise momentarily and locally in a restricted setting. If I call a television call-in show that accepts phone calls, e.g., “Larry King Live”, the producers of the show have complete control over who may speak and Larry King can cut off a speaker any time he wants to. His control is temporary and applies only to a tiny part of society, but at that time and in that place it is total. That is what I would refer to as local totalitarianism. Now, if we were sitting in Larry King’s living room, we might be able to construct some justification for the type of control he exerts; but, on the public “airwaves”, which, because the number of channels is limited, are a public trust, his control is simply an abuse of power and belongs in the category of events that make up and contribute to a growing, spreading totalitarianism that many powerful people would like to see brought to its logical conclusions.
Industry exercises nearly total control over its own employees and over the segments of society under its influence. I have no more control over the affairs of my next door neighbor, the Panhandle Eastern Company (a gas pipeline operator), than I do over affairs in Ursa Major – nor do their employees nor the rest of the general public. Big corporations may do as they please except when the government regulators exercise their power. But, the Panhandle Eastern Company is free to spend as much money as it wishes influencing the regulators and, indeed, the politicians that appoint and control the regulators, just as the savings and loan industry influenced their regulators by contributing to the campaign funds of corrupt politicians. Moreover, it is practically impossible to get rid of corrupt politicians (and the senators questioning the Keating five must feel at least slightly hypocritical) since the politician who spends the most money is almost guaranteed to win (because of advanced techniques of thought control developed on “Madison Avenue” and in the psychology departments of our major research universities – to their everlasting shame). The incumbents can raise more money because they are in a position to do a favor right now – as opposed to ten weeks from now.
But, some incurable optimist might suggest that, if a group of people, or single person even, to whom, for the sake of argument, we might grant benevolent characteristics, should seize complete control of the entire nation or even the entire world (if it has not already happened – and I believe that it has not), that group of persons, or person, could institute procedures to clear up all forms of environmental destruction as the problems resulting from industrial competition would disappear. (The game would be over and the winners could be announced. Of course, materialism would persist as individuals competed for favor with the winners.) Under these conditions, we might live in a safe and permanent society where all of our needs would be taken care of except for the need to control our own destinies. This is a genuine fear and I believe, for some, it is a genuine hope. Perhaps it accounts for the fact that many members of the ruling class seem to be singularly unconcerned about environmental destruction. They are close to achieving global totalitarianism at which time they will end environmental destruction and reverse the damage done – perhaps by employing the people of the world, who would be their virtual slaves, in a remedial fashion. It is not clear whether these people might live with scarcity or with abundance, nor do I care because life under these circumstances would be intolerable to genuine human beings.
I am always faintly amused or to a large degree sickened when I hear American conservatives championing freedom. Even the old-fashioned phrase “free world” is a nasty joke because every policy of so-called conservatives puts the ruling class in a better position to rule totally. Even the populist Republican or the Libertarian espouses indefensible political positions built on myths.
As I have written elsewhere, “the fundamental principle of morality, which allows one to be free to do anything one pleases so long as the freedom of others is not abridged, is the prehistoric basis for society, giving everyone his or her own share and space. I believe that I can prove that respect for the freedom of others implies equal distribution of material wealth, since excess wealth can be used to abridge the freedom of others, in one case by purchasing excess political power, in another by bidding up the price of land and acquiring unfair exclusive access to part of the earth’s surface, in another by holding a stronger negotiating position in an economic transaction, which might be the employment of one person by another, a practice that is revolting to many thoughtful people.” The remark in the epigraph by George Bernard Shaw points up the fact that the pursuit of wealth by some people necessarily constrains the activities of everyone else – in one way if they try to keep up, in another way if they don’t.
I have indicated why competition for wealth and power (and, for that matter, negotiable fame) is a violation of the Freedom Axiom, i.e., that it violates the freedom of others by its mere existence – without any other event having taken place. Competition for wealth and power easily can be shown to be equivalent in terms of incidence to differences in wealth and power; i.e., you can’t have one without the other. Thus, both competition for wealth and power and differences in wealth and power are intrinsically immoral. It is imperative to show that equality of wealth and power is an absolute moral necessity without which sustainable human happiness is impossible. It’s worth a lot of words to prove this because contemporary human society depends on it not being true. Nearly everyone who is likely to read this essay is depending on it not being true and, for many people, admitting it is true will invalidate their entire lives. Can you imagine how hard their capacities for self-delusion and denial will fight to prevent the triumph of reason in this particular case? (The use of the word denial does not constitute approval of the so-called mental health community, which will deny this logic as vigorously as anyone.)
Ninety-nine percent of all Americans are in the power of the wealthiest one percent of all Americans or their counterparts abroad. That is, whatever freedom the “poorest” ninety-nine percent enjoy can be taken away if ever, or whenever, the wealthiest members of the ruling class wish to take it away by political, legal, economic, or criminal action. Thus, we are victims of tyranny at all times according to the principle that freedom that can be taken away is not freedom. We all know that this is true even though we pretend that it is not. Nevertheless, in this essay I will try to prove that it is true or, at least, give a good plausibility argument for it, although each of us can prove it for himself (or herself) by performing a little thought experiment in which a powerful lobby has a law changed, a powerful litigant takes us to court, or an employer forces us to do his will, fires us, or blackballs us so that we may never work again at our chosen profession. Indeed, the rich can ruin our businesses, take our homes, sue us, have us thrown in jail, or have us beaten senseless or even killed (provided they don’t brag about it on TV or in a junk newspaper), and there’s nothing we can do about it, because the wealthiest people are the law. It could happen to anyone. Yes, even in America. That’s what it means to be in someone’s power and, as is often said, money is power. Meanwhile, the wealthiest Americans and some who are not so wealthy are beginning to barricade themselves in their homes, which they are turning into fortresses, to protect themselves from the poorest among us, who may riot or commit mayhem or worse since they have nothing left to lose.
Because of the importance of money in our culture, practically every aspect of our society that could be arranged to facilitate freedom has been corrupted by coercion. Without coercion many would not work, pay taxes, or fight in a war. People are going crazy at an alarming rate, as witnessed by the street people, random killers, and stressed-out wage earners. Nearly every person (at least every white person) begins life with high expectations, but almost everyone fails, as Kurt Vonnegut pointed out . What is most discouraging is that, in order to be heard (in order to sound the alarm and offer solutions), success and fame are practically indispensable, but the proportion of people who enjoy materialistic success and fame is vanishingly small. (Of course, I am speaking of success in the sense that most people speak of it.)
Money itself (or, if you insist, the system that employs it) is tyrannous. I have no interest in filling out income tax forms, but I am forced to do it. I do not enjoy shopping for the most economical insurance, long-distance telephone service, airline fare, car rental fee, etc.; but, if I don’t engage in these dreary tasks, my family is placed at a disadvantage. In fact, wanton disregard for money could put us in the street. I don’t enjoy checking my phone bill, balancing my checkbook, or billing my client either, but money makes me do it. When I watch my wife clipping coupons or checking a grocery bill, I could weep.
Yesterday, for the N-th time, in a discussion with a rich conservative to whom I had to speak respectfully for a friend’s sake, I was treated to yet another litany of the injustices suffered by the rich, chief among which was the large number of persons who live without working. Of course, all he does is talk; but, undoubtedly, he considers that work – albeit work that he loves and that I would pay my last farthing to avoid. As it happens, I no longer have a paying job. Would he be willing to pay me to write this book; or, for that matter, to play jazz music on my instrument of choice? Why is it that he grows rich doing what he loves to do, but I get nothing for doing what I love to do – even something I don’t positively loathe? What sort of freedom is that? This is a serious difficulty with the institution of employment. Nay. An intolerable difficulty!
Significantly, many of the defects in American society might just as well be invisible to people who are successful in acquiring money. The rich and famous, who don’t ride the bus or subway, don’t understand what’s really going on because they don’t experience it. They may have struggled once, but, for the most part, they have short memories or, perhaps, some things, mercifully, cannot be remembered, e.g., physical pain. Of course, many successful people have not suffered at all, except perhaps on the therapist’s couch, but they can’t make the connection between that suffering and the suffering of the masses. Don’t look for help in that quarter. Activists who patronize the rich usually make things worse.
Also, it will be difficult to convince the reader that the term leadership is, for the most part, an impostor term in the sense of Bentham , and that we need to abandon the institution of leadership (in the sense of one person enjoying more power than another) because it is intrinsically immoral and because it leads to impractical consequences, not the least of which is war! (Obviously, you are not free if someone else can tell you what to do; or, if to be the one who tells others what to do, you have to do things that lie outside your natural inclinations.) This is a difficult part of the essay because many readers already are – or intend to become – leaders. Also, it is difficult to see how the changes in this essay will be implemented without leadership – and strong leadership at that. But it must be done, because equality of wealth implies a planned economy; and, in a planned economy, it is essential that strong leaders do not arise. Power corrupts. I have devoted some space to discussing how society might change without strong leadership, but I will need to employ a case history or thought experiment to convince the reader that positive social change might occur without a single leader. People will have to learn to be their own leaders. The other way is unacceptable morally. Also, it doesn’t seem to be working out in practice. (We couldn’t find good leaders even if we were willing to accept them.)
I have been discussing only the violation of the Freedom Axiom even though it leads to the violations of the other axioms as well. I shall present a long list of social evils in Appendix II. Every social evil listed is connected to a violation of the moral axioms proposed in this essay. In a few odd cases where the connection is not obvious I will prove that such a connection does indeed exist.. This is a very compelling argument as opposed to the arguments of religionists who claim that the evil in the world comes from the violation of their (irrational) taboo morality, usually prohibiting some modes of sex and the best drugs while permitting the hoarding of wealth in obscene quantities, which is frequently excused as the benefit of pleasing some obscure god. While it is clear to me (and others) that religionists have things backwards, I shall have to prove to many readers that social evil is not caused by sex and drugs. On the contrary, sexual and pharmaceutical prohibitions, rather than sex and drugs, are the harmful factors – although they are merely symptoms of the fundamental social evil, namely, the struggle for wealth, power (including negotiable influence), and (negotiable) fame, i.e., S* as defined in Chapter 3. Indeed, we have identified S* as the fountainhead of nearly all human misery – perhaps all human misery.
People who wish to ban guns are about 500 years behind the times. What people should want to ban now is money! In prehistoric times, the strong man with a club could rule the tribe. Later, he needed a horse; so, wealth began to enter the picture as an instrument of depredation. But, the bourgeois revolution gave the power to the rich merchant who required a policeman or a paid soldier or bodyguard to defend him as he personally could not fight his way out of a paper bag. [The modern successful businessman, however, is usually a pretty hard-boiled individual – basically a type of gangster.] Everyone hated the merchant: the nobles, who, presumably, gained ascendancy by force of superior character, courage, or strength; the craftsmen, who produced things with their own hands, but no longer profited from them; the workers, who were reduced to quasi-slavery; the artists and scholars, who were dependent on philistines to support their activities; children, because the activities of the merchant resemble play less than do the activities of any other sector of society. Everyone hated the bourgeoisie then; but, nowadays, we have seen a comicstrip wherein a small boy wears a suit and tie to school and aspires to the behavior of stockbrokers and investment bankers. The bourgeoisie has contrived to glamorize its own image without coercion, as far as we know.
“What is a picklock compared to a bankshare?” spoke MacHeath, if I remember correctly. What indeed? When a bank robber robs a bank, we go to extreme lengths to catch him, even jeopardizing the lives of children by pursuing him in a motor vehicle, although fatalities from this highly dramatized activity have been rare. But, when we catch him, we take back the money! We know who stole the money from the savings and loan companies, but have we recovered the money? Not that I know of. Let me speculate, following a hint from Pete Brewton of the Houston Post, that the reason the government doesn’t try to recover the money is that the members of government have too much of it. The members of the ruling class probably have all of it!
Yes, money can be converted to power and fame, power into fame and money, and (negotiable) fame into money and power. It takes money to make money and money means power and power corrupts. I hope no one reading this book thinks that a rich and powerful person does not impose upon the freedom of an ordinary person. Consider corporate takeovers that have plundered employees’ pension funds after stealing their jobs. Not only do people who make most of the money contribute the least to the economy, it is almost impossible to make more than a subsistence income by producing something of value. More than any other group, the technologists have made decent livings by producing real wealth; but, in so doing, they have dehumanized the lives of the working class to a shocking degree as well as producing intolerable conditions for life on this planet. We shall discuss this in detail in a later chapter.
It must be by his death; and for my part,
I know no personal cause to spurn at him,
But for the general. He would be crowned.
How that might change his nature, there’s the question.
It is the bright day that brings forth the adder,
And that craves wary walking. Crown him that,
And then I grant we put a sting in him
That at his will he may do danger with.
The abuse of greatness is when it disjoins
Remorse from power. And to speak truth of Caesar,
I have not known when his affections swayed
More than his reason. But ’tis a common proof
That lowliness is young ambition’s ladder,
Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
But when he once attains the upmost round,
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend. So Caesar may.
Then lest he may, prevent. And since the quarrel
Will bear no color for the thing he is,
Fashion it thus: that what he is, augmented,
Would run to these and these extremities;
And therefore think him as a serpent’s egg,
Which, hatched, would as his kind grow mischievous,
And kill him in the shell.
“Since the quarrel will bear no color for the thing he is, fashion it thus” means, according to the editors, “since our case against him will not be supported by his known nature, this is how our case should be made.” In Shakespeare’s play , then, Brutus reasoned concerning the advisability of killing Caesar before he became a dangerous tyrant. Are we to view this as self-deception or sophistry? I do not think so although we may disapprove of the violent measures taken. Shakespeare lets Marcus Antonius deliver the verdict concerning Brutus as follows:
This was the noblest Roman of them all.
All the conspirators save only he
Did that they did in envy of great Caesar;
He, only in a general honest thought
And common good to all, made one of them.
Since Marcus Antonius could not know Brutus’s honest thought, we must assume that it was Shakespeare’s verdict that Brutus was sincere in his reasoning concerning the rise of natural leaders. Essentially, then, this is Shakespeare’s view. Also, it is the reasoning adopted in this essay.
The history of society can be analysed in terms of cycles of corruption and reform. People become powerful. Power corrupts. Forces for reform gather. The powerful are swept away and replaced by reformers. The reformers grow powerful. Power corrupts. ¼ It seems as though the cycles will never end. Permit me to suggest that the way to break the cycle is to get rid of the leaders. Leaders, after all, are characterized by a talent for becoming leaders and a preoccupation with retaining power. We don’t need anyone to boss us around. According to William Morris, no one is good enough to be someone else’s master.
Suppose, then, that we are able to break the endless cycles of power, corruption, and revolution by dispensing with leadership. Of course, I am referring to the type of leadership that holds power. I hope to make this clear by example below. I suggest that all the roles of leaders other than communication can be otherwise delegated and I suggest that we might be better off if we selected our spokespersons and communicators by some sort of random process for terms of finite length. We have watched the so-called democratic election process abused in various ways in the United States. The marketing of candidates according to the techniques developed by “Madison Avenue” with the help of social scientists has driven the last nail in the coffin of the American electoral process, in which no reasonable person should retain any faith. Elections might be used to remove leaders. Let us study the role of leaders in a little more detail.
[Note. This is the most revolutionary idea in my political philosophy. I don’t know where I got the idea, but it is not new. In the film Easy Rider, Jack Nicholson’s character mentions in passing a hypothetical society with no monetary system and no leaders. That’s it. He mentions it and moves on without one word of discussion, but there it is: precisely what I advocate. Strangely, I read the screen play to this movie ages ago and did not retain a conscious memory of this line. But, I saw it for the first time since that initial reading only the other day. Imagine my surprise. I will tell this story again in Chapter 12. I want the reader to understand that I may not have conceived of the thrust of my thesis quite independently. Anything that I do not attribute to another was originated independently by me, so far as I can remember, regardless of the multitudes who have thought the same thoughts previously – unbeknownst to myself.]
Traditionally, the fundamental role of leaders has been to command. Leadership, to use the eulogistic word for it, has been the centerpiece in man’s domination of man. Clearly, those who command impose upon the freedom of those who are commanded, even in the case when the followers voluntarily discard their inalienable right to liberty. They become co-conspirators in the transfer of something that may not rightfully be transferred. In a situation where material wealth is independent of one’s behavior, in the broadest sense of the word, the role of the commander will disappear and good riddance.
Leaders traditionally make decisions and their presumably superior ability to do so is what makes men flock to the standard of a Napoleon, say. But, nowadays, decision making has been developed into a science and can be done by a specialist, in many cases with the aid of a computer and mathematical software. The decision maker no longer need wear the admiral’s braid. He or she can be anyone. Still, skeptics claim that no one can replace a Lee Iacocca at the helm of an industrial giant and that’s why he makes millions of dollars per year. I don’t believe that for a minute. What I believe is that a consensus on the assembly line at the Chrysler Corporation could have come up with decisions just as good as and better than those of Mr. Iacocca. What Iacocca did was sell the bail-out plan to the government, for which no one deserves a reward. That should have been a matter of public referendum based on the facts, not a sales job. We need some social scientific research to complete the argument that we do not need leaders to make decisions for us. It is easy to think of appropriate experiments and, perhaps, the reader will pause and try to think of some.
However, it must be admitted that there is no substitute for genius. I admit the existence of genius, which occurs from time to time in a few people and may reside permanently in fewer still, however it remains to be discussed what role genius plays in leadership. I have said before that, nowadays, what distinguishes leaders is a genius for becoming leaders, if we may call it that. The occurrence of this so-called genius for becoming accepted as a leader coincides almost never with genius for anything worth having genius for. Einstein was a genius, but he did not command, nor did he make decisions except for those who requested his advice voluntarily, as far as I know. Certainly, he was no more autocratic than the average full professor. Genius can express itself perfectly adequately without assuming the mantle of leadership in the sense in which it is under discussion here. Clearly, Einstein was a “leader” in physics and, equally clearly, he had “followers” in physics, but each acted as an individual in so far as he or she was able. I am not rejecting leadership in this sense, as I indicated in the opening paragraph. This is leadership in the nonintrusive sense. I am rejecting the type of leadership that imposes upon the freedom of non-leaders, principally because it is a violation of a fundamental moral principle. But, nowadays, this is almost always the sense in which it is used in political, social, and economic discussions. When we refer to the leaders of our nation, we are not referring to geniuses.
Leaders, in the sense of those who hold power, are normally responsible for organization, which in America is approximately the same as establishing a hierarchy. Hierarchy, of course, is what I am against. But, even a horizontal division of labor requires organization. Again, organizing, like planning, is a scientific discipline and can be done by someone who retains no power over his fellow human beings. [Note in proof (1-5-98). It is not clear that organizations are at all useful. Lately, and in this book, I have expressed increasing doubt concerning all sorts of organizations. Presumably, though, we shall retain the principle of organization at some level.]
The distinguished position for which we need special procedures to select people is representative or communicator. If nations and states continue to exist (communities might be preferable), they will require spokespersons to interpret the will of their citizens to the citizens of other communities. This is a highly visible role and we need to be certain that it is not used by natural leaders to assume power. Also, organizations of all types, public and private, need spokespersons to communicate with other organizations and to communicate between their own subdivisions to avoid having everyone talking at once. These people have to be chosen in special ways to avoid the rise of natural leaders. I suggest that their selection be random and for finite terms that are not contiguous with terms in other highly visible roles. In any society and certainly in a highly educated society, nearly anyone is capable of communicating. Ronald Reagan was considered the great communicator, yet he rarely completed a sentence in a fashion that would be acceptable on the printed page. If he could do it, anyone can do it, provided the object be merely to convey the truth. Many of us could use a little more practice though; and, naturally, I would like to see us get it. What we need is to see public servants relegated to the role of messengers, albeit messengers with important messages, but that is no reason to give them power over anyone.
I would like to draw a parallel between (i) the change from old-style dominating leadership to egalitarian democracy, which, in this paper, I call isocracy, meaning equal distribution of political power, and (ii) the change from Newtonian physics to Einsteinian physics. This parallel was suggested by Bertrand Russell . I hope I do not misrepresent him.
In Newtonian physics one thinks of the sun as the center of the solar system and of the planets as being attracted to the sun by gravitational force. Further, the planets are surrounded by moons that are, in turn, attracted to the planets by gravitational force. Thus, we have a hierarchy of heavenly bodies that very much resembles the hierarchies we set up in society with great leaders at the center and their followers attracted to them by some sort of force acting at a distance. In Einsteinian physics we recognize that the planet is not really aware of the sun shining in the distance. It behaves according to what it experiences in its immediate neighborhood; that is, it moves along a geodesic (shortest path) that is determined by the geometry of space-time in its immediate neighborhood. The force acting upon it at a distance is fictitious.
I do not wish to establish a causal relationship between the move to the more egalitarian Einsteinian physics and the higher expectations of personal liberty expressed in this book, but the analogy is there for anyone who wishes to explore it. In Newtonian physics, everybody experiences time in exactly the same way and even space seems to enjoy an absolute nature that must be surrendered in relativity theory. In the new physics, each body has its own proper time and no body enjoys a distinguished position. Not only would it be impossible to determine that it did, but the statement that it does has no meaning.
In the Napoleonic army, officers and regular soldiers, or what we call enlisted men, were carefully distinguished. The story goes that Napoleon himself prevented one of his men from shooting an enemy officer because officers were in a protected class. The organization of the Napoleonic army persists to this day and is replicated in civilian life in the dichotomy between managers and workers. May I presume to point out that this is a phony class distinction and has nothing to do with the relative merits of one class with respect to the other. In many companies, the workers are divided into “exempt” workers, who belong to the class of individuals who enjoy the privilege of being candidates for leadership but who may work as long as the employer requires them to work, and a “nonexempt” class, who are compensated for “overtime” but who must endure the humiliation of belonging to an inferior class and who have limited leadership opportunities. Thus, the class distinctions are used to exploit members of both classes. This is an intolerable situation that is the residue of extremely unenlightened thinking. Managers often attain their positions not because of some special qualifications to which they have attained but because they belong to the superior class. Merit has nothing to do with it.
To sweep away this injustice, it should be sufficient to call attention to it. But, the systematic repression of dissent makes this very difficult. The ruling class controls the media. Many people are completely brainwashed. Thus, the domination of some by others makes brainwashing easy to accomplish and brainwashing preserves the dominance of the ruling class. This symmetry shall be elevated to the level of a theorem (practically) in Chapter 9.
Perhaps, the graduates of universities would reject caste systems in whatever form they occur if the universities would reject caste systems in the conduct of their own affairs and if they would stop teaching doctrines that validate caste systems. On the contrary, we have entire schools of management in our most prestigious universities. Presumably, the students in these schools are learning something and that something qualifies them to manage even if they were not born into the class of individuals to whom leadership is a “birthright”. Perhaps, some of that training will help the graduates make decisions or organize enterprises, and that expertise can be used in an isocracy, but some of the skills learned in management schools have another purpose, namely, to control and manipulate workers.
When a patient goes to a doctor, the patient is the doctor’s client and the doctor is beholden unto him; but, although, in an important sense, the worker is the manager’s client, the manager is not at all responsible to the worker. Instead, the manager reports to another manager higher up on the infamous corporate ladder. Thus, management, if it is not a completely empty discipline whose only purpose is to maintain class distinctions, is a conspiracy against the worker to get him (or her) to do things that are in the best interests of someone other than himself even if, from time to time, those interests coincide with his own. Indeed, in thumbing through a table full of management texts in a large bookstore, I found an example of how workers may be manipulated in every text examined. I recognize that a list of examples would help my case and I shall attempt to supply such a list, if possible, before I deem this essay complete. [Note in proof (9-29-96). This will have to wait for a later edition.]
Just what are these tools of the management profession, if, indeed, it is a profession? Nowadays, one hears that the job of management is to motivate workers. The other day I heard two baseball broadcasters debate the relative merits of two (baseball) managers one of whom maintains iron discipline but whose players are a little tight and the other of whom is happy-go-lucky and whose players are loose but play a little sloppily from time to time. They thought that million-dollar salaries should be incentive enough but that managers needed to make more money (in this singular instance they earn less than players) to command more respect. It occurred to me that, if adult athletes cannot maintain enough interest in a game, perhaps a nearly perfect game that is fascinating enough to attract spectators, without externally imposed discipline or, for that matter, financial incentive, they ought to be doing something else that does hold their interest without making them tight. After all, the tightness could not occur unless they were under the influence of some factor external to the game. Thus, the question of motivation can be analyzed in terms of the distinction between intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation mentioned earlier. We like to avoid activities that require extrinsic motivation. To achieve this highly evolved state we need to open up an infinitude of new opportunities for people to contribute to society – on their terms, not on ours. This is an important point.
I asked an acquaintance of mine who is a social activist, but has not yet rejected the institution of leadership, what distinguished a good leader. His answer was that a good leader “makes people think it was their idea”. Thus, a good leader leads by deception. Clearly, one of the functions of managers is to dish out praise and censure. May I suggest that it is demeaning to permit ourselves to be manipulated in this way. Moreover, reward and punishment administered by a human agency is never fair. Who, after all, is qualified to judge! We reject people who try to manipulate us outside of our jobs; why should we accept them in a setting where we spend more time than nearly anywhere else!
It is interesting to note at this point in our discussion that for most of our childhoods we were judged primarily on the basis of objective criteria, namely, how we performed on tests. This state of affairs persisted through graduate school, after which we were thrown into a world where the only thing that mattered was what someone else thought of us. Is that fair – to prepare us for life on one basis, then, when it really matters, change the basis? Moreover, we have been taught, if we have been taught any ethics at all, that the last thing we should be concerned with is what other people think of us, although very few of us attain that lofty state of indifference.
Recently it occurred to me that a useful role played by the institution of management is to provide a refuge for people with diminished creativity who might pose as possessors of wisdom. Management might even serve as a repository for persons no longer competent to do useful work. Indeed, I wonder how many CEOs could perform an entry-level job satisfactorily. Perhaps they are fit only to command.
No doubt thoughtful readers can list a number of additional functions of leaders who wield power over us, whether we surrender that power voluntarily or not, particularly those readers who have leadership aspirations themselves, but I stand ready to refute them because of my faith that aesthetics and utility, as the basis of morals, never lead to conflicting conclusions. I remain confident that, since leadership, in the sense that it implies the domination of one person by another, is so morally repugnant that natural law will not prevent it from being replaced by a more enlightened and useful institution. This, of course, is an article of faith.
Years ago Leonard Bernstein appeared with a symphony orchestra on a television program called “Omnibus” (which might have been the last worthwhile program ever to appear on that medium). Suddenly, in the midst of a performance, he dropped his baton and turned to the audience to say, essentially, “See. They don’t need me to play.” And, indeed, the orchestra carried on without the conductor as though nothing had happened. I am not suggesting that Leonard Bernstein did not contribute to the orchestras he conducted, nor do I imagine that he intended to suggest it; but, the gesture served as an illustration of something that I would like us to keep in mind.
In Chapter 9, I prove that whenever we have materialism we have tyranny. I rely exclusively on a priori logic; that is, I do not cite actual cases of falsity arising from business or commerce (the struggle to acquire money and power). In this section, I wish to give a few examples of tyranny arising from normal business practices just to convince myself and the reader that what has been proved theoretically is actually represented in the real world. These examples, even if I had a million of them, do not constitute a proof that tyranny will arise in connection with business without exception. The inevitability of tyranny in connection with the profit motive is proved in Chapter 9. The profit motive means materialism and materialism means tyranny.
I intend to do the same thing for falsity (dishonesty) and environmental destruction, i.e., give concrete examples of dishonesty and environmental destruction arising from the ordinary conduct of business. Moreover, in the next two chapters, I will consider cases where business has been indicted, tried, and convicted of some sort of fraud or violation of environmental regulations – as reported in the establishment press. Very few of my readers will doubt that these events actually occurred. Unfortunately, for my present purposes, business is almost never convicted of tyranny, e.g., unfair employment practices. Therefore, I shall beg the reader’s indulgence to the extent that he must infer the existence of tyranny of employers over their employees based on very general statements that we find in the establishment press. Of course, we had no hope of providing a rigorous proof until Chapter 9 anyway. Let us list a few of these journalistic revelations that corroborate what we know is going on, namely, that business is exploiting its employees with greater regularity, complete impunity, and with more insidious methods and catastrophic (for the worker) results than at any time since World War II.
On April 23, 1989, just before the idea of writing a book had occurred to me and a couple of years before I began clipping articles from our daily paper, the Houston Post, on a regular basis with a particular application in mind, I happened to see an editorial by Henry Greenwald in the Houston Chronicle reflecting upon the French Revolution. I disagreed with Greenwald but decided to save his editorial. (Sometimes, I am more interested to give the offending author a piece of my mind than I am to enter the world of public discourse. I told you that I was shy and retiring and hated acrimonious debate, which it is my fate to cause whenever I express my views. Needless to say, I’d rather dismantle my opponents privately than create the spectacle of a public massacre.)
Greenwald writes that “a simple glance at the world, at any day’s headlines, shows tyranny, accompanied by misery and death, on a scale undreamed of in the shadow of the guillotine.” He believes that Equality and Liberty are incompatible because equality can be brought about only by force. Also, he believes that Fraternity is frustrated by our abandonment of religious spirituality. This is not a propitious beginning to my avowed program of giving examples to corroborate my proof that business leads to tyranny. What has gone wrong? Why doesn’t he identify business as the culprit? Principally, he has accepted the Type-Z assumption that one is not free unless he may exploit his fellow man, which he thinks of as a necessary adjunct to success in business. Thus, he cannot reconcile Liberty and Equality. If religious spirituality were a proper guide to a selfless yearning for equality, equality would be achieved without force. But, that is incompatible with an economy based on – business. The Type-S mentality recognizes that inequality and tyranny are occurrence equivalent. (Corollary 2 and 3 show that inequality is a violation of the Freedom Axiom and any violation of the Freedom Axiom is tyranny according to my definition.) Religious spirituality must engender good morals. If adults were taught the moral system espoused in this essay when they were very young children, they would value equality and despise status seeking. True brotherhood (Fraternity) follows naturally.
Comment. We know we shall not read about corporations convicted of tyranny. We must look for the tell-tale signs of tyranny that have been discussed elsewhere, namely, (i) increasing disparity in wealth between the rich and the poor or between management and labor, (ii) unfair employment practices, (iii) a concerted effort by government and business to render ordinary people powerless to make decisions that affect their own lives.
On 4-7-91, Kate Thomas informed us that First City Bancorp of Texas will terminate the group medical insurance of about 400 retired employees with only two-weeks’ notice. Judy Shub pointed out that “these are earned benefits”. Is it obvious that unilateral expropriation of earned benefits without an opportunity to appeal is a form of tyranny?
Also on 4-7-91, Reuter released a piece that described karoshi, the Japanese word for death from overwork. The unknown author quoted a poem, which must have lost a great deal in translation, but the reader will get the point. “Don’t the salaried workers of ‘prosperous Japan’ today actually live more miserably than the slaves of old?” Let me take a crack at that. This is my second poem in thirty years. It ought to be pretty bad.
Oh, salaryman, salaryman, why do you sacrifice your divine flame
To the “prosperous nation” that mocks your misery?
Even the long-dead slaves of times that seemed as bad as they could be
Pity you who suffer torture the bosses are too cowardly to name.
Old Japan loses face and weeps but must live on
While karoshi disembowels the proud warrior, the last of proud Nippon.
Apparently, Japanese business has spawned tyrants who are even more ruthless than their American counterparts, although I shall be able to present some hearsay pointing to a similar worsening of the worker’s plight in the U.S. Of course, this is only anecdotal evidence.
On 9-1-91, a headline reads “New poll shows more of us are working 2cd job”. This cannot be altogether good. Apparently, the power (tyranny) of the employer over the worker has driven the worker to drastic extremes.
On 8-9-92, A. J. Frey, in a letter to the Houston Post complained that, although HEB Pantry Markets were coming to Houston with thousand of jobs, the jobs would be part-time with no benefits and pay only $4.75 per hour – hardly a living wage – although, personally, I don’t know why anyone would want to do the bidding of another for more than 20 hours a week, which ought to be full-time at this late date.
On 8-30-92, Michael Davis reports that the Port of Houston Authority has agreed to lease Omniport to a group that plans to use non-union stevedores. Union busting is an important tool of the modern business tyrant in his continued agenda to render the worker powerless. Thomas Geoghegan, a Chicago labor lawyer said, “We have seen these sorts of situations developing more often in the last few years.”
Headline on 9-4-92: “Poverty hits highest level in decades”. In 1991, there were 35.7 million people living under the poverty line, which, for a single person, was $6,932. When they say poor, they mean really poor! The poverty line for a family of four was $13,359.
However on October 7, 1994, under the headline “Setback in war on poverty” and the sub-headline “Census: More poor in U.S., but rich getting richer”, we read that for 1993 the number that fell under the newly established poverty line was over 39 million. For comparison, the poverty line for a family of four was $14,763, which is an increase of 10.51%. To be fair, this may have outstripped inflation slightly – at least the way the government computes inflation, which may not be fair. (The poor do not buy computers the price of which is falling; but, for escape, they do go to the movies, the price of which is rising faster than inflation if I am not mistaken as I can no longer afford them – or rather I choose not to afford them. I am ignorant of clothing prices too as I don’t buy clothing – except socks and underwear. The expense of dressing up to community standards is painfully borne by the poor who feel hard-pressed to keep up appearances. Also, they tend to be susceptible to fads the result of which is to induce them to discard such clothing as they can afford before it is worn out despite its shoddy manufacture. This, of course, is one only of the myriad ways in which the poor get poorer.) “Income growth seems to be concentrated among better-off Americans”, Daniel H. Weinberg of the Census Bureau said Thursday. “The long-term trend in the U.S. has been toward increasing income inequality”. I apologize for telling you what you already know. Is there anyone, liberal or conservative, who thinks this may not be true? It constitutes a microfact, as discussed in Chapter 4, and it’s not the kind of information I like to make use of, but I am inclined to believe it, aren’t you? Let’s not be careless about what we believe regardless of its usefulness as propaganda favorable to our cause. Let’s not take this as a proven fact just yet. We can make our case without it. By the way, if the poor amounted to 15.1% of the population in 1993, as reported by the Census Bureau, with the poverty line set at $14,763 for a family of four, what would the percentage of poor jump to if a more reasonable value of $40,000, which still precludes owning a summer getaway, were used as the “poverty line”? (Actually, I think you have to be a moron not to be comfortable at $40,000, but you don’t think so – probably. Am I right?)
On 9-7-92, I spotted the headline “Few companies training workers for the front lines, study shows”. The article goes on to say that our educational system is geared toward college-educated white-collar workers, but these are not the bulk of our work force by a long shot. The companies don’t pick up the slack even though well-trained manual laborers are needed if America is to provide any of the manufactured items it uses. The reader knows by now that I believe in decentralized economies such that nearly everything we used would be manufactured locally. (It is recognized that communities might span national borders until such borders are no longer recognized.) Most young people, about 80% of those in high-school, will not go to college. Therefore, their futures are dim either in low paying, insecure service jobs or in fast disappearing manufacturing jobs but not on such a favorable basis as the previous generation enjoyed. Apparently, industry is getting ready to phase out blue-collar workers altogether – if this report is accurate. Remember Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut.
Here’s a good one: On 10-16-92 “Fatal disease, crime increase as economy sinks, studies say.” Some academicians, albeit sponsored by unions, have gotten around to showing what everyone knows; namely, that when the economy is bad, those who suffer most die from “heart disease, stroke, suicide, and drinking. It [the inability to earn a living] also makes people mean and turns some of them into criminals, a pair of studies says.” Oh, I don’t know about “mean”. If I had starving children, I would do whatever was necessary; but, I probably wouldn’t take it out on myself. It seems as though crime is the rational choice. Warning: Don’t get caught – not that anyone reading this book would be stupid enough to get caught!
On 12-8-92, the headline notes “Little change in raises for ‘93”, which is not surprising. The sub-headline says, “Health-care executives will get biggest increases.” Well, the biggest increases are expected to go to executives of some kind; and, as no one wants to die, the health-care sector always gets theirs. So, we are inclined to believe this little squib. (These observations apply to Houston only.)
On 1-15-93, the headline of an article by Tim Bovee reads “Poor families more likely to split, census suggests”. This is consistent with mainstream sociological thought. I remember hearing that most family quarrels are about money. Oddly, the man will suffer the most in a divorce, according to the old book by Durkheim , which may be largely discredited by now. I couldn’t find too much to agree with when I read it in July, 1996.
On 3-18-93, I noticed the headline “Despite jobless rate, overtime at highest level since 1950s”. “At a time nearly 9 million Americans can’t find jobs, others are putting in the most overtime since the government started keeping records in the 1950s.” “..., the Bureau of Labor Statistics says more than a tenth of all work done in U.S. factories is done on overtime.” This is an irrational difference between the “haves” and “have-nots” among the working class. Some are working too hard; other are too poor. Mainly, to avoid health-insurance and training costs, businessmen have made this heartless materialistic economic decision. Both the overworked and the underpaid are victims of the tyranny exercised by business over the working class.
A headline on an article by Daniel Fisher on 3-29-93 reports “Compaq’s Pfeiffer got $5.4 million annual report says”. Pfeiffer, the chief executive of Compaq, is not an American. I hope that makes you mad. Oddly, Pfeiffer achieved the gains he is rewarded for by slashing operating costs. Some may have suffered by these cut-backs, but it looks like they did not suffer in vain: Pfeiffer benefited. It can be argued that consumers benefited as well by lower prices, but the tyranny of business is very much in evidence as a German citizen wields enormous power in a country where he has no business drinking the water even. How many animals were displaced to provide him a suitably large home?
Headline on 9-27-93: “Poll: Americans working longest hours in 20 years”. When I was a child the standard work week was 40 hours. I worked on developing computer software to increase the productivity of chemical process engineers. As stated in my essay “Some Unintended Consequences of Computers” in Vol. II of my collected works , I expected this to result in shorter hours and more leisure with the same pay. I still feel cheated and I’m mad as hell. I wrote that software for other chemical engineers not for Steve Bechtel. If I had known what he would do with it, I would have sabotaged him. I could have gotten periodic raises and succeeded quite well – even more so than I did – had I not manifested my genius, which was used to stigmatize me as an oddball and a potentially dangerous person. I could have been another parasitic manager. Well, as it turns out, I am a dangerous person. Management countered the reasonable demands of reasonable chemical engineers for higher wages (proportionally), which they were entitled to because of increased productivity facilitated by themselves. (Managers don’t write time-saving software; managers can’t do anything – except in the odd case of a Howard Garrison, say.) How did they manage this? Easily. They began to import foreign-born engineers who had no recollection of the struggles for a shorter work day, as they had not been here to witness its success. Nor had they contributed to the success of the American union movement of the early part of the twentieth century. Moreover, they were so delighted to be in a country where they could increase their consumption by a factor of thirty (even though it didn’t bring a proportionate increase in the quality of life. On the contrary. As one Russian émigré said as a reservation to his otherwise whole-hearted acceptance of the American system, “You know, Dr. Wayburn (he was courteous), what I can’t understand about America, despite its obvious blessings, is why the people are so unhappy!” Why indeed.)
On 11-25-93, a headline reads, “Sears faces EEOC bias suit”. The article begins with “Chicago-based Sears Roebuck and Co. violated federal age discrimination laws by requiring employees to sign waivers before getting a severance plan, a lawsuit filed at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission contends.” This is a slightly different twist on corporate tyranny if true. Of course, we would like to know if Sears were convicted, but I don’t have this information. With the huge army of lawyers they can put into the field, if a corporation be convicted of a violation, we are inclined to believe it was actually guilty. Remember, though, that corporations do not act; people act. The tyrants are real people and we would like to know who they are and where they live. I wish the papers would publish their phone numbers as well.
A headline on 1-16-94 reads “Income equality not likely in near future”. University of Michigan professor Sheldon Danziger said, “Poverty today is higher than 1973. The percentage of rich has roughly doubled.” Look out folks; it’s a jungle out there. If you are not rich, you are poor. And, if you are rich, you mustn’t loosen your grip for a minute. Those who are satisfied with what they have will soon enough have nothing at all – except in a few remarkable cases. Normally, the pursuit of wealth is a total and constant struggle without end. It consumes everyone who embarks upon that course. One wonders who suffers more: the status seekers or the disenfranchised poor. Neither enjoys anything approaching meaningful freedom.
Article of 7-15-94: “Many U.S. companies have decided they’d rather pay higher taxes than force their top executives to accept pay packets totaling less than $1 million a year, according to a survey.” Yes, the IRS denied tax deductions for executive pay in excess of one million. You don’t suspect that the top executives had something to say about the decision to skip the tax deduction – to the detriment of their stockholders and others. Thus, the workers get less, but the people for whom the company exists, namely, upper management, get richer and richer.
An article printed more recently (6-22-96) prompted me to suspend my moratorium on clipping to provide a final example of tyranny that must not be forgotten. A man was released from prison after nearly seventeen years after DNA evidence connected another man to the crime. Obviously, this represents a major drawback to the use of punishment as part of our treatment of “perpetrators” in accordance with our definition of justice given in Chapter 3 and elsewhere. What if he had been executed? It would then be impossible for society to compensate this man for his suffering – again as required by the definition of justice. What, you ask, is the State doing to compensate this man for nearly seventeen years in prison? Nothing! This is an intolerable state of affairs and provides an example of tyranny in the name of justice. Anyone who thinks that the imprisonment of innocent people is rare should consider this: The police and prosecuting attorneys have a vested interest in convicting someone of every crime. Do you honestly believe that it is a matter of great concern that the man they convict is the culprit? Conceivably, every single inmate of our barbaric and anachronistic prisons is innocent – at least in the large sense that he was not responsible for whatever occurred – and, with a non-negligible probability, because he had nothing to do with the crime.
June 25, 1991
Revised June 22, 1996
1. Marx, Karl, and Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto, Washington Square Press, New York (1964).
2. Vonnegut, Kurt, Hocus Pocus, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York (1990).
3. Bentham, Jeremy, Bentham’s Handbook of Political Fallacies, Ed. Harold A. Larrabee, Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore (1952).
4. Shakespeare, William, Julius Caesar, Eds. Louis B. Wright and Virginia A. LaMar, The Folger Library, Washington Square Press, Pocket Books, Simon and Schuster, New York (1959)
5. Russell, Bertrand, The ABCs of Relativity, Signet Science Library Books, New York (1962).
6. Durkheim, Emile, Suicide: A Study in Sociology, The Free Press, New York (1951).
7. Wayburn, Thomas L., The Collected Papers of Thomas Wayburn, Vol. II, The American Policy Inst., Houston (Work in progress 1997).
Many liberals might agree that medical care should be free. But should the health-care givers be paid by the government? In Chapter 2, I showed using energy systems diagrams that government health-care systems are too inefficient; so, for once, I’m in agreement with conservatives. I am in agreement with empirical evidence too; but, unlike the conservatives who base their position on incorrect reasoning, I can prove they are right. I enjoy that. The solution, of course, is that everything else must be free too. But then we must plan the economy as we will no longer have the so-called invisible hand of the market to determine the distribution of goods and services. Of course, we can discover what goods and services are likely to be needed using systems engineering and statistics, but how are we to prevent the rise of autocrats? We must design our institutions so that it is impossible for leaders, managers, bosses, power brokers, etc. to arise. In a materialistic economy with everyone motivated extrinsically that sounds not only impossible but foolish. The reason it sounds that way is everyone is looking at society from the viewpoint of extrinsic motivation, i.e., the wrong way. Looked at properly, it is not only possible, it is essential.
But it is important to give at least one more reason for supporting the equilibrating of S* in the United States even before an intrinsically motivated economy is in place. People view S* as essential to their existence. People who are not famous or important – who never see themselves on TV or quoted in the newspapers or, for that matter, do not see their viewpoints represented anywhere – are becoming alienated from the rest of society in the existential sense. They are in danger of becoming mentally deranged. It is impossible to imagine how they may behave when they no longer feel as though they exist or, what amounts to the same thing, their existence doesn’t matter. A couple of years ago Jeffrey Dahmer was nobody; now, whatever else he is, his name is a household word. Charles Manson is better known than the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper and the inventor was on the front page of the Houston Post only a few days ago [June 21, 1992]. Important people better begin to worry about this.
June 25, 1991
Revised June 21, 1992