Materialism is the use of material wealth as a measure of success, a reward for achievement or effort, or as an inducement to behave in a certain way. Materialism is what causes unfair differences in income and wealth among people (or, rather, unfair differences in the consumption or hoarding of consumable resources). Dematerialism is any program for unwinding materialism. One such program is described here and at http://www.dematerialism.net.
Materialism is the cause of the principal evils in society including crime, war, poverty, and anomie. It is Pandora's Box as shown in Chapter 9 of On the Preservation of Species (POS), which is available free of charge under a copyleft agreement that requires only ethical use of the public domain. Unfortunately, it is impossible to get the evils back into the Box in a materialistic economy. Thus, it is necessary to destroy the Box, which, nowadays, means replacing the market economy by a decentralizable planned or give-away economy in the same sense that blogspot.com is part of a give away economy - except more so. Please see "The Demise of Business as Usual”.
Materialism allows wealth to be distributed unequally and unfairly depending upon accidents of birth even if those accidents of birth happen to be great strength, high intelligence, and good character. Why should people who have received these great gifts from Nature just because of who their parents were expect to receive additional gifts especially in an overpopulated world in which resources are scarce and one person’s surplus is guaranteed to be someone else’s deficit! Nowadays, it takes many poor people, perhaps thousands of poor people, to make one rich person; and, for many poor people, a deficit in consumable resources leads to death by starvation or worse. Also, materialism requires a large authoritarian government to control a society that is essentially unstable because of war and poverty. Many people will claim that they obtained their wealth and power because of their own hard work. Even if this were true, and I claim that it is not true, the struggle to acquire wealth and power, if continued, will very likely cause the extinction of all life on this planet.
Dematerialism, on the other hand, results, eventually, in a nearly equal distribution of wealth and income in terms of real wealth. Moreover, since political power can no longer be concentrated in the hands of the few at the expense of the many, dematerialism permits the attainment of true democracy in a non-hierarchical society. The approach to a non-materialistic society advocated on my website involves a series of changes any one of which can be reversed if unintended effects occur. For example, delegislation is a process by which thousands of laws are replaced by only a few laws, one of which, the prohibition of the sale of entire companies, is the first in a series of laws that would place the ownership of the means of production exclusively in the hands of the workers according to the maxim that a workman should own his own tools. Thus, distributed ownership of the means of production is achieved gradually but not too gradually.
The vision of a non-materialistic society offered on my website can be described most simply as a libertarian, give-away economy, as opposed to the socialism of Russia or China. Dematerialism requires the equal distribution of wealth, modified slightly to account for differences in needs, and the production of wealth in a cooperative setting according to the abilities of the individual, allowing for the need for abundant leisure. An education that is consistent with the aims of dematerialism provides people with the ability to enhance the material wealth and prosperity of society, viewed as a collection of private individuals; but, more importantly, it teaches people how to enjoy leisure in a manner consistent with their development as human beings, through the arts and sciences, sports, and other recreation.
Many people will find the ideas behind dematerialism a little difficult to understand – much less accept. It seems to me that my critics should read POS; however, it is the purpose of this blog to discuss dematerialism a little bit at a time. I hope that my critics will take the trouble to post their objections including the objection raised by many people who have studied evolutionary psychology superficially or have read interpretations of evolutionary biology by excellent writers like Pinker and Dawkins. I will answer the questions if I can. Otherwise, I will have to admit that I am wrong. I am, after all, a fallibilist as well as a dematerialist.
Materialism is my name for any economic system wherein people endure artificial economic contingency by which I mean that their material well-being depends on the actions of others and their own actions as well as natural events such as the weather. I used to call it competitionism because people compete with each other for wealth and power and convert such fame as they may enjoy to wealth and power too. It is this competition for wealth and power that is destroying the world.
I am not against material wealth distributed equitably and in such abundance as the Earth can support sustainably. I hope everyone understands that all wealth comes from Nature. The wealth that was in the Earth when man evolved is finite and may not be drawn upon indefinitely. The only truly sustainable wealth is the wealth that comes from the Sun as it shines upon the days of our lives and to a small extent from the Moon.
I am I am not against competition in fair games among people of equal wealth and political power in science, art, and sports for reproductive advantage or not, or competition for reproductive advantage directly. What you and I are against is competition that leads ultimately to war, poverty, institutional dishonesty, and the wanton destruction of the environment which is seen as necessary under the rules of the competition. These are improper games as opposed to fair or proper games. See http://tinyurl.com/dhneg.
Dematerialism is any program to eliminate materialism. For more about dematerialism see http://www.dematerialism.net/.
People still do not understand what I mean by materialism. In my book, I have shown that materialism, artificial economic contingency, and competitionism are equivalent. Today, I wish to show that they are occurrence equivalent with population growth and unsustainable consumption too. Thus, materialism is equivalent to overshoot. It is not necessary to insist upon the exact equivalence; however, it should be recognized that, Human Nature being what it is, we are guaranteed to experience population growth and other excesses in a materialistic setting. But, in a non-materialistic setting, we have an excellent chance to reduce fertility rates to anything deemed acceptable and to curtail immigration as well. I expect to give good reasons why this won't happen when people are competing for material wealth and political power. Let us start with the principal causes of domestic population growth beginning with immigration:
· Immigration is tolerated because employers who are competing for profits and to expand their own particular shares of the market insist upon continued immigration to provide inexpensive labor of particular types both skilled and unskilled and to hold down wages. Within the labor pool many workers need to be unemployed at any time in case employers need to expand quickly. Unplanned economies experience alternating period of boom and bust. In bad times, unemployment grows; but, in good times, employers need to have a large enough pool of unemployed workers to choose from such that they do not lose market share to a competitor simply because they cannot increase production sufficiently quickly. These employers will fight tooth and nail to defeat immigration reform. But, materialism causes immigration on the supply side too:
· The United States continues to pursue its imperialistic policies in many countries under the guise of containing communism or under the guise of a “war on drugs”, and, nowadays, a “war on terror”. What the United States really wants, as all but the most naive among us know, is continued access to raw materials (including the nutrients in the soil), cheap labor, and expanded markets. Many people have come to the United States because economic life in such countries is often intolerable. Also, many people in opposition to corrupt regimes in Central America have been forced to flee for their lives because of vicious repression of dissent and violations of human rights that would not exist except for present and past American foreign policy, which, in turn, would not exist without materialism.
· Many people have come to the United States because the United States does less than other countries to protect poor people from economic predators. Moreover, any activity whatever is tolerated despite what the stated policy of government claims if its purpose is to make money. Against some such criminal activity there is token law enforcement, but the activity thrives under materialism.
· Graduate students, particularly in science and engineering, flock here because every professor is required to get funding to do research in areas that government wants to compete globally and politically; i.e., in war, or that business wants to compete economically. If professors could not offer stipends to get this ‘applied’ research done, the students wouldn’t come and the elite homegrown talent could do true scientific and engineering research to discover how Nature works.
Although, in the US, immigration is the principal cause of population growth, materialism causes excessive procreation too. Five motives for excessive procreation in violation of the Token Theorem, which permits every person to replace herself or himself, are (i) narcissism, (ii) fear that not all will live, (iii) cheap labor to promote family wealth, (iv) hope for support in old age, and (v) to spread rapidly a racial plurality, a religion, ideology, culture, or general system of “family values”, often superstitions and myths, to which the violator of the Token Theorem is committed, dedicated, or enthralled – or at least wishes others to be committed, dedicated, or enthralled. Accidental pregnancies will be treated as though they were simply another form of inadvertent environmental destruction. Presumably, inadvertent pregnancies can be eliminated by a combination of education, indoctrination, and science all unfettered by superstition. Since this discussion is getting a little long, I shall try to make short work of excessive procreation:
· Narcissism could be countered by indoctrination and coercion in a non-materialistic setting because the other reasons for permitting it would not obtain. There is nothing draconian about coercion to prevent excessive procreation as such practices interfere with the freedom of other social chains, which include living persons and their posterity, as much as do robbery and murder. This is proved in Chapter 3 of my book under the Environmental Axiom. Terms used there are explained in the earlier portions of the chapter. I am sorry that you have to read so much if you think this needs a proof. I think it’s obvious.
· Five motives for excessive procreation in violation of the Token Theorem, which permits every person to replace herself or himself, are (i) narcissism, (ii) fear that not all will live, (iii) cheap labor to promote family wealth, (iv) hope for support in old age, and (v) to spread rapidly a racial plurality, a religion, ideology, culture, or general system of “family values”, often superstitions and myths, to which the violator of the Token Theorem is committed, dedicated, or enthralled – or at least wishes others to be committed, dedicated, or enthralled. Accidental pregnancies will be treated as though they were simply another form of inadvertent environmental destruction. Presumably, inadvertent pregnancies can be eliminated by a combination of education, indoctrination, and science all unfettered by superstition.
· Business will oppose any measures that reduce the labor pool as discussed above in the case of immigration.
· Equilibration of wealth and free healthcare (but rationed, especially for the elderly and severely diminished patients) should quiet fears of infant mortality.
· Items iii and iv above would not arise in a non-materialistic world.
· As far as Item v is concerned, if anyone thinks that the goals of capitalists do not play a role in government and church policy regarding birth control, abortion, and childbirth, they may still believe that, in a non-materialistic setting, advocacy of socially destructive policies would not be tolerated. In my brand of dematerialism, improper religions are in violation of the social contract as discussed in Chapter 1 of my book.
This concludes my discussion of why materialism causes over-population. I could have made a more iron-tight case including a proof of the converse, namely, that only materialism causes over-population; but, this disquisition is too long as it is.
I can prove that materialism causes both over-population and over-consumption. Thus, materialism causes overshoot. It's not my fault that the famous author overlooked the more fundamental cause.
This morning, to prove materialism causes over-population, I wrote Introduction to Dematerialism, Part 3. In the blog, to spare the reader, I did not try to make the argument absolutely rigorous. I hope that most of you will believe that I can provide a complete proof; and, in the book, I have done it.
In addition, materialism causes over-consumption, as I have shown in Chapter 9 of my book. I'm sure you all will believe that the huge amount of energy that goes into sales and marketing and its support plays a role in the amount of material goods that are purchased, consumed, and thrown away. Those who were following this list earlier know that Jay Hanson accepts my calculation based upon the work I did in "Energy in a Natural Economy" that approximately 90% of our energy consumption can be charged to "dividing up the pie" and only 10% to "baking it". In "On the Conservation-within-Capitalism Scenario", I did a similar, though more conservative, calculation with complete arithmetical rigor. This is summarized in "The Demise of Business as Usual".
December 12, 2006
In my last post yesterday, I said that approximately 90% of our energy consumption can be charged to "dividing up the pie" and only 10% to"eating it". I meant that only 10% of the energy goes toward "baking it". If my wife told me that she had spent nine times the effort cutting up the pie and serving it as she spent making it from scratch and baking it, I would truly wonder.
So far, no one has written to acknowledge that he now understands that over-population has a cause. Wherever we have materialism, as defined at http://tinyurl.com/avdzb, we have over-population; and, if we did not have materialism, we would not have over-population. Thus, materialism is the root cause of over-population. It is also the cause of over-consumption; therefore, materialism is the cause of overshoot.
No need to apologize. A simple thank-you will be sufficient.
Now, the debate shifts to its true crux: If materialism has a cause - presumably a biological cause, is it possible to subvert that cause by redirecting our quest for reproductive advantage into more realistic channels such as becoming more appealing to the opposite sex (as opposed to having the where-with-all to subvert its principles) and manifesting the sort of excellence that makes people name their children after you; and, in a world where the Token Principle obtains, becoming more likely to receive the tokens of childless people, which, clearly, provide direct reproductive advantage in terms of more copies of your genes in the next generation?
Ron says NO. I say YES. I am well aware of the fact that I may be wrong. I have very strong doubts myself. But, if I am wrong (and even if I am right and the unlikely political sea-change does not occur), almost everyone in this forum knows that the chances for avoiding a catastrophe of biblical proportions is almost nil. Some members of this forum, for example, think that there lies another road out of this mess. But, I would argue that, whatever it is, it is some kind of dematerialism. Notice, though, that Ron, in our debate, has not once shown a glimmer of realization that HE may be wrong too. Now, between the two of us, who has the best grip on reality?
I have devoted a huge effort to "dematerialism", but I know it probably will be wasted. At least I am not still at my previous job in chemical engineering where my time was not only wasted but I left a wake of harmful results behind me in the form of new chemical plants and petroleum refineries. (At least my principal career, to which I have devoted most of my life, is not wasted. I was a jazz drummer. And, if there's only one thing in this world worth having, it must be the music.)
December 13, 2006