technology

Listen, Mutualist! by HagbardCeline33

jcd44

This is a response essay to Kevin Carson’s essay in response to libertarian municipalism. Here is a link to Kevin Carson’s essay so you can see what I am responding to. I wrote this essay within a day and will probably continue to revise it as I usually do with my writings. Hope this creates dialogue.

A link to Kevin Carson’s essay: http://c4ss.org/content/36761

In regards to anarchism and technology:

It is always interesting to see someone praise Bookchin’s essay “Towards a Liberatory Technology” and then continue to advocate for markets. It is one thing to be ignorant of our technical context that makes markets obsolete, it is another thing to claim this technical context is a fantasy, and it is another thing altogether to know about the technical context that makes markets obsolete exists but still think that we should have markets. If things people need are for sale, then by extension people are for sale. We have the technical ability to have free food/water/shelter/energy for all. Supplying people with such resources for free would be bad for maximizing money. A great way to maximize money is by selling that which people need, and living in a society where the very basics of what people need are for sale. Aeroponic skyscrapers, agroecology, geothermal/wind/solar/wave/tidal energy/hemp energy, water purification systems, hempcrete houses, hemp based plastics/paper, the ability to produce ad distribute everything simpler than an automobile, maglevs, and various other forms of liberatory technology can free us from artificial scarcity. This context makes markets obsolete. To make this liberatory technology for sale as opposed to something accessed by communities, collectives, and individuals, is to turn liberatory technology into less liberatory technology(at best), and ensure scarcity that is needed and generated by market systems.

Markets ration resources through money, putting cost efficiency before ecological usage of resources, liberatory technology, and human needs whenever doing so makes sense in the realm of market competition. Market economies are based on an all out economic war, where a game of economic musical chairs(artificial scarcity) is created. Carson advocates for a “thou shalt not privately own the means of production” rule on top of a market economy. The best way to maximize money in a market system is to privately own the means of production other people use and then extract surplus value from them. There is a contradiction in the incentive system within a market economy to make money, and a law prohibiting the most effective way to maximize money.

One of the most interesting lines written by Carson in his essay on Bookchin, is Carson claiming that the line between individualist/market anarchism and social anarchism is permeable. Statements like these express an ignorance of the differences of advocating for freedom of markets and freedom from markets. To act as if those two broad strains of economic thought have a permeable line that separates them is to miss the point of social anarchism entirely and degenerate anarchism into a vague “anarchism without adjectives”. There is a reason various adjectives have emerged within anarchist thought; Anarchism(genuine strains of it) are unified by “freedom from capitalism/statecraft, and tactics used outside of capitalism/statecraft”. Mutualists, Labor Voucherists, and Communists disagree in regards to what kind of economy we should have. And underneath each of those broad labels there are disagreements within each camp in regards to what kind of society we ought to have and what kind of decision making processes should exist(or not exist) and what kind of tactics we ought to use to get towards freedom. These differences are not trivial and superficial, in fact there are tons of opposing views(to the degree that putting all these strains under the term anarchism causes lots of confusion within and outside the anarchist movement). Anarchism without adjectives is extremely broad, and seems to be what Carson is proposing. It reminds me of “Anarcho” Capitalists when they advocate for forms of communism within the boundaries of privately owned means of existence and their system. Carson is saying is that what libertarian municipalists want ought to happen, within the limits and rules of market systems. However, the limits and rules of market systems prohibit mutualist moral impositions of “thou shalt not privately own the means of production”, as well as libertarian municipalist ideals of community assemblies and a society that has evolved beyond markets and artificial scarcity.

Carson claims that, “The large monopoly capitalist enterprise grows at the expense of society, in cooperation with its “rivals.””. This statement is true to a degree. A great strategy within capitalism is to cooperate as a mechanism to maximize profit and compete with others. However, sometimes competition with rivals and others can be a great mechanism for maximizing profit. Mutualism advocates for cooperation being used to maximize money and compete with others within a market economy.

A critique of Carson’s critique of Bookchin’s strategy:

Critiquing the idea of building a mass movement of municipal assemblies to achieve liberatory ideals, Carson advocates a gradual transition out of capitalism and the state through rationing resources within the market context seeing technological fixes and markets as capable in and of themselves of transitioning us to a better society. Bookchin critiqued worker co-ops within the context of a market system, noting that they either had to adapt to the market and become money seeking, or implode because of market pressures. The community assemblies advocated by libertarian municipalism 1. meet people’s needs in the present 2. decentralize power 3. create institutions that can exist during and after a transition to a stateless/marketless society. This is able to create a mass movement, of the people, by the people, and for the people, and with the help of people educated in participatory democracy.

Carson claims the approach based on mass movements based on municipal assemblies is not needed. I can only assume that what Carson is doing here is advocating for small movements using less liberatory methods/forms than community assemblies.  Carson then advocates for the “techno fix” the idea that technology alone will allow us to transition, as well as claiming the coordination of community assemblies is obsolete given this new technology. How does the advancement of technology make communal decision making processes and institutions obsolete? That is a question left unanswered. Liberatory technology can assist us with decision making, but should not replace decision making which ultimately needs to be held by the people. What does Carson want in the place of community assemblies? Market Mechanisms? This is left unclear, we are left with an assertion that a mass movement of community assemblies is obsolete with no evidence backing it.

Carson critiques the idea of a big movement, not realizing that a big movement can have a platform that provides it structure while allowing for diversity to thrive within that platform. The preferences of different people can vary greatly while keeping the basic forms of freedom of municipal assemblies.

Carson displays 6 reasons that supposedly make a mass movement of community assemblies obsolete, none of which do so individually, or when grouped together holistically.

1. “Technological advances are making small-scale, high-tech craft production with computerized machine tools far more efficient than high-overhead factory production.” – Carson

Just because technology is advancing does not make communal directly democratic systems of governance obsolete, if anything it just makes them more liberatory if managed in an educated way.

2. “The radical cheapening of such tools is bringing them within the price range of skilled laborers.” – Carson

This process is also making it so people compete with their tools to survive unnecessarily. Technological unemployment under the influence of the market is able to take technology that could emancipate us from labor, and put it in competition with laborers. Ephemeralization under the influence of the market an the state is the ephemeralization of turning life into non life in order to maximize gains.

3. “Self-provisioning and subsistence production within the household, informal and social economies is becoming increasingly necessary to meet a growing share of consumption needs, because of increasing levels of unemployment and underemployment.” – Carson

His third point is unintelligible to me. He claims there is the need for new “social economies”, which is an extremely vague way to advocate whatever he is advocating for. Part of the point of community assemblies is to meet people’s needs in the present. How this “social economy” Carson advocates makes a mass movement of community assemblies obsolete is a mystery to me.

4. “Networked communications technology is destroying most of the transaction costs of coordinating human activity horizontally, and enabling peer networks to run circles around the old bureaucratic hierarchies of corporation and state.” – Carson

It is also enabling new more cost efficient/profit efficient bureaucracies to take the place of less cost efficient/profit efficient bureaucracies. This is just the market maximizing profit, and does not make community assemblies as a transition or as an end goal obsolete.

5. “Peak Oil and other resource crises, and the fiscal crisis of the state, are making it impossible for the state to provide the massive and growing levels of subsidized inputs that capitalism depends on.” -Carson

Resource crises are destroying the foundation that human and non human life depend upon as well. How this makes a mass movement of community assemblies obsolete is a mystery to me.

6. “The plummeting capital requirements for production eliminate the technical basis for the factory and the large corporation, so that the only way they can maintain their relevance is to rely on entry barriers and monopolies (like “intellectual property”) to suppress small-scale production or coopt it within their institutional control; but the hollowing out of the state, and the proliferation of liberatory technologies like file-sharing and encryption, make it increasingly impossible to enforce them.” – Carson

This techno fix in and of itself, outside of radical systemic change, leaves capitalism/the state in place. The idea that we do not need a mass movement of community assemblies because of file sharing and encryption is truly an enigma. It is a claim without evidence.

Carson ends his 6 components of why mass movements of community assemblies aren’t necessary with a smug “no vanguard movement required” line. This is probably to create associations with authoritarian vanguardism as practiced by state socialists. Bookchin advocates for intelligent people to help foster education about libertarian municipalism, but does not advocate for an authoritarian vanguard. I think the goal of that line is to create an association in the mind of Carson’s readers between Bookchin’s views and state socialism. This is either ignorant or dishonest.

Critique of Carson’s critque of Bookchin in regards to the restoration of the polis:

Carson claims that directly democratic political institutions with anti authoritarian rules and enforcement thereof as “an example of authority and domination”. Yet when it comes to decision making, Carson sees the market as some quasi religious principle that can take the place of the democratic polis advocated by libertarian municipalism.

Carson starts talking about how he believes in the non aggression principle, a principle that sounds pleasant on the surface, but is merely a rationalization of private property rights. Does Carson believe that the definition of “legitimate property rights” should be changed to not include private property? Or does Carson believe that it is up to the private owners of the means of production to voluntarily hand over the means of production? If Carson advocates the latter, then Carson is advocating for capitalist property relations as a framework through which socialist property relations can flourish. If this is the case, than this is tied for the most absurd transition strategy to socialism that I have ever heard (perhaps tied with state socialist transition strategies). As far as I know the non aggression principle was first advocated by Ayn Rand, and then adapted to an “anarcho” capitalist perspective by Murray Rothbard. Randian Mutualism is even less liberatory than mutualism.

Libertarian municipalism advocates municipalities linking up into confederations, giving each person a position in creating policy, especially within their own municipality. Libertarian municipalism also advocates for constraining democracy to a set of rules/a constitution/”social compact” that protects free association and prohibits authoritarian relationships. Under libertarian municipalism, people can leave their municipality and go to other municipalities, uninhibited by economic coercion from the market. The confederations are free associations of free associations(bounded together by rights and responsibilities). Direct democracy can be used to see if there is an organic consensus, if different preferences are compatible, and how to resolve different preferences that are incompatible. Liberatory technology and a culture that is not based on conspicuous consumption (amongst various other “checks and balances”) would change the degree of incompatible preferences.

Carson thinks that the state and capitalism will “hollow out and retreat from social life”. This is a child’s fantasy at best, and a viewpoint that will allow capitalism and the state to continue unchallenged at worst. It is a viewpoint that sees no reason for a mass movement of liberatory municipal institutions during a transition to a better society. Carson’s adjectiveless form of Randian Mutualism being put forward doesn’t prescribe institutions for after the revolution. This vagueness is part of the reason why Bookchin stopped identifying with anarchism. The pure negative liberty of freedom from the state and freedom from capitalism are necessary conditions for freedom and wellbeing of all, but not sufficient conditions. We ought to expand negative liberty to include freedom from markets. We also ought to have positive liberty that we advocate for, such as people being free to participate in decision making on an equal footing when they are involved in associations with others, the freedom to use liberatory technology, the freedom to perform scientific, philosophical, and artistic work, the freedom to participate in one’s municipality, etc etc etc. The idea that community institutions/rules/enforcement thereof are just optional components of anarchism, reduces anarchism into structurelessness.

A Rough Draft of the “BioPsychoSocialEco Technological Model of Human Cognition and Behavior”, by Hagbard Celine33

The Biopsychosocialeco technological model of human behavior is a combination between the biopsychosocial model(the model of human cognition and behavior that looks at biology and psychology and social systems as interconnected), social ecology(the theory that our social systems impact the ecosystem making our environmental problems social problems in disguise), and the idea that our biospychosocialeco system(s) impact our technology, and that our technology impacts our biopsychosocialeco system(s).

-Our social systems impact our ecosystems, and our ecosystems effect our social systems (social ecology)

-Our ecosystems ‘carved out’ our biology and are impacted by our biology(basic truism)

-Our biology is an essential component in the development of our psyches, and our psyches impact our biology(for example relations between excess cortisol and ill health effects)

-Our biology is a component in creating social systems, and our social systems are components that impact our biology

-Our biology is a component in the technology(applied knowledge) we create, and our technology is a component in how we adapt biologically

-Our social systems impact our psyches, and our psyches impact our social systems

-Our social systems impact our technology(applied knowledge), and our technology impacts our social systems

-Our psyches impact technology, and our technology impacts our psyches

-Our psyches are components in effecting our ecosystem, and our ecosystem is a component in effecting our psyches

-Our ecosystems are a component in regards to what technology is made, and our technology has an impact on the ecosystems

“10 Rules for a Liberatory Society” by Hagbard Celine33

The question “should we have rules?” is not the right question to ask. We need a society with rules, in fact a society with rules is inevitable. “What should be the goal of such rules?” and “What rules should we have to achieve such goals?”. Those are some of the questions we need to be asking. Our end goal should be to maximize the wellbeing of all (or as many as possible) which implies concern for our global ecosystem since we are dependent upon our global ecosystem. The rules should be specific enough to allow for correctness, yet broad enough to allow for diversity within that correctness.

1. Free Association

The first rule is free association. Free association has nothing to do with non determinist definitions of free will (the idea that we are free from context), nor does it have to do with the freedom to exploit other people. Free association has three components. Freedom of association (freedom to associate), freedom within the association (decision making power based on equal votes for all people within an association), and freedom from association(freedom to disassociate without harming the free association of others).  Freedom from association does not mean the ability to dissent and then violate the free association of others. For example free association does not permit you to get up and say “I’m free from the association” and punch someone in the face. Nor does freedom from association grant you the right to start a violent top down organization (such as a capitalist business or a state). Free association is a psychosocial need.

 

Free association is bounded by the free association of other people. Freedom within an association also means the ability to opt out of activities while remaining within an association. Free intentional volition is intentional volition freed from hierarchy and artificial scarcity. A “guaranteed minimum” enables people to have access to the means of life, enabling people to associate where they want to instead of where they are forced to.

2. Participatory Democracy

The second rule is participatory democracy. This term is problematic but the train of thought is essential. The term is problematic because of the common association of democracy with a representative form of democracy, or a majority rules democracy without free association. However participatory democracy advocates none of the above. Participatory democracy is defined by decision making power being held by the people within an association, as well as equal votes for people within an association. Participatory democracy has a built in defense mechanism against authoritarian relations. One can make a decision that effects the decisions other people make, but no one has the right to inhibit anyone else’s decision making power over decisions that effect them (nor does one member of an association have the right to more votes than another). Participatory democracy can and should exist within and between municipal assemblies, in workforces, in households, and in informal relations. Participatory democracy often takes the form of majority and minority preference within free associations. This is not the majority being authoritarian, nor does it allow the minority to oppress the majority. And the ability for people to dissent from a collective is meaningful in a gift and need based economy, unlike capitalism where one’s options are often “work for a boss or starve/suffer” conditions. Work for a boss or suffer is a threat more than it is a choice. Since one’s needs are met in a gift and need based economy, there is no economic coercion to join collectives one doesn’t want to join. Majority rule is only problematic outside of freedom of/from/within associations and a general set of rules that inhibit authoritarian social relations. The majority of a group expressing a rational preference is not the majority of a group being authoritarian towards the minority(similar to how two out of three people in an association wanting to see a concert that one person does not want to see is not harming the decision making power of the one person who doesnt want to see the concert). Another form of democracy is consensus. Procedural forms of Consensus have issues. Procedural consensus can often be the lowest common denominator rather than what people want to do, especially in groups of many people. However consensus can sometimes be by far the most ideal when it is achieved ORGANICALLY rather than procedurally. Procedural consensus should be differentiated from a ‘meta consensus’, which I’m defining as agreement on rules and/or platforms that we associate within. Then there is the process of deliberation(the process of thoughtfully weighing opinions prior to voting) as a mechanism for arriving at decisions. This process could be COMPLIMENTED well by experts in fields of knowledge as well as interactive digital interfaces that have available evidence for different proposals. This would allow for a more informed deliberation process. Different appeals can be made towards different preferences and synthesis can happen if people prefer such a synthesis between different preferences. Minority preferences can dissent, deliberate, or choose the majority preference. This gives minority groups more freedom than procedural consensus for minority groups can make preferences as long as they do not harm the decision making power of others. When minority preferences and majority preferences cannot coexist due to incompatibility, the majority decision passes and people retain self management. However, through a management of resources based on logic, empathy, and liberatory technology, many of these incompatibilities between different preferences can be resolved. Majority preference bounded by a liberatory set of rules produces more freedom than procedural consensus, for people can make decisions as long as they do not harm the decision making power of others without everyone agreeing every time anyone does anything. Procedural consensus gives individuals unlimited power over every decision made by groups. Even if ALL(or most all) industry was COMPLETELY(or almost completely) automated, we would still need and want participatory democracy within free associations when we associate with each other socially and politically, as well as to determine what is produced when there are and when there aren’t incompatible preferences. Participatory democracy is needed to determine if there is an organic consensus, and to determine what we can do when there are different preferences. (((If participatory democracy  appears foreign to you in regards to lived experience, the chances are that you already utilize participatory democracy amongst friends when arriving at preferences))). The biggest problem with participatory democracy within a free association is not the fact that people are making preferences.  Problems arise when the preferences are irrational or malevolent. To minimize irrational and malevolent preferences we ought to use dialogue, compassion, logic, and the scientific method.

3. Use of compassion, logic, and the scientific method as mechanisms for arriving at decisions

The third rule is the use of compassion, logic(deductive, inductive, abductive, systemic, processual), and the scientific method as mechanisms for arriving at decisions. The intent of compassion is necessary but insufficient in and of itself for maximizing the wellbeing of all. If we have the ought statement of we “ought to maximize wellbeing” but we use incorrect is statements then our ought statements can be flawed and even dangerous. If we want to be serious about compassion then it cant just be an intention, we need to actually arrive at the consequences we are intending for. And the scientific method is an important rudder that allows us to aim our compassion.

4. Decentralization of decision making power

The fourth rule is decentralization of decision making power. Merriam Webster defines decentralization as “the dispersion or distribution of functions and powers”. Central planning (like irrational planning) is incapable of meeting human needs because it is disconnected from free association which is a psychosocial need. Decentralized planning on the other hand does not suffer from the ignorance of irrational planning nor the violence of central planning. Decentralization of power also creates resiliency. Centralization of power leaves society vulnerable. For the society is forced to be dependent on a centralized power structure. However decentralization of power makes societies less effected by errors. One decentralized component fails and there are others ready to take over the function of the failed system and/or contribute with mutual aid to help the failed system. However even if decentralization of power was less resilient than centralization of power(which it isn’t) we should still advocate for decentralization of power because it is based on egalitarian principles. Its important to stress that advocates of decentralization of power are not against legitimate authority(such as a doctor, a shoemaker, a solar panel engineer, or a teacher). Legitimate authority is different from authoritarian social relations. Delegation of tasks to certain experts is inevitable and desirable, but we ought to delegate such power in non authoritarian ways. Planning, plans and implementations of plans ought to be based on dynamic liberatory community/collective/self management.

5. Confederalism

It is important that decentralized societies associate with one another in order to help each other out in regards to meeting everyone’s needs and teaching one another. This is why the fifth rule is confederation. The term confederation (like democracy) is a tricky term to explain because of various connotations (for example connotations relating to the confederate states of America). However, what a confederation means within anti authoritarian circles is a decentralized federation, or non authoritarian associations between non authoritarian associations.  There is a common theme between free association/participatory democracy/decentralization/confederation.  They all aim towards harmonizing the individual with the community and the ecosystems they are dependent upon. Free association and meeting people’s needs makes sure that democratic institutions allow for meaningful dissent, and decentralization of power makes sure that the federated associations don’t have any political power to be oppressive. Delegates of associations only have communicative and administrative power, not decision making power. Delegates are mandated and can be recalled by the people who they are delegated by. The delegation process can be assisted by electronics, allowing different associations to communicate more directly. However, lack of face to face relations within the delegate process can lead to miscommunication. Face to face democracy is essential on the most local level.

  1. Restraint as opposed to punishment

Although preventative medicine via education, meeting people’s needs, minimizing abuse etc is essential to a better society, there is going to be symptom suppression that eventually needs to occur. And there are better and worse ways to deal with symptom suppression. The sixth rule is restraint as opposed to punishment when it comes to symptom suppression and conflict resolution. Restraint is about preventing someone from causing harm, whereas punishment is about revenge upon the wrong doer. There are a few levels as to why punishment systems are wrong. On one level, no individual is to blame for their reactions to environmental stimuli (for freedom from causality/context is illusory). To blame/shame someone is to ignore context. On another level punishment doesnt work as symptom suppression, in fact it is mere symptom aggravation in disguise.  Somewhere around 2/3s of prisoners in the US re-offend within three years. Punishment systems try to treat abuse/unmet needs/ignorance/malevolence with more abuse/unmet needs, adding fuel to the fire of authoritarian relations and systems. People who are suffering from abuse and unmet needs to the point where they are intentionally harming others need to be restrained from harming other. They don’t need punishment. All oppressors were carved into oppressors by their environment(s). We can’t blame components for reactions to systems regardless of how good it may feel to reduce an oppressor to an existence without a context to the point where they are blame worthy for learning their behavior. Given the goal of human wellbeing, we ought to use a consequentialist model of responsibility(where we only hold people responsible to the degree that it achieves the consequences we are looking for such as the wellbeing of all), rather than a model based on blame/shame/retribution. Abolishing hierarchy, transformative Justice, restorative justice, self/collective/community defense, and support/rehabilitation centers would replace retribution and caging people.

7. Automation of mechanical labor

The seventh rule is the automation of mechanical labor in accord with the needs and rational preferences of communities and individuals. We have the technology to automate the vast majority of mechanical labor to the point where people can be free from it. This would allow people to contribute to science and art rather than be forced to perform avoidable drudgery. The freedom from avoidable mechanical labor through automation is in many ways one of the freedoms that post scarcity economics provides that distinguishes it from traditional anti authoritarian strains of economics. Before the technology exists to automate an undesirable but necessary chore, the chore can be see as “a necessary evil”. However when the technology exists to automate such a chore, the chore becomes an unnecessary evil. Given that we have the technical potential to automate anything simpler than the complete production and distribution of an automobile, we can minimize the vast majority of undesired labor and have rotating volunteers do the mechanical labor that we cannot automate.

8. Freedom from structural violence

The eighth rule is freedom from systems that generate avoidable unmet needs or freedom from structural violence. Why? because structural violence creates avoidable suffering. And avoidable suffering is by definition something we want to avoid(otherwise it wouldn’t be suffering).  Freedom from structural violence has very liberatory implications including a change in property relations. Private Property is based authoritarian hierarchies rather than needs/use. The inequality of purchasing power created by private property and market systems makes it so people can have irrational wants met while other people don’t have their basic needs met. The consequences of private property(not to be confused with personal property) allow some people are more entitled to shelter than others. Private property relations allow absentee owners and private individuals can own the means of production and profit off of the labor of workers. Private Property and market systems lead towards buying and selling the necessities of life and by extension buying and selling of people. And of course private property requires a state to enforce the extreme wealth inequality that private property creates. State property is a form of private property, for private owners/managers control it not the people the state claims to represent. What we need is a usership system that puts meeting human needs as a priority with library esque access centers rather than an ownership system based on the amount of money one has.  We ought to replace private property with community ownership of the means of production, as well as anti authoritarian collective property, and personal property(or possession) without conspicuous consumption. Freedom from avoidable unmet needs also implies freedom from attitudinal/behavioral/ideological/institutional sexism/racism etc. It is essential that we do not just abolish systems of authoritarianism, we also must minimize authoritarian behavior/attitudes/ideology.

9. Gift based economy

The ninth rule is a gift economy rather than a monetary system. Merriam Webster defines gift as “something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation” . However through the nurture/nature of gifting people feel obligated to give back. Gift can occur from community to individual, from the individual to the community, from individual to individual, and from community to community. Economic rewards and punishments only have the ability to motivate work for PURELY mechanical labor. However the vast majority of that labor can and should be automated. Making there no reason for economic rewards/punishments given that economic rewards/punishments inhibit work that isn’t purely mechanical.

10. Ecological rudder for our technology

The tenth rule is that Our technical efficiency should be used for human wellbeing and integrated with ecological principles. We need to manage our finite resources in a way that meets human needs(and by extension we need to have concern for the environment we are dependent upon). This means we can’t afford to take cost efficiency and profit into consideration when it comes to production and distribution. We need to take human needs/preferences and ecological principles into consideration. The market and the state limit our liberatory technical potential through turning the means of production into means of destruction.

These rules in isolation are not sufficient, but when they harmonize with each other they are able to create liberatory conditions. If our goal is to maximize wellbeing, the scientific method can allow us to achieve compassionate results(rather than mere compassionate intentions…). If our goal is maximizing the wellbeing of all, logic steered by compassion leads us towards meeting human needs(both finding out what these human needs are, and how to best meet them with the current technology available) and the scientific method leads us to an ecological focus by extension(and our ecological problems are social problems in disguise). And if we are trying to meet human needs, we need an access system based on needs/use rather than a system based on private property(and centralization of power).  Free association is by definition a preference we have in regards to how we want to be treated. From free association bounded by the free association of others (or social freedom) we get Participatory democracy and decentralized yet confederated associations. Our current technology allows us to automate mechanical labor freeing us from avoidable suffering. Due to the potential for the automation of mechanical labor aimed at meeting human needs with concern for the environment, there are no longer any meaningful arguments for a deeds based economy outside of transitioning to a gift and need based economy. And when it comes to suppressing symptoms, restorative justice and non hierarchical restraint based defense is less harmful and more effective than punishment models.

‘Population’ a collection of information made through Open Collaborative Design, from Adciv.org

There is widespread concern about an ‘overpopulation problem’. Let us be clear about what is meant by ‘overpopulation’. It is not a problem for a lot of people to be alive. It is a problem if there are too many people for given resources to go around. So the important question is, “Is the human population likely to outstrip available resources?” According to the US Census Bureau[3], the world population as of September 14th 2010 is 6,868,683,892. This number is growing; the UN’s upper prediction is 10.6 billion for 2050[4]. After that, the UN expects the population to begin to fall. Let us assume population continues to rise beyond 2050 and reaches 40 billion, well beyond any UN estimate. Would we be overpopulated then, in relation to available resources? —

  • Food. Without expanding farmland, we could grow enough food for 80 billion people using low-tech permaculture techniques only.
  • Water. Our planet has about 1260 quintillion liters of water. This means that 40 billion people using 200 liters a day each would use, over the course of a year, less than 0.00025% of the world’s water.
  • Energy. The world used 15 terawatts of energy in 2008. If rising population and increasing technology increased this 100-fold to 1500 terawatts, we would still only need to convert less than 0.9% of the sunlight that falls on Earth. It is highly likely that we will have fusion reactors and space-based solar panels before our energy needs come anywhere near this level.
  • Land. The planet’s surface (including oceans) is about 510 million square kilometers.  …… 63,750,000km2 is habitable land. For a population of 40 billion people, this is 1593.75m2 habitable land per person, equivalent to a average population density of 628 people per km2. This is comparable to a fairly densely populated country like Taiwan.

Doing more with less

100 years ago, 8000 square meters of land was needed to grow food for a person. It can now be done on a few hundred square meters. Why? Because human intelligencehas figured out how to extract more resources from a fixed amount of material. The effect of human intelligence is always to enable us to do more with less 11px-Wikipedia_logo.jpg: better solar cells can make more electricity from less sunlight, we can make a more powerful computer chip using less material than a few years ago, and more efficient vehicles can travel the same journeys with much less petrol. Human intelligence is the key that unlocks all other resources. As Robert Anton Wilson has said, “You can starve in the middle of a field of wheat if your mind hasn’t identified wheat as edible.” The greater the population, the greater the store of human intelligence. A large population that is well networked and educated will concoct and communicate all kinds of technological solutions that enable us to do more with the resources we have. And so, paradoxically, an increased population can mean that we have more resources to go around.

Space colonisation

There is ultimately an upper limit on the amount of people this planet can accomodate (though, as we have shown, the limit is not very limiting). Colonising space can be thought of as the ultimate solution to any question of overpopulation. Gerard K. O’Neill wrote a classic essay called The Colonization of Space in 1974. In it, he considers the ability of a series of space habitats orbiting the Earth and the Sun to absorb population increase. These colonies could be built from materials available in the asteroid belt and the Moon using the technology available in 1974. O’Neill’s calculations show that they could house 20,000 times the world population at the time he wrote the essay – no less than 80 trillion people!