Chapter Six: Challenges to Changing the Game
we did not choose the conditions of our birth. We did not choose what planet to be born onto, what time in history to be born, or the way societies were organized on this world when we came to be. Now that we are here, however, we are not helpless. We have choices. If we like the basic realities of existence, want to keep them for ourselves and the people we love (including those yet to be born), we can be passive, accepting, and let these realities continue to exist. If, however, we think that our race can do better, or have modes of existence that better meet our needs, or create a better destiny for future generations who are born onto this world, we have the intellectual capabilities to think about other options we may want. Once we figure out something better, we can use our intellects to find the best way to cause the modes of existence we inherited from past generations to evolve or ‘transition’ into the modes of existence we want.
This is within our capability. We are not helpless victims of the circumstances that past generations left to us. As long as we are willing to accept our own capabilities, and take advantage of them, we can make our world work the way we want it to work.
Necessities for Change
The societies we were born into are built on beliefs. They were built on guesses about realities and matters that we can’t analyze scientifically. One key belief of these societies is that a group of people can get together, call themselves by the right name (a ‘nation’ for example), go through certain ceremonies and procedures, then ‘claim’ a part of the Earth. After they have done this, it will be ‘their’ part of the Earth, or their ‘nation’ to use as they please, treat as they please, and dispose of or destroy at their whim.
In the earlier books in this series, we saw that it is possible to build on entirely different premises. Beliefs are, by definition, unprovables. (If we have proof of a conclusion, that conclusion is called a ‘fact’ not a ‘belief.’) We do not know if the nations that claim each part of the Earth really own it or whether parts of planets really are ownable. We are only recently evolved beings and don’t yet have the capability to communicate with higher powers or otherwise determine if there are factors above us all that make ‘nations’ the true owners of the planet. Perhaps we will never know this for sure. Until we do know this, we can choose to stop forcing people to accept unprovable conjectures by using beliefs as the foundations for our societies. We can order our societies around something other than beliefs.
We can start with the scientific evidence that humans are the dominant species on the Earth. The dominant species on a planet is the only species with the ability to make sure the planet is kept in good condition. They are the effective custodians of that planet. If we want to make sure the planet receives good care and remains healthy, we can make rules about how it is to be used. We can then require that all other species and all members of our species treat the planet as we require, and we can enforce any rules we make. This makes us the effective landlords of the planet we live on.
Once we have accepted that we—the members of the human race—are the effective landlords and custodians of the planet, we can analyze the different ways that landlords and custodians of land can deal with land under their care.
Possible Societies went over the entire range of options. It showed there are two extreme ways to interact with the land and an infinite number of intermediate options.
One extreme involves dividing the world with imaginary lines, selecting a group to be the owners of each division, then granting these owners absolute rights or sovereignty over that part of the world. Societies built on this particular method of interacting with the land believe that exactly 100% of the rights to the world are ownable by human beings: as long as the people follow the proper protocols, there is no limit to their ownership of the planet. We needed a name to refer to societies built on this premise and called them sovereignty-based societies (also sovereign law societies and nation-based societies; these three names all refer to the same category of society).
The other extreme involves accepting that we do not own this planet and it is, by its very nature, unownable. It involves accepting that we are guests of whoever or whatever owns it, and we have the same obligations that guests have to their hosts: We have to respect the property we are being allowed to live on and accept that, when we arrived, it was in a certain condition; we have an obligation to our hosts to make sure it is back in that same condition when we leave (either by dying or moving somewhere else). Societies built on this particular method of interacting with the land believe that exactly 0% of the rights to the world are ownable by human beings. We needed a name to refer to societies built on this belief system and called them natural law societies.
Sovereignty-based societies are built on the premise that 100% of all rights to the world are ownable; natural law societies are built on the premise that 0% of the rights to the world are ownable. If it is possible to build societies on the extreme degrees of ownability, it must also be possible to build societies on the premise that the human race, as the effective landlords and custodians of the planet, can make rules that allow our members to buy and own some package of rights to the world, with this package containing something between 0% and 100% of possible ownership rights to the world. In fact, since there are infinite gradients between 0% (nothing) and 100% (everything) there must be infinite different ways that landlords can deal with the land that allow people to buy and own varying rights to use parts of the planet as private property.
Possible Societies explained how to create these intermediate options. We could do this by considering the human race the landlords and custodians of the planet. The landlords could then create private leaseholds which allow the buyers of the leaseholds to consider the land specified in the leasehold documents to be private property, with specific rules and rights defined by the landlords. (The landlords of the world—the members of the human race—can have forums over the internet and make decisions about what rights we want to allow to be private and how much people who want to own these rights must pay us as leasehold payments each year for the right to keep the property private.)
Our options, again, are infinite. We can have any percentage of rights private from 0% (creating leasehold ownership systems that are identical to a natural law societies) to 100% (creating leasehold ownership systems that are identical to a sovereign law societies.)
I will not go over all of the options here. Possible Societies explains them in great detail. (Part One of Possible Societies explains them in an intuitive way using examples and analogies; Part Two explains them in a scientific way with mathematical analysis and proofs.) We saw that we can lay out the options in a two dimensional chart or ‘map;’ this allows us to compare them to each other and see what happens as we progress from societies with less ownability to societies with greater ownability, and vice versa.
If you haven’t yet read Possible Societies, or if you have read it but don’t remember the details, you will need to go back and have a look at it before the discussions that follow will make any sense.
Socratic Leasehold Ownership Societies (Socratics)
If we want to understand the options, it makes sense to pick one in about the middle of the range and come to understand it in detail. Since we already understand how natural law societies work (they existed for most of the time humans lived on Earth) and we know how sovereignty-based societies work (they exist now), if we understand an option about half way between these extreme systems, we can get a pretty good idea what happens if we progress through the ranges of possibilities.
Chapters Six through Nine of Possible Societies went over the realities of an example society about half way between the two extreme systems. This society is built on the idea that the human race is the effective landlord and custodian of the planet. We will allow people to buy and own leaseholds on parts of the planet provided they agree to certain rules. The rules are pretty simple:
1. Leasehold owners may not destroy or harm the property they are leasing without the written permission of the landlords.
2. Leasehold owners must make leasehold payments to their landlords that are exactly equal to 20% of the price they paid for the leasehold each year they own.
This kind of leasehold ownership is called ‘socratic leasehold ownership.’ We saw that socratic leasehold ownership societies work in ways that create very powerful incentives to make sure the land is kept healthy and productive. (Leasehold owners must keep it healthy to preserve their capital investment in the property; they must keep it productive to be able to afford to make their leasehold payments.)
Since socratic leasehold ownership systems have send the largest possible percentage of the ‘unearned’ income of the Earth to the human race, they have the lowest possible need for taxes on increases in incomes, called ‘marginal taxes.’ such a society can function without any ‘marginal taxes,’ it also has extremely strong incentives to invest in capital improvements. If people react to these incentives—if they are greedy and selfish and try as much as possible to make profits—they will do their best to make sure the land remains healthy and productive and will improve the properties whenever they can
If leasehold owners can improve their properties so they create higher free cash flows, they get the greatest possible percentage of this free cash flow in socratic leasehold ownership societies (100%; there are no marginal taxes at all); this gives them the strongest possible incentives to make improvements that drive up the free cash flow or bounty of the planet we live on.
At some time in the future, they will either sell the property or give it away (perhaps by bequest). Socratic leasehold ownership works in a way that causes the leasehold payment to ‘reset’ whenever leaseholds change ownership. The landlords of the Earth (members of the human race) share in the increases in the bounty the land produces after the land is improved and then changes ownership. If people respond to the incentives (if they are greedy, selfish, and motivated as much as possible by profits) they will improve the world and the welfare of the landlords of the world will increase constantly.
I will not go over the details of socratic leasehold ownership here; you can find detailed explanations in Possible Societies. All you really need to understand is that, with socratic leasehold ownership, no person or group can actually own a part of the planet. The human race is not the owner, we are only the custodians and landlords. The landlords will allow people to buy and own rights to take and keep a part of the Earth private, provided they follow the two cardinal rules:
1. Leasehold owners may not destroy or harm the property they are leasing without the written permission of the landlords.
2. Leasehold owners must make leasehold payments to their landlords that are exactly equal to 20% of the price they paid for the leasehold each year they own.
Possible Societies explained the idea of a socratic leasehold ownership system that started with every possible advantage: A group of people with modern tools and knowledge bases went back in time to before humans had evolved. Since we were starting from scratch, we didn’t have to follow any rules of any nations or even accept that nations were real things.
If we were starting with all possible advantages, we wouldn’t have any difficulty at all creating a socratic leasehold ownership system. We have no constraints: we can do anything we want.
But, of course, we weren’t born under these conditions. We were born at a time after certain decisions had been made that divided the world into ‘sovereign nations’ and granted rights to nations. We were born after the rules of these societies had already been organized and their enforcement mechanisms put into place. We can’t simply vote to end nations and have them disappear.
We have seen that the societies built on ownability of planets by nations operate almost as if there is a game in progress. Players in this game work to get points in the form of the little pieces of paper called ‘money.’ The rules of this game force them to follow very strict rules to get these points. Since they need these points (money) to survive, they are not in a position to simply stop playing because they don’t like the game. They have to play or die (the penalty for refusing to play is death).
If people have to play a game to avoid death, they are naturally going to be very cautious when people say things that even imply that there is something wrong with the game or that it needs to be changed. The game is extremely complex: we all must spend many decades learning the specific behaviors that will get us the points (money) we need to keep us alive and raise our families. People who have spent their lives learning how to play this game don’t want to hear that it is necessary to change the rules for any reason. (In this case, the reason is the strongest possible one: this is an unwinnable game from the perspective of the human race. If we don’t change the rules, our race will disappear and nothing anyone has ever done in the time humans were on this world will have any meaning at all.)
People have told us that the game is unwinnable before. (You don’t have to be told: if you have eyes, you can see it for yourself.) People have suggested that the rules have to be changed. But history tells us that people did not react positively to these suggestions. In fact, they basically panicked at the very thought that anyone might try to change the rules of the game, or try to get young people to accept the rules needed to be changed before these people became vested in the system (young people don’t really understand how hard it is to get money; once they learn and find a way to get some, they are ‘vested’ and have a powerful stake in keeping the game operating so they can continue to get points/money).
When they panic, they often take extreme measures. Even though they may call themselves a ‘free’ society, they may ban the ideas or do their best to make them unavailable. (We saw many examples of this in Forensic History.) In many cases, they execute the people who make these suggestions, to prevent them from spreading the word to others. What can we do?
We have certain great advantages that people didn’t have in the past. For example, we can learn from the successes and failures of people in the past. Socrates, Alexander the Great, Sir Thomas More, and Henri Dunant all worked out part of the plan. But their efforts aroused such fear that the people around them made sure their efforts did not succeed. More and Socrates were both executed by the state; Alexander was assassinated and Dunant driven to poverty and obscurity by lawsuits and slander. You can find their stories in Forensic History.) If we understand their successes and failures, we can build on their successes and do our best to avoid the failures.
We also have technology these people never had. A large number of people who had the message that we must change the game have been banned or their works have been collected, altered, and re-released in ways that distort the messages. The internet is now available and allows people to present their words directly to the people of the world, without having to go through censors or third parties that may distort the message.
We also have a new kind of enlightenment. We saw in Forensic History that the realities of war have forced the governments of the world to allow people to learn how to think objectively and scientifically. For most of history, people could be ordered to accept totally unscientific and illogical beliefs and put to death if they indicated they doubted in any way. People can’t build weapons that can help defend nations against technological powers if they can’t think logically. They have to be allowed to do this. Although nations try to use the tool of ‘doublethink’ to make them separate their logical thoughts from their beliefs, when scientific knowledge gets to a certain level, this is no longer possible. (You may believe that an invisible superbeing created a man out of clay and then turned his rib into the first woman if you don’t understand genetics, DNA, the mechanics of atoms and molecules, and the scientific processes that take place within living things. But if you have a great enough understanding of science, you won’t be able to reconcile the contradictions, no matter how much training in doublethink you get.)
If we can learn from history, build on the successes of people who tried in the past and try to avoid the pitfalls that caused them to fail, take the best possible advantage of the sciences and technology at our disposal and the emerging scientific mindset, we have an extremely high probably of finding a plan that can actually work.
I think that the best way to approach this kind of analysis is to consider it a challenge: we were born into a Kobayashi Maru situation, an unwinnable game. If we want to avoid a catastrophic loss, we have to be able to devise a strategy. It is a challenging problem, but to some people, that is actually an advantage: the best way to get them to try to do solve a problem is to tell them that it is simply too difficult for people with their intelligence level to solve.
Socrates was put to death for suggesting that we look at societies objectively and try to figure out different ways for them to work. But his efforts weren’t totally wasted. He did get some information out.
We can also learn something from his technique: When Socrates told people they had to change their society, they got angry. They depended on their society for their income and their lives. They were afraid of changes to their society. Late in his life, he found a way to make his points without causing the fear and anger:
He set is discussions on an entirely different continent than the one his listeners lived on.
He invented a new continent for the sake of discussion, and talked about the societies of the people who lived on this other continent, not in the societies of Europe. He called the continent he invented ‘Atlantis.’
In the discussions published under the names ‘Critias’ and ‘Timaeus,’ Socrates told his listeners that the people who lived on the hypothetical continent ‘Atlantis’ had an extremely brutal type of society. Even though all of the people of the continent were basically the same, they divided their continent up into different areas that they called ‘nations.’ Each nation used taxes and other appropriations of wealth to pay for armies that used the most horrific activities imaginable to try to alter the locations of the arbitrary imaginary lines called ‘borders’ that marked the edges of their ‘nations.’
He asked his listeners to think about the reason that Atlantan societies did these apparently insane things.
He was trying to create objectivity.
When he posed his discussions a different way, asking why ‘we’ (the people of Europe) divide the world this way, the people got angry. They had been given a different rationalization for each war (generally, each war was an attempt to defeat an evil empire that was destroying everything they believed in; each specific war had its own rationale for the specific reasons the evil ones acted as they did).
By merely suggesting that these wars had no purpose, Socrates was implying that the people who died for their nations in these wars had died in vain, and that nothing had been accomplished by these wars. If he tried to set his discussions in Europe, people would never get his point, because they would resort to anger and look for excuses to reject everything he said.
But the people in Greece didn’t live on Atlantis.
They had no reason to protect the ideas behind the Atlantan societies, or get angry because someone was discussing them. When Socrates told Athenians about the way the societies of Atlantis worked, they could clearly see that these societies had flaws. They didn’t think that accepting these flaws meant they were disrespecting their nations, because their nations weren’t associated with Atlantan nations in any way. Socrates was discussing societies on another world that was not connected to Europe.
I will be using the same rhetorical tool that Socrates used to create objectivity. I am doing this because of defects in my own personality. I know that the propaganda and training that I was subjected to as a child worked. Perhaps not totally. But on some level, it worked. Although logic tells me that all people are basically the same, there is a part of my mind that tries to make me feel a certain way when I hear certain songs and see certain ceremonies. Logic tells me that the people who died in the attacks against the oil-rich nations did not die to advance the interests of the human race, but to advance the interests of the oil companies whose contributions caused the people who started the wars to get elected.
But when the organized killers, and the weapons makers who are raping our world to get more materials to make more weapons are honored, are honored, in solemn ceremonies, I get mad at myself for thinking such things.
It is not appropriate to use logic in these matters.
I was raised better than this.
I am supposed to love my country and honor and respect the people who died so it could exist and grow to its current position of power. I am supposed to come up with rationalizations that will allow me to avoid thinking of the people who killed and raped our world as killers and rapists, like thinking of the victims as not really human beings. If I see a film showing babies being dug out of hospitals that the government of the ‘nation’ that claimed the land where I was born has bombed, I am supposed to complain about this as ‘enemy propaganda,’ and use it to make myself even angrier at the horrible people that use such tricks to gain sympathy for their anti-freedom, anti-liberty, anti-democracy, and anti-equality agenda.
I am not in control of the part of my brain that tells me how I am supposed to think. This part of my brain was trained when I was very young and the connections to my prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for logic) were not fully developed. After endless repetition of pledges, songs, ceremonies, and stories, connections were formed in my mind and, as an adult, I no longer have control over that part of my mind.
It helps me a great deal in my analysis to think about the transition taking place somewhere other than Earth. When I do this, starting with a world that has the same conditions as the 21st century Earth, but is not the Earth, I can see that transitions from sovereign nation-based societies sovereign law societies to societies based on socratic leasehold ownership (or other moderate ways of interacting with the world really are possible. I also see that the many arguments I have heard people present in an attempt to show that the human race can never have any other kind of society are actually rationalizations, and don’t stand up to logical analysis.
I know it may seem strange to deal with the transition between societies in this way, but I hope you can see that there is a very important reason for doing it.
Imagine a planet called ‘Cosmos.’ The planet is roughly the same size as Earth, with the same mass and therefore the same gravity. It has roughly the same ratio of oceans to land, the same atmosphere, and the same general climate as Earth. The events that led to the evolution of humans on Earth took place on Cosmos as well, so the planet has humans.
Even before the first humans evolved on the planet, Cosmos was an incredibly bountiful land. It was blessed with clean, clear water, pristine air, immense quantities of grains and other natural plant foods, enormous flocks of wild birds that would lay eggs in any nesting sites they encountered, and such a multitude of fish and other animals that it defies description.
The self-aware beings that evolved on Cosmos—the first ‘humans’—had the mental ability to contemplate their own existence. (This, remember, is the way humans are defined: we are ‘homo sapiens,’ meaning we are hominids that are ‘sapient’ and have the ability to think about abstract issues, including the reality of their own existence, and the way this came to happen.)
Some of them suggested that the planet they lived on may have been created especially for them, and may in fact belong to them, to use in any way they wanted. But the early humans saw the majesty and power of nature and they could see that their prosperity (and even their existence) depended entirely on whatever bounty that nature provided for them. After contemplation, the early humans on Cosmos decided that humans had greater capabilities than other animals, but they were just as dependent on nature and the planet as the other animals. The idea of individual humans or groups being the ‘owners’ of nature, the planet they lived on, and all of the wonderful things they saw around them, seemed insolent, immoral, and totally illogical.
After contemplation, the leaders among early groups of humans on Cosmos decided that the planet did not exist for their own pleasure and was not ownable. If they are not owners of the planet, they decided they must be guests; as guests, they had an obligation to whoever or whatever did own (if there really was an owner) to take care of the world and keep it healthy, so it would continue to provide for them.
They raised their children to accept this same belief system. When children harmed the world, their parents showed them that, by harming the world, they were really harming themselves.
Imagine, for this example, that the early people who lived on Cosmos were raised to believe and did believe the same things. They organized their societies around this belief system. When children did things that harmed the land, or had the potential to harm the group as a whole, or were otherwise either socially or environmentally irresponsible, adults would show them the error of their ways. Adults who did such things could be denied rights to share in the bounty the world created, effectively punishing them for their misbehavior.
People learned that, if they wanted to share in the benefits of living in this society, they had to follow certain rules and show the proper respect for the power of nature. The rules of nature effectively became the rules of society. For a very long time, these were the operative rules of society on Cosmos.
Perhaps, if the economic realities of their societies had rewarded improvements and changes, people would have reacted to these incentives and found ways to improve the land. They would then have looked for ways to convince the others that they had the right to alter the land and so it was, in some ways, ‘their land.’ But the modes of existence they fell into when the they rejected the ownability of the world entirely didn’t have any flows of value that rewarded constructive behavior; people didn’t feel the pressure of the invisible hand pushing them to alter their world. With no pressure from any quarter to make permanent changes, no changes were made.
Thousands of years passed.
Then thousands of generations passed.
Millions upon millions of people were born, grew up, enjoyed the bounty of their wonderful planet, and then left Cosmos to future generations.
People on Cosmos, like people on Earth, are greedy.
If the bounty of the land is being shared, some of them will try various kinds of tricks to try to get more than the share they would otherwise get. Once in a while, someone on Cosmos would try the trick of claiming that she had been in contact with the creator of existence, and the creator had granted her special rights to the part of Cosmos her group depended on for their existence.
But the people of Cosmos weren’t stupid. They had the same basic intelligence level as people on Earth have today. They realized that people had incentives to try tricks like this, so they were highly suspicious whenever people tried.
They wouldn’t accept the claims without proof and, for millions of years, no proof was offered. They continued to believe that the land was unowned and unownable.
Until one day.
One day, for some reason no one on Cosmos today remembers, one group accepted that humans could own parts of the world. The members of this group had to come up with a different set of rules for distribution of the good things the land they lived on produced. Before, no one had owned the land and no one owned these things: the people had to have meetings and make decisions about what to do with it. After, everything the land produced, including its free cash flows (bounty), went to the owners.
Non-owners owners didn’t get anything, at least not through any automatic process. If they wanted anything, they had to get jobs. They couldn’t just work for anyone; they needed to work for the people who had something to pay them with. (You can work for a homeless woman who lives in a cardboard box, but if she doesn’t have any money, this ‘job’ won’t help you.) The owners had value/money they could give to workers, so the workers essentially had to become slaves to the owners.
The owners of bountiful land could hire people to do all the work on the land, pay them, and still have a great deal of money left over. (Remember, bountiful land produces a free cash flow: this is true by definition.) They could get rich without doing anything. They quickly realized, however, that they could get richer faster if they could increase the free cash flows their land generated. People were always greedy in this group (as in all other groups) but now they could act on their greed: they could improve their land and increase production, and get more. They had powerful incentives to increase production. They started to make changes to their properties.
Some of the non-owners still believed it was wrong to modify the world as the owners were doing, but the owners didn’t have to pay any attention to these dissenters. In fact, they could use their power to force the dissenters to accept their rights to do anything they wanted to the land:
Since the land was bountiful, there weren’t enough jobs to give all non-owners incomes. The owners would naturally hire people who did what they were told without causing any trouble. They could leave the people who dissented, protested, or tried to stop progress, to be ‘unemployed.’ The unemployed had no income and couldn’t get food. The owners knew that eventually the people who disagreed with them would either die of starvation or get hungry enough to follow the rules that the owners had made.
The owners in the group that accepted ownability had incentives to make changes that increased production. Many of them reacted to these incentives. Production increased, technology advanced, and production grew more efficient.
The owners got the free cash flows that represented the bounty of their land. The more land they owned, the more free money they got each year. It didn’t matter how they became owners of the land. If they got it by buying it, inheriting it, or conquering it, they got the free cash flows. As they got more land and more free cash flows, they could feed more people. (Again, this refers to people who accept the system and play by its rules: the others don’t get jobs and therefore can’t buy food.)
The owners had incentives to conquer land when they could do this at a low enough cost. The people who still had natural law societies had no armies or weapons factories, so they could be removed from land (or exterminated) at relatively low costs.
The owners had plenty of money to use to pay armies to take land for them. There were lots of people so desperate for jobs that they would do anything—including killing innocents, placing their own lives at risk, and even committing genocide—to get incomes.
The owners organized armies and the armies began to take land. The more land the owners got, the more free cash flows they got, and the more power and control they had. They could keep taking more and more land. The part of Cosmos under the control of ownership-based societies increased while the part of Cosmos inhabited by natural law societies decreased. Over the next few thousand years, the ownability-based systems took over the entire planet.
By the time this happened, some owners had immense quantities of land. They called their holdings their ‘estates.’ The estate owners had armies. They could use their armies to take over any smaller holdings surrounding their estates. They had incentives to do this and many did this. Their holdings grew. Eventually some estates were so large that they began to be a new category of land holding, and they began to call them ‘states’ rather than ‘estates.’ In time, some of the states banded together to create a common military to help advance the interests of these new ‘unions of states.’
The Military Need for Science
To keep people willing to make war, the rulers had to
indoctrinate their people. If people
knew that other societies were possible, they would want to figure out exactly
what was possible so they could work to build the best society possible for the
entire human race. The leaders needed to
make them willing to fight, kill, and die if necessary for the system they had,
so they needed to make sure people never let their minds go to certain places
that may lead them to believe other societies were possible. They also needed to make sure that these
people trained to fight, kill and die did not turn on the owners. This is a very high-maintenance society.
People have to be trained to accept the realities of these societies
from an early age.
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