In the soul of man under socialism

Oscar Wilde argues that humanity would do better under socialism than the way society is currently organised. We should abolish government because, in government, whether a monarchy, oligarchy, theocracy or even democracy, the individual is always under the authority of someone- the prince, the rich, the pope or the mob.

In his view, machines should do mundane work like mining, cleaning our streets and all, that man should aspire to being, not having. In writing about machines, he thinks they should benefit the common weal unlike now when one person owns a machine that does the work of hundreds living them unemployed and starving.

I am tempted to agree with his thoughts on journalism. Most of the journalistic work is horrible. It is meant for the mob and the mob as a group is not intelligent.

Whether his proposals are workable is a different matter altogether.

on paradoxes of our time

In this previous post, my friend Ron wrote, and I think it needs further discussion

One man’s sheer waste is another man’s treasure. That’s the beauty of the free market: everyone votes with their wallet.

and I am sure among other things, he knows about information asymmetry or planned obsolescence or even protectionism  that many countries, including the US do.

And while it would be argued that what one find as waste another would find as treasure, this argument doesn’t rule out the fact there is so much waste being produced and that the energies involved would be used in producing more useful stuff.

For as long as I can remember, and that’s a really long time, there was no Halloween celebrations here. In the last few years, some parents have been forced to buy costumes for their children and maybe for themselves, money that would be spent in other useful ventures but thanks to ads and TV shows, it is being spent on useless, from where I sit, expenses.

So while Ron would like to praise the free market, I would be careful to do so. It depends on deception and in some cases, government help to keep afloat.

paradoxes of our times

that we live at a time when the accumulated wealth of the species is unfathomable and we have people who are desperately poor.

Kropotkin writing in the 19th century opined then that had everyone been engaged in producing useful stuff, we would address world poverty. he also said an economic system that was a trifle reasonable would not permit a few people, who by limiting production, increase prices of goods and services.

In his own words

[..]But over and above this, we must take into account all the labour that goes to sheer waste- here, in keeping up the stables, the kennels, and the retinue of the rich, there in pandering to the caprices of society and the depraved tastes of the fashionable mob; there again, in forcing the consumer to buy what he does not need, or foisting an inferior article upon him by means of puffery, and in producing on the other hand wares which are absolutely injurious, but profitable to the manufacturer. What is squandered in this manner would be enough to double the production of useful things. (The Conquest of Bread by Kropotkin)

On capitalism, democracy & the Catholic church

Slavoj zizek in his book first as tragedy then as farce, writes

Those who claim a natural link between capitalism and democracy are cheating with the facts in the same way the Catholic church cheats when it presents itself as the “natural” advocate of democracy and human rights against the threat of totalitarianism- as if it were not the case that the church accepted democracy only at the end of the nineteenth century, and even then with clenched teeth, as a desperate compromise, making it clear that it preferred monarchy, and that it was making a reluctant concession to new times.

On property

By Bertrand Russell.

Bertrand Russell is known for many things. He wrote many essays on different subjects from mathematics to politics to metaphysics. He also wrote in defense of laziness. A text I will throw at anyone who tells me I shouldn’t be lazy. HE attempted, I think and I think did a fairly good job in his critique of socialism and expanded the thinking around syndicalism. I think his work on these two topics need to be revisited, if for anything, to see what is good in socialism and syndicalism that can make our world a better place to live in for all of us.

This post does not address his writings on those two topics. We are here concerned with his essay on property.

HE writes, concerning worship of material goods in his age thus

And in the modern world generally, it is the decay of life which has promoted the religion of material
goods; and the religion of material goods, in its turn, has hastened the decay of life on which it thrives.

He says the

the worshipper of money can never achieve greatness as an artist or a lover.

While admitting that the love of money has been denounced by moralists since the beginning of time, their denunciation seem to have had no effect and so he says he is not interested into adding to the list of moral denunciations.

It seems the average American has not changed. He writes

America, the pioneer of Western progress, is thought by many to display the worship of money in its most perfect form. A well-to-do American, who already has more than enough money to satisfy all reasonable requirements, very often continues to work at his office with an assiduity which would only be pardonable if starvation were the alternative.

In England, he says the worship of money is tied to a desire to maintain a certain class. In France it takes the form of thrift, and in Germany, it is associated with the state.

He notes all our political thought,

whether Imperialist, Radical, or Socialist, continues to occupy itself almost exclusively with men’s  economic desires, as though they alone had real importance.

The capitalist’s belief that production should be increased in amount by any possible means, he argues, is both irrational and ruthless. Irrational because, it generally does not matter what is produced, as long as it is produced. Ruthless because, it keeps the average person working for fear of losing their employment.

He argues and I generally agree that

When we are fed and clothed and housed, further material goods are needed only for ostentation.

The socialists’ solution to this problem is through state ownership of land and capital with a more just system of redistribution.

He identifies these four basic sources for legal property rights

  1. a man’s right to what he has made himself;
  2. the right to interest on capital which has been lent;
  3. the ownership of land; and
  4. inheritance

I am persuaded to agree with his claim that

Private property in land has no justification except historically through power of the sword.

This illegality has been maintained by the sword. The feudal lords who first made men serfs who forced to work for them to be granted permission to stay eventually saw the establishment of law to safeguard that which had been acquired by the sword.

Looking at the Kenyan situation, this

There is no justification for private property in land, except the historical necessity to conciliate turbulent robbers who would not otherwise have obeyed the law.

makes so much sense. Those who own the most land stole it. Be they white people owning ranches in Laikipia or the Kenyattas and other families that own big chunks of land in this country who now hoard it and only release to the market at exorbitant prices. I am tempted to add here, that the solution to our housing problem, especially in urban areas would be to revoke all private titles. Land should be held by the state to be leased to developers. No speculation on land be permitted.

It is indeed true that

It is a singular example of human inertia that men should have continued until now to endure the tyranny and extortion which a small minority are able to inflict by their possession of the land

Inheritance should not be a natural right. While it is true that men will earn different wages, say for example an inventor, there can be no good reason for allowing this privilege to descend to his children and grandchildren and so
on for ever.

While socialism aims chiefly at justice, this alone is not sufficient principle to base an economic reconstruction. What must be aimed at must aspire to keep alive in individuals creativeness, vigour, vitality, and the joy of life. What is wanted is opportunity. The economic system should

  1. should not cramp men’s private affections, and
  2. give the greatest possible outlet to the impulse of creation.

His comments on education have a timeless ring to them. He notes

Education suffers at present, and may long continue to suffer, through the desire of parents that their children should earn money as soon as possible.

I am persuaded that this holds true

it is of the very highest importance that capitalism should become the exception rather than the rule, and that the bulk of the world’s industry should be conducted on a more democratic system.

He proposes that cooperative movement and syndicalism, as means of achieving democracy in the industry be pursued.






greetings from Nairobi

I am still alive and there maybe no elections on 26th October.

I have questions,

would the world economy be harmed if we gave everyone basic income, reduced work hours and abolished private property?

does abolishing jail houses portend a rise in criminal activity?

is such a society desirable?

what place does education play in forming better citizens?

would abolishing the entire war enterprise be beneficial to all the residents of the globe?

Examining the ultimate solution to climate change

My erudite friend, Bob has asked us to join him in imagining a solution for one of the earth’s great challenge, anthropogenic climate change.

My first critique is he skirts around identification of the problem by its real name, GREED. The problem this ruler is to address is simply that of greed. All the problems of globalization have their source in greed, an insatiable longing for excesses. It explains why we have bad books, badly done movies, it explains why people by iPhones each year when the old one is still functional. I can go on, but you get the drift.

In his analysis, he has limited himself. Capitalism can be replaced. Or it can be modified. This has been attempted before. We can attempt socialism. We have many options open to us, but only if we dare to imagine.

What are the possible solutions?

  1. As the person tasked with solving the problem, instead of eliminating the undesirables such as the radicals, I would eliminate everyone else and keep the radicals. This would be a radical solution. The only reason I reject it is it places a big moral burden on the leadership. Who do they get to do the elimination work? What does a society of murderers look like? Who would want such a society?
  2. We both agree on rejection of a nuclear war. We are not interested in destroying other flora and fauna
  3. A deadly pandemic, as long as it doesn’t kill others beasts seems just fine as long as it is deployed everywhere. How do you live with yourself seeing people going through unbearable pain? How do you deal with the trauma for those left behind after seeing so many dead folk, some who were friends, lovers, families or enemies?
  4. A one child policy looks like a good idea. It’s a long-term solution. Reduce population growth. Reduce demand for natural resources and maybe contribute towards specie extinction. This solution reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut’s 2 B R 0 2 B.
  5. Famine unless it affects everyone would make your position untenable. Blaming global warming will not help you. There will be an overthrow of the government.

What is the plan?

My friend believes famine is the best way and that we should centralize farming. But this is part of the problem. Commercial farming is greed driven. In fact, the problem of exponential population growth is a function of industrialization. So instead of commercial farming, go back to subsistence farming. Produce only what you need. Stop all commercial farming, fishing or whatever. With time, you will check on depletion of resources, the earth will begin to recover, the need to cut down forests for farmland will reduce, marine life will be spared.

There is no free market capitalism. It is monopoly by a few companies. By removing commercial interests from play and adopting some of the suggestions of Lycurgus, we will reduce greed, relieve the earth of pressure caused by demand for resources and maybe save the species.

Capitalism should die and the sooner that death occurs, the better for everyone.

In other news, I am unable to write here as much as I did before. It is not mind block. I am in the process of imagining new content for the blog