Peak oil angst and the lure of techno-utopia

Zeitgeist: Moving Forward poster

Zeitgeist: Moving Forward, directed by Peter Joseph, 2011, 162 mins.

In the sixties and seventies, Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes were a trendy symbol of a better society — hipper, physically and culturally transparent and much, much more logical than the hodgepodge of architecture styles handed down to us by history. In America, where youth were aflame over Vietnam, the civil rights movement and the sexual revolution, the dome stood for a future where the rule of forward thinking would wipe out prejudice and make old-style politics obsolete.

But then, Reagan took the White House and America got three decades of can’t-get-enough consumerism. It was a thorough triumph of emotion over rationality for a phony “morning in America” that was really just the start of the biggest borrowing and spending spree in world history.

Thirty years on, as the party winds down and the hangover sets in, more and more of us worry about peak oil, climate change and economic collapse. And once again, to many who are disgusted by party politics and corporate greed, the dispassionate world of science, with integrity built right into the experimental method, looks appealing by comparison.

That must be why such a schizophrenic film as Zeitgeist: Moving Forward can boast 275,000 friends on Facebook, as opposed to only 33,354 for the most recent Academy Award winner, Inside Job.

Protocols of the elders of Manhattan

To be fair, Zeitgeist has had some time to recruit those fans, since 2011’s Moving Forward is actually the third film in the series, which began with Zeitgeist in 2007, a film roundly attacked for promoting conspiracy theories on 9/11, Christianity and the international banking system. A second film, Zeitgeist: Addendum came out in 2008, focusing again on the financial system.

Clearly, these documentaries and the political movement behind them (the Zeitgeist Movement has a separate Facebook page with 95,089 friends) have tapped into a trend.

With a hard-hitting critique of market economics and corruption in politics by such visionary thinkers as Stanford biologist Robert Sapolsky and Vancouver physician Gabor Maté, the film’s got a lot that a thinking person can agree with. I was glad to see that director Peter Joseph gave plenty of time to peak oil, featuring both Michael Ruppert and Colin Campbell.

But this impressively produced film is wracked by a split personality. On the one hand, it’s as cynical as can be about the difference between Democrats and Republicans (none that matters), the health of the financial system (poor to critical) and the consequences for the future of the market economy (bleak, bleak, bleak).

On the other hand, Zeitgeist’s solutions are not merely uncompelling and unconvincing. They seem to rely on the very thinking that got us into today’s problems in the first place.

Better living through science

Here’s what the Very Smart People behind Zeitgeist think will save civilization:

The peoples of the world should rise up simultaneously in revolt and demand an end to the current world order. The film imagines a scenario where demonstrators mass peacefully in the major cities of the world and dump the life-savings they’ve just withdrawn from the nearest ATM into huge piles of cash on the street in front of the offices of their nation’s central bank.

What’s next? Somehow, an enlightened regime of brainiacs, chosen in some unspecified manner entirely free of either party politics or moneyed interests (oh, right, there’s no more money), will revamp world civilization according to a blueprint from the world of — get ready for it — systems engineering.

Resources will be sourced from where they’re produced anywhere on Earth to wherever they’re needed anywhere else on Earth. Shopping will be a thing of the past as people simply “check out” any goods that they need for temporary use from the local lending library.

And the world’s cities? Somehow they’ll all become completely rational, with concentric circles of high-tech building complexes designed to maximize land use and energy efficiency, all fed by hydroponic agriculture and with transportation provided by monorails apparently borrowed from Disney World.

Apparently gone will be narrow Renaissance alleys and Victorian brownstones, Manhattan high-rises and Stalinist low-rises, Qing Dynasty hutongs and Meiji Era courtyards. How will we get there? Again, details TBA.

Dome livin’ is the life for me

I don’t fault a documentary that’s already pushing three hours for skipping over all the steps of how such a wondrous transformation could occur. I’ll trust that the super-smarties at the Venus Project, a clearly well-funded group behind Zeitgeist, have some ideas on how to pull the old stuff down, reuse the materials and rebuild everything to look like a set from Logan’s Run.

The real question is, after dozens of compelling visions of techno-dystopia, why anyone today would still find appealing a future in glass domes and Modernist towers that look like the theme restaurant at LAX.

If the only way to free ourselves from the Koch brothers, Goldman Sachs and Michele Bachmann is to wipe away the glorious mess that is 5,000 years of civilization and replace it with a Version 2.0 that’s all metal and perfectly aerodynamic, then there doesn’t seem to be all that much point to human survival.

What the hell would we do in those damn domes all day anyway?

Fortunately, if for energy and resource depletion alone, not to mention human psychology, a future in geo-domes eating hydroponic asparagus picked from the glass balcony is about as likely as seeing George Jetson as president or Buck Rogers as Secretary of Defense.

The appeal of a cerebral version of urban renewal — tear down the slums of history and replace them with shiny new stuff that’s approved by science — is worrisome.

Clearly, too many people still think we have to destroy civilization to save it.

And if you want to point your finger at dirty politics and the greedy market as the root of all evil, can you really claim that science still has clean hands?

From eugenics to Auschwitz, from the Manhattan Project to Fukushima, from physicists flocking to Wall Street to design complex financial derivatives to Monsanto’s latest genetic engineering horror, science has shown little scruple about ethics when money and power came a-calling.

Why should next time be any different?

– Erik Curren

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Comments

  1. GS says

    The aesthetic argument about “Logan’s Run” architecture is a pretty weak one to make on a site like this. I’d much prefer living in a Zeitgeist world to a malthusian die-off, thank you very much, as I think most others would too. A more appropriate criticism would be the practicality of getting there on the backside of limits to growth.

    • says

      Dear GS — I certainly don’t want to make a shallow critique of such a well thought out film. But for me, aesthetics is an image for what our society values and has valued in the past. And architecture is where those values are made concrete, as James Howard Kunstler has so ably explained. I see the film’s vision of a built environment as a powerful metaphor of what kind of political and social environment it envisions: centrally planned, high tech and cold. Indeed, the film’s writers/director seem so allergic to anything gritty or earthy that they won’t even let us grow plants in dirt in the future. To me, that says a lot.

      • James says

        How can we plant anything these days? Mosanto owns everything. Making it ‘legally’ challenging and difficult for us to just grow food alone. So we’d have to get creative to stay ahead of the game. In case you aren’t aware, Mosanto are now getting into the Organic Food industry.

        The point of all the Z series is to generate awareness of the faults in our world these days. Yes there’s plenty of gloom and doom, but there’s so much to hope for. Only together can we make a difference. As opposed to media instilling fear in our collective conscious on a daily basis.

        You’re a writer, and a good one. You also appear to exhibit level of concerns and you read/watch what others say.

        Instead of acting like a media whose sole job is to ‘inform’ – what are you solutions? Peter Joseph and the Z gang are light years ahead of you whose desire is to simply make this world better than it is now. Yes there needs to be change – scary or not, but good change.

        Clearly we’re obsessed with the past, and future, we forget the most critical moment in history – the present.

        What are you doing about it?

      • says

        “wont’ even let us grow plants in dirt in the future”
        This statement is absolutely untrue, and wholly misrepresentative of the movement’s goals & ideals.

        Even a small amount of research into the topics presented in the film would show that.

        Sorry Erik, you’re projecting your fears here; much like the rest of your article; see my lengthy reply below for justification why.

  2. says

    I must concur – the film’s diagnosis is pretty much on the money, but the prescription? I am highly suspicious of technological master plans that deny the diversity of humanity, and don’t really address the internal dysfunction that brought us to this point.

    • says

      I agree Sharon, that our best hope for the future is in bottom-up, crazyquilt plans concocted by people themselves in their own communities based on their own needs and adapting their own time-tested traditions to today’s circumstances, rather than from central plans coming from guardians on high, no matter how wise they may be.

      • says

        Again Erik, you’re failing to grasp even basic tenets of the movement this film speaks to.

        There is no centralization (think P2P not Time Warner), there is no elite, there are no charismatic leaders, there are only “people in the their own communities” applying current knowledge to age-old mostly-technical problems.

        Today, we have the knowledge & understanding to eliminate war, poverty & nearly all crime, and to do so without the utmost compassion, freedom of expression & humanity for all people on this earth; we need simply enact the priorities.

        What will you contribute?

    • James says

      Not to frighten you, Sharon, Erik, and others – but I’m a computer technician, and a geek. I have a strong understanding of how things work, and able to take advantage of it to save money, and show people how to do the same.

      But we are many. And growing. Anyone who works in the ‘technology’ area are more good than bad. Naturally when the media use words like “hackers” and “cyber terrorists” or worse “pirates” – oh my, are exaggerating what they can’t control.

      Imagine farming. Farmers growing food. Anywhere, any climate, and now the corporation/legal system want to hinder their ability to simply grow food. Or doctors, nurses – whose desire is to actually care for people, but no – you have a system in place that’s supposed to protect us, but in reality – kills us, delays our health, and so forth.

      Communities where people actually strive to working together for a common goal, with skills, intelligence, passion, and a desire to care for one another. Isn’t that what you want? Or do you want Wal-Mart to run your life. :]

      Surely everyone knows who Carl Sagan is. For 17 minutes of your life, Carl can explain everything.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-F-ZBn0Bf_4

      • Maggie says

        James – your patronising arrogance is breathtaking. There are many people in the world who have a strong understanding of how things work, and they may not have ever seen a computer in their lives.

        And Wal-Mart is an American company. You are speaking to a global audience. There is a world beyond the US.

    • SecularAnimist says

      ” I am highly suspicious of technological master plans that deny the diversity of humanity”

      Humans are the same as they are unique. Believe it or not a healthy environment is pretty much universal. It does not really vary.

      “don’t really address the internal dysfunction that brought us to this point”

      Not sure what “internal dysfunction” you are speaking of but the systemic dysfunction of our civilization is the guidance system called modern economics and it’s sole technology money – and the cultural mythology surrounding them. It is inherently blind to the earth,unscientific and predatory. But what do you expect from a social system devised by 18th century plutocrats that were trying to quell the growing peasant revolts. Economics and politics are our main decision making systems and they run on faulty and unscientific logic. The government is the warden and market system our prison cell. It’s time for a jail break.

      • Sharon says

        >>I am highly suspicious of technological master plans that deny the diversity of humanity”

        >Humans are the same as they are unique. Believe it or not a healthy environment is pretty much universal. It does not really vary.

        Humans are humans, and believe it or not, I understand that a healthy environment is a universal requirement.

        But the kinds of options put forward by The Venus Project as illustrated on its web site may not be a one size fits all answer. Who are we to know how the myriad of cultures around the world wish to live? Human cultures are most certainly diverse.

        >>don’t really address the internal dysfunction that brought us to this point”

        >Not sure what “internal dysfunction” you are speaking of but the systemic dysfunction of our civilization is the guidance system called modern economics and it’s sole technology money – and the cultural mythology surrounding them. It is inherently blind to the earth,unscientific and predatory. But what do you expect from a social system devised by 18th century plutocrats that were trying to quell the growing peasant revolts. Economics and politics are our main decision making systems and they run on faulty and unscientific logic. The government is the warden and market system our prison cell. It’s time for a jail break.

        I agree – and the reference cultural mythology is probably closest to what I was getting at. What, in our cultural DNA, made us choose this path in the first place? How did we get here? If we think we are going to create a positive change for all without an internal shift in that ‘cultural DNA’, all we will do is manifest another mess.

        Perhaps the biggest dysfunction of human beings is hubris – our need to be right, and thinking we have all the answers?

  3. says

    I just watched Zeitgeist3 and was equally impressed with the historical, sociological, political, and economic analysis and dismayed by the proposed solutions. That’s right, we’ll just create an identical new planet earth and start over from scratch!

    The real problem of economic transition is that things will not fall apart all at once. They’ve been falling apart, and will continue to do so over the coming years and decades. One example: Saab, which was purchased by GM in the 1990s (?) because Saab was deemed too small to compete in the global economy. (In hindsight, I wonder if this decision was the best for Sweden’s economy, local workers, and their communities.) But when GM hit the skids a couple of years ago, Saab was sold and dismantled Factories were closed, engineers fired, factory workers fired, production line technology sold off. There’s nothing left to re-assemble under a better economic system.

    Seems like we need to start converting businesses to sustainable structures (worker coops, employee-owned businesses, community-owned businesses, and others) now, while all the assets are intact. That way, there’s a chance they can move forward in a new localized or regional economy. Otherwise, the owners/investors will sell off the assets, lay off the staff, and leave our communities with empty shells of buildings where thriving businesses once operated. Without capital, it will be difficult for us or the former workers to rebuild them. The dismantling process must be interrupted.

    I’m not opposed to the technological solutions proposed by Zeitgeist3, but I wonder where the capital will come from to implement them. We’ll also need to spend a lot more time converting our existing homes, businesses, and community facilities to more sustainable places. How should we go about financing them in the face of either an economic collapse or a slow and steady decline?

    • says

      Dear Steve — Thanks for the story about the carmakers, I didn’t know about it, but it’s a powerful lesson in how we need to preserve what’s best from today for the economy of tomorrow, whatever that will turn out to be.

  4. Auntiegrav says

    Thanks again, Eric. You have put into words half of my thoughts on the Zeitgeist. I can sum my thoughts up in four words: two to describe Zeitgeist and two that answer all of your questions about transitions if we allow ourselves to understand how decisions are made and actions taken that result in consumerism and overpopulation. Here goes:

    Zeitgeist Movie:
    “Bull Shit”

    Solving overconsumption:
    “Sales Taxes”

    For fun, I’ll throw in two more to solve our political/electoral issues:
    “Random Selection”

    • says

      Auntigrav;

      Ok, you say ‘bullshit’, state your terms, otherwise you’re not doing the minimum to allow discourse, just spouting your emotions (thanks).

      Your proposed solution of more “Sales Taxes” provably do not address any of the fundamental issues inherit to our systems of artificial scarcity & exploitation. Namely, corruption & self-centered thinking (in lieu of human species thinking) that leads to war, crime, poverty, etc.

      “Random Selection”
      Nice idea, still doesn’t address any of the core issues.

      Thanks for playing just the same, better luck next time! :)

  5. Jim says

    Tell us how you really feel! :)

    Alas, it’s how I feel, too. I couldn’t identify where I’d seen his utopia before. Thanks for pointing out the Logan’s Run similarity.

    I am disappointed that the same people who love the way the film shows, with some legitimacy, how advertising teaches us to consume rather than co-create, don’t realize that the film (at least the first one)
    does the SAME thing!

    • says

      Thanks, Jim. I went to school on a campus (UC Irvine) whose 1960s futurist architecture served as a location for one of the “Planet of the Apes” movies, so I’ve got a soft spot for yesterday’s visions of the future coming back into style.

    • Auntiegrav says

      Jim: YES! Thank you. The other thing that doesn’t get talked about is how ALL of our money comes from oil somehow right now. All of the non-profit orgs and alternative energy non profits seem to ignore the fact that someone first has to make money for them to have their utopias.
      Money is oil, people.
      If Obama wants to reduce our dependence on oil, he has to reduce our dependence on money. Simple as that. Destroy the economy, and you destroy our dependence on oil. The economy is a SIDE EFFECT of people doing useful things. They can just as well do useful things for each other than for money.

  6. says

    Thank you, Eric, for putting into words my concerns, also. Techno-utopia is, in my humble opinion, a pipe-dream for those who recognize what we have isnt’ working, but still cling to the old paradigm that we can have it all if we just use science and innovation to full advantage.

    What would we do, sitting in those domes all day? Watch reruns of Soylent Green I imagine.

    Dave Gardner
    Producing the documentary
    GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth
    http://www.growthbusters.org

  7. j says

    There is an old saying: “If you always do what you always did, you always get what you always got”. Translated…If we keep living within the same monetary paradigm that got us where we are today, we’re going to keep getting more of the same.

    At least some organization is out there suggesting an alternative to the BS we see today. You really think voting for a new President or Congress will change anything? Nope. Politicians spend like crazy then campaign against it, then tax the people and campaign against it. Same old divide and conquer technique used by the people in power; simply label one side a democrat and the other Republican and reinforce the mechanics of it all, as long as they get re-elected they don’t care about change.

    This ridiculous concept of the zeitgeist movement being a UTOPIA, is beyond a straw mans talking point. There is no utopia and there never will be. Buy a computer today and a better one will be on display 6 months from now. A technological approach when applied to human concern is what has truly enhanced our lives, from the car, to our computers it’s clear.

    I will say, it would be a better step to get back to the basics of Capitalism, but aimed toward sustainability and not this constant growth paradigm. It’s only a matter of time before concepts like the ZGM will become a reality, but not anytime soon……maybe.

    • says

      Hi J — You’re right that Zeitgeist did call out the BS on the economy and politics. And good for them for doing it! They’re right that as long as corporations control Washington, it won’t matter much which party is in power. After his speech on energy today, I think Obama’s officially become a Republican. But what’s utopian about Zeitgeist is its solutions, all the dome cities and computers running everything. Sounds like the Matrix to me. Anyway, it’s profoundly unrealistic. A much more likely scenario is that envisioned by the Transition movement, where expensive oil causes corporate globalization to retreat, leaving more room for local economies.

      • SecularAnimist says

        Leaving room for local economies? As if corporations are going to be hurt and small businesses are going to finally take over. Come on dude. That does not make a lick of sense. The market system is going to keep kicking out people and the corporate players are going to keep buying up business on the cheap as people go bankrupt. It’s going to be a consolidation – with a massive growing underclass. This knustler-esque vision of going to small 19th century towns is cute(and somewhat of an appealing vision, but not bloody likely) except for a few exceptions here and there. Most of the world will be in upheaval as the contraction takes hold. Watching the world burn from you “transition town” is a bit shortsighted.

        TVP not utopian or unrealistic, it’s applied knowledge of what we already know. Monetary economics is completely blind to nature and is the causal mechanism of most ills. All modern economics is, is politics masquerading as science wrapped in complex math to give it the veneer of legitimacy. Politics and economics are completely and utterly at odds with the majority. Profit motive is the gun to the head of humanity. Not science and it’s cultural manifestation technology – which are amoral.

        Capitalism is a perpetual growth machine that when it stops growing, collapses.

        “We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”

        R Buckminster Fuller

  8. Loren says

    Erik you wrote “science has shown little scruple about ethics when money and power came a-calling.”
    It’s not “science” that shows little scruple it’s the people who use science for some kind on political , social or monitary gain. IMO People that knock “science” have some kind of political, religious agenda that they are trying to push.
    To me the Zeitgeist movement is an idea to move us away from our corporate way of life where profit and power is everything to a way of life that benefits all of humanity. What the citys ultimately look like will depend on the resources available and the best way to use them and not on someones budget or artistic inspirations.
    I think it is something that will take many many generations to have much of a benefit but, time is not on our side.

    • says

      Loren — While I find Zeitgeist’s critique of the present very compelling, I don’t find its vision for the future appealing at all. And not just aesthetically, but for many other reasons. Main concern: where’s the energy supposed to come from? Of course fossil fuels will be done, so will it have to be nuclear? I can’t imagine today’s renewables being able to continue to power any kind of globalized high tech society. I really do appreciate that Zeitgeist is trying to wake people up about our political, economic and environmental problems today. But I wish they’d go with a more realistic and human-scale solution that won’t take hundreds of years to achieve: relocalizing the world’s economies and powering down from today’s high level of energy use, as the Transition movement suggests. Our future doesn’t rest with more high tech, but with more humanity.

      • says

        I was particularly turned off by the idea of 3d printing of everything from our modes of transport to our dwellings. If, like the 3d printing going on now, this is made of nylon, no thanks. What’s the off-gassing quotient there? This is to say nothing of what it means to work or dwell within a cavity made entirely of toxic yet inert materials. Wanting earthiness as a factor in construction is not solely about nostalgia or the longing for sweaty labor. It is about the connection to natural materials and how that speaks to basic human sensibilities.

        And if I wanted to get really persnickety I’d tear apart the scene where folks were gathered in the “educational centers.” Here there were first off, all white people. Secondly, a white man held court in the center as others, mostly women, looked on in rapt attention. Why wasn’t this a multi-cultural, non sexist scene of Open Source Technology? If anything was a top down vision as depicted in the film, this was it. Calling it so, or dissecting the other flaws in its idealistic futuristic vision does not make one anti-progress. Nor does it mean one must show their street cred on how we’re “helping” the cause of human enlightenment or behavior change. Believe me, Erik and I have banked more than our fair share there. But that’s not what this is about.

        Joseph, your continual push for the notion that if only all 7 billion of us would agree to stop fighting we would stop fighting is true. But it is abstract and notional at best. It’s a blind spot and avoidance at worst. In my view it also betrays a clear lack of understanding about the social, cultural and even economic forces of change, which tend to operate glacially and, because it’s on the ground, in a diffuse, slogging sense.

        We all want peace, love and harmony. And yes, it begins where you are. If only we could wave a magic wand and get the entire global population to agree to it, and then refashion all economy, energy use, and attitudes, too. The bottom line is that the Zeitgeist aim is utopian; it rests on an unrealistic aim, but a laudable hope.

        • Auntiegrav says

          Thanks, Lindsey. Yes, it is the top-down, paternalistic idea that things are made by some Creator to be perfectly suited for our human needs only.
          That’s why I said, “Bull Shit” to Zeitgeist. It goes against everything in nature, where the small things of molecules and soil life build all of the things above them (or provide the circumstances for them to thrive), with humans not being any more important than any other life form. WE create our self-importance to the system and then we destroy it to support our ego. The world doesn’t NEED humans to have a utopia. In fact, the world doesn’t need humans at all. Humans need the world. We will fail to survive unless we learn how to once again BE part of the natural world’s future and thus, give back more than we take. The word “sustainable” is thrown around without true context most of the time. I hear about “sustainable farming”, “sustainable growth”, “sustainable economics”, etc. Sustainability must first apply to the world’s systems, not our own. This probably means that most of humanity will die off unless it finds more planets to live on(unlikely) or ways to become natural creatures again(also unlikely). There is no possible way to physically create these techno-utopias even IF we were all handsome, hearty white men, let alone with all of the bizarre real people who can’t even shed their ridiculous religions.

          • Shayne says

            Have you read any David Korten? I would highly suggest his book The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community and his new one Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth. He gave a very powerful speech to a group of religious teachers that I would highly recommend, if we are truly going to come together to bring down the institutions of empire, we can’t scapegoat anyone including religious peoples. Here is the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NaqNqw_rm1g&feature=player_embedded#at=538 It’s long but it’s worth every minute.

  9. Loren says

    Erik you wrote “science has shown little scruple about ethics when money and power came a-calling.”
    It’s not “science” that shows little scruple it’s the people who use science for some kind on political , social or monitary gain. IMO People that knock “science” have some kind of political, religious agenda that they are trying to push.
    To me the Zeitgeist movement is an idea to move us away from our corporate way of life where profit and power is everything to a way of life that benefits all of humanity. What the citys ultimately look like will depend on the resources available and the best way to use them and not on someones budget or artistic inspirations.
    I think it is something that will take many many generations to have much of a benefit but time is not on our side.

  10. says

    clearly you just don’t understand what we are trying to achieve. I don’t know if you’ve read any other articles about ZMF but they are identical to yours. same bland script about how our world is crumbling due to dependence on foreign oil but zeitgeist wants to “magic” a better world. i mean come on, where did you even come up with “with transportation provided by monorails apparently borrowed from Disney World”. If you didn’t live and breathe and think in terms of money perhaps you could see that getting rid of the monetary system is only option for the next stage in our evolution.
    but my main question is this: why did you write this article? it almost seems that you did it just to sneer at the ideas of the movement. we believe in a peaceful transition from a system clearly unsustainable to a system where half the world doesn’t live on less than $2. you can’t imagine a world where your fat american wallet isn’t full? well try and imagine having nothing! with science and technology we can provide for every human need for every single person on the planet – i doubt you know of any other system that could say that.
    there is nothing crazy or foolish in knowing that the worlds needs are technical not political or idealogical, and they won’t be solved by americans or their banks.
    I smile the entire time i’m writing this for it is your attempt that is futile, the collapse is coming and it is only a matter of time. watch your back ;)

    • says

      Josh — Thanks for delivering your comment with a smile. I’ll reply in the same cordial spirit :) I’ve been pretty clear that I LOVE Zeitgeist’s critique of party politics and market economics. No question, corporate globalized society has overshoot the Earth’s natural limits in so many ways, from climate change to water depletion to overuse of energy. And it really is a messed up world when so many go hungry while others live in way too much luxury. I wish my American wallet were a little fatter right now, but I’m not one to defend our market system. So I’m with Zeitgeist on 50% of your agenda.

      But the other 50% — the prescription for recovery — I take issue with for many reasons. Aside from the physics behind it (where would all the resources, esp energy, come from for a globalized high tech world) I’m concerned about the politics and culture of it. Does the world need top-down central planning to avoid disaster? Do we need to let computers run everything? And do we need to abandon the world’s traditional ways of doing things, many of which, especially from tribal societies, are very resilient?

      For solutions, I far prefer The Economics of Happiness (see our review) or any of the films about the Transition movement. Same analysis of the problems as Zeitgeist, but solutions that are more human-scale and grounded in existing human culture.

  11. Thomas Jefferson says

    yet another film based on half truths, out right lies, junk science all to poke and prod the uninformed into acting like halfwits with no basis to support their arguments.

    the film makers have been mainlining alex jones.

  12. says

    Eric — your whole analysis of this movie is spot-on. Glad to know I’m not the only one with this opinion of the movie. The whole Venus project seems to me like someone’s acid-soaked fantasy. As you mention, people fail to realize that a lack of oil = a lack of money (or material goods, such as big glass domes and hydroponics). Our future, if we manage to still have one a few decades from now, will undoubtedly look more like our pre-fossil fueled past. Even if we manage to pull off some sort of utopia, a massive bloom of material goods will not be a part of it.

  13. Oil Lady says

    While I haven’t yet seen the film, I am shocked to hear that the producers would spend the first two films villifying a society which is centrally controlled by an elte few, and then turn around in the third film and suggest the best solution is a centralized society controlled by an elite few.

  14. Kee-Hwan says

    It is interesting to see how people can respond so hostilely to such a beautiful picture of what humanity can accomplish, I can only conclude that it must be some form of miscommunication.

    To start off with, it is important to note that the Zeitgeist Movement, and the first Zeitgeist movie are completely different. Zeitgeist I was a documentary made by Peter Joseph, who is expressing his own personal beliefs about religion, 9/11 and the like. Zeitgeist Addendum and Zeitgeist Moving Forward are more thoroughly representative of what the movement stands for.

    “The film imagines a scenario where demonstrators mass peacefully in the major cities of the world and dump the life-savings they’ve just withdrawn from the nearest ATM into huge piles of cash on the street in front of the offices of their nation’s central bank.”

    I was at the LA premier of Moving Forward, and Peter Joseph commented on the ending of the movie, saying that it was more an artistic form of expression, not a literal suggestion.

    “What’s next? Somehow, an enlightened regime of brainiacs, chosen in some unspecified manner entirely free of either party politics or moneyed interests”

    There is no doubt that there needs to be a transition period, that is why I praise the works of the Post Carbon Institute, and other groups working on transition societies. Nowhere in the film was it suggested that the transition from our society into a Resource Based Economy (RBE) will happen overnight. Rather, the Venus Project shows the big picture of what a saner human society Could look like. A society free of debt, barter or any form of servitude; a society free from war and poverty; a society where every human will be able to live up to their maximum potential. This isn’t to say that the Venus Project’s RBE is the “end” or some form of “utopia” – there will always be problems, and so societies will always need to change. The RBE is just a much better paradigm than the parasitic free-market model we have today.

    Truth be told though, no one can predict the exact nuances of how the transition will play out, as there are much too many variables. All we can hope for is a global rise in consciousness. One that can see beyond the limited scope of what we are told to believe is the only true way of doing things, such as the cheerleading game that is party politics.

    “Resources will be sourced from where they’re produced anywhere on Earth to wherever they’re needed anywhere else on Earth.”

    You are half right. This will only occur when the good in question is absolutely necessary, and there is absolutely no other alternative of producing substitute materials from a given locale. The point of an RBE is to maximize efficiency, and strategically manage resources. The point is to rid of inefficiencies in energy consumption, not to extract resources from one country, ship it to another to be produced, and then fly it to another country to be consumed as it is done today in the free market system.

    “Shopping will be a thing of the past as people simply “check out” any goods that they need for temporary use from the local lending library.”

    haha I love how you meant this statement to be sardonic, but it actually makes complete sense. Please give some thought to what you write.

    We have to remember that when we say we “want” a material good, like a car, what we actually want is the access to the service the good provides. Seen from this perspective, the concept of property and ownership only becomes a burden. In a sane society, for example, we would not have millions of cars sitting in parking lots deteriorating for the majority of their functional life-span. Instead, we would eliminate the redundancy, have as few cars running as possible operated via satellite, available to anyone who needs a ride. After dropping off a passenger, it would immediately head off to find the next one. You could choose to take the car home with you, but why? You would have to clean it, store it, and take care of it. It is your loss to Own in a system of abundance.

    An RBE is about access and abundance, not ownership and scarcity.

    And before you say that abundance is impossible, remember planned obsolescence (both deliberate and inherent), and the incredible redundancy in the market which combined generate enormous amounts of waste. Are we even capable of imagining how abundant things will be if such things were eliminated?

    The most important thing for us is to try, not dismiss it on grounds of improbability.

    “And the world’s cities? Somehow they’ll all become completely rational, with concentric circles of high-tech building complexes designed to maximize land use and energy efficiency, all fed by hydroponic agriculture and with transportation provided by monorails apparently borrowed from Disney World.”

    Hmm… yes. Except that part about Disney World I’m afraid.

    “If the only way to free ourselves from the Koch brothers, Goldman Sachs and Michele Bachmann is to wipe away the glorious mess that is 5,000 years of civilization and replace it with a Version 2.0 that’s all metal and perfectly aerodynamic, then there doesn’t seem to be all that much point to human survival.”

    You are seeing it from the wrong perspective. The focus is not on destroying anything, it is on creation. The Venus Project and the Zeitgeist Movement propose a civilization that enhances our strengths, and rids of our weaknesses. An RBE is the application of the scientific method for social concern, what could be saner?

    I think hidden in this comment is the fear of technology. Technology is not something foreign or alien, and is not neccessarily like a metal and perfectly aerodynamic toy. It is merely an enhancement of a human feature, just like glasses are used to see better. It is not something to be feared, and should rather be embraced, as it is natural that we develop our capacities (technologies) to its maximum potential.

    What we should fear are the vested interests that the societal structure generates, which may lead to the misuse of technology. Not the technology in and of itself.

    “What the hell would we do in those damn domes all day anyway?”

    This comment to me is the saddest of all. It represents the degree to which we have been indoctrinated into this system of perpetual slavery, where everyone is made to work for a wage, at a job they most likely do not enjoy. Ask yourself what drove you as a child, was it a monetary or material incentive? You’ll find that a lot of children are propelled to explore their surroundings out of an intrinsic human curiosity.

    I don’t know what you’ll be doing. Perhaps writing some more bitter articles.
    I’ll be exploring the depths of my consciousness, and the cosmos. I’ll be gardening, spending time with my family, and contributing as much as I can towards a civilization that actually gives a damn about my wellbeing.

    In the end, though, I love you man. We are all in the same boat, and I think you will find that we share a thousand times more commonalities than differences.

    Peace be with you brotha : )

    • Shayne says

      “To start off with, it is important to note that the Zeitgeist Movement, and the first Zeitgeist movie are completely different. Zeitgeist I was a documentary made by Peter Joseph, who is expressing his own personal beliefs about religion, 9/11 and the like. Zeitgeist Addendum and Zeitgeist Moving Forward are more thoroughly representative of what the movement stands for.”

      I’ve heard this from a few people now, but I don’t think people in the Zeitgeist movement realize this is not common knowledge at all. And that is the reason why Zeitgeist I believe always attracts such negative controversy. Our society is notorious for scapegoating and the first movie is a perfect example. You want to have a movie about oneness, but as any test pre-screening could have told you, scapegoating any groups (eg. Christians) will probably just make them walk right out of the theater. Is that what you want? You want oneness, but now you’ve just lost a whole organized segment of society. There are real problems with organized religions including the religion of science, but you don’t get through to people by making them afraid and making them feel alone, which is what I think the first film did. Now, as if you say that was just the opinion of Peter Jospeh, fine, but if you’re going to release more movies after the fact and hoping that the issues that arose in the first are not going to come back and bite you in @$$, well guess what they do. It’s great to read your responses and a agree with a lot of what you’re saying, but there are other movies out there that also preach solutions like the Economics of Happiness that are attracting lots of attention too and without all the conspiracy theory controversy and they might in fact do more to wake more people up because they avoid bringing up these contentious issues. Just saying…

  15. says

    First off, thank you for your opinion on this matter; clearly you attempt to offer an article that is cogent and relevant in the social sphere.

    And apologies for the long reply & lack of useful formatting (Disqus sucks), wanted to address your article and not gloss over anything.

    That said, I can only disagree with most of the points you make, and if you’ll allow it, will illustrate how the perspective you’ve taken is based on half-truths, misconceptions, and outright distortions (sound fun!? :) )

    Starting, we both know that the # of fans something has on Facebook is a poor indicator of anything tangible or useful, even if the #s here are in the movement’s favor. Was willing to let that go when you first mentioned # of facebook fans, then you used it again. Such reliance on erroneous data is just lazy research (you wouldn’t say Wikipedia is the best source for factual information would you?)

    1) “began with Zeitgeist in 2007, a film roundly attacked for promoting conspiracy theories on 9/11, Christianity and the international banking system.”

    You fail to mention the first Zeitgeist film, while controversial, was also, by all measurable accounts, the most downloaded video in the history of the Internet.

    2) “Clearly, these documentaries and the political movement behind them (the Zeitgeist Movement has a separate Facebook page with 95,089 friends) have tapped into a trend.”

    The Zeitgeist Movement is a social movement, with no political ties.

    3) “Here’s what the Very Smart People behind Zeitgeist think will save civilization: The peoples of the world should rise up simultaneously in revolt and demand an end to the current world order. The film imagines a scenario where demonstrators mass peacefully in the major cities of the world and dump the life-savings they’ve just withdrawn from the nearest ATM into huge piles of cash on the street in front of the offices of their nation’s central bank.”

    Your claim here surprised me. No where in the movement is this being advocated as a solution. Just as one may use a color filter to reflect the mood of a piece of footage, this visual imagery of throwing money into the street was a metaphor to reflect one of the core understandings of the movement; that money is actually not required in society and therefore can be treated as something less than “the only thing worth living for”. Surely, as a thinking person yourself, you can tell the difference between creative visual imagery and someone’s stated goal or intent?

    4) The next paragraph is just sarcasm & mockery, which in my esteem, have no place in any serious discussion, as such only serves to highlight the weakness of your argument. Skipping over that.

    5) “And the world’s cities? Somehow they’ll all become completely rational, with concentric circles of high-tech building complexes designed to maximize land use and energy efficiency, all fed by hydroponic agriculture and with transportation provided by monorails apparently borrowed from Disney World.”

    The Venus Project’s designs are just one possibility, used to show that we can do things much better than we do now. No one in the movement is suggesting that all cities will be like this, or that this is the only way. You are suggesting this, and you do so erroneously.

    6) “Apparently gone will be narrow Renaissance alleys and Victorian brownstones, Manhattan high-rises and Stalinist low-rises, Qing Dynasty hutongs and Meiji Era courtyards. How will we get there? Again, details TBA.”

    The Venus Project designs reflect the expression of the core idea behind the Resource Based Economy the Zeitgeist Movement advocates. That being, our current methods of living together are woefully inefficient & wasteful & when we align ourselves with priorities of abundance & efficient use of the earth’s resources, the common heritage of all people, we generate different results.

    Your appeal to some romantic notion that old decaying buildings are a higher priority than providing for material abundance for all without the use money, while quaint, sadly speaks of priorities that really only work to keep our species from realizing it’s full potential. That is a world free of war, most crimes, poverty, starvation, and nearly all of the social ails that beleaguer our planet today due to our priorities on scarcity & “me me me”.

    Don’t you think it’s time to grow up as species? If no, then when do you think a good time is? Better, what is keeping you from starting today?

    7) Next paragraphs are more mockery & misunderstandings about “domes” completely ignoring the factual informational available about the use of such designs (just examples of one way we might do some things better). One question, the most obvious & easy to answer, stood out:

    8) “What the hell would we do in those damn domes all day anyway?”
    This makes the suggestion that without menial forced labor (really it’s just slavery) we’d somehow not have anything to do or struggle to find purpose!? Wow. Ok, here we go:

    We advocate that all people have access to all goods and services, medical care, education, shelter, food and so forth.

    It is not enough to provide the necessities of life alone. We feel that our proposals will generate a new incentive system. Human beings need challenges in order to evolve intellectually and maintain a high level of curiosity and a need to overcome shortages. The type of education that we advocate is the intelligent use of existing resources and the protection of the environment.

    You have been brought up to believe people are inspired by rewards or money.

    The free-enterprise system does create incentive to achieve, however it also breeds the incentive for corruption, theft, and greed. Our aim is to encourage a new incentive system, one no longer directed toward the shallow and self-centered goals of wealth, property, and power. Today, financial barriers place enormous limitations on innovation, individual creativity, and personal incentive. In a Resource Based Economy, money would not be required to help one achieve or create, as facilities would be made available to serve everyone’s needs.

    In essence all of the people we have admired in the past, Michael Angelo, da Vinci, Bell, the Wright Brothers, Darwin, and many others worked because they were interested in problem solving, not financial gain. This in some cases was a by-product. Usually money-oriented people become business men, or stock brokers; they are rarely creative. Such our incentive is an improved standard of living.

    9) You make repeated references to “how?”, ok, let me spell it out for your: the answer to “how?” is something we all need to work together to come up with and no singular top-down approach will suffice. If you really are a thinking person, as I believe you are, then you can realize the truth here: “how” must be developed along the way & that is the only way this can work.

    What is astounding is that instead of embracing the goals here and to consider the (nearly 100%) technical challenges in answering the “how?” question, you use it as a point of ridicule & dismissal. As if everything in the world that is of value should just be offered to you on a plate? This is purely cultural programming, and suggest you’d do well to relieve yourself of it.

    10) Next, “And if you want to point your finger at dirty politics and the greedy market as the root of all evil, can you really claim that science still has clean hands? From eugenics to Auschwitz, from the Manhattan Project to Fukushima, from physicists flocking to Wall Street to design complex financial derivatives to Monsanto’s latest genetic engineering horror, science has shown little scruple about ethics when money and power came a-calling. Why should next time be any different?”

    We don’t say those things are “the root of all evil”, rather we say our current means of differential advantage and artificial scarcity generate the results we have. If we don’t like those results, then we can change them by changing our priorities. It’s true that the pursuit of science (like the pursuit of religion) has resulted in some of our species most shameful contributions, but also some of our greatest (like the Internet, which you use daily to survive, or the appeal to help one another).

    The point is, technology is just a tool, and like a hammer, can be used to build or destroy. We currently use it to mostly destroy (following the curves here), but we also have the capacity to use it to build & create. That’s what these ideas represent. Saying “enough of the harm, we get it now, our current ideas don’t work” and embracing a new future free of the trappings of old.

    Really when all is said & done, we either embrace such priorities, or we perish as a species. The choice is ours.

    Personally, am amazed that, while you take it upon yourself to be a publisher, you’ve failed to do even the most basic research into this topic before writing on it. Perhaps some other aspect to what is being offered is affecting you / making you uncomfortable? Hard to imagine anything other than a world of money? Dunno, just speculation on my part, of course.

  16. rhett says

    well, our energy needs could come from all sorts of other sources that are clean and renewable. all we have to do is get mainstream science to get a new interest in magnets! you get free energy out of them all the time, stick one on a fridge and bam, its doing work for free, by not falling off. i know most of you have probably at least heard of the free energy theorys, but maybe, just maybe they are on to something. even tesla said that he knew how to supply the worlds need of power for free, and i think we are a little past tesla’s knowledge. you cant deny his genius either, didnt he pretty much develop AC current? but you could even go with ideas that are already in use, if the money that was spent in the oil industry were instead spent on the clean energy. you put solar panels in deserts, you put wave generators on coastlines, and im sure you could get solar water heaters to power steam generators.http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2010/11/2-square-meters-of-sunlight-focused.html if just 2 meters of sunlight focused can do that, im sure it could boil water. so just sayin that there are ways that the future society could be powered cleanly:P i personally dont agree with the whole process of life to be more or less automated, what i feel is we should get back down to earth, but at the same time develop scientifically so we can reach new places, get off this rock, maybe explore the center of black holes one day? or visiting other dimensions? or who knows! imagination really is the limit here:P anyway, good luck everyone

  17. says

    I LOVE all the discussion that my review has generated. And I really appreciate all the Zeitgeist folks who’ve come to join us at Transition Voice to weigh in.

    We at TV share so much with Zeitgeist: concern about ecological overshoot, the problems of the money system and the unfair distribution of resources. But especially peak oil. I’m so glad the latest Zeitgeist film gave so much attention to the issue.

    I don’t have time to reply to all the important issues that have been raised here, but let me just give some brief thoughts:

    — Yes, I knew that the scene with the folks piling up the money at the end was imaginative. That was one of the best things about the film — the dramatizations. I understand it’s a metaphor for people freeing their minds from market economics. Perhaps I could’ve made that clearer in the review?

    — As to the techno-cities, while I’m sure that people who follow Zeitgeist have different ideas about the future, it would be hard to claim that this one vision isn’t preferred by the film, or by the Venus Project, whose homepage features a slide show at the very top with images of these kinds of “Logan’s Run” looking cities. So I think it’s very fair to discuss whether this is the kind of future we really want.

    — I’m all for new ideas and as someone who advocates about peak oil, I know new ideas are often ridiculed at first. However, I don’t believe that the techno-cities or resource-based global management are particularly new ideas. I think you can find both envisioned in the nineteenth century or earlier. But they don’t appeal to me because they smack of top-down, bureaucratic thinking. I prefer ideas for a future that’s more bottom-up, with individual solutions from local communities.

    — Besides which, I haven’t heard anyone from Zeitgeist talk about the energy source for their globalized future. I can’t imagine what it could be besides nuclear power. And we all know the problems with that.

    — Finally, I am thankful that Zeitgeist has added to the growing public awareness about the problems of corporate globalization and party politics. I hope we can all free our minds from market economy and its dehumanizing psychology. Bravo to Zeitgeist for helping lead the charge! I hope that whether we’re fans of high-tech, low-tech or no-tech, that we can all work together to free ourselves and our nations from the rule of plutocracy and consumerism.

    As to solutions, I offer an alternative to a world led by scientists: a world led by people themselves, as envisioned in another recent film, the Economics of Happiness.

    • Auntiegrav says

      The reason I say “Bull Shit” to these types of ideas is that they are all still humanist: peeeeeeeeepul oriented. Doesn’t work that way. The world is not people oriented (sorry all of you Believers). In fact, the world is not oriented toward any particular species at all. It merely ‘is’. When we design our buildings only for people’s needs, we design them against the world. When we plan a future for “all people”, we are planning to overcome the world’s other systems in order to meet our desires (not our actual needs). To quote Wendell Berry, “What are people FOR?” It is not to “explore our consciousness” or “build a future”. People evolved on this planet as part of an ecosystem. All of the OTHER parts of the ecosystem are doing their parts to work together, but for some reason, humans believe they get to step outside of reality and suck the life out of everything they touch: especially when they set up a “race to the top”, where redundant resource waste is lauded as “competitive spirit”, where nations go to war and burn up massive amounts of oil in order to obtain more oil to burn up in more wars. Now along comes the lovely designs and architecture that will magically transform us into a species which we are not. First, we must understand what most of us are doing (consuming), and then set up real systems which reflect the actual costs at the point where the impetus of consumption is transferred from the consumer to the enablers (the purchase point). Any system which is going to moderate human behavior must use an appropriate moderating mechanism (sales taxes) that provides immediate feedback as to the consequences of resource choices we make. Politically, this is almost impossible when the politicians are elected through the consumption-based profit system. Ergo, our representatives need to be chosen in a way that reflects our actual demographics, not the demographics of the money. That means we should choose representatives at random, rather than through elections where even the Greeks knew that the bullies always win. Zeitgeist eliminates money, so where is the feedback mechanism to moderate human consumption going to be implemented? In education? In culture? Religion? How are representatives going to be chosen? By voting? Another popularity contest? A beauty pageant? How will we know if the people are drugged into somnolence or aware of the greater future needs? What will motivate them to actually provide for their own needs (localization)? More education? More cultural peer pressure? How is this going to work better than the cultures and peers we have now? At what point does the individual provide for the needs of the world, rather than the desires of the many?

  18. SecularAnimist says

    “”On the other hand, Zeitgeist’s solutions are not merely uncompelling and unconvincing. They seem to rely on the very thinking that got us into today’s problems in the first place.””

    TVP is less to do about technology(other than embracing if it serves a social need). Or city design(you can’t say designing for materials efficiency is bad thing). But,

    The very thinking that got us into this mess IS monetary and economic thinking. The causal mechanism for corruption, (mis)valuing and allocating resources, ecogenocidal behavior, etc…

    …is money;

    1) As a mis-valuer of resources and complete blindness to the natural world,(What is the net energy of $100 oil? What is left in reserves @ $100? Who knows? It’s a meaningless number!

    2) It’s refusal and inability to price externialities because it is outside of the market mechanism. If it tried every corporation would be bankrupt

    Technology is not going away, I am sure you use a shovel from time to time. I’m not sure where this aversion to the idea of technology serving social needs came from that the peak oil community has. But really this notion that we are going to go back to some 19th farming community, while the rest of the world burns, is retarded. There is no going backwards, my friend, it’s only a forward escape from this doomday machine called the global economy.

    Technology is not going to save growth based economics but is sure as hell could come in handy in a steady state RBE.

    Our government, per enlightenment thinkers, was set up for the sole purpose of protecting the property of the wealthy and making people act “economic” with the idea that market dynamics were “natural law”(maybe somebody should tell the physics department)

    Neoclassical, completely unscientific, blind-to-nature, darwinian economics got us into this mess, and will destroy us if we do not abandon it’s suicidal logic – NOT science. Hell, money is the most distorting substance known to man(tobacco science anyone).

    The world is governed by the philosophy that turning more and more things into money will create social well being. Hence, all social statistics are measured in monetary transactions. TVP, as do I, think this metric for measure social health is absurd and should be thrown into the scrap heap of history.

  19. SecularAnimist says

    Lets back up a bit to see where this started:

    Philosophical underpinnings of economics

    Liberalism:

    Explaining liberalism to North Americans is a thankless and possibly futile task, but it is one that must be attempted for clarity’s sake.

    Liberalism is a theory of political economy that arose in Great Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries. Its principal inspirations were Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and John Locke (1632-1704). It emphasizes individualism, human avarice, the “virtue” of competition and the “justice” of the marketplace. It opposed feudalism and mercantilism. It sought to replace the traditional landowners with the rising commercial and manufacturing classes.

    It sought to liberate capital, not people (and especially not women, slaves and propertyless males).

    The institutionalization of the market system:

    The French physician François Quesnay (1694-1774) was the leader of a sect of Enlightenment thinkers known as the Physiocrats (or économistes) who founded Libertarian economics. The term “Physiocracy” means rule of nature and was coined in 1767 by Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours to describe the doctrine of the first modern school of economics. Quesnay transformed economics into its modern role as the science of wealth. In so doing he disengaged economic process from its role as servant of the sociopolitical order, and established its claim to be the direct manifestation of the natural order. In other words, he argued that economic process itself embodied natural law and should thus dictate the sociopolitical order.

    It just so happens at the time Europe was plagued with increasing peasant revolts and the educated class thought if they get them to act “economic” it would quell their “irrational passions”.

    Libertarian economics were imported to America by Pierre Samuel DuPont, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and James Madison thereby establishing America as the first Libertarian state.

    The principal functions of America’s new Libertarian government were two:

    #1. To protect private property.

    #2. To force men to act economically(which is supposed to be rational).

    Here’s what classical liberal economist Adam Smith (1723-1790) said:

    Quote
    “Whenever there is great property, there is great inequality. For one very rich man, there must be at least five hundred poor, and the affluence of the rich supposes the indigence of the many, who are often driven by want, and prompted by envy, to invade his possessions. … Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property is in reality instituted for the defence of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.”

    Liberal utilitarian Jeremy Benthan (1748-1832) added this:

    Quote
    “In the highest state of social prosperity, the great mass of citizens will have no resource except their daily industry; and consequently will always be near indigence … uman beings are the most powerful instruments of production, and therefore everyone becomes anxious to employ the services of his fellows in multiplying his own comforts. Hence the intense and universal thirst for power; the equally prevalent hatred of subjugation. … When security and conflict are in conflict, it will not do to hesitate a moment. Equality must yield.”

    This means that, in liberal societies, the rich are pitted against the poor, gaining their wealth by appropriating the work of others; and it means that government is in “business” to protect the ruling class. And market dynamics are the manifestation of “natural law”(maybe somebody should let physicists know)

  20. cris says

    Zeitgeist solutions are a scary distopia. My ideas are as follows. Please help me with comments. (1) We must lower our ecological footprints to live in harmony with Nature. (2) We should participate in local governments which would provide basic local food, shelter, basic health care, education for all. These goods would come mainly from the local economy. Citizens would decide on land rent, pollution tax, etc. (3) Human enterprise could flourish without any further tax. Thus, a musician would pay zero tax while a polluting enterprise would pay according to the vote of the citizens. If people have basic needs met – the artists, marginalised women and men, children, the disabled. the poor, the unemployed etc. would be able to contribute to society as they would be freed from wage-slave and other bondage. I sure don’t believe that liberating the weak who know first hand the problems and solutions will make them beer-drinking, lazy parasites. The rich who take their entitlements for granted don’t think their wealth is a cause of laziness. My basic premise Is that the “harvest” from Nature should not rob other creatures nor future generations and should be distributed to all. Other human enterprises that are legal, non-polluting, and non-consuming should not be constrained by tax once the present inequality of income has been abolished. This is my Agrarian AND Educated Utopia. The best of Nature and Human Creativity.

    • erikcurren says

      Cris — I really like your ideas here. I’m usually suspicious of utopias which often can sound authoritarian, but yours sounds very democratic as well as practical. I particularly like your taxation idea. I’ve always been in favor of taxing stuff that’s bad like pollution instead of taxing stuff that’s good like income. And voting adds a new twist on accountability. You should submit an article to Transition Voice to flesh out your ideas further!

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