The evolution of Living Power Structures has proceeded through four stages with mankind presently struggling to fully achieve the fourth stage. These four stages are summarized in the table below and the following paragraphs.
THE FOUR STAGES OF LIVING POWER STRUCTURES (PS) STAGE DESCRIPTION COMPETITION FOR SURVIVAL 1) BIOLOGICAL COLLECTION OF ALL OTHER BIOLOGICAL INDIVIDUAL CELLS POWER STRUCTURES 2) SOCIAL COLLECTION OF BIOLOGICAL PS OF OTHER BIOLOGICAL PS OF SPECIES THE SAME SPECIES 3) POLITICAL COLLECTION OF BIOLOGICAL PS OF THE BIOLOGICAL PS OF SAME SPECIES THE SAME SPECIES 4) ENLIGHTENED COLLECTION OF ALL OTHER PS WITH RETURN BIOLOGICAL PS OF BASED ON PRODUCTION (I.E. THE SAME SPECIES THEFTLESS COMPETITION)The four stages in the evolution of Living Power Structures are differentiated both by the ways in which living cells combine and by the power structures which are their source of competition.
Biological power structures are what we normally think of when we think of evolution. Through the process of biological innovation, living cells banded together to form organisms that could work more efficiently. Initially these organisms were just colonies of cells, but gradually through the process of specialization the individual cells gave up their separate identities and became part of a common organism or biological power structure. Each biological organism is in competition with every other organism for survival.
Social power structures are associations of biological power structures that cooperate to enhance their survival. These associations can be rigid as among social insects or relatively loose. However the common thread of socialization is a reduction in competition and conflict within a group or species and a more focused competition against other species.
Political power structures are a refinement of social power structures whereby biological power structures form associations to compete against similar associations of their own species. Political power structures typically operate within social power structures to enhance the prosperity of a smaller group of biological power structures. The greater efficiency of political associations can be directed entirely at enhanced productive effort. More typically political associations are directed in part at self-predation or theft from members of their own species.
Enlightened power structures are associations of biological power structures that band together to enhance their prosperity though theftless competition. Enlightened power structures are guided by the understanding that self-predation diminishes the prosperity of the species. If self-predation (theft) merely shifted wealth from one group to another, there would be no net effect on overall prosperity. However theft demotivates both the thief and the victim from performing productive effort. Therefore theft results in a net loss of wealth to the species. In contrast the freedom that exists within enlightened power structures encourages each individual to prosper and thereby to promote the prosperity of the group.
The next four chapters provide a more detailed discussion of each of the four stages of Living Power Structures. When viewed as a common framework this discussion unifies the separate threads of biological, social and political development. The search of Living Power Structures for prosperity is achieved though innovation, production of wealth, theft and ultimately through freedom. The insights gained from this unified approach will be used to gain further understandings of human history and to help formulate recommendations for our American Renaissance.
Altruism is the most fundamental characteristic of all biological power structures. The individual cells which all share the same DNA cease to compete with each other and instead direct their efforts toward enhancing the survival of the organism. Cells that lose this altruistic orientation or deviate in any way from their common genetic program are called "cancerous" and are destroyed to preserve the organism.
Specialization is one of the most important advantages of a multicelled organism. Through the process of specialization, cells banded together to form organs within the organism specifically adapted to perform selected functions more efficiently and on the larger scale required to support the needs of the organism. Sensory organs evolved to provide input on the surrounding environment. Digestive and circulatory systems evolved to provide food and oxygen and remove waste products. Muscles and bones evolved to permit movement and lastly a brain and nervous system evolved to direct and coordinate action.
All higher forms of life on earth have adopted a centralized authoritarian command and control system. A centralized brain makes decisions based on sensory input and these decisions are followed without question by the other cells of the organism.
The degree of redundancy is a fundamental decision for all multicelled organisms. The disadvantage of specialization is that individual cells are no longer self sufficient. Therefore failure of a key function through injury or disease can doom the entire organism. Organisms achieve redundancy either by overcapacity (e.g. an oversized liver) or by multiple organs (e.g. two arms, two eyes two kidneys etc.). Also organisms have the ability to regenerate damaged tissue to varying degrees. Since redundancy tends to compromise some of the advantages of specialization, the degree of redundancy is minimized.
Size is another fundamental decision for all organisms. Biological survival includes the twin objectives of environmental adaptability and competition with other biological power structures within the food chain. Smaller organisms are more adaptable because they respond faster to random genetic mutations. Smaller organisms are also better able to adjust to changes in the environment or to recover their numbers after some environment disaster. However size gives larger organisms advantages either as a predator or in the ability to avoid becoming prey or both. The process of natural selection leads to a spectrum of species of varying sizes. More stable climates such as occurred during the age of the dinosaurs favor the evolution of larger organisms which are more susceptible to mass extinctions when there are severe changes in the environment.
While insects have developed the closest integration between their social and biological structures, many other species have highly developed social structures. Herd behavior is very common among prey species. Herd behavior enhances the survival of the prey species by allowing the strongest males to control the reproductive process. As discussed earlier herd flight is a natural discriminator that separates the strong and healthy animals at the front of the herd from the old and weak individuals that drift toward the rear and fall victim to the predators. Therefore herd behavior in land animals and schooling behavior in fish serves to enhance the survival of the prey species by promoting the survival of the fittest individuals.
Social behavior is common but not universal in predator species. Predators need to be fast enough and big enough to capture prey. Bengal Tigers who live in densely vegetated areas with relatively stable climates have chosen large size and camouflage rather than social development as their path to prosperity. Wolves on the other hand have evolved pack hunting behavior. Pack hunting behavior permits them to prey on larger animals while keeping the size of the individual wolf relatively small in response to their harsh environment and uncertain food supply. Coyotes and foxes have chosen the tiger's approach of solitary hunting and larger size relative to their prey. Our cousins the Baboons have evolved a well developed social structure that enhances their survival against predators and provides for improved care and education of their young.
Humanity is an important example of the interaction of biological and social evolution. While little is known of the social structure of early man, the baboon model of closely knit tribes seems most reasonable. The development of hands allowed us to develop tools, but just as important hands allowed us to do things for each other. Old men could make flint arrowheads for younger men to use in hunting. Old women could make clothes for others to use. Protecting the old and weak from predators was now in the common interest. As technology improved, the advantage of occupational specialization increased. But unlike ants whose only specialization is based on biological differences, our specialization was based both on biological differences and on education. The advantages of specialization through education favored larger brains with improved mental abilities. However more complex social and occupational structures made possible by larger brains required longer periods of apprenticeship. Our biology accommodated this need with a long period of adolescence which was now possible due to the social support of the extended family. Our long period of adolescence led to increased occupational specialization between males and females with the males concentrating on spacial abilities (e.g. spear throwing) and the females concentrating on relationship skills and later on verbal abilities.
The development of language was a profound socio-biological innovation. Language at least initially is of little value to a solitary creature, but spoken language and later written language significantly improved humanity's ability to form successful social power structures. Language greatly enhanced the ability for shared experience and for the orderly direction of group undertakings. Language permitted abstract reasoning and generalizations that are essential to higher thought processes. These higher thought processes combined with shared experience dramatically increased the rate of human social and technical innovation. Use of language required the biological evolution of human vocal cords and specialized brain structures to control them. The use of language led to increasingly more complex human social structures which favored increased brain development to cope with these social complexities.
The combined biological and social development of mankind led us to become the dominant species on our planet by about the end of the last ice age. While an individual man was no match for a mammoth, the neolithic tribes that invaded the Americas during the last ice age drove the mammoth and many other species of large animals to extinction. I believe this event and similar events around the world were significant because anthropologists tell us that there has been very little biological evolution in our species since we achieved this position of dominance about 20,000 years ago. This experience suggests that once a species achieves dominance, the removal of external competition causes natural selection to operate on the social structure as a whole. This tends to stall biological innovation by thwarting the natural selection process that would otherwise more strongly discriminate among the individual members of the group.
The social structures of higher animals are different from the social structures of social insects in two important respects. Firstly while the higher animals who join social structures are of the same species and therefore genetically similar, they are not biologically identical. Secondly the process of specialization by education leads to behaviors that are not commonly shared by the other members of the social group. In contrast groups of social insects share both a common heredity and common behaviors because all physical and behavioral characteristics are programmed in their DNA.
Lack of either a completely common heredity or completely common behaviors in the social power structures of higher animals weakens the bond of altruism that is a fundamental requirement for any living power structure. This reduced sense of altruism creates a command and control crisis in the social power structure. All biological power structures operate based on an absolute centralized command structure with unquestioning obedience from all other cells of the organism. Cellular obedience is voluntary and uncoerced, because all cells share a common heredity and therefore a completely common purpose. The lack of common purpose within the social power structures of higher animals means that individual members of the group are tempted to act contrary to the best interests of the group when such actions significantly enhance their own prosperity. These natural "selfish" motivations ("original sin") are the basis of all "anti-social" behaviors in the social power structures of higher animals including man.
The purpose of political power structures is to enhance the prosperity of a group of individuals relative to other members of the same species. Political power structures can contribute to the prosperity of the larger social group through specialization and their greater ability to organize their efforts. In this mode political power structures behave like organs of the body efficiently performing some function. However political power structures can also become predators on the social group. In this mode they are analogous to a cancer. Most political power structures exhibit both these characteristics.
The greatest challenge for social power structures is to continually monitor and direct the self interest of their political power structures along lines that will benefit the society as a whole. The primary mechanism for restraining anti-social behavior is through the establishment of rules which define the limits of socially acceptable behavior. Political power structures are permitted to pursue their own self interest as long as they play by these agreed upon "rules of the game". Since the rule of law is the essential fabric that preserves social unity, it provides the most powerful tool for political theft. For example the perniciousness of AIDS results from the corruption of the body's immune system which is the very structure we depend on for defense against infection. In the same way the perniciousness of legalized theft results from the corruption of the "rule of law" which is the mechanism that we depend on to preserve social unity by defining mutually beneficial social behaviors.
Redundancy is another effective social mechanisms for curbing anti-social behavior by political power structures. Redundancy in biological power structures serves to limit the vulnerability of the organism to the loss of a vital specialized function. We have two physically separate kidneys so that we can maintain this vital function even with the loss of one kidney through injury or disease. Redundancy of key political power structure functions in society (e.g. two companies making electric light bulbs or polio vaccine) serves the biological function of ensuring the availability of vital functions. However redundancy in social power structures also provides for competition and innovation.
Competition is not necessary in biological power structures because altruism keeps all the cells of the body working for the common good. In society, competition between political power structures performing redundant functions keeps each political power structure focused on meeting society's needs and thereby thwarts excessive self directed cancerous tendencies. Competition is also a powerful incentive for innovation which increases social prosperity through more efficient use of resources. The ability of political power structures under the stimulus of competition to innovate for their own prosperity and ultimately for society's prosperity is an important evolutionary advancement.
The evolutionary emphasis on political power structures in human civilization was driven by the two factors of technology and wealth. Technology can be broadly defined as the ability to create the resources needed for survival and prosperity. In this sense ants possess technology through their ability to construct complicated nests which protect them from predators and the environment, store food, provide a nursery for their young and in general enhance their survival potential. The existence of technology makes a social power structure both less dependent on predation on other species for prosperity and more tempted towards self-predation. I understand that there is even a species of ants that captures and enslaves other ants. The slave ants build tunnels, care for the young and perform the many other tasks required to keep their captor's nest running. By comparison lions are the dominant species on the plains of Africa through their well developed social power structure. However they still must hunt for food (i.e. they have no technology) and therefore they have no incentive to enslave other groups of lions. Similarly ice age man was also a hunter with limited technology. Although he became the dominant species on earth through his well developed social power structures, he had little incentive to try to control other groups of men.
The accumulation of wealth made possible by the advance of technology created a compelling incentive for the development of human political power structures whose prosperity was based on self-predation. Although our biological evolution stalled about 20,000 years ago, the prosperity of our species increased rapidly through significant social and technical innovations. Mankind learned to cultivate crops especially grains as a more secure and efficient source of food. Mankind domesticated animals for food, clothing, transportation, companionship and heavy work. Mankind learned to use the forests for building materials and to farm the sea for food. As mankind became increasingly prosperous, we began to accumulate wealth in the form of stored food, herds of domesticated animals, tools, clothes and structures. This wealth was a source of future prosperity both for those who created it and for anyone with the ability to take it by theft.
A broader understanding of theft is necessary to understand human political control. Stripped of its moral framework, theft is really the word we use to describe human self-predation. Theft is simply the transfer of resources between human beings at less than free market value. In this book the term free market means an uncoerced exchange of resources. This is a more limited definition than the unrestrained behavior sometimes used by economists to describe a free market. Some economists would describe the American trusts of the 19th century as examples of free market behavior. Let me use that example as a means to better describe the understanding of a free market presented in this book. Everyone I hope would agree that the use of physical violence to intimidate potential competitors or illegal bribes to bias laws is not a "free market". Many would concur that even legal use of influence by the 19th century trusts to obtain preferential market position (e.g. exclusive licenses or permits) was social coercion.
The definition of free market in this book extends the concept of coercive behavior to include any action directed at restraining the ability of another living power structure from prospering to the best of his ability. For example a company should not be considered coercive for using economies of scale to reduce production cost and then setting a selling price that will maximize profit consistent with the publics' demand curve. Coercion occurs when a bigger company temporarily sells a product at less than the most profitable price with the intention of permanently driving competitors from the market and then raising prices. Coercion also occurs when a company buys a patent with the sole intention of preventing others from offering products to the public which incorporate the patented innovation.
Unfortunately the guideline of non-coercive behavior as a requirement for free market interactions is an elusive goal. The complexity of human social and political interactions usually requires a tradeoff between different potential sources of theft. For example section 5.3 discussed the ways in which the medical license is being abused to divert wealth to doctors. However that section does not recommend allowing anyone to practice medicine. The coercion of the medical license must be balanced by the potential theft from unqualified medical practitioners. The most prosperous solution for society is the one that minimizes all sources of coercion in human affairs to achieve the freest possible market.
This complex process of minimizing self-predation in human society requires a better understanding of the role of political control in human history. Human history is a chronicle of mankind's struggle to achieve prosperity through accomplishment (motivation, education, investment and especially innovation ) and conquest (theft of the wealth of other men). These two paths to human prosperity are inseparably linked because the wealth and enhanced ability from accomplishment are incentives for conquest and because the rewards and penalties of conquest provide both strong incentives and disincentives for accomplishment. Successful conquest requires a system for exercising political control for the purpose of orchestrating political theft.
Throughout history mankind has utilized many systems for maintaining political control. The common objective of all these systems is to enhance the prosperity of the members of the controlling political power structure usually at the expense of the other members of the larger social/political power structure being controlled. Political power structures can be categorized as either foreign or domestic depending on the degree of common purpose they share over the group they are trying to control. Foreign power structures achieve and maintain their political control predominantly through the use or threat of physical force. However enlightened conquerors seek to minimize the cost and maximize the benefits of political control by making their presence and control less obvious. They accomplish this objective through treaties with a puppet domestic government which collects tribute on their behalf.
Domestic political power structures which are an important focus of this book can be characterized in several different ways. For this book I have chosen to characterize domestic political power structures on the basis of their control of the means of the production of wealth. We usually characterize this spectrum in terms of being "right" or "left" and I have adopted these terms as convenient abbreviations. However for readers who find these terms offensive, you may substitute " those who control the means of the production of wealth" in place of "right wing political power structures" and "those who do not control the means of the production of wealth" in place of "left wing political power structures". While the constituencies that I am referring to as "right" and "left" also loosely correlate with other dimensions in the political spectrum such as "liberal" and "conservative", my use of "right" and "left" is not meant to infer these correlations.
Prior to the advent of representative democracy, the right wing political groups that controlled the means of the production of wealth also controlled the government. However left wing groups were never totally unrepresented. In the middle ages the church was at least a partial representative for middle class and left wing interests. Even earlier the Roman republic responded to a broad spectrum of political interests. However in all these pre-democratic governments, the control of government by right wing political groups ensured that the "rules of society" were biased in favor of right wing political interests. These rules often permitted actions of "legalized theft" to enhance the prosperity of right wing interests. Acts of theft by the other members of society lacked the mantle of legality and were therefore illegal or criminal theft.
As the political process in America and in other countries has become progressively more democratic, two important political changes have occurred. First the political line defining right wing groups has shifted to include more of the middle class. Expansion of the right wing political tent has occurred both as a result of concessions by right wing political forces and as a reaction to an increase in legalized political theft by the left wing.
The second related change that has occurred in American politics has been the increasing control of government especially the legislative branch of government by left wing groups. Government offers an attractive power base for left wing groups who do not control the means of the production of wealth and who therefore need another power base to exert political control over American society. The increasing left wing control of government has been assisted by the acquiescence of right wing political groups. The right wing political forces in America who control the private sector and its wealth recognize the need to maintain some control over government. However the price required to obtain sufficient popular support to elect a majority of federal and state legislators would mean relinquishing too much of the legalized theft that supports right wing prosperity. The resulting control of government by left wing political groups has turned government into an instrument of left wing political theft through social programs that redistribute national income. While the majority of middle class Americans do receive some benefits both from the right wing theft of corporate/governmental bureaucracy and from the left wing theft of government programs, for the most part the middle class is the victim of theft by these two political forces. The ticket splitting behavior of American voters is an attempt to balance the forces of right wing and left wing theft by avoiding giving either group control of both the legislative and executive branches of government.
Since right wing political power structures control the private sector institutions that create wealth in society, their systems of control and their mechanisms of theft are of the greatest historical significance. Starting with the earliest human civilizations, the rise of right wing political power structures created conflicts within the existing social structures. These social structures were based on individuals banding together for the common good of the society. The rise of political power structures which were directed at improving the lot of some individuals at the expense of others was in conflict with the basic social contract that supported the society. Historically right wing political power structures have attempted to operate under the mantle of a legal framework. The legitimacy of a legal framework masks the extent of political theft which in turn both reduces demotivation among the victims and minimizes the victim's level of dissatisfaction. Victim demotivation would reduce the pool of wealth which was the source for the political power structure's theft. Victim dissatisfaction could lead to a revolt which would require both the expenditure of present wealth to suppress and which would inevitably reduce future wealth.
The invention of hereditary class structures was a major milestone in the development of domestic right wing political power structures. These hereditary structures, often supported by religious beliefs as in the Pharaohs of Egypt, the Brahmans of India and later the emperors of Rome, provided a social justification for the grossly unequal distribution of wealth and authority in the society. Furthermore hereditary class structures eliminated disorder between generations by providing a relatively smooth succession of power. However these systems failed to provide the disorder needed for social innovation. Instead of making small adjustments as each new generation came to power, the lack of social fluidity in such systems resulted in social stagnation. This social stagnation led to periods of domestic tranquility punctuated by revolutions or foreign conquests that started a new dynasty. The history of China is an example of this process.
The four stages of feudalism are the major mechanisms of right wing political theft throughout human history. By this expanded definition Feudalism is a mechanism of theft whereby a political power structure enhances the prosperity of its members at the expense of the other members of a society by controlling a key resource for the production of wealth.
Slavery is the first level of feudalism and its original form. Slavery is the direct control of all human labor by a feudal lord. Slavery was widely used in early human history because it was so easy to administer. However slavery created the most resentment from the victims. Motivated men were likely to resist slavery and unmotivated men made poor slaves. Slavery was best suited to menial tasks (like rowing a galley) where obedience could be easily enforced. As technology advanced, the productive tasks in society required both increased ability and motivation. Slavery was unsuited to these tasks because enforcing quality or even production rate with a whip was very difficult.
Territorial Feudalism is the second level of feudalism and the form which gave this mechanism of political theft its name. Territorial feudalism is the control of the land and all it produces by a feudal lord. The peasants had complete freedom over their lives including the freedom to starve. However if they wanted to live, they had to work the lands of the feudal lord and submit to his control including payment of part of their produce in taxes. Territorial feudalism replaced slavery in the middle ages because feudalism provided a higher benefit/cost ratio to the feudal lord. Feudalism allowed all peasants a measure of self control over their lives and rewarded peasants who had greater motivation and ability with a higher level of prosperity. The emergence of industry as the dominant force in human prosperity overshadowed but did not replace territorial feudalism. Territorial feudalism mitigated to varying degrees by societal controls is still an important factor in agricultural production even in America (e.g. migrant farm workers).
Industrial feudalism is the third level of feudalism. Like territorial feudalism, industrial feudalism allows the workers complete freedom. However if they wish to live, they must work at a factory under the conditions and wages specified by the industrial lord. The blatant thievery of early industrial feudalism led to violent social reactions from the workers including the union movement and the rise of communism. While the worst excesses of industrial feudalism are behind us, industrial feudalism is still very much a part of modern American society.
Professional feudalism is the fourth level of feudalism. As technology advanced certain professional skills became virtually essential to the operation of society. Individuals that possessed those skills found that by banding together to control the supply of these vital skills, they were able to claim a much higher return than would have been possible in a free market. While territorial and industrial feudalism are still important factors in the modern American economy, professional feudalism is the most widespread form of right wing political theft in modern American society. Virtually every profession including doctors, lawyers, educators, accountants and trade unionists have been successful to a significant degree in controlling the free market supply of their service and in so doing increasing their compensation above the free market level. This professional thievery denies capable men and women access to these professions and denies society access to adequate and fairly priced professional services.
We face two formidable tasks as we seek to promote American prosperity through an American Renaissance. Our first task in to unmask the systems of political theft in modern American society and then to evaluate those thefts to determine their impact on present and future American prosperity. Our second task is to develop both social and technical innovations that offer the promise of reducing these thefts and enhancing American prosperity. Ironically this process may adversely affect prosperity in the short run because ignorance of theft mitigates the demotivating effect of theft on the victims and because change even gradual change can be disruptive in the short run. However as we have seen in the former Soviet Union, deception and social stagnation are eventually self defeating. Lack of candor and artificial order while pacifying in the short term removes the healthy feedback needed for prosperity. The result of this policy in the Soviet Union was an endless spiral of increasing deception and eventual collapse.
Enlightened power structures are based on the understanding that freedom is the best prosperity enhancing strategy for humanity. Freedom works because freedom motivates people to produce wealth while denial of freedom reduces the prosperity of human societies by demotivating both the thieves and the victims. The evil of theft from an evolutionary standpoint lies not in its injustice which is a moral perspective but in the way theft demotivates intelligent living power structures including mankind from producing tomorrow's wealth. Power structures who are successful with theft (i.e. those who are able to obtain resources through theft at less cost than would be required to obtain them through work) will be demotivated from working and will instead be motivated to devote their efforts to becoming more efficient thieves. Similarly power structures (be they individuals or groups of individuals) who have been robbed will be less motivated to produce excess wealth tomorrow. They will instead be motivated to expend time and effort to protect their wealth from thieves. Therefore theft reduces the amount of total wealth available by diverting the productive activities of both the thieves and the victims.
Human history has been driven by the interrelated development of social, political and enlightened power structures. The previous sections have presented some examples of the interaction of social and political developments. The following paragraphs attempt to outline the development of enlightened power structures by selecting some key milestones and discussing their impact on human history. Since this is a nearly impossible task, I again ask the reader to view the entire journey rather than focus on specific milestones or conclusions.
The Exodus and the Ten Commandments mark the dawn of enlightenment in western civilization. The release of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt was more than an act of mercy for one people. The events leading up to the Exodus provide a clear condemnation of the practice of human slavery and provided support for the right of people to be free to pursue their own destiny. The Ten Commandments added a moral framework that defined the responsibilities that are an integral part of freedom. At the risk of seeming myopic, the essence of these responsibilities is imbedded in what I call the central commandment, " Thou shalt not STEAL". The other commandments regarding murder, adultery, bearing false witness and envy are all special cases of theft. Even the laws concerning respect for one's parents and God deal with fairness and the avoidance of theft. Similarly the considerable text following the Ten Commandments primarily deals with rules for fair compensation. Some of these rules may not seem enlightened from our perspective, but they were major advances in enlightened behavior for those times.
The Roman empire and in particular the Pax Romana was the one of the most significant early success of enlightened power structures. From our perspective Rome was a heavy handed political power structure, but for those times Roman rule was often very enlightened. Rome demanded obedience and tribute from captive lands, but Rome offered technology (which mitigated the effects of tribute) and a code of laws ( which brought order and stability). However the most enlightened practice of Roman society was the opportunity for people throughout the empire to earn Roman citizenship. The United States follows this practice, but many other countries still do not allow foreigners to become citizens. While books have been written on the fall of the Roman empire, one important reason was the relentless increase in theft by the emperors of Rome and the ruling political power structures. Since the Roman empire was a diverse culture, the altruism needed for a sense of common purpose depended on a reasonable measure of freedom and opportunity. The orgy of theft of the latter Roman empire dissipated this reservoir of social altruism and condemned the empire to collapse.
From a purely historical standpoint the life and teachings of Jesus had a profound impact on the advancement of enlightened power structures. The concept of human equality before God undermined both the class distinctions that were needed to support theft by domestic political power structures and the race/national distinctions that were essential to rationalize theft by imperial political power structures. His teachings of tolerance, humility and altruism provided mankind with ideals that were in vivid contrast with the harsh realities of existing conditions. While these seeds of enlightenment initially fell on hard ground, over the years they have grown and have been a major force for the continued evolution of enlightened power structures throughout history.
The Dark Ages that followed the fall of Rome were marked by a preoccupation with conquest (theft of the material resources of others). Social and technological achievement ceased and once the resources accumulated by Roman civilization were plundered, the living standards collapsed. Gradually a feudal political power structure developed based on an hereditary class structure that institutionalized the unequal distribution of wealth. While feudal society was relatively static, exceptional achievements or services to the king were rewarded by nobility often enough to motivate the population to achieve and to infuse new blood into the ruling class. The continual threat of war also restrained feudal lords against excessive theft of their subjects' wealth.
After a period of nearly a thousand years, several factors combined to create a rebirth of enlightenment in Europe. In England, the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 began the process of broadening the political power base. In Italy the economic benefits of trade led such city states as Venice to expand freedom and to prosper accordingly. Throughout Europe the building of cathedrals required skilled artists and tradesman who were allowed considerable freedom to facilitate their work. In Germany, Martin Luther dramatically altered the power of the church by proclaiming that men could relate to God directly without the help of a priest.
The discovery of the New World opened economic opportunities that restructured existing political power structures and expanded the opportunities for human freedom. Men who ventured to the New World were not those of wealth and power, but those of more modest means with ambition for prosperity. The risks and distances involved necessitated that these early explorers and colonists operate with a great deal of independence. The unwillingness of existing power structures to directly conduct exploration and their inability to fully control the process led to a redistribution of wealth and a broadening of the political power base.
The enlightened thoughts of such philosophers as Voltaire struck a responsive chord among educated men in the American colonies who had acquired the vision of the frontier. A frontier is a place in space or time that is devoid of political power structures and their schemes for "legalized theft". Prosperity on the frontier is based on accomplishment ("As ye sow so shall ye reap.") rather than on theft because there are few opportunities for theft. Admittedly this scenario is idealized. We stole land first from the Indians and then from the Mexicans and cut down the forests without replanting new trees, but the major thrust of human activity was directed toward building a civilization through hard work and innovation. The background of 150 years of frontier living, the physical isolation of the American colonies and the support of France helped the American colonists "turn the world upside down" and break the grip of the English power structure.
The American revolution represented far more than the successful self determination of a people. Many revolutions before and since have successfully overthrown foreign interests or oppressive domestic interests only to fall prey to new oppressive political power structures. The American revolution was the first to create a society which was dedicated to individual prosperity (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) and which required government ( and by extension all other political power structures in the society) to serve the people's interests or be altered until it does. The success of the American revolution was not in changing the people in charge, because all men are corruptible. The success of the American revolution was in changing the system to provide greater freedom from human theft. The uniqueness of America has always been in knowing where we were going rather than in exalting in where we were. While a classless society dedicated to individual freedom and opportunity was more of a dream than a reality in 1776, the light of our ideals has enabled America to make continued progress in breaking down oppressive political power structures both foreign and domestic.
The French revolution provided both similarities and important differences with the American revolution. The French revolution was a reaction against the excessive theft of the ruling political power structures, the First Estate (the clergy ) and the Second Estate (the nobility ). The opulence of Versailles and the extreme egotism of the nobility as depicted by their paintings and the words "L'etat c'est moi!" ("I am the State") imply a loss of touch with reality. However the French nobility were very much in touch with reality. The words of Louis XV, " after me the deluge" clearly show that the power structures knew they were headed for disaster. The important lesson here is not only that "absolute power corrupts absolutely", but that power structures are rarely able to accept innovation and save themselves from extinction. The French nobility would not compromise after the initial phase of the French revolution and their attempts to seek aid from the ruling nobility of Europe led to the Reign of Terror. The resulting executions virtually exterminated the nobility which deprived France of their considerable talents and experience.
The second important difference between the French and the American revolutions was the inability of the French to establish a self- governing society. The American colonists who were the beneficiaries of many generations of increasing self control were emotionally ready to accept self-government. The French on the other hand had always lived under authoritarian rule. While they wanted to rid themselves of political theft and could intellectually aspire to the idea of a republic, they were emotionally unable to assume the responsibilities of self government and therefore easily fell prey to Napoleon. Tragically this same scenario was repeated over a century later in Russia with the rise of the Bolsheviks after the Russian revolution. The sad truth of history is that those who are unwilling to rule themselves will inevitably be robbed by their rulers. The observation that self government requires several generations of training needs to be remembered as we realistically assess the prognosis for the evolution of democratic governments in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and China. This lesson should not be lost on ourselves either. We are hopelessly naive if we think we can shirk the responsibility for governing ourselves and not expect to be robbed by those who assume that role.
The industrial revolution and the subsequent growth of technology created a crisis in the evolution of enlightened power structures that we are still responding to. Like exploration, the advance of technology opened up new sources of prosperity by providing methods for "working smarter". However unlike the diffuse nature of exploration, the centralized nature of technology proved very amenable to political control. Technology produced additional wealth for the resources invested and people moved to the cities to support the factories that produced this wealth. The social issue was how should the additional wealth of technology be divided between the workers and the owners of the factories. Public attention was directed at the deplorable living conditions of the workers. However we must remember that people chose to come to the cities because the living conditions in the cities as bad as they were still better than the desperately poor conditions in the country. The important social comparison of the early industrial revolution was not the absolute poverty of the workers, but the relative poverty of the workers compared to the affluence of the industrialists. This contrast was evidence of the underlying existence of industrial feudalism whereby the industrialists used their power to distort the free market for their own prosperity.
The fundamental economic issue of the industrial revolution was really the political control of capital. The excessive profits of capital resulting from control of the political power structures by the owners of capital and use of those structures to prevent a free market for capital was the basis of industrial feudal theft. The low wages of labor and the deplorable living conditions of the workers were simply some of the social results of that theft. As an example of this process consider a hypothetical clothing factory. A clothing factory requires capital investment. The cost of capital is simply a real interest (based on the perceived time value of money) plus a premium based on the risk associated with losing some or all of the principle invested. The laws of supply and demand dictate that if the rate of return from our hypothetical clothing factory exceeds the norm, then competitors will open up additional clothing factories and drive down the price of clothes until the rate of return on clothing factory capital is brought back into line. This process would increase the wage rate by increasing the demand for workers and further increase the real wage rate by reducing the cost of clothes that the workers bought.
There are several ways in which political power structures can intervene to keep the return of capital above the free market value. One common practice is for the government to require a license and thereby directly control the number of factories. However the most common approach is for the companies themselves to engage in predatory pricing policies that drive existing competitors from the market and thereby raise the risk premium so high that potential competitors are scared away. All this is not to deny the additional repressive effects of collusion by the ruling class to keep wages low. However this form of "legalized theft" has existed throughout history was not unique to the industrial revolution.
The American Civil War and its impact on the social structure in the South was another important milestone in the enlightenment of human power structures. The Old South was as close as America ever came to an aristocracy (hereditary based class and power structure). We usually focus on the institution of slavery and certainly the black slaves who occupied the lowest level in society suffered severely from this institution of legalized theft. However the whole society was a fairly rigid pecking order where what you were allowed to do was more determined by who you were than by what you could accomplish. Like all pyramid structures, Southern society needed slavery to form the base of the pyramid. Those in the middle of the pyramid envied those at the top, but they were willing to support the system, because they benefited from it. Slavery provided both a significant transfer of wealth from the black slaves to the rest of society and the social glue that permitted the white members to accept a severe stratification in their part of society. The abolition of slavery doomed southern aristocracy, because the middle class whites no longer benefited from it.
From the Israelites in Egypt to the Untouchables in India this phenomenon of a lower caste (often of another race or religion) providing the cornerstone for a class stratified society has been a very common occurrence throughout history. Obviously those at the top of the pyramid benefit from a stratified society, but the strong support given these systems by the lower middle class is a phenomenon that needs further discussion. For example less affluent white males in America are among the most frequent supporters of racial and sexual discrimination ( both forms of legalized theft). If successful such discrimination provides several apparent benefits to these supporters: 1) the discriminated are forced to take the least desirable jobs 2) these jobs pay less than they would under a free market, thus transferring wealth to the rest of society and 3) there is less competition for the next lowest jobs causing them to pay more than they would under a free market. Unfortunately these benefits are largely illusory. Discrimination does create a lower class that prevents the lower middle class from being on the bottom, but the demotivating effects of such legalized theft severely restrict the economic growth of the society. In kitchen English this preoccupation with getting a bigger piece of the pie rather than in baking bigger pies results in a smaller piece of pie for everyone those except the chief chef.
The rise of the union movement was in many ways a wrong turn in the search for enlightenment. The political restrictions on the free flow of capital (by both government and industry) created situations where the owners of capital could obtain profits far in excess of the cost of capital and thereby distort the distribution of wealth in society. The response of workers to this injustice by the political power structures of the capitalists was to form unions as counterbalancing political power structures of their own. While the result of the clash between these two power structures was a more equitable return for labor, these gains were offset by many losses. The chief loss was and continues to be the loss in motivation for individual excellence. Other situations directly related to this lack of profit feedback include featherbedding and restrictive job entry requirements and eventually graft and corruption. The post-war decline in union membership coincides with the growth of light industry and service industries in America. Since capital flow in these industries has been relatively free, the free market is able to provide a fair return to both labor and capital. Not surprisingly exceptions to this trend include the education industry and the post office where capital investment is hampered by legal restrictions.
The development of monopolistic industrial power structures in America during the last half of the 19th century posed a great threat to the continued advance of enlightenment. The great technological advances of the 19th century had created tremendous opportunities for prosperity. However control of many key technologies such as oil, steel and the railroads had been seized by a few companies who were then able to exercise control over the market. These companies used their control to achieve profits far above the free market return for capital. These companies maintained their monopoly positions by buying off politicians to thwart any legal reform and by briefly selling below cost (or threatening to do so) to drive competitors from the market. This legalized theft not only distorted the distribution of current wealth in America, it also stifled technical innovation in these industries. This situation if allowed to continue would have reduced economic growth and aborted America's rapid rise to prominence as a world power. This gross distortion of American's present and future wealth violated the social contract on which the American nation was based and would have ultimately led to a revolution.
The breakup of American industrial trusts by Teddy Roosevelt in the early 1900's was one of the greatest advances for enlightenment in modern times. This great achievement exhibited four very important differences from the violent transitions that marked the French and Russian revolutions. First of all the American political system worked. The assassination of McKinley in 1901 gave control of the ship of state to Teddy Roosevelt who was both motivated to oppose the political power of the trusts and popular enough to do so. Second the process was accomplished by restoring a free market rather then by overcoming the power of the trusts by the power of government. In more recent history several American presidents have tried the latter approach with much less success: Kennedy tried jawboning the steel industry to roll back price increases, Nixon tried wage and price controls and Carter tried "excess profits" taxes on oil. Third the process avoided theft. The assets of the trusts were not confiscated. The trusts were simply forced to restructure and abide by new rules to help ensure a free market. Fourth and most importantly, the process worked in the long term. The American economy grew at a steady rate for nearly a generation until the Great Depression hit in 1929.
The Russian revolution which resulted in the emergence of Communism was one of the biggest setbacks for enlightenment in modern times. Rather than promoting individual liberty, communism sought to overcome one political power structure by creating another only to discover that the second was as bad as the first. The whole concept of class struggle (i.e. one political power structure vs another) suffers from the same failings as the union movement namely the acquisition of resources by force rather than by competition in a free market. The former inevitably leads to theft since the only basis of what is "fair" is which side has the most political power. Similarly the "dictatorship of the proletariat" is the same as the "divine right of kings" except for the justification used for one group to control the lives and wealth of another.
In many respects the Russian revolution paralleled the French revolution. Both countries were feudal societies with a rigid social stratification based on hereditary class structures. Both societies sustained the distribution of wealth by legalized theft rather than by a free market. Both societies were driven to revolution when the economic hardship on the working class became unbearable. In France the royalty caused the revolution by their own extravagance. The Russian Czar was far more paternalistic and might have stayed in power for many more years except for the severe economic deprivation caused by World War I. Both France and Russia initially formed democratic governments which fell to more radical elements partially due to foreign intervention. Both countries fell to dictators (Lenin and then Stalin in Russia) with ambitions for foreign conquest. The Russian timetable was simply slower than Napoleon's because of the awesome challenge of rebuilding the Russian domestic economy and consolidating political power in what was already an empire of many non-Russian people ruled from Moscow. Had the rise of Nazi Germany been delayed for 20 years, the crisis of the 1940's might have been Russian expansionism as evidenced by Stalin's 1939 pact with Hitler allowing Russia to annex both eastern Poland and the Baltic States. The defeat of Germany allowed Russia to annex large sections of eastern Europe. The subsequent 44 years saw many attempts to further extend this empire.
The collapse of Communism in the Soviet Empire is an extremely positive event for the advancement of human enlightenment. This collapse will result in two fundamental changes: first, enhanced economic freedom and eventually political freedom for millions of people and second, removal of any moral justification for the expansion of the Russian empire. In the near future this process presents the monumental challenges of educating formerly captive peoples in the process of democracy and in rebuilding both the social and technical infrastructure. The reunification of Germany will provide an early indication of the magnitude of this challenge. In the long term the collapse of communism offers the potential for another Pax Romana where human prosperity can benefit from the combined free market output of more of Earth's people with the parasitic cost of armaments ( to protect against foreign theft) gradually reduced.
The underlying cause of the collapse of communism was the relative failure of the Soviet system to motivate people to produce. However the unprecedented nature of this change is that it is being performed voluntarily by the existing power structure. Such voluntary change in the face of failure is a sign of great strength not weakness. The record of history shows that most political power structures are unable to save themselves from their own failings. Change usually comes from a domestic revolt or from external conquest. America's successful breakup of the 19th century trusts discussed earlier occurred because the people regained control of the system not because the trusts initiated the process of change. Therefore the actions of the Soviet communist party to relinquish control over eastern Europe and to democratize their society for the long term good of their country at the expense of their own power is a very enlightened act. This enlightened act deserves our full support, because the emergence of Russia as a free and non-aggressive nation would be a significant advance in humanity's path toward enlightenment. However the record of history suggests that such rapid transitions are often reversed. The Free World must be prepared to handle such reversals and minimize their impact.
The last forty years have witnessed concerted efforts by western societies both to contain communism and to extend domestic civil liberties. The Civil Rights movement and the Women's Liberation movement were both products of the Cold War period in American society. These two processes of communist containment and expansion of domestic civil liberties were linked by both public awareness and the enlightened support of political power structures. The government focused public attention on the lack of freedom in communist societies to increase public support for the Cold War. However this process inevitably increased public awareness of civil rights injustices in our own society and sparked efforts to correct these injustices. The fear of communist expansion was also a strong incentive for domestic political power structures to exercise restraint. These power structures were enlightened enough to realize that although the Cold War could be lost militarily it could only be won economically. They realized that long term economic growth required minimum legalized theft to motivate people to produce. Unfortunately the removal of the external threat of communist aggression will inevitably reduce our sense of unity and common purpose. If this unleashes an orgy of theft by our political power structures, the negative impact on economic growth could easily eat up all the "peace dividend" from reduced expenditures on armaments.
The emerging world economy offers both promise and risk to the continued advancement of enlightenment. Foreign economic competition has had a very positive effect on many areas of our domestic economy. Foreign competition in such key industries as automobiles and steel has forced entrenched management and labor in those industries to either become competitive or go out of business. The dismantling of power structures required to accomplish this process has been painful, but many of the results are extremely gratifying (e.g. the redesign of American automobiles for higher quality and lower production cost). Unfortunately using foreign competition rather than the American political system to overcome American political power structures is a two edge sword. The emergence of a global economy is creating powerful global economic empires with enhanced opportunities for theft. Reaping the benefits of a global economy while avoiding abuses by the participants will be one of the great challenges of the 21st century.