[Editor: This is a chapter from Australianism (1954) by John Fisher.]
Law no. 3: The law of economics.
The third law enables any person to understand easily the basic structure of a society fashioned according to an enlightened conception of the human personality. It is based on the fact that all production takes place in order to satisfy, ultimately, the needs of the individual, rather than the money-mania.
It states:— Whereas a person needs three meals a day in order to survive, he only needs one home in a lifetime, one suit a year, one car, refrigerator, radio, etc. in about five years. Or, in other words, the total quantity of goods and services required by the individual for civilised living, throughout his life, is a small amount compared with the food he consumes during the same time.
People who desire to master their environment and achieve the most efficient economic organisation, should always conceive economic activity as a transformation from soil to individual, since nearly all human needs come from the soil. This does not imply the rejection of mass-production, but leads to its most efficient utilisation on a community basis, to meet the needs of the individual rather than a sub-human mania for money.
Throughout history, men have been preoccupied with manipulation for its own sake and have not viewed their affairs as if they were, or desired to be masters of them. A mastery of spiritual realities, however, has permitted the outstanding contributions of mankind’s handful of benefactors. From earliest times, the majority have failed to grasp the simple but vital meaning of freedom, that is, the freedom of mind bestowed by material security and a keen intellectual appetite. Systems of manipulation of goods, whether barter, currency, or anything else, have remained the chief preoccupation of the misguided majority, rather than the simple pursuit of happiness.
If men sought mastery of their own destinies they would conceive economic activity as grouped co-operatively about the soil for the purpose of achieving individual happiness, and not grouped about cities for the purpose of competitively collecting money. The money-motive and a misunderstanding of “competition” have led to the unnecessary duplication of factories and an unbridled expansion of paper-work, manipulation, and administration in modern ant-heaps where slave-masses can be tapped to run the various idiotic excesses. People who wish to understand and reform the economic structure must consider it from the point of view provided by natural law.
At no time during the rise of industrial civilisation have men ever produced goods purely to fill human needs, but merely to collect money. This can be proved by going into any industry to-day and asking every person, from lowest to highest, the following simple questions:—
(a) Considering the total needs of the individual, what is the most efficient distribution of the population?
(b) Considering this distribution and the source of raw materials what is the most efficient arrangement of factories?
(c) What is the total demand to be met by each factory?
(d) Is contact maintained with scientific headquarters for simplifying the raw-materials-to-finished-product process?
(e) What is the minimum number of different models required to fill the various needs?
(f) What is the degree of interchangeability of components with the rest of industry?
(g) What is the smallest kit-set of essential parts required by those who wish to assemble their own unit and how may future developments increase their independence?
(h) Is the article designed with a maximum degree of accessibility for home repair and maintenance?
(i) Is a construction, upkeep, and repair pamphlet available to those who want it?
(j) Is the article well-constructed, to last as long as possible?
Although all these matters are of an elementary nature, it will be found that barely a shadow of an answer to any of these questions is forthcoming, for the slaves of “civilisation” are devoted only to the accumulation of money, and not the shaping of an intelligent, free, secure, and happy way of life.
Any country producing scientifically according to these ideas, encouraging and utilising the inventive ingenuity of its entire population through a central co-ordinating bureau, would produce the finest and most useful goods in the world. It is characteristic of capitalism that progress slowly follows money outwards from a few centres. In a scientific society new knowledge would be instantly communicated throughout the world, and would cause universal progress.
Brilliant inventions result from the exercise of an imaginative comprehension of complete processes, and invariably threaten to destroy industries, old crafts, and any section of a capitalist economy, which is thus seen to be, by its very nature, directly opposed to progress. It should be in the best interests of every person to seek and encourage new, simpler solutions to production problems by a development of the human imagination and the acquisition of additional skills throughout society, but this is opposed by vested interests, mentally-lazy trade-union officials, political opportunists, and so-on, who consider money more important than an eventful life. Only the joy of discovery, the admiration of superior skill, and the fashioning of a richer way of life can inspire and reward adequately the exercise of a superior technical insight.
Scientists, tradesmen and many others are mistaken in pursuing money, and in allowing themselves to be hypnotised by the cumbrous, blundering inefficiencies of capitalist society. By co-operatively refashioning society according to a new, broad, humanitarian ideal they would be rewarded in deeper measure than can be conveyed in monetary terms. The dual needs for security and progress are contradictory when measured in terms of money; the basis of all capitalist society is an absolute contradiction.
Absolute security is easily measurable and attainable, but progress is an immeasurable, wonderful and unknown quantity resulting from the growth of human wisdom, not the sufferings of oppressed classes.
Push-button factories are a proven possibility, but their immediate introduction is opposed by the old ideals of vested interests, trade-unions and politicians. Society is not arranged securely about the soil so as to benefit immediately from progressive developments, but is arranged only to serve the circulation of the currency, which permits greater security only at the expense of progress. If America’s survival, for example, depended upon halving working-hours and removing social injustices within a decade, then these would be brought about by a united national effort. To-day, however, the dying capitalist philosophy in that country has no successor to unite it in a great crusade for human betterment. Capitalism has evolved by the marketing philosophy, which emphasises the external sales-novelty of goods, irrespective of their real worth or their means of manufacture. A more comprehensive philosophy which united society in the pursuit of the maximum overall productive efficiency would have made push-button factories and vastly superior social conditions a reality long ere this.
To rearrange society according to these ideas, is to exclude money completely from involvement in the necessities of life, and let no person deceive himself in the matter. For those incapable of thinking in other than monetary terms, this simply means that their every material need would be met in return for a fraction of the work required to-day, but a complete absence of the worry.
The profoundest fault of industrial civilisation is of a psychological nature. Although commonsense social planning could assure progress and bring every person short working hours, security, and unlimited creative freedom, to-day destitution can be inflicted at any point in the irrational capitalist economy. People are not educated for the mastery of life, but fall victims to various frustrating manias.
Throughout history, the desirable mental conquest of the environment has been entangled in economic activity, which has thus been the subject of perpetual gambling, misdirection, and unnecessary manipulation. Whereas enlightened folk could have at all times secured first the simple material needs of the individual before embarking upon the creative, non-oppressive adventures demanded by the expanding mind, this slight effort of self-discipline has never occurred.
Three meals a day means the simple difference between life and death, and their involvement in a game of chance has, throughout history, exercised an unsettling and perverting influence on human aspirations, an influence whose profound importance cannot be over-emphasised.
The possibility of depressions and wars infects the outlook of all classes, whether wealthy or poor, for money can never guarantee immunity from either of these curses. A vast insurance network is needed to protect men from their own stupidity in allowing primitive beliefs at the work-a-day level to involve all their affairs in a vast gamble. The subtle shackling of childhood’s natural aspirations to the warping futility of money is universal, and one of the greatest single causes of frustration.
Only when men individually seek to understand their true nature and master their environment will co-operation permit the emergence of a new society in which human destiny may advance unencumbered to its fulfilment.
John Fisher, Australianism, self-published: Harcourt Gardens (SA), , pages 12-16
ere = before (from the Middle English “er”, itself from the Old English “aer”, meaning early or soon)