We must learn a “
The Bureaucracy Curse
by Brian Dean (originally printed in The Idler)
“Fuller claimed that the Malthusian ideology of “lower expectations”
still pervades mainstream politics and economics.
Politicians continue to remind us that we must “make sacrifices”, “cut back”, “tighten our belts”, etc.
Of course, it’s always the poor people who make the sacrifices, not politicians or the well-off.
Malthusianism shames the poor into accepting their situation with stoic resignation,
rather than raising their expectations.
If there isn’t enough to go around, then you should be grateful for what you already have.
Understandably, Malthus was very popular with the ruling classes.”
“Fuller spent much of his life challenging the Malthusian notion of
“not enough to go around”.
He documented the technological trend of
extracting more and more life-supporting wealth
from less and less raw material.
For example, he compared a modern communications satellite, weighing a fraction of a ton,
with the 75,000 tons of transatlantic cable that it replaces and outperforms.
This process of “more from less”, he said, is accelerating faster
than population growth and is removing scarcity from the planet.”
“Over the last few decades, Fuller’s claims have been scientifically vindicated.
Current inventories of world resources show overwhelming abundance
of sustainable life-enhancing wealth – enough to maintain a high living standard
for every person on the planet.
Scarcity now has to be artificially induced to preserve an obsolete system of “haves” and “have-nots”.
Most people suspect as much when they hear that, for decades, governments
have been paying farmers not to grow food.
Fuller regarded the “us versus them” paranoid-competitive business world
as a highly destructive combination of Malthus and Social Darwinism.
Humanity’s real mission, as he saw it, was not to fight competitors, but,
“to make the world work for 100 percent of humanity in the shortest possible time
through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense
or the disadvantage of anyone.””
“In 1980, Fuller asserted his confidence in the practical realisation of this utopian vision:
“For the first time in history it is now possible to take care of everybody
at a higher standard of living than any have ever known.
Only ten years ago the more-with-less technology reached the point
where this could be done.
All humanity now has the option to become enduringly successful.””
“Meanwhile, back in bureaucratsville, Fuller’s message is yet to be heard.
Our reflexes have been conditioned to dismiss utopia as synonymous
with the unrealistic or impossible.”
Fortunately, a minority of economic commentators are starting
to echo Fuller’s arguments.
Charles Hampden-Turner, in The Seven Cultures of Capitalism, notes that
“we, in the English-speaking economies, are still at war with each other,
fighting for scraps of wealth in a scarcity contrived by our own beliefs.”
Hampden-Turner then suggests that we redefine capitalism as
“a function of evolving co-operation, which spreads outward,
pushing competition to its own boundaries” –
a notion very much in tune with what Fuller was saying
half a century ago.
Perhaps, as Fuller claimed, humans have a habit of trying all the stupid approaches
before hitting on the intelligent ones.
Unfortunately, this is a slow process, with a time-lag of decades or centuries
before stupidity is acknowledged.
Those who plan to accelerate this process –
the complainers, the dissenters – should be honoured,
as they may be our best hope.