NOAH’S RAINBOW SERPENT – observations by Ian MacDougall

GOODBYE CAPITALISM, GOODBYE SOCIALISM: A third option for the future.

Posted in Uncategorized by Ian MacDougall on July 20, 2020

This is the original 1981 text of this document, placed into online form for the first time.  I am cheered by the way it has stood the test of time.

Forty years on, we are in the midst of the global Covid-19 pandemic, and the disastrous Trump Presidency of the US, to which governments’ responses vary.  The Federal and state governments of Australia, acting on the best medical and scientific advice available, have decreed that people should maintain correct ‘social distancing’ when outdoors and in public areas, maintain at least 1.5 metres separation, and be in groups of no more than three people at any one time.

Mass lockdowns and government instructions to the population at large to stay at home on the above basis also presage widespread major economic consequences really unprecedented in the post-World War 2 world. Massive Federal economic support for businesses and the unemployed is being offered. Guaranteed minimum income (GMI), as set out in this document 39 years ago could not only be also a valuable addition, it  increasingly appears to be a necessity to stop business bankruptcies on a massive scale, and perhaps a rerun of the 1930s Great Depression. The COALition government of Australia is being dragged reluctantly towards it, with great reluctance and trepidation, if not kicking and screaming.

I post this document here for the record. I intend to post an updated 2020 version in the next few days.


–   a third option for the future

Ian MacDougall 1981

TO OUR WORK, we each bring our particular blend of skills, and our time.

THROUGH OUR WORK, we produce the wealth of the nation.

WITH THIS WEALTH, in a truly vast array of goods and services, we keep one another fed, clothed, housed, informed and entertained.

THROUGH OUR WORK, in other words, we all take care of one another.


A dollar note is the ticked to a great carnival of goods and services: a carnival that spans continents and goes by the name of the international division of labour.  A dollar notes entitles you to a certain of the work time that we put in to provide you with your particular needs in life.  The more money you have, the more of our time you get.  If you don’t have enough money you are in trouble, and a drain on the rest of us, because until your basic needs are met, you cannot make anything of your full potential contribution to our welfare.

In other words, it is in our best interests to make sure your basic needs of food, clothing, shelter and so on are met, so you can do what you are good at doing, and to let loose your full creative potential, in whatever area that might be.


Biologists recognise that there are certain resources essential for living things.  As all life on earth is based on water, water is one. For most organisms so is air, and so is solar radiation, which provides the energy input at the start of all food chains. The sun also keeps the planet within the temperature limits required for life to continue.  All organisms need body building materials, taken from the air, sea and soil by plants and then passed around the food webs by animals.

Animals also need shelter of some kind, and the higher mammals, and the higher mammals whose survival depends more on learned than on inherited behaviour patterns, also need stimulation.  This we might call “entertainment”.  Without it, we higher mammals become miserable and bored.  As our natures demand, we also need opportunities for learning, and as we know, love.

Those of us higher mammals who also identify ourselves as humans rarely live in environments where we could survive all year round without any clothing, even if this were OK with the neighbours, so clothes are a need peculiar to us. Likewise for us, there is no general going back to a hunter- gatherer mode of living. Nomadism as a way of life may be possible for a small band of Eskimos and Aborigines, but most of the rest of us are stuck with some sort of lifestyle based on agriculture and higher technology.  The Earth just cannot support its present human population living as hunter-gathering nomads.

Actually then, we humans differ from animals in that we need two resources given freely to us by nature – air and solar radiation, and one created by us, but which is no less ‘natural’ than we are: money.  Without money, you cannot get food: not even if you grow it yourself.  Nor clothing, shelter, nor even water. Without money, no entertainment or learning experiences.   Money is unique, because it is the only human-made biological necessity in our environments.  This is the stage our long journey through time has brought us to.


And they sent out unto them their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou are true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.

Tell us, therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?

But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt he me, ye hypocrites?

Show me the tribute money.  And they bought unto him a penny.

And he said unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

The said unto him, Caesar’s.  Then he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.

– Matthew 23, KJV.


A crude trainer of animals or humans works by punishing undesirable behaviour, and then withholding the punishment as long as the subject does not do it again.

The psychologist  BF Skinner and the behavioural school demonstrated conclusively in the 1930s what peasants and farmers had known for centuries: that the carrot is more effective than a stick as a teaching aid. By rewarding closer and closer approximations of a desired act, Skinner produced some really spectacular students, including a whole graduate class of pigeons who could each steer a World War 2 torpedo proficiently well to hold it on course to its target.

The behaviourists described their work in terms of reinforcing desired behaviour, generally with a reward with food and not rewarding the undesirable.  The food rewards were generally doled out in small portions, and the animals were starved for a period beforehand to make them eager.  It is no use to reward a satiated animal with food.

That was what they said they were doing, and their view fitted the facts well enough.  But from an alternative viewpoint, they can be seen demonstrating the fantastic control you can assume over an animal if you control its supply of an essential life resource. To paraphrase the old saying, you can bring some water some water up to a thirsty horse, and then make him do all sorts of tricks in order to get a drink. Therefore, as you who are reading this are also an animal, whoever has control over your supply of money has about as effective a control system as is possible for one creature to have over another, and that person can make you do all sorts of things you would not otherwise do.  Such a controller could do no better if you were in a windowless cell and he or she controlled your supply of air of water.

Jesus Christ taught his followers, according to the above account, that the money was Caesar’s because it was engraved with Caesar’s head.  While that was a convenient out from a tricky situation, it was not exactly true – even though Caesar might have wished that it were. For example, Australian notes and coins all bear the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, and the notes all bear the signature of the Governor of the Reserve Bank and the Secretary of the Treasury.  Yet none of those individuals own them.  None of those people are in a position to call up money at will. The Australian currency I have in my possession right now is mine, to trade for other commodities as I please.  It represents part of the real wealth of this country, wealth that I and countless other have helped each other create.

But my supply of this money is controlled by other people, and I must work within the confines they lay down and do the things they want me to do, or else they will turn off the tap.  This I have found over the course of my life so far to be severely limiting on my effectiveness as a creative and productive person.  I have spent a large amount of my rather valuable time doing time things I regard as useless in prescribed ways that have often been very inefficient. Consequently, I have also spent considerable time working on ways to free myself from this situation, and I don’t mind admitting that writing this document is one of them.

As every nation in the world engages in international trade to some extent, it can now be said that the large majority of the world’s people are now integrated into a global human economy.  This economy is very complex, and is comparable with those other complexes, the atmosphere and the biosphere.  Just as air and water circulate in the atmosphere, and chemicals essential to life circulate through the pathways of the biosphere, so goods, services and money circulate among us humans: goods and services in one direction, money in the other.  Because of the fantastic complexity of such systems, the sciences of meteorology, ecology and economics have some descriptive value, but very limited predictive power.

As in the movements of the atmosphere, the movement of commodities and money can be slowed, frenzied or anywhere in between.  When it slows, we have a recession: the economic doldrums.  When is it fast, we have a boom.  But the movement of goods at times in history can be slight, and at the same time the movement of money frenetic, akin a cyclone in the atmosphere.

Such a disturbance took place in the German economy in the 1920s, when people were taking their life savings to the shop to buy a pound of butter, and wages were daily moving further upwards.  This was a money cyclone of major proportions, and while superficially while the butter business might have appeared to have been booming, it was an undisputed social disaster.

People naturally looked for an explanation, and explanations were offered.  As bankers and financiers have more control than anyone else over the money valve, and as a significant portion of them were Jews, the collapse of the German mark was seen by many Germans as a Jewish conspiracy: at least that was a view many of them were predisposed to.  Very rapidly, centuries old hatreds came to the boil, and as a collective entity, the nation went mad.

Slow trade in commodities, including labour, and accelerating circulation of money is the major problem of any economy in recession, and people become increasingly prone to gloomy prognoses of the future: from rumours of war, stock market collapses and the like to the coming of the Antichrist.

But in time, I believe that money will come to be regarded very differently from the way it is today.  People will believe that they have as much natural right to a constant and adequate supply of money as they have to one of air and water.  After all, how else could they live, and make their contribution to the collective life of their society? Then it will be just as taboo to try and cut off a person’s supply of money as it is today to choke someone, or to chain people up and starve them to death.

This essay is a case for negative taxation.  Under the existing of positive taxation, YOU PAY THE GOVERNMENT a proportion of your income above a certain level.  (The 1981 level was $4,042.)

If your income for 1981 was below $4,042, as far as the Government was concerned, they didn’t want to know you.

Under a system of negative taxation, you still pay the Government part of your income above a certain level, but if your income falls below that level THE GOVERNMENT PAYS YOU THE DIFFERENCE.  If the level say was $7,000 and your annual income was $6,000, then the Government would pay you $1,000.

Such a system of taxation is not my invention, and its most prominent present advocate is none other than the high priest of monetarism, Professor Milton Friedman, economic adviser to Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and others (who have, in part, taken his advice.) But where Friedman, bourgeois that he is, instinctively reaches for the stingiest possible subsistence level he can find as the level below which the Government pays you, I see in the scheme far different possibilities.

Put simply, I believe this reform to be the easiest and most effective answer to the multitude of problems, environmental, economic and political now multiplying in human society around the globe. It is one which avoids the commonest moral, economic and political objections to both of the major economic models on offer at the moment:  capitalism and socialism.  And because it is all about human welfare and financial security, and because it involves reform of existing attitudes to welfare payments, we might call it welfare reform.


I have met very few people in the course of my life who are in favour of the selective extermination of plant and animal species.  To that extent, most people I have known are conservationists.   But whether you are in favour of the conservation of the red cedar, coachwood, mahogany or silky oak is never the issue.  It is always whether you are for saving a particular stand of those trees.  That in turn becomes a matter of priorities commonly dependent on how much of your cash comes from the timber trade.

According to the projections made by Robert Lamb in his book World Without Trees (1979), 50 acres of tropical rain forest are being cleared every minute around the world, and by that rate there will be no rain forests left by the year 2000.  The more you know about ecology, the more you will be disturbed by such a forecast: particularly in relation to possible consequences for the gas composition of the atmosphere and the climate and heat balance of the planet.   Conservationists called conservationists, are commonly people whose money income does not depend directly on the exploitation of some primary source, and are the ones most likely to express concern and to take action.  All the same, no one can afford to be ignorant when any life resource such as the air or fresh water supply degrades, or when any biological system shows signs of stress or threat of collapse.

For all that, no biological resource today is degrading faster than money.  The cures being proposed by the Thatchers, Howards, Reagans and Frasers of the world are not only fearfully expensive, they don’t work.  Were these people practising medicine, they would now either be out of business or up before the courts on a charge of quackery.

There is still an air of mystery about the world of high finance and the money game.  Like the high priests of old, economists are privy to tongues not readily understood by everyone, and claim to have powers over the forces of darkness and depression likewise of a special kind.  If we follow their guidance and keep them in the manner to which they are accustomed, they promise us deliverance.  Or rather, they used to.

Today they argue publicly amongst themselves, and their science (or black art, whichever you prefer) is in one monumental crisis. If previous crises of science are anything to go by, the most likely way out will involve a major alteration in the way the subject matter of the science is viewed.

It is the third reformation, if you like.  The first took place when the parson challenged the authority and power of the priest.  The second when the scientist challenged both parson and priest, and the spell they were weaving over town and country alike.  The challenge of the scientists:  the astronomers, chemists, biologists and even economists was against the religious view of life and the universe.  In the third reformation by the “lay people” are everywhere challenging the authority of the scientific specialist: of the nuclear power school, of the medical establishment, of the foresters who mismanage forests, of the chemical industry, of food technologists, of agronomists.  Practically at all points where science and academia have a practical impact on the daily lives of people there is a challenge.  Psychiatrists, engineers and yes, even economists are daily being told they are not gods.

I will pick two conservation issues out of the record of 1980 in order to illustrate an important point about personal versus political morality.

1980 was the year that Japanese fisherman made headlines around the world by slaughtering dolphins en masse, claiming that the dolphins were reducing their catches by eating the fish.  An American conservationist was arrested on the scene for helping some of the dolphins make it out of the net enclosures confining them to the shallows where they were to be killed, and into deep water and out to sea.   Many people around the world were outraged, particularly as dolphins have an intelligence of the order of our own, and I personally felt moved for a while to try to organise a boycott of Japanese goods: to lean on the Japanese government so that in turn might lean on the fishermen.

Also in 1980, sawmillers on the North Coast of New South Wales became very concerned lest successful campaigns by conservationists to block the logging of one rain forest (Terania Creek) become a movement capable of halting all such logging operations in that region.  Time at present does not appear to be on the side of the loggers.

Many arguments were advanced against the slaughter of both the dolphins and the rain forests, and only one possible argument in favour of it could stand up against them: simply that the fishermen and the sawmillers had to eat.

Timber cutters don’t need to cut down rain forests: they need money.  Arguments that rain forests must be destroyed, wild rivers dammed, fur seals and whales killed and similar acts of vandalism done in order to save or create jobs are I submit, self-evidently stupid.  Because they involve both irreversible and unknowable changes in the biosphere and often the sort of sensitivity to feelings one associates with Hitler’s SS, such “jobs” are far less worthy of saving than say, some of the idiotic jobs that appeared under the guise of “make work” schemes in the 1930s.  I am thinking particularly of the scheme in the Botany sandhills, near Sydney, in which men were employed to shovel sand from one pile to the and back again all day.

Such self evident stupidity arises inevitably from the market economy, where what people want to buy gets sold, and from the system of wage labour.  Both the wages system and the market mean that any given person’s supply of money is controlled by another.   For the wage or salary worker, this means that the money flow stops unless you keep turning up at an appointed place at an appointed time and perform an appointed task.

Timber cutters don’t need timber to survive, or jobs for that matter.  But they do need money.  If the choice is between all the rest of us carrying them financially for awhile or leaving them to stand alone, then it is with the first that a good future lies.   On their own, they will have to find commodities to sell to on the market, and they will inevitably look toward the rain forests.


Morality is about answers to the question:  “What should I do?”

Politics is about the question “what should we do?” It is obvious, to me at least, that when the answers to both questions are in harmony one with the other, and the actions of individuals are in accord with the needs of their society as a whole, things will be happiest.

We can use that most destructive of institutions, war, to illustrate this principle.  When people fight to defend their own territory, they generally fight more effectively than when they fight to invade another country.  The defenders cooperate in an action which is simultaneously personal and territorial defence.  On the other hand, the attackers each have a personal interest in survival, and when fighting a well armed foe that often implies not pressing the enemy.  It was on this rock of contradiction that the American army fell to bits in Vietnam, but the careers of Hitler and Napoleon could also provide illustration.

“I will look after myself, and if that’s at the expense of the rest of you, then too bad.” Such a statement sums up the ethical position of the gangster and the bandit, actors who have worn numerous costumes through a course of history.

They are bandits when they address themselves to their own neighbours, countrymen or subjects: in short, when talking to members of their own species.  Such banditry is not usually recognised as such when the speaker addresses members of a different species.  The trouble the sawmiller finds himself in is that in addressing himself thus to the trees, he cannot help also addressing the rest of the human race.  Nature seems to have decided that.  That trouble would be no trouble, were it not that increasing numbers of people are becoming aware of him in that light.

“I, of course, will look after myself, because if I don’t, nobody else will.  Fortunately, however, I find that in looking after myself I also look after the rest of you.  I have far better options than seeking to improve my life at your expense.”  Such is the ethical position of one who is neither at war with the rest of their species nor with the biosphere.  It would seem to me that we each somehow arrive at the same position, or we live on at increasing risk.  We hang together, or we hang separately.

Man at war with the biosphere is like the bandit, and aggressor . The continents are littered with the skeletons of his victims, both plant and animal.  He takes prisoners in the course of his war, and puts them into special concentration camps, called zoos.

Like the first, the second ethical position can be recognised in many historical situations, but notice that both arise not from man out of an historical and environmental context, but from man in one.  There are not good and bad people, just good and bad situations.

What should I do? Look after number one.

What should we do? Or better, what should we not do? Obviously, anything that runs the planet down, and leaves it in worse shape than we found it in.  So go easy on non-renewable resources, and use them as a bridge to a steady state economy, whatever that might entail.

What should I do? What should we do?  The real answers that are being given to these questions in the very real present historical situations place them in contradiction.  In the difference lies the origin of the current global economic and environmental crisis.   People will only look after their neighbours if they can be sure their neighbours will look after them.  Otherwise, the best ethic is ruthless selfishness, albeit while wearing a mask of good manners and politeness.

Panicky, security conscious investors; people whose debts are being wiped out by inflation; people for whom the only choice is some foul soul-destroying job or the dole know only too well that they have little security beyond that what they create for themselves.   And they will be right as long as the present assumptions and attitudes relating to money last, and as long as wage labour and profit from investments provide the only access to money.

It is over 130 years since Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto, and called on the workers of all countries to unite and overthrow capitalism internationally.  Today, despite the manifest ills and problems of western capitalism, the working people of the west have not responded to that call.  In the Eastern bloc Marxism and communism are dirty words, and the communist parties stand in a position roughly analogous to that of the Catholic Church in mediaeval Spain.  Very few in the west look eastwards for inspiration.

Despite the evils of capitalism, I would still rather work as a wage slave of one of a number of little Ford companies, as we do here in Australia, than for one big one, as the wage slaves do in the USSR.   I admire honest militants who don’t like don’t like being wage slaves, and also those who, like my own father, prefer the uncertainties of self-employment to the dubious certainties of working for a boss.

IF capitalist, graziers, politicians, professional Christians, professional Marxists, professional union officials and industrial workers have any common purpose, it is a desire to evade wage slavery: for the others to avoid falling into it, and for the workers to get out of it.  I am not interested in seeing any social “revolution” which just changes the names of the bosses, while retaining the wages system.  Consequently I am against both capitalism and socialism.  Even ‘self- managed socialism’ has bugs in it.

Where then does the future lie, if not with either of these? If you would wish to understand my answer to this question, I would ask you to first imagine yourself living in an earlier age.

Imagine, if you will, that you are living in a small village somewhere in the pre-mercantile world.  You might choose the British Isles in the 9th Century, or perhaps Tibet or Japan in the 15th.

Your universe is very small.  It does not extend much beyond this your native village.  Neither did it for your parents.

Your village is dominated by a monastery, perched on top of one hill, and by a lord’s fortress upon another.  In 9th Century Britain, the church hierarchy and the nobility were rivals in a long ongoing contest for political and economic power over the rest of the population, and each used its own techniques of force and persuasion in order to win.  Depending on the circumstances, you would favour one over the other.

For example, if you were born a serf, you might seek to better your condition by joining the lord’s band of armed retainers.  Then you duty would be to make sure that the peasants will pay their dues to the lord, of which you would get a share.

Or you might seek our way out by joining the monastic order.  These orders were communities of people, often of the one sex, who avoided domination by lords by pooling what wealth they had and foreswearing any family apart from the order, or personal wealth apart from its communal property.  If the lord was a lion, then the order was a hive of bees: both quite formidable and capable of self-defence.  (King Fu, the Chinese martial art, was originally developed by monks.)

Like the lord, your order would keep acquiring land, and serfs to go with it.   The land and the serfs would belong to the order, not to any individual monk. Not even to the abbot.

The monastery’s wealth plus acceptance by the lord of the idea that the monks were the earthly agents of an even bigger lord up there in the sky, would in large part ensure the community’s survival.  Monks and nuns could resist the predatory tendencies of the gangster lords in a way no one isolated or preyed-upon village could hope to. This is one reason why monastic orders of one kind or another were a common feature of the feudal societies of Europe and Asia.

So imagine yourself sitting there, trying to decide which you might be best advised to join.  Then you catch sight of an unfamiliar figure approaching your village along the narrow track which is its link to the outside world.  It is a trader, leading a donkey.

The trader barters with the people of the village, exchanging this for that, and then departs.  As you watch him disappearing down the track, imagine that  I, future man to you, were suddenly transported by some time machine to your side.  Immediately I introduce myself, and tell you that I come from the late 20th Century.

If a man from ten or eleven centuries into the future were to appear by my side today, my immediate impulse would be to ask him how it all turned out.    Did the American and the Russians annihilate one another? Are there still whales and tigers? What became of the energy crisis? These are the sorts of questions I would ask.

So I assume that you, 9th Century man or woman, would immediately radiate delight: the delight of a punter who has got hold of next Saturday’s race results.  I would have the answer to the question of most immediate concern to you.  So you would probably ask me: “Who won? Was it the lord, or the church? If I am to throw in my lot with the winner, who must it be?”

And so I warn you that my answer will probably puzzle you, and sounding incredible, and even ridiculous.  The future, I say, lies neither with the lord or the church.  It lies with the trader.

You immediately turn your glance back down the trader’s path to see him, a distant figure now, pausing to repack his miserable donkey.  And you say, simply to me: “I can’t  believe you!”

“As you wish,” I reply.

“But he has to beg his leave from every lord and bishop whose land he travels through.   And they make him pay, believe me!”

“I know.  But one day that trader will buy and sell lords and bishops.  It will be they who come to him, both for money and advice.  In fact, lord and bishop will find that they have to become traders themselves, if they want to survive.”

“Moreover, his donkey might not be much, but in time it will become a horse, then a team pulling a wagon, then a team of teams.  That miserable track will become a road, then a highway that will take him over the land and sea and even through the air, to London, Rotterdam, New York, Sydney and to a host of other cities, but right now are villages like this one, if they exist at all.”

“That vagabond?”

“It’s hard to believe, I know” I reply.

And now, rather than leave you sitting there now in that perplexed state in the village, I will invite you to join me in my time machine for a return to now.  From this point in time, you will of course see that I was right. Just take a look around.

Now I ask you, and you ask me: Who are the modern counterparts of the lord and his men on the one hill, and the friars on the other?

To answer this question, we simply have to look for the major contenders on the modern economic , political, ideological and cultural scene.  I don’t know what you see, but I see labour and capital.  In my preferred view of the present scene in Australia, I see the Liberal-National Party Coalition with its swarms of retainers and armed cohorts as the counterpart of the lord, and the labour movement as the counterpart of the church.   Both of these have in their retinues people from all walks of life, who give them all kinds of aid, and each seeks to control the massive economic resources of the state, to the exclusion of the other.

Which side am I on? Which side should I join? With which of these does the future lie?

I now longer seek an answer to that question, nor do I think much is to be gained by either of these two large and powerful forces sacking the other.   Instead, the question that intrigues me, and I hope you, is:

“Who is the modern trader?”



The modern trader is nowhere better to be seen than in the blood donor.  Blood donors, and people like them, are future man and woman living amongst us at the present time.   So you can forget about the crew of Battlestar Galactica. 

The blood donor is a charity worker of a very special kind.  He or she may be rich or poor financially, as may be the recipient of the charity.  In Australia and some other parts of the world, money does not count for much in this transaction.

By all the assumptions of the economic purists now ascendant in the feudal, capitalist and socialist countries of the world, the Australian Red Cross Blood Bank just should not be in business, for it is does not pay its donors.  Yet ironically, it is that very feature which makes it one of the finest transfusion services in the world.

If you want to have a gamble that will possibly leave you stoned, high or low on heroin or morphine, spaced out on valium or suffering from serum hepatitis or worse, just go to the USA and have a blood transfusion.  In Australia, people have absolutely no motive for giving blood if they have such a condition, and they will not do so because of the same ethical motivation that causes them to be blood donors in the first place.

Unfortunately for recipients of blood in the USA, that is just not true.  Such problems arise there every day, because money is used on blood donors the way it is used on wage slaves: as a bait and a reward.

In Australia, the Red Cross fills the role of agent between donor and recipient, bringing them together according to blood type, despite difference in time and place.  The cost of a blood transfusion is largely this agent’s fee.

So in the case of transactions in this literally vital substance, the Red Cross has found it best to avoid treating it as a commodity for sale and purchase on the market, and to avoid the normal commercial relationship based on service for money and money for service.  Despite this, the Red Cross has never run out of any but the rarest types of blood, and whenever a need has arisen, a call through the media has resulted in donors flocking in.

If the blood donor is the modern trader, future man or woman in our midst already, this implies that in future societies the various forms of money will meet with less and less favour as a base for services desired, and as a result a reward for service rendered.  People will simply donate their services as the need arises .The will be volunteer engineers, mechanics, agriculturalists and so on, as and to the extent their services are needed.  By then, everyone will be on the state’s payroll, and being paid to make their own chosen contribution.

This might be dismissed as some sort of utopian fantasy were it not starting to take place before our eyes.  Even if they are paid to do so, people do not like to feel that they are wasting their time.  People everywhere are demanding personal satisfaction in their work rather than ever increasing financial rewards, even though greed and the endless accumulation of wealth makes very good sense in societies based on wage slavery. (This is seen rather clearly in the ethics of the corporate executive layer, whose salary packages are set by an ‘independent tribunal’; the salaries of the members of the said tribunal are in turn set by what they could expect were they corporate executives. So, the higher they set the pay of the executives, the higher their own pay becomes. Compared with the pay of government employees, theirs has risen exponentially in the post-WW2 period.)

That  consumer cravings are essentially insatiable have long been assumed by establishment economists, and until the 1970s at least, those economists saw the economy as essentially booming on forever, with the occasional recession as supply overtook demand in certain major sectors like automobiles and housing.  People would be most unlikely to forego money and more commodities in favour of more time to themselves: more time “of their own.”  Enough would never become enough.  But it has.

Everywhere in the western world today statesmen, businessmen and economists are engaged in the common task of finding ways to hold up the value of money in all our eyes (that is,“fighting inflation’) finding ways to reduce costs (chiefly by reducing employment), finding things for us to spend our money on (increasingly by spending it for us as tax) while at the same time looking after themselves.  It is an increasingly thankless task.

The trader has triumphed in the modern world, only to cheat himself.  Some traders, called capitalists, sell goods or access to money itself on the market. Some, like doctors and plumbers, sell services.  Most, typically called wage and salary workers sell their time, and see it as this way.   What they are actually selling is the right to control the use of their own limbs and brains.  For eight or so hours a day, they pass that control over to someone else, in exchange for money.  Yet they do not. The whole history of this whole class of people has been centred on gaining as much money as possible out of the transaction while actually relinquishing as little as possible of their freedom over their own bodies and minds as they can.  As far as possible, they transform their jobs to suit themselves.

Typically, employers have either emancipated themselves from, or have avoided wage slavery, but complain that workers want too much pay for too little work. Commonly they talk scathingly of “dole bludgers” who are out to avoid work entirely.  And close attention to actual cases shows that they are very often right without seeing the irony of it.  For they have not sold their freedom.

(And excellent discussion of this is to be found in Alan Robert’s, The Self Managing Environment.)

With very few exceptions, we are all in the market as traders of one sort of another.  And while it is risky to generalise too much about human behaviour, I will stick my neck out and say that all traders enter the market in two roles, as buyers and sellers.  After all, it is pointless selling unless you intend to buy, and it is pointless trying to buy unless you have the money from a previous sale, or good credit (which means good prospects in someone’s eyes of future sales.)

So far, nothing much said.  But when we enter the market place as buyers,  even if elsewhere we are blood donors, members of the Lion’s Club or doorknockers for the Salvation Army, we want to see free competition.  We want to see vendors falling over one another to sell us the cheapest and best, no matter how ruthlessly they cut each others’ throats in order to do it. That is in sharp contrast to the situation we seek when it is our turn to sell.  Then we want a closed shop.  Whether we are Henry Ford, a worker on Ford’s assembly line, or Henry Ford’s psychiatrist, we want our customer’s choice to be as limited as possible. Our interest lies in restricting the number of people who practice our trade, through regulation of the industry, licensing of practitioners and so on: in short, by restricting in as many possible ways the strength of the competition we face.  Regulation of industry is invariably justified as being in the consumer’s best interest, but likewise invariably initiated and maintained by pressure from the sellers in the industry, not the buyers.  (For a discussion of this, see Milton  Friedman, Free to Choose.)

A seller’s paradise is one in which he or she has a monopoly in production of a commodity which the population generally has a strong compulsion to buy.  (If a monopoly is out of the question then perhaps the seller can come to some cosy arrangement whereby they divide the market up between themselves.  In other words, they form a trust or cartel.)  But crucial to the formula is a restriction on the buyer’s freedom to shop elsewhere.   Restriction ultimately means force, threatened or applied.  Force traditionally is applied by bands of armed men who act as a disciplined and cohesive body, typically against groups who lack the training and cohesion to resist them effectively.  When such groups wear ordinary clothes we recognise them as gangsters.  When wearing distinctly dress, such as uniforms, they are of course recognised as policemen and soldiers.

Force as a factor affecting people’s economic choices was crucial to the process commonly described as the industrial revolution, which can be considered as a long historic process that experienced a sharp acceleration from about 1750 onwards.  In this process the majority of the people left the countryside, where they had been engaged in the cottage industry, craft and self sufficient activities typical of peasants, and moved on to the cities of mining towns, where they typically lived far less healthy or satisfying lives.  On arrival, they found commonly that the labour market was a buyer’s one. The owners of factories, mines and mills, were not exactly shopping at some county fair in Merrie England.  They were not speaking to the local craftsmen, haggling over the price of their wares. Increasingly, they were talking to ex-peasants in both a strange environment and culture shock. The deal the rising industrialist offered was more like this: “If you stand at this machine for 12 hours a stretch, and do this, and this, this and this, I will pay you six pence per day. Take it or leave it.”

Crucial to the success of this deal from the industrialist’s point of view was the fact that the ex-peasant did not have the alternative of moving back to the country, for few of them came to the towns as a matter of free choice.  They came as refugees, forced out of the countryside in the course of a long drawn out civil war fought between the peasantry and the landlords, the latter being backed up by the armed forces of the state. The common land used by the peasantry since ancient times, had been seized by the landlords in their enclosure movement and converted into sheep runs in the main. Such a movement was only made desirable in the eyes of the landlords by the rise of prices on the wool market due to strong and continued demand from the towns: initially from the towns of Flanders. The rural landlord helped the town capitalist not just by providing him with raw material.  By his occupation of the common lands and expulsion of the peasantry, he had denied the town worker an alternative lifestyle to the proletarianization offered by the industrialist.

The island of Mull, just off the western coast of Scotland, had a population before the land clearances, as these acts of usurpation were politely called, of around 10,000.  Today about 1,500 people live there, and the island is mainly pasture for deer, which are shot at from time to time by the few landowners when out seeking recreation.  Among the former were many who went by the clan name of MacDougall.  Their descendants are now scattered all over the English speaking world.

The old feudal rule: “no land or man without a lord,” was replaced by the capitalist rule of ownership. The only land which was open to anyone to set up a shack on, was the strip between high and low water marks on the coast.  Rather than be driven out completely, some Scottish ex-tenants defiantly built small stone houses in this inter-tidal zone and lived there for a time, in conditions of cold and damp that can hardly be imagined, surviving on what they could find along the shore.  On the island of Skye, the stone foundations of some of these dwelling can still be seen.

When Captain Cook landed at Botany Bay on April 29, 1770, he found himself standing on a continent that consisted from the human point of an interlocking pattern of common lands, populated by up to 3 million native people.  Shortly afterward, in one of those acts of monstrous arrogance for which the British ruling classes have become justly famous, Cook claimed the whole continent in the name of his Britannic majesty, George III, the lunatic king.  Every square inch of Australia was now the property of the British Crown (in theory at least) and titles and slices of it were now available for purchase; or  to be used by governors as vice-regal patronage to worthy persons in reward for services rendered to the Crown.

That was how it went in theory, at least.  Unfortunately, those subsequently arriving in Australian colonies with money could think of other things to do with it than give it to the government in exchange for land, which as far as they were concerned was up for grabs anyway.  The Age of Squatting in Australia, which reached it height in the 1840s, was the continuation and in a way, the climax, of the enclosure movement begun in Britain centuries before.

Today in Britain and Australia also, increasing numbers of the descendants of those dislocated peasants cannot find an established trader to make an employment deal with, and there is still no return to the countryside, where they would find healthier and happier lives without a doubt.  Toxteth, Brixton, Mersyside and other ghettos of the urban peasantry are in that state of constant tension that is prone to snap for this reason or that into general riot.  It was this sort of “oligarchy tempered by riot” that Cook left behind him when he bent his sheets into the wind on that first voyage of discovery, but if he were to return to England today, he would find that beneath all the changes, things were pretty much the same; only complicated further by Islamic ghettoes.  None the less, Cook would have no Phillip following in his wake to Australia with cargoes of ex-peasants under sentences of transportation for acts of rebellion against property or the Crown. That much has changed.

So the dispossessed peasant arriving in the town with only his or her time to sell to the owner of factory, mine or mill faced a buyer’s market that was pretty well tied up, one way or another, in the buyer’s favour.  Most of the newcomers seem to have seen or had no real option than to put on their sets of chains, perhaps thinking that it would only be for a short time until they could remove themselves to a place where opportunities were brighter.

However, even while having traded their time for money in this way, they could none the less do what they could to re-negotiate the wage contract.   For success in this, they had to make sure that if they refused to continue selling for the previously agreed-on price, the employer could not simply shop elsewhere for labour.  One worker could do little alone, but if they all withdrew their services together until the wage was increased, they would put pressure on the trader who was buying their time. This pressure would be increased if the employer was simultaneously prevented from hiring other labour. The picket line was thus a natural corollary to the strike. The union struggle at times was waged more furiously against the blackleg and scab than it was against the employer.

While employers of all kinds, including newspaper proprietors, were quick to condemn industrial tactics, and to call for the forces of police and army to act against the strikers, they were none the less tactics  the employers were themselves using in another, less spectacular and bloody form.  Not only were they trying to form market-sharing arrangements with each other to avoid the effects of free competition; on a national basis they did what they could to exclude foreign traders from the domestic market.

Ever since Adam Smith there has been virtual unanimity among economists, whatever their ideological position on other issues, that international free trade is in the best interest of the trading countries of the world.  Yet tariffs have been the rule.  The only major exceptions are nearly a century of free trade in Great Britain after the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846, thirty six years of free trade in Japan after the Meiji restoration , and free trade in Hong Kong today.” (Milton Friedman, Free to Choose, Pelican, 1980, p.61.)

Although this operated against the interest of the wage workers in their shopping in the market, protection was never objected to in any real way by the political and industrial organizations of the working class, no matter how strong they later became.  Even today, the calls to get Britain out of the Common Market and back behind a wall of protective import duties come loudest from the ranks of organized labour.

It is not hard to see why. My interests as a wage earner are served by maximising the competition in the market place, as long as my own industry is kept protected from international competition.  To this extent, my employer’s and my own interests appear to coincide.  After all, I have no business going to the market if I don’t have any money.

Worse, if the capitalist class of say, England got into a tight enough competition with the capitalist class of say, Germany, there would be a very strong impulse on each side to go to war with the other.  But not only that, all classes in each country would tend to get dragged in, for all would see it personally as being in their interest.

It would be worth reading the history books over to find out if this ever happened.

Every year, I buy about $600 worth of tanks, fighter planes, warships, bombs, bullets and so forth, in a truly staggering variety.  To be more accurate, the government extracts that amount of money (and more) from me under threat of force and buys them whether I approve or not. A few years ago, it had me part financing, very much against my will, a bloody little Australian foray into a South East Asian country in support of a military dictatorship there which was fighting a war against the peasantry on behalf of a totally corrupt landlord regime: Ngo Dinh Diem’s regime in South Vietnam. (In one of the tragic ironies of history, President John F Kennedy of the USA gave the green light to a clique of South Vietnamese generals to remove both Diem and his brother: and they decided to do it permanently and with profound finality. Within a month of the deaths of the Diems, Kennedy himself was gunned down in Dallas, Texas. And then Kennedy was replaced by Lyndon Johnson, and Johnson in turn by Richard Nixon, who ‘Vietnamised’ the war [ie got out while the going was good.] Then the whole rotten US created and supported edifice in South Vietnam collapsed, subtracting considerably from America’s greatness, and leaving Donald Trump today looking for ways to ‘make America great again.’

Because I do not work, directly or indirectly, for the war machine, I could afford to protest.  However I know of no such protest ever coming from workers in the armaments industry, and the action of the crews of the Boonaroo and the Jeparit, who refused to sail those ships and their cargoes of bombs to Vietnam, was an admirable and remarkable exception to the monstrous monotony of business as usual. It was not only rare for such action to take place in Australia, it was even rarer internationally, and nowhere to be found amongst those workers who stood to gain most from the war: the armaments industry workers of the United States. In the US, the most spectacular sabotage from within the war effort was an act by an individual: Daniel Ellsberg’s leaking of the Pentagon Papers.

Today, expenditure by the American taxpayer on the military juggernaut is counted in the thousand of billions of dollars per presidential term.   America is hooked on arms the way an addict is hooked on heroin, and without the arms industry, the American economy would convulse dramatically.  Not only do too many people have their supply of money controlled by others, those others only have it to supply as long as the war orders keep coming in.

Even though there are such drastic artificial stimuli in the market as government arms purchases the US, like most of the other economies of the capitalist world, remains in a chronic stagflationary state.  Talk of major financial collapse along the line of the 1929 comes from stockbrokers and Wall Street analysts as much as from the left. “Black Monday”, 1981 showed just how touchy the market is.

I do not think it would be a very good thing if the Western world’s exchange system went haywire again, as it did in 1929.  Certainly such event could not be looked forward to as a detonator of a series of social explosions that would produce a better world all around, simply because money is not only any old commodity: it is a life resource, like air, and water and sunlight.

The money does not belong to the bankers, financiers and treasure officials: they have merely ridden it to power. Their special exercise is the manipulation of it to their own advantage, clearly a skill that would not be in high demand in all times and possible worlds. The money, in all its various national forms, clearly belongs to the whole human race.  Everyone has as much right to a supply of it as everyone else, as we all do to a supply of air, water and sunlight.

Money is a human creation rivalling only language in its importance, and staggeringly similar to language in many ways, both in its historical development and the proprietary claims which have been made upon it.  (We think easily these days of access to opportunities to learn another’s language, or to write in their own, as being a right by birth.  Such people as scribes and slave masters have, up to fairly recent times, had quite other ideas.)

In fact, we might say that language is the currency of the mind, and money is the language of the hand.

The capitalist societies of the ‘first world’, the socialist societies of the ‘second world’, the feudal-military dictatorship societies of the ‘third world’ and pyramids of water all have the common feature of inherent instability, despite momentary appearances.   In most societies an elite maintains itself in power by subtle and blatant use of armed forces, whether this be on the TV screen or in the streets.  Every elite has its way of constantly reminding the population at large of the fate of the transgressor. And constant reminders are constantly needed, for everywhere there is unrest.   Everywhere people are as if drowning, or dying of thirst, or kept chained in a dark cave, without appearing to understand what is happening to them.   Poland, England, Iran, Ireland, Kampuchea, South Africa, Angola and El Salvador all display situations which can be interpreted any number of ways.  The interpretation I offer here is that they are all about people struggling, commonly in quite mutually destructive and unnecessary conflict with one another, to secure an adequate and constant supply of money.

Which of these combatants do I support? Simply, those who want neither servants under them, nor master over their heads.  Which do I oppose? Those who would ensure their own supply by controlling supply on a wider scale.

In the modern world we are all traders, and in each seeking the best temporary advantage in the constant scramble for security, we create an overall situation of constant tension and strife.  Even if their millennia have so far been illusions, the Christians and the Marxists have been right to look forward to a fundamental change in social relationships. Too many Christians have thought of it as coming from the sky, and too many Marxists as coming from Moscow or Beijing. Yet they have been right; societies where the dominant transactions and relationships are those of trade, while being healthier than societies based on slavery and serfdom, are still sick, and a threat to our survival.

Changing of gods, priests, lords, bosses and paymasters have all been tried and found wanting.  Which brings us back to the old question posed by the Russian novelest Chernyshevsky: what is to be done?

If Karl Marx were around today, he would probably agree that human societies definitely develop in ways beyond the visions of any theoretician or prophet.  The words of countless Martin Luthers, Tom Paines and Jesus Christs have had their influence, but history is far too complex a process to be at all predictable, and the shape of many modern institutions like churches and communist parties would probably surprise their long dead founders and prophets were they to come back to life.

Capitalism in Europe, unlike socialism in the USSR and China, was not introduced in one sudden upheaval under the direction of revolutionary planners.  It developed within the shell of the mediaeval and ancient societies which preceded the capitalist era, transforming them as it grew.  Finally, those subject to feudal or colonial overlords broke free, but the English, French, American and other revolutions did not make capitalism.

The Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky saw trade unions as ‘islands of socialism within the capitalist sea’, but socialist relationships as the classical Marxists conceived of them could not develop within the framework of capitalist society in the way capitalist relationships had previously succeeded in developing within the feudal system.  The Bolsheviks may have thought they were creating a qualitatively new society.  What they actually delivered was far more like one huge capitalist corporation that has since mushroomed in ways and directions that wiped out the founding Bolsheviks almost every one.

As a direct result of this, Marxism and communism have long ceased to be a source of mass inspiration in the west.

The main argument of this document is that the relationship of future society are to be found right here at present.  But in somewhat embryonic and obscure form, just as the trader’s outlook and values were there in 9th Century Britain.  They will take them own time coming to the fore, but this time can probably be shortened the more conscious we are of them as the future way, and work to cultivate the soil in which they will best grow.

That soil is a guaranteed, regular, adequate supply of money: precisely what everyone in the world of international commerce, industry and civil service is working for, but on a generally competitive and often mutually dissatisfying and destructive basis.

Using money as bait, the boss gets the worker into the factory; in much the same way as a fisherman gets a lobster in to a pot. The businessman uses every trick in the advertising trade to lure the customer, but only because the customer is holding the cash.  With relatively few exceptions, most of us humans on this planet are busily baiting and rewarding one another all the time. I work for a salary, but I pay a taxi driver to drive me round, a dentist to fix my teeth, and so on. This type of network describes the bulk of the world’s transactions in goods and services.  But not all, as we have seen in the case of the blood bank.

Then, after retirement day, money proceeds to come in with no more strings (or chains) attached: it becomes yours by right, even if you have never held a job.  And should you ever take it into your head to walk up to the Prime Minister or the Governor of the Reserve Bank and throw a chocolate pavlova in his face, you will not be “sacked” from your pension rights.

When we turn 65, we can at last emerge from every mine or mill we have been working in all our lives, throw down our tools, find a place in the sun, and get on with what we would like to have been doing all along.  Except that the old age pension is set at a level that is at poverty line for homeowners and well below for tenants.  Also, by 65 people are often so worn out by their years of wage slavery that retirement becomes a frustration, and all too often, a wait for death’s release.  It is a hell of a shock for many to have a full productive role in the community until that birthday, and none thereafter.

But in the germinal form of the old age pension (note: not the dole) lies the future principle: access to money is independent of any specific acts of work or work roles.  Old people do not have to turn up at a specific location and time and work to receive their supply of money, miserable as that might be.  They get paid for being.  While they can often get on with pet projects, retirement has well known drawbacks, and many old people find themselves living out the remainder of their lives in “eventide homes”, to which few children ever come, or in empty suburban homes, from which all children have departed.

Industrial society, unlike pre-industrial, has no meaningful role for the grand-parental generation.  Like young people on the dole, old age pensioners run into problems if they try to supplement their meagre incomes by casual work.  Their pensions drop accordingly, if the government finds out about it.  In other words, built into the existing welfare policy is an incentive not to work.  People on welfare cannot join in productive activity in any meaningful way, even if they want to.  And most seem to want to.

Only the most cockeyed keeper of the national accounts would argue that this was in the best interests of the nation.

Both the ALP and the Liberal-National Party coalition represent different groups of traders.  While the ALP has a generally more sympathetic attitude to pensioners and the unemployed than does the ‘free enterprise’ coalition, politicians of all major parties none the less regard welfare payments as something of a drain on the state resources, and best kept to a minimum.  Where they differ is on strategies is to follow to reach that goal.

However, traditional thinking about money leads both parties into a bind.  Welfare payments are necessary, if only to stop people begging in the streets, or worse.  People must have money, and if they can’t get it legally, they will get it illegally. Therefore governments have no choice: spend money on social security, or spend it on extra police, gaols, psychiatric hospitals, drug rehabilitation programs, etc, etc. (Make work” and “job creation” programs are usually a simultaneous form of welfare and disguised subsidy to business.)

The present crisis of stagnation and unemployment now chronic in the industrial west was not foreseen by economists before it appeared, nor understood when it did.  Nor can it be effectively countered by politicians whose main aim is the preservation o the sectional interests of those they represent, at whatever cost to those they don’t.  After all, politicians’ jobs are their guarantee of a secure supply of money, at least until they serve out enough terms to qualify for their ample pensions and retirement perks.

We are all trapped by the prevailing view of money, and we all behave in such a way as to assure ourselves a continual, guaranteed supply of it. For those who live through return on investments, their property is their double guarantee: of a steady income for life, and against having to become a wage-slave in order to secure it. (Many people who are apparently self-employed, like farmers, are actually working for a bank.) For wage-slaves, whose mortgages and other liabilities generally exceed their savings, the logic of the situation demands the highest possible rate of increase in real wages and the shortest possible hours.  Inflation always favours debtors:  a class that definitely includes most adult Australians.

For all, a win through gambling or by means of a metal detector is always worth seeking.  While gold fever and the stock market have their ups and downs, the lotteries boom on.  Economic security is the name of the game.  It is an individualist free-for –all in which no player can get too wealthy, because no player can get too secure.  Certainly few feel too secure.  The money game for many becomes the only game in life worth playing.  If a player’s personal relationships become corrupted in the process, and if his or her perception becomes so distracted that  not only things but people are viewed as commodities and extension of the self, (literally, extra ‘hands’) then the game becomes more important still, and we have positive feedback.

We all want a guaranteed supply of money.  All right, let us all work together to give one another precisely that.   Let us have a guaranteed minimum income scheme.

As I said above, I believe this can best be achieved by the insertion of the principle of negative taxation into the system of positive taxation they we already have.  As you will know, if you earn above a certain amount each year, the federal government starts taxing you.  The more you earn, the more you pay, until your income reaches another level again.  Above this level it becomes possible for you to bury your income in various tax-loss and tax-avoidance schemes.

Low and middle-income earners finish up carrying the wealthy even more than they carry the poor.

A taxation system that was both positive and negative would guarantee you a certain minimum annual income.  If your earnings went below that annual rate, the tax man would pay you enough to make up the difference.

This principle could end once and for all fear of unemployment and destitution in old age throughout the entire population.  It would replace all existing pensions” old age, invalid, war, war widows’, supporting parents’ and of course, the dole.  As well, a sliding scale could be introduced for children and junior, to replace existing family allowances.

If we set the adult rate of a guaranteed $115 per week for a start, this would still be below the average income of the population as a whole, yet well above existing pension levels.

While might at first appear to be inflationary, it must be remembered that there is no built in disincentive to productive labour as there is under the existing schemes, in the operation of which the government also finds itself naturally seeking ways to disqualify people for welfare the more economic ills of society increase.

Whatever you might advocate in its place, I would suggest to you the present system is not one of the options.  We will simply spend money we should be spending guaranteeing peoples’ incomes on jails, police, security patrols, burglar alarms, psychiatric hospitals, drug and alcoholic rehabilitation programs and so on until, as many European and North American cities, every man’s home really is a castle, lacking only a moat full of crocodiles.


Here are just some of the more important that I foresee:

Farmers will have a guarantee against going broke in bad season, and will never have to flog the land in an ever-downhill fashion to cushion themselves against that possibility.

There will an inversion of the established order of consumerism: what people want to buy gets sold. Instead, we will find a producer-orientated law taking its place: what people want to do gets done.  As we are all consumers, and all at least potentially producers (including the children), both these principles involve us all. So take your pick.

Immediately, wages will probably start rising for dreary and dangerous jobs, giving employers even more incentive to automate them, reduce hours, introduce work-sharing arrangements, or a combination of these.

Industrial relations will change for the better, because the boss will no longer hold the threat of sudden poverty over the worker’s head.

Most people will be able to have a try at becoming self-employed, and across the economy peoples’ relationships with one another will take on the character of cooperation between  teams of professionals, rather than the present system of competition between teams of wage slaves.  (Ford workers versus GMH workers, and so on.)

There will be natural incentives to integrate both old people and children into the economy in a genuine way, so that the old may still feel useful, and so that the young can learn in practical situations, as in the old master-apprentice system. The alienation of youth should start to wither, and with it, vandalism and juvenile delinquency.

Similarly, places will be found in the mainstream economy for those physically and mentally handicapped people at present shut off in those industrial backwaters known as sheltered workshops.

As to be found among volunteer fire-fighters, ‘share round the work’ will become the natural slogan.  Although residue of racism and chauvinism may remain, workers will have little economic reason to regard one another anything but colleagues, according to the old principle of the farming family: many hands make light work.  Not only should each individual’s task lighten, net production should rise.  The national cake should get bigger due to growth in areas people generally favour.  Uranium production would probably fall, but reafforestation and agricultural output would probably rise as young people particularly took to working holidays in the country.

Possibly, a lot of people will down tools and head for the breach, becoming economic passengers on the rest of us. If you think this will be the rock on which it will quickly flounder, you can only be of the opinion that society at present is less endowed with passengers of one kind or another.  Unfortunately, we have all too many, and they are not all on the dole.  Ask any of the cogs from one of the major bureaucracies, like the Commonwealth Public Service or BHP.  The very wages system that governs our productive lives creates them in droves.

However, those who do head for the beach might find when they return home that their garbage has not been collected and is piling up in the street, as it does whenever the wage slaves that normally collect it go on strike. They might feel a need to put their surfboards up for a while until it has been cleared away, and then to start thinking of ways to generate less garbage.

Some may never find a project they consider sufficiently worthwhile to join in on. These too, we have in droves at present. They will probably be encouraged and leant on in various ways, but in the end pitied rather than punished.

I myself have experienced at first hand the heady enthusiasm people have for productive labour done on a genuinely cooperative basis.  It was that spirit that kept the whole population of Peking at work with picks, shovels and wheelbarrows in 1975, until the Ming Tombs reservoir was built. It was that spirit that caused Australians to give massive amounts of aid to the victims of the Tasmanian bushfires in 1967, and to those of the Darwin cyclone in 1974.  It brings everybody out to fight off common threats, like bushfires and floods.  It is that spirit that moves me to give you a hand if your car is bogged, or the battery is flat. You don’t have to pay me.

You will have noticed, of course, that dispossession of people and their reduction to financial insecurity, wage slavery or ruin is not one of the aims or necessary processes.  No civil war of any kind implied. The 4 million or so who voted for the ALP in the last federal election are not lined up for brawls in the streets with the 4 million or so who voted for the conservative coalition. I am not interested in seeing people robbed of the means whereby they live, as happened to the Aborigines of this country, and to my ancestors in Scotland and Ireland.  Negative income tax means a guarantee of financial security for everyone, including those who are at present millionaires, or it is meaningless.

Those who are at present capitalists, and who live by the combination of their entrepreneurial skills and a protected local market will probably continue to live by those entrepreneurial skills; even if tariffs are phased out. They will, of course, no longer have quite the same big stick of financial insecurity and ruin to wave at “their” workers.

While in these circumstances the power hunger of many a prominent citizen might go unsatisfied, the right to earn the greatest possible amount of money in one year will still be there.  I think that those who have an obsession for accumulating a great array of cars, electronic gadgets, yachts and so on will find that people with simpler needs treat them with compassion and understanding, just as if they were suffering from any other affliction.


It is merely an exercise in pigeonholing to discriminate between economic and social consequences, and the picture painted above is as much social as economic.

There will of course be a blurring of the distinction between paid and unpaid work; between professional and charity work.  Likewise a blurring and overlapping of the distinctions we are used to thinking of existing between work, recreation and education.  Desk and workbench bound people will be able to shun that ridiculous machine, and exercise bicycle, kin favour of a spell in the forest and fields, literally for the good of their hearts.  People throughout the economy will not feel trapped in one particular job for ever and every amen by the fact that an official whatever per cent are unemployed, and that for every job there are scores of applicants, as they are now. Demoralization of both the unemployed and the employed, so widespread today, will have no foundation in this future.   And every machine, and every silicon chip, will be everyone’s friend, the more so as the income level that qualifies you for negative tax is raised.

However, one of the most interesting social consequences I would single out would be for that age old and universally favoured institution, motherhood.

Women will no longer be penalised economically for choosing to contribute to society by creating new individuals of our species.  Mothering a baby will be seen as a legitimate full time activity.  As well, groups of mothers will probably organize their own crèches and infant play-centres .  But more importantly, women will no longer feel an economic pressure towards having an abortion if they unintentionally conceive, as is the case at present.

Women who support the right-to-choose camp in the great abortion controversy, none the less generally view the operation itself with very mixed feelings.  It is a sad and nasty end to an anxious situation for the unintentionally pregnant: the sadder and the nastier the more advanced the unborn baby’s development.  Yet women carrying relatively advanced babies still have them.  Why?

If we step aside for a moment from the understandable indignation of the Right to Life Association and that 50 percent of so of Catholics who follow their church’s teaching on this matter, and if we likewise ignore the righteous indignation or politicians who see votes in the bucket along with the unborn, and if we consider the realities of the present 45,000-60,000 abortions a year situation…..

There are two main reasons why women see no real alternative to having an abortion.  The first is that they cannot support themselves financially through the pregnancy and the child’s early years. The second is to be found in the barbaric adoption laws which operate in this country, under which if she has the baby but cannot support it, the mother must part with it forever, never to see it again.  Understandably, many women see killing their unborn child while it is still at a stage of development approximating that of a salamander as preferable to going through that sort of emotional trauma.

In the future, a pregnant woman who does not want the role of full time mother will be able to befriend a childless woman, and make arrangement satisfactory to them both.  If both wish it, these arrangements may be drawn up as a legal contract, analogous to the marriage contract.

While at present would-be-foster parents are distressed at the number of abortions taking place annually, and single mothers-to-be are distressed by the alternatives to abortion, with negative income tax and a real guaranteed income the situation will be far happier for all concerned.  Of course, the present callous adoption racket, which makes spectacular copy for journalists whenever a natural mother and a foster mother face each other across a courtroom for rights of custody, will go.

That is what I think must be done in the broad sense, but it is useless leaving it at that.  Here are the practical steps I invite you to join me in taking.


Within my own federal electorate, I am joining with as many who are interested in setting up a political party, whose membership I see as being largely confined to that electorate.  It will run a candidate in the next federal election on the single issue of the introduction of a guaranteed realistic minimum income through negative income tax,

First time up, that candidate will most likely not be elected. What I hope to see develop in the course of the campaign is the nucleus of a movement which will win a significant slice of the vote next time around.  If that happens, third time around we should see similar developments nationwide: autonomous parties springing up in many federal electorates, and perhaps adoption of welfare reform by one or both of the major parties.   By then the snowball will be rolling.

That is a perspective that spreads across the next three elections, beginning in 1983.  Of course, this time span would be shortened somewhat if local electorate parties were up and running by the 1983 election in a number of electorates.

I would personally envisage those local electorate parties remaining organisationally separate from one another for quite a while. I do not think we need to set up yet another national political machine like the ALP or the Liberal Party, with a pyramidal structure that fosters the emergence of yet another race of machine men and wheeler-dealing bureaucrats.  If you think that gets us anywhere, then I suggest you join one of those gigantic organizations and spend the next 30 years bashing your head against a brick wall. Good luck.

If you aren’t prepared to go that far, but still think that Bill Hayden, Bob Hawke, Malcolm Fraser or Andrew Peacock offer any real solution to the problems I have been discussing here, then choose one of them and vote for him, or whoever else might have bobbed up by the time to you get to read this. Thanks for your interest, and would that I had your simple faith.

If you find yourself in general agreement with me, and feel strongly that something ought to be done, then form a group of people together in your own federal electorate who share your outlook and run a candidate in the 1983 election.  (Be prepared to lose it first time round.) If your candidate is a Federal public servant he or she will have to resign to contest the election, but will be guaranteed reinstatement if not elected.

The main issue we are on about is a new attitude towards incomes, welfare, and one another.  Policies on foreign affairs, defence, education, health, transport, housing and so on should be decided separately by each autonomous federal electorate party, not by some national conference which has been set up in advance by wheeling, dealing, stacking and good old numbers game as played by the faction of the major parties.  If the federal parliament itself were to become the scene of such a conference, it would become a house of representatives indeed, and far more than the rubber stamp that it is at present.

But such developments are a bit further off, according to my crystal ball.

Just how far off depends in large part on the extent to which you are prepared to help get the ball rolling in your own federal electorate.


Negative income tax along the lines proposed here will probably not come tomorrow.  The process will be gradual rather than explosive, but the end product will be a genuine alternative to the perspectives being offered by the main political formations from left to right at present.  It may not even happen in my lifetime.  But I, a 20th Century man, find that the insight that the future lies with a rather admirable human type that we find living amongst us today to be cheering indeed.  And no doubt I would feel the same were I sitting with like insight in a 9th Century village watching the occasional trader come and go.

Of your modern trader is someone other than the blood donor, I would be interested in finding out who it is.  But I must insist that I am not interested in being told that it is the businessman, the army officer, or the Marxist revolutionary churning out slogans by the light of the midnight lamp.  Remember if you will that some of those are in fact blood donors.

And before you start quoting the New Testament, let me remind you that the blood donor says to anyone in need, regardless of race, sex, religion or social class:

“This is my blood, which I give you, that you might have life. For I find life to be something worth having.”

In each blood donor, Christians can see Jesus Christ himself, returned.  Every eye can see him, and every ear can hear him, because blood donors are everywhere around us.  In each one, Buddhists can see a Buddha, and Marxist can see their elusive ‘socialist man’.

No golden age, no millennium, has to start at some time always in the future.

In this sense; to me the only one that matters, it has already begun.


Ian MacDougall

(This original text published in pamphlet form on 12.02.81.)















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