Bertrand Russell’s Plan for World Peace and Progress: Maximize Individual Liberty, Abolish Capitalism

December 14th, 2014

"In dark days, men need a clear faith and a well-grounded hope; and as the outcome of these, the calm courage which takes no account of hardships by the way."

Thus begins "Political Ideals," a short book by the famous British philosopher and champion of peace Bertrand Russell. Written during the depth of World War I, when it was starkly clear that the old politics had failed, Russell sketches a plan for a new political and economic system of the world. Today, as we roll along towards climate catastrophe, it is again starkly clear that our politics is failing. And, just as Russell sketched out, we have the basic problem of rapacious capitalism, and the possible solution of real democracy steering for individual liberty. So, let's follow Russell's thought from 97 years ago, and imagine that he is speaking to us today.

What is the goal of a political system?

The aim of politics should be to make the lives of individuals as good as possible. There is nothing for the politician to consider outside or above the various men, women, and children who compose the world.

What is the individual good?

To begin with, we do not want all men to be alike. We do not want to lay down a pattern or type to which men of all sorts are to be made by some means or another to approximate.


But ... although we cannot say, for instance, that all men ought to be industrious, or self-sacrificing, or fond of music—there are some broad principles ...

What are the broad principles for the individual good?

There are goods in regard to which individual possession is possible, and there are goods in which all can share alike. The food and clothing of one man is not the food and clothing of another; if the supply is insufficient, what one man has is obtained at the expense of some other man. This applies to material goods generally, and therefore to the greater part of the present economic life of the world. On the other hand, mental and spiritual goods do not belong to one man to the exclusion of another. If one man knows a science, that does not prevent others from knowing it; on the contrary, it helps them to acquire the knowledge. If one man is a great artist or poet, that does not prevent others from painting pictures or writing poems, but helps to create the atmosphere in which such things are possible. If one man is full of good-will toward others, that does not mean that there is less good-will to be shared among the rest; the more good-will one man has, the more he is likely to create among others.

What further principles?

... There are possessive impulses, which aim at acquiring or retaining private goods that cannot be shared; these center in the impulse of property. And there are creative or constructive impulses, which aim at bringing into the world or making available for use the kind of goods in which there is no privacy and no possession.

The best life is the one in which the creative impulses play the largest part and the possessive impulses the smallest. This is no new discovery. The Gospel says: "Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?" The thought we give to these things is taken away from matters of more importance. And what is worse, the habit of mind engendered by thinking of these things is a bad one; it leads to competition, envy, domination, cruelty, and almost all the moral evils that infest the world. In particular, it leads to the predatory use of force. ...

How should we judge a political system?

A certain kind of self-respect or native pride is necessary to a good life; a man must not have a sense of utter inward defeat if he is to remain whole, but must feel the courage and the hope and the will to live by the best that is in him, whatever outward or inward obstacles it may encounter. So far as it lies in a man's own power, his life will realize its best possibilities if it has three things: creative rather than possessive impulses, reverence for others, and respect for the fundamental [creative] impulse in himself.

Political and social institutions are to be judged by the good or harm that they do to individuals. Do they encourage creativeness rather than possessiveness? Do they embody or promote a spirit of reverence between human beings? Do they preserve self-respect?

Why would we want a new economic system?

We may distinguish four purposes at which an economic system may aim: first, it may aim at the greatest possible production of goods and at facilitating technical progress; second, it may aim at securing distributive justice; third, it may aim at giving security against destitution; and, fourth, it may aim at liberating creative impulses and diminishing possessive impulses.

Of these four purposes the last is the most important. Security is chiefly important as a means to it. State socialism, though it might give material security and more justice than we have at present, would probably fail to liberate creative impulses or produce a progressive society.

Our present system fails in all four purposes. It is chiefly defended on the ground that it achieves the first of the four purposes, namely, the greatest possible production of material goods, but it only does this in a very short-sighted way, by methods which are wasteful in the long run both of human material and of natural resources.

Capitalistic enterprise involves a ruthless belief in the importance of increasing material production to the utmost possible extent now and in the immediate future. In obedience to this belief, new portions of the earth's surface are continually brought under the sway of industrialism.

What place does capitalism have in our new economic system?

Capitalism and the wage system must be abolished; they are twin monsters which are eating up the life of the world.

Among the many obvious evils of capitalism and the wage system, none are more glaring than that they encourage predatory instincts, that they allow economic injustice, and that they give great scope to the tyranny of the employer.

What about state socialism?

The most dangerous aspect of the tyranny of the employer is the power which it gives him of interfering with men's activities outside their working hours. A man may be dismissed because the employer dislikes his religion or his politics, or chooses to think his private life immoral. ... This evil would not be remedied, but rather intensified, under state socialism, because, where the State is the only employer, there is no refuge from its prejudices such as may now accidentally arise through the differing opinions of different men. The State would be able to enforce any system of beliefs it happened to like, and it is almost certain that it would do so. Freedom of thought would be penalized, and all independence of spirit would die out.

... [N]o one ought to be allowed to suffer destitution so long as he or she is willing to work. And no kind of inquiry ought to be made into opinion or private life. It is only on this basis that it is possible to build up an economic system not founded upon tyranny and terror.

What "ism" would help?

[O]rdinary work should, as far as possible, afford interest and independence and scope for initiative. These things are more important than income, as soon as a certain minimum has been reached. They can be secured by guild socialism, by industrial self-government subject to state control as regards the relations of a trade to the rest of the community. So far as I know, they cannot be secured in any other way.


The economic system we should ultimately wish to see would be one in which the state would be the sole recipient of economic rent, while private capitalistic enterprises should be replaced by self-governing combinations of those who actually do the work. ...

The workers in a given industry should all be combined in one autonomous unit, and their work should not be subject to any outside control. The state should fix the price at which they produce, but should leave the industry self-governing in all other respects. In fixing prices, the state should, as far as possible, allow each industry to profit by any improvements which it might introduce into its own processes, but should endeavor to prevent undeserved loss or gain through changes in external economic conditions. In this way there would be every incentive to progress, with the least possible danger of unmerited destitution. And although large economic organizations will continue, as they are bound to do, there will be a diffusion of power which will take away the sense of individual impotence from which men and women suffer at present.

How should we deal with big government and big business?

Vast organizations are an inevitable element in modern life, and it is useless to aim at their abolition ... It is true that they make the preservation of individuality more difficult, but what is needed is a way of combining them with the greatest possible scope for individual initiative.

One very important step toward this end would be to render democratic the government of every organization. ...


Another measure which would do much to increase liberty would be an increase of self-government for subordinate groups, whether geographical or economic or defined by some common belief, like religious sects. ... By a share in the control of smaller bodies, a man might regain some of that sense of personal opportunity and responsibility which belonged to the citizen of a city-state in ancient Greece or medieval Italy.

What should we do about education?

... The whole spirit in which education is conducted needs to be changed, in order that children may be encouraged to think and feel for themselves, not to acquiesce passively in the thoughts and feelings of others. It is not rewards after the event that will produce initiative, but a certain mental atmosphere. ...


The state is justified in insisting that children shall be educated, but it is not justified in forcing their education to proceed on a uniform plan and to be directed to the production of a dead level of glib uniformity. Education, and the life of the mind generally, is a matter in which individual initiative is the chief thing needed; the function of the state should begin and end with insistence on some kind of education, and, if possible, a kind which promotes mental individualism ...


... The object of education ought not to be to make all men think alike, but to make each think in the way which is the fullest expression of his own personality. ...

How can we stop the tyranny of the employer?

[A]bove all we need a system which will destroy the tyranny of the employer, by making men at the same time secure against destitution and able to find scope for individual initiative in the control of the industry by which they live.


The tyranny of the employer, which at present robs the greater part of most men's lives of all liberty and all initiative, is unavoidable so long as the employer retains the right of dismissal with consequent loss of pay. This right is supposed to be essential in order that men may have an incentive to work thoroughly. But as men grow more civilized, incentives based on hope become increasingly preferable to those that are based on fear. It would be far better that men should be rewarded for working well than that they should be punished for working badly. This system is already in operation in the civil service ... Sufficient pay to ensure a livelihood ought to be given to every person who is willing to work ...

What other types of tyranny must we watch out for?

The tyranny of the majority is a very real danger. ... Wherever divergent action by different groups is possible without anarchy, it ought to be permitted. In such cases it will be found by those who consider past history that, whenever any new fundamental issue arises, the majority are in the wrong, because they are guided by prejudice and habit. Progress comes through the gradual effect of a minority in converting opinion and altering custom. ... [I]t is of the utmost importance that the majority should refrain from imposing its will as regards matters in which uniformity is not absolutely necessary.

How should we balance labor and capital?

British trade-unionism, it seems to me, has erred in conceiving labor and capital as both permanent forces, which were to be brought to some equality of strength by the organization of labor. This seems to me too modest an ideal. The ideal which I should wish to substitute involves the conquest of democracy and self-government in the economic sphere as in the political sphere, and the total abolition of the power now wielded by the capitalist.

What trouble might we have in abolishing capitalism and the power of capital?

Unfortunately the distinction between the proletariat and the capitalist is not so sharp as it was in the minds of socialist theorizers. Trade-unions have funds in various securities; friendly societies are large capitalists; and many individuals eke out their wages by invested savings. All this increases the difficulty of any clear-cut radical change in our economic system. But it does not diminish the desirability of such a change.

How can we resolve conflicts between democratic groups?

... Liberty demands self-government, but not the right to interfere with others. The greatest degree of liberty is not secured by anarchy. The reconciliation of liberty with government is a difficult problem, but it is one which any political theory must face.


[A]lthough individuals and societies should have the utmost freedom as regards their own affairs, they ought not to have complete freedom as regards their dealings with others. To give freedom to the strong to oppress the weak is not the way to secure the greatest possible amount of freedom in the world. This is the basis of the socialist revolt against the kind of freedom which used to be advocated by laissez-faire economists.

How long should the work day be?

... By a few hours a day of manual work, a man can produce as much as is necessary for his own subsistence; and if he is willing to forgo luxuries, that is all that the community has a right to demand of him. It ought to be open to all who so desire to do short hours of work for little pay, and devote their leisure to whatever pursuit happens to attract them. No doubt the great majority of those who chose this course would spend their time in mere amusement, as most of the rich do at present. But it could not be said, in such a society, that they were parasites upon the labor of others. And there would be a minority who would give their hours of nominal idleness to science or art or literature, or some other pursuit out of which fundamental progress may come. In all such matters, organization and system can only do harm. The one thing that can be done is to provide opportunity, without repining at the waste that results from most men failing to make good use of the opportunity.

What types of activity should government regulate and discourage?

The whole realm of the possessive impulses, and of the use of force to which they give rise, stands in need of control by a public neutral authority, in the interests of liberty no less than of justice. Within a nation, this public authority will naturally be the state; in relations between nations, if the present anarchy is to cease, it will have to be some international parliament.

What types of activity should government protect and encourage?

[T]he creative part of a man's activity ought to be as free as possible from all public control, in order that it may remain spontaneous and full of vigor. The only function of the state in regard to this part of the individual life should be to do everything possible toward providing outlets and opportunities.

How can society make progress?

[T]hose who actually achieve much ... have ... something in their nature which inclines them to choose a certain kind of work as the road which they must travel if their ambition is to be satisfied. This artist's impulse, as it may be called, is a thing of infinite value to the individual, and often to the world; to respect it in oneself and in others makes up nine tenths of the good life. ...

... In a human being, provided he has not been crushed by an economic or governmental machine, there is ... something distinctive without which no man or woman can achieve much of importance, or retain the full dignity which is native to human beings. ... Any society which crushes this quality, whether intentionally or by accident, must soon become utterly lifeless and traditional, without hope of progress and without any purpose in its being. To preserve and strengthen the impulse that makes individuality should be the foremost object of all political institutions.

How can we make this radical change?

[I]t is perfectly possible to proceed step by step towards economic freedom and industrial self-government. It is not true that there is any outward difficulty in creating the kind of institutions that we have been considering. If organized labor wishes to create them, nothing could stand in its way. The difficulty involved is merely the difficulty of inspiring men with hope, of giving them enough imagination to see that the evils from which they suffer are unnecessary, and enough thought to understand how the evils are to be cured. This is a difficulty which can be overcome by time and energy. But it will not be overcome if the leaders of organized labor have no breadth of outlook, no vision, no hopes beyond some slight superficial improvement within the framework of the existing system. Revolutionary action may be unnecessary, but revolutionary thought is indispensable, and, as the outcome of thought, a rational and constructive hope.


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Ohio Guv Race: Weighing the Character Flaws and Measuring the Policy Gulf

October 30th, 2014

The Ohio governor's race seems to have turned on a character flaw of the Democratic candidate, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald. The major news media have given wide and detailed coverage to the story that FitzGerald had been driving on an expired or temporary driver's license over a period of ten years. Out of seven major newspapers' endorsements, six have gone to the Republican and current governor, John Kasich. The most FitzGerald could muster was a "none of the above" from The Toledo Blade, which dinged him for a "casual approach to the law that would not befit a potential governor." Fitzgerald admits to the character flaws of procrastination and carelessness in this matter, and apologizes for taking "the focus off of the crucial issues Ohio is facing." But this story should not be the last word in the governor's race. Kasich has also shown some troubling character flaws. And, more importantly, there is a great policy gulf between the two candidates that, given the governor's agenda-setting and veto powers, would have a great affect on the people of Ohio.

The major news media have also reported several stories that show the character flaws of Kasich -- though not so widely nor in such detail, and not in the heat of an election campaign. Let's take the story of Kasich's "idiot cop." The facts of this story are backed by a police dashcam video and a video of Kasich's lecture to the Ohio EPA.

In 2008, Kasich, traveling on a freeway, cruises right by a state trooper on the berm with rooftop lights flashing (dashcam video 00:18). Contrary to law, he does not get over a lane nor slow down for the parked public safety vehicle displaying lights. Traveling right behind Kasich, a policeman witnesses the traffic violation and pulls Kasich over (00:38). Kasich says that he didn't see the parked police car (1:25). After returning with the ticket, the policeman explains to Kasich that he will have to appear in court or get an arrest warrant (8:55). Kasich again says that he didn't see the parked police car, and the policeman explains that, yes, the state trooper was there on the right-hand side of the road. In response to something Kasich says, the policeman consoles him saying, "It happens to everybody on occasion, sir, OK, you're just gonna have to watch out." (10:15) Kasich asks if there is any way to just pay the fine. The policeman says no, and explains that by Ohio law, a court appearance is mandatory for this type of violation. Throughout this traffic stop, the policeman was the picture of a respectful, professional public servant.

Three years later, now-Governor Kasich, calls in the whole Ohio EPA for a talk. Kasich lectures them on customer service, as he had (falsely) blamed the EPA for delaying the permit for a gas-fueled power plant. As an example of poor customer service, he holds up the respectful policeman that had given him a ticket three years ago. "Have you ever been stopped by a policeman who was an idiot?" Kasich asks. But the crowd does not answer. "I had this idiot pull me over on 315," he continues. In Kasich's story, there was no parked emergency vehicle, because "The last thing I would ever do would be to pass an emergency ... are you kidding me?" And he faults the policeman for informing Kasich that he would have to appear in court or get an arrest warrant. Kasich says, "He's an IDIOT!"  And continues, "You just can't act that way, and what people resent are people who are in the government who don't treat the client with respect.

So, the story of Kasich's "idiot cop," seems to point out some character flaws of the governor. First, the fact that he denies seeing the emergency vehicle with flashing lights, I think points to either tunnel vision while driving or self delusion. Secondly, the fact that he still brings up this story with emotion three years later, I think shows that he carries a long grudge. Thirdly, the fact that he damns a perfectly respectful policeman, with the epithet "idiot," I think shows meanness, arrogance and maybe a lack of respect for working persons or public servants -- or maybe just for those who have authority over him. And to hold that policeman up as an example of lack of respect, shows that Kasich doesn't know the meaning of the word.

Now, let's look past the character flaws and measure the policy gulf between the two candidates by looking at some of the issues:

  • Energy and Climate Change: Kasich and the Republican-controlled legislature have put Ohio's clean energy and energy efficiency standards on hold. FitzGerald supports those standards and would promote clean energy business and research.
  • Tax Burden: Kasich and the Republican-controlled legislature have shifted the tax burden off of the rich and on to working persons, and look to do more of the same. FitzGerald would reverse this shift, including reinstating the homestead exemption for middle class seniors.
  • Workers Rights: Kasich tried to bust public servants unions with his SB5 law, and is staying mum about plans for a "right to shirk" bill. FitzGerald will veto any "right to shirk" bill.
  • Privatization: Kasich has diverted public school money to poorly-performing, crony-run, profit-taking schools. He has diverted the state's liquor agency money stream to his privatized, opaque, poorly-performingself-serving state economic development agency. Kasich has also privatized the prison food service, resulting in maggots in prison food. FitzGerald is known for efficient government, and his county economic development agency operates in the open.
  • Education: Kasich and the Republican legislature have cut local public school funding, and lavished funds on poorly-regulated for-profit charter schools. FitzGerald would focus on creating quality public schools, bring in teachers to shape education policy, and stop teaching to the test. Also, FitzGerald has made college affordability a major plank of his campaign.
  • Race to the Bottom: Kasich has given large corporations incentives to move from one place in Ohio to another. FitzGerald forged a county-wide agreement to ban jobs poaching, where one town lures a business from another.
  • Abortion Rights: Kasich has signed into law 11 provisions that interfere with women's reproductive health care. These include forcing a doctor to perform medically unnecessary tests, diverting cash support for needy mothers to bogus crisis pregnancy centers, putting a gag order on rape crisis counselors and defunding Planned Parenthood. Those are 11 provisions that FitzGerald would not have signed. FitzGerald's running mate, Sharen Neuhardt, has served on the board of trustees for Planned Parenthood of Miami Valley.
  • Marriage Equality: FitzGerald is strongly for it; Kasich against it.

Please, be sure to vote on Tuesday, November 4th.


Kasich gets a ticket -- dashcam video

Kasich lectures Ohio EPA.


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Emerson and Cosmic Inflation

September 22nd, 2014

The Visible Universe
In his essay "Circles," Ralph Waldo Emerson writes:
St. Augustine described the nature of God as a circle whose centre was everywhere, and its circumference nowhere.

The center of town is toward Public Square. The center of the Earth is always down. The center of our solar system moves from east to west every waking day. The center of our galaxy is toward its black hole in Sagittarius. But, the center of our universe is ... everywhere!

The scientific method runs from observing the physical world, to making a theory that describes and predicts its behavior, to testing the prediction. The best theory accounts for the most behavior in the simplest terms. Albert Einstein brought forth the theory of general relativity, and defined it with ten mathematical equations. But, he found that he could simplify to one equation with the assumption that, in the long view, the universe is the same everywhere -- without much variation, without direction, without a single center. That assumption is called the cosmological principal.

Heat Map of the CMB
Further observation has borne out the cosmological principal. Looking up in any direction, we find the same types of galaxies, which are bunched into galactic clusters, which are strung into superclusters. As we look further out, we look further back in time. To the Sun we look back eight minutes -- the time it takes light to travel from there to Earth. To the center of our galaxy, we look back 26,000 years; to the next nearest major galaxy (Andromeda), 2.3 million years; to the nearest large galactic cluster (Virgo), 52 million years; to the next nearest large supercluster (Centaurus) 140 million years. And to the furthest point we can see, we look back 13.7 billion years -- just 380,000 years after the Hot Big Bang. That furthest point is at the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). We find the CMB in every direction up. And its heat map is without much variation -- in fact, it is 99.999% uniform. From any other galaxy in the universe, an observer that looked up would see virtually the same picture that we do.

Timeline of the Universe
What lies beyond and back in time before the CMB we cannot directly see, because the universe was then opaque. But the CMB, by its very presence, and the intensities of energy over its frequency spectrum, fulfills predictions of the Big Bang Theory -- the current standard model of the universe. So we know that there was a Hot Big Bang -- when the universe was extremely hot, dense, and rapidly expanding. And by its highly-uniform heat map, the tiny temperature variations across the heat map, and the imprint of gravity waves in the heat map's variations, the CMB fulfills predictions of Cosmic Inflation Theory. So, though we await confirmation of the gravity waves finding, which was just announced this year, it is now likely that our universe's region of space inflated -- stretched from sub-atomic size to macro size in a split instant. As inflation ended, much of its expansion energy may have changed into particles, changing the universe from extremely cold and empty with accelerating expansion to extremely hot and dense with decelerating expansion, and feeding into the Hot Big Bang.

Cosmic Inflation popping-out universes
What lies beyond and back in time before the onset of cosmic inflation? We don't know, but by most variants of Cosmic Inflation Theory, cosmic inflation goes on forever, screamingly stretching space. And if cosmic inflation has fed into one hot big bang and popped-out one universe, then it would also pop-out many, or infinitely, more such universes. So Cosmic Inflation Theory, which has many correct (and no known incorrect) predictions, also predicts parallel universes! And the march of science goes on: As one wonder is described, proven and woven into the tapestry of human knowledge, another arises -- it too wanting description and proof. Emerson writes:
Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning; that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under every deep a lower deep opens.



Big Bang: Some take "Big Bang" to mean the Hot Big Bang, some the onset of Cosmic Inflation, and some Time 0 -- the very beginning of everything. The Hot Big Bang has heat and rapid expansion. The onset of Cosmic Inflation is cold, but has screamingly rapid expansion. But Time 0 is unknown. Rather than a big bang, it may be a wee whisper.

Universe: Brian Greene writes: "There was a time when "universe" meant "all there is. ... Sometimes "universe" still connotes absolutely everything. Sometimes it refers only to those parts of everything that someone such as you or I could, in principle have access to. Sometimes it's applied to separate realms, ones that are partly or fully, temporarily or permanently, inaccessible to us; in this sense, the word relegates our universe to membership in a large, perhaps infinitely large, collection."


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Wildflower Islands

July 23rd, 2014

A bee curls around a clover flower.
Three years ago, I wrote about my plan to keep a yard of wildflowers by mowing just once a year, in early spring. But, after a glorious first year, the yard came to fill with much tall grass and few wildflowers. This year, I have a new plan. While mowing, when I come across a nice patch of wildflowers, I mow around it. If at the next mowing the patch still shows bloom or promise, I keep it. During the last mowing, as I came up on a patch of clover and ground ivy, I weighed whether it had bloom enough worth saving. Then I saw a bee working the flowers there, and chose to mow around that patch. In this way, I hope to keep a mowed lawn with wildflower islands, enjoyed by both human and bee.

A Bee Movie -- Bees on the Wildflower Islands

Wildflower Islands

Ground Ivy, Clover, Yellow Wood Sorrel

Bumble Bee on Ground Ivy

Orange Hawkweed


Daisy Fleabane


Queen Anne's Lace


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Independence Day Acrostic

July 4th, 2014

Out of many Equals, one more perfect union.

Out of many Peoples, one nation conceived in liberty.
Out of many Labors, one shared prosperity.
Out of many Urgencies, one fear, of fear itself.
Out of many Rights, one government of, by and for the people to secure them.
Out of many Individuals, one we the people.
Out of many Beauties, one brotherhood from sea to shining sea.
Out of many Unknowns, one first obligation to the truth.
Out of many Strivings, one equal protection of the laws.

Out of many United Nations, one world with freedom of speech, of worship, from want and from fear.
Out of many Needs, one purpose to promote the general welfare.
Out of many Undertakings, one purpose to secure the blessings of liberty to our posterity.
Out of many Movements, one long arc of the moral universe bending toward justice.


Note: An acrostic is a line-by-line piece of writing where the first letter, or other certain letter, in each line forms a message when read from the top - down. In the above piece, read down through the first (boldfaced) letters after "Out of many " to see the message.


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